Planet Watch
displaced

El Niño’s global food fallout

El Niño will drive global food aid needs even higher in the coming months, a new analysiswarns. The prediction comes as food aid agencies are already making ration cuts amid a budget squeeze. In July, meteorologists declared the onset of El Niño, a periodic climate phenomenon that usually brings drought to large stretches of the globe and wetter weather elsewhere. The analysis by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network says that humanitarian groups must prepare for “high food assistance needs.” Another climate phenomenon, the Indian Ocean Dipole, could amplify El Niño’s effects—with both compounded by the climate crisis. This September was the hottest ever recorded. “The temperature anomalies are enormous—far bigger than anything we have ever seen in the past,” Petteri Taalas, head of the UN’s meteorological agency, WMO, said in a press release. (Photo of displaced families in Somalia: UN Photo/Tobin Jones via Flickr)

Central America
Primavera

Guatemala: opposition party headquarters raided

Guatemalan presidential candidate Bernardo ArĂ©valo accused authorities of “political persecution” after police raided his center-left Semilla party headquarters. ArĂ©valo condemned the raid as an attempt to hinder his campaign for the 2023 election, the second round of which is scheduled for August. Prosecutors say they were enforcing a court order that suspended Semilla due to alleged irregularities in party member registration. However, that order had been canceled by Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal. (Image via Twitter)

North America
border wall

Biden admin to expand Title 42 expulsions

President Joe Biden announced that the US is to extend a parole program previously offered only to migrants from Venezuela to those from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti, allowing them to apply for residency—but reiterated that his administration will continue to enforce Title 42, in compliance with a recent order from the Supreme Court. In fact, under his new policy, Title 42 expulsions are to increase, with Mexico agreeing to accept expelled Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians. A provision of the Public Health Service Act allowing for summary expulsion of migrants at the southern border, Title 42 is in effect pursuant to a Centers for Disease Control order of March 2020 as a COVID-19 emergency measure. The policy shifts as litigation over Title 42 has been batted back and forth in the US courts has led to confusion in cities on both sides of the border. Squalid encampments have sprung up in Matamoros, Reynosa and other Mexican border towns as migrants await entry to the US. (Photo via FWS)

Mexico
Juarez

Northern Mexico: aid efforts struggle to keep pace

Humanitarian response networks in northern Mexico are stretched thin between the growing number of people fleeing violence, poverty, and climate disasters in Central America, the continued expulsion of asylum-seekers and migrants who enter the United States irregularly, and the lingering effects of Trump-era migration policies. Nowhere is this pressure being felt more acutely than in Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city of around 1.5 million bordering El Paso, Texas. Shelters are overwhelmed and underfunded, and more arrive every day—from both the north and south. (Photo: Luís Chaparro/The New Humanitarian)

Central America
Guatemala congress

Guatemala: protesters set fire to Congress building

Thousands protested in Guatemala’s capital against a newly approved 2021 national budget that imposes deep cuts in funding for health care, education and programs to combat malnutrition—at a time when the country is hit hard by natural disasters and COVID-19. One breakaway group of protesters hurled improvised incendiary devices at the Congress building, setting it on fire. Police used batons and tear-gas to push protesters back, attacking not only the some 1,000 in front of Congress but also a much larger demonstration in front of the National Palace. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned what it called an “excessive use of force” by the National Civil Police, while the government of President Alejandro Giammattei accused the protesters of “terrorist acts” that will be “punished with the full force of the law.” (Photo via Prensa Libre)

Central America
Hurricane Eta

Villagers abandoned in Eta’s deadly aftermath

Some 150 are dead, with remote indigenous and campesino communities left stricken and without aid, a week after Hurricane Eta tore through Central America. Eta made landfall south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, as a Category 4 storm. Two gĂĽiriseros, or artisanal gold-miners, were among the first killed, as a landslide inundated the mining camp of Tigre Norte in Bonanza municipality of Nicargua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. Far worse was follow in Guatemala, where officials have called off the search for dozens believed to have been buried when a mountainside collapsed, engulfing the hamlet of Queja. Ovidio Choc, mayor of San Cristobal Verapaz municipality, said the site of Queja will probably be declared a cemetery. Elsewhere in Guatemala’s Maya Highlands, villagers have had to mobilize their own rescue and recovery efforts, effectively abandoned by the government. (Map: National Hurricane Center)

