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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Latin America Security-Related News: January 13, 2023

(Even more here)

January 13, 2023

Brazil

– Fernando Fuentes, “se Queda, Confio en el”: Lula Confirma a su Ministro de Defensa en Medio de Tension Con ff.aa. Por Ataque en Brasilia (La Tercera (Chile), January 13, 2023).

Brazil’s Defense Minister’s job is safe in the wake of the January 8 riot

Central America Regional

– Bajan Homicidios Violentos en Centroamerica Durante 2022 (Agence France Presse, Milenio (Mexico), January 13, 2023).

Homicides declined in El Salvador and Panama, but increased in Costa Rica and Guatemala. Nicaragua has no verifiable data

El Salvador, Guatemala

– Raul Barreno Castillo, En Guatemala Detienen a Lider de Banda Salvadorena los Quijada, Que Controlaba Parte del Narcotrafico Hacia Mexico (Prensa Libre (Guatemala), January 13, 2023).

An arrest offers a rare look at Salvadoran and Guatemalan narcotrafficking groups (not gangs)

Honduras

– Estado de Excepcion en Honduras Todavia No Reduce la Extorsion (Expediente Publico (Honduras), January 13, 2023).

After more than a month, Honduras’s anti-crime state of emergency doesn’t appear to be reducing crime

Mexico

– Maria Verza, Mark Stevenson, National Guard Sent to Mexico City Subway on Sabotage Worry (Associated Press, Associated Press, January 13, 2023).

“The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez human rights center said the announcement ‘is concerning, because it is obvious that this agency reproduces the military’s problems with a lack of transparency and excessive use of force.'”

– Rafael Lopez Mendez, Camara de Representantes de Eu Sera Antimexicana en 2023: Ebrard (Milenio (Mexico), January 13, 2023).

Mexico’s foreign minister foresees a lot of Mexico-bashing coming from the new GOP House majority

U.S.-Mexico Border

– Elliot Spagat, Us Launches Online System to Seek Asylum on Mexican Border (Associated Press, Associated Press, January 13, 2023).

The “CBP One” app is now the main channel for asylum seekers to obtain Title 42 exemptions

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: January 13, 2023

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:

  • President Joe Biden announced an expansion of the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy, recently prolonged by the U.S. Supreme Court, to encompass citizens of Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua, earning strong criticism from migrant rights’ advocates. The announcement came with a new “humanitarian parole” policy for those countries’ citizens, and plans to expand use of a CBP app to process protection-seeking migrants’ requests. Biden then paid a brief visit to El Paso en route to a meeting of North American leaders in Mexico City.
  • Mexican border cities are bracing for the first arrivals from these expanded Title 42 expulsions.
  • U.S. border cities received visits over the past few days from 11 U.S. senators: a bipartisan delegation that went to El Paso and Yuma, and an all-Republican delegation that visited Del Rio.

Migration a central issue as Biden visits El Paso and Mexico City

U.S. border and migration policy started 2023 with an eventful week. To recap:

  • In a January 5 policy speech, President Joe Biden announced an expansion of the Title 42 pandemic policy to encompass new nationalities’ land-border expulsions into Mexico, along with a new humanitarian parole program for citizens of those nationalities. (WOLA’s January 6 Border Update discussed this new policy at length.)
  • On January 8, President Biden paid a visit to El Paso, Texas.
  • On January 9 and 10, President Biden was in Mexico City for a summit of North American leaders, at which migration was a principal issue.
  • On January 12, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began employing its “CBP One” smartphone app to manage applications for Title 42 exemptions, granted to asylum seekers deemed most vulnerable.

Policy changes

Biden gave his January 5 White House speech nine days after the Supreme Court ruled that the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy must remain in place for months pending later decisions. As discussed in WOLA’s January 6 update, up to 30,000 citizens per month from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua are now subject to rapid Title 42 expulsion into Mexico if they are apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, regardless of their stated need for asylum or other forms of protection in the United States. Mexico now accepts land-border Title 42 expulsions of eight countries’ citizens, including its own.

The same monthly number of those countries’ citizens may access a two-year humanitarian parole status in the United States i, which requires them to have a sponsor in the United States, a valid or recently expired passport, and passage of a background check. The first two hurdles, in particular, stand in many would-be parole applicants’ way.

Part of the parole application process involves registration via the CBP One smartphone app, which the agency has been rolling out “as a single portal to a variety of CBP services.” The Biden administration announced that the app will now also play a major role in asylum processing. As of January 12, asylum seekers must use the app to access a system of exemptions to Title 42, applying from outside the United States for appointments to present themselves at certain land ports of entry.

Over the past year, CBP has been granting a slowly expanding number of exemptions to Title 42, allowing asylum seekers who “meet specific vulnerability criteria” to approach land-border ports of entry on appointment. This initiative had relied on vulnerability recommendations made by humanitarian groups, immigration lawyers, and other service providers, with at times uncomfortable results. As of January 12, CBP intends for the CBP One app to become the main channel for seeking exemptions.

This use of the app is “an experiment,” an unnamed senior administration official told CNN. “Work is underway to build out the portal and is expected to come together in the next several months.” Critics of the process worry about CBP’s use of location and other data that the app gathers, and the possibility that it could exclude some of the most threatened. “Asking people fleeing for their lives to download an app and wait for months in their home country, where they are in mortal danger, is next-level cynicism,” wrote Melissa del Bosque at the Border Chronicle.

President Biden’s policy speech, further detailed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), included other proposals. For migrants who cannot be expelled easily under Title 42, DHS plans to increase use of “expedited removal”: migrants who do not specifically claim fear of persecution if returned, or who fail a credible fear interview with an asylum officer, will be repatriated quickly. It is not clear how broadly the expedited removal policy might expand, as DHS would incur significant cost removing migrants by air.

