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America in the Americas: Obama’s Regional Engagement

Eric Hershberg

Center for Latin American and Latino Studies
American University School of Public Affairs

Eric Hershberg is Director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and Professor of Government at American University.  He received his Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has taught at Simon Fraser University, New York University, Southern Illinois University, Columbia, Princeton and the New School.  From 1991 to 2005 he served as a Program Director at the Social Science Research Council in New York City.  Prof. Hershberg is Past-President of the Latin American Studies Association (2007-2009).

Prof. Hershberg is currently working on a book manuscript devoted to development and democracy in 21st century South America. He has published widely in leading journals and with prominent university presses.  Among his most recent articles are “Colombia Policy Under the Obama Administration: Sustaining an Inherited Paradigm,” (with Anne Gillman)  Pensamiento Propio, No. 31 (Jan.-April 2010), “Democracy in Latin America: A Review of Recent Literature” (Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies;)” "America Latina fragmentada: Economia y empleo en la era de la globalización," Nueva Sociedad. No. 214, 2008 (March-April), pp. 152-161 and “Globalization and Labor: Reflections on Contemporary Latin America,” International Labor and Working Class History, No. 72, Fall 2007, pp. 164-172. He recently co-edited four volumes for which he contributed chapters:  “Left Turns: Politics, Policies and Trajectories of Change in Latin America,” (with Maxwell A. Cameron); State and Society in Conflict:  Comparative Perspectives on Andean Crises (with Paul W. Drake); Latin America After Neoliberalism: Turning the Tide in the 21st Century? (with Fred Rosen); and Memorias militares sobre la represion en el Cono Sur: Visiones en disputa en dictadura y democracia (with Felipe Aguero).

Michael Shifter

Inter-American Dialogue

Michael Shifter is president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy forum on Western Hemisphere affairs.  Shifter previously served as the organization’s vice president for policy, and managed the Dialogue’s programs on the Andean region and democratic governance.  Since 1993 he has been adjunct professor of Latin American politics at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Before joining the Dialogue, Shifter directed the Latin American and Caribbean program at the National Endowment for Democracy and the Ford Foundation’s governance and human rights program in the Andean region and the Southern Cone, where he was based in Lima, Peru and then Santiago, Chile.  Prior to that, he served as a representative at the Inter-American Foundation for the Brazil program.

Shifter writes and comments widely on US-Latin American relations and hemispheric affairs and has frequently testified before the US Congress.  He is co-editor, along with Jorge Dominguez, of Constructing Democratic Governance in Latin America (Johns Hopkins University Press). He is contributing editor to Current History and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  Shifter graduated summa cum laude from Oberlin College and received a Masters degree in sociology from Harvard University.

Joy Olson

Executive Director
Washington Office on Latin America

Joy Olson, named Executive Director of WOLA in 2003, is a leading expert on human rights and U.S. policy toward Latin America. Under Ms. Olson’s direction, WOLA is pioneering new approaches to human rights advocacy, focusing on the underlying causes of injustice, inequality, and violence. The Washington Post has recognized WOLA as one of the best-managed non-profits in the Washington area.

Ms. Olson’s special expertise is in the area of military and security policy. She has been a longtime advocate for greater transparency of military programs in Latin America. She co-founded the Just the Facts project, which makes information about U.S. military policy in Latin America publicly accessible. For more than a decade, she has co-authored an annual study on trends in U.S. security assistance, including the recent Waiting for Change

Ms. Olson has testified before Congress on Latin America policy issues ranging from human rights in Mexico to drug policy to the problems of poverty and inequality in the region. 

She is a frequent commentator in the media, including CNN, CNN Español, the BBC, the Lehrer News Hour, National Public Radio, and an array of national and international news outlets. 

Prior to joining WOLA, Ms. Olson directed the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), a coalition of sixty non-governmental organizations working to promote peaceful and just U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America. Her many accomplishments include leading NGO efforts to increase U.S. funding for Central American peace accords implementation and a successful advocacy effort to lift the ban on food and medicine sales to Cuba.In the 1980s she worked on immigration and refugees issues, and developed legislation to suspend the deportation of Salvadoran refugees from the United States. 

Ms. Olson earned a Masters in Latin American Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, following two years’ work in community development in Honduras.

Dan Erickson

Senior Adviser for Western Hemisphere Affairs
United States Department of State

Prior to being appointed senior advisor for Western Hemisphere affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Erikson had joined the Inter-American Dialogue in 2001 as a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School and has since emerged as a leading analyst of U.S.-Latin American affairs and a widely published expert on Caribbean issues.  

Daniel P. Erikson was the senior associate for U.S. policy and director of Caribbean programs at the Inter-American Dialogue.  Erikson published more than sixty articles in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, and The Washington Post, and his book chapters appear in The Obama Administration and the Americas: Agenda for Change (2009), The Diplomacies of Small States (2009), Latin America’s Struggle for Democracy (2008), Looking Forward: Comparative Perspectives on Cuba’s Transition (2007), Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Latin America (2007), and Transforming Socialist Economies: Lessons for Cuba and Beyond (2005), which he co-edited. Erikson taught Latin American politics at Johns Hopkins-SAIS, was frequently interviewed in U.S. and international media, and testified before the U.S. Congress.  

His past positions include research associate at Harvard Business School and Fulbright scholar in U.S.-Mexican business relations. He earned a Masters in Public Policy as a Dean’s Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a BA from Brown University.  Erikson is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Cuba Wars: Fidel Castro, the United States, and the Next Revolution (Bloomsbury Press, 2008), which was described by Current History magazine as “the most important book on Cuba in a generation.”

Joseph Eldridge


University Chaplain
American University

Joe Eldridge has spent more than twenty-five years working in the public policy arena as an advocate and analyst on international human rights and humanitarian issues. In 1991 he established the Washington Office of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights; during the mid-1980s he worked in Honduras consulting on human rights and development issues; and after a three-year sojourn in Chile in the early 1970s he co-founded the Washington Office on Latin America and served as its first director. He has an MA in International Relations from American University, a MDiv from Perkins School of Theology at SMU, and a DMin from Wesley Theological Seminary. He is married to Maria Otero and they have three children.