Friday, January 8, 2016

Perils faced by Central American female migrants (Jan. 8, 2016)

A piece in NACLA focuses on the specific strategies of female Central American migrants traveling through Mexico as they attempt to escape violent situations at home.

The piece emphasizes border security practices in the U.S. and Mexico which come at the expense of migrant human rights.

"The majority of women don't migrate in the manner that has been most often documented: on cargo trains and utilizing networks of migrant shelters. In contrast, women have pursued more clandestine routes and strategies: they hire the services of coyotes or smugglers, often paying for such services through a combination of housework, sexual favors, and money.

"Female migrants choose more isolated roads and transport networks. Some skip migration roadblocks by walking particular segments of the route; others find Mexican truck drivers to take them on specific parts of their trajectory north. With alarming frequency, payment often includes sexual services. There are no migrant shelters along the highway routes, so women tend to stay in hotels and guest houses, which frequently pay a fee to an armed group to operate, creating a situation in which women have less access to the protection offered by the Church or civil society organizations. They may also be forced to purchase false documents

"Although women’s strategies appear to be more effective in enabling them to move north through Mexico, their journeys involve considerable gendered vulnerabilities, which go beyond sexual violence and abuse. The accounts of female migrants underscore how women meet these challenges largely as an accepted additional step they must take before arriving to their final destination."

