U.S. aid cuts to Northern Triangle (June 18, 2019)
The U.S. government officially announced cuts in aid funding for Central American countries. The move fulfills an order by President Donald Trump in March, and is aimed at reducing migrant flows from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala towards the U.S. (See April 1's post.)
The cuts are less drastic than originally planned, however. Trump's original order targeted $615 million in assistance, but the State Department decided to go ahead with $432 million in aid allocated in fiscal year 2017. The remaining $185 will be held in escrow pending consultations with Congress. The approximately $370 million allocated for fiscal year 2018, meanwhile, will be suspended entirely and diverted to other foreign policy objectives. (Associated Press, CBS News)
U.S. officials said the review looked at roughly 700 projects funded with fiscal 2017 money by the United States in the three countries and concluded that a significant number were too far advanced to end them.
US troops are continuing to train El Salvadorian, Guatemalan, and Honduran military forces -- after initially curtailing security cooperation programs in the wake of Trump's original aid announcement. (Janes Defence Weekly)
Experts are skeptical that withholding development aid will help stem migration fueled by violence and poverty. But not all aid works at improving local conditions that push people to move -- and programs that target long-term stability are unlikely to have impact on immediate migration, writes Sarah Bermeo in the Washington Post. "Targeting aid to local communities with high out-migration and tailoring projects to address area-specific drivers presents a possible pathway for improving the ability of foreign aid to decrease flows of migrants and asylum seekers from Central America."
Yesterday Trump promised to begin deporting millions of undocumented immigrants who have entered the U.S. illegally. "Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in," Trump wrote on Twitter. (Politico)
In another set of Tweets, Trump said that Guatemala was preparing to sign a "Safe-Third Agreement," reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's post.)
The number of migrant families apprehended at the U.S. -Mexico border has dropped in recent weeks, but U.S. officials say it's too soon to decipher the impact of the U.S.-Mexico migration pact, reports the Washington Post. (See yesterday's post.)
Ciudad Juárez is bracing to receive thousands of migrants after the U.S. and Mexico agreed to curb migration to the U.S. But Mexican officials say they lack resources -- shelter, food and supplies -- to deal with the expected 500 migrants that could be sent back daily from the U.S. And migrants say the situation on the ground in Juárez is dangerous and that they have no way to support themselves in the months a U.S. asylum proceeding can last. (Washington Post)
Today, June 18, was the final deadline for Nicaragua's government to release the last of the political detainees, according to a pact signed in March. The opposition Alianza Cívica says there are still 86 political detainees, many of which the Ortega administration denies having under custody. The government said it released all political detainees last week, and that those who remain are either common criminals or not in jail -- raising the specter of enforced disappearances, reports Confidencial. (See last Wednesday's briefs and last Tuesday's post.)
Recently released political detainees are suffering harassment in their homes, reports Confidencial. Strategies range from threatening graffiti and flyers to police vehicles patrolling.
An opposition activist was kidnapped by paramilitaries for six days last week. He was abandoned near Managua on Sunday, with his head shaved, scrapes and contusions and the initials FSLN etched on his back -- the ruling party is Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional. (Confidencial)
On Sunday police clashed with citizens at a thanksgiving mass for released political detainees in Managua. Opposition activists had hoped to march in protest of the government, but desisted in the face of police aggression, reports Confidencial.
El Confidencial's newsroom has been confiscated by Nicaraguan security forces for six months -- editor Carlos Fernando Chamorro reviews the legal battle to get the offices back, and how freedom of the press is affected in Nicaragua. (Confidencial)
Recently released journalist Lucía Pineda Ubau is back in action, reports Confidencial. Journalists have been targets of state aggression since the beginning of Nicaragua's crisis in April of last year, but women journalists are especially at risk, reports Voice of America.
Brazilian justice minister Sergio Moro -- while serving as judge over the landmark Lava Jato corruption case -- mocked the defense of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and directed prosecutors’ media strategy in private chats, according The Intercept's latest exposé, published Friday. The new revelations add fuel to the scandal started by earlier reports that appear to demonstrate that prosecutors acted with political aims and improperly colluded with Moro. (See last Thursday's post.) In an explainer video, Glenn Greenwald delves into the magnitude of the accusations and their broader implications, which cast serious doubt on the validity of numerous guilty verdicts issued by Moro and the anti-corruption task force.
