Latin America & Africa
Economic problems of Latin America, one might say, are chronic. The public, nonetheless, is most seriously affected by the experience of the crisis of 1998-2002. The continent’s economic difficulties stem mainly from the structure of its political system, different from those in Asia. There are strong labour unions in Latin America; they have often had a strong influence on the decisions made by governments. On the other hand, both ethnic and property differences in the population composition have enabled the growing social disparities. The income inequality in Latin America has been the fastest-growing among all the world’s regions. Analysts ask how the Latin American political oligarchies have achieved this result. Political repercussions, however, have been felt on a scale that will affect the continent’s future development. Four out of ten Latin Americans live in poverty. Pre-election opinion polls show that poverty alleviation and struggle against unemployment will be the main election topics.
Latin America had twelve elections in 2006. The current development – the victory of Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, and the rule of Lucio Lula in Brazil – signal a rather clear tendency toward the left-wing. Venezuela and Bolivia, above all, may still rest on their considerable oil and gas reserves. The nationalisation of these energy resources was one of election keynotes used by the politicians of both Venezuela and Bolivia. The critical upheavals of the unemployed in Argentina in 2001 (sit-ins in factories and establishment of factory co-operatives) are related to this trend. Analysts do not pay much attention to the possible role of the ageing Fidel Castro in the future development.
Latin America, nevertheless, is a typical example of ‘regionalisation’ of interests as a way to solve global problems. Although a US-inspired free trade association (NAFTA) operates on the continent, including Canada and Mexico, the countries of the southern subcontinent refuse involvement in the structure. They have previously set up their own free trade association, MERCOSUR, under the leadership of Brazil and Argentina.
Analysts conclude that the post-election development will confirm continuity. They support their conclusion with the fact that military regimes have disappeared from the map of the subcontinent, and the democratically elected governments can be expected to practise more responsible politics (Die Zeit, Economist).
Africa south of the North African Arabic countries is probably the most seriously disrupted area. Some authors believe that the collapses in the numerous states of Equatorial Africa are an foreshadow the commotion that is going to take the world. The causes lie both in the demographic developments and the cultural decline, which is nurtured rather than explicitly caused by the globalising powers. The greatest problem of many African countries is the total disintegration of the organising – state – structures which would have represented powers mitigating and resolving the ethnic and social conflicts. R. Kaplan, a prominent expert on the African apocalyptica, describes the situation as follows: ‘West Africa is becoming a symbol of the global demographic, environmental and social decline, in which criminal anarchy seems like a real ‘strategic’ danger… West Africa provides an appropriate insight into the problems that are often very unpleasant to discuss, and that our civilisation is going to have to face soon.’ (Kaplan, 2003, translation from Czech).
In the five years that have elapsed since the publishing of Kaplan’s original book, change has taken place in several African countries, including North African Arabic ones; from Egypt to Kenya to Liberia, politicians male and female who embody some sort of change toward stability have been asserting themselves, with the support of a undisputed majority of anarchy-weary and exhausted inhabitants. How permanent this change may be cannot be judged as yet. The continent is seeking a new identity: the establishment of the African Union is supposed to create conditions for co-operation; the participation of African countries in developing countries’ associations within the WTO is a sign of the will to participate in the joint creation of a global political system by overcoming continental disintegration. The governments of the wealthiest industrial countries, associated in the G8, have played an especial role in this process; in 2005 they agreed to take measures to cancel the African countries’ debt in order to set the fundamental preconditions for a consolidation of their economies.