South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
Many Latin Americans who like myself stepped into nightclubs for the first time as the generals in dark glasses were retreating from the political scene, used to listen to Mick Jones pounding "should I stay or should I go?" That is a question several leftwing leaders in the region maybe asking themselves these days.
In Brazil Dilma Rousseff wrestles with a "telenovela" impeachment - although questions are arising over the legality of the move. In Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro may soon face a recall vote. In Ecuador a court this week paved the way for a referendum on repealing a constitutional ruling that bars Rafael Correa from running again for president next year.
The end of the commodity price boom has been double-edged in Latin America. There is an erosion of constitutional checks and balances ("should I stay?") and a cry for more checks and balances ("should I go?"). The risk for leaders and their parties of trying to cling to power is increasingly eroding. They are struggling both with low prices for oil and mineral exports - like their African counterparts - and badly managed economies.
In Venezuela, a prolonged drought prompted Maduro to declare two-day working week. The pilsner-loving citizens of the cash-strapped oil-rich country are facing the prospect of beer shortages. As discontent mounts, this could accelerate the opposition's push to remove Maduro through a recall referendum, now the electoral court has allowed signatures to be collected.
In earthquake-ravaged Ecuador, Correa, a US-trained economist, may have to swallow his pride and ask the IMF for a bailout to pay for reconstruction. In Brazil, the central bank is bracing for a shakeup as it struggles to contain one of the deepest recessions on record while containing soaring inflation. (The IMF’s western hemisphere director did not sound too worried when he told the FT that whether Rousseff stays or goes, Brazil's ability to bounce back depends on how it can hammer out political consensus on a package of spending cuts, tax rises and anti-protectionist measures.)
We may be far from the optimism that followed the region’s transition to democracy in the 1980s, when The Clash was pumping out of loudspeakers. But the question posed by the British punk band back then is still reverberating. It may be time for Dilma, Nicolás, and Rafael, to dust off their old records.
Quote of the week
"We have never seen abuse and the mechanics of impunity and cover-up exposed so clearly and in such an authoritative, detailed fashion. This report is devastating for Mexico’s international reputation” - Daniel Wilkinson, Americas managing director at Human Rights Watch, told the Financial Times.