The Unsolved Case of 43 Missing Students: How Ayotzinapa Changed Mexico

Two years ago, 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in Mexico disappeared.

They were riding buses to the country’s capital when they were taken by a group of armed men –including police officers– at gunpoint. They haven’t been seen since and their bodies haven’t been found.

The public cries for answers have not stopped and the parents have kept the protests alive continuing to put pressure on the Mexican government.

The students’ disappearance at the hands of the government shook Mexico to its core. It made this human rights violation a crime that couldn’t be ignored, even by sectors of Mexican society that have not been engaged in activism before.

What has been the aftermath of Ayotzinapa? What, if anything, has changed in Mexico?

Image: YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Featured Image: YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Picking Sides in the U.S.–Mexico Rivalry

The United States-Mexico soccer rivalry is a “young” rivalry. Even though the two countries first faced off in 1934, the tension didn’t rise until the 1990s. The U.S. started winning important games, and Mexico started seeing their neighbor as an actual competitor. The climax of the rivalry was in 2002 in a World Cup match, when the U.S. beat Mexico, 2-0. Many Mexican American soccer fans were told to choose sides.

When you’re a player on the team, the side your on is a given. For Mexican American fans, the U.S.-Mexico rivalry could get a little confusing trying to balance national pride for the country you were born in and the country that your parents are from. Can you ever truly pick a side?

Featured image by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

Who Ya Gonna Call? ¡Los Supercívicos!

Alex Marin y Kall and Arturo Hernández are redefining crime-fighting in Mexico City with their comedy group, Los Supercívicos. Armed with comedy and a camera, the duo hits the streets to shame wrongdoers into good behavior They draw crowds by dressing up as anything from cowboys to nuns, and they improvise “happenings” to call attention to the offender. People even turn to Los Supercívicos for rescue when the authorities won’t help. While it seems all fun and games, Marin y Kall and Hernández are pursuing the serious goal of promoting civic awareness—in Mexico City and beyond.

Featured image: Alex Marin y Kall and Arturo Hernández

Claudio Lomnitz on the History of Racial Identity in Mexico

Most of the time when we talk about identity, we talk about how our individual experiences shape how we see ourselves. This can also happen to a country as a whole.

What does it mean for people in Mexico to all be grouped as “Mexican?” Does it help or hurt such a culturally diverse country? And why doesn’t Mexico like to talk about race?

That’s some of what we asked Claudio Lomnitz. He is a historian, author and anthropology professor at Columbia University whose works looks at politics, history, race, and culture in Mexico.

He is the author of Death and the Idea of Mexico and The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. Lomnitz also writes a column for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

Featured image of Claudio Lomnitz, courtesy of PEN America.

At UN Drug Summit, Mexican President Peña Nieto Announces Legalization of Medical Marijuana

Top Story — At the first United Nations special session to bring together world leaders to discuss global drug policy in 20 years, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto called for more humanitarian policy approaches and indicated that his country would introduce medical marijuana legislation in the coming days.

The special session was called after representatives from Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia, countries with disproportionate levels of drug-related violence, lobbied the body to hold the session and begin to rethink existing policies.

“We must move beyond prohibition to effective prevention,” Peña Nieto said, urging the U.N. to reject what he called “insufficient” responses to global drug problems and stating that drug use should be viewed as a public health issue, not a criminal one.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales echoed those statements, saying that “people, not substances” should be at the center of global drug policy.

While suggesting a shift in policy towards drug users, Peña Nieto maintained his commitment to continued international action against drug-trafficking organizations.

The impact of the so-called “War on Drugs” on Mexico has been by many accounts disastrous. Mexico’s fight against drug trafficking has resulted in a reported 164,000 deaths since 2007. Since 2010, life expectancy for males fell by more than a year and a half. After a brief drop in violence at the beginning of Peña Nieto’s presidency in 2012, murders and violence saw an uptick in 2015.

Addressing the impact of violence on Mexico, Peña Nieto stated, “My country is one of the nations that have paid a high price, an excessive price, in terms of tranquility, suffering and human lives.”

In addition to backing the decriminalization of medical marijuana use, Peña Nieto also referred to calls within Mexico to relax laws around the personal cultivation and consumption of marijuana, a move that builds off a November Supreme Court ruling that many saw as an avenue for legislation.

