Thursday, June 19, 2014

Different Discourses Ahead of Guatemala Meeting on Immigration Crisis

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to meet with the Guatemalan and Salvadoran presidents, as well as a high-level Honduran representative in Guatemala City on Friday as a final stop on his regional tour this week. His goal is to dispel rumors that undocumented child immigrants are exempt from deportation, but the governments of these three Central American countries appear to have more ambitious goals for the meeting.

As the L.A. Times reports, Biden’s plan to stress that the recent wave of unaccompanied minors at the border are ineligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a pivot for the Obama administration, which until this week had stubbornly rejected claims that  confusion over its policies was a factor behind the a spike in immigration and the associated humanitarian crisis.

In his visit tomorrow, the vice president is also expected to emphasize the dangers of the trek north, stressing that ultimately (as an administration official told reporters on Sunday): “[I]t’s not worth subjecting children to a perilous journey when, at the end of the day, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.”

As valid as this may be, Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran officials have agendas of their own, which seem to clash with Biden’s talking points.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez, for instance, plans to use the visit to call on the U.S. government to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Guatemalans living in the country, a request that Guatemalan officials have been making since 2011.

For his part, Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren has said he will emphasize the importance of immigration reform in the U.S., “where family reunification can take place,” as La Prensa Grafica reports. He also said that funds had been allocated to assist children being housed in temporary shelters along the border.

The Honduran response to the wave of child immigrants, by contrast, has been all over the place. Last Friday, President Juan Orlando Hernandez blamed the trend on a lack of immigration reform and “weak” drug laws in the U.S. “We are very worried about the children, but sadly this is a security problem provoked by drug trafficking from the drugs that are consumed by the U.S.,” Hernandez said in remarks to the Chamber of Commerce in Washington. “Sadly, here some U.S. officials think this problem is a health one, not a life and death situation like it is for us.” Additionally, as CNN and El Pais report, on Tuesday the Honduran Foreign Ministry announced it was preparing to request that undocumented children be allowed to stay in the country, urging U.S. officials to unite them with relatives there.

Yesterday, however, President Hernandez said that an official delegation would be sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to assess the situation and help locate and identify Honduran citizens. In an apparent reversal, the president announced that "The idea is that once they are found, these children and adolescents will return to Honduras,” according to La Tribuna.

Meanwhile, most pundits have interpreted Eric Cantor’s surprise primary loss as a nail in the coffin for U.S. immigration reform for the foreseeable future. As Shannon O'Neil argues in a column for Foreign Policy, the timing could not have been worse, as the perilous journey faced by unaccompanied minors highlights the need for reform now more than ever.

News Briefs
  • In Colombia on Wednesday, Biden met with President Juan Manuel Santos for over two hours in Bogota. Afterwards, the AP notes that he pledged U.S. support for Colombia’s peace talks with rebels in Havana, saying they had potential to “benefit all the region.” He also visited Bogota’s Memory, Peace and Reconciliation Center, a space dedicated to commemorate conflict victims. Today, the vice president is in Santo Domingo, where he will meet with Dominican President Danilo Medina. According to administration officials, the controversial citizenship ruling affecting thousands of individuals of Haitian descent is among the issues the two will address.
  • El Espectador has published an interview with Biden, in which the vice president touched on U.S. efforts to mend frayed ties in the region following last year’s NSA leaks, as well as the administration’s support for handing Guantanamo detainees over to governments in Latin America.  Accepting these prisoners, Biden said, would “send a powerful humanitarian gesture and give a clear indication of the strength of our partnership on security and counterterrorism.”
  • Six years after Mexico’s legislature approved a landmark justice reform law, and just two years before its 2016 deadline for implementation, Mexico’s state governments have made slow progress on the issue. According to a new report by transparency advocacy group Fundar, just half of Mexican states have even partially implemented the legal framework specified by the 2008 law. As La Jornada reports, Mexican Institute for Human Rights and Democracy (IMDHD) has launched a website which Mexicans can use to pressure legislators to move the reforms forward.
  • The governor of Mexico’s troubled Michoacan state stepped down yesterday, citing health problems, El Universal reports.  However, L.A. Times notes that his resignation came just days after photos emerged which purported to show his son meeting with the head of the powerful Knights Templar drug cartel. According to Proceso, the attorney general’s office has announced it is investigating the matter.
  • At 100 days in office, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has fulfilled an impressive 46 of 50 campaign promises for her first few months in office. La Tercera has an analysis of her administration’s record so far, noting that has stuck to her original promises far better than in the first 100 days of her first term in office.
  • The NYT reports on a combined effort by the governments of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile to ensure special recognition of an ancient Incan trail running through the countries' borders by the Unesco World Heritage Committee.
  • In a Monday editorial, the Jamaica Observer criticized apparent inconsistencies in a Jamaican proposal to alter its marijuana policies. Even though it would “decriminalize” pot use for religious purposes and in cases when it is prescribed by a doctor, possession of less than two ounces of the drug would still be a “ticketable offense,” a contradiction the paper claims “simply doesn't make sense.”  The Guardian, meanwhile, questions whether the move can provide an economic boost in the country, noting that Jamaica is “light years behind western Europe and the U.S. in terms of establishing laboratory and research infrastructure, official distribution networks, finding merchants untainted by the criminal underworld, and an organized framework of governance.”   
  • The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal note that a lawyer representing the Argentine government at a U.S. District Court hearing yesterday said it would negotiate payment with holdout creditors in a meeting next week in New York. However, the AP notes that President Cristina Fernandez has continued to float the idea that her government can ignore the U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering it to settle with holdouts while honoring its commitments to other bondholders, a maneuver the news agency calls a “doomsday scenario.”