US, Brazil Hold High-Level Dialogue On Trade

BRAZIL: The United States and Brazil held their first high-level strategic dialogue in seven years on Friday. Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo represented Brazil in the talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo commended Brazil for supporting Israel and the opposition party in Venezuela. Araujo said the talks would result in “economic growth, security and development in the Amazon.”

After the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that both countries agreed to increase trade and invest in biodiversity in the Amazon. Araujo plans to address the United Nations at this year’s General Assembly and told reporters he had discussed a potential free trade agreement with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

SOUTHERN CONE

COLOMBIA: Colombia’s Special Peace Jurisdiction announced that the rebels Jesús Santrich and El Paisa have been expelled from the transitional justice system and will lose protections guaranteed by the peace accord. Santrich and El Paisa participated in a video calling for war against Colombia’s government and could be extradited now that they have broken the agreements of the country’s peace deal.

BOLIVIA: Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the country’s highest electoral court, has threatened sanctions against the Higher University of San Andreas. The university published a survey that shows President Evo Morales polling significantly below the percentage he will need for reelection at this year’s Oct. 20 elections. The survey has Morales polling at 31.1% (the minimum Morales will require for reelection is 40%). The Tribunal announced that the survey was “invalid,” but did not indicate what rules the university had broken. Constitutional lawyer Iván Lima told Bolivian media that the Tribunal may be referring to the law that polls cannot be funded by public institutions.

VENEZUELA: Opposition leader Juan Guaidó responded to accusations this week as photographs of him posing with Colombian gang members surfaced on social media. The photographs show Guaidó with members of the Rastrojos on Feb. 22, when he visited Colombia for a concert to raise aid money for Venezuela. President Nicolás Maduro’s administration has said that the photographs prove Guaidó conspired with the Rastrojos. Meanwhile, Guaidó told Colombia’s BLU radio, “That day I took photos with many people. Evidently it’s hard to know who is asking you for a photo.”

THE CARIBBEAN

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Dominican officials announced new safety measures on Thursday after at least 10 American tourists died in several resorts on the island. Dominican Republic’s Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier García, who spoke at an event in New York, said a National Committee of Tourism Security has been established by the government to develop strategies to detect and prevent threats. The minister also said they have reinforced rules that now require emergency information in every room and have expanded security forces.

PUERTO RICO: Civic groups in Puerto Rico are urging the U.S. Senate to approve $10 million for the clean up of Puerto Rico’s most hazardous waste site. The amendment, approved by the House of Representatives in July, is part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) helped propel the language through Congress. The money would be used to facilitate “closed detonations” of hazardous munitions that are still stored by the U.S. Navy on the island of Vieques. A recent change.org petition calls on the Navy to “stop poisoning the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico.”

CENTRAL AMERICA

NICARAGUA: The Nicaraguan government banned seven officials from the Organization of American States on Saturday who were scheduled to arrive in Managua. The diplomats were set to travel to the country to try to dialogue with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to address the country’s ongoing political crisis. Unrest in Nicaragua began in 2018, and hundreds have been killed in government crackdowns.

NORTH AMERICA

UNITED STATES: Protesters blocked traffic near the 5th Avenue Microsoft store in Manhattan on Saturday to call out the company’s contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Seventy-six people were arrested during the protest, which was organized by the Close the Camps coalition. The store was closed for the rest of the day. Microsoft has a $19.4 million contract with ICE that supports artificial intelligence and data processing technology. Those inside Microsoft have even protested the deal, with over 100 employees signing an open letter in June 2018. The company’s CEO Satya Nadella said that Microsoft does not work on any projects with ICE related to separating children at the border.

MEXICO: A judge freed 24 suspects in the Ayotzinapa case on Saturday night, after he determined that the suspects’ due process rights were violated. Deputy Interior Secretary Alejandro Encinas gave a press conference on Sunday, calling the decision a “mockery of justice.” Encinas says the Attorney General’s Office will investigate any illegal actions by officials and judges in the Ayotzinapa case. Approaching the five-year anniversary, no one has been charged for the forced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa teachers college students on Sept. 26, 2014.

MEXICO: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent the proposal for an Amnesty Law to Congress yesterday. The law would provide amnesty for certain non-violent crimes, including low-level drug trafficking and women who were jailed for having miscarriages. López Obrador promised to turn away from the punitive measures adopted during the Drug War during his 2018 campaign. The amnesty deal will not apply to violent crimes such as murder, kidnapping and any crime involving firearms.

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Paraguay May Strengthen Military After Alleged Gang Leader Escapes

PARAGUAY: Yesterday, President Mario Abdo Benítez announced plans to amend the constitution to give the military a larger role in combating Brazilian gangs operating in the country. The announcement comes after an alleged drug trafficker from Brazilian gang Comando Vermelho (Red Command), escaped custody in a shootout.

