Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Americas/Western Hemisphere February 2023-
The economic aftershocks from Milei’s win in Argentina
By Atlantic Council
Break out the chainsaws. Argentina’s economy is due for radical change from the Peronist status quo as libertarian TV personality Javier Milei is set to become president, following a surprisingly comfortable win on Sunday over the current economy minister. Milei—who often wielded a chainsaw on the campaign trail to represent his eagerness to cut government spending—has vowed to dollarize the economy and get rid of the central bank. But will he get it all done, and what would such changes mean for a member of the Group of Twenty (G20) major world economies?
In Martin Mühleisen’s view, Milei “might just be the type of shock that finally gets Argentina out of its decades-long economic misery,” but “it could all go south very quickly.” Investors so far are cheering: Monday saw positive reactions in both the Argentinian stock and bond markets to Milei’s win.
And if it goes south? Martin says the big early test after Milei’s December 10 inauguration will be whether Argentina can avoid defaulting to external lenders. But implementing his program carries risks. “Dollarization and fiscal austerity would be highly deflationary, meaning that unemployment and poverty rates could skyrocket, throwing Argentina into a disorderly tailspin and, possibly, leading to mass protest and civil unrest.”
What you need to know about Argentina’s presidential election run-off
(Reuters) – Argentina will vote in a run-off presidential election on Sunday, with Peronist Economy Minister Sergio Massa taking on libertarian outsider Javier Milei to determine the future of the region’s second largest economy.
Argentina, a nation of some 45 million people, is one of the world’s main food suppliers, with major exports of soy, corn, wheat and beef. It has one of the largest reserves of electric vehicle battery lithium, and huge shale gas and oil potential.
The country, struggling with economic crisis, is the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) largest debtor, owes billions of dollars to international bondholders and to China, and is a political bellweather in Latin America.
Drought Saps the Panama Canal, Disrupting Global Trade
The number of ships that can travel through the vital route has fallen sharply this year because of a lack of water for the locks, raising costs and slowing deliveries.
(NYT) For over a century, the Panama Canal has provided a convenient way for ships to move between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, helping to speed up international trade.
But a drought has left the canal without enough water, which is used to raise and lower ships, forcing officials to slash the number of vessels they allow through. That has created expensive headaches for shipping companies and raised difficult questions about water use in Panama. The passage of one ship is estimated to consume as much water as half a million Panamanians use in one day.
Leading in early results, Machado claims win in Venezuelan opposition’s presidential primary
(AP) — Early returns in the Venezuelan opposition’s presidential primary gave a big lead to former legislator Maria Corina Machado early Monday, and she quickly claimed victory as the voters’ choice to lead the campaign to end the decade-long, crisis-ridden presidency of Nicolás Maduro.
The independent National Primary Commission, which organized the primary, did not release any results until long after polling stations closed Sunday, blaming internet censorship.
The organizers said that in the first 601,110 ballots counted, about 93% picked Machado, who had entered the vote as a strong front-runner.
Argentine economy minister has surprise win over populist, and they head toward presidential runoff
(AP) — Economy Minister Sergio Massa produced a big surprise by finishing first in the opening round of Argentina’s presidential election, reflecting voters’ wariness about handing the presidency to his chief rival, a right-wing populist who upended national politics and pledged to drastically diminish the state.
Massa’s victory over Javier Milei, a chainsaw-wielding economist and freshman lawmaker, came despite the fact that on his watch inflation has surged into triple digits, eating away at purchasing power of salaries and boosting poverty. Still, he wasn’t punished in Sunday’s voting.
Argentina’s wild presidential election
Argentines will vote on Sunday in the country’s most unpredictable, topsy-turvy election in recent memory.
The leading candidate is shaggy-haired firebrand Javier Milei, a social-media-savvy political outsider who describes himself as an “anarcho-capitalist.” Milei wants to radically shrink the government, adopt the US dollar, and ban sex education.
