The News Roundup is a regular feature of the blog where we select news articles from various sources around the web, with the goal of providing an overview of the weekly conversation about the countries where MCC works in the region. Quotes in italics are drawn directly from sources and do not necessarily reflect the position of MCC.
In total, 408,870 people – including 59,692 lone minors – were stopped in the past fiscal year, compared with 331,333 in 2015 and 479,371 in 2014, when a surge in unaccompanied children and families arriving from central America sparked a political firestorm and placed the immigration system under immense strain. Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs the Sacred Heart shelter, said that it was serving 300-400 people a day around the time of the election, now down to 250-300 – not far off its 2014 peak. “We’re always short of something; we’re constantly getting donations and constantly running out of stuff,” she said. Some 240 miles north, in San Antonio, a similar, if more chaotic, scene played out at a Mennonite church over the weekend where advocates and volunteers scrambled to take care of hundreds of women and children suddenly released from two Texas centres after a judge’s ruling last Friday threw the federal government’s plans for family detention into question.
Border manpower and hardware has increased exponentially since 9/11, transforming what was a chain link fence into a zone bristling with cameras, sensors, drones and rapid response teams. No More Deaths depicts the border as a gauntlet which often condemns would-be crossers to grim and uncertain fates. It said the policy was rooted in a 1994 Clinton-era Border Patrol strategy called “Prevention Through Deterrence” which sealed off urban entry points and funneled people to wilderness routes risking injury, dehydration, heat stroke, exhaustion and hypothermia. The Border Patrol estimates at least 6,000 have died since the 1990s. Other estimates are significantly higher. With many bodies never found, precision is impossible. The report accused agents of hounding people to injury and death, and brutalising those they captured: “Mass death and disappearance are the inevitable outcomes of a border enforcement plan that uses the wilderness as a weapon.”
Official records indicate almost 7,000 women and girls have disappeared since 2007. But activists say the reality is much worse. The government register of the missing includes 164 women from Veracruz, yet a local monitoring group has documented almost 500 cases of girls and women who have vanished in the past three years alone. Rupert Knox, Amnesty International’s lead investigator in Mexico until 2015, said: “In this climate of corruption and impunity – where security policies are determined by links between criminal networks, party politics and business interests – opportunities for targeting women and girls are closely connected with the knowledge that no one will do anything serious to protect them.” Between 2007 and 2015, almost 20,000 women were murdered – a 49% increase on the previous decade, according to the National Statistics Institute (INEGI).
Central American mothers search for their missing sons (video, photo gallery, and article)
It’s an all-consuming, two-and-a-half week journey in which they’ve also combed dive bars, cemeteries, migrant shelters and prisons. They look everywhere for a clue or someone who knows something that could lead to a miracle – finding a loved one. The caravan organisers say that they’ve managed to find some 270 people in the 12 years but that’s still a drop in the ocean: they estimate that there are around 70,000 missing migrants in the country. To make any inroads in finding out what has happened to them, they would need help from Mexican authorities. But that simply isn’t forthcoming, says Martha Sanchez Solis, one of the caravan organisers. According to her, officials stonewall relatives looking for answers because they don’t want their own wrongs to come to light. “It’s not convenient for the transit country [Mexico] to make known the crimes that are committed here, especially because there’s lots of authorities that are colluding in them. The lesser sin is omission – when they just do nothing – but many times it goes further than that and there’s direct participation from Mexican authorities.”
Indigenous Voices From Guatemala’s Day of No Violence Against Women (photo gallery and transcript)
“We recognize that we are part of a history of pain, humiliation, rape, and racism. We continue to confront all the shortcomings of our government, which is blind to our existence as Maya, Mestiza, and Garífuna [of Afrocaribbean descent] women. A state that denies us our rights and our citizenship. A state that permanently excludes us and denies us our economic, political, and social opportunities. We cannot ignore the fact that Huehuetecan women are subject to the most extreme inequality and poverty. Our living conditions reflect the the systematic exclusion by extractive industries which aim to take our land and rob us of our natural resources: our water, our land, our forests. This is all done in the name of a supposed development, which we know will never come, and which we don’t want to accept because it is stained with the blood of our communities.”
In general, we have to pay attention more broadly to foreign policy in Latin America. In the State Department, Latin American policy is treated like a minor backwater — part of a long, racist history in which Latin American sovereign peoples are seen as children that the United States should manage, part of a long history of US financial, political, and military domination of Latin America. It’s also important to keep US policy in Honduras visible at the grassroots level so people can track where our tax dollars are going and how Honduras policy ties into immigration, into racism against people of Latin American descent, and into domestic racism more broadly, on many fronts.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favor of Costa Rica on Dec. 16, 2015 in case that began when the two countries brought mutual accusations before the Hague-based court. ICJ justices acknowledged Costa Rica’s sovereignty over a small wetland territory known as Isla Calero. They determined that Nicaraguan soldiers violated Costa Rica’s sovereignty when they dredged an artificial canal through the wetland. The court also ordered Nicaragua to compensate Costa Rica for damage caused to its territory along the border area. Costa Rica’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Sergio Ugalde, presented the $6 million compensation request to his Nicaraguan counterpart Carlos Arguello in June. President Luis Guillermo Solís said last week that he hopes Nicaragua complies with the ICJ orders by Dec. 16, the end of the one-year deadline set by the court.
What sort of president Mr Moïse will turn out to be is a mystery. Like his rivals, he talked a lot about boosting agriculture and manufacturing, and promised to clean up corruption, which was rife in Mr Martelly’s administration. He offered few serious policy proposals. He may follow Mr Martelly in welcoming foreign investment. Some analysts think Mr Moïse, who comes from northern Haiti, will try to rebalance the economy away from Port-au-Prince, which produces two-thirds of the country’s GDP. Economists hope that Mr Moïse will encourage investment in rural areas, where more than half of Haitians work, and fight deforestation, which exacerbates the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters. Other priorities are improving infrastructure, strengthening land-ownership rights and reforming the judiciary. But the new president’s first job on taking office in February, assuming that his victory is confirmed, will be to bring back a semblance of political stability.
The Ideas for Peace Foundation, a Bogotá-based think-tank supported by the business sector, counts 71 homicides and 17 homicide attempts against social leaders so far in 2016. (The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, using the definition of “human rights defenders,” counts 52 homicides and 35 attempts [PDF].) Ideas for Peace found the most attacks happening in the Pacific coast departments (provinces) of Valle del Cauca (whose capital is Cali) and Cauca; the south-central department of Caquetá; the northwestern department of Antioquia (whose capital is Medellín); and the northeastern department of Norte de Santander. The Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination, a network of human rights groups, counts 30 murders of social leaders since August 29, the day the Colombian government and FARC declared a bilateral ceasefire. The UN High Commissioner’s office counts 13 since the September 26 signing of the first peace accord with the FARC. The wave of terror elicited statements of concern since the second half of November from the UNand its High Commissioner, the OAS, and the Colombian government’s Center for Historical Memory, which compared it to the late 1980s-early 1990s massacre of more than 3,000 members of the Patriotic Union, a FARC-linked leftist political party.
The unregulated extraction of water from the ground is a cause for concern. Consistently, year after year, more water has been extracted from groundwater than has been replenished. Studies have shown that the reserves of groundwater in Bolivia are now below 50 percent. According to Milton Perez, an engineer at Oruro Technical University, Bolivia’s decline in groundwater is part of a global trend. “Globally, we have 37 very important bodies of groundwater that are taxed for direct human consumption. Of these 37, 22 bodies of water, most of them on the African continent and a few in the north of America, have dried up completely.”