Corruption, inequality remain key issues in Central America
Panama’s economy will grow by 7 percent this year, but because of glaring inequality, most Panamanians will never see that prosperity. In Guatemala, corruption is rampant among the “klepto-dictatorship” that runs the country, and in El Salvador, gross domestic product stagnates as politicians stuff their pockets with money from violent gangs.
Half a dozen experts speaking Feb. 10 at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center offered that rather bleak assessment during an event titled “Latin America’s Electoral Cycle 2014-15.”
Nearly 200 people attended the panel, which was moderated by Daniel Zovatto, Latin America director for the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Panelists included Evelyn Villareal of Costa Rica’s State of the Nation Program, Harry Brown Araúz, a Panamanian official with the United Nations Development Program, journalist and former diplomat Héctor Silva Ávalos of El Salvador and José Rubén Zamora Marroquín of Guatemala’s El Periódico newspaper.
Panama, with 3.9 million inhabitants, is the smallest of Central America’s six Spanish-speaking republics. Last year its GDP expanded by 6 percent – faster than any other country in the Western Hemisphere – and the economy could grow even faster in 2015.