2017 Forecast: Latin America



The US’ Operation Condor 2.0 has successfully reversed the leftist-socialist gains that most of South America experienced over the past decade, but China’s Trans-Oceanic Railroad (TORR) is poised to geostrategically transform the situation in the continent once more and give a boost to multipolarity. Additionally, China is delicately working on forging a strategic partnership with Mexico, and if Beijing can manage to pull off this ambitious task, then it will be uniquely positioned to challenge the US in the Western Hemisphere like never before. 

Operation Condor 2.0

The US embarked on a massive mission during the Old Cold War to acquire hegemonic control over all of South America’s governments, undertaking a series of coups to ensure the installment of pro-American right-wing military governments. This endeavor was called Operation Condor, and the structural pattern established during that time and the lessons that have been gained in hindsight are both equally applicable to the modern day as well. The author elaborated on the nature of Operation Condor 2.0 in an end-of-the-year summary for his Context Countdown radio program, and the reader should listen to it if they want more details on what’s transpired across the past year in South America. In short, the US organized a role in the 2012 Paraguayan ‘constitutional coup’, the 2015 narrow electoral defeat of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s intended successor, and Brazil’s ‘constitutional coup’ this summer against President Rousseff. Additionally, it also has its hands dirty in engineering the Hybrid War on Venezuela and occasional regime change disturbances in ALBA-allied Bolivia and Ecuador. Taken together in a holistic sense, it’s clear to see that US has been very active in upending the political legacy of the mid-2000s “Pink Tide” socialist-leftist electoral revolutions and replacing (or intending to replace, as in the case of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador) their leaders with pro-American surrogates. 

The Grand Reversal

The geostrategic consequences of Operation Condor 2.0 greatly transcend the generic assessment that unipolarity undermined multipolarity in South America. To be specific, most of the socialist Mercosur trade bloc is now under the control of neoliberal American-allied politicians, which itself is a substantial change from what had previously been the continent’s leftist and multipolar status quo for over a decade. On the other hand, Mercosur’s rival is the newly created Pacific Alliance, which has been closely tied to the US ever since its institutional inception in 2012. That year is also symbolic of when the US pulled off South America’s first successful post-Cold War coup in Paraguay. On the surface, it might look to the unaware observer that the US has swiftly managed to put the entire continent under its control in the course of just a few brief years, but this is actually misleading to conclude because yet another grand strategic reversal has progressively been playing out in South America during this time. 

The author’s upcoming monograph at Katehon about “21st-Century Geopolitics Of South America” will more comprehensively explain all of this once it’s published sometime next year, but for the meantime and in pertinence to what’s presently being discussed, the overall idea is that while Mercosur has become more unipolar, the Pacific Alliance has interestingly become more multipolar. The origins of the former trend were just spoken upon, but the latter is a result of China’s high-level diplomacy to these countries through the visits of Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jingping. On the last visit of the Chinese leader to South America, he even declared that he wants to increase the level of partnership between the People’s Republic and the Pacific Alliance. In and of itself, this is a hallmark development which signifies the bloc’s greater embrace of multipolarity, but the real game-changing initiative which could tie the Pacific Alliance closer to China and potentially even save Mercosur is Beijing’s plans for constructing a Trans-Oceanic Railroad (TORR) across South America. 

Originally conceived in 2015 during Premier Li’s visit, it envisions connecting Peru’s Pacific port of Ilo to Brazil’s Atlantic coast. The plan has since been modified in summer 2016 to pivotally include a shortcut through Bolivia and the replacement of Rio de Janeiro with Sao Paolo. Taken together, this project essentially ties the Pacific Alliance state of Peru with the Mercosur anchor of Brazil via landlocked Bolivia in order to create a New Silk Road corridor which bridges the continental divide between them and vitally injects a surge of multipolarity into South America. The exact situational specifics about this and the larger geopolitical consequences that it can predictably entail will be expostulated upon in the aforementioned Katehon monograph which should be released in early 2017, but what’s important at this point for the reader to comprehend is that the New Cold War has hit South America and that the US will could resort to Hybrid War in the crucial transit state of Bolivia to disrupt, control, or influence this monumental infrastructure project. Should TORR enter into operation, then it could be just as transformational as CPEC in the sense that it would fully revolutionize the region’s strategic situation and deal a crippling blow to unipolarity, ergo why the US is interested in undermining it. 

