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Diplomacy
Kenyan President William Ruto

Kenyan president will receive White House praise over troops-to-Haiti move − but lack of action across Americas should prompt regional soul-searching

by Jorge Heine

Kenyan President William Ruto will attend a rare U.S. state reception for an African leader on May 23, 2024 – but much of the chat will be about a third country: Haiti. Kenyan troops are preparing to deploy to the Caribbean nation as part of a U.N.-backed mission aimed at bringing stability to a country ravaged by gang violence. The White House event is in part a recognition by Washington of Kenya’s decision to step up to a task that the Biden administration – and much of the West – would rather outsource. Indeed, Haiti has seemingly become a crisis that most international bodies and foreign governments would rather not touch. The U.S., like other major governments in the Americas, has repeatedly ruled out putting its own troops on the ground in Haiti. As someone who has written a book, “Fixing Haiti,” on the last concerted outside intervention – the United Nations’ stabilizing mission known as MINUSTAH – I fear the lack of action by countries in the Americas could increase the risk of Haiti transitioning from a fragile state to a failed one. MINUSTAH was the first U.N. mission formed by a majority of Latin American troops, with Chile and Brazil taking the lead. The outsourcing of that role now to Kenya has sparked concerns from human rights groups. It should also lead to soul-searching questions in capitals from Washington to Brasília, as well as at United Nations headquarters in New York. At the mercy of gangs Haiti’s descent into chaos began almost three years ago with the murder of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. Lawlessness in the nation has seen gangs take control of an estimated 80% of the capital Port-au-Prince and thousands killed in the spiraling violence. Today, the country is not only the poorest in the Americas but is also among the most destitute in the world. About 87.6% of the population is estimated to be living in poverty, with 30% in extreme poverty. Life expectancy is just 63 years, compared with 76 in the United States and 72 in Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. Recipe for disaster International intervention in Haiti has been long overdue. Yet, until now, the attitude of the international community has, from my perspective, been largely to look away. From a humanitarian perspective and in terms of regional security, to allow a country in the Americas to drift into the condition of a failed state controlled by a fluid network of criminal gangs is a recipe for disaster. Yet governments and international organizations in the region are unwilling to step up to confront the crisis directly despite pleas from Haiti and the U.N. The Organization of American States, which in the past played an important role in Haiti and for which I served as an observer to the country’s 1990 presidential elections, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States have been criticized over their slow response to the Haitian crisis. The Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, has made a significant effort, holding a number of meetings on the Haitian crisis; several member states, such as the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica, have committed to sending police forces to Haiti, albeit in small numbers. The United States, in turn, having left Afghanistan in 2021 after a tumultuous 20-year occupation, appears reluctant to send troops anywhere. Rather, Washington would prefer that others take up the role of peacekeeper this time. In response to the offer from Kenya, the State Department said it “commends” the African nation for “responding to Haiti’s call.” Part of this reluctance in the Americas could also be related to the perception – in my view, a misperception – of how past interventions have played out. The United Nations mission from 2004 initially managed to stabilize Haiti after another rocky period. In fact, the country made significant strides before it was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2010. There were bad missteps, for sure, after 2010. A cholera outbreak brought to Haiti by infected troops from Nepal resulted in more than 800,000 infections and 10,000 deaths. Sexual misconduct by some of the U.N.’s blue helmets further tarnished the mission. But the notion that MINUSTAH was a failure is, in my view, quite wrong. And the end of the mission in 2017 certainly didn’t see improved conditions in Haiti. Indeed, after the mission ended, criminal gangs had the run of the country once again and proceeded accordingly. Yet the perceived failure of the U.N. mission has become the basis of a view held by some Haiti watchers that international interventions are not only unsuccessful or misconceived but also counterproductive. Such a view forms the backbone of the notion of Haiti as an “aid state” – as opposed to a “failed state.” In this view, international interventions and the inflow of foreign funds have created a condition of dependency in which the country gets used to having foreigners make key decisions. This, the argument goes, fosters a cycle of corruption and mismanagement. There is no doubt that some previous interventions left much to be desired, and that any new initiative would have to be conducted in close cooperation with Haitian civil society to avoid such pitfalls. But I believe the notion that Haiti, in its current state, would be able to lift itself up without the help of the international community is wishful thinking. The nation has moved too far down the direction of gang control, and what remains of the Haitian state lacks the capacity to change that trajectory. A duty to intervene? Moreover, there is an argument to be made that the international community bears responsibility for the Haitian tragedy and is duty bound to try to fix it. To use one example from the relatively recent past: Haiti, until the early 1980s, was self-sufficient in the production of rice – a key staple there. Yet, pressured by the United States in the 1990s, the country lowered its agricultural tariffs to the bare minimum and, in so doing, destroyed local rice production. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton later apologized for the policy, but its legacy still lasts. Haiti today has to import most of the rice it consumes, largely from the United States. And there isn’t enough of it to go around for all Haitians – the U.N. estimates that nearly half of Haiti’s population of 11.5 million is food insecure. Indeed, from its very beginning as an independent nation in 1804, Haiti has suffered the consequences of its unique place in history: It was simply too much for white colonial powers to see Haiti thrive as the first Black republic resulting from a successful slave rebellion. France retaliated over the loss of what was once considered the world’s wealthiest colony by exacting reparations for a century and a half. Payments from Haiti flowed until 1947 – to the tune of US$21 billion in today’s dollars. The United States took 60 years to recognize Haiti and invaded and occupied the nation from 1915 to 1934. Any thoughts of atoning for past actions, however, seem far from the minds of those looking on as the chaos in Haiti spirals. Rather, many appear to have the kind of mindset expressed in 1994 by current U.S. President Joe Biden when, as a senator discussing the rationale for various interventions, he noted: “If Haiti just quietly sunk into the Caribbean, or rose 300 feet, it wouldn’t matter a whole lot for our interests.”

Diplomacy
Paris, France, 25-04-2024 : Visit of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, for a major speech on Europe at the Sorbonne.

2024 Election Watch: France, the European Union, Germany, and Mexico

by Collin Chapman

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Elections in Europe demonstrate the growing popularity of far right parties as key outsiders gain on critical votes. In France, President Emmanuel Macron has moved to dampen Marine Le Pen’s success in the European Parliament with a snap national election. The election calendar for June has already thrown up some surprises, particularly in the northern hemisphere. To be sure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected, though with a much-reduced majority which will place limits on his power. But the biggest shock is in Europe where French President Emmanuel Macron decided to call a snap election for 30 June after his most notorious far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, pulled off a decisive victory in the French election for the European Parliament. Macron is taking a massive gamble—that in a national election he can recover some of the popularity he has lost since his re-election as president in 2022, squashing Le Pen’s challenge to his leadership. The initial reaction of the commentariat is that Macron will manage a return to the Élysée palace, largely because the centrist parties holding the middle ground were the overall winners and the Left and the Greens failed to increase, or lost, shares of the vote. “I’ve decided to give you back the choice,” Macron said in an address to the electorate from the Elysée palace. In France, the Rassemblement National (RN) party led by Le Pen won 31.5 percent of the country’s vote, according to early results. In Germany, the three parties in Olaf Scholz’s fragile coalition—the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and the liberal FDP—were all overtaken by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which came in second behind the conservative CDU-CSU opposition. Significant gains by nationalist and ultra-conservative parties were also anticipated by exit polls in Austria, Cyprus, Greece, and the Netherlands. In Italy, prime minister Giorgia Meloni cemented her position in her governing coalition, and potentially her hand in negotiations with other European leaders, with her hard-right Brothers of Italy party taking over 28 percent of the vote in the European parliamentary elections. Attention will now turn to the campaign by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, to win another five-year term in office. She has a good record and currently no obvious challenger. Nonetheless, her re-election will hinge on her ability to make uncomfortable choices and deals, taking into account the EU’s clear shift to the right in parliamentary elections on 9 June. Though her centre-right European People’s party won the election, securing 189 seats in the 720-strong assembly, von der Leyen’s allies fared worse and the hard right surged from a fifth to nearly a quarter of seats. Her fate is likely to be decided at an EU summit on 27 June when she will seek the personal backing of the EU’s 27 leaders and aim to demonstrate to them that she has the required support in the European Parliament. Mexico Another remarkable election result this month was in Mexico where the ruling left-wing Morena party won a landslide victory in presidential, congressional, and state elections. While president-elect Claudia Sheinbaum and Morena’s victory on 2 June was not a surprise, the scale of it was. Sheinbaum won more votes than the centre-right Xochiti Galvez across genders, age groups, and in every state bar one, coming in 31 points clear of her rival. After decades of high poverty, glaring inequality, and low wages, the ruling Morena party more than doubled the minimum wage and expanded social programs, endearing itself to Mexico’s long-neglected have-nots. The result has left Mexico’s conservative elite struggling to understand the left’s landslide win, living as they do in gated communities far removed from the lives and feelings of average Mexicans. There are unlikely to be any surprises in the other major election this month—that of Iran on 28 June. Iranian authorities have disqualified prominent moderates as candidates in the snap presidential election, called following the helicopter crash that recently claimed the life of Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s president, and other senior ministers. The field of candidates has been narrowed to five hardliners and one mid-ranking reformist. The United Kingdom has seen a frenzy of election activity this month following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s surprise decision to call an early election on 4 July. Polls show that there is likely to be a change of government to the opposition Labour party, which is currently holding a 22 percent lead, after 14 years’ Conservative government.

