The Rights to Water in La Boquilla

Local Farmers flooding La Boquilla dam to prevent the National Guard from opening the dam valves. Image: Mexico News Daily

10/21/20 (written by mlopez) The protests in La Boquilla, Chihuahua have turned violent within the past month as the exportation of water across the border is continuing. A 1944 U.S.-Mexico treaty, which was in response to both parties’ mutual interests in both countries’ shared rivers,   has resulted in a large debt that Mexico owes the United States. Mexico has delayed the release of the water reparations and the fast-approaching October 24th deadline of this year is resulting in the accelerated extortion of water from the dams in La Boquilla. This has resulted in a large divide among the local farmers who rely on the water for their agricultural purposes and the guardia nacional (National Guard) who is entrusted with releasing this water into the Rio Grande river. 

The 1944 Treaty

The Treaty of February 3, 1944 between the United States and Mexico established a mutual agreement to share water between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. The neighboring countries would allow an equal amount of water to pass through the borders as they both share the environment surrounding the border. While both parties were invested in these two vital rivers for the region, the use of the water became disproportionate. Population growth and the increase in industrialization ultimately affect  how much water is needed by the communities that surround the rivers. 

Currently, however, Mexico is facing a significant shortfall in the amount of water — 307,943 acre-feet, or 379.8 million cubic meters — due by Oct. 24, when the current five-year cycle ends. The deficit is about 88% of what Mexico is expected to supply per year to the United States. It is also worth noting that Mexico receives four times the amount of water it exports to the United States under this treaty. Nevertheless, the ramifications of the 1944 Treaty continue to impact everyday Mexicans over 75 years later. Mexico is not only behind on its payments, as noted, but the local farmers see this rapid exportation of water as impossible in conjunction with their own water uses. Farmers are not protesting the treaty itself, but rather how quickly and how much water will be revoked within a month. Whereas on the other hand President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordered his National Guard’s to guard the Chihuahua dams in question and ensure that the water repayment mission is completed. AMLO is adamant on repaying the water debt as he fears the consequences of not complying could result in U.S. tariffs. As Sally Spener, a U.S. spokeswoman for the U.S. Water Commission, noted the treaty does not specify sanctions for noncompliance and assumes that both parties will make “good-faith efforts” to fulfill mutual obligations. This signifies that the treaty holds no mention of sanctions or further conflict as a punishment for non compliance. 

The Affected Farmers

The farmers on the ground in Chihuahua have seen the escalation of issues with the 1944 treaty. They are stuck in between the area’s agricultural requirements for the land and the president’s sanctioning of the national guard in their backyard. The farmers began protesting at the start of July due to the National Guard’s presence at their dams. Protestors are upset that there will not be enough water to meet their agricultural needs, as they were recently hit by a drought. The water of these dams are seen as vital to the farmers’ livelihoods. Alejandro Aguilar, 57, a Chihuahua tomato and onion grower was among the protesters. “We will not end our fight, because this liquid is vital to our future, he said.” Protesters say they do not seek to renegotiate the 79-year-old binational water treaty. Rather, they say the Mexican government should seek alternative solutions, such as waiting for fall rains or diverting water from other border areas less affected by the drought than Chihuahua. Chihuahua’s climate is typically dry for the majority of the year with the rain season hitting from July through September. The lowest that the average temperature gets is about 50 ℉ and the highest is around 78℉, with the deserts hitting a high of 111℉. There are various terrains in the state of Chihuahua with the Sierra Madre mountains in the west, the Tarahumara Sierra mountains and Samalayuca deserts to the states north and south borders. These hot terrains in the north along with the lack of rainfall have lent to a dire situation where the sharing of their stored water seems like a threat to their farms in the north. In July 2020, protestors burned government vehicles, blocked railways, and set fire to government offices to protest the release of water to the United States. “For us, here, the question of water is fundamental,” said Salvador Alcántar, the head of Chihuahua’s association of irrigation. He continued, “It is the patrimony that we inherited from our grandparents, our parents. And now we have to leave it for our children.”

