Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: September 9, 2022

With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. See past weekly updates here.

This week:

  • As many as 13 migrants drowned trying to cross a swollen Rio Grande between Piedras Negras, Coahuila and Eagle Pass, Texas on September 1. It is the latest tragedy in what is already a record year for migrant deaths at the border.
  • Mexico’s migration authorities apprehended their fourth largest-ever monthly total of undocumented migrants in July. For the first time, fully half of them were not from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. Eight months in, 2022 is already Mexico’s second-largest year for asylum requests. Mexico’s armed forces are playing an ever-larger role in interdicting migrants.
  • Guatemala blocked more than 500 migrants in a northbound “caravan” attempting to enter from Honduras. Smaller “caravans” are forming several times per week in Mexico near the Guatemala border, as migrants seek to obtain documents allowing them to transit Mexican territory.

Tragedy in Eagle Pass

On September 1, about a mile downstream of the border bridges between Piedras Negras, Coahuila and Eagle Pass, Texas, a large group of migrants attempted to cross a Rio Grande swollen by recent rains. CBP reported as of September 3 that nine members of this group died by drowning  in the river. A September 3 tweet from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus referred to “13 lives lost yesterday while they attempted to cross the Rio Grande River at Eagle Pass.”

The nationalities of the deceased have not been reported. U.S. personnel reported rescuing 37 members of the group from the river, while Mexican authorities apprehended 39 on the Coahuila side. The Washington Post reported that the tragedy “appeared to be the deadliest mass drowning along the border in years.” The Eagle Pass fire chief told the New York Times that U.S. and Mexican authorities recovered 12 bodies from the river in a single day (in separate events) about 2 months ago, adding that drownings are an everyday event there.

Eagle Pass is one of two major (over 30,000 population) towns in Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector, in a rural area of mid-Texas. (Border Patrol divides the U.S.-Mexico land border into nine sectors.) Once a quiet part of the border, Del Rio was the border’s number-one sector for CBP migrant encounters in January, June, and July of this year.

More than half of migrants encountered in Del Rio (70 percent of them in July) come from countries other than Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. Two thirds in July came from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Colombia. Citizens of those countries are led to cross in Del Rio (and in Yuma, Arizona) by word of mouth—but also by smuggling organizations. “What we know with absolute certainty is that the smuggling organizations control the flow,” the chief of Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona Sector told the Associated Press in a story reported this week from Yuma.

2022 is already the worst year on record for deaths of migrants on the U.S. side of the Mexico border, punctuated by tragedies like the June asphyxiation death of 53 people in a cargo container, and several hundred fatal cases of dehydration and exposure in deserts, dozens if not hundreds of drownings in rivers and canals, and numerous falls from the border wall. A 5-year-old Guatemalan girl drowned near El Paso, Texas on August 22. That week, Border Patrol encountered two unaccompanied Guatemalan girls, aged four and one years old, near Ajo, Arizona. The remains of 28 Guatemalan migrants, found at different locations this year, are currently in the morgue of McAllen, Texas, awaiting final certification of their identities.

Mexico’s migrant apprehensions remain high, and military role increases

Mexico’s migration authorities apprehended their fourth largest-ever monthly total of undocumented migrants in July—33,848 people—according to data posted in late August.

For the first time, fully half of those apprehended were not from Central America’s so-called “Northern Triangle” countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras). As recently as 2018, 87% of Mexico’s apprehended migrants came from those countries. The countries whose migrants Mexico apprehended over 1,000 times in July were, from most to least: Honduras, Guatemala, Venezuela, El Salvador, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Colombia.

For the month of August, Mexico’s refugee agency (Mexican Refugee Aid Commission, COMAR) reported receiving its largest number of asylum applications since March. 10,763 people applied for asylum in Mexico last month, boosting COMAR’s annual total to 77,786—already its second-largest asylum total ever. (COMAR received nearly 130,000 applications last year.)

The countries whose migrants have sought asylum in Mexico over 3,000 times in 2022 so far are, from most to least: Honduras, Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Applications from Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and “other countries” already exceed their 2021 full-year totals.

Mexico, meanwhile, is increasingly using its military to interdict migrants. This is part of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s overall drive to increase the military’s role in Mexican life. That drive includes a bill nearing passage in Mexico’s Congress that would place the  National Guard, a militarized police force established in 2019, firmly within the military chain of command. A September 2 WOLA commentary warns that this step will give the armed forces “more and more power vis-à-vis civilian authorities.”

The Mexican Presidency’s latest annual “report on activities” offers statistics about the armed forces’ migration role, summarized by journalist Manu Ureste at Animal Político. The Army, Marines, and National Guard reported collaborating in the apprehension of 345,584 migrants between September 2021 and June 2022. Three-quarters were apprehended by the Army. Ureste notes that—for unclear reasons—this is more than the 309,430 migrants that Mexico’s civilian migration agency (National Migration Institute, INM) reported apprehending during those months.

46,916 military and National Guard personnel are currently deployed on counter-migration missions in Mexico right now, a 46 percent increase over 2021. Of those, 23,458 are marines (a 46 percent increase over 2021); 14,013 are army soldiers (a 2.5 percent increase); and 9,445 are guardsmen (a 296 percent increase).

