In a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, and the Presidents of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, highlighted the positive economic trend in Latin America and significant democratic progress achieved in the past year.
Insulza said he was optimistic about the current direction in Latin America and pointed out that the number of people living in extreme poverty in the hemisphere has diminished from 98 to 79 million. "We are definitely on the right path, and the important thing is to continue moving forward" said Insulza who also underscored the "State's recovery of ground" with a new role to play in "economic and social affairs". President Lula da Silva shared Insulza's optimism and said that "trade relations in Latin America have grown, at an average 30% per year in South America, and in a very substantial way in all countries from Mexico to Patagonia. We have had extraordinary success in our trade relations." Mexican President Felipe Calderón said that "Latin America needs to be more united" arguing that "the world is changing and the region is undergoing rapid transformation". Calderon underscored that the principle challenges facing his government are public security, job creation and combating poverty. During the session, entitled "Latin America Broadens its Horizons," Secretary General Insulza also referred to the positive effect, in terms of governance, that recent electoral processes have had for the region. From December 2005 through December 2006, he said, some 20 countries held elections, the majority of which with observers from OAS. "These elections were good, clean, competitive and participative" Insulza said. Nevertheless he admitted that certain problems having to do with governance remain in the region and must be addressed. He emphasized what he referred to as the "return of the state" to the socio-political arena, in the sense that the state has "a new role" both in economic and social issues." Insulza explained that as a result of the crises of the 1980's, a school of thought that emerged in Latin America considered "that the state was not part of the solution; rather, it was part of the problem". This perception, he said, "has been completely overcome" as has been proven by events in recent years.