Migrant advocates are alarmed by a DHS and Department of Justice (DOJ) plan to issue a proposed rule that would deny asylum, with exceptions, to migrants who pass through other countries on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. The so-called “transit ban” proposal resembles on the surface a policy that the Trump administration implemented in 2019, only to see it struck down by a federal court in 2020. Migrants who “circumvent available, established pathways to lawful migration, and also fail to seek protection in a country through which they traveled on their way to the United States, will be subject to a rebuttable presumption of asylum ineligibility in the United States unless they meet exceptions that will be specified,” a DHS document explained. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that further details about this proposed rule will be “available in the coming weeks.”

Four Democratic senators joined advocacy groups’ opposition to the proposed “transit ban,” warning in a statement that it “will disregard our obligations under international law by banning families from seeking asylum at the border, likely separating families and stranding migrants fleeing persecution and torture in countries unable to protect them.” Mexico’s chief diplomat for North America, Roberto Velasco, told the New York Times that any so-called “safe third country” attempt to send asylum seekers back to Mexico to apply for asylum there “is a red line for us… it would overwhelm the system.” Added Ana Lorena Delgadillo of Mexico’s non-governmental Foundation for Justice, “Mexicans are fleeing violence in their own communities. How are we going to protect others if we cannot protect our own?”

A White House document relating President Biden’s visit to Mexico City mentioned a few other small initiatives on migration cooperation.

  • The United States would help Mexico establish a migrant resource center in its southern-border city of Tapachula, from where people would be able to access information about how to apply to migrate to the U.S. and obtain assistance in Mexico. Confusingly, though, at the North American leaders’ joint January 10 press appearance in Mexico City, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “We are not thinking of building any center in the southeastern part of Mexico—any migration center. We’re not thinking of that. What we do is help with shelters, with healthcare services, with food services as well.”
  • The United States, Canada, and Mexico committed to “sharing best practices to increase promptness, efficiency, and fairness for the asylum processing systems.”
  • They agreed to counter “xenophobia and discrimination against migrants and refugees by promoting balanced public narratives on migrants and refugees to support their meaningful inclusion in the region.”
  • They committed to increase coordination on a strategy to crack down on northbound drug trafficking and southbound weapons trafficking. The presidential visit came just days after a bloody Mexican operation in Sinaloa state that captured the son of jailed drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, a reputed top figure in the Sinaloa Cartel organized-crime network.

As they reduce access to asylum and send a message of tightening at the border, the announced policy changes “were viewed as a win for presidential advisers with a background in national security over the more-liberal immigration policy advocates who are also part of Biden’s team,” the Washington Post reported.

Still, the measures, and Biden’s decision to visit the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time in his presidency, faced sharp criticism from the right. “This checks a box, but it doesn’t even begin to solve the problems we are facing there,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), the ranking Republican member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, told the Washington Post. “Your visit to our southern border with Mexico today is $20 billion too little and two years too late,” read a letter that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) handed President Biden upon his arrival in El Paso. A letter from 14 Republican members of Texas’s House of Representatives delegation called on Biden to take even harder steps, like getting Mexico to agree to revive the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program. America First Legal, the far-right NGO led by former Trump White House advisor Stephen Miller, promised to “pursue every available legal remedy” to block the Biden administration’s expansion of humanitarian parole, which it called a “colossal horror.”

Biden’s proposals faced strong criticism from backers of the right to seek asylum. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the Title 42 expansion “a disastrous and inhumane relic of the Trump administration’s racist immigration agenda.” Andrea Flores, who worked on immigration policy in the White House during the Biden administration’s first year and is now an advisor to Sen. Menendez, told the Washington Post that the new policy could send “bona fide asylum seekers” back to danger in Mexico, while allowing well-connected migrants facing less danger to access protection using an app. “Democrats must refuse to participate in Republicans’ games with people’s lives,” added a statement from the House Progressive Caucus.

“It’s enraging and sad to see a Democratic administration make it harder for vulnerable people to seek asylum all because they’re scared of angry MAGA voters on this issue,” a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) told CNN. Both CNN and CBS News reported on a blistering virtual meeting White House and DHS officials held with Democratic CHC members. The legislators said they felt “blindsided” by the announced policy changes, which had not been consulted with them. “The lawmakers were ‘pissed’… ‘It was pretty brutal,’” CBS reported that a participant in the meeting said.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which has stated several times its opposition to Title 42 because it blocks the internationally recognized right to seek asylum, repeated that position in a January 6 statement published to the United Nations’ main website. “What we are reiterating is that this is not in line with refugee law standards and that to establish a link between safe and legal pathways which have been announced and of course we welcome the expansion of those on one side that are accessible for some people with curtailment for the right to seek asylum for many more who are ineligible for these pathways,” said UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov.

Asked about the policy changes’ critics, Biden replied, “both the extremes are wrong. It’s a basic middle proposition.” He repeated an administration talking point portraying the October 12, 2022 expansion of Title 42 expulsions to Venezuelans as a “success,” noting that the arrival of Venezuelan migrants at the border “has dropped off dramatically…from 1,100 persons trying to enter to—per day—to 250 a day.”

El Paso

The President was in El Paso, Texas for four hours on the afternoon of Sunday, January 8. CNN called it a “tightly controlled” (AP said “highly controlled”) tour of a stretch of border wall and a port of entry facility, followed by a meeting with community leaders at El Paso County’s recently established Migrant Services Center. Biden did not interact with any migrants. “Biden’s visit to the border got him a small bit of rhetorical breathing room and certainly brought him closer to the problem in a literal sense,” wrote Washington Post analyst Philip Bump. “It didn’t get him closer to a solution.”

