HAITI: A new study revealed that United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti fathered and abandoned hundreds of children during their time stationed on the island between 2004 and 2017. The study details 265 stories of Haitian children fathered by peacekeepers from the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), including the sexual abuse and impregnation of girls as young as 11 years old in exchange for food or money. Though the study does not provide exact figures of impregnated women or children left behind, the abandoned children are known as “petit MINUSTAHs.”
The study, by Sabine Lee, a professor at the University of Birmingham, and Susan Bartels, a scientist at Queen’s University in Ontario, is based on 2,500 interviews with Haitians who were asked about the experiences of women and girls living in communities that hosted MINUSTAH operations in the summer of 2017. About 10% of interviewees recounted stories of sexual abuse and exploitation. The UN has previously acknowledged that MINUSTAH officials sexually abused and exploited women and minors during their time stationed in Haiti.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
BRAZIL: Prosecutors raided the properties of former associates of President Jair Bolsonaro’s son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, and family members of the president’s ex-wife yesterday. The raid was part of a corruption investigation involving Flavio Bolsonaro. A total of 24 warrants were issued in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Resende. The investigation surrounding his son has been an embarrassment and challenge for President Bolsonaro, who campaigned on a promise to fight corruption.
CHILE: Airbnb ended an “experience” tour it had promoted in Chile to “live the revolution” after receiving severe backlash from Chileans. Airbnb provided tourists with goggles and a bottle of water, items protesters have used for protection in recent weeks of unrest. Chileans criticized Airbnb, saying the tour violated safety standards and profited off of their social struggle. At least 26 people have been killed in the protests which began two months ago.
— Arturo Murillo (@ArturoMurilloS) December 18, 2019
Murillo recently charged Morales for allegedly inciting his supporters to violently protest after he’d been ousted from office. The protests led to the deaths of 35 people, including supporters of Morales. The former president, who has moved to Argentina, denies all charges.
PANAMA: A gang shootout in a Panama City prison has left 14 inmates dead. The incident occurred yesterday inside cell block 14 of La Joyita prison, which houses over 500 inmates, between members of a single local gang. Officials collected three AK-47 assault rifles and five pistols after the shooting, and President Laurentino Cortizo said officials will launch an investigation into how the weapons were smuggled into the prison. Officials also acknowledged that arms smuggling into prisons is a problem in the country that needs to be addressed. The gun battle came a day after Honduras declared a state of emergency in its own prison system due to rising violence within jails.
EL SALVADOR: In a 60 Minutes interview, President Nayib Bukele said that the country is not yet ready to accept asylum seekers as part of the September cooperative asylum agreement El Salvador signed with the United States. “We don’t have asylum capacities, but we can build them,” Bukele said. Once implemented, the deal between the two countries would function like a safe third country agreement and would require migrants to seek asylum in El Salvador if they pass through the country on the way to the United States. The United States has signed similar agreements with Honduras and Guatemala. Bukele also described El Salvador’s economy as being “in shatters.”
UNITED STATES: The United States now plans to send asylum seekers to Honduras, even if they are not native to the country. In a deal signed by former Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and María Dolores Agüero, the foreign minister of Honduras, the United States would be permitted to send asylum seekers to Honduras without allowing them to apply for asylum in the United States. The United States has a similar agreement with Guatemala, where asylum seekers have already been sent. This agreement is unique in that it does not grant asylum seekers the opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States if their case in Honduras is denied. Advocates and lawmakers have condemned the deal, citing the levels of violence in Honduras as making it unable to protect immigrants.
UNITED STATES: The United States plans to launch an initiative through Latin America and the Caribbean to encourage investment by the private sector, in areas such as energy and infrastructure. Mauricio Claver-Carone, the deputy assistant to the president and senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs, referenced difficulties in ramping up investment in the region to compete with China, which is also seeking to gain influence in Latin America. Since 2005, China has offered almost $150 billion in loan commitments to the region, while the United States is still leading in overall funds. Claver-Clarone said that the United States’ goal is to entirely finance the projected $100-150 billion needed for infrastructure spending in the region, demonstrating that the United States is “the best of friends.”
MEXICO: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said that he will not support a bill to end the separation of church and state in the country. The president said that the measures of the bill, proposed by a member of López Obrador’s party, are issues that were “resolved over a century and a half ago.” The bill, unlikely to pass, would change the Law of Religious Associations and Public Worship to eliminate the separation of church and state. This would effectively reduce restrictions on church ownership, allow “conscientious objections” to laws and give religious groups greater access to media.