brad brace

5/11/2017

Yurumein

yurumein

… the painful past of the Caribs on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, their extermination at the hands of the British 200+ years ago, the decimation of their culture on the island, and their exile to Central America where much of that culture survived, even thrived. YURUMEIN (your -o- main) also explores what few cultural remnants of the Caribs, also known as Garifuna, still exist on St. Vincent and the beginnings of a movement to teach and revitalize Garifuna language, music and dance, and ritual to younger generations of Garifuna/ Caribs on St. Vincent.

(Yurumein) Garifuna Settlement Day

The Garifuna are mixed-race descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people. The British colonial administration used the term Black Carib and Garifuna to distinguish them from Yellow and Red Carib, the original Amerindian population before the Africans intermixed and those deemed to still look Native by the British. Those Caribs who were deemed to look Native and had less African admixture are still living in the islands of the Lesser Antilles. The Island Caribs lived throughout the southern Lesser Antilles, such as present Dominica, St Vincent and Trinidad. Their ancestors are believed to have conquered these areas from their previous inhabitants, the Igneri.

Since April 12, 1797, the Garifuna people have been living in Central America, where they speak the Garifuna language. The Garifuna people mostly live along the Caribbean Coast of Honduras, but there are also smaller populations in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. There are also many Garifuna in the United States, particularly in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Seattle, and other major cities.

from://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garifuna
see my Island 1.0 (Belize) and Island 5.0 (St Vincent)
http://bradbrace.net/id.html

4/2/2017

The Reading of the Names, the Calling Forth of Massacred Loved Ones in Rio Negro

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Thirty-five years ago – March 13, 1982 – a total of 177 women and children from the remote Mayan Achi village of Rio Negro were rounded up by the U.S.-backed regime and force-marched up from the riverside to this spot – Pacoxom – on the mountain ridge above. Here, the armed men savagely killed the women and children: using ropes to strangle; smashing children on rocks; beating them to death with hard objects. During the killing spree, soldiers and patrollers separated 35 girls and women off, raped them, then killed them and tossed their remains into this crevice.

Every March 13, family and community members hike to Pacoxom for an all night ceremony to name, reconnect with and honor their dead.Some join this further hike down into the crevice to where the bodies of their raped loved ones were found.The ceremony continued through the night, including the reading of the names of more than 440 Rio Negro villagers slaughtered in a series of five massacres in 1981 and 1982 (including March 13) as part of calculated efforts to clear the Chixoy river basin of its Mayan inhabitants, to then dam the river, to then fill in the river basin and thus complete the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank’s investment project.

La Corte Interamericana: Río Negro y el Acuerdo 370-2012

Five massacres occurred in the Rio Negro (“Black River”) communities between 1980 and 1982. The people of Rio Negro (named after the nearby river) had occupied the region since the classic Mayan age and owned 1,440 hectares of land. During the energy crisis of the 1970’s the Guatemalan government looked for local energy alternatives, creating the state-owned National Institute of Electrification (INDE). In 1975 INDE unveiled plans to dam the Rio Negro, also called the Chixoy River, to provide the country’s electricity, which would flood 31 miles of the river valley. Funds from the Inter-American Development Bank, Italian company Cogefar-Impressit, and the World Bank were used in the construction of local roads and the dam itself.

http://www.ghrc-usa.org/our-work/important-cases/rio-negro/

from://upsidedownworld.org/archives/guatemala/scorched-earth-the-rio-negro-massacre-at-pakoxom-guatemala/

It was in March of 1982 that surviving members of the Maya Achí village of Rio Negro escaped to the mountains, thus making way for the completion of the World Bank/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-funded Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam.

After a series of five military and paramilitary-led massacres, their population was effectively halved, with 444 women, men, children, and elders intentionally disappeared or murdered, often in brutal fashion.

http://rionegroproject.blogspot.com/2012/12/treinta-anos-despues.html

…On October 15…the new Vice-President of Guatemala, delivered checks in total of $11,205 to 120 families from Pacux and Río Negro, who were among those most impacted by construction of the dam…In total, 33 communities will be paid individual compensation of $22,183,077…After some 20 years, the persistence of the Maya Achí has paid off…A legally binding reparations agreement was finally signed on October of 2014 between the communities and the government of Guatemala, but it took one more year for the first checks to arrive…The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), financiers of the project, made payment of the reparations a condition…

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Placing-Blame-For-Genocide-Guatemalan-massacre-3238487.php

It happened March 13, 1982, two hours after Osorio had left his riverside village of Rio Negro to walk to a nearby town.

