Latin America Policy Initiative

Building on its years of work advocating for a modern approach to America's growing Latino community, NDN developed a robust inter-American policy program to focus on issues affecting countries in Latin America. The Latin America Policy Initiative (LAPI) has three parts: the Latin America Policy Seminar, the Latin America Policy Studies Program and the Latin America Policy Forum.

LAPI is a product of the work conducted at NDN and the New Policy Institute, and it educates and empowers leaders in policy, politics, and social and economic development to take on the challenges of Inter-American policy by providing a forum to discuss modern issues affecting Latin American countries. The program also aims to give its participants an enriching cross cultural experience, immersing them in a selected Latin American country, which will help guide their future leadership decisions.

2010 Highlights

Event Video: Colombian Ambassador Barco Addresses NDN on US-Colombian Relations

Event: Panamanian Ambassador and Congressman Engel discuss Bilateral Relations

Debrief on Obama's meeting with President Mauricio Funes by Sarah Sanchez

2009 Highlights

Flu Crisis Brought U.S., Mexico Together By Nelson Cunningham in the Houston Chronicle

Event Video: Preview of the Summit of the Americas Ambassador Carolina Barco

Event Video: Preview of the Summit of the Americas Former VP of Panama, Samuel Lewis Navarro

Video: Nelson Cunningham on the State of US-Latin American Relations

Hearing 'Friend' in Trinidad By Nelson Cunningham in the Chicago Tribune

Update on the Situation in Honduras by Zuraya Tapia-Alfaro

Zelaya's Return to Honduras by Zuraya Tapia-Alfaro

2008 Highlights

Announcing LAPI

Samuel Lewis Navarro, Panama's Former First Vice President & Foreign Minister, Visits NDN

This week NDN was proud to host the Honorable Samuel Lewis Navarro, Former First Vice President and Foreign Prime Minister of Panama.  Mr. Lewis spoke extensively about the relationship between the United States and Panama, and praised the recently passed Panama Free Trade Agreement.  On behalf of the NDN Team and the Latin America Policy Initiative, we thank Mr. Lewis for his time and his insights.

Samuel Lewis Navarro addresses NDN.


Latin America-Weekly Roundup, June 21, 2011

In international politics: 

Uruguay will occupy the rotating presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the next year. The MercoPress article can be found here.  Ambassador Laura Dupuy, who will actually hold the office has quite a bit on her agenda:

Among the issues in Ambassador Laura Dupuy’s agenda are the special investigation commission for Libya, accused of war crimes, and Sri Lanka where two years ago 30.000 civilians were massacred, allegedly by the Colombo government at the end of a prolonged civil war.

The latest on Latin American drug trafficking:

According to a recent article by Nils Elzenga for The Associated Press, submarines are the new mode of transportation used by Latin American cartels.  In order to meet European demand without having to deal with European airport and maritime controls, the submarines travel from Latin America to West Africa where the drugs are then parceled out and carried North.  Although cocaine seizures in West Africa have gone down recently, Alexandre Schmidt, the head of the West African branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime cautions against complaceny:

What that shows, he said, is that the actual trade is likely increasing and that the cartels are simply becoming more sophisticated at hiding their operation.

And in another link between Latin America and Africa:

According to an article by Anne Herrbereg on the German website Deutsche Welle, African emigrants have lately been turning to Latin America over Europe.  With the European Union sealing off its external borders, more and more refugees from African countries are seeking shelter in other parts of the world. In Latin America, figures have doubled.  The article focuses mostly on Argentina, which is already taking measures to combat the flow of illegal African immigrants into the country via Brazil.

And finally, indications that Cuba's private sector is starting to flourish under looser economic restrictions:

According to an Associated Press article, Cuba's recent licensing of a broad spectrum of private sector activity has given rise to a nascent and growing class of self-employed people.  This is manifesting through urban marketplaces springing up for the first time and flourishing all across Havana.  Though, despite this development, it's still Cuba:

President Raul Castro insists that the new private-sector activity is meant to “update” Cuba’s socialist model, not replace it with the free market.

Baby steps.

Latin America: Arms Trafficking, Ash Clouds, Scientific Advancement, China and more

Below are some of the past week's most interesting stories on Latin America.  They range from arms trafficking in Mexico to a high-profile resignation in Brazil, to an amazing opportunity to promote scientific advancement across the region.  Enjoy!

