Friday, June 29, 2018

Pence in Guatemala (June 29, 2018)

Neither U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador emphasized combating corruption in order to deter one of the root causes of migration during their Thursday night meeting and press conference, notes an editorial by La Prensa Libre.

Instead, the emphasis was on how human traffickers, organized crime, and weak border control was behind the migration problem

Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez said that he would commit to "greater police presence" along the Honduras-Guatemala border. President Salvador Ceren of El Salvador said that anti-gang violence and public safety programs implemented in the country had reduced migration to the U.S. by 60 percent. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales asserted that his country would need to strengthen its police and military to exert stronger border control (Prensa Libre). 

"[T]old the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras: just as we respect your borders & your sovereignty, we insist that you respect ours," Vice President Pence later tweeted

During the meeting with the Northern Triangle leaders, Pence emphasized the need to educate Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans on the dangers of migrating towards the United States. 

This overlooks other factors, such a strong U.S. economy (or an intolerable level of violence) that could be driving people to migrate, said Fernando Carrera, a former minister of foreign affairs in Guatemala. "[W]hat's happening isn't because people have gone crazy and want to run risks in order to get to the United States," he told Prensa Libre. (A Washington Post analysis piece discusses some of the other factors driving Central American migration in further detail). 

Immigration wasn't the only topic of discussion. In comments to President Hernandez, Pence said it was important to select a "solid and independent" attorney general in Honduras (elPeriodico). 

The original purpose of the meeting was to show solidarity with victims of the Fuego volcanic eruption, but this changed following the furor over family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border, as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. Karen Pence did make time to visit a shelter for those impacted by the disaster.

Mexico
  • The Wall Street Journal proposes that presidential candidates Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Ricardo Anaya represent two sides of Mexico, as embodied in their home states: "one prospering from foreign investment and industrialization, the other struggling to survive on oil and other commodities as well as government-supported development."
  • Animal Politico analyzed 101 of the political murders that took place during the approximate 10-month campaign season, and found that Guerrero is the state with the highest number of reported murders and that the PRI is the party most affected
  • A Reuters special report looks at how soaring violence and plummeting oil prices made Tabasco state, formerly a stable and prosperous hub of Mexico's oil industry, "a hell." 
  • The BBC profiles a widow running for office after her husband was gunned down in central Mexico. 
Colombia
  • In a sign of how much the country's security situation has changed, a radio show that allowed the families of kidnapping victims to call in and leave messages to their loved ones has gone off the air after 14 years (Americas Quarterly).(#FlashbackFriday to the 2010 This American Life story about this show). 
  • The U.S. State Department said they supported Colombia's decision to resume aerial fumigation of coca crops with drones (Colombia Reports). Other civil society leaders were more critical.
Migration
  • A Honduran pastor held in an ICE detention center is documenting the stories of other mothers who, like her, have been separated from their children and who now face a choice: "they can remain separated from their children while waiting for a court date—which could be several months away, at least—or they can withdraw their asylum claim in order to be reunited with their children sooner and face deportation together." (New Yorker
  • In a new podcast, experts at the Washington Office on Latin America discuss what they saw during a recent visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona: evidence that the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy is starting to overwhelm the system for processing migrants along the border, and has essentially created "a mess that is unlikely to be resolved any time soon."
Venezuela
  • Pence's rhetoric on Venezuela caused the expected back-and-forth, reports CNN
  • Asylum petitions and work visa requests are spiking in Peru due to an influx of Venezuelans (El Pais). 

Central America 
  • The U.S. government asked Nicaragua's police to return police vehicles that had been donated by the U.S., then used in the violent repression of protestors. Nicaragua's government said it had done so and was demanding "$16 billion" in a civil war reparation fund, citing U.S. involvement in the Nicaraguan conflict of the 1980s. Meanwhile, a delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was denied access to visit a Managua prison where they had intended to review detention conditions (Confidencial). Elsewhere, a new Americas Quarterly podcast asks, "How far is President Daniel Ortega willing to go to keep control?
  • Honduras' Congress postponed yesterday's scheduled election of Honduras' new attorney general for today (La Prensa). The National Autonomous University of Honduras asked that the Members of Congress who are implicated in corruption investigations withdraw from participating in the selection process (Pulso).
  • A company that won a lucrative contract to rebuild part of the highway destroyed by Guatemala's Fuego volcanic corruption is partly owned by a close friend of President Jimmy Morales (elPeriodico).
Caribbean
  • The number of U.S. diplomats affected by mysterious "sonic attacks" in Cuba has risen to 26 (Miami Herald).
Brazil 
  • A recent poll shows that most respondents still prefer Lula as a presidential candidate; the second most-popular candidate, with 15 percent of respondents expressing favorable views, was retired army captain Jair Bolsonaro (BBC Brazil). 
Southern Cone
  • Chile's minister of justice criticized the high recidivism rate in the country's penitentiary system, emphasizing that Chile must do more to rehabilitate inmates (Latin American Herald Tribune).
  • Uruguay's biggest labor union is mobilizing in order to demand greater resources to health and education, as the country's Congress meets to discuss the national budget (El Observador).
Regional
  • The popularity of Jair Bolsano in Brazil and Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico indicate that Latin America is not in the mood for politics as usual, argues The Economist"When voters choose candidates they normally wouldn’t, the negative consequences are long-lasting," the piece argues, citing the elections of Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Alvaro Uribe (Colombia), and Alberto Fujimori (Peru) as examples of what happens when voters choose "savior" candidates. "The problem with saviors is that, sooner or later, countries have to try to save themselves from them," the article concludes. 
Other
  • Manatees are dying mysteriously off Mexico's southern coast, prompting the national environmental protection agency to investigate possible causes (Proceso).
  • The first randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial of psychedelic Amazonian drink ayahuasca suggests it is an effective antidepressant (The Conversation).
  • "Bidding a loved one farewell is more painful than it should be" in Cuba, says The Economist.
Elyssa Pachico

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