dorset chiapas solidarity

March 31, 2016

Indigenous leader murdered in San Cristobal de Las Casas

Filed under: Indigenous, sipaz, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:47 am

 

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 Indigenous leader murdered in San Cristobal de Las Casas

 

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Commemoration in Peace Square. Photo: @El Universal

On March 24, Juan Carlos Jimenez Velasco, leader of the Independent Confederation of Organizations of Civil Association (Confederación Independiente de Organizaciones Asociación Civil – CIO-AC) and member of the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE), was found dead in San Cristobal de Las Casas. According to a CNTE report, the 35-year-old teacher was murdered by a group of hooded persons while in his vehicle. Jimenez Velasco “led the struggle of 50 families expelled from the Santa Catarina Colony in San Cristobal de Las Casas, by members of the Association of Leaseholders of the Traditional Market of that city (ALMETRACH) and the Coordination of Organizations for the Environment for a Better Chiapas (COMACH).” The CNTE indicated that the expulsion of the families was the result of an order from the Town Hall. Jimenez Velasco took part in the takeover of some 20 hectares of land of the former Indigenous National Institute (INI) more than three years ago. This resulted in a dispute over these lands and some months ago the victim and his family received various death threats. According to official sources, “the authorities had set up a negotiating table to try to find a solution to the dispute over the lands, but the groups against Jimenez Velasco broke [the dialogue] and threatened him with death, so they had him in their sights until they killed him.”

The Attorney General for Justice for the State has made no arrests nor identified the killers to date. Teachers from Chiapas blamed ALMETRACH along with the Town Hall of San Cristobal and the state and federal governments for the events. Rebeca Silvia Perez Lopez, widow of Jimenez Velasco and who is seven months pregnant, blamed the crime on members of COMACH. While demanding justice, she said that she feared for her safety. On March 26 last, social organizations, democratic teachers from the region, and the family of Jimenez Velasco said their last goodbyes to a teacher who demanded justice and protested against all types of violence.

 

https://sipazen.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/chiapas-indigenous-leader-murdered-in-san-cristobal-de-las-casas/

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Speaker’s Constituents Denounce Council’s Luxury Housing Vote in East Harlem

Filed under: Displacement, Movement for Justice in el Barrio — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:18 am

 

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Speaker’s Constituents Denounce Council’s Luxury Housing Vote in East Harlem

 

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Members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio protest on Wednesday March 23 outside a “Landlord Resource Fair” hosted by the de Blasio administration in East Harlem. The rally came one day after the City Council approved a controversial rezoning plan that will allow developers to build more luxury housing in 15 low-income neighbourhoods across the City including East Harlem. Photo: Jill Dowling

 

By Liz Roberts March 29, 2016

As Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito were rallying in Foley Square, celebrating the passage of their affordable housing plan Wednesday evening, East Harlem residents gathered to denounce what they refer to as the mayor’s “luxury housing plan.”

In response, Teresa Tapia, member of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, said “This plan is nothing more than a land grab for the rich, and now they are celebrating it. It’s shameful.”

On Tuesday, the City Council voted in favor of two zoning amendments that are the cornerstones of the mayor’s housing plan and pave the way for rezoning in fifteen communities citywide, which are composed of predominately poor and black and Latino residents. East Harlem is one of these communities.

East Harlem residents responded to the City Council vote by holding their own rally Wednesday evening, denouncing the plan outside the “Landlord Resource Fair” hosted by the de Blasio administration. “We are here outside of this fair in East Harlem which the mayor’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development has organized to offer support and resources to landlords,” said Ms. Tapia. “This demonstrates yet again and very clearly that the mayor favours wealthy landlords over poor tenants.” This was met with a chant of “Listen up, de Blasio! We will not be moved!” led by area resident Josefina Salazar, whose children stood at her side chanting and holding signs that read “East Harlem Tenants Against de Blasio’s Luxury Housing Plan.”

Ms. Salazar laid out the reasons she and her neighbours oppose the plan, beginning with the new provision that gives real estate developers the option of building 80% luxury, market-rate units. She continued, “The other 20% of apartments will be designated as what they call low-income housing. But we know very well this is a lie, because the low-income people of El Barrio don’t earn enough to pay those high rents.” The mayor and the City Council claim, under this option, the 20% affordable housing units, which will be eligible to residents earning $34,500 for a family of four, will indeed be affordable to low-income residents from the area.

Residents spoke about the gentrification and displacement they say the new plan will bring. “We know when those rich people move to El Barrio, our landlords will do everything in their power to displace us from our apartments in order to replace us with people who can pay more than three times what we pay for rent,” Ms. Salazar said. “We don’t want El Barrio to be converted into a neighbourhood for rich people as happened in other communities like Park Slope and Chelsea, but that is what the mayor and Ms. Mark-Viverito want to happen here.” Ms.Tapia added, “we don’t want their ‘housing plan’ to push us out of our homes.”

Tenants citywide, including those in East New York, one of the fifteen low-income, people of colour communities targeted for rezoning, are speaking out against the plan, saying even the lowest income options are not affordable to the poor people in their communities. They, like the tenants protesting tonight, say even the so-called “affordable” units are not intended for the current residents of their communities and will draw higher income residents from outside the community, just as the market-rate units will.

This was in stark contrast to the simultaneous celebration at Foley Square, where Mayor de Blasio said developers will be required to add a set amount of affordable housing — between 20 and 30% — in rezoned areas.

In the past, under Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council had a documented history of approving legislation introduced by the mayor, including rezoning and development projects. Many, including members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, are now drawing parallels to the current City Council’s overwhelming approval of Mayor de Blasio’s rezoning changes, despite citywide opposition from community organizations. Other groups across the city protested the City Council’s vote on this rezoning and delayed it by 20 minutes on Tuesday. Ultimately, the vote went ahead as planned. Mayor de Blasio is presenting this massive real estate development undertaking as part of his progressive agenda to challenge the “tale of two cities”, the theme of which was a major focus of his electoral campaign. The mayor, for his part, has made it clear he will do what it takes to “address the affordable housing crisis” through his rezoning plan.

