Author: Yuriy Stroev

Author: Yuriy Stroev

Will BRICS be able to rid Argentina of the IMF?

Buenos Aires seeks protection and new economic and geopolitical perspectives in the group of five. In early 2023, 13 countries submitted formal requests, and six more submitted informal ones, to join the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). "We receive requests to join every day," South Africa's ambassador to the BRICS, Anil Suklal, said. Nothing surprising. Today, the BRICS, which has a population of 3.2 billion out of the "planetary" 7.8 billion, accounts for 31.5% of world GDP, while the G7 accounts for 30.7%. The issue of bloc expansion will first be discussed by BRICS foreign ministers in Cape Town on June 1, and then a final decision is expected at the annual summit in the South African province of Gauteng on August 23-24. There are three options: mega-expansion, when the number of members would increase from five to 21 at once and eclipse the G20; limited admission of 10 new members, with each of the five current members sponsoring two new candidates; and, finally, admission of only five new members, one for each of the current members, with no veto power. The most likely new members will be Argentina and Iran. "Both Argentina and Iran are worthy and respected candidates, as well as a number of other countries," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that the decision to join one or another country in the association will be determined by consensus. Argentina can be considered as a platform for economic cooperation, the demilitarization of the South Atlantic, space cooperation and the preservation of the region's nuclear-free status. In addition, Argentina is currently serving as a regional leader through its presidency (2022-2024) of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Argentina is most lobbied by the president of neighboring Brazil, Luiz Lula da Silva. To understand why Argentina seeks closer relations with the BRICS, one need only look at its latest loan from the IMF. In 2018, the fund gave a record $57 billion to the right-wing administration of then-President Mauricio Macri. But instead of rebuilding Argentina's crumbling infrastructure, this money was mostly used to finance capital outflows. The economy stagnated, inflation jumped to more than 50% in 2019, and voters abandoned the center-right in favor of the center-left as a result. The new president, Alberto Fernandez, canceled the last tranche of credit, but his administration failed to stop unstable times. Economic experts expect inflation to be at least 130% for the year in the coming months, and poverty could rise to 45 – 50%. According to the state statistical agency INDEC, consumer prices rose by 8.4% in April compared with the previous month. Recently Argentina put into circulation a new 2,000 peso bill. At the official exchange rate this bill costs only $8.21, but at the black market rate it is half that – $4.08. Naturally, the new banknote arouses neither curiosity nor enthusiasm among the population. The situation is aggravated by the worst drought in 100 years. According to official forecasts, the yield of the main export crops – soybeans and wheat – will be halved this year and corn by more than a third. Rosario National University economist Tomás Rodríguez Surro estimates the total damage to Argentina's economy from the disaster at $20 billion, nearly three percent of GDP and nearly half the IMF's debt alone. On top of everything else, and maybe most importantly, no one has cancelled the $44.5 billion in IMF debt payments. Where to find it? How to get rid of the noose? "BRICS has the potential to help rethink Argentina's attitude toward debt," economist and professor at Rosario National University in Argentina, Julio Gambina, suggested. – "Its investment could allow the country to build a social economy that prioritizes the needs of the family and the individual over those of multinational companies." Whether this is true, time will tell. Many believe that the growing influence of the BRICS will also help Argentina get rid of the notorious hegemony of the dollar: its total foreign exchange debt exceeded $276.7 billion in the first quarter of 2023, according to the CEIC Data economic statistics database. By the way, the presidents of Brazil and Argentina, Lula da Silva and Alberto Fernandez, announced the decision "to activate the creation of a single South American currency within the common market of South America, MERCOSUR (the proposed name of the monetary unit – "sur", Spanish "south" – Auth.), which can be used to serve both financial and trade flows to reduce transaction costs." The BRICS countries are also working on creating a new international reserve currency that would replace the U.S. dollar and the European euro and would be based on a basket of currencies of the group member countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the BRICS business forum last June. That is, the Brazilian real, the Russian ruble, the Indian rupee, the Chinese yuan and the South African rand. This difficult task is likely to fall on the shoulders of the New Development Bank (NDB) of BRICS and will require a lot of time, human and financial resources, but in the future will be able to fully protect the BRICS countries from the risks associated with settlements in currencies such as the dollar and euro, according to Russian experts. For her part, NDB BRICS President Dilma Rousseff noted that "the use of the dollar is becoming undesirable due to Western sanctions pressure on third