Author Topic: Latin America  (Read 67772 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Honduras- crisis could fuel migration
« Reply #150 on: June 06, 2019, 04:13:17 AM »
In Honduras, a Political Crisis Could Fuel Migration
A tire fire burns at the doors to the outer entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa on May 31, 2019.
(ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Highlights

    Government decrees authorizing labor force readjustments in the education and health sectors have sparked ongoing protests against Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
    The country has few major transportation routes, so even small protests can have an outsized effect on the economy.
    The security situation in Honduras will rapidly deteriorate if the protest wave continues to gain momentum, and the economy will suffer — something that could send more migrants north within months.

Editor's Note: This security-focused assessment is one of many such analyses found at Stratfor Threat Lens, a unique protective intelligence product designed with corporate security leaders in mind. Threat Lens enables industry professionals and organizations to anticipate, identify, measure and mitigate emerging threats to people, assets and intellectual property the world over. Threat Lens is the only unified solution that analyzes and forecasts security risk from a holistic perspective, bringing all the most relevant global insights into a single, interactive threat dashboard.

Protests continued June 5 in various parts of Honduras, including Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula after June 2 incidents in which protesters set fire to 62 trucks and shipping containers on trucks headed to Puerto Castilla for export to the United States, La Prensa reported. In the June 2 incident, protesters closed a bridge on the CA-13 highway, forcing trucks to stop near the village of Guadalupe Carney. On May 31, protesters in the capital of Tegucigalpa burned tires outside the exterior entrance leading to the visa appointment waiting room at the U.S. Embassy. The fire left scorch marks to the exterior stone wall, but did little damage before being extinguished.

The Big Picture

As Honduras nears the 10-year anniversary of the removal of President Manuel Zelaya, its current president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, now sees opposition to his governance surging into the streets. Should the current wave of protests in the Central American country gain momentum and turn into a lengthy insurrection against its president, it could send more Honduran migrants north toward the United States, with implications for that country and its southern neighbor, Mexico.
See Security Challenges in Latin America

Honduran government decrees authorizing labor force readjustments in the education and health sectors drove the protests. But even though Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez promised June 3 to reverse them, the protests have spread to a broader cross section of the political left.

These demonstrations are the latest chapter in the long-running series of left-wing protests against the Hernandez government. His government won a highly contested election in November 2017, which the left accused him of rigging. Frequent corruption cases involving the president's associates have dragged down his approval ratings since he took office in 2013, and U.S. law enforcement agencies reportedly are investigating allegations of cocaine trafficking against him.

Demonstrations in Honduras can be highly violent and often involve property damage or loss of life when protesters go after the drivers of vehicles stopped at roadblocks. They have also damaged businesses in marches through San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, El Progreso and La Ceiba.

The security situation in Honduras will rapidly deteriorate if the protest wave continues to gain momentum, and could send more migrants north within months.

The targeting of U.S. interests by left-wing protesters is not surprising given U.S. support for the Hernandez government. Other foreign countries and companies seen as supportive of the government could also be targeted or sustain unintended damage from public unrest. If the demonstrations grow, they could interfere with supply chains and hurt foreign companies with personnel and facilities inside the country. Since the country has few major transportation routes, even relatively small protests can cut off major logistical corridors and lead to food and fuel shortages.

The protests could continue to June 28, the 10th anniversary of the 2009 Honduran coup. They could even gain momentum and turn into a lengthy insurrection against the president. The security situation in Honduras will rapidly deteriorate if the protest wave continues to gain momentum, and could send more migrants north within months. An even more depressed Honduran economy will keep pushing people abroad, and the logical place they would go to find low-wage jobs is the United States. This in turn could prompt the United States to put even more pressure on Mexico, whether in the form of tariffs or other measures, to stem migration from Central America.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Honduras- crisis could fuel migration 2.0
« Reply #151 on: July 03, 2019, 09:12:48 AM »
Highlights

    Mexico has promised the United States it will reduce the surge in migration across their shared border under threat of U.S. tariffs.
    The number of Hondurans seeking asylum or employment in the United States will likely remain stubbornly high amid persistent political and economic instability there.
    The United States will use any continued migrant surge fueled by Honduran unrest to try to extract concessions from the Mexican government, which will, in turn, try to delay making them — if it can.

Though Central Americans for years have accounted for an increasing percentage of overall migrants crossing the U.S. border illegally, their numbers grew dramatically in early 2019. In May 2019 alone, about 130,000 people were arrested trying to cross the border. The composition of migrant flows also shifted, with the number of individuals in families apprehended at the border by U.S. authorities growing from 105,000 during all of 2018 to almost 330,000 during the first five months of 2019. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are currently the main sources of illegal immigration to the United States that pass illegally through Mexico. Honduras is the second-largest source of migrants entering the U.S. illegally.
The Big Picture

A deal in June with Mexico to reduce the number of immigrants crossing illegally into the United States caused the White House to back off from a threat to slap tariffs on imports from Mexico. Under the deal, Mexico agreed to step up its efforts to prevent migrants from crossing its territory to the U.S. border. But with swelling unrest in Honduras likely to worsen the economy and spark more migration through Mexico to the United States, Washington may well return to its tariff threat.

