For over fifty years Colombia has been ravaged by civil war. Triggered by the 1948 assassination of popular socialist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and the violent repression of rural communist movements in the 1960s, the conflict has killed at least 220,000 Colombians since 1964 according to a government report. Unofficial statistics place the number as high as 600,000, with an estimated three million people displaced. Although the influence and scope of Colombia’s two largest rebel militias, the ELN and FARC, has significantly decreased since a US-supported government offensive in 2002, both organisations continue to carry out attacks hindering both the economic and human development of the Latin American country. Whilst peace negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest rebel group, are currently being conducted, violence continues to be part of daily domestic interactions. Amid this, the prospects of the peace talks are looking increasingly fragile.read more
As tens of thousands continued to demonstrate in cities across Brazil on 27 June 2013 despite the introduction of a series of government concessions, questions regarding the extent, duration, and future of the protests have materialised at the forefront. With the general elections and major international events, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, all approaching, Brazil’s current domestic situation has placed perceived certainties in flux and attached considerable ambiguities to the Latin American country’s outlook. Whilst it remains difficult to accurately assess the long-term economic and political implications of the protests, given the spectrum of demands and the current infancy of government responses, the demonstrations are looking to promise far-reaching alterations as domestic institutions have been left severely rattled.read more
One adage that often comes to mind when discussing the relationship between Angola and Brazil arises from the legendary words of an old friar by the name of Gonçalo João. According to historical tradition, in 1646 João, a Jesuit missionary, announced quite simply that “there is no Brazil without Angola”. Sadly, however, João was not referencing the “special relationship” in the vein of the purported economic, security and cultural ties described between that of the British and the Americans. João’s words were largely alluding to the horrific trade of human beings, taken from local villages in what is now modern day Angola, and shipped to the South American nation during the Portuguese Empire’s ascension to the Atlantic Slave Trade at the end of the 15th century. To be sure, the abhorrent sale of slaves from Angola became so prolific that at one point, the country was exporting human beings at a rate of “10,000” per year, the vast majority of whom eventually made their way to Portugal’s Brazilian colonies.
Thankfully, in the centuries since, the world and its norms have changed. Slavery is, of course, illegal in both Lucophone nations. Neither Brazil, nor Angola is a colony of Portugal. Indeed, given the influx of Portuguese migrants to both nations, some have even joked that the opposite may be true. Despite such significant developments over the years, the general meaning of João’s statement has not withered away. In fact, by most accounts ties between Angola and Brazil appear to be stronger than ever. Today, both countries have been glowingly labelled by financial wizards as “emerging economies”, with Angola and Brazil each enjoying sustained growth amid a global downturn. Both nations have also struck major security and infrastructure deals, with Brazilian companies in particular investing billions of dollars into developing the Angolan mining sector, among other industries. The two nations are even planning to establish the “South Atlantic Cable System” (as shown above), which, if implemented, would speed up data transfers by bypassing Europe altogether.
Meanwhile, in what some might describe as another bit of economic “revenge”, both countries have been buying up shares in languishing Portuguese companies, with Angola infamously purchasing the formerly government-run Banco Português de Negócios for a measly 30 million Euros (US$39 million). It is these and other financial and political manoeuvres that have led their respective leaders to remark on their nations’ “brotherly” ties. But, as with every brotherly relationship, there comes sibling rivalry.
The Mexican economy is on the rise. Often dubbed a “sleeping giant”, things however are starting to change for the Latin American country that has largely remained in the shadows of Brazil. As the Mexican Government have reaffirmed growth expectations of 4% in 2014 this week, the country is looking to become the new regional investment favourite. Latest international financial predictions substantiate this trend, and even place the Mexican economy at the top of Latin America league tables within a decade. However, whilst undoubtedly there is more to international depictions of Mexico as a state riven with drug wars and associated criminal activity, internal security, or rather its deficiency, continue to remain a prime concern for all operating in the country.read more
Virtual kidnappings first burst into the public consciousness in April 2008, when a New York Times article on the subject made worldwide headlines. That article, which focused on the rapid spread of fake telephone calls claiming to have abducted children successfully extorting thousands of dollars from dozens of Mexican families, missed the point. The article’s focus on the emotional and physiological state of Mexican families which led them to more readily believe the criminals allegations, though both laudable and interesting, ignored the fact that the real threat spurring on the virtual kidnappings was not fear but rather technology. At the time, many kidnappers would demand payments through prepaid credit cards or use personal information on individuals gained from social networks to convince the relative they telephoned that they were actually holding that person. As technology has advanced criminals have always been at the vanguard of abusing it and recent developments have seen virtual kidnapping become a far more common, and more frightening, prospect.
It was not long ago that Lima’s streets were characterised by rampant poverty and high crime rates. Today, the run down houses and shanty towns that litter the roads to the capital’s centre have largely been replaced. As pedestrians stroll through the city, its streets are now lined with shops, galleries and businesses. This drastic transformation in many cases has not just been confined to the capital, but instead reflects the general trend of progression throughout the country. As foreign direct investment has been flowing into the Peru’s mining and hydrocarbon productions, its economy has witnessed eight consecutive years of growth. With predictions for 2013 standing at 6.3%, Peru’s financial success is not only set to continue in the immediate future but also has positioned the country at the top of Latin American statistics. Plans for the modernisation of four key ports are looking to further develop the country’s infrastructure and advance its business environment. However, whilst Peru is undoubtedly enjoying a ‘sunny’ period, a closer look reveals persisting issues that could pose a threat to its current levels of success.