Diplomacy
Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Iran’s role in the world: from isolation to alliances?

by Revista IDEES

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Rising tensions in the Middle East, with the risk of escalation in the confrontation between Israel and Iran against the backdrop of the Gaza conflict, represent a major change in the unwritten rules of this underground war between the two countries. From Iran’s perspective, the change in Israeli strategy violates the tacitly agreed rules of engagement. In particular, it removes the ambiguity that prevented attributing direct responsibility for attacks to either side, allowing the attacked party to limit the damage to its image and dissuading it from retaliatory actions that carry the risk of dangerous escalation. Iran’s response has also revealed a shift in its own strategy. For years, its position towards Israel and the US revolved around what was termed ‘strategic patience’, a long-term approach that involved strengthening the influence of its proxies in the region. In this sense, Hezbollah is its main export product, its most successful destabilisation model in that it is much more than a militia in Lebanon, even more than a state within the state: it is a state above the state, as it has the capacity to impose its own strategic objectives on the Lebanese state. This strategy of patience was based on the conviction that the networks Iran had been building allowed it to project its power without risking direct confrontation and its associated costs. However, the current dominance of conservative political figures in Tehran who see this strategic patience as a sign of weakness has led to the prevalence of more intense retaliation than usual, albeit below the critical threshold of outright conflict. This strategic shift has been evident in recent months. Thus, in January, Iran attacked targets in northern Iraq and Syria, claiming they were linked to Israel or the Islamic State, and a few days later launched strikes on Pakistani soil, demonstrating that the era of strategic patience is over. Broadening the focus, this episode reveals the dangers that prolonged tension between the two countries poses to an international security system suffering from prolonged US and EU inaction on the Palestinian issue and poisoning regional relations, as an open conflict between Iran and Israel would set the entire Middle East on fire and could degenerate into a nuclear crisis. With regard to Europe, this would pose a serious danger to its security and economy, as it could provoke large waves of migration to the EU, jeopardise the trade routes on which its economy depends and threaten energy supplies. The EU should therefore adopt a common policy to contain the risks associated with these dynamics. This means devoting more effort to resolving the Palestinian question and reactivating its conflict management capacity, keeping channels of communication open with all parties involved. Ultimately, it is urgent for the EU to intervene decisively and support inclusive dialogue in the Middle East to minimise the risk of full-scale war, before it is too late. These strategic shifts are taking place against a backdrop of growing internal contestation in Iran, where the Women, Life, Freedom movement has put an end to the idea that the regime was reformable and created a situation where both sides are at an impasse: on the one hand, a regime that disowns the majority of society and, on the other, a popular majority that disowns the regime. On the other hand, these tensions explain in large part why the regime continues to avoid a full-scale war, as it perceives that it is in a weak position with a population that has been in open revolt for almost two years. In addition, the destabilising role of ethnic minorities (Azeri, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Baluchi) who represent more than half of the population, with their long history of grievances, such as systematic repression, poverty, poor access to public services, environmental degradation and the eradication of their languages and cultures has also increased. Iran’s multi-ethnic nature is thus also an important part of Iranian politics and a source of tensions that has usually been omitted from Western readings. Western pundits tend to look at Iran through the eyes of its Persian elite, just as they used to look at Russia from Moscow’s point of view, ignoring these different realities and their disruptive potential. However, the Iranian regime is well aware that if the majority of Persians who dominate the opposition hate the regime, they hate the prospect of losing control over the provinces even more, and Tehran is appealing to Persian nationalist sentiment to try to divide the opposition, claiming that only the current government can maintain control over the minority areas of the country. We will have to pay attention to the political, social and generational implications these movements have in a context where years of sanctions by Western powers have impoverished the main agents of change, namely the highly educated, open-minded and pro-Western middle class. These sanctions have been the main factor in strengthening economic ties between Russia and Iran, which share strategic objectives such as facilitating bilateral trade, accelerating the completion of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and strengthening the banking systems of both countries to facilitate financial transactions. In addition, what will be the impact of Iran’s entry into the BRICS+, along with its great regional rival, Saudi Arabia. In this regard, Iran has demonstrated its diplomatic flexibility by initiating since 2021 a process of normalisation of relations with the great powers of the Middle East, most of which had broken off diplomatic relations with Tehran, sometimes since the very founding of the Islamic Republic. Faced with the threat that the consolidation of the Abraham Accords and the normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab world could pose, Iran embarked on a new diplomatic strategy, where Egypt has become one of the main targets, after Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies. In this sense, a normalisation of relations between the two countries would constitute a second major diplomatic victory for Iran after its successful rapprochement with Saudi Arabia. Also relevant is that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has recently visited Pakistan and Sri Lanka, two countries that have faced one of the worst economic crises in the region in recent years, and which hope to benefit from cooperation with Iran. Raisi’s trip demonstrates to the world that Iran remains diplomatically active despite instability in the Middle East, while reflecting a notable geopolitical trend: Iran is increasing its ties with South Asia with the intention of pushing an anti-Western and anti-Israel agenda through strengthening bilateral relations with certain countries in the region, most notably India and China, In parallel, Iran also seeks to diversify alliances in Latin America through a soft power strategy that allows it to position itself as a victim of Western harassment and to gain sympathy, political and strategic support in a region where, despite cultural and political differences, regimes such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela share the goal of establishing a new world order. In short, the Tehran regime is emerging from the isolation in which it has been immersed since the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, on the one hand by establishing alliances of circumstance such as the one it has been forging for some years now with Russia in the military and economic spheres and, on the other, by taking advantage of the loss of influence of the United States and the West in the region to normalise its relations with its great regional rival, Saudi Arabia, and other relevant actors such as Egypt and the Gulf monarchies, taking advantage of the loss of influence of the United States and the West in the region to normalise its relations with its great regional rival, Saudi Arabia, and other relevant actors such as Egypt and the Gulf monarchies, and betting on expanding its international influence through its membership of the BRICS+, thus taking the long road from isolation to strategic alliances.

