Latin America: Perspectives on a Region

Latin America: Perspectives on a Region

Latin America: Perspectives on a Region

Latin America: Perspectives on a Region

Excerpt

Since the first edition of this book appeared, truly momentous changes have occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean. Politically, the military government disappeared in Chile, where the continuation of the Pinochet dictatorship was soundly rejected by the voters in 1988. Chile has since conducted two national elections with peaceful turnover of power. In Argentina, a freely elected civilian president voluntarily turned over the office to his freely elected successor, who was in turn reelected. The Sandinista government of Nicaragua submitted itself to a second free election in 1990 and lost the election. Again, in October 1996, Nicaraguan elections resulted in the peaceful transition from one conservative government to another. The protracted civil war in El Salvador finally ended with a peaceful settlement that brought the warring parties into the political process, culminating in national elections in 1994. Guatemala's long, violent conflict was ended by the peace settlement in late 1996. Colombia reached agreement on a new constitution in 1991 that promised an end to the years of violence in the country. However, as the decade nears its end, the country is still coping with assaults from guerrilla groups and from pernicious corruption.

Economically, radical changes occurred throughout the continent. Most countries were able to ameliorate the rampant inflation that plagued their economies. Crushing external debt burdens were managed, though still with great difficulty. Major free trade agreements, notably the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), were instituted, binding the economies of Mexico, the United States, and Canada with one another. Mexico struggled through fundamental challenges to the country's one-party dominance, including armed rebellion in Chiapas and electoral victories by opposition parties in several states. The collapse of the peso in 1995 brought widespread hardship in an already troubled economy. Intra-continental trade and economic cooperation (such as MERCOSUR in the southern cone of South America) flourished. Throughout the hemisphere, governments increasingly turned to privatization of public enterprises and reduced roles for the state. Even in Cuba, the last socialist system in the Americas, the dollarization of the economy, the acceptance of free farmers' markets, and open invitations for foreign investment and joint ventures marked a system undergoing rapid change after the termination of Soviet aid. The dramatic visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998 opened the possibility of a larger church role in Cuba and increasingly focused world attention on the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

The twenty chapters of this edition plus the appendix on researching Latin America in the information age represent a major revision of the first edition. First, four completely new chapters on important aspects of Latin America have been added. Francesca Miller writes on women in Latin America, their position, and their struggle for equal rights. Dennis Conway contributes a new chapter on the important problem of migration . . .

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