United Nations officials are pushing for many of the Central Americans fleeing to the U.S. to be treated as refugees displaced by armed conflict, a designation meant to increase pressure on the United States and Mexico to accept tens of thousands of people currently ineligible for asylum.
Most of the people widely considered to be refugees by the international community are fleeing more traditional political or ethnic conflicts like those in Syria or the Sudan. Central Americans would be among the first modern migrants considered refugees because they are fleeing violence and extortion at the hands of criminal gangs.
The United States has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Central American migrants crossing into its territory, particularly children traveling without any adult guardian. More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended since October. Three-fourths of them are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and most say they are fleeing pervasive gang violence and crushing poverty.
Immigration experts in the U.S. and Central America say the flow of migrants from Honduras and El Salvador is likely to rise as the two countries experience gang-related violence. Honduras, a primary transit point for U.S.-bound cocaine, has the world’s highest homicide rate for a nation that is not at war. In El Salvador, the end of a truce between street gangs has led to a steep rise in homicides this year.
Violence by criminal organizations spread in recent decades after members of California street gangs were deported to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where they overwhelmed weak and corrupt police forces and seized control of large sections of the countries.
“My motto…for young and medium-aged women is that we have to learn to interrupt because you don’t get called on just because people think you should be. You have to have some thoughts and interrupt.” — Madeleine Albright
Elmira Bayrasli and Lauren Bohn are co-founders of Foreign Policy Interrupted, an important and unprecedented new initiative that aims to increase the number of female voices in foreign policy. Working from the ground up through a cohesive fellowship program, including media training and meaningful mentoring at partnering media institutions, FPI helps women break both internal and external barriers to more and better representation in and on the media.
"I’m a journalist, so I’ve encountered the disparity from a couple of angles. I’ve been reporting on the ground in the Middle East for the past three years and it’s interesting because the press corps in the region is largely female. Just yesterday, ahead of Egypt’s voting on a new constitution, I compiled a list of female journalists on the ground to follow on Twitter. There are tons. Yet when it comes to the analysis side of things, we don’t see as many women being positioned or positioning themselves, as expert voices. When producing a piece, I always try to include the opinions of female analysts, and women who are doing great work on the issues, but they’re typically a bit more reticent to assert their opinions than men.”
“It makes no sense! You go into a Chavista’s house and Chávez and Maduro’s faces are everywhere but you open their fridge and it is empty! Empty!” This was the passionate reaction I received from an acquaintance I was chatting with yesterday when I commented…
“For a great many people, in the past and in the present, it is hard to resist the thrill of war fever, the excitement of ‘seriousness,’ and the call of history—the romance of the iceberg even as it sinks the boat.”—Adam Gopnik on Crimea and the hysteria of history: http://nyr.kr/1f8dQsT (via newyorker)
From a powerful article one of my housemates wrote about observing Ukraine from a tourist’s perspective:
This week marked a devastating turn of events in Ukraine—thousands have been injured and more than twenty have died as the government brutally cracked down on protesters. Fires rage all around Independence Square, Molotov cocktails fly through the air, and police shower protesters with rubber bullets and live ammunition. Seeing so much destruction in such a beautiful city turns my stomach in knots.
These images of fire, violence, and revolution in a city five thousand miles away should, theoretically, not affect me so much. After all, I spent only a few days wandering through the touristy parts of Kiev, and the extreme cold made it nearly impossible to be outside for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Tourists, including me, can only scratch the surface of a place. There’s something campy and inauthentic about being a tourist that makes it impossible to experience the “true” version of a city or country.
It’s my experience, though, that even tourists can make an authentic connection to a place. My conception of the places I visit is not derived from textbooks or newspapers—it’s gained from talking, tasting, seeing, and breathing.
Watching revolutions unfold makes it difficult to maintain an idyllic understanding of these cities. It’s been jarring to have my mental image of these places shattered.
As more and more images of bloody faces and flaming barricades stream in from Kiev, it seems impossible see an end to the violence. I remember feelings of fear and sadness while watching coverage of the Gezi Park protests. Somehow, though, the violence waned, and it eventually appeared as though protests hadn’t happened.
I can only hope that the violent crackdown of the Ukrainian government against its own people will end soon. Even though it’s disorienting to see such a different image of a city, I hope that when the demonstrations subside, visual reminders of the chaos and violence are not too quickly swept away.
Kiev’s Maidan Square can perhaps be superficially compared to the center of Caracas’ protests, Plaza Altamira, or other centers of protest in Venezuela, with the same violent, anti-government clashes on show, but the reality is – as always – more complicated.
For one thing, Venezuela lacks the obvious geopolitical element that made Euromaidan seem like a clash of civilizations: The Ukrainian people’s hopes for a democratic, “European” future vs. the “Russian” brute force of Viktor Yanukovych’s government. The reality of this was (again) more complicated, as both the situation in Crimea and the far-right Ukrainian nationalists among the Maidan protesters illustrate. Still, it was an easy narrative for those in the United States or Western Europe to sympathize with. The narrative for Venezuela may be less compelling, especially to the many Americans who have sympathy for the socialist government in Venezuela.
There also appear to be some important differences about the nature of support for the protests too. Earlier this month, a number of analysts told The Washington Post that even though opposition leader Leopoldo López is resonating with those who are sick of President Nicolás Maduro, the government is not expected to collapse anytime soon. Importantly, Maduro still enjoys the clear support of the country’s military and much of Venezuela’s poor who personally benefited from the “Bolivarian” Revolution began by Maduro’s late predecessor, Hugo Chavez. López’s own success may also create a split within the opposition, many of whom could well favor the less confrontational style of Henrique Caprile, a former presidential candidate.
“Many think there will be a contagion [with Ukraine], but we are far from there,” Ángel Álvarez, a professor of political science at the Andres Bello University in Caracas, told the Financial Times today.
This blog features interviews with contemporary IR scholars (there are a few biggies on the right-hand side listed) about the big debates in IR today. Pretty nifty, and the one I shared with you directly is with my academic crush Peter M. Haas - who would have thought “epistemic communities” could be so arousing???