China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project was late in coming to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). First announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, OBOR, later renamed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), did not arrive in the LAC until 2018, when, at a meeting of the China-CELAC (Community of Latin America and the Caribbean) Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed that BRI would “inject new energy into the China-CELAC comprehensive cooperative partnership and open up new prospects.” Given the impressive rise of the People’s Republic of China to the world’s second largest economy—first, by some measures—and the difficulties that many LAC countries were experiencing, it is hardly surprising that Wang’s offer was greeted with enthusiasm. If brought to completion, the integration of the LAC region into BRI would comprise 65 percent of the world’s population and 40 percent of global GDP.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has made a name for itself as various governments across the world resort to it to rule on inter-state disagreements. There are certainly valid criticisms about how the ICJ, the chief judicial body of the United Nations, operates, particularly as African governments have accused it of imposing Eurocentric international law. Some of its rulings on controversial cases have even been denounced as ‘step[s] backwards’.
Despite these criticisms, Latin American governments have regularly turned to ICJ rulings on border disputes and other inter-state disagreements. Over the past decades, the Court has ruled on numerous cases between Latin American states and enjoys a positive record so far in this region, given the generally peaceful compliance of Latin American states to the Court’s rulings. Nevertheless, the complexity of one particular case, ‘Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean’, a historically-charged territorial dispute between Bolivia and Chile, may prove to challenge the credibility of the ICJ in Latin America in the near future.
International boundaries are often blurred by the processes of globalization, but in South America some maritime borders remain contested. For instance, Chile and Peru, neighbors that have enjoyed sustained economic development over the past few years, remain at odds over approximately 38,000 square kilometers of sea located along their maritime border.
Bilateral negotiations between the two countries were first held in 1980 but no agreement was reached. In 2008, Peru took the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which, in turn, considered the issue at a public hearing in December 2012. The ICJ is expected to make a ruling on the dispute in mid-2013.
In the meantime, Peru continues to argue that the maritime border has not yet been defined by any agreement, with documents signed in the 1950s only relating to access to fishing grounds. Lima also claims that maritime limits should run diagonally south-west from the land border.
The coca plant is native to the Andes. Its bush has been cultivated and traditionally consumed by local people for centuries. Many products and the leaves themselves can be legally purchased in Peru and Bolivia.
However, coca leaves are also the raw material for the production of cocaine. As a result, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia are the three largest illegal cocaine producing countries in the world.
According to the UNODC World Drug Report 2012 there was an overall decline in global production of cocaine between 2006 and 2010. This was in part due to the reduction of coca bush cultivation in Colombia. In spite of this, the report also underlines that in the same period coca bush cultivation and cocaine production actually increased in Bolivia and Peru.
In the last decade the balance of power has changed in South America. The US hegemony exerted in the second part of the 20th century has been challenged, primarily by the solid emergence of Brazil but also by political initiatives led by left-wing governments like Bolivia.
Despite its relatively small size the landlocked country at the heart of South America, has championed anti-US initiatives since 2006, when President Evo Morales, a left-wing indigenous leader and coca-growers’ unionist, was democratically elected.