The Trump administration's decision to terminate a residency program for approximately 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the U.S. for at least 16 years will be yet another example of how Washington policy affects the fate of El Salvador, according to the New York Times. (See yesterday's post.)
"The nation that these Salvadorans will be returning to is far deadlier than the one they left. In the capital, the streets have been converted into urban killing fields that, as recently as 2015, registered a homicide every hour during moments of peak violence," write Gene Palumbo and Azam Ahmed. "The government itself has also become an agent of violence. Police officers are granted an open license to go after the gangs under the government’s iron-fist policy, sometimes sweeping up innocent people."
El Salvador's violence-plagued society is intimately linked to U.S. policy, and residents fear the new influx of returnees -- most of whom have lived most of their lives in the U.S. -- will once again worsen conditions on the ground. Returnees will be virtual strangers, and could face additional dangers from entrenched street gangs who might consider them targets. Additionally, they could worsen the unemployment rate. On a broader level, the end of remittances will worsen poverty in communities around the country. Remittances account for 17 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and a staggering 80 percent of economic growth, according to Inter-American Dialogue research.
The Trump administration's decisions to end protections for certain groups of Latin American migrants who have lived long-term in the U.S. is counter to U.S. interests, and could well foster a new cycle of illegal immigration, warn Michael Shifter and Ben Raderstorf in a New York Times op-ed.
Separation of immigrant families could also worsen violence in El Salvador, which is of course what pushes migrants to try to reach the U.S., said Celina de Sola, the vice president and founder of the El Salvador-based NGO Glasswing International, in an interview with Americas Quarterly. "Family disintegration is a huge risk factor for violence. You have people who have lived in the U.S for two decades. They’re participating in the labor force and have kids who are productive U.S. citizens. Ultimately what we want is to reduce crime by reducing vulnerability. But separating families makes people vulnerable whether they’re in the U.S. or El Salvador. And since returned migrants also have a much smaller social and familial network, that also increases the risk factors that lead to crime."
Florida members of Congress -- including Republicans -- branded the decision as "cruel" and "senseless," reports the Miami Herald. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, warned that the “cruel decision” will have "a terrible impact on our communities on 200,000 people, their relatives and the United States."
- Undocumented Latin American migrants hoping to enter the U.S. are surging again along the border with Mexico. Border apprehensions reached an all-time low, touted by U.S. officials as a "Trump Effect," in which migrants were deterred by the U.S. president's tough talk on immigration issues. (Though experts warned last year that the chilling effect would be temporary. See post for July 3, 2017.) Across the Southwest, border officers are stopping more than 1,000 people a day, reports the New York Times. New data from the Homeland Security Department shows that would be migrants seeking to enter the U.S. surpassed 40,000 along the Southwest border last month, more than double the amount from last spring.
- U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson is opening a formal inquiry into mysterious symptoms suffered by U.S. embassy workers in Cuba. The U.S. has alleged "sonic attacks" that affected 24 people working in the embassy. But in a hearing yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio said the State Department “did not follow the law” in failing to set up a review board months ago, reports the New York Times. US investigators are looking at a range of theories – including the possibility of a "viral" attack, reports Reuters.
- Ecuador's comptroller will open an investigation into debt contracted during the Correa administration, reports Reuters.
- Ecuador is seeking to find a way for Julian Assange to leave its London embassy. The WikiLeaks founder has lived there since 2012, when he was granted political asylum, but Ecuador officials said it was unsustainable for him to live there permanently, reports the Wall Street Journal. They will be seeking international mediation to reach a final settlement with the UK, reports the Guardian.
- Paraguayan Attorney General Javier Diaz Veron insists he will not resign from his post, in the midst of an investigation for illicit enrichment, reports EFE. Opposition parties in Congress have called for his ouster in response to allegations of Veron's "unethical and outrageous behavior," reported TeleSUR in December.
- Argentine social activist Milagro Sala called for an end to judicial harassment towards her. Last week her home was raided by officials seeking evidence in a case alleging money laundering, reports Clarín. It is the fourth such raid, notes Cohete a la Luna. Horacio Verbitsky reports that her lawyers' offices in Buenos Aires were robbed and vandalized. Sala has been in preventive detention for two years, and was transferred to home arrest last month in response to an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decision and pressure from rights organizations.
- The Bolivian government negotiated an end to a 47 day doctors' strike, in response to a presidential decree creating a Supervision Authority for the National Health System and sanctions for professional negligence and medical malpractice, reports TeleSUR. Earlier this month, the Bolivian government and Bolivia’s Doctor’s Association agreed to end the nationwide medical strike and protests while the Bolivian government agreed to revoke the controversial articles of the Penal Code. However medical services were not immediately reestablished.
- Honduras and Belize are under potential threat of a tsunami after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in the Caribbean sea yesterday, reports the Guardian.
- Casa Xochiquetzal in Mexico City provides a haven for retired prostitutes, reports the New York Times.
- Rio de Janeiro favela Rocinha was "once the showcase shantytown in Brazil’s showcase city." But the community has seen a drastic increase in killings this year, as confrontations between drug gangs and police turn the favela into a war zone, reports the Washington Post.