Friday, September 10, 2021

Climate debt swaps? (Sept. 10, 2021)

Latin America and Caribbean nations have contributed relatively little to climate change, and face disproportionate costs, reasons for which many regional leaders argued for financing and debt swaps in order to carry out environmental policies, this week at an Argentina-hosted climate conference. (El País, see last Friday's briefs.)

 Argentine President Alberto Fernández called for countries indebted to international lending organizations, like the IMF, to be permitted to reduce their payments in exchange for meeting concrete climate goals: "climate action debt swaps." He also emphasized the concept of "environmental debtors and creditors," the latter category encompassing less developed nations who have contributed less to global warming, and argues that some of their debt should be reduced in exchange for actions to limit climate change. (Associated Press)

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley criticized wealthy nations' failure to live up to their climate commitments, and called for debt restructuring or cancellation to give fiscal space for climate adaptation for small island developing states. She also called for the adoption of a multidimensional vulnerability index so that middle income countries can access concessional finance.

UN Secretary General António Guterres commended the leadership of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on climate action. He also pledged “the full support of the United Nations system to address the triple threat of COVID-19, climate change and debt.” (UN News)

More Climate
  • A focus on Western industrial livestock practices -- with negative climate impact -- must not obscure the vital role played by small-scale livestock farming in the developing world, write Emma Naluyima Mugerwa and Lora Iannotti in the Guardian: "In the developing world most people are not factory farming and livestock is essential to preventing poverty and malnutrition"
News Briefs

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security extended Temporary Protected Status benefits for at least 400,000 immigrants from six countries, including Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The extension means that the TPS beneficiaries can continue to legally live and work in the United States and, for now, avoid being placed in deportation proceedings, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Haiti's government published a draft new constitution this week, and Prime Minister Ariel Henry touted the reform as a jumping off point for resolving the country's acute political crisis. The new constitution was a pet project of President Jovenel Moïse, who was killed in July, but a popular referendum on the issue was considered illegitimate by the political opposition and government critics. (AFP)

  • Louise Comfort, an expert in decision making after disasters at the University of Pittsburgh, uses the term “cascading crises” to describe the situation in Haiti. “Each time there’s a disaster it weakens some other part of the system.” (The Conversation Weekly)  
El Salvador
  • El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele's latest move against the country's judiciary -- a reform forcing a third of the country's judges to retire -- follows the playbook for the steady accretion of dictatorial power, but it may also be designed, in part, to address a problem presented by the El Mozote massacre trial, writes Peter Canby in the New Yorker. "By asking questions about the past, (Judge Jorge) Guzmán has been shedding an uncomfortable light on El Salvador’s current dysfunctional government. By ordering the retirement of all judges over sixty, Bukele may be trying to shut the proceedings down." (See Sept. 2's briefs.)

  • Salvadoran police detained former justice and public security minister Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde yesterday. He is accused of alleged corruption in relation to the country's penal system, along with eight other officials who worked in the ministry. (El Diario de Hoy, Associated Press)

  • El Salvador's authoritarian slide is nothing new in Central America, but Bukele's sky high popularity among a population sick of gang violence and corruption, makes the case particularly worrisome, according to the Economist.

  • "The United States appears to be hamstrung in how it deals with the president of a country of just 6.5 million people," reports the Economist in a separate piece on El Salvador.
Central America
  • The central banks of Honduras and Guatemala are eying digital currencies, following El Salvador's adoption of bitcoin as legal currency, reports Reuters. (See Tuesday's post.)
  • Pfizer has been accused of holding Brazil “to ransom” over demands to shield itself from possible vaccine side-effect lawsuits in its contract to supply the country with 100 million Covid jabs, reports the Guardian. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported in February that Pfizer had demanded Brazil and Argentina put up sovereign assets as collateral to guarantee indemnity, as well as create a guarantee fund with money deposited in a foreign bank account. (See Feb. 23's briefs.) 

  • Most analysts believe this week marks a stalemate in Brazil's political crisis. (See yesterday's post.) But with 13 months until the October 2022 presidential election, it seems unlikely either Bolsonaro or the Supreme Court will fully back down from their battle lines, according to the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado. For both sides, the fight is existencial: the court must maintain institutional credibility and Bolsonaro is in a fight to avoid jail.

  • "Most institutions in Brazil remain fairly robust. It is highly unlikely that Mr Bolsonaro could co-opt them. But if he loses in 2022, he has already laid the groundwork for questioning the results—potentially with angry mobs," reports the Economist. The protests this week show that his supporters are organised, willing to take to the streets and cavalier about the rules of democracy. (See Wednesday's post.

  • Brazilian business leaders published an open letter urging independence and harmony among executive, legislative and judiciary powers, after clashes between the executive and judicial dominated the week, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Across Venezuela smaller, localized gangs are increasing their power in rural areas or on the outskirts of cities, where security forces are not so prevalent, reports InSight Crime.
Regional Relations
  • Police in Madrid arrested Gen. Hugo Carvajal, a former Venezuelan spymaster wanted on U.S. narcoterrorism charges, capturing him in a hideout apartment nearly two years after he defied a Spanish extradition order and disappeared, reports the Associated Press.

  • Representatives of Venezuela's government and opposition reached partial agreements in Mexico City negotiations this week, the accords cover the country's approach to the coronavirus pandemic and support for Venezuela's claim to Guyana's Essequibo region. (El PaísAFP, see Tuesday's briefs.) 

  • Guyana officials and opposition politicians objected strenuously. That agreement is an overt threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement. “Guyana cannot be used as an altar of sacrifice for settlement of Venezuela’s internal political differences." (CMCKaieteur News)

  • Taiwan accused China of seeking to use the Honduran election to “create controversy” and undermine Taiwan’s long-standing ties with the country, reports Reuters

  • The United States and Mexico restarted high-level economic talks yesterday, after a four-year pause, reports the Associated Press.
  • Chile's constitutional rewrite process is ultimately a chance to turn the final page on the country's Pinochet-dictatorship era, according to the Latin America Brief: "The broad public debate surrounding Chile’s constitutional rewrite stands as an example for other countries grappling with the far-reaching legacies of national trauma."
  • Argentines vote in primary elections on Sunday that serve as a litmus test for the November legislative midterms. The vote is marked by political apathy, concerns about the economy and the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, reports Reuters.
  • Major Mexican cartels are having to adjust their business model to U.S. states' weed legalization, which has made marijuana unprofitable. Instead they have monopolized other commercial activities like alcohol sales and logging, while also extorting the region’s local farmworkers to keep profits alive, reports InSight Crime.
  • The Bahamas, Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands are among the 17 low-tax districts scrutinized in a new report from the EU Tax Observatory, which found that Europe’s top banks are siphoning an extra €20 billion a year by shifting profits to "tax havens." That accounts for 14% of their total profits, the analysis found. (CNBCPoliticoNassau Guardian, see yesterday's Just Caribbean Updates for more.)
  • Latin America might be able to teach the U.S. about where a legally and humanely reasonable approach to abortion lies, argues Tim Padgett at WLRN.

  • Latin American governments need to address a brewing jobs crisis for young workers that further risks the region’s fragile stability, according to the International Labor Organization. (Bloomberg)

  • Latin America's mothers are lagging behind in the pandemic of economic recovery, returning to the labor force more slowly than men. Experts say the trend could set back female labor force participation for a decade across the region, reports Reuters. (See Sept. 2's briefs.)

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


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