We landed at the Caracas airport on February 12th. My colleagues and I were reminded many times before our departure from Los Angeles that Caracas is considered the most dangerous city in the world, with a homicide rate of more than 100 deaths per 100,000 residents. Unfortunately, the government does not publish official records when it casts the country in a negative light. Venezuela today is similar to what Colombia was in the 80s and 90s—a dangerous country draped with insecurity. It seems now like the tables have turned quite. So our strategy was as such: bunker down, speak Spanish at all times, do our business, and leave fast.
In 1492, the discovery of America forced not only the European world to confront its finitude, but also interconnected the rest of that world, showing not only the roundness of a thought that until then had been flat, but also the natural, cultural, and human diversity. The configuration of both worlds had to be reinvented, and that is what happened. At the same time, a vision capable of synthesizing all these perspectives was also developed. This cosmopolitan syncretism was vital to the creation of modern Mexico. Immigration has been part of an exercise to get to know ourselves and the other. This coexistence is also a creative way to define new societies.
Across the globe, we hear too many stories of high youth unemployment. The part of the story we do not always hear, however, is the trouble businesses around the world have in recruiting enough high-quality talent from the STEM fields to fill all the IT, computer science, and engineering positions available.
Probably nowhere else in the world do cities matter as much as in Latin America, highlighted by the statistical fact that four-fifths of Latin America’s 589 million people reside in cities. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, Latin America is more urbanized than any other region in the emerging markets world. The region boasts 198 cities harboring a minimum population of 200,000, generating 60 percent of all of Latin America’s GDP output. The urbanization trend is only moving forward, with the United Nations forecasting that by 2050, 90 percent of Latin America’s population will be living in cities or towns–an amazing phenomenon indeed, but with an unintended consequence: inadequate housing for the low-income population.
What will pave the road to Colombia’s future? The country has been experiencing what some are calling an oil bonanza, with its oil production having surged 80 percent in the past seven years. It is estimated that the country will be extracting upwards of 1.6 million barrels of crude oil per day by 2016.
Amongst the brethren of emerging markets, Brazil not too long ago presented the most excitement and opportunity. Everybody and everything wanted to be somewhat associated with Brazil’s rising star power—epitomized by being awarded in a short time span both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Excluding China, Brazil has received the most media attention and hype in the last few years, often touted as the next emerging market country that will soon transform into a bona fide superpower. Yet time has a funny way of determining things. Brazil, at the blink of an eye, is now confronting a different reality, a most despised and feared three-headed dragon: slow growth, a weak currency, and worst of all, inflation.
“With new access to virtual space and to its technologies, populations and groups all around the world will seize the moment, addressing long-held grievances or new concerns, with tenacity and conviction. Every society in the future will experience different forms of protest in which communication technology are used to organize, mobilize and engage”.
Social media has changed communications. Millions throughout the world inform, report, comment, engage, reply, connect, participate, debate, and access content. As internet guru Clay Shirky describes the new public sphere: “We are increasingly in a landscape where media is global, ubiquitous, and cheap. The audience can talk back. The really crazy change is here: the fact that people are no longer disconnected from each other, the complexity of the network is actually the square of the number of participants, meaning that the network, when it grows large, grows very, very large. And the choice we face is how can we make the best use of this media”. Governments are no exception—using social media as a political channel, a means of communicating directly with constituents. In Latin America, growth in connectivity and access to mobile technology account for increased public engagement.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) welcomed Francisco Santos Calderón, former Vice President of Colombia and candidate for the 2014 presidential elections, to discuss his views on international security. In his remarks Santos discussed the current and future relations between its neighbor Venezuela and the United States.
“I would like talk about ‘moral compass’, for that is the blanket of this speech,” Santos began “and I would like to focus on three things.”
After spending much of 2012 shuttling back and forth between Venezuela and Cuba for surgery, Hugo Chávez is dead. Cuba’s Communist Party has shielded Fidel Castro from the public eye since his retirement, his shaky speech threatening to undermine the fiery legacy they seek to preserve. Fidel’s brother and successor Raúl, at 81, faces limited time to groom the Party’s future leadership. On the surface, the continuation of Latin American socialism is in jeopardy. Yet one need look no further than its history of oil-financed social programs, bloated bureaucracies, rising corruption, and skyrocketing inflation to realize that Latin American socialism is deeply ingrained and churning along like on its rickety path, flaws and all. Facing the realities of the global economy, the lip-service these leaders paid to Simon Bolívar and Jose Martí will give way to selective foreign investment and oil money that serves little social purpose aside from generating the funds needed to keep the current parties in power.
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