Venezuela and opposition reach deal on electoral conditions. They plan to sign Tuesday in Barbados
(AP) — Venezuela’s government and opposition have reached an agreement on new electoral conditions that once signed Tuesday will trigger relief from U.S. energy sanctions on President Nicolás Maduro’s administration, according to a person familiar with the outline of deal.
Venezuela’s government agreed to open up the electoral process, including allowing European Union observers and creating a process for lifting bans that have blocked his top opponents from running for president, to level what is widely seen as an unfair playing field, the person said Monday.
Ecuador’s youngest elected president faces a practically impossible task
Ecuador ‘s youngest elected president on Monday faced the practically impossible task of reducing a terrifying, drug-driven crime wave within a greatly shortened 1 1/2 years in office.
His voters were, among other things, frightened by the escalation of drug violence over the past three years. Killings, kidnappings, robberies and other criminal activities have become part of everyday life, leaving Ecuadorians wondering when, not if, they will be victims.
‘People are dying in the street’: Ecuador election overshadowed by violent crime
The country goes to the polls this weekend after a campaign marked by bloodshed and the assassination of a candidate
(The Guardian) Ecuadoreans will this weekend choose between a centre-right presidential candidate who is the scion of one of country’s wealthiest families, and a leftist disciple of the former president Rafael Correa, in an election overshadowed by violent crime and the assassination of a third candidate.
Polls ahead of Sunday’s vote put the banana industry heir Daniel Noboa, 35, slightly ahead of Luisa González, who has promised free medicine and increased worker protections.
Both presidential candidates have promised to militarise ports and airports to fight drug trafficking as headline-grabbing violence becomes ever more brutal and commonplace, particularly in coastal regions around the port cities of Guayaquil, Manta and Esmeraldas, where gangs vie for territory and trafficking routes with the backing of Mexican cartels.
The campaign has been marked by bloodshed, including the brazen assassination of the anti-corruption candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who was shot in August as he left a campaign event. Last week, six Colombian suspects in the assassination were themselves murdered in prison. A seventh suspect was killed in another jail the following day.
Biden to host South American leaders for summit on migration
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will host leaders from South American nations at the White House for a summit on Nov. 3 where the United States will reaffirm its commitment for cooperation on economic growth and tackling irregular migration, the White House said on Friday.
During the inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity Leaders’ Summit, Biden also will outline commitments to strengthen and expand U.S. efforts to drive regional economic growth
The Guardian view on Argentina’s presidential election: the danger to democracy is real
Public spending hikes and pro-poor tax cuts might fix the economy and be popular enough to stop the far right
(Editorial) Mr Milei is a danger to democracy. His diehard supporters wave the yellow Gadsden flag of the US extreme right. His vice-presidential pick, sickeningly, casts the systematic extrajudicial killings of civilians by the country’s dictatorship as counter-terrorism. Voters are waking up to Mr Milei’s absurd plans, forcing him to backpedal. His anti-abortion stance has united a divided feminist movement against him. But Argentinians are frustrated with the established parties and anxious about the future – a combination that the far right is currently exploiting.
Milei leads polls in Argentina election after primary shock
(Reuters) – Argentina’s pollsters, caught out by the surprise win of radical libertarian Javier Milei in August’s presidential primary, now show him easing to first place in an Oct. 22 general election, likely ahead of ruling party economy chief Sergio Massa.
Milei, an economist and former TV pundit, has rattled the political elite with loud, sometimes expletive-ridden critiques of his rivals, along with pledges to shutter the central bank, slash the size of the government and dollarize the economy.
Once Beset by Violence, This City in Colombia Now Struggles With Too Many Tourists
Rising rents and other challenges are causing tensions with residents of Medellín, who say visitors have surged practically overnight.
(Bloomberg) Known as the murder capital of the world at the start of the 90s, by the late 2000’s Medellín, Colombia, had undergone a revival. As violence ebbed, it welcomed new investment and visitors from abroad. Backpackers roaming the streets became a common sight.
Today, tourism is surging. An explosion of newcomers since the pandemic has brought new restaurants, fancy shops and guided tours. But it is also driving up rents and drawing pushback from locals. As cities around the world struggle with the negative consequences of mass tourism, the wave of both short- and long-term visitors in Medellín is creating unique challenges because, experts say, it happened virtually overnight.
