Cтраница новостей Latin America

Latin America

The New Geopolitics: "No Country Grows Alone"

The meeting of South American presidents laid the groundwork for renewed regional integration in order to avoid "another 500 years on the periphery." Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, having realized that there is no way to make a feijoada with the "Magnificent Seven" (Port. – Feijoada, the most revered and favorite Brazilian dish, a slow-cooked bean stew with various parts of beef and pork, usually eaten on Saturdays. – Auth.) and no way to drink cachaça together (Port. Cachaça, also called Brazilian rum – distillation of fermented sugar cane juice, strength from 38 to 40%. – Aut.), immediately after returning from the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, called the presidents of South American countries to the capital of Brasilia. Behind the closed doors of the Palacio Itamaraty in the Three Powers Plaza in Brasilia, for the first time in more than 10 years, the presidents of all South American countries, right, left, and centrists alike, gathered together: Alberto Fernandez (Argentina), Luis Arce (Bolivia), Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela), Irfaan Ali (Guyana), Gustavo Petro (Colombia), Mario Abdo Benitez (Paraguay), Chan Santokhi (Suriname), Luis Lacalle Pou (Uruguay), Gabriel Boric (Chile), Guillermo Lasso (Ecuador) and Prime Minister Luis Alberto Otarola (Peru). "We all lost" because of political polarization when "we allowed ideologies to divide us," Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva called for overcoming ideological divisions, agreeing to create a common, dollar-independent currency and restoring the Union of South American Nations (Union de Naciones Suramericanas, UNASUR) as part of regional integration. As Latin American analysts point out today, "the biggest problem with UNASUR is that it was built when leftist leaders were in power and collapsed when rightist leaders came to power. However, even this time the ideological differences were not avoided. It is a classic: before you unite, you have to separate. The right-wing president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, opened the discussion. "The worst thing we can do is to cover the sun with our fingers," he said, pointing to human rights violations in Venezuela, while remaining silent about no less obvious violations in other countries. He was supported by the leftist president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, who seems to have some personal grudges against Maduro. The human rights situation in Venezuela is "a serious reality, not a figment of the imagination," he said. However, Boric called for the lifting of U.S. and EU sanctions against Venezuela. However, these and some other disagreements that arose turned out to be secondary to the continent's global problems. "Regional unity should be public policy in each of the countries of South America. Let us learn from our mistakes, it was pointless for us to be divided. Let's make UNASUR more flexible and be the creators of our own destiny," said Argentine President Alberto Fernandez. The meeting ended with the signing of the "Brazilian Consensus," – a nine-point declaration. It stresses the importance of regional integration, which "must be part of the solutions to common problems" and calls for the need "to promote from now on South American cooperation initiatives within a socioeconomic approach." Despite the differences that have arisen, the declaration reaffirms the commitment to "democracy and human rights, sustainable development and social justice, the rule of law and institutional stability, protection of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs." Participants agreed that the world faces various threats and challenges, such as the climate crisis, threats to international peace and security, pressure on food and energy chains, risks of new pandemics, growing social inequality, and threats to institutional and democratic stability. "Regional integration must be part of the solutions to the common challenges of building a secure world," the Brazilian Consensus emphasizes. The document defines the desire of South American countries to promote cooperation in areas such as health, environment, infrastructure, energy, defense, border security and the fight against transnational crime. The South American leaders reached an understanding on the creation of an effective South American free trade area, agreeing to work toward the elimination of unilateral measures and market access through a network of economic complementarity agreements, including through the intergovernmental Latin American Integration Association (Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración, ALADI) to create an effective South American free trade area. The Brazilian president suggested that instead of using the dollar for trade in South America, they should create their own currency as a "common controlling unit for trade, reducing dependence on foreign currencies" and more effective clearing mechanisms. The presidents of the 12 countries decided to create a contact group, headed by foreign ministers, which is to develop a road map for South American integration within 120 days in order to achieve an "effective South American free trade area." South America, with nearly 450 million people, is an important consumer market and the world's fifth-largest economy, with a combined GDP of more than $4 trillion in 2023. The gringos would not be gringos if they did not seek political dividends. Having heard through its channels the intention of the Brazilian president to hold a meeting of South American heads of state, the U.S. urged the Organization of American States (OAS), under its control, to immediately discuss "the scope of threats and risks to democracy in the region." Of course, at the "request of concerned opposition politicians" of Venezuela, since "the threat to democratic institutions in the country has taken real shape." Not by chance, but quite deliberately, as in Brasilia, the same Tuesday, May 30, the OAS held a plenary meeting in Washington, where its members discussed the revival of the Inter-American Democratic Charter (Carta Democrática Interamericana), in the context of "challenges." Recall that this legal pact was ratified by OAS member states in Lima, Peru, in 2001. The Charter, according to its founders, is supposed to be a tool "to prevent attempts to encroach on democratic regimes in member states and strengthen the sustainability of democratic gains." In fact, it is nothing more than a declarative document, "when and whoever needs it" sounding loudly, but without any legal basis, allowing the interference of the rest of the OAS member states in the internal affairs of the country where this very "threat to democracy" exists. South American experts believe that this event in Washington looks like a "punch on the table" with no far-reaching consequences, but in the hope of scaring the emboldened "Latinos" so much that they immediately surrender to the mercy of their master. Not to mention the "Chavista regime of Maduro." And, of course, the U.S. administration, counting on the continued "rent" of the White House by the stumbling and falling old man Biden, is counting on the replacement of the "pink tide" with a "rainbow" star-spangled "tide." Perhaps by doing so, the United States has only reinforced the South American heads of state in their desire for unity and cohesion, and the adoption of the "Brazilian Consensus." "No country grows alone. (...) We come together to fight together and defend our interests together and refuse to spend another 500 years on the periphery. We need to leave strong roots for the next generations," proclaimed the "patriarch" of South American diplomacy, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Putin is opening a "window to America"

As in the distant days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Russia and Cuba have made an unequivocal choice in their confrontation with the U.S. and the collective West The case is unique in some ways: a small island in the Caribbean Sea, 180 km from the U.S., totally dependent on the U.S. and to which the U.S. was quietly preparing the status of a freely associated state following the example of Puerto Rico, "overnight" slipped out of "custody" and reoriented to a state from a completely different world and hemisphere. Cuba was "sent" to the USSR by providence. What was Cuba for the Soviet Union and what has it become for the Russian Federation? The question is far from idle, and the answer cannot be unambiguous. Cuba not only "fed at Russia's expense," but also provided invaluable geopolitical and geo-historical assistance. The USSR bought sugar, bought it in large quantities and at above-market prices, and sugar supplies covered one-third of the country's consumption of this valuable product. Oil was supplied at prices 33% below world prices, taking into account both Cuban needs and its resale to third countries. The Soviet Union supplied Cuba with almost everything except snow blowers. Cuba imported over 700 items from the USSR, including oil and petroleum products, machinery, equipment, spare parts, chemical products, and food. Almost in all industries, large industrial or infrastructure facilities built with Soviet assistance were put into operation or were scheduled for commissioning in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Participation in their operation opened up real prospects for USSR not only to fully compensate the funds spent on their construction, but also to receive significant revenues. For three decades, the Republic exported to the USSR the major part of nickel-cobalt concentrate (for information, the explored nickel reserves on the island in the late 1980s were estimated at 813 million tons, which was 37.5% of the world's), used in the steel industry, defense industry, exported, bringing the country a considerable foreign exchange earnings. In the 1960s – 1980s, the Soviet military was quite firmly established on Liberty Island. They actively operated on a permanent basis the electronic reconnaissance center in Lourdes, which allowed to monitor not only U.S. airfields; the air base in San Antonio de los Baños, from which Soviet strategic bombers were on combat duty in the North Atlantic; The Cienfuegos Naval Base, which was highly valued by submariners who sailed their giant nuclear submarines into unique Cuban bays where, like in the Bermuda Triangle, they disappeared from American radar and sonar coverage. A motorized rifle brigade was deployed in Cuba. The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (RAF) were equipped with the latest Soviet weapons. By the mid-seventies, the Cuban army was the most modern and combat-ready in Latin America. The RAF was second only to the U.S. Armed Forces in the Western Hemisphere in terms of its combat capabilities and was capable of independently carrying out tasks against any potential aggressor. Soviet aid enabled the Cuban people to build the most cultured and socially advanced country in Latin America. All these prospects went pear-shaped because of "stars and stripes" flag, which defeated the "sickle and hammer" red flag. It took another 30 years for the tricolor to regain its rightful place in world geopolitics and, for the umpteenth time, to start gathering the lands of the multipolar world under its banner. Finally, Moscow has turned its gaze to Cuba. Over the past two years, there have been important meetings and negotiations, including at the highest level, on major strategic issues of socio-economic and military-political cooperation. Longtime political allies, subject to draconian U.S. sanctions – more than 11,000 unilateral punitive measures have been imposed against Russia, and Cuba, according to its foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, has suffered more than $6.3 billion in damages during U.S. President Joe Biden's time in office – are simply doomed by Washington to a revival in the new conditions of all-round cooperation. In the middle of May this year Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Chernyshenko and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment of the Republic of Cuba Ricardo Cabrisas held in Havana the 20th meeting of the Russian-Cuban intergovernmental commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation. According to Cuban officials, more than 150 Russian businessmen attended the forum in Havana. A total of 14 agreements, contracts and memorandums of intent signed as a result of the two forums demonstrated the willingness of both countries to enter a new stage in their trade and economic relations, with the identification of specific points of their working agenda. Cooperation in energy, construction, agriculture, agribusiness and tourism, among others, found fertile ground in negotiations between businessmen and officials of the two governments in Havana. According to Russian officials, bilateral trade between Cuba and Russia reached $450 million in 2022, three times more than in 2021, and rose to $137.6 million in the first four months of 2023, nine times more than in the same period of the previous year. The participants of the 20th meeting of the intergovernmental Russian-Cuban commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation did not discuss military cooperation. At least not openly. At the same time, this topic is now acute for these countries, which are squeezed by the collective West not only by economic and political sanctions, but also by their naval bases. By the way, Raul Castro estimated that the Radio Electronic Center (REC) in Lourdes provided Russia with up to 70% of all intelligence information on the United States. The REC was a real "Klondike" of intelligence information. Experts claim that electronic espionage is the most profitable type of industrial espionage. One ruble invested in radio reconnaissance brings twenty rubles in profit. Moscow and Havana are successfully developing military cooperation. This was stated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a press conference following his visit to the Republic of Cuba on April 21, 2023. Does this mean the restoration of Russian military bases on Liberty Island? Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov did not rule out such a prospect as early as January 13, 2022. "I do not want to confirm anything (...) and exclude anything," he said. But at the moment the deployment of Russian military facilities in Cuba is desirable, but practically impossible, according to Cuban experts; the appearance of Russian military facilities on its territory would disrupt the already difficult domestic and foreign political situation of the country. The Kremlin takes this into account, but it is not going to lose the opportunity to "open a window to America" through Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela and improve political and economic ties with Latin America. "Cuba is interesting to us, it is a key partner and a reliable ally of Russia in Latin America," said Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, expressing the opinion of the majority of the Russian population. Cubans are the same today as they were 65 years ago.

