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Tags: colombia | election | latin america

As Colombian Election Looms, Compounding Crises Affect Latin America

As Colombian Election Looms, Compounding Crises Affect Latin America
Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro speaks during a presidential debate at the headquarters of El Tiempo newspaper in Bogota on May 23, 2022. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 24 May 2022 10:11 AM EDT

Inflation, widespread poverty, corruption, and violent crime are just some of the many crises roiling Latin America.

As the continent tries to recover from a pandemic that hit countries such as Peru and Brazil particularly hard, the overall region seems to be affected by crisis after crisis.

The events, including Colombia’s upcoming election, not only threaten to transform daily life in Latin America but likely will have impacts as far away as the United States and China.

Far-Left Candidate Leads Colombian Polls

Change in Colombia is in the air as citizens head to the polls Sunday to choose the country's next president. Widely unpopular President Ivan Duque is ineligible to run for a third term, and for the first time in its history, modern Colombia could have a left-wing government.

Ardent leftist Gustavo Petro — former mayor of Bogota — was leading the polls as violence from drug gangs and accelerating poverty take their toll. In a far-reaching shift to fight climate change, Petro has proposed ending fossil fuel exploration, one of Colombia’s most vital economic industries, as well as raising taxes on the wealthy, alarming investors.

Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, tells Newsmax Finance he fears the prospect that has enabled a left-wing candidate such as Petro to rise.

"It is nowhere near the level of Venezuela as a failed state, but the narrative inside Colombia is the crisis is approaching Venezuela-like levels, and the country is feeling hopeless," Humire said. "This has empowered Petro.”

Inflation and Instability Roil Two Nations

The prospect of a left-wing president in Colombia unnerves many people who look to spiraling crises in Peru and Chile with trepidation. When rural school teacher Pedro Castillo barely won elections to become Peru's president last year, expectations were high, particularly in the areas of fighting corruption and easing poverty.

"If there’s something to learn from this pandemic, it’s that it has stripped bare the precariousness of an old, corrupt state," Castillo said during last year's campaign.

Allegations of the very corruption and instability Castillo railed against, however, has hobbled the government, as it has been marked by four cabinet reshuffles in six months — worsening inflation — and two impeachment attempts by parliament.

The political chaos resulted in the looting of the country's Supreme Court offices and widespread riots in April, causing Castillo's own party to call for the president to resign. 

Chile is another example of high expectations leading to discontent after an election.

After 36-year-old leftist protest leader Gabriel Boric made history by becoming the country’s youngest ever president, many Chileans expected change, and looked forward to the rewrite of the Chilean constitution.

Since Boric's inauguration in March, however, issues similar to that in Colombia and Peru have affected Chile.

Rising inflation, increasing violent crime and a continuous dispute between several Chilean governments and the indigenous Mapuche in southern Chile, has caused a quick rise in disapproval ratings for Boric, Bloomberg News writes.

In a sign of perhaps more uncertainty to come, polls show more Chileans now reject voting for the planned constitution that Boric supports in an upcoming plebiscite than support it.

'Will Lead to Catastrophe'

Humire sees the crises in Peru and Chile as being caused by incompetence.

"[Castillo and Boric] are not competent people," Humire told Newsmax Finance. "Boric may be good as a student activist, Castillo may be good as a union leader, but they are not prepared to be president and they do not know how to govern well. I think their presidencies will lead to conflict and eventually catastrophe, which will lead to drastic changes."

Humire foresees the presidencies of Castillo and Boric, as well as the potential presidency of Petro, causing emigration from Latin America to the United States.

"The U.S. hit over 1.7 million illegal migrants entering last year. I foresee us hitting over 2 million illegal migrants this year, over 8-9-10,000 a day," Humire said. "Those are astronomical numbers. When the rubber hits the road, I think we will see a lot of migration out of not just El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Mexico, but we will see mass migration from Chile and Peru, too. People are voting with their feet in response to these governments."

Finally, the newly sworn-in left-wing governments of Peru, Chile, Honduras and potentially Colombia, might shift their foreign policies away from the United States especially due to fiscal and trade considerations.

"I think Russia, China, and Iran have a concerted interest in driving destabilization in Latin America in order to delegitimatize the U.S., but also to create new opportunities to create new trade routes for control, as we see with The Belt and Road Initiative," Humire said.

"The Russians are selling arms, the Chinese are making deals like to build a megaport in Peru, and that port is directly connected to a river network that extends to Brazil. The Chinese and Russians have a deep interest in that infrastructure."

With inflation, corruption, and political instability roiling several Latin American countries, fears of mass emigration and added Chinese influence in the region are alarming analysts. As Petro leads the polls in Colombia, conditions on the continent do not appear to be calming down anytime soon.

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Inflation, widespread poverty, corruption, and violent crime are just some of the many crises roiling Latin America. As the continent tries to recover from a pandemic, the overall region seems to be affected by crisis after crisis as Colombia prepares for an election on Friday.
colombia, election, latin america
Tuesday, 24 May 2022 10:11 AM
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