Peru’s President Brings Hemispheric Vision to UM

Peruvian economy highlighted in annual Americas Conference, focusing on the future of Latin America.

By Jessica M. Castillo
UM News


Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, left, visited UM for the annual Americas Conference, moderated by The Miami Herald‘s Andres Oppenheimer, right.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (September 22, 2016)—In a visit to the University of Miami organized by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald last week, newly elected Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski discussed the need for diversifying the Andean nation’s economy and the future of Latin America.

Hosted at the University’s Braman Miller Center for Jewish Student Life and moderated in Spanish by The Herald’s Andres Oppenheimer, the annual Americas Conference Series reflected University of Miami President Julio Frenk’s hopes and aspirations for the University as it approaches its centennial.

“The University of Miami is in a unique position to become the hemispheric university, in other words, the pole that unites the huge intellectual capital of the entire region with collaborative platforms aimed at finding solutions and with resources for innovation,” Frenk said in his opening remarks.

It was fitting for the series, which focuses on discussing economic, political and public policy issues facing the U.S. and Latin America, to feature Kuczynski. Nicknamed PPK for his initials, he is an Oxford- and Princeton-educated economist with decades of experience at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and in private banking on Wall Street and in Miami. He also has served as Peru’s prime minister, economy and finance minister, mining minister, and head of the Central Reserve Bank.

Attended by Latin American business leaders and members of the media and broader South Florida community, the discussion focused on Kuczynski’s seasoned perspective on how to continue growing the Peruvian economy and make it another beacon of opportunity in Latin America. Kuczynski, whose second vice president is Mercedes Araoz, an alumna of UM’s School of Business Administration, called for greater investments in key sectors including tourism, agribusiness, and infrastructure to support irrigation projects and the raw materials industry.

“We need to have a diversified economy,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if that includes raw materials. To think that exporting raw materials is bad is a huge mistake. Look at Canada and Australia. But raw materials or not, it should still be diversified.”

Kuczynski echoed his call from his presidential campaign to lessen bureaucratic hurdles. “We need to allow the economy to grow and not let government get in the way of growth.”

He also fielded questions about Venezuela and Cuba and their respective changing political, social, and economic landscapes. Most vocal about Peru’s continental neighbor, Kuczynski called for the need for a humanitarian aid group, composed of Peru and other Latin American countries, to provide Venezuelans with much-needed food, health care, and other basic services which so many have so little access to.

“From one day to the next, the country will face total collapse and there will be blood in the streets,” warned Kuczynski. “But, Peru is a middle-income country,” he said, “and this can’t be done without Brazil, the leading Latin American economy.”

Yet Kuczynski expressed optimism about the future and the importance of opportunities for starting over. “We’ve hit rock bottom before and I know we will get back up.”

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Elvira Maria Restrepo Helps Colombia Heal

As Colombia votes on its historic agreement with FARC rebels, UM’s Elvira Maria Restrepo lays the foundation for societal reconciliation

By Maya Bell
UM News


Elvira Maria Restrepo

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (September 22, 2016) —Born just a few years after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia launched its left-wing insurgency in 1964, Elvira Maria Restrepo has never known her homeland without war. But today, the University of Miami assistant professor of geography and regional studies, who is advising Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on his historic peace accord with the FARC, can already see the peace dividends.

“For the first time in my life, the main military hospital in Bogota has empty beds,” Restrepo says, as Colombia’s October 2 national referendum on the peace agreement approaches. “We have zero combat dead, zero kidnappings, zero towns taken over. The cease-fire has led to a negative peace—an absence of violence for many people who have lived with the conflict throughout their lives.”

Yet, as Colombians in the Andean nation, and across the world, including those in South Florida, gear up for the unprecedented ballot measure, Restrepo is troubled by the absence of celebrations on August 24, the day when, after nearly four years of negotiations, the government and the FARC pre-signed the final agreement to end the bloodshed that has claimed an estimated 220,000 lives over the past half century.

“It’s the most remarkable achievement in the recent history of Colombia and we already have seen some of the benefits of peace, but people did not celebrate,” Restrepo says. “Which tells me how completely polarized Colombia is, and where my work is and where my work will start even if we win the plebiscite. This is the fourth and only successful negotiation with the FARC in 30 years.”

(Learn more about the plebiscite at Storer Auditorium on Wednesday, September 28, from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m., when International Studies Professor Bruce Bagley moderates a discussion on Colombia’s Peace Process with Restrepo and seven other panelists.)

An expert in Colombia’s politics and justice system who holds a Master of Laws from Harvard and a Ph.D. in politics from Oxford, Restrepo does not expect the plebiscite to fail. But should it, her advisory role will intensify, not cease.

Driven as much by her scholarship as her passion, she knows that building a lasting peace through any mechanism will depend on societal reconciliation—on opening the minds of a people deeply divided by their interests and over deeply emotional issues, including allowing FARC members into the political mainstream.