Read More

Latin America Security-Related News: January 12, 2023

(Even more here)

January 12, 2023

Western Hemisphere Regional

– Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Cassidy, Salazar Release Draft Legislation to Counter China, Build Stronger Western Hemisphere (U.S. Senate, January 12, 2023).

Republican-led draft legislation would seek to build a hemispheric economic bloc to resist Chinese influence

– World Report 2023 (Human Rights Watch, January 12, 2023).

Human Rights Watch’s annual report has chapters on most Latin American countries

– Riesgo Politico America Latina 2023 (Centro de Estudios Internacionales UC, January 12, 2023).

From a Chilean think tank, a largely pessimistic political risk overview for 2023, which a few hopeful spots, mostly economic

Brazil

– Ana Ionova, Andre Spigariol, Flavia Milhorance, Jack Nicas, The Moment the Brazil Rioters Broke Through: Exclusive Video (The New York Times, January 12, 2023).

Video shows security forces’ “relaxed,” insufficient response to the January 8 pro-Bolsonaro riots in Brasilia

– Meeks, Castro, Gallego, Garcia, Wild Lead 46 Members Calling on Biden to Revoke Bolsonaro’s U.S. Visa, Investigate U.S.-Based Instigators of Brazilian Insurrection (U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Democratic Office, January 12, 2023).

Strong letter from House Democrats calls for kicking Bolsonaro out of Florida and investigating anyone in the United States who backed the January 8 Brasilia riot

Colombia

– ¿Como Cumplir Con los Protocolos del Cese al Fuego? (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 12, 2023).

The military wrestles with how to honor a ceasefire with some armed groups, but not others

– Sebastian Forero Rueda, Reducir Erradicacion Forzada de Coca: Asi Aterriza la Politica de Drogas de Petro (El Espectador (Colombia), January 12, 2023).

The National Police announces a sharply reduced coca eradication goal, after years of record eradication yielding almost no cultivation reductions

– Mision de la Onu Aclara por Que No Ha Empezado a Verificar Ceses al Fuego (El Espectador (Colombia), January 12, 2023).

Though the Colombian government named the UN verification mission as an observer of a ceasefire with armed groups, it never received a government request to play this role

– Combates Entre Disidencias y Eln en Arauca: ¿Quienes Son y por Que se Enfrentan? (El Espectador (Colombia), January 12, 2023).

At least 10 dead in another wave of fighting between the ELN and ex-FARC dissidents in Arauca, Colombia

Ecuador

– Julieta Pelcastre, Narcotrafficking Increases Violence in Ecuador (Dialogo (U.S. Southern Command), January 12, 2023).

Contends that Ecuador’s sharp increase in violent crime owes to shifts in the cocaine trade toward Ecuadorian routes

Read More

Latin America Security-Related News: January 11, 2023

(Even more here)

January 11, 2023

Brazil

– Luciana Magalhaes, Patricia Kowsmann, Samantha Pearson, Brazil’s Military Stopped Mob at Capital, Ignoring Calls to Stage a Coup (The Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2023).

A look at the role of Brazil’s military on January 8, when its leaders did the right thing for democracy

Colombia

– Santiago Torrado, Francia Marquez Denuncia un Intento de Atentado Con Explosivos en su Contra (El Pais (Spain), January 11, 2023).

Bodyguards find a large improvised explosive device by a roadside along the Vice President’s route in her native Cauca

Colombia, Peru

– Bram Ebus, Ivan Brehaut, La Violencia de la Coca Cruza de Putumayo Hacia Peru (La Liga Contra el Silencio, Voragine (Colombia), January 11, 2023).

The alarming resurgence of coca, armed groups, and deforestation in Putumayo, Colombia and across the river in Peru

Colombia, Venezuela

– La Ofensiva Diplomatica de Gustavo Petro para Rescatar la Confianza del Eln (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 11, 2023).

Sen. Ariel Avila says “the ELN’s ‘crisis’ communiqué can be interpreted as ‘a message from that guerrilla expressing its rejection of any pressure from the Maduro government to reach a bilateral ceasefire'”

Guatemala

– Julio Roman, Maria Andrea Dominguez, Migracion a Estados Unidos: Los Cinco Departamentos Que Mas Deportados Tuvieron Durante el 2022 (Prensa Libre (Guatemala), January 11, 2023).

Maps from Guatemala’s migration authority show that residents of the country’s rural highlands are leaving in greatest numbers

Guatemala, Mexico

– Liliana Villatoro, “No Hablan de Nosotras, las Mujeres Migrantes” (Agencia Ocote (Guatemala), January 11, 2023).

Interviews with Guatemalan women migrants show their often invisible struggle

Honduras

– Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Ahead of U.S.-Honduras Strategic Human Rights Dialogue, Merkley Issues Statement Denouncing Human Rights Abuses and Urging U.S. to Strengthen Anti-Corruption, Pro-Rights Agenda (U.S. Senate, January 11, 2023).

“Nothing will change in Honduras until the structures of criminality—which are deeply embedded in both the military and police—are investigated and the perpetrators of human rights abuses are held accountable”

– David C Adams, Jeff Ernst, Honduras Ex-President’s Drug Trafficking Trial Postponed Until September (Univision, January 11, 2023).

“The unprecedented trial was scheduled for April, but government and defense lawyers say they need more time to review sensitive and classified documents, including Hernandez’s cooperation with the CIA”

Mexico

– Remarks by President Biden, Prime Minister Trudeau, and President Lopez Obrador in Joint Press Conference (The White House, January 11, 2023).

AMLO praises Biden for not building a single meter of border wall

– Anushka Patil, Michael D. Shear, Biden Defends His Immigration Policy as Summit in Mexico Wraps Up (The New York Times, January 11, 2023).