Last year, the city had a record 1.4 million visitors from overseas, mostly from the US, surpassing Cartagena for the first time. And since the pandemic ushered in the possibility of remote work for millions, digital nomads now sit tethered to their laptops in the cafes and co-working spaces that have sprouted up around the city. The Nomad List website, which includes recommendations for remote professionals, ranks Medellín as the top destination in Latin America after Buenos Aires and Mexico City.
What the 1973 coup means for Chileans today — 50 years later
Five decades after the 1973 coup in Chile that toppled the government of Salvador Allende and brought General Augusto Pinochet to power with help from the US, people in Chile are deeply divided about what the coup anniversary means today.
(The World) General Augusto Pinochet is known worldwide as a sinister dictator. Between 1973 and 1990, his regime tortured, killed and disappeared thousands of people in Chile, in the name of fighting communism.
But as Pinochet’s US-backed military coup marks 50 years, many in the South American country have complicated views about its legacy, and there’s still no consensus about whether the coup was a good or bad thing.
‘This is not a peaceful country’: Violence and poverty soar in Costa Rica
Rising poverty, unemployment, and inflation have plagued Costa Rica. Every few blocks, a person is passed out or sleeping on the street.
(The World) Costa Rica sells its image as a “green paradise,” with ample nature reserves and no standing military. But many say this reputation is more myth than reality as violence, poverty and unemployment is on the rise.
University of Costa Rica political scientist Adrian Pignataro said that while the country abolished its military in 1948, the image of a peaceful, egalitarian and perfect Costa Rica is just a myth.
The country’s new president, Rodrigo Chaves, … [a] former World Bank executive, studied in the United States and fashioned himself after former President Donald Trump. “[Rodrigo Chaves] fits into this wave of outsiders who came to power with radical, nationalist populist discourses,” political scientist Pignataro said. “Above all, in the way he seeks to antagonize opponents and throw out controversial statements.”
Peru megaport to open new Pacific trade route to China. Will it be a win for all?
Chinese-backed port in Peru aims to offer a faster, alternative route to China from South America
Port of Chancay is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which was launched a decade ago … … Only recently has Beijing turned its full attention to Latin America with its belt and road funding. …
Between 2009 and 2019, Latin American nations spent an average of less than two per cent of total GDP on public projects, like improving roads or building hospitals. China has seen this as an opportunity to make inroads in the region.
(SCMP) A US$3 billion megaport in Peru seen as a new gateway to Asia is on track to open four of its 11 berths at the end of 2024, offering a faster Pacific Ocean route to China for sea cargo from this part of Latin America.
The project broke ground in 2011 in the small city of Chancay about 72km (44 miles) north of Lima, and with major help from Chinese investment.
It was designed to make Peru a global shipping hub, competing with Chile and Ecuador as a link between South America and East Asia.
Normally, the journey through the Panama Canal or from Cabo de Hornos in Chile takes up to 45 days. The Chancay megaport will cut that time down to 30 days by connecting land and sea routes from as far as the Atlantic coast to across the Pacific.
Cuba uncovers ‘human trafficking ring’ recruiting for Russia’s war in Ukraine
Havana says it is dismantling network seeking to recruit Cubans as mercenaries as Moscow attempts to boost its forces
The foreign ministry did not comment on whether any Cubans joined the war in Ukraine as part of the trafficking ring, or if the ring had any connections to the Russian government.
Anticorruption Crusader Wins in Guatemala, in Rebuke to Establishment
The landslide victory by the candidate of an upstart party signals an uncertain new chapter in Central America’s largest country.
An anticorruption crusader won a runoff election for Guatemala’s presidency on Sunday, handing a stunning rebuke to the conservative political establishment in Central America’s most populous nation.
Bernardo Arévalo, a polyglot sociologist from an upstart party made up largely of urban professionals, took 58 percent of the vote with 98 percent of votes counted on Sunday, the electoral authority said. His opponent, Sandra Torres, a former first lady, got 37 percent.