Justice Minister Julio Javier Ríos submitted his resignation and national police chief Walter Vásquez was fired as a result of the escape. President Benítez announced both their departures on Twitter, where he also added that the country needed to strengthen its armed forces.

 

The proposed amendment has drawn concerns for civil liberties from the opposition and NGOs.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

SOUTHERN CONE

BRAZIL: Fires in the Cerrado region, a tropical savannah that covers more than 20% of the country, outnumber the raging flames in the Amazon rainforest, according to data published Wednesday by the National Institute for Space Research. In the first 10 days of September alone, the agency reported 8,012 fires in the Cerrado region and 7,457 fires in the Amazon region. The European Space Agency, earlier this week, released a series of images that show the increase of carbon monoxide in the air as a result of the flames.

THE ANDES

PERU: Yesterday, supreme judge Susana Castañeda reduced Keiko Fujimori’s temporary custody from 36 to 18 months. The leader of the conservative Fuerza Popular party has been in preventive custody since late 2018 when another judge considered that Fujimori might interfere with the investigation against her for allegedly accepting illicit funds from Brazilian conglomerate Odrebecht while she was a presidential candidate. Fujimori was a senator between 2006 and 2011, and is the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who was convicted for human rights violations.

THE CARIBBEAN

CUBA: Twitter blocked the accounts of major Cuban Communist Party members and state run media journalists on Wednesday, leading to an outcry of “massive censorship” by the Cuban Union of Journalists. Communist Party leader Raúl Castro, his daughter Mariela Castro and the official account of the Cuban Communications Ministry were among those affected. A spokesperson for Twitter said accounts are blocked due to the company’s platform manipulation policy which prohibits users from artificially amplifying or disrupting conversations by using multiple accounts.

BAHAMAS: UN Secretary General António Guterres is traveling to the Bahamas today to show support for victims of Hurricane Dorian. In a press conference yesterday, Guterres expressed his desire to raise awareness of the island’s need for relief, as well as draw attention to the impact of climate change on natural disasters. “Climate change is running faster than we are,” Guterres said, “and we need to have a much more ambitious approach in what we do in order to defeat climate change.”

CENTRAL AMERICA

EL SALVADOR: A contingent of 800 police and other security forces have been deployed to El Salvador’s borders, as part of a new policy to regulate migrant smugglers and other illegal crime. Justice and Public Safety Minister Rogelio Rivas discussed the initiative on Thursday, after announcing that another 300 immigration officers would join the police to monitor blind spots along the border. The efforts are part of El Salvador’s agreement with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to help stop the flow of migrants through Central America.

NORTH AMERICA

U.S.-MEXICO BORDER: Yesterday, the Mexican government announced that it disagrees with a U.S. Supreme Court order that blocks migrants from applying for asylum if they passed through another country on their way to the U.S. “The court’s decision is astonishing in the impact that it is going to have,” Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said during the daily morning press conference. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered that the rule by the Trump administration could be enforced while its legality is appealed in the lower courts.

MEXICO: The Internal Affairs department of the Department of Public Safety of Tamaulipas said it has suspended the officers who were allegedly involved in the extrajudicial executions of eight people on Sept. 5 in Nuevo Laredo, according to Animal Político. On Tuesday, the Human Rights Committee of Nuevo Laredo rejected the state’s position that the event was a police confrontation. The government of Tamaulipas said on Twitter that it was committed to transparency in the investigation process.

MEXICO: Parents of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa student teachers criticized the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) after a meeting with the president on Wednesday over the lack of progress in the investigations over the 2014 disappearance of students in Iguala, Guerrero. The parents’ complaints included the “slowness” of choosing a new special prosecutor of the case, who was appointed in June, which parents say delayed investigations.

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A Conversation With Beto O’Rourke

It has been over a month since the tragic shooting in El Paso, Texas when a gunman shot and killed 22 people, injuring 24 others at a local Walmart. The shooting marked a turning point for Latinos and Latinas around the country; the alleged shooter said that he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as he could.

In the wake of the tragedy, Robert Francis O’Rourke, widely known as Beto, spoke out—explicitly linking the shooting to the rhetoric used by President Trump when talking about immigrants

From 2013 to 2019, Beto O’Rourke represented El Paso in the U.S. House of Representatives. He grew up in the border town and is deeply connected to the community. In 2018, Beto became an overnight sensation in Texas and the rest of the country when he ran against one of the most well-known Republican incumbents in the U.S. Senate: Ted Cruz. Beto’s campaign was known for its focus on social media and grassroots organizing, but ultimately he lost the election. However, he obtained 48 percent of the vote, and set a record for most votes ever cast for a Democrat in Texas history.

On March 14 of this year, Beto announced his candidacy for the presidency. But his campaign hasn’t made the same waves as his run for the U.S. Senate.

