Local entrepreneurs benefit from the additional tourists that BioAdventure brings to this market (Photo: CIPE)
During a recent trip to Peru we had the opportunity to meet Karolo Pérez Alvarado, a participant in the 2008 LiderAcción youth entrepreneurship program. Taking advantage of the LiderAcción courses on business plan development, as well as one-on-one sessions with LiderAcción’s business plan coaches, Karolo and three other students from Tarapoto, San Martín province worked together to develop a business plan for a bio-tourism company called BioAdventure. Given the rich bio-diversity of the San Martín region, Karolo and his teammates recognized an opportunity to improve upon the basic touristic offerings in their community by injecting adventure into the equation. Based on their plan for BioAdventure, they were awarded first prize in the 2008 LiderAcción business plan contest.
The Institute for International Finance is predicting that Venezuela will experience a 42 percent inflation rate this year, one of the highest in the world and the highest in the Latin America and Caribbean region. They report that this will have a heavy impact on the prospects for growth in the country for many years to come.
Participants of the LíderAcción program
A few months back, Martin Friedl wrote about the impact that the Instituto Invertir’s LíderAcción program
has had on improving youth’s perceptions of a market economy and democracy. LíderAcción
, a leadership and entrepreneurship program for rural Peruvian youth, is also providing students with the tools to start their own business. Having only just finished its second year, the results in numbers are impressive:
3,600 = number of university students that have applied for the program
300 = number of rural university students who have completed the courses on democracy, free market economics, leadership and entrepreneurship
5,000+ = number of other university students and community members reached through the multiplicative efforts of LíderAcción students
78 = number of business plans developed with guidance from leading academics and business practitioners
20+ = number of actual businesses all over Perú that have been started by LíderAcción students
A satellite photograph of the border between Haiti, on the left, and the Dominican Republic on the right. Generations of political instability have left Haiti's poor with no other opportunity except that offered by deforestation. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
As thoughts, prayers, and assistance turn toward Haiti after this week’s catastrophic earthquake, it may seem paradoxical to talk about governance given what’s taking place in the country right now. But when you think about all the resources that will be pouring into the country in the days ahead, from so many different organizations from various countries, the day-to-day processes of who decides what resources go where and how will it get there fall under the governance umbrella. Aid workers will meet many challenges in the coming days; as they bring with them resources, technology, and know-how when it comes to disaster relief, perhaps the greatest challenge they face will be finding ways to involve the Haitian people not just as sources of information but as active participants in their day-to-day governance.
By now, most people have read or heard about the Venezuelan government’s constant attempts to shut down media outlet Globovisión, including back in May 2009 after Globovisión reported on an earthquake that had taken place in the towns of Miranda, Vargas, and Aragua. At the time, the government accused Globovisión of destabilizing the country by reporting on the earthquake and creating fear among the people. It should be no surprise then that in August the National Assembly passed a new Institutional Education Act (Ley Orgánica de Educación) that may have severe consequences for independent media in Venezuela. As noted in a recent article in the Economist, President Hugo Chavez sees the mass media as one of the three most important institutions in educating children, reason enough to include several articles affecting it in his education reform. Among other things, the new law gives the government the authority to “immediately suspend” the publication of content that “causes terror in children,” promotes “indiscipline,” or goes against “the mental and physical health of the people.” Anywhere these days it’s hard to imagine the news showing anything that wouldn’t fit into one of these categories based on Chavez’s judgment call.
In a recent communiqué issued by the Cuban government, the ruling Communist party’s central committee suggested that it was time to formalize their country’s informal sector and actively reduce corruption. While notionally aimed at reducing the instance of theft, this statement may reflect a realization by those in power that citizens need to have stake in what they produce. In short, the Cuban government is realizing that its citizens need property rights.
After assuming power in his brother Fidel’s absence, Raul Castro embarked on a series of economic reforms, beginning in 2008 with the decentralization of agricultural production and the leasing of inactive state property to private actors. Facing a severe balance of payments crisis and production totals grown limp from the government’s stranglehold, Mr. Castro’s revamped economic cabinet is now saying that the previous reforms did not gone far enough: “The remainder of the economy must adapt to a form of property better suited to the resources available.”
On Wednesday, May 20, people around the globe will celebrate Cuba Solidarity Day. All during the month of May inside Cuba, peaceful demonstrations have been taking place by democratic opposition leaders who are wearing white bracelets with the word “CAMBIO” (“change”) inscribed and promoting the “Yo No Copero” (“I Will Not Cooperate”) campaign to speak out against the violation of human rights in Cuba.
Last week, I had the opportunity to view a new documentary film by Yesenia E. Alvarez Temoche, President of the Instituto Político para la Libertad in Peru, entitled “Cuba and the Elephants.” The film provides a harsh look at the realities of the Castro regime’s public policies and their impact on the Cuban people. Particularly jarring are the sad states of Cuban health care and education that had always been flaunted as the successes of the regime.
There is an increasing trend of opinion that opening up Cuba to trade is the right way to go. After all, decades of isolation have not worked and the regimes of the brothers Castro have found ways to coopt the embargo to extend their grip on power. In other countries like China, trade has certainly helped to bring at least some economic democracy to people in the country.
Still, we can only expect trade to work so far with a regime that has proven its brutality repeatedly over fifty years. The Associated Press recently reported that the European Union had seen no progress toward getting the Cuban government to improve its human rights record through a lifting of economic sanctions. This is a sobering realization, but one that can only demand continued resolve to figure out ways in which the Cuban people can achieve democracy.