Friday, October 30, 2020

Biden would change U.S. LatAm policies (Oct. 30, 2020)

Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden has spent decades working with Latin America. Should he win the U.S. presidential elections next week, many analysts expect a sea-change in the country's approach to the region. Biden's interest and experience in Latin America, particularly Central America's Northern Triangle during a migration surge that started in 2013, contrasts with the Trump administration's disdain for the region in general, and unprecedented hardline with regards to migration.

Biden's plan for the region would resurrect the Obama administration's efforts to counter migration with aid, aimed at addressing poverty, violence and corruption in Central America. Biden is proposing a $4 billion aid package for Central America to address the causes of unauthorized migration and help defuse a third rail in American politics.

A potential surge of migrants from Central America could pose an early test, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Latin America has a historic distrust of it's aggressive neighbor to the north, but the perception in the region of the U.S. is particularly negative right now. "Regional leaders have come to accept the ebb and flow of American engagement as a condition of living next to a superpower, but Biden could use Latin America to signal a restoration of Washington’s historic leadership, leveraging his existing relationships and focus on multilateralism to cement American primacy in a region largely eager for a respite from years of erratic diplomacy," writes Christian Paz in the Atlantic.

In addition to the change in policy focus, "a Biden White House would work more through persuasion than imposition," reports the New York Times based on conversations with advisors. 

"Still, while many Obama-era policies on immigration, the environment, and counternarcotics changed under Trump, a Biden agenda is not as simple as a return to a pre-Trump status quo," notes an AS/COA  analysis that has a country by country comparison of Trump and Biden's plans for Latin America.

Neither Trump nor Biden have acknowledged the link between immigration and the drug war: Increasingly, people are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to escape a cycle of violence to which the United States continues to contribute, writes Luisa Farah Schwartzman in the Conversation. And immigration is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the region's tragically high homicide rates.

"Neither candidate has proposed significant U.S.-Colombia policy change, indicating that a militarized antidrug strategy will remain the centerpiece of the bilateral relationship," writes Cruz Bonlarron Martínez in Nacla.

More U.S. election and LatAm
  • The next U.S. administration will face a region transiting an economic and health crisis of massive proportions. Leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean are disunited and show little capacity for international coordination now, argued Michael McCarthy this week in Perfíl.
News Briefs

  • While Venezuela’s economic crisis began before the first U.S. sectoral sanctions were imposed in 2017, these measures “directly contributed to its deep decline, and to the further deterioration of the quality of life of Venezuelans," according to a new report by Venezuelan economist Luis Oliveros. (WOLA) Although sanctions do not impose explicit restrictions on the importation of food and medicine, foreign currency is needed to obtain these goods. With the fall in oil production, foreign currency revenues for the government have also fallen, generating a contraction in imports, and ultimately affecting the most vulnerable Venezuelans.
  • Half a dozen U.S. Christian right groups have poured millions of dollars into Latin America and have promoted misinformation about COVID-19 and other health and rights issues, according to Open Democracy. These groups are part of a bigger number of twenty Christian right groups that have spent at least $44 million of ‘dark money’ into Latin America since 2007. Several of them are linked to President Trump’s administration. At least three of these US groups have attacked the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the pandemic, claiming for instance that it is “using COVID-19 to spread abortion”. 
  • Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado renewed calls for a global economic recovery plan during his inauguration as president pro tempore of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The plan would channel $516 billion toward developing countries. - Aviso LatA
  • The United States has a growing economic and commercial interest in the Caribbean region—going beyond Washington’s traditional emphasis on security and diplomatic issues, according to the Atlantic Center.
  • The U.S. Trump administration bills the 400 miles of wall it put up along the border with Mexico as a great achievement against migration. Instead it is "a monument to failure, xenophobia, human rights abuse, and environmental damage—and it must get taken down expeditiously," writes Adam Isacson at WOLA. "There is no evidence to suggest that the wall improved security or deterred migrants."
  • An assassination attempt against indigenous Colombian Senator Feliciano Valencia underscores the need to implement key aspects of the 2016 peace accord, designed to dismantle illegal armed groups and protect social leaders and ethnic minorities’ rights, said WOLA yesterday. The Duque administration has failed to advance in that direction, and a recent report by the Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA) found that authorities have taken actions that go against the Ethnic Chapter's intent.
  • A recent string of drug seizures linked to Nicaragua suggests smugglers are moving cocaine through the country, despite official rhetoric that it is not a transit hub, reports InSight Crime.
  • Mexican organized crime has diversified from drug trafficking into a broadening array of activities that include kidnapping, trafficking migrants, and extorting businesses. Today's criminals are reaching ever deeper into the country, infiltrating communities, police forces and town halls, reports the Washington Post.
  • Cemeteries in Mexico will be closed ahead of this year's Day of the Dead, starting this weekend. Other parts of the festivities, like Mexico City's parade, have also been canceled due to the pandemic. And even family gatherings are discouraged, all in a year when many Mexicans are mourning thousands of coronavirus deaths, reports the Washington Post.
  • Politics really does make for strange bedfellows, and some of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's supporters are hoping for Trump to win his reelection bid in the U.S. elections next week, due to the unlikely rapport between the two leaders from opposing ideological camps, reports the Guardian.
  • Coronavirus cases are spiking again in Brazil's north. This time, local governments face even more political pressure to lift restrictions, reports Foreign Policy. Yesterday President Jair Bolsonaro said it was “crazy” for countries to start locking down again to control second waves of the virus. (Al Jazeera)
  • Against all odds, Bolivia managed to pull off a free and fair vote this month. Political analysts say Bolivia’s improbable achievement is rooted partly in exhaustion with uncertainty, a well-received government plan for voting, and a pledge by the trailing candidate to respect the outcome, reports the New York Times.
  • Bolivian president-elect Luis Arce will take office on November 8 amid daunting political, social, economic, and public health challenges. "As former Minister of Economy and Public Finance, he built a reputation for pragmatism – such as measures to strengthen the internal market and to industrialize natural resources – but fear and distrust at all levels of society are formidable obstacles," writes Valery Valdez Pinto at the AULA blog.
  • Racial categories in Brazil are far more fluid than in other countries -- to the point where it is common for politicians to change the race they identify with from one election to another.  More than 42,000 candidates in local elections scheduled for November 15th are running as members of a different race from the one they declared in 2016, reports the Economist.
  • Candidates also change their names in an attempt to lure voters -- several candidates in the local elections have adopted the moniker "Trump" as part of their bid for office, though not necessarily his politics. (Guardian)
  • It is impossible for parents -- particularly mothers -- of young children to work without childcare. The pandemic has brought this truth home universersally, but millions across Latin America — particularly among lower-income families — were already all too aware of the drastic impact lack of early education has on mothers' careers, reports Americas Quarterly. The lessons of Chile and Colombia, which have, in different ways, each expanded childcare, provide useful lessons and expose the trade-offs that policymakers inevitably face, write Leonie Rauls and Roberto Simon.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

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