In this vein, the mayor says his rezoning plan will make it harder for developers to build more luxury towers and that they will be required to also build affordable housing. However, East Harlem residents question how hard it will be for developers who are “excited to pioneer” these neighbourhoods targeted for rezoning. Residents assert that developers are overjoyed by this new “luxury housing plan” because, according to them, business will be booming for real estate developers who will be busy creating 70-80% market rate units in new luxury towers. “This is just another luxury upzoning,” Ms. Salazar said, “—this time wrapped up in the language of affordable housing and served up by our local politicians who are in the service of the real estate developers who fund their campaigns.” Mayor de Blasio’s largest contributions come from real estate developers who have also provided funding for the Campaign for One New York, for “affordable housing” and other projects. The mayor and the City Council stand behind their plan, which they say is the most progressive housing plan in any city in the country.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio says they reject the rezoning plan outright. “We oppose any configuration of the rezoning plan that is being imposed on our community because we know it will displace low-income tenants and small businesses, including street vendors,” says Ms. Tapia. “We offer our own ten-point plan to preserve rent-stabilized housing instead of destroying it, like the mayor’s and the Council’s plan will.”

The group has a proposal of their own, a ten-point plan to preserve rent-stabilized housing that they say will truly address the need for low-income housing in their community and citywide.  According to them, this ten-point plan is the result of a nearly year-long community-wide consultation process convened by Movement for Justice in El Barrio through which community members analysed the mayor’s plan and developed a position and plan of their own. The group has sent copies of the plan to all parties involved in the proposed re-zonings, including the mayor, and says they will keep struggling until their ten points are implemented. Wednesday’s rally by Movement for Justice in El Barrio follows a series of protests and actions since the organization first came out publicly in opposition to the mayor’s plan last fall. Earlier this year, the organization convened the first citywide gathering in opposition to the mayor’s plan bringing together over 90 groups from across the city, the country and internationally. At this “Encuentro”, the group released a video outlining their fight against the mayor’s rezoning plan.

To close Wednesday’s protest the crowd chanted a message to the mayor, ”de Blasio, listen up! We will not be moved!” followed by their message to his staff leading the Landlord Resource Fair inside, “HPD, listen up! We will not be moved!” The mayor and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, meanwhile, rallied at Foley Square with leaders of the AARP and several unions who have been strong supporters of the administration as they have shepherded the new plan through the approval process.

Liz Roberts is an activist and writer. She works with War Resisters League and does Palestine solidarity work.

https://indypendent.org/2016/03/29/speaker%E2%80%99s-constituents-denounce-council%E2%80%99s-luxury-housing-vote-east-harlem

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March 30, 2016

Monthly commemoration of Las Abejas de Acteal Civil Society

Filed under: Acteal, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:00 am

 

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 Monthly commemoration of Las Abejas de Acteal Civil Society

 

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On March 22, Las Abejas de Acteal Civil Society commemorated the massacre at Acteal on their sacred ground, recording their word in a statement. After 18 years and three months they continue to denounce that “the pain and the memory are still present […]. There is no justice, because there is no peace in our country. As an organization, we always speak the truth and at the same time we denounce the most violent acts in our country. Our mission and our commitment is to work for peace.”

According to their statement, the defence of the life of the people and of nature now seems to be a crime. “All those who rise to defend and protest their rights find just one response from the government: repression, murder and imprisonment.” They mentioned Berta Caceres from Honduras as a recent example, the social activist and defender who was murdered in her home on March 3 last, recalling that the Mexican environmental defender, Gustavo Castro Soto, was present and was wounded in the event. “Our world is upside down, with the laws and the authorities protecting the criminals and persecuting the citizens who struggle for justice. Our Political Constitution is out of date because the President of the Republic continues to make reforms that do not benefit the Mexican people. They only benefit the rich and foreign companies. And to the Mexican people whose rights it violates, it responds with crumbs and repression.” They ended the statement with a call “to take on a peaceful struggle because violence does not bring life. We hope to march united until peace triumphs.”

 

https://sipazen.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/chiapas-monthly-commemoration-of-las-abejas-de-acteal-civil-society/

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March 29, 2016

Sole witness to Berta Cáceres murder fears he might be framed, lawyer says

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:43 pm

 

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Sole witness to Berta Cáceres murder fears he might be framed, lawyer says

Attorney for Gustavo Castro Soto calls on Mexican government to intervene and secure client’s release from Honduras amid growing concern for his safety

 

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Nina Lakhani in San Cristóbal de las Casas

The lawyer representing the only witness to the murder of the environmental activist Berta Cáceres is appealing to the Mexican government to help secure his release amid mounting concern he could be framed for the killing.

Gustavo Castro Soto, coordinator of Friends of the Earth Mexico and director of the Chiapas-based NGO Otros Mundos, was wounded during the attack in which Cáceres – last year’s winner of the Goldman environmental prize – was murdered.

Cáceres, a longtime friend and colleague, died in Castro’s arms just before midnight on 2 March at her home in La Esperanza, north-west Honduras.

Castro, who only survived by playing dead, was subsequently questioned for 48 hours before investigators said he was free to return to Mexico.

But on 6 March, police stopped him boarding his flight after investigators obtained a court order requiring the activist remain in Honduras to further assist investigators. The order initially prevented his departure for 30 hours but was later extended to a month.

Since then, Castro, who is married with four children, has stayed at the residence of the Mexican ambassador in the capital Tegucigalpa for his own protection. He has not been required to give further assistance to investigators, apart from to hand in his shoes.

In an interview with the Guardian, his lawyer Miguel Ángel de los Santos said he was concerned for Castro’s safety and called on Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto to intervene.

“There is a lot of fear because in Honduras there is total insecurity and impunity – and blaming someone close to Berta would be the easiest and most convenient thing to do,” he said. “We need action at the highest diplomatic level to get Gustavo home.”

He added: “Under Honduran law, witnesses and victims of crimes cannot be prevented from leaving the country. Gustavo’s detention is totally illegal and arbitrary.”

Castro arrived in Honduras on 1 March to give a series of workshops to Cáceres’s organisation, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh), about alternative energy. He had worked for years with Copinh, which Cáceres cofounded 22 years ago to defend indigenous Lenca community territory.

According to the chronology recounted by Castro to De los Santos, Cáceres invited him to stay with her on 2 March so the pair could continue working that evening. They returned to the house around 7.30pm, ate dinner, and then worked on the patio until around 9.45pm, when they both retired to their rooms.

At around 11.45pm, Castro, who was working on his laptop in bed, heard noises coming from outside. He heard Cáceres shouting “Who’s there?” – and seconds later, the kitchen door was kicked in.

One assailant with a pistol entered Castro’s room, where the Mexican activist pleaded for calm.

Castro heard three shots from Cáceres’ room; then the gunman opened fire. Two bullets grazed his left ear and left hand, and Castro dropped to the ground, where he played dead.

