Tag: Latin America
Why Is Latin America still Poor
Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil’s seat of power
“Supporters of populist former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace Sunday, a week after Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, commonly known as Lula, was sworn in as Brazil’s new president.
Thousands of people loyal to the right-wing Bolsonaro broke through police barricades and entered the Congress and Supreme Court buildings. Bolsonaro’s supporters — called Bolsonaristas — also surrounded the presidential palace, calling for Lula’s resignation, though the president was on an official state trip to Araquara and not in the capital, Brasília. Congress was also on recess, leaving the building mostly empty.
Lula made an official statement at 4 pm ET, saying he would sign an emergency decree, in effect till January 31, allowing the federal government to implement “any measures necessary” to calm the unrest in the capital.
“They took advantage of the silence on Sunday, when we are still setting up the government, to do what they did,” Lula’s account tweeted Sunday. “And you know that there are several speeches by the former president encouraging this. And this is also his responsibility and the parties that supported him.”
Videos of Bolsonaristas draped in yellow flags and sitting at the desks of lawmakers appeared on Twitter Sunday afternoon in a scene reminiscent of the January 6, 2021, storming of the US Capitol building by right-wing supporters of former US President Donald Trump. Throughout the afternoon, protesters destroyed windows in the Supreme Court building, flew the Brazilian imperial flag above the Congress building, set fire to a carpet in the lower house of Congress, looted gifts from foreign dignitaries, and reportedly attacked a photojournalist from the news outlet Metropoles.
Police forces at the capitol initially used tear gas against the protesters; however, that failed to deter protesters and drove the guards to seek cover behind the building. The Brazilian Armed Forces and anti-riot police, as well as the entire police force of the state of Brasília, have been called up in an attempt to quell the protests”
“the Bolsonaristas are animated by the belief that Brazil’s 2022 elections were rigged, and that Bolsonaro is the true winner of the election. Bolsonaro has been in the United States since Lula’s January 1, 2023, inauguration and has not yet publicly commented on the situation.
Lula won a runoff election against Bolsonaro last October, marking a return to power after a stint in prison on corruption charges. Lula, a left-wing former president who helped raise the standard of living for millions of Brazilians by strengthening the country’s social programs, first served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010. He was in prison from 2018 to 2021.”
Curfews and Restrictions: Peru’s Regime Cracks Down
“The impeachment of Peru’s populist president has set off a political and constitutional firestorm, prompting nationwide protests against the government and creating a diplomatic rift with Mexico. Peru’s Congress has preliminarily backed a proposal that will allow for presidential and legislative elections in April 2024, two years ahead of schedule, according to the Associated Press.
Popular protests against the government have raged in Peru since lawmakers voted to remove President Pedro Castillo from office…Castillo, who emerged as the surprise winner of a heavily contested presidential election in July 2021, had already been the subject of two separate impeachment inquiries led by the opposition-controlled Congress over corruption allegations. After announcing he would dissolve the Congress and rule by decree, a move many observers decried as a “self-coup,” Congress moved expeditiously to remove Castillo from office, arrest him on corruption and treason charges, and install his vice president, Dina Boluarte, as president. The removal of Castillo immediately sparked nationwide protests, especially in the country’s interior and southern Andean regions where large sections of Peru’s indigenous and mixed-ancestry communities live.
Peru’s indigenous communities, which have largely felt neglected and dismissed by the political elite in the capital of Lima, have been at the forefront of these protests. To them, Castillo, who drew much of his electoral support from the interior and the Andean south, was a champion of indigenous interests, alleged corruption notwithstanding.”
With Lula’s Win in Brazil, the Left Dominates Latin America
“With Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva’s narrow victory over president Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil—the two-time former president defeated the incumbent by a 1.8 percent margin (50.9 to 49.1)—the Latin American left has completed its strategic dominance over the region’s seven largest countries.
In the 2000s, much was made of Latin America’s so-called “Pink Tide,” which began with Hugo Chávez’s first electoral victory in Venezuela (1998) and da Silva’s first term in Brazil (2002–2006). There followed an unprecedented rise of left-wing governments across the region. However, there were still important holdouts at the time; Mexico and Colombia didn’t veer left at all; Chile maintained its post-Pinochet social democracy; Peru’s original “Pink Tider,” Ollanta Humala, initially scared the markets in 2011 but proved to be mostly moderate in power.
