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Panama Protests

Central American News
Panama Protests
By Central American News • Issue #67 • View online

Dear Readers,
In the week leading up to Panama’s independence day on November 3rd, Panamanians were hard at work deciding what future they want for their country. Demonstrators and police clashed in Panama City during a protest against the constitutional reform and at least 44 people were arrested according to data from the authorities.
The demonstrators were mostly students and activists from the LGBTI community. They were dispersed with pepper spray by agents of the National Police.
Talks on the Constitutional reform had dismissed the possibility of same-sex marriage, which had previously been under discussion in the National Assembly. Also, lawmaker “Bolota” Salazar refused to let activists enter the Parliament stating that “they’re gays, they can’t get into the Assembly.”
Panama is a long forgotten country in news from Central America - let’s keep track of it!
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Our Instagram follower Salvisbelike_ asked us about sanctions against Nicaragua. Here is a quick wrap on this :
📌 The United States has sanctioned the following public officers: Roberto Rivas (former Supreme Electoral Council), Francisco ‘Chico’ López Centeno (Treasurer FSLN), the police commissioner Francisco Díaz, Fidel Moreno (Rosario Murillo’s assistant), Néstor Moncada Lau (adviser), retired general Oscar Mojica (Ministry of Transportation), Laureano Ortega Murillo (son of Daniel Ortega), Gustavo Porras (President National Assembly), Orlando Castillo (Director of Telecommunications), Sonia Castro (Ministry of Health), private bank BANCORP and the Vice President Rosario Murillo. US Treasury issued a regulation for these sanctions on September 2019
📌 The European Union approved a legal framework to impose specific sanctions against Nicaragua’s government, but no specific public officer or political leader has been sanctioned. 
📌 OAS High Level Commission must submit a report before November 11, where it can recommend the application of the democratic letter and suspend Nicaragua before the OAS, but it still needs to secure 24 votes in the General Council of the agency.
Photo of the Week
Protesters in Panama. @Picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Franco
Protesters in Panama. @Picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Franco
📰 TPS Extension: Trump Administration is extending work permits for Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) through January 4, 2021. TPS has been extended for Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, Haiti, and Sudan as well. The National TPS Alliance released a statement claiming that while extending TPS is a relief for thousands, it does not replace the need for permanent residency.  
📰 Migrant Detention: The U.S. has detained more unaccompanied children trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the past year than any other period on record, surpassing the surge of minors during the Obama administration. // A Honduran immigrant from Georgia who is recovering from cancer has been detained in an immigration detention center over a traffic infraction for two months. Her family has been advocating for her release and is mobilizing support.
📰 In Mexico: Mexico is holding a record number of 40,500 unaccompanied minors in detention. // Médecins Sans Frontières teams in southern Mexico claim that migrants attempting to reach the U.S. are experiencing escalating cruelty and torture from criminal groups. // An asylum-seeking toddler died after a hit-and-run in Mexico, making him the 20th child to die at the border. // Children of migrants waiting in Mexico due to the “Remain in Mexico” policy are leaving their parents to cross the border alone.  
📰 Politics: President Trump replaces Kevin McAleenan with Chad Wolf as the interim secretary of Homeland Security. 
📰 Dia de Los Difuntos/Day of the Dead: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) installed its first official Day of the Dead altar dedicated to migrants who have died in U.S. custody or while trying to enter the country.
📰 Constitutional Reform: Legislators approved a project of Constitution reform and President Cortizo said that it is “practical” and convenient, and asked the deputies to “not be confused” and “act in favor of the country.” The package of reforms presented by President Laurentino Cortizo seeks to amend articles relating to the administration of justice, health, education, the environment, decentralization and the functioning of Parliament.
📰 Protests: Students and other sectors of the population have taken to the streets to reject Constitutional changes. Opponents of the proposed constitutional reforms were cleared from Panama’s congress with pepper spray fired by police, more than 44 people were detained and later released. Among other things, they protested homophobic language and that same-sex marriage was dropped from the reform package.