A Migrant Surge Spawns a Tariff Threat

In May, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to enact tariffs of up to 25 percent on all Mexican imports within months unless Mexico took immediate steps to reduce illegal migration from Central America through its territory. Almost certainly intended as a negotiating tactic to help the Trump administration further its aims on curbing illegal immigration, the threat would have had major consequences for Mexico's economy had tariffs been enacted.

A line graph showing apprehensions at the southern U.S. border

To stave off economic damage, the Mexican government agreed in June to deploy 15,000 troops to reinforce key crossing points along the U.S.-Mexico border and to send 5,000 troops to guard the Guatemala-Mexico border, a key crossing point for Central Americans entering Mexico. The two nations agreed that if migrant apprehensions on the U.S. side of the border weren't significantly reduced by early September, then talks on additional measures to curb illegal immigration would begin.

A line graph showing people detained or turned away at the U.S.-Mexico border

Nearly a month after deferring tariffs against Mexico, the Trump administration is likely crafting its response to the new Mexican security measures. The White House demanded that Mexico reduce migrant crossings so that Customs and Border Protections arrests on the U.S. side of the border fall to around 20,000 per month. The Trump administration probably settled on this number because it would equal the record-low number of arrests seen in late 2016 and early 2017. It is unlikely, however, that this number will decline to anywhere near this amount within three months.

Unrest in Honduras Will Fuel the Migrant Surge

Honduras will become a major contributing factor complicating Mexico's ongoing negotiations over immigration with the United States. The roots of that instability are the 2009 coup against former President Manuel Zelaya and a closely contested 2017 presidential election, compounded by drought and crop failure. Throughout May and June, Honduras' left-wing public sector health and education unions and Zelaya's Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre) mounted extensive nationwide protests against President Juan Orlando Hernandez and his ruling National Party. The protesters are not trying to overthrow Hernandez, whose power bases, such as the army and police, remain loyal to him. Instead, Libre is trying to position itself as a viable contender for power in Honduras' November 2021 presidential election. Hernandez is an increasingly unpopular figure, with high-profile corruption cases and frequent blackouts in major cities such as Tegucigalpa, the capital, and San Pedro Sula diminishing his low approval rating.

Libre and its political allies are largely focused on pressuring the president and showing their strength through street demonstrations and roadblocks. The opposition can mount such protests for months at a time, though their intensity ebbs and flows. Numerous triggers for renewed left-wing protests exist, such as ongoing corruption scandals and often heavy-handed police tactics with protesters.

The White House could use rising or even steady migration driven by Honduran unrest to press Mexico to accept a "safe third country" agreement or else be slapped with tariffs.

Such demonstrations will disrupt the flow of goods, fuel and laborers between virtually all major cities in the country. Lengthy demonstrations will also hit key exports such as textiles and automotive wiring harnesses. Extensive disruptions to daily life will cause greater economic pain for the country's informal labor force, which accounts for around half of all laborers. The informal labor force depends on untaxed, largely menial labor and is largely employed in the service industry. Prolonged demonstrations will exacerbate the already-heavy incentives for informal laborers to leave the country. So as protests stifle economic activity, they will drive more migrants north.

The trend of rising migration is likely to develop in late 2019 and early 2020, just as Mexico is again trying to deflect the threat of tariffs from the United States. At their next meeting with White House officials, representatives of the Mexican government will likely tout achievements made in sealing the border and deploying a long-term security presence there, deterring more and more migrants. The White House meanwhile will likely make additional demands of Mexico, the most important of which will be that Mexico sign a "safe third country" agreement with the United States, which will designate Mexico a safe place for migrants seeking asylum and make it difficult for them to request asylum in the United States, and will likely threaten Mexico with tariffs again if it does not.

The Mexican government will try to delay agreeing to such a deal until after the November 2020 U.S. presidential election in case Trump loses and the subsequent president decouples trade policy with Mexico from the question of illegal immigration. But Mexico may not be able to delay making concessions to the United States until then if the pace of illegal border crossings swells too quickly.

Crafty_Dog

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Argentina leads in counterterrorism
« Reply #152 on: July 22, 2019, 12:29:10 PM »


Argentina: Latin America's New Leader in Counterterrorism
by Joseph M. Humire
The Gatestone Institute
July 17, 2019
https://www.meforum.org/58965/argentina-latin-americas-new-leader-in-counterterrorism


Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Chile, Argentina
« Reply #154 on: October 28, 2019, 05:07:48 AM »

Chilean Capitalism on Trial
Market policies have been successful. So why are people taking to the streets?
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Oct. 27, 2019 4:41 pm ET
Opinion: Chile’s Capitalism Is Under Attack
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Opinion: Chile’s Capitalism Is Under Attack
Opinion: Chile’s Capitalism Is Under Attack
On October 19, 2019, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera declared a state of emergency to protect property and human life as protests and riots rocked the country. Image: Fernando Bizerra Jr/Zuma Press

At press time it was too early to call a winner in Argentina’s presidential election Sunday. But Peronist Alberto Fernández and his vice-presidential running mate, former President Cristina Kirchner, were widely expected to defeat the re-election bid of center-right President Mauricio Macri.

