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  • National Protests Planned Against Unaccompanied Minors

    July 18, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Three U.S. conservative political groups are organizing over 300 anti-immigration demonstrations across the country on Friday and Saturday to protest the federal government’s decision to relocate unaccompanied minors in Texas to other states.

    The American Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC), Overpasses for America and Make Them Listen are coordinating efforts along with other Tea Party-associated groups to protests in front of state capitols, Mexican embassies and elsewhere.

    “Our goal is to unify Americans of every race, political party, and walk of life against this Obama-inspired invasion of our American homeland,” said Paul Gheen, president of the North Carolina-based ALIPAC. The groups are frustrated over what they perceive as a deliberate lack of enforcement of current immigration laws, as 57,000 youth from Central America and Mexico have entered the U.S. illegally thus far this year.

    The protests come one week after a bipartisan group of governors expressed concern about the relocations and how much they will cost their respective states. Many local governments officials have complained about a lack of communication coming from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol about whether buses of immigrant children would be coming and, if so, when.

    Protests are also being planned far from the U.S.-Mexico border. The conservative group Oregonians for Immigration Reform is also organizing protests in five cities, including Portland.

    Tags: Immigration, United States, Texas

  • Hacer periodismo en Venezuela

    July 17, 2014

    by Paula Ramón

    A comienzos de julio, Rafael Osío Cabrices, un periodista venezolano con una trayectoria respetada en Caracas, describió en un emotivo artículo su proceso al exilio. “Ya no soy más un reconocido periodista, apenas un inmigrante,” comentaba en una de sus líneas. 

    La frase, que me tocó personalmente, podría describir a decenas de colegas que en los últimos años han dejado el país con miedo. Miedo al desempleo, la crisis económica, la violencia, la ausencia de futuro. 

    Desde abril de 2013—cuando Nicolás Maduro, heredero político del fallecido presidente Hugo Chávez, tomó posesión de la Jefatura de Estado—tres grandes conglomerados de noticias han sido vendidos. El primero fue Globovisión, televisora privada que, asfixiada por demandas judiciales, pasó a manos del gobierno, implicando un giro de 180 grados en su línea. El canal que albergaba los principales críticos de la “revolución bonita” comenzó a asomar la posibilidad de firmar convenios con emisoras de Irán para la compra de enlatados. 

    El segundo fue la Cadena Capriles, la mayor empresa editorial del país, y mi antigua casa de trabajo. La Cadena Capriles es dueña de Últimas Noticias, diario con la principal circulación de Venezuela, en promedio 210 mil ejemplares diarios. Para poner en contexto su alcance, es posible comparar con Folha de São Paulo—el periódico con mayor tiraje de Brasil—que con 170 millones más de habitantes, distribuye 301 mil ejemplares diarios.

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    Tags: Venezuela, Freedom of expression, Journalism

  • Ban Ki-moon Discusses Citizenship in the Dominican Republic

    July 17, 2014

    by AQ Online

    In his first trip to the Dominican Republic, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the heated topic of citizenship laws, urging Dominican and Haitian leaders to collaborate on a humane solution. 

    Lawmakers approved Naturalization Law 169-14 in May of this year in response to a 2013 court decision that stripped nationality from individuals born between 1929 and 2007 in the Dominican Republic to non-native parents without residency permits.

    The court sentence directly affects thousands of descendants of Haitian immigrants. Although Dominican authorities claim that only 13,000 Haitian descendants have been affected, NGOs and humanitarian groups estimate the number to be over 210,000.

    “With a large majority of immigrants coming from Haiti, it is critical that the governments of Haiti and Dominican Republic cooperate closely to provide the necessary identification for Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic,” said Ki-moon. He also warned against the “privatization of nationality” and said the right of all people should be protected.

    However, many Dominican leaders defended the laws. “It’s not true that we discriminate against Haitian citizens because of their race or color, and because of nationality issues,” said President of the Senate Reinaldo Pared, who asserted that the UN’s focus should be on securing the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

    During his trip, Ki-moon also lauded the Dominican Republic’s contributions to art, literature and sports, and praised the country’s allocation of four percent of GDP to education. Ki-moon also visited Haiti earlier this week, where he launched a sanitation project as part of a solution to the cholera epidemic that has affected over 700,000 people, killing an estimated 8,500.

    Stay tuned for Americas Quarterly’s Summer 2014 issue for an in-depth analysis of the Dominican Republic’s citizenship laws.

    Tags: Ban Ki-moon, Dominican Republic-Haiti relations, Naturalization Law 169-14

  • The Quebec Factor is Back

    July 16, 2014

    by John Parisella

    Since the birth of Canada in 1867, Quebec has been an influential player in determining the country’s leadership. Throughout the country’s history, Quebec has played an important role in federal politics, most notably in modern times. Not only have Quebecers (Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, and Paul Martin) occupied the seat of the Canadian Prime Minister for over 36 years (1968 to 2006), but throughout those years, the pro-independence movement in Quebec has had a persistent impact on the conduct of federal politics.

    Until the 1993 federal general election, it was conventional wisdom in Canadian electoral politics that no party could form a majority government in the Canadian House of Commons without some significant Quebec representation. This changed with the emergence of the pro-independence Bloc Québécois, which took the majority of seats from the province of Quebec, thereby becoming the Official Opposition. The Bloc went on to become a dominant voice for Quebec in the federal parliament in every subsequent election until the last electoral rendezvous in 2011. It is fair to say that Quebec’s absence within the federal power structure curtailed its influence and gradually resulted in its decline as a player in federal politics over the next two decades.

    Read More

    Tags: Canada Elections, Quebec

  • Deadline Approaching for Congressional Action on Unaccompanied Minors

    July 16, 2014

    by AQ Online

    The U.S. Congress has less than three weeks to reach a compromise on immigration that would address the surge of unaccompanied minors before Congress’ August recess.

    President Obama requested $3.7 billion from the legislative branch to respond to the situation through increased deportation, a surge in border control agents and aid for the sending countries. However, an agreement on how much funding to provide—and where to allocate those funds—has yet to be made.

    The humanitarian crisis has led to increased cooperation between Mexico and Central American sending countries in an attempt to crack down on the criminal organizations trafficking the children north. However, high rates of violent crime and impunity in Central America—particularly the Northern Triangle region of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador—continue to contribute to unusually high rates of child migration.

    The White House is expected to meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today to discuss expedited deportations and the president’s funding request. It is unclear how the U.S. immigration system will manage the influx of unaccompanied minors if Congress does not act before the August recess.

    Tags: Immigration, unaccompanied minors

  • Humala and Merkel Discuss Climate Agenda in Berlin

    July 15, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Participating in the fifth-annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin on July 14th, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala asked that European countries sanction European-based mining companies that commit labor abuses in Peru. Humala’s comments come after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the two countries’ bilateral relationship. During the meeting, Merkel expressed Germany’s commitment to developing technology and industry in Peru, and expanding scientific research and scholarships to Peru.

