The Refugee Caravan

The Refugee Caravan

Last week, we noted that a “refugee caravan” made up of hundreds of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — many of them unaccompanied children — are walking through Mexico toward the US border. Along the way, activists are coaching them on how to apply for political asylum in the US. President Trump has heard the news. Last weekend, he tweeted this: “Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW.”


The Mexican government said Tuesday it will disperse the Refugee Caravan, but that it would issue one-year humanitarian visas to the most vulnerable members of the group. Others can submit applications within the month to stay in Mexico. The rest must leave the country within 20 days.

Trump tweeted yesterday that “The Caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at our Border.” But this drama is not finished; some migrants say they’ll continue on toward California.

Look at this problem from various angles.

From Trump’s point of view: If the president sent a message that anyone fleeing violence in Central America will be given sanctuary in the US, the US would face a tidal wave of asylum seekers. (Cue the obligatory Angela Merkelreference.) Trump also knows, probably because he’s been told, that the centrality of border security for many of his diehard backers ensures that an influx of Honduran migrants would dismantle his political base overnight. He also wants to make clear that Mexico can’t ignore its own laws on migrants crossing its borders to reach the US.

From Mexico’s point of view: Mexico doesn’t want a “giant scene at the border.” Its government understands all too well the violence these migrants are trying to escape. (2017 was the most violent year of crime in Mexico since government began keeping records in 1997.) But it is legally bound to enforce its own immigration rules, and its government is still trying to strike a deal on renegotiation of NAFTA, with much less leverage than Trump has. Forcing the US president into a political crisis won’t help.

From the migrants’ point of view: High-powered weapons continue to flow from the US into Mexico and Central America, helping criminal gangs outgun police, killing civilians caught in the crossfire, and pushing rates of violent crime higher than just about anywhere else on Earth. There are many reported cases of children forced to choose between joining a gang and death for their entire families. If people can’t be safe in their own communities, they will seek safe haven where they can find it.

How many of these people will reach the US border? Stay tuned.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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