brad brace

2/3/2017

Largest DP Camps in the World

kakuma

The legacies of today’s conflicts can be seen in the enormous populations of the world’s largest displaced persons’ camps. For most these camps are far from a temporary home. With scarce local resources, the majority of the camps depend on external aid for survival.

10. Tamil Nadu State, India
An estimated 66,700 Sri Lankans currently reside in this refugee camp. Another 34,000 live outside of the camp.

9. Nyarugusu, Tanzania
This camp is home to an estimated 68,197 refugees. Nearly two-thirds are children between the ages 10-24. Almost all of them were born in the camp or became a refugee at a very young age. The majority of the refugees are Burundians and Congolese.

8. Nakivale, Uganda
As one of Africa’s oldest and largest refugee camps, Nakivale currently houses 68,996 people. Many of the residents fled the violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is unlikely the refugees will be able to return home in the near future.

7. Yida, South Sudan
This refugee camp is home to 70,736 registered individuals. After a sharp increase in registrations in February, the number of new registrations is slowly decreasing.

6. Mbera, Mauritania
UNHCR is predicting there to be 75,261 residents in this camp by December 2014. The majority of the refugees are from Mali, but many come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cote d’Ivoire, as well. It is expected the influx of Malian refugees will slowly stabilize. The situation in Mali still remains delicate and will not allow for large-scale returns.

5. Al Zaatari, Jordan
UNHCR reports there are 101,402 refugees currently in the camp and that number has been decreasing since February 2014. The majority of the refugees are Syrians fleeing the violence in their country. The camp has faced several violent protests since it opened two years ago, mainly due to poor living conditions.

4. Jabalia, Gaza Strip
The largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight refugee camps, Jabalia is home to 110,000 registered refugees who fled from southern Palestine. The camp faces extreme unemployment, as well as a contaminated water supply and electricity cuts.

3. Kakuma, Kenya
This refugee camp has been home to South Sudan refugees since 1992. The ongoing violence in South Sudan has prompted 20,000 people to flee to Kenya as of February 2014. Today, 124,814 refugees from 15 nationalities live in Kakuma. The camp is significantly over capacity and suffers from lack of resources.

2. Dollo Ado, Ethiopia
This camp holds 201,123 registered Somali refugees. The population of this refugee camp has been steadily increasing since March 2013 due to drought and famine in Somalia.

1. Dadaab, Kenya
UNHCR estimates that in December 2014 there will be 496,130 refugees in the camp from Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and various other places. They also estimate there to be 83, 660 people seeking asylum from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan

12/28/2016

More Accidents Than Whales

Filed under: climate change,colonialism,conservation,culture,japan,usa,wildlife — admin @ 8:08 pm

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— Drove to the coast early this morning to see the whales at Depoe Bay*. No snow/ice in-sight just cold fog and dark but saw four white vans that had driven off the road and a white pick-up upside-down in the middle of the road: maybe one of the Washington-yahoos, who roared by me earlier. A nice drive: I like seeing fog/clouds lift off the hills and the early morning light come through the trees. The Toyota’s odometer turned 180K at Depoe Bay. Eventually a glorious sunny day at the coast: couldn’t stay that long as I didn’t want any more dark driving in the fog while returning home. The ocean was very alive today and too rough for the whale-watching boat to go out (probably for all of this week too). People were getting drenched from the crashing waves/spouts just walking down the sidewalk by the water. I didn’t realize how very far out the whales were: nearly to the horizon sometimes, and all you really see is a faint, brief spout maybe 10 ft high and a couple of miles out. But I appreciate how you’d follow the whale migrations (and the much closer summer feeding), if you lived there: I saw a few people sitting out in their lawnchairs, perched on a cliff, binoculars and thermos at hand; there were also Whale Watching Volunteers explaining the migration/whales for a few hours midday at various spots along the road. Unfortunately there were not the 12-hr photos I’d prepared-for: the sky was too bright for one thing… I guess the whales migrate 12K miles from Alaska to Baja in about two months, continuously without eating, down to their Mexican spawning grounds — they still won’t feed until back up in Alaskan waters. That’s about all I remember from my visit to Whale Watching Center: it got quite busy (some from Japan but more locals I think): it’s difficult to discern a whale-spouting from a distant seagull or white-cap. While a cloudy day would have made a better series of 12hr-photos, today’s sun (and calm wind) made it easier to see the spouts from shore. On the way back, another vechile off the road and upside-down, and then… a crashed motorcycle with its rider writhing on his back waiting for the paramedics. What a day and a long story. And then to find that a squirrel has discovered a way to reach my new yellow birdfeeder and had dislodged and broken it, but I’ll be able to glue the plastic back together… not so sure we can say the same about the Arctic/Alaska or even the motorcyclist. There’s a brief off-chance that we can still all function/grow as a cohesive, caring human species. The whales will know…**

*- Depoe Bay is a city in Lincoln County, Oregon, United States, located on U.S. Route 101 next to the Pacific Ocean. The population was 1,398 at the 2010 census. The bay of the same name is a 6-acre (2.4 ha) harbor that the city promotes as the world’s smallest navigable harbor. [On March 11, 2011, Depoe Bay’s port was damaged by a tsunami caused by the Tohoku earthquake off the coast of Japan. If you can somehow accept the coming Tsunami — this coastal area would still be appealing if there wasn’t so much car traffic now — from Portland-surrounds and then even when you get to the coast, mid-week off-hours.] Depoe Bay was named for Siletz Indian Charles “Charley” Depot who was originally allotted the land in 1894 as part of the Dawes Act of 1887. There are conflicting accounts of the origin of his name. One says he was given the name “Depot Charley” for working at the military depot near Toledo, Oregon. The family was later known as “DePoe”. His original tribal affiliation was Tututni.

** –

12/8/2016

Las Patronas

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Doña Leonilda Vázquez. She, her daughter and other 13 women founded the group known as Las Patronas in 1995. Their mission is to provide free food for undocumented migrants crossing Mexico between the Tierra Blanca and Córdoba train stations.

Migrants hopping aboard the moving cargo trains face many dangers along the way. From amputation or death if they fall or are pushed from the train, to kidnapping, rape and extortion at the hands of the gangs and organised crime groups that control the routes.

La Patrona Mexico.But in the Mexican state of Veracruz, a small group of women have dedicated themselves to feed the migrants as the trains pass through their small town of La Patrona. Driven only by kindness, the small group now known as “Las Patronas” is made of about 14 wives and mothers that spend each day of the week cooking for migrants.

Coordinated by the founder Norma Romero Vázquez, they prepare hundreds of bags of rice, beans and tortillas

“(…) more people will become aware, join forces and show support to the needy, the vulnerable, the brother migrants, the elderly, the sick, the prisoners, the unemployed and the destitute. When they cross our path let’s not be indifferent and overlook them, oblivious to the cause of their problems. Let us take the time to listen to them, respect them, love them and help to find a solution to such a problem. We are human beings and we should not remain indifferent.” (Traduction NADJA)

The reward for their selfless and hard work? The gratitude and blessings from migrants they may never see again.

Julia Ramírez has been a volunteer with the group for 17 years. She is in charge of cooking every Tuesday, and fulfills other duties during the rest of the week. She works every day, even on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Ramírez lives near the train tracks, and remembers one Sunday when “La Bestia” stopped its march. A 16-year-old boy came knocking on her door asking for food. The first thing that came to her mind was her son, who was of a similar age at that time. “It really moved me to tears,” she recalls. She took the boy in and fed him tortillas, beans, and eggs—a fast meal before the train continued with its journey again. “Thank you mother. God bless you,” the immigrant said.

Before leaving, the young man asked for her blessing. “May God bless you and the Virgin Mother be always with you on your journey,” she told him. That same day, she went and joined Las Patronas.

La Patrona, a community in Amatlán de los Reyes, in the center of the Veracruz state. Bernanda is one of the 14 women who are part of a group that is known around the world as “Las Patronas,” an organization that for the last 20 years has been feeding Central Americans immigrants who travel on top of a freight train known as “La Bestia” that’s bound for the United States. These men, women, and children travel out of necessity due to the tremendous violence and economic crises that grip much of Central America. The meals provided to them by Las Patronas are the first they will have for days, or even weeks. Nobody knows when will they eat again. The lunches are made out of beans, rice, bread, tortillas, and tuna, or sometimes, boiled eggs, vegetables, or fruit. Sometimes a local bakery will donate a pie, but that doesn’t happen very often. Las Patronas’ 20 years of experience is reflected on a board that hangs in the kitchen. Each day of the week, one of them is in charge of preparing at least 100 lunches. (In earlier times, they had to prepare 800 a day.) Others will be in charge of packaging the food, or washing plastic bottles and filling them with water to later tie up in pairs (to make the delivery easier). They also pick up bread donations at different supermarkets and produce from a market in Cordoba.

11/9/2016

Filed under: colonialism,corruption,culture — admin @ 2:13 pm

dakota38

11/6/2016

MAY THE EARTH TREMBLE AT ITS CORE

To the people of the world:

To the free media:

To the National and International Sixth:

Convened for the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the National Indigenous Congress and the living resistance of the originary peoples, nations, and tribes of this country called Mexico, of the languages of Amuzgo, Binni-zaá, Chinanteco, Chol, Chontal de Oaxaca, Coca, Náyeri, Cuicateco, Kumiai, Lacandón, Matlazinca, Maya, Mayo, Mazahua, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Nahua, Ñahñu, Ñathô, Popoluca, Purépecha, Rarámuri, Tlapaneco, Tojolabal, Totonaco, Triqui, Tzeltal, Tsotsil, Wixárika, Yaqui, Zoque, Chontal de Tabasco, as well as our Aymara, Catalán, Mam, Nasa, Quiché and Tacaná brothers and sisters, we firmly pronounce that our struggle is below and to the left, that we are anticapitalist and that the time of the people has come—the time to make this country pulse with the ancestral heartbeat of our mother earth.

It is in this spirit that we met to celebrate life in the Fifth National Indigenous Congress, which took place on October 9-14, 2016, in CIDECI-UNITIERRA, Chiapas. There we once again recognized the intensification of the dispossession and repression that have not stopped in the 524 years since the powerful began a war aimed at exterminating those who are of the earth; as their children we have not allowed for their destruction and death, meant to serve capitalist ambition which knows no end other than destruction itself. That resistance, the struggle to continue constructing life, today takes the form of words, learning, and agreements. On a daily basis we build ourselves and our communities in resistance in order to stave off the storm and the capitalist attack which never lets up. It becomes more aggressive everyday such that today it has become a civilizational threat, not only for indigenous peoples and campesinos but also for the people of the cities who themselves must create dignified and rebellious forms of resistance in order to avoid murder, dispossession, contamination, sickness, slavery, kidnapping or disappearance. Within our community assemblies we have decided, exercised, and constructed our destiny since time immemorial. Our forms of organization and the defense of our collective life is only possible through rebellion against the bad government, their businesses, and their organized crime.

We denounce the following:

