03/11/13: BBC News reports the people of the Falkland Islands have begun voting in a two-day referendum on whether to remain a British overseas territory. Argentina has constantly reiterated its claims to the islands, thirty years after it was repelled by a British task force in a 74-day conflict. The islanders decided to hold the vote in response to Argentine pressure for negotiations over sovereignty. Some 1,672 British citizens, out of a population of about 2,900, can vote. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said the inhabitants’ wishes are not relevant in what is an issue of territory and sovereignty. Most Argentines regard the islands, which they call Las Malvinas, as Argentine and their recovery is enshrined in the country’s constitution.
03/10/13: The Miami Herald reports federal officials have rescued seventy-one Haitian migrants found stranded on the shores of a cluster of islands just west of Puerto Rico. US Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard first rescued two migrants found on one island and then the remainder of the group from the island of Desecheo off the western coastal town of Rincón. Customs spokesman Jeffrey Quinones said Saturday that a large number of the Haitians were dehydrated and had bruises and scratches. They were taken to hospitals for treatment. The rescue comes a week after sixty-seven migrants from Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic were found in the same cluster of islands. One Haitian woman was found dead.
02/11/13: Wired reports the US Government’s plan to install new advanced ground sensors at the Mexican border has been delayed due to bandwidth and frequency problems the. The delay isn’t the first, and it comes as thousands of aging sensors along the border trigger false alarms that have proved deadly to Border Patrol agents. The Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) originally planned to blanket the border with a new generation of “unattended ground sensors” (UGS’s). According to CBP, the plan hasn’t been canceled outright, but it has been delayed for much, if not most, of 2013. The problem: the sensors can’t communicate with the rest of the tech along the border.
02/11/13: The Miami Herald reports soldiers, sailors and Homeland Security officials came to Guantánamo Bay this weekend to simulate a humanitarian-relief crisis inspired by the tens of thousands of Haitians and Cubans who overwhelmed the base in the 1990’s. The exact nature of the scenario is classified, and only Pentagon-approved photos of the exercise will be released. That’s because nobody wants news about it to touch off a real, live Caribbean exodus. The intent, say organizers, is not to encourage anyone in the Caribbean to get on rafts to reach this Navy base in southeast Cuba, but to be ready in case it happens. One thing they’ll rehearse is registering 1,000 migrants in a single day, and if history is any guide, the actors should cram inside the processing tent, desperate, undocumented and disorganized.
02/11/13: BBC News reports Mexico has captured the man accused of being the security chief for Joaquín “Shorty” Guzman, Mexico’s most wanted drug lord. A military spokesman said Jonathan Salas was arrested without a shot being fired in north-western Sinaloa state. Last year, the Governor of Sinaloa mistakenly announced that Salas, who is also known as The Ghost, had been killed in a clash with the Navy. Mexican prosecutors accuse Salas of being the man tasked with guarding Guzman, the fugitive leader of the Sinaloa cartel. Guzman known as “El Chapo” or “Shorty,” was arrested in 1993, but he has been in hiding ever since escaping from maximum-security prison in 2001. The US State Department has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to Guzman’s arrest.
02/02/13: The New York Times reports the recent kidnappings of two police officers in Colombia by the country’s largest rebel group have cast a shadow over peace talks between the rebels and the government, disheartening a nation weary of the decades-old conflict. The military also blamed the group, the Revolutionary Armed forces of Colombia, or FARC, for the kidnapping of three civilian engineers on Wednesday. The first of the kidnappings, carried out nine days ago, interrupted a lull in the conflict after the start of talks last fall, and they prompted fears that the FARC might be resuming a tactic much hated by Colombians.
