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Guatemalans Burn Congress Building, Achieve Suspension of Controversial Bill

Central American News
Guatemalans Burn Congress Building, Achieve Suspension of Controversial Bill
By Central American News • Issue #121 • View online

Dear Readers,
Thousands of Guatemalans poured unto Guatemala City’s streets on Saturday to protest against a new bill that increases lawmakers’ own budget for meals and cuts funding for human rights and nutrition programs, amongst other things. Some asked for President Giammattei’s resignation as the Congress building was set on fire.
Guatemala is reeling from the pandemic and from two successive hurricanes – this bill was the last drop. On Monday, Congress suspended the passage of the bill. If you read Spanish, I recommend this story which encapsulates what happened in Guatemala this week.
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"'It's a symbol' someone said watching the video of the fire coming out of the windows of the building where on Wednesday, November 18, the deputies had decided to approve the most onerous budget in the history of Guatemala." Photo: Oliver de Ros.
"'It's a symbol' someone said watching the video of the fire coming out of the windows of the building where on Wednesday, November 18, the deputies had decided to approve the most onerous budget in the history of Guatemala." Photo: Oliver de Ros.
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📰 Immigrant Children: A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Trump administration to stop expelling immigrant children who cross the southern border alone, halting a policy that has resulted in thousands of rapid deportations of minors during the coronavirus pandemic.
📰 Biden Administration: Pro-migrant advocates are asking President-elect Biden to divert attention from border security and militarization to reform and reparation
📰 Pregnant While Migrant: Pregnant undocumented women are risking their health and their infant’s health because of decreased access to healthcare following Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

 📰 #YaBasta: Anti-government protests started on Nov. 18 and escalated on Nov. 21 in Guatemala City, in particular against the 2021 budget bill which had been approved by Congress. Thousands protested against Morales’ government and the bill which cuts funding for human rights, the judicial branch, and malnutrition while increasing personal allocations for Congress members. There were 40 arrests, 14 wounded and 3 assaulted journalists. Videos and photos of the protest and the police violence on against protestors online. The building of Congress was set on fire. On Monday, social pressure made Congress suspend approval of the bill.
📰 Iota: After Hurricane Eta, Hurricane Iota has ravaged communities, farms , and highways in various regions of Guatemala. The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) reports at least 329,997 have been affected by Iota.
📰 Justice: Gilberto Roldán, former member of the Kaibil squad, who committed the Dos Erres massacre in 1982 killing 200 people in Petén, will be tried for crimes against humanity. // After various raids and inspections were carried out, former minister Carlos Velásquez Monge was linked to a crime of embezzlement. 

📰 Garifuna Settlement Day: Garifuna Belizeans celebrate the 218th anniversary of their ancestors’ arrival to the country with virtual events.
📰 COVID-19: Belize now ranks 2nd among CARICOM nations for number of active infections. The country currently has over 4,800 confirmed cases and nearly 100 deaths.
📰 Politics: The new governmental cabinet, serving under newly-elected PM Briceño, has been officially sworn in. // Prime Minister Briceño will announce a plan to address the country’s massive debt this coming week.

Costa Rica 
📰 Forced Labor: The government of Costa Rica signed a U.N treaty that requires countries to identify and rescue victims of forced labor, provide them with compensation, and punish human traffickers.
📰 Migration: A report revealed that migrant smugglers work in alliance with Nicaraguan soldiers and Costa Rican police officers to move Nicaraguans fleeing the political repression that broke out in their country since April 2018.
📰 Hurricane Influence: Costa Rica’s National Emergency Commission (CNE) and National Meteorological Institute (IMN) detailed the damages and costs provoked by Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Hurricane Eta affected 440 communities and an estimated 330,000 people in Costa Rica earlier in November, while Hurricane Iota has had less of an impact on Costa Rica compared to Eta, but the country is experiencing ongoing rainfall.
El Salvador
📰 Iota: El Salvador woke up to a red alert last Monday as heavy winds and rains swept through the country. On Wednesday, officials reported at least one death in San Miguel. Excess rains from both Iota and Eta also contributed to crop losses in Las Pilas and Chalatenango. Farmers are frustrated with the lack of a government response.
📰 Children’s Rights: A study published by a children’s advocacy group shows that the ongoing human rights violations resulting from Nayib Bukele’s response to the pandemic have severely impacted children’s social development. The study found that there are now more barriers or restrictions to healthcare and education.
📰 Digital Divide: The pandemic has increased access to the internet in El Salvador, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. But it has also further exposed the digital divide among the rich and poor. About 60% of people in Latin America and the Caribbean do not have access to the internet.
📰 Media Harassment: The national assembly published a report naming the officials directly responsible for social media harassment and other attacks against journalists in the country. The assembly is calling for an investigation of crimes.
📰 Iota and Eta Aftermaths: Hurricane Iota reached Honduras as a Category 4 Hurricane. It has caused devastating effects throughout the country – the Ramon Villeda Airport flooded again, 80% of the roads of the Copan municipality have collapsed, and at least 8.438 people are affected in the western part of Honduras. There were also 9 mortal victims due to a landslide, and neighborhoods continue to be inundated
📰 Business Losses: Authorities declare an emergency in the coffee sector due to losses after the hurricanes. Agriculture has been seriously affected, especially the western area, the Sula Valley and the Atlantic coast, where thousands of hectares of crops have been lost. This threatens food sovereignty in the region.
📰 Foreign Aid: The Honduran government organized a task force that will be coordinated by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). Yet, experts distrust the management of international resources for reconstruction and humanitarian aid. 

