Towards an Uncertain Future

Towards an uncertain future speaks for itself. Latin America has had a long history of uncertainty where the consequences of events are unpredictable and most likely to result in the repetition and normalization of certain institutions. It has been a long history of violence, conflict, disillusion and a cyclical story of certain aspects and conditions.

I was expecting Dawson to discuss more on corruption and how this has been a recurring phenomenon across the area and the impacts it is having. Also, it would have been interesting to know more about Chavez, especially because of the current situation Venezuela is having as a result of these left turns through the region.

To me, the most important and complex aspects of Larin America is that in general, the region seems to follow a trend. What is happening in one part of the region is most likely to happen in another. It is one of those things that perplexes me because this helps explain the region as a whole, although there are some outliers, there are certai patterns of progress that help outline the region in broad terms. Not to say this is good or bad, it is simply very interesting to see how a region could on its own lift itself up, but still hasn’t.

My question this week is more broad: how do you think the future of Latin America will be? Will it break away from this cyclical pattern of history?

Speaking Truth to Power

This week we see a shift in the violence experienced in the region, from being state perpetrated to other more marginal groups.

The disappearance of people in the internal conflicts of several countries was a common feature, even to the most recent event in Colombia. It is interesting to see that mothers are the first to speak out and act as a threat to the government, and it is also an important moment that drove women out of the private sphere into the public (although for the wrong reasons)

The talk on drugs is an important and very complicated one. As Dawson points out, this is such a high profit business that if it is destroyed in one part of Latin America, the vacuum is quickly filled in another part of Latin America. And it is also interesting to see the role of corruption in fighting drug trafficking and other crimes. The states are so weak that even the police and military are easily influenced into becoming part of the drug trade and allowing it to continue its operation. People are also likely to be involved in the drug trafficking because it is an easy and fast way of making money. The complexity of the situation goes beyond Latin America and what people often seem to forget is that there is a consumption market in the United States and Europe that fuels this drug trafficking culture to exist. It is not simply about fighting the drug trafficking in Latin America, it is about finding ways to combat the consumption of the drug as well. And I think this is what many of the initiatives have failed to see, Plan Colombia helped dismantle drug cartels in Colombia but simply created a void that was rapidly filled with Mexican cartels, and now that the Mexican government is fighting against these cartels, the drug trafficking has moved to Central America. And I think that this will continue to happen, due to the profitability of the business, unless something is done about the production.

My question for this week is: how can drug trafficking be combated in Latin American countries given the high profitability, and easy/fast money that rural/poor population make out of the business?

Week 11: The Terror

This week we see struggles in the region caused by an increasing influence of the Cold War and the ideologies of the period. What is interesting in many of these cases of violence are the problems of land, along with problems in the rural areas where most of the peasantry was. Also, it seems that these  ideologies were a response to the economic situation of Latin America.

Dawson states that “Latin Americans typically believed their governments were exceptionally corrupt” and I would argue that it is not something particular of the time period, corruption has been a phenomenon in Latin American politics and will continue to be a phenomenon in the near future, and it could be because of the culture that was born around clientelism or even caudillaje, were the minimum was done in order to keep the masses happy.

Another thing I find interesting, especially with the Shining Path is how Latin America has been its own region in relation to the world. It has never really had a story of its own, in this particular case there is Maoist influence in the Shining Path movement. And later there is a move towards neoliberal markets, influenced by the United States and Europe.

This particular period, as Dr. Cameron points out, has installed in the population a sense of violence. Although I would argue that this sense of violence has been replaced not by state violence, but by drug wars and gang violence. The only exception would be Venezuela.

Constituent Assembly

Constituent Assembly:

One important aspect of Venezuela and its current crisis is a National Constituent Assembly. A National Constituent Assembly is a temporary parliament that is set up to draft or reform a Constitution[1]. Hugo Chavez was the first to call for a Constituent Assembly with the purpose of modifying the constitution that so far had been one of representative democracy, and instead wanted to create a more participatory democracy. In 1999, Chávez held a referendum asking whether or not to create a constitutional assembly to draw up a new Constitution. The referendum passed and the assembly was created with 95% of the seats held by Chavez’s delegates[2]. These delegates were selected through universal vote. The Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (ACN) came up with a draft of the constitution on November 20th, 1999, with 350 articles. The main objectives were to establish a participatory democracy, to change the country’s name to Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to extend the presidential term to six years, it allowed re-election, and the legislature became unicameral[3]. This constitution basically transferred power to the hands of Chávez.

