The pending accounts of Latin America, according to three former presidents

Latin America shares the values ​​of the West but needs China and drags burdens such as the fight against drugs, poverty and a weak rule of law, say former presidents Luis Alberto Lacalle, Ernesto Zedillo and Juan Manuel Santos.

“We Latin Americans must accept that we have failed” in the attempt for economies and societies to reach the levels of the most developed countries, Mexican Ernesto Zedillo said this Wednesday at a symposium at the Georgetown Americas Institute, in Washington, on the challenges and opportunities region of.

It is drowning in three “wells”: “Mediocre growth” due to low productivity, “poverty and inequality” and “a weak rule of law”, lists Zedillo, who except three good students, Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica .

All this in a challenging global context aggravated by the fact that “many of our countries are returning to the past, to authoritarian, autocratic, despotic governments that do not believe in the rule of law or in institutions,” he added.

To remedy this, he proposes a “holistic” approach to these three “wells”, with “intermediate solutions”.

“Some people are interested in the rule of law and security but don’t want to pay taxes” and others “want to preserve their privileges”, as is sometimes the case with some unions, he said. “They defend those rights so much that they don’t allow others to have the same right,” said Zedillo, who led Mexico for six years (1994-2000) for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Lacalle recalled that there is not only one Latin America, so “it is very difficult to apply a single formula to the type of relations that we should and can have.”

And it is especially so today, when China and Russia “are moving the pieces on the chessboard,” he said.

Ukraine monopolizes minutes on television but far from there there are “other tensions” and emergencies, he recalled, citing the case of Venezuela, led by President Nicolás Maduro and, according to him, “colonized by Cuba”, which gets “into the government”.

Lacalle is convinced that “a storm is brewing” in that country and because “they are not just friendly allies” but that Cuba “is entering the intelligence service.”

The rest of Latin America has, he said, a very important relationship with China, a key trading partner for the region.

“If we side with values, of course we are with the United States, with the European Union and Christian civilization”, but “on the other hand, the reality of trade and prosperity comes from the relationship with China”, he summarizes, insisting that small countries like yours must put their interests first.

Lacalle, a conservative who led Uruguay between 1990 and 1995 and whose son Luis Lacalle Pou now presides over that country, also insisted on the importance of political legitimacy, not only “of origin”, with fair elections, but “in the exercise of power “, respecting the law.

Both Zedillo and Lacalle attended the event in person, but Juan Manuel Santos did it virtually.

“We suffer what almost all democracies suffer very deeply”, a “critical polarization” that reduces effectiveness, began by saying the former conservative Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2016.

This polarization was exacerbated, according to him, with the pandemic and the war on drugs.

“Today one of the main challenges” in the region “is that we are losing this fight” against drugs, said Santos, who during his tenure (2010-2018) already called for another approach to this problem.

“I think that at this moment all of Latin America should come together and discuss this and make a proposal to the rest of the world” because “it is a very, very big problem that we have to address by being more pragmatic, regulating drugs and taking money from organized crime. “, he asked.

Santos also lacks “a leadership” in the region that he hopes will be replaced by the leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, winner of the presidential elections in Brazil.

He can contribute, according to Lacalle, “wisdom” because “Brazil is politically very wise.” “I don’t think he’s going to be a radical president,” he says, because it’s his second chance and “the last.”

Former US President Bill Clinton was to close the day with a reflection on America that was postponed due to contracting covid-19.


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The pending accounts of Latin America, according to three former presidents