Seven student groups collaborated to host the university’s first student-led Latin American conference to address the region’s political future last Friday.
The event, entitled “Latin America at a Crossroads,” featured three panel discussions in the Healey Family Student Center with leaders, policy makers and academics from the region. More than 160 students attended the panels, which included discussions on issues in Latin American governments, the private sector and globalization.
The event was a collaboration between student groups including the Latin American Student Association, the Georgetown University Graduate Association of Mexican Students and the Latin American Policy Association. The Global Futures Initiative and the Graduate Student Organization also provided financial support, while the Center for Latin American Studies and the Latin American Board helped with planning.
In his opening remarks, Vice President for Global Engagement Thomas Banchoff praised Georgetown’s involvement with and commitment to Latin America.
“We’re a magnet for talented students from the region,” Banchoff said. “Students … see Georgetown with our academic strengths, with our location here in Washington, with the networking opportunities, as the place to deepen their expertise and understanding of Latin America and the world.”
At the opening remarks, Francisco Palmieri, the deputy assistant secretary for the Caribbean and Central America in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, discussed contemporary challenges facing the region, as well as the current administration’s foreign policy in Latin America.
Palmieri pointed toward the normalization of the United States’ relationship with Cuba as an important turning point in the two regions’ diplomatic relations.
“The shift in Cuba policy has removed an impediment to even higher levels of engagement throughout the region,” Palmieri said. “Our most fundamental commitment as a region must remain democracy and human rights. We are reinvigorated by the opportunities we see ahead of us.”
Other notable speakers and panelists at the conference included Ambassador of Peru to the United States Luis Miguel Castilla, Barbara Kotschwar, senior investment policy specialist at the World Bank’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, and Mayor Jorge Muñoz of Miraflores, Peru.
Conference Chair of the Latin American Policy Association Inès de Marcos (GRD ’16) said the level of attendance, quality of speakers and attention from the press surpassed her expectations.
“I would love to see this work we pioneered continued in the following years,” de Marcos wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Latin American students are an important part of the Georgetown community and I think it is a great idea that all of them work together to continue to promote the discussion, debate and analysis of policies and political issues relevant for the Latin America region.”
President of the Latin American Graduate Organization Zoe Dauth (GRD ’16) said the response to the conference has been largely positive.
“We have received excellent feedback from students, faculty and external guests,” Dauth wrote in an email to The Hoya. “They were impressed by the depth of discussion, professionalism of the student groups, caliber of speakers and collaborative efforts from so many different parts of the university.”
Though this is the first year that the conference has been held, speakers and organizers expressed optimism that it will continue to grow in subsequent years.
“I do expect that this will be a conference in years to come that will continue to attract enormous interest and participation, not just across the U.S. but by leaders throughout the region,” Palmieri said.
Dauth echoed this sentiment, and said that the conference highlighted the best of what Georgetown has to offer to the region.
“We hope that this will become an annual event and help shape public opinion and debate on Latin America,” Dauth wrote. “It was a triumph for student entrepreneurialism, creativity and leadership.”
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