    Humala looked to gain support for multilateral negotiations ahead of the Cumbre del Clima de Lima (Climate Summit in Lima), part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 20th session of the Conference of Parties (COP20) in December 2014, which will focus on finalizing an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol and seek to reduce CO2 emissions before 2020. Before arriving in Germany, Humala spent three days in France meeting with President François Hollande, where the two leaders agreed to work together on health care, defense and education. Like Merkel, Hollande pledged more scholarships for Peruvians to study in France.

    President Humala will also travel to Brazil, to attend the sixth BRICS Summit with other South American leaders on July 16, where he will meet with Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping and newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Humala’s international tour will end in Mexico on July 17, where he will meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto before returning home to Peru where he commands a paltry 25 percent approval rating.

    Tags: Ollanta Humala, Peru, Environment

  • Monday Memo: BRICS Summit – Argentina and Russia – U.S. Immigration – FARC and Colombian Peace – World Cup Riots

    July 14, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week’s likely top stories: BRICS leaders meet in Brazil; Argentina and Russia sign energy agreements; U.S. considers action on child immigrants; Colombian forces strike FARC; Argentine soccer fans riot.

    BRICS leaders to launch new bank at summit: Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa will convene in Fortaleza, Brazil for the sixth BRICS summit on Tuesday. The leaders will launch the “New Development Bank” (NDB) with $50 billion in initial capital to allow developing nations to secure infrastructure construction loans, pending legislative approval from all five BRICS countries. The BRICS countries also plan to set up the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA)—a $100 billion emergency lending pool for countries facing currency crises—whose purpose would be similar to that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is not yet clear how the lending criteria of the CRA will differ from the IMF, if at all. China will contribute $41billion in initial funding to the CRA, South Africa will contribute $5 billion, and Brazil, Russia and India will each contribute $18 billion.

    Argentina and Russia reach agreements on nuclear power:  Russian President Vladimir Putin and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a number of energy deals on Saturday while the Russian leader visited Buenos Aires to cooperate on nuclear energy and other projects. Putin announced that Russia will help build a nuclear reactor and bases for a satellite system in Argentina and may help construct two hydroelectric plants. Fernández de Kirchner confirmed that Russia is also interested in investing in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation and is planning to send a delegation to the area. On Friday, Putin was in Cuba meeting with Raúl and Fidel Castro to discuss energy, security, and health cooperation between Cuba and Russia.

    U.S. Congress to consider $3.7 billion for child immigrants: After U.S. President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in funding last week to address the growing crisis of young undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on how to proceed. Some Republicans have said that the $3.7 billion propose spends too little on border security. Many have advocated overturning a 2008 law signed by former President George W. Bush intended to protect unaccompanied children from human and sex trafficking, arguing that the children should be immediately returned to their home countries. Time is running out for congressional action, as Congress will begin a month-long break in August.

    FARC guerrillas killed by Colombian army and police: Colombian national police and military killed 12 presumed guerrillas from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) on Sunday in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia. In a joint security operation, the police and military forces also seized weapons, computers, cellphones and USB memory sticks that could be useful for Colombian military intelligence. This comes after Saturdays’ capture of Manuel Cepeda Vargas—a member of FARC accused of more than 40 terrorist acts–in another joint operation between the police and army in the southwestern department of Cauca. Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC will resume in Havana on Tuesday.

    World Cup riots in Argentina: An initially peaceful gathering of Argentine soccer fans near the Obelisk monument in Buenos Aires turned violent late on Sunday night as some hardcore fans rioted in response to the Argentine soccer team’s 0-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, making Germany the first European team to claim the World Cup trophy on American soil. As rioting and looting broke out along Avenida 9 de julio in Buenos Aires, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used water cannons on the crowd. At least 15 police officers were reported injured in the violence, and at least 50 people were detained.  The Argentine national team is expected to return to Buenos Aires on Monday.

    Tags: BRICS summit, Immigration, Russia-Latin America Relations

  • Building the Relationship, BRICS by BRICS

    July 11, 2014

    by Christine V. Gomes

    On July 15, the leaders of the five BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—will convene in Fortaleza, Brazil. This will mark the sixth official meeting between the member nations since the creation of the group in 2009.

    Only two days after the final of the World Cup, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has the opportunity to extend the global spotlight on her country by hosting the BRICS leaders.

    For  Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, this will mark his first visit to Brazil and only his second international tour since entering office in May—so Indians will be listening closely to hear his public stance on various issues. Chinese President Xi Jinping will also be making his first trip to Brazil, though he is in no way a stranger to Latin America, an important source of raw materials for China and target for foreign direct investment. Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely be thankful for the change in landscape after receiving such negative attention from the West for Russia’s policies toward the Ukraine. And President Jacob Zuma of South Africa is hopeful that the sixth Summit will produce results that were envisioned in the fifth meeting he hosted last year in Durban.

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    Tags: Brazil, BRICS summit, Fortaleza

  • Dominican Republic and Haiti Resume Immigration Talks

    July 11, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Yesterday in the city of Juan Dolio in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican and Haitian governments began the third round of bilateral talks concerning the legalization of the thousands of Haitians that live in the Dominican Republic without legal documentation. In a press conference after the talks concluded, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said that the Haitian government will provide documentation for the process of naturalization and regularization to its poorest citizens in the Dominican Republic for only 1,000 Dominican pesos ($23).

    The pledge comes one month after the Haitian government announced the implementation of the Programme d'identification et de documentation des immigrants Haïtiens (Identification and Documentation Program for Haitian Immigrants—PIDIH) that would provide Haitian residents in the Dominican Republic with documents like an government identification, birth certificate and passport for 2,500 pesos ($57).

    The Dominican Senate passed the Plan Nacional de Regularización de Extranjeros (The National Plan of the Regularization of Foreigners) last month as a response to a ruling issues last September by the Tribunal Constitucional (Constitutional Tribunal) that retroactively stripped citizenship from Dominicans born after 1929 to undocumented immigrants. Since the Dominican government began the process of regularization on June 2, more than 80,000 have signed up to start the process. However, only 20,000 of this group have some type of identification, and only 300 fit all the requirements.

    Beyond the discussion of immigration, the Dominican Minister of the Presidency Gustavo Montalvo asked that the Haitian government end the current ban on importing Dominican products, which he said has resulted in “increasing the informal market” and has “created competitive disadvantages.” Nevertheless, Montalvo said that with the bilateral talks this year the countries have made more progress than in the previous 50 years.

    Tags: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Immigration

  • Approval of Reforms Jolts Mexican Telecommunications Powerhouse

    July 10, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Mexican telecom giant América Móvil stands to lose its stronghold on the telecommunications market after the Mexican Congress approved legislative reforms on Wednesday intended to break down telecommunications monopolies in the country.

    President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed the reforms on March 24 as part of his campaign to create more competition in the Mexican telecommunications market and improve Mexico’s economy. The new reforms require businesses to hold less than 50 percent of the market share, will place restrictions on pricing, and require that telecommunications infrastructure be shared—but will also allow such companies to determine their own breakdown of the market share.

    Owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, América Móvil currently dominates the market with 70 percent of Mexico’s cellphone subscribers and 80 percent of its landlines—and with over 272 million wireless subscribers, it is the largest operator in the Americas. Arturo Elias, a spokesperson for Carlos Slim, said yesterday that to meet the requirements of the new reforms, América Móvil would have to sell between 15 and 17 percent of its overall phone market.

    Spain’s Telefonica, which is currently second in the Mexican telecommunications market, may try to expand its current market due to the new reforms—and companies with a smaller portion of the Mexican market, such as AT&T, Virgin Mobile and Grupo Televisa, could also benefit from the legislation. Mexico’s transportation and communications ministry said in a statement that “this decision could transform competition in the telecommunications sector with improved quality and better prices for services to end users.”

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    Tags: Mexico, Mexican telecommunications, América Móvil

  • World Cup Unifies Brazil in Joy, Despair

    July 10, 2014

    by Stephen Kurczy

    In 1945, the Brazilian football clubs Remo and Paysandu took the pitch here in Belém, gateway to the Amazon in the northeastern state of Pará. One of many face-offs of their famous century-old rivalry, the match became significant for more than just the 7-0 drubbing that Paysandu inflicted. It would leave a deep scar on Remo’s psyche. 

    The score still haunts Remo supporters such as Fabrico Bessa, even though his team has since bested Paysandu many times, including this year in the annual Clássico Rei da Amazônia (King of the Amazon Classic). 

    “We won the local championship this year, but anytime I try to talk about it to someone from Paysandu they just look at me and say ‘7-0’,” said Bessa, a 34-year-old optometrist with a practice here. “We will always have to swallow that, because we don’t know how to explain how we lost 7-0.” 

    In a small way, Bessa told me, that’s how this entire nation feels after the World Cup host lost 7-1 to Germany in the semifinal of the planet’s most-watched sporting event. Local newspapers reflected the agony on their front pages: “Massacre,” “Humiliation,” “An embarrassment for eternity.” Brazil had been the runaway favorite to win it all, with pre-tournament analytical models giving the seleção at least a 50 percent chance of claiming the trophy.

    “It’s too sad to be real,” Bessa said. 

    Brazil is now in mourning. But in that is something to be noted: Brazil is also unified.

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    Tags: Brazil World Cup, Dilma Rousseff, World Cup 2014

  • Brazil Crashes out of the World Cup

    July 9, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Brazil was routed 7-1 by Germany during yesterday’s World Cup semifinal match in Belo Horizonte, marking the South American nation’s biggest defeat in the history of the tournament. Neymar Jr., Brazil’s star player, was out of the lineup with a fractured vertebrae from Friday’s physical clash with Colombia. But more than their striker, the seleção sorely missed team captain and defensive leader Thiago Silva, who received a second yellow card on Friday and was prohibited from playing against Germany.

    In Silva’s absence, Brazil’s back line looked scattered, allowing four German players to score five goals in the first 30 minutes alone—sending a shock to the country that has won more World Cup trophies (5) than any other team. Following the game, President Dilma Rousseff said on Twitter, “I am immensely sorry for all of us,” and  Brazilian coach Luiz Scolari said in a post-game interview that “It was the worst day of my life.”

    Dilma will be feeling the pressure as Brazil’s attention turns from the World Cup to the presidential elections in October. Rousseff’s opposition, centrist candidate Aécio Neves, is currently polling at 20 percent, well below the president’s 38 percent voter support. But that margin could become slimmer if Brazilians’ frustration with the $11 billion price tag for hosting the tournament boils over into more protests like those that gripped several Brazilian cities during last summer’s Confederations Cup and immediately preceding this summer’s World Cup.

    Tags: Brazil, World Cup, President Dilma Rousseff

  • Court Strikes Down Arizona’s Driver’s License Ban for DACA Recipients

    July 8, 2014

    by AQ Online

    On Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an executive order issued by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in August 2012, which denied driver’s licenses to young immigrants who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The ruling reverses a May 2013 decision in which District Judge David Campbell sided with Brewer’s administration, denying that her policy was unconstitutional because federal law would take precedence over it.

    Immigrants can qualify for DACA and receive temporary work permits and remain in the U.S. without risk of deportation for two years, provided that they are under 30, they arrived in the country before the age of 16, have a high school diploma, GED or served in the military, and have not been convicted of a significant misdemeanor or felony. Brewer’s attorneys claimed the driver’s license ban was put in place to prevent improper access to public benefits and for the State of Arizona to avoid assuming “the liability of giving licenses to people who aren’t authorized to be in the country.”

    Monday’s ruling is a victory for immigrants’ rights advocates, particularly in Arizona where 87 percent of workers commute to work by car. Only Arizona and Nebraska have issued license denials, however a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the policy in Nebraska this year.

    Immigration reform has been thrust into the spotlight this summer as tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, have entered the U.S. illegally this year. The White House announced yesterday that the majority of these young immigrants will be deported because they will not qualify for assistance for “humanitarian reasons.”

    Check a debate between Jan Brewer and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on whether states and local governments have the right to enforce their own immigration laws.

    Tags: Jan Brewer, Immigration, Arizona

  • Monday Memo: Argentine debt – Putin in Latin America – Italy investigates Plan Cóndor – Earthquake – Trapped Honduran Miners

    July 7, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week’s likely top stories: Argentine negotiates with holdout creditors; Russia’s Vladimir Putin will visit Cuba, Argentina and Brazil; Italy investigates dictatorship-era murders; an earthquake hits Mexico and Guatemala; and Honduran authorities search for eight missing miners.

    Argentina begins debt negotiations: Argentina will begin negotiating a settlement today with its holdout creditors, who are owed some $1.5 billion, according to a U.S. federal court decision that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. Argentine Minister of the Economy Axel Kicillof leads an Argentine delegation to New York today, and will meet with Daniel A. Pollack, a mediator designated by U.S. judge Thomas Griesa to help reach an agreement. Argentina has until the end of July to make its first interest payment, or else face default for the second time in 13 years.

    Putin tours Latin America: Russian President Vladimir Putin will begin a six-day tour of Latin America on July 11 with a visit to Cuba to meet with Fidel and Raúl Castro, followed by stops in Argentina to meet with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Brazil to meet with Dilma Rousseff. On Friday, Russia’s parliament voted to write off 90 percent of Cuba’s $35 million debt, and instead aim to use the money for investment projects in Cuba. Putin, along with heads of state from India, China, South Africa and Brazil, will then meet for a summit of the BRICS countries starting on July 13, just after the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. The same day, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to pass responsibilities for the World Cup to Putin in an official handover ceremony, since Russia will be hosting the international tournament in 2018.

    Italy investigates Plan Cóndor murders and disappearances: Italian judge Alessandro Arturi began the first stage of an investigation into the murder and disappearance of 23 Italian citizens during “Plan Cóndor,” an operation carried out by South American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s to repress and murder political opponents to the regimes. On Monday, Arturi accepted a list of the accused, which includes 33 former members of the military and security forces in Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Italian prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo is reportedly conducting a similar investigation of the military governments of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The preliminary hearings are expected to take place this fall, and Arturi will decide on October 6 if the evidence presented by human rights groups and families of the disappeared will allow the case to progress to a criminal trial in 2015.

