Latin America 2013 – 17

Written by  //  October 14, 2017  //  Americas, Geopolitics  //  1 Comment

More on Latin America

Julian Assange is squabbling with Ecuador’s new president. That could put his London refuge at risk.
(WaPost) The WikiLeaks founder, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012, is embroiled in a spat with the South American country’s new president, Lenín Moreno, about Assange’s vocal support for Catalonian separatists.
Moreno is openly seeking to replace Correa’s confrontational approach with “dialogue,” is encouraging corruption investigations of the former president’s inner circle and has largely stopped enforcing a law that once caused human rights groups to label Ecuador’s media the least free — other than Cuba’s — in the Western Hemisphere. He has also described his predecessor as an authoritarian with an “obsession with maintaining power” and has just proposed a plebiscite on limits to presidential reelection that would effectively quash any bid by Correa to return to power in 2021.
All in all, Moreno appears to be trying to reposition Ecuador away from Venezuela’s “Bolivarian socialist” axis while modeling himself on impeccably democratic Latin American leftists such as Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and the former Uruguayan leader José Mujica.
That could spell trouble for Assange, whose continued residence in the London embassy brings Moreno scant domestic political benefits while defining Ecuador as a geopolitical outlier antagonistic to the United States and other major Western powers.

3 September
Guatemala is on the verge of a major crisis
Guatemala’s war on corruption just escalated as the presidency and a UN-backed anti-graft body faced off.
(Al Jazeera) Guatemala, as most of Central America, is known for deep-rooted corruption in its governmental institutions. Yet in 2015, the country made global headlines for its efforts to change this.
It came after massive protests unfolded in response to a variety of high-level corruption scandals, which resulted in the resignation and indictment of former President Otto Perez Molina and his Vice President Roxana Baldetti. These major happenings opened an unparalleled opportunity for the Central American country to transform the political system and eliminate deep-rooted corruption.
As further anti-graft efforts have led to more than a hundred former cabinet members facing trial, entire sectors of the elite now oppose meaningful change, including current President Jimmy Morales. In a stunning move, during the early morning hours of August 25, the second anniversary of the national strike, he announced his decision to expel the head of the UN-backed international commission against impunity (CICIG).

2016

How unconventional thinking transformed a war-torn Colombia
(60 Minutes) Colombia used to be one of the most violent and isolated places on Earth. But new ways of thinking have helped the country find peace and fight poverty
How do you end a 52-year war that left 220,000 dead and millions displaced against a revolutionary army dedicated to overthrowing the government? Billions in U.S. aid helped. But the Colombian military came up with one of the most unusual ideas in modern warfare: an advertising campaign. They hired a creative ad executive, Jose Miguel Sokoloff, to convince thousands of fighters to give up without firing a shot. How did Sokoloff do it? With soccer balls and Christmas trees. …
Medellin was the last place tourists would have come. At the height of the drug wars, it was the murder capital of the world, 6,000 a year. Now it is the jewel of Colombia.  Modern, cultural, reborn…it has been hailed as a model of urban innovation, mostly because of this man, Sergio Fajardo. … They connected the city through its public transportation system. We started our tour on a metro train that took us to Communa 13; a slum that was once the city’s bloody epicenter, where tens of thousands who fled the war now live because it sits on a steep hilltop. Fajardo’s urban planners took a bold step, they built escalators up the side of the mountain, the equivalent of 28 stories. If you wanted to build hope, this was a good place to start. (11 December)

