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.

Categories

Get a weekly update in your email




Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from Milenio (Mexico). Caption: “La Guardia Nacional actualmente cuenta con alrededor de 100 mil elementos.”https://www.milenio.com/policia/guardia-nacional-reconocen-institucion-2-anos-creacion

(Even more here)

April 6, 2021

Brazil

Is it possible that, inspired by Donald Trump, Mr Bolsonaro contemplates hanging on to power through the use of might? No. It is probable

Brazil, South America Regional

The P.1 variant, which packs a suite of mutations that make it more transmissible and potentially more dangerous, is no longer just Brazil’s problem. It’s South America’s problem — and the world’s

Central America Regional, U.S.-Mexico Border

Last year, amid the pandemic, Central Americans endured the formation of 30 cyclones that devastated entire regions and fueled the need to emigrate

Colombia

La medida, que pretende erradicar los cultivos ilícitos de coca, mantiene en vela a los campesinos de la zona por las consecuencias económicas, medioambientales y sociales que puede acarrear

Forced eradication can undermine counterinsurgency efforts, which depend on winning support from local populations

Colombia, Venezuela

El teniente coronel del Ejército Raúl Roilander Quintero falleció este lunes 5 de abril en el Hospital Militar de San Cristóbal, en el estado Táchira, tras resultar herido en un accidente con un mortero

«Digo que es ineptitud de Colombia, pero a veces pienso que es interés de ellos», apuntó

Cuba

El artista Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara había planificado un “cumpleaños colectivo” y congregó a los residentes del área. La policía rodeó la sede e intentó impedir la actividad

Honduras

El presidente Hernández rechazó los cargos y criticó a la justicia estadounidense por basarse, según él, en testimonios de excapos de la droga perseguidos por el gobierno hondureño

Mexico

Varios de sus artículos personales, incluyendo equipo de cómputo, televisiones y dinero, fue robado, aprovechando que se encontraba fuera de la ciudad junto con su familia

Los datos recabados por la Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda al Refugiado (Comar) muestran que 22 mil 606 extranjeros llegaron al país para pedir protección en los tres primeros meses del año

>

Los señalamientos de Andrés Manuel López Obrador a la organización Artículo 19 fueron efectivos. Lograron desviar la discusión del tema sustancial que debiera estarse discutiendo estos días en el espacio público: la imparable y creciente crisis de derechos humanos

Ese punto es la entrada a Tierra Caliente y a lo más profundo donde se cocina la droga

Rosa Icela Rodríguez, titular de la SSPC, aseguró que quedaron atrás los tiempos de los cuerpos de seguridad reactivos, punitivos y autoritarios

U.S.-Mexico Border

Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the wall, has submitted a plan for what it wants to see happen moving forward

The recent increase in migration had begun well before Biden took office, and the reasons behind it form a complex web that was a long time in the making

Venezuela

Las cifra de presos por motivos de conciencia registra nueve personas menos con respecto al balance del mes de febrero, cuando que se realizaron algunas excarcelaciones

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Presidência da República photo at Veja (Brazil). Caption: “O presidente Jair Bolsonaro recebe continência do então comandante do Exército, Edson Leal Pujol Marcos Corrêa”

(Even more here)

April 5, 2021

Bolivia

La coca ilegal se incrementó en un 45% en 2020, según reveló el propio presidente Luis Arce, cuando presentó un anticipo del informe anual que la Oficina de Naciones Unidas contra la Droga y el Delito (Unodc) entregará en junio

Brazil

A sugestão do presidente, recebida como completamente despropositada, acabou ignorada pelo Ministério da Defesa durante a elaboração da Ordem do Dia

Central America Regional, U.S.-Mexico Border

The ad campaign is designed to combat a range of factors driving migrants to the border, including a slew of misinformation being spread by smugglers and the widespread belief among migrants that under the Biden administration, border enforcement has been relaxed

Colombia

Este centro penitenciario, inaugurado en 1960, lleva décadas siendo escenario de todo tipo de crímenes. Expertos creen que ocultaría hasta fosas comunes

Las Agc se tomaron el territorio, después de un llamado de auxilio de Los Rastrojos, que estaban a punto de perder la guerra con el Eln

Colombia, Venezuela

«El conflicto se mantiene», afirma Tarazona, quien agrega este sábado 3 de abril persisten las explosiones y ataques en distintos sectores

The patterns of migration on this border have changed since the advent of COVID-19. The border may be closed, but there are hundreds of labyrinthine routes available to those wishing to cross for a price

La ONG FundaRedes reportó bombardeos en el estado Apure desde este viernes y la madrugada de este sábado 3 de abril, como parte del conflicto armado entre militares venezolanos y el frente 10 de disidentes de las Farc

Cuba

The plan to consolidate the prisoners was devised during the Trump administration, when their former compound, Camp 7, was failing

El Salvador

Bukele’s choice for security minister raised eyebrows due to Villatoro’s alleged ties to officials and political operators involved in major corruption schemes

Mexico

“They know that if they’d awarded the stretch here to a private company it would be easy to organise resistance, but not when it’s the army”

Un grupo de 33 migrantes menores de edad y 28 adultos fueron localizados en condiciones de hacinamiento y con signos de deshidratación en carretera Monterrey-Reynosa

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Policies that restrict families with minors over age 6 from crossing into the U.S. can dash hopes of migrants

U.S.-Mexico Border

Two inspectors appointed by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee to monitor conditions faced by children in U.S. immigration custody detailed “severe overcrowding” at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in south Texas

Solo en marzo, llegaron 18.000 niños y adolescentes no acompañados. En Roma, uno de los puntos más activos de la frontera de Texas, EL PAÍS es testigo de cómo una decena de embarcaciones cruzan en una noche

More Americans disapprove than approve of how President Joe Biden is handling waves of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, and approval of his efforts on larger immigration policy falls short of other top issues

Venezuela

Se envió un contingente de las FAES al estado Apure para “apoyar” en el conflicto. A partir de allí, iniciaron las denuncias de atropellos contra la población civil de la zona

Los periodistas de NTN24 Luis Gonzalo Pérez y Rafael Hernández denuncian que fueron detenidos, incomunicados y robados por funcionarios militares cuando intentaban cubrir el enfrentamiento en La Victoria, estado Apure

Weekly e-mail update is out

I just sent off another e-mail update to those who’ve subscribed. The weekly updates are long, what with all that has been going on in Colombia and especially at the border. This edition contains:

  • Last week’s podcast about the border and letter on aerial fumigation in Colombia;
  • Full text of this week’s U.S.-Mexico border update;
  • Full text of this week’s Colombia peace update;
  • Latin America-related online events for this week;
  • And, finally, several funny tweets.

Here’s the page with past editions and a blank to add your e-mail address if you want these more-or-less weekly missives in your inbox.

Latin America-related online events this week

Monday, April 5

  • 8:30 at atlanticcouncil.org: Emerging markets recovery in 2021: A conversation with Mexico’s Finance Minister Herrera (RSVP required).
  • 10:30 at atlanticcouncil.org: Leaders of the Americas: A conversation with H.E. Carlos Alvarado, President of Costa Rica (RSVP required).

Tuesday, April 6

  • 10:00 at cries.org: América Latina y el impacto de la pandemia del COVID-19 (RSVP required).
  • 3:00-4:15 at wola.org: “None of the Above”: Peru’s Fragmented Politics and the April 11 Elections (RSVP required).