countries." The possibility of joining the NDB BRICS "is beneficial for Argentina in its current position and, incidentally, it does not require prior membership in the bloc," according to the authors of the report "BRICS and Argentina: A Key Geopolitical Opportunity" from the Argentine analytical center Observatorio de Coyuntura Internacional y Política Exterior (OCIPEx). "From the NDB, we could get funding and technical assistance for key infrastructure projects that drive national productive development," the report notes. One of the main incentives for Argentina to join the BRICS was the support of most (four out of five) members of the bloc for Argentina's sovereignty claims to the Malvinas (Falkland Islands). "This is a key geopolitical fact that we must take into account in the face of the militarization carried out by the highly aggressive Anglo-Saxon axis in various parts of the globe, including the Malvinas Islands, where the largest NATO military base in our region operates," the authors of the OCIPEx report state. BRICS offers an alternative to the financial, economic and commercial architecture developed by the United States and its allies after World War II. Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that the leadership of the BRICS is necessary for the world to form a truly multipolar interstate system based on universal norms of international law and the principles of the UN Charter. BRICS economists argue that the Big Five, in its current composition, will be able to catch up and overtake the Big Seven at a successful pace of development by the middle of this century. However, the BRICS is not designed to compete, but to survive in the new conditions of global development. In 2022, during his visit to Moscow, President Alberto Fernandez rashly told Vladimir Putin that Argentina could become a "Russian gateway to Latin America," wishful thinking. Whether this is realistic will be shown by the upcoming general elections on October 22, 2023, unless, of course, Argentina is led astray.

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 "Magnificent Seven" turned a deaf ear to calls of the Global South

The G7 summit in Hiroshima showed that the world powers want to continue the "bloody banquet", the developing countries are looking for a peaceful settlement, and Zelensky – where to hide. After the Euro-tour Vladimir Zelenski rushed by the French government plane across the continent to Japan not to listen to the speeches of the European leaders of the G7, nor to taste real Japanese cuisine and drink sake in the company of gentlemen. He was primarily interested in Brazil. But again not to listen to the plan of the president Lula for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine, which was already presented to him by the special assistant of the president of Brazil on the international affairs Celso Amorim and which was categorically rejected by Zelensky, referring to his own plan. Zelensky's visit to Hiroshima for the G7 summit coincided with the capture of the AFU stronghold of Artyomovsk in the DPR by the Vagner military company and the Russian Armed Forces. For some time now, rumors have been circulating in the president's office that the "hetman" of Ukraine is probing the ground for a possible shelter for himself and his family, as well as for his "narrow circle of limited people." There is no better cover than a G7 meeting with the Brazilian President and the Prime Ministers of Australia and the Cook Islands. It was not for nothing that they were invited, among others, to attend the summit. We must think that the presence of Mark Brown, prime-minister of the Cook Islands, which are "strategic for the global politics", is especially important for the world leaders. In the near future they can become Zelensky's best shelter, and in the present – a hint of the fate that befell the famous English navigator, if the Ukrainian comedian goes to the wrong "place." Away from the G7, the non-Western powers are already fed up with Ukraine. While the U.S. and NATO are arming Ukraine to the teeth, other countries are suffering from the invasion of the Ukrainians and insisting on a cessation of hostilities and a negotiated peace. Moreover, at the summit of the G7 leaders in Hiroshima (also a good hint to Zelensky about how the USA "treats" infidels) the main issue on the agenda was Ukraine – again, a pure show for the whole world. This issue has long been solved, and nothing new can be added to what has already been said in the final document. Discussing among themselves the ways to increase pressure on Russia and seeing not washed Zelensky's "military clothes" for the umpteenth time is not a great pleasure. But complex issues arise that cannot be solved only within the G7 – the global world establishment has not yet managed to achieve unconditional support for the "Third World." Yes, the governments of Asia, Africa and Latin America condemn Russia's "invasion of Ukraine. Yes, they have to reduce cooperation with Russia out of a sense of self-preservation. But they also refuse to impose sanctions against Moscow and to supply existing Soviet and Russian arms and military equipment to the Kiev regime. And this at a time when the "seven brave ones" cannot wait for what seems to be an irreversibly delayed Zelensky counteroffensive. Apparently, U.S. and NATO officials in these circumstances are considering other options for resolving the Ukrainian issue, in which they themselves will not get bogged down in Ukrainian "sinkholes" and drag out the conflict to the exhaustion of Russia, involving third countries, where they do not show much sympathy for Ukraine. Such a solution could be peaceful diplomatic initiatives acceptable to the West, put forward by respected Third World countries that insist on negotiations with the warring parties. In the opinion of military experts, as in the case of the "Minsk format", this could help the collective West, without stopping the military actions of the AFU, to "talk some sense into Russia" and to arm Ukraine "to the teeth". Especially since the queue of those wishing to participate in the "peace process" is growing. In recent months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Emir of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates Mohamed bin Zayed, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have made diplomatic initiatives. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has extensive experience in "peace talks" with the Palestinians, also expressed his desire to participate in the resolution of the Ukrainian conflict. The Holy See, led by Pope Francis I, did not stay away from the "good cause." Three proposals are of the greatest interest. First, China has put forward 12 points for a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian conflict, which include respect for the sovereignty of all countries, a cessation of hostilities, the rejection of sanctions and the resumption of negotiations. A plan rejected by both the U.S. and Ukraine. U.S. analysts believe the Chinese proposals primarily work "to preserve Russian advantage and undermine Ukraine." "A complete defeat of Russia is not in China's interests," the Washington Post argues. Second, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who announced the formation of a delegation of leaders from six African countries – Senegal, Republic of Congo, Uganda, Egypt, South Africa and Zambia – to meet separately with Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to find a "peaceful resolution to the devastating conflict." Finally, perhaps the most original is the plan of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to create a "peace club" – a kind of revival of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries – to mediate a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine. On this issue, Lula actively seeks the support of world and regional leaders. Immediately after the inauguration, Lula paid a visit to Washington, where in the Oval Office he lulled Grandpa Biden's vigilance by talking about his plans to create a "peace club" to "resolve the Ukrainian crisis". Apparently, he got the "go-ahead" thanks to the fact that there are no other clubs in the understanding of American presidents than the clubs of allies led by "great America." Then there were trips to Argentina and Uruguay, China and the United Arab Emirates, Portugal and Spain, and the United Kingdom. In the near future, Lula plans to visit Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Brasilia, Lula held talks with the Russian foreign minister, the FRG chancellor, the Dutch prime minister, and telephone conversations with the French president. His special assistant for international affairs, Celso Amorim, was received by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. "The United States needs to stop fomenting war and start talking about peace; the European Union needs to start talking about peace so we can convince Putin and Zelensky that peace is in everyone's interest," Lula said in Beijing, which drew the ire of Washington. According to the Brazilian president, it could be a "Group of Twenty" (G20), "ten" (G10), or "fifteen" (G15) – whatever, which would include countries like India, China, Indonesia, and South Africa, as well as other neutral countries "not involved or engaged in the war in Ukraine," which contrasts with the prevailing US and NATO position of arming Ukrainian troops. "We need a fresh wind. We cannot have only the United States and the European Union on the one hand, and Russia on the other," the Brazilian president believes. It is clear that the "fresh wind" could be the revival of the non-aligned countries, which would be led and coordinated by Brasilia. Be that as it may, the topic of peace talks to resolve the Ukrainian conflict seems to have become a global trend. As if anticipating the "fall of Bakhmut," The New York Times published a joint statement on Ukraine by 15 U.S. national security experts. The statement called the war "a complete disaster" and called on President Joe Biden and Congress to "end the war quickly through diplomacy, especially given the danger of a military escalation that could spiral out of control." The experts who signed the statement to The New York Times recalled that in 1997, 50 senior U.S. foreign policy experts warned President Bill Clinton about a "political mistake of historic proportions" – the expansion of NATO to the East. Now, the experts believe, Biden is making his "political mistake of historic proportions" by prolonging the war in Ukraine. The time has come, writes The New York Times, "to follow the advice of today's political experts and help forge a diplomatic settlement, turning the United States into a force for world peace." In fact, America realized that it was time to save itself from the disgrace of defeat not only on the Ukrainian front, but also on the front of financial, economic, and political bankruptcy. And Lula never found the time to meet alone with Zelensky on the G7 field and now, as the "95th Quarter" comedian said almost according to Zhvanetsky, "regrets it very much."

