Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Russia conflict fallout (March 15, 2022)

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has kicked over the geopolitical game board (to poorly translate the expression from Spanish) -- and threatens to thrust Latin America back into a Cold War diplomatic world, reports the Miami Herald. Many countries in the region have responded by walking a delicate line, declining to support Russia’s invasion abroad without forcefully condemning it at home. The U.S. has sought to increase its engagement with governments in the region — including longtime adversaries of the United States and allies of Russia, like Cuba and Venezuela.

It's not just geopolitics -- the economic impacts will be varied and are all still playing out, but yesterday a number of governments announced responses to economic impacts, such as rising fuel costs, though, in some cases the moves also respond to national political concerns, like Brazil's elections.

  • Brazil's federal government plans to announce a new program, this week, providing about $32 billion of economic stimulus ahead of October's presidential elections, reports Reuters. The so-called 'Income and Opportunity Program' includes an early payment of some public pension checks, a measure letting workers withdraw some cash from a severance fund, a new microcredit program, and an expansion of payroll-deductible loans.

  • Brazil's Bolsonaro administration is also considering a temporary increase of the government’s Auxilio Brasil welfare program in response to the economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, reports Reuters. The social program, which pays monthly installments of around $78 to approximately 18 million families, would be temporarily adjusted if the conflict's impact on inflation persists.
  • Paraguay's government said yesterday that it plans to create a fund to subsidize rising fuel prices following recent transport worker protests against spiking energy costs being driven up by supply concerns due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, reports Reuters
  • Chevron is preparing to take operating control of its joint ventures in Venezuela if Washington relaxes oil sanctions on Caracas, reports Reuters.

  • But yesterday, the White House said it is not currently discussing importing oil from Venezuela. "It's not an active conversation at this time," press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. Speculation grew last week over a potential thaw between the United States and Venezuela, after a high-level U.S. delegation met with President Nicolás Maduro and Venezuela released two U.S. citizen detainees. (AFP)
News Briefs

  • Chile's Boric aspires to be one of the world's greenest heads of state, but he's part of a broader wave of leftist, climate-conscious leaders (or presidential hopefuls) who could put Latin America on the cusp of a green revolution, according to Bloomberg

  • In addition to Boric, Bloomberg cites Colombian frontrunner Gustavo Petro's environmental campaign promises, Honduran President Xiomara Castro's moves to limit mining, and Brazilian frontrunner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's focus on reducing Amazon deforestation. And where leaders are not discussing climate action, public pressure is increasingly pushing them to do so as the region faces increasing impacts from climate change.

  • Latin America's new leftist governments face profound challenges to their political projects that make the current wave markedly different from the "Pink Tide" of the early 2000's, write Thea Riofrancos and David Adler in the New Statesman. Four transformations set the original pink tide apart from the present one, they argue: structural (economic), governance (lack of legislative majorities), legal (right-wing use of judicial systems), and geopolitical.
  • A Lula comeback in Brazil could mean the country's return to an independent foreign policy, argues Forrest Hylton in the London Review of Books.
Regional Relations
  • Analysts often focus on China's economic and trade influence in Latin America, but that approach belies China's trend elsewhere in the world to leverage commercial interests for military purposes, argue Leland Lazarus and Ryan C. Berg in Foreign Policy.

  • The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, highlighted on Monday the need for the integration of Latin American and Caribbean countries, after receiving a letter from his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernández, in which he proposes to form an axis of Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, reports Telesur.

  • Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández -- detained in response to a U.S. extradition request -- "is a window into the contradictions of the drug war itself, and his fall from grace speaks to deeper dysfunction within U.S.-led efforts to combat drug cartels—not just in Honduras but throughout Latin America," writes Jared Olsen in Foreign Policy.
  • Chilean President Gabriel Boric said his new government would balance plans to expand the country's social programs, while being fiscally responsible. Boric said he plans to achieve his economic goals through a tax reform bill. The message was likely intended to calm investors, reports Reuters.
  • Colombian environmental activist Francia Márquez did not win the Pacto Histórico coalition presidential primary on Sunday, but she came in third overall with 757,000 votes. A political novice who has never held electoral office, she handily beat political veterans like Sergio Fajardo, Alejandro Gaviria and Carlos Amay, reports El País. (See yesterday's post.)

  • Colombian officials said that the son of a notorious paramilitary leader has won an election to be a special member of Congress representing victims of the conflict. For the first time, victims of the conflict between the government and the ex-guerilla FARC group -- who signed a peace deal in 2016 -- will have their own representatives in Congress. (AFP)
  • For the second time in two weeks, a large group of Haitian migrants -- between 100 and 150 -- came to shore in the Florida Keys. It is unclear whether the boat came directly from Haiti or elsewhere in the Caribbean. The Miami Herald reports that several more boats were scheduled to leave Haiti last weekend, bound for Florida.
  • Peru’s opposition-led Congress approved the start of impeachment proceedings againstPresident Pedro Castillo over allegations of corruption, reports Al Jazeera. Legislators will need 87 votes to remove Castillo from office following the impeachment trial.

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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