Tuesday, October 14, 2014

WNU #1237: Child Migrant “Crisis” Vanishes

Issue #1237, October 12, 2014

1. Central America: Child Migrant “Crisis” Vanishes
2. Mexico: Anger Grows Over Iguala Massacre
3. Guatemala: Trial Starts in 1980 Embassy Fire
4. Haiti: Duvalier Protested, Aristide Threatened
5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Central America: Child Migrant “Crisis” Vanishes
The administration of US president Barack Obama announced on Sept. 30 that it planned to set up processing centers in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras so that children from these countries could apply for US refugee status without actually entering the US. Officials said the new policy came in response to the spike over the last year in illegal crossing into the US by unaccompanied minors and by women with small children [see Update #1228]. The number of Central American children admitted through the program would be small, however, according to an administration memorandum which provides for a total of 70,000 refugees to be admitted in fiscal 2015, the period from October this year through September 2015. This only includes 4,000 refugees from all of Latin American and the Caribbean, although some Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans could be admitted through another 2,000 slots not specified for particular regions. (CNN México 10/1/14; New York Times 10/1/14)

The administration first floated the idea of in-country refugee applications for Central Americans in July. Bill Frelick, the director of the refugee program for the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization, responded in August that “there is little reason for confidence that an in-country processing program would serve the protection needs of the most vulnerable people in the most imminent danger of serious harm.” He noted the experience with such a program in Haiti in the early 1990s. “By May 1994, 54,219 had filed applications, representing nearly 106,000 people; only 10,644 cases had been decided, and only 7.7% of those cases were approved. On Aug. 1, 1994, Haitian police and paramilitary forces attacked a line of applicants waiting for refugee processing, beating and arresting a number of them.” (Politico.com 8/13/14)

Meanwhile, the spike in border crossings by Central American children and families has ended. A total of 68,541 minors were detained trying to cross the border in fiscal 2014, according to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, a 77% increase over fiscal 2013, with a peak of more than 10,000 in June 2014. But the number dropped to 5,501 in July, to 3,141 in July and to 2,424 in September, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a speech on Oct. 9. (Fox News Latino 10/10/14, from EFE)

Several different explanations have been offered for the disappearance of what had been referred to as a “crisis” in border crossings. Most explanations have attributed the drop to enforcement measures: efforts by the Central American governments to deter emigration, harsher treatment of Central Americans while they try to cross Mexico, and increased detention of asylum seekers once they reach the US. One possible cause has received little attention. In May US functionaries, mostly from the CBP, asked 230 detained migrants why they chose “this particular time” to enter the US. A “high percentage” of migrants cited rumors that after June the US would stop the practice of releasing many asylum seekers into the US with a notice to appear later in immigration court.

This suggests that many Central Americans who may have been considering emigration at some time in the future--either because of poverty in their home countries or the threat of gang violence--decided to head north in the first half of this year before the US could make it more difficult to enter. Since people who might have decided to emigrate later moved up their departure date, the number of border crossers kept increasing until June and then suddenly dropped. Rumors later that the cutoff would be in October seemed not to have a similar effect. This could mean that rumors actually don’t have a big influence on migration flows, but it might simply mean that many people who would otherwise have crossed the border later had already done so by June. (Truthout 9/4/14; Vox Media 9/19/14)

*2. Mexico: Anger Grows Over Iguala Massacre
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Mexico and internationally on Oct. 8 to protest the killing of six people and the wounding of at least 20 more the night of Sept. 26-27 by municipal police and people in civilian dress in the city of Iguala in the southwestern state of Guerrero [see Update #1236]. The demonstrators demanded the return of 43 students who have been missing since that night; all are from the militant Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the town of Ayotzinapa. “They were taken alive, we want them back alive” and “We are all Ayotzinapa” were among the slogans protesters chanted in at least 25 Mexican states and in some 60 cities, including many in other countries; there were also calls for the Guerrero state government and Mexico’s federal government to “go away.”

