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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.

Diplomacy
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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.

Diplomacy
Caracas, Venezuela. 23 May, 2017. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro speaks in an act to support to Assembly Constituent.

Venezuela: why Maduro is ramping up his attack on free speech

by Nicolas Forsans

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Oscar Alejandro Pérez, a popular Venezuelan YouTuber who uploads travel videos, was arrested on terrorism charges on Sunday, March 31. Pérez was detained, and subsequently held for 32 hours, over a video he uploaded in 2023. In the video, he points to the Credicard Tower, a building in Caracas that hosts the servers that facilitate the country’s financial transactions, and jokingly adds: “If a bomb were to be thrown at that building, the whole national banking system would collapse.” He was accused of urging people to blow up the building, something Pérez denies. His arrest is the latest evidence of President Nicolás Maduro’s growing crackdown on human rights and civil liberties as the country prepares for presidential elections in July. Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, was a hugely popular president. While in office, he led a social and political movement called the “Bolivarian Revolution”, which aimed to address social, economic and political inequalities through a series of progressive reforms funded by Venezuela’s vast oil wealth. Then, in 2013, Chávez died and Maduro (who was then vice president) came to power after narrowly winning a special election. Initially, Maduro enjoyed the sympathy and support of many Venezuelans loyal to Chávez and his socialist ideals. But since taking office Maduro has presided over a series of economic crises. Hyperinflation, shortages of basic goods, and a deep recession have all made him increasingly unpopular. And Venezuela’s economy has contracted by about 70% under Maduro’s leadership. Consolidating power The last time Venezuelans went to the polls was in 2018. The contest was so rigged that many neighbouring countries branded the election illegitimate. Two of the most popular opposition candidates were disqualified or barred from running, and Maduro won the contest amid claims of vote rigging and other irregularities. Many Venezuelans have grown disillusioned with Maduro and have taken to the streets to vent their anger. But widespread discontent and protests have only fed more insecurity, criminality, poverty and social unrest. Now lacking support from within the Chavista political movement and the Venezuelan military, Maduro has turned to criminal groups to promote a state where illegal armed groups act at the service of the government. Maduro has consolidated power by using state institutions to silence critics, while at the same time engaging in human rights abuses and profiting from corruption. He has been accused of committing crimes against humanity, including torture, kidnapping and extrajudicial killings. And according to Amnesty International, between 240 and 310 people remain arbitrarily detained on political grounds. Unsurprisingly, around 7.7 million Venezuelans have fled repression and economic hardship at home. Roughly 3 million of those displaced have started a new life in Colombia, 1.5 million of them have migrated to Peru, while others have made their way north to the US. The Venezuelan migrant crisis has become the largest in the world, with the number of displaced people exceeding that seen in Ukraine and Syria. Silencing dissent Venezuelans will head to the polls on July 28. The arrest of Pérez is part of a wider strategy aimed at silencing dissent and strengthening the regime’s hold over its people as Maduro seeks re-election. On February 9, a prominent lawyer and military expert Rocío San Miguel was arrested in Caracas before several members of her family disappeared. San Miguel is known for her work exposing corruption in the Venezuelan army. She appeared at a hearing four days later accused of “treason, conspiracy and terrorism” for her purported role in an alleged plot to assassinate Maduro. Her arrest set off a wave of criticism both inside and outside Venezuela, including from the UN Human Rights Council. Its office in Caracas was subsequently ordered to stop operations on the grounds that it promoted opposition to the country and staff were told to leave the country within 72 hours. It is unclear whether San Miguel remains in jail. In March, Ronald Ojeda, a 32-year-old former lieutenant in Venezuela’s military, was found dead in Chile ten days after he had gone missing. He had protested against the Maduro government on social media wearing a T-shirt with “freedom” written on the collar and prison bars drawn on the map of Venezuela. His body was found in a suitcase beneath a metre of concrete. Chilean prosecutors later announced that his abduction and killing was the work of El Tren de Aragua, one of Venezuela’s most powerful criminal organisations. Don’t bank on free and fair elections The crackdown on civic society poses a dilemma for the Biden administration. In October 2023, Maduro secured a partial lifting of US economic sanctions (which have been in place since 2019) in return for a commitment to holding “free and fair” presidential elections, in addition to political reforms and the release of political prisoners. But that deal is quickly unwinding. In January, the leader of the opposition and a clear favourite in the polls, María Corina Machada was banned from holding office for 15 years. The Biden administration has since reimposed some sanctions and has threatened new ones on Venezuela’s vital oil sector if political reforms are not made. Venezuela has become a deeply corrupt, authoritarian and criminal state that shuts down dissent, forces millions of its own people to flee, and kills or abducts whoever threatens the regime. Its occasional displays of reason are motivated purely by economic gain. In many ways, Maduro’s political repression reflects his growing fear that his regime’s days are numbered, driving him to desperate measures to force a different fate. Once a dictator takes hold, it becomes very difficult to dislodge them.

