Tuesday, December 10, 2019

USMCA deal close (Dec. 10, 2019)

U.S. opposition lawmakers are on the verge of an agreement with for Congress to pass a modified U.S. trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Democrats of the House of Representatives have been meeting for months with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate modifications to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. 

The agreement would lift the last remaining hurdle to the pact that would replace the Nafta free trade agreement. Democrats have focused on more robust labor regulation enforcement. Their other demands include lowering the intellectual-property protections for biologic drugs as well as increasing enforcement measures for labor standards in the agreement. It wasn't clear yet what concessions had been agreed upon. Nor was it clear that Mexico would agree to their demands. On Sunday Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico had drawn several red lines on revisions, including a blanket rejection of foreign labor inspectors in Mexican factories.

Lighthizer and Jared Kushner, the U.S. president's son-in-law and senior adviser, were expected to head to Mexico this morning. Canadian deputy-prime minister Chrystia Freeland was also invited by the Mexican government. The three countries reached agreement on the pact a year ago, but the deal requires congressional approval. Mexican lawmakers already ratified the agreement.

News Briefs

Argentina
  • Alberto Fernández swore in as Argentina's president this morning. He has promised to focus on growth-focused policies, a sharp change from his predecessor's austerity push. But Fernández faces significant challenges: annual inflation is over 50 percent, poverty is approaching 40 percent, there is an economic recession and the country must restructure about $100 billion in sovereign debt, reports Reuters.
  • Peronists are Argentina's "natural party of government," but voters who rejected former president Mauricio Macri in October's election were also reacting to his failed economic promises, write David Rieff in the New York Review of Books. If the past year of Argentina's political game of four-dimensional chess has left you confused, this piece masterfully reviews the players and motivations. And moderately hopeful take (it is day one, after all): "It is easy to wax apocalyptic about Argentina. ... But it’s hardly on the brink of collapse—as much as alarmism is a national neurosis in Argentina."
  • Argentina's incoming government will likely push successfully for lawmakers to legalize abortion, a move that would have impact on feminist movements around the region, writes journalist Luciana Peker in the Post Opinión.
Climate Change
  • A group of nine Brazilian states is teaming up with France to protect the Amazon rainforest. The partnership will be announced at the Madrid climate summit this week, and bypasses the Brazilian national government, reports Reuters. The Brazilian states said they approached several European countries about directly funding state-level preservation projects.
  • Fires were three times more common in beef-producing zones than in the rest of the Amazon this summer. An investigation by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 70 percent of Nasa fire alerts were in the estimated buying zones of beef companies. The work is based on data collected by Brazilian NGO Imazon.
  • Two U.N.-appointed experts said the World Bank should reconsider its investment in one of Brazil’s biggest beef producers because of the industry’s links to deforestation and the climate crisis. Although Minerva, the country's second largest beef exporter, has been able to certify its direct suppliers as zero-deforestation, like other large Brazilian companies, it cannot monitor indirect suppliers, reports the Guardian.
  • There is a growing push in Europe and the UK to oblige large business to conduct due diligence on issues such as deforestation and human rights abuses in their supply chain, reports the Guardian.
  • And a French MEP said he could not vote in favour of the EU trade deal with the Mercosur due to environmental concerns. (Guardian)
Bolivia
  • If former President Evo Morales was playing somewhat fast and loose with democratic institutions, his successor seems to be on an even worst path. Interim-leader Jeanine Ánez "pledged to “bring back democracy and tranquillity,” but she instead embarked on a "blatantly revanchist, ruthless path," denounces the New York Times editorial board. "Stacking her cabinet with religious conservatives bitterly opposed to Mr. Morales’s Movement for Socialism, breaking ties with the left-wing governments of Cuba and Venezuela and dispatching an ambassador to a gleeful Trump administration, the first in Washington in 11 years."
Migration
  • Immigration arrests along the U.S. southern border fell for the sixth consecutive month in November. New statistics released yesterday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection show the number of people U.S. authorities took into custody fell nearly 6 percent from October to November, to 42,649. Arrests have dropped 70 percent since May. Authorities said the drop reflects the U.S. Trump administration's regulatory changes; policies that tighten asylum rules; and a program requiring asylum seekers to await adjudication in Mexico. (Washington Post)
Regional Relations
  • A bit late, but still worth reading: Jorge Ramos explains why the presence of U.S. troops on Mexican soil -- on the pretext of hunting down terrorist drug cartel operatives -- is unacceptable. (New York Times Español)
Mexico
  • A year into Andrés Manuel López Obrador's presidency, his security policies have had no tangible results for Mexicans, writes Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano director Francisco Rivas in the Post Opinión.
Chile
  • A Chilean transport plane bound for Antarctica on a maintenance mission went missing with 38 people yesterday evening. (New York Times, Associated Press)


Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...  

Monday, December 9, 2019

Colombians march, and sing, for change (Dec. 9, 2019)

Thousands of Colombians marched in a peaceful protests against President Iván Duque yesterday. Estimates put the number in Bogotá as high as 400,000. Protests have been ongoing since Nov. 21, but yesterday's featured a massive, mobile concert that crossed Bogotá, reports El País. 300 artists and 40 groups participated, a sign that energies have not waned, according to Semana. Demonstrators emphasized a call to maintain strikes -- there have been three national strikes since the protests began.

Though the initial call to the streets was led by unions, students, indigenous, Afro-Colombian and peasant groups, heterogenous groupings have also taken to the streets in the intervening weeks, reports La Silla Vacía. They are not represented in the dialogue process that the National Strike Committee has engaged in with the Duque administration, and they range from futból club supporters to feminist movements.

News Briefs

More Colombia
  • Three members of indigenous communities in Cauca were assassinated this weekend. (Caracol)

Honduras
  • An Honduran prison inmate who had trafficked drugs with the president's brother was assassinated in October. Nery López Sanabria had started cooperating with the U.S. DEA and Univisión reports on how the murder heightens suspicions that the Hernández administration has benefitted from drug trafficking. Evidence seized from López was key in convicting President Juan Orlando Hernández's brother in New York in October, and JOH was named prominently in the drug trafficking trial. (See Nov. 1's briefing.)
Brazil
  • Two Brazilian indigenous leaders were killed in a drive-by-shooting in Maranhão state. The attack on the members of the Guajajara tribe, which is known for the forest guardians who protect their territory against illegal deforestation, occurred not far from where a prominent tribesman who defended the Amazon rainforest was killed last month, reports the Guardian. The killing forms part of a trend of violent attacks against the country's environmental defenders, see Friday's briefs.
  • Gangs of extremist evangelical Christians are increasingly targeting Brazil’s non-Christian religious minorities -- particularly African-influenced religions like Candomblé, reports the Washington Post.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is strangling the country's film industry, according to the Guardian.
  • Bolsonaro refuses to come to the swearing in of Argentina's new president tomorrow, widening the rift between the close allies. (Washington Post)
Migration
  • Even as the number of Central American migrants attempting to cross the U.S.'s southern border decreased, the number of Mexicans -- many fleeing violence at home -- has increased, reports the New York Times. Their case presents new challenges for U.S. authorities, and experts say that bottlenecks forcing Mexicans to wait for weeks to apply for asylum violates American and international law.
  • The Guardian's Ed Vulliamy returns to the U.S.-Mexico border -for a deep-dive, ten years after writing Amexica. He found it is the site of "a new kind of 21st-century war," where "unspeakable violence" takes place "in places where life goes on and daily encounters were generally a delight."
"Diplomacy"
  • U.S. President Donald Trump suspended a move to designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. Though the paperwork is ready, Trump said he was holding off at the request of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador -- "a man who I like and respect, and has worked so well with us." (New York Times, El País)
  • Among a host of other issues -- like Mexico's economy and security sovereignty -- the whole cartels as terrorist organizations plan ignored the U.S. role in the drug trade, writes Peter Andreas in a Washington Post opinion piece.
  • On a broader level, the Trump administration lacks a clear focus in its Latin American diplomacy, with conflicting messages and policies towards allies and foes alike, according to El País.
  • The European Union's new diplomat-in-chief, Spaniard Josep Borrell, could, counterintuitively forge more unity in the EU by facing up to divisive issues, reports the Guardian. The EU's response to the Venezuela leadership crisis was weakened by lack of unity, an issue that particularly frustrated Borrell this year.
Climate Change
  • The ongoing COP25 meeting was supposed to take place in Chile. Though it was moved due to political unrest, Chile was present everywhere, from the conference's leadership, to protests outside, reports the Guardian.
  • A group of women mayors from Brazilian Amazon localities presented innovative local strategies to combat climate change in a COP25 panel hosted by Instituto Alziras. (Globo)
  • Unicef presented 1,000 actions for change, which features Latin American teens' initiatives to protect the environment locally. (El País)
Protests
  • There is a growing consensus that the unifying theme of Latin America's diverse protests this year is inequality. The privileged classes, are divided among those who understand the need for reform -- Chile and Peru -- and those willing to defend the current system with blood -- Guatemala and Honduras -- according to El País.
Bolivia
  • Former Bolivian president Evo Morales left Mexico for Cuba, the first step in a trip to Argentina, where some observers suspect he will try to stage a comeback, according to the Guardian.
  • In the meantime, Morales' MAS party gathered over the weekend to start choosing its candidates for new elections, to be held next year. Morales is blocked from running again. (Associated Press)
Haiti
  • The spirit of Haiti's founding father -- Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who was killed over 200 years ago -- has become a symbol for the country's current discontent with its government, reports the Guardian. (See Nov. 21's briefs for the Conversation's take on the same topic.)

