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February 12, 2024

Why Does Latin America Matter?

Showing the Why Does Latin America Matter? Video

The relations of the European Union and the United States with Latin America are currently dominated by four preconceptions: 1) Latin America is a political failure; 2) Latin America is an economic mess; 3) the EU and the United States have abandoned Latin America, opening the door to China; and 4) European companies, particularly Spanish ones, are leaving the region to invest in more productive and secure markets. The recently released Elcano Report "Why Does Latin America Matter?" challenges with data and in-depth analysis the existing narratives to warn about the strategic, economic, and political role of a region with an indisputable protagonism in the current geopolitical context. The Georgetown Americas Institute, Elcano Royal Institute for Strategic and International Studies, and the Prince of Asturias Chair at the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University hosted this seminar with international experts to present the main conclusions of the report and discuss the necessary review that both the EU and the United States must conduct in their relationship with Latin America in for the region to reach its full potential.

This event was co-sponsored by the Georgetown Americas Institute, Elcano Royal Institute for Strategic and International Studies, and the Prince of Asturias Chair at the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University. 

This event was livestreamed to the GAI YouTube channel


Cynthia Arnson, a distinguished fellow and former director of the Wilson Center’s Latin America Program, is one of the United States’ foremost experts on the Spanish-speaking countries of the Western Hemisphere. During more than 20 years at Wilson, she has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and has produced scores of publications on Colombia, Central America, Argentina, Venezuela, security and organized crime, energy, human rights, and U.S. policy in Latin America. A former foreign policy aide in Congress, Arnson has also held positions at Human Rights Watch and in academia.

Santiago Levy is a senior advisor at the United Nations Development Programme and a nonresident senior fellow with the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution. He was previously president of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association. From 2008 to 2018, he was the vice president for sectors and knowledge at the Inter-American Development Bank. From 1994 to 2000, Levy served the Mexican government as deputy minister of the ministry of finance and public credit. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Boston University.

Carlos Malamud is senior analyst for Latin America at the Elcano Royal Institute and professor of Latin American history at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) in Madrid, Spain. He is a corresponding member of the National Academy of History of Argentina. He has been a senior associate member at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, and visiting researcher at the Universidad de los Andes (Corona Chair), Colombia, and at Di Tella University in Buenos Aires. He currently combines his work as a historian with his role as a political and international relations analyst focused on Latin America.

Marcela Melendez is a deputy chief economist at the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) chief economist office at the World Bank. Before joining the World Bank, she served as chief economist for the LAC region at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); prior to that, she was managing partner at ECONESTUDIO, a Colombian boutique economic consulting and research firm. Her recent research examines the relationship between market structure, inequality, and economic growth and the roles played by labor markets, social protection systems, and tax systems' regulatory frameworks in LAC. At the World Bank, she conducts and supports the production of research addressing the region's most pressing problems. She has a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University and a B.A. in economics from Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.

Moises Naim is an internationally-syndicated columnist and best-selling author of influential books including The End of Power (2014), a startling examination of how power is changing across all sectors of society, and Illicit (2006), a detailed exposé on modern criminal networks. In 2011, he launched Efecto Naím, a weekly television program highlighting surprising world trends with videos, graphics, and interviews with world leaders which is widely watched in Latin America today. Naím gained international recognition with the successful re-launch of the journal Foreign Policy; as editor between 1996 and 2010 he turned the magazine into a modern, award-winning publication on global politics and economics. Naím is a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.. He served as Venezuela’s minister of trade and industry, director of Venezuela’s central bank, and executive director of the World Bank.

José Juan Ruiz is currently chairman of the Elcano Royal Institute, serving as a member of its Scientific Council for the past decade. An economist by training, he is a member of the Spanish Civil Service. Throughout his professional life he has held positions in the Ministry of the Economy and in the private sector as chief economist of Argentaria, AFI, and Banco Santander Latin America. More recently, he was chief economist and director of research at the Inter-American Development Bank. He is currently a member of the Economic Affairs Advisory Council of the Spanish government’s first deputy prime minister. He has extensive experience in international organizations and has been a board member of various public and private companies and a university lecturer. He also served as president of the social council of the University of Castilla-La Mancha. A frequent contributor to the media, he has been a member of the editorial boards of Política Exterior, Prisa, and Grupo Recoletos.

Ernesto Talvi is a visiting fellow with the Georgetown Americas Institute. He is also senior research fellow at the Elcano Royal Institute. He has been director of the Economic and Social Policy in Latin America initiative at Brookings Institution in Washington, DC; Tinker visiting professor at Columbia University in New York; founding member of the Latin American Committee for Macroeconomic and Financial Affairs (CLAAF); director of the Center for the Study of Economic and Social Affairs (CERES) in Montevideo, Uruguay; and chief economist at the Central Bank of Uruguay. In 2018 he entered politics, founding the liberal-progressive Ciudadanos (Citizens) movement within the Colorado Party. He was a presidential candidate, elected senator, and minister of foreign affairs of Uruguay. He retired from political life in 2021. He holds a Ph.D. in economics and an MBA in finance from the University of Chicago, as well as a B.A. in economics from the Universidad de la República Oriental del Uruguay.

Alejandro Werner is the founding director of the Georgetown Americas Institute and a non-resident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute. He recently completed almost nine years as director of the Western Hemisphere Department at the International Monetary Fund. Prior to that appointment, he was undersecretary of finance and public credit in Mexico’s Finance Ministry and held several positions in that ministry and the Central Bank. He also taught at leading universities in Mexico, Spain, and the United States. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.A. in economics from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM).