The Evolution of US-Latin American relations in the Era of Obama

In 2007 George W Bush traveled to Latin America to bolster the United States’ image in the region by focusing on poverty reduction and security initiatives. There were a number of mass protests and after his visit to some sacred Mayan ruins in Guatemala a group of indigenous Mayans felt the need to purify the site to eliminate Mr Bush’s “bad spirits”. The image of the US in Latin America remained poor. According to Latinobarómetro, the Chilean polling firm, in 2007 46% of Latin Americans felt that the United States was either a “negative” or “very negative” force in the region. Continue reading


Time to demand a Better Bogotá

Bogotá’s urban innovations of the last two decades have been copied around the world but in recent years the Colombian capital appears to have lost some of its magic. After a period of steady advance during the “Mockus-Peñalosa-Mockus” years (1995-2003) Bogotá’s urban renewal has backtracked and the outside world is now beginning to notice. Just a week ago the Economist magazine claimed that “the chaos and corruption seem to be back” in Bogotá. Continue reading

Can Charter Cities aid in Latin America’s search for prosperity?

Honduras (yes, tiny Honduras) took a bold step earlier this year which could alter its economic trajectory and potentially impact the rest of Latin America. Frustrated by a lack of results from economic liberalization and free trade agreements which have been thwarted by cronyism, corruption and a lack of competitiveness, the Honduran Congress passed a constitutional amendment in January giving the government the power to create special development regions, or Charter Cities, which will have their own legal jurisdiction, administrative systems and laws. Charter Cities are created with a governing system defined by the city’s own charter document rather than by state, provincial, regional or national laws. The most recent examples include Hong Kong and Shenzen in China but the history of cities based on a unique governing charter goes back to the 12th century founding of Lübeck, a prosperous trading outpost in northern Germany. Continue reading

Chocó, the richest department in Colombia

But how can this be when up to 75% of Chocóans do not have access to basic services, infant mortality is 54 per 1,000 (compared to 19 per 1,000 for Colombia), the poverty rate is the highest in the country, and violence and corruption are still common? While the current reality is bleak for many Chocóans if you take a moment to look beyond these specific indicators and think innovatively about the region’s value and potential you may find that instead of being poor and “backward”, Chocó could be the richest department in Colombia. Continue reading

The Pragmatic Latinos

Things have been quiet around the Latin American desk at the office these days. While we have been diligently analyzing GDP results and budget plans and tweaking economic forecasts (often upward) our colleagues in the Western Europe and Middle East teams have been rushing back and forth from client calls and television interviews talking about debt crises and political instability. Continue reading

After the flood: Achieving a successful reconstruction

The anniversary of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and the havoc wreaked by recent flooding in Colombia and Brazil reinforce the fact that 2011 will be a year of reconstruction in much of Latin America. Reconstruction of this scale can be costly, time consuming and socially disruptive, so it is important to avoid the failures of the past and strive for rebuilding projects that are effective, successful and sustainable. Continue reading

Trends to watch for in the year ahead

The year 2010 saw dynamic emerging markets steal the spotlight from the US and Europe which continued to struggle to recover from the global financial crisis. Economics and politics in Latin America proved surprisingly stable and economies like Colombia grew more strongly than expected. As we enter a new year there are some important global and regional trends which will set the tone for 2011. This year will see power shift, new leaders emerge and new alliances take form. Technological innovators will continue to set the pace while unexpected events shape policy decisions. Continue reading