Tuesday, August 12, 2014

VOXXI: Time for a female OAS Secretary General

"Time for a female OAS Secretary General"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
August 12, 2014
Originally published:  http://voxxi.com/2014/08/12/time-female-oas-secretary-general/

The Peruvian government has announced that it may nominate a female candidate to become the next secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS). While elections for a new OAS leader are over half a year away, there are already speculations about possible candidates.
Should a female Peruvian citizen win, she would become the first female OAS leader in the organization’s seven-decade history, and it is about time too.

A brief history

Since its founding in 1948, the Washington-based OAS has had 10 secretary generals; all of whom were men. The same can be said for all eight OAS assistant secretary generals.
Secretary generals serve five-year terms and can run for one re-election, and more often than not, they are re-elected. Chilean national Jose Miguel Insulza is the current secretary general. He was elected in 2005, and then subsequently re-elected in 2010. Meanwhile, Albert Ramdin from Suriname is the OAS assistant secretary general, he was also first elected in 2005.
While the OAS secretary generals’ gender has remained entirely male, their nationalities vary. Interestingly, out of the 10 leaders that this organization has boasted, eight of them have been South Americans.
In September 2004, former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez was elected as the new secretary general, which marked the first time that the OAS had a Central American leader. However, Rodriguez was forced to resign in October of the same year due to accusations of corruption while he was president. The American Luigi Einaudi would become the acting secretary general of the organization until Insulza was elected in 2005.
So far, two candidates have been nominated by their respective governments to succeed Insulza: Eduardo Stein, former vice president of Guatemala (2004-2008), and Luis Almagro, Uruguay’s current minister of foreign affairs.
It will be interesting to see if a Central American candidate, i.e. Stein, will receive the support of the majority of OAS member states (all of the Western Hemisphere minus Cuba), in order to balance out the discrepancy between South Americans and Central Americans that have led the organization.

Time for change

As for the Peruvian government’s objectives, Juan Jimenez Mayor, Peru’s permanent representative to the OAS, has stated that “we are considering the possibility of nominating a female candidate, who would be the first woman to lead the OAS.” So far, Lima has not named a candidate though one likely option would be former Prime Minister Beatriz Merino.
When discussing the future of OAS leadership, as previously mentioned, it is important to remember that secretary generals are usually re-elected (i.e. Insulza or Colombia’s Cesar Gaviria, 1994-2004). Hence, the next secretary general will likely lead this hemispheric organization not just for the next five years, but rather until 2025. In other words, if a female candidate is not elected next year, we will probably have to wait another decade to have a female OAS leader.
In an April 25, 2013, commentary for VOXXI, I discussed the rise of female Latin American politicians. At the time, I highlighted the number of female heads of state in nations like Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica, as well as several female ministers. This list can now include President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who is now in her second presidential term.
Even within the OAS, there are prominent agencies that are led by women. These include, among others, the Secretary for Integral Development, the management of the Inter-American Children’s Institute, and the director of the Pan American Health Organization.
Certainly, a female candidate should not be selected to become the new OAS secretary general solely in the name of gender diversity. The most qualified individual should be selected. Nevertheless, there are a plethora of qualified female professionals throughout Latin America and the Caribbean that are capable of leading the OAS into the 21st century. (Besides Peru, Mexico is also considering nominating a female citizen: Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of the UN agency ECLAC).
Traditionally, discussions about the future of the OAS center around the organization’s (ir)relevance in the inter-American system, and how it has historically been regarded as Washington’s watch dog for the Western Hemisphere.
An often-overlooked fact though, is that throughout the OAS’ existence, all secretary generals and assistant secretary generals have been men. It is time for a change. Whether it is a Peruvian, or a candidate from another nation, there should be a female Latin American or Caribbean citizen at the helm of this hemispheric entity for the next five (maybe ten) years. When Insulza leaves his post in May 2015, this vacancy should be used as an opportunity for significant change in the organizations’ senior leadership.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

VOXXI: ‘The Liberator,’ film about Simon Bolivar to open in the US

"‘The Liberator,’ film about Simon Bolivar to open in the US"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
August 8, 2014
Originally published:http://voxxi.com/2014/08/08/the-liberator-film-simon-bolivar/

