35 West

By CSIS | Center for Strategic and International Studies

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The CSIS Americas Program podcast looks at the politics and policies of the 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere. It especially focuses on U.S. engagement with the region, whether on trade, diplomacy, or security issues like drugs and terrorism. Guests include top policymakers from the U.S. and other countries.

Episode Date
Cloudy Days for Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau is in trouble for meddling in a criminal investigation and dumping his attorney general. Mr. Canada, a.k.a. Chris Sands of Johns Hopkins University, is back to explain the details and how they could affect Canadian politics sooner rather than later.

Mar 07, 2019
Mexico’s Melting Pot

As global forced migration increases rapidly, Mexico has transitioned from just an exporter of people north to a transit and a recipient country all in one. While significant challenges remain, Mexico has an opportunity for regional leadership on migration. Erol Yayboke, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at the CSIS Project on Prosperity and Development, and CSIS Americas’ Moises Rendon discuss their recent research trip to Mexico City and Tapachula. They focus on how Mexico’s government and society are responding to the growing migration flows from Central America and other countries to Mexico.

Feb 22, 2019
All in the Family

Ambassador Jay Anania, born two blocks from the State Department, was drawn to the U.S. Foreign Service partly by the examples of his NSA dad and CIA mom. His 30-year career started in Tijuana and ended in Paramaribo, with stops along the way in Amman, Havana, Abu Dhabi, Berlin, Hong Kong, and Baghdad. He and host Richard Miles discuss changes on the U.S. southern border as well as the effectiveness of the Organization of American States, where Jay served as the senior management official from 2015-2017.

Feb 14, 2019
Who’s on First, What Comes Next?

Juan Guaidó, the 35-year old legitimate head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, is facing off against Nicolas Maduro, who clings to his illegitimate power. Venezuela experts Moises Rendon of CSIS and Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas are back to describe the role of the United States, the international community, and the Cubans. Guaidó himself, according to Moises, has a promising political future and may be the rarest of creatures in the Bolivarian Republic; someone who can unite factions against the government. If he can convince the military that it won’t be unfairly prosecuted by a successor government, we may be in the final throes of the Maduro regime.

Feb 07, 2019
Coming Home

Images of migrants charging the U.S. border obscure a larger trend. Many Mexican and Central American migrants are returning home, whether they want to or not. Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, returns to talk about who is coming and who is going. What are the governments of Mexico and the Northern Triangle doing to handle this reverse influx and what does it mean for U.S. immigration policy? Finally, will Americans support an immigration deal anytime soon?

Jan 24, 2019
North of the Border

Texas is greatly affected by tariffs, trade, and travel across the U.S. southern border. Matthew Rooney, director of the Economic Growth Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, gives us the view from the Lone Star State. He also explains border infrastructure, supply chains, and the long-term economic effects of trade barriers on North America. He and Richard also trade predictions on the art of an immigration deal before the 2020 elections.

Jan 17, 2019
Party Like It's 2018

Democrats now run the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Does it matter for Latin America? According to former Bush official José Cardenas, apart from Trump’s Wall there is remarkable bipartisan consensus on what needs to be done in hotspots like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and even Central America. On migration and border security, Cardenas argues against a “Fortress America” mentality if we want to preserve a dynamic economy. Finally, he predicts the eventual assimilation of Latin American voters into both major parties.

Jan 10, 2019
Who’s Hispanic Here?

Arguably no state is more politically important than Florida, which has become an electoral microcosm for the whole country. But Hispanic voting patterns in the Sunshine State - and the definition of Hispanic - is very different. Ana Quintana, an expert at the Heritage Foundation, explains the results of the 2018 midterms on statewide races. She and Richard also discuss the importance of the immigration issue to Mexican voters, and the effect it will have on both parties for the 2020 campaign and beyond.

Jan 03, 2019
Who Moved My Monopoly?

Mexico’s government has surrendered its monopoly on the use of force, while large Mexican companies exert one in the marketplace. So argues Francisco González of SAIS in this week’s episode of 35 West. Along the way, Francisco covers 50 years of Mexican politics, Mexicans’ support for democracy, and the prospects for reducing violence and the flow of drugs to the U.S. Finally, he predicts stability in the US-Mexican political relationship, at least until the Mexican midterm elections in 2020.