The assailants fled immediately and Castro rushed to Cáceres, who was bleeding profusely from bullet wounds to her heart, left arm and stomach. Castro called for help, but she died almost immediately, he said.

Supporters of the two activists have raised serious concerns over the impartiality of the investigation and the detention of Castro. According to De los Santos, a bilateral treaty between Honduras and Mexico means Castro could still collaborate with investigators from his home in San Cristóbal.

But the Honduran government has rejected calls for an independent investigation overseen by international experts.

Three legal cases, including an attempt to secure a writ of habeas corpus, have been launched in Honduras, but they will almost inevitably be delayed by the Easter holiday.

At least 109 people were killed in Honduras between 2010 and 2015 for opposing infrastructure and logging projects, making it the most dangerous country in the world for environmental defenders, according to the NGO Global Witness.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/28/berta-caceres-murder-witness-honduras-appeals-to-mexico

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March 27, 2016

Mexico Has Failed Berta Caceres Murder Witness Gustavo Castro

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:36 am

 

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Mexico Has Failed Berta Caceres Murder Witness Gustavo Castro

 

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Thousands of Indigenous activists march to demand justice for Berta Caceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 17, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

 

Gustavo Castro, the sole witness to Berta Caceres’ assassination, has been barred from leaving Honduras and fears he will be charged for the murder.

As Mexican activist Gustavo Castro fears for his life in Honduras after witnessing and surviving the assassination of renowned leader Berta Caceres, Mexican authorities have not done enough to ensure his safe return while Honduran authorities have clamped down on his freedom of movement.

That is the assessment of the situation according to Mexican politician and human rights defender Candelaria Ochoa, Mexico’s La Jornada reported on Saturday.

Ochoa, a federal lawmaker with the Citizen’s Movement, just wrapped up an international human rights mission in Honduras where she visited Castro and took stock of how the investigation into Caceres’ murder has gone in the three weeks since armed gunmen broke into her home and shot her dead on March 3 while Castro was staying with her.

The Mexican politician echoed other human rights defenders in saying that Castro’s life is at risk in Honduras, where local authorities have barred him from leaving the country as a key witness in the case. Ochoa argued that the restrictions have violated Castro’s right to return and freedom of movement while failing to guarantee his safety.

She added that the Mexican Foreign Ministry has also not put enough pressure on Honduras over Castro’s situation, urging for Mexican Congress to take steps to ensure he will be able to leave the Central American country safely.

Ochoa was part of a group of 11 other international observers from Mexico, El Salvador, Spain, Mexico, and the United States, who travelled to Honduras for five days to meet with various social groups and reiterate demands for an independent investigation and an end to corporate projects on Lenca land.

We demand protections that guarantee Gustavo Castro’s safety and return him safely to Mexico.

The international mission presented a damning report of their findings, including Honduras’ failure to guarantee democratic principles and human rights, lack of independence of the legal system, flagrant violation of international law with respect to Indigenous rights, and a lack of political will to tackle impunity.

The delegation also found that there is no legal basis for the ongoing restriction of Castro’s movement and that barring him from returning to his home country puts his life in danger, according to a statement.

Castro, shot twice and taken for dead in the attack that killed Caceres, fears that Honduran investigators are trying to hold him responsible for the murder as the sole witness.

Caceres’ family and supporters have slammed Honduran authorities for criminalizing Castro and members of Caceres’ organization, COPINH, rather than showing the political will to uncover the truth and get to the bottom of the crime.

Human rights defenders have argued that Castro is a victim of psychological torture living in a situation of arbitrary detention in Honduras.

 

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Mexico-Has-Failed-Berta-Caceres-Murder-Witness-Gustavo-Castro–20160326-0033.html

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March 26, 2016

Government prepares big offensive against the Zapatistas

Filed under: Indigenous, Repression, Zapatistas — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:21 am

 

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Government prepares big offensive against the Zapatistas

 

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JOSÉ ANTONIO ROMÁN

La Jornada

Wednesday 2 March 2016

The Government prepares for a big offensive against the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) who despite persecution and harassment have dedicated themselves to building autonomous spaces and development through the unprecedented work of the Councils of Good Government.

 

In a panel discussion ’20 years after the San Andrés Accords’ organised by Casa Lamm and La Jornada, various researchers, writers and specialists in indigenous law warned about the threat already denounced by the Zapatistas.

“When the Zapatisas speak, they are not playing around, and as they said in their last communique the threat is real,” stated Luis Hernández Navarro, coordinator of the Opinion section of this newspaper and EZLN advisor during the San Andrés negotiations. He emphasised “The warning signs are flashing.”

Similarly, Magdalena Gómez Rivera, a lawyer specialising in indigenous law, commented that in this new phase of aggression the State “views the Zapatistas as being alone” and she urged society and social movements to become aware of the looming risk of attack on the Zapatistas.

12801545_175719459481250_2708846574001961454_nAlong with Gómez and Luis Hernández, the politician and anthropologist Gilberto López y Rivas and Francisco López Bárcenas, one the most renowned theorists on indigenous law, analysed the significance of the San Andrés Accords in terms of the rights of indigenous communities. Although they were signed on the 16th of February 1996, the Government has never fulfilled the agreement, betraying the EZLN and other indigenous communities.

Hernández Navarro said the Government always behaved as if they wanted to derail the negotiation process.

López Bárcenas highlighted that the Zapatista proposal is comprised of three main concepts:  a return to being humans as the core of our actions, setting material goods aside; reestablishing solidarity amongst humanity; and building a new relationship with nature.

 

Translated by the UK Zapatista Translation Service

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2016/03/02/index.php?section=politica&article=009n2pol

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Cherán community says no to single police command

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:14 am

 

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Cherán community says no to single police command

 

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By Ninx Salvaje and Regina López
SubVersiones

What is the single police command?

Basically, it’s a reform to the country’s police system with the stated aim of ending corruption and collusion among municipal police forces and organized crime, relieving municipal governments of their responsibility for public safety and security. While these governments “design non-police oriented public policies”, they will “assume responsibility for public safety and security” through state police forces. 

Beginning last week, articles have come out in several different newspapers announcing that the autonomous municipal government of Cherán, Michoacán has signed a document agreeing to the “single police command.” Members of the Pur’épecha community deny this news report and reaffirm their determination to continue struggling for their autonomy. A spokesperson makes their position clear:

Those who work for the bad government and the press that strategically tries to destabilize us, always report lies, announce things that aren’t true, and have now announced that Cherán will accept the single command, when we have not done so.

