UNITED STATES/HONDURAS: U.S. federal officials agreed to prolong temporary migration protections for Hondurans living in the United States following the two devastating hurricanes that battered the region last month. Last Friday, Honduras filed a Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for citizens currently living in the United States. President Juan Orlando Hernández said returning Hondurans to the Central American country would have a “double negative effect,” as the United States would lose a labor force and they would not be able to send remittances to Honduras. TPS, which must be renewed periodically by the secretary of Homeland Security, allows foreigners whose home countries experience a natural disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary event to remain in the United States and apply for work permits.
Although the Trump administration has attempted to end TPS in the past, its recipients now have an extended status until October 2021. Guatemala, which was also affected by the two hurricanes, filed for TPS last week as well. Citizens from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti will also be eligible for the extension. About 4.2 million people in Central America were affected by the back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes in November, according to the Red Cross. Both hurricanes severely destroyed towns, causing billions of dollars in damages. Approximately 100,000 Hondurans are living in shelters, many of which have become coronavirus hotspots. Over 100,000 people have contracted COVID-19 in the country, and over 2,000 have died from coronavirus-related deaths.
HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
BRAZIL: President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Monday that coronavirus vaccines will be available to all Brazilians for free. According to the president, once the National Sanitary Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) gives a vaccine the scientific and legal go ahead, the government will provide the vaccine to anyone who wants it. ANVISA currently has three Bolsonaro allies on its five-person board of directors. The latest Bolsonaro nominee, Jorge Luiz Kormann, is a retired lieutenant-colonel with no medical background. Kormann and the other directors are expected to approve or deny potential COVID-19 vaccines.
CHILE: The government declared on Monday that the metropolitan area of the capital, Santiago, will backstep into phase two of the coronavirus mitigation strategy following a spike in cases. Phase two implies lockdowns during the weekends and holidays and restrictions during the week. On Sunday, the government reported 1,760 new coronavirus cases and an 18% rise in the region. Phase two lockdown will begin on Thursday and remain in place for anticipated December festivities.
VENEZUELA: Opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared that he would continue as self-proclaimed interim president despite losing his position in the National Assembly. The Sunday congressional elections ended the opposition’s control over the last branch of government not in the hands of President Nicolás Maduro. The opposition boycotted the elections, resulting in a voter turnout of just 31%. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and European Union diplomat Josep Borrell released statements on Monday saying the election failed to meet any minimum standard of credibility. The new National Assembly is set to take office on January 5.
PUERTO RICO: The electoral commissioner of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), Gerardo “Toñito” Cruz, made a legal appeal Monday, claiming that the president of the State Elections Commission (CEE) is wrong to recount votes entirely because it goes against the Electoral Code. President of CEE Francisco Rosado Colomer had summoned the recounting two weeks ago, after the discovery of almost 2,000 votes found in over 200 suitcases in a locked vault. Cruz argued the Electoral Code states that, when a candidate has a slight margin of victory, as many candidates currently face, votes should be re-counted only in the geo-electoral boundary affected. Colomer has already faced criticism for the process of the recounts, but has continued action and announced it should end Monday night.
NICARAGUA: The bodies of two miners have been found this weekend in an investigation after a mudslide trapped them in an unlicensed gold mine in Río San Juan. At least 16 miners are believed to be inside the mine when it collapsed on Friday, making it the third fatal mudslide in the past month. Witness videos also show the mudslide burying several horses, which were used to extract material from the interior of the mine. The organization leading the investigation, the National System for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Attention, ceased action on Saturday, switching responsibilities to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, as well as the National Police. In Nicaragua, an estimated 3,000 people work in unlicensed mines.
MEXICO: Mexico has requested the extradition of former Security Secretary Genaro García Luna, who was detained in New York for drug trafficking and working alongside the Sinaloa Cartel. Mexico’s ambassador Martha Bárcena solicited the extradition this past weekend. The petition had been presented by the Attorney General and Ministry of Foreign Relations, and has been in the works since last year. García Luna may also face charges in Mexico for illicit enrichment, since the organization has not been able to trace back the source of 27 million pesos spent by the ex-functionary.