Monday, July 15, 2019

Guatemala's 'safe third country' deal blocked (July 15, 2019)

Guatemala's government has postponed President Jimmy Morales' summit with President Trump, originally scheduled for Monday, and is asserting that it had "never considered" signing a "safe third country" agreement with the United States. 

Should Guatemala establish this type of deal with the U.S. government, any asylum seekers who first transit through Guatemala en route to the U.S. would be obliged to seek asylum in Guatemala (see July 12's post). (Notably, the New Yorker, reviewed a draft of the deal that reportedly offered an exception to Guatemalan migrants). 

Guatemala's government cited "speculation and imposed legal actions" as reason for postponing the Trump-Morales meeting. This was a reference to the appeal that former members of government, a former presidential candidate, and others filed before the Constitutional Court, challenging any potential U.S.-Guatemala "safe third country" agreement. 

After meeting on Sunday, the Constitutional Court ruled to uphold the appeal, meaning Morales will have to get any "safe third agreement" approved by Congress before it can enter into force (La Hora)

Criticism of a potential Guatemala-U.S. "safe third country" agreement continues to mount. The national human rights prosecutor urged the Constitutional Court to "uphold rule of law" by deciding in favor of the appeal. Member of Congress and Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel (D-NY) pointed out that the agreement would go against U.S. law, based on the State Department's report on human rights conditions, security, and rule of law in Guatemala. The Catholic Church also expressed concern.  A former minister of foreign affairs said a "safe third country" deal would turn the country into a "massive concentration camp."


  • Asides from several "small-scale" enforcement actions in New York City over the weekend, there were few reports of mass ICE raids across the United States, as President Trump had threatened (WSJReuters). The Southern Poverty Law Center confirmed no mass raids took place in southern cities; likewise, there were no reports of mass arrests in Denver, Chicago, and other "sanctuary" cities. The Mexican government confirmed that, while no Mexican nationals were detained in the New York raids, it's expected that some 1,800 people who already have deportation orders to be returned to Mexico in the coming week (AP). 
  • The New York Times profiles how asylum seekers are coping with waiting for an appointment with U.S. asylum authorities in Mexican cities like Nuevo Laredo, the latest city added to the "Remain in Mexico" program. 
  • El Paso is one of the border cities that's most strongly experiencing a (possibly temporary) lull in migration (Washington Post). 


  • Alvaro Uribe's political party is proposing a constitutional amendment that would "retroactively allow all convicted politicians to appeal sentences imposed after 1991" (Colombia Reports). The party is taking up this fight just after Uribe's former minister of agriculture was extradited from the U.S. back to Colombia, in order to serve out a prison sentence related to corruption charges. 
  • Colombia and Ecuador are on the alert, after the national Colombian banana growers' association detected the possible presence of a soil-borne fungus, known as "Panama disease," that can wipe out entire banana crops. (Semana)


  • Colombian rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN) is given free reign by the Maduro regime to traffic drugs, kidnap and extort, and control mining operations in Venezuela, reports the Wall Street Journal. Colombian rebel and criminal groups—including the FARC and factions of right-wing, drug trafficking paramilitaries—have long used the Venezuela-Colombia border region as a base of operations. 


  • An NPR explainer provides context on immigration enforcement actions taken by the Mexican government since its June 7 deal with the U.S. 
  • President López Obrador's cost-cutting efforts involve auctioning off government airplanes, slashing federal jobs, and cutting his own salary (Washington Post). 

Central America

  • Evelyn Beatríz Hernández, sentenced to 30 years in prison in El Salvador after she delivered a stillbirth and was charged with having an illegal abortion, returns to court for a retrial today (EFE). It's the first major case involving abortion—illegal in El Salvador since 1997—since President Nayib Bukele took office in June. 
  • The OAS has submitted its report on recommended electoral reforms to the government of Honduras. The recommendations include creating a transparency unit within the national electoral council (the body that received strong criticisms of fraud after the contested 2017 presidential elections). 
  • July 14 marks one year since Nicaragua paramilitaries and security forces laid siege on students occupying the Church of Divine Mercy in Managua; family members of the deceased are still calling for justice (Confidencial). 
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed concern about what's supposed to be the revised, final text of Honduras' new penal code. The Commission described the penal code as containing "disproportionate restrictions to freedom of expression [and] press freedoms," as well as other restrictions that could affect the right to protest, as well as human rights defenders. 


  • The prospect that President Bolsonaro might name his son ambassador to the U.S. has drawn strong criticism (New York Times). 


  • Saturday, Cuba passed a new electoral law that creates a new prime minister post (to be appointed by the president in December) and cuts the number of National Assembly deputies, among other reforms (AFP). 
  • The Cuban government is moving forward with overhauling its aged railway system, with help from China (AP). 

Elyssa Pachico 

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