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Mercosur Suspends Venezuela’s Membership

Venezuela, Human Rights, Mercosur, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uraguay

Mercosur didn’t waste any time. The South American trade group warned that it would suspend Venezuela’s membership if it didn’t improve human rights and immigration conditions by December 1st. On December 2nd, Mercosur did in fact suspend Venezuela, according to the AP Press. The move came after the country failed to meet the standards it agreed to comply with upon joining in 2012.

However, despite the unanimous decision from Mercosur’s four founding members—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—the Venezuela government plans to fight back. President Nicolas Maduro has already threatened to take the matter to international authorities, stating that the decision was “a coup d’état." Yet the country is unlikely to receive much sympathy in a world that is quickly veering toward the right.

When Venezuela joined Mercosur, South America was dominated by left-wing governments. But much has changed since 2012—Argentina and Brazil elected centrist leaders, and the country’s regional influence has declined since it began cutting back on oil shipments. And without the support of its neighbors, Venezuela is vulnerable to further punitive action from other nations. The Organization of American States has already debated suspending the country from the hemispheric body due to its growing authoritarianism, and some U.S. Congress members have suggested imposing economic sanctions.

Venezuela crashes the party

Resetting U.S.-Latin America Relations

President Obama in Havana, Cuba

President Obama made headlines in March with his historic visit to Cuba, but his less sensational trip to Argentina may prove to be equally important in repairing U.S.-Latin America relations.

The move to normalize relations with Cuba will no doubt become a central piece of the Obama legacy. However, it's only one aspect of the Administration's engagement with the region over the past two years, which has involved a strategic pivot from previous policies. It began in late 2013 when Secretary of State John Kerry proposed a new beginning during his speech to the Organization of American States, in which he declared that the Monroe Doctrine was "over." In the years since, inviting Latin America to the diplomatic table has already been a success. Throughout the region, left-wing policies are going by the wayside while global engagement and free markets are taking hold. And anti-American rhetoric is becoming less popular as leaders discover it's no longer the battle cry it once was.

Ending the Cuban Embargo

All My Disqualifications: A Tragedy

It’s probably not too much to ask that a prospective ambassador know a little bit about the country they want to work in, right? Or that they actually have been to that country? Well, apparently it is.

Recent Senate confirmations have put Colleen Bell and Noah Mamet in Hungary and Argentina respectively as US ambassadors. One would think that they are diplomats of some sort, with prestige and experience in the country in which they’ll be working. Unfortunately, ths is not the case. Both Bell and Mamet have absolutely no experience or background in the countries they’re going to. But don’t just take it from me – allow Jon Stewart to further illustrate these points.

For Argentina, so far so good at the World Cup in Brazil...

At the Supreme Court in Washington, however, Argentina suffered a catastrophic defeat that no soccer metaphor can accurately capture.

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would not hear Argentina’s appeal of a lower court ruling in favor of a group of hedge funds suing the country for more than $1 billion.

The dispute is rooted in Argentina’s 2001 debt default. When the country defaulted, amidst economic and political turmoil, nearly 93% of its creditors accepted a deal and took less money than they were owed. But a small group held out. The holdouts included hedge funds that have been nicknamed “vulture funds.” The nickname derives from the funds’ strategy of buying up the debt of economically distressed countries for pennies on the dollar and then suing, targeting debt relief money for collection. That money, of course, is often earmarked for social services like AIDS prevention and school construction.  

The court’s decision is a huge blow for Argentina, but it’s also a huge blow to the rest of the world. Here’s why.

Poor countries spend five times as much money paying off old debt than they receive in official aid. Debt is a huge problem, and debt relief is an essential tool in the fight against poverty. Debt relief funds have been used to build schools, cancel fees at rural health clinics and provide access to clean water.