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Archive for the ‘Latin America’ Category

Today in Latin America: November 24, 2015

Dominican Republic Issues Arrest Warrants for Fugitives in France

Top Story — The Dominican Republic has issued arrest warrants for three French nationals on people-smuggling charges related to their alleged role in the Oct. 27 escape of two French pilots from the Dominican Republic. In an interview with Paris Match magazine last month, the three men —including right-wing member of the European Parliament Aymeric Chauprade and Pierre Malinowski, assistant to the controversial right-wing French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen— claimed they helped to arrange the escape to free “compatriots in danger” who had been convicted of cocaine trafficking.

The pilots, Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos, were sentenced to 20 years in prison in August of this year after allegedly being caught in the resort town of Punta Cana with 1,500 pounds of cocaine aboard a privately hired jet in March of 2013.

The two were on house arrest awaiting an appeal in the case when they reportedly left the island on a tourist ship before transferring to another vessel on its way to the French Antilles. The escape was reportedly accomplished with the help of Chauprade and his conspirators before flying to Paris. Fauret and Odos were arrested in France on Nov. 2 in connection with the case.

According to Dominican Attorney General Francisco Domínguez Brito, the country has also engaged the international policing organization Interpol’s “Red Notice” system to help capture the three conspirators should they leave France.

Legal analysts have said that the extradition of Fuaret and Odos to the Dominican Republic is unlikely.


North America

The Associated Press reported Monday on kidnappings in Mexico conducted by corrupt police, who often work in tandem with local cartels and operate with impunity.

A 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Monday, causing buildings in Mexico City to shake and workers to evacuate their offices, although no casualties were immediately reported.

Texas on Monday filed an extension request with the U.S. Supreme Court related to its attempt to block President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, which if successful, would mean delaying a ruling on the case until Obama leaves office.


Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez will reportedly meet with officials from across Central America in El Salvador on Tuesday to discuss the matter of the more than 2,000 Cuban migrants currently stranded in Costa Rica on their way to the United States. The AP reports that the historic exodus of Cubans to the United States —some 45,000 are expected to travel this year by land to the Texas and California borders—has been fueled by social media.

Central America

Honduras is considering asylum requests made by five Syrians arrested in the country on their way to the United States with stolen Greek passports, and should finalize the decision by the end of the week, a government official said on Monday.

Climate change is partly responsible for the recent shift Guatemala’s climate patterns, which are destabilizing farming practices for the country’s poorest citizens, according to an in-depth report by the International Business Times.


Venezuela’s political opposition is celebrating the presidential victory of Mauricio Macri in Argentina as a sign of its own chances to defeat leftist politics, which will come to a head in parliamentary elections on Dec. 6 when they run against the ruling Socialist Party.

A U.S. judge criticized prosecutors in Colombia for supposedly deplorable prison conditions in the detention center where a U.S. tech-company CEO was awaiting extradition. The CEO has since been moved.

Southern Cone

The financial analysis company Standard & Poor’s reduced the credit rating of Brazilian mining company Samarco Mineração on Monday to a speculative non-investment grade in light of its lethal dam burst earlier this month.

Argentina’s President-elect Mauricio Macri announced swift political reforms on Monday, including plans to suspend Venezuela from regional free trade organization Mercosur, replace officials in the country’s central bank and change the current fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar.

The trade minister of Brazil told Reuters he foresees improved economic relations with Argentina under Macri, with the possibility to increase trade flow between the two countries.

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The next TODAY IN LATIN AMERICA will be published on Monday, November 30. 

Today in Latin America: November 23, 2015

Rejecting Peronism, Argentina Elects Mauricio Macri

Top Story – Center-right candidate Mauricio Macri won Argentina’s runoff presidential election on Sunday, The Associated Press reported, defeating the ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli and marking the end of 12 years of left-leaning governance under President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband Nestor.

The election is the second round of an upset for Scioli, as he was favored to beat Macri by a great enough margin in the initial Oct. 25 elections to win outright. Macri’s “Let’s Change” campaign coalition, however, brought in more votes than expected, leading to Argentina’s first ever presidential runoff.

Scioli was expected to keep many of the populist “Peronist” social welfare policies of the Kirchners in place as president. Human rights groups endorsed him last week in part for his stance on the pursuit of justice regarding Argentina’s dictatorship, which aligned with the approach of the Kirchners.

Macri, who has served as mayor of Buenos Aires since 2007, is a prominent businessman and the son of one of the richest men in Argentina. He pledged to cut inflation, attract more foreign investment and foster a pro-business environment, policy proposals that garnered criticism from Scioli who referred to him as a proponent of “savage capitalism”. Macri also pledged to end controls on the purchasing of U.S. dollars, which is expected to result in a steep devaluation of the Argentine peso. Macri is also expected to negotiate a new settlement with the so-called “holdout” creditors who purchased Argentine debt following a default in 2001.


North America

The World Trade Organization ruled in favor of Mexico in a dispute stemming from 2009, in which the United States argued it should be allowed to reject imports of tuna that was not caught using so-called “dolphin-safe” methods.

U.S. authorities on Sunday confirmed they detained five Syrian refugees who turned themselves in at the border with Mexico, following a similar detention on Tuesday.

Through a hedging arrangement with several large banks, Mexico will make some $6 billion by selling oil at a price of more than $30 a barrel higher than the severely depressed price of the commodity.


The assistant of the CEO of Puerto Rico’s Doral Bank was arrested on Friday after being charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly holding back information from FBI investigators looking into possible corruption at the bank.

The Wall Street Journal on Sunday explored the increasing study of English in Cuba, where Russian was long the second language taught in schools.

Haitian presidential candidate Jovenel Moïse visited Miami on Sunday, where he brushed off questions about fraud in last month’s primary elections. Calling for the primary election results to be thrown out, thousands took to the streets in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Friday, clashing with government supporters in protests that left one dead.

Central America

Honduras detained a Syrian woman and two Pakistanis travelling by bus from Nicaragua Saturday, prompting an investigation into whether the trio is connected to the five Syrian men who were detained in Honduras with fake passports last week.

Guatemala’s Congress voted to pass a so-called “anti-coyote” law that would impose harsher sentences for anyone who helps smuggle migrants, an apparent response to pressure from the United States to stop human trafficking.

Guatemalan authorities discovered a tunnel at a maximum security prison just outside of the capital on Friday, in time to prevent a planned jailbreak.

Regional representatives will soon meet to discuss the dilemma of 2,500 Cuban immigrants are still stranded in Costa Rica, most living in one of the seven makeshift shelters.


Colombia’s government announced it will pardon 30 FARC guerrillas currently serving prison sentences in an effort to build confidence and expedite peace talks in Havana, Cuba.

On Saturday, Colombia’s army seized 961 kilograms of an explosive mixture from the ELN guerrillas who have frequently used it to attack troops, civilians and infrastructure.

Venezuela’s opposition said that candidate Miguel Pizarro and his supporters were confronted by gun who fired shots at their campaign caravan in Caracas’ large Petare slum.

Poverty in Venezuela has hit an all-time high of some 73 percent of households, a rise from 48 percent in 2014, according to a new study by researchers from three Venezuelan universities.

In light of anti-Syrian refugee sentiment following the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, NPR remembers Bolivia’s open door policy towards refugees in the 1940s, even as the rest of the world was tightening its borders.

Southern Cone

Toxic mining waste from Brazil’s burst dams earlier this month has now reached the Atlantic Ocean, according to environmental agency Ibama, following what has been called one of Brazil’s worst-ever environmental disasters.