Ecuador’s Crime Surge Is Devastating, but There Is a Way Forward
By Dr. Will Freeman, a fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
(NYT) The shooting of Mr. Briones is under investigation, and six Colombian nationals are being held in connection with Mr. Villavicencio’s killing. How the country’s criminal justice system handles the ongoing inquiries will be a litmus test for the nation. Ecuadorean politicians and their international partners will need to summon the political will and resources to complete an independent and thorough investigation into the killings. If the authorities prosecute just a few hit men and leave it at that, criminal groups will only grow more brazen. But if they take the longer, tougher road — rooting out and bringing to justice the masterminds behind the killings and exposing organized crime’s ties to parts of the state — the country may have a path back from the brink.
Although Ecuador historically dodged the narco-trafficking-fueled violence and internal armed conflicts that bedeviled its South American neighbors during the latter half of the 20th century, it has all the trappings of a drug traffickers’ paradise. It is sandwiched between Peru and Colombia, the world’s two largest producers of coca. And Ecuador’s economy has used dollars as the legal tender since 2000, making it attractive for money launderers.
Argentine peso plunges after rightist who admires Trump comes first in primary vote
Javier Milei … wants to replace the peso with the dollar, and says that Argentina’s Central Bank should be abolished.
Far-right outsider takes shock lead in Argentina primary election
Former tantric sex coach and Donald Trump admirer Javier Milei has said he thinks the climate crisis is ‘a socialist lie’
A former tantric sex coach who plans to do away with Argentina’s public health and education systems, disband the central bank, dollarise the economy and allow people to sell their organs has moved a step closer to becoming the next president of Argentina after a landslide win in open primaries.
In a surprise result that has upended Argentina’s political universe, the libertarian candidate Javier Milei took 30% of the vote on Sunday with his Liberty Advances party, outpacing the hard-right candidate Patricia Bullrich of United for Change, who came second with 28%.
Political leader in Ecuador is killed less than a week after presidential candidate’s assassination
The killing of Briones, who was a political leader in a rural area of San Mateo de Esmeraldas, came less than a week after the South American country was rocked by the assassination in broad daylight of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who had a famously tough stance on organized crime and corruption. Villavicencio was killed at the end of a political rally in Quito, the capital, despite having a security detail that included police and bodyguards.
Their slayings followed the July 26 fatal shooting of the mayor of Manta, Ecuador’s third largest city. Agustín Intriago, 38, had recently been re-elected to a term that began in May.
Thousands of people have been killed over the past three years in Ecuador as the country has transformed into a major drug trafficking hub and cartel-aided local gangs battle for control of the streets, prisons and drug routes. Crime and violence have dominated the discussions around Sunday’s election.
Ecuador politician murder suspects are Colombian, police say
(BBC) A day after the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, authorities in Ecuador have arrested six Colombian men in connection with the shooting. The seventh suspect was also Colombian and died from his wounds after a shootout with police on Thursday. Authorities are pinning the shooting on organized crime. The country has already been reeling from a surge in drug-related violence and Villavicencio was known for speaking up against drug cartels. During a police raid ahead of the arrests, officers found weapons — including a submachine gun, pistols and grenades — and ammunition in the group’s possession.
Ecuador politician murder: Prison gangs in terror reign
Long delays at Panama Canal after drought hits global shipping route
(The Guardian) Commercial ships are facing long queues and delays to travel through the Panama Canal as a lengthy drought in the Central American country has led to a cut in the number of vessels able to pass through one of the world’s most important trading routes.
In a fresh demonstration of the impact of the climate crisis on global business and trade, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), which manages the waterway, introduced restrictions on the number of transiting vessels as a result of the drought.
Brazil’s Amazon Summit ends with a plan to protect the world’s rainforests, but no measurable goals
(AP) — Brazil’s Amazon Summit closed Wednesday with a roadmap to protect tropical rainforests that was welcomed as an important step in countering climate change, but without the concrete commitments sought by some environmentalists to end deforestation.
