Central America

In a good year, Jesús García Ramos can feed his family all year on the corn that he grows in small fields around his home in the Guatemalan village of Quilinco. But this was not a good year.

On a visit in August, I met García Ramos in the field behind his house, where I found him hacking down dried-out yellow corn stalks with a machete. He had planted the corn in March. But then it didn't rain in June or July, the crucial months when kernels form on the cob. He expected his yields would be about half what he'd expect in a good year, or maybe less.

Jeffrey Beall / CC BY-SA 2.0

Updated 5/14/2019 at 2:45 p.m.

Early Monday morning, a bus carrying 55 refugees arrived in Denver. The group had traveled several hours from a shelter in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where the number of migrant asylum-seekers has overwhelmed local organizations and immigration authorities.

Irsi Castillo clutches her 3-year-old daughter to her chest to shield her from the wind. They've just crossed the Rio Grande and stepped onto U.S. soil in El Paso, Texas, after traveling from Honduras.

Thousands of migrants like Castillo are crossing the border every day and turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. They're fleeing poverty and violence in Central America.

For Tijuana, the Central American caravans that arrived there in November have become a humanitarian challenge. For the Trump administration, they are a national security threat, as well as a potent and convenient symbol of why the United States needs stronger border security.

"We don't know who else is in that group," says Rodney Scott, chief of the San Diego Border Patrol Sector. "The sheer numbers indicate there are nefarious people within the caravans."

Americans love bananas. Each year, we eat more bananas than any other fruit. But banana growers use a lot of pesticides — and those chemicals could be hurting wildlife. As a new study shows, the pesticides are ending up in the bodies of crocodiles living near banana farms in Costa Rica, where many of the bananas we eat are grown.

When the Terraba tribe in Costa Rica rallied to oppose a hydroelectric dam they feared would destroy their land and their centuries-old culture, the indigenous community took a modern approach.

A series of fatal riots inside Mexican prisons last week and a deadly blaze at a penitentiary in Honduras are prompting calls for major penal reform in Central America.

Violence at three different penitentiaries in Mexico last week left 48 inmates dead, while the inferno in Honduras earlier this month killed 360 prisoners.

These deadly events underscore the problems of corruption, overcrowding, prison gangs and crumbling infrastructure that prisons face throughout the region.

Honduran officials said last week's prison fire that killed 360 was started by accident, when an inmate fell asleep with a lit cigarette. Previous reports in local media had pinned the blame on a prison riot and there had also been reports that inmates were shot at by guards.

The BBC reports that chief prosecutor Luis Alberto Rubi said autopsies of 277 inmates showed no evidence of gunshot wounds and that gasoline did not start the fire.

The BBC adds:

According to an internal government report sent to the United Nations and seen by the Associated Press, more than half the prisoners at the Comayagua jail in Honduras had not been convicted.

A late night fire on Tuesday, killed at least 356 people and left the country in mourning and the government grappling with a prison system that has long been criticized for its deplorable conditions.

A fire that swept through a prison in Honduras overnight has resulted in death of more than 300 people.

The AP reports that number was given by Lucy Marder, chief of forensic medicine for the prosecutors' office, during a press conference.

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