Turmoil in Latin America

By Robert Elliott

Latin America has swung left over the past few years. Presidential elections have brought to power populists, nationalists, and socialists in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Bolivia. Leftist candidates are also front-runners in this year’s races in Mexico and Peru.

Venezuela and Bolivia are seen as the most troublesome governments and therefore the largest security problems. But some of the leftist governments have been a pleasant surprise. Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was initially abhorred by international investors as a rampant populist, has shown himself to be prudent in handling the country’s enormous economic and political challenges.

Foreign and domestic companies are paying close attention to the political developments, tightening their contingency plans and their security schemes as they try to guess what policies the new governments will pursue. Among corporate fears are expropriation, higher taxes, and greater insecurity brought on in part by policies geared to help the poor at the expense of business.

Executive protection is being used more often in some areas. Security directors are briefing employees thoroughly to make sure they are aware of the dangers inherent in destinations such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Mexico. Physical security is being improved in places such as foreign-run gas fields in Bolivia. Companies are lobbying hard to gain favorable relationships with local governments. Locals are being hired in countries where possible. Corporate contingency plans are being tweaked to allow for domestic relocation of executives or quick flight in case of civil war.



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