October 7th, 2014
06:25 PM ET

Mexico's president talks reform and the immigration debate

Fareed speaks with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto about the legalization marijuana in parts of the United States, structural reforms in Mexico and the immigration debate in the United States. Watch the video for the full interview.

You know, in the United States, when people think about Mexico, still it is immigration that dominates the way they think about it. What do you think when you hear the debate about immigration in Washington?

First of all, I think that the relationship between Mexico and the United States is a lot broader, and sometimes it would be surprising to know the many details of the relationship – the number of daily crossings, legal crossings, every day. About a million people every day, people coming and going from one country to the other, because of work and trade and the trade level that we have, which is so broad, which we will probably talk about.

But when you hear some of the anti-immigrant language, the rhetoric, do you think it's racist?

I think it's discriminatory, yes. And I think it's unfortunate for a country whose formation and historic origin relies so much on the migration flows of many parts of Europe, Asia, for instance. I think this is a country whose origin, to a great extent, is one of migration. And that's why it's unfortunate to hear this exclusionary and discriminatory tone regarding the migration flows into the United States.

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Topics: GPS Show • Latin America
October 7th, 2014
05:32 PM ET

What does Colombia's future hold?

Fareed spoke recently with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos about negotiations with the FARC, the country's economy and what to do with former terrorists. Watch the video for the full interview. GPS also invited President Santos to offer his take on the key challenges facing Colombia, and what its future might hold. Here is what he had to say:

"The story of Colombia is one of transformation. Decades ago, we were on the verge of becoming a failed state. In the past few years, our sound economic growth coupled with a business climate that concentrates on investment, entrepreneurship and innovation through advancements in education and equality makes us the world’s next venture nation.

"Given our country’s social, political and economic context, Colombia has become increasingly attractive to the world’s leading companies, investors and visionaries who wish to develop new technologies and markets, as well as produce global corporate solutions.

"Our economy has grown at about 5 percent on average for the past four years, and in the first part of 2014 at 5.2 percent, making us one of the world’s new investment powerhouses. This year our GDP growth is third only to China and Indonesia. In addition, our GDP has tripled in the last decade, reaching almost $370 billion in 2012. Foreign direct investment has also increased, reaching $16 billion. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show • Latin America
October 4th, 2014
02:58 PM ET

Mexico's president on whether marijuana should be legalized

Fareed speaks with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto about whether marijuana should be legalized. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

I know you are opposed to the legalization of marijuana, so I want to ask the question to you in a slightly different way. Have you noticed any effect of the partial legalization of marijuana in certain states in America? I mean, one of the things that people who advocate the legalization of marijuana point out is that it would take a lot of the crime out, it would take a lot of the illegal money out, it would regulate it the way that alcohol is regulated and provide tax revenues to the governments. Do you not find that compelling?

I don't see it that way. I instead think that this is a door of access to drug consumption to the most harmful drugs, and it eventually will generate an environment of more violence, as well. And we would have to see in those states that have already legalized marijuana consumption, what social behaviors are they seeing? And if whatever gave way to this eventual legalization in those states, has it really resulted in the economic benefits for those states and for society at large? I don't think that is the case.

However, I do insist we have to hold a debate with evidence, showing exactly what is happening throughout the world, and what is also happening in the states of the American union where they have legalized it.

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Topics: Drugs • GPS Show • Latin America
October 1st, 2014
03:29 PM ET

Colombia's president on the economy and talking to the FARC

Fareed speaks with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos about his government's negotiations with the FARC. Watch the video for the full interview.

So how were you able to negotiate with people that your government has been battling and that have been afflicting huge terrorist attacks? I mean, politically, that must be difficult.

It is very difficult, very difficult to explain to the people why are you talking about peace and the work continues, because one of the conditions that I put in the initiation of the conversations was there's no ceasefire until we reach an agreement. Because they always take advantage of ceasefires and I don't want to be signaled, if they fail, if the conversations fail as another president who attempted to have peace and failed and left the FARC stronger and the state weaker. That is something that I will not allow. And therefore, it is difficult to explain, but it's the shortest way to achieve peace here.

