Latin America 2013 – 19

Written by  //  November 27, 2019  //  Americas, Geopolitics  //  1 Comment

More on Latin America

Colombia Is on Fire as Latin America’s Deadly Mass Protests Spread
(Daily Beast) More than 200,000 marchers turned out across Colombia last Thursday to protest against the administration of the right-wing president, Ivan Duque.
Chile, Ecuador, and Bolivia have all been roiled by protest movements of late. And in each of those cases, the protesters were able to push their respective governments to enact popular change. Chile and Ecuador were forced to freeze certain austerity measures, while controversial Bolivian president Evo Morales was driven out of office.
Other recent popular uprisings in Nicaragua and Venezuela were less effective, but still generated massive turnouts and captured headlines around the world.

26 November
Bloomberg Politics: One by one, countries across Latin America are succumbing to unrest. It doesn’t matter if governments are from the left or right. People are tired of austerity, with some countries suffering years of stagnant economic growth and fed up with graft. The latest to face mass protests is Colombia. Perhaps having seen what has happened in places like Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia, unions and student groups are pressing President Ivan Duque to tackle a long list of problems. The movements might be taking energy from each other, though some could also be simply coincidence. A big question is where they might erupt next.
So far Mexico, Argentina and Brazil have escaped serious contagion. But even in the bigger economies, there’s potential risk. Argentina’s incoming president has promised to spend big to address inequality, but with empty coffers it’s unclear how he can. That could spur a backlash from voters. In Mexico, the president is struggling to limit drug cartel-related violence. Brazil has a history of mass protests coming on fast (over things like hikes in transit costs).
In all three, the leaders will do well to get ahead of any discontent before sparks ignite.

25 November
Chilean Photojournalist Albertina Martínez Burgos Killed in Santiago
In Chile, photojournalist Albertina Martínez Burgos was found stabbed and beaten to death Thursday at her home in the capital Santiago. The 38-year-old journalist was documenting repression against anti-government protesters at the time of her death, particularly violence against women. It’s reported that her recent photographs of the ongoing massive demonstrations against Chilean President Sebastián Piñera have also been stolen.

22 November
Colombia Joins Latin America’s Wave of Protests
After hundreds of thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets, President Iván Duque’s administration faces calls to address a range of demands.
(Foreign Policy) Since the administration of President Iván Duque began a little more than a year ago, the South American country has faced ongoing political turmoil and deepened polarization. Duque has faced a rising tide of violence in different regions of the country, several scandals, high unemployment, and ongoing criticism of the slow and partial implementation of the 2016 peace accords with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. The administration has found itself with plummeting approval ratings and anger from many different facets of society, which have lodged individual protests against the government.
Late on Thursday, there were already signs that the protest’s calls would go unanswered for the time being. In a speech after the first day of protests, the president voiced concerns about vandalism and called for a deepening “social dialogue” but offered no solid plans to do so.
Colombia’s uproar takes place as other movements have erupted in countries including Chile and Ecuador, where demonstrations began as pushback to one specific issue and have morphed into larger calls against governments and political systems. In these countries, an initial nonresponse from the government has only deepened outrage.

18 November
Chile Is Ready for a New Constitution
By opening the door to a new founding charter, Chileans are ready to build their own future — by dismantling the constitutional edifice that Augusto Pinochet left behind.
(NYT editorial) Chileans awoke on Friday to a historic agreement, signed by lawmakers and leaders of nearly every political faction, setting down the rules for a path to a new constitution. It will be the first time in the nation’s history that all citizens will be given a voice and a vote in the drafting of their own sovereign future.
The text of the two-page compact, reached in the halls of the National Congress in Santiago and titled “Agreement for Social Peace and a New Constitution,” is a simple yet striking step toward forging a new founding charter. That charter, if ratified by the people, will replace the Constitution of 1980 imposed by the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

