RWAC Blog: A deeper look into the Inter-American Dialogue

A Deeper Look into the Inter-American Dialogue: How Can They Help?

by Mana Soroush – Richmond World Affairs Council Journalist Intern

 

On January 30th, the Richmond World Affairs Council had the honor of hearing from Michael Shifter, the President of the Inter-American dialogue, alongside David Smolansky, exiled Venezuelan mayor. To further understand the dialogue between these two significant figures, I will dig deeper into the mission and purpose of the Inter-American Dialogue. 

The Inter-American Dialogue is a non-profit organization that engages a network of global leaders to foster democratic governance, prosperity, and social equity in Latin American and the Caribbean. Together, they work to shape policy debate, devise solutions, and enhance cooperation within the Western Hemisphere.

The fact that posts on their website are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, makes it apparent that the Inter-American Dialogue is dedicated to issues within Latin America and the Caribbean and aims to address them in an inclusive manner. Moreover, the organization’s events give a platform to speakers with a Latin American background, giving them the opportunity to speak based on their personal experiences. 

Recent events focused on various issues relating to Latin American and Carribean politics, such as economics, finance, trade, migration, security and drug policy, and democratic governance. Similarly, the Richmond World Affairs Council’s “Venezuela after Chávez” event was centered around the topic of democratic governance, with Smolansky discussing the shortcomings of Venezuela’s “democratic” regime. 

Based in Washington, D.C., the Inter-American Dialogue is in the perfect location to encourage policy change and influence political priorities in regards to Latin America and the Caribbean. With Shifter being in a position to influence the prioritization of issues within Latin America, it was notably relevant to have him speak alongside an exiled Venezuelan politician who referred to the current crisis in Venezuela as a “slow genocide”. Shifter’s willingness to discuss the topic of suffering in Venezuela shows his prioritization of the issue. 

Shifter holds extensive credibility on the topic of Latin American relations, having taught Latin American development and politics for four years at Harvard University, as well as being an adjunct professor of Latin American politics at Georgetown University since 1993. Shifter has also spent a significant portion of his life living in Latin America. 

A key figure in understanding the priority of this crisis on the U.S. political agenda, Michael Shifter discussed with our audience how the Obama administration was extremely concerned about Venezuela, holding the matter as a high priority. He further stated that the Obama administration started what, today, is a key policy for Venezuela: sanctions. However, there are only targeted sanctions against those accused of corruption and human rights violations. Shifter gave us an in-depth analysis of U.S. policy actions that have taken place throughout the entirety of this crisis, rather than just recent developments. 

During his speaking portion, Shifter was very mindful of allowing Smolansky, having grown up in Venezuela and having first-hand experience, to speak on behalf of the scope and dimensions of the crisis. He, instead, spoke on U.S. policies and responses to this crisis, as well as options on how to move forward. He used this platform not to speak on behalf of Venezuelans, but to amplify their voices and support them with his own expertise. 

It is clear as to why Shifter was invited to speak on the topic of Venezuela, being an expert on Latin American development and politics, and the president of an organization that influences U.S. relations with Latin America to such a significant extent. In order to further promote diplomacy and democratic governance in Latin America, dialogue between those with a personal background in Latin America and those who are able to promote/implement policy change is not only useful but highly necessary. 

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