Ecuador Seeks New Relationship With China After Debt Deal

Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa sign 11 cooperative agreements during a state visit in 2017.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa sign 11 cooperative agreements during a state visit in 2017.


“The idea is that part of the oil is released, and it is allowed to be sold at market price, which is an additional benefit for Ecuador.  And with those resources, the president can further strengthen social investment.”


Ecuador is performing a balancing act as it undertakes a strategic review of its with China while making overtures to Washington. Under President Rafael Correa (2007-2017), Ecuador racked up billions in debt, with China as the country’s largest lender. Since Correa’s departure, Ecuador has struggled to repay China, making repeated requests to restructure debt deals. In contrast, current President Guillermo Lasso recently announced the renegotiation of Ecuador’s debt, reports center-right daily El Universo. According to the article, the agreement will free Ecuador’s oil production, previously tethered to the repayment of the Chinese debt, to be sold on the spot market. The newspaper notes that this should provide additional revenues for the government, which it badly needs to invest in both social programs and to combat rising insecurity and criminality. The debt renegotiation is part of a broader repositioning of the Ecuador-China relationship, notes another El Universo article.  One large source of debt is the Coca Codo Sinclair Dam project, which has generated controversy throughout the country. The project is mired in cost overruns, environmental degradation, and questions over the structural integrity of the infrastructure (it has thousands of cracks and is unstable). As a result, a review commission within Ecuador’s government recommended a rejection of the project, with a threat to withhold repayment of the loan that financed it if China does not fix the structural deficiencies.


Sources:

“Presidente Guillermo Lasso anuncia renegociación de deuda con China en Nueva York (President Guillermo Lasso announces debt renegotiation with China in New York),” El Universo (one of Ecuador’s largest dailies, generally seen as center-right), 19 September 2022. https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/economia/presidente-guillermo-lasso-anuncia-renegociacion-de-deuda-con-china-en-nueva-york-nota/  

The government… said that, in general, these agreements represent a relief of $1.4 billion in debt service for Ecuador until 2025, since amortizations to the China Development Bank will be reduced by more than $745 million over the next three years and amortizations to Eximbank will be reduced by about $680 million over the next four years… The idea is that part of the oil is released and it is allowed to be sold at market price, which is an additional benefit for Ecuador.  And with those resources, the president can further strengthen social investment.

“Informe de Fiscalización recomienda no recibir central Coca Codo y revisar designación del Ministro de Energía por conflicto de intereses (Audit report recommends not receiving Coca Codo Sinclair Dam and reviewing the appointment of the Minister of Energy due to conflict of interest),” El Universo (one of the country’s largest dailies, generally considered center-right), 9 September 2022. https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/economia/informe-de-fiscalizacion-recomienda-no-recibir-central-coca-codo-y-revisar-designacion-del-ministro-de-energia-por-conflicto-de-intereses-nota/  

At least 121 conclusions and 13 recommendations, which include asking the President of the Republic, Guillermo Lasso, that his government reject the work of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric plant (due to its multiple structural problems) and that it review the appointment of the current Minister of Energy, Xavier Vera Grunauer, for allegedly having a conflict of interest, came out of a final report of the investigation carried out by the Supervisory Commission of the National Assembly, on the contract and construction of the largest hydroelectric power plant, the Coca Codo Sinclair Dam.


Image Information:

Image: Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa sign 11 cooperative agreements during a state visit in 2017.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ecuador_y_China_firman_11_convenios_de_cooperaci%C3%B3n_(30958228411).jpg
Attribution: CCA BY 2.0

Colombia’s New Government Quickly Reestablishes Relations With Maduro’s Venezuela

The Colombia-Venezuela border, which has witnessed millions of migrants in recent years.

The Colombia-Venezuela border, which has witnessed millions of migrants in recent years.


The first and most important step in this new phase of bilateral relations is to restore diplomacy between the two countries.


Mere weeks after taking office in August 2022, Colombia’s new president, Gustavo Petro, has reestablished relations with Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela. This is noteworthy as relations between the two countries ruptured in 2019, when Columbia’s then-president Iván Duque recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president, thus prompting Maduro to end formal diplomatic ties. Under president Duque, Colombia was a staunch opponent of Maduro, seeking to isolate him on the international stage, while itself seeking to play a lead role in Latin America.