A shocking Congressional report found that 70% of firearms recovered from Mexican crime scenes in 2009 and 2010 came from the U.S., prompting new proposals to curb arms trafficking. The full article from BBC News can be found here.  Given the violence in Mexico over the past week, this report comes at an especially poignant time. Below is Mexican President Felipe Calderon's fiery response to the situation:

"Why does this arms business continue?" he asked.

"I say it openly: it's because of the profit which the US arms industry makes," he added.

Not to say that both sides aren't to blame, especially last week's arrest of former Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rohn for stockpiling weapons. (Elisabeth Malkin's New York Times story can be found here)

Here is a link to some incredible pictures of Chile's volcanic ash cloud, which continues to disrupt air traffic as far away as New Zealand and may have disastrous long-term effects on agriculture in Southern Chile and Argentina. (BBC News story here, which includes some amazing aerial video footage)

Lots of people are talking about China's push into Africa nowadays, but China also has important ties with Latin America.  In fact, according to Chen Weihua with China Daily:

China is now Latin America's second-largest trade partner, trailing the United States. Meanwhile, China's imports from Latin America grew more rapidly than from any other region. About 8 percent of Latin America's exports went to China last year.

China is now saying that it wants to broaden these ties.  Chen Weihua's article can be found here.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's chief of staff resigned last Tuesday under dubious circumstances, casting doubt on the strength of the President's government and her personal ability to judge character.

On a happier note, 10 outstanding young Latin American scientists were chosen as Pew fellows in the Biomedical Sciences, a program which will provide the fellows with $60,000 in salary support, opportunities to work with leading U.S. researchers and $35,000 to establish research laboratories and further scientific research in their home countries.

Weekly Round Up - Stories from the Americas

We’ve all heard about Castro’s promises to change and reform Cuba. Half a century after the communist revolution, Raúl Castro has also talked about the need to rejuvenate the party’s leadership. Below are various links to must-read articles covering the Island’s recent events that look both backwards and forward.

  • Reuters'coverage of the named 15-member political Bureau that “will steer the country through the next five years as it overhauls the economy and fine tunes the one-party political system.” Interestingly, ages range from 50 to 80 and only one female was appointed. On that same note, Foreign Policy magazine examines how Raul Castro kicked off Cuba’s youth movement with an 80-year old deputy.
  •  The Financial Times’ Cuba Libre? piece that thoroughly analyzes the proposed changes.
  • The Boston Globe’s Big Picture has amazing photos, while Infolatam has video footage of Sunday’s May 1st parade in Santiago de Cuba, where crowds rallied in support of  “modernizing Cuban socialism”.
  • Andres Oppenheimer’s Op-Ed for El Pais argues that Raúl Castro is simply buying time with the reform announcements and declarations.

And as much as we love the Caribbean, let’s not forget about the rest of the Americas and some of last week’s cool stories.  Here are a couple you might have overlooked: 

  • According to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, the mayor of Bogotá, Samuel Moreno, has been suspended for a period of three months and may be forced to resign over a scandal involving government contracts.
  •  Via a White House Statement on World Press Freedom Day, President Obama called attention to press freedom violations in the Latin American countries of Mexico, Venezuela and Honduras.
  • The New York Times takes a look at how Perú’s Ollanta Humala may be Lula’s biggest fan.
  • The BBC reported that a court in Honduras drops the remaining corruption charges against ex-President Manuel Zelaya, clearing the way for his return from exile.

Weekly Round Up - Stories from the Americas

  • There was good news for the inclusion of Latin American women in positions of political decision-making as International Women’s Day hit the century mark last week:

Dilma Rousseff was inaugurated on January 1 President of Brazil after winning the secondround elections with 56 percent of the vote. With her inauguration there is for the first time ever three women presidents serving simultaneously. In addition to Roussef, Cristina Fernández is governing Argentina and Laura Chinchilla is president of Costa Rica.

 The regional average of female ministers increased from 23% to 26% over the last yearand four countries (Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Nicaragua) have gender parity in the cabinetsIn addition, in recent years Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador have introduced a series of comprehensive changes in their constitutional and/or statutory provisions shooting for, among other measuresparity composition (from 40% to 60% men and women) in their lists of candidates for popular electionThese figures and measures reflect the impetus that gender equality is coming to have on the public agenda in some countries.

       To access the full report as prepared by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral                    Assistance, click here.

