Most of Latin America is still far from the horrific conditions prevailing in Venezuela, where output has fallen by a staggering 75% since 2013. But, given the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe there, and the specter of political instability elsewhere, investors should not take a sustained economic recovery for granted.
The current disconnect between market calm and underlying social tensions is perhaps nowhere more acute than in Latin America. The question is how much longer this glaring dissonance can continue.
Evo Morales, tenant of the Palacio de Quemado for 13 long years now, rejected the fact that 51.3% of Bolivians voted “No” in the 2016 referendum for his fourth presidential candidacy in October 2019. To do so, the Constitutional Court ruled that the same Constitution Morales passed in 2009, which limited presidential reelections, violated his political right to run for office. The ruling stated that term limits were essentially a human rights violation, and, therefore, overruled the Constitution to allow Morales to run for reelection. Now, with all the resources of the state in his favor, Morales will be the candidate of the governing party once again. His reelection in 2014 and the 2006 Constituent Assembly have been questioned as well. However, some disregard these criticisms based on the economic and social achievements of Morales’ administration.
Dr. William Arrocha, Assistant Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, recently shared his expertise and thoughts on compassionate migration, DACA, the upcoming presidential elections in Mexico, and what truly makes us human with Open Americas.
Can you describe your background? How did you become interested in the field of international policy and more specifically in U.S./Mexico relations, migration, and human rights?
I am an eternal migrant, born from immigrant parents in Mexico City, a place where many worlds have met, clashed and thrived for centuries. As someone born within an international and multicultural family, my reason for being will always involve more than one country or place. As the Argentina poet Facundo Cabral once said, “I’m not from here… I’m not from there.”
Being born in Mexico to an American mother and a Mexican father always placed me in the confines of U.S.-Mexico relations. Being raised in a family with parents engaged in the realms of the law, social justice, and human rights, studying in the French system during all my formative years and at my bachelors at the National Autonomous University of Mexico could not have taken me to any other path than that of an internationalist.
I miss Venezuela. I’ve thought about it every single day since I left in 2013. I wish I could wake up to have a cafecito with my mamá, have an arepa for breakfast and be able to share my dreams and goals with my childhood friends. I daydream about the warmth of its people and its weather. I reminisce over time spent in my family’s home, when we all lived nearby, and my siblings and friends were just a call away. I miss the sense of community and the feeling that I belonged. Painful as it is to accept, I miss a country that no longer exists.
Venezuela began exporting oil in the beginning of the 20th century, and since then has built its economy on the revenue from its oil exports. Supported by its vast oil reserves, Venezuela rose to the position of the richest country in Latin America in 1970, but its economy was vulnerable to fluctuating oil prices. In the 1980s and 1990s, Venezuela sat on 60 billion barrels of oil. By 2010, it had 297 billion barrels in reserve, making it the country with the world’s largest crude oil reserves. However, when oil prices fell in the 1980s, Venezuela’s economy suffered greatly, due to 90 percent of its export revenue consisting of oil exports. When Hugo Chavez came into power in 1991, he brought with him a socialist revolution. To restore economic development, Chavez nationalized the country’s oil, healthcare, and food industries. He used oil export revenue to fund social programs as well as food subsidies for the poor, and supplied essential goods at low prices by importing them. Combined with high international oil prices during that period, Chavez’s economic system functioned well.