Washington -- An official
with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
is scheduled to participate in a February 28 seminar about
people of African descent in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking
nations of Latin America and the Caribbean.
In a February 10 statement, the Inter-American
Development Bank (IDB), which will host the event at its
Washington headquarters, says an estimated 150 million Latin
Americans of African descent, also known as Afro-Latinos,
comprise close to 30 percent of the region's population,
making them the region's largest ethnic minority.
The IDB also says people of African descent
total 40 percent of the region's poor. In Brazil and Colombia,
the countries with the largest black populations in South
America, they are among the poorest, least educated and
lowest-paid citizens. In Brazil, 52 percent of the Afro-Latinos
live in houses with no adequate sanitation, while in Colombia,
80 percent of the black population lives in conditions of
extreme poverty, said the IDB.
The IDB said Brazil and Colombia have recently
developed the most extensive anti-discrimination legislation
for Afro-descendants in Latin America. Issues affecting
this group include legal protection, political representation,
land rights, human rights and access to quality health care.
The discussion at the IDB will focus on
a recent report called "Afro-Latinos in Latin America
and Considerations for U.S. Policy," by Clare Ribando,
a Latin America analyst with the U.S. Congressional Research
Service (CRS). Ribando will be one of the participants at
the event, along with David Johnston, USAID's Colombia desk
officer, and a foreign policy specialist from the office
of Representative Gregory Meeks (Democrat of New York).
A number of foreign aid programs, funded
through the U.S. government, benefit Afro-Latino populations,
the CRS report said. The programs include supporting agriculture,
micro-credit, health care, grassroots organizing and bilingual
education. These programs are funded through USAID, the
U.S. Peace Corps, and the Inter-American Foundation, along
with a nongovernmental organization called the National
Endowment for Democracy.
The report states that improvement in the
status of Afro-Latinos "could be difficult and contentious,
depending on the size and circumstances of the Afro-descendant
populations" in each country of Latin America and the
Caribbean. The report says Afro-Latinos tend to reside in
coastal areas, although in many countries they have migrated
to large cities in search of employment.
Afro-Latinos comprise a majority of the
population in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, while they
form a significant minority in Brazil, Colombia, Panama,
Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, says the report.
The report is available online at:
Washington File Staff Writer