If at first you don’t succeed…

WHEN on October 2nd a narrow majority of Colombian voters rejected a peace agreement under which the FARC guerrillas were to disarm, it was not just a pollster-confounding shock. It was also a rebuke to the government of Juan Manuel Santos, to negotiators who spent four tough years working on the accord and to the […]

A golden opportunity

GEOPOLITICS waits for no man, not even the United States’ president-elect. Little more than a week after Donald Trump’s victory, Xi Jinping, president of the world’s second-largest economy, set off for Latin America—his third trip there since 2013—clutching a sheaf of trade deals. They were proposed long before the change of government in Washington. But […]

Weaker than the storm

They’d rather eat than vote ON A cloud-dampened morning in Jérémie, the capital of the department of Grand’Anse in south-west Haiti, André Tham walks along a muddy road with a loudhailer, urging passers-by to get vaccinations against cholera. Farther on, a colleague empties a small vial into the mouth of a motorcyclist. More than 3,700 […]

Colombia and the FARC strike a new peace agreement

WHEN Colombia’s government reached an agreement in August to end its 52-year war with the FARC guerrilla army, it claimed the deal was the “best accord possible”. After Colombian voters rejected it in a plebiscite on October 2nd the government and the FARC went back to the negotiating table. On November 12th Colombia’s president, Juan […]

Syrup and sin

EVERY spring schoolchildren in Quebec flock to cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks) in the woods to watch “sugarmakers” boil down the sap of maple trees into syrup and to sample sticky confections. But this sugary pastime has a sinister side, as Quebeckers are now learning through a sensational criminal trial. The defendants are accused of […]

Maduro’s boom

LOOK skywards in posh districts of Caracas, the capital of South America’s most economically troubled country, and you will see something surprising: construction cranes at work on rising office towers. Dozens are nearing completion during Venezuela’s most severe recession ever. In the trendy Las Mercedes area, the din of pneumatic drills starts shortly after 7am […]

The wall that appals

FROM the moment Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States in June 2015, the possibility of his victory has been a Mexican nightmare. He made clear from the start that he was running against Mexico as much as against his political foes. He called Mexicans “rapists” and threatened to deport […]

The limits of technocratic government

THEY might not have realised it, but Peruvians got three presidents for the price of one when they narrowly voted for Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in an election in June. Over a long career, Mr Kuczynski has been an investment banker, a multinational business manager and a public servant. These identities have each been on display […]

What is to be done in Venezuela?

BOTH the timing and the presentation were inauspicious. On October 24th Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s embattled president, made an unscheduled call on Pope Francis. Meanwhile, in Caracas, a papal envoy announced that the Vatican had agreed to co-sponsor talks between the government and the opposition. The news came just days after the government-controlled electoral authority suspended—and […]

Murder and machismo

POLICE called to a house near the Argentine city of Mendoza on October 23rd made a grim discovery. They found the body of Claudia Arias, a 31-year-old mother of three, alongside the corpses of her aunt and grandmother. The women had been beaten and stabbed to death. Two of Claudia’s children, an 11-year-old boy and […]

Not in my valley

EARLIER this year Arnaldo Kabá, chief of Brazil’s Munduruku people, journeyed from his home in Brazil’s Tapajós valley to London to demand a halt to projects which, he believes, threaten his people’s land. Flanked by activists in monkey costumes, he showed up at the steel-and-glass British headquarters of Siemens, a German engineering firm that makes […]

Something new to cheer

WHEN Charles Miller, son of an English railway engineer posted to Brazil, returned to São Paulo from a British boarding school in 1894, he brought back a football—and popularised a game that would help define Brazilian identity. Miller’s other sporting import, rugby, had less appeal. It was played at a few posh boarding schools and […]

Ciudad Juárez trembles again

IN PUERTO DE LA PAZ, a settlement of hardscrabble houses and shacks in the western suburbs of Ciudad Juárez, a new three-storey community centre offers taekwondo, five-a-side football and classes in baking and giving beauty treatments. It is one of 49 such centres in poorer parts of this sprawling industrial city jammed against Mexico’s border […]

Fourth time unlucky

MANAGUA, Nicaragua’s capital, is not throbbing with campaign fever. With days to go before presidential and parliamentary elections on November 6th, political posters are nowhere to be seen. Campaigning, when it happens, is low-key. Yadira Ríos, the vice-presidential candidate of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), has taken to obstructing rush-hour traffic at a roundabout just […]

