Diplomacy & Social Media in Latin America

The world is pretty hectic right now.  Japan is reeling after a mega-earthquake and tsunami. Armed rebellion in Lybia is stalemated while foreign fighters cruise the skies.  Yemen's president of 32 years might be about to fall. And the Côte d'Ivoire is in a crescendo toward civil war. So it's understandable if the president's trip through Latin America seems like a diversion. But it's not. If anything, it could have come earlier. More than just neighbors, Latin American countries are among our biggest trading partners and most valuable allies, and President Obama's stops in Brazil, Chile and El Salvador have helped reaffirm the administration's commitment to working with governments throughout the region to build a cooperative, prosperous shared future.

We've clearly got Latin America on the brain here, with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano speaking to NDN next Friday about a "21st century border" with Mexico, and a conference on the "chaning politics of the Americas" coming up on April 12. This coming Tuesday, we have another very cool event coming up which you, dear reader, are invited to attend or watch via webcast.

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Judith McHale will give a keynote on how the State Department is advancing U.S. foreign policy in Latin America through people-to-people exchanges, local and regional media outreach and the use of social media to establish direct relationships. And she'll be doing a long Q&A, taking questions both from the audience and online-- we expect students will be watching the speech and engaging via social media throughout Latin America.  This, of course, dovetails nicely with an initiative President Obama announced in Chile:

It’s the same philosophy behind two additional initiatives that I’m announcing today, which will help our countries educate and innovate for the future. First, we’re launching a new initiative to harness the power of social media and online networks to help students, scientists, academics and entrepreneurs collaborate and develop the new ideas and products that will keep America -- the Americas competitive in a global economy.

In the second hour, I'll be moderating a conversation among four individuals working at the intersection of technology, politics and civil society in different Latin American countries. Chris Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas will be speaking about how the U.S. embargo on export of ICTs to Cuba has, if anything, prevented any chance of an uprising there. Carlos Ponce, a Fellow at the NED, will speak on human rights and democracy in his native Venezuela, and how these causes have been advanced by new technologies. Oscar Salazar, a technology social entrepreneur will talk about his projects to use new technology to advance citizen participation in government in his native Mexico and elsewhere in Central America. And Ricardo Amado Castillo of George Washington University will speak about the impact of social media on politics in Brazil, Peru and throughout South America.

We'll be hosting the event at SAIS, and I think it will be a fascinating discussion about a very timely subject. The event is nearly full, so please RSVP soon.  If you can't make it, we'll be webcasting the whole event live.

Tuesday, March 29, 12 pm - 2 pm 
SAIS Rome Auditorium, 1619 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC
RSVP  |  Watch Webcast