This is not the first time the commercial press has treated Cherán this way. In the last few years, the publication and dissemination of lies aimed at disrupting the community has become practically systematic.

Last year, for example, when elections were held in most parts of the country, press reports announced the installation of ballot boxes in the autonomous community, despite its staunch opposition to the electoral process. It is important to note that no ballot box has been allowed to enter the community.

Thus, the large majority of the people of Cherán have lost all confidence in the mass media. They know very well that its goal is not to support the people, but to misinform them and promote the interests of the bad government.

The media responsible for spreading groundless stories have lost their credibility. They have always tried to destabilize us, but we don’t pay any attention to them. We have friends of our own who report the truth.

Just as the community doesn’t believe in the commercial press, it has no confidence in the state’s armed forces either. Up until April 15, 2011, when the people rose up in arms to defend the forests from the organized crime groups that were destroying them, Cherán had received no support whatsoever from official forces. Neither the local, state, or federal police, nor the army, had paid attention to community demands. What’s worse, community people have learned that the police at all different levels –not only the local level- work hand in hand with the criminals.

During the uprising, the community not only expelled the criminals, but also the police, and returned to the traditional safety and security system: their community police known as “la Ronda,” which is now made up of approximately a hundred people from different barrios. Since then, Cherán has experienced an exceptional decline in the number of crimes committed in its territory, as well as the total absence of harassment, extortion, disappearances and killings. How could the people possibly want the police and military forces of the State to enter their town?

At any rate, for them, the entrance of the armed forces into the Pur’épecha community represents one more attempt at conquest, given that before colonization and during the Mexican “Independence” period, the people already had their own forms of security. The comunero explains:

We can’t place ourselves under the single command, the army, the navy or whatever, because they’ve only existed for a short time. The Ronda came before Mexico’s army, and before the navy, too, so it is of greater significance and more natural.  It comes from long ago and is our own. The community has always taken care of itself. We’ve taken care of each other.

In the face of the threat posed by government harassment aimed at imposing the single command, several unusual robberies experienced by townspeople in the last few weeks, and the state government decision to grant eight licenses for the establishment of liquor stores, the community has decided to reactivate the community “rondín”.   Along with the 100 active members of the Ronda, both men and women volunteers are coming together to patrol different barrios and prevent crimes from being committed at night. Our comrade says:

The members of the Ronda are simply representatives because here the entire community, including the four barrios watches out for ourselves, as we said at the beginning, ‘block by block, campfire by campfire.’ We 20,000 community members are looking after ourselves.

And those who live in the community aren’t the only ones who are part of the Ronda. It’s made up of all the people who help take care of the community, from close at hand or from afar.

The brothers and sisters living outside the community -those who have migrated to the North- also ask us from time to time, “What’s going on in Cherán?”. So they’re also part of the Ronda, along with the independent media and collectives who come and ask us what’s happening. They’re also on the alert and watch out for us from afar.

“So if the government wants us to accept the single command, everyone has to agree, and we’re a hell of a lot of people. And the government has to consult everybody, not just the Council or the Ronda. The General Council represents us, but here in our structure, the maximum authority is the Assembly, and the Assembly is made up of all of us.

In spite of all the attacks, the community remains firm in its commitment. “Cherán is not going to give up the fight. We won’t hand over our form of government or our self-determination,” the spokesperson concluded.

 

http://elenemigocomun.net/2016/03/cheran-no-single-police-command/

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March 25, 2016

Pronouncement Against the New “Atenco Law”

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:24 pm

 

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Pronouncement Against the New “Atenco Law”

Declaration against the new “Ley Atenco” (Atenco Law) which violates the right to freedom of expression and free social protest

22nd March, 2016

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The Digna Fuego states its position about the ‪#‎LeyAtenco

Faced with the approval of so-called ‪#‎LeyAtenco the people, towns and organizations that make up el Fuego de la Digna Resistencia (the Fire of Dignified Resistance), declare the following:

We denounce the opacity with which the local congress of the State of Mexico conducts itself. No political party dared to make the bill public until the very moment of its approval, just before the Easter holidays. This initiative was kept secret to try, naively, to stop anyone from doing anything to counterbalance the law.

It is clear that the object of this absurd law is to repress with impunity the peoples, towns, and organizations of the State of Mexico who are defending the land, territory, natural resources like the water and the forest, indigenous autonomy, and human rights in general against the structural reforms and the megaprojects. However, it should also be clear that we are those who, while continuing to defend what we defend now, will do away with these authoritarian and repressive attacks.

We have asked the Zeferino Ladrillero human rights centre to carry out a detailed study of the #leyatenco to enable a better understanding of its scope and our denunciation of what it implies. We know that if we let such a law pass in the State of Mexico, it would permit its introduction across the entire country.

We will hold a consultation and internal discussion about this new law in our decision-making spaces, but we announce now that it will be Monday March 28th, 2016 when we make public our overall position, as well as legal, political and social actions that we plan to carry out in the future. Therefore, we ask the mass media and the free and alternative media to remain attentive as to the place and time of the press conference we will carry out.

El Fuego de la Digna Resistencia

Twitter:@DignoFuego Facebook: Fuego de la Digna Resistencia

Email: elfuegodeladignaresistencia@gmail.com

Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra – Atenco
Administración Autónoma del Agua Potable de Coyotepec A. C.
Alianza Única del Valle
Apaxco Comunidades por la Vida
Coordinación de Pueblos Unidos en Defensa de la Energía Eléctrica
Delegación Indígena Otomí San Francisco Magú
Frente de Pueblos Indígenas en Defensa de la Madre Tierra San Francisco Xochicuautla
Frente de Pueblos Indígenas en Defensa de la Madre Tierra San Lorenzo Huitzizilapan
Frente de Pueblos Indígenas en Defensa de la Madre Tierra San Lorenzo Ayotuxco
Frente Popular 9 de Junio en Defensa de los Recursos Naturales A. C.
Magisterio Mexiquense Contra la Reforma Educativa – CNTE
Sistema de Agua Potable de Tecámac A. C.
Temascalapa
Vecinos Unidos del Poniente

 

Translated by Palabras Rebeldes

http://cdhzl.org/2016/03/23/pronunciamiento-conra-la-nueva-ley-atenco/

 

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March 24, 2016

Interview with Berta Cáceres: “To fight against repression in Honduras is to fight for our whole continent.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:59 pm

 

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Interview with Berta Cáceres: “To fight against repression in Honduras is to fight for our whole continent.”

By Beverly Bell

 

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Photo credit: Roger Harris.

