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Third Annual Latin America Security Forum

February 25, 2021

Johns Hopkins SAIS in association with the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies hosted its Third Annual Latin America Security Forum.

The conference was divided into four panels and a keynote address. Panel one, Political Order and Disorder: Implications for Regional Security and Cooperation, focused broadly on election insecurity, anti-corruption campaigns, political protests, indigenous empowerment, democratic backsliding, as well as autocratic consolidation. Panel two, In Sickness and In Health: Regional Health Security, focused on regional health cooperation, the collapse of the Latin American healthcare system due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with particular emphasis on the Brazilian case. The third panel, Regional Dynamics and the Great Power Competition, focused on the growing Sino-American competition in the region. With an emphasis on the transnational destruction of Latin American fisheries, as well as China’s asymmetric strategy to offer market success under an authoritarian system.

The event featured a keynote address by Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzón, former Colombian Minister of Defense and current Ambassador of the Republic of Colombia to the US. The Ambassador synthesized the previous panels, noting that Latin America is not a single unit, but diverse and different. Policy thus, needs not be one size fits all. Pinzón warned that since COVID-19 had wiped out a decade of progress, the feelings of desperation are growing, and populism and authoritarianism are on the rise. In particular he warned of the malign influence, of Iran, Russia, and China, with Beijing’s model of money and no interference, seen as more attractive in the region. He emphasized that without substantial economic progress, America’s attempts to spread democratic values would fail, and countries could turn to the Chinese. Finally, he noted the importance of technological transfers, a Latin American Marshall Plan, as well as cooperation in the fight against climate change and the narco-state of Venezuela.

The final panel, Pressing On and Powering Up Climate Change and Energy Dynamics in the Region, dealt with increasing commodity prices due to the collapse of the oil industry, as well as Chinese dominance of green and clean technologies on the continent.