Alejandro Toledo: A Social Agenda for Democracy in Latin America

October 19, 2009

ToledoLast week the Winter Park Institute hosted another of this year’s Distinguished Visiting Scholars, Alejandro Toledo.  Toledo served as Peru’s president between July 2001 and July 2006. He had the distinction of being the nation’s first democratically elected indigenous leader in five centuries. Toledo now serves as the founder and president of the Global Center for Development and Democracy in Latin America, the U.S., and the European Union.

The concert hall was packed as an introductory film flickered to life detailing the challenges facing Latin America and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Scenes of poverty and protest were followed by progress and technological development. As the lights came back to life, President Duncan stepped up to the podium to introduce the former president. He spoke of Toledo’s humble beginnings: he was one of 16 children (seven of whom died), he began working to support his poor family at age six, and then the Peace Corps entered his life. Through the opportunities provided by the Corps he was able to travel to the U.S., where he pursued higher education and ultimately ended up at Stanford.

In a measured, deliberate voice Toledo called for aid for his native region. Entrepreneurs were encouraged to invest in poverty reduction and expand their business ventures into the continent to provide jobs for the 40 percent of Latin Americans living below the poverty line. According to Toledo, this alone is not enough. Social policies must be passed along with economic growth. Toledo spoke of several crucial rules that need to be followed. To encourage economic and growth: 1) Companies need to pay their workers well. 2) They need to invest in training their employees. 3) Contamination of the environment must be avoided. 4) The cultural diversity of the region and its people must be respected. 5) Occupational security must be assured. 6) Businesses need to have friendly relationships with the communities.

Toledo reminded the audience that not everyone has the opportunity to get a quality education as we do at Rollins.

 “We need to construct a new generation that is capable,” he said. "Globalization needs to have a human face," he continued noting that people of all races, religions, and political beliefs should be able to sit side by side and still retain their own rich cultural heritage. He believes if there is one stepping stone for making Latin America a region of knowledge, it is education. Speaking to the Latin American-born students in the auditorium, he implored them to return and share their newfound knowledge. During the Q & A session at the end of the presentation, one student’s declaration that he was returning home was greeted by cheers and applause from all assembled.

“We can make the jump,” Toledo asserted optimistically.

-Jennifer Ritter (Class of 2013)

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