 

Below is a never-before-published interview with international social movement leader and Honduran indigenous organizer Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated on March 3, 2016. The interview was taken in Havana on September 4, 2009, two months after Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a US-backed coup d’état, while the unelected regime was still on a rampage to destroy resistance and the activists behind it. Cáceres’ murder has brought the overthrow of the last legitimately elected government to rule that country back into the global spotlight, because that overthrow laid the groundwork for the repression that now engulfs grassroots justice movements.

Cáceres’ message in the interview was clear: Pay attention. Stand up with and for us. Our fates are connected, and what happens to us can happen to you.

“What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare said. Today, an unelected regime is again attempting to destroy resistance and the activists behind it. Berta’s message is as relevant to the Americas and the US now as then.

 

Beverly Bell: We’re in Havana at the Forum on Emancipatory Paradigms, speaking about the repression of those behind the coup d’état.

Berta Cáceres: We’ve seen an enormous attack against social movements, trying to dismantle us. The repressive forces have been brutal against youth, against women, against indigenous people. There has been an uncountable number of individual and collective human rights violations. The repression has been direct and shameless.

There have been smear campaigns and threats. There’s been a campaign of terror through the media, using the psychology of fear to criminalize protest and social movements. We’ve seen how the media, owned by the coup oligarchs, has been violating the right to free expression, repressing all the [dissenting] media and shutting up their journalists.

We know there are plans to capture and assassinate leaders.

BB: How have laws been trampled to justify all this?

BC: One way is suspending our constitutional rights and guarantees. The regime has pushed forward laws that, when they capture activists, let them use accusation against the compañeros like sedition, terrorism, illegal protests.

They’ve taken actions that are illegal, unconstitutional, and they haven’t even had to change many laws to do it, because the body of laws was already there as part of the plan for the war on terrorism that Bush was pushing.

But it doesn’t really matter to them whether or not there’s a law. It’s a coup.

BB: The other day, you spoke about the fact that, even though this is a terrible coup and completely in disregard of human rights and democracy, it is also a special time for you all. Could you tell us what advances the movement has made as a result of this coup?

BC: Well, Honduras has always been an unknown country. We’ve always been known for two things: for being a military base, the launching pad and training site for the attack on the Nicaraguan revolution and for the elite death squads of Guatemala and El Salvador. And the other thing we’re known for is Hurricane Mitch, that terrible disaster.

Now the world knows Honduras for a very different phenomenon. We’ve seen the amazement of the international community and the solidarity community. And we were surprised, as well, at how from the Honduran people burst forth this enormous force, after all the accumulated history of frustration and demands.

A real gain has been the massive, incredible involvement of women. They have been strong, energetic, creative, coming up with new kinds of struggle, displaying an amazing amount of energy.

Also the youth, the superstar participants in this movement.  It’s no coincidence that the repression has been so fierce against them.

Indigenous people, as well: Since the first day we’ve been present in this mobilization, in all the marches, the occupation of highways.

We’ve been able to unite ourselves around one central objective, which is to overthrow the dictatorship. And to demand not only the restoration of the democratic president Manuel Zelaya, but also to unite around other historic demands.

We have a chant that we’ve really taken to heart, that says, “They fear us because we’re fearless.”

The oligarchs made a mistake when they said: “Three days and this will all be over.” They were wrong. They’ve been wrong about a lot of things.  We can see that they are weak. We see them as beaten down. We see them as wavering in front of the force of the people of Honduras.

BB: You’ve said this is the first time that you all have been united in a popular movement.

BC: Yes. To me, this is the biggest accomplishment: the unity of a social movement. And they didn’t wait for structure or directions or ideology or leaders or anything. They had this explosion of organization, of rebellion, of insurrection in a way that was spontaneous, autonomous, and creative.

The coup and the military dictatorship helped us to form ourselves into what we call here one big knot. We’re all united under the same objective. The movement understands that the resistance front, which is a broad-based movement with a lot of different mass organizations, needs to maintain its principles and its independence. This movement has taught a lesson not only to the ultra-right, but to us in the popular movement.

BB: You’re here with a lot of progressive folks at this Forum on Alternative Paradigms. Many of them have lived through dictatorships in their own countries. What’s the message you’ve been saying?

BC: You have to be clear about one thing: The coup in Honduras hasn’t just been against Honduras. It’s been against all emancipatory processes. It’s been a clear, threatening message to the progressive and leftist governments in our continent. It’s a message that the ultra-right and the imperialists aren’t going to stop. They want to reclaim power, and they know very well that they need our resources.

The coup is directly related to the plundering of our resources. It’s very clear, the involvement of gringo geopolitical interests in the region. It’s connected to other plans of militarization and annexation, as in the so-called drug war in Colombia, the threat of destabilization of the governments of Ecuador, of Bolivia, of Paraguay, of our region in Central America, of others.

So our call to this continent is that we need to really push to unite ourselves and create strategies between social movements and left governments.

BB: You have said that a museum should be built. For what and why?

BC: We’ve marched so much to defy a dictatorship that if we were to add up the hours and the kilometres – from Colon to San Pedro Sula, or from Batea or Piedra Gorda, del Paraiso to the capital – it would be something incredible. A friend said, “We’ve marched so much, for real, that we’ve worn out our shoes and our flip-flops. We’ve got to put together a museum for all the worn-out shoes.”

For us this means to raise up the evidence of the resistance. You know? We’ve seen compañeros with foot problems, with injuries, and they’re still there marching. We’ve seen a 76-year-old woman who never let the resistance down, day after day. And a 10-year-old giving profound speeches to crowds of 70,000 people. It’s something a people can only do when they feel that their hour has come.

BB: Is there anything else you want to say?

BC: Only that for us, as the Honduran people, it’s important that you understand our reality better. We have been a forgotten country. It’s important to understand our history, our resistance, the accumulation of all of these demands that the people are expressing right now.

Also to emphasize the need for solidarity, to call out to the international community and all movements to be in solidarity with us.

To fight against the dictatorship and repression in Honduras right now is to fight for our whole continent.

Please take action here to call for safety for members of COPINH and Gustavo Castro Soto, the sole witness to Berta Cáceres’ murder who is being prevented from returning safely to his home in Mexico, as well as for a fair, internationally led investigation into Berta Cáceres’ killing.