Brazil’s water crisis is worsening as a drought in the southeast continues at unprecedented levels, in part because deforestation has reportedly caused rainfall to drop, leading to harsh rationing for São Paulo residents struggle with rationing.

France announced it will share counterterrorism intelligence with Brazil before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, although Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes has said the events’ security plan has so far been unchanged.

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Today in Latin America: November 20, 2015

Report: More Mexicans Leaving the United States Than Arriving

Top Story — More Mexicans are now leaving the United States than arriving, a new Pew Research Center report released on Thursday revealed. Data from the center’s 2014 Mexican National Survey showed that more than one million Mexicans and their families left the United States for Mexico from 2009 to 2014, compared with 870,000 Mexicans who came to the United States during that same period—a net loss of some 140,000 people.

The report comes after deportations hit a record high under the Obama administration in 2013, but the majority of those who returned to Mexico said that they did so of their own accord. Increased efforts to secure the border and rising drug war-related violence has also made crossing back into the United States a more dangerous and costly affair.

The majority of Mexicans who returned home did so to reunify with family there, but the slow post-recession economic recovery in industries like construction has also contributed to the shift. An aging population in Mexico has also decreased competition for employment there, as the older generation moves into retirement.

Mexicans comprise the largest portion of the U.S. immigrant population and made up 28 percent of all new immigrants who came to the United States in 2013. While more than 16 million Mexicans migrated to the United States between 1965 and 2015, researchers say that the recent decline marks the end of this period of mass migration.


North America

Mastercard, along with the Florida-based Stonegate Bank, have announced that U.S. citizens will now be able to use their debit cards in Cuban restaurants, hotels and shops, thus becoming one of the first U.S. financial services to operate in Cuba as relations between the two countries improve.

In the midst of heightened suspicion of Syrian refugees, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that two Syrian families, consisting of eight people, turned themselves in to immigration authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border. One Afghan and five Pakistanis trying to cross into the United States from Mexico were apprehended on Monday, but despite hand-wringing over the possibility of terrorists entering the United States from Mexico, officials said none of the migrants detained this week has any history of radical or violent activity.


In Puerto Rico, legislators are attempting to tackle the island’s debt by moving forward on a bill that would give a fiscal control board more authority to endorse fiscal reform plans.

A new report by Amnesty International has accused the Dominican Republic of engaging in human rights abuses by systematically denying rights and citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Central America

In an attempt to find a solution for the roughly 2,400 Cubans currently stranded in Costa Rica on their way to the United States, Costa Rican officials announced Thursday that they will work with 12 other countries in the region, including Cuba and Ecuador, in an upcoming meeting of the so-called Central American Integration System in El Salvador on Nov. 23.

The Conguate, an 18-year-old coalition of Guatemalan migrants living in the United States, has traveled to Guatemala City to present to the government their demands for more awareness of migrant conditions.

The five Syrians detained on Tuesday in Honduras with stolen Greek passports, four of them students, say they were making their way to the United States in order to seek refugee status.

José Antonio Lacayo, Nicaragua’s former cabinet chief, was found dead late Wednesday after he was reported missing from a helicopter crash that killed the other passengers.


Election officials in Venezuela have banned advertisements by the small MIN Unity party, which they say was intentionally attempting to confuse voters by using the same slogan and logo as main opposition party MUD Unity, even going so far as to run a candidate with the exact same name as the incumbent in one district.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that he will launch a formal protest and review his country’s relationship with the United States following a Wednesday report in The Intercept that revealed U.S. spying on Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company.

Although Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has proposed to amend his country’s constitution so that he can’t seek re-election in 2017, a new amendment cleared Wednesday night would allow Correa to run again in 2021, a move the opposition is calling unconstitutional.

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of peace talks between Colombia’s government and FARC rebels in Havana, Cuba. In an interview with the BBC, President Juan Manuel Santos said he will “be in serious difficulty” if the Colombian people ultimately reject the peace deal.

Ecuador has said that it will honor a $650 million foreign debt payment due on Dec. 15 —the first time the country has repaid a bond in 180 years— as President Rafael Correa aims to restore investor confidence and reverse the country’s reputation as a serial defaulter.

Southern Cone

Argentina’s presidential candidates Daniel Scioli and Mauricio Macri argued Thursday over a comment Scioli made indicating that Argentine native Pope Francis supported him over Macri. As of now, opposition candidate Macri, considered to be more “market-friendly,” appears set to win Sunday’s presidential election as he leads Scioli by as many as eight percentage points in polls. The BBC spoke with supporters of each candidate to assess what they believe should be the priorities of the new government.

A Brazilian police officer has been charged with homicide over the April death of Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira, a 10-year-old boy whom officers had claimed was caught in crossfire during an operation against suspected drug traffickers.

Brazilian mining company Samarco announced Thursday that it has been ordered to pay 112 million reales (U.S. $30 million) for the environmental damage caused by the Nov. 5 rupture of one of its dams, which left at least 11 people dead. Samarco is already paying some $78 million in compensation for those affected by the disaster.

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Today in Latin America: November 19, 2015

NSA Targeted Venezuela State Oil Company: The Intercept

Top Story — An internal National Security Agency memo obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals a spying scheme into Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company Petróleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, The Intercept reported on Thursday.

The Intercept’s investigation suggests the cache of PdVSA documents retrieved by the NSA may have played a role in the U.S. government’s recent, wide-ranging probe into corruption in Venezuela’s oil sector.

The memo, dated March 23, 2011, was published by a signals analyst in the NSA’s internal bulletin, SIDtoday. According to The Intercept, the analyst describes finding a “goldmine” of electronic communications exchanged between key PdVSA officials, which allowed him to compile information on more than 10,000 employees as well as 900 account passwords. The analyst turned the passwords over to the NSA’s hacking division, Tailored Access Operations, which the German magazine Der Spiegel previously described as “the intelligence agency’s top secret weapon.”

“By sheer luck, (and a ton of hard work) I discovered an important new access to an existing target and am working with TAO to leverage a new mission capability,” The Intercept quotes the analyst as writing.

In October, The Wall Street Journal reported on a series of probes by multiple U.S. government agencies into corruption within PdVSA, and whether kickbacks, money laundering and black-market currency operations ultimately cost the South American country billions of dollars. The wide-ranging investigation, according to the New York Times, reflected a strategy by the Obama administration to widen the scope of sanctions to target corruption, in addition to human rights violations. U.S. President Barack Obama in March implemented sanctions against Venezuelan officials both accused of human rights violations and corruption.

“That the NSA had obtained access to the electronic communications networks of key PDVSA officials,” writes The Intercept, “raises the question of whether the agency’s spying has secretly aided the criminal investigations into corruption as well as other government actions targeting the company.”

The Intercept published its investigation in partnership with TeleSUR, the media conglomerate owned mostly by Venezuela’s government.

The latest revelations provoked immediate outrage by Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, threatening to further derail the strained U.S.-Venezuela relationship. In June, high-ranking diplomats from Venezuela and the United States met in Haiti, part of a broader effort toward a thaw in relations, a U.S. official told Reuters afterward.


North America

Mexican police on Wednesday announced the arrest of Iván Cazarín Molina, an alleged top lieutenant of the rapidly ascendant Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, who was reportedly involved in the cartel’s downing in May of a military helicopter.

Mexico detained around 73 percent more migrants between July 2014 and June of this year than in the previous 12-month period, a marked increase that has been accompanied by a rising numbers of abuses against migrants as Mexico has cracked down on security at its southern border.

