Thursday, January 18, 2018

U.S. makes Haitians ineligible for temporary seasonal work visas (Jan. 18, 2018)

  • The Trump administration has slammed Haitian immigrants again -- as of today Haitians will not be eligible for temporary seasonal visas, reports the Miami Herald. The decision follows an internationally condemned episode in which U.S. President Donald Trump allegedly characterized Haiti as a "shithole" country in the context of a debate about migrants. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • Venezuela's oil output is collapsing, a situation likely to push the country's ongoing crisis into a full blown humanitarian disaster, according to the Wall Street Journal. Oil prices are rising, but a production decline over the past year of 29 percent means the country won't be able to take advantage of them. Venezuela relies heavily on oil exports, which means the decline in production will further press the government.
  • The killing of Venezuelan rebel Oscar Pérez this week by security forces could help lead to an International Criminal Court investigation of the Maduro administration, writes Andrés Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald. He says the OAS could present a formal case in the ICC within the next three weeks, and dramatic footage of Pérez accusing security forces of not letting him surrender, could contribute to the argument of human rights violations.
  • Pieces on Russian and Chinese influence in Venezuela have been cropping up recently. Benjamin Gedan and Michael McCarthy warn against "hysteria" about Chinese and Russian "meddling" in Real Clear World. "Caracas’ relationships with Moscow and Beijing are often exaggerated, including by the governments themselves. ... In truth, Maduro is increasingly isolated and as his country’s economic problems metastasize, his support from Beijing and Moscow falls." Russian and Chinese support for Venezuela is based on self-interest, not ideology, they argue. And thus their support is likely to falter as the crisis worsens. "Overstating the likelihood of a bailout has serious implications. That common misunderstanding leads to foreign policy positions that assume Maduro’s regime will survive, deflating international efforts to compel a democratic transition and discouraging the domestic opposition from unifying and mobilizing."
  • In the Conversation, Miguel Angel Latouche argues that Venezuela is no longer a democracy.
  • Pope Francis warned Chile's indigenous Mapuche tribe against violent protest, in a mass celebrated at a former military base that not only lies on contested Mapuche land but was also a former detention center used during Chile’s military dictatorship, reports the Guardian. His warning against violence came in a region where protesters have been burning and bombing targets in defense of their ancestral land. Indigenous groups in the area accuse the state and private companies of encroaching on their territory and using strong-armed enforcement against their communities. The region has experienced conflict for centuries. Issues include ancestral land ownership and legal recognition for the Mapuche language and culture, reports the BBC. The mass included many indigenous themes, including one speaker who spoke Mapuche and participants dressed in traditional garb, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • In Peru indigenous groups hope the papal visit draws attention to illegal mining environmental impacts, reports the Miami Herald. A Miami Herald investigation into illicit gold found that much of Peru's illegally mined gold winds up in the U.S. where it is used for money laundering. 
  • U.S. border patrol agents routinely vandalize water supplies left in the dessert to aid migrants trying to cross the border, as well as destroying other supplies and harassing volunteers who work with migrants, reports the Guardian. The accusations stem from a report published by two U.S. based humanitarian groups, who say "the practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents, it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands."
  • Mexican views of the U.S. have dropped dramatically since 2015, reports the Washington Post. Over the past two years, Mexicans have gone from mostly holding favorable views of their northern neighbor to mostly negative, according to polling data collected by the Mexico-based firm Buendia & Laredo in collaboration with the Chicago Council of Foreign Affairs and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
  • Carlos Domínguz, the latest journalist to be killed in Mexico, was stabbed 21 times in front of his family over the weekend, underscoring the profession's risks in the country, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • A poll by El Economista in Mexico found that leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador maintains the lead for this year's presidential elections, reports Reuters.
  • Over the past few years, more firearms have been seized in Guatemala than homicides committed with guns. But, though Guatemalan police seized 47,340 firearms between 2007 and 2017 -- an average of 12 every day, one every two hours -- guns remain widely available, reports Plaza Pública. (InSight Crime has the piece in English.) Police authorities say guns are used in about 80 percent of the country's murders, but have less information on how arms are entering the country and where they are coming from. Reports indicate that Guatemala is a transit country for arms, being transferred between Mexico and Central America. And authorities believe many of the country's illegal firearms belong to gang members.
  • The head of Brazil's army is concerned that deployment in anti-crime efforts could lead to corruption and politicization of troops, reports InSight Crime. "The high-level warning over the increasing use of the military in public security roles, including the rising potential for the forces’ corruption and politicization, should be considered a wake up call for a shift in the country’s approach to rising insecurity."
  • Will Brazilian TV celebrity Luciano Huck be a potential centrist presidential candidate this year? Bloomberg is touting him as a potential investor dream option.
  • The World Bank said it had not politically targeted Chile in a now questioned annual economic report, rather officials say the country's fluctuating ranking had to do with a changed methodology, reports Reuters. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Women will be key in adapting agriculture to climate change in Latin America, said the head of FAO. He decried that women are too often left out of development schemes, reports Reuters. "They have fundamental roles in the spiritual, social and family arenas and are seed guardians - critical carriers of specialized knowledge," saidJose Graziano da Silva, head of the U.N.'s food organization.

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