Things are now different under Nicholas Maduro. To start off, the opposition, which was minimal and disbanded during Chavez’s referendum, is now stronger. Also, economically, compared to Chávez, Maduro’s Venezuela is having an economic crisis.[4] Maduro’s Constituent Assembly has been assembled not through a referendum, as Chavez’s Constituent Assembly instead some argue that it has been created illegally. The delegates are not elected by universal vote; instead, they are elected by territorial representation, which some argue only served to help support Maduro[5]. Maduro’s Constituent Assembly set out to reform the Constitution, and more importantly to help Maduro consolidate power. Maduro proposed the Constitutional Assembly in order to resolve the economic and political situation that Venezuela is going through right now, but it is also using it to persecute and demobilize the opposition. Although, Maduro defended his Constituent Assembly as being a place for dialogue in order to modify the constitution.[6] Right now, it seems that the Constituent Assembly was created in order to delay the 2018 elections and extend Maduro’s term. This time there is more international pressure, as there are more countries that do not recognize the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela. So far, it has not created or drafted any articles to the Constitution but it has set out to diminish the opposition and so far it has allowed Maduro to consolidate power.[7]

[1] Melimopoulos, Elizabeth. “Venezuela: What is a National Constituent Assembly?” Politics | Al Jazeera. July 31, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2017.

[2] Ángel Bermúdez. “En qué se diferencia la nueva Constituyente impulsada por Nicolás Maduro en Venezuela de la que convocó Hugo Chávez en 1999 – BBC Mundo.” BBC News. July 28, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2017.

[3] Ibid,

[4] Ibid,

[5] Shifter, Michael, and Ben Raderstorf. “Venezuela After the Constituent Assembly.” Foreign Affairs. August 01, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2017.

[6] Ibid,

[7] Ibid,

Hugo Chavez


Hugo Chavez


Hugo Chávez was born on July 28, 1954, in Sabaneta, Venezuela. He was president of Venezuela from 1999 until 2013, when he died of cancer. Early in his life he was introduced to ideas about Marxism and Communism. In 1971 he entered the Venezuelan Military Academy in Caracas, where he became Lieutenant Colonel.[1] During the 1940s, foreign companies controlled almost 98% of Venezuelan oil production.[2] It is under this context where the Punto Fijo regime emerges. This was a system of pacts between different political parties to maintain stability in the system, but became dominated by two parties, the Acción Democrática and the Social Christian Party. The pact slowly began to deteriorate in the early 1980s as there was a decline in oil prices, and the parties were not able to maintain control. It is under Carlos Andrés Perez, (1989-93) that neoliberal policies were introduced to Venezuela, which were not well received. The result was an attempted coup, known as Caracazo in 1989, followed by two failed coup attempts.[3] One attempt was in 1992, where Chávez was able to capture the sentiment of the Venezuelan people who had suffered a decade of economic crisis due to the implementation of the neoliberal program. He was imprisoned for two years, and it is in prison that he begins to plan his political career, here he began his campaign by appealing to the nature of the country, where there were large inequalities, and the overall discontent felt by the established political parties.[4] Six years later, in 1998, Chávez ran as candidate for presidency with the Movimiento V República, and won. Chávez is the textbook example of the charismatic populist leader. With his appeal to having a revolution in honor of Simón Bolívar, which promised a single Latin American bloc that would fight against foreign powers, especially the United States. Chávez also appealed to the poor population of Venezuela, and he often was himself as the embodiment of the popular will. He was also able to appeal and bond with the masses by having a television program called Aló Presidente which was broadcasted every Sunday[5]. In 1999, Chávez called for a referendum to change Venezuela’s constitution and won. The new changes brought about allowed for re-election. Also, Chávez officially renamed Venezuela as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which makes reference to Simón Bolivar and the revolution towards a united Latin America. In accordance with this, Chávez and Fidel Castro had a close relationship and in 2005 Petrocaribe was launched as an oil alliance among countries in Central America and the Caribbean.[6] This alliance allows Venezuela to sell oil to these countries. Hugo Chavez was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and died on March 5th, 2013. Having been in office for three terms, he was unable to secure his fourth term in office and Nicholas Maduro was appointed as his successor.


[1] Nelson, Brian A. “Hugo Chávez.” Encyclopædia Britannica. October 17, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2017.

[2] Cannon, Barry. Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution: Populism and Democracy in a Globalised Age. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009.

[3] Ibid, n. pg

[4] Nelson,

[5] Shifter, Michael. “In Search of Hugo Chávez.” Foreign Affairs 85, no. 3 (May/June 2006).  doi:10.2307/20031966.

[6] Ibid,

Power to the People

Dawson’s podcast is very interesting, especially the point he makes about yes, populism is the idea of bringing people against a common enemy, but that does not necessarily mean that all those who come together will have the same political, economical, or social background (although in most cases they do). Something that is also interesting about populism is always thought of as being against an external force, and therefore being a national movement (as was/is the case for Venezuela) but it is also against internal forces (as was the case in Argentina and the new middle class fighting against the wealthy elites.)

Populism in Latin America is very complex, especially considering the long history of caudillismo, clientelism and now populism. The classic examples are always the Peron’s in Argentina fighting the wealthy, elites and more recently Chavez fighting for the Bolivarian dream (Bolivarian in reference to Simón Bolivar) and an anti-imperialistic sentiment. Also, populism has a particular formula, the charismatic leader, the broad based popular support, a common enemy (or concern (social, or economic)). This leader tends to be a ‘hero’ of those who struggle and is seen as the voice of the followers.

