Wednesday, February 9, 2022

U.S. lawmakers say Russia and China harm region (Feb. 9, 2022)

Two U.S. lawmakers -- Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez -- introduced bipartisan legislation to spur closer U.S. security cooperation in Latin America and turn back what they see as "the malign activities of state actors like China and Russia."

The bill seeks to counter what the senators, both sons of Cuban immigrants, consider the “harmful and malign influence” in Latin America of China and Russia, arguing that the “destabilizing” influence of authoritarian governments in Beijing and Moscow pose unique risks to U.S. national security interests as well as the region’s welfare, reports the Associated Press.

The move comes amid growing concern in Washington circles about Chinese influence in the region. But, while English-language and Chinese academics tend to analyze Latin America and the Caribbean as homogenous in terms of relations with the U.S. and China, "Latin American analysts are increasingly focused on the widely varying nature of countries’ bilateral and subregional ties with each," writes Andrés Serbin at the Aula Blog. (See Feb. 2's briefs.)

Both Argentina and Ecuador have sought Chinese financial backing in talks this month, aimed at quelling economic and political troubles at home, explains last week's Latin America Brief. (See Monday's briefs on Argentina's joining the Belt and Road Initiative and Ecuador's talks with China.)

"On one hand, China is continuing its reputation as a vulture or economic hitman" on the other "China is providing funding, opportunities, and diplomatic personnel to Latin American countries when other countries and institutions are not," writes James Bosworth in the Latin America Risk Report. "The US can’t complain about China’s rising influence when the US Congress is so dysfunctional that it refuses to raise new funding, pass reform bills, or confirm ambassadors."

News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • Russia has promised that military equipment given to Venezuela will not be used to attack Colombia, destabilize Latin America or end up in the hands of illegal armed groups, Colombia's Foreign Minister and Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez said. (Reuters)

  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández met with Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley yesterday in Bridgetown, where they discussed cooperation on climate change, and debt swaps for emissions. Decolonization processes were also on the agenda. (Bae Negocios)

  • Britain on Monday firmly rejected a statement from China that affirmed Beijing's support for Argentina's claim to the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, reports the Associated Press.

  • Brazil defended its decision to allow British military planes flying to the Falkland/Malvinas Islands to stop at Brazilian airports, after Argentina complained about the landings, reports the Reuters.

  • The U.S. banned Mexican fishing vessels from entering U.S. ports, in response to Mexico’s “continued failure to combat unauthorized fishing activities by small hulled vessels in U.S. waters.” U.S. officials say they’ve been asking their Mexican counterparts for years to take action against illegal cross-border fishing, but little was done, reports the Washington Post.

  • U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is arriving in Mexico for talks today amid high tensions over Mexico's plan to favor its state-owned electricity company and limit private and foreign firms that have invested in renewable energy, reports the Associated Press.
  • A dispute over who would lead Honduras' newly elected Congress has been resolved, according to lawmakers. A group of dissident members of the governing Libre party had sought to impose a member of their ranks to lead Congress, in defiance of an electoral agreement between President Xiomara Castro and Vice President Salvador Nasralla. The dissidents said they had signed an agreement on Monday accepting that the Congress will be led by a Castro-backed lawmaker, Luis Redondo, and agreed to work together in the chamber, reports Reuters. (See Jan. 24's post and Jan. 27's)
  • Thousands of Argentines marched in Buenos Aires yesterday to protest against a tentative agreement with the International Monetary Fund to reschedule payments on more than $40 billion of debt the country owes. The agreement has been divisive within the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, reports Reuters. (See last Monday's briefs, last Tuesday's and Friday's.)
Costa Rica
  • Costa Rican voters followed the regional trend of rejecting the political status quo -- the ruling party received less than one percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential election. "But neither of the candidates who will now compete in the April runoff is a radical seeking to burn the house down," write Patricio Navia and Lucas Perelló in Americas Quarterly.
  • A Venezuelan court has officially handed over the headquarters of the newspaper El Nacional to Diosdado Cabello, widely seen as the government's number-two man, reports AFP.
  • Chilean president-elect Gabriel Boric's cabinet represents unprecedented sexual diversity, a hopeful sign of change in the country and in the region for LGBTQ+ rights, argues Érika Montecinos Urrea in the Post Opinión.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

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