Jun 17, 2021

Axios Latino

¡Muy buen jueves! This week’s Axios Latino newsletter is 1,303 words, about a 5-minute read.

  • We tip our hat to the Afro-Latinos who’ll commemorate Juneteenth on both sides of the border, including the descendants of those who found freedom by crossing into Mexico.

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1 big thing: A dry river and no climate cooperation

The Mexican side of the Colorado river (left) has mostly been dry for years. On the U.S. side this week, the Hoover Dam was at its lowest point since 1937. Photos: Alejandro Cegarra/Noticias Telemundo; Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As an extreme heat wave sears the U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico, area communities are grappling with the dwindling Colorado River and the cross-border effects of climate change.

What’s happening: Temperature records are being broken and isolated wildfires are flaring up as a drought persists in an already parched region. The crisis points up the need for the countries to collaborate on conservation at a time when the focus is mostly on migration.

  • Few places are as acutely affected as San Luis Río Colorado in Sonora, Mexico, where the local Indigenous community, the Cucapá (whose name means river people), have been increasingly cut off from the river.
  • Most of the water is diverted to agriculture or dammed up on the northern side of the border.
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Map: Axios Visuals

The big picture: While Mexico and the U.S. have held several high-level meetings since President Biden’s inauguration, climate change has barely been mentioned.

  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government has prioritized oil and coal, and pushed reforms that would impede investments in renewable energies.

What they’re saying: "The challenge before us is how seven states and two countries can all cooperate, to figure out how to get by in the coming decades with significantly less water than we thought we had," John Entsminger, of the Nevada Water Authority, tells NBC.

2. Senate holds hearings on "Dreamers" bill
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Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Senate has begun hearings on the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, three months after the House passed the measure. And expectations are sky-high.

Details: H.R. 6 would set legal pathways so that some undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for decades can formally become residents, and later perhaps also citizens.

  • Around 6 million people could benefit from the measure, half of them “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. as children. Most know no other home, and many study or work, some as health care workers during the pandemic.
  • The bill would also facilitate green cards for farmworkers and recipients of TPS, the temporary status given to certain victims of climate disasters or conflict.
  • While 600,000 are protected by DACA, their status is unsettled. The executive action has had an uncertain future for several of its 9 years and has significant backlogs.

Worth noting: Polls in the U.S. have shown at least two-thirds of respondents support giving permanent legal status to farm workers, those who fled natural disasters and immigrants who came to the U.S. without authorization as children.

Driving the news: A group of “Dreamers” have undertaken a hunger strike to demand the bill’s passage and further immigration relief.

  • A “fast for freedom” proponent tells Noticias Telemundo their action underscores the urgent need for the legislation since many essential workers who continue to be exposed to COVID-19 are undocumented people.
3. What's happening in Nicaragua

The U.S. has for years levied sanctions against the regime of Daniel Ortega, last seen in public in mid-May with Rosario Murillo, who is both vice president and first lady. Photo: Inti Ocón/AFP via Getty Images

In Nicaragua four presidential candidates and nine renowned dissidents have been arrested in the past few weeks, with the whereabouts of most unknown — the most overt purge in the Central American country’s recent history.

  • But the actions taken by the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, vice president and first lady, date further back. By May more than 130 people were already detained over mass anti-Ortega protests that started in April 2018.

Flashback: Ortega first came to power in 1984, after the leftist Sandinistas he helped lead succeeded in driving out dictator Anastasio Somoza. The Somoza family had ruled Nicaragua for four decades with full U.S. support.

  • But Ortega was voted out in 1990 due to fatigue over the Sandinista fight against the Contras, the right-wing rebels sponsored by the White House.
  • After three unsuccessful election campaigns, he returned to the presidency in 2006 and has not ceded power since. Critics say he has become what he once fought to destroy.

The big picture: Ortega and Murillo are looking for a fourth straight term in November’s scheduled vote. As of now they’re running unopposed.

