Obama Goes South

MEXICO CITY – US President Barack Obama’s current swing through Latin America will probably be short on substance, long on rhetorical flourishes and symbolism, and may include a few announcements affecting American business in the region. More importantly, he will see real success stories, and how Latin America as a whole has changed.

The main change is that Latin America is splitting in two. Indeed, this might be the last trip that a US president ever makes to “Latin America.” Later visits will be either to South America, or to Mexico and the Caribbean Basin.

Chile’s success is old, if still inspiring, news. More than two decades of democratic rule and economic growth practically ensure that, simply by staying the course, the country will achieve lower-tier developed status by 2020.

And there is every reason to believe that it will stay the course, even if President Sebastián Piñera, who will preside over Chile’s best economic performance in 15 years, is succeeded by former president and rival Michele Bachelet in 2014. Even the country’s proverbial inequality is beginning to shrink, albeit slowly, and lower-middle-class living standards are finally rising to where they should have been a decade ago.