Friday, October 8, 2021

Mexico-U.S. to revamp Merida (Oct. 8, 2021)

News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • Senior U.S. and Mexican officials will meet today in a bid to mend the two countries' frayed relations. On the agenda is an overhaul of the Merida Initiative security accord, which has failed to stem Mexico's epidemic of violence, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's post.) The revamped initiative, dubbed the Bicentennial Framework, is expected to put more emphasis on reducing violence in Mexico, combating drug abuse in both countries, and tackling gun trafficking, money laundering and the flow of precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl and methamphetamines.

  • A Colombian police captain faces up to 20 years in a U.S. prison for allegedly betraying the Drug Enforcement Administration to the same drug traffickers they were jointly fighting. His 2018 arrest and subsequent extradition to the U.S. is another black eye for an elite DEA program to train and support foreign law enforcement that has been repeatedly subverted by corrupt cops and deadly leaks, reports the Associated Press.

  • Uruguay is pushing forward with efforts to reach a free trade deal with China, an agreement that could have huge implications for the rest of the region, writes Marcel Vaillant in Americas Quarterly. "If Uruguay can successfully push back against the restrictions imposed on bilateral trade deals by Mercosur, it could force a long-desired rollback of protectionist trade policies in the region."
  • Nearly 1 million sq km of the Amazon have been destroyed since 1988, primarily in Brazil, but also in Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guyana. That equates to an average of some 200,000 acres every day. (Guardian)

  • Latin America is responsible for only 8 percent of global emissions, but the region’s governments are increasingly speaking out about climate change, notes the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado. The focus coms as the impacts of climate change intensify in the region: Central America and the Caribbean are suffering another above average hurricane season, while a drought in South America is threatening Brazil’s energy supplies and tormenting Argentine shipping companies along the Paraná River.
  • El Salvador's surprising adoption of bitcoin this year makes the country an "unlikely bellwether of a global technological transformation," according to the New York Times. "The outcome of the uncharted experiment could help determine whether cryptocurrency delivers the freedom from regulation that its proponents envision — or whether it becomes another tool of control and enrichment for autocrats and corporations." Among other things, President Nayib Bukele could potentially use state-run cryptocurrency wallets to bypass U.S. banks and maintain remittance flows into the country in the event of future economic pressure from Washington, notes the piece. (See Wednesday's briefs on U.S. sanctions diplomacy.)
  • The Pandora Papers shed new light on how offshore banking shields the cash of Central America’s wealthy and well-connected, reports El Faro. While the practice doesn’t prove illegal activity, it raises serious questions about transparency and economic inequality. The investigation revealed that at least one current presidential candidate, five former presidents, one former first lady, and a handful of other politicians and businessmen in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama have moved their money into offshore opaque accounts.
  • The Pandora Papers have also revealed new information about the business dealings of some prominent members of Central America’s private sector accused of corruption and human rights abuses. (El Faro)

  • Stashing money offshore -- where it often qualifies for low to no taxes -- isn't illegal. That itself is part of the scandal in a region marked by inequality. Some 27 percent of Latin American wealth is stored in offshore accounts, which causes yearly tax revenue losses of over $21 billion across the region. According to OECD statistics, the organization’s member countries bring in an average of 33.8 percent of their respective GDPs in taxes. In 26 Latin American countries, the average is 22.9 percent. (Latin America Brief)
  • Thousands of Haitian migrants are stranded in Mexico — and thousands more are on their way. The Washington Post portrays their journeys and the impossible choices they face on treks from South America, through the Darién Gap up to the U.S. border.

  • Reuters reports on the divergent fate of Haitian migrants at the border.
  • Chilean constitutional delegates approved the rules of procedure for the Constitutional Convention and all its commissions. Delegates will start on drafting the new magna charter itself on Oct. 18, two years after the massive protests that pushed Chile to launch a constitutional rewrite. (La Bot ConstituyenteInfobae)
  • Oil pollution in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo is visible from space. New NASA satellite photos satellite show how Venezuela’s crisis, which has devastated the country's oil industry, has seeped into the environment, reports the Washington Post.
  • Colombia, where much of the population is Catholic, is an unlikely euthanasia pioneer: one of the first countries in the world to decriminalize euthanasia, and one of only a small number to extend the right to non-terminal patients, reports the Washington Post.
  • An Argentine federal court dismissed the case against former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and officials in her government over an alleged cover-up of Iran's possible role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people. The court concluded an agreement signed by Argentina and Iran in 2013 for conducting an investigation into the terrorist attack at the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association "did not constitute a crime." (Reuters, Times of Israel)
  • Mexican Center for Economic Research and Education (CIDE) researcher Alejandro Madrazo has been ousted from his position as a director at the prestigious public think-tank after criticizing the López Obrador administration's military policies and the government's relationship with academics. Researchers say it is the latest in government pressure against academic autonomy. Last month the country's chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants for 31 scientists, researchers and academics on accusations of organised crime, money laundering and embezzlement. (El País, Times Higher Education, See Sept. 27's briefs)

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

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