AMLO and the National Guards interference

President López Obrador expressed concern in press conferences that by not complying with the treaty the United States will place sanctions and have a reason to initiate conflict with Mexico. This is a presumed fear AMLO has as the treaty itself, as discussed by Sally Spener, has no punitive backing. He sees the National Guard protecting the transmission of water as a vital mission for Mexico’s national security and cooperative nature with the US. AMLO claims that Mexico receives four times the amount of water from the United States’s Colorado River than the United States does through the Rio Grande. Further, he estimates that the amount of stored water in Chihuahua’s northern dams is enough for both the farmers and the United States’s repayment. The president’s position on the repayment is also a product of his recent ties to President Donald Trump. López Obrador sees his next moves with the United States  as vital due to it being an election year and he does not want to encourage any further “mexico-bashing” from the United States. He also mentions that he thinks these outbreaks of protests are sponsored by the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN), his rival party, along with others who see themselves as the dueños del agua (owners of the water). President López Obrador does not want any trade conflicts with the United States, yet he also condones the current violent surge between farmer protesters and the National Guard. He did reassure that if the payment is not possible, he would appeal to Trump and explain the circumstances as to why there was a delay. If needed, AMLO did also clarify that he could appeal to members of the United Nations to assist in auditing the payments to its northern neighbor. The United Nations has not been made aware of the possibility that the president could call for experts to help audit the payments. Even the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has not been made aware of any discussion from their southern partners that the United Nations would survey their water deliveries, yet the president has brought up this possible course of actions in multiple commentaries. AMLO has options when it comes to handling these protests; it is just a matter of meeting the deadline. 

Acceleration of the Violence

The protests themselves have been on and off since December of 2019, yet they really took root in Chihuahua in July 2020 with the drought. At the La Boquilla dam, on September 8 2020, the national guard tasked with opening the dam valves were encountered by protestors throwing rocks and sticks to stop the release of this water. The protestors eventually got control over the dam as the National Guard stepped back. This is where the narrative diverges, the national guard claims that armed citizens then fired at them, they retaliated, and one mother was killed in this exchange. On the other hand, the protestors and Chihuahua’s governor Javier Corral claim that the national guard was not attacked first. There is an ongoing investigation on the series of the events that claimed a woman’s life, harmed her husband, and have resulted in the escalation of violent protests in La Boquilla. These dams have become a site of mass unrest and these encounters will escalate as the deadline is a week away. 

Sources

Sánchez, Anabel. “1944 Water Treaty Between Mexico and the United States: Present Situation and Future Potential,” Frontera Norte. 17 February 2006. 

“Farmers clash with National Guard over diversion of dam’s water to US,” Mexico News Daily. 05 Febraury 2020. 

Stevenson, Mark. “Mexico struggles with US water debt, suggests UN audit,” Washington Post. 03 September 2020

“Farmers, troops skirmish over water in Northern Mexico,” Washington Post. 09 September 2020. 

“Mexican farmers, troops skirmish over La Boquilla dam water in Chihuahua,” El Paso Times. 09 September 2020.

McDonnell, Patrick.”Mexican water wars: Dam seized, troops deployed, at least one killed in protests about sharing with U.S,” LA Times. 11 September 2020.

“Gobierno federal y autoridades de Chihuahua instalan una mesa de diálogo para abordar el conflicto por el agua,” Latinus. 21 September 2020.
Rafael Romo, Krupskaia Alís. “El conflicto del agua en Chihuahua pasa de protesta de agricultores a pleito político,” CNN Espanol. 26 September, 2020.

President López Obrador Targets His Predecessors with a Referendum on Corruption

10/20/20 (written by kheinle) – President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is throwing the weight of the Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de México, SCJN) behind a referendum to address past cases of criminal conduct, specifically that of corruption and ties to organized crime. In a move that is politically charged and controversial, the president’s referendum seeks to allow for former Mexican presidents to be investigated and held accountable for potential criminal acts conducted while in office.

