Regional Expert Paper Series

Regional Expert Paper Series

The Regional Expert Series is an initiative to CeMeCA that seeks to make timely academic research within and about Central America and Mexico accessible to broad, interdisciplinary, and multilingual publics.

  • For Researchers: We publish short empirical papers, reports or briefs that explain contemporary conditions in the region. The series is committed to rigorous peer-review while facilitating timely dissemination of pressing social, political and institutional issues in Mexico and Central America. All publications are published open-access and in English and Spanish.
  • For Central American and Mexican Research Centers: This initiative aims to translate select reports, papers, and data from research centers in Central America and Mexico that would otherwise not be available to an English language audience. Researchers and research centers retain copyrights.
  • For the Public: The initiative aims to produce high quality, accessible data from the region that is useful to academics, journalists, policy makers, attorneys, students and others with an interest in understanding the nuanced conditions in Central America and Mexico.

The Expert Series is curated by anthropologists Amelia Frank-Vitale (Princeton) and Lauren Heidbrink (CSU-Long Beach), under the direction of CeMeCA director Nara Milanich. To contribute, please see our CFP and email: Amelia Frank-Vitale at [email protected] and Lauren Heidbrink at [email protected].

For more information about the series, please see this Call for Papers.

1. Conditions of Children and Youth in Guatemala

​​Over the last decade, Guatemalan minors have been the largest group of migrant young people entering Mexico and the United States. This report illustrates the complex structural reasons spurring young people’s migration from Guatemala. It examines the underlying conditions of children’s lives in Guatemala, highlighting the relevant laws, policies, and institutional practices that shape the everyday lives of children and youth and lead to their migration. It pays particular attention to Indigenous children and youth, who make up an estimated 70 to 95% of young people (accompanied and unaccompanied) migrating from and deported to Guatemala. Drawing from the authors’ experiences in Guatemala as researchers, attorneys, and practitioners, the report explains how ‘laws on the books’ may conflict with ‘laws in practice,’ identifying where the Guatemalan government is either unwilling or unable to ensure basic protections and rights.

2. Political Repression, State-Sponsored Violence, and Risks to Government Opponents in Nicaragua Under the Ortega- Murillo Regime

When Daniel Ortega returned to the presidency in Nicaragua in 2007, winning elections over two decades after he and the revolutionary Sandinista regime left power, many in Nicaragua and abroad were hopeful. However, Ortega gradually dismantled Nicaragua’s fragile democracy, establishing a competitive authoritarian regime in which political competition and freedoms of speech and assembly were restricted to ensure that Ortega and his FSLN party could not lose power—though state violence remained relatively limited. When popular protests erupted in 2018, this changed; the government launched waves of brutal violence against protesters and suspected government opponents. This paper examines the Ortega-Murillo government’s gradual dismantling of Nicaragua’s fragile democracy, the establishment of a competitive authoritarian regime, the recent intensification of political violence, and what this means for Nicaragua, Latin America, and democracy as a whole. 

3. Reforms to Criminal Justice and the Anti-Corruption System in Honduras

The Centro de Estudio para la Democracia (CESPAD), with support from Open Society Foundations (OSF), carried out archival and empirical research from February 2021 to September 2021 focusing on the development of proposals to reform public policies in the area of criminal justice and the design of the national anti-corruption system in Honduras. This research investigates three elements: the main legislative obstacles to legal anti-corruption action; the alternatives or possibilities for the legal and institutional dismantling of those obstacles, through reforms or laws; and proposals for the legal or institutional design of an effective national anti-corruption system, taking the recent report of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) on Corruption and Human Rights (2019) as a reference.

4. The Democracy Crisis in El Salvador: An Overview (2019-2022)

This paper examines the current democratic breakdown in El Salvador, identifying factors and events in the country from 2019 to 2022 that have led to democratic backsliding, the process by which democracy as a political system loses traction. Indicators of backsliding show that El Salvador’s shared characteristics of liberal democracy — free and fair electoral procedures accessible to all; freedoms of the press, to assembly, and to express political opinions; the rule of law; and basic human rights protections — are in peril. Given the events of the last several years under President Nayib Bukele, El Salvador’s regime more closely resembles democratic failure facilitated by populist authoritarianism rather than one of democratizing momentum that it embodied in the first part of the twenty-first century.


Atrocity Crimes Against Migrant Children and Families in the United States: An Accountability Framework for Family Separation

In the spring of 2018, United States citizens bore witness to the unfathomable: children, toddlers, and even breastfeeding infants were ripped screaming from their parents’ arms by U.S. immigration officials and then disappeared into government detention. The events that took place shocked the collective conscience, moving American mothers to march with their children to government immigration offices across the country to demand a halt to the program. The global community cannot allow the Trump Administration’s policy of family separation to be accepted as a legitimate government immigration policy. Instead, it is imperative to recognize that the policy of family separation, and the manner in which parent-child separations were carried out, constitute crimes against humanity.

6. Indigenous Education and COVID-19 in Guatemala 

The majority of youths migrating from Guatemala to the United States are Indigenous. This is significant. Indigenous identity influences the types of social and structural barriers youth confront in their home communities, as well as their experiences on the migrant trail and in the United States. The ways indigeneity impacts youth migrants and their premigration experiences is particularly relevant when considering their educational pathways in Guatemala. This paper aims to clarify the educational conditions for Indigenous children and youth in Guatemala. In this article, the author outlines the enduring history of Indigenous disenfranchisement in the public education system and presents the logics and rationales of non-attendance for Indigenous families. To conclude with an update on how the COVID-19 pandemic has had lasting and injurious effects on Indigenous youth and their educational opportunities.