02/02/13: Wired's Danger Room reports the US isn’t just shoveling cash to stem the tide of narcotics in Mexico and Colombia. Quietly, it’s built up its drug war in Central America, too — spending nearly $100 million over four years on advanced gear for local forces. Not that Washington has any idea what it’s gotten for its money. A new report from the Government Accountability Office provides a rare glimpse into the Central American war on drugs. Between 2008 and 2011, the report finds, the government spent $97 million for gear and training for its Central American partners. On the plus side, it’s laughably low compared to the more than $640 billion (and rising) the US has spent on the war in Afghanistan. Most of the drug war money is spent on equipment such as vehicles — like aircraft and patrol boats — night-vision goggles, body armor, radios and weapons, and X-ray equipment for scanning cargo containers.
01/30/13: BBC News reports Israel has strongly criticized Argentina for its decision to work with Iran to investigate athe 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. The “truth commission” will be made up of five independent judges, none of whom will be from the two countries. But an Israeli spokesman said the move was tantamount to “inviting a murderer to investigate his own killing.” Argentine Ambassador was Atilio Norberto Molteni was also summoned by Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Argentine courts have blamed Iran for the bombing of the center run by the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA), which killed eighty-five people. Tehran has always denied any involvement, but Argentine prosecutors say the attack was planned and financed by Iran, and carried out by the Lebanese Shi’a Islamist group Hezbollah.
12/18/12: The BBC reports Mexican President Pena Nieto, has announced the creation of a new national police force as part of efforts to tackle crime and violence. Mr Pena Nieto said the new militarised force would initially be 10,000 strong. Troops would continue to patrol until the new force was fully trained, he said, without elaborating. Some 60,000 people have died since 2006 when the previous government deployed the military against the drugs gangs. Mr Pena Nieto had campaigned on a promise to switch the focus of the drugs fight from tackling the gangs to reducing the crime and violence that blight the lives of ordinary Mexicans.
11/25/12: NPR reports the Department of Homeland Security is examining its policy on deadly force along the US-Mexico border. In less than two years, US Border Patrol agents have killed eighteen Mexican citizens there, including eight people who were throwing rocks. Last month, Border Patrol agents responded to a report of two drug smugglers jumping the fence between the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico. As the agents approached, a group of people on the Mexican side began throwing rocks. The Border Patrol says the agents told the people to stop. When they didn’t, one agent opened fire and killed a teenager on Mexican soil who wasn’t one of the smugglers. Since 2010, six of the eight rock-throwers killed by Border Patrol agents were on the Mexican side of the border.
10/24/12: The Washington Times reports more than 8,500 US Customs and Border Protection officers and Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) personnel face termination in January under the automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect next year in a bid to attack the spiraling fiscal deficit. The job losses, in the wake of massive efforts by the Border Patrol to significantly beef up security along the US-Mexico border, would be the result of a “sequestration” in the federal budget, automatic spending cuts of 9.4 percent in 2013 for discretionary defense appropriations and 8.2 percent in 2013 for discretionary nondefense spending. Representative Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) noted in a letter earlier this month that the scheduled cuts at the Department of Homeland Security would roll back “significant progress” in securing the nation’s borders.
10/17/12: BBC News reports the United States has welcomed the decision of the Cuban government to abolish the requirement for exit permits. The State Department said the move was consistent with the universal right to leave or enter any country. Under the reform, which will take effect in January, highly-qualified professionals such as doctors will still continue to face travel controls, and Cuban exile groups in the US said the change was insufficient and “plagued with restrictions.” Cubans currently have to go through a lengthy and expensive process to obtain a permit and dissidents are often denied one. Under the new policy, those who have permanent residency on the island will also be allowed to stay abroad for up to twenty-four months, instead of the current eleven, without having to return to renew paperwork.
09/17/12: Lawfare reports that the Justice Department has filed a Suggestion of Immunity on behalf of former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo in a suit against Zedillo under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act by families of Mexican civilians killed in a 1997 massacre during the Zapatista uprising. The suit, Doe v. Zedillo, is in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. It does not allege that Zedillo, who was respected as a political and economic reformer and is now a professor of economics at Yale University, had any involvement in the massacre, but rather argues that he should be held accountable as Mexico’s President at the time. DOJ’s filing can be viewed in full here.