Lithium is the new "Eldorado" in the Andes

The world needs this soft metal more than ever, South America knows it and cautiously welcomes the neo-conquistadors. Five hundred years ago, Europeans traveled deep into South America in search of a gold-rich city. Today's Eldorado is where the Chinese, Europeans and Americans are now rushing in search of contracts for one of the most valuable metals of the 21st century: lithium. So to the "Andean Triangle" – Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, enriched by cocaine production and trafficking – a new "Lithium Triangle" was added, promising big profits. "The Lithium Triangle" is a lithium-rich region in the Andean southwest corner of South America, encompassing the borders of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile and forming a geographic triangle of lithium resources beneath their salt flats. It accounts for 63% of the planet's lithium reserves. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that of the world's total of 86 million tons of explored lithium, Bolivia contains 21 million tons, Argentina 19.3 million and Chile 9.6 million. To these we can add Peru and Mexico, which have another three million tons, but they do not make weather. Scientists and experts prefer to compare the dramatically increased role of lithium in this century to the "oil of the 20th century," rather than to a dangerous drug. And not participating in the lithium business is akin to the world business community refusing to develop Middle Eastern oil. And while oil is called "black gold," lithium is called "white gold," not so much because of its silver-white hue, but because of its market value. According to the "World Lithium Market Report 2023," the global market for the metal will grow from $6.2 billion in 2022 to $7.25 billion in 2023 to $13.85 billion in 2027 at an average annual growth rate of 17.5%. This metal is key to the production of batteries, components in the nuclear industry, space and transport industries, pharmacology, and even nuclear power. Lithium is essential for the production of aluminum semi-finished products, electronics, and laser technology; it is needed for smelting and alloying aluminum, increasing the plasticity, strength, and recovery of metals. Energy analysts predict that by 2040 every second car sold in the world will be electric. So Tesla is no longer an "oddball" electric car manufacturer. Today, almost 40 automakers around the world make electric cars. And General Motors, Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, and Volkswagen are all planning to switch to electric cars by 2035. To meet the demand, they need lithium batteries, a lot of lithium batteries. "The lithium boom» is good news for South America. Argentina and Chile together produced nearly 30 percent of the world's lithium in 2021. Chile's lithium industry is the most mature and developed, considered a strategic resource, and the government does not allow concessions, allowing "only the state, public companies or private companies to work in partnership with the Chilean Production Development Corporation (CORFO) to develop the minerals." Chile's lithium production quadrupled between 2009 and 2022, and on February 1, 2023, Chile took the first step toward nationalizing some of the world's largest copper and lithium mines, and on April 21 Gabriel Boric, president of left-wing Chile, announced plans to create a state-owned lithium production company. And already on May 7 he paid the price for this by losing a referendum on the future constitution to the right-wing forces that control the Chilean economy. While Chile is struggling to develop its lithium policy, Argentina is the most open to foreign investment in the industry, benefiting from a more pragmatic approach characterized by a relatively light government regulatory role and low taxes. Argentina does not consider lithium to be a strategic metal under state control, but instead Argentina's legal system allows companies to explore and produce lithium through perpetual concessions they own under investment rules and regulations. This policy allowed Argentina to attract foreign companies, including China's Ganfeng Lithium and Zijin Mining, Canada's Lithium Americas, Britain's Rio Tinto Group, and Russia's Uranium One Holding N. V. (part of Rosatom). Bolivia differs from Argentina and Chile in having the largest reserves in the world, but seems in no hurry to become a major player and still has little to offer. The lithium deposits are almost entirely in the hands of the state. Foreign investment here is viewed with great suspicion because of the country's historical mining heritage, which has generally been shaped by political instability, brutal labor exploitation, corruption and commodity boom-and-bust cycles. Now this is changing. President Luis Arce, elected in 2020, wants his country to become the "lithium capital of the world" and provide 40 percent of the world's supply of "white gold" by 2030. To achieve this, the government is negotiating with several companies, including Russia's Uranium One (part of Rosatom), Chinese battery maker CATL, and U.S. startup Lilac Solutions (backed by German automaker BMW and Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures). Demand, as we know, not only determines supply, but also causes conflicts. Today, Australian, Chinese, European, Japanese, Russian and American companies are active in the region, along with highly competitive local companies. First and foremost, the lithium race has directly affected the interests of the United States and China, both countries seem determined to win the lithium war in the fight for new energy sources. Chinese chemical companies now account for 80% of all global lithium battery raw material production, and 101 of the 136 lithium battery plants are located in China. China is rapidly buying up stakes in lithium mining facilities in Australia and South America. "The high-capacity [lithium] battery market may be one of the most important to our country's interests," said U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese. The Biden administration appointed Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry to coordinate cooperation with Argentina, Bolivia and Chile in the lithium industry. However, his work in this field is complicated by the fact that these countries are ruled by leftist governments that have "gringo-idiosyncrasies" and are not inclined to follow the U.S. lead. A sense of social justice fuels the plans of new Latin American politicians who hope to ease conflicts. Since 2000, according to the research project "Environmental Justice Atlas" of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, more than a third of all clashes related to extractive projects around the world have occurred in South America. This is what the leftist rulers of the "Lithium Triangle" intend to avoid. They have already thought about and are considering creating a "lithium OPEC." The group would emulate similar schemes, such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, in terms of coordinating production flows, pricing and advanced technology. Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia are counting on the support of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, for the decision. In the 21st century, it has become obvious that the global economy is now knocking on the doors of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile through lithium, and this knocking will only intensify as the "Great Energy Transition" (not to be confused with "green energy" wind turbines) gathers momentum. Moreover, the military-political struggle for a "place under the sun" is growing along with it. The "neo-conquistador of South America's white gold" has already appeared. This is Tesla electric car magnate Elon Musk, extremely interested in the vertical integration of lithium mining with the production of electric batteries and cars based on the Chinese model. For years he tried to get his hands on Bolivia's pristine lithium reserves. However, he was hindered by the then president of that country, Evo Morales, who did not have much faith in Musk's promises to "industrialize with dignity and sovereignty" Bolivian lithium. In 2020 Morales was overthrown in a coup d’état. When a Twitter user accused Musk of complicity in the coup, the Tesla tycoon replied, "We'll take whoever we want! Get over it." (He later deleted the tweet.) Now Musk and his company intend to build a Tesla plant in Brazil that will "feed" on lithium from Bolivia. And Musk is not alone in this. Neo-conquistadores are boarding electric cars in search of a lithium El Dorado.