By late 2022, however, hard leftists—often in cahoots with local communist parties—had handily won the last elections in each of these countries and in Argentina, which returned to Peronist Kirchnerism in 2019. Bolsonaro was the last right-winger standing”
Chile’s Proposed Left-Wing Constitution Could Spell Chaos
“Chile’s draft constitution is even longer than Venezuela’s, which was redrafted by Hugo Chávez’ administration during his first year in office and set the stage for the country’s socialist revolution, descent into dictatorship, and ensuing economic collapse.
Venezuela has had 26 constitutions in a little over two centuries. In general, the practice of scrapping and rewriting constitutions helps to explain Latin America’s relentless political turmoil.
A constitution provides legal stability and predictability—like a computer operating system. Tampering with any foundational code creates security holes that are easily exploited by political opportunists looking to amplify their own power and overturn the established order.
Even if Chileans reject the new constitution—and, thankfully, polls indicate that they probably will—Boric can choose to start the process again with the election of yet another constitutional assembly to draft yet another version.
That could bring years of chaos, economic stagnation, and legal uncertainty. Now that Latin America’s free market experiment and “economic miracle” may be coming to an end, hopefully, the rest of the world can learn from the experience of Chile once again: Beware leftist pipe dreams.”
Biden’s Summit of the Americas Was Over Before It Started
“In a speech delivered last Wednesday at the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, President Joe Biden made a passionate plea for renewed purpose and partnership between the United States and its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors.
But it was some conspicuously empty seats in the audience that grabbed the attention. Out of the 35 countries in the Americas, only 23 sent heads of state, one of the lowest attendance rates since the first summit almost 30 years ago.
Most of these absences stem from Biden’s decision to not invite Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to the summit over their human rights records, a move driven in part by pressure from Cuban-American exile groups. “There can’t be a Summit of the Americas if all the countries of the continent don’t participate,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stated at a press conference on June 6. The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, major sources of migration to the United States, also announced they would not attend in protest.
In 2001, the Organization of American States passed the Inter-American Democratic Charter, officially barring nondemocratic states from participating in successive summits at the behest of the United States. However, this rule was seemingly annulled when the U.S. and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations under former President Barack Obama.
Cuba attended the 2015 summit in Panama, where Obama’s meeting with former Cuban President Raul Castro marked the first time Cuban and American heads of state had met since the Cuban Revolution.”
“”There is no way President Biden can make progress on addressing the migrant crisis since the Presidents of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador chose not to attend””
“The summit’s perceived disconnects have confirmed what some in the region have feared: The U.S. is failing to reset or even update its Latin America policy after years of neglect under former President Donald Trump.”
“”Washington seems to have prepared this summit as if it was 1994,” said Rivero Santos, referring back to the first Summit of the Americas held in Miami. Rivero Santos believes the Biden administration still sees the Americas through the prism of the 1990s neoliberal political wave that swept south, but socialist and populist governments have been making inroads in the region for years. “Washington has not been able to keep up with the changes in the region. The Latin America of 1994 is very different than the Latin America of 2022.””
Why some countries don’t want to pick a side in Russia’s war in Ukraine
“In the first United Nations General Assembly vote in early March, 141 countries affirmed that Russia should “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw,” and in another resolution, 140 countries voted for humanitarian protections of Ukrainians.
But when the General Assembly voted in early April to expel Russia from the Human Rights Council, the majority was smaller. Ninety-three countries voted in favor, but 58 abstained and 24 voted against. The abstentions included Egypt, Ghana, India, and Indonesia, which were leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement — countries that created their own transnational grouping rather than back the US or Soviet Union during the Cold War. Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa also abstained. China voted against.
The US and NATO have led unprecedented sanctions against Russia. But almost no countries in the Global South have signed onto them.
Analysts looking at these responses see a reinvigorated nonaligned movement. “When you see a return to what looks a lot like Cold War politics, then it’s quite natural that people start to reach for the Cold War conceptual toolbox,” Richard Gowan, the UN director of the International Crisis Group, told me. “It’s a mirror to the ‘NATO is back’ talk.”
The Non-Aligned Movement of the 1960s was not about neutrality. It put forward a unifying agenda for developing countries caught between warring superpowers. A similar platform for the 21st century hasn’t emerged yet, but with the majority of people in the world living in the Global South and the Ukraine war heightening tensions between two of the world’s largest powers, there are signs that it could.”