3 December
Panama Struggles to Shed Its Image as a Magnet for Shady Deals
(NYT) In August of last year, Panama sought to shed its image as a magnet for shady deals and narco traffickers by paying at least $2 million to host the world’s largest anticorruption conference, now taking place in Panama City.
Eight months after agreeing to host the conference, the nation was deeply embarrassed when confidential records leaked to journalists revealed that a single Panamanian law firm had created thousands of offshore companies, allowing the wealthy to hide income, some of it from illicit activities. The records became widely known as the “Panama Papers,” a term that so upsets Panamanian officials that some can’t bring themselves to utter it in public. …
After the leak, involving millions of legal documents, the president, Juan Carlos Varela, appointed a seven-member commission in April to recommend how to make its financial sector more transparent. That did not work out exactly as planned, either.
For credibility, the president had included Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate economist and a fierce critic of tax havens — onshore and offshore — which he views as the dark side of globalization. What happened next should surprise no one familiar with Panamanian politics or the resolve of Mr. Stiglitz. … Mr. Stiglitz and another board member, Mark Pieth, a Swiss anticorruption expert, resigned after only one official meeting because the government, they said, would not promise to make their final report public.
2 December
(Quartz) Where Colombia’s peace process came unstuck. Many things were blamed for the voters’ surprise rejection of the peace deal with the FARC in October’s referendum. But underlying them all, explains Juan Diego Prieto in n+1, was the power of the land-owning elites, whose desire to keep their influence has contributed to Colombia’s inequality and helped fuel the conflict in the first place.
7 October
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos wins 2016 Nobel Peace Prize
Surprise win follows recent rejection by voters of peace deal with guerrillas
4 October
The stunning collapse of Colombia’s peace agreement with the FARC, explained
(Vox) President Santos has promised to “continue the search for peace until the last moment of my mandate, because that’s the way to leave a better country to our children … I won’t give up,” he said.
Speaking to journalists in Havana after Sunday’s referendum results, Timochenko said that his group remains committed to ending the conflict.
The public’s main objection to the agreement was that it was far too lenient on the FARC fighters, whose war against the Colombian government has ravaged the country for more than half a century. One Colombian woman told BBC Mundo that Colombians still associated the FARC with “kidnappings, killings and drug trafficking.”
The leading voice of opposition to the peace deal is former President Alvaro Uribe, who is widely credited with having achieved the military gains that forced the rebels to the negotiating table in the first place. “They will spend zero days in prison; they will be awarded with political representation,” Paloma Valencia, a senator in Uribe’s party, was quoted as saying of the rebels. “This deal breaks the rule of law.”
2 October
Colombia referendum rejects peace deal with Farc guerrillas
Agreement reached by the government of Juan Manuel Santos fails to win public approval
Colombians have rejected a peace deal to end 52 years of war with Farc guerrillas, throwing the country into confusion about its future.
With counting completed from 98% of polling stations, the no vote led with 50.23% to 49.76%, a difference of 61,000 votes.
The verdict on the deal between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Farc reached after four years of intense negotiations means it cannot now not be implemented.
Polls before the vote predicted yes would win with a comfortable 66% share. Santos had been confident of a yes result and said during the campaign that he did not have a plan B and that Colombia would return to war if the no vote won. His opponents, led by former president Alvaro Uribe, said a win for their side would be a mandate for the government and rebels to negotiate a “better agreement”.
Both government and rebels have repeatedly said that the deal was the best they could achieve and a renegotiation would not be possible.
21 September
northern_triangle_729‘Northern Triangle’ of death: Australia-bound refugees fleeing a brutal gang conflict
(Sydney Morning Herald) The MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs are famed for the creepy way they tattoo their heads and faces. That and the sheer savagery of their violence towards rivals and innocent civilians.
While much of the world’s focus has been on the chaos of the Middle East, the bloodshed wrought by gangs and the paramilitary responses of governments in Central America have been fuelling a different kind of refugee exodus.
Gangs are fighting each other for turf and against governments for political control, driving murder rates to the highest in the world in the so-called Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
Those fleeing the violence who don’t make it to the United States often end up in camps in countries such as Costa Rica.
The longer story of these countries is one of corruption and political instability marked by civil wars and coups, but the acute problem is the growth of massive gangs on the back of the drug trade.
10 September
The Secret History of Colombia’s Paramilitaries and the U.S. War on Drugs
(NYT) After decades of atrocities, the warlords were finally being held to account. Then the Americans stepped in.
For 52 years, with abundant American support, the Colombian government has been locked in a ferocious armed conflict with leftist insurgents. Though it initially empowered paramilitary forces as military proxies, the government withdrew official sanction decades later, long after landowners and cartels had co-opted them. Before their demobilization in the mid-2000s, the militiamen came to rival the guerrillas as drug traffickers and outdo them as human rights abusers.
Now, eight years after the paramilitaries were extradited, Colombia has reached a peace deal with their mortal enemies, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the FARC). Facing an Oct. 2 vote on the accord, the country is in the midst of a polarizing debate about crime and punishment for the FARC, informed by what went wrong during the paramilitary peace process. Nobody is advocating that justice be abdicated to the United States this time.
