We are witnessing a slow but steady shift in the elected leadership in Central and South America from the solid right-leaning sedulous figures of the oligarchy to more populous-leaning representatives who may show the world a different way to advance democracy.  With the recent election of Mauricio Funes, representing the once revolutionary but increasingly mainstream and now majority party FMLN in El Salvador, we now have a continuum of elected leaders in the hemisphere who have the opportunity to showcase their skills in advancing their countries’ interests, made all the more difficult in the current global recession.  From the powerhouse Brazil, ever independent in attitude and increasingly successful across many economic measures, to the lagging Venezuela, blessed with natural resources but unable to jump-start any sort of value added businesses, we have enough extremes  in South America alone to compare leaders’ success or lack thereof through good times and bad.  The results have not been entirely predictable, but they do dispel the notion that populist leaders spell disaster for emerging economies.   

Now we have the opportunity to observe Central America, with an interesting mix of leaders, all facing economic hurdles as they grapple with the global recession front and center.  All having negotiated free trade agreements with their largest trading partner, we will be able to compare and contrast their diverse approaches to developing their economies on a reasonably level playing field, made even more so by our own new leadership.  Look closely for the overt and subtle interactions this weekend at the Summit of the Americans for the first signs of their respective opening plays.  They will provide insights to what we can expect to play out in our own outreach to the hemisphere.  Stay tuned.


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