12 November
What Do Lula’s Release and Morales’s Ouster Signal for Latin America?
(The New Yorker) Lula’s release also allows him to retake his role at the forefront of the leftist leaders of the region and may help launch a leftist resurgence at a time of deepening political polarization across Latin America. But, for now, with Donald Trump in office in the United States, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and right-of-center governments in Colombia, Ecuador, and various Central American nations allied to both of them, a Pink Tide 2.0 seems less likely than an increasingly Cold War-like atmosphere in a region that is already sharply divided over how to handle the crisis in Venezuela and the consequences of its colossal economic meltdown. Heads of governments on the right welcomed Morales’s resignation and called for a prompt democratic transition in Bolivia. The leaders on the left, including Lula, Argentina’s Fernández, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, and Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel, all denounced Bolivia’s military “coup.”
While the consequences of neither Lula’s release nor Morales’s ouster can yet be fully understood, it’s clear that, while the far right appears to be gaining strength again in Latin America, as it is in Europe, the left can’t be completely discounted. And neither can the military, which largely retreated to the barracks a generation ago, in the post-Cold War restoration of democracy across the continent, but in some countries has lately begun, if not to seize power outright, then to assume the role of institutional arbiter.

Chile’s finance minister calls for return to ‘normality’ as peso slides
(Reuters) – Chile’s finance minister warned on Tuesday of the “grave consequences” for the nation’s economy of three weeks of often violent unrest, after the peso slid 4% to hit a historic low against the dollar.

10 November
Bolivia President Evo Morales announces resignation amid fierce election backlash
(CBC) Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Sunday he would resign after the military called on him to step down and allies tumbled away amid a fierce backlash over a disputed election that has roiled the South American nation.
Morales, the country’s leader for nearly 14 years, said in televised comments that he would submit his resignation letter to help restore stability, though he aimed barbs at what he called a “civic coup.”
The head of Bolivia’s armed forces earlier on Sunday said the military had asked Morales to step down after weeks of protests over the Oct. 20 presidential election, which was won by Morales.
Bolivia’s President, Facing Outrage Over Disputed Election, Calls for New Vote

5 November
Chile’s Pinera resists call to resign over protests
Billionaire conservative president defends state of emergency but promised to look into allegations of police abuse.

4 November
Bolivian opposition leader calls for ‘radical’ strike action, blockades
(Reuters) – A civic leader urged Bolivians to “paralyze” government institutions and block the borders as protests sparked by the contentious election victory last month of President Evo Morales entered their third week on Monday.

30-31 October
Chile — from neoliberal to social policy experiment?
In its second week of unrest, Chile, long seen as Latin America’s ‘economic miracle,’ is quickly becoming ground zero for social policy reform. Is change possible?
(Open Canada) Despite being touted as a Latin American economic success story — Chile became the first South American member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2010 — the country has the highest levels of inequality in the OECD, slightly worse than Mexico. There was a 120 percent growth in average wages between 1990 and 2015, yet wage inequality remains high, and the monthly minimum wage in the country is currently US$413. Pensions managed by private firms are often even less per month. Access to housing and education is also highly unequal.
In other words, those with money — one percent of the country earns 33 percent of its wealth, according to the UN — live in a completely different Chile.
“Chilean society is tired of the indolence of the ruling political class, of an economic model that exploits workers, of poor wages, of undignified pensions,” said Ana María Gutiérrez, a political science professor at Chile’s Universidad Central in Santiago. “This social movement — which is made up of all citizens — is aware that this is the window of opportunity in which political and social changes can be realized.”
Chile cancels APEC trade meet, global climate summit as protests rage
(Reuters) – Chile has withdrawn as host of an APEC trade summit in November where the United States and China had been expected to take major steps toward ending a 15-month-old trade war that has slowed world economic growth.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said he had taken the “painful” decision to cancel the summit in Santiago, as well as a high-profile international gathering on climate change in December, to focus on restoring law and order and pushing through a new social plan.
Riots, arson and protests over inequality this month have left at least 18 people dead, 7,000 arrested and Chilean businesses hit with losses of around $1.4 billion. The metro public transport system in the capital suffered nearly $400 million in damages.
Chile will never make progress under Pinochet’s constitution
(WaPo opinion) Chile is often considered an exceptional case in Latin America: a country with a stable electoral democracy, long-standing political parties and strong economic growth. However, Chile is also characterized by high levels of inequality, increasingly unaffordable education and housing, pensions that do not guarantee a dignified old age, and accelerated growth to the cost of living coupled with stagnating salaries.
But the worst and deepest flaw in the Chilean system is its institutional architecture. Chile is governed by a constitution created during the authoritarian government of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the country from 1973 until 1990.