📰 Brexit: The National Assembly ratified an agreement that establishes an association between the United Kingdom and Central America after the UK exits the EU.
📰 Crime: Israeli man, allegedly involved in crime, gunned down in Panama City mall.
📰 Public Finances: The public budget for 2020 was announced; Several million less to be spent on education and more than $8 million addition to the National Police. // Even with the social security reform, INSS reports losses in 2019.
📰 Political violence: On the Day of the Dead in Nicaragua, the grave of a young man killed during “Operation Cleaning” in July 2018 was destroyed. The act was condemned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. // Police attack journalists covering a protest in a private shopping center; one journalist got his arm broken. 
📰 Economy: Foreign Direct Investment decreased by 25% in 2019. // The Central Bank reduces the value exchange rate slip of cordoba against the dollar from 5% to 3%.
📰 Transparency: Only 3 out of 64 public institutions and 154 municipalities comply with the law on access to public information, research finds.
📰 Mario Estrada: A court in New York reveals that former presidential candidate Mario Estrada wanted to assassinate former presidential candidate Thelma Aldana. Mario Estrada previously pleaded guilty on drug trafficking as well as a related weapons charge and to possess and use machine guns.
📰 Supreme Court: The election of the next judges and magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice and Appeals Chambers is on pause. The commissioners involved in the preparation of candidates made the last move and the next file could be moved by Congress, the Constitutional Court or the Judicial Career Council.
📰 Business plan: President-Elect Alejandro Giammattei presented the country’s tourism promotion and economic development plan; The actions include promoting the country as a tourist, export and investment attraction destination as well as improving conditions for business, security and tax collection.
📰 Migration: The Trump administration is getting closer to finalizing an agreement to send asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. border to Guatemala, according to sources. // U.S. agents at Guatemala checkpoints see holes in border security.
📰Taiwan & the US: A US official visiting Belize “affirms [the US’] relationship” with both Belize and Taiwan after meeting with the Taiwanese ambassador.
📰 Brexit: As a member of the British Commonwealth, Belize has begun to prepare for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
📰Environment: Tap water flowing from the Belize River has begun to run brown in peoples’ homes, raising concerns over its safety for consumption.
📰Caribbean Conference: Belize hosts the 6th biennial Caribbean Court of Justice conference, where they addressed topics such as indigenous peoples’ rights.
📰 Political violence: Óscar Daniel Mencía Cantarero, 18-year-old student leader, was found dead after he had been missing since October 29. Oscar was in his second year of high school in Automotive Mechanics and was very active in organizing protests in recent months. // Local journalist Buenaventura Calderón, who gave news program “Ecos de la Mosquitia”, and María Calderón, were assassinated.
📰 Corruption: A new decree makes it almost impossible to investigate the management of public funds by deputies. Public prosecutors cannot investigate such funds before three years, and if the funds were improperly used, those responsible will have a term of 4 years to reimburse said funds before they can be criminally charged.
📰 Human Rights: 100 national and international organizations urge to review Guapinol measures to ensure that the seven human rights defenders, now detained, would face legal processes in freedom.
📰 TPS: President Juan Orlando Hernandez welcomes U.S. decision on extension of TPS work permit for 40,000 Hondurans under TPS until 2021.
El Salvador
📰TPS: In a video tweet, President Nayib Bukele and US Ambassador Ronald Johnson announced that the validity of work permits for Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) would be extended through January 4, 2021. In return, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officials will advise Salvadoran police on anti-immigration efforts.
📰Politics: Video and audio recordings confirm that top politicians from the FMLN and ARENA, including Norman Quijano, negotiated with the MS-13 gang in exchange for electoral support. // Mario Ponce has been elected the new president of the Legislative Assembly. He said he will make it a priority to foster collaboration between El Salvador’s political parties.
