Asylum seekers sent from U.S. to Guatemala (Dec. 20, 2019)
U.S. President Donald Trump met with his outgoing Guatemalan counterpart, Jimmy Morales, this week in Washington. Trump praised Morales' cooperation on migration issues. As the visit occurred, five Honduran and Salvadoran families were sent from the US to Guatemala under a new controversial asylum agreement, reports Al Jazeera. Among the families were five children, ranging from four to 11 years in age.
The Trump administration has not yet released any data on the number of migrants returned to Guatemala since a the agreement was signed in July. But immigrant advocates in the U.S. have confirmed in recent weeks that at least a few Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers have been sent to Guatemala from U.S. immigrant detention centers, reports the Associated Press.
Critics of the "safe third country" agreements argue that Guatemala (and other Central American countries that signed similar agreements, Honduras and El Salvador) do not have the capacity to meet the current population's security and economic needs, much less those of asylum seekers. In fact, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said in a recent interview that El Salvador is unprepared. (See Tuesday's post.)
Indeed, asylum seekers seem to agree: U.S. asylum seekers sent to Guatemala under a new Trump administration program have mostly preferred to return to their country of origin, according to Guatemalan authorities. (Reuters)
In a new twist, Mexicans applying for asylum in the U.S. could be sent to Guatemala, according to Acting Deputy U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. Guatemala’s Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart told Reuters that the idea of including Mexicans had not been implemented so far but could not be ruled out. The "safe third country" style agreements generally focused on forcing migrants to apply for asylum in countries they had actually transited to on the way to the U.S. This would, generally, not be the case for Mexicans reaching the U.S.
Details are sparse, but Fox News reports that Mexican nationals seeking U.S. asylum could be sent to await proceedings in Guatemala, if they fear persecution or violence if returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols.
More than 57,000 people have been forced back into Mexico this year by an"innocuously named immigration policy that activists consider one of the cruelest and most ruthlessly efficient strands of Donald Trump’s anti-migration crusade," reports the Guardian. The Migration Protection Protocols -- also known as "Remain in Mexico" -- stipulates that asylum seekers must wait for their court hearings in Mexican border towns – several of which count among the most violent places on Earth.
Starting yesterday, U.S. authorities began deporting rejected Mexican asylum seekers to Mexico's interior, avoiding dangerous border cities and aiming to deter would-be migrants from immediately seeking to return to the U.S., reports Reuters.
Killings by police are at record rates in Brazil. But security experts also point to a parallel problem: police militias, composed of retired and off-duty police officers who kill at will, often with total impunity, reports the New York Times. In Brazil, as in other countries with high rates of violence -- Mexico and El Salvador -- there is widespread acceptance of heavy-handed security tactics, even when public statistics point to high rates of extrajudicial killings. Militias in the Brazilian cities of Belem and Rio de Janeiro benefit from that sentiment, but take it further and function as lucrative criminal organizations.
The case of musician Evaldo Rosa dos Santos, killed by soldiers on patrol in April, is emblematic of the impunity with which police routinely kill, reports the Washington Post. This time, however, 12 men are on trial and rights groups and attorneys are saying the inconsistencies, revisions of fact and claims of self-defense highlight endemic problems investigators face in holding police accountable.
The grisly murder of four ride-sharing service drivers may have been linked to revenge for a rejected ride, reports the Guardian.
More than three weeks after prominent Haitian gay rights activist Charlot Jeudy died under suspicious circumstances, he still has not been buried and no autopsy has been performed to find the cause, reports the Miami Herald.
A new Wilson Center publication delves into the ties between Venezuela and Cuba. In one essay, Brian Fonseca and John Polga-Hecimovich explore evolution of their relationship over the past two decades. They argue that an expansive relationship that once included tens of thousands of Cuban doctors and medical personnel in poor Venezuelan neighborhoods is now centered principally on security and intelligence support. Currently, Cuban need for subsidized Venezuelan oil has given the government a “compelling interest” in the survival of the Maduro government and has therefore helped establish a “firewall” against internal and external threats, they write.
In the other essay, Richard E. Feinberg looks at the historical differences between Venezuela and Cuba -- including discrepancies in ideology, organizational structures, economic management, and leadership styles between Cuba’s fidelista Marxism and chavista populism -- and argues that U.S. hostility has drawn the two closer together. Feinberg argues that the international community could better play to each country’s strategic vision by recognizing the differences and inherent competition between them.
"If I could start a newspaper, I'd call it Castrópolis News. It would cover an island of castaways, with the typical palm tree and empty horizon, surrounded by an ocean that extends for sixty years in all directions," writes Néstor Díaz de Villegas in a New York Times Español op-ed. "All Cubans live in Castrópolis, condemned to obsessively relive the history of an arbitrary system known as the 'Cuban Revolution'."
Unrest has paralyzed Chile's economy, which contracted 3.4 percent in October. The central bank cut its outlook for next year’s growth to between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent, after previously projecting a 2.75 percent to 3.75 percent expansion. The protests have dissipated somewhat, but the economic fallout is just beginning, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Security force responses to Chile's protests -- there are serious accusations of human rights violations including torture and rape -- "suggests some soldiers never really adapted to democracy," according to Americas Quarterly, part of its newest issue on militaries in Latin America.
"Latin America is not short on indignation. We are not wanting for reasons to scream and yell. But we have yet to learn how to turn our protests into structural change — to get what we need before we grow hoarse and go quiet," writes Ana Paula Lisboa in Americas Quarterly.
The ongoing struggle to identify the remains of Guatemalan civil war victims -- often exhumed from mass graves and exhibiting traces of horrific violence -- is part of the country's (and the region's) current debate over transitional justice and legacy of ongoing violence. (National Geographic)
A group of 300 academics criticized the New York Times' response to the November ouster of Evo Morales in Bolivia. An article in The Nation by Greg Grandin argues that "by endorsing a military coup against a democratically elected government, the Times betrayed its values and its journalists."
The Argentine government's attempt to boost economic growth and curb inflation won't be easy, warns the Economist.
Jamaica's increasingly warm economic ties to China have spurred criticism from the U.S., which, in turn, has generated pushback from Jamaicans. The case exemplifies "the shifting tides in Caribbean international relations, a region where the United States risks losing influence over players like China," according to Scott B. MacDonald in Global Americans.
Guatemalan artist Rina Lazo died at the age of 96. She lived and worked in Mexico, where she got her start as Diego Rivera's assistant. (New York Times)
The Latin America Daily Briefing will be off starting today until Jan. 2. I wanted to thank you all for reading, for your comments and corrections, and suggestions. Happy holidays!