Esquina Latina – March 25

I was born in Colombia, and have spent more than 5 years living, working, and traveling in Latin America. I find the many cultures, traditions, and histories of this region fascinating. Even though I am currently living in DC, I try to keep myself informed on what is going on in the region, and in the spirit of my weekly development links, I am going to start summarizing the articles and papers I read about the region. Not sure if I’ll do this every week, or make it a bi-weekly thing, guess I’ll play it by ear.

With no further ado, the links:

  • Mayor of Lima Survives Recall Vote (NY Times) – I am not very knowledgeable about Limeño politics. However, on first glance it seems like a good thing Susana Villaran won her recall vote. She clearly has riled up a lot of animosity from Lima’s traditional powers. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem she has committed any illegal or corrupt actions. While this is not exactly a ringing endorsement, the recall appears to be a part of a strategy to prevent Villaran from exercising the powers of her office. Considering this, it is probably for the best she will get to finish her term,  if only for stability sake or the fact she is Lima’s first female mayor.
  • Proceso de Paz en Colombia (El Tiempo) – Cool flash application providing a chronology of the peace process and a description of the participants in the peace negotiations ongoing between Colombia and FARC, Colombia’s largest guerrilla group. The application was designed by El Tiempo, Bogota’s main newspaper, and is in Spanish.
  • In Effort to Try Dictator, Guatemala Shows New Judicial Might (NY Times) – In a major ruling, Guatemala’s supreme court ruled in favor of the prosecution, which will ensure that Efraín Ríos, Guatemala’s former dictator, will be tried for human rights violations committed during his rule in the 1980s. I think this is excellent news. While there are certainly concerns about whether or not Efraín Ríos will get a fair trial, this concern is outweighed by the message it sends: dictators are responsible for the actions done under their rule. The fact it took 30 years to get here does weakens the deterrence capacity of the judgement, it is nevertheless, a positive step. I look forward to seeing how this trial unfolds, and hope the victims in Guatemala get an opportunity to voice their outrage and see some form of justice.
  • Argentina’s Fernandez Asks Pope to Intervene Over Falklands (Reuters) – Glad to see that Venezuela doesn’t have a monopoly on absurd political theatre in Latin America.  Argentina’s use of the Falklands is fairly similar to Chavez’s anti-U.S. rhetoric. It is used as a call to arms for supporters and a smoke-screen to distract from domestic problems. Much like the anti-imperialist claims from Venezuela, the Falklands are rooted in historical events and stories. Just as in Venezuela, the truth of the matter has little to do with the effectiveness of using this political tool. Therefore, it isn’t really worth going through point by point the tenuousness of the Argentine claim to the islands, or the fact a recent referendum had the islanders voting nearly unanimously to remain British. Trying to draw the Pope in on the issue should be interpreted as a cynical attempt to rally nationalist sentiment and boost morale in the face of local economic problems.
  • Earth to Evo (Project Syndicate) – This article struck me as a bit too negative on Evo Morales.  Is there a certain amount of hypocrisy and political  self-serving behind the environmental and pro-indigenous mantle that Evo Morales has clothed himself? Sure. However, Evo like national leaders everywhere has to make trade offs, where economic, social, political, and environmental objectives have to be weighed and prioritized. The road represents potential economic development for a country in need of it. Does it threaten the rights of the indigenous people living in the TIPNIS, and potentially the environment? Yes. However, it would potentially open markets for other indigenous groups (cocaleros, quechua, aymara) that are a more powerful voting block. With this in mind is it really a surprise Evo is pushing forward with the project? Disappointing perhaps, but not all that surprising.
  • Chavez backers clash with protesters in Venezuela (ABCnews) – The situation in Venezuela continues to be volatile, as this article shows, with pro- and anti- Chavistas clashing in the streets of Caracas. I am sympathetic to the student protesters, who are trying to get the supreme court to prevent Maduro from using the full force of the state during the elections. Hopefully, they can get their message across without too many people getting hurt. Representative democracy is best served when the electorate can make decisions based on free and honest information about the candidates.
  • Autumn of the Patriarchs (Project Syndicate) – An interesting look at the final days of many modern autocrats, and their similarities with what is currently happening in Venezuela. I agree with Ben-Ami that Chavismo is not sustainable over the long run unless major reforms are enacted  However, in the short-term I expect that Maduro will win and continue in the same vein as Chavez. What happens from there will depend on Maduro, his desire to maintain a veneer of democratic legitimacy, his ability to control the Chavistas, and how long he can maintain handouts through oil-money.