Latin America Policy Initiative

Fri, Oct 9 - Richardson Returns to NDN, Talks US-Latin American Relations

I hope you will join NDN for a special live webcast on Friday, October 9th at 12:15 - a conversation with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on the current state of US-Latin American relations.  Fresh from a recent trip to Cuba, our good friend, Governor Richardson, will be sharing his observations on a live global webcast moderated by NDN Latin America Policy Initiative Chairman Nelson Cunningham.  

Those watching on-line will be able ask questions and participate in the discussion itself by following the directions on the live screen.  

So check back here in on Friday October 9th at 12:15 for a what will be lively sixty-minute conversation with one of America's most thoughtful and respected leaders.

The Latest on Honduras

In the first successful military overthrow of a government in Central America in 16 years, Honduras’ military deposed the country’s President yesterday.  After the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran Congress designated Roberto Micheletti as his successor.

The New York Times writes about Hemispheric unity during this time of crisis, and others comment on talks held by regional leaders and the Latin American response in the wake of the coup.  Much attention has been placed on the U.S. reaction – below you'll find the statement issued by President Barack Obama.  For the latest news analysis on the situation in Honduras, click here.


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                                          June 28, 2009

Statement from President on the situation in Honduras

"I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference."



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

The Latin America Policy Initiative is inter-American policy program dedicated to focusing on issues affecting countries in Latin America and improving inter-American dialogue.

Looking Back - NDN's "Preview to the Summit of the Americas" Event

In March, NDN proudly hosted the first "Preview to the Summit of the Americas," in Washington, D.C. At the event, moderated by Mr. Nelson Cunningham, we gained valuable insight from our distinguished panelists. 

Our keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, has been a long-time friend of NDN's and inspired what has developed into the Latin America Policy Initiative at NDN, founded on a core principle: as stated by Sen. Menendez, "In the age of globalization, we are inextricably linked to the rest of the world – and to no people are we more closely connected than to our neighbors in Latin America." Below, an excerpt of Sen. Menendez's remarks at the "Preview to the Summit of the Americas":

[The Summit of the Americas] meeting isn’t just an opportunity to tackle our common challenges — it’s another chance to be reminded how connected we all are. Those of us who advocate strong cooperation across borders always have the challenge of explaining to a taxpayer in New Jersey why they might be asked to support a program in Nuevo Leon. The Summit is going to help the entire region remember why...Giving greater mutual focus to institution-building, cross-border development and democracy is a strategy meant to improve the quality of life of our citizens. But maybe above all, finding that focus represents an opportunity to build a new trust between us, to substitute unnecessary tension for a new bond of hope.

Click here for the entire address.


As we reflect on the Summit that just passed, we would like to recap the event and share the ideas presented by our rich panel.  Please access the video of each speaker:

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow
Hon. Samuel Lewis Navarro,
First Vice President and Foreign Minister of Panama
Jane Thery,
Head of OAS – USA Relations, Secretariat for External Relations of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC.
Dr. Paul Byam,
Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago
Ambassador Jose Pinelo,
Ambassador of Bolivia to the Organization of the American States
Ambassador Carolina Barco,
Ambassador of Colombia to the United States of America
Ambassador Luis Gallegos,
Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States of America

Hearing 'Friend' in Trinidad

This was originally published as an op-ed in the April 22nd Chicago Tribune.

How does Hugo Chavez say "amigo," at least when he's talking to Barack Obama?

He says "friend." As in "I want to be your friend." In English. True, as he "friended" President Barack Obama at the 34-nation Summit of the Americas last weekend in Trinidad, he handed him a book about 500 years of neo-colonialist exploitation of Latin America by Europe and the United States. But the gesture was clear, as was the broad grin on Chavez's face as he shook Obama's hand on the summit's first day. So was Chavez's announcement that he would send a new ambassador to Washington, seven months after pulling out his last envoy in the waning days of the Bush administration.

And Chavez was hardly the only "anti-American" leader to soften his stance against the U.S. Evo Morales of Bolivia, who had announced he would boycott the summit, came after all. He also was caught on camera shaking Obama's hand. And, of course, Cuba's Raul Castro announced he was prepared "to discuss everything" with the new administration—"human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners—everything."

In a trip that began in Mexico City and concluded in Trinidad, Obama showed that he has indeed found the "reset button" for the Americas.

To be sure, there was plenty of criticism at the summit of U.S. policies. But after years of often unnecessary contentiousness, the ability to establish a dialogue across-the-board in Latin America is a huge step forward, as is America's willingness to acknowledge a shared responsibility for common ills.

Candidate Obama promised a year ago in Miami that as president he would bring about a new relationship with Latin America. That promise—conveniently delivered in a majority-Latino city in a battleground state—was met with skepticism. After all, the last president had promised the same thing while campaigning in the same city, and many in the region had found themselves sorely disappointed. Moreover, with the host of domestic and international problems facing the new administration, how much attention could the White House really be expected to pay to Latin America?

But in the past month, the administration has showed it can walk and chew gum simultaneously. In early April, even as much of the administration focused on the financial crisis and the G-20, European and NATO summits, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Mexico and acknowledged that on two frontline issues for Mexico, guns and drugs, the U.S. shared complicity and responsibility. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also traveled to Mexico to reinforce that message. And Vice President Joseph Biden was dispatched to Chile to attend a leaders' summit and to Costa Rica to meet with Central American presidents.

