Latin America: 2018 in review

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2018 was a year dominated by change and powerful titles in Latin America. From Donald Trump’s wall with Mexico, migrant caravans, femicides, Cuba’s election of a leader that is not named Castro, to populism and Brazil’s right-wing newly elected President, here is a list of events and issues that shaped the region.

  1. The “Build the wall” slogan has divided the American political landscape, becoming something like a political mantra for the President’s devotees and a nightmare for liberals, who see in this presidential campaign promise nothing more than an affront. From a rallying cry and racist slogans to a humanitarian disaster, the public was wondering which side holds the ultimate truth while the rest of the world remained focused on images of Latin American children and women fleeing tear gas.
  2. Central American migrant caravans have become Trump’s boogeyman. Using race and the fear of the “foreigner” to attract supporters is not something invented by Donald Trump but he surely has perfected this dangerous skill. The fact remains that the bulk of the migrants from these caravans is taken in by Mexico, not the United States.
  3. High rates of violence against women and femicides have brought legislative measures in various Latin American nations but despite impressive steps forward, Latin America still remains a very dangerous place for women. The relative impunity and permissiveness with which these crimes are treated have outraged feminist groups and civil society organizations around the region. According to a November 2017 United Nations Development Program Report Latin America has the highest rate in the world of gender-based sexual violence against women while in Central America two of every three women killed are victims of femicide. In the era of the #metoo movement, Argentine women have invented their personalized grassroots movement named Ni una menos which quickly spread to other countries.
  4. On April 2018, Miguel Díaz-Canel was officially appointed as the new leader of Cuba. 59 years after the Cuban revolution, the Caribbean island has a leader that is not named Castro but despite this significant change, Raul remains something like a mysterious Cardinal Richelieu figure, maintaining his power. But for the rest of the world, this transition is a significant shift as it shows that passage is in place, and a new generation of technocrats rather than retired guerrilla soldiers will lead the country.
  5. The rise of populism and right-wing parties have created a phenomenon similar to a Trumpification of the region and for the first time in decades, South America has adopted conservative ideas. Argentina, Chile and now Brazil- South America’s leading economies have moved further away from the left, embracing populist ideas which have severely damaged the European Union and the United States. Despite these changes, we can’t talk about homogenized ideas or doctrines as there are significant differences between Jair Bolsonaro personality, character and political agenda and Mauricio Macri and Sebastián Piñera. The “left-wing fatigue” might be a new thing in South America but there are still enough nations in Latin America who refuse to abandon the socialist support system.
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