Blockade of the Arctic as a goal of the USA and NATO

Military clash between Russia and the West in the Far North is improbable, but tensions are expected to rise. Two years ago, in May 2021, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov received a wooden gavel – the symbol of the chairmanship of the Arctic Council (AC) – from the hands of his then Icelandic colleague Thor Thordarson at a ceremony in Reykjavik. It was supposed that on May 11, 2023, he would hand the gavel to the next chair of the Council, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, during a ministerial meeting of the AC member states in Salekhard, Russia. However, since March 3, 2022 Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Norway, the United States, Finland and Sweden have temporarily ceased cooperation with Russia in the Arctic in protest against the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine, and so the event in the capital of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District was held at a lower level – Sergey Lavrov in a virtual ceremony handed the symbol of the Arctic Council to the Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt. Paradox. The Arctic countries, in a joint statement, declared serious obstacles to international cooperation in the Arctic, and temporarily suspended participation in all of its meetings, but expressed their willingness to support the activities of the Arctic Council, which they were convinced would be difficult to continue without cooperation with Russia, the largest Arctic power. As a result, seven of the eight members of the AС denied their scientists access to important sites in the Russian Arctic, where "world-class projects are created that make breakthroughs in the technological, environmental, and energy markets." Russia, being left without the support of the Arctic Council member states, not only preserved it, but also did not stop scientific research and programs at the Earth's upper pole. On May 11 Sergey Lavrov addressed the participants of the meeting in Salekhard via video link. "As chair of the Arctic Council in 2021-2023, our country has always been guided by the common interests of ensuring sustainable and safe development of the entire Arctic region and the well-being of its population, including indigenous peoples of the North," he said, noting that the full-fledged activity of the Council was "temporarily frozen" by Western member countries "under an absolutely far-fetched pretext of the situation in Ukraine, which they themselves provoked." The Arctic Council was one of the few forums where Western countries and Russia fruitfully and closely cooperated. However, at the moment Western countries are not going to offer Russia to return to full-scale cooperation within the framework of the Arctic Council. Since March 2022, two-thirds of 130 projects of this forum are frozen, while others are implemented without Russia. And over the same time period, as part of its commitments, Russia has implemented more than 100 different activities in areas such as support for residents and indigenous peoples of the Arctic, environmental protection and the fight against climate change, social and economic development and strengthening of the Arctic Council. The Arctic has long been on the sidelines of big politics, but climate change and the race for resources have changed the situation, and the Arctic's status as a low-conflict region may be in jeopardy. Finland's accession to NATO, and probably soon Sweden's as well, turns the Arctic Council into one of the "branches" of the North Atlantic Alliance, where Russia remains the only Arctic power that is not a member of NATO. But for how long – and then the "small conflict" can grow into a big one. And Russia's special military operation in Ukraine is one of the pretexts created by the collective West to destroy the Russian Federation and seize its riches. Here it is worth recalling what so enticed NATO strategists. The Russian coastline of the Arctic Ocean accounts for 53% of the entire Arctic territory. In total, about 2.5 million people live in this area of Russia, which is almost half the population of the entire Arctic. Russia's Arctic zone with an area of about 9 million square kilometers already provides 12-15% of national GDP and about a quarter of Russian exports. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia, the Arctic accounts for 100% of production of such important elements as apatite ores (5.7 million tons), rare-earth metals (124.5 thousand tons), titanium (416 thousand tons) and zirconium (20.9 thousand tons). In addition, the region produces 10% of all-Russian volumes of gold (37.2 tons), 11% of silver (244.3 tons), 36% of diamonds (15.3 million carats) and 99% of platinoids (130.5 tons). Further development of the Arctic zone is closely connected with the development of hydrocarbon reserves, which are estimated at 83 billion barrels of oil, 1,550 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and 780 billion tons of coal. The total value of the mineral resources is more than $30 trillion. At the beginning of the 21st century, rapid global climate change, which promises lucrative new sea trade routes and great opportunities for exploiting vast natural resources, will open up access to minerals from the unexplored Arctic seafloor as global warming melts the sea ice above it. In its 2022 State of the