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Belize Reminds Us to Think Outside of the Box

Central American News
Belize Reminds Us to Think Outside of the Box
By Central American News • Issue #107 • View online

Dear Readers,
Belize has often been erased and neglected by other Central American spaces.
Nicole D. Ramsey, our new in-house writer, analyzed this erasure. In her first piece “Belize reminds Central America to think outside of the box”, she calls on us to ponder what Central American identity means in light of Belize’s experiences.
“The Black Lives Matter movement has shined a light on how Belize’s history has been excluded from Central America even though it plays a significant role within its regional imaginary,” Nicole writes. “The erasure of these histories from the broader narrative of the isthmus doesn’t allow to imagine a Central America which centers black and indigenous histories and futures,” she continues.
Nicole, a PhD Candidate in the Department of African American & African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley, will continue to write think-pieces on Belize, its identity and its diaspora in Central American News. We are thrilled to have more light shine on Belize.
We are also happy to announce our other new team members, Cecilia Rivas, Podcast Co-host, Fátima Rodriguez, Panama Curator, and Pablo Arauz, El Salvador Curator. Let’s welcome our growing team of contributors 🎉!
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"All of us are one"
"All ah we dah one!" ("All of us are one") Photo courtesy by Nicole D. Ramsey
"All ah we dah one!" ("All of us are one") Photo courtesy by Nicole D. Ramsey
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Central America
📰 Threats to Journalism: Gangs, authoritarian regimes and organized crime are some of the problems that have historically plagued Central America, making it one of the continent’s most dangerous regions for journalists.

📰 The Border: The number of immigrants arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border has doubled in the past few months due to Mexico’s economic crisis and U.S. immigration policy. 
📰 Asylum Seekers: New Trump administration rule aims at treating asylum-seekers who arrive at the U.S borders from Mexico or Canada as security threats. Asylum officers speak out. // Asylum seekers were tear gassed by immigration officials in a Louisiana detention center. 
📰 ICE, Facial Recognition: ICE signed a contract with facial recognition software company Clearview AI whose technology scrapes photos from social media. // ICE has been expelling migrant children under the guise of protecting the US from COVID-19, although many children have tested negative for the virus upon their deportation. 
📰 Department of Homeland Security: The American Civil Liberties Union has officially called for the abolition of the Department of Homeland Security which oversees immigration enforcement. // Congressional watchdog claims that Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli are ineligible to serve in their positions. 

📰 COVID-19: A surge in the spread of the virus brought Belize to almost 300 cases this week, leading to an extension of the country’s State of Emergency; however, there will be no national lockdown yet. // Belize and other Caribbean countries object to the travel warnings the U.S. placed against the Caribbean.
📰 Indigenous Communities: Belize’s indigenous communities celebrated the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples this past Sunday, including the Garifuna people. After being urged to acknowledge the violence Honduran Garinagu are facing, Prime Minister Barrow sent a letter to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez. The complete letter can be found here.  

Costa Rica 
📰 Tourism: Costa Rica will be allowing flights and tourists from 6 more countries to their list, while the U.S remains off of the list. 
📰 Immigration: On Monday, a 70 year old Costa Rican national died in ICE custody after having tested positive for COVID-19.
📰 Sexual Harassment: On Monday, President Carlos Alvarado enacted a law that would criminalize street sexual harassment and punishes perpetrators with fines and jail terms.
El Salvador
📰 Pandemic Investigations: Attorney general Raúl Melara says his office is investigating all of the alleged irregularities involving government officials who may have profited from the country’s pandemic response. President Nayib Bukele has stated that media reports of financial corruption are attacks against his administration. 
📰 Media Harassment: The legislative assembly announced that it will create a committee of representatives to investigate whether public funds are used to pay “trolls” to harass journalists and hinder their work. 
📰 Gender Violence: Pregnancies in girls aged 10-14 years have shown a 76.16% increase in the pandemic.
📰 Weapons Exchange: Two former defense ministers of the FMLN, along with various accomplices, are accused of various corruption charges including embezzlement and arbitrary acts in an exchange of weapons with Centrum, a weapons company owned by the former president of ARENA.
📰 Coffee Rust: The growth of the fungus Hemileia vastatrix or “rust” in coffee bean plantations could lead to a significant drop in production. The industry noted an outbreak of rust is caused by added humidity from the tropical storms Amanda and Cristóbal on top of a more humid season than usual.
📰 Indigenous: Indigenous authorities of the Maya, Xinca, and Garifuna peoples demand the resignation of the presidents of the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative bodies and the head of the Ministerio Publico due to their incapacity to fulfill their duties for the Guatemalan population, especially during the pandemic.
📰 Politics: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the State to cease threats to the independence of the Constitutional Court (CC), due to the new lawsuits filed against magistrates of the CC. These lawsuits are the latest interferences with the CC.
📰 Justice: Judge Erika Aifán has requested the Human Rights Ombudsman to investigate a potential obstruction to her work and judicial independence concerning the resources and personnel that have been appointed to her, which have not been suitable for her court.
📰 COVID-19 and Religion: The annual celebration of Our Lady of the Assumption was celebrated with various virtual activities and others closed off from the public during the current pandemic. 