President Andrés Manual López Obrador at a press briefing in July 2020. Photo: Marco Ugarte, The Associated Press.

The Referendum’s Target

The referendum specifically looks at the administrations from the last three decades, including former Presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (1994-2000), Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006), Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012), and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). There is only one other former Mexican president still alive, Luis Echeverría, but President López Obrador did not name him in the proceedings. Those that were named, however, are accused of being involved in “privatizations rife with cronyism, spiraling violence, and an increasing concentration of wealth,” writes The Guardian.

Nevertheless, none of the five former presidents named in the referendum have any open criminal cases against them. Rather, this referendum would simply allow for the possibility that they – and future presidents – be investigated and prosecuted for alleged crimes committed in office. Article 108 of the Mexican Constitution protects sitting presidents from being charged while serving, unless the wrongdoings pertain to treason and serious crimes against the common good (“por traición a la patria y delitos graves del orden común”). President López Obrador’s referendum would simply open the door for action to be taken after the president leaves office.

The Supreme Court’s Involvement

In September 2020, President López Obrador presented the referendum along with 2.5 million signatures in support to Congress. Mexico’s National Election Institute is currently verifying the signatures on the petition to ensure the validity of the registered voters. They have a 30-day window allotted from the time the document was submitted to complete their check.

The Supreme Court holds a virtual hearing on October 1, 2020. Photo: JusticiaTV, Vivo.

In the meantime, the referendum proceeded to the Supreme Court in early October, which ruled in a vote of 6 to 5 that the referendum was constitutional and could proceed. Notably, however, the Court modified the verbiage in an 8 to 3 vote to read that investigations could be brought against “political actors,” not “ex-presidents. The judges voted to “neutralize and simplify” the wording, writes Animal Político. The language specifically changed from President López Obrador’s version, which read:

“Está de acuerdo o no con que las autoridades competentes con apego a las leyes y procedimientos aplicables, investiguen y en su caso sancionen la presunta comisión de delitos por parte de los expresidentes Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón y Enrique Peña Nieto, antes, durante y después de sus respectivas gestiones.”

The version approved by the SCJN now reads:

“Estás de acuerdo o no en que se lleven a cabo las acciones pertinentes con apego al marco constitucional y legal para emprender un proceso de esclarecimiento de las decisiones políticas tomadas en los años pasados por los actores políticos encaminado a garantizar la justicia y los derechos de las posibles víctimas”

The final step in the referendum’s approval process will be held in June 2021 when the plebiscite, as it is technically called, will be put before the public for a vote. This will coincide with the midterm congressional elections. Writes The Guardian, President López Obrador “wants ‘the people’ to give the green light to any legal proceedings against the country’s former presidents.”

AMLO’s Progress on Corruption

President López Obrador made combatting and uprooting corruption in Mexico one of his major political platforms and election promises. His first year in office was rather quiet in terms of concrete action against corruption. In December 2019, however, one of the first big cases of corruption was unveiled with the arrest and extradition of former Secretary of Public Security Genaro García Luna in December 2019. García Luna faces four counts of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and making false statements, charges that he pleaded not guilty to in October 2020.

Then, in July 2020, two more high-profile cases of corruption came to fruition. This includes a case of corruption, embezzlement, and financial irregularities against the former governor of the State of Chihuahua, César Duarte. Additionally, the former CEO of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), Emilio Lozoya, was also extradited to Mexico from Spain to face similar charges of corruption, tax fraud, bribery, and money laundering.

In September 2020, another case broke involving seven government officials who are accused of accepting bribes from federal police officers. The accusations allege that more than 2.5 million pesos were illegally diverted from federal funds through money laundering between 2013 and 2017.

Then, on October 16, 2020, Mexican were again reminded of the systemic corruption ingrained in their government when the former head of the Secretary of Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA), Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, was arrested in Los Angeles. He faces charges in Mexico of ties to organized crime and drug trafficking. Read more about that story here.

