Latin America Daily Briefing
Kenya’s high court ruled against a government plan to deploy 1,000 police officers to Haiti to lead a UN-backed multinational mission to fight escalating gang violence there.
“The decision raises serious questions about the international push to help Haiti, and what comes next,” reports the Miami Herald.
The multinational mission, which is backed by the United Nations and financed by the United States, had been stalled since October, when Kenyan opponents of the mission challenged it in court, calling it unconstitutional, reports the New York Times.
The judgment leaves the multinational mission in limbo. But experts say the mission could be resuscitated if Kenya signs a reciprocal arrangement with the host government, reports the Guardian.
The Kenyan court’s ruling comes a day after the U.N. Security Council expressed concerns about the spreading violence in Haiti. Yesterday Haiti’s foreign minister, Jean Victor Geneus, pleaded for the rapid deployment of the Multinational Security Support mission. “The situation, he said, has gotten sadder and bleaker with the security and humanitarian situation deteriorating.” (Miami Herald)
Colombia battles wildfires
Colombia’s government declared a state of natural disaster yesterday, in the midst of raging wildfires. The Petro administration asked for international help to combat blazes that are expected to worsen in coming days due to warm, dry conditions associated with the El Niño weather phenomenon. (EFE)
Officials raised the number of fires from 25 to 31, and said nine of them were under control, yesterday. (Associated Press)
Declaring a natural disaster allows the government to mobilize additional resources. Almost half of the government’s $508 million for addressing issues caused by El Nino, like fighting fires, has already been spent, reports Reuters.
For months Colombia has been suffering from record high temperatures and drought conditions in the southern hemisphere winter, reports AFP.
- Argentina’s latest tango with the International Monetary Fund is a stress test for the international lender’s alleged rehabilitation from economic orthodoxy, no matter the human cost. Yet the IMF’s “half-hearted aggiornamento seems to shine brighter in other parts of the world,” writes Mario Arriagada in The Ideas Letter. “Once again, Argentina is getting the short end of the stick.” The IMF is proceeding cautiously, but without public criticism towards a government that has embarked on an unprecedented effort at massive reform through decree and hopes to obtain permission to bypass Congress on a broad range of economic issues.
- Argentine President Javier Milei is fast achieving cult status among the global far right. But the tendencies that contributed to his rise could also be the undoing of this extreme libertarian experiment, writes Juan Elman for the European Council on Foreign Relations.
- Milei is a born-again Rothbardian in the Latin American strongman tradition. Though Milei’s deep faith in the late-American economist Murray Rothbard puts him in a unique category that is critical to understanding his wrecking-ball plan to restructure Argentina from the ashes up, Latin America’s history of caudillo leadership is particularly relevant to the new president’s political success, writes Uki Goñi for The Ideas Letter.
- “With Congress likely to approve Milei’s neoliberal agenda, the only limits to his onslaught will come through mass mobilization, coordinated strike activity, and other forms of social unrest,” writes Juan Cruz Ferre in Nacla.
- In the midst of increasing tensions between Milei and center-right governors regarding economic measures in the omnibus bill of reforms, the president promised to financially strangle the provinces if Congress rejects his proposals. (Infobae)
- “The first goal of the Milei administration is to eliminate the fiscal deficit, and the way he has chosen to do so is if not the most regressive way possible, then pretty close to it,” Pablo Pryluka told Jacobin. “In other words, to close the budget shortfall, Milei is putting all the pressure on the working class while higher-income sectors are left untouched. It’s worth mentioning that many governments in Latin America are also desperately trying to balance budgets, but without the strongly regressive emphasis. In Brazil, for example, Lula and his finance minister, Fernando Haddad, are trying to balance accounts by capturing some rent from the top income brackets. Milei wouldn’t consider that, though.”
- Milei has chosen to focus on monetary emission as the key factor to combat inflation — that is why he is determined to eliminate the government’s budgetary deficit — but the success of the policies will also depend on the gap between the official and financial exchange rates, explains Juan Manuel Telechea in El País.
- Milei’s fascination with Judaism has provoked global interest, “but manyJews are worried they will become the scapegoat if the economiccrisis deepens and Argentines begin linking Milei to the Jewishcommunity,” write Raanan Rein and Pablo Mendez Shiff in Haaretz.
- Chile’s lower chamber of congress provisionally approved President Gabriel Boric’s private pension system reform, “a rare breakthrough for the country’s polarized politics,” reports the Financial Times. However, many of the proposals were rejected in an article-by-article vote, which means the details of the reform will be shaped by the Senate after the February recess.
- The U.S. “Biden administration plans to increase assistance to Ecuador amid growing concerns over the deteriorating security situation in the country, ranging from equipment to deploying personnel,” reports CNN.
- “Brazil’s federal police are investigating the country’s former intelligence chief as part of a wider probe into alleged spying on political opponents under former President Jair Bolsonaro,” reports the Associated Press.
- The alleged illegal monitoring of thousands of people targeted two supreme court judges and a key ally of the current president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, reports the Guardian.
- A Brazilian judge ruled that mining companies Vale and BHP and their joint venture Samarco must pay $9.67 billion in damages for a 2015 tailings dam burst, reports Reuters.
- Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador “has built his durable popularity by combining traditionally left- and right-wing policies and positions,” argue Patrick Iber and Humberto Beck in Dissent.
- “South America is seeing a surge in cases of the mosquito-borne disease dengue during the southern hemisphere summer, prompting Brazil to roll out a novel vaccine campaign, while in Argentina many stores have run out of bug spray,” reports Reuters.
- “Bolivia seized a record amount of cocaine in 2023, suggesting that its role as both a cocaine producer and exporter is growing,” reports InSight Crime.
- “Unlike almost every other drink — whiskey, tequila, vodka — some of the world’s best mezcals are made from wild plants. But as demand rises — it surged 700 percent between 2015 and 2022, according to Mexico’s mezcal regulatory commission — harvesting the increasingly scarce specimens is a growing challenge,” reports the Washington Post.