Friday, January 14, 2022

U.S. policies and aid in LAC (Jan. 14, 2022)

News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • The U.S. Biden administration has been criticized for lack of interest in Latin America -- but the approach might also signal a more mature engagement with Latin American countries as equals, argue Nicolás Albertoni and Álvaro Caso in Global Americans. In anycase, "the need for Latin American countries to also voice their priorities for engagement with the U.S. should be, by now, evident."

  • Latin America and the Caribbean face a "cornucopia" of difficulties, from the pandemic, to the economy to pent up dissatisfaction with governments. "Responding constructively to the region’s polarization, fragmentation, and economic reversals constitute the Biden administration’s central challenge in the LAC region," according to a new Wilson Center report looking at likely opportunities for engagement in the next year.

  • Despite a sustained bipartisan commitment to focus USAID funding on local organizations, reform has been agonizingly slow. Looking at the example of Haiti, CEPR explores factors that hold localization reform back -- like reliance on a small cadre of largely US-based contractors and USAID understaffing. The report also looks at short-term responses USAID could implement in Haiti, aimed at "increasing USAID’s own capacity to reach local organizations."

  • Also in Global Americans, Greg Weeks argues against sending large amounts of U.S. aid to Central America: "There is a long-standing and pervasive belief among U.S. policy makers that aid can solve structural problems. ... The problem is that we have no evidence that USAID’s spending advances those grand policy objectives in Central America."
  • Chile’s government pushed ahead with contracts to tap more of the world’s biggest lithium reserves, raising harsh criticism from president-elect Gabriel Boric and other opposition groups seeking to halt the bidding process, reports Bloomberg. This week Chile's government awarded extraction contracts worth a total of US$121 million to a local firm and a Chinese company, shunning two of the world's biggest lithium producers, reports AFP.
  • At least 78 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in 2021, according to the United Nations human rights agency, which said yesterday that more cases were still being verified. (Reuters)
  • Millennial(ish) leaders are rejuvenating Latin American politics, but they're also creating uncertainty about the future of the region's political parties, according to the Washington Post's Monkey Cage. Latin America's new generation of leadership emerged from social turmoil spurred by corruption scandals, stagnant growth, and a region wide protest wave. They know how to tap anti-incumbent sentiment, are more willing to cast aside established party labels, and are social-media savvy.

  • Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia are among the 10 countries that had the least media attention in 2021, despite each having at least 1 million people affected by conflict or climate disasters, according to Care International's annual report. (Guardian)
  • Former Venezuelan attorney general Luisa Ortega has been implicated in a major corruption case involving a Venezuelan businessman who this week pleaded guilty to paying $1 million in bribes, reports the Associated Press. Ortega went into exile after she dissented from President Nicolás Maduro's authoritarian political strategy. She has provided evidence to the International Criminal Court of human rights abuses allegedly committed by Maduro’s government. Ortega said last year that allegations by Carlos Fermin were prompted by Venezuela’s arrest of Fermin’s brother and were an attempt by Maduro’s government to coerce a confession and tarnish her reputation.

  • The opposition victory last weekend in Venezuela's Barinas state was one of coalition politics rather than voter outrage, writes Francisco Rodríguez in Global Americans. (See Monday's post.) "In contrast to past elections—including that of November—the opposition candidate in Barinas sought out alliances with centrist groups that have emerged as a new force in Venezuelan politics. It was the support of key centrists, rather than increased mobilization, that allowed the opposition to trounce Maduro’s candidate."

  • If you are having a hard time remembering all the twists and turns of Venezuela's caretaker government -- not to mention the years of linguistic gymnastics on how to refer to Juan Guaidó -- the Caracas Chronicles has a timeline that follows "its enthusiastic origins to its murky present."
El Salvador 
  • El Salvador's President Nayib "Bukele is dismantling the rule of law, but he is doing it with the enthusiastic backing of the crowds, while the opposition barely manages to rally a few thousand to its protest marches," writes Roberto Valencia in the Post Opinión.
  • "Costa Rica’s congress is weighing a proposal to allow people forcibly displaced by climate change to live and work in the country. If passed, the Central American nation would be at the vanguard of a new interpretation of what it means to be a refugee," reports the Latin America Brief.

  • Two months after U.S. President Joe Biden said migrant families separated at the border under the Trump administration deserve compensation, his administration’s lawyers are arguing in federal court that they are not in fact entitled to financial damages and their cases should be dismissed, reports the Washington Post.

  • In the meantime, reports about payment negotiations have created a new worry for affected migrant families: extortion attempts stemming from the belief that they have received compensation, reports the Associated Press. Some advocates fear prospects of large payments will fuel many more threats.
  • Brazil’s democratic institutions should protect voting and speech rights leading to the October 2022 presidential elections from any attempt by President Jair Bolsonaro to subvert the electoral system or undermine the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, Human Rights Watch said in it's new World Report 2022.

  • An Associated Press investigation shows that  unauthorized aircraft — and the countless liters of fuel needed to power them and other mining equipment — form the backbone of Brazil's Roraima state illicit mining economy. "Without that network functioning smoothly, law enforcement officials and environmental experts say illegal mining operations would collapse."

  • Cargill is still buying soya and corn from a farm linked to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, despite having pledged to clean up its global supply chains, according to a new report led by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The findings raise questions about Cargill’s due diligence process, reports the Guardian.

  • Brazilian consumers could see more food price increases this year, pushed by a drought the has hurt crops used to feed livestock, reports Reuters.

  • As Brazil works to maintain its dominance of the soybean market, it is facing an ascending challenge: a flood of cheap grains smuggled illegally from Argentina, reports InSight Crime.

  • The Brazilian port of Santos has become a crucial lynchpin for the global cocaine trade, reports InSight Crime.
  • The U.S. government will prevent Mexican fishing vessels from entering U.S. ports on the Gulf of Mexico, arguing the Mexican government has not done enough to prevent its boats from illegally fishing in U.S. waters. (Associated Press)
  • Last year Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province reportedly became the first region in the world to ban open-net salmon farming, a reflection of the country's growing environmental movement, explains the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

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