27 October
In Argentina Election, Leftists Savor Victory Over Incumbent
President Mauricio Macri was defeated by a ticket that included former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in the No. 2 spot.
Argentines on Sunday entrusted leftists to steer the nation as it reels from a deep recession, electing as president Alberto Fernández, a longtime political operative who toiled behind the scenes most of his career.
His victory was masterminded by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a deeply polarizing leader who opted to run for vice president and tapped Mr. Fernández, a veteran political operator who has never run for major public office, to lead the ticket.
Mrs. Kirchner, a populist center-left leader who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015, left office with a badly damaged political brand. and is facing trial in one of 11 graft cases filed against her. As president she alienated leaders of several factions within the Peronist political movement and sparred with powerful business sectors and news organizations.

25 October
Biggest demonstrations yet rock protest-stricken Chile
(Reuters) – As many as a million Chileans protested on Friday in the capital Santiago in the biggest demonstrations yet since violence broke out a week ago over entrenched inequality in the South American nation.
Demonstrators waving national flags, blowing whistles and horns, wafting incense and bearing placards urging political and social change streamed through the streets, walking for miles from around Santiago to converge on Plaza Italia.
The scenes were replicated in cities around the country. Traffic already hobbled by truck and taxi drivers adding their own protest over road tolls ground to a standstill in Santiago as roads were closed and public transport shut down early ahead of marches that built throughout the afternoon.
Protests that started over a hike in public transport fares boiled into riots, arson and looting that have killed at least 17 people, injured hundreds, brought more than 7,000 arrests and caused more than $1.4 billion of losses to Chilean businesses.
Chile’s military has taken over security in Santiago, a city of 6 million people now under a state of emergency with night-time curfews.

23 -24 October
Argentina’s economy is collapsing. Here come the Peronistas, again.
(WaPo) The peso is falling — and so, it seems, is the sky. Inflation and poverty rates are soaring. National reserves are shrinking fast. In short, Argentina — in a terrible deja vu of crises past — is hurtling once again toward the economic abyss.
And the Peronistas — the heirs to the complex populist political machine launched in the 1940s by Juan and Eva Perón — are poised for a massive comeback.
Massive Protests are Leading to a Political Crisis in Chile (podcast)
(UN Dispatch) We kick off this conversation discussing the series of events that lead to the spontaneous eruption of nationwide protests. We then have a longer conversation about what is driving increasing inequality in Chile — indeed it has one of the highest degrees of wealth inequality among the world’s major democracies. As Estafia Labrin Cortes explains, this is partly due to legacies from the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.
If you have 25 minutes and want to learn what caused these protests, how they spread so quickly and learn some of the broader international implications of this crisis in Chile, have a listen
Chile protests: UN to investigate claims of human rights abuses after 18 deaths
The UN high commission on human rights is sending a team to Chile to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against demonstrators, amid a swell of furious street protests over inequality, falling wages and the rising cost of education and healthcare.
“Having monitored the crisis from the beginning I have decided to send a verification mission to examine reports of human rights violations in Chile,” the high commissioner and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced on Twitter.
Since the unrest erupted on 19 October, the military and Carabineros police forces have made 2,410 arrests throughout the country – 200 of which involved minors – and 535 people have been injured, according to Chile’s human rights commission, INDH.
Chile braces for more protests, strikes as Pinera’s pleas fall on deaf ears
(Reuters) – Chile braced for more protests and a general strike by state workers on Wednesday, despite President Sebastian Pinera’s pleas for forgiveness and announcement of ambitious reforms to quell unrest that has rocked the country and led to at least 15 deaths.
Workers at Chile’s state-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said late on Tuesday they would join the general strike called by state unions, raising the specter of a slow-down in copper output from the world’s top producer.
The reforms include a guaranteed minimum wage, a hike in the state pension and the stabilization of electricity costs.
The president said the package represented “concrete and urgent steps” to resolve inequality that has sent tens of thousands into the streets to demand an economic overhaul and, in some cases, his removal.
Bolivia’s Evo Morales accuses opposition of attempting coup
President said in a televised speech the right ‘prepared the coup’ with foreign powers amid growing tensions over the election
(The Guardian) Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, has accused opposition leaders and foreign powers of attempting a “coup” against him amid growing tensions over the result of Sunday’s desperately tight election.
Morales went into elections needing 40% of votes and a 10-point margin of victory to avoid a second-round runner against the main opposition candidate, Carlos Mesa. By Wednesday afternoon 97% of the official results had been processed, giving him 46.49% and a 9.5-point lead.
With most outstanding votes from remote rural areas expected to go in his favour, Morales repeated his declaration of a first-round victory, which he had made prematurely on Sunday night.
International observers have expressed concern over an unexplained daylong gap in the reporting of results which was followed by a surge in Morales votes when the count resumed on Monday.