1. In Pueblo Coca, Jalisco, the businessman Guillermo Moreno Ibarra invaded 12 hectares of forest in the area known as El Pandillo, working in cahoots with the agrarian institutions there to criminalize those who struggle, resulting in 10 community members being subjected to trials that went on for four years. The bad government is invading the island of Mexcala, which is sacred communal land, and at the same time refusing to recognize the Coca people in state indigenous legislation, in an effort to erase them from history.
2. The Otomí Ñhañu, Ñathö, Hui hú, and Matlatzinca peoples from México State and Michoacán are being attacked via the imposition of a megaproject to build the private Toluca-Naucalpan Highway and an inter-city train. The project is destroying homes and sacred sites, buying people off and manipulating communal assemblies through police presence. This is in addition to fraudulent community censuses that supplant the voice of an entire people, as well as the privatization and the dispossession of water and territory around the Xinantécatl volcano, known as the Nevado de Toluca. There the bad governments are doing away with the protections that they themselves granted, all in order to hand the area over to the tourism industry. We know that all of these projects are driven by interest in appropriating the water and life of the entire region. In the Michoacán zone they deny the identity of the Otomí people, and a group of police patrols have come to the region to monitor the hills, prohibiting indigenous people there from going to the hills to cut wood.
3. The originary peoples who live in Mexico City are being dispossessed of the territories that they have won in order to be able to work for a living; in the process they are robbed of their goods and subjected to police violence. They are scorned and repressed for using their traditional clothing and language, and criminalized through accusations of selling drugs.
4. The territory of the Chontal Peoples of Oaxaca is being invaded by mining concessions that are dismantling communal land organization, affecting the people and natural resources of five communities.
5. The Mayan Peninsular People of Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo are suffering land disposession as a result of the planting of genetically modified soy and African palm, the contamination of their aquifers by agrochemicals, the construction of wind farms and solar farms, the development of ecotourism, and the activities of real estate developers. Their resistance against high electricity costs has been met with harassment and arrest warrants. In Calakmul, Campeche, five communities are being displaced by the imposition of ‘environmental protection areas,’ environmental service costs, and carbon capture plans. In Candelaria, Campeche, the struggle continues for secure land tenure. In all three states there is aggressive criminalization against those who defend territory and natural resources.
6. The Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, Chol and Lacandón Maya People of Chiapas continue to be displaced from their territories due to the privatization of natural resources. This has resulted in the imprisonment and murder of those who defend their right to remain in their territory, as they are constantly discriminated against and repressed whenever they defend themselves and organize to continue building their autonomy, leading to increasing rates of human rights violations by police forces. There are campaigns to fragment and divide their organizations, as well as the murders of compañeros who have defended their territory and natural resources in San Sebastián Bachajon. The bad governments continue trying to destroy the organization of the communities that are EZLN bases of support in order to cast a shadow on the hope and light that they provide to the entire world.
7. The Mazateco people of Oaxaca have been invaded by private property claims which exploit the territory and culture for tourism purposes. This includes naming Huautla de Jimenéz as a “Pueblo Mágico” in order to legalize displacement and commercialize ancestral knowledge. This is in addition to mining concessions and foreign spelunking explorations in existing caves, all enforced by increased harassment by narcotraffickers and militarization of the territory. The bad governments are complicit in the increasing rates of femicide and rape in the region.
8. The Nahua and Totonaca peoples of Veracruz and Puebla are confronting aerial fumigation, which creates illnesses in the communities. Mining and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation are carried out through fracking, and 8 watersheds are endangered by new projects that are contaminating the rivers.
9. The Nahua and Popoluca peoples from the south of Veracruz are under siege by organized crime and also risk territorial destruction and their disappearance as a people because of the threats brought by mining, wind farms, and above all, hydrocarbon exploitation through fracking.
10. The Nahua people, who live in the states of Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Morelos, Mexico State, Jalisco, Guerrero, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, and Mexico City, are in a constant struggle to stop the advance of the so-called Proyecto Integral Morelos, consisting of pipelines, aqueducts, and thermoelectric projects. The bad governments, seeking to stop the resistance and communication among the communities are trying to destroy the community radio of Amiltzingo, Morelos. Similarly, the construction of the new airport in Mexico City and the surrounding building projects threaten the territories around Texcoco lake and the Valle de México basin, namely Atenco, Texcoco, and Chimalhuacán. In Michocan, the Nahua people face the plunder of their natural resources and minerals by sicarios [hitmen] who are accompanied by police or the army, and also the militarization and paramilitarizaiton of their territories. The cost of trying to halt this war has been murder, persecution, imprisonment, and harassment of community leaders.
11. The Zoque People of Oaxaca and Chiapas face invasion by mining concessions and alleged private property claims on communal lands in the Chimalapas region, as well as three hydroelectric dams and hydrocarbon extraction through fracking. The implementation of cattle corridors is leading to excessive logging in the forests in order to create pastureland, and genetically modified seeds are also being cultivated there. At the same time, Zoque migrants to different states across the country are re-constituting their collective organization.
12. The Amuzgo people of Guerrero are facing the theft of water from the San Pedro River to supply residential areas in the city of Ometepec. Their community radio has also been subject to constant persecution and harassment.
13. The Rarámuri people of Chihuahua are losing their farmland to highway construction, to the Creel airport, and to the gas pipeline that runs from the United States to Chihuahua. They are also threatened by Japanese mining companies, dam projects, and tourism.
14. The Wixárika people of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Durango are facing the destruction and privatization of the sacred places they depend on to maintain their familial, social, and political fabric, and also the dispossession of their communal land in favor of large landowners who take advantage of the blurry boundaries between states of the Republic and campaigns orchestrated by the bad government to divide people.
15. The Kumiai People of Baja California continue struggling for the reconstitution of their ancestral territories, against invasion by private interests, the privatization of their sacred sites, and the invasion of their territories by gas pipelines and highways.
16. The Purépecha people of Michoacán are experiencing deforestation, which occurs through complicity between the bad government and the narcoparamilitary groups who plunder the forests and woods. Community organization from below poses an obstacle to that theft.
17. For the Triqui people of Oaxaca, the presence of the political parties, the mining industry, paramilitaries, and the bad government foment the disintegration of the community fabric in the interest of plundering natural resources.
18. The Chinanteco people of Oaxaca are suffering the destruction of their forms of community organization through land reforms, the imposition of environmental services costs, carbon capture plans, and ecotourism. There are plans for a four-lane highway to cross and divide their territory. In the Cajono and Usila Rivers the bad governments are planning to build three dams that will affect the Chinanteco and Zapoteca people, and there are also mining concessions and oil well explorations.
19. The Náyeri People of Nayarit face the invasion and destruction of their sacred territories by the Las Cruces hydroelectric project in the site called Muxa Tena on the San Pedro River.
20. The Yaqui people of Sonora continue their sacred struggle against the gas pipeline that would cross their territory, and in defense of the water of the Yaqui River, which the bad governments want to use to supply the city of Hermosillo, Sonora. This goes against judicial orders and international appeals which have made clear the Yaqui peoples’ legal and legitimate rights. The bad government has criminalized and harassed the authorities and spokespeople of the Yaqui tribe.
21. The Binizzá and Ikoot people organize to stop the advance of the mining, wind, hydroelectric, dam, and gas pipeline projects. This includes in particular the Special Economic Zone on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the infrastructure that threatens the territory and the autonomy of the people on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec who are classified as the “environmental Taliban” and the “indigenous rights Taliban,” the precise words used by the Mexican Association of Energy to refer to the Popular Assembly of the Juchiteco People.
22. The Mixteco people of Oaxaca suffer the plunder of their agrarian territory, which also affects their traditional practices given the threats, deaths, and imprisonment that seek to quiet the dissident voices, with the bad government supporting armed paramilitary groups as in the case of San Juan Mixtepec, Oaxaca.
23. The Mixteco, Tlapaneco, and Nahua peoples from the mountains and coast of Guerrero face the imposition of mining megaprojects supported by narcotraffickers, their paramilitaries, and the bad governments, who fight over the territories of the originary peoples.
24. The Mexican bad government continues to lie, trying hide its decomposition and total responsibility for the forced disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.
25. The state continues to hold hostage: compañeros Pedro Sánchez Berriozábal, Rómulo Arias Míreles, Teófilo Pérez González, Dominga González Martínez, Lorenzo Sánchez Berriozábal, and Marco Antonio Pérez González from the Nahua community of San Pedro Tlanixco in Mexico State; Zapotec compañero Álvaro Sebastián from the Loxicha region; compañeros Emilio Jiménez Gómez and Esteban Gómez Jiménez, prisoners from the community of Bachajón, Chiapas; compañeros Pablo López Álvarez and the exiled Raul Gatica García and Juan Nicolás López from the Indigenous and Popular Council of Oaxaca Ricardo Flores Magón. Recently a judge handed down a 33-year prison sentence to compañero Luis Fernando Sotelo for demanding that the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa be returned alive, and to the compañeros Samuel Ramírez Gálvez, Gonzalo Molina González and Arturo Campos Herrera from the Regional Coordination of Community Authorities – PC. They also hold hundreds of indigenous and non-indigenous people across the country prisoner for defending their territories and demanding justice.
26. The Mayo people’s ancestral territory is threatened by highway projects meant to connect Topolobampo with the state of Texas in the United States. Ambitious tourism projects are also being created in Barranca del Cobre.
27. The Dakota Nation’s sacred territory is being invaded and destroyed by gas and oil pipelines, which is why they are maintaining a permanent occupation to protect what is theirs.

For all of these reasons, we reiterate that it our obligation to protect life and dignity, that is, resistance and rebellion, from below and to the left, a task that can only be carried out collectively. We build rebellion from our small local assemblies that combine to form large communal assemblies, ejidal assemblies, Juntas de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Councils], and coalesce as agreements as peoples that unite us under one identity. In the process of sharing, learning, and constructing ourselves as the National Indigenous Congress, we see and feel our collective pain, discontent, and ancestral roots. In order to defend what we are, our path and learning process have been consolidated by strengthening our collective decision-making spaces, employing national and international juridical law as well as peaceful and civil resistance, and casting aside the political parties that have only brought death, corruption, and the buying off of dignity. We have made alliances with various sectors of civil society, creating our own resources in communication, community police and self-defense forces, assemblies and popular councils, and cooperatives; in the exercise and defense of traditional medicine; in the exercise and defense of traditional and ecological agriculture; in our own rituals and ceremonies to pay respect to mother earth and continue walking with and upon her, in the cultivation and defense of native seeds, and in political-cultural activities, forums, and information campaigns.

This is the power from below that has kept us alive. This is why commemorating resistance and rebellion also means ratifying our decision to continue to live, constructing hope for a future that is only possible upon the ruins of capitalism.

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Given that the offensive against the people will not cease, but rather grow until it finishes off every last one of us who make up the peoples of the countryside and the city, who carry profound discontent that emerges in new, diverse, and creative forms of resistance and rebellion, this Fifth National Indigenous Congress has decided to launch a consultation in each of our communities to dismantle from below the power that is imposed on us from above and offers us nothing but death, violence, dispossession, and destruction. Given all of the above, we declare ourselves in permanent assembly as we carry out this consultation, in each of our geographies, territories, and paths, on the accord of the Fifth CNI to name an Indigenous Governing Council whose will would be manifest by an indigenous woman, a CNI delegate, as an independent candidate to the presidency of the country under the name of the National Indigenous Congress and the Zapatista Army for National Liberation in the electoral process of 2018. We confirm that our struggle is not for power, which we do not seek. Rather, we call on all of the originary peoples and civil society to organize to put a stop to this destruction and strengthen our resistances and rebellions, that is, the defense of the life of every person, family, collective, community, or barrio. We make a call to construct peace and justice by reweaving ourselves from below, from where we are what we are.

This is the time of dignified rebellion, the time to construct a new nation by and for everyone, to strengthen power below and to the anticapitalist left, to make those who are responsible for all of the pain of the peoples of this multi-colored Mexico pay.

Finally, we announce the creation of the official webpage of the CNI: www.congresonacionalindigena.org

From CIDECI-UNITIERRA,

Chiapas, October 2016

For the Full Reconstitution of Our Peoples

Never Again a Mexico Without Us

National Indigenous Congress

Zapatista Army for National Liberation

10/20/2016

More Murdered: Jose Angel Flores and Silmer Dionicio George both members of the Unified Peasant Movement (MUCA)

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En Honduras, dos líderes campesinos han sido asesinados: José Ángel Flores era el presidente del Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán (MUCA) y Silmer Dionosio George era uno de los principales organizadores del grupo. Ambos fueron asesinados por hombres armados el martes por la noche al salir de la oficina del MUCA en la comunidad de La Confianza, en el norte de Honduras, Valle del Aguán. Flores había denunciado las amenazas de muerte que recibió varias veces como consecuencia de su trabajo en defensa de la tierra, y la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos le había ordenado al gobierno de Honduras que les brindaran protección a él y a Silmer. Los miembros del MUCA tienen propiedades cooperativas de tierra, y el grupo está bajo presión para vender sus tierras para que empresas privadas puedan construir grandes plantaciones de aceite de palma. Los asesinatos del martes sucedieron en una región de Honduras en la que una zona especial de desarrollo, también conocida como ciudad modelo, se está desarrollando actualmente, lo que crearía una zona de libre comercio especial que opere fuera de la ley del gobierno de Honduras. Muchas de las empresas que presionan para crear zonas especiales de desarrollo en Honduras son apoyadas por el Banco Mundial.

TAKE ACTION: STOP US FUNDING OF VIOLENCE IN HONDURAS!

Demand that your US Congressional Representatives support the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act – HR5474. Since the 2009 coup, solidarity and human rights organizations in the US and in Honduras have worked to stop US funding violence in Honduras. On June 14, 2016, US Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia introduced HR5474. This Act would cut off US funding and support for the repressive Honduran military and national police and end US support for funding of mega-projects against the wishes of the local population. As of September 25, 2016, 41 representatives have signed on in support. Please contact your congressional representatives and find out if they are supporting HR 5474.

muca

8/12/2016

Argentina’s Mothers of the Disappeared March for 2,000th Time

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The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo led the organization

The Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have been fighting for justice for the disappeared and respect for historical memory since 1977.

Argentina’s internationally-renowned Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo took to the streets Thursday with thousands of supporters for a historic event: the organization’s 2,000th march in memory of and for justice for the country’s 30,000 victims of forced disappearance during the U.S.-backed Dirty War in the 1970s and 80s.

The Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have held weekly marches in Buenos Aires’ central square in front of the Presidential Palace, the Plaza de Mayo, every Thursday since founding the organization in 1977 to search for children and grandchildren who were kidnapped and disappeared during the dictatorship.

“It is history that marches on without stopping, our worn out feet that do not tire,” wrote president of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Hebe de Bonafini, in a statement announcing the 2000th march. “It is our 30,000 children that sew love for the nation with blood and make grow with this same love for the country millions of youth, who we all are.”

Former left-wing President Cristina Fernandez met with the Mothers hours ahead of the march and joined demonstrators in the square for the afternoon’s events.

The march comes after President Mauricio Macri made highly controversial comments in an interview, saying that he didn’t know how many people were disappeared in Argentina, whether “9,000 or 30,000.” The same day, he also called Bonafini, head of the Mothers, “deranged” and accused her of spewing “inappropriate nonsense.”

Both statements sparked widespread outrage. Estela Carlotto, renowned human rights activist and founder and President of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, responded with criticism. “He has the obligation to know that it is an estimated 30,000 people disappeared,” said Carlotto, adding that if he didn’t know, “so learn,” La Nacion reported. Carlotto searched for her missing grandson, born to Carlotto’s pregnant daughter after she was disappeared in 1977, for 36 years before being reunited.

Nora Cortiñas, co-founder of the Mothers of the Plaza of Mayo, accused Macri of undermining the tireless struggle for justice. “It is unfortunate, this is a president who lived in Argentina at that time,” she said, according to Politica Argentina. “With his opinions, he is devaluing our entire struggle of these last 40 years.” Cortiñas lost her son to forced disappearance in 1977, but does not have a known missing grandchild to search for.

The march also comes after the Mothers made international headlines last week when a judge issued an arrest warrant against Bonafini, who has fought for justice for years for her two disappeared sons and daughter-in-law and other victims of the dictatorship-era state terror. The warrant was later dropped in light of the backlash.

A batch of over 1,000 pages of newly-declassified documents released this week shed further light on the U.S. role in forced disappearances, political killings, and torture under the reign of state terrorism during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The Dirty War in Argentina has been called a “genocide” against political dissidents.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have identified and reunited with their families 120 missing grandchildren disappeared during the last dictatorship.

In Argentina, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo held their their 2,000th march in Buenos Aires on Thursday demanding justice for their children who went missing during the country’s military dictatorship. The Mothers have been staging regular protests in the Plaza de Mayo since 1977.

Hebe de Bonafini: “Dear children, all the 30,000 missing, 15,000 who were shot in the streets, the 8,900 political prisoners and more than 2 million in exile who have all become our children, this is no small thing. It’s the heavy burden of so many children, but it is so beautiful, so amazing, so unique. I think that there are no women like us in the world with the strength in our bellies, in our hearts, in our bodies, with so much responsibility for our children whom we love, whom we love and whom we continue to defend.”

Thursday’s march in Argentina came just days after the United States declassified documents showing that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger thwarted the State Department’s efforts to stop the mass killings by instead praising Argentina’s military leaders in 1978.