Although the National Guard can check immigration status, formally, military personnel are not supposed to be detaining migrants: that is the task of the INM, a force that does not carry lethal weapons. Soldiers are meant to provide perimeter security for INM operations and to man checkpoints. However, as Ureste points out, human rights organizations have been pointing out since 2015 that military and police personnel are playing active roles in arresting migrants.

“In administrative terms, it is the INM who makes the detention,” Alberto Xicoténcatl of the Saltillo, Coahuila migrant shelter told Animal Político. “But in practical terms, those who carry out the operations to detain migrants, those who chase them and put them in the detention vans, are directly the National Guard or the Army.” Adds Yuriria Salvador of the Tapachula, Chiapas-based Fray Matías Migrant Rights Center, “It is very visible that the National Guard has become the armed wing of the INM and the executor of a migration policy based on containing and detaining migrants and asylum seekers, and on militarizing the Institute.”

From January to August, Jeff Abbott reported at Foreign Policy, Mexico had deported 26,557 Guatemalans by land. (The official statistic for all Mexican deportations of Guatemalans, including flights, is 28,826 during the first 7 months of 2022.) Abbott notes that almost no services are available to returned Guatemalans: “The extent of the attention they receive essentially ends once they leave the reception center.” The difficulty of crossing Mexico has increased smugglers’ fees to an average of US$15,500 “for a package that includes multiple attempts to cross the Mexico-U.S. border.”

Guatemala blocks “caravan” from Honduras, while short-term “caravans” form almost daily in Chiapas

Amid news of a “caravan” of several hundred migrants leaving Honduras and bound for the United States via Guatemala’s southern border, Guatemala’s migration authority (Guatemalan Migration Institute, IGM) declared itself on “orange alert.” Migration agents, in coordination with security forces, carried out an operation that, as of September 5, had removed 548 migrants back across the border into Honduras. (Guatemala has expelled about 11,000 migrants into Honduras so far in 2022.)

The IGM reported that 361 of the removed migrants were Venezuelan, 60 were Honduran, and 56 were Cuban. Other nationalities mentioned include Haiti, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Cameroon. One woman from Angola was detained while walking barefoot, her feet bleeding.

Under a longstanding migratory agreement, citizens of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador can enter Guatemalan territory without a visa or passport, just showing their national identity cards. The IGM noted that it expelled the Honduran members of this most recent group, though, because they did not cross in an official manner.

On the other side of Guatemala’s border with Mexico, in Chiapas, migrants stranded in the border-zone city of Tapachula have organized about 12 so-called “caravans,” each approximately 200 to 500 people, in the space of just over two weeks. Their destination appears to be Tapanatepec, in Oaxaca state, the first crossroads town one hits after leaving Chiapas along the Pacific coastal highway from Tapachula, 180 miles away.

Word of mouth has spread that in that town, over the past month and a half, an INM facility has been handing out Multiple Migratory Forms (FMMs, basically tourist cards) allowing undocumented migrants to be in Mexico for 30 days.

With an FMM, migrants have a documented status allowing them to board buses and travel through Mexico, including to the U.S. border zone. Migrants told the online journalism outlet Desinformémonos that word of mouth tells them to go to areas in Mexico’s northern-border zone where Mexican authorities are less likely to take migrants’ FMMs and “rip them up in your faces.”

Other News

  • The latest quarterly “Metering Update” from the University of Texas Strauss Center estimates 55,445 migrants currently on asylum waitlists in 11 Mexican border cities. The number includes those who’ve added their names to Title 42 exception waitlists. Most are in Tijuana.
  • “The U.S. government has returned 225 Cuban citizens in the last hours in four operations carried out through the port of Orozco, in the western province of Artemisa,” Cuba’s Interior Ministry announced on September 6. They were among the more than 5,154 Cuban citizens interdicted at sea since fiscal year 2022 began last October. Mexico, meanwhile, has carried out 13 deportation flights to Cuba this calendar year, returning 1,697 people.
  • Mexican authorities’ seizures of fentanyl in Tijuana increased 333 percent during the first 8 months of 2022 over the same period in 2021, EFE reported. Most seizures have taken place in Tijuana’s Zona Norte, a tourist-heavy area not far from the main (San Ysidro) port of entry.
  • A tweet from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico indicates that the State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement bureau (INL) plans to fund the training of 200 agents from Mexico’s migration agency (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM) in 2022 and 2023.
  • Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that “border infrastructure” will be on the agenda when he meets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for a high-level economic dialogue next week in Monterrey.
  • “Absolutely,” Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke said when asked whether, if elected, he would keep National Guard troops and Texas state police stationed along the state’s border with Mexico. “But with all things, there has to be a balance,” narrowing their mission, he added before a crowd in the border city of Del Rio. O’Rourke is challenging current Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has spent over $4 billion in state funds on military and police border deployments that the Democrat calls “stunts.”
  • Medium-term shelter is among the most acute needs for the nearly 10,000 migrants whom Gov. Abbott has bused to Washington, DC since March, the Washington Post reported in a story citing many migrants and aid workers. Of those bused to Washington, many of them Venezuelan, an unusually large number have no contacts, support networks, or places to stay in the United States. “The military said: ‘If you don’t have family to receive you, go to Washington. The trip is free,’” a Nicaraguan migrant said that a Texas National Guardsman told him.
  • “No one solves a problem they cannot see,” wrote Joy Olson at Mexico Today about Mexican migrant kidnappers’ extortion of their victims’ U.S.-based relatives—a crime that goes vastly unreported because so many of the relatives are undocumented and unwilling to alert U.S. authorities. “To see this problem, we need to develop clear channels for reporting.”
  • The latest monthly report from Witness at the Border, covering August, counted 140 migrant removal flights to 14 different countries, down from 142 flights in July. Colombia (19 to 23) and Brazil (3 to 10) saw the largest increases in flights; Guatemala (46 to 29) saw the largest decrease.
  • “The Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector has a new challenge coin that features concertina wire around the Border Patrol’s badge,” wrote Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S.-Mexico Border Program at the San Diego Union-Tribune. “In its description on its website, it says the concertina wire symbolizes ‘a new way of thinking about border security in San Diego.’”
  • Costa Rica’s asylum system is so strained by an ongoing wave of Nicaraguan migration that applicants are being given appointments for the year 2030, the AP reported.

