Foreign Policy Blogs

Developments in America’s Backyard

Developments in America’s Backyard

Latin America often receives secondary attention with the world’s focus on the Middle East. For North Americans, however, issues with regional partners may have more weight on the average person in the U.S. and Canada than problems in Iraq and Ukraine.

Mexican President Pena Nieto is facing the greatest challenge to his presidency to date. With kidnappings and drug violence dominating the news, police and state officials from Guerrero are being tied to 43 missing students after they were arrested at a protest in September. With mass graves being found in Mexico, the story of these 43 kidnapped victims might tie state officials with local cartels. While the brutality of the cartels compete with the lack of effective tools to counter kidnappings and violence in Mexico, the government has been trying to create a response to increased protests by the public and calls for justice for the 43 missing student protestors.

Al Jazeera America’s program “Fault Lines” has produced a show this week called The Disappeared in Mexico. Host Teresa Bo investigates the effect and response to the violence and kidnappings by individuals and community leaders to the layered problems of corruption and cartels. The show was broadcast on Nov 1st and will be broadcast again on Nov. 4, on Al Jazeera America. This issue may be the defining moment for the Pena Nieto administration and could affect relations between Mexico and its neighbors indefinitely.

Brazil’s recent re-election of the Worker’s Party under Dilma Rousseff received a great deal of attention from all over the globe. Protests against the high costs of living and corruption scandals put Dilma Rousseff in a tight race with her opponents. President Rousseff edged by her competition, but her election came off as more of a message from Brazilians that she should curb corruption and introduce policies to benefit them rather than foreign companies and the Olympics. While many critics of Rousseff see her as Brazil’s left-wing candidate, economic policy under her party’s mandate followed a balanced economic policy approach inherited from President Cardoso and followed by President Lula Da Silva. Brazil’s economic bounce is slowing and the pressures are showing the cracks in Brazil’s economic system, revealing corruption that is siphoning off public funds. The expectation that Brazilians have of their country’s growth and newly found confidence on the world stage has set a high standard for any President of Brazil. Dilma Rousseff will have to not only be president, but a president of a thriving, proud Brazil.

American relations with those in its region may meet an unexpected change as Venezuela’s economic issues start to face the challenge of rapidly falling oil prices in the world market. Countries like Russia, Iran and Venezuela that have much of their national wealth tied to the oil industry and are losing a lot of their revenue as oil prices fall, which affect relations with their neighbors and the U.S. in the medium term. President Maduro of Venezuela has a lot of his political influence tied to the value of Venezuela’s national oil industry, and without the revenue to push past domestic issues and opposition criticism, Maduro may face a massive challenge to his leadership from his political opponents. U.S. relations with its regional neighbors have been challenged by the rise of regional leftists groups, as well as the independence oil has given countries like Venezuela. While Maduro’s leadership may take a hit from his revenue loss, leaders like Rousseff will likely maintain solid ties with the United States. Allies like Pena Nieto might find himself in his own quagmire as evidence builds and international leaders seek to distance themselves from his administration. Choices can be made to change or improve relations abroad, but serious challenges must be met to maintain the status quo in each of these countries.



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