Monday, January 01, 2018

Latin American Politics A Decade Ago

Ten years ago today, I asked some questions about what would happen in 2008.  Not surprisingly, at the end of the year I forgot to come back to them.

--Can Evo Morales ratify a new constitution without serious violence or even civil war? If that happens, then perhaps there is more hope for Ecuador as well.

Yes. It's easy to forget how much the potential for violence hung over Bolivia. Even with the current controversy over Evo Morales running again, it's noteworthy how much that changed. Same with Ecuador.

--Can Hugo Chávez re-energize his base and move forward with his socialist project? And related, will a real opposition movement emerge?

Yes and no. Of course, the latter problem has never gone away.

--Will South America move in a unifying direction (e.g. expanding the Bank of the South, Mercosur, etc.) or will that remain largely rhetorical?

It remains rhetorical. Latin America hasn't unified.

 --Will scandals catch up to Alvaro Uribe or will he remain a Teflon president? Will he also seek to amend the constitution for yet another term? 

He remained Teflon. And although his supporters tested the waters for another term, fortunately for Colombian democracy it didn't happen.

--The same Teflon question could be asked about Lula, since he has scandals (though dealing with corruption rather than paramilitaries!) swirling around as well.

Ditto. Despite even more serious problems, even a conviction, Lula still polls well for the 2018 election. That's Teflon for you.

--Thinking of Lula, where is the biofuel debate going? The corn-based model seems to be creating serious problems (e.g. higher prices) but can sugar—or other products--represent a viable model of alternative fuel? 

The debate is muted. Ten years ago, it was discussed in the U.S. presidential campaign. Of course, biofuels remain a critical issue in Brazil and in fact the legislature just passed a new law to boost ethanol production and also recently opened its first corn-only ethanol plant. At the time there was considerable debate about whether corn ethanol was making food (esp. tortilla) prices go up, but I haven't heard that argument in quite a while.

--In what direction will Cristina Fernández de Kirchner go? Will she depart at all from her husband’s political and economic strategies? How will she deal with the U.S.? Will the U.S. election matter?

These questions are too broad. Generally, though, she followed a similar model.

--Will the Concertación—and thereby Michelle Bachelet’s chances of getting anything done--hold together in Chile? To be fair, rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated in the past. 

It did for a while longer. It's dead now, though.

--Can the Mexican opposition regroup? Felipe Calderón is popular yet by no means untouchable, but the left is still reeling. 

Actually, no. I was asking the wrong question because it was the PRI that regrouped. 

--With Raúl Castro—whose tone and message are different from Fidel’s--more in charge, will there be substantive political and/or economic reforms in Cuba?

Nope! Now we're asking the same question again. and for now the answer will likely remain no.

--Can Central American countries address drug trafficking and gang violence without also bringing the military back to fighting internal enemies? 

Sadly, no. I assume I knew the answer was going to be no when I wrote the question.

--Once the U.S. presidential candidates are decided, will they say anything intelligent about Latin America and U.S. policy?

Obama did. He issued a document during the campaign that was quite good. Republicans were mostly consistent with George W. Bush's policy. John McCain would eventually make Colombia a part of his campaign, emphasizing how unlike Obama he would stand with our allies.

--Will the immigration debate in the United States reach new lows? Will it be a central issue once the primaries are over?

Oh my. There was so much lower to go.


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