Primary results in August indicated that voters blame the incumbent for high inflation, the rising cost of public services and anemic economic growth. Yet a Fernández-Kirchner win implies a return to the left-wing populism that has long undermined Argentine living standards. Mrs. Kirchner’s government (2007-2015) was notoriously corrupt and used its power to deny due process to its political enemies.

Mr. Macri made many mistakes, but he aimed for a more market-oriented economy and to restore the rule of law. His loss could turn out to be bad news for millions of Argentines who yearn for greater freedom.

Yet no one expects Argentina’s center-right, if it loses, to go rampaging through the streets, burning cars, stealing, blocking roads and destroying public transportation. That kind of politics is the specialty of the left. It has been on display this month in Chile, where left-wing terrorists savaged Santiago and cities around the country with violence.

This happened in a nation that, as the newspaper La Tercera reported on Oct. 5, has seen the poverty rate fall below 9%, down from 68% in 1990. Income inequality has also been coming down.

There is still plenty of work to do. But civilized societies settle questions of governance at the ballot box and through independent institutions, not with firebombs. So why is the democratically elected Chilean President Sebastián Piñera back on his heels, with little support from “democrats” in the media, academia and politics, after weeks of violence in the nation’s streets? It’s a double standard that deserves attention.

The uprising in Chile began Oct. 7 when groups of students in Santiago jumped subway turnstiles to protest a fare increase. In the days that followed, peaceful protests and further incidents of lawlessness spread throughout the country. On Saturday over a million demonstrators poured into the streets of Santiago to voice grievances—reportedly everything from the high cost of living to income inequality and climate change.

Yet it is unlikely that the eyes of the world would be on Chile if not for the perpetrators of violence, who took advantage of the moment to wreak havoc and demand a new constitution. Subway stations were destroyed, and supermarkets and other stores were looted and burned. Some 18 people died, most of them caught in fires during the looting.

Mr. Piñera was forced to declare a state of emergency and put the army on the street to protect property and life. But empathy isn’t the president’s strong suit, and in the absence of an effective communications team the narrative is now controlled by his adversaries.

The central government already subsidizes nearly half the public transportation fare in Santiago. What’s more, student fares didn’t go up. The independent commission charged with setting the prices announced an increase of 3.75% for peak riders on the metro; off-peak fares were reduced.

Fare increases are never popular. But the hard left has spent years planting socialism in the Chilean psyche via secondary schools, universities, the media and politics.

Even as the country has grown richer than any of its neighbors by defending private property, competition and the rule of law, Chileans marinate in anticapitalist propaganda. The millennials who poured into the streets to promote class warfare reflect that influence.

The Chilean right has largely abandoned its obligation to engage in the battle of ideas in the public square. Mr. Piñera isn’t an economic liberal and makes no attempt to defend the morality of the market. He hasn’t even reversed the antigrowth policies of his predecessor, Socialist Michelle Bachelet. Chileans have one side of the story pounded into their heads. As living standards rise, so do expectations. When reality doesn’t keep up, the ground is already fertile for socialists to plow.

The violence has another explanation. To chalk it up to spontaneity requires the suspension of disbelief. As one intelligence official in the region told me Friday: “It takes a lot of money to move this number of people and to engage them in this level of violence.” The explosive devices used, he said, were “far more sophisticated than Molotov cocktails.”

Foreign subversives are suspected of playing a key role, with Cuba and Venezuela at the top of the list. The São Paulo Forum, a group of hard-left socialists put together by Fidel Castro in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall, espouses this radicalism.

The actual list of assailants, we don’t know. But Chile has been hit by a well-organized enemy out to bring down the democratic government. That’s something that should alarm all free societies in the region.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.

Crafty_Dog

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Argentina chooses Peronism yet again
« Reply #155 on: October 28, 2019, 05:09:41 AM »
second post


Argentina’s Peronist Repeat
The ill-governed nation hands the government back to the left.
By Editorial Board
Oct. 28, 2019 7:29 am ET
Presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez celebrates his victory after election results in Buenos Aires, Argentina October 27, 2019. Photo: agustin marcarian/Reuters

The cliche is that democracies get the government they deserve, but we’re not sure Argentina deserves the left-wing government it elected Sunday. Argentines routed incumbent Mauricio Macri, but in electing Alberto Fernández as the next President and Cristina Kirchner as Vice President they are trusting the same Peronist Party that has ruined the economy before.

Mr. Macri inherited a mess from Mrs. Kirchner, who was President from 2007-2015 following four years of her husband’s rule. Inflation was rampant, and the rule of law debased as the Kirchners confiscated foreign assets. The Kirchners put their domestic adversaries in jail and tried to silence the press.

Yet Mr. Macri was never able to turn the economy around. He tried to be a political conciliator and refused to engage in reprisals. He freed the exchange rate, lifted capital controls, and resolved a longstanding dispute with international creditors who had refused to accept haircuts on government bonds.

But his policy of gradual economic reform wasn’t enough to fix deep-seated fiscal and structural problems. In 2015 government spending as a percentage of gross domestic product was nearly double what it was throughout the second half of the 20th century. Yet Mr. Macri never took on spending or inflexible labor laws in any serious way, and the pressure for high taxes remained.