Sources:

“Former Mexican Secretary of Public Security arrested in Texas.” Justice in Mexico. December 19, 2019.

“López Obrador administration secures two high-profile cases of corruption.” Justice in Mexico. July 14, 2020.

Agren, David. “Mexico’s Amlo proposes referendum on prosecuting country’s ex-presidents.” The Guardian. September 15, 2020.

Barajas, Abel. “Piden amparo siete exfuncionarios por desvíos en Policía Federal.” El Diaro. September 21, 2020.

“El Senado envía al INE 2 solicitudes de consulta ciudadana para poder enjuiciar a expresidentes.” Sin Embargo. September 22, 2020.

“Corte aprueba consulta ciudadana pero saca a expresidentes de la boleta.” Animal Político. October 1, 2020.

Marín, Carlos. “Fallo y reacción incomprensibles.” Milenio. October 5, 2020.

Durán, Raúl. “Juez Cogan suspende audiencia de García Luna por ruido de reporteros mexicanos.” Debate. October 7, 2020.

“Mexico’s ex-security chief pleads not guilty to drug charges.” The Associated Press. October 7, 2020.

“¿Avalarán mexicanos propuesta de AMLO para enjuiciar expresidentes?” El Nuevo Siglo. October 10, 2020.

McDonnell, Patrick J. “Mexico stunned by L.A. arrest of former defense chief allegedly on drug cartel’s payroll.” Los Angeles Times. October 16, 2020.

“Former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda Arrested by U.S. Officials.” Justice in Mexico. October 19, 2020.

Former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda Arrested by U.S. Officials

10/19/20 (written by rkuckertz) – In a move that shocked Mexican citizens and officials alike, U.S. authorities arrested former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda on Thursday, October 15 just after he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport with his family. He was taken into custody after U.S. officials indicted him on various drug trafficking-related counts, including conspiracy to import and distribute heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. The arrest sent shockwaves through Mexico, as Cienfuegos (also known as “El Padrino”) is the first high-ranking Mexican military official to be arrested in the United States in connection with drug trafficking and organized crime.

General Cienfuegos was a member of Mexico’s armed forces for 54 years and served as Mexico’s defense minister under President Enrique Peña Nieto from December 1, 2012 to November 30, 2018. Throughout his tenure as head of the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), he was tasked with the military’s fight against organized crime. During this time, Cienfuegos defended military personnel against accusations of human rights violations, particularly in the widely-publicized extrajudicial killings in Tlatlaya and Iguala (2014). Notably, the former defense minister repeatedly refused to allow investigators to interview soldiers involved in these massacres. Nonetheless, he was thought by the public to be committed to the fight against organized crime. As the Los Angeles Times reports, he once denounced drug traffickers who attacked military personnel as “sick, insane beasts.”

Charges and Evidence against Cienfuegos

The charges against Cienfuegos were brought before a Brooklyn grand jury on August 14, 2019, on which day U.S. Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon issued an arrest warrant. On Friday, Cienfuegos appeared before a court by videoconference to hear the charges against him: three charges of conspiracy to manufacture, import, and distribute narcotics and one count of money laundering. He is currently being held without bail in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, California as he awaits his next court appearance on Tuesday, October 20. Notably, Cienfuegos obtained legal representation from defense attorney Duane Lyons—the same attorney representing Mexico’s former Secretary of Public Security, Genaro García Luna, who was also arrested last year by U.S. officials in connection with drug trafficking.

Specific evidence obtained against Cienfuegos includes thousands of Blackberry messages exchanged between the former defense minister and members of the H-2 cartel, a successor organization to the Beltran Leyva cartel. The messages directly implicate Cienfuegos in assisting H-2 with its criminal operations, including facilitating drug shipments across the U.S.-Mexico border and introducing H-2 members to Mexican officials willing to receive bribes in exchange for cooperation with criminal actors. In addition, Cienfuegos allegedly informed H-2 members of ongoing U.S. law enforcement investigations into the organized crime group (OCG). As a result, H-2 was able to expand its operations throughout the state of Sinaloa with little inference from Mexico’s military.

