5 things to take away from the Ricardo Lagos lecture

10-7 Lagos quo vadis poster

Former President of Chile Ricardo Lagos came to speak at the Joukowsky Forum at the Watson Institute yesterday. Mr. Lagos is well-known for being the first socialist to take office since Salvador Allende (1966-9), and for standing up to Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship–when, following an American-backed coup, between 1974 and 1990, Pinochet’s military government detained 80,000 people and tortured almost 30,000.

Since leaving office in 2006, Lagos has been committed to promoting democracy in Latin America and around the world. The Chilean political rockstar came to the Watson Institute to ask one question, Quo Vadis (Latin for Where are you going), Latin America?

1. Latin America is more politically stable and economically progressive than the rest of the world thinks.

Currently, all Latin American states are considered democracies. Some of them are headed by women, and Brazil, the region’s most powerful nation, is currently led by a trade union advocate.

Even though that positive picture oversimplifies the political climate, above all, it shows that the region that was once plagued by conservative dictatorships is now experiencing a paradigm shift to the political left.

At the same time, the major powers in the region, namely Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil are all projected to have close to $30,000 in GDP per capita within the next 10 years. In short, the region is experiencing converging rates of growth, with some countries seeing double per capita growth rates.

Mr Lagos pointed out that Latin American countries were innocent in the most recent financial recession, but that the region is not estranged from economic crisis. In fact, Latin American nations have experienced so many economic crises that they now have extremely durable systems, which makes growth rates all the more promising. Continue Reading