Panama’s economy will grow by 7 percent this year, but because of glaring inequality, most Panamanians will never see that prosperity. In Guatemala, corruption is rampant among the “klepto-dictatorship” that runs the country, and in El Salvador, gross domestic product stagnates as politicians stuff their pockets with money from violent gangs.

Half a dozen experts speaking Feb. 10 at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center offered that rather bleak assessment during an event titled “Latin America’s Electoral Cycle 2014-15.”

Nearly 200 people attended the panel, which was moderated by Daniel Zovatto, Latin America director for the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Panelists included Evelyn Villareal of Costa Rica’s State of the Nation Program, Harry Brown Araúz, a Panamanian official with the United Nations Development Program, journalist and former diplomat Héctor Silva Ávalos of El Salvador and José Rubén Zamora Marroquín of Guatemala’s El Periódico newspaper.

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