Darién Gap plan risky
April 14, 2023
A multinational plan to stop migrants from crossing the Darién Gap between Colombia and Panama will likely only push desperate people into more dangerous situations, according to migration experts. (Guardian)
The United States, Panama and Colombia announced an ambitious 60-day campaign to shut down the Darién Gap route, this week, though they haven’t yet specified the details of the plan. (See yesterday’s briefs.)
Criminal control of the area means that a plan to stem migration would likely involve militarization, according to experts. “We have seen in other countries that it can lead to more danger, not ensuring basic services and may increase suffering,” Luis Eguiluz, head of mission for MSF Colombia and Panama, told the Guardian.
U.S. homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, told EFE that any illegal migrants making the trip will be “turned back”.
Migrants face natural dangers, including rivers and venomous snakes, but also armed criminal groups who carry out sexual assaults, robberies and killings.
Flows of people across the treacherous jungle crossing, traditionally considered nearly impassible, have increased massively this year: U.N. agencies estimate that nearly 100,000 people may have crossed so far this year, six times more than in the equivalent period last year. As many as 400,000 people could cross in 2023, compared to 250,000 in 2022. (Associated Press)
Almost 9,700 children and adolescents have tried to cross the infamous Darien Gap in the first two months of 2023, a seven-fold increase compared to the same period in 2022, according to a UNICEF report. The agency said that 110 of the children had attempted the dangerous hike alone. (CNN)
Officials from the three countries also pledged to roll out a plan to reduce poverty and promote economic and sustainable opportunities in border communities. (Reuters)
The 2,000 km border between Venezuela and Colombia is the region’s second most complicated, for decades a hotbed of criminal activity and enforced disappearances — first for Colombians headed to Venezuela, and now for Venezuelans headed in the opposite direction, reports El País.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s plan to host an international summit on Venezuela “is risky, but with the right approach this could be an excellent opportunity to rethink the international response to Venezuela’s profound crisis,” writes Geoff Ramsey in El País.
Petro’s “two-pronged approach — speaking out on the human rights situation in Venezuela but with a recognition of the importance of communicating with the de facto government in Caracas —may be the basis for an innovative strategy that the international community can follow to advance a more gradual approach to a democratic opening in Venezuela,“ argues Ramsey. (El País)
Latin American democracies are afflicted by a populism grounded in “citizens’ legitimate exasperation with corruption,” which “has wreaked havoc with party systems and weakened the very institutions necessary to fight corruption and channel social demands in peaceful ways,” writes Kevin Casas-Zamora in the New York Times. “Today, the results are painfully clear in Latin America: The prescription offered by anti-corruption populism has become worse than the disease it was intended to fight.”
Latin America is the world’s breadbasket, but, paradoxically food inflation and hunger particularly afflict the region, reports El País.
El Salvador’s hardline security policies are seen as a model by many leaders in the region, despite their high human rights costs. Tamara Taraciuk discusses an antidote within the boundaries of the rule of law on the Americas Quarterly podcast.
Investigative newspaper El Faro will move its administrative and legal operations to Costa Rica — though not its newsroom — in response to months of deteriorating conditions in El Salvador, where the Bukele administration has targeted El Faro and journalists with surveillance, threats and spyware.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has completed his first hundred days in office — with 65% approval rating. AS/COA looks at some of the numbers from these past months.
While geopolitics is a consideration in Lula’s trip to China this week, Lula’s big bet is “mostly about domestic politics and economic considerations,” writes Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly.
The Lula administration’s focus on foreign affairs in its first hundred days “is understandable, given the difficult headwinds Brazil faces on its domestic politics and economy. But those same domestic conditions may eventually constrain his foreign-policy ambitions,” warns James Bosworth in World Politics Review.
The Economist is critical of Lula’s foreign policy ambitions: “In Lula’s third term, Brazil’s commitment to non-alignment will be severely tested. By trying to play the role of global peacemaker, Lula risks looking naive rather than like an elder statesman.”
The IMF’s somewhat relaxed standards with regard to Argentina reflect “a mix of geopolitics, ideological changes among IMF leadership, and Argentine domestic affairs ahead of the country’s October general election,” according to Foreign Policy’s Latin America Brief.
Opposition by Indigenous communitiesis holding up some $1 billion of investments for constructing three mining projects in Ecuador, according to the Ecuadorean Chamber of Mining. (Reuters)
Chilean legislators have overwhelmingly passed a bill reducing the country’s work week from 45 to 40 hours. (Al Jazeera)
Activists, joined by Ziggy and Cedella Marley, are protesting the law which regulates Jamaicans access to all beaches, which they say unfairly limits locals and is racist. The issue isn’t new in Jamaica, where beaches tend to be held by developers and resorts catering to its tourism industry — Just Caribbean Updates
Changing government policies and increased supply are chipping away at Venezuela’s Zulia state gasoline black market, one of the state's biggest criminal economies, reports InSight Crime.
Honduras’ Garifuna community commemorated 226 years since their first Black ancestors were brought to the country — EFE.
Uruguay is the region’s most secular country — a trait with roots in the mid-19th century founding and a strongly anti-clerical leadership at the turn of the 20th century, reports El País.