Presidents Petro and Maduro celebrated the resumption of relations with the exchange of ambassadors, CNN en Español reports. The article notes that the exchange of ambassadors, the reopening of their shared border, the resumption of trade, and eventually, a meeting between Petro and Maduro, signals a changing strategic environment in Latin America toward Venezuela’s dictatorship.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also changed the region’s appetite for isolating Venezuela and demanding domestic changes. In an interview with Colombia’s leading weekly magazine Semana, Colombia’s new ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, announced Colombia’s intention to buy Venezuelan oil and gas, previously sanctioned to press Maduro over links to organized crime and gross human rights abuses.  Ambassador Benedetti also spoke of a proposal to establish special economic zones along the Colombia-Venezuela border, which immediately generated concern about the potential for drug trafficking organizations and Colombian guerrillas using these zones to launder money. Collectively these moves give the Maduro regime more space to maneuver.


Sources:

Source: “Colombia y Venezuela restablecen relaciones bilaterales con la llegada de embajadores a Bogotá y Caracas (Colombia and Venezuela reestablish bilateral relations with the arrival of ambassadors to Bogotá and Caracas),” CNN en Español (the Spanish-language version of the popular American outlet), 29 August 2022.

https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2022/08/29/armando-benedetti-embajador-de-colombia-en-venezuela-llega-a-caracas-orix/

Benedetti told journalists in Caracas that the first and most important step in this new phase of bilateral relations is to restore diplomacy between the two countries.  That includes both the diplomatic issue and trade relations, one of the priorities of the two governments.  “We are going to reestablish relations with Venezuela, we are going to reestablish trade from which more than 8 million Colombians live, we are going to look for an economic zone, tax exemptions and legislation that allows the Colombian government to invest in works that have an impact on the development of the region,” said Benedetti…Upon his arrival in Caracas, Benedetti told reporters that “there are several ideas” to restore trade relations…among them, creating a special economic zone on both sides.  “And in my country legislation would have to be passed so that it can invest in hospitals, in bridges, in works, infrastructure, that really have an impact on development.”

Source: “‘Es necesario que Colombia le compre gas a Venezuela:’ Armando Benedetti (‘It is necessary for Colombia to buy gas from Venezuela:’ Armando Benedetti),” Semana (Colombia’s leading weekly magazine), 9 September 2022. https://www.semana.com/politica/articulo/es-necesario-que-colombia-le-compre-gas-a-venezuela-armando-benedetti/202247/

The purchase of gas from Colombia to Venezuela “is necessary because our country will run out of gas in the next seven years.  They already have the gas pipeline that comes out of the Gulf of Maracaibo itself.  They already have the exploitation, a gas pipeline, it would only be necessary to look for about 30, 40 kilometers so that they can begin to commercialize from Colombia.”


Image Information:

Image: The Colombia-Venezuela border, which has witnessed millions of migrants in recent years.
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cidh/49534798383
Attribution: CC BY 2.0

Colombia’s Gustavo Petro Promises New Approach to Security and Drugs

Newly inaugurated president, Gustavo Petro.

Newly inaugurated president, Gustavo Petro.


Minutes after taking office last month, leftist President Gustavo Petro called for a new approach, saying in his inaugural address that the policies pursued by Bogotá and Washington have fueled violence without reducing consumption.


Colombia’s new president, Gustavo Petro, elected in June 2022, has wasted no time outlining the country’s new position on the fight against illegal drugs. Petro has proposed a plan of “total peace,” an ambitious proposal to disarm around two dozen criminal organizations operating in the country. As part of this proposal, Spanish center-left online daily Público reports the Petro administration is willing to suspend the practice of extradition and forgo arrest warrants to encourage criminal groups to participate in a ceasefire. While nearly two dozen groups would be eligible to participate, the Petro administration has especially sought to entice the dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), two of the oldest and largest guerrilla groups in the country. Mexican daily El Financiero also reported that the Petro administration has floated a proposal to decriminalize cocaine. For now, Colombia’s new government says it will favor crop substitution policies, paying farmers to grow alternatives to the coca plant. Petro’s plan for “total peace,” combined with a new posture on narcotics policy, if implemented fully, may help to tamp down violence in Colombia at least temporarily. Similar plans have been tried in Central America and have led to short-term reductions in violence.  However, the large size and value of many criminal economies easily attract illicit actors, often leading to the splintering of criminal organizations, as happened with the FARC during earlier negotiations; and creates vacuums normally filled by upstart groups. As such, while Petro’s plans may produce new outcomes, it seems more likely that most gains might be merely ephemeral.


