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.
Punishment as deterrence doesn’t work. A multi-year study of border crossers, by University of Arizona researchers Jeremy Slack, Daniel Martínez, and Scott Whiteford, found that enforcement tactics designed to punish migrants — such as deporting people in the middle of the night to the streets of an unfamiliar border city far from where they entered the U.S., including women alone — had little effect on stopping migration. It just made people suffer more. Currently, many Central American asylum seekers turn themselves into the Border Patrol rather than attempt to cross the desert. But how many would do that if they thought immigration officials would take away their children? Those families will not be deterred from migrating, since the conditions propelling them are unchanged. Rather, they will become even more dependent on criminal smuggling networks, and even more at risk.
The violence was another reminder of the serious dangers inherent in Mexican politics, particularly at the local level, where drug gangs regularly exert influence. It also has prompted politicians from different parties to call for tighter security and to demand justice ahead of elections for more than 3,400 positions at all levels, including the presidency, this summer. Four of the five politicians killed were affiliated with the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Top party officials have condemned the violence and asked to meet with federal officials to discuss the cases.
Migrants who pass through Chahuites often arrive with an equal number of stories about the good Samaritans and the thieves they encountered on their journey. That’s because many communities in Mexico are just as divided on immigration as the United States is right now.
“[The death toll] is higher – some people haven’t reported the deaths out of fear; other deaths haven’t been investigated,” said a morgue worker who asked not to be named. Amnesty International has accused the government of deploying “dangerous and illegal tactics to silence any dissenting voices”, while the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have denounced torture of detainees in military installations and said they were “alarmed by the illegal and excessive use of force to disperse protests”. But the US-backed government has rejected a request by the Organization of American States (OAS) to send a special delegate to investigate abuses.
The government forced tens of thousands of farmers into so-called model villages under strict army control to isolate them from the guerrillas. They were promised health care and other services, but instead were left to die from malnutrition and treatable illnesses. They weren’t included in the casualty count in the brutal conflict. Now, in the hamlet of Santa Avelina, their bodies are being unearthed, identified and reburied. Among the bodies are scores of indigenous children who died from measles in the former model village, where residents lived in small, dirt-floor houses and sermons and Christian hymns were played from loudspeakers.
Guatemala and Honduras have a lot to lose by upsetting the Trump administration, as the crackdown on illegal immigration has raised the prospect of more deportations, and regional trade and foreign aid have been called into question. But analysts see their actions last week as more than just attempts to curry favor with Washington. Both countries have long-standing ties to Israel and are facing domestic challenges that are helped by aligning with conservatives in the United States and Israel.
A court in El Salvador has upheld the 30-year prison sentence of a woman who was charged with homicide under the country’s strict abortion law after she says she suffered a stillbirth. Teodora del Carmen Vasquez was seeking to have her conviction overturned after spending nearly a decade in jail after she says gave birth to her stillborn daughter in 2007. A court on Thursday, however, rejected her appeal and upheld the sentence.
It could be a long 2018 for Nicaragua and President Daniel Ortega. The country’s economy may slow down significantly should the United States decide to issue sanctions, and internal financial problems threaten its stability as well. Nicaragua grew in recent years by as much as five percentage points, but the threat of sanctions from the US government have already begun to make a difference for the worst, as 2017 closed with an economic growth of only 4.5 percent, according to the economist Néstor Avendaño. The Central Bank of Nicaragua originally estimated that the country would grow between 4.7 percent and 5.2 percent, but 2017 closed lower than expected.
The mothers of Haiti’s “peacekeeper babies” have filed the first legal action against both the UN and individual peacekeeping soldiers in paternity and child support claims. The lawsuit is the latest development in a protracted legal battle to make the soldiers contribute to the upkeep of children they allegedly fathered. One mother claims she was raped while another was aged 17 when she gave birth, which amounts to statutory rape under Haitian law. The lawsuit has been brought by human rights group Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).
Colombia remains between a rock and a hard place as it enters 2018. While the country has reinvested in its carrot-and-stick policy for another year, it is still waiting for “carrot” substitution programs to kick in, setting the scene for more friction. Even so, it is unlikely that the United States will be satisfied with Colombia’s efforts. The Andean nation may well have to choose between hedging its bets with the effective long-term strategies, and some form of political fallout. But 2018 is a presidential election year in Colombia, which may turn the tables should the opposition come into power. The election of a new political force could undermine peace process promises and replace them with strong-armed anti-drug policies more palatable to the United States.
A sprinkling of rain early this year briefly refilled part of the lake, only to rapidly evaporate within weeks. Yet there is growing recognition that rising temperatures alone are not to blame. Water withdrawals for irrigation from upstream rivers reduce the lake’s size, says Tom Perreault, a geographer at Syracuse University. The huge amount of water used by nearby mines, and the contamination they produce, also has a catastrophic effect, Perreault added. On a visit to the state-owned Huanunitin mine, Bolivia’s largest, the Guardian observed mining waste being dumped directly into the Huanuni river. The tributary, a sickly yellow colour, flows downhill to Lake Poopó.