Ten army soldiers and 25 civilian militia members killed 177 women and children, including Osorio’s wife and newborn child, who was slashed in half with a machete. It was one of four massacres committed over an eight-month period in the Baja Verapaz province village that claimed the lives of a total of 440 Maya-Achi residents.

Today, many villagers attribute the atrocities to their opposition to displacement by the construction of the 300-megawatt Chixoy hydroelectric dam.

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3/5/2017

Solmali Famine

somalia-famine

After withdrawing from Mogadishu earlier this month, Al Qaida-inspired Al Shabaab is placing more restrictions on the movement of people, particularly men, in areas under its control.

In Somalia’s Al Shabaab-controlled Kismayu, witnesses said malnourished children were dying due to the lack of food aid.

Gulf of Aden: A dangerous gateway

Yemen is host to the second largest Somali refugee population, with nearly 192,000. About 15,000 of those have arrived since in January.

They cross the Gulf of Aden on what are often unseaworthy and overcrowded boats. Many do not survive the dangerous crossing.

The agency said it expected more refugees to arrive in Somalia over the next months, but thought they were waiting for calmer seas. The route is also often used by migrants who pay smugglers to get them to Yemen, seen as a gateway to wealthier parts of the Middle East.

At least 6.2 million people in Somalia — or just about half the country — are grappling with the prospect of an acute food shortage due to deepening drought. And on Saturday, Somalia’s prime minister made it clear that the conditions are exacting a stark human cost.

Over a two-day span, at least 110 people died of hunger in just a single region, Hassan Ali Khaire said Saturday during a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee.

“I can confirm that Bay region in the south and other parts of Somalia are deteriorating rapidly,” Khaire said, “and my estimation is that half of the country’s population has felt the impact of this drought.”

The country already declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. As Somalia has dried up, Khaire says the lack of clean water has increased the risks of waterborne diseases, while the ability of malnourished people to fight off those diseases has plummeted.

“It is a difficult situation for the pastoralists and their livestock. Some people have been hit by [hunger] and diarrhoea at the same time,” Khaire’s office said in a statement. “The Somali government will do its best, and we urge all Somalis, wherever they are, to help and save the dying Somalis.”

The United Nations is putting out urgent calls for aid, saying as many as 5 million people need aid in the shadow of a looming famine.

“Thousands have been streaming into Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in search of food aid, overwhelming local and international aid agencies,” the news service reports. “Over 7,000 internally displaced people checked into one feeding center recently.”

If a full-blown famine should descend on Somalia, the World Health Organization says it would be the country’s third famine in a quarter-century — and the second in less than a decade.

Citing a joint report by the U.N. and the United States Agency for International Development, famine killed about 258,000 people in Somalia between 2010 and 2012.

The U.N. is currently appealing for $864 million in humanitarian aid, while “the U.N. World Food Program recently requested an additional $26 million plan to respond to the drought.” The country has been hit by a severe drought that has affected more than 6.2 million people who are currently facing food insecurity and lack of clean water because of rivers that are drying up and recent years with little rain. Earlier in the week, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, warned the drought could lead to famine. “If we do not scale up the drought response immediately, it will cost lives, further destroy livelihoods, and could undermine the pursuit of key state-building and peace-building initiatives,” he warned, adding that a drought — even one this severe — does not automatically have to mean catastrophe. According to the United Nations, “Somalia is in the grip of an intense drought, induced by two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall. In the worst-affected areas, inadequate rainfall and lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock, while communities are being forced to sell their assets, and borrow food and money to survive.” The United Nations adds that “the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) — managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — have found that over 6.2 million, or more than half of the country’s population, are now in need of assistance, up from 5 million in September.”

“We estimate that almost half of the Somali population, 3.7 million people, are affected by this crisis and a full 2.8 million people live in the south, the most seriously affected area. It is likely that tens of thousands will already have died, the majority of these being children.”

The United Nations says a lack of rain over the past few years has created a famine in two areas in southern Somalia: Bakool and Lower Shabelle. Officials say the famine could spread to other areas.

