Columbia University history Professor Adam Tooze observes that today the world is being redefined not just by the COVID-19 pandemic but also the environment, geopolitics and trust in government. This paradigm shift is evident across the Americas as countries throughout the region grapple with the economic and public health challenges brought about by the pandemic amidst mounting climate-related impacts and an erosion of trust in government at a time when public expectations for the delivery of critical public services (education, healthcare, basic public infrastructure) is on the rise.
At the same time, like in other parts of the world, the geopolitics of Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC) is also changing with the growing influence of China and Russia prompting some countries in the region—notably Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua– to challenge the Washington consensus. Though the United States and Canada remain strategically important to Mexico, recently Mexican President Lopez Obrador openly challenged the legitimacy of the Organization of American States (OAS)—that includes its two USMCA partners—due to its emphasis on promoting the principles of democracy, government transparency, and human rights among its member nations. Here, AMLO argued that both the United States and Canada should work to promote the good of the region with expanded direct foreign assistance and investment “without infringing on our sovereignty” either directly or through the OAS.
Though challenges in the promotion of democracy remain across the Americas, there are nevertheless several bright spots. For starters, the U.S-Canada bilateral relation remains strong with both countries working on common fronts to address many of today’ pressing global challenges bilaterally as well as through multilateral fora (e.g. UN, WTO, G7, G-20 and NATO), a point highlighted in a recent Institute forum.
In Latin America, other bright spots include Costa Rica, Uruguay and Ecuador, where examples of democratic principles and inclusiveness have recently shined.
In the case of Ecuador, under newly elected President Guillermo Lasso, the country is now working proactively to expand its bilateral trading relationship with the U.S. while also promoting increased foreign investment, coupled with a commitment towards government transparency, the rule of law and respect for the environment and indigenous rights, points emphasized by senior Ecuadorian government officials at the Institute’s forum on U.S.-Ecuador relations earlier this month.
Though LAC faces unique challenges related to climate change induced risks, such as severe droughts and sea-level rise, and lack of funding to implement a low-carbon transition, several countries in the region are stepping up and providing real leadership in support of their Paris Agreement related Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) including Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic. Learn more about this issue with the publication of a white paper authored by Tania Miranda, the Institute’s Director of Policy & Stakeholder Engagement for our Environment & Climate Change program.
No doubt, much work remains to be done across the Americas. With your active support, our team at the Institute remains committed to leaning in and doing our part to make a positive impact in the region providing crucial thought leadership while also serving as an honest broker between the public and private sectors across Latin America to help forge a constructive dialogue in the region.
Thank you for your on-going interest and support of the Institute’s programs and initiatives.
1 Adam Tooze, ,Shutdown: How COVID Shook the World’s Economy, New York, NY: Viking Press, 2021 https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/669575/shutdown-by-adam-tooze/