This year we saw some major changes in the Americas in regards to business, technology and politics. 2013 should be all the more interesting. Here are thirteen people and things to keep an eye on this year.
1. Michelle Bachelet: After two years in New York as the head of UN Women, Chile's first female president will be back in the spotlight in 2013. Bachelet, who was president from 2006 to 2010, is a slight favorite to win back the presidency in the November elections, but she will face a tough race from Laurence Golborne of the center-right.
2. Enrique Peña Nieto: EPN was sworn in as Mexico's President on December 1 and has promised some big changes to the Mexican economy, specifically in regards to monopolies and energy. He will also set out to reform education, curb corruption and make the labor market more efficient. We'll find out early in 2013 how difficult this will be, but he seems to be off to a good start.
3. Hugo Chavez: There is no doubt that Chavez is a sick man. Everyone is watching to see if he can recover from surgery in time for his inauguration on January 10. It is unlikely he will remain in office through all of 2013. One scenario has Chavez stepping down, officially passing the torch to his vice president Nicolas Maduro, and then embarking on one epic, final campaign to perpetuate Chavismo.
4. Nicolas Maduro: He has been picked as Chavez's successor, but he remains an unknown. Optimists hope he is a moderate, although that is unlikely. His biggest challenge will be keeping subordinate chavistas in line and united if Chavez dies and a new election is called.
5. Fidel Castro: Could Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez pass away in the same year? Both are ailing and fighting to preserve their legacies. Although many believe that both countries will have more freedom to progress without them.
6. Barack Obama: Things won't get easier for President Barack Obama during his second term. After dealing with the "fiscal cliff," the U.S. president will be under pressure to reform immigration and rethink the country's gun laws—two very contentious issues. The potential deaths of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro could also draw his focus to Latin America. Also expect the beginning of the end of the "war on drugs" as administration officials may finally acknowledge that the current drug strategy is not working.
7. Launch Pad Tech: In mid-January, this 12-week business accelerator will launch in Miami bringing a total of 35 startups from the U.S., Latin America and Europe to the city. Ten of those companies will receive a $25,000 grant, a year of free space, and technical support and mentorship. Can Miami attract and keep top talent? It will need to prove it can if it wants to become a major tech hub.
8. InnPulsa: You definitely haven't heard of it yet but this "start-up government agency," which launched in February, hopes to put Colombia on the entrepreneurial map. InnPulsa's goal is to support Colombian entrepreneurs and encourage larger companies to be more entrepreneurial by inspiring a shift in culture and mindset when it comes to business.
And with a new law stating that 10% of extractive income must be invested in innovation, it will also help Colombia's regions invest their windfall oil and mining revenue.