AS/COA Online | Interview: Petrobras CEO José Sergio Gabrielli on Brazil's Energy Outlook

"[W]e are far and ahead of almost all countries in the world in the use of renewable sources of energy right now."
In an exclusive interview, Petrobras CEO and President José Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo talked with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about Brazil as one of the world’s top oil and ethanol producers, his firm’s business plan, and global partnerships. In the last case, that includes recent energy deals forged with China and both opportunities and hurdles for the U.S.-Brazilian ethanol cooperation. “Brazil is a possible substitute for other sources that today provide oil to the United States,” said Gabrielli.

AS/COA Online: Brazil plans to follow a Norwegian model for auctioning concessions in its offshore pre-salt oil fields, including creation of a 100 percent state-owned company. Can you talk about this and Petrobras’ involvement?
Read More

AS/COA Online | Interview: OAS Secretary General Insulza on the Promise of the Fifth Summit

"[T]he summit involves a big, clear promise and we hope that we can live up to it."

Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza joined AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis for an exclusive interview about the recent Summit of the Americas, from the process of negotiating hemispheric mandates to the upcoming OAS General Assembly. Insulza also talks about his position on a 1962 resolution that ejected Havana as an OAS member state: “Everybody says that if we repeal the resolution that means that the next day Cuba is back in the OAS. I don’t think that’s what anybody wants, starting with Cuba.”

AS/COA Online: Let's talk about the recent Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. While progress was made during the summit, there has been a lot of discussion around the process of creating and approving the declaration.

Read More

AS/COA Online | Amb. Jeffrey Davidow on Expectations for the Summit of the Americas

"[T]he president will go there with a strong trade message and a strong anti-protectionism message."

In an exclusive interview, White House Advisor for the Summit of the Americas Jeffrey Davidow speaks with AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis about expectations for the summit in Port of Spain on April 17 through 19. The Obama administration will seek to build on the hemisphere’s past decade of accomplishments through a “real focus on exchanging ideas, techniques, and best practices,” said Davidow. The ambassador offers insight into top issues on the agenda, from trade to energy to public safety. Davidow served as a U.S. ambassador to Mexico and to Venezuela. He also held the position of Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs under the Clinton administration.

AS/COA Online: The global economy will be the Summit of the Americas’ focal point. With the G20 members wrapping up their meeting, what kind of groundwork do you see has been laid in advance for the summit in Trinidad and Tobago?

Read More

AS/COA Online | Interview: Dr. Thomas Dillehay on Moon Tears: Mapuche Art and Cosmology

“[O]ne of the elements of their culture that has helped the Mapuche to survive, even today as well, is their strong commitment to their cosmology and religion.”

Dr. Thomas D. Dillehay, a distinguished professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University and Professor Extroardinaire at the Universidad de Chile, talks with AS/COA Online about the objects featured in Moon Tears: Mapuche Art and Cosmology from the Domeyko Cassel Collection—the exhibition featured at the Americas Society. In a interview about how the history and rituals of Chile’s largest indigenous group are reflected in the exhibition, Dillehay emphasizes the ways that the Mapuche create linkages with their ancestors through ritual as well as some of the changes that have occurred in Mapuche communities over time.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Dillehay directed excavations in Monte Verde, Chile, which included human artifacts dated at more than 12,500 years old. The discovery fundamentally changed migration theories of the Americas. He has authored 15 books, among them the award-winning 2007 publication Monuments, Empires and Resistance, as well as more than 200 refereed journal articles.

AS/COA Online: The exhibition covers three areas: contact, conquest, and political organization. How are these themes significant in the relation to the Mapuche and the exhibition?

Read More

AS/COA Online | Interview: Patrick Esteruelas on Venezuela's Oil-Based Economy

“As much as a victory would buy Chávez a new lease on life, a defeat could end up being the most costly policy mistake he’s made in over ten years in office.”

