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.
There could hardly be two countries in Latin America whose immediate prospects contrast more vividly than neighbouring Colombia and Venezuela. While the former is on the verge of a historic peace deal that could put an end to a 50-year civil war, every day the latter sinks deeper into a crisis of such proportions that its citizens have been pouring across the border in search of basic supplies in the face of acute shortages at home.
In an exclusive report after spending several days with the Farc in the Sabanas del Yarí in southern Colombia, the FT’s Andes correspondent Andres Schipani reveals what life is like in a guerrilla camp since the announcement of a bilateral ceasefire. More like a summer camp, it turns out: early morning squat thrusts, mid-morning analysis of the peace accords, afternoon lectures on Marxist-Leninist dogma, and nightly guard duty. They even find time for movies – revolutionary fervour and Game of Thrones fever are not mutually exclusive, apparently. But it will be a challenge for many young rebels recruited in their teens and who have known no life outside such camps to adapt to the world beyond.
Meanwhile, the so-called “revolutionaries” in Venezuela keep running their country into the ground. The situation has got so dire that the Colombian border town of Cúcuta has been awash with Venezuelans unable to lay their hands on enough food or medicine in their own country. For now, the rest of the region – such asArgentina, despite the new administration’s initially aggressive stance towards the government of Maduro – is abstaining from intervening to prevent what some fear could turn into a humanitarian crisis.
Elsewhere, Brazil’s travails also continue, but at least progress is being made to win back credibility on economic policy. Ilan Goldfajn, who took charge of the central bank last month, told the FT that the government is formulating a constitutional amendment that would for the first time formally enshrine the monetary authority’s autonomy, giving it licence to use whatever instruments it considered necessary to meet its objectives. But average Brazilians are unlikely to feel the benefits any time soon – even the Olympics won’t save workers from what is the country’s worst recession in more than a century.
Quote of the week:
“I saw people dying cause of lack of medicines, children with malnutrition, and this beast of a woman dared saying there is no humanitarian crisis there” - Isley Márquez, a nurse from the Venezuelan city of San Cristóbal, referring to the foreign minister’s denials before the Organisation of American States last month.