To attract investment, Argentina also needed to restore confidence in the peso. Yet the money base grew rapidly, and the central bank was forced to prop up the currency with high interest rates. Inflation for 2017 was about 25%.

A rising price level continued to erode the living standards of the Argentine middle class even as the country’s private and public debts increased. An historic drought in the southern hemisphere in the summer of 2017-2018 didn’t help by damaging all-important agricultural exports.

In May 2018 Mr. Macri went to the International Monetary Fund for a $50 billion standby loan, which was unpopular at home and didn’t reassure anyone abroad. By September 2018 the peso had lost half its value from the start of the year. The peso fell again when Mr. Macri lost the first round of presidential voting in this year’s August primary. Inflation jumped as Argentines fled pesos for dollars. Mr. Macri rejected as too risky economic advice to control inflation by dollarizing the economy, and now he finds himself out of power and his country at even greater risk of left-wing policies.

The Peronists campaigned largely against Mr. Macri’s record, but their trademark is more of the same: spend-and-tax policies, onerous labor regulation and easy money. The party does have a wing that is more pragmatic than the Kirchner left if Mr. Fernández can maintain enough political control. Another difference this time is that Mr. Fernández is courting the Chinese as creditors instead of the IMF. The Argentine left is anti-American, but as Malaysia and other countries have learned, China’s terms are hardly generous.

We wish Argentines the best, but whoever said insanity was doing the same thing over and expecting better results might have had this once prosperous nation in mind.

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Stratfor: Could there be a Cold War Reboot in Latin America
« Reply #156 on: November 29, 2019, 11:15:00 AM »
Could There Be a Cold War Reboot in Latin America?
Scott Stewart
Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor
8 MINS READ
Nov 26, 2019 | 09:00 GMT

HIGHLIGHTS

Russia is working with former Soviet allies in Latin America to undermine U.S. influence and distract Washington from Moscow's activities elsewhere. 

In doing so, Moscow is using online propaganda to stoke the anti-government rhetoric now fueling protests in Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia.

Russia will likely deploy similar tactics to weaken other U.S.-allied governments in Latin America, placing Western businesses and organizations operating in the region increasingly at risk.

South America is again in flames. A wave of anti-government protests has ravaged the streets of Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia in recent months. Such chaos, of course, isn't new to the region. From the 1960s to the 1990s, terrorist and insurgent groups instigated a series of vicious Cold War proxy battles. But in this iteration, which I'm calling the "Cold War 2.0" in Latin America, it's not armed proxy groups in play but already existing social tensions that Moscow is adeptly weaponizing to sabotage Western power structures in the region.

Indeed, with threats to Russia's periphery more daunting than ever, it can be argued that the Cold War never really ended for Moscow. But regardless of whether Russia's current actions in Latin America constitute a second Cold War, or if they're instead merely a reinvigoration of the original struggle, it's apparent that many of the same actors are actively involved in the unfolding unrest in Washington's backyard — and largely, for the same reasons.

The Big Picture

U.S. efforts to stem Russia's influence in its borderlands have compelled Moscow to reassert its geopolitical heft around the world. In Latin America, this can be evidenced by Russia's attempts to protect the Venezuelan government from the U.S.-backed opposition movement, while working to dismantle more Western-allied governments elsewhere in the region. 

The Soviet Legacy in Latin America

In its push to establish a global communist utopia, the Soviet Union encouraged exporting its revolution abroad to "liberate" workers around the world. But as the United States and its allies banded together to contain communist expansion, the Soviet Union began to feel threatened by the alliance structures that surrounded it, as well as the presence of U.S. troops and weapons on its periphery. In response, the Soviets embraced the Cuban Revolution and attempted to place nuclear missiles in Cuba — a gambit that ultimately led to the Cuban Missile Crisis. But even after the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba, they continued to use the island as a beachhead in the Western Hemisphere from which to expand their influence from Canada to Chile — supporting communist parties in the Americas, while also training, financing and arming a host of Marxist terrorist and insurgent groups across the region.
 
Moscow's efforts in South and Central America, in particular, were largely conducted through their battle-hardened Cuban allies, as evidenced by the revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara's ill-fated foray into Bolivia in the late 1960s. The Soviets viewed such activities as a way to not only expand world communism, but to counter U.S. anti-communist efforts elsewhere. By creating problems in Washington's own backyard, Soviet actions also helped distract the United States and its resources from those other efforts. Growing communist influence in the region embroiled the U.S. government in a series of efforts that involved high-profile events such as the 1954 coup in Guatemala; the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba; the 1973 coup in Chile; and support for the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s.

Russia's Current Activities

Fast forward to the present, however, and the U.S. threat to Russian influence has only become more acute. The peripheral security buffer that once protected Russia from Europe has significantly eroded following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Former Warsaw Pact member states such as Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania have since become NATO members, as have the former Soviet-occupied Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

Growing fears of entrapment in Russia ultimately paved the way for the rise of President Vladimir Putin in 2000. But despite Putin's promises of restoring the country's past power, Russia's strategic buffer has continued to take hits. The fall of pro-Russian leaders in Ukraine in the wake of the 2014 Maidan protests and the 2005 Orange Revolution, in particular, have only ratcheted up Russian unease. To help offset the loss of such a crucial borderland, Putin has annexed Crimea and invaded southeastern Ukraine. But Russia still undoubtedly feels the sting of having lost the strategic depth of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Bloc that had long shielded the country's soft underbelly.