Energy & Economics
Curitiba, Paraná, Brasilien, Bolsonaro gadgets in Independent Day in Curitiba, 09.07.2022

The Bolsonarism could return to power

by Valerio Arcary

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Political loyalty to PT-led governments has garnered support among the poorest. However, the Brazilian center-left has lost its hegemony over its social base. Can Bolsonaro return to power in 2026? Yes, he could. We must consider the existence of powerful objective and subjective factors to explain the resilience of the far right, even after the defeat of the semi-insurrection in January 2023. But, first of all, it is wise to recognize the international context of the phenomenon, in which the far right plays an instrumental role: (a) the turbulence in the system of states with the strengthening of China and the strategy of U.S. imperialism to preserve the supremacy of the Troika, for which a tougher protectionist orientation is useful; (b) the disputes caused by the emergence of the environmental crisis and the energy transition, which temporarily disadvantage those who decarbonize more quickly; (c) the shift of bourgeois factions towards the defense of authoritarian regimes that face popular protest and embrace a national-imperialist line; (d) the trend towards economic stagnation and the impoverishment and rightward shift of the middle classes; (e) the faltering crisis of the left, among others. But there are Brazilian peculiarities in the political fragmentation of the country. These are essentially five: (i) the hegemony among the military and the police; (ii) the gravitation of the vast majority of Pentecostal evangelicals towards the far right; (iii) the weight of the Bolsonarism in the most developed regions, the Southeast and South of the country, especially among the new middle-class property owners, or those with very high levels of education who hold executive positions in the private and public sectors; (iv) the leadership of the neo-fascist current within the far right; (v) the support base of the far right among the salaried middle classes with wages between three and five or even up to seven minimum wages. The first four peculiarities have been widely researched, but the last one less so. Studying it is strategic because it may be the only one possible to reverse in the context of a very unfavorable situation of still reactionary social power relations. There are objective factors that explain the distancing, division, or political separation between parts of the working class and the poorest, such as the inflation of private education and health plans, and the increase in income tax, which are threats to a model of consumption and living standard, and subjective factors, such as social resentment and moral-ideological rancor. Both are intertwined and may even be indivisible. But that was not the case when the final phase of the struggle against the dictatorship began, forty-five years ago. The PT was born, supported by metalworkers, public school teachers, oil workers, bankers, and other categories who, compared to the reality of the masses, had more education and better salaries. Lulism, or political loyalty to the experience of PT-led governments, allowed for support among the poorest. However, the left, although it maintains its positions, has lost hegemony over its original mass social base. This tragic reality, due to the fracture of the working class, requires that we analyze it from a historical perspective. The post-war period (1945-1981) of intense growth, during which GDP doubled every decade, and which favored absolute social mobility in Brazil, accompanying accelerated urbanization, seems to have irretrievably passed. Full employment and increased schooling, in a country where half of the active population was illiterate, were the two key factors in improving the lives of this layer of workers. But they no longer exert the same pressure as in the past. It is clear that in the last decade, Brazilian capitalism has lost momentum. It lost 7% of its GDP between 2015/17 and, after the Covid pandemic in 2020/21, it took three years to return to the 2019 levels. Despite all the anti-social counter-reforms - labor, social security - aimed at reducing production costs, the investment rate did not exceed 18% of GDP in 2023, despite the authorization of the Transitional Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC) to breach the Public Spending Ceiling. Brazil, the largest industrial park, and consumer market for durable goods in the periphery, has become a nation of slow growth. The increase in schooling has ceased to be such a powerful driving factor. Improving life has become much more difficult. The Brazil of 2024 is a less poor country than in the 20th century, but not less unjust. Of course, there is still a lot of poverty: tens of millions or even more continue suffering from food insecurity, despite the ‘Bolsa Familia’, depending on the economic cycle. But there has been a reduction in extreme poverty without a qualitative reduction in social inequality. The functional distribution of income between capital and labor has experienced variations in the margin. The personal income distribution improved between 2003 and 2014, but it has increased again since 2015/16, following the institutional coup against Dilma Rousseff's government. Extreme poverty has decreased, but half of the economically active population earns no more than two minimum wages. A third of wage earners earn between three and five minimum wages. Inequality has remained almost intact because, among other reasons, the position of middle-income wage earners with higher levels of education has stagnated with a downward bias. Numerous studies confirm that the increase in average schooling is not related to employability, and IBGE surveys paradoxically confirm that unemployment is higher as schooling increases. Most of the millions of jobs created since the end of the pandemic have been for people earning up to two minimum wages, with very low educational requirements. To assess the greater or lesser social cohesion of a country, two mobility rates are considered: absolute and relative. The absolute rate compares the occupation of the parent and the child, or the first activity of each one with their last job. The relative mobility rate checks to what extent the obstacles to accessing jobs - or opportunities for study - that favor social advancement could or could not be overcome by those in a lower social position. In Brazil, both the absolute and relative mobility rates were positive until the 1980s, but the former was more intense than the latter. In other words, we experienced intense social mobility in the post-war period due to the pressure of urbanization and internal migration, from the Northeast to the Southeast, and from the South to the Midwest. But this is no longer the case. This historical stage ended in the 1990s when the flow from the agrarian world was exhausted. Since then, poverty has decreased, but middle-class workers have experienced a more hostile reality. What explains this process is that the social mobility trajectories of the last twenty years have benefited millions of people who lived in extreme poverty, but very few have ascended significantly. Many have improved their lives, but they have only ascended to the step immediately above to the one occupied by their parents. Relative social mobility has remained very low because the material incentives to increase schooling have been lower in the last forty years than they were for the generation that reached adulthood in the fifties or sixties. The rewards that families receive for keeping their children out of work for at least twelve years until they finish high school have decreased compared to the previous generation, despite the greater ease of access. A country may start from a situation of great social inequality, but if social mobility is intense, social inequality should decrease, increasing social cohesion, as happened in post-war Italy. Conversely, a country that had low social inequality compared to its neighbors occupying a similar position in the world may see its situation deteriorate if social mobility becomes regressive, as is evident in present-day France. In Brazil, contrary to what is commonly thought, most of the new jobs in the last ten years have not benefited the most educated sector of the population. Studying more has not reduced the risk of unemployment. In the forty-five years since 1979, average schooling has increased from three to over eight years. But two transformations have occurred that have had a lasting impact on the consciousness of the working youth. The first is that Brazilian capitalism is no longer a society of full employment, as it had been for half a century. The second is that, even with the sacrifices made by families to keep their children studying and delaying their entry into the labor market, employability has concentrated in activities that require little schooling and offer low wages. For the first time in history, children have lost hope of living better than their parents. Unemployment among those with higher education is proportionally higher than among those with lower education, and if the inequality of personal incomes has decreased in the last fifteen years, it is because the average salary of those with middle and higher education has been decreasing. The dizzying expansion of uberization is not surprising. The monthly employment surveys by IBGE in the São Paulo metropolitan region indicate a very slow evolution that, at best, only approximates the recovery of inflation. Nearly forty years after the end of the military dictatorship, the economic and social balance of the liberal democracy regime is discouraging. The reforms carried out by the regime, such as expanding access to public education, implementing the SUS (Unified Health System), the ‘Bolsa Familia’ for the extremely poor, among others, were progressive but insufficient to reduce social inequality. The hypothesis that a more educated population would gradually change the political reality of the country, driving a sustainable cycle of economic growth and income distribution, has not been confirmed. One form of gradualist illusion in the perspective of social justice within the limits of capitalism was the hope that a more educated population would gradually change the social reality of the country. This brings us to the limits of the coalition governments led by the PT, which bet on conciliation with the ruling class to regulate “wild" capitalism. Although there are long-term correlations between schooling and economic growth, no direct effects that are incontrovertible have been identified, even less so if we include the variable of reducing social inequality, as confirmed by South Korea What is incontrovertible is that the Brazilian bourgeoisie was united in 2016 to overthrow the government of Dilma Rousseff, despite the moderation of the reforms carried out. It should not surprise us that the ruling class had no qualms about going to the extreme of manipulating the impeachment, subverting the rules of the regime to take power for their direct representatives, such as Michel Temer. The challenge is to explain why the working class was not willing to fight to defend it. At the beginning of the 1990s, wages represented more than half of the national wealth, and in the last thirty years, they fell to just over 40% in 1999. Despite the recovery between 2004 and 2010, they still remain below the 50% level of 2014. This variable is significant for an assessment of the evolution of social inequality because Brazil in 2024 is a society that has already completed the historical transition from rural to urban (86% of the population lives in cities), and the majority of those under contract, 38 million with labor contracts and 13 million civil servants, receive salaries. Another ten million have an employer but no contract. It is true that there are still 25 million Brazilians who live off self-employment, but they proportionally fewer than in the past [ii]. In summary, the functional distribution of income between capital and labor has not improved. The bourgeoisie has no reason to complain about the liberal regime. Nevertheless, a fraction of the bourgeoisie, such as agroindustry and others, supports neo-fascism and its authoritarian strategy. The data indicating that social inequality has decreased among wage earners is convincing. But not because injustice has decreased, although misery has. This process has occurred because there have been two opposing trends in the labor market. One is relatively new, and the other is older. The first was the rise in wage floors for less skilled and less organized sectors. The minimum wage has been increasing above devaluation slowly but steadily since 1994 with the introduction of the real, accelerating during the years of the Lula and Dilma Rousseff governments. This is a new phenomenon, as the opposite had occurred in the previous fifteen years. The minimum wage is a key economic variable because it is the floor for INSS pensions, which is why the bourgeoisie demands it to be delinked. The economic recovery favored by the global cycle of increased demand for commodities allowed unemployment to fall from the second half of 2005, culminating in 2014 in a situation of almost full employment. The widespread distribution of the ‘Bolsa Familia’ also appears to have exerted pressure on the remuneration of manual labor, especially in less industrialized regions. The second trend was the continued decline in the remuneration of jobs that require middle and higher education, a process that had been occurring since the 1980s. In conclusion, the available data suggest that increasing schooling is no longer a significant factor in social upward mobility, as it was in the past. The political loyalty of the popular masses to Lulism is an expression of the first phenomenon. The lives of the poorest improved during the years of PT governments. The division among wage earners earning more than two minimum wages expresses a social resentment that has been manipulated by Bolsonarism. If the left does not regain confidence in this sector of the workforce, the danger for 2026 is significant. Jacobinlat The article was translated and licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 ES (Atribución-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 3.0 España).