Wednesday, April 7

  • 10:00-11:00 at wola.org: Civil Society in Colombia’s Catatumbo Region Demand a Humanitarian Accord, Not Militarization (RSVP required).
  • 10:00-11:00 at thedialogue.org: Developments in the US-China-Mexico Triangular Dynamic (RSVP required).
  • 11:00-11:45 at heritage.org: Democratic Socialism: A Warning from Venezuela (RSVP required).
  • 12:00 at wola.org: Report Launch: Defending Human Rights in Venezuela (RSVP required).
  • 3:00-5:00 at wilsoncenter.org: Argentina’s Lithium Industry and its Role in the Global Renewable Energy Transformation (RSVP required).

Thursday, April 8

  • 10:00-1:00 at thedialogue.org: ¿Cómo medimos la calidad de los servicios de educación inicial en América Latina? (RSVP required).
  • 11:00-12:00 at atlanticcouncil.org: Digital Autocracy: Maduro’s control of the Venezuelan information environment (RSVP required).
  • 3:00 at FundaRedes: Refugiados venezolanos y colombianos entre la espada y la pared (RSVP required).
  • 7:30-9:00pm at mobilize.us: Wall of Nations: Mexico, Guatemala and the New Southern Border (RSVP required).

Colombia peace update: April 4, 2021

Cross-posted from WOLA’s colombiapeace.org site. During at least the first half of 2021, we’re producing weekly updates in English about peace accord implementation and related topics. Get these in your e-mail by signing up to this Google group.

Fighting continues between Venezuelan military and 10th Front dissident group

Nearly two weeks since Venezuelan security forces attacked a FARC dissident group in Apure, along the border with Colombia, unusually intense combat continues, displacing large numbers of civilians.

On March 21, Venezuelan armed forces carried out bombings and land raids on six sites used by the 10th Front, an ex-FARC group. The New York Times called it “several days of airstrikes that security experts described as Venezuela’s largest use of firepower in decades.” Venezuelan forces also carried out house-to-house raids in border towns like La Victoria and El Ripial, terrorizing the population.

The 10th Front, made up of a few former FARC guerrillas and many new recruits, is affiliated with the 1st Front headed by alias “Gentil Duarte,” Colombia’s largest network of ex-FARC guerrillas who refused to demobilize. It is one of three Colombian armed groups active inside Venezuela in this part of the border zone. Venezuela’s military operations have not affected the other two: the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and a second dissident group, the “Nueva Marquetalia,” which is led by Iván Márquez, who had headed the FARC’s negotiating team during 2012-16 peace talks.

The 10th Front has retaliated repeatedly. It has attacked a local office of Venezuela’s taxation agency, knocked out electrical power, attacked Army road checkpoints, and destroyed a Russian-made armored personnel carrier with either a rocket-propelled grenade or an improvised explosive device. “That civilian and military facilities are being damaged is something we had not seen to date,” Fr. Eduardo Soto, the director of Jesuit Refugee Service Venezuela, told Venezuela’s Tal Cual.

Estimates of the combat’s toll are high. Venezuelan officials cite nine dead, including four soldiers, along with 32 arrests and nine guerrilla dissident camps destroyed. The 10th Front denies that any of its fighters have been captured or killed.

Venezuelan human rights group statements, and press interviews with refugees who have crossed the river into Colombia’s also-conflictive department of Arauca, reveal many testimonies of Venezuelan soldiers and members of the notorious Police Special Actions Forces (FAES) unit raiding homes, looting possessions, dragging people into the street and beating them, forcing people to hold weapons while photographing them, detaining people and holding them incommunicado, and massacring a family in El Ripial, presenting the dead as combatants. The guerrilla dissidents, meanwhile, are accused of widespread and indiscriminate use of landmines and explosives.

On March 31 Venezuelan forces detained two reporters with the NTN24 news network, along with two members of the FundaRedes human rights group. They were released after 24 hours, without their cameras, mobile phones, or other equipment. A statement from Venezuela’s Defense Ministry mentioned “media scoundrels that deploy their dirty manipulations to fuel violence” in the region. “The role that NGOs are playing in this operation is striking,” it added.

As of March 31, Colombia’s migration agency had counted 4,741 people displaced by the fighting, who had taken refuge in 19 shelters in Arauquita, Colombia. That represents more than 10 percent of Arauquita municipality’s estimated population of 44,000. About 40 percent are children. At least several hundred of the displaced have Colombian citizenship but had settled on the Venezuelan side of the border. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is in Arauquita helping with tents, mattresses, hygiene kits and face masks. An unknown number of people have also displaced to other parts of Venezuela.

It is not clear why Venezuela has chosen to confront the 10th Front to the exclusion of other Colombian armed groups in Venezuelan territory, or why it has done so now. Colombia’s defense minister, Diego Molano, claims that Nicolás Maduro’s regime “doesn’t seem to be defending its sovereignty, but protecting its drug-trafficking business” and that it “orders that one narco-criminal group be combated selectively.” Most educated guesses do point to a corrupt relationship between Venezuelan security forces and organized crime.

Caracas may have decided to favor the “Nueva Marquetalia” dissident group, or perhaps, the Washington Post posits, “the 10th Front may have simply crossed a line by extorting powerful landowners in the area.”

An unnamed expert cited in El Espectador had a lengthy hypothesis:

An expert consulted by this newspaper, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that drug trafficking in the area involves “paying extortion, or a bribe, to public entities, particularly to the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB). According to the expert, since 2019, both the dissidents of the Segunda Marquetalia, as well as those of Gentil Duarte, began to default on payments. “That undoubtedly generated a series of tensions with the FANB that escalated.”

…The expert added that the 10th Front began to increase the volume of drug trafficking passing through the route. “Then more members of the FANB began to charge and raise the rates. That’s when ‘Ferley’ appeared, he is the finance chief of the 10th Front and he began to have disputes with people in the FANB,” this person added.

The same article cited Sebastiana Barráez, a Venezuelan journalist, contending that “the sympathies that have been expressed, even by Nicolás Maduro himself, have been towards Iván Márquez, not towards Gentil Duarte.” Still, the Segunda Marquetalia presence in the region is less notable. “They have a strange presence because it is not so clear to identify who their combatants are, at least in Arauca and Apure,” researcher Naryi Vargas told El Espectador.

At the moment it is impossible to predict whether the violence will die down or escalate. The dissidents are showing a much greater willingness to keep attacking the Venezuelan forces than they do in Colombia, where attacks on military targets are usually followed by lengthy retreats.

The dissidents are reportedly calling for negotiations that might lead to a truce with the Venezuelan regime. Over 60 Colombian and Venezuelan organizations sent a March 31 letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres asking him to name a special envoy to mediate, since the Colombian government and the regime in Venezuela have almost no remaining contacts with each other.

The two governments continue to ramp up bellicose rhetoric. While Colombia’s defense minister alleges Caracas is colluding with the Nueva Marquetalia, Venezuela’s defense minister insists that the Colombian armed groups “cross the river, make their skirmishes and return to Colombia with the protection of their authorities.” A Venezuelan Defense Ministry communiqué even sought to bring the United States into the picture:

They [the armed groups] are sponsored by the Colombian government and the Central Intelligence Agency, which is why their incursions into the Venezuelan geographic space should be considered an aggression sponsored by [Colombian President] Iván Duque, since he provides them with logistical and financial support, creating a criminal corridor on the border with the advice of the U.S. Southern Command.”

Though the probability of escalation into inter-state conflict remains low, it can’t be discarded. “This is the worst crisis I’ve seen in decades here,” an unnamed human rights worker told the Guardian. The paper went on: “The activist added that the bellicose rhetoric from Bogotá and Caracas was hardly helping. ‘I would say it is making it worse.’”

Car bombing raises concern about Cauca’s deteriorating security situation

The department of Cauca, in southwest Colombia, remains one of the most conflictive parts of the country. On March 26, a car bomb detonated in the center of Corinto, in the northern part of the department not far from Cali. Last week also saw the murder of a judicial police investigator near Corinto, and the forced displacement of 2,000 people in Argelia, in the department’s south.