Sources:

Source: “Los avances de Colombia para alcanzar la paz total prometida por Gustavo Petro (The advances of Colombia to achieve the total peace promised by Gustavo Petro),” Público (a Spanish online daily considered center-left), 17 September 2022.

https://www.publico.es/internacional/avances-colombia-alcanzar-paz-total-prometida-gustavo-petro.html

Total Peace is not simply the negotiated disarmament of 18,000 men…from the 22 armed groups that have declared that they want to join this policy…Total Peace is to generate an environment to end the war once and for all.  It is meant to find solutions to the social conflict generated by inequality, exclusion and lack of opportunities and aim to build social, environmental and economic justice. including them in a draft National Development Plan, which must be presented to Congress by February 7, 2023, as the deadline…For now, Petro has enough votes to move Total Peace forward.

Source: “Este es el plan de Gustavo Petro, presidente de Colombia, para terminar con guerra vs. la cocaína (This is the plan of Gustavo Petro, president of Colombia, to end the war vs. cocaine),” El Financiero (Mexican daily with good regional reporting), 1 September 2022. https://www.elfinanciero.com.mx/bloomberg/2022/09/01/este-es-el-plan-de-gustavo-petro-presiente-de-colombia-para-terminar-con-guerra-vs-la-cocaina/

Minutes after taking office last month, leftist President Gustavo Petro called for a new approach, saying in his inaugural address that the policies pursued by Bogotá and Washington have fueled violence without reducing consumption.  Every week more details emerge about the change of course…In practice, if Colombia unilaterally decriminalized cocaine, it would violate international agreements and cause a break with the United States and other countries…This pariah status would likely harm the nation’s ability to trade and access the global financial system.


Image Information:

Image: Newly inaugurated president, Gustavo Petro.
Source: El Macarenazoo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:01GustavoPetro.jpg
Attribution: CCA 3.0

Venezuela Plays Host to China, Russia, and Iran in International Military Games

Venezuelan tanks during a military parade.

Venezuelan tanks during a military parade.


 “This week, Venezuela will become the first country in the Americas to host military competitions organized by Russia, known as the Army Games.” 


For the first time, the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela played host to Russia’s International Army Games.  The event, held in the city of Barquisimeto in Lara state, was a kind of “Olympics” of war games, according to an article in U.S. government-operated Spanish- language Voz de América.  While the Venezuelan armed forces have participated six times in Russia’s International Army Games, the list of participating countries coupled with the location in the Western Hemisphere presents a direct challenge to the United States, according to the article.  Furthermore, an article in left-leaning Argentine daily Clarín notes that the International Army Games began just one day after annual military exercises sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command.  The newspaper highlights Russia’s traditional role as a security provider to Venezuela, as well as its desire to show strength in the Western Hemisphere.  The International Army Games demonstrate Venezuela’s continuing desire to be considered a serious power and U.S. adversary in the Western Hemisphere.  They also demonstrate Russia’s enduring interest in projecting power in Latin America and the Caribbean and to blunt diplomatic isolation on the world stage.  Lastly, these military exercises are likely to further the interoperability of participating militaries with principal adversaries such as Russia, China, and Iran.  


Source:

“Olimpíadas de la Guerra’ en Venezuela pueden  generar ‘celo y vigilancia’ en la region (War Olympics’ in Venezuela can generate ‘zeal and vigilance’ in the region),” Voz de América (the Spanish-language version of the state-owned media outlet), 9 August 2022.  https://www.vozdeamerica.com/a/olimpiadas-guerra-venezuela-celo-vigilancia-region/6694410.html   

This week, Venezuela will become the first country in the Americas to host military competitions organized by Russia, known as the Army Games… The Russian Ministry of Defense… has organized these military sports annually since August 2015.  They usually last a couple of weeks and spokesmen close to the Kremlin refer them as the “Olympics of War”…The Army Games 2022 are being held in a context of worldwide condemnation of the Vladimir Putin government for its armed attack on Ukraine. 

