Weekly Round Up - Stories from the Americas

  • Much has been written about the President’s five day trip to Brazil, El Salvador and Chile. Interestingly, during his time in Santiago, President Obama advocated regions look to Latin American for lessons on democratic transitions in Latin America have proved as valid for democratic transitions. The New York Times reports on how Obama cited the Latin American experience as an example for the rest of the world:s. The New York Times reports on how Obama cited the Latin American experience as an example for the rest of the world:

With his first trip to South America eclipsed by war and upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama sought to connect the two in a speech here on Monday, calling Latin America a model for those trying to throw off dictatorships in favor of democracy and broadly shared economic growth.

Moreover, when asked whether the he would ‘ask for forgiveness’ on behalf of the United States for its part in the 1973 coup that brought Chile’s former dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power. 

Mr. Obama said that his administration would consider any requests for information as Chile seeks a truthful record of that period, but that neither country should be “trapped by our history.”Since that time, he added, “We’ve seen extraordinary progress here in Chile, and that has not been impeded by the United States but, in fact, has been fully supported by the United States.“So I can’t speak to all of the policies of the past,” he said. “I can speak certainly to the policies of the present and the future.”

  • The White House released the awaited President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico last Wednesday. For the first time, the document takes a serious look at a range of Puerto Rico’s economic challenges and presents important policy recommendations in addition to addressing the issue of the Island’s political status. Access the full report here.
  • As has predicted for a year, the Guatemalan first lady announced last week that she would seek to run in the upcoming presidential election next September. What it was not as obvious was her decision to divorce her husband—President Alvaro Colóm to overcome the legal hurdle that bans relatives of the president from standing for office. The Economist examines her active role as a first lady.

Ms Torres has played a prominent role during the presidency of her husband, Álvaro Colom, heading the government’s anti-poverty programmes. Many say that behind the scenes she wields even greater influence over her mild-mannered spouse. Guatemala is one of Latin America’s most rural societies, which makes it a nightmare for pollsters. Ms Torres is unpopular in the capital, the country’s only major city, but does better in the impoverished countryside, where her social programmes, such as Mi Familia Progresa (My Family Progresses), a  conditional-cash-transfer scheme, have had the most impact.

However, it remains unclear whether the Constitutional Court will be swayed by this unusual announcement.

  • Andres Oppenheimer wrote an opinion piece in the Miami Herald on why Central America will be Obama’s biggest challenge. Read full op-ed here
  • The UN is urging Haitians to show patience and restraint as they await the results of Sunday's presidential runoff election, in which former first lady Mirlande Manigat faced off against popular singer Michel Martelly. Let’s not forget that Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's poorest country and has been struggling to rebuild following a devastating earthquake in January of last year. The Caribbean island has also been dealing with a cholera epidemic that broke out in October, leaving thousands dead.  

Don't forget to join us in the upcoming joint event with Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on Public Diplomacy and Social Media in Latin America on March 29th from 12-2 pm. The two part forum will first host Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Judith McHale, followed by a discussion panel that will explore the impact of social media and other network technologies on governance and civil society in Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil. Click here to secure your seat ASAP. 

Moreover, the Latin America Policy Initiative along with the 21st Century Border Initiative will be hosting a policy day on Monday, April 11th at the Newseum: Forward Together/Avanzando Juntos/Avançando Juntos – A Conference Looking at the Changing Politics of the Americas. Please make sure to RSVP!