Friday, October 09, 2015

Latin America's Economic Downturn

Moisés Naím has a doom and gloom forecast for Latin America: "perilous years lie ahead for Latin America." His argument is that people moved into the middle class, but with recession will fall behind and then they will...well, I am not sure and he doesn't say. I guess he is referring to protests.

There are obviously protests going on in a number of different countries, but I am not convinced that these automatically become indicative of "corrosive social conflict." In Guatemala, for example, they were an expression of broad consensus that corruption was incompatible with democracy. That's the opposite of corrosive. In Brazil, protests against Dilma Rousseff are not destroying the country. Same in Chile.

In the very first sentence of his article, Naím links to a news article showing how perilous things are. That article, which he uses as a base to discuss that "peril," notes that plenty of countries, including Mexico and in Central America and the Caribbean, are doing relatively well.

At this point we need to discuss not just economic downturn, but how political institutions have become stronger over time and better able to absorb discontent. By that I mean we need to shed the assumption that protests are necessarily a sign of instability. They may well reflect a belief that change is possible within existing political rules. This is not revolution, civil war, or military intervention.


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