As such, she is spending her year of public service leave from the University developing interactive public forums and a virtual platform to help Colombians reduce long-held prejudices by debating, deliberating, and understanding the conflict from different perspectives. “Maybe they don’t want the FARC in Congress, but maybe the way to accomplish that is not to vote for them. Isn’t a demobilized FARC aspiring to Congress better than FARC using violence to reach their political ends?” Restrepo asks.

She is just as certain that the nearly 8 million Colombians who have registered as victims of the half-century civil conflict between left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, and the Colombian government seek truth, not revenge.

“They want to know: Where are my daughter’s remains? How did you recruit my son—was he coerced, or did he volunteer?”’ she says. “The great majority of conflict victims, not only in Colombia but across the world, prefer truth over retribution. Truth helps healing and allows them to move forward.”

In 2014, hoping to move the peace process forward, Restrepo and some UM colleagues wrote an open letter that, signed by 130 scholars around the world, urged support for the ongoing negotiations with the FARC. In what would prove ironic, the letter noted that Santos’ immediate predecessor as president, Alvaro Uribe, established the “route to peace” in 2005 when he negotiated the demobilization of the country’s paramilitary groups—“under great secrecy, few rules and, ultimately, no democratic approval process.”

Today, that agreement, which was revised, enhanced, and enacted into law by Colombia’s Congress, courts, and civil society, has produced what Restrepo calls undeniable gains: a dramatic decrease in violence, the revelation of key truths about the country’s bloody conflicts, and significant economic growth.

Yet, contributing to the nation’s polarization and confusion, Uribe and his predecessor, Andres Pastrana, who conducted three years of failed negotiations with the FARC, are among the most vocal critics of Santos’s agreement. They argue, in part, that the accord rewards FARC leaders with impunity.

Restrepo disagrees, and hopes Colombians will be able to learn the truths and ignore “the noise.”

In addition to collecting and sharing the truth about the 220,000 deaths and other crimes against humanity, the agreement gives survivors the right to reparations and to a special justice, the goal of which is to repair wrongdoings through community service. For example, she says, rebel leaders who destroyed villages or laid land mines can avoid prison by confessing their crimes and reconstructing the villages, or retrieving the explosives.

And that, Restrepo says, makes Colombian’s innovative peace accord a model for the world, one as uniquely challenging to implement as it is unprecedented.

“The question remains: Can the Colombian state redress the lives of 8 million victims, or approximately 15 percent of the population? Probably not,” she says. “This is why civil society needs to be involved. No peace agreement on its own could reconcile a society that is so deeply divided that it is still debating whether to approve an agreement aimed at ending the longest conflict in this hemisphere.”


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Compliance Corner: As Amateurs, Student-Athletes Cannot Promote Products, Services, or Events

Amateurism is as integral to the NCAA’s pursuits and bylaws as intercollegiate athletics are to the entire collegiate experience. Several rules govern the ability of student-athletes to promote causes both in the private and non-profit sectors. Currently, a commercial business, service, or product may not use a student-athlete’s name, image, or likeness in its promotional items. Violations of these bylaws can lead to the ineligibility of student-athletes.

Thus, student-athletes would not be eligible for collegiate participation if they:

  • Accept any remuneration for or permit the use of their names or pictures to advertise, recommend, or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind. This includes using social media profiles or accounts (i.e. re-tweeting, posting on a timeline on Facebook, or posting pictures to Instagram feeds).
  • Receive remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual use of the product or service.

When it comes to the promotion of student-athletes by non-profits, charities, or University of Miami initiatives, student-athletes’ names, images, and likenesses can be used under specific circumstances (once approved by the UM Athletics Department).  The Athletics Department, on behalf of the student-athletes, welcomes these opportunities, which are available by completing a “Promotional Activity Request Form,” available on the www.hurricanesports.com website.

While a student-athlete may express an opinion about a product, service, or item, if the business uses a student-athlete’s name, image, or likeness to promote a product with or without the permission of the student-athlete, the eligibility of that student-athlete may be jeopardized. The Athletics Department asks all UM fans and supporters to refrain from using any student-athlete’s name, image, or likeness in a way that could affect their eligibility. The University strives to maintain a culture of compliance and efforts by staff members, boosters, and fans are greatly appreciated.

For more compliance information, follow the UM Athletics Department on Twitter (@UCompliance), like them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/UCompliance), or contact them via email, athleticscompliance@miami.edu.

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Experiment Brings Indian Cinema to Miami

By Maya Bell
UM News


Professor Ed Talavera, director of photography, shares his vision for a scene.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 19, 2016) — As the title of producer Sanjeev Chatterjee’s latest movie implies, Mi Amor is a Miami-based love story, but not exactly the kind most people might imagine. With his first feature film, the University of Miami’s award-winning documentarian set out on “an unusual experiment” to revitalize the global appeal of Indian Bengali films on “a micro budget.”