It is also interesting to see how the radio, and now mass media, help with the spread of populism. It makes the point almost that populism cannot survive without its popular support (which is fairly obvious).

I wonder therefore, what has been the change in populism since the use of radio, television and now mass media? It is clear that populist movement have grown (Trump, Brexit) but, the question still remains, how successful will these populist movements continue to be?

Week 9: Commerce, Coercion and America’s Empire

This week we begin to see the continuation of external power in Latin America and the growing American (US) dominance in the region. This week is particularly important because we notice a shift in power and have to take consideration of another external power in the politics, economy, and social aspects of Latin America.

Being Latin American, the United States is always thought of as being this external threat, and militaristic power. Especially considering cases such as Guatemala, Chile, and Cuba (to name a few). But even today, we see how the United States, to some extent, still has the upper hand in Latin American politics. Either through trying to fight corruption or through commerce and trading policies. Yet, in this Trump era it is interesting to see how these relationships will build.

What I found interesting n Dawson’s argument is that although the United States has always been seen as this militaristic power in Latin America, there are other important aspects, such as the culture and how both Latin America consumed the United States and the United States consumed Latin America. Although I would argue that the United States was not only a consumer but also played a very important role in extracting much of Latin American resources., while Latin America act only as a consumer and producer of the United States’ raw materials.

Yet, it is also important to recognize the United States’ effort in providing aid to the region and helping with developing the states. Although some interventions might have delayed the process of democracy in some countries (and this is not to say that all countries have reached democracy), Latin America (some countries in particular) still looks up to the United States rather than looking at other regions in the world.

Questions: How should we consider the Trump era and the effect it can have in Latin America? To what extent has the United States’ interfered in the sovereignty of other states, and to what extent should this be allowed by the international community?

Week 8: Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

This week took into consideration the different results that modernization and the export boom brought about. It was interesting to think about the different reasons behind a revolutionary movement and who decides to call a movement “successful”. More importantly, and Dawson makes the point, the revolutions, or social/economic/political movements in Latin America did not distribute the gains equally across the population. It was because there were losers that the winners got to win. This helps explain many of the reasons behind how Latin America has had trouble developing, simply because there have been great disparities.

Again, it seems that Latin America is shaped and is a result of the reproduction of certain practices and institutional conditions. The revolution seems to benefit only certain groups, as did Independence and this was certainly the case for many other countries in Latin America.

In regards to this week, several questions come up: first, is, and should, violent revolutions be the solution towards disposing authoritarian regimes? Secondly, how effective are revolutions that do not take into account sectors of the population and are simply a replication of elite politics? Lastly, who gets to define what a revolution is and what characteristics a revolution should have?

Week 7: The Export Boom as Modernity

Dawson discusses modernity and how it was an export driven process by which some of the population gained more than other sectors, further creating disparities among the population of Latin America.

An interesting comparison I drew from this week to a previous week was the introduction of photography in Latin America and how it was used as a way of ‘documenting the population’. This reminded me of the Casta paintings in a way. Especially because the photographs introduced the audiences to different sectors of the population. Dawson draws on Deborah Poole’s argument, the photos served to describe and inscribe racial identity to they subjects. This could be compared to the Casta Paintings in that they were also trying to frame a particular racial identity in relation to the different mixes of race that existed in Latin America. Both serve as a glimpse into the society they were trying to frame.

One thing I found interesting is this idea of one (or two) commodity economies. These structures have had their impacts well into the 21st Century as Latin American countries are still trying to expand their economies into other less agricultural sectors. The fact that the Latin American economies were one commodity economies is one of the main reasons as to why Latin America became highly dependent on the World Market, especially on the demand for their particular commodity. Also, these types of structured economies lead to many Latin American countries opting for import-substitution industrialization as a way of steering their economies away from this type of import dependency.

Question: To what extent could the modernity project be considered an authoritarian project to maintain people in power? To what extent could the modernization project be justified by the use of violence?

Week 6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

This week’s readings were interesting, especially because when thinking about and studying rights and citizenship in Latin America, the black population is most likely to be left out. It was also interesting because when thinking about emancipation in Latin America the case study is usually Haiti, and in this week’s readings we could see that the emancipation process was something that happened elsewhere and at different times such as in Cuba and in Brazil.

I found Dawson’s chapter a bit dry as I was expecting to know more about indigenous populations, because at the end of the day these are the majority in some Latin American countries.Especially how indigenous rights have played a part in each country’s constitution. Yet Dawson’s chapter was largely focused towards slavery and the emancipation process, which helps explain some countries in Latin America, but not make generalizations across the region. I think the comparisons Dawson draws to the United States are helpful but do not help in constructing an idea of Latin America as it seems that what the author is trying to do is draw comparisons between the United States and Latin America, when in reality things played out differently. Although I do consider the African and slave population to have played an important part in the construction of Latin America, I would argue that the study of indigenous populations and their struggle for rights should be considered, especially given the case that some countries still have large indigenous populations.

Question: why was there such a difference between the United States and the rest of America when considering black populations?