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Hurricanes Affect 1.5 Million Children

Central American News
Hurricanes Affect 1.5 Million Children
By Central American News • Issue #123 • View online

Dear Readers,
Two record-breaking hurricanes devastated Central America in November, affecting more than five million people, of which at least 1.5 million are children.
People have lost homes, jobs and crops, and a second COVID-19 wave looms – Central American families might risk the route towards to the United States.
In midst of hardship, creativity and resilience are key: people have organized food baskets and clever ziplines to cross rivers where bridges are no longer, for example.
In this newsletter, you’ll also get updates of Guatemalan anti-Giammattei protests, learn how Costa Rica might start tracking its citizens through facial recognition or read about why there are calls for an independent fiscal police in El Salvador.
Thanks for reading and supporting news from the region.
Salú,
Melissa
"A wire basket attached to a zip line where a bridge used to be in Jocotán, Guatemala." Source: NYT
"A wire basket attached to a zip line where a bridge used to be in Jocotán, Guatemala." Source: NYT
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Headlines
Central America
📰 Laboratories: More than 185 laboratories have been authorized for COVID-19 tests in Central America. Nicaragua is the only country that has centralized its testing into one public laboratory. 
📰 Vaccines: El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua may receive donations of vaccines against COVID-19 as part of a program of the World Health Organization.

Migration
📰 DACA: Judge orders restoration of DACA, opening immigration program to new applicants for first time since 2017
📰 Family reunification: Lawyers say Trump administration has handed over new data that will help reunite separated migrant families
📰 Trump legacy: Trump administration staffers continue to work to pass anti-immigration policy in the U.S. // ICE investigators issued a subpoena demanding BuzzFeed News identify its sources.

Belize
📰 ICJ Referendum: The deadline for Guatemala to file its case against Belize is due next week to the International Court of Justice. Guatemala claims that almost half of Belize is rightfully Guatemala’s territory and should be annexed to their country.
📰 Suing Prime Minister Briceño: The director of tourism has filed a defamation lawsuit against Prime Minister Brieceño for comments he made to a radio show. Former Prime Minster Barrow is serving as the director’s attorney in the case.
📰 Happy Birthday Andy: The son of the late great Garifuna Belizean musician, Andy Palacio, commemorated what would be his father’s 60th birthday.

Costa Rica 
📰 COVID-19 Vaccines: Costa Rica signed an agreement with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech for the manufacture and delivery of 3 million COVID-19 vaccines in 2021.
📰 Army Abolishment Anniversary: The government of Costa Rica celebrated the 72nd anniversary of the abolition of its army by inaugurating the José Figueres Ferrer museum in the name of former President José Figueres abolished the Costa Rican army on December 1, 1948.
📰 Proposed Biometric Database: The legislative assembly of Costa Rica proposed a bill featuring a biometric database where inhabitants of Costa Rica would be tracked through facial recognition and other biometric data.
📰 Economy: Grupo Lala (Mexico) closes in Costa Rica and redirects investment to plants in Guatemala and Nicaragua.

El Salvador
📰 Gas Explosion: Firefighters responded to a large gas fire caused by several explosions at a gas plant in Soyapango on Saturday. Residents and workers were evacuated as responders fought to put out the fires.
📰 Media Repression: Media and Salvadoran State representatives held a discussion before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on media repression. Following the meeting, Bukele’s press secretary criticized the president of the journalists’ union for approaching international organizations to denounce attacks against the union. The Salvadoran State has been internationally criticized for its violations of the rights to freedom of expression and of the press.
📰 Fiscal Police: Attorney General Raúl Melara proposed to the assembly to create a police force independent of El Salvador’s national police to counter the president’s alleged use of the entity for political persecution. 
📰 Arriaza Chicas Trial: A special commission agreed to remove legal immunity from the director of police, Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, for a breach of duties in his refusal to act on government officials’ reported use of state funds to profit from the pandemic. The commission’s vote must still be approved by the assembly.

