from Spain and Portugal in the 19th century, during and after the Napoleonic wars. A large number of new countries emerged, their creation engendered by local interests and “oligarchs” of the day. All European powers had claims on the islands of the Caribbean. Some of them remain domains of European countries or the United States.
Like North America and Africa, the region is richly endowed in natural resources, water and agricultural land.
Inefficient governance systems and a lack of fiscal discipline are problems haunting most countries in the region. These weaknesses lead to political instability, abrupt regime changes and corruption.
Aside from natural resources, the region’s chief assets include its climatic variety and easy access to the oceans. The area has avoided participation in major wars due to its geographic distance from the world’s hot spots.
Latin America’s diverse economies are facing a series of common problems in 2019. After a years-long commodities boom, countries that failed to prepare for the current downturn in prices now deal with a loss of revenues and foreign investment. Corruption and quality of life issues have presented other challenges, and the benefits of a recent trade deal with the EU are neither immediate nor assured. Economic prospects across the region range from cautiously hopeful to pessimistic.
Nicaragua is a cautionary tale for those who see history trending toward democratic governance. President Daniel Ortega has subverted the country’s institutions to create a personalist, authoritarian regime. Now, after the cutoff of oil-based aid from Venezuela, he is relying on guile and bloodshed to stay in power.
Just over six months since Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro entered office, he has already taken the first steps toward opening up the country’s economy, fighting corruption and reducing violent crime. Still, he faces a fractured, obstinate legislature and a staunchly opposed political left. Ultimately, the fate of his administration may be linked to the outcome of the worldwide “culture war” between globalists and nationalists.
As President Evo Morales gears up to run for an unconstitutional fourth term, Bolivian politics enter a pivotal year. The last successful member of Latin America’s “pink wave” of leftist governments that rose to power on the commodities boom of the early 2000s must now deal with slumping hydrocarbon revenues and a disillusioned public. Mr. Morales may win a fair election in October, but the big question is whether he will seek to stay in office if he loses.