    Earthquake hits Mexico and Guatemala: At least 2 people in Guatemala have died in a 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Mexico and Guatemala on Monday morning. The quake set off landslides and caused widespread damage to homes and power lines. The quake’s epicenter was Puerto Madero, a Mexican city near the Guatemala border, but the two deaths were reported in San Marcos, Guatemala, where at least two residents were killed when the walls of their homes collapsed.

    Search for trapped miners continues in Honduras: Eight miners remain trapped in an informal gold mine near El Corpus, a small town in the southern department of Cholutecas in Honduras. The mine is in an area where landslides and earthquakes are common, and El Corpus mayor Luis Andres Rueda said there were more than 50 informal mines in the area. The mine collapsed last Wednesday, and the authorities saved three miners two days after the collapse when the miners yelled for help. If the remaining miners are not found near the site where the other three miners were rescued, the search may be called off.

    Tags: Vladimir Putin, Argentine debt, Human Rights

  • El fútbol que nos hace soñar (y matarnos)

    July 3, 2014

    by Jenny Manrique

    Cerca de 57 mil colombianos han acompañado desde las tribunas a la Selección de fútbol y se han deleitado con los 11 goles que tienen al país en los cuartos de final de la Copa del Mundo, mientras un sentimiento de euforia e histeria colectiva inunda a la patria. Grandes empresarios y grandes endeudados que empeñaron hasta la casa para poder ir a Brasil, se encuentran entre ese público futbolero conocedor o ignorante del deporte de masas, pero capaz de aglutinarse ante ese proyecto de nación en que se ha convertido el fútbol.

    Hasta el presidente Juan Manuel Santos, quien decretó el viernes como día cívico para que los empleados públicos puedan ir a su casa a ver el decisivo partido Colombia-Brasil, se aseguró un lugar en el estadio Castelão, en Fortaleza, junto a la presidenta del equipo anfitrión y rival, Dilma Rousseff. También millones seguiremos el partido por televisión, mientras un nombre memorable que vitorearía fielmente desde las tribunas, será el gran ausente de esta fiesta: Andrés Escobar.

    A 20 años de su absurda muerte ocurrida el 2 de julio de 1994 en Medellín, cuando no habían pasado ni 10 días del autogol que el delantero hizo en el partido contra Estados Unidos, su nombre y los 6 tiros que lo extinguieron, retumban en la memoria de una sociedad testigo de los tentáculos criminales del narcotráfico. El último mundial al que había ido Colombia, no solo dejó un sabor amargo por su descalificación, sino por acto criminal que como ningún otro (ni siquiera las muertes de ministros, candidatos presidenciales, bombas indiscriminadas) hizo sentir a los ciudadanos indignados y avergonzados.

    El asesino Humberto Muñoz pagó solo 12 años de cárcel. Era escolta de los hermanos Pedro David y Santiago Gallón Henao, reconocidos narcotraficantes de Carlos Castaño y luego socios del Chapo Guzmán, quienes en este caso solo pagaron 15 meses de prisión domiciliaria por el delito de encubrimiento y US$750 de fianza. Fueron los Gallón Henao quienes increparon a Escobar en una discoteca por el autogol, pero que gracias a su poder dentro de la Medellín de sicarios en moto, nunca fueron juzgados como determinantes del crimen, ni se esclareció del todo su relación con las jugosas sumas que la mafia se jugaba en las apuestas del mundial de entonces.

    Las presiones que tenían los jugadores de esa icónica selección de ‘El Pibe’ Valderrama, Freddy Rincón, René Higuita y Leonel Álvarez, muy bien retratadas en el documental “Los dos Escobar” de los directores Jeff Zimbalist y Michael Zimbalist, distan mucho de la tranquilidad y confianza que se ve a los jugadores del equipo de hoy. Jóvenes como el crack James Rodríguez y el pase-gol Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, vivieron su infancia en la década de los 90, turbulenta pero quizá la salida a los peores años del narcoterrorismo. Se fueron a clubes europeos y aunque comenzaron de locales, no pertenecieron a esas plantillas financiadas por la mafia como el América de Cali y el Atlético Nacional de los 80s.

    No obstante esa pasión desbordada y esa identidad—que en la Colombia de hoy no generan ni los políticos ni la mentada paz, pero sí el juego bonito de esta selección—no evita que dejemos de matarnos. Ya van 19 muertos y casi 4000 riñas tras las cuatro victorias, y cada vez que hay partido, las autoridades se desbordan en medidas de seguridad, imponen la ley seca (prohibición de venta de bebidas embriagantes) y hasta toque de queda para menores.

    Como si fuera poco, por lo menos en Belo Horizonte, los colombianos han sido el grupo de extranjeros con más detenidos por delitos como entrar marihuana a los estadios, revender boletas y como no, emborracharse y pelear. Hasta el Ministerio del Interior lanzó la campaña “Fútbol en paz”, simplemente para que dejemos de matarnos.

    ¿Qué hay en la cultura colombiana que no nos deja llorar los goles y abrazarnos, en vez de salir a celebrar la victoria con balas y muerte? Son épocas más sosiegas como no, parece que ya no hay mafias ni narcos detrás de los equipos, y el resultado del campeonato ya es de por sí histórico para Colombia. Pero todavía no nos hemos desprendido de la violencia lastre que nos identifica, de la falta de cultura ciudadana, de las muestras de odio entre el que piensa distinto, y eso que aquí todos somos la misma hinchada.

    “El fútbol es la única religión que no tiene ateos”, dijo el escritor uruguayo Eduardo Galeano. Ojalá que a diferencia de las religiones, dejemos de matarnos cuando nuestros dioses no ganan. Ojalá que gane Colombia este viernes.

    Tags: Colombia, 2014 World Cup, Andrés Escobar

  • Eleven Arrested in World Cup Ticket Scalping Operation

    July 3, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Police dismantled a World Cup ticket scalping operation with the arrest of 11 individuals in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in a raid Tuesday night. After a three-month investigation, twenty search warrants were granted and police raided a mansion in Santa Mônica, Barra da Tijuca, seizing close to $10,000 reais and 100 World Cup tickets that were originally meant for NGOs, sponsors and national delegations, as well as computers, cell phones and documents used in the operation.

    Among those arrested was the suspected leader of the operation, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, an Algerian national, naturalized French citizen who former played second division soccer in Canada. Fofana allegedly sold the tickets to tourist agencies at elevated prices through an organization called Atlanta Sportif with branches in Atlanta and Dubai. While legitimate tickets to the final match at Maracanã stadium were selling for $440 to $900, Fofana’s agency was selling them for up to $35,000. According to the police investigator, Fábio Barucke, those arrested in the raid confessed to participating in illegal ticket sales for the past four World Cups and have made close to $200 million reais per tournament, and $1 million reais per game.

