A Bolivian military policeman watches a tanker enter Brazil’s Petrobras refinery a day after then-President Evo Morales ordered soldiers to occupy Bolivia’s natural gas fields, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, May 2, 2006 (AP photo by Victor R. Caivano).

LA PAZ, Bolivia—In the past 15 years, the Bolivian economy tripled in size and poverty was cut in half, achievements built in large part on state spending fueled by the income from natural gas exports. But since 2013 those exports have dwindled, leaving a hole in Bolivia’s public finances that challenges the sustainability of its economic model. On May 1, 2006, then-President Evo Morales marched troops into Bolivia’s gas fields, declaring, “The plunder has ended.” He had recently led the Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS, to power, campaigning on a platform to wrest control of the country’s resources from foreign interests and to spread the wealth […]

Abortion-rights activists protest outside the Constitutional Court during a proceeding on the decriminalization of abortion in Bogota, Colombia, Feb. 21, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

BOGOTA, Colombia—This week, thousands of demonstrators clad in green, a color that has become the symbol of South America’s pro-choice movements, celebrated in the streets of Bogota as the Constitutional Court struck down laws criminalizing abortion in Colombia. The verdict was the culmination of a legal battle waged since September 2020 by a collection of over 80 women’s organizations calling themselves the “Just Cause Movement” that slowly wound its way to the nation’s highest court. Colombia joins Mexico and Argentina to become the third country in Latin America to decriminalize or legalize abortion in just over a year. A regional […]

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, center in chains, is shown to the press at the Police Headquarters in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Feb. 15, 2022 (AP photo by Elmer Martinez).

On Feb. 14, the U.S. Department of Justice requested the extradition of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on drug trafficking and weapons charges. Hernandez was arrested the following day, just two weeks after he left office and a mere week after Washington had revoked his visa. Hernandez was led away from his home in handcuffs and a bullet-proof vest, and he will likely remain detained in the military headquarters of Honduras’ special forces until his extradition hearing, which is set to take place on March 16.  Hernandez’s arrest and the outcome of the extradition hearing signal a watershed moment […]

The Spanish word for “murderer” covers a mural of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, as part of anti-government protests demanding his resignation in Managua, Nicaragua, May 26, 2018 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega surprised precisely no one last year when he won yet another term in an election so farcical it verged on grotesque. After securing victory by imprisoning opponents and silencing critics, one might have expected Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, to relax a bit, having dealt a punishing blow to the opposition. Sadly, that’s not what happened. Since winning his fourth consecutive term as president—his fifth overall—Ortega has only intensified his campaign of repression, and he is now dragging his imprisoned opponents through a series of sham trials in Managua, the capital. It’s the […]

A police officer walks by the wreckage of a car bomb that exploded near a police station in Padilla, Cauca, Colombia, Feb.6 2022 (AP photo by Andres Gonzalez).

SARAVENA, Colombia—On Jan. 19, Sonia Lopez was working late in the office of the Joel Sierra Foundation, a human rights group based in the city Saravena, Colombia, just south of the Venezuelan border. It was hot and muggy, and she was exhausted. Normally, she wouldn’t have been working so late, but intense conflict between armed groups in the department of Arauca, where Saravena is located, had left 83 dead and more than 2,000 displaced since early January, putting a premium on her organization’s work. At 10:45 p.m., shots rang out. Armed men had fired pistols from two cars approaching the […]

Barbados’ new President Sandra Mason awards Prince Charles with the Order of Freedom of Barbados during the presidential inauguration ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, Nov. 30, 2021 (AP photo by David McD Crichlow).

To the casual observer, Barbados appears to be the latest country to fall prey to increasing Chinese influence. Two years after signing up for China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2019, the Commonwealth nation declared itself a republic, replacing Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. Connecting these dots, the prestigious Sunday Times of London ran an article titled, “How Barbados went from Little England to Little China.” The piece noted that Barbados was flush with cash from China and implied that dropping the queen as head of state was the condition Beijing had set for further financing. A pharmaceutical salesman in Bridgetown, the […]

Parked trucks block lanes of traffic during a protest against pandemic restrictions in Ottawa, Ontario, Feb. 14, 2022 (AP photo by Ted Shaffrey).

