Santiago – Latin American citizens currently aspire to greater social mobility and heightened protection and inclusion in society, U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or ECLAC, executive secretary Alicia Barcena said in an interview with Efe.
"I believe this is a valid demand and the region has all it takes to move ahead and comply with it," Barcena said.
ECLAC "has not measured in depth" whether some countries' policies to overcome poverty in wide segments of society are helping to prevent outbreaks of violence and social instability, Barcena said.
But the fact that the region still has 177 million poor people, of whom 70 million are destitute, shows "without a doubt that there are areas of extreme poverty we must deal with," Barcena said.
Last year Latin America, a subcontinent of 577 million inhabitants, reduced the number of impoverished to 7 million, of whom 3 million are destitute, according to the Social Panorama of Latin America 2011 presented this week by ECLAC in Santiago.
"In general the region hasn't done badly - unemployment this year stands at 7.1 percent, last year it was 7.3 percent, and when the crisis struck in 2008, it was 8.2 percent," Barcena said.
Latin American governments have increased their public spending significantly to aid the neediest of their populations, the ECLAC official said.
But while plans to deal with the crisis seem to have worked, Barcena clearly believes that "the definitive solution is the creation of regular jobs that are genuinely productive."
With a growth this year of 4.4 percent, the Latin American economy shows signs of renewed vigor, but next year that could all change.
"This year we'll continue doing well. Next year is when we could begin to feel the consequences," Barcena said.
The policy of redistributing revenues is important, the ECLAC official said.
"That does a lot to close the gap," Barcena said, but meanwhile "we have to keep helping poor families."
The fight against poverty highlights significant differences among Latin American countries, Barcena said.
On the one hand there are the Caribbean nations and Central America that are lagging behind, and on the other is the rest of the region that is generally doing better.
Together with nations like Brazil, Argentina and Chile, "there are also countries like Venezuela that have made enormous efforts to diminish poverty, or like Peru that in 2002-2010 went from a poverty level of 54.7 percent to 31.3 percent, and Bolivia that dropped from 62.4 percent to 54 percent, Barcena said.
"Central America is a task still waiting to be done," Barcena said, noting that "Latin America is not a poor region, but one with very badly distributed revenues."
When it will overcome that situation "is a very complex question," but ECLAC is suggesting several ways to "close the gap," Barcena, who expressed satisfaction at how countries are heeding the recommendations of this United Nations agency, said.
An increase in government spending, non-contributory social transfers, job creation and social protection are among the best means of making progress and ones with which governments need to persevere, according to Barcena.