tv Great Decisions in Foreign Policy PBS December 6, 2017 6:30pm-7:01pm PST
(soft music) - [narrator] once known for economic and political turmoil, the majority of nations in latin america are now constitutional democracies. shifting away from revolutionary leftist economic policies, latin americans are combining left leaning social agendas with more pragmatic governments. many also want to forge new relationships with the us and china. latin america, next on great decisions. (jubilant orchestra music) - [announcer] great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association in association with thomson reuters. funding for great decisions is provided by pricewaterhousecoopers llp. (soft music) - [narrator] the 1960's in latin america
was an era of political revolutions. the reverberations of which are still felt today. - latin america was really defined, the 1960's by the cuban revolution. there was a greater push for independence, sovereignty, autonomy from the united states. - it was a region where some of the battles between capitalism and communism, between democracy and authoritarianism, played out with the greatest drama. it was an era of military coups everywhere from central america down through brazil and argentina. - there were movements not just in latin america, but in other parts of the world in the 60's and 70's to bring more left progressive government into power and in reaction to that, military dictatorships took hold in much of the southern cone and brazil. - [narrator] inspired and at times supported by cuba, a half dozen nations saw political revolutions
in the 1960's alone. - this is a time of communism versus anti-communism and we saw a wave of military dictatorships come in in defense of democracy, but undermining and in fact, moving democracy in this fight against communism. the united states supported many of these dictatorships. it really was the precedent of anti-communism that took over us foreign policy towards the region. - in 1959 with the advent fidel castro, the rules of the game changed because a soviet union did become a supporter and an active participant in our hemisphere. - you can find a lot of very wealthy people who appreciated the role that the united states played during that period. there are a lot of others on the left, younger people and also poorer people that resented that the united states was very much paternalistic and a bully in some cases
and really treated these as almost colonies of the united states. (dramatic music) - [narrator] in argentina the political violence of the 1970's would leave a lasting scar. - by the mid 1970's argentina had been in trouble for a while. finally in 1976 the military essentially said we're gonna put an end to this and they led a very dramatic coup. they killed anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 suspected leftists, including many people who really had no involvement with the left. these people were drugged, kidnapped, thrown out of helicopters, tortured. some of the worst things in latin america's recent history. - [narrator] three more revolutions in nicaragua, el salvador and brazil shook the region. - that's when we saw in central america all these civil wars and revolutions break out.
you had at that time military juntas, especially in the southern cone and many other places. and president carter did not pull any punches in calling a spade a spade and denouncing human rights violations, which led a number of governments to sort of back away a little bit from the united states at that time. - it's taken decades and decades for the us to attempt to distance itself from that really bad period of our history. because we were seen not as the people on the side of democracy and democratic reform, but people on the side of maintaining the status quo. if it was advantageous to the united states. - the 80's and the 90's saw blossoming of democracy, the end of military dictatorships throughout the region. it had a political dimension and this anti-communist dimension, but it had an economic dimension and a frustration of the upper classes, the middle classes
with economic decline. (soft music) - [narrator] the early 2000's brought a number of left leaning governments to power. - there was a sort of a cycle that latin america went through in the 1990's. the washington consensus, marka doriantic pro free trade, foreign investment, but that did not produce the results that were expected and a lot of people were looking for alternatives. - the created sort of a dissatisfaction with more free market or more conservative ideological principles. at the same time, this lack of success with the prescriptions of the time opened the door for populists to step in. - we see the 2,000's turn against the austerity of the 1990's. so much of the turn to leftist movement as many saw was because of this. and this wave of often leftist leaders
also benefited from a big commodity boom, one of the biggest in decades. so the chavez's, the lula's all had money to spend on their populations particularly as oil hit hundred dollar plus a barrel and other commodities boomed as well with china's rest. - as much as some countries were very much developing democracy, freedom of speech, markovian policies and a broad approach, others were moving into populism and into policies that somehow were backwards in a way and the consequence are evident now. - [narrator] unprecedented economic growth in the early 2000's buoyed these governments. - the biggest win was what started happening with commodity prices, which were largely the result of the big appetites from asian countries, especially from china, for both food and mineral commodities. and this was perhaps one of the best decades
