SOURCE: Americas Conference

Americas Conference

September 29, 2009 20:20 ET

Thirteenth Annual Americas Conference Opens in Coral Gables Addressing Emerging Challenges and Political Stability in Latin America and the Caribbean

CORAL GABLES, FL--(Marketwire - September 29, 2009) - The Americas Conference, presented by The Miami Herald, the State of Florida, Florida International University (FIU) and The World Bank, opened today at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Political leaders, economists and academia from across the region took part in a variety of forums focusing on the emerging challenges and political stability in the region. Panelists discussed the outlook for the hemisphere during this crucial time where seven elections will take place over the next thirteen months.

Augusto de la Torre, Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean for The World Bank, opened the Conference with a presentation on Latin America after the crisis. In his remarks, he stated, "the worst is over." He warned, however, significant frailties remain. Nonetheless, he said that Latin America is well positioned and "can help the world more than people think." The Latin American economy as a whole is nearly as big as China, but with larger consumption. In order to take best advantage of the recovery, Latin America needs to step up its productivity-oriented agenda as it "still lags behind Asia in terms of innovation and productivity."

Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Hubert Alexander Ingraham started his principal address by confirming that the Bahamas is not going to be asking for financial assistance in the wake of the global meltdown. He stated, "We are being careful to contain the rise in debt to GDP ratio so as not to hinder our ability to respond quickly to a turn around in global economic fortunes."

President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica delivered a keynote address at the Conference during today's luncheon. The Nobel Peace Prize recipient addressed the situation in Honduras during his remarks. Arias relayed that Honduras' acting president, Roberto Micheletti, informed him yesterday that he would dismantle some of the emergency measures the government put in place over the weekend. Micheletti will meet with Congress and the courts to remove the measures, which limit the media and people's ability to gather. Arias stated that this would create an environment that would allow free and open elections on November 29th. "The crisis will not be solved with elections alone," Arias said. "But with elections that are recognized by all."

Other panels throughout the day addressed the major players and critical policy issues in the region, as well as a discussion on the business of Cuba. Panelists included Everett Eissenstat, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for the Americas, Janet Ballentyne, acting Assistant Administrator for LAC Bureau, USAID and Sergio M. Alcocer, Secretary General, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, among others.

The Conference closed with a keynote address by former U.S. President and current United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti, Bill Clinton. Clinton stressed repeatedly that the leaders in our hemisphere recognize the Americas are totally interdependent, that our future is tied to our neighbors and that Haiti plays a critical role in the future of the hemisphere.

Clinton focused on the fact that two hundred years ago, Haiti was the richest island in the Caribbean. Now, the majority of its population lives on less than $2 a day. Yet, this is the moment to "build Haiti back better." This is the time when there is the best chance for success, according to Clinton.

Clinton's goals are to coordinate the work of the many NGOs operating in Haiti. Clinton's emphasis is on the sustainable economics. Jobs must be created, small and medium businesses given access to credit, and there must be a rise in the middle class. Roads must be built, reforestation undertaken, and safe drinking water supplied.

The Conference continues tomorrow with key hemispheric leaders. A keynote address by Dan Restrepo, special assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council, will close the event. For a full agenda, visit

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