Delta Air Lines announced it plans to buy up to 32 percent more of Grupo Aeromexico in what could be an almost $600 million cash deal, in a move to raise competition with American Airlines Group.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox said that the legalization of marijuana is inevitable following his country’s Supreme Court ruling, and that even drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin will become legally available within the decade.

U.S. officials stopped a passenger arriving in Los Angeles International Airport from Mexico for attempting to bring 450 “illegal” tamales into the country, because they contained pork, an import banned under customs regulations due to health concerns.


Two of Haiti’s presidential candidates, Steven Benoit and Moïse Jean-Charles, said they were injured in a protest against alleged fraud during the country’s Oct. 25 elections when police fired tear gas and shots at demonstrators. A third candidate said the police threatened him and his supporters with arrest.

Cuba and the United States signed the first joint environmental agreement Wednesday since resuming diplomatic relations, which aims to protect a wide range of fish and coral reefs in the shared seas between the countries’ coasts.

Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro García Padilla is planning to convene an extra session of the legislature in the first week of December after lawmakers failed to address his proposed bill that would restructure the island’s main electric utility. On Dec. 1 $355 million of government bonds will be due.

Central America

Honduras detained five Syrian nationals who were attempting to travel to the United States with stolen Greek passports, through police report there is no indication the men were linked to last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Police in Nicaragua are still searching for José Antonio Lacayo, who served as the country’s cabinet chief from 1990 to 1997, after a Monday helicopter crash that is confirmed to have killed three others.


The Clinton Foundation is reportedly running a $20 million private equity fund out of its Bogotá office, aimed at supporting small- and medium-sized Colombian businesses, a practice the U.S. consumer watchdog Public Citizen described to the conservative news site the Washington Free Beacon as “very concerning.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview with the BBC that he will “be in serious difficulty” if a planned referendum on a peace deal his government is finalizing with the guerrillas of the FARC in Havana does not pass, although he expressed confidence that it will.

Southern Cone

A Brazilian blogger who wrote about corruption among police and politicians was shot dead last Friday after receiving threats about his work, the latest of at least four other Brazilian journalists who have been killed for their work this year.

Multiple Argentine human rights groups focused on investigating forced disappearances and killings during the country’s dictatorship endorsed ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli for Sunday’s presidential runoff election in response to opposition candidate and front-runner Mauricio Macri’s criticism of outgoing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s efforts to uncover past human rights abuses as “vindictive.”

Thousands of black women demonstrated in Brazil’s capital on Wednesday to highlight various social issues they say disproportionately affect them, including lower pay as well as higher rates of illiteracy, homicide and death during childbirth.

Anglo-Australian mining company Samarco Mineração SA warned Wednesday that two more of its Brazil dams could be in danger of failure just weeks after the collapse of two other dams operated in part by the company that caused massive flooding in the state of Minas Gerais.

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O’Malley Audio: ‘Immigrants Do Not Take Our Jobs’

The day after he appeared on a Democratic debate stage in Des Moines with fellow presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley made an Iowa campaign stop at a bar in Cedar Falls, where he was asked a question about immigration:

While one questioner did not like [O’Malley’s] immigration reform proposals, worrying about losing jobs and not penalizing law-breaking, O’Malley stressed the outdated policies means there is no “line” for people to gain citizenship and said it’s a falsehood immigrants will cause a loss in jobs.

An O’Malley supporter who was at the Cedar Falls event recorded O’Malley’s complete answer and sent it to NPR’s Latino USA. Here is the clip:

“Look, immigrants do not take our jobs. In fact though, if we allow 11 million people and nobody has a plan for sending 11 million people back. I sat with a family the other day and they have three kids in our country. Two of them came here when they were 4 or 5 years old. A third daughter was born in the United States and that family’s in danger even though they’ve been here for 25 years or 20 years, is in danger of being broken up. Of having those, their parents sent back and having their kids left orphans. So I don’t believe that by breaking up families we make our country stronger. And I know this, when you have people that have to live in the shadow economy, that’s a drag on wages for everybody. When people are on the books that…[applause]

And we have created a bit of a Catch-22. In other words, since we haven’t updated our immigration policy since the 1960s, it’s easy to say, well why don’t they just get in line? But there’s really no line with an ending that these folks can get into. And that’s why we need to reform our immigration policies, upgrade it, make it more modern, and that will allow us then to do a better job of not only controlling our boarders, but of having a sensible immigration policy that has a predictable path to citizenship for those who want to come here, for those that we educate here and now send home, or worse, some of these other policies that are still in place like the 3/10 year bar. So that’s what I’m for.”

The last part of O’Malley’s comments referred to the “3/10 year bar,” an immigration provision many advocates believe should be reformed. As the American Immigration Council explains:

“Most Americans take it for granted that marriage to a U.S. citizen and other family relationships entitle an immigrant to a green card, but there are barriers that often prevent or delay these family members from becoming lawful permanent residents, even if they are already in the United States.  Among these barriers are the “three- and ten-year bars,” provisions of the law which prohibit applicants from returning to the United States if they were previously in the U.S. illegally. Thousands of people who qualify for green cards based on their relationships to U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives leave the U.S. to obtain their green card are caught in a Catch-22—under current law they must leave the country to apply for their green card abroad, but as soon as they leave, they are immediately barred from re-entering the U.S. for three or ten years.”

The Cedar Falls remarks from O’Malley come at a time where the issues of immigration and entry into the United States continue to dominate the political media, especially in light of the November 13 attack on Paris. Several Republican candidates and GOP governors are asking that Syrian refugees be banned from entering the United States.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that the United States has always “welcomed immigrants and refugees”  and that “we have made people feel that if they did their part, they sent their kids to school, they worked hard, there would be a place for them in America.” However, some critics are pointing to 2014 comments from Clinton where she said that Central American migrants should be “sent back.” Earlier this year, Clinton clarified her comments, but did not fully change her 2014 position. Sanders this week said that the United States “will not turn our backs on the refugees who are fleeing Syria and Afghanistan. We will do what we do best and that is be Americans – fighting racism, fighting xenophobia, fighting fear.”

O’Malley, who was one of the first high-profile Democrats to call last year’s Central American events “a humanitarian crisis,” continues to criticize Clinton about this topic. The Maryland governor, who trails both Clinton and Sanders, has also reiterated that the U.S. should take in 65,000 Syrian refugees, a number much greater than the 10,000 President Barack Obama is calling for.

Featured image: File photo of Martin O’Malley in Boston, September 2015 (Latino USA)

Today in Latin America: November 18, 2015

Cuba Blames U.S. Policy for Migrant Surge

Top Story — Cuban officials have blamed U.S. policy for the recent surge in migration from the island to the United States, which has created a border crisis in Central America. In a statement issued Tuesday, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations said that the Cold War-era “wet-foot, dry foot” policy, which eases the residency process for Cubans who make it to U.S. soil, contradicts the current efforts to normalize relations between the two countries.

The recent influx of Cuban migrants traveling by land over Central America has resulted in a dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Costa Rican officials announced Tuesday plans to establish a “humanitarian corridor” for the safe passage of Cuban migrants who are being refused entry into Nicaragua. That announcement comes after Nicaragua sent hundreds of Cubans back to Costa Rica on Sunday, claiming that their southern neighbor was triggering a humanitarian crisis by issuing transit visas to such a large number of migrants.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González said that more than 2,000 Cubans are currently stuck at the border. Some 300 Cubans are estimated to arrive daily at Costa Rica’s southern border with Panama.

Many Cuban migrants fear that this may be their last chance to take advantage of the “wet-foot, dry foot” policy, though U.S. officials say that there has been no discussion of changing the law. Cubans seeking to reach the United States often fly first to Ecuador, which does not require them to obtain a visa, and then make the journey north from there.

