Latin America’s tumultuous year turns expectations on their head

2020 could bring another year of turmoil for Latin America after the dramatic events of 2019 from the Caribbean to Chile

Celso Amorim joined Brazil’s foreign service nearly six decades ago and rose all the way to its top but even he struggles to recall a Latin American year like 2019.

“Like this? Never before,” Brazil’s former foreign minister said of the tumultuous 12 months that have seen social and political upheaval rattle the region, from Buenos Aires to Bogotá.

Related: An explosion of protest, a howl of rage – but not a Latin American spring

Related: Bloody Tijuana: a week in the life of Mexico’s murderous border city

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Blackwater founder Erik Prince secretly met Venezuela vice-president

  • Prince had plotted using mercenary army to overthrow Maduro
  • Speculation that Prince could be back channel for White House

Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm Blackwater and prominent supporter of Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez – one of Nicolás Maduro’s closest allies.

The visit, described by one source as “outreach” to Maduro’s government, came just eight months after Prince floated a plan to deploy a private army to help topple the Venezuelan leader.

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Josep Borrell: can EU’s new diplomat- in-chief strengthen bloc’s global standing?

The veteran Spanish socialist has a reputation for plain speaking, and a brief to build a more assertive EU

It has been called Europe’s “valley of tears”. But it isn’t in National Geographic; rather it is the monthly pilgrimage of the European Union’s 28 foreign ministers to Brussels or Luxembourg to discuss the woes of the world.

And the man who coined the phrase, Josep Borrell, a socialist veteran of Spanish politics, was not paying a compliment. He described the EU foreign affairs council as “more a valley of tears than a centre of decision-making” because “it’s where all the open sores of humanity come. They tell us their sufferings, we express our condolences and concern … but no capacity for action comes out of it and we just move on to the next one.”

China is Europe’s “systemic rival”, the EU executive stated earlier this year in a paper seen as a turning point in the bloc’s approach to the authoritarian superpower. Diplomats say the EU is less naive about China, and wiser to unfair competition via state subsidies or intellectual property theft. The EU is also facing calls to resume human rights sanctions on China, as further details emerge about China’s vast prison network in Xinjiang.

Ursula von der Leyen, born in 1958, is the daughter of Heidi and Ernst Albrecht, the latter having been a senior politician in the centre-right Christian Democratic Union who rose to be governor of the state of Lower Saxony.

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‘This is meant to be a caring country?’: refugees battle the cold in Madrid

Having fled violence in Venezuela, El Salvador and beyond, migrants are facing a fresh struggle in Spain

On Monday night, a group of newcomers to Madrid put their children to bed. In the absence of a roof, walls or mattresses, they wrapped them in blankets and tucked them into open suitcases to guard against the cold of the streets.

Had it not been for the intervention of a neighbourhood volunteer network who paid for a hostel, the two families who had fled violence in their home country of El Salvador would have spent the whole night outside the city’s overwhelmed emergency shelter coordination centre.

Related: El Salvador: a nation held hostage – a photo essay

Related: Spain’s new coalition must face up to the Catalan crisis and the rise of the far right | Pablo Iglesias

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Professor who is expert on corruption charged with laundering money

Bruce Bagley, from University of Miami, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted

A US professor of international studies who co-wrote a book about organised crime and is an expert on money laundering and corruption in South America has been arrested on charges of laundering corruption proceeds from Venezuela.

Bruce Bagley, 73, of Coral Gables, Florida, was released on bail of $300,000 (£230,000) after appearing at Miami federal court.

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Evo Morales ousting brings new hope to Venezuela’s flagging opposition

Toppling of Bolivian president reignites movement to remove leftist ally Nicolás Maduro

Venezuela’s flagging opposition movement has hit the streets for its first major protests in months, as leaders sought to reignite their campaign to force Nicolás Maduro from power after his leftist ally Evo Morales was toppled in Bolivia.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets on Saturday morning in towns and cities across the crisis-stricken south American country, hoping the dramatic sea change in Bolivian politics might portend similar change in Venezuela.

Political career

Related: Venezuela’s former military intelligence chief missing in Spain

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