Written and directed by the critically acclaimed Bengali filmmaker Suman Ghosh and starring two of Calcutta’s top actors, Mi Amor was shot mostly in English, partly in Bengali, and entirely in Miami during two grueling weeks in May with a small crew largely comprised of faculty, staff, and students from the School of Communication’s Department of Cinema and Interactive Media.

“It was awesome taking all the steps from script to screen,” said Russell Darrow, a graduate student in the M.F.A. in motion pictures program who, as line producer, was responsible for the jam-packed day-to-day logistics. “You see movies with extreme budgets like $150 million that don’t recoup their expenses. But it all comes down to great storytelling and engaging your audience. If you have a good story, it will resonate.”

That and, as Chatterjee notes, the kind of technological tools and platforms he never dreamed of when he joined the School of Communication faculty 22 years ago.

“Instead of helicopters we use drones, instead of expensive Steadycam rigs we use hand-held cameras like the Osmo,” Chatterjee said. “On the distribution side, the online world offers immense possibilities.”

Chatterjee, who is known for his award-winning environmental documentaries, including One Water, came upon the idea for a Bengali feature film set in Miami through a series of fortuitous happenstances that began with his friendship with internet entrepreneur and fellow Indian-American Oney Seal.

A Fort Lauderdale resident, Seal is the founder of Bongflix.com, and he and Chatterjee often discussed his desire to premier original content on the subscription-based portal for Bengali-language content. In turn, Chatterjee often expressed his hope for renewed international attention to Bengali films. In Chatterjee’s opinion, they had lost the global allure that the late Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray, widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest filmmakers, had created.

Then, in late 2015, Seal mentioned to Chatterjee that a Florida Atlantic University economics professor they knew was working on a script about a Bengali couple searching for love in Miami. “He had holed himself up in some undisclosed location in the Keys and was busy writing,’’ Chatterjee recalled. “In my mind this immediately signaled a level of seriousness that merited gearing up for action.”

The economics professor was, of course, none other than Suman Ghosh, who took filmmaking classes at Cornell while pursuing his Ph.D. in economics there. Though Ghosh still teaches economics—his specialty is game theory—his debut film, Footsteps, won Best Feature Film in Bengali at India’s National Film Awards in 2008. Now with five more well-received Calcutta feature films among his credits, Ghosh was interested in collaborating with Chatterjee and others at UM in Miami.

With the blessings of School of Communication Dean Gregory Shepherd and Christina Lane, chair of the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media, Chatterjee and Ghosh embarked on their “unusual experiment” to produce a feature-length film in Miami with an Indian director, two major Indian stars, and a small, local crew, all of whom basically donated their talents. And they did it at breakneck speed.

In January, they enlisted Pradip Churiwal, a producer in India, to underwrite the production. Consequently, two Florida-based entrepreneurs of Indian origin, Anjan Ghosal and UM business alumnus Souren Sarkar, and his brother Soumen Sarkar, who still lives in India, came aboard as executive producers. By late March, they had secured two Bollywood stars, Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Raima Sen, to play the parts of a 30-something Indian couple who moved to Miami for their jobs and embark on an unusual journey to spice up their lonely life in the diaspora.

Soon after, Chatterjee’s long-time collaborator, associate professor Ed Talavera, signed on as director of photography and recruited the crew of M.F.A. students, alumni, and two professionals. Additional actors were cast from South Florida.

Today, the hours of footage shot at such familiar locales as the Rusty Pelican, South Beach, Wynwood, and Biscayne Bay sits with editor Dia Kontaxis, associate professor of Cinema and Interactive Media, who recently edited another faculty-produced film, Jim Virga’s Sweet Dillard. She worked closely with Ghosh to bring Mi Amor to life—and, Chatterjee hopes, to an international audience—after facing her own international challenges.

“During much of the editing process I was in Greece, the director was in India, and the producer was in the States, so we were working in three different time zones,” Kontaxis said.

They are making the final cuts this month, with the first screening, a sneak preview at the Washington, D.C. South Asian Film Festival, scheduled on September 9. Then in October Mi Amor heads to the Busan International Film Festival in Korea.

“What a great time for us to be involved in the world of moviemaking beyond borders,” Chatterjee said. “This is more exciting than any time before to be teaching and learning filmmaking by doing.”





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Join the Conversation about the Roadmap to Our New Century: Culture of Belonging

Big U2The final Roadmap Initiative, Culture of Belonging, explores strategies to deepen a campus environment where all members of the University community feel valued and can add value. The draft proposes practical steps to foster belonging within existing initiatives and groups, measure progress and develop programs for continuous improvement, and advance a body of scholarship on building a culture of belonging. Share your thoughts about this or any of the other seven Roadmap proposals and weigh in on the questions below via the Roadmap Initiative website, through the hashtag #UMRoadmap, or email.

  • What practical ways can we encourage a culture of belonging on UM campuses?
  • How can we creatively measure our progress on increasing a sense of belonging? |


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