Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the Mercosur Summit in Santa Fe, Argentina, July 17, 2019 (AP photo by Gustavo Garello).

Relations between the four members of South America’s Mercosur trade bloc—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay—are at their worst since the group’s establishment three decades ago. For months now, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has been blocking a demand by Brazil and Uruguay to reduce Mercosur’s external common tariffs, in an attempt to protect domestic companies and prevent even further disruption to an economy mired in high inflation, currency problems and a prolonged recession. Frustrated, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou announced earlier this month that he would seek trade deals outside of Mercosur, which is prohibited by the bloc’s rules. Uruguay’s decision is not […]

Gabriel Boric addresses supporters after receiving the news of his victory in Chile's primary elections, July 18, 2021 (AP photo by Felipe Figueroa).

Primary elections in Chile over the weekend brought a sigh of relief to those in Latin America anxious about growing polarization in their countries. Many observers have feared that the crises roiling the region will prompt voters to flock to the extremes, on both the right and left, and create further instability and uncertainty. Those concerns were heightened after Peru’s first-round presidential election, featuring 18 candidates, catapulted the far-right and far-left candidates into a tense runoff, followed by a perilous period of uncertainty that only came to a close this week, six weeks after the votes were cast.  But voters in Chile […]

Soldiers patrol during a military operation in Macarena, southern Colombia, Feb. 20, 2010 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

BOGOTA, Colombia—Carlos Martinez joined the Colombian military at the age of 17, a minor who had to obtain his parents’ written permission to enlist. “I didn’t have many options. There aren’t a lot of opportunities in this country for someone like me who grew up poor,” he said, “but war will always be profitable.” Martinez spent almost 10 years on active duty in the army, eventually joining an elite special forces unit that fought armed groups and drug traffickers in the Andean countryside. Colombia, which currently boasts some 250,000 active-duty armed forces personnel, produced millions of soldiers like Martínez during […]

A nurse prepares a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

The worst of the coronavirus pandemic has receded considerably in countries with high vaccination rates, despite the new challenge posed by the more contagious delta variant. So far, this mostly means that rich countries are finding it possible to restart their economies safely, while lower- and middle-income countries, whose populations continue to be brutally battered by the pandemic, are struggling with massive public health demands, along with the economic and political crises ignited or worsened by COVID-19. Nowhere is this relentless predicament more urgent than in Latin America, which is why multilateral organizations are urging the rich nations that have […]

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido attends a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, May 28, 2021 (AP photo by Matias Delacroix).

Last week, the authoritarian government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced it would allow the country’s main opposition coalition to compete in regional and municipal elections that are scheduled for November, lifting an electoral ban that was first imposed in 2018. It was one of several concessions Maduro has made recently, signaling his desire to improve his global image and seek sanctions relief from the United States.  The lifting of the electoral ban on the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, came as government and opposition representatives prepare to restart direct negotiations, with a new round of Norway-brokered talks reportedly set to take […]

An anti-government march in Cali, Colombia, May 19, 2021 (AP photo by Andres Gonzalez).

Beginning April 28, Colombians took to the streets for weeks of mass protests that nearly brought the economy to a standstill. The strikes and rallies were sparked by an unpopular tax reform proposal, but the roots of the unrest lie in a starkly unequal system that, to many poor and middle-class Colombians, seems rigged against them.  While organizers have announced a temporary pause in their activities, further demonstrations are planned for later in the month. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, Elizabeth Dickinson, senior analyst for Colombia at the International Crisis Group, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman from Bogota to […]

Bolivian President Luis Arce, flanked by Vice President David Choquehuanca, left, and former President Evo Morales, right, at the ruling MAS party’s 26th anniversary in La Paz, Bolivia, March 29, 2021 (AP photo by Juan Karita).

Whatever other misdeeds they may have committed, one would not think of either Evo Morales or Jeanine Anez as being a “terrorist.” Yet, however implausible the accusation may seem, being criminally investigated for “sedition and terrorism” in the past two years may be the only thing the two former Bolivian presidents have in common. After Morales resigned and fled the Andean nation in 2019 amid allegations of fraud in that year’s presidential election, the Justice Ministry under Anez’s interim presidency leveled the controversial charges against him, along with “genocide” for good measure. The indictment was based on both the socialist […]

An anti-government protest in Bogota, Colombia, May 12, 2021 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

After Colombians took to the streets on April 28 to protest a tax reform plan, President Ivan Duque quickly rescinded the unpopular proposal. But that didn’t stop the demonstrators, who continued to march in support of more fundamental economic changes to address persistent inequality and poverty, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Colombian security forces responded to the unrest with a typically heavy-handed approach, and at least 60 people have died so far, many at the hands of the police. Protest leaders have paused their activities for now, but are planning more strikes and demonstrations for later in […]

Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo gives a press conference at his campaign headquarters in Lima, Peru, June 15, 2021 (AP photo by Martin Mejia).

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American regional trade bloc founded by Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile, with the hopes of expanding to others, such as Panama or Ecuador. The concept had been presented for the first time in 2006 by then-Peruvian President Alan Garcia Perez: a network of countries on the Pacific coast that could increase their trade with the Asia-Pacific through interregional agreements. When the Pacific Alliance was finally launched in April 2011, its members had conservative presidents that aligned politically and commercially with Washington. Other countries in the […]