Diplomacy
Jorge Glas

Biden Administration Should Demand Ecuador Immediately Release Political Opponent Illegally Kidnapped From Mexico’s Embassy

by CEPR

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français The US Should Bring This Demand to the UN Security Council Washington, DC — The Biden administration should immediately demand that Ecuador release former vice president Jorge Glas from custody, and allow him to return to the political asylum that the Mexican government had granted him, said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Glas had sought political asylum in the Mexican embassy, claiming that he is a victim of persecution and lawfare by Attorney General Diana Salazar and the Daniel Noboa government. The Mexican government granted his request for political asylum on Friday; Ecuadorian authorities raided the embassy on Friday night, reportedly injuring several Mexican nationals and knocking the Mexican mission’s second-in-command — a career diplomat — to the ground in a dramatic incident caught on video. “Ecuador’s government has committed a very serious crime, one that threatens the security of embassies and diplomats throughout the world — not least those of the United States, which has threats to its embassies in much of the world,” Weisbrot said. “The international community cannot allow this to happen. The United States, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, should propose a resolution there as well, to force the release of the kidnapped prisoner.” The Ecuadorian government’s actions violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and pose a direct threat to the principles of asylum, of national sovereignty, and of diplomatic immunity. This clear violation of international law is the latest in a series of troubling actions by the Noboa government, which include his declaration of an “internal armed conflict,” the deployment of military forces for domestic law enforcement, mass arrests, and rampant human rights violations. The Noboa administration’s raid on the embassy has been met with condemnation from many governments in the region, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras (the current head of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC), Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Antigua and Barbuda. Colombian president Gustavo Petro says his government is seeking human rights protections for Glas. Canada criticized the Ecuadorian government’s actions. Both the Organization of American States and CELAC have issued statements rejecting the Noboa government’s actions, and have said they will each hold special meetings to address the matter. Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, condemned the embassy raid, and the UN secretary-general issued a statement “stress[ing] that violations of this principle jeopardize the pursuit of normal international relations.” Weisbrot noted that such crimes as Ecuador committed on Friday are quite rare, and are taken very seriously, because of the threat that they pose to the system of international diplomacy. This is the system that nations rely upon to try and resolve conflicts without violence and war. The International Court of Justice has held that “there was no more fundamental prerequisite for relations between States than the inviolability of diplomatic envoys and embassies …” Several members of the US Congress have also condemned the Noboa government’s actions. The Biden administration’s statement, made yesterday evening, “condemns any violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.” The administration has recently deepened military and security relations with the Noboa government in the midst of Noboa’s broad crackdown and rights violations. The Ecuadorian government’s actions are a grave violation of international law and norms, and pose a dangerous precedent. Embassies are considered foreign territory, and Ecuador’s raid is a violation of Mexico’s territorial sovereignty under the law. Host governments historically have avoided violating embassies even when desiring to apprehend individuals seeking refuge or asylum. The British government did not raid Ecuador’s embassy in London in the years that Julian Assange was staying there; it was only after the Ecuadorian government of Lenín Moreno revoked Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship and evicted him from the embassy that British authorities took him into custody. Likewise, the Pinochet dictatorship and other Latin American dictatorships never violated the integrity of foreign embassies, even to apprehend wanted dissidents or political opponents. The coup government of Jeanine Áñez in Bolivia never raided the Mexican embassy where several officials from the illegally ousted Evo Morales government had sought refuge following the 2019 coup d’etat. Salazar has long engaged in a campaign of lawfare and political persecution against former president Rafael Correa and other figures from the former Correa government. The charges against Correa have been shown to have so little credibility, and the evidence is so lacking, that Interpol for years has refused to act on Ecuador’s red notice against him. Belgium has granted him political asylum, and he can travel freely to almost anywhere in the world without fear of extradition. And last year, a Brazilian supreme court judge annulled evidence against Glas after authorities admitted it may have been tampered with. “The United States is providing crucial diplomatic, military, and material support to Ecuador; and Canada is currently seeking a ‘free trade’ agreement with Ecuador,” said Weisbrot. “All of this should be suspended until Ecuador releases its former vice president, who it has kidnapped from Mexico’s embassy.”

