Vanishing Human Rights: Mexico’s migration policies

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For decades, Mexico and the United States have discussed migration policies. A long history of mutual convenience triggered the creation of public and private institutions that aimed to regulate migration. The protection of human rights was by far at the top of the agenda on the Mexican side. Anyhow, things have changed. Mexico’s demands to protect illegal migrants in the U.S seem now odd. Political instability and insecurity in most of the Central American countries have exhibited the incapacity of the Mexican government to handle a humanitarian crisis.

United Nations reported that Mexico and the United States hold the biggest amount of international migrant populations with 15 million Mexicans living in the United States.  This migratory corridor is so immense in terms of mobility that not even Asian countries have reported similar numbers even though they have larger populations. Despite international reports and suggestions about the current humanitarian challenges in the Mexican southern border, the Mexican government seems to disclaim the relevance of protecting Human Rights and their binding elements under international law to avoid human trafficking and other abusive practices against migrants.

Since 2018 when president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was elected, transitory migration in Mexico has escalated up to 232% compared to previous administrations. There is no doubt that rhetorics and ideological stands played a paramount role during AMLO’s electoral campaign. In theory, left-wing progressive regimes would have a favorable view of human rights and to some extent be committed to respect basic human rights.  Before holding office, AMLO was determined to de-militarized domestic affairs by the creation of a national civil policy. However, and despite the actual creation of a the National Guard, migration policies are still using extreme cohesive methods. Contrary to what many believe, Chiapas and the Southern border have become areas were the military and the national guard have organized massive detention centers.

During 2019, the number of migrants that attempted to get into Mexico reached nearly 450,000. According to the Mexican National Migration Institute, 71,000 were deported and the rest were dispersed in Mexican territory. Nongovernmental organizations and charity groups have reported abusive practices and racism from police forces and other border patrol offices. International media has been able to get in touch with some of the migrants whose families were separated and even kidnapped by local authorities in Mexican territory. The BBC interviewed Fernanda, originally from Honduras. Her tragic story ended up by sending her 7-year-old son alone to the U.S – Mexican border after she suffered hunger, segregation and insecurity in northern Mexico.

Stories like the one Fernanda shared with the BBC are rapidly increasing across the Mexican territory. Yet, since January 2020 larger migrants groups have been systematically targeted by the Mexican authorities. Pepper spray, detention camps, and deportation are now the priority in the agenda of AMLO’s foreign office. While the Mexican Human Rights Commission remains silent. It seems like overall, Human Rights are not a priority and that  inclusive policies towards migration are far from being an option for the current administration.

25th December beyond Christmas: wars, colonization and the end of an era

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Today, the 25th of December, is Christmas day, and it is celebrated around the world.  The Christian tradition commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, although, before that, the 25th was already marked as a festivity to celebrate Winter solstice in pre-Christian cultures. But beyond celebrating Christmas, the 25th of December has been a date of relevance throughout history.

As such, here are some events that happened on the 25th December around the world and in different periods of time that hold some relevance and impact for International Relations.

In Europe, in 1356, in Nuremberg and Metz, the Emperor Carlos IV of Luxembourg promulgated the Golden Bull of 1356, the decree that would fix for more than four hundred years constitutional aspects of the Holy Roman Empire, such as the mechanism for the election of the Kings. The Holy Roman Empire constituted the primary ruling entity in Europe, lasting almost 1,000 years.

In South America, in 1492 the Spanish ship Santa María (one of the three first ships sent by the Spanish Royals and with Cristobal Columbus on it) ran aground in front of the island named “the Spanish”, today territory of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. With the remains of the ship, the Spanish would build the  From the first establishment on American soil, named “Fort Christmas” (Fuerte Navidad), initiating the colonization period that would last more than 300 years.

In 1553 in Chile, the indigenous people (los Mapuches), within the Auraco war defeated the Spanish colonizers in the Battle of Tucapel, the first battle won by the indigenous people that would demystify the invincibility of the Spanish troops and boosted resistance and uprisings against colonization.

In Asia, the 25th December 1978, in the context of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, the Vietnamese army launched the definitive offensive, deploying more than 150,000 soldiers, that would end with the loss of more than half of the Kampuchean Revolutionary Army, making the Khmer Rouge retreat, paving the way for their final defeat of the Kampuchean troops and the occupation by the Vietnamese army.