1 September
Colombia’s Long Road to Peace
By José Antonio Ocampo, Chair of the UN Economic and Social Council’s Committee for Development Policy
(Project Syndicate) If implemented properly, the agreement’s political provisions should help to foster national reconciliation. But it is at least as important to address local-level social divisions that have emerged as a result of the conflict, particularly in hubs of violence. Here, local and international civil-society organizations, together with regional and municipal governments, have an important role to play, and Colombia’s past experience overcoming similar challenges should prove helpful.
Such efforts must be supported by progress in another area: rural development, which is the only economic issue addressed in the peace deal. This is hardly surprising: after all, the massive inequities that characterize rural Colombia gave rise to the FARC in the first place, and the conflict was concentrated in such areas. (Dismantling the narco-trafficking activities in which the FARC has been involved may also be considered an economic issue, given the need to provide alternative opportunities in rural areas; but it is, first and foremost, a security issue.)
Colombia’s government is already laying the groundwork for successful rural development. In 2014, it convened a commission, Misión para la Transformación del Campo, which I had the opportunity to chair. Last year, we presented a blueprint for action.
Recommendations include measures to narrow rural-urban gaps in access to basic social services within 15 years; efforts to increase opportunities for family agriculture, which accounts for nine-tenths of the rural labor force; better access to land for producers; implementation of integrated rural development programs at the local level; and institutional reforms aimed at upgrading government agencies in charge of rural development. Realizing this strategy would cost 1.2% of Colombia’s Gross National Product (GNP), and could be financed partly by redirecting existing expenditures.
29 August
Farc’s ‘definitive’ ceasefire takes effect in Colombia
(BBC) A ceasefire has come into effect in Colombia between the main leftist rebel group and the government, ending one of the world’s longest insurgencies.
The ceasefire at midnight local time (05:00 GMT Monday) came after four years of peace talks in Cuba between the Farc and the government.
The final agreement on ending the 52-year-old war will be signed next month.
Farc leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, gave the order to stop firing.
“Never again will parents be burying their sons and daughters killed in the war,” Timochenko told journalists. “All rivalries and grudges will remain in the past,” he said.
Why Are Wars So Hard To End?
By Gwynne Dyer
After 52 years of war, the guns finally fell silent in Colombia at midnight on Sunday, when permanent ceasefires were proclaimed both by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government.
But this only happened after 220,000 people had been killed and 7 million were displaced by the fighting – and it took four years just to negotiate the final peace deal. Yet the original causes of the Columban civil war have been largely irrelevant for decades. Why is it so hard to end a war?
When the fighting began in Colombia in 1964, the population was mainly rural, 40 per cent were landless peasants and barely half the country’s people were literate.
It seemed an ideal environment for a Marxist guerrilla movement promising land reform, and FARC fitted the bill perfectly.
FARC grabbed a lot of territory, but Colombian governments, though usually corrupt and incompetent, were never quite wicked and stupid enough to lose the war, and over the decades Colombia changed.
The economy grew despite the fighting, there was a mass migration of peasants to the cities (partly driven by the fighting), and education worked its usual magic (98 per cent of younger Colombians are now literate).
Land reform is still a big issue for the quarter of the population that remains on the land, and the current peace deal promises to deliver it, but even 20 years ago it was obvious that FARC could never win.
The Colombia it had set out to change had changed without it, even despite it.
On the other hand, government troops could never root FARC out from its jungle strongholds entirely, so it was time to make peace.
And the peace talks duly began in 1998 — and continued on and off until the final push for a settlement began four years ago under President Juan Manuel Santos.
Why did it take so long? Because the “losers” had not actually lost, though they could never win.
FARC’s leaders and its 7,000 fighters had to be amnestied, given guarantees for their safety after they disarmed, and even allowed to become a legitimate political party.
25 August
colombia-farc-newColombia: Problems Will Follow the Peace Talks
(Stratfor) The lack of employment opportunities, combined with the weapons remaining in the region after the long-standing insurgencies end, is a recipe for violence. It is no accident that the levels of crime in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are so high. Indeed, in Colombia itself, a significant number of fighters belonging to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia simply became armed criminals after the group formally demobilized in 2006. They formed the backbone of the country’s criminal bands, or “bandas criminales” in Spanish, known widely in Colombia as Bacrim.
Forecast
Rebel leaders will be easily reintegrated into the system, but the rank and file will not, leaving them susceptible to courtship by organized crime.
Analysis
Colombia may finally see an end to communist insurgencies that have raged for more than 50 years. On Aug. 16, Colombian newspaper El Tiempo quoted Ricardo “Rodrigo Granda” Tellez, one of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) negotiators in Havana, as calling for the release of some 12,000 members of his organization from prison and their reintegration into the political system as part of ongoing peace negotiations. Meanwhile, it appears that the second-largest communist insurgency in Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN), will begin peace talks with the Colombian government in September in Ecuador. However, a formal end to the insurgencies will not guarantee peace and security in a nation that has long been plagued by crime and violence.