The horror of migrant deaths at the border

Someone at CBP shared with CNN the agency’s latest count of migrant remains found on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Forced to take dangerous routes, migrants die often of dehydration, exposure, border wall falls, drownings, animal bites and other preventable causes.

This year is going to shatter all records. (And it’s important to note that CBP doesn’t capture all deaths.) Charting out the numbers of deaths since 1998 leaves me speechless.

In a better world, this would trigger a dramatic change in policy. We wouldn’t even have to advocate for it. But we’re not in a better world—we’re in one where politics continues to be dominated by the myth that migration can be deterred with “border security.”

Mexico’s asylum requests

For the month of August, Mexico’s refugee agency (Mexican Refugee Aid Commission, COMAR) reported receiving its largest number of asylum applications since March. 10,763 people applied for asylum in Mexico last month, boosting COMAR’s annual total to 77,786—already its second-largest asylum total ever. (COMAR received nearly 130,000 applications last year.)

The countries whose migrants have sought asylum in Mexico over 3,000 times in 2022 so far are, from most to least: Honduras, Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Applications from Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and “other countries” already exceed their 2021 full-year totals.

Latin America-related events in Washington and online this week

Tuesday, September 6

Wednesday, September 7

  • 9:00 at Provea online: ¿Qué aprendemos de las protestas del año 2017? (RSVP required).

Thursday, September 8

  • 11:00-12:00 at thedialogue.org: Offshore Wind Energy in LAC – Gauging Speed and Direction (RSVP required).
  • 12:00-1:00 at atlanticcouncil.org: Rechazo: The vote on Chile’s constitutional plebiscite and what it means beyond national borders (RSVP required).
  • 2:00-3:00 at Hispanics in Philanthropy Zoom: Philanthropy in Cuba: Supporting Food Systems Transformations (RSVP required).
  • 4:00-5:00 at Witness at the Border mobilize.us: Journey for Justice: a Border Pilgrimage (RSVP required).

Friday, September 9

  • 10:00-11:30 at WOLA.org: A Compounding Crisis: Domestic Shortcomings, U.S. policies, and the Impact on Everyday Cubans (RSVP required).
  • 12:00 at UCSD USMEX Zoom: El impacto de la sequía en la relación México-Estados Unidos (RSVP required).
  • 1:00-5:00 at American University and Facebook Live: The Threat of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing in Latin America and the Caribbean (RSVP required).

Latin America Security-Related News: September 7, 2022

(Even more here)

September 7, 2022

Brazil

The potential for overlap between military events and pro-Bolsonaro campaign events on Independence Day could offer cause for concern

Dieguez played down doomsday predictions that the independence day demos – which will also be held in Brasília and São Paulo – might be used to stage a military coup in favour of Bolsonaro

Entre las acciones operativas realizadas por la Fuerza Aérea Brasileña (FAB) durante el Ejercicio Conjunto Tápio 2022 (con efectivos y aeronaves de la Fuerza Aérea de Estados Unidos), está el lanzamiento de la bomba Lizard II

Chile

This failure is a blow and a thorny path lies ahead, but the will to replace Pinochet’s hated constitution remains strong

Colombia

Afirman que en varias veredas están haciendo presencia grupos sospechosos que dicen pertenecer al Ejército, pero que se comportan como paramilitares

La idea que propone Petro es que todo soldado y patrullero pueda volverse general de la República, el rango más alto en la jerarquía. Y que todo general haya pasado por ser soldado o patrullero

El empeoramiento de la violencia en Colombia ha continuado en el mes que Petro lleva en la presidencia: se han reportado 12 masacres de las 73 que van en el año

El mandatario dijo que hay voluntad de ‘los Chotas’ y ‘Espartanos’ de dejar las armas

Desde el 1 de enero de 2017 al 31 de diciembre de 2021, este distrito portuario registró 58.395 víctimas por algún tipo de hecho victimizante

The Biden administration’s new forward-thinking national policies are a step in the right direction, but the president must go further and end the global drug war

