After crossing into Guatemala, migrants set sights on Mexico
By SONIA PEREZ D.
Wednesday, January 16
AGUA CALIENTE, Guatemala (AP) — More than 1,000 Hondurans were walking and hitchhiking through Guatemala on Wednesday, heading toward the Mexico border as part of a new caravan of migrants hoping to reach the United States.
Guatemala’s migration authority said just over 1,300 people were able to register at the border and pass through frontier controls under the watchful eyes of about 200 police and soldiers at the Agua Caliente crossing. Some migrants told The Associated Press that they crossed informally elsewhere.
Miria Zelaya, who left the Honduran city of Colon and was traveling with 12 relatives, said she did not know what sort of work she hopes to find in the United States but was not dismayed by tougher immigration policies under President Donald Trump.
“That does not discourage me,” Zelaya said. “The need is greater.”
Migrants leaving Central America’s Northern Triangle nations of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala routinely cite widespread poverty, lack of opportunity and rampant gang violence as their motivation.
Many in the group registered for 90-day visas in Guatemala, saying they felt it would offer peace of mind on the 300-mile (540-kilometer) trek to Mexico’s southern border.
Hector Alvarado, a 25-year-old announcer, said he had been shut out of job opportunities for belonging to the political opposition and felt forced to leave to find work. He learned about the caravan on Facebook, said goodbye to relatives and hit the road.
“My loved ones have already cried over of my leaving,” Alvarado said. “Now I have to press on.”
The latest trek north comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has been working to convince the American public that there is a crisis at the southern border to justify construction of his long-promised border wall. Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to that end has resulted in a standoff with Congress that has forced a partial government shutdown.
The fate that awaits the migrants at the Mexico-U.S. border is uncertain. Previous caravans that were seized upon last year by Trump in the run-up to the 2018 midterm election have quietly dwindled, with many having gone home to Central America or put down roots in Mexico. Many others — nearly half, according to U.S. Border Patrol arrest records — have sought to enter the U.S. illegally.
About 6,000 Central Americans reached Tijuana in November amid conflict on both sides of the border over their presence in the Mexican city across from San Diego. As of earlier this week, fewer than 700 remained at a former outdoor concert venue in Tijuana that the Mexican government set up as a shelter to house them.
Mexico has issued humanitarian visas to about 2,900 migrants from last fall’s caravan, many of whom are now working legally there with visas.
Also Wednesday about 100 migrants set out as a group from the capital of El Salvador, hoping to join the larger group from Honduras. Their numbers represent less than a third of the estimated 350 migrants who leave El Salvador each day.
“I can’t stay. I’m leaving because the gangs have threatened me — either I join them, or they’ll kill me,” said Adonay Hernandez, 22, who was carrying just $20 in his pocket but was confident he will make it to relatives in North Carolina. “God is my shield.”
Others hoped to find a better life in Mexico, where they have options for applying for refuge and work permits.
“I know that in Mexico they are helping us,” said Franklin Martinez, a 34-year-old traveling with his partner and their 2½-year-old daughter. “We are going to ask for refuge and we are going to stay and work. After we have saved enough, perhaps we will go to the United States, but our goal is to make it to Mexico.”
Liduvina Margarin, vice minister for Salvadorans abroad, met with the migrants before they left a downtown plaza to warn them about the dangers of the northward route. She told them that more than half the Salvadorans who left in caravans have returned to the country.
“Our duty is to say to you that you are never going to be better off than in your homeland, in your communities of origin,” Margarin said.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that Mexico has been monitoring the latest caravan closely.
He said the best option is for Central American governments to persuade their citizens to stay. Those who don’t will be allowed to enter Mexico in an orderly fashion and presented with options, and their human rights will be respected, Lopez Obrador added.
Associated Press writers Marcos Aleman in San Salvador, El Salvador, Elliot Spagat in Tijuana, Mexico, and Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.
How the Left Should Respond to Ethnic Cleansing in China
A million Uighurs are being held in concentration camps in Xinjiang. What can the US do?
By Daniel Bessner and Isaac Stone Fish
In her Pulitzer Prize–winning A Problem from Hell (2002), the journalist and lawyer Samantha Power argued that the United States should use its overwhelming power to prevent or halt crimes against humanity. Power was responding to the United States’ failure to thwart genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and her arguments quickly permeated the Democratic Party’s foreign-policy establishment. After all, many reasoned, if the United States was truly the world’s “indispensable nation,” shouldn’t it work for the good of all?