Instead of arming Marxist groups with weapons, this time Moscow's arming anti-government protesters with rhetoric to counter U.S. interests in Latin America.

The loosening grasp on its borderlands is now again compelling Russia to resort to its old tricks in Latin America. This has notably included propping up Nicolas Maduro's failing regime in Venezuela over the past year with the help of Moscow's Cuban partners. Cuba has been a key security partner of Venezuelan regimes since shortly after former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999. The vast web of Cuban intelligence operators and assets that has infiltrated Venezuelan society since then have informed the Maduro regime about potential threats while keeping the opposition divided and squabbling. Meanwhile, Russia's financial, military and technical intelligence support — not to mention the close protection from Russian military contractors — have been critical to the Maduro regime in recent years as well. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Maduro would have long been ousted had it not been for Russia's and Cuba's help.
 
But the activities of Russia and its Cuban partners in Latin America are not limited to Venezuela. On Nov. 13, officials arrested four Cubans in Bolivia for allegedly financing anti-government protests in support of the country's former socialist president, Evo Morales. An ally of the Russian-backed Maduro regime, Morales was forced to seek refuge in Mexico after his victory in an apparently fixed election sparked widespread protests. In recent weeks, the Organization of American States (OAS) has also accused Cuba and Venezuela of helping instigate the anti-government protests in Ecuador, Chile and Colombia. Just as the Soviets bankrolled Cuban paramilitary efforts in Latin America during the first Cold War, it is clear that Russia is still funding these efforts, as both Cuba and Venezuela are severely cash-strapped and could not conduct these external operations alone.

Using Social Angst for Political Gain

The Soviets and Russians have had ample experience using protests to undermine their Western opponents' place in power. In the United States, there's evidence of Moscow's hand in both the anti-war protests of the 1960s and anti-nuclear protests of the 1980s, as well as the anti-hydraulic fracturing movement and the Occupy Movement in more recent years. And, of course, there's Russia's intervention in the 2016 Brexit referendum followed by the U.S. presidential election that same year.

Indeed, over the decades, Russia has become increasingly adept at tapping into very real social sentiments and issues to achieve its own political goals. In concert with its Cuban and Venezuelan allies, Russia has proven adept at amplifying the tension along very real social fault lines within these countries. Russia is not simply fabricating issues underpinning the unrest out of thin air; rather, it's simply providing the "spark" to ignite the underlying economic and social grievances that have quietly been brewing just beneath the surface in these countries for years.

Russia also now has vast experience using social media to disperse disinformation on the internet, just as it did ahead of the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the U.S. presidential election in 2016. In recent years, Moscow has also deployed similar online propaganda campaigns in Germany, Ukraine and the Baltic states. And there are signs it's attempting to do the same ahead of the next U.S. election in 2020.  We can thus expect to see these disinformation tools used elsewhere in the region to support socialist allies and oppose governments that are democratic, more free-market-oriented or otherwise allied with the United States.

Foreign Stakeholders in the Crosshairs

Given the socialist, anarchist and anti-capitalist bent of many of the anti-government movements, protesters have unsurprisingly already begun targeting commercial interests in the region. More than 100 stores owned by Walmart's subsidiary in Chile, for example, have so far been looted and burned amid escalating anti-capitalist demonstrations in the country. As protests rage on across the continent, U.S. and European businesses operating in these countries will likely continue to be targeted, including potentially mining and energy companies, hotels, banks and airline offices. U.S. diplomatic facilities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the region could also come under fire. A number of businesses and NGOs have already pulled their personnel out of Bolivia following the U.S. Department of State's recent travel warning, which also urged American citizens living there to leave.
 
Given Russia's imperative to undermine growing U.S. influence closer home, as well as globally, Moscow will do everything in its power to ensure the protests continue apace right outside Washington's door. Businesses and organizations across South America will thus need to closely monitor the dynamics of the unrest in Latin America as it evolves and potentially escalates in the coming weeks. Otherwise, they may soon find themselves caught in the crossfire of another Cold War proxy battle.

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GPF: Latin America's place in the world
« Reply #158 on: July 05, 2020, 09:17:20 AM »
June 17, 2020   View On Website
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    Latin America’s Place in the World
The region operates on its own timeline.
By: Allison Fedirka

Whether they like it or not, most countries are drawn into the international system in one way or another. For this reason, introducing the concept of “international insertion” into the study of international relations may seem redundant or unnecessary. But it plays an important role in the study of Latin America’s international relations, in particular, because it helps explain the region’s geopolitical realities, which are founded in its place at the periphery of the global system.

The concept involves identifying the ways in which a country can become more involved in the global system. In geopolitics, not all countries are created equal; some are more powerful than others, but the behavior of all is governed by their attempts to acquire and maintain power. Powerful states that are able drive the global system are considered the center of gravity, and weak states that do not have the means to influence the global system exist on the periphery, orbiting around the center. Geography determines whether a country is part of the periphery or the center because these are the things that determine a country’s power potential. Although technological advances have offered countries ways to overcome their limitations, many Latin American states remain on the margins of the geopolitical system.

This is because the region operates on its own geopolitical timeline. Equally important is the power dynamic that has been hardwired into these states over time. Geography may have placed these countries in the periphery, but their political, economic and military conditions, developed over long periods of time, have kept them there.
 
(click to enlarge)
Defining Latin American History

With these principles in mind, we can begin to deconstruct Latin America’s geopolitical history by first defining time periods and then studying the lasting impact of political, economic and military events that occur during these periods. There are three distinct epochs – long geopolitical cycles each consisting of different eras – in Latin American history: the pre-Columbian epoch (1000-1492), the colonial epoch (1492-1810) and the U.S. epoch (1898-present). The period from 1810 to 1898 is considered an anomalous era that does not fit into the epochs that came before or after. Each epoch also has a critical era that helped permanently shape the region.

During the pre-Columbian epoch, Latin America had well-developed civilizations that operated completely independently of the European and Asian systems. Due to the technological limitations of the time, geography significantly dictated the needs and capabilities of regions and civilizations. Nonetheless, it was during this time that indigenous civilizations in the Americas reached their peak of sophistication. This epoch’s final era, the empires era (1400-1500), saw the rapid, parallel emergence of the Aztec and Inca empires. Both empires quickly expanded by conquering and absorbing new civilizations. They served as the centers of gravity in Mesoamerica and the Pacific-Andean region and avoided major conflict because geographic barriers ensured little to no contact between them. Smaller, organized civilizations that shared a common language also existed east of the Andes in present-day Colombia, the Amazon and the Rio de la Plata Basin. But none of them achieved empire status because the landscape, resources, climate and livelihoods did not support the establishment of large cities, much less the expansion of territorial control. The arrival of Spanish conquistadors brought the pre-Columbian epoch and the empires era to an abrupt end.
 
(click to enlarge)

The colonial epoch marked Latin America’s first opportunity to integrate into the larger global system. But the arrival of the Europeans did not immediately open up the region to the world. Rather, Latin America interacted with just two European powers – the Spanish and the Portuguese – which sought to maintain exclusive control over their newfound territories, particularly with regard to trade. Viceroys were allowed to trade directly with the European colonial power that controlled these territories for most of the epoch. The ruling powers continued to expand their control over local civilizations, imported African slaves and incorporated them into their empires either by using them for labor or through social and marital links.

The final era in this epoch – the Bourbon era (1714-1810) – had the most lasting impact. After the War of the Spanish Succession, Spain quickly moved to recover its position as a European power. To do so, the crown introduced a series of changes that would become known as the Bourbon reforms. Many of these reforms focused on Spain’s relationship with the colonies and were aimed at reducing the power of local populations, consolidating control and optimizing earnings. This led to administrative reforms that established the general borders that roughly represent the region’s nations today. The reforms finally allowed for trade among Spanish colonies – rather than just between Spain and the colonies – but not with areas outside of the Spanish empire. So even though the barriers between the Eastern and Western hemispheres had been broken, Spain’s centralization of power and trade restrictions limited Latin America’s global interaction. Despite the opportunity to integrate into the larger global system, it failed to do so. Resentment over these reforms sowed the seeds of the independence movement that would later grip the region.

The independence and accommodation era is an anomaly because it marks a unique period in which no single power (or two combined powers) dominated the region. While it’s true that transitions between epochs are often opaque, a unique characteristic in Latin American epochs is the presence of a dominating power. But during this era, no prevailing power existed, and neither the U.S. nor the Europeans could control the region.

Latin American countries faced three challenges during this time. The first was potential resettlement by European powers.

Spain had launched a handful of failed attempts to regain territory, Brazil remained a monarchy and France tried to replace the Mexican government multiple times. European recolonization, therefore, could not be ruled out. The second challenge was establishing territorial boundaries with neighboring countries. As fledgling nations tried to consolidate control over their territory, war between the newly formed states was always a possibility. The third challenge was the possibility of civil war or domestic unrest, which was prevalent in all these countries as interests and visions for the future clashed. Ultimately, this meant that Latin American countries were unable to establish regional power centers and were left relatively weak compared to their counterparts in the north.
 
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The arrival of the U.S. epoch marked the return of domination by a power that would regulate the region’s interaction with the rest of the world. In 1898, the U.S. emerged as the Western Hemisphere’s regional power. It had established full access to the Pacific coast, settled its border with Mexico, unified after a civil war and expelled Spain from the Caribbean. Most important, it had developed a world-class navy that enabled the country to defend coastal approaches, intimidate foreign aggressors and enforce its foreign policy, including the Monroe Doctrine, which until this point had about as much weight as the paper it was written on.

This epoch kicked off with the Roosevelt era (1898-1945), so named for the strong influence Theodore Roosevelt had over it. It was characterized by aggressive U.S. military posturing and involvement in the region in order to keep European powers out of the Western Hemisphere and establish U.S. dominance. Its highlights include U.S. intimidation of German vessels away from Venezuela, support for Panama’s independence, building of the Panama Canal, dominance over Cuba through measures like the Platt Amendment, military expeditions in to Mexico, and waging the Banana Wars across Central America and the Caribbean.

