Wednesday, August 21, 2019

U.S. seeks safe third country agreement with Panama (Aug. 21, 2019)

News Briefs

  • The U.S. is seeking a safe third country agreement with Panama that would force migrants who arrive in South America before heading north into Panama to apply for asylum there rather than in the U.S. The agreement would largely affect the relatively small but growing numbers of “extracontinental” asylum seekers from Africa and Asia, reports the Washington Post. The U.S. recently signed an agreement with Guatemala that would largely affect asylum seekers from Central America, and administration officials envision a network of agreements that forces migrants to seek protection outside of the U.S.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro confirmed high level meetings between representatives of the two governments, after news reports said that a powerful Venezuelan official was in secret meetings with Washington. Neither leader specified who was involved in the conversations nor what was on the agenda. Maduro framed the talks as an attempt to bridge the antagonism that divides the two countries, while the news reports over the weekend said that the meetings aimed to cause a schism within Maduro's inner circle. (GuardianAl Jazeera, see yesterday's briefs.)
  • But U.S. national security adviser John Bolton today insisted that meetings with Venezuelan officials are occurring behind Maduro's back, reports EFE. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • U.S. sanctions are worsening Venezuela's agony, argues the Financial Times editorial board in a call for "a much broader diplomatic effort" that includes Russia, China and Cuba.
  • China National Petroleum Corp, a leading buyer of Venezuelan oil, has halted August loadings following the latest U.S. sanctions, reports Reuters.
  • Parts of Caracas and at least one Venezuelan state endured hours of power outage yesterday. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó said the outage affected at least 11 of Venezuela’s 24 states. (Associated Press)
  • The U.S. Navy is prepared to take action if needed in Venezuela, according to the U.S. Southern Command head. (Fox News)
  • Chile will allow Venezuelan migrants into the country without documents for family reunification. (Efecto Cocuyo)
  • Colombia's army chief suggested narrative guidelines for army commanders to use in testimony to a Truth Commission and Colombia's transitional justice courtEl País reports on a classified document from March that instructs members of the army to hew to an institutional vision, complete with counter-arguments that troops could use in response to interrogation.
  • Elevated rates of migration from Guatemala indicate -- counterintuitively -- improvements in the country's public-health conditions, argues Charles Lane in a Washington Post opinion piece. Demographic trends in Guatemala -- and the rest of the Northern Triangle -- suggest the outflow will eventually peak, as it did with Mexico, he writes.
  • Governability is a real concern in Guatemala after Alejandro Giammattei was elected earlier this month, mostly by voters rejecting his opposing candidate. Like current President Jimmy Morales, there is a high likelihood that Giammattei will be more interested in protecting allies linked to organized crime, corruption and drug trafficking than prosecuting them, writes Mike Allison in the Globe Post
  • A Guatemalan court acquitted one of Morales' sons and his brother yesterday. Samuel “Sammy” Morales, the president’s older brother and political adviser, had been on trial on suspicion of fraud and money laundering, while Jose Manuel Morales, the president’s eldest son, was facing fraud charges, reports Reuters.
  • Vast fires are decimating the Amazon rainforest at an increasing rate. Some were intentional and some accidental, but all are of human origin. Yesterday, smoke cloaked São Paulo in darkness hours before nightfall. The number of forest fires in Brazil, mainly across the Amazon, has soared 84% this year compared with the same period last year, reports the Wall Street Journal. The news comes as activists question the Brazilian government's permissive attitude regarding deforestation, and in the wake of statistics showing that the rainforest is being destroyed at an increasing rate under the current administration, reports the Washington Post.
  • The deforestation issue is threatening to undermine a long-negotiated free trade agreement between the Mercosur trade bloc and the European Union, reports the Washington Post separately.
  • Operation Car Wash prosecutors circumvented legal limits to obtain sensitive tax personal data, report The Intercept and Folha de S. Paulo. Private messages leaked to the media show how prosecutors collaborated with a tax auditor to verify their hypothesis.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro may back down from appointing his son ambassador to the U.S., after Congress threatened to block the move amid fierce backlash. (Guardian)
  • Brazilian security forces shot and killed a bus hijacker in Rio de Janeiro who took 37 commuters hostage this morning. (Reuters)
  • Former presidential candidate Fernando Haddad was convicted of mismanaging campaign accounts when he ran for mayor of  São Paulo six years earlier -- the judge determined he had a slush fund of  $650,000 given by an engineering construction firm. (ReutersRio TimesFolha)
  • Lynchings have become increasingly common throughout Latin America, but in Mexico -- where murder rates are at a record high and impunity is rampant -- the phenomenon is particularly acute. Experts say police failures, organized crime, and an ineffective justice system push citizens towards vigilantism, reports the Guardian.
  • Mexican tomato growers reached a last-minute deal with the U.S. Commerce Department. The agreement will suspend an antidumping investigation and remove duties on U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes in exchange for Mexico raising prices and submitting to inspections, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Mexican authorities are preparing to file more criminal charges against the former head of state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos Emilio Lozoya, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Young voters are particularly against Argentine President Mauricio Macri -- Reuters.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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