Source“Rusia, China e Irán lanzan sus ‘juegos de guerra’ para desafiar a Estados Unidos en Venezuela (Russia, China and Iran launch their ‘war games’ to challenge the United States in Venezuela),” Clarín (left leaning daily in Argentina), 10 August 2022. https://www.clarin.com/mundo/rusia-china-iran-lanzan-juegos-guerra-desafiar-unidos-venezuela_0_HyifirkIYK.html  

The war and hunger games come together in Venezuela.  Live and direct military competitions with Russia, China, and Iran will be held from August 13 to 27 to challenge the United States in the city of Barquisimeto, Lara state, in the northwest of the country, while the streets have been heating up with the protests of the teachers affected by “starvation wages”…Vladimir Putin, whose armed invasion of Ukraine is in its sixth month, aims to demonstrate Russia’s military strength in the Latin America and Caribbean area.  


Image Information:

Image caption:  Venezuelan tanks during a military parade 
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BTR-80A[RG1] _VEN.jpg 
Attribution: CCA-SA 2.0

Iván Márquez Survives Attack but FARC Dissidents Remain on the Run

Iván Márquez, one of the leaders of the FARC dissidents known as the Second Marquetalia.

Iván Márquez, one of the leaders of the FARC dissidents known as the Second Marquetalia.


“Márquez ‘is being protected by the Maduro regime.’ Colombia’s Minister of Defense indicated that Márquez was part of a confrontation and that in ‘that dispute, one of these vendettas occurred in which his integrity was affected.’”


Colombia’s leading weekly magazine Semana recently published rumors that Iván Márquez, the leader of peace negotiations with the Colombian government who later returned to arms, had been killed (see “Colombian Military Continues To Forcefully Dismantle FARC Dissident Structure,” OE Watch, Issue 4). This news story played for two weeks in the wake of the previous assassinations of at least four FARC commanders in the same border area.  However, according to Spanish-language CNN Español, Colombia’s intelligence service says Márquez survived the attack and the outlet reports that Márquez is convalescing in a hospital in Caracas, protected by Venezuela’s Maduro regime.  CNN Español also reports that FARC dissidents later released a video confirming the attack on Márquez and his subsequent survival.  Although Márquez apparently survived, changing circumstances on the ground and a string of recent assassinations suggest that the various organizations of FARC dissidents continue to lose ground to Colombia’s National Liberation Army and rival criminal groups, including the Tren de Aragua and Mexican cartels.


Source:

“Urgente: Fuentes venezolanas le confirman a SEMANA que Iván Márquez sí está muerto (Urgent: Venezuelan sources confirm to SEMANA that Iván Márquez is indeed dead),” Semana (Colombia’s leading weekly magazine), 2 July 2022.  https://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/urgente-fuentes-venezolanas-le-confirman-a-semana-que-ivan-marquez-si-esta-muerto/202250/

In Venezuela, in the middle of an attack, Iván Márquez, maximum leader of the FARC dissidents of the so-called Second Marquetalia, died.  According to the information known about the event, he fell in the middle of an attack.  It transpired that Márquez’s death occurred in the midst of a brutal war that is being waged in Venezuelan territory between criminal organizations to keep control of the illicit drug business, especially in the border area with Colombia.

Source: “‘Iván Márquez’ se encuentra en un hospital de Caracas y es ‘protegido por el régimen de Maduro,’ afirma el ministro de Defensa de Colombia (‘Iván Márquez’ is in a hospital in Caracas and is ‘protected by the Maduro regime,’ says the Colombian Defense Minister),” CNN Español (Spanish-language outlet of the popular American news site), 13 July 2022. https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2022/07/13/ivan-marquez-se-encuentra-en-un-hospital-de-caracas-y-es-protegido-por-el-regimen-de-maduro-afirma-el-ministro-de-defensa-de-colombia-orix/

Colombia’s Minister of Defense, Diego Molano, said on Wednesday that he has been informed by Colombia’s intelligence services that Luciano Marín Arango, “Iván Márquez,” one of the leaders of the dissidents of the FARC, is in a hospital in Venezuela.  Speaking to several journalists in Bogotá, Molano said that Márquez “is being protected by the Maduro regime.”  The official indicated that Márquez was part of a confrontation and that in “that dispute, one of these vendettas occurred in which his integrity was affected.”  Days ago, the FARC dissidents… assured in a video that on June 30th Márquez “was the victim of a criminal attack directed from the army barracks and the commandos of the police” and that “luckily he was unharmed.”


