Peter Romero served as Acting Assistant and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs from July 1999 until June 2001. When he left the State Department in 2001, he went to work for Newmont Mining as a consultant for 18 months. Larry Kurlander, a senior Newmont executive, says that he hired Romero much as he had hired other former U.S. diplomats, including the former ambassadors to Indonesia and Uzbekistan.
During the dispute over ownership of the Yanacocha gold mine, and at the request of Newmont Mining, Romero took an active role in trying to establish "a level playing field" in the Peruvian courts. The aim, he told FRONTLINE/World, was to counter what he and others in the U.S. government saw as inappropriate French government interference in the case. Romero also told FRONTLINE/World that he talked to spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos "once or twice" on the telephone about the case, but never met him face to face.
One of those conversations, Romero says, took place after he traveled to Peru to hand-deliver a letter from Stuart Eizenstat, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs in the Clinton administration, to the Peruvian Prime Minister, Alberto Pandolfi Arbulo. In the letter, dated October 31, 1997, Eizenstat wrote that the letter was "to express the importance the United States attaches to a fair and impartial hearing of the case before Peru's Supreme Court."
Romero said he did not see Montesinos during this trip, but did talk to him. "I did not see him when I delivered that letter. Didn't ask to see him," he said. Romero said that he called Montesinos to convey that "we delivered this message, this letter, and that we were serious about it and that we wanted to make sure that the Supreme Court justices … rendered a decision based on the merits of the case apart from bribery or anything else."
When asked why he would see Montesinos, who was not in a foreign affairs department or in the office of the presidency, but essentially the head of Peru's version of the CIA, Romero said it was largely because the Peruvian government was "dysfunctional."
"The only people that really knew what was going on were the president, sometimes his immediate family and Vladimiro Montesinos," said Romero. "And if you wanted to ensure that a message that was delivered at the ministerial level would get back to the president, OK, you went to Montesinos."