castaneda61_Heading_South_Pre_FLAT-AW Project Syndicate

Latin America’s Annus Mediocris

From a peace agreement in Colombia to major cross-border anti-corruption efforts, 2017 was shaping up to be a banner year for Latin America. Then came Donald Trump, whose threats of military intervention in Venezuela, together with anti-trade and anti-immigration policies at home, sent shock waves throughout the region.

MEXICO CITY – The good, the bad, and “the Donald.” For Latin America, that was 2017 in a nutshell.

The highlight of the year was, without question, the historic peace forged in Colombia. After a half-century-long insurgency fueled by drug cartels, Cubans, and money launderers, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) laid down their weapons and entered the political mainstream. Although some Colombians felt that President Juan Manuel Santos gave away too much to reach the accord, the end of the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running armed conflict should be lauded. Santos may not enjoy the domestic popularity his achievements merit, but the peace he championed – which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 – is likely to survive.

Another highlight of the last 12 months was Latin America’s continued success in tackling corruption, led by Brazil’s Lava Jato(Car Wash) investigation. That probe, which began in 2014, netted a number of high-profile politicians and business leaders in 2017, including former Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil; three former presidents of Peru; and a former head of Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex. Santos also had to testify – and deny that he was aware of contributions to his campaigns from the Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht.

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