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Weekly Roundup: Obama's Immigration Plan, Mexico's Ayotzinapa Protests, Brazil's Corruption Case

November 14, 2014

Obama Expected to Announce Executive Action on Immigration

This week, The New York Times and Fox News reported that President Barack Obama will take executive action on immigration as early as next week. The plan includes allowing up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and providing many the ability to work legally. Other measures include expanding the deferred action program for undocumented youth, opportunities for immigrants with high-tech skills, and increased border security. While GOP leadership opposes the move, immigration activists may also not be satisfied, since the order would not cover 8 million people, as the Senate immigration bill would have. Still, The Washington Post’s The Fix blog writes that “the hope in Obama world is that an executive order further cements the Democratic Party as the exclusive (or close to it) home for Hispanic voters.”

Get the facts on how naturalized immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy.

Most Mexicans Believe Case of Disappeared Students Will End in Impunity

Demonstrations continued in Mexico this week over the 43 missing students from Guerrero state who disappeared in late September. On November 13, ex-Iguala Mayor José Luisa Abarca was formally charged with homicide for his involvement in the students’ disappearance. Despite the case against the local official, a majority of Mexicans see the disappearances as a federal issue, according to a Parametría poll. On top of that, 66 percent of those surveyed believe it will end in impunity, with only 26 percent believing those responsible will be held accountable.

Meanwhile, critics and protesters took to the streets and social media following a press conference on November 7 when Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam declared “Ya me cansé” (“Enough, I’m tired”) after revealing drug traffickers’ confessions about murdering the students. #YaMeCanse quickly became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.

Argentine forensic experts say that remains tested from mass graves thus far did not match any of the students’ DNA. Remains have also been sent to the University of Innsbruck in Austria for analysis.

President Enrique Peña Nieto, in the Asia-Pacific for APEC and G20 meetings, has avoided comments on the situation or a on a scandal over a mansion owned by the first lady. However, Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Eduardo Medina Mora told CNN that Mexico is facing a “political crisis” and that “(w)e are all outraged by these brutal events.”

Learn how the case has evolved in recent weeks.

Half of the U.S.-Mexico Border Patrolled Solely by Drones

U.S. border officials use only drones to patrol about half of the U.S.-Mexico border, and plan to expand the strategy to the Canadian border next year, the Associated Press reported this week. Since March 2013, the government operated around 10,000 drone flights over a 900-mile stretch of the border. Law enforcement uses video footage to see if there are changes in the terrain, though only 2 percent of drone missions show evidence of illicit crossings.

Find out which other countries in the Americas use drones for security and military operations.

Brazil Corruption Case Deepens with Construction Executive Arrests

On November 14, Brazilian federal police arrested 18 people as part of the ongoing “Operation Car Wash” Petrobras corruption investigation. A second former director from the state-run oil company—as well as executives from other oil firms and some of the country’s largest construction companies—were apprehended. The investigation has sought to root out nearly $4 billion in clandestine financial operations involving Petrobras officials and over a dozen companies with government contracts. Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice also opened a criminal investigation into Petrobras, and the Securities and Exchange Commission is pursuing a civil investigation to see if members of the company accepted bribes. 

Learn about how the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are addressing corruption in Latin America.

Rousseff and Obama to Meet on Sidelines of G20

This weekend, world leaders will meet at the G20 summit in Australia, including leaders and officials from three Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. The presidents of Brazil and Mexico will participate, though Argentina’s president sent her economy and foreign ministers due to health reasons. On the sidelines of the summit, heads of states from the BRICS countries will meet. Plus, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is slated to hold bilateral meetings with heads of state of China, Germany, Russia, and the United States. It’s the first time Rousseff will sit down with President Barack Obama since the spying scandal last year.

Learn how the BRICS evolved from a catchphrase to a political bloc.

Venezuelan Judge Denies Release of Leopoldo López

On November 13, a Venezuelan judge denied a UN request to release jailed opposition politician Leopoldo López, who has been incarcerated since February. Both the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and the UN’s human rights chief have called for López’s release. López—who stands accused of inciting violence during anti-government protests earlier this year— is due again in court on November 18.

Watch an AQ video featuring Lilian Tintori, López’s wife, discussing his incarceration.

Despite Gains, Colombians Are the Most Indebted in Latin America

A survey of households in 15 Latin American countries found that 65 percent of Colombian families are in debt—more than any other country. Colombia ranks first in the region for a second consecutive year, although the study indicates that the percentage of indebted Colombians dropped four points since 2013. Plus, 62 percent of Colombian households surveyed said their financial situation improved in the past five years—across the region, only 45 percent said things were better. The least-indebted Latin Americans are Venezuelans and Mexicans; 16 and 40 percent are in debt, respectively.

Learn about student debt in Latin America from Americas Quarterly.

Nearly 30 Million Latin Americans Live Abroad

A new report by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) finds that around 28.5 million Latin Americans live outside their country of origin, with 70 percent living in the United States. Around 40 percent of emigrants hail from Mexico: about 11.8 million people. The second and third largest groups of immigrants come from Colombia (2 million) and El Salvador (1.3 million). The study also found that migration within Latin America rose 3.5 percent annually from 2000 to 2010, compared to 1 percent during the previous two decades.

Read about Central American migration to the United States in an article from the new AQ