“The first reason relates to economics and trade. Russia is a major exporter of energy, food, and fertilizer. Many countries can’t afford to cut economic ties with Moscow. India also depends on Russia for arms sales. Though Russian investment is not in the top of countries in Latin America, it’s still a factor.”
“Second, there remains skepticism toward the US and NATO. The US invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law, and many nations see the West’s other regime-change efforts in Afghanistan and Libya as similarly flawed with ongoing spillover effects, according to experts with whom I spoke.
That skepticism extends to sanctions.”
“As Guillaume Long, the former foreign minister of Ecuador, told me, “A lot of Latin Americans feel and think that sanctions are applied in a sort of selective, politicized way with a lot of double standards — basically, a tool of the US hegemony rather than a tool of global justice.” He cited the unpopularity across Latin America of the US’s coercive economic measures against Cuba and how civilians are negatively affected by US sanctions on Venezuela.”
“The third factor is enduring solidarity with Russia, given its anti-colonial positions at times during the Cold War, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. The USSR was a superpower itself, making strategic foreign policy choices in its own perceived interest. Among more left-leaning governments, Russia also has a legacy of supporting independence from colonial powers. In particular, the African National Congress in South Africa was close to the Soviet Union and looks fondly on Russia for its staunch anti-apartheid position. Botes noted South Africa’s connections to Ukraine, too, and told me that Odesa, when it was part of the USSR, hosted ANC training camps.
More recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has aggressively reached out to the Global South.”
“Some countries may avoid choosing a side as an insurance policy in case Russia were to win over Ukraine. And Russia is an important force in the international system, especially in the United Nations. “If you’re a Latin American country, and you’re trying to get some votes at the UN, you know, 50 percent of the time you might get the support of Russia,” Long said. “But you can be sure that Ukraine will vote with the United States.”
For all of those reasons, something approximating a nonaligned position has begun to take shape.”
Will Civil Rights in Latin America Be a Permanent Casualty of Coronavirus?
“The world response to the COVID-19 epidemic has been completely unprecedented. At the time of writing, 82 countries have restricted travel through their borders and 37 have completely closed them completely. Both the invisible and physical walls that separate the world have grown less penetrable, but no region has enacted measures as strict as Latin America, whose governments fear their vulnerable health systems will not be able to cope with widespread outbreak.
A dozen Latin American countries—with a combined population of more than 175 million people—have placed their citizens on full lockdown, a measure which some countries are enforcing by deploying soldiers to the streets.”
“The primary barrier to governments enacting controversial power grabs are the critics and institutions who would object, so a handful of Latin American leaders are taking dramatic steps to silence those who check their power. They’re now muzzling journalists through intimidation, arrest, or character assassination.
In Honduras, the government passed an emergency measure that temporarily suspended constitutional protections on free speech for both citizens and journalists. On March 25, the Bolivian government announced a decree that allows imprisonment for up to 10 years of those who “misinform” or “promote non-compliance” with government regulation. The nonprofit Human Rights Watch has criticized the language of the law, saying it is intentionally vague and could be used to prosecute political opponents and journalists alike.
In Venezuela, freelance journalist Darvinson Rojas was arrested by Special Action Forces (FAES) and imprisoned for his coverage of the coronavirus crisis. The local Venezuelan press has covered half a dozen instances of journalists being intimidated. And on April 6, FAES arrested Luis Serrano, a civil assemblyman who would have determined the next election oversight board in Venezuela, according to WOLA, a human rights group in Latin America. They seized masks and protective gear Serrano’s organization had donated to journalists covering COVID-19 and detained politicians who’d been contradicting the government’s official coronavirus statistics, which many medical experts consider unbelievably low.
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has turned the crisis into a political weapon, claiming that the press is trying to destroy his presidency through misinformation. Despite ignoring advice from health officials within his own party about the danger of the epidemic, he used the crisis as justification to release an executive order that abolished freedom of information legislation, effectively undermining the ability of journalists or NGOs to obtain public health information. The executive order was quickly struck down by Brazil’s Supreme Court.”
“Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia have all been heavily criticized by the United Nations for violent repression of a continent-wide wave of protests that swept through Latin America just months ago. If civil unrest flares up again over economic or health issues during the current state of emergency, protesters in many countries may find themselves facing down state forces with extralegal powers and a muzzled press.
The degree of authoritarianism varies by country”