Minister Mouynes on The Wilson Center

Panama’s Foreign Minister underscores need for regional democratic renewal – “We need to show that democracy delivers results”

As democratic governments in Latin America and around the world face a growing number of challenges, Panama’s Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes reiterated Panama’s commitment to work with the United States and other partners to show that democracy can deliver solutions to the greatest challenges facing the region today.  

Speaking alongside her counterparts from Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic at a roundtable discussion organized by The Wilson Center, Foreign Minister Mouynes outlined the objectives of the Alliance for Development in Democracy, a coalition created by Panama, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic to strengthen the region’s democratic institutions and unlock new economic opportunities for its people. “We can’t take democracy for granted”, Mouynes said of the region’s leaders. “We need to show that democracy delivers results.” 

Formed by the presidents of the three democracies on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City last year, the Alliance for Development in Democracy will also serve as a platform to coordinate members’ response to shared challenges, such as uncontrolled irregular migration. “For decades, there has been a very specific focus on migration from the Northern Triangle”, Minister Mouynes continued. “But the truth is, Panama went from seeing 8,000 migrants cross our border in 2020, to having 140,000 cross last year. It’s a situation that requires collective action and collective responsibility. No one country can deal with this.” Minister Mouynes then described opportunities for the coalition members to coordinate on dismantling the transnational criminal networks that benefit from uncontrolled migration. 

Climate change is another area where cooperation between Panama, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic promises to have an outsized impact. “The Central America and Caribbean region is one of the hardest-hit from climate change, but we have not managed to come together in one coherent voice”, Mouynes said. “So having this platform, and getting everyone on board with clear initiatives and responsibilities, is part of how we show that democracy can have proven, positive results.” 

Panelists also discussed how the Alliance would address the concerning trend of democratic backsliding in Nicaragua and other countries in the region. While the pandemic has driven many governments to look inward, Minister Mouynes cautioned that sustained international engagement will be key to upholding democratic institutions in Latin America. “[The situation in] Nicaragua and other countries in our region is a pressing priority, and we need to ensure there is constant engagement, so this platform is one way to ensure we continue to engage”, the Foreign Minister concluded. “We need to showcase that the people are truly embracing and committed to the democratic process. Commitment is generated by the societies of each country, and then we as an international community support them.” 

Joining Foreign Minister Mouynes for this important discussion was H.E. Rodolfo Solano, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Costa Rica, and H.E. Roberto Álvarez, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Dominican Republic. The conversation was moderated by Cynthia J. Arnson, Director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program. You can watch the full conversation here.