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A lot of hand wringing and snickering is going on in the press about the inability to reach any agreements during the hemispheric conference held in Cartagena last week. Aside from questioning the value of these forums beyond their photo opportunities and grandstanding platforms for the most vocal, it may be useful to consider the larger lessons that the summit suggests. Above all, it reflects a very different region in a very different world than existed when the hemispheric meetings were launched in 1994.
A different region. During the 1990s, Latin America was emerging from its “lost decade” and still transitioning to open markets and democracy. Today, the region is recognized for its steady economic growth, having weathered the Great Recession better than most, and, despite exceptions, its consolidated democracies. During the 1990s few, if any, of the countries in the region could aspire to global leadership. Today, the world is looking at and following the examples of innovation in social policies and participatory democracy that have emerged from the region. Brazil, thought by many to have finally come of age, vies openly for a seat in a reconfigured UN Security Council. Most poignantly, the summit host, Colombia, was hostage to drug cartels and counterinsurgency in the 1990s. Today, the country enjoys renewed levels of security, economic growth, and its cities are touted as examples of urban revival. Mexico has become a predominantly middle class society, and poverty and inequality have fallen throughout the region, almost without exception. Tellingly, in the United States these trends have been inverted and the country appears beleaguered by economic and political problems.
A different world. Overextension in international conflicts, growing inequality, political polarization, financial crisis, high unemployment and growing public debt have contributed, among a host of other factors, to cast a pall over the global leadership of the United States. The European Union, beset by regional inequality, towering debt and sluggish growth, is also seen as declining. Meanwhile, the G-8 has become the G-20, recognizing the growing weight of emerging countries in global affairs. Most notably, China has surpassed Japan as the second largest economy in the world and is challenging the US lead as a global trader and investor. Indeed, many Latin American countries now have greater trade with China than with the US, and China has embarked on a quest to spread its soft power regionally, building stadiums and buying up sovereign debt throughout the Americas. While the US is still important to the region, the underlying basis of its relationship is changing. It is no longer the only kid in town.
President Obama has recognized this, at least rhetorically. He describes his approach towards the region as a partnership among equals. With regard to the drug trade, he speaks of shared responsibility, given US demand for narcotics and easy access to guns, and he acknowledges the need to consider alternatives that focus on demand reduction and harm mitigation. With regard to Cuba, he facilitated travel and remittances to the island, and opened some areas of investment. With regard to immigration, he recognizes the contribution of migrants to the US economy and speaks of the importance of comprehensive reform. Yet, in these key areas there is little or no change, even as longstanding policies—the war against drugs, the embargo against Cuba, and the immigration regime—are considered to have failed. Despite some adjustments at the administrative level, the prospects for deeper reform are slight in the current electoral and highly polarized political environment. Obama’s regional policies will remain hostage to domestic politics even if he strikes all the right notes and takes the appropriate stance at regional summits.
Yet, the lack of accord at the summit reveals much more than acrimony against the US and its policies. It suggests that the region is also divided within itself: there is no regional consensus about what the solutions to critical problems should be. Take the drug trade. While much was made about US opposition to legalization, the Central American nations, battered more than most of the region by drug-related violence and corruption, could not agree on a unified stance in a meeting of their regional secretariat (SICA) the day before the Cartagena meeting. While Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica seem amenable to decriminalization, Nicaragua and El Salvador oppose it. Or take Cuba. While its absence from the summits is an easy foil to bash the US, few would escape the charge of cynicism if they somehow had to square that with their support for the Democratic Charter.
