Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Suspected migrant massacre in Mexico (Jan. 27, 2021)

The charred bodies of 19 murder victims found near Mexico's border with the U.S. are believed to belong to Guatemalan migrants. (Reuters) Authorities found the bodies late on Saturday in two burning vehicles which had been left beside a dirt road outside the town of Camargo. All the victims had been shot, but shells were not found at the site, leading investigators to believe they were killed somewhere else, reports the Associated Press

Witness accounts suggest that the Guatemalans were attacked by an organized criminal group. If so, they form part of a broader pattern of violence against migrants in Mexico, denounced WOLA in a call to Mexico and the United States to revise migration policies in order to defend human rights, particularly access to asylum.

The case revives memories of the 2010 massacre of 72 migrants in the same gang-ridden state of Tamaulipas, notes the Associated Press.

Several families in Guatemala’s northwestern San Marcos department, who believe their children to be among the victims, stated that a pandemic-related food shortage had forced their children to set out for the United States earlier in the month, notes WOLA.

News Briefs

More Migration
  • The United States, Mexico and Guatemala agreed to bar migrant caravans from passing through their territories due to the Covid pandemic, just days after thwarting the year's first migrant caravan that set out from Honduras. (AFP)
  • Thousands of Honduras in a U.S.-bound migrant caravan were forced to turn back earlier this month. But the country's long standing political volatility and endemic corruption have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and devastation by successive hurricanes last year --  which means many people will keep trying to leave, reports Al Jazeera. Many are not necessarily headed towards the U.S. Mexico, which was once a transit country, has become a destination for many Central American migrants.
El Salvador
  • A social media hashtag defending the relevance of El Salvador's 1992 peace accords gained unexpected force after President Nayib Bukele trashed the agreements that ended the country's 12-year civil war. Users shared microhistories of the war and its impacts, #ProhibidoOlvidarSV, a valorization of the accords by a new generation, writes Oscar Martínez in a New York Times Español op-ed. The citizen reaction to Bukele's discrediting of the peace accords is promising. But Bukele's popularity -- he is set to gain significant power in next month's legislative and local elections -- is a sign of the enduring weakness of El Salvador's post-war peace, he writes.
  • Transnational crime has been the big pandemic winner of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest issue of Americas Quarterly, focused on organized crime groups in the region. "There are signs the pandemic really may be a game-changer, creating long-term headaches for governments everywhere."
  • The pandemic may be a turning point of acceleration of negative security trends from recent decades. "The operational capacity, adaptability, expansive networks, and deep pockets of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) have provided them with opportunities to exploit the voids left by overwhelmed institutions and stressed market chains across the region. Although it is still too early to assess any enduring changes, TCOs are showing signs of adapting and even growing stronger in numerous ways, some of them surprising," write José Miguel Cruz and Brian Fonseca in Americas Quarterly.
  • Covid-19 has been a disaster for Latin America's educational systems, but school closures have been a potential bonanza for criminal organizations, who suddenly have an even bigger pool of idle young people to recruit from. Criminal groups in Colombia have sharply increased forced recruitment since the pandemic began, and many other youths are lured by economic criminal opportunities, reports Americas Quarterly.
Regional Relations
  • The U.S. Trump administration's "maximal pressure" strategy against Venezuela's Maduro government failed spectacularly. Maduro is stronger than he’s ever been, and the democratic opposition movement is in pieces, wrote David Smilde in a recent Washington Post opinion piece. Moving forward, he recommends the Biden administration expand the range of democratic actors it engages in Venezuela, rather than unconditionally support one faction of the opposition. 
  • "The regime in place in Caracas will neither reform nor negotiate its own demise unless incentives for regime officials, including military and security leaders, shift dramatically," writes Eric Farnsworth in Americas Quarterly. He advocates reviewing existing sanctions and establishing a contact group of global democracies for the coordination of Venezuela policies, including, at a minimum, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the Secretary General of the OAS.
  • China is pivoting from a “no strings attached” myth regarding its trade deals and foreign assistance in Latin America to a more aggressive “wolf warrior diplomacy” posture in which it uses sticks, threats and information warfare as well as carrots to defend its positions, according to James Bosworth. China may gain allies from leaders in the region put off by the new U.S. administration's expected focus on anti-corruption and the environment, he predicts in the Latin America Risk Report.
  • Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski has opened an investigation into Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Manaus, reports Reuters. Health services in Brazil's northern Amazonas state have been pushed to breaking point by a wave of Covid-19 infections, oxygen supplies ran out earlier this month, causing at least 51 death by asphyxiation. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Mynor Moto took oath as a Constitutional Court justice in Guatemala, despite a series of appeals questioning his suitability, reports El Periódico. The Public Ministry, social organizations and lawyers say Moto should not hold the office due investigations into allegedly corrupt judicial decisions, reports Soy 502. Prensa Libre reviews some of Moto's controversial rulings.
  • Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo died after contracting Covid-19. (BBC)
  • Chile’s appeals court overturned the convictions of six people for the murder of the former president, Eduardo Frei Montalva, in the 1980s. The ex-president’s doctors, his chauffeur, an army officer and a former intelligence agent were sentenced to between three and 10 years in jail in January 2019 for the poisoning of 71-year-old Frei in a Santiago clinic during the Pinochet dictatorship. (Reuters)

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

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