Friday, July 13, 2018

Mexico unwilling to accept "Safe Third Country Agreement" (July 13, 2018)

  • A high level U.S. delegation is in Mexico today for meetings with president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The group, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to offer better ties and financial rewards, in exchange for increased Mexican efforts to stem the flow of migrants crossing the country en route to the U.S., reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Mexico is opposed to a U.S. proposal to make would-be asylum seekers apply for protection in Mexico rather than the U.S., reports Reuters. U.S. officials reportedly hope to implement a  "Safe Third Country Agreement" as a deterrent to Central American migrants applying for asylum in the U.S. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
  • Central America's Northern Triangle countries suffer atrocious rates of violence. In The Conversation Juan Ernesto Acuna García writes that homicide rates among youths, especially teenagers, have been rising -- part of what is spurring migration of families and unaccompanied minors to the U.S. despite the considerable dangers of the journey and arrival.
Upstart Journalism
  • Digital media outlets are playing a leading role in getting information out in the region's more authoritarian countries. They have also played a critical role in shaking up media monopolies and establishment interests in other parts of Latin America and have produced impressive scoops from Mexico to Argentina, reports the Economist. Their work has pushed traditional news outlets to focus more on fact checking, even as the digital media starts seeking ways to enhance its business viability.
  • Brazilian schools are teaching students how to detect fake news -- Media analysis studies became compulsory in December 2017, reports AFP.
  • Hundreds of Peruvians marched yesterday demanding judicial reform, in the wake of audio recordings released this week apparently showing magistrates offering reduced sentences, asking for favors or setting rates for improper actions, reports AFP. (IDL Reporteros has several stories detailing the audios -- herehere and here.)
  • Proposed legislation in Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly seeks to allow the country's state-oil firm to seek relief from creditors by declaring bankruptcy. Though it's a long-shot, and would need approval from the government controlled Supreme Court or the supra-congressional National Constituent Assembly to be enacted, the fact that it's being debated at all is telling, according to Americas Quarterly.
  • Venezuela's cash is impressively worthless -- the free-market exchange rate is about 3.5 million bolívares to a dollar and the annual inflation rate is estimated at 46,000 percent. That being said, the country is also facing a banknote shortage, so bills -- needed for bus transportation and other transactions -- are sold in bundles at three times their face value, reports the Economist.
  • Speaking of bus fare, David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernaís detail Venezuela's transportation crisis at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. "... This year, public transportation has basically collapsed, with reports of over 90% of buses not operating in some regions of the country. What is more, even when there are buses available, riders have a hard time cobbling together enough cash to pay for them and find themselves walking or staying home."
  • In an interview with BBC Español Smilde reviews his criticisms of international sanctions' potential effectivity, but also notes that "they are the most plausible tool the international community has." He urges for them to be accompanied with cross-national networks such as the Boston Group which led to Joshua Holt's release.
  • Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and the United States agreed to share information on Venezuelan government officials suspected of corruption and their support networks and expand cooperation to fight illegal financial networks in Venezuela. (Reuters)
  • Nicaragua's bloody protests are following Venezuela's script, according to the Economist. (See yesterday's briefs.) However, unlike Venezuela, the opposition remains unified, and Nicaragua's may be more susceptible to U.S. pressure.
  • Amnesty International called for independent monitoring of the police investigation into Rio de Janeiro councillor Marielle Franco's murder in March. The crime prompted protests in Brazil and international condemnation, but there has been little headway in a case that appears to implicate security force agents. (Guardian)
  • Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was found not guilty of obstruction of justice, in one of several cases against the jailed politician, reports the Associated Press. The decision was not surprising, as the prosecutor's office asked the judge to acquit the former president, having found no evidence that he was involved in attempts to interfere into Petrobras corruption investigations.
  • The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned recent violence in Haiti that left at least four dead. (AFP) Protesters were spurred by drastic fuel price increases, which were quickly retracted by the government. (See Wednesday's briefs.) Nonetheless the International Monetary Fund said it expects Haiti to create a revised reform plan that will include a gradual lowering of fuel subsidies. (Reuters)
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's legacy of impunity for corruption has hampered recent efforts to hold politicians accountable. What headway has been made in recent years is largely due to the efforts of attorney general Douglas Meléndez, writes Christine Wade in World Politics Review.
  • The International Crisis Group reports on the slow progress of negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN, carried out in Havana.
  • Panama and China have started talks to create a free trade agreement. (Reuters)
  • Paraguayan president-elect Mario Abdo Benítez said he'll seek to add Bolivia to the Mercosur trade bloc. (EFE)
More from Mexico
  • President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador's government will seek to decriminalize abortion in Mexico, said his future Minister of Interior, Olga Sánchez Cordero. (Vanguardia)
  • AMLO's legislative priorities will include measures to end presidential immunity and lower salaries and perks for higher-earning government officials. The president's own salary will be among those to receive reductions. (Reuters)
  • A newly opened Mexico City mall collapsed yesterday, though the area was previously evacuated and there were no injuries. (Associated Press)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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