Tres Amigos' chilly kick-off
Jan. 10, 2023
U.S. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador are starting the “Three Amigos” summit today, with border security and migration -- both legal and illegal -- as key agenda items. (ABC)
“The key takeaways from the summit revolve around better connections among the three nations and a shared goal of a stronger North America on energy and in particular semiconductors, climate and a pledge to cut methane emissions, an agreement to manage large waves of migrants coming to the region and a more cohesive regional strategy on dealing with future pandemic-related health threats,” according to the Associated Press.
But the goals are modest, warns the New York Times. “No agreements are expected on immigration, for instance, only commitments to work in that direction.”
Biden and AMLO met yesterday in a tense bilateral in which the U.S. leader asked his Mexican counterpart to do his share combating fentanyl, while AMLO said it was time for the U.S. to end its “abandonment” and “disdain” towards Latin America and the Caribbean, reports the Associated Press.
Brazil cleans up after riots
Brazil’s Lula administration knew a massive protest with potential for attacks was planned for Sunday, but believed containment measures would prevent riots. Instead security details were smaller than planned, and easily overwhelmed — though some say police permitted protesters to storm past. (Washington Post, see yesterday’s post.)
Justice Minister Flávio Dino said security agencies planned ahead of time for possible violence in the protests. But, he said, the security strategy, which included keeping protesters away from the main government buildings, was at least partly abandoned on Sunday and there were far fewer law enforcement officers than had been anticipated. (New York Times)
Dino said about 1,500 people were arrested during and after the unrest, and that police had started tracking those who paid for dozens of buses that transported protesters. Forensic evidence including fingerprints and photographs would be used to hold people to account, he said. (Guardian)
Investigators must now answer how a massive demonstration morphed into a violent attack that briefly seized the seats of Brazil’s government, reports the New York Times.
“The unrest came after President Lula unveiled ambitious environmental plans that threaten interest groups who rely on exploiting the Amazon,” according to the Guardian. “The unrest was organised long in advance, supported by serious money, and its very public buildup – in the form of road blocks and social network messaging – was conspicuously ignored by sympathisers of the former president Jair Bolsonaro in the security forces.”
Priceless Brazilian art was targeted by angry rioters on Sunday — Artnet takes stock of the destruction.
Biden spoke with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a phone call yesterday, and extended U.S. support a day after the massive attacks on Brazilian government buildings. (NBC)
Biden is now facing mounting pressure to remove former President Jair Bolsonaro from his self-imposed exile in suburban Orlando, reports Reuters. (See yesterday’s post.)
Bolsonaro arrived in Florida on Dec. 30 when he was still president, in which case he could have entered on an A-1 visa reserved for foreign leaders, reports the Guardian. Leading Democrats have called for Bolsonaro’s visa to be revoked, so that he would not be allowed to use Florida as a base.
Yesterday Bolsonaro was admitted to a hospital for abdominal pain tied to a 2018 stab wound, his wife said. (Washington Post)
Chilean President Gabriel Boric called for an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of American States to address riots in Brazil. (Reuters)
Honduras extends state of emergency
Honduras’ government extended a state of emergency for an additional 45 days, also expanding it to additional areas of the country. The state of emergency, in place since Dec. 6 in 165 areas of Honduras' largest two cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, has been expanded to 235 of the country's 298 municipalities, reports Reuters.
The measure is aimed at fighting criminal gangs whose extortion practices are strangling businesses. It suspends some constitutional rights and allows security forces to detain people who they consider associated with or have committed crimes.
Extortions generate annual profits of up to $737 million for gangs, nearly 3% of the country's gross domestic product, according to data from Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa.
While Honduran officials say the initial results were positive, rights groups counter that such policies enable human rights violations.
“Combating the challenges that generate high crime and structural violence is no simple task. In fact, it requires the kind of strategies and tools that can only be developed with long-term political will and commitment. The imposition of a state of emergency … is the opposite strategy,” wrote WOLA President Carolina Sandoval last month
At least 17 civilians and one police officer were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in Peru’s Puno region, yesterday. Local officials said some of the bodies had bullet wounds, and social media images showed gunshots wounds and clouds of smoke as protesters threw stones. It was the deadliest day so far in a month of demonstrations demanding President Dina Boluarte’s resignation, early elections and the release of former President Pedro Castillo from pre-trial detention. Thirty-nine people have died so far in the protests. (La República, Reuters, Guardian, Al Jazeera)
Peru’s government barred former Bolivian President Morales from entering its territory, a decision that Morales said is meant to distract from Peruvian rights violations. (Al Jazeera)
As of today, Haiti has not a single elected official — “not a council member, not a mayor and certainly not a president,” reports the Miami Herald. The expiration of the terms of the country’s last remaining 10 senators is the end of a last semblance of constitutional order. “There are few constitutional entities in existence beyond the struggling, ill-equipped Haiti National Police, a reconstituted army and the court of auditors and administrative disputes whose members’ 10-year mandates are also nearing expiration. There is no functioning electoral commission; no functioning Supreme Court, no constitutional court.”
Haitian Senate President Joseph Lambert was shot and wounded by unknown gunmen Sunday in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. (Voice of America)
U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico. They will discuss whether Canada or a third country is prepared to lead a rapid-action security mission to Haiti, reports Bloomberg.
Biden is pushing Trudeau to set up a Canadian-led international security force in Haiti as part of a push to stem the flow of asylum seekers arriving on the U.S.’s doorstep, according to the Globe and Mail.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro met with his Venezuelan counterpart, NIcolás Maduro, on Saturday. They discussed binational investment and trade, reports Reuters. The two had not previously announced plans for their second encounter, in the midst of a thaw between the two countries which just finished reopening their shared border.
AFP notes that the meeting follows Petro’s announcement of a ceasefire with the ELN, only to have the guerrilla group deny a deal. Venezuela is a guarantor of ongoing negotiations between the Colombian government and ELN.
“Maduro looks stronger than ever as he approaches the next presidential election, scheduled for 2024,” writes Michael Stott in the Financial Times. With the U.S. backed opposition in disarray, advances in negotiations between the two sides will require international support.
Venezuela’s government has ordered the arrest of three exiled former lawmakers who lead the opposition’s parallel National Assembly, comprised of lawmakers elected in 2015. It is considered by some to be the country’s last democratically elected institution, although its five-year mandate ended in late 2020. (Washington Post)
The reaction to cartel leader Ovidio Guzmán’s arrest, last week, “shows the instant and brutal capacity with which the Sinaloa Cartel will defend its leaders, even at the sake of their members' lives,” reports InSight Crime. It’s also a demonstration of the leadership of Guzmán and his three brothers, the so-called “Chapitos”, scions of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Ana Montes, a U.S. intelligence officer convicted of spying for the Cuban government, was released from prison after more than 20 years. For almost 17 years, Montes gathered secret U.S. government information and passed it on to intelligence officers in Havana — one of the most damaging spies of her time, reports the Washington Post.