On December 8th, the Inter-American Dialogue’s Working Group on Latin America met for the 30th session. Dating back to 2001, the group is one of the longest-running and most successful initiatives at the Dialogue. It brings together a select group of political, academic, and civil society leaders from across Latin America to discuss the most pressing issues facing the region. Sessions are intended not only to help shape the Dialogue’s agenda, but also to guide policy cooperation in a broader sense. With meetings alternating between Washington, DC and cities in Latin America, the program is unique in its breadth and long-term perspective. No other project regularly brings together such a group of distinguished experts for a frank, off-the-record discussion on hemispheric affairs.
At this meeting, the group focused on five major challenges facing the Americas: the worsening crisis in Venezuela, the rise of anti-establishment sentiment in elections, the rapidly changing face of politics in the United States, Latin America’s shifting relationships in a new global order, and the peace process and presidential elections in Colombia.
On Venezuela, the participants discussed the outlook for the country as its economic and political situations continue to spiral downwards, including the implications of recent regional elections. The experts also debated the role and significance of outside actors—including the Lima Group—in helping determine the fate of the crisis.
Turning to a broader focus, the group then analyzed the shape of electoral patterns across the Americas—in particular, the tide of anti-establishment sentiment that seems to be playing out in almost every country. In the next 12 months, over 70 percent of Latin Americans will vote for a new president. How, in particular, does corruption impact the upcoming electoral cycle? What are the main challenges for democracy and governance? What is the significance of populist or radical candidacies in Mexico and Brazil?
Then more specifically the working group addressed the case of the United States, perhaps the country in the Americas most impacted by the current anti-establishment mood. The group discussed not only the complex and rapidly changing politics of the Trump era, but also the changing role of the media and how information and news are communicated.
Yet the Trump effect is not limited to the United States: it has ripples that extend across the region and the world. In part because of the Trump Administration, Latin American leaders are working to adapt to a rapidly changing global context. Experts debated how Latin American leaders are responding—and how they should be responding. The group also analyzed the prospects for Latin American integration, including the future of Mercosur, the Pacific Alliance, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Finally, the group returned to its roots—as a Colombia Working Group—and discussed the working outlook for that country. Experts paid particular attention to the significance and role of polarization and fragmentation in the countries politics, as well as the substantial and mounting implementation challenges for the peace accord.
This meeting was by invitation only and off the record.
Cynthia Arnson is the director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Philip Bennett is the Eugene C. Patterson Professor at Duke University and special projects editor at PBS FRONTLINE and was previously the managing editor of The Washington Post.
Catalina Botero is the dean of the law faculty at the Universidad de los Andes and was special rapporteur for freedom of expression for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Michael Camilleri is the director of the Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program at the Inter-American Dialogue.
Lázaro Cárdenas Batel is a former governor of Michoacán state in Mexico and a senior fellow at WOLA.
Fernando Cepeda Ulloa is a professor at the Universidad de Los Andes and served as Colombia’s Ambassador to the UK, Canada, and France, as well as permanent representative to the UN and the OAS.
Ana Covarrubias is the director of the Center for International Studies at the Colegio de México.
Carlos Dada is a Salvadoran journalist and the founder of El Faro, an award-winning online investigative news site.
Rut Diamint is a professor of political science at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella and a researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research, based in Buenos Aires.
George Gray Molina is a Bolivian economist and a SDG advisor for the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at UNDP.
Peter Hakim is a senior fellow and president emeritus at the Inter-American Dialogue.
Miriam Kornblith is the senior director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Luis Vicente León is president of Datanálisis, a Venezuela-based market research company, and professor at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello and at Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración in Venezuela.
Gianpiero Leoncini is a director for the Secretariat and External Relations of CAF—Development Bank of Latin America.
Abraham F. Lowenthal is professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Southern California. He was the founding director of the Inter-American Dialogue.
Cesár Montúfar is a professor at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar and a former member of the Ecuadorian Congress.
Margaret Myers is the director of the China and Latin America Program at the Inter-American Dialogue.
Rafael Nieto is current presidential candidate, lawyer, and political analyst, as well as a former vice minister of justice in Colombia.
Manuel Orozco is the director of the Migration, Remittances & Development Program at the Inter-American Dialogue.
Carlos Pagni is an Argentine journalist and columnist for LA NACION and El País.
Rodrigo Pardo is former Colombian minister of foreign relations and is chief editor of Revista Semana. He also served as Colombia’s ambassador to France and Venezuela.
Ben Raderstorf is a program associate with the Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program at the Inter-American Dialogue.
Marta Lucía Ramírez is a current presidential candidate, a lawyer and former senator of Colombia. She also served as the minister of defense and trade.
Victor Rico is the secretary general at CAF – Development Bank of Latin America.
Michael Shifter is the president of the Inter-American Dialogue.
Eduardo Stein Barillas is the president of the Instituto de Altos Estudios Políticos. He previously served as vice president and foreign minister of Guatemala.
Alberto Vergara Paniagua is a profesor in the Department of Social Sciences and Politics at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima.
Juan Gabriel Valdés is the ambassador of Chile to the United States and was previously Chile’s foreign minister.
Jose Miguel Vivanco is director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch.
Victoria Wigodzky is an independent organizational strengthening consultant.