The car bomb went off next to the mayor’s office in Corinto, wounding 43 people including 11 municipal employees. President Iván Duque said that a FARC dissident group powerful in the area, the Dagoberto Ramos Mobile Column, was responsible. The Dagoberto Ramos, like the 10th Front in Arauca and Venezuela, is believed to be part of the dissident network headed by “Gentil Duarte” and the 1st Front. Led by a former mid-level FARC leader named Johany Noscué alias “Mayimbú,” the unit has carried out some bloody high-profile attacks, including the 2019 assassination of mayoral candidate Karina García in Suárez municipality. The dissidents and the armed forces had been fighting in a nearby village in the days leading up to the bombing.

The Dagoberto Ramos unit is also believed responsible for the March 27 kidnapping and murder of Mario Fernando Herrera, an investigator with the Technical Investigations Unit (CTI) of the Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía). Herrera was taken on March 26 at a roadblock that the dissidents had set up on the road between Corinto and the northern Cauca municipality of Santander de Quilichao. HIs body was found the next day.

Further south in Argelia, fighting remains intense between the ELN and another dissident group purportedly aligned with “Gentil Duarte,” the Carlos Patiño front. (To make things more complicated, this region also has a dissident group aligned with the Segunda Marquetalia, and the two have poor relations: Kyle Johnson and Juanita Vélez of Conflict Responses observed last year that Argelia may be the only zone where units of the two dissident networks are fighting each other.) ELN-dissident firefights have left residences riddled with bullets and shrapnel in the middle of the town of El Plateado, Argelia. Starting on March 27, 2,000 residents fled “at great speed.” Most headed for the county seat of Argelia, where many are gathered in the main church and the soccer arena.

Cauca has only about 1.35 million people, but has always been over-represented in measures of violence. It is strategically located for narcotrafficking, with coca fields, laboratories, and routes leading to Pacific transshipment points. Northern Cauca is also a center of Colombia’s illicit marijuana trade, with grow lights dotting the region’s hillsides at night. Illicit mining is common, especially near the Pacific. It is one of Colombia’s most ethnically diverse departments, but indigenous and Afro-descendant communities have historically been poor and excluded from political power, which has concentrated in the hands of a European-descended elite. Its topography is complex: Colombia’s three Andean mountain chains all converge there in what’s called the Macizo Colombiano (Colombian Massif).

Cauca leads the country in murders of social leaders and human rights defenders since 2016. So far in 2021, the department has suffered four massacres. The homicide rate in 2020 was 53.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, higher than all but four or five U.S. cities. The ELN, three dissident units, a fragment of the EPL, and the Gulf Clan neo-paramilitary group all operate in Cauca, as do smaller regional organized crime groups.

Argelia social leader Walter Aldana described the situation to El Espectador:

What we have today in the department of Cauca is the presence of eight or ten illegal armed groups that exercise power and dominion in the territories. They fight among themselves for territorial control. But whoever is there at the time is the authority in the territory. For more than a year, since before the pandemic, we have had a curfew from 7 o’clock at night—depending on the armed group and how they want to handle things.

In response to all this, “the government has recurred to old formulas,” wrote Santiago Torrado at Spain’s El País, “such as holding a security council meeting, announcing the deployment of 2,000 uniformed personnel in addition to the 8,000 already in the department, and offering rewards for the ringleaders.”

“The improvisation, the lack of planning, the lack of systematic persecution of crime is very evident,” wrote Alfonso Luna Geller, of the group Proclama del Cauca, at El Espectador. “The military and police are always surprised. It seems that there is no military or police intelligence, no strategic or tactical operations, because they have been replaced by useless security councils. … The National Government only appears to make bombastic and opportunistic declarations on the smoking streets of our towns.”

“The only way to transform these conditions is with transformations driven by the State as a whole,” former human rights ombudsman Carlos Negret told Torrado. “With long-term policies and not with circumstantial projects; with sustainable and durable decisions, and not with fire extinguishers that sooner rather than later use up their loads. I believe that implementation of the peace agreement has many of these elements”.

Links

  • 25 U.S. and Colombian organizations sent a letter to President Biden asking his administration to cease funding for aerial herbicide fumigation in territories where farmers grow coca, before Colombia’s government re-starts the suspended program.
  • From Vorágine and Connectas, a new accusation that the government’s coca eradication statistics are artificially inflated: eradicators “arrived at the coca fields to negotiate with the landowner. This was a ‘pact’ in which the eradicators only completed half of their task or did it badly on purpose: they did not uproot the bush from its roots, but only stripped it halfway down its stem.”
  • Mutante, Baudó AP, and La Liga Contra el Silencio published an investigation alleging that nine farmers were killed in the context of coca eradication operations in 2020. The total death toll for coca eradication in 2020, then, was 25, since the Defense Ministry reported 16 eradicators or security-force escorts killed last year.
  • The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy published a “Statement of Drug Policy Priorities for Year One,” which places emphasis on access to evidence-based treatment, harm reduction, and “a collective and comprehensive response” to supply reduction in Latin America. It does not specifically mention forced eradication of illicit crops.
  • The State Department’s annual human rights report draws attention to some of the more notable abuses that took place in 2020, while noting that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) “continued to take effective steps to hold perpetrators of gross violations of human rights accountable in a manner consistent with international law.”
  • Defense Minister Diego Molano told El Tiempo that the JEP’s estimate of 6,402 victims of military “false positive” killings of civilians between 2002 and 2008 “is a figure that seeks to create a negative image of our Armed Forces and extort the real debate, the one we need so that this country can have forces with greater legitimacy.”
  • An InsightCrime investigation into armed groups’ recruitment of children finds “the areas of most concern since 2016 include Bajo Cauca [Antioquia] and the Amazon state of Vaupés.”
  • It has been a year since Salvatore Mancuso, once a top leader of Colombia’s national AUC paramilitary network, completed a criminal sentence for narcotrafficking in the United States. He remains in a Georgia Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, seeking to prevent his deportation to Colombia, either by staying in the United States under the Convention Against Torture, or being removed to Italy, as he is a dual citizen. By video, Mancuso has been sharing information with the JEP and the Truth Commission. He is revealing names of military officers and civilian third parties who aided and abetted the right-wing groups that, at the conflict’s peak in the late 90s and early 00s, committed the majority of killings and forced displacements.
  • Colombia’s chief prosecutor (Fiscal General) Francisco Barbosa, a longtime personal friend of President Iván Duque, drew criticism this week for indicting one of the opposition-party candidates with highest poll numbers ahead of March 2022 presidential elections, former Medellín mayor and Antioquia governor Sergio Fajardo. The Fiscalía is accusing Fajardo of a 2013 case of contracting irregularities: approving a loan to the Antioquia government that was denominated in dollars, without first performing a risk study.
  • Fiscal General Barbosa paid a visit to the United States this week, where he met with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Marshals representatives, among others. Barbosa’s delegation included Gabriel Jaimes, the prosecutor in the super-high-profile witness-tampering case against former president Álvaro Uribe. Jaimes has asked to drop the charges in Uribe’s case, and will present arguments before a judge on April 6. Investigative journalist Daniel Coronell points out that the majority of witnesses on Uribe’s behalf in this case have some relationship with the Oficina de Envigado, an organized crime structure descended from the old Medellín cartel.
  • Without Catholic Church-led organizing and a 1993 law recognizing Afro-descendant communities’ collective landholdings, the jungles of Chocó “could have been destroyed by the logging interests of the time,” says Quibdó Bishop Juan Carlos Barreto in an interesting interview with La Silla Vacía. “If it weren’t for that work, we would have this forest full of monocultures and agribusiness.”
  • The Colombian government appears determined to move ahead with a US$4.5 billion purchase of 24 F-16 fighter jets. This is controversial because the contract, equivalent to more than 1 percent of GDP, comes at a time when resources are lacking for other priorities, like peace accord implementation.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Dario Lopez-Mills photo at Associated Press. Caption: “A chid stands next to her family’s belongings as they wait for transportation at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, on Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021. U.S. authorities are releasing migrant families at the border without notices to appear in immigration court, and sometimes without any paperwork at all.”