Leaders and ministers from eight Amazon nations signed a declaration Tuesday in Belem, Brazil, that laid out plans to drive economic development in their countries while preventing the Amazon’s ongoing demise “from reaching a point of no return.”
Several environmental groups described the declaration as a compilation of good intentions with little in the way of measurable goals and timeframes. However, it was lauded by others, and the Amazon’s umbrella organization of Indigenous groups celebrated the inclusion of two of its main demands.
Amazon nations seek common voice on climate change, urge developed world to help protect rainforest
(AP) — Assembling in the Brazilian city of Belem, the members of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, or ACTO, [are] hoping a united front will give them a major voice in global talks.
The calls from the presidents of nations including Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia came as leaders aim to fuel much-needed economic development in their regions while preventing the Amazon’s ongoing demise “from reaching a point of no return,” according to a joint declaration issued at the end of the day.
Ecuador beset by crime, economic woes ahead of presidential vote
Voters express scepticism as candidates promise to revitalise sluggish economy and tackle rising insecurity.
Why Latin America still won’t condemn Putin’s war in Ukraine
Europe’s colonial past has soured its summit with Latin American leaders.
(Politico Eu) The ghosts of colonial history returned to haunt European and Latin American leaders at their summit in Brussels.
For the guests, four hundred years of European colonial rule, economic exploitation and slavery was front of mind. For the hosts, it was Russia’s war on Ukraine in the here and now.
The divergence in views was so profound that the two sides struggled to align their thinking at their first summit in eight years — especially to find words to condemn Russia’s war of aggression in their closing communiqué.
That made the two-day gathering frustrating for all concerned — but especially for leaders of the EU’s newest member states from Eastern Europe, which have their own bitter memories of Soviet imperial rule and Russian aggression.
Despite the pre-summit rhetoric highlighting the two continents’ shared values, EU leaders struggled to persuade the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) — which includes traditional allies of Moscow such as Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela — to clearly condemn Russia’s war.
What an Election Surprise in Central America Means for Democracy
Bernardo Arévalo, a professorial lawmaker, stunned Guatemala’s establishment by advancing to a second round against Sandra Torres, a former first lady.
(NYT) Judges and prosecutors driven from the country. Independent news media under attack. Top presidential candidates barred from running.
Warning signs of the teetering democracy in Central America’s most populous country flashed in the weeks leading up to Guatemala’s presidential election. But the vote on Sunday delivered a seismic jolt: a candidate whose campaign centered on rooting out corruption won enough votes to force a runoff, delivering a stunning blow to the country’s political ruling class.
Political Crisis in Peru
by Jan Lust
(CounterPunch.org) Since the impeachment of Peru’s president Pedro Castillo on 7 December 2022, Peru has attracted the attention of policy makers all over the world. The massive protests that followed Castillo’s detention resulted in dozens of deaths, mainly caused by bullets from the army or the police. In this article, we discuss the origin and evolution of the political crisis in Peru and its economic effects.
The impeachment and imprisonment of Castillo gave rise to massive protests against the government of the first female president in Peruvian history, Dina Boluarte. Boluarte had been his vice president and just like Castillo a former member of Peru Libre. While Castillo had resigned from the party, Boluarte had been expelled from the party, already before the December 2022 occurrences. Political differences with the party were the principal reasons why they both left the party.
Although Boluarte has a left-wing background, just like previous presidential candidates that were elected on a relatively progressive electoral platform such as Alberto Fujimori (1990) and Ollanta Humala (2011), they turned right. The Boluarte regime can be considered an authoritarian right-wing government. Its cabinets are made up of liberal and center-right individuals. The massive repression and dozens of deaths caused that the protesting population accused the current president to be a murderer.
Conclusion of the 53rd OAS General Assembly
The Organization of American States (OAS) concluded today its 53rd General Assembly, held this week at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Assembly approved a resolution urging Nicaragua to cease human rights violations, release political prisoners, and respect religious freedom and freedom of expression, as well as the rule of law.