In an AS/COA interview, Patrick Esteruelas, a specialist in the Andean region with Eurasia Group’s Latin America practice, about the effects of the dropping price of oil on Venezuela’s economy.  “Venezuela can count on a sizeable cushion of reserves and foreign exchange liquid assets to help it ride the current economic down cycle,” he tells AS/COA Online's Managing Editor Carin Zissis. “But not for very long.” Esteruelas also talks about the reasons behind President Hugo Chávez's decision to hold a referendum on the elimination of presidential term limits in February.

AS/COA Online: Speculation has mounted that, with the sharp drop in the price of oil, Venezuela’s economy could be under serious threat. Yet some argue that country’s economy stands well-girded because of the high oil prices in recent years. What do you make of this debate and what are the economic outcomes Venezuela faces as a result of the oil price drop?

Esteruelas: I would say that Venezuela can count on a sizeable cushion of reserves and foreign exchange liquid assets to help it ride the current economic down cycle. But not for very long. By all accounts, Venezuela is destroying assets much more quickly than it’s been building them, given today’s oil prices. The country has somewhere around $60 billion in foreign exchange liquid assets, which include just shy of $30 billion in foreign exchange reserves, just shy of $20 billion in the foreign exchange development fund, and then the rest equitably split along the discretionary government funds and cash dollars held by PDVSA [Petróleos de Venezuela].

Read More

AS/COA Online | James Bacchus Urges Obama to Work with Trade Partners in the Americas

“[Obama] needs to explain to the American people that trade is an indispensable part of any economic recovery we hope to have.”
In an exclusive interview with AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis, former U.S. Representative James Bacchus (D-FL) discusses AS/COA’s new Trade Advisory Group report and the need for the Obama administration “to come forward with some evidence that the United States is willing to work on a hemispheric basis.” Bacchus, who is a leader of Greenberg Traurig’s worldwide practice, served on the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization. He urges approval of pending trade agreements with Panama and Colombia.
Read More

AS/COA Online | Interview: Leopoldo López on Venezuela's Political Alternative

“We are an alternative in terms of presenting solutions for poverty and for public safety, which are the main issues that Venezuelans need to have addressed by their government.”

Leopoldo López Mendoza, mayor of the Chacao municipality of Caracas, was a frontrunner in the race for the mayoralty of the Venezuelan capital until he, along with hundreds of other opposition candidates, was banned from running in November municipal elections. In an exclusive interview with AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis, López talks about the questionable legality of the ban and the threat it poses to democracy in Venezuela. López, who won 81 percent of votes when he ran for reelection for his current post in 2004, says inequality and public security serve as Venezuela’s main challenges.

AS/COA: Venezuela’s electoral council barred hundreds of mostly opposition candidates from running in the November municipal election on the basis of unproven corruption charges. You’ve been prohibited from running for the mayoral post of Caracas. Given the current block against your candidacy, what are your short-term political goals?

López: The first goal is to help promote the candidates that can run and to promote possible victories in municipalities and governorships in this upcoming elections.
Read More

AS/COA Online | Interview: U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobel on Bilateral Partnerships

[W]e have a lot of very fertile areas where we look for partnership and for growth in our economic, investment, and cultural institutions."

In an exclusive interview, U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Clifford M. Sobel speaks with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about opportunities to build U.S.-Brazilian partnerships in areas ranging from energy to security. At a time when biofuels production faces charges of pushing up food production, the two countries can share technology and engage in research exchanges to turn waste into energy resources, says Sobel. The ambassador also describes the goals of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, efforts to ease visa requirements, and strides in connecting Brazilian cities with American cities through direct flights.

AS/COA: In what ways do you see current economic and political factors converging to support opportunities for U.S.-Brazilian partnerships?
Read More

AS/COA Online | Interview: Jair Ribeiro on Model for Adopting, Improving Brazilian Schools

“[E]ach school is different from the other and requires a different set of solutions.”

CPM Braxis CEO Jair Ribeiro, in an interview with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis, discusses Partners in Education (Parceiros Da Educação), a program he established in São Paulo to match executives with schools—particularly in poor and underserved areas—to improve teacher training and boost students’ test scores. The program has proven to show marked results in the “adopted” schools. As the model developed by Partners in Education evolves and improves, executives from across Brazil approached the organization about adopting the model in other parts of the country.

