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Current overview

Latin America now map


Recent news

Ecuador: A state of emergency was declared after protests by Indians and oil workers against the pending free trade negotiations became violent. The interior minister resigned after failing to quell the disturbance.
Mexico is exerting heavy pressure on the United States to allow even greater immigration from Mexico, in part because outgoing President Fox wants to attract voters to his party in the upcoming election.

Since I have greater expertise in the Andean region, there is some bias in terms of how much attention I pay to the various countries. (Pages for some of the smaller countries are not yet finished.) Please send any comments to

To see the situation six months previous, roll the mouse over the map. To see detailed background information for individual countries -- recent news and commentaries, links to other sites, and maps -- just click on the appropriate portion of the map, or on the flag below.

Political-economic situation
Flag Country President Term Current situation
Argentina Nestor Kirchner May 2003 - 2007 LOW-LEVEL TENSIONS: Kirchner gained respect by taking on opposition political forces such as the Supreme Court and the military. He also faced down the IMF and international creditors, easing the financial pinch, thereby facilitating resumed economic growth. In December he announced Argentina would pay back its entire debt to the IMF ahead of schedule, to avoid having to follow IMF policy advice.
Bolivia Evo Morales Jan 2006 - 2010 SERIOUS TENSIONS: The new president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has signed laws calling for a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution, and for a referendum on regional autonomy. He had previously led protests that forced the resignation of two recent presidents, Carlos Mesa and Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada, Evo Morales. His proposals to enact radical social reforms have made investors very nervous.
Brazil Luiz Inacio da Silva Jan. 2003 - 2007 SERIOUS TENSIONS: Leftist "Lula" da Silva initially won praise for his moderate approach to governing. In early 2005, however, the parliamentary coaltion between his Worker's Party and the PMDB collapsed as a result of bribery scandals. In December he announced Brazil would pay back its entire debt to the IMF ahead of schedule. Prison riots indicate social discontent.
Chile Ricardo Lagos Mar. 2000 - 2006 FAIRLY CALM: Socialist Michelle Bachelet won 46% in the first round presidential election on December 11, and defeated Francisco Piñera in the runoff on January 15. The leftist coalition to which she and outgoing President Lagos belong has been tainted by corruption scandals. Chile and the U.S. signed a free trade pact in 2005. Former dictator Pinochet is under house arrest, and faces criminal charges for human rights violations.
Colombia Alvaro Uribe Aug. 2002 - 2006 CIVIL WAR: Terrorism by FARC diminished in 2005, as the rebels seem to be regrouping in the jungles. ELN has begun a truce dialogue. Uribe's reliance on rural militia units has yielded some success, though some are involved in the drug trade and are guilty of human rights violations. U.S. involvement in the drug war seems to have declined. A high court has ruled that Uribe can run for re-election, setting a new precedent.
Costa Rica Abel Pacheco May 2002 - 2006STABLE: President Abel Pacheco pushed for pragmatic economic reforms, but opposition has delayed ratification of CAFTA. He has enjoyed high popularity thus far and is considered friendly to the U.S., but scandals have tarnished several officials in his government.
Cuba  baseball Fidel Castro Jan. 1959 - ??? LOCALIZED TURMOIL: Fearing a rise in opposition activities and/or U.S. intervention in the wake of the war in Iraq, the Cuban government began to crack down on dissidents in March 2003, and has been criticized by human rights organizations. Cuba will be allowed to participate in the inaugural "World Baseball Classic."
Leonel Fernandez Aug. 2004 - 2008 LOCALIZED TURMOIL: President Fernandez, who had served as president in the late 1990s, is trying to restore investor confidence via budget austerity. Charges of corruption on both sides are rampant. Growing discontent with economic privatization.
