Michael Shifter on 2019’s top Latin America news

CGTN

CGTN’s Asieh Namdar talked with Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, about the top news stories in Latin America in 2019 and the outlook for 2020.

COMMENTS BY MICHAEL SHIFTER: 

Does Evo Morales still have a political future?

“Evo Morales still has a base of support and people who are loyal to him within his party. It seems like he’s going to be playing a role in terms of mobilizing and guiding his supporters. There are other parts of his party who are more moderate, who have taken more distance from Morales and who are trying to work things out with the interim government. The chances are there will be elections in March or April. Morales is not going to go back to Bolivia, he’s not going to be a candidate, [and if he does go back] the government has said they would arrest him. So we have a very complicated situation. The best scenario is that there are elections and that Morales’ party has a candidate, the other parties have candidates, and there are conditions for a free and fair election.”

What is it going to take to quell the protests in Chile?

“It’s going to take a long time. The fare hike was quite modest but it set off reactions and there are a lot of grievances in Chile for people’s whose path of social mobility has been stopped. Poverty has gone down, it’s been a prosperous economy, but they haven’t been able to sustain that level and climb the social economic ladder. People are indebted, they’re tired, they’re fatigued, and they see a political class that seems disconnected from their daily concerns and their daily needs. There’s a lot of pent up frustration and anger that exploded on October 20th and its going to continue to play out. The constitutional changes might be a step in quelling it but I really don’t think that’s going to be enough, I think something much more fundamental will need to happen in Chile.”

How are the protests that unfolded in Peru and Ecuador different from what we saw in Bolivia and Chile?

“In Ecuador there was also a lifting of subsides for transportation that was quite significant. This had a tremendous impact and it was predictable that people were going to protest and that people were going to be very upset and very angry. They went to the streets and there was a lot of violence, a lot of destruction. There was a negotiation where the UN and the Catholic Church played a role and the government pulled back it’s measures. So things have quieted down but you now have a weakened government and one that’s very difficult to make any progress and any reforms.”

What does 2020 look like for Venezuela?

“Things seem to be in a stalemate, they seem fairly stuck. Maduro seems to be firmly in control; clearly he’s unpopular, he has about 10-12 percent support and most Venezuelans want a change in government but he continues to control the armed forces, the national territory, and all the bureaucracies. Juan Guaidó still remains the most popular politician in Venezuela but his numbers have gone down considerably. The people are weary, they’re frustrated and many of them are just focused on surviving in Venezuela, the conditions are terrible and many of course have left. There have been almost 5 million Venezuelans who have left the country since 2015 and that exodus continues. So the prospects there are not very bright for 2020.”

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