Latin America in 2008

· Economics, Latin America, Politic
Authors

The International Center of Fairs and Conventions of San Salvador on October 2008, the place of the 18th Ibero-American Summit. Photo Wikimedia Commons.

2008 was the last year of the economic boom of Latin America that started in 2003 and was slowed by the world financial crisis, according with the economical regional institute for Lat. America, CEPAL. However, it is the region of the world better prepared to face the global economical recession thanks to that boom.In 2008, the economical growing of Latin America and the Caribbean nations in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was of 4.6%. Unemployment for 2008 was of 7.9%.

In October, the Spanish-speaking nations gathered in El Salvador for the 18th Ibero-American Summit to discuss subjects like the formation and protection of the Ibero-American youth, the strategies to face the global financial crisis of 2008, the American economical bloc to Cuba and a mediated solution to the controversy among Argentina and United Kingdom for the sovereignty of the Malvina Islands or Falklands.

The Andean Crisis was other of the main issues in Latin America this year. It began when troops of the Colombian Army attacked a camp of the Farc guerrilla that was in the Colombian-Ecuadorian border in March. In the attack was killed the second strongest man of that guerrilla and was involved the Ecuadorian sovereignty. Ecuador followed a strong protest against Colombia and was joined by Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Mexico

The country suffered a strong rise in violence during 2008 due to criminal organizations related with drug trafficking. According with BBC News, 1,400 persons were killed during the first five months and 4,000 since President Calderon took office declaring war against mafias.

The situation is very similar of what Colombia endured during the 1990´s when the government of César Gaviria declared war against the drug carters of Medellín and Cali. At the same level, Mexican cartels killed policemen, soldiers, prosecutors and politicians who could put at risk their illegal business. Kidnapping became also a Mexican problem in 2008, making that thousand of persons protested in August. It is said that about 300 persons are kidnapped by criminal organizations.

A great discussion among the government of Felipe Calderón and Washington rose due to the problems of illegal Mexican migrants in US. Mexico denounced the bad treatment of migrants in the American territory.

A proposal of reform the national oil company, Pemex, confronted the different political groups of the country. In November 28th the government published seven statements of energy reforms to the most important company of the nation.

Relations between Colombia and Mexico remained good through the year. Presidents Álvaro Uribe and Rafael Calderón signed agreements in November to join forces in the fight against drug cartels. Mexico was positive in its position to the actions of the Colombian government against guerrillas, even if a Mexican lady, Lucía Morett, under political asylum in Nicaragua, was pointed out by Colombia as a member of the Farc guerrilla, because she was in the camp of Raul Reyes during the Colombian army attack in the Colombian-Ecuadorian border in 1rst March.

Nicaragua

The government of Daniel Ortega joined Quito and Caracas in condemning Colombia for the action of its army in the attack of the camp of Raul Reyes in the Colombian-Ecuadorian border in March 2008. The relations with Colombia were already difficult since Nicaragua demanded the South American country to the International Tribunal of Justice of The Hague demanding the revision of sovereignty on the San Andrés and Providencia Archipelago. The Court concluded that the sovereignty of Colombia over the islands is legal, but it let opened the revision for some cays. The conclusion was finished in November 2007.

Nicaragua gave political asylum to three women who survived the military attack of the Colombian army to the Raul Reyes camp at the Ecuadorian border. The three women, one of them from Mexico, were accused by Colombia as terrorists and then, Bogotá considered that such asylum is a violation of international rules.

In May conveyor activists organized a national strike. Clashes among activists and police.

The elections of majorships of November were won by the ruling Sandinista Party of Ortega. The elections were demanded by the opposition as fraudulent. The US government said that it would freeze USD 64 million in anti-poverty aid. President Ortega announced that President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has offered USD 100 million in aid if US and Europe cut the funding over disputed elections.

Venezuela

In November 2007 President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia canceled the mediation of President Hugo Chávez with the Farc guerrilla for a humanitarian interchange in the hostages issue. The action of the Colombian government would create distance and diplomatic crushes among the two countries during 2008.

President Chávez claimed success after the Farc guerrilla gave to him two of the top hostages and asked the international community to remove the Farc from the list of terrorist organizations. Such request was refused especially by US and Colombia.

In March the Colombian Army attacked a camp of Farc in the border with Ecuador. In that action is killed the second strongest leader of Farc, Raul Reyes and 15 other guerrillas. Ecuador protested for the evident violation of its territory. President Chávez prevented Colombia that if the Army tries to do the same in the Venezuelan border, there will be a war among the two countries. Chávez said that the national army would move to the Colombian border, but this fact was never proven.

Relations with Colombia improved since July after the release of Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and a visit of Álvaro Uribe to Caracas.

President Chávez said that he was planning to nationalize several private and international companies in Venezuela. Some of the most important companies were concern, for example Cemex of Mexico, and there were big discussions with the Venezuelan government.

Venezuela looked for links to countries like Russia, China and South Africa to expand its markets. With Russia, Venezuela signed an agreement of cooperation.

The opposition could rise its positions in the regional elections of November.

Ecuador

The Colombian army attack on a camp of the Farc guerrilla that was located in Ecuadorian territory, damaged the diplomatic relations among both countries.

President Rafael Correa made an international campaign of condemnation against Colombia. By its part, Colombia accused Ecuador of being a host for the Colombian guerrilla. The Defense Minister Wellington Sandoval and other top military commanders, have to resign due to the problem with Colombia. The relations with the neighbor country are partially reestablished in June.

