The Carter Center convened current and former heads of state in the Americas at a conference April 28-29 that assessed hemispheric relations and offered recommendations on key issues that confront the region.
Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford hosted the conference, along with the Carter Center-based Council of Freely Elected Heads of Government, titled "Agenda for the Americas for the 21st Century" at various locations throughout Atlanta in addition to the Carter Center. The organizers' plan was to reinvigorate the goals outlined at the 1994 Summit of the Americas, hosted by President Clinton.
Carter and staff from the Latin American and Caribbean Program (LACP) at the Carter Center visited Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Jamaica at the beginning of the year. "We found a continued commitment to the Summit of the Americas goals, but disappointment that such little progress has been made," said LACP Director and Carter Center Fellow Robert Pastor. "We used our meetings to frame the issues and begin exploring new ideas."
Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Organization of American States Secretary General César Gaviria, Vice President Al Gore, Representative Newt Gingrich, Senator Paul Coverdell and presidential aide Thomas "Mack" McLarty were among those on hand to discuss trade, drug trafficking, security and other issues. Recommendations from the "Agenda for the Americas" conference will be shared with President Clinton, who plans to travel to Mexico and Latin America this month.
Carter, who termed the conference "one of the most meaningful we've ever held at the Carter Center," said prior to the event, "The possibility of building a community of market-oriented democracies in the Western hemisphere has never been greater than it is today, but much work needs to be done to accomplish that goal." Still, challenges remain for many countries, including trade "parity" for Caribbean Basin nations, barriers to trade, electoral reforms to deepen democracy, greater security and respect for a free press, as well as the ongoing issue of democracy in the region's lone communist state, Cuba.
A more thorough overview of the conference, which was coming to a close as Emory Report was going to press, will be featured in the Carter Center Update on June 9.
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