    The organization's relationship with FIFA is also under investigation as Fofana had a special sticker giving him access to FIFA-restricted areas during the tournament, and calls were also traced from Fofana to FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. “We have reason to believe that a member of FIFA was involved with the group,” said Inspector Barucke.

    The individuals detained have been charged with money laundering, illegal money changing and organized crime, which carry a maximum of 18 years in prison if convicted.

    Tags: World Cup, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, FIFA

  • In World Cup, on to Round Three...

    July 2, 2014

    by Eric Farnsworth

    With the second round of the World Cup soccer tournament concluded the main storylines have been the success of teams from the Americas, the early exit of previous stalwarts England, Italy and Spain, the relatively high number of goals, and—at least in the United States—the sudden realization that soccer actually has a strong and passionate following. The dog that hasn’t barked? The pre-tournament meme about Brazil’s unpreparedness to host such a large event and the crime and street protests which were to have shut down various venues.  Clearly, that’s not proven out.  With two weeks to go, some commentators are already wondering aloud whether this will be the most successful World Cup of all time.

    That may be a bit dramatic, but the signs are encouraging. Problems exist, of course, as they do in every major global event, and big questions about cost and legacy of the tournament will be asked by Brazilians themselves after the tournament concludes.  Most observers, however, now seem to be content to enjoy Brazil’s famous hospitality and the joy of the beautiful game at the highest international level.

    And what a competition it’s been. Goalies have stolen the show. The U.S.’ Tim Howard, Mexico’s Memo Ochoa, Brazil’s Júlio César, Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, and others have become international celebrities as a result of their acrobatic, gravity-defying saves. Nonetheless, more goals have already been scored to this point in the tournament this year than were scored in the full 2010 tournament, and that has made the games suspenseful and fun to watch. 

    Read More

    Tags: 2014 World Cup, Tim Howard, Brazil

  • Colombians Accused of Murdering DEA Agent Extradited to U.S.

    July 2, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Colombia extradited seven taxi drivers who were charged with murdering a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, on Tuesday. Special Agent James “Terry” Watson was stabbed to death after a botched robbery  on June 20, 2013. The alleged murderers will stand trial in Virginia.

    The taxi drivers were members of a criminal band based in the Bogotá that targeted taxi passengers for robbery. On the night of the murder, the drivers attempted to take Watson on a “millionaire’s ride” or “express kidnapping,” a common scheme in Colombia in which the attackers force the victim to empty their bank accounts at an ATM machine before releasing them.

    The alleged murderers were extradited after the U.S. government successfully argued that Watson, who served as an agent for the DEA for 13 years, was an “internationally protected person with diplomatic immunity” under the Vienna Convention and that the trial should take place in the United States.“These citizens were wanted via an Interpol Red Notice for the crimes of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime,” General Ricardo Restrepo, the Colombian anti-narcotics police chief, said. It marks the first mass extradition between the two countries that isn’t related to narcotrafficking.

    Tags: Colombia, DEA

  • Mexican Culture and the World Cup

    July 2, 2014

    by Arjan Shahani

    The World Cup is a lot more than just soccer. It is a global celebration and in many regards, a showcase of cultures, not just from the host country but from all nations participating in it.

    While Mexico did not become the World Cup soccer champion in Brazil, international media sources did call it the  champion of social media, as one of the nations with some of the most social media chatter and memes during the tournament. The flourishing of social media has made Mexico renown in all corners of the globe, in ways that traditional media has not.

    Unfortunately, not all of our portrayals are positive. During Brazil 2014, some Mexican fans chose to display their “cultural humor” in ways that could be considered hateful or homophobic—including taunting goalkeepers by calling them “puto,” a derogatory term used frequently at soccer matches in Mexico. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) even opened up an investigation to evaluate if the Mexican soccer federation should be fined for promoting discrimination through the use of this taunt (in the end, FIFA decided against it, determining that the federation could not be held liable for spectators’ conduct).

    More relevant than the debate over  FIFA’s decision about the chant is the fans’ reaction to it. Instead of questioning the use of the word and our projection of Mexican culture to the world, many Mexican soccer fans decided to bask in the glory of their ability to insult others.

    Read More

    Tags: Mexico, Soccer, 2014 World Cup, homophobia

  • Obama to Pursue Executive Action on Immigration Reform

    July 1, 2014

    by AQ Online

    In an announcement at the White House yesterday, President Barack Obama blamed House Republicans for congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform, and said that he would be moving forward with executive action to fix the U.S.’s broken immigration system. Obama went on to say that he would be moving resources from the interior of the country to the border, in part to address the estimated 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have entered the U.S. illegally so far in 2014.

    Obama said that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder will "identify additional actions my administration can take within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.” Obama expects recommendations by summer’s end, which could affect the midterm elections in November.

    Under executive action, Obama could reduce deportations by extending deferred action to certain group of undocumented immigrants, similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program he started through executive action in 2012.

    The announcement comes less than a week after Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner told the president that the House of Representatives would not vote on the comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate a year ago, despite the fact that there is enough bipartisan support in the chamber to pass it.

    Tags: Immigration, President Barack Obama, unaccompanied minors

  • The New Buzz About Montreal

    July 1, 2014

    by John Parisella

    After a long and dreary winter and an unusually rainy spring, Montrealers have greeted the summer season with the Canadian Grand Prix, a series of elaborate street festivals including Jazz Fest and Just for Laughs, and the traditional national holidays of Québec and Canada. They are part of the usual rituals of summer associated with Montreal. 

    This year, however, may mark the beginning of a new optimism and a concerted effort at reviving the city—and may make the buzz a year-round reality. At least, that’s the hope.

    This past winter, a prominent businessman and executive banker, Jacques Ménard of the Bank of Montreal, Canada’s oldest bank, released a report he had commissioned from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) dealing with Montreal’s current challenges and ways to revitalize the city. 

    Comparing Montreal with other cities possessing similar characteristics, the BCG report presented a ten point revitalization program, including additional powers usually associated with a city’s status as a metropolis, such as greater powers of taxation and greater autonomy.

    Read More

    Tags: Montreal, BCG Report, Development

  • Monday Memo: Varela in Panama – Argentine debt – ELN attack – Costa Rica and Colombia World Cup Firsts – Amado Boudou

    June 30, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week's likely top stories: Juan Carlos Varela takes office as Panama's new president; Argentina negotiates a settlement with holdout creditors; the ELN attacks in Arauca; Costa Rica and Colombia advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time; Argentine Vice President Boudou faces charges.

    Juan Carlos Varela inaugurated in Panama: Panamanian President-elect Juan Carlos Varela will be officially sworn into office on Tuesday with a number of regional leaders in attendance, including a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry. Varela, of the Partido Panameñista (Panameñista Party) was elected on May 4 over José Domingo Arias of the Cambio Democrático (Democratic Change) party, earning 39 percent of the vote over Arias’ 32 percent, though Varela’s party only won 11 seats in Panama’s 71-seat legislative assembly. Varela, Panama’s former vice president, has promised to fight corruption and improve government transparency while continuing to improve Panama’s infrastructure.