 

http://otherworldsarepossible.org/interview-berta-caceres-fight-against-repression-honduras-fight-our-whole-continent

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Pueblo Creyente in Simojovel reject dialogue with Gomez brothers

Filed under: Displacement, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:34 pm

 

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Pueblo Creyente in Simojovel reject dialogue with Gomez brothers

 

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The Pueblo Creyente (Community of Faith) in Simojovel, Chiapas, held a march for the first anniversary of “the magna via crucis pilgrimage” of Lent, which they held in March 2015. Through a statement, they described the struggle they are carrying out since October 2013 following the murder of one of their members, as “to continue to live in peace.”

They publicly rejected the invitation for dialogue from the Gomez brothers (Juan and Ramiro Gomez Dominguez), who are identified as political caciques in Simojovel, as well as being involved in the illegal sale of alcohol and weapons. The Gomez brothers oppose Father Marcelo, the parish priest of Simojovel, who has endured harassment, threats and attempted ambushes. It should be noted that Juan Gomez was mayor of Simojovel and was imprisoned in 2015 for carrying firearms for exclusive army use by the army and movement of drugs. His brother Ramiro had an arrest order and in January 2016 both cases were dismissed by the Attorney General of the State’s Office, which, according to Chiapas Paralelo “could only have happened through a process of political negotiation.” According to the statement, the Gomez brothers are campaigning for the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (Partido Verde Ecologista de México – PVEM). Furthermore, they mentioned that a member of Community of Faith was kidnapped and interrogated to obtain information about the people who support Marcelo. Another member who was blamed for Juan Gomez’s imprisonment received threats and high calibre firearm shots have started again in the neighbourhoods.

They also denounced the existence of an armed group known as Los Diablos [The Devils] in Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, who have killed three members of the same family and caused the displacement of a further 14 people “because they fear for their lives.” The Community of Faith highlighted that “it isn’t Father Marcelo who has denounced the Gomez, we ratify that it is Community of Faith who have raised their voices against all that is happening, we are Community of Faith who pointed out that the Gomez brothers have done a lot of damage in Simojovel.” For this reason, they decided to reject the proposed dialogue “because we have nothing to talk about, they have resorted to this because they have no other way to clean up their image, they ask for dialogue so that when they carry out their perverse intentions against our parish priest and members of Community of Faith, they can say: ‘It wasn’t us.’”

 

https://sipazen.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/chiapas-community-of-faith-in-simojovel-reject-dialogue-with-gomez-brothers/

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Las Abejas Denounce Impunity and the Criminalisation of those in Struggle

Filed under: Acteal, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:10 pm

 

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Las Abejas Denounce Impunity and the Criminalisation of those in Struggle

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Communique of Las Abejas of Acteal 22nd March, 2016

Our Political Constitution is Outdated because the President of the Republic Continues to make Reforms that don’t Benefit the Mexican People

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Blog, ActealCivil Society Organization Las Abejas

Sacred Land of the Acteal Martyrs

         Acteal, Ch’enalvó, Chiapas, Mexico.

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                            March 22, 2016

 

 

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To Social and Political Organizations

To Human Rights Defenders

To the Alternative Media

To the National and International Press

To National and International Civil Society

To the council of good government

To the Indigenous National Congress (CNI)

And to public opinion

 

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Brothers and Sisters,

Again the time has come, the day and the hour, to come together in this sacred land. Today, 18 years and three months after the massacre in Acteal, we celebrate the commemoration of the martyrs. Only for the love of the creator of the sky and earth, we return today to see each other with all physical, moral, and spiritual presence. It is not easy to forget the cruellest acts in the history of humanity. Although the time and the hour have elapsed; the pain and the memory continue present. And each time a situation of injustice and of violence occurs in any part of the world, we feel hurt, because we are all children of GOD.

A very clear and recent example is the death of the compañera, social struggler, Berta Cáceres of Honduras, as a result of a cowardly attack in her residence on March 3, 2016, where compañero Gustavo Castro Soto was injured. It seems that to defend life, people and nature is a crime. And those in charge of administering justice seem to better support and reward the great crimes against humanity, than to punish them. Our world is upside down, with the laws and the authorities protecting the criminals and prosecuting the citizens who struggle for justice.

Our political constitution is out of date because the president of the republic continues to make reforms that do not benefit the Mexican people. They only benefit the rich and foreign companies. And the Mexican people whose rights they violate only receive crumbs and repression.

Our previous constitution was well established; it reflected individual and social rights like the right of the campesinxs to the land, because that constitution was made with the sacrifice of our grandfathers who gave their lives and blood during the Mexican Revolution. We are very sorry that the rulers never had in hand the history of our country. They do not know the meaning of our national flag, or which rights are enshrined in our constitution. Those rulers have completely trampled and forgotten it; they never take into account the people that gave their life for it.

All of those that rise up to defend and protest for their rights are met with the same response from the government: repression, assassination and imprisonment. A clear example of this is the young students of Ayotzinapa who were disappeared. The families of these young people have continued for a year and a half to demand justice and the return of their children alive, but the authorities do not want to heed the cry of the people.

Ultimately, the reason is that they will not judge and condemn their own actions; that is very clear, it is the same thing that happened here in Acteal: they continue to misrepresent the facts of what happened on 22nd December, 1997, because they themselves designed and planned the counterinsurgency, they financed and trained the paramilitaries. And also they gave freedom to the assassins although they were already sentenced and had confessed to these cruel events in Acteal.

 

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Perhaps the rulers do not think of the direction that leads to justice and the direction that our country takes. Today the people are tired and very desperate because there is no justice and because there is no peace in our country. We are an organization which always proclaims the truth and at the same time, denounces the violent acts in our country because our mission and our commitment is to work for peace. To love one another as our Priest (Father) has taught us, but thanks to the prophets who announced the truth and denounced all mortal sins which carry us to perdition.

Today we also thank Father Marcelo Pérez from the indigenous Tzotzil region, who is committed to the struggle for life of the people of Simojovel who are threatened by so much violence, by the trafficking of drugs, by alcoholism, prostitution, the trafficking of arms and even the buying of consciences to make them abandon this dignified struggle.

We, as the authentic Abejas of Acteal join the struggle for the life of the people that we all long for, not only in Simojovel but in many parts of the world, we stand in solidarity with all of those who suffer and struggle for another possible world.

Brothers and sister, we call on you to take up a peaceful struggle because violence does not bring life. We hope to march together until peace triumphs.

