Planning Latin American Cities
Dependencies and “Best Practices”
by Tom Angotti and Clara Irazábal
Latin America is the most urbanized region in the world, with over 80 percent of the population living in cities (United Nations Human Settlements Program, 2012). Yet most of its cities lack the basic infrastructure and services enjoyed in the North, are sharply divided into luxury enclaves and sprawling peripheries, and reflect deep social and economic inequalities.1 Alongside the growth of urban industry and trade, there is widespread violence, congestion, and pollution. Despite some progressive urban reforms promoted by social movements aimed at improving the quality of life, powerful ruling oligarchies are fragmenting cities to build financial districts, shopping malls, stadiums, and gated luxury enclaves, neglecting the problems in the daily lives of the majority of the population. When the land they are living on is coveted for new development, the poor are pushed out by market forces or unceremoniously evicted, continuing the long history of displacement and accumulation by dispossession of capitalist urbanization. The majority of the urban population lives in peripheral areas that lack basic services and infrastructure until they are singled out as profitable real estate investment targets (Irazábal, 2009).
These patterns of spatial inequality take a variety of forms, but a general trend is clear. The accumulation of global capital in urban real estate is accelerating the displacement of working people from centrally located areas where land values are skyrocketing because of unregulated speculation, and the pressures are rippling out to peripheral areas. The investments in urban infrastructure that are required to meet this growth often lag as hollowed-out neoliberal national and local governments bow to the exigencies of capital and limit public spending to benefit upscale enclaves (Angotti, 2013; Irazábal, 2006).
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