Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Statement by Ambassador Ron Kirk on the Passage of Peru’s Forestry and Wildlife Law

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on June 21, 2011

published on the Office of the United States Trade Representative, June 2011.

“Yesterday, the Peruvian Congress passed a new Forestry and Wildlife Law. This law sets out key reforms called for under the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA) Annex on Forest Sector Governance aimed at combating illegal logging and illegal trade in wildlife. Passage of this law is the result of significant work and extensive consultations with Peru’s indigenous and local communities, and represents a milestone in Peru’s implementation of its PTPA environmental commitments. We welcome passage of this important law and look forward to continuing to work with the Government of Peru to further implement its PTPA commitments.

“The United States has worked closely with Peru over a period of two years while it developed legal provisions to strengthen forest sector governance as called for under the PTPA Annex on Forest Sector Governance. In addition to passage of the Forestry and Wildlife Law, the Government of Peru has made other unprecedented changes to its legal and regulatory regimes to implement its commitments under the Annex, including amending its Criminal Code to increase penalties for forest, wildlife and environmental crimes and assigning ecological police officers and prosecutors to regions in Peru. It also created a Ministry of Environment to take the lead on natural protected areas and to assume other important environmental duties.

“We look forward to working closely with the Government of Peru as it works to fully implement the Annex on Forest Sector Governance.” (continue reading… )


U.S.-Latin American Relations: From Here to Where?

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on April 26, 2011

by Eric Farnsworth for Latin American Policy. Published by the Council of the Americas / Americas Society.

Latin America is a region transformed. In the past 10 years, it has become confident, independent minded, and economically sound. The region, particularly the commodity-exporting nations of South America, is charting a new course, perhaps less beholden to the United States and more willing to explore diverse relationships. Brazil is leading the way as Latin America’s largest economy by far, but others, such as Colombia, Chile, and Peru, are adding considerable economic weight of their own. Mexico and Central America, so dependent for their own economic well-being on the sluggish U.S. economy and without commodities to export to China, are recovering more slowly. Nonetheless, the region as a whole is economically strong and, along with Asia, is pulling the global economy out of the crisis that the United States and Europe began. This marks a historic shift: Where once the region was known for its contributions to global economic difficulties—the debt crisis of the 1980s and the peso and so-called tequila crises of the 1990s—Latin America is now an engine of economic recovery. Prospects for the region are bright.

At the same time, the United States has arguably turned inward in most areas except for direct engagement in the Middle East and Central Asia. From September 11, 2001, until today, Washington has been obsessed with domestic and foreign security concerns in a manner quite different than before 9/11. The successful steps that the Bush Administration took to keep the United States free from subsequent attacks also created deep political divisions within the nation and in other nations that have yet to be resolved. Additionally, massive Bush-era tax cuts combined with greatly increased government spending, for enhanced security as well as for increased social programs such as a new, multi-billion dollar prescription drug benefit, combined with huge new spending by the Obama Administration in response to the financial crisis of 2008 and the ongoing “jobless recovery,” have put the United States on an unsustainable financial path with a $14 trillion debt load. Without further steps it will increase by $1 trillion per year. (continue reading… )

Catch him if you can

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on April 13, 2011

by The Economist – Americas View, April 12th, 2011.

One of the Cuban government’s most legitimate criticisms of the United States involves its handling of Luis Posada Carriles. A Havana-born Venezuelan citizen, Mr Posada helped organise the failed Bay of Pigs invasion that sought to topple Fidel Castro’s regime in 1961. He later headed Venezuela’s intelligence service, and worked for the CIA in operations to undermine Mr Castro and support Nicaragua’s right-wing Contra guerrillas. In 1976 two employees of Mr Posada’s private detective agency blew up a Cuban airplane, killing 73 people, including the country’s entire national fencing team. Over 20 years later he was implicated in a series of bombings of Havana hotels.

Mr Posada has largely managed to evade punishment for these crimes. He was acquitted by a Venezuelan military tribunal in the airplane bombing, and escaped from prison while awaiting a civilian trial for the same attack. He was recaptured and held without a conviction for eight years, but then escaped again. In 2000 Panama found him guilty of plotting to kill Mr Castro during a summit meeting. However, Mireya Moscoso, Panama’s president, gave him a controversial pardon shortly before she left office in 2004.

The following year, Mr Posada sneaked into the United States using false documents and sought political asylum. After Venezuela requested his extradition, he withdrew his asylum application and was arrested. Nonetheless, a Florida judge refused to deport him to Venezuela because of the risk that he might be tortured—a curious ruling, given that Hugo Chávez’s government has no significant track record of torture, while the conditions to which America subjected its detainees in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo were already well-known. (continue reading… )


From Rio. Brazil, U.S. Strengthen Economic, Education and Energy

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 21, 2011

by Rachel Greenwald for Americas Quarterly Online, March 21st, 2011.

