Jaime Daremblum Articles

The Populist Temptation Creeps North

10:14 AM, Jul 30, 2015

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis published what would go on to be his most famous novel, It Can’t Happen Here. The novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a populist politician who resembling Louisiana’s Huey Long or, for modern readers, Caracas’ Hugo Chavez. He is described thusly:

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Positive Prospects for Trade With Latin America

12:20 PM, Jun 24, 2015

With Washington quibbling over the finer points of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), many commentators are arguing that lessons of past trade deals, li

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Chile on the Skids

11:31 AM, Apr 24, 2015

I have come back to you from thorny uncertainty. I want you as straight as the sword or the road. But you insist on keeping a nook of shadow I do not want.

Good poets do not always write for their time, but this fragment from Pablo Neruda’s The Question repays some meditation by Chile-watchers.

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The Maduro Crack-up

9:37 AM, Mar 13, 2015

What would the shade of El Libertador think today surveying his beloved Venezuela? He would certainly be shocked at the dubious honor his country has been granted for claiming the number one spot on the world Misery Index for 2015.

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South America's Dynamic Duo

4:32 PM, Feb 18, 2015

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Venezuelan leader, Nicolas Maduro, have much more in common than failing economies, populist rhetoric, and a penchant for extra-judicial political maneuvers: they are both the first and second (respectively) highest recipients of Chinese lending in Latin America—a region that, between 2005 and 2013 has received more than $100 billion in loan commitments from Beijing.

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Mexico in Crisis

9:31 AM, Dec 18, 2014

The fiesta is over. Mexico, a remarkably important nation of some 120 million people—indeed, the world’s fifteenth largest economy—is descending into crisis. Students have been slaughtered en masse with the complicity of a corrupt police force. The country’s young president and his finance minster are embroiled in a corruption scandal. And the recent fall in oil prices—which looks set to continue—only portends further suffering.

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Corruption Curses Mexico and Brazil

2:40 PM, Dec 02, 2014

Call it a tale of two countries. Two would-be Latin American powerhouses, both with populations surpassing 100 million people – and both with weak presidents who are beset by corruption problems. Both, in other words, are severely underperforming countries, whose chronic inability to live up to their potential continues to undermine growth, stability, and hope for the future. 

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Brazil's Bad Omens

9:36 AM, Nov 03, 2014

It’s official: Dilma Rousseff is no Lula. The left-wing Brazilian president may have been reelected late last month, but she enjoys nowhere near the popularity that Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva – better known simply as “Lula” – once did. Rousseff managed to squeak by with only 51.6 percent of the vote in a runoff – a far cry from the 61 percent that Lula garnered when he stood for reelection in 2006. And Rousseff’s close shave came despite the fact that Lula came out and campaigned hard for her.

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Colombia Chooses ‘Peace’ – No Matter the Costs

2:45 PM, Jun 18, 2014

The world’s eyes may have been trained on the World Cup this weekend, but a different heated contest also took place in South America on Sunday night. In Colombia, incumbent president Juan Manuel Santos, who has made “peace” talks with leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas the center of his campaign, was reelected in a runoff. He defeated his assertive challenger, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a staunch opponent of the negotiations, by a margin of 51 to 45 percent.

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Why Argentina Is Struggling to Find Lifelines

1:20 PM, Mar 26, 2014

Late last month, the Spanish energy giant Repsol agreed to accept $5 billion worth of Argentine bonds as repayment for the government’s confiscation of YPF, Argentina’s largest oil company, which was formerly controlled by Repsol until its April 2012 seizure by President Cristina Kirchner. With the South American country mired in financial turmoil and flirting with yet another sovereign default, the true value of its bonds remains to be seen. But for now, President Kirchner appears to have resolved a longstanding dispute that had polluted Argentina’s image and accelerated capital flight.

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A Propaganda Victory for Cuba

12:20 PM, Dec 12, 2013

Sometimes a handshake is more than just a handshake. When President Obama warmly embraced the late Hugo Chávez at the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, he lent respectability to a brutal autocrat who had crippled Venezuelan democracy, terrorized his political opponents, and supported both the Iranian theocracy and the Colombian FARC. When then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hugged Ecuadorean leader Rafael Correa during a visit to Quito in 2010, she made Correa seem like a normal democratic president, rather than a thuggish Chávez acolyte who had persecuted independent journalists and gravely weakened his country’s public institutions.

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The New Sandinista Autocracy

7:05 AM, Nov 20, 2013

Not so long ago, the fate of democracy in Central America was a prominent and deeply controversial issue in U.S. politics.

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Make Brazil a Higher Priority

7:30 AM, Nov 05, 2013

When Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff canceled her October 23 White House state dinner, she created yet another foreign-policy embarrassment for the Obama administration. Rousseff’s visit, which was announced back in May, was supposed to be an opportunity for highlighting a new era of strategic cooperation between the Western Hemisphere’s two largest countries. It would have been the first state visit by a Brazilian leader since Bill Clinton hosted Fernando Henrique Cardoso in April 1995.

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Colombia’s Risky Peace Gambit

10:05 AM, Oct 03, 2013

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was a global murder capital held hostage by warring drug cartels. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it looked like a potential failed state. These days, it is described as “Latin America’s rising star,” “Latin America’s rising oil star,” “Latin America’s latest economic miracle,” “an economic powerhouse,” and “a magnet for foreign investment.”

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Terror Threat in Latin America

8:25 AM, Aug 15, 2013

In late June, the State Department issued a controversial report on Iranian activity in the Western Hemisphere. Its most notable conclusion was that “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.” Critics immediately pointed out that, just a month earlier, Argentine special prosecutor Alberto Nisman had released a 500-page report showing that Tehran has “clandestine intelligence stations and operative agents” scattered across the region. The obvious question was: Why hadn’t Foggy Bottom considered the Nisman dossier before publishing its recommendations?

