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Latin America’s Year of Anniversaries

Celebrating how far the region has come, and remembering how far it still must go. (You can read this article in Spanish here.)

by
Jaime Daremblum

Bio

July 26, 2012 - 12:10 am
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(4). In 1992, participants in the long Salvadoran civil war signed a final peace accord; Hugo Chávez led a failed coup attempt in Venezuela; Iranian agents bombed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people; and Peru experienced a constitutional crisis when President Alberto Fujimori initiated an “auto-coup.”

Twenty years later, El Salvador is beset with violent crime, and it is now embroiled in a serious constitutional crisis. On the other hand, a recent gang truce has slashed the homicide rate considerably, and Salvadoran democracy should be strong enough to overcome the current power struggle between the supreme court and the national assembly. While Hugo Chávez has failed in his bid to create a friendly autocracy in El Salvador, he continues to fortify his oil-driven autocracy in Venezuela, where the election rules are rigged in his favor and opposition media have been virtually abolished. In Peru, the story is quite different: Democracy has been consolidated, and economic growth is now the fastest in Latin America. Unfortunately, neighboring Ecuador is helping the Iranians to withstand the pain of Western sanctions and expand their strategic footprint in South America. Tehran also enjoys a close alliance with the Chávez regime.

(5). In 2002, Argentina formally defaulted on its debt, sparking an economic crisis throughout South America’s southern cone; Chávez survived a coup attempt in Venezuela; the conservative Álvaro Uribe was elected president of Colombia, amid a grave security crisis; and the leftist Lula da Silva was elected president of Brazil, much to the dismay of business leaders (“Investors,” the BBC reported in August 2002, “dislike Lula intensely”).

Ten years later, Argentina is once again headed for an economic disaster, and Venezuela is effectively living under a dictatorship (one that is protected by both drug-trafficking generals and civilian paramilitaries). But Colombia is a relatively stable democracy with a much better security climate and a much stronger economy than it had in 2002. Uribe deserves enormous credit for transforming Colombia, just as Lula does for rejecting Chávez-style socialism and keeping Brazil on the path of economic stability. Indeed, Uribe and Lula were arguably Latin America’s two most consequential democratic leaders of the past decade.

(You can read this article in Spanish here.)

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Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.
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