Friday, February 24, 2017

Mexican officials angered by Washington double-speak (Feb. 24, 2017)

A high level U.S. visit to Mexico, intended as a bridge-building exercise, was severely undermined by U.S. President Donald Trump's strong defense of a polemic plan to deport undocumented immigrants yesterday.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly were in Mexico City, a trip intended to emphasize common interests and assuage Mexican fears of mass deportations and unilateral moves. They were already on difficult ground after the U.S. unveiled a contentious immigration policy that appeared to direct officials to deport undocumented immigrants to Mexico, regardless of their country of origin. (See yesterday's and Wednesday's posts.) 

But the U.S. officials were further hamstrung by Trump's remarks at a business forum in Washington yesterday, where he defended deportations saying the U.S. deportations are targeting "really bad dudes."

"We’re going to have a good relationship with Mexico I hope," Trump said, according to the Wall Street Journal. "And if we don’t, we don’t."

Mexican officials reacted poorly to the discrepancy between the promises of cooperation from the envoys and the bluster back home. While they assured Mexicans there would be no mass deportations and the military would not be involved in the process, Trump spoke of ejecting "really bad dudes out of this country at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before ... And it’s a military operation because they’re allowed to come into our country." (The White House later said he used the term military as an adjective, to indicate the operation is precise.)

Gabriela Cuevas, the head of the Mexican Senate’s foreign relations committee said the juxtaposition made her doubt Tillerson and Kelly's sincerity, according to the WSJ.

Yesterday Mexico’s economy minister, Idelfonso Guajardo, suggested the meeting between the U.S. secretaries and President Enrique Peña Nieto would not occur, though eventually it did.

Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray rejected the U.S. deportation proposal as unilateral and said it would be a "long road" to reach an agreement with the U.S. He suggested in talks with legislators later, that Mexico would be willing to enter a trade war, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Such an attitude is a sharp departure from the conciliatory stance taken by the Mexican government until recently, and seems to indicate a tougher approach to Trump's "diplomacy," reports the Guardian. Though the case is murky, Mexican media has seized on it as an example of reactions to the new deportation policy, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In a press conference alongside the U.S. officials yesterday, Videgaray emphasized the anger and “irritation” that Mr. Trump’s policies and statements have caused among Mexicans, notes the WSJ.

The staging of the comments to reporters itself was startling, according to the New York Times. "Four officials — two from Mexico and two from the United States — walked into a large ballroom with grim faces and made carefully worded comments without taking any questions. It was the kind of cautious staging normally seen after tough negotiations between adversaries, not talks between friendly neighbors. No one suggested that a breakthrough had been made."

A Mexican man killed himself near the Tijauana-San Diego border crossing, hours after being deported, reports the Guardian.

The New York Times piece analyzes the chips in the upcoming NAFTA renegotiations between Mexico and the U.S., to which Mexico is seeking to also tie security and immigration cooperation. While Mexico's economy is dependent on NAFTA enabled manufacturing, Mexico is in turn a major purchaser of U.S. agricultural products, notes the piece.

Mexico also deported hundreds of thousands of Central Americans attempting to reach the U.S., and plays a key role in fighting and sharing intelligence on drug smuggling, most in transit towards the U.S.


Amnesty denounces increasing violations and repression in LatAm

Amnesty International's new report on human right around the world last year is out.

"... the Americas remained one of the world’s most violent and unequal regions. Across the region, the year was marked by a trend of anti-rights, racial and discriminatory rhetoric in political campaigns and by state officials, which was accepted and normalized by mainstream media," reads the Americas Regional Overview, which points to "waves of repression" that "became more visible and violent, with states frequently misusing their justice and security apparatus to ruthlessly respond to and crush dissent, and increasing public discontent."

"Failures of justice systems – together with states’ failure to implement public security policies that protect human rights – contributed to high levels of violence. Countries such as Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Venezuela had the highest homicide rates on the planet." The report also singles out the femicide problem as well as increasing levels of violence against LGBT individuals.

Other topics include:
  • REFUGEES, MIGRANTS AND STATELESS PEOPLE: "Central America was the source of a rapidly worsening refugee crisis. Relentless violence in this often forgotten part of the world continued to cause a surge in asylum applications from Central American citizens in Mexico, the USA and other countries, reaching levels not seen since most of the region’s armed conflicts ended decades ago."
As well as country by country reports.

News Briefs
  • Trump's new immigration policy, which potentially makes any undocumented immigrant eligible for deportation, could destroy El Salvador's remittance dependent economy, especially the safety net money sent by immigrants gives to the country's poorest, reports Ioan Grillo in TIME.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski will become the first Latin American president to visit Trump today. And he plans to use the opportunity to tell the U.S. leader how his policies are alienating the region, according to the Associated Press. Kuczynski, a U.S. educated former Wall Street banker has become the unlikely Latin American leader against Trump's "America First" position.
  • 80 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia last year, more than any other year of President Juan Manuel Santos' government, according to a new report by Somos Defensores. The report points a finger at increased paramilitary activity in the wake of a peace deal with the FARC, reports TeleSUR, which says the count is conservative compared to other estimates that point to 125 murders.
  • Colombian prosecutors froze $98 million worth of buildings, land and assets belonging to the FARC, reports AFP.
  • It's a bit early in the year for statistics, but femicides in the region appear to be on the rise in 2017, reports TeleSUR.
  • Guatemala's army said it has presidential orders to  block the activities of a Dutch non-profit "abortion boat" docked on its shores, reports the BBC. Abortion is illegal in Guatemala except to save a woman's life. Women on Waves, offers free abortion services to women in countries where the procedure is banned and says more than 60,000 illegal abortions are performed in Guatemala every year.
  • Odebrecht donated more than $3 million to former Peruvian President Ollanta Humala's campaign 2011, according to testimony from a former exec at the Brazilian construction giant, reports EFE.
  • A bill aimed at reducing Amazon conservation areas in Brazil seems to be related to mining proposals to exploit those areas, according to the World Wildlife Fund, reports Reuters.
  • China continued to lend heavily to Venezuela last year, but less than in previous years, according to a new report from  the Inter-American Dialogue and Boston University. Extremely high inflation combined with political and economic instability to cool Chinese lending, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Argentine opposition lawmakers filed a suit against President Mauricio Macri, alleging airline routes were unfairly allocated to a company controlled by his family, reports AFP.
  • Hotel prices in Cuba, which soared after the U.S. relaxed a travel ban on Americans, are coming back down, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Brazilians are inaugurating a particularly politicized Carnival season, with party goers addressing everything from Trump's border wall to calls for Brazilian President Michel Temer to step down, reports the Guardian.

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