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Latam Brief: CELAC Summit gathers region (January 20, 2023)

Latin American leaders will meet in Buenos Aires next week for the CELAC Summit. The meeting comes amid calls from Latin American leaders to strengthen regional integration, reports AS/COA.

Founded in 2011, CELAC was intended to be an alternative multilateral forum for Latin American countries, but lost steam in recent years as many countries in the region elected right-wing governments who criticized the organization, particularly the participation of “leftist” authoritarian governments: Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

CELAC and UNASUR are regional institutions initially “fueled with Venezuelan oil money and Hugo Chávez’s force of personality,” that “never fully lost that flavor,” writes Greg Weeks in Global Americans.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro heralded “new winds of integration” and announced plans to travel to Buenos Aires — Maduro returned to the international stage last year, after years of isolation. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel will also attend. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega will not attend, but will be represented by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada. (La NaciónÁmbito)

The summit will mark the return of Colombia and Brazil to the regional organization. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Colombian President Gustavo Petro will attend, following a hiatus under the two countries’ previous administrations. Both have been advocates of engagement with Venezuela, and the summit will be an opportunity to further their efforts. Lula plans to hold bilateral meetings with Maduro, reports Reuters.

Lula championed CELAC and UNASUR during his first presidencies, but any chance at revitalization “should center on shedding the ideological baggage that helped drag them down. Similarly, the Biden administration should accept opportunities to engage with them,” argues Weeks.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández invited the U.S. and China to attend, though neither is a CELAC member. Washington will send a delegation that includes U.S. Special Presidential Advisor for the Americas Chris Dodd. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to give a video address. Fernández did not invite OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. (ÁmbitoBuenos Aires TimesAS/COAClarín)

Argentine opposition leaders called for Maduro to be arrested upon arrival in Argentina, citing human rights abuses under his authoritarian government. (Buenos Aires Times) Opposition leaders also presented a complaint against Maduro, Díaz-Canel and Ortega before Argentina’s judiciary, in relation to human rights violations in their home countries. It’s the first time Argentina’s foreign relations have been taken to court, according to Página 12.

More Regional Relations

  • Lula spoke of his desire, yesterday, to defeat the “new monster” that is the “fanatical far right,” not just in his country but throughout the whole world. (AFP)

  • This week Brazilian and Colombian government officials, including Petro himself, were in Davos, where they advocated for greening their economies at the World Economic Forum. But “Latin American leaders’ optimism about tax proposals and green infrastructure at Davos was tempered by serious concern about the region’s social needs,”


  • Anti-government protesters clashed with security forces in Lima yesterday, and police threw tear gas at demonstrators. A major fire broke out at a building near the historic Plaza San Martin, although no connection to the protests was immediately clear (Associated PressWashington Post)


  • Colombia extradited Álvaro Córdoba, brother of a powerful senator allied with President Gustavo Petro, to the U.S. on charges that he conspired with dissident guerrillas to smuggle cocaine. (Associated Press)


  • Though Cuba’s foreign currency reserves are a state secret, a recently published report in state media indicates they have declined significantly since 2019, due to the coronavirus pandemic and new U.S. sanctions. (Reuters)


  • The U.S. Biden administration will expand use of a 1950s-era program to allow tens of thousands of migrants temporary residency for humanitarian or other urgent reasons. The move deepens the government’s use of executive authority to shape border policy, reports the Washington Post.

  • U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned that Cubans and Haitians who illegally come to the United States by boat will be disqualified from applying to a recently announced parole program. The statement comes amid increasing migration across the Florida Straights from both countries, reports the Miami Herald.

  • TPS recipients advocating for immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades are bridging the gap between U.S. and foreign governments —like those of Joe Biden and Nayib Bukele— that have relegated immigrants’ priorities in their agendas, reports El Faro English.

El Salvador

  • El Faro tracks the chronology of dealings between El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, starting in 2014 when he was candidate to mayor of San Salvador. (El Faro)


  • Brazil’s federal police carried out raids, this morning, against people allegedly involved in the Jan. 8 attacks by pro-Bolsonaro supporters on government buildings, reports Reuters.

  • A wildly successful government-run payments system, Pix, has become a key financial pillar underpinning former President Jair Bolsonaro’s election-denial movement. But the tool is also enabling investigators to track the financiers of the Jan. 8 attacks, reports Reuters.

  • Facebook approved a series of online ads promoting violence in Brazil, just days after rioters attacked government buildings, according to a new report by Global Witness. (Reuters)

  • A collaboration between international fashion company Veja and a local Brazilian cooperative called Cooperacre, to produce sneaker soles from native Amazonian rubber, provides a real-life example of living sustainably from the forest. (Associated Press)


  • Fears are mounting for the safety of two missing Mexican land rights activists, last seen in Michoacán last weekend. Their vehicle was found ridden with bullet holes, reports the Guardian.


  • Chile’s lower house of Congress rejected accusations of wrongdoing against Minister of Development Giorgio Jackson. (Bloomberg)

  • “Copper theft in Chile has become a complex and multi-layered criminal activity,” reports InSight Crime.


  • “A riveting show at the Metropolitan Museum surveys the complicated art of the ancient Maya, in which beauty and brutality are surreally entangled.” – New York Times.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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