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What Can We Conclude From the Cartagena Summit?

By Ludovico Feoli

A lot of hand wringing and snickering is going on in the press about the inability to reach any agreements during the hemispheric conference held in Cartagena last week. Aside from questioning the value of these forums beyond their photo opportunities and grandstanding platforms for the most vocal, it may be useful to consider the larger lessons that the summit suggests. Above all, it reflects a very different region in a very different world than existed when the hemispheric meetings were launched in 1994.

A different region. During the 1990s, Latin America was emerging from its “lost decade” and still transitioning to open markets and democracy. Today, the region is recognized for its steady economic growth, having weathered the Great Recession better than most, and, despite exceptions, its consolidated democracies. During the 1990s few, if any, of the countries in the region could aspire to global leadership. Today, the world is looking at and following the examples of innovation in social policies and participatory democracy that have emerged from the region. Brazil, thought by many to have finally come of age, vies openly for a seat in a reconfigured UN Security Council. Most poignantly, the summit host, Colombia, was hostage to drug cartels and counterinsurgency in the 1990s. Today, the country enjoys renewed levels of security, economic growth, and its cities are touted as examples of urban revival. Mexico has become a predominantly middle class society, and poverty and inequality have fallen throughout the region, almost without exception. Tellingly, in the United States these trends have been inverted and the country appears beleaguered by economic and political problems.

A different world. Overextension in international conflicts, growing inequality, political polarization, financial crisis, high unemployment and growing public debt have contributed, among a host of other factors, to cast a pall over the global leadership of the United States. The European Union, beset by regional inequality, towering debt and sluggish growth, is also seen as declining. Meanwhile, the G-8 has become the G-20, recognizing the growing weight of emerging countries in global affairs. Most notably, China has surpassed Japan as the second largest economy in the world and is challenging the US lead as a global trader and investor. Indeed, many Latin American countries now have greater trade with China than with the US, and China has embarked on a quest to spread its soft power regionally, building stadiums and buying up sovereign debt throughout the Americas. While the US is still important to the region, the underlying basis of its relationship is changing. It is no longer the only kid in town.

President Obama has recognized this, at least rhetorically. He describes his approach towards the region as a partnership among equals. With regard to the drug trade, he speaks of shared responsibility, given US demand for narcotics and easy access to guns, and he acknowledges the need to consider alternatives that focus on demand reduction and harm mitigation. With regard to Cuba, he facilitated travel and remittances to the island, and opened some areas of investment. With regard to immigration, he recognizes the contribution of migrants to the US economy and speaks of the importance of comprehensive reform. Yet, in these key areas there is little or no change, even as longstanding policies–the war against drugs, the embargo against Cuba, and the immigration regime–are considered to have failed. Despite some adjustments at the administrative level, the prospects for deeper reform are slight in the current electoral and highly polarized political environment. Obama’s regional policies will remain hostage to domestic politics even if he strikes all the right notes and takes the appropriate stance at regional summits.

Yet, the lack of accord at the summit reveals much more than acrimony against the US and its policies. It suggests that the region is also divided within itself: there is no regional consensus about what the solutions to critical problems should be. Take the drug trade. While much was made about US opposition to legalization, the Central American nations, battered more than most of the region by drug-related violence and corruption, could not agree on a unified stance in a meeting of their regional secretariat (SICA) the day before the Cartagena meeting. While Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica seem amenable to decriminalization, Nicaragua and El Salvador oppose it. Or take Cuba. While its absence from the summits is an easy foil to bash the US, few would escape the charge of cynicism if they somehow had to square that with their support for the Democratic Charter.

The broader lesson to be drawn from the lack of consensus at the Summit is that regional collective action has become more challenging. As the hemispheric hegemon has receded in dominance so has its encompassing interest in providing regional public goods. It is likely to continue doing so to a certain degree, but not in any way that deviates significantly from its narrower national interest. As an example of this, the US focus has shifted from multilateralism to a sharper focus on the most relevant actors. Under the circumstances, as no regional power is likely to become predominant to the point of hegemony, it is unreasonable to expect far-ranging regional accords. Even if the gulf in real power separating them from the US remains significant, emerging powers will tend to be more assertive, balancing against each other and the US, and this will lessen the chances for regional consensus. Regional policy and regional integration will advance in fits and starts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ludovico Feoli

    Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy & Research

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Apply for the Teaching Cuban Culture & Society: A Summer Educator Institute in Cuba

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Teaching Cuban Culture & Society: A Summer Educator Institute in Cuba
Havana, Cuba | June 23 – July 7, 2018
Program Application
Application Deadline: March 2, 2018

Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute at Tulane University join forces with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies to take K-16 educators to Cuba. This is our fourth year running the Cuban Culture & Society K-16 Educator Institute and we are excited about this year’s itinerary. The institute will approach Cuban society and culture form a multidisciplinary perspective focused on the arts, the geography, and history of the country. Innovative programming and annual summer teacher institutes over the past three years provide the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and studying the region. Taking advantage of Tulane’s relationship with the University of Havana and Cuba’s National Union of Writers and Artists, the institute equips teachers with multidisciplinary content, curricular resources, and methods of inquiry for developing that approach in their K-16 classrooms. Conducted in English by Professor Carolina Caballero, the institute will explore current trends and issues in Cuban culture and society through readings, films, and lectures. The program includes a series of talks by prominent Cuban intellectuals and local field trips to important political and cultural sights throughout Havana.

This two-week program provides the unique opportunity to work on developing lesson plans while exploring the sights and sounds of a nation and country that remain obscured behind political rhetoric and misinformation. Recent economic changes on the island have provoked a series of social and cultural transformations that have left Cubans and the entire world wondering what could be next for the island and the Revolution. Don’t miss the chance to witness some of these challenges and triumphs firsthand and get the opportunity to bring your experience back to your students in the classroom.

