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I had the pleasure of spending this past week with a group of excellent professionals and friends from Latin America. We’re a small group of communications consultants who met at a conference in Florida. We have a client in common and although we’ve known each other and worked jointly on projects for a long time, a few years had passed since we had a chance to see each other face to face, other than on facebook. Represented in this group are Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brasil, Chile and Venezuela.

We spent most of the week talking about current uses of new media, the subject of the conference and a popular topic these days. (We also drooled over Dominican Republic’s new iPad.) Venezuela captivated our imagination with people’s clever use of Twitter during street protests. The last day of our meeting, Ecuador brought us to a harsh and immediate reality.    

Imagen de Sarita en Argentina.

Just say no to a state of coups.

The day Ecuador was supposed to reunite with her family for a quick trip to NYC before returning home, images of a coup in Quito appeared in the global media. We might never know what really happened or whether the coup was legit or staged to make the powers that be look like victims of tyranny. But the mood changed to somber and strangely appreciative of what the rest of us have: order, stability, relative economic prosperity. I think most of us became keenly aware of the things we don’t have to deal with (at least not today): chaos, state-promoted violence, tear gas and barricaded streets. It’s true that it’s all relative, because even Venezuela was commenting that things have not been THAT bad lately. And here’s where I have to ask, what price do we pay for order? Ecuador’s family could not come on their trip as planned, neither could she return home until they reopen the airport in Quito. But even when she was trying to enter our calm country (arriving on a routine flight from Quito), Ecuador was detained by homeland security because she has a common name that matched a suspicious person’s. Does our definition of order include being paranoid about petite women from South America? I’m not sure any of us can define order. I’m not sure we can define progress, prosperity or democracy. It’s all relative.