Migration was the dominant theme at the North American leaders’ summit, but the leaders had little new to announce

Peru

– Genevieve Glatsky, Julie Turkewitz, Mitra Taj, Death Toll in Peru Rises to 47 Amid Extraordinary Violence (The New York Times, January 11, 2023).

Peru’s security forces stand accused of indiscriminately using lethal force in Puno on January 9

Read More

Migration Through Panama’s Darién Gap

248,284 people migrated through Panama’s once-impenetrable Darién Gap jungle region in 2022.

Here’s 2022 by month, showing a steep drop in Venezuelan migration (blue) after the Biden administration, in October, started using Title 42 to expel Venezuelan asylum seekers into Mexico.

Ecuador (green) has since been 1st among the ~40 nationalities migrating through Darién.

These are visualizations of data from Panama’s migration agency (click on the links with “Irregulares en Tránsito Frontera Panamá – Colombia”).

Latin America Security-Related News: January 10, 2023

(Even more here)

January 10, 2023

Brazil

– Anthony Faiola, Marina Dias, Brazilian Officials Knew of Protest, Thought They Could Contain It (The Washington Post, January 10, 2023).

Alleges that pro-Bolsonaro local politicians and police failed to take seriously the threat of the January 8 Brasilia rioting

– Isaac Stanley-Becker, Michael Kranish, Brazil’s Riot Puts Spotlight on Close Ties Between Bolsonaro and Trump (The Washington Post, January 10, 2023).

A look at how Trumpism got exported to Brazil, with disastrous results on January 8

– Julian Borger, Bolsonaro May Have to Leave Us Within Weeks, Amid Diplomatic Fallout From Brasilia Attack (The Guardian (Uk), January 10, 2023).

“Democrats are concerned that Florida, run by a hardline Republican governor and presidential contender, Ron DeSantis, is increasingly becoming a hotbed for far-right putschists”

Central America Regional

– Editorial: Will Democratic Voices Make a Comeback in 2023? (El Faro (El Salvador), January 10, 2023).

At a dark moment for democracy in Central America, a call for independent citizens to act and “take ownership over their public spaces”

Colombia

– Gloria Castrillon Pulido, ¿Hay Crisis en la Mesa Con el Eln, Como Solucionarla? (El Espectador (Colombia), January 10, 2023).

It looks like the ELN peace talks need renewed contact between the parties much sooner than the January 23 date set for the next round of talks

– Imposiciones Unilaterales, Atentan Contra los Dialogos (ELN (Colombia), January 10, 2023).

Petro’s abrupt ceasefire announcement puts the talks in “crisis,” the ELN says

Guatemala

– Sara Solorzano, Los Controversiales Fallos Judiciales de la Jueza Dominguez (Prensa Libre (Guatemala), January 10, 2023).

Profile of a powerful Guatemalan judge whose decisions always benefit military personnel accused of human rights abuse, corrupt politicians, and similar

Haiti

– Jacqueline Charles, With Not a Single Elected Leader Left, Haiti Is Becoming a Textbook Case of a ‘Failed State’ (The Miami Herald, January 10, 2023).

Terms are ending for Haiti’s last 10 elected senators, the last elected officials currently holding power

Peru

– Dan Collyns, Peru Protests: 17 Dead in Fresh Clashes as Calls Grow for President Boluarte to Resign (The Guardian (Uk), January 10, 2023).

Running clashes between protesters and government forces in Puno, a huge one-day death toll

– Liubomir Fernandez, Juliaca: 17 Muertos en Protestas Contra Dina Boluarte y por Cierre del Congreso (La Republica (Peru), January 10, 2023).

A very large single-day death toll from protests in Puno

U.S.-Mexico Border

– Katherine Hawkins, The Border Zone Next Door, and Its Out-of-Control Police Force (Project on Government Oversight, January 10, 2023).

Steps needed now to prevent a future president from making “full use of CBP’s authority to harm political opponents and quash dissent”

– Philip Bump, Biden’s Border Visit Brings Him No Closer to Fixing Immigration (The Washington Post, January 10, 2023).

A dive into the numbers to explain the true impact of Title 42 on migration

Venezuela

– William Neuman, A Chance for a Reset on Venezuela (The Atlantic, January 10, 2023).

Juan Guaidó and his political allies may have divided Venezuela’s opposition more than they united it

Back at work

Holiday break is over. Jury duty is over (they almost picked me for a week-long civil trial, but chickened out). I’m back at the job, full time.

Here’s a nice live version of New Zealand’s The Beths playing “Expert in a Dying Field”:

Latin America Security-Related News: January 9, 2023

(Even more here)

January 9, 2023

Brazil

– Rafael R. Ioris, Democracy Under Attack in Brazil: 5 Questions About the Storming of Congress and the Role of the Military (University of Denver, The Conversation, January 9, 2023).

A smart instant take on the Brasilia “January 6” episode with Brazil expert Rafael R. Ioris of the University of Denver

– Partidarios de Bolsonaro Invaden las Sedes de los Tres Poderes en Manifestacion Contra Lula, Minuto a Minuto (Deutsche Welle, Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 9, 2023).

Moment-by-moment Spanish coverage of the Brasilia version of January 6

Colombia

– Gabriel Silva Lujan, Aviones, Mentiras y Seguridad Nacional (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 9, 2023).

“Incoherence, improvisation, and contradictions” in the Colombian government’s planned purchase of fighter jets

– Gloria Castrillon Pulido, Las Razones de Petro para Decretar Cese al Fuego Con el Eln (El Espectador (Colombia), January 9, 2023).

