U.S.-MEXICO BORDER: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced yesterday that he intends to remove 360 National Guard troops stationed on the California-Mexico border, a decision that defies President Donald Trump’s request for a continued military presence. The general order will reassign troops to support the state’s fire agency and intelligence operations focused on international drug trafficking.

Newsom wrote on Twitter that “the border ‘emergency’ is nothing more than a manufactured crisis — and CA’s National Guard will not be part of this political theater.”

Newsom’s decision follows similar action last week by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who condemned the “charade of border fear-mongering” by Trump and ordered the majority of National Guard troops at the southern border of the state to withdraw. Newsom had first alluded to defying Trump’s orders in his inaugural speech earlier this year.



MEXICO: Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López, the head of the Mexican bishops’ conference, said 152 Roman Catholic priests were removed from churches for abuse over the past nine years. Cabrera López noted on Sunday that some of the priests who abused “youths or vulnerable adults” were prosecuted, but the lack of a central recording system in Mexico makes it difficult to calculate exact estimates. The announcement comes right before the Vatican’s Feb. 21-24 sex abuse summit, at which Pope Francis hopes to address wide-scale abuse and impunity of church leaders.

MEXICO: The Industrial Workers and Laborers’ Union declared a complete victory after an almost month-long strike at 48 assembly plants in the city of Matamoros, along with the Texas-Mexico border. The union succeeded in winning a 20-percent wage increase for employees, as well as a one-time bonus of 32,000 pesos. The success has led to a growing number of similar maquiladora walkouts, with employees demanding their own “20/32!” The demands have even spread outside of factory work and into local supermarkets, according to Javier Guerrero, a Matamoros public relations specialist. The backlash against the labor movements has resulted in the firing of over 2,000 employees involved in the strikes, however. U.S. labor unions, including the Texas AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers, and United Steelworkers, are calling on U.S. companies to support the strike and stop the reprisals.


HAITI: Without a formal pronouncement by President Jovenel Moïse, anti-government protests continued in Port-au-Prince yesterday. Citing corruption, Haitians have demanded for Moïse to step down. Several Western countries, including the United States, the European Union, France and Germany, have expressed concernover the ongoing turmoil in Haiti. Two people have reportedly died during the protests that began last Friday.

PUERTO RICO: As a result of ongoing droughts, the government of Puerto Rico implemented water rationing yesterday. Governor Ricardo Rosselló stated that all users benefitting from the Guajateca reservoir in the northwest will have limited water supply. Starting on Feb. 20, seven municipalities in the west of the island will implement the water-rationing plans. The U.S. Drought Monitor, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), estimates that over 219,000 Puerto Ricans are being affected by the ongoing drought.


GUATEMALA: Fourteen candidates have already declared their intention to run for president in the upcoming general elections on June 16. Amid a growing political crisis, several former public officials have launched their candidacy. Among these are former Attorney General Thelma Aldana, who led prosecutions against now-imprisoned former President Otto Pérez Molina, and Sandra Torres Casanova, the former first lady (2008-2012) who lost the 2015 run-off against current president Jimmy Morales. Guatemalans can register to vote until March 17, and electoral campaigns are expected to last between March 18 and June 14.


VENEZUELA: A delegation representing opposition leader Juan Guaidó met with Vatican officials yesterday after President Nicolás Maduro asked Pope Francis to intervene in Venezuela amid the political and economic crisis. The Vatican responded with a call for respect for human rights and anti-violence. Francis has said the Vatican would mediate if both sides request it. The Guaidó delegation also called upon the Italian government to recognize Guaidó as president, but the European country remains divided, despite many of its neighbors voicing support for Guaidó.

COLOMBIA: Last year, Colombian journalists received more death threats than any other year since 2006, according to Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP), a Colombian press freedom organization. Colombia saw 477 attacks on press freedom in 2018, a 57 percent increase from 2017 and a 120 percent increase from 2016, according to the report. Journalists in the country have attributed the spike in death threats to their coverage of the peace process since the election of President Iván Duque. Last year, two Colombian journalists were killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.


BRAZIL: Authorities in Switzerland are helping out with an investigation into an alleged corruption scheme in Brazil involving bribes paid to executives at the state-run oil firm Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras. The payments were allegedly made by executives at the commodity traders Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura, including some in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting its own investigation into the scheme. In December, prosecutors said the three companies paid more than $30 million in bribes to Petrobras employees.

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