“Why Antiestablishment Fervor Is Growing in Latin America”
Foreign Affairs | April 13, 2018
President Donald Trump’s aborted trip to Latin America this week will make him the first U.S. president to skip the triennial Summit of the Americas. Instead, Vice President Mike Pence will join heads of state from across the Western Hemisphere as they try to finalize a declaration on “democratic governance against corruption,” a timely focus in light of Latin America’s recent wave of graft scandals. In selecting the theme, the host government of Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski showed admirable conviction—if little prescience. Kuczynski himself will be absent, having resigned less than a month before the summit amid a corruption scandal of his own.
Trump too will now be missing in person—although perhaps not in spirit. Latin America is grappling with its own antiestablishment fever, fueled by revelations of politicians on the take. Kuczynski is the latest in a growing list of Latin American political and business leaders felled by corruption allegations, many of them similarly ensnared by connections to the sprawling investigation of the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. In a plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice, Odebrecht confessed to paying $788 million worth of bribes to government officials in ten countries in Latin America and two in Africa. In most cases, it remains unknown who was on the receiving end of those payments, which means that additional heads are likely to roll. Nonetheless, the scope of recent prosecutions is already unprecedented, leading many observers to justifiably herald a new era of accountability for abuse of power in Latin America…