Confetti explode over a screen showing photos of Gustavo Petro and his running mate Francia Marquez after they won Colombia’s presidential election, Bogota, Colombia, June 19, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

In 2022, it’s easy to be an opposition politician, party or political movement in Latin American democracies, where the political environment is about as anti-incumbent as it can get. Including the victory by Gustavo Petro in Colombia earlier this month, the parties of incumbent presidents have lost the past 14 consecutive democratic presidential elections in the region going back to 2018. Latin America has gone from a region where incumbent advantage was a major factor in elections to one where incumbent parties almost never win. Of course, there is an obvious catch to this phenomenon: Once the opposition wins, it is no longer the […]

Gustavo Petro, presidential candidate with the Historical Pact coalition, waves upon his arrival to a polling station to vote in presidential elections in Bogota, Colombia, May 29, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

When Colombians went to the polls Sunday to choose a new president, both choices on the ballot meant change and more than a little uncertainty about the future. It’s no surprise, then, that now that the results are in, Colombia finds itself on edge, teetering between high expectations and high anxiety. The victory by Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogota who once belonged to a radical leftist urban guerrilla movement, was above all a forceful rejection of the status quo. Petro promises profound change but speaks with the well-honed rhetoric of a smart, polished politician who has spent years […]

U.S. President Joe Biden hosts a meeting with heads of state and government at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, June 10, 2022 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas wrapped up in Los Angeles on June 10 with decidedly mixed results. After a run-up to the summit dominated by discussions over who would attend, the event itself was a flurry of activity by hundreds of government, business and civil society participants. Those who care about outcomes were left to sort through five official accords, a slew of side agreements and several U.S. government announcements. In making sense of the summit’s outcomes, three overarching themes become clear. First, dysfunctional relations between the U.S. and many regional governments continue to hobble U.S. diplomacy in the Americas. […]

Indigenous Constituent Assembly representatives celebrate after the final vote on constitutional reforms, Santiago, Chile, June 14, 2022 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

After a messy and controversial drafting process that had to be extended by three months, the text of Chile’s new constitution is mostly finalized. The final document is overly long, and many of its key promises will require substantial legislative guidance to determine how they should be implemented. Many on the political right feel as if they have been left out of the process, in part due to their own failures when the Constitutional Assembly drafting the document was elected. Meanwhile, many on the far left feel that the proposed constitution makes too many compromises and doesn’t go far enough […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attend a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 16, 2022.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, don’t agree on much when it comes to foreign policy, even if they sometimes exhibit similar populist styles. Bolsonaro is a right-wing firebrand who rails against “socialism” and was a close regional ally of former U.S. President Donald Trump. As for AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is known, despite his fiscal and social conservatism domestically, he tends to lean left internationally. He is friends with Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and he provided asylum to former Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2019 when Morales fled […]

President Joe Biden speaks during the opening plenary session of the Summit of the Americas, in Los Angeles, June 9, 2022 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

This week’s Summit of the Americas, hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden in Los Angeles, would have been a challenging affair under the best of circumstances, given the wide-ranging crises the hemisphere faces. But poor planning by the Biden team and the region’s changing political landscape combined to make the summit a diplomatic fiasco. The run-up to the gathering was dominated by a controversy over the guest list, amid rumors that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua would not be invited due to their nondemocratic governments. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO, along with several Caribbean leaders threatened to boycott, […]

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou speaks during a press conference at the Executive Tower in Montevideo, Uruguay, April 7, 2021 (AP photo by Matilde Campodonico).

In the run-up to the troubled ninth Summit of the Americas taking place this week in Los Angeles, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou, whose center-right government has been one of the most consistently aligned with U.S. policies in the region, strongly criticized the Biden administration, asserting that it lacks a vision for Latin America and mistakenly sees the hemisphere’s diverse countries as all having the same problems and needs. Lacalle Pou’s candid remarks demonstrate the principled consistency of a government that is often overlooked by, but increasingly important to Washington, at a time when Latin American governments are increasingly turning to partners that are […]

A demonstrator shouts slogans during a protest asking for immigration reform, ahead of the Summit of the Americas, June 7, 2022, in Los Angeles (AP photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez).

Wedged between highways and railroads, on a barren stretch of moldy concrete and sickly palm trees in Sao Paulo, sits the headquarters of the Latin American Parliament, or Parlatino, designed by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Created in 1964, the Parlatino was modeled on the European Parliament as a legislative body that would drive the integration of Latin American and the Caribbean around their unique regional and hemispheric interests. Today, though, the Parlatino is irrelevant, detached from national and even regional policy debates—just one of a succession of Latin American efforts to create a body to coordinate the hemisphere’s interests […]

Seized firearms that were destined for the Los Zetas drug trafficking organization in Mexico are seen at a news conference, Feb. 8, 2012, in San Antonio. (AP photo by Eric Gay).

The United States is the indisputable mass shooting capital of the world. But in the wake of the recent horrifying incidents in Buffalo, Uvalde, Tulsa and over 230 other communities in 2022, it is worth recalling that the U.S. not only has the highest rate of gun deaths and gun possession among wealthy countries. It is also the world’s preeminent arms merchant. In fact, the U.S. is responsible for more than 40 percent of all reported arms exports globally over the past five years. About half of U.S. sales between 2017 and 2021 were directed to clients in the Middle East, with the rest scattered across more than 100 countries, including many with a record of serious human rights violations. The […]

A protester peaks out from behind a shield on which a sign in Spanish reads, “We have said, ‘Enough,’” during an anti-government protest in Bogota, Colombia, May 10, 2021 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

The biggest controversy at the Summit of the Americas being held this week in Los Angeles is the guest list. No, this isn’t another column about whether Cuba should be invited. It’s about the entire guest list of presidents and prime ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean claiming to represent their countries. With few exceptions, if you ask the publics that voted those leaders into office, a majority of them think the person representing their country at the Summit of the Americas is doing a poor job. The host, U.S. President Joe Biden, has an approval rating of around […]