The News Roundup is a regular section of the blog, featuring 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.

Twin megastorms have scientists fearing this may be the new normal

“So events like Irma and Harvey also help us understand if we are prepared for them and who will be most affected,” said Dann Mitchell, a research fellow at the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute. As well as better urban and emergency planning, he said, social policies would also play a part. “Increasingly, the evidence is clear that the poorest, being the most exposed to many climate risks and often being the least protected, will be most affected. Addressing this inequality is at the heart of not just the climate change discussion but all discussions about how we become resilient to risk and hazards.”

Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala urge protections for U.S. ‘Dreamers’

Mexico and Central American countries they will lobby U.S. lawmakers to protect young illegal immigrants who saw their lives thrown into limbo on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would end a program that shields them from deportation. Trump announced plans to halt the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has protected from deportation nearly 800,000 young men and women who entered the United States illegally as children.

Massive earthquake strikes off Mexico coast, bringing death and tsunami warnings

A powerful 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mexico late Thursday, killing at least 32 people and setting off tsunami warnings along the Pacific coast. President Enrique Peña Nieto called it the biggest quake in 100 years, even larger than the devastating 1985 temblor in Mexico City that killed thousands. He said 1 million people lost power, but electricity was soon restored for most of them. Details on damage from remote areas were not immediately clear, raising the possibility that the death toll could rise.

NAFTA: How ‘ghost’ unions exploit workers in Mexico

But while the US administration’s concerns over Mexican workers’ rights might not be altruistic, they do contain a basic truth. Mexican workers are, on average, the worst paid of the 35 countries in the OECD. Wages have stagnated. According to Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), the real value of the country’s minimum salary has dropped 60 percent in the past 30 years. The reasons for that are complex, but labour expert Maria Xelhuantzi Lopez of UNAM says one issue lies at the centre of it all. “The cause of the low salaries in Mexico is that there aren’t any unions that are regulating the working conditions or the salaries,” she says.

Guatemala’s president tried to expel the U.N. commissioner who announced he was under investigation

For the moment, this particular battle is at a stalemate. Velásquez confirmed he will continue as CICIG commissioner following the Constitutional Court decision to block his expulsion. It is hard to imagine the case against Morales getting much further, however. This week the Supreme Court took the next step in lifting his immunity, but the ultimate decision falls to Guatemala’s congress. With a significant congressional contingent also under investigation, the deck is heavily stacked in Morales’s favor. But the broader struggle between the pro- and anti-impunity camps is unlikely to wind down anytime soon. As long as the coalition to combat corruption continues to attract state and civil society allies, those benefiting from the status quo will fight for impunity, and seek to protect the informal political benefits they have long enjoyed. There will no doubt be continued clashes, and these moments may well become more numerous and destabilizing. But they also tell us that Guatemala’s fight against corruption is working.

Firearms Trafficking in Honduras: Introduction and Major Findings

Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and some 75 percent of these homicides are committed using guns. The world average is closer to 50 percent. Honduras is not alone in Central America. Just over 60 percent of El Salvador‘s homicides and 81 percent of homicides in Guatemala — Honduras‘ Northern Triangle neighbors — involve firearms.The circulation of guns does not necessarily lead to high homicides in all cases. Nicaragua has an abundance of weapons in circulation,[3] but a homicide rate that is just one-sixth that of Honduras. However, in a country where organized crime and gangs are rampant and security forces are regularly accused of corruption, the availability of weapons certainly facilitates violence. This report attempts to track the sources of the weapons that are behind these homicides and that have made organized criminal groups and gangs such formidable forces in Honduras.

Amid escalating violence, El Salvador’s young people are struggling to build a future

While San Salvador suffers from the reality of these statistics, the community centre – which was established in 2009 and survives off charitable donations – exists as a refuge amid the violence. It offers a secure space outside of school hours where young people between the ages of five and 16 are able to safely interact with one another. This is crucial in a country where the narrowing of alternatives and the search for a place in the world often leads young people into the open arms of local gangs.

Water Wars in El Salvador: Tacuba Resists

As climate change accelerates, the war over water is becoming increasingly critical in El Salvador. “Not just in Tacuba, powerful interests want access to the closest sources of water,” said PROVIDA’s Karen Ramírez. “The Salvadoran state should guarantee the right [to water] to the small-scale consumers, since businesses and large-scale consumers, like the sugar cane processers and big industry, are in a far better position to defend themselves.”

Nicaragua Claims No ‘Cartel’ Presence, But Past Cases Tell a Different Story

As Avilés pointed out, Nicaragua has not experienced levels of drug trafficking-related violence comparable to those of some of its neighbors in recent years and seems to have far fewer large criminal operations inside its borders. But his contention that “cartels” do not operate in the country is undermined by the Nicaraguan government’s own judicial actions against major drug trafficking figures who run large transport services for transnational criminal organizations.

Haiti Still Hasn’t Recovered From Hurricane Matthew. Now Here Comes Irma.

Even an intense rainstorm can cause death and destruction in Haiti, a Caribbean country of 11,000 square miles and nearly 11 million people. Now Hurricane Irma, a powerful and extremely dangerous Category 5 storm, is expected to hit parts of the country early Friday morning. Still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, which struck the southern coast last October, Haiti is bracing for the worst.

Pope visits Colombia seeking to heal divides

While President Juan Manuel Santos has been widely praised for brokering the Farc peace deal, the second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) has also been in talks. On Monday, the ELN also agreed to a temporary ceasefire that would run from 1 October until the middle of January next year. President Santos called it the Pope’s first miracle of his trip. “I reckon this is a catalytic effect that the visit of Francis has already had on the Colombian peace process,” says Jorge Restrepo from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota. “That is a major achievement and he hasn’t yet arrived.”On Tuesday that was followed by an announcement by the Gulf Clan, one of Colombia’s most powerful drug gangs, which said it wished to submit itself to justice.

Pope’s Colombia visit underscores role of Catholic Church (video)

Pope Francis is visiting Colombia on a five-day tour that many hope will help consolidate the war-torn country. The Catholic Church has played a significant role in a country that has suffered decades of conflict. Francis received a tumultuous welcome on Wednesday afternoon as screaming crowds mobbed the popemobile carrying the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics as it made its way slowly from the airport to the Vatican Embassy in central Bogota.

Bolivia Slashes Infant Mortality Rate by 52 Percent

Bolivia has drastically reduced its infant mortality rate – by a staggering 52 percent between 2008 and 2016 – according to the country’s health ministry.  The ministry said Monday that the deaths of children under one year old in Bolivia has fallen from 50 to 24 per 1000 births. It added that the percentage of pregnant women who were attended to during childbirth by healthcare personnel also increased from 71.1 percent in 2008, to 89.9 percent in 2016. The government’s health department said that these achievements are due in part to the payments under the Juana Azurduy Bonus, an economic incentive program for pregnant women in the country.


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