After this era, U.S. power continued to grow, creating more constraints on the region’s behavior. The U.S. presented the entire Western Hemisphere as its sphere of influence, limiting its interaction with outside powers and further isolating the region from the world.

Out of Synch

Latin America’s geopolitical time scale does not synch with the global cycle. The first global epoch started in 1492, with the European discovery of the Americas and forays into Africa and Asia, and ended in 1992. Europe was the center of gravity (indeed, it is known as the European epoch) as different European countries took turns at the seat of power. For Latin America, however, the age of “global opening” during this time remained fairly limited to interactions with Spain and Portugal.

Latin America’s colonial epoch coincided with much of the European epoch but not all of it and ended about 100 years earlier. During the independence era, the region was far too consumed with problems at home and abroad to join the global system from a position a strength. In the 20th century, the distinction between the global and Latin American epochs persisted but became subtler after the Roosevelt era. Latin America’s U.S. epoch predates the North America epoch (1992-present) by roughly 100 years. And appears to generally coincide because of the shared trait of U.S. domination. However, the epochs follow different time scales and are measured differently (regional vs. global).

That Latin America’s cycles do not align with those of the rest of the world makes it incredibly hard for the region to tap into the global system. Latin America was operating on its own geopolitical timetable prior to European arrival, and the colonial period failed to fully bring the region into the global system and synch its cycles with those of the rest of the world. Latin American epochs tend to feature one or two powers that overwhelm the countries or civilizations of the region and limit their ability to interact with other regions, reinforcing the geographic limitations that have relegated this part of the world to the periphery. And so far, technology has not been enough to bring it into the fold.   




Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Washington's new economic strategy in Latin America
« Reply #159 on: September 23, 2020, 09:08:00 AM »
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    Washington’s New Economic Strategy in Latin America
Nearshoring is as much a geopolitical issue as an economic one.
By: Allison Fedirka

A few weeks ago, the head of the U.S. National Security Council – not a State Department official, as would normally be the protocol – introduced the Western Hemisphere Strategic Framework, Washington’s new economic strategy for its half of the world, while in Miami. Then, for the first time ever, Washington successfully lobbied the Inter-American Development Bank to take on a U.S. official as its head – a position typically reserved for non-U.S. and non-Brazilian members who have less voting power in the bank. Later still, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made history as the first secretary to visit Suriname and Guyana.

Developments such as these belie the ordinarily passive approach the U.S. takes to managing relations with its southern neighbors. Washington has long held the upper hand and so has rarely needed to tinker with a system that works in its favor. But as it debuts its new economic strategy for the region, it will resurrect memories for countries that have been hurt by these kinds of initiatives in the past. The U.S. may see new-found potential in its relationship with Latin America, but the same cannot necessarily be said for Latin America.

A National Security Issue

The increase in the United States’ commercial interest in Latin America owes largely to a shift in focus from military conflict in the Middle East to economic conflict with China (and, to a lesser extent, Russia).

The U.S.-China trade war has changed supply chain security from a purely economic issue to a national security issue. In short, China’s role as a global manufacturing hub – especially for medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, microchips and other electronics – is now considered a threat. Consequently, Washington has begun to consider new locations for U.S. companies whose factories are currently in China. With its geographic proximity, relatively cheap labor force and firmly established ties, Latin America is an obvious candidate.
 
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The potential relocation of factories is as much a geopolitical question as it is an economic one. Companies generally go where it makes the most economic sense, but when there are geopolitical interests at stake, it is up to the governments to create incentives and frameworks that compel other actors to produce the desired results.

Washington’s latest hemisphere-wide economic initiative, Back to the Americas, means to address mutual economic-security needs, most notably by relocating U.S. manufacturing companies to Latin America. The relocation would be supported by U.S. investments in infrastructure in host countries that would, in theory, drive economic growth. At the end of July, Mauricio Claver-Carone, then the White House senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs and now the IDB president, said that up to $50 billion in investments could enter the region through Back to the Americas through the participation of four U.S. government departments as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and the Export-Import Bank. It builds on the Growth in the Americas initiative, which launched in 2018 and expanded its scope in December 2019 to focus largely on using private sector investment in infrastructure projects to create new jobs and increase economic growth. A key component to achieving these goals is the reduction of regulatory, legal, procurement and market barriers to investment by host country governments.
 
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The timing is hardly coincidental: China has steadily enlarged its economic footprint in Latin America over the past two decades. Beijing used the region to help meet its demand for hydrocarbons, metals and food supplies. From 2000 to 2019, Chinese trade with the region grew from $12 billion to nearly $315 billion. It is currently the top trade partner of Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Argentina. (In every country except Argentina, China replaced the U.S.) According to the Inter-American Dialogue, Chinese state loans to the region exceeded $140 billion from 2005 to 2019, though the amounts have significantly dropped since 2015. China has also made substantial investments in mining and agriculture, power generation, utilities and infrastructure, though again the pace has slowed over the past three years.

