Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

A special report on Latin America: So near and yet so far

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on September 9, 2010

by Michael Reid for The Economist, September 9th, 2010.

A richer, fairer Latin America is within reach, but a lot of things have to be put right first, says Michael Reid.

At dawn on September 16th 1810 Miguel Hidalgo, the parish priest of Dolores, a small town in central Mexico, rang the bells of his church to raise the cry of rebellion against the Spanish crown. Mexico, Spain’s richest American colony, thus joined a struggle for independence which had already seen the colonial authorities ousted and rebel juntas installed in Caracas, Buenos Aires and other South American cities. Two years earlier, following Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of the Iberian peninsula, King João VI of Portugal and his court had been installed in Rio de Janeiro by a British fleet. Brazil would never again be governed from Lisbon.

As Latin America marks the bicentenary of the start of its struggle for political independence, many of its constituent countries have more recent cause for celebration too. The five years to 2008 were Latin America’s best since the 1960s, with economic growth averaging 5.5% a year and inflation generally in single digits. Even more impressively, a region which had become a byword for financial instability mostly sailed through the recent recession. After a brief downturn in late 2008 and early 2009, a strong recovery is now under way, with most forecasts suggesting economic growth of over 5% this year for the region as a whole.

Along with growth came a better life. Between 2002 and 2008 some 40m Latin Americans, out of a total population of 580m, were lifted out of poverty, and income distribution became a bit less unequal almost everywhere. Poverty increased in 2009 because of the recession, but will start declining again this year. Average unemployment went up slightly to 8.2%, but should come down again this year to 7.8%, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). (continue reading… )

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