Diplomacy
Mexico City, Mexico Septembr 17th 2019. Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, Mexico City Mayor presents her first report to the city congress.

From AMLO to Claudia Sheinbaum: Mexicans entrust power to a woman with the challenge of improving democratic quality

by Carmen Beatriz Fernández

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском  With this Instagram post, Claudia Sheinbaum announced her overwhelming victory, which doubled the numbers of her main contender, in a gender perspective. The fact that one of the most macho countries in the Americas has chosen a female president among two female engineers reflects the historic change experienced. Sheinbaum, candidate of the Morena party and the popular leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was the clear favorite to win the elections. The cards seemed to be laid out. It was reminiscent of the 2018 election, where the leftist AMLO remained ahead in the polls, at least two years before the electoral appointment. Regardless of what happened during the campaign, AMLO, like Sheinbaum now, was always the front-runner during the contest. The big difference between the 2024 scenario and that of 2018 is that the change is not a massive ambition this time. At that time, traditional Mexican political parties had bet on fear of AMLO as their main message, but in an environment of significant system discredit, the electorate's biggest fear in 2018 was continuity. Transfer of popularity from the president to the candidate Throughout the entire government term, President López Obrador enjoyed significant stability in his popularity, according to the polling firm Mitofski. Based on those high levels of popularity, he managed to fully endorse his candidate, Sheinbaum, and his party, Morena.   Including Sheinbaum, only ten women have been heads of state in Latin America through the popular vote. Several of them have done so on the shoulders of prominent male figures who endorsed their votes. Today, Sheinbaum comes to power with the popularity of AMLO, just as happened before with Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, victorious with Lula's endorsement, or those who received the endorsement of their husbands, like Violeta Chamorro in Nicaragua, the Honduran Xiomara Zelaya, or the Argentinian Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Sheinbaum’s campaign strategy unequivocally acknowledged that her formula was one of continuity with López Obrador. She reaffirmed this after the victory:    It will be from now on when we see how much Sheinbaum separates herself from those shoulders, or if her presidency will bear the stamp of AMLO's tutelage. Mexico excels in political equality but falls short in economic equality Despite being a country where machismo is caricatured as part of Mexican culture, and where one in every four Mexican men believes that being male guarantees better political performance, Mexico has positioned itself relatively well in terms of gender equality, ranking 33rd out of 146 countries evaluated according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2023 (GGG). Among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico ranks sixth out of 22. Regarding access to education and health, it has virtually achieved gender parity since 2006. It is in the realm of political empowerment (the third of the sub-indices measured in the report's methodology) where the most progress towards gender equality has been made in the country. In 2023, Mexico ranked 15th out of 146 countries evaluated, representing a significant leap forward in recent years. There are parity laws in Congress with gender quotas implemented in 2014 that guarantee political participation and representation. The greatest challenge facing the new president Sheinbaum in this regard is gender equality in the economic sphere. According to the GGG, the country ranks among the lowest globally in this sub-index. While 76% of men participate in the workforce, only 44% of women do so. In terms of average income and wage equality, Mexico ranks among the worst positions. Two challenges for the new president: security and democratic quality But challenges exist in other areas as well. Far beyond the gender issue, Mexican democracy and governance are plagued by serious problems that Sheinbaum will have to address. The issue of security is grave. Violence ran rampant during the campaign, setting records. The pressure of social programs is also significant. Democratic quality, according to V-DEM data on the liberal democracy index in Mexico, reached its peak after the alternation in 2000, during Vicente Fox's government. However, since then, the indicator has been declining.   This indicator is based on Robert Dahl's concept of "polyarchy," which emphasizes the importance of protecting individual rights and those of minorities against the tyranny of the state and the tyranny of the majority. The liberal model takes a negative view of political power insofar as it values the quality of democracy more if there are limits and checks on the government. This is achieved through constitutionally protected civil liberties, a strong rule of law, an independent judiciary, and effective checks and balances that, together, limit the exercise of executive power. For this to be a measure of liberal democracy, the index also takes into account the level of electoral democracy. The Mexican election of 2000, which made Vicente Fox, the PAN candidate, president, can be considered a critical election as it ended 70 years of uninterrupted PRI governments. Fox won with a historically strong and well-institutionalized party, but his campaign platform included significant innovations in terms of volunteerism and mobilization that came from outside the party structure. The first PAN president was a businessman who had chaired the Latin American division of Coca-Cola. He brought different ideas about organization and marketing possibilities, both for the campaign and for the government. From there, healthy reforms were made in democratic and electoral institutions. However, the index has been declining during López Obrador's administration. Presidential efforts to make changes in electoral institutions have raised alarms. During his tenure, AMLO has questioned the independence of the National Electoral Institute (INE), he has announced plans to dismantle the INAI (official transparency body) before leaving the Presidency, and delegitimize judicial instances, acknowledging his direct influence over Supreme Court justices. One step away from the qualified majority and constitutional reforms The scope of Sheinbaum's victory, AMLO's, and, in general, Morena's is notable, not only in the presidential chapter. Perhaps more impact is what it implies at the parliamentary level. Pending the final scrutiny, the ruling alliance could have a qualified majority, both in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate, paving the way for constitutional changes. The necessary balances are at stake. The system of checks and balances in the parliament and in the states of the Republic has been greatly weakened, which identifies clear dangers for Mexican democracy. The relative stability of Mexican political parties during the 21st century contrasts with that of other Latin American countries. Unlike the rest of the countries in the region, where new parties have proliferated at a dizzying pace, only seven new parties have emerged in Mexico in these two decades, and three of them are linked to Andrés Manuel López Obrador's candidacy in 2018. Three periods after Fox's rise to power, AMLO's victory in 2018 showed, live and direct, the implosion of the Mexican party system. Weakness of opposition parties It is possible to foresee, given López Obrador's institutional behavior during his presidency, that the judiciary and electoral authority will continue to be under pressure, to levels hitherto unknown. Claudia Sheinbaum will need to quickly put an end to this if she wants to demonstrate a democratic attitude. The underlying problem in 2024 lies in the weakness of political parties to address these new times ahead. Electoral losers need a thorough analysis, with a good dose of self-criticism, and a solid strategy for the immediate future.