Dec 27, 2018
Maduro’s Deadline: January 10th

January 10, the date a new presidential period begins, represents an unprecedented opportunity for the international community to help halt Venezuela’s collapse. Despite the refusal of nearly 50 countries to recognize the May 2018 Venezuelan presidential elections, Nicolas Maduro plans to be sworn in. The implications of so many nations not recognizing Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president after January 10 have yet to be determined. CSIS Senior Advisor Mark Schneider and Venezuela expert Antonio de La Cruz join CSIS’ Moises Rendon to discuss the political, diplomatic and legal implications moving forward.

Dec 18, 2018
What Will AMLO and Bolsonaro Do To Energy Markets?

New leaders in Mexico and Brazil may mean big changes to their respective energy sectors. Energy expert Lisa Viscidi of the Inter-American Dialogue says a Mexican delay on offshore bidding could have a major impact, but that Brazil is likely to maintain the status quo. Finally, Venezuela may eventually run dry, given the massive investment required to reverse declining oil output. 

Dec 13, 2018
Cryptocurrency v. Authoritarianism in Venezuela

Cryptocurrency use is increasing amongst everyday Venezuelans. The Maduro regime has been tightening controls on the economy and continues to reject humanitarian aid. However, independent cryptocurrencies (as opposed to regime-controlled petro) are enabling censorship-resistant peer-to-peer digital cash transactions. Alejandro Machado, Founder of Open Money Initiative, joins CSIS’ Moises Rendon.

Dec 06, 2018
What’s Left in Venezuela’s Policy Toolkit?

Current international pressure on the Venezuelan regime has not been enough to help restore the country’s democracy – at least, not yet. Venezuela is enduring the worst humanitarian crisis in the region, which is having an overwhelming impact on neighboring countries, including unprecedented waves of migrants and refugees. Fernando Cutz, a former National Security Council advisor at the White House, joins Moises Rendon for a discussion on what options are left for helping Venezuela.

Nov 29, 2018
Will We See More Caravans?

Caravans from Central America. They were big news for a while, now not so much. But they are sure to return to the front pages. Manuel Orozco, Director of Migration at the Inter-American Dialogue, joins Richard for a discussion on what is causing Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans to leave their countries. He argues that bad governance, not just gang violence, is a big contributor. Do U.S. policymakers have any good options?

Nov 20, 2018
Welcome to My House

Gone are hopes for a swift congressional ratification of USMCA with the House returning to the Democrats in January. Is Canada worried, and if so, why? Christopher Sands of Johns Hopkins University is back to help us empathize with our northern neighbors, as well as the changes in the post World War II global order.

Nov 14, 2018
Troika of Punditry

The Axis of Evil is out, the Troika of Tyranny is in. Are Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba the prisms through which U.S. policy in Latin America can be seen? Pedro Burelli, a former director of Venezuela’s state oil company, Moises Rendon of CSIS, and host Richard Miles talk dictators, despots, sanctions, and regional stability.

Nov 08, 2018
Free Fallin’

Bolsonaro in Brazil, migrants in Mexico, plebiscites on planes, and (assistant) Secretaries of State. Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas and host Richard Miles go down the alliterative alphabet of the atlas, inferring implications for U.S. politics and policy. Also, check out our cool new intro by producer Ribka Gemilangsari.

Oct 31, 2018
Walk This Way

Over 1,300 miles remain for a caravan of 7,000 Honduran migrants headed to the U.S. by foot. How many will peel off in Mexico, and what happens if and when they reach the U.S. border in several months? Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, explains what’s going on, what Mexico and the U.S. can do, and why it is likely to happen again.

Oct 26, 2018
Code Breaker

Has incoming Mexican president López Obrador cracked the Trump code? So far, his non-confrontational stance with the U.S. has analysts predicting a more tranquil bilateral relationship than expected. Mexico expert Pamela Starr from the University of Southern California returns to assess AMLO’s priorities, Cabinet picks, and possible friction points with the U.S. Richard vows to go NAFTA-free after this episode.

Oct 18, 2018
Brazil’s Turn

Voters in Brazil joined the trend of upending expectations by giving Jair Bolsonaro 46% in the first round of the presidential elections. Is this jolt part of the global antiestablishment movement, or is it uniquely Brazilian? Gabrielle Trebat, a former Treasury Department official and a Brazil expert at McLarty Associates, provides details on the political landscape and insights on Bolsonero’s potential policies, including his almost complete lack of knowledge of the U.S.