(Even more here)

April 2, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

President Biden has made clear that addressing the overdose and addiction epidemic is an urgent priority for his administration

Brazil

The three new chiefs are senior military officers and their picking eased fears among some analysts that Bolsonaro would prefer younger replacements so as to politicize the armed forces

Ora, a Constituição estabelece que as Forças Armadas são instituições de Estado, razão pela qual não podem ser “alinhadas” ao presidente

Chile

Solo entre diciembre de 2020 y marzo de este año han ocurrido al menos siete ataques contra civiles, que se suman a otros 18 atentados contra empresas forestales

Colombia

The number of youngsters being recruited by armed groups in Colombia has been rising steadily since the 2016 peace accords

Los C-17 son tipo carguero y desarrollarán misiones de apoyo administrativo a la embajada de Estados Unidos en Colombia así como llevar de regreso a su país de origen a varios funcionarios estadounidenses

Colombia, Venezuela

Refugees in Colombia interviewed by The Washington Post spoke of beatings and detentions in Apure as the Venezuelan military went from house to house

The Venezuelan assault, centered around La Victoria, a town of about 10,000, has been aimed at a faction of FARC dissidents known as the Tenth Front, according to local residents, leading security experts to suggest they may have broken unwritten rules

Funcionarios de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana los detuvieron cuando realizaban una cobertura periodística sobre el conflicto armado en la zona fronteriza del estado Apure y permanecieron más de 24 horas incomunicados

Guatemala

Chronic childhood malnutrition doubled in Guatemala between 2019 and 2020. In areas where migrants are mainly coming from, the rates are higher than anywhere in the world

Guatemala, Mexico

El Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) clasificó por cinco años sus expedientes relacionados con la masacre de 19 personas en Camargo, Tamaulipas. De las víctimas, 16 eran migrantes guatemaltecos en ruta hacia Estados Unidos

Honduras

Prosecutors cited the failed September 2019 influence campaign by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP — along with the murder of four people linked to the investigation and the defendant’s own alleged repeated lies and obstruction — in urging stiff punishment for Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández

Mexico

El presidente de México encontró en las fuerzas armadas un aliado. Las considera parte de su proyecto político personal. Y las premia y protege. ¿Protege su futuro con ellas?

Los efectivos de la Sedena habrían salido bajo fianza el 26 de marzo para continuar su proceso en libertad, mientras que tres permanecen en una prisión militar

They will wait in shelters in Mexico, often for months, for arrangements to be made. Then, they will be deported

Amlo also singled out press freedom group Article 19, which was cited as a source, in an outburst reflecting his disdain for civil society groups

Unlike El Chapo, who sought Sean Penn’s help to turn his criminal life into a Hollywood blockbuster, El Mencho prefers the shadows

U.S.-Mexico Border

This tactic has allowed the administration to buy itself some “breathing room” to build up those processes before it fully resumes asylum at the border

The Border Patrol began the unusual practice last week in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, which has seen the biggest increase in the number of migrant families and unaccompanied minors crossing the border

While Biden said last week that the “vast majority” of families are being sent back to Mexico under Title 42, U.S. government data suggests that is not the case

U.S. Customs and Border Protection took more than 171,000 migrants into custody along the Mexico border last month, according to preliminary tallies

While CBP has never claimed to interdict every border crosser, the number of so-called got aways recorded in recent weeks is the highest in recent memory, said two of the officials

New “emergency” facilities skirt safety standards, while facilities accused of abuse are still getting grants

Weekly Border Update: April 2, 2021

With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. You can get these in your e-mail each week by joining WOLA’s “Beyond the Wall” mailing list. Since what’s happening at the border is one of the principal events in this week’s U.S. news, this update is a “double issue,” longer than normal. See past weekly updates here.

Migrant apprehensions may reach largest annual total since early 2000s, as most are expelled

The Washington Post published preliminary data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about migrants encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border during March. It shows migrants came into the agency’s custody, at least briefly, on 171,000 occasions last month. That would be the largest monthly total since March of 2001, and a remarkable 76 percent more than February 2021. Here is how it would compare among the previous 115 months:

Of this “preliminary” figure of 171,000:

  • 99,200 appear to be single adults, a 44 percent increase over February and the largest number of single adults encountered in the monthly data WOLA has collected, which go back to October 2011.
  • 18,800 were unaccompanied children, a 102 percent increase over February, smashing the May 2019 record of 11,861.
  • 53,000 were members of family units, a 180 percent increase over February and the fourth or fifth largest monthly total since October 2011.

Under the Trump-era “Title 42” pandemic restrictions that the Biden administration has kept in place, about 90 percent of adults and 10-20 percent of family members are being expelled, usually in a matter of hours. So the population of migrants taken into U.S. custody at the border looks more modest, perhaps similar to 2019:

CNN reported seeing Border Patrol estimates predicting that the agency might apprehend or “encounter” 2 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border between October 2020 and September 2021. That number—up to 1.1 million single adults, 828,000 family members, and 200,000 unaccompanied children—would shatter Border Patrol’s annual record of 1,643,679 migrant apprehensions set in 2000.

That estimate seems dubious. Even with 171,000 migrants apprehended in March, getting to 2 million would require Border Patrol to encounter a record-shattering 241,000 migrants for each of the next six months—about 20,000 more than the largest monthly total ever measured. Deputy Chief Raúl Ortiz said on March 30 that Border Patrol expects to encounter “more than a million” migrants in fiscal 2021. That appears more likely, and would be the largest annual total since 2006, exceeding the 851,508 apprehensions reported in 2019.

Unlike past years, a large portion of these migrants—one half to two-thirds, perhaps—would be instantly expelled under Title 42. And much of the total would be “double-counting” as expelled migrants try to cross again. In February, about 25 percent of people encountered at the border had crossed more than once, CNN reports, up from 7 percent in 2019.

While not on pace for a record-breaking year, Mexico reported apprehending 34,993 migrants in its territory between January 1 and March 25, 7,643 or 28 percent more than the same period in 2020. About 55 percent were from Honduras, 29 percent from Guatemala, and 7 percent from El Salvador. Of all migrants, said National Migration Institute (INM) director Francisco Garduño, 4,400 were minors, about 1,200 of them unaccompanied. Mexico’s totals so far this year “roughly mirror the numbers from early 2019, before Trump forced Mexico” to increase apprehensions by threatening to levy tariffs, the Associated Press observed.

Unaccompanied children: flattening out or even declining?

Much media coverage of the border continues to focus on U.S. agencies’ struggle to accommodate the record numbers of children arriving unaccompanied, whom the Biden administration refuses to expel under Title 42. As of March 31, 18,170 children were in U.S. government custody: 13,204 in permanent and emergency shelters run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, HHS), and 4,966 awaiting ORR shelter space while stuck in Border Patrol’s inadequate detention facilities.

