LatinNews Daily - 30 May 2022

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US First Lady seeks to shore up support in the region

Ecuador: On 18 May US First Lady Jill Biden began a visit to Ecuador as part of a six-day visit which also included Panama and Costa Rica where she met with regional leaders and paid visits to US-supported initiatives. Biden used the tour to emphasise the value of collaboration between nations ahead of the US-hosted Summit of the Americas which is taking place 6-10 June. The success of the summit is subject to doubt after various regional leaders threatened to boycott the event after the US indicated that only democratically elected leaders would be invited, which US officials suggest would exclude Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Biden’s agenda for the tour to Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama was pointed in its emphasis on the benefits of collaboration: she visited an accelerated learning programme receiving US aid in Ecuador, an HIV/AIDS care home in Panama funded through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and a children’s hospital in Costa Rica collaborating with US cancer researchers, among others. In a show of support, during her speech at the presidential palace in Ecuador, Biden hailed President Guillermo Lasso for “reaching out to those who have often been ignored or left behind, by listening to those who have faced inequality and discrimination and poverty and finding solutions for their lives”.  As she continued, her message to wavering nations was clear, “but alone you can only do so much… when we work together, we can make our nations and our world stronger”.

Brazil: On 25 May newswire Associated Press (AP) reported that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro had signalled that he is, after all, prepared to attend the US-hosted Summit of the Americas and that he would hold a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden. The AP report was based on comments made by Brazilian officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly. This followed weeks during which President Bolsonaro’s attendance remained a question, with some media reporting he had ruled it out. He is among other Latin American leaders such as Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador whose attendance has been in doubt threatening a major embarrassment for the US.

Cuba: On 20 May Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez slammed the decision by the US government to again place Cuba on its list of countries that the US maintains are not “cooperating fully” in its fight against terrorism. The others were Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and Syria. Rodríguez tweeted that the US is “well aware of Cuba's clean slate in the struggle against terrorism as well as Cuba's experience as victim of State terrorism. It resorts to slanders in such a sensitive issue as a pretext to continue the unremitting economic warfare repudiated all over the world”. In a further tweet he said :“Void of pretexts in its efforts to exclude countries of the region from the hemispheric Summit in Los Angeles, the US resorts once again to slanders and declares that Cuba does not sufficiently cooperate in the combat against terrorism. One more lie”.

Mexico: On 18 May US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the US had asked Mexico to review whether workers at a Panasonic auto parts plant in Reynosa city, Tamaulipas state, are being denied the rights of free association and collective bargaining. The request marks the third time that the US has requested Mexico’s review of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights issues under the Rapid Response Labour Mechanism (RRLM) in the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), all of which have been in the automotive sector.  On 18 April the Interagency Labour Committee for Monitoring and Enforcement (ILC), which is co-chaired by the US Trade Representative and the Secretary of Labour received a RRLM petition from Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y Servicios (SNITIS), a Mexican union, and Rethink Trade, a US-based advocacy organisation.  The petition alleged that workers at the Panasonic automotive parts facility are being denied the right of free association and collective bargaining. The ILC determined, in response to the petition filed on 18 April that there is sufficient credible evidence of a denial of rights enabling the good faith invocation of enforcement mechanisms. As a result, the US Trade Representative has submitted a request to Mexico that it review whether workers at the Panasonic facility are being denied the right of free association and collective bargaining. 

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