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300 or 3000?

Central American News
300 or 3000?
By Central American News • Issue #74 • View online

Dear Readers,
Thirty years ago, the U.S. invaded Panama for more than 30 days. Today, Panama is struggling to regain its historical memory.
On December 20, 1989, 26,000 U.S. soldiers landed in Panama to oust President Manuel Noriega, former CIA informant and U.S.-trained military leader. The invasion is considered to be the last of the Cold War era in Latin America.
Panamanians don’t know how many people died during the invasion. Some say there were 300 casualties while other claim 3,000 victims. More than 20,000 would have lost their homes.
The Panamanian military was also dismantled during that time. Until today, Panama and Costa Rica are the two Central American countries that do not have armies.
The 1989 invasion is nearly taboo in Panama. It is considered a open wound that is not properly taught in schools. Some groups in Panama are fighting so that the U.S. and Panamanian governments apologize and indemnize families.
Years go by and we see this common thread coursing throughout Central America: its open wounds and struggle for memory. So check out the special section on Panama’s 1989 invasion down below.
Next week we will share with you our recap of 2019 in our end-of-year, unique and shorter edition. See you then!
The Central American News team.
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Photo of the Week
"La "Operación Causa Justa" es una herida abierta en Panamá, dice el historiador Víctor Ortiz." Getty Images
"La "Operación Causa Justa" es una herida abierta en Panamá, dice el historiador Víctor Ortiz." Getty Images
📰 Asylum and migrants: The Guatemalan government is finalizing a deal to expand its asylum agreement with the U.S. to begin accepting Mexican and Brazilian migrants. // The U.S. is preparing to send asylum seekers to Honduras without the chance to seek asylum in the U.S. // Despite the crackdown on migrants traveling through Mexico, the migrant smuggling business in Mexico has adapted and thrives
📰 Detention: Asylum seekers have been protesting at immigration detention centers around the country for months, advocating for their release. // Volunteers and researchers have been collecting thousands of letters from people in immigration detention centers that show the conditions inside.
📰 ICE and Border Agents: Investigative journalists revealed sexual assaults, routine use of physical force, poor medical care and deaths at facilities overseen by ICE. // California Department of Justice cut off ICE deportation officers from accessing state law enforcement database. // Lawyers say U.S. border agents are systematically writing the same wrong address on the migrants’ papers.
📰 Prisons:  Twelve people died and several were injured after a violent riot in La Joyita prison. All the deceased were prisoners. The authorities seized more weapons in the days after the clash and the Head of the Prison was demoted.
📰Exports to China and Israel: According to figures from the Panamanian Association of Exporters, the shipment of beef to China showed a historical increase of 34.8% . // The free trade agreement with Israel will enter into force on January 1, 2020.
📰 Human Development: The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report reveals that Panama surpassed Costa Rica in relation to human development.
📰 Recycle: Representatives of the public and private sectors want to attract investments to develop the recycling industry in Panama.
📰Prisons18 people were killed during a brawl on Friday afternoon inside the Tela prison. The prison’s director was suspended from his post. // On Tuesday, Honduras declared a state of emergency in its prison system, suspending civilian leaders and replacing them with a special commission led by military officers.
📰 Drug-trafficking: Honduran Congressman Oscar Najera was sanctioned by the U.S. for involvement in “significant” corruption related to the Honduran drug trafficking organization “Los Cachiros”. The Congressman has close ties to President Juan Orlando Hernandez. // Four international drug traffickers were charged with conspiring to import cocaine into the U.S. The defendants conspired with corrupt Honduran officials, including Tony Hernandez, to facilitate the importation of cocaine for the Sinaloa cartel. 
📰 Aid: Honduras will receive aid from the European Union for food assistance as drought and the loss of crops has caused a serious food crisis in Central America.
📰 Journalism: Honduran journalist Axel Turcios receives his first Emmy for his journalism around his project “On the brink of panic” with Univision.
El Salvador 
📰 International Relations: President Nayib Bukele announced a new economic agreement between El Salvador and Qatar, in which Qatar will support the construction of a new airport, provide work visa opportunities, and invest in education. // The first group of 50 Salvadorans granted temporary work visas by the United States government have flown from El Salvador to Mississippi to work within the agricultural industry. 
📰 CICIES: The International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador, CICIES, will not independently investigate corruption cases, but will provide technical support and assistance to the Attorney General’s Office. 
📰 Security: The Armed Forces will deploy 13 thousand soldiers and conduct aerial patrols during the Christmas holidays to “guarantee security and tranquility.” 
📰 Extortion: In 2019, El Salvador’s transportation sector paid $18 million to gangs in extortion fees.
📰Environment: A Canadian university is partnering with Belizean institutions to improve education about climate change and other environmental threats. 
📰Policy: Belizean government drafts its first legislation against cybercrime to address the growing issue of cyberbullying.  
