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Latam Brief: U.S. and Kenya sign defense agreement ahead of possible Haiti mission (Sept. 26, 2023)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (left) and Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Defence Aden Duale shake hands after signing a defence cooperation agreement in Nairobi, Kenya on September 25, 2023 [Monicah Mwangi/Reuters]
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (left) and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Defence Aden Duale shake hands after signing a defence cooperation agreement in Nairobi, Kenya on September 25, 2023 [Monicah Mwangi/Reuters]

The U.S. and Kenya signed a defense agreement yesterday that will support the East African nation in relation to a multi-national peacekeeping mission to Haiti to combat gang violence. The agreement guides the countries’ defense relations for the next five years as the war in East Africa against the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab extremist group intensifies, reports the Associated Press. (See last Thursday’s post.)

The U.S. Biden administration pledged $100 million on Friday to support a proposed Kenyan-led multinational force to Haiti. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced, last week, that the U.S. would provide logistics, including intelligence, airlift, communications and medical support to the Haiti mission, which still needs to be approved by the U.N. Security Council.

The U.S. says it has received commitments from countries throughout the world — from South America and the Caribbean to Asia and Africa — to join in a multinational force that would deploy to Haiti, pending a resolution from the United Nations Security Council, reports the Miami Herald.

A meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on the security situation in Haiti attracted more than 34 ambassadors, foreign ministers and representatives from countries, some of them permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Other than Kenya, which would head the operation, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda have pledged to deploy personnel, reports AFP.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry told the U.N. General Assembly on Friday that police and military personnel are needed, and that the use of force “remains essential to create an environment in which the state can function again.”

He noted that crimes committed by gangs include “kidnapping, pillaging, fires, the recent massacres, sexual and sexist violence, organ trafficking, human trafficking, homicides, extrajudicial executions, the recruitment of child soldiers (and) the blocking of main roads.” (Associated Press)

More Haiti

  • The U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince is opening up a large number of non-immigrant visa appointments for Haitian nationals but the first available openings aren’t until 2026, reports the Miami Herald.

Regional Relations

  • James Bosworth compares Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s foreign policy to that of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. “AMLO uses claims of neutrality to simply avoid making difficult decisions and skip attending meetings that put him outside of his comfort zone. Since taking office in December 2018, the Mexican president’s foreign policy has been ineffective, inconsistent and often invisible,” he writes in World Politics Review.

  • Lula’s “deft diplomacy,” on display last week at the U.N. General Assembly, turned Brazil “into arguably the biggest winner at the annual gathering of global leaders, showing almost single-handedly that the door is not yet shut on a genuinely independent foreign policy in a moment of heightening superpower tensions,” argue Andre Pagliarini and Sarang Shidore in Responsible Statecraft.

  • U.S. Republican politician’s desire to push back against China and Russia’s influence in Latin America with a “Monroe Doctrine 2.0” is “bound to backfire—and push Latin America further into China’s arms,” argues Will Freeman in Latin America’s Moment.


  • Nicaragua’s government has started seizing properties belonging to more than 300 Nicaraguans declared traitors this year the Ortega administration, with no rights to citizenship or property. “The campaign is a throwback to the leftist party’s first time in office in the 1980s, when the Sandinistas expropriated homes, setting off years long legal disputes,” reports the New York Times. “The government’s campaign signals that even five years after a failed uprising, dissent has serious consequences.”

  • The move follows the confiscation of properties belonging to the Catholic Jesuit order, and the arrests of several priests. The Ortega administration has retaliated against the Catholic Church, in response to opposition from prominent leaders. (National Review)

  • Bishop Roland Álvarez, imprisoned in Nicaragua and accused of being a “traitor to the homeland,” has been nominated for the European Parliament’s 2023 Sakharov Prize, which honors persons and organizations who exceptionally defend human rights and freedoms. (National Catholic Register)


  • Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans arriving at the U.S. border in the past two years form part of a historic wave of migrants. Venezuela has been in acute crisis for about a decade, and many migrants told the New York Times that they “are exhausted by so many years of economic struggle, and global policies meant to change the situation have failed to keep them at home. … In our conversations, many Venezuelans said that they were willing to take enormous risks just to find a semblance of sanctuary for their families.”