The military is already preparing the ground for an eventual ceasefire with the ELN

– Camilo Alzate Gonzalez, “Todas las Facciones de las Agc Estan Con el Cese al Fuego”: Padre Albeiro Parra (El Espectador (Colombia), January 9, 2023).

Chocó priest discusses the new “humanitarian relief” measures being implemented to diminish the conflict’s effects on the civilian population, within the framework of the Petro government’s new peace talks

– Report of the Secretary-General on the un Verification Mission in Colombia. S/2022/1004 (Mision de la ONU en Colombia, January 9, 2023).

Latest quarterly UN verification report strikes an optimistic tone on implementation of the accord’s rural chapter

Cuba, U.S.-Mexico Border

– Elliot Spagat, Cubans Crossing Into Us Stunned to Hear of New Asylum Limits (Associated Press, Associated Press, January 9, 2023).

Across from Yuma, AP talks to some of the first Cuban migrants to be stranded in Mexico by the Biden administration’s new Title 42 expansion

Honduras

– Jennifer Ávila, Los Que No se Van se Toman la Tierra (Contra Corriente, January 9, 2023).

Update on Honduras’s land tenure struggles, especially in the violent Aguán region

Mexico

– Christopher Sherman, Fabiola Sanchez , Mark Stevenson, Mexican Capo’s Arrest a Gesture to Us, Not Signal of Change (Associated Press, Associated Press, January 9, 2023).

Experts say Ovidio Guzmán’s arrest was just a bone thrown to the U.S. government, and not a course change for the Mexican government

– Kevin Sieff, Mary Beth Sheridan, Dozens Slain in Mexico’s Arrest of Alleged Fentanyl Trafficker Sought by U.S. (The Washington Post, January 9, 2023).

The death toll from mayhem following Ovidio Guzmán’s arrest has risen to 29

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

– Edgar Sandoval, Michael D. Shear, Biden Visits Southern Border Amid Fresh Crackdown on Migrants (The New York Times, January 9, 2023).

Mexico “bluntly” rejects any “safe-third country” arrangements for asylum seekers

U.S.-Mexico Border

– Mj Lee, Priscilla Alvarez, Biden Makes Tightly Controlled Visit to the Southern Border, His First as President (CNN, January 9, 2023).

The President visited a migrant respite center, but “coincidentally” there weren’t any migrants there at the time

Read More

Latin America Security-Related News: January 6, 2023

(I’ll post January 9 later: I’m just back from a family event that had me traveling over the weekend, and must report shortly for jury duty today.)

(Even more here)

January 6, 2023

Colombia

– Santiago Torrado, El Gobierno Sometera a una Parte de las Disidencias de las Farc y Con Otra Negociara (El Pais (Spain), January 6, 2023).

The Petro government may negotiate a more political deal with the Gentil Duarte wing of the FARC dissidents, which rejected the 2016 peace accord before its signing, while it may limit talks with the Nueva Marquetalia, which signed then abandoned the accord, to conditions for demobilization

– Monitor del Cese el Fuego Unilateral del Eln Durante el Fin de Ano de 2022 (CERAC (Colombia), January 6, 2023).

No “violent actions” measured during the ELN’s holiday ceasefire

Mexico

– Kate Linthicum, Cartel Lays Siege to Mexican City After Recapture of the Son of ‘el Chapo’ (The Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2023).

Argues that Ovidio Guzmán’s arrest, which proved impossible in 2019, shows that the Sinaloa cartel has weakened since then

– “el Raton” Esta Ya en Cdmx. Su Guardia Disparo a Fuerzas Federales y Le Respondieron (SinEmbargo (Mexico), January 6, 2023).

Moment-by-moment coverage of the capture of Ovidio Guzmán and related violence in Sinaloa

U.S.-Mexico Border

– J. David Goodman, They Built the Wall. Now Some in Texas Fear It May Fall Down. (The New York Times, January 6, 2023).

An in-depth look at the 3-mile privately-built border wall built on the bank of the Rio Grande in south Texas

– Remarks by President Biden on Border Security and Enforcement (The White House, January 6, 2023).

Rollout of the administration’s new humanitarian parole and Title 42-expansion policy, and of Biden’s upcoming Mexico visit

– Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Kevin Sieff, Maria Sacchetti, Nick Miroff, Biden Immigration Plan Would Restrict Illegal Border Crossings (The Washington Post, January 6, 2023).

The administration’s humanitarian parole, Title 42 expansion, and other border proposals “reflect a political shift to the center for Biden”

– Jonathan Clark, Feds Remove Controversial Border Patrol Surveillance Blimp From Nogales (Nogales International, January 6, 2023).

CBP has taken down the locally disliked “tethered aerostat” from Nogales

– Fact Sheet: Biden-?Harris Administration Announces New Border Enforcement Actions (The White House, January 6, 2023).

White House lays out its plan to “draw on the success of the Venezuela initiative”

– Eileen Sullivan, Michael D. Shear, Miriam Jordan, Biden Announces Major Crackdown on Illegal Border Crossings (The New York Times, January 6, 2023).

Coverage of the Biden administration’s Title 42 expansion. Unfortunate headline, as seeking asylum is not illegal

– Dhs Continues to Prepare for End of Title 42; Announces New Border Enforcement Measures and Additional Safe and Orderly Processes (Department of Homeland Security, January 6, 2023).

DHS memo laying out the Biden administration’s new humanitarian parole and Title 42 expansion process

Venezuela

– Tracy Wilkinson, U.S. Looks for Opportunity in Demise of Guaido, Whom It Recognized as ‘Interim President’ of Venezuela (The Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2023).