Guatemala
📰  #5D Protests: Anti-governmental demonstrations continued on December 5th (#5D). Calls for President Giammattei’s resignation remain but many are now calling for a constitutional assembly to fight the government’s corruption. 
📰 Politics: President Giammattei and Vice President Guillermo Castillo addressed the nation together to send a message of national unity after a year of mutual reproaches between the two. Neither party elaborated on the matter, however, there is speculation that the disintegration of the Government Center, which Castillo never supported, might be the cause of the reconciliation.
📰 Armed Conflict Files: Representatives of the victims of the Internal Armed Conflict gathered in front of the National Compensation Program (PNR) to demand the location of the reparation files of thousands of victims after the PNR personnel moved the files without prior notice. This is after the closure of official peace institutions that were created to provide justice to the victims.
📰 COVID-19: There are more than 125,000 cases of COVID-19 in Guatemala. An estimated 3.3 million vaccines against the coronavirus are expected to be sent to Guatemala in March and April 2021.

Honduras
📰 Hurricane aftermath: President Juan Orlando Hernandez traveled to the United States to meet with representatives from multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the United States government. Honduras asked the US to extend TPS for current holders and to give Hondurans the ability to apply to a new TPS program. Nine villages in La Lima are uninhabitable and more than 8,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in the Department of Santa Barbara. Also, doctors warn of the outbreak of cases of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease product of stagnant waters.
📰 State Violence: During a home eviction, the police shot and killed Rafael Hernandez, a 24-year-old man and owner of a carwash. Forty people have been injured by state forces during the clash.
📰 Politics: Three political parties presented and submitted documentation for the primary elections in March 2021 to the National Electoral Council. 
📰 Drug Traffic: The United States could begin sharing sensitive intelligence with Honduras about inbound flights carrying drugs, even as Honduras faces scrutiny from Washington over drug-related corruption.

Nicaragua
📰 Human Rights: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reports that 1,614 people have been deprived of liberty in the context of the human rights crisis since 2018, including 200 minors, who “have been victims of irregularities in the procedures for their release, acts of mistreatment and possible acts of torture.” These arrests, mistreatment, and torture persist in the regime’s prisons in 2020.
📰 Hurricanes: Citizens affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota are thrown out of shelters due to lack of attention from the state.
📰 Economy: The Central American Bank for Economic Integration approved a fund of $ 300 million dollars for economic reactivation in the context of the pandemic. Extreme poverty levels returned to 2009 levels, according to surveys and Nicaragua received more than $1 million in remittances in October, 9.92% more than the previous year.

Panama
📰 Plastic: President Cortizo passed a law for progressive replacement of single-use plastic as of 2021.
📰 Drug Traffic: Panamanian authorities seized more than 5.5 tons of drugs and apprehended 13 foreigners in five operations along the country’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
📰 Women’s Lives: A new Femicide Observatory seeks, based on official data, to raise awareness of the problem of femicide and violence against women.
📰 Politics: Alejandro Ferrer and Federico Alfaro resigned as Minister and Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. Erika Mouynes and Dayra Carrizo were appointed to replace them.
#5D in Guatemala
Collective mural painted in Guatemala, during the protests of # 5D.
Collective mural painted in Guatemala, during the protests of # 5D.
Good Reads
📌Cyberespionage: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are “likely customers” of Circles, a “surveillance firm that reportedly exploits weaknesses in the global mobile phone system to snoop on calls, texts, and the location of phones around the globe". (Citizen Lab).
📌The Garífuna Voices of Guatemala’s Armed Conflict: A report on the experiences of Afro-indigenous Garífuna during Guatemala’s civil war (NACLA).
📌Fake News: How does propaganda work in Nicaragua?(Chequialo.com)
📌Bukele: An opinion piece on Bukele’s administration: “De la esperanza a la locura” (Revista Común)
📌 New Class of Refugees: “Two Hurricanes Devastated Central America. Will the Ruin Spur a Migration Wave?” (The New York Times)
Latin Grammys
Costa Rican singer Debi Nova’s most recent album, 3:33, has received three nominations for the 2020 Latin Grammy Awards.
Entrevista con Debi Nova
Entrevista con Debi Nova
Hurricane Donations
Emergency Relief for Indigenous Communities hit by Hurricanes Eta and Iota.
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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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