  • Venezuelan asylum seekers in the U.S. have welcomed the news of temporary permission to live and work in the country as a vital “helping hand” after the Biden administration announced last week that it would extend temporary protected status to nearly half a million Venezuelan nationals, reports the Guardian.

  • A new Amnesty International report “reveals that Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile are failing to comply with their obligations under international law to protect those fleeing Venezuela in order to safeguard their lives, integrity and human rights.” (Via Americas Migration Brief.)

  • “Only one in 10 people seeking refuge in Mexico in 2022 obtained it,” reports La Silla Rota. (Via Americas Migration Brief.)


  • The priorities and goals of Mexican presidential front-runner Claudia Sheinbaum are in need of clarification — issues surrounding Mexico’s unusually high fiscal deficit and the complex energy sector will reveal more about her true convictions, argues Carlos Ramírez in Americas Quarterly.

  • Azam Ahmed portrays the terrifying battle of Margarita Rodríguez to uncover the facts about her daughter Karen’s kidnapping by members of the violent Zeta cartel — adapted from the book “Fear Is Just a Word.” (New York Times)

  • The new Mexican film Heroico is about a cadet who enlists in a military college and is put through physical and psychological abuse to mold him into a good soldier. Since the movie’s release, videoclips have emerged purporting to show abuse taking place at military academies, reports the Guardian.


  • A growing number of U.S. women are seeking abortions in Mexico, a shift that reflects the two countries’ shifting reproductive rights policies, reports the New York Times.

  • Southern Frontlines is a new Guardian series that will focus on climate justice in Latin America and the Caribbean, the regions most acutely affected by the global emergency.


  • “The popularity of the libertarian Javier Milei primarily reflects the unpopularity of the ruling Peronist coalition and frustration with Argentina’s traditional political parties,” the Wilson Center’s Benjamin Gedan told the Latin America Advisor.


  • The Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., was “the target of a terrorist attack,” when two Molotov cocktails were tossed at the building on Sunday night, according to Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez. (ABC News)


  • Heavy rains caused a flash flood in Guatemala’s capital yesterday, sweeping several homes into a river and leaving at least six people dead and 12 missing, including 10 minors. (Associated Press)

  • El Faro translated a 2012 in-depth report on the split of MS-13 and 18th Street in Guatemala.


  • Former Bolivian President Evo Morales said Sunday he would run for office again in 2025, in a growing standoff with his political protege, incumbent Luis Arce. (AFP)


  • Poverty levels in Colombia declined slightly in 2022, according to a report from the government’s DANE statistics agency, although the proportion of people living in extreme poverty rose slightly. (Reuters)


  • Paramilitary militias composed for former security agents control far more of Rio de Janeiro than gangs ever have, — they have more weapons, more money, more political power, according to researchers. (Washington Post)

  • V, formerly known as Eve Ensler, writes about how Indigenous women activists have changed Brazil’s political landscape. (Guardian)


  • Gas workers digging to lay a pipeline in a street on the outskirts of Lima uncovered a burial site believed to be up to 1,000 years old with eight bundles of funeral belongings, most of them thought to have belonged to children, reports the Washington Post.

  • The Ocucaje Desert in Peru contains a wealth of paleontological material, a rich source of fossils for researchers. But unplanned development — real estate projects, squatter settlements and chicken farms — are threatening their work, reports the New York Times.

Critter Corner

  • The voracious lionfish, unintentionally introduced to the Caribbean from the Indian and Pacific oceans, is proving to be a grave threat to every other fish in the region. The species is decimating herbivorous fish that are important to coral reefs and the livelihoods of coastal communities, reports the Guardian. Conservationists are encouraging people to eat the invasive fish.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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