Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Guatemala reacts after Trump threatens tariffs (July 24, 2019)

What actions could the Trump administration actually take against Guatemala, given that President Trump has threatened tariffs and remittance fees following the Guatemalan Constitutional Court's ruling that any "safe third country" deal with the U.S. has to go through the Guatemalan Congress first?  

Guatemala's former ambassador to the United States told elPeriodico that while Trump could order the U.S. Treasury Department to tax remittances to Guatemala, it would be difficult to implement such a policy in practice. Currently, remittances from abroad—mostly from the United States—make up 12 percent of Guatemala's GDP, reports Quartz

The U.S. government would also have to navigate regulations in the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) before moving ahead with tariffs targeting Guatemala, elPeriodico reported.

Political actors in Guatemala were quick to start pointing fingers about who should take the blame for the diplomatic spat with the United States. President Jimmy Morales blamed the Constitutional Court; the head of the Court responded by pointing out they hadn't blocked the executive branch from negotiating a "safe third country" deal with the U.S., as the ruling mandated the president to follow Guatemala's Constitution in getting Congress' approval for international treaties that would impact the country financially.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made no mention of any "safe third country" initiative in its latest joint statement with the Guatemalan government; the AP reports that DHS officials are meeting with officials from the Northern Triangle region (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) today. 

  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released a statement expressing "deep concern about the situation of migrants and refugees in the United States, Mexico, and Central America," highlighting the deaths of children in U.S. custody, the inadequate and overcrowded detention conditions for migrants in Mexico, and the militarization of Mexico's southern and northern borders as areas of concern, among many other issues. The statement also noted that family separation is still happening under the "Remain in Mexico" program, in violation of the norms and standards of international law.  
  • The Trump administration had an "unusual" but "temporary" victory in court, reports the AP, after a federal judge upheld the government's new restrictions on asylum, meaning the U.S. government can continue denying asylum "to anyone who shows up on the Mexican border after traveling through another country." It's still possible that a San Francisco-based federal court hearing a similar suit will move to block the new asylum policies. 
  • Some 30,000 migrants have arrived to Ciudad Juarez so far this year; the city has also received the highest number of asylum seekers sent back to await their U.S. court dates under the "Remain in Mexico" program, reports BBC Mundo. The story highlights the high risk of kidnapping and extortion faced by migrants and asylum seekers in Juarez, and has local shelters and other migrant support organizations on record as saying they are unprepared to deal with the rising number of asylum seekers sent back from the U.S. under "Remain in Mexico." 
  • The 250,000 hectares of forest dispersed through Mexico City are increasingly under threat thanks to illegal loggers; an environmentalist known for his conservation efforts is now facing charges of illegal logging, which Greenpeace and Mexico's national human rights commission are calling false (Animal Politico). 
  • NGO the Foundation for Justice and Democratic Rule of Law is challenging the Mexico government's acceptance of the "Remain in Mexico" protocols in court (Proceso). 
  • The UN Security Council issued an official statement following its recent visit to Colombia, urging President Ivan Duque's government to fully implement the historic 2016 peace deal (via Colombia Reports). 
  • Colombia's national health system is suffering severe financial strain by offering limited free services to Venezuelan migrants and their children—not only is more support from the international community needed, but Venezuelan doctors who've migrated to Colombia could also form part of the solution, argues a NYT en Español op-ed. However, the Colombian government would have to expedite the process allowing those with Venezuelan medical degrees to practice in Colombia, the op-ed asserts. 
  • "The unveiling of a plan to protect community leaders involved in Colombia’s voluntary coca crop substitution program is not likely to alleviate security concerns, given the recent killings of such figures and the government’s poor track record in supporting crop substitution." (InSight Crime)
  • Multilateral body the Lima Group met yesterday in Buenos Aires; they issued a call for more international cooperation to support countries receiving large numbers of Venezuelan migrants, and called on the UN Security Council to discuss Venezuela (Al Jazeera). The Lima Group also stated it would support investigations into the connections between Maduro regime officials and illicit activities (EFE). 
  • WOLA's Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog has its latest summary of top news in Venezuela out today. 
Central America
  • El Faro analyzes the defense strategy taken on by the ex-military officials on trial for the 1981 El Mozote massacre, which centers around blaming the higher ranks of the military chain of command for one of the worst mass killings ever registered in modern Latin America.
  • President Nayib Bukele has signed a decree that asks the Salvadoran military to conduct nationwide joint patrols and detain suspected criminals until the end of the year, an echo of past failed strategies to use the military as police to fight insecurity in El Salvador, reports El Faro
Southern Cone
  • An NYT obituary honors the life of Dr. Joel Filártiga, a dissident under the Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay, who died on July 5. Filártiga's campaign for justice for his son's death under the regime led to a landmark human rights ruling in 1980. The decision allows those who've suffered human rights abuses abroad to sue for redress in a U.S. court (the scope of the ruling was later severely limited by the Supreme Court in a 2013 decision). 
  • Alarming levels of deforestation are taking place in the Amazon—"We must quickly reverse current trends and ensure that economic development is not at odds with conservation to avoid reaching the tipping point," states a NYT op-ed. 

-- Elyssa Pachico

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