Image Information:

Image:  Iván Márquez, one of the leaders of the FARC dissidents known as the Second Marquetalia.
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ivan-Marquez-GoraHerria.jpg
Attribution:  CC BY-SA 4.0

Murder of Paraguayan Prosecutor in Colombia Suggests Transnational Criminal Cooperation

Brazilian Police have faced stiff resistance in the face of a sophisticated and expanding PCC.

Brazilian Police have faced stiff resistance in the face of a sophisticated and expanding PCC.


“The prosecutor was leading one of the largest anti-mafia operations in the history of Paraguay, a key country in the region’s drug trafficking network.”


Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci was recently murdered on the Island of Barú while on honeymoon with his wife.  The young prosecutor, who specialized in organized crime, had a reputation for pursuing cases related to transnational criminal organizations and money laundering.  His brutal murder, far from Paraguay, shocked the nation and hinted at a highly organized and motivated set of criminal organizations operating in conjunction.  Five suspects, one Venezuelan and four Colombians, have been arrested and prosecuted for the crime, according to reporting in Spain’s top newspaper El País.  The BBC’s Spanish-language news service BBC Español further reports that the hit was likely organized by the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), Brazil’s largest and most sophisticated criminal organization.  The PCC uses Paraguay’s relatively ungoverned tri-border area as a hub for smuggling and money laundering.  Pecci was conducting one of the largest investigations into criminal organizations in Paraguay’s history.  The cross-continent operation displays a remarkable level of criminal coordination and sophistication.  It also shows the extent to which Paraguay risks becoming a state held hostage by criminal interests operating in its much larger neighbor.  Finally, Pecci’s assassination highlights the persistent inability of Latin America’s governments to protect prosecutors, police, and politicians pursuing anti-corruption agendas.


Source:

“Capturan a los presuntos asesinos del fiscal Marcelo Pecci (The capture of alleged murderers of prosecutor Marcelo Pecci),” El País (Spain’s top newspaper with comprehensive coverage of Latin America), 3 June 2022.  https://elpais.com/america-colombia/2022-06-03/capturan-a-los-presuntos-asesinos-del-fiscal-marcelo-pecci.html

Pecci was a specialized prosecutor against organized crime in Paraguay and was in charge of several of the most important drug trafficking and money laundering cases in that country…Without committing to a hypothesis, the director of the Colombian Police, General Jorge Vargas, said that ‘two of the main investigations carried out by prosecutor Pecci in Latin America were against the Primeiro Comanda da Capital—the most powerful group of organized crime in Brazil and South America—and the structure known as Point 50, in the south of the continent.’ 

Source:  “Marcelo Pecci: las nuevas evidencias sobre el asesinato del fiscal paraguayo (Marcelo Pecci: the new evidence on the murder of the Paraguayan prosecutor),” BBC Español (the Spanish-language version of the popular British outlet), 8 June 2022.  https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-internacional-61741012  

Pecci was enjoying his honeymoon with his wife in the tourist town of Barú, near Cartagena, when he dismounted a jet ski and a gunman shot him.  The prosecutor was leading one of the largest anti-mafia operations in the history of Paraguay, a key country in the region’s drug trafficking network.


Image Information:

Image:  Brazilian Police have faced stiff resistance in the face of a sophisticated and expanding PCC.
Source:  Wikimedia,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File :A_group_of_police_officers_at_2004_Brazilian_Grand_Prix.JPG
Attribution:  CC BY-SA 2.5

High-Level Leaders of FARC Dissident Groups Killed

Colombian FARC dissident, Iván Márquez, is the most significant remaining leader of the Second Marquetalia.

Colombian FARC dissident, Iván Márquez, is the most significant remaining leader of the Second Marquetalia.


“Although so far no evidence is known in this regard, the deaths of both dissident leaders occurred very close to the border with Colombia…However, the authorities do not rule out any theory.”