Just Published in Latin America News Dispatch

As tens of thousands of unaccompanied child migrants arrive to the United States from Central America, some 60 percent of them end up reuniting with their biological parents for the first time in years. But amid deportation proceedings, adapting to a new language and healing old wounds, the reunification process can be bittersweet. LAND’s Katie Schlechter reports on how this plays out for young migrants and their families from New York.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Mexican authorities have issued arrest warrants for three Federal Police officers and two soldiers who federal prosecutors say are suspects in the torture of a young women that was caught on video in the southern state of Guerrero.

Journalist and Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos takes on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in an op-ed for Fusion, accusing the president of “running away and hiding” before and during his presidency, citing cases of corruption, the 43 missing students, a delay in responding to Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric against Mexican immigrants in the United States and the growing impunity for the killing of journalists in Mexico since his inauguration.

While the Latino electorate is growing in the United States, a new poll finds that among the demographic, voter turnout is expected to drop from 45 percent in 2012 to 42 percent in the upcoming presidential election.


Cuban President Raúl Castro and his fellow hardline-communist deputies will remain in the country’s most important leadership positions after Cuba’s Communist Party congress — held every five years — decided to keep them in power. The decision came as a disappointment to some, who hoped that the ascension of five younger officials to the party’s Political Bureau signaled a changing of the guard. The final day of the congress also saw former Cuban President Fidel Castro give a rare speech, during which he said that he won’t be alive much longer, but that the Cuban revolution’s ideals will live on.

This weekend U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will send two top aides to Puerto Rico to assess the rise of Zika infections there. The virus, which can cause severe birth defects in infants, has spread by mosquitoes and through sexual contact, leading to some 400 confirmed cases on the island.

The Columbia Journalism Review explores in an op-ed whether U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy shift toward Cuba and recent visit to the island has changed the restrictive situation for journalists there.

Central America

In response to receiving harsh criticism following the explosive release of the “Panama Papers” leaks, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela told Japanese media on Tuesday that Panama will assume international tax reporting standards and take part in the automatic exchange of tax information by 2018.

During his visit to New York the United Nations, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales urged the next U.S. president to enact immigration reform and also poked fun at U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, offering to provide cheap labor to help him to build his repeatedly proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

An op-ed in the Washington Post accuses U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of dodging questions about her response as secretary of state to the 2009 coup in Honduras that overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, which the paper argues “helped lead to a new era of repression and lawlessness” in the country.


Colombia has reversed its ban on the use of a carcinogenic weed killer to eradicate coca crops, less than one year after it banned the product in response to a World Heath Organization report.

The death toll resulting from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated Ecuador on Saturday rose to 507 by Tuesday night, according to authorities, with 499 of the deceased having been identified. Aftershocks continue to rock the country, including a 6.1-magnitude tremor yesterday, although no new damage has been reported.

Southern Cone

The Brazilian Senate will vote on whether President Dilma Rousseff will face an impeachment trial over fiscal backpedaling no later than May 17, an aide to Senate leader Renan Calheiros told The Wall Street Journal.

The Associated Press takes a look at Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer, the “scandal-tainted” man who would himself become president if Rousseff is ousted.

More Olympic infrastructure projects than previously made public are under investigation by Brazilian authorities for corruption, Reuters exclusively reports.

Former Chilean President Patricio Aylwim, who led the country’s successful transition from a 17-year dictatorship to a stable democracy, died on Tuesday at the age of 97.

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Mexican Federal Police Implicated in 2014 Student Disappearance

Top Story — Mexico’s Human Rights Commission on Thursday accused federal police agents of being involved in the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state.

The group cited an account from an unidentified witness, who said two federal police agents were present when local police led up to 20 students off a bus after shooting out its tires near the town of Iguala. The local officers said they were taking the students to “the boss,” which the federal agents approved, reported the BBC.

The testimony follows revelations made public on April 8 that none of the students’ DNA was detected among remains found in a garbage dump. Activists said the lack of evidence contradicted the government’s account that the students were detained by local police and handed over to a local drug cartel, who massacred them and incinerated their bodies, disposing of the remains in the dump.