Un informe de la Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP) revela que el grupo guerrillero ha concentrado su actuar delictivo en cuatro puntos específicos del país y tiene en sus filas más hombres de los que se contabilizaron durante 2019

Colombia, Nicaragua

Un vocero oficioso de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega cerró públicamente la posibilidad de cualquier negociación con el presidente de Colombia, Gustavo Petro, que implique la liberación de al menos 14 presos políticos

Cuba, Mexico

El gobierno de Estados Unidos devolvió en las últimas horas a 225 ciudadanos cubanos en cuatro operaciones realizadas por el puerto de Orozco, en la provincia occidental de Artemisa

El Salvador

Tras casi dos semanas sin que las autoridades aclararan las razones de su detención, Luis Rivas fue acusado por la Fiscalía, el viernes 2 de septiembre, por el delito de desacato, es decir, por ofender o amenazar a funcionarios públicos

Haiti, U.S.-Mexico Border

It’s been nearly a year since tens of thousands of Haitian migrants converged on Del Rio, Texas. Some of those migrants are still looking for safety — and accountability for how they were treated

Honduras

Bajo el argumento que el sistema democrático hondureño atraviesa un profundo debilitamiento, un nuevo grupo de autodenominados «defensores de la democracia» surgió este martes con la participación del exjefe de las Fuerzas Armadas, Romeo Vásquez Velásquez

Al hacer un análisis comparativo entre los primeros ocho meses de 2021 y los primeros ocho meses de 2022, los homicidios se han reducido en un 17.14%

Mexico

The sharp rise in fentanyl distribution in this northwestern city, where it is estimated to have skyrocketed this year by 333 percent in the tourist zone, has put authorities on alert on both sides of the United States-Mexico border

INLMéxico apoyó a 27 agentes del @INAMI_mx a concluir su capacitación en la Academia de Formación Operativa. Esto fortalece las operaciones del INM y apuesta a la profesionalización de 200 agentes entre 2022 y 2023 para mejorar la seguridad fronteriza y apoyar la migración legal

Ciudadanos, activistas, defensores de derechos humanos, colectivos feministas, así como organizaciones civiles se congregaron en el Ángel de la Independencia, donde desplegaron lonas y pancartas contra la reforma del presidente

La reforma sobre la Guardia Nacional llegó formalmente al Senado, donde será dictaminada en comisiones que preside Morena

El presidente señaló que su cambio de opinión sobre el Ejército en las calles fue cuando vio el problema de seguridad que le heredaron

Pese a la lluvia, los manifestantes se concentraron en la glorieta de la Victoria Alada y, alrededor de las 20 horas, comenzaron su marcha pacífica al grito unísono de “¡No más guerra! ¡No más guerra!”

El presidente dijo que el plazo para las Fuerzas Armadas fuera de los cuarteles se vence en marzo de 2023 pero hacia adelante quedan las opciones de la ampliación por vía legislativa y, después, por consulta al pueblo mexicano

Activistas y migrantes de distintos países asentados en Tapachula pidieron este lunes al Gobierno de México el establecimiento de un corredor humanitario

Erick Valencia Salazar, aka El 85, founded a rival cartel called the New Plaza and waged war against the CJNG and El Mencho

Nicaragua

Last Friday, in an event in Washington, DC, a panel of experts suggested that the United States(US) impose personal sanctions on Daniel Ortega

U.S.-Mexico Border

“The military said: ‘If you don’t have family to receive you, go to Washington. The trip is free,’” Urbina said, referring to a member of the Texas National Guard

Migrants apprehended in Mexico in July

Mexican migration authorities apprehended their fourth largest-ever monthly total of undocumented migrants in July, according to data posted in late August.

For the first time, fully half of those apprehended were not from Central America’s so-called “Northern Triangle” countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras). As recently as 2018, 87% of migrants came from those countries.

The increasingly non-Mexican, non-Central American nature of today’s migrant population was the subject of a story that the Associated Press, reporting from the U.S.-Mexico border, published yesterday.

“A purely military approach has proved not to work”

Asked by Spain’s El País how Colombia’s new government can take on the country’s armed and criminal groups, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ representative in Colombia, Juliette de Rivero, urges a move away from the hunt for “high value targets.” Instead, she calls for more government presence in long-abandoned territories, and more protection of the population.

The devil is in the details, of course, but this is a succinct declaration of principles for a better security strategy. De Rivero goes on to point out that much of what is needed was already foreseen in Colombia’s 2016 peace accord.

Q. In your report you say that the previous government’s strategy of attacking armed group leaders was not effective. The current one has said that they still do not have clear “high value targets”. They are going to have to keep looking for the commanders, what should they do differently this time?

A. For us, the first objective has to be to protect the civilian population. In other words, the military and state strategy must have as its objective the population and their protection, because they are really exposed to such a high level of violence that this should be the first objective. Second, it must be a comprehensive strategy, not only military, and it must be accompanied by the entire state apparatus to resolve the underlying issues. To advance in resolving the land issue, to consolidate what was started with the Territorially Focused Development Programs [PDET]. Alternatives must also be created to illicit economies and the state must be more present and stronger in those places. Local authorities are very weak compared to armed groups, so they have to be consolidated as much as the other branches of the state, such as the judicial apparatus, the prosecutors’ offices, etc. We believe that this is the set of things that can begin to provide an answer, but a purely military approach has proved not to work.

