Opinion: In Nicaragua, the opposition must unite to oust Ortega

My latest report for Geopolitical Intelligence Services addresses the recent popular opposition to President Daniel Ortega; once a leader in the Sandinista movement himself against the Somoza regime, Ortega is now widely regarded as “la misma cosa” – the same thing – as the former dictator, following in his footsteps to create a de facto kleptocracy. One of the strongest opposition forces in the country is the student population, tired of Ortega’s increasing wealth at the expense of the poorest in the country. The political opposition must incorporate these elements of the population to take down Ortega’s regime, without bloodshed. Read the full report here.

Argentina: Macri yet to score on economic reform

When Mauricio Macri became president of Argentina in January 2016, he promised to “return Argentina to the world” and remove the distortions crippling its economy. The president meant to restore Argentina as an effective member of the international community and make it a global player in the positive sense, to exercise its agency – the very opposite of what his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, had brought about. But the reforms that the President wants to enact will take much longer to implement. Political trouble is brewing.

Full report here.

Opinion: Cuba’s two conundrums

At the end of April, Cuba’s parliament, the National Assembly of Popular Power (ANPP), elected Miguel Diaz-Canel president, to succeed Raul Castro. Although Raul remains first secretary of the country’s Communist Party (PCC) and de facto chief of the armed forces, much is being made of a generational shift in the country’s leadership. The new president faces two conundrums which he must solve to keep himself in power and his country stable. The first regards the economy, which is stagnant and cannot come close to satisfying the needs of an increasingly young and internet-savvy population. Now that Cuba’s former patrons, the Soviet Union and Venezuela, no longer provide support, the country must attract foreign capital to revive economic growth. The second conundrum is that just when the President thought Cuba would be welcomed back into the hemispheric community, Cuba lost its geopolitical leverage. The shift to the right in most of South America means that Cuba’s absence of democracy is more important outside the island than it was just five years ago.

Geopolitical Intelligence Services also produced a short video based on this report:

You can read my full report here.

Corruption in Latin America

The Odebrecht scandal has tainted nearly every government in Latin America over the past few years. Those less affected are in countries where the rule of law is strong. Voter anger is leading to sweeping political change throughout the region, in some cases, to candidates and parties on the far right, which may give rise to a number of new geopolitical challenges in Latin America. Economies may sputter as governments scale back infrastructure investments, being just one of the long-term effects of the massive corruption wave sweeping the continent.

Full report here.

Opinion: Venezuela nears the breaking point

The government of Nicolas Maduro has declared May 20 as the date of the next presidential elections. The announcement was met with harsh criticism from the domestic political opposition led by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) and from international actors – especially the Lima Group, which is monitoring the situation in Venezuela on behalf of more than a dozen countries in Latin America and Canada. International outcry, along with a grave humanitarian crisis and debt default, are nearing Venezuela to its breaking point.

Full report here.

Peace process under strain as Colombia gears up for election

This is an election year for Colombia, as it is for half a dozen other countries in the region – Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay and even Venezuela. Colombians went to the polls on March 11 to vote for Congress and will do so again in May for the first round of presidential elections. (It is virtually assured there will be a second round, in June.) Who wins the presidency will determine whether the peace process, begun in November 2016, will move forward (and how fast), stall or fall apart. At this point, it is hard to tell what sort of country Colombians want. It is as if the achievement of peace after years of negotiations has left the public stunned.

Full report here.

Cuba in Transition

In April, President Raul Castro will step down and hand over the presidency to First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel. Mr. Diaz-Canel will be the first person not named Castro to lead the country since 1959. However, Raul will continue as head of the country’s Communist Party. The big question is how his legacy and that of his brother, Fidel, will play out in politics, the economy and international affairs in the coming year and beyond.

Full report here.

Venezuela’s Authoritarian Slide

The Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly met for the first time several days ago amidst a flurry of critical international commentary. The U.S. State Department issued a statement referring to the assembly as “the illegitimate product of a flawed process designed by the Maduro dictatorship to further its assault on democracy.” Opposition candidates were forbidden from participating in the election to form part of the Constituent Assembly, and the authoritarianism in Venezuela continues to increase. Other Latin American countries are concerned about increased violence throughout the region, and Venezuela has been excluded from several organizations of Latin American countries. I responded to these developments in my recent interview on Venezuela with RT News.

New Report: Protectionist noise from the U.S. has spurred trade among Latin American countries

The economies of many Latin American countries are growing significantly for the first time in several years. This change is due to several factors, including increased market prices of commodities exported from the region as well as the strengthening of trade alliances within Latin America. This latter development is a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s signaling of a protectionist path. In response to anticipated policies from Trump’s administration, Latin American countries are working to boost their relationships with non-U.S. trade partners.

Whether this growth is sustainable is yet to be seen. The deep and persistent inequality in most countries in the region is a significant obstacle, and major elections (both presidential and legislative) in many Latin American countries in 2017 and early 2018 will impact economic stability and growth as well.

Read my full report on the Geopolitical Intelligence Services website.