What lesson do you draw from talking to terrorists? What would you say you've learned?

Well, first of all, that you have to have a very clear objective. You have to have some red lines and you have to have determination and persevere and plan very carefully where you want to go. And this is what we have done in the last two years. And we have advanced much further than any attempt before. And I’m quite optimistic, for the first time in 50 years of war, that we will reach peace.

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Topics: GPS Show • Latin America
Has Colombia's time come?
August 13th, 2014
02:45 PM ET

Has Colombia's time come?

By Virginia M. Bouvier, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Virginia M. Bouvier is senior program officer for Latin America at the U.S. Institute of Peace and editor of Colombia: Building Peace in a Time of War. The views expressed are the author’s own. 

With violence exploding in Gaza, airstrikes in Iraq, armed groups terrorizing Nigeria, Syrian extremism spilling into Lebanon, and the return of war in Sudan, the cause of peace can seem daunting. Closer to home, however, there is cause for hope.

Prospects for peace in Colombia are looking better than they have in years. If successful, the current peace process would put an end to an internal armed conflict that has lasted half a century. The conflict has taken the lives of some 200,000 Colombians, forcibly displaced 6 million more (granting Colombia the dubious honor of world record holder for the highest number of displaced), and destroyed countless livelihoods. Peace in Colombia would open a new era for growth and prosperity and contribute to regional stability.

As President Juan Manuel Santos noted in his inaugural speech on August 7, “Colombia’s time has come.”

During his first term in office, Santos opened peace talks with the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC-EP), and earlier this year launched exploratory conversations for peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s second largest armed insurgent group. His campaign for re-election was widely portrayed as a referendum on the peace process, and his victory in June gives him a mandate to finish what he started.


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Topics: Latin America
What we're getting wrong about the migration debate
August 1st, 2014
06:39 PM ET

What we're getting wrong about the migration debate

By Kevin O’Donnell

GPS intern Kevin O’Donnell speaks with Justin Gest, assistant professor of public policy at the School of Policy, Government and International Affairs at George Mason University and the author of ‘Apart: Alienated and Engaged Muslims in the West’ and the forthcoming ‘Crossroads of Migration: A Global Approach to National Policy Differences’. The views expressed are his own.

When we talk about migration, we often talk about push factors and pull factors – things that drive people from a country, that pull them to another. We’ve seen over the past five years a rapid increase in migration by children. Is this driven more by factors in their home countries, or by a new understanding of opportunities in the United States?

Well I think it’s important off the bat to clarify that the young people who are coming to the United States border right now aren’t coming for economic opportunities, they’re not coming – initially at least – to unify with their families, they’re not coming because of the United States' university system or educational opportunities. They’re coming because they’re desperate. They’re coming because they’re trying to escape dire circumstances in their countries of origin.

So while the pull factors in the United States are important, they’re not a determinant here. One way of actually noticing this is by looking at the net migration from Mexico and Central America over the last five to seven years since the economic decline of the United States. It has declined, at one point to zero. So this is taking place at a time when we haven’t seen a lot of draw by the American economy, which further substantiates the idea that this is truly push-factor oriented. FULL POST

Drug cartels are causing a refugee crisis
July 8th, 2014
11:57 AM ET

Drug cartels are causing a refugee crisis

By Ted Galen Carpenter, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is the author of nine books on international affairs, including The Fire Next Door: Mexico’s Drug Violence and the Danger to America. The views expressed are his own.

Officials in the United States might be tempted to view the disturbing surge in young refugees as simply a border security issue. But the problem is far more complex than that – the drug cartels are now major players in Central American countries, driving vulnerable populations northward to the United States to enhance their own profits.

And America’s hardline prohibitionist drug war is only making things worse.

Although the growing power of the cartels is not the only factor accounting for this crisis, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson suggested in congressional testimony that the “push factor” of violence is important.

Drug gangs have gained control of major chunks of Central America, making honest economic activity perilous. Teenagers especially have few options if they are not willing to work for the drug lords. As Caitlin Dickson noted in the Daily Beast, for example, “by making these countries so dangerous and virtually unlivable for its poorest citizens, the cartels have effectively created an incentive for people to flee, thereby providing themselves with more clientele for their human smuggling business.”