OAS report found Bolivian vote rigging (Dec. 6, 2019)

The final OAS report on Bolivia's Oct. 20 presidential election described “deliberate” and “malicious” steps to rig the vote in favor of incumbent Evo Morales. The 100 page report, released yesterday, builds on the Nov. 10 preliminary report that indicated irregularities. 

It described “a series of malicious operations," including the use of a hidden computer server designed to tilt the vote toward Morales. Deliberate wrongdoing by election officials, combined with a series of errors and irregularities in the vote count, made it impossible to validate the results, according to the OAS's 36 auditors. They accused Bolivia’s election officials of setting up a “parallel technological scheme” of hidden servers, which permitted the alteration of results and forging of signatures of electoral observers.

(ReutersNew York Times, see yesterday's briefing by Eduardo Romero.)

The newly appointed Bolivian electoral tribunal said it would use the OAS report to carry out adjustments and corrections to the electoral system ahead of next year's presidential election -- for which no date has yet been set, reports La Razón.

News Briefs

More Bolivia
  • Bolivia's interim government is supposed to be a caretaker administration until new elections are held. But interim-president Jeanine Áñez has been reluctant to circumscribe her role, and has undertaken significant foreign policy shifts. International backers, who purport to be concerned about democracy in Bolivia, should push for a more targeted focus, argues a Guardian editorial.
  • Former Bolivian economy minister Luis Arce Catacora joined the ranks of MAS party exiles in Mexico. He asked for political asylum in light of harassment and political persecution under the interim-government and in order to continue health treatments in Brazil in a timely fashion after delays in granting him permission to travel. (La Razón)
  • Evo Morales will be moving to Argentina, to be closer to Bolivia, reports El País.
  • Bolivia is tensely calm, reports Al Jazeera. After weeks of violently repressed protests, people are now awaiting the new electoral process in the midst of a political limbo.
  • Bolivian lawmakers passed a bill guaranteeing full exercise of constitutional rights -- but the interim government promised to veto it, saying it could encourage protesters back onto the streets, reports La Razón.
Brazil
  • Brazilian activists are justifiably concerned that the government seeks to criminalize their activities, reports the Guardian. The fears come in the wake of the arrest of four volunteer firefighters, and a related raid on an Amazonian environmental NGO's offices, last week.
  • The attacks come as environmental defenders, particularly indigenous activists, are increasingly targets of violent attacks perpetrated by loggers, farmers and land-grabbers. A new Igarapé Institute study, documented 2,540 separate violent incidents targeting environmental defenders in Brazil's so-called Legal Amazon. (Americas Quarterly)
Regional Relations
  • Brazil recognized 21,432 Venezuelans as refugees yesterday, a record number that doubles the amount of asylums granted since 1997, reports El País.
  • A populist is a populist, regardless of ideological leanings, for the Economist, which draws parallels between Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro -- their styles and the difficulties they face after a year in office.
Mexico
  • U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr met with AMLO yesterday -- the high-level meeting occurred in the middle of intense disagreement between the two countries over a U.S. proposal to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. But both sides downplayed the issue after yesterday's meeting, reports the Washington Post. But even if the Trump administration doesn't follow through with the terrorist organization designation, AMLO will likely have to accept greater U.S. involvement in Mexican security affairs, according to experts.
