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Morning Brief

Mexico’s Other Border

Plus: Observers fear spiraling violence in Sudan, a scandal erupts in Brazil, and the other stories we're following today.

People cross from Guatemala to Mexico at the Talisman bridge in Chiapas State, Mexico, on June 7.
People cross from Guatemala to Mexico at the Talisman bridge in Chiapas State, Mexico, on June 7. PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Mexico still faces a U.S. tariff threat, observers grow concerned about spiraling violence in Sudan, and a scandal erupts over Lula’s prosecution in Brazil.

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Deal Could Depend on Mexico’s Southern Border

After striking a deal last week to avoid tariffs on all Mexican goods entering the United States, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump said it could still impose the tariffs if Mexico doesn’t do enough to curb illegal immigration. As it stands, Mexico has agreed to take in more U.S. asylum seekers while they wait for their applications to be processed and to send 6,000 members of its new national guard to reinforce its border with Guatemala.

The countries will likely revisit the agreement next month. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that the demand that Mexico be a “safe third country”—meaning that asylum seekers would be required to settle in Mexico—could be back on the table.

Will it work? The first part of the deal—expanding the program that lets U.S. asylum seekers await a decision in Mexico—is “unlikely to have much of an effect,” Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, wrote in an email. The program requires significant U.S. resources and currently faces a legal challenge.

“The success of the agreement will depend entirely on the success of Mexico’s enforcement efforts” at its own southern border, Pierce argued. Mexico’s national guard was created by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to tackle domestic crime, and its members aren’t trained as border patrol agents. Moving them to the border with Guatemala could end up costing López Obrador politically.

A regional agreement. Ebrard, the foreign minister, said Monday that another option is to involve other transit countries in the region—such as Guatemala, Panama, and Brazil—and convince them to host asylum seekers. Pierce contends that a regional agreement is a good goal, but one that comes with risks in politically unstable regimes. Asylum seekers could end up closer to where their journey began. “[I]f countries are unable or unwilling to properly accept and integrate their assigned refugee flows, there could be broader destabilizing effects,” she wrote.

What We’re Following Today

Nuclear diplomacy with Iran. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reaffirmed Europe’s commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal during a visit to Tehran on Monday. But the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is concerned: Iran has increased its production of enriched uranium as threatened, though it is not yet clear when it will surpass the limits set by the pact. President Hassan Rouhani is due to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday.

Observers mull Sudan policy. United Nations officials are concerned about spiraling violence in Sudan, where all agreements are off between the opposition and the military council ruling the country. The opposition said Monday that it plans to nominate its own transitional council. Meanwhile, regional powers like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have taken a behind-the-scenes role in the current government as violence has escalated; doctors reported 70 cases of rape by paramilitaries in addition to more than 100 deaths after they attacked protesters last week. Accused of inaction, the Trump administration is preparing to appoint an advisor on Sudan, Robbie Gramer and Justin Lynch report. In the meantime, Tibor Nagy, the assistant secretary of state for Africa, will travel to Sudan this week to call for an end to violence against civilians.

United States grounds Turkish pilots. The United States won’t meet with Turkey to reduce tensions over its plan to purchase Russian missile defense systems. Instead, the United States has officially grounded the Turkish pilots training on U.S. F-35 fighter jets and cut their access to sensitive data, Lara Seligman reports. The U.S. Department of Defense has given Turkey a July 31 deadline to scrap the deal with Russia.

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Keep an Eye On

Brazil’s justice minister. Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro is under fire after the Intercept released messages between then-judge Moro and prosecutors that have raised questions about his impartiality in the investigation that sent ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to prison. Lula was convicted on corruption charges in a far-reaching bribery probe. His lawyers say the new report should help overturn his sentence.

Istanbul’s mayoral debate. The two candidates competing in the rerun of Istanbul’s March mayoral election—which was declared invalid after a series of appeals by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), despite recounts showing that the opposition had won—will debate on TV later this week, the first event of its kind in Turkey since the early 2000s. Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition politician declared the winner of the first election, is polling ahead of the AKP candidate. The new election is set for June 23.

North Korean execution sites. A South Korea-based human rights group has identified at least 323 sites where North Korea carries out public executions, including those of purged elites. The report relies on surveys with 610 North Korean defectors, mostly from northern provinces. This month, there were reports of the execution of North Korean officials, but there are doubts about their accuracy.

Philippine death squads. Drug war tactics could be responsible for as many as 27,000 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, where they are the foundation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s counterinsurgency strategy. Human rights groups allege that security forces are now targeting the president’s political enemies, Nick Aspinwall writes for FP.

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Climate Check

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the government in South Africa, alleging that it has not done enough to combat dangerous levels of air pollution in an area south of Johannesburg. South Africa generates most of its electricity from coal-powered plants, making it the continent’s worst polluter.

Unusually hot and dry weather brought by El Niño has created a surplus of ripe mangoes in the Philippines, where the price of a kilogram has dropped by more than half. There is a glut of 2 million kilograms of mangoes on the island of Luzon alone.

Odds and Ends

Egypt is trying to stop the London sale of a bust of the pharaoh Tutankhamun, which it alleges may have been stolen from a temple in Luxor and smuggled out of the country. The auction by Christie’s is scheduled for next month. Egypt’s ministry of antiquities has recently stepped up its efforts to combat the sale of looted Egyptian artifacts around the world.

Officials in Vietnam say they are cracking down on importers seeking to circumvent U.S. tariffs by repackaging Chinese products with a “Made in Vietnam” label. The practice has become prevalent amid the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, which has increased investment in Vietnam.

Foreign Policy Recommends

Last Friday, the Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was arrested by police on drug charges widely seen as bogus. He reportedly suffered broken ribs and a concussion after being beaten while in custody. Following a massive outcry, Golunov was released under house arrest, but he still faces the charges—and up to 20 years in prison. Meduza, the Russia-focused news outlet Golunov worked for, has made some of his recent reporting on Moscow’s corrupt underbelly available under a creative commons license. You can read Golunov’s investigations hereAmy Mackinnon, staff writer

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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