Monday, August 14, 2017

Haitian asylum seekers complicate Canadian gov't (Aug. 11, 2017)

Canadian authorities are building a 500 person camp at the border with New York State to accommodate asylum seekers fearful of deportation from the U.S., reports the Guardian. As many as 250 migrants a day have arrived in Montreal in recent weeks, adding to the more than 3,300 asylum seekers who crossed into the province in the first six months of the year. Most of those crossing into Canada in recent days are Haitians who have been living in the US for years, according to Canadian officials. (See Aug. 4's post.) 

The migrants are taking advantage of a loophole in an agreement between Canada and the U.S. that allows them to apply for asylum if they don't arrive at a legal port of entry. But the influx is putting the Canadian government in a difficult spot, as it attempts to balance a narrative about compassion towards refugees with a strict immigration system, reports the New York Times. While Haitians are concerned that the U.S. will end an immigration program providing them with protected status, Canada itself lifted a similar program in 2014, and there's no guarantee that the Haitians will be allowed to stay. 

News Briefs
  • Around the region, there is a judicial onslaught against current and former leaders accused of corruption and other crimes. InSight Crime has a comprehensive roundup, from Guatemala's Otto Pérez Molina to Argentina's Carlos Menem.
  • Odebrecht SA, the Brazilian corruption giant pops up constantly in regional news about corruption, implicating very high level officials in a slew of countries."InSight Crime takes a deep dive into the nature of Odebrecht's corrupt activities in Latin America, the extent of its illicit practices, the state of the various ongoing investigations into the company and its projects, and the web of corruption that continues to engulf some of the region's most powerful political elites."
  • Argentina's government offered a reward for information about the whereabouts of a missing activist, a day after a United Nations committee said the disappearance required urgent official action, reports the Guardian. Santiago Maldonado was last seen when security forces evicted a group of Mapuche Indians from lands in Patagonia owned by Benetton about 10 days ago.
  • Argentines will vote in primaries for mid-term elections this Sunday. Because most candidates are running unopposed within their party, the primary effectively becomes an unofficial first round or giant poll, providing a strong indication of who the eventual winner will be, explains Bloomberg. Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is running for Senator of the Buenos Aires province, and a good showing could portend a presidential comeback in 2019. The campaign has also become a measure of voter support for President Mauricio Macri's economic program focused on reducing costs and business-friendly reforms. Fernández enjoys enthusiastic backing from the province's poorest inhabitants, which contains almost 40 per cent of the national electorate, notes the Financial Times. While she has framed the election as an opportunity to reject Macri's austerity measures, he is emphasizing that her return to politics will jeopardize the country's market stability, reports InfoBAE.
  • Salvadoran Defense Minister David Munguía Payés testified that a gang truce between 2012 and 2014 was a state policy of violence prevention, reports El Diario de Hoy. He said the idea stemmed from an advisor, Raúl Mijango, and was approved by then-President Mauricio Funes. Eighteen officials are on trial, accused of illicit activity in relation to the truce, explained InSight Crime earlier this week. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • El Faro has a photo essay on the experience of one former gang member, Raúl Valladares, who spent about 15 years as a member of Barrio-18. He became an Evangelical Christian and is determined to leave behind his criminal history, but reinsertion is no easy task.
  • Mexico's ruling PRI party decided yesterday to allow non-members to vie for the party's presidential ticket. The move is expected to benefit Finance Minister José Antonio Meade who could attempt to represent the party in next year's election. The PRI is plagued by scandal and needs a fresh face to attract independent voters in what promises to be a close election, reports the Wall Street Journal. Polls show leftist nationalist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leader of the Morena party, as the early front-runner among possible candidates for next July’s election.
  • Most of Venezuela's opposition parties plan to participate in upcoming regional elections, though they maintain that the country is under a dictatorship. The decision has proved controversial, and could divide the MUD opposition coalition, reports the Miami Herald. María Corina Machado head of the Vente Venezuela political movement said the decision to participate will help "normalize" a "dictatorship," and announced her party's withdrawal from the coalition. Others, such as Leopoldo López's Voluntad Popular agreed that the elections are an attempt to distract from the country's crisis, but said that it had agreed to field candidates, including political prisoners, "in a clear message of resistance, solidarity and as a permanent reminder that we are living under a dictatorship."
  • Earlier this week the New York Times made the case that Venezuela's military unity might be cracking and that a rebellion could be in the works. (See Tuesday's briefs.) But the small signs of rebellion don't add up to an actual schism, argues InSight Crime. Rather the increasing divide between dissident Chavistas and government loyalists might be more relevant.
  • Ousted attorney general Luisa Ortega, a leading dissident Chavista figure, is forging ahead with her work. While it is likely to be ignored in Venezuela, she could take data on human rights violations and corruption charges to international courts, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • A diplomatic spat between Cuba and the U.S. -- involving severe hearing loss due to some sort of sonic device and the expulsion of other diplomats -- seems more appropriate for the 1960s than current times, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs.) "Anti-Castro elements of the U.S. government, including Republicans from Miami, are capitalizing on the latest news as a sign that Havana cannot be trusted, even though it isn’t clear yet that the Cuban government tried to harm U.S. diplomats."
  • Shame and fear are silencing hundreds of indigenous people, including children, across Ecuador who are trafficked each year, reports Reuters. Most are forced into sex work, and fear of traffickers threats to harm their family keeps women from reporting the abuses. Forced child begging on the streets and forced labor of men are also problems, according to experts.
  • Images of Latin American migrants in the U.S. tend to focus on the tragedy of their situations now. "Today, immigration porn is ubiquitous. You are many times more likely to see a deportee on the TV news than a Latino doctor or teacher. Images of immigrants facing deportation have accumulated in our collective national consciousness as the essence of the Latino experience," writes Héctor Tobar in a New York Times op-ed. "But the humiliated and hunted people you see in coverage of the deported are not the whole person. Tenacity and stubbornness are the defining qualities of undocumented America. This is precisely what is absent in the media’s depiction of the more than 11 million people who live there."
  • Honduras is still working on plans to implement "employment and economic development zones" (ZEDEs) -- sort of investor paradise city states within the country. Charter cities had an international moment a few years ago, but the Honduran plans are also reminiscent of the country's history of ceding territory to international businesses like the United Fruit Company, writes Sarah Maslin in the Economist. Hondurans living in the territories would lose some rights -- including constitutional guarantees underwriting press freedom and habeas corpus. Though their exact mechanism for working remains vague, the zones would have some sort of a parallel court system.

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