by Mitchell Li
Duke’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies invited Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, to speak about the current economic, social, and political state of Latin America and its impact the US.
Latin America has recently seen some positive political change, from the general election held in Argentina in October of last year to the Bolivian constitutional referendum of 2016. Farnsworth expressed his optimism for the region, stating that Latin American voters were moving away from populism and ideology towards pragmatism.
Farnsworth cited Colombia as a model of this trend. For the first time in over 50 years, the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, met with the FARC rebels to negotiate a peace deal that would end a half-century long civil war.
These positive political developments led to benefits for Washington as well. “For the first time in many years,” Farnsworth said, “you have leaders—democratically elected—who want to work with the United States to address common challenges.”
Despite a seemingly positive transformation in Latin America’s political scene, the region faces some serious challenges.
Venezuela is in a desperate economic crisis. Drug trafficking is pervading Central America, springing up in permissive environments where law enforcement is inadequate. Nicaragua’s government is working towards ensuring Nicaragua remains a one-party state, and Haiti has struggled to hold a presidential election for months.
“In my view those challenges require the assistance, and some would even say the leadership of the Unites States to help address effectively,” stated Farnsworth. He concluded his brief overview of Latin America’s state with some remarks calling Congress and the incoming president to foster a cooperative atmosphere with Latin America through future foreign policy.
During the moderated discussion that followed, former US Ambassador to Venezuela and director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Patrick Duddy and Farnsworth discussed unaddressed issues raised by the audience: from the deficiencies of education in Latin America to the United States’ antagonistic relationship with Mexico.
Eric Farnsworth’s presentation, “The Western Hemisphere Policy Agenda: A View from Washington” was sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, as for the Wednesdays at the John Hope Franklin Center series.