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For Latin America, Obama Will Leave A Major Legacy

Barack Obama's recent trip to Cuba and Argentina are the crowning achievement on his administration's efforts to consolidate peaceful ties with and among Latin American countries.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro
Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro
Hernando Roa Suárez


BOGOTÁ — He entered the White House by sowing egalitarian hopes across the world. Now, President Barack Obama enters his administration's final year by consolidating the democratic conscience of the West.

Obama's recent visits to Havana and Buenos Aires were clearly more than just protocol visits. Here are some of the reasons why the U.S. President is leaving a legacy of geopolitical significance in Latin America, and beyond:

1. Obama's declarations and interventions suggest he has been acting as a statesman and has sought to help build an environment of democratic cooperation in present-day Latin America. These actions represent a carefully developed vision, and are reflected in his latest State of the Union.

2. Obama has continued a line of profoundly democratic sensibilities represented earlier by such presidents as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

3. We know about Obama's charisma, and he is recognized worldwide for his presence, wisdom and exceptional personal traits. In his way and in our time, Obama has pursued the construction of representative and participatory democracy, faith in the equality of all citizens before the law and in the fight against oppression.

4. Given the power structure of the world today and the role played by China and Russia, Obama is sending clear messages to Latin America about the need to live together in peace, to consolidate liberal democracy and to make the required changes to those ends.

5. Obama's visit to Cuba symbolized the end of the Cold War in Latin America and the need to start a new era focused on values such as freedom, democracy, alternation of power, peace, interaction through dialogue, guarantees for opponents, plurality in exercising rights and the presence of free media.

At our end, we should bear in mind our continental history and heterogeneous political traditions, and make defending our own democratic values the basis and path for negotiating any future, long-term treaties with the United States.

And we shouldn't forget the immediate political factor in Obama's actions. His visit to Cuba is also an act of support for Hillary Clinton's campaign in terms of its importance for the Latino vote in the United States. It inevitably highlights the profound difference between Obama's world view and that of Donald Trump, whose inexperience and ignorance pose a threat to the free world and to Latin America in particular.

Perhaps we should be planning ahead, bearing that in mind.

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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