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LATAM Brief: LatAm votes with Ukraine (mostly) -(February 24, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing
Latin America Daily Briefing

The U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution yesterday that calls for Russia to end hostilities in Ukraine and withdraw its forces. The move, on the eve of the invasion’s one year anniversary, passed 141-7, with 32 abstentions.

Nicaragua was the only country from Latin America and the Caribbean which joined Russia in voting against the resolution. Bolivia, Cuba and El Salvador were the only countries in the region that abstained.

The rest of the region, including Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, supported the resolution, despite recent criticisms from leaders on how the West is approaching the conflict. Ukraine’s allies had tried to maximize consultations ahead of the resolution, and the text emphasized the willingness of Ukraine to seek dialogue.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the vote was more evidence that not only the West backs his country. “This vote defies the argument that the global south does not stand on Ukraine’s side,” Kuleba said. “Many countries representing Latin America, Africa, Asia voted in favor.”

(Washington PostAssociated PressGuardianUnited Nations)

More Ukraine

  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has proposed creating a group of countries, possibly including India, China and Indonesia, to mediate talks between Russia and Ukraine. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin was quoted by Russia’s Tass news agency as saying Moscow is studying Lula’s proposal to end the conflict as it continues to assess the situation in Ukraine. (Bloomberg)

Biden moves towards transit ban

The Biden administration announced new measures this week that will generally deny asylum to migrants who show up at the U.S. southern border without first seeking protection in a country they passed through. The move, which critics refer to as the “transit ban” would be implemented in May, when the use of Title 42, a health rule used to reject asylum seekers during the Covid-19 pandemic, expires.

Critics compare the move to an effort by former U.S. President Donald Trump to force asylum seekers to apply for protection in countries they travel to on the way to the U.S. The Trump policy was blocked by federal courts and was never implemented.

Biden administration officials insist the measure proposed Tuesday is different from Trump’s, largely because there is room for exemptions and because the Biden administration has made other legal pathways available, particularly humanitarian parole for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Ukrainians.

The regulations announced Tuesday generally requires people to use what the administration calls “lawful, safe and orderly pathways” — such as applying for an asylum appointment through a smartphone app or country-specific humanitarian parole programs — to get to the U.S.

Tuesday’s announcement carries significant political risks for Biden, and the proposal was denounced by migrant advocates and members of his Democratic Party.

(Associated PressPolíticoReutersGuardianPBSWashington Post)

More Migration

  • The Customs and Border Patrol app has been criticized by immigrant advocates as an inappropriate tool for asylum seekers, and not only because not everybody has a smartphone with internet access. “The biggest headache is that there are too few spots, so people are trying every morning to enter the app,” an immigration attorney told the Washington Post. “It’s like trying to get tickets for a Taylor Swift concert, only it’s not a concert, and you’re trying to save your family’s life.”}

  • Migrants in Mexico are using automation apps — so-called auto clickers, a common tool for people hoping to buy concert tickets — to secure appointments with U.S. border officials, reports Rest of World.

  • “But even as the United States asserts more control over its own border, the picture remains dangerously chaotic farther south, in Mexico and its southern neighbours. That raises the possibility that while the location of the migrant crisis may shift to Mexican soil, it remains unresolved,” warns the Economist.

Transnational Crime

  • Three men accused of being high-ranking leaders of the transnational criminal gang MS-13 were arrested in Mexico on Wednesday. They will be sent to the U.S. to face charges. The three were among 13 people named as suspected gang leaders in an indictment, unsealed in U.S. federal court on Thursday, that detailed MS-13’s vast criminal enterprise in El Salvador, Mexico and the United States. (New York Times)

  • “A recent US congressional hearing illustrated how the wanton use of the word “cartel” has made it virtually meaningless and gets us further, rather than closer, to understanding modern-day criminal organizations and how best to direct resources to fight them,” writes Steven Dudley in InSight Crime.


  • If the trial against former Mexican law enforcement head Genaro García Luna “revealed what was wrong with Mexico’s war on drugs, course corrections pledged by Mexico’s president are still slow to materialize,” writes Catherine Osborn in the Latin America Brief. “Even so, the García Luna case should serve as a spark for reform.”

  • Indigenous anti-logging activist Alfredo Cisneros was shot to death this week in Mexico’s Michoacán state, the latest in a round of murders and disappearances in the region, reports the Associated Press.

  • Mexico City’s mayoral election next year is grabbing headlines, as early signs suggest it could lead to a nationally relevant shift in control of the megacity of 9 million, reports Americas Quarterly.


  • Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino ordered the Federal Police to open a new investigation to detect the masterminds of the 2018 murder of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco. (Telesur)

  • A Brazilian Navy ship arrived in the coastal city of São Sebastião yesterday to help rescue victims of the heavy rains, which have killed at least 50 people and displaced thousands. (Reuters, see yesterday’s briefs.)


  • Fake news stories about Venezuelan economic improvement presented by artificial intelligence generated avatars have begun circulating online. The supposed news anchors are evidencing how the technology is being used to further Chavista government narratives, reports El País.

Regional Relations

  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s move to strip more than 300 critics and political opponents of citizenship, and Chile’s forceful condemnation, have shone a spotlight on a deep ideological divide between leftist Latin American leaders, reports AFP.


  • Colombia last month entirely halted the eradication of coca, amid calls from the Petro administration for a new approach in the war on drugs, reports Bloomberg.


  • Peru’s government is offering families who lost a relative during nationwide protests between December 8 and February 10 around $13,000 in financial support. Amnesty International criticized the government for not taking responsibility for the deaths. (CNN)


  • Buenos Aires city mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta threw his hat into the ring for this year’s presidential elections. He hopes to become the conservative Juntos por el Cambio coalition’s candidate, and pitched himself as an anti-polarization option. (Infobae)


  • A new investigation into poet Pablo Neruda’s death, fifty years ago, comes on the five-decade anniversary of the ouster of Salvador Allende in Chile, and “will inevitably enhance global reflections on the infamous coup,” writes Peter Kornbluh in The Nation. “It will also not be forgotten that his funeral service, attended by almost 2000 mourners who came out of hiding to chant “with Neruda, we bury Salvador Allende,” will go down in history as the very first public protest against Pinochet’s nascent military dictatorship.”

Culture Corner

  • María Luz Coca Luján, a Bolivian construction worker in the U.S., is a social media influencer who promotes Quechua to English-speaking youth — a combination of equal parts linguist, content creator and nightlife correspondent, reports the Washington Post.

  • In “The Absent Moon,” Luiz Schwarcz, a legendary Brazilian publisher and global tastemaker, focuses the lifelong pain of clinical depression — New York Times.

    Just Caribbean Updates
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