This Latino Week

Trump announces reversal of Cuba policy, Operation Car Wash continues to dominate Brazil, Chile shines in Confederations Cup; Mexico rescues late draw
Jim McKenna


Trump announces reversal of Cuba policy

U.S. President Donald Trump publicly discussed his approach to Cuba this week, calling predecessor Barack Obama’s previous deal as “terrible and misguided”. His new plan seeks to reduce financial transactions between Cuba and the United States, as well as restricting travel between the two countries.

However, the move is largely considered to be superficial, with concrete moves thin on the ground. Diplomatic relations are unchanged, and there remain various exemptions for Cuban Americans and remittances. The policy of normalization followed by Obama is unlikely to be entirely removed, despite the strong rhetoric in this week’s speech.

The main harm of the new approach will be to Cuba’s tourism industry, which has boomed over the past few years. Any restriction on travel will make tourism prohibitive, and increase costs for companies seeking to provide guides and tours. Cuba received 4 million tourists last year, a record high for the country.

The Cuban government has been critical of the announcement, but insists it will continue to co-operate with the United States, and does not wish to prevent dialogue between the two sides. Various other bodies consider the move a step backwards, but not the radical clampdown that was initially feared.

Operation Car Wash continues to dominate Brazil

The widespread corruption scandal that rocked Brazilian politics shows no sign of slowing down, with Temer battling to save his fragile government. This week saw the continued accusations of personal corruption by Temer, with Joesley Batista continuing to insist that he had been personally asked for money in exchange for changes in policy. The suggestion has led to a lawsuit, with the potential for an embarrassing court case for the Brazilian government.

Outside of this, the government’s approval ratings remain within single digits, with the corruption investigation not only damaging trust but economic investment and stability. Investigations this week suggest that the senior figures within the affected companies have largely escaped without punishment due to plea bargains and reduced prison terms, but ordinary workers have been laid off in record numbers due to reduced economic activity. It is believed that such a process is contributing to the widespread dissatisfaction with Brazilian politics and life in general.

Chile shines in Confederations Cup; Mexico rescues late draw

The 2017 Confederations Cup, a warm-up tournament to the World Cup next year, commenced this week. The competition sees the winners of all regional confederation tournaments play against the past World Cup Winners and hosts. This year, the honour of representing South America fell to Chile, who won both the 2015 and 2016 versions of the tournament – the latter being held as a special 100th anniversary competition. Mexico qualified after a 3-2 victory over the United States in the 2015 CONCACAF cup, which contains teams from North and Central America, as well as the Caribbean.

Both teams kicked off with positive results. Chile required two late goals to beat African champions Cameroon in Group B, with Arturo Vidal scoring in the 81st minute and Eduardo Vargas adding a second in stoppage time. Mexico faced a bigger challenge against Portugal, with the CONCACAF champions twice falling behind before securing a 2-2 draw thanks to defender Héctor Moreno’s late goal.

The results mean both sides go into the second round of games in an optimistic mood. Mexico are widely expected to comfortably defeat Oceania’s representative New Zealand, and Chile hope to secure a good result against an experimental Germany team, which has rested many of their World Cup-winning squad. The top two teams from both groups advance to the semi-finals, and both Latin American representatives have publicly stated their expectation to at least reach this stage.