The trip will include a pre-departure orientation and two weeks in Cuba. The institute incorporates visits to local museums and exposes participants to arts organizations, schools, and teachers from the country’s national literacy campaign. Participants will stay within walking distance of the Malecón, the university, and many cultural venues. There will be group excursions to the historic Che Guevara monument, a visit to the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and a special visit to the town of Hershey, the town developed by Milton Hershey to begin his chocolate enterprise with the sugar from Cuba’s plantations. There will also be group excursions to the historic cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, Playa Girón, and Viñales, focusing on their role in the development of the economy and culture of the country

PROGRAM COST: $3,500
The cost will include a shared room and two meals a day, medical insurance, airfare to/from Havana from Tampa, Florida*, airport transportation in Havana to/from residence, OFAC-licensed academic visa, and specialized tours and outings.

*Airfare to/from Tampa, Florida, a one-night hotel stay in Tampa, incidental costs, and extra meals and expenses are not included in the program cost. You are responsible for your own air flight to/from Tampa, FL.

PROGRAM APPLICATION
Those interested in applying must be a K-16 educator or librarian. There is no Spanish language requirement for this program. The application deadline is March 2, 2018, at 5:00 PM.

Please note: This program is only open to K-16 educators who are currently teaching, are pre-service teachers or are serving in a school or public library.

PROPOSED ITINERARY – 15 DAYS
Please be advised that this itinerary is subject to change based on availability in Cuba. The itinerary below is the schedule from the 2017 institute.

  • Day 1 – U.S./HAVANA, CUBA
    Depart from Tampa, FL, Upon arrival, enjoy dinner and a welcome reception followed by an informal walk and people watching on the Malecón.
  • Day 2 – HAVANA
    Habana Vieja (Old Havana) Tour with local preservation experts to discuss in depth the history of local landmarks, historical preservation efforts, and future plans. Visit Muraleando Lawton, a community art project in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana. Hear from the founders of this project on how the neighborhood developed to promote skills in the community and support the local economy and meet with local community leaders, students and elderly folks at the community center.
  • Day 3 – HAVANA
    Lecture with Professor Carlos Alzugaray on Cuba Since the Special Period. Visit the elementary school Sergio Luis Ferriol in Habana Vieja. Connect with teachers and administrators about their experiences in the classroom.
  • Day 4 – HAVANA
    Visit the Museo Nacional de la Alfabetización (National Museum of the Literacy Campaign) and connect with members of the literacy brigade, teachers from the literacy campaign.
  • Day 5 – HAVANA
    Visit and explore Ernest Hemingway’s house. Have lunch in the infamous fishing village of Cojimar. In the afternoon, explore art by taking a tour of the Cuban Collection of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes accompanied by a curator then visit with artists at the Taller de Gráfica.
  • Day 6 – HERSHEY
    Day trip to the Hershey, Cuba and nature park. The site where famous chocolatier Milton Hershey developed his chocolate business by setting up sugar mills in the early 1900’s. Explore the natural side of Cuba in this country town.
  • Day 7 – HAVANA
    Learn about children’s literature and the book publishing business in Cuba by visiting Cuba’s national publisher UNEAC and hear first hand from children’s book authors. We will hear from children’s book author Olga Marta Pérez about the children’s/ youth Literacy Scene in Cuba today.
  • Day 8 – HAVANA/REGLA
    Take the ferry across the bay in Havana to the town of Regla to learn about Afro-Cuban dance and music from musicologist Cari Diez and an Afro-Cuban dance performance group.
  • Day 9 – SANTA CLARA, TRINIDAD
    Travel to Trinidad via Santa Clara, a town founded by 175 people on July 15, 1689. It is the site of the last battle in the Cuban Revolution in 1958. Visit to the Che Mausoleum in Santa Clara. Also visit the historic sugar plantation of Manaca Iznaga before arriving in Trinidad.
  • Day 10 – TRINIDAD
    Explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, founded on December 23, 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuellar. Trinidad was a central piece of Cuba’s sugar-based economy. Guided city tour with the city historian. Visit the Trinidad library to learn about the importance of libraries and debate questions of intellectual freedom with the staff.
  • Day 11 – PLAYA GIRON (SITE OF BAY OF PIGS) Ciénega de Zapata, Playa Larga
    Day excursion to the historic site of the Bay of Pigs, one of the landing sites for the 1961 US-backed invasion. Visit the Finca Fiesta Campesina farm, the Playa Girón museum, the Parque Ciénaga de Zapata, the Laguna del Tesoro, and the Taino Indian village. Snorkel in the Bay of Pigs!
  • Day 12 – HAVANA
    Visit the U.S. Embassy and hear first-hand about the state of current relations between the U.S. and Cuba. In the afternoon, we head over to meet up with the famous hip-hop group, Obsesión to hear about their music and experience as hip-hop artists in Cuba.
  • Day 13 – MATANZAS/VARADERO
    Take a day trip to Matanzas, the capital of the Cuban province of Matanzas. Known for its poets, culture, and Afro-Cuban folklore, we will explore the Triunvirato Plantation and the Castillo San Severino where we will hear about the history of slavery in Cuba. The rest of the afternoon we relax and explore the beautiful beaches of Varadero, a popular resort town covering Cuba’s narrow Hicacos Peninsula.
  • Day 14 – HAVANA
    Wrap-up curriculum workshop followed by a free afternoon ending in a celebratory dinner.
  • Day 15 – HAVANA/U.S.
    Morning departure for the U.S.

Explore our past trips through these photos and curricula:

Program Application

For more information, please contact Denise Woltering-Vargas at dwolteri@tulane.edu or call the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at 504-862-3143.