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US House Foreign Affairs Committee introduces legislation to address root causes of migration from Central America – Caribbean News Now

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Representatives Eliot Engel (L) and Michael McCaul

By Caribbean News Now contributor

WASHINGTON, USA – Representatives Eliot Engel, Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Michael McCaul, its ranking Republican, recently introduced the United States–Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which supports the people of Central America and strengthens US national security by addressing the root causes of migration from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Representatives Albio Sires, the Democratic chairman and Francis Rooney, ranking Republican member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security and Trade, are original co-sponsors of the legislation along with Representatives Norma Torres, the Democratic co-chair and Ann Wagner, the Republican co-chair of the Congressional Central America Caucus and Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar.

Engel said, “It’s a dangerous, terrifying thing to move your entire family to an unknown place. And many people only make that decision when they feel like they have no other option. The best way for the United States to address the challenges facing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is by investing in a safer and more prosperous Central America and helping to create more opportunities for those who live there. This legislation demonstrates Congress’s continued commitment to the people of Central America.”

“Central America continues to face serious economic and security challenges that are threatening regional stability and driving waves of illegal migrants to the United States. In order to address this crisis effectively, we must look at the conditions on the ground. This bill outlines a clear and consistent strategy to provide US assistance in four key areas: economic development; anti-corruption; democracy and governance; and security. It also establishes metrics to ensure that our aid effectively addresses illegal migration and demonstrates that these countries are doing their part to stem the flow. As a Texan, I understand the frustration over the challenges we continue to face at our border and am committed to addressing the root causes of illegal migration and helping to facilitate a more prosperous Central America,” said Ranking Member McCaul.

Specifically, the United States–Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act authorizes $577 million in foreign assistance to Central America for Fiscal Year 2020 and includes conditions on any assistance that goes to the central governments of the Northern Triangle countries. It reaffirms congressional intent by not allowing authorized funds to be reprogrammed, transferred or rescinded.

The bill also lays out a series of actions to be taken by the Secretary of State, the Administrator of USAID and other US government officials to promote inclusive economic growth and development, combat corruption, strengthen democratic institutions and improve security conditions in the Northern Triangle.

It also requires State and USAID to develop and report to Congress on annual benchmarks to track the progress of the strategy in addressing the drivers of irregular migration.

The Secretary of State and USAID Administrator are required to prioritize inclusive economic growth and development, anticorruption but strengthening democratic institutions and security conditions in the Northern Triangle. Annual progress reports and multi-year strategies are required in each area. A senior rule of law advisor must be designated for the Northern Triangle in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and is also required as is a feasibility analysis on the formation of an Investment Fund for the Northern Triangle nations and southern Mexico by the US International Development Finance Corporation.

Targeted visa bans and asset freezes must be implemented on individuals who are steadfast in engaging in acts of corruption impacting the Northern Triangle countries. This includes public officials, private citizens and individuals residing outside of the Northern Triangle who are engaged in corruption in these countries.

Improves engagement with the government of Mexico on the Northern Triangle. Development efforts in southern Mexico must be supported by the Secretary of State and various executive branch agencies and reinforce security collaboration regarding Mexico’s shared border with Belize and Guatemala.

Congress must receive advance reporting on security support to Northern Triangle countries, irrespective of the dollar amount for the following three years.

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Whither the Divided Organization of American States? | Sir Ronald Sanders

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The 54th Special General Assembly to elect the OAS Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General went ahead despite the COVID-19 threat and calls for a postponement.

By Sir Ronald Sanders

WASHINGTON, United States, Friday March 27,
2020
– On 20 March 2020, a reckless and
irresponsible General Assembly (GA) was held by the Organization of American
States (OAS), putting the health of many at risk and giving an entirely wrong
example to the entire world. The meeting of at least 50 persons was held amid
intense concerns about the quickly spreading Coronavirus (COVID-19), and
despite the strongest possible recommendations by US and international health
authorities not to hold gatherings larger than 10 persons.

This dangerous act was done to hold
the election for a Secretary-General of the Organization and to gain an
advantage for the incumbent, Luis Almagro, who was the declared candidate of
the US, Brazil and Colombia. Almagro’s current term does not end until May 28. Therefore,
the meeting could easily have been postponed for at least a month, allowing
time for greater control of COVID-19.

Despite logic and good sense, many
member states of the Organization were coerced into holding what was, at best,
a wrongful meeting. At worst, the meeting was illegal.

