Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Punching Above Your Weight in International Affairs

By Ludovico Feoli

At a recent event in San José co-hosted by CIAPA, the newly elected president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, presented his vision of a foreign policy for his administration. One may question the relevance of the subject for such a tiny player in the global sphere, with only 52,000 square kilometers, four million inhabitants, and no army. But the fact of the matter is that the country has historically played an outsized role in international affairs, punching well above its weight.

Standing up to the Reagan administration in the late 80s it helped broker the peace process that ended the Central American wars. It later spearheaded an initiative at the United Nations to regulate the international trade of small arms that culminated in the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty by the General Assembly in 2013. The country has twice occupied a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council. It is recognized for its leadership in international environmental policy, being among the first to negotiate debt for nature swaps and establish a large-scale program of payments for ecological services. It is also recognized for its respect for, and leadership in, the field of human rights, and serves as the host for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

This active international profile has been informed by close adherence to a set of core values: disarmament, denuclearization, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and respect for human rights and the environment. By enhancing the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s â’‘¬Å“soft powerâ’‘¬Â such a stance has enabled it to act as a â’‘¬Å“moral powerâ’‘¬Â on the world stage. Yet the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s bearing has also been pragmatic, embracing early adherence to GATT and global integration, for example, and being the first country in Central America to recognize the Peopleâ’‘¬’“¢s Republic of China. Because Costa Ricaâ’‘¬’“¢s â’‘¬Å“realist idealismâ’‘¬Â has been path breaking in these ways the new presidentâ’‘¬’“¢s foreign policy vision may therefore be of more than just local interest.

In fact, President Solís is not complacent about the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s recent international profile. He made the case for a better articulation of its foreign policy. Latin America, in his view, has not to date been treated as the strategic space it is. Costa Rica has focused, historically, on its relations with Central America, the United States and Europe. Only a few Latin American countries have commanded attention, and then but insufficiently and inconsistently. Solís proposed Costa Rica should be an â’‘¬Å“impactful actorâ’‘¬Â, constructing a regional dialogue about security, climate change, human rights, migration, socio-economic equity, and trade and investment. These last two areasâ’‘¬‘€trade and investmentâ’‘¬‘€have commanded too much attention from recent governments, in his view, and, while important, he believes they should be driven by the broader political considerations of foreign policy, and not the other way around.

While recognizing the importance of a Latin American focus, the President understands the region to be diverse and believes that policy should be tailored accordingly. He distinguishes four sub-regions with different relevance for national interests. First is Central America, the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s natural geographic and historic reference point. But he proposes that this region should extend to the Caribbean Basin, his second sub region, incorporating not only its insular territories, but also those of important countries on the coastal areas, like Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela. Third is North America, understood not merely as the United States, but also Mexico and Canadaâ’‘¬‘€all countries with which Costa Rica already maintains meaningful and fruitful relations. The fourth sub region is South America, which he sub-divides into the Southern Cone and the Andean Region. Relations with these countries have been the least active but hold great potential, particularly in the case of Brazil.

Where does this leave the United States? The President acknowledged the long history of positive, albeit sometimes tense, relations with the U.S., which is currently also the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s leading trade and investment partner. He expects this to continue, but not at the expense of the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s autonomy. In line with his vision of a realist idealism, he wishes to stir clear from positions that, for the sake of alignment, would limit the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s freedom of action. This would be true in general, not merely for the U.S. For example, he distanced himself from U.S. regional security policies, which he considered to be â’‘¬Å“militarizedâ’‘¬Â, but he also announced that Costa Rica would not be joining Venezuelaâ’‘¬’“¢s Petrocaribe.

Indeed, Solís vowed to follow a â’‘¬Å“pluralisticâ’‘¬Â approach to regional relations, one that recognizes the inherent value of the different integration institutions in the region, and defends their relevance. The CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which excludes the U.S. and Canada) will have pride of place, given that Costa Ricaâ’‘¬’“¢s pro-tempore presidency provides a unique opportunity to exert the kind of leadership the President advocates. However, he does not believe that the Organization of American States should be written off. As the historical repository of inter-American integration and international law it must, in fact, be defended. But insofar as its political functions have been displaced to other fora this should be recognized as part of the new regional reality. As should be the fact that the U.S. can no longer strong-arm regional actors or inhibit the presence of extra hemispheric ones.