Lasso chose "cross-death" and dissolved parliament

Ecuadorians have shown indifference to the tug-of-war between the country's executives and legislators. "I have decided to apply Article 148 of the Constitution of the Republic, which gives me the right to dissolve the National Assembly due to a serious political crisis and internal unrest," said Guillermo Lasso, Ecuador's 47th president. The head of state, cornered by the opposition, took his "last and decisive" step to save his name and honor. He faced impeachment on the dubious charge of embezzlement. To remove Lasso, it was necessary to get 92 votes in the 137-member legislature. And a quorum seemed to be achieved. There is a constitutional mechanism in Ecuador that allows the head of the executive to dissolve the unicameral legislature and call new elections. It is a "cross-death" where both the president and the National Assembly lose their powers at the same time. Temporarily, of course. According to the law, the National Election Commission then schedules a special general election within seven days, to be held within 90 days. The newly elected executive and legislature will last until May 2025, when general elections are to be held. Incidentally, this article was added to the Constitution in 2008 at the initiative of leftist President Rafael Correa (2007-2017), leader in exile of the current "Correistas" opposition. He was accused of corruption, sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison, and is now a fugitive from justice in Belgium. So far, no president has ever enacted a "cross-death". Guillermo Lasso is the first. Before that, issues of power were solved by the traditional method for Latin American reality of coups d'état. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Ecuador experienced one of the worst decades of its history: between 1996 and 2007 the country saw seven elected presidents, three of whom were overthrown in coups d'état instigated by indigenous protests and with the intervention of the country's parliament. The attempted assassination of Guillermo Lasso by the parliamentary opposition was the second time since he entered the residence of Ecuador's president, the Carondelet Palace, in 2021. The 67-year-old former conservative banker Guillermo Lasso became head of state amid a serious socioeconomic crisis exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic. In his election campaign, Lasso promised to create two million jobs and improve health care, strengthen the fight against corruption, crime and drug trafficking, and build 20,000 houses as part of a state housing program. To promise is not yet to keep one's word. In just one year, some of Lasso's campaign promises in employment, education, housing, and the fight against corruption have been eliminated from government programs or the National Development Plan (NDP). 36% of the urban population and 66% of the rural population live in poverty, deprived of basic health care. On the eve of the presidential impeachment hearings at the National Assembly, Lasso found himself between a hammer and anvil. He had three options: The opposition will not reach the 92 votes needed for impeachment. Then Lasso will continue to serve as president until the next general election in 2025. The opposition gains 92 or more votes, Lasso is impeached and removed from office as president. "Cross-Death." Lasso resorts to Article 148 of the Constitution, with the result that both the president is intact and most of the leftists in parliament have a legal opportunity to consolidate their power in the upcoming elections. With the latter option, it was unclear how the street and the indigenous population, the most powerful political force in the country after the left, would behave. Protests by the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE) had almost paralyzed the country in recent years. But it seems that the president has the support of the armed forces. Nelson Proaño, commander of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces (Comaco), announced that the army and the national police "remain in their unchanged position of absolute respect for the Constitution and laws," and warned that the armed forces would act "firmly" if any violence erupted. A strong contingent of military and police forces blocked access to the National Assembly building in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito. In principle, it was unnecessary. The population was generally indifferent to the authorities' "shindig," and even the parliamentary opposition did not make any noise. The aloofness of the Ecuadorians raised suspicions that a "fifth column" was involved in the whole affair. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais immediately after the announcement of the "cross death," Lasso recalled that in two years his government had seized 420 tons of drugs, five times more than the two previous governments had seized in 15 years.   And therein lies the mystery of the "fifth column", the services of which in the countries of the developed drug business are used by everyone from the extreme left and the left to the right and the extreme right. Ecuador is no exception. Drug gangs that had established ties in Colombia and Mexico spread their power across the country, causing a rising tide of violence. By the end of 2022, the number of intentional crimes had almost doubled, from nearly 2,500 cases to more than 4,200 compared to 2021. The already relative tranquility of the "Equator Country" was disrupted. Meanwhile, the Lasso government intended to classify criminal gangs as terrorist organizations, which would allow the security forces to declare a tough war on drug traffickers. And it would have had the support of Ecuadorians, who were "fed up" with the rise in kidnapping, extortion, and petty crime. But fed parliamentarians and a bribed press convinced them that the Lasso government was doing nothing to stop crime and drug addiction. The contrived pretext for impeaching the president, as happens in such cases, became negotium desiderabile (desirable business). "Ecuador's biggest problem is that the political elite is consumed by its conflicts and petty interests," said Felipe Burbano, director of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Quito. "The problem of violence is exacerbated by the weakness of the state and government," he added. "What will you do as president in the coming months?" – El Pais asked President Guillermo Lasso. "Ruling Ecuador with a special focus on four areas: citizen security, health care, education and infrastructure, trying to do in six months what we planned to do in two years." Who would believe that they could do in six months what they have not done in two years? The ghost of ungovernability threatens Ecuador again.

The "Magna Carta" of Chile

Citizens of the country will have to adopt the fourth version of the basic law. This time, a "constitution of Pinochet" without Pinochet. For the sixth time in three years, Chileans were forced to go to the polls last Sunday to elect members of the Constitutional Council (CC), which for the third time will have to draft a new constitution. Forced because voting was compulsory, and non-participation for disrespectful reasons could result in penalties of up to $226 (on an average salary of $550 a month). More than 15 million Chileans had to choose 50 members of the Constitutional Council from among 350 candidates whose names are unknown to most of the population. And only 51st was beyond competition – Alihuen Antileo – he alone, a representative of 13 percent of the indigenous population of the Mapuche Indians, was "supremely" allowed to enter "without competition" into the Constitutional Council. The Council must be composed of 25 men and 25 women equally. The "surprises" began as soon as the results were announced. Twenty percent of Chileans found good reasons not to go to the polls. Of just over 12 million voters, 2.2 million spoiled ballots, which were declared invalid. But the main thing that stunned everyone was that unexpectedly the extreme right and right-wing Chileans, who were against any changes to the country's basic law, won a majority of seats. Twenty-two of the 51 seats in the Constitutional Council went to the pro-Pinochet Republican Party, headed by Jose Antonio Kast, who recognizes only the constitution, known in conservative circles as Pinochet's 1980 "Magna Carta". Another 11 seats went to the right-wing party "Self-Reliant Chile" (Chile Seguro). Together, this coalition will constitute a majority of 33 votes, which will allow it to adopt its own draft of the Chilean constitution. President Gabriel Boric's ruling coalition, the Unity for Chile alliance consisting of the Communist, Socialist, Liberal parties, the Regional Federation of Green Social Democrats and the Broad Front, has only 17 seats, not even enough to block a single article. President Boric, who, incidentally, beat Kast in the last general elections, accepted the results of the vote and urged his rival to "turn on his ears" so as not to repeat the failure of the previous version of the Chilean constitution. He was referring to the events leading up to this third attempt to create a Chilean constitution. This is worth mentioning in particular. The first attempt to change the basic law, introduced without exaggeration by the bloody dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), was made during the second presidential term of the first female president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet (2014-2018). She presented to the National Congress a new draft constitution establishing a democratic and social state governed by the rule of law, with an emphasis on guaranteeing civil rights, including those of the indigenous population. The next president of the country, Sebastián Piñera, withdrew the draft as not meeting all the requirements of the country's basic law. His reign nearly led to civil war when, in October 2019, there was a social explosion due to an increase in the cost of public transportation. Piñera, in order to preserve his office and the power of the Pinochet oligarchs, went to a national agreement that included the creation of a Constitutional Convention, which was to draft a new "Magna Carta." In May 2021, 155 members of the Constitutional Convention (replaced by the Constitutional Council) were elected, of which 87 percent of the experts did not belong to any political party, and most of the "party members" were from the left and center-left, with 17 experts from indigenous peoples, and this was an important milestone in Chilean history. It seemed that Chile was on the threshold of a bold new constitution and progressive change. From that moment on, the political right and big business groups, owners of the mainstream media, began to work and, sensing the danger, aggressively planted the lie about the new draft constitution in the people's imagination. The average patriarchal Chilean was threatened with the loss of parental rights over his children, juvenile justice, confiscation of housing and other property, an influx of migrants, and "Indian supremacy" over the rest of the population. The first violin was played by the "Chicago Boys" – veterans and the new generation of economic experts and consultants of Milton Friedman's "Chicago School of Economics", the "steam engine" of economic liberalism and modern "monetarism", who, with "shock therapy", created Pinochet's economic model of social inequality. Through their efforts, Chile became the first country in Latin America with the highest level of wealth of a super-rich minority in 2021. According to the 2022 World Inequality Report, the richest 1% of Chileans accounted for 49.6 percent of the country's total wealth, compared to 48.9 percent in Brazil, 46.9 percent in Mexico, and 34.9 percent in the United States. The combined wealth of the richest Chileans was equivalent to 16.1% of the country's gross domestic product, according to calculations by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL). This provision was enshrined in the Pinochet "Magna Carta" of the minority, which became the majority in the legislative and executive powers of Chile. The 1st and especially the 2nd drafts of the Chilean Constitution threatened the power of the Chilean oligarchy. The Pinochet aristocracy's patience was overflowed by Boric's proposal to take control of the country's lithium industry and create a new national lithium company. In September 2022, a referendum was held on the draft of a new constitution. Unexpectedly, 62% of Chileans rejected the draft of the basic law of the Constitutional Convention, which was to replace the charter of the dictatorship era in the country. Recall that the Right used all means to intimidate the majority of the Chilean people. First of all, they played on Boric's mistakes. The fact is that the proposed constitution repeated to a certain extent the "molds of the European Union," namely the legalization of abortion and gender equality, the freedom of sexual minorities, uncontrolled access to the Internet. In the international arena, the leftist Boric government preferred to maintain its reliance on the United States and NATO, criticizing from international tribunes Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua "for human rights violations." The draft of the new constitution of Chile could become almost the most radical in terms of the number of changes, if not in the world, then certainly in Latin America. Chilean newspaper El Ciudadano writes: Chileans were asked to legislate over a hundred rights. Apparently, Boric really wanted to be in the trend of omnivorous Europe. The right-wing played on the religious feelings of the Catholic majority by keeping silent about such constitutionally enshrined rights as the right to education, health care, housing, tax and pension reform, and much more, while flaunting "values" that are unacceptable to Christians. On the other hand, the new Pinochetists blamed the government for the consequences of the pandemic beyond its control, the rise in inflation, the high cost of living. More importantly, they blamed the surge in crime in a country accustomed to relative security, as well as the acquiescence of Mexican and Colombian drug cartels in Chile (not without the help of the same "Chicago Boys") and the related increase in drug addiction among young people. All of this led the Left to a disastrous result in the May 7 elections. Now the far-right conservatives will control the rewriting of the constitution, which could turn out to be very similar to Augusto Pinochet's "Magna Carta." "It's funny that the sector that was least interested in this process now controls it," said Chilean political scientist Robert Funk. "This is the best opportunity for the Right to adopt a Pinochet constitution without Pinochet," said New York political scientist Patricio Navia. Chile will get "a compromise between the Pinochet constitution and the Kast constitution," predicts Omar Seed, deputy editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Digital Chronicle. Let us ask a question: so who won and who lost in this "game of the constitution"? The right-wingers, seeking to preserve their wealth and power, will of course be forced to make concessions in order to put their own president in the 2025 general elections (if before that, with the help of "American combinators", they do not provoke another social explosion that will lead to an early change of power). The Left is rapidly losing popularity with the people, as it tries to join the new Left in Latin America and keep up with the U.S. The population, whose situation does not cease to be deplorable, does not support either the Right or the Left and is ready for new protests if their traditional values are affected. Chileans would also reject the fourth version of the pro-Pinochet constitution, simply because for all its reverence it would look more like a luxury item than a "basic necessity." Perhaps this situation at the moment only benefits Washington, which is satisfied with both a loyal "leftist showcase" among the leftist governments of South America and the presence of a reliable right-wing rear. As for the people, the U.S. has the experience of 1973, which gave Chile Pinochet's "Magna Carta." Whoever, it suited and suits America best.

