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Latam Brief: Lula meets von der Leyen (June 13, 2023)

Lula meets von der Leyen (June 13, 2023)
Latin America Daily Briefing : Lula meets von der Leyen

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Brazil has “concerns” over the European Union’s efforts to add new environmental protections to a trade deal with the Mercosur trade bloc. (AFP)

“Strategic partners should have a relationship of mutual trust, not mistrust and sanctions,” Lula told a joint news conference with European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, after the two met in Brasilia.

Von der Leyen on Monday said the EU hopes to finalize its long-delayed trade deal with the South America trade bloc by the end of the year at the latest. (Reuters)

The EU and the Mercosur nations — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — have sought to finalize a free trade deal since 2019, after reaching an agreement following two decades of negotiations.

Ratification stalled during the presidency of Lula’s predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, due to the EU’s concern over his environmental policies as well as a European desire to protect its local farmers from cheaper imports from Mercosur, reports the Associated Press.

Regional Relations

  • Brazil’s Lula administration is hoping to mend ties with African nations and has planned two official trips to the continent sidelined by the preceding Bolsonaro administration. In his previous presidencies, Lula sought to strengthen ties with the region, and visited more than 23 African countries, reports Bloomberg.

  • Iran and Venezuela want to increase bilateral trade to $20 billion, up from $3 billion, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday during a visit to Caracas. During the visit the two governments — both under U.S. sanctions — signed a memorandum of understanding to expand cooperation in petrochemicals, reports Reuters. (See yesterday’s briefs.)

  • The U.S. Biden administration is developing plans for overhauling the U.N. Security Council, reports the Washington Post.

  • The news of a Chinese spy base on Cuba is not the Cuban Missile Crisis redux, though it is a significant development. Nonethless “it’s difficult to identify any viable U.S. options for taking action that would successfully block the Chinese and Cubans from cooperating without sparking a much wider conflict,” writes James Bosworth in World Politics Review. (See yesterday’s briefs.)


  • The Cuban government was responsible for the death in 2012 of a prominent political activist Oswaldo Payá, according to the report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Payá was killed in a suspicious car crash in eastern Cuba that his family and supporters always believed had been caused by the government, reports the New York Times.


  • The U.S. has stopped taking mobile phone app appointments to admit asylum seekers at the Laredo border crossing, after advocates warned US authorities that migrants were being targeted in Nuevo Laredo for extortion in relation to scheduled appointments, reports the Associated Press.

  • The broken U.S. immigration system has spawned a national political fight: President Joe Biden’s reform efforts faces criticism from both sides—critics argue that the border is too open, while advocates emphasize the need for compassion and reform. And the country’s Congress lacks the political will to fix it, according to the New Yorker.


  • The upcoming Guatemalan presidential elections are dominated by names from the country’s past — albeit held by the children and grandchildren of historical notables. “The participation of so many legacy candidates in this year’s elections represents not only the continued dominance of traditional political elites, but also the ongoing erosion of democratic norms and the rule of law in Guatemala,” writes Emily Taylor in Nacla.

  • The candidacy of frontrunner Zury Ríos — the unapologetic daughter of dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who was convicted of genocide against the country’s Indigenous Maya Ixil — is particularly fraught. Río’s “run raises questions about a country’s collective memory,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “How much should a nation strive to remember its traumatic past? What happens when it forgets?”

  • A Guatemalan appeals court ordering the release of three former high-ranking military officers convicted of crimes against humanity — a move that disobeyed a ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, reports Al Jazeera.


  • A custody battle has broken out among relatives of the four Indigenous Colombian children who survived a plane crash and 40 days alone in the Amazon rainforest, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday’s post.)


  • Haitian news collective DÈYÈ MÒN ENFO has updates on security operatives in Port-au-Prince.


  • A small but rising number of cases of neo-Nazism in Brazil follows the flourishing of far-right politics in the country under former President Jair Bolsonaro’s 2019-2023 term, reports Reuters.


  • Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard will step down from their respective roles this week, in order to vie for the ruling Morena party presidential nomination, reports Al Jazeera. (See yesterday’s briefs.)

  • A rise in migrant smuggling and synthetic drug trafficking could explain a recent spike in homicides in Ciudad Juárez, according to InSight Crime.


  • Multilateral development banks’ financing of factory farms has unleashed significant social and ecological harm in Ecuador, according to a new report by a coalition of environmental groups. (Common Dreams)


  • The dengue death toll in Peru is mounting, particularly in the northern Piura region, after torrential rains and flooding promoted mosquito breeding. (Guardian)

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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