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LatinNews Daily - 10 May 2021

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US voices concerns over El Salvador

El Salvador: On 2 May US Secretary of State Antony Blinken phoned El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele. According to a US State Department press release, Blinken expressed grave concern” on the part of the US government over the recent vote by El Salvador’s national legislative assembly to remove all five magistrates of the supreme court’s constitutional chamber (SC) and attorney general, Raúl MelaraBlinken noted that an “independent judiciary is essential to democratic governance” and that Melara had been “fighting corruption and impunity and is an effective partner of efforts to combat crime in both the US and El Salvador. The vote by El Salvador’s legislature has prompted concern from other US government agencies. In a 3 May statement, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said that it was gravely concerned” by the vote, adding that an “independent judiciary plays a critical role in the systems of checks and balances inherent in successful democracies”. On 4 May, speaking at a conference sponsored by the Americas Society/Council of the AmericasUS Vice President Kamala Harris said that “just this weekend, we learned that the Salvadoran parliament moved to undermine its nation’s highest court. An independent judiciary is critical to a healthy democracy and a strong economy. On this front, on every front, we must respond. Harris did not, however, say what this response would involve. 

Mexico: On 5 May Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, spoke with the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, as part of the ongoing high-level dialogue between the two governments. According to a press release by Mexico’s foreign ministry (SRE), during the conversation the two officials discussed economic cooperation to strengthen the exchange of goods and services on the common border, as permitted by the evolution of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in both countries. The two also spoke about working together to address the pandemic in both countries as well as the “progress of their shared strategy for safe, orderly and regular migration in the region from their mutual point of view on addressing the structural causes of migration, creating economic opportunities in the countries of northern Central America and the southern states of Mexico, and protecting migrants' human rightsAccording to the SRE statement, the two men also commented on the proposal to expand the Sembrando Vida (‘sowing life’) reforestation plan, which provides support for smallholders of land to improve its productivity, within the context of international development cooperation and as a central component of their shared vision of fighting climate change.   

Peru: On 2 May the US Department of State issued a press release noting that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Peru’s foreign minister, Allan Wagner Tizón, spoke that day and reaffirmed the strength of bilateral relations and “the deep bonds between the peoples of the US and Peru. According to the statement, Blinken expressed support for efforts by the administration led by Peru’s President Francisco Sagasti to deal with the coronavirus (Covid-19) health crisis in Peru. Blinken and Wagner “committed to work together to address shared challenges such as economic renewal as we recover from the pandemic, environmental protection, and transnational crime. On regional issues, they agreed on the importance of collaborating to restore democracy and economic stability in Venezuela, as well as meeting the humanitarian needs of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Peru and across the hemisphere. Blinken praised Peru’s 11 April first-round presidential election as a model of democracy in the region, and emphasised that Peru is an important partner in advancing security and prosperity in South America.  

Brazil: On 4 May, the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the US was working to partner with the Brazilian government and the Pan American Health Organization to finalise access to US$20m worth of critical intubation medications needed to save Brazilian lives as part of the response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Speaking in a press briefing Psaki said that these medications will come from the US government - a facilitated purchase - and from the US Strategic National Stockpile. According to Psaki, this support is “being offered to offset global supply shortages and will enable Brazil to receive sufficient medication to meet their immediate hospital needs. Psaki added that these efforts are underway but have not yet been finalised, but that the US was working in partnership with the government of Brazil on this.