U.S. and Mexico promise aid to Central America (Dec. 19, 2018)
The U.S. government pledged $5.8 billion in investment and aid for Central America, and an additional $4..8 billion for Mexico. The plan is in support of a Mexican proposal for a massive development plan for the Northern Triangle, aimed at stemming illegal migration.
Though announced with fanfare, the it appears to be a largely symbolic move. Analysts immediately pointed out that much of the funding announced yesterday in a joint U.S.-Mexico statement was previously committed or contingent on the identification of “commercially viable projects.” Much of the funding will be in the form of private-sector loans and guarantees and will have to be paid back, notes Adam Isacson. Most of the funding will be reallocated from existing programs. And $4.5 billion of that sum comes from new loans, loan guarantees and other private-sector support that could become available through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). (New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press)
The announcement is a vote of confidence in the new Mexican administration headed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and comes as Mexico and the U.S. discuss how to address the flow of undocumented Central American migrants crossing Mexico and trying to enter the U.S. The U.S. is interested in having asylum seekers stay in Mexico while their cases are processed. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had proposed a $30 billion Marshall Plan for Central America and seeks development funding for Mexico's poorer southern region. (See yesterday's post and Nov. 30's briefs.)
IThe Mexican government said it would dedicate $25 billion to development in southern Mexico over five years -- and AMLO suggested it could serve as a potential source of employment for Central Americans, reports the Washington Post.
Within the U.S., Democrats were skeptical of President Donald Trump's commitment to additional aid for Central America, noting he has consistently tried to reduce funding and been thwarted by Congress. In the meantime, Congress and Trump are in a standoff over the $5 billion he wants to build a border wall between Mexico and the U.S., reports the Associated Press.
AMLO's long-term development strategy for the region should be lauded as a step in the right direction, and merits U.S. support, argues the Atlantic Council's Jason Marczak in USA Today. He notes AMLO's short term efforts to defuse the migrant crisis, including immediate assistance for migrants massing at the U.S. border, speeding up processing for humanitarian visas in Mexico, and assisting migrants who want to stay in Mexico to obtain jobs and support.
Rights groups have criticized U.S. efforts to keep asylum seekers in Mexico while their cases are processed, pointing to violence and criminal activity. This weekend, two Honduran youths moving between migrant shelters in Tijuana were murdered, apparently by people who intended to rob them, another example of the dangers faced by migrants attempting to enter the U.S. (Reuters)
More from Mexico
The "Mayan Train" route proposed by AMLO's government to boost tourism in the Yucatán peninsula will have full environmental impact assessment before proceeding, said authorities in response to criticisms that the 1,525 km railway will damage the area's pristine forests and jaguar habitat. On Sunday AMLO said there is already $296 million in Mexico's 2019 budget for the project, which he estimated would help to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, but called on investors to help provide the remaining $741 to $890 million needed. (Animal Político, BBC, and Voice of America)
Mexico's development agency denounced that the proposed budget for next year includes financing for inefficient and opaque social programs, and reduces funds for higher performing ones. (Animal Político)
Mexico's security secretary warned lawmakers that the military will be removed immediately from internal security duties if they do not approve a proposal that would regulate their policing activities by creating a National Guard, reports Animal Político. The proposal has been hugely polemic, as it ratifies the military role in internal security, contrary to AMLO's campaign proposals. (See Nov. 21's post.) Several lawmakers, including Tatiana Clouthier AMLO's former campaign manager, said the government was unfairly pressuring lawmakers with the threat to withdraw the military immediately.
The National Guard plan may seem appealing, but militarization of law enforcement has been counterproductive in Mexico and other places, explains Gustavo A. Flores-Macías in a Washington Post Monkey Cage piece. Military reliance on high-impact weapons and training to destroy enemies are counter to human and civil rights priorities. And the military's reliance on lethal force tends to escalate violence with organized crime groups, he writes.
Mexico's kingpin strategy that targeted major cartel leaders had the effect of fracturing big criminal organizations. However the schisms led to an explosion in violence and the creation of a pervasive extortion economy that is helping push desperate victims to migrate, reports the Wall Street Journal. Last year there were 6.6 million cases of extortion of individuals in 2017, according to a survey conducted by Mexico’s National Statistics Institute, plus 525,000 cases of extortion against companies.
More on Migration
Migrants from Central America are pushed by entrenched inequality and violence, in which the U.S. has played a key role, reports the Guardian.
Remote indigenous Guatemalan villages have few economic options, pushing residents to migrate illegally despite the lethal risks they face, reports the New York Times.
The rise of gang violence in the Northern Triangle has had violent ramifications for women, who are increasingly victims of lethal violence perpetrated by gang members, reports the Wall Street Journal. Women often know their killers, and are victims of particularly vicious violence. More than a quarter of women in El Salvador reported being a victim of violence in their lifetime while 43% said they had suffered a sexual assault.
Cuba's government will remove legalization of gay marriage from a new constitution set to be approved by public referendum next year. Authorities cited broad pushback in months of public meetings soliciting feedback on the draft constitution, reports the New York Times. State media said that Cubans had made 192,408 comments on Article 68, which would have permitted gay marriage, with the majority asking to eliminate it, reports the Associated Press. Instead the new constitution would remain silent on the issue of marriage equality, permitting potential legalization in the future. (See July 23's post.)
Six people were murdered in Mapiripán, the site of one of Colombia's worst massacres during the civil war. Authorities speculate this latest atrocity is the result of warring drug trafficking gangs, and the case is exemplary of the new violence plaguing former FARC territories, reports the Guardian.
The murder of a transgender woman in Colombia has been punished as a gender-based hate crime for the first time. The ruling comes three years after Colombia passed a law specifically punishing femicide, and lawyers emphasized that the judicial proceedings recognized the victim as a woman. (New York Times)
The former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Colombia office has been cleared of wrongdoing following a probe of misconduct allegations. Richard Dobrich had been accused of including accusations that he used government resources to hire prostitutes, reports the Associated Press.
Brazilian authorities arrested more than 50 police officers who patrolled the same area in São Paulo. Prosecutors accused them of taking bribes from the First Capital Command drug gang (PCC) in exchange for permitting sales of narcotics in the area. (Reuters)
Suicides have spiked in Brazil -- 73 percent since 2000 -- and have become the fourth leading cause of death among young people. But suicide and depression are taboo in Brazil's upbeat culture, leaving those with mental illnesses and their families isolated, reports the Washington Post.
Guatemalan authorities said they withdrew diplomatic immunity from 11 CICIG workers, the latest move in President Jimmy Morales' dispute with the U.N. backed international anti-graft commission. Those affected are investigators and litigators involved in high-profile cases, and the move undermines the commission's work, according to experts. (Associated Press)
Venezuelan bond holders filed suit in New York federal court yesterday demanding payment on more than $34 million in unpaid debt, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Ecuador will slash gasoline subsidies and cut government workers’ salaries in a bid to reduce the fiscal deficit by $700 million, reports Reuters.
Citizens of Latin American countries have elected right-wing governments throughout the region, but still demand protectionist policies and government services, reports Bloomberg.