2015

The “Handshake Summit” of the Americas
By Jean Daudelin
(Open Canada) This week’s summit in Panama only reinforces the breakdown of the Americas’ democratic rights regime
Since 1994, the “Summit Process” has progressively lost its relevance. Originally, it embodied regional efforts around two big endeavours: the economic integration of the Western Hemisphere, and the consolidation of the democracies that were emerging from decades of military rule. By the turn of the century, a lack of will in Washington along with Argentina and Brazil’s opposition to free trade had combined to kill the Free Trade Area of the Americas. All economic issues were pushed off the Summit Process agenda. This week’s meeting in Panama now buries the political and human rights component of the project. By next week, nothing of substance should be left.

2014

10 October
The stakes in Brazil’s final election vote
(Open Canada) Brazil’s election campaign, marked by a dramatic and unexpected turn, ended with one more surprise this past Sunday, as presidential candidate Aécio Neves finished with a solid 33.5 percent of the vote, 12 points ahead of Marina Silva — expected for much of the campaign to come in second — and only eight behind incumbent Dilma Rousseff. These results pave the way for what will likely be the most savagely disputed and hardest to predict election round since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985. The run-off vote takes place Oct. 26.
Vote distribution paints a divided country, with the poor North and Northeast coming out massively in support of Rousseff’s Worker’s Party (PT), while the West and Southeast, especially São Paulo, took a strong stand in favour of the opposition.
Two important anomalies are worth noting, especially as they happened in the richest and largest electoral colleges of the country. Rousseff prevailed in Minas Gerais (43.5 to 39.8 percent for Neves) and Fernando Pimentel, the PT candidate for governor, was elected in the first round, with 53 percent of the vote. Minas Gerais is an agricultural and industrial powerhouse but also the state where Neves was elected twice as governor, the state he represents in the Senate, and one where his overwhelming popularity was never in doubt before the campaign. How Brazil’s election became too close to call 10/03
28 March
Latin America likely to embark on needed reforms: IADB
(Reuters) – The volatility in global markets buffeting emerging economies could push Latin American nations to move ahead with deep reforms needed to restore their dynamism, the head of Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno, said on Friday.
Moreno said most countries understand that reforms to improve productivity are crucial for the region to return to the annual growth rates of 5 percent over the last decade.
“Historically Latin America has been better at dealing with crises than managing the good times,” Moreno told Reuters on the sidelines of the IADB’s annual meeting in Costa do Saiupe.
Latin America’s economy is expected to grow only 3 percent this year after expanding a staggering 6 percent four years ago, according to data from the International Monetary Fund.
The withdrawal of monetary stimulus in the United States and a slowdown of the Chinese economy has sparked an exodus of foreign investors from the region.
Tuluy retires; urges LatAm to continue good fight
The World Bank’s VP for Latin America said LatAm leaders must battle on with improvements for the region
Mercosur relevance at risk as Pacific Alliance flourishes
(Emerging Markets) The Pacific Alliance, which brings together Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, is overtaking other more longstanding alliances such as Mercosur and looks set to expand beyond its core territory.
The alliance, which was officially launched as a trading group in June 2012 at a presidential summit in Chile, has been called the “most dynamic integration process in Latin America”.
Eduardo Ferreyros, a former trade minister in Peru and now head of an exporters’ group, said it had done more in two years than Mercosur (the Southern Cone Common Market), had done in two decades.
Jorge Gerdau, chairman of the Brazilian steel Gerdau group, said Mercosur was at risk of losing its relevance, as Latin American countries on the Pacific coast moved towards integrating their economies in the global value chain.
24 March
Brett House:Argentina’s debt saga shows why we need a better way to deal with bankrupt countries
(Quartz) Argentina’s $130 billion default was massive. It covered nearly 15% of all emerging-market debt then outstanding. Foreign-law bonds made up about $80 billion of the debt that went into default; those bonds issued under New York law are the focus of the current US proceedings.
At present, countries, unlike people and corporations, lack a bankruptcy system that would let them start with a clean slate if they can’t pay their obligations. A decade ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) tried to build a Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism (SDRM) into its operations—prompted in part by wrangling over Argentina’s default. In 2003, the SDRM was rejected as various countries were unwilling to cede the sovereignty necessary to make the SDRM work.
