Pearson Institute director: ‘There’s always crises in Latin America’

By Fernando Gimeno

Cuenca, Ecuador, Oct 20 (EFE).- The director of The Pearson Institute, an organization devoted to studying and resolving global conflicts, said Latin America has made strides in terms of political inclusion.

Even so, James Robinson said the region’s constant crises make him skeptical that it can solve its structural problems.

“There’s always crises in Latin America. There’s defaults, there’s hyperinflation … Latin American societies create crises and they fail to deal with crises,” he said in an interview with Efe during the 14th Ministerial Forum for Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is being held in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Robinson, a guest at that event organized by the United Nations Development Program and Ecuador’s Economic and Social Inclusion Ministry, said “one of the problems in Latin America historically has just been this enormous concentration of political power in the hands of a few people, and that’s crumbled, that has crumbled everywhere in Latin America.”

“Maybe not in Cuba or Nicaragua, or a kind of modernized version of a traditional Latin American dictatorship, but it’s changing everywhere and I think that kind of massive increase in political inclusion is very exciting,” the British political scientist and economist said.

“But the question is: will that lead to a sort of social transformation and development of the sort that we all hope will happen? And that’s where the problems start, I think,”

Robinson said he finds it “fascinating” that there has been no change over the past 120 years in the level of prosperity of the countries of the Americas, noting that the United States and Canada remain at the top, followed by Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, while countries such as Guatemala and Nicaragua are still near the bottom.

“120 years ago, income per-capita in Colombia was 20 percent of the level in the United States, and now, 120 years later, it’s still 20 percent,” Robinson said. “So there’s something very deep-seated and kind of historical about patterns of development in the Americas.”

Robinson said one of the chief problems Latin America faces is the weakness of state institutions. “But it’s not a coincidence they’re weak. There’s a political logic behind the weakness of the state institutions,” he said.

“And so one of the big questions is whether the rise of all these new political forces in Chile or Peru or Colombia or Mexico, wherever it is, are they really going to change the political logic and the political incentives that have kept institutions weak?”

In that regard, Robinson said leftist Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador “has de-institutionalized aspects of the state in a very disturbing way.”

The Pearson Institute chief said, however, that Chile remains a bright spot in the region.

“Chile is different. Chile has always been different. It’s been different for 200 years and they’ve been much better at moving to a path of stronger institutions, stronger state institutions,” Robinson said.

He said he sees a “genuine attempt to create a more inclusive society” there even though voters recently overwhelmingly rejected a new, progressive constitution.

“So what? People voted against the constitution. That’s democracy. So we try again. That’s what happens in a democracy. You struggle through … that’s how it works.”

Regarding the Oct. 30 runoff presidential election in Brazil, Robinson said that if ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva returns to power he “has to recapture that vision and the project that the Workers Party (PT) originally had (in terms initiatives such as reducing poverty), but I don’t know if he understands that.”

Globally, the British political scientist stressed the need for greater multilateralism.

“The world is so polarized at the moment, and so many problems we face – climate change, pandemics – one country can’t solve that problem on its own. Everybody has to cooperate,” he said. EFE


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