📰 Security: The Bank of Central American Economic Integration (BCIE) granted El Salvador a $109 million loan to finance Phase III of the national Territorial Control Plan, which is aimed at modernizing the police and armed forces.
📰 El Mozote: Judge orders President Bukele to open military archives of the 1981 massacre and ex-soldiers of the Atlacatl battalion testify against their superiors in the court case.
📰 Water: After a municipality-wide vote, Suchitoto became the first municipality in El Salvador to declare water a human right.
Costa Rica
📰 Selfies with Animals: Costa Rica launched on Friday a campaign meant to discourage local and foreign tourists from taking harmful or inappropriate selfies with wild animals.
📰 Electric Passenger Train; The BCIE approved a $550 million dollar loan to the government of Costa Rica to finance part of the The Electric Passenger train for the Great Metropolitan Area (GAM), that would run from Cartago to Alajuela.
📰 Alejandro Giammattei’s visit: The President-elect of Guatemala Alejandro Giammattei met with Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado in which they discussed various topics of common interest such as: promoting tourism and exploring new markets for exports of products like coffee. The two leaders also addressed the need to work on the modernization of the isthmus and to promote reforms to regional organization.
Day of the Dead in El Salvador
Revellers take part in a parade called "La Calabiuza" on November 1, 2019, on the eve of the Day of the Dead in Tonacatepeque, 20 kms north of San Salvador. During the celebration, the residents of Tonacatepeque, originally an indigenous community, recall the characters from the mythology of Cuscatlan -- pre-Columbian west and central regions of El Salvador -- and their dead relatives. MARVIN RECINOS / AFP
Revellers take part in a parade called "La Calabiuza" on November 1, 2019, on the eve of the Day of the Dead in Tonacatepeque, 20 kms north of San Salvador. During the celebration, the residents of Tonacatepeque, originally an indigenous community, recall the characters from the mythology of Cuscatlan -- pre-Columbian west and central regions of El Salvador -- and their dead relatives. MARVIN RECINOS / AFP
Good Reads
🖊️ Nicaragua: The New York Times Magazine offers a feature on chronicling how Daniel Ortega contacted a U.S. evangelical - who taught the Gospel to Trump’s cabinet - to bring a message to the White House.
🎨 Artistic Achievement: Salvadoran sculptor and architect Rubén Martínez Bulnes received the 2019 National Culture Award for his exceptional contributions to art and culture. On El Faro. Also see this 2013 photogallery on his work.
🔎 Border Industrial Complex: The Nation reported on how immigration enforcement agencies received billions of dollars in funding that, in turn, have been generating profits for private-sector collaborators in the separation of families at the border. 
🖊️ Asylum Victory: An HIV positive Garifuna woman from Honduras receives asylum and the opportunity to bring back her deported daughter, on Gothamist
🖊️📸 Indigenous Struggle: Rosalina Dominguez, a Lenca campesina leader in Honduras, continues Berta Caceres’ struggle against the hydroelectric industry on Lenca lands in Honduras and facing threats for it. Mongabay reports.
🎧 FOCOS TV speaks to the Executive Director of Alianza Américas, Oscar Chacón, who explains that while the extension of TPS is a victory, details about the agreement are still unclear and tepesianos will still fight for a permanent solution.
📸 Honduras: Los muertos valen oro, “The dead are worth the gold” is a photoreportage from Contracorriente that explores how mining companies paid the community of Azacualpa to move the cemetery, and an entire community because there was gold in the soil.
📆 An art exhibit titled “Connected Diaspora: U.S. Central American Visuality in the Age of Social Media” featuring the work of Central American artists, will take place at Duke University.
The Team
Melissa Vida, Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Rodrigo Peñalba, Nicaragua News, Editor
Rachel Ketola, El Salvador News
Nansi Rodríguez, Guatemala News
Jonathan Peraza Campos, Migration News
Jalileh García, Honduras News
Rachel Osorio, Costa Rica News
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