Fighting their chains

THIS time, the protests were nationwide. From Maracaibo in the west to Ciudad Guayana in the east, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans filled the streets to call for an end to the authoritarian left-wing regime led by Nicolás Maduro. More than 100 people were arrested and one policeman in the state of Miranda died. “This […]

The red-nosed gold rush

ONE recent Saturday afternoon three performers, dressed in clownish finery, clambered out of a rusty 1950s pickup truck in a suburb of Havana and spent the next hour cavorting, breakdancing and sashaying for the amusement of a dozen children. One of the troupe, Ángel Kike Díaz, a cartoon-voice star and stage puppeteer, is a Cuban […]

Casual Mondays to Fridays

MORE than half of all workers in Latin America are employed off the books in the informal economy. That share has barely fallen since 2003. Informal workers are excluded from safety-net programmes such as pension plans, unemployment insurance and some public-health services. A report by the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, shows one […]

Let the haggling begin

“THIS is betrayal,” thundered Saskatchewan’s long-serving premier, Brad Wall. His grievance: the decision this month by Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to set a minimum price for carbon emissions that all provinces would have to adhere to. Since taking office nearly a year ago, Mr Trudeau and his ministers have spent much of their time […]

A model Latin American

THIS has been a good year for Joaquín Torres-García, a Uruguayan artist who died in 1949 but whose reputation continues to wax. Last winter the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York staged a panoramic exhibition of his work; after summering in Madrid, the exhibition opened this month at the Picasso Museum in Malaga. […]

The misery of Hurricane Matthew is deepened by human failure

Livelihoods blown away THE scene is appallingly familiar: entire towns in ruins; thousands of people without food, water or shelter; clothes and belongings strewn across the landscape; the dead buried in mass graves. Nearly seven years after an earthquake wrecked Haiti, killing perhaps 200,000 people, disaster has struck again. This time it was wind and […]

Vancouver and Seattle seek to come closer together

UNLIKE San Diego and Tijuana, Seattle and Vancouver are both rich and speak the same language. But connections between Washington state’s commercial capital and Canada’s biggest western city are sparse. Professionals in Seattle have more contacts in Atlanta, across the continent, than in Vancouver, just 190km (118 miles) away, according to an analysis of LinkedIn […]

Will the Nobel prize bring peace to Colombia?

THEY may be overrated and politicised, but Nobel peace prizes are still nice to have. Ask Juan Manuel Santos: on the evening of October 2nd, after Colombians had voted narrowly to reject the peace agreement his government had negotiated with the FARC guerrillas, he was contemplating the ruins not just of six years of work […]

What Trumponomics means for the border region

ASKED what he thought of Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border, a Mexican official smiled and reached for his smartphone. He called up a map of Mexico in 1824, when it included California, Texas and most of what is now the southwestern United States. We’ll gladly pay for a wall on […]

The Colombian president’s premature Nobel peace prize

THE Norwegian Nobel Committee has a penchant for awarding premature peace prizes. It gave one to Barack Obama less than a year into his presidency. And now it has bestowed one on Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, just days after Colombian voters rejected in a plebiscite his plan to end the country’s 52-year-long war with […]

The once and future bully

“YOU are the United States, you are the future invader of the guileless America of Indian blood, which still prays to Jesus Christ and still speaks Spanish.” So goes the ode “To Roosevelt” of 1904 by Rubén Darío, a Nicaraguan writer. His poem was occasioned by the seizure of Cuba and Puerto Rico by the […]

Mayor none-of-the-above

BRAZILIANS find local elections dull. But the first round of voting in this year’s contests, on October 2nd, was anything but. It showed, first of all, just how fed up voters are with conventional politicians. Even though voting is obligatory, nearly a fifth of the electorate did not show up, a record high for a […]

What now?

ON SEPTEMBER 26th Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, gleaming in a white shirt, appeared before more than a dozen heads of government and other dignitaries to sign, with a pen fashioned from a bullet casing, an accord to end the country’s 52-year-long war with the FARC rebel army. The FARC’s top commander, Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño, […]

Hammering Haiti

Hurricane Matthew, the strongest storm in the Caribbean in nearly ten years, struck Haiti and then moved on to Cuba. It is expected to reach Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. In disaster-prone Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, winds of up to 230kph (145mph) and heavy rain forced some 10,000 people to take refuge […]

Saving Colombia’s peace agreement

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, Colombia’s president, took a gamble with his country’s future on October 2nd, and lost. After four years of talks in Havana, negotiators from his government and the FARC rebel army had reached an agreement to end a 52-year war, Latin America’s longest-running conflict. Mr Santos asked voters to approve it in a […]