  • It was set to be the first open election since paramilitaries quelled the protests started in 2018 by a coalition of students, businesspeople and religious leaders.
  • Thousands of people fled, most of them to Costa Rica, to avoid persecution.
4. U.S.-Mexico meeting focuses on vaccines and migration

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard during their Tuesday meeting. Photo: Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry

Working to ease pandemic-related restrictions at the shared border was one of the top ticket items for Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas’ trip to Mexico, his first abroad.

Details: The border has been closed to non-essential travel for more than a year, wreaking havoc on the intertwined economic sectors of trade, retail and tourism.

  • The bilateral meeting took place the same day that 1.35 million vaccines donated by the U.S. arrived in Mexico.
  • They will be used by Mexican authorities to immunize border residents aged 18 to 39 to facilitate reopening.
  • The bilateral meeting also focused on collaboration to address growing migration.

Driving the news: While Mayorkas was in Mexico, his department announced an expansion of the Central American Minors program for Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan kids to come to the U.S. legally to meet up with documented parents or legal guardians.

  • The intention is to provide a safe and legal path for unaccompanied minors that will keep them from making the dangerous trek and overwhelming border facilities.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday rescinded Trump-era restrictions preventing Central Americans fleeing domestic or gang violence from seeking asylum.
5. A watershed case for the Latin American LGBTQ community

Vicky Hernández was 26. Her lawyers say her homicide was not even investigated. Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Eleven years after Honduran Vicky Hernández was killed, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has taken up her case and could set a key regional precedent with its decision, Axios' Orion Rummler writes.

  • The court is set to rule on whether her government failed to protect her as a transgender person and should pay damages to her family for the death.

The big picture: One LGBTQ person is murdered every day, on average, in Latin America and the Caribbean, per a regional network of organizations studying hate crimes.

  • In particular, activists say the region has the world's highest concentration of homicides of trans people, with Honduras and Brazil as flash points.
  • Trans Latin Americans have a life expectancy of 35 years because of the violence they face, in contrast to 79 and 73 years for cisgender men and women, respectively.

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6. 50 years of Chicano protests against police

The protests at Roosevelt Park in Albuquerque, N.M., June 1971. Photo: Guy Bralley/Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque just marked the 50th anniversary of protests against police mistreatment after Chicano teens were arrested at a concert.

Why it matters: The 30 hours of unrest in New Mexico’s largest city forced officials to acknowledge the ongoing harassment of Latinos.

  • Advocates today are trying to bring attention to often-overlooked, historical police abuse of Latinos, amid discussions of possible changes in policing after George Floyd’s death.
  • The 1971 unrest led to initial reforms in the Albuquerque police department, although a 2014 Justice Department investigation found continued routine use of excessive force.

Go deeper.

7. From the Americas: Stories we’re watching

Many supporters of Castillo’s Peru Libre are from rural areas and are asking that their votes not be invalidated. Photo: Gian Masko/AFP via Getty Images

Peru’s official count for the run-off presidential elections is now over, yet no one’s been named president.

  • Leftist Pedro Castillo leads by 0.4% but right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori is seeking to invalidate thousands of ballots amid accusations of fraud and debates tinged with racism.

Colombians who’d been protesting socioeconomic inequalities are suspending their weekly strikes to push their demands through changes to local law.

  • At least 58 people have been killed in the police response to the protests, and 84 are still missing.
8. 📽️🚲1 smile to go: Powering up the movies

The traveling cinema from the social enterprise ToTo shows mostly animated films to kids in remote communities. Photos: Noticias Telemundo

Some communities in Mexico where people had never seen a movie on a big screen are now getting that chance with a traveling set up that uses green energy.

Details: There is no admission charge; instead, four audience members take turns pedaling stationary bikes to generate electricity for the sound equipment. The rest operates mostly through solar power.

What they’re saying: “This way we also plant a seed of how clean energies can be used, and it might germinate with one of these kids thinking they could be engineers or scientists,” Aldo Arreola, from the company ToTo, tells Noticias Telemundo.

Hasta la próxima semana, have a safe one.