Latin America

Should you use your spring break to volunteer in Latin America?

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If you’re someone who loves traveling, Latin America is probably on your list by now, or if it’s not, it definitely should be. Many people use the volunteering method to be able to enjoy traveling but also covering many of their expenses by working as a volunteer at the place they visit. In this article, we’re covering whether you should use your spring break to visit Latin America or not. There are a few things that you need to know before you make the decision to travel there. Let’s begin.

Not all of the countries in Latin America are exactly the same

Latin America is a pretty big portion of the Western Hemisphere and it has a lot of different circumstances due to the geographical positioning, various religions and beliefs, interesting culture, art and what not. We’re saying this because even within a country in Latin America all of the previously mentioned things can vary depending on what location you’re at.

Img source: maps.com

For example, Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru are all homes to the population that has a different culture and religion. Make sure to do your research on the country and even the part of the country in which you want to stay, before your spring break starts so that you can be ready for the trip when the time comes.

You may be thinking that Guatemala is always warm and sunny and pick up only your shorts and t-shirts just to find out that sometimes the temperatures during the night can be freezing cold. You don’t want to find yourself in that situation, do you?

The Visa Requirements are not always the same

It is already well known that you need a Visa in most of the countries in order to be able to stay for a certain time period. In Latin America, the visa requirements can really vary a lot by country, but there are some general things that you can have in mind. Here are a few tips.

Some of the countries in Latin America will have an automatic tourist visa that will be offered to you upon arriving at the airport. These kinds of visas are usually okay when it comes to staying there for about a month and up to three months. Argentina and Chile offer visas that last up to ten years or as long as your passport is eligible.

Img source: kalaharimeetings.com

Other countries such as Brazil will require you to have a visa before you even arrive there, so keep that in mind.

Some countries in Latin America have pretty strict rules about what needs to happen if your visa expires while you’re still there. Most of them will simply ask you to submit your documents for a re-activation request while some of them will force you to leave the country until you open up your visa again. You should definitely have this in mind and plan accordingly in order to avoid unwanted situations.

We hope our guide helped you learn some basic things about Latin America. We definitely encourage you to volunteer there if you’re a person that likes to see new cultures and locations.

The Influence That Trump Brought Upon Latin America’s Right

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Since President Trump came to White House, there were a lot of talks that basically revolved around “Latin Americanization” of the U.S. politics, as well as referring President Trump as a “the U.S.’s first Latin American president.” The reason for this comes thanks to Trump’s nationalist demagoguery and his “usage” of the prototype from the Latin American strongman – Caudillo. But, if you really think about this, far less has been said about the reverse phenomenon which is basically an increase of “Trumpism” in political practice in Latin America.

Source:politico.com

Latin America just recently left the political wilderness and thanks to that we see (at least, these two past years) right-wing candidates who became presidents in countries like Brazil, Argentina, and recently Chile. After years we now have conservative governments in Latin America’s leading economies. To set one thing straight here, these politicians have a thing or two that sets them apart from Trump – they are not impulsive, protectionist, or anti-establishment. But they also have something in common, Trump influence is seen through something like this recent nativism that borders on xenophobia and the sudden turn to evangelicals instead of Christians.

The similarities of these politicians with Trump extends to one more thing – both Argentina and Chile presidents Mauricio Macri and Sebastián Piñera are basically rich business people turned politicians who are applying their knowledge learned while dealing with their own business to the job of governing. Macri is the son of business tycoon Francisco Macri who earned his wealth in finance, construction, and sports, while Piñera (previously ruled Chile from 2010 to 2014) is one of the world’s wealthiest politicians, and he is worth $2.8 billion, according to Forbes.

The nativism that we mentioned earlier is pretty much similar to the Trump’s “America First,” and so far thanks to it we see a lot of loud anti-immigrant sentiments in Latin America’s ascendant right. To prove this, we point out to Rio de Janeiro Congressman Jair Bolsonaro (called the Brazilian Trump) who, very strongly, advocates that Haitian refugees in Brazil are “bringing diseases to the country.” If you recall, this is a lot similar to Trump’s reported claims that Haitians immigrating to the United States “all have AIDS.”

