Thursday, July 18, 2019

'Chapo' sentenced; Ivan Duque talks achievements as president (July 18, 2019)

News Briefs
  • The general consensus to be drawn from the latest reporting at the U.S.-Mexico border is that the Trump administration’s asylum ruleby WOLA as “infeasible, inhumane, and illegal”) will “rip even more families apart” (Washington Post op-ed) as it leaves asylum seekers anxious and fearful (Reuters), amid “a chaos of rumours” (AP) from the border region to Guatemala (NPR). That chaos will likely only grow worse if U.S. immigration authorities start carrying out mass raids and begin sending deportees to Mexico. However, an unnamed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official confirmed to CNNthere’s been no uptick in arrests as of this week. 
  • The Pentagon is increasing the number of military personnel at the U.S.-Mexico border by 45 percent (that is, an additional deployment of 2,100 troops to join the approximately 4,500 already there) (NYTimes).
  • “Will any political leader figure out how to make a principled case for less immigration, rather than simply a racist one? So far, the answer is no” (NYTimes op-ed).
  • TheNew York Times profiles a 13-year-old girl who attempted suicide, reportedly after growing increasingly dispirited by her Honduran father’s failed attempts to cross the border, claim asylum and reunite with her.

  • As expected, Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” was sentenced to life in prison yesterday. He’ll likely be held in whatReuters has described as the most secure prison in the United States: a maximum security center in Colorado, currently home to the Unabomber, the Oklahoma City bomber, and the Boston Marathon bomber. It’s worth asking whether Guzman’s extradition and life sentence will actually impact Sinaloa Cartel operations. “In El Chapo’s absence, Mexico is more violent and its criminal landscape more fragmented than ever before,” notes InSight Crime. Security experts interviewed by BBC Mundoalso concurred that the sentencing is unlikely to dramatically alter criminal dynamics in Guzman’s home country.
  • A poll by Reforma shows President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a 70 percent approval rating, although 52 percent of respondents said they thought the administration could be doing more to tackle crime rates (Reuters). Another noteworthy poll by Mexico’s national statistics institute had 74 percent of respondents asserting that they felt unsafe in the cities where they lived (Animal Politico).
  • “Mexico is doing Mr. Trump’s dirty work by agreeing to prevent desperate Central American migrants from traveling north,” argues historian Enrique Krauze in an op-ed for the New York Times.

Central America

  • The U.S. State Department was supposed to submit a report to Congress about human rights abuses in Nicaragua by June 19, but has not yet done so. However, last week State received a bipartisan letter, sponsored by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), requesting information about the role played by President Daniel Ortega and other top Nicaraguan officials in human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch notes that the U.S. government is required under the NICA Act (passed by Congress last December) to share information with Congress about “the participation of Nicaraguan senior officials in human rights abuses, corruption, and money laundering.” “The Trump administration should impose sanctions on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and other top officials implicated in the brutal crackdown on protests that began in April 2018,” HRW stated.
  • Guatemalan Minister of the Interior Enrique Degenhart may have played a major role in guiding the now postponed “safe third country” deal between the U.S. and Guatemala, reports elPeriodico
  • A survey by civil society group El Salvador Cómo Vamos, a project of local think tank Fusades, interviewed over 3,000 people in three Salvadoran municipalities and found that 30 percent of respondents expressed interest in migrating abroad. Some 40 percent of respondents already had family members living overseas; within that number, 83 percent had family in the United States (El Diario de Hoy). 
  • Honduras’ national human rights commission counts at least 325 members of the LGBT community killed in the last 10 years (Deutsche Welle).
  • An Al Jazeera op-ed examines what may have turned Guatemala’s business elites away from supporting UN-backed anti-corruption commission the CICIG, asserting that the problem arose in 2016 when the CICIG began investigating illegal political campaign donations. “By investigating electoral finances, the CICIG was inevitably going to target the business community, as well as politicians and criminal organisations,” the article states.

  • In an extensive interview with EFE, President Ivan Duque cited economic growth and having stopped seven years of “exponential growth” in illicit crop production as major achievements of his administration. On the alarming rise in killing of human rights defenders and social leaders, Duque said that it was “difficult” to provide security to what he asserted were “over 7 million” people who met the definition of “social leader” in the country. (His answer did not reflect the fact that those facing the highest levels of risk are concentrated in specific communities and regions). In another noteworthy comment, Duque explicitly said that the Maduro regime in Venezuela is protecting leaders of guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN by its Spanish initials), as well as dissident FARC leaders. He described Venezuela as a “problem of criminality and terrorism.” Other subjects touched on in the interview include Colombia government relations with the Trump administration, the NYTimes report earlier this year on “false positive” killings, and his support for the usage of glyphosate—which the World Health Organization has linked to cancer—in spraying illicit drug crops.

  • On July 7, Nicolás Maduro shuffled the upper ranks of Venezuela’s military;InSight Crime found that several of those who received promotions have troubled pasts.
  • Opposition leader and president of the Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaidó said that ongoing talks in Barbados are drawing close “to a real solution” to Venezuela’s crisis (Efecto Cocuyo).

Southern Cone
  • Today marks 25 years since the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s deadliest ever terrorist attack. No one has ever been convicted for the bombing; in 2015, a chief investigator of the case was found dead the day before he was supposed to report on his findings. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit a commemorative photo exhibit in Buenos Aires today, as part of his trip through Latin America (Reuters). Argentina also marked the anniversary by announcing the creation of a new anti-terrorism database (EFE).

  • Nationwide blackouts in Cuba will be resolved by Saturday, the national minister of energy has asserted. (AP)
  • Building an international airport near Machu Picchu “would irreparably damage the heartland of the Inca civilization” (NYTimes op-ed).
  • The 2019 winners of the Columbia Journalism School Maria Moors Cabot prize for outstanding reporting on the Americas includes Venezuelan investigative website, Mexican journalist Marcela Turati of Quinto Elemento Lab, Confidencial cartoonist Pedro Molina, and New York Times en Español opinion editor Boris Muñoz, among others (full announcement here).
  • Chile, Mexico, and Brazil have taken measures against childhood obesity levels that could arguably be replicated successfully in the United States (Washington Post).
  • During July 17-19, Ciudad Juarez is hosting the Third International Conference for Latin American Border Cities; 25 mayors from 14 countries across the region will be in attendance (full announcement here).
--Elyssa Pachico

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