Oct 09, 2018
Louisiana Purchase

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) talks about his recent trip to Guatemala and Mexico, and discusses U.S. efforts to help fight corruption, strengthen borders, and to go after narcotics traffickers. The real hope, he believes, is in  strengthening the regional economies through trade and development, a trend that also delivers economic benefits to states like Louisiana.  

Oct 04, 2018
How Bad is Venezuela’s exodus?

Once South America’s richest country has now collapsed. About 2.5 million Venezuelans have fled their country in the last few years, putting unprecedented pressure on overwhelmed neighbors like Colombia and Brazil. Francisco Santos, Colombian Ambassador to the U.S., and David Smolansky, Chair of an Organization of American States Working Group, give their take. 

Sep 20, 2018
Blame Canada

Has everything gone wrong since Trump came along? Regardless of whether Canada stays, walks or sprints away from a NAFTA deal, the experience has forced Canada to look at its entire relationship with the U.S. Christopher Sands of SAIS is back to talk about the effects on trade, travel, defense, Canadian nationalism, and his consumption of Molson. 

Sep 13, 2018
Auto Destruct

How will the enhanced “rule of origin” content requirements affect the North American automotive industry, especially in Mexico? Dr. Luz Maria de la Mora, a former Mexican trade negotiator, explains what Mexico got and what it gave up on autos, dispute resolution, and other proposed changes to NAFTA. Finally, what does this do to Mexico’s relationship with Canada?

Aug 31, 2018
Venezuela Adds More Money and Loses More People

Venezuela is currently experiencing 44 million percent (not a typo) annual inflation. Apart from forcing everyone to do more math, what is the Maduro regime doing about it? Unfortunately, nothing that matters, according to Professor Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard’s JFK School of Government. Moises Rendon of CSIS joins us to describe the human cost, including Venezuelans fleeing their country, starvation, and misery. Both predict that nothing will improve without a new government, but even then, it will take at least a decade to put Venezuela back together.

Aug 27, 2018
Coming Clean in Argentina

Crisis, scandal, and politics in Argentina. Does bad news for Cristina Kirchner equal good times for Mauricio Macri? Benjamin Gedan of the Wilson Center argues that Argentina’s very own Car Wash scandal – complete with couriers carrying cash to the Kirchners - gives President Macri a short reprieve, but that voters will hold him accountable for a tumbling economy in next year’s presidential elections.

Aug 20, 2018

Will Andrés Manuel López Obrador the “leftwing firebrand” or the “realistic pragmatist” show up for work on December 1?   Mexico expert Duncan Wood of the Wilson Center helps sort out Mexican president-elect AMLO’s mandate and governing philosophy, and predicts that renewed Central American migration will trigger AMLO’s first bilateral crisis with the U.S. 

Aug 16, 2018
Continental Divide: What’s Up With NAFTA?

Once again, a NAFTA deal may be close – or not.  Tossing in tariffs, our experts Scott Miller and Chris Sands return to tell us why the Mexicans are up, the Canadians are down, and why farmers and car manufacturers are out of luck. Do we have a deal or no deal before the U.S. mid-term elections and the new Mexican government takes power, and if not, does it matter?

Aug 06, 2018
North American Work Out

What kind of workers does the North American economy need, and how will it get them?  Former U.S. diplomat Anthony Wayne points out the “alarming skills gap,” in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, the rapid technological changes, and the need for the education system, private sector, and governments to come up with a better process.  Even setting aside the national politics – which are difficult – this will not be easy. 

Aug 02, 2018
The God That Failed – Again

Nicaragua joins – again – the list of imploding socialist states in Latin America. Daniel Ortega is using increasingly brutal tactics, including paramilitary death squads, to put down protests led in part by the Catholic Church. Mark Schneider, former Peace Corps director and a long-time expert on Central America, refreshes our memory on how Nicaragua ended up where it started forty years ago.

Jul 26, 2018
Blockchain Can Help Venezuela

How low can Venezuela go?  We’ve been predicting its collapse for a year, but it’s still around.  Moises Rendon, our resident Venezuela expert, updates us on the misery resulting from the Maduro government’s policies, and explains how blockchain technology could help Venezuela rebuild once it hits bottom. More than a source of digital currency, the technology enables international aid, electoral security, the protection of property rights, and helps fight corruption.  
For more information, read Moises full report How the Blockchain Can Help Venezuela’s Future Recovery. To learn how the Venezuelan government is controlling the distribution of food through the CLAP program, read his latest article The Maduro Diet: Food v. Freedom in Venezuela.

