Nicaragua Crisis Escalates as Ortega Regime Continues Targeting of Anti-Govt Protesters

 

The State Department updated its Travel Advisory for Nicaragua on July 6, 2018 to Level 3 urging that U.S. travelers reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to crime, civil unrest, and limited healthcare availability.  The update also includes the announcement that the U.S. government has ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel in the country and that while the U.S. Embassy remains open, it can only provide emergency services for U.S. citizens.

According to the Miami Herald, the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Human Rights Commission puts the number of dead since April 18 at 264, while Nicaragua’s Pro-Human Rights Association puts the figure at 309 people and thousands of wounded.

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Nine Latin American Countries Request Review of U.S. “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” Policy For Cuban Migrants

Posted: 3:14 am ET
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WaPo has a quick explainer on the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy,  the informal name given to a 1995 agreement under which Cuban migrants seeking passage to the United States who are intercepted at sea (“wet feet”) are sent back to Cuba or to a third country, while those who make it to U.S. soil (“dry feet”) are allowed to remain in the United States. The policy, formally known as the U.S.-Cuba Immigration Accord, has been written into law as an amendment to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. Read more here. Last year, the Miami Herald reported that in FY2015 (Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015), the U.S. Coast Guard stopped 4,462 Cubans who attempted to illegally enter the United States by sea.  In FY2014 (before normalization) , 2,059 Cubans were apparently caught at sea, according to WaPo citing Coast Guard data. The traffic has more than doubled probably due to fears that with normalization, the policy will soon end.  An ongoing petition to Congress to End Wet foot, Dry Foot Policy currently has 1,682 letters sent to-date.  

Yesterday, the Ecuadoran Embassy in Washington, D.C. delivered a letter signed by nine Latin American countries “expressing their deep concern about the negative effects of U.S. immigration policy across the region.”  The letter sent to Secretary John Kerry was signed by Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.  The joint letter also ends with the Foreign Ministers calling on Secretary Kerry to attend a High Level meeting to review this issue.

Below is from the Ecuadoran Embassy’s statement online:

The 1966 U.S. Public Law 89-732, known as the “Cuban Adjustment Act”, and the policy commonly known as “wet foot, dry foot” have encouraged a disorderly, irregular and unsafe flow of Cubans who, risking their lives, pass through our countries in order to reach the US.” 

They add that this is creating a serious humanitarian crisis for Cuban citizens, with the nine Foreign ministers stating that:

“Cuban citizens risk their lives, on a daily basis, seeking to reach the United States. These people, often facing situations of extreme vulnerability, fall victim to mafias dedicated to people trafficking, sexual exploitation and collective assaults. This situation has generated a migratory crisis that is affecting our countries.”

The signatories believe that to reduce the threats faced by Cuban migrants, it is necessary to address “the main cause of the current situation”. Revising the Cuban Adjustment Act and the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy “would be a first step to stop the worsening of this complex situation and would form part of a final agreement to ensure orderly and regular migration in our region.”

Addressing the initiative, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Guillaume Long, said:

“The fact that nine foreign ministers have signed this letter shows the strength of feeling in Latin America about how US policy is creating an immigration crisis in our region.

Encouraged by the US “wet foot, dry foot” policy, Cuban migrants often become victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation and violence. It is time for the United States to change its outdated policy for Cuban migrants, which is undermining regular and safe migration in our continent.

This policy is also discriminatory. Ecuadorian migrants often have to live for decades with the threat of deportation, whereas Cuban citizens arriving in the US have the opportunity of residency after living there for a year and after five-years of residency they can apply for obtain citizenship. 

This injustice must end for everyone’s benefit.”

The State Department’s spokesperson was asked about this in Tuesday’s Daily Press Briefing, and here is the unexciting response:

QUESTION: Cuba. Nine Latin American countries have sent a letter to the Administration saying that U.S. policy, its wet foot/dry foot policy which guarantees citizenship to Cubans who make it to U.S. soil, is creating an immigration crisis for those countries through which they pass, and asked the Administration to review that policy. Do you have a response to that, and is there any review likely to be made?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’ll tell you a couple things. So we did receive the letter that you’re referring to signed by nine foreign ministers from Latin America about what is known as the Cuban Adjustment Act. Obviously, we are concerned for the safety of all migrants throughout the region, including migrants seeking to journey northward through South and Central America and Mexico. Irregular migration often involves dangerous journeys that illustrate the inherent risks and uncertainties of involvement with organized crime, including human smugglers and trafficklers – traffickers, excuse me, in attempts to reach the United States.

We continue to encourage all countries to respect the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers, and to ensure that they are treated humanely. And we’re going to continue to, obviously, engage governments in the region on this issue going forward. So we did receive the letter. I’d refer you to the authors of the letter for any more specific information on its content. I have no meetings to announce at this time, and the Cuban Adjustment Act remains in place and wet foot/dry foot remains U.S. policy regarding Cuban migration.

 

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Obama Nominates Career Diplomat Laura Farnsworth Dogu as Next Ambassador to Nicaragua

Posted: 1:57 am EDT
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On May 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Laura Farnsworth Dogu as the next  Ambassador to the Republic of Nicaragua. The WH released the following brief bio:

Laura Farnsworth Dogu, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico, a position she has held since 2012.  Prior to that, Ms. Dogu was Deputy Executive Director in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State from 2010 to 2012.  She served as a Consular Section Chief and Consular Officer in Mexico, Turkey, and Egypt from 1999 to 2010.  Ms. Dogu was a Staff Assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 1997 to 1998 and Watch Officer in the State Department Operations Center from 1996 to 1997.  She also served as Consular and Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey from 1994 to 1996 and Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador from 1991 to 1993.  Ms. Dogu received a B.A., B.B.A., and M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University and an M.S. from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Photo by US Embassy Mexico/Flickr

Additional bio details from US Embassy Mexico:

Ms. Dogu received the 2006 Department of State Barbara Watson Award for Consular Excellence for her efforts to protect children through the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction.  She has also received several Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

Following her personal interest in financial planning, in 2009 Ms. Dogu co-authored a book on retirement planning and is a published financial columnist.

Ms. Dogu is a 2007 graduate from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University with a Masters Degree in National Resource Strategy. She also holds a Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Business Administration, and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Southern Methodist University.  Before joining the U.S. Government, Ms. Dogu worked as a Marketing Representative for International Business Machines (IBM) serving customers in the distribution and services industries. Ms. Dogu is married, and she and her husband have two sons.

If confirmed, this would be Ms. Dogu’s first ambassadorial appointment.   She would succeed career diplomat Phyllis M. Powers who was appointed to Nicaragua by President Obama in 2012.

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