Venezuelan commandos patrol the Antimano neighborhood of Caracas, Jan. 29, 2019 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

Venezuela’s authoritarian president, Nicolas Maduro, has managed to stay in power for eight years despite remaining profoundly unpopular, overseeing a spectacular economic collapse and facing years of opposition efforts to dislodge him. There’s little doubt Maduro has outplayed his opponents, and yet, his hold on the country is more tenuous than it seems. The democratic opposition has indeed failed to remove him. But under Maduro, Venezuela is increasingly becoming a land of militias, warlords and criminal gangs. As they gradually divide the country into fiefdoms, the state’s footprint is steadily shrinking. The government’s sway beyond the capital city is significantly […]

Raul Castro, right, with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel at the closing session of the Cuban Communist Party’s eighth congress, in Havana, April 19, 2021 (ACN photo by Ariel Ley Royero via AP).

On Monday, the 60th anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Raul Castro stepped down as leader of the Cuban Communist Party. Between them, Raul and his late brother, Fidel, led Cuba since the triumph of the revolution in January 1959. But Raul Castro’s resignation more than six decades later, at the party’s Eighth Congress, represents more than just the retirement of an aging revolutionary with a storied last name. His departure marks the final stage of a leadership transition from the “historic” generation that founded the revolutionary regime to a successor generation born after 1959. All five of […]

Guillermo Lasso, president-elect of Ecuador, speaks to supporters at his campaign headquarters following the runoff election, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, April 11, 2021 (AP photo by Angel Dejesus).

Even in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic and a mismanaged economic austerity package, former President Rafael Correa’s bitter legacy of corruption and authoritarianism outweighed the promise of a return to the lavish social spending of the left-wing populist’s time in power. That appears to be the takeaway from the surprise victory of conservative banker Guillermo Lasso, 65, in Ecuador’s hard-fought presidential runoff election on April 11. With the Andean nation’s economic model at stake—not to mention its free press and arguably its democracy—Lasso overturned a 13-point loss in the February first round to defeat Correa’s protégé, Andres Arauz, 52.4 […]

Presidential candidate of the Peru Libre party Pedro Castillo speaks during a conference in Chota, Peru, April 14, 2021 (AP photo by Martin Mejia).

A dozen years ago, when Peruvians were heading to the polls for a presidential runoff election, the acclaimed novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who had himself once tried his hand at politics, famously likened the choice voters faced between the two remaining candidates to that between AIDS and cancer. Since then, Peruvians have seen their political system careen off the rails, culminating in last weekend’s first-round presidential election, the outcome of which sent financial markets tumbling and left the country in shock. A mind-boggling 18 candidates were on the ballot, ensuring a thoroughly fragmented vote and an unpredictable result. But even […]

Venezuelan navy soldiers patrol the Arauca River, the natural border with Colombia, seen from Arauquita, Colombia, March 26, 2021 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

For years, the Venezuelan government has permitted armed groups from neighboring Colombia to operate within its borders. It has even occasionally conspired with these groups, taking a cut of the profits from their drug trafficking, extortion and other illicit activities in exchange for allowing them freedom to maneuver. But last month, Venezuela launched a major military offensive against a faction of Colombian guerrillas that is active near the two countries’ border, and which is believed to have fallen out of favor with President Nicolas Maduro’s autocratic government. These are not the first clashes between Venezuelan security forces and Colombian armed […]

Then-Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, left, and then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the presidential palace in Bogota, Colombia, June 18, 2014 (AP photo by Javier Galeano).

