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.
Costa Rica’s stable democracy faces some strong headwinds, including a slowing economy, political fragmentation and violence associated with drug trafficking. Now, measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic are taking a massive economic toll, smothering its lucrative tourism sector. Costa Ricans are responding positively to President Alvarado’s leadership, but the political and economic situation will become trickier once the crisis abates.
For years, Peru has outpaced its neighbors, achieving robust economic growth despite numerous political crises. Its informal economy has helped fuel that growth, but now poses a huge risk due to the coronavirus pandemic. To continue its rise, maintaining order, attracting investment and keeping Chinese influence at bay will be top priorities. But with precious little support in congress and an election looming, the question is whether President Martin Vizcarra can provide the leadership the country needs.
President Jair Bolsonaro came into office in the aftermath of a deep recession. So far, his deregulatory reforms have shown his commitment to a pro-market agenda and have already brought tangible benefits to the Brazilian economy. However, he lacks popular support at the moment, and many are calling for impeachment. His political fate could be affected by the outcome of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil.
In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro is surreptitiously selling off oil assets. The EU is trying to set up negotiations between the government and the opposition. The U.S. is pushing for regime change. All of these attempts to solve the Venezuelan crisis fail to address a crucial factor: the growing suffering of the country’s people. If the problem is not tackled soon, an even greater disaster could be around the corner.