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Nearly 40 migrants died in a fire at a Mexican immigration center in Ciudad Juárez on Monday that also left 29 injured. The victims, who were all men and mostly from Central America and Venezuela, were detained in a locked cell and, according to some reports, had gone hours without water. Initial statements from the Mexican government blamed the migrants, claiming they set fire to mattresses to protest their pending deportation. Rights groups blamed overcrowding.
Security footage from the center shows guards walking away from the entrance to the cell without helping, despite a clearly visible blaze. By the end of the 30-second video, the entire room is so filled with smoke that the room can barely be seen. The widely shared footage has provoked outrage. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the center on Tuesday, and human rights organizations are calling for a criminal investigation into the officials responsible.
This is only the latest of many deadly tragedies involving migrants in recent years, an outcome of U.S. policies that increasingly criminalize migrants. Under Trump, a “zero tolerance” policy separated thousands of children from their parents, and Title 42 used the pandemic as a pretext to turn away migrants. In February, despite promises to change course, the Biden administration announced a near-total ban on asylum, requiring migrants to enter through official border crossings and apply for protection in another country to qualify for asylum in the United States. These restrictions, along with technological problems with the new app required to request an asylum appointment, have compounded overcrowding in Mexico’s northern border cities. Many migrants have reported being detained by Mexican authorities, held in jail-like conditions, and then deported without their cases heard.
“Unfortunately, we will continue to see more and more tragedies unfold along both sides of the border as long as the U.S. and Mexican governments continue to play into fear-based politics that promote the idea that migrants are disposable,” activist and deputy director of the Mijente Chicanx advocacy group Isa Noyola said in an interview with Truthout. “Now more than ever, the U.S. government must be held accountable for the devastation along the border and human rights violations in detention centers.”
#NACLAFoto of the Week
"Hate Kills." A message criticizing the repressive policies of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele taking during anti-government protests in 2021.
Credit: Ftheo24 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
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In Guatemala, registration for the June elections closed last weekend leaving Indigenous leader Thelma Cabrera officially excluded from running. Cabrera and her running mate Jordán Rodas, from the People’s Liberation Movement (MLP), were barred from the race because of an accusation against Rodas during his time as ombudsman. Cabrera petitioned the Guatemalan Supreme Court to grant her permission to run, but the court upheld the exclusion. Meanwhile, other politicians have been allowed to run despite pending legal proceedings and past corruption charges. Former congresswoman Zury Ríos, daughter of convicted war criminal General Efraín Ríos Montt, was also allowed to enroll even though the constitution bans blood relatives of coup presidents from running for office. Ríos and former first lady Sandra Torres, who was investigated for corruption, are considered frontrunners.
The Bolsonaro administration knew about the health crisis in Brazil’s Yanomami Indigenous territory since 2021, according to an investigation by Agência Pública. Illegal mining has caused widespread environmental damage and a food and health crisis in Yanomami communities. A 2021 government document revealed that the Bolsonaro administration was investigating the health issues, including malnutrition, malaria, and other illnesses among the Yanomami at the time, but did little to address those issues. In January, Justice Minister Flávio Dino requested an investigation into possible genocide against the Yanomami people and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva accused the Bolsonaro administration of committing a “premeditated crime.”
Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held hearings on a case challenging El Salvador’s total abortion ban. The case was brought on behalf of Beatriz, a woman who died in 2017 after her request for an abortion was denied even though her pregnancy was high-risk and the fetus could not survive. The two-day hearings marked the first time the Inter-American Court has discussed El Salvador’s abortion ban. Six countries in Latin America have total bans, and many other countries have restrictive and punitive abortion policies. The final decision, which is not expected until the end of the year, could set a regional precedent, although feminist organizations worry that the Bukele administration will refuse to uphold the court ruling.
Haitian businessman Rodolphe Jaar pleaded guilty last Friday to helping finance and plan the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. In a plea agreement, Jaar admitted to providing money to purchase weapons, as well as food, lodging, and space for five of the accused to plan and conspire. Jaar is the first of 11 defendants charged in the United States to be convicted. He will receive his sentence on June 2.
More than 75 percent of Cubans voted in the country’s National Assembly elections on Sunday, according to officials. The turnout rate was higher than in the recent referendum on the Cuban family code and municipal elections last year. But non-state media and civil society organizations challenged the official turnout count. They pointed to violations like unregistered voting in some places and blocking registered voters in others, coercion and bribery, and schedule changes. All of the 470 candidates in the running were elected.
Venezuela’s attorney general announced Saturday that 21 prominent government officials and business leaders have been arrested for corruption. A mayor, two judges, and three government officials were arrested on similar charges last week, leading to the resignation of oil minister Tareck El Aissami, who is not yet facing charges. The accused were allegedly involved in an international oil sales corruption scheme.
The series “Sueños Robados: La decadencia de la tiranía en Nicaragua” explores the situation in Nicaragua under President Daniel Ortega, including the country’s relations with the United States and big business, the administration’s history of human rights violations, feminist activism and other opposition movements, as well as the range of positions taken by Latin American Leftists on the Ortega administration, which you can read in English on nacla.org.
A collaboration by the Otra Mirada news alliance, the series is described as “a simple tribute—and also an inspiration—to all the Nicaraguans who have not been subdued, who continue through a wide range of ways to resist tyranny.”
The Mexico Solidarity Project recently interviewed NACLA editorial board member Jayson Maurice Porter about his work investigating the shared history of the U.S. Black and Mexican farm workers who were victims of industrial agriculture’s experiments with pesticides. “We can look to history for answers, to help our revolutionary projects overcome the obstacles that confront us,” Jayson said.
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