Energy & Economics
Chinese Yuan on the map of South America. Trade between China and Latin American countries, economy and investment

Ahead of the curve: Why the EU and US risk falling behind China in Latin America

by Ángel Melguizo , Margaret Myers

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском As Beijing’s investment approach to Latin America focuses on industries of strategic importance, the EU and US will need to contend with growing Chinese competition China is pouring less foreign direct investment (FDI) into Latin America. But while this may seem like a sign of Beijing’s disinterest in the region, data suggests that Chinese companies are simply recalibrating, not retreating. In doing so, they are becoming important players in sectors key to Western interests: critical minerals, fintech, electric vehicles, and green energy. While the European Union and the United States have long been top investors in Latin America, increased competition with Chinese investment now jeopardises their interests in the Latin American industries that will become most crucial to the digital and green transitions. The number of Chinese projects in Latin America grew by 33 per cent from 2018-2023, compared with the previous five-year period of 2013-2017, even as the total value declined. In other words, Chinese companies are making more investments in the region but are pursuing smaller-scale projects on average. These investments are also more focused on what China calls “new infrastructure“ (新基建), a term which encompasses telecommunications, fintech, renewable energy, and other innovation-related industries. In 2022, 60 per cent of China’s investments were in these frontier sectors, a key economic priority for the country. Beijing also views smaller projects in these industries as incurring less operational and reputational risk, especially compared to some of the large-scale infrastructure investment projects often associated with the Belt and Road initiative. Like China, the investment priorities of the G7 grouping – particularly the US and the EU – are centring on critical minerals, fintech, electric vehicles, and green energy as they aim to grow and reinforce existing economic and political partnerships in Latin America. However, both the US and the EU risk falling short of China’s investment strategy in the region. The US has signalled want for greater economic engagement with the region, especially in sectors of strategic interest. However, to date, US efforts to compete with China remain largely focused on building US domestic capacity in these strategic sectors, even as some US companies, such as Intel, are increasingly focused on including regional partners in their supply chains. Some see opportunity for Latin America in Joe Biden’s landmark legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which is aimed at incentivising the energy transition while also de-risking critical supply chains. For example, certain countries in the region may benefit from preferential market access for their lithium or other key inputs to new energy and technology supply chains. However, the reach of the IRA – which remains a largely domestic policy – does not stretch as far as China’s current investment reshuffle. The Americas Act, announced by members of Congress in March could generate promising new investment opportunities for the region, as it encourages US companies and others to move their operations out of China, to which Latin America stands as a promising replacement. But Americas Act reshoring would primarily incentivise textiles and potentially medical equipment manufacturing, with less overall focus on the range of “new infrastructure” industries that China is prioritising. Chinese interests in information and communication technologies reveal a similar story. While the US has focused its policy on 5G equipment sales, China is undertaking a process of vertical integration in Latin American tech sectors that will dramatically boost its competitiveness. For instance, Chinese company Huawei is rapidly expanding its focus to include data centres, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and other services, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. (Computing accounted for a sizable 41 per cent of total Chinese information technology investment in the region between 2018 and the first half of 2023.) At the same time, Global Gateway, the EU’s proposal for a global investment initiative is yet to reach its potential in the region. Brussels is looking to be Latin America’s partner of choice by building local capacity for making batteries and final products like electric vehicles, as European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen noted last year. Yet even as the EU signals renewed commitment, China is becoming increasingly dominant in the electric vehicle market in Latin America and other regions. China surpassed the US in electric vehicle sales in 2023, with Chinese companies accounting for 45 per cent of total global sales and three times that of Germany’s. What is more, China has invested $11 billion in lithium extraction in the region since 2018, as part of a bid to control a third of global lithium-mine production capacity. Meanwhile the EU has secured some access to lithium as part of trade deals with Chile, alongside other nations, but this pales in comparison to what will be required to fuel the future of EU battery production. Latin America as a whole accounts for an estimated 60 per cent of the world’s lithium reserves. Based on its current levels of engagement in the region, the EU risks falling short of lithium, stalling its battery production and subsequently, its electric vehicle sales, just as China advances in this field. The window is closing for the EU, the US, and other partners looking to both maintain market share and compete with China in these Latin American industries, despite still-high rates of US and EU investment in and trade with the region. Indeed, US automakers increasingly see Chinese competition across the globe as an “extinction-level event.” Ensuring competitiveness in “new infrastructure” and related sectors will require a continuous commitment by partners to building and supporting project pipelines, and to delivering products and services at price points that can compete with China’s subsidised offerings. Both the EU and the US remain critical economic partners for Latin America and are contributing in ways that China is not. Still, complacency risks allowing China to take the lead in emerging industries in the region, some of which weigh heavily in the EU’s green and digital transformation. To protect their own future industries, the EU and the US need to first take a longer look at Latin America’s – especially as China vies for a dominant position.

Diplomacy
Main img

Press statement on the occasion of the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron

by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Press statement on the occasion of the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron Full statement to the press by the President of the Republic, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, following the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron in Brasília (DF), on March 28, 2024 It is a great joy to reciprocate the hospitality with which my delegation and I were received in Paris when I participated in the Summit for a 'New Global Financial Pact' last June. Over the past three days, we have carried out an extensive agenda that included stops in Belém, home to COP30; Itaguaí, where we have Prosub; and now Brasília, for a State visit. This true marathon gives a sense of the breadth of the cooperation and friendship ties between France and Brazil. Among traditional powers, none are closer to Brazil than France. And among emerging powers, you tell me if any are closer to France than Brazil. In today's highly complex international landscape, the dialogue between our nations serves as a vital bridge connecting the Global South to the developed world, fostering efforts to overcome structural inequalities and achieve a more sustainable planet. Brazil and France are committed to collaborating in advancing a shared global vision through democratic dialogue. A vision grounded in the priority of production over unproductive finance, solidarity over selfishness, democracy over totalitarianism, and sustainability over predatory exploitation. President Macron was able to personally witness that our commitment to the environment is not merely rhetorical. In the past year, we have reduced illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 50%, and we aim to eliminate it entirely by 2030. As a symbol of the revitalization of our partnership, today we embraced a New Action Plan, broadening our collaboration into new arenas. These include financing the ecological and energy transition, advancing in bioeconomy, agriculture, public administration, digital issues, artificial intelligence, and reinforcing human rights and gender equality on our bilateral agenda. This range of topics is reflected in the more than 20 agreements we celebrate today. We discussed the success of the Brazil-France Economic Forum, held yesterday in São Paulo, which had not convened presentially since 2019. We explored ways to expand and diversify trade, which reached 8.4 billion dollars last year and has the potential to grow even further. France is the third-largest investor in Brazil, with a strong presence in sectors such as hospitality, energy, defense, and high technology, which generate employment and income in our country. I presented to President Macron the new investment opportunities in infrastructure and sustainability facilitated by the Growth Acceleration Program (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento - PAC) and the Neoindustrialization Program. I presented our commitment to combating inequalities as the cornerstone of Brazil's G20 Presidency. Within this context, we are launching a Global Alliance Against Hunger and Poverty. As we mark the 80th anniversary of the Bretton Woods institutions this year, President Macron and I concur on the imperative for the G20 to send a clear message advocating for global governance reform and the reinforcement of multilateralism. We also agree that it is time for the super-rich to pay their fair share of taxes, in line with the proposal for fair and progressive international taxation that Brazil advocates within the G20. As strategic partners, we exchanged views on the major dilemmas facing humanity. Across the globe, democracy is under the shadow of extremism. The denial of politics and the dissemination of "hate speech" are growing and concerning. For this reason, Brazil joined, in 2023, the French initiative Partnership for Information and Democracy and will continue to work to promote and protect the circulation of reliable information. It is time to promote a truly multilateral debate on the governance of artificial intelligence. It is unacceptable for a new divide to emerge, segregating wealthy nations, possessors of this technology, from developing countries where basic internet access remains precarious. I reiterated to President Macron Brazil's unwavering belief in dialogue and the defense of peace. My administration will continue working diligently to ensure that Latin America and the Caribbean remain a conflict-free zone, where dialogue and international law prevail. The Security Council's paralysis in response to the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza is both alarming and inexplicable. The arguments questioning the obligation to comply with the recent ceasefire directive in Gaza during the month of Ramadan once again undermine the authority of the Council. Discussing a world governed by rules that are not collectively agreed upon signifies a regression of centuries, reverting back to the law of the jungle. Brazil categorically condemns all forms of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We cannot permit religious intolerance to gain ground among us. Jews, Muslims, and Christians have always lived in perfect harmony in Brazil, contributing to the construction of the modern nation we see today. Dear friend Macron, the Strategic Partnership with France embodies our joint endeavor to modernize and invigorate our economies, prioritizing sustainability and upholding human rights. I am convinced that, even after three intense days, there is still much work ahead of us. The future holds countless possibilities for our countries to cooperate, develop, and create together I look forward to seeing you again soon at the G20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Thank you very much.

