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Latin America’s Darkest Hour

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Latin America’s Darkest Hour

Can Biden Heal a Fractured Hemisphere?

Foreign Affairs,

5 min read
2 take-aways
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Political instability and polarization in Latin America will crimp US attempts at cooperation.

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The Biden administration has promised to repair frayed US–Latin American relations and restore the United States’ traditional role in the Southern Hemisphere. Political observers expect Biden will pursue these goals through cooperation, diplomacy and multilateralism. But how much he can accomplish, considering the region’s dire economic situation, growing political instability and polarization, is debatable. International relations expert Oliver Stuenkel argues that US attempts at reengagement are critical to Latin America’s prospects.


COVID-19 has exacerbated inequality, poverty and political instability in Latin America.

The pandemic has reversed much of the economic progress that underpinned political stability in Latin America in the early 2000s. Fiscal restraints now compel the end of state aid to citizens who lost income during pandemic-related lockdowns – a circumstance that will inevitably lead to increased poverty. Moreover, the region is grappling with a rise in organized crime and an intensifying humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.  

Even before COVID-19 brought financial ruin to Latin America’s middle class, most of the region’s governments displayed a marked unresponsiveness ...

About the Author

Oliver Stuenkel is an associate professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, Brazil.

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