Nicaraguan Journalist Inaugurates New LLILAS Speaker Series
Posted: October 14, 2010
Award-winning Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, Director of the weekly Confidencial and the television programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche, will inaugurate the new 2010 LLILAS Speaker Series "Central America: Broken Democracies?" with a lecture this week on "The Challenge of Democracy and Freedom of the Press in Nicaragua."
The talk will take place Thursday, October 14, at 5:00 p.m. in the Benson Collection Rare Books Room and will be followed by a reception in the speaker’s honor.
Since the 1980s, Central America has emerged from a period of bloody civil wars into a an era of democratic transition and apparent consolidation of democracy. In recent years, however, the move toward democratization seems to have stalled, and governments in the region appear to be best described as "low intensity" democracies at best, to "fragile" democracies at worst. Many factors have contributed to this, including increasing drug trafficking and the violence, corruption, and gang activity that tend to accompany it, enduring poverty and inequality (several Central American countries remain among the hemisphere's poorest), and continuing political polarization that is the legacy of the deep ideological divisions of the 1980s. The controversy over the removal of President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in 2009 seemed to crystallize the trend toward democratic breakdown, with both sides claiming that they were acting in the name of democracy while the rule of law had unquestionably been broken as a result of what was variously termed a coup or constitutional succession, issues that LLILAS explored in a foro urgente on the Honduran crisis in October 2009.
In no area of intellectual activity has the fragility of Central America's commitment to democracy been more clearly expressed, however, than in the relationship between states and the press, and the increasing restrictions and threats facing independent journalists and restricting freedom of opinion and expression in many countries in the region. Through the year-long series "Central America: Broken Democracies?" LLILAS seeks to explore the role that public intellectuals, especially journalists, can and are playing in the struggle to hold the region's governments accountable to their embrace of democratic rhetoric and to make them more accountable and transparent to the populations they claim to represent.
Carlos Fernando is the son of Violeta Chamorro, President of Nicaragua from 1990–1997, and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, editor of La Prensa, the only independent newspaper during the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Debayle and one of his most vocal opponents. Pedro Joaquin Chamorro’s assassination on January 10, 1978, caused tremendous outrage and turned Nicaragua’s oligarchy into supporters of the Sandinista movement that was seeking to overthrow Somoza. Today Carlos Fernando Chamorro carries on the legacy and democratic commitment of his family. His TV programs, which are followed by a large segment of the population, uncover government corruption, fraud, and political scandals. He is not only Nicaragua's leading journalist, but also one of the most well-respected journalists in the hemisphere.
In 2009, Chamorro received the Premio a la libertad de expresión en Iberoamérica award from the Casa América Cataluña in Spain. Later this year, Columbia University School of Journalism will present him with the María Moors Cabot award for outstanding reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean. Chamorro obtained a BA with honors in economics from McGill University and was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University. For more details on his talk, visit http://www.utexas.edu/cola/insts/llilas/events/15651