Friday, January 28, 2022

Harris in Honduras (Jan. 28, 2022)

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris' presence at Xiomara Castro's inauguration in Honduras yesterday was a show of support for a government the U.S. believes could be a key ally in tackling "root causes" of migration from the region. (See yesterday's post.)

Castro has promised to fight systemic corruption, which the U.S. considers an underlying factor pushing people to leave the country, reports the Washington Post. After the two met yesterday, Harris said she welcomed Castro’s focus on countering corruption, and they discussed their shared concerns with gender-based violence in Honduras.

But Harris' visit was also a message to Central American leaders in the midst of various forms of democratic backsliding, reports the New York Times

More Regional Relations
  • Any improvements in Venezuela depend on negotiations between the Maduro government and the political opposition -- a process in which the U.S. could a key supporting role, according to a new analysis by the United States Institute for Peace, which suggests that putting sanctions relief on the negotiating table is "the only real leverage that could create the conditions for substantial progress." Moving forward international actors should support: local solutions; opposition unity; and the development of a semi-permanent platform of negotiations.

  • Russian threats to increase military presence in Latin America in response to the Ukraine situation ring hollow among regional leaders and experts, reports the Associated Press. But even if talk of troop deployments is mostly bluster, Russia’s strategic buildup in Latin America is real, particularly in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, involving a mix of weapons sales, financing deals and intense diplomatic engagement. 

  • Russia lacks the cash to turn Latin America's authoritarian governments into full-fledged satellites, but is a source of short-term loans, limited investment, arms sales and diplomatic support for anti-American regimes, argues the Economist.

  • Russia and Cuba will continue developing their cooperation in the technical military sphere, the RIA news agency cited Moscow's ambassador in Havana as saying today. (Reuters)

  • Authoritarian and populist presidents in Latin America have been encouraged by a weakening of democratic values in the U.S., argues José Miguel Vivanco in an interview with the Financial Times. But, his main worry is the risk of democracy being undermined by the increasing frustration of Latin Americans at the failure of elected governments to deliver. 

  • "If Latin America is not capable of showing that in a democracy it’s possible to improve the living standards of the population . . . and to deliver quality public services . . . the conditions are there for the emergence of anti-democratic options," he said.

  • Dramatic action to slow deforestation in the Amazon by the international community should include a substantial increase in funding for conservation and concerted effort to create jobs in sustainable industries in the sub-region –one of the poorest in Brazil, according to a new Wilson Center Brazil Institute report.
  • U.S. border officials are preparing for as many as 9,000 border arrests per day by the northern hemisphere spring, which would be significantly larger than last year's peak, reports Reuters. Last year the U.S. Biden administration carried out a record-breaking 1.7 million border arrests.
El Salvador
  • A new installment of InSight Crime's investigation into MS13's business empire looks at how the streetgang governs virtually every aspect of daily life in the community of Las Margaritas, as it does dozens of others in El Salvador.
  • Journalists are increasingly enrolling in a Mexican federal protection program, while others are protected under parallel state programs. But these approaches haven't always succeeded in preventing deadly violence against reporters in the country: Seven journalists enrolled in the national program have been killed since 2018. Advocates say the application process can be arduous and time-consuming, and sometimes journalists are killed before completing it, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's briefs.)

  • "The treatment of the free and independent press cannot be protected if the citizens of a country don’t care. The only way there will be accountability for such attacks is if the public demands it," writes Katherine Corcoran in a Washington Post opinion piece.

  • The Indigenous township of Cheran in Mexico's Michoacan state has taken forest defense into its own hands, fighting against illegal logging that brings avocado plantations and criminal organizations in its wake, reports the Associated Press.
  • An armed group has attacked a United Nations convoy in southeastern Colombia, burning two vehicles but not harming any worker, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández announced today that his government reached a deal with the International Monetary Fund to restructure a $44 billion bailout. The agreement came as Argentina is due to make a payment to the IMF of more than $700 million. (Wall Street Journal

  • Argentina's Economy Minister Martin Guzman said in a news conference that under the deal the country would target reducing its fiscal deficit to 0.9% by 2024 and gradually end central bank financing to the Treasury. He ruled out an abrupt exchange rate devaluation, said the country would seek to have positive real interest rates and bring down rampant inflation. (Reuters)

  • "A new IMF deal without a commitment to reform and near-term budget balance would buy a little time. But it would not do much to boost growth or to win the confidence of investors," according to the Economist.
  • A Peruvian judge barred four executives from Spanish oil company Repsol SA from leaving the country for 18 months as prosecutors investigate the cause of an oil spill involving a tanker hired by the company, reports Reuters. (See Monday's post.)
Dominican Republic
  • Residents of the Dominican Republic's Haina industrial zone are increasingly sickened by toxic smoke from dozens of factories, reports Al Jazeera in a long-form piece.
  • Rio de Janeiro's latest government plan aimed at reclaiming favela areas dominated by criminal organizations mirrors the hardline police occupations that have long spurred police brutality and civilian massacres in the city's favelas, according to InSight Crime. (See Tuesday's post.)

  • Reduplication, a way of forming words in which an existing word or part of a word gets repeated, is common in Brazilian Portuguese -- the Economist delves into the (fascinating) linguistic particulars.
  • An innovative after-school program in Rio de Janeiro boosts students' performance in the classroom – and on stage -- Americas Quarterly.

  • Disney's Encanto animated film features a multi-generation Colombian household with magical powers -- "not so much a fairytale as a family saga with a sprinkling of magical realism," according to the Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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