Left to its own devices, Argentina pursued an aggressive strategy to force its bondholders to concede to massive write-offs. In successive 2005 and 2010 debt swaps, Argentina offered foreign bondholders a two-thirds “haircut” (loss) on their impaired debt. Most of them eventually accepted, knowing that the likely alternative was to get nothing. A minority, however, representing about 7% of the defaulted debt—including thousands of Italian retail investors and a smattering of hedge funds—refused to participate in the swaps and have instead pursued full payment of their bonds.
12 March
Venezuela unrest death toll rises, students fight troops again
(Reuters) – Protesters battled soldiers in the streets of Caracas again on Wednesday as two more fatal shootings raised to 24 the death toll from a month of demonstrations against Venezuela’s socialist government.
Thousands of supporters and foes of President Nicolas Maduro took to the capital’s streets for rival rallies marking a month since the first bloodshed in the recent unrest around the South American OPEC nation.
10 March
Venezuela’s anti-government protesters settle in for the long haul
In San Cristóbal – where an estimated 40% of the town’s food is smuggled to Colombia for resale – activists are rebuilding barricades dismantled by the national guard
The protests began more than a month ago in this western city amid growing distrust of Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chávez who died a year ago this month after ruling for 14 years, setting Venezuela on a path to what he called “21st-century socialism”. The protests spread to Caracas and other cities, prompting a violent response from the government. At least 21 people have died and hundreds have been injured in the nationwide clashes.
26 February
‘A Perfect Storm’: The Failure of Venezuela’s New President
(Spiegel) He was hand-picked by Hugo Chávez, but Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has lost control of the country’s economy. Vast protests have been the result, but the government in Caracas has shown no signs of bending.
The movement began two weeks ago in San Cristóbal, in the state of Táchira near the border with Colombia. In just a few days, it spread across the entire country.
The students are protesting against inflation, shortages and corruption. Mostly, though, they are taking to the streets in opposition to the violence meted out by the country’s paramilitary shock troops.
24 February
Peru’s PM resigns after spat with first lady, finance minister
Villanueva is the fourth cabinet chief to resign from the government of [President Ollanta] Humala, who started the second half of his five-year term in January with a 26 percent approval rating.
Humala’s popularity rose to 33 percent in February after an international court’s ruling on a maritime border dispute with Chile that gave Peru control of new waters.(24 February)
20 February
Freer trade for Latin America?
(The Economist) Latin American countries differ widely in their enthusiasm for free markets. A new agreement could be a step forward for liberalisation. The Pacific Alliance, signed on February 10th, aims to eliminate most trade and non-trade barriers between Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru—and also improve the mobility of capital and people. It could reduce members’ export dependence on single goods (in the cases of Peru, Chile and Colombia) or single markets (as in the case of Mexico), and could create economies of scale that would make it easier to compete in Asia. Freer trade is broadly welcome in principle, but as ever we caution that the global proliferation of bilateral and regional trade pacts in recent years reflects the lack of progress on multilateral trade liberalisation. In addition, the creation of yet further pacts, where so many already exist, can actually make trading more complicated for some businesses.
The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch
(Caracas Chronicles) Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and  storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting. People continue to be arrested merely for protesting, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street. And that’s just what came out in real time, over Twitter and YouTube, before any real investigation is carried out. Online media is next, a city of 645,000 inhabitants has been taken off the internet amid mounting repression, and this blog itself has been the object of a Facebook “block” campaign.
What we saw were not “street clashes”, what we saw is a state-hatched offensive to suppress and terrorize its opponents.
Venezuela protests rumble as demonstrators, troops face off
(Reuters) – Venezuelan security forces and demonstrators faced off in streets blocked by burning barricades in several provincial cities on Thursday as protests escalated against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.
At least five people have died since the violence broke out last week, the most serious unrest since Maduro was narrowly elected in April 2013. There have been scores of injuries and arrests.
The protesters, mostly students, want Maduro to resign, and blame his government for violent crime, high inflation, product shortages and alleged repression of opponents.