7/8/2016

Lesbia Janeth Urquía murdered

Lesbia Janeth Urquía

Authorities in Honduras have confirmed the murder of yet another indigenous activist, four months after the assassination of award-winning environmentalist Berta Cáceres prompted international outrage over the targeting of campaigners who oppose mega-projects and resource extraction in the Central American country.

Judicial officials said in a statement on Thursday that they had opened investigation into the murder of Lesbia Janeth Urquía, 49, whose body was found abandoned in a rubbish dump in the municipality of Marcala, about 160 kilometres west of the capital Tegucigalpa.

The statement said Urquía had suffered a severe head injury and that a possible motive for her murder was “the supposed robbery of her professional bicycle”, which she was planning to ride when last seen on Tuesday afternoon.

Urquía, a mother of three children, was a member of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (Copinh) – the organization founded by Cáceres – and had been working to stop a hydro-electric projects in Honduras’s western La Paz department.

“The death of Lesbia Yaneth is a political femicide that tries to silence the voices of women with courage and the bravery to defend their rights,” Copinh wrote on its website. “We hold the Honduras government directly responsible for this murder.”

6/21/2016

Global forced displacement hits record high

military
UNHCR Global Trends report finds 65.3 million people, or one person in 113, were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015.

Wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since UNHCR records began, according to a new report released today by the UN Refugee Agency.

The report, entitled Global Trends, noted that on average 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds.

The detailed study, which tracks forced displacement worldwide based on data from governments, partner agencies and UNHCR’s own reporting, found a total 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just 12 months earlier.

“At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year. On land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders.”

It is the first time in the organization’s history that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders. Closing borders does not solve the problem.”

Grandi said that politics was also standing in the way of those seeking asylum in some countries.

“The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today, and it’s this spirit of unity that badly needs to prevail,” he declared.

The report found that, measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, one in every 113 people globally is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee – putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent.

The tally is greater than the population of the United Kingdom – or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined.

To put it in perspective, the tally is greater than the population of the United Kingdom – or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined. It is made up of 3.2 million people in industrialized countries who, at the end of 2015, were awaiting decisions on asylum – the largest total UNHCR has ever recorded.

Also in the tally are a record 40.8 million people who had been forced to flee their homes but were within the confines of their own countries, another record for the UN Refugee Agency. And there are 21.3 million refugees.

Forced displacement has been on the rise since at least the mid-1990s in most regions, but over the past five years the rate has increased.

The reasons are threefold:

* conflicts that cause large refugee outflows, like Somalia and Afghanistan – now in their third and fourth decade respectively – are lasting longer; * dramatic new or reignited conflicts and situations of insecurity are occurring more frequently. While today’s largest is Syria, wars have broken out in the past five years in South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine and Central African Republic, while thousands more people have fled raging gang and other violence in Central America; * the rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War, leaving a growing number in limbo.

“We’re stuck here. We can’t go on and we can’t go back,” said Hikmat, a Syrian farmer driven from his land by war, now living in tent outside a shopping centre in Lebanon with his wife and young children. “My children need to go to school, they need a future,” he added.

The study found that three countries produce half the world’s refugees. Syria at 4.9 million, Afghanistan at 2.7 million and Somalia at 1.1 million together accounted for more than half the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate worldwide. Colombia at 6.9 million, Syria at 6.6 million and Iraq at 4.4 million had the largest numbers of internally displaced people.

While the spotlight last year was on Europe’s challenge to manage more than 1 million refugees and migrants who arrived via the Mediterranean, the report shows that the vast majority of the world’s refugees were in developing countries in the global south.

In all, 86 per cent of the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate in 2015 were in low- and middle-income countries close to situations of conflict. Worldwide, Turkey was the biggest host country, with 2.5 million refugees. With nearly one refugee for every five citizens, Lebanon hosted more refugees compared to its population than any other country.

Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, according to the data UNHCR was able to gather (complete demographic data was not available to the report authors). Many were separated from their parents or travelling alone.

3/5/2016

Tromelin Island

BY THE standards of boats built by desert-island castaways, the Providence was a thing of beauty. Thirty-three feet long, and made of timber from the shipwreck that had stranded them, she was simple but seaworthy. She also offered the only viable route back to civilisation for more than 200 refugees. As a first step, that meant a westward journey of 500km or so to Madagascar, where the wrecked ship had come from. If you arrive on a ship—a brand-new transport three-masted schooner belonging to the French East India Company—you cannot all leave on a raft.

Whether the castaways were on land controlled by the Company, which projected France’s imperial ambitions in the eastern hemisphere, was anybody’s guess. The charts used by the captain of the doomed ship, L’Utile, on July 31st 1761 indicated nothing but ocean for hundreds of kilometres. Coming off a fortnight of unfavourable winds, he had little time for officers fretting about a probably mythical “Île de Sable”—sandy island—in the area. At half past ten on a moonless night, a coral reef stopped the ship in its tracks. By sunrise, L’Utile had been lost. The Île de Sable, if indeed this was it, was not hospitable. It is so small that a swift walker can get round it in an hour, and so barren, bar a few bushes, that it can barely support human life. Winds and waves, rolling uninterrupted from Antarctica 5,000km to the south, batter it incessantly. More recent study has established it as the tip of a dormant volcano rearing up from 4,500m below, in the depths of the western Indian Ocean.

As they landed on the island on the night of the wreck, some of the crew supposed it inhabited. But the dark-skinned “locals” they encountered had come on the same ship, just a different part of it. Below deck 160 or so slaves had languished, men, women and children. Nearly half of them had died in the night, probably drowned under the nailed-down hatches. That still left 88, two-thirds of them men, now unshackled.

They had been a secret, albeit an open one. The captain had picked them up in Madagascar, as a bit of side business tolerated by the Company. He was knowingly flouting a French ban on slave-trading in its Indian Ocean territories—though one motivated more by concerns that a British blockade would leave extra mouths to feed on its precarious island colonies, than by common humanity.

Perhaps because of the French crew’s numerical superiority—123 had survived—the social order that existed on L’Utile carried through on land. Even the ship’s log was kept as before. It is now stored in the French ministry of defence’s archive. It continued to note the wind and weather, but also recorded the island’s new arrangements. In particular, it recounted how Barthelemy Castellan du Vernet, L’Utile’s first officer, emerged as the leader to replace the captain, shocked speechless by the crash. It was Castellan who had made the decision to scupper L’Utile by cutting her rudder in the hope that more men might be saved. The island provided fish, turtles, birds and eggs, but at first no water

Within days Castellan, whose younger brother had died in the wreck, had sentenced a man to death for stealing some of the rations that had spilled out of the ship. L’Utile had disgorged 22 barrels of flour, 200kg of beef and other provisions; the island itself provided fish, turtles, birds and eggs. But there had been little water on the ship, and none could be found on the island—until, after three days of chipping through volcanic rock, a brackish, milky liquid welled up. The men rejoiced, and the condemned sailor was pardoned. By then, though, 28 castaways had died of thirst. All were slaves.

With water assured, things got easier. Members of the crew, from cook to priest, resumed their roles on land. If tensions arose, they were not recorded in the ship’s log, which soon resumed its focus on the weather. (Entries for August: “18th and 19th: Bad sea. 20th: Calm sea.”) Using sails and fragments of L’Utile’s masts, the French set up camp on the west of the island, near a beach where one of the anchors from the wreckage protruded from the surf. The slaves huddled at the northern tip.

A ship was spotted far off on August 9th; it cannot have missed the noise and smoke from two barrels of gunpowder the castaways detonated as flares. But it continued on its way to India.

Castellan, who had sailed on slave ships before, knew there was a risk of disorder. A vessel had to be built, and quickly. But three problems arose. The ship’s carpenter had no actual woodworking skills. There were no trees on the island; all wood had to be salvaged from the wreck, much of which was submerged. And the crew was disinclined to work, all but 20 preferring the more leisurely task of bird-hunting to manual labour.

Castellan shook off the first problem: though he had no naval-architecture training, he skilfully sketched plans for the Providence. The problem of the slothful crew could be overcome with the help of the Malagasy slaves. “The slaves toiled with great zeal in this work,” according to a contemporaneous account. Nothing suggests they were coerced into it. If the white man offered the only way off an uninhabitable island, reason suggested any enmity was best left aside until after the escape.

That left the second problem, of insufficient wood. Or rather, the right kind of wood. There was enough to build a seaworthy barge with sides five feet high. But Castellan’s plans for the Providence were predicated on a 45-foot end-to-end beam underpinning the boat. L’Utile had not been that generous: the longest beam at hand was only 33 feet. Scale down a boat’s beam and length in proportion, and her capacity shrinks by nearly half.

There is no record of any discussion of which half of the stranded island community should have first dibs on this smaller boat. It is hard to imagine one was held. On September 27th 1761, two months after the shipwreck, it was the 123-strong white crew who boarded the Providence—including around 100 who had played no part in its construction. The abandoned were left with three months’ provisions and a letter recognising their good conduct: important if the slaves were to prove to a passing captain that they had not been ditched for having caused trouble.

But the most important reward they were given for their loyalty and their labour was also the most intangible: a promise that someone would come back for them. Castellan reckoned that might be possible in a couple of weeks, maybe a month if the weather turned. Whatever happened, the provisions he had left would be ample, he thought, to cover the time for the crew to reach Madagascar and return.

Weeks passed, then months, then years.

Desert island risks

“We affirm with truth that, after God, we owe our escape from that island to [Castellan] alone…we acted only to obey his counsel and orders,” the crew unanimously proclaimed after they reached dry land. It had taken just four days for the Providence to arrive in Foulpointe, a port in eastern Madagascar. The men had travelled crammed together as the slaves once had, but just one died en route. They were greeted with amazement. But here Castellan’s winning streak ended. The crew’s declaration mentions his endeavours to retrieve the slaves. “However,” it notes, “he couldn’t secure the spare sails required to do so.”

Castellan’s abilities did not extend to the political realm. Everything suggests his desire to return was genuine. But it was not shared by Company higher-ups administering the islands. His inability to secure fresh sails—an unlikely impediment, given the constant coming and going from Foulpointe, a trading hub—was only his first hurdle.

A few days’ deferment turned into weeks. As objects of curiosity, the entire crew was ordered to Île de France, now Mauritius, the local bastion of French power. By the time they arrived, on November 25th, the slaves had been stranded for two months.

Local grandees on Île de France saw no rush to intervene. The governor, Antoine-Marie Desforges-Boucher, in particular, displayed a palpable lack of enthusiasm for Castellan’s flight of mercy. Ships had suddenly become scarce, he explained, not least since L’Utile’s wreck. Once a distant threat, Britain’s navy now loomed more closely, threatening the security of supplies to the islands. And with all those delays already—not anybody’s fault, of course—was it even likely the slaves were still alive?

Historians suspect ulterior motives. Desforges-Boucher is known to have had a sideline in trading slaves. A cargo of 200 Mozambicans he had ordered were on their way to the islands. The ban on trading had helped firm up prices and boost margins. There seemed no sense in bailing out a hapless rival at the last minute, especially when the British could be made to carry the can.

Whatever the reasons, the two men ended up at loggerheads. Desforges-Boucher promised a ship once the war with Britain ended (the Seven Years’ War dragged on until 1763), while Castellan vowed not to leave the islands until the slaves had been retrieved. As so often happens, stalemate favoured the bureaucracy. While most of the crew returned home, Castellan took a position aboard a supply ship ferrying goods around the islands. He nearly scored an unlikely success: in January 1762, the captain of his new ship was amenable to a detour via Île de Sable. The plan was foiled when the Royal Navy landed on a nearby island.

By September of that year, 12 months after the Providence had sailed, Castellan realised the futility of his quest and returned to France. Yet his lobbying continued, if letters later found in various government archives are to be believed. His cause was aided by the publication of a real-life-adventure pamphlet printed in Amsterdam that turned the castaways into a minor cause célèbre. Mysteriously, a hastily added footnote even suggested a happy conclusion for the slaves: “A ship has been sent from Île de France to rescue these wretched souls.”

It was not so. The suggestion of benevolence when none was forthcoming infuriated one reader. In the copy of the pamphlet held in the French Navy archives, the erroneous footnote is annotated by hand. “It had been promised one would be sent, it has not been done as yet.” Irène Frain, a French author who has written a fictional retelling of the slaves’ fate, is adamant the handwriting is Castellan’s.

A decade later, he was still writing pleading letters. The bankruptcy of the Company in 1769—the cause of great financial hardship for Castellan—had led to new administrative arrangements in France’s Indian Ocean territories. Perhaps that explained why in 1772, for no stated reason, the secretary of the navy was now willing to back a rescue mission. Nobody knew then, more than a decade on, whether any slaves might have survived. In any event, the order was ignored for another three years.

The island they called home

A ship was dispatched in August 1775, 14 years after the original crash. It reached Île de Sable, but heavy weather prevented it from doing much more. Worse, it added a castaway to the island; one of the two men aboard a dinghy launched from the ship was left stranded there.

The expedition at least answered any remaining questions of whether the island was inhabited. Lying offshore (he could get no closer), the captain saw that a community of sorts seemed to have endured. There were 13 people in all—14, with the newly added sailor. Buildings had been erected. The anchor from L’Utile still protruded from the surf. More surprisingly for a woodless island, a plume of smoke suggested fire.

A rescue mission looked harder than expected. But the new governor of Île de France was made of sterner stuff than Desforges-Boucher. It helped that by 1776 Britain had bigger colonial problems to contend with than minor islands in the Indian Ocean; there, France ruled supreme. Still, the task required unexpected effort. Two more ships were commissioned to save the castaways, but failed.

The fourth succeeded. In November 1776, 15 years after Castellan had left, the Dauphine, a corvette captained by Jacques-Marie Lanuguy de Tromelin, at last got favourable winds. At Île de Sable a dinghy was dispatched from it. By then, the only inhabitants were seven women wrapped in clothes made of birds’ feathers. One of them—oddly, on an island with no men—held an eight-month-old baby boy.