  • Drug cartels aren't the only criminal organization in Mexico -- a little discussed Cartel del Mar trades in the endangered totoaba fishes' swim bladder, worth more per kilo than cocaine. The cost of ignoring the illegal trade, which threatens to finish off the vaquita porpoise, could have significant economic costs for Mexican fishers, argues Carlos Loret de Mola A.  in the Post Opinión.
Migration
  • Three key facts salient to the migration debate in the U.S. have received insufficient attention, according to Michael Clemens and Jimmy Graham at the Center for Global Development. Demographic shifts will ease pressure from Northern Triangle migrants within a decade, they write. But, in the meantime, work visas are a powerful -- and underused -- tool for border enforcement. And aid can help mitigate migration drivers, but is, by no means, a quick fix, they warn.
  • U.S. detentions of pregnant women for immigration violations increased 52 percent last year. Approximately 2,100 pregnant women were detained, after federal officials terminated an Obama administration order to release most expectant mothers because of health concerns. (Washington Post)
  • Barriers (to avoid the whole wall polemic) being built along the U.S.-Mexico border will do little to stop humans from crossing, but will be devastating to wildlife and local ecosystems, warns former Border Patrol agent Francisco Cantú in a New York Times op-ed.
El Salvador
  • Gangs influence every facet of life in El Salvador, one of the deadliest places in the world outside of a war zone, according to Foreign Policy. Though the murder rate dropped significantly this year, violence remains a key migration push factor.
Suriname
  • Surinamese President Desi Bouterse's recent conviction for murdering 15 political foes in 1982 is unlikely to thwart the leader's hold on power, reports the Economist. (See Monday's briefs.)
Chile
  • Human Rights Watch strongly defended its recent report on Chilean police violence against protesters, after the Carabineros questioned the group's findings.
Haiti
  • It's been nearly a decade since a massive earthquake ravaged Haiti and killed an estimated 316,000 people. But the effects of the episode continue affect the country, and underly the causes of the current political crisis, reports Americas Quarterly.
Argentina
  • Argentine president-elect Alberto Fernández announced his incoming cabinet for next week. A 37-year-old disciple of Joseph Stiglitz, Martín Guzmán, will be the head of an economic ministry tasked with renegotiating a massive IFM debt, reports El País.
  • A young feminist activist in Argentina played an outsize role in pushing gender neutral Spanish, which has become increasingly institutionalized in the country, despite strong backlash from language purists, reports the Washington Post.
  • Argentina's judiciary is fatally skewed towards whoever holds the government -- outgoing President Mauricio Macri will likely face a slew of court cases involving him and former government ministers. Incoming president Alberto Fernández could break the vicious cycle with a comprehensive reform, but a revamped justice would have to show impartiality by investigating across the political board, writes Hugo Alconada Mon in a New York Times Español op-ed. Timing is, apparently, everything.
  • Pola Oloixarac critiques former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's personal brand of Evita-flavored feminism in a New York Times op-ed
Human Rights -- symbolically
  • A mural in Miami by Brazilian artist Panmela Castro depicting Rio de Janeiro police abusing a protester was painted over after local police complained that it was offensive. (Guardian)
  • Amazon has come under fire for selling T-shirts glorifying the “death flights” of Chile’s military dictatorship -- again. (Guardian)
Feminism
  • A Chilean protest song -- A Rapist in Your Path -- has become a viral feminist anthem around the world, reports the Guardian. The song was written by Latesis, a feminist theatre group based in the city of Valparaíso, who credited Chile’s women protesters for helping spread the work around the world. (Video for those who want to join in.)