The revelations come at an inconvenient time for President Enrique Peña Nieto. A poll released Wednesday showed his approval ratings are at about 30 percent, the lowest-ever level for a Mexican president.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Interpol has issued a notice calling for the arrest of three out of four wealthy young men who were accused of sexually assaulting a teenager last January in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The New Yorker offers an in-depth look at the case that has rocked Mexico, where a social media furor has erupted against the young men —known derisively as “The Porkys”— who are believed to have fled the country.

Mexico’s National Commission of Protected Natural Areas has announced that it will temporarily close the popular “Love Beach” in the Pacific state of Nayarit because too many tourists have visited the site, damaging the area’s coral.

With New York state’s presidential primary election approaching on Tuesday, Fox News Latino reports on the ways Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are courting the Latino vote in New York City, where the issue of immigration is a central issue for many residents.


A new study by a team of Yale epidemiologists and lawyers has found that Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which killed thousands in the aftermath of the country’s 2010 earthquake, could have been prevented if the United Nations had spent less than $2,000 in total on a basic health kit to conduct preventative screening of peacekeepers.

Journalist Carmen Cuesta Roca reports for the Miami Herald about the importance of community radio stations in Haiti, where some station owners are worried about pending legislation that would grant their stations official frequencies and licenses, but may in turn bring economic hardship to many stations.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has criticized a recent decision by the Cuban government to ban Cuban-born travelers from returning to the island by sea, specifically affecting many who wished to travel to the island on sea cruises that the company Carnival plans to begin running in May.

Central America

The trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt will temporarily move to witness testimony in order to hear from 15 witnesses who are unable, due to age or health, to testify in person at the trial in Guatemala City.

El Salvador’s attorney general’s office has said they have identified the body of missing mayor Julio Torres from the town of San Dionisio, 70 miles southeast of the capital San Salvador. It is yet unclear who killed the mayor.


An analysis of microcephaly cases in Colombia has linked two to the Zika virus, a figure that so far contrasts with Brazil, where some 1,100 babies have been born with unusually small heads in connection with the virus.

Venezuela’s government has earned ridicule for its latest energy-saving effort amid a major drought: the establishment of a public holiday every Monday and a planned shift in the time zone, the latter recalling a previous time zone change by Hugo Chávez in 2007, which was seen as an effort to confront the United States. President Nicolás Maduro also announced he will be imposing electricity rationing on 15 shopping malls, which he said had acted “without conscience.”

Southern Cone

The head of Brazil’s national intelligence agency said Thursday that the country faces a credible threat from terrorism ahead of the Olympic Games in August, citing both threatening statements from the Islamic State group and sympathy among some Brazilians for the group.

Despite his business-friendly reputation, Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri said Thursday that he supported efforts by the Buenos Aires city government to kick out the car service Uber, the launch of which sparked protests by taxi drivers this week.

Brazil’s Supreme Court has blocked a move by President Dilma Rousseff to suspend the impeachment proceedings against her, meaning Rousseff could now be forced as soon as early May to step down for her trial.

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Pemex Gas Stations Will Face Competition, Symbolizing Energy Reform

Top Story — Starting today, Mexico will allow private companies to import gasoline, which will effectively open the gas station market, long dominated by the monopoly of state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos, to competition.

The new policy is the latest move away from the Mexican government’s monopoly on the oil sector, but perhaps the most symbolically potent. A report by The New York Times in 2013, after the planned reforms were first announced by President Enrique Peña Nieto, noted that Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, has an unusual national significance in Mexico, where oil rights have long been considered a matter of national sovereignty. As an energy consultant told The Wall Street Journal, “this is absolutely the most visible piece of energy reform.”

Since President Lázaro Cárdenas nationalized the oil sector in 1938, no oil producer aside from Pemex has sold gasoline in Mexico. So far, the U.S. gas station company Gulf has announced it will enter the market, as has a domestic beverage company, which will lease some 300 Pemex stations and rebrand them as Oxxos, a well-known convenience store.

Mexican motorists may welcome the latest phase of energy reform, having contended for years with subpar services and facilities. As both The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times report, customers often complain that gas station attendants do not pump the full amount of gasoline paid for.

