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Leading the Way to Latin America’s Future

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Leaders need to do two things, and do them very well: create a vision and mobilize people around it, said Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, in the closing session of the 2018 World Economic Forum on Latin America.

“A leader is someone who takes you farther than you thought you could go,” noted Luiza Helena Trajano, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, Magazine Luiza, Brazil. In a business you lead people by connecting to their minds by letting them participate; their hearts by recognizing their worth; and their pocketbook by letting them participate in the profits, she added.

Several panellists cited different polls about “most-respected professions” that show leaders in labour, business and politics as “cellar dwellers”. This may help explain the anti-establishment mood that has created space for populists with simplistic ideas. Trust in institutions, politicians and democracy is on a downslide.

Alejandro Ramírez, Chief Executive Officer, Cinepolis, Mexico, cited a poll showing that a large majority of Latin Americans believe that life is worse now than it was 50 years ago despite improvements in objective indicators such as GDP per capita, infant mortality and life expectancy. He ascribes this “cognitive dissonance” to “the lack of the rule of law”. Of the world’s 50 most violent cities, 42 are in the region. The problem can be traced in large part to a “failed drug policy,” he said. “It is not working.” In addition, business and political leaders have focused excessively on reforms designed to encourage economic growth and not enough on inclusiveness and equality.

Woods outlined three elements of a good leader. First, listen. If a populist candidate says he is going to give everyone a gun, it might seem absurd. But it demonstrates that the candidate understands their concerns about security. This is the opposite of how most politicians operate with their spin doctors.

The second element on Woods’ list is communications. Populist messages may seem simplistic. “But simple doesn’t need to be simplistic,” she said. “Learn to take the time to communicate clearly.” Clear messages help citizens hold officials accountable.

Leaders also need to transmit a “transformational message,” Woods concluded. Talk about “balancing the budget is not transformative”. What vision will speak to the people?

Comparing the politician-citizen link to customer relationships in business, Candido Botelho Bracher, Chief Executive Officer, Itaú Unibanco, Brazil, suggested that political leaders pay more attention to the problems of their constituents. “Good leaders are able to listen and understand the pain points that people have when they are looking for services in education, health or transportation,” he said.

Accountability of leaders extends not only to what they do, but also to what they fail to do, noted Paul Bulcke, Chairman of the Board, Nestlé, Switzerland. “Leadership is not about your tenure but what you leave for the next people,” he added.

“There is no room for electoral con artists anymore,” said Maria Cristina Frias, Member of the Board and Columnist, Folha de São Paulo, Brazil. “Candidates need to listen.”

Outcomes of the meeting included:

The World Economic Forum and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) strengthened efforts to accelerate gender parity in Latin America. A Gender Parity Task Force is set to launch in Peru to increase gender parity in the labour market, following earlier announcements by Argentina, Chile and Panama. This is the fourth such task force in Latin America, resulting from collaboration with the IDB to narrow gender gaps in labour force participation, leadership, remuneration and investment.

With the changing nature of work, the meeting focused on solutions for human capital development, particularly for youth. Closing the Skills Gap 2020 was launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018 in January was expanded to Latin America. The Adecco Group, Barclays, EY, SAP, Mercer and Nestlé announced founding commitments. The project calls on businesses to lead training, reskilling and upskilling initiatives for 10 million people by 2020.

The Forum and the Government of Colombia have in the last year run a public-private partnership to transform and modernize the country’s electricity system so that it benefits from cutting-edge technology and regulation. The successes are highlighted in a white paper launched at the meeting in São Paulo, entitled Frameworks for the Future of Electricity. Sessions explored how to create similar partnerships in other Latin American countries. This forms part of the Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Energy.

The Fostering Effective Energy Transition global framework and index were launched at the meeting. They were developed within the Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Energy to benchmark the performance and readiness of 114 countries to support an effective energy transition.

The Brazilian Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services (MDIC) and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation announced a new partnership aimed at increasing Brazil’s competitiveness in international trade and boosting economic development. The partnership will see the Alliance, the Brazilian government and the local and international private sector work together to develop and implement targeted trade facilitation reforms.

The Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative brought ministers of agriculture and senior leaders of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay together with global and regional CEOs, technology innovators, civil society and regional organizations to define new strategies to accelerate large-scale impact. Country and regional partners committed to action on raising productivity, improving environmental sustainability and land-use, boosting efficient value-chains and shaping consumer demand as part of a systems agenda to realize Latin America’s role as the breadbasket of the world.