Latino USA‘s Maria Hinojosa sits down with Beto O’Rourke for a conversation about what’s happening El Paso in the wake of the shooting there and why he is running for the presidency.

Featured photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images.

‘El Paso Firme’ Brings Community Together For Day Of Remembrance And Call To Action (PHOTOS)

EL PASO — Just over a month after the mass shooting in which Latinos were specifically targeted, the city of El Paso is focused on healing and building solidarity against racism. An array of freshly painted murals, car stickers, and banners hanging from businesses across the city all proclaim, “El Paso Strong.” And on September 7, organizations and local activists came together for El Paso Firme, an event organizers described as “a day of action against white supremacy.” Throughout the day, people from across the Southwest and Latin America converged at Ascarate Park for a rally and concert affirming that El Paso is united in light of the recent attack.

People listen to speakers at El Paso Firme. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA)

Following a morning procession and community meeting downtown, a crowd estimated in the hundreds  regrouped in the late afternoon with organizations like RAICES and Border Network for Human Rights to hear an international fusion of sounds and listen to testimonies from refugees, victims of Border Patrol abuses, and survivors of the August 3 tragedy.

Author Ron Stallworth and his wife Patsy Terrazas-Stallworth attend El Paso Firme. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA)

“There’s people here from Dallas, Phoenix, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Las Cruces, Ciudad Juárez, and I just want to be here in solidarity to stand up against hate in all of its forms,” Julio Acosta of Faith in Texas from Dallas told Latino USA.

Dueto Dos Rosas from the San Diego area open El Paso Firme in Ascarate Park. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA).

While a large part of audience was there to experience the psychedelic pop of the headliner Cuco (his set began at 11 p.m.), most of the crowd appeared attentive and supportive of the testimonials and calls to action from organizers throughout the evening. Solidarity was as much of a draw as the music itself, with the U.S.-Mexico border wall and neighboring Ciudad Juárez within view.

Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernández of La Santa Cecilia performs at El Paso Firme. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA)

Wearing a “Vote yes for the DREAM Act” shirt, Esmeraldo Pineda, who came from San Antonio, talked about looking at the roots of this ongoing violence. “When somebody goes out of his way [600 miles] for the sole purpose to kill brown people, Mexicans, there’s something terribly wrong with the system that’s coming out from the White House,” Pineda told Latino USA.

Esmeraldo Pineda of San Antonio and a friend at El Paso Firme. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA)

Voting was one action mentioned during the day, and people could register to vote so on-site. One of the registrars, Sue Dowsett, an event volunteer who lives in El Paso, said, “I’m proud of this city and I think it’s done a remarkable job just where we’re located and how well we get along with everybody across the border and thousands of people that come over to shop or to work [here] and vice versa.”

Art installations line the festival grounds at Ascarate Park. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA)

Organizer Palmira Figueroa from Seattle said the unity between all of the organizations was something that stood out to her about the event.

El Paso resident Guillermo Glenn recalls what he saw during the Walmart shooting and responds to the shooter’s manifesto at El Paso Firme. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA)

“Today has been really amazing especially because this was created by a lot of grassroots organizers, most of them Latinos, that have a lot of love for the people,” Figueroa said. “They’re doing this because if this happens in our house, we would expect the same, that all the people will come and join with their hearts and open souls to heal. And so this is important to me because it heals, music and art and getting together as a community is what gives me inspiration.”

Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernández of La Santa Cecilia and Rebeca Lane join Ana Tijoux on stage at El Paso Firme. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA)

Beginning with the magnetic acoustic sounds of San Diego-area sisters Dueto Dos Rosas to the sonically expansive set from La Santa Cecilia that kicked off with their spoken word-driven single, “Winning,” to Ana Tijoux’s sharp down-tempo hip-hop and Latin pop, there was no shortage of inspiring performances.

Cuco at El Paso Firme. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA)

Cuco closed out the night, bringing to it his melancholic chill vibes with songs like “Summertime Hightime.”

Fans cheer as Cuco prepares to take the stage at El Paso Firme. (Photo by Max Herman/Latino USA)

While some musicians addressed the call to action more than others, Miguel “Oso” Ramírez from La Santa Cecilia summed up the event when he stood up and said, “We hope that all the people and victims of El Paso realize that we’re all here together for them, we’re all here strong together for them and we’re present together for them and their memory is very alive in all of us and that we’re going to carry this spirit of justice and see this through together.”