Moro is a well-respected anti-corruption crusader in Brazil, and the apparent ethics breach could tarnish the reputation of the landmark Lava Jato corruption investigation, reports the Washington Post. The revelations, combined with Moro's cabinet post after jailing the current president's main opponent, shore up what Lula supporters have argued all along: that corruption investigations against him were politically motivated. The scandal comes as the landmark Lava Jato corruption case is under stress from judicial fractures, reports Foreign Policy.
Greenwald's husband, Brazilian lawmaker David Miranda, said he has received death threats in the wake of the Intercept's reporting. (Associated Press)
Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht SA filed Monday night for one of Latin America’s largest-ever bankruptcies -- a move that could hit state controlled banks hard, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Neither of the candidates in Guatemala's presidential run-off -- Sandra Torres and Alejandro Giammattei -- have declared support for the U.N. backed panel of international prosecutors known as the CICIG. In fact, both have investigated by the international commission, reports the New York Times. Polls show the commission is popular among 70 percent of Guatemalans, but its mandate will end in September, after years of attacks by current president Jimmy Morales. (See last Friday's post and yesterday's.)
Neither Torres nor Giammattei have strong security or anti-corruption proposals, notes InSight Crime in a pre-election piece.
Guatemala's impunity rate increased last year -- despite high-profile prosecutions by the CICIG -- demonstrating the depth of structural change required for long-term improvement, according to Insight Crime.
Retired General Luis Enrique Mendoza García, wanted for arrest since 2011 in the Maya Ixil genocide case, was detained on Sunday while voting in Guatemala's general elections. (International Justice Monitor)
Venezuelan authorities released opposition lawmaker Gilber Caro, who was detained in April. The move comes comes days before a visit by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
President Nicolás Maduro is selling off Venezuela's gold reserves in an underground network that passes through Uganda, avoids U.S. sanctions, and seems to be helping the regime cling to power, reports the Wall Street Journal.
There is growing evidence that economic ties between Venezuela and Russia are fraying, reports the New York Times. Russian businesses, including banks, grain exporters, and weapons manufacturers, are curtailing activity with Venezuela, which is in the midst of an economic meltdown.
The lengthy political stalemate in Venezuela since January has favored President Nicolás Maduro, though he is deeply unpopular, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs on polling indicating decreasing recognition of National Assembly president Juan Guaidó's leadership legitimacy.)
Guaidó's chief of staff has been detained for three months, and will face a trial on charges of arms concealment and conspiracy from behind bars, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
Two opposition activists are accused of misappropriating funds designated to help Venezuelan security forces who deserted and crossed into Colombia. (Associated Press)
Pro-government guerrillas in Venezuela have begun training civilians in armed combat, reports InSight Crime. The exercises show how the armed groups have combined criminal and political interests in their defense of the Maduro government.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has had two significant achievements in his first six months in office -- labor reform and a narrative paradigm shift to favor the country's poorest, argues Viridiana Ríos in a New York Times Español op-ed.
A Mexican court ruled to allow the arrest of Emilio Lozoya, former chief executive of state-owned oil company Pemex, who is facing corruption charges, reports Reuters.
U.S. investigators have received permission from Ecuador to question a Swedish programmer close to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who has been held in jail for more than two months on suspicion of hacking, reports the Associated Press.
Ecuador will allow U.S. anti-narcotics planes to use an airstrip on the Galapagos Islands, sparking criticism from the political opposition and environmentalists, reports the Guardian.
Cocaine users must recognize the environmental and social damage their drug use is inflicting on producer countries said Colombian President Iván Duque in an interview with the Guardian.
Threats and attacks on Colombian reporters are once again on the rise – particularly in isolated rural areas, reports the Guardian.
And increased military and paramilitary activity in the northeast Colombia has actually worsened the situation of local communities that were already suffering from guerrilla activities, according to Colombia Reports.
The scope of this weekend's massive blackout in Argentina was limited by the fact that it happened on a Sunday in the midst of a long weekend, but it raises questions about the stability of the country's power infrastructure ahead of October's presidential elections, reports Al Jazeera. (See yesterday's briefs.)
A new Costa Rican resort town uses New Urbanism principals -- and is car free. (New York Times)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...Latin America Daily Briefing