By Beatrice E. Rangel
2016 was supposed to be the year of light for the Americas.
The US and Cuba would deepen the thaw initiated on December the 17th, 2014.
Argentina's economy would bounce back to growth.
Mexico would definitively experience the beneficial impact of economic reforms undertaken by the Pena-Nieto Administration.
Colombia would bring to an end a century old civil strife to concentrate on infrastructure building and economic transformation through Pacific trade.
Halfway through the year however we are observing the emergence of a two-faced Cuba that one day favors greater opening and the next shuts down every single conduit to exchange with the rest of the world. This has brought to stall expected reforms while reducing change to a Rolling Stone concert and a Chanel catwalk.
An Argentina struggling to deactivate the minefields left behind by the Kirchner Administration that make progress towards economic deregulation bureaucratically difficult and politically unpalatable.
Mexico, on its turn, is failing to deliver its economic potential as growth is anchored at 0.8% over the first two quarters of 2016. Cognoscenti believe this poor performance to be linked to low oil prices and slower than expected recovery in the US as well as reduction of trade with China. As a result, the Mexican peso lost 30% of its value vis-à-vis the US dollar.
And while Colombia experienced a construction industry led growth impetus in QII 2015 which continues to fuel its growth rate, the much anticipated peace plan is about to hit public dissent and foreign dissolution forces. President Santos has indeed taken a popularity dive as a result of what his citizens perceive as an ill-fated obsession with achieving a peace agreement with the guerrilla movements. This stems from a perceived lack of concentration on social and development issues by the Santos Administration. Nose diving commodity prices have not helped either.
But what seems to carry more weight on Colombia's economic recovery is reigning chaos in Venezuela. Trade among both countries impacts a good 12% of Colombia's GDP. In spite of the Santos Administration efforts to diversify trade, the degree of economic integration among both countries makes insulation from the neighboring meltdown impossible.
To make matters worse reigning collusion among the ruling elite in Venezuela and Colombian guerrilla leadership will make it impossible for the Colombian government to keep political control over the peace agreement's execution.
The FARC and ELN will continue to operate their drug business from Venezuela thereby accessing billions of dollars to finance their political campaigns. Their candidates will then stand a better chance of being elected than those of any competing political force. Soon Colombia and Venezuela will integrate their economies through drug trade. This will imperil the development of the Transpacific Partnership and other economic plans that would give Colombia a solid economic standing.
The question then arises as to whether these are passing clouds or incoming details of a forming hurricane that will soon impact our hemisphere.
The answer seems to lie in the outcome of the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
As long as the Bolivarian regime is in place (albeit its recent weakening), Cuba will enjoy its oil related generosity and will be able to stay put on any improvement of human rights, civic freedom or economic openness.
Should the already evolving humanitarian crises In Venezuela worsen, Colombia's economy will feel the brunt of at least 2 million Venezuelan refugees escaping starvation and death by disease.
This would not only impact urban life in bordering cities but also disrupt production and break down transportation networks.
Should there be a negotiated solution Cuba would need to concentrate on its economic development or at the very least, seek and find a new source of hard currency just to keep its paltry economy alive.
Colombia would become crucial to reinject energies to the Venezuelan economy.
Further, its peace process would escape the destiny of being hijacked by the drug trade.
And as Colombia gets stronger both politically as well as economically, it can deliver on the promise of being the connecting land for the emergence of Pacific trade, the strengthening of exchanges within Mercosur and the enrichment of trade with Mexico.
But with the Venezuelan catastrophe hanging as Damocles' sword, Colombia and the rest of the hemisphere will miss a historic opportunity to propel growth through regional trade while expending billions in humanitarian missions.Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.
Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet seriesBeatrice Rangel: On Dialogue and the Rules of Geopolitics in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: The Ides of Wisdom in Venezuela
Beatrice Rangel: On the Discreet Charm of Populism
Beatrice Rangel: Three Ladies in Distress
Beatrice Rangel: Trump, Lula, Kirchner and the Last Tupi-Guaranis
Beatrice Rangel: Time for Departures in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: A Contrarian View on the Panama Papers
Beatrice Rangel: Brazil's Lady in Her Labyrinth
Beatrice Rangel: Back to a Divided Home!!!
Beatrice Rangel: A Historical Take-Off in the Americas??
Beatrice Rangel: A Skipped Journey, a Reaffirmation and a Clearing of Path in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: The Demise of Civility in the Americas!!
