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LatinNews Daily - 16 July 2018

US voices concerns over killing of social leaders in Colombia

Argentina: On 11 June a New York court rejected an appeal put forward by the Argentine government in relation to the 2012 nationalisation of oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), meaning that Argentina could face legal action in the US. The court sustained a previous ruling which had dismissed claims made by Argentina that the US courts were not able to judge this case properly. Under the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), Argentina and YPF are not immune to legal action in the US. The original lawsuit, filed in 2015 on behalf of the Peterson group by the law firm Burford Capital, seeks a multimillion US dollar compensation for the supposed economic damages caused by the nationalisation of YPF. In 2012 Argentina expropriated 51% of YPF’s shares from Spanish oil company Repsol. The Argentine government paid out US$5bn to Repsol in compensation. The Peterson group continued its affiliation with YPF, having come to control approximately 25% of the company, but it disagreed with the nationalisation process due to the damages they had suffered as a result.

Colombia: On 9 July the US Embassy in Colombia issued a note of concern regarding the murders of social leaders and human rights defenders in Colombia. The embassy also said that it is supporting the efforts of the Colombian government led by President Juan Manuel Santos to improve security in the country. The statement comes after multiple demonstrations took place in more than 50 Colombian cities on 6 July, in protest at the increased number of social leaders and activists that have been killed recently. According to the local NGO Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz (Indepaz), 123 social leaders have been murdered from the beginning of 2018 to 5 July. Also, on 9 July President Santos signed a pact, along with leaders of political parties and supreme court justices among others, which commits the signatories to protect the lives of social leaders and human rights advocates and condemns violence against them.

Guatemala: On 10 July US Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Kirstjen Nielsen met foreign and security ministers from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to discuss joint international efforts to combat human trafficking, drug smuggling, and illegal immigration. A DHS press release notes that “during these meetings, the ministers and Secretary Nielsen reiterated their commitment to carry out concrete actions to enhance information-sharing best practices as well as collectively address security challenges and illegal migration flows”. The press release notes commitments made during the meetings. Among other things, these include plans to: 1) Expand and share joint public messaging efforts to dissuade potential migrants from taking the dangerous journey north (from Central America to the US) – and work to counter-message the advertising and false information promoted by human smugglers; 2) Enhance security cooperation, including joint efforts to combat human smuggling and illicit trafficking; 3) Step up operations and resources dedicated to dismantling transnational criminal organisations; 4) Deepen information sharing about criminals, threat actors, and migration trends, including through co-locating more frontline operators and establishing action plans to share data in real-time across borders.

Mexico: On 11 July Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray Caso, travelled to Guatemala’s capital, Guatemala City, where he met ministers and deputy ministers from the US and Central America’s so-called ‘Northern Triangle’ countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). A Mexican foreign ministry (SRE) press release noted that the goal of the meeting was to discuss the “separation and detention of migrant families in the US, exchange information and good practices and agree on joint strategies that help the migrants”.  The officials also reportedly discussed ways to combat human trafficking networks in the region.