Diplomacy
Ecuador - Mexico flags

Mexico-Ecuador: Coordinates of a diplomatic crisis foretold

by Rafael Velazquez Flores

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском President López Obrador's announcement of the rupture of diplomatic relations with Ecuador marks a turning point in Mexico's foreign policy. Since 1979, the country had not interrupted such a relationship with another nation. In recent years, breaking relations had not been a common practice by Mexico. In the 19th century, Benito Juárez suspended ties with countries that recognized Maximilian's Empire. In the 20th century, the government severed links with the Soviet Union in 1930 for promoting communist ideology; with Spain in 1936 during its Civil War; with the United Kingdom in 1938 after the oil expropriation; with Germany, Japan, and Italy in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor; with Guatemala in 1958 after Guatemalan planes fired on Mexican vessels in the Pacific; in 1974 with Chile after the coup against Salvador Allende, and in 1979 with Nicaragua due to the Somoza dictatorship. But in the last 45 years, the country had not resorted to this practice. The recent announcement was somewhat surprising because Mexico is known for projecting friendly relations with Latin America and is recognized for its defense of peace. Additionally, President López Obrador had proposed to have friendly relations with Latin American countries and adhere to the principle of Non-Intervention. Prior to the rupture with Ecuador, Mexico had been involved in some diplomatic crises with certain Latin American countries. During Vicente Fox's presidency, Mexico expelled the Cuban ambassador in 2004, and later a similar incident occurred with Venezuela, but ties were not broken. In both cases, the level of interaction shifted from Ambassador to Chargé d'affaires. In the current administration, Bolivia and Peru had declared Mexican ambassadors ‘personas non gratas’ and they were recalled. Moreover, Peru announced the same status against President López Obrador. However, in both cases, there was no outright rupture of relations. On the other hand, Mexico has been a generous actor in granting diplomatic asylum to political refugees. For example, the country hosted Leon Trotsky in the 1930s and a significant number of Spaniards fleeing the civil war in that nation. In the 1960s and 1970s, Mexico received hundreds of asylum seekers from South America after military coups in those countries. Even López Obrador granted this status to Evo Morales and offered it to Pedro Castillo, former presidents of Bolivia and Peru respectively. Partly, the origin of the diplomatic crisis between Ecuador and Mexico stemmed from Mexico hosting Jorge Glas, former vice president of Ecuador, accused of corruption, since December 2023. Since the beginning of 2024, the Ecuadorian government requested Mexico to extradite Glas to serve his sentence as he had already been convicted. When the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused and López Obrador criticized Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa's government, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared Mexican Ambassador Raquel Serur ‘persona non grata’. In response, the Mexican government granted political asylum to Jorge Glas. Fearing a possible escape, the Ecuadorian government decided to forcibly enter the Mexican embassy in Quito to arrest Glas. The incident constituted a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which states in Article 22 that "the premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them without the consent of the head of the mission." The incident set a negative precedent in inter-American interactions. In response to this action, President López Obrador decided to sever diplomatic relations with Ecuador. The measure represented a milestone in Mexico's foreign policy, but it was consistent with Ecuador's actions. Although Mexico had other options, severing diplomatic relations was the appropriate decision given the gravity of the situation. The possible alternatives the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) had—without the need to completely sever ties—were: 1) sending a protest note to the Ecuadorian government; 2) recalling the Ecuadorian ambassador to Mexico; 3) presenting the case to the Organization of American States (OAS); 4) suing Ecuador to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the UN; 5) breaking diplomatic relations but maintaining consular relations. The first option was too soft from a foreign policy standpoint and might have been ineffective. The second was feasible but not highly impactful. The third is appropriate because the OAS serves to resolve differences among its members. The fourth is the best alternative without the need to sever diplomatic relations. The fifth option could be feasible to avoid leaving the Mexican community in Ecuador unprotected and to not affect the economic and tourism relationship between the two countries. Specifically, a suitable decision was to combine some of the mentioned alternatives; for example: presenting the case to the OAS, suing Ecuador in the ICJ, and maintaining consular relations. However, severance was the decision made due to the gravity of the situation. But it's also important to consider the domestic context. In part, AMLO made that decision for domestic political reasons. Defending sovereignty strengthens his popular support base. His followers see him as the president who defends the nation's sovereignty. Additionally, the measure aids MORENA and Claudia Sheinbaum's electoral campaign by bolstering Mexico's position abroad and domestically. For example, there was broad consensus among the Mexican public. Even the opposition candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez, supported the decision. Moreover, the majority of Latin American nations condemned the act and showed solidarity with Mexico. The UN, OAS, and European Union also condemned the violation of international law. Additionally, the United States and Canada expressed displeasure with Ecuador's action. Not all public opinion supported López Obrador's decision. Some criticized Mexico for granting political asylum to a criminal. Similarly, there was an opinion that AMLO's statements – criticizing the Ecuadorian government – constituted a violation of the principle of Non-Intervention and were the cause of the diplomatic crisis between the two countries. In other words, from this perspective, Mexico also bore responsibility for the conflict escalating to the severance of diplomatic relations. Indeed, the Caracas Convention on Diplomatic Asylum of 1954 establishes that a government cannot grant political asylum to a person with a criminal conviction. However, the same instrument states that "it is up to the granting State to qualify the nature of the offense or the reasons for persecution." In other words, Mexico was applying this criterion and decided to grant asylum to Glas. Therefore, there is a divergence on this point. For Ecuador, Mexico could not grant asylum because Glas was a convicted criminal. However, for Mexico, Glas is a politically persecuted individual and, therefore, has the right to asylum. The most appropriate course would have been for Ecuador not to invade the embassy, not to grant Glas safe passage, and to present the case to the ICJ for this body to decide whether he was a criminal or a politically persecuted individual. What factors explain the escalation of the crisis between these two countries—the embassy assault and the rupture of relations? Understanding these decisions requires first knowing the context in Ecuador. Firstly, Daniel Noboa is a young president with little political experience. He is a right-wing businessman who came to power when the previous president established the "cross death," a mechanism that allows for the removal of the Ecuadorian president and the dissolution of the National Assembly. In this context, Noboa is filling the remainder of the former president's term and must leave office in 2025 to call for new elections. Additionally, in recent months, Ecuador experienced a period of intense insecurity when some inmates took over prisons and held the guards as hostages. Drug trafficking, linked to Mexican cartels, has increased in the country. Last year, a presidential candidate was even assassinated. Faced with this situation, President Noboa needed strong actions to consolidate his power and gain legitimacy. However, some groups within Ecuador have criticized the invasion of the Mexican embassy and are calling for his resignation due to his inability to govern. The opposition party criticizes the foreign minister for her lack of diplomatic experience and the minister in charge of the operation, who is of Mexican origin. Both the president and the foreign minister have justified the action based on the possibility of Glas's escape; the consideration that he was a convicted criminal and that the asylum request was illegal; and the defense of Ecuador's dignity. On the other hand, in Mexico, President López Obrador has developed an inconsistent foreign policy towards Latin America. If governments are aligned with his ideology, then there is an amicable treatment. But if they are opposed to his way of thinking, then he criticizes those governments, which constitutes a violation of the principle of Non-Intervention in the internal affairs of another country. In other words, the president applies principles in a discretionary manner. Furthermore, the president has appointed ambassadors in Latin America without diplomatic experience, which contributes to generating conflict in some cases. AMLO's often improvised statements do not contribute to maintaining stable relations with right-wing governments in Latin America. In this administration, three ambassadors were declared ‘personas non gratas’, which represents a failure in the foreign policy strategy. The consequences of the diplomatic relations rupture are broad and negative. For instance, nationals of each country will lack diplomatic protection. In the near future, obtaining visas for travel and trade between both countries may become difficult. Ecuador was exploring the possibility of joining the Pacific Alliance. With what happened, that option is now canceled. Therefore, strengthening Latin American integration may encounter obstacles. The embassy invasion and the diplomatic relations rupture can affect inter-American relations and generate polarization in the region. Cooperation for combating drug trafficking between Mexico and Ecuador may likely halt. Potential joint solutions to Latin American migration to the United States may face obstacles if the incident creates divisions. Ecuador's prestige in the region may be affected by the clear violation of international law. Perhaps not all countries will support Mexico, but they will defend the principle of embassy inviolability. In summary, both parties contributed to the escalation of the conflict. Both Ecuador and Mexico made wrong decisions. However, nothing justifies a country storming an embassy and violating one of the most respected principles of international law. Therefore, Mexico's decision to sever diplomatic relations with Ecuador is justified by the gravity of what happened.