This is the first time since nineteen ninety-one that the UN has declared a famine in Somalia. The Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in sixty years. UN officials have said more than eleven million people are in need of food aid. Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991, when the former government was toppled by clan militias that later turned on each other. For decades, generals, warlords and warrior types have reduced this once languid coastal country in Eastern Africa to rubble. Somalia remains a raging battle zone today, with jihadists intent on bringing down a transitional government which relies on African Union peacekeepers and Western funding for survival.

No amount of outside firepower has brought the country to heel. Not thousands of American Marines in the early 1990s. Not the enormous United Nations mission that followed. Not the Ethiopian Army storming into Somalia in 2006. Not the current peacekeepers, who are steadily wearing out their welcome.

Somalia continues to be a caldron of bloodshed, piracy and Islamist radicalism. There are currently 6,000 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers in Mogadishu, but they are struggling to beat back Islamist fighters, who are rallying around Al Shabab, a brutal group that is aligned with Al Qaeda and has turned Somalia into a focal point of American concerns on terrorism .

In 2011 Somalia experienced a full-blown famine in several parts of the country, with millions of people on the brink of starvation and aid deliveries complicated by the fact that militants control the famine zones.

The Islamist militants controlling southern Somalia forced out Western aid organizations in 2010, yanking away the only safety net just when one of the worst droughts in 60 years struck. When the scale of the catastrophe became clear, with nearly three million Somalis in urgent need and more than 10 million at risk, the militants relented and invited aid groups back. But few rushed in because of the complications and dangers of dealing with the militants.

American government rules banning material aid to the Shabab complicate aid efforts. Aid officials have worried that paying so-called taxes to the militants who control needy areas could expose them to criminal prosecution.

2/20/2017

H7N9

I-RISE

Bird flu is back. Chinese authorities are closing live poultry markets as H7N9 courses through the country, infecting 192 and killing 79 in January alone.

So far, this strain of avian flu appears to have been transmitted only through contact with live poultry, but there’s always a fear it will mutate and start passing between humans. That’s what really scares experts: the possibility of a sudden change that triggers faster spread between humans and leads to a pandemic.

A disease doesn’t count as a pandemic until it spreads worldwide – Ebola killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa before it was brought under control, and that was just an epidemic. The most modern pandemics include the Spanish influenza, circa 1918 (as many as 50 million killed), and HIV/AIDS (35 million dead).

As Chinese officials attempt to stem the latest bird flu outbreak, global public health officials are racing to get ahead of what they call the next “big one”: a disease that will kill tens of millions. It’s all about preparedness, and a large part of that is spotting outbreaks early, so action can be taken to contain any situation before it spirals out of control.

It’s anyone’s guess when and where the next major epidemic – or pandemic – might emerge. It could be a mutated version of avian flu, or perhaps something completely unseen before, like the mysterious illness with Ebola-like symptoms that struck out of the blue in South Sudan last year.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

When a patient in Madrid died last September of a disease called Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, there was no shortage of headlines about the “new” deadly virus. But the disease has actually been around for years – it got the first part of its name when first reported in Crimea in 1944, and the second thanks to a 1969 spotting in Congo.

The last two words of the disease, abbreviated as CCHF, speak to the symptoms: fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhoea, bruising and bleeding (the list goes on), and eventually death in the second week of illness – about 30 percent of patients (sometimes more) succumb to the virus.

CCHF is found pretty much everywhere south of the 50th parallel north: Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia. Humans tend to contract the virus through contact with the blood of an infected animal (itself having been bitten by infected ticks) – vets, people working in slaughterhouses, and farmers are typically most at risk.

Once in humans, the virus can be spread through contact with blood, secretions, bodily fluids, and the like. It has been contracted in hospitals thanks to poor sterilisation of equipment and reuse of needles.

The virus bothers researchers and doctors for a number of reasons, one of them cultural: it’s endemic in some Muslim countries where large-scale animal slaughter is part of celebrating (and feasting) for the holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Doctors in Pakistan, for example, have warned of a potential health catastrophe unless slaughtering practices change, as the feasting holiday will be in the summer for the next 10-15 years, coinciding with tick season and CCHF prevalence.

There are similar concerns in Afghanistan, where public health officials have been warning the public about using gloves and other protective clothing when handling animals.

There is no vaccine for Crimean-Congo, and there is no cure, although antiviral drugs have shown some promise. Nipah virus Tackling drought with emergency aid is not the answer

This one’s got a Hollywood hook: The 2011 film Stephen Soderbergh film Contagion is reportedly based on it. Spoiler alert. In the movie, Nipah causes a global pandemic. In reality, we’re far from that.

