Press Advisory

The State of the Americas

Featuring a keynote address by José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States

WASHINGTON, DC – After a historic wave of presidential elections throughout the Americas, the countries of the region find themselves, in many respects, at a set of inter-related crossroads. Drawing on his wealth of political, diplomatic, and governing experience, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza will help illuminate the often over-simplified meaning and implications of political developments in the region and the challenges that lie ahead. An expert panel will expand upon that analysis to focus on how changes throughout the region affect the United States and U.S. policy toward our hemispheric neighbors.

Featuring a keynote address by José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States
February 8, 2007, 9:00am10:30am

Followed by an expert panel discussion on the implications for U.S. policy toward the region involving:

Cynthia Arnson, Director, Latin America Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Marcela Sanchez, The Washington Post
Arturo Valenzuela, Director, Center for Latin American Studies, Georgetown University

Moderated by:
Dan Restrepo, Director, The Americas Project, Center for American Progress


Center for American Progress
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José Miguel Insulza was elected OAS Secretary General on May 2, 2005, and took office on May 26. The 62-year-old Chilean politician has an accomplished record of public service, most recently serving as his country’s Minister of the Interior. Insulza, who was elected as Secretary General for a five-year term, has pledged to strengthen the Organization’s “political relevance and its capacity for action.”
A lawyer by training, Insulza has a law degree from the University of Chile, did postgraduate studies at the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty (FLACSO) and has a master’s in political science from the University of Michigan. Insulza began his career in academia. Until 1973, he was Professor of Political Theory at the University of Chile and of Political Science at Chile’s Catholic University. He also served as Political Advisor to the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Chile.
Following the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet into power, Insulza went into exile for 15 years, first in Rome (1974-1980) and after that in Mexico (1981-1988). In Mexico City, he was a researcher and then Director of the United States Studies Institute in the Center for Economic Research and Teaching. He also taught at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, the Ibero-American University and the Diplomatic Studies Institute, and was the author of numerous publications.
In 1988, after Chileans voted against Pinochet’s continued rule in a plebiscite, Insulza returned to his home country and helped to lead a political movement toward democratic elections in 1990. A member of Chile’s Socialist Party, which itself is a part of a moderate coalition of democratic parties, Insulza has held a number of high-level government posts. Under the presidency of Patricio Aylwin, Insulza served as Chilean Ambassador for International Cooperation, Director of Multilateral Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Vice President of the International Cooperation Agency.
In March 1994, under the administration of President Eduardo Frei, Insulza became Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs and in September of that year was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1999, he became Minister and Secretary General of the Office of the President, and the following year he became President Ricardo Lagos’s Minister of the Interior and Vice President of the Republic. When he left that post in May 2005, he had served as a government minister for more than a decade, the longest continuous tenure for a minister in Chilean history.

Dr. Cynthia J. Arnson is director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Her most recent work has focused on efforts to bring about negotiated settlements to internal armed conflicts in Latin America and on related issues of democratic governance. She is editor of Comparative Peace Processes in Latin America (Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Stanford University Press, 1999), co-editor (with I. William Zartman) of Rethinking the Economics of War: The Intersection of Need, Creed, and Greed (Woodrow Wilson Center Press and The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), and author of Crossroads: Congress, the President, and Central America, 1976-1993 (2d ed., Penn State Press, 1993). Since joining the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program in 1994, she has written or edited dozens of Woodrow Wilson Center publications on the Andean region, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, as well as U.S. policy toward Latin America. She is co-editor of two books on Chiapas, Los desafíos de la paz (Miguel Ángel Porrúa, 2000), and Interpretaciones sobre la negociación y la paz (UNAM, 2003), and author of several recent book chapters on Colombia, for edited volumes published by the University of Notre Dame Press and the United States Institute of Peace Press, among others. Arnson is a member of the editorial advisory board of Foreign Affairs en Español, the Spanish-language edition of the distinguished journal Foreign Affairs. Arnson is also a member of the advisory board of Human Rights Watch/Americas, and served as associate director of the Americas division from 1990-1994. In the early 1980s, as a consultant to Americas Watch, Arnson wrote many of the organization’s first reports on human rights conditions in El Salvador. Arnson served as an assistant professor of international relations at American University’s School of International Service 1989-1991. As a foreign policy aide in the House of Representatives during the Carter and Reagan administrations, she participated in the national debates over U.S. policy and human rights in Central and South America. Arnson graduated magna cum laude from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, and has an M.A. and Ph.D. in international relations from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Marcela Sanchez writes a weekly column, “Desde Washington” in the Washington Post addressing issues of interest between the United States and Latin America. Sanchez’s columns, which she began writing in September 2000, are available each Friday in English and Spanish through the Washington Post Online. Ms. Sanchez also reports daily from The Post’s newsroom on Noticias 30, the daily news broadcast for the local affiliate of the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network—Univision. For more than seven years, Sanchez served as Washington correspondent for two of the major daily newspapers in Colombia, El Espectador (June 1998 to August 2000) and El Tiempo (September 1994 to June 1998) as well as Colombia’s En Vivo and QAP (January 1997 to December 1999) television newscasts. As Washington correspondent, she reported on U.S. policy and issues of particular interest to Colombia as well as newsworthy events of interest to any international audience. She has also been a frequent commentator for Worldnet TV of the United States Information Agency (1995 to 2000). As a panelist for news-analysis programs such as Foro Interamericano, she analyzed and discussed current issues relevant to Latin American viewers. Sanchez joined The Washington Post in the fall of 1997 as a part-time editor in charge of the paper’s weekly-Spanish-language soccer report. Beginning in August 1993, Sanchez wrote for El Tiempo Latino, the largest Spanish weekly in the Washington metropolitan area. She started as a staff writer and was assistant editor from November 1995 until November 1996, when she became a full-time foreign correspondent for Colombia. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Externado University in Bogota, Colombia and a master’s in Communications and Economics from the University of North Dakota.