With no pomp or ceremony, they were ferried to the Dauphine and evacuated. In the space of a morning, the island went from being inhabited and unnamed to being uninhabited and named after the man who had made it so: Tromelin Island.

Why had only seven castaways survived, when 14 had been spotted weeks before? It seems the newly marooned sailor had tried his luck as a latter-day Castellan. With the help of the now-natives, one assumes, he had salvaged whatever could still be used from L’Utile’s wreck and built his own Providence. Sails were improvised from birds’ feathers. Unlike Castellan, the unnamed sailor had taken some of the slaves: the last three men and three women. Also unlike his predecessor, he failed to reach Madagascar.

One little island an everywhere

Back on Île de France, the women were declared free and baptised. Semiavou, the mother of the child (and the only one whose name was recorded) was christened Eve. The boy was named Moïse, after the prophet who was born a slave and whose name means “drawn out of the water”.

Whatever meagre accounts of life on the island were collected—there was no great eagerness to do so—have been supplemented since by Max Guérout, a French naval researcher who calls himself an “archaeologist of distress”. With teams of volunteers, he has been on many expeditions to the island since 2006. Digging through metres of sand accumulated since the 18th century, they have unearthed a dozen buildings erected by the slaves. The stone walls are a metre-and-a-half thick to withstand the wind and make up for the lack of cement. With no materials at hand to craft a roof, the rooms are tiny. One of them had no entrance, for unknown reasons. They made unseemly accommodation: in Madagascar stones are used for tombs, not buildings.

In fact no tombs or bodies have ever been found. This makes it difficult to establish what happened to the other slaves. Of the 80 or so left behind, less than half are accounted for. Eighteen are thought to have embarked on a raft shortly after they were abandoned; with no textile sails, it is assumed they never reached land. Most of the others died early on, including some women in childbirth. Moïse, as he later became, was the only child to survive. With his light skin, it was speculated but never confirmed that he was the son of the white sailor who had arrived the year before.

The same brackish well that had saved the sailors had slaked the slaves’ thirst for 15 years. A fire started in Castellan’s day had been kept burning since then, fed with scraps of wood gathered from L’Utile. The only cloth available consisted of birds’ feathers woven together using ropes from the wreck, hence the women’s attire that had startled the sailors. Basic metalwork—copper for eating implements, lead for water cisterns—had continued at a furnace set up to build the Providence.

The women declined to return to Madagascar, where they would probably have fallen back into slavery. Their wish for a quiet life on Île de France seems to have been realised: nothing is known of them thereafter. Castellan, by then a hospital administrator in Brittany, may have heard of their rescue; his reaction was not recorded. He died in 1782. Desforges-Boucher, who stayed on the island after relinquishing the governorship in 1767, perished on the voyage back to France. Tromelin returned to France only to have his family’s estate seized in the revolution of 1789.

That the story of Tromelin Island has survived at all is largely due to one of the revolution’s central figures, the Marquis de Condorcet. He included the harrowing tale of the castaways in his pamphlet “Reflections on Negro Slavery”, published in 1781. His account is confused on the details, mentioning 300 slaves stuck on an island that was submerged by tides twice daily. But the gist of the story is damning of the behaviour of the French authorities: “Seven negro women and a child born on the island were found, the men having all died, either of misery, or hopelessness, or attempting to escape.”

The pamphlet galvanised anti-slavery campaigners, and was reissued seven years later. In only a matter of years, Desforges-Boucher landed on the wrong side of history. Debates in the new Assemblée Nationale in February 1794 decried the practice as lèse humanité, a precursor to today’s crime against humanity. The new regime abolished slavery—a decision that was never properly implemented, and ultimately reversed.

As for Tromelin Island, little happened there for the next hundred years. In 1810 Britain seized control of Île de France, and so, at least in theory, inherited its distant cousin as part of its empire. In 1867 the Atieth Rahamon, a three-masted ship carrying 10,400 bags of sugar, crashed into Tromelin, but the crew were rescued.

The island’s precise co-ordinates were established only in the 1950s. France, keen to keep some sort of foothold in the Indian Ocean ahead of the impending decolonisation of Madagascar, established a weather station on Tromelin in 1954. There is now a cluster of modern buildings—erected, with no little irony, using labourers imported from Madagascar—and a runway of crushed coral runs the length of the island.

Today the weather station needs no staff, but French soldiers fly in every other month to rotate a crew of three people. Their presence serves mainly to weaken long-standing, if half-hearted, claims of sovereignty by Mauritius. One hut doubles up as a fully-fledged post office adorned, like all French municipal buildings, with a portrait of François Hollande, the island’s nominal president. Mr Guérout and his archaeologists of distress arrive periodically to dig up some corner of the island. A plaque commemorating the betrayed slaves was erected in 2013: not far from L’Utile’s rusting anchor, still stranded in the surf, battered by the waves.

10/30/2015

Comunalidad as the Axis of Oaxacan Thought in Mexico

Filed under: capitalism,colonialism,corruption,culture,ideology,mexico — admin @ 6:37 am

Comunalidad as the Axis of Oaxacan Thought in Mexico (p4 of 17)

The following article by Jaime Martinez Luna originally appeared in
the anthology “New World of Indigenous Resistance: Noam Chomsky and
Voices from North, South, and Central America,” edited by Lois Meyer
and BenjamÌn Maldonado and published by City Lights. The book is a
collection of interviews with Noam Chomsky and articles written in
response to those interviews by indigenous activists and scholars. For
more information on the Academia de Comunalidad or on the First
International Congress on Comunalidad- Communal Struggles and
Strategies: Horizons Beyond Capitalism visit
http://www.congresocomunalidad2015.org

The Fourth Principle

The history of Oaxaca has been interwoven with principles and values
that display its deeply rooted comunalidad. For the Oaxacan people
across many centuries, this has meant integrating a process of
cultural, economic, and political resistance of great importance.
Since the Spanish conquest individualist and mercantilist as it was
Oaxaca has responded with a form and reason for being communal that
has permitted it to survive even in the face of an asphyxiating
globalizing process.

This historic and latent resistance is the basis for the achievement
today of having the concept of comunalidad written into the State
Education Act of 1995, as the fourth guiding principle of education.
For its transcendence, this principle requires that it be integrally
implemented so that in future generations, it becomes the foundational
knowledge and the basis for constructing all other knowledge. This
will guarantee its security and immediate identity within the current
intercultural education process.

We have not the slightest doubt that comunalidad is the
epistemological notion that sustains an ancestral, yet still new and
unique, civilizing process, one which holds back the decrepit
individualization of knowledge, power, and culture.

Based in the above, many of us as professionals who serve the
interests of the form of education that Oaxacan communities demand
consider it appropriate to lay out the set of criteria that undergird
an integrated treatment of the concept of comunalidad, seen as the
central concept in Oaxacan life.

A BRIEF HISTORY

The existence of a polytheism which sacralizes the natural world, the
absence of private property, an economy oriented toward immediate
satisfaction, and a political system supported by knowledge and work,
led the original peoples to create a cosmovision originating from the
us, from the self-determining and action-oriented collective, and,
along with this, to construct a communalist attitude which has been
continually consolidating itself despite cultural and economic
pressures from outside.

Meanwhile, the colonizers, who were educated in autocratic regimens
with a monotheistic and individualizing religion, a market-oriented
economy, and a concentrated, privatizing concept of nature, have
forced original peoples to develop strategies of resistance based in
the collective, in shared labor, and in respect for their community
elders or wise men (or seÒores naturales, natural gentlemen, as they
were called in colonial law).

With independence and the creation of the nation-state, the encounter
of these two visions did not erase their differences. The heirs of the
colonial system, criollos1 and mestizos,[2] set themselves up as the
central power of the nascent republic, undergirded by Western values,
such as liberty, equality, and fraternity, that were constructed in
the glow of the French Revolution. The Constitution of 1857 reflects
European and North American influences; it supports private property
and declares that ecclesiastical property, and perhaps communal
property, as well, though this is unclear, are no longer held in
perpetuity. Resistance to these actions varied across the Republic.
States with lands of interest to the market felt the effects of these
laws the most; not so much Oaxaca, where flat lands appropriate for
mercantilist agriculture are scarce, and the greatest capitalist use
of plains and plateaus included livestock in the areas where private
property today is prevalent, such as the coastal region and Tuxtepec.
The same occurred in the political sphere. The majority of Oaxacan
communities and municipalities retained their self-determination,
inherited from their cacicazcos, or prehispanic forms of governance.
These managed to maintain their authority with the strategic support
of both the colonizers and the independents.

With the Mexican Revolution, there was not much change. The
contradictions played out with greater intensity in the indigenous
regions. Oaxaca stands out in its resistance, thanks to its
topography. At present, it is the state with the greatest communal
land ownership, the greatest number of municipalities, the most
peoples with distinct languages and cultures, but at the same time,
the least important state in the nation, according to government
statistics, despite its illustrious native sons Benito Ju·rez, Flores
MagÛn,[3] and Porfirio DÌaz, in order of importance.

Presently, thanks to the ways of thinking and being of its people,
Oaxaca boasts the best preserved natural regions. It stands out in
terms of energy potential, which has made it an expansive region
coveted by private interests as lucrative terrain for development.
Globalization and privatization find in Oaxaca unlimited potential for
profit-making. It follows, then, that Oaxaca has also provided many
opportunities for resistance and a depth of knowledge to more clearly
define this process. This is demonstrated in the comunalidad which
displays itself in every dimension of life.

COMUNALIDAD AXIS OF
OAXACAN THOUGHT

The world is awakening from the illusion of a universal culture shaped
by one hegemonic form of reasoning. Today it confronts the reality of
diversity, multiculturalism, and the recognition of a daily
intercultural process strengthened by increasing migration across the
planet. The individualism which was imposed on the colonies, today
nation-states, is reaching its limits in regard to the development of
equality and democracy, as it confronts the truly vibrant
epistemological proposal of comunalidad.

Comunalidad does not originate from a discourse devised in a cubicle,
a classroom, or a laboratory. It emerges as a tacit display of social
movements, which in the 1980s achieved their goal of controlling their
own development by conceptualizing their actions.

The organizing mechanisms that sustain comunalidad are not visible
outside of the social process; it is in this same social process that
they become visible. In other words, comunalidad carries on
independently of whether we conceive of it as such, or not. The
actions are a demonstration of principles and values emanating from a
historical reality, one that transcends the centuries and is being
consolidated in a concrete struggle for the liberation of peoples, as
well as their cultural reaffirmation.

Comunalidad is confronted by the individualism imposed as part of the
logic of colonialism, privatization, and mercantilism, which are
developed according to a philosophy centered in the individual as the
axis of the universe. Neither Marxism nor nineteenth-century
liberalism strays from this base. Comunalidad integrates diversity and
reproduces it within collaborative forms of work and joint
construction. In other words, we could say that predatory and now
globalized individualism is confronted by an ancient communalism
(which in the opinion of Marx, was surpassed by later modes of
production). But in reality, comunalidad is an historical experience
and a vibrant, present day set of behaviors, which is constantly
renovated in the face of the social and economic contradictions
generated by capitalist individualism.

In Oaxaca, the vitality of comunalidad as it presents itself witnesses
to the integration of four basic elements: territory, governance,
labor, and enjoyment (fiesta). The principles and values that
articulate these elements are respect and reciprocity. Comunalidad and
individualism overlap in Oaxacan thought. We are the unique result of
our own culture, but we are also colonized. Everyone displays
knowledge according to the context surrounding them; hence,
contradictions are a daily occurrence, not only of individuals, but
also of communities. This is why, due to the social processes that
Oaxaca experiences, the study and reproduction of comunalidad in all
dimensions of life is vitally necessary if we wish to transcend our
prevalent socioeconomic contradictions.

COMUNALIDAD IN EDUCATION

In the 1980s, thanks to indigenous, peasant, and social movements in
general, comunalidad was proposed as the explanatory concept of the
organizational modalities of Oaxacan society. The teachers insurgence,
as well as the commitments of various Oaxacan and Mexican
intellectuals, found in this concept a logical articulation of their
mobilizations and their teaching. The outcome was that Oaxacan
teachers managed to insert the concept of comunalidad as the fourth
guiding principle together with democracy, nationalism and humanism in
the State Education Act of 1995. That law was, of course, also a
response to fears generated in government officials by the Zapatista
uprising of 1994.

The communal vision of life transcends the labyrinth that presently
entraps indigenous education. Community-controlled education starkly
marks the boundaries that separate school-based, cloistered education
from that which the community in its entirety provides. Understanding
the presence of comunalidad in education means understanding very
specifically how to plant the seed of a civilizing process, one that
investigates and proposes a concrete pedagogy that guarantees not only
that the concept (and now guiding principle) of Oaxacan education is
understood, but also that continuous mobilizations are undertaken for
the liberation of knowledge. Now that comunalidad is established as a
principle in the State Education Act, spaces and opportunities must be
opened up which are dedicated to developing the necessary knowledge
and designing needed tools to make it a reality. This means
incorporating this knowledge and these tools into the centrally
planned state education which contradicts our realities and serves as
an obstacle to our being able to express our own experiences. By
expressing our experiences, we will be able to reproduce the
principles and values that support the reaffirmation of our cultural
diversity.

This line of reasoning can and must result in the achievement of our
expectations. This leads us to the following conclusions: -It is
necessary to integrate specific, local, and regional content in the
education that is imparted throughout the territory of Oaxaca. -It is
important to strengthen our ancestral knowledge using pedagogical
agencies and tools appropriate to the task, in order to resist the
ruinous individualization of knowledge. -It is imperative that we
ground an epistemology in the everyday labor of society in order to
shape a new conception of the universe. Thinking must not be the
preserve or property of the academy. It must be the practice of all
the worlds inhabitants.

A NEW PEDAGOGY

What needs to be taught is nothing more than sharing the sharing of
anger, enchantment, routine, misfortune, pain, tenderness, joy. For
teachers, all of these words are a familiar lingo. Paulo Freire called
this the pedagogy of the oppressed, Makarenko referred to the identity
of others, Summerhill saw it as constant hilarity; thus, everyone sees
what they want to see. Everyone depends on his or her concept, context
and text. In this sense, one cannot speak of one pedagogy, but rather
an intellectual diversity that captures the world, that is not
time-bound, but if given space, that defines character and emotion.