Cryosphere report, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) concluded that an ice-free summer in the Arctic will inevitably occur before 2050. These issues require a joint international solution. But Russia's actions, as the U.S. State Department said in a statement, in waging war against Ukraine "impede the cooperation, coordination and collaboration that characterize the work of the Arctic Council." So where is the Arctic and where is Ukraine? Never mind, since minerals are slipping from the raking hands of the Anglo-Saxons. "The United States is an Arctic nation that instills a responsibility to manage and protect this region, especially in this time of change," said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while forgetting to whom America owes its Arctic status. The temptation of the appropriation and use of natural resources beyond the Arctic Circle, as well as attempts to establish American control in the region, is gradually heating up the atmosphere in international relations. The United States is betting on the internationalization of Arctic maritime spaces, including The Northwest Passage (NWP), controlled by Canada, and the Northern Sea Route (NSR), controlled by Russia. The pretext – the special military operation in Ukraine – was found, the cause of the new conflict was established, the job was done – the Arctic was declared a zone of exclusive American-NATO interests, which are threatened by Russia and China, which has joined it. "The United States seeks an Arctic region that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative. The new National Strategy for the Arctic Region articulates a positive U.S. agenda for the next ten years to realize this vision," the United States National Strategy for the Arctic Region states. The military-political leadership of the United States has begun to implement practical measures aimed at creating a "peaceful, stable, prosperous and cooperative" Arctic region. The main emphasis is on the need to increase the number of military exercises of NATO forces along with the increase of the American military presence in the region. We should note that back in 2018, preparing Ukrainian nationalists against Russia, the U.S. restored its Second Fleet, abolished in 2011, to the Arctic. Today, one of its still unfulfilled tasks is the blocking of the Northern Sea Route, stipulated by the U.S. Arctic Doctrine. Every year since 2020, according to Admiral M. Gilday, the United States has conducted up to 20 exercises and operations in the Arctic, most of which involve partner countries. The main goal of such events is to deploy a more lethal, stable and flexible battlegroup capable of giving the United States an advantage in this key region. Norway, which this year became the chair of the Arctic Council, and the United States are planning to restore the naval base in Olavsvern, 350 km from the border with Russia, and to deploy US Navy Seawolf-class nuclear submarines. In this case American submarines will pose a serious threat to the security of the Northern Sea Route, especially near Murmansk and the coast of the Murmansk region. We should remind you that the dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation was actually interrupted not in 2022, but in 2014 as a result of the cessation of military cooperation between Western countries and Moscow. The current situation in the Arctic is characterized by the fact that containment and military confrontation remain almost the only signals America sends to Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Blinken confirmed this already at the Arctic Council session in Reykjavik in May 2021, when he said that the United States intends to push Russia out of the Arctic and cut off China's access to high latitudes. Russia, for its part, presented the "Russian Arctic Zone Development and National Security Strategy until 2035," which removed all previous references to multilateral regional cooperation formats such as the Arctic Council and the Barents Council. Russia takes a defensive stance in the Arctic, but is ready to respond quickly in the event of conflict. Moscow sees not only new challenges on its external borders, but also new threats to its internal security, and will not refuse to protect its sovereign lands and natural resources. The transformation of the confrontation, analysts believe, through increasing tensions into a military clash in the Far North, the scale and significance of which would surpass all military conflicts of our time, is fraught with the possibility of a global war. It is fraught, but currently unlikely, we might add. The prospects for Russia's further cooperation within the framework of the Arctic Council look very uncertain. Norway, which has taken the presidency, believes that work within the framework of the Arctic Council can, and probably should, continue without Russia's participation. Moscow does not rule out that Russia may withdraw from the Arctic Council if the activity of this structure ceases to meet its national interests. Will Oslo, with its six allies left without Russia, at least be able to preserve the Arctic Council, its territories, and help its indigenous peoples? Western governments have chosen Nazi Ukraine and conflict instead of cooperation. They have nowhere to go. That's what the States are for. That's what NATO is for.

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.