For his own part, Obama invited Mexican President Felipe Calderon and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil to Washington to his first bilateral meetings. Finally, before embarking for Mexico and Trinidad, Obama announced a modest but symbolically powerful softening of travel and financial restrictions with Cuba.

Viewed together, these steps illuminate a carefully thought-out and sustained plan of U.S. engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean. Obviously, Obama and his advisers did not view the Summit of the Americas as a check-the-box mandatory appearance. Rather, they used it to anchor a monthlong orchestrated diplomatic campaign to set new benchmarks for the region that are based on mutual respect, a shared responsibility for illegal narcotics and violence and a desire to get beyond old debates of the left versus the right.

Now comes the hard part. How to turn rhetoric into action along the troubled border with Mexico. How to restore strained relations with Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador—without backing down on key U.S. priorities such as respect for rule of law, investment security, and in the case of Venezuela, democratic principles. How to move forward on liberalized trade. And how to proceed with some kind of dialogue with Cuba that does not dissolve into backlash, as Gerald Ford's and Bill Clinton's prior efforts did.

Despite the challenges ahead, it certainly was refreshing to end a Summit of the Americas without rallies and bonfires ranged against the American president and with the word "friend" ringing in our ears.

Nelson Cunningham is the Chair of NDN's Latin America Policy Initiative. He advised Barack Obama's presidential campaign on Latin America and served on his transition team. Cunningham also was special adviser to President Bill Clinton for Western Hemisphere affairs

NDN Statement on the Meeting between President-elect Obama and President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón

NDN President Simon Rosenberg and NDN Vice President for Hispanic Programs Andres Ramirez today said President-elect Barack Obama's meeting with Mexico President Felipe Calderón this afternoon signifies more than long-standing protocol; it also reflects the realities of deeply rooted economic, cultural and political ties betweenthe two countries.

"Never before has a U.S. President been elected by such an overwhelming number of Hispanics in the United States," Rosenberg said. "The United States now has the third largest Latin population in the Americas and the futures of the United States and Mexico are bound together as never before. Hemispheric relations have taken a backseat for too long. Today's meeting is the first step to a genuine and sustained partnership that addresses pressing regional and global challenges. It  is the start of a new day for U.S.-Mexico relations."

"This meeting follows the commitment expressed by President-elect Obama and his advisors throughout the 2008 presidential campaign and during the presidential debates to make it a priority to build a more profound and engaged bilateral relationship with Mexico," Ramirez said. "This meeting also occurs at a time when Mexico is better positioned as a partner of the United States. Since the 2000 election in Mexico, that country has demonstrated major progress in governance, in its democratic institutions and it has developed increasingly diverse international economic and political relations."

Click here for additional background information on NDN's work in studying Latin America foreign policy.

December 11: NDN to Host Forum on The Economic Crisis and its Impact on Latin America

As the global implications of the current economic crisis become increasingly evident, NDN would like to remind you of the upcoming discussion on "The Current Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Latin America."

This discussion with some of the most recognized economic minds in Latin America is an important addition to NDN's Latin America Policy Forums. It is also an important occasion as we welcome back to D.C. our good friend and collaborator,Joe Garcia, who recently concluded a spirited campaign in Southern Florida. Joe, formerly NDN Vice President for Hispanic Programs, will moderate a panel that includes the Honorable Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank and former Ambassador of Colombia to the United States, as well as regional policy experts.

Hon. Luis Alberto Moreno - Prior to joining the IDB, Ambassador Moreno served as Colombia's Ambassador to the United States for seven years. Previous to his post as Ambassador, Moreno served a distinguished career in both the public and private sectors in Colombia. He has held a range of leadership positions, such as representative of the Andean Region of WestSphere Capital, Senior Advisor to the Luis Sarmiento Organization, President of Colombia's Industrial Finance Corporation, and Minister of Economic Development.

Dr. Nora Lustig - Dr. Lustig is a native of Argentina who currently resides in Mexico and works with the Colegio de Mexico. She is currently a J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Visiting Professor at the George Washington Elliot School for International Affairs. Prior to this, she served as President of the Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP)in Mexico. Before her post as President of the UDLAP Dr. Lustig was Chief of the Poverty and Inequality Unit at the Inter-American Development Bank. Dr. Lustig has also been a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Professor of Economics at El Colegio de México.

Mr. Paulo Sotero- Mr. Sotero is currently the Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Brazil Institute. For the last 17 years, Mr. Sotero was the Washington Correspondent for Estado de S. Paulo, a leading Brazilian daily newspaper. He has also been a regular commentator and analyst for the BBC radio Portuguese language service, Radio France Internationale, and Radio Eldorado, in Brazil. Since 2003 he has been an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University both in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and in the Center for Latin American Studies of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Mr. Carlos de Abreu - Mr. de Abreu is currently the Brazilian Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs. A Brazilian career diplomat, Minister Counselor de Abreu has also served as Head to the Market Access Division at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, as an advisor to the Minister of Finance, and as an advisor to the Under Secretary for Policy Planning at the Ministry of Foreign Relations. His diplomatic postings also include the Brazilian Embassy in Bolivia, Argentina, and the Consulate General in San Francisco.

This briefing will take place on Thursday, December 11, at 3 p.m.  Please click here for the full event details.  Please RSVP as soon as possible, the event is open, but space is limited.  Refreshments will be served.

To learn more about NDN or to view past  events with the Ambassadors of Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, and the Vice President of Panama, please visit our website at

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