Looking back at 2022, it was closed as the year in which Latin America slipped to the left, dictators got a blank check and an unprecedented migrant hemorrhage opened the veins of the region.
The new year begins with a forecast of pyrrhic economic growth. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in the context of external uncertainties and domestic constraints, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean will grow by 3.7 percent in 2022, just over half of the 6.7 percent rate recorded in 2021. The economic slowdown is expected to continue in 2023, reaching a growth rate of 1.3 percent.
The political map could change – more
In October, the elections in Argentina aim to take a new turn to the right. A timely blow against the Personalists because of their erroneous economic policies. In 2022, Argentina registered the second highest inflation in the region, only surpassing the Venezuela of the failed dictator Nicolás Maduro. In an election year, political leaders such as Mauricio Macri, Patricia Bullrich or the current mayor of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, seem to be popular among public opinion.
Peru is moving
A failed soft coup in Peru has generated ongoing protests but has also sparked the debate over elections and deeper political reforms. Light at the end of the tunnel. The new president of Peru Dina Boluarte turned out to be a better president than expected. Amidst the strife, Peru continues to have a relatively solid and enviable economy and some good citizens are willing to see beyond the ideological games.
Elections in Paraguay and Guatemala
In April, Paraguay will also have elections. Everything seems to indicate that the conditions are in place to remain on the path of right-wing or center-right leadership. Democracy and economic stability will prevail, and no traumatic changes seem to lie ahead.
In June, Guatemala will hold general elections. The country reinforced a state policy characterized by opacity, the judgment of power as a political weapon including persecution of the free press. The elections here could bring surprises and not necessarily the kind we can sustain.
Central America is moving towards a new wave of authoritarian regimes
Nicaragua and El Salvador seem to be on two sides of the same authoritarianism with different characters. The government of El Salvador President Nayib Bukele is getting closer to Ortega and further from democracy. No country can be governed under an uncertain state of emergency. El Salvador is no exception.
In Nicaragua, the one-party model has been strengthened, under a corrupt family dynasty. In November of 2022, migration from the country was the third largest in the hemisphere, only surpassing Mexico and Cuba.
AMLO’s shameful leadership in Mexico
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) closed the year badly. He promoted his Plan B controversial electoral reforms, defended a former coup president in Peru and celebrated the “legacy” of the Castro brothers’ dictatorship in Cuba. ALMO has maintained a complacent silence on democracy and human rights in Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Lula da Silva returns to Brazil
The newly elected President of Brazil, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva – previously president from 2003 to 2011 – began his mandate with 52 presidential decrees and a cabinet of 37 ministers. Climate change and inclusive development appear to be at the forefront of this new mandate. Internally, the right wing is much stronger in the Brazilian Congress and the economy is much weaker, compared to the previous Lula administration.
A less ideological foreign policy. The president of Brazil, who apparently sympathizes with the dictators of Venezuela and Cuba, does not have the space, nor the support, to throw himself out by submitting to the ideological agendas of Mexico or the Cuban dictatorship.
Total peace of Petro in Colombia
Colombian President Gustavo Petro is moving forward with one of the biggest and most complex challenges, fulfilling his promise to achieve the so-called total peace. Good intentions or leftist speeches are not enough. There are different armed sectors with different interests and not all seek the same thing. Building peace without impunity and justice is a daunting but urgent task.
The constitutional referendum in Chile
It is a challenge for the President of Chile, Gabriel Boric, to put more in the center and to complete his constitutional reforms. Any miscalculation would be fatal. The Chilean leader is known for a foreign policy consistent with democratic values and respect for human rights. His hand does not tremble when he criticizes the abuses of the dictators of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Human rights have no ideology.
The year for Nicolas Maduro
The interim President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, has now made history. The opposition legislature that led him made the sad decision to vote him out of power. Despite the efforts of the opposition, the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro is back and stronger. He closed 2022 with a $3 billion dollar unfreeze, new oil agreements and almost 300 political prisoners in prison. The moribund economy seems to be resurrected, along with the possibilities of free, fair and perhaps transparent elections.
Cuba, of its own accord, completed 2022 with a Penal Code that includes capital punishment for crimes against the home country. The island’s dictatorship has imprisoned more than 1,000 people for challenging the regime, including women, children and members of the LGBTI community.
The talks that began last year between Washington and Havana on migration could open a small window of opportunity to address other issues such as democracy and human rights. The dictatorship loves the benefits of US remittances and tourism but is allergic to discussing matters related to democracy.
The new year in Latin America begins with many challenges and pending tasks but filled with great opportunities. Migration, security, democracy, human rights and fair trade are on the table. Let’s take up the challenge together.
Arturo McFields Arturo McFields Yescas is a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the Organization of American States. Follow him on Twitter: @ArturoMcfields.