Diplomacy
2024, Mexico flag with date block

Lopez Obrador's popular support, a key factor in determining who will be Mexico's first female president

by Orestes Enrique Díaz Rodríguez

Next June 2nd, Mexicans have an historical appointment with the ballot boxes. From them will almost certainly emerge the country’s first female president. The two contenders represent divergent models. The incumbent, embodied by Claudia Sheinbaum, inherits a version that, in the name of the greater wealth redistribution, concentrated all power in the figure of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his party, Morena. The alternative is offered by a coalition of opposition parties. They and their presidential candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez, advocate for the need to respect certain institutional checks and balances. But the credibility of those organizations, who governed between 2000 and 2018, and likely of the electoral democracy model they represent, is seriously questioned. Amidst this context, the high and persistent approval of López Obrador may offer revealing, though not definitive, clues. The latest report from Oraculus, a poll aggregator, recorded that 68% of Mexican citizens approve President López Obrador's management, while only 29% disapprove. The portal regularly processes results from more than a dozen of the main polling firms. Specifically, the survey conducted by ‘El Financiero’ (newspaper) in December 2023 showed the smallest difference between the approval (55%) and disapproval (44%) of the president by citizens, which nonetheless was eleven percentage points. A stable and positive six-year approval rating For five years, the approval rating of the Mexican president has managed to avoid steep declines. As the electoral campaign kicks off, all signs indicate that it will continue to be stable and positive. Unfortunately, analysts underestimate the impact that such a situation may have on the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. This stance is associated with three powerful myths. Myth 1: approving is one thing, voting is another. The president’s popularity matters little for the outcome of the presidential election. This myth blatantly ignores an essential reference. Thirty years ago, the political scientist Fabián Echegaray was the pioneer in revealing that the popularity of Latin American leaders is the best predictor of the result that the ruling party candidate will obtain in the election. Approving and voting are two different acts, but there tends to be a strong positive link between them. It would be puzzling for democracy if citizens regularly rejected at the polls governments whose performance they approve of in public opinion polls. The Latin American comparative experience shows that between 1982 and 2023, a total of thirty-five leaders from fourteen countries in the region, whose elections took place in a free and transparent environment, reached the months prior to the start of the electoral campaign with positive approval ratings. In twenty-seven cases (77.14%), there was a generous and sufficient transfer from the popularity of the current executive to the vote count of the official party’s presidential candidate. Forewarned is forearmed. The positive approval of the incumbent tends to consistently anticipate the continuity of the ruling party in power. The exceptions Only in eight cases did this trend not materialize. The first record, dates back to 1990 in the presidential elections of Costa Rica. The last dated in 2020 during the elections in the Dominican Republic. In all those electoral processes, the government’s presidential candidate seemed bolstered by the high approval rating of the incumbent leader. However, they were defeated at the polls. The common feature in practically all cases was that the party in power faced the campaign affected by a strong process of internal division. This fact dispersed the pro-government vote, a scenario that ended up benefiting the opposition. That’s not the current situation of the ruling party in Mexico, Morena. Until recently, the organization faced the possibility of a traumatic rupture when former Chancellor Marcelo Ebrard did not recognize the results of the internal electoral process, challenged them, and even threatened to leave the party along with a legion of sympathizers. But the threat of a rupture dissipated when Ebrard finally backed down. The opposition never properly gauged the true depth of a potential internal split in Morena led by the former Chancellor. Although the episode could end up being the only