The most recent numbers we’ve managed to obtain do show a glimmer of good news, though, about unaccompanied children. The population in CBP’s custody has dropped under 5,000, from 5,495 on March 25, as new temporary ORR shelter spaces have opened up. And the number of non-Mexican unaccompanied kids Border Patrol is newly apprehending may be dropping. The agency took in more than 600 per day on each of the three days for which we saw data during the week of March 22, but between March 28 and March 31 it took in less than 500 on three of four days, and never reached 600. Though it’s early to be certain about trends, this points to a downward trendline:

The Washington Post, as noted, just reported a preliminary figure of 18,800 unaccompanied children taken into CBP custody in all of March—including Mexican children, who under current law are almost all returned to Mexico. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. government expects to encounter between 18,600 and 22,000 children in April, and between 21,800 and 25,000 in May.

If the lower total since March 28 is sustained, though, unaccompanied child apprehensions will be on the low end, or even below, these estimates. One reason the number of kids arriving alone might decline is the increased probability, discussed below, that a family unit won’t be expelled under Title 42. If there is some likelihood of being released into the interior to pursue asylum, parents will be more inclined to accompany their children, resulting in fewer kids traveling alone.

In fact, Reuters revealed, a surprising number of “unaccompanied” children may have arrived with a family member—but because the adult relative was not a parent or guardian, Border Patrol separated the family. A data project managed by “a handful of nonprofit groups” estimates that as many as 10 to 17 percent of “unaccompanied” children actually arrived with an aunt or uncle, an adult sibling, cousin, grandparent, or other relative. Because they are not immediate family, CBP policy usually considers the child unaccompanied and expels the adult under Title 42. This very high estimate—between one in six and one in ten children separated from a relative at the border—has “not been made public before” and CBP “told Reuters they do not track such separations.”

In the meantime, the large population of unaccompanied kids continues to strain ORR and CBP capacities. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that CBP is “working around the clock” to move kids out of Border Patrol facilities and into ORR custody as space opens up. This space, as Mark Greenberg notes in a new Migration Policy Institute study, started out very scarce: “The Biden administration took office with less than half of the shelter capacity that ORR had estimated was needed for preparedness.”

Children are not meant to spend a long time in ORR’s shelter network: ideally, no more than about a month. The agency works to identify relatives or other sponsors who can take them while immigration courts rule on their protection needs. ORR has been moving between 200 and 300 children per day out of its system and into relatives’ custody, far fewer than the number of children being newly apprehended and transferred. This points to continued increases in the need for shelter space.

Internal government estimates reported by CNN and the New York Times indicate that ORR could need 34,100 or 35,500 shelter beds to keep up with the high projected number of arriving unaccompanied children. As last week’s update found, a series of emergency shelters—from convention centers to military bases—is increasing ORR’s capacity up to about 28,800 beds. And the New York Times reports that new facilities being “scouted” include “a Crowne Plaza hotel in Dallas, a convention center in Orange County, Fla., and a church hall in Houston.”

This new shelter capacity should alleviate the crowding in CBP facilities’ holding areas, where the law requires children to spend less than 72 hours. Transfers out of CBP custody have increased from about 400 per day the week of March 22 to about 800 per day the week of March 29.

On March 30 CBP allowed selected pool reporters to visit the largest of its holding areas, the temporary processing center in Donna, in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. This site is a complex of tents built in January while a more permanent facility in McAllen, outfitted in 2014, undergoes renovation. The press visitors to Donna found 3,400 unaccompanied children and 700 family members crammed into a space intended for 250. Most children are in eight “pods” separated by plastic dividers, while the youngest are in a “play pen” area where they sleep on mats on the floor. More than 2,000 kids had been in the facility for more than the maximum 72 hours, 39 of them for more than 15 days. Oscar Escamilla, the acting executive officer of Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector, told reporters that “250 to 300 kids enter daily and far fewer leave”—a situation that should begin to reverse as temporary ORR shelters come online.

“I’m a Border Patrol agent. I didn’t sign up for this,” the New York Times quoted Mr. Escamilla saying “as he looked at some of the younger children, many of them under 12.” However, as veteran immigration reporter Caitlin Dickerson observed in The Atlantic, even after seven years of child arrivals, CBP has resisted building more family-appropriate holding facilities out of the unproven belief that, as a commissioner told her, “such a project could send a message that would encourage even more people to migrate to the United States.”

The border saw some tragic and outrageous episodes involving children this week. Border Patrol found a mother, her 9-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son unconscious on an island in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas. The mother and son were resuscitated, but the girl died. In remote New Mexico desert, Border Patrol night-vision video meanwhile captured smugglers dropping two Ecuadorian girls, age 3 and 5, from atop a 14 foot tall section of border fence. CBP found the girls and “they are said to be in good health,” Al Jazeera reported.

Families: increasing

The category of migrant that appears to have increased fastest in March was family members. Border Patrol reported a 180 percent increase in encounters with families—parents or legal guardians with children—from 18,945 in February to 53,000 last month. The Washington Post noted that DHS officials “are privately warning about what they see as the next phase of a migration surge that could be the largest in two decades, driven by a much greater number of families.”

The Post noted that groups of asylum-seeking families “sometimes collectively numbering as many as 400” have been “showing up this month along the riverbanks in South Texas.” El Faro published a series of photos showing what these nighttime arrivals look like, as Border Patrol has set up card tables on a dirt road in Roma, Texas, at which they check in new arrivals.

What won’t be clear until we see CBP’s detailed March data is how many of these families were allowed into the U.S. interior to begin removal and asylum proceedings, and how many were expelled under Title 42. Under the pandemic expulsions policy, Mexico agreed in March 2020 to take back citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras apprehended at the border. It is still taking back nearly all single adults, who are the majority of all apprehended migrants. But even as it takes a larger number of expelled families than it did in 2020, Mexico appears to have hit a ceiling and is now refusing about 80 to 90 percent of family expulsions, especially of those with small children, according to the Washington Post. (That article’s co-author, Nick Miroff, notifies us that the percentage more recently appears to have fallen to 75 to 80 percent—perhaps due to U.S. requests that Mexico take more expelled families.)

In order to get around this, DHS has been flying some families from segments of the border where Mexico is refusing expulsions to segments where Mexico is still accepting them. Planes continue to arrive daily to El Paso, where El Paso Matters has documented the anguish of parents with small children taken from the airport to the middle of the border bridge and left in Ciudad Juárez.

Garduño, the director of Mexico’s INM, told press that smugglers are advising would-be migrants to bring children. They “suggest that migrant parents travel with their children ‘to facilitate entry into Mexico and the United States.’”

Families often get to remain in the U.S. interior for a long time as badly backlogged U.S. immigration courts consider their requests for asylum or other protection. “On average, it takes almost two and a half years to resolve an asylum claim,” Jonathan Blitzer reported in The New Yorker. The Biden administration, NPR, reported, is considering a plan—devised with heavy input from the Migration Policy Institute—that would seek to speed the process by empowering asylum officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to decide more cases of people apprehended at the border. They already do this with asylum seekers who apply elsewhere in the United States. (We discuss this in an April 1 WOLA Podcast with asylum expert Yael Shacher of Refugees International.)

Mexican Army kills Guatemalan citizen amid southern border crackdown

Mexico has responded to the Biden administration’s appeals to reduce migration flows by deploying more military, security, and migration personnel to its border with Guatemala. On March 27 a large number of soldiers, marines, national guardsmen, local police, and INM agents—3,000 people by one estimateparaded through Tapachula, the largest city near Mexico’s southern border, then arrayed themselves along frequently used border crossings. On the Guatemalan side, in the border town of Tecún Umán, security forces increased their presence as well; officials from both sides held a protocolary photo-op in the middle of the border bridge over the Suchiate River.

Mexico’s Army is part of the deployment, making migration control one of many internal non-defense roles that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has encouraged the military to take on more fully. One army unit carrying out these duties, the 15th Motorized Cavalry Regiment, was involved in a tragic incident along the border on March 29.