Latin America Security-Related News: September 6, 2022

(Even more here)

September 6, 2022

Chile

Rejection had been widely expected in Sunday’s plebiscite, but the 24-point margin of victory for the rejection camp was a shocking repudiation of a document that was three years in the making

Colombia

La representante en Colombia de la Alta Comisionada de la ONU para los Derechos Humanos dice que apoyan la paz total del Gobierno de Petro y que la política de seguridad debe tener en el centro la protección de la población civil

Eln pide que no lo igualen a otros grupos armados y rechaza la idea de que el Gobierno negocie con bandas como el Clan del Golfo

The “Shottas” and “Spartanos” gangs have been fighting for months over control of Buenaventura’s drug trafficking trade, and other illegal activities such as micro-trafficking, extortion and kidnappings

Diferentes investigadores del conflicto armado consultados por este portal coinciden en señalar que la actual ola de violencia no es fortuita y que no está relacionada directamente con los cambios planteados por el presidente Petro

La comandante del Comando Sur de EE.UU., la general Laura J. Richardson, llegó este lunes a Bogotá para realizar una visita de tres días

Ecuador

Según expertos en temas de seguridad, se han creado “santuarios”, donde hay un control “a sangre y fuego”

El Salvador

Este mes se cumplen dos años desde que el cabecilla de la Mara Salvatrucha fue detenido en vías de extradición a Estados Unidos, que lo reclama para juzgarlo por terrorismo. Magistrados oficialistas frenaron el proceso en la Corte Suprema

Guatemala

El dron fue adquirido en 2021 y por este el Ministerio de la Defensa Nacional le pagó Q3.96 millones a la empresa Tactical Group

Guatemala, Venezuela

Los cálculos oficiales precisan que al menos 11.000 personas han sido expulsadas en lo que va de 2022 de ese país a Honduras

Mexico

No one solves a problem they cannot see. To see this problem, we need to develop clear channels for reporting. Outreach should be done to encourage reporting

Integrantes de la Federación Mexicana de Organismos Públicos de Derechos Humanos se manifestaron en contra de la aprobación en la Cámara de Diputados de reformas a leyes secundarias que “consolidan permanentemente a la Guardia Nacional bajo control militar en funciones de seguridad pública”

La iniciativa para incorporar la Guardia Nacional (GN) a la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena) logró sobreponerse en la Cámara de Diputados: con 252 votos a favor y 204 en contra

El secretario de la Defensa Nacional explicó que seguirá desarrollando sus actividades con capacitación y conocimientos policiales de naturaleza no bélica

El abogado Federico Anaya destaca la oportunidad de precisar en la ley orgánica de las fuerzas armadas cuáles son sus misiones, que no serán usadas para reprimir a la población y legalizar la función de protección civil y de seguridad pública

Los narcotraficantes mexicanos no sólo han corrompido a las policías mexicanas, sino que en los últimos años han alcanzado a las corporaciones de seguridad de Estados Unidos

Con esta ya son 12 las caravanas de 200 a 500 personas que han salido de Tapachula en poco más de dos semanas

Nicaragua

Ortega and Army chief Julio Cesar Aviles did not mention the military maneuvers that take place in Nicaragua with the participation of foreign troops, or the participation of Nicaraguan troops in the Vostok 2022 military exercises

Latin America Security-Related News: September 5, 2022

(Even more here)

September 5, 2022

Argentina

Authorities shed no light on a possible motive and were investigating whether he acted alone or was part of a larger plot

Bolivia

Approximately 56 percent of global lithium deposits exist in the brines in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, often referred to as the Lithium Triangle. So how will these nations manage this increasingly essential resource?

Brazil

Activists suspect criminals are ramping up destruction in ‘last opportunity to deforest without having to pay the price’

Chile

La propuesta de nueva Constitución plantea cambios al carácter de las policías y establece que estas son “instituciones policiales, no militares”, algo que afectaría principalmente a Carabineros

“Technology corporations like yours have an obligation to ensure that their platforms do not serve to disseminate hate, lies, and disinformation,” Democratic U.S. lawmakers told social media giants ahead of Sunday’s Chilean constitutional plebiscite

The rejected constitution would have legalized abortion, adopted universal health care and enshrined more than 100 constitutional rights, a global record

Chileans voted on a proposal to replace one of the most market-friendly constitutions in the world with one of the most egalitarian.