“The Liberator,” which premiered in Venezuela on Thursday, July 24, will open in the U.S. on August 22.
The movie narrates the life of Simon Bolivar, one of South America’s most important heroes during the 19th century independence wars against the Spanish Empire. While “The Liberator” probably will not make $1 billion USD at the box-office like ‘Transformers 4,’ the movie’s production value is a major accomplishment.
The budget for producing ‘The Liberator’ was an approximate $50 million USD, more than a significant amount for any Latin American production company. It is important to stress that it did not receive funds from the Venezuelan government. The film is a co-production of Venezuela’s Producciones Insurgentes and Spain’s San Mateo Films.
‘The Liberator’ stars the Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez as Simon Bolivar and was directed by the renowned Venezuelan director, Alberto Arvelo. It was filmed in various Venezuelan and Spanish cities like Caracas and Segovia, respectively. The tagline of the film’s English poster is the provocative question “What kind of Man would Defy an Empire?”
According to reports, ‘The Liberator’ has already been a big hit, some 90 thousand people saw the film in its first weekend out in Venezuela. Meanwhile, Ramirez has received positive reviews for his portrayal of the South American hero. Nevertheless, some movie critics stress that the film summarizes Bolivar’s 47-year lifespan in two hours skims over important events.
History and Modern Politics
In spite of its success, ‘The Liberator’ has caused controversy. Ramirez has remarked how Bolivar’s image and legacy “has been utilized by the Latin American right and left for several years.” He added that the late-Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was “obsessed’ with Bolivar. While actors usually try to stay away from politics when promoting a film, Ramirez has been outspoken about his beliefs.
A fellow actor, Roque Valero, in turn critiqued Ramirez’s remarks. He tweeted that “Chavez did not speak about Bolivar obsessively, he simply taught us to be Bolivarians and that cannot be matched with special effects.”
The Venezuelan media speculates that Valero may be jealous. He recently starred as Bolivar in a government-supported movie entitled ‘Bolivar el hombre de las dificultades,’ whose success paled in comparison to ‘The Liberator.’
Artistic differences aside, the Venezuelan government has welcomed “The Liberator,” with PresidentNicolas Maduro already a fan.
He argued that Ramirez’s portrayal of Bolivar “is the most pro-Chavista Bolivar that we have seen […] Edgar Ramirez turned [Bolivar] into a human being of flesh and bone, into our liberator.” President Maduro also praised the other ‘Bolivar’ film, which Valero starred, but it seems like the Venezuelan leader preferred the recently-released adaptation.
Conspiracies and Artistic Licenses
As for the aforementioned references to the late Chavez, he was a well-known fan of Bolivar. In 2010 he took the very controversial decision of exhuming Bolivar’s body to determine how he died in 1830.
It is generally accepted that Bolivar died of tuberculosis. However, some people, including the late Venezuelan leader, believe that he was murdered. Ultimately, a 2012 report by the doctors who examined Bolivar’s remains determined that he had died of chronic breathing problems, not tuberculosis (nor was he murdered).
The movie’s ending has also been critiqued. Instead of Bolivar dying due to sickness (either tuberculosis or breathing problems), he is murdered by a group of conspirators. The screenwriter, Timothy Sexton, argues that “when you make a historical movie you have to take certain [artistic] licenses, but you have to remain faithful to [actual] events.”
The film may just be a film, but even commercial productions have to be placed in the proper context.
Theoretically Caracas did not have influence on the script or how Bolivar was portrayed because it did not fund film. But is the film ending a sign of Caracas’ influence or simply a decision by the producers? Moreover, should movies be allowed to change important events, i.e. how an international hero died, in order to add dramatic shock value?
A U.S. Hit?
‘The Liberator’ is already a hit in Venezuela and its momentum will likely translate into a good reception across Latin America. It will be important to see how the film performs when it is released in the U.S. in late August.
A recent study highlights how fewer Hispanics actors and actresses have major roles in Hollywood movies, but that does not mean that Latin American movies cannot do well in the U.S. market (i.e. ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ in 2004). We could see such a development with ‘The Liberator.’