Jul 19, 2018
AMLO Wins Big

Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s big victory in Mexico may mean changes for the U.S. Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign relations returns to assess AMLO’s top priorities, his initial post-election signals, and the prospect of good relations with President Trump.  

Jul 12, 2018
Apprehensive at the Border

The former Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Alan Bersin, explains exactly how the Trump Administration policy of detaining migrants works. He and Richard discuss the steep decline over the last two decade in apprehensions on the southwest border, the spike in Central American migration, and a potential remedy for the broken asylum process.

Jun 28, 2018
Not Like a G7

President Trump got very mad at Prime Minister Trudeau at the recent G7 Summit in Canada. Christopher Sands of the School of Advanced International Studies explains how the blow up may affect Canadian politics and trade with the U.S. He also reveals what Canadians really think of Americans. Sarah Baumunk returns with Big Little News about which non-Americans to cheer on in the World Cup.    

Jun 21, 2018
Oil and Politics in Latin America

The top oil producing countries in Latin America are all having elections this year. How will political changes in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela affect their oil output, and does this matter for the United States? Most importantly, will a new government in Mexico reverse course or slow roll broader energy reforms?  Expert Lisa Viscidi of the Inter-American Dialogue explains the details. 

Jun 14, 2018
Borderline Normal

Are Mexico and the United States growing apart, or are they growing together? Mexico expert Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, discusses his new book, Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and the United States Together. He talks about counterintuitive trends such as Mexican investment in the U.S., a new attitude towards history among younger Mexicans, and border communities drawing closer for purely practical reasons.

Jun 07, 2018
Cross-Border Criminals

It’s not just drugs anymore. Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) organizations in Latin America traffic in people and money, and participate in illegal mining. Expert Evan Ellis, a professor at the U.S. Army War College, argues in his latest book for a “whole-government” approach to replace a sole focus on taking out high-value targets such as cartel leaders. Changes are needed, says Ellis, in how we partner with Latin American governments, and how we organize the U.S. government to fight crime organizations that are better connected and better strategists.

Jun 05, 2018
Post-Venezuela Elections: What Really Counts?

After one of the lowest participations in Venezuela’s Electoral history, and widely seen as fraudulent, the U.S. and other like-minded countries are not recognizing the results of May 20th Venezuela’s presidential elections. Unfortunately for the people of Venezuela, the on-the-ground humanitarian and economic crisis will only likely to exacerbate, triggering further humanitarian and security threats to the region. During this 35 West Special Spanish Episode, CSIS Associate Fellow Moises Rendon sits down with Venezuelan opposition leader Julio Borges and CSIS Senior Associate Gustavo Tarre to discuss the post-election political dynamics of the Venezuelan crisis, what the Maduro victory means for the future of Venezuela and the international community, and how the international community can best respond.

May 31, 2018
Power Couple: The Canada and US Energy Relationship

for many U.S. states and Canadian provinces. The U.S. currently gets 45% of its crude oil from Canada, about 1 ½ times more than from all of the OPEC countries combined. In a joint podcast, economic driver with Canada is now worth $95 billion annually and is a significant energy tradeOur 35 West and Energy 360 dive into the details of our cross-border energy trade, how it may or may not be affected by NAFTA turmoil, and what lies ahead. Andrew Stanley of CSIS and Christopher Sands from the School of Advanced International Studies expertly run the numbers for Richard, and he pretends to understand them.   


May 24, 2018
Getting Clean in Brazil
The Car Wash scandal triggered investigations that uncovered dirt on dozens of politicians and companies in Brazil and abroad. Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, compares Car Wash to other corruption scandals and updates us on a growing anti-corruption movement in Latin America. Sarah Baumunk lightens the mood by explaining how inflation affects every day life in Argentina.
May 17, 2018
Show Me the Money: Are Sanctions on Venezuela Working?

As Venezuela endures an upcoming presidential election on May 20th, widely seen as illegitimate, the U.S. and other like-minded countries are considering further sanctions on the Maduro regime. In a joint production of the Financial Integrity Network and CSIS, Juan Zarate sits down with Moises Rendon, Jose Luis Stein, and David Murray to discuss the effectiveness of sanctions on Venezuela and the opportunities ahead.

