Saturday, April 29, 2023

Andes Turmoil Rattles Governments, Spurs Migration to US: Ecuador Faces Drug-Related Slayings, Bolivia is Running Out of Dollars, and Chile’s Economy is Expected to Shrink

Claudia Morales/Reuters
Ecuador faces drug-related slayings, Bolivia is running out of dollars, and Chile’s economy is expected to shrink
Mounting violent crime and political upheaval are buffeting Andean countries in South America that had recently been stable, threatening fragile governments and prompting hundreds of thousands to flee north to the U.S.
In Ecuador, President Guillermo Lasso faces an impeachment vote in May as drug-related homicides have risen. Bolivia has run out of dollars, its government hobbled by tumbling natural-gas exports. Peru’s economy has contracted sharply since President Pedro Castillo was removed from office in December, sparking violent protests. Colombian drug gangs run rampant in some rural regions, even as the former guerrilla who leads the government, Gustavo Petro, embarks on peace negotiations with them.
“All of these countries are really struggling,” said Michael Shifter, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue policy group. “The outlook is grim.”
A range of factors is driving the turmoil. A growing cocaine trade is stoking gang violence in some countries. Polls show rising distrust of political institutions and politicians in the midst of corruption scandals. Once fast-growing economies are contracting or barely growing, with societies hard hit by inflation and a stronger dollar.
Photo: Pilar Olivares/Reuters
The problems are hitting countries rich in oil, copper, lithium and other resources that have long attracted foreign investors from the U.S., Europe and China. It is a region that has been strategic for Washington, which has spent billions since the 1990s to help bankroll the fight against cocaine in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, while at the same time containing an adversary, Venezuela.
The turbulence in the Andes, home to some 160 million people in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Peru and Venezuela, has led migrants to trek toward the U.S. from four of the countries, with the numbers skyrocketing in recent months. More than 233,700 people from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have been detained at the U.S. southern border from October to March. That is up from nearly 140,000 people in the six-month period ended in March 2022 and up from almost 26,000 people in the period two years earlier, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Jorge Heredia’s 31-year-old son joined Peruvians who fly into Mexico as tourists before heading to the U.S. His son left Lima last year after struggling to make ends meet as a taxi driver with three children.
Today his son lives in New York, where he works for a mechanic and sends money back to his family in Peru, where the economy contracted 0.9% in the first two months of this year as violent antigovernment protests led to nearly 70 deaths. --->LOTS MORE FROM THE WSJ HERE
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