The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 9,300 Cubans have registered with Mexican immigration officials since January in order to travel safely through the country to the U.S.-Mexico border. This contrasts with a 79 percent increase in deportations of Central American migrants from Mexico in response to U.S. pressure following an influx of migrants fleeing violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Several U.S. lawmakers whose families fled to the United States from Cuba drew criticism on Tuesday for their views on allowing Syrian refugees into the country in the wake of Friday’s Paris attacks. Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who arrived as a child when her own family fled Cuba, argued that Syrian refugees should be thoroughly vetted before being allowed entry. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz, whose father fled Cuba, proposed a bill to block Syrian muslim refugees from entering the United States.


The last few weeks have been huge for Colombia’s LGBT community. Last month, the country’s first openly gay candidate for political office was elected mayor in a small city. Then, last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that adoption agencies can not discriminate against LGBT couples. But as Jessica Diaz-Hurtado reports from Colombia, some are saying much more is needed.


North America

The United States has accepted six minors from El Salvador seeking asylum, the first asylum seekers to be accepted as part of a State Department program launched almost a year ago to allow children to enter the United States to reunite with their parents.

The majority of U.S. voters in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee approve of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, as well as a lifting of travel and trade restrictions, a poll conducted by the Atlantic Council has found.

A New York Times feature explores the difficulties faced by Mexico’s Low German-speaking Mennonite community in the state of Chihuahua, many of whom are preparing to leave the country as groundwater in their community becomes scarce.


Five judges in the Dominican Republic have been suspended, three of them without pay, and are now facing accusations of having accepted bribes to release known criminals from prison, a claim the judges are denying.

In Puerto Rico, lawmakers will likely attend a special legislative meeting to decide whether to support a bill that proposes to restructure the Electric Power Authority’s $8.2 billion debt.

Haiti’s runoff presidential election scheduled for Dec. 27 has been tainted by further doubts after election officials refused requests to introduce an independent commission tasked with verifying the preliminary election results from Oct. 25.

Central America

A helicopter crash in southern Nicaragua has claimed the lives of two Americans and the Nicaraguan pilot, while former presidential minister Antonio Lacayo, who was also on board, is reported missing.

A new police study in El Salvador has determined that almost 70 percent of the country’s murder victims have no gang affiliations, a discovery that challenges the pervading assumption that the country’s high murder rate primarily affects those with criminal ties.

In Honduras, violence against women has escalated to the point that a woman is murdered every 16 hours, according to a statement made on Tuesday by the country’s Women’s Rights Center.


Bolivian President Evo Morales has faced criticism for making a joke during an official ceremony that suggested Heath Minister Ariana Campero was a lesbian. Campero has faced sexist comments from high-ranking officials in the past, including when Vice President Álvaro García Linera told her to “get married.”

Many universities in Venezuela have suffered crippling budget cuts or closures because of the country’s economic crisis, The Los Angeles Times reports, leaving 380,000 students without a school and prompting 1,000 professors to quit their jobs in the last two years.

Southern Cone

Efforts to avert another dam break prompted Brazilian mining company Samarco, whose mining reservoirs broke earlier this month killing 12, to begin emergency work on two more of their iron waste-water dams that the company says show structural damage.

Prosecutors brought charges against Argentina’s central bank of selling U.S. dollar reserves below international market value—claims that the bank denies as political slander against its president, but which the police investigated Tuesday in a raid of the establishment.

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Today in Latin America: November 17, 2015

Brazil Police Investigate Mob Killing in Wealthy Rio Neighborhood

Police in Rio de Janeiro on Monday announced they will investigate the apparent mob killing of an ice vendor in the city’s beachfront neighborhood of Ipanema over the weekend, The Associated Press reported.

The death of Fabiano Machado da Silva, 33, is the most recent episode of vigilante justice to receive national attention in a country where high rates of lynching continue to capture media attention.

Silva was beaten to death by approximately 10 assailants after getting into an altercation with two women leaving a beach party, according to witnesses and security footage released to the local media (link in Portuguese).

Vigilante killings are common in Brazil and have reportedly been on the rise. The country sees an estimated one attempt at mob justice per day, up from four per week until mid-2013, according to the sociologist José de Souza Martins, who studies the phenomenon.

Rio de Janeiro has the second-highest rate of mob killings in the country after São Paulo, according to research conducted by the University of São Paulo’s Violence Studies Center.

In September, Rio de Janeiro’s secretary of security expressed concern over future acts of vigilantism in the same upscale Rio neighborhood where Silva was killed, after a wave of organized muggings prompted social media users to advocate for mob justice.


North America

The major U.S. automakers Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, in an effort to capitalize on significantly lower labor costs in Mexico, have indicated they plan to increase the production of cars there bound for the U.S. market by 250 percent before 2020.

Chevrolet’s Aveo, the most popular small car sold in the Mexican market, has failed key safety tests by an independent safety group, highlighting carmakers’ overall lower safety standards in Latin America.


Cuban migrants seeking to enter the United States have registered with the Mexican government for safe travel through the country at a rate five times higher than in 2014, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Puerto Ricans are preparing for nearly $3 billion in funding cuts to Medicare and Medicaid on the island by the year 2017, a move one top health official said will prompt “collapse” in the local healthcare system.

Central America

A Guatemalan army officer was doused with gasoline and set on fire by members of a moto-taxi association who were protesting rampant extortion in the southwestern department of Retalhuleu.

The recent border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica over the status of Cuban migrants has reportedly inflamed diplomatic tensions between the two countries, prompting Nicaragua to file complaints with international bodies for an alleged violation of its sovereignty, and Costa Rica to claim that the latest crisis distracts from a pending International Court of Justice decision over a long-standing border dispute.


Colombia’s guerrilla National Liberation Army freed two soldiers who had been captured during combat on Oct. 26 and held as hostages, according to a Monday announcement by the Red Cross.

The head of Venezuela’s legislature claimed Monday that the two nephews of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores who were charged by the U.S. with attempting to smuggle 800 kilos of cocaine from Haiti last week were actually “kidnapped” by U.S. agents in New York following their extradition in order to sabotage the Venezuelan government ahead of important congressional elections.

In a New York Times interview of U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker, the diplomat characterized the $10 billion in aid to the country since 1999 under Plan Colombia as a success, arguing the military aid package saved Colombia from becoming a “failed state.”

Bolivia announced Monday it will pay Spain’s electric utility company Iberdrola $34 million for compensation for the 2012 nationalization of its electricity distribution subsidiaries, part of President Evo Morales’ broader nationalistic approach to energy.

Southern Cone

Both of Argentina’s presidential candidates Daniel Scioli and Mauricio Macri agree Argentina needs a more open economy, though the candidates disagree on the necessary scale and speed of reform.

The relatively conservative Macri remains ahead in the polls after Scioli’s failure to deliver a “clear blow” during Sunday’s televised debate.

New evidence surrounding Brazil’s ongoing investigation into the Petrobas corruption scandal was released Monday, indicating that bribes were paid as part of the state-run oil company’s $1.2 billion purchase of a Texas refinery company in 2006.

Meanwhile, a Brazilian congressional ethics committee decided to investigate whether lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha, accused of receiving kickbacks as part of the Petrobas scandal, gave false testimony during a corruption hearing, threatening the career of Cunha, the only legislator with the authority to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff.

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Today in Latin America: November 16, 2015

Nicaragua Closes Border to Cuban Migrants Moving North to United States

Top Story — Nicaragua shut down its border with Costa Rica on Sunday to keep more than 1,000 Cubans from entering the country. The move by Nicaraguan authorities is a direct rebuke to their Costa Rican counterparts’ decision, one day earlier, to grant transit visas to the migrants—a decision that the administration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said will set off a humanitarian crisis.