When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Power’s arguments helped under gird the liberal internationalism of his administration (in which Power served). Though Obama campaigned on an anti-militarist foreign policy, his administration intervened in Libya to prevent a massacre in Benghazi—which helped engender the chaos the country finds itself in today—and helped militarize the Syrian conflict, in part with humanitarian goals in mind. By the end of Obama’s time in office, humanitarian intervention had become a core tool in the kit of liberal foreign policy.
The unexpected election of Donald Trump, however, has forced intellectuals across the political spectrum to rethink some of their fundamental assumptions. During his campaign, Trump rejected American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is uniquely able to redeem the world. His victory suggested that many agreed with him and had grown tired of the endless wars cheered on by the foreign-policy establishment.
A group of anti-imperialist intellectuals, in particular, have responded to Trump’s election by crafting an avowedly left-wing foreign policy that doubts the efficacy and morality of humanitarian intervention. To these individuals, recent history demonstrates that military intervention creates more problems than it solves—see Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria—and encourages the United States to assume responsibility for conflicts it has neither the will, capacity, nor knowledge to resolve. Intervention, critics also claim, strengthens an already-too-powerful military and contributes to the imperialism supporting the global network of bases that the United States has constructed since World War II.
Yet anti-imperialists have failed to satisfactorily confront the problems of genocide and ethnic cleansing. This is a significant lacuna, especially given that a genuinely left-wing candidate could win the presidency in 2020 and thus be able to manipulate the levers of state power. What should a president sympathetic to the left-wing critique of humanitarian intervention do in the face of crimes against humanity?
By exploring China’s horrendous treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority, we can examine this issue. China provides an important test case for left-wing foreign policy because it raises the question of whether the anti-imperialist left can alleviate suffering while eschewing military intervention.
Even for a ruling party that has long succumbed to its dystopian urges, the situation in the vast northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang is grim. Roughly a million Muslims—mostly Uighurs, a Turkic minority—languish in concentration camps, detained for crimes like insufficient patriotism or refusing to eat pork. Beijing has also sent approximately 1 million non-Muslim Chinese to live with and monitor Uighur families. These agents record instances of fasting and of “extreme” beards or dresses that are suspiciously long. The government also forces many of the region’s roughly 10 million Uighurs to download apps that monitor all of their communications.
Regardless of whether one believes military intervention is a legitimate tool, China in 2019 is too vast, powerful, wealthy, and economically integrated with the United States to be a reasonable military target. So what should the United States do to respond to the Uighur crisis?
The most effective resistance to the treatment of Uighurs is increasing the public-relations costs for Beijing. The State Department should publicize this issue in other Muslim countries, particularly influential American allies like Saudi Arabia, and among China’s neighbors, especially Pakistan and Kazakhstan, with the hopes of increasing international pressure to end the ethnic cleansing. To help coordinate this work across the Muslim world, it should create a special envoy for Xinjiang akin to the envoys who travel the globe attempting to coordinate diplomatic responses to the crises in Yemen and Ukraine.
A left-wing government could also work to popularize the fact of Uighur oppression among ordinary Americans, many of whom will recoil at the savage treatment. Progressive members of Congress should further introduce bills that bring attention to the Uighur cause so that it is not only conservatives like Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who are volubly addressing this crime against humanity. The anti-imperialist left, in short, must no longer cede the ground of humanitarianism to centrist Democrats or the GOP but must advocate its own progressive approach to the problem.
US media outlets have covered Xinjiang, but partly because of the lack of compelling images, it has been mostly a print, not television or YouTube, story. To help bring attention to China’s abuse of Uighurs, the left should encourage the State Department to declassify and circulate images of the concentration camps. This will help solidify global opposition to the ethnic cleansing, much as CBS’s 2004 publication of images of American atrocities at the Abu Ghraib prison helped fuel global opposition to the war in Iraq.
