Biden admin to expand Title 42 expulsions
President Joe Biden on Jan. 5 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 has been in effect pursuant to a Centers for Disease Control order of March 2020 as a COVID-19 emergency measure.
El Salvador: warning for post-Roe US
The June 24 US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade comes six weeks after a court in El Salvador sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison after she suffered an obstetric emergency that resulted in termination of her pregnancy, according to a local advocacy group that was assisting in her defense. The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion (Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto-ACDATEE) denounced the sentence and said it would appeal the conviction. The woman, identified only as "Esme," was held in pre-trial detention for two years following her arrest when she sought medical care at a public hospital. She already had a seven-year-old daughter. (DW, May 11)
Honduras transition in the New Cold War
Hondurans last month elected Xiomara Castro of the left-populist LIBRE Party to be the country's first woman president, defeating Nasry Asfura of the conservative National Party. Taking office next month, Castro is to replace the National Party's President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose term has been plagued by scandal and accusations of ties to narco-trafficking. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro seems poised to revive his program—and take it much further. "Never again will the power be abused in this country," she declared upon her victory. She has proclaimed herself a "democratic socialist," and pledges to govern through a new model of "participatory democracy," placing a series of reforms before the voters through referenda or "consultas."
Accused author of Berta Cáceres murder on trial
The trial of the alleged mastermind behind the March 2016 murder of environmentalist Berta Cáceres began in Honduras on April 6. Cáceres was slain when a squad of gunmen invaded her home at the village of La Esperanza, Intibucá department. A visiting Mexican friend, Gustavo Castro, was also shot but survived. Cáceres had been campaigning against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, then under construction by company Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA). Four of eight defendants were each sentenced in December 2019 to 34 years in prison for the murder of Cáceres, and 16 years for the attempted murder of Castro. Three others were sentenced to 30 years as co-conspirators in the crime. In the new trial that opened in a Tegucigalpa court, a former DESA president and military intelligence officer, Roberto David Castillo, is charged with being the "intellectual author" of the murder.
Indigenous water protector slain in Honduras
On March 21—the eve of World Water Day—an indigenous activist who was leading the fight against construction of a hydroelectric dam was shot dead in front of his family in Honduras. Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante, a member of the Lenca indigenous people, was gunned down directly outside the church at the pueblo of Nueva Granada, in the Caribbean coast department of Cortés. He was on his way to visit his mother, and his children were beside him. Cerros Escalante led the local group Communities United, which is mobilizing residents along the Rio Ulúa to oppose El Tornillito hydro-dam. The pending project would displace 10 communities in the departments of Cortés and Santa Bárbara.
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 on Nov. 3. Two güiriseros, 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 to 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.
Biological police state preparations advance
As strongmen around the world exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to grab extraordinary powers, even democratic countries are putting unprecedented police-state measure into place in the supposed interest of a return to "normality." In the latter category is New Zealand, where a bill has been passed giving police sweeping powers to enter homes without warrants while enforcing new "Alert Level 2" rules. The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act creates a new corps of "enforcement officers" to track social contacts among the populace and conduct raids on the premises of suspected violators. (NZH)
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 on March 11 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 President Donald Trump's administration—but that might not play out through the courts until early 2021.
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