News Briefs

  • Haitian presidential candidate Jude Célestin, who came in second in October's first round of balloting, is refusing to participate in this month's postponed run-off elections, reports the Miami Herald. With just 17 days left before the election, Célestin said there was not enough being done to improve transparency in light of a independent review commission that found widespread fraud and irregularities in October's election. The Associated Press reports that Célestin would participate if the commission's recommendations, which include major changes to the electoral machinery, with investigations and possible resignations of those accused of corruption, and political dialogue to achieve consensus about the next round, are enacted. International actors, including U.S. envoys and the U.N. have urged Haiti to go ahead with the January 24 run-off, in order to meet the constitutionally mandated Feb. 7 presidential handover. If legitimate elections don't take place as scheduled Jan. 24, a transitional government might have to be formed in the impoverished country where elections are never easy and suspicions of manipulation and complicity by the Provisional Electoral Council and the government in power are chronic, notes the AP.
  • A U.S. Hellfire missile sent to Europe for training purposes was somehow shipped to Cuba in 2014, reports the Wall Street Journal. Investigators are attempting to determine whether the loss of sensitive military technology was the result of criminals or spies or a series of mistakes. American authorities have been attempting to get their Cuban counterparts to return the missile for the past year, in the context of steadily warming relations between the two countries. While the missile did not contain explosives, authorities are concerned that information about sensors and targeting technology inside could be shared with nations like China, North Korea and Russia.
  • The fate of 53 Cuban political prisoners, freed as part of the historic deal to reestablish diplomatic relations between the island and the U.S. demonstrates the tricky nature of pushing for human rights in this context. The Associated Press reports that 12 months after their initial release, 35 of the dissidents have applied for refugee status to move back to the U.S. Seven have already left or are preparing to leave this month, while another six have been returned to prison. Others have abandoned their political activities. Some Cuban activists argue the deal between the two countries focuses on diplomatic and economic ties to the detriment of human rights, while others say such advances are critical to creating better conditions on the island. International advocacy groups such as Amnesty International say that no matter what the United States does, it's up to Cuba to improve the island's human rights situation.
  • As the "pink tide" ebbs across the region, Bolivian voters will consider allowing President Evo Morales to run for office for a fourth time, in a referendum next month. The Washington Post analyzes why the leftist leader, who has 60 percent approval ratings, might buck the rightward swing in the region. The piece focuses on business friendly policies such as promoting the country's tiny wine industry. 
  • The Panamanian Supreme Court rejected a request to suspend the immunity of former President and current Central American Parliament (Parlacen) Deputy Ricardo Martinelli to investigate him as part of a complaint filed by a former Ecuadorean Deputy. The ruling brings an end to one of the 11 criminal complaints filed with the Supreme Court against Martinelli, reports La Prensa. The decision illustrates how "powerful figures can use membership in political bodies as a judicial shield," explains InSight Crime. "Martinelli currently faces several other investigations stemming from his term as Panama's president, including charges of corruption and illegal espionage. Panamanian officials have stripped Martinelli of his immunity with regards to certain charges, and the Parlacen has even previously stated Martinelli enjoys no immunity as a result of his position with the regional organization. And yet, prosecutors looking to bring the former president to court continue to be met with roadblocks." Earlier this week a U.S. federal judge identified the former president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, as one of several alleged co-conspirators in a bribery scheme that helped SAP to sell millions of dollars in software to Panama. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Venezuela's executive branch and newly-sworn in, opposition-led National Assembly are on collision course. A symbolic spat, about whether portraits of late-President Hugo Chávez should hang in the Capitol, demonstrates the level of debate, reports the New York Times. In response to the portraits removal from the National Assembly building, Chávez supporters in Caracas have vowed to put his image on every street corner, reports the Associated Press. But the barbs each side lobbed at the other auger poorly in the midst of an economic crisis that made voters demand change, according to WOLA's Venezuela analyst David Smilde who is quoted in the NYTimes piece. "I think it doesn’t bode very well at all, ... It doesn’t reflect that either side has really heard the message of the people." The "bitter political clash" is just beginning reports The Guardian, and voters concerned about the economy are unlikely to see the improvements they desperately seek.
  • Reuters profiles Henry Ramos Allup, the polemic new National Assembly President in Venezuela, who represents the more hard-wing branch of the opposition.
  • Paraguayan authorities raided the headquarters of the South American soccer confederation (CONMEBOL) yesterday, seeking documents or information on computer hard drives related to the sprawling FIFA probe being led by U.S. and Swiss prosecutors, reports the Associated Press. (See May 29th's post.)
  • The plight of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, fighting economic recession and widespread corruption allegations within her Workers' Party (PT) while she fends off impeachment attempts, has been widely covered. In The Nation, Andy Robinson makes the case that the PT's potential demise will be due to the alienation of its left-wing base. Environmentalist PT grassroots supporters have been outraged by  the "extractivist" development model that has permitted  the construction of mega-dams and expansion of extractive industries, cattle farming, and soya production. And the pro-growth developmentalists are angered by Rousseff's austerity measures implemented over the past year. Cuts in public investment and services, the removal of price subsidies on energy and gasoline, and interest-rate hikes to 14 percent have exacerbated the recession.
  • The Nation has an interview with  Guilherme Boulos, Leader of Brazil's Homeless Workers' Movement, who says "Brazil is now a machine that creates homelessness."
  • Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes says his city will be benefited by nearly 30 "legacy projects," lasting investments that include highways, subways stations and sanitation projects. But an ambitious public-private partnership to build a sewer network for 1.7 million people in the city's western zone, where most waste is untreated, has been rejected by most of it's intended beneficiaries. "... the project is underscoring Brazilians’ lack of faith in their government, which has a poor record on delivering public services, and the private sector," reports the Washington Post.
  • Rio's much heralded beaches used to be considered democratic public spaces, but increasingly poor residents of the city are the targets of policies attempting to guarantee security on the beaches, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • And administrators of Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracanã stadium have fired 75 percent of the arena’s staff eight months before the 2016 games begin, reports The Guardian. The stadium is to be used for up to nine months by Games organizers, who are bringing in their own workers for that period.
  • In São Paulo the walls are covered in pixação, a local alternative to graffiti that characterized by black letters composed of straight lines and sharp edges, giving their creations – pixos – a jagged look, reports The Guardian.
  • Peruvians are torn regarding mining, which has been key for the country's economic growth in recent years. Last year a dozen people were killed in mining protests, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Ahead of next year's presidential election, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa warned that the country's political opposition and private media allies will unleash a "dirty campaign," reports TeleSur.
  • Latin America is the deadliest region for human rights activists with scores killed defending land rights, the environment and the rights of LGBTI and indigenous people, according to a report by Front Line Defenders cited by Reuters.
  • VICE profiles Pedro Kumamoto, who last year became the first ever independent candidate to win a seat in a state congress in Mexico. "During the campaign the 25-year-old college graduate challenged the prevailing image of Mexican legislators as overpaid and out of touch with the public. Now he's under pressure to prove he really is different."
  • A pioneering Mexican tax on sugary beverages, aimed at reducing the health tolls of soda in a country with increasing obesity problems and a soda addiction, was successful, according to a study published this week. Researchers found a monthly decline in soda purchases in 2014, but a stronger tax is necessary in order to reduce purchases enough to have a positive impact on health, reports the Wall Street Journal

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