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🚨 Situational awareness: President Biden is considering dramatic actions to stem migration at the southern border, including an executive order that would restrict the ability of migrants to claim asylum, Axios' Hans Nichols and Stef W. Knight report.

👀 En español 👀

This newsletter, edited by Astrid Galván, is 1,612 words, a 6-minute read.

1 big thing: Battling bad info in first AI election

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The fight is on to help Latino voters find credible information this election season amid surging concerns over the use of generative AI and deepfakes, Astrid writes.

Why it matters: A record-high 36.2 million U.S. Latinos are eligible to vote this year, but many get their news from social media platforms like YouTube and Whatsapp, where experts say misleading information in Spanish is less likely to be intercepted by moderators.

Details: The nonpartisan News Literacy Project later today is hosting a free, bilingual panel aimed at helping Latino voters find credible news sources.

  • PolitiFact en Español, which is also nonpartisan, launched last year to tackle misinformation in political news.
  • The campaign arm for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, CHC BOLD PAC, recently launched what it's calling "our lucha war room," a campaign to respond to misinformation from conservative Republicans.

What they're saying: Alex Mahadevan, director of Poynter Institute's MediaWise, says the amount of misinformation and disinformation aimed at Spanish-speaking voters so far is about on par with the 2020 presidential election, but he worries about the use of AI to manipulate or create fake videos and audio this time around.

  • "Disinformation" is the deliberate spread of false facts, usually with a political objective in mind; "misinformation," on the other hand, may be unintentional.
  • It's not that there's necessarily more misleading info aimed at Spanish speakers versus English speakers, but that the social media platforms most popular with Latinos are less likely to successfully weed out Spanish-language disinformation, he says.

Zoom in: Democrats have long sounded the alarm on Spanish-language disinformation.

  • This year, the BOLD PAC campaign is targeting disinformation about reproductive rights and voter suppression tactics, and it's going after congressional Republicans who take credit for bills they voted against, such as those that bring funding to their district, says the chairperson, U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.)
  • "We really feel like we need a rapid response to respond to those false claims and that bad information," Sánchez tells Axios Latino. "There are races all over the country where there are sizable Latino populations that can make the difference."
  • Danielle Alvarez, a senior adviser with the Trump campaign, said Democrats' efforts show they think poorly of Hispanics.
  • "Their 'disinformation' campaign proves that they don't believe we are able to discern fact from fiction — it is disgusting and condescending," Alvarez said in an email to Axios Latino.

Continue reading

2. NGO troubles add to Venezuela election worries

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas on Feb. 20. Photo: Gabriela Oraa/AFP via Getty Images

Venezuela's tightening grip on the work of non-governmental organizations is a troubling sign as it heads into an election, a human rights observer tells Marina.

Why it matters: NGOs provide key services, such as soup kitchens or prenatal care centers that people contending with high inflation and acute food and medicine shortages would otherwise be unable to access.

  • NGOs are also sometimes the only organizations documenting government malfeasance or human rights violations, says Jimena Reyes, director for the Americas at the International Federation for Human Rights.

Driving the news: President Nicolás Maduro's government ordered the closure of the local UN human rights office last week.

  • Authorities argued the international body had a "colonialist attitude" and supported "impunity" when the office said the due process of recently detained activists should be respected.
  • The National Assembly, which is held by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), is also in the final stages of passing a law that the UN recently warned will criminalize nonprofit work and likely lead to the dissolution of many groups.

What they're saying: "These moves happen in a general climate of democratic breakdown," Reyes tells Axios Latino.

  • "There is currently no judicial independence in Venezuela. On top of this, the (NGO) law is being voted on, and there's been an increase in arbitrary detentions."
  • "It makes for a grim 2024 outlook," she says.

Venezuela is following in the footsteps of undemocratic nations such as Nicaragua, which expelled UN officers after they pointed out mistreatment of people in massive anti-government protests in 2018.

  • The Nicaraguan government then criminalized NGOs and arrested dissident voices in the lead-up to 2021 elections, when President Daniel Ortega, who has been in power since 2007, essentially ran unopposed for re-election.

The other side: The Venezuelan and Nicaraguan regimes argue their NGO laws are aimed only at fiscal transparency.

Continue reading

3. Texas shooting tops 2023's extremist murders

Emma Hampton comforts a child as she visits a cross that bears the name of her best friend at the memorial set up near the scene of a mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets mall in Allen, Texas. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A mass shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas, by a suspect with purported neo-Nazi views, was the deadliest of all extremist-related murders in 2023, Russell writes off recently-released data.

