Famously lauded as an exception to trends of overall political instability in Central America, Costa Rica has presented an enduring model of socially democratic peace for the region. The country is the area’s longest-standing democracy since it famously decided to abolish its military under the 1949 Constitution to invest in social services such as universal education and healthcare. Since then, it has come to be seen as a landmark of environmental stewardship, a beacon of prosperity to neighboring immigrants, and – with its Pura Vida (pure life) mentality – one of the happiest countries on earth. It is because of this tradition of remarkable democracy, peace, and social wellbeing that many have referred to Costa Rica as politically exceptional, especially in comparison to its neighbors’ history of civil unrest.
But the country’s recent history reveals quite the opposite. In recent years, Costa Rica has become just as prone to divisive political and economic trends as the rest of the world.
Thousands have taken to the streets of Rio de Janeiro to mourn Marielle Franco, a 38 year old City Councilor who campaigned against police brutality. She was shot dead returning from a black women’s empowerment event Wednesday. A former resident of Favela de Mare, one of Rio’s most violent slums, Ms. Franco was known for heavily criticizing President Michel Temer’s decision to deploy military forces to Brazil’s favelas to decrease violent crimes. His policy was announced in February after it was revealed the country experienced 2,125 violent deaths in the past year.
Santiago Maldonado, a 28 year old indigenous rights activist for Argentina’s Mapuche people, was found dead in Chubut River near Buenos Aires on Saturday. He had been missing since August 1st after he and other protesters clashed with police at an indigenous rights demonstration in Patagonia. Authorities transferred his body to the city for identification and an autopsy, where his brother Sergio was able to identify him and morticians were able to deny visible wounds on the body. His death has been highly politicized amid Argentina’s upcoming Congressional Elections, with the leftist opposition accusing security officers for his death and President Mauricio Macri of covering it up.
The Organization of American States (OAS) will meet Tuesday in Washington, D.C. to discuss the ongoing politico-economic crisis in Venezuela after fourteen of its members called on President Nicolas Maduro to restore democracy in the country. Venezuela has been experiencing massive inflation due to dropping oil prices, leading to extreme good shortages. Many have criticized Maduro of mismanaging the economy in response to the crisis. Meanwhile, Maduro has also stifled political opposition, indefinitely delaying congressional and recall elections that were projected losses for his party, while mitigating Congressional laws through judges loyal to him.
On Thursday, Brazilian Supreme Court Judge Teori Zavascki, who was in charge of overseeing the corruption investigation against state-run oil giant Petrobras, died in a plane crash off the coast of Partay where he was vacationing. Prosecutors involved in the case previously stated that politicians were handsomely bribed to award government contracts to private companies while overcharging Petrobras. The plane crash comes as Zavascki was set to analyze the plea bargains of 77 Odebrecht executives, a construction firm that has admitted to paying over $1 billion in bribes to obtain contracts.
Last Friday, President Obama ended a 20-year policy that allows Cubans to apply for citizenship in the United States without applying for a visa. Commonly known as the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, the law permits migrants with “at least one dry foot” on U.S. soil to become permanent residents after a year within the country. The Cuban government sees the policy as largely responsible for the country’s brain drain and encouraging migrants to risk their lives travelling to the Florida border. Meanwhile, many Latino communities view the law as unfairly favoring Cuban immigrants as opposed to other migrants.
Last week, Mexicans took to the streets to riot, loot, and blockade streets to protest the government’s January 1st announcement they would raise maximum oil prices by 20%. The move is the first of many steps to deregulate Mexico’s energy sector. Dependent on gasoline imports, policymakers expect the decrease in subsidies will attract foreign investment and increase competition against the state-controlled oil company, Pemex. But it appeared the government was unprepared for the widespread contempt.
Since winning the national elections last December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made waves as the fresh new face of Canadian politics. At 44, the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau bolstered Canada’s international image and popularity, leading to a political honeymoon with the promise of reform and a charismatic young leader. The celebration is only heightened when juxtaposed with the near decade-long reign of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. However, this liberal wave, hailed as a potential second Trudeaumania (the term used to describe Pierre Trudeau’s surge in popularity upon his election), proved to be more substantive than empty promises and charm from a relatively inexperienced politician. In his first 100 days in office, the Prime Minister made progress on the 214 promises made during the campaign cycle, demonstrating that Trudeau is an effective foil to his Conservative predecessor.
As the second youngest Prime Minister in Canadian history and son of former PM Pierre, Justin Trudeau has been making waves as the fresh new face of Canadian Politics. But more than just his image, Trudeau has made a number of proposals that promise to reform a decade of Conservative policies, making him not only the most memorable, but perhaps the most ambitious prime minister right out of the gate.