But the way Nipah got going in real life is paralleled in the film: Thanks to drought, deforestation and wildfire, large fruit bats that carry the virus found their natural habitats in Malaysia destroyed. So they moved to fruit trees that happened to be in fairly close proximity to pig farms.

The pigs ate fruit contaminated by bat urine and saliva, the virus spread quickly among livestock, and again farm workers were the first hit. This first outbreak in Malaysia in the late 1990s saw the country cull more than one million pigs: a major hit to the economy.

In its first appearance, Nipah killed 105 of 256 known infected people.

But humans can also get Nipah by drinking raw palm date sap, a delicacy in Bangladesh. It is believed to be the cause of regular seasonal outbreaks in that country. When the sap is harvested, it has already been infected by bats in the trees.

Nipah scares researchers because it kills quickly – nausea, fever, and vomiting, patients progress to a coma within 24-48 hours, and then die. It has also spread swiftly from rural areas to cities.

Once in humans, the virus is found in saliva, so it can kill caregivers and family members who share utensils and glasses, or hug and kiss their sick family members. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Bandied about as the next pandemic possibility for a while, MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, although looking back researchers believe there were cases the same year in Jordan.

It’s deadly – a reported 36 percent of patients die – and looks to have come to humans via bats, again. There’s a pattern here: Bats carry a long list of killer viruses and likely triggered the Ebola outbreak as well as SARS and others.

MERS causes fever, cough, shortness of breath, and in more than one third of patients, death. A 2015 outbreak in South Korea killed 36, and caused serious panic. Thousands of schools were closed, and many businesses were hit hard as people were wary even of going outside, and many others were quarantined.

While MERS is deadlier than its cousin SARS, it is also less contagious. It is spread through close contact with an infected person, and most transmissions have been in healthcare settings. There’s no real evidence that it’s gone airborne – that’s always a major fear – but the possibility hasn’t been completely ruled out.

For now, there’s no reason to panic about MERS, but it’s always a worry during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia, which sees some two million people converge in the country with the most cases.

Like the other diseases mentioned here, there’s no vaccine and there’s no treatment – it’s all about hygiene.

There are plenty of other scary killers out there, and researchers are both tracking the movement of viruses between species and attempting to figure out a key plot point: why exactly a virus goes airborne. One last top tip: keep a particular eye on influenza. It’s not exotic and everyone knows its name, but some form of the flu could easily become the next “big one”. Oh yes, and be careful of bats.

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

10/20/2016

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

honduras

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.

6/27/2016

Cascadia

Filed under: canada,cascadia,culture,geography,government,intra-national,usa — Tags: — admin @ 8:19 am

Flag_of_Cascadia

As measured only by the combination of present Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia statistics, Cascadia would be home to slightly more than 15 million people (15,105,870), and would have an economy generating more than US$675 billion worth of goods and services annually. This number would increase if portions of Northern California, Idaho, and Southern Alaska were also included. By land area Cascadia would be the 20th largest country in the world, with a land area of 534,572 sq mi (1,384,588 km2), placing it behind Mongolia. Its population would be similar in size to that of Ecuador, Guatemala, or Zambia.
http://cascadianow.org

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.

4/9/2016

Panama Papers

panamapapers

The Panama Papers reportedly cover more than 40 years of Mossack Fonseca’s operations on behalf of a who’s-who list of the global elite, including numerous important politicians and current or former heads of state, international criminals and star athletes, along with any number of less charismatic but equally wealthy corporations and individuals. Close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin appear in the Mossack documents (although Putin himself is not named), as do the father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, members of the Saudi royal family, the president of Ukraine and the prime minister of Pakistan. The Icelandic prime minister, named as a Mossack client with offshore holdings, was forced to resign on Tuesday, before apparently reversing himself on Wednesday. It’s safe to say the ripple effects of these revelations will be felt for years, if not decades. Mossack evidently created some 214,000 anonymous offshore companies for its moneyed clientele–“shell firms” with sham directors and phony boards of directors, reports the SZ, designed such that their “true purpose and ownership structure is indecipherable from the outside.” In most of these cases, “concealing the identities of the true company owners was the primary aim,” and the documents suggest that Mossack routinely engages in business practices that “potentially violate sanctions, in addition to aiding and abetting tax evasion and money laundering.” They’re just the tip of a really big iceberg. That’s true in several senses. First of all, although Mossack Fonseca is a major player in the lucrative international industry of helping the rich get richer, it’s only one company among the network of bankers and lawyers and honey-tongued advisers competing to grovel before the world’s elite caste and make safe their massive wealth. Perhaps the rich still believe they deserve to be rich, and too many of the non-rich believe it too. But their desperate attempts to hide their wealth beneath armies of lawyers and nests of imaginary companies and mailing addresses on distant islands suggest otherwise. They’re afraid that the illusion may be crumbling. They’re afraid that one of these days we’ll figure out how they got that money and decide to take it back.