serious threat to the current purpose of retaining the reins of power. Myth 2: the theory of presidential popularity transfer does not apply in Mexico. There is a belief that while the theory of presidential popularity transfer may apply in other regions, it does not do so in the case of Mexico. The assumptions in favor would be as follows: 1. Heading into the 2000 presidential elections, PRI President Ernesto Zedillo had an approval rating of 65%. However, the current presidential candidate, Francisco Labastida was defeated by the ‘Partido Acción Nacional’ (PAN) candidate, Vicente Fox. 2. Similarly, prior to the 2012 presidential elections, Felipe Calderón had a 60% approval rating, but it didn’t end up benefiting the current candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, who relegated to third place in the race. Explaining the controversial Mexican cases While most Latin American countries have held an average of approximately seven presidential elections since their transition, Mexico has only had three following the political alternation in 2000: the elections of 2006, 2012 and 2018. With so few cases, the emergence of a trend is always in its infancy. This is especially true if one of the three cases, the 2012 elections, indeed constituted an anomaly. The high approval rating of President Calderón did not translate into votes for the current presidential candidate. Indeed, the 2012 elections constitute one of the regional cases we previously highlighted as exceptions. However, there is sufficient evidence accumulated regarding the fact that during the 2012 electoral process, the PAN experienced an underlying internal division that decisively affected its chances of winning. Even with the exception, the trend for presidential approval to reflect in the electoral outcome has been predominant in Mexico (66.66%). After the 2024 elections, it is very likely to experience an increase that brings it very close to the Latin American average rate (82.14%). One of the criteria guiding the selection of cases in research on presidential popularity is that presidential elections have been held after the democratic transition. By definition, authoritarian regimes do not guarantee an autonomous public opinion and tend to have elections that are not free and transparent. In that sense, the popularity of President Ernest Zedillo cannot be considered a reliable indicator. It is a “citizen perception” reported within an authoritarian regime. An environment where fear, censorship, persecution, and retaliation prevail. Sartori (1992) insisted on the obligation to differentiate between “opinion in the public” and “opinion of the public”. Myth 3: the outcome of the presidential election is decided during the campaign The role of elections as a mechanism for the peaceful selection of political leaders has fostered the belief that the campaign always represents a decisive moment in shaping electoral preferences. This explains the journalistic reports about a potential campaign in which a stiff incumbent candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum, is cornered by the rhetorical skills and charisma of the opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez, and by the impact of the negatives associated with the performance of the incumbent ruler. In reality, the campaigns have a very limited effect on the electoral outcome, they only matter under very specific conditions. Most of the time, they only reinforce the decision that voters made before the start of the campaign itself. Pattern or plasticity? However, despite the abundant empirical evidence, it would be a mistake to take for granted a victory for Morena in the 2024 presidential elections. The relevant thing is just to acknowledge that the outcome seems to favor Morena. Political events resist being confined to a framework. They have the potential for surprise and innovation. Political actors have memory, learn from experience, and often show ingenuity. Under certain conditions, these attributes lead them to reverse the expected historical outcome. Once social science is able to reveal certain patterns of behavior, the next challenge is to infer whether in a new experience the norm or the exception will ultimately prevail. The dilemma between pattern and plasticity. Pattern marks regularity, the behavior that, by dint of repetition, is expected. Meanwhile, plasticity means assuming that there will always be exceptions to any regularity or generalization we may reach, in principle.

Diplomacy
Semiconductor chip cooperation between the USA and the European Union concept.

