Latin America’s Tale of Two Crises

Are good things in the offing in Latin America? In Venezuela, the October 7 presidential election may end Hugo Chávez’s 14 years of misrule. In Colombia, peace talks with the FARC guerrillas may end 40 years of war. Sadly, neither outcome is likely.

MEXICO CITY – If one were an irredeemable optimist, upcoming events in Venezuela and Colombia could be viewed as a harbinger of good things to come. In Venezuela, the October 7 presidential election may put an end to Hugo Chávez’s 14 years in power, along with his systematic destruction of the economy, media clampdowns, and endless meddling in other countries’ affairs. In Colombia, peace talks scheduled for October 8 in Norway between President Juan Manuel Santos’s government and the FARC guerrillas may bring an end to 40 years of war and bloodshed.

Unfortunately, neither of these outcomes is likely. In both cases, what seems desirable appears highly improbable.

Chávez has participated directly in four Venezuelan elections: in 1998, when he was elected for the first time; in 2004, when the opposition forced a recall vote; in 2006, when he was re-elected; and now, as he recovers from cancer and the country is in the midst of a huge public-safety crisis that has made Caracas one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Chávez won the first three, and, for several reasons, seems poised to win again.

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