22 October
Chile Learns the Price of Economic Inequality
Protesters are demanding a larger share of the nation’s prosperity — a reality check for its celebrated economic model.
(NYT editorial) Chile is often praised as a capitalist oasis, a prospering and stable nation on a continent where both prosperity and stability have been in short supply. But that prosperity has accumulated mostly in the hands of a lucky few. As a result, Chile has one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the developed world.
Now that inequality is threatening the country’s stability. Santiago, the capital and largest city, has been convulsed by protests that were sparked by an increase in subway fares but that have become an expression of broader grievances: against the poor quality of public health care and education; against low wages and the rising cost of living; against the meager pensions that Chileans receive in old age.
Sebastián Piñera, the billionaire elected president in 2017, initially responded with belligerence, declaring the Chilean government “at war” with the protesters, some of whom have burned buildings and subway stations and engaged in looting — behavior that is undoubtedly criminal and reprehensible.
But most of the protesters are engaged in the peaceful exercise of their democratic rights. And on Tuesday, a chastened Mr. Piñera acknowledge his administration and its predecessors had failed to address their legitimate grievances.
Chileans live in a society of extraordinary economic disparities. The distribution of income before taxes is highly unequal throughout the developed world; by that measure, Chile sits roughly in the middle of the 36 developed democracies that constitute the membership of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. What makes Chile an outlier among those 36 nations is that the government does less than nearly any other developed nation to reduce economic inequality through taxes and transfers. As a result, Chile has the highest level of post-tax income inequality among O.E.C.D. members.

21 August
Latin America’s missing middles
By Jaana Remes and Homi Kharas
Decades of weak growth in Latin America have left large parts of the population economically vulnerable. But by taking advantage of digital disruption, the region has a golden opportunity to nurture faster growth that benefits everyone.
(Brookings) Once the world’s most prosperous emerging-market region, Latin America is in danger of being overtaken by its peers, owing to its sluggish and unevenly distributed growth. To break that pattern and make growth more dynamic and inclusive, Latin American economies must fill two “missing middles”: a lack of medium-size firms that can foster competition, and too few middle-class consumers whose spending could create much-needed demand. Harnessing the power of new digital technologies will be crucial to meeting both imperatives.
Despite reform initiatives and poverty reduction, the region’s economies are struggling. GDP growth in the region averaged just 2.8 percent per year between 2000 and 2016, well below the 4.8 percent average rate in 56 other emerging economies. Moreover, labor-force expansion accounted for 72 percent of Latin America’s growth over that period. As fertility rates fall, the region will need to increase productivity to compensate.
Although Latin America is home to some highly productive global companies, it lacks the backbone of midsize firms that drive innovation and competition—and create productive, well-paying jobs—in more vibrant economies.

1 August
(Bloomberg Politics) Buenos Aires was a boom town in the 1880s, as Argentina’s abundant natural resources helped fund opulent mansions, Parisian boulevards and Utopian plazas.
Boom turned to monumental bust in an 1890 crisis studied by economic historians as the biggest sovereign-debt meltdown of the century.
That cycle of misery lies at the root of the country’s economic and political upheaval to the present day, and as Patrick Gillespie reports, is set to dominate this year’s presidential elections. Primaries are set for Aug. 11.
President Mauricio Macri is investors’ clear favorite, despite inflation running at about 40% and the economy still in recession after a record $56 billion International Monetary Fund bailout.
They fear his main opponent, Alberto Fernandez, isn’t the moderate he claims to be, a concern magnified by his choice of running mate: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the former president. She is blamed by her opponents for alienating Argentina internationally by driving the economy into the ground, , tampering with official statistics and refusing to pay debt holders — leaving Macri to pick up the pieces.
But that’s not necessarily how voters see it: Polls show the race is wide open.
Even for Argentines used to roller-coaster politics, this election looks decidedly bumpy.

