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Archive for Central America

Newsline: US embassy convoy came under fire in Haiti

Gunmen in Haiti opened fire on a convoy that included vehicles from the U.S. Embassy and Haitian National Police, as well as commercial vehicles, according to a U.S. official. A Haitian driver was injured, but no police or embassy personnel were reported hurt. (https://news.yahoo.com/haiti-gunmen-fire-convoy-us-233045975.html) A State Department spokesman confirmed those details to The Associated Press, but gave no other information on the incident beyond noting that the injured person’s wounds were not life-threatening. The incident comes at a time of rising violence and increasingly brazen attacks by Haitian gangs that have grown more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Havana to start processing immigrant visas next January

The U.S. embassy in Havana announced that the full processing of immigrant visas will resume in Cuba on January 4, 2023. Deputy Minister Carlos Fernandez spoke with the Assistant Secretary of the Department of State for Consular Affairs, Rena Bitter, and the Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Ur Mendoza Jaddou, on immigration and consular issues. According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, both sides noted the importance of the resumption of consular services in Havana, including the processing of non-immigrant visas. (https://www.radiohc.cu/en/noticias/nacionales/304463-us-embassy-in-havana-to-start-processing-immigrant-visas) Last April, migration talks were held between Cuba and the United States to review compliance with bilateral agreements and the mutual commitment to guarantee a regular, safe, and orderly migration.

Newsline: Top Cuba Diplomat Urges U.S. to End Sanctions Now

One day after the world delivered a near-unanimous rebuke of long-standing U.S. sanctions against his country for the 30th time in a row, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla defended his country’s track record at a time of economic turmoil in Cuba, which faces basic supply shortages that he also blamed on an embargo that was only tightened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He said Cuba was open to discussing any bilateral issue with the U.S. except for the Communist-led island’s internal affairs, which he asserted was a matter of national sovereignty and independence. Far from being a state sponsor of terrorism, Cuba, he argued, was a friendly neighbor prepared to work with the U.S. in good faith on a range of common issue. Despite the bad blood between the two governments, he said it was within Biden’s power to remove at least some of the harshest measures against Cuba with the stroke of a pen. (https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-top-cuba-diplomat-urges-biden-end-sanctions-nowworld-agrees-1757164) In a direct appeal, Cuba’s top diplomat urged the Biden administration, U.S. policymakers and the public to rethink a policy that he argued was responsible not only for the suffering of everyday Cubans but also a deterioration in Washington’s relationship with the international community. This was especially the case in Latin America, he noted, where a new wave of leftist leaders was expected to shore up ties with Havana, leaving Washington as isolated as ever in its own hemisphere.

Newsline: Honduras summons U.S. ambassador for interference in internal affairs

The Government of Honduras has confirmed that the U.S. Ambassador in Tegucigalpa, Laura Dogu, has been summoned next Monday to the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in protest for her interference in internal affairs. As confirmed by the ruling Libre Party in its social networks, Dogu’s summons comes after the Honduran President, Xiomara Castro, gave this instruction to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Enrique Reina. “Enrique Reina summons the US ambassador to Honduras at 12:00 noon (local time) on October 31 to present a formal protest for her interference”, said Libre on its Twitter profile. (https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/honduras-summons-u-s-ambassador-for-interference-in-internal-affairs/ar-AA13ozRG) The call was announced just one day after the US diplomatic representative in Tegucigalpa expressed Washington’s concern about the treatment of foreign investors in Honduras, reports ‘La Tribuna’. “We are deeply concerned about reports from both U.S. and Honduran companies about increased land invasions and digital piracy,” Dogu said during a meeting with members of the Honduran-American Chamber of Commerce.

Newsline: Bahamas’ Embassy in Brussels spent over $600,000 on furniture

An audit into the Bahamas’ Embassy in Brussels, Belgium found that over $600,000 of taxpayer’s money was spent on furniture purchases for the official residence. The report was one of several audits that looked into the financial operations of Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ embassies, consulate general offices and a permanent mission. “During our audit, we noted furniture purchased for the official residence in the amount of 472, 427.80 EUR or $614,156.14,” Auditor General Terrance Bastian said in an audit conducted between November 1, 2019, and July 7, 2022. (http://www.tribune242.com/news/2022/oct/20/600000-furniture-embassy/?news) Labour and Immigration Minister Keith Bell first raised alarm about the extravagant purchases in Parliament in June, accusing the Minnis administration of the “indiscriminate callous haemorrhage” of the public purse. At the time, he said more than $1m was spent on lavish items for an ambassador’s apartment in Europe, including middle chairs that cost nearly $40,000, a rug at $18,475, $14,000 for a lamp and $10,000 for a mahogany scroll among other costly purchases. In view of the findings, auditors recommended that the ministry establish policies for the purchasing of furnishings for all residents and embassies, consulate, etc, and noted that ambassadors should not solely be responsible for these functions but through consultations with the ministry.

