Latin America

  • Playing the bad boy in Latin America is no longer the easy game it was: the FT welcomes the return of economic rationality.
  • Overfishing and pollution may be behind a rise in violent piracy and kidnapping for ransom in southeast Asia.
  • Sleeping arrangements in first- and business-class cabins are the competitive weapon of choice as airlines vie to woo the global one per cent.
  • On the anniversary of the Rana Plaza catastrophe, a Guardian interactive traces the journey (and human cost) of the shirt on your back.
  • Moscow is playing a new ‘great game’ Ukraine in which the primary tools are local assets, in the shape of Ukraine’s political and security elites.
  • The WSJ is tracking the fallout of the latest wave of sanctions in real time.
  • Nato’s eastern European members are nervous about the alliance’s ability, or even willingness, to counter Russia.

 

♦ Lawrence Summers made dismissive remarks about the effectiveness of quantitative easing back in April, while a senate letter by a group of Democrats backing Janet Yellen for the next Fed chair is circulating. The Washington Post’s Wonk blog asks, who would make the better chair, Yellen or Summers?
♦Pope Francis is walking the walk in Latin America, inspiring the masses, and many should be feeling uncomfortable about this, argues John-Paul Rathbone.
♦ When Wen Jiabao defined Bo Xilai as a man who wanted to repudiate China’s effort to reform its economy, open to the world and allow its citizens to experience modernity, he was getting his revenge on a family that had opposed him and his mentor Hu Yaobang.
♦ Medieval Irish chronicles might be able to expand our understanding of climate change.
♦ Abbe Smith, a professor of law and the director of the Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic at Georgetown University, examines why lawyers choose to defend someone like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or George Zimmerman.

 

♦ There are doubts over how much longer Latin America will benefit from the “commodity supercycle”.
♦ Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president, has registered for next month’s election, disrupting the Islamic regime’s plans to hand power to a loyal fundamentalist.
♦ Nawaz Sharif has sealed his third term as prime minister of Pakistan. However, the sense of vibrant democracy has been tempered by Taliban attacks. The New York Times bureau chief was also expelled on the day of voting.
♦ Forty years after Watergate, the BBC looks at the legacy of investigative journalism in the UK.
♦ After the news that Bloomberg’s journalists could see more than Bloomberg’s customers would like them to, Quartz takes a look at the culture of omniscience that pervades the organisation and Hilary Sargent (aka ChartGirl) explains how it works in this neat diagram.
On another note… Britain’s approach to Eurovision might need some fine-tuning.  

By Julia Zhu in London

 

John Paul Rathbone

Presidents Raul Castro of Cuba (L) and Sebastian Piñera of Chile during a summit of Latin American states on Monday (Reuters).

It all went surprisingly well. Latin America, in sentiment if not in deed, presented a united front to its European guests at the summit of EU and Latin American leaders in Santiago, which wound up on Monday. With customary politesse, local differences were mostly swept under the carpet.

Nobody in Chile kicked up a fuss that communist Cuba will now head the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (Celac) – even though democracy is one of Celac’s core goals. The region’s free-trading Pacific countries –Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile – agreed to drop tariffs to speed the creation of their “Pacific Alliance”, a “free-trade” block. (By contrast, Mercosur, a rival regional trade pact led by more protectionist Brazil and Argentina has been negotiating an EU trade deal for over a decade.) A handful of business deals were signed. And a long and flowery letter, supposedly written by Hugo Chávez from his sickbed in Cuba and that called for Latin American unity, was read out, which lent some colour to the last day. 

John Paul Rathbone

Julian Assange speaking in December 2011 (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

William Hague, the UK foreign secretary, has said he wants to make Latin America a priority of British diplomacy. The UK’s approach to Julian Assange suggests otherwise.

Mr Assange, today granted political asylum by Ecuador, remains holed up in its embassy in London. But the foreign office has said that, under UK law, British police can storm the Ecuadorean embassy and remove him. Such action would presumably form part of its “binding obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden,” as a foreign office spokesperson put it.

Bad move. For one, the law is unnecessary. As Ecuador acknowledges, rather than raid the embassy British police could simply arrest Assange as soon as he stepped out onto London’s street, en route to political asylum in Quito. (He faces charges of skipping bail.) The law is also politically flat-footed. It casts the UK as a heavy-handed western country that considers itself above international norms (especially given the UN Security Council’s condemnation of the sacking of the British embassy in Iran). It thereby tacitly confirms the worst kinds of conspiracy theories swirling around Assange. And it allows Ecuador to play the plucky David standing up to the bullying colonial Goliath of Britain. The pose resonates throughout the region, and has similarly been struck by Argentina in its arguments with the UK over the Falklands. Expect President Cristina Fernandez to start singing that refrain again soon. 

John Paul Rathbone

Enrique Peña Nieto

Enrique Peña Nieto on July 2 (Daniel Aguilar/Getty Images)

What will the rest of Latin America make of Enrique Peña Nieto’s election as Mexico’s new president – and, with him, the return to power of the PRI?

Latin America felt like a very different place the last time Mexico held presidential elections in 2006. Back then, commodity prices were soaring and free-spending populist governments (or the “new Latin American left”, as they was sometimes characterised) were sweeping the polls. That is why the near-win in Mexico by leftist leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador (aka Amlo) was so closely watched. It would have made Mexico the crowning piece of a regional jigsaw dominated by populist (to varying degrees) or leftist (depending on how you view them) presidents in Argentina and Brazil, plus the more ideological group of ALBA nations – Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba. At the time, such regional attention may also have emboldened Amlo, who went on to protest for three months, during sit-ins in Mexico City’s main thoroughfares and central square, that his victory has been stolen by Felipe Calderón’s centre right PAN.

Today, however, the regional political landscape has shifted. Populist (or leftist) governments are no longer ascendant. 

John Paul Rathbone

Mexican Federal police arrest men on suspicion of possessing drugs during an anti-narcotics operation in the Tepito district in Mexico City April 11, 2007. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

Anti-narcotic arrests in Mexico City. Reuters/ Daniel Aguilar

Growing calls from Latin America that it’s time to rethink the “War on Drugs” has lead to a near-intoxicating barrage of documents, books, speeches and studies on the subject. Here’s one of the latest – a US Senate report on “Reducing the US demand for illegal drugs”.

Given that some 50,000 people have died in Mexico over the past six years during that country’s battle against organised crime, and that the US spends some $190bn a year on drug enforcement, health care and addiction costs – equivalent to a quarter of its military budget – this is more than a fanciful “nice-to-have” idea. It is surely a must.

Three findings grabbed my attention. First, illegal drug use continues to rise in the US. At 9 per cent of the population, it is now at its highest rate in a decade.