Supreme Court Accepts New Asylum Restrictions On Central Americans

U.S.-MEXICO BORDER: After putting a hold on a lower court’s ruling, the Supreme Court will allow the Trump administration to enforce a new policy effectively prohibiting asylum for thousands of people who cross through Mexico into the United States. Following the 7-2 vote, asylum will only be granted to immigrants who have been denied asylum in another country or who have been victims of “severe” human trafficking. This new rule would force Hondurans and Salvadorans to seek and be denied asylum in Guatemala before applying for protection in the U.S. Guatemalans would have to do the same in Mexico.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

SOUTHERN CONE

BRAZIL: The number of violent deaths in Brazil has decreased by 11 percent since 2017, according to a new report. The report also states that more than 6,000 people were killed in police operations last year, which is a 20 percent increase from 2017. Researchers at the nonprofit Brazilian Public Security Forum have not determined the cause of this drop in violence, saying that “more analysis” is needed. Brazil has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

BRAZIL: The number of mosquito-borne diseases in Brazil drastically increased this year, with dengue cases skyrocketing up by a whopping 599 percent. Brazil has seen a steady rise in dengue cases since 2017. More than 965 cities currently have a rate of 300 cases per 100,000 people. As of late August, there are more than 1,400,000 dengue cases diagnosed in the country. The Ministry of Health is launching a nation-wide eradication campaign this week to combat the increase in cases.

THE ANDES

BOLIVIA: Bolivian wildfires have destroyed almost 5 million acres of land since August, according to officials. Some Bolivian scientists say it could take 300 years for the lost ecosystems of the region to regenerate. President Evo Morales is under pressure by local activists and international organizations to declare a state of emergency. The fires began in May and intensified in August at the same time as the fires in the Brazilian Amazon.

THE CARIBBEAN

CUBA: Colombia threatened to denounce Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism at the U.N. General Assembly later this month if the island’s government does not immediately turn over two National Liberation Army (ELN) commanders who are allegedly living in Cuba. Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo wrote a letter to the Cuban embassy in Bogotá reiterating President Iván Duque’s demand that Cuba arrest and extradite the commanders best known by their aliases Gabino and Pablo Beltrán. Duque’s administration has been pushing for their extradition since the ELN claimed responsibility for a January car bombing that claimed the lives of 22 people at a Bogotá police academy. The Cuban government has refused to extradite the guerrilla leaders citing that it would constitute as a violation of international peace talk protocols which establish the guerrilla’s safe return to Colombia if negotiations end, an obligation that Duque has not acknowledged.

BAHAMAS: An estimated 2,500 people have been registered as missing after Hurricane Dorian, according to National Emergency Management Agency figures released yesterday. Officials said the figures are tentative as records have not yet been checked against the lists of people in shelters or those who have evacuated the islands. The official death toll following the category-5 storm is at least 50 people, and thousands of people have been displaced in shelters in the country’s other islands such as New Providence. Many have also been turned away from shelters that have reached their capacity.

CENTRAL AMERICA

REGION: Parts of Route CA4, which connects El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, collapsed on Monday interrupting trade and isolating communities. The 30-meter collapse, which was due to a geographical fault following heavy rains on Monday night, occurred in the Honduran village of El Metal and left the Honduran municipality Ocotepeque and the south of the Copán municipality without road access. It also cut off access to the frontiers of Guatemala and El Salvador. It forced the Northern Triangle countries to find alternate routes for truck-based trade that usually takes place across this road in order to minimize economic losses. The fault has previously caused similar collapses impacting Honduras’ western municipalities.

NORTH AMERICA

UNITED STATES: Legal observers and journalists will not be allowed access to new immigration courts set up in tents on the U.S.-Mexico border. The tents were built by federal contractors this summer, costing $25 million. They are meant to hold hearings for asylum seekers forced to return to Mexico after the Trump administration’s “Remain to Mexico” policy was enacted in January. Immigration lawyers say the government is making it more difficult to represent asylum seekers by withholding information about these new proceedings.

MEXICO: The government gave $5 billion to PEMEX, the state oil company, to help remedy debt. The aid was in addition to the $4.4 billion contributions that is part of the government’s 2020 budget proposal revealed this past weekend. In a statement to the press, the finance ministry said that this deal will have no effect on net public sector debt, nor on public sector borrowing requirements.

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In Brazil’s Rainforests, The Worst Fires Are Likely Still To Come

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA

By Robert T. Walker, University of Florida

The number of fires this year in the Amazon is the highest since 2010, reaching more than 90,000 active fires. Farmers and ranchers routinely use fires to clear the forest. But this year’s number reflects a worrisome uptick in the rate of deforestation, which had started to drop around 2005 before rebounding earlier this decade.

Many people blame the Brazilian government and its pro-agriculture policies for the current crisis. But as an environmental researcher who has worked in the Amazon for the past 25 years, I can say the seeds were planted before the election of President Jair Bolsonaro in 2018. And the prospects of slowing deforestation remain dim, an issue that matters to people around the world.

That’s in part because the current administration has only aggravated the situation with its anti-environmental agenda. Unless the Brazilian people succeed in making Bolsonaro retreat from his stated goal of developing the Amazon, deforestation will surge again. Adding fuel to the fire is the quickening pace of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), a multi-nation plan to build road, dams and rail lines across the Amazon.

