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Catch up on the news with Open Americas! 

In the headlines: Argentina to impose export taxes, Brazil court rules Lula cannot run for President, Canada rejoins NAFTA talks, Latin American nations meet to discuss Venezuela, and more.

Following a 16 percent depreciation of the Argentine peso last week, President Mauricio Macri announced Argentina will be implementing export taxes in an effort to balance the country’s budget deficit. The fall in the peso’s value came after Argentina’s central bank increased interest rates by 15 percent and Macri asked the International Monetary Fund to lend the $50 billion credit earlier than previously agreed upon. Since the beginning of 2018, the peso has depreciated almost 50 percent against the US dollar, with August being the worst month the peso has seen since the 2001 debt crisis. The government believes imposing export taxes will be the most efficient short-term solution to the country’s economic troubles, but the decision directly affects farmers, who are among Macri’s biggest supporters.

Brazil’s top electoral court ruled on Friday that former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is barred from running for president in the upcoming elections. Despite the United Nations speaking out in favor of Lula, judges believe the nation’s “clean slate” law supersedes the UN recommendation. Along with barring his run for election, the court also ruled that he cannot advertise his campaign. Lula’s lawyers intend to appeal the decision to the nation’s Supreme Court. Lula’s Workers Party remains dedicated to him and announced that he will remain the party’s candidate, vowing to continue pushing to get his name back on the ballot. Lula continues to lead polls in the upcoming presidential election.

On Sunday night, Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro burned down, resulting in the loss of up to 90 percent of the 200-year old collection. The museum was home to around 20 million invaluable historical and scientific artifacts. As Brazil’s oldest scientific institution, numerous scientists around the country and the world depended on the fossils, specimens, and laboratories in the museum for their research. However, now all that seems to remain is the Bendegó meteor and a library of 500,000 books that was kept in a separate annex. The cause of the fire is still being determined, but firefighters struggled to put out the flames as the two closest fire hydrants were out of water. Many Brazilians are horrified by the destruction, and many believe the fire could have been prevented. The museum received only $13,000 this year for its maintenance budget, down from the $128,000 it is supposed to receive; the state is in economic turmoil and President Michel Temer cut science funding by 44 percent last year.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
NAFTA talks continue despite Mexico and the United States agreeing on a bilateral deal that does not include Canada. Canada has now returned to the negotiations and seeks to resolve bilateral issues with the United States before the end-of-September deadline the US Congress has imposed on the talks. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Canada will not compromise on its key demands and that “no NAFTA is better than a bad NAFTA for Canadians.” Meanwhile in the United States, President Donald Trump faces opposition from unions and many Congress members who see trade with Canada as essential for the US economy.

Over 300 people have died in Nicaragua since political unrest began in April, and President Daniel Ortega continues to solidify control by silencing independent media and expelling a United Nations human rights team. After publishing a report detailing abuse, repression, and torture of protestors by the government and pro-government groups, the UN human rights regional office in Central America received a letter from the Nicaraguan foreign ministry stating its “invitation is considered concluded.” The report calls for an end to the arrests and torture of protestors by government organized masked groups and paramilitary officers who they found to be responsible for the numerous killings. The Ortega government continues to support the crackdown against protestors, or as Ortega refers to them: “terrorists and coup-mongers.” Meanwhile, nongovernmental reporters have been threatened and beaten by government supporters, and one has even been killed. The government has shut down broadcasts for independent news channels and most news outlets are now controlled by the government and its allies.

Leaders from South American nations are meeting to discuss a regional approach to handling the influx of Venezuelan migrants as they flee their country to seek asylum throughout the region. Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru have seen the largest numbers of Venezuelans crossing their borders as the outflow now equals that of the Mediterranean migrant crisis. Peru declared a state of emergency along its border due to health and sanitation concerns, Brazil employed soldiers to its northern border to help with humanitarian aid and patrols, and the United Nations is funding a mission to the region to help improve asylum and refugee management. The goal of the meetings is to share the burden of the refugee crisis by establishing similar identification requirements across all receiving nations and working to prevent epidemics.
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