Biden administration prepares "conditional release" for illegals

The U.S. is a country that was created by immigration and in which immigration is a pressing political issue. The Pentagon sent 1,500 soldiers and marines to assist 2,500 National Guardsmen on the U.S.-Mexico border. The decision comes in the wake of the repeal of Title 42 of the U.S. Code, which was passed in March 2020 under the pretext of a public health emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic and which allows migrants attempting to seek asylum in the United States to be expelled without investigation. From May 11 of this year for 90 days, security forces will work together to maintain order along the entire 3,145-kilometer line of one of the most crossed borders in the world. The decision was finally made as a result of agreements reached by senior U.S. and Mexican officials on a new immigration policy aimed at curbing illegal border crossings, as well as opening other avenues in anticipation of an expected increase in the number of migrants following the lifting of Title 42 restrictions. Under the agreement, Mexico will continue to accept up to 30,000 refugees a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela who are trying to illegally enter the United States, and up to 100,000 migrants from the "northern triangle" of Central America - Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador - who already have families in the United States. The "humanitarian program," which includes the right of "conditional release" for attempting to cross the border illegally, will provide two years of permission to live and work in the United States. The Biden administration also intends to create centers outside the United States for people "fleeing violence and poverty" so they can legally obtain asylum in the United States, Spain or Canada. The first such migration centers are planned to open in Guatemala and Colombia. Initially, they are expected to process between 5,000 and 6,000 applications per month for legal entry into the United States. Customs and passport control offices will be set up at the border to quickly identify undesirable persons and punish illegals trying to enter the U.S. through third countries. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said the creation of such centers "would encourage migrants to avoid smugglers and get them to take advantage of legal entry into the United States." Strangely enough, Republicans did not believe the top Biden administration officials and created the Latin American Conference, a group of 18 congressmen in the House of Representatives that began work on their own immigration and border legislation package. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a Republican, said during a news conference that the bill being drafted, in addition to imposing strict border enforcement and strict limitations on asylum for migrants, would involve three areas of immigration policy: recognizing drug cartels as terrorist organizations, increasing criminal penalties for fentanyl smuggling, and increasing wages for Customs and Border Protection agents. Steve Scalise called the Republicans' draft "the strongest border security package Congress has ever passed." Whether this is true will be shown by the vote in the Senate, where a slim majority remains for the Democrats, who in this case prefer to pursue a more liberal policy and not bring the situation with tens of thousands of refugees on the border into unmanageable chaos. The U.S. is a country that was created by immigration and where immigration is a pressing political issue. By 2019, migrants from Latin America alone accounted for 6.5 percent of the population. Not surprisingly, Mexico, which shares a border with the U.S., is the largest source of Latin American migrants. According to the Census Bureau, immigrants make up nearly 14 percent of the U.S. population, or about 45 million people out of a total of nearly 332 million in 2020. Combined, immigrants and their children born in the United States make up about 26 percent of America's population, and some demographers predict that number will reach 36 percent by 2065. Before 2013, almost everyone who tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border was a Mexican citizen, and most of them were looking for work. In 2019, the proportion of Central Americans reached 81 percent. Today, immigrants come from dozens of countries, including Peru, Venezuela, Haiti, India, China, Russia and Ukraine (from the beginning of special military operation has an advantage over other "guests") and other countries, according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a private U.S. international relations organization. Migrants from Africa and Asia make up 10 percent of "travelers." But Mexicans and natives of the "northern triangle" of Central America are above competition, accounting for almost half of all those who cross the Mexican border illegally. According to Mexican border guards, almost half a million migrants were detained last year, 44% more than in 2021. Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said U.S. authorities detained about 192,000 people trying to cross the border from Mexico in March. The surge in Central American migration has strained the U.S. immigration system, with more than 1.8 million cases pending in immigration courts as of June 2022. Over the past three years of Title 42, U.S. authorities have recorded a peak number of illegal border violations with Mexico and have been forced to expel more than 2.5 million people from the country. This forced President Biden, who did everything in spite of his predecessor, not only not to repeal Trump's Title 42, but to tighten measures against illegals this time. Why did the situation "suddenly" change? The current White House administration's intention to repeal Title 42 did not accidentally coincide with Biden's announcement of his intention to run for president. And in this case, he will be in dire need of the "Latino" vote. Experts expect tens of thousands of migrants to rush over the border to the north of Mexico after the restrictions are lifted. U.S. agents recorded more than 8,000 migrant detentions along the southern border last week alone, with officials predicting that the number of illegal crossings will exceed 10,000 a day after May 11. Already, a new migration surge has led to overcrowded U.S. border control checkpoints and jail cells. According to The Washington Post, more than 20,000 migrants are in detention at border checkpoints, more than twice the capacity of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, the most crowded sector of Customs and Border Protection. Local officials recall like a bad dream the year of 2021, when thousands of migrants, mostly Haitians, waded across the Rio Grande opposite the Mexican city of Ciudad Acuña and set up a makeshift camp on American territory near Del Rio, Texas, creating a situation of humanitarian chaos. Migrants from Venezuela, Haiti, and other countries pass through the dangerous Darién Gap, a 93-mile stretch of rainforest between Colombia and Panama where armed gangs run rampant. More than 110,000 migrants crossed the rainforest in seven years, from 2014 to 2021. In 2021, the number rose sharply to 134,000, and in 2022, it nearly doubled to 248,000. Republicans argue that Biden actually has an "open door" policy and that drug cartels and traffickers thrive in such an environment. It remains to be seen how the new immigration policy will be implemented. But already tens of thousands of migrants from Central America's northern triangle are moving toward Mexico, and a similar number of refugees from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and other South American countries have crossed the deadly Darién toward the U.S. border, according to the Panamanian government. Local law enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection are preparing for their encounter by conducting a full-scale exercise at Gateway, one of three international bridges crossing the U.S.-Mexico border between Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Tamaulipas, simulating an emergency response to an actual attempt by large numbers of migrants to storm the bridge and illegally enter the United States. You are welcome, dear migrants!

