This is not the case in a large portion of Latin America, where diplomatic relations with the United States have been deteriorating steadily over the past four years, mainly as a result of the dramatic shift in US foreign policy after 9/11. The recent elections of populist leaders like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia have exacerbated this rift, leading some scholars to go as far as to suggest that free market capitalism may have simply failed across much of the continent. Ambassador Pastrana openly disagrees with this assessment. “I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that although many countries in the region may not have grown as much as we wanted them to during the last thirty years, the specific reasons for this are unique to each country. Unfortunately, populism is winning in the region, which is why we need even more investment in the social welfare of the people – I think that’s going to be the long-term solution for South America.”
If the Ambassador’s prediction proves correct, then his wife is already way ahead of the game. Investment in social welfare has long been one of Nohra Pastrana’s highest priorities, and to this day, millions of Colombian citizens continue to benefit from her humanitarian work. As first lady, she was an early proponent of the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility, and in 2000 she orchestrated an unprecedented collaboration between Colombia’s largest corporations and its federal and local governments to found a national Children’s Day, which continues to be celebrated every year on the last Saturday in April (April 25, 2006).