During a two-day visit to Brazil this past weekend, and amidst a backdrop of escalating events in Libya, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff reinvigorated stalled political and economic relations between the two countries, signing a series of preliminary agreements that pave the way for stronger commercial links between the Hemisphere’s largest economies.

Obama’s trip—intended to bolster trade and investment ties with the world’s seventh-largest economy and prove U.S. commitment to a region increasingly engaged with China—kicked off with talks between the two leaders in Brasilia on Saturday morning. Following the leaders’ meeting at the Palácio do Planalto, Obama met with U.S. and Brazilian CEOs and delivered an address at the U.S.-Brazil CEO forum. Throughout the meetings around Brasilia, Obama stressed the opportunities for mutual economic benefit through increased cooperation, and cited the potential for the U.S. to sell “more goods and services to a rapidly-growing market of around 200 million consumers.”

After talks at the Palácio do Planalto, the two leaders announced the signing of a series of agreements to deepen ties as “global partners in the 21st century” in areas ranging from trade to technology, education to energy and air travel. (continue reading… )


Think Again: Latin America

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 21, 2011

by Mauricio Cardenas for Foreign Policy, March 17, 2011.

America’s backyard is no longer an afterthought — or Washington’s to claim.

“Resurgent Latin America is a Threat to U.S. Interests.”

Quite the opposite. Listen to some of the rhetoric in Washington and you would think that Latin America only impacts the U.S. economy by sucking away manufacturing jobs and flooding the country with illegal immigrants. The truth is that U.S. economic interests are more entwined with those of its southern neighbors than ever. This is an overwhelmingly positive development.

For instance, U.S. oil imports from Latin America are larger than those from the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait combined make up only 20 percent of U.S. oil imports. Latin American countries — specifically Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, and Trinidad and Tobago — account for one third of U.S imports. For the United States, assuring a stable oil supply from its Latin American neighbors should be no less important than preserving stability in the Middle East.

Also, the Latin American consumer market is by no means irrelevant for U.S. companies. The region’s GDP is $4.2 trillion, roughly 84 percent of China’s $5 trillion. With only 40 percent of China’s population, Latin America’s average per capita income is twice that of China’s. Therefore, Latin American households are important consumers of U.S. manufactured goods and services. For example, in 2010, 20 percent of Citicorp’s overall profits came from Latin America. (continue reading… )


USA/Latin America politics: Trade ups and downs

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 10, 2011

by The Economist Intelligence Unit, March 4th, 2011.

The US and Mexican presidents have tentatively resolved a lengthy dispute over cross-border trucking, which, if the agreement is approved by the US Congress, will end a spat that has marred trade ties in recent years. However, other elements of Washington’s trade agenda for Latin America have ground to a halt, and this could cast a shadow over President Barack Obama’s upcoming March 19th-23rd trip to the region.

During a joint press conference held on March 3rd, Mr Obama and Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, announced an agreement on the trucking issue. Mexican drivers and long-haul trucks will be allowed to seek permits to operate in the US, provided they meet specific safety, insurance and other requirements. The conditions were first unveiled in early January by the US transportation secretary, Ray LaHood. The final agreement will be sent to Congress within months. (continue reading… )

Crisis in the U.S.-Mexican Relationship

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 3, 2011

by Diana Villiers Negroponte for The Brookings Institute, March 2nd, 2011.

A full blown crisis has erupted in the U.S.-Mexican relationship at a time when the U.S. is focused on domestic budget issues and events in the Middle East and North Africa. The summit between President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón this week is intended to focus on the essential needs of two neighbors. For several months, Mexican elites have been grumbling about U.S. interference, the inadequate financial contribution within the Merida Initiative compared to U.S. support for Plan Colombia, and U.S. failure to understand the nature of Mexico’s violent crime.

The crisis blew up on February 22, when in an interview with El Universal, President Calderón stated that U.S. cooperation in the Mexican drug war is “notoriously insufficient.” He added that American diplomats have “done a lot of harm [Mexico-U.S. relations] with the stories they tell and that, in all honesty, they distort so as to impress their own bosses.” Calderón sees the failure to coordinate a serious problem among U.S. federal agencies, including the DEA, CIA and ICE. The reference to U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement did not mention that seven days earlier ICE agent Jaime Zapata was murdered while carrying out his duties on the road to San Luis Potosí. President Calderón had no niceties for Zapata’s death, but instead chose to blame the lack of coordination among U.S. agencies for the failure to reduce drug consumption and the increase of weapons moving southward.