    Argentina to negotiate as interest payment comes due: With a $539 million interest payment on bonds due today (Monday), Argentina has 30 days to make the payment to avoid its second default in 13 years. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Argentina’s appeal in a long-running battle with holdout creditors after it defaulted on its debt in 2001. The Supreme Court decision allowed a lower court ruling to stand, which requires Argentina to pay a group of holdout creditors some $1.3 billion before it can pay other bondholders. The country has one month to negotiate a settlement with the holdouts in U.S. District Court to avoid a default.

    Attack on oil camp in Western Colombia leaves 13 injured: The Colombian government has accused the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army–ELN) of  attacking on a camp in the Caño Limón oilfield in the Colombian state of Arauca in western Colombia, injuring 13 people as they were preparing to attend Sunday Mass. While the ELN has traditionally carried out attacks on oil pipelines themselves, Colombian Minister of Mining and Energy Amylkar Acosta said this was the first time they had attacked a camp for workers, and accused the ELN of cowardice. The ELN has agreed to engage in formal peace talks, but have yet to agree to a formal truce; they have been accused of three other attacks on the same oil pipeline in the last ten days.

    Costa Rica and Colombia make World Cup history: Costa Rica and Colombia both advanced to their teams’ first-ever World Cup quarterfinals this weekend, after Colombia defeated Uruguay 2-0 on Saturday and Costa Rica beat Greece in a penalty shootout on Sunday after tying 1-1 in regulation time. Colombia—led by 22-year-old James Rodríguez, who has scored at least one goal in each of his first four World Cup games—will face host country Brazil in the quarterfinals on July 4. Costa Rica will face the Netherlands on July 5 after the Dutch defeated Mexico on Sunday with a controversial penalty kick.

    Argentine vice president charged with bribery: An Argentine judge charged Vice President Amado Boudou with bribery and corruption on Friday. If he is found guilty, Boudou could face between one and six years in prison. Boudou is accused of using his position as economy minister to interfere in bankruptcy proceedings against a printing company—charges that he denies. He is the first sitting Argentine vice president since 1983 to face such charges.

    Following the 2014 World Cup? Read AQ's coverage here.

    Tags: 2014 World Cup, Amado Boudou, Juan Carlos Varela

  • Honduras: Human Rights Five Years after the Coup

    June 27, 2014

    by Ramiro Sebastián Fúnez

    June 28 is an important day for members of both the LGBTQ community and the Honduran working class. The first is the anniversary of the 1969 “Stonewall Riots” in New York City by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). And the second is the anniversary of the 2009 military-led coup d'état that ousted populist Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from office and led to protests by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (National Popular Resistance Front—FNRP).

    Zelaya, who came into office as a member of the center-right Partido Liberal (Liberal Party) in 2006 but moved closer to the Left throughout his tenure, was arrested by the military and forcibly exiled to Costa Rica on June 28, 2009 after proposing a referendum that would enable voters to approve a constitutional assembly.

    Though these events may appear unrelated—apart from their shared anniversary—they have produced one common result:  a greater awareness of human rights violations and the mobilization of grassroots protest movements.

    And while LGBTQ groups in the United States have made a number of legislative gains since 1969, Honduran activists—and LGBTQ activists in particular—have just begun their fight for political, social and economic justice.

    Read More

    Tags: Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, Stonewall Riots, LGBT Rights

  • Bachelet Government Clarifies Position on Abortion

    June 27, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Chilean Minister of Health Helia Molina set out on Thursday to clarify the government’s position on legalizing therapeutic abortion—abortion only in cases of rape, putting the life of the mother at risk, and the inability of the fetus to live outside of the womb. Molina said that the government was not promoting a law that would allow the voluntary termination of pregnancy under any circumstance, and that the proposed legislation would be formally debated in congress.

    The announcement comes a day after Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said in an interview in Spanish newspaper El País that she would send the legislation to congress in the second half of the year. President Bachelet’s spokesman, Álvaro Elizalde, has since referred to the headline as misleading.

    The president the Unión Demócrata Independiente (Independent Democratic Union–UDI) opposition party, Ernesto Silva, expressed his disapproval at the president’s proposal on such a controversial topic, stating, “like the immense majority of Chileans, we are always advocates for the defense of life.”

    In Chile, abortion was legal for medical reasons until 1989 when former President Augusto Pinochet’s military government instituted a total ban on the practice. Abortion has become a hot-button issue since the return of democracy. The Chilean right, including ex-President Sebastián Piñera, has been vigorously opposed to the practice of abortion in any form. In 2013, Piñera controversially praised an 11-year-old pregnant girl for keeping her baby after being raped, and has recently reiterated his position opposing therapeutic abortion legislation.

    Bachelet has had a busy first 100 days, successfully passing a tax reform that would fund her sweeping reforms to make education free at all levels, and proposing policies towards reconciliation with the Mapuche–Chile’s largest indigenous minority–including increasing political representation and returning land to the Mapuche in Southern Chile. In total she has completed 91 percent of the 56 measures she intended to propose during her first 100 days.

    Tags: Michelle Bachelet, Abortion, Chile

  • As Americans Take Pitch in Recife, Other Stadiums Already Turning Off the Lights

    June 26, 2014

    by Stephen Kurczy

    As Team U.S.A. took the pitch today in Recife  for what might be its final World Cup match, some other Brazilian cities were already turning off the lights on their newly built stadiums now that the tournament is halfway over.

    Here in Manaus last night, the final crowds exited the still-shiny $300 million Arena da Amazônia after the Honduras-Switzerland match, bringing a close to the biggest event that ever has—and likely ever will—come to the Amazon rainforest. With no more matches scheduled here or in Cuiabá, Natal, and Curitiba, public scrutiny is now turning to what will become of these mega-investments.

    “It’s not economical, it’s not good for the country,” said Kelson Eugenio, sitting inside the stadium yesterday with his eight-year-old son and suggesting the money could have been better spent on education. “At the same time, soccer is soccer. We’re taking advantage of the World Cup being here.”

    Brazil’s government is still trying hard to sell the event to a skeptical public—and time is running out, with the final match scheduled for July 13. Some long-term benefits to the event’s $11.3 billion price tag are already visible, such as new infrastructure, a jump in tourism, and a boost to businesses. Others are less apparent, like the government’s claim that $6 billion in new investment has been promised by visiting businesspeople, or the specialized training for Brazilian security and police.

    Read More

    Tags: Brazil, Brazil World Cup, Manaus

  • Japan Pledges $176 Million for Paraguayan Development

    June 26, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes finishes his trip to Japan today, after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday. The heads of state discussed concerns with North Korea, nuclear missile development, and territorial and maritime coercion claims, but the primary focus of the meetings was to discuss transnational development between the two countries, including Japanese funding of Paraguayan infrastructure.