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Topics: Drugs • Latin America • United States
April 25th, 2014
09:41 AM ET

Dominican Republic 'committed to inclusive immigration policy'

By Aníbal de Castro, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Aníbal de Castro is ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the United States. This article is a response to an opinion piece from Amnesty International published earlier this week. The views expressed are his own.

The Dominican Republic is taking proactive steps to tackle the complex issue of immigration by implementing a policy for registering both national and immigrant citizens, while protecting everyone’s fundamental rights. And the challenges the Dominican Republic is facing to adopt these policies are not much different than those confronting the United States and other nations.

But, as lawmakers around the world have learned – there are no easy solutions.

Last September, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government of the Dominican Republic was required to launch a proactive process to implement a fair and transparent immigration policy, one that respects each person’s contribution to Dominican society and gives clarity to an outdated system. This marks a historic moment in the country’s 170-year history, and will enhance the security and prosperity of the Dominican Republic and island of Hispaniola at large.


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Topics: Immigration • Latin America
April 21st, 2014
11:57 AM ET

Life in limbo for Dominicans of Haitian descent

By Robin Guittard, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Robin Guittard is Caribbean team Campaigner at Amnesty International. The views expressed are his own.

“I don’t feel free,” Franklin Jaque José told me. “You’re in a circle where they get you trapped.”

Franklin is just one of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent who face significant legal barriers that prevent them from going about their day-to-day lives. Over the last decade, Franklin says he has not been able to continue his education, has had to leave school, and is now being denied access to formal jobs.

He is not alone. For years, Dominicans with Haitian parents who were raised in the country had been registered as Dominicans, which gave them the right to bear Dominican identity documents. Indeed, Franklin says that back in 1994, he was registered in the national Civil Registry and given a Dominican birth certificate. But about a decade ago, Franklin and many others of Haitian heritage began having difficulty accessing their official documents, including birth certificates, identity cards and passports.

Franklin says he first went to a civil registry office in Sabana Grande de Boyá, in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic. At that time, he was 18 years-old and finishing his secondary education when school officials asked him to present his ID card. But he didn’t have one. After several visits to different civil registry offices, including in the capital, Santo Domingo, the decision came: “We cannot deliver you an ID because your parents are foreigners.”


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Topics: Latin America
After a year without Chávez, is Venezuela unraveling?
March 6th, 2014
03:27 PM ET

After a year without Chávez, is Venezuela unraveling?

By Carl Meacham, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Carl Meacham is director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (@CSIS) in Washington, DC. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

This week, amidst political turmoil that has gripped the country and left more than a dozen dead and hundreds more injured and detained, Venezuela commemorated the passing of President Hugo Chávez.

Chávez was best known for his “Bolivarian Revolution,” through which he pursued aggressive, state-centered approaches to alleviate the social, political, and economic challenges facing Venezuela. And by some metrics he was successful – between 2004 and 2012, the country’s poverty rate halved, and literacy and access to healthcare increased substantially.

But Chávez also left behind a country deeply divided along political and socioeconomic lines, one suffering from skyrocketing crime and violence and bogged down by economic instability. Is his successor, Nicolás Maduro, now reaping the seeds of discontent sown by Chavismo?


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Topics: Latin America • Venezuela
January 11th, 2014
12:00 AM ET

Is Argentina trying out the 5-point economy wrecking plan?

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

We were struck by a strange proposal this week. A top Argentine leader says his country should move the national capital from Buenos Aires in the east, facing the Atlantic, to a new city up in the north, closer to the Pacific. This would be an immense change – akin to Brazil moving the capital to Brasilia. It would be a shame to see Buenos Aires abandoned. But the idea that Argentina needs some shaking up is exactly right.

A few weeks ago, we ran a report titled “How To Ruin Your Economy.” In five easy steps, it showed how a country could turn itself into a basket case by bad decisions. The segment was about Venezuela…but Argentina is a worthy runner-up.

