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The challenge of defining LatAm

August 15, 2012

It is hard to neatly sum up any part of the world, but trying to neatly sum up a region as complex as LatAm using terms of convenience such as “left” vs “right”, “capitalist” vs “populist” will frustrate any would-be pundit.

The region, in varying degrees, seems to be all-and-none of these descriptors all at the same time.

Certainly, there are countries that walk this tightrope better, such as Brazil, Chile and even Colombia; and others that are struggling to live up to their potential, most notably Argentina.

And then there is Mexico,which veers daily from developed-world success to failed narco-state.

But the points raise in this DB brief, “Quo vadis Latin America?” are fair; the region has progressed in terms of opening up its markets and improving its collective economy, but the improvement remains precarious and shocks, perhaps from a collapse in commodity prices, would adversely impact the region’s stability.

All that said, I think the gains made, while precarious, are permanent. Sure, things may go up and down (and in LatAm, wild swings are normal), but I think it unlikely that the region will return to the bad old days of dictatorships, hyperinflation, and continual collapse.

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