The big picture: Homicides connected to extremism declined in 2023 for the second year in a row, but the Texas mass shooting kept the final total nationally in double digits, the ADL Center on Extremism's annual Murder and Extremism report found.

Catch up fast: Eight people died and seven were injured in the Texas shooting shooting, among them Latinos and Asian Americans.

  • Texas authorities said that 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia, who was killed by police, held "neo-Nazi ideation," had patches and tattoos linked to white supremacy and scouted the mall before the shooting but chose victims at random.

Details: Extremists were involved in the killing of at least 17 people in 2023 in seven incidents a significant drop from the 27 extremist-related murders from 2022, an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) analysis found.

  • That's also another drop from 2021, when the U.S. had 35 extremist-related murders.

Of note: Experts tell Axios that far-right extremism within the Latino community stems from three sources: Hispanic Americans who identify as white; the spread of online misinformation; and lingering anti-Black, antisemitic views among U.S. Latinos that are rarely openly discussed.

Keep reading.

4. Mexico's LGBTQ+ communities are struggling

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A new poll shows more than half the young people in Mexico who identify as LGBTQ+ have seriously considered suicide, indicating a mental health crisis among millions of people in the country, Marina writes.

The big picture: The data from The Trevor Project's Mexico office shows the work that needs to be done even as Mexico has made strides in LGBTQ+ inclusion.

  • Equal marriage is recognized nationally, and the Mexican Supreme Court has ruled it is unconstitutional for authorities not to recognize the gender identities of trans people, including youths.
  • There's also been growing public acceptance and popularity of LGBTQ+ figures such as Wendy Guevara, a trans woman and reality TV star, and Guillermo Barraza, a drag artist who just premiered a newscast on a public broadcast channel.

Yes, but: Mexico also has a high rate of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people and there's recently been a series of murders of transgender people.

  • There are no national government statistics tracking such crimes, but the NGO Letra S estimates that the violent-crime rates are 15 murders of transgender women per 100,000 people and 4.2 murders of gay men per 100,000 people.

Zoom in: Established in 2022, the Mexico office for the Trevor Project last year asked more than 10,000 people about their mental health and feelings of acceptance among peers and family in the inaugural poll.

  • 57% of LGBTQ+ individuals ages 12 to 17 said they seriously considered suicide in the last year, and 46% of respondents ages 18 through 24 said the same.
  • Less than a fifth of those polled (22%) said they felt their home accepts LGBTQ+ identities, while a third (34%) said they'd been fully accepted after coming out.

Keep reading

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988. Ayuda disponible en español. You can also text HOME to 741741 for help in English and Spanish, or send a WhatsApp message to The Trevor Project's bilingual service at +52 55-9225-3337.

5. Stories we're watching

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

1. Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora, who's been jailed since 2022, said yesterday he had been, despite health issues, in torture-like settings prior to a new government taking over in January.

  • That includes getting just one hour a day outside of his tiny dark cell.
  • The journalist reported on corruption and was arrested by the former government of President Alejandro Giammattei for alleged money laundering, which Zamora denies.
  • New President Bernardo Arévalo said this week he'll work to obtain Zamora's freedom.

2. The Colombian guerrilla force ELN announced this week that it's putting on hold its peace negotiations with the government.

  • The ELN said it feels betrayed by the government after some state officials said they'll soon begin regional peace negotiations. It's unclear if the national government is part of these.
  • Negotiations have been sputtering along for a year and a half, most recently with a round of dialogue this month in which both sides agreed to extend a ceasefire.

🪅 6. Pachanga: Paulina Vera

Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Daniel Trujillo-Esmeral

Big congrats to Paulina Vera, who was recently elected president of the Hispanic Bar Association of D.C.

  • She's taking the helm of an organization with over 500 members.
  • Paulina is a lecturer at George Washington University, where she supervises the law school's immigration clinic.

Best of luck!

🎤 Have you recently accomplished something you're proud of? Let us know by replying to this email!

📖 Russell is reading about the history of the U.S. Border Patrol.

✍🏼 Marina is glad poet Ada Limón was recognized as one of Time's Women of the Year yesterday.

♟️ Astrid is loving watching her daughter learn to play chess!

Our sincerest thanks go out to Carlos Cunha, Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath and Axios Visuals for their many contributions!