28 June
OAS meeting ends in disagreement over Venezuela opposition delegation
(Reuters) – Members of the Organization of American States (OAS) ended two days of meetings on Friday without a clear plan for increasing pressure on embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, despite a majority vote to recognize a representative from the country’s opposition.
the member states were divided by the presence of a representative sent by Veneuzela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido, who argued that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate. In January, Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency.
Uruguay withdrew from the assembly on Thursday in protest. The OAS permanent council approved the delegation in April but member states did not vote on it until Friday when 20 countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, the United States and Peru backed recognition until Venezuela holds its next elections.
Eight countries voted against recognizing the delegation, while six abstained. Bolivia, Mexico and Nicaragua have expressed dismay at the opposition’s presence.
The number of Venezuelan migrants abroad could double by the end of next year to 8 million, the OAS said in a report on Friday.
The assembly also approved a resolution supporting a peaceful solution to Nicaragua’s political crisis, which has rolled on for more than a year amid protests against President Daniel Ortega.

10 February
How US policy in Honduras set the stage for today’s mass migration
By Joseph Nevins, member of the editorial committee of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA).
(The Conversation) The mainstream narrative often reduces the causes of migration to factors unfolding in migrants’ home countries. In reality, migration is often a manifestation of a profoundly unequal and exploitative relationship between migrant-sending countries and countries of destination. Understanding this is vital to making immigration policy more effective and ethical.
Through my research on immigration and border policing, I have learned a lot about these dynamics. One example involves relations between Honduras and the United States.
Since the [2009] coup, writes historian Dana Frank, “a series of corrupt administrations has unleashed open criminal control of Honduras, from top to bottom of the government.”
Organized crime, drug traffickers and the country’s police heavily overlap. Impunity reigns in a country with frequent politically-motivated killings. It is the world’s most dangerous country for environmental activists, according to Global Witness, an international nongovernmental organization. (31 October 2016)

Why so many Central Americans risk detention, child separation and even death for a chance to enter the U.S.
There can be no solution to the migration dilemma if the Central American states remain captured by organized crime. That is the fundamental precondition for being able to do anything else. For being able to have clean elections. For being able to pass tax reform and being able to collect taxes and invest in social development. First you have to get those networks of organized crime out of the state.
In an interview with Elizabeth Oglesby, of the Centre for Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona, host Michael Enright explores what caused the conditions in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala that continue to drive so many Central Americans to flee their homes, risking detention, separation from their children and even death for a chance to enter the U.S.


3 September
(The Economist) A four-month uprising by opponents of Nicaragua’s authoritarian president, Daniel Ortega, and the government’s suppression of it have wrecked the country’s economy. GDP is expected to shrink by nearly 6% this year. Some $1bn in capital, the equivalent of 8% of GDP, has left the country, weakening the banks. The situation is projected to get worse, but Mr Ortega will probably remain in power— unloved yet unbudgeable

2 August
A Dictatorship Is Rising in My Country, Again
Nearly four decades after the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza dynasty, Nicaragua is once again in the grip of tyranny.
By Cynara M. Medina
(NYT) It’s been 39 years since the triumph of the revolution. Daniel Ortega, the erstwhile revolutionary symbol, has instituted a new dictatorship in Nicaragua. Mr. Ortega controls all four branches of government. He is the de facto head of the police. He has an elaborate propaganda apparatus at his fingertips, and that apparatus has been very successful in painting the image of Nicaragua as “the safest country in Central America.” That depends, however, on how one defines “safe.”

27 June
Pence and DHS chief to meet with Central American leaders in Guatemala amid border crisis
Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will meet with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras on Thursday to discuss immigration.

28 May
A pivotal election for president in Colombia came and went without a conclusive result, with the South American country headed for a runoff vote. Right-wing Ivan Duque will face off against leftist Gustavo Petro on June 17 to succeed President Juan Manuel Santos. This is the first presidential election since Mr. Santos helped broker the historic peace accord with the FARC rebels. The future of the deal is at stake at the ballot box.

26 May
Survivors of Massacre Ask: ‘Why Did They Have to Kill Those Children?
(NYT) For decades, the witnesses grieved in silence over the massacre in the Salvadoran village of El Mozote and nearby hamlets. But after a recent court decision, they have finally begun to speak out publicly, describing in grim detail the four days in December 1981 when Salvadoran military units, trained and equipped by the United States, killed almost 1,000 people in the largest single massacre in recent Latin American history. …
Throughout that day, the soldiers methodically executed everyone in the village. They killed the children last, firing a barrage of bullets into the convent and then setting it aflame. An exhumation more than a decade later found the remains of at least 143 victims in that building. The average age was 6.
The same day, the soldiers continued on to La Joya, a hamlet tucked along a valley, where they hauled people out of their homes, shot them and set fire to their houses.
After the government and the F.M.L.N. signed peace accords in 1992, a United Nations-backed truth commission described 32 cases of human rights abuses during the civil war, including El Mozote, and named those whom investigators believed were responsible.
Five days after the United Nations issued its report in 1993, the national assembly in El Salvador granted amnesty for crimes committed during the war. Impunity for the atrocities carried out — as many as 85,000 civilians were killed or disappeared in the conflict — was now enshrined in law, and it appeared military leaders would remain untouchable.