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.

Russia-Latin America: "reconfiguring" the global power map

Sergey Lavrov cements the foundation of a multipolar world order. The just-concluded visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Brazil, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba took place against the backdrop of "dizzying" world political developments and a "complex" geopolitical scenario. Moscow seeks to "reconfigure" the global power map and deepen ties with countries that oppose the unilateral hegemony of the United States, in this case in Latin America. Moscow proceeds from a "pragmatic" approach within the concept of a new foreign policy that aims to "strengthen the partnership" of a multipolar world. And the specific novelty lies not in the "related" positions of Havana, Managua and Caracas, which continue to experience multifaceted U.S. violence, but in the chosen path of Brasilia, Mexico City and Buenos Aires, which may have to face the aggressive protectionism of Washington once again in the near future. Brazil It is no coincidence that Brazil has become the first country of the Russian chancellor's current tour. The behavior of South American governments depends on how this Latin American giant will behave. In Brasilia Lavrov held talks with his Brazilian counterpart Mauro Vieira, met with Celso Amorim, foreign policy adviser to the Brazilian president, and was received by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The Russian Foreign Ministry explains that during the talks, the foreign ministers "analyzed in detail the progress of joint work to strengthen the Russian-Brazilian strategic partnership" and "exchanged opinions on the status and prospects of bilateral cooperation in the political, material, cultural and humanitarian spheres." Vieira noted that Russia is the 13th largest trading partner of Brazil. Last year the bilateral trade turnover was the largest in history, reaching $9.8 billion. Brazil did not join Western countries in imposing sanctions against Russia and refused to supply Ukraine with munitions. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva proposed the creation of a club of countries, including China and Brazil, to mediate peace. "The United States must stop promoting war and start talking about peace," Lula said. Vieira, for his part, told reporters: Brazil believes that sanctions against Russia will lead to negative consequences for the world economy, especially for developing countries. "Brazil and Russia have a single vision. We are building a more equitable, just, and law-based world order. We have a vision of a multipolar world," Lavrov said, confirming Russia's support for Brazil's candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. "As for the process in Ukraine, we are grateful to our Brazilian friends for their excellent understanding of this situation’s genesis. We are grateful (to them) for striving to contribute to finding ways to settle it," Lavrov said. Venezuela The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry was received by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and had extensive talks with Executive Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and Foreign Minister Yvan Gil. Over the past 20 years, Venezuela and Russia have built a "close" alliance involving political, economic and military interests. During this time, the two countries have signed more than 320 bilateral cooperation agreements. Russia intends to help Venezuela's economy become less and less dependent on "the whims and geopolitical games of the United States," Lavrov said. Moscow supported Maduro during the political crisis; since 1999, the two countries, which are under sanctions from Washington, have strengthened their relations. Late last year, countries signed 11 agreements in health, energy, maritime transport, including oil extraction, agriculture, anti-drug trafficking and space exploration. Russia and Venezuela have advanced in the development of a system of exchange of financial messages, bypassing SWIFT, as well as are engaged in the implementation of the Russian payment system MIR in the South American country, said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil. "The U.S. is systematically attacking our economy, trying to strangle us, yet they constantly talk about the possibility of improving the dialogue between our countries. But we haven't seen any easing of sanctions, or any economic improvement," Minister Gil said. "We will do everything we can to make Venezuela's economy less and less dependent on the whims and geopolitical games of the US or any over actors from the Western camp," Sergey Lavrov promised. Bolivia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Focused on the Russian-Venezuelan negotiations, observers did not pay attention to the unexpected meetings at the Russian Embassy in Caracas between the Russian Chancellor and the Bolivian Foreign Minister Rogelio Maita Maita and the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonzales. Sergey Lavrov and Rogelio Maita Maita discussed the role of BRICS in a multipolar world. The parties confirmed the course for comprehensive strengthening of multifaceted Russian-Bolivian ties. With the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines the Russian Foreign Minister discussed the prospects of bilateral relations as well as key issues of international and regional agenda. Nicaragua Sergey Lavrov's visit to Nicaragua coincided with Peace Day, which is celebrated on April 19, and with the new sanctions announced by the United States against the country. The Russian foreign minister held talks with his Nicaraguan counterpart Denis Moncada, Finance Minister Ivan Acosta and Presidential Advisor for Investment, Trade and Cooperation Laureano Ortega Murillo. At the end of his lightning visit to Managua, which lasted only