Pivoting away from a strategy that did not succeed

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: January 6, 2023

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:

  • President Biden is to visit the U.S.-Mexico border before a January 9-10 North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico. In a January 5 border policy speech, he announced a new humanitarian parole program for citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. This comes with an expansion of Title 42 expulsions of these countries’ citizens back to Mexico if they do not, or can not, avail themselves of the new humanitarian program.
  • The Supreme Court ordered that the Title 42 pandemic authority remain in place while it considers whether Republican state governments can challenge its court-ordered termination, which had been scheduled for December 21, 2022. The abrupt shift increased confusion in cities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, as squalid encampments have sprung up in Matamoros, Reynosa, Tapachula, and possibly elsewhere.
  • Protesters and a federal lawsuit compelled Arizona’s outgoing state government to remove thousands of shipping containers stacked to fill gaps in the border wall. Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R) container-wall project cost about $95 million to build and about $76 million to dismantle. His successor, Democrat Katie Hobbs, is dropping a lawsuit challenging federal jurisdiction over border-adjacent land.

Biden to visit border, announce Venezuela-style Title 42 expansion

While on a January 4 visit to Kentucky, President Joe Biden told reporters that he plans to visit the U.S.-Mexico border before a January 9-10 meeting in Mexico City with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. Asked what he would like to see when he visits, Biden responded, “Peace and security. No, I’m going to see what’s going on. I’m going to be making a speech tomorrow on border security, and you’ll hear more about it tomorrow.”

Biden will visit El Paso, Texas. Of the nine sectors into which the U.S. Border Patrol divides the U.S.-Mexico border, the El Paso sector led all others in migrant arrivals in October and November. (December data are not yet available.)

In a January 5 speech, Biden rolled out dramatic expansions of both a “humanitarian parole” procedure for citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and of expulsions of those countries’ citizens from the border back into Mexico under the still-in-force Title 42 pandemic authority. These are explained in documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the White House, and in Federal Register entries laying out the parole process for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans

The administration will model its program for asylum-seeking migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti on a program applied to Venezuelan migrants since October. The Venezuela policy led to a sharp reduction in arrivals of Venezuelan asylum seekers at the border and afforded several thousand an opportunity to obtain a temporary documented status in the United States. But it has also left thousands more stranded and vulnerable inside Mexico and elsewhere along the migration route from South America.

On October 12, the administration offered a two-year humanitarian parole status in the United States, with a work permit, to up to 24,000 Venezuelan migrants who applied online, had valid or recently expired passports, and had someone inside the United States willing to sponsor them. Once approved for parole, Venezuelans are able to fly to the United States.

If encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border, however, Venezuelan migrants are subject to immediate expulsion back to Mexico—with Mexico’s full agreement—under the Title 42 pandemic authority, recently prolonged by the U.S. Supreme Court (see this update’s next section). The expulsions occur regardless of migrants’ expressed need to apply for asylum.

The October 12 decision made Venezuela the fifth nationality of migrants whose Title 42 expulsions Mexico accepted across the land border (in addition to those from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). It led Title 42 expulsions of Venezuelans to jump from 87 in September 2022 to 6,411 in October and 5,298 in November. It contributed to a drop in encounters with Venezuelan migrants from 33,804 in September to 7,931 in November. And it caused migrant shelters and encampments in Mexican border cities to fill with thousands of Venezuelan migrants who suddenly had nowhere to go.

On January 5, President Biden announced that Mexico will accept land-border Title 42 expulsions of three more nationalities: Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians, for a total of eight nationalities subject to land-border expulsion. Mexico will allow up to 30,000 expulsions per month of these three countries’ citizens and Venezuelans.

That will come with an expansion of the humanitarian parole program for up to 30,000 citizens per month from these countries and from Venezuela. (November 2022 migrant encounters from those four countries totaled 82,286.) Only citizens from those countries with U.S. sponsors and passports will qualify for these 30,000 monthly humanitarian parole spots.

As the expanded Title 42 expulsions represent a new block to the legal right to seek asylum in the United States, human rights advocates had responded with alarm to a December 28 revelation, in a story broken by Reuters, that it might happen. “The Biden-Harris administration seems intent on doubling down on President Trump’s xenophobia and cruelty,” read a December 29 statement from the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign. “This move would go far beyond what any court has required, dispelling any pretense that this administration is interested in turning the page,” said Melissa Crow of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. That day, staff at the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported the arrival of seven expelled Nicaraguans at its shelter on the Mexican side of the border.

Read More

Latin America Security-Related News: January 5, 2023

(Even more here)

January 5, 2023

Bolivia

– Mauricio Quiroz Teran, Hay Senales de ‘Malestar’ en las Ffaa y Piden Ordenes Escritas para Salir a las Calles (El Deber (Bolivia), January 5, 2023).

Evidence that the military is uncomfortable with being put in a crowd-control role amid protests following the arrest of a conservative opposition leader

Colombia

– Felipe Garcia Altamar, La Complejidad de los Ceses Bilaterales: ¿el Gobierno Quiso Cenar al Desayuno? (El Espectador (Colombia), January 5, 2023).

Analysis finds that the Colombian government moved in haste by declaring a premature ceasefire

– Gloria Castrillon Pulido, No Hay Cese al Fuego Bilateral Con el Eln; Se Discutira en la Mesa de Negociacion (El Espectador (Colombia), January 5, 2023).

The government’s push for a ceasefire now appears to be the main upcoming agenda item for talks with the ELN

– Camilo Alzate Gonzalez, Crisis Humanitaria en el Choco Revelaria Fisuras en el Eln (El Espectador (Colombia), January 5, 2023).

The ELN in southern Chocó appears to be ignoring calls from the negotiating table for a humanitarian pilot program in that part of the country

– El Ministerio de la Igualdad Ya Es una Realidad (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 5, 2023).

