Thursday, October 12, 2017

IWP Presentation: Russia-Latin America and Caribbean Relations in 2017


You are cordially invited to a lecture on the topic of 
Russia-Latin America and Caribbean Relations in 2017 
with
Alex Sanchez
International Affairs Analyst, IWP Alumnus
Wednesday, October 11th
5:00 PM 
The Institute of World Politics
1521 16th Street NW
Washington, D.C.

About the lecture:
This presentation will discuss current relations between the Russian Federation and Latin American and Caribbean states. Apart from addressing Moscow’s relations with “the usual suspects” (e.g. Cuba and Venezuela), we will also explore initiatives with other regional states at the diplomatic, defense and economic level. We will conclude by discussing whether the Russian government currently has an overall strategy towards Latin America and the Caribbean and what new initiatives we can expect in the near future.
About the speaker:
W. Alejandro Sanchez is an international affairs analyst who focuses on geopolitical and defense issues in the Western Hemisphere. A member of the Forum on the Arms Trade, he is a regular contributor to IHS Jane's Defense Weekly, the Center for International Maritime Security, Living in Peru, among others. His analyses have appeared in journals including Small Wars and InsurgenciesDefence Studiesthe Journal of Slavic Military StudiesEuropean SecurityStudies in Conflict and Terrorismand Perspectivas. He received his B.A. from Ursinus College, his M.A. from American University, his Certificate on Caribbean Defense and Security from the National Defense University (Washington, DC) and his Certificate on International Politics from the Institute of World Politics.
The views expressed in this presentation are the sole responsibility of the presenter and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the presenter is associated.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Federatsia: Washington Ve a Medios Periodísticos Rusos como “Agentes Extranjeros

"Washington Ve a Medios Periodísticos Rusos como “Agentes Extranjeros”
 Por: W. Alejandro Sanchez
Analista
Federatsia
Octubre 3, 2017
Publicado originalmente en:

El 11 de Septiembre del 2017, la agencia de noticias rusa RT publicó un artículo informando que el Departamento de Justicia de Estados Unidos ha enviado una carta a sus oficinas, indicando que dicha agencia va a tener que registrarse, ante el gobierno norteamericano, como “agente extranjero” (“foreign agent”). Casi paralelamente reportes periodísticos explican que el FBI está investigando a Sputnik News, otra agencia de noticias rusa, para verificar si ha violado leyes federales al, aparentemente, haber diseminado propaganda rusa.

Estos incidentes se suman a las crecientes tensiones diplomáticas entre los dos países, mientras que el Congreso de los Estados Unidos continúa investigando el rol del gobierno ruso, en las elecciones del 2016 que resultaron en la victoria de Donald Trump. De acuerdo a Fox News la decisión sobre RT es una “fuerte señal que el contenido [de RT América] es visto como propaganda rusa.”

Declarar a una entidad como “agente extranjero” en Estados Unidos tiene como base legal el Acta de Registro de Agentes Extranjeros (Foreign Agents Registration Act: FARA) de 1938. Dicha ley “requiere a todos los que representen los intereses de potencias extranjeras a que expliquen su relación [con dichos gobiernos] además de proveer información de sus actividades y finanzas.” En este entonces, el objetivo de dicha ley era combatir la propaganda nazi. El Congreso Norteamericano, probablemente como consecuencia de las elecciones del 2016, está debatiendo una nueva versión de la ley FARA, llamada Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act (ARMEA).
Vale mencionar que el respetado centro de investigaciones en Washington DC, el Brookings Institute, argumenta en un comentario que “si RT se registra como agente extranjero, esto no afectara la habilidad de esta agencia para diseminar su mensaje,” sino mas bien “proveerá transparencia a la ciudadanía norteamericana.”
Será importante monitorear la situación y ver si el gobierno ruso lleva a cabo acciones recíprocas, como exigir que los periodistas que trabajan para agencias extranjeras en Rusia, como Voice of America o Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty se registren como agentes extranjeros también. Esta posibilidad fue discutida recientemente durante un evento en Washington DC organizado por el Center for New American Security con el Representante Adam Smith (D-WA). Durante la sección de preguntas y respuestas, el congresista norteamericano fue preguntadosi agregar a RT y Sputnik a la lista de “agentes extranjeros” en EEUU, haría el trabajo de los periodistas extranjeros en Rusia mucho más difícil (no solo norteamericanos sino también británicos y alemanes, entre otros).

