Tijuana, Jan 3 (AP/UNB) — Just after people raised their glasses to ring in the New Year, about 150 migrants gathered at a section of border wall in Tijuana to try to cross into the United States, many of them asylum seekers fed up with the long wait to have their claims processed.
On the other side, U.S. Border Patrol agents wearing camouflage and night-vision goggles and carrying assault-style rifles yelled, "Don't jump. It's dangerous. Get back!" in Spanish. American activists accompanying the migrants shouted at agents in English not to fire tear gas because children were present.
Several migrants tried to climb the metal wall, prompting agents to fire the first volley of tear gas. When migrants approached the wall again, authorities fired a second round and then a third.
The migrants fled, screaming, crying and coughing. One mother was hysterical after briefly losing her children in the thick smoke and darkness.
"The children were crying," said Jose Fajardo Anariba, 16, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. "They couldn't tolerate it."
Tuesday's confrontation was at least the second time in a little over a month that U.S. authorities have fired tear gas into Tijuana. The action drew sharp criticism from politicians and activists on both sides of the border and raised questions about the use of force against migrants.
Instead of offering the asylum seekers protection, "border agents are firing tear gas at vulnerable families with children," Andrea Guerrero, head of the advocacy group, Alliance San Diego, said in a statement.
At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday at the White House, President Donald Trump said the clash showed that "people tried to charge the border and couldn't." With a complete wall, no one could enter unless that person was a "champion pole vaulter."
He described the border as being "like a sieve" and noted that the tear gas was "flying" to deter the migrants and added that it's "very tough" to keep immigrants out.
Trump was making his case for $5.6 billion from Congress for a wall at the border and vowing that the partial government shutdown now in its 12th day will last "as long as it takes" to get the money.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said tear gas, pepper spray and smoke were used to target rock throwers, not the migrants who were trying to cross. The agency said it could not help small children who were being passed over the concertina wire from getting hurt because of the rocks being thrown.
Several teenagers, wrapped in heavy jackets, blankets and rubber mats, were also put over the concertina wire.
An Associated Press photographer saw rocks thrown only after U.S. agents fired the tear gas. Customs and Border Protection said the incident would be reviewed to ensure compliance with the agency's use-of-force policy.
The agency said 25 migrants were detained while others crawled back into Mexico through a hole under the fence. An AP photographer saw migrants put their hands up or behind their heads once they crossed the border as agents approached.
Anariba said he would try to climb the border wall again. His mother was killed in Honduras, and he has nothing in his homeland, he said.
Since a caravan of Central Americans arrived in Tijuana last month after walking, hitchhiking and taking buses across Mexico, daily apprehensions in the San Diego sector have jumped about 45 percent. Agents are now detaining about 150 migrants a day, compared with about 105 daily in 2018, authorities said.
Many of the migrants are waiting in Tijuana for a chance to apply for asylum in the U.S., but there was a backlog of more than 3,000 names at the San Diego crossing before the caravan's arrival.
A few have found jobs in Mexico and tried to settle there. But thousands are still camped in a concert hall in Tijuana, growing increasingly frustrated at the long wait to apply for asylum.
On Nov. 26, U.S. agents launched tear gas across the border after some migrants tried to breach the border following a peaceful march in Tijuana. The march was to demand U.S. authorities accelerate the asylum process.
U.S. officials are processing fewer than 100 claims a day at the San Diego crossing, the nation's busiest.
Use of force by Customs and Border Protection has declined from a high during the 2013 budget year, when firearms were used 45 times compared with 14 times during the first 11 months of 2018, government statistics show. Since then officers have been trained to use less lethal methods such as batons, pepper spray and tear gas.
The data includes Border Patrol agents who patrol between the ports of entry and officers who police border crossings. The latest figures, which do not include this month's incidents, also show a dramatic drop in the use of less-lethal methods compared with 2013.
Seattle, Jan 2 (AP/UNB) — Washington on Tuesday joined a handful of other states that ban anyone under 21 from buying a semi-automatic assault rifle after voters passed a sweeping firearms measure in November that has drawn a court challenge from gun-rights advocates.
The ballot initiative seeks to curb gun violence by toughening background checks for people buying assault rifles, increasing the age limit to buy those firearms and requiring the safe storage of all guns. Only the age-limit portion of the measure goes into effect on Jan. 1; the rest becomes law on July 1.
Kristen Ellingboe, a spokeswoman for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said the initiative was one of the most comprehensive gun-violence prevention measures to pass in the United States. It specifically targeted "semi-automatic assault rifles" in response to mass shootings across the country, she said.
"We've seen that assault rifles are the weapon of choice for mass shootings, and when they're used, more people are killed and injured," Ellingboe said.
Fifty-nine percent of Washington voters approved Initiative 1639 in the Nov. 6 general election.
"We've see time and again that Washington voters want action to prevent gun violence in our state," Ellingboe said. "They showed that again by supporting 1639 by a wide margin."