Source:economist.com

Continuance of this are Trumps claims that Mexico is sending “rapists” and “criminals” into the US, and this has traveled to Latin America where we now have presidents of Argentina and Chile advocating for curbing immigration. At a press conference where Macri announced a 2017 immigration order intended to stop immigrants coming into Argentina from Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay he stated: “We cannot continue to allow criminals to keep choosing Argentina as a place to commit offenses.” His colleague Piñera also stood out with something similar. During Chile’s 2017 presidential campaign, after a big wave of immigrants from Haiti and Venezuela, Piñera basically criticized Chilean immigration laws and accused them of “importing problems like delinquency, drug trafficking, and organized crime.”

Argentine legislator Alfredo Olmedo, in February, basically copied Trump and made all the headlines when he delivered a proposal for a wall to be built to keep people from poorer Latin American nations from entering Argentina. Thanks to an article from Guardian we have Olmedo’s statement here – “I am 100 percent with Trump. I know that border very well and a wall is the solution. We have to build a wall.” Just like in the US this proposal was received with divided opinions. Some received it with opened hands, while others criticised it. One of the critics was Bolivian President Evo Morales who took his opinion to Twitter where he wrote: “We can’t be following the example of the north and its policies, building walls to divide us.”

Source:cadenagramonte.cu

Besides all of this, we also mentioned the fact that Latin American right is embracing social conservatism now more than ever and it is best seen in Brazil where we have a very rapid growing evangelical population despite the fact that Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic nation. Around 30% Brazilians now claim an evangelical identity which is a huge spike from around 10% who were there last three decades. If you are asking yourself just how mighty evangelical leaders can be, just remember that they were behind the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, on corruption charges in 2016, just after they grew tired of her party’s social liberalism, support for abortion, LGBT rights, and s*x education. The same evangelicals stand behind the administration of Michel Temer, Rousseff’s right-wing successor. If you recall the scandal in 2016, then you know that Temer was accused of being a Satanist. Evangelical leaders rushed to his aid and released a video message over social media to the world that he is not a Satanist. To repay for their support, Temer named several evangelical leaders to his Cabinet.

The right-wing populism turn that hit Latin America is basically everywhere, and its wave is making its way through the United States and Western Europe. It has its roots buried deep, and it is everywhere where we have discontent with globalization, open borders, the “establishment,” and multilateral organizations like European Union. What is a bit “strange” is that we have this movement appear Latin America, where the right all but disappeared from many Latin American countries mainly to their association with military dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s. Thanks to that fact all of this is a bit of a homegrown phenomenon, and it will be interesting to see where it will lead to?

Since Brazil, Chile, and Argentina were ruled by the left-wing for years until now, it is not a surprise that this movement got hit with a bit of fatigue and pretty much got swept by the right-wing populism. The fatigue that the left-wing experienced got intensified by the economic slowdown created by the end of a China-fuelled commodities boom and all of those corruption scandals that boomed during their reign. One thing we are certain about is that Latin America’s newly elected right-wing governments do not have to pull hard to the right when it comes to economics at least. The reason is that the left already implemented a lot of the traditional economic playbook of the right – mainly privatizations and austerity measures. Plus, there are pressures that both Macri and Piñera face from the opposition in Congress by left-wing parties that will not give them a lot of liberty.

Source:tomlongphd.com

All in all, the left is surely down, but they are not out for good. They still reign in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela and in the next presidential cycle they may appear in Mexico as well. This could be seen as a temporary rest until the time for the left-wingers comes again. We will have to wait and see.

Source: foreignpolicy.com

Iran Renews Its Interest In Latin America – Javad Zarif Visits

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The U.S. and Iran signed a nuclear agreement, but this Middle East country continues to challenge America. The visit of their foreign minister, Javad Zarif to Latin America, is a sign of this. They want to create unrest and threaten the States by sponsoring terrorism, promote its radical Islamist ideology, and strengthen alliances with anti-American regimes. The U.S. had enough issues with Iranians in the Middle East they don’t want their presence in Western Hemisphere. This is why Obama’s administration should devise a strategy to eliminate Iranian threat.

