Latin America Symposium Reveals Insights on Regional Politics and Economies
By Dialogo April 09, 2013
At a symposium about Latin America held in Miami, Colombian Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzón said that most Colombians are no longer frightened by terrorism and organized crime.
“Today, for the average Colombian citizen, terrorism is something that is seen on television but that no longer affects them directly,” Pinzón said to an audience of academics, diplomats, businessmen, university students, journalists, and military personnel that attended the event organized by the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.
Pinzón attributed this change to the efforts made for over a decade, among which he recognized the progress made by the governments of Andrés Pastrana, Álvaro Uribe, and current President Juan Manuel Santos, as well as the boost given by Plan Colombia –which the United States carried out, calling it “a relatively small investment with a huge impact.”
“Since Plan Colombia started, we increased training in special operations, technologies used for intelligence-gathering, counter drug efforts, as well as cooperation. As a result, we have seen a change in the threat we are confronting,” the minister said.
According to Pinzón, who has been Minister of Defense for 19 months, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had 21,000 combatants, as well as 20,000 militias in 2000. Between 2010 and 2011, that figure was reduced to 9,000 armed guerrillas and 10,000 militias, and by “late 2012, there were less than 8,000 armed terrorists, and 9,000 militias,” he stated.
As for the future of peace talks with the FARC, the minister said, “personally, I think the battle against terrorist organizations will continue for several months, but no longer than five years, because if these individuals do not understand that this is their last chance, they will continue to weaken in their position to the extent that they will become no more than an ordinary criminal gang,” he concluded.
The VIII Latin America Symposium, created by the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami, also featured the participation of regional experts, who discussed topics such as the changing Latin American political environment, commercial relations between the United States and Latin America, the future of Venezuela, and the role of regional economies, namely those of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, on the region as a whole.
The topic of Venezuela, which captured the attention of participants and panelists, was addressed by Professor Javier Corrales from the Political Science School at Amherst College, in Massachusetts. According to the scholar, the leftist movement that was led by late President Hugo Chávez reached its peak, and is now in decline. Other participants, such as Brian Latell, a fellow researcher from the Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, even said that if Nicolás Maduro was elected, he will face too many difficulties to keep ‘Chavism’ alive.
Among the speakers was Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S. Mauro Vieira, who said that since 2000, the combination of an accelerated economic development, a low unemployment rate, and a controlled inflation in Brazil has favored the increase of national and foreign investment in the country.
For example, the diplomat said that during 2012, a considerable increase in U.S. investments was observed in his country at the same time as Brazilian companies were seen investing in U.S. capital. “We are united by bonds that can be traced back to 1822, when the U.S. was the first country to recognize Brazil as a democratic state,” he said.
The Brazilian Ambassador in Washington also stressed that the social policies applied by the governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff allowed 24 million people to step out of poverty, and 31 million others to become part of the middle class.