All pedagogical technologies depend on interests of all kinds: social
interests, because they respond to the stimuli of relationships;
acquired, and in many cases, imposed values; political interests,
because they respond to governments set up by those who want to manage
the lives of the inhabitants; and economic interests, because they
respond to needs inserted from the outside, not only to those that are
internal.

All of which leads us to understand that no one can teach anyone else,
or all of us must teach each other, and with that we reproduce
intentions and resolve needs. This is what we learn from comunalidad.

Noam Chomsky affirms that our peoples face challenges, in most cases
historical challenges. Neoliberalism is neither liberal nor new, but
it is a concentration of enormous power, and it also is collapsing.
Edgar Morin shares the same view, believing that the communal is a
very significant proposal, but it must be understood, valued and
supported. The Mexican philosopher Luis Villoro is very enamored of
this perspective and agrees with the communitarian view, though he
will not be separated from his republican passion. The European
philosopher Panikkar also agrees with communitarianism; however, his
Western orientation keeps him from developing more detailed responses
to this matter. Gonz·lez Casanova continues to be obsessed with
democracy, a topic in need of debate in light of current realities.[4]

In education, that which is communitarian is a paradigmatic vision. A
fundamental principle is to liberate the exercise of knowledge. It
must be acknowledged to be the result of everyones labor: the
so-called university-educated, bricklayers, teachers, peasants, in the
end, all of us who inhabit the natural world. I am not bothered by the
idea of knocking down schools and suppressing teachers because,
essentially, we are all teachers. Teachers are not the ones, despite
their intelligence, who should determine what we must know. They must
understand that it is each and every one of us who has to open the
door to knowledge. The collective task does not come from the outside;
it has always been within us, and also the need. Nature has obligated
us to work together, and not for the politicized notion of mass labor
embodied in the Industrial Revolution, if that is what you want to
call it, but rather for the need to survive.

AN EXAMPLE TO HELP CLARIFY

As an 8-year-old boy, my mother enrolled me in a boarding school
founded due to the initiative of L·zaro C·rdenas.[5] The students came
from many communities, basically indigenous, a concept imposed on us
thanks to Manuel Gamio[6] and his collection of anthropologist and
bureaucrat followers. The tale is long but its importance centers on
the the educational organization of the experience.

There was an assembly made up of all the students. Through a committee
the students organized homework and chores; even the meting out of
justice was decided in this representative way. The teachers were
simply consultants; the students determined what was to be done.

There were workshops for agriculture, textile and shoe production,
bread and food production, carpentry, ceramics, and music. The
educational process was not centered on the teaching staff but rather
in liberation and work. This is a long story, but we can understand
and summarize it in the following manner: a. An education founded in
work. b. An education based not in organization from above, but in the
participation of all. c. An educational method founded in respect for
everyone¥s knowledge, and fundamentally, respect for that which is our
own.

CONCEPTUAL CONTEXT OF THE IDEA

In 1856, Karl Marx wrote in his Outlines of the Critique of Political
Economy or Grundisse, about the existence of communalism, basing
himself on the experiences of the Aztecs, the Iroquois, and the
Asians, both Hindu and Chinese. He discovered in these sources
distinct values and modes of organization. Yet his reflections were in
a certain respect pessimistic. He thought that these were cultures
destined to disappear. For him, industrial development made the worker
into the subject responsible for social and economic transformation.
However, in his reflections he provides elements that are consistent
with an understanding of the communal within the relationship of human
beings with territory.

This is the first reflection that I want to share with you. Communal
beings, as BenjamÌn Maldonado affirms, make sense of themselves in
terms of their relationship with the land. An indigenous person
understands himself in relationship with the land. I want to clarify
that I am not referring to the Zapatista or Magonista maxim of Land
and Liberty, but rather to a relationship with the land that is not
mercantile, a relationship of sharing and caring. That is, humans are
linked to the land not only for organic sustenance, but also for
spiritual and symbolic sustenance. In other words, the land does not
belong to those who work it, in my way of reasoning; rather, those who
care for it, share it, and when necessary work it belong to the land,
and not the other way around.

Obviously in a world ruled by the logic of the market, it is easier to
appropriate everything from nature for ourselves rather than to grasp
an entirely reverse conception of ourselves. The need to survive
causes us to view everything from a materialistic perspective; on this
subject Marx made an abundance of reflections of great importance. But
here is where the difference from indigenous thinking springs forth.
Comunalidad is a way of understanding life as being permeated with
spirituality, symbolism, and a greater integration with nature. It is
one way of understanding that human beings are not the center, but
simply a part of this great natural world. It is here that we can
distinguish the enormous difference between Western and indigenous
thought. Who is at the center only one, or all? The individual, or
everyone? The market makes everything into a product, a thing, and
with that nature is also commodified.

My second reflection is on organization. Marx respects the community
as the nucleus that integrates families, that which makes of territory
a space for social relationships appropriate for the exercise of a
necessary social organization. This necessary organization is
obligatory, not only for peaceful coexistence, but also for the
defense of territorial, spiritual, symbolic, artistic, and
intellectual values. The community is like a virtual gigantic family.
Its organization stems initially and always from respect.

Everything is done together, a practice obviously reinforced by the
policy of the Spanish colonizers of concentrating populations. Still,
it is a natural reaction, naturally linked up with the use of a common
language.

The creation and functioning of the communal assembly perhaps was not
necessary before the arrival of the Spaniards, but for the sake of
defense it had to be developed. Once the population was concentrated,
religious societies to attend the saints (cofradÌas), and community
organizations to plan fiestas (mayordomÌas) developed, which were
cells of social organization that strengthened the ethics of the
assembly. Out of this, the communally appointed leadership roles
(cargos) originated. Someone had to represent the group, but all this
implied the need for greater consolidation for decision-making. The
Spanish governors designed the details of the colonial organizational
structure, but in one way or another over time all the new colonial
roles simply were absorbed into already-established traditional roles
and responsibilities. Centuries had to pass before the colonial cargos
that were used to control the native population were diluted and
leveled enough so that the macehuales (community members, now
comuneros) could ascend the social pyramid, and the community could
become a space of truly horizontal participation.

Today, as before, one does not receive a community cargo by empty
talk, but rather because of ones labor, attitude, and respect for the
responsibilities entrusted. Everyone knows this, having learned it
even before the age of eighteen, perhaps at ten or fourteen years of
age, when assigned the first cargo, that of community policeman
(topilillo). This gives the cargo a profound moral value that has
nothing to do with categories such as economic value, efficiency,
profitability, or punctuality, but rather with respect for the
responsibilities involved. This has created a truly complicated
political spectrum in Oaxaca. We have 570 municipalities and more than
10,000 communities. Eighty percent of these continue to govern
themselves by communal assemblies. Their representatives are named in
the assembly. For this reason, the widespread civic uprising that
occurred in 2006 in Oaxaca must be analyzed under more meticulous
parameters, a topic that will not be addressed here.

The third reflection refers to communal work. Weber, as well as Keynes
and Marx, analyzed productivity in terms of the individual. They found
in individual labor a process of value production that they explained
according to their theoretical frameworks. However, communal labor is
a different matter. To begin with, communal labor does not respond to
the drive for personal satisfaction, that is to say, it does not obey
the logic of individual survival, but rather that of satisfying common
needs, such as preparing a plot of land, repairing or building a road,
constructing a community service hall, hospital, school, etc. This
labor is voluntary, which implies that individual wages are not
received. In the urban world, everything is money-driven; you pay your
taxes and away you go. Curiously, it is said of Oaxaca that it is the
subsidized state par excellence, while what is not taken into account
is the value of communal work, which if calculated, would surpass all
the fiscal supports that we are aware of. The value of this work can
also be translated to the context of political representation. Ask
yourself how many political representatives in the city would
contribute their time if they were not paid for it!

Fifty percent of the cost involved in constructing any community
service is the cost of labor, apart from the purchase of necessary
materials. This wealth of local participation goes unnoticed by the
state and federal governments. We could say that Oaxaca lives by its
own resources without outside support, and this provides a wide degree
of self-determination. It is not a coincidence that 418 municipalities
are politically self-governed. I am referring here to what is called
usos y costumbres,[7] a concept that for me is pejorative, yet there
is no other state in the Republic of Mexico that enjoys this self
determination. If we add to this all the communal labor, then the
situation becomes even clearer.

It is important to point out a few details. Oaxaca is the state with
the greatest number of municipalities (almost a quarter of the
country’s total). Almost 70 percent of its territory is in the
category of collective ownership, and there are seventeen indigenous
languages with thirty-seven variants of these.[8] It is the state with
the two most biologically diverse areas in all of Mexico: the
Chimalapas and the Sierra Norte. And something almost imperceptible
but which marks the nature of Oaxaca it is the geographical
convergence of the two mountain ranges of Mexico: the Sierra Madre
Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental. This makes Oaxaca a wrinkled
landscape, or, as Father Gay[9] used to say, like a crumpled sheet of
paper. It does not have plains to guarantee an elevated level of
productivity, which also explains its motley pattern of communal
organization. It was easier to produce the dye-generating cochineal
insect than corn, first, because of the geography, and also partly
because of the ease with which all of the inhabitants could
participate, both adults and children. Another reflection concerns the
fiesta. In a neoliberal context, it is the market that establishes the
rules, and it demands greater production of merchandise. In the
community there is production, but it is for the fiesta. All year long
every nuclear community cultivates its products: corn, beans, squash,
fruit, chickens, pigs, turkeys, even cattle. For what? For the fiesta.
Any urban dweller would say, what fools! They could sell them instead.
But that is not how it works. Here is the root of the difference. The
community member (comunero, or comunario as a Bolivian friend says),
does not work to sell, but for the joy derived. The little money that
she or he manages to gather is used to buy some skirts, trousers,
fireworks. Many interpret this as ignorance; I call it a connection to
the land, or spirituality. I would like to share some brief
conclusions with you.

1. The year 1994 the year of the Zapatista uprising awakened new
dreams, but in reality what it achieved was to pull away the blanket
under which we were hidden. Now here we are, reclaiming our
comunalidad.

2. The isms are aberrations that convert themselves into authorities
that impose themselves and are not naturally born. I fear communalism
because it sounds doctrinaire. And I believe that is what we least
want for our own free self-determination.

3. Marx included in his writings a fountain of knowledge by which to
understand our social longevity, but this was covered up by his focus
on industry and the protagonist role of the worker. And we all know
how that turned out.

4. We must find in the experience of our peoples the lessons necessary
to create new conceptual frameworks. And we must not be afraid to
construct new epistemological notions that will lead us to transcend
even ourselves.

Jaime MartÌnez Luna is a Zapotec anthropologist, early theorist of
Oaxacan comunalidad, community member of San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca,
and veteran community activist whose work has focused on the defense
of communal forests and other natural resources, and more recently on
traditional and activist music and the development and promotion of
community radio.

NOTES 1. Persons born in Latin America of Spanish descent. 2. Persons
of mixed European and Indian descent; half-breeds. 3. Ricardo Flores
MagÛn (1873-1922) was a Oaxacan anarchist who began a revolution
against the Mexican state under the banner of Land and Liberty. Exiled
to the United States in 1904, he organized three armed uprisings
(1906, 1908, 1911). He was the only revolutionary who was inspired by
indigenous peoples, believing that their historic experience of
communal life would be the foundation for reconstructing Mexican
society after the revolutions triuph. 4. Edgar Morin is a French
essayist who has influenced education through his proposals of
transdisciplinarity and complex thought. See Los siete saberes
necesarios para la educaciÛn del futuro, available on internet at .
Luis Villoro is one of Mexicos major contemporary social philosophers
with significant contributions in the areas of epistemology and
ethical reflections on the relationship of the nation-state with
indigenous peoples. See Saber, creer, conocer (MÈxico: Siglo XXI Eds.,
2008) and Estado plural, pluralidad de culturas (MÈxico: Ed, PaidÛs,
2002). RaimÛn Panikkar is a Hindu-Catalan philosopher who reflects on
the vast distance between Western and other cultures. See: øEs
occidental el concepto de los derechos humanos? (Mexico, DiÛgenes 120,
Winter 1982) and ReligiÛn, filosofÌa y cultura (2000) on the Internet
at:
http://www.raimonpanikkar.com/articles/religion_filosofia_y_cultura.
htm. Pablo Gonzalez Casanova is a Mexican sociologist, affiliated
closely with Zapatismo, who in the 1970s proposed the idea of internal
colonization to explain the relationship of the Mexican state with
indigenous peoples. See La democracia en MÈxico (MÈxico: Ed. Era,
Serie Popular, 1978); also El colonialismo interno, (2006) on the
internet at:
http://bibliotecavirtual.clacso.org.ar/ar/libros/secret/gonzalez/
colonia.pdf. 5. L·zaro C·rdenas, the Marxist-oriented president of
Mexico from 1934-1940, promoted socialist education policies and layed
the foundation for indigenous assimilation (indigenismo) as public
policy. 6. Manuel Gamio is considered to be the father of Mexican
anthropology. He carried out important interdisciplinary studies and
was a functionary in postrevolutionary governments. 7. A term used to
refer to the traditional form of governance through a communal
assembly that selects its community leaders in the form of cargos. 8.
The number of languages and their variants spoken in Oaxaca is
disputed. It is commonly reported that there are between fourteen and
seventeen languages with between thirty to fifty variants, though some
say the number of variants may be as many as ninety. A language such
as Zapotec may more accurately be considered a language family, for
its variants, such as Zapotec of the Tehuantepec Isthmus and Zapotec
of the Sierra, are as different one from another as Spanish and
Italian and Portuguese. 9. Fray Antonio Gay was an early Oaxacan
historian whose work has served as the foundation of Oaxacan history.
In reality, he pirated information from other sources and made
unsubstantiated claims, such as that the Chatino people descended from
Vikings.

“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to
turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” -Eduardo Galeano Support
UDW

6/27/2014

Nicaragua’s Mayagna People and Their Rainforest Could Vanish

Filed under: colonialism,culture,nicaragua — admin @ 2:45 pm

MANAGUA, Jun 19 2014 (GIP) – More than 30,000 members of the Mayagna indigenous community are in danger of disappearing, along with the rainforest which is their home in Nicaragua, if the state fails to take immediate action to curb the destruction of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, the largest forest reserve in Central America and the third-largest in the world.

