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Welcoming May with Open Americas! 

In the headlines: Fire in Brazil and Supreme Court Ruling, Nicaragua's ongoing protests, Puerto Rico's protests and government resignations, Guyana piracy problems, United States migrant caravan and Honduran TPS

A high-rise building and former police headquarters collapsed in a fire on Monday in São Paulo. The building was abandoned but home to many of the city’s homeless. The cause of the fire is unknown and one person is believed to have died. Activists have often used abandoned buildings in the center of the city to highlight the need for cheaper housing options within São Paulo.

On Thursday, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled to end federal lawmakers’ protection from prosecution. The ruling will allow lower state and federal courts to prosecute politicians, once the Supreme Court gives authority to the lower courts. Around half of Brazil’s 594 Congress members already face charges, but the decision also opens new pathways for prosecution. The ruling does not affect the executive branch or the tens of thousands other Brazilian government officials. At the same time, investigators issued 53 arrest warrants for powerful politicians and businessmen for their role in a money laundering ring that embezzled $1 billion into 52 different countries. These warrants are part of the “Cash Wash” investigation that has been going since 2014 and has convicted many of the nation’s leading politicians.

After weeks of protesting, the government and student protesters have agreed to negotiate. President Daniel Ortega withdrew his proposition to change the nation’s social security system shortly after the protests broke out, but the students are demanding more. The protesters want to see a new electoral council chosen, new presidential elections, top political leaders replaced, and killers of protesters brought to justice. However, not all Nicaraguans are against Ortega’s rule. In response to the 150,000 person protest held Saturday, tens of thousands Ortega supporters gathered in Managua to show their support for the President. Since the protests began on April 18, 63 people, mainly student protesters, have been killed and over 400 wounded in street clashes between the protesters and police.

Puerto Rico
Thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the street on Tuesday to protest school closures, pension cuts, tuition increases, and slow hurricane recovery efforts. Among the protesters were school teachers, unionized workers, retirees, and the city’s mayor. The protest was peaceful until protesters and police clashed. Protesters with their faces covered in bandanas threw rocks and other objects at the police, while the police used tear gas and rubber bullets to scatter the crowd. Several police officers were injured, and 13 protesters were arrested. The protest brings attention to the severity of the island’s 11 year recession and the looming austerity policies being ordered by the US Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico.

On Wednesday, Puerto Rico’s Chief of Staff William Villafane along with four other government officials resigned due to corruption accusations. Villafane asserts he is innocent and he has not yet been charged. A judge already resigned after discussing potential rulings in a group message on WhatsApp.

A dozen Guyanese fishermen are missing following a pirate attack off the coast of neighbor nation Suriname. Four of the fishermen escaped and swam to shore, and three bodies have been found. Many of the fishermen who are missing were forced to jump off the ships with weights tied to their legs. Guyana’s President David Granger is calling the attack a “massacre” and the two countries continue to search for the missing men. Piracy has been prevalent off the coast of Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela for a long time. On Wednesday, another boat was attacked by pirates where the captain was shot dead; the crew survived.

United States
The migrant caravan that once numbered 1,200 reached Mexico on Sunday after leaving Guatemala in March. Around 200 migrants were ready to seek asylum from US immigration officials, but they were told their claims were unprocessable and they were forced to spend their first night on the Mexican side of the border. On Monday, a few migrants were allowed to enter the United States to seek asylum, ending the standoff. US border officials allow only small groups to enter the United States at a time, as not to overwhelm the immigration attorneys and judges. As of Thursday, 158 migrants have been let into the United States. The migrant caravan consists of Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans who are all seeking to escape violence in their home countries.

The Trump administration ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans on Friday. The 57,000 Hondurans living in the United States under TPS have until January 2020 to leave the country or they will face deportation. Many of these people have lived in the United States since fleeing Honduras following Hurricane Mitch in 1999. The Department of Homeland Security cites the decision to end TPS to the improved conditions in Honduras following the hurricane. However, since the hurricane, Hondurans continue to flee to the United States to escape the nation’s prevalent gang violence and drug trafficking.

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