EU and US continue strong trade and technology cooperation at a time of global challenges

by Margrethe Vestager , Valdis Dombrovskis

Today, the EU and the United States held the sixth meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) in Leuven, Belgium. The meeting allowed ministers to build on ongoing work and present new deliverables of the TTC after two and a half years of cooperation. The TTC is a key forum for close cooperation on transatlantic trade and technology issues. The Commission was represented by Executive Vice-Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis, joined by Commissioner Thierry Breton. On the US side, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai were present. The meeting took place in a challenging geopolitical context, including Russia's illegal war against Ukraine and global economic pressures. In addition, the acceleration of the digital and green transitions opens opportunities for growth and innovation but also requires transatlantic cooperation towards joint approaches. The meeting showed that there is a strong commitment to advance transatlantic leadership on emerging technologies and in the digital environment, facilitate bilateral trade and investment, cooperate on economic security and defend human rights and values. Transatlantic cooperation on artificial intelligence, quantum, 6G, semiconductors and standardisation The EU and US reaffirmed their common commitment to a risk-based approach to artificial intelligence (AI) and support for safe and trustworthy AI technologies. Both partners believe in the potential of AI to help find solutions to global challenges. A short overview document published today on AI for the Public Good identifies milestones on which the EU and US are cooperating in the areas of extreme weather, energy, emergency response and reconstruction. The partners also announced a new Dialogue between the EU AI office and the US Safety Institute on developing tools, methodologies and benchmarks for measuring and evaluating AI models. Since the launch of the TTC in 2021, the EU and US have worked on transparency and risk mitigation to reap the benefits of AI for their citizens and societies and continue to implement the Joint Roadmap for Trustworthy AI and Risk Management. The EU and US have adopted today a common 6G vision setting out a path for leadership on this technology, and have signed an administrative arrangement for research collaboration. This builds on the 6G outlook adopted in May 2023, and the industry roadmap on 6G of December 2023. In the semiconductors area, the EU and the US are extending for three years their two administrative arrangements, under which they have been cooperating fruitfully to identify early-on supply chain disruptions and ensure subsidies transparency. They will commit to cooperating on legacy semiconductors and join forces in research to find alternatives to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in chips, including by leveraging AI capacities. On emerging technology standards, the EU and US are releasing a Digital Identity Mapping Report with the aim of identifying use cases for transatlantic interoperability and the cross-border use of digital identities. In 2023, the EU and the US endorsed a common international standard on megawatt charging systems for the recharging of electric heavy-duty vehicles. The partners will continue to work on standards as enablers of the green transition. Boosting digital skills and talent is fundamental for the success of the digital transition. The Talent for Growth Task Force launched in April 2023 with a one-year mandate, has served as a platform for rich exchanges on innovative skills development and actionable solutions to address skills shortages in the technology sector in both the EU and the US. The Task Force presented the outcomes of these discussions in the margins of the TTC. Promoting easier, more sustainable and more secure trade on the transatlantic marketplace Promoting sustainable trade as part of the green transition is a priority for both parties and the TTC remains a key forum for the EU and the US to cooperate on this. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the Transatlantic Initiative on Sustainable Trade (TIST), which since its inception in 2022 frames the TTC's work in this regard. At today's meeting, ministers took stock of the work taking place under TIST including on conformity assessment, to facilitate trade in goods and technologies that are vital for the green transition. They agreed to publish a Joint Catalogue of Best Practices on Green Public Procurement to help accelerate the deployment of publicly financed sustainability projects, and to advance their cooperation on solar supply chains. The EU and the US have declared their intention to make transatlantic trade easier and to continue growing their unique economic partnership. To this end, both sides have agreed to facilitate digital tools in trade. In particular, they have taken steps to ease digital trade for companies by coordinating and aligning their respective technical standards for e-invoicing systems, which should considerably cut down on time and red tape. This will also reduce paper usage and carbon emissions associated with traditional invoicing methods. Furthermore, both parties reaffirmed the importance of the EU-US Clean Energy Incentives Dialogue as a platform for exchange to avoid zero-sum competition and trade and investment distortions in the clean energy sector. They also welcomed the publication of recommendations for greater transatlantic e-vehicle charging infrastructure compatibility, which complement the previously published Transatlantic Technical Recommendations for Government Funded Implementation of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure. Moreover, the EU and the US hold that sustainable trade is not only about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but also about ensuring a fair transition for workers and firms up and down the supply chain. This aim is encapsulated by the work of the Trade and Labour Dialogue (TALD), which, building on the discussions during a workshop with social partners organised at the fifth TTC meeting in January 2024 held its third meeting at today's TTC ministerial meeting. In addition, the EU and US have intensively engaged on critical minerals, which are indispensable for a wide set of technologies needed for EU strategic sectors such as the net-zero industry, and the digital, space and defence sectors. The EU and the US are advancing negotiations toward a Critical Minerals Agreement This agreement aims to strengthen EU-US supply chains in critical minerals for electric vehicles batteries and to reinforce the protection of labour and environment in international critical minerals supply chains. The EU and the US also welcomed the launch of the Minerals Security Partnership Forum (more information will be available later here), which they will co-chair, and look forward to a fruitful future cooperation with a wide range of partners around the world. Ministers also discussed partnering on economic security. In this regard, the EU and the US reaffirmed their shared concerns over the challenges posed by economic coercion and non-market practices employed by third countries and resolved to continue their efforts to de-risk and diversify their trade and investment relations. They also recognised the important role that the TTC has consistently played to optimise EU-US work on export controls against Russia and Belarus. They resolved to further align their respective priorities in this regard and to continue work on facilitating secure high-technology trade while maintaining an effective export controls regime. The EU and the US have carried out joint work to identify and promote best practices on foreign investment screening and will continue to exchange information to address threats to security and public order. Both parties also agreed to continue to exchange information on how to respond to the risks posed by outbound investments in certain critical technologies. Defending human rights and values in a changing geopolitical digital environment The EU and the US concur that online platforms should exercise greater responsibility in ensuring a fair, transparent, and accountable digital environment including by addressing gender-based violence and protecting human rights defenders online. The partners have developed a set of joint principles on gender-based violence on online platforms which complement the list of high-level principles on the protection and empowerment of minors and data access for researchers, which are in line with the EU's Digital Services Act. Both partners are determined to support democracies across the world and to defend human rights, free and independent media and combat foreign information manipulation and interference, especially in a year when many elections take place in the world. Following suit, they have published joint Recommended Actions for Online Platforms on Protecting Human Rights Defenders Online. The EU and US committed to facilitating data access from online platforms and published a report on mechanisms for researcher access to such data, which builds upon efforts undertaken by the academic and research community. Moreover, the EU and the US reiterated their commitment to support secure and resilient digital infrastructure and connectivity projects in third countries and announced a joint support package for Tunisia. This adds to the implementation of projects underway in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Kenya, and the Philippines. Next Steps The wide-ranging fruits of the TTC's work since its launch in 2021 attest to the value of this transatlantic policy forum, and principals agreed on the need to continue this work. Therefore, as both sides enter their respective electoral processes, the EU and US will reflect on the lessons learned so far and possible ways forward. In the meantime, the technical work under the TTC will continue. Building on the lessons learnt from our cooperation so far, we intend to use the remainder of 2024 to engage with EU and U.S. stakeholders to gather their views on the future of the TTC. Background The EU and the US launched the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) at their summit in Brussels on 15 June 2021. It has served as a forum to discuss and coordinate on key trade and technology issues, and to deepen transatlantic cooperation on issues of joint interest. The inaugural ministerial meeting of the TTC took place in Pittsburgh on 29 September 2021. Following this meeting, ten working groups were set up covering issues such as technology standards, AI, semiconductors, export controls and global trade challenges. This was followed by a second meeting in Paris on 16 May 2022, a third meeting in College Park, Maryland, in December 2022, a fourth meeting in Luleå, Sweden, in May 2023 and a fifth meeting in Washington DC in January 2024. The EU and the US remain key geopolitical and trading partners. EU-US bilateral trade is at historical highs, with over €1.6 trillion in 2023 and with bilateral investment stocks topping €5 trillion. Quote(s) “In today’s fast-moving and uncertain world, our partnership with the United States on trade and technology allows us to deal with some of the most crucial challenges of our time. I am proud of the results delivered so far and we will keep working to enhance economic security and build a fair digital environment that reflects our values.” Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age “The TTC has injected new dynamism into transatlantic trade relations. It is the first forum of its kind that has allowed the world’s two largest economies to set new standards and cooperate on current challenges - such as sanctions against Russia - based on shared democratic values. The TTC has made important inroads in terms of bolstering our economic security and enhancing the resilience of supply chains. We have also made valuable progress in jointly forging the green transatlantic marketplace.” Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President, and Commissioner for Trade