Mexico’s Response

Mexican officials were not made aware of U.S. plans to charge Cienfuegos until after his arrest. In response to the news, President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) stressed that the Mexican government had not investigated Cienfuegos because it was not made aware of any evidence or complaints against the former defense minister. Nonetheless, López Obrador warned that anyone involved in the case against Cienfuegos that currently serves in the Mexican government or in SEDENA would be immediately removed and placed in the hands of authorities. The president also noted that Cienfuegos is the second high-ranking Mexican security official to be arrested in the United States since last year when Genaro García Luna was arrested on similar charges in Dallas, Texas. López Obrador characterized these arrests as evidence of rampant corruption under former President Enrique Peña Nieto.

However, President López Obrador emphasized a stark contrast between his predecessors and his own administration. He defended both SEDENA and the Mexican navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR) as institutions that have assisted the government in the crucial task of ensuring Mexico’s public security. As AMLO stated, “[SEDENA and SEMAR] are institutions fundamental to the development of our country, pillars of the state, and they are so strong that not even matters such as the involvement of a secretary of defense in cases of drug trafficking can weaken them” [author’s translation].

Most recently, AMLO has attempted to separate his own administration from the corruption of past administrations by introducing a referendum to the Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de México, SCJN) that would allow former presidents to be charged for criminal conduct committed while in office. Approved by the court, the referendum will be put before the public for a vote in June 2021.

The Role of Mexico’s Military in the Fight Against Organized Crime

Despite AMLO’s reassurances, Cienfuegos’ arrest comes at a time when Mexican civil society groups and international organizations express grave concern regarding the expanding role of Mexico’s military in security operations.

This trend toward militarization of public security operations began prior to President López Obrador’s term. In 2017, Mexico passed a law affirming the military’s role in the fight against organized crime. Condemned by the United Nations and various human rights organizations, the law allowed Mexico to deploy soldiers to regions under the control of OCGs. Critics argued that the bill gave broad powers to the military that superseded the Mexican Constitution. In their view, the bill allowed the president to act unilaterally, militarizing any part of the country without clear limits or an exit strategy.

Under the current administration, AMLO has continued the expansion of militarized operations. As a cornerstone of his anti-corruption platform, López Obrador sought to overhaul the federal policing system, replacing it with the National Guard (Guardia Nacional). This new security institution recruited over 100,000 troops from both the military and former Federal Police. In AMLO’s view, the National Guard would be incorruptible and significantly more effective in counter-OCG operations. However, after a year of operation, skeptics continue to warn that the use of military-like tactics will cause human rights violations to continue unchecked.

In addition, Reforma points out that individuals directly connected to the former defense minister Cienfuegos continue to operate within Mexico’s security apparatus. In particular, General André Foullon, who serves as SEDENA’s sub-secretary and was considered to be part of Cienfuegos’ inner circle, previously commanded the third region (Tercera Región) consisting of the state of Sinaloa—the same region where Cienfuegos allegedly protected the H-2 cartel. Reforma identified several other current military officials who had close ties to Cienfuegos—individuals that U.S. officials believed would have assisted Cienfuegos in evading authorities if he were released.

While it remains to be seen whether other SEDENA officials will be implicated in Cienfuegos’ crimes, recent data demonstrate that the Mexican public holds a generally-favorable view of the military. In 2017, a Parametría poll showed that six of every ten Mexicans agreed that the military should continue to operate throughout Mexico in response to organized crime. The poll also found that the public viewed the military as one of the country’s most trusted institutions. However, given increasing criticism and the news of Cienfuegos’ arrest, it remains to be seen whether Mexico will continue to entrust its military institutions with the fight against organized crime.

