How has the political situation in South America improved in recent years?

During the 1980s and 1990s, the military dictatorships and juntas fell by the wayside.

For the moment, democratically elected governments prevail across the continent. But in every country there is always the danger of a return to military rule.

Problems continue. In the 1980s and ’90s, both Peru and Colombia fought wars against guerrilla armies.

In the 1980s, an international recession afflicted many South American economies. Prices climbed and many people were unable to find work.

South American governments had long depended on large loans from foreign banks, but now they were unable to pay back the loans or even, in some cases, make interest payments.

Governments tried several measures to try to improve their economies. One tactic was to cut spending on social services. This was painful to many people, especially the poor who depended on government relief.

Governments also tried changing state-owned businesses into privately owned ones, hoping these would be more successful at making money. In many cases, the private companies started their existence by firing people.

Faced with such economic and political turbulence, it is no wonder that many South Americans have sought refuge in the United States over the last few decades. Some of these immigrants plan to return home when conditions improve. Some do return home after a few years. But many others put down roots and stay.

In December 1996, left-wing rebels belonging to the Tupac Amaru movement took over the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru, seizing over seventy hostages.

Four months later, President Alberto Fujimori ended the standoff with a commando raid that rescued the hostages and killed all the rebels.