1. The economic basis of the region are the same as a century ago: commodities and agricultural products.
2. The region used the commodity boom MUCH better than before: it promoted formal employment and expanded social incorporation for new groups. The result was the reduction of inequality and the growth of an emerging middle class.
3. Yet governments did not pay enough attention to three factors that are now in creating problems:
a. High levels of corruption (these were not created by the left but the left has happily participated).
b. Economic dependence on natural resources and difficulties to create other sources of growth.
c. Governing through polarization means that there are now groups (the elite, the upper middle class) that are more than happy to support protests against these groups.
So yes, the region has many problems, but the last ten years were not a wasted opportunity as some people now claim.