    President Cartes affirmed his country’s stability, stating that it is a safe country to conduct business, with one of the best corporate climate’s due to tax benefits, available labor force, vast territory, and the low cost of energy. Currently, there are 10 Japanese companies based in Paraguay, but the president has plans for further investment. ”We’ve received cooperation from Japan for a wide range of development projects […] Japanese companies have created jobs for young people,” said Cartes.

    On Tuesday, Akihito Tanaka, president of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), awarded Paraguayan Finance Minister Germán Rojas a sum of approximately $176 million, which will be put toward the construction of an asphalted highway in the southern Paraguayan state of Alto Paraná, connecting Natalio, Itapúa and Cedrales. The area is where most of the country’s grain harvesting and production takes place. The money will also be used to aid the 200,000 individuals affected by recent torrential flooding in recent weeks.

    Paraguay, recently the host country for the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly meeting on development and social inclusion, has been lauded for its economic growth of 13 percent, yet remains one of the most unequal and socially exclusive countries in the region.

    Read More

    Tags: Horacio Cartes, Shinzo Abe, Development

  • Putin’s Hold Beyond Russia

    June 25, 2014

    by John Parisella

    The activities surrounding the 70th anniversary Normandy landing commemorations on June 6 displayed the tensions between western leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper avoided meeting Putin altogether, while other leaders, including President Obama, participated in the minimum photo-ops to honor the sacrifice of those who liberated Europe.

    Maybe it is a sign of the times, but I am perplexed by some of the western media’s treatment of Putin. Never mind that he violated international law by unilaterally annexing Crimea this past spring or that he systematically used his Security Council veto to avoid a possible alternative to the atrocious civil war in Syria in its early stages.  Now we have a humanitarian crisis that is out of control.

    Last September when it was discovered that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, President Obama was faced with a real challenge to his “red line” ultimatum about the use of such weapons in the conflict. With Obama unable to get Congressional endorsement for air strikes to counter Assad’s regime and its tactics, Putin took the lead in the removal of chemical weapons operation, with backing from the UN. The result was interpreted as a successful outcome for Putin and an embarrassing moment for both the Obama administration and the western powers. The general consensus was that Putin put one over on Obama, but few questioned Putin’s real role in the conflict.

    Last summer whistleblower Edward Snowden was making the headlines about the U.S. security apparatus’ illegal surveillance on American citizens. Not only did he divulge the National Security Agency (NSA) policy, but he may have revealed information considered damaging to national security. We know the rest. Snowden escaped to Hong Kong, was charged by the U.S. government under the Espionage Act, and eventually received refuge in Russia. An ironic twist, given the repressive nature of the Putin regime, that Russia is now harboring a U.S. charged criminal.

    Read More

    Tags: Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, transnational politics

  • Uruguay’s Suárez Faces Possible Suspension for Bite

    June 25, 2014

    by AQ Online

    FIFA announced early Wednesday that it is launching an investigation to determine whether Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez bit an opposing player during Uruguay’s World Cup match against Italy on Tuesday. FIFA has given the Uruguayan national team until tomorrow afternoon to present evidence, and announced that it would issue a ruling before Uruguay plays Colombia in the Round of 16 on Saturday. Suárez could face a ban from international competition for up to 24 matches, or two years.

    In the 80th minute of yesterday’s group stage match, Suárez got tangled up with Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini and appears to have bitten Chiellini in the shoulder before both players fell to the ground. No foul was called at the time, and Uruguay went on to win 1-0, sending the team through to the knockout stage of the Cup and eliminating Italy.

    "These are things that happen on the pitch, we were both in the area, he thrust his shoulder into me," Suárez said in his defense in a press conference after the match. Chiellini said the no-call was “ridiculous” and insisted that he had teeth marks to prove the bite.

    Suárez is no stranger to controversy on the field. In 2013, he was banned from 10 matches for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, and in 2010, he served a seven-match ban for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal. He also was banned from eight matches and fined $68,000 for using racial slurs against Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. But Suárez is perhaps best known for purposefully using his hands to prevent a Ghana goal in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup, for which he received a red card.

    Tags: Luis Suarez, World Cup, FIFA

  • Child Migrants—Whose Problem?

    June 24, 2014

    by Stephen Johnson

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Guatemala and U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto this month highlighted the thousands of unaccompanied, undocumented Central American youth crossing the U.S. southwest border into the United States.

    Although the numbers don’t approach the millions of Mexicans and other Latin Americans crossing the U.S. border in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the fact that many of these migrants are minors creates significant complications.

    Traditional approaches to immigration control are not likely to be effective as long as the factors that cause youth migration remain unaddressed. A big one is the worrisome state of urban neighborhoods and rural municipalities in Central America, as well as in parts of Mexico.  

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports that during the 6-month period from October 2013 to May 2014, some 47,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America and Mexico crossed into the United States in southern Texas as undocumented migrants—a 90 percent increase over the same time period the previous year.   

    The problem is complicated by the question of whether some young migrants could be placed with family members already residing in the United States, and humanitarian concerns that some do not have homes to return to in their native countries. The problem is bad enough that DHS has set up temporary holding facilities at military bases in Texas, Oklahoma and California.

    Read More

    Tags: Undocumented immigrants, unaccompanied minors, Immigration

  • U.S. Plans to Deport Unaccompanied Minors

    June 24, 2014

    by AQ Online

    Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, announced on Monday that the U.S. will move forward with the deportation of the estimated 60,000 to 80,000 undocumented unaccompanied minors who will enter the country illegally in 2014 alone.The announcement comes just days after the White House unveiled a multi-million dollar plan to help reintegrate Central American return migrants in their home countries and increase security assistance funding.

    In addition to speeding up the deportation process, the White House emphasized that these children are not guaranteed asylum. Unlike Canadian and Mexican minors, Central American children—who make up the majority of the recent surge—cannot be repatriated immediately, and are instead put in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement until they can be placed with a parent or guardian while awaiting their deportation proceedings.

    In addition to foreign aid, the Obama administration’s plan announced on Friday would increase immigration enforcement on the border, open facilities designed to detain families and increase the amount of immigration judges available to handle immigration court hearings to help ease the backlog that is partly responsible for keeping unaccompanied children in cramped quarters.

    Tags: Immigration, Immigration Reform

  • World Cup 2014: The "Zebras" of the Americas

    June 23, 2014

    by Flora Charner

    When a soccer match ends in a surprising or unpredictable way, Brazilians often use the popular expression “deu zebra” ("it was a zebra"). The term applies to games where supposedly weaker teams beat stronger ones, or when key players are outperformed on the field. 

    Like the animal, "zebras" are fairly rare. But in this World Cup, an incredible herd of surprises have come galloping in from the Americas to scare off the mighty lions during this group stage. 

    In Recife's Arena Pernambuco, Costa Rica defeated the 2006 World Cup champs, Italy, 1-0. Costa Rican captain Bryan Ruiz scored in the 44th minute with a header into Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's arch. The ticos,who are ranked #28 in the world by FIFA, were considered underdogs in a "Group of Death" that also includes Uruguay and the now-eliminated England—but they lead the group and have secured a spot in the second round.

