Welcome to Horizonte, the Latin American International Affairs Programme blog at LSE IDEAS. We invite PhD students and academics from the UK and beyond to analyse and examine events in Latin America to promote a better understanding of how Latin America's past impacts its present. We aim to facilitate dialogue and a deeper understanding of this diverse region.

Wikileaks: how Web Technologies are changing the game for Freedom of Information
A true information and political earthquake resulted from the collision of the two great plates of internet freedom and US diplomacy. The epicenter? Wikileaks, a well known website led by Julian Assange since 2006 that encourages online whistle-blowing with the guarantee to keep the source a secret. Coming from Chile, it is difficult for me not to think about earthquakes when describing such a big political crash. However, being fair with Wikileaks, earthquakes have a doubtless destructive power that the website arguably does not have: at least the picture of Wikileaks is one of a rich variety of grey, rather than plain black or white.

The lack of substance behind Brazil's and Argentina's recognition of Palestinian independence
Brazilian flags have been highly visible on Ramallah streets over the past few days, almost as much as in June and before the country crashed out of the World Cup. Their presence has much to do with public sentiment in the West Bank this week and following Brazil’s decision to recognise a Palestinian state within the 1967 Green Line. Brasilia’s announcement was followed by Argentina’s decision to do the same, a statement which should bring out many similarly mothballed Argentine flags in the de facto Palestinian capital as well.

Insights into US-Latin American relations through Wikileaks
Much of the recent attention to the leaked American diplomatic cables has involved gossip and various unflattering pen portraits of world leaders. In the case of Latin America this has already emerged in relation to Argentine President Cristina Kirchner’s mental state. Today there is the exposure of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and his tumour treatment which will doutbless be seized upon.

Juicio y Castigo: Nestor Kirchner and accountability for past human rights violations in Argentina
On October 27, 2010, former President of Argentina, 60-year-old Nestor Kirchner, died after suffering a heart attack. This blog reflects on one of Kirchner’s legacies, namely his efforts to favour the re-opening of judicial proceedings against members of the most recent military regime in Argentina, 1976 to 1983.

LSE IDEAS: The Context Behind the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan Border Dispute
The dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica stems from an island located at the mouth of the San Juan River, which forms the border between the two countries. The dispute has been simmering for a month as a result of Nicaragua’s decision to send troops to the region. Several reasons have been put forward for the action, including the concern of Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan president, with narco-traffickers in the region and the need for a military presence to discourage them.

A New Security Dilemma: Plan Colombia and the Use of Private Military Companies in South America
In January 2009, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe affirmed that after decades of defeats, his country, together with the United States, was finally succeeding in its main challenge: the long war against the guerrillas involved in drug trafficking. The statement gives the dimension of this issue in this South American country, and the great importance of the United States, with Plan Colombia, on this security issue. However, although rarely addressed, much of U.S. aid is funnelled through Private Military Companies (PMC), which provides staff and services of military nature. Such companies, which became world famous after its widespread use in the Iraq War – where its most quintessential representative, Blackwater, has been accused of systematically violating the International Law of Armed Conflict - have become an essential element in the conflict against the former Marxists guerrillas in South American.

Continuity and change during the K era in Argentina
The death of former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner (2003-07) provides an opportunity to reflect on Argentina’s domestic politics, economy and foreign policy. The past decade has been a significant one for the country, with a considerable amount of change. Ten years ago, few international observers would have even known who Nestor Kirchner was. Today, his presidency and that of his successor and widow, Cristina Kirchner (2007-11), may be seen as a break with the past.

Brazil's 2010 election: personality-based institutionalisation
On the surface the result in Brazil’s presidential election was relatively predictable. Both the principal parties’ candidates, Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party (PT) and the Brazilian Social Democratic Party’s (PSDB) José Serra made it through to the second round. This is the fifth time in a row (out of six direct presidential elections since the return of democracy in the 1980s) that these two parties have taken the top two positions. Moreover, that the PT took first place in the poll highlights the shadow of the outgoing president, Lula da Silva, whose continuing high popularity after eight years in office was transferred to his own chosen successor, Rousseff.

Conflict without negotiation: reflections on Colombia
The killing of Jorge Briceño (Mono Jojoy), one of the FARC’s senior military commanders and an historic figure has been greeted with jubilation by some in the Colombian establishment. President Santos believes this is the beginning of the end for the FARC, and articles predicting their demise have proliferated, arguing that such military blows will lead to internal fracture and possibly eventual disintegration.