four hours, Sergey Lavrov was received by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, at the Olof Palme Congress Center. During the talks, it was noted that the trade turnover between the countries reached $160 million in 2022, which is more than double the figure for 2019. Russia and Nicaragua will continue cooperation in health care for the production of vaccines, are ready to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and jointly introduce new technologies in agriculture and medicine. Both countries share the same positions on key issues, reject diktat and illegitimate sanctions of Western countries led by the United States, and advocate the further promotion of cooperation between Russia and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean and their associations. "Multipolarity is a phenomenon of time, it is an objective process. It is impossible to stop it, although the collective West, united under the umbrella of American so-called exceptionalism, is trying to do so. Together with Nicaragua and our other like-minded people we will counteract it, draw attention to the inadmissibility of such behavior in the modern world," said the Russian Foreign Minister. Cuba In Havana, Sergey Lavrov was received by Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Raul Castro. During talks with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Sergey Lavrov discussed not only geostrategic issues, but also quite concrete steps in bilateral relations. As the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry said at a press conference, work on the terms of the restructuring of the Cuban debt has almost been completed. Moreover, work has already begun to reach an agreement on granting the Liberty Island a special loan for an additional supply of wheat from Russia. Russia is one of Cuba's top 10 trading partners, and both governments describe their ties as "strategic." "We vigorously condemn the NATO expansion that continues toward Russia's borders, which is the main cause of the current conflict in Europe. We will continue to advocate a diplomatic solution to this crisis in Europe through peaceful means that will ensure the security and sovereignty of all, as well as peace, stability and international security," Bruno Rodriguez, head of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, stated Havana's position at the talks. "The United States began a crusade against the Russian Federation and its legitimate interests, against Russian culture, Russian traditions. They have chosen the Nazi regime in Kiev as a spearhead to arm it. Let it be clear to everyone that such a course of action is useless," said Sergey Lavrov, recalling decades of U.S. trade and economic blockade against the Island of Liberty. Answering the question whether Russia will recreate its military base in Cuba, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia gave neither a positive, nor a negative answer: "Our military cooperation is successfully developing in accordance with the agreements between our countries, and as far as I understand, forms of such cooperation satisfy both Russia and Cuba," said the head of the Foreign Ministry to Russian and Cuban journalists at a press conference. Enemy Voices "Lavrov uses Latin America trip to attack the U.S. and Ukraine," published the Miami-based newspaper El Nuevo Herald for any Latin American counter revolutionary and anti-national brat. "Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's recent trip to four Latin American countries, including the giant South American Brazil, demonstrated the Russian government's interest in using the region as a geopolitical playing field to provoke the United States and weaken support for Ukraine in a war unleashed by the Kremlin." The publication predicted "serious difficulties" ahead for Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who dared to accuse the United States of "encouraging" the war in Ukraine, and reminded that "the United States, which supports Ukraine, is one of Brazil's largest trading partners." In turn, the White House strongly criticized the Brazilian president. John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, ignoring the rules of diplomatic tone, insultingly reproached Brazil for "repeating, like a parrot, the Russian and Chinese propaganda without paying any attention to the facts." The Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro was also attacked and accused of "mismanagement, which has led Venezuela to a political, social and economic crisis that has marked the entire period of Maduro's presidency. Curiously, Kirby did not hesitate to ask the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Brazil "to find time in their busy schedules" to listen to the Ukrainian version of the war, to call on the Russians "to stop bombing Ukrainian cities, hospitals and schools, to end the war crimes and atrocities and, frankly, to withdraw all Russian troops from Ukraine." Lavrov's trip coincided with the visit of Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who was negotiating with the U.S. presidential administration to lift sanctions against Venezuela. The owner of the Oval Office took advantage of that to try to get Petro to transfer his weapons and military equipment, especially the Soviet-made helicopters. But he was rebuffed, as they say. "Previous Colombian governments have purchased Russian weapons. My position on these weapons, which are now in the possession of the Colombian state, is that they will not be used for conflict. It will not be sent to Russia or Ukraine," the Colombian president said. On a regional tour, Sergey Lavrov, according to analysts, the world's most experienced foreign minister, said Washington's position is "an artificial choice: with us or against us. We want Latin America and the Caribbean to be strong, politically cohesive and economically sustainable."