Conflicting Objectives

Brazil managed to significantly reduce deforestation rates at the turn of the millennium with effective environmental policy and voluntary efforts by the private sector. Deforestation, which started in the 1970s, began climbing again in 2015 due to political turmoil and an economic recession that paved the way to policy reversals.

The Amazonian deforestation rate dropped from about 10,700 square miles in 2004 to 1,765 square miles in 2012, and remained low until its resurgence a few years ago. This was because of effective environmental policy, which in Brazil is mostly based on protected areas, such as national parks, and a forestry code limiting the amount of land that can be cleared on individual properties.

Over the years, the Brazilian government has developed a system of protected areas for ecological protection and indigenous reserves. In 2002 it expanded their coverage to about 43% of the entire Amazon. It also created protected areas in zones of land conflict as a means to tamp down rampant fire and deforestation.

Adding to this, enforcement of the forestry code was enhanced by the development of a satellite monitoring system that enabled Brazil’s environmental protection agency to identify law-breaking property owners from space. In addition to government, the private sector helped lower the rate of deforestation. Soybean farmers stopped planting new fields in the forest, and retailers demanded that the goods they sold come from lands already cleared so they could certify them as “green,” especially beef.

Unfortunately, these efforts began to unravel almost as soon as they proved themselves effective. The background reason is that many people have long viewed the Amazon as a vast store of valuable resources to be used for the economic development of a poor region. The agenda of IIRSA —an extensive infrastructure building project launched in 2000 to link the region’s economies and remote areas— expresses this view, common to all nations that share the Amazon Basin. These include, in addition to Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. It should come as no surprise that their individual orientations to the region all reflect a contradiction between economic development on the one hand and conservation on the other.

In Brazil, the government not only creates protected areas, it downsizes them in order to prepare for infrastructure projects. Former President Dilma Rousseff even downsized Amazon National Park in 2012, the first in the Amazon, to make way for the Tapajós Hydroelectric Complex, a key component of the IIRSA plan. The government does not act in a vacuum, and in Brazil a powerful congressional bloc, the rural/mining caucus known as the Ruralistas, works tirelessly at undermining environmental policy.

This has led to revisions in the forestry code, in 2012, that favor agriculture, not the environment, by exempting those who illegally deforested before 2008 from having to reforest in accordance with the law. Continuing Ruralista political action made it easier in 2017 for land grabbers to obtain title to illegally seized lands.

Fears Of A Tipping Point

President Bolsonaro has inherited a set of weakened environmental policies and all indications are that he will continue to weaken them. At the same time, he has acted on his promise to open the Amazon to development by announcing plans to build a bridge across the Amazon River and to extend a paved road all the way to the border with Suriname. The IIRSA agenda appears to be accelerating, and as people flock to the region to take advantage of the jobs it creates, the fires can only get worse.

Since the opening of the Amazon to development in the 1970s, fires have been deliberately set on a yearly basis to make way for fields and pastures and to fertilize soils. The Amazon maintains a moist climate, which limits their extent. Thus, super fires have never raged over hundreds of square miles as happens with wildfires in the U.S. But this could change due to the cumulative effect of the repeated use of fire.

Research shows that every year when the forest burns, the destructive effect spreads beyond the flames to kill trees and desiccate the landscape. This can make the forest ever more vulnerable to fire through the buildup of flammable materials and the coalescence of fire-scarred ecosystems across broad swaths of the entire basin.

If Brazil does not retreat from the course it is on, scientists warn there will come a time in the near future when Amazonian fires burn without control and push the forest to a point of no return, what some have called a “tipping point” that will permanently change the underlying ecosystem. Without a restoration of environmental policy in Brazil, the worst fires are yet to come.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sixth Colombian Mayoral Candidate Killed Weeks Before Election

COLOMBIA: Police in Colombia arrested two people yesterday in connection with the killing of mayoral candidate Orley García. García was killed over the weekend in the department of Antioquia, but he was running for mayor of the municipality of Toledo.

García was the 6th mayoral candidate killed in Colombia this election cycle. Last week, a woman running to be the first female mayor in the rural municipality of Suárez was killed while campaigning. Authorities blamed the killing on FARC rebels.

García’s killing made the 2019 election cycle the deadliest yet, with just over six weeks until voters head to the polls. Five people were killed during the last municipal elections in 2015. Regional elections for governors and municipal mayors will be held in all 32 departments on Oct. 27.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

SOUTHERN CONE

CHILE: Two LBGTQ+ rights groups asked the Chilean controller general to force President Sebastián Piñera’s administration to promote a congressional measure legalizing same-sex marriage this week. Piñera’s conservative government backed away from former President Michelle Bachelet’s pledge to allow same-sex marriages. The controller general oversees the implementation of laws in Chile.