  • Nobel Literature Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa fired back at the Argentine group that, due to his “liberal” and reactionary position,”recently asked that the Buenos Aires Book Fair retract their invitation for Vargas Llosa to inaugurate the event. In his letter to Spanish newspaper El País, Vargas Llosa asks if they want a New Cuba.
  •  Foreign Policy Magazine published two pieces that touch on Brazil's drive for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council:  Jorge Castañeda thinks it's too soon, while Celso Amorim calls for Obama to support this drive.
  • Christopher Sabatini wrote a very interesting blog post for Americas Quarterly where he expresses his hope that President Obama address the Administration’s understanding of -as well as its commitment to- social and racial inclusion on his trip to the region. Some excerpts below:

Inclusion. The concept will likely figure large during President Barack Obama’s planned trip to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador from March 19 to 23. This is so, not only for symbolic reasons (the U.S. President is a powerful symbol of inclusion and U.S. meritocracy), but also the significant advances and challenges of the countries he’ll be visiting on his first trip south of Trinidad and Tobago. Will he address it realistically or gloss over the ongoing challenges?

 In recent years, the growth of the Latin American middle class, especially in Brazil, has been significant. But those gains are delicate and limited by race. More than a decade of stable economic policy coupled with social policy innovations has lifted over 40 million people in the region out of poverty in what was, and remains, the most unequal region in the world. These numbers are nothing to sniff at, but they belie the fragility of this new middle class. Most academic or technocratic measures of “middle class-ness” rely on measuring income, while most journalistic reporting on the middle class tends to cite these arrivistes’ access to credit.

NDN will have the priviledge to host Christopher Sabatini in the upcoming joint event with Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on Public Diplomacy and Social Media in Latin America. 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 the region.  If interested, 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 

Invite Reminder: Mon, March 14th - Colombian Ambassador Gabriel Silva

On Monday, March 14th, at 12:30pm ET, NDN and the New Policy Institute will host a speech by the Colombian Ambassador to the United States, Gabriel Silva.  Mr. Silva, who first served as Ambassador to the United States from 1993-94, will discuss U.S.-Colombia relations and how Colombia is changing under President Santos.

Under the administration of President Santos, Colombia is forging a new path to prosperity, with policies promoting economic growth, national unity and social development. President Santos has also enacted reforms to protect human rights and provide relief to victims of violence.  Ambassador Silva will address topics such as the importance the importance of the extension of The Andean Trade Preferences, the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, Colombia’s role in sharing lessons in security, and new areas of cooperation such as energy and the environment.

The Latin America Policy Initiative (LAPI) is excited about this event and we hope that you will be able to join us.  Please be sure to RSVP now.  

Weekly Round Up - Stories from the Americas

LAPI shares five interesting stories you might have overlooked this past week while following the unbelievable events taking place in North Africa.  

  • In light of the upheaval that led to the resignations of the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents, this year’s South American-Arab summit had to be postponed. Even so, Peruvian President Alan García suggested the eventual meeting will be an opportunity to “shake up new alliances”. Jim Wyss from the Miami Herald reports that Latin America is calling to boost ties with the Middle East, seeking trade routes and allies different from the United States, China and Europe. Interestingly, Wyss points out that the demographics might have something to do with this call since:

Chile is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians—making it the largest such community outside the Middle East—Brazil has an estimated 10 million people of Arab descent, including seven million Lebanese. 

Wyss also brings light to the fact that since December, nine Latin American countries have recognized a sovereign Palestinian state. Definitely worth a read, please click here to access  the full story.

  • El País published an interview with Cemex CEO and Tecnológico de Monterrey Chairman, Lorenzo H. Zambrano, where he stressed his commitment to not losing the city to the narcos  It is refreshing to see a prominent business leader recognize that active and independent civil society organizations can work with medium and larger private enterprises to protect the Mexico’s most important industrial and innovation center from violence, corruption and chaos. 
  • News about months of unrest at the University of Puerto Rico finally made it to US media. The       New York Times reports that in the last week, a number of students have been arrested, students have been injured by riot police officers, faculty and staff members held a two-day walkout, the president of the university resigned and the police finally withdrew from campus. Students are protesting about a budget cut that requires them to pay a new $800 fee, increasing their costs by more than 50 percent.  In Puerto Rico, Protests End Short Peace at University is a great read because it shows that similar to the experiences and feelings being faced by students at public universities elsewhere in the US students in Puerto Rico worry that the new fiscal realities will restrict access to higher education.
  • The Washington Post writes about another student protest taking place, this time a hunger strike in Venezuela. More than 80 protesters are pushing the government to let the OAS Secretary-General visit and investigate allegations that Chavez’s government utilizes the judicial branch to persecute opponents. This story will continue to draw strong reactions from both sides, as shown by the excerpt below:

That drew a strong reaction from Caracas' friends in the left-leaning ALBA bloc of nations, which told Insulza to not meddle in Venezuela's domestic affairs. In a joint statement issued last week, ALBA allies including Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador said Insulza's actions threatened "a dangerous return to the times when the OAS was an instrument of interventionism and colonialism" of the United States.