Colombia’s continued struggle against dissidents of the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) communist guerrilla group has achieved notable successes of late.  Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” and Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” were killed in separate shootouts in Venezuela, according to Medellin-based daily newspaper El Colombiano.  Both were high-ranking commanders in the FARC guerrilla group, known as the Second Marquetalia, who continued their struggle against the Colombian state after the broader group signed the 2016 peace accords with the Colombian government.  The outlet reminds readers that the deaths come on the heels of the killing of Seuxis Pausias Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” another prominent commander of the Second Marquetalia killed recently in Venezuela.  This leaves Iván Márquez alone in his struggle to maintain the relevance of the Second Marquetalia. Although conflict along the Colombia-Venezuela border is nothing new, the intensity and number of actors involved is increasing, according to Columbia’s politically centrist daily El Tiempo.  Numerous groups have flocked to the area for a lucrative slice of Venezuela’s illicit economies.  El Tiempo reports the presence of several Colombian guerrilla groups, drug trafficking groups, and Venezuelan security groups.  The vacuum left by the deaths of Paisa and Romaña is a significant blow to the Second Marquetalia and has created room for other groups to compete for territory.  Further, while the Colombian state claims victory, it is unclear whether Colombian state security forces had a hand in the deaths of Paisa and Romaña.  The possibility that the two were killed by rival groups and not by Colombia’s security forces speaks to the shifting realities of the border area as a corridor for illicit goods.


Source:

“Romaña, El Paisa y Santrich: en 6 meses cayeron tres narcos de exFarc en Venezuela (Romaña, El Paisa and Santrich: in 6 months three ex-FARC drug traffickers fell in Venezuela),” El Colombiano (the major daily of the city of Medellín), 8 December 2021.  https://www.elcolombiano.com/colombia/muerte-de-romana-revela-cruel-guerra-por-coca-en-venezuela-PE16129372

Both Romaña and El Paisa supported Márquez in the creation of the so-called Second Marquetalia—announced in August 2019—to return to arms under the excuse of non-compliance by the government with the agreement.  But with the death of these two former members of the former Secretariat, and the murder of alias Jesús Santrich in May 2021, Márquez is left alone.

Source:  “Las hipótesis sobre la autoría de los ataques a ‘Romaña’ y ‘el Paisa’ (The hypotheses about the origin of the attacks on ‘Romaña’ and ‘El Paisa’),” El Tiempo (one of Colombia’s oldest dailies generally described as politically-centrist), 9 December 2021.  https://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/conflicto-y-narcotrafico/romana-y-el-paisa-las-hipotesis-sobre-quienes-mataron-a-los-disidentes-637796   

The first hypothesis, of which the Colombian Public Force has spoken, is that they died at the hands of another dissident group…second, it has been said that they could have been assassinated by their own men…there is also another possible scenario: that the deaths were caused by Colombian forces…Although so far no evidence is known in this regard, the deaths of both dissident leaders occurred very close to the border with Colombia…However, the authorities do not rule out any theory.


Image Information:

Image:  Colombian FARC dissident, Iván Márquez, is the most significant remaining leader of the Second Marquetalia.
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ivan-Marquez-GoraHerria.jpg
Attribution:  Wikimedia

Honduras Election Likely To Expand China’s Geopolitical Footprint

President-elect Xiomara Castro of Honduras campaigned on opening diplomatic relations with China.

President-elect Xiomara Castro of Honduras campaigned on opening diplomatic relations with China.


“Could the new left-wing Honduran executive repeat patterns that led to situations similar to those before the 2009 coup?…Another question is whether the new Honduran government will bet on strengthening relations with left-wing Latin American governments…Castro also intends to establish relations with mainland China.”


The most recent elections in Honduras could have outsized implications for geopolitics and emerging great power rivalry.  In late November, Hondurans voted overwhelmingly in favor of Xiomara Castro, wife of deposed president Manuel Zelaya, in a vote that broke the Honduran Nationalist Party’s hold on power.  The generally center-left Argentinian daily Clarín reports that the election set a record for participation and votes cast.  The outlet also reports that the post-election violence and accusations of fraud expected by some analysts, based on previous elections, did not come to pass.  The Spanish-language outlet of the British news agency BBC Americas, highlights the similarities and differences between Castro’s left-wing Libre Party and left-wing parties in the past.  It also highlights Castro’s campaign pledge to open relations with China and break relations with Taiwan as a major point of potential friction with profound ramifications.  Xiomara’s promise to open relations with China and end relations with Taiwan would follow a wave of similar announcements in Central America.  After Panama broke relations with Taiwan in 2017, El Salvador and Nicaragua have since followed.  If Castro follows through on her pledge, Guatemala and Belize would remain the only two countries in Central America to recognize Taiwan, tipping the geopolitical balance decisively in favor of China.  Further, Xiomara has pledged independence from her husband and his former administration, whose time in office was marked by close relations with Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, as well as controversial steps to weaken institutions and rewrite the country’s constitution.  Should Xiomara seek to develop similar relationships and pursue similar policies, it will contribute to Latin America’s leftward political trajectory and could be deleterious to the region’s already feeble democracies.

