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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Latinoamérica arrow Political Situation in Latin America: June 2014

Political Situation in Latin America: June 2014 PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Jul-04-14 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. The problem cause by the strong increase in the number of illegal children entering the US expands the debate over the need to solve the issue of undocumented people in the country. Some 11 million people who illegally entered the US live there in that situation. This accounts for 3% of the total population and two thirds or more come from Latin America. Based on this scenario, there’s a strong increase in the number of undocumented children. This year so far some 45,000 minors have been arrested trying to enter illegally, and it’s estimated it will be 90,000 throughout 2014 (this is three times more than in 2013). There are no clear concrete reasons for this phenomenon, which is unprecedented. In humanitarian terms, their proper support at detention centers is overloaded. The U.S. Government does not have the necessary infrastructure for this purpose. As an emergency solution, Obama has requested Congress 2 billion dollars to address the problem and enabled four military bases - one in Colombia- to house them temporarily. A very high percentage of these children come from the so-called "northern triangle" of Central America, composed of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The problem generated on 28 June a protest in more than 30 cities in 20 states of the United States, claiming for the housing and treatment of these minors in detention centers.

2. Vice President Biden was in Guatemala days ago addressing the issue with President Pérez Molina and his Salvadoran colleague, Sánchez Cerén, who has just taken over. The Obama Administration argues that these children should be returned to their country of origin once they are detained and argues that most of them do not have parents living in the United States as illegal residents. The Central American leaders say that a significant percentage has parents or relatives living in illegal conditions and for this reason they try to enter the United States. The Central American countries make up the Central American Integrated System (SICA), through which they have claimed to the US to assume its responsibility as a country of destination. The six countries that make it up (plus the US) will participate in the Conference convened on July 16 asking the US Government to privilege the principle of family unity, requesting that children who enter the country illegally to meet with their parents when they reside in the United States. It is not clear how much of this increase in the arrival of illegal minors in the US is spontaneous due to the difficulties faced by the Central American countries, the organized action of mafias or the existence of a move aimed at reuniting families, but it is likely that Obama will use it to promote his project to legalize illegal immigrants, which he failed to pass in his first term and would like to resolve before the end of the second, even by imposing executive orders. 

3. This demonstrates once again why the third of Latin America that is north of the Panama Canal has a higher strategic priority for the US than the two-thirds in South America. The problems of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, due to their geographical proximity to the US and their interaction with the Hispanic phenomenon, generate a direct interest due to their potential threat. In terms of security, the mentioned three countries of the so-called "northern triangle" of Central America, along with Venezuela, not only are the four most insecure in Latin America for their number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, they are among the top ten with the worst situation in the world in terms of homicide. For this reason the "Maras" (gangs) in El Salvador are putting at risk the public transport in the capital city after killing 30 bus drivers this year so far. The fact that Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are among the ten countries in the world with more per capita homicides has ties with the strong influx of illegal minors towards the US. A political fact is added: in an American election, more Hispanics of Salvadoran origin than of Brazilian origin cast votes, despite the fact that the population of Brazil is about 17 times that of El Salvador. Mexico, together with Canada, has an immigration Treaty with the US different from that of the rest of Latin America and that is why it is not involved in this problem. 

4. But this week President Obama has received the President of Chile Michelle Bachelet and this demonstrates that, although less relevant, American diplomacy does not neglect South America. The Chilean President has proposed at the recent Summit of Presidents of the Pacific Alliance in Mexico a meeting of Ministers from the four countries of the group - which has 33 observer countries, among which are the US and Panama and Costa Rica in Central America - with the five that make up the Mercosur, for the second half of July. It is not easy that the initiative succeeds, not only due to tariff differences in each of the country groups but also because the Brazilian diplomacy -in a twist recently- seems not too excited with opening the doors of South America to Mexico, whose GDP projection competes with that of Brazil for the first economy of Latin America by the end of this decade. Vice President Biden’s visit to Brazil at the beginning of the World Cup seems to have tempered some differences in the bilateral relationship as a result of electronic espionage. Washington has backed the peace talks of the re-elected Colombian President (Santos) with the FARC, which has joined the other guerrilla group serving in the country (NLA). The internal crisis of Chavism is an important political fact in the region, which raises the possibility of a breakdown of the regime before Maduro’s term ends. The conflict that has erupted between Argentina and the US justice which requires the former to pay bondholders who did not sign for debt swaps in 2005 and 2010 after the default of 2001, will be treated at the OAS in the coming days and will be used by the ALBA countries to reiterate questions against the US. 

5. To conclude:

a) The problem generated by the three-fold increase of adolescents and children illegally arriving in the United States from Central America versus last year enables Obama to insist on his immigration project.

b) The majority of these children come from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, which, along with Venezuela, are among the 10 countries in the world with more homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

c) This situation is one further explanation of why the third region which is North of the Panama Canal matters more to the US than the two-thirds in South America.

d) Obama received Bachelet and Biden visited Dilma, the rapprochement between the Pacific Alliance and the Mercosur is not easy and Argentina brings the debt conflict in the US court to the OAS.

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