Chilean President Ricardo Lagos called Friday for greater cooperation between government and business interests in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres so the poor can receive the benefit of free trade.
“Viewed from South America, the 21st century does not appear to be delivering the kind of globalization we would like,” Lagos told a gathering at UC San Diego’s Institute of the Americas.
Lagos, a socialist who was narrowly elected president in 2000 over a right-wing candidate, said institutions with global reach, such as the United Nations, need to be revamped to increase their anti-poverty efforts.
The U.N., he said, was conceived amid the geopolitics of World War II, not during a time dominated by NAFTA, telecommunications and concerns about terrorism.
An outspoken opponent of the longtime Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Lagos took office with hopes of continuing his country’s return to democracy and stability. Although he was close to socialist President Salvador Allende, who was deposed in 1973, Lagos has taken a more moderate stand than Allende on issues involving private property and governmental control.
Not all public services need be provided by the government, Lagos told the group.
Increased trade has assisted in raising the standard of living in much of the region, but more than just “market mechanisms” are required, he said. “Now there is a sense that some popular unrest is emerging in some countries,” he said.
Lagos said he will stress the same themes when he meets privately next week with President Bush during the Special Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico. Leaders from both hemispheres will discuss trade, economic growth and other issues at the meeting.
Lagos’ trip to the U.S. could be seen as a fence-mending venture. To the dismay of the Bush administration, the Chilean delegate to the United Nations declined last year to back the U.S. bid for support for a military offensive to topple Saddam Hussein.
Without mentioning that vote, Lagos indicated support for the U.S. fight against terrorism. “Terrorism is the final expression of the denial of human rights,” he said.
Lagos, a lawyer, economist and former official at the U.N., also called for more attention to environmental problems caused by pollutants from the Northern Hemisphere that drift southward. Among other things, he said, the southern portion of Chile is being damaged by ozone depletion.
“Is there going to be a place where we can discuss that or are we just going to suffer the consequences?” he asked.
Chile and the Institute of the Americas have had several exchange programs. As part of Lagos’ visit, the institute pledged to continue its work to expand Internet and telecommunications coverage throughout Chile.
“Now is the time to break down barriers between our peoples,” Lagos said.
Acting Chancellor Marsha Chandler presented Lagos with the university’s highest award.