Posts tagged americas
Posts tagged americas
Without medical professionals fluent in indigenous languages or without proper interpretation services in Mexican hospitals, there is a risk that patients will not be able to adequately describe what ails them, writes Yásnaya Aguilar in her regular blog column for EstePaís.
The road between the Guatemalan towns of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Quetzaltenango is guarded by a dozen thin, young, Mayan men in baseball caps and hooded sweatshirts, who mill around a truck parked across the road. “If you are from the mine,” the ringleader says, “you can’t come through.”
A mile or so away, the land falls away into a dust bowl, picked at by heavy machinery – the Marlin gold mine. All along the road, orange cliffs have collapsed onto the tarmac and the air is heavy with the stink of burnt clutches from the trucks that labour up the slope through the mountains, around 50km from Guatemala’s border with Mexico. The volcanic peaks are swaddled in gunsmoke drifts of cloud and patrolled by vultures; scattered settlements of adobe houses overlook a deep green patchwork of maize and coffee fields laid out across the ghosts of old Mayan terraces.
The Mayan Mam village of Agel hangs precariously over the edge of the pit. Crisanta Pérez’s house on the edge of the settlement clings to a steep slope that runs down to a long, turquoise tailings pond.
An intense, soft-spoken woman, “Doña Crisanta” is the figurehead of a peaceful resistance in San Miguel Ixtahuacán that has formed to protest the mine’s continued presence. Dubbed terrorists and enemies of progress by the state, the Frente de Defensa Miguelense is one of several Mayan-led protest groups across Guatemala that are facing down assassinations, detention and intimidation to stop their land becoming part of a continent-wide rush for resources.
“My family and I have been intimidated and criminalised,” Pérez says. “But I won’t give up. Who is going to do it, if not me?”
Pérez and her fellow community leaders say that the Marlin mine has contaminated the water sources that they use to wash and irrigate their crops and that the subterranean explosions have caused houses to collapse – charges that the mine’s owners, the Canadian firm Goldcorp, deny. Newsweek was shown evidence of skin conditions and severe neurological diseases that local health workers believe are the result of heavy metal poisoning, but, without independent medical assessment, their claims are hard to verify.
For the majority, the economic opportunities that the mine promised never materialised. Many, like the men manning the roadblock, sold their land and bought trucks, hoping to haul for the mine – their vehicles, daubed with religious icons, sit idle by the road. The Mayans’ anger goes deeper than individual grievances, however. The Mam, one of several Mayan nations in Guatemala, make up the majority in San Marcos. They number around 650,000 in the western highlands. On the other side of the mine, another nation, the Sipakapa, are also actively resisting the development. Both groups say that they were never consulted before work began on the pit, that their land was simply taken by a central government that does not represent them. This, they say, marks the continuation of centuries of marginalisation and discrimination – what rights they have won have proved secondary to the demands of commerce.
The Mam and Sipakapa see the mine, the government and private security firms as one entity that work together against them. “They have created a social monopoly. The mine comes to divide us, it causes conflict, psychological trauma, social repression,” says Rolando Cruz, a leader of the Movimiento de Resistencia Sipakapense, a resistance group in nearby San Isídro. “And they did not consult us.”
Téodora Hernandez was shot in the head and left blind in one eye by two men who came to ask her why she would not let a road pass through her land. Francisco Javier Hernandez Peréz, a leading voice opposing the development, was doused in petrol and set alight in 2011 by hooded men who identified themselves as supporters of the mine. His wife, Victoría Yóc, witnessed the attack; her neighbours heard her screaming across the mountains. Others have stories of near misses: Miguel Angél Bámaca, a health worker who has documented cases of suspected poisoning, was shot at in his home.The Mayans’ response has been escalating levels of protest and direct action. They have blocked roads, seized mine equipment and led demonstrations against company activities. Their campaign has been met with startling levels of violence.
Often, the violence is perpetrated by members of their own communities. The limited opportunities that the mine offers have created a powerful incentive for the few beneficiaries – Cruz calls them “traitors” – to crack down on dissent. The brutality has only hardened the resistance’s resolve.
“I’m never going to shut up,” says Victor Vicente Pérez, a Mam community leader. “I know I have the right to speak the truth … The [mineworkers] have tried to intimidate me with rumours that one day soon I’ll disappear, but I know I’m fighting for my rights and I’m willing to die for that.”
Marlin is one of over 100 metal mines currently operating in Guatemala. There are close to 350 active licences for exploration or production, with nearly 600 pending as the government, supported by the international financial institutions, promotes the sector as a way to raise revenues. Only 2% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is based on mining, and the government hopes that the sector may offer a chance at rapid economic growth. Around 75% of the population lives below the poverty line. Infant and child mortality rates are high, and around 50% of children are malnourished.
"Big explosion at Santiago subway described as “terrorist act” by Chilean government."