Peña Nieto’s reform efforts, already controversial when they were announced, have faced difficulties, like occasionally tepid foreign investment and the collapse in oil prices. The latest phase follows a decision by the ratings agency Moody’s to downgrade Pemex’s credit rating to its lowest-ever level on Thursday. The agency also announced Mexico’s outlook is negative, as the slump in oil prices continues and production remains low.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

As detentions by Mexican authorities of Central American migrants surge to record numbers, authorities appear to be violating the law by failing to inform unaccompanied child migrants of their rights to register as refugees, according to a report by Human Rights Watch released Thursday.

The New York Times reports on the efforts of Colorado’s health outreach initiative geared toward Latino immigrants, which aims to convince them to trust the tap water in the state.


In order to alleviate Puerto Rico’s ongoing debt crisis, U.S. lawmakers have drafted a bill proposing to lower the island’s minimum wage, which, according to House Republicans, would make Puerto Rico more competitive compared to its neighbors.

Puerto Rico’s population has declined by almost seven percent over the past five years and is likely to keep shrinking as more Puerto Ricans emigrate to the United States, a trend that demographics experts say is heightened by the island’s ongoing economic woes.

Central America

Vice News reports on El Salvador’s struggles to control ongoing gang warfare, with rival gangs offering a truce in exchange for government concessions and the security forces instead cracking down on the gangs’ strongholds in several prisons.

Honduras’s legislature has approved the creation of an international anti-corruption body, announced earlier this year, a major victory for demonstrators who demanded accountability last year after the revelation of a massive fraud scheme at the country’s Social Security Institute.


Colombia’s Ministry of Defense said Thursday that the military will sustain aggressive tactics against the ELN guerrilla group, even as the government announced its plan to engage in peace talks with them the day before.

The exhumed bodies of 40 Peruvian peasants who were killed in 1991 by the Maoist rebels of the Shining Path have been returned to their families, the justice minister said during a ceremony Thursday, apologizing for the government’s own hand in the violence.

Southern Cone

Argentina’s transportation minister announced Thursday that train and bus ticket prices in Buenos Aires will double after April 8, when transportation subsidies are cut, the latest austerity policy of President Mauricio Macri. Perhaps signaling the likelihood of protests over the issue, the announcement of the price hike was postponed when demonstrators protesting job cuts blocked access to the Finance Ministry.

The leader of Brazil’s National Force for Public Security, a national body which will be deployed as part of the security for the Olympic Games, resigned this week, a decision that Brazilian media attribute to conflict with President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazilian prosecutors have charged billionaire banker Joseph Sakra with corruption, alleging he evaded corporate taxes by giving $4.2 million in bribes to tax officials, which they say they can support with evidence from wiretapped conversations.

The Brazilian Supreme Court decided Thursday that the corruption investigation into former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will not be overseen by a lower court, sparing the ex-leader from the aggressively anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro, who earned harsh criticism for releasing allegedly illegally-recorded wiretaps involving Lula and Rousseff.

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Mexico, Facing Human Rights ‘Crisis,’ Refuses to Release Records on Mass Killing

Top Story — Mexico is currently undergoing a “crisis of gross violations of human rights,” according to a report released Wednesday by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. On the same day, Mexico’s transparency monitor refused to release the autopsy records of 42 people killed by federal police last May in Michoacán state—a case whose investigation the IACHR characterized in their report as containing “irregularities.”

The report was based on observations made during an IACHR visit to Mexico last fall, and focuses particularly on the issues of forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture, impunity as well as violence against journalists and human rights activists. While it acknowledges the actions that the state has taken to address the current human rights situation, it “confirmed a deep gulf between the legislative and judicial framework and the daily reality millions of people face in accessing justice, violence prevention and other public initiatives.”

The National Institute for Information Access, Mexico’s partially independent agency for transparency oversight, agreed with the government’s decision to deny a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press for access to the Michoacán autopsy reports. They ruled that the records should be kept as a state secret for five years, and stated that they did not contain any evidence that serious human rights violations were committed during the Michoacán killings on May 22, 2015. Yet according to the IACHR report, “photographs and statements from locals appear to indicate possible acts of torture, extrajudicial executions, crime scene tampering and the planting of weapons.” Furthermore, “there was reportedly confirmation that more than 70 percent of the victims had been shot in the back of the neck at point-blank range.”

