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In New York: Awards and Selfies

Central American News
In New York: Awards and Selfies
By Central American News • Issue #62 • View online

Dear Readers,
Leaders of the world took the stage at the United Nations General Assembly this past week. Let’s have a look at the main messages of Central American leaders:

  • Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada asked to move the U.N. headquarters out of the U.S. and condemned any type of interventionist actions by the U.S. on Venezuela and Cuba.
  • Belize’s Foreign Minister, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, showed support for Taiwan, Cuba and Palestine, while focusing his speech on climate change.
  • Juan Orlando Hernandez, President of Honduras, denounced that “because of [his] fight against organized crime, [he is] subject to attacks and now to a smear campaign led by drug traffickers, gang members, corrupt police, murderers, corrupt businessmen who finance criminals and even politicians.” Honduras would also be a victim of Venezuela’s campaign abroad.
  • Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said that the United Nations “polarized” the Guatemalan people through CICIG. The UN-sponsored anti-corruption body was a “criminal structure that co-opted Guatemalan justice”. He pushed for CICIG to be investigated.
  • The President of Panama, Nito Cortizo, kept it clean by referring to the importance of dialogue between nations (Panama plays a liaison role in international talks on Venezuela) and the importance of strong justice systems against corruption.
  • President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador made headlines worldwide with his selfie on the podium. He said that the UN General Assembly format was “obsolete” and asked the UN to stay relevant through technology and social media.
  • Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado denounced the human rights violations happening in Nicaragua, talked about investing in Central America’s rural areas to stem migration and presented Costa Rica’ National Decarbonization Plan.
Thanks for reading Central American News.
The Team
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Photo of the Week
Costa Rica received the “Champions of the Earth” award, the highest distinction in the world regarding environmental work.
Wind turbines in Costa Rica. Photo credit: Stefan Scherer-Emunds.
Wind turbines in Costa Rica. Photo credit: Stefan Scherer-Emunds.
Carlos Alvarado Quesada
@ONU_es En nombre del pueblo costarricense, agradezco a la @UN y @UNEnvironment por este galardón que es consistente con el legado que mis padres y mis abuelos han creado para Costa Rica. Este premio es para todo el país. #UNGA #EarthChamps #AcciónClimática #ClimateAction 🇨🇷🇺🇳
📰 Asylum Agreements: The U.S. and Honduras have signed a deal that will allow the Trump Administration to deport more asylum-seekers to Honduras through a “safe third country” agreement. // U.S. to resume aid programs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that support its interests, official says, thanks to “leadership commitment” to tackle migration crisis.
📰 The Border: The Senate voted for a second time to block President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration at the southern border to rebuke the president’s attempt to fund a border wall without congressional approval. // The Trump Administration said it can return most migrants who express fear of persecution to Mexico. 
📰 Migrant Detention: The Trump Administration has separated over 1,000 migrant families since a June 2018 federal order blocked the policy. // A federal judge rejected new regulations that would allow the U.S. government to hold children and their parents in detention for indefinite periods.Another federal judge blocked Immigration and Customs Enforcement from relying solely on flawed databases to target undocumented people.
📰 Push-back: Civil organizations in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico are requesting that the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights oversee the treatment of migrant children at each country’s borders as migration policy has become more restrictive.
📰Anti-CICIG: Deputies of the Guatemalan Congress voted to create a specific commission to oversee the actions of the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG). It would investigate whether the CICIG staff did their job in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI), Juan Francisco Sandoval, has warned that the commission against CICIG violates the separation of powers.
📰 Migration: Social organizations demand the Congress of Guatemala to reject a bill that would penalize those who emigrate with minor children without documents.
📰Economy: Producers protest in Petén for the inaction of the authorities against the constant illegal corn smuggling from Mexico because it creates unfair competition for Guatemalan corn production.
📰Politics:  Five former foreign ministers and three former Guatemalan ambassadors spoke out against the speech by President Jimmy Morales at the UN General Assembly.
📰 Press Freedom: Newspapers El Nuevo Diario and Diario Metro were forced to close due to the embargo of ink and press material by government authorities. More than 100 workers are jobless. Despacho 505 made a selection of historic headlines of El Nuevo Diario. Other national newspapers are under the same pressure.
📰 Electoral poll: Support for a coalition for the “Azul y Blanco” and “Alianza Civica” movements grows for the next elections. 57% disapproves Daniel Ortega’s governance.
📰 Repression: President Daniel Ortega justifies why he ordered the bloody “Operation Cleanup” when he failed to get the opposition to dismantle the trenches last year: “The police had to leave their barracks to restore order, to dismantle the blocks and give the people peace of mind,” he said. Ortega’s declaration was made during 40 year anniversary of National Police. He accused the U.S. Embassy and international organizations of fueling the protests.
El Salvador
📰 Bukele in New York: A few days after the U.S. and El Salvador signed a “cooperative asylum deal,” President Nayib Bukele and President Trump held a meeting, in which Bukele said that Trump is “very nice and cool”. The next day, Bukele addressed the UN General Assembly to discuss the importance of staying relevant through technology and social media, opening up the speech with a selfie. The speech was met with criticism for failing to mention climate change or forced migration, two serious issues that El Salvador faces.
📰 Historical Memory: In Washington DC, Inter-American Court of Human Rights Commissioner Antonia Urrejola urged El Salvador to create “a comprehensive and aggressive plan” to provide justice and reparations to victims of the armed conflict.  
📰 Environmental Justice: After the Salvadoran Secretary of the Environment proposed cultivating “low-carbon” mono-cultures as part of solution to the climate crisis, local Salvadoran activists marched to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) to demand public policies that require less water and protect indigenous land ownership. 
📰Anti-Corruption Commission: The Attorney General’s Office made an agreement with the OAS and the Executive branch to cooperate with the anti-corruption commission (CICIES) to investigate corruption and lead prosecutions. 
📰Targeted Attacks: An unknown assailant tried to abduct Sandra Maribel Sanchez, a journalist from Radio Progreso. // Tolupan land defender, Milgen Soto, was murdered in Honduras. Prior to his murder, he had been criminalized, harassed, and threatened. //Honduran organizations denounced that Honduras implements a policy of repression, violence and criminalization to deter and eliminate social protests.
📰 Health: 135 people have died from dengue this year in Honduras, nearly two-thirds of them children. 
📰Corruption: Anti-corruption bodies Maccih and the Ufecic presented the case “Corrupción sobre ruedas.” The investigations reveal that funds meant to be used for social programs were instead used to purchase armored vehicles for officials and for paying advertising campaigns. 
📰Migration: Honduras will sign an agreement with Havana to deport all Cubans that arrive in Honduras illegally. // Honduras has signed a migratory agreement with the U.S., which states that Honduras will receive Cubans and Nicaraguans seeking asylum in the United States. 
📰 Gambling, tax-free: Panama is planning to cancel the tax on gambling winnings to attract more tourists.
📰 China and Panama: Chinese and Panamanian officials met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Panamanian Foreign Minister has, since taking office, firmly adhered to the one-China policy and actively pushed forward bilateral relations, according to China.
📰 Property in Panama: Property values are now rising strongly in Panama’s most sought-after areas, according to local property experts. The average dwelling sales price surged by 21% from January 2015 to June 2017 in Panama’s metropolitan area.
Costa Rica
📰 U.N. General Assembly: President Alvarado addressed Costa Rica’s plans to help combat climate change and talked about various measures the country has implemented like the National Decarbonization Plan, which aims to transform the economy to become more sustainable and green.
📰 Ecology: Costa Rica will run on more than 98% renewable energy for fifth consecutive year, government says. The country received top UN environmental award for leadership in fight against climate change.
📰 Controversial Bill: A bill originally meant to “regulate” protests to avoid the suspension of activities was denounced on Tuesday as a law that would violate a person’s constitutional rights and possible human rights if it was passed.
📰 Abortion: In an interview with BBC, President Alvarado announced that he will sign this year the bill regarding therapeutic abortion, so that doctors can terminate pregnancies when there is a risk to the life or health of the woman.
📰 Drug-trafficking: Authorities in Belize have made a number of recent drug busts, underscoring that the Central American country is grappling with a surge in cocaine moving north from Colombia.
📰 Territorial dispute: Commonwealth Countries support Belize in the territorial dispute with Guatemala and Belize is finalizing a legal team to represent it at the International Court of Justice.