2013

20 August
Miranda’s rights: how Europe can learn from Latin America’s independence
Brazil’s action over the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner shows South American nations no longer toe Washington’s line
(The Guardian) Brazil is the main target of Washington’s most recent charm offensive, with President Rouseff scheduled for an official state visit in October – the first to the US by a Brazilian president in nearly two decades. In contrast, the US does not even have ambassadorial relations with Bolivia or Venezuela. Yet, the US attempt to improve relations with Brazil is not going any better than its “diplomatic efforts” with the other left governments of the region.
This is not because these governments wouldn’t want better relations. They all, including Venezuela, have significant trade and commercial relations with the US and would like to expand these. The problem is that Washington has still not accepted Latin America’s second independence, and expects its southern neighbors to behave in the same embarrassingly obedient way as European countries.
US officials also still fail to understand that they are dealing with a team: they can’t be hostile or aggressive towards one Latin American nation and expect the others to give them a big hug. In other words, do not expect better relations between Washington and its southern neighbors any time soon.
On the positive side, Latin America has done quite well over the past decade, since its people became free enough to elect left governments. These have subsequently led the fight for independence and transformed regional relations. Regional poverty dropped from 41.5% to 29.6% from 2003 to 2009, after showing no significant improvement for more than 20 years. Income per person has grown by more than 2% annually over the past decade, as opposed to just 0.3% over the prior 20 years – when Washington’s influence over economic policy in Latin America was enormous. (20 August)
16 March
Roberto Guareschi: Pope Francis the Politician
(Project Syndicate) The mere fact that Francis is Latin American is bad news for the region’s populist governments – not only Argentina, but also Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba. John Paul II was one of the decisive forces in eroding the hold of communism on Europe. If Bergoglio’s Vatican is to succeed in rolling back the populist tide that gained strength in Latin America during late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s years, he will need to establish as strong a relationship with Obama as the one that John Paul II forged with Ronald Reagan.
Latin America mapDon’t count on tail winds anymore: World Bank
Latin America must embark on reforms to improve its productivity as tail winds are likely to die down (16/03)
15 March
Mercosur braced for tough battle against inflation
Inflationary pressures are rising across the board in Mercosur, putting Brazil on alert to hike interest rates
(Emerging Markets) Policymakers across the Mercosur region are poised to ratchet up the fight against inflation with an arsenal of weapons including interest rate hikes as well as more unorthodox measures such as price controls.
Brazil is considering tightening its monetary policy for the first time in two years, while Argentina and especially Venezuela, where the inflation rates exceed 20% according to independent estimates, have pursued less traditional policies, including price controls. Last month, Argentina was requested by the International Monetary Fund to report accurate data, including for inflation, or face sanctions that could amount to exclusion from the Fund.
9 March
Hugo Chavez legacy will reverberate beyond Venezuela: [Tony] Burman
The distinction of Latin America in today’s global political context is that it is far more independent of the United States than other regions.
Since September 2001, the United States has virtually ignored the region, and the Latin American response has been eye-opening. The populist approach by Chavez, which challenged conventional political and economic thinking, has been contagious.
This is the one region that did not respond to the 2008 global recession with across-the-board austerity. Instead, several governments expanded public services, reduced poverty and inequality, and nationalized key industries. The result has been strong economies and a string of popular governments that have actually been reelected.