Mexico has seen a surge of protests during the last year and a half over escalating human rights violations throughout the country. The most recent wave of outrage was touched off by the disappearance of 43 rural teachers-college students just outside of Iguala, Guerrero, on Sept. 26, 2014, launching a global movement to find them. According to government records, they are among some 26,798 individuals registered as missing in Mexico as of Sept. 2015. Among its numerous recommendations throughout its report, the IACHR urged the Mexican government to improve transparency measures and create an independent forensic service agency for the investigation of disappearances and violence involving state security forces.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Former Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is reportedly considering extradition to the United States and entering a guilty plea under the conditions that he is given a reduced sentence in a medium security prison —despite no such deal existing from U.S. prosecutors— in order to escape his current sleep-depriving conditions in Mexico.

A Pennsylvania priest was convicted to 17 years in prison for sexual tourism and the molestation of two Honduran children, crimes committed while he was on mission trips to the Central American country.

The new rector of Mexico’s National Autonomous University has promised not to raise fees at the university, where fee raises of $75 a semester in 1999 saw massive protests, canceled classes and the resignation of the acting rector.


The Associated Press reports on the continuing cases of cholera in Haiti after an outbreak began in 2010, sickening as much as 7 percent of the country’s population. Some researchers have linked the cholera outbreak to untreated sewage from a U.N. peacekeeper base on the country’s biggest river.

Yesterday was the deadline for U.S. airlines to submit requests to the Department of Transportation for routes flying to Cuba, and the Miami Herald reports on the different proposals submitted.

Cuba has confirmed the first case of the Zika virus on the island was imported by a Venezuelan doctor who remains under quarantine.

Central America

The 11 victims in Guatemala’s landmark sexual slavery case dating back to the country’s civil war were each awarded $97,500 in damages to be paid by their former military and paramilitary abusers.

Murder rates in El Salvador have more than doubled those of the previous year —the highest since the country’s civil war— to reach 23.3 murders per day.


Students in Venezuelan city of San Cristóbal clashed with police on Wednesday during protests against what they see as President Nicolás Maduro’s stacking of the Supreme Court.

According to Venezuela’s Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino, more than 15 countries are expected to attend a meeting to discuss an output freeze plan and further measures to counteract dropping oil prices.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa gave an interview with the Ecuadorian Broadcasting Association, stating that he believed a Donald Trump presidency in the United States could be beneficial for Latin America, since it may lead to a rise in progressive trends across the region.

Southern Cone

After Argentine negotiators reached a deal to settle the country’s billion-dollar bond dispute, the South American country is poised to once again enter the international credit market and be eligible to borrow international funds.

On Wednesday, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies’ Ethics Committee approved an investigation into the speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, and his denial during a congressional hearing of possessing bank accounts overseas.

Following the deadly November dam collapse in Samarco, Brazil, the dam’s owner BHP Billiton agreed to a $1.55 billion settlement with Brazilian authorities.

The Guardian reports that Nestlé and Jacobs Douwe Egberts, two large-scale international coffee companies, were using suppliers in Brazil that relied on slave labor to harvest coffee beans.

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Pope Francis Champions Indigenous Peoples During Mexico Trip, But Avoids Criticizing Government

Top Story — Pope Francis left for Mexico’s Michoacán state on Tuesday morning, where he plans to meet with young people in the capital Morelia, a major drug trafficking hub. The visit will mark the second-to-last stop in the Pope’s six-day tour of Mexico, a trip that saw him break ranks with prior Vatican doctrine over its treatment of indigenous believers.

The Pope’s pronunciations during his visit to Mexico have thus far fallen in line with his work on behalf of marginalized communities and the environment. The New York Times notes, however, that Francis has also avoided antagonizing the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto with critical rebukes.

It remains to be seen whether Francis will meet with the families of the 43 students missing from the state of Guerrero since September 2014. The relatives of several of the missing students are expected in Ciudad Juárez, where the Pope will travel to on his last day in the country.

The Pope visited the largely indigenous southern border state of Chiapas on Tuesday, which is considered, according to the BBC, the least Roman Catholic state in Mexico. He celebrated Mass in three Mayan languages and asked for forgiveness for the “systematic and organized” exclusion of indigenous peoples throughout history.

