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)

Central America

Central America climate crisis fuels migration

Commentators have noted the roots of the current massive migration from Central America in the political economy of the free trade order. The US-led repression and counter-insurgency in the isthmus in the 1980s allowed the imposition of “free trade” or “neoliberal” regimes in the generation since then—culminating in the passage of CAFTA. This, in turn, has exacerbated the expropriation from the peasantry of their traditional lands by agribusiness and agro-export oligarchies. But this dynamic is now being augmented by factors related to political ecology—the degradation of the land itself due to climate destabilization. (Photo: IOM)

Mexico
Mexico police

Mexico: new security force to Guatemalan border

The first mission of the new security force created by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be blocking migrants on the Guatemalan border, evidently part of a deal struck with the Trump administration. Mexico has pledged to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border in an effort to avoid Trump’s threatened tariff on all exports to the United States. The deal was announced as Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is leading a Mexican delegation in talks with White House officials in Washington. Mexican officials said that 10 National Guard contingents of 450 to 600 troops each will be assigned to the border with Guatemala by September. The deployment would represent a fourfold increase on the 1,500 federal troops currently patrolling the border. A further three units will be deployed to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, to set up roadblocks and checkpoints to stop the movement of migrants. (Photo: Mexico News Daily)

North America

Demand investigation into death of migrant child

UN Special Rapporteur of the human rights of migrants Felipe González Morales called for an independent investigation into the death of Jakelin Ameí Caal, a Guatemalan migrant child who died while in US Customs and Border Protection. Jakelin was in custody, along with her family and other migrants, after crossing the Mexico border. The factual causes leading up to her death are currently disputed. In the report, Morales stresses the importance of finding out what happened to Jakelin, stating that "if any officials are found responsible they should be held accountable." (Photo via Jurist)

Central America

UN welcomes Guatemala court ruling on genocide

UN human rights experts welcomed a recent Guatemalan court ruling that the deaths of 1,771 ethnic Ixil Mayan people between 1983 and 1984 constituted a "genocide," stating: "Impunity for perpetrators is unacceptable." The deaths occurred during the 36-year-long Guatemalan civil war, in which 200,000 civilians were killed. It was determined that under "Operation Sofia," then-dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt had ordered the army to annihilate the entire Ixil population. Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide in 2013, but that verdict was overturned for procedural errors. Trial resumed last year, but Montt died in April 2018, before the case was concluded. (Photo via Jurist)