Colombia

Indígenas, afros, campesinos y cañeros están enfrentados por las tierras planas del Cauca, donde convergen grandes haciendas, minifundios, territorios de comunidades negras y resguardos

Estarían involucrados dos generales de la Policía, concesionarios de carros, blindadoras y funcionarios de 9 entidades públicas incluyendo la propia Fiscalía que investiga el caso

El ministro de Defensa describe su relación con el presidente Gustavo Petro. Dice que ha discutido con los generales sus críticas a la fuerza pública y tiene una “muy buena relación” con la cúpula militar

Operation Artemis is hanging by a thread with the advent of the leftist administration of Gustavo Petro, who said during the campaign that he would end the militarization of the struggle against deforestation

Lejos de dar un vuelco radical a la forma de operar de los militares, el general hace un llamado a fortalecer y mejorar los lineamientos vigentes en un escenario conflicto y creciente violencia

No parece fácil dialogar y buscar acuerdos con una cantidad de grupos ilegales disímiles, pero el Gobierno está jugado

The agreement brought a light of hope to the families that have been in a three-way crossfire between the FARC, the Colombian military, and paramilitary groups. However, slow implementation of the treaty has left power vacuums in rural areas of the country

Solo hay una institución con director nombrado por Petro

En este documento planteamos recomendaciones que complementan los anuncios del Gobierno para promover acciones que salven vidas en Colombia, para gestionar los riesgos relacionados con las sustancias psicoactivas y para reducir los daños

El jefe del bloque occidental Alfonso Cano es el principal objetivo de las autoridades en el departamento de Nariño por ser el reemplazo de alias Matamba

His longstanding criticisms of the military and its links to human rights abuses, as well as his past as a guerrilla, have caused deep unease within the armed forces

El presidente viajó a Neiva tras el ataque. Ordenó instalar un puesto de mando unificado

¿Qué hay detrás de estos hechos? ¿Qué estrategia implementar para frenar el baño de sangre?

El presidente Gustavo Petro propuso la eliminación del plan de cuadrantes e incrementar la inteligencia como un plan para mejorar la seguridad en la ciudad

Colombia, Nicaragua

Colombia está adelantando una gestión humanitaria ante la dictadura de Daniel Ortega para lograr la liberación de al menos 14 presos políticos, entre ellos los excandidatos presidenciales Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Medardo Mairena, Miguel Mora Barberena y Félix Madariaga

Colombia, Venezuela

En Tibú, el municipio con más coca sembrada en Colombia, más de 15.000 migrantes venezolanos sobreviven trabajando como recolectores de hoja de coca, acorralados por el hambre, los grupos armados de la región y la necesidad

El embajador de Colombia en Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, se estrenó en el cargo con declaraciones polémicas que generan dudas sobre si el acercamiento del gobierno de Gustavo Petro es más pragmático que ideológico

Costa Rica, Nicaragua

Rivera immediately sought asylum. The Costa Rican government gave him an appointment to formalize his request — in 2030

Dominican Republic, Haiti

El canciller de República Dominicana, Roberto Álvarez, aseguró que la principal diferencia es que el muro en la isla se construye bajo consenso de ambos países

El Salvador

The budding strongman has ridden Bitcoin schemes and a repressive crackdown on gangs to become Latin America’s most popular leader

Guatemala

José Rubén Zamora and Flora Silva – president and financial director of the media outlet El Periódico, respectively – have been subject to judicial persecution by the Public Prosecutor’s Office

Guatemala, Honduras

Se espera que en los próximos días llegue al país una caravana procedente de Honduras, por lo que autoridades de Guatemala declararon alerta naranja

El Instituto Guatemalteco de Migración (IGM) aún no contabiliza cuántos indocumentados han ingresado en las últimas horas

Honduras

Toma 20 de los 23 artículos de la Ley de Seguridad Nacional de México

Mexico

López Obrador pretende adscribir la Guardia Nacional a la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena), para volver de jure lo que ya sucede de facto

La Oficina en México del Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos (ONU-DH) destacó que el caso ratifica “el anunciado riesgo que entraña la participación militar en tareas de seguridad ciudadana”

En el último año, la cifra de soldados, marinos y elementos de la Guardia Nacional destinados a tareas de contención de migrantes ascendió a 46 mil 916

Contrary to his campaign promises to “return the army to its barracks,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has announced his intention to reform the National Guard so that it is “completely under” the authority of the Ministry of Defense

Con 265 votos a favor, 221 en contra y dos abstenciones, el pleno cameral avaló los cambios a la Ley Orgánica de la Administración Pública Federal para otorgar a la Secretaría de la Defensa la facultad de “ejercer el control administrativo y operativo de la Guardia Nacional

La Cámara de Diputados aprobó la reforma a leyes secundarias que da a la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional el control total de la Guardia Nacional

Ningún presidente de México, desde la época de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, había cedido tanto frente a las pretensiones castrenses, ni afectado de una manera tan profunda la relación futura entre las Fuerzas Armadas y las instituciones

La diputada del PRI, Yolanda de la Torre, presentó una iniciativa que extiende hasta el 2028 la permanencia del Ejército en tareas de seguridad pública

Aunque el presidente afirma que la Guardia Nacional debe pasar a la Sedena para no “corromperse”, organizaciones civiles advierten que esta transición confirmaría a la nueva corporación como una de carácter militar

La ocupación progresiva de funciones civiles de gobierno, más allá de la política de seguridad, confirma la consolidación del militarismo, mismo que configura un relato según el cual las instituciones militares son más competentes que las civiles

A new report has suggested high-level government involvement in the 2014 disappearance of members of a rural teacher training college

Beyond making it easier for the DTOs to hide from law enforcement, there were other reasons why tourist resorts and important transportation ports and hubs in Italy and Spain as well as in Belgium and the Netherlands developed into some of the key bases of operations

