Latin America: cycles of despond

We offer the following round-up in the knowledge that many students prepare speaking topics based on current affairs, and that they and their teachers may not always be in a position to monitor the Latin American news websites across the summer holidays.  This is meant as a checklist of what’s been going on.

Some might argue that in Argentina the re-election of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (this time as Vice-President, with her former lackey Aníbal Fernández as President) marks another case of Argentine national self-harm.  It may also be seen as a further instance of the global trend whereby populists with scant respect for the rule of law have prevailed over more conventional candidates (Ms Fernández’s seat in the Senate has sheltered her from trial for alleged corruption during her two terms as president).

Others will state that President Macri’s defeat was further proof that imposing orthodox (‘neo-liberal’) economic policies in Argentina is inhumane and bound to fail.

Perhaps the most serious consequence of populist politics this year has been the destruction of large swathes of the Amazon, apparently inspired by the world view of Brazilian President Bolsonaro.  Meanwhile Trump, the torchbearer for such populism, has further soured US-Cuba relations by ending the suspension of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, thereby allowing US citizens to sue companies in Cuba believed to be using properties expropriated after the Revolution.

FARC retoma las armasIn Colombia a group of dissident members of the formally demobilised FARC (including its chief peace negotiator Iván Márquez) has announced its return to armed combat. The FARC’s political party responded by expelling them.

In Venezuela the attempted challenge to Maduro from ‘interim president’ Juan Guaidó has stagnated, not helped by the dismissal of his main backer in the Trump administration, John Bolton.  Guaidó nobly sustains his campaign, but with the country’s vast income from petroleum lining the pockets of the security forces, Maduro does not feel threatened.

October saw unrest rippling down the Andes.  Ecuador was rocked by street protests led by an alliance of students, indigenous organisations and trades unions.  The protests ended after the government agreed to reverse austerity measures and promote a national dialogue on controlling overspending and public debt.

Over one million people protesting in Santiago de Chile

Riots in Santiago de Chile, initially sparked by a hike in metro fares, expanded into a more widespread howl of anguish against inequality and injustice. After declaring a state of emergency and a curfew to contain the violence, President Piñera went on television to apologise for his and previous governments’ falta de visión and to promise change.

Meanwhile in Peru a row between Parliament and the President led to each suspending the other.  The solution?  An early election.  It couldn’t happen here…

BAS editor Robin Wallis