10 May
Costa Rica to ban fossil fuels and become world’s first decarbonised society
New president embraces ‘titanic and beautiful task’ of complete renewable energy transition
(The Independent) Carlos Alvarado, a 38-year-old former journalist, made the announcement to a crowd of thousands during his inauguration on Wednesday.
Last month, Mr Alvarado said the Central American country would begin to implement a plan to end fossil fuel use in transport by 2021 – the 200th year of Costa Rican independence.
“When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate … that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation,” he promised during a victory speech.
Costa Rica already generates more than 99 per cent of its electricity using renewable energy sources, but achieving zero carbon transport quickly – even in a country well-known for its environmental commitment – will be a significant challenge, experts say.

2 May

Simon Baptist, Chief economist at The Economist: I’ve been in New York and Washington D.C. this week, exchanging views with our financial sector, government, education and international organisation clients in the region. Latin America has been featuring heavily in discussions, with big elections coming up in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, ongoing reforms in Argentina, and a seemingly inevitable economic collapse in Venezuela. This is a change from the discussions I have in Asia, where Latin America is—probably wrongly—rarely on the agenda, other than as a source of raw materials.
Mexico is squarely at the centre of two big global issues right now: the rise of populist and nationalist leaders, and the rewriting of global trade rules. Last week Mexico became the first country to ratify the CPTPP, a trade deal spanning 11 countries across Asia and the Americas (but excluding the US). At the same time, and despite some tough rhetoric from Donald Trump, it seems likely that the North American Free Trade Agreement will be successfully updated. However, with an anti-US populist candidate likely to win the July 1st presidential election, the clock is ticking to wrap up negotiations before then. The great extent to which business in the US is already invested into NAFTA supply chains makes me think that the pact will be updated rather than abandoned. But there is a moderate risk that the US will withdraw, which would be hugely destabilising for Mexico.

13 April
Summit Of The Americas Begins, Minus 1 American: Trump
(NPR) President Trump was scheduled to travel to Lima, Peru, this weekend for the Summit of the Americas, which brings together leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere. But the White House announced Tuesday that Trump would remain in the U.S. to oversee the American response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Here’s what he’ll miss:
1. America First
Aides say the president planned to deliver a sales pitch for the United States as a preferred economic partner, encouraging other countries in the hemisphere to do business with the U.S. rather than “external state actors” such as China.
That would have been a tough sell.
The United States’ popularity in Latin America has dropped sharply since Trump took office. A Gallup poll found just 16 percent of the region’s residents approve of the president’s performance. Trump has accused immigrants from Mexico and Central America of bringing crime and drugs to the U.S. He’s talked of militarizing the border. And his former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, recently defended the two-century-old Monroe Doctrine, which is seen in much of the hemisphere as a outdated vestige of Yankee imperialism.
While many Latin American countries want to do business with the U.S., they’re reluctant to turn their backs on China, which is a major trading partner for Brazil, Chile and Peru.

16 March
Can Trump Succeed at the Summit of the Americas?
(NYT) According to Gallup, views of the United States under Mr. Trump have fallen more in Latin America since the departure of President Obama than in any other region. Just 16 percent of Latin Americans approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance — a rate even lower than his approval rating among Latinos in the United States.
Relations with Mexico suffered their latest setback when a phone call between Mr. Trump and the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, went off the rails last month. Brazil, in turn, is the exporter most affected by the administration’s new tariffs on steel, and other countries are surely worried about the possibility of an escalating global trade war. And although many Latin American leaders have preferred to respond to Mr. Trump’s distance in kind, an awkward encounter with President Raúl Castro of Cuba at the summit meeting is certainly possible.
The ideal outcome for the United States would be a quiet meeting that goes exactly to script. In fact, this is an opportunity for the president to listen without saying much of anything.


