Today in Latin America
Top Story — U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday called for comprehensive immigration reform during a visit to the border city of El Paso, Texas.
Standing within feet of the United States border with Mexico, Obama tried to rally support for a proposal that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He also called out conservatives who argue that the United States should secure its own borders before liberalizing the country’s current immigration law.
“They wanted more agents at the border. Well, we now have more boots on the ground on the Southwest border than at any time in our history,” Obama said in a speech at the Chamizal National Memorial. “The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents, more than twice as many as there were in 2004.”
Besides increasing border patrols, the Obama administration has also increased cooperation with Mexico in fighting drug cartel violence. Officials say there has been a marked increased in the seizure of illegal drug and weapons and a 36 percent drop in undocumented immigration attempts.
Obama’s speech was laced with heavy political undertones as he tried to reassure Latino voters of his commitment to immigration before the 2012 election season kicks into high gear.
His visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, the first during his presidency, underscored a tension over his immigration record that could jeopardize his re-election prospects. While advocating heavily for immigration reform during his 2008 campaign, Obama has not pushed hard for the legislation in his first two years as president, during which Democrats controlled Congress.
With Republicans now holding control of the House of Representatives, there is little hope for any immigration reform legislation to pass. The stepped-up activities by Obama and members of his cabinet are meant to reinforce that the president is pressing the issue.
Democrats in the Senate announced late Tuesday that they would re-introduce the Dream Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for some students. Last year, the measure passed the House last year but died in the Senate.
“President Obama believes Democrats and Republicans should come together to tackle an issue that is critical not only to our national security but also to the economy and our global competiveness,” According to a White House statement on Obama’s visit to Texas. “In his recent meetings, the President has made clear he will continue to lead on this issue, but has asked these leaders to take a public and active role in elevating the immigration debate.”
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Mexican President Felipe Calderón blamed drug-related violence in the country on illegally imported U.S. firearms that have come into Mexico since a ban on assault weapons ended in 2004.
- U.S. Border Patrol agents found a “narcotunnel”, equipped with lighting and ventilation systems, that runs under the border between Arizona and Mexico.
- Prominent Cuban dissidents on Tuesday called for an international forensic investigation into the death of a fellow regime opponent who they say was beaten to death.
- The House on Tuesday asked the Obama administration to come up with an accounting of how humanitarian and reconstruction aid is being spent in Haiti.
- Haitian lawmakers have granted the diaspora the right to vote for the first time, a major political shift for the Caribbean nation as it seeks to recover from a catastrophic 2010 earthquake.
- A Guatemalan court has acquitted a former president, Alfonso Portillo, of charges that he embezzled state money.
- Human rights watchdog Amnesty International called upon the Salvadoran authorities Tuesday to protect journalists who fear for their lives after receiving a series of threats.
- A grand jury has charged a Swedish man with trying to sell weapons to Colombian guerrillas in exchange for cocaine, the latest in a series of “narco-terrorism” cases launched by U.S. prosecutors against alleged traffickers in other countries.
- Under Secretary of State William J. Burns and Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin signed a new air transport agreement Tuesday that will establish a bilateral Open Skies air transportation relationship.
- Leftist guerrillas with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) offered Venezuela’s intelligence agency “training in urban terrorism involving targeted killings” and suggested they were willing to assassinate opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, according to a new study of the Colombian rebels’ records.
- Power shortages hit Venezuela again after several months of respite, plunging large areas, including homes and factories, into darkness.
- Lidia Gueiler, the only woman ever to have been Bolivia’s president, died Monday at age 89.
- Less than a month ahead of Peru’s presidential election, uncertainty over the economic policies of the next ruler is spurring many foreign investors to scale back their exposure.
- The last suspect of a drug-trafficking ring that used a Brazilian Air Force cargo plane 12 years ago to fly cocaine to Europe has been arrested, police said Tuesday.
- Chileans in at least nine cities protested Monday after authorities voted to approve the first environmental impact study for a $7 billion hydroelectric project in Patagonia that could flood 14,600 acres of land.
- Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced Tuesday that a new YPF oil discovery in Neuquén province could represent a 6 percent increase in the country’s reserves.
Image: Pete Souza @ Whitehouse.gov.