Parents of some of the missing students led the Oct. 8 protest in Mexico City, along with students from Ayotzinapa, marching from the Angel of Independence to a closing rally in the central Zócalo. The Federal District (DF, Mexico City) government estimated the crowd at 15,000, but media reports suggested a larger demonstration; the marchers filled the streets in the city’s Historic District. One of the largest protests took place in San Cristóbal de las Casas in the southeastern state of Chiapas, where some 20,000 members of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) held a silent march “as a sign of sorrow and courage” and to demand “real justice.” About 10,000 people marched in Chilpancingo, the Guerrero state capital, including parents of the missing students, while 300 people protested in the state’s resort city of Acapulco. Another 4,000 people marched in Tlapa de Comonfort, in Guerrero’s mountain region; at the conclusion about 50 youths charged into city hall, setting furniture and papers on fire. There were also protests in Aguascalientes, Campeche, Chihuahua, Colima, Durango, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México state, Michoacán, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán and Zacatecas.

Argentine protesters demonstrated at Mexico’s Buenos Aires embassy, while Spanish protesters rallied in Madrid and in Barcelona. Chicago, San Francisco and New York were among the US cities with protests. Some 50 people, including Mexican students and US activists, participated in the New York demonstration, which #YoSoy132 Nueva York and the Internationalist Group sponsored in front of the Mexican consulate in midtown Manhattan. In addition to New York police officers in a patrol car, several men in suits monitored the protest from just outside the consulate; reporters on the scene said at least one of the men was from the US State Department. (Univision 10/8/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/9/14, 10/9/14; report from Update editor 10/8/14)

The joint investigation into the Iguala killings by federal and state authorities seems mired in confusion. On Oct. 9 officials announced that four more mass graves had been found outside the city of Iguala near a group of mass graves first reported on Oct. 4 and suspected of holding the bodies of the 43 missing students. On Oct. 11 Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre Rivero announced that some of the bodies found in the mass graves appeared not to belong to the missing students, raising hopes that the students might be alive. But federal attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam said he didn’t know what Aguirre based his claim on; officially none of the charred bodies have been identified. (LJ 10/12/14)

The Iguala violence has led to growing anger with two of the three main Mexican parties: the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which has replaced the PRI as the dominant party in Guerrero. Both Gov. Aguirre and Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez are members of the PRD and of its New Left faction (commonly known as “Los Chuchos”). Through an old friend and former Iguala mayor, Dr. Lázaro Mazón, Mayor Abarca is also connected to the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), a new center-left party founded by 2006 presidential candidate and former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Abarca, who took a leave of absence after the Sept. 26 killings, is now in hiding with a warrant out for his arrest; his police chief is also being sought. Abarca’s wife, María de los Angeles Pineda Villa, also a PRD politician, is said to be the sister of leaders of the Guerreros Unidos (“Warriors United”) gang, which is suspected of carrying out the abduction of the missing students in collaboration with the municipal police. In June 2013 Abarca himself was accused of ordering and participating in the murder of three Guerrero activists and fellow PRD members: Arturo Hernández Cardona, the leader of the Popular Union (UP) in Iguala, and Félix Rafael Bandera Román and Ángel Román Ramírez [see Update #1180]. María Soledad Hernández, Hernández Cardona’s daughter, said her father had warned that Abarca was likely to have him killed. The family tried unsuccessfully to get federal prosecutors to charge Abarca after the murders. “The events that occurred on Sept. 26 could have been avoided if anyone had listened to us,” Sofía Lorena Mendoza Martínez, Hernández Cardona's widow, told a US reporter. (LJ 10/7/14; The Daily Beast 10/8/14)