Sources:

“Blackberry Messages, the Key to the Arrest of ‘The Godfather’ Cienfuegos.” The Yucatán Times. 18 October, 2020.

“La caída del general Cienfuegos: el recuento.” Aristegui Noticias. 17 October, 2020.

“No investigamos a Cienfuegos porque no teníamos información contra él”: AMLO.” El Universal. 17 October, 2020.

“Persiste en Sedena mano de Cienfuegos.” Reforma. 17 October, 2020.

Agren, David. “Former Mexico Defence Minister Arrested on Drug Charges in Los Angeles.” The Guardian. 16 October, 2020.

Ahmed, Azam. “Mexico’s Former Defense Minister Is Arrested in Los Angeles.”The New York Times. 16 October, 2020.

Associated Press. “Vistazo al cartel H-2 que general mexicano habría apoyado.” Los Angeles Times. 16 October, 2020.

McDonnell, Patrick J. “Mexico Stunned by L.A. Arrest of Former Defense Chief Allegedly on Drug Cartel’s Payroll.” Los Angeles Times. 16 October, 2020.

Morán Breña, Carmen. “López Obrador enmarca la detención de Cienfuegos en la ‘peste’ de la corrupción de los ‘narcogobiernos.’” El País. 16 October, 2020.

“Read the Indictment against Mexcio’s Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.” The Washington Post. 16 October, 2020.

“Detienen al ex Secretario Salvador Cienfuegos en EU.” Reforma. 15 October, 2020.

“6 de cada 10 mexicanos confía en el Ejército y prefiere que ciude las calles: Parametría.” Animal Político. 23 February, 2017.

Malkin, Elisabeth. “Mexico Strengthens Military’s Role in Drug War, Outraging Critics.” The New York Times. 15 December, 2017.

Daly et al. Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico. 30 July, 2012.

Increased Security Spending in 2021: Between Opportunity and Further Militarization

10/01/20 (written by emarinoni) –

Introduction

The draft budget proposal delivered to the Mexican Congress by the Minister of Finance Arturo Herrera Gutiérrez on September 8, 2020 proposes increased spending for security and peace, in response to rising levels of violence in Mexico.

The proposal would also include an increased budget for the National Guard, a national police force introduced by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in an effort to provide public security to the country. Since its conception, the role of the National Guard has been ambiguous in nature. The proposed expansion of the National Guard budget, in a context of a rising reliance on the armed force in public security issues, calls into question the real prospects for improvements in public security and the militarization of law enforcement.

The Proposal

According to data provided by El Financiero, the 2021 budget proposal posits a 21.8% increase in the budget of the National Guard. In 2021, its budget will be around 36 billion pesos, up from the 29 billion pesos (roughly 1.6 billion USD) budget in 2020. In addition to this money, an additional 500 million pesos will be provided for the construction of 76 National Guard headquarters across the country.

Members of the National Guard (Guardia Nacional). Photo: Animal Político

In addition to the money allocated for the National Guard, the proposal aims to give this institution financial independence. Previously, the budget of the National Guard also included that of the Federal Police, according to the agreement between the Transition Unit of the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection (Unidad de Transición de la Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana).

The max spending for public security during the administration of Calderón, considered to be a turning point for the public security militarization was roughly 56 billion pesos (roughly 2.5 billion USD). The public security budget continued to increase during the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) as well, 81 billion pesos (roughly 3.6 billion USD), almost double the amount allocated during the Calderón administration (2006-2012). Considering that the security budget has been rising since 2000, the budget proposed by López Obrador would not only represent a further increase but also constitute the highest security budget since 2000.

Possible Implications

Concerns about increasing human rights violations that the creation of the National Guard would have supposed were pointed out by various academics since the creation of the latter. In its 2020 World Report, Human Rights Watch reasserted the persistence of crimes such as tortures, enforced disappearance, and abuses carried out by the recently-born National Guard. According to an investigation led by Animal Político, in 2019 Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) registered at least 32 complaint files for alleged human rights violations by the National Guard in the first five months of its operation.

