After spending many hours studying the history and politics of Latin America for my course I have been struck by how dynamic and diverse the politics of this region, despite the fact it is a continent that never appears to dominate the headlines. In the 1970’s and 1980’s Latin America was the focus of the Americans and therefore by proxy of the world. They fought the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and helped Pinochet claim power in Chile. However since this era focus has shifted completely away from the continent, with the Middle East and Asia capturing the headlines in the ‘world’ sections of newspapers and websites.
For many this is no surprise. The Israel, Palestine conflict has continued with no sign of a peaceful resolution any nearer than it was under the Carter or Clinton administrations, and with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the fallout from 9/11 it is no surprise that the Middle East has stolen headlines. Add to that the rising economic and politics power of China and India and there leaves little room for the events of Latin America to make headlines worldwide.
However when one examines the continent more closely you see that this region contains all the hallmarks that make the Middle East or Asia newsworthy. Latin America is home to one of the most dynamic and powerful growing economies in the world in the form of Brazil; a country whose growth rate is estimated at around 3.5% for 2012 (Forbes, 21/3/2012), despite a global recession and potential financial crisis.
In addition to a great economic power the continent is experiencing great political change that has seen the ‘New Left’ grow in power and strength. Latin America is now the home to the most dramatic socialist regimes in the world who, united under new politics and a new Latin American identity, are seeking to challenge the dominance of the USA in the Western Hemisphere.
Latin America, like the Middle East also has its fair share of interesting and controversial leaders that could easily distract attention away from the leaders of the Middle East, such as Hosni Mubarak or Colonel Gaddafi. One of the few leaders who does attract Western media attention is Hugo Chavez. Chavez has proved to be a charismatic leader whose politics have kept the US on their toes. However Chavez is not alone in Latin America; allies including Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Eva Morales of Bolivia have pushed strong socialist agendas that challenge the US. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina continues to challenge Britain over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, threatening political and economic action to achieve her aims and in Surinam a President has been elected, Desi Bouterse, who was previously a military dictator in the country, a man implicated in murders and massacres in Surinam.
However with the revolutions continuing to sweep North Africa and the Middle East and the wars that have dominated news coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq, South America is not likely to achieve the same amount of news coverage as in previous decades. In the current climate it is unlikely that Latin America’s profile will dramatically change whilst attention is so focused on the affairs of the Middle East and Arab nations and Latin America will remain, for the moment, the forgotten continent.