A law creates a “Ministry of Equality,” with Vice President Francia Márquez the first minister

Mexico

– Diana Lastiri, Reves a la Sedena: Juez Mantiene Suspension Indefinida a la Militarizacion de la Guardia Nacional (Proceso (Mexico), January 5, 2023).

A judge keeps on hold the AMLO government’s effort to make Mexico’s new National Guard a branch of the military

– Migrants Crowd Mexico’s Refugee Offices Amid Fears of Us Policy Change (Voice of America, January 5, 2023).

5,000 migrants showed up at COMAR’s Tapachula offices in 2 days

U.S.-Mexico Border

– Nick Miroff, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Transcript: Cartel Rx: The Fentanyl Epidemic With Dhs Secretary Mayorkas (The Washington Post, January 5, 2023).

Amid many careful responses on the border/fentanyl issue, Secretary Mayorkas hints at turf issues between ICE/HSI and DEA

– Camilo Montoya-Galvez, Biden Expands Title 42 Expulsions While Opening Legal Path for Some Migrants (CBS News, January 5, 2023).

An overview of what CBS calls the Biden administration’s “carrots and sticks approach” to protection-seeking migration

– Cindy Ramirez, Tensions Rise, Hope Falls: Border Patrol Detains Migrants Near Sacred Heart (El Paso Matters, January 5, 2023).

Venezuelan migrants crossed into El Paso, either thinking that Title 42 was over or out of desperation because it isn’t. Now Border Patrol is rounding them up

– Dave Graham, Steve Holland, Ted Hesson, U.S. Would Accept Up to 30,000 Migrants a Month in Expanded Program -Sources (Reuters, Reuters, January 5, 2023).

“The United States plans to accept up to 30,000 migrants per month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela under a program paired with expulsions of people from those countries caught at the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. and Mexican officials said”

Latin America Security-Related News: January 4, 2023

(Even more here)

January 4, 2023

Brazil

– Alex Cuadros, Has the Amazon Reached Its ‘Tipping Point’? (The New York Times, January 4, 2023).

It’s possible that Amazon deforestation has passed its point of no return, according to this in-depth report

Colombia

– Jhordan C. Rodriguez, Laura Duarte Sandoval, Paz Con el Eln: Lo Que Viene Tras la Salida en Falso de Petro Sobre Cese al Fuego (El Espectador (Colombia), January 4, 2023).

There is no ELN ceasefire. And the negotiators should meet soon to clear this up

– Estas Son las Reglas de Juego para Cese al Fuego Bilateral: Asi Son los Decretos (El Espectador (Colombia), January 4, 2023).

Decrees with every armed group except the ELN lay out ceasefire terms

– Luke Taylor, Colombia’s Eln Guerrilla Group Denies Agreeing to National Ceasefire (The Guardian (Uk), January 4, 2023).

English overview of the ELN non-ceasefire situation

– Gloria Castrillon Pulido, “No Hay Crisis Con el Eln”: Otty Patino (El Espectador (Colombia), January 4, 2023).

Interview with chief government negotiator with the ELN: “Why did the president make the announcement like this?” “Petro is Petro and he is the president”

– La Desmentida del Eln Sume al Gobierno en su Primera Gran Crisis (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 4, 2023).

The government’s reaction appears confused after the ELN denies that negotiators reached any ceasefire agreement

– Detalles Intimos de un Cese al Fuego Improvisado (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 4, 2023).

“Improvised” sure seems to be the right word to describe Colombia’s new year ceasefire saga

Guatemala

– A 26 Anos de los Acuerdos de Paz en Guatemala: Un Recuento de Lo Arrebatado (Prensa Comunitaria, Desinformemonos, January 4, 2023).

26 years after a peace accord that was not honored, “there’s little left to recover”

Honduras

– Marcia Perdomo, En Impunidad Permanece Caso de Misquitos Abatidos por las Ff. Aa. En Ibans, Gracias a Dios (Criterio (Honduras), January 4, 2023).

The justice system has made almost no progress holding accountable military personnel who, apparently in pursuit of drug traffickers, attacked an Indigenous community in eastern Honduras

Mexico

– Luis Chaparro, Ciudad Juarez Is on Lockdown During Gang Leader Killed 10 Guards After Prison Break (VICE, January 4, 2023).

English coverage of the violent beginning to the new year in Ciudad Juárez

Peru

– Ángel Páez, Renuncio Polemico Jefe de la Dini, Juan Carlos Liendo (La Republica (Peru), January 4, 2023).

Peru’s intelligence chief is out after calling protesters a “terrorist insurgency”

Latin America Security-Related News: January 3, 2023

(Even more here)

January 3, 2023

Colombia

– Que Sigue Ahora para la Compra de los Aviones de Combate (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 3, 2023).

New procedural delays in Colombia’s planned approximately $680 million purchase of fighter aircraft

– Los Militares, Sorprendidos por el Cese al Fuego Bilateral (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 3, 2023).

It seems that Colombia’s military learned about the six-month ceasefire from President Petro’s tweet announcing it

– Paz Total, Apuesta Total: El Capital Politico Que se Juega Petro Con el Cese al Fuego Bilateral (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 3, 2023).

Is Colombia’s ceasefire a ceasefire between groups as well as between groups and the government? Will it mean fewer social-leader killings?

– “Es un Alivio Necesario”: Asi Reciben en las Regiones el Cese al Fuego Bilateral (El Espectador (Colombia), January 3, 2023).

In conflict-hit areas of Colombia, expressions of hope about the ceasefire, but concerns about verification and continuation of other criminal activity

– Julian Rios Monroy, Abece del Cese al Fuego: Vocero de la Iglesia Explica Lo Que Viene y Que Significa (El Espectador (Colombia), January 3, 2023).

