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Rapprochements and rows at Celac summit

On 29 January the two-day III Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) heads of State summit ended in San José, Costa Rica.

Mexico’s Peña Nieto might be losing his mojo

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has bowed to political pressure to remove a close ally, Alfredo Castillo, as federal commissioner for the western state of Michoacán. He took the decision ostensibly for the sake of democracy: with elections coming up on 7 June for state governor and congress as well as 113 mayoral contests, opposition politicians were publicly raising questions about Castillo’s excessive influence. But there is a sense that mounting conflict of interest scandals are emasculating Peña Nieto, whose governance has transmuted from strong and pro-active, dictating the agenda with myriad reform initiatives to modernise Mexico, to weak and reactive; no longer shaping events but being shaped by them.

Cigars and mojitos - opening up US-Cuba trade

It almost certainly won’t all go smoothly, but for now, things are moving fast. On 17 December US President Barrack Obama lifted his country’s 53-year old freeze on full diplomatic relations with Cuba. On 15 January Cuba honoured an undertaking to release 53 detainees considered political prisoners by the US. On the same day, United Airlines said that it would look to begin direct US-Cuba flights, subject to expected changes in US federal legislation. On 16 January the US treasury and commerce departments published the details of the new changes announced by President Obama, including allowing the authorised categories of US travellers to Cuba to bring back small quantities of cigars and rum and to use their credit cards while on the island, as well as green-lighting US exports of telecoms and ICT equipment, building materials for residential construction, and agricultural equipment for small farmers. Permitted remittances from American citizens to Cuba have also been increased sharply. The question is: where is it all heading?

DEA says most drugs in the US come from or through Mexico

Even as patterns of use and production change, Mexico continues to be the main source or conduit for the drugs imported by the US. Mexican methamphetamine has become the main drug threat identified by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), ahead of all others save the controlled prescription drugs (CPDs), which are seen as a stepping stone towards heroin use — and Mexico is the hemisphere’s biggest producer of heroin. It is also the source of most of the marijuana. And most of the cocaine that flows into the US passes through Mexico.

Crunch time for Venezuela

With Venezuelan oil at US$38.5 a barrel, and the world watching in wonder at the long queues snaking around Caracas as people seek out the most basic household supplies, President Nicolás Maduro’s much-touted but scarcely-detailed plans for ‘economic reactivation’ appear to be leaning towards ever-tighter military efforts against the ‘fourth generation’ war Maduro says is being waged against the Bolivarian Revolution by international right-wing conspirators.

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