Category: Latin America


The History of the Venezuelan Crisis: How Did We Get Here?

Less than fifty years ago, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America. Hard to believe when dramatic inflation numbers and deadly protests have recurrently made the headlines over the past four months. During the Venezuelan crisis, more than 100 people have been killed in protests that started in April 2017, with thousands wounded and hundreds arrested. Tensions between the local population and President Nicolás Maduro’s autocratic government have increased. Venezuela faces a deadlock. But, how did we get here?

Venezuela’s current crisis started over two decades ago. For years, the country has become trapped in a downward spiral of corruption, poor leadership, and mismanagement of its most important resource: oil. Venezuela owns the largest reservoir of extra heavy oil in the world and is the world’s fifth largest oil exporter. A rewind of Venezuela’s economic and political history offers the best chance of understanding the crisis it faces today.

Lenin Moreno and the Future of Ecuador

Ecuador’s new President, Lenin Moreno, is an unusual politician for more reasons than just his idiosyncratic first name. Moreno is a paraplegic who was shot during a robbery-gone-wrong in 1998. In the course of his convalescence, Moreno turned to laughter therapy, later setting up a foundation to encourage humour and joy. He is likely to need all his reserves of good humour in his new position as he takes responsibility for his country’s governance.

Moreno’s victory celebrations are likely to be short-lived as the challenges of government land on his desk. His dilemma will be how to satisfy the demands of his left-wing supporters for continued high spending on Ecuador’s public services, while simultaneously managing a shrinking economy, whose reliance on stagnant oil revenues and addiction to debt, limit his room for manoeuvre. If he fails to solve this puzzle there is a risk that his government will be tempted to deal with public protests through heavy-handed state intervention. This has been seen in Ecuador before when in 2015 police used tear gas and clubs to disperse protesters.

Latin American and European Populism: Expanding Horizons

Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have provided a rude awakening for many in Europe who had ignored the challenge of populism. As Europe braces itself for what will likely be a tumultuous future, considering other sources of valuable experience will become paramount.

In The Economist, Bello has recently pointed out the familiarity to Latin Americans of the type of populist nationalism espoused by the likes of Trump, with current techniques and narratives pulled straight from the “Latin American Manual”. However, and despite its rich populist history, the Latin American experience has often been overlooked. Those wishing to understand and counter in Europe and elsewhere would be wise to consider it.

Three lessons stand out. First, Latin America exemplifies the issues of a simplistic understanding of populism. Second, the region shows populism is persistent and more often than not has damaging consequences. Finally, Latin America has vast experience with post-truth politics, and confronting populism is impossible without tackling the post-truth politics that underpin it.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum: The Next Stage in Post-Conflict Colombia

The peace treaty between the Colombian Government and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) has now been signed, officially bringing an end to a conflict that has persisted for decades. It is a great achievement, that is supported by the UN, but post-conflict Colombia has two major issues that must be addressed in order for the new treaty to have a positive effect on security in the country. FARC’s ‘demobilisation’ has led to large areas of the countryside suddenly facing a power vacuum that, if not filled by the Colombian government, will be susceptible to the threat of neo-paramilitary squads and vigilantism. The second issue is the behaviour of the military against the civilian population, most notably those within the countryside. There needs to be a willing transition within the Government security forces to act justly towards the civilian population, following a long period of aggressive tactics. The rule of law needs to be implemented within the country now more than ever to ensure the peace accords can deliver on their promises and finally bring peace to Colombia.