Arisio Genaro, president of the Mayagna nation, travelled over 300 km from his community on the outskirts of the reserve in May to protest in Managua that the area where his people have lived for centuries is being invaded and destroyed by settlers from the country’s Pacific coastal and central regions.

In early June, Genaro returned to the capital to participate in several academic activities aimed at raising awareness on the environment among university students in Managua and to protest to whoever would listen that their ancestral territory is being destroyed by farmers determined to expand the agricultural frontier by invading the protected area, which covers 21,000 sq km.

The Mayagna chief told TierramÈrica that in 1987 the nucleus of what is now the biosphere reserve had a total area of 1,170,210 hectares of virgin forest and an estimated population of fewer than 7,000 indigenous people. In 1997, when it was declared a Word Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the reserve covered more than two million hectares of tropical rainforest, including the buffer zone.

By 2010, when the indigenous people living in the reserve numbered around 25,000, the jungle area had been reduced to 832,237 hectares, according to figures cited by Genaro. The presence of non-indigenous settlers within the borders of the reserve had climbed from an estimated 5,000 in 1990 to over 40,000 in 2013.

“The y are burning everything, to plant crops. They cut down forests to raise cattle, they log the big trees to sell the wood, they shoot the animals and dry up riverbeds to put in roads,” Genaro told TierramÈrica.

Antonia G·mez, a 66-year-old Mayagna chief, also made the trek from her community to speak out in towns and cities along the Pacific coast about the situation faced by her people in Bosawas, whose name comes from the first syllables of the main geographical features that delimit the reserve: the Bocay river, the Salaya mountain, and the Waspuk river.

“All of our families used to live on what nature provides; the forest is our home and our father, it has given us food, water and shelter,” she told TierramÈrica in her native tongue, with the help of an interpreter. “Now the youngest ones are looking for work on the new farms created where there was once forest, and the oldest of us don’t have anywhere to go, because everything is disappearing.”

G·mez said that in the forest, her people planted grains and grew and harvested fruit, and hunted what they needed for food with bows and arrows. She added that there were abundant crabs and fish in the rivers and wild boars, tapirs and deer in the forests.

“Now the animals have gone. With each bang from a gun or mountain that is cleared, they either die or move deeper into the jungle. There aren’t many left to hunt,” she complained on her visit to Managua.

Part of the reserve is also inhabited by Miskitos, the largest indigenous group in this Central American country, where by law native people have the right to collectively own and use the lands where they live.

The complaints by the indigenous people were corroborated by TierramÈrica in conversations with independent academics and activists as well as government officials. Anthropologist Esther Melba McLean with the Atlantic Coast Centre for Research and Development at the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University has led studies that warn that if the invasion by outsiders and destruction of the forest are not brought to a halt, both the Mayagna people and the native flora and fauna of Bosawas could disappear in two decades.

“The destruction of the forest would mean more than the end of an ethnic group; it would mean the end of the site where 10 percent of the world’s biodiversity is found,” she told TierramÈrica.

The reserve is home to endemic species like the Nototriton saslaya salamander and the crested eagle, which are listed as endangered by local environmental organisations that point out that there are still many species that have not even been documented.

According to environmentalist Jaime Incer, an adviser on environmental affairs to the office of the president, if the destruction of the indigenous territory continues, “in less than 25 years the jungle will have completely disappeared.”

A study published in 2012 by the German development cooperation agency, GIZ, Nicaragua’s National Union of Agricultural and Livestock Producers (UNAG), the European Union and the international development organisation Oxfam warned that it would take 24 years to lose the forest in Bosawas and 13 years to lose the buffer zone around the reserve, at the current rate of deforestation.

Incer told TierramÈrica that in response to the indigenous community’s complaints and the backing they have received from environmentalists, the administration of President Daniel Ortega, who has governed since 2007, has begun to take measures against the destruction of the forest. “But they have been insufficient,” he acknowledged.

Ortega ordered the creation of a military battalion of more than 700 troops to guard the country’s forests and nature reserves. The government also organised a committee of national authorities aimed at coordinating actions and applying a zero tolerance approach towards people and organisations accused of destroying the environment.

Alberto Mercado, the technical coordinator of Bosawas in the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, said at the Central American University in Managua on Jun. 10 that the government has been carrying out actions to curb the destruction of the reserve.

He said the authorities had removed dozens of non-indigenous families from the nucleus of the reserve, and that they had brought people to trial who were dedicated to illegally selling land in Bosawas.

Mercado said dozens of lawyers have been investigated and suspended for allowing sales transactions involving indigenous property. In addition, he said, the authorities have been combating trafficking in local fauna and flora.

“But the struggle is huge…traffickers identify the `blind spots’ and that’s where they make their incursions into indigenous territory, fence it in, claim it is theirs, and that’s how the trafficking of land starts,” the official said, sounding discouraged.

The complaints of the indigenous community have gone beyond national borders, and have reached international human rights organisations. The non-governmental Nicaraguan Human Rights Centre also filed a complaint with the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Vilma N?Òez, director of the Human Rights Centre, told TierramÈrica that she had denounced the situation faced by the Mayagna people during the 44th OAS General Assembly, whose main theme was “development with social inclusion”, held Jun. 3-5 in AsunciÛn, Paraguay.

“The state and the government should guarantee the right of the Mayagna and all indigenous people in this country to live on their own land, and defend them from extermination,” N?Òez said.

Zimbabwe’s Unfolding Humanitarian Disaster – 18,000 People Forcibly Relocated to Ruling Party Farm

More than 18,000 people live in the Chingwizi transit camp in Mwenezi district, about 150 kms from their former homes in Chivi basin as they wait to be allocated one-hectare plots of land by the government.

MASVINGO, Zimbabwe, Jun 25 2014 – As the villagers sit around the flickering fire on a pitch-black night lit only by the blurry moon, they speak, recounting how it all began.

They take turns, sometimes talking over each other to have their own experiences heard. When the old man speaks, everyone listens. “It was my first time riding a helicopter,” John Moyo* remembers.

“The soldiers came, clutching guns, forcing everyone to move. I tried to resist, for my home was not affected but they wouldn’t hear any of it.”

So started the long, painful and disorienting journey for the 70-year-old Moyo and almost 18,000 other people who had lived in the 50-kilometre radius of Chivi basin in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo province. “We don’t want this life of getting fed like birds.” — John Moyo, displaced villager from Chivi basin

When heavy rains pounded the area in early January, the 1.8 billion cubic metre Tokwe-Mukosi dam’s wall breached. Flooding followed, destroying homes and livestock. The government, with the help of non-governmental organisations, embarked on a rescue mission. And even unaffected homes in high-lying areas were evacuated by soldiers.

According to Moyo, whose home was not affected, this was an opportunity for the government, which had been trying to relocate those living near Chivi basin for sometime.

“They always said they wanted to establish an irrigation system and a game park in the area that covered our ancestral homes,” he says.

For Itai Mazanhi, a 33-year-old father of three, the government had the best excuse to remove them from the land that he had known since birth.

“The graves of my forefathers are in that place,” he says. Mazanhi is from Gororo village.

After being temporarily housed in the nearby safe areas of Gunikuni and Ngundu in Masvingo province, the over 18,000 people or 3,000 families were transferred to Nuanetsi Ranch in the Chingwizi area of Mwenezi district, about 150 kms from their former homes.

Chingwizi is an arid terrain near Triangle Estates, an irrigation sugar plantation concern owned by sugar giant Tongaat Hulett. The land here is conspicuous for the mopane and giant baobab trees that are synonymous with hot, dry conditions.

The crop and livestock farmers from Chivi basin have been forced to adjust in a land that lacks the natural fertility of their former land, water and adequate pastures for their livestock.

The dust road to the Chingwizi camp is a laborious 40-minute drive littered with sharp bumps and lurking roadside trenches.

From the top of an anthill, a vantage point at the entrance of this settlement reveals a rolling pattern of tents and zinc makeshift structures that stretch beyond the sight of the naked eye. At night, fires flicker faintly in the distance, and a cacophony of voices mix with the music from solar- and battery-powered radio sets. It’s the image of a war refugee relief camp.

A concern for the displaced families is the fact that they were settled in an area earmarked for a proposed biofuel project. The project is set to be driven by the Zimbabwe Bio-Energy company, a partnership between the Zimbabwe Development Trust and private investors. The state-owned Herald newspaper quoted the project director Charles Madonko saying resettled families could become sugarcane out-growers for the ethanol project.

This plan was subject to scathing attack from rights watchdog Human Rights Watch. In a report released last month, the organisation viewed this as a cheap labour ploy.

“The Zimbabwean army relocated 3,000 families from the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi dam basin to a camp on a sugar cane farm and ethanol project jointly owned by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front [ZANU-PF] and Billy Rautenbach, a businessman and party supporter,” read part of the report. Sugar cane fields like this one in Chisumbanje are planned to feed the ethanol project in Mwenezi district. The displaced villagers from Chivi basin fear they will be used as cheap labourers.

Sugar cane fields like this one in Chisumbanje are planned to feed the ethanol project in Mwenezi district. The displaced villagers from Chivi basin fear they will be used as cheap labourers. Credit: Davison Mudzingwa/GIP

The sugarcane plantations will be irrigated by the water from the Tokwe-Mukosi dam. Upon completion, the dam is set to become Zimbabwe’s largest inland dam, with a capacity to irrigate over 25,000 hectares.

Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development, COTRAD, a non-governmental organisation that operates in the Masvingo province sees the displacement of the 3,000 families as a brutal retrogression. The organisation says ordinary people are at the mercy of private companies and the government.

“The people feel like outcasts, they no longer feel like Zimbabweans,” Zivanai Muzorodzi, COTRAD programme manager, says.

Muzorodzi, whose organisation has been monitoring the land tussle before the floods, says the land surrounding the Tokwe-Mukosi dam basin was bought by individuals, mostly from the ruling ZANU-PF party.

“Villagers won’t own the land or the means of production. Only ZANU-PF bigwigs will benefit,” Muzorodzi says. The scale of the habitats has posed serious challenges for the cash-strapped government of Zimbabwe. Humanitarian organisations such as Oxfam International and Care International have injected basic services such clean water through water bowsers and makeshift toilets.

“It’s not safe at all, it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” a Zimbabwe Ministry of Local Government official stationed at the camp and who preferred anonymity tells GIP. “The latrines you see here are only one metre deep. An outbreak of a contagious disease would spread fast.” Tendai Zingwe fears her child might contract diarrhoea due to poor sanitation conditions in Chingwizi camp.

Tendai Zingwe fears her child might contract diarrhoea due to poor sanitation conditions in Chingwizi camp.

Similar fears stalk Spiwe Chando*, a mother of four. The 23-year-old speaks as she sorts her belongings scattered in small blue tent in which an adult cannot sleep fully stretched out. “I fear for my child because another family lost a child due to diarrhoea last week. This can happen to anyone,” she tells GIP, sweating from the heat inside the tent. “I hope we will move from this place soon and get proper land to restart our lives.”

This issue has posed tensions at this over-populated camp. Meetings, rumour and conjecture circulate each day. Across the camp, frustrations are progressively building up. As a result, a ministerial delegation got a hostile reception during a visit last month. The displaced farmers accuse the government of deception and reneging on its promises of land allocation and compensation. Children stampede for reading material at the Chingwizi transit camp. Most of the kids had their schooling disrupted due to the displacement.

Children stampede for reading material at the Chingwizi transit camp. Most of the kids had their schooling disrupted due to the displacement.

The government has promised to allocate one hectare of land per family, at a location about 17 kms from this transit camp. This falls far short of what these families own in Chivi basin. Some of them, like Mazanhi, owned about 10 hectares. The land was able to produce enough food for their sustenance and a surplus, which was sold to finance their children’s education and healthcare.

Mazanhi is one of the few people who has already received compensation from the government. Of the agreed compensation of 3,000 dollars, he has only received 900 dollars and is not certain if he will ever be paid the remainder of what he was promised. “There is a lot of corruption going on in that office,” he says.

COTRAD says the fact that ordinary villagers are secondary beneficiaries of the land and water that once belonged to them communally is an indication of a resource grabbing trend that further widens the gap of inequality.

“People no longer have land, access to water, healthcare and children are learning under trees.”

For Moyo, daily realities at the transit camp and a hazy future is both a painful reminder of a life gone by and a sign of “the next generation of dispossession.” However, he hopes for a better future.

“We don’t want this life of getting fed like birds,” says Moyo.

*Names altered for security reasons.

5/24/2014

People’s Island

Filed under: canada,colonialism,culture,global islands — admin @ 4:23 am

Indigenous women and two-spirited* people are leading a resurgence movement in iyiniwi-ministik, the People’s Island.* They draw on their traditional roles as protectors of the land and water to inform their work in our communities, and root themselves in their specific socio-political orders to counter colonialism and to revitalize language and culture. Rather than being defined as a struggle against patriarchal gender roles and the division of labour, Indigenous women and two-spirited people’s work combats the imposition of colonial barriers. The goal is not to attain gender equality, but rather to restore Indigenous nationhood, which includes gender equality and respect for gender fluidity. Khelsilem Rivers (Skwxw??7mesh-Kwakwaka”ÿwakw), a community organizer from Vancouver, points out that not all Indigenous peoples have the same traditions, and that to avoid perpetuating Pan-Indian stereotypes, we need to have honest discussions about the diversity of our traditions. This is an important point indeed, as not all Indigenous nations have the same traditions with respect to the fluidity of gender roles. Romanticizing ourselves as a collective unfortunately plays into “noble savage” stereotypes and does damage in the long run. With so many Indigenous people disconnected from their specific traditions, even so-called positive stereotypes are a form of continuing erasure.

4/7/2014

First contact

Filed under: brazil,colonialism,culture — admin @ 6:42 am

It was disastrous when Europeans first arrived in what would become Brazil — 95 percent of its population, the majority of its tribes, and essentially all of its urban and agricultural infrastructure vanished. The experiences of Brazil’s indigenous societies mirror those of other indigenous peoples following “first contact.”