Newsline: Haiti diplomat urges U.S., Canada to lead anti-gang strike force

The United States and Canada should take the lead in forming a strike force to confront Haitian gangs that have created a humanitarian crisis by blocking access to a key fuel terminal, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States said. “We wish to see our neighbors like the United States, like Canada, take the lead and move fast,” said Bocchit Edmond in a telephone interview, in reference to providing security assistance. “There is a really big threat over the head of the prime minister. If nothing is done quickly, there is a risk of another head of state (being) killed in Haiti,” he said, referring to the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise. (https://news.yahoo.com/haiti-wants-u-canada-lead-224654642.html) Prime Minister Ariel Henry last week asked the international community to provide a “specialized armed force” to control gangs that have been blocking the Varreux fuel terminal since last month. Sporadic looting and gun battles between gangs and police have become increasingly common in Haiti in recent weeks as the shortages have led to mounting frustration and desperation. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed “a rapid action force” to help Haiti’s police confront the gangs, without saying that the United Nations itself should lead such a force. No countries have yet stepped forward to offer personnel.

Newsline: EU ambassador left Nicaragua

European Union Ambassador Bettina Muscheidt left Nicaragua on Saturday, just three days after being declared “persona non grata” by the government of President Daniel Ortega. Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada verbally notified Muscheidt that she should leave the country after the EU delegation demanded freedom for “political prisoners” at the United Nations General Assembly last week. Ortega’s government also announced on Friday that it was suspending diplomatic ties with the Netherlands. “The Netherlands regrets the disproportionate decision by Nicaragua to break off diplomatic relations,” Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said via Twitter on Saturday. “We will discuss our next steps with the EU,” he added. (https://whtc.com/2022/10/01/eu-ambassador-leaves-nicaragua-in-week-of-diplomatic-tensions/) Nicaragua’s Vice President Rosario Murillo also announced this week that the Central American country would not accept the new U.S.-appointed ambassador Hugo Rodriguez as its representative in Managua. In March, Ortega’s government expelled the Vatican’s ambassador to Managua, Waldemar Sommertag.

Newsline: Top Cuban diplomat pledges to negotiate with the United States

Cuba’s top diplomat said his country’s officials have no choice but to engage the United States in negotiations to normalize relations, despite a decade of diplomatic whiplash and mixed messages from Washington. In an interview with The Hill, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla responded to a question posed by former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes on whether Cuban officials would “ever, ever negotiate anything with America ever again after this?” “We will have to,” said Rodríguez Parrilla, who was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. “We will have to, first, because there is a historical trend that will, at some point, force us to reestablish dialogue and lift the blockade.” (https://news.yahoo.com/top-cuban-diplomat-negotiate-united-100000389.html) After a historic and controversial push to normalize relations between Washington and Havana under former President Obama, the Trump administration did an about-face, most famously adding Cuba to a list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Biden administration, though less hawkish than the Trump administration, has not taken major steps to normalize relations, including keeping Cuba on the terrorism watchlist.

Newsline: Families of missing students protest outside Israel’s embassy in Mexico City

Relatives of the 43 Mexican students who disappeared in 2014 protested outside Israel’s embassy, demanding the extradition of a former top investigator wanted in connection with the case. Hundreds gathered outside Israel’s embassy in Mexico City, with no visible police presence. Some carried pictures of the missing students while others sprayed graffiti on the embassy walls. Tomas Zeron, who previously led Mexico’s Criminal Investigation Agency, is accused of manipulating the probe into one of the country’s worst human rights tragedies. “Israel is protecting Tomas Zeron, a human rights violator who tortured those he detained at the time to build the ‘historical truth,'” Meliton Ortega, a representative of the students’ families, told AFP. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/families-43-missing-students-mexico-urge-israel-to-deport-tomas-zeron-protests/) But Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Zvi Tal criticized the demonstrators’ actions. “It is clear to us that the violence displayed during the demonstration, where they left the walls of our headquarters painted with offensive graffiti, here is written ‘Death to Israel,’ has no relation to the Ayotzinapa case,” he said in a video address in front of the embassy. Mexico has repeatedly asked Israel to hand over Zeron, who is accused of kidnapping, torturing suspects and manipulating evidence — allegations he has denied. The 43 teaching students had commandeered buses in the southern state of Guerrero to travel to a demonstration in Mexico City before they went missing. Investigators say they were detained by corrupt police and handed over to a drug cartel that mistook them for members of a rival gang, but exactly what happened to them is disputed. So far, the remains of only three victims have been identified.

Newsline: Nigerian Embassy In Mexico Shuts Down Over COVID-19

The Nigerian embassy in Mexico has been closed due to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the embassy. Abimbola Tooki, special adviser on media to Adejare Bello, Nigerian ambassador to Mexico via a statement on Monday said that six staff of the embassy tested positive for COVID-19. The ambassador said that the closure would last till August 15, 2022. He said the affected staff are undergoing treatment and that the situation is under control. (https://bizwatchnigeria.ng/nigerian-embassy-in-mexico-shuts-down-over-covid-19/) Bello disclosed that appropriate quarters like the ministry of foreign affairs, Abuja and that of Mexico have been duly notified of this development. The temporary closure, according to the ambassador, will allow the Embassy to be fumigated and all other precautions put in place while the closure lasts. Bello also said that all home-based officers and the local staff of the mission have been directed to work from home pending further directives.