The last episode happened on September 8, 2020 in Chihuahua where the National Guard was involved in a violent confrontation with farmers that were protesting to get back the control of La Boquilla dam, that provides water to the United States according to a binational treaty signed in 1944 between Mexico and the United States. According to the protesters who seized the dam, this treaty is responsible for water shortage in the border, affecting agricultural production of the farmers who live in the area. The accident claimed two people’s death and several injured. The fact is still under investigation, but many witnesses point to the National Guard as responsible for open fire against the protesters; on the other side, exponents of the National Guard declared that before repelling the aggression, it was attacked first by armed civilians.

This isolated episode fits in a wide record of human rights violations perpetrated by security forces. Both the Washington Office on Latin America and Justice in Mexico published working papers about police and military abuses in Mexico; there are plenty of cases of rape, forced disappearances, corruption, and tortures. The episode of the enforced disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa encompassed most of the before-mentioned crimes.

The National Guard Law (Ley de la Guardia Nacional) establishes that in order to be a part of it, recluses must get through and approve an evaluation process made of several proofs of different nature. A recent study from Animal Politico shows that by August 2020 only 8,605 of the almost 83,000 National Guard elements achieved the Unique Police Certification (Certificado Único Policial, CUP). This is just 1 in 10 guards deployed are working with a background formation in areas such as human rights and gender among others. The National Guard has a period of up to two years to complete the trust evaluation among all elements of the force since it was approved in 2019. However, the National Guard is underwhelming in its participation rate thus far, and there are no clear signs yet that indicate the situation will improve.

Conclusion

The 2021 budget proposal fits in a larger context of further militarization projects. The sign of the new security decree on May 11, 2020, that expands the role of armed forces in public security, showed the increasing dependency of the president on the latter. In light of this scenario, the weak predisposition to get armed forces off the streets by 2024 is evident.

Moreover, Animal Político highlights the fact that the budget increase will be not accompanied by reinforcement of other agencies that are fundamental and complementary in the fight against violence and the implementation of public security. The proposed budget for 2021 for the National Intelligence Center (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia, CNI) is 2.6 million pesos, a reduction of 4.2% compared to 2020. Another victim of the budget cut is the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims (Comisión Ejecutiva de Atención a Víctimas, CEAV), to which it is intended to allocate around 844 million pesos in 2021, 12 million less than what was originally approved for this year. In real terms, this represents a 4.7% decrease.

In sum, there is evidence that the increase in the budget could lead to excessive empowerment of the National Guard, which in turn could increase the number of human rights injuries and abuses at the expense of the civilian population. Nevertheless, despite the reduction in the budget of key agencies such as the ones previously mentioned, there is still a part of the budget that can be allocated for the implementation of structural reforms in all bodies dealing with public security: from the National Guard to the municipal police.


These reforms will have to focus first on the prevention of crime, and not so much on the direct and violent fight and confrontation. In addition, they must provide comprehensive training to security personnel with assessments adapted to the specific tasks assigned to each of them.

Headed for the Exits: An Empirical Assessment of Key Factors Driving Honduran Emigration

 

08/07/19- With the surge in Central American families and unaccompanied children traveling through Mexico to the United States, there has been a compelling need to better understand why people are leaving the region in such great numbers. Despite the increased attention being paid to this phenomenon, there is a lack of consensus about the factors driving Central American migrants to leave their homes. While some researchers point to clear economic underpinnings of the mass emigration, others claim that the vast majority of people are fleeing violence and insecurity.