📰 Police: Policemen threw tear gas into a bus full of sweatshop workers in the city of Choloma after the bus driver could now show his license. Human rights defender, Reina Rivera Joya, assured that despite the police reforms, the police continue to abuse their power. 
📰 Garifuna: The whereabouts of the forcibly disappeared four Garifuna leaders are still unknown. Ofraneh denounced that murders and disappearances are a strategy of expulsion used by the palm-tree and tourist industry. // U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar led a letter condemning the Trump government’s plan to invest $1 billion in development projects in Honduras despite credible allegations of corruption, violence, and human rights violations. Omar mentioned the forced disappearances of Garifuna leaders. 
📰 COVID-19: $1.9 million worth in COVID-19 tests were ruined in the process of transport and storage, due to the lack of technical capacities in the public health system and corruption. 
📰 Judicial Matters: Mario Rojas Rodriguez was conditionally released from prison, after he met certain requirements given the New Penal Code. He had been sentenced to 15 years for laundering in the Social Security Institute embezzlement case. // A Court of Appeals revoked the final dismissal issued in favor of the defenders of the Guapinol River in Tocoa, Colón; and issued a formal indictment for 5 defenders, along with other 8 defenders in pre-trial detention. 

📰 Politics: The Constitutionalist Liberal Party, PLC, requested in a letter to the Organization of American States that the bipartisan control of the Supreme Electoral Council (by the FSLN and PLC) be maintained. This has attracted mistrust, as some critics believe that the PLC wants to keep its power alongside the FSLN and not carry out real electoral change. The new opposition “National Coalition” has trouble asserting itself in this panorama and partially relies on U.S. support.
📰 COVID-19 vaccines: While the government says that a Russian-Nicaraguan company, Mechnikov, could produce vaccines against COVID-19 in the country, experts in the health sector say that the scientific and technical capacity in the country does not make this possible.
📰 Social activities: The government has promoted 919 social activities and gatherings since March 18, compared to 336 COVID-19 prevention activities. 
📰 Caribbean floods: Rains leave flooded homes, crop losses and one death in the Northern Caribbean. Hundreds of families are affected by the rains. // Five sailors from the naval force are missing, after participating in rescue tasks.

