Foreign Policy Blogs

The Awakening of the South: Latin America’s Future International Clout

Over the next year Latin America will likely redefine the region’s relationship with the rest of the world for the next decade. As many saw 2008 as the year China gained its current international reputation, Brazil and Latin America will likely become more important to those of us who live outside the region beginning in 2014. The major event that is the focus of global attention is the upcoming World Cup in Brazil in 2014. While protests over the mistreatment of funds angered and continues to create divisions between Brazilians and their government, the World Cup will finally take its seat in the part of the world that has always been awarded with football’s greatest honor. Mismanagement of funds in a Brazil that has had some recent gains is reflective of a few themes that will become more important post-2013. One major issue that is on the minds of many in Brazil is how the economy and society will cope with each other in a more stable and internationally representative situation. The added weight on Brazil’s economy, society and culture will have to reach a point of balance if it is to continue to grow in the future at a sustainable rate. Leadership and how Latin America’s governments will protect its citizens from internal and external interests will also clarify how the future of the region will progress. These challenges have already begun in 2013.

The World Cup and Olympics and protests over poor policy decisions are just part of the overall development of Latin America over the next few years. Major investments and industrial development has made Brazil and Latin America the target of international companies that see the region as a source of major investment that could make or break an international company. Recently, French aircraft manufacturer Dassault were in a major competition over the future of the Brazilian fighter jet program. Many thought the United States would dominate the competition through Boeing’s F-18E project. With the French Mirage 2000’s and F-18E’s being seen as the major contenders in the competition, Brazil’s possible dismay with the NSA scandal may have led to the Swedish manufacturer SAAB winning the competition with their Gripen fighter. While less expensive and lacking some multirole capabilities, the Gripen victory may help SAAB greatly after many failures with their automobile division over the last few years. With small nations like the Czech Republic and Sweden operating the Gripen, a large nation like Brazil could make or break a company like SAAB with one contract.

Leadership will play a major role in this transition, as policy initiatives become more solidified over the next few years. Brazil’s current President and her party often were the candidates who would grow the nation with social justice in mind during policy development. Who to vote for to increase equality in society often lay with Lula’s party, but leadership still may not be able to pull a country like Brazil into the next phase of its economic shift, and few policymakers have a clear focus on how to make this change. Recently, the former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet won the presidency of Chile for an inconsecutive second term. Chile’s political rivals have done much to normalize the relationship between the left and right after a history of political violence in the country. While the conservatives won the last election, defining themselves away from Pinochet’s regime, Bachelet’s previous policies and recent re-election after a term break shows a defined policy focus that comes out of two positive choices for Chileans. Growing the economy with social justice in mind reflects much of Bachelet’s political program. Her style of governing may reflect a possible method for future policy development in all of Latin America.

While Latin America is growing by their own internal means with various internal methods, there is often a validly perceived theme in the region where international investment and involvement often takes advantage of the inequality that exists in Latin American society. Without a means of justice for many people who are not in the top five percent of Latin American society, it permits the abuse of many of the region’s citizens by local and foreign institutions. In one case, native villagers who have been fighting Chevron over health effects caused by pollution has sought to change how international law in applied to international corporations. The courts in Ontario, Canada have granted rights to take action against Chevron’s Canadian assets in order to compensate the villagers in Ecuador. While Chevron’s head office is located in the United States, and the offense took place in Ecuador, the Canadian judge in Ontario seems to be allowing damages to be sought in the Canadian court system. While such an action is rare to succeed due to current norms in international law, the effect of such a case for Latin Americans who often lose to jurisdictional challenges and accusations of fraud in the process may for the first time produce an avenue to claim justice in a third court jurisdiction. How Latin American governments balance their political relationships with the rights of local citizens during a similar legal action is an extremely delicate issue that may increase divisions between the leftists and U.S. allies in the region, or create a basis for solutions for many political divisions. In either case, multinational companies in the region will have to accept the results if investments are sought in Latin America.

Challenges over the next year will paint the progress of the region for the next decade. Decisions by governments and citizens are immensely important to the development of the region over the next few years. Opportunity lost is the overall theme of many protests in Brazil, and will be the theme of Latin America in 2014.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

Contact

americasdiplomats_socialmediaasset