The broader lesson to be drawn from the lack of consensus at the Summit is that regional collective action has become more challenging. As the hemispheric hegemon has receded in dominance so has its encompassing interest in providing regional public goods. It is likely to continue doing so to a certain degree, but not in any way that deviates significantly from its narrower national interest. As an example of this, the US focus has shifted from multilateralism to a sharper focus on the most relevant actors. Under the circumstances, as no regional power is likely to become predominant to the point of hegemony, it is unreasonable to expect far-ranging regional accords. Even if the gulf in real power separating them from the US remains significant, emerging powers will tend to be more assertive, balancing against each other and the US, and this will lessen the chances for regional consensus. Regional policy and regional integration will advance in fits and starts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
- Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy & Research
BLOG AUTHORS & RECENT POSTS
LATEST SITE UPDATES
- Feoli and MacKinnon's book on representation and effectiveness in Latin America published
- Graduate and Undergraduate Latin American Photo Contest 2013
- Stone Center hosts annual Awards Ceremony
- Carmelo Mesa presents on Raul Castro's reforms in Cuba
- CIPR Post-doctoral Fellow Jessica Rich Publishes Article in LAPS Journal
- Carmelo Mesa Lago discusses Pension Reform in Cuba
- Edesio Fernandes Presents on Informal Urban Land Development
- Marcello Canuto presents at blockbuster National Geographic conference in Guatemala
- Eduardo Silva's book on transnational activism and national movements published
- Tulane's Latin American Library welcomes the Melgar Collection
- Tulane represents Panama at Model Organization of American States
- Rethinking State-Society Relations in Contemporary Latin America
- Dr. Manuel Alcántara: Politicians
- Singing for the Dead (in Cyberspace): Mazatec Music, On and Off Line
- The Arrival of Humans on the Yucatan Peninsula: Late Pleistocene Evidence from Submerged Caves in the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico
- Taco Trucks
- Futebol: Brazil's National Sport
- Exploring Tropicalia
- Regionalismo of Brazil
- Radio in Brazil
- Roots of Racism in Brazilian Education
- Carmelo Mesa Lago: The Return of the State to Privatized Pension Systems
- Carmelo Mesa Lago: Raul Castro's Economic and Social Reforms in Cuba
- Edésio Fernandes: Informal Urban Land Developme
- Paulo Affonso Leme Machado: A Reforma da legislaçao florestal no Brasil
Rethinking State-Society Relations in Contemporary Latin America
The emergence, crisis, and collapse of neoliberalism gave way to new types of political regimes that set themselves the task of redefining state-society relationships to promote more socially inclusive polities. The accomplishments and shortcomings of those processes need yet to be evaluated, particularly from an encompassing, historically-informed perspective that is not afraid of challenging established assumptions and mainstream understandings of Latin America to do justice to current developments. What are the continuities/ discontinuities in terms of state-society linkages that the various processes of change experienced since the return to democracy introduced in the Latin American landscape? Is Latin America moving towards a more democratic and inclusive society? What is the nature of the new patterns of state-society interaction? Have they drastically altered the legacy of populism, bureaucratic-authoritarianism, and neoliberalism?, in which specific ways? Are emerging regimes promoting new patterns of exclusion or novel forms of authoritarianism?
A group of scholars from different disciplines, country expertise drawn from Latin America, the US and Europe will meet on May 24th at Tulane University to debate empirically and theoretically informed articles that address these questions.