AS/COA: Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Partners in Education and how and why you started it?
Read More

AS/COA Online - Interview: FIU's Eduardo Gamarra on Bolivian President Evo Morales' "Riskless" Recall Vote

“[T]he point is that the president is risking very little and the prefects have much to lose.”
In an interview with AS/COA Managing Editor Carin Zissis, Director of Florida International University’s Latin American and Caribbean Center and Bolivia expert Eduardo Gamarra discusses the complex series of referenda taking place in Bolivia. Earlier this summer, four Bolivian departments held votes supporting autonomy; on August 10, in a public referendum, voters will decide whether the president and several governors retain their positions; and a vote on the controversial new constitution is expected within the next year and a half. Gamarra explains what is behind not only the deep political and regional divisions affecting the country, but also the questionable legitimacy of some of the votes and demonstrations. Speaking about Sunday’s election, Gamarra comments that, “The president is basically running a riskless election.”
AS/COA: Bolivia is holding a referendum in August 10 in which the voters will decide whether the president, the vice president, and most departmental governors will stay in office. How does this recall vote work and does President Evo Morales face any real possibility of losing office?
Gamarra: Perhaps I better start by answering the last part. The president is basically running a riskless election. In fact, it is a referendum that can only work in his favor. Now, having said that, at the same time the governors or the prefects—as a result of the autonomy referendums they’re now known as governors—have more to lose than the president and largely because the way in which the law that convokes the referendum is written. To lose, the president needs the majority of people to vote against him. To lose, the prefects do not need a majority; a simple minority could end their terms. The president would then have the right to name the successor rather than calling for a new election. In the case that the president loses, there’s a need for an immediate call for a new round of elections. It is relatively complicated but the point is that the president is risking very little and the prefects have much to lose.
AS/COA: So, just to understand this clearly, the prefects can lose by a minority vote?
Read More

AS/COA Online - Interview: Helio Mattar, President of the Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption on Corporate Social Responsibility in Brazil

“When we talk about CSR we are talking about the collective interest of society; we are talking about returns to stakeholders, not only returns to shareholders.”

Brazil’s Helio Mattar, who serves as the president of the Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption and founded the Ethos Institute for Social Responsibility talks with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about the strength of the corporate social responsibility movement (CSR) in Brazil and across the Americas. Mattar, a leading expert in the field of CSR, discusses the factors behind Brazil’s prominent CSR movement and the need for companies to remain accountable to consumers. A former CEO and government minister, Mattar outlines essential evolution for companies must undertake to maximize the capacity of CSR efforts. “[W]e’ve changed the level of consciousness in the market, and companies will have to change the level of action that they will have in social and environmental areas,” says Mattar, who served as a moderator of an AS/COA roundtable on CSR during AS/COA’s annual Latin American Cities Conference in São Paulo, Brazil in July 2008.

AS/COA: Across Latin America, according to Akatú’s research, 50 to 80 percent of consumers have an interest in what companies are doing in terms of corporate social responsibility. The rate is particularly high in Brazil.

: It is. It has been between 75 and 78 percent in the last seven years.

AS/COA: What are the factors behind this high rate of interest in CSR in Brazil?

: I think there is one attribute, which it is not Brazilian. I am totally convinced that mass communication, Internet all over the place, and telecommunications all over the place means that people are becoming more and more sensitive to social and environmental issues.
Read More

AS/COA Online - Interview: Rubén Beltrán, Consul General of Mexico, on Serving U.S.-Based Latino Populations

"The situation involves dozens of countries and hundreds of thousands joining the job market every year."

In an exclusive interview, Consul General of Mexico in New York Rubén Beltrán speaks with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about a new initiative bringing together Latin American consulates to expand services for immigrants in the tri-state area. The coalition marks the beginning of the project through the June 21 Feria Consular Latinoamericana in Harrison, New Jersey, where the consulates Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Uruguay will provide services.  Beltrán also discussed the challenges facing Mexican immigrant communities across the country and consular efforts to meet the needs of New York’s rapidly growing Mexican community.