Msgr. Héctor Fabio Henao of Colombia’s Pastoral Social, who will be assisting ceasefire verification, adds some details about how the ceasefire may work. It doesn’t specifically cover non-combat hostilities like extortion, though there’s an expectation that it “start acclimatizing.” Verification still requires protocols

– Las 10 Zonas Donde Impactara el Cese al Fuego Bilateral Con Cinco Grupos Armados (El Espectador (Colombia), January 3, 2023).

Maps of 10 areas of intense violence that could ease with Colombia’s announced ceasefire

– Cifra Historica de Reduccion de Homicidios: Cali Lidera la Lista (Revista Cambio (Colombia), January 3, 2023).

Homicides in Cali dropped 19 percent from 2021 to 2022. Bogotá’s homicide rate is the lowest in 61 years

Cuba

– David Goodhue, Pedro Portal, Cuban Migrant Arrivals Overwhelm Federal Immigration Officials in the Florida Keys (The Miami Herald, January 3, 2023).

“So many people from Cuba are arriving in the Florida Keys that days could go by before federal officials are able to pick up migrants on the side of U.S. 1 to be processed”

Mexico

– Thousands of Migrants Protest on Mexico’s Southern Border to Demand Asylum (EFE, La Prensa Latina, January 3, 2023).

Mexico appears to have stopped issuing permits for migrants to leave Chiapas, leading to huge backlogs and protests outside the refugee agency’s offices in Tapachula

U.S.-Mexico Border

– Camilo Montoya-Galvez, The Facts About the Legal Battle Over Title 42 and What Its End Could Mean for U.S. Border Policy (CBS News, January 3, 2023).

This overview piece recalls that Title 42 hasn’t been reducing migration, though its lifting may bring a short-term increase over current high levels

Latin America Security-Related News: January 2, 2023

(Even more here)

January 2, 2023

Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Guatemalan counter-drug authorities attribute a decline in cocaine seizures to drug traffickers using neighboring countries’ territory more often

Brazil

Bolsonaro, and many pro-Bolsonaro media figures, are now based in Florida

Brazil, Colombia

Santiago Torrado sees a pro-environment “bloc” forming between Brazil and Colombia

Colombia

Colombia will use four glyphosate coca-eradication spray planes and two Black Hawk helicoptera, all U.S. donations, to put out forest fires

Petro’s first 100 days saw a 70 percent reduction in security-force operations compared to 2021

This will be a make-or-break year for the Petro government’s efforts to negotiate peace, implement rural reforms, and change drug policy

Colombia’s government announces a six-month ceasefire with most major armed groups

The ELN peace talks will remain focused on procedural issues to build a more solid foundation for negotiating substantial issues

Colombia, Venezuela

The much-photographed shipping containers are no longer blocking traffic on the Tienditas bridge between Colombia and Venezuela

El Salvador

Salvadorans will feel the negative impacts of Bukele’s populist reign in the long term

Read More

Latin America Security-Related News: December 30, 2022

(Even more here)

December 30, 2022

Brazil

 Ana Ionova, In Brazil’s Amazon, Land Grabbers Scramble to Claim Disputed Indigenous Reserve (Mongabay*, December 30, 2022).

The Apyterewa Indigenous Territory, on the banks of the Xingu river in Pará, suffered accelerated illegal deforestation during the Bolsonaro government

* Fabiano Maisonnave, Brazil’s Lula Picks Amazon Defender for Environment Minister (Associated Press, *Associated Press*, December 30, 2022).

Marina Silva’s naming is a good sign for Amazon protection during Lula’s government

Colombia

 Las Noticias de la Paz y la Guerra en Colombia Que Marcaron el 2022 (El Espectador (Colombia)*, December 30, 2022).

A rundown of top peace and conflict stories in 2022, a very busy year for such stories in Colombia

Ecuador

 El 2022 Dejo un Record de Asesinatos en Ecuador: 4.450 Casos; Solo 308 Fueron Resueltos (El Universo (Ecuador)*, December 30, 2022).

Homicides in Ecuador came close to doubling from 2021 to 2022

Honduras

 Jorge Burgos, Viena Hernandez, Desplazamiento Forzado, la Amenaza Que Mantiene en Vilo a los Hondurenos y Hondurenas (Criterio (Honduras)*, December 30, 2022).

VIolence has internally displaced at least a quarter million Hondurans

Peru

“No Habra Impunidad”: Presidenta Boluarte Promete Investigar Muertes en Protestas (Reuters, *La Tercera (Chile)*, December 30, 2022).

Peru’s new president says that prosecutors will investigate security-force members who killed protesters amid the country’s political crisis

U.S.-Mexico Border

 Martha Pskowski, Texas National Guard Lines Section of Rio Grande in el Paso With Shipping Containers (The El Paso Times*, December 30, 2022).

Texas’s state government laid 10 shipping containers along the river in El Paso, just as it has done in Eagle Pass. The barrier does not block asylum seekers from the riverbank

Venezuela

 Maduro en la Salutacion a la Fanb: «Hay 4.5 Millones de Milicianos en el Pais» (Asociación Civil Control Ciudadano (Venezuela)*, December 30, 2022).

Maduro claims that about one-sixth of Venezuela’s population are members of a citizen militia

 Catherine Osborn, Will the World Ditch Its Punitive Approach to Venezuela in 2023? (Foreign Policy*, December 30, 2022).

Broad sanctions didn’t work in Cuba, and they’re not working in Venezuela, where Maduro is approaching 10 years in power

 En 2022 10.737 Personas Murieron por Causas Violentas en Venezuela, Dice Informe Anual del Ovv (Efecto Cocuyo (Venezuela)*, December 30, 2022).

The Venezuelan Violence Observatory’s 2022 homicide estimate points to a homicide rate over 40 per 100,000 residents

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