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The Hidden Refugee Crisis in the Western Hemisphere

Starts and Stripes

Courtesy William Billard/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) on 1 November 2016.

While much attention is rightly focused on Syria and the Middle East, there are a growing number of refugees in the Western Hemisphere.

The largest group comes from Central America’s Northern Triangle—Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. For each of the past three years between 300,000 and 450,000 Central Americans have fled north. Of these, between 45,000 and 75,000 are unaccompanied children; another 120,000 to 180,000 families (usually a mother with children); and between 130,000 to 200,000 single adults. These numbers peaked in May and June 2014 when more than 8,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S. border each month. 2016 numbers are again rising, with August inflows higher than ever before.

These migrants are fleeing violence (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are some of the most dangerous nations in the world), poverty, and the economic devastation wrought after three years of record droughts. They are pulled to the United States through personal ties. One study of interviewed minors found 90 percent had a mother or father in the United States. Many of these U.S. residents from Honduras and El Salvador came on temporary protected status (TPS) visas, meaning they can live and work legally in the United States but may not sponsor other family members (including their children).

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Can Militarizing Public Security Reduce Violence on the Streets of Honduras?

Honduran police officers. Image: Paulien Osse/Flickr

This article was originally published by Southern Pulse on 4 December, 2014.

In recent years Honduras has been on a trajectory to militarize its police force. Towards the end of 2011, the Honduran National Congress approved a decree allowing military personnel to perform duties normally carried out by police officers such as making arrests, disarming civilians and raiding private residences. In 2013, militarization practices became more solidified when Congress authorized the creation of two new forces, the Tropa de Investigación y Grupo de Respuesta Especial de Seguridad (TIGRES) and the Policía Militar del Orden Público, (PMOP, or Military Police). The Military Police currently has 2,000 officers and is expected to reach 5,000 officers. The 2013 legislation granted the PMOP power over patrolling and securing violent neighborhoods and arresting people deemed a threat to public security. This militarization occurred under the guise of what appeared to be the strengthening of a weak and non-functioning police force. The involvement of police in crimes and extrajudicial killings in recent years was used as grounds for the government to slowly phase out traditional methods of law enforcement and implement this new military approach to policing. The paradox herein lies in the fact that military personnel in Honduras have an equally horrific track record of abusing power and human rights. » More

The Future of the Organization of American States

Image: Mark Morgan/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 28 August, 2014.

The Organization of American States (OAS) is set to appoint a new Secretary General in 2015. The new leader will replace José Miguel Insulza, of Chile, who will soon finish his second consecutive term. Since the OAS charter states that a Secretary General cannot serve more than two five-year terms, the position will soon be open to a new candidate. Regardless of which Latin American figure is chosen for the position–– Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Almagro and former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein are two recent nominations––the next Secretary General will have the critical responsibility of maintaining the agency’s status as a relevant player in the evolving inter-American system. » More

Central American Blow-Back

Image: Amnesty International/Flickr

They are usually given the choice to leave immediately or stay, and be killed. Central America´s desperate, or deseperados, are fleeing their homes in record numbers. This year alone more than 60,000 undocumented children have already made the perilous trek from the northern triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – to the United States.

The scale of the displacement crisis is staggering. U.S. customs officials picked-up 17,500 unaccompanied children from Honduras, 15,700 from Guatemala and 14,500 from El Salvador this year. There were just 3,000 from all three countries combined in 2009.

Many of these children are now in limbo, interned in 100 shelters scattered along the US-Mexico border. They join an estimated 11.7 million pool of “illegals” that negotiated extreme hardship in pursuit of a better life. » More

Happy Birthday, Latin America

Latin American countries are celebrating 200 years of independence, photo: John K/flickr

While much of Latin America is focused on celebrating 200 years of independence from Spain and Portugal, numerous security challenges are begging for answers – and soon. This week the ISN examines the opportunities and obstacles Latin America must face if it is to succeed in its third century of Republican history.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Dr Markus Schultze-Kraft, director of the Latin America and Caribbean program at the International Crisis Group, on the security challenges facing Latin America after 200 years of Republican rule.
  • A Podcast interview with Sam Logan on the drug-trafficking challenges that plague Mexico in the midst of its 200th anniversary celebration of independence from Spain.
  • Security Watch articles about organized crime rings from Mexico to Brazil and Paraguay, US-Mexico border tensions, and much more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including CrisisWatch updates on emerging and ongoing conflicts around the globe, including across Latin America.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of the Mercosur Free Trade Agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as the Observatory on Latin America’s page on ‘Building Latin American Bicentennials in the Age of Globalization’.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Latin American Network Information Center, affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin, which boasts one of the largest guides for Latin American content on the internet.