The meeting proceeded, based on the
advice of the Legal Secretary of the OAS. 
He is an employee of the Secretariat and is answerable to the
Secretary-General.   He may be the most
independent-minded and fair person in the world, but because all his opinions
have synchronized with the positions of the Secretary-General and powerful
states within the Organization, healthy skepticism of his advice is
understandable.

Remarkably, the Permanent Council of
the OAS – the supposedly highest, day to day decision-making organ of the
institution – has no legal counsel of its own, and no machinery for seeking
external and independent legal guidance. Therefore, the opinion of the Legal
Secretary prevails.

In the week running-up to the GA, the
US was in a state of heightened concern over the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  he official advice from the Mayor of the
District of Colombia, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the US
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the President of the US
himself was to hold no gatherings larger than ten persons.

Three days before the meeting, 13
CARICOM countries sent a joint letter to all member states of the OAS and to
the Secretary-General, pointing out the dangers of the meeting, and the
powerful advice from all pertinent health authorities, to postpone it. Haiti
was the only CARICOM country that did not sign the official letter.

While the CDC was asked to examine the
OAS building at which the meeting was held, there were no other pertinent
checks.  No one, entering the room, was
checked for their travel history, or for the travel history of persons with
whom they had been in contact. Anyone could have been COVID-19 positive, but
simply displaying no symptoms. The virus is known to take up to 14 days to
incubate.  The dangerous consequences of
that meeting may yet unfold.

Up to the day prior to the event,
meetings of representatives of the regional groups of the Organization were
held electronically to consider the letter from the 13 Caribbean countries,
which had the private backing of many other states although some of them were
silent publicly for whatever reason.

On March 19, the Legal Secretary gave
the opinion that the GA could only be postponed by the Permanent Council since
the decision to hold the General Assembly on March 20 was taken by the
Permanent Council and only the Permanent Council could change its own rules. When
asked whether the Permanent Council could hold an electronic meeting to
consider postponement, the Legal Secretary gave the further opinion, ex
cathedra, that the rules of the Council did not permit electronic meetings. It
seemed not to occur to him that the rules were written, prior to the
technological age in which circumstances, such as COVID-19, did not exist. He
also casually dismissed the notion that where rules are silent on a course of
action, simple common sense should prevail. In all the opinions he gave, the
Legal Secretary was backed up by the representatives of the countries
determined to hold the GA on March 20.

What is important to note here is that
a precedent has now been set. No meetings of the Permanent Council can be held
electronically since the rules do not provide for it. The Organization may yet
be hoisted by this petard in the weeks ahead.

Of further note is that the GA was
held under new rules of procedure that were not approved by the GA itself,
although only the GA could change its own rules. None of the states that
insisted on holding it, nor the Legal Secretary, has explained on what
authority the rules were changed.

All of this is a sad indication of
what the OAS has become. It is an organization run by a few for a few.

In any event, Luis Almagro was elected
for a second term with 23 votes. Ten countries voted for Maria Fernanda
Espinosa, the remaining contender, since the Peruvian candidate Luis de Zela
had withdrawn, and Dominica was the sensible absentee.  

Over the last few years, the OAS has
experienced a bitter period of division among its member states that has left
the Organization weakened and lacking in a coherent vision of its way forward
in the collective interest of the people of the Americas that it was created to
serve.

If these divisions are not bridged and
these wounds are not healed, the Organization will continue to exist only as a
cauldron for disagreement and discord. This would be catastrophic for the OAS
as an institution. It would also be calamitous for Almagro’s record.

Majority is not consensus. To operate
only based on satisfying a majority, however achieved, neglects the interests
of many others. The OAS will not survive in constant contention, vexation and
division. 

Almagro’s second term provides him a
great opportunity to leave a legacy of which he could be proud and which all
member states could honour. It will require him to be attentive to the needs
and aspirations of each group within the OAS, and to forge a common and vibrant
agenda on which there is genuine consensus.

The member states themselves also must be committed to that goal and act on it, or the Organization will wither into a few states, using it as a bullhorn for their own positions, disdained by others tired of being subjugated.

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Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own.

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Haïti – Actualité : Zapping…

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Haïti – Actualité : Zapping…
28/03/2020 12:22:20

Haïti - Actualité : Zapping...

Le Directeur de l’hôpital Bernard Mevs enlevé :

Vendredi, Jerry Bitar, Directeur de l’hôpital Bernard Mevs, co-dirigeants de l’institution hospitalière a été enlevé dans la matinée, par des individus armés non identifiés, à Pèlerin 4 non loin de sa résidence privée alors qu’il se rendait à l’hôpital. Il a été relâché par ses ravisseurs plus tard dans la journée, sans versement de rançon selon nos sources.