AS/COA: You described this initiative (the Feria Consular Latinoamericana) as the first of its kind with this many consul generals coming together. Can you talk about how these consul generals came together and why now?

Beltrán: Well, it is the first time that several consulates of Latin America in the U.S come together to provide services in a joint fashion simultaneously...

Read More

AS/COA Online - Interview: Student Activist Yon Goicoechea on Venezuela's Political Future

“I believe that to have modern countries, we also have to renew our political structures.”

Yon Goicoechea, Venezuelan law student, activist, and founder of the Futuro Presente Foundation spoke with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about his country's student activist movement, widely credited with playing a pivotal role in the defeat of a December 2007 constitutional referendum. Goicoechea was recently awarded the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty from the Cato Institute.“There are hundreds of thousands of young Venezuelans with a firm commitment to making good policy practices and that’s why I believe that in 10 years we will have renewed institutions in Venezuela and new opportunities for improvement,” says Goicoechea.

AS/COA: How did Venezuela’s student movement begin?

Read More

AS/COA Online - Entrevista: Activista Estudiantil Yon Goicoechea sobre el Futuro Político Venezolano

“Yo creo que para tener países modernos también hace falta renovar nuestras estructuras políticas.”

Yon Goicoechea, estudiante venezolano de derecho, activista y fundador de la fundación Futuro Presente habló con la editora de AS/COA Online Carin Zissis sobre el movimiento estudiantil, ampliamente acreditado como pieza importante en la derrota del referendo constucional de diciembre del 2007. Goicoechea fue recientemente galardonado con el premio Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty del Cato Institute. “Hay cientos de miles de jóvenes en Venezuela comprometidos en hacer política de la buena y por eso creo que en 10 años vamos a tener nuevas instituciones en el país y nuevas oportunidades para hacer las cosas mejor,” dice Goicoechea.

AS/COA: ¿Como empezó el movimiento estudiantil en Venezuela?

Read More

AS/COA Online - Secretary General José Miguel Insulza on the OAS Role in the Western Hemisphere

“The sub-regional integration institutions will gather more strength. But we still need a forum for hemispheric dialogue.”

José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of Americas States, spoke with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis following an Americas Society/Council of the Americas event about the OAS role in promoting democracy in Latin America (Listen to audio of Insulza’s remarks). In recent months, the OAS has played a central role in negotiations related to regional matters, including a vote on autonomy in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province and the March Andean standoff between Colombia and its neighbors Ecuador and Venezuela after a Colombian attack on a FARC camp inside Ecuador’s borders. “What I think is that the OAS has to prove itself as the main forum for political dialogue in the Americas, prove itself to be a bona fide intermediary in the problems among or within countries, and especially act very independently based only on Inter-American law,” said Insulza of the organization, now in its sixtieth year.

AS/COA: During your remarks you discussed the recent Andean crisis. There’s been discussion about the role of the OAS in that matter. You talked about how quickly the OAS had to respond to that issue. Can you talk about how that has affected the OAS and the process by which various issues are handled?

Insulza: We have tried very hard this year, not only to be relevant but to be timely at the same time. I fear all the time that something will happen as it did with the Venezuela crisis; in 2002, after the president was deposed, the council met and they were still meeting when the president was re-instated.

I think [the handling of the recent crisis] has given us a lot of legitimacy to work on the process. Basically, we were very evenhanded. We understood the Colombian motives, we understood the Ecuadorian rights, and we managed to forge a consensus on that.

Read More

AS/COA Online - JPMorgan's Joyce Chang on Latin American Markets

Latin America is more insulated from a United States slowdown than at any time in recent history.”

Managing Director and Global Head of JPMorgan Chase’s Emerging Markets Research Group Joyce Chang talked with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about Latin American markets and how they will face a U.S. economic downturn. JPMorgan predicts 5 percent or more growth for emerging market countries in 2008, says Chang, who notes that “the commodities rally continues to support terms of trade in Latin America." Chang says, “China is critical for emerging market economies given that it has been the key source of marginal demand for commodities in recent years.”