President Rafael Correa got a positive balance in the constitutional referendum of September.

In October, Ecuador faced a dispute with Brazil when Quito expelled the Brazilian constructor company Odebrecht due to an increase in its credit of USD 242 million. Ecuador demanded the original contract and refused to pay the credit.

Bolivia

In 2007 President Evo Morales announced a new constitution for the country with a more socialist bases in order to promote a better distribution of the country’s wealth and give more participation to the indigenous majorities. The new constitution created disputes among other political tendencies. However, by the beginning of 2008 president Morales obtained the 67% of votes in a referendum to confirm his leadership.

September was a very difficult month for Bolivia with strong protests against the government of president Morales by his political opponents in the east and north provinces of the country. Talks among government and oppositions contributed to sore the crisis.

After the crisis with the opponents, President Morales expelled the US ambassador saying that he supported the civil unrest. By his part, president Hugo Chávez of Venezuela made the same in Caracas as a support to the Bolivian decision. Washington expelled by its part the ambassadors of Bolivia and Venezuela from Washington.

President Morales suspended operations of DEA in Bolivia saying that this American Department was supporting the opposition manifestations.

In October the Congress approved the new constitution to rule from January 2009.

Although Bolivia has been an ally of Venezuela and Ecuador, its relations with the government of Álvaro Uribe has been moderated and prudent in its statements related to the Colombian problematic. President Morales has called the Farc guerrilla to stop their armed operations and look a more political role in the Colombian society. He has said that the continuation of guerrilla in Colombia has only empowered the right wind ideologies and weakened more popular options.

Peru

Although Peru has made a good performance in economics, the second term government of President Alán García is one of the less popular in Latin America. By October his cabinet had to resign because his party was involved in corruption scandals for oil contracts.

A leftist governor, Yehuda Simon, was appointed by President García as the new prime minister in order to overcome the political crisis.

In January, Peru demanded a revision of the maritime delimitation with Chile before the International Tribunal of The Hague. Peru is demanding the sovereignty of 200 maritime miles, which are under Chile since the Pacific War.

Peru is one of the strongest ally of Colombia in Latin America. Both countries have been together in the intention of sign agreements with economical markets like Europe, USA and Asia.

Chile

The country continues to hold the fame as the most stable democracy in the Hemisphere this year. It is the second in the Americas in transparency according to the studies of International Transparency by 2008: the first is Canada and the third is USA.

The demand on maritime sovereignty by Peru created tensions with Lima in January.

Argentina

The government of Cristina Fernández suspended taxes on agricultural exports by July and ended a crisis with farmers who were protesting for that reason. The controversy with Uruguay over the construction of pulp mills on the Uruguay River was rather calm through the year, after the agreement of November 2007 when Uruguay approved the production of eucalyptus pulp at Botnia’s mill in Fray Bentos and it was tested by environmental authorities as fair.

The government of Fernández has kept a prudent relation with the Colombian conflict. Argentina played a key role in the international arena for the release of the Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

Argentina has reopened the case of the Falkland Islands or Malvina in a dispute with the United Kingdom. The case was discussed also in the 18th Ibero-American Summit in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Paraguay

The right wind Colorado Party that ruled the country for 61 years, was defeated by a socialist candidate, the former Catholic Bishop Fernando Lugo in April. By September, President Lugo said that Nicanor Duarte, his predecessor, and a former military commander, General Lino Oviedo, wanted to defeat his government.

Brazil

A controversy with US opened the year in Brazil when Washington stopped imports of Brazilian beef saying that the disease check are not acceptable.

As urban violence is one of the main Brazilian problems, the government offered by August rewards to those who give up illegal weapons.

Brazil rejected an offering from Iran to join the international oil cartel, Opec. In November, the country is punished by heavy rains that caused floods.

In its relations with Colombia, the government of president Inazio Lula da Silva has been friendly. In July both presidents, Lula and Uribe, met in the Colombian Amazon city of Leticia, borders among Colombia, Peru and Brazil, to promote fraternity in the relations of the three nations and compromises for peace and development. Brazil has been prudent in calling the Farc guerrillas as a terrorist group, but denounces the kidnapping as a criminal and unacceptable behavior.

Dominican Republic

In May, Leonel Fernández was elected for a second period as president of the country. When he assumed the presidency in August, before different chief of states, President Fernández made an important statement on problems of energy for countries that depend on imports of oil like Dominican Republic. The proposal of Fernández to create a compensatory fund for those countries by the producers, was considered of great importance by the international community.

President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia promised that his country will support Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico with energy. This generates the idea of a mega project to join the continental platform with the Caribbean islands with a huge cable of energy that could be ready by 2012. In December, Bogotá confirmed the study of the mega project between the three nations.

Cuba

La Habana was the other big character of 2008 in Latin America. It was the first year that former President Fidel Castro was not in charge of the country. The aged long-term leader of the Cuban revolution stepped down and his brother, Raúl Castro, took over the presidency of the country in February.

Some movements in domestic policies like the lift of bans on private ownership of mobile phones and computers, showed some changes in the island. By June there were announcements that the country will abandon salary equality.

Different countries, especially of Latin American, pressed during the year over the American economical sanctions on Cuba. Expectations after the election of Barac Obama as president of the USA predicted a gradual reestablishing of relations between the two countries.

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