The border crisis comes amid increasing tensions over the rising number of Cubans crossing Central America on their way to the United States in order to circumvent the heavily patrolled Florida Straits and to take advantage of special immigration arrangements that date back to the Cold War.

The “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, as it is informally known, protects Cubans from deportation from the moment they set foot on U.S. soil. Such protection does not extend to migrants captured at sea. Owing to the thawing of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, many on the island nation fear that the policy may soon be discontinued — a fear that, according to analysts, accounts for the recent wave of Cuban migration to the United States.

Costa Rican authorities on Friday detained the Cuban migrants at the border with Panama, setting off protests that temporarily blocked the Inter-American Highway. The government reversed course on Saturday, providing the migrants with a transit visa that gave them seven days to cross into Nicaragua.

Conflicting reports emerged on Sunday from the Peñas Blancas border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, where Nicaraguan police turned away hundreds of Cuban migrants who had either entered the country or were attempting to cross the border. Police members said the migrants caused “serious altercations” and “material damages” after storming the border crossing, according to Agence France-Presse. The Tico Times reports that riot police reacted to the migrants’ attempts to cross by firing shots and tear gas.

“The Costa Rican government, in a deliberate and irresponsible action, hurled and continues hurling thousands of Cuban citizens at Nicaragua’s southern border posts,” the Ortega administration said in a statement. Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González, in turn, condemned Nicaragua’s “totally irresponsible” decision to shutter its border, according to The Tico Times.


North America

A committee in Mexico’s lower house of Congress voted to end the practice of pegging the country’s minimum wage to a series of prices and fees, a move that sets the stage for a potential national minimum wage increase. Mexico’s current daily minimum wage is one of the lowest in Latin America.

Mexican officials have extradited alleged Sinaloa cartel drug trafficker César Gastélum Serrano to the United States, marking a shift in Mexican extradition policy following the escape of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán from prison in July.

Cal State Long Beach design student Nohemi Gonzalez was one of the victims in Friday’s terror attacks in Paris that claimed the lives of 129 people.


In an interview with the Miami Herald, Haiti’s Prime Minister Evans Paul supported the request for an independent verification of the country’s Oct. 25 presidential election results, a call that came from a group of disaffected candidates who claim the election was marred by fraud and corruption.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack became the third cabinet secretary to visit Cuba this year after holding a series of meetings with Cuban agricultural officials on Friday. Vilsack’s visit further marked an effort by the Obama administration to deepen trade discussions ahead of the one-year anniversary of the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Central America

A Honduran court has sentenced opposition journalist David Romero to eight years in prison for insulting the wife of a prosecutor, a punishment that Romero claims is retribution for his role in uncovering a public embezzlement scandal that implicated President Juan Orlando Hernández.

A Los Angeles Times report notes that Central American families and children fleeing violence are entering the United States at a rate more than double the previous year, a sign that analysts say could signify a surge of migration in 2016.


FARC rebels in Colombia have called on the government to release 81 of its jailed fighters, who rebels say are in need of medical attention.

If the Colombian peace process is successful, the government’s most immediate challenge will be to convince more than 6,000 FARC rebels to put down their weapons, according to a piece in The Washington Post that investigates the obstacles to disarmament.

The Associated Press explored the allegedly widespread problem of confusing ballots in Venezuela ahead of Dec. 6 congressional elections, which some say is a desperate tactic by the government to hold onto power despite low poll ratings. More than 150 lawmakers from the region are urging President Nicolás Maduro to allow international observers into the country to monitor Dec. 6 legislative elections. Venezuela has accepted monitors from the Unasur bloc of South American countries, but not from the Washington-based Organization of American States.

Drug enforcement agents seized more than 419 kilos of marijuana in an abandoned car in the town of Oruro, Bolivia, after it had been smuggled from Paraguay.

Southern Cone

Argentina’s presidential candidates —Daniel Scioli of the ruling party and opposition candidate Mauricio Macri— attacked each other on Sunday in the country’s first-ever televised head-to-head candidates’ debate.

Around 3,000 people staged a protest Sunday in the Brazilian capital Brasilia against President Dilma Rousseff, with a small group of far-right protesters going so far as to call for a military coup against the increasingly unpopular leader.

The devastating collapse of two dams in Brazil has limited drinking water for some 250,000 people, and could cause long-lasting environmental damage due to flooding that has filled downstream waterways with mineral waste.

Cities around the world held vigils in honor of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, including a group that gathered with “Rio est Paris” signs in front of the famed Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Today in Latin America: November 12, 2015

Two Nephews of Venezuelan First Lady Extradited to U.S. on Drug Charges

Top Story — Two nephews of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores were arrested on Tuesday in Haiti for their alleged attempt to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. Efraín Campos and Francisco Flores were extradited to New York, where they will appear in federal court on Thursday, according to a U.S. law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press anonymously.

The U.S. government has previously indicted several top Venezuelan officials on allegations of drug trafficking and money laundering, but this is the first case that has reached Maduro’s inner circle. First lady Flores, who Maduro refers to as “first combatant,” is a former president of the National Assembly and an important political figure in Maduro’s administration.

Maduro criticized the arrests on Twitter, where he said, “Neither attacks nor imperialist ambushes can harm the people of the liberators.”

The extradition comes three weeks before legislative elections, and less than a month after Brazil dropped out of an international mission to observe the elections after Maduro’s government’s barred their observer team leader. Some polls indicate that the elections could result in a major defeat for the ruling socialist party.

After his arrest, Campos reportedly told law enforcement that he was the son of Flores and stepson of Maduro, but a source privy to the case who also requested anonymity has said that Campos is the son of first lady Flores’ deceased sister and was partly raised by Maduro and her.

U.S. officials say about one third of Colombia’s estimated cocaine production flows through Venezuela on its way to mostly U.S. and European markets.


North America

Mexico’s ruling political party, the PRI, agreed to abandon the use of “nueromarketing” experts in elections following a New York Times story that claimed the party used the tactics to help candidates connect emotionally with voters by gauging brain waves, skin arousal and facial expressions during the 2012 presidential election.

Ten Mexican federal police officers will stand trial for their role in the alleged unlawful arrest of a Spanish lawyer who was to testify in a corruption case between a civil engineering firm and the government of the central state of Mexico.

Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan warned President Obama against using an executive order to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, following the passage of a new annual defense spending bill on Tuesday that expressly prohibits the center’s closure.


Political opposition candidates and thousands of supporters protested in Port-au-Prince Wednesday against what they call an “electoral coup d’etat” by President Michael Martelly and his ruling party. The demonstrations follow the announcement Monday of initial election results that place Martelly-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse against Jude Célestin of the Lapeh (Peace) party in the presidential runoff election scheduled for Dec. 27.

Moody’s Investor Service announced on Wednesday that Puerto Rico is unlikely to be able to pay back some of the country’s $355 million debt due on Dec. 1, a default that analysts claim could push Congress into approving the Obama administration’s plan to allow the island territory to file for bankruptcy.

Central America

In meetings with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a U.S. State Department official detailed the department’s 2016 plan to invest $1 billion for economic development, security and democracy promotion in Central America’s Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—effectively tripling U.S. aid to the region.

Five people were injured in Managua following an attack allegedly carried out by Sandinista youth on opposition protestors staging a weekly march in support of fair elections in Nicaragua’s 2016 presidential and legislative elections.


Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was in Peru on Wednesday as part of his Latin America tour that began three days ago. Clinton visited a project aimed at helping indigenous women provide essential goods to their communities.

As Venezuela’s parliamentary elections on Dec. 6 approach, legislators from the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru have asked Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to ensure fair elections by allowing election observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union to be present during the voting.

According to the United Nations, Colombia has overtaken Peru as the world’s largest producer of cocaine, with U.N. estimates predicting a 52 percent increase in cocaine production in 2015.

Southern Cone

Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said on Wednesday that large fines are likely for mining companies BHP Billiton Ltd and Vale SA, which jointly own an iron ore mine where two dams ruptured last week, killing at least eight and creating what Teixeira called an “environmental catastrophe.”

A Brazilian man returning from a visit to Guinea on Nov. 6 was diagnosed with symptoms of Ebola and immediately placed under quarantine in the city of Belo Horizonte, where he is awaiting transfer to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s Ministry of Health reported.

Reverend Fernando Karadima, a Chilean priest who the Vatican accuses of sexual abusing young boys, continued to proclaim his innocence in court on Wednesday.

China’s hold on the Uruguayan automobile market is being threatened by low-cost imports from Brazil and India, with Chinese car sales seeing an almost 34 percent decline in sales during the greater part of 2015.

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Today in Latin America: November 11, 2015

Obama Sets Stage for Supreme Court Battle on Immigration

Top Story — On Tuesday, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama announced it will appeal a Monday ruling made by a federal appeals court that jeopardized the administration’s plan to forestall the deportation of some 5 million people.

The appeal sets the stage for a potential summer Supreme Court hearing on the controversial immigration plans, the New York Times reported.

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling by a two-to-one split in the case Texas v. United States, which resulted from a lawsuit by 26 states who argued that the administration’s order would effectively rewrite U.S. immigration policy without passing legislation and would place an unfair financial burden on states by requiring them to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The two programs, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, would expand legal work rights for the parents of undocumented children as well as for undocumented immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.

The administration claims the programs are within the executive branch’s discretionary power and would allow the Department of Homeland Security to focus on deporting criminal offenders rather than law-abiding groups with strong ties to the United States.

A successful appeal to the Supreme Court would provide DHS with a few months to register people under the programs before a new president takes office in 2017.

While the executive orders have come under fire from conservatives, the programs were met with relief by immigration advocates who welcomed the change in enforcement policy by an administration who had previously deported the highest number of immigrants in the country’s history.


North America

U.S. diplomat Roberta Jacobson was tentatively approved as the next ambassador to Mexico after a dispute in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee centered around her support for the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, a controversial topic among the rest of the Senate, now responsible for confirming her approval.

A Mexican senator on Tuesday introduced a bill aimed at allowing the importation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, a measure unrelated to the Supreme Court ruling last week that may open the door for domestic production of the drug.

Prosecutors in Mexico announced the arrest of a businessman for allegedly funding and helping to orchestrate the escape from prison in July of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.


Regular flights between the United States and Cuba may be available by the end of the year, a Cuban diplomat said Tuesday.

Central America

A U.N. indigenous rights official said Tuesday that Indian groups along the Caribbean coast of Honduras risk displacement due to land grabs by drug traffickers and agricultural developers, a situation that Miskito and other indigenous groups claim requires government intervention.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Central America’s largest wind farm in western Panama Tuesday as part of Clinton Global Initiative tour through the region to support efforts to mitigate climate change’s impacts in developing countries.

Members of the U.N.-backed CICIG anti-corruption body endorsed a new tax in Guatemala Tuesday that would fund prosecutors’ offices in an effort to reverse the trend in which 95 percent of crimes go unpunished.


The head of the Organization of American States rebuked Venezuela’s government on Tuesday for jailing opposition figures and denying opposition candidates a fair amount of airtime prior to mid-term elections on Dec. 6, a contest in which the ruling socialist party is currently expected to lose control of the legislature.

U.S. federal courts sentenced Colombian FARC member Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltrán to 27 years in prison on Tuesday for the 2003 kidnapping of three U.S. military contractors, who after testifying at the sentencing expressed concern that ongoing peace talks in Havana could delay the extradition of other FARC leaders.

The FARC leader known as Timochenko said in a tweet to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that he ordered the group to stop buying guns and ammunition on Sept. 30, a move he said demonstrates their commitment to the talks.

Southern Cone

Brazilian lawmakers called for stricter regulations on mining Tuesday following a claim by a Minas Gerais state prosecutor that the deadly collapse of two mining dams there was the result of human error. The same prosecutor warned in 2013 that the mine, owned by domestic mining giant Vale and the British-Australian firm BHP and operated by local firm Samarco, was not safe.

Argentine presidential candidate Mauricio Macri, who has led recent polls, fleshed out his economic policy platform Tuesday, emphasizing the phased removal on controls of the peso, an approach contrasting with the so-called “21st century socialism” he also spoke out against on the same day.

Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that some details of a drilling deal between the American oil firm Chevron and the state-run YPF must be made public, a victory for critics of the project who have claimed secret clauses in the contract are too generous to Chevron.

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Today in Latin America: November 10, 2015

FARC Rebels Reject Plebiscite Proposal to Finalize Colombian Peace Deal

Top Story — Colombian rebel group FARC rejected proposed legislation on Monday that would put a final peace agreement with the government up for popular vote, stalling progress in the peace negotiations in Havana ahead of an agreed-upon March 23 deadline to conclude talks.

Members of the Colombian government and the guerrilla group have debated the terms of a peace agreement for the past three years, hoping to end the country’s 51-year civil war, which has claimed 220,000 lives and displaced millions. The two groups have established the March 23 deadline to reach a final peace plan, but friction continues over how exactly the Colombian population should weigh in.

The congressional proposal, which President Juan Manuel Santos and his government endorse, would create a plebiscite for the agreement’s final approval. FARC rebels are pushing instead for a national constituent assembly to mediate the final voting process, with both sides deciding on voting terms at the peace talks. The government rejects the idea of a constituent assembly, and expects that Congress will ratify the plebiscite legislation by Dec. 16 in spite of disapproval from the FARC.

While prior disagreements between both parties have reached resolution through the peace talks, the process has met recurring obstacles over the past three years, fueled by continued violence and ideological differences.


North America

In a Monday speech that came five days after Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled the prohibition of marijuana use unconstitutional, President Enrique Peña Nieto said that he personally opposes the eventual legalization of marijuana, but would be open to a debate on the question.

During an immigration reform summit in Las Vegas, U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced that if elected president, he would provide immunity from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for more than five years.

Sanders’ announcement comes the same day as a Washington Post report revealed that the U.S. government has spent over ten years and $1 billion attempting to digitize immigration forms, and yet only one of the 95 forms is currently available online.

At least 10 people were killed and another seven injured in a Monday shootout during a cockfighting event in Mexico’s Guerrero state. There are conflicting accounts of who initiated the violence.


The United States and Cuba initiated their first formal talks regarding cooperative law enforcement efforts at the State Department on Monday, discussing issues like fugitives and information sharing.

Two of Haiti’s presidential candidates, Dr. Maryse Narcisse and Vilaire Cluny Duroseau, have filed legal challenges alleging that they were cheated out of votes during elections on Oct. 25. Narcisse will have a hearing before the Departmental Bureau of Electoral Contestation today.

During speeches and debates, U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz often tells his father’s story of being a revolutionary rebel in Cuba, but The New York Times is reporting that the story is hyperbolic and inaccurate, according to some of the elder Cruz’s Cuban peers.

