Monday, September 19, 2016

U.S. to fight for refugees -- except for those at its doorstep, say critics (Sept. 19, 2016)

The U.N. general assembly discussed what to do about the world's 2.3 million refugees today, and failed to reach concrete agreements, reports the Guardian

Tomorrow U.S. President Obama will be calling for more refugee funding and greater opportunities for displaced people to be able to work and study. But his response to the global crisis is raising eyebrows among activists who say the U.S. should dedicate more resources to the Central American refugee crisis. 

Refugee advocates will be gathering for a "Shadow Summit" tomorrow in New York, focused on the plight of people escaping violence in the Northern Triangle, reports the Miami Herald.

While international law requires countries to offer protection to those fleeing war and persecution, migrant advocates say that people fleeing war-like conditions in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras are not able to to get asylum, reports the New York Times

(See for example a recent New Yorker piece looks at some of the terrifying cases of asylum seekers from Latin America and the difficulties they face in making their cases, in Aug. 10's briefs.)

Though the U.S. gives more money than other countries to the U.N. refugee agency, and resettled 85,000 refugees last year, critics note that it balked at an international agreement last month that sought to commit countries to not detain undocumented child migrants.

And the efforts ignore the millions of internally displaced people, who flee conflict but stay within their own national borders -- perhaps because the issue is less threatening to international stability, said UNDP head Helen Clark to the Guardian.

News Briefs
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was lauded by a small group of world leaders from the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement. But few heads of state attended the summit in Isla Margarita, and he was heavily criticized for welcoming Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, reports Reuters.
  • Member states of the Cold War era concluded their 17th summit in Venezuela with calls for a more inclusive U.N., reports the Associated Press.
  • Venezuela's opposition failed to attract large numbers in a mobilization on Friday aimed at demanding a recall referendum this year. That leaves the opposition MUD coalition with ever fewer options in its struggle to democratically oust Maduro, reports Reuters. On Friday the national electoral board postponed a meeting to determine when the next step in the recall referendum process would take place. They said they would meet today, due to "threats" against the institution.
  • OAS election experts are arriving in Haiti ahead of the Oct. 9 presidential rerun, reports the Miami Herald. Though the international community -- especially the U.S. -- were opposed to the $55 million election to re-do last year's exercise, the U.S. is among seven nations funding the OAS mission. Major presidential candidates are campaigning strongly in hopes of avoiding a second-round.
  • For Haitians, it's an opportunity to reclaim sovereign control over political affairs, after years of international meddling, argues Danny Glover in a Huffington Post op-ed. "By not simply obeying the dictates of the U.S. and its allies, the historic pro-democracy movement has given Haiti a second chance." It is an opportunity for former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party to participate in politics again, and their presidential candidate, Dr. Maryse Narcisse could become the country's first female president.
  • Declassifying old secrets of state to share with other governments and their societies is a tool in Obama's arsenal of diplomacy -- and has worked to bridge differences with other countries and cast light on some of Washington's darker human rights chapters, argues National Security Archive senior analyst Peter Kornbluh in a Washington Post op-ed. "Among those who have sought to know what information remains withheld in the secret vaults of the U.S. national security agencies are people in Latin American countries such as Brazil, Chile and Argentina, where human rights advocates, lawyers and judges continue the quest for accountability for crimes against humanity committed by past military regimes. Just as thousands of victims were “disappeared” by those regimes, the military dictatorships managed to “disappear” the documentation of their atrocities. Vast troves of evidence remained beyond their destructive reach, however — in the United States. Indeed, the only positive outcome of the dark role the United States often played in the repressive histories of these and other nations is the detailed paper trail now residing in the vaults of the CIA, the FBI, and the Defense and State departments."
  • NACLA piece criticizes an August New York Times editorial on Nicaragua, which pinned the region's right-wing turn on the "corruption" and "mismanagement" of Latin American left-wing parties. (See Aug. 3's post.) The NYTimes editorial criticizes Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's increasingly authoritarian measures -- limiting opposition political party's participation in the upcoming elections and in Congress through judicial actions -- but doesn't recognize the impact of U.S. intervention in that country and its neighbors, argue Jennifer Goett and Courtney Desiree Morris. "There is no mistake that we are witnessing an authoritarian turn in Nicaragua. But if we are to understand how and why this happened we cannot ignore the role of U.S. intervention. Rather than chiding the Latin American Left for its corruption or anti-democratic tendencies, we would do well to consider how the U.S. presence in the region has diminished democracy and promoted violence and suffering. Any effort to understand contemporary Central America demands an honest reckoning with this history. And while we too lament the growing authoritarianism of the Sandinista state, a critical reexamination of U.S. policy in Central America is long overdue," they write.
  • U.S. funding and tactical intervention were critical to ending the 50 year conflict with the FARC in Colombia, according to the Washington Post. While the $10 billion security aid package sent under Plan Colombia pales in comparison to the resources dedicated by the country itself, the intervention is being celebrated as a foreign policy success. But the FARC points to a high civilian costs thanks to the ramping up of military offensives that took place over the 16 year plan, and said it led to thousands of deaths. The tactical support, including a top-secret program that provided the military with precision bomb kits to target FARC leaders, proved instrumental in bringing the guerrilla force to the negotiating table, according to the WP.
  • The United States and Norway led an international coalition that this weekend committed to assist Colombia remove the landmines that remain from the conflict by 2021, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. The country remains the second most heavily mined in the world, and more than 11,000 people have been killed or injured by these weapons since 1990.
  • FARC fighters have gathered for a six day conference that aims to mark the group's transition from fighting force to a legal political movement, reports the Washington Post. The 200 delegates must officially approve the peace accord that will be signed later this month. But the meeting feels more like "an armed more Marxist version of Burning Man."
  • The FARC will continue its fight for social justice, promised leader Rodrigo "Timochenko" Londoño. "Our greatest aspiration is to reach many more with our message until the torrent for transformation is overwhelming," he told fighters gathered for the conference, according to Reuters.
  • The Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro have cast a spotlight on the achievements of athletes with physical disabilities. But the average Brazilian with some form of disability -- nearly a quarter of the population -- face everything from physical barriers to prejudices, reports the Washington Post. Faced with nearly impossible mobility -- lack of wheelchair accessible bathrooms and transportation, among other barriers -- many people just stay home, making them invisible, say advocates.
  • Children of Mexican immigrants who move home or are deported face significant hurdles in continuing their education in Mexico. Lack of accreditation, and unfamiliarity with Spanish and national history, leave minors vulnerable to interrupted education, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Peruvian environmental activist Máxima Acuña and her partner were wounded in an attack early Sunday, said her daughter. She alleges the attack was carried out by hitmen hired by Yanacocha mining firm Acuña is fighting against, reports TeleSur.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's approval ratings are inching up -- they hit 63 percent in Sept, reports Reuters.

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