latin america has had in its history books. - it was partly commodities demand from china, but i think sometimes that gets over exaggerated a bit. i think it was also a product of good policy. i think it was a product of some of the changes that were made starting in the mid 1990's also going into the 2000's. (soft music) the price of oil when hugo chavez took power in 1998 was less than $10. it eventually reached, i think in 2005 and 2006 $140. that's a tremendous bonanza. chile was growing, peru was growing, venezuela was growing. those aren't leftist governments, but then you had ecuador also oil dependent. leftist government rafael correa was growing evo morales in bolivia who was elected 2005, came in in 2006 also country started to grow. - you had about 50 million people who came out of poverty and into the middle class
as a result not only of the commodities boom, but also of the smart financial policies. - and as you moved into the mid 2000's what you really saw was the idea that you should have growth and social inclusion all at the same time. and i think that is something that has been a broad based cry. you've got to have growth with social inclusion. and that is something which is universal across latin america. (soft music) - [narrator] the commodities bubble eventually burst revealing fundamental problems. economic disarray went hand in hand with political upheaval. - there's a saying that when the tide goes out, you see who's swimming naked and i think that was true with a lot of latin american countries, brazil obviously being the most obvious case.
the countries where there was a lot of corruption, the countries where they spent, especially recent years chasing off business and investors, those are the ones that are really struggling right now. - when the silver cycle ended, things got bad and fingers got pointed. all these countries that had been spending, you know it's kinda like you get a job and you get a raise and all of a sudden you lose your job and you've been spending like a rich guy 'cause you've been earning like a rich guy. well now you're not earning like a rich guy, but you still have all these bills. politically, a lot of these leaders who had sort of tied their futures to keeping the good times rolling lost their spots. - now as the chinese economy slows down, latin american economies are finding that it's not enough to have china buying up their commodities. they have to reform, they have to create markets for exports, they have to create institutions to help adjudicate investment disputes and the like.
- it's a region that has been subject to the resource curse of dependency on a few primary commodities that works great when those commodities have a super high price at world markets and then doesn't work so well when the commodities fall in value and in the meantime the countries haven't diversified the economy away from those primary commodities. (soft music) - [narrator] in venezuela, the chavez government began rolling back democratic reforms to combat unrest caused by food shortages and inflation. - the economy has been so mismanaged that you can't even get basic necessities in the grocery store. people have to search to get their days meals. now this is not a matter of lack of money. it is a direct product of mismanagement and we have a government, initially the chavez government
now the maduruo government that has been singularly inattentive public opion. - venezualan government doesn't accept the term humanitarian crisis because that could be used as a justification for intervention. and the venezuelans are proud very, they do accept at this point that there is massive suffering, not just that there's a political crisis and there's an economic crisis and a security crisis, but there's massive suffering. there's a lot of problems. - the chavez/maduro sequence in venezuela is a classic case. you start spending a lot of money, the poor feel some benefit of that, the government's very popular for a while then it runs out of money. and then it's a disaster. - some people now are having trouble accessing food, not just because of scarcity issues, but because the money that they have does not go nearly as far.
(people yelling) - [narrator] in argentina too, poor economic policies and corruption have led to demands for more responsible governance. - christina fernandez de kirchner and her husband before her, nestor kirchner really in their 12 years of rule in argentina fundamentally changed the economy there. they intervened in many ways, both big and small. - under the kirchner's there was a total distrust of international economic institutions, it was a populist government, economic policies, someone described them as coming out of the soviet economic planning model of the 1950's. so president macri has brought argentina back into an economic policy that's consistent with the world economy, seeking out international investment, trying to lower some of the state subsidies that the kirchner's had applied (mumbles).