Central America

Costa Rica filed a criminal complaint against the alleged unlawful marriage of two women in July —the first time the government formally acknowledged a same-sex union— because of a clerical error in which the registry had mistakenly listed one of the women as a man.


Colombia’s ELN rebel group confirmed that two soldiers captured last month in the central province of Boyacá are alive by allowing the captives to speak on the ELN’s clandestine radio station.

Over 500 kilograms of cocaine bound for Santiago, Chile, were seized on two buses carrying unsuspecting Colombian soccer fans on their way a World Cup qualifying match.

Southern Cone

Twenty-five people remain missing after two dams burst at a mine in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state on Thursday, flooding a village in the southeastern state and endangering the water supply of larger towns downstream. The incident has caused the suspension of Brazilian company Samarco’s mining license.

Argentine officials confirmed on Monday that the fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was in fact not hiding along its border with Chile, a claim instigated by a tip that set the country into high alert on Friday.

The U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil has gained a 35 percent stake, along with French company Total, to drill for offshore oil along Uruguay’s coast, the country’s first offshore exploratory well.

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Today in Latin America: November 9, 2015

Ecuador Proceeds with Historic Rights Abuse Case Against Former Officers

Top Story — Five former Ecuadorian military officers and an ex-police officer will face charges of human rights abuses as the country’s first-ever trial for crimes against humanity begins today, reported the newspaper La Nación. The case concerns human rights violations committed against three leftist guerrillas between 1985 and 1988 during the presidency of León Febres Cordero. The trial is the result of a truth commission set up by President Rafael Correa in 2007.

Luis Vaca, Susana Cajas and Javier Jarrín, all members of the Alfaro Vive Carajo guerrilla group, reportedly endured physical and psychological torture and sexual abuse after being detained without a warrant by members of the military on Nov. 10 1985. Cajas and Jarrín spent 15 days in detention, while Vaca remained incarcerated for three years.

Officers were first arrested in connection with the case in 2013.

Incidences of torture and extrajudicial killings, among other human rights abuses, spiked during the Febres administration, according to a 1988 report by Americas Watch, which denounced the administration of then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan for turning a blind eye to the abuses in its support for Febres’ market-oriented government. Before his death in 2008, Febres decried the human rights commission set up by Correa as an “inquisitional tribunal.”


North America

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission on Sunday rebuked the attorney general’s office for its failure to address almost any of the problems previously identified in its earlier investigation into the fates of 43 disappeared students from Guerrero state.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto met with Cuban leader Raúl Castro in the Mexican state of Mérida on Friday, a historic visit not only because Cubans are flooding through Mexico on their way to the U.S. in record numbers, but because relations have been strained between the two ever since the presidency of the pro-U.S. Vicente Fox from 2000-2006.


Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Sunday said he would support statehood for U.S. territory Puerto Rico for strategic defense reasons, although Reuters notes Carson’s statement may be more likely related to the fact that the territory’s residents can vote in primary elections.

Haitian authorities have located the 4-year-old boy kidnapped last month after the fatal shooting of a U.S. missionary near the foster home she ran and where the boy was raised on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Two suspects were also reportedly taken into custody.

Central America

Despite expectations last year when Guatemala’s attorney general took office that she would uphold a status quo of corruption and impunity, Thelma Aldana has helped elevate the country to the status of a regional example in anti-corruption efforts, in part by supporting the U.N-backed investigative body CICIG, the Tico Times argues.

The Guardian released on Saturday an excerpt from a book about the ordeal of a Salvadoran fisherman who drifted at sea for 438 days before washing ashore and subsequently refusing most press requests for interviews until he ultimately sat for some 40 hours of interviews with the newspaper’s Jonathan Franklin.


Venezuela’s defense minister said on Sunday that a plane from the U.S. Coast Guard violated its airspace on Friday, implying that the alleged incursion was a mission to gather intelligence related to upcoming elections on Dec. 8.

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos apologized Friday for the government’s role in the deaths in 1985 of some 100 people following a standoff with guerrillas who raided the Supreme Court, an incident highlighted last year by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

A Colombian paramilitary leader received a 16-year prison sentence on Friday for drug trafficking charges that he contested in a U.S. federal court, one of several cases that arose from the 2008 decision by then-President Álvaro Uribe to extradite over a dozen leaders of armed groups after the failure of peace talks.

Southern Cone

The cause of a deadly dam collapse at a mine in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais on Thursday continued to elude authorities as of late Sunday, with 28 missing and four confirmed dead following an incident that has renewed the debate surrounding the regulation of mining, a key industry.

In Argentina, the relatively business-friendly presidential candidate Mauricio Macri has pulled ahead of Daniel Scioli, the chosen successor of incumbent Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a poll suggested Sunday, two weeks before a scheduled run-off.

Officials in Argentina said Friday that they have reinforced border security in response to reports that the escaped Mexican cartel leader, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán might have tried to cross the mountainous southern border with Chile.

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Today in Latin America: November 6, 2015

16 Feared Dead, Hundreds Displaced After Mining Dams Burst in Brazil

Top Story — Two dams holding iron-mine wastewater broke in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais on Thursday, flooding the nearby town of Bento Rodrigues with water, mud and potentially toxic mining tailings. Authorities have confirmed one death, though some local news sources report as many as 16 dead and many more missing.

Rescuers continued the search for survivors in the decimated town this morning. Officials said Thursday that 600 residents are being evacuated to higher elevation, but there are also concerns about more enduring effects of contamination to the local water source because of the dams’ proximity to a river.

The incident is likely to reinforce public concerns about Brazil’s expanding infrastructure projects. Estado de Minas, a newspaper in the state’s capital city Belo Horizonte, reports that in 2014 the Minas Gerais State Foundation for the Environment found that 8 percent of structures containing toxic mining tailings in the state are unsafe.

Thursday’s episode echoes controversy about flooding and watershed contamination associated with other mining and hydroelectric projects in the country, some of which have also resulted in mass displacement. At least four similar accidents have occurred in Minas Gerais state since 2001, leaving many dead and causing large-scale environmental damage and homelessness.

A statement issued by the Samarco mining company, which operates the Germano mine where the dams are located, said the cause for the break is still unknown.


North America

Pope Francis is expected to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border in February, according to a top advisor to the pontiff, in a move that would be in line with Pope Francis’ emphasis on immigration reform.

During a rally Thursday in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Congress to ensure Puerto Rico gets its “fair share of Medicaid dollars,” saying the situation on the island was “a humanitarian crisis in the making.” A number of New York politicians, including state Governor Andrew Cuomo, took part in the rally, which called for Puerto Rico’s equal treatment on federal health care.

A 2002 transparency law in Mexico has allowed journalists to expose corruption scandals and investigate the disappearance of the 43 student from Guerrero over this past year, contributing to the Mexican public’s perception that their media is reliable, according to a piece in the Christian Science Monitor.


Haiti’s electoral council announced Thursday the two candidates that will advance to a runoff presidential election on Dec. 27: government-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse and former state construction chief Jude Célestin. Several major candidates, however, have alleged fraud in the days following the Oct. 25 primary election.

Authorities in Haiti have closed St. Joseph Home for Boys, an orphanage in the capital city Port-au-Prince that was founded thirty years ago by a U.S. citizen currently facing accusations that he sexually molested boys under his care.

The Associated Press takes a close look at the recent wave of migration from Cuba to the United States, which has brought some 100,000 Cubans to the United States since 2013, when the Cuban government eliminated the need for exit permits to leave the island.

Billboard interviewed Robin Pedraja, a young Cuban who created his country’s first music magazine, discussing how he navigated loopholes in existing state policy, as well as the current trends and opinions of young people on the island.