The World Economic Forum and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) brought 50 Latin American start-ups together in São Paulo to pave the way for the necessary reforms to enable regional entrepreneurs to thrive. The selected start-ups shared the stage with ministers and CEOs for a frank and honest discussion about the challenges start-ups face in Latin America.

The Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) launched Tech for Integrity , a digital platform that

leverages emerging technologies from 96 global innovators and partnerships with multistakeholders, including Citi, the IDB, Transparency International and others, to accelerate the impact of anti-corruption efforts for public, private and civil society leaders.

An outcome of a session hosted by PACI was the agreement with the Chair of B20 Argentina to co-curate a joint meeting between G20/B20/C20 stakeholders to accelerate the adoption of leading practices and policies in addressing corruption in the private sector. The meeting will be hosted after the Summit of the Americas in Buenos Aires in late April 2018.

Siemens signed a memorandum of understanding with APEX aiming to support potential economic growth in Brazil. Siemens plans to triple its investments in Brazil over the next five years to $1 billion. They expect this commitment to catalyse a new cycle of sustainable growth, with an impact equivalent to 3.1% of GDP and the creation of up to 1.2 million jobs.

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The 4 groups of Senate Republicans that will decide Trump’s impeachment trial

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With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushing back the Trump impeachment trial to mid-February to make sure things cool down, Senate Republicans’ positions on the vote are far from crystallized yet. Here are the four groups of Senate Republicans, according to views and likely vote. The numbers and composition of these four groups will decide Trump’s future political faith. Which group Mitch McConnell chooses to position himself in will also be a deciding factor in the unusual and curious impeachment trial of a former US president no longer sitting in office.

Group 1: The Willing Executioners

There surely are those in the Republican Party such as Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Ben Sasse who cannot wait to give that Yea and the final boot to disgraced former President Trump, and will do that with joy and relief. Both the Utah Senator and the Nebraska Senator may be vying for the leadership spot in the Republican Party themselves but that is not the whole story. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska openly said “I want him out.” This group is unlikely to reach as many as 17 Senators, however, needed for the two thirds Senate majority to convict Trump.

Group 2: The Never Give up on Trumpers

There are also those Republican Senators who will stick with Trump through thick and thin until the end – some out of conviction, but most as someone who cannot afford to alienate the Trump supporter base in their state – a supporter base which is still as strong. 

At least 21 Republican Senators are strongly opposed to voting to convict former President Trump, as reported by Newsweek. They realize that doing so would be a political suicide. Republican voters, on the whole, are unified in their belief that the presidential elections were not fair and Joe Biden did not win legitimately, with 68% of Republican voters holding the belief that the elections were “rigged”. The majority of the Republican Party constituents are Never Give up on Trumpers themselves.

Among them are Senators Cruz and Hawley. Both will fight at all cost a vote which certifies as incitement to violence and insurrection the same rhetoric they both themselves used to incite the Trump crowd. Cruz and Hawley will try to avoid at all cost the legal certification of the same rhetoric as criminal in order to avoid their own removal under the 14th Amendment, as argued already by Senator Manchin and many others.

Senator Ron Johnson even called upon Biden and Pelosi to choose between the Trump impeachment trial and the Biden new cabinet confirmation. Group 2 will fight fierce over the next weeks and you will recognize them by the public rhetoric.

Group 3: I’d really like to but I can’t be on the record for convincing a President of my own party

Then there is a large group of Republican Senators – maybe the largest – who would really like to give that Yea vote and leave Trump behind but they do not wish to go on the record as having voted to convict a US President from their own party. Some of these Senators will share their intention to vote Yea in private or off the record with the media, but when push comes to shove and the final vote, they will be hesitant and in the end will vote Nay. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida falls under Group 3.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is also the illustration of the average Republican Senator right now – someone who said that Trump committed “impeachable offenses” but who is not sure about convicting him through trial, so that probably means a Nay. 

The BBC quoted a New York Time’s estimate from mid-January that as many as 20 Republican Senators are open to voting to convict Trump, but it should be recalled that in the first Trump impeachment trial in 2020, several Republican Senators also shared in private and off the record that they would be willing to convict. After so much discussion, calculations and prognosis, in the end, it was only Senator Mitt Romney who broke ranks on only one of the two impeachment articles, and voted to convict.