 El congresista respondió que sería mejor si Washington utiliza agencias como Voice of America para contrarrestar la retórica rusa y como el mensaje promovido por el gobierno ruso es una “amenaza” a EEUU. Ademas, explicó que aún si se cierran las oficinas en Washington de Sputnik y RT, estas agencias aun podrán transmitir sus mensajes via el internet, por ende el efecto de tal medida sería mínimo.

Vale mencionar que esta táctica de designar a entitades como “agencias extranjeras” no es solo utilizada por Estados Unidos, ya que el gobierno ruso también la usa. En el 2012 el Moscú creó una ley la cual, de acuerdo a Human Rights Watch, utiliza el término “agente extranjero” para cualquier entidad que recibe dinero del exterior (no solo de Estados Unidos) y lleva a cabo “activades políticas,” definidas de una manera bastante genérica. Esta ley sirve como justificación legal para silenciar a una multitud de organizaciones que operan en Rusia, las que tal vez no sean del agrado del Kremlin. El8 de Septiembre, Human Rights Watch publicó una lista de 84 organizaciones que han sido registradas bajo esta ley, más cuatro que lo hicieron voluntariamente.

Un caso digno de mencionar brevemente es Aetas, una organización de jóvenes que combate la contaminación en el Oblast de Arkhangelsk, en la costa ártica del país. El 1 de Septiembre, el Ministerio de Justicia ruso anunció que esta organizazión había sido incluida “en la lista de organizaciones no gubernamentales que llevan a cabo acciones de un agente extranjero”,  de acuerdo a The Barents Observer, ya que trabaja de manera conjuntan con una agencia ambientalista noruega, Nature and Youth, la cual recibe fondos del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Noruega. Sin embargo, es necesario expresar que Aetas se dedica a proteger el medio ambiente en Arkhangelsk, es decir no es política, pero aun así ha tenido que registrarse. El reporte de The Barents Observer tiene una objetiva discusión de los problemas que afrentan las organizaciones no gubernamentales rusas hoy en día debido a que el título de “agentes extranjeros” influye en como son tratadas por el público en general y limitan el tipo de actividades que pueden llevar a cabo.

Desafortunadamente, todo indica que los incidentes entre estas dos potencias nucleares mundiales van a continuar. Por el momento, la posibilidad de un incidente militar entre Moscú y Washington es aún muy bajo, al menos esa es la opinión del autor; sin embargo eso no significa que el resto del mundo debe estar tranquilo por los recientes incidentes entre los dos gobiernos.


Las opiniones expresadas en este comentario son solo del autor y no necesariamente representan las opiniones de las organizaciones con las que el autor está afiliado.

CIMSEC: A Growing Concern: Chinese Illegal Fishing in Latin America

"A Growing Concern: Chinese Illegal Fishing in Latin America"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
The Southern Tide
Center for International Maritime Security
September 19, 2017
Originally published: http://cimsec.org/growing-concern-chinese-illegal-fishing-latin-america/34194

