Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, April 29, 2015

Displacing the migrant deportations South

U.S. deportation of unaccompanied minors went down drastically this year. "Only" 12,509 thousand from October of last year to February 2015, down from 21,402 over the same period last year, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. However the drop is mirrored by a huge increase in Mexican deportations: they increased deportations of Central American children traveling without accompaniment by 56 percent during the first five months of the fiscal year.

Pushed by the U.S., Mexico has stepped up migration law enforcement, reports the New York Times, with raids on freight trains migrants use to ride north and more frequent checks on hotels and vehicles.

Animal Politico has an in-depth investigation into the Mexican migrant crackdown: "Programa Frontera Sur: una cacería de migrantes." Though the government's program is meant to "protect" migrants traveling through Mexico, on the ground its a hunt to deport undocumented migrants.  The uptick in security checkpoints, massive raids and the closing off of a freight train route popularly used by migrants has forced them to take increasingly treacherous routes that make them easy prey for criminals and police abuse, according to the investigation.

Earlier this month WOLA published a similar report on deportation rates, and observed that the Mexican policy might be sending thousands of people right back to the violent threats they were trying to escape in Central America. "The humanitarian consequences could be severe." As the report notes, making it harder to migrate does not address the reasons people have for migrating in the first place, it just makes their choices more harrowing.

News Briefs

  • Guatemala's tax authority (SAT) dismissed the customs authority yesterday, in the midst of a high-level corruption scandal that led to 21 arrests earlier this month and is threatening the government's political standing, reports EFE. Of course, the problem is not limited to politicians. President Otto Molina noted yesterday that evasion of sales tax is at 40 percent in Guatemala, while about 60 percent of people don't pay their income taxes.
  • Ecuador is battling its own tax evasion problem with a policy of forgiving interest and penalties for debt owed to its Internal Revenue service, according to the Wall Street Journal. The proposed measure aims to raise at least $500 million from the move, which could favor 1.9 million tax payers, including some large companies.
  • Colombia's Defense Minister says the country will continue to use glyphosate aerial sprayings on illegal coca plantations until the president orders otherwise, according to EFE. The Health Ministry recommended the immediate suspension of the herbicide -- cornerstone of U.S. financed eradication policies -- in light of a World Health Organization finding that it is probably carcinogenic. (See yesterday's post.) The disagreement between the two ministries exposes internal rifts over how to conduct the war on drugs, according to the Wall Street Journal's analysis. The piece quotes WOLA's Adam Isacson who says the WHO's report caused widespread concern in Colombia, where some 4.3 million acres have been sprayed with glyphosate over the past 20 years. Though coca field cultivation has fallen drastically since 2000, when the U.S. launched a broad narco-trafficking and left-wing insurgency combat initiative, critics say the fumigation has damaged legitimate food crops and made people sick.
  • Al Jazeera has a piece on journalist murders in Guatemala: six reporters have been killed since 2006 (two last month), and there are increasing reports to the prosecutors office of threats (74 last year). Local media in Guatemala are increasingly self-censoring out of fear of reprisal from drug clans and local politicians, according to the piece.
  • Despite pleas for clemency and international diplomatic pressure, Indonesia executed 8 peoplecondemned of drug trafficking yesterday, including one Brazilian citizen. The Indonesian government is applying draconian anti-trafficking laws, and facing severe diplomatic criticism from countries around the world. However, though Brazil recalled its ambassador over a similar execution in January, the country is wary of jeopardizing valuable defense contracts, according to Reuters.
  • Greece should think twice about following Argentina's debt defaulting example, argues Uki Goñi in the New York Times. He counters arguments by economists such as Nouriel Roubini, saying that the 2001 sovereign debt default was a disaster, citing pot-banging protests and frozen bank accounts. Widespread poverty and barter clubs became the norm, he writes. Oddly enough, he fails to note that all of these situations preceed the default, and are arguably the byproduct of the preceding economic policies.
  • The U.S.'s $1 billion aid plan for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (Plan for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle) is misguided and could worsen the problems its supposed to solve, argues Lauren Carasik in an op-ed on Al Jazeera. "If Washington is prepared to commit resources to ameliorating bleak conditions in the region, it should ditch past policy approaches that have only fueled inequality and violence and instead develop a comprehensive plan in consultation with the marginalized groups most directly affected by insecurity and poverty," she says. Her piece echoes the letter 80 civil society groups sent to Obama and the Northern Triangle presidents earlier this month, positing that the plan's large-scale projects in marginalized communities replicate the economic policies that have already led to vast inequality, jeopardized workers' rights and forced migration.
  • Nine Petrobras executives accused of involvement in an alleged graft scheme will be released from jail, reports the Wall Street Journal. The freed executives will be under house arrest, and must be removed from the management of companies involved in the case.
  • The Unasur Secretary General, Ernesto Samper offered official backing of Argentina's demand for territorial sovereignty of the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands, under British rule since 1833. Samper noted that the U.K. is ignoring over 40 U.N. General Assembly resolutions ordering negotiations on the subject and voiced concern regarding increased U.K. military spending in the region.
  • The Uruguayan Foreign Ministry is negotiating with four ex-Guantanamo prisoners, who have camped out in front of the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo demanding financial support from the country that imprisoned them for over a decade. The men are refusing to sign an agreement with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees that would provide housing and a subsidy for a year in exchange for a commitment on their part to study Spanish and take care of their health, reports EFE. Their lawyer says they are unfamiliar with the proposed agreement, due to social and linguistic barriers and a lack of judicial assistance when they were accepted as refugees to Uruguay.
  • A U.S. court decision last week determined that U.S. authorities who kill Mexican nationals on the other side of the border will not be held accountable in U.S. courts. Guinevere E. Moore protests in a Guardian op-ed that such a policy means "open season" on the border. 
  • Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said he received satisfactory explanations in the case of alleged Chilean spying, and that the two countries will now renew normal diplomatic relations.
  • Pope Francis might live in Rome, but he can still crack jokes about his Argentine compatriots -- namely their famous egos. In a chat with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correas, the Pope joked that his compatriots were surprised that he had chosen to call himself Francis I, since, “being Argentine, they thought I would call myself Jesus II,” reports the New York Times. Earlier this month he joked to a Mexican television reporter: “Do you know how an Argentine kills himself?” When she said no, the pope replied, “He climbs up on his ego, and then throws himself down!”

No comments:

Post a Comment