  • Nicaragua-based ‘Bloggins by Boz’  analyzes how Cuba is running out of ‘censorship’ excuses. The blogger even posts a big ‘thank you’ to Hugo Chavez for connecting Cuba to the Internet with a major fiberoptic cable. 

The cable has a 640GB capacity, vastly increasing Cuba's potential connection to the internet, which was previously provided mostly by satellite. For years, Cuba has used the US embargo as an excuse for its censorship of the internet […] It won't create a democracy overnight, but I'd certainly appreciate the irony if it eventually turns out the Venezuelan government gave the Cuban government enough fiber-optic cable to hang themselves with.

Check back every Tuesday for the LAPI round-up and feel free to send us suggestions and cool stories worth sharing and reading. 

LAPI Weekly Round Up – Interesting Stories From the Americas

Every Tuesday, the Latin America Policy Initiative (LAPI) will share a couple of news events or opinion pieces that we find are not only interesting but demonstrate the diversity of Latin American politics and societal views. Check out the following stories that you may have missed in the past week:

  • The BBC reports that Colombia has announced it’s working on negotiations with China to build an alternative to the Panamá Canal.  This story is yet another example of how Latin American countries are deepening both their diplomatic and economic ties with other partners. More here.

 If you are alarmed by these figures, and you think that all prophesies about the nexorable decline of U.S. influence around the world are bound to come true if Washington can’t be the biggest donor in its own neighborhood, get ready: it will get much worse.…the drastic foreign aid cuts proposed by Republicans could lead to a slow motion U.S. diplomatic suicide. The fact that Venezuela is already outspending Washington in donations to Haiti should speak for itself.

  • Mexico is mad at the US government for referring to their drug war as an ‘insurgency’…again. The Calderón Government condemned the characterization by a top U.S. Defense Department official as uniformed and innacurate. The Washington Post quotes the Mexican Foreign Minister calling for an equal partnership  

Espinosa said the two countries "need to find cooperation mechanisms that lead  to a greater ability to confront organized crime. It's totally unacceptable and  inappropriate to see the problem unilaterally”

  • Spanish newspaper El País published a fascinating interview with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. The interviewer and newspaper director, Javier Moreno, questions Santos about his similarity to FDR in being called a ‘traitor to his class’. The President refutes the question as nonesense but accepts that Colombia has to do a lot more on the social justice front. For full interview in Spanish, click here.


Chilean Ambassador, Arturo Fermandois, to speak at NDN on November 17th

On November 17 at 12:30pm, NDN and the New Policy Institute will host the Chilean Ambassador to the United States, Arturo Fermandois.  Ambassador Fermandois was appointed on June 21st by Chile’s new president, Sebastián Piñera, who is the country’s first center-right leader since the return to democracy.

The Latin America Policy Initiative (LAPI) is very excited about this event and we hope that you will be able to join us.  Please be sure to RSVP now.

The global spotlight has been focused on Chile these past few months, as people around the world were captivated by the heroic efforts of the Chilean government to rescue 33 miners who were trapped underground for 69 days.  The Washington Post recently highlighted Ambassador Fermandois’s exciting first few months in the Capital:

"The new ambassador, who arrived in Washington just four months ago, erected a jumbo screen outside the embassy on Massachusetts Avenue so everyone could watch the live broadcast of Chilean miners being rescued. Fermandois set up a guest book for people to write messages for the men. Quite a debut for the rookie diplomat, who left his life as a lawyer and professor of constitutional law (after stints as a Fulbright scholar and at Harvard Law School) to become ambassador. His first few weeks were packed with his country's earthquake recovery efforts, its bicentennial and a visit from new President Sebastián Piñera. Just when he expected things to slow down, news broke of the trapped miners."

But the rescue isn't the only noteworthy news coming out of Chile. In recognition of the sound fiscal leadership that has elevated Chile to be a regional economic power, the country has recently become the first South American member of the OECD group of advanced economic nations. The Ambassador will explore all of this and more at NDN.

Arturo Fermandois at NDN
Wed, Nov 17, 2010
12:30 PM, Lunch to be served
NDN Event Space
729 15th Street, NW
First Floor
Washington, DC
Live webcast will be available, but you must still RSVP


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