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Latin America Daily Briefing
June 2, 2023
This week’s summit of South American leaders in Brasília “showed Lula’s capacity to convene diverse ideological actors in the region—from Venezuela’s Maduro to center-right Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou—as well as those actors’ willingness to entertain the idea of renewed South American regionalism. But it also displayed pushback to some aspects of Lula’s stab at regional leadership,” writes Catherine Osborn in the Latin America Brief. (See Wednesday’s post.)
Disagreements regarding Venezuela and Peru’s democratic credentials “underscore a trend driving Latin American countries apart: the disappearance of even a minimum consensus on what constitutes democracy,” writes Will Freeman for the Council on Foreign Relations. “Most leaders throughout the region—on both the left and the right—no longer agree on what counts as a democracy or a case of democratic breakdown. It all depends on where you stand politically.”
The governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua are ideologically diverse, as are the political situations in each country, but all three form part of a Central American authoritarian drift that responds, in part, to disappointment with the political establishment in democracy, economic malaise and criminal violence, I write in a piece for Le Monde Diplomatic Cono Sur.
The west must take “into account” Russian president Vladimir Putin’s security concerns and stop the slide towards a Versailles-style victors’ peace in Ukraine, Celso Amorim, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s top foreign policy advisor told the Financial Times.
Lula spoke with Pope Francis by phone on Wednesday — they discussed topics including the war in Ukraine and environmental protection. (Reuters)
U.S. sanctions against Cuba hindered the Caribbean country’s ability to make its highly effective coronavirus vaccines widely available — an example of how the embargo is hurting not only Cuba, but also global access to medicines, write Achal Prabhala and Vitor Ido in the Washington Post.
Trinidad and Tobago is requesting the U.S. government amend the terms of a license authorizing the joint development of a promising offshore gas field with Venezuela, reports Reuters.
El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele said he will seek to drastically reduce the number of municipalities in the country from 262 to 44, in order to cut taxes, in a national address to mark his fifth year of being in office. He also proposed reducing the number of lawmakers in the country’s Legislative Assembly — where Bukele and allies hold a majority. (Associated Press)
Bukele also promised a crackdown on corruption that he compared to his fight against criminal gangas, and pledged to build a prison to hold white-collar criminals. (Reuters)
Chilean President Gabriel Boric said he would insist on a tax reform bill rejected by Congress earlier this year. In his annual State of the Nation address, he said the changes are necessary to finance healthcare infrastructure, education investments, public transportation, labor reforms, and financing for victims of sexual violence. (Bloomberg, Reuters)
Chilean voters gave right-wing parties a majority in the new Constitutional Council, charged with creating a new magna carta proposal. But the results of April’s election do not indicate an extreme swing, but rather reflect “that voters are annoyed with the patronizing attitudes from some quarters of the liberal elites, who went too far and too quickly to the left in the first draft of the new Constitution while the economy could not recover its pre-2019 levels,” writes Jaime Baeza Freer at the AULA Blog. (See yesterday’s Chile Updates.)
Two close allies of Colombian President Gustavo Petro will be called to testify in a probe into alleged illegal wiretapping of a former employee, the prosecutor's office has announced. (AFP)
The scandal involves Petro ally Armando Benedetti, currently Colombia’s ambassador to Venezuela, who says he has wiretap evidence that Petro’s chief of staff, Laura Sarabia, forced her child’s nanny to take a polygraph test regarding the disappearance of $7,000 from Sarabia’s home. Sarabia believes that Benedetti, her former boss, leaked the story to the press, reports El País.
The discovery of small footprints in a Colombian jungle region has rekindled hope of finding four children who survived a small plane crash and have been missing for a month, reports the Associated Press.
A total of 119 Colombian special forces troops and 73 indigenous scouts have so far been deployed to comb the area, according to a new report from Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority. (CNN)
The president of Colombia's National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH), Clara Guatame, will leave the role later this month after just over six months in the job, reports Reuters.
Bogotá is finally moving forward with a metro — after decades of studies and abandoned plans, reports Americas Quarterly.
Haiti’s vigilante Bwa Kale movement is a response to state failure to guarantee security, but is not a long-term solution to the country’s violent gangs, warn rights groups. It is not the first time vigilatism has gripped Haiti, reports Al Jazeera. Starting in 1986 Haitians sought to rid the nation of all signs of Duvalierism in a process known as “dechoukaj,” during which many suspected Duvalier supporters and members of the duo’s widely feared Tonton Macoutes paramilitary brigade were lynched. (See Wednesday’s post.)
Mexican authorities discovered at least 45 bags with human remains in a ravine in the western Mexican state of Jalisco. (Al Jazeera)
Murders related to organized crime in Mexico have almost tripled since 2015, from 8,000 to 23,500 annually, according to the Mexico Peace Index 2023, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace. During the same time, homicides not linked to organized crime have remained between 10,000 and 12,000 per year. (InSight Crime)
Ecuadorean prosecutor Leonardo Palacios was killed by gunmen yesterday, near Guayaquil, the state attorney general’s office said, on the same day the state attorney general received death threats by Whatsapp, reports AFP.
Illegal and irregular mining continues to expand at an unprecedented rate in Ecuador’s Amazon region, reports EFE.
The case of the trustee of a bankrupt bank in Bolivia who died after falling from the 15th floor of an office has gripped the country amid speculation over whether he jumped or was pushed, reports the Associated Press.
Paraguay’s Colorado party retained the presidency in recent elections, but the “exhaustion of the country’s development model spells shifting geopolitical relations and an uncertain political future,” reports Nacla.
Ransom kidnapping in Argentina reached an all-time low of only four cases in the first quarter of 2023. The advance represents the culmination of a years-long trend, driven by increased law enforcement coordination and economic troubles that have made the crime less profitable, reports InSight Crime.