Diplomacy
Former President Rouhani in meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

Iran's shadow in South America: the foreign policy of the ayatollahs' regime in the region

by María Gabriela Fajardo Mejía , Mario Marín Pereira Garmendia

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском The events in the Middle East have the international community on alert. Iran understood the April 1st attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus as a blow to its own territory and a violation of its sovereignty. After several days of threats, on April 13th and for five hours, Iran used 300 projectiles (170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles) to attack Israeli territory, 99% of which were intercepted. These movements in the geopolitical scenario can be felt in geographically distant regions such as Latin America. To interpret this new scenario, it is necessary to understand how Iran is currently positioned in this region. Its approach to the region is focused on creating ties with states that may be ideologically sympathetic. This is demonstrated by the relationship with Cuba since the end of the first Gulf War, the close relationship with Venezuela, the closeness with Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship in Nicaragua and with Bolivia since the mandate of Evo Morales. Iran has seen the leftward shifts in Latin America as an opportunity to acquire new trading partners, increase its influence in the region and carve out an increasingly important space in the US backyard. Current Iranian Minister of Defense, Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, stressed that “South American countries have a special place in Iran’s foreign and defense policy because they are located in a very sensitive area”. In this sense, we can highlight two key countries: Bolivia and Venezuela. Bolivia, Argentina, and the Triple Frontier Bolivia represents the greatest Iranian foreign policy success in Latin America. Diplomatic relations between these two states date back to 2007. With less than twenty years of friendship, the two signed in July 2023 a memorandum of bilateral cooperation in terms of security and defense that may pose a threat to the stability in the region. The agreement is aimed at assisting Bolivia in its fight against drug trafficking and supporting the state in monitoring its borders. The agreement includes the sale of material and training of military personnel. However, the details of the agreement were not disclosed because they are protected by a confidentiality clause. The Bolivian Minister of Defense, Edmundo Novillo, described Iran as a scientific, technological, security and defense example “for nations that want to be free”, despite the current international sanctions. The agreement entails benefits for both parties. Bolivia will receive weapons, will improve its cyber-operations capabilities and training of military forces’ personnel. On the other hand, Iran will have access to Bolivia’s natural resources, including lithium and gas. It would also be strategically positioned in the heart of South America, where its proxy, Hezbollah, has activities in the Triple Frontier (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay) and a relationship with the various cartels operating in the region, according to a report by the Wilson Center. This same report notes that the area of the Triple Frontier has for decades been the center of Iranian and Hezbollah activity in Latin America, taking advantage of the large Lebanese and Shiite diaspora communities. According to the late Argentinian special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, Hezbollah established its presence in Latin America in the mid-1980s, starting in the Triple Frontier area, a relatively lawless region. Argentina and the AMIA case Two days before the Iranian attack on Israel, the Federal Chamber of Criminal Cassation of Argentina, the highest criminal court in the country, condemned Iran for the 1992 attacks in Argentina against the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and in 1994 against the Israelite Mutual Association of Argentina (AMIA, in Spanish). This ruling proves that the attacks, carried out by the terrorist group Hezbollah, were committed at the behest of the government of that theocracy. After the trial in absentia, it was ratified that those attacks constitute a crime against humanity. This implies that the crimes committed are considered imprescriptible, and the verdict describes Iran as a terrorist state. A series of events has resulted in three decades of impunity. The scandals that led to the imprisonment of the judge and prosecutors in the case, the issuance of Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) red notices against five former Iranian officials and the investigation against two former presidents, Carlos Menem (1989-99) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-15), torpedoed the process. These events, along with the death under strange circumstances of the special prosecutor for the AMIA case, Alberto Nisman, hours before presenting key evidence to the Congress in 2015, explained the delay in the sentencing against Iran. Brazil and the Operation Trapiche In November 2023, the Brazilian Federal Police in collaboration with the Mossad and the FBI carried out Operation Trapiche, which led to the apprehension of three Brazilian nationals. An international arrest warrant was also issued for Mohamad Khir Abdulmajid (Syrian) and Haissam Houssim Diab (Lebanese), accused of recruiting for Hezbollah in Brazil for terrorist purposes. Operation Trapiche was carried out as part of the fight against electronic cigarette smuggling in the Triple Frontier area. The profits from this fraudulent trade were destined to finance illicit activities of the Commercial Affairs Component of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization. Following the events in the Middle East over the last two weeks and Argentina’s full support for Israel, Argentinian Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, has expressed her concern about the security on the border with Bolivia and has denounced the presence of 700 Iranian members of the Quds forces, a division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard., in this country. Bullrich believes that Argentina could be subject to retaliation by Iran. The causes of this fear include the recent ruling condemning Iran as a terrorist state for the AMIA case and the announcement by the president, Javier Milei, of the decision to move the Argentinian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Not to mention the purchase of 26 supersonic F16 aircraft from Denmark, as well as the request to NATO to add Argentina as a “global partner of the organization”. Venezuela Bilateral relations between Venezuela and Iran have been fortified through a series of agreements implemented in recent years in response to the economic sanctions faced by both states. During the visit of Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, to Caracas in June 2023, 25 economic agreements worth approximately US $3,000 million were signed. Details were not disclosed. A year earlier, in June 2022, a cooperation agreement was established for the next 20 years covering science, technology, agriculture, oil and gas, petrochemicals, tourism and culture. In the same year, Iran signed a contract for 110 million euros to repair and reactivate the El Palito refinery, located in the state of Carabobo, which has a production capacity of 146,000 barrels per day. Thus, despite the tough economic sanctions, the operation of “extraterritorial refineries” increases Venezuela’s dependence (also under economic sanctions) on Iranian crude and oil expertise. Regarding the arms sector, while the cooperation memorandum with Bolivia was being signed, an Iranian cargo ship allegedly arrived at Venezuelan shores to deliver vehicles to the Maduro regime. A few days later, Iranian fast attack vessels and anti-ship missiles were exhibited during the bicentennial celebrations of the Venezuelan Navy. Thus, Iran has made possible that Venezuela becomes the first Latin American country to have access to this technology. On the eve of the Venezuelan presidential elections scheduled for July, the Iranian regime has supported the persecution and disqualification of opponents of the Maduro regime to the detriment of the Barbados Agreement. Indeed, it is in Iran’s interest to maintain the status quo in Venezuela, whose regime publicly supports terrorist groups linked to the Ayatollah’s regime. In short, Iran’s interest in maintaining and establishing close cooperative relations in Latin America seek to create ties of dependence with nations sympathetic to the regime. While the international community is on alert for the situation in the Middle East, Iran, which has been gaining ground in the region through alliances with those governments where the influence of the United States is not desired, is closely watching the stance taken by Latin American countries.