A woman who lost the fingers on her right hand, and a 35-year-old who suffered abdominal trauma were the most seriously injured.
Teargas, rifles, suppression: The most outrageous police tactics in Ferguson.
MONDAY - Eric Schlosser joins us to talk about his new book Command and Control, about the secret management and mismanagement of the United States’ nuclear arsenal.
Schlosser is also the author of Fast Food Nation.
This Last Week Tonight piece serves as a funny and informative primer for today’s interview (and features our guest).
PS. Here’s our recent interview with John Oliver.
One thing that is clear as you as you descend on Managua is that Nicaragua is an astonishingly beautiful country.
The fault lines that run below it have over thousands of years and in violent fits, created a severe landscape dotted with gargling volcanoes, jagged…
PEDRO RODRÍGUEZ, head of Nicaragua’s youth-affairs police, grabs the shoulder of 17-year-old Axel Matus and gives it a shake. “He was one of our worst cases,”…
Human rights groups blast Obama’s plan to open more immigrant family detention centers
June 23, 2014
The Obama administration on Friday announced a plan to open new detention facilities to house families apprehended while crossing the southwest border, drawing criticism from congressional Democrats and immigrant rights groups who say there are more humane ways to handle migrants.
“Human rights require that detention be the last resort, not the first,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin in a statement. “Families should be moved out of detention as soon as possible and be released under humane and reasonable supervision, including community-based alternatives to detention which have proven to be cost-effective and efficient.”
The push for ramped-up detention is the federal government’s response to an unprecedented surge of migrant children crossing the US-Mexico border, which both Democrats and Republicans are calling a humanitarian crisis. The plan also calls for more judges and immigration officials in the area to expedite deportation proceedings. While the majority of children detained near the border are traveling alone, the new detention centers will specifically house children who came with families.
Clara Long, an immigration policy researcher at Human Rights Watch told The Nation, “We’re really concerned that, especially where children are detained, that these centers will not be under compliance with international law.”
“The underlying approach to such a program should be ‘care’ and not ‘detention,’” Long said, stressing children under detention should have access to education, legal aid, counseling and recreation. Alternatives to detention, such as electronic monitoring via ankle bracelets, should be considered, Long added.
US Border Patrol says it has captured 47,000 unaccompanied minors since October 1 and estimates say that number could reach 90,000 by the end of this fiscal year. Most of the minors arrived from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, countries plagued by rampant gang violence. Researchers for the UN human rights commissioner for refugees found that many of the children crossing the border are fleeing threats of violence in their home countries. Fifty-eight percent of 400 unaccompanied minors interviewed by researchers “raise potential international protection needs.” UNHCR guidelines minors who are seeking asylum “should not, as a general rule, be detained.”
“As a human rights organization, it bothers us that they see detention as the only option. It doesn’t matter how many more beds they have, this will continue to happen,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Texas-based Border Network For Human Rights. “We need policy solutions, not just infrastructure.”
Garcia told The Nation that the federal government should find a way to grant asylum to migrants fleeing violence in their home countries. There should also be legal path for migrants to reunite with families are already living in the US, he added.
Congressional Democrats, including Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Luiz Guiterrez (D-IL), also spoke out against the detention plan. In a statement offered to BuzzFeed, Senator Menendez said, “Using up our nation’s resources to jail families will not be a deterrent—these kids are fleeing violence and are willing to risk their lives to cross the border. The threat of a jail will not stop these families from coming here. Instead, we need to fully address the root causes of the crisis.”
On Thursday, Senator Menendez released a twenty-point plan to address the border crisis. The plan recommends Obama administration to continue cracking down on human smugglers and traffickers taking advantage of the surge. It also calls for increased efforts to provide detainee children with legal representation.
To demonstrate opposition to the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup, protests, strikes and direct actions have been sweeping Brazil in massive numbers. Occupying a space next to Arena Corinthians in São Paolo, where the first match will be held, over 10,000 people are protesting in the name of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MTST). Around the rest of Brazil, such as in Rio de Janeiro, countless others are organizing smaller protests against the government.
Their slogan is #NãoVaiTerCopa, or “There will be no Cup.” MTST coordinator Maria das Dores Cirqueira summarizes their grievances telling the LA Times, “When the government told us we would host the World Cup, we hoped there would be improvements for us. But they aren’t putting on a Cup for the people, they’re putting on a Cup for the gringos.”
Three more killed in Venezuela unrest, students battle troops. Violence began when National Guard troops blocked opposition marchers from leaving Plaza Venezuela to head to the state ombudsman’s office.
Aboriginal rights a threat to Canada’s natural resource agenda, documents reveal
March 3, 2014
The Canadian government is increasingly worried that the growing clout of aboriginal peoples’ rights could obstruct its aggressive resource development plans, documents reveal.
