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A Look at Latin America, Africa

by Jasmine Garsd
Oct 9, 2008

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Today's show focused on international issues.

You know the old adage: When the United States sneezes, the world catches a cold? Well, in a recent visit to the U.S., Mexican President Felipe Calderon boasted that nowadays the world economy is very different, and when the U.S. catches pneumonia, Latin America only catches a cold.

This might be an exaggeration, but it is certainly true that the players in the world economy are shifting: Latin America has growing ties to Asia, and countries like Brazil and Chile have learned from past mistakes and have savings and commodities trade to help them through tough times.

With the upcoming elections, I think an interesting question to ask is, How does the economic turmoil in the U.S. change political relations with the rest of the world?

What do YOU think?

That issue led today's International Briefing on our program. We had the discussion with Alexei Barrionuevo, bureau chief for The New York Times in Rio de Janeiro, and Anna Szterenfeld, Latin America editor for the Economist magazine's Intelligence Unit.

We also had some fascinating guests on today:

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR's West Africa correspondent shared insights about the fascinating and dangerous news stories she's covered in the region.

Maya Ajmera, founder of the Global Fund for Children spoke to us about how a little money goes a long way.

And the Food Network's Chef Jeff, who shared his amazing story about rising from prison cook to executive chef at two Las Vegas hotels. When I hear stories such as his I wonder whether everyone has the capacity to change so drastically and do something brilliant with his or her life or is that a miracle for only a few? Would I be able to turn my lifestyle on its head in the midst of adversity? Would you?

There's been so much said on the topic of race. I think a lot of people are starting to feel pretty jaded. Oddly enough, though, what has surprised me is other people's surprise.
I've picked up several articles in which seemingly shocked pundits cry out "racism is still alive and well!" I think this speaks to the fact that there are at least two Americas. In one, racism is a distant issue; but in the other, race and racism are an everyday reality, a very big deal.

Last night I was thinking about my own neighborhood — a place that is rapidly gentrifying, but on certain blocks it is like you could be walking through Central America. Sandwiched between the incoming yuppies and the large amount of Latino workers are housing projects largely occupied by African-American residents. Walking down certain streets in my neighborhood, I have heard, and a few times been the target of, racist comments that sound as if I'm in a bygone era. I have witnessed race-related fights. The tension is so thick.

And increasingly difficult economic times do nothing to alleviate the tension. For some Americans, tuning into this election and its uglier side effects might be a surprising first encounter with racism. But, if, like some people in my neighborhood, you are economically strapped and living your life within a 20 block universe, then race and racial fears are part of your everyday existence. While racism is something shocking for some, for a large part of America it's just part of the landscape.

What do you think? Are you surprised by racism in these elections?

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