Border Patrol vehicle on patrol along the Arizona-Mexico border.
Photo: Arizona Public Media Staff
This Week in Latin America

US to re-implement border policy forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico

December 6, 2021 By Staff

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA

UNITED STATES: Joe Biden’s administration announced on Thursday that it will resume the controversial Trump-era border policy that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. immigration hearings

The Department of Homeland Security will re-implement the Trump policy known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) to comply with a federal court order.  The MPP ended soon after Biden’s inauguration in January to apparently carry out a more humane approach to immigration. 

Changes to the policy include that all migrants subject to the policy be vaccinated against COVID-19; adults will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and eligible children will receive the Pfizer shot. In addition, the Mexican government demanded major changes to improve the immigration court system and more protection in dangerous Mexican border cities. 

The Department of Homeland Security will be ready to re-implement MPP once the Mexican government makes a final decision to accept the return of migrants enrolled in the program, subject to “humanitarian improvements.” 

SOUTHERN CONE

ARGENTINA: A federal judge on Wednesday charged former president Mauricio Macri with illegally spying on the relatives of 44 sailors who died in a 2017 navy submarine accident. In a 170-page ruling, the judge stated that there was sufficient evidence that Macri had ordered the use of spy tactics to anticipate and prevent any legal claims from family members. 

Relatives of the deceased have long maintained that they were subject to intimidation and wiretapping since accusing the Navy of negligence.

The judge set bail at 100 million pesos (US $990,000) and prohibited Macri, who is presently in Chile, from leaving Argentina without permission. If convicted, the ex-president could face up to 10 years in prison.

BRAZIL: The Senate on Wednesday approved President Jair Bolsonaro’s choice for the Supreme Court, Andre Medonça. There were 47 votes in favor and 32 against.  This is the fewest votes in favor received by current supreme court justices.

Medonça previously served as Bolsonaro’s attorney general and justice minister.

He is also an evangelical pastor. During senate questioning, Medonça vowed to adhere to the principle of a secular state.

In July, Bolsonaro promised to install a “terribly Evangelical” candidate to the 11-member Supreme Court, appealing to religious conservatives who form a significant part of his supporter base ahead of next year’s Presidential elections.

Medonça replaces retired judge Marco Aurélio Mello and will assume his place on the bench on Dec. 16.

ANDES

BOLIVIA: Former interim president Jeanine Añez has been formally charged by the attorney general’s office for declaring herself president after the resignation of Evo Morales. 

Añez is accused of “resolutions contrary to the Constitution and the law, and breach of duties.” The two minor charges carry short prison sentences, but further investigations are underway for possible crimes of sedition, terrorism, and conspiracy to overthrow then-president Evo Morales in 2019. 

A separate investigation, known as Coup d’état II, will focus on alleged crimes committed during Añez’s time in office.

Añez is being held at a women’s prison in La Paz, where she’s been detained since March. Her defense has denied the accusations. 

VENEZUELA: An opposition candidate for governor in Hugo Chavez’s home state of Barinas, Freddy Superlano, was retroactively disqualified from the election before the vote count was completed. The count showed Superlano ahead of the incumbent Argenis Chávez, a brother of former president Chavez. 

Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled that Superlano was not eligible for office due to a 2019 administrative sanction related to his backing of opposition leader Juan Guaidó. 

The court scheduled a new gubernatorial election for January. The decision has led opposition groups to denounce the Nov. 21 regional elections as fraudulent. President Nicolas Maduro’s party won 20 out of 23 gubernatorial seats. 

Superlano responded on Saturday by introducing his wife, Aurora Silva de Superlano, as his party’s candidate for the rescheduled Jan. 9 election. 

CARIBBEAN 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC/HAITI: The Dominican Republic deported 819 Haitian women in November, about a fifth of whom were pregnant, according to a Haiti-based migration charity

In response to accounts of immigration officials entering hospitals to detain pregnant women and new mothers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday called on the government to guarantee migrants’ access to health care, regardless of regulatory status.

The government quickly issued a response, stating that it was not responsible for the “widespread poverty, inequality, and insecurity” that have pushed Haitians to seek health care across the border. 

In September, the Dominican Republic announced a policy to prevent the entry of migrants who would place an “unreasonable burden on public finances”, singling out women six months pregnant and over.

GUYANA: Former finance minister Winston Jordan was arrested on Thursday over allegations of financial misconduct during his time in the previous government (2015-2020). Jordan was soon released for medical attention after complaining of feeling unwell.

The white-collar crimes division of Guyana’s police force called Jordan in for questioning on Wednesday night as part of an investigation into the sale of previously state-owned wharf facilities to a private company in 2020.

Jordan became the third member of the previous government to be arrested on charges of financial misconduct in public office. The current administration has identified various contracts executed by the previous government that it intends to investigate.

CENTRAL AMERICA

BELIZE / HONDURAS: Belize’s House Speaker Valerie Woods visited Taiwan on Thursday to pledge support and further advance the bilateral relationship between the two countries amid questions about Honduras’ ties to Taiwan following a presidential election

Taiwan and Belize signed an economic cooperation agreement (ECA) in 2020 with the intent to strengthen economic ties. In October, Taiwan’s legislature unanimously ratified the agreement. 

The incoming Honduran administration announced on Thursday that they will not establish relations with China and continue as a political ally with Taiwan, which signals a reversal on President-elect Xiomara Castro’s pre-election stance.  

Belize and Honduras are two out of only 15 countries that established formal relations with Taiwan. Belize and Taiwan established diplomatic ties in 1989.  

PANAMA: To curb the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, Panama said on Thursday that it would temporarily ban the entry of travelers from eight African countries. 

Panama’s government said in a statement that the restriction applies to people who traveled to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, or Malawi within a 14-day period.

The restrictions also apply to land, sea, and private air travel. The government said that Panamanian nationals and residents must provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival to the country. Those who have not had a vaccination must quarantine. 

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the Mexican and U.S. international development agencies will work on a joint project aimed at mitigating the root causes of migration. 

The “Sembrando Oportunidades” project will combine efforts from the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (Amexcid) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to focus on Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Migrants from the three nations have been apprehended in both Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border in record numbers. The “Sembrando Oportunidades” project hopes to reduce migration and promote better governance in neglected sectors of the three Central American nations.