The Southern Tide
Written by Wilder Alejandro Sanchez, The Southern Tide addresses maritime security issues throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It discusses the challenges regional navies face including limited defense budgets, inter-state tensions, and transnational crimes. It also examines how these challenges influence current and future defense strategies, platform acquisitions, and relations with global powers.
“The security environment in Latin America and the Caribbean is characterized by complex, diverse, and non-traditional challenges to U.S. interests.” Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, before the 114th Congress Senate Armed Services Committee, 10 March 2016.
By W. Alejandro Sanchez
In mid-August the Ecuadorian Coast Guard detained a Chinese vessel off the Galapagos Islands, an inspection revealed the ship was transporting approximately 300 tons of fish, some of which were endangered species. This is yet another high-profile incident involving Chinese ships fishing without authorization in Latin American waters and ongoing efforts by regional naval forces to stop this crime. (This commentary follows up a previous report by the author for CIMSEC entitled “Latin American Navies Combat Illegal Fishing.”)
Ongoing Incidents
The most recent incident occurred on 13 August when anEcuadorian Coast Guard vessel and a supporting helicopter detained the Chinese vessel Fu Yuang Yu Leng 999 within the Galapagos Islands Marine Reserve. The vessel was escorted to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where an inspection discovered over 300 tons of a variety of fishes, particularly hammerhead and silky sharks as well as other endangered species. The vessel was a factory ship, which was fed fishes that were caught by other vessels. The country’s Ministry of Defense has stated that the Chinese fleet operating around Ecuador may number as many as 300 vessels. The incident prompted non-violent protests in front of the Chinese embassy in Quito as well as in Santa Cruz Island. At the time of this writing Ecuadorian authorities have put the crew on trial and have also sent a letter of protest to the Chinese government.
Previous to this case, the most notable illegal fishing-related incident in the region (so far) occurred in Argentina last year. In March 2016, the Argentine Coast Guard located a Chinese fleet fishing in its territorial waters by Chubut, southeast of the country. Security vessels were deployed, and the Coast Guard shot at the vessel Lu Yan Yuan Yu to prevent it from fleeing to international waters. Rather than stopping, the Chinese ship tried to ram one of the vessels.
There have been other incidents in the past couple of years involving Chinese fishing fleets. A final example occurred in 2015, when the Chilean Navy stopped a number of Chinese vessels off the Bio Bio region in Chile’s exclusive economic zone. The concern was that they were fishing for shrimp. An 11 July 2015 Navy press release explains that said vessels were inspected and no illegal cargo was found.
In December 2016, the Peruvian media reported the presence of large fleets from Asian nations (China, Korea, Taiwan). Similar articles explaining how these fleets hurt Peru’s fishing industry were also published in May to continue to raise awareness among the population. It is important to stress that apart from the 2016 incident in Argentina, there have been no other reports regarding violent maneuvers by Chinese fishing vessels when in contact with Latin American security forces (at least none that the author could verify).
The Response
Leaving aside the governmental response to these incidents, regional naval security forces now must demonstrate that they are capable of monitoring and controlling their nation’s territorial waters. For example, after the Galapagos Islands incident, the Ecuadorian Navy carried out naval exercises aimed at combating transnational maritime crimes. The 209/1300 submarineHuancavilca participated in the maneuvers, along with three coast guard vessels and a helicopter. A civilian fishing vessel and crew were also utilized as the target for said maneuvers. Days after the exercises, the Ecuadorian media reported thatHuancavilca had departed for the Galapagos Islands to help with patrolling the area against illegal fishing activities.
It is also worth noting that Ecuador and other nations are obtaining new naval platforms, particularly offshore patrol vessels (OPV), to monitor their maritime territory. For example, IHS Jane’s has reported that on 31 July the Argentine government passed a decree “authorizing state credit to finance some of the major defense acquisition programs included in the 2017 budget.” The acquisitions program includes OPVs, Beechcraft T-6C+ Texan II aircraft, among others. It is unclear if the OPV acquisition was motivated by the 2016 incident, but it stands to reason that this incident provided even more evidence that the Argentine Navy requires new platforms for maritime control.
Discussion
