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Americas

All summer, as protests raged over the United States, fears grew that an increasingly polarised United States was heading for another civil war. There was great worry over violence erupting across the land, and a distinct sense that there were at least two rival and distinct Americas in the country: Red America and Blue America. Political movements such as the Lincoln Project and the Wide Awake Boys explicitly made comparisons between the present time and the Civil War-era. Almost two thirds of Americans, in May 2020, believed that the country was close to civil war. The 2020 presidential election might therefore have the same effect as that of 1860 election: then, the election of Abraham Lincoln as President persuaded the …
Side by side photos of the Mexican President AMLO (waving) and former Brazilian President Lula (giving thumbs up).

For the last two decades, observers and scholars of Latin American politics have wondered about the electoral fate of the left. Some analysts in particular have highlighted how the end of the ‘Pink-tide’ precipitated the comeback of right-of-centre governments across the region. But in this regard, Mexico has been running in dissonance to its regional counterparts. The right-of-centre parties Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) and then the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) occupied the executive office from 2000 to 2018 while most Latin American countries turned to either a radical or a reformist left.  Now, however, left-of-centre Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) hold the Mexican presidency. To delineate what the future might hold for AMLO, we can look to the previous experience of the …

One of the great surprises of the 2018 Mexican election was not the largely predicted landslide victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador but the commanding performance of his political party, Morena. In just its second federal election, Morena won a vast legislative majority in the federal Congress and control of state governments across the country. The party was a relative newcomer on the scene— it was founded just 5 years prior as a civic project of the left. However, in the run-up to the 2018 election, the party ballooned in size, absorbing members from across the political spectrum. Still, Morena was able to present itself as a fairly unified front in the 2018 election.  However, in the past few months, the once latent internal …

In a farewell speech to Colombia’s armed forces last year just prior to leaving office, ex-president Juan Manuel Santos boasted: “Today we have the best armed forces in our history.” Proudly, he added: “We’re a global reference!” And indeed, it seems as though Colombia had opened a new chapter. Since the 2016 peace accords with the country’s largest guerrilla organisation, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the nation appears to be on an uphill climb.  With the FARC at the negotiation table, the story goes, the country was finally able to look ahead and dedicate its resources to transition and reconstruction: the reintegration of former combatants, the redistribution of formerly occupied territories, and the recovery of an economy weakened by decades …

Evo Morales, president of Bolivia since 2006, resigned on November 10 following weeks of demonstrations triggered by a disputed election in October. Morales won the election amid allegations that the result was rigged in his favour. The turning point in Morales’s departure from office was the intervention of Williams Kaliman, commander of the Bolivian armed forces. Speaking at a press conference, Kaliman urged Morales to resign “for the good of our Bolivia”. Morales has since gone into exile in Mexico and the manner of his departure has sparked passionate debate about whether it was tantamount to a military coup. Two years ago this month, the Zimbabwean military placed former President Robert Mugabe under house arrest. Subsequently, SB Moyo, a major …

When Uruguayans head to the polls for the second-round of the Presidential elections on 24 November, they are not only deciding on the next government but also the future of legal marijuana. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legally regulate cannabis from seed to smoke. Despite international acclaim, cannabis reform was highly controversial in Uruguay. Public opinion overwhelmingly rejected the reform and the bill passed both the lower and upper houses of Congress with votes exclusively from the left-of-centre Broad Front. Notwithstanding its past, marijuana legalization’s future seems surprisingly safe, in spite Broad Front being in danger of losing the presidency it has occupied since 2005. In the first round on 27 October 2019, Broad …

Today is the 28th day of the mass protests that have gripped Chile; it is also the one-year anniversary of the killing of Camilo Catrillanca, a young Mapuche leader, by Chilean police. A year ago, popular mobilisation of the scale witnessed today in Chile seemed almost unimaginable, especially after I spent months in the Araucanía region in Southern Chile (or the Wallmapu to the Mapuche), where anything but the most innocuous collective organising has been heavily repressed. While simmering discontent was mixed with fear in the South, in the capital it seemed the frustrations of the student movement (see for example Donoso, 2013) and the return of the right-wing Sebastián Piñera to the presidency in 2018 made an eruption of …

Anette Idler summarizes some of the findings from her new book Borderland Battles, which reveals how violent non-state groups compete for territorial control, co-operate in illicit cross-border activities and replace the state in exerting governance functions in borderlands. Borderlands are like a magnifying glass on some of the most entrenched security challenges of the world. In unstable regions, border areas attract violent non-state groups ranging from rebels and paramilitaries to criminal organisations who exploit their neglect by central governments. These groups compete for territorial control, cooperate in illicit cross-border activities, and substitute for the governance functions usually associated with the state. Studying the Colombian borderlands where armed conflict and organised crime converge demonstrates that the gap between state-centric views on …