Wednesday, January 6, 2021

"Remain in Mexico" exposes asylum seekers to harm (Jan. 6, 2021)

 The U.S. "Remain in Mexico" policy, formally known as the “Migration Protection Protocols” (MPP), "is anything but protective: it has sent people to some of Mexico’s most dangerous cities and needlessly and foreseeably exposed them to considerable risk of serious harm," according to a new Human Rights Watch report. 

The U.S. program, created by the Trump administration in January 2019, forces asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico and return periodically to the United States for immigration court hearings, part of an effort to deter people from entering along the country's southern border. U.S. president-elect Joe Biden promised to scrap the program, which has sent more than 69,000 people back over the border, sometimes into ramshackle refugee camps, reports the Guardian. But last month he warned that implementing an alternative system could take up to six months. The Supreme Court will also take up challenges to Remain in Mexico this year. (Washington Post)

In the meantime, Mexico's government said it is working on a plan for how to deal with the migrants stuck in the country awaiting asylum proceedings in the U.S., but gave no further details, reports Reuters.

More than 1,300 people have been raped, kidnapped, or otherwise assaulted since the program was implemented nearly two years ago, according to a December report by Human Rights First. (Business Insider)

People interviewed for the Human Rights Watch report, including children, "described rape or attempted rape and other sexual assault, abduction for ransom, extortion, armed robbery, and other crimes committed against them. In many cases, their attackers targeted them as they arrived in Mexico after their initial placement in the MPP or on their way back from court hearings, or as they left the migrant shelters where they stayed. In some cases, Mexican immigration officers or police committed these crimes."

Migrants in Mexico are facing increased difficulties due to the coronavirus, as restrictions aimed at limiting contagion have forced dozens of shelters to close or scale back operations, reports Reuters.

News Briefs

  • Venezuela's Maduro government reclaimed control of the National Assembly yesterday, symbolically restoring portraits of Simón Bolivar and Hugo Chávez, and promising to "exorcise" the parliamentary chamber that has been controlled by the political opposition for the past five years. (See yesterday's post.) Lawmakers sworn in yesterday won their seats in highly irregular elections, which nonetheless have undermined opposition claims to democratic legitimacy, reports the Associated Press.
  • Lima Group, a regional bloc comprised mostly of Latin American nations, said yesterday it does not "recognize the legitimacy or legality of the National Assembly installed on January 5" in Venezuela, describing the Dec. 6 elections as "fraudulent." (Reuters)
  • The European Union committed to work with Guaidó towards credible elections, but did not refer to him as interim president yesterday -- his legal mandate as National Assembly head ended, though opposition lawmakers voted to extend their term for a year. (EFE)
  • A Cape Verde court ruled that Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman who had been Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s deal maker, can be extradited to the U.S., where he was indicted on charges of laundering money for the authoritarian regime, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said the country is broke, yesterday and blamed the crisis on "the press-fueled" coronavirus. Emergency aid payments aimed at helping people survive coronavirus economic impact end this month, and Marcelo Neri, director of the Center for Social Policies of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), warned Brazil may be "on the edge of a social abyss." (AFP)
  • Many Brazilian cattle farms keep workers in slavery-like conditions -- and supply animals to major slaughterhouses, like JBS. A new report by Repórter Brasil adds to evidence against JBS, the world's largest meat producer, which has also come under fire for sourcing cattle from farms involved in illegal deforestation of the Amazon. (Guardian
  • Mexico is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists -- nine were killed last year, making Mexico more lethal than a warzone for the press. Coronavirus is only adding to the danger, as media companies send reporters out without basic protective equipment, writes Témoris Grecko in the Post Opinión.
  • Colombian President Iván Duque said the country plans to match last year's coca eradication levels, and plans to destroy 130,000 hectares in 2021. (Reuters)
  • Colombia's new year has opened with bloodshed for demobilized guerrillas and social leaders -- following last year's trend of massacres and assassinations, reports Telesur. Yolanda Zabala Mazo was killed early on Jan. 1, the first former FARC fighter killed this year. And Gerardo Leon is the first leader and human rights defender assassinated in 2021.
  • Colombian illegal armed groups lost roughly 5,120 members in 2020 due to armed forces operations aimed at weakening them, announced General Luis Fernando Navarro. (Reuters)
Regional Relations
  • The U.S. is slashing foreign military aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- part of an initiative by U.S. House Democrats to strengthen anti-corruption efforts in Central America. It's a symbolic blow to the countries as they try to show progress in strengthening the rule of law, Adam Isacson at the Washington Office on Latin America told the Associated Press.
El Salvador
  • A Salvadoran court found ex-president Tony Saca and his wife guilty of illicit enrichment and ordered them to repay the government $4.4 million, reports the Associated Press.
  • El Salvador's lawmakers cut $450 million in opaque budget items from this year's government spending plan, reports El Faro.
  • Legislation allowing Chileans to withdraw money from their pension savings was a reckless decision that has done irreparable damage to the country's retirement future, argues Paula Schmidt in Americas Quarterly.
  • Political outsiders are challenging the discredited traditional party elites in Chile -- the leading candidates in opinion polls ahead of Chile’s November presidential elections are mayors who have set themselves apart from the established political class, reports the Financial Times.
  • More generally, coronavirus devastation could build on previous dissatisfaction with political elites and fuel a rise of political outsiders in elections in Peru and Ecuador as well as Chile this year, reports the Financial Times separately. (Check out Americas Quarterly's profiles of presidential candidates for Ecuador and for Peru.)
  • Latin America's economic activity could grow by 3.7 percent in 2021 as countries in the region relax coronavirus restrictions, but "the rebound will be very weak," the World Bank said yesterday. (Associated Press)
  • The LGBT community in Latin America and the Caribbean has been disproportionately impacted by 2020 pandemic, lockdowns and unemployment -- Global Americans.

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

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