Aviso LatAm: February 18, 2023

​​​​​What you should know

  • Nicaragua: On February 9, the Ortega-Murillo regime released and expelled 222 political leaders, priests, students, and other dissidents to the United States.
  • US-Brazil relations: Presidents Biden and Lula da Silva met on February 10, during which they underscored the importance of strengthening democracy, promoting respect for human rights, and addressing the climate crisis.
  • Ecuador: Ecuadorians rejected all eight items on a constitutional referendum backed by President Lasso, signaling anti-incumbent sentiments and the clout of pro-Correísmo opposition political forces.

Monitoring economic headwinds and tailwinds in the region

  • Argentina: Annual inflation reached 98.8 percent, while activities in the construction and manufacturing sectors continued to decline.  
  • Brazil: The government met with Mexico, Germany, Colombia, Chile, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to explore issuing green bonds this year. 
  • Belize: The government launched two new projects in cooperation with Taiwan, a business support program focused on women and micro, small, medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and a flood warning system for disaster prevention.  
  • Colombia: 2022 GDP growth is estimated to be 7.9 percent, down from 2021’s 10.8 percent growth. In 2023, growth is expected to further decline to 1.05 percent. 
  • Peru: Continuing protests and supply shortages have led several mines to suspend or reduce operations, threatening copper production.  
  • Suriname: President Santokhi expressed willingness to collaborate with neighboring Guyana on oil and gas exploration and development to position the Caribbean as an energy hub. 

In focus: Inflation and infighting

As regional inflation continues, political pressures are leading to criticism of central bank policy in Brazil and Colombia. Recently-elected presidents Lula and Petro have both questioned rate hikes as a method to tackle inflation, suggesting more flexible targets and alternative policies. The governor of Colombia’s Central Bank, Leonardo Villar, expects the region to require continuing tight monetary policy, which critics argue may complicate other policy goals such as growth. Roberto Campos Neto, president of the Central Bank of Brazil, has expressed his willingness to coordinate with the Lula administration to achieve growth and control inflation. 

Despite the public clashes, central bank policy in both countries remains independent. In Brazil, a 2021 law protects central bank autonomy and is unlikely to be repealed. In Colombia, the central bank has maintained a course independent of presidential advice for two decades. 

Health + Innovation

  • Colombia: President Petro presented a health reform to Congress that seeks to improve primary care, expand access to treatment, raise healthcare worker salaries, and fight corruption by eliminating private sector management of payments.
  • Brazil: Nearly three years since COVID-19 claimed the life of its first victim, the country has for the first time registered zero pandemic-related deaths in a day on February 12.
  • Jamaica: The Bureau of Standards launched the Jamaican Standard Specification for Telemedicine, which provides the framework through which telemedicine may be safely practiced while upholding the integrity of the medical profession.

Geopolitics of vaccine donations: US vs. China

  • The United States outpaces China in its donations of COVID-19 vaccines to Latin America and the Caribbean, with Colombia and Mexico topping the list. The region has received roughly 52 percent of all US COVID-19 vaccine donations. To learn more, visit our COVID-19 vaccine tracker: Latin America and the Caribbean.