Imagining 2030 is a series in which PS21 writers describe the world as they see it in 14 years time.
Helen Mason is a Scot now living in London, having lived and worked in Washington DC. She is the Deputy Director of Membership for YPFP London.
It is the year 2030 and Latin America is hungover. Not from too many Pisco sours but from binge drinking on a lethal cocktail of home-grown terrorism, drug trafficking, gang violence and total economic collapse. It has now awoken, and its “hair of the dog” is beginning to take effect.
History has been made in Colombia! With a 50-year-war with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) over, Colombia is now a major player on the world stage participating in international organisations such as NATO (having recently become a Partnership for Peace member) and, at the United Nations, where Colombia has a number of UN peacekeeping and training missions in Africa under its command. Colombia also remains at the forefront of medical science leading the way in developing a vaccine for the Zika Virus which blighted Latin America in early 2016.
Brazil meanwhile is continuing to grow economically having left Mercosur in favour of closer ties with the European Union. This desire to be closer to Europe was first apparent back in 2014 when a lucrative defence deal with Saab was signed for a total of 108 Gripen Fighter jets. This was symbolic as Brazil pivoted away from its usual procurement source the Americans – a few presidential phone hacks and a chap named Edward Snowden arguably put paid to that! Brazil, like Colombia, has increased its cooperation with the UN and is also commanding a number of peacekeeping missions in Africa as well as recently becoming a NATO Partnership for Peace member. The Chinese Development Bank bolstered its shares in Petrobras the state owned Brazilian Oil Company adding to the $10 billion loaned in 2016. This is seen by many analysts as an attempt to rid Petrobras of its latest partner in crime – Iran. The Chinese Dragon is breathing fire at Iran (but to little effect it seems) because Iran’s National Oil Company recently purchased a large portion of Petrobras’s “Pre-Salt” oil business at its Libra oilfield off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. This oilfield is currently producing around 10 million barrels a day which means that from a Chinese point of view, they got caught napping!
Cuba is now open for business, but despite President Obama’s best efforts in 2016 Cubans are trading with everyone else, but the Americans! During his two terms in office President Trump effectively shut down any prospect of doing business in America’s so-called back yard. His isolationist stance affected American companies greatly with many of the big players losing out to local companies, or by having to set up subsidiaries simply to get a foot in the door, let alone a seat at the lunch table. However, with President Michelle Obama now in office America has now dusted herself down and is slowly picking through the wreckage of this rather costly “FUBAR” that was the Trump presidency.
Despite the hangover coming to an end for some, there are still a couple who drank more of this cocktail than others and are still drunk – Peru and Venezuela. In Peru with political campaigns still fuelled by drug money and individuals in key positions associated with cartels, this country is flailing and blighted with terrorism in the form of the Sendero Luminoso whose membership numbers have increased back to Fujimori-era levels. Even with the help of Russian helicopters and British drones, the VRAEM region remains ideal for the creation and smuggling of cocaine. Its location and terrain are perfect for these activities: difficult to access and away from the gaze of more populated areas, it has become a large distribution hub for the illicit deeds of this merry band of criminals. Although security forces continue to thwart their activities by bombing air strips, spraying crops and shooting down narco planes – this group have become ever more inventive. By providing security and protection to shipments leaving the region, even sometimes by way of drug mules on foot, as well as taxing any cocaine being exported, this area of Peru has been turned into a narco super state. If this isn’t enough of a headache for security forces, another cocktail is on the menu – the lawless Port of Callao. Security forces along with US SOUTHCOM assistance are railing against the “Caracol Cartel” (Peru’s first official cartel) run by notorious criminal and presidential candidate Gerson Galvez Calle. Taking advantage of a lack of detection equipment like mobile scanners, traffickers are easily penetrating the major seaport by paying off port workers who are cartel members themselves and moving their bounty through with considerable ease.
The other not-yet-sober regional actor is Venezuela. Venezuela, or more aptly called the “Zimbabwe of Latin America”, has inflation running now at 3.5 million per cent!! Many companies have pulled out as corruption plagues business practices and market entry is untenable. Maduro’s son Nicolas Maduro Guerra is beginning his second term as president and is sticking fast to his father’s and Chavez’s vision of a socialist state. Only last week he delivered his inauguration address to a rapturous crowd of believers chanting the well-known campaign slogan “Chavez, te juro, voto por Maduro!” and setting forth his agenda for a better tomorrow. However, when a table napkin is worth more than the paper used to print money, tomorrow is not coming anytime soon! Despite this, Venezuela continues to court the Russians and indeed Iran. Russian war ships are now stationed at Puerto Cabello the country’s largest port in order to carry out MRO as well as delivering food aid to Venezuela. Iran, now free from the shackles of western imposed sanctions, is intent on continuing to grow Shiite cultural centres and set up diplomatic ties in the region by opening countless embassies. This little foray may be short lived however because Iran has been accused recently, by the Drug Enforcement Agency and others for operating large money laundering scams to further bolster Hezbollah in Syria (which at the time of writing is again out of control with ceasefire, after ceasefire failing to hold up). In addition to this, the Chinese are at it again, with Chinese-led, Venezuelan-based, illicit groups of traffickers moving precursor chemicals and counterfeit pharmaceuticals in and out of Venezuela’s porous borders. The Brazilian Navy has recently set up patrol boats, equipped with Embraer’s latest radar technology, in the region to intercept this threat.
Despite this, Latin America has promise. Countries such as Colombia and Brazil are proof of this by participating on the world stage they are slowly making their mark as independent actors. However, the next decade towards 2040 is crucial. Can the drunkards sober up, go on the wagon, and turn their fortunes around? Or will the lure of another cocktail just be too much………….?
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Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, non-ideological, non-partisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.