Former Ambassador Highlights Importance of Latin America

Former U.S. Ambassador Donna J. Hrinak talks with Provost Peter Lange as Steve Kelly, a visiting professor of public policy and Canadian studies, looks on before the lecture. Photo by Jared Lazarus/Duke University Photography.

Latin America is overlooked by many Americans but remains important to the United States, a prominent former diplomat in the region told a Duke audience on Tuesday evening.

Brazil and other nations in the region are no longer "younger siblings that must be led, but are now mature partners," Donna J. Hrinak said at the Sanford School of Public Policy. The days when "the United States was either to bless or to blame for everything that happened in Latin America" are giving way to a new reality of economic growth, stable democracy and growing influence on the world stage.

Hrinak, the president of Boeing Brazil and a former U.S. ambassador to four Latin American countries, presented the Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr. Lecture in International Studies, an annual series that promotes international understanding and public service.

The value of U.S. goods shipped to Latin America is still three times its exports to China, she noted, and the United States continues to enjoy broad cultural, social and political influence in the region. China and, more recently, India have strengthened their own ties there, but the U.S. presence remains most essential.

"It is critical to establish in this hemisphere a mature relationship between our north and our south," said Hrinak, who urged students and others at the talk to engage with Latin America themselves.

Donna J. Hirnak discusses U.S. policy in Latin America Tuesday at the Sanford School. Photo by Jared Lazarus/Duke University Photography

Ambassador Hrinak