U.S./GUATEMALA/HONDURAS: U.S. immigration agents collaborated with Guatemalan officials to detain Honduran migrants in an unauthorized operation this January, according to a Senate report. A review by Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee found that U.S. agents rented three buses and tracked a caravan of Honduran migrants, who hoped to seek asylum in the United States, from the northern city of San Pedro Sula. Working with Guatemalan officials, authorities halted the caravan after crossing the Honduras-Guatemala border, loaded the migrants onto buses and sent them back to Honduras.
U.S. border agents are strictly prohibited by the State Department from conducting direct enforcement operations in countries abroad. The agents were only allowed to help train local police in counter narcotics and other efforts. This is the first episode in which U.S. agents were known to be a part of the physical deportation of migrants from a foreign country. The State Department, which originally denied the illegal operation, could not confirm if the migrants had been given a chance to claim asylum, either in the United States or Guatemala, potentially violating principles of international law.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
BRAZIL: The owner of the world’s largest meatpacker pleaded guilty on Wednesday to paying $150 million in bribes to Brazilian high-level officials for over a decade. São Paulo-based J&F Investimentos made the plea in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York. As part of the settlement agreement, it must pay fines of $265 million to U.S. and Brazilian authorities. J&F’s legal counsel told the court that bribes paid between 2005 and 2017 were in exchange for state-backed funding used to purchase assets in the U.S. Today, J&F employs more than 250,000 people in 190 countries, according to the company’s website.
PERU: Peru opened Machu Picchu for a Japanese tourist who waited over seven months to enter the Inca ruins. Jesse Katayama was trapped in the town of Aguas Calientes due to travel regulations during the pandemic. Katayama anticipated a visit to the world heritage site in March, but was not granted access until he submitted a special request. His entry to the ruins was authorized on Saturday. Peru’s top tourist attraction is expected to reopen at reduced capacity next month.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Health experts said malnutrition in Dominican Republic could increase from 1% to 7% in 2021 as a result of the economic crisis created by COVID-19. Findings from the World Food Program (WFP) said that, although the country had reduced its severe food malnutrition rate, the loss of income and jobs has greatly set the economy back. The country has reported 119,662 positive COVID-19 cases and 2,186 coronavirus-related deaths so far.
PUERTO RICO: Gov. Wanda Vázquez is in self-quarantine after Health Secretary Lorenzo González announced on Wednesday he tested positive for COVID-19. González said he took a COVID-19 test after returning from a trip to New York. The secretary met Vázquez on Tuesday to discuss possible changes in her COVID-19 rapid response executive order. The mandate, which includes a nightly curfew and islandwide mask mandate, is set to expire this Friday. A spokesperson stated that any potential changes to the order will be announced remotely this week. Vázquez is currently asymptomatic and plans to self isolate for one week before taking another COVID-19 test.
MEXICO: The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reported 2,561 COVID-19 cases and 232 coronavirus-related deaths in Mexican jails. The CNDH said confinement and lack of medical resources are the primary reasons why the disease has quickly propagated. Out of 296 jails, 115 are overpopulated and the necessary measures cannot be taken, such as social distancing. According to the report, only five jails make up 73% of confirmed cases in Mexico.
MEXICO: The Mexican government on Tuesday identified two women who may have been subjected to non-consensual surgeries by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The investigation arose after Dawn Wooten, a former County Detention Center Nurse, filed a complaint about hysterectomies being performed in ICE detention centers. Since then, the Mexican government has opened an investigation of Georgia’s Detention Center and hired a doctor who, after checking the records, has reported irregularities and anomalies in the medical processes some of the women have gone through. According to CNN, Mexico’s consulate might file a suit, and is in contact with the women who “could be included in it, in order to explore legal channels that address the violation of their rights.”