Discussing unauthorized Chinese fishing is complicated as alarmism must be avoided. The incidents between Chinese fishing fleets and security forces in Latin American waters have been few – at least from what has been reported. And apart from the 2016 incident in Argentina, none other has been violent.
Nevertheless, there are a plethora of reports regarding Chinese fleets operating without authorization in Latin America and other parts of the world, particularly in Africa: just this past June, Senegal detained seven Chinese trawlers for illegally fishing in its waters. Moreover, it is correct to assume that these fleets will continue to attempt to operate in Latin American waters in the near future, particularly as domestic demand for maritime resources prompts them to be bolder when it comes to the areas that they travel to. It is also important to mention that not all the fish China captures are for internal consumption, as the Wilson Center’s report “Fishing for Answers” explains: “most of China’s high-value species and about half the overall catch are exported to the EU, the United States, and Japan, and the other half is brought back to China and sold domestically.” (While this article is focusing on illegal fishing by Chinese fleets, we must keep in mind how growing global demand for fish is affecting the fishing industry in general).
Thus one concern looking toward the future is whether there will be more violent confrontations between illegal fishing fleets and security forces given a growing demand for maritime resources. So far, the vessels have either attempted to flee or surrendered to authorities, but the Argentine incident raises the question: would some of these crews one day decide to fight back in order to avoid capture and protect their profit?
Finally, the possible ramifications of future incidents like this must be considered. China is a global economic force, and most nations, including developing nations such as those in Latin America, would not want to take Beijing head on. This is arguably the reason why the incidents mentioned in this article have not somehow evolved into some type of trade or diplomatic crisis. In fact, just this past March, the Argentine government signed a  memorandum of understanding with the Chinese company Ali Baba to sell products like wine, meat, and (somewhat ironically) fish. Similarly, in spite of the December 2016 reports about the Chinese fishing fleet in its territorial waters, Chinese-Peruvian trade remains strong as the latest data by the Peruvian government states that trade grew by 30 percent in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year.
How Ecuador reacts to this latest incident will be interesting as Quito-Beijing ties are not only strong due to commerce but also on other areas. For example, Ecuador has acquired “709 4×4 and 6×6 multipurpose trucks, 6×4 fuel and water trucks, and different types of buses in a deal reportedly worth USD81 million,”according to IHS Jane’s. On 4 September, Ecuador’s daily El Telegrafo reported that China’s Ministry of Agriculture has proposed the establishment of an “intergovernmental communication mechanism” between Quito and Beijing to “exchange information and jointly protect” maritime resources and crack down on illegal fishing activities. At the time of this writing there have been no reports about how the Ecuadorian government will respond to this proposal but, if previous incidents in other countries are a precedent, the Galapagos Islands incident will probably be minimized in order to protect Quito-Beijing partnerships in other areas.
Final Thoughts
Demographic growth and scarcer maritime resources are a catalyst for more frequent clashes at sea. In recent years there have been various reports about Chinese fishing fleets operating in international waters and also crossing into a country’s maritime territory to carry out unauthorized fishing activities. The most recent August incident off the Galapagos Islands is another example of this problem, one which has gained prominence in Latin America since the March 2016 incident in Argentina.
New platforms like OPVs will help regional navies to more efficiently patrol their maritime territory and intercept unauthorized fishing fleets in the near future; however this is just half of the equation. The second part is how Latin American governments will adapt their relations (particularly trade) with China since most violating fishing fleets appear to be Chinese. Combating illegal fishing is a complex issue, as it involves modern (and numerous) platforms for surveillance and interception, as well as a skilled judicial system to prosecute the culprits. Adding the future of a country’s relations with China will not make the problem any easier. 
 Alejandro Sanchez Nieto is a researcher who focuses on geopolitical, military and cyber security issues in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him on Twitter: @W_Alex_Sanchez.
The views presented in this essay are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the author is associated.