In the paper entitled “Headed for the Exits: An Empirical Assessment of Key Factors Driving Honduran Emigration,” Ryan Williams uses survey data collected by the Latin American Public Opinion Project to compare the relationship between economic and security factors and the individual decision to emigrate from the country of Honduras. While there is an ongoing mass emigration from the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, Mr. Williams selects Honduras as his country of focus for three reasons:

  1. The country has been the starting point for recent migrant caravans, including a group of more than 7,000 that travelled to the U.S. – Mexico border in October 2018.[1]
  2. The population of immigrants from Honduras living in the United States has grown more sharply over the past decade than that from either Guatemala or El Salvador.[2]
  3. Honduras is one of the poorest and most violent countries in Latin America. This makes it a more intriguing sample population for the larger region than El Salvador, which suffers more from violence than poverty, or Guatemala, which suffers from grinding poverty but lower levels of violence relative to Honduras and El Salvador.[3]

Recent estimates suggest that approximately 200-400 people are currently leaving the country of Honduras each day.[4] Over the past five years, roughly half a million people have left the nation of 9 million. In reviewing the existing literature about what drives emigration from Honduras, Mr. Williams identifies possible factors to consider, including poverty, crime, significant issues with governance, major flaws in the justice system, rampant corruption and high levels of impunity, widespread social inequality, and serious environmental risks due to climate change.

Recent research points to two dominant explanations for why people emigrate from Honduras: either because of economic conditions or security concerns in the country. There is a disconnect, however, between those who believe the most significant factors driving people to emigrate are economic in nature and those who see the root problem as violence and insecurity faced by Hondurans. This is the question driving Mr. Williams’ research: which factor, economics or security, has a greater impact on the decision to leave Honduras?

To answer this question, Mr. Williams analyzes survey data collected from residents of Honduras as part of the Latin American Public Opinion Project’s AmericasBarometer survey, which focuses on political, economic, and quality-of-life issues in countries throughout Latin America. The most recent round of surveys took place in 2016 and 2017, and included surveys taken in 29 countries and totaling more than 43,000 interviews. The 2016 survey in Honduras was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 1,560 voting age adults through face-to-face interviews.

This analysis reveals that Hondurans are more likely to express an intention to emigrate if they have been a victim of crime. This likelihood increases by 28.6 percent for each additional crime victimization survey respondents reported. On the other hand, there appears to be a weak relationship between individual or household economic conditions and the intention to emigrate. Contrary to what may be expected, the likelihood of an individual expressing their intention to emigrate actually increases by 2.4 percent for each step up in reported monthly household income. The results were slightly different when considering an individuals’ perception of their personal economic situation. In that case, those with a perception of being worse off were more likely to express intentions to emigrate than those with a more positive perception.

Mr. Williams’ research illustrates that in the aggregate, Hondurans are more likely to express an intention to emigrate if they have been the victim of crime than they are as a result of poverty. These findings are relevant as we work to better understand and appropriately characterize the mass migration out of Central America. The research also serves as an important reminder to the United States that the children and families arriving at its Southern border should be received as potential victims fleeing crime and violence, and not merely as impoverished migrants in search of economic opportunity. Finally, based upon these findings, policy makers in the United States and elsewhere looking for ways to improve conditions in Honduras and stem the massive flow of people out of the region should make reducing crime and enhancing security their highest priorities.

 

 

Download the full report here

 

 

[1] El Colegio De La Frontera Norte. La Caravana de Migrantes Centroamericanos en Tijuana 2018: Diagnostico y Propuestas de Accion. Tijuana: 2018. Accessed February 21, 2019.

[2] D’Vera Cohn, Jeffrey S. Passel, Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, “Immigration from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador Up,” Pew Research Center, June 04, 2018, http://www.pewhispanic.org/2017/12/07/rise-in-u-s-immigrants-from-el-salvador-guatemala-and-honduras-outpaces-growth-from-elsewhere/.

[3] “Honduras Profile,” InSight Crime, last modified August 29, 2018, https://www.insightcrime.org/honduras-organized-crime-news/honduras/.

[4] Azam Ahmed, Katie Rogers and Jeff Ernst. “How the Migrant Caravan Became a Trump Election Strategy.” New York Times, October 25, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/24/world/americas/migrant-caravan-trump.html.