Monday, October 11, 2021

U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework (Oct. 11, 2021)

High-level delegations from Mexico and the United States laid out the outlines of a new security framework between the nations that would implement a more comprehensive approach to cooperation, and includes tackling root causes of violence, such as youth unemployment and addiction. The new framework did not foresee Mexico receiving military equipment or funds, and was instead focused on information exchange, interagency cooperation and training of personnel, according to Reuters. (See last Thursday's post.)

The goal is to have a three-year plan ready by the end of January, in addition to refocusing cooperation efforts, the new pact would be politically benefitial for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and U.S. President Joe Biden, permitting both to distance themselves from their predecessors' questioned policies, reports the Washington Post.

The so-called U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health and Safe Communities seeks to move beyond the discredited, 13-year-old Merida Initiative that focused on building Mexico's crime-fighting capabilities and rule of law projects, reports the Associated Press. The U.S. has funelled $3 billion to Mexico under the agreement, financing a militarized crackdown on drug cartels that many experts say increased bloodshed by fragmenting criminal organizations into smaller, more violent cells, without stemming drug trafficking. (Al Jazeera) Homicides in Mexico are stuck at historically high rates, while deaths in the United States from fentanyl smuggled across the border have soared, notes the Washington Post.

One of the U.S. requests on Friday was to allow U.S. agents, including those from the Drug Enforcement Administration, to work in Mexico, reports the Associated Press. Last year, Mexico pulled foreign agents' immunity from prosecution and imposed strict limits on their contacts with their Mexican counterparts, affecting the DEA's intelligence gathering capability. 

The AMLO administration, for its part, has been pushing back against U.S. immigration policies that depend on Mexico's detention of migrants and efforts to contain them in the southern part of the country. U.S. and Mexican officials did not discuss the "Remain in Mexico" policy during their meetings Friday but are engaged on the issue, said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said during a joint news conference after their meeting. (CNN)

In fact, migration remained on the sidelines of the central agenda, reports the New York Times. Officials said the new security agreement would mostly address how to stop human traffickers and other criminal smugglers instead of the wider problem of refugees and economic migrants stuck at the border.

More Mexico-U.S.
  • The U.S. sanctioned four suspected members of Mexico’s CJNG cartel, alleging that they controlled drug operations at a Pacific port that is a crucial entry point for fentanyl and methamphetamine precursor chemicals from Asia, reports InSight Crime.
News Briefs

  • Mexican authorities detained 652 migrants, including some 350 children, traveling in three refrigerated double-trailer trucks near the U.S. southern border on Thursday. Most of the migrants were from Guatemala, and most of the children were unaccompanied, reports the Wall Street Journal. It is one of the biggest roundups of US-bound migrants by Mexican authorities in years, reports Reuters.
  • The U.S. ambassador in Mexico Ken Salazar spoke about the need for a “regional response” to the tens of thousands of migrants — many from Haiti — who are either in Mexico or heading there from South America, reports the Associated Press.

  • Guatemalan police rescued 126 migrants, mostly from Haiti, from an abandoned shipping container on the side of a road this weekend. The case shows the ongoing desperate flow of migration from South America towards the U.S., despite the recent wave of U.S. deportations of Haitian migrants, reports the Washington Post.
  • An ongoing surge in kidnappings has compounded Haiti's multiple political, social and economic crisis, reports the Washington Post. Recorded kidnappings so far this year have spiked sixfold over the same period last year -- affecting everybody from doctors, clergy and even police officers. Port-au-Prince is posting more kidnappings in absolute terms than vastly larger Bogotá, Mexico City and São Paulo combined, according to the consulting firm Control Risks.
  • There has been considerable progress in establishing mechanisms to improve coordination and address urgent aspects of Venezuela’s humanitarian and political crisis over the first three rounds of negotiations between Venezuela's government and opposition in Mexico City in recent weeks, according to the Venezuela Weekly.

  • The most recent round of negotiations, held from September 25 to 27, was centered around the restoration of the rule of law and an impartial justice system. Both sides committed to include political and social actors in the process - a key point -- and emphasizing the need for a gender focus in the dialogue. (Venezuela Weekly)

  • The European Union announced that it would send an Electoral Observation Mission to oversee and evaluate the integrity of regional and local elections scheduled for November 21 -- the first time in 15 years that the EU has sent such a mission to Venezuela. And the National Electoral Council (CNE) received representatives of the Carter Center to discuss the possibility of an electoral observation mission for November's vote. (Venezuela Weekly)
Regional Relations
  • A massive new discovery of oil deposits in offshore Guyana announced by ExxonMobil last week adds urgency to a border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, reports the Miami Herald. (Venezuela's claim to Guyana's oil-rich Essequibo region is, in fact, one of the few points the country's government and opposition both agree on, see Sept. 9's Just Caribbean Updates)

  • Colombia's deployment of 14,000 soldiers to its border with Venezuela, which is reopening after a three-year closure, could fuel tensions between the countries, reports Al Jazeera. The Venezuelan government began the process of reopening the border last week by removing containers placed at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in 2019.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Colombia later this month.
  • Brazil surpassed 600,000 Covid-19 deaths last week, making its death toll second only to the United States, but experts say the country's vaccination campaign appears to have slowed the epidemic's progress. The country could be on track to controlling the coronavirus if vaccination continues at current rates. (New York Times)

  • Whistleblowing doctors have made a series of explosive accusations against Brazilian health care company Prevent Senior, which they say tested drugs without proper consent and forced doctors to prescribe unproven drugs touted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. (Associated Press)

  • Bolsonaro has been a Covid-19 vaccine opponent, and was prevented from attending a soccer match yesterday because the stadium forbid attendance of unvaccinated people. (Reuters)

  • Bolsonaro vetoed part of a new law that would distribute free sanitary pads and tampons to disadvantaged girls and women. It was expected to benefit 5.6 million people and was part of a bigger package of laws to promote menstrual health. Period poverty is estimated to keep one in four girls out of school, reports the Guardian.
  • Links to Mexican cartels and overcrowding contributed to a gory massacre in one of Ecuador's largest penitentiaries last month. Authorities have identified 107 of 119 victims, many of which had been mutilated or burned. Beheadings, mutilations and torture have for years been the trademark for Mexican drugs cartels, but such barbarity is relatively new to Ecuador, reports the Guardian.
  • The dismissal of a case accusing former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and government officials of a cover up of Iran's alleged involvement in a 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing points to deeper problems with Argentina's discredited judiciary, reports the New York Times.
  • Climate change has pushed many Colombian coffee cultivators to farm avocados instead, but environmental scientists warn the move has consequences for local wildlife, reports Al Jazeera.

  • Colombian health officials stopped what was to become the country's first legally authorized euthanasia of a patient without a terminal prognosis yesterday. (Washington Post
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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