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Migration & displacement – LAB Newsletter July 2019

Dear LAB Supporter and Friend,

31 July 2019

Migration and Displacement at crisis point

In addition to our website, LAB’s Facebook page provides a daily stream of summaries and links to articles published elsewhere. In this and future newsletters we will mention some of these, with the rubric ‘Read FB’ to distinguish them from posts on LAB’s website ‘Read more’.


Costa Rica has an astonishing 13 per cent of its population born outside its borders. It has become an important transit corridor as well as a destination for migrants. Gustavo Fuchs takes a look at migration problems across the region, noting, which may surprise some readers, the increase in migrants from Africa and Asia to Latin America (Read more). The same author has produced a study of the obligations of states towards migrants (Read FB) The omens are not good: the UN’s voluntary Global Compact on Migration has already been rejected by Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic and the US as xenophobia and isolationism gather pace. Europe, too, is seeing an influx of migrants from Latin America. The journey may be no more expensive and much less risky than paying coyotes to attempt the US border (Read FB). Among these are some of the first crop of exiles from the Bolsonaro regime in Brazil (Read FB).

LAB partner Christian Aid has produced a carefully argued analysis from staff in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Colombia, showing the overlap in cause and effect between internal displacement and out-migration and the overwhelming effects of violence from drug traffickers, gangs and state actors in driving people from their homes (Read more).

Meanwhile, Venezuela-based LAB partner OjosIlegales has produced a beautiful photo-video about migrants in Mexico (Watch here). Distinguished film-maker Judy Jackson (readers may remember her 1991 film ‘They shoot children, don’t they’ about the police killings of street children in Guatemala) has released a film about the migrant crisis in Central America (Watch here) and the Guardian produced a podcast about migrant children at the US border, and Trump’s policies and detention centres (Listen here). A BBC news article documents what happened to a Salvadorean migrant family, deported under Trump’s ‘Return to Mexico’ policy, and now stranded in Juarez (Read FB)


Construction of the Itaipú dam complex on the Paraná river, at Paraguay’s border with Brazil in the 1970s, displaced around 688 families from 38 different indigenous communities. One of these was the Tekoha Sauce people, who have eked out a living since then on a unsuitable land to which they were moved, with no consultation, by the Itaipú Binacional company. In 2015 they returned home, were evicted and now squat on a narrow belt of land on the edge of the Limoy nature reserve. William Costa documents their ongoing struggle for land rights (Read more). On a more positive note, Andrew Nickson describes the Mbyju’i Communal Land Association, a living example of good management of communal land (Read more)


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Agribusiness and the Bancada Ruralista are now calling in their favours from the Bolsonaro government. LAB partner Agência Pública attended a closed meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture between government representatives and farmers from Pará where speakers from environmental agencies were heckled, accused of practising ‘state terrorism’ and called a ‘cancer.’ Even government representatives had to call for calm (Read more). Bolsonaro has lost no time in acceding to agribusiness demands, appointing an ex-police officer to head FUNAI, the key agency supposed to defend indigenous rights (Read FB), and accusing Brazil’s own national space institute of lying about the increasing rate of Amazon deforestation (Read FB). In the north of the country an indigenous leader was killed by garimpeiros (illegal miners) at Mariry in Macapá (Read FB). President Bolsonaro is as interested in promoting mining as agribusiness, extolling the importance of rare mineral niobium at the G20 summit in June (Read FB), and to consolidate his relationship with the Bolsonaro of the north, he and Donald Trump are considering exchanging their sons as ambassadors (Read FB).

Petra Costa’s fine documentary about Brazilian politics, ‘The Edge of Democarcy’, is available on Netflix. It charts what happened to the PT under Lula and Dilma, the rise of the right, the impeachment of Dilma and the election of Bolsonaro. The Guardian reviews this powerful blend of the personal and the political (Read FB).

The catastrophic collapse of a tailings dam at Brumadinho in Minas Gerais on 20 January claimed at least 231 lives and bodies are still being found. Christian Aid’s partner Movimento dos Atingidos por Baragems (MAB) is working with the victims and with communities downstream whose lives and livelihoods have been affected (Read more).


There have been mass demonstrations against the killings of social activists (Read FB) A Caravana Humanitaria por la Vida will set out on 5 August through parts of the exceptionally poor Chocó region in the northeast of the country, where most of the population are Afro-Colombian or indigenous, to draw attention to ongoing conflict and pressures from narco traffickers, paramilitaries and guerrillas (Read FB). More evidence is emerging of how other guerrilla groups, drug traffickers, land grabbers and mining companies are pushing into areas vacated by the FARC, so that for many people, sadly, peace means war (Read FB). A report by Christian Aid looks at the links between the ‘war on drugs’, crop substitution and development goals (Read FB).


In Puerto Rico there have been massive demonstrations against governor Ricardo Roselló, following a leak of hundreds of pages of text messages, many including homophobic and misogynistic slurs, between him and his inner circle (Read FB). In El Salvador, persecution of women who have miscarriages or stillbirths continues. 21-year-old Evelyn Beatriz Hernández Cruz, whose baby was found dead in the toilet where she gave birth is facing a retrial on charges of homicide (Read FB)

Voices of Latin America

We now have a powerful promotional video for LAB’s book, made for us by OjosIlegales (Watch here). There will be further Voices talks at the El Sueño Existe Festival in Machynlleth, Wales, on Saturday 17 August, and the Crickhowell Literary Festival on 29 September.

Best wishes,

The LAB Team


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