Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Outrage at US treatment of Haitian migrants (Sept. 22, 2021)

The US is taking swift measures to disperse a camp of, mostly Haitian, migrants in Del Rio, Texas, which had an estimated 14,000 people this weekend. Images of US Border Patrol agents on horseback corralling migrants crossing the border with what appear to be whips became viral and were criticized at the highest levels of the US government. (See yesterday's briefs and Monday's post.)

"It didn’t matter if the agent was holding a lariat or horse reins or if the migrant was actually struck or not. The picture was enough" to serve as a symbol of a long history of US mistreatment of Haitian immigrants and  historic grave abuses against Black people in the country, reports the Miami Herald.

“White (and white-presenting) men on horseback with lariats are seen chasing, yelling and cursing at vulnerable Black asylum seekers who have for weeks and months been fleeing toward what they thought was safety,” wrote leaders of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, in a letter to US President Joe Biden. “The actions of these Border Patrol officers are disgraceful and show an indifference to the humanity of Black migrants.”

The photographs and video footage of the agents’ interactions with the migrants, which were widely circulated online, offered a glimpse of the chaos that had been unfolding since last week, reports the New York Times.

US authorities have deported more than 500 Haitians since Sunday, reports Reuters.

Several Haitians deported from the US this week say they were shackled during transit, including on flights, with one describing it as being chained “like a slave,” reports the Washington Post. A group of Haitians deported from the US yesterday assaulted the pilots on board one of the flights when it arrived in Port-au-Prince and injured three US immigration officers, reports NBC News.

The frequency of the Haiti flights will increase to seven per day starting tomorrow. That amounts to an estimated 1,000 people per day arriving in crisis-ridden Haiti, where officials say they lack resources to accompany people, many of whom left the country ten years ago. “I don’t understand why the Biden administration is adding another problem,” said Pierre Esperance, director of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network.

Though the US Biden administration has focused on deportation in response to the migrant camp in Texas, thousands of the Haitians in Del Rio are being released in the United States, a US official told Associated Press. The criteria for deciding who is flown to Haiti and who is released in the U.S. was unclear, but two U.S. officials said single adults were the priority for expulsion flights.

And Mexican authorities have begun busing and flying Haitian migrants away from the US border, signaling a new level of support for the United States, reports the AP.

Advocates note that the deportation measures do nothing for the underlying factors pushing Haitians to desperate attempts to reach the US: "The United States can only reduce migration pressure from Haiti by ending decades-long policies that have undermined Haiti’s democracy and economy," writes Brian Concannon in a Miami Herald opinion piece.

More Migration
  • International and US coverage of migration often uses language that reduces humanitarian problems to logistical issues. "The best coverage of the Haitian asylum-seekers and the Biden administration’s response has scrutinized the US’s immigration policies and recent deportation efforts while focusing on their devastating human consequences," reports the Columbia Journalism Review.

UN General Assembly

Latin American leaders at the UN General Assembly focused on the pandemic and debt issues. The presidents of Argentina and Colombia warned that increasingly strapped emerging markets could default on their foreign debts, and called on multilateral lenders to push for changes that ease conditions. 

Argentine President Alberto Fernández called for a “reconfiguration of global financial architecture,” while his Colombian counterpart, Iván Duque called on credit agencies to recognize pandemic conditions that have pushed governments to increase their indebtedness and fiscal deficits. (Associated Press)

Duque also said the international community must equitably distribute Covid-19 vaccines to avoid the creation of new, more fearsome variants of the coronavirus. (Reuters)

More UN
  • Brazil’s health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, has tested positive for Covid and gone into isolation, 24 hours after meeting a maskless Boris Johnson and other British officials in New York, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs.)
News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • The US put Guatemala's attorney general and five Salvadoran Supreme Court judges on a list of "undemocratic and corrupt" officials on Monday, in a sign of the Biden government's frustration with Central American authorities, reports Reuters.

  • In the case of El Salvador's judges, the US embassy chargé d’affaires in San Salvador, Jean Manes, said the action was taken because the justices voted to allow the president’s re-election, "which is clearly not allowed under the constitution," reports the Guardian.

  • Though the measures are directed against judicial actors in El Salvador, they are meant to hit the executive. Civil society organizations increasingly denounce that Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele increasingly controls key parts of the judiciary, reports El Faro.

  • Venezuela's government said a Colombian military drone violated its airspace in what it called a "blatant threat" to its national security that took place during a visit by a US military commander to the neighboring nation. (Reuters)
  • A Rome court has rejected a request by Venezuela to extradite its former oil czar, Rafael Ramirez, to face corruption charges, citing the country’s record in violating human rights, reports the Associated Press.
  • Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa, former Nicaraguan diplomat and foreign minister, is one of the dozens of critics of the Ortega government charged with treason and conspiracy. "His incarceration is indefinite," writes his son in Time Magazine. "Since then, we’ve heard disturbing stories coming out of El Chipote: Of how it’s freezing at night; of how the lights in cells are kept on 24-7 to disorient the prisoners; of how it’s infested with mosquitoes; of prisoners being starved; of COVID-19 spreading through the jail’s population." (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Mexico's Supreme Court invalidated a conscientious objector law that would permit health workers to refuse to perform abortions, and asked Congress to review the regulations to ensure that "other peoples human rights" are not affected reports El País.
  • Support for legal status of abortion growing in Latin America while softening in Western Europe, according to Ipsos.
  • Peru's energy and mines minister said the government wants to revise the framework for the country's mining industry, redrafting the umbrella law that regulates the sector, as well as the legislation that sets royalty payments, reports Reuters.
  • Argentina's government announced the lifting of almost all Covid restrictions following a dramatic fall in Covid cases and deaths in recent months. The move came after the trouncing of the ruling Peronist party in Argentina’s open primaries on 12 September, reports the Guardian.

  • The loss sparked a political crisis within the country's ruling Frente de Todos coalition, and unleashed a battle between President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, reports the New York Times. The tensions were quashed with a cabinet reshuffle that favored right-wing Peronist ministers, though most analysts say the moves don't likely signal significant policy shifts. (See Monday's briefs.)

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

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