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Venezuela political dialogue stalls once more

On 18 January Venezuela’s main opposition coalition, Mesa de le Unidad Democrática (MUD), announced it was suspending its participation in the internationally-sponsored dialogue that is has been holding with the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) government led by President Nicolás Maduro to try to find a solution to the country’s political crisis.

Argentina’s Macri prepares for showdown with unions

“Don’t twist the lion’s tail.” This warning was issued by one of Argentina’s most powerful trade union leaders, Luis Barrionuevo, this week. It was directed at the government led by President Mauricio Macri. “Those who attacked the unions – the military, [Raúl] Alfonsín [1983-1989] and [Fernando] de la Rúa [1999-2001] didn’t finish their terms,” Barrionuevo added in case the message was lost on Macri. Barrionuevo spoke out in the wake of an unprecedented surge in arrests of union leaders accused of corruption as battle lines are drawn ahead of a congressional debate of the most important piece of legislation the government wants to see approved in 2018: a sweeping labour reform designed to improve Argentina’s competitiveness, and diminish the power and influence of the unions.

Moderate improvement in the pace of regional growth

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac) published its updated estimates and forecasts for the regional economies in 2017 and 2018 on 14 December. In the same month it also published an analysis of the ‘social panorama’ in 2017 which highlighted that overall poverty levels remained broadly unchanged last year, after having notched up a fraction in 2016.

US, Colombia, Mexico pledge security cooperation

There is a perceived and ongoing risk that US President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric and policies on trade, immigration and crime could undermine existing levels of security cooperation in Latin America. For the moment, a number of key players are avoiding that negative ‘spill-over effect’. In December, the attorney generals of the US, Colombia, and Mexico met in Cartagena, Colombia and pledged to work together against organised crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, and corruption.

Introduction

The visit by Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela to China in November 2017 was no ordinary state visit. It was his first visit to China since Panama switched its diplomatic relations from Taiwan to Beijing in June last. In this January edition of Latin American Regional Report: Caribbean & Central America we begin by considering the continued fallout of Panama’s decision to make the switch and implications for the rest of Central America which, bar Costa Rica, continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

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