Miami Dade College lived up to its title of Democracy’s College on Tuesday as it hosted the Seventh Presidential Dialogue, which brought together several former heads of state and thought leaders from Latin America and Spain to discuss the importance of preserving democracy and institutions in the Western Hemisphere.
Held at MDC’s Wolfson Campus, the annual program examines top global and hemispheric events with former leaders from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. MDC President Madeline Pumariega delivered welcome remarks to an engaged crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members, emphasizing how imperative it is to be champions of democracy.
“Our mission as Democracy’s College is to ensure that our students are not only prepared for the future of work but to also be global citizens of the world,” she said.
President Pumariega was joined by Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez in welcoming world dignitaries to the College, where she underscored the commitment to democracy as well as the important role Miami plays as the gateway to Latin America. During the lieutenant governor’s opening remarks, Nuñez also announced the state of Florida’s newly designated "Victims of Communism Memorial Day" on Nov. 7.
Conducted in Spanish with simultaneous interpretation in English, the event presented two panel discussions. The first was moderated by EVTV anchor Carla Angola and led by Iván Duque, former president of Colombia. During his opening remarks, Duque spoke about the impact of populism and polarization and the threats they pose to democracy. Other panelists included esteemed leaders Jamil Mahuad, former president of Ecuador, Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, former president of Bolivia, and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, former president of Costa Rica.
“Democracy in Latin America has continued to face serious threats because we have seen how, through democracy itself, some have come to power with a speech that aims to divide us,” Duque said.
The second panel, “Growing in Freedom: The Challenge of the West,” was moderated by NTN24 Director of Content Idania Chirinos. Former Prime Minister of Spain José María Aznar led the panel and began it with a keynote address highlighting the importance of intellectual, political and economic freedoms, which ensure that opportunities and hope are given to those who want to prosper. Other panelists included former president of Mexico Vicente Fox Quesada, who spoke about the importance of inspiring the next generation of leaders, and former president of Argentina Mauricio Macri , who later in the afternoon announced that he would not rule out a possible run for the presidency in Argentina.
“I can testify that it is very difficult to sustain a democracy when you do not have a middle class, and when you have exceeded the level of poverty that allows people to put food on the table, at a minimum,” Fox said. “Therefore, a poor person surrenders in the arms of these populists, demagogues and dictators out of the primary need for food.”
The global leaders were joined by Dr. Nelson J. Mezerhane, editor of Diario las Américas, Dr. Asdrúbal Aguiar, executive director of Iniciativa Democrática de España y las Americas (Grupo IDEA), and Jatzel Román, vice minister of foreign affairs of the Dominican Republic. Radio host Carinés Moncada served as master of ceremonies. The College is proud to host this annual event in partnership with the Mezerhane Endowed Chair at MDC, Grupo IDEA , Instituto Atlántico de Gobierno and Diario las Américas.