Archive for Central America
First came the anxious calls in the days after the election of President Donald Trump. Now, people begin lining up before 8am and crowd the waiting rooms inside the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. Mexican citizens come to renew passports that have been unused for more than a decade. They desperately ask lawyers if they can do anything to help them stay in the United States. They register their children for Mexican citizenship, just in case they are sent back and decide to move their whole family with them. When the consulate began to get reports of dozens of Mexicans being arrested by immigration officials last week, they immediately dispatched lawyers to the federal detention centre downtown. These are demanding times for the 50 Mexican consulates scattered throughout the United States. With Trump’s promise to crack down on immigrants living in the United States illegally and an executive order that vastly expands who is considered a priority for deportation, Mexicans living in the United States illegally are increasingly on edge. And consulates are moving quickly to help. As official representatives of the Mexican government in the United States, the consulates can provide legal guidance and resources for people and families dealing with immigration issues. Mexicans make up about half of the country’s 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally. The relationship between Mexico and the United States is at its lowest point in years. Mexican officials say they are eager to keep families living in the United States together. There are economic concerns too: Mexicans living abroad send more than $25 billion back home, with most of the money coming from the United States, according to Mexico’s central bank.
There is “unusual and compelling urgency” for the United States government to hire security companies to protect U.S. personnel working at our embassy in Mexico City. The State Dept. has put out a solicitation for bids from companies that can thwart terrorist and other violent attacks. The State Dept. currently uses a company called Inter-Con, but that contract expired on December 31, 2016. There’s a 3 month grace period where the company will continue to work, but now the bid is out for a new contract. According to federal documents, the basis for hiring a security team without a long bidding process is when there is “unusual and compelling urgency.” In addition to the embassy, the Feds are seeking bids to protect 9 consulates and 9 consular agencies in Mexico.
The Republic of Costa Rica opened an embassy in Turkey’s capital Ankara. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Costa Rican counterpart Manuel Gonzalez Sanz attended the inauguration ceremony. Cavusoglu said that cooperation between the two countries will mainly focus on economic opportunities and on establishing a free trade zone. The foreign minister also mentioned that Turkey is expanding its presence in Central America, increasing the number of countries with its embassies to 12 in the region. Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Sanz described the day as a “historic one,” as Costa Rica became the first Central American country to open an embassy in Turkey.
A former police officer went on trial Wednesday charged in the deaths of 37 people more than three decades ago when the Spanish Embassy burned down during this Central American nation’s bloody civil conflict. Pedro Garcia Arredondo, the 69-year-old former special investigations chief for the Sixth Commando of the National Police, is accused of homicide and crimes against humanity for allegedly ordering officers to keep anyone from leaving the diplomatic mission as it burned on Jan. 31, 1980. Protesters from Indian, student, peasant, labor and other groups had taken over the embassy to call attention to massacres during the 1960-96 civil war. Police surrounded and sealed the facility. When the fire broke out, Arredondo “ordered police agents under his command to destroy windows with the only intention of causing the death of those inside because they were considered internal enemies,” prosecutor Hilda Pineda said. “The people inside were screaming in pain because they were burning.” Arredondo declined to testify but proclaimed his innocence in brief remarks. Former Spanish Ambassador Maximo Cajal y Lopez, who survived the fire, died earlier this year. However, he left testimony that will be presented at the trial along with the accounts of at least 23 other witnesses.
The Vatican’s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who has been accused of paying underage boys there to engage in sexual acts, has lost his diplomatic immunity and could ultimately face prosecution in criminal courts outside of the Vatican, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church announced. The former ambassador, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, has already been defrocked by the Vatican, the harshest penalty under the church’s canon law short of excommunication. Beyond that, the Vatican has also said that it intends to try Mr. Wesolowski on criminal charges — the first time it will hold a criminal trial for sexual abuse.
A 2012 incident in which Mexican federal police raked an armored U.S. Embassy vehicle with gunfire was the result of a “crass error” in judgment by the officers but was not an ambush ordered by organized crime, the nation’s top security czar said. In the Aug. 24, 2012, incident, federal police attacked a U.S. Embassy vehicle, riddling it with at least 152 rounds of assault weapons fire in what U.S. diplomats later termed an “ambush.” The attack occurred along a mountain road southwest of the capital. Speaking with foreign reporters, National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said the jailing of 14 former federal police following the incident was proof that Mexico did not sweep the shooting under the rug. Rubido said the federal police in unmarked cars were patrolling an area near the hamlet of Tres Marias, where they had broken up a kidnapping ring a day earlier. “Suddenly they saw a vehicle with characteristics unusual for that region. They ordered it to stop. They were not in uniform because they were conducting an investigation,” Rubido said. “When the driver of the vehicle saw that armed people were ordering him to halt, he fled. But in a crass error, a crass error, the police began to shoot at the vehicle assuming that criminals were inside,” Rubido said. The gray Toyota SUV had visible front and rear diplomatic license plates, and the attack occurred in daylight. Inside were two U.S. officials, identified in U.S. and Mexican media reports as CIA employees, and a Mexican naval officer. All three men were injured in the attack. A separate unit of federal police arrived to defend the victims. The two Americans were hastily evacuated from Mexico. Rubido acknowledged that suspicions arose that the federal police unit was working for organized crime active in mountainous Morelos state, known for drug trafficking and kidnapping groups. “A deep investigation was conducted into why the police acted this way,” Rubido said, and “the overwhelming conclusion” was that the federal police were not linked to any organized crime group. Since the police used what Rubido termed as “excessive force,” the men are now in jail awaiting trial on that charge. None have yet been convicted, he said. “There are 14 police in prison, so you can see that there is no type of tolerance for this,” Rubido said. A U.S. Embassy spokesman offered no immediate response to Rubido’s remarks on the 2012 incident.
An anonymous caller alerted authorities to an alleged explosive device at the Israeli Embassy in Paseo Colón. Authorities responded immediately to the scene, but were unable to locate any bomb or explosive device. Embassy personnel were allowed to go back to work after authorities gave the all clear. Costa Rica’s government has also been critical of recent Israeli operations in Gaza. Authorities have not yet identified any suspects in Friday’s bomb threat, but have reason to take such threats seriously. In 1992, a suicide bombing attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, killed 29 civilians and injured 242.