The Back to the Americas initiative aims to preserve the U.S. foothold in the region and keep foreign competition at bay. The recently announced Western Hemisphere Strategic Framework, however, rests on five pillars: securing the homeland, advancing economic growth, promoting democracy and the rule of law, countering foreign influence and strengthening alliances with like-minded partners. Relocating manufacturing to the Americas not only takes the supply chain out of China’s hands but also helps diversify it. The finished products made for U.S. consumption may also allow the U.S. to regain some of the space it has lost to China in Latin America. If Washington can encourage Latin American countries to create environments conducive to U.S. interests by giving them money, there may be less need for Chinese financing and more transparency with financial activities, and these countries can more easily access funding from northern financial institutions.

What Washington Has to Offer

But U.S. ambitions will face several obstacles. Local governments may find themselves in the uncomfortable scenario of having to choose between Beijing or Washington, including over how they adopt 5G technologies. Many will seek a balance that will allow them to reap the benefits of siding with one without alienating the other.

Unlike China, the U.S. doesn’t have state-owned enterprises that can do its bidding, or seemingly endless discretionary spending for overseas projects. There will be some funding by the U.S. government along with additional money from places like the IDB, which contributes about $12 billion in infrastructure funding annually, but private enterprise will play a greater role. The U.S. government can incentivize companies, but it can’t force them to participate in its plans. Companies could simply decide the market isn’t right for them.

More importantly, the U.S. strategy requires buy-in from participating countries. This is why it contains provisions that may meet the region’s needs. By targeting infrastructure projects, the U.S. is effectively addressing the long-standing economic development challenge of huge infrastructure investment gaps faced by every country in the region. A 2019 study by the IDB estimated that the region’s infrastructure investment gap is the equivalent of 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (roughly $150 billion) per year. U.S. investments alone can’t solve these problems, but neither can the host countries without large outside capital injections, which U.S. companies can offer.

Infrastructure development also addresses the region’s interest in improving its overall trade competitiveness. Poor transportation and logistics facilities play a major role in raising the price of domestically produced goods to the point that they struggle to compete in global markets.
 
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Furthermore, the focus on manufacturing aims to diversify the region’s economic activity away from natural resource extraction. Reducing dependence on commodities would inoculate local economies to price shocks and potentially lead to higher-value goods being produced.

Not every Latin American country has the same relationship with the U.S., of course, and those most likely to participate will be countries that have traditionally allied with the U.S. or whose economies are too integrated with the U.S. not to participate. Panama and Costa Rica, for example, are already working to address domestic regulatory measures to meet U.S. requirements, while Ecuador admitted it has an economic need to enact reforms that will facilitate economic cooperation with the U.S.

The poster child for what this initiative could look like in practice is Colombia, which is predisposed to keep a close relationship with the U.S. and has already thrown its support behind the project. Colombia’s ambassador to the U.S. openly acknowledged that Bogota wants to benefit from U.S. nearshoring efforts and welcomes it as an opportunity to reindustrialize. In some ways, it has been preparing all year. In February, the government launched a new national logistics policy that focuses on reducing logistics costs by simplifying bureaucratic procedures and improving road and fluvial transportation infrastructure. The objective of the plan is to incentivize foreign direct investment, boost exports and create economic opportunities. This was followed in the summer by new tax breaks and other measures to attract up to $11.5 billion in non-hydrocarbon foreign direct investment by 2022. In direct response to Back to the Americas, ProColombia has conducted a targeted campaign to identify companies interested in moving to Colombia from China.

Concerns

The U.S. has a long and complicated history with Latin America when it comes to cooperation, particularly when geopolitical agendas are so closely tied to economic ones. There is a camp that looks at increased U.S. interest in the region with skepticism. Though they share a desire to see value-added goods hold a greater share of exports, they believe the U.S. manufacturing initiative runs the risk of producing low-value-added exports by exploiting local workforces. There is also concern that increased trade with the U.S. could render the region a depository for U.S. goods. Similar initiatives in the past have damaged domestic industries in the region, prompting governments to pursue costly import substitution schemes and to impose strict regulatory environments to prop up local industry and employment.

The other major issue is that there are strings attached. The U.S. government and companies alike will be looking for certain security and political guarantees from their partners. Ultimately, the ability to offer attractive investment environments to U.S. investors will fall to the Latin American governments themselves. Past instances where countries in the region have carried out reforms to participate in U.S.-supported economic programs ended poorly. For example, President John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress purported to enhance economic cooperation to improve Latin America’s per capita GDP, establish democratic governments, achieve price stability, enact land reform and improve other economic and social planning. Washington spent $1.4 billion annually from 1962 to 1967 on this program but failed to produce the desired economic development. Similarly, the Washington Consensus was introduced to the region to help solve the debt crisis and boost growth. It required countries to implement northern-formulated, structural economic reforms that clashed with many of the region’s political and social systems. This led to its failure and rejection, most notably in Argentina.

Hence why this is as much a geopolitical initiative as an economic one. The economic question can be answered only after there are clear sectors, projects and numbers to work with. The current economic environment favors the U.S., but complicated pasts are hard to overlook. All governments will also have to evaluate participation in these plans against national needs. The fact that the U.S. has renewed interest in the region has geopolitical significance considering the U.S. has managed to muscle through its agenda but not with strong results.