U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano responded immediately to the accusations that U.S. agencies were failing to coordinate. On February 24, the White House confirmed an outstanding U.S. invitation to hold a presidential meeting in Washington. However, whether this summit can calm down the Mexican leadership and restore trust among senior officials on both sides of the border is yet to be seen. Can this meeting restore a constructive relationship necessary to engage on trade, energy, competitiveness, scientific research, immigration and security? (continue reading… )

Why the US and Brazil Can’t Get Along—A Story of Turf, Ideology, and Interests

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 2, 2011

by Peter Hakim for Inter-American Dialogue, March 1st, 2011.

Brazil’s outsized global aspirations and its newly acquired diplomatic weight were on full view in Tehran last May. That was when Brazilian President Lula da Silva triumphantly announced that he and his Turkish counterpart had persuaded Iran to shift a major part of its uranium enrichment program overseas—an objective that had previously eluded the US and other world powers. Washington, however, was not applauding. Secretary of State Clinton’s reaction was quick and disapproving.  She angrily condemned both Brazil and Turkey for pursuing the negotiations, which she saw as threatening to the fragile agreement among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to impose new sanctions on Iran for violating its nuclear treaty obligations. What Lula claimed as a negotiating success was viewed in Washington as irresponsible and unhelpful meddling by Brazil.

As Lula, Brazil’s most widely admired president ever, prepares to leave office, US-Brazilian ties are deeply strained—by disputes over Iran and a range of other matters—and need close attention. The country’s new president, Dilma Rouseff (or Dilma as she is universally known), who takes charge on January 1, will not find it easy to repair the damage and build toward a more productive and trustful bilateral relationship.  In the past two years, the two governments have openly clashed over many issues as Brazil has sought to expand and consolidate its ambitious international role. Despite a still large reservoir of genuine good will between the countries, the situation may worsen in the coming period. How adroitly and carefully Dilma and her advisors manage Brazil’s foreign policy will surely affect the quality of the country’s  relations with the US. So will the importance that the Obama administrations assigns to Brazil and the care with which he and his policy team conduct US-Brazilian diplomacy.

Still, it is almost inevitable that Brazil and the US will, for some years to come, be bumping up against one another in this hemisphere and worldwide. They both have a central stake in global politics and a deep concern about the world’s problems. Their policies and agendas, however, will reflect their divergent interests, priorities, and approaches to international affairs. They will certainly not always be able find common ground or keep their disagreements in check. At least on some issues, tension between them are sure to increase. Indeed, on most matters, the US-Brazil relationship will involve both conflict and cooperation—as do US ties with other global actors like China, Russia, India, and Japan as well as many European nations. (continue reading… )

Calderón Criticizes U.S. On Mexican Drug War Effort; Says Feds Not Doing Enough

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on February 24, 2011

by Latin America News Dispatch, February 24th, 2011.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón criticized U.S. agencies Tuesday for failing to do their part in the fight against powerful drug cartels.

In his comments, from an extensive interview with the Mexican daily newspaper El Universal, Calderón said that the U.S. had failed to curb drug consumption or the flow of weapons into Mexico, even as it is sending $1.4 billion in training, equipment and other aid to help combat Mexico’s drug cartels.

Calderón also said that recently leaked cable from U.S. diplomats have hurt and distorted the relationship between the two nations and that the diplomats ”pour lots of cream on their tacos,” Calderón said, meaning they exaggerate, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The Mexican president also said that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the CIA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tried to outdo each other while all evading responsibility.

“The reality is that they don’t coordinate with each other, they’re rivals,” Calderón said, according to Reuters.

Calderón’s comments also coincided with Mexican marines discovering 72 sticks of commercial synthetic explosives at a camp in the southern state of Guerrero.



Trade disunion

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on February 18, 2011

by The Economist, February 17th, 2011.

Sometimes the way the United States behaves in Latin America seems calculated to oblige its friends to seek other allies. Take Colombia, the most pro-American country in the region over the past decade. Not only has the United States Congress failed to ratify a free-trade agreement signed in 2006, but this month it failed to renew trade preferences dating from the 1990s under which more than half of Colombia’s exports enter tariff-free.

The failure to renew the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) was caused by a domestic political squabble, and may soon be rectified. But Colombia is getting fed up with American disdain. Its new president, Juan Manuel Santos, says that if the trade agreement is not ratified this year, “we will not keep insisting.” The United States is Colombia’s biggest trade partner. Mr Santos hopes the agreement will boost investment. But the ATPDEA, a tool in the American drug war, already helps Colombian exporters, so their American counterparts have more to gain from ratifying the trade agreement. (continue reading… )