It starts out much stronger than Venezuela. Remember, Argentina is part of the G-20, the group of 20 big economies. The average Argentine earns more than the average Indian and Chinese combined. But all these facts mask a troubling trend.

Let’s see how it fared on our five-point test.


Can Colombia build on its democratic opening?
November 19th, 2013
08:34 AM ET

Can Colombia build on its democratic opening?

By Oliver Kaplan, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Oliver Kaplan is an assistant professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. The views expressed are his own.

A year ago today, peace negotiators in Colombia began working with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group to end a nearly 50-year bloody conflict, one that by some estimates has claimed the lives of over 200,000 Colombians and forcibly displaced over 4 million more. Although the government and rebels have continued to fight during talks, there is a sense of optimism after progress came on a long-running sticking point: political participation. Indeed, the lead government negotiator, a former vice president, has hailed the breakthrough as a “new democratic opening.”

So what exactly has changed?

True, there were some anxious months after talks stalled following a deal in May on land reform issues. But the latest breakthrough calls for new rights for political opposition movements, in addition to citizen participation and input in policymaking. This progress has sparked optimism as much for the manner in which it has come about as for the shift itself.

This is literally not your grandfather’s peace process. To resolve the grave conflict of the 1950s known as The Violence, which took the lives of an estimated 220,000 Colombians, talks among Colombia’s main political parties occurred far away, in Spain. And although the 1956 Benidorm Pact ended the worst of the partisan killing and was eventually ratified by a plebiscite, it was crafted by elites, without public input.

In contrast, today’s negotiations have been much more participatory than past negotiations. The talks have been held closer to home, in Havana, with negotiators shuttling back and forth to Colombia. There has also been participation and input during the negotiations, not just for a final seal of approval. Public forums were held in Bogotá and regional peace tables were held around the country. Colombians also directly submitted more than 5,000 comments to negotiators through an internet platform, while the final agreement is to be ratified by a public vote. Such a level of public engagement is no surprise given that in 1997, at the height of the conflict, millions of Colombians voted for a “mandate for peace” to push for negotiations.

Still, the government has been performing a balancing act: encouraging enough participation for input through formal channels, but not so much that it derails the talks or advantages the FARC in mobilizing public support. It will therefore be a good omen if the level of encouragement of participation during the negotiations is sustained upon reaching an agreement.

However, there are challenges to doing so.

The first contentious question is how to incorporate FARC and leftist representatives into mainstream politics. The previous attempt to incorporate the FARC into politics in the 1980s resulted in the assassination of members of the Patriotic Union party by paramilitary groups, making the provision of security guarantees a key issue today. Allowing the FARC into politics is also controversial because some members have been accused of war crimes. With this in mind, questions surrounding amnesty are to be discussed under a future agenda item on ending the conflict.

Second, beyond a FARC political movement, a more fundamental question concerns the participation of the historically excluded rural sector, the interests of which the FARC claims to represent. It is said Colombia’s constitution is so liberal and democratic it is comparable to Switzerland’s, but this has at times been more true on paper than in practice. Without expanding and sustaining political participation, a lasting peace will be elusive, as underdevelopment in the countryside will persist and peasants will remain vulnerable to recruitment by criminal bands or other armed groups.

The experience after The Violence is again instructive. The National Front pact called for the two main political parties to alternate in power and also created mechanisms for participation including village-level community action boards (or juntas comunales), the most common form of social organization in Colombia today. Yet the national level political alternation and instability, along with creeping clientelism and corruption, meant the viewpoints of peasants were coopted and marginalized by politicians.

This exclusion became a rallying cry for spoiler insurgent groups, including the FARC (yes, the same FARC with which the government is negotiating today, some 49 years later). Yet despite the exclusion, I found in my research in the Colombian countryside that these resilient village organizations continued to advocate on behalf of communities, implementing public works and even shielding residents from armed group pressure.

Clearly, the breakthrough on participation rescued the peace talks, and it suggests a model for peace processes in other countries. But this democratic opening alone isn’t enough to cement a peace deal.  If Colombia is to achieve peace and also live up to its democratic potential, sustained grassroots participation must remain at the forefront.

Topics: Conflict • Latin America
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