For the first time in half a century, Canada’s federal government has declared a national emergency. The move was in response to continuing demonstrations in major cities and at several points along the Canada-U.S. border, where truckers and other protesters have blockaded major commerce routes and crossings for the better part of a month. The protests, which paralyzed Canada’s capital city Ottawa for weeks, were sparked by a national COVID-19 policy requiring truck drivers to be vaccinated in order to cross into Canada from the United States. The movement has since expanded to give voice to a wider variety of […]

Maryory Vega checks her name on a voting roster during general elections, at a voting center at the Liceo de Moravia school in San Jose, Costa Rica, Feb. 6, 2022 (AP photo by Carlos Gonzalez).

Costa Ricans went to the polls Feb. 6 for the first round of the country’s presidential election, as well as its congressional elections. But with none of the 25 presidential candidates able to reach the 40 percent of votes required to win the contest outright, the country will hold the runoff round in April to decide whether first-place finisher Jose Maria Figueres Olsen or runner-up Rodrigo Chaves will become its next leader. One of the most stable democracies in Latin America, Costa Rica’s electoral integrity standards are considered to be among the most transparent and fair in the world. But a […]

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, left, waves alongside his new chief of Cabinet, Anibal Torres, during the swearing-in ceremony for his new Cabinet at the government palace in Lima, Peru, Feb. 8, 2022 (AP photo by Martin Mejia).

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo did not wear his trademark broad-brimmed hat on Tuesday when he swore in his fourth Cabinet in six months. It may seem a trivial detail, but the embattled Castillo, who has worn the traditional headwear for practically every public appearance, may have been trying to signal to the country that this is a new beginning for his young, tumultuous presidency. Since he took office at the end of July, Peruvians have witnessed scandals and missteps coming from Castillo’s administration with unceasing regularity. Now, even those who had argued that Castillo—a rural schoolteacher without government experience—deserved a chance […]

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley speaks during the opening ceremony of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 1, 2021 (AP file photo by Alberto Pezzali).

Last month, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley won a stunning landslide victory in the Caribbean nation’s first general election since it declared itself a republic last November. While most analysts predicted that Mottley would likely win a second term as prime minister, few anticipated that her Barbados Labour Party, or BLP, would repeat its unprecedented sweep of all 30 parliamentary seats in the 2018 election that brought Mottley to power. Back then, Mottley led the BLP to victory by riding a wave of popular discontent with the previous Democratic Labour Party, or DLP, which had been in power for the […]

Miners watch the rescue efforts for two fellow gold miners at La Solution mine in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 20, 2010 (AP file photo by Juan Karita).

LA PAZ, Bolivia—In early December, United Nations rapporteurs published a letter of allegations against the Bolivian government, citing the untrammeled import and use of mercury for gold mining, and suggesting that Bolivia had become a gateway for contraband mercury going to other Amazonian countries. It further accused Bolivia of failing to comply with the Minamata Convention that regulates the use of toxic substances. In signing the Minamata Convention along with almost every South American country in 2013, Bolivia committed to curbing and eventually eliminating almost all uses of mercury, including in artisanal gold mining. Bolivia ratified the agreement in 2015, and […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with President Joe Biden at the Villa la Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

In the weeks since Russia began its military buildup on Ukraine’s border, the U.S. and its allies have scrambled to respond quickly and forcefully. According to U.S. intelligence officials, the more than 100,000 Russian troops amassed so far would be capable of launching a full-scale invasion. And with NATO gathering troops of its own in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, it is clear that escalation is a real possibility.  And yet, Russia’s strategic decisions from the past decade—in Ukraine but also worldwide—have made it very difficult to successfully respond to its aggression. The recent buildup is the clearest expression of Russian military ambitions […]

A new type 094A Jin-class nuclear submarine of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s PLA Navy, in the sea near Qingdao, Shandong province, April 23, 2019 (AP

Mock amphibious assaults, regular intrusions into Taiwan’s air defense zone and the militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea are just some of the headlines that China’s military buildup has generated in recent years. Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has combined advances in electronic warfare with state-of-the-art military hardware like ballistic anti-ship missiles, stealth aircraft and aircraft carriers, with the ambitious goal of militarily dominating the South and East China Seas. This strategy is squarely aimed at undermining the U.S. military’s preeminence in the region, which until now has served as a counterweight to China’s […]