Defense & Security
Colombian flag in the national park

Total peace in Colombia: utopy?

by Daniela Castillo

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском One of the most important and ambitious banners of Gustavo Petro’s government for Colombia is the Total Peace. His bet seeks a negotiated path with the illegal armed groups in the country, this includes guerrillas and criminal groups, aiming to end or significantly reduce the violence in the territories, without a doubt, it sounds dreamy, ambitious, and challenging. Unfortunately, throughout Colombia’s history, armed conflict has been a daily feature that “pari passu” has led different governments to propose strategies aimed at overcoming it, but when it comes to implementing them, it is more complicated than one might think. It would sound illogical for someone not to want peace, but the interests, the vulnerability of the population and the dynamics of the conflict in Colombia are so complex and diverse that they hinder the implementation of peace in all its spheres. The strategies to achieve peace have traditionally been at the center of the national debate by those who want to lead the country. Petro’s government has not been an exception in this purpose and has prioritized it in a particular way: with openness to human rights and human security, expressing a special commitment to the guarantee of rights and the protection of human life and the environment, trying to build a new relationship between citizenship and institutionality. In November 2022, President Petro sanctioned Law 2272 defining the Total Peace policy, which prioritizes the initiation of dialogues and negotiations with the ELN, FARC-EMC, Segunda Marquetalia and criminal gangs. This shows the government’s importance and willingness to achieve various dialogues that help strengthen the pacification and transformation of the territories. However, it has been observed that, from the speech to practice, the execution of the policy is much more complicated than it seems. While it is true that President Petro received a country with great challenges in terms of security and peace, the panorama has not changed. Petro’s government proposes through the Total Peace policy to reduce or end violence, but ultimately, this has not been a reality. Violence in the territories continues to be a constant for the population, with extortion, murders, kidnappings, recruitment, among others, still happening. According to INDEPAZ, in 2023 there were 94 massacres, 189 leaders and 42 assassinated peace signatories; then in 2023 there were 94 massacres, 188 leaders and 44 peace signatories murdered. So far in 2024 there have been 14 massacres, 36 leaders and 9 peace signatories murdered. This shows that we are still in a dynamic of rhetoric rather than the implementation of policies for the protection of life. We hear frequent speeches about the protection of life or Colombia as a world power for life, but in reality, violence and serious human rights violations do not diminish, let alone stop. At this point, the orientation and implementation of the government’s peace policy is of concern, as it transcends only the lack of rigor, planning and implementation. One of the positive factors of the policy is the chance to have 9 dialogue tables with armed groups of totally different origin and thinking. The government has been able to engage in talks or rapprochements with i) ELN, ii) FARC-EMC, iii) Segunda Marquetalia, iv) AGC, v) ACSN, vi) Shottas y Espartanos, vii) Oficinas en Medellín, viii) Las Fuerzas Armadas RPS, Los Locos Yam y Los Mexicanos and ix) Ex AUC, although some of these spaces for dialogue are weakened with the change of the new Peace Commissioner. This plurality of spaces is the novelty that changes the historical phenomenon in Colombia, since traditionally governments have focused on dialoguing with only one armed group, while militarily fighting the others. Enabling 9 simultaneous dialogue spaces is a highly challenging task that requires a programmatic structure, experts, and direction. With these spaces, the government aims for the armed groups to demonstrate their willingness for peace and achieve a negotiated solution to the dynamics of violence in the territories. Another positive measure of the peace policy is that bilateral and temporary ceasefires have been signed with some of the armed groups, with the objective of advancing in the dialogues. In fact, some of these have been extended. This measure also seeks to reduce the impact of the conflict on the civilian population, thus seeking the pacification of the territories. Agreements have also been reached, including the establishment of humanitarian corridors to deliver food or medicine to specific villages or truces between groups to halt killings. The idea of dialogue with various armed groups is that they demonstrate their willingness for peace by reducing their violent strategies of social control against the civilian population. However, the armed groups continue to operate violently against the population, they are growing in number and are expanding rapidly in the territory. Paradoxically, it is said that, thanks to the temporary ceasefires signed with the national government, these groups have been facilitated in their strengthening. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that something similar has happened; one cannot forget when, during the Pastrana administration, in the “distension zone”, the FARC expanded their armed power. According to the Early Warnings of the Ombudsman’s Office, it is confirmed that FARC-EMC and Segunda Marquetalia have increased their presence, going from controlling 230 municipalities to 299 by 2023. The most affected departments are Antioquia, Guaviare, Meta, Caquetá, Cauca and Nariño. Even the lack of state presence has been evidenced in some parts of the country, where armed groups are inaugurating roads and handing out school supplies to children, this ultimately only demonstrates the strengthening of the groups in the territories and the absence of the social rule of law. On the other hand, the numbers of ELN members are alarming, the military forces indicate that this group had 4,000 members and now they are around 5,000. Another group that is highly alarming is the AGC, its expansion has not stopped, the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace said in early 2023 that this group had about 10,000 members and currently, the group claims to have up to 13,000 members, that means a worrying growth of about 30%. The strengthening of armed groups is a reality. This only means that something within the peace policy and the spaces for dialogue with the groups is failing. Some groups and their dissidents have repeatedly mocked the Colombian population and the agreements reached in the spaces. Illegal groups have engaged in armed strikes in vulnerable communities, forced displacement and recruitment. By 2022, 41% of the inhabitants of the most affected areas felt safe; by 2023, only 37% feel safe, this shows that the sense of insecurity is growing and, ultimately, institutional trust is not improving; on the contrary, it is generating a lack of credibility in the institutions. According to the 2023 report of the Ombudsman’s Office, forced displacement is one of the fastest growing phenomena. Nariño was affected by 58 events that impacted almost 24 thousand people, there were also 215 instances of confinement last year, affecting more than 18 thousand families; it is said that there was an increase of 63% compared to 2022, when there were 132 instances of confinement. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Peace has also reviewed 11 codes of conduct developed by non-state armed group imposed on communities in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Caquetá, Cauca, Guaviare, Huila, Meta, Valle del Cauca, Tolima, and Nariño. These codes of conduct contain social control guidelines that restrict rights and aim to subject the civilian population to the control of the armed group. Actions to reduce violence and its impact on communities must be concrete and immediate. While it is true that confrontations between armed groups and the security forces have decreased, it is a fact that confrontations between armed groups, with the undesired impact on the population, have increased significantly, and even today they are the main source of violence, thus generating a disarticulation between the security policy and the Total Peace policy. The Ministry of Defense spent almost the entire first year defining and planning the security policy, despite the efforts, today only a passive public force is evident in its actions, absent in regions, without articulation with local entities and without guidelines or specific strategies to combat violence and seek the protection of life. The Total Peace policy for now is not giving the expected response to the territories, many times even the population itself perceives that it does not have a clear north. The armed groups must demonstrate their real will for peace, as an agreement to reduce violence against the civilian population. It is necessary to reinforce and improve the articulation between the Total Peace policy, the dismantling policy, and the human security policy in the territories. Based on the figures mentioned, the Total Peace policy should undergo a radical shift, becoming much more grounded and aware of the real dynamics of the conflict in Colombia and understanding very well the extent it can have, given that there are only two and a half years left in the government’s term. Colombia cannot continue to normalize violence; it needs a peace policy that generates concrete results and truly protects life. Weapons are not the solution, and we must continue to strengthen the dialogue for the pacification of the territories, as long as this path has a structure, a north and a clear agenda, otherwise, it will continue to be just an encouraging and even hopeful discourse, while in reality there are still deaths, massacres and human rights violations.