Both candidates in Chile’s Dec. 2013 presidential runoff were women.
In the past quarter century, the level of women’s economic participation has steadily grown in Latin America. During the first decade of this century, women’s participation grew by 15 percent, contributing to an overall decline in income inequality and extreme poverty. The World Bank estimates that currently 14.6 percent of Latin Americans live in extreme poverty – but contrast that with the hypothetical 17.7 percent had fewer women entered the workforce. Given Latin America’s steady growth in the face of worldwide recession in the 2000s, there’s no reason not to expect more advances for women’s opportunities.
Women’s increased political participation has also helped increase economic opportunities for Latin American women. As more and more female presidents take and hold office, more women consider professional lives outside the home to be viable options. Powerful players such as Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Argentina’s Christina Fernandez, Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla, and others provide focal points for hopeful young Latinas. Perhaps surprisingly to some Americans, many Latin American countries are passing the U.S. in women’s participation in legislatures. Women make up at least 30 percent of the legislature in Cuba, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Argentina, Ecuador, and Guyana. At last count, women make up just 18.5 percent of the U.S. Congress.
Latin America continually ranks highly in female entrepreneurship. The region has great educational and business training opportunities for women, and women make up 50 percent of higher education graduates. In a new index recently released, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay were ranked highest in providing the best environments for female entrepreneurs. However, women still lag in access to financial services.
However, despite these great advances, there is still inequality, room for improvement, and significant challenges facing women in Latin America. According to the World Bank, women face a variety of threats at different stages in their life. The prevalence of violence between intimate partners is estimated to be between 20 and 50 percent of women. Violence against women is widespread – more than half of the countries ranked as “high” or “very high” in levels of femicide are in Latin America – with El Salvador ranked as the worst in the world.
(Watch the video in Spanish.)
During late August 2013, CIPE program officer Brent Ruth and I had the opportunity to travel through Peru to meet with EmprendeAhora alumni who have become amazing entrepreneurs. The purpose of this trip was to conduct an evaluation of the impact these alumni are having in their regions; however, I never could have imagined the impact their stories would have on me.
It was extremely motivating to hear how these alumni, with a little help from the EmprendeAhora program, gained the confidence to believe in themselves and in the entrepreneurial initiatives they’d only dreamed of before. Even more impressive was that they were all interested in doing business with a purpose. For them it was as important to have a positive social impact—if not more important— as to make a profit.
In order to share the positive social impact the EmprendeAhora alumni are having in their regions, Brent and I filmed our interviews with the alumni we met with in Peru. Throughout this year CIPE will publish a series of videos. The first video in the series tells the story of 2008 alum Jorge Luis Cueva Ramírez, co-owner and manager of a retreat hotel, Casa Cumbray Hotel de Campo in La Libertad, Peru.
Youth taking part in anti-government protests. Photo: Reuters
CIPE’s partner CEDICE Libertad joins many other organizations in Venezuela and throughout the world in denouncing the Venezuelan government’s violations against human rights, extending from individual freedoms all the way to citizens’ property rights.
In the past, CEDICE warned in much of its analysis that a crisis might be inevitable if the country continued to implement its radical economic policies. CEDICE mentioned this in the following cost-benefit analyses: utility of popular power laws, the limitations of government profits and the government’s true incentives, public policies pertaining to the education sector, and the law project for territory management in Spanish, which clearly foreshadow the current situation.
On February 17, CEDICE published a press release denouncing the Venezuelan government’s violations of human rights and individual freedoms. Below you can find the English version of this document.
Armed security at a Walmart store in Costa Rica, (Photo: La Nacion)
Security is a fact of life that many of us in the developed world take for granted. I feel fairly confident that I can go about my life on a daily basis with nearly zero contact with crime or violence. Thanks to that security, I feel confident enough to shop, go out to eat, and generally spend time outside of my home and workplace, adding to the local economy. Thanks to this security, my city is growing and developing and life is generally getting better for most people, despite the recent economic recession. Imagine if that were not the case.
At the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lies safety – the security of body, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property. Intuitively we know that our basic needs must be met before we can endeavor to improve our self, our livelihood, our families, or our communities. Without the feeling of safety, people are less able to act freely in a market – to buy products, start businesses, or invest – limiting a country’s potential for development.
