Monday, October 4, 2021

Haitian migration becoming humanitarian disaster (Oct. 4, 2021)

 The Darién Gap, a stretch of impassable jungle between Colombia and Panama, has historically been a physical deterrent for migrants making their way from South America towards the U.S. But coronavirus economic devastation has pushed thousands of migrants, mostly Haitian, to make the journey this year. Panamanian officials say, an estimated 95,000 migrants attempted the passage on their way to the United States in the first nine months of 2021. It is a looming humanitarian disaster, reports the New York Times. 

The current surge in Haitian migrants to the U.S. was also spurred by rumors and incomplete information about asylum and relief, fed, at least in part, by the U.S. Biden administration’s inconsistent application of border policies, reports the Washington Post. A current wave of deportations, which has sent many migrants back to a country they left ten years ago, comes after months of uneven application of Title 42, a public health policy that allows the government to summarily expel migrants before they can file asylum claims.

The majority of the border-crossers who reached the Del Rio camp last month have been returned to Haiti or turned back to Mexico according to official statistics that bely partisan accusations that most were released into the U.S. The Biden administration is attempting to balance use of the return flights to Haiti to deter more migrants from crossing into the United States while also assuring immigrant advocates that many Haitians are being allowed to remain in the country to apply for humanitarian protection, reports the Washington Post.

Juan González, the U.S. National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, apologized for how Haitian migrants were treated along the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday. On a two-day official visit to Haiti to talk with local leaders about migration and other issues, González said it’s not how border officials or the Department of Homeland Security behave. Nonetheless, he warned Haitians contemplating migration not to embark on the dangerous journey to the U.S. (Associated Press)

"The aggressive response in Del Rio underscores an immigration system that prioritizes the spectacle of force over an investment in the construction of systems needed to process asylum-seekers to conform to obligations dictated by international and U.S. law," reports the Intercept. "Officials left little doubt that the aggressive deployment was designed to send a message of deterrence to others who might also seek asylum."

Four United Nations agencies called for countries to "refrain" from reporting Haitian migrants without "proper assessment of their individual protection needs," last week. In the statement, the agencies cited the "various catastrophes affecting Haiti" as factors that countries should consider before immediately expelling Haitians. (The Hill)

More Migration
  • The U.S. Coast Guard rescued more than 200 Haitian migrants trying to make their way to the U.S. last week. More Haitian migrants were halted at sea in the last fiscal year than the previous two years combined: 1,527. (Miami HeraldNYPost)

  • That Haitians choose to make such perilous journeys is potent testimony of the dangers they are fleeing. A New York Times photo essay documents Haitian immigrants in New York: "In the middle of the forest, I asked God to take my life rather than going back to Haiti because I felt weakness after I saw fresh dead bodies on the road," said one person.
  • Many of the most prolific human smugglers on the U.S.-Mexico border are teenagers, who the U.S. Justice Department doesn't prosecute. “Niños de circuito,” they’re called here: children of the circuit, now a novel program in Matamoros seeks to keep them from cycling deeper into the cartel crime ecosystem, reports the Washington Post.

Fora Bolsonaro

Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Brazilian cities called for President Jair Bolsonaro's impeachment on Saturday, and to voice their outrage at the government's response to a Covid outbreak that has killed nearly 600,000 people. Surging inflation has affected essential goods like food and electricity, and added to discontent about the Bolsonaro's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. (Washington Post)

Saturday’s protests, smaller than those in support of Bolsonaro last Sept. 7, were called by leftist parties and some union movements, as part of the "Bolsonaro Out National Campaign." (AFP) The day marks a year until the 2022 presidential election. Recent polls indicate that Bolsonaro would lose next year’s presidential election by a landslide if current preferences hold.

However, Bolsonaro is shielded from more than 130 of impeachment requests by support in Congress, thanks to an alliance with a powerful and infamously self-seeking coalition of centre-right parties called the “centrão," reports the Guardian. Division among the opposition is another key reason analysts consider it unlikely there will be enough pressure on lower chamber leader Arthur Lira to open impeachment process, reports the Associated Press. Though the president's approval ratings have steadily declined throughout the year,  he remains far more popular than prior presidents who were impeached.

More Brazil
  • "Heart-wrenching photographs of destitute Brazilians scavenging through a heap of animal carcasses for food" have illustrated Brazil's food crisis: an estimated 19 million Brazilians have gone hungry since the start of the Covid outbreak, reports the Guardian. "The images, taken in Rio last week by the prize-winning photojournalist Domingos Peixoto, show the group rummaging for scraps in the back of a lorry that had been transporting the discarded offal and bones to a factory that makes pet food and soap." 
News Briefs

Pandora Papers
  • The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the Pandora Papers yesterday, the group's largest-ever investigation on the offshore finance world, based upon the most expansive leak of tax haven files in history. "The Pandora Papers offer fresh insights into international corruption scandals, including the far-reaching bribery operation of Brazilian contracting giant Odebrecht S.A., the international soccer scandal known as FIFAGate and the alleged looting of Venezuelan public assets."
  • The 2.94 terabyte data trove exposes secrets of wealthy elites from more than 200 countries and territories in an "offshore data tsunami." (Pandora Papers)

  • The data shows that three current Latin American heads of state -- Sebastián Piñera, Luis Abinader and Guillermo Lasso -- and 11 former presidents (most ideologically conservative) from the region operate in tax havens, reports El País. Ninety high-level officials in the region, including Brazil's current economy minister, have also made use of tax havens in a region where governments lose 40 billion dollars to offshore finance.

  • In Latin America the data has exposed clearly, once again, how an elite manages part of its fortune through tax havens, with direct implications of inequality in the region, reports El País.
  • The trove also shows how the Caribbean’s wealthy elite have for decades masked their fortunes and protected their assets through offshore shell companies that point to Swiss bank accounts, reports the Miami Herald

  • One of Central America’s most prestigious law firms, Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), has become a magnet for the rich and powerful from Latin America and beyond seeking to hide wealth offshore over the past three decades. The firm acted as corporate middleman for more than 160 politicians and public officials, the records show. (Pandora Papers
  • Colombia’s largest remaining armed group, the ELN, has warned of “reprisals” after a government bombing killed one of its top commanders last week, reports Al Jazeera.

  • Colombians head to the polls next year -- Congressional elections in March and presidential in May -- and voters are profoundly pessimistic about their country's current path, writes Mauricio Cárdenas in Americas Quarterly.
  • Nearly 100,000 people are disappeared in Mexico where "mothers wander under the scorching sun, poking at the earth and sniffing for the tell-tale scent of decomposing flesh, hoping for a scrap that points toward their missing son or daughter," reports the New York Times.
Puerto Rico
  • Hundreds of Puerto Ricans gathered outside of the governor’s mansion in San Juan on Friday to protest against LUMA Energy, the struggling energy grid’s private operator, following a wave of electrical blackouts that affected thousands of customers across the island this week, reports the Miami Herald.

  • Puerto Rico imports over 80 percent of its food, largely due to U.S. policies that have complicated local food production, argue Israel Meléndez Ayala and Alicia Kennedy in a New York Times op-ed.
  • A huge fire destroyed or damaged more than 200 houses and businesses on the Honduran island of Guanaja on Saturday, reports Reuters. The flames forced hundreds of residents to flee for safety and ravaged the tourism-dependent resort.
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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