09/05/12: The Miami Herald reports high-ranking Mexican security officials are portraying the shooting of two CIA agents by Mexican federal police as a well-intentioned mishap rather than a deliberate attack. A series of military and law enforcement officials have emphasized in public statements over the last three days that the twelve federal police were investigating a kidnapping when they encountered the two US agents and a Mexican marine captain and opened fire on their armored sport-utility vehicle. Navy Secretary Mariano Francisco Saynez said Monday that the attack “was an error and not a malicious act.” The federal police responsible are currently under a form of house arrest on suspicion of abusing their authority, a charge which can entail both criminal wrongdoing and extreme negligence.
08/29/12: The Washington Post reports twelve Mexican federal police have been taken into custody for their involvement in the shooting of two US Government workers who were wounded last week on their way to a Mexican Navy training camp. The Attorney General announced Monday that the officers have not been formally charged, but may be held for forty days for questioning about possible crimes that include attempted murder, aggravated assault, damage to property, and abuse of authority. A pair of US government employees, traveling in an armored US Embassy sport-utility vehicle with diplomatic license plates, were pursued in a high-speed chase and shot at by Mexican federal police officers in the mountains south of Mexico City on Friday morning.
08/29/12: The New York Times reports officials said on Tuesday that the two Americans who were wounded when gunmen fired on their American Embassy vehicle in Mexico last week were Central Intelligence Agency employees sent as part of a multiagency effort to bolster Mexican efforts to fight drug traffickers. The two operatives, who were hurt on Friday, were participating in a training program that involved the Mexican Navy. They were traveling with a Mexican Navy captain in an embassy sport utility vehicle that had diplomatic license plates when gunmen, some or all of them from the Federal Police, attacked the vehicle. It is currently unclear whether the Americans, who officials said were unarmed, were specifically targeted, if the shooting was a case of mistaken identity, or there was some other reason for the ambush.
08/27/12: The Miami Herald reports members of the Arizona Legislature’s border security advisory committee want the state to begin building a mile of fencing along the border with Mexico even though it has raised only a fraction of the needed money. The committee has raised just 10 percent of the $2.8 million needed to complete a mile of fencing, but State Senator Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) believes more private donations will come in once construction begins. Construction could begin by the end of the year using private fencing companies, some donated supplies and prison inmate labor, Smith said. The project is meant to complement the Federal Government’s border fencing program. The committee is charged with making security recommendations, but none have been made since it began meeting in March 2011.
08/26/12: The Miami Herald reports Mexican authorities are trying to sort out why a US Embassy vehicle was ambushed by federal police on a rural back road in mountains south of the capital, leaving two US officials wounded. Officials from both nations said officers were chasing criminals Friday morning when a hail of bullets was fired at the embassy sport utility vehicle carrying the two employees and a Mexican Navy captain. Mexico’s top police official, Public Security Secretary Genaro García Luna, went to the site of the shooting, indicating the sensitivity and tension over a situation that involved an attack not only on US officials, but on Mexican Navy personnel as well. A Mexican official said twelve police officers have been detained.
08/25/12: BBC News reports the Organization of American States has passed a motion backing the “inviolability of diplomatic missions” amid the row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange is in Ecuador’s London embassy fighting extradition to Sweden over unrelated sexual assault claims. Ecuador called for the OAS vote saying the UK had threatened to storm the embassy. But the resolution was reworded after the UK insisted it had made no threat. The resolution expressed solidarity with Ecuador, but despite a strong plea from Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino, there was no reference to any threat against his country’s embassy in London. The United States withdrew its opposition to the resolution after the text was amended.
