Wednesday, August 25, 2021

U.S. Supreme Court reinstates MPP (Aug. 25, 2021)

The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Biden administration to comply with a lower court’s ruling to reinstate President Donald Trump’s policy that required many asylum seekers to await outside the country for their cases to be decided. The court's conservative majority agreed with a lower court that the Biden administration had not done enough to justify changing the Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as the “Remain in Mexico" policy. (Washington Post)

The policy was broadly criticized by human rights groups for undermining asylum rights and putting asylum seekers at risk of significant harm by forcing them to await adjudication in dangerous Mexican border cities, without proper infrastructure for shelter or for following their cases.

It is unclear exactly what effect the ruling will have, notes the Washington Post. The program was suspended when President Joe Biden took office in January, and formally repealed in June. The Trump administration had already largely stopped using the “Remain in Mexico” policy since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Under the lower court ruling, the administration must make a “good faith effort” to restart the program, reports the Associated Press, which leaves the government some discretion in how to move forward, according to Reuters. The legal case in the Supreme Court focused on whether the government followed the correct legal process in unwinding a previous administration’s policy.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas filed a seven-page memorandum on June 1 detailing what he saw as the MPP’s shortcomings. The American Civil Liberties Union called on the administration to present a fuller rationale for ending Remain in Mexico that could withstand court scrutiny.

Previous to the rulings senior U.S. officials discussed adopting a gentler version of “Remain in Mexico,” a premise immigration advocates decry as ludicrous, according to Vice.

But even without MPP in place — for now — most migrants and asylum seekers are still being turned back at the border, reports El Faro.

News Briefs

  • Colombian General Mario Montoya will be formally charged with murder today for allegedly overseeing and incentivizing the killings of 104 civilians, including five children. The general, who commanded the army between 2006 and 2008, is the highest-ranking military officer to face accountability in the "false positives" scandal, in which thousands of civilians were killed by security forces and passed off as guerrilla combatants to inflate enemy casualty rates. (Washington PostInfobae)
  • Peruvian President Pedro Castillo is contemplating a cabinet reshuffle, ahead of a key Congressional confirmation vote later this week. Reuters reports that the controversial prime minister, Guido Bellido, was initially on the chopping block, but reached an agreement with Castillo to remain. The ministers on the line belong to Castillo's radical Peru Libre party and include the heads of the Labor, Transportation and Defense ministries, according to Reuters.
Regional Relations
  • The Venezuelan government submitted a dossier of evidence of damage wrought by U.S. sanctions to the International Criminal Court, reports EFE. President Nicolás Maduro’s government went to the ICC in February 2020 with the claim that the sanctions constitute a crime against humanity.
  • An Argentine prosecutor charged former high level officials -- including the Macri administration's cabinet chief Macros Peña and foreign minister Jorge Faurie -- in an investigation into alleged smuggling of weapons to Bolivia in the wake of the 2019 ouster of President Evo Morales. (Telam)
  • The drinking of untreated water in Haiti's earthquake-affected zone has raised concerns of waterborne disease, including a return of cholera, which the country has been battling since it was introduced by Nepalese peacekeepers 10 months after the 2010 earthquake, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Many of Brazil's governors are concerned about their state police officers appearing in an upcoming march in support of President Jair Bolsonaro -- a fact that came to light in minutes of a Monday meeting of governors in Brasilia, in which they discussed a worsening political crisis in Brazil, reports Reuters. Active-duty military police are prohibited from making political demonstrations, but many are expected to show up at Sept 7 marches in support of Bolsonaro. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • A year ahead of presidential elections in Brazil, the polarized battle between Bolsonaro and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has prompted a push by moderates to establish a “third way” candidate, reports the Financial Times. But they still haven't found a politician with the necessary star power -- "a centrist who can appeal to voters disillusioned with the radicalism of the far right and the history of corruption under Lula’s Workers’ party."
  • A new decree and accompanying legislation announced by the Cuban government severely restricts freedom of expression online and threatens users’ privacy, according to Human Rights Watch. Under the new Decree-Law 35, telecommunications users have a duty to prevent the spreading of “fake news or reports” and are forbidden from using the services in ways that affect the “collective security,” “general well-being,” “public morality,” or “respect of public order.”
  • Economic reforms passed by Cuba's government earlier this month allow the creation of small and medium-sized private businesses for the first time in decades, nonetheless most sectors will still be state-run and Cubans abroad cannot be owners, reports the Miami Herald. (See Aug. 10's briefs.) Some experts believe the reforms are the first steps towards a veiled privatization effort by reconverting state companies into small and medium-sized enterprises that will remain state-owned but are expected to act independently.
El Salvador
  • The revelation of the former Attorney General’s investigation into gang negotiations by the Bukele administration (see yesterday's briefs) has three major implications for El Salvador’s president, according to InSight Crime. It shows government officials directed negotiations with criminal groups; unveils a major cover-up that culminated with the May ousting of attorney general Raúl Melara; and is likely to further strain US-El Salvador relations when it comes to combating the country’s powerful street gangs and curbing migration.
  • Paraguayan emergency services are battling fierce wildfires for a third consecutive year. This year the flames are compounded by a severe drought and a winter heatwave. Fires have been seen in at least five protected forested areas with 70 percent of the Cerro Cora National Park consumed by flames, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Medical oxygen supply firms have threatened some Mexican hospitals that installed their own onsite oxygen generator plants to meet Covid-19 demand, reports the Guardian. Demand for oxygen has soared in the country, alongside case rates. Last year the national guard was deployed to protect oxygen delivery trucks.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that he is open to releasing incarcerated kingpin and alleged godfather of Mexico’s contemporary drug trafficking industry, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, because of his age and poor health. (Vice)
  • Mexico could benefit from a broad and transparent debate on electoral reform, but not if the conversation is a Trojan Horse for the government to consolidate power and create a new "mafia of power," writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in the New York Times Español.
  • Gang warfare in Brazil's southern state of Rio Grande do Sul has sparked a major security crisis across its border with Uruguay, reports InSight Crime.
  • A delegation of roughly 150 members of an Indigenous community in Ecuador’s Amazon region demanded the National Court of Justice uphold a lower-court ruling ordering the eviction of loggers from their ancestral lands, reports EFE.
  • Chile’s presidential race kicked off yesterday, with nine candidates from across the political spectrum officially registered. The Eurasia Group risk consultancy said in a report that it foresaw a second round in which “the Left is well-placed to capitalize on the demand for change.” (Reuters)
  • Governments around the world are increasingly using highly sophisticated spyware technology to monitor journalists, dramatically undermining the news media’s ability to report free from interference, according to a new report by the Center for Independent Media Assistance.
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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