AS/COA: Debate has raged in recent months over how the U.S. recession will affect the global economy. How are Latin American emerging markets faring given the U.S. economic downturn?

Read More

AS/COA Online - Pew Hispanic Center's Susan Minushkin on the Latino Vote

"It is a continuation of a trend that’s been happening over the past few elections and will continue to be a factor going forward, as Hispanics become a growing share of the electorate in the United States."

Deputy Director Susan Minushkin of the Pew Hispanic Center spoke with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about the buzz over the Latino electorate’s role in this year’s presidential election. Minushkin emphasized that the number of Latino voters has and will continue to grow as immigrants become naturalized and the large pool of young Hispanics reaches voting age. The immigration debate may have played a role in the abatement of Latino voters identifying with the Republican Party, she says.

Minushkin, who worked previously as a professor at the Centro de Investigaciones y Docencia Economicas (CIDE) in Mexico City, also talked about President Felipe Calderon’s upcoming visit to the United States—his first official visit since taking office—and the high level of Mexican interest in U.S. elections: “Mexicans see that whatever happens in the U.S. elections as having a direct affect on the future of their country.”

AS/COA: The issue of the Latino vote has been a big one this election year. What’s different this time around compared to previous years in terms of the Hispanic electorate?

Read More

AS/COA Online - Interview: Jorge Castañeda, Former Foreign Minister of Mexico, on Immigration Reform

"It takes leadership because most politicians in the United States don’t want to lead on this. They look at McCain and they say, 'Look what happened to him.' Who wants to take a leadership position on this and then get slammed in Iowa?"

In an interview, former Foreign Minister of Mexico Jorge Castañeda talks about his new book Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis. Talking before an AS/COA event, Castañeda, who played a firsthand role in attempts to pass a U.S.-Mexican immigration agreement during the Fox administration, says passage of immigration reform will depend on election of a U.S. leader “with more political capital than Bush has.”

The author and political analyst, now a professor of politics and Latin American studies at New York University, also says the need for a decision on comprehensive immigration reform will become increasingly apparent: “It’s either regression—with all the dangers and the outrages of separating women from their children, of deporting people, of raiding houses—or it’s reform.”

In the book, you discuss how immigration reform became central to Mexican foreign policy after [former President Vicente] Fox came to power. Meanwhile, in the United States there has been this turn towards nativism. Given the implied conflict here, what will it take for immigration reform to move forward?

Read More | Park: Private Sector Solution Could Resolve North Korean ‘Radioactive Funds’ Issue

John S. Park, head of the Korea working group at the United States Institute of Peace, discusses the controversy over $25 million in North Korean funds holding up a February 2007 denuclearization deal. Although the U.S. State Department pledged to release the money from Banco Delta Asia (BDA) in Macao, banks around the world consider the funds tainted by a U.S. Treasury Department ruling that connects the $25 million with illicit activities.

“The $25 million is the financial equivalent of radioactive funds,” explains Park, who says the time has come “to start thinking out of the box of having governments approach third party banks.” He suggests a private sector solution to the current stalemate and that Asia’s experience with troubled banks during the 1997 financial crisis provides a model for resolving the issue. Monetary authorities in Macao could declare BDA a distressed bank and put it up for sale, explains Park. He says the BDA banking license in a recapitalized format could result in a “lucrative sale” in which the proceeds “can be used for the clean transfer of $25 million to a bank designated by North Korea.”

Access the podcast at | Abbas: Musharraf’s Sinking Credibility

Hassan Abbas, a research fellow at Harvard University and author of Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism, served as an official in the administrations of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He discusses escalating violence over Musharraf’s decision to suspend Pakistan’s Supreme Court chief justice and says it signifies “the beginning of the end” for the president, who seized power in a 1999 coup. Abbas says deadly clashes over the judicial crisis could not have occurred “without instruction from the top,” and that the government wished to show it would not tolerate dissent. The possibility of an agreement between Musharraf and the exiled Bhutto appears increasingly remote given the Supreme Court controversy, says Abbas.

Access the podcast at