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Latin America and Globalization

Does the 21st century hold prosperity or peril for Latin America?

August 30, 2005

Does the 21st century hold prosperity or peril for Latin America?

The 1980s were dubbed Latin America’s “lost decade” after a debt crisis ravaged the continent’s economies. New openness to capital and trade was then supposed to bring economic salvation in the 1990s — but few countries saw sustained development. What will the early part of the 21st century hold for Latin Americans? Our Read My Lips examines where the region is heading.

Has Latin America dropped off the world's radar screen?

“Latin America is no longer the backyard. It has become Atlantis — the lost continent.”
(Moises Naim, editor of Foreign Policy, February 2004)

Did Latin America see globalization as a promise?

“When you had the promise of globalization and free markets, people warmed up to the idea that the American dream of prosperity might come to us.”
(Felipe Noguera, Latin American political analyst, April 2003)

And what's the reality?

“Latin America is full of nations that cannot make globalization work.”
(Tina Rosenberg, New York Times columnist, August 2002)

With what result?

“Latin America no longer believes in globalization. Neither does Africa. Nor does a good part of Asia. Globalization is no longer global.”
(John Ralston Saul, essayist and novelist, March 2004)

What do others see as the problem?

“There is too much false nationalism and a lack of firm commitment to real development.”
(Otto Reich, former White House’s chief envoy to Latin America, October 2003)

Are Latin Americans alone responsible for their problems?

“You can’t blame poverty on the poor countries. It wasn’t they who conquered and looted entire continents for centuries — nor did they establish colonialism, nor did they re-introduce slavery, nor did they create modern imperialism. They were its victims.”
(Cuba's President Fidel Castro, March 2002)

Why should the United States remain concerned about the neighboring region?

“An economically weak South America means a politically unstable South America.”
(Latin American diplomat, August 2002)

Do leaders from the region blame U.S. import restrictions for lack of economic growth?

"Free trade is important. But it’s more talked about than practiced.”
(Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, November 2003)

How could U.S. negligence result in a loss of influence?

“Most Americans probably haven’t noticed that Latin America has faded from the White House radar screen. But Beijing has — and it is inching into the void.”
(Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal columnist, September 2004)

How prevalent is anti-Americanism in Latin America?

“Most officials in Latin American countries today are not anti-American types. We have studied in the United States or worked there. We like and understand America. But we find it extremely irritating to be treated with utter contempt.”
(Mexico's former Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, March 2003)

How does the recent slide of the U.S. dollar imact Latin America?

“If there is any region that should benefit from the falling dollar, it’s Latin America. A dollar slide makes it easier for Latin debtors, especially Brazil and big companies throughout the region, to pay down their heavy foreign debt load.”
(Wall Street Journal editorial, December 2004)

How do Latin America's economic efforts compare to Asia's?

“Latin America has signally failed to replicate Asia’s success: Latin nations have liberalized, privatized and deregulated — with results ranging from disappointing Mexico, to catastrophic Argentina.”
(Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, November 2003)

How do Mexicans feel about competing with China?

“Right now, it is like competing in a race — but they are running on land and we are swimming in the water.”
(Mario Montes de Oca, owner of Union Clothing, September 2003)

What is especially painful for Latin America?

“This is a continent where the peasants and laborers work from dawn to dusk and end their lives in misery — and not for the lack of natural resources.”
(Otto Reich, former White House chief envoy to Latin America, October 2003)

What else is worrisome?

“Democracy is still seen as a system which benefits a minority.”
(Marta Lagos, director of Latinobarometro, November 2003)

What made the election of Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva an international event?

“Lula has attracted more international attention than any Latin American leader since the rise of Fidel Castro in Cuba in 1958-9.”
(Norman Gall, executive director of the Fernand Braudel Institute of World Economics, January 2004)

What is one Latin American success story?

“Financial collapses are an old story in Latin America. What is new is a country that demonstrates how to climb out of poverty. That is happening in Chile.”
(Jackson Diehl, Washington Post columnist, July 2002)

And finally, why could the past serve as a guide for the future?

“From the 15th to the 19th century, Latin America’s external trade and investment had greater significance than in the 20th century.”
(James Petras, author, November 2003)