The SICA (Central American Integration System) will also be a focus of attention for the President, given its relevance to Costa Rica. The country has tended to retract from a full engagement with its Central American peers and the President believes it is time to change this, making the country a pacesetter for the sub-region. He pledged to pursue SICAâ’‘¬’“¢s next Secretary General post for a Costa Rican, from which vantage point he would seek to reform and update the institution.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Out America (ALBA) will also merit attention and consideration, although they will not be central. Solís seemed less enthusiastic about the Pacific Alliance (PA), an integration effort spearheaded by Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile, and eagerly embraced by his predecessor. Primarily a trade block, the PA exemplifies Solísâ’‘¬’“¢ concern about trade driving foreign policy priorities. While not dismissing the relevance of trade or the potential of the PA, he suggested it should be pondered carefully, respecting the concerns of Costa Rican productive sectors. This in turn reflects the Presidentâ’‘¬’“¢s ideological convictions that the state should play a more important role in guiding the economy, a central theme throughout the campaign in the run-up to his election.

In sum, the Presidentâ’‘¬’“¢s foreign policy will be, in his own words, a form of â’‘¬Å“conservative inter-Americanismâ’‘¬Â and â’‘¬Å“progressive neostatismâ’‘¬Â. It will be principled, in that it will continue to be inspired by the ideals of disarmament and denuclearization, human rights, environmental stewardship, and equity. It will be pragmatic, focusing on those geographical regions and partners that have greatest potential for the country and actively promoting its interests and defending its rights. It will be pluralistic, engaged with international institutions to the extent that they fit the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s needs. And it will be integral, not surrendering policy to particular objectives, like trade and investment, or conceding the directive prerogatives of the state to the forces of the market.

Whether this will enable Costa Rica to continue punching above its weight in international affairs remains to be seen. But the President has articulated a comprehensive vision for a foreign policy which he clearly believes will do so.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ludovico Feoli

    Permanent Researcher and CEO, CIAPA, Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University

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LAGO Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship

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The Latin Americanist Graduate Organization (LAGO) is pleased to announce its Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship. This full-day event will include a series of presentations featuring graduate students, faculty, and local leaders working at the intersection of academia and community. All are welcome to attend one or more of three talks. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.


SYMPOSIUM SCHEDULE

9 – 9:30 AM | Breakfast

9:30 – 11 AM | “The Role of the Arts in Community Engagement and Activism”
Moderator: Megan Flattley (Stone Center PhD Candidate)
Panelists: Dr. Jeffery U. Darensbourg (Tribal Councilperson and enrolled member of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas), Gabrielle Garcia Steib (Media Artist and Writer), Dr. Edith Wolfe (Stone Center Assistant Director for Undergraduate Programs)

11 – 11:30 AM | Break/Networking

11:30 – 1 PM | “Co-Creating Digital Testimonios with Latinx Youth: A Community-Engaged Approach to Scholarship and Action”
Presenters: Jennifer Miller Scarnato (City, Culture & Community PhD Candidate) and Rebeca Sauly Santa María Granados (Youth Member of Puentes)
Discussion Moderator: Dr. James D. Huck, Jr. (Stone Center Assistant Director for Graduate Programs and Puentes Board Member)

1 – 2 PM | Lunch

2 – 3:30 PM | “Guiding Principles and Strategies: The Social Sciences and Community Engagement”
Moderator: Carolina Timoteo de Oliveira (Stone Center PhD Candidate)
Panelists: Dr. Claudia Chávez-Arguelles (Tulane Anthropology Faculty), Ruth Idakula (Critical Race Theory & Anti-Racist Praxis educator and facilitator), and Linett Luna Tovar (Stone Center Masters Program Alumna)

3:30 – 4:30 | Networking/Wrap-up

The LAGO Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship is co-sponsored by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Tulane Mellon Graduate Program in Community-Engaged Scholarship.