The States also resolved to recognize the need for the OAS to provide assistance to Haiti in the areas of security, democracy, promotion and protection of human rights and the holding of free and fair elections as soon as possible.
The Assembly also approved resolutions on democracy, promotion and protection of human rights, security and development, aimed at strengthening and deepening the work of the Organization in these areas, among others. The Assembly also approved the OAS budget for the year 2024 in its program-budget.
Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the Organization of American States General Assembly Third Plenary Session
… as we meet today, a number governments in the Americas are questioning the relevance of the OAS – and democracy, more broadly – the relevance to solve the problems facing many people across the hemisphere. A lack of economic opportunity, widespread insecurity, endemic corruption, an accelerating climate crisis. All problems that have helped drive an unprecedented number of people in our region from their homes.
So, we find ourselves at a moment of reckoning. Do we still believe that democracy is the best system to deliver for our people? And if so, are we willing to recommit ourselves to strengthening our fellow democracies and the institutions where we work together?
Gang members locked women in cells before Honduras prison riot fire
Armed people went into rival gang’s cell block, opened fire and doused survivors in flammable liquid, officer says after 46 killed
(The Guardian) Officials described the killings as a “terrorist act”, but also acknowledged that gangs essentially had ruled some parts of the prison.
Gangs wield broad control inside the country’s prisons, where inmates often set their own rules and sell prohibited goods.
“The issue is to prevent people from smuggling in drugs, grenades and firearms,” said the Honduran human rights expert Joaquín Mejía. “Today’s events show that they have not been able to do that.”
[President, Xiomara] Castro has pledged to take “drastic measures”, and the riot maybe increase the pressure on her to emulate the extreme policies of President Nayib Bukele in neighbouring El Salvador.
More than 67,000 people have been arrested – more than 2% of the population – since Bukele launched his anti-gang campaign in March 2022. The crackdown has been widely popular among Salvadorians, but has come at a huge cost for democracy and human rights.
In December, Castro declared a “state of exception” partially suspending constitutional guarantees which has twice been extended, but analysts are skeptical that the measure has had any meaningful impact on crime.
OAS states must address the closure of civic space in the region
(Amnesty) States in the Americas must address the closure of civic space in the region, end repressive policies and respond to the social demands of the population of the region, said Amnesty International today in an open letter to heads of state attending the 53rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).
“The region cannot continue down the path of repressing protests, militarizing borders and public security, environmental destruction and failing to protect historically marginalized communities, such as Indigenous peoples and human rights defenders,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. “The heads of state in the Americas must change course and seek solutions to create a freer and safer continent, with full respect for the human rights of all.”
Amnesty International’s concerns include the excessive use of force to suppress social protests, seen in several countries in the region and most recently in Peru. States in the Americas must ensure that individuals can exercise their right to peaceful protest and that any use of force by the security forces when policing demonstrations is necessary, legitimate and strictly proportionate. The organization also calls on states to end arbitrary detentions, unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment, which are frequently committed in much of the region.
Another issue that must be urgently addressed by states in the region is that of human mobility and the need for international protection, specifically in the case of people fleeing human rights crises in countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
China Has Had a Spy Base in Cuba for Years, U.S. Official Says
It was unclear whether the report might complicate Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s rescheduled trip to Beijing for meetings that begin June 18.
A Chinese spy base or facilities in Cuba that could intercept electronic signals from nearby U.S. military and commercial buildings have been up and running since before 2019, when they were upgraded, according to a Biden administration official.
Colombia’s Peace-Whisperer Makes Plenty of Enemies
Leyner Palacios’s push for dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation has made him the face of peace in Colombia — and subjected him to death threats.
(NYT) The latest menacing message came in February, when Mr. Palacios, 47, was warned he had 12 hours to leave the region where he was born on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, and to “never come back.”
The last time he had received a similar warning, in March 2020, one of his bodyguards was killed.
So Mr. Palacios, who served on Colombia’s Truth Commission, announced on Twitter he was going into hiding for a while.
The 11-member commission spent four years investigating every aspect of Colombia’s conflict, which was fought between government forces, left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups from 1958 to 2016.