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Chinese Businessman Seeks to Build Nicaraguan Canal

3:04 PM, Jul 24, 2013

The idea of building a $40 billion canal in Nicaragua, Central America’s poorest nation, seems highly improbable.

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The Iranian Threat in Latin America

9:46 AM, Jul 15, 2013

If you’re concerned that the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism has been expanding its strategic footprint in the Western Hemisphere, the Obama administration has a reassuring message for you: “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.” That’s the conclusion of a State Department report issued late last month. (The report itself is classified, but Foggy Bottom released an unclassified summary of its policy recommendations, from which the above quote is taken.)

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Why Bolivia Needs the United States

7:15 AM, Jun 05, 2013

Socialists around the world have their own traditions for celebrating “International Workers’ Day,” and Evo Morales is no exception. Each year, the Bolivian leader uses May 1 to make a big announcement, typically regarding the military-backed seizure of a given industry or company. In 2006, during his first May Day as president, he nationalized his country’s enormous natural gas reserves. Since then, he has grabbed control of telecom companies, energy companies, and more. On May 1, 2012, he had Bolivian troops seize an electricity firm (owned by the Spanish multinational REE) that operates most of his nation’s power lines.

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Why Mexico Must Destroy the Cartels

6:31 AM, May 09, 2013

During his trip to Mexico and Costa Rica last week, President Obama tried to highlight the positive and downplay the negative. Thus, he spoke at length about the growth of trade, commerce, and economic partnerships, arguing that security issues should not be allowed to dominate all discussions of U.S. policy in the region.

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Venezuela’s Illegitimate President

8:31 AM, Apr 23, 2013

During the 14-year reign of Hugo Chávez, Venezuelans became drearily accustomed to hearing so-called cadenas interrupt the regular programming on their radios and television sets. These are “chained” broadcasts (the word cadena means “chain”) that all stations must carry. They originated long before Chávez took power, mainly to help the Venezuelan government disseminate urgent information about a matter of national importance, such as a natural disaster. Under the so-called Bolivarian revolution, they were transformed into shameless propaganda vehicles.

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Why Mexico Needs an Energy Revolution

8:15 AM, Apr 12, 2013

The day after his inauguration on December 1, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto joined with leaders of the country’s two main opposition parties to sign the “Pact for Mexico,” a joint pledge to pursue dozens of domestic reforms in areas such as education, telecommunications, and energy.

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Stand with Britain on the Falklands

8:50 AM, Mar 18, 2013

There are legitimate territorial disputes, and then there is Argentina’s dispute with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands.

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The Permanent Crisis in Venezuela

1:45 PM, Feb 25, 2013

According to a leading Spanish newspaper, Hugo Chávez’s doctors have told his family that the cancer-stricken autocrat will not recover from his illness and will not be able to resume the Venezuelan presidency. Perhaps that’s why his return to Venezuela was a relatively subdued affair.

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Why Ecuador Matters

2:50 PM, Feb 14, 2013

About two years ago, a senior Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official said that a certain Latin American country was becoming a veritable “United Nations” of organized criminal activity, attracting gangsters from such diverse and faraway places as Albania, China, Italy, and Ukraine. He was not talking about Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, or Brazil. No, Jay Bergman, the DEA’s Andean regional director, was describing Ecuador, a small nation of 15 million people that is tucked between two of the largest cocaine-producing countries on earth. “If I’m an Italian organized drug trafficker and I want to meet with my Colombian counterpart,” Bergman told Reuters, “I would probably prefer to meet in Ecuador than to meet in Colombia.”

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The Peruvian Miracle

9:05 AM, Jan 16, 2013

In late November and early December, Peruvian business leaders gathered in the industrial city of Arequipa for the 50th Annual Conference of Executives (CADE). When the polling firm Ipsos Apoyo asked CADE attendees whether they approved of the job performance of Peruvian president Ollanta Humala, a remarkable 75 percent said yes.

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Argentine Thuggery at Home and Abroad

7:15 AM, Dec 13, 2012

Most everyone remembers what happened when Argentina invaded the British Falkland Islands in 1982. Far fewer people remember what preceded—and in many ways provoked—the Argentine invasion.

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Felipe Calderón’s Legacy in Mexico

8:15 AM, Nov 29, 2012

When Mexican president Felipe Calderón leaves office on December 1, his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, will inherit a country with rampant corruption and high levels of drug-related violence. Of course, when Calderón entered the presidency six years ago, he himself inherited a country with rampant corruption and high levels of drug-related violence.

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Radical Leftism Fails in Argentina

9:05 AM, Nov 19, 2012

When Argentine president Cristina Kirchner nationalized the Spanish-owned YPF oil company this past April, Washington Post correspondent Juan Forero proclaimed her “the standard-bearer of populist nationalism in Latin America.”

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How Argentina and Brazil Help Iran

10:10 AM, Nov 01, 2012

Based on last week’s debate, both President Obama and Governor Romney believe that squeezing the Iranians economically is the best way—and perhaps the only way—to end their nuclear-weapons program without resorting to a military strike. Of course, nobody knows if sanctions will actually work. But if the United States is truly serious about crushing Iran’s economy, it must pursue a more aggressive strategy, and it must put more pressure on Iranian trading partners.

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The War Closer to Home

8:15 AM, Oct 22, 2012

At tonight’s presidential debate on foreign policy, we can expect questions related to the civil war in Syria, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, and the broader war on terrorism, including the September 11 Benghazi attack. But I hope that debate moderator Bob Schieffer also asks President Obama and Governor Romney about another war—the one that is currently raging in Mexico and Central America.

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