Paraguay: choosing the lesser evil with the greater problems?

Almost 5 million voters judge "people's elected representatives" not by their deeds and not by their words but by their party affiliation. Paraguay avoided the second wave of "pink tide" in Latin America, marked by the rise to power of social democrats in Chile (Gabriel Boric), Colombia (Gustavo Petro), Brazil (Luiz Lula). But this does not mean that the country's new president-elect will be able to avoid dealing with difficult socio-economic problems passed down for more than 70 years. Little has changed since then in the Paraguayan electoral system, a country where there is no runoff election, where presidents are elected by a simple majority and cannot be re-elected, and where both the executive and legislative branches of government are dominated by men. Thus, in the current elections, of the 9,095 candidates for senators, deputies, governors and members of local juntas, 6,098 are men and only 2,997 are women. And less than 1 percent of the candidates for leadership represent the 19 indigenous peoples of Paraguay. And the key issue is not so much the candidates' electoral programs and promises, but the choice between a decades-long ruling party and new coalitions. On the eve of the election, the national government imposed severe restrictions. From Saturday evening until the polls close, Paraguay's police and security forces are on alert for Sunday's elections, prohibiting the sale of alcohol and public events within 200 meters of polling stations. Violations are punishable by high fines under the Electoral Code. In Sunday's general elections, some 4.8 million Paraguayans elected a president, a vice president, 45 senators (plus 30 alternates), 80 deputies (plus 80 alternates), 17 governors and 17 local juntas (councils). In the presidential elections the main favorites of the 13 candidates for the highest post of the state, as "predicted" by the capital newspaper La Republica, were the 60-year-old liberal Efrain Alegre of the so-called "Coalition for New Paraguay" (unites 14 parties and movements from the extreme left to the centrists and center-right) and 44-year-old conservative Santiago Peña of the ruling "National Republican Association" or Colorado Party (ANR-PC). Santiago Peña received 43.07% of the votes. Second place went to Efrain Alegre, with 27.49% of the vote. The elected head of state will take office on August 15, 2023 and will leave in August 2028 with no chance of re-election. The Colorado Party (Partido Colorado, the "Colored" Party), a conservative political force that has ruled Paraguay almost continuously since 1947 under both civilian and military rulers, and was the political pillar of the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, who for 34 years (1954-1989) usurped power at the cost of rigged elections. The experience was well learned by his party. The power of the "coloreds" was shaken in 2008, when the former bishop Fernando Lugo won the general elections. But his rule was interrupted in 2012 by a parliamentary impeachment procedure (traditionally both the Senate and the House of Deputies are dominated by colorados). In the following elections in 2013, the Colorado Party again demonstrated a solid political structure based solely on the strength of the state apparatus and the hierarchy of Paraguay's first political force, with nearly two million members in a country of nearly seven million inhabitants. The new president, Santiago Peña, has a bachelor's degree in economics from Catholic University and a master's degree in public administration from Columbia University in the United States. He started at the Central Bank of Paraguay, then served in the African Department of the International Monetary Fund and returned to Paraguay to take a seat on the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Paraguay. From 2015 to 2017 he served as Minister of Finance of the Republic of Paraguay. Paraguay is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. And all of its problems, like power, are passed to the next "colored" president by inheritance. Money laundering, rampant corruption, smuggling and drug trafficking are typical accusations of those in power in this country. Outgoing President Abdo Benítez, son of dictator Stroessner's personal secretary, did not escape similar accusations. All this must have been detrimental to Peña, whose friendship with previous presidents is a matter of public record. In Paraguay, wealth is concentrated in a small part of the population. According to Oxfam, an association of international nongovernmental charities, 1.6 percent of the population owns 80 percent of the territory. At the same time, 25 out of every 100 households are food insecure and 24.7% of the population lives in conditions of destitution and extreme poverty, according to data released in December 2022 by the National Institute of Health. So far, this has not embarrassed those in power, who have not forgotten themselves or their families. In Paraguay, there are at least three elements that contribute to the consolidation of corruption, says Tiziano Breda, an expert on Latin America at the Rome Institute of International Relations (IAI). The first is the concentration of power in the hands of one party. The second factor is weak legislation, which does not guarantee transparency in the financing of government programs and promotes mutual responsibility. And the third is the increasing trafficking of drugs, which more than half of the population is involved in. Paraguay's geographic feature favors drug trafficking. In the jungle of its triple border with Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, a paradise of marijuana producers has been created. A scandalous senator from Paraguay's National Crusade movement, Payo Cubas, sharply critical of the corrupt government, called in his campaign for the legalization of cannabis plantations and the low-cost sale of "first-class marijuana" and won an equally surprising as staggering 22.92% of the vote in the final days of the election, coming in third place. Even without this, Paraguay, which has decent but underdeveloped deposits of oil, iron ore, limestone, and manganese, could not be poor. Today Paraguay (along with Brazil) has the second largest hydroelectric power plant in the world, Itaipu. With a population of 7 million people, its power plants produce electricity for more than 30 million people. And the country exports 75% of the energy it produces and remains the largest energy exporter in the world. Paraguay is the world's sixth largest producer of soybeans and one of the world's top six beef suppliers. Agronomists believe that 90% of the land is suitable for farming. Incredibly, Paraguay leads Latin America in access to social networks: 83% of the population has Facebook and WhatsApp, compared to 71% in Argentina, 69% in Chile and 63% in Brazil. At the same time, 51% of Facebook and Whatsapp users do not have basic access to drinking water at home. In his electoral program, Santiago Peña promised, among other things, to rebuild the health care system, build hospitals in various departments of the country, cut the cost of public transportation for students and pupils in half, and create 500,000 new jobs. Kate Gorostiaga, a Paraguayan professor and researcher of democracy and political institutions, believes that Peña "will face the challenge of reducing a large budget deficit after his election, the challenge of reviving the country's farming industry." All this comes on top of high levels of inequality and unemployment, rampant corruption and drug trafficking, with widespread social discontent. So the promise will have to wait another five years. So far, the Colorado Party has managed to maintain its political hegemony, which has proved its strength in this election. But whether Santiago Peña's government can keep the party and the country from splitting and lead to victory in the 2028 elections is a question.