10:00 AM-10:15 AM – Introduction and welcoming
10:15 AM-10.45 AM – Justice and politics: the dialogic alternative by Roberto Gargarella
10:45 AM-11:15 AM – The political economy of post-neoliberal Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay development regimes by Christopher Wylde
11:15 AM-11:45 AM – The impact of taxes and social spending on inequality and poverty in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Peru: a synthesis of results by Nora Lustig, George Gray-Molina, Sean Higgins, Miguel Jaramillo, Wilson Jiménez, Veronica Paz, Claudiney Pereira, Carola Pessino, John Scott, and Ernesto Yañez
12:00 PM -1:30 PM – LUNCH
1:45 PM -2:15 PM – Participatory developments and democratic representation in South America by Leonardo Avritzer and Enrique Peruzzotti
2:15 PM -2:45 PM – The second wave of incorporation and territorialized politics in Argentina and Brazil by Federico M. Rossi
2:45 PM -3:15 PM – Indigenous-state relations in Ecuador and Bolivia: challenges and opportunities by Roberta Rice
3:15 PM-3:30 PM – COFFEE BREAK
3:30 PM -4:00 PM – Gender, power, and women's political inclusion in Argentina and Chile by Susan Franceschet
4:00 PM -4:30 PM – Viral politics, the post-liberal imaginary and #Yosoy132 in Mexico by Benjamín Arditi
Summer K-12 Teacher Institute - Exploring Brazil: A Window into the Language & Culture of a Country on the Rise
The University of Georgia, Tulane University, and Vanderbilt University will collaborate to offer a Summer Institute on Brazilian Culture and Portuguese Language. K-12 educators of any discipline and grade-level are welcome to apply to attend this 4 day institute. The goal of this institute is to encourage and promote the teaching of Portuguese and the culture of Brazil through film, literature, service learning, and technology in any K-12 classroom. The institute will focus on the language, history, and geography of Brazil. Sessions will include Portuguese language instruction and participants will explore the culture, history, and geography of Brazil. Film screenings and other presentations will be incorporated into the institute to highlight contemporary and engaging cultural content for the K-12 classroom. During the week, educators will work in teams to develop interdisciplinary units that address applicable state learning standards, which they will bring back to their schools to teach and share with colleagues. Educators may receive a certificate of completion for 20 hours of professional development if desired.
Sponsored in part through a Portuguese Flagship Program at the University of Georgia and through a Title VI U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center grant on Latin America awarded to Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies.
Registration Information Below:
- Base Registration ($50) includes all materials, parking and registration to entire program with no meals or housing included. You are responsible for making your own housing and dining accommodations.
- Registration with Base Housing ($150) includes everything above as well as breakfast and lunch, and a double room on campus in dormitory housing.
- Registration with Private Housing ($225) includes everything above and assures a private room and bath in dormitory housing.
- Add $50 to registration if interested in receiving Georgia Department of Education approved Professional Learning Units (PLUs)
For more information contact:
Denise Woltering (Tulane University), 504.862.3143, email@example.com
Kathleen Schmaltz (University of Georgia), 706.583.0388, firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire Gonzalez (Vanderbilt University), 615.343.1837, email@example.com
Two-week Public Service summer program in Ecuador
Center for Public Service: International Programs
Ecuador: Tropical Field Biology and Conservation
Chocó Rainforest, Ecuador | Tentative dates: August 9 – August 23, 2013
| Application deadline: January 28, 2013
All majors are welcome to apply to spend two weeks in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. Ecuador: Tropical Field Biology and Conservation gives students the opportunity to apply the theory and knowledge they have acquired in the classroom to the real world. Students will travel with Dr. Karubian and Dr. Duraes to Ecuador for a two-week intensive field course. While on the course, students will experience first-hand the challenges and rewards of conducting field research and implementing conservation activities in tropical environments. These activities will take place within a context of community engagement based on active collaboration and interaction with Ecuadorian local residents in a variety of contexts.
For more information, click here to visit the Center for Public Service’s page on this program.
Call for Papers: Radical Caribbeans
Read the official Call for Papers here.
We welcome papers that address any facet of the Caribbean radicalis and radical approaches to Caribbean identity, culture and social practices. Papers may focus on one country or invoke comparative strategies of any regions contained in the greater Caribbean, beyond the confines of the Caribbean sea, northeast of the Florida straits and into the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans, and south, along the Atlantic coast, past Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil. Papers may be in English, Spanish, French or Portuguese, though English is preferred.
If you are interested in participating, please send a 250 word abstract as an attachment to either of the email addresses listed below by June 15th, 2013. Include the title of your paper, your name (and the names of any co-presenters), institutional affiliation, phone number, mailing and email address. Papers for presentation should be no more than than 20 minutes and may be considered for publication. If submitting a panel for consideration, please include a top sheet with panel title, participant names and a brief abstract of the panel topic in addition to the individual paper proposals.
Notification of acceptance to the conference will be made by July 5, 2013.
For more information on the conference, location and arrangements, visit the Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute website for updates at cuba.tulane.edu.
Submit abstracts by June 15 to: