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Costa Rica's Myths

Central American News
Costa Rica's Myths
By Central American News • Issue #116 • View online

Dear Readers,
Costa Rica is often seen as an oasis in Central America – the government and finances seems more stable, more inclusive. In some ways, it is.
Yet, very real protests shook the country in the past two weeks as groups wanted more reassurance that the government of Alvarado would not sign a deal with the International Monetary Fund and increase debt (and taxes) to deal with pandemic costs. Protests continued after President Alvarado called off the draft agreement with the IMF and called for a national dialogue. Around 100 police officers were wounded and 60 people were detained in early October after confrontations with security forces at road blocks. The government ended up filing a criminal lawsuit against the organizers of the protests, who are two former politicians. Poverty in Costa Rica also increased as an aftermath to the pandemic. In 2019, a fifth of the population was considered poor – now it’s a quarter. Meanwhile, in what seems like a Central American cinema revival, Nicaraguan filmmaker Gabriel Serra questions Costa Ricans’ seemingly firm (and White) identity in his documentary “El Mito Blanco”, in which he focuses on the perspectives of Indigenous people, Black people and Nicaraguan migrants in Costa Rica. We dedicated a section of this newsletter to celebrate a couple of recent Central American films.
You can also meet Guatemalan journalist Sonny Figueora, who was detained in September after releasing an investigation on his government, and our own news curator Nansi Rodriguez, tonight at 6PM EST/3PM PST during our Instagram Live Cafecito con Central American News. Hope to see you there!
Salú,
Melissa
Documentary "El Mito Blanco"
Still from the documentary 'El mito blanco', by Gabriel Serra.
Still from the documentary 'El mito blanco', by Gabriel Serra.
Cafecito con Central American News
Join us on IG Live on October 19 at 6PM EST/ 3PM PST for a talk between you, our Guatemala news curator Nansi Rodriguez and journalist Sonny Figuoera from Guatemala.
Join us on IG Live on October 19 at 6PM EST/ 3PM PST for a talk between you, our Guatemala news curator Nansi Rodriguez and journalist Sonny Figuoera from Guatemala.
Headlines
Migration
📰 Unauthorized Operation: U.S. border agents in Guatemala were deployed to detain Honduran migrants going to the U.S. border and deported them to Honduras in an unauthorized operation in January. Government funds were misused and agreements with the State Department were violated when unmarked vans transported the migrants to Honduras without screening them for asylum claims. The Guatemalan government says it will conduct a review of the report produced by the U.S. Senate committee.
📰 More Migration: In September, the number of migrants held in U.S. custody by border agents peaked. As the pandemic threatens economic collapse in Central American countries, migrants continue north in higher numbers.
📰 Imprisonments: Private prison corporation GEO Group lost a lawsuit in which a federal judge upheld a California law that banned private prisons in the state. // Los Angeles County agreed to pay millions to settle a lawsuit after the Sheriff’s Department allegedly held people in jail beyond their release dates due to ICE requests. 
📰 The Border: Appeals court ruled that Trump’s decision to use emergency powers in 2019 to fund border wall construction at the southern border with military funds was illegal. // Indigenous organizers were arrested by Border Patrol agents and Arizona law enforcement at a peaceful action at an immigration checkpoint.

Belize
📰 Voter Rights: PM Dean Barrow announced that those people who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and/or have been self-isolating will not be allowed to vote in the upcoming general elections on November 11. 46 new cases of the virus have been recently identified. 
📰 Redistricting for the Election: The NGO Belize Peace Movement (BPM) released a press statement outlining their expectations for fairly redistricting the country before the election and could thereby delay elections. The People’s United Party challenged BPM with through an application in the Supreme Court.

Costa Rica 
📰 Protests: After weeks of protests, which have turned violent at times, the Government of Costa Rica filed a criminal lawsuit against the organizers of the protests, including former deputy and presidential candidate José Miguel Corrales and former deputy Célimo Guido. The day after, these leaders temporarily suspended road blockades. After President Alvarado suspended talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on October 4, protests have continued to make him sign a document in which he commits not to go to the IMF, not to raise taxes and not to sell assets
📰 Poverty: Poor population has increased by 5.2% in a year (21% in 2019 to 26.2% in 2020), making it the highest figure that has been recorded since 1992, according to a national survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC). 83.888 families have fallen into poverty in a year.
📰 Culture: The Ministry of Culture and Youth opposes a motion that would cut budget for culture in 2021. Ministerial offices, theaters, museums, etc. could be affected.
📰 Methanol Poisoning: The Ministry of Health has reported that the number of suspected deaths of methanol poisoning (from drinking adulterated liquor) has increased from 7 to 20 these past few days.
 
El Salvador
📰 El Mozote: A judge ruled to allow the inspection of files related to the 1981 massacre at El Mozote that have already been made public. A lawyer for the victims said the information may be useful, but not as valuable as the secret military files that have been blocked by the army. Two cases to inspect those files are pending. 
📰 Sicarios Arrested: The attorney general’s office announced the arrest of five hitmen, including one police officer, who officials say were involved in a massacre in 2018 with an unspecified number of victims.
📰 Increased Production: INTRADECO, a Salvadoran company, says it has increased production during the pandemic and hired 300 workers. The workers produce sanitary textile materials used in U.S. hospitals.
📰 Female Empowerment: The advocacy organization Acción Ciudadana released a study showing that political parties in El Salvador don’t have a strong plan to advance female candidates in either assembly or municipal elections.
 
Guatemala
📰 Journalism: After 24 years of reporting on the news, El Periodico is turning 100% digital and stopped printing. // After a series of serious allegations of sexual harassment by its director, Nomada is closing after six years of independent journalism.
📰 Corruption: Consuelo Porras, the Attorney General and head of the Public Ministry, gave the green light to open investigations against Juan Francisco Sandoval, “the public prosecutor that has headed Guatemala’s most important graft investigations of the last decade,” according to Insight Crime. “The move is the latest attack on his unit, which has pursued corruption cases against the country’s business and political elites.” A few days later, Prosecutor Sandoval indicated that his office (FECI) seized Q122.3 million that would be the product of illicit commissions linked to a former public official.
📰 Kidnappings: The Public Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior reported that the registration of kidnappings decreased in the last decade and that 2020 has seen 20% fewer reports than in 2019. However, the drop in reports can be due to confinement measures.
 
Honduras
📰 Environmental Defenders: Arnold Morazán Erazo, an environmental defender of the Guapinol community was murdered in Honduras. Morazán Erazo had actively opposed a mining project installed by the company Inversiones Los Pinares, which had legally criminalized him and 31 other defenders who opposed the project. 
📰 Political Campaigning: Political campaigns have started in Honduras, where the largest political parties are holding meetings in open spaces with more than fifty attendees, ignoring health and biosecurity protocols. Many pre-candidates have also been accused of corruption. The primary elections are to be held on March 16, 2021, in which presidential candidates will be chosen for the November 2021 elections.
📰 Dengue: Health authorities declared a dengue epidemic in Olancho and El Paraiso, while other departments in the country are on alert. To date, there are 21.040 cases of dengue. 

Nicaragua
📰 Economy: Unemployment rates in Nicaragua falls back to 2014 figures, reveals a report from the Central Bank. This is the first report of the bank after more than a year of not publishing data.
📰 “Foreign Agents” Law: The National Assembly approved “foreign agents” law, which mandates all citizens that work for or receive funds from foreign donors or companies be registered as foreign agents. They cannot run for public offices or be involved in “topics of internal and external politics” of the country. 
📰 Campaigns at OAS: Groups are campaigning so OAS members apply sanctions against Ortega’s government at next meeting, October 20 and 21.

