Biden and Lat Am (Jan. 21, 2021)
U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to take an energetic approach to foreign policy. Experts point particularly to his long history of international engagement as a U.S. senator and later vice-president, reports the New York Times. Hopes are particularly high in Latin America, where the Trump administration's approach was confrontational and transactional. Experts now expect a more cooperative approach, reports Deutsche Welle.
"The Biden administration will try to repair the damage in US-Latin American relations over the past four years. The frequent use of threats and punishments will give way to a renewed emphasis on cooperation, diplomacy, and multilateralism," writes Inter-American Dialogue president Michael Shifter.
Experts are also optimistic that Biden's promise to combat climate change could positively influence efforts in the region. "Biden’s commitment to return the US to the Paris Agreement and his Build Back Better plan, his centerpiece plan for a green economic recovery, will pave the way for more US investment in clean energy in Latin America and cooperation on issues from Amazon conservation to climate resilience," writes Lisa Viscidi, also of the Inter-American Dialogue.
While Biden's cooperative approach will be a breath of fresh air, his "emphasis on trade openness, hemispheric security and corruption as tropes of the relationship with the region" carries the weight of a long history of contradictions, writes Ernesto Semán in the Post Opinión. "Time and again, plans to "build security and prosperity in cooperation," as the Biden program for Central America says, fuel the conflicts they aspire to resolve."
The time has come for a change in perspective in relations between the U.S. and its backyard, and both sides must prioritize the defense of democracy from demagogues, writes Boris Muñoz in the New York Times Español. Biden must defend U.S. democracy, a task with great relevance for countries with weaker democratic institutions facing encroachment from populist leaders: Mexico, Brazil and El Salvador, argues Muñoz.
A potential tripping point for the new administration "is the yawning deficit of regional leadership," argues Tom Long at the LSE blog. He points to Mexico and Brazil, both led by presidents who are "skeptical of multilateral commitments and prioritise traditional conceptualisations of sovereignty." Efforts to aid development in Central America will also face political challenges: Honduras' president has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of aiding drug traffickers, Guatemala shut down a well-regarded international anti-corruption commission, and El Salvador's president has pushed back against democratic checks. (Deutsche Welle)
The Biden administration could usher in a comeback for the "North American" approach to regional cooperation, argue Tom Long and Eric Hershberg at the AULA blog.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued a three-page letter congratulating the new U.S. president yesterday, striking a conciliatory tone after his initial refusal to congratulate Biden after his November electoral victory. Bolsonaro said he was hopeful the presidents could work together on “protecting the environment.” (Bloomberg)
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hailed the immigration agenda set out by his new U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's post.)
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro says he hopes for better relations with Washington under Biden -- diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed nearly two years ago. (Al Jazeera)
The former U.S. Trump administration's stepped-up sanctions against Cuba cost the communist-run island some $20 billion, according to Cuban government officials. (AFP)
Latin American economies have grown especially dependent on the aviation industry -- not just for tourism, but also to transport higher-value exports. "Unfortunately, this trade is currently threatened by the COVID-19 crisis; without support from governments in the region, Latin America’s aviation industry is at severe risk," writes Kris Urs in Americas Quarterly.
Commodity prices will likely be higher in the current decade, given that they hit a multi-decade low. But the positive effects are likely to be much less intense than during the last "super cycle," argues Tony Volpon in Americas Quarterly.
Eleven-year-old Francisco Vera, a Colombian environmental activist, has received messages threatening to “skin him” and “to cut his fingers off” after posting a video on social media calling on the government to provide more access for children in Colombia to online schooling amid the pandemic. (Vice News)
Honduran lawmakers are pushing a constitutional reform that would make it virtually impossible to legalize abortion in the country – now or in the future. The measure, called a “shield against abortion” by its proponents, is a response to the so-called green wave of abortion activism in Latin America, reports the Guardian. The new measure, which is likely to pass within the next week, require the support of three-quarters of Congress for any modification to Honduras' draconian abortion law, which prohibits the procedure under any circumstances and also prohibits emergency contraceptives, even in the case of rape. Activists are worried the approach could be replicated in other countries.
Police clashed with anti-government protesters in Port-au-Prince yesterday -- one woman was shot in the arm and several people were wounded with rubber bullets, reports the Associated Press. Opposition leaders organizing the protests are pushing for President Jovenel Moïse to step down in early February, in the midst of disagreement over when his term actually ends.
The United Nations Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs halted programs in Venezuela that provide cash transfers to the poor via local nonprofit organizations. OCHA is asking the government of President Nicolas Maduro to establish clear rules regarding cash transfers, reports Reuters.
Chilean state violence against indigenous Mapuche children is systemic, and includes physical, verbal and psychological violence, writes Yasna Mussa in the Post Opinión.
The head of the Archdiocese of San Salvador refused to allow a judge access to church records on the 1981 El Mozote massacre, saying that he's simply protecting victims. David Morales, a lawyer with the human rights group Cristosal, who has prosecuted the El Mozote case, said the archbishop's statements were "lamentable" and based on "disinformation." El Salvador's army, too, has blocked the same judge from accessing its records on the case. (Catholic News Service)
"Living as a person of colour in a country struggling with racism, inequality and racialised police brutality is always a risky business. But stakes are even higher when that country is in the middle of a pandemic and is being led by a far-right authoritarian who dismisses the deadly virus as 'a little flu,'" writes Gabriel Leão in Al Jazeera.
The Global Legal Action Network has turned to the OECD in an effort to bring about the closure of a thermal coal mine in Colombia owned by three of the world’s biggest natural resource companies, which activists accuse of not meeting standards for multinational enterprises (MNE) developed by the Paris-based organization, reports the Financial Times.
Argentine President Alberto Fernández will give up eating meat on Mondays -- if Paul McCartney sings Blackbird in the Pink House. His promise to vegan activists may be a variation on "when pigs fly," but given Argentines' relationship to asados, it might count as open-minded. (Buenos Aires Times)
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