Online and Face-to-Face: Digital Town Hall on U.S. Policy in the Americas

November 4, 2010

About the Author: Arturo Valenzuela serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Thank you to all the students and faculty who joined me on November 3, 2010, for the Digital Town Hall on U.S. policy in the Americas. I enjoyed chatting with you in person, through live stream webcasts, and via satellite in more than 19 countries across the Western Hemisphere. Alongside our Fulbright Student Exchanges, Youth Ambassadors, and binational centers, our youth engagement through media -- both new and traditional -- amplify our ongoing partnerships with countries in the region. Talking openly with one another about the issues that affect us all, and encouraging exchanges that help people know each other better, is vital to building mutual understanding.

During the event, I had the opportunity to listen and respond to you. I would like to share with you some of the answers I gave at the Town Hall:

Tomas Dutra Schmidt, a student at The George Washington University, asked the important question of whether Brazil should use more of its power regionally in South America. First, as it is the case with all sovereign countries, it is obviously a decision for the Brazilians to determine how they wish to conduct their own foreign policy toward the hemisphere. Certainly, Brazil continues to play a very constructive role in the Western Hemisphere, especially when it comes to things such as energy cooperation on biofuels, boundary disputes, or conflicts within countries. It is important for all of us to stand up and make it clear that when difficulties arise, we need to work together to resolve them peacefully. Brazil and other countries, along with Organization of American States and MERCOSUR, can play constructive roles in this respect.

In response to a question from a live audience member from Asuncion, Paraguay, I shared more about the new vision of U.S. foreign policy toward the MERCOSUR countries. No country wants to be any other country's backyard. We welcome MERCOSUR to build a better and more integrated economic system. It's good for those countries, and it's good for the United States. Overall, the United States wants to engage with countries throughout the region in a respectful fashion and to be a valued partner.

Regarding questions on development assistance in the Americas, I reiterated that commitment to greater opportunity for all requires us to address issues of the poor and groups that have traditionally been excluded from mainstream society, such as Afro-descendents and indigenous populations. These groups require more attention from governments and the international community to bring them into the mainstream of their societies, where they can bring significant contributions.

Thanks again for tuning in yesterday. If you did not get the chance to join us at the Digital Town Hall, you can watch the recorded event or read our tweets @WHAAsstSecty. You can also view photos of the event here.

Related Content: Watch Live: Assistant Secretary Valenzuela's Digital Town Hall and What Matters To You: Join Assistant Secretary Valenzuela's Town Hall on U.S. Policy in the Americas



North Carolina, USA
November 5, 2010

Carlos in North Carolina writes:

Secretary valenzuela,

I understand you didn't have time to get to the question I submitted on YouTube on the international abduction of American children to countries in Latin America due to time constraints and more pressing issues, but could you still answer this question on this blog, YouTube or the FaceBook page? To clarify, the question, from your facebook page:

was, "Nearly 3/4 of all internationally abducted American children are taken to Latin American countries w/ a history of noncompliance w/ the Hague Child Abduction Convention. What is being done to prevent future abductions and recover abducted children?"

Out of the 22 questions submitted and 43 total votes cast it received 21 votes from parents of American children abducted to Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.


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