Meeting on Venezuela: with extras but without main faces

The conference in Colombia seemed to be a one-sided game: Biden and Borrell are demanding "free" elections from Maduro. Unsuccessful "president" of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Juan Gerardo Guaido Marquez could not think of anything better than to illegally cross the border of Colombia through "the drug road" using "hitchhiking" to the capital Bogota and try to get into the mansion of the Colombian Foreign Ministry, Palacio San Carlos. He reached only the front door, where the international meeting participants had entered, and remained outside the gate - he was not expected, he was not called, and he was not wanted to be seen or heard. On the same day, the Colombian authorities escorted Guaido to El Dorado airport and sent him on the first flight to Miami (USA). No one, not even his supporters, met the "main Venezuelan opposition leader" there. And this was, perhaps, the first result of the "International Conference on the Political Process in Venezuela» The conference on Venezuela, attended by diplomats from 19 countries of the two Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and joined by Josep Borrell, head of EU diplomacy, was already fated to discuss relations between the United States and the Bolivarian Republic without first persons. The organizer and peacemaker was Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who was forgiven by the White House for his "childhood disease of leftism." Petro gave up his "revolutionary activities" a long time ago and embraced the ideas of democracy, which opened to him the way to big politics. On his third attempt, he became president of Colombia in 2022 and turned his eyes to the "democratization" of neighboring Venezuela in the area of foreign policy. In March 2023, Petro met for the third time with Maduro, who discussed the idea of holding an international meeting on Venezuela. Although Maduro considered it a "risky game," he wished his colleague "the greatest success," stressing that the international conference was meant to ensure "respect for the sovereignty, independence and self-determination of Venezuela and its people" and should aim to remove all sanctions "without any conditions." Then, in April, Petro was received by U.S. President Joe Biden, with whom he also discussed his "peacekeeping idea of greater American democracy" in South America in general and in Venezuela in particular, and, having received a "blessing", was personally instructed by the owner of the Oval Office. The U.S. decided not to send Blinken, head of the State Department, to Bogota, but to send professional international problem solvers, headed by Jon Finer, deputy national security advisor of the U.S. president. Finally, three days before the international conference, the Colombian government gathered the Venezuelan opposition in Bogota. The Democratic Unitarian Platform coalition supported the meeting, although some factions questioned Colombia's role as a mediator. "The International Conference on the Political Process in Venezuela" lasted five hours and ended with a two-minute communiqué read by Colombian Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva, which the Latin American press described as "a caffeine-free drink." The conclusion of the communiqué boils down to three points agreed upon by the participants. First, to establish a timetable that would allow the holding of "free, transparent and with full guarantees for all Venezuelan actors" elections. Second, the lifting of certain sanctions against Venezuela is carried out depending on the "steps to democratize society." Third, the participants supported the continuation of the negotiation process between the Chavistas in power and the opposition, with the assistance of the Kingdom of Norway in Mexico. Since coming to power in 2013, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly called for dialogue with the opposition, most recently last November in Mexico, mentioned in the communiqué. At that time, it was about accelerating the implementation of a single trust fund for social investment in Venezuela. The government and the "Democratic Unitarian Platform" reached a detailed agreement to unfreeze 3 billion 200 million dollars and send it through the UN for social facilities: schools, hospitals, power grids and other essential infrastructure. So who is stopping it? Washington. Venezuela's frozen assets stolen abroad, including gold, accounts, are confiscated by Britain, the United States, Portugal, Germany and the International Monetary Fund. Alvaro Leyva, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said that all countries participating in the international meeting agreed on "the need to establish an electoral timetable that allows free, transparent elections and with full guarantees for all Venezuelan actors." And the steps related to the lifting of various sanctions depend on it. Moreover, without specifying whether this refers to economic sanctions that put pressure on the population, or to some personal sanctions against government representatives. According to Delcy Rodriguez, executive vice president of Venezuela, 60 percent of the total sanctions imposed on Venezuela come from the United States government, the other 40 percent from Washington's allies, mostly European countries. The U.S. delegation, which participated in the international meeting on Venezuela, clearly stated its position with regard to the lifting of sanctions: it is a "step-by-step" approach. That is, the decision on each sanction will depend on the "progress made in the restoration of democracy in the form of free and fair elections." "We are more than willing to ease and eventually end our sanctions pressure, but it will require concrete and meaningful steps and, finally, a free and fair election," said White House official Jon Finer. Josep Borrell was equally frank: "The European Union is even willing to reconsider the personal sanctions against senior officials of the 'Chavista' regime, because these sanctions are not meant to last forever, they are designed to advance the process of democratic normalization in Venezuela." Incidentally, one sanction turned out to be non-permanent; last year, Washington eased oil sanctions against Venezuela. This was not based on "love and compassion" for the Venezuelan people or the opposition. Europe's economy was shaken as oil and gas futures skyrocketed, and the U.S. (a net energy exporter) was forced to open its own strategic reserves to prevent a negative reaction from its own population. Biden needed more black gold. And because Venezuela is historically an energy supplier country, with such close proximity to America, the most aggressive attempts at imperial intervention to forcibly remove Maduro failed. However, the de facto trade embargo has made life even more desperate for ordinary Venezuelans. Despite this grim picture, Venezuela has survived thanks to the support of Russia and some other countries. A few hours after the international conference in Bogota, the Venezuelan government issued a statement saying that it "takes note" of the consensus reached at the Bogota conference, reiterating the "urgent need" to lift "any and all" sanctions imposed and to return assets blocked abroad. All this gave reason to the Spanish newspaper El Pais and the Latin American press to conclude that the "low performance" did not meet the "expectations" of the participants and observers of the meeting in Colombia. Nevertheless, there was a result. The "ball" given to Colombian President Petro in the Oval Office of the White House was thrown to Nicolás Maduro: "If you want international sanctions against your government to be lifted, accept solutions that lead to democratization in the American way." It is also too early to talk about the "death" of the Monroe Doctrine. It remains the cornerstone of US relations with Latin America. But, as the Colombian conference showed, its methods will change, adapting to the new conditions of the "pink tide" and the more active invasion of the Chinese dragon and the Russian bear. "The history of Latin America is in our hands," said President Petro. Washington will have to deal with it. "This conference raises great expectations. Sometimes when there are great expectations and hopes, they can lead to great disappointments. America cannot be a space of sanctions, it must be a space of freedoms and democracy," were Petro's words, which cannot be argued with. As they say in Latin America, "chicken with rice from the chicken" is the whole point.