The Capitol events, of course, are incomparable to the Ukraine impeachment saga, but it should be accounted for that the trial vote will likely take place sometime in March 2021, or two months after the Capitol events, when most of the tension and high emotion would have subsided and much of American society will be oriented towards “moving forward”. Group 3 will host the majority of Senate Republicans who in the end will decide to let it go. Most of the 21 Republican Senators who already expressed their opposition to convicting Trump actually belong to Group 3 and not Group 2 Never Give up on Trumpers.

Group 4: I am a Never Give up on Trumper but I really want to look like Group 3

And finally, there is the most interesting group of Republican Senators who are secretly a Never Give up on Trumpers but would like to be perceived as belonging to the hesitant and deliberative Group 3 – willing and outraged but unwilling to go all the way on the record to eliminate a former Republican President.

Senator Ted Cruz might move into Group 4 in terms of rhetoric. Never Give up on Trumpers will vote Nay willingly but will try to present themselves as conflicted Group 3 politicians doing it for different reasons.

Which group Mitch McConnel chooses will be the decisive factor in aligning the Senate Republican votes. McConnel himself seems to be a Group 3 Senator who, in the end, is unlikely to rally the rest of the Senators to convict Trump even though McConnel would really like Trump out of the Republican Party, once and for all. The very fact that McConnel is not in a hurry and is in fact extending the cool-off period places him in Group 3. 

Yea voters don’t need time to think about it and look at things. It took House Democrats exactly three days to get it over and done with. McConnel is quoted as willing to give time to “both sides to properly prepare”, allowing former president Trump enjoy due process. But Trump’s legal team will notice quickly that there is not much to prepare for, as they won’t find plenty of legal precedent in the jurisprudence on American Presidents’ incitement to violent insurrection for stopping the democratic certification process on an opponent who is the democratically elected President.

McConnel himself has said that he is “undecided” and that speaks volumes. He is a Group 3 Senate Republican, and with that, Group 3 will describe the mainstream Senate Republicans’ position in the impeachment trial. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set 8 February as the start of the impeachment trial, pushing earlier McConnel’s time frame. This is when it all starts.

It is my prediction that when all is said and done, there won’t be as many as 17 Senate Republicans to vote to convict former President Trump. Trump will walk away, but not without the political damage he has incurred himself and has also left in American political life.

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Two Ways that Trump Spread Covid-19 in U.S.

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Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

1. Encouraging infected workers to continue working even if it infects others:

On 12 May 2020, two hundred and twenty five labor organizations signed a letter to Antonin Scalia’s son Eugene Scalia who was Donald Trump’s appointed Secretary of Labor, and it urged his Department to change its policies “that address the standards that apply under the federal U[nemployment] I[insurance] law to determine when workers remain eligible for regular state UI or P[andemic] U[nemployment] A[ssistance] if they leave work or refuse to work due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns.” In more-common language, an economist Jared Bernstein headlined in the Washington Post six days later on May 18th, “The Labor Department is forcing workers back to jobs that could make them sick” and he explained that Scalia’s Department “has issued guidance that virtually ignores health risks and encourages employers to report workers who refuse job offers [while unemployed] so their unemployment payments can be taken away. The agency is busy urging employers to snitch on ‘claimants that have turned down suitable work.’” Trump’s Labor Department ignored the labor-organizations’ letter. Then, a barista headlined at Huffpost on 22 January 2021, “I Work In A Coffee Shop In Montana. Anti-Maskers Have Made My Job Hell.” She complained that the many customers who refused to wear masks were causing her to fear working there — she was blaming those customers, but not Trump. However, Trump and his Labor Secretary were responsible and simply didn’t care about the safety of workers, such as her, and were instead encouraging employers to force these workers to stay on the job, though doing so endangered themselves and their co-workers. Millions of infected workers were infecting others because not to would cause them to become fired and could ultimately force them into homelessness. Maybe the billionaires who funded Trump’s political career profited from such exploitation of their employees, but nationally this policy helped to increase the spreading of Covid-19. Also: since so many of those bottom-of-the-totem-pole employees are Blacks and Hispanics, etc., this Trump policy helped to cause the drastically higher infection-rates that have been reported among such groups.