A new study of Brazil’s indigenous societies led by SFI researcher Marcus Hamilton paints a grim picture of their experiences, but also offers a glimmer of hope to those seeking ways to preserve indigenous societies.

Even among the indigenous societies contacted in just the last 50 years, says Hamilton, “all of them went through a collapse, and for the majority of them it was disastrous,” with disease and violence responsible in most cases, and with lasting detrimental effects. “That’s going on today — right now.”

Brazil is “a tragic natural experiment,” Hamilton says: several hundred native tribes contacted by outsiders remain, according to Instituto Socioambiental, a non-governmental organization that reports census data on 238 of those societies going back a half-century or more. That volume of data makes possible a detailed analysis of the health and prospects of the surviving contacted — and uncontacted — societies, an analysis that wouldn’t be possible any where else in the world.

Using a method called population viability analysis, the researchers found that contact by outsiders is typically catastrophic, yet survivable. While first contacts in Brazil led to population declines of 43 percent on average, that decline bottomed out an average of eight or nine years after contact, following which population numbers grew as much as four percent a year — about as much as possible. Projecting those results into the future suggests that contacted and as-yet uncontacted populations could recover from a low of just 100 individuals.

Hamilton and co-authors Robert Walker and Dylan Kesler of the University of Missouri describe their analysis in a paper published this week in Scientific Reports.

While their analysis paints a hopeful picture, Hamilton notes that deforestation, the breakdown of interactions between tribes, and assimilation with the outside world pose ongoing threats to indigenous societies.

“Demographically they’re healthy,” Hamilton says, but as for their long-term survival, “it’s very up in the air.” Lowland South America has long been a battle-ground between European colonization and indigenous survival. Initial waves of European colonization brought disease epidemics, slavery, and violence that had catastrophic impacts on indigenous cultures. In this paper we focus on the demography of 238 surviving populations in Brazil. We use longitudinal censuses from all known indigenous Brazilian societies to quantify three demographic metrics: 1) effects of European contact on indigenous populations; 2) empirical estimates of minimum viable population sizes; and 3) estimates of post-contact population growth rates. We use this information to conduct population viability analysis (PVA). Our results show that all surviving populations suffered extensive mortality during, and shortly after, contact. However, most surviving populations exhibit positive growth rates within the first decade post-contact. Our findings paint a positive demographic outlook for these indigenous populations, though long-term survival remains subject to powerful externalities, including politics, economics, and the pervasive illegal exploitation of indigenous lands.

Cry Freedom Rodrigues Island: Case for Self-Determination

Filed under: colonialism,global islands,rodrigues — admin @ 6:29 am

Cry Freedom Rodrigues Island: Case for Self-Determination

Author(s): Alain L’…vÍque

Three hundred years ago, men and women in flesh and bone, were kidnapped from their villages in Guinea; trapped and captured like animals in Senegal; ripped from their families in Mozambique; herded aboard slave ships in Madagascar, and shipped across the Indian Ocean to this part of the World. Those who survived ended their days labouring like beasts of burden for foreign masters. They would never see Africa again. To the rest of the world, these unfortunate individuals lend a human face to the dark-end of a fading history; to us Rodriguans, they were much more – they were our great great grand fathers and mothers. To get to the inmost heart of our liberation struggle from Mauritius, it is sufficiently important to briefly revisit Rodrigues’ timeline. There are differing versions of history. We have the slave-driver’s version according to the slave-driver; we have the slave’s version according to the slave; we have the versions of those who see world conquest as Jus ad bellum (just cause for war) and the versions of those who do not. From this hazy distance, when we search for a truth buried somewhere in a dead past, among so many other diluted, distorted and deformed half-truths – we can only take a leap of faith.

The name Rodrigues was eponymously plucked from Diego Rodriguez, a Portuguese sailor whose brief visit in 1528 heralded the coming of the Europeans. There is some evidence that Chinese Mariners, Arab and Malay traders, and Pirates may have stumbled on the island as far back as the tenth century. No record of any indigenous population exists. By 1638, a council on nearby Reunion Island was already administering Rodrigues as a French possession. It remained a French colony until British troops stormed the island in 1809. It was then governed as a separate British territory until May 30, 1814, when its administration was transferred to Mauritius.

During the Second World War, 300 of our compatriots, my father among them, from our tiny active population, supported the British in Tobruk and El Alamein. Yet, in March 1968, we were bound to Mauritius against our will, and marooned in the colonially imposed `forced marriage’ of unitary rule. Having offloaded Mauritius, the British in Rodrigues simply packed their bags, shot their dogs, and took off.

In effect, we became the whipping boy, left behind at the mercy of new masters, to foot the bill for the transgressions of others.

Our history has been one long painful struggle against non-consensual governments: from French possession, French colony, English possession, dependency of the colony of Mauritius, `district’ of Mauritius, to Island region of Mauritius today. Neo-colonial labels replaced colonial tags; alien masters took over from foreign rulers, but for our people – the dysphoric cycle grinds on: Adieu l’esclavage – Bonjour l’esclavage (farewell slavery – good morning slavery.) Political Domination

By 1960, the decolonization of Mauritius and Rodrigues islands had already been decided. When subsequent negotiations and constitutional conferences were held in London and Mauritius in 1961, `65 and `67, Rodriguans were deliberately excluded. The pretext was that we did not have any political parties or organizations.

During that epoch, the ultraconservative Mauritian party, PMSD (Parti Mauritian `Social Democrat’), had been running a campaign of scaremongering, along ethnic lines in Rodrigues. Besides promises of freedom, its leader, Duval, had managed to convince our people that the Devil and his Dam would descend on Rodrigues after the British pulled out. Not surprisingly, in their first contact with the ballot box in 1967, an overwhelming ninety-eight percent of Rodriguans voted against being attached to Mauritius. Sadly, the express views of our people did not take precedence over the urgent conspiracy to annex our homeland.

Of note, in 1967, Rodriguans were not offered a choice between freedom and colonialism; we had to face the horns of this dilemma: British colonization or Mauritian occupation … a foreign ruler or an alien master. Not too dissimilar to Indochina’s quandary: Japanese occupation or French colonization.

Rodriguans did not wish to continue living under a British heel, anymore than we craved the prospect of living under a Mauritian one. And we certainly did not fancy the idea of uprooting our families, leaving the bones of ten generations of our ancestors buried in Rodrigues, to sail into exile in foreign lands. Nonetheless, in those blood-curdling days in Mauritius, people were dying in the streets; we feared being carved up next. The chilling reality of the times saw many discard their possessions, homes and lands, to escape to Canada, Australia, France, England, South Africa and other parts of the World. For some, this still cuts close to the bone. In 1968, before the ink was dry on a unilaterally drafted Independence constitution; baton-wielding police hoisted the Mauritian flag atop Port Mathurin under a cloud of tear-gas. Rodriguans became unwilling Mauritian citizens overnight. On occasions when our stout-hearted brothers and sisters resisted, British troops were summoned to put down our protest.

Admittedly, after the British left in 1968, our hands were not cut off. All the same, Rodrigues was reduced to a Mauritian fiefdom, where marginalization soon became institutionalized. We found ourselves with higher unemployment, higher cost of living, higher infant mortality, higher primary education drop-out rate and lower literacy and living standard than Mauritius. Discrimination, domination and exclusion became the norm. Today, force majeure continues to buttress the status quo.

In 1976, a separate ministry was set up to deal with Rodrigues’ specificities. So far, only a handful of `moderate’ Rodriguans, with their wings clipped, have ever been co-opted to this portfolio. What’s more, no Rodriguan has filled this post in the past ten years, and the likelihood of it ever being different, seems remote. Mauritian politicians arbitrarily choose the minister for Rodrigues and politically-appointed Mauritian bureaucrats govern Rodrigues by proxy – irrespective of our votes.

In 1991, when Rodriguans, had the temerity to demand more control over their own affairs, a token island Council was put in place to placate them. Fellow travellers and party hacks were handpicked and allowed to make recommendations on local matters. But, when the Council, though toothless, began to fuel nationalist pride among those with `ideas above their station’ – it was unceremoniously disbanded in 1996.

In 2001, following a long sustained struggle, the idea of Autonomy for the ethnically diverse people of Rodrigues, was first mooted. Finally, 170 years after the abolition of slavery, far reaching devolution from the centralized rigidities of Mauritian control came into sight … albeit briefly. In 2002, after much fanfare, after the spin-doctors had recited their precision-tooled sound bites, after the pig-headed and the big-headed had had their photo opportunities – `Autonomy’ arrived. The names were changed from Island Council to Regional Assembly and from Councillors to Commissioners. A few buildings were erected here and there, a few factotums got to fly to Mauritius, there to sit, silent and still, on government back-benches and a plague of introduced Chameleons overran Rodrigues. That was roughly the extent of it.

Mauritian ministers continued to micro-manage our affairs and we got to elect the lackeys who run their errands. The central government retained all legislative and executive powers and practically everything else. Eventually, even its rusted-on supporters had to concede that our promised `Autonomy’ was a dud.

When we peek one inch beyond the chic sophistry, we see one people still ruling another, not only without that other’s consent – but against its will. Loie sans partage (absolute rule) is alive and well in Rodrigues; it can be seen any day of the year, flexing its muscle and beating its chest in Port Mathurin.

At the risk of belabouring the obvious, one cannot consider limited administrative discretion to be Autonomy, anymore, than one can seriously consider a piglet to be an elephant.

The colonial legacy of authoritarian bureaucratic dictatorship was never dismantled in Rodrigues – it was reinforced. External bureaucratic-warlords command and our people obey without question. The chief of police, the judge, the minister for Rodrigues, all the principal heads of department, all the lawyers, all the policy makers, all those who actually govern Rodrigues – all come from Mauritius.

When our Creole language, in which is stored the experiences and struggles of our people, is spurned in our Assembly – when seventy percent of our people are disqualified from political office, because they do not speak a foreign language – when half-nourished, half-educated and half-free schoolchildren are forced to learn three languages – when there is a dearth of educational material on our African culture in a curriculum designed for us, by others – when our children mimic cultures, beliefs, languages and traditions dissimilar to their own, in order to validate their sense of self-worth – when our civil service which represents ninety percent of our educated, is effectively gagged from political discourse – when our people speak of Independence in tentative muffled whispers, for fear of government spies – when everything is controlled by external forces, there is no freedom … only domination. Constitutional guarantees of no ruling caste, of no second class citizens, of consent of the governed to govern, seem to apply to all, except in respect to Rodriguans.

The Rodriguan citizen is like a beleaguered character, hopelessly trapped inside an eternal nightmare of suppressed resentment, being forced to watch helplessly, as his culture crumbles into dust.

Mauritius speaks of human rights at the United Nations, pledges solidarity with SADC (Southern African Development Committee) and the African Union – yet retains its own Colonial Dominion. The double-edged morality is staggering.

Self-Determination

Much water and much blood have flowed into the Indian Ocean, since our brothers and sisters in Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Comoros, Africa, Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius were freed (at least in theory) from the wretched web of Colonialism. But for us Rodriguans, the on-going ignominy of Mauritian Occupation still haunts our daily lives.

In the 21st century, the island of Rodrigues, one of this regions’ last remaining manifestations of Colonialism has become the `sick man’ of the Indian Ocean, forever bonded to an artificial welfare drip, and still begging a foreign kleptocrat to let us go.

It is argued that because on May 30th 1814, Britain dubbed Rodrigues a dependency of the colony of Mauritius, and administered it as part of the island of Mauritius, it automatically became an integral and indivisible territory of Mauritius. Therefore, any dismemberment of territory before independence would have been illegal under international law.

If we follow this line of reasoning, then we also recognise that all colonially-imposed arrangements are forever binding on all future generations. And when this thinking is extended retrospectively, then, Mussolini’s 1936 laws could still be cited today, as justification to go on bedevilling the lives of Ethiopians, forever.

During Mad-Dog-Morgan’s governorship of Jamaica, looting and rape were the arrangements of the day. As one would reasonably expect, when Morgan the pirate left, his arrangements left with him. The British themselves snatched Rodrigues from the French at the point of a bayonet hooked-up to a gun; likewise, any arrangements they made during their rule became null and void – the very minute they left.

There was never any 11th Commandment, which accorded Britain divine-right to bequeath our lives, our lands and our country to Mauritius, for time without end. Our people were not Mauritius’ or anyone else’s private property. We were not cattle to be handed over from one master to another to another.

Unitary rule was part and parcel of British colonial policy. As a result, despite underlying divisions among different geographical ethnic groups, territories were artificially forced into a unitary state. For example, New Zealand was administered as a dependency of the colony of New South Wales; islands of the Caribbean were grouped together willy-nilly; Seychelles was administered as part of Mauritius; There were plans afoot to group all British East-African colonies under a federation. And it was only the selfless vetoes of India’s leaders that saved Burma from being administered as part of India. Unfortunately, Rodrigues did not have a Ghandi, or a Jinnah or a Nehru; we had Duval, demagoguery and double-cross a go-go.

The simple truth, however unpalatable, is when colonial rule ended in 1968, the island of Rodrigues had a population, and that island belonged to that population, and was not up for grabs.

On March 12th 1968, there should have been two proud islands, side by side, in free association, both celebrating their freedom. Alas, there was pride on one side of the Indian Ocean and humiliation on the other. On the gloomy anniversary of that miserable day, some Rodriguans still hold a minute’s silence … and remember.

The flaw in the dismemberment argument is that it is predicated on the false premise that Rodrigues was a legitimate territory of Mauritius prior to Independence. This was never the case. Mauritius never discovered a terra nullius Rodrigues; it never captured Rodrigues by conquest; the British never wrested Rodrigues from the French in 1814 simply to give it to Mauritius; Rodriguans never surrendered their individual sovereignty and their territorial integrity to a `Pax Mauritiana’ – Moreover, the Rodriguan nation never consented to be part of, or governed by Mauritius.

State sponsored propaganda, unremittingly repeated and embedded in school children as fact, is extremely difficult to unlearn. The untainted truth is Rodrigues was part of the British Empire until 1968; today, it is an annexed country under Occupation.

It is no more a territory of Mauritius, than Hercules is a son of Zeus.