TNI: Forget Venezuela, Russia Is Looking to Nicaragua

"Forget Venezuela, Russia is Looking to Nicaragua"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
The National Interest - Blogs
September 25, 2017
Originally published: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/forget-venezuela-russia-looking-nicaragua-22464

As the crisis in Venezuela continues, certain states that have supported the Maduro government may be looking for more stable partners. For the Russian Federation, its new crown jewel in the Western Hemisphere, nowadays at least, is Nicaragua.
Managua and Moscow enjoy cordial diplomatic relations, with recent high-profile meetings. Just this past September, Gustavo Porras, president of the National Assembly, met with Sergey Zheleznyak, a member of the State Duma, who was visiting the Central American state.  
Additionally, Russia has sold military platforms to Nicaragua in recent years, like fifty T-72 battle tanks last year, among other heavy platforms. While it is true that Managua has not spent billions of dollars on Russian military platforms like Venezuela, such sales help promote defense relations. In fact, Moscow’s military training center “Marshall Gregory Zhukov,” located in the headquarters of the Nicaraguan Army’s mechanized infantry brigade, opened in 2013, a move that has fortified the two countries’ defense relations beyond weapon sales. Moreover, Russia and Nicaragua may hold small-scale exercises soon, as an undetermined number of Russian airborne troops visited the country in April to discuss this possibility. President Daniel Ortega justified his government’s relations with Moscow on September 1 during the Nicaraguan military’s anniversary celebrations. He stated that upon his 2006 electoral victory, he approached Washington and Moscow for help to replace obsolete military equipment and that Russia responded.
A final example of bilateral relations is a monitoring center inNejapa, outside Managua, that Russia has constructed as part of the GLONASS satellite system. Said facilities were inaugurated in April.
As to what the future may hold for the Managua-Moscow relationship, it is important to point out that President Ortega was re-elected, again, in November 2016 for a five-year term—he’s been in power since 2007. At seventy-one years of age, it will be interesting to see what happens after his new term is over, though it is worth mentioning that First Lady Rosario Murillo is now vice president, and an Ortega dynasty may be in the making (an ironic development, considering that it was Ortega who put an end to the Somoza dynasty).
As for where Russia falls in Nicaragua’s foreign policy, in recent years President Ortega has approached various governments for aid. After all, it was not long ago that the obscure Chinese HKND Groupwas attempting to construct a transoceanic canal through Nicaragua. While it is generally assumed that said entity is somehow tied to Beijing, it is worth noting that Nicaragua has relations with Taiwan, not the People’s Republic of China.
Despite President Ortega befriending Moscow, his government also maintains relations with Washington. Case in point, on April 3 the Nicaraguan Army announced that the U.S. Coast Guard vessel,Reliance (WMEC 615), carried out naval exercises with the Nicaraguan Navy. Nevertheless, bilateral relations are currently far from cordial, as Managua expelled three U.S. diplomats in 2016.
So what benefits come from a Russia-Nicaragua relationship? Russia would gain an ally and be able to project influence past its near abroad. Decades ago, Cuba was Moscow’s closest ally in the Western Hemisphere. A decade ago, it was Venezuela. Now, Russia’s most stable and closest friend in the region is arguably Nicaragua.
As for the Nicaragua,  while its foreign policy strategy is likely influenced by the Cold War-era, Ortega-Moscow relationship, it is not his sole motivator. The president aims to remain in power (in 2015 his government passed a law allowing for indefinite re-elections) and to cement his legacy, exemplified by the transoceanic canal, which means cozying up to various global powers for aid, not just Moscow.
The great geopolitical game is a truly a game of musical chairs, and it is now Nicaragua’s turn to be Russia’s chosen one in the Western Hemisphere.
W. Alejandro Sanchez is an analyst that focuses on geopolitical and defense related affairs, with a focus on the Western Hemisphere. His analyses have appeared in numerous refereed journals including Small Wars and Insurgencies, Defence Studies, the Journal of Slavic Military Studies, European Security, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism and Perspectivas. Follow him on twitter:@W_Alex_Sanchez.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Peru Promotes Avocados In The US Market

"Peru Promotes Avocados In The US Market"
W. Alejandro Sanchez and Brittney J. Figueroa
Living in Peru
5 September 2017
Originally published: http://www.livinginperu.com/peru-promotes-avocados-us-market/

Avocado toast, avocado face masks, and avocado desserts are only some of the latest trends in the U.S. growing the demand for the delicious fruit and Peru is ready to provide.

Marketing for Peruvian products has hit the streets of the U.S. capital, Washington DC. One of the authors of this commentary has seen posters promoting Peruvian avocados plastered on the sides of DC public transportation metro-buses, which show aPeruvian avocado, with the renowned Machu Picchu in the background and the phrase “Avocados from Peru” in large font.
A web address (avocadosfromPeru.com) links to a site maintained by the Peruvian Avocado Commission, headquartered in Washington DC. The commission is part of the Hass Avocado Board, an organization that has a membership of some 20,000 producers and importers from California, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, New Zealand, and Peru all involved in the U.S. Market.

A Growing Market for Avocados

The increase in demand and trendiness of the fruit has greatly affected thepopularity of avocados, particularly in the coveted U.S. market (a 2014 USAID report explains that “the U.S. is a negligible avocado exporter”so practically all of the 245,000 MT of domestic production is consumed domestically).
As an example of how this fruit has gone viral, at the time of this writing, there are6,424,857 public posts under the Instagram hashtag “avocado” with posts including colorful recipes by health gurus, tutorials on how to implement avocado into a beauty regimen, and even avocado art. According to the Hass Avocado Board’s report on market trends52.2% of US households purchased avocados in 2016, a 0.5% percent increase from the prior year, and one that is expected to grow further during 2017.
While grocery stores continue to possess the main share of avocado purchase dollars at 73%, Wal-Mart has been the main growth driver in trends with +$10.7 million in incremental purchases and 28.9% of avocado-purchasing households buying from its stores during 2016. In the First Quarter of 2017 alone (ending on 3/26/17), avocados headed the list of top trending fruit.

