Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

A Plan of Action for Guatemala

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on May 19, 2011

by Eric Farnsworth for Americas Society/Council of the Americas, May 18th, 2011.

Guatemala is in crisis. According to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), drug gangs have penetrated “every facet of life.” Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson told the Council of the Americas in October that criminals have compromised control of the borders with Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras, usurping one of the most basic functions of any government. Ricardo Stein, who helped broker peace in the long-running civil war, says Guatemala is now “a paradise for criminals.”

The 1996 peace accords were an opportunity to put aside the terrible history of conflict and darkness that had enveloped the Guatemalan people for generations. Under vibrant and forward-looking leadership that enjoyed the support of the peo­ple as well as the goodwill and resources of the international community, Guatemala was poised, as Central America’s largest economy, to write a new chapter focused on democratic governance, economic development, and social inclusion. Serving in the White House at the time, I was part of the delegation that traveled to Guatemala City for the signing of the peace accords. The excitement was palpable, with citizens from across the country converging for a massive celebration lasting long into the night. Even more telling was a trip the next day to a camp of demobilized guerrillas, many of them children, who looked less demoralized than disoriented, facing the reality that they would need to re-integrate into society with little more than an understanding of how to shoot a rifle or plan an ambush. Here the enormity of the task became apparent. Without a focus on education, training, and rebuilding—or in some cases creating—the institutions of democracy, Guatemala faced an uncertain future. In some ways, the accords were the beginning, rather than the end; the job of building a society was now at hand.  (continue reading… )


Change is Coming to Peru

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on April 27, 2011

by Eric Farnsworth for Americas Quarterly, April 25th, 2011.

Peruvians go to the polls June 5 for the second round of voting to determine their next president. Early handicappers have Ollanta Humala leading Keiko Fujimori and pulling away. Of course, anything can happen, and five weeks is an eternity in politics. Nonetheless, already a debate is raging whether Humala, should he indeed be elected, will be a Peruvian version of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva or a Chávez acolyte, or perhaps some sort of hybrid nationalist.

Credit where it is due: Humala has effectively repositioned himself during the campaign as a moderate in the Lula model, rather than the populist authoritarian in the Chávez model who scared Peruvian voters and opened the door to a rehabilitation of President Alan Garcia during the last electoral cycle. Since then he has shed his military garb and taken to wearing suits, disavowed Chávez, and toned down the anti-business, class-warring rhetoric. Investors are not delighted by the choice between him and Fujimori and they are casting a wary eye, but neither are they—yet—running for the exits.

The primary knock against Fujimori is that she is the daughter of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori, now in jail in Peru. Much of her campaign platform has been ignored by observers and analysts obsessed with the prospect that her main initiative—were she to be elected—would be to pardon her father and serve as his puppet. That is an overly narrow view of what she would do as Peru’s first female president. Nonetheless, if elected, the polarizing albatross of her father would make it doubly difficult to govern, generating fierce resistance, particularly with a minority in Congress. (continue reading… )

U.S. aid-cutback plan sends wrong message

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on February 2, 2010

by Andres Oppenheimer, for The Miami Herald, Februaqry 2, 2010.

If President Barack Obama‘s foreign aid budget request for 2011 is a reflection of his priorities in world affairs, it looks like the president is saying “adios” to Latin America.

The administration’s foreign aid request to Congress for next year calls for a 13 percent increase for Africa, a 7 percent increase for the Middle East and a nearly 60 percent increase for South and Central Asia, mostly for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. By comparison, it requests a nearly 10 percent cut in aid for Latin America.

Has Latin America become irrelevant to the Obama administration? As recently as April 17, 2009, at the opening ceremony of the 34-country Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, Obama stated, “I’m here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration.”

Now, as I was reading the administration’s foreign aid proposal, I couldn’t help thinking — taking a line from columnist Lluis Bassets of the Spanish daily El País in a recent article about how the Obama administration looks at Europe — that Obama does not see Latin America as a problem, nor as a region that can help solve any problems…(continue reading)

Massachusetts Senate election has implications for Latin America

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on January 20, 2010

by Eric Farnsworth, for Americas Quarterly, January 20, 2010.

Yesterday’s election in Massachusetts to fill Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat had little to do with Latin America, but the implications of Scott Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley will nonetheless resonate across the region. That’s because the victory of the Republican candidate breaks the Democrats’ super majority of 60 votes in the Senate, and will likely require renewed negotiation and accommodation in order to pass the massive health care bill that has been the top priority of the White House and Congressional leaders since early 2009. Further delay on health care means that other agenda items will have to wait even longer for the political attention required to address them, and the mood on Capitol Hill could well become still more partisan and sour.

That’s doubly true for controversial legislation, particularly as we move further into 2010, which is a midterm election year. Since President Obama was inaugurated one year ago today, three out of the four special elections have been won by Republicans (the Massachusetts Senate seat and the Governorships of Virginia and New Jersey). Only an upstate New York Congressional seat was won by the Democratic candidate, and that was after the Republican vote split over two candidates. Looking ahead to the elections in November, many observers predict that Democratic losses will mount, which means the White House and Congressional leadership will do whatever they can to improve the midterm prospects by juicing the economy, creating jobs and strengthening the support of the Democratic base, particularly organized labor…(continue reading)

Iran in the Western Hemisphere

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk, Videos by politicalrisklatam on October 27, 2009

by Eric Farnsworth, for Americas Society, Ocotober 27, 2009.

COA‘s Vice President Eric Farnsworth discussed Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere during an October 27 hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs; the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere; the Subcommittee on the Middle East; and the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade. “Countries where democracy is weak…have proven, time and time again, to be the most likely portals through which unhelpful influences such as Iran are introduced into the region,” explained Farnsworth.

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairmen and members of the Subcommittees. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today on such a timely and important issue. This hearing today continues your outstanding efforts to highlight the most pressing issues in hemispheric affairs by the full Committee as well as by the relevant Subcommittees, and I congratulate you for your leadership on these issues. I’m also pleased to share this table with others of such stature and prominence.

Recent reports on Iran’s presence in the Americas provide an excellent opportunity for us to evaluate the situation on the ground, and what it means for the Western Hemisphere and for the United States…(continue reading)