Iran’s Goals in Latin America

Iran and their allies Hezbollah have long maintained a relationship with Latin America. Their primary goal is to create logistical support there, by financing Islamist regimes and terrorist operations in that part of the world. Iranians sponsor schools, mosques, and cultural centers in this region. They even go as far as to promote their Islamist messages to million viewers through HispanTV. On top of that, it has been reported that Iran is also involved in drug trafficking which is used for financing of their regime back home. Money is used to invest in ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

To achieve their goals Iran used the connections created through their embassies and consulates. It went unnoticed that in 2013 Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused Tehran of “infiltrating several South American countries by building local clandestine intelligence stations designed to sponsor, foster and execute terrorist attacks.” The Commander of U.S. Southern Command, Admiral Kurt W. Tidd went even further and declared that Hezbollah “maintains an infrastructure with the capability to conduct or support terrorist attacks.”

Source: www.rferl.org

In early 1990s Iranian suicide bombers attacked Israeli embassy and Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Society building killing 29 and injuring 85 people in the process. But they didn’t lay low since then. In 2007 U.S. Authorities stopped a terrorist attack on John F. Kennedy airport. The executors were four Latin American men with close ties to Iran. In 2011 Iranians tried to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington.

Joseph M. Humire of the Center for a Secure Free Society stated during a congressional testimony that Iranians spread their influence in cultural, diplomatic, economic, and military spheres. They go from building schools and mosques to creating connections to regional authorities, only to then try and get their hands on drug trafficking and money laundering needed for their global operations.

One of their goals is to find allies in countries that are suppressed by the United States such as Cuba and Venezuela. Hugo Chavez was known as a leader who supported Iran, and even stated that: “One of the targets that Yankee imperialism has in its sights is Iran, which is why we are showing our solidarity.”

Source: nytimes.com

The Significance of Zarif’s Visit

Now, the Iranian position in Latin America was strengthened after Foreign Minister Zarif visited. His visit lasted one week, and he was accompanied by a delegation which counted 120 members. He went to six different countries which included stops in Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela. Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi described this visit as “the beginning of a new chapter in relations between Iran and Latin America.”

Both Iran and Latin America benefited from his visit. They have signed various political and economic agreements. This is what it looks at the surface. Beneath, there isn’t much for anyone. Over the course of last few decades, Iran signed more than 500 agreements with Latin American countries. The economic gain wasn’t significant for anyone. It is evident that the visit had an intention of spreading Iranian military and ideological influence. The idea was to provoke some sort of Islamic revolution at America’s gates. During his stay in Latin America, Zarif shared the anti-American sentiment. Highlighting flaws of the United States while praising Tehran regime. He talked about the U.S. and their politic of “atrocities and unjust sanctions,” he praised Venezuela “for their revolutions and resistance against the pressures from outside.” He also and noted that these countries and Iran have in common the fact that both “have resisted against foreign pressure and arrogant powers.”

Source: www.orfonline.org

Even when bad-mouthing U.S., Zarif was also hopeful that after the nuclear agreement was signed, Barack Obama’s regime would start economic talks with Iran. While in Chile he stated: “If the banks eager to work with Iran are worried about negative behavior of the U.S. We are ready to get them letters from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, to feel comfortable and communicate with Iran.”

Needed: A New U.S. Strategy

So far, the U.S. officials haven’t seen the dark side of his Latin America visit. They responded with Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act which has a goal to stop the spreading of Iranian influence in Latin America. By 2013 they concluded that this Middle East country has lowered its presence in South America and that no additional action from the U.S. is necessary. The passive stance of America shouldn’t be the course of the country heads when it comes to the matter of Iranian presence in Latin America. They are still spreading their influence, draining money from down there, in order to build more ballistic missiles. The U.S. immediately needs to create a strategy for this situation and to resolve Iranian threat before it becomes too grave.