Latin American Writers Series: Damián Cabrera

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Join us for an interview with Damián Cabrera about his life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Damián Cabrera was born in Asunción Paraguay and grew up in Alto Paraná along the Brazilian border. His publications, which explore the realities of the Triple Frontier, include one collection of short stories, sh… horas de contar… (2006) and the novels Xiru (2012)—winner of the Roque Gaona Prize—and Xe (2019). Cabrera has served as editor of the journals El Tereré (2006-2012) and Ku’Ótro (2008) and is an active member of artistic organizations such as Semenario Espacio/Crítico and Ediciones de la Ura. He also teaches film at the Universidad Columbia de Paraguay and art and design at the Universidad Nacional de Paraguay.

The 2020 Dr. H. Barry and Lucy V. Holt Lecture in Ethnohistory: "City of Blood, City of Flowers: Why the Aztecs Enchant Us"

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The Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Tulane Department of History, and the Middle American Research Institute invite you to the 2020 Dr. H. Barry and Lucy V. Holt Lecture in Ethnohistory: “City of Blood, City of Flowers: Why the Aztecs Enchant Us” presented by Dr. Davíd Carrasco.

Davíd Carrasco is the Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard University. A historian of religions with a particular interest in Mesoamerican cities and the Mexican-American borderlands, Carrasco’s wide-ranging work has explored the challenges of postcolonial ethnography and theory as well as the practices and symbolic nature of ritual violence in comparative perspective. In conjunction with Mexican archaeologists, he has carried out research in excavations and archives associated with the sites of Teotihuacan and Mexico-Tenochtitlan resulting in books such as Religions of Mesoamerica, City of Sacrifice, To Change Place, and Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire. Carrasco’s work has also traced the religious dimensions of the Latino experience, exploring themes such as mestizaje, the myth of Aztlan, transculturation, and La Virgen de Guadalupe. Most recently, Carrasco oversaw production of a documentary about his longtime friend and Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. He edited and contributed to the companion volume Goodness & the Literary Imagination. Carrasco is a recipient of the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor the Mexican government gives to a foreign national.

The lecture is being held in conjunction with the Tulane Maya Symposium and will be followed by light refreshments before the keynote address by Dorie Reents-Budet. Both the Holt Lecture and keynote address are free and open to the public.

Teaching the Maya through Food: K-12 Teacher Workshop

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Friday, March 6, 2020
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

REGISTER HERE FOR $5 ONLY

In collaboration with the Annual Tulane Maya Symposium, this workshop focuses on foods of the Maya. Participants will explore the foods of the Maya focusing on the role of food over time. Join us as we hear from Maya Master Teacher, Ellen Cohen, Anthropologist and researcher of chocolate, Professor Kathryn Sampeck and Kaqchikel language scholar from Guatemala, Ixnal Cuma Chávez who will discuss the importance of the tortilla and tamal in contemporary Maya traditions.

REGISTER HERE.

Workshop Objectives:

  • Provide a general introduction to the geography of the Maya
  • Introduce new perspectives to teaching the Maya through culinary traditions
  • Share hands-on lessons and activities that inspire learners to better understand ancient and contemporary Maya

Sponsored by Tulane University’s AfterCLASS, the Middle American Research Institute, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, and S.S. NOLA.

For more information, please call 504.862.3143 or email crcrts@tulane.edu.

Latin American Writers Series: Andrea Palet

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Join us for an interview with Andrea Palet about her life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Andrea Palet is an editor, columnist, and educator from Chile. With almost three decades of experience in the publishing field, she has edited magazines and books in both Europe and South America. In 2014, she became the founding editorial director of Editorial Laurel in Santiago, Chile. Under her leadership, the house has released the works of more than 20 novelists, essayists, and chroniclers. Palet also oversees the Master of Editing program at the Universidad de Diego Portales. A collection of her columns, Leo y olvido, was released in 2018 by Ediciones Bastante.

Latin American Writers Series: Rodrigo Fuentes

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Join us for an interview with Rodrigo Fuentes about his life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Rodrigo Fuentes is a Guatemalan-born writer of short stories. He received the II Premio Centroamericano Carátula in 2014, and his collection Trucha Panza arriba was a finalist for the 2018 Premio Gabriel García Márquez . His works have been published in Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, as well as in translation in France and Scotland. Fuentes is also the co-founder and editor of the magazine Suelta and of the digital publishing house and literary journal Traviesa. He currently teaches in the Department of Spanish at College of the Holy Cross.