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Venezuela’s Maduro goads the US

On 22 May, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro declared the US Chargé d’Affaires in Venezuela as persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country.

Macri seeks to buttress support for IMF deal

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri did his level best this week to assuage the concerns of businessmen and opposition politicians about the decision to return to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial assistance, and to drum up support for his government at its most challenging time. Many provincial governors have goodwill for Macri but are reluctant to offer unqualified support, not knowing what demands will be placed upon his administration by the IMF, and how unpopular these will be with the populace. Macri’s problems were compounded this week by a report from the national statistics institute (Indec) showing that inflation is picking up pace. But the successful renewal of a large sum of short-term debt halted the run on the peso, providing hope that this could be a turning point.

Is Mercosur asleep on the job?

During the decade of the commodity boom (roughly the ten years to 2012) the governments of Argentina and Brazil (the two dominant members of the Mercosur trade bloc, whose other members are Paraguay and Uruguay [and Venezuela – suspended since 2016]) neglected the customs union and bickered between themselves over protective tariffs. When there was a political swing to the centre-right in Argentina (late 2015) and Brazil (mid 2016) there was a lot of talk of reviving Mercosur and making a new commitment to open trade and regional integration. But has anything really happened?

It’s the corruption, stupid!

Famously, the 1992 Bill Clinton election campaign headquarters had a sign up on the wall proclaiming “it’s the economy, stupid” – an exhortation to focus on what was seen as the top issue of the time. More than a quarter of a century later, current and would-be Latin American presidents could do well to have their own version of the sign pinned up in their offices saying “it’s the corruption, stupid!” Corruption is beyond doubt one of the top political problems in the continent. The Summit of the Americas (held in Lima on 13-14 April) issued a new declaration on how to fight against corruption, but many worry it will be no more than another ineffectual declaration of good intentions.

Introduction

Global climate change and local factors, such as deforestation, are posing an important threat to the availability and quality of water across the Central American region. Despite improvements over the last two decades, such as increased access to safe drinking water, there is a danger that more extreme weather (meaning more floods and droughts) will cause a water crisis. The first of our focus pieces in this May edition of Latin American Regional Report: Caribbean & Central America, considers this danger.

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Latin America 2018

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