    Read More

    Tags: 2014 World Cup, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica

  • Monday Memo: Dilma Rousseff – Strike in Puerto Rico – Argentine Debt – Claudia Paz y Paz – Soccer Violence

    June 23, 2014

    by AQ Online

    This week's likely top stories: Dilma Rousseff confirms she will run for re-election; workers go on strike in Puerto Rico; Argentina says it will negotiate with hedge funds; Chilean bus drivers fear soccer violence; Claudia Paz y Paz will receive an award.

    Rousseff’s candidacy is official: Brazil’s ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party—PT) confirmed on Saturday that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will be the party’s candidate for the country’s October presidential elections. Despite declining popularity, protests surrounding the World Cup and Olympics, and meager economic growth rates, Rousseff still leads the field of presidential candidates in the polls. However, the Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (Brazilian Labor Party—PTB) announced this weekend that it will support Rousseff’s competitor, Aécio Neves from the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party—PSDB), and end its alliance with the PT. Rousseff will campaign alongside current Vice President Michel Temer, who will also run for re-election on the ballot with Rousseff.

    Workers strike in Puerto Rico: Medical services employees began a 24-hour strike Sunday in front of the Centro Médico de Río Piedras to protest measures by the government to confront the island’s fiscal crisis. The workers join other sectors across Puerto Rico, including metropolitan transit workers and bank employees, in opposing the Ley 66 de Sostenibilidad, which the Puerto Rican Senate passed on June 16 to declare a fiscal state of emergency.  The law intends to stabilize the Puerto Rican economy within three years, but it will also freeze bonuses and benefits for public employees. Last Thursday, an assembly of public workers agreed to hold a general strike sometime this week.

    Argentine government denounces court ruling: Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to let a $1.3 billion ruling against Argentina stand, the Argentine government published full-page advertisements in major U.S. newspapers this weekend, arguing that “paying the vulture funds is a path leading to default.” However, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said on Friday that she was willing to negotiate with the hedge funds. Argentine Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said that Argentina will make a formal proposal on Monday to U.S. Federal Judge Thomas Griesa to pay back "100 percent of bondholders."

    Chilean transit workers fear soccer riots: Chilean transit workers said they will suspend bus services in anticipation of riots and violence from soccer fans after Chile takes on the Netherlands in the World Cup today. After Chile’s victory over Spain last Wednesday, bus drivers were attacked and buses were taken over by out-of-control fans. Meanwhile, Chilean security forces have put a special traffic plan in place in the capital to avoid major congestion and keep order. So far, Chile’s transportation minister, Andrés Gómez-Lobo, has reported that bus services have been operating as scheduled.

    Claudia Paz y Paz receives human rights prize: The Washington Office on Latin America announced today that it has awarded former Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz a Human Rights Award for her work combatting organized crime and corruption. Paz y Paz presided over the trial of former Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt and convicted him of genocide and crimes against humanity before the verdict was overturned on a technicality. Paz y Paz’ tenure was cut short last month, and she was replaced by former Supreme Court judge Thelma Esperanza Aldana Hernández, who took office on May 17 and has close ties to Ríos Montt’s party.

    Tags: Dilma Rousseff, Puerto Rico, Claudia Paz y Paz

  • Elections in Colombia: Five Takeaways

    June 20, 2014

    by Francisco Miranda Hamburger

    On June 15, 15.8 million Colombians went to the polls and gave peace a chance—literally. With 51 percent of the vote, President Juan Manuel Santos won a second term against the Centro Democrático´s Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who won 45 percent.

    In three weeks, Santos bounced back from his defeat in the first-round election on May 25 and secured four more years in the Casa de Nariño. The 2014 elections realigned political forces in Colombia and drew a new political map, with important future consequences.

    Here are five takeaways from Santos' win:

    1. Promises of peace

    Santos ran his campaign for re-election on the promise to continue the current  peace negotiations with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana, Cuba.

    With low levels of public support for his administration, Santos owes his victory to voters’ leap of faith that it will be possible to sign a peace deal with guerrilleros. Between the first round and the runoff election, Santos’ campaign managed to obtain key endorsements from the left-wing opposition—the Polo Democrático Alternativo—and the center-left Alianza Verde. This support, based exclusively on the continuation of the peace process, ended up being crucial to Santos' victory.

    In other words, Santos' re-election is, more than anything, a mandate to negotiate with the FARC.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos

  • Bogotá Institutes Dry Law to Stem Soccer-Related Violence

    June 20, 2014

    by AQ Online

    A ley seca (dry law) announced by Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro on Wednesday was extended until 6 am this morning. Petro justified the implementation of the law citing the violence that erupted after Colombia’s opening World Cup game against Greece on June 14—the South American nation’s first tournament appearence in 16 years. Despite liquor sales ending at 6 pm, over 100 people were injured and nine people were killed in gunfights, stabbings and fistfights on the eve of the presidential runoff.

    Asociación de bares de Colombia (Association of Colombian Bars–Asobares) criticized the law, claiming that it would create a black market in Bogotá similar to demilitarized zone of Caguán, which was a safe haven for the Fuerzas Armadad Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) during the presidency of Andrés Pastrana. Even though liquor sales were banned, bars were still able to open during and after the match yesterday.

    Colombia has had a history of violence resulting from soccer celebrations, as exemplified by their resounding 5-0 victory over Argentina in the 1994 World Cup when 76 people were killed and 912 were injured in the celebrations. On Wednesday, fans of the soccer club Millonarios, who celebrated the club’s 68th anniversary, stole a bus by threatening the bus driver with a knife in a day that ended with 32 wounded.

    So far, Colombia has performed brilliantly during the World Cup, shutting out Greece 3-0—when the initial violence erupted—and defeating Côte D'Ivoire 2-1 to book a ticket to the knockout stage of the cup. Their final match of the group stage is against Japan on Tuesday, June 24.

    Tags: Colombia, Gustavo Petro, Dry Law

  • Biden, Santos Discuss Colombian Peace Talks

    June 19, 2014

    by AQ Online

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with recently re-elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday as part of his four-nation tour of the Americas. The primary focus of the meeting was to discuss the ongoing peace talks with the Colombian insurgent groups. For the past 18 months the Colombian government has been negotiating with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN)—the two groups that have been involved in the Colombia’s internal conflict over the last 50 years. The talks were central to Santos’ win over Centro Democrático (Democratic Center) challenger Óscar Iván Zuluaga on Sunday with 50.95 percent of the vote.

    While the U.S. has provided more than $9 billion since 2000 to help fund Plan Colombia, which has been fighting the drug war and the FARC and ELN insurgents, its current assistance is at its lowest level since 1998, with only $300 million sent this year. Biden affirmed the U.S.’ support of Colombia during the peace negotiations, but gave no specifics as to how such backing would be carried out. “Just as the United States has supported Colombia’s leaders in the battlefield, so do we fully support you at the negotiation table,” Biden told reporters.

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    Tags: Joe Biden, Juan Manuel Santos, FARC peace negotiations

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