 

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Justice for the case of Acteal

No more massacres in Chiapas and in Mexico

Stop the impunity in Chiapas and Mexico

No more privatization of natural resources

No more massacres and persecutions against the people

Justice in the case of Berta Cáceres

Long live Resistance and Autonomy

 

Sincerely,

The Voice of the Organization of the Civil Society Las Abejas

For the Board of Directors:

Sebastián Pérez Vásquez

José Ramón Vásquez Entzin

Mariano Jiménez Gutiérrez

Vicente Sánchez Ordóñez

Juan Pérez Gómez

http://acteal.blogspot.mx/2016/03/nuestra-constitucion-politica-esta.html

 

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March 23, 2016

Gustavo Castro Soto and the rigged investigation into Berta Cáceres’ assassination

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:03 am

 

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Gustavo Castro Soto and the rigged investigation into Berta Cáceres’ assassination 

By Beverly Bell

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Gustavo Castro Soto, imperilled in Honduras. Photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 2014.

The sole eyewitness to Honduran social movement leader Berta Cáceres’ assassination on March 3, 2016 has gone from being wounded victim to, effectively, political prisoner.

Now Gustavo Castro Soto may also be framed as the murderer of his long-time friend.

Both the Mexican Ambassador, Dolores Jiménez, and Castro himself are worried that he will be charged by the government for the killing, they told the National Commission of Human Rights of Honduras on March 16.

A writer and organizer for environmental and economic justice, Castro has been forbidden by local authorities from leaving the country to return to his native Mexico until April 6, at least.  Since being released from several days in Honduran government custody, he has been forced to take refuge in the Mexican Embassy in Tegucigalpa. The protection of the Mexican Embassy “does not mean that my life is no longer in danger,” Castro wrote to some friends and colleagues on March 4. As long as he is on Honduran soil, he remains in peril. Ambassador Jiménez called the risk he is running “an objective fact.”

Castro – who is able to identify Cáceres’ killer – is an impediment to the plan that the Honduran government is clearly advancing, which is to pin the murder on members of the group which Cáceres founded and ran, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH). It could help the strategy of the fraudulently elected regime to dispense with Castro by charging and arresting him.

The government may also charge COPINH members with the killing of their leader, in the hopes of eliminating them from the body politic. Authorities tried to incriminate three of them just after the murder. Prominent COPINH organizer Aureliano Molina was imprisoned for two days on suspicion of a “crime of passion,” though he was two hours away from La Esperanza on the night of March 3. Two other COPINH leaders, Tomas Gómez and Sotero Echeverria, were interrogated for days, during which time the government denied their request for accompaniment by their lawyers. On March 15, Echeverria was threatened with arrest.

The Real Assassins

Cáceres was a tireless organizer for accountable government, participatory democracy, indigenous peoples and their territories, human rights, and women’s and LGBTQ rights.  For many years, she was subject to threats, attempted violent attacks, legal prosecution for being a “continual danger to the nation,” and other persecution.

Just during the three-month period prior to Cáceres’ murder, human rights accompaniers tracked 11 threats and attempted assaults by national and local government officials, police, soldiers, employees of the Agua Zarca dam project which Cáceres and others were fighting, and unidentified men. In addition to that litany within 10 days before Cáceres’ death, Agua Zarca released two incendiary public email announcements. Their message lines read “THE ACTS VIOLENT” and “FALSEHOODS OF BERTA CACERES  – COPINH.”

Those who have witnessed the price Cáceres has paid for her decades of advocacy have no doubt who is culpable in her murder. Her four grown children and mother stated publicly on March 5, “We hold DESA [the company behind the dam], the international financial organizations backing the project (the Netherlands Development Finance Company [or] FMO, Finnfund [the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation], the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, Ficohsa Bank)… responsible for the …constant death threats against Berta, us, and COPINH. We hold the Honduran state responsible for obstructing Berta’s protection and for contributing to her persecution, criminalization and murder.”

Castro’s Ordeal

Many elements of the government’s so-called collection of evidence from Castro have been irregular at best, and illegal at worst.

Beyond being inconvenient for knowing too much, the eyewitness falls into the repressive government’s category of public enemy. Like Cáceres, Castro has been a vocal opponent of dam construction on indigenous rivers, as well as of the broad powers given transnational corporations and the local elite to plunder democracy and the riches of nature. Castro is coordinator of the group Otros Mundos/Friends of the Earth Mexico. He has cofounded, and sits on the governing body of, many anti-mining and anti-damming networks, as well as the US-based organization Other Worlds. In his interrogation, the public prosecutor has asked Castro about his environmental organizing and history of activism.

Following the killing in Cáceres’ home in the town of La Esperanza, Castro was detained for days in the local public prosecutor’s office for interrogation. On March 5, having been told the questioning was complete, he was transported by the Mexican ambassador and consul to the airport in Tegucigalpa so that he could return to his homeland. As he approached the migration checkpoint, Castro was set upon by multiple Honduran police, who attempted to grab him. The Mexican ambassador stopped them.

The government has since forbidden Castro from leaving Honduras for 30 days, or until April 6. When Castro appealed the order, the judge in the case ruled against it, even while admitting that there is no legal provision for a 30-day restraint for witnesses or victims.

The judge also suspended the license of Castro’s lawyer, Ivania Galeano, for 15 days. The stated reason was that Galeano had requested a copy of Castro’s file which, according to Honduran law, was her right.

Even in the Mexican Embassy, almost three weeks after the killing, Castro continues to be interrogated by the Honduran prosecutor.

Hearing No Protest from the US, Honduran Government Ramps Up Repression

The US State Department put out a brief, generic statement of condolence the day after Cáceres was assassinated. At the same time, according to email communications, the State Department confirmed that it is cooperating with the Honduran government in the investigation, with various US agencies actively participating in it.

The Obama Administration has failed to raise questions about the Honduran government’s role in the murder, given its persistent, well-documented targeting of Cáceres over the years, and its transparent attempts at a cover-up by fingering Cáceres’ close colleagues. US military assistance to the Honduran government continues to flow.

On March 17, 62 US Congressional representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, calling for an independent investigation of the assassination and urging the Secretary to immediately stop US security funding pending a review. Rep. Hank Johnson, co-sponsor of the letter along with Rep. Keith Ellison, said, “It’s time for our government to leverage security assistance and multilateral loans so as to put real and lasting pressure on the Honduran government to protect its activists and pursue those responsible for these hideous crimes.”

Meanwhile, the silence from the administration has given the Honduran government a green light for repression.