“Some have considered your values, culture and traditions to be inferior. Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands or contaminated them,” he said. “Today’s world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you.”

During his visit to Chiapas, Francis prayed before the tomb of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who led the state’s San Cristóbal diocese for about 40 years. Ruiz was beloved by Chiapas’ churchgoers but controversial among Mexico’s Catholic leadership for supporting the incorporation of indigenous traditions into church rituals. Ruiz also backed the ordination of married indigenous deacons, a policy struck down by the Vatican after his death in 2011.

Francis vindicated many of Ruiz’s positions. In a decree, he gave his approval for the Aztec language Nahuatl to be used in Mass. His inclusion of three Mayan languages during his own service signaled that these could be used as well, according to the Vatican Press Office. Several married indigenous deacons participated in Monday’s Mass.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Mexican police have regained control of the Topo Chico prison in the state of Nuevo León, where 49 inmates were beaten and stabbed to death during a riot last week reportedly sparked by factional violence between cartel leaders. In their clean up, the police found gang leaders in the notoriously overcrowded prison lived in “luxury cells” equipped with televisions, aquariums and air conditioning.

Prosecutors say the 13 people found shot to death near the border between the northern states of Sinaloa and Durango were victims of a fight between rival gangs.


The Miami Herald is describing this week as a pivotal moment for U.S.-Cuban relations. On Monday, an Alabama-based company won permission from the U.S. government to build tractors in Cuba, likely becoming the first U.S. manufacturer to directly operate on the island since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. That news comes as an aviation agreement will come into effect today that will allow U.S. airlines to submit applications to fly routes into Havana and nine other Cuban cities.

Haiti’s opposition-led Congress elected former interior minister and current senator Jocelerme Privert as interim president tasked with holding new elections after allegations of fraud led to January’s scheduled elections to be canceled.

Cuba returned to the United States an inert Hellfire missile that was mistakenly sent to the island after being used in a Spanish training exercise, ending fears in the military intelligence community that Cuba could sell the highly confidential technology to U.S. military rivals.

The U.S. Coast Guard will begin hearings today investigating the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro, which sank in October between Florida and Puerto Rico.

Central America

Over 70 expat couples, most U.S. citizens, were married in a mass wedding designed to skirt what they see as Costa Rica’s discriminatory laws for applying to that country’s social security program.

El Salvador’s Chief of National Civil Police announced that there have been nearly 100 shootings in the country this year, an increase over last year that InSight Crime attributes to increased confrontations between security forces and gang members.


ELN rebels in Colombia reportedly conducted a series of seven separate attacks throughout the country Monday, killing a policeman and injuring several others.

Venezuelan national assembly speaker Henry Ramos Allup said in a news conference Friday that opposition leaders will try to accelerate the process of ousting President Nicolás Maduro in order to promptly resolve the country’s economic crisis and shortages, which the Washington Post reported Monday will exacerbate the impacts of Zika virus.

Colombia’s national health institute demonstrated in an epidemiological paper that 5,000 pregnant women in Colombia have contracted Zika virus, which a New York Times report Monday indicated may have implications for their decisions about terminating their pregnancies, even before the country has witnessed a single case of microcephaly in a child born from a Zika-infected mother.

Southern Cone

The Brazilian government initiated an ambitious public health campaign to combat the Zika virus on Saturday, deploying 220,000 soldiers to disseminate information to three million homes about how to curb the spread of infectious mosquitoes.

The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell said Monday that the company intends to expand investments in Brazil’s offshore drilling, with the expectation to multiply oil and gas production there fourfold by 2020

Brazilian rights group Reporter Brazil exposed 340 companies use of slave labor through a Freedom of Information Act, leading the country’s labor ministry to impose fines and free victims in an effort to abolish the practice, which the investigation demonstrated to be far-reaching.

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US Agents Will Carry Guns in Mexico in New Joint Border Inspections

Top Story — The United States and Mexico inaugurated a joint inspection program on Tuesday that, for the first time in history, will allow armed U.S. customs officials to work on Mexican soil.

The program, which aims to reduce congestion at the border, was made possible after Mexican legislators in April overturned a long-standing ban on foreign officials being armed while working in the country. That bill was supported by President Enrique Peña Nieto, despite his insistence during his campaign he would not allow it.

