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New Atlanticist

Feb 28, 2024

Irregular migration starts well before the US southern border. Focus on the driving causes of the problem.

By María Eugenia Brizuela de Avila

The United States must work with other countries in the Western Hemisphere to address the economic and security factors that drive migration.

Caribbean Colombia


Feb 23, 2022

US-China vaccine diplomacy: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean

By María Eugenia Brizuela de Ávila, Bosco Marti, Riyad Insanally and Claudia Trevisan

The implications of diverging COVID-19 responses, notably at the onset of the pandemic’s rise in the region, will reverberate beyond the health sector. What might the differing US and China pandemic approaches portend for future influence in the region? 

Caribbean China

Issue Brief

Sep 1, 2021

Addressing instability in Central America: Restrictions on civil liberties, violence, and climate change

By María Fernanda Bozmoski, María Eugenia Brizuela de Avila, Domingo Sadurní

Citizens across Latin America and the Caribbean are rising up in protest. Political frustration and economic stagnation are fueling social discontent exacerbated by the continued COVID-19 pandemic and the slow health response. In Central America, restrictions on civil liberties, high rates of gender-based violence and extortion, and worsening climate change are compounding the lack of economic opportunities and pervasive corruption seen in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Climate Change & Climate Action Latin America

María Eugenia (Mayu) Brizuela de Avila is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. Brizuela is a courageous woman full of concerns, aspirations, with a will and intellect deeply committed to the reality of our time, both in the national dimension and the international perspective. She is sensitive and inclined to serve, believes in what she says as it responds to a comprehensive, honest and reliable insight into assumed responsibilities. She is especially passionate on the empowerment of women.

Brizuela’s initial years were with her family businesses, such as La Auxiliadora Funeral Home, becoming president and CEO. In 1997, she became the first woman president of an insurance company when she founded Internacional de Seguros. In 1999, she became the first woman to be designated minister of foreign affairs in El Salvador, serving her country for 5 years. In August 2004, she was elected first woman president of Banco Salvadoreño and was elected CEO when Banco Salvadoreño and Banistmo, the biggest regional bank, forged a strategic alliance. She kept this position even when HSBC Holdings, one of the world’s largest financial conglomerates, acquired a controlling majority in 2006. In 2007, Brizuela pioneered a new function in the region by becoming corporate sustainability head for HSBC Latin America until March 2015. Brizuela is currently engaged with Inversiones Vision, her executive coaching and consulting firm in El Salvador. She serves on the board of several nonprofits such as the University of Miami External Advisory Board on Latin America and as non-executive director on Davivienda Financial Conglomerate in El Salvador and Honduras.

Brizuela has an academic background in art, insurance (Swiss Insurance Institute Zurich) and law (Universidad Dr. Jose Matias Delgado), with a Master of Business Administration from INCAE Business School and a postgraduate degree in Sustainable Business from the University of Cambridge. She taught at two Universities in El Salvador, and lectured at INCAE Business School in Costa Rica.

Brizuela served various professional associations. She was a member of Asociación de Abogados de El Salvador since 1985 and “socia distinguida” in 1990, a member of Centro de Estudios Jurídicos since 1989, Instituto Salvadoreño de Derecho Notarial, and president of AIDA Insurance Law Association 1995 to 1998. She has actively participated in socially-oriented service institution boards such as Patronato del Hogar del Niño; FUDEM, EMPREPAS and Vital Voices for women development; FUSADES, the most prestigious private sector think tank; Universidad José Matías Delgado, where she is treasurer; Escuela Agrícola Panamericana Zamorano in Honduras as trustee; Instituto Tecnológico Centroamericano; FEPADE foundation of the private sector for education; INCAE Business School, where she was one of the first woman members of its board; Instituto Salvadoreño del Seguro Social; and Fondo de Inversión Social.

When Brizuela witnessed the number of elderly clients in the bank who could not read or write, she helped launch a national literacy campaign and became member of the Consejo Ejecutivo del Trienio de la Alfabetización. She is the first Latin American member of PLAN’s International Board and was chair of the Americas Board Junior Achievement covering 31 countries, also serving on their global board. She was chapter chair of WPO El Salvador, board member and founder of the Central American Leadership Initiative and served on the boards of IEESFORD Diplomatic Academy of the Chancery, Quality Council of El Salvador, CEDES, the El Salvador Chapter of the World Economic Council for Sustainable Development. She was also commissioner of the International Commission on Missing Persons based in The Hague.

The Rotary Club Maquilishuat honored her with “Galardón al Orgullo Salvadoreño 2005” and Día a Día Newspaper in Los Angeles California with “Woman of the Year 2005” . Brizuela was elected Distinguished Professional 2006 by the Universidad Dr. José Matías Delgado, Distinguished Graduate 2009 by INCAE and the Most Admired Woman Entrepreneur in Central America 2010. She was the first woman in Mesoamerica to be admitted into the Young Presidents Organization. She received, upon her 30 years of entrepreneurial activity, the Palma de Oro in 2007, maximum recognition granted by the private sector in the country, honor presented to her by the President of the Republic.

Brizuela has been married for almost 40 years and has three children and three grandchildren.