And of course, in the last years of the 20th century, one of the events that marked the World until today, the 25th of December 1991 the resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev following the Belavezha Accords and transferring power to Boris Yelstein made the USSR finally dissolve, putting an effective end to the Cold War, as the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin. 

Although these are just a few of the events that have happened on the 25th of December, the date has had a meaning beyond Christmas throughout history. Notwithstanding and for those who are celebrating in 2019 the tradition, have a merry Christmas and enjoy the holiday.

Who knows what the next 25th December beyond Christmas will be. It may be already happening today.

SECURITY IS NOT JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL

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An article published last week describes the new constructions on the border wall that Donald Trump promised as one of his landmark campaign goals. The publication shows the US President signing one of the sections of the wall built in El Paso, a very straightforward declaration on Trump’s policy to stop illegal immigration. Although the wall Trump promised is nowhere near completion, the rhetoric and accompanying strategy have already created obstacles to the true problem: insecurity.

During the campaign, the issue was framed by Trump as securing the border from dangerous criminals who slipped into the US from Mexico. The wall is meant to be a symbol of the physical efforts to stop the illegal flow of people into the United States whilst the administration also applied many controversial measures that lead to children being separated from their parents.

All the promises were made based on describing immigration as a rapidly growing phenomenon that brought insecurity to the US. The reality is that studies show that migration from Latin America, and especially from Mexico, has actually decreased. This does not mean that migration has stopped, the refugee crisis existing at the border shows that many still try to enter the US legally to try and escape the insecurity in their country of origin.

One of Trump’s claims about the wall is it would also help in stopping the smuggling of drugs into the US. Not only would that be inefficient but it also obscures the US’s responsibility in what is indeed a security issue. The insecurity created by the drug trade affects the entire continent. And as much as the existing portions of the wall have been useless in preventing ‘criminals’ and drugs going into the US it has also failed to block weapons from leaving the United States and into criminal groups in Latin America.

According to reports by NGOs, in the period of 2014 to 2016, “50,133 guns that originated in the United States were recovered as part of criminal investigations” in various countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. That number only reflects a small portion of weapons that fuels existing criminal conflicts in many countries of the region. However, Trump’s rhetoric and constant accusations never recognise the responsibility of the United States in creating such unsafe environments to migrants.

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND THE ENEMY AT HOME

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In 1993 countries in the General Assembly of the United Nations declared their commitment to end violence against women. To this date, UN Women has reported that “35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives”. According to the same office, the percentage goes as high as 70 in some countries.

Latin America and the Caribbean is a region where women and girls suffer from gender-based violence and the place in which a global movement started. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 3,529 femicides were committed in 2018. Governments have taken actions to legislate and create programs to address the issue. However, as with many laws, the problem is a lack of implementation rooted in pre-existing power dynamics: the patriarchal domination of women.

In October of this year, Chilean activists that seek to end gender-based violence came up with a performance (“un violador en tu camino“) that protested against one of the main tools of the existing structure; the song calls to highlight the constant practice of re-victimization. The song and choreography, which have resonated all over the world, voice the demand for States to recognize their complicity with rapists and sexual harassers by claiming that the victim was ‘on the wrong place and provoking their attacker’.

A study conducted by Oxfam shows that many young people in the region still believe that violence against women is justified in ‘domestic’ instances such as marriage. Governments also resort to the strategy of blaming the victims in order to justify their inability to address the issue. As such, the power structure is created and recreated by the same institution that is supposed to protect all the people who live in the State.

The Chilean movement however replicated all over the world given the fact that the same power structure affects women regardless of geographical location. Data shows that 58 percent of the women intentionally killed were murder by partners or family members. Movements like the one started in Chile voice a complaint that seeks to address the underlying structure behind the ‘acceptance’ of violence against certain groups of individuals, i.e. the life of a straight male is more valuable than that of others.

IN DRUGS WE TRUST: THE AMERICAS WAR WITH DRUGS

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In its Global Study on Homicide 2019, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated that: “[o]rganized crime kills as many people as all armed conflicts combined”. The American continent had the highest rate of murders for 2017 and has been the same since 1990. UNODC has found that Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela have the highest homicide rates. Can this trend be stopped by the legalization of drugs?

Whether it may help reduce violence is still to be known. Another aspect of it does require further attention; it may help States prevent health deterioration of their citizens. Mainly, legalization could represent access to better quality and information on drugs. Yet, the debate is in no way a straightforward solution.