The Peruvian-US avocado trade has grown rapidly in the last six years.

Peru has projected to ship about 150 million pounds of avocados to US markets during this June-August season, a number more than twice the amount of its 70 million pounds of shipments last year. An off-bearing year in California coupled with decreasing shipment volume from Mexico in recent years has allowed this increase.With more than 10,000 hectares of avocado farms along the coast of Peru, heavy rains due to El Niño in March were a big concern for growers. However, the damage, mostly done to roads and bridges, only set back the harvest by a few weeks. Even with the setback, Peruvian avocados will be welcome this season, as this year’s inconsistent Mexican avocado crop season ended in June.The Peruvian-US avocado trade has grown rapidly in the last six years.

Keep In Mind: Mission Produce

Mission Produce of Oxnard, California has been and continues to be, a pioneer in the Peru-US avocado trade. Following their initial import of Peruvian avocados to the US in 2011, they began planting 6,500 hectares of Hass avocados in Peru in 2012, and most recently, in 2015, Mission completed the world’s largest avocado packing facility in Chao, in Peru’s La Libertad region.
The joint venture between Mission Produce and the Gonzalez Group operates under the name Avocado Packing Co.; which has proven to be a win-win initiative.The $30 million packing house is massive, covering more than 12 acres. It’s packing capacity is even more impressive, as it has the ability to handle 30 tons of avocados per hour when operating at full capacity with 60% to 70% of the fruit destined for US markets.
In line with Peru’s commitment to sustainable projects (see the authors’ article “Peru and Green Energy”) the facility features an MAF Rodaoptical sorter,conserves energy by incorporates motion sensitive lighting, and will be LEED certified. There are plans to incorporate a second packing line sometime in 2017 that would increase packing capacity twofold, to 60 tons per hour.

A Competitive Market

As a final point, it is worth mentioning that apart from the U.S. market, Peruvian companies are also looking for other customers in other parts of the world. For example, the Peruvian daily La Republica reported in 2015 about Peruvian avocados en route to the big Chinese market. More recently, in mid-July, the daily Gestion explained how a potential free trade agreement with Australia will allow the import of eight Peruvian products, including avocados – the newspaper reported that the Australian avocado market is worth US$ 72 million.

In spite of these successes, Peru is not the biggest avocado exporter at the global level.

According to a March report by the Mexican daily El FinancieroMexico has the largest production of avocados, followed by the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and then Peru, in fourth place. It is worth mentioning that Mexico’s place as the biggest global exporter, and its access to the U.S. market, may be in jeopardy, not due to anything wrong with the product itself but rather due to politics. Namely, U.S. President Trump has discussed the idea of a tax on Mexican imports, which would include avocados; and, as CNN Money explains “in 2017, the U.S. is expected to get about 80% of its avocado supply from its southern neighbor, according to Tom Bellamore, president of the California Avocado Commission. That’s 2.14 billion pounds of avocados.”In spite of these successes, Peru is not the biggest avocado exporter at the global level.

It’s unclear if Washington-Mexico City relations will deteriorate to the point that Mexican imports are taxed if they want to enter the U.S., but if such a situation does happen, avocado exporters like Peru could greatly profit.

Final Thoughts

In various articles for Living in Peru, the authors have covered some of Peru’s signature agricultural exports to the world (particularly the U.S. market), such asblueberriesquinoa and, now avocados. Indeed, agriculture and minerals continue to be the cornerstone of Peruvian exports, which means that the country’s economy is at the mercy of either a precious mineral (e.g. copper) drying up, or a massive weather pattern destroying crops. Thankfully, the latest El Niño in Peru did not significantly hurt the avocado crops, but a similar situation could occur in the near future.

For the time being, Peruvian avocado growers and exporters will continue to profit from U.S. consumers’ growing interest in this crop.

