Flipping Book | 110 years of future | Salini Impregilo Library

237 236 The economic history of Latin America has first and foremost been a history of developmental achievements. Its population has grown over time while income per capita has increased and social conditions, including life expectancy and education, have improved, albeit not as rapidly. The region has also experienced major progress in fighting poverty and exclusion, with varying levels of success. Some modern infrastructure was built in Latin America already in the early part of the twentieth century. Possibly none better epitomizes the Belle Epoque than the first line of the Buenos Aires metro, built and initially operated by the Anglo-Argentine Tramway Company and opened already in 1913 between Plaza de Mayo and Plaza Miserere. By 1944, when Line E was opened, the capital of Argentina had the fourth longest metro system in the world, after London, Paris and New York. Fast forwarding to recent years, Medellín, Colombia’s second city, has gone through a sim- ilar investment frenzy that has produced a radi- cal urban makeover. The best projects were re- served for the poorest, most violent areas, and what used to be the world’s murder capital, the hometown of Pablo Escobar, has become the cra- dle of “social urbanism.” Its flagship project is a system of aerial cable-car lines connecting the poorest districts, which cling to the valley’s sides. The stations of this system have been used as an- chors for ambitious “integrated urban plans”— a combination of new buildings, public spaces and social programs, all developed with input from local residents. Many countries have also invested to improve prisons and primary medical healthcare to in- mates. Argentina for example has built peniten- tiaries such as Ezeiza in order to guarantee basic human rights and fulfill the rehabilitation duties of the state. Regional integration has also made major inroads, as exemplified by the hydroelec- tric dam of Salto Grande jointly developed by Argentina and Uruguay to strengthen their com- mon destiny along the Río de la Plata. It has not been a linear history. Economic vola- tility has been notoriously high, with periods of South America. Development and International Commerce high growth followed by frequent crises, when production stagnated or even contracted. There has also been political and institutional volatility with frequent changes in government which, in many cases, were provoked by coups d’état, in- surgencies or revolutions — an area where Latin America has set global records, with 60 effec- tive and attempted coups between Venezuela in 1908 and Ecuador in 2000. Latin America has also been a model region for development from promotion of exports of pri- mary goods before World War I, to state-led import substitution during most of the twentieth century, to the neo-liberal revolution of structural adjustment and privatization in most of the last 20 years. During Word War II, Argentina, Brazil and other South American Republics accumulated huge current account surpluses, which they used in later years to fund new infrastructure projects, as well as invest in foreign infrastructure and pub- lic services. This pushed the frontier of economic activity into its interior, notably the Amazon. A noted example is São Simão, an embankment dam on the Paranaíba River in Goiás/Minas Gerais, Brazil. Constructed for hydroelectric power production and flood control, the dam Panama City, Panama

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