FLASH : Vol supplémentaire vers Montréal :

Air Transat, en collaboration avec le Gouvernement du Canada, annonce qu’un vol de Port-au-Prince à destination de Montréal a été autorisé pour évacuer les ressortissants canadiens souhaitant rentrer au pays le lundi 30 mars 2020 sur un Airbus A330-200.

N’utilisez pas les antibiotiques :

Les antibiotiques sont inefficace contre le coronnavirus Covid-19 mais augmentent le risque de résistance aux antimicrobiens. Ne prenez pas d’antibiotiques pour prévenir ou traiter le Covid-19 informe les autorités sanitaires

Canada : Centres de demandes de visa en fermés

Veuillez noter que les centres de réceptions de demandes de visa en Haiti seront temporairement fermés du 30 mars au17 avril. Pour plus d’informations veuillez visitez le site : www.vfsglobal.ca/Canada/Haiti/French/index.html Nous encourageons tous les demandeurs de visa à soumettre leur application en ligne sur : www.cic.gc.ca

Ateliers de confection de masques

La Mairie de Jacmel sensibilise, forme et informe la population sur les dangers du Covid-19. Par ailleurs, la Mairie anime les 27 et ce samedi 28 mars des ateliers de confection de masques. La bataille contre le Covid-19 est avant tout « une bataille de prévention » assure le Maire Marky Kessa.

La capitale va désinfecter ses espaces publics :

La Mairie de Port-au-Prince a reçu 24 pulvérisateurs qu’elle va utiliser pour désinfecter les marchés, les places publiques et autres espaces urbains.

HL/ HaïtiLibre

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NEIGHBORHOOD ON EDGE SURROUNDS ELMHURST HOSPITAL AT CENTER OF SURGE – The Haitian Times

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This Story was originally published on March 28, 2020

Ambulance sirens and the drone of hovering helicopters have become the soundtrack of the neighborhood around Elmhurst Hospital, as the number of coronavirus cases in Queens has ballooned to more than 7,000, the most of any borough.

Since a testing center opened outside the public hospital last week, Queens residents —  most wearing face masks, some with scarves obscuring their faces —  wait daily in a line lacking social distancing, hemmed in by a metal barricade stretching along Baxter Avenue.

They’re waiting to get tested, sometimes for hours and in the rain, in search of answers.

A spokesperson for the city hospital system told THE CITY that Elmhurst is the center of the coronavirus crisis. Some 13 coronavirus patients died in one  24-hour period this week.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said an area with a disproportionate number of coronavirus cases would be considered a “cluster,” but has demurred from identifying any neighborhoods in New York City as such. Yet multiple local elected officials representing Elmhurst and neighboring Jackson Heights say that the area appears to be one.

THE CITY’s analysis of statistics on emergency room visits last week found that the neighborhoods of Elmhurst and nearby Jackson Heights and Corona saw a greater surge of residents heading to ERs than any other neighborhood in the city.

‘The Worst Possible Disaster’

Max Falkowitz, who has lived in Jackson Heights for five years, has been rationing the number of stories he reads daily about the coronavirus and its rapid spread across the city so that his mental health doesn’t spiral anymore than it already has.

“Watching the neighborhood over the past two weeks feels like a movie where you know a tsunami is coming for the cute little beach town and everyone on land is just acting like things are normal,” said Falkowitz, a 31-year-old freelance writer. “You’re waiting for the disaster.”

On Sunday, the day the governor’s “PAUSE” on New York State executive order went into effect, Falkowitz went to Food Dynasty, a local supermarket. He said he saw people crammed together just like on any other day in Jackson Heights.

The only difference was that they were wearing face masks.

When Falkowitz first moved to the neighborhood, local friends warned him to steer clear of Elmhurst Hospital unless he was on “the verge of death,” he said.

“For it to be the epicenter of this now is the worst possible disaster.”

‘We Are Scared for Her’

Afia Eama, 20, has not gone outside for two weeks.

So she spends her days studying for a journalism degree at Hunter College, reporting for the student newspaper, video chatting her friends, and streaming Itaewon Class, a Korean drama on Netflix.

The television, tuned into the news stations, is always on in the one-bedroom apartment that she shares with her parents in Elmhurst.

Occasionally, she watches the world from the apartment’s fire escape, where she can see a slice of the testing center line. She and her brother were both born at the hospital.