Nicaragua

El caudillo sandinista habló, por segundo día consecutivo, previo a encabezar un desfile militar en saludo al 43 aniversario de las Fuerzas Armadas

Ni Daniel Ortega, ni el general Julio César Avilés se refirieron al envío de tropas nicaragüenses en los ejercicios militares Vostok 2022

Expertos que participaron en un foro sobre la persecución religiosa en Nicaragua, sugieren reaccionar ante la ola represiva del régimen con sanciones personales

Peru

The impoverished rural teacher and political neophyte has found himself so engulfed in impeachment votes and corruption allegations that his presidency has become an exercise in political survival

U.S.-Mexico Border

An all-day quest led me to the final of the 10 towers built on native land. “You never know when you’re being watched,” said a resident

Operation Lone Star is slowing the record level of migrants crossing the Rio Grande, supporters say, but critics don’t see an impact

The bodies of eight people were recovered from the Rio Grande after dozens of migrants were swept downriver near Eagle Pass, Tex., in what appeared to be the deadliest mass drowning along the border in years

A large group attempting to cross into Texas was overcome by a fast-moving current, the authorities said

“Anyone from Russia or Bangladesh? I need somebody else from Russia here,” an agent shouts and then says quietly, almost to himself, “These are Romanian”

Casi un mes después de anunciarse el fin del programa “Quédate en México”, activistas denuncian este viernes una crisis binacional en la frontera de Ciudad Juárez y El Paso

Venezuela

A technology enabling the transmission of fake locations to carry out murky or even illegal business operations could have profound implications for the enforcement of international law

Chile votes

Chilean voters in May 2021: *electing mostly left-leaning members to Constitutional assembly* “Go write a new constitution.”

Constitutional assembly: *writes a left-leaning constitution*

Chilean voters now: “No, not like that.”

2 weeks of vacation

I’m out until after U.S. Labor Day (until September 6). Because there’s a lot to do during these weeks—a major wedding anniversary, dropping my only child off to start college, giving my first class at GW University—I’ll be difficult to reach. Unless it’s really screamingly urgent, I’d appreciate you waiting until September 6 to contact me. Thanks!

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: August 19, 2022

With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. See past weekly updates here.

Due to staff absence, WOLA will not publish Weekly Border Updates on August 26 or September 2. The next update will appear on September 9.

This week:

  • July saw the second consecutive monthly drop in CBP’s encounters with migrants. The agency encountered slightly more individual migrants and significantly fewer repeat border crossers. Only 52 percent of July’s migrants came from Mexico or Central America’s “Northern Triangle,” the nationalities that make up nearly all Title 42 expulsions. As the remaining 48 percent came from countries whose citizens are harder to expel, the share of migrants subjected to Title 42 in July fell to 37 percent, the smallest share since the pandemic began.
  • Mexico’s two largest border cities, Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, saw unusually fierce outbreaks of organized-crime violence between August 11 and the August 13-14 weekend. CBP’s operations, including removals and expulsions into those cities, were unaffected.
  • Revelations about continued confiscation of Sikh asylum seekers’ turbans in Arizona drew new attention, and new advocacy energy, to the longstanding issue of CBP officers’ and Border Patrol agents’ confiscation, disposal, and non-return of migrants’ valuable and vital possessions.

Migration slows from Mexico and Northern Triangle, increases from elsewhere

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its Border Patrol component encountered undocumented migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border 199,976 times in July, a 4 percent drop from June and a 6 percent drop from July 2021. “This marks the second month in a row of decreased encounters along the Southwest border. While the encounter numbers remain high, this is a positive trend and the first two-month drop since October 2021,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a release.

Of last month’s 199,976 “migrant encounters”:

  • 181,552 took place in territory where Border Patrol operates: between the official border crossings, or ports of entry. That is 6 percent fewer than in June 2022 and 10 percent fewer than in July 2021.
  • 18,424 took place at the ports of entry, usually because CBP officers allowed migrants—many of them asylum seekers—to approach these border facilities and present themselves. That was 19 percent more encounters at ports of entry than in June, and 42 percent more than in July 2021. In the nearly 11 years for which we have monthly data, July 2022 saw the 3rd-largest monthly total of migrants allowed to approach ports of entry. (Really the 2nd-largest total, because April 2022, when a large number of Ukrainian refugees were processed at the ports of entry, was an anomaly.)

CBP reported that its 199,976 “encounters” took place with 162,792 actual individual migrants. 22 percent of last month’s migrant encounters were with repeat crossers: individuals who had already been encountered at least once in the previous 12 months.

That is a larger number of repeat crossers than was the norm in fiscal years 2014-19 (15 percent). The reason is the Title 42 pandemic authority in place since March 2020, which usually expels migrants very quickly: without a chance to ask for asylum in the United States, but also with very little time in CBP custody or other consequences. That, as an August 16 Wall Street Journal analysis points out, has incentivized repeat attempts to cross.

Despite this, July continued what appears to be a several-month decline in repeat border crossers. Although CBP reported a June-July drop in overall “encounters,” the agency reported increased individuals (162,792, up from 153,379 in June’s CBP release).