08/22/12: BBC News reports Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that a law giving military tribunals jurisdiction to try soldiers for crimes against civilians is unconstitutional. The judges said the code wrongly extended the reach of military courts. Campaigners hailed the court’s decision but four similar judgments are needed to set a legal precedent. The Court was considering the case of Bonfilio Rubio Villegas, who was shot dead by soldiers at a checkpoint in Guerrero state in 2009. In an 8-2 ruling, the judges held that the suspects must be tried in a civilian court. “When a person outside the military is either the defendant or the victim, an ordinary judge has authority over this case, not a military judge,” Justice Luis María Aguilar wrote.
08/22/12: Al Jazeera reports Ecuador’s president has invited the UK to talks over the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the condition that Britain guarantee it will not enter the diplomatic mission in London where the hacker has sought shelter. Assange, who is wanted by Sweden for questioning over sexual-assault accusations, jumped bail and fled to the Ecuadorian embassy nine weeks ago. “Despite that rude, impertinent and unacceptable remark, we’re still open to dialogue,” President Rafael Correa said on Tuesday, referring to a statement issued by British Foreign Secretary William Hague last week. Assange made an appearance on a balcony of the embassy, in London’s Knightsbridge District, on Tuesday and called on the US to end its alleged “witch-hunt” against him.
08/22/12: JURIST reports the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Monday rejected Argentina’s attempt to prevent bondholders from acquiring bank documents regarding the country’s assets outside US territory. Argentina had asserted that its sovereign immunity was affected by a September 2011 ruling by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York forcing the country to comply with subpoenas sought by a global equity investment company for the collection of five judgments totaling about $1.6 billion. The subpoenas were served in 2010 on Bank of America and Banco de la Nación Argentina. The Second Circuit held that because the District Court “ordered only discovery, not the attachment of sovereign property, and because that discovery is directed at third-party banks, Argentina’s sovereign immunity is not infringed.”
08/18/12: BBC News reports foreign ministers from North and South America will meet next Friday to discuss the impasse between the UK and Ecuador over Julian Assange. Ecuador has granted asylum to the WikiLeaks founder who took refuge at Ecuador’s embassy in London in June. He faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims, which he denies. The UK says it will follow its obligation to arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy. Twenty-three members of the Organization of American States (OAS) voted to have the meeting in Washington. The US was opposed; Washington’s envoy Carmen Lomellin said a meeting of foreign ministers “would be unhelpful and harmful to the OAS’s reputation as an institution.” She said the US did not “recognize the concept of diplomatic asylum as a matter of international law.”
08/17/12: Al Jazeera reports Julian Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after the UK refused to grant him the freedom to leave the country amid a diplomatic stalemate between the two countries over his extradition. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Friday that Assange would remain in Quito’s embassy in London as long as Britain refuses to give him safe passage out of the country. On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain would not grant Assange safe passage because “there is no legal basis for us to do so.” He reiterated that the extradition is unrelated to the work of WikiLeaks or any desire by US authorities to try him for publishing diplomatic secrets, but rather the complaints two Swedish women have filed against Assange for sexual assault.
08/16/12: The Washington Post reports WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted asylum on Thursday by Ecuador, raising the possibility of a diplomatic showdown between British and Ecuadoran authorities. The transparency campaigner has been holed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London for nearly eight weeks after seeking refuge there in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes. The British Foreign Office made it clear Thursday that Ecuador’s decision does not alter Britain’s intention of fulfilling its legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden. The asylum grant is apparently based on Ecuador and Assange’s belief that he will be extradited to the US and persecuted for his activities, despite the fact that the Washington has made no attempt to extradite him or charge him with any crime.
08/15/12: Al Jazeera reports Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has denied a British media report that his country has granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Correa said he would consult advisers on Wednesday before deciding. Assange, 41, took refuge at Ecuador's London embassy in June to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape and assault claims, which he denies. “The rumor of asylum for Assange is false. No decision has yet been taken. Awaiting report from the foreign ministry,” Correa wrote on Twitter. Although Assange has not been charged with any crime by the United States, he fears being extradited there to face charges over WikiLeaks’ publishing of a trove of secret documents, including information relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and countless diplomatic cables.