- president macri has essentially come intoffice and tried to integrate argentina back into the world. argentina had become a bit of at least financially an outlaw state. he's trying to create a more pro-business climate that can basically get the economy growing in a more balanced fashion again. - [narrator] in brazil, former president luiz inacio lula da silva's hand picked successor dilma rousseff has been impeached for attempting to hide troubling economic news. - brazil was run by the workers party for 14 years and at the beginning under president luiz inacio lula da silva brazil really made historic progress against poverty, they brought some 35 to 40 million people out of poverty and into the middle class. that's about 20% of the population. unfortunately there were some bad policies, there was quite a bit of systemic corruption,
and by the early 2000's, by 2012,13,14, the economy was really starting to fall apart. - brazil has had a corrupted political system that now is just imploding in many ways with the president under impeachment who her accusers are all terribly corrupt at the same time in a political system which everybody has had a hand in the kitty and where it's very hard to find a way out when so many of the institutions of state are as corrupted as they are. - brazil thought that it was going to become a middle class country by say 2020 and then of course it all came unglued and unemployment spiked to near 10%, incomes stopped growing, inflation rose. and so people became very upset with the government.
people look around and believe that their politicians all across the board have failed them and of course this puts brazil in the league of a lot of other countries around the world right now. there's a general disenchantment with politicians everywhere you look in europe and in the united states. and especially in brazil where things are actually much worse than they are in the us or western europe. - now you have a president who is much more concerned with business than he is with individual poor people and so you're seeing a giant shift, a diametric shift really in terms of investor sentiment towards brazil, in terms of people wanting to do business with brazil, wanting to invest in brazil and right now they're trying to make changes within the constitution, passed a number of bills to cap spending to redirect the flow of investments in that country. (soft music) - [narrator] across the region,
a new middle class has grown accustomed to higher wages and more government services from electricity to clean water. - you can be from the worst slum in rio de janeiro or the worst in colombia and you probably have a cellphone and you have access to information. and when people have access to information and this is right and they should, then people want more, people demand, they know what a middle class is all about. and so it creates expectations and hope and countries and people want that delivered and if you look across the world, that's what people are saying. people are saying we want the government to be responsible. we want better education, we want better opportunity, we want better schools, we want better garbage collection. (soft music) - with the growth and the social spending, the rise of the middle class now
is larger in that american, population so there was a significant social transformation that was very positive, but of course behind that there was the problem of how to sustain the high levels of social spending and the higher limited standards of the people who have benefited from the move. - whatever happens now and in the future, in all of latin america, governments can't afford to ignore the social agenda. it's just simply not sustainable. and we're seeing that now in countries like argentina with a government that's more conservative, leaning to the right, a business man mauricio macri is president, but he can't afford to roll back all social programs and policies of his predecessors because simply people would not accept that. - it is the world's most unequal reason and so i think a degree of leftism under democracy,
this idea of redistribution of wealth, will always be present whether in practice or officially by name because you have a very very poor disenfranchised majority in most of these countries that wants a bigger piece of the puzzle and is gonna vote for leaders who are gonna help make that happen. (soft music) - [narrator] with billions of dollars in loans to the region and a nearly 20 fold increase in trade since 2000, china's relationship with latin america continues to evolve. - china is still figuring out exactly what it wants from latin america. at first, during the early 2000's, when china really started to expand they saw latin america as a source of the commodities that they needed, things like soy, iron ore.
and then i think towards the late 2000's, china started looking at the region as potential political partners. and you saw some interesting initiatives on investment and trade. (soft music) - the impact varies, i mean they're in cuba for example, which is a small country. it has 11 million people, but there is more of a almost historic and ideological alignment and connection and link. and so in other countries they buy their commodities. in other countries, they finance. - most of the foreign direct investment has not come from china, it has come from, to start with the us has been a major investor. but a big boom, and a unexpected boom was (mumbles). spanish investment latin arica beca for some years a large. there was also other western european countries, japan, china cam late in that game.