2. Refusing to deal with the pandemic on a national basis:

On 15 July 2020, the Washington Post headlined “As the coronavirus crisis spins out of control, Trump issues directives — but still no clear plan” and reported that, “health professionals have urged the White House to offer a disciplined and unified national message to help people who are fatigued more than five months into the crisis and resistant to changing social behaviors, such as wearing masks and keeping a distance from others. Trump, for instance, refused to be seen publicly wearing a mask until last weekend, when he sported one during a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. ‘You can get a really strong and eloquent governor who can help at the state level, but it does seem like we need some more national messaging around the fact that for many people, this is the most adversity they’ve faced in their life,’ said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.” Every country (such as China, Vietnam, Venezuela, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, and Finland) that has been far more successful than America is at having a low number of Covid-19 cases (and deaths) per million residents has dealt with the pandemic on a national and not merely local basis, but all of the worst-performing countries (such as America, which now is at 76,407 “Tot Cases/1M pop”) have not.

It therefore also stands to reason that 

which ranks all 50 states according to how high is the number of Covid-19 infections per million inhabitants, shows (and links to the data proving) that “In 2016, the top 17 [most Covid-infected states] voted for Trump, and the bottom 5 voted for Clinton. All but 3 of the top 24 voted for Trump.” The correlation of high Covid-infection-rate with Trump-voting was astoundingly high. Trump, it seems, gave the high-infection-rate states what they had wanted. But what he gave to America is the highest Covid-19 infection-rate of any nation that has at least 11 million population. It is the 7th-highest Covid-19 infection-rate among all 219 reporting nations. Trump’s policies produced the type of results that had been expected by well-informed people around the world.

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A Most Unusual Inaugural

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President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden enter the inauguration platform during the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. (DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Sic transit gloria mundi — thus passes worldly glory, which seems an apt phrase for the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. became the 46th president of the United States at noon on January 20th, and earlier  Donald J. Trump departed the White House quietly for Florida — his last ride on Air Force One as president — leaving behind a generous and gracious letter for Biden.  So it is described by Joe Biden himself.  Trump did not attend the inauguration, the first president not to do so since Woodrow Wilson in 1921, who remained inside the Capitol building because of poor health while his successor Warren G. Harding was installed.

It was a most unusual inauguration this time.  There were no crowds on the lawns outside; instead row upon row of American flags representing them.  The official attendees all wore masks and included three former Presidents (Obama, the younger Bush and Clinton).  President Carter, who is in his 90s and frail, sent his apologies. 

The usual late breakfast before the ceremony and the lunch afterwards were also cancelled — one cannot eat with a mask in place!  No evening inaugural balls either.  These were sometimes so many that the new president and his lady could only spend a few minutes at each.  In their stead, there was a virtual inaugural celebration hosted by Tom Hanks the actor.  It consisted mostly of pop-singers who supported Biden plus a disappointing rendering of Amazing Grace by Yo-Yo Ma on his cello. 

Biden’s first act was to sign a series of executive orders to undo some of Trump’s policies.  He announced the U.S. would not leave the World Health Organization (WHO) and would continue to contribute to it.  On climate change a complete policy reversal now means the U.S. will abide by the Paris climate accord.   

Biden’s other executive orders totalling 15 responded to the coronavirus crisis with the goal of giving 100 million vaccine shots by the end of April.  He proposes to establish vaccine centers at stadiums and community facilities and also plans to speed up production of the supplies required for making vaccines.

The U.S. now has lost 406,000 lives (and counting) from COVID-19.  That number is noted to be greater than U.S. deaths during WW2.  The virus has so far infected 24.5 million people.  However, the problem is more complicated than simply inoculating everyone.

Swedish authorities report that 23 people, mostly elderly and having other health issues, have died after being given the Pfizer vaccine.  Its side effects apparently can be severe and mimic the disease itself.  Thus given a choice, one would prefer the Moderna vaccine.  

Old age is a poignant sight to behold.  Biden the ex high school football star now having difficulty lifting his feet to walk.  Very gamely, he even tried a jog or two to say a quick hello to bystanders during his short walk to the White House.  We wish him well and hope for a successful presidential term.  Thirty-six years as senator and eight years as vice-president certainly make him one of the most experienced to sit in the White House Oval Office.   Good luck Mr. President!  

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