Friday, March 26, 2021

U.S. plans anti-corruption taskforce in Central America (March 26, 2021)

News Briefs

  • Central American migration to the U.S. is pushed, in part, by "a predatory elite" tied to a host of problems in their home countries — not because of the current U.S. government's easing of its predecessor's hardline immigration policies, according to Juan González, a top aide to U.S. President Joe Biden on immigration. (See yesterday's post.) "Migration is essentially a social release valve for migrants," he said. 
  • The U.S. will work to create a regional anti-corruption taskforce in Central America, González said, a move that would fulfill a Biden campaign promise, reports NPR. The taskforce would cooperate with civil society, the private sector, and willing governments, he said in a press conference with Central American journalists. (La Prensa)
  • Covid-19 "has shattered Latin America to a greater degree than many appreciate," and current optimism that the worst has passed "may be dooming the region for years to come," writes Brian Winter in Americas Quarterly. The pandemic has deepened already gaping disparities within the world's most unequal region, and poor economic growth means much of the population will be living worse than before in the near future. 
  • About 114 million students in Latin America and the Caribbean don't have face-to-face schooling due to total and partial closures, according to UNICEF’s latest estimates. It is the region in the world with the largest number of children still missing out on in-person classes.On average, children in this region have lost 158 school days of face-to-face schooling.
  • A U.S. intelligence agency recommended the country support South American efforts to fight Chinese illegal fishing and trade practices, according to a document obtained by Axios. Last year, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru stated they would join forces to defend their territorial waters from incursions by Chinese vessels. (See briefs for Nov. 2, 2020)
  • Thirteen countries in Latin America have changed health ministers at least once since the start of the pandemic: in all, 25 ministers have resigned or been fired, reports the Wilson Center's Weekly Aasado.
  • Authorities in Argentina’s northern province of Formosa have employed often abusive and unsanitary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch and the Johns Hopkins University’s centers for Public Health and Human Rights and for Humanitarian Health. People held in mandatory isolation and quarantine centers in Formosa have, in many cases, been under circumstances that amount to arbitrary detention. Formosa authorities adopted a new protocol this week, complying with a federal judge's order to end the mandatory quarantine for people entering the province with a negative PCR test.
Regional Relations
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández's warm relationship with Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador "is offering Latin America an alternative pole of power and influence, based on a vision of regional autonomy and solidarity," argues Antonio Huizar in World Politics Review.
  • Argentina will withdraw from the “Lima Group” of Latin American countries united by the goal of helping to restore democracy in Venezuela through a "peaceful and negotiated solution." Argentina’s foreign ministry said it agreed with the group’s mission but said that the “participation” of the Venezuelan opposition, led by Juan Guaidó, in the bloc had "led to the adoption of positions that our government has not and can not stand by." (Reuters)
  • There is growing pressure for the US to allow diesel trade with Venezuela to resume. The assumption among energy industry analysts is that it’s going to happen this year, according to the Latin America Risk Report.
  • A Venezuelan military operation against a dissident FARC group in Apure, on the Colombian border, is the first open rebellion of a dissident group against Chavismo, reports la Silla Vacía. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Venezuela's largest business organization presented a proposal to buy 6 million Covid-19 vaccines to inoculate private sector workers and families, reports Reuters. The plan that would require approval from Nicolás Maduro's government. Venezuela has received 700,000 vaccine doses, of which 500,000 were donated by China's Sinopharm and the rest are Russia's Sputnik V. Opposition leaders are separately negotiating to buy vaccines via the COVAX program using funds frozen in the United States.
  • Recent weeks have seen credible reports of quiet talks on electoral reform in Venezuela, WOLA is tracking these developments closely.
  • Venezuelan opposition and civil society actors should maintain efforts to negotiate regarding elections and vaccines: "Flexible and soft efforts to find pragmatic solutions to Venezuela's problems can force Maduro into tough decisions where he is likely to make costly political errors," writes Boz at the Latin America Risk Report.
  • Venezuela has recently seen a spike in Covid-19 cases, which the government has partially attributed to the so-called Manaus variant. Medicos Unidos de Venezuela, an organization established to protest the longstanding shortage of medical supplies in the country’s hospitals, warned that intensive care capacity -- both public and private -- is insufficient for patients needing ventilators. (Associated Press)
  • Brazil's neighbors and trading partners are taking steps to limit contact with the country - and contemplating more draconian ones. They fear new waves of infection from Brazil, particularly the so-called Manaus variant, reports Reuters.
  • Brazil registered a record 100,158 new coronavirus cases within 24 hours, and 2,777 Covid-19 deaths, yesterday. The health situation is rapidly becoming a political crisis for President Jair Bolsonaro, reports Reuters.
  • Brazilian meat giant JBS promised to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 -- and record profits announced yesterday mean it has little excuse not to do so, say activists. (Guardian)
  • Organized crime in Latin America rapidly adapted to pandemic conditions, according to a new report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. (InSight Crime)

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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