Diplomacy
Presidential election 2024 in the United States. Voting day, November 5.

Elections in USA: a fast-paced race

by Raquel López-Portillo

As rarely in history, elections in the United States have accelerated their tempo at a dizzying pace. The Triumpist tsunami that has swept through this initial primary election process is striking in terms of the acceleration of the process. In 2016, it was not until May that the former President Trump secured the Republican Party candidacy, while in the 2020 cycle it took Biden until June. This hastening has not only impacted domestically but has also put Mexico in a delicate position ahead of the general elections in both countries. It is nothing new that migration is a central topic of debate and dispute, even more so when its politicization increases in an electoral environment. However, the US electoral process has placed Mexico, literally and metaphorically, as a campaign stage. As evidenced by the visit of the two potential candidates for the US presidency to the Mexican border a few weeks ago, the importance of our country today takes a prominent place both in the priorities of the electorate and in the respective campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This leaves the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a tenuous position in an already complex scenario. The fact that the focus of the conversation has been set on the border so soon leaves at least eight months of a potential spike in tensions. Biden’s rhetoric is no longer the same as when he began his term, nor is it attached to the human rights-centered line that has traditionally characterized the Democratic Party. In contrast, Biden has insisted in recent days on the passage of a bipartisan initiative to allow for the deployment of more border agents and asylum officers, detection technology, and increased capabilities to close the border when it is overwhelmed. In this scene, it is possible to expect that the diplomacy and repeated high-level meetings that have been held in recent months will now come laden with even greater demands and ultimatums. In addition, our country is also expected to be at the center of the legislative debate. While the most radical wing of the Republican Party has been the main protagonist of the budget attacks, the immigration crisis has provoked some democrats to take tougher positions. Politically, this situation has become a thorn in President Joe Biden’s side. He is perhaps the most damaged between the pressures of his closest supporters and the Republican resistance to give him legislative victories, at a time when every message or decision could influence from the presidential race to the elections in the local legislature, where the Democrats seek to recover lost spaces. For the time being, everything points to the fact that the greater the chaos on the border with the country, the greater the political gains. Finally, the border with Mexico has also found a place in the electorate’s priorities. According to various polls, eight out of ten Americans (with or without party affiliation) place immigration as a priority issue. Likewise, at least 28 percent of the polled by the Gallup Agency stated that immigration is the most serious problem that faces the country, ahead of issues such as the economy, inflation, or crime. This also impacts Mexico because it is not only limited to a matter of perception but is inevitably reflected in everyday life. Considering that migration, drug trafficking and insecurity are generally considered as part of the same problem, this has a significant impact on the increase of xenophobic positions, particularly against Mexican nationals living in the United States. Regardless of how the electoral pace continues or who ends up in the White House, Mexico should pay special attention to the speeches, proposals and actions of other people competing at the local or federal level for a position in the next government, particularly on issues that concern our country, such as migration, security, or the fight against organized crime. It is precisely these people who will determine the future of our most important bilateral relationship.

Diplomacy
The High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, Cristina Gallach, during her speech at an event.

The growing discourse of rejection of the 2030 Agenda in Latin American governments

