(The conference venue for the International Economic Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean hosted by the OECD at the French Economic Ministry in Paris, France.)
On 30 June, I attended a conference hosted by the OECD in Paris on Economic Development in Latin America. Key speakers and collaborators included the president of Peru Ollanta Humala, the French Economic Minister Arnaud Montebourg, and various other political and economic dignitaries from both Latin America and Europe. The theme of the conference was simple: Latin American growth has stunted recently given the EU crises and the recession in the United States. With this, how could Latin America emerge once more to combat against the economic climate?
The conference continued with the OECD’s recommendations, political leaders’ beliefs and other commentary, yet one key topic continued to resonate – Latin America is not the world’s poorest region but the world’s most unequal.
Truth be told, this is the very description of the region – desigual (unequal). No more obvious than in Brazil where the rich descendants of white European settlers (mainly Italians and Germans) dominate in the south with economic powerhouses like São Paulo, while the north portion of the country is poor developed, home of the region’s African and indigenous population, such as Recife and Salvador da Bahia. In Mexico, this is even more apparent in the telenovelas of Televisa, depicting white Mexicans of Spanish descent as the main protagonists to the story plot while the maid is almost always of Indian descent (which is the major ethnic make-up of the country). In my own Dominican Republic, the difference between being negro (black), indio (Indian) or rubio (white, but literal meaning is blond) is the difference between respect and a life of closed opportunities.
(From left to right: Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, French Economic Minister Arnaud Montebourg, and OECD Secretary-General Angel Guerria speaking at the conference in Paris.)
How is it that a rainbow continent as the Americas is so riddled with inequality? How is it that race truly determines your status and your wealth? Of course this stems from mentality, particularly as is in the Dominican Republic where the belief that having dark skin is equated with being more Haitian – the complete opposite of anything Dominican according to local and cultural ideology. In my previous blog Negro como yo (Black like me), the apparent inequality of the region is demonstrated clearly in the Dominican government’s sloth approach in recognizing children born to Haitian parents in bateys (sugar plantations) as Dominican citizens, despite the country’s juris solis law, enabling them to this right at birth.
The social inequality in the region has rendered it difficult for Latin America to fully boom into a super power that it could be. With a plenitude of resources and capability to export, Latin America has it all but by just allowing a small portion of its population to benefit of the available resources, this does nothing but condemn a large portion of the populace to generational poverty given their lack of a better life – which could then only be achieved by going abroad, such as to the USA.
It is only in having leaders of the various nations that make up the colorful rainbow region that is Latin American recognize this major flaw in their mentality, can true progress even begin.
The question is – when?
(End of the conference, heading back to London)