Today is an evening edition due to work-related travel -- hours back to normal next week. Thank you to Eduardo Romero for his excellent work with the briefing in my absence!

Migrations & In/Stabilities in the Region (Dec 5, 2019)

News Briefs

MIGRATIONS
  • Venezuelan youth in BrazilVenezuelan children are fleeing to Brazil on their own twhere they are finding inadequate protection, according to the Brazilian Federal Public Defender’s Office and reported on by Human Rights Watch. About 90% of the 500 kids are between ages 13 and 17. "The total number is most likely higher, as some children may not stop at the border post where the public defenders conduct their interviews. No system exists to track and support unaccompanied children after their entry interview."
  • Venezuelans in BoliviaVenezuelans who migrated to Bolivia live in additional fear with the new political climate and the growing xenophobia that targets them, according to DIario Las Américas. Many are opting to keep migrating to places "where there is no conflict" like Paraguay.
  • Haitians in BarbadosHaitian migrants face deportation and stigma in hurricane-ravaged Bahamas, writes Bertin Louis in The Conversation. Louis is the author of a 2014 academic book on the two islands.
  • Climate crisis forces unintended migrations with ill consequences in gender equality, writes Nitya Rao in The Conversation. "In a recent study, we found that extreme weather and unpredictable seasons disproportionately weaken the agency of women to find well paid work and rise above rigid gender roles, even when these appear to be bending after decades of reform and activism."
IN/STABILITY IN THE REGION
  • USA Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a little-noticed speech on Monday titled, Diplomatic Realism, Restraint, and Respect in Latin America, where he said, "we in the Trump administration will continue to support countries trying to prevent Cuba and Venezuela from hijacking those protests. And we’ll work with legitimate governments to prevent protests from morphing into riots and violence that don’t reflect the democratic will of the people. And we’ll be vigilant too. Vigilant that new democratic leaders don’t exploit people’s frustrations to take power, to hijack the very democracy that got them there." (the quote is near the end of his text). VOA News emphasized his predictions on Maduro's government while Al-Jazeera his comments on Cuba.
  • Brazil, Mexico and Argentina seem to be avoiding any social disruption unlike developments seen in Chile, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador, according to an analysis by Bloomberg. The article suggests that all three had elections in the past year and their populations are now "waiting for results."
  • Are Latin America's generals considering a return to governing, asks  Mac Margolis in his Bloomberg column. (He was a long-time Newsweek reporter in the region.) He suggests that the presidents in Peru and Ecuador have "leaned" on their military recently; reminds that Brazil's Bolsonaro, is "a former army captain packed his cabinet with decorated retired generals"; and that generals clearly provoked the recent changes in Bolivia. In a follow-up tweet, Margolis says, "What’s in play today in Brazil and its neighbors is not a return to martial rule, but the parlous state of democracy, and lingering doubts over whether elected leaders can meet expectations of a demanding public without ringing for backup."
BOLIVIA 
  • On Wednesday, the Organization of American States released their final report on the 2019 Bolivian elections. The 38 authors find that there was "intentional manipulation" and "serious irregularities" that make it "impossible to validate the results originally issued by the Bolivian electoral authorities". (See press releaseTable of ContentsReutersBBC
  • The Wall Street Journal goes back to analyze the growing rifts former president Evo Morales had with his military chiefs, a combination of leftist ideology by the ex-president and demands for raises in police salaries and pensions by the latter. The article notes that Morales was the Bolivia’s "only elected president to perform obligatory military service."
BRAZIL UPS & DOWNS
  • A swath of jungle nearly the size of Lebanon has been been razed in the past year in the Brazilian Amazon - "the highest loss in a decade" - according to a report in New York Times accompanied by haunting video, photographs and graphics. "The environmental criminals feel more and more empowered," says Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist with the University of São Paulo.