May 16, 2018
Unsafe Space: Mexico’s Security Problem

The security situation in Mexico remains grim, and is a major theme of Mexico’s presidential campaign. David Shedd, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, long time CIA professional, and Latin American expert, assesses the state of the drug war, the scope of US-Mexico security cooperation, and the future direction of Mexico’s war against the cartels. On Big Little News, Sarah explains how to steal over $1 million of fajitas, and in the process creates a new meme. 

May 03, 2018
How To Get to a Start-Up Continent

How do entire economies become more innovative?  Jackson Streeter, an expert on technology transfer, maps the ecosystem of innovation. Strong intellectual property rights, investments in research and development, a risk-taking mentality, and seed funding are all necessary parts. Can they be nurtured and developed in Latin America? Sarah’s Big Little News is the rise of marriage fraud in Costa Rica.  

Apr 26, 2018
Peak Form: Is the Summit of the Americas Worthwhile?

Almost all of the Western Hemisphere’s leaders recently ascended to the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru.  What did they accomplish?  Ana Quintana, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, assesses the Summit’s output, especially on Venezuela. She comments on the participation of VP Pence instead of President Trump, and the Administration’s quirky relationship with Mexico, but declines Richard’s invitation to place a bet in the NAFTA casino. And TPP? Forget it.  

Apr 19, 2018
Good Cop, Bad Cop: Are US-Mexican Relations Better Than They Seem?

Mexico expert Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations gives her take on the Mexican economy, NAFTA, and President Enrique Peña Nieto’s faltering reforms. She also weighs in on the good cop, bad cop routine that constitutes the current state of the US-Mexico bilateral relationship, and finally, places her bets on the upcoming presidential elections.  In Big Little News, Sarah “Unbreakable” Baumunk exudes optimism in discussing Latin America’s falling homicide rates, due in part to a surprisingly simple tool.      

Apr 12, 2018
Meddle Without a Cause

Will the Russians meddle in Latin American elections this year? Russia expert David Salvo, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, talks about possible Russian motives. Is Putin attempting a head fake to distract from his own misdeeds? Are old KGB hands making mischief in the Americans’ backyard, just because?  Salvo argues that Russia’s efforts are more profound; to undermine the very concept of democracy itself. Newly empowered, ex-intern Sarah Baumunk explains Venezuela’s currency crisis in under two minutes.  

Guest: David Salvo

Mar 29, 2018
Vivat Rex

The abrupt end of the Tillerson era may signal changes for US policy towards Latin America.  Eric Farnsworth, Vice President of the Council of the Americas, explains the inner workings of the Trump Administration’s views on NAFTA, Venezuela, and the Mexican elections. He also ponders the question of China’s increasingly assertive role in the hemisphere, and whether Mike Pompeo will take a more strategic view of the region than the President. Sarah “Be Happy” Baumunk explains why Latin Americans are relatively happier than the rest of the world, according to the UN Happiness Index.  

Guest: Eric Farnsworth

Mar 22, 2018
Mexico and the US Come to a Fork in the Road

With talk of tariffs and trade wars once again putting NAFTA in jeopardy, what lies ahead for Mexico-U.S. relations? Pamela Starr, a scholar at USC, gives her take on trade, the failure of the drug war in Mexico, and the prospect of a July 1 presidential win by leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador. She also praises the U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy for keeping the relationship from imploding, despite dismal Mexican views of the U.S., mirrored by a hostile American president.     

Guests: Pamela Starr

Mar 15, 2018
Special “Presidential” Edition: Colombia’s Former President on Peace and Venezuela

Colombia’s upcoming presidential elections have two major issues: the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the impact of Venezuela’s crisis on Colombia, with which it shares a 1,300 mile border. On this week’s special “presidential” edition of 35 West, former President of Colombia Andres Pastrana walks Moises Rendon through the challenges ahead for the agreement’s implementation, and how Venezuela’s crisis is affecting Colombia on humanitarian and security grounds. 
Guest: Andres Pastrana

Mar 08, 2018
Havana (Remix)

As Venezuela hurdles towards catastrophe, the Cuban government is making things worse through security and intelligence support. Former Bush 43 official José Cárdenas outlines several steps that the Trump Administration should be taking to thwart Cuba’s meddling, a role the country has played over and over again. Risking their career prospects, José and Richard also assess the Trump Latin America policy team. Bonus feature: Big Little News with intern Sarah Baumunk. 

Guest: José Cárdenas

Mar 01, 2018