Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Former Argentinian Minister Tells Latin America's Cautionary Tales to Botin Scholars at Brown

December 14, 2011

Domingo Cavallo, a former minister of economy and minister of foreign affairs in Argentina, spoke to 40 university students from across Latin America this semester when they visited Brown University as part of the Botín Scholars program.

Cavallo delivered the inaugural address to the Botín Scholars. They were also welcomed by Ricardo Lagos, former president of Chile and current professor-at-large at Brown; Matthew Gutmann, Brown’s vice president for International Affairs; and Geoffrey Kirkman ’91, regional director of the University’s Office of International Advancement.

This was the second annual cohort of Botín Scholars who came to Brown as part of a multi-week program that seeks to support a network of university students committed to public service and reform of civic organizations in the region. The program is led by Fundación Marcelino Botín in association with the Watson Institute and Brown's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. After their week of study on campus, which included talks by Brown faculty and leadership- and team-building exercises, the Botín Scholars traveled to Europe, where they also spent several weeks engaging in sessions with academics and policymakers.

Addressing the students at Brown in Spanish, Cavallo spoke of economic challenges confronting Latin American countries in the past, present, and future. He spoke at length about inflation, which he said had been a serious problem in Latin America’s past, when societies chose not to live within certain economic rules and practices. (“La inflación es la manifestación ulterior de la incapacidad de la sociedad para vivir dentro de ciertas reglas económica que ponen disciplina básicas.”)

Cavallo told the students that while rampant inflation is no longer a concern in many Latin American countries, this history of inflation had led to many injustices and impacted policy through the early-to-mid 1990s.

He also addressed other economic concerns of the 1960s through 1990s, such as the problems faced by countries that are too insular – unwilling to look beyond their borders at the economic situations of surrounding countries or participate in the global marketplace.

Cavallo said that by the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, leaders in Latin America realized their countries’ economies would not benefit from being closed off from other markets. Rather, Cavallo said, they recognized the need for economies that were open to both trade and investment. Cavallo also said these leaders came to understand that in order for their countries to prosper, they would need to seek price stability to combat inflation.

Today, nearly two decades later, most of Latin America has managed to integrate within the global market and maintain relatively low levels of inflation, he said. He pointed to examples of economic success stories in the region and cited Chile and Brazil as important models for progress.

By Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Lauren Fedor '12