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Latam Brief:BRICS debates expansion (Aug.23, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing
Latin America Daily Briefing

Tensions within the BRICS bloc are on show at a leaders summit in South Africa: while China and Russia are anxious to expand the group and give it more global clout, Brazil and India have sought to maintain a non-aligned stance, reports Reuters. (See yesterday’s post.)

Yesterday Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said the group should not seek to rival the U.S. and Group of Seven economies. Though he concerned that expanding BRICS will dilute its influence, Lula said he supports Argentina joining the bloc — pointing particularly to the blocs potential role as an alternative to “suffocating” IMF debt. (Reuters)

Regional Relations

  • After the summit Lula will visit other countries in Africa — a continent that, like Brazil, bears an unfair burden from climate change, said Lula, advocating to work together to combat the effects on their own terms. (New York Times)

  • The visit of a group of Democrat lawmakers, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to Brazil, Chile and Colombia “was an immersive, whirlwind foray into the heart of progressive power in three countries that have recently seen their governments swing from right to left,” reports The Nation.

  • “The message was clear: From the dusty streets of a Brazilian favela, to FaceTiming with presidents and other top dignitaries, the group was there to listen, and chart a new course for relations between the United States and Latin America. They met with labor organizers, a new generation of Indigenous and Black women leaders, environmental activists, human rights defenders, community care workers, and a long list of government officials.” (The Nation)


  • Governance will be a key challenge for Guatemalan president-elect Bernardo Arévalo. Specific immediate challenges include a show of strength against the country’s entrenched political, bureaucratic and judicial corruption, writes Edgar Gutiérrez in El País.

  • “With Arévalo’s victory, the phrase “Democratic Spring” has transformed from nostalgia for a distant past to hope for a near future,” writes Daniel Judt in The Nation, “an instructive reminder of what it will take for the current Arévalo to lead Guatemala toward—or back to—a genuine form of democracy.”


  • Sunday’s elections in Guatemala and Ecuador “shed light on crucial trends throughout Latin America, including anticorruption drives, the growing importance of young voters and calls to emulate El Salvador’s crackdown on crime,” reports the New York Times.

  • Tropical Storm Franklin made landfall today on the island of Hispaniola shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, “dumping heavy rains that are expected to trigger landslides and flooding in both countries,” reports the Associated Press.


  • Armed rebel groups are a key factor behind Colombia’s dramatically reduced deforestation rates — they are banning illegal logging in territories under their control as a political tool ahead of peace talks with the Colombian Petro administration, Crisis Group researcher Bram Ebus told Al Jazeera.

El Salvador

  • AFP toured El Salvador’s Tecoluca megaprison, possibly the region’s largest, almost exactly after the Bukele administration inaugurated the “Terrorism Confinement Center.” Humanitarian organizations have questioned the treatment of alleged gang members under the country’s ongoing state of emergency.


  • Fifty years after the coup against Salvador Allende, the legacy of General Augusto Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship continues to haunt Chile, writes Robert Funk in Americas Quarterly.


  • Dozens of people were arrested in the midst of a spate of looting of stores and supermarkets around Argentina — episodes that indicate a volatile lead up to October’s general election in the midst of triple digit annual inflation. (Reuters)

  • Lootings were a key part of instability in the 2001 crisis, making the episode particularly resonant for Argentines. Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said it was not a spontaneous phenomenon and warned that incidents were driven by “a desire to create conflict,” reports the Buenos Aires Herald.

  • The national government blames right wing presidential candidates Javier Milei and Patricia Bullrich for instigating unrest. (Infobae)

  • Far-right presidential candidate Javier Milei says his libertarian economic principals are a fresh proposal, but they harken back to the economic plans implemented by Cold War dictatorships in Argentina and beyond, writes Eamon Whalen in Mother Jones. “Milei combines this older economic logic with a modern culture-war social conservatism. He wants to launch a referendum to make abortion illegal after it was legalized in 2020; he says that sex and gender education is a cultural Marxist plot to destroy the family.”


  • Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has dozens of criminal cases that could implicate him, including allegations of fraud and election tampering. But the biggest near term legal threat could come from investigation into “an alleged scheme that resembles a small-scale mafia scam: Selling embezzled watches at a shopping mall outside Philadelphia,” reports the New York Times.


  • Trinidad and Tobago deported 98 Venezuelans earlier this month, provoking backlash from rights groups which say the country is violating its international obligation to protect refugees. (See today’s Just Caribbean Updates)


  • Former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum slightly extended her lead in the race to become the Mexican ruling MORENA party candidate for the 2024 presidential election, according to a new Parametria poll. (Reuters)


  • An ambitious Chinese-backed port project in Peru is being billed as “the gateway from South America to Asia,” and is designed to facilitate trade between the regions, reports the Associated Press.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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