Looking to Latin America

August 27, 2002

Nick Marinello
Phone: 865-5714

There was a time when New Orleans was considered the gateway to Latin America. Since the 1960s, however, that distinction has gradually shifted to Miami, largely because of the influx of Cubans to that area. Even so, Tulane Law School hopes to reinvigorate the university's and the city's ties to Latin America with the debut of the Tulane Latin American Law Institute.

Held on campus in June, the institute comprised a three-day forum designed to address legal and business issues involving the United States and its neighbors to the south. In that regard, the institute was "quite successful" says Gary Roberts, the deputy dean of the law school who oversees the school's international programs.

"The quality of the presentations, as well as the extent of interaction from the people who were in the audience, was outstanding," he said.

Roberts said the institute was a result of circumstances within the school as well as the community. In part, the institute was motivated by law school alumni and friends in the New Orleans legal community who felt the city ought to make efforts to connect with the Latin American legal community.

"Spurred on by their suggestion, the school thought this was a good way for us to take advantage of our natural and historic connection to Latin America," he said, adding that the school's long-range strategic planning involves developing stronger relationships with Latin American countries.

More than 20 lawyers and business leaders from Latin America attended the institute, including Nicaragua's newly inaugurated Vice President Jose Rizo Castellon, who delivered an address to attendees on the final day of the conference.

Highlights included a discussion of Venezuela's new foreign investment laws by Luis Giusti, the former chief executive officer of that country's largest oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela; updates on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Andean Trade Pact; and a panel discussion on a proposed model act for dispute resolution that Roberts said may result in legal reform in some Latin American countries.

While future conferences are pending law faculty approval, Roberts expects the school will continue the institute on an every-other-year schedule. Roberts credits a number of New Orleans law firms and businesses that contributed seed money to the institute.

"In the long run, they are hoping that this conference will bring a focus to the city, not just Tulane. When people in Latin America are talking about doing business in the United States, they will think about the conference and New Orleans."

Nick Marinello may be reached at

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000