BOGOTA, Colombia—In his last visit to Colombia as U.S. vice president in December 2016, Joe Biden praised then-President Juan Manuel Santos for the historic peace accord reached that year with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—the country’s largest guerrilla group, better known as the FARC—which ended the longest-running armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. More than four years later, the Andean nation is at risk of losing most of the security gains from the hard-won peace agreement, with violence escalating to levels last seen before the peace talks. Now that Biden is back in office as president, he must pay […]

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during a presidential campaign rally in Texcoco, Mexico, June 17, 2018 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

In July 2018, Leo Hernandez, a 23-year-old law student at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, joined millions of other millennial and Generation Z voters in helping Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador secure a landslide victory in Mexico’s presidential election. Hernandez was excited about the possibility of helping to elect the country’s first leftist president in recent history. And given his plans to return to his home city of Tijuana after graduation, he was particularly attracted to the attention Lopez Obrador was paying to state-level politics. “He was moving away from acting like Mexico City was the only place that matters,” […]

Anti-government demonstrators march during a national strike in Bogota, Colombia, Dec. 4, 2019 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Pro-democracy activists once held up Latin America as a crowning achievement, a region notorious for 19th-century caudillos and Cold War military strongmen that was almost universally electing its leaders by the early 1990s. In 2001, the Western Hemisphere’s premier political institution, the Organization of American States, adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which commits members to uphold and defend democracy. Nowadays, it is more common to hear about Latin America as a cautionary tale, a flashing red light reminding us of the fragility of new democratic institutions and the allure of old habits. The overachiever of what Samuel Huntington called the […]


The White House’s announcement last month that the United States will offer millions of coronavirus vaccines to its two immediate neighbors, Mexico and Canada, is a welcome step toward the reversal of the Trump administration’s “America First” policies. But for humanitarian, economic and strategic reasons, it must be just the first step toward an intentional program of U.S. leadership to vaccinate the Americas. In the global struggle against COVID-19, Latin American and Caribbean countries have fallen behind. Weak health systems, uncertain leadership, high numbers of informal workers and bad luck have created a perfect storm in the region. Even as […]

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, fourth from right, flanked by Vice President Hamilton Mourao, left, and then-Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo, in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

Facing his most severe political crisis since taking office in 2019, Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, resorted to a broad reshuffle of his Cabinet last week, giving more of a voice to center-right parties in order to shore up his support and reduce the risk of impeachment while ousting three military commanders whom he considered insufficiently loyal. As Brazil heads into a perfect storm—an out-of-control pandemic combined with economic collapse and growing political discontent—Bolsonaro appears to be surrounding himself with loyalists who are willing to protect him and his four sons, all of whom are under investigation for crimes ranging […]

Yonhy Lescano, the presidential candidate of the Popular Action party, campaigns in the Villa El Salvador area on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, March 29, 2021 (AP photo/Martin Mejia).

LIMA, Peru—In a country long plagued by political malfeasance, jaded Peruvians like to say that they usually cast their ballot for the “least bad” candidate. Now, as Peru staggers toward an April 11 general election, voters—battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic collapse and five years of political turmoil—seem unable to decide which of the 18 largely unconvincing presidential candidates that might be. Yonhy Lescano, the center-left frontrunner, barely breaks into double digits in opinion polls, while the leading five candidates’ combined support does not hit 50 percent. These are unprecedentedly low numbers, even for a society that has long viewed […]

A woman is inoculated with a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as her grandson stands nearby, Santiago, Chile, March 31, 2021 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

Before a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Chile was being lauded in the international press for its remarkable progress in vaccinating its population against the coronavirus. Soaring caseloads in recent weeks have dampened that narrative of success, but the fact remains that this small, relatively well-off Latin American nation is moving faster to inoculate its citizens than almost any other country in the world. Meanwhile, nearby Paraguay, where scarce shots generated public outrage against the government’s handling of the pandemic, has emerged in the media as a poster child of Latin America’s poor performers. Both countries share common features with […]

Guido Montano, left, and his partner, David Aruquipa, kiss during a press conference in La Paz, Bolivia, Dec. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Juan Karita).

LA PAZ, Bolivia—“The biggest change is a mental one,” Guido Montano, one half of Bolivia’s first-ever same-sex civil union, told me when I asked him recently how his life had changed since he and his longtime partner, David Aruquipa, won a two-year legal battle to register their union last December. “It may seem a vague idea in day-to-day life,” he said, “but I just immediately sensed that we have more rights.” That vague idea suddenly became much more real in January, when both men contracted COVID-19, forcing them to contemplate a worst-case scenario. “With David really ill, the fact that […]