BRAZIL: Carlos Bolsonaro, son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Rio de Janeiro councilor, tweeted yesterday that the “transformation that Brazil wants will not happen at the speed we are aiming for in democratic ways.” The tweet was considered an attack on Brazilian democracy by victims of the 20-year dictatorship that ruled Brazil until 1985. Members of the Bolsonaro government have repeatedly praised democracy-limiting measures, including shutting down the country’s supreme court.

THE ANDES

VENEZUELA: During the inauguration of military exercises along Colombia’s border yesterday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro told his defense council to “handle the real threat of violence, armed conflict and attack by the hawkish and criminal Colombian government.” Tensions between the two countries have increased since Colombian President Iván Duque alleged Maduro’s regime trains and supports Colombian rebel groups. Maduro has also alleged that Duque’s administration allows Venezuelan opposition groups to train in Colombia.

BOLIVIA: Christian Democratic Party (PDC) presidential candidate Chi Hyun Chung said in a television interview that “women must be educated to act like women.” Later, when asked by the anchor if any behavior by a woman justifies violence, Chung responded, “obviously.” Chung has made other controversial comments in the past, including that LGBTQ+ people “need to receive psychiatric care.”

ECUADOR: Ecuador’s Ministry of the Interior announced Monday that it is considering the creation of a humanitarian corridor for Venezuelans with visas to other countries. The idea originated after joint meetings with the Colombian government to help find a solution to the refugee crisis.

THE CARIBBEAN

PUERTO RICO: The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico announced yesterday that it has arrested two former FEMA officials and the former president of Cobra Acquisitions LLC, a disaster relief contractor. Authorities accused Cobra’s president, Donald Keith Ellison, of bribing FEMA officials with flights, hotels, personal security services, and more. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the FEMA officials had accepted bribes in exchange for giving Cobra preferential treatment when selecting contractors to restore electricity to Puerto Rico.

CENTRAL AMERICA

EL SALVADOR: Prosecutors announced Friday that they will appeal the recent acquittal of Evelyn Hernández, a 21-year-old woman who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2017 after a judge ruled her stillbirth an aggravated murder by abortion. Hernández was first tried in 2017, but her case was retried in August and she was acquitted. Hernández may now face a third trial. Hernández said she became pregnant by rape and did not know she was pregnant until she delivered in a toilet in 2016.

PANAMA: The telecommunications company Millicom has acquired Cable Onda and Movistar to become the industry leader in Panama and Central America. Millicom CEO Mauricio Ramos spoke in Panama City yesterday, where he committed to supporting economic growth in the region. Millicom has invested $2 billion in the Panamanian economy this past year and intends to further invest in the region through network infrastructure and data centers.

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government reportedly freed up funds for its 2020 budget proposal Sunday. Finance Minister Arturo Herrera claimed that 60 percent of the budget targets fixed spending, while the remaining 40% aims at welfare, security and the national oil firm, Pemex. A portion of the allocation will go towards the National Guard. The budget plan predicts an economic growth between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent and a total government income of 6.1 trillion pesos.

UNITED STATES: Peter Navarro, trade advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, said yesterday that he believes Congress will approve Trump’s United States-Mexico-Canada agreement by the end of the year. The Democrat-held House may thwart a vote on the agreement if concerns with the existing agreement are not addressed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) worries the USMCA will not protect American workers and may potentially raise drug prices for U.S. consumers, according to CNBC. Small business owners hope to see the deal approved, so that they can gain access to Canadian and Mexican markets.

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Colombia Gathers Alleged Proof That Venezuela Is Sheltering FARC Members

COLOMBIA: The Colombian magazine Semana published alleged leaked Venezuelan intelligence proving that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has sheltered Colombian rebels inside Venezuela, following accusations by Colombian President Iván Duque. However, Maduro’s government denied that the documents were real in a statement yesterday.

One of the documents within the report uses “Red Group” as a code referring to FARC guerillas, and it is signed by Remigio Ceballos, a high-ranking Venezuelan officer. Although international media has been unable to confirm the report, Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Trujillo insists it is accurate. Trujillo said that the report is aligned with information his government has collected proving that Maduro has violated a UN resolution banning support for terrorist groups. Duque will present the information his government has collected to the UN General Assembly this month.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

SOUTHERN CONE

BRAZIL: The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, ordered a police raid to remove Avengers comic books that displayed a kiss between two male characters from an international comic book festival this past week. The festival’s organizers won an injunction to prevent the prohibition of the book. However, the ruling was reversed over the weekend when another judge stated that homosexual content for children should not be shown in public. The mayor’s actions generated an adverse reaction from publishing houses, festival organizers and Brazilian public figures.

