WOODLANDS: Amb. McKinley – Return of Leftist Governments in Latin America & Implications for Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, the U.S. & Beyond
Registration & Networking: 6:30 – 7:00PM
Program: 7:00 – 8:00PM
About the Event:
Perhaps not since the polarizing years of the Cold War, have the political divisions and ideologies of so many key governments across Latin America been so sharp and potentially challenging for the region and the U.S. With Lula’s return to power in Brazil following his victory over Bolsonaro in October, left-leaning governments now control the 6 largest economies in Latin America: Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru – and collectively they constitute about 85% of Latin America’s GDP. Besides the emergence or return of left-wing governments in these influential nations, self-described socialist governments have been in power for decades in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Having served as U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, Colombia and Peru (and also Afghanistan), four-time Ambassador Michael McKinley has unparalleled experience working with the highest levels of Latin American governments and an insider’s view of how presidents Bush, Obama and Trump approached the region. He will discuss why so many left-wing governments have been elected in Latin American nations in recent years, and what ideological similarities and policies they may share with previous left-leaning governments. Ambassador McKinley will also detail how the actual policies of each leader may be different from each other, their predecessors and the viability of their own campaign promises.
During his first two terms in office, President Lula’s public spending programs lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty and the economy grew at an unprecedented rate. But he benefitted enormously from high global commodity prices during those years, and the economy his is inheriting now is significantly challenged.
In Mexico, President López Obrador, by far the most left-leaning Mexican leader in 80 years, has not lived up to his pledges to greatly reduce economic inequality and cartel violence. But he did agree to a successful overhaul on NAFTA/ USMCA with the US and Canada, and he has frequently cooperated with US immigration policy.
Despite being Colombia’s first openly leftist leader, President Petro has continued military operations against dissident groups of FARC, the violent Marxist insurgency that waged a brutal civil war for over half a century. Whereas in Peru, leftist President Castillo was forced from office in December. But across the nation thousands continue to protest against his removal and over 50 people have been killed, many during clashes with police.
What will be the overall impact of these left-wing leaders, and how should the US approach the region and the governments of leaders who political base maybe very suspicious of American influence?
About the Speaker:
Ambassador Michael McKinley is a four-time ambassador having served as U.S. Ambassador to: Brazil (2017-2018), Colombia (2010-2013), Peru (2007-2010), and also Afghanistan (2014-2016). Over the course of his 37-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Ambassador McKinley (ret.) held senior leadership positions in missions in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and South Asia.
Ambassador McKinley worked on development, trade, and investment issues across his career, helping conclude free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia. In addition, McKinley had extensive experience with regional conflicts and peace negotiations across three decades on three continents, to include most recently as ambassador in Colombia and Afghanistan.
He concluded his career as senior adviser to the Secretary of State. Earlier assignments included Bolivia, the United Kingdom, and postings as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires in Mozambique, Uganda, Belgium, and at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. McKinley served as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Migration, and Refugees from 2001-2004 in the aftermath of 9/11, overseeing U.S. government assistance to the resettlement program in the United States and to refugee populations in Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Ambassador McKinley is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including State Department Distinguished Honor Awards and Presidential Performance Awards.
Currently, he is a is a non-resident senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies CSIS. Ambassador McKinley graduated from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom in 1975 and earned a Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1982. He is the author of an acclaimed study of colonial Venezuelan history which was published by Cambridge University Press.