Central America

Guatemala’s Congress raised the country’s minimum legal age for marriage in a Thursday vote following pressures from children’s rights groups. The new legal age of 18 was increased from the previous age of 14 for girls and 16 for boys.

Belize’s newly elected Prime Minister Dean Barrow said Thursday that he is confident a territorial disagreement with neighboring Guatemala can be resolved once Guatemala’s President-elect Jimmy Morales assumes office.

El Salvador’s former President Francisco Flores appeared in court Thursday to face charges of embezzlement and the misappropriation of $15 million that Taiwan donated to El Salvador following a 2001 earthquake.

Nicaragua has approved the HKND Group’s environmental and social impact studies for its controversial interoceanic canal project, allowing the Chinese firm to begin the construction process.


Bolivia’s Supreme Court justices voted Thursday to make Justice Pastor Mamani the court’s president, making him the first indigenous person to hold the office.

U.S. carmaker General Motors has announced plans to invest some $100 million in Colombia over the next four years, with plans to export cars to Brazil.

Southern Cone

Argentina’s exchange-traded stock fund is experiencing a boost in investments amid optimism over a potential change in government and its promises to increase growth and check inflation rises.

Eduardo Cunha, Brazil’s speaker of the lower house, will be facing a hearing led by the country’s congressional ethics committee over Cunha’s secret Swiss bank accounts, an investigation that forms part of the greater probe into a large kickback scandal.

Chile’s Interior Ministry acknowledged in a statement Thursday that it is “highly probable” that leftist Nobel-prize winning poet Pablo Neruda was killed in the wake of the country’s 1973 coup, which brought the right-wing dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power.

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How Far El Chapo’s Power Extends Past Mexico

As part of our mission to feature pages we love, Latino USA will be periodically featuring selected HuffPost Latino Voices articles. The following article was published by HuffPost on November 3 with the original headline, “This Map Shows How Far El Chapo’s Power Extends Past Mexico.”

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera’s escape through a hole in the shower from the maximum security Altiplano prison outside Mexico City in July was more than a major embarrassment for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration. The elaborate escape through a roughly 1-mile tunnel also offered a stark demonstration that the world’s top drug lord wields so much power that Mexican authorities are incapable of stopping him.

Though Guzmán’s name is well-known, it can be difficult to conceptualize the power of the slippery figure who has escaped from maximum security jails twice. Here’s one map that makes clear just how massive Guzmán’s operation is.

This map is taken from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s most recent intelligence report, published in July, outlining the areas of U.S. influence of Mexico’s largest drug cartels. The orange and light-orange chunks covering nearly the entire map, including Alaska and Hawaii, represent the areas of the United States where Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel is the dominant Mexican cartel controlling the illegal trade.

Estimates of the size of the U.S. drug market vary and are generally unreliable, but the RAND Corporation estimated that Mexican marijuana accounted for between 40 to 67 percent of all the weed smoked in the United States in 2008. Today, that figure has almost certainly declined with the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana in several states, but Mexican cartels remain an important distributor in the United States.

At the same time, Mexican cartels —most prominently Sinaloa— have since the 1990s also come to dominate cocaine distribution to the U.S. from South America, and play an increasingly prominent role in heroin distribution as well. A 2014 New Yorker article estimated that Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel brought in as much as half of the illegal drugs imported to the United States.

Some 19.8 million Americans smoked weed in 2013, while 1.5 million used cocaine and another 681,000 used heroin, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. A sizable group of them purchased a Sinaloa cartel product.

“‘El Chapo’ Guzmán is without a doubt one of, if not the most, dangerous men in the world,” a DEA spokesman told The Huffington Post. “He’s responsible for the death of thousands of Mexican citizens and all the violence that goes along with drug trafficking.”

Mexican authorities say Guzmán is currently hiding somewhere in the mountains of the states of Sinaloa or Durango, but he shook off efforts by the Mexican military to recapture him last month. The DEA has issued a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

More from HuffPost on El Chapo:

Mexico Won’t Be Sending El Chapo To The U.S. If They Catch Him
Mexican Authorities Go After El Chapo In The Sinaloa Mountains
El Chapo’s Cell Sounded Like A Construction Site And Guards Didn’t Care

Today in Latin America: November 5, 2015

Mexico’s Supreme Court Rules Prohibition of Marijuana Use Unconstitutional

Top Story — Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in favor of allowing the four members of a marijuana-rights organization to grow and smoke their own marijuana, a move that could set the stage for eventual legalization of the drug.

The Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Self-Consumption, called SMART in its Spanish acronym, brought the case in 2013, resulting in Wednesday’s 4-1 ruling that found the prohibition of marijuana cultivation for personal use to be a violation of the right to “free development of a personality” and therefore unconstitutional.

While the ruling only applies to the members of SMART, drug policy reform activists say the ruling should be extended to all and that it could be a potential first step in the full decriminalization of drugs in Mexico. For his part, President Enrique Peña Nieto told reporters on Wednesday that he has always supported a broader debate on drug legalization, The Guardian reported.

“This does not open or in any way signify the legalization of marijuana consumption, nor the commercialization, nor the transportation of it,” he added.

The decision follows a 2009 ruling that decriminalized possession of small amounts marijuana, cocaine and heroin for personal use, offenses which, prior to that ruling, rarely resulted in legal action, officials told The New York Times.

In an October survey by polling firm Parametria, 77 percent of respondents said they oppose the legalization of marijuana, although 81 percent said they would support its legal use for medicinal purposes.


North America

The governor of Mexico’s Quintana Roo state, where Cancún is located, said that suspects have been identified in two out of three killings of women that have taken place in the past few days, one of which incited a protest on Sunday because she was a university student and her body showed signs of sexual abuse.

A supposed cancer patient accompanied by two paramedics allegedly smuggled 84 pounds of cocaine in their luggage onto an ambulance air flight from Tijuana, Mexican police said Wednesday upon detaining the three suspects for further investigation.

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said forensics investigators will be deployed to Carrizalillo in southern Guerrero state to examine mass graves that are rumored to contain the remains of the 43 students from the town of Iguala.


Lawmakers in Puerto Rico reviewed a bill Wednesday designed to alleviate the $9 billion debt burden of the island’s state-run power company — a goal that many Puerto Ricans worry will result in even higher energy bills, which are already twice as high as on the mainland United States.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend a rally in San Juan on Thursday called to demand that the U.S. Congress allocate more money to healthcare on the island, an issue of great importance for New York’s large Puerto Rican population.

Central America

Officials in Panama said on Wednesday that they broke up a drug-trafficking ring that served as a link between Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and FARC rebels in Colombia.


Colombia’s constitutional court on Wednesday delivered a landmark ruling banning adoption agencies from discriminating against LGBT couples during the adoption process, prompting an immediate protest from the Roman Catholic Church.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has decried what he says is Chile’s attempt to intimidate its neighbors by conducting a large-scale military exercise over a period of 13 days along the border it shares with Bolivia and Peru.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has pledged to shave off his famous mustache if his administration fails to deliver on a promise to build 1 million public housing units by Dec. 31.

In light of recent progress made during ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels, Amnesty International has called on the government to ensure that the rights of displaced indigenous and Afro-descended groups are prioritized in the peace process.

Southern Cone

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is confident that Congress will approve her administration’s new arguments against a ruling that she manipulated federal accounts prior to her election in 2014, her chief of staff said Wednesday.

The British head of Formula One racing told Reuters recently he hopes to bring the sport back to Argentina, but that he is waiting to see who wins the upcoming presidential runoff, although he did not specify which candidate he favors.

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