Beatrice Rangel: The Americas from Boutros Boutros-Ghali to Ban Ki Moon
Beatrice Rangel: The Pope's Difficult Stopover in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Farewell to The “Diplomacy of Reason”
Beatrice Rangel: 2 Diseases in Latin America -- Different Prescriptions, Very Different Outcomes
Beatrice Rangel: On Health Alerts and the Long Arm of Justice in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: When Crime Meets Glory
Beatrice Rangel: Playing Hansel and Gretel in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Good News/Bad News Starts The Monkey Leap Year
Beatrice Rangel: The Gifts of Christmas!!!!!!
Beatrice Rangel: Crying Wolf in Venezuela
Beatrice Rangel: A 21st Century Tale of Two Cities
Beatrice Rangel: Are the Americas Ready for President Trump?
Beatrice Rangel: On Predictions of War & Global Confusion
Beatrice Rangel: Paris and the Return of Fear
Beatrice Rangel: Marijuana & Latin America's Next Trade Corridor
Beatrice Rangel: Of Burning Airplanes & Argentinean Tsunamis
Beatrice Rangel: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the Americas!!
Beatrice Rangel: Buena Vista's Magic Covers the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Pride and Perjury in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Trompe L’oeils Proliferate in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: The Economic Consequences of Peace in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: Colombia, the FARC & the Makings of Gangland in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: When Extreme Weather Meets Extreme Politics Calamities are Bound to Happen
Beatrice Rangel: When Ladies Hit 70
Beatrice Rangel: About Uninformed Elites and Gullible Leaders
Beatrice Rangel: On US-Engineered Soft Landings in Cuba and Venezuela
Beatrice Rangel: On the Many Ways Cecil Matters
Beatrice Rangel: Blue Moons Lead to Extraordinary Happenings in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: On Why Embassy Openings Do Not Necessarily Herald Different Policies
Beatrice Rangel: When Jupiter meets Venus
Beatrice Rangel: When Markets and Manners Crash
Beatrice Rangel: From Grexit to Exit, Contagion is in the Air
Beatrice Rangel: An Infuriated God & An Environmental Crusader Mark the Summer Solstice
Beatrice Rangel: Between Ionesco & the Falklands Syndrome
Beatrice Rangel: The Ugly Americas
Beatrice Rangel: How FIFA Corrupted the Beautiful Game in the Americas and World
Beatrice Rangel: Could the US RICO Act Be Applied to Latin America?
Beatrice Rangel: On the Discreet Charm of Commodities for Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: The End of the Chinese Free Lunch in the Americas!!
Beatrice Rangel: The Crooked Twig of Democracy in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Of a White Knight for Three Latin American Ladies in Distress
Beatrice Rangel: Withdrawal Symptoms?
Beatrice Rangel: The Un-Mannered Summit
Beatrice Rangel: Easter Miracles in Latin America and the World
Beatrice Rangel: Two Islands, Two Legacies & One Challenge - Modernity
Beatrice Rangel: Killing Me Softly -- the Obama Administration’s Legacy in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: Of Upcoming Dynasties and Exhausted Ideas in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: Of Thunderous Silences, Quiet Noises and Flash Backs in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: Latin America's Dangerous Exports to Europe & the Demise of an Old Fox
Beatrice Rangel: Of Sweet Deals, Sugar Daddies, Direct Mail & Obama’s Care
Beatrice Rangel: Of Latin American Singing Birds, Femme Fatales & Empty Shelves
Beatrice Rangel: When Flying Dragons & Rage Infusions Turn Against Their Latin American Masters
Beatrice Rangel: Holy Haberdashery!!! Is Fire Building Under the Surface in the Americas??
Beatrice Rangel: 2015 -- A Year for Balance in the Americas???
Beatrice Rangel: Pope Francis Looks at the Americas In His Christmas Remarks
Beatrice Rangel: The Paint Brush Hanging from the Wall in Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: A Future for the Americas??
Beatrice Rangel: Going Forward, Going Backward -- It's the Americas!!
Beatrice Rangel: An Eerily Familiar Week in the Americas
Beatrice Rangel: Tale of Two Walls
Beatrice Rangel: Across the Americas, We the PEOPLE
Beatrice Rangel: Across Latin America, The Populist Beat Goes On!!
Beatrice Rangel: Oh My, The Patron of the Eternal Feminine Has Left Us!!!
Beatrice Rangel: Communism from China to Cuba Finds Corruption!!!
Beatrice Rangel: From Rio to Hong Kong Discontent Taps the East to Find a New Way
Beatrice Rangel: Will Latin America Miss the Broadband Development Target?
Beatrice Rangel: Kissinger’s World Order and Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: The Third Attempt -- Will Modernity Prevail in Latin America?
Rangel: While US is Away, Latin America Rethinks Development Paths
Rangel: In the Midst of Riots, a Star is Born in Brazil
Rangel: In Mexico Cinderella Gets to the Ball while Colombia Gets a Chance at Peace