Friday, May 20, 2022

U.S. navigates choppy diplomatic waters (May 20, 2022)

News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • U.S. failure to help Latin American democracies has contributed to the region's multiple democratic failures, and weakened U.S. influence, writes Scott Hamilton in Global Americans. Strengthening of democratic institutions and the promotion of democratic values should be the top U.S. national security priority everywhere in the region, he argues, which would align the U.S. with regional aspirations for democracy, economic opportunity, and social justice. "U.S. efforts to invest in security forces, nudge countries to “pick sides” in Great Power competition, or increase the use of sanctions for those that don’t follow its lead would only hasten the decline in U.S. influence."

  • The U.S. Biden administration has several reasons for its newly announced (marginal) shifts towards moderation in its policies towards Cuba and Venezuela -- including concerns over migration and oil shortages related to conflict with Russia. But officials could also be aiming to counteract the threat of a regional boycott of the upcoming Summit of the Americas, motivated by its stance towards these countries. "Even if the Biden administration does not end up including Cuba and Venezuela in the summit, these new policies show that Washington is not unshakably wedded to a hard-line position toward the countries," writes Catherine Osborn in the Latin America Brief. (See Wednesday's post.)

  • U.S. officials accused Cuba of creating controversy about its possible exclusion from the US-hosted Summit of the Americas next month to portray Washington as the “bad guy” and distract attention from Havana’s human rights record at home. Kerri Hannan, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said countries that have threatened to skip the regional meeting if Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are not invited should attend or else they would lose an opportunity to engage with the United States, reports Al Jazeera.

  • The Biden administration appeared set to renew its assessment that Cuba is among a handful of countries "not cooperating fully" with the United States in the fight against terrorism, reports Reuters.
  • U.S. National Security Council Senior Director Juan González, one of President Joe Biden's top Latin America advisors, dismissed calls for the US to unilaterally lift sanctions against Venezuela, saying that any relief should be accompanied first by the Latin American government taking more democratic steps, reports Bloomberg. (See Wednesday's post.)

  • Britain said it was launching talks over a free trade deal with Mexico, reports Reuters.
  • More than 100,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since records started being kept in 1964 -- but most victims were added to the list after 2006. Activists, victims collectives and organizations of civil society reiterated calls to the government to respond to the crisis with integral policies, reports El País.

  • "Disappearances are the fear that sneaks in like fog and eats away at the social fabric." Quinto Elemento Lab illustrates the numbers and the deeper implications of Mexico's crisis of disappearances.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's government negotiator with the MS-13, Carlos Marroquín, told the gang that he personally aided in the international escape of “Crook,” an MS-13 figurehead, despite a U.S. extradition request. The revelation is part of El Faro's investigation into the negotiations between the Bukele administration and the street gang, and how their breakdown led to a spate of record killings in March. (See Wednesday's post.)
  • Guatemalans are paying attention to the ups and downs of their country’s institutions like never before -- "a momentous change in public attitudes, with the potential to reorient the country’s politics," writes Claudia Méndez Arriaza in Americas Quarterly. President Alejandro Giammattei's decision to give attorney general Consuelo Porra a second term, earlier this month, has raised tensions among a public anxious to see the country's endemic corruption tackled, she writes.
  • A new InSight Crime investigation delves into the illegal trafficking of cattle from the natural reserves of Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala to Mexico. This trade has resulted in the deforestation of thousands of hectares and numerous acts of violence against Indigenous communities. The growing economy both satisfies the growing global demand for beef and helps to mask other criminal activities held in parallel, including cocaine trafficking and money laundering.

  • AS/COA looks at cryptocurrency proliferation and regulation in countries like Argentina, Brazil, and El Salvador.
  • Programmed testing of Brazil's electronic voting system -- a three-day battery of attempted assaults by 20 would-be hackers -- ended last week without succeeding at disrupting the system, reports the Associated Press. While the tests occur regularly, they have taken on particular relevance given President Jair Bolsonaro's insistent questioning of the electoral system's integrity.
  • A spate of gang-related killings in Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo, alongside violence throughout the country, is raising debate about the alleged success of the government's hardline security strategies towards microtrafficking, reports InSight Crime.
  • A landmark criminal trial in Argentina has found the state guilty of the massacre of more than 400 indigenous people nearly a century ago. (BBC)
  • Nearly 22% of Chile’s electricity is generated by solar and wind farms, putting it far ahead of both the global average. But natural gas companies obtained government priority in the power market, undermining the country's push to renewables, reports the Associated Press.

  • Chile's Constitutional Convention entered its final phase, a "harmonization" of the text put together by commissions and approved by the plenary of constitutional delegates. The delegates carrying out this final task did not form part of the other commissions that proposed norms for the draft magna carta, reports La Bot Constituyente.

  • Among the nerdier tasks, the Harmonization Commission heard from linguist Claudia Poblete who convinced delegates to jettison the legal text practice of excessive capitalization. (La Bot Constituyente)

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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