Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

Investors stampeded out of Brazil on Monday, tanking its markets, after President Jair Bolsonaro’s completely unexpected move to replace the head of the national oil company, Petrobras, with a retired general. Bolsonaro announced the decision Friday, and later declared he had plans to intervene in other firms. The huge market sell-offs, which also struck Brazil’s currency and sovereign bonds, reflected fears that Bolsonaro may be preparing to intervene much more aggressively in the economy, with the aim of boosting his sagging polls ahead of the 2022 presidential election. Bolsonaro is still the favorite to win, but the surprise popularity surge […]

Abortion rights activists celebrate after Congress approved a bill that legalizes abortion, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 30, 2020 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

At dawn on Dec. 30, a sea of humanity outside of Argentina’s Congress in Buenos Aires fixed their eyes on the nine giant screens the government had installed to broadcast the parliamentary session taking place inside. For 12 hours, Argentina’s Senate had been debating a bill, already approved by the House of Representatives two weeks earlier, that would legalize abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy and offer it free of cost in the country’s public health system. The crowd, too, had been there all night, occupying the streets in a vigil that was both festive and solemn, designed to […]

A farmer walks near black flags representing 11 landless farmers who were killed during clashes with police over a land dispute in Curuguaty, Paraguay, Nov. 13, 2012 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

The government of Paraguay has in recent months come under criticism for its fumbling response to a long-running dispute over the Marina Cue Reserve, a plot of land in the rural district of Curuguaty. While currently state-owned, over 150 poor families claim the land belonged to them before it was forcibly taken decades ago by a powerful associate of the dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled the country from 1954 to 1989. And while President Mario Abdo Benitez and members of Congress have expressed some interest in helping the families, handing over the land is not so simple. Listen to this […]

Venezuelans cross the International Simon Bolivar bridge into Colombia, Feb. 21, 2018 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

It’s not often that a large refugee population is given unexpected reason to feel overjoyed. But that’s what happened last week in Colombia, when President Ivan Duque, standing alongside United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, announced that he would allow all Venezuelans living in the country as of Jan. 31 to obtain residency permits for 10 years. Their official status will grant them full rights to work, study, receive health care and enjoy other benefits available to Colombian citizens. The news came as a surprise, particularly because just a few weeks ago Duque had said undocumented Venezuelans would […]

Juan Guaido, center, with other opposition party members at a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 7, 2020 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

The emergence of a dynamic young leader galvanized the Venezuelan opposition two years ago. Juan Guaido united disparate opposition parties and won recognition as the country’s legitimate president from Donald Trump’s administration and dozens of other governments. His colleagues and the U.S. officials who backed him insisted that a campaign of “maximum pressure”—entailing biting sanctions, international isolation and even veiled threats of military action—would force an end to President Nicolas Maduro’s “usurpation” of power and restore democracy to Venezuela. That was a miscalculation. Maduro, who cleaned up in elections last December that the opposition called a sham, looks more entrenched […]

A supporter of presidential candidate Andres Arauz holds a portrait of former President Rafael Correa, Quito, Ecuador, Feb. 4, 2021 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

Ecuador’s presidential election was supposed to be a competition between a leftist candidate in the mold of exiled former President Rafael Correa, and a traditional, center-right and pro-market alternative. But when the votes were counted after Sunday’s first round, voters had delivered a surprise. Ecuadorians could end up with a choice between two leftists, potentially signaling that the coronavirus pandemic has opened the door to a new “pink tide” in South America. The final outcome of the vote has not been decided and won’t be until the runoff on April 11. The only certainty is that no candidate earned enough […]

A supporter of presidential candidate Andres Arauz during a rally in Salcedo, Ecuador, Jan. 31, 2021 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

The nightmarish scenes last spring from Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and economic capital, exposed what has arguably been the Western Hemisphere’s worst COVID-19 outbreak. Many of the Pacific port city’s affluent residents had been visiting Europe during a school break last January and February; a few weeks later, its hospitals and morgues were quickly overwhelmed. Dantean images of the dead abandoned on sidewalks by grieving family members, who feared they would also lose their lives to this alien new disease, flashed around the world. But things had already been rough in the small Andean nation before those horrors. In October […]