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Latam Brief: Lula and Biden celebrate democracy(February 13, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing
Latin America Daily Briefing

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, presented themselves as joint defenders of democracy, contrasted with their fake-news addicted predecessors, at a meeting in Washington DC on Friday. (See Friday’s post.)

“Both of our democracies have been tested of late,” Biden said as he welcomed Lula at the White House, adding that “democracy prevailed” in both nations. (Washington Post)

The meeting between the two leaders, just over a month into Lula’s presidency, was framed as a renewal of the relationship between Brazil and the U.S. — and, more broadly, the international warmth towards Lula after his predecessor’s often erratic foreign policy, notes the New York Times.

On Friday the Biden administration announced that it would “work with Congress” to contribute money to the Amazon Fund established to preserve the rainforest, but did not say how much.

More Brazil

  • Lula spoke to Christiane Amanpour about working with the U.S., the war in Ukraine and the future of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro. (CNN)

  • Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest fell in January from a year earlier. The new satellite data, the first from Lula’s presidency, showed 167 square km cleared in the region last month, down 61% from January 2022, the worst for the month in the eight-year series, reports Reuters.

  • Malaria and deforestation — largely wrought by illegal mining and logging — have contributed to the Yanomami hunger crisis in Brazil’s largest Indigenous territory. (CNN)

  • A month after the attacks on government buildings in Brasília, restoration of destroyed artworks is advancing, reports the Washington Post.

  • Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he intends to return to Brazil “in the following weeks,” reports the Associated Press.


  • The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the international community to “urgently consider” sending a specialized support force to impoverished Haiti, which has been gripped by a “living nightmare” of gang violence. (Reuters)

  • Haiti’s gangs are increasingly weaponizing women’s bodies in their war for territorial control, having exhausted extortion as a tool among the country’s poor, reports the Associated Press.

  • Caricom leaders are expected to debate Haiti’s spiraling crisis and its impact on the region during their biannual meeting this week. Some countries are particularly concerned about increasing numbers of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Haiti, reports the Associated Press.

  • Some Caricom countries are hoping to gather key Haitian stakeholders in a neutral nation in order to reach a consensus agreement on holding elections, reports the Associated Press.

  • A U.S. parole program for migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela has created a stampede of applicants in Haiti. A large amount of national police officers are applying to leave, a further complication for the country’s already overwhelmed security situation, reports the Miami Herald.


  • Hundreds of organizations sent a letter to President Joe Biden and top federal immigration leadership Friday asking for a redesignation of Temporary Protected Status for Nicaragua, which would shield thousands of Nicaraguans in the U.S. from deportation. (Miami Herald)

  • The surprise release of 222 political prisoners from Nicaragua, last week, was a rare hopeful development for a country that is “becoming the Western Hemisphere’s equivalent of North Korea,” according to Juan Pappier, the Americas acting deputy director at Human Rights Watch. (Washington Post)

  • But analysts are divided on whether Nicaragua’s unexpected move is a harbinger of positive political change in a country, or an indicator of an even bleaker future under the authoritarian government of Daniel Ortega, reports the Guardian. “This is a purging not just of Nicaragua’s infamous jails – it is a purging of its political system,” said Chatham House Latin American specialist Christopher Sabatini.

  • Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, one of the released detainees, shared details of the horrific prison conditions many political prisoners suffer in Nicaragua. (Washington Post)

  • Carlos Chamorro interviews several of the released detainees, including Medardo Mairena and Dora María Téllez.

  • Pope Francis voiced concern over the ongoing detention of Matagalpa Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who refused to be exiled to the U.S. and remains in detention in Nicaragua. (Confidencial, see Friday’s briefs.)

Regional Relations

  • Diplomatic silence from Latin American after a Chinese balloon was spotted over three countries last week — Colombia, Venezuela and Costa Rica — was “striking” for a “region that is often obsessed with perceived violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” writes James Bosworth in World Politics Review.

  • The eventual verdict in the U.S. trial of Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s former top security official, will have a ripple effect in both countries, according to the New York Times.

  • “The prosecution’s case has been surprisingly thin in terms of compelling evidence regarding García Luna’s activities, relying instead largely on the testimony of people who have themselves been convicted of graft or drug trafficking,” notes the Guardian.


  • Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s hopes to pass major pension, labor and healthcare reforms will be complicated by a dramatically slowed economy this year, reports Americas Quarterly.


  • An increase in Guatemala’s coca eradication “has raised questions about the country’s potential role as a cocaine producer,” but “there are still no signs that production has moved beyond basic trials,” reports InSight Crime.


  • The United Nations has, reportedly, found that Panamanian officials have committed sexual assault against migrants in transit at government-run migrant centers — Americas Migration Brief.

  • Argentine immigration authorities in cracking down on Russian women who have started traveling to Buenos Aires to give birth in order to gain Argentinian citizenship for their children. (Guardian)

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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