Central America
Cubilguitz

Maya villagers attacked by gunmen in Guatemala

Q’eqchi Maya campesinos in Guatemala’s central Alta Verapaz department were attacked by a group of unknown gunmen who violently evicted them from their homes before setting them to the torch. At least 40 families lost their homes in the attack at the hamlet of Balbatzul, in Cobán municipality. President Alejandro Giammattei said National Civil Police troops have taken control of the hamlet, and the FiscalĂ­a has opened an investigation. Some of the targetted homes were on occupied lands of a large farm, Finca Cubilguitz, which appears to have been at issue in the conflict. Local campesinos moved onto the lands last year, but leadership of the occupation has been contested between followers of the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) and ex-guerilla commander CĂ©sar Montes. (Photo: CUC)

Mexico
travel ban protest

SCOTUS lets stand ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

Some 60,000 asylum-seekers sent back by the United States to Mexico until their claims can be heard in US courts face a longer wait in Mexican limbo after the US Supreme Court issued an order that allowed a controversial anti-immigration policy to stand. An appeals court in San Francisco had ruled that the policy—officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols, but known as “Remain in Mexico”—was unlawful in the two border states under its jurisdiction: Arizona and California. The new order means asylum-seekers must now pin their hopes on the outcome of an expected formal appeal by the Trump administration—but that might not play out through the courts until early 2021. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Mexico
Mexico police

Mexico: crisis, militarization on both borders

There were scenes of chaos in Mexico’s northern border towns in response to rulings in rapid succession by a US federal appeals court on the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forces migrants and refugees seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while their claims are reviewed. Asylum-seekers who had been camped out for weeks in Matamoros, Ciudad Juárez, Nogales and Tijuana immediately amassed at the border crossings as the policy was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the crossings were closed, and hours later, the Ninth Circuit granted an emergency stay on the injunction, as requested by the administration. The gathered migrants were dispersed by Mexican security forces. Mexico has meanwhile deployed its new National Guard force to the southern border with Guatemala, to halt the flow of migrants though its territory, under pressure from the White House. (Photo: Mexico News Daily)

Mexico
desaparecidos

Mexico: 60,000 ‘disappeared’ in drug war

Mexican authorities announced that an estimated 61,637 people have disappeared amid the country’s drug war. A previous analysis in April 2018 put the figure at just 40,000. The new figure was calculated based on analysis of data from state prosecutors. While the cases analyzed date back as early as the 1960s, more than 97% of the cases have occurred since 2006, when then-president Felipe CalderĂłn began a military crackdown on drug traffickers. More than 5,000 people disappeared last year, according to Karla Quintana, head of Mexico’s National Search Commission. (Photo: WikiMedia)

Central America
Diana Isabel Hernández

Environmental defender slain in Guatemala

Environmental activist Diana Isabel Hernández was slain in an attack by armed men on a religious procession in her community of Monte Gloria,  in the Guatemalan department of SuchitepĂ©quez. Hernández was a leader of the Mujeres Madre Tierra Association, a group linked to the local Catholic church that worked to protect forests and promote organic agriculture. The Alianza por la Solidaridad human rights network denounced the slaying as a “cowardly murder that adds to the many cases of attacks on leaders who work for the common good.” The network counts 16 social leaders assassinated in Guatemala last year—compared to three in 2017. (Photo via InfoLibre)

New York City

NYC: outrage over automotive terror —at last

Hundreds of bicyclists staged a “die-in” in New York’s Washington Square Park, expressing outrage over the spate of killings of cyclists on the city’s streets. Three deaths came in a one-week period, finally prompting demands for public action: Robyn Hightman, a 20-year-old bicycle messenger and track racer, was killed by a truck driver in Manhattan. Ernest Askew, 57, riding an e-bike in Brooklyn, was hit and killed by a teen driver. And Devra Freelander, 28, an artist, was killed by a cement truck driver, also in Brooklyn. Hightman was the 12th cyclist killed on New York City streets in 2019; 10 were killed in all of 2018. (Photo: Streetsblog)