Whatever images American organizations manage to secure, the left should lobby government officials and NGO workers to hold public briefings that feature these images as well as testimony from survivors of the camps. Increasing the public relations—and hence, the economic, social, and political—costs for Beijing will hopefully pressure the Chinese Communist Party to scale back its oppressive behavior. In fact, this should be a general left-wing principle: When confronted with genocide and ethnic cleansing abroad, public and diplomatic pressure should be the central instruments the government uses to defend the liberties and rights of foreign peoples.
There is another way the American state could ameliorate the persecution of Uighurs: funding resettlement programs. Many Uighurs no doubt prefer emigration to persecution. A left-wing government should therefore create an office of resettlement to fund Uighur immigration (the United States, of course, must also reform its immigration laws and end the mass imprisonment of asylum seekers). Another option would be to fund and coordinate resettlement programs in the other nations already hosting thousands of Uighurs—such as Germany, Turkey, and Kazakhstan—which would provide immediate relief as the left works to transform the anti-immigrant ideology that informs the worldviews of too many Americans.
Regulation would also be a useful means to sanction the Chinese companies, especially tech and surveillance companies, whose products assist Beijing in repressing Uighurs. The United States has considered sanctioning the Chinese surveillance giant Hikvision, which has provided thousands of cameras that monitor mosques, schools, and concentration camps in Xinjiang. Actually doing so would have the benefit of warning the American companies that have worked with Hikvision—including the public-relations firm Burson-Marsteller, the lobbying firm Sidley Austin, and Amazon—that a left-wing government will not allow American companies to facilitate gross human-rights abuses.
Moreover, civil-society organizations like NGOs and labor unions must take a more activist approach to foreign affairs. When it comes to China, American organizations have long traded access for integrity. For instance, the American Bar Association (ABA), which claims to “hold governments accountable under law,” has barely criticized Beijing’s crackdown on human-rights lawyers, in part because it feared jeopardizing the legal-training programs it runs there. And some American universities even restrict discussions of Chinese human-rights abuses for fear of losing access to the country. Columbia University, for instance, canceled several talks on topics sensitive to the Communist Party because it was worried about offending Beijing.
Civil-society organizations must depart from this trend. The left needs to pressure groups like the ABA to publicly criticize China while simultaneously compelling universities to embrace their commitment to free inquiry, even if this means restricted access to Chinese capital, Chinese students, or Chinese visas. Moreover, the left should encourage civil-society groups to use their connections to politicians to push for programs to resettle Uighurs—and dissent-minded Chinese—who desire to move to the United States. And it goes without saying that this must be done with the active participation—and indeed, leadership—of Uighurs themselves, who understand the needs and interests of their community better than any outsider.
Taken together, we believe that these actions could put pressure on the Chinese Communist Party while avoiding a Manichean struggle reminiscent of the Cold War. Though we appreciate that diplomatic and moral pressure will not be enough to curtail ethnic cleansing within China’s own borders, that doesn’t mean the anti-imperialist left shouldn’t take steps to publicize and mitigate China’s crimes.
Daniel Bessner is the Anne H.H. and Kenneth B. Pyle Assistant Professor in American Foreign Policy in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. He is the author of Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual.
Isaac Stone Fish is a contributing Global Opinions columnist at The Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Asia Society, and a visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund; he is writing a book on China’s influence on America.
Guatemala in crisis after president bans corruption investigation into his government
January 15, 2019
Author: Rachel E. Bowen, Associate Professor of Political Science, The Ohio State University
Disclosure statement: Rachel E. Bowen receives funding from the Gerda Henkel Foundation.
Partners: The Ohio State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
For months, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has been trying to stop a United Nations-backed anti-corruption investigation into his government.
Morales, a stand-up comedian who ran for president in 2015 with the slogan “Not corrupt, nor a thief,” is accused of campaign finance violations. His administration is under investigation by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, an influential international corruption panel called “CICIG” in Spanish.
Last September, Morales told CICIG investigators they were no longer welcome in Guatemala and denied a visa to lead prosecutor Ivan Velasquez. The courts quickly ruled that Velasquez must be allowed to re-enter Guatemala to continue his work, but Morales has refused.
On Jan. 6, immigration officers sent by Morales arrested Velasquez’s deputy prosecutor at the Guatemala City airport. The Constitutional Court ordered his release and reiterated that the government must let the CICIG continue its investigation.