Anxiety levels are high in the small space. Her dad, a cabbie, has diabetes and stopped driving two weeks ago. Her mother, a home health aide to an elderly woman who lives several blocks away, is now the family’s sole financial support.

She walks past Elmhurst Hospital daily.

“We are both scared for her. It’s a lot to process, the fact that it’s happening in our own neighborhood,” said Eama. “We don’t really have income coming in. We have to pay rent, just keep up with the bills. She has to basically work right now.”

Eama had a midterm Thursday on immigration policy.

‘Maybe the Air Is Unclean’

In Jackson Heights, Shrima, 25, is worried about her parents.

She says her father has preexisting conditions and shares an Elmhurst apartment with multiple other people. Her mother works at Elmhurst Hospital,  in the psychiatric unit.

For now, Shrima is comforted that her mom isn’t “frontline, frontline” working in the ER or ICU.

“She doesn’t have to see that day to day, but she said the hospital environment is getting different,” said Shrima, who did not want her last name published. “There are no visitors, no outpatients at all anymore. It’s a really tense time.”

She managed to procure one N95 face mask for her mother.

Since she heard about the situation at Elmhurst Hospital, she hasn’t gone on any neighborhood walks topping five minutes.

“I grew up in the area. Now, just walking around you feel like maybe the air is unclean,” said Shrima. “Everybody who is sick is just concentrated in one place.”

‘I Can’t Tune It Out’

Briallen Hopper has been in self-quarantine for almost two weeks. She called the city’s coronavirus hotline only to be told not to bother trying to get tested. The person on the line told her to only leave her apartment if she could not breathe.

After a week of being unable to eat and sleeping fitfully, she’s starting to feel better, at least physically. But she lives alone and said she’s feeling very isolated from the neighborhood she loves. The sirens are impossible to escape.

“I can hear what’s happening to the neighborhood all the time. I can’t tune it out,” said Hopper, a 41-year-old Elmhurst resident who works as a creative writing professor at Queens College.

Her quarantine is up on Sunday. Her plan is to step outside.

“Hopefully, it will be a sunny day. Hopefully, I won’t run into any neighbors,” Hopper said. “Or hopefully I’ll run into them from six feet away and just stand in the sunshine and just try to make comfort in the fact that people are doing their best and spring is still coming.”

‘The Absolute Epicenter’

Sascha Segan and his wife have decided that if they get sick, they want to avoid Elmhurst Hospital. They’re researching more distant hospitals and methods to get there without calling an ambulance.

“It really seems to be that right now, our neighborhood is the absolute epicenter of the epidemic in the U.S. and we have to be very careful about that,” said Segan, a 45-year-old technology writer who lives in Jackson Heights.

Local grocery stores are so packed, leading him to think he should quarantine for two weeks after a recent visit for supplies.

He last went outside two days ago. For exercise, he’s started jogging in the courtyard adjacent to his apartment building.

But if he sees anybody else there, he goes back inside.

‘Going to Get Worse’

Elmhurst Hospital is a public safety net hospital that serves all New Yorkers regardless of immigration or insurance status, and local officials say that it serves a community of mostly immigrants.

THE CITY previously reported that the hospital can handle 15 to 20 critically ill patients between its intensive care unit and an intermediate care unit called a stepdown. De Blasio said Thursday that the hospital was the number one priority of the city’s public hospital system and that 40 more ventilators and additional staff had been added.

On Thursday morning, 54 of the hospital’s 63 ventilators were in use, according to a source close to the hospital.

It is unknown how many total coronavirus patients are at Elmhurst Hospital and City Hall has declined to disclose the number of cases by neighborhood.

Councilmember Francisco Moya, who represents Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights, zeroed in on these neighborhoods as the epicenter of the virus. Obtaining information about the number of infections and deaths in specific neighborhoods is “necessary,” he said, though not at the cost of diverting city personnel from essential priorities.

“The focus needs to be on staffing levels,” Moya said. “The hospital is operating at 80% capacity on a regular day, up to 125% at this point and it’s only going to continue to get worse as more tests are done as more cases are found to be positive.”

Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, who represents Corona and parts of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, cautioned that other parts of the city would soon be experiencing the same explosion of cases and fatalities if New Yorkers continue to assume that their general health will protect them from this virus.

“We should wear a mask at all times, we should have gloves and that we should be protecting one another,” Cruz said.

“Until we do that, the 24-hour period is going to repeat itself not just in Elmhurst, but all around the country.”

“This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.”

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