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Latin America's Domestic and International Challenges

In celebration of the Latin American Program's 40th anniversary, the Wilson Center held a day-long conference with leading policymakers, members of the private sector, and thought leaders from the hemisphere to discuss the region's most pressing domestic and international challenges and possibilities.

Date & Time

Sep. 28, 2017
9:00am – 4:30pm ET


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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In celebration of the Latin American Program's 40th anniversary, the Wilson Center held a day-long conference with leading policymakers, members of the private sector, and thought leaders from throughout the hemisphere to discuss the region's most pressing domestic and international challenges and possibilities.


Experts had a timely discussion of corruption's political impact in the region and strategies for overcoming it, followed by an in-depth consideration of the changing patterns of regional integration and their implications for U.S. policy.  

Selected quotes from keynote speakers

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso

“Let me stress that even the regions where representative democracy is more deeply rooted… their institutions are facing a bad moment. At the core of those problems, we find the widening gap between peoples’ aspirations and the capacity of political institutions to respond to the demands of society. The entire political system is seen as elitist, contaminated by corruption, oblivious to peoples’ daily concerns – and this phenomenon is not local nor transitory; it is embedded in a broad economic, social, and moral transformation that affects society as a whole.”

“It is difficult to change institutions. It is a bit difficult to promote a new institutional order… but more difficult than that is to produce change at the cultural level. So, what I’m stressing here is that we passed through democracy [in Brazil]. We made a mix between democracy and populism, so now are being affected by world transformations. But the persistence of, you know, corporatism and clientelism – this kind of thing is more difficult to take into account and to modify because it’s rooted, profoundly rooted, in the soul of society.” 

“Certainly, corruption in Brazil is an ancient practice – nominations for government posts in exchange for political support. However, the misdeeds in the past were either individual acts or a mix of patronage with leniency, not a fundamental mechanism for a government to gain and retain power.”

“Let me give one more example of how things have changed for the best, despite the complexity of the present crisis. In the past, confronted with a crisis like the current one, we Brazilians would be speculating about the attitude of the four-star generals. Today most of us do not even know their names, while the names of the eleven justices of the Supreme Court are household names. This is a profound modification.” 

Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz

“Regional integration has been probably one of the most important [issues in] the Latin American discourse throughout history – and achievements often have been scarce and geopolitical rivalries tend to endure.”

“During the most recent years, Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced more political and ideological diversity than at just about any other time that one can think of, and the tensions are reflected in a weakened set of regional organizations.” 

“Chile believes that regional integration and open markets are fundamental for creating the right conditions for more integration, diversification, and integration into value chains – and they’re fundamental, therefore, for national economic growth.”

“Investment crisscrosses the region in sort of a silent way. There’s more integration than meets the eye. Chile has $120 billion dollars invested abroad [and] 80% in Latin America, so businesspeople begin caring about their neighbors [and] begin caring about their stability because their money is in the countries of the region.”

“There are more roads, there are more tunnels, [and] there are more pipelines and connectivity than ever before, and sometimes that private investment that crisscrosses the region has stimulated government action, has gone before government action. However, intraregional trade continues to be low.”

“Members of the Pacific Alliance made a qualitative jump. We decided that we could be an alternative platform to the TPP for regional integration of the Pacific region.”

 Morning Keynote:
 The Political Impact of Corruption in Latin America
H.E. Fernando Henrique Cardoso
 Former President of Brazil

Panel I: Understanding the Historical Dimensions and Current Salience of Corruption in Latin America

Daniel Zovatto
International Idea (Argentina)

Arturo Valenzuela
Covington and Burling

Margarita López Maya
Universidad Central de Venezuela

Rafael Fernández de Castro
University of California, San Diego

Chair: Sarah Chayes
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Panel II: Strategies for Overcoming Corruption

Claudia Escobar
National Endowment for Democracy

Jaime Alemán,
Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Panama)

The Honorable Gabriela Hardt 
Federal Judge (Brazil)

Gonzalo Smith
S.A.C.I. Falabella, Chile

Ricardo Uceda
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), Peru 

Chair: Patricia Menéndez-Cambó
Greenberg Traurig


Afternoon Keynote: The Changing Patterns of Regional Integration
 The Honorable Heraldo Muñoz

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Chile


Marisol Argueta
Head of Latin America, World Economic Forum

José Octavio Bordón
Argentine Ambassador to Chile

Caroline Fruend
Peterson Institute on International Economics

Jorge Heine
Chilean Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China

Chair: Carlos Eduardo Lins da Silva
São Paulo Research Foundation


The Latin American Program is grateful to the Tinker Foundation and the Ford Foundation for their generous support of this conference, as well as the Inter-American Development Bank for its support of Panel II.

We are also grateful to the International Sponsors and Patrons of our 40th Anniversary Dinner Gala for their support of this conference.
International Sponsors:The Tinker Foundation, OTI/Televisa
Patrons:Chevron, McLarty Associates, PepsiCo/GEPP

Hosted By

Latin America Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin America Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more

Brazil Institute

The Brazil Institute—the only country-specific policy institution focused on Brazil in Washington—works to foster understanding of Brazil’s complex reality and to support more consequential relations between Brazilian and US institutions in all sectors. The Brazil Institute plays this role by producing independent research and programs that bridge the gap between scholarship and policy, and by serving as a crossroads for leading policymakers, scholars and private sector representatives who are committed to addressing Brazil’s challenges and opportunities.  Read more

Thank you for your interest in this event. Please send any feedback or questions to our Events staff.