LATAM POLITICS TODAY-U.S. detentions of migrants from top sender countries plummet

| Wed, 25 Jan 2023 22:44:51 GMT

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Colombian cartel leader pleads guilty to drugs charges

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Ecuador accuses local election candidates of crime links

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Trinidad offers humanitarian supplies for Venezuelan gas

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Brazil’s Lula proposes trade deal between Mercosur and China

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Bolivians turn out for opposition-backed ‘national assembly’

Jan 25 (Reuters) – The latest in Latin American politics today:

U.S. arrests of migrants from key sender countries plummet

WASHINGTON – The number of migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border dropped 97% from December to January following new restrictions by U.S. President Joe Biden that expel them back to Mexico.

U.S. authorities encountered an average of just 115 migrants from those countries over a week-long period ending on Jan. 24, down from an average 3,367 on Dec. 11, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Wednesday.

The department attributed the decrease to the restrictions and new legal pathways opened for migrants, who can now enter by air if they have U.S. sponsors .

Colombian cartel leader pleads guilty to U.S. drugs charges

NEW YORK – The leader of a prominent Colombian criminal group pleaded guilty to U.S. drug trafficking charges, court records showed.

Dairo Antonio Usuga David, better known as Otoniel, admitted in Brooklyn federal court to one count of running a continuing criminal enterprise, as well as two counts of drug distribution stemming from federal indictments in Manhattan and Miami that were transferred to Brooklyn.

Usuga, 51, was arrested by Colombian armed forces in October 2021 near the South American country’s border with Panama on U.S. charges of smuggling “outrageous” amounts of cocaine to the United States while leading the Clan del Golfo cartel.

Ecuador accuses local election candidates of crime links

QUITO – Ecuador’s government accused 28 candidates in local elections in cities across the country of having possible ties to drug trafficking and illegal mining in a report submitted to prosecutors, Interior Minister Juan Zapata said.

Ecuadorans will go to the polls on Feb. 5 to elect local authorities throughout the South American country, including councillors and mayors.

Information regarding alleged irregular financing was gathered by police intelligence, as well as witness statements and monitoring on social media networks, Zapata said.

Trinidad offers humanitarian supplies for Venezuelan gas

PORT OF SPAIN – Trinidad and Tobago would pay Venezuela for natural gas produced at an offshore development with humanitarian supplies like food and medicine, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said, to comply with a U.S. license prohibiting cash payments to the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday issued a license allowing Trinidad to co-develop the Dragon gas field, which holds 4.2 trillion cubic feet of reserves on the Venezuelan side of the maritime border with Trinidad. The project would have Trinidad import the gas and turn it into exportable liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“We have done that before. So we buy the gas and we pay for it in a variety of ways,” Rowley told journalists late on Tuesday. Trinidad previously supplied Venezuela with about $50 million in humanitarian goods, he said.

Brazil’s Lula proposes trade deal with China after EU accord

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he favored an agreement between Mercosur and China in a plan to modernize and open the South American trade bloc to other regions.

On a visit to Uruguay to dissuade its government from reaching a deal on its own with China, which would undermine the Mercosur customs union, Lula said the long-awaited Mercosur accord with the European Union must be completed urgently.

“Let’s intensify the talks and firm up this agreement (with the EU) so that we can then discuss a possible agreement between China and Mercosur and I think it is possible,” said the leftist president who took office again on Jan. 1.

Bolivians turn out for opposition-backed ‘national assembly’

LA PAZ/SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia – Bolivians nationwide are expected to participate in an opposition-led “national assembly” to discuss a slew of proposals, including whether to restart protests which ignited in December over the arrest of Santa Cruz Governor Luis Camacho.

Weeks-long protests broke out after Camacho, who has long challenged the left-wing federal government in La Paz, was arrested for his alleged role in unrest in 2019 which saw President Evo Morales flee the country.

The protests were suspended last week ahead of the assembly.

Camacho’s home base of Santa Cruz, a relatively wealthy agricultural stronghold, is expected to turn out the fiercest support in favor of reinstating roadblocks, which would snarl trade within the country. (Compiled by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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