📰Search & Rescue: Five people were successfully rescued after being lost at sea.
📰 Sanctions: The European Parliament approves a strong resolution against the Ortega government; the resolution calls for a list of citizens of Nicaragua to be sanctioned and to suspend the country from the free trade agreement with Europe. // The United States Export and Import Bank suspends loans, guarantees and credit to U.S. exports to Nicaragua.
📰 Political prisoners: Relatives of political prisoners denounce systematic medical negligence in jails. // Political prisoner Neyman Hernandez was hospitalized after nearly suffering a heart attack due to omission of medical care.
📰 Journalism: Nicaraguan journalist Lucia Pineda Ubau is included in the list of people of the year of Costa Rican newspaper La Nación.
📰 War Crimes: Guatemalan war criminal Francisco Cuxum Alvarado was sentenced to time served for illegally re-entering the United States in 2004 in a Boston federal court. Alvarado will be turned over to the U.S. Marshal’s Office and likely deported. 
📰 Migrant Deaths: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s office found no misconduct or irregularities by border officials for the deaths of Jakelin Caal and Felipe Gomez in December 2018.
📰 U.S Relations: Five families were sent to Guatemala under controversial asylum agreement. Meanwhile, Trump welcomed Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales at the White House.
📰 Indigenous: 310 Mayan Mam families of Cajolá reached and agreement with the government and will purchase the Cuchumatanes farm, of 713 hectares.
Costa Rica
📰 Refugees: President Carlos Alvarado announced at the Global Refugee forum that with the support of the UN Refugee Agency, Costa Rica will offer medical insurance for all asylum seekers and their families for one year.
📰 Electrical cars: There are 44 power stations in Costa Rica for electric cars.
📰 Costa Rican Band: The Municipal Band of Zarcero will represent Costa Rica and Latin America during the 131st edition of the Rose Parade in Pasadena California on January 1st, 2020.
📰 Central America: All members of the Central American Commission for Environment and Development join together in pledging to protect Mesoamericanos “Five Great Forests” as part of a regional climate action plan.
Panama 30 Years After U.S. Invasion
On December 20, 1989, more than 27,000 US soldiers invaded Panama to overthrow the government led by Manuel Antonio Noriega. 
"The 'Operation Just Cause' left hundreds (or thousands) of people dead. This snapshot was taken on December 26, 1989."
"The 'Operation Just Cause' left hundreds (or thousands) of people dead. This snapshot was taken on December 26, 1989."
Watch this BBC video to understand how and why the U.S. invaded Panama in 1989 in five minutes (in Spanish).
Cómo fue la invasión de Panamá, la última intervención militar de EE.UU. en América Latina
Cómo fue la invasión de Panamá, la última intervención militar de EE.UU. en América Latina
What happened:
  • This BBC New Mundo report goes into more detail on how the wound of the invasion is still open in Panama today.
  • Official documents have just been released that show the plans surrounding George H. W. Bush’s invasion of Panama. On El Pais.
Justice today?
  • The current Panamanian government is hesitating whether to ask the United States for indemnization. Last year, In 2018, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held the United States responsible for “human rights violations” and asked Washington to “fully compensate” the victims.
“Collective amnesia”
Panamanian filmmaker addresses the “collective amnesia” around the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama in his documentary “Invasion.” Here is the trailer 👇
INVASION by Abner Benaim - TRAILER
INVASION by Abner Benaim - TRAILER
Good Reads and Multimedia
🔎 Guatemala: A long read by the National Geographic on how the Curruchich family recovered the bones of a loved one disappeared during the Civil War. Beautiful accompanying photography.
🔎 Honduras:  The Intercept goes deep into the plot to murder Berta Caceres. The investigation is based on the private messages and call logs of her murderers and all the way up to the highest ranks of leadership of the company whose dam she had been protesting.
🖊️ Nicaragua: La Prensa features the stories of Nicaraguan men who “lost their childhood” as soldiers in the Contras. 
🖊️ Maya Kaqchikel: The Curanderas Transformando Guatemala blog presents a visual ethnography of the healing work that Maya Kaqchikel women practice using theater.
📷 Migrants: BBC News creates a photo essay documenting the lives of asylum seekers experiencing freezing temperatures at the border. 
🗨️ Central American Studies: Journalist Daniel Alvarenga shares his personal experience of when he signed up for Central American studies class and makes the point of investing more in these courses for the next generations of Central Americans in the U.S. On The Washington Post.
The Team
Melissa Vida, Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Rodrigo Peñalba, Nicaragua News, Editor
Rachel Ketola, El Salvador News
Nansi Rodríguez, Guatemala News
Jonathan Peraza Campos, Migration News
Jalileh García, Honduras News
Rachel Osorio, Costa Rica News
Natalie Leach, Social Media Officer
José Martinez, Social Media Officer
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