ARGENTINA: Agrochemicals valued at $80,000 were stolen from a hangar in the Argentine city of Santa Fe this weekend. The chemicals belong to Norberto Rullo, an entrepreneur who specializes in aerial applications of the chemicals. Rullo said that in past months, as the Argentine peso has lost value, these types of robberies have happened more frequently due to the product’s higher price. According to authorities, the way in which the agrochemicals were stolen indicates that someone tipped off the robbers that the products were in a specific hangar.

THE CARIBBEAN

CUBA: Cubans will collect signatures this week to show their support for Venezuela and its government. The effort is being organized by worker’s groups who have called for the United States to lift sanctions on Venezuela. Consuelo Baeza Martín, a member of the National Secretariat of the Central Worker’s Union of Cuba (CTC), said that the group is preparing a letter from the Venezuelan people to the Secretary-General of the United Nations asking the UN to condemn the U.S.’s “aggressive policies.”

CENTRAL AMERICA

NICARAGUA: President Daniel Ortega’s administration rejected claims in a new UN report that his government has repressed the people of Nicaragua and violated human rights. In the report, former Chilean President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that arbitrary arrests, limitations on protests and uses of the judicial system against government opponents have persisted since 2018, when the Ortega administration banned the United Nations’ human rights commission from the country.

GUATEMALA: The Guatemala-based Isabel Claudina alert system announced that 2,008 women were reported missing between Aug. 6, 2018, and Sept. 6, 2019. According to the country’s Attorney General’s office, four women go missing on average every day in Guatemala. While more than 1,400 cases reported to the Isabel Claudina system have been closed, another 465 remain open. This weekend, Guatemala’s Public Ministry thanked the Isabel Claudina system for helping authorities locate a missing woman one day after her disappearance.

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: New regulations limiting the amount of hard alcohol that boats are permitted to carry along Mexico City’s Xochimilco canals took effect this weekend after a drowning last week. Officials limited the amount of alcohol boats may carry to one liter of hard alcohol or three beers per person and also banned people from jumping boat-to-boat or standing while the boat is moving. The policy change comes after six drownings since 2005 and 16 incidents of people requiring rescue from the water in 2019 alone. Local business has fallen by about 80% as a result of the drownings, but the new measures were enacted to create a calmer and safer atmosphere.

MEXICO: Hundreds of people marched silently in Mexico City on Sunday to demand safety and justice for women in the country. Crimes against women throughout Mexico are notoriously high. In 2018, a reported 3,580 women and girls were murdered in Mexico. As of 2019, the number has already reached 1,835 women.

The National Citizen’s Observatory of Femicide coordinator María de la Luz Estrada told the AP that an average of 10 women are murdered daily in Mexico, most following a sexual assault. Currently, only 10 percent of these criminal charges turn into prison sentences. Family members of these victims took to the streets over the weekend to advocate against these injustices.

MEXICO: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has proposed a fiscal budget for this upcoming year, which furthers his dedication to social spending, with a particular focus on children and the elderly. The budget would also direct more resources to the state-owned oil company, Pemex. Analysts see the proposal of 6.1 trillion pesos ($312 billion) as optimistic, since the budget assumes huge economic and oil production growth within the country this next year. The budget would allocate 46 billion pesos ($2.4 billion) to the company and 40 billion pesos ($2 billion) worth of tax breaks. The proposed budget predicts next year’s oil exports to be 2% higher than 2019 levels.

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Portrait Of: Author Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez is a renowned Dominican-American author whose work finds its power in intersections: like that between the personal and political, or those present in the Dominican-American diaspora. In 2014, President Obama awarded her a National Medal of Arts for her body of work. Her two most recognized novels are “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents” and “In the Time of the Butterflies.”

Alvarez published “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents” in 1991. Even though the novel is a coming of age story based on her family’s immigration experience, she was 41 when it came out. While her publishing career started later than some other authors, she continued to be prolific. Her next book was a work of historical fiction based on the Mirabal sisters, real-life Dominican activists who tried to overthrow the dictator Rafael Trujillo. The novel was titled “In the Time of the Butterflies” because the Mirabal sisters had an underground code names—las mariposas or the butterflies.

“In the Time of the Butterflies” turns 25 years-old this year. In honor of its anniversary, Alvarez sat down with Maria Hinojosa to talk about her legacy, how her first book caused family drama and how given the political circumstances of today and the increased visibility of Latina activists, we are still in the time of the butterflies.

Featured image courtesy of Julia Alvarez.

How Climate Change Is Driving Emigration From Central America

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA

By Miranda Cady Hallett, University of Dayton

Clouds of dust rose behind the wheels of the pickup truck as we hurtled over the back road in Palo Verde, El Salvador. When we got to the stone-paved part of the road, the driver slowed as the truck heaved up and down with the uneven terrain. Riding in the back bed of the truck, Ruben (not his real name) and I talked while we held on tight, sitting on sacks of dried beans that he was taking to market.

