Argentina's senate ratifies IMF deal (March 18, 2022)
Argentina's Senate voted late yesterday to approve a $45 billion debt deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The 56-13 vote makes the agreement law -- the first time such a deal has been ratified by the country's Congress. The deal was backed by senators from across the political spectrum, but rejected by those closest to Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who left the chamber before the final vote. (Reuters, Infobae)
The agreement must now be approved by the IMF board, which needs to sign off on the refinancing agreement. The board is set to meet in the coming days, and approval would unlock an initial nearly $10 billion disbursement, ahead of a $2.8 billion repayment due early next week, reports Reuters.
Later today, President Alberto Fernández will announce economic measures that will form part of his "war against inflation," which last month reached 4.7 percent. (Infobae)
Higher energy costs related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine could complicate Argentina’s already politically difficult plan to cut back on costly energy subsidies, a key part of the IMF program. But Argentina, an important grain producer, could also benefit from increased wheat prices, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's briefs on the impact of fuel and commodity price increases in the region.)
More on the deal
The IMF agreement includes a provision discouraging the use of cryptocurrencies, a measure aimed at preventing money laundering, informality and disintermediation. (Coindesk)
Peru’s constitutional court has approved the release from prison of former president Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for murder and corruption charges, reports the Guardian.
The court reinstated the controversial 2017 pardon of Fujimori that a lower court had annulled on the grounds it had been granted illegally. To many, the favorable ruling was a reminder of the Fujimori family’s influence in Peru as it has shaped the country’s politics over the last three decades, reports the New York Times.
Beyond the question of access to fuel, the significance of the U.S. partial détente with Venezuela remains hard to gauge, writes Phil Gunsen in an International Crisis Group commentary. "Latin American governments, including those in Cuba and Nicaragua, are wondering, along with their foreign allies, what Washington’s apparent new willingness to engage what it perceives as a hostile government will mean for the region as a whole."
The dramatic upheaval of global geopolitics in the last month has undoubtedly opened a window of opportunity for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who is making overtures to Washington and toning down his support for Putin. According to experts, the Russia-Venezuela alliance has been overestimated and it is no longer clear if Moscow is bringing any value to the relationship, reports El País.
Rumors that the U.S. could lift oil sanctions against Venezuela have sparked an emotional debate among Venezuelan exiles — not just about the U.S. Biden administration's overture but about the larger question of whether the sanctions are really having the desired effect of dislodging Venezuela's Maduro government, reports WLRN.
The Biden administration's decision to meet with Maduro met criticism from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, but reactions from other actors in the U.S. and internationally have been less critical and more open to the prospect of negotiations, according to Venezuela Update. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks issued a statement on March 9 congratulating the Biden administration on the release of the two U.S. citizens detained in Venezuela, and describing the visit as “a real opportunity to advance meaningful negotiations between President Maduro and the opposition.”
In February, the Colombian government canceled the legal citizenship status of approximately 43,000 Venezuelans in the country without warning. Those who have had their ID cards canceled now cannot carry out many daily activities or access public services in the country, and face bureaucratic obstacles, as well as potential detention and deportation, reports the Venezuela Update.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric proposed that Latin American countries organize a joint quota system to receive Venezuelan migrants, similar to the system European Union countries used to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015. The issue of Venezuelan migration has been incendiary in northern Chile, where some residents have participated in hostile anti-migration marches. (Latin America Brief)
Chile's new Boric administration faces significant challenges. Its first priorities include increasing tax revenue, pension reform, and influencing the country's Constitutional Convention so that the result passes in a citizen referendum later this year, reports the Economist.
A proposed first article for Chile's new constitution that sought to modify the country's current status as a "subsidiary state" -- which provides services where the private sector cannot -- foundered due to disagreement among leftist delegates about wording over how to express that the state would guarantee social rights. (LaBot Constituyente)
Proposals permitting abortion and guaranteeing sexual education have been approved by convention delegates and would be reflected in the proposed new constitution. (LaBot Constituyente)
Abortion is now legal in Colombia, but women in rural areas may still find it difficult to get equal access to abortion — because they don’t have equal access to health care more generally, write researchers Sarah Moore and Kiran Stallone in the Washington Post.
The British Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are embarking on tour of Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas on Saturday that is widely viewed as an attempt to persuade other Caribbean nations not to follow Barbados's recent decision to become a republic. But experts say the UK should instead be helping Caribbean discuss independence, reports the Guardian.
Health professionals in Haiti held a three day strike this week over a spike in gang-related kidnappings that have further destabilised the crisis-stricken island. The stoppage included the shutting down of public and private health institutions in the capital Port-au-Prince and beyond, with only emergency rooms accepting patients. (Al Jazeera)
Fentanyl has made broad inroads in Mexico, where the synthetic drug is now being produced and consumed, reports El País.
Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro – who has been accused of spearheading a cataclysmic attack on Indigenous rights – was honored by his own government for his supposedly “altruistic” efforts to protect Indigenous lives, a move that angered Brazilian activists, reports the Guardian.
The men fueling Bolivia's contraband car businesses, "chuteros," have recently received a fresh burst of attention, as a younger generation has taken to posting videos of their adrenaline-fueled border runs on Tiktok, reports the Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...Latin America Daily Briefing