Inflation storm: the worst is yet to come

The developed West, which led the world to an aggressive rise in interest rates, is now warning Latin America: this is for the long haul, so tighten your belts. First about the consequences. Argentina reached triple digits with an annual growth rate of 104.3% in the consumer price index (CPI) of 21.7% for the first quarter of 2023, which is 5.6 percentage points higher than the 16.1% recorded for the same period in 2022. It is cheaper to fly from the northernmost point of the country to the southernmost point than to buy sneakers. In Colombia, the annual CPI in March was 13.34%, the highest since 1999, with the cost of basic goods in Colombians' food basket rising by 28.1%. Inflation in Mexico fell to an annualized 6.85% in March, the lowest level since October 2021, but CPI remains above the National Bank Banxico's target of 3% plus or minus one percentage point. Chile's annual core inflation rate, excluding food and energy, rose to a four-month high of 9.4% in March 2023, up from 9.1% the previous month. On a monthly basis, core prices rose 1.4%, compared with a 0.2% increase in February. Brazil continued to lower the indicator in the first quarter and in March inflation was 4.65% year-over-year, almost one point less than in February (5.60%). Despite the moderation, inflation in Brazil remains above this year's target of 3.25%. Six months ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned the world that "the worst is yet to come" in terms of economic problems, and called for "belt-tightening." The IMF said that the fall in overall inflation in the region's biggest economies to 7 percent in March from 10 percent in mid-2022 is mainly due to lower commodity prices, while core inflation, which excludes food and energy, remains high. The IMF's forecast is that 2023 will be worse than the previous year and likely relates to expectations at the average philistine level. Most of Latin America is not currently facing an economic crisis. There is no deep recession, no massive job losses, no hyperinflation. In fact, the IMF's World Economic Outlook, released the week before last, predicts Latin American economic growth of 1.6 percent in 2023. And Brazil's economy - historically the continent's largest - won't grow more than one percent, and Mexico's will grow less than two percent this year. Regional financiers believe that much of the credit for keeping inflation low goes to the central banks of Latin American countries, which have become adept at hyperinflation and economic crises, and were among the first in the world to respond to rising global inflation. Avoiding major economic crises, they have, however, fallen into a long period of decline or stagflation related to the food basket of their populations. For example, a study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that March 2023 was the 18th consecutive month in which food prices exceeded 120 points, the longest sustained period of high food prices in 50 years. As the Spanish newspaper El Pais noted, Latin America is the region where food price inflation has hit the hardest in the world. At least 57 million people in the region are food insecure, and rising prices are affecting the lifestyles of many more families. While the price of the consumer basket is rising, the prices of minerals and crops are falling. Compared to the highs of 2022, oil is down 27%, copper 24%, zinc 28%, nickel 33%, silver 25%, gold 14%, wheat 29%, soybeans 10% and corn 10%. A notable exception is gas, the price of which has risen sharply since the beginning of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine - up 79% in the U.S. market and 109% in Europe. Falling commodity prices are usually a harbinger of economic hardship in Latin America, since commodities remain the region's main export and represent the most important source of international reserves and government revenue. North American financiers and analysts see "the Russian invasion of Ukraine" and "Chinese economic destabilization" as the main causes of the general turmoil, which "continue to overshadow the world economy. At the same time, sanctions imposed long before the Russian special military operation and affecting global trade and economic relations, traditional U.S. protectionism and dollar pressure are not taken into account. And there is another factor that narrow-minded American strategists are not talking about. Washington is totally uncomfortable with the political "pink wave" that has won in the main Latin American countries, threatening to sink the Monroe Doctrine. Washington does not want to think about equal relations with Latinos. And resorting to tried-and-true methods is no longer an option. Fascist and authoritarian coups have exhausted themselves, the ability of the U.S. government and corporations to support the national economy is almost minimal, and the artificial growth of the dollar causes currency idiosyncrasy. Where should the "poor White House" go? Rising interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve and major central banks, the issuers of the currencies in which most debt is denominated, have seriously added to the debt burden. The main vulnerability of the "Global South" that prevents the achievement of self-sufficiency is the dependence, often bondage, on the dollar-centric financial system and the chronic lack of investment and financial resources, as financier Alexander Losev rightly wrote in the Kommersant newspaper. Considering that roughly 35% of the world's debt has a floating rate that depends on U.S. monetary policy, last year's cycle of rising rates added another $3 trillion to the world's debt service costs. By March 2023, Latin America and the Caribbean had $2.673.88 trillion in external debt, according to German market and consumer data firm Statista. In 1989, economist John Williamson of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), USA, coined the term "Washington Consensus", which was recommended by IMF and World Bank management for use in states experiencing financial and economic crisis, especially in Latin America. The IMF began to provide the states on the verge of default with credit assistance at relatively moderate interest rates under one condition - that they carry out radical economic reforms and complete economic liberalization. The countries that agreed to the terms of the "Washington Consensus" condemned their economies to long-term stagnation. And those that refused to "play by the rules" - they did not follow the IMF and WB recommendations and chose global economic integration with the fullest possible preservation of sovereignty - are now the continent's leaders in terms of economic growth rates. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador organized an intercontinental meeting in early April to solve the problem of inflation. It was a basically non-binding online forum that brought together the leaders of Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They are all members of the Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Countries against Inflation (APALCI). There were many common diplomatic words that concealed the concrete aspirations of Latin Americans and their leaders to jointly confront the inflationary crisis affecting the region. The fear of a "сlay Monroe," no matter what, has not been overcome. Especially since there is no quick fix for inflation, and some of the center-left presidents attending the meeting are likely to resort to protectionism rather than the economic integration strategy suggested by these discussions. Unfortunately for Latin American leaders, regional governments - both center-left and center-right, much less left and right - can do little in the near future to accelerate economic growth and curb inflation. The global environment is tough. Improving growth and getting out of the spiral of high inflation requires fairly difficult decisions for the benefit of national elites and national interests proper, which are not feasible in a matter of months or perhaps even years, but require a firm decision. But one thing is what they want, another is what they can, and a third is what they will allow. How to stay afloat, stay out of debt bondage, and survive? This is the question of the day. And its solution depends entirely on the Latin American governments themselves.

President Bukele is winning the war on crime

El Salvador made a choice: remain the country with the highest crime rate or the country with the highest rate of incarcerated criminals. "Thank God! - said 41-year-old El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele. - March 2023 was the safest month in our history." Indeed, for the first time in 202 years of independence, this smallest Central American country was able to breathe freely, people began to leave their homes and walk the streets of cities without fear, spend their evenings in bars or dance floors. The symbol of security and the horror of the criminal underworld was a giant prison built in six months in a rural valley on the outskirts of the town of Tecoluca, about 74 kilometers southeast of San Salvador. The government bought 166 hectares of land to build the prison, on 23 of which there are eight pavilions surrounded by a concrete wall 11 meters high and 2.1 kilometers long, fenced with electrified barbed wire and equipped with high-tech surveillance equipment. The largest mega-prison in America, the Terrorist Detention Center (Centro de Confinamiento del Terrorismo, CECOT), with a capacity of 40,000 detainees, was opened in early February of this year by President Bukele. "At dawn today, in one operation, we transferred the first 2,000 bandits to the Terrorist Detention Center, - the president said on his Twitter account. - This will be their new home, where they will live for decades without causing any more harm to the population." The video, which the president shared on social media, showed shaved, tattooed criminals with bare torsos in white shorts, barefoot, lined up in a large prison yard, under armed police guards. Then, handcuffed behind their backs, they are loaded onto a bus and transferred to CECOT under heavy guard by hundreds of police officers, Prison Department security agents and soldiers, and escorted by military helicopters. A second group of 2,000 gang members were "relocated" to CECOT on February 24, 2023. In total, about 67,000 people were arrested during a year of implementation of the government's "Territorial Control Plan." "There are only two choices for a gang member: prison or death, there is no other choice," President Bukele said back in April 2022, when he first asked lawmakers to declare a national emergency. Since the 1980s, thousands of people from Central America, plagued by civil and rebel wars, fled to the United States and eventually settled in California, where, under the influence of thriving criminality, they began to band together into "maras" (mara/marabunta is a type of gang that originated in the United States, from which it spread to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala). The end of the Salvadoran civil war in 1992, which killed more than 75,000 people, and stricter U.S. immigration policies forced thousands of mara members to return home. Thus Mara Barrio 18 (M-18) and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) appeared in El Salvador and became powerful criminal organizations. They quickly absorbed the rest of the local gangs, as well as former members of the death squads and guerrillas, who had become skilled in fighting civilians during the civil war, rather than fighting each other. The "Mara" were notable for their inhuman cruelty and extreme violence, each "warrior" was "branded" with special tattoos. These gangs "grew and strengthened" for decades on the blood of compatriots, becoming the main problem of successive Salvadoran governments. The maras seemed already to be an endemic group in El Salvador, and their "street economy," thanks to the jump from a banal California gang to a serious mafia that created a more sophisticated enterprise at the expense of government officials, judges, money laundering, and mostly permanent violence, was unstoppable in the country. Like his predecessors, Nayib Bukele, who became president of El Salvador in 2019, according to journalists but not confirmed by the president himself, tried to negotiate with the bandits. To no avail. In 2021, according to official figures, 1,147 people died at the hands of criminals, and in two days, from March 25 to 27, 2022, bandits killed about 90 Salvadorans. This overwhelmed Bukele's patience and he fired the attorney general and appointed his own man to the position, and placed his men in the Ministry of the Interior, the army and the special services. The President asked the Legislative Assembly to declare a state of emergency, which had already been extended 11 times to date, and declared war on Mara Salvatrucha and Mara Barrio 18. The decree suspended certain constitutional rights, such as the right to associate, the right to be informed of the reason for arrest, and access to a lawyer, and gave the police greater powers to detain suspects, wiretap phone calls, and search for suspicious correspondence. The period of detention without charge was increased from three to 15 days. This provoked a storm of indignation among opposition, local, and international human rights activists. On March 27, 2022, combat operations under the state of emergency began. The war against the gangs was successful. To date, about 67,000 gangsters have been behind bars, including 900 ringleaders, and 2,066 firearms, 2,607 cars, 14,557 cell phones, $266 million worth of drugs and $1.5 million in cash have been seized. In addition, authorities seized real estate and liquidated businesses that the gangs used as fronts. Terrorists were caught in rivers and garbage pits, taken from tree crowns, pulled from caves, abandoned houses, and even from secret camps in the forested wilds of the country. One ringleader, accused of numerous brutal murders, was found in a coffin that had been transported on the roof of a car. "We have hit the terrorist structures and their leaders hard, their finances, their weapons. We will not rest until we see that they have been convicted of all the crimes they have committed over the last two decades. The number of murders has dropped significantly... No doubt we are on the right way," said Minister of Security and Justice Gustavo Villatoro. As a result, this March El Salvador had the lowest murder rate in Central America, 7.8 murders per 100,000 inhabitants (compared to 105 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015). Today, the popularity of President Nayib Bukele has reached 91%, according to the latest survey of the social research department published by La Prensa Gráfica newspaper. And at this very time of fantastic support for the ruling president, Amnesty International and other pro-American "human rights activists" condemned the Salvadoran authorities for "massive human rights violations, including thousands of arbitrary detentions and violations of due process, as well as torture and ill-treatment that resulted in at least 18 deaths by state culpability." The dog barks and the wind carries. Although the opposition and its national and international sponsors continue to question violent public security measures, El Salvador's success in eliminating banditry is undeniable. Yes, it goes hand in hand with the almost absolute centralization of power in the hands of President Bukele and the suppression of the rule of law. But the vast majority of Salvadorans perceive these measures positively and support their president, which has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the region's leaders, who are experiencing the tragedy of rising organized crime. The El Salvadoran president's anti-gang strategy is also supported by other leaders in the region, notably the head of Honduras, Xiomara Castro. On February 4, 2024, Salvadorans will elect a president, a vice president and 84 members of the Legislative Assembly. Nayib Bukele has announced his participation in the election of the head of state. For this he will need already now to make the appropriate changes to the country's constitution, which prohibits re-election to the highest post of the state. In Latin America, the ruling party almost always plays to its advantage. The main thing is to have the support of the majority of lawmakers. And Bukele has it.