china has only come as a major investor in the last few years. with lots of controversy about the quality of the chinese investment in latin america. (soft music) - [narrator] washington responded positively to the shift away from the left in parts of latin america. - shington igenelly ppy tabout recent politicalthe ldevelopments in latin america. i think that they see a lot of governments who are more natural partners, but i think the us government is also quite rightly - what we are seeing is, in my view, a maturing of relations between us and latin american governments. we often agree on things. most of these governments are in favor of open markets, in favor of free trade, and favor to democracy,
but we also are leaving space to disagree and that's to me, is a sign of a much more mature partnership, rather than what historically we saw as a very asymmetrical relationship between the united states and latin american countries. - [narrator] but the relationship between the united states and many parts of latin america remains complicated. - how would the largest source of contention between these various countries is the us role within the world. so as the united states over the last decade plus has gotten involved in various wars, in various interventions around the world, this is something that many latin american countries do not favor. - the us has ceased to see itself as hegemonic, vis-a-vis latin american, which was a major mistake of the past. any good relations between latin america and the us today will depend heavily on the relation
more about among equals than among unequals. - this is a region where the majority of people in these countries are no longer poor. the biggest plurality, the biggest sector is a middle class now. and it's a very different place than it was back 30 or 40 years ago and that i think at times is a fundamental misperception is the united states thinks about policy, thinks about relations with its neighbors. (soft music) (soft music) - [narrator] signs of regional change are apparent in colombia where a peace deal ended a decades old struggle against gorilla forces. in cuba normalizing relations signal a new spirit of cooperation. - we have been a country in which violence have been permanent, in which confronting these kind
of threats to the people have been part of everyday life and i think not having that anymore is a great opportunity for prosperity, a great opportunity for progress. to integrate and to absorb into political life those organization, specifically (mumbles). - the opening up of relations with cuba has really been a game changer. - cuba was able to portray itself as david to our goliath as being unfairly singled out in their view. you have seen president obama nibble away at the embargo by opening up areas for travel. you've seen more travel from americans and others to cuba. - [narrator] latin america appears to be entering a new era, one marked not by revolution, but transformation. - in 1967 with the foreign ministers of the region
met in punta del este uruguay, and half wore military uniforms and where they are today, now you see democratically elected governments everywhere with some flaws here and there, but democracy has been accepted pretty much hemisphere wide as a system to follow. - washington has long wanted to maintain what it had achieved in 1990, which was the semblance of a common hemispheric political economic social agenda. as the region has prospered and as new governance has come to power, it's just become much more diverse and it's been very hard for the united states to adapt to this more diverse region. - i'm an optimist for latin america, but with a lot of fits, starts, reversals, huge bumps on the road and very few absolutely clear paths to success. - [narrator] among the corruption scandals
and economic crisis, there is reason for optimism in latin america as the people of the region look forward demanding responsible governance and growth with social inclusion. (soft music) - [announcer] great decision is america's largest discussion program on global affairs. discussion groups meet in community centers, libraries, places of worship, and homes across the country to discuss global issues with their community. participants read the eight topic briefing book, meet to discuss each topic and complete a ballot, which shares their views with congress. to start or join a discussion group in your community, visit greatdecisions.org or call 1-800-477-5836. great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association in association with thomson reuters.
funding for great decisions is provided by pricewaterhousecoopers llp. - [narrator] next time on great decisions, us troops have been in afghanistan for more than 15 years, making it the longest war in american history. as washington and nato pivot away from afghanistan, the ability of the government and security forces to maintain stability will be tested. afghanistan, next time on great decisions. (jubilant orchestra music) (soft music)
it's noon on thursday in tokyo. i'm miki yamamoto. first, a look at the headlines. trump's decision. the u.s. president declares jerusalem is the capital of israel. sparking protests and criticism around the world. seeking re-election. russian president vladimir putin is hoping to win his fourth term in office. and staying healthy. a noodle maker in japan has joined