Latin America 2020: From Storm Clouds to Storms

“In the last two decades, Latin Americans have often voted for criminals to be their leaders,” says the author (EFE). 

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel Henrique Otero, Madrid, December 2, 2019 — All the forecasts that have been published lately say that hard times will continue for Latin America in 2020. The negative trend of 2019, with some exception, will continue into the next year. The growth for 2019 will be barely 0.6 percent, approximately one-third below what had been forecast at the end of 2018. When economists explain the reasons, they repeat the same script: the drop in the economy of China, the main consumer on the continent; the trade war between China and the United States; the poor economic indicators for Mexico, Brazil and Argentina; the political uncertainty that scares off investors; and, of course, the debacle in Venezuela, which is a liability for economic policy in the region.

Beyond the inevitable short-term elements offered by the analysts, no doubt justified, we must reciprocate and ask Latin Americans about the root causes that prevent our countries from reducing poverty and improving the quality of life.

We are about to complete the first fifth of the Twentieth Century and the decade of goals established by Agenda 2030*, and still almost a third of the population (30.8% according to CEPAL) live in conditions of poverty. This is equivalent to a population of 191 million people, of which around 72 million live in conditions of extreme poverty.

Faced with this state of affairs, many people start pointing fingers without offering solutions. Our continent appears to be trapped by thoughts and practices that prevent us from changing direction on substantive issues. We are at a point where everything we haven’t managed to disentangle and solve could turn against us and condemn us to still worse living conditions. I will mention only five factors, although I could list many more.

One: We haven’t been able to reduce our economies’ dependency on commodities, which makes us vulnerable to oscillations in the prices of oil, minerals and agricultural products.

Two: Our education systems haven’t reached an adequate level to respond to competition, globalization and the digital revolution.

Three: Most countries lack a governmental strategy to cope with the changes that the boom in robotics and artificial intelligence will bring about in the systems of production, with consequences that will be devastating for employment.

Four: We still don’t understand that the politics of the populist Left, among many other political modes, has consequences: destroying work, productivity, businesses, respect for human rights and the State of Law.

Five: In the last two decades, many times through the electoral process, Latin Americans have elected criminals to govern them. The most surprising of all this is that even when we don’t think they’re qualified, we re-elect them. Criminals who rob the public coffers and repress, execute, torture and kill in the streets. Criminal politicians who are involved in drug trafficking, who convert the armed forces into hitmen or bodyguards for the crooked and corrupt.

A very brief review of what is happening in these countries and subregions justifies the alarm.

On balance, the first year of the government of the populist López Obrador in México is a calamity: an economy in recession; an increase in impunity for narcotrafficking; an increase in crime; no advance in his promise to improve income for the poorest sectors; and, yes, a daily policy of encouraging resentment and the political use of México’s history.

If we look at the situation in the Northern Triangle of Central America — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — the picture hasn’t changed in the last decade: armed gangs predominate; narcotrafficking has reached a peak; there are forced migrations; and agriculture has been distorted by the effects of climate change.

Nicaragua: The presidential couple and their respective family clans are not stopping. They steal even up to the last córdoba, and repress and torture the democrats in an atmosphere of total impunity, under the guidance of castroism.

Cuba: The disgrace of  the continent, with a dictatorship that has remained for 61 years, converted into a power specialized in living off remittances and the income from narcotrafficking provided by other countries — the culmination of failure.

In Colombia, President Duque faces the struggle against terrorism and criminal narcoguerrilas.

In Ecuador, Lenin Moreno administers the destabilizing plan directed by Cuba and Venezuela, in support of the fugitive Rafael Correa.

In Bolivia, after attempting an electoral fraud, Evo Morales is preparing, also as a protected fugitive, to light up the country with violent protests, beginning in 2020.

For Argentina, is it necessary to add that a coalition led by the corrupt Cristina Kirchner has returned to power through election?

In Chile, the destructive violence has managed to accomplish an important victory in public opinion: justification and impunity for the crimes, endorsed by the good consciences of those who observe the excesses from thousands of kilometers away.

About Venezuela, everything has already been said: Maduro has destroyed the nation and society, and the impact reaches the economies and daily life of the other ten countries. The perspective is dark; we could pass from storms to something even more serious.

Editor’s Note: Miguel Henrique Otero is the Director of the Venezuelan newspaper, El Nacional.

Translated by Regina Anavy

*Translator’s note: The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) is a regional commission set up to encourage global economic cooperation. Agenda 2030 aims to achieve a rights-based sustainable development, with poverty and inequality as key issues for Latin America and the Caribbean.


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