📰 #YaBasta: Police uses their force against peaceful youth protestors at a manifestation led by the digital media outlet Foco Panama, which used the slogan #YaBasta to challenge the government’s lack of transparency regarding the purchase of ventilators, corruption allegations and lack of work. 
📰 Youth Shelters: The National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (SENNIAF) sent about 10 girls to an adult shelter despite receiving feedback from shelter staff that it was not equipped to host them. Some girls who had escaped informed neighbors and authorities that they were being beaten and mistreated. SENNIAF indicated a shortage of youth shelters since many of them are closed due to pandemic restrictions.  
📰 Cuban doctors: Health authorities put out a call to 11 countries for 50 specialized doctors to support intensive care needs. According to the Ministry of Health, Cuba was the only country to respond. Some medical associations in Panama oppose the plan to contract foreign medical staff and promise to deliver a list of national doctors. 
📰 Politics: Panama and the United States create a task force to combat money laundering and corruption – the U.S. promises equipment, resources, training and expertise to Panamanian security leaders. 
Barra de Cuyamel witnesses climate change
In Honduras, the communities on the Motagua and Cuyamel river sandbars border Guatemala. According to El Faro, “about 800 meters of coastline have eroded over the past 10 years.”
Ruined houses in Barra de Cuyamel. Photo: Martín Cálix
Ruined houses in Barra de Cuyamel. Photo: Martín Cálix
Good Reads
📌Powerful Panamanians: Forbes included 17 Panamanian women among the 100 most powerful women in the region, including “Dalys la Caribeña,” the first female wrestler declared Japanese Women’s Champion and Cuquita Arias de Calvo, international chef and philanthropist who has published five cookbooks. (Foco Panama)
📌“Mestizaje”:  An opinion piece on Nicaragua and the myth of the mestizo nation (Confidencial).
📌 Belize is a teacher: Belize reminds Central America to think outside of the box, writes Nicole D. Ramsey, “Belize, through its diversity and entangled histories, forces us to rethink our personal and political identities within the isthmus and the diaspora.” (Central American News)
📌Anti-Immigrant Policies: In Georgia’s Gwinnett County, anti-immigrant policies enforced by local sheriffs are case studies in how law enforcement is pushing Trump’s immigration enforcement agenda (Mother Jones). 
📌Inmigration Pipeline: The Immigration Pipeline series highlights how COVID-19 is reshaping the experiences of migrants in the U.S.-Mexico border and upon their return to Guatemala.
Breaking ceilings
Roxy Williams is the first Afro-indigenous Nicaraguan woman to build a solid-fuel rocket. She participated in NASA's SpaceApp Challenge and the aerospace camp held in Costa Rica. [click on image]
Roxy Williams is the first Afro-indigenous Nicaraguan woman to build a solid-fuel rocket. She participated in NASA's SpaceApp Challenge and the aerospace camp held in Costa Rica. [click on image]
After 18 years of service, Captain Matilde Torres became the first woman to hold the position of deputy director general of the firefighters of Panama in the 133 years of this institution. [click on image]
After 18 years of service, Captain Matilde Torres became the first woman to hold the position of deputy director general of the firefighters of Panama in the 133 years of this institution. [click on image]
Multimedia & Events
🎥 Gender Violence: A podcast with journalist Lucía Pineda Ubay and entrepreneur Irasema Soza, hosted by La Lupa Press about gender violence (LaLupa).
🎥 Love, Life, and the Virus: Frontline documentary “Love, Life, and the Virus” shows the struggle of a Guatemalan immigrant family overcoming COVID-19 as they bring a newborn into the world. 
🎙️ El Salvador: Latino USA podcast covers the constitutional crisis that El Salvador’s government finds itself in as the country’s weighs the reopening plan for the country.
🖼️ #DondeEstaElDinero: The slogan “Where is the money” showcases the discontent that many Hondurans feel towards the lack of transparency and corruption in the execution of funds in the pandemic.
📅 Webinar (August 20): The Failed Revolution in Nicaragua: The Indigenous Struggle for Sanitation. A live conversation with Anuradha Mittal (Oakland Institute), Lottie Cunningham (CEJUDHCAN), and Claudia Paz y Paz (CEJIL).
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The Team
Melissa Vida, Founder, Editor-in-Chief // Rodrigo Peñalba, Editor & Nicaragua News // Melissa Orellana, Editor // Jonathan Peraza Campos, Migration News // José Martínez, Podcast Producer, Social Media Officer // Natalie Leach, Social Media Officer // Cecilia Rivas, Podcast Co-host // Isabeau J. Belisle Dempsey, Belize News // Rachel Osorio, Costa Rica News // Pablo Arauz Peña, El Salvador News // Jalileh García, Honduras News // Nansi Rodríguez, Guatemala News // Fátima Ramírez, Panama News // Nicole Ramsey, Writer // Jacqui Martinez, Guest Art Curator
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