The U.S. should not help Ukraine but save Haiti

All of Washington's attention is focused on supporting Kiev, even though there is a humanitarian disaster 700 miles off the U.S. coast. In the last decade of March in Ottawa, the irresistible force of the Bald Eagle clashed with a Beaver sensing a catch - United States President Joe Biden met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to talk about the situation in Haiti, among other issues. And not just to talk, but to persuade Ottawa to lead an international armed rescue mission to Haiti. And neither of them is going to get into the Haitian quagmire, which is easy to get into, but not easy to get out of. Despite repeated appeals for help from the UN and Haiti, the U.S. and Canada have shown no interest in deploying a security force to end the violence in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. And this time they lamented the "plight" and decided to make small financial injections into the helpless Haitian police force. Having failed to substitute a country to lead a multilateral armed intervention force in Haiti, the Biden administration is trying to force the sending of Blue Helmets to the Caribbean island under UN auspices, which is also not at all in the plans of the global community headquarters, which has already had a sad experience. Every UN "peacekeeping" effort led and overseen by the U.S. in Haiti began as a moral crusade to solve numerous socio-economic problems. On April 30, 2004, the UN mission MINUSTAH was established with 6,700 military personnel. The declared objectives of this mission were not very different from previous international and U.S. interventions: bringing order and stabilizing the country, retraining the police, and modernizing Haiti's political institutions. The UN crusaders stayed in Haiti for 15 years, from 2010 to 2019. During that time, they brought cholera to the island, which, according to official figures alone, killed nearly 10,000 people and infected 819,000 Haitians. They also fostered rampant crime, drug abuse, sexual assault and pedophilia. The 2010 earthquake killed more than 220,000 people, left 1.5 million Haitians homeless and an almost completely destroyed nation that needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Over 15 years, $7.5 billion was spent on the MINUSTAH program, a fabulous amount of money for a state with a budget of only a billion dollars in 2016-2017. On October 15, 2019, amid mass protests against President Jovenel Moise (killed in 2021), who was accused of embezzling billions of dollars and ties to organized crime, MINUSTAH folded, "peace crusaders" boarded the ships that sailed and flew away, and the legitimacy and credibility of the UN fell through the floor in the eyes of Haitians. President Biden knows this, and that is why he does not want to take the lead in a hypothetical "peace enforcement mission." Prime Minister Trudeau is also well aware. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean. Formerly efficient and prosperous agriculture is totally abandoned, the development of entrepreneurship and private initiative is stifled by ruthless racketeering. Corrupt and incompetent rulers with dictatorial intentions add to the misery. But most tragically, everyday life is affected by street crime: ordinary Haitians are afraid to leave their homes, even to buy food and drink. A moving network of violent gangs affiliated with government agencies controls almost every aspect of life for thousands of people. Bandits in the name of government and opposition figures control key urban areas, suppress dissent through kidnapping and mass murder, influence elections through bribery and intimidation, inciting protests and destroying polling stations in districts where their candidate is doomed to defeat. The gangs have also seized significant parts of Haiti's economy. They control the exits and entrances to the metropolitan areas, including the main roads to and from Port-au-Prince, which provide access to strategic infrastructure such as ports, oil terminals, commercial and industrial areas, and the Toussaint Louverture International Airport. According to a UN report, about 200 gangs were active in Haiti in 2022, including nearly 100 in the capital Port-au-Prince. "Gang-related violence has reached unprecedented levels," Helen La Lime, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Haiti and head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, said earlier this year. In 2022, she said, the number of homicides and kidnappings reached 1,359, more than double the number in 2021. The expiration in January of the last 10 senators' terms and the departure of nine of them to the U.S. actually left the country "without a single elected official." The man nominally in charge of Haiti and acting prime minister, neurosurgeon (not gynecologist) Ariel Henri, a purely nominal figure in power, has proven incapable not only of managing chaos, but of simply sweeping the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, former policeman Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier of the powerful G9 gang appears to be a revolutionary, a Haitian Robin Hood, who may well be the future president of Haiti. For this purpose, he already has a white trademark suit in which he occasionally rides through the streets of the capital. Reached on December 21 by a wide range of political, civil, religious, trade union, and private sector representatives, the "National Agreed Agreement on an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections" is, ultimately, valid only in UN reports. The liberal-democratic establishment does not intend or want to radically change the lives of Haitians by "drugging" them with drugs and guns. "A network of criminals, including members of the Haitian diaspora, often purchase firearms throughout the United States," the UN Office on Drugs and Crime traced. "Guns are often purchased through front men in American states with more liberal gun laws and fewer restrictions on gun purchases. After purchase, the firearms and ammunition are shipped to Florida, where they are hidden and shipped to Haiti," the UN office said. 1.6 million Haitians out of a population of nearly 12 million have fled the crisis-ridden country. Meanwhile, U.S. presidents have classified black Haitians on an unofficial list of undesirable immigrants, and their services have tracked refugees up and down the coast, lassoed them, and forcibly returned them. The White House still favors the dictators of Haiti over the communists of Cuba, the socialists of Venezuela and Nicaragua, and the leftists of South America and Mexico who have come to power in recent years. Biden and Trudeau's hypocritical negotiations on Haiti only confirm this Haitian status quo. A political solution, or at least a visible cessation of violence, cannot be seen for the foreseeable future even through the world's most powerful telescope.