Since 2008, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs has run a risk management program to evaluate and respond to “significant risks” to its agenda, including assertions of treaty rights, the rising expectations of aboriginal peoples, and new legal precedents at odds with the government’s policies.
Yearly government reports obtained by the Guardian predict that the failure to manage the risks could result in more “adversarial relations” with aboriginal peoples, “public outcry and negative international attention,” and “economic development projects [being] delayed.”
“There is a risk that the legal landscape can undermine the ability of the department to move forward in its policy agenda,” one Aboriginal Affairs’ report says. “There is a tension between the rights-based agenda of Aboriginal groups and the non-rights based policy approaches” of the federal government.
The Conservative government is planning in the next ten years to attract $650 billion of investment to mining, forestry, gas and oil projects, much of it on or near traditional aboriginal lands.
Critics say the government is determined to evade Supreme Court rulings that recognize aboriginal peoples’ rights to a decision-making role in, even in some cases jurisdiction over, resource development in large areas of the country.
“The Harper government is committed to a policy of extinguishing indigenous peoples’ land rights, instead of a policy of recognition and co-existence,” said Arthur Manuel, chair of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, which has lead an effort to have the economic implications of aboriginal rights identified as a financial risk.
“They are trying to contain the threat that our rights pose to business-as-usual and the expansion of dirty energy projects. But our legal challenges and direct actions are creating economic uncertainty and risk, raising the heat on the government to change its current policies.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs declined to answer the Guardian’s questions, but sent a response saying the risk reports are compiled from internal reviews and “targeted interviews with senior management in those areas experiencing significant change.”
“The [corporate risk profile] is designed as an analytical tool for planning and not a public document. A good deal of [its] content would only be understandable to those working for the department as it speaks to the details of the operations of specific programs.”
Last year Canada was swept by the aboriginal-led Idle No More protest movement, building on years of aboriginal struggles against resource projects, the most high-profile of which has targeted Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry Alberta tar sands to the western coast of British Columbia.
“Native land claims scare the hell out of investors,” an analyst with global risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group has noted, concluding that First Nations opposition and legal standing has dramatically decreased the chances the Enbridge pipeline will be built.
In British Columbia and across the country, aboriginal peoples’ new assertiveness has been backed by successive victories in the courts.
According to a report released in November by Virginia-based First Peoples Worldwide, the risk associated with not respecting aboriginal peoples’ rights over lands and resources is emerging as a new financial bubble for extractive industries.
The report anticipates that as aboriginal peoples become better connected through digital media, win broader public support, and mount campaigns that more effectively impact business profits, failures to uphold aboriginal rights will carry an even higher risk.
The Aboriginal Affairs’ documents describe how a special legal branch helps the Ministry monitor and “mitigate” the risks posed by aboriginal court cases.
The federal government has spent far more fighting aboriginal litigation than any other legal issue – including $106 million in 2013, a sum that has grown over the last several years.
A special envoy appointed in 2013 by the Harper government to address First Nations opposition to energy projects in western Canada recentlyrecommended that the federal government move rapidly to improve consultation and dialogue.
To boost support for its agenda, the government has considered offeringbonds to allow First Nations to take equity stakes in resource projects. This is part of a rising trend of provincial governments and companies signing “benefit-sharing” agreements with First Nations to gain access to their lands, while falling short of any kind of recognition of aboriginal rights or jurisdiction.
Since 2007, the government has also turned to increased spying, creating a surveillance program aimed at aboriginal communities deemed “hot spots” because of their involvement in protest and civil disobedience against unwanted extraction on their lands.
Over the last year, the Harper government has cut funding to national, regional and tribal aboriginal organizations that provide legal services and advocate politically on behalf of First Nations, raising cries that it is trying to silence growing dissent.
Honduras has become the ideal transit spot for international drug traffickers. Reporting about crime under this environment has become increasingly dangerous.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the unmanned aircraft’s march into U.S. skies.
The agency said Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia as states that will host research sites.
Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market. Many universities are starting or expanding drone programs.
“These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation’s skies,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. (Photo: Handout/Amazon)
Michelle Bachelet won Chile’s presidential elections with about 62 percent of voter support on Sunday, the highest share for any presidential candidate since the country returned to democratic elections in 1989.
Tax reform, which includes raising corporate taxes to 25 percent from 20 percent, is likely to be the first goal for Bachelet. Education and health reforms are next. Good-quality schooling is generally only available to those who can afford to pay for it; massive student protests hurt the popularity of outgoing conservative President Sebastian Pinera. If Bachelet waters down her promises or if she faces challenges in Congress, she could face more protests herself.
As well as an ambitious social spending program, Bachelet pledged to reduce the deficit from 1 percent of gross domestic product to zero by 2018.
Photo: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
Protestors and police clash in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, following peaceful rallies in support of teachers on strike.