Whether Britain gifted Rodrigues to Mauritius in 1968, as it gave Eritrea to Ethiopia or whether Mauritius opportunistically annexed it, is neither here nor there. Whatever deal, whatever collusion took place between Britain and its Mauritian colonial minister, without our consent was illegal and immoral. It was akin to a departing pirate rewarding his faithful slave, with a slave of his own.

It was the shameless advancement of one country’s territorial ambition at the expense of its neighbour. Mauritius added 130,000 miles of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) to its territory, and our people lost their homeland and their dignity. The United Kingdom, Mauritius and the International community clearly understand this, as I do, as you do, as we all do … It was wrong then – It is wrong now!

In 1968, our economic or political unpreparedness should never have been used as an excuse to deny us our independence. Mauritius should have been granted its own independence separately, as Northern Rhodesia was. Rodrigues should have been placed under the guardianship of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, as a non-self-governing territory. A pan-African commission or UN special committee for self-determination could then have put together a long term plan for Independence.

Under a mutually agreed-upon constitution, with suitable opt-out clauses, we could even have remained in free association with Mauritius, rather than being perpetually entrapped in the existing abomination, euphemistically known as `Autonomy’.

If historical debts, legal or at least moral responsibilities, abrogated in 1968, are made good to some extent, past injustices can be belatedly rectified. We remain hopeful.

It is not our lot in life, to be perpetually governed by other people. We did not accept non-consensual rule from France; we did not accept it from Britain – we will never accept it from Mauritius.

Ethnic Dilution The majority of Mauritius’ 1.3 million population are descendants of Indian indentured labourers, mainly from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, brought by the British to meet labour shortages on Sugar cane plantations; whereas, ninety-five percent of Rodrigues’ forty thousand strong population are direct descendants of African slaves.

We are as distinct, as say Mexicans and Kenyans. This ethnic heterogeneity differentiates the one island from the other.

Rodriguans are not an indigenous group or an ethno-national minority seeking piecemeal internal self-rule; we are a separate people with a fervent aspiration to self-determine our future. Our case for full sovereignty is an exceptionally strong one. More to the point, we can never give up our homeland – our forefathers paid too dear a price for it!

Until recently, Rodrigues’ small maximum carrying capacity (approx.50,000) and its geographical isolation, have managed to preserve its cultural identity to some extent. However, the past few years have seen Mauritians, in ever-increasing numbers, being fast-tracked onto crown land in Rodrigues. If this trend (or government policy) continues, it is a mathematical certainty that it will dilute our ranks to a moribund minority. Much like mixing thirty bottles of beer with one bottle of lemonade – the lemonade disappears.

Once our culture, traditions, language, and way of life are gone; once we have lost our identity as a people; once our claim for sovereignty has been forever extinguished – we would have become a nation of semi-Slaves and half-repressed Serfs, stuck at the bottom-end of a Mauritian vertical class structure.

The once proud people of Rodrigues would have been reduced to a motley mob of untouchables, straw hats under the arm, bowing and scraping in the demimonde of Mauritian ghettos or eking out a living on the mountain ridges in Rodrigues. We could never again aspire to be anything more than just half a people; we would be forever playing catch-up to other cultures. As a people, we would be dead. For Rodriguans, this is an existential challenge. If we do not meet it, if we wait for the time that must come, we will surely follow the Dodo. This, I do not believe – I know.

Conclusion

The common Portuguese name Rodrigues (son of Rodrigo) was poorly chosen for us, by old masters, in evil times. Faced with being branded with it forever, even the brotherhood of Goblins, Gnomes and Gremlins would be reaching for the AK47. Seriously though, `Rodrigues’ is an old relic, fossilized in another era, clearly disconnected from and incompatible with the essence of our people. And not to mention, the blood-spattered images of Portugal’s brutal savagery in this region, which the name evokes – It is time for our generation to give it (Rodrigues) back to history.

We have lost a country – our body politic is being trampled underfoot; the stench of humiliation is everywhere; cultural oblivion looms large, and yet, we are still blighted by a small clique of bloated puppets and `well-assimilated’ latter-day Uncle Toms, wanting us to accept foreign domination.

Strangers overseas, who we do not vote for and cannot remove, design our electoral systems and electoral boundaries, decide our laws, taxation, tariffs, decide our health, education, foreign and economic policies. Strangers, decide our children’s future – Strangers decide – Strangers have been deciding for the best part of 300 years.

It is time – we decided! For, we too, have a brain and a backbone. Yes, it is true! We too, have dreams and hopes of our own. It is time to cut the neo-colonial umbilical cord sharply adrift, to take active steps to decrease dependence on others, to believe that if we reduce our wants and work hard, that self-reliance is possible and indeed desirable.

It is time to stop depending on built-in assumptions, on ideas and systems that have been partly responsible for our ongoing subordination. It is time to try other ideas, other approaches, perhaps invent new ones which better adapt to our circumstances. It is time to stop imitating others and trust in ourselves – for who we are, has worth.

Rodriguans are a resilient people. I say this, because contrary to popular belief, it is our people who have worked the land and fished the seas and kept farm animals and kept this small economy afloat – generation after generation. We have done it before, we are doing it now – we can do it better. Let’s not hesitate to continue drinking from the old well (the land and the sea), until the ghost of globalization arrives with the magic potion.

It is time to dump the usual too-poor, too-small, and not-yet-ready arguments. They are like bad records that have been played over and over again. They are intended to shackle rather than liberate. Fortunately, oppressed people the world over have ignored them, otherwise most islands in the Caribbean, Indian, Atlantic and Pacific, much of Africa and Asia, and possibly half the planet would still be under some form of colonial rule today. In any case, how large and how rich would a country need to be, for its people to qualify for their freedom? Moreover, who would decide? Our leaders must re-connect with the poor and dispossessed in this country, re-establish links with our ethnic kin in Africa, re-organize our people at the grassroots and demand that which was stolen from us in 1968 … our Country.

Let us not be discouraged by the indifference of a dog-eat-dog McWorld, let us not dither, let us steel our resolve and demand our Independence. Let us speak of it proudly in every home, in every church, in every bazaar, in every fishing-post, on every farm, on every street-corner, on every bus and wherever or whenever our people meet. Our task will not be without sacrifice, but if we turn our back on Independence now, we condemn our children to another 300 years of foreign domination. The alternative is simple: struggle or eternal subservience.

Our people have been the human Guinea pigs for some of the world’s most cold-blooded social experimentations. We have been at the painful-end of the whole monstrous gamut of Slavery, Colonialism, neo-Colonialism and `civilising missions’ of Missionaries. Despite the inhumanity, the degradation, the indignity; despite the loss of our grand African names, our sense of self, our traditional African clothing, our beliefs and our relationships with our kinfolk in Africa – we have already forgiven and moved on.

Perpetual domination is not a destination to where we want to lead our children, or as the late Pope John Paul II used to say to occupied people everywhere “you are not what they say you are; let me remind you who you really are …”

Our people have undergone a long-enough apprenticeship to be free. The time has come for us to climb out of the abyss of serfdom and view the world through our own eyes. As children of this flying planet, it is our incontrovertible right to self-determine our own future; let us exercise that right and reclaim our heritage in the human family. With this firm wish warming our hearts, with our heads held high – let us brace ourselves to face a hopeful future with fortitude.

Vive Rodrigues … Libre!

11/21/2013

Exile Islands

Histories of Exploitation

Exile Islands, Then and Now

by DEANNA RAMSEY

Christmas Island sits 220 miles off the southern coast of Java, a tiny, isolated Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. Boven Digoel is a remote spot of jungle on the island of New Guinea in Indonesia’s Papua province, once accessible only by a days-long journey upriver.

Aside from being both tropical and secluded, these sites share something darker and more ignominious, for Boven Digoel was a penal colony established by the Dutch in 1926 for rebels and critics of the colonial government, and the way-station for asylum seekers known as Christmas Island is our modern-day equivalent, a place for the marginalized of the globe to live out lives in geopolitical limbo.

So many boats filled with people from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa were landing on Christmas Island in the last decade that the Australian government built a US$370 million detention center there in 2009. The site houses more than 2,000 people, and sits in one corner of the 12-mile-long island.

The increasing number of asylum seeker arrivals to Australia – more than 15,000 in 2013 alone – has become such an issue that in July former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd took a new “hardline” stance, saying that no one arriving by boat would ever be allowed to settle there. He announced that new arrivals would be moved to a center on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for processing and possible resettlement, while also granting the country a much-needed assistance package. In August, Rudd announced a similar agreement with the South Pacific island nation of Nauru.

Now, instead of Christmas Island’s isolation, those from conflict-torn countries seeking better lives are being sent to a 60-mile-long stretch in Papua New Guinea’s northern waters or to Nauru’s even more remote eight square miles, left to wait indefinitely for their refugee claims to be processed.

Considering the history of the region, these moves to expel people to ever more distant locations – and essentially dodging the reasons why so many are there in the first place – bleakly echo polices of detainment and exile practiced by colonial-era powers.

The use of Australia as a penal colony is an obvious example, and the British East India Company banished its colonized subjects to the Andaman Islands and Singapore. The French employed New Caledonia in the Pacific and the infamous Devil’s Island in Guiana in similar ways, to name just a few.

After a failed communist uprising in Jakarta (then Batavia) in 1926, the Dutch created Boven Digoel, a prison deep in New Guinea at the easternmost border of the Dutch East Indies. The site housed those espousing communist and revolutionary views, including Sutan Sjahrir, future prime minister of Indonesia, and Mohammed Hatta, who would become the country’s first vice president.

The region’s modern exiles, fleeing countries that are centers of contemporary conflict like Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iraq, must pay people smugglers to take them on the hazardous journey to Australian territory, but they often do not reach their destination.

The rickety wooden boats that smugglers employ routinely break down and sink, with asylum seekers drowning in the seas between Indonesia and Australian territory. In 2010, a boat dashed upon the rocks on Christmas Island’s shores and 50 people drowned. In September, a boat heading to the island sank off the coast of Java, with at least 28 killed. And in October, 30 asylum seekers from Pakistan, Somalia and Eritrea were discovered on an Indonesian beach intending to travel to Christmas Island. According to reports, after a dispute with the smugglers they had paid, they were abandoned and later taken into custody by police.

The journey to Boven Digoel in the 1920s and 30s was not as fraught with danger, with Sjahrir even writing eloquently of the beauty he experienced during his voyage from Jakarta. But life in the penal colony was bad, with prisoners dying of disease, eaten by crocodiles or weakening through their efforts to create new homes in hostile jungle. Mas Marco Kartodikromo, an accomplished writer and vocal critic of the colonial government, was sent to Boven Digoel in 1927; in 1932 he died there of malaria, as many inmates did.

In both the colonial prison camp and our modern-day detention centers there was anger, rebellion and attempts at escape. In Boven Digoel, so many refused to do the work required of them that a special site was created for those “recalcitrants” to live in even further exile. Escape attempts were unsuccessful as no one could navigate the jungle. Some were caught, others just disappeared, never to be heard from again.

In March 2011, the recalcitrants of Christmas Island rioted, some jumping the center’s fence and heading to the airport, others setting fire to buildings, including their own tent accommodations, and throwing rocks at police. And on July 19 of this year, a riot by the mostly Iranian detainees at the Nauru center, reportedly in frustration at the interminable waiting involved in the processing of their claims of refugee status, destroyed many of the site’s buildings.

A United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) report from February 2013 on Manus’ center states, “the current policy and practice of detaining all asylum-seekers on a mandatory and indefinite basis, without an individual assessment or possibility for review, amounts to arbitrary detention which is inconsistent with the obligations of both Australia and PNG under international human rights law.” A December 2012 UNHCR found that Nauru’s center did not meet international standards and the conditions were “harsh, with little natural shelter from the heat during the day.” Images illustrate this, showing row upon row of tents exposed to the elements in Nauru and Manus and Christmas Island’s prison-like center wrapped in fencing and topped with barbed wire.

How strange it is that the inconspicuous Christmas Island has emerged as a destination, a space that connects Indonesia and Australia across sea – and now through the desperate people crossing their borders – and also entwines the shared colonial histories of the region. On a map, one can almost trace a straight line from Christmas Island, named by an East India Company voyager, to Boven Digoel and its echoes of the Dutch colonial past, to Manus, which was German colonial territory and later British, and on to the former German colony of Nauru.

Christmas, Manus and Nauru, with their histories of exploitation, now house modern colonies designed to imprison the innocent. The places are marked by the denial of rights, imperialist attitudes and little recourse – all on far-flung tropical islands populated by people who never intended or wanted to stay.

But one difference between then and now is that almost immediately after Boven Digoel was established, dispatches from the prison were published in newspapers throughout the Dutch East Indies, as historian Takashi Shiraishi has noted. The public could read Mas Marco’s description of the shackles he was kept in during his journey to the camp, or Sjahrir’s encounters with the locals of the New Guinea jungle or even a fictionalized account of life at Boven Digoel by the writer Kwee Tek Hoay serialized over three years in a weekly paper.

But what do we hear from our modern-day exiles, people who have fled war and terror and strife and risked their lives to make it to safer shores? Aside from news documenting political maneuverings or boat arrivals and, regrettably, capsizings, there is little from the detained themselves, especially ironic in our age of mass and social media. Those who are detained – the families even – have traveled far, far from their homes in hopes of a respite from conflict and have ended up in ironically named “centers”, with no voice and no recourse but the occasional riot.

Before arriving in Boven Digoel, Hatta somewhat optimistically wrote that he hoped the exile camp might become a “Mecca” for the progressive movement in Indonesia, a place where new leaders could emerge. And while he was certainly correct about himself, there were many others who never, ever left the place.

In December of 1938, the Dutch minister of the colonies wrote to the governor general on the closing of Boven Digoel, “That I am of opinion that the Netherlands authority over the Indies derives its great moral prestige in the world from its effective and humane administrative methods and [therefore I believe that] the sooner it can do without the exceptional means of a special place of internment, the better.”

We can only hope similar correspondence will be sent regarding the “immigration detention centers” marring our southern oceans, for those immigrants – the victims of humanitarian crises that spring from very global issues – deserve much, much better.

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