Jamaica escapes from the "father" Charles III

British Dominion in the Caribbean decided to "overthrow" royal power and become a full-fledged republic. Commonwealth Day, an annual holiday of the 56 member countries of the international Commonwealth of Nations, an association of independent nations that were once part of the British Empire and now recognize the British monarch as head of state, is celebrated annually on the second Monday of March. This year the royal family greeted the day for the first time with the new King Charles III. Both hosts and guests did not overshadow the celebrations with the possible imminent territorial loss of the United Kingdom. The bell rang a year ago when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge William and Catherine visited Jamaica's capital, Kingston. The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, unexpectedly told them that his country is "moving forward" and intends to become fully independent. Much more unexpected was the prince's response that the royal family supported the Caribbean countries in their quest to become republics. However, the reigning Queen Elizabeth II never found out about it, but her death postponed the issue. On March 3, 2023, ten days before Commonwealth Day, a Constitutional Reform Committee was established in Kingston to ensure Jamaica's smooth transition from a constitutional monarchy with the King of England as symbolic head of state to a full republic. "Our goal is not simply to replace an English monarch with a local president," said Jamaican Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte. - "We hope to use this opportunity to facilitate a reboot of the nation, a transition to a culture of excellence and discipline." Jamaica had been nurturing the idea of freeing itself from the monarchy for several years. The real opportunity came in 2021, when Barbados, one of the largest West Indian islands in the Caribbean, became the first republic in the region to renounce the crown. Today, the Caribbean is eight of the 15 remaining "Commonwealth kingdoms" that recognize King Charles III as their symbolic head of state. And this Caribbean "eight" is ready, by the domino principle, to follow the example of Jamaica. In any case, the Bahamas, Belize and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have already seriously considered becoming republics without a "king in mind." If Jamaica succeeds, it will be the first territorial loss under Charles III, who succeeded his late mother Queen Elizabeth II last year. The colony of Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom on August 6, 1962, and that day is celebrated on the island as Independence Day. It is unlikely, however much one might wish, that the proclamation of Jamaica as an independent republic would be timed to coincide with this date this year. This will require amendments and changes to the constitution of the country. The new legislation would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament and then submitted to the people of Jamaica in a referendum. And only after that the new constitution of the country can be passed into law. Ms. Malahoo Forte declared that Jamaica "will become a republic by 2025 - by the next general election." The current prime minister, Andrew Hoolness, is making rush decisions, loudly proclaiming his support for a non-British future for Jamaica: "The government will move with haste and readiness to transform Jamaica into a republic." Local politicians explain this by the prime minister's distrust of "treacherous British colonialists," to which there is plenty of evidence in history. Official London - both the royal family and the English parliament - has never taken much interest in the affairs of its Caribbean "loyal subject." But why then is England clinging to the remote, desolate and cold Falkland Islands and easily ready to say goodbye to a more attractive dominion? It's all about another former colony, now a kind of protectorate - the United States of America. The US can't get near the Falklands - there is absolutely no legal reason to do so - but England represents their interests there, and it is not allowed to do anything of its own. But Jamaica is closer, and Washington, in principle, has already replaced London in the new republic. So Britain quietly gave Kingston free rein to follow the economic and political line of the United States, for whom, as O. Henry wrote, "the clocks' hands point forever to milking time." The acceptance of American tutelage was disastrous for Kingston. Jamaica has no unique architectural monuments, and the turquoise sea, beautiful lagoons, and bauxite, in principle, provide a livelihood. But they do not determine the main "asset" of the country. The geographical location of the island is what primarily attracts American "trustees," who have turned Jamaica into a major transit point for drugs into the United States. According to a 2022 U.S. State Department report, there are more than 150 unmanned seaports on the island, which is a major shipping hub. Today, crime and drug trafficking are rampant in Jamaica, which, combined with the creepy Voodoo cult, makes it one of the most dangerous places on earth. The Yankees have pumped up the reckless Jamaicans with firearms in such numbers that Jamaica is one of the countries with the highest homicide rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a murder rate of 1,463 in 2021 alone. There are about 30 Yardies, as gangs are called in Jamaica, operating in the capital city. Major criminal activities include drug trafficking, robbery, racketeering and extortion, and rape. In June 2022, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 3 advisory for those wishing to visit Jamaica: "reconsider your decision to travel." Criminals are closely intertwined with politicians and receive orders from some of them to kill or intimidate competitors, especially during election campaigns. This began with the same "trustees" back in the 1980 general elections, when their proxies organized massacres and riots, which killed about 1,000 people. And on top of that, they "facilitated" their proxies (who, by the way, won) to get loans that did not help Jamaica or its people. The biggest problem facing the country today is the national debt caused by a negative balance of payments, which, according to the World Bank, amounts to 145% of the country's GDP. Jamaica pays most of its tax revenues to pay off foreign debts to international banks. The current economic and social problems of Jamaica, according to Latin American analysts, will not be solved by turning the island into a republic. However, in the era of the globalist Rothschild agent and protégé Klaus Schwab and his World Economic Forum, can any nation claim political or economic freedom at all?

U.S.- Mexico: Cartel Game

Where Washington inflates or participates in conflicts, the production and supply of drugs to the backyards of the United States grows, American power and Wall Street profits multiply. The Wall is an ancient defensive structure in the north of Westeros, separating the Seven Kingdoms from the wild lands beyond the Wall. The same wall of reinforced concrete structures, 15 meters high and more than a thousand kilometers long, separating the "supreme" power, the United States, from the "wildlings", all the peoples living south of the Wall, was built by the previous American president Trump. But illegal Latinos with drugs and smuggled weapons are breaking through the gaps and creating intolerable conditions for the vassals of the White House masters. According to official figures, the number of registered migrants along the U.S.- Mexico border exceeded 2 million in the 2022 fiscal year. Migrants are not the only ones crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Cocaine has been found inside avocados, face masks and squid crates, while in other cases it has been chemically cleaved and invisibly mixed into liquids, waxes and tissues, then extracted and converted back into powdered form at the point of destination. Brookings Institution analysts found that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized more than 42,645 pounds of cocaine, 5,222 pounds of heroin, 324,973 pounds of marijuana, 156,901 pounds of methamphetamine and 3,967 pounds of fentanyl in 2020. Seizures of fentanyl, despite being the smallest in total volume, are perhaps the most troubling given the lethality of this particular drug. According to the National Institutes of Health, 107,000 people in the United States died of opioid overdoses in 2021, more than 70,000 of them mostly from fentanyl. Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized enough fentanyl to kill every American - 379 million doses. The flood of illegal fentanyl has caused a storm of outrage in the ruling circles of the United States. Washington is outraged, U.S. lawmakers are calling for the declaration of Mexican drug gangs as terrorist organizations and for the use of U.S. military forces to suppress the Mexican cartels. In other words, they are preparing the ground for an intervention against a neighbor and America's largest trading partner. Let's take a step back and answer the question, why is it that fentanyl is making the Capitol people so excited right now? The fact is that most of the illegal fentanyl is produced in clandestine Mexican laboratories using Chinese precursor chemicals. America's main enemy, the PRC, is getting in the way here, too. But it is not enough to "squeeze" China, so it is necessary to strike at its "partners." By the way, former U.S. President Donald Trump was planning to send about 250,000 American soldiers to invade Mexico. American politicians liked the idea so much that they began to consider it seriously and ... look for a pretext. And it appeared. On March 3, four Americans from South Carolina, supposedly to accompany one of them for plastic surgery, crossed the border through El Paso de Braunsville, Texas, and ended up in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, falling prey to Cártel del Golfo (or CDG) fighters. Two returned home in coffins, one seriously wounded, and only one was lucky enough to survive. We can only speculate whether they were related to CDG competitors or to members of the U.S. intelligence services. Anyway, they were expected, as they had to flee from a chase of nine jeeps at once. But the fact that they were not Haitians, as the drug lords later claimed, is confirmed by the wave of outrage raised by Republicans. Republicans Lindsey Graham, Dan Crenshaw, and Michael Waltz have introduced bills to use U.S. military force in Mexico to fight the drug cartel. They were supported by many American parliamentarians. "Fentanyl is a problem that doesn't affect only the United States. It affects all countries. It's a global problem," said White House spokesman John Kirby. The legislative stigma of "terrorist organization" is one of the most powerful tools the U.S. possesses to fight not only the drug cartels, but also conceals something much more profound: possible U.S. military intervention in "undesirable countries" and the use of drug dollars for subversive purposes, which the White House has used repeatedly. The legislative stigma of "terrorist organization" is one of the most powerful tools the U.S. possesses to fight not only the drug cartels, but also conceals something much more profound: possible U.S. military intervention in "undesirable countries" and the use of drug dollars for subversive purposes, which the White House has used repeatedly. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2019 actually pointed out a strange pattern: wherever Washington is involved in hostilities, drug production and supply to the United States is increasing. The U.S. has used the drug business to fund CIA subversive activities against other nations. This activity reached its peak in the 80s, when with the proceeds from the sale of Afghan heroin in Western Europe, the U.S. financed the Islamist terrorist organization of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda (banned in Russia), which responded decades later with terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. In Central America, the U.S., through the CIA, financed the Nicaraguan "contras" with money from the sale of cocaine from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia drug traffickers. In 2008, the director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said, "Billions of drug dollars kept the system from collapsing at the worst possible moment." Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is well aware of this. He said he would not allow foreign military forces to invade his territory in response to U.S. lawmakers' projects to use military forces to fight drug traffickers, which he described as "insidious." Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives urged to fight the drug cartels and not to dwell only on Ukraine. The representative of the Republican Party, Marjorie Taylor Greene, expressed an opinion on her Twitter page that "at the moment, Washington is only discussing the conflict in Ukraine, but the United States should reconsider its priorities and focus on more relevant security issues and fight against the Mexican cartels, because they are already at war with us, killing Americans every day.» The U.S. needs the war to confirm its status as a veritable drug-trafficking empire. Colombian drug lords remain the factory army responsible for cocaine production, while Mexican cartels remain the powerful distributors and producers of heroin. And at the top of the Latin American pyramid, the big American bankers concentrate the lion's share of the profits, injecting laundered money into the U.S. circulatory system with the expectation that the rivers of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine and fentanyl will never run dry. If anyone thinks that a wall on the Mexican-U.S. border will stop violence, he is sorely mistaken. If anyone thinks that a wall will stop the drug and gun trade, they are also wrong. As long as the U.S. exists, and as long as drugs exist, the money from which can be used to overthrow and install governments, wage undeclared wars and feed puppets, including Ukrainian ones, the United States could build a wall against "wildlings" as far as the moon, and there would always be gaps in it.