Source:

“Xiomara Castro se encamina a ser la nueva presidenta de Honduras (Xiomara Castro is on the way to being the new president of Honduras),” Clarín (the largest daily in Argentina and generally described as center-left), 28 November 2021.  https://www.clarin.com/mundo/cerraron-urnas-honduras-final-incierto-ex-primera-dama-oficialismo_0_m6V1ox0TE.html 

Fears of fraud, something that the opposition already denounced in the previous elections of 2017…fuel tensions…Current President Hernández managed to get reelected amid accusations of fraud by the opposition and international observers.  That unleashed a wave of protests and state repression that left some thirty dead.

Source:  “Xiomara Castro: en qué se diferencia la izquierda que regresa al poder en Honduras de la que fue derrocada por un golpe en 2009? (Xiomara Castro: how is the left that returns to power in Honduras different from the one that was overthrown by a coup in 2009?),” BBC Americas (the Spanish-language outlet of the British news agency), 1 December 2021.  https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-59486468

Could the new left-wing Honduran executive repeat patterns that led to situations similar to those before the 2009 coup?…Another question is whether the new Honduran government will bet on strengthening relations with left-wing Latin American governments…Castro also intends to establish relations with mainland China.


Image Information:

Image caption:  President-elect Xiomara Castro of Honduras campaigned on opening diplomatic relations with China.
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Xiomara_Castro_on_August_07,_2007_(cropped).jpg
Attribution:  Wikimedia

Nicaragua’s Ortega Consolidating Dictatorship with Russian and Chinese Backing

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada, speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrob.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada, speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrob.


“For years, the Russian government has been focused on occupying Nicaragua as a platform for cyber and electronic operations… This agreement is a delivery of the country’s security to the Russians.”


Nicaragua held presidential elections in early November under highly repressive conditions, with seven major opposition candidates imprisoned and hundreds of political prisoners.  Incumbent President Daniel Ortega ran practically unopposed.  Pre-election polls revealed that majorities of Nicaraguans would have voted for an opposition candidate over Ortega if given the chance.  Facing international isolation, a significant element of Ortega’s survival strategy leans on extra-hemispheric actors, including Russia, for support.  Spanish-language digital military journal Diálogo relays that Nicaragua’s National Assembly recently ratified an agreement to permit Russia a larger role in Nicaragua’s cyberspace.  Russia has promised to help Nicaragua monitor its cyber domain, which includes bringing forth evidence that would fall under the country’s repressive “cybercrimes” legislation, reports the outlet.  Most recently, according to popular U.S. Spanish-language outlet CNN Español, Nicaragua announced official relations with China, dropping diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. Facing criticism from much of the international community, the Ortega regime is eager to bolster its hold on power by deepening its partnership with Russia and China.  Further, given that the country’s opposition has used the internet to criticize and to organize itself politically (including in exile abroad), authoritarian great power rivals could ensure Ortega a much greater level of control over the domestic security apparatus.  As Ortega becomes increasingly isolated and desperate, Nicaragua will likely become an important platform for rivals to project power.


Source:

“Nicaragua rompe relaciones diplomáticas con Taiwán y solo reconoce a China

(Nicaragua breaks diplomatic relations with Taiwan and only recognizes China),” CNN Español (the Spanish-language outlet of the popular U.S. outlet), 9 December 2021.  https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2021/12/09/nicaragua-taiwan-china-orix/

The Nicaraguan government decided to break relations with Taiwan and will only recognize China, as announced by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada at a press conference this afternoon…Nicaragua’s announcement leaves just over a dozen countries around the world with official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, including Honduras and Guatemala.

Source:  “Rusia interviene en seguridad informática de Nicaragua (Russia intervenes in Nicaraguan IT security),” Diálogo (a Spanish-language digital military journal), 15 October 2021.  https://dialogo-americas.com/es/articles/rusia-interviene-en-seguridad-informatica-de-nicaragua/#.YWnYwxrMI2y  

For years, the Russian government has been focused on occupying Nicaragua as a platform for cyber and electronic operations…This agreement is a delivery of the country’s security to the Russians…and it will serve to launch, from a closer place in the hemisphere, cyber-attacks or interference in elections.


Image Information:

Image caption:  Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada, speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrob.
Source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/mfarussia/49212557647/
Attribution:  Flickr