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela is Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He earned a B.A. summa cum laude from Drew University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from Columbia University. During President William Jefferson Clinton’s second term in office, Dr. Valenzuela served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. In that role he advised the president and the National Security Adviser on foreign, defense, intelligence, economic and other policy issues concerning the Western Hemisphere, managed the formulation and implementation of multilateral and bilateral foreign policy initiatives in the Americas, and directed U.S. responses to regional crises. Dr. Valenzuela served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs in the United States Department of State in the first Clinton administration. A White House political appointee, he was named to the Senior Executive Service of the United States of America. His responsibilities included global issues (democracy, environment, human rights, migration and refugees) for the Americas and the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy toward Mexico. For his diplomatic contributions, he has been honored with the National Order of the Southern Cross by the government of Brazil and the Order of Boyacá by the government of Colombia. A specialist on the origins and consolidation of democracy, Latin American politics, electoral systems, civil-military relations, political parties, regime transitions and U.S.-Latin American relations, Dr. Valenzuela is an expert on the politics of Chile, Mexico and the Southern Cone of Latin America. He is the author or co-author of nine books, including Political Brokers in Chile, The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes: Chile and A Nation of Enemies: Chile Under Pinochet. His recent work has focused on the consolidation of democracy and the institutional dimensions of democratic governance. With Juan J. Linz he co-wrote and edited The Failure of Presidential Democracy. His academic articles have appeared in edited collections and scholarly journals including Comparative Politics, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, Estudios Públicos and the Latin American Research Review. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Democracy, Current History, The Latin American Research Review and The Third World Quarterly and has published commentaries in leading newspapers in the United States, Latin America and Europe. He is currently a regular columnist for El Universal in Mexico. Dr. Valenzuela serves on the board of directors of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), as well as the board of trustees of Drew University and Santiago College, in Santiago, Chile. He also serves on the advisory board of Americas Watch and has been a board member of the Hispanic Council for International Relations (HCIR). He has been an adviser on political, electoral and constitutional reform in Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia. Dr. Valenzuela has served as a consultant to the Ford Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation, Freedom House and other organizations. He is an international advisor to Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld, LLP, a leading international law firm, an adviser to Correa & Correa in Santiago, Chile and director of Nueva Mayoría in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Dan Restrepo is the Director of The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress. In his role, Dan is responsible for the Center’s work related to the United States and its place in and relationship with the rest of the Americas. Dan, a first-generation American of Colombian and Spanish parents, served on the Democratic staff of the House International Relations Committee from 1993 to 1996. There he focused on all aspects of U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean, including U.S. policy toward Haiti during its political transitions, U.S. counter-narcotics programs and policies, the consolidation of the Central American peace processes, U.S.-Cuba policy and the Mexican debt crisis among other matters. During his tenure on the International Relations Committee staff, Dan traveled extensively throughout the hemisphere meeting with government officials, civil society leaders, and opposition party leaders. Immediately before starting The Americas Project, Dan served as the Director of Congressional Affairs at the Center for American Progress. Prior to joining American Progress, Dan spent three years as an associate at the law firm of Williams & Connolly, LLP. Prior to those years, Dan served as an attorney for the Florida Democratic Party during the 2000 election recount. From August through November 2000, he worked as the Research Director for the Florida Democratic Coordinated Campaign. Restrepo has appeared on a wide range of media outlets including CNN, CNN Español, Univision, CNBC, TV Azteca, Telemundo, Reuters Television, and C-SPAN. His works have appeared in The Miami Herald, La Opinion, The Baltimore Sun, and elsewhere.

The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress is focused on the United States’ relationship with and place in the Americas. The United States is in the midst of dramatic changes that will profoundly affect its future and are manifest both in the rapid growth of its Latino population and the ever-increasing interconnections with its neighbors throughout the Americas. Through rigorous research and open collaboration, The Americas Project seeks to more fully explore and understand those changes, the relationships among them, and their implications for progressive policy abroad and at home. The Americas Project endeavors to formulate innovative policy recommendations to address those changing realities and, through active engagement of all forms of media, effectively communicate its proposals to a wide range of audiences.