Panama
📰 Universal Health, COVID-19: The National Assembly approved to unify the services of the Ministry of Health and the Panamanian Social Security Fund (CSS) in order to help ensure that all Panamanians, especially those living in areas of difficult access and low or no economic resources, can have access to health services and medicines, but CSS board member requested President Laurentino Cortizo to veto this project.
📰 Travel and COVID-19: Over 27,000 passengers have transited at the Tocumen International Airport since its re-opening on 12 October. Airport officials have identified at least 18 COVID-19 positive travelers. Airport officials will not allow more than six hours of transit due to the state of national emergency.
📰 Attracting Investors: The government has launched a residency program for high net worth investors. The goal is to boost construction and real-estate sectors.
📰 Breast Cancer: The government reduces the budget of the National Oncological Institute amidst breast cancer prevention and awareness campaigns. A budget cut of USD 21 million has raised concern among patients and family members. 
Ser Negro en Nicaragua
To counter the narrative of “Dia de la Raza/Hispanidad”, Eveling Lambert interviews Afro-Nicaraguans for the Day of Indigenous, Black and Popular Resistance
Ser Negro en Nicaragua
Ser Negro en Nicaragua
Good Reads
📌Drug Trafficking: The number of destroyed illegal airstrips and the volume of seized cocaine in Honduras this year are set to surpass 2019 figures, indicating that aerial routes for trafficking cocaine in the region remain very much alive. Guatemala also has seen an increasing number of clandestine airstrips. This year, authorities have disabled 15 of them (Insight Crime).
📌 Language Barriers: On Indigenous Peoples Day, Immigration Impact reflected on the need to consider the language barriers that exist in immigrant detention systems for detained Guatemalan indigenous peoples.
📌Threat of Detention: Salvadoran organizer and director of El Refugio in Georgia, Amilcar Cabral, writes for El Faro about how 2020 became the year in which most migrants have died in detention. 
📌Honduras: The coastal town of Omoa has not only experienced the wash up of tons of garbage from Guatemalan towns and the accelerated coastal erosion, but also the destruction of its surrounding environment due to the installation of extractivist projects (Contracorriente).
Central American Cinema
🎥 Costa Rican International Film Awards: Guatemala sweeps film festival awards with the movies “Nuestras Madres” and “La Llorona.” 
🎥 The White Myth: Are we Ticos white? Gabriel Serra, Nicaraguan filmmaker, nominated for an Oscar, dismantles that myth in a Costa Rican film based on the stories of Indigenous, Black, and Nicas living in Costa Rica. Watch the trailer here.
🎥 Ricardo B'atz: Cinema should not be considered a hobby,” says Ricardo B’atz, Salvadoran cinema producer and director of “Hoy”. Watch the teaser here.
Teófimo López
The Honduran lightweight champion
The Honduran lightweight champion
Prizes and Awards
Boxing Champion: On October 18, Honduran boxer Teófimo López defeated Vasyl Lomachenko and obtained the titles of the World Boxing Association and the World Boxing Council Franchise Championship, thus becoming the undisputed lightweight champion. Here are 10 things you have to know about Teófimo.
✨ Environmental Defenders: Guapinol river defenders and the memory of Berta Caceres are finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Start-Up: A Panamanian app, Fygaro, was the winning startup of the Visa Everywhere Initiative in Latin American and the Caribbean. Fygaro provides solutions to small businesses in the region to start their business on online platforms. Foco Panamá.
Opera Singer: Mario Arevalo talks with Noticias Telemundo about his journey to becoming an opera singer and a United Nations goodwill ambassador representing El Salvador. He has dedicated his life to opera and exposing Salvadorans and Latinos to opera and music.
Events
📆 October 19: On IG Live Cafecito con Central American News, our news correspondent Nansi will interview Guatemalan journalist Sonny Figueora, who had been detained in September after publishing an investigation on Guatemala’s government.
📆 October 23: The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) will host a commemorative virtual event to celebrate 40 years of Salvadoran and solidarity social movements. 
📆 October 28: Journalist Daniel Alvarenga will provide a talk about Central American representations in news media with Yale University
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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 // 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 // Irene Ledezma, Panama News // Nicole Ramsey, Writer // José Martínez, Podcast Producer, Social Media Officer // Natalie Leach, Social Media Officer
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