Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Thousands of migrants blocked by Mexico (Jan 21, 2020)

Thousands of Central American migrants attempted to push through the Mexico-Guatemala border yesterday, but were repelled by Mexican National Guard forces. A few hundred that succeeded in slipping past the border were later detained by Mexican authorities, who are determined to stop the latest group of migrants -- estimated at 4,000 people -- trying to travel to the United States in what is dubbed a "caravan." (Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, Animal Político, Animal Político again)

Thousands of migrants massed at the border yesterday waded through the Suchiate River in an attempt to continue their journey together, but the vast majority were stopped by security forces. Some migrants threw rocks and other items at Mexican National Guard troops, who blocked the group with tear gas and rocks.

The migrant group yesterday asked Mexican authorities for permission to travel peacefully towards the U.S., but Mexico instead offered the possibility to register and possibly file asylum claims and obtain work in Mexico. However, Mexican authorities said yesterday that most of the migrants in the caravan would eventually be deported to their home countries, if they cross the border. Migrants yesterday were skeptical about promises for work, which authorities suggested might be in migrants' home countries. Announcements from Mexican authorities also tried to convince migrants that reaching the U.S. border is a foolish goal, as they could be sent to Guatemala to apply for asylum.

The first caravan of 2020 is demonstrating the effects of changed immigration policies in the region. Mexico's government drastically altered its approach due to U.S. pressure, contrary to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's campaign promises for a more humane policy. The caravan has shown the new, more sophisticated approach to control, detention, and deportation of migrants, argues Alberto Pradilla in Post Opinión.

"This massive exodus will be, perhaps, the last. Or at least it will mark a very clear before and after: if before Central American walkers dreamed of crossing the U.S. Tijuana wall ... now they will dream of crossing the Mexican wall," writes Carlos Martínez in El Faro. "The Border, like that with capital letters, moved south ..."

News Briefs

More Migration
  • A U.S. federal judge denied a request to halt the deportation of an Honduran woman and her two sick children. They are expected to be sent to Guatemala today to seek asylum there. (CBS)
Regional Relations
  • Colombia, Honduras officially declared Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist organization, and Guatemala's president has promised to do likewise. They join Argentina and Paraguay who already view Hezbollah as terrorists. Colombia accepted the full U.S. and E.U. lists of terrorist organizations, which also includes the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (Reuters, Jerusalem Post, see yesterday's briefs)
  • The U.S. Trump administration is urging Latin American allies to cancel health cooperation agreements with Cuba. Four countries in the region have already shut-down Cuba's signature medical brigades, which are a key source of income and influence for the communist island, reports the Washington Post.
  • Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei created a presidential commission against corruption, an entity that will depend on the executive and aims to detect anomalies within the government. (Prensa Libre)
  • Haitian journalists are working in increasingly dangerous circumstances in the midst of political crisis: " Public perception of journalism has deteriorated; protestors accuse media outlets of supporting the government, and attacks on the press have escalated. Journalists are also harassed by counter-protesters and police from the opposing side. They report physical attacks, death threats, and defamation campaigns on social media." -- Colombia Journalism Review
  • "The need to offer concrete results could make the next 12 months the most important of López Obrador’s presidency," argues Martín Vivanco Lira in Americas Quarterly.
  • Last year was officially the bloodiest on record for Mexico, beating out the 2018 homicide record. Official statistics count 35,588 homicide and femicide victims, an average of 97.5 per day and a ratio of 28.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, reports Animal Político. (See Jan. 7's post.)
El Salvador
  • El Salvador ended 2019 with its lowest murder rate in years. The government says the dramatic decline, which began shortly after President Nayib Bukele took office last June, is due to its new Territorial Control security plan. But analysts say the drop has more to do with internal gang policies -- which might be aimed at cooling confrontation with Central American governments. Others suggest there might be an undercover deal between El Salvador's government and gangs to reduce homicides, reports InSight Crime.
  • Bukele is celebrated internationally as El Salvador's "social media president," but at home his brief tenure has already sparked controversy and shown that governing is harder than garnering likes, reports Harvard Political Review.
  • Peru's Solidaridad Nacional political party has captured attention on social media with controversial messages about gender and race ahead of Peru's extraordinary legislative elections, which will take place this Sunday. A video purporting to link leftist and opponent politicians, including President Martín Vizcarra, to terrorist groups allowed Solidaridad Nacional, a low polling party, to obtain a level of online notoriety, according to an Ojo Público analysis. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • Thousands of Peruvian citizens with disabilities who had previously been under legal guardianship by courts have not been included on the national voting registry in time to vote Sunday, the Society and Disability (SODIS), Peruvian Down Syndrome Society, and Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
  • Peru's constitutional court ruled, last week, that Vizcarra had not exceeded his powers when he dissolved the country's congress in September. (BBC)
Costa Rica
  • The U.S. downgraded its travel recommendations for Costa Rica, citing an increase in crime, including armed robbery and homicide -- Financial Times.

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


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