The Many Faces of Impunity: a Brief History of Uruguay's Expiry Law
Over the past few weeks, the fight against the impunity still surrounding the perpetration of grave human rights crimes (torture, enforced disappearance, and mass prolonged imprisonment) committed during the 1973-1985 military regime in Uruguay has been gathering momentum. Although impunity has many faces - political, judicial, cultural, the focus of the campaign is Law 15,848 on the Expiry of the Punitive Claims of the State (Caducidad de la Pretensión Punitiva del Estado), or simply the Expiry Law. Without a doubt, the Expiry Law symbolically embodies impunity for many in Uruguay.

The US in Costa Rica: the price of Latin American exceptionalism?
During the current Venezuela-Colombia spat, one particular comment by the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, was particularly striking – although not necessarily for the reason he gave. During a speech commemorating Venezuela’s founder and his political hero, Simon Bolivar, Chavez highlighted the passage of 46 US warships, 200 helicopters and 7000 marines into Costa Rica since the beginning of July. Along with four bases that Panama has made available to Washington, Chavez portrayed the move as growing military pressure and potential aggression by the US against himself.

Indigenous party prospects in Peru
The decision by Peru’s indigenous communities to form a political party ahead of next year’s presidential election poses a number of questions. These include the prospects of such a party in Peru specifically and the relationship between social movements and political parties more generally.

2009, A Crisis Year: Foreign Investment in Latin America
Since the early 1980s, foreign investment has become the main source of foreign capital for developing and least-developed countries. With the drastic reduction of bank loans, direct and portfolio investment are the most important alternatives to fund public and private needs of capital. Foreign investment is particularly important for least-developed countries and small developing countries. As a consequence, growth and development in many regions of the world depend on foreign capital, and any shortage could have detrimental consequences. Unfortunately, the economic crisis that started in 2008 seems to be contracting the total amount of FDI; particularly this seems to be the case in Latin America, as has been reflected in the latest report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. This brief article aims to analyse this report and its implications for the region.

Charting a known course in Colombia
Sunday's second round election saw Juan Manuel Santos beat his rival, Antanas Mockus of the Green Party, by 69% to 27.5%. His primary commitments echo those of his predecessor and associate Alvaro Uribe: taking a hardline approach against both the guerrilla movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and with regard to the lawlessness stemming from drug-trafficking.

Semana contra la Impunidad: week against impunity in Uruguay
Despite its long-standing experience with democracy, during the 1970s and 1980s Uruguay - like its neighbours in the Southern Cone - fell under the spell of military rule and political violence.

Feminised International Politics: three cases from Latin America
What role and impact do women have on politics and international affairs? Nearly a century ago, when suffragettes demanded the vote, a number of assumptions were made about female political representation. They included the claim that women would bring virtue and morality into what was seen as a largely immoral male public sphere, while later feminists argue that women share common interests that are distinct from those of men (e.g. a greater concern with reproductive rights and state provision of social care).

Honduras: the international impact of last year's coup
The opposition of several Latin American leaders against the attendance of the Honduran leader, Porfirio Lobo, at the upcoming EU-Latin America summit in Madrid later this month highlights the continuing fallout from the coup in Honduras last year. At the same time the contrasting stances of the Europeans and Latin Americans also arguably reveals deeper fault lines between the two sides concerning the basis of democracy. Like the US, the EU appears inclined to a limited and formal form of democracy, which emphasises representative institutions. Meanwhile, the Latin American governments that have taken a critical stance against Honduras have largely adopted a position that sees democracy as requiring deeper social legitimacy that goes beyond holding elections.

What the World Cup means for Latin America
For much of the past century Latin America has been characterised as Washington’s ‘backyard’. Economically and militarily, the region’s states have never been in a position to compete with the United States while the Cold War provided the backdrop against which governments largely opted for American patronage. The experience of those that opted for a more independent and socially transformative role, such as Cuba and Allende’s Chile, was not a happy one, the former being frozen out and obliged to seek support from Moscow and the latter succumbing to a US-supported coup and repressive military dictatorship.

Narrow Options: Mexican Policy Responses to Illegal Immigration
There has been official outrage in Mexico regarding a new Arizona state law designed to discourage illegal immigration. As well as arresting day labours in the state who solicit work, police departments may be sued for failing to enforce the law. Mexican president Felipe Calderon has claimed that immigration is a social and economic phenomenon and that to discourage it will only lead to intolerance and discrimination.

Conflicting Perspectives on Cuban Civil Society
The news from Cuba that the Women in White – six women who are the wives and mothers of men currently in prison on the island for their political activities – were harassed by pro-government supporters prompts an evaluation of Cuban civil society. In particular the event highlights two contrasting visions of Cuba, which are exacerbated by external factors. This is especially apparent in the choice of language used in the BBC report and especially the term ‘political prisoner’, which reveals the highly polarised and uncertain nature of the internal social dynamics underpinning Cuba.

