Friday, November 9, 2018

Trump moves against asylum seekers (Nov. 9, 2018)

The U.S. announced new rules, couched in national security concerns, that grant President Donald Trump authority to deny asylum to virtually all migrants who cross the border illegally. The new measures would deny asylum to those who breach any presidential restriction on entry. It is widely expected that he will wield this power in order to deny entry to the Central American migrants traveling in caravans towards the U.S. The announcement of what countries the rules will apply to will likely be announced later today. (New York Times and BBC) The regulation will also amend the screening process for aliens subject to a bar on asylum eligibility, reports CNN.

Though the caravan was a key issue in the U.S. mid-term elections this week, the vote was not given much importance by the migrants walking across Mexico, reports the Washington Post.

A counterpoint to the political grandstanding, the New York Times profiles a migrant mother's journey in the caravan.

The caravan has forced Mexicans to confront their own mixed feelings about migrants, reports the Guardian.

Migrant caravans receive lots of media attention, but hundreds of people leave Honduras every day, caravan or not. The caravans have merely drawn attention to an ongoing humanitarian issue. (America Magazine

And over the years tens of thousands of migrants have gone missing trying to cross into the U.S. (Al Jazeera)

More Migration
  • A new U.N. estimate puts the Venezuelan exodus since 2015 at 3 million -- a number comparable to refugee crises in Syria and Afghanistan. According to figures collected by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the UN migration agency, IOM, over 2.4 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees are being hosted by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Washington Post and Deutsche Welle)
  • The profile of migrants from Venezuela has changed in recent years, from highly qualified professionals to people fleeing desperate poverty. In host countries they have provided a convenient scapegoat for governments, which in turn has spurred protests and aggressions against migrants. The exodus has provided opportunities for positive political exploitation both by Venezuela's government and host countries, argues Keymer Ávila in Nueva Sociedad.
  • 1,087 Haitians in Chile have signed up for repatriation, in what migrant groups are denouncing as forced deportations. (Reuters)
China firms relations with El Salvador

China will give El Salvador $150 million to spur development of social and technological projects, reports Reuters. Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén made the announcement returning from his first trip to China since the countries established diplomatic ties in August. 

Sánchez Cerén and his Chinese counterpart agreed to a series of cooperation projects, including in infrastructure and education. China will also donate three thousand tons of rice to support Salvadorans affected by drought and floods this year. Sánchez Cerén said the move to recognize China will be his administration's most important foreign policy decision. 

But the U.S. has reacted strongly to the new alliance. In September it briefly recalled its ambassador to El Salvador and warned that China was luring countries with economic inducements that “facilitate economic dependency and domination, not partnership.” (See Sept. 10's briefs, and Aug. 24's post.)

More international relations
  • China and Argentina are set to sign about 30 agreements during the Chinese president’s upcoming visit to Argentina for the G-20 meeting. (EFE) And yesterday Argentina’s central bank said it would nearly double its currency swap deal with China. (Reuters)
  • The U.S. Trump administration welcomed far-right Jair Bolsonaro's election in Brazil -- possibly because of his potential to provide another counterweight to Venezuela. But its not clear whether the change in relations between the two countries will be more than merely cosmetic, according to the Los Angeles Times.
  • Bolsonaro's proposal to move Brazil's Israel embassy to Jerusalem, could cause a diplomatic rift with Muslim countries and affect Brazilian exports of halal meat. Brazil exports $16 billion annually to the Middle East and Turkey, reports Reuters. (See last Friday's post.)
News Briefs

  •  Ecuador’s top court ordered former President Rafael Correa to stand trial for his alleged role in the 2012 attempted kidnapping of an opposition lawmaker in Bogotá. Correa, who now lives in Belgium, says the charges are trumped up for political motives. (Associated Press)
  • AFP reports that Correa requested asylum in Belgium. But Correa's lawyer denied reports that he requested asylum in Belgium, according to Reuters.
  • Jailed former Ecuadorean vice president Jorge Glas was transferred to a hospital after several weeks of a hunger strike. Glas, who is serving a six year sentence for corruption, was protesting his transfer to a maximum security facility. He returned to prison after a medical check-up, and supporters are requesting U.N. intervention for Glas to be kept in a Quito prison. (EFE and AFP)
  • Mark Vito Villanella, thusband of jailed Peru politician Keiko Fujimori, is now facing charges of money laundering. Prosecutor Jose Domingo Perez formally opened investigations of Villanella involving over money laundering. (UPI)
  • The remains of 26 Peruvians killed by Shining Path guerrillas 34-years-ago. In September, President Martin Vizcarra approved a law that will create a gene bank to help in the search for Peru's "disappeared." (AFP)
Judicial activism
  • Bolsonaro's appointment of anti-corruption judge Sérgio Moro to head the justice ministry has been criticized as interfering in judicial impartiality. But it's only the latest example of increasing judicial activism in the region, according to the Economist which cites examples from Peru.
  • Two months after Guatemala's government deployed U.S. donated army jeeps to intimidate the U.N. backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the explanations for the move are as murky as ever, writes Sandra Cuffe in The Intercept.
  • Fighting between the ELN and criminal groups in Colombia's Norte de Santander province has displaced about 800 people, including 400 children. (Reuters)
  • Colombia said it had sent a letter of protest to Caracas after Venezuelan soldiers entered its territory last week. Unapproved entrances to Colombia by the Venezuelan military along the two countries’ porous border occur regularly, reports Reuters.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump posponed a Colombia visit for a second time. (Associated Press)
  • Venezuela’s consumer prices rose 833,997 percent in the twelve months through October, according to a report by the opposition-controlled Congress. (Reuters)
  • Venezuelan authorities ordered more than 600 arrests of "currency speculators" over the past eight months, said Attorney General Tarek William Saab. (AFP)
  • Despite Argentina's sharp economic downturn, most investors firmly believe President Mauricio Macri will be reelected next year. (Bloomberg)
  • One of his main, though undeclared, contenders is former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner -- whose popularity remains strong among supporters, despite a slew of corruption allegations. (Associated Press)
  • Plans to stabilize Argentina's peso favor banks more than businesses, reports Bloomberg
  • This week Macri presented a plan for the national pensioner agency to buy drugs directly from pharmaceutical companies, in an effort to reduce costs. (EFE)
  • Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro is a throwback to the country's colonial past, and yet another demonstration of how the country's right considers civil rights to be of secondary importance, argues Lilia Schwarcz in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Social media played a huge role in Brazil's recent election -- and was disproportionately important for voters of winner Jair Bolsonaro. (NACLA)
  • Bolsonaro already faced a setback to his fiscal austerity plans, after the Senate approved a 16 percent increase in judicial wages yesterday. (Reuters)
  • Bolsonaro promised yesterday to investigate Brazil’s state-run national development bank, BNDES, for corruption. (Reuters)
  • Brazil’s proposed agriculture minister under President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said the country must end the “industry of fines” for environmental infractions. (Reuters)
El Salvador
  • Former San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele officially launched his presidential campaign via Facebook Live, making him the contender for the region's next social media savvy leader. (Americas Quarterly)
  • Mexico's new congress is putting LGBT rights at the center of its agenda. (Reuters)
  • Paraguay’s Senate paid tribute on Thursday to Joel Filartiga, a physician, human rights activist and artist who resisted the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner. (EFE)
  • Latin Americans are increasingly dejected about democracy, but still mostly consider it to be the best choice, according to the new Latinobarómetro survey. "People don't like the democracy they're experiencing," Latinobarómetro head Marta Lagos told the Economist. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Regional health ministers met this week to discuss buying drugs in bulk. (EFE)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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