3/18/2016

Indigenous activist Nelson Garcia has been shot dead in Honduras

garcia

Another indigenous activist has been murdered in Honduras amid an escalating wave of repression against the relatives and colleagues of renowned campaigner Berta Cáceres, who was murdered less than two weeks ago.

Nelson García, 38, an active member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh) was killed on Tuesday after a violent eviction carried out by Honduran security forces in a nearby Lenca indigenous community.

García was shot dead in the face by unidentified gunmen as he returned to his family home in Río Lindo, north-west Honduras – about 100 miles south of La Esperanza where Cáceres was murdered at home on 3 March.

7/31/2014

The Deported L.A. Gangs Behind This Border Kid Crisis

Filed under: el salvador,guatemala,honduras,intra-national,usa — admin @ 4:26 pm

Tens of thousands of Honduran thugs have been flown home on Con Air since 2001. Now, what they learned on U.S. streets with the monstrous MS-13 and MS-18 has sent children fleeing north.

Poverty was surely a factor, as no doubt was the mistaken belief that American immigration authorities would not send back unaccompanied children.

But only true terror could have driven kids by the thousands to make the harrowing journey from Honduras to the United States. “It has to be extreme fear,” says Al Valdez, formerly the supervising investigator of the gang unit at Orange County District Attorney’s Office and presently a professor at the University of California at Irvine.

The terrible irony is that the immediate sources of that terror are fellow Hondurans who once made that same journey only to be deported for having become swept up in two monstrous gangs that rose from the streets of Los Angeles. A member if the MS-18 gang stands next to graffiti of a cobra in the shape of the number 18 at the prison in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The 18th Street Gang was named after the locus of its birth in the Ramparts section. It is also known as the MS-18 and has been nicknamed The Children’s Army because of its predilection for recruiting even kids still in elementary school.

The Mara Salvatrucha gang was formed by refugees from the civil strife in El Salvador during the 1980s and grew to include thousands members from all of Central America. It is also known as MS-13.

Initially, only those gang members who were convicted of serious crimes and served their sentences were deported. A new law in 1996 then mandated the deportation of anybody busted for a crime that carried a year in prison or more, even if the sentence was suspended. A member of the MS-18 or MS-13 needed only to be caught in a petty drug bust or a minor theft to be deported via the unmarked planes of the real-life Con Air, officially known as the Justice Prisoner Alien Transport System run by the U.S. Marshals.

Between 2001 and 2010, Con Air flew 129,760 convicted criminals back to Central America, These included 44,042 who arrived in Honduras on daily flights that were initially to one of two cities. The flights to the capital, Tegucigalpa, were then suspended and they all began landing at the country’s second-largest metropolis, San Pedro Sula.

That was increasingly convenient for the members of MS-18 and MS-13, for the gangs had brought LA thuggery to SPS, where the police had proven to be as ineffective as they were corrupt. The gangs had essentially taken over big parts of the city, warring with each other and preying on innocents with virtual impunity.

“In recent years, federal law-enforcement authorities have targeted MS-13 and MS-18 alien gang members for deportation, an action that some argue has contributed to the development and proliferation of U.S.-styled gangs in Central America,” a 2008 U.S. congressional report notes.

Valdez, the former Orange County gang unit chief, says that when visiting Central America he came upon records indicating that some form of street gangs had existed there as far back as the 1950s.

“What was new was this ’90s generation of street gangs,” he says.

He also contends that the actual number of deported MS-18 and MS-13 members is fewer than the statistics might suggest. He adds that most of them were minor players in the U.S.

But, Valdez suggests, ubiquitous American popular culture gave enormous street cred to even a low-level LA-style gangbanger. An LA shoplifter could play an SPS Scarface.

The youngsters arrived at our border with the unspoken message that we reap what we sow.

“