📰 Iota: Hurricane Iota leaves more than 1,200 kilometers of destroyed roads and flooded crop areas and left 98,000 without access to drinking water. Citizen group called “Monitoreo Azul y Blanco” reports 28 deaths from Hurricane Iota. 
📰 Economics: IMF grants 185.3 million dollars to the Ortega regime to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic. It is the biggest aid given to Nicaragua for the pandemic so far. // The government’s budget for 2021 does not include funds to rebuild the country, after the passage of Iota and Eta. // Iota affects 30% of rice production and threatens to affect the coffee harvest.
📰 Politics: Ruling party FSLN will renew magistrates in the Supreme Court, electoral council and comptroller’s office. Most of the positions in these institutions are filled by magistrates with expired terms or are vacant.
📰 Costa Rica: Fundación Arias from Costa Rica denies that the Nicaraguan Army participates in illegal immigration networks. The Nicaraguan Army also denies these accusations.

📰 Caso Pinchazos: Former President Ricardo Martinelli will be re-tried on the Pinchazos case. An Appeals Court has annulled the previous “not guilty” sentence due to errors in the evidence assessment stage.
📰COVID-19: There was a 38.6% increase in COVID-19 cases this past week. While expected given the re-opening of commercial sectors, this re-acceleration of the virus will be a challenge to authorities. Also, the first dosages of COVID-19 vaccines could arrive in April 2021. Business unions are standing firm in economic reactivation meetings, rejecting the possibility of another lockdown.
📰 Education: The National Secretariat for Disability has delivered laptops to university students with disabilities to promote access to education and equal opportunity. 
Hurricane Iota
"A dog sleeps over the debris of a house destroyed by Hurricane Iota in Puerto Cabezas." [Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters]
"A dog sleeps over the debris of a house destroyed by Hurricane Iota in Puerto Cabezas." [Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters]
Climate Crisis
📌 Indigenous communities: Hurricane Eta devastates indigenous communities in Central America. (The Intercept)
📌 Hurricanes: Scientists link record-breaking hurricane season to climate crisis. Evidence is not so much in the number of tropical storms the Atlantic has seen, but in their strength, intensity and rainfall (The Guardian).
📌 Migration:  In storm-hit Honduras, a climate crisis fuels migration. Aid experts and activists say that years of devastating drought have caused mass hunger and are leading thousands of Hondurans to flee annually towards the United States (The New Humanitarian).
📌 Development:  Central American leaders demand climate aid as a record storm season batters the region. On November 16, the region’s presidents stated they would work together to pressure richer countries to quickly release aid via regional development banks (Time).
Views from Europe
🗨️ An opinion piece in a Belgian newspaper explains how “the ill-informed, absurd and often cruel logic with which the Belgian state increasingly denies international protection to #Salvadoran refugees.” Belgium went from granting refugee status to 96.5% Salvadoran asylum seekers in 2018 to 9.5% in 2020. This is twice as less than the U.S. in 2018.
Latin Grammys: Panamanian singer and songwriter Rubén Blades and Colombian artist Carlos Vives have won Best Tropical Song for ‘Canción para Rubén’. (Panamá América, TVN).
✨Premio Ortega y Gasset: A collaborative investigation on the network of evangelicalism throughout Latin America has received the Award Ortega y Gasset (Contracorriente).
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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. 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. Jacqui Martinez, Guest Art Curator
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