Latin American presidents speak at GW

Four former presidents of Latin American countries discussed the economic and social hardships facing the region at GW Thursday.

The all-day forum featured panels led by the former presidents of Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico. Officials from the Inter-American Dialogue and The World Bank, which sponsored the event, also spoke.

Jorge Quiroga, whose term as Bolivia’s president expired in August 2002,talked about his country’s movement toward greater economic and political freedom and compared it to climbing a mountain.

“You never look back and get elated at the progress you have made, or look up and get frustrated,” he said.

He used this comparison throughout his speech, and questioned the ability of international organizations to facilitate fair trade in Latin America. “Will we fall through the cracks or be able to put our agenda forward?” he said.

Quiroga also addressed the pervasive corruption that plagues Bolivia, which he said prevents it from becoming more democratic. Sanchez de Lozada, who stepped down as Bolivia’s president last month, has been besieged by charges that he received money from drug cartels and other large corporations.

“There is a lot of deterioration in our political party system,” Quiroga said.

Former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez said Latin America’s education system favors the rich and doesn’t provide services for children of low-income families.

“Improvements in education are most important,” said Rodriguez, the Elliott School of International Affairs’ Shapiro visiting professor.

Fernando Henrique Cardosa and Ernesto Zedillo, former presidents of Brazil and Mexico, spoke early in the day.

Quiroga called on the U.S. to give Bolivia more economic aid, and said three problems that need to be remedied are migration, aid and trade. He said his country’s trade system is “truly disgraceful.”

“I would settle for one-fiftieth of what Iraq is getting,” he said.

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