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 […]

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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. In December, Abdo […]

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 […]

President Joe Biden signs an executive order on immigration at the White House, Washington, Feb. 2, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

President Joe Biden inherited an immigration system in shambles. After four years of efforts by Donald Trump’s administration to put up as many barriers as possible for migrants and asylum-seekers hoping to enter the United States, Biden’s team must now reopen America’s doors while avoiding a political backlash in Washington. The new administration has also pledged to work closely with Central American leaders to address the root causes of the migrant crisis, though that will be a longer-term undertaking. This week on the Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s Elliot Waldman was joined by Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin […]

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 […]

Crews construct a section of the border wall in San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, Douglas, Arizona, Dec. 8, 2020 (AP photo by Matt York).

Since he took office last month, President Joe Biden has moved quickly to overhaul Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Among other measures, the new administration has moved to rebuild the U.S. refugee resettlement program, which had been gutted under Trump; ended the “safe third country” agreements that aimed to force asylum-seekers to first register their claims in other nations before traveling to the United States; stopped construction of the wall along parts of the U.S. border with Mexico; and issued a 100-day pause on deportations, although that order has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge. Adam Isacson, a longtime WPR […]

A woman holds up a sign that reads, in Spanish, “Cubans with Biden,” as then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks in Miramar, Florida, Oct. 13, 2020 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Few countries suffered more from former President Donald Trump’s policies than Cuba. The Trump administration imposed sanctions and restrictions designed to blow up the historic detente between Washington and Havana forged by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. These measures—as well as sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, which cut off a much-needed source of subsidized energy—battered Cuba’s state-run economy, which has also been hard-hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s critical tourism sector. As a result, in a moment of political transition and quickening market reforms, Cuba is now experiencing its worst economic crisis since the “Special Period,” […]

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 […]