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Biden's first steps in Latin America

Welcome to the very first edition of Foreign Policy's Latin America Brief. I am a Rio de Janeiro based journalist covering the region for outlets like Foreign Policy, NPR and PRX & # 39; s The World. I've lived in Brazil for the past eight years, even though I grew up in Texas.

With this round-up, I'll keep you updated on the news of the week as well as trace the contours of the debates that will shape the future of Latin America – from geopolitics to economics to human rights. I also hope to share some of the enormous cultural richness and sense of humor of the region.

This week we'll look at what the Beginning of a Biden presidency means for Latin America like the case of a former Mexican defense minister complicates cooperation in the fight against crime with the United States and Ecuador's upcoming elections.

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After an inauguration day full of symbols of a more inclusive America – Jennifer Lopez & # 39; Spanish version of the Pledge of Allegiance, the again bilingual website of the White House – USA. President Joe Biden issued several executive orders aimed at undoing elements of former President Donald Trump's tough immigration policy, which has laid the foundation for his limited engagement in Latin America during his four years in office.

One order stopped new construction on the southern border wall and another broke an expansion of immigration enforcement on US soil in the Trump era. The Homeland Security Department announced that it would suspend the deportation of some undocumented immigrants for 100 days and stop enrollment in a program that forces asylum seekers to await their cases south of the border. Biden also campaigned with lawmakers for comprehensive immigration reform.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador praised the measures, while Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado welcomed the United States "back to multilateralism". Even Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro sent Biden a congratulatory letter suggesting a joint effort to conserve the Amazon rainforest – a dramatic U-turn for the Brazilian leader if it is true.

It won't be easy, however, to improve four years of Trump doctrine towards Latin America. During his tenure, Trump put pressure on countries like Mexico and Guatemala to transform their own security forces and migration protocols to prevent migrants from leaving those countries. The results were fully exhibited last weekend in southeast Guatemala when security forces used batons and tear gas to repel a caravan of an estimated 7,000 migrants northbound.

Meanwhile, a Biden government official warned migrants that now is not the time to try to reach the United States as priority for processing is given to those already at the border or within the US Territory. To work towards a more humane migration policy, the Mexican and Central American governments need to be reset, a task that has been claimed by former ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson, said Robbie Gramer of foreign affairs.

In addition to migration, Biden's circle has indicated that his government will also focus on anti-corruption, multilateralism, climate crisis and wealth creation measures, especially given the growing Chinese development aid in the region.

In this final installment, one of the stronger moves new Biden officials could take would be to support an International Monetary Fund (IMF) crisis liquidity mechanism that the Trump administration has effectively blocked. The operations, known as Special Drawing Rights, were crucial in bringing money to poor nations after the 2008 financial crisis.

Given the current incentives, most Latin American nations are not expected to return to pre-pandemic real per capita income by 2025.

Wednesday January 27th: The election campaign begins for the local elections in El Salvador

Thursday January 28th: Argentine President Alberto Fernández speaks at the World Economic Forum Dialogue

Monday February 1st: The Brazilian House of Commons and the Senate elect speakers

Sunday February 7th: Ecuadorian parliamentary elections and first round of presidential elections

US-Mexican rift. After Mexico cleared former Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos from drug trafficking charges by US prosecutors, it released hundreds of pages of information the Drug Enforcement Administration sent its own investigators. On Saturday, a US Justice Department spokesman said the department was deeply disappointed with the move, which "questions whether the US can continue to share information to aid Mexico's own criminal investigation."

New protests in Port-au-Prince. Hundreds of protesters marched through Haiti's capital on Wednesday demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. Some were wounded by rubber bullets; The United States warned this week of "a pattern of human rights abuses and abuses" amid ongoing demonstrations in Haiti. The opposition says Moise's term ends on February 7, while Moïse, who has ruled by decree for a year, says it won't end until 2022.

People show their vaccination cards after being vaccinated against COVID-19 with Sinovac Biotec's CoronaVac vaccine at Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Jan. 18.Mauro Pimentel / AFP / Getty Images

Vaccinations in Brazil. Brazil, with its 211 million inhabitants, launched its national COVID-19 vaccination plan on Monday with 6 million doses of the vaccine made by China's Sinovac. Bolsonaro, who mimicked Trump's rhetoric against China despite intense commercial ties between the two countries, had previously made fun of Sinovac's vaccine, which is made in Brazil at an institute affiliated with the Sao Paulo government.

A new IMF line of credit to Panama. The fund agreed to lend $ 2.7 billion to the nation over a two-year period to help combat coronavirus-related shocks. The loan highlights how badly the virus hit even the top performing economies in Latin America before 2020. Before 2020, Panama had grown by an average of 4.6 percent over the past five years. Its relatively wealthy neighbor Costa Rica also started talks last week about a potential $ 1.75 billion from the IMF.

Focus on: Ecuador is preparing to vote

From the streets to the polls. In two weeks' time, Ecuadorians will be casting ballots for a new president and federal legislature. The vote is taking place as Ecuador has one of the highest deaths in the region during the coronavirus pandemic. Mass street protests also followed in October 2019 against President Lenín Moreno's cuts in fuel subsidies.

Moreno had taken a more market-friendly path than his former ally, the left-wing former President Rafael Correa, including approving an IMF adjustment package that resulted in subsidy cuts. With his approval on the ground, Moreno will not seek a second term.

Instead, the top candidates for the February 7 presidential election are a leftist economist closely linked to Correa, a socially conservative banker and an indigenous leader who protagonized the 2019 demonstrations.

At the top of most opinion polls is the 35-year-old economist Andrés Arauz, who says he will rule under Correa's direction. But Correa's repressive legacy, which included crackdown on the press and the judiciary, prompted part of the country's left to decamp its support. Some of them are now supporting Yaku Pérez, the indigenous candidate. Banker Guillermo Lasso, who narrowly lost to Moreno in 2017, is second in the polls.

While Correa still has sufficient support to decide this election, it is noteworthy that many of his former supporters, especially indigenous groups, oppose what they call his corrupt and autocratic rule, and now Pérez is back. Pérez himself supported Lasso in the 2017 runoff election against Moreno and said: "A banker is preferable to a dictatorship."

Brazilian singer Anitta performs in Times Square in New York City on New Year's Eve on December 31, 2020. Gary Hershorn / AFP / Getty Images

On Wednesday, Brazilian pop superstar Anitta, with the collaboration of Diplo and Major Lazer, made "Make it Hot" headlines about being included in Biden-Harris' official opening playlist. The 27-year-old trilingual artist sings the song in Spanish as part of a relatively rare crossover act for Brazilian pop stars: he makes the Latin music charts and then the US market.

We recommend this TIME interview with Anitta, which discusses her unique position as a crossover artist, her place in Brazilian debates on race and cultural appropriation, and how her “trust is evidence of how cultural power has changed globally” becomes. more decentralized than ever before. "

Anitta became increasingly vocal about politics during the Bolsonaro administration and was asked to comment on Biden's inauguration on Brazilian national television. When a president is "more for everyone," she said, referring to Biden as opposed to Trump's "authoritarianism", "I think society is generally changing in a positive way."

That's it for this week.

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