Opponents have sued to block it.
"Starting today, young adults between the ages of 18 to 20 will have their rights to purchase semi-automatic rifles stripped away," said Dave Workman, a spokesman for the Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation.
The federal lawsuit says the measure violates the Second and 14th amendments of the Constitution as well as gun sellers' rights under the Commerce Clause. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are firearms dealers in Spokane and Vancouver, a 19-year-old competitive shooter, a 19-year-old in the Army Reserves, a 20-year-old recreational shooter, the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he "looks forward to representing the people of the state of Washington in court against the NRA."
"The gun lobby is trying to thwart the will of nearly 60 percent of Washingtonian voters who supported common sense gun reform in our state," he said in an email.
The full measure, when it goes into effect later this year, will expand the background check process to ensure that vetting for rifle purchases is the same as for buying pistols.
Now, people in Washington who buy long guns are run through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Background checks for handgun sales are done by local law enforcement agencies that can access NICS as well as more detailed records that might expose mental health issues or harder-to-find criminal records. And you must be 21 to purchase a pistol.
"This will update Washington state law so the requirements to purchase semi-automatic assault rifle will match handguns," Ellingboe said.
In most states, including over the border in Idaho and Oregon, you must be 18 to buy an assault rifle. But Republican-dominant Florida passed a law after a school shooting to increase the age limit to 21.
Nikolas Cruz was 18 when he legally bought the assault rifle he used to kill 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last February.
Four other states — Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont and New York — also prohibit anyone under 21 from buying all firearms.
Workman of Second Amendment Foundation says Washington's measure will take away firearms from law-abiding residents who can easily pass multiple background checks. It will impair public safety and embolden criminals while placing restrictions on people who already legally own semi-automatic rifles, Workman said.
Mexico City, Jan 2 (AP/UNB)— The governor of Mexico's southern state of Oaxaca is condemning the slaying of a local mayor shortly after he took office.
Gov. Alejandro Murat confirmed the killing of Tlaxiaco Mayor Alejandro Aparicio Santiago via his Twitter account Tuesday. He promised a thorough investigation and said a suspect was already in custody.
The state prosecutor's office said in a statement that Aparicio had just been sworn in and was headed to a meeting at city hall when an unknown number of gunmen opened fire at him. He was taken to a hospital, but died there later.
Four other people were wounded in the attack.
Tlaxiaco is the hometown of Yalitza Aparicio, star of the film "Roma." It was not immediately known if she was related to the victim.
Tijuana, Jan 2 (AP/UNB) — U.S. authorities fired tear gas into Mexico during the first hours of the new year to repel about 150 migrants who tried to breach the border fence in Tijuana.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement later Tuesday that the gas was used to target rock throwers apart from the migrants who were trying to cross.
"No agents witnessed any of the migrants at the fence line, including children, experiencing effects of the chemical agents, which were targeted at the rock throwers further away," the statement said.
An Associated Press photographer saw at least three volleys of gas launched onto the Mexican side of the border near Tijuana's beach that affected the migrants, including women and children, as well as journalists. The AP saw rocks thrown only after U.S. agents fired the tear gas.
The agency said agents saw "toddler sized children" being passed over concertina wire with difficulty. It said its agents could not assist the children because of the rocks being thrown. Agents responded with smoke, pepper spray and tear gas, it said. The AP journalist also saw plastic pellets fired by U.S. agents.
The agency said 25 migrants were detained while others crawled back into Mexico through a hole under the fence.
Customs and Border Protection said that under its use of force policy the incident would be reviewed by its Office of Professional Responsibility.
Migrants who spoke with AP said they arrived in Tijuana last month with the caravan from Honduras.
The caravan, which left Honduras in mid-October, grew to more than 6,000 members during its month-and-a-half trek north. It has been a constant target of President Donald Trump, who referred to it frequently in the run-up to U.S. mid-term elections in November.
Many of the migrants are waiting in Tijuana for a chance to apply for asylum in the U.S., but there was a backlog before the caravan's arrival and the wait is expected to be many months. Others have found jobs in Mexico and tried to settle there.
In a previous incident, U.S. agents launched tear gas across the border after some migrants tried to breach the border following a peaceful march in Tijuana on Nov. 26. Hundreds of migrants who were downwind of the gas were affected.
Trump is currently locked in a fight with congressional Democrats over funding for the border wall that he wants to build. The stalemate has led to a partial government shutdown.
Brasilia, Jan 2 (AP/UNB) — Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in as Brazil's president Tuesday, taking the reins of Latin America's largest and most populous nation with promises to overhaul myriad aspects of daily life and put an end to business-as-usual governing.
For the far-right former army captain, the New Year's Day inauguration was the culmination of a journey from a marginalized and even ridiculed congressman to a leader who many Brazilians hope can combat endemic corruption as well as violence that routinely gives the nation the dubious distinction of being world leader in total homicides.
A fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, the 63-year-old longtime congressman rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-gun agenda that has energized conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers' Party.
Bolsonaro was the latest of several far-right leaders around the globe who have come to power by riding waves of anger at the establishment and promising to ditch the status quo.
"Congratulations to President @jairbolsonaro who just made a great inauguration speech," Trump tweeted. "The U.S.A. is with you!"
Tuesday's festivities in the capital of Brasilia began with a motorcade procession along the main road leading to Congress and other government buildings. Bolsonaro and his wife, Michelle, stood up in an open-top Rolls-Royce and waved to thousands of onlookers.
They were surrounded by dozens of guards on horses and plain-clothes bodyguards who ran beside the car.
Once inside Congress, Bolsonaro and his vice president, retired Gen. Hamilton Mourao, took the oath of office. Bolsonaro then read a short speech that included many of the far-right positions he staked out during the campaign.
He promised to combat the "ideology of gender" teaching in schools, "respect our Judeo-Christian tradition" and "prepare children for the job market, not political militancy."
"I call on all congressmen to help me rescue Brazil from corruption, criminality and ideological submission," he said.
A short time later, Bolsonaro spoke to thousands of supporters outside, promising to "free Brazil" from socialism and political correctness.
As he spoke, supporters began to chant "Myth! Myth! Myth!"— a nickname that began years ago with internet memes of Bolsonaro and became more common during last year's campaign. Bolsonaro's middle name is Messias, or Messiah in English, and many supporters believe he was chosen by God to lead Brazil, an assertion bolstered after Bolsonaro survived a stabbing during a campaign rally in September.
During Tuesday's speech, Bolsonaro stopped at one point, pulled out a Brazilian flag and wildly waved it, prompting roars from the crowd.
"Our flag will never be red," Bolsonaro said, a reference to communism. "Our flag will only be red if blood is needed to keep it green and yellow."
Brasilia was under tight security, with 3,000 police patrolling the event. Military tanks, fighter jets and even anti-aircraft missiles also were deployed. Journalists were made to arrive at locations seven hours before festivities began, and many complained on Twitter of officials confiscating food they had brought for the wait.
The increased security came at Bolsonaro's request. His intestine was pierced when a knife-wielding man stabbed and nearly killed him, and today Bolsonaro wears a colostomy bag. His sons, politicians themselves, had insisted their father could be targeted by radicals, but security officials have not spoken of threats.
Bolsonaro did little moderating since being elected in October, with progressives and liberals decrying stances that they say are homophobic, sexist and racist.
The new president, who spent nearly three decades in Congress, has also drawn international criticism for his plans to roll back regulations in the Amazon and his disinterest in social programs in a country that is one of the world's most unequal in terms of income.
On the economic front, where Bolsonaro will ultimately lead Latin America's largest economy is unknown, as during the campaign he reversed course from previous statist stances with pledges to lead market-friendly reforms. He also promised to overhaul Brazil's pension system and privatize several state-owned companies, which gave him wide support among financial players.
On Tuesday, Bolsonaro reiterated his commitment to fighting crime in a nation that has long led the world in annual homicides. More than 63,000 people were killed last year.
He wants to tackle the problems in part by shielding police who kill during an operation from criminal prosecution.
"We are counting on Congress to provide the judicial support so police can do their jobs," Bolsonaro said, signaling that he may soon submit legislation that would allow police to be tried outside the criminal system.
Human rights groups fear that defense of police violence could shield officers from investigations of misconduct and lead to more extrajudicial killings.
The most notable foreign leaders who attended were associated with far-right movements: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Leftist Presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Miguel Díaz-Canel of Cuba, deemed dictators by Bolsonaro, were uninvited by Bolsonaro's team after the foreign ministry sent them invitations. Leftist President Evo Morales of Bolivia, however, was invited and warmly embraced Bolsonaro after the ceremony. The United States was represented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Seven of Bolsonaro's 22 Cabinet ministers are former military personnel, more than in any administration during Brazil's 1964-1985 dictatorship. That has sparked fears among his adversaries of a return to autocratic rule, but Bolsonaro insists he will respect the country's constitution.
Riordan Roett, a professor and director emeritus of Latin American Studies at Johns Hopkins University, noted that generals have administration skills that can be useful in government.
"The danger is that as a former low-ranking military officer, (Bolsonaro) will be swayed by some of the generals to come down hard on criminality, drug dealers, etc., and that may cause a backlash and many innocent people could be caught in the crossfire," Roett said.
Bolsonaro's Liberal and Social Party will have 52 seats in Brazil's 513-member lower house, the second largest bloc behind the Workers' Party.
Gary Hufbauer of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington-based think tank, said a central challenge for Bolsonaro will be curbing spending and entitlements, no easy task given the makeup of Congress and entrenched interests.
"Bolsonaro needs some quick successes to get off on the right foot with the public and the political elites," said Hufbauer, adding that a failure to do that would likely reduce Bolsonaro's honeymoon period to six months.