The Chinese-Mexican Strategic Partnership

China and Mexico are both US outsourcing destinations which might appear to have little else in common with one another besides that shared trait, but they’ve actually been moving closer to each otherr over the years in a largely unpublicized and mostly discrete way. The “private” nature of their relations abruptly changed, however, with the election of Donald Trump. The President-elect has promised to challenge China on its currency and trade behavior, while pledging that he’ll renegotiate NAFTA and also resolutely deal with the millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico which have invaded the country. Trump’s policy of “America First” is predicted to disrupt the comfortable status quos to which China and Mexico have become accustomed for years, and this in turn has served as an incentive for both of them to immediately move closer to one another. American media was aghast after China and Mexico signed agreements aimed at boosting bilateral trade and energy cooperation with one another shortly after Trump’s victory, seeing this for the unmistakable signal which it was meant to be that both sides will accelerate, intensify, and diversify their relations all throughout the Trump era. 

It’s doubtful that this will ever expand to the level of military cooperation, but it could result in political-strategic relations in the broader Latin American region and perhaps even at the UN. The reader should recall what was mentioned in the previous forecast above about how President Xi declared that he wants to increase ties between China and the Pacific Alliance, and with Mexico being the largest country in the bloc, it’s obvious that this will inevitably translate into enhanced Chinese-Mexican engagement with time. It’s very hard for the US to counter this anti-American trend seeing as how it’s paradoxically encouraged in the first place by Trump’s policy of “America First”, but the US’ intelligence agencies could foreseeably wage limited Hybrid War on Mexico as a short-term response in putting pressure on Mexico City. They’re already doing this to an extent through the US’ state and non-state connections with the deadly Mexican drug cartels, the former through the scandalous “Operation Fast And Furious” gun-running scandal and presumably related yet-to-be-disclosed covert campaigns, while the latter is through the US population’s insatiable hunger for narcotics. 

In the event that Mexico gets too comfortably close to China, the American “deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) might gamble that it’s time to transform the low-level drug insurgency into an overt regime change campaign led by “democratic freedom fighters”, simply switching out an AK-47 for a political placard in making the reverse Hybrid War transition from Unconventional Warfare to a Color Revolution. Of course, the US would have to be especially careful with any operation which could destabilize Mexico, since this could counterproductively lead to an even larger outflow of immigrants from the country and into the US. It might relatedly be for this future-focused reason that the Trump Administration plans to go forward with its plans for building a wall with Mexico, since there’s no other way that the presently unguarded large swaths of the US’ southern border could be defended in the face of a pronounced inflow of “Weapons of Mass Migration” into the former “Reconquista” territories should American-orchestrated large-scale unrest erupt in Mexico (whether intentional or unintentional as an inevitable byproduct of the aforementioned scenario). 

If the US can’t for whatever reason swap out a serving multipolar and Chinese-friendly Mexican President with a unipolar pro-American stooge, then it might be compelled to intensify the low-level drug insurgency in Mexico to the point of publicly becoming a Color Revolution or outright Hybrid War, modelled in practice off of what it experimented with in EuroMaidan and the “Arab Spring”. This is a very risky gamble which could easily backfire on the US in the worst ways possible, hence the need to preemptively safeguard against this real scenario through the construction of a border wall with Mexico. The US would only countenance this extreme possibility if it felt desperate enough that it was “losing” Mexico to China and had to take radical action in order to reverse what some decision makers might otherwise see as “inevitable” by that point. The author’s specific forecast isn’t necessarily foretelling a “Mexican Civil War”, but rather drawing attention to what will definitely be an intensification of Chinese-Mexican relations up to the level of a possible strategic partnership and consequently prognosticating the ways in which the US might end up responding to it (whether clumsily through the Hybrid War scenario or more “professionally” through a post-modern ‘constitutional coup’ or something similar).