While the “war on terror” drew US attention elsewhere, South American states reinvented the continent’s traditional role as suppliers of natural resources.
Brazil’s National Development Bank is the largest such bank in the world. It acts as a regional rival to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Bolivia’s left wing government’s attempt to build a road through the Tipnis rainforest reserve caused violent conflict with indigenous movements and the workers who took their side.
The road was to take goods from Brazil to Pacific ports for quicker export to China—paid for by Brazil. Brazil already has the world’s second largest hydroelectric dam—behind China’s Three Gorges.
It is now building the third biggest. The project has been disrupted by construction workers’ strikes and indigenous opposition.
And demand from China has slowed down—just as it has from Europe and the US.
The other main signer of cheques, Venezuela, had a popular anti-imperialist government and huge nationalised oil reserves. Its major asset was oil reserves, but global oil prices have fallen and Venezuela is now plagued with inflation and shortages.