Elected governor by a center-left coalition in 2011, Aguirre is a former PRI politician who served as interim governor from 1996 to 1999; he was the handpicked successor of the PRI’s Rubén Figueroa Alcocer, who had to resign after a June 1995 massacre by state police of 17 unarmed members of the leftist South Sierra Campesino Organization (OCSS) at Aguas Blancas near Acapulco [see Update #1109]. Guerrero has maintained its reputation for political violence during Aguirre’s current administration. Sept. 26 wasn’t the first time Ayotzinapa students became victims of police violence; two were killed during a demonstration in December 2011. Community activists have also been targeted. In addition to Hernández Cardona and his two friends, 2013 brought the murders of Raymundo Velázquez Flores, director of the Emiliano Zapata Revolutionary Agrarian League, and two colleagues on Aug. 5 in the outskirts of Coyuca de Benítez, and the assassination of OCSS director Rocío Mesino Mesino on Oct. 19 [see Update #1196].

Other Guerrero activists have been harassed and imprisoned. Olinalá community police leader Nestora Salgado has been in prison since August 2013 [see Update #1231], and in the midst of the uproar over the Iguala killings, on Oct. 10 Salgado’s daughter, Saira Rodríguez Salgado, charged that she had been threatened with death and required to pay a bribe to prevent the murder of some members of the local community police. (LJ 10/11/14)

Calls for Aguirre’s resignation are mounting. The PRD’s New Left faction is reportedly negotiating with the PRI to keep him in office in exchange for not demanding the resignation of México state governor Eruviel Avila Villegas, a PRI member, over his government’s handling of an investigation into the killing of 22 people by soldiers on June 30 in Tlatlaya municipality. The state found no wrongdoing in the incident, but the federal government is now carrying out its own inquiry, in response to an international outcry [see Update #1234]. (La Opinión (Los Angeles) 10/9/14)

Anger at politicians has reached such a point that PRD founder Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, once a revered figure for much of the left, was attacked by about 30 protesters when he attended the Oct. 8 demonstration in Mexico City. Shouting “coward,” “traitor” and “murderer,” the protesters threw water, rocks and a large plastic container at Cárdenas, a former Michoacán governor and Mexico City mayor who ran for president three times as a center-left coalition candidate but has now distanced himself from politics. Friends and supporters protected Cárdenas, but he had to flee the Zócalo; the writer and historian Adolfo Gilly was hit by an object and was slightly injured. Afterwards Cárdenas played the incident down, blaming it on “sectarianism” and adding: “The important thing is for the 43 disappeared people to be brought back alive.” (LJ 10/9/14)

*3. Guatemala: Trial Starts in 1980 Embassy Fire
On Oct. 1 a Guatemalan court began hearing the case of Pedro García Arredondo, a former chief of the National Police who is charged with causing the deaths of 37 people in a fire at the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City on Jan. 31, 1980. “We finally want to close a cycle of our sorrow, of our suffering,” indigenous activist and 1992 Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum told reporters the day before the trial was to start. “It’s painful to carry this,” said Menchú, whose father, campesino activist Vicente Menchú, died in the fire.

The incident at the embassy began when indigenous and campesino leaders from El Quiché department occupied the building to draw attention to atrocities by the military; this was during one of the most brutal phases of the country’s 1960-1996 civil war. While meeting with embassy officials, the protesters were surprised by the police, who blocked the doors. A fire broke out in the building, and the police refused to unblock the doors or allow firefighters to enter. Spanish consul Jaime Ruiz Arvore, former Guatemalan vice president Eduardo Cáceres Lehnhoff (1970-74) and former Guatemalan foreign relations minister Adolfo Molina died along with the protesters. One campesino survived the fire, but he was kidnapped and murdered by armed men after being hospitalized. The only other survivor was Spanish ambassador Máximo Cajal y López; he died at the beginning of this year but left videotaped testimony which is being used in the trial.