It is with this logic that a recent United Nations Human Development Report argues in favor of increasing measures in citizen security in the Latin America region. In this region more than 100,000 homicides are registered per year. The World Health Organization considers these levels epidemic and they are much higher than most other regions of the world today. The report’s authors state, “The level of insecurity many experience impedes human development.”
As my colleague Anna Nadgrodkiewicz recently discussed on this blog, corruption is a preeminent threat to developing countries. In Brazil, corruption has been estimated to cost somewhere around $53 billion (approximately 2.3 percent of GDP) in 2013 alone. Because this loss has a corrosive effect on democratic governance and the country’s ability to deliver continued improvement, Brazilians took to the streets in massive protests. As a result the government of Brazil passed the “Clean Companies Act” which began being enforced on January 29.
The new law, like similar legislation in other countries, establishes corporate liability for corrupt practices committed by Brazilian companies as well as foreign companies that have branches or affiliates within the country. Under the act, companies that bribe public officials (foreign or domestic) can be subjected to civil and administrative sanctions including heavy fines, prohibition on receiving state funds, and even dissolution of the firm. The fact that Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff exercised her line-item veto power to make the law more strict than originally drafted seems to signal to the world that Brazil is serious about reining in corruption.
In the wake of the passage of the Clean Companies Act, much talk erupted over the implications for international trade. Since the law closely resembles existing anti-corruption laws such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK Bribery Act, experts have warned that companies operating in the region can expect Brazilian authorities to cooperate more closely with their counterparts in the US during investigations.
More general discussion has involved the importance of solid compliance programs in multi-national companies (MNCs) if they are to avoid any run-ins with the law. However, such commentary ignores a large audience that should take note of this development: developing countries.
By Aurelio Concheso
December’s local election results are in for Venezuela, and the opposition can rightly claim that it not only retained major urban areas such as Greater Caracas, Maracaibo and Merida, but regained others it had lost such as Valencia, Barquisimeto, and San Cristobal. In addition they made inroads in “Chavista cities” such as Chavez´s own home town of Barinas and Diosdado Cabello’s home town of Maturin. Moreover, despite how the Electoral College blatantly manipulated the way results were broadcast, in the overall national vote tally the opposition candidates beat out the government’s by 51 to 49 percent.
On the minus side for the opposition, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles tried to bill the contest as a referendum on President Maduro, but this didn´t pan out either from the perspective of voter turnout (only about 58.5 percent vs. over 80 percent in the April presidential election) or the difference in total vote.
What we are left with moving forward is a political environment that continues to be polarized. During the two months previous to the election, the government made private business the culprit for inflation and scarcities of goods, while simultaneously taking steps that practically insure higher inflation, perhaps hyperinflation in 2014.
This article was originally published in Washington Jewish Week.
My 9-year old grandson Matan is a very serious baseball fan. I have to study the box scores carefully during the season just to keep up with him, but still he knows everything I know and more.
So it was not surprising last summer that we both took note of Yasiel Puig, a 22-year old rookie from Cuba who hit the big leagues like a bolt of lightning. When he played his first game for the Dodgers on June 3, the team was in last place in its division. Yet he quickly turned things around, getting 44 hits in his first month (including seven home runs), more than anyone since Joe DiMaggio had 48 hits in the first month of his rookie year, back in 1936.
Veteran announcer Vince Scully called Puig “the Wild Horse” because of the passion he brought to every aspect of the game, from his powerful bat to his aggressive base running to his ability to throw out runners from deep right-field without hitting the cutoff man. Manager Don Mattingly credited Puig’s infectious energy with igniting a hot streak that catapulted the Dodgers into first place in their division.
It’s hard to imagine that just a little more than a year before Puig’s astonishing arrival to the big leagues, he and a dozen others attempting to escape from Cuba in a small boat were picked by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and held onboard for two weeks, after which they were returned to the island. It wasn’t the first time Puig had tried to escape, and it wouldn’t be the last. Less than two months later, he escaped again, this time to Mexico, at which point the Dodgers — to the disbelief of many in the baseball world — offered him a seven-year, $42 million contract. It turned out to be a steal.