The motivations of organized crime, especially regarding transnational operations, has been a subject matter of policymakers, academics, and international organizations. Often criminal groups are considered to be ‘rational actors’ that seek to maximize profit. The drug trade is one of the most common methods of revenue associated with organized crime. Both academics and United Nations officials have suggested that legalizing drugs would greatly diminish funding for criminal groups.

Currently, Uruguay is the only Latin American country that allows for the legal use of cannabis and has been since 2013. Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru allow for its use within medical treatments. The debate is particularly relevant in Mexico due to the proximity to one of the largest markets: the United States.

According to research, the legalization of marijuana in some US states helped reduce violent crime in those places that border Mexico. The debate is complex and effects on legalization seem to have different notions in academic texts. The Mexican government has proposed the legalization as part of a wider security strategy but added the need to address both from the need to reduce income to criminal groups and also as a means to reduce the threat to the health of drug users.

Prices for cocaine, one of the most trafficked drugs in the US, increased from 2007 to 2017. Data may show that legalization could contribute to reducing the income of organized crime. But would that necessarily make the groups cease their activities or would it force them into other illegal markets?

Men: Eliminate Violence Against Women

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The 25th of November has been marked since 1999 by the UN as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Particularly this year, the United Nations has chosen as its motto “orange the world: generation equality stands against rape”.

However, the origin of the day is less known. On the 25th of November 1960, the Dominican Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo gave orders to execute the Mirabal sisters, three well-known political activists that had fervently opposed the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. In 1981 the Latin American Feminist Movement,  paying homage to their assassination and raising awareness of the situation of women in Latin America & the Caribbean, declared the 25th of November as the day for the elimination of violence against women.

Let’s start by saying that violence against women is a structural phenomenon in mostly every society  in the world and despite the efforts in addressing this violence and working for its elimination via international instruments such as the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) or by including it on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the figures and facts in 2019 are still alarming and us, women, are right to fear.

But what do we fear? The main problem arising from all these initiatives is mostly its degree of abstraction. More often than not, we don’t see either in Conventions like the CEDAW or in different initiatives an appeal to the extremely likely and direct cause of violence: MEN.

This might seem obvious, but this fundamental cause of violence against women is usually absent, and the focus to end the problem instead of being on the cause is always on the consequences:

Who kills women and girls? The UN says:

-“1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2017; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances”

-Let me ask: who are their partners? the Partners are highly likely MEN.

Who marries child brides? The UN says:

-“Almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday”

-But I ask. Who are they forced to marry? Girls are forced to marry MEN.

Who rapes women? The UN says:

-“1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner”.

-I dare ask, again, who is the partner? and again, extremely likely, a MAN.

 

Today, on this very 25th November, I  challenge #allmen to start considering the ways you inhabit the world. I challenge you to think about all the times you weren’t scared when a woman was.

I challenge you to hold accountable other men around you. I challenge you to stop saying #notallmen (at least before you do, check these facts).

 

 

And to all the women, see you later on the streets.

BOLIVIA FOR-EVO-R

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Bolivia has captured the attention due to the 4th re-election of Evo Morales as President. First elected in 2006, he became the first indigenous president of the country. He sought to eradicate poverty and better conditions for the multiple indigenous communities of the State. During his rule, extreme poverty rates fell from 38 per cent in 2006 to 15 per cent in 2018.

Bolivia also experienced an unprecedented growth in GDP, surpassing that of neighbouring countries. Morales was even said to break with neoliberal economic policy and become the first president to break with the United States neo-colonialism. However, he made a mistake many Latin American rulers have made: he sought to remain in power longer than the constitution allowed.

Morales enjoyed overwhelming support in his previous re-elections but began losing popularity in 2016 when a referendum was held. The referendum sought to get the popular support on reforming the constitution so the President could run for a fourth term in 2019. The results did not favour Morales’ ambition as 51.3 per cent of Bolivians rejected modifying their constitution.

In October 20th 2019, Evo Morales won in elections that the Organization of American States marked as containing ‘serious irregularities’. The event threw Bolivia into massive protests and civil unrest. On November 10th, Morales resigned and fled to Mexico in seek of asylum. Nonetheless, the resignation was not enough to put an end to the chaos in Bolivia.

The Bolivian former president has said that he was ousted from the country via a coup organised by the opposition. Amid the confrontation created by Morales’ declaration and the power vacuum created in his absence, Bolivia is now heading down a dangerous path of division. Jeanine Añez, a senator, has assumed interim presidency but has been declared illegitimate by some. Adding to the unrest, Morales has announced that he intends to return to help his fellow Bolivians, creating further animosity.