  • Brazil’s economy is growing at the "fastest pace" in the last year and a half, and "appears to be leaving behind years of sluggish growth that followed its worst recession on record," according to the Wall Street Journal.
COLOMBIA 
  • National strikes started up again on Wednesday in Colombia's major cities, according to the BBC. The organzing committee has presented a list of 13 demands to Preside Duque including better access to education and promises the pension age will not be raised.
  • Pulzo follows up on 18-year-old Dilan Cruz, killed by police in the Nov 23 strike in Bogota. A five-minute video identifies the policeman (not by name) who fired the shot. The video was compiled by La Liga Contra el Silencio, Cerosetenta, Newsy and Bellingcat. 
  • Ex-FARC participants "may be allying themselves" with Brazil’s Red Command, according to Las 2 Orrillas. Together they seem to have access to financial resourses and weapons.
HONDURAS 
  • The military program 'Guardianes de la Patria' has a lethal mix of God, country and children and has now included 12% of the population., according to Contra Corriente. (The quote is: "A lo largo de 17 años, el programa ha abarcado aproximadamente el 12% de la población infantil de Honduras.") The program has allowed the Armed Forces to whitewash some actions, permitted churches (including Protestants) to engage directly in schools. The report includes a one-minute video created by the program that explains their impact in their own words. The Honduran military has additional information from 2018 on their website.
MEXICO
  • Mexico's former presidents Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto helped a dozen major international companies evade taxes of up to 5 billion Mexican pesos (over US$250 million), according to a report from FUNDAR, reported by El Proceso and El Financiero. The report names businesses (Hewlett Packard and Volkswagen) as well as members of the business elite.
VENEZUELA
  • A new poll shows that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and President Nicolas Maduro are in a statistical tie (10 and 9%), according to the Miami Herald. Though that poll from Meganálisis is the focus of the story, the article also reported that that "Delphos issued a survey giving Guaidó an approval rating of about 45 percent." Meganálisis, the Herald insists, "has been around for years and has been relatively accurate with its predictions in the past." (See full Meganálisis poll; email me if you have trouble downloading it).
  • USA policy on Venezuela is ‘incoherent’, writes former Amb. Frank McNeil in his letter to the editor in the Miami Herald. McNeil was ambassador to Costa Rica.
  • New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof shares more of his recent visit to Venezuela. "Development experts worry even more about the lifelong effect of malnutrition on the developing brain, fearing that the result will be a generation that is at a perpetual cognitive disadvantage."
  • A report shows the torture endured by a friend of Óscar Pérez, the Venezluelan pilot who tried to rebel in 2018, according to Infobae. Alonso José Mora Alfonzo was detained in april of 2018 and is still imprisoned. 
END OF THE DECADE
  • America's Quarterly decides not to go with an end of the year review but rather "a look back at the decade's biggest stories, and why they really mattered." The first two they have cited: Dilma's impeachment in Brazil and Haiti's earthquake.

(I am substituting for Jordana who returns us to our regular programming.)

Civic Groups Respond to Bolsonaro (Dec. 4, 2019)

News Briefs

Environment
·  Pact for Democracy‘s (Pacto Pela Democracia) conference call yesterday denounced the Bolsonaro government’s “persecution of activists, academics and scientists,” as well as volunteer fire fighters and personalities like Leonardo DiCaprio, according to the Associated Press. One nonprofit leader said that the “incendiary rhetoric has created a climate of terror” meant he no longer can sleep at home. The identical AP story in Spanish has a headline that ramps things up: “Guerra de Bolsonaro con las ONG.”
·   On Monday, the same coalition convened an event in São Paulo on the survival of Brazilian democracy according to the Folha do São Paulo.
·   Pact for Demoracy brings together a wide variety of groups from Avina and Ethos to World Wildlife Fund and World Vision.  