The move is the latest sign of increased cooperation between two countries with historically tense security relations. It follows Mexico’s announcement on Sunday that it plans to extradite recaptured drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States, reversing past resistance to U.S. calls for Guzmán’s extradition.

The program will see Mexican and U.S. officials working together in Tijuana and San Diego, aiming to prevent the inspection of cargo shipments on both sides of the border.

Inspections in Mexico will be initially restricted to agricultural products, but U.S. authorities plan to expand the program to include inspections in San Jerónimo, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, for trucks carrying computers.

One expert speaking to The Associated Press referred to the program as “joint border management in its early stages.” It follows the opening in December of a pedestrian bridge connecting Tijuana and San Diego, which also aims to expedite border-crossing times.

Mexican public opinion has long been strictly opposed to the presence of openly armed U.S. agents on its soil. In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. agents regularly participated in armed raids against suspected drug traffickers in Mexico, concealing their identities by wearing Mexican military and police uniforms.

Just Published in Latin America News Dispatch

The police killing of 16-year-old Roberto de Souza Penha and his four friends in Rio de Janeiro sparked large protests against police violence and racism. Jessica Diaz-Hurtado reports on the deaths of the five black boys and the anti-racist protest movement that has sprung up in the aftermath.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

The family of recaptured Sinaloa Cartel drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán unsuccessfully attempted to trademark his name with the Mexican government with the purposes of branding a wide range of consumer goods in 2011.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to prevent a third escape, the Mexican government has announced that they have increased the security for Guzmán’s” prison cell, by reinforcing the floor and posting a guard permanently outside of his cell as well as stationing a team of armed vehicles and tanks outside the prison gates.

Finally, a White House national security advisor said that actor Sean Penn was not working for the U.S. government when he interviewed Guzmán.

An appeals court ruling in Mexico may jeopardize the case against 22 police officers who are accused of killing four people the night 43 students disappeared in Guerrero state, in turn threatening efforts to prosecute suspects in the country’s most devastating crime in recent years.


U.S. Senator Marco Rubio proposed a bill Tuesday that would eliminate automatic federal benefits for Cuban immigrants, a unique privilege they currently enjoy under a decades-old policy, and instead require Cubans to prove they were persecuted in order to qualify for public assistance.

Puerto Rico’s creditors are already discussing amongst themselves options for a restructuring of the U.S. territory’s debt, which Reuters suggests is a possible signal they will resist a so-called “superbond,” a type of alternative payment.

Central America

The Peace Corps announced that it is temporarily suspending its program in El Salvador because it believes the country is too dangerous for volunteers, a position the Huffington Post argues is at odds with the U.S. government’s continued deportation of migrants to the country.

The first 180 of 8,000 stranded Cuban migrants flew on Tuesday night from Costa Rica to Mexico, an effort to skirt Nicaragua’s refusal to let the migrants pass through its territory en route to the United States.

Officials in Guatemala have arrested the head of the national soccer confederation in relation with an international investigation into corruption at the global football body FIFA.


Venezuelan First Lady and legislator Cilia Flores has broken her silence regarding the arrests of two of her nephews by U.S. Drug Enforcement officials in Haiti, calling the arrests a kidnapping and a violation of sovereignty.

The opposition-led Venezuelan National Assembly failed to reach a quorum following the ruling by the Supreme Court that all actions taken by the body would be invalid, a sign pro-government legislators say indicates fracture within the opposition bloc.

Southern Cone

Brazilian scientists report that the mosquito-borne Zika virus, believed to be the source of thousands of new cases of infant brain damage in the country, has worsened as the summer season reaches its zenith.

Brazil-based mining company Vale, the world’s largest iron ore producer, announced that it will take out $3 billion in credit to pay its debts this quarter, which analysts are taking as a sign of grave trouble at the firm.Brazilian legislators are considering a bill which would force Internet users to provide a range of personal information when accessing websites, effectively rolling back many of the provisions of a landmark digital freedom bill passed in 2014.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri has announced that representatives of his government will on Wednesday begin negotiations to resolve a long-standing dispute with foreign creditors, an effort to allow the country to access international financial markets for the first time since its 2001 default.

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