This article surveys the response of Latin American leaders to the news of Chavez’s death, contrasting that with the nearly identical statements of the Canadian and U.S. governments.
(rabble.ca) Tributes, messages of solidarity and heartfelt condolences came in from Central and South America, reaffirming support for the ideals of regional unity and independence promoted by Hugo Chávez during his 14 years as president of Venezuela. Very few media outlets noted the outpouring of sympathy from Latin American leaders.
The presidents of more conservative regional governments such as Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Chile and Peru also expressed their condolences and praised the political achievements and important role played by Chávez in the international arena, and in favor of regional integration.
Even former U.S. president Jimmy Carter highlighted the “gains made for the poor and vulnerable” under Chávez. Carter emphasized Chávez’s work towards “autonomy and independence for Latin America,” and pointed out that despite some differences between them, he, “never doubted Hugo Chávez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his countrymen,” later citing achievements of his government that are generally under-reported in mainstream U.S. media:

During his 14-year tenure, Chávez joined other leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean to create new forms of integration. Venezuelan poverty rates were cut in half, and millions received identification documents for the first time, allowing them to participate more effectively in their country’s economic and political life.

12 February
Argentina’s Iranian Tango
(Project Syndicate) … the surprising agreement between Argentina and Iran to “advance” the investigation of the attack against the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) will have no judicial value, though the arrangement’s symbolic importance cannot be ignored. …
A couple of years ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba. These four countries’ governments, which claim to be progressive, received – without a hint of concern – a leader who denies the Holocaust; beat, jailed, repressed, and killed protesters who objected to the fraudulent election that brought him a second term in office; and flaunts his contempt for individual liberties, with gay Iranians particularly vulnerable.
Why do some leftists find Iran’s reactionary, homophobic president so seductive? Are they enthusiastic simply because he opposes the US? Does being anti-American excuse all sins and justify all friendships? Maybe the answer is simpler: often, it is not shared ideas and values that bring individuals together, but rather power and money. …
… the clearest feature of this tangled affair: the Argentine government wants to increase bilateral trade, while Ahmadinejad wants to be cleared of suspicion in a case that is damaging Iran’s standing across Latin America.

One Comment on "Latin America 2013 – 17"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson September 23, 2016 at 2:31 pm · Reply

    From a Canadian family recently posted to Tegucigalpa
    “Indeed, we have to take extra precautions each outing we do. Certain parts of the city are off limits, official trips to neighbouring cities are made in the bullet proof car. However, our kids school transport is a regular van. In addition, we all have a contract with a security company. They installed a panic button in our house & our cell phones.”

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