Soldiers shot and killed a 31-year-old Guatemalan citizen, Elvin Mazariegos, a passenger in a truck near a usually unmonitored land border crossing in Mazapa de Madero, near Motozintla, Chiapas in the mountains north of Tapachula. When the truck, en route back into Guatemala, shifted into reverse upon seeing a group of Mexican Army soldiers, one fired at the vehicle in an incident that Mexico’s Defense Secretary called “an erroneous reaction.”

Like about 10 percent of residents of a zone where Mexico and Guatemala blur together and many road crossings lack customs or INM presence, Mazariegos, a resident of the Guatemalan town across the border, worked transporting products to and from retail stores on both sides. On March 29 he had gone with co-workers “to drop off money at bodegas where he worked.” Like most, he did not have an official border crossing card.

In areas like Mazapa de Madero, Mexico’s Animal Político notes, encounters with government forces often mean dealing with corruption. “An ‘assist’ to the authority in exchange for not having a rigorous inspection. According to his sister, the victim had already suffered on occasion from having to pay these bribes.”

That may explain why the vehicle in which Mazariegos was traveling appeared to seek to flee the scene. One of the combat-trained soldiers responded by firing several shots at the vehicle, despite the lack of any provocation or danger—a textbook example of why civil-military experts frequently warn about misusing armed forces for internal duties like migration control.

Hundreds of angry townspeople took the soldiers into custody—which sometimes occurs in Indigenous communities—and brought them to the Guatemalan side, where they stayed until the community received some assurances that the responsible soldier would be brought to justice and the family would receive some recompense.

Mexico’s Defense and Foreign Relations secretaries said the responsible soldier is “at the disposal” of the civilian criminal justice system. The Army told Mazariegos’s wife that it would pay the Guatemalan’s funeral expenses and reportedly offered a payout of 1 million Mexican pesos (US$50,000), which his family says is not enough to support the deceased man’s three young children.

Though not part of its ongoing southern border migration crackdown, Mexico was shaken this week by another official killing of a Central American migrant. Four police officers killed Victoria Esperanza Salazar, a Salvadoran mother of two daughters, who worked as a hotel chambermaid in the beach resort of Tulum. In a scene reminiscent of the May 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a female police officer knelt on Salazar’s neck, breaking her spinal column and killing her, while onlookers recorded the incident and entreated the police to stop.

Salazar, 36, fled Sonsonate, El Salvador in 2016, and sought asylum in Mexico’s system, citing “gender violence.” Mexico’s refugee agency COMAR granted her asylum in 2017, and she had worked and raised her daughters in Tulum since then.

On March 27, a convenience store video showed Salazar appearing agitated, as though in the throes of a panic attack. After she left the store, police came and subdued her, inexplicably using extreme brutality and killing her. The attorney general of Quintana Roo, the state that incorporates Tulum, said that the four police officers are in custody and will be charged with “femicide.” President López Obrador lamented the crime: “She was brutally treated and murdered … It is an event that fills us with pain and shame.” In a stream of tweets about the incident, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele called on Mexico to hold the police officers accountable.

Articles this week in the Mexican publications SinEmbargo and Chiapas Paralelo provided updates on the miserable conditions faced by Central American and other migrants in the INM’s detention centers. In Chiapas and elsewhere near Mexico’s southern border, these detention centers are near capacity right now as migrant flows rise and the government’s crackdown intensifies.

Using partially available INM data, SinEmbargo counts the deaths of at least 20 migrants in INM detention in 2013 and between 2015 and 2019 (2014 and 2020 data are unavailable). Causes range from cardiac arrests and infections to “falling from bunk beds.” Brenda Ochoa of the Tapachula-based Fray Matías Human Rights Center (recipient of WOLA’s 2020 Human Rights Award) told the publication that migrants in INM detention receive “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, ranging from pressure to sign their deportation papers to physical and psychological abuse, particularly of women.”

Guatemala prepares another caravan response

Amid word on social media that Hondurans were planning to form a northbound migrant caravan on March 30, representatives of the Guatemalan, Honduran, and U.S. governments held a virtual “high-level working meeting” to coordinate their response.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei declared a “state of prevention” for five of the country’s twenty-two departments, restricting freedom of movement, assembly, and public protest in order to ease the security forces’ efforts to block or disperse any migrants traveling in a caravan. While it is normally legal for residents of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua to travel in each others’ territories without a passport, Giammattei based his order on COVID-19 precautions.

A statement from Amnesty International, the Mexico-based Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI), and the El Salvador Independent Monitoring Group warned Guatemala “that imposing measures that could incite the excessive use of force against migrants and applicants for international protection is inexcusable.” The statement recalled Guatemala’s January 16 dispersal of an attempted Honduran caravan near the countries’ common border, in which “soldiers severely repressed people who tried to move forward.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, the Biden administration’s point person for outreach to Mexico and Central America on migration issues, spoke by phone with President Giammattei on March 30. “They discussed the significant risks to those leaving their homes and making the dangerous journey to the United States, especially during a global pandemic,” along with priorities for economic assistance, according to a White House readout of the call. Even as the Guatemalan president decreed a state of emergency, the official record notes, Harris “thanked President Giammattei for his efforts to secure Guatemala’s southern border.”

In the end, by April 1 Guatemalan forces had quickly dispersed a small caravan whose members crossed the border.

As the Biden administration develops a U.S. assistance response to Central America, Dan Restrepo, the National Security Council’s Latin America director during Barack Obama’s first term, argued in The Hill that some forms of U.S. aid to the region—while not solving migration’s “root causes”—could show results more quickly than most might expect. These include “immediate disaster relief, cash-for-work programs, COVID-19 vaccines, alternatives to irregular migration, and a clear break with predatory elites.” On that latter point, Restrepo suggests publicly indicting Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who was repeatedly named as a co-conspirator in narcotrafficking, in a U.S. trial that concluded this week with the president’s brother being sentenced to life in prison.

Speaking with NPR, Juan González, who holds Restrepo’s old position in Joe Biden’s NSC, repeated the phrase “predatory elite” to describe Central America’s corrupt political class. “You have, frankly, a predatory elite that benefits from the status quo, which is to not pay any taxes or invest in social programs,” González said. “Migration is essentially a social release valve for migrants.”

Links

  • WOLA’s latest audio podcast discusses the border situation and how the asylum system should work, with guest Yael Schacher of Refugees International.
  • Though the Biden administration’s 60-day pause in border wall-building has expired, it remains in place pending an eventual announcement of a plan. However, eminent domain cases in Texas courts have not been closed, and the government continues seeking to seize private property along the border for wall construction.
  • NBC News, USA Today, and the Guardian covered Democratic and Republican legislators’ separate “dueling” border visits, to different parts of Texas, over the March 26-28 weekend.
  • Reuters’ interviews with migrants and smugglers, and reviews of closed Facebook groups, indicate how “coyotes” are feeding migrants many false messages about the Biden administration’s policies toward migrants at the border.
  • Felipe de la Hoz at the New Republic and Julia G. Young at Time make the point that the history of U.S. foreign policy in Central America is a key “root cause” underlying migration from the region.
  • House Homeland Security Committee ranking member John Katko (R-New York) and border district Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) introduced legislation creating a $1 billion contingency fund, from which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could draw to attend to migrants at moments when they arrive at the border in large numbers.
  • “Predicting a problem is not the same thing as having the right tools at your disposal,” writes Cecilia Muñoz, who headed the Domestic Policy Council in the Obama White House, in The Atlantic. Muñoz voices exasperation with “immigration advocates who project confidence that 100 percent of migrant families are fleeing danger and deserve asylum,” adding that “most are unable or unwilling to name any category of migrant who should ever be returned.”
  • “The bottom line is that through expulsions and deportations, the United States is returning migrants and asylum seekers to situations of instability and danger amidst a pandemic, and this must be stopped,” reads an explainer document from the Latin America Working Group.
  • “Immigrants are not coming to the U.S. because they are attracted by President Joe Biden’s inclusive language, and they were not repelled by former President Donald Trump’s use of racist imagery,” argues Greg Weeks of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. At Mother Jones, several immigration experts voice doubts about whether Biden administration messaging makes much difference for would-be migrants’ decision making.
  • “One of the reasons why Mexican migration [to the U.S.] went down so much after 2007 is that there are about 260,000 people every year who come from Mexico to work legally in the U.S. and go back home,” Andrew Selee of the Migration Policy Institute tells Politico in a wide-ranging interview. “In 2019, the comparable number [for Central Americans] was 8,000; last year, it was about 5,500. There really is no line for a Central American to get into.”

