Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Haitians in U.S. granted temporary reprieve, warned to get affairs in order (May 23, 2017)

News Briefs
  • The Trump administration granted a stay of reprieve for about 58,000 Haitians living in the U.S. under temporary protected status. The program permitted Haitians to live and work in the U.S. in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake. Yesterday the Department of Homeland Security announced the program would be extended through next January, but warned people to "get their affairs in order," reports the BBC. "This six-month extension should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States, and should also provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced. An internal government memo recommended ending the scheme in January, though lawmakers and activists say conditions on the ground in Haiti are not adequate for the migrants to return. The issue became the focus of social media and letter writing campaigns across the U.S., reports the Miami Herald. Though the extension was welcomed, it's too short a time period to give migrants reasonable security, said advocates. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Observers expected Trump to announce his administration's Cuba policy this weekend, but the approach has yet to be finalized. Instead Trump spoke on Saturday, the country's 115th anniversary, promising to work for a Cuban government that respects democracy and civil liberties, reports the Miami Herald. The Cuban government, which does not consider the anniversary relevant, lashed out, calling the message "controversial" and "ridiculous," reports the Miami Herald separately. In the meantime, Cuban diplomats in the U.S. are on the road around the country seeking local allies against a potential return to combative relations, reports the Miami Herald in another piece.
  • Central America's rampant street gangs -- behind much of the violence spurring massive illicit migration towards the U.S. -- are commonly believed to be a result of U.S. deportations in the 1980s. Now U.S. authorities feel migrants, specifically unaccompanied minors, are bringing the problem back to the U.S., where there are increasing reports of gang violence in areas where Salvadoran immigrants live. But experts question the "mano dura" approach that would round-up and deport gang members again -- pointing to failing safety nets that push kids towards gangs, writes Sarah Maslin in a Vice feature.
  • Another feature in The Intercept on a deported Salvadoran man separated from his family in Houston. "After 17 years in Houston, [José] Escobar became one of more than 40,000 people arrested for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement between January and May under President Trump’s “bad hombres” pledge. But Escobar, like nearly 11,000 others who were arrested, had no criminal record. He was a prominent member of the local community, and his wife and children are U.S. citizens."
  • A Colombian Constitutional Court ruling last week would permit lawmakers to modify laws or reforms required by the peace accord with the FARC, potentially permitting opponents to sabotage the agreement's implementation, reports InSight Crime. (See last Friday's briefs.) The first law facing Congress that could be affected by the decision is one creating special peace constituencies in 16 areas of the country that lacked legal representation because of the conflict, reports la Silla Vacía.
  • The FARC's weapons are now words. A Silla Vacía feature looks at how former fighters are reaching out to dissidents who won't lay down arms, seeking to convince them through dialogue.
  • Venezuelan Chief State Prosecutor Luisa Ortega criticized a government plan to convene a Constituent Assembly, a lone voice of dissidence, reports Reuters. "Instead of bringing stability or generating a climate of peace, I think this will accelerate the crisis," she said, mentioning it would heighten uncertainty and alter the "unbeatable" constitution launched under late leader Hugo Chavez.
  • Protesters set fire to late President Hugo Chavez’s childhood home in western Venezuela yesterday, reports the Associated Press.
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer now wants a Supreme Court investigation against him for obstruction of justice and corruption to continue. Over the weekend he asked for the probe to be shelved, but now says the evidence has been manipulated and a full investigation will clear his name, reports the BBC
  • (See yesterday's post.) "I will not resign. Oust me if you want, but if I stepped down, I would be admitting guilt," Temer said in an interview with Folha de S. Paulo. Chief Justice Carmen Lucia ruled on yesterday that the court would not take up the recording issue until Brazil's federal police finished their examination of the tape and determined if it had been edited, possibly making it inadmissible as evidence in the investigation, reports Reuters. (See last Thursday's and Friday's posts.)
  • Wondering how the political scandal might end? Temer could be forced out through five ways, including impeachment, electoral court and massive protests, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Shares in the JBS meat processing giant at the heart of the latest Brazilian corruption scandal dropped 31 percent yesterday, after Brazilian authorities announced an investigation into potential insider trading and Moody's downgraded the company rating, reports the Financial Times. (See yesterday's post.)
  • About 500 armed Brazilian police officers led a crackdown in São Paulo's Cracolândia, in which about 40 people were arrested. Dozens of locals reacted in anger, vandalizing shops and burning cars, reports the BBC. Mayor João Doria said the operation is a blow against impunity, but critics say it will push drugs problems to other parts of the city.
  • Megadams around Latin America, but especially in Brazil are a subject of intense controversy. Proponents argue they're a critical source o renewable energy, while critics say "an unaccountable industry, encouraged by governments to steamroll over environmental and human rights laws, and sweep aside evidence of ecological damage, has worked with dictators and corrupt governments to destroy vast swaths of forest and ruin livelihoods, penalizing people who live in the world’s untouched regions where rivers are most suitable to be dammed," reports the Guardian.
  • Former Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said on Monday that neither he nor his party received campaign contributions from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, reports EFE.
  • Corruption is very much in vogue in Latin America, but are struggles against entrenched political corruption equal opportunity? A piece in Equal Times explores whether female leaders and certain parties are singled out more than their counterparts.
  • Curbing illegal financial flows -- tax dodging -- "could revolutionize and dramatically transform the story and history of development. And it would certainly be one of the best sources of financing for development which is the big thing," argues Ecuadoran foreign minister Guillaume Long in an interview with IPS.
  • The narrative that NAFTA has moved manufacturing jobs from the U.S. to Mexico is a myth. Rather the deal "has played a supportive rather than a transformational role in its member economies," argues a Financial Times editorial. "But its importance in building valuable cross-border supply chains means that trying to amend the pact to return jobs to the US would be counterproductive."
  • Asia-Pacific trade ministers have agreed to resuscitate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) without the U.S., reports the BBC. The representatives also agreed to help the US rejoin the deal at any time.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri returned from an China tour with 16 agreements worth at least US$17 billion in areas such as energy and transport infrastructure, reports Mecropress.
  • Cannabis activists in Chile are urging patients with chronic pain to grow their own marijuana plants for medical use, despite occupying a legal gray area, reports Reuters.

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