Friday, March 5, 2021

Asylum seekers abused in Mexico -- HRW (March 5, 2021)

Asylum seekers sent to Mexico by the administration of former US president Donald Trump have suffered violence and extortion by Mexican police, immigration agents, and criminal groups, according to a new Human Rights Watch report. The Trump administration, under its Remain in Mexico program, sent more than 71,000 asylum seekers to Mexico to await asylum hearings. Additionally, since March 2020, the US has expelled more than 400,000 migrants, many to Mexico, including asylum seekers who were denied the chance to make their claims.

Those interviewed have said they were afraid to report crimes and abuse to Mexican authorities and were frequently unable to get the documents they needed to work, get health care, or send their children to school. Nearly half of asylum seekers under the Remain in Mexico program lost their cases after missing court dates. Human Rights Watch has spoken to families who missed court dates because they were kidnapped in Mexico. Others were bused south by the Mexican government, leaving them thousands of miles from their hearing locations.

News Briefs

More Migration
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials acknowledged internally that deported Haitian immigrants “may face harm” upon returning to their home country due to violent crime and the political instability that has rocked the country in recent months, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.
  • The U.S. Biden administration plans to release migrant parents and children within 72 hours of their arrival in the United States. Children often showed symptoms of depression and trauma after spending long periods in custody with their parents under the preceding Trump and Obama administrations, reports the New York Times.
  • Experts say the Dominican Republic government's plan to build a wall (or fence, rather) along the Haitian border won't work to reduce illegal migration unless it is accompanied by development projects in the border area, reports AFP.
  • Argentina's government repealed a decree by former President Mauricio Macri permitting the deportation of migrants with criminal records. President Alberto Fernández said the measures were "irreconcilable" with international human rights protections. (Página 12)
  • Argentine vice president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner turned a legal defense speech in a corruption case into a stinging indictment of Argentina's judicial system, which she accused of extended political persecution against her and members of her former government. A sign of the VP's political pull: At least 14,000 individuals (some media reported 20,000) were watching the video live at one point yesterday. (Página 12, Buenos Aires Times)
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández announced an investigation into the previous government's decision to take $45 billion in an IMF loan. (See Wednesday's briefs.) Ahead of debt payment renegotiations with the international lender, the government's novel stance is whether the debt itself is legitimate, writes Pedro Brieger at Nodal.
  • The IMF has "has been more interested in helping countries avoid worsening conditions than in using its leverage to get economic reforms in place," writes Boz in the Latin America Risk Report.
  • El Salvador is talking to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about securing some $1.3 billion in financing. Finance Minister Alejandro Zelaya told Reuters in an interview that El Salvador wants to get a 36-month extended fund facility approved by the IMF, similar to the program announced this week for
  • Argentina and Mexico became the final signatories to ratify the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environment Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the “Escazú Agreement,” in January. One of the agreement's most novel contributions is its special attention to protecting environmental human rights defenders, Alex Muñoz Wilson told the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado.
  • Education budgets declined after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 65 percent of low- and lower middle- income countries, according to a World Bank and UNESCO study. Lower-income countries are more likely to continue a decreasing trend in their education budgets or to shift from a positive to a negative trend after Covid. 
Regional Relations
  • "Biden’s election to the Presidency has raised hopes among Guatemalans that he will help revive the anti-corruption work once done by the [CICIG], which was shuttered by Guatemalan leaders in 2019, with the tacit support of the Trump Administration," writes Francisco Goldman in the New Yorker. "The closure of the commission stalled years of bipartisan U.S. efforts to combat drug-trafficking-fuelled corruption, and end impunity for members of the country’s élite."
  • Florida state voters would support  a more human-centered, nuanced approach toward Venezuela, according to an Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center poll.
  • The U.S. is open to pursuing new strategies with Mexico on drug trafficking, Juan Gonzalez, senior director for the Western Hemisphere on the U.S. National Security Council, told Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard last week. Gonzalez said that the tactics used in recent years haven’t produced the results either side wanted and that they need to adapt to new challenges, the people said. The comments provide a look into how the Biden administration plans to shift security cooperation with Mexico after the Trump administration's heavy-handed approach, reports Bloomberg.
  • After decades of strict drug policy, Mexico’s congress is expected to pass a federal law this year that would for the first time create a legal cannabis trade in the country. But many of Mexico’s marijuana proponents are still opposed, reports The Nation. "The bill would allow for a cannabis industry on terms that they say favor corporations, and would still impose fines and prison sentences on people without connections or power."
Central America
  • Gender-based violence is continuing to drive migrants out of Central America's Northern Triangle. And the pandemic has only made the problem worse, writes Maria Fernanda Bozmoski at the Atlantic Council. Statistics so far in 2021 record a femicide in Honduras every thirty-six hours; at the beginning of February, four women were brutally killed there in a span of forty-eight hours.
  • Bombing by the Colombian military has killed 10 and injured three at a base used by dissidents from the former FARC armed group in southeast Colombia, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Colombia's failing peace process has put its social leaders at risk, hundreds have been killed by armed groups. The U.S. must strengthen the peace accord implementation, writes Hanna Wallis in the Washington Post. A commitment to human rights means supporting "the grass-roots movements that are both suffering the most from the conflict’s current iteration and leading some of the most effective, internationally recognized efforts against it," she argues.
  • After two straight days of record Covid-19 deaths in Brazil, over 1,900 on Wednesday, President Jair Bolsonaro told Brazilians to stop “whining” and move on, reports Reuters.
  • Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes has ordered a nighttime coronavirus “curfew,” as hospitals across the country are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients, reports the Guardian.
  • Two civil society campaigns have emerged to champion vaccination in Brazil, in response to government inaction and President Jair Bolsonaro's anti-science stance. One initiative, Unidos pela Vacina (United for Vaccines), has been set up by Brazil’s richest woman, Luiza Trajano, while the other campaign is led by Brazilian newspapers and broadcasters and features prominent actors, journalists, thinkers and doctors. (Guardian)
  • Brazil’s top court ordered an investigation into how tracts of stolen land in the Amazon rainforest inhabited by indigenous tribes came to be put up for sale on Facebook, reports Reuters.
  • Guatemala’s Congress began reshaping the country’s Constitutional Court earlier this week, selecting a new magistrate and an alternate in decisions that could have grave consequences for the battle against corruption and impunity, reports the Associated Press. Current magistrate Dina Ochoa received a majority of votes in an initial vote on Tuesday, putting her on a path to a likely second consecutive term.
  • Venezuelans have been suffering food shortages for years, made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic now. Photographer Andrea Hernández Briceño documents how people turn back to the land to help supplement insufficient supplies. (Washington Post magazine)
  • Half of Chile's constituent assembly participantes, to be elected in April, will be women, thanks to feminist activist efforts. Several feminist candidates' proposals have gained attention, such as a new constitutional right to individual autonomy over the body, which could pave the way for abortion access, explains Catherine Osborn in Foreign Policy's Latin America Brief.

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

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