Evo Morales’ actions have not only undermined his country’s democratic institutions, but he continues to divide Bolivian society by maintaining the declaration of a coup. This tactic has been commonplace in Latin American politics when long-standing leaders have been accused of breaking the law in attempting to remain in office. Paraphrasing a Batman film, it could be said that in Latin America you “either retire a hero or remain in office long enough to become the villain”.

GOVERNMENTS COME AND GO CORRUPTION STAYS THE SAME

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Scholars view democracy as a regime where rulers are elected on systems that allow for ideological alternation. Competition in which voters can decide upon different platforms means that, at least in theory, governments are accountable. Latin America is a region with a varied record on established and functional democracy. In the last ten years, many countries have swayed from left to right-wing parties and back again. How effective has political alternation been in satisfying the populations’ demands to their government?

Supposedly, pressure and corruption and inequality have pushed governments out of office. Mexico’s President, elected last year on a strong vow to end corruption, marks one of the exemplary changes from right to left win parties in the region. Mexican voters decided to end 18 years of right and centre-right governments that had proven incapable of eliminating corruption, inequality and violence. Thought the term is still not over, the President has yet to deliver the promised transformation.

Argentina has recently done left to right to left transition. In 2015, Mauricio Macri was elected president as the majority of Argentinians seemed unhappy with the leftist rule of Christina Fernández de Kircher. During Macri’s presidency, the former government was investigated on charges of corruption and Fernández de Kirchner still awaits to stand trial.

Nonetheless, she ran as vice president to Alberto Fernández as they got elected in the country’s elections of October 2019. The voters’ anger with the left’s corruption may have removed them from power in 2015 but Macri’s liberalist policies failed to address rising inflation and seem to have made people overlook Kirchner’s corruption charges.

Another country may be at risk of repeating the story. Currently, Brazil has a far-right government elected after the corruption scandals of the leftist-led by Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer. Now da Silva has been released from prison and has promised to end the far-right’s rule. There is still doubt whether the politician will be able to return to power but Brazilians will have the choice in 2022 to alternate political platforms again.

Thought alternation seems to be failing to address to populations’ demands for effective action, lack thereof is also sparking demands, as Bolivia’s protests have shown. Change in government through elections remains an accountability method and is certainly better than dictatorships or quasi-dictatorships. However, the region is still lacking a way to face corruption and get better policies using democratic tools.

Is Democracy Dead? Latin America’s Civil Unrest

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Much like Nietzsche’s link on Christianity and democracy, political theorists and leaders alike have come to view democracy as the ultimate regime; an almost divine method of peacefully settling disputes. With the spread of liberal peace and the “Western” spread of the one true political order, many countries adopted such institutional arrangements.

At the turn of the last century, countries from Latin America and the Caribbean endured swift changes in regime. Most of the countries in the region share a past of military dictators, semi-authoritarian regimes, single-party systems or other quasi-democratic arrangements. However, the future of the region is now set, mostly, on achieving democratic institutions that resemble those of the “Western” values.

Recent events in the region have tested the efficiency that democracy has in settling disputes and providing an agreeable lifestyle to the citizens of each country. Chile is often referred to, together with Uruguay, as one of the best functioning democracies in the Latin American region. Economic development seemed to be thriving in the country. Nonetheless, inequality, amongst many other issues, remained unresolved.

Inequality is traced to the establishment of neoliberal economic policies, a legacy of both the US’s notions on liberal peace and the right-wing dictatorship which ruled Chile at the turn of the last century. Chilean citizens of many different backgrounds have taken to the streets to demand a change in government policy. Their demands are not being heard but rather repressed violently by the military and the police.

Bolivia, already on the edge of losing its democratic status, has also seen citizens taking to the streets to demand that the ruling President Evo Morales is not re-elected for a fourth term after a highly irregular electoral process. As in Chile, protesters were met with violent oppression by the State. Honduras, Ecuador, and Haiti have also seen citizens taking to the streets only to end up fighting with police forces in violent clashes. The region is truly struggling to be heard by its leaders.

Can democracy truly work when peaceful protests are met with violence? Protesting is one of many tools that society should have to show interest in changing government policy, particularly where the votes cast in ballots are not being heard. Protests like these should also serve as a reminder that, while voting is part of democracy, true democratic values are not limited to polling stations but also include accountability to the population. The divine method of peaceful conflict resolution seems to be failing Latin America and the Caribbean.