Latin America Daily Briefing
Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro is set to meet with Guyanese President Irfaan Ali today, in the midst of border tensions involving Venezuela claiming a large, oil-rich chunk of its neighbor.
The talks are being held in St. Vincent, the main island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, under the auspices of the 15-member Caribbean Community regional bloc known as CARICOM and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC. St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is a member of CARICOM and currently serves as president of CELAC. He is also one of the Caribbean’s most vocal supporters of lifting U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, reports the Miami Herald.
The prime ministers of Barbados, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago said they also would attend. Brazil will reportedly send senior foreign policy advisor Celso Amorim.
“It was unclear if the session would lead to any agreements or even ease the border controversy,” reports the Associated Press.
Ali says his participation in talks today is aimed at deescalating the conflict, not negotiating over the Essequibo territory, which was the subject of an 1899 decision by international arbitrators, who placed its control under what was then British Guiana.
“The land boundary is not a matter for bilateral discussion and the settlement of the matter is properly in the International Court of Justice where it must remain until the court gives its final ruling on the merits of the case, which Guyana has always said and I repeat, will be fully respected by Guyana,” Ali wrote in a letter to Gonsalves ahead of the Thursday meeting.
- Venezuela nearly doubled its 2024 budget to the equivalent of $20.5 billion as Maduro “prepares for presidential elections and forecasts additional spending for the defense of the Essequibo territory,” reports Bloomberg.
Argentina’s inflation set to rise in short-term
Argentina’s inflation rate will worsen in coming months, admitted the Milei administration’s economy minister, Luis Caputo, after announcing economic shock therapy measures earlier this week. Markets cautiously welcomed the measures, reports Reuters.
Caputo said Argentines received the announcements of devaluation, reduction of subsidies to transportation and energy, and government layoffs “very happily.” (Página 12)
But many Argentines are concerned about how they will make ends meet with the austerity measures in a context bordering on hyper-inflation. While many orthodox economists welcomed the measures, they warn of acute short-term pain. (Associated Press)
The new government is also contemplating rolling back the suspension of income tax for the lowest bracket, a move Milei had embraced on the campaign trail. (Página 12)
But, “there is money,” countered Axel Kicillof, Peronist governor of Buenos Aires, yesterday. “The problem is that it is only located in a sector that is not the popular working majority.” (Letra P)
Many analysts see Kicillof as the likely new leader of the Peronist party — at least its left wing — after its failure to win November’s runoff presidential election. Kicillof, who swore in for his second mandate at the helm of Argentina’s most populous province, on Monday, has carefully calibrated his challenge to the national government, reports Infobae.
“We’ll have to live with a national government whose priorities we don’t share, but whose popular legitimacy we respect. In different aspects, their proposals are the exact opposite of our way of looking at life and the world,” he said. (Buenos Aires Times)
- Argentina’s total sovereign debt exceeds $400 billion, some $110 billion of which is owed to the International Monetary Fund and to holders of restructured, privately-held eurobonds, reports Reuters.
- Caputo said Argentina will pay $912 million owed to the International Monetary Fund next week while it seeks to renegotiate the country’s $44 billion deal, reports Bloomberg.
- Milei clinched a victory in Argentina’s Senate this week. Vice President Victoria Villarruel obtained quorum to session and elect a member of the ruling Libertad Avanza party as provisional president — despite procedural complaints from the Peronist Unión por la Patria bloc. (Buenos Aires Times)
- The Milei administration has sent a letter to the OECD formally requesting to start accession talks and do so “as fast as possible”, reports Reuters. (Via Argentina Politics Update)
- There are reports that some agricultural sectors could protest against the new economic measures, which say an increased export tax will “drown” them. (La Política Online)
- Brazil’s Senate approved the appointment of Justice Minister Flavio Dino, a strong ally of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to a seat on the Supreme Court, reports AFP.
- Brazil auctioned off more than 602 lots for oil and gas exploitation yesterday, just after the United Nations COP28 climate summit reached a historic agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, reports El País.
- Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad said the Brazilian presidency of the G20 group will strive to boost financial flows to countries in greatest need of resources for environmental protection, reports Reuters.
- Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves received Guatemalan president-elect Bernardo Arévalo, yesterday, and offered his country’s full support amid efforts within Guatemala’s establishment to derail Arévalo’s electoral victory, reports the Associated Press. (See Tuesday’s post.)
- “Leaked documents provide a rare window into a little-known program in which U.S. and other foreign law enforcement agencies work with Colombian counterparts to obtain and ship large quantities of cocaine around the world as part of efforts to infiltrate trafficking gangs,” reports the OCCRP.
- El Faro English reports on a “financial revolving door” linking Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and his designee for the office while he campaigns for reelection in February.
- Chileans vote on a new constitutional proposal — drafted by the conservative right — on Sunday. The rewrite is more conservative than the dictatorship-era magna carta it seeks to replace, reports Reuters.
- Former president Michelle Bachelet warns of the regional dangers of the rise of an extreme right coupled with a disaffection for democracy, and notes that the Chilean constitutional proposal “has a number of things that are dangerous for women, and that are going to mean setbacks”, including silence on equality, equal pay and arbitrary discrimination, as well as potentially setting the stage to rollback the country’s limited right to abortion. (El País)
- A Colombian congressional committee ordered a preliminary investigation into President Gustavo Petro, yesterday, over allegations of crimes in the financing of his election campaign, reports the Associated Press.
- The head of Haiti’s national police visited Kenya today, as local authorities prepare for the deployment of a Kenya-led multinational security mission, reports the Associated Press.
- Leadership rifts within the Bolivian ruling MAS “threaten not only the party, but the political project and unity of the social movements that thrust the MAS unexpectedly into office in 2005,” reports Nacla.
December 14, 2023