Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Brazil Plans to Legalize 4,000 Haitian Migrants, But Close Door Behind Them


Brazil has announced that it is legalizing the situation of some 4,000 Haitians who moved to the country since Haiti's 2010 earthquake, but will not allow more undocumented workers from that country to cross its borders.

The Associated Press reports that Brazil’s Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo said some 2,400 Haitian nationals will receive work visas, while another 1,600 in the country have already been given them. However, he emphasized that this was a one-off, and that the country would step up border patrols and turn away future arrivals who do not have visas;
The government will not be indifferent to the Haitians' vulnerable economic situation. But those who don't have a visas will not be allowed into Brazil
As noted in Monday’s post, thousands of Haitian citizens headed for Brazil in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, often making a long and grueling trip across Colombia, Bolivia, and/or Peru, and then through Brazil’s Amazon region. TheNYT detailed the journey of one couple who flew to Ecuador, where the woman gave birth to a son, before traveling by bus to Peru and then on foot to Bolivia, where they were robbed of their life savings, then on to the Amazon.

The NYT reported that the number of migrants had surged over recent days with hundreds pouring over the borders, worried that the government might soon act to stem the flow. This proved to be the case with Tuesday’s announcement, which aimed to deter more Haitians from pitching up in Amazon border towns like Tabatinga, where authorities have been finding it hard to cope with all the new arrivals. The government proposed that would-be migrants should instead apply for visas in Port-au-Prince, which would allow up to 100 to legally migrate to Brazil each month.

However, it seems likely that more Haitian migrants will keep arriving over Brazil’s massive and often unguarded borders, as long as the situation in their home country remains chaotic and there is ample construction work to be found in Brazil. Both these circumstances look set to continue, with Haiti making slow progress on reconstruction and Brazil forging ahead economically, preparing to host the Olympic Games and soccer World Cup. The NYT paints a picture of Brazil as a rapidly expanding economy short on cheap labor, where many businesses welcome the new arrivals:
Companies like Fibratec, a swimming pool manufacturer in southern Santa Catarina State, have even sent managers all the way [to the Amazon] to hire dozens of Haitians.
There may be bigger forces are at work than can be contained by Brazil increasing border patrols or turning away migrants. A piece published by the Americas Society / Council of the Americas sees signs of shifting influence in the hemisphere, as Haitians seeking opportunities are drawn to Brazil rather than to the US. It also points to ties formed between the two nations when Brazil sent peace-keeping troops as part of the UN force after the earthquake, and points out that President Dilma Rousseff is set to visit the island in February, and to propose increased economic cooperation.

Some in Brazil are sympathetic to the new arrivals. The Jornal do Brasil published an opinion piece in favor of the migrants, arguing that it would be “inconceivable to deny the Haitians the chance to live among us,” and that “it is our duty to provide the best welcome possible.” The newspaper expressed the attitude that Brazil was in a position to accommodate newcomers; “We still have, thank God, enough space and resources to receive those forced out by the situation of poverty.”

News Briefs

  • Peru has replaced its top anti-drug official after only five months in the job, following a major cabinet reshuffle in December. The departure of Minister Ricardo Soberon could signal a turn to the right for the government, away from the more progressive policies espoused by the minister, who had links with coca-growing groups and had pledged to rethink the country’s coca eradication policies. Forced eradication is deeply resented by farmers who make their livelihood from the product, and there is evidence that it often fails to make an impact on cocaine production. The Associated Press reports that Soberon’s resignation is thought to be a product of his opinion clashes with newly appointed Prime Minister Oscar Valdes. Drug policy expert Jaime Antezana told the AP that "Soberon's exit was a matter of time … There was no chance that Oscar Valdes would keep him in the job." Peruvian media have published criticisms hinting that Soberon was forced out due to failures in his management, arguing that he had increased the department’s budget 30 percent in his time in office.
  • Clashes left six inmates dead in a jail in Tachira, southwest Venezuela. Nine police were taken hostage, all of whom were released by Tuesday night. The riots were reportedly caused by inmates who demanded to be transferred to other facilities, most to a prison in Merida state. El Universal reported that this was due to the fact that there is a gang based in that prison known as the Toyoteros. The hostage-takers also put humanitarian demands on the table, some relating to the treatment of sick prisoners. Five of the police were liberated earlier in the talks as a sign of goodwill. Some 12 prisoners are now set to be transferred to Merida. This kind of event is by no means unusual in Venezuela, where 25 died in the course of a month-long standoff at another prison last year.
  • Daniel Ortega was sworn in for a third term as president of Nicaragua on Tuesday, at a ceremony boycotted by the main opposition party in protest against what they claimed was a fraudulent election. Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, was in attendance, and said that Ortega was a “brother president” to him, as the AP reports. In return, the newly inaugurated leader said that there was a “conspiracy” against Iran, and suggested Israel should disarm its nuclear weapons.
  • Meanwhile the Global Post looks at why Ahmadinejad did not make a stop in Brazil on his Latin America tour, despite his friendly relationship with former President Lula da Silva. According to analysts, current President Rousseff has cooled relations between the countries, which may be inspired in part by human rights considerations, given that she publicly criticized the sentence of a woman condemned to be stoned to death for adultery in that country. According to the paper, Rousseff did not invites the Iranian leader to visit, and he did not suggest coming.
  • The NYT reports on efforts by business leaders in the north Mexican city of Monterrey to help the authorities fight crime:  “Their companies helped design the advertising image and campaign for the new state police force, and they are staffing recruiting booths and a call center.” The city has been hit hard by drug violence in recent months, despite long holding a reputation as one of the country’s most peaceful and prosperous areas.
  • The Associated Press notes claims from Cuban human rights campaigner Elizardo Sanchez that short-term arrests of dissidents doubled during 2011, with over 4,000 in the course of the year. The paper notes the sneaky tactics he says are used by the government to discredit his numbers: “A state-run website reported last year that several names on his list were Bolivian and Peruvian athletes and an 18th-century painter. [Sanchez] acknowledged the mistakes but said his people had been tricked by security agents pretending to be dissidents.”
  • Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon has warned the Mexican government not to get involved in a “dirty war” in its fight against organized crime. He also commented that it was unlikely that the ICC would follow up with legal action a complaint made against President Felipe Calderon for alleged human rights abuses carried out by state forces.
  • Mary Anastasia O’Grady at the Wall Street Journal looks at the phenomenon of “capital flight” out of Argentina, claiming that guard dogs are being employed at borders to stop people trying to smuggle cash out of the country. She argues that President Kirchner cannot stop the capital flight, but that "her overt attempt to intimidate the population with guard dogs signals an important shift in the government's attitude toward civil liberty.”
  • Peru has decided to place visa requirements on Mexican citizens visiting the country, arguing that this could help stop organized criminal groups entering the country, reports InSightCrime, noting that some 98 Mexicans have been investigated for links to organized crime in the last two years.
  • The Pew Center says there were 11.7 million Mexicans living in the US in 2010, making them the largest group of foreigners in the country.