WOLA Podcast: “People coming from the Western Hemisphere have been perceived as inherently not refugees”

Yael Shacher, senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International, is a historian of U.S. asylum policy. She offers an invaluable perspective on the current increase in asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, and how the system should work. That’s hugely important right now as the US-Mexico border is seeing another big increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving, mostly from Central America.

The .mp3 file is here. The podcast feed is here. And here’s the text from WOLA’s podcast landing page:

As the number of asylum-seeking children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border rises for the fourth time since 2014—and as the U.S. government once again responds chaotically—we need to step back and look at the U.S. migration and asylum system. It is clearly inadequate for receiving this population.

We do that in this episode with an expert colleague, Yael Schacher of Refugees International, a historian of U.S. asylum law and policy. Shacher makes many points in this conversation that don’t get enough attention in the current discussion of the border and protection-seeking migration. She notes that U.S. asylum laws were not written with people fleeing the Western Hemisphere in mind. An asylum system adapting to today’s realities, she adds, would abandon “expedited removal” and give a greater role to asylum officers in adjudicating cases—fairly, but more quickly than backlogged immigration courts. And the whole conception of how asylum seekers are received should change.

In this episode Yael Shacher shares many other observations and recommendations, steeped in an understanding of the history of how we got here. Most would not require a change in existing law as much as changes in attitudes and resource allocations. These inputs come at an important time as the Biden administration gradually dismantles the Trump administration’s policies and reviews broader changes to asylum, even while child and family arrivals increase.

Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from TalCual (Venezuela).

(Even more here)

April 1, 2021

Brazil

Opposition leaders demand impeachment for what they say is president’s illegal attempt to co-opt the country’s armed forces

On Tuesday night, the country’s new defense minister, Gen. Walter Braga Netto, said the coup’s anniversary should be celebrated

Critics see the recent behavior of Brazil’s president — polarizing in the best of times — as an unnerving sign of a flailing leader. His strategy, if there is one, is difficult to discern

Colombia

La primera imputación penal en la carrera de Sergio Fajardo, hoy candidato a la presidencia, fue anunciada esta mañana a través de un comunicado de la Fiscalía General, encabezada por el mejor amigo del presidente Duque, Francisco Barbosa

Colombia, Venezuela

  • Javier Ignacio Mayorca, Zona de Combates (Tal Cual (Venezuela), April 1, 2021).

Las disidencias de las FARC han dado muestras de su capacidad para infligir el mayor daño con la menor cantidad de bajas propias

El ataque con el lanzacohetes provocó la inutilización de un vehículo blindado BTR-80A, de fabricación rusa, y causó la muerte instantánea del sargento segundo Jesús Alexander Vásquez, además de heridas de gravedad en el cuerpo de un oficial subalterno

Guatemala, Mexico

Durante aproximadamente un kilómetro, las personas cercanas a Mazariegos Pérez realizaron la caminata con música religiosa y flores en este Departamento de San Marcos

Elvin Mazariegos Pérez tenía tres hijos y trabajaba como camionero llevando mercancías para vender en Tacaná, Guatemala

Guatemala, U.S.-Mexico Border

Reuters interviewed nearly two dozen migrants and more than a dozen people identifying themselves as smugglers, and examined hundreds of posts in closed Facebook groups where these “coyotes” advertise their services

Mexico

The Camargo massacre was not the first atrocity committed by the GOPES, but the flow of U.S. guns to the unit continued unabated

The president, who delivered his attack during a morning press conference, accused ARTICLE 19 of waging a conservative campaign against him with other conservative groups, and accused the organisation of being funded by the United States

U.S.-Mexico Border

In a March 26 federal court filing over land condemnation in Webb County, the U.S. argued against dismissing the case

Once activated, the bill would allow DHS to pull from a $1 billion fund as needed— preventing the agency from having to reprogram its own money to pay for food, transportation or clothing for large numbers of migrants

The plan the Biden administration is considering to speed up the process would take some asylum cases from the southern border out of the hands of the overloaded immigration courts under the Department of Justice and instead handle them under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security

US Border Patrol encounters are also expected to be largely made up of single adults, who are being turned away at the US southern border as soon as they’re encountered under a public health order, and as a result, might also account for repeat crossers

US Border Patrol has released video showing two children – 3, 5 – being physically dropped into the US by smugglers

Venezuela

Los activistas Juan Carlos Salazar y Diógenes Tirado, en compañía de los periodistas de la cadena neogranadina NTN24: Rafael Hernández y Luis Gonzalo Pérez; se encontraban documentando el conflicto armado

The day ahead: April 1, 2021

I’m most reachable in the morning. (How to contact me)

I’ve got a couple of interviews, a podcast recording session, and two coalition meetings on the calendar, all in the afternoon. This morning I’ll be working on the weekly border update, which I’m determined to make shorter than the last couple.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Luisa González/Reuters photo at The Guardian (UK). Caption: “A Colombian navy boat patrols the Arauca river while a Venezuelan navy boat remains anchored on the border between their two countries as seen from Arauquita, Colombia.”

(Even more here)

March 31, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

The corruption of Nicolas Maduro increased the dire humanitarian crisis of the Venezuelan people. In Nicaragua, the corrupt Ortega regime passed increasingly repressive laws that limit severely the ability of opposition political groups, civil society, and independent media to operate. Meanwhile in Cuba, government restrictions continued to suppress the freedoms of expression, association, religion or belief, and movement

Brazil

The Armed Forces are split between an officer corps that came of age during the disgrace that followed the 1964-85 dictatorship (whose “anniversary” is Wednesday), and generally is loath to be seen as political, and a younger generation whose hatred for the left tends to overcome such misgivings

Retired generals and military analysts in Brazil struggled to make sense of this week’s changes, which neither the president nor the outgoing commanders explained

“The other day I saw a pretty strong article saying Brazil was starting to be seen by its neighbors as a sort of leper colony … and it’s probably true”

Central America Regional

As the big families lose political influence, they may start to see more clearly the benefits of cleaner governance

Colombia

La colectividad denuncia que en los últimos meses se han recrudecido las amenazas y la persecución a sus miembros en la capital, donde viven al menos 750 firmantes de la paz

Ellos mismos (la Fuerza Pública) arrancan las matas de aquí y las siembran más allá. Luego pasan, arrancan y vuelven y siembran en otro lado y así, todo el año en esas

Es muy evidente la improvisación, la falta de planificación, la falta de persecución sistemática al crimen. A los militares y policías siempre los sorprenden. Parece que no existiera inteligencia militar ni policial

Colombia, Venezuela

The change in tack from the government of President Nicolás Maduro most likely reflects a conflict in other shared interests: cocaine trafficking and illegal gold mining

Witnesses have described human rights abuses at the hands of the FANB soldiers, including home break-ins and forced disappearances