27 December

Editor’s Note:
On September 29, the Brookings Institution and International IDEA co-hosted a full-day workshop convening high-level experts from Latin American embassies, the U.S. government, academia, and civil society to discuss current trends in Latin American democracy. The moderators of each session have authored blog pieces highlighting the main points of consensus, as well as ongoing challenges, related to their session theme. Read Ted Piccone’s blog post here, Daniel Zovatto’s here, and Harold Trinkunas’s here.
As several Latin American nations prepare for elections this year, Arturo Sarukhan highlights some of the lessons being gleaned from the political and ideological disruption witnessed online in the United States and other Western countries.
How Trump and disruption politics may impact Latin American elections in 2018
(Brookings) For starters, there’s no doubt that three of the pillars of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy view—as enunciated during his first major foreign policy speech in April 2016 and implemented in his first year in office—have been received with varying degrees of anxiety throughout the Western Hemisphere. These three pillars—“America First,” less U.S. predictability, and his Sinatra Doctrine of “my way or the highway”—all rub Latin American nations the wrong way and rekindle what had been generally waning perceptions of the last decade regarding a bullying and overbearing U.S. hegemon. And the three main prisms through which most Latin American and Caribbean nations viewed the U.S. foreign policy footprint in the Americas—that is, Cuba, immigration policy, and counternarcotics policy—have all experienced a reversal, if not a continued impasse or deterioration, particularly compared to the end of the Obama administration. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. national brand, soft power, and public diplomacy footprints have all taken a severe hit across the Americas, and the rest of the world for that matter.
… But there’s one legacy of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its aftermath that poses a more subtle—but probably also more relevant and prescient—challenge to democratic governance and liberal democracy across Latin America. The U.S. election was won—and lost—not on the merits and the debate over substantive and contrasting public policies, but by narrative and storytelling. … That this was also fueled by weaponized narratives, disinformation, astroturfing and bot-farms (whether of domestic or foreign origin), and on social media platforms, fundamentally changed electoral dynamics—both in the United States and, most likely going forward, in other nations across the hemisphere that will be holding presidential elections throughout 2018.

5 December
Where Is Latin America Headed?
By Jorge G. Castañeda, Mexico’s foreign minister from 2000 to 2003, professor at New York University and a board member of Human Rights Watch.
(NYT) The recent presidential vote in Chile, along with the Nov. 26 contest in Honduras, signals the beginning of a yearlong electoral cycle in Latin America. By the end of 2018, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Paraguay and perhaps Venezuela will have elected new leaders. As in Chile and Honduras, there will be surprises, but certain issues are sure to be important in all of these countries: corruption, crime and violence; a deep and broad dissatisfaction with democracy; and growing frustration with drawn-out, mediocre or downright dreadful economic performances.
These issues can cut in many ways. In some cases — Mexico, Brazil and Colombia — they can propel perceived or real “outsiders” into office. In others, they may generate a simple, traditional, anti-incumbency bias — perhaps in the unexpected runoff in Chile, in Venezuela if an election is actually held and quite possibly in Colombia, where a highly successful president is highly unpopular. Finally, in a handful of nations, continuity will trump risky or dangerous change, as electorates prefer the devil they know.
One region-wide survey after another — Chile’s Latinobarometro, Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project — show that Latin Americans are dissatisfied with their democracy as well as their economic and social situation. They seem increasingly resentful of the United States. They may not express this at the polls, but they could become targets for manipulation and exploitation by firebrands, liars and even foreign powers. There are growing fears and suspicions, for example, that Vladimir Putin, his hackers and Russia Today are tempted to meddle in Latin American elections: for the Workers’ Party in Brazil, for the P.R.I. or Mr. López Obrador in Mexico and in support of Mr. Maduro in Venezuela if an election is held.
But most likely, electoral events in Latin America next year will be uneventful. And that is a welcome change.

1 December
Bolivia: Low Morales
(The Economist) Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, has been granted the right to run for a fourth term in office in 2019 by the country’s constitutional court. The question of whether to permit this was posed in a referendum last year, to which Bolivians answered “No”. Now Mr Morales, who supported term limits in 2009, is arguing that they violate his human rights. He is following the example of other Latin American presidents flirting with autocracy

14 October
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).


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.
Rebel leaders will be easily reintegrated into the system, but the rank and file will not, leaving them susceptible to courtship by organized crime.
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.


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.


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.

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.


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.
( 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 – 19"

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

    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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