Instead, Guatemala’s attorney general began impeachment proceedings against three of the court’s five justices, saying they had exceeded their authority by ruling on foreign affairs issues.
More is at risk than the United Nations’ work. The showdown between Morales and Guatemalan courts has plunged the country into crisis, and its democracy hangs in the balance.
What is the CICIG?
The United Nations, European Union and United Kingdom have all condemned Morales’ moves to oust the CICIG.
Protests that started small – a few thousand demonstrators marching through Guatemala City over the Jan. 12 weekend – are now spreading across the country.
Morales has reason to be worried.
The CICIG was invited into Guatemala in 2007 to eliminate “clandestine illegal armed groups” – criminal networks that have infiltrated its government. These shadowy webs of corruption, the subject of my 2017 book on Guatemala, include smuggling rings with ties to the military and presidents and drug traffickers who bribe or threaten judges.
As a result, criminals operate with impunity in Guatemala. Around 90 percent of all crimes go unpunished – which is actually an improvement over the country’s 2007 impunity rate of 98 percent.
Morales welcomed the CICIG’s prosecutors – until their corruption investigation targeted him. Reuters/Stringer
The CICIG is a bold and unprecedented experiment to improve justice in Guatemala by outsourcing it. Working hand in hand with the Guatemalan attorney general’s office, CICIG prosecutors have helped convict 310 government officials, high-profile business leaders and crime bosses.
In 2015, the CICIG helped Attorney General Thelma Aldana bring down Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina for corruption – a stunning achievement in a country where politicians have long been untouchable. Pérez Molina and his vice president, Roxana Baldetti, were forced to resign after massive street protests erupted following an investigation into a massive customs scandal.
Both remain in jail awaiting trial for fraud and taking bribes, though Baldetti was already sentenced to more than 15 years in an unrelated embezzlement case.
CICIG prosecutors currently have 84 major investigations underway, according to its website. Most of them include large numbers of defendants. One of them focuses on President Morales.
By banning the CICIG, Morales is trying to avoid his predecessor’s fate.
He may also be hoping to help his son and brother, who are being tried for defrauding the government before Morales even took office.
A slow-motion coup
Morales has his supporters. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, has suggested that CICIG prosecutors have at times overstepped their mandate.
But many observers in Guatemala argue that Morales’ actions amount to a kind of slow-motion coup.
Rather than overthrowing a democratically elected leader using military force, they say, Morales is using Guatemala’s armed forces to eliminate threats to his power and dispatching his attorney general to hobble the judiciary for opposing his actions.
The damage done may be just as dramatic – and violent – as a military coup.
The CICIG is credited with contributing to Guatemala’s dramatic reduction in homicides, which dropped from 45 killings per 100,000 residents in 2009 to 23 per 100,000 residents in 2016. Other factors have certainly helped, including changes made to how Guatemalan police patrol gang-infiltrated neighborhoods.
But the Crisis Group, which studies international conflict, calculates that between the convictions it has won and the judicial system reforms it has implemented, the CICIG may have prevented as many as 4,500 homicides in Guatemala since 2007.
Guatemala is still deeply troubled. Parts of its government remain corrupted by organized crime, and it is one of the world’s deadliest countries.
But like many Central America observers, I believe the CICIG has undoubtedly strengthened the rule of law, holding powerful people responsible for the corruption and impunity that has long defined life in Guatemala.
This progress may end if Morales succeeds in banning its investigations.
The global consequences of Guatemala’s constitutional crisis
The consequences of Guatemala’s crisis will go well beyond its borders.
More undocumented migrants detained crossing the United States’ southern border come from Guatemala than from any other country. The collapse of its democracy would surely send even more desperate residents fleeing.
Morales’s crusade against the CICIG also endangers similar anti-corruption efforts in neighboring countries.
Inspired by the achievements of the CICIG, Honduras in 2016 worked with the Organization of American States to launch the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, a young but promising attempt to strengthen the rule of law there.
El Salvador, the most violent Central American country, is hoping to do the same soon.
Guatemala’s crisis weakens these international partnerships. If a president can terminate an investigation when it threatens his power, can justice ever really be served?
Wilfred Hicks: Big & worsening problems in Guatemala, El Salvador & Venezuela – why should >70,000 families turning up on the USA border expect a “no wall welcome” ?