That repression was aggressively launched on March 15. On that single day, Honduran soldiers and police coordinated assaults against 10 activists from four geographic regions and three separate organizations. Nelson García, a COPINH leader, was assassinated during a violent government eviction of the community of Rio Chiquito. As stated above, police threatened Sotero Echeverria, member of the COPINH coordinating committee, with arrest. In the capitol, three hit men shot and wounded Christian Mauricio Alegría, who works with the global peasant movement La Via Campesina. His uncle, Rafael Alegría, is a deputy in the national parliament from the opposition Libre Party, and is former secretary general of La Via Campesina. José Flores, head of the United Movement of the Peasants of the Aguan (MUCA), was temporarily arrested along with family members in the town of Tocoa.

The message was clear to all. No matter where one is or with whom one works, activists are not safe in Honduras.

From the Mexican Embassy on March 15, Castro sent out a note of condolence and support to the Honduran people. He closed the missive this way: “Soon there will be justice.”
Please take action here to call for safety for Gustavo Castro and members of COPINH, as well as for a fair, internationally led investigation into Berta Cáceres’ killing.

 

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part. Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

http://otherworldsarepossible.org/gustavo-castro-soto-and-rigged-investigation-berta-caceres-assassination

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Dried Up and Displaced: Dams Force 200,000 from Homes in Mexico

Filed under: Displacement, Human rights, Uncategorized, water — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:56 am

 

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Dried Up and Displaced: Dams Force 200,000 from Homes in Mexico

 

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Children cross a river on the mountain range of Zihuatanejo in Guerrero state Sept. 22, 2013. | Photo: Reuters

 

Many of Mexico’s over 4,000 dams are on Indigenous and campesino land, where communities heavily rely on river resources.

Some 200,000 people have been displaced by the construction of dams across Mexico, while advocacy groups warn the country’s new water law will only continue to make the situation worse, Mexico’s Sin Embargo reported Tuesday.

According to researchers, many of Mexico’s 4,462 dams registered in official records are in Indigenous and campesino communities, which are not only located near main water sources but also vulnerable to exploitation. Over 660 of the dams are considered large.

Statistics on the number of people displaced by dams in Mexico have been difficult to find, according to researchers, but various investigations have now revealed that the number is likely to be around 200,000.

Some of the largest mass displacements took place in the early 1980s, with tens of thousands of people pushed off their land in large dams projects. Thousands more have been forcibly displaced by new construction since.

Even when families are not forced from their homes, hydroelectric projects can impact the social fabric of a community, as well as compromise food production and local public health.

Resistance against dam projects also takes a heavy toll. Since 2005, over 40 activists fighting to defend rivers have been killed in Mexico, Central America, and Colombia, according to GeoComunes. At least eight have been killed in Mexico.

 

“The cost of defending rivers and land.”

One of the most recent victims of this violence is famed Honduran leader Berta Caceres, an environmental activist who fought to defend Indigenous territory and rivers against the privatization of vital water resources. Caceres was assassinated in her home on March 3.

Water grabbing, including through dams and other projects, is a global phenomenon that goes hand in hand with land grabbing and displacement that deprives communities of land and water access, the international human rights organization FIAN reported Tuesday.

Water is a human right considered fundamental to the realization of other rights, including the right to food.
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Dried-up-and-Displaced-Dams-Force-200000-from-Homes-in-Mexico-20160322-0010.html

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March 22, 2016

Nestora Salgado, community leader battling Mexican cartels, freed from jail

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:28 am

 

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Nestora Salgado, community leader battling Mexican cartels, freed from jail

Kidnapping charges against Salgado, who led a community police force cracking down on criminals in the violent Mexican state of Guerrero, have been dropped

 

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Nestora Salgado: ‘People ask if I’m scared. I say, Yes I am, but want to die fighting.’ Photograph: Henry Romero/Reuters

 

David Agren in Mexico City

A Seattle woman who led a militia cracking down on criminal activity in her Mexican hometown walked out of prison on Friday, after kidnapping charges against her were dismissed.

Surrounded by shouting supporters and flanked by members of the militia she commanded prior to imprisonment, Nestora Salgado walked free in Mexico City with a promise to return to patrolling her birthplace in southern Guerrero state, where she won fame for taking on criminal groups and drug cartels accused of acting in cahoots with police and politicians.

“I paid for crimes that I did not commit and for nothing more than defending my people,” Salgado, 44, told a packed press conference. “People ask if I’m scared. I say, ‘Yes I am, but want to die fighting.’”

Salgado’s case won worldwide attention, as residents in several violent Mexican states grabbed guns and fought back against marauding drug cartels which in addition to moving illegal merchandise through Mexico to the US are increasingly involved in crimes against ordinary people, such as kidnapping and extortion.

The militia groups – commonly called “community police” – have caused disquiet among the Mexican government, but Salgado said such groups in Guerrero “have a structure, internal rules and are made up of community members … [They’re] necessary because people have to be able to defend themselves.”

Once a teen mother, Salgado moved to the Seattle area at around the age of 20, working menial jobs to send money home. She became a US citizen before returning to her hometown, Olinalá, a mountainous village about 275km south of Mexico City. There in 2012, after a cabbie was murdered for not making extortion payments, she jumped into community policing.

Critics have accused Salgado of abusing her authority, a charge she denies. She was detained by soldiers in August 2013 after, authorities allege, she kidnapped three teenage girls. The girls were detained by community police for allegedly dealing drugs on behalf of “narco” boyfriends.

The United Nations working group on arbitrary detention determined the arrest of Salgado to be arbitrary and said the formation of community police forces was permitted under state law.

Community police forces were first organised in Guerrero 20 years ago, to combat crimes such as sexual assaults and robbery, and to promote the practice of restorative justice common in indigenous communities.

Proponents say the model produced results, though the groups have splintered and some have not always acted properly.

“This government persecution is coming because it wants to discourage people from organizing,” said Father Mario Campos, a Catholic priest responsible for forming the first community police organization, the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities, to which Salgado belonged.

“Where there’s community security, there’s much more tranquillity.”

Security in Guerrero, which includes the glitz of Acapulco and the misery of marginalized indigenous municipalities in inaccessible mountainous areas, has worsened since Salgado’s arrest. Notorious crimes have included the kidnapping and presumed killing of 43 teacher trainees in September 2014.

The situation was serious enough for state’s most senior clergyman, Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlos of Acapulco, to call for talks with organized crime. He pleaded with the cartels to establish a truce for the upcoming Holy Week holiday, when many Mexicans holiday in Acapulco.

Governor Héctor Astudillo even mused recently about organizing a legal opium poppy harvest, in an effort to weaken the grip criminals hold over impoverished indigenous villages.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/18/nestora-salgado-mexico-freed-jail-charges-dropped-guerrero

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