Guatemala

El decreto gubernativo 3-2021, firmado por el Presidente Giamattei, restringe el derecho de protesta pacífica, la libertad de reunión y de locomoción, entre otros, en cinco departamentos del país. La firma de este decreto se da tras comunicaciones en redes sociales y medios de que podría formarse una caravana a partir del 30 de marzo

Guatemala, Mexico

Gen. Sandoval denied that any of the soldiers had been taken into Guatemalan territory, but the spokesman for Guatemala’s army confirmed it and the Guatemalan government released photos of Mexican soldiers with Guatemalan police

Luego de varias horas de negociación los vecinos de la aldea La Esperanza accedieron a entregar a los seis soldados mexicanos y su armamento

Honduras

Las autoridades estadounidenses trabajaron silenciosa y pacientemente 14 años para atraparlo, once meses en enjuiciarlo y declararlo culpable y un año y cinco meses para sentenciarlo

During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors and the judge repeatedly called out the Honduran president for his role in the drug trade along with his brother

In 2013, HERNÁNDEZ was campaigning to become a congressman and Juan Orlando Hernández was campaigning to become president. Around this time, according to testimony at trial, Juan Orlando Hernández solicited $1.6 million in drug proceeds from Ardon Soriano to support himself and National Party campaigns

Mexico

El presidente dedicó parte de su informe a resaltar las acciones de las Fuerzas Armadas en su administración, pues aseguró que sin ellas no solo no podría enfrentarse a la delincuencia organizada, sino que tampoco se podrían realizar obras de desarrollo, o enfrentar la pandemia

Las tres llegaron a Tapachula, Chiapas, donde solicitaron asilo ante la Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda al Refugiado (Comar) el 4 de septiembre de 2017, un año después de abandonar su país

De 2013 y de 2015 a mediados de 2019, al menos 20 migrantes —principalmente centroamericanos— fallecieron en su paso por México

El Ejército mexicano ofreció un millón de pesos como indeminización por el crimen de militares contra el guatemalteco Elvin Mazariegos Pérez en Chiapas, afirmó la familia de la víctima

Four police officers in the Mexican resort city of Tulum have been charged with femicide after a Salvadoran woman died while being restrained

U.S. efforts to battle powerful drug cartels from inside Mexico have ground to a halt since January as strained relations between the two countries have frozen attempts to corral drug kingpins, according to current and former senior officials in both nations

U.S.-Mexico Border

The children were being housed by the hundreds in eight “pods” formed by plastic dividers, each about 3,200 square feet (297 square meters) in size. Many of the pods had more than 500 children in them

To my frustration, many of my friends in the immigrant-advocacy community will not help shape these decisions; most are unable or unwilling to name any category of migrant who should ever be returned

Department of Homeland Security officials permitted the Associated Press and a camera crew to tour the Donna, Tex., temporary processing facility run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where 3,400 unaccompanied minors were in custody Tuesday along with 700 members of migrant families

“I’m a Border Patrol agent. I didn’t sign up for this,” Mr. Escamilla said as he looked at some of the younger children, many of them under 12, being housed at the facility

Document is a PDF

Since November, a handful of nonprofit groups that work with unaccompanied children have compiled tallies showing that as many as 10-17 percent of children in custody were separated from relatives

Venezuela

En el marco de la cooperación bilateral entre los gobiernos de Nicolás Maduro y Vladimir Putin, se celebró una reunión de la Comisión Intergubernamental de Alto Nivel Rusia-Venezuela, en la cual Maduro firmó 12 acuerdos con el país europeo

Concessions from Maduro on one or all three of these points could allow the Biden administration to justify taking a bigger policy risk—like offering partial sanctions relief in return for a starting broader, credible negotiations

The day ahead: March 31, 2021

I’m in a few meetings, but mostly reachable. (How to contact me)

The lighter “holy week” schedule allowed me to get some writing done yesterday. Today I’ve got an internal meeting and a few interviews on the calendar, but otherwise plan to be at my desk, writing and catching up some overflowing inboxes.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

Photo from Tal Cual (Venezuela).

March 30, 2021

Brazil

El ministro de Defensa, general Fernando Azevedo e Silva, anunció sorpresivamente su renuncia, horas después de que el canciller, Ernesto Araújo, comunicara su decisión de abandonar el cargo

Jair Bolsonaro’s ultraconservative foreign minister has resigned after a rebellion from diplomats and lawmakers who accused him of demolishing Brazil’s international reputation and putting Brazilian lives at risk

Ante la salida del titular de Defensa, la cúpula de las FF.AA. analiza la renuncia de los tres comandantes

Central America Regional

Immediate disaster relief, cash-for-work programs, COVID-19 vaccines, alternatives to irregular migration, and a clear break with predatory elites

Colombia

Salvatore Mancuso señaló a uno de los hombres más importantes de la inteligencia militar en Colombia, el general Iván Ramírez Quintero

En una carta enviada a la Casa Blanca, 25 organizaciones internacionales y colombianas piden que el gobierno estadounidense no financie la aspersión aérea en Colombia. Enviará familias campesinas de la pobreza a la extrema pobreza, le advirtieron

La implementación de los Acuerdos de La Habana está en deuda. ¿Cuál es la salida? Hablan algunos de los políticos de la región

Los combates entre el ELN y las disidencias de las FARC los obligaron a salir de sus hogares para buscar refugio en cascos urbanos

Está contemplado un encuentro con los directivos de la agencia Homeland Security Investigations (HSI/ICE) y de United States Marshals Service (USMS), y otros altos funcionarios de las áreas de inteligencia y operaciones internacionales de esta agencia federal del Departamento de Justicia

Colombia, Venezuela

El representante de la cartera castrense Vladimir Padrino López, señaló que los supuestos grupos armados continúan infundiendo terror en la población, al tiempo que los calificó como «mercenarios camaleónicos y desalmados»

El ministro de la Defensa de Colombia, Diego Molano, dijo que las instrucciones de Miraflores apuntan hacia un combate selectivo a uno de los grupos narcocriminales

El Salvador, Mexico

Videos echoing the death of George Floyd showed a police officer kneeling on the back of the woman, who died of a broken spine, just days before an international forum on gender equality began in Mexico

Guatemala, Mexico

Elementos del l XV Regimiento de Caballería Motorizada de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) dispararon contra el guatemalteco Elvin Mazariegos Pérez, quien había cruzado la frontera con México para comprar mercancía

Mexico

Sólo en el primer trimestre del año, al menos 13 mujeres han sido asesinadas en Quintana Roo, entidad turística donde seis de cada diez detenciones se han hecho con uso excesivo de la fuerza

Las policías ministeriales se involucran periódicamente en actividades delictivas en perjuicio de la población. Nadie parece tener claro, sin embargo, qué hacer con estos cuerpos

U.S.-Mexico Border

The spotlight shone brightly on Anapra in the past week after members of Mexico’s National Guard allegedly held at gunpoint and roughed up six Central Americans who wanted to cross into the United States

Venezuela

Krull’s assistance mapping the shell companies and straw men strung across secretive jurisdictions like Antigua, Malta and Hong Kong where Venezuelans have hidden their ill-gotten wealth has proven decisive

The day ahead: March 30, 2021

I should be reachable much of the day. (How to contact me)

For the first time in a long time, I have no fixed meetings or screaming deadline on the calendar. (Thank you, Easter week.) It’s a good day to catch up on unanswered email, update contacts and out-of-date websites, and do some writing about the border that doesn’t require typing as fast as my hands can go. I should be reachable if needed—though it’s a nice spring day and I may insist on breaking for a walk.

Newer Posts
Older Posts
Get a weekly update in your e-mail:




This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.