Home Uncategorized South America on fire: a fragmented and crisis region


South America on fire: a fragmented and crisis region

by Ace Damon
South America on fire: a fragmented and crisis region

Protests with deaths in Ecuador. Dispute between powers in Peru. Aggravation of the economic crisis in Argentina with the likely return of Peronists to power. The resurgence of the FARC in Colombia. A president who uses legal tricks to hold office indefinitely in Bolivia. An energy agreement that has already rocked Paraguayan government structures. And the most serious migratory crisis in the world happening here, in Venezuela. Certainly, 2019 will be marked as a year of great instability in South America.

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"Wherever you look, there's a lot of uncertainty and turmoil," Michael Shifter, head of the think tank Inter-American Dialogue, told the Washington Post.

Crises, although different from country to country, have common features. The economy in much of South America has slowed, democratic institutions remain weak, the public is much less tolerant of corruption, and polarization is increasing.

The first decade of the 21st century saw an unusual growth spurt in Latin America. Economies, on average, expanded by more than 4 percent a year from 2004 to 2011, driven in part by high commodity prices, which led to the “golden years” of the ruling left. But since at least half of 2010, growth has been exhausted – by 2019, it should be only 0.6%, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The effects of the end of this cycle were felt in several countries and, as it should be, they eventually influenced domestic policies.

The most evident examples today are Argentina and Ecuador. Both governments have had to call for foreign financial aid and implement unpopular reforms in an attempt to put their countries' economies back on track, but this has led to riots that could eventually end in power exchanges.

The situation is even more delicate because in many countries in the region political institutions are weak. According to political scientist Jo-Marie Burt of George Mason University, this generates "an inability to process social conflicts through normal political channels."

This is what happened in Peru – a clear example of how corruption can undermine political institutions and cause a democratic overthrow in an economically stable country. With the corruption schemes revealed by the Lava Jato investigations, “political references have been lost, leading the country to a standstill in which the president tries to dissolve parliament and parliament does not recognize the authority of the president,” explains Vinicius Vieira, professor International Relations at USP (University of São Paulo). "There has been a loss of trustworthiness of institutions."

Antonio Jorge Ramalho da Rocha, a political scientist, says that leaders are failing to respond to the demands and anxieties of the population – and sometimes they are not even able to understand them. Citizens are more aware than ever of government abuses, thanks to more independent judges, a freer press and the rise of civic groups and social media, but political leaders are failing to anchor and transform people's political synergies. in action.

“As we see in Ecuador and Argentina, the need for economic efficiency has imposed itself on the need of the people,” distancing voters' leaders, Rocha said. "The result is a revolt, an immediacy and makes room for populism, both right and left."

Analysts reiterate, however, that this is not a particularity of South America, but a movement that has been taking place in various parts of the globe, such as the United Kingdom and the recent decision of the Supreme Court to annul the suspension of Parliament imposed by the first. Minister Boris Johnson.

The right in the region and the Venezuelan crisis

The election of President Jair Bolsonaro, the end of Unasur (Union of South American Nations), founded by former PT President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and the creation of a new regional body called Prosul (Forum for the Progress and Development of South) earlier this year seemed to consolidate a regional political transformation that began in 2015 with the election of Macri in Argentina. South America left its left years behind to live a new time under the command of right-wing leaders.

Building a right-wing integration in the region, a strong message was sent to Venezuela, the only one uninvited to join Prosul: the country lives a socialist dictatorship and the regime of Nicolás Maduro needs to be isolated.

However, during 2019, the internal problems of the other countries showed a politically fragmented region. The very creation of Prosul without unanimity – 7 founding countries out of 12 – already indicated that.

"A lot of people thought we would have a right-wing ideological alignment, but this year's events don't confirm that," says Oliver Stuenkel, professor at FGV, citing Maduro's stay in power, the very likely continuity of Evo Morales's government in Bolivia and it seems that Peronism's return to Casa Rosada in Argentina. “This shows that in the coming years we will have a highly fragmented region with low potential for cooperation,” he says.

As a result, attempts to take Maduro out of power in Venezuela were eventually relegated to the background – not only by regional disinterest in the issue, but by a series of internal issues in Venezuela that led opposition leader Juan Guaidó to lose credibility, as the failed attempt of the April 30 civic-military uprising.

But Vieira cites the regional component as one more factor for Venezuela to continue its crisis. “Robust democracies could help more, but in the current context it is impossible to help the opposition. Ironically, this reiterates the status quo, the permanence of the authoritarian regime in Venezuela. ”

More stable countries, such as Chile and Uruguay, are too small to lead a regional movement aimed at solving the Venezuelan crisis.

The approach of a moderate political right in the region was also put in check in 2019, with the worsening economic crisis in Argentina the year Mauricio Macri is seeking reelection, and protests against Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno. Both were exponents of an economically liberal project without being socially conservative. Now the continuity of their governments is threatened.

South Americans in crisis


Ballot papers from the Juntos por Cambio (top) party of President Mauricio Macri and his running mate Miguel Angel Pichetto, and opposition party Frente de Todos, Alberto Fernandez and his running mate, former President Cristina Fernández de KirchnerBallot papers from the Juntos por Cambio (top) party of President Mauricio Macri and his running mate Miguel Angel Pichetto, and opposition party Frente de Todos, Alberto Fernandez and his running mate, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner | Photo: JUAN MABROMATA / AFP | JUAN MABROMATA / AFP

Experiencing a deep economic crisis that has driven millions into poverty, Argentina prepares to go to the polls in a highly polarized environment.

On the one hand, President Mauricio Macri, who began his government by promising to revive an economy destroyed by years of irresponsible left-wing policies, but now ends his mandate with those same populist measures – including price controls and default. partial debt – to try to save his reelection campaign amid the deepening economic crisis.

On the other, Peronist Alberto Fernández and his deputy Cristina Kirchner, who, besides leading the country to an economic downfall during his rule (2007-2015), is accused of corruption in several lawsuits.

It will be a big surprise if the Kirchnerist plate does not win the October 27 elections in a first round. The compulsory primaries, held in August, showed the Fernández-Kirchner duo's wide advantage over Macri and his deputy Peronist Miguel Pichetto. The chances of a third way, which proved to be a viable option mid-year, fell to the ground. The impending power shift further deepened the economic crisis, with a sharp drop in Argentine Central Bank foreign reserves and the IMF temporarily suspending the $ 56 billion deal in financial aid to the country.


Bolivian President Evo MoralesBolivian President Evo Morales to Run for Fourth Term in October | Photo: Mauricio VALENZUELA / AFP | Mauricio VALENZUELA / AFP

President Evo Morales, after a legal maneuver, will run for the fourth term in elections on the 20th, under protest from a large part of the population. Thousands of people gathered in La Paz and other Bolivian cities last week to protest his candidacy.

But questions about the legitimacy of Morales' fourth term and the authoritarian character the president has been demonstrating will not be enough to block his reelection. The main reason for this is the strength of Bolivia's economy, which has been growing at an average of 4% per year, making the Movement for Socialism (MAS) palatable to various groups of Bolivian society.


Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich promise return of armed struggle in ColombiaIvan Marquez and Jesus Santrich promise return of armed struggle in Colombia | Photo: Playback / Youtube / AFP | Playback / Youtube / AFP

The peace agreement signed in 2016 between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ended a five-decade conflict that left at least 220,000 dead in the country and ushered in a new era. But many of the former combatants have returned to take up arms. In a video published in late August, former FARC leaders declared a "new chapter" in the armed struggle against the government of Ivan Duque – which they said betrayed the deal – and announced a partnership with the terrorist Liberation Army group. ..


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