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A vote for change in Honduras. Will they get it?

The small Central American nation of Honduras is in many ways a full blown narco-state. President Juan Orlando Hernandez – who’s governed the country for close to a decade – has been linked to the country’s booming drug trafficking trade. His brother Tony, a former congressman who is buds with Mexican drug lord El-Chapo, was sentenced to life-in prison this year for smuggling cocaine into the US. Narco-trafficking gangs run riot in the country, fueling one of the world’s highest murder rates, while corruption and poverty abound.

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The Graphic Truth: Who's arriving at the US-Mex border

Despite a recent dip, migrant arrivals at the US-Mexico border have surged over the past 10 months, driven by economic hardship, violence, and the perception that President Biden would be more welcoming to migrants than his predecessor. Most of those coming to the US from the South hail from Mexico, but a large number have also fled violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. We take a look at migration patterns from Central America in 2021 compared to 2020.

What We're Watching: Honduras bracing for post election upheavals

Honduras braces for post election upheavals (again). Leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro jumped out to a sizable early lead in Sunday's Honduran presidential and legislative elections, but her rival is also claiming victory in a vote already marred by fears of violence and several confirmed cyberattacks on voting systems. Castro's main opponent is businessman and capital city mayor Nasry Asfura, candidate of the ruling center-right National Party. If Castro wins, she would become the Central American country's first female president, and the first leftist to hold power since her husband, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a coup 12 years ago. The stakes are high for Honduras, which has been wracked by gang violence, sky-high murder rates, and poverty for years. Widespread irregularities in the 2017 re-election of current president Juan Orlando Hernandez led to days of deadly violence, and Hernandez himself has since been placed under US investigation for ties to drug traffickers. Outside of Honduras both Mexico and the US will be watching closely — hundreds of thousands of Hondurans have fled instability in their home country in recent years, traversing Mexico to seek opportunity in the USA: after Mexicans, Hondurans are currently the second most common nationality apprehended at the US southern border.

What We're Watching: A new British-French sea battle

EU calls for fresh migrant pact with UK. Just days after 27 migrants died trying to cross the English Channel from France to the UK, officials from four EU states met Sunday to call for a fresh migration policy agreement with the UK. That came after days of overt acrimony between London and Paris: PM Boris Johnson published a letter — on Twitter, no less — that called for joint patrols and faulted the French for the tragedy. Unsurprisingly, France objected to that, and promptly disinvited the British from the Sunday meeting on migration. The EU pledged to step up aerial patrols of the Channel but said that a boarder framework with the UK is urgently needed. With this much post-Brexit bad blood flowing across the Channel, is that even possible?

What We're Watching: Omicron sparks fear and restrictions, Honduras' elections, Modi plays politics with farmers, EU calls for migrant pact with UK, Kyiv on alert

The omicron wars: Can we really afford to lock down again? In response to the new omicron variant first discovered by South African scientists, many countries have reintroduced pandemic travel restrictions that we thought were long behind us. Israel and Morocco have banned all foreign visitors, while tougher rules on quarantining and travel have also been enforced in the UK, Australia, Singapore and parts of Europe. Meanwhile, travelers from southern African countries have been banned from entering almost everywhere. Scientists say that it is still too early to say how infectious the new variant is, or how resistant it might be to vaccines. This disruption comes just as many economies were starting to reopen after more than 20-months of pandemic closures and chaos. The new restrictions are already triggering a fierce debate: some say that we are now in the endemic stage of the pandemic and that it is both unsustainable – and economically and psychologically harmful – to keep locking down every time a new variant surfaces. Others, like Israel's PM Naftali Bennett, say we are in the throes of a new "state of emergency," and that we can't afford to take any chances. What do you think?

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The Graphic Truth: By land or by sea — migrants head for Spain

Last week, some 400 migrants arrived on Spain's Canary Islands in a 24-hour period after making the perilous journey by boat from Africa. Up until October, migrant arrivals to the Canary Islands had surged 44 percent compared to the same period last year. While COVID-related economic crises have surely contributed to the uptick in desperate people trying to start over in the EU, this wave of migration — mainly from Morocco and Algeria — predates the pandemic, and even the 2015 refugee crisis. We take a look at the number of people who have sought refuge in peninsular Spain and the Canary Islands since 2015.

The Graphic Truth: Venezuela's sprawling LatAm exodus

The exodus of Venezuelan nationals is currently the world's second largest refugee crisis, exceeded only by the one in Syria. Of the over five million Venezuelans currently living outside their country, more than 80 percent are located throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, with the lion's share hosted by neighboring Colombia. We take a look at which other Latin American countries have sizable populations of Venezuelans at the moment.

What We’re Watching: Facebook refriends Australia, Biden on Afghan fence, Philippine labor for COVID jabs

Facebook "refriends" Australia: Last week, Facebook abruptly blocked news from appearing on Australian users' feeds after Canberra proposed a law requiring Big Tech companies pay news outlets for sharing their content. Facebook came under fire globally for banning news sharing in Australia, including crucial public health announcements on COVID. Now, five days later, Facebook has reversed course to suddenly lift the news ban. "Facebook has re-friended Australia," Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said after speaking with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. So, what changed? The two sides say they have reached a compromise, though some details remain murky. The Australian government will make several amendments to the Big Tech bill — including one that will allow Facebook to circumvent the new code and avoid hefty fines — if the social media platform shows a "significant contribution" to Australia's local journalism scene. In theory, this would require Facebook to prove it has cut enough deals with Aussie media companies to pay them for content — but what constitutes "enough" remains unclear. Frydenberg said Australia has been a "proxy battle" for the rest of the globe on Big Tech regulation. Indeed, Europe and the US have been fastidiously taking notes.

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