by Javier Surasky

In September 2015, the delegations of the 150 presidents participating in the Sustainable Development Summit were part of the 193 States preparing to adopt the outcome document of this meeting. This meeting represented the end of the most participatory negotiation process in the history of the United Nations: the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. The sense of optimism and of moving towards a common goal was palpable. Eight years later, the progress of the 2030 Agenda has fallen far short of expectations. Unfulfilled promises, lack of financing, the health crisis generated by COVID-19, the recent wars, and the global economy that has faced first recessionary and then inflationary pressures all have made the idea of finding common solutions to the problems afflicting the world lose momentum. Misinformation on the 2030 Agenda On this fertile soil, conspiracy theories sprout that see multilateralism as the origin of today’s problems. The 2030 Agenda is, in many cases, at the center of these distorted visions. Three conspiracy theories are being raised against the main global sustainable development agenda. Theory of the “New World Order”: This theory is based on the idea that an elite (Bilderberg Club style) formed by a small group of the most powerful people in the world governs the destinies of the planet for their benefit. The “Great Reboot” theory was proposed in Davos after the pandemic, and with the UN’s “build back better” vision, the theory focuses on the economic dimension. It suggests an orchestrated plan by the most powerful countries to appropriate all the world’s wealth. They claim the intentional creation of a pandemic to initiate their plan. “Trickle-down communism” theory: After the fall of the Soviet Union – and knowing that communism could never take over the West – the “left” began a worldwide campaign to slowly insert its ideas into Western societies so that by the time the plan was discovered, the West would have embraced the communist ideal without realizing it. All three conspiracies arrive at the same result: the 2030 Agenda is creating a group (an economic elite, a group of powerful countries, or international communism) aiming to appropriate the world’s wealth. These stories contradict reality and seek to misinform about this milestone for international cooperation, which, despite the difficulty of addressing it, is a renewal of the concept of international development. The disinformation of the 2030 Agenda happens, in most cases, through social networks, and their expressions claim, for example, that this is oriented to Forcing citizens to eat insects instead of meat. Confine the world’s population to neighborhoods where they cannot leave without permission under “15-minute cities”. Feminize men to reduce the world population. Despite the absurdity of the “arguments,” they have served as a basis for those who seek to debate the value of the 2030 Agenda in Latin America. José Luis Chilavert, former goalkeeper of the Paraguayan national soccer team, became a candidate for president of his country in the 2023 elections. He obtained 0.7% of the votes but explained his decision: “I got into politics to fight against Agenda 2030. They want to destroy us.” Sandra Torres, three-time presidential candidate for the Partido Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE by its acronym in Spanish) party, said in a video in the 2023 election campaign: “I will never let them impose an international agenda on us. We Guatemalans will set Guatemala’s agenda. I believe in life, family, and religious freedom. No to Agenda 2030.” In Chile, Congressman Cristóbal Urruticoechea Ríos, with an active mandate until 2026, stated in his country’s congress that “the dehumanization of human beings and the humanization of animals, the destruction of language, the destruction of the middle classes, the liquidation of the sovereignty of nations, the attack on families, life and roots. This is part of the 2030 Agenda.” After Jair Bolsonaro’s defeat in the last Brazilian elections, his son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, became the face of the Liberal Party. His position is forceful: “The more we fight against Agenda 2030, the greater our electoral success will be.” In Costa Rica, New Republic deputy David Segura said in a speech at the chamber that the 2030 Agenda was adopted to “confuse people and, of course, to impose little by little the great modern enemy of all families, which is the nefarious gender ideology,” and then added that Agenda 2030 “opens the door to promote nothing more and nothing less than abortion, financed by international capital giants that pursue their interests, which are far from being yours, mine.” At the level of presidents we have Nayib Bukele, recently reelected to govern El Salvador, maintains a cautious position: “On the issue of Agenda 2030, I am very suspicious of this type of international agendas of the UN, the World Economic Forum, or wherever they come from and their intentions”. Although undoubtedly, the greatest exponent of conspiracy theories in the region is Javier Milei, current president of Argentina, who, during his campaign, stated, “We are not going to adhere to Agenda 2030. We do not adhere to cultural Marxism. We do not adhere to decadence” (read in Spanish), and, already in office, he explained that he was traveling to the Davos Forum with the aim of “planting the ideas of freedom in a forum that is contaminated with the socialist agenda 2030 that will only bring misery to the world”. With such positions, one of the few well-established consensuses in the region during the last 10 years is cracking. The fact that the discussion is settled will be a setback that cannot be allowed. It is up to Latin America’s leaders to armor their support for the 2030 Agenda by being clearer in their positions and more active than before in their policies to implement the SDGs. The Regional Forum on Sustainable Development must make a strong statement in that direction. When the UN Secretary-General stated that we are facing a “breakdown or breakthrough” dilemma, it seemed a rhetorical question. For Latin America, it is no longer so.