Torres and Giammattei to compete in Guatemala's second round (June 17, 2019)
Centrist former first lady Sandra Torres and conservative rival Alejandro Giammattei will compete in a run-off election for Guatemala's presidency in August. Voters yesterday largely followed predictions: Torres won with 25 percent, followed by Giammattei with 14 percent. (Plaza Pública and Nómada for full results.) Blank votes and null added up to 11 percent, nearly tying for third place with conservative former U.N. official Edmond Mulet. Indigenous campesina candidate Thelma Cabrera Pérez came in fourth, with 10.52 percent. Participation was about 56 percent. (Prensa Libre)
Voting was largely peaceful, but was suspended in the town of San Jorge, in the department of Zacapa, was due to threats and violent incidents against electoral authorities. (Deutsche Welle) Incidents were reported in at least four departments. (AFP) The OAS electoral mission in Guatemala voiced concern yesterday. (EFE) Last week Oscar Schaad, the electoral court's top prosecutor fled the country with his family, citing death threats. (See Friday's post.)
Torres is the ex wife of former president Álvaro Colom. She has promised health and education reforms and job creation to reduce migrant flows to the U.S. She opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. She has a long political track record and name recognition -- people either love or hate her, explains Nómada in a pre-election profile. Rejection could play a key role in the upcoming run-off, see Friday's post.
Giammattei has run for president in each election since 2007. The former director of the national penitentiary system, he was linked to extrajudicial executions of inmates, but later exonerated. He promised to bring back the death penalty to help crush violent gangs. He is largely flanked by dodgy characters, according to Nómada's pre-electoral profile.
Guatemalans also voted for 160 lawmakers -- the entire uni-cameral congress. Preliminary results show that Torres' UNE party obtained 44 seats, the largest bloc. Semilla, the new anti-corruption electoral movement, obtained six seats, while Cabrera's MLP obtained 2. Along with URNG-Maiz and Winaq, they could conform a small reformist bloc. (Prensa Libre)
Policy and platform debates were largely eclipsed by legal battles over who could be on the ballot in this electoral season, reports the Washington Post. (See Friday's post.)
More coverage: Al Jazeera, Reuters
U.S. push for migrants to go elsewhere, anywhere
U.S. negotiations to reduce migrant flows from Central America angle to force neighbors to accept asylum seekers rather than permit them to continue towards the U.S. The U.S. search for a "safe third country agreement partner" has focused on Mexico and Guatemala in recent weeks.
On Friday Voice of America reported negotiations between the U.S. and Guatemala would establish "safe third country" protocol between the two -- which would require migrants fleeing persecution in El Salvador and Honduras, who travel through Guatemala on their way to Mexico and the U.S., to first require asylum in Guatemala. It would be the first such agreement between the U.S. and a Latin American country.
But negotiations between the two countries on Friday revealed major differences. Guatemalan negotiators were willing to take asylum seekers while their cases were processed by the U.S. -- analogous to Mexican Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). However, actually processing the asylum claims raised legal and constitutional complications, according to a State Department readout obtained by Voice of America.Human Rights First criticized the Guatemala agreement draft: "It’s simply ludicrous for the United States to assert that Guatemala is capable of protecting refugees turned away from the United States at a time when its own citizens are fleeing violence and other failures of state protection." (Reuters)
Mexico has publicly rejected signing a safe third country agreement with the U.S., instead opting for enhanced migration controls in order to appease U.S. demands for less migration. (See last Monday's post on the migration agreement, and Wednesday's briefs on the "secret" clause.) But, Reforma published the secret clause of the U.S. Mexico migration agreement, under which Mexico has agreed to consider a "safe third country" agreement if new ramped up enforcement measures are not successful within 45 days. (The Hill and Reuters.) Vox calls it "an agreement to negotiate an agreement." The Wall Street Journal considers it a more binding commitment. (The text itself.)
The Intercept reports that movement towards such an agreement predates the tariff threat, and has been in the works since last year. In the documents obtained by The Intercept, Mexico informally agreed to allow for third-country refugee resettlement process to begin. Third-country resettlement is the transfer of a refugee from one country of asylum to another that has agreed to take them.
While the U.S. insists on carrying out bilateral negotiations with each country, each piece on the migration policy chessboard has a knock-on effect on the region. Indeed, Salvadoran vice president, Félix Ulloa, criticized that negotiations between Mexico and the U.S. on migration issues did not include El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, last week. (La Prensa Gráfica) Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said migration issues are a fixed agenda item of regular discussions with Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. (EFE) On Friday he called for other governments and agencies to be involved. (Wall Street Journal)
More on Migration and Mexico
The United States has doubled the number of asylum seekers it sends back each day to Mexico from El Paso, Texas, a Mexican immigration official said on Friday, in the first sign of action following a deal struck to avert U.S. tariffs last week. (Reuters) Mexican officials say they expect to receive from the U.S. as many as 100,000 asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala this year -- resources are already thin and shelters along the border are already overcrowded. (Wall Street Journal)
Mexico will send thousands of National Guard troops to its southern border as part of the new agreement. Deployment began last week, and is meant to be complete by tomorrow. But the new security force was not meant to be operation until the end of the month, and critics are concerned about the time-frame and the fact that the new force was never meant to be used for migration tasks. Advocates are concerned that troops have not received sufficient human rights training, reports the New York Times.
Mexico essentially gave in to U.S. President Donald Trump's blackmail on the migration issue, and will now be diverting sorely needed security resources to detaining Central American migrants rather than stemming its appalling rates of violence, writes Jorge Ramos in a New York Times Español op-ed. The National Guard will not succeed in stopping Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries, nor will Mexican efforts appease Trump, he writes.
Mexico’s immigration chief resigned Friday and the country’s prisons director was swiftly nominated to replace him. (Associated Press)
There is increasing dissent within Morena ranks towards AMLO's agreement with the U.S. reported on Friday. A Mitofsky poll shows the agreement is unpopular with the Mexican public. (Reuters)
Even more Migration
Trinidad and Tobago announced a visa system for Venezuelans. (Stabroek News)
Potential state collapse in Venezuela and the spillover effects of the humanitarian crisis and insecurity threaten the stability of the hemisphere -- a new Council on Foreign Relations report looks at how the situation could worsen and policy options to help stabilize Venezuela.
International law does not provide clear answers regarding the legality of unilateral sanctions -- the upshot of a May Lawfare Institute online symposium for experts. (Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)
A Datincorp poll found that 36 percent of Venezuelans recognize National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate leader. That's less than in February, when the figure was at 49 percent. Currently 41 percent recognize President Nicolás Maduro as the rightful leader, up from 34 percent in February. That being said, nearly 79 percent view his administration negatively. (Efecto Cocuyo)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will visit Venezuela this week to evaluate human rights violations. She will meet with Maduro, Guaidó, members of the National Constituent Assembly, victims and families. (Efecto Cocuyo)
Anti-government/corruption protests continued yesterday in Haiti. Demonstrators say they will not back down until President Jovenel Moïse, accused of illicit enrichment in relation to a Venezuelan social development program dubbed PetroCaribe, resigns. (Voice of America)
Women from minority backgrounds are increasingly at risk of abusive treatment during pregnancy and childbirth in Mexico's Guerrero state, reports the Guardian.
A massive blackout left nearly all of Argentina and Uruguay in the dark yesterday. Parts of Paraguay and some Chilean cities were also affected. Authorities were unsure of what caused the outage. (New York Times, Guardian)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing