Stephen Sefton, Tortilla con Sal, June 7th 2019
The fundamental factor affecting developments in Latin America and the Caribbean over the next five years, as elsewhere around the world, will be the progressive decline of US power and influence in the face of the new multipolar world led by China and Russia. Within the next two years, US power and influence is likely to be in such deep national economic and environmental crisis that its ruling corporate elites will have largely lost their still current ability to destroy readily the possibility of good outcomes for everyone else.
A review of developments through the region suggest that while economically things will be tough for Nicaragua in the two years preceding the presidential elections in 2021, the country's population is much better placed than other countries in the region to survive developing global economic stagnation which already feels like a recession. A look at other Central American countries makes this very clear. Under its modish and unconvincing new President Nayib Bukele, El Salvador will most likely become a neoliberal basket case like Honduras and Guatemala with a deepening social crisis and a hopelessly unequal economy.
In Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernandez faces deepening political crisis driven by falling living standards and increasing injustice and inequality to which his preferred response has been the same counterproductive, extremely violent repression that has dogged Honduras since the US backed coup in 2009. Guatemala has elections later this month with the possibility of a win by Sandra Torres, a relatively progressive candidate in the regional context. But even a capable progressive new president will be able to do little to solve the country's entrenched economic and social problems. In all three countries the direct intervention of the United States in their internal affairs lies like a feudal dead hand, choking off prospects for equitable, sustainable progressive reform.
After decades of suppressed popular resentment at the abuses of the country's neoliberal elite, exemplified by ex-President Oscar Arias, Costa Rica is experiencing increasing social unrest under the government of President Carlos Alvarado. There too the determination of the country's ruling classes to make the majority pay for their governments' policy failures prevents the country from developing a successful economy and preventing the decline of its previously successful social policies. On the other hand, Panama looks as though its social and economic conditions will stabilize under a relatively progressive government led by President Laurentino Cortizo after the incipient crisis created by the neoliberal policies of his centre right predecessors.
Paradoxically, Nicaragua has once more become, socially and economically, the most stable and successful country in Central America. Led by Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, its economy has rebounded successfully from the deliberate US driven attempts to destroy it both via sanctions and by the sadistically violent 2018 failed coup attempt. While it still has to recover the unprecedented economic success it had prior to April 2018, the country's social indicators remain among the best in Latin America, reflecting solid underlying stability based on majority popular support. No surprise that this reality completely contradicts the demented fantasy version reported by international media and Western NGOs.
Elsewhere in Latin America, all the right wing governments in the region are in crisis, as most reality based analysis predicted back in 2015 following Mauricio Macri's narrow victory in Argentina. US imposed right wing neoliberal economic policies and reactionary social policies are completely unsustainable. The only viable policies are progressive, redistributive measures promoting equality focused on the integral needs of the human person, namely, the very antithesis of neoliberalism. That is why revolutionary countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela have so far been able to defeat US aggression and offer their populations better health care and education than their right wing neighbors despite being victims of vicious US and, in Venezuela's case especially, European Union sanctions.
In any case, now, just as progressive governments suffered from popular discontent following the global recession after 2008, so right wing governments will suffer an increasing backlash of discontent provoked by their total inability to avoid bad social and economic outcomes from the current developing international recession. By the end of this year, the region's progressive front will almost certainly be boosted by the re-election of Evo Morales' successful government in Bolivia and, assuming free and fair elections take place there, a new progressive government in Argentina. That means that, going into 2020, the bloc resisting US regional policy will most likely include Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela, while Panama, Surinam and most of the Caricom countries are likely to be neutral
That means in its turn that OAS votes for US positions will drop well short of what the US needs to work more mischief than they have already. Argentina and Uruguay are likely to set about rebuilding UNASUR and will also work with Mexico and other countries to rebalance the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Also, as counterproductive US intimidation fails and China's win-win influence increases, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay may well persuade Peru's political leaders to shift towards their positions and away from those of Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Brazil.
All that will start happening in earnest in the first semester of 2020 and will gather strength into 2021. In 2020 there are national elections in Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Surinam. It is possible but unlikely that a right wing government will win office in Dominican Republic and it may even be possible a progressive government may get elected in Trinidad and Tobago. A progressive government is likely to win in Guyana and the ruling party in Surinam will probably get re-elected. In 2021, there are elections in Belize, Ecuador and Peru.
Belize has almost always tended to follow the consensus in Caricom. It is far from clear that the US supported right wing will win elections in Ecuador after the disaster of Lenin Moreno's treachery against Rafael Correa's successful legacy. Nor is it clear in Peru what popular feeling will be as the enduring political and economic crisis drags on there and the currently popular anti-corruption motif loses its appeal in the context of social, economic and environmental discontent.
As for the continental giant, Brazil, its internal crisis is bound to deepen under President Bolsonaro's dysfunctional regime, rendering it unable to do more than try and spoil the regional resurgence of successful progressive policies. In Colombia, while the country's ruling elites will certainly sustain their political control, there too social, economic and environmental conflict are likely to generate even more instability than exists already. That will sharpen the already existing contrast between genuine widespread suffering and lack of basic services for people in Colombia and Venezuela's ability to feed and sustain basic services for its people despite US aggression.
So by the time Nicaragua's elections come around in 2021 things are likely to look very much better regionally from a progressive point of view than they do now. In five years time, if the planet and its peoples have not been destroyed by then, it is likely to be clear in retrospect that the period 2015-2019 was the last throw of the dice for the US to retain its accustomed power and influence against the relentless fundamental drive for emancipation by the region's impoverished majority.