Monday, July 14, 2014

Brazil Hosts Sixth BRICS Summit

At the sixth annual summit of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in Fortaleza, Brazil this week, reports suggest the grouping is set to unveil its first major concrete project: a BRICS development bank.

The idea for a BRICS bank, which was first proposed at the New Delhi summit in 2012, has generated buzz over its potential to serve as a more South-oriented counterweight to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It has also gained the praise of Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, who along with two other economists described the bank as a potential way for developing nations to buffer themselves from wealthier nations’ financial crises.

Reuters reports that the new institution will be approved on Tuesday, and that it will be called the “New Development Bank.”  Details to be hammered out over the next two days include which country will hold the bank’s first five-year presidency, and where it will be headquartered. And while the specifics of the bank’s lending conditions have not materialized, Foreign Policy notes that these will likely be fewer and less restrictive than those of the World Bank and IMF.

But while the BRICS summit represents a step forward for a grouping that began as a Goldman Sachs marketing campaign, some have also expressed hope that the meeting can also serve as a platform for the five countries to assume a more active role in promoting  good governance and human rights worldwide. Sao Paulo-based NGO Conectas, for instance, has requested that the BRICS bank incorporate more robust mechanisms  to guarantee human rights and transparency than those of the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), which has been accused of shady dealings, especially in the Amazon region (see Agencia Publica’s reporting on the subject).

On top of this, Brazil’s Conectas, Instituto Sou da Paz and the Igarape Institute joined four other leading Indian and South African civil society organizations to issue a letter to BRICS heads of state on Friday to call for the summit’s final declaration to address: 1) the Syrian crisis and the need for increased humanitarian aid there; 2) the full implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (which Russia, China and India have not signed); and 3) carving out a larger space for civil society participation in the BRICS agenda.

News Briefs
  • In addition to the BRICS summit, several Latin American heads of state will be in Brazil this week to meet with China’s Xi Jinping. A Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) meeting is scheduled immediately after the BRICS summit in Brasilia, where the Brazilian and Chinese leaders will meet with the CELAC “Quartet,” including the presidents of Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador as well as “a representative of the Caribbean Community,” according to EFE. La Tercera reports that Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will be there as well, and could potentially hold their first face-to-face meeting since Chile announced it would challenge the Haugue’s jurisdiction to rule on their border dispute. Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and Peru’s Ollanta Humala will also be in Brasilia for the meeting.
  • President Xi has also made headlines for his decision to make his second tour of Latin America since taking office as head of state last year, which in addition to Brazil will include Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina.
  • Prior to the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin carried out a regional tour of his own, stopping by Cuba in a meeting that El Pais describes as a sign of Russia’s recognition that the island has “ties with a political left that now rules over countries with which the Kremlin is keen to establish more commercial links.” Putin then made a brief visit to Nicaragua, the first of his presidency. From there he stopped in Argentina to sign a nuclear energy deal, where he also met with Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica before heading on to Brazil.
  • As Semana magazine notes, today could mark one of the last days in Colombian Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez’s time in office, as the country’s top administrative court is set to hear allegations that he bought his potentially illegal reelection by granting political favors to lawmakers and Supreme Court judges.
  • Animal Politico profiles a new report on Mexico’s newly-created gendarmerie police force, published by transparency advocacy group Fundar. While the report applauds the Peña Nieto administration’s efforts to incorporate less military personnel into the force, Fundar concludes that the gendarmerie operates under a strategic vision that prioritizes eliminating the enemy over protecting the civilian population, and is an extension of militarized approaches of the past.
  • The New York Times has published an op-ed by author Sonia Nazario on the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. Offering several narratives of the harsh, violent realities faced by many Central American children, Nazario explains the grim logic behind their decision to make the dangerous journey north.  Ultimately, she argues, the Obama administration should widen its requirements for granting asylum or at least allow unaccompanied minors to stay under humanitarian parole procedures previously granted to Cambodians and Haitians.
  • El Faro’s Oscar Martinez has an interesting take on the northward flow of unaccompanied minors, featuring an interview with a Salvadoran coyote and El Salvador’s ambassador to the United States, Ruben Zamora, who agree that one of the main driving factors behind the phenomenon is family reunification.
  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday contained the latest indicator that she is interested in patching up relations with the U.S. Asked about the NSA spying scandal, Rousseff said she blamed it not on the Obama administration, but on a process “that began after Sept. 11” under Bush.
  • Following Brazil’s humiliating defeat in the World Cup last week, analysts have continued to question whether the loss could have an effect on the country’s upcoming elections in October. Writing in Foreign Policy, Antonio Sampaio of the International Institute for Strategic Studies argues that it could, at the very least, stir up discontent amidst a “highly volatile mix” of middle class dissatisfaction with government services and slowing economic growth.  Stanford University political scientist Neil Malhotra, an expert on sporting events’ impacts on politics, disagrees, however. He tells the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog that its effect will be limited, unless it the opposition uses it to fuel dissent in its campaign.