The Peruvian Avocado Commission’s feature of Peruvian avocados on Washington DC’s public transportation system, with the always-recognizable Macchu Picchu in the background, is just one example of the ingenious ways agencies are successfully marketing this crop in the U.S. When Americans eat avocados, they should think beyond California and Mexico, and think of Peruvian avocados. 
Alejandro Sanchez Nieto is a researcher who focuses on geopolitical, military, and cyber security issues in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him on Twitter: @W_Alex_Sanchez
Brittney J. Figueroa is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelors degree in Global Studies, and a Minor in Latin American Iberian Studies.
The views presented in this essay are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the authors are associated.

TNI: Bloc Party Blues: Why Brazil Might Leave BRICS

"Bloc Party Blues: Why Brazil Might Leave BRICS"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
The National Interest - Blogs
5 September, 2017
Originally published: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/bloc-party-blues-why-brazil-might-leave-brics-22178

BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will hold its ninth summit September 3–5 in Xiamen, China. Naturally, the international community will be eager to know about any new initiatives and agreements, particularly between China and Russia. The BRICS meeting, however, occurs at a time of increased challenges for Brazil, and it is debatable how much the country can continue to contribute to the bloc.
The South American giant impeached then-President Dilma Rousseff in August 2016, making Vice President Michel Temer head of state until the October 2018 elections. This means that President Temer will have been in office for around two years, with one left in his presidency. This is hardly sufficient time to formulate a concrete long-term foreign policy.
To complicate the situation further, President Temer was charged in June with corruption regarding alleged bribes from JBS, a meatpacking company. Then, in early August, he narrowly survived a new challenge:  the Chamber of Deputies voted 263–227 against having the Supreme Court commence a trial against him. On the economic front, Brazil is still attempting to overcome a years-long recession crisis; the Financial Times reported on August 24 that Brazil’s economy has “shrunk by 7.4 per cent in the past two years and the government is wrestling with ballooned budget deficits.”
In other words, President Temer will not travel to Xiamen with a quiet home front.
As for Brazil’s relations with its fellow BRICS members, the situation is currently mixed, with both positives and negatives developments. For example, President Temer visited Moscow in June to meet President Vladimir Putin with the goal of increasing bilateral trade between the two nations. Brazil-Russia trade reached$4.3 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, China is Brazil’s major trading partner, therefore it remains a priority for Brasilia to continue its close relationship with Beijing and perhaps seek investment opportunities via the BRICS-led New Development Bank, headquartered in Shanghai.
As for Brazil’s relations with India and South Africa, the idea of South-South cooperation has stalled. This is particularly true for India, as there have been hardly any new initiatives in Brasilia-New Delhi relations recently, apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Fortaleza, Brazil, for the BRICS 2014 summit, and some defense-related initiatives (like the IBSAMAR exercises, the last of which occurred in 2016). If anything, India’s main priority regarding Latin America nowadays is Mexico, not Brazil.
Brazil-South Africa relations are slightly better than with India. For example, this past May, Brazilian foreign-affairs minister Aloysio Nunes Ferreira Filho visited several African nations, including fellow BRICS member South Africa, to jumpstart relations. Moreover, the 2016 free-trade agreement between the Southern African Customs Union and the Market of the Southern Cone, of which South Africa and Brazil are members, will likely increase commercial ties between the two countries.
The ninth BRICS summit arrives at a difficult time for Brazil. Its turbulent domestic politics and economic situation are not conducive to establishing a robust foreign-policy strategy. As for relations with fellow BRICS members, Brasilia is focused on increasing commercial ties in order to help jumpstart its economy. Hence, we can expect President Temer’s meetings with President Putin, President Jacob Zuma and President Xi Jinping to revolve around trade issues; a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Modi is required by protocol, although there have been no indications so far about an interest to increase Brasilia-New Delhi ties.
Since last year’s summit in Goa, India, there has been speculation about Brazil opting to leave BRICS. While it is unlikely that President Temer will make such a statement in Xiamen, Brazil’s current internal state may require a debate over how continued membership to BRICS would help Brazil, if at all.
W. Alejandro Sanchez is an analyst that focuses on geopolitical and defense related affairs, with a focus on the Western Hemisphere. His analyses have appeared in numerous refereed journals including Small Wars and InsurgenciesDefence Studies,the Journal of Slavic Military Studies, European Security, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism and Perspectivas.