Sino-Ecuadorian Oil Relations: A Microcosm for the Region?
Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, has recently announced that he is prepared to introduce legislation that would change the status of private and foreign oil firms and turn them into service providers. The change would mean the takeover of these companies’ assets and greater revenue for the government. Correa’s move reflects broader pressures on his government and trends on the wider regional oil market – a subject that was covered in a recent publication by the LSE Ideas Centre.

Latin America and the Middle East: Contrasting Approaches
Judging from recent weeks, the Middle East’s engagement with the wider world seems to be directed by North-South relations. Washington’s proposal for sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programme came to a grinding halt in the UN while US vice-president Joe Biden was embarrassed during his visit to Israel by the announcement by Benyamin Netanyahu government to go ahead with further settlement building in east Jerusalem. Meanwhile Gaza has been on the receiving end of visits from the EU foreign minister, Catherine Ashton, and UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon on either side of a Quartet meeting in Moscow over how best to restart the peace process.

US-Cuban Relations: Prospects for Improvement?
Hilary Clinton’s recent comments about the Cuban leadership highlights the extent to which the prospect of an improvement in relations between the two countries has largely evaporated. Washington seems determined to link the removal of the trade embargo with human rights on the island while Havana, for its part, denounces American hypocrisy and attempts to subvert the achievements of the Revolution.

Book Review: 'Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia' by James J Brittain
'Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia' is set to become a key text for those seeking to understand the Colombian crisis. Overturning many of the assumptions that are made about both the Colombian state and the guerrillas, Brittain has managed to write a book that opens a new window onto the Colombian situation, blowing away the cobwebs of old preconceptions and forcing the reader to re-evaluate their opinions of both the state, the guerrillas, Colombian society, and the role of the United States in the conflict.

Colombia:Potential directions in foreign policy after Uribe.
What implications will the Colombian constitutional court’s decision to deny President Alvaro Uribe's bid for a third term have on the fate of the country’s foreign policy? The decision now means that Colombia will have a new president later this year and at present the choice appears far from certain.

Brazil's rejection of sanctions against Iran: US-Brazilian relations in context
Hilary Clinton’s failure to get Brazil to sign on to US-backed sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programme was to be expected: throughout his presidency, Lula has adopted a conciliatory approach to foreign policy. He has maintained good relations with various antagonists of the US, including Cuba and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. But the event also shows the contradictory nature of Washington’s relationship with Brazil and raises questions about its foreign policy direction after Lula’s departure at the end of the year.

The poisoned bases. Reflections on the new US-Colombian military agreements.
Vanni Pettinà: Madrid is not the Paris of the late 1970’s, the city where the Argentinean Julio Cortazar, along with a copious group of Latin American intellectuals, took shelter form the shocking bloodshed rocketing the Southern Cone in those dark years. Still, the Spanish capital city is a place where you can have interesting encounters. It was in Madrid, a few years ago, where a friend of mine, a professor at Bogotá University who fled due to the threats she has received from paramilitary groups in her country, introduced me to Roland, the front man of a Colombian music band called the Pasajeros.

Argentina and the Falklands: the domestic politics behind Cristina Kirchner's protests
Guy Burton: There is a clear separation between President Cristina Kircher’s support at the international level and lack of it domestically. On one hand she is receiving cross-continental solidarity to her opposition to British oil drilling off the Falkland Islands at the current Rio Group summit of Latin American states in Mexico. On the other she is struggling from a weak political position at home. The focus on the Falklands may therefore be seen as not only a reassertion of Argentine ownership over them (which it has never renounced despite defeat against Britain in 1982), but also as a means of recovering political support, especially among the marginalised.

Prospects for Chile under the Piñera administration
Victor Figueroa - The electoral victory of Sebastian Piñera in Sunday’s Presidential elections in Chile marks the first time that the Right has come to power via an electoral process since 1958, although the Pinochet dictatorship was also a 17-year period of right wing domination.

Considerations about the rising Latin America Right
Guy Burton - That Sebastian Piñeira’s election as president in Chile has implications in and of itself should not overlook the wider regional context and a possible resurgence by the Right in Latin America following a decade during which the Left was dominant.

The Chilean Right in power: Piñera's election victory and prospects
Guy Burton: Sebastian Piñera has been elected as Chile’s next president. For the first time since democracy returned in 1989 the Right has finally managed to win a majority share in a vote for the executive. Alongside the expected internal criticism within the centre-left Concertación coalition and demands for the heads of the Christian Democrat and Socialist parties to resign, questions will be asked about the ability of the centre-right Alianza coalition parties to work together in Congress with an ideologically similar president.

Update on Honduras from Central America
Victor Figueroa: In recent days several things have become clearer about the recent coup in Honduras, and its effects are being felt around the region.