National Branding: Why Latin America Lags In Worldwide Reputation Rankings

When it comes to public perceptions, Latin America still trails other regions. But there are changes afoot. In its annual “Country Brand” ranking, U.S. firm FutureBrand found Brazil’s reputation soaring. That’s not the case for Paraguay, a booming but eas

Near Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, the Country Brand Index's highest ranked Latin American country
Near Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, the Country Brand Index's highest ranked Latin American country
Felipe Aldunate

ASUNCIÓN -- Conducting business meetings isn't easy when people don't even know you exist. Just ask Eduardo Clari, an investments specialist with Rediex, Paraguay's state export and investment promotion agency. "They confuse us with Uruguay. Or else they think we're part of Brazil," says Clari. "It's difficult to market the country abroad when nobody knows anything about it."

The executive recently traveled to China, where he presented a list of tax incentives available to companies willing to set up manufacturing in Paraguay, which has privileged access to the Brazilian market and boasted the world's third highest rate of economic growth last year (14.4%). "But the Chinese have no idea Paraguay exists," he says.

When it comes to building international economic ties, Paraguay's challenge is one that many Latin American countries face: how to overcome the ignorance and preconceived notions outsiders have of the region.

"Just like with products and services, people's perceptions of certain countries are formed on the basis of images, concepts, personal experiences, recommendations made by others, and things that come out in the media," says Gustavo Koniszczer of FutureBrand, an American consulting firm.

What's the best way to meet that challenge? A good starting point is to figure out what exactly people in the rest of the world think of Latin America. That's where FutureBrand's annual Country Brand Index (CBI) report comes in. The list – which FutureBrand has published every year since 2004 – ranks 113 countries around the world based on their international reputation. The idea behind the list is that a country's reputation functions as a brand, which in turn influences that country's ability to promote economic activities abroad.

This year's survey – to which AméricaEconomía has exclusive access – involved 3,500 travelers from 14 large-market countries. Respondents were asked to evaluate different countries in terms of their tourism, culture and patrimony, business climate, quality of life and personal freedoms. FutureBrand then crunched the numbers to come up with a CBI number for each country.

And the winner? Topping this year's ranking is Canada – for the second year running. Next on the list are Switzerland, New Zealand, Japan and Australia. The United States, once the annual list's top-ranked country, has dropped down to sixth place as a result of the financial crisis. The United States is followed by most of the European countries and Singapore.

Brazil, more than just pretty beaches

To find the top-ranked Latin American country, one has to go all the way down to the list's 24th spot, occupied this year by Costa Rica. The army-less Central American country, recognized globally for its environmental protection efforts, rose three spots from the 2010 ranking.

This year's big Latin American winner, however, is Brazil, which jumped 10 spots to now occupy 31st place on the list. The rise reflects a major change in how Brazil is perceived worldwide. Until recently, the first things an outsider may have thought of with respect to Brazil were its beautiful beaches and major debt problems with the IMF. Now, however, the South American giant is commanding real economic respect, as evidenced by the fact that the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, recently advised European authorities on the euro zone crisis.

"With its economic stability, the rise of a new middle class and the upcoming Olympics and World Cup, perceptions about Brazil's brand have greatly improved," says Luiz Lara, CEO of the marketing agency Lew'Lara\TBWA. "It also helps that the country offers security to foreign investors, and that it has large companies operating internationally, such as Vale, Nature and JBS."

With its leap up the list, Brazil passed Argentina, which is up one spot to 32nd place, and Chile, which rose four spots to 34. Between 2009 and 2010, Chile rose 19 places thanks to the government's post-earthquake efforts and high-profile mine rescue. Further down the list are Peru, up three spots to 44, Mexico, up one notch to 47, and Uruguay, this year's 50th ranked country.

The Dominican Republic fared poorly in this year's list, down 17 spots to number 55. Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia all lost ground as well. All four countries, however, outranked Bolivia, South America's poorest country, which occupies the 96th position on this year's list. And the worst of the worst? Nicaragua came in at 100, followed by Eduardo Clari's Paraguay (106) and crime-plagued El Salvador, which fell four places to 109.

Read the original story in Spanish

Photo - EverJean

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

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"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more Chicago Bulls or running of the bulls? Let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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