Monday, September 20, 2021

US deportation blitz (Sept. 20, 2021)

The U.S. is deporting Haitians from a makeshift border camp in Texas -- authorities expected to expel about 14,000 Haitians over the coming three weeks. It's the beginning of what could be one the US's swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades, reports the Associated Press. Mexico said yesterday it would also begin deporting Haitians. A government official said the flights would be from towns near the US border and the border with Guatemala, where the largest group remains.

Haitian officials have pleaded with counterparts to stop deportation flights, because the country is in crisis and cannot handle thousands of homeless deportees, reports the New York Times. Three flights were scheduled for yesterday, and six flights a day for the next three weeks, split between Port-au-Prince and the coastal city of Cap Haitien.

An estimated 14,500 migrants, many from Haiti, are in the Texas encampment (see Friday's briefs). Local officials said on Friday that 20 additional buses full of migrants were headed in the direction of Del Rio and expected to arrive in coming days, reports the Washington Post. U.S. authorities are transferring some of the migrants to other areas of the border to ease pressure on the camp. While the U.S. Biden administration is hoping to deter more from crossing with the "deportation blitz," many said the threat of deportation won't deter them from seeking asylum in the U.S., reports the Associated Press.

Many of those arriving left Haiti for countries in South America after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and were pushed to move again due to economic  They arrive in a country devastated by gang warfare, political crisis, and food insecurity. Several families told the Washington Post that they were never told they were being deported back to Haiti. 

More Migration
  • A new documentary Missing in Brooks County looks at Falfurrias, one of the busiest immigration checkpoints in the US and the growing number of deaths plaguing the country's border region and the logistical challenges in identifying even a single migrant among many hundreds who die annually, reports the Guardian.

CELAC's diplomatic battles

The presidential summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) this weekend in Mexico City was marked by strong regional tensions, that show some of the obstacles to constituting the group as a regional diplomatic alternative to the OAS, which many critics say has acted in partisan fashion. Host, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sought agreement among participants on the principal of non-intervention and criticized the ongoing U.S. embargo against Cuba. (InfobaeAssociated Press) Instead diplomatic tensions dominated the day.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro made an unexpected, last-minute appearance. Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benítez opened his speech reiterating that he doesn’t regard the Venezuelan leader’s rule as legitimate. Colombia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry published a statement attacking Maduro’s lack of "democratic principles," while the meeting was ongoing. Maduro challenged his counterparts to a debate on democracy, at a time and place of their choosing. (Infobae)

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou slammed the lack of democracy in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, and even quoted the "Patria o Vida" song that that become the standard of Cuba's anti-government protesters. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel hit back against Lacalle Pou, with criticisms of his economic policies and his "musical taste." (AmbitoAFP)

And Nicaragua's government objected to Argentina's assuming pro tempore presidency of the CELAC, arguing that Argentina's criticism of political repression in Nicaragua made it "an instrument of imperialism." (Associated PressTelesur)

AMLO's hope to constitute a strong regional alternative to the OAS, and potentially an economic integration forum, was undermined by the absence of key players, particularly Brazil, reports Bloomberg

A cabinet upheaval in Argentina affected the country's participation in the meeting -- President Alberto Fernández stayed home to respond to political fallout from an electoral loss earlier this month, and Foreign Minister Felipe Solá was sacked en-route to Mexic City, and then refused to participate in yesterday's meeting. (Perfíl, see below)

News Briefs

  • New evidence indicates that dozens of critics the Nicaraguan government arbitrarily detained for months, most of them accused of “treason,” are being held incommunicado and are often subjected to repeated interrogations and abusive conditions, including prolonged solitary confinement or insufficient food, Human Rights Watch said in a new report today. (See last Thursday's briefs.) "The government has charged many with serious crimes without providing substantiating evidence, strongly suggesting that these are politically motivated persecutions in retaliation for opposing the government."

  • Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramírez, a former Sandinista, faces arrest in response to his latest book Tongolele no sabía bailar, detective novel that examines the brutally suppressed 2018 uprising. (Guardian)
  • The governing coalition's poor electoral results in Argentina's midterm primaries, which serve as a litmus test for the results in November's congressional elections, pushed Argentina's President Alberto Fernández to the brink of a political crisis -- with a heated dispute with Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner -- last week. Fernández announced a cabinet shakeup on Friday evening, naming Peronist party players to several ministries, while maintaining key Kirchner-allied cabinet members and his own economic team. (Cenital)
Regional Relations
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is scheduled to kick off the U.N. General Assembly next week. The proudly unvaccinated head of state will be an instant challenge to the U.N. requirement that leaders attending the general debate adhere to an “honor system” to attest they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, reports the Washington Post. U.N. officials said they did not have the ability to enforce a vaccination mandate, and critics say the rules underscore the vast disparities of the global coronavirus vaccine rollout.
  • Recent polling in Brazil raises the question of whether Bolsonaro has crossed the point of no-return in terms of political popularity, writes Brian Winter in Americas Quarterly. "Over the last 18 months of denialism, antagonism and inattention to the crisis, Bolsonaro seems to have convinced most Brazilians that he is simply incapable of keeping them safe, an opinion they seem unlikely to change."
El Salvador 
  • The Bukele government in El Salvador refuses to recognize that it's at a low point since assuming office, according to an UCA editorial in El Diario de Hoy. (See last Friday's post.)
  • The Maduro government's embrace of Colombian businessman Alex Saab demonstrates the regimes true colors for Alberto Tyszka. (New York Times Español)
  • Belize could close a unique environmentally-friendly debt restructuring deal, to buy back a $526.5 million bond at a discount with money provided by the Nature Conservancy’s blue bond financing program, which will use private capital to help refinance nations’ public debt. As part of the deal, the government would fund a $23.4 million marine conservation trust that would help protect the world's second-largest barrier reef. It would also enact “durable marine conservation efforts and sustainable marine-based economic activity.”  (ReutersBloomberg)

  • Despite improving homicide statistics, Belize continues to regularly declare states of emergency due to crime rates. But do these actually make a difference, asks InSight Crime.
  • Scores of new Cuban-made podcasts -- including the popular El Enjambre -- are competing for residents’ attention and limited internet bandwidth, upending the island’s hyperpartisan media landscape, reports the New York Times. While Cuban authorities block access to many news sites, and new regulations make it a crime to criticize the government on social media, they have not yet taken action to censor or block access to the more than 220 podcasts that are produced in Cuba or cater largely to Cuban audiences.
  • Colombian lawmakers recognized viche, African-Colombian moonshine, traditionally distilled from raw sugar cane and mixed with local herbs and fruits, as a national heritage drink. The move will allow for the liquor, until now mostly sold on roadsides and beachfronts across the Colombian Pacific, to be produced and commercialized at a larger scale by African-Colombians, while restricting production to ancestral communities, reports the Guardian

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

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