“It doesn’t come out right,” he said, “it just doesn’t pay anymore to work the land. I take out a loan for seed, and then I can’t count on making it back to pay off my debt.”

Rubén told me then, for the first time, that he planned to save up his money to migrate out of El Salvador. His story is playing out across Central America among many migrants and would-be migrants.

When I spoke with Rubén, it was 2017, nearly 20 years after I had first spent time in his community, a coffee cooperative in El Salvador’s central highlands founded in the 1990s. Over those two decades, the cooperative’s hopes and dreams of a sustainable livelihood producing coffee for a global market have been dashed.

Rising global temperatures, the spread of crop disease and extreme weather events have made coffee harvests unreliable in places like El Salvador. On top of that, market prices are unpredictable.

In the back of the pickup truck that day, we talked about gangs too. There was increasing criminal activity in the town nearby, and some young people in the town were being harassed and recruited. But this was a relatively new issue for the community, layered on top of the persistent problem of the ecological crisis.

As a cultural anthropologist who studies factors of displacement in El Salvador, I see how Rubén’s situation is reflective of a much broader global phenomenon of people leaving their homes, directly or indirectly due to climate change and the degradation of their local ecosystem. And as environmental conditions are projected to get worse under current trends, this raises unresolved legal questions on the status and security of people like Rubén and his family.

This man lives in the Dry Corridor on the Pacific Coast of Central America, an area that has suffered high rates of poverty and malnutrition. (Todd Post/Bread for the World Institute, CC BY-NC-ND)

Land And Livelihood

Migration from Central America has gotten a lot of attention these days, including the famous migrant caravans. But much of it focuses on the way migrants from this region —especially El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras— are driven out by gang violence, corruption and political upheaval.

These factors are important and require a response from the international community. But displacement driven by climate change is significant too.

The link between environmental instability and emigration from the region became apparent in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Earthquakes and hurricanes, especially Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and its aftermath, were ravaging parts of Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Many people from El Salvador and Honduras lived in the U.S. at the time, and the Bush administration granted them Temporary Protected Status. In this way, the government of the United States recognized the inhumanity of sending people back to places struggling with ecological disaster.

In the years since those events, both rapid-onset and long-term environmental crises continue to displace people from their homes worldwide. Studies show that displacement often happens indirectly through the impact of climate change on agricultural livelihoods, with some areas pressured more than others. But some are more dramatic: Both Honduras and Nicaragua are among the top 10 countries most impacted by extreme weather events between 1998 and 2017.

Since 2014, a serious drought has decimated crops in Central America’s so-called dry corridor along the Pacific Coast. By impacting smallholder farmers in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, this drought helps to drive higher levels of migration from the region.

Coffee production, a critical support for these countries’ economies, is especially vulnerable and sensitive to weather variations. A recent outbreak of coffee leaf rust in the region was likely exacerbated by climate change.

The fallout from that plague combines with the recent collapse in global coffee prices to spur desperate farmers to give up.

Compounding Factor

These trends have led experts at the World Bank to claim that around 2 million people are likely to be displaced from Central America by the year 2050 due to factors related to climate change. Of course, it’s hard to tease out the “push factor” of climate change from all of the other reasons that people need to leave. And unfortunately, these phenomena interact and tend to exacerbate each other.

Scholars are working hard to assess the scale of the problem and study ways people can adapt. But the problem is challenging. The number of displaced could be even higher —up to almost 4 million— if regional development does not shift to more climate-friendly and inclusive models of agriculture.

People who emigrate from Central America may not always fully realize the role climate change plays in their movement, or think of it as the final trigger given all the other reasons they have to flee. But they know that the crops fail too often, and it’s harder to get clean water than it used to be.

 

Seeking A Protected Status

Rubén recently contacted me to ask for a reference to a good immigration lawyer. He and his daughter are now in the United States and have an upcoming hearing to determine their status.

Just as he predicted a few years ago, Rubén couldn’t make a living in El Salvador. But he may find it hard to live in the U.S. too, given the mismatch between refugee law and current factors causing displacement.

For several years now, scholars and legal advocates have been asking how to respond to people displaced by environmental conditions. Do existing models of humanitarian response and resettlement work for this new population? Could such persons be recognized as in need of protection under international law, similar to political refugees?

Among the most complicated political questions is who should step up to deal with the harms of climate change, considering that wealthier countries pollute more but are often shielded from the worst effects. How can responsibility be assigned, and more importantly, what is to be done?

In the absence of coordinated action on the part of the global community to mitigate ecological instability and recognize the plight of displaced people, there’s a risk of what some have called “climate apartheid.” In this scenario —climate change combined with closed borders and few migration pathways— millions of people would be forced to choose between increasingly insecure livelihoods and the perils of unauthorized migration.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.