Bukele's Selfie
Nayib Bukele's famous selfie at the UN General Assembly, laudable for some, risible for others. Photo from Nayib Bukele's Instagram account.
Nayib Bukele's famous selfie at the UN General Assembly, laudable for some, risible for others. Photo from Nayib Bukele's Instagram account.
Good Reads & Multimedia
🖊️ From a U.S. perspective, Vox reports how the U.S. migration agreements with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala “could dismantle the asylum system as we know it” and could have deadly consequences for the asylum seekers. Comprehensive piece.
🗨️ Costa Rican law student encourages Costa Ricans to embrace the award given by the UN on the country’s environmental efforts and not give in to mining projects. He also retraces the history of the country’s commitment to sustainability. On Delfino.
🐢 We are at peak nesting season for turtles and one of the community volunteer efforts to save them in Panama is led by Valencia, a pastor of a local evangelical church. Report on APNews.
🔉 The Marshall Project, in partnership with The Guardian, produced an interactive, cinematic and data-driven video and text interface on how the United States created the largest immigrant detention system in the world.
🖊️ Open Democracy publishes a well-written report that links both Belize’s past with the U.K. and today’s territorial referendum. “To stop communism in one of the UK’s last colonies, one man was handed over to a death squad and another was tortured. Only now is the truth emerging.”
🎥 AJ+ shares the story of Jose, a queer Salvadoran immigrant who could be denied a green card by the Trump Administration due to his leukemia.
🖊️📷 A team from Plaza Pública goes deep where the state of siege has been declared in Guatemala and reports from the village that has been cornered and their complicated relationship with the army.

“My Father Belize,” a Belizean film that will form a part of the 14th Belize International Film Festival in November, will premier later this week in the United States at the Oakland International Film Festival in California. The film tells the story of a Belizean man born in the US who is on a return trip to Belize to scatter his father’s ashes but finds out that he sired a child on his last visit and has to face his apprehensions about fatherhood, given the estranged relationship he had with his own father.
“My Father Belize,” a Belizean film that will form a part of the 14th Belize International Film Festival in November, will premier later this week in the United States at the Oakland International Film Festival in California. The film tells the story of a Belizean man born in the US who is on a return trip to Belize to scatter his father’s ashes but finds out that he sired a child on his last visit and has to face his apprehensions about fatherhood, given the estranged relationship he had with his own father.
The Team
Melissa Vida, Founder and Editor
Nansi Rodríguez, Guatemala News
Rodrigo Peñalba, Nicaragua News
Jonathan Peraza Campos, Migration News
Jalileh García, Honduras News
Rachel Ketola, El Salvador News
Rachel Osorio, Costa Rica News
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