Regional Relations / Trade
·   The Trump administration is set to Brazil and Argentina with tariffs on steel and aluminum, Washington Post. “Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies. which is not good for our farmers. Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the Tariffs on all Steel & Aluminum from those countries,” according to a Trump tweet.
·   The USA named six more tankers shipping oil from Venezuela to Cuba as “blocked property according to the Miami Herald. The ships were using third country flags.

Immigration to the USA
·   An in-depth investigation on immigration into the USA through Mexico finds that “ nearly half of those who are in the country unlawfully actually entered with permission,” that is, with visas, according to the New York Times. Curiously, the version in English uses ‘undocumented immigrants’ while the Spanish version uses ‘illegal immigrants’.  The largest number of “overstayers”: are from Mexico followed by China, Venezuela, the Philippines, Brazil and Colombia. Back to language: number of times a version of ‘illegal’ is used in Spanish version: 16; number in English version: 5.
·   Some border crossings along the Mexico / USA border had five-hour waits on Monday, “causing concerns among local officials whose tax base relies on Mexican shoppers, especially during the holiday season,” according to the Associated Press.
·   Two Hondurans and one Salvadoran were sent Guatemala after seeking asylum in the United States on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

Chile / Peru
·      A 6.0 earthquake rumbled along under the sea Tuesday morning, 20 miles off the coast of the border of Chile and Peru, according to the Associated Press.

Colombia
·    Colombia today has the third general strike in two weeks, in part a response to President Duque’s paquetazo, according to El País.

El Salvador
·      El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele is in Beijing and signed a “gigantic, non-refundable cooperation… to build several major infrastructure projects in El Salvador including a stadium and water treatment plant,” according to Reuters. El Salvador recently cut ties with Taiwan. Agence France Press has a headline that sums it up:  it better in their headline: China gifts El Salvador stadium, library after Taiwan switch

Mexico
· President Trump’s labeling the cartels could backfire, according to New York Times’ columnist Ioan Grillo. Peru’s President Belaunde tried that in the early 1980s with the Shining Path with ill-intended consequences. “One of the toughest challenges for officials would be figuring out exactly which cartels to label as terrorists and what to call them.”
· President Lopez Obrador will strengthen the cooperation with the United States with respect to “the flow of arms and dollars" after meetings this week with U.S. Attorney General William Barr. according to Reuters.

Venezuela
·  Spains’ former president Felipe Gonzáles sees a common thread in Latin American crises and even connects it to crises elsewhere, in a wide ranging interview tin El País. He calls Venezuela’s Maduro a tyrant who has forced a quarter of his population to emigrate and predicts Maduro won’t last much longer.

The Globalization of Art & Food
·      Colombia’s conceptual artist Oscar Murillo was one of four co-winners of the shared Turner Prize, “Britain's most high-profile contemporary art award”, according to the BBC and The Guardian. Murillo’s work is a “congregation of human effigies staring at a black curtain covering a window overlooking the sea.” The Guardian profiled the artist in June; Murillo now lives in London and so qualifies as “an artist working primarily in Britain.”
·      Karime López is the first Mexican woman to receive a Michelin star, according to Washington Post Opinión. She is chef at Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, in Florence, Italy.

Colombia's Escobars Go TelCom
·       Pablo Escobar’s family in Colombia is switching from drugs to telecommunications, according to the tabloid New York Post. "Car-Tel: Escobar now in the Phone Biz: Cell [Phones] are the New Cocaine’, says the colorful cover story. The article appears to have started in the British press like The Daily MailThe Sun.


(I am substituting for the inimitable Jordana who will return by weeks' end.)