Read More

Data tables added to many border infographics

I added a small but useful feature to our collection of infographics about the U.S.-Mexico border and migration, hosted at our Border Oversight website.

Now, it’s not just a pretty image of a chart: if you want the actual numbers, many pages now have a little link you can click to view the underlying data as a plain-HTML table. That table easily copies-and-pastes into any spreadsheet.

A few weeks ago U.S. Customs and Border Protection started sharing its migration data, going back to fiscal year 2020, as a downloadable dataset. The “data table” pages here query that dataset in an instant and save me an incredible amount of time building these graphics. And now, any time CBP uploads new data, I can grab it, upload it to the Border Oversight server, and all these little “data table” pages will update automatically.

Latin America Security-Related News: August 17, 2022

(Even more here)

August 17, 2022

Brazil

Three Brazilian cutting-edge defense technology projects have caught the attention of the U.S. military and are vying for funding under the Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) agreement between both nations

Colombia

La instrucción de Gustavo Petro ha causado polémica en las tropas, pero la ONU celebra el cambio de mentalidad

En un acto de irrespeto difícil de explicar, faltando apenas 45 minutos, Petro avisó que la ceremonia quedaba aplazada

Petro will be emboldened to implement his vision of peace but will quickly have to identify solutions to the obstacles facing the peace process

El pasado del nuevo mandatario parece ser ingrediente que le faltaba a un gobierno para concretar un acuerdo de paz con esta guerrilla

El secuestro ocurre en medio de los intentos del gobierno Petro de reactivar los dialogos de paz con esta guerrilla

La general Yackeline Navarro Ordóñez, quien desde hoy será la subdirectora de la Policía, viene de ser directora nacional de Escuelas de la Policía Nacional, desde donde promovió entre los cadetes la defensa absoluta de los derechos humanos

Benjamín Núñez, a quien sus subalternos señalan por el crimen, salió del país. ¿Cómo va el caso?

Colombia, Cuba

La revista RAYA tuvo acceso a miles de documentos clasificados de organismos de inteligencia militar colombianos donde queda en evidencia cómo espiaron a diplomáticos y funcionarios cubanos, líderes políticos de izquierda, periodistas y líderes sociales

Colombia, Venezuela

No existen cifras oficiales sobre la magnitud del reclutamiento forzado ni sobre su participación en situaciones donde no se los reconoce como víctimas

Ecuador

Desde el domingo 14 de agosto en Guayaquil, Durán y Samborondón rige un nuevo estado de excepción por 30 días

El Salvador

La policía de El Salvador detuvo a 50.000 personas en el curso de una “guerra” contra las pandillas que lleva adelante el presidente Nayib Bukele hace cinco meses, amparado en un régimen de excepción, informaron este martes las autoridades

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua

Los gobiernos de Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras cada vez tienen menos remilgos para presentarse en público como lo que son: enemigos de la prensa independiente. Los periodistas somos el objetivo de su violencia

Guatemala

La confidencialidad del acuerdo tan solo confirma la reserva en información clave del Ejército, pero no en los acuerdos pactados entre instituciones

The country has persecuted the founder of one of its major daily newspapers—again. But that’s just the beginning

Mexico

El Subsecretario recalcó que “todavía no se pasa [la Guardia Nacional a la Sedena]”, pero que “hay una discusión en que aún está en el Congreso”

La única vía de atacar la violencia en México es fortalecer el Estado de Derecho y terminar con la impunidad, dice la antropóloga estadounidense Maureen Meyer, vicepresidenta de Programas de WOLA

El mandatario evadió hablar del número de intentos que las Fuerzas Armadas en México tuvieron para detener a Caro Quintero, pero sí expuso que existe desconfianza en los militares desde el gobierno del panista Felipe Calderón

Nicaragua, Venezuela

Los Army Games o Juegos de Guerra fueron fundados en el 2015 por el Ministerio de Defensa de Rusia. En estos participan cada año más de 30 países.

U.S.-Mexico Border

Family members are still being separated under some circumstances, including if a parent has a criminal history, has health issue, or is being criminally prosecuted

“There are good agents and bad ones,” he says. “Some can care less that there’s been a policy change”

Venezuela

El gobernante Nicolás Maduro ratificó a 15 de los 28 jefes de ZODI y a seis de los ocho comandantes de las REDI

Desde 2015, Rusia organiza cada año una especie de Juegos Olímpicos militares. Esta vez también habrá competencias en Venezuela

A growing number of US citizens are being detained in Venezuela — giving authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro leverage in frosty relations with Washington

At colombiapeace.org: A Corruption Scandal Undermines Colombia’s Peace Accord Implementation

I hadn’t seen anything in English about the OCAD Paz scandal, a nasty example of corruption in Colombia that has undermined what to me is the most important part of the 2016 peace accord. Officials in the last government demanded bribes and kickbacks, perhaps amounting in the hundreds of millions of dollars, from vital programs seeking to establish a government presence in conflictive, poorly governed zones.

It was revealed by the work of Colombian journalists who carried out a six-month investigation. The scandal’s breadth, implications, and current status are the subject of a new Q&A I just posted to WOLA’s Colombia Peace website. Read it there.

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