Ecuador Alfredo Palacio Apr. 2005 - 2007 LOCALIZED TURMOIL: The government declared a state of emergency after a strike by oil workers in the Amazon region, and Indian groups set up road blocks to protest free trade negotiations in March. Interim President Palacio has had a hard time maintaining consistent foreign and economic policy. His predecessor Lucio Gutierrez was abruptly removed from office by Congress during a popular uprising in April 2005.
El Salvador Antonio Saca June 2004 - 2009 TENSIONS: Prison riots reveal the growing strength of the multinational "Mara Salvatrucha" criminal gang. President Antonio Saca, a youthful former radio host, supports CAFTA.
Guatemala Oscar Berger Jan. 2004 - 2008 LOCALIZED TURMOIL: Coordinated prison riots in mid-August point to the rising power of the "Mara Salvatrucha" criminal gangs across much of Central America. President Berger, a former mayor of the capital city, is said to represent the traditional landed elite. Former President Portillo was criticized by the U.S. government of drug corruption and human rights abuses.
Haiti Boniface Alexandre (prov.) 2004 - ? WIDESPREAD TURMOIL: Despite the presence of U.N. peacekeeping forces (mostly from Latin America), chaos has prevailed since Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced to resign as president in early 2004. Elections have been repeatedly postponed because of the lack of security.
Honduras Manuel Zelaya Jan. 2006 - 2010 LOW-LEVEL TENSIONS: Opposition to free trade and deadly gang-provoked prison riots indicate substantial discontent in the population. New President Zelaya supports CAFTA, however, as did his opponent.
Mexico  baseball Vicente Fox Dec. 2000 - 2006 LOCALIZED TURMOIL: Mexico is exerting heavy pressure on the United States to allow even greater immigration from Mexico. Lame duck President Fox needs to appeal to nationalist sentiment to boost the chances of his National Action Party in the upcoming presidential elections. Leftist Mexico City Mayor Manuel Lopez Obrador is favored to win. The northern border region remains dangerous, with gun battles waged by drug traffickers.
Nicaragua  baseball Enrique Bolaños Jan. 2002 - 2007 LOCALIZED TURMOIL: After being jailed for corruption in 2004, ex-president Jose Arnaldo Aleman (of the Liberal party, which is conservative) formed a tacit alliance with the the Sandinistas aiming to oust the government of Bolaños. The U.S. warned the opposition against subverting democracy. Both the and the Sandinista party are deeply divided, however.
Panama Martin Torrijos Sept. 2004 - 2009 LOW-LEVEL TENSIONS: President Torrijos is the son of former populist dictator General Omar Torrijos, who died in 1983. He has tried to convince skeptics that he is not a radical. Former President Mireya Moscoso pardoned some anti-Castro Cuban exiles accused of terrorism just before stepping down, creating a diplomatic flap with Havana.
Paraguay Nicanor Duarte Aug. 2003 - 2008 LOCALIZED TURMOIL: There were violent protests against the government's austerity policies in July 2003. In early December the Chamber of Deputies voted to impeach President Macchi on charges of corruption, but the Senate failed to convict him.
Peru flag Peru Alejandro Toledo July 2001 - 2006 SERIOUS TENSIONS: As the first-round presidential election approaches, retired colonel Ollanta Humala (a populist with many similarities to Hugo Chavez) holds a small lead in the polls, making propertied classes very nervous. In spite of continued economic growth, fewer than 10% of Peruvians support lame-duck President Toledo, who has had to reshuffle his cabinet several times. Protests by Indians have diminished in frequency and scale since mid-2005.
Uruguay Tabaré Vázquez Mar. 2005 - 2010 LOW-LEVEL TENSIONS: The inauguration of the first left-wing president in many years signals the probable end to the era of hegemony by the traditional Liberal and Colorado parties. Protests against government austerity measures that began in August 2002 had overwhelmed the centrist coalition's ability to deal with the economic crisis.
Venezuela  baseball Hugo Chavez 1999 - ??? LOCALIZED TURMOIL: After suppressing a general strike aimed at his ouster in early 2004, Chavez consented to a recall referendum, and won it in August. In early 2005 he to seize "unused" farm lands, for redistribution to poor people, and bought weapons from Russia. The hike in crude oil prices gives his regime a big financial cushion to weather political challenges.