García Arredondo is already serving a 70-year prison sentence; he was convicted in 2012 of the 1981 kidnapping, torture and murder of a student, Edgar Sáenz Calito. Moisés Galindo, García Arredondo’s lawyer, claims that the prosecution is pinning responsibility for the deaths on his client while ignoring the role of people like the late president Romeo Lucas García (1978-1982) and the late National Police chief Germán Chupina Barahona. Last year the court trying the case successfully convicted former dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) of genocide against indigenous peoples during his administration, but the May 2013 conviction was annulled 10 days later by the Constitutional Court (CC). Galindo is also Ríos Montt’s attorney [see Update #1218]. (Tico Times (Costa Rica) 9/30/14 from AFP; Adital (Brazil) 10/6/14)

*4. Haiti: Duvalier Protested, Aristide Threatened
Hundreds of Haitians attended a private funeral mass on Oct. 11 in Port-au-Prince for “president for life” Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier (1971-1986), who had died suddenly of a heart attack while eating breakfast with a friend the morning of Oct. 4 [not the night of Oct. 3 as reported in Update #1236]. The government of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) apparently decided not to hold a state funeral for the late dictator, and Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe stayed away from the mass, as did the diplomatic corps. Former president Gen. Prosper Avril (1988-1990) and former acting president Boniface Alexandre (2004-2006) attended. Duvalier’s coffin was covered with a Haitian flag--but the current red and blue flag, not the red and black flag used by the 1957-1986 Duvalier family dictatorship. (Miami Herald 10/11/14 from correspondent)

Protesters held a demonstration in downtown Port-au-Prince at the same time to remind people of the brutalities committed under the Duvaliers. “We mustn’t forget the dictatorship’s victims” read one of the signs held by the protesters, who wore white shirts with red spots to symbolize blood and had their mouths covered with white scarves to symbolize the Duvaliers’ repression of free speech. The demonstration was organized by a group called Responsible Citizen Action (ASIRE). (AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/12/14)

In other news, investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire ordered the police to bring former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004) to appear before him on Oct. 10 as part of the judge’s ongoing investigation into Aristide’s second administration [see Update #1231]. Aristide’s supporters, including members of the Lavalas Family (FL) party and the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (Forparc), gathered outside Aristide’s home in the Tabarre suburb northeast of the capital. While some agents from the riot police were seen outside the house around noon, there appeared to be no effort to apprehend the former president. Judge Bélizaire has reportedly threatened to prosecute Haitian National Police Director General Godson Orélus if he doesn’t carry out the judge’s order to bring Aristide in. (AlterPresse 10/11/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Dilma vs. Aecio: two antagonistic projects face off (Brazil)

Brazilian Elections: What Happens Next?

Elections in Bolivia: Interviews with Voters in the Streets and at the Polls

Why Evo Morales Will Likely Win Upcoming Elections in Bolivia

Bolivia's Economy Under Evo in 10 Graphs

A Full Moon after Bolivia’s Elections?

Peru: populist governor re-elected from prison

Colombia: dialogue table for peasants, minorities

Venezuela Declares Victory over Transnational in Response to Exxon-Mobile Settlement Ruling

Venezuela: Why a Philosophical Summit of the Poor?

Municipality in El Salvador Bans Mining in Binding Vote

Guatemalan Communities Reject Neoliberal Development Plan

Civil Society, Judges Team Up Against Judicial Corruption in Guatemala

Peña Nieto on Indigenous Rights: Praise Abroad, Protest at Home (Mexico)

Mexico City March Demands Justice for Dead and Missing Students

Zapatistas march for Ayotzinapa in San Cristobal (Mexico)

Oaxaca in solidarity with Ayotzinapa students (Mexico)

A Sleeping Giant Stirs: Mexico’s October Risings

Rage and Fury Sweep Mexico, the World: Justice for Ayotzinapa

Cops and Paramilitaries Tortured, Burned, Massacred Mexico Students

Mexico: Templario operative killed, secrets spilled

Tribunal Takes Up Mexico's Migrant "Hell"

High-Level Donor Conference on Cholera in Haiti Fails to Secure Much Needed Funding

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