Posts Tagged

Latin America

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 …

On May 20th, Venezuelans are supposed to vote in a presidential election to decide over the fate of their crisis and conflict ridden country. Despite being nominally given the opportunity to choose, the way the Maduro government has set up the electoral process, committed fraud, repressed the opposition and systematically undermined the process of free and fair elections over the past years, all but guarantees authoritarian durability. This article addresses why a) a highly unpopular incumbent is likely to hold onto power, b) the opposition is justified in their decision to boycott the elections and c) how Venezuela might transition to democracy. Venezuela has transitioned from a weak democracy in 1998 to a failing dictatorship in 2018. Over the past …

On Sunday, Argentina will hold highly significant midterm legislative elections in its 23 provinces as well as the federal capital of Buenos Aires. Cambiemos (Let’s Change), headed by the centre-right incumbent President Mauricio Macri, will look to expand its political mandate as the first non-Peronist government in 16 years. While seats will be up for grabs throughout the country, observers have placed most of their focus on the Senate race in Buenos Aires province, a predominantly working class region of Argentina that holds nearly 40 percent of the national electorate. Here, Macri’s current Minister of Education, Esteban Bullrich, is competing against former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who assumed office in 2007 as part of the Peronist ‘Front for Victory’ …

In early hours of Monday, October 17th, after the announcement of the results of the regional elections, the Venezuelan opposition decried foul play and electoral fraud. Such accusations of course are very hard to prove in any case, and even more so in today’s authoritarian Venezuela. Yet, what’s done is done. The regime announced to have won 18 governorships, while the opposition appears to have only won five. Even if the fraud accusations were true, the only certainty, as of today, is that – although 83% of Venezuelans rejected President Maduro’s government as of August 2017 – Venezuela’s political map is still dominated by Chavismo. This latest episode of contested elections adds to the already high levels of political conflict …

Venezuela seems locked in a downward political and economic spiral. But what happens in Venezuela has far broader implications for international security. “Here you must not speak badly about Chávez” — this was the message on banners at a Colombia-Venezuela border bridge I crossed recently on a research trip. It was just one of the signs of the exponential jump in authoritarianism in Venezuela, and the continued unravelling of the regime. Last Saturday, Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega, a critic of the government of President Nicolás Maduro, was dismissed. On Sunday, a military uprising left one dead and several injured, then other military dissidents used social media to call for other soldiers to disobey the president. By Tuesday, parliament was practically …

On Aug. 29, 2016, the Colombian government and the leftist insurgent group FARC initiated a cease-fire. The two parties had reached a remarkable peace accord a few days earlier, hoping to end 52 years of civil war. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the peace deal will be formally signed Sept. 26, which would trigger the 180-day demobilization of the FARC. Colombia’s armed conflict, the longest-running in recent global history, left more than 220,000 people dead and about 6.7 million displaced within the region. The cease-fire formalizes the end of combat activities between state forces and the FARC, formally known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — and all hostilities against civilians. After decades of brutal violence and several failed peace processes, this …

The news of the death of Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chávez, has predictably received divergent responses from the international media. His passing was met with glee by opponents of Chávez – who claim that his presidency was characterised by personalism, economic mismanagement and autocratic leanings – and met with dismay by supporters of the President and the Bolivarian Revolution – who see the potential for the undermining of his legacy, the vast improvements in social indicators, the attempts to socialise the economy and the recovery of a left-wing alternative after thirty years of neoliberalism. This polarisation of the international media reflects the political polarisation within Venezuela. While sections of the opposition partied in Miami, Chávez’s supporters filled plazas throughout Venezuela on Tuesday night and on Wednesday, thousands marched with the coffin on its journey to lie in state in the Military Academy. What unites both points of view, though, is an appreciation of the pivotal role of President Chávez in leading the transformation of Venezuela since 1999. The most fundamental question, therefore, has to be whether the Bolivarian Revolution can survive without this key figure.

In light of last month’s VI Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, it seems obvious and commendable that the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, would call on the leaders of the region Friday to help coordinate the fight against transnational organised crime. The threat is, he claimed, the “main challenge to security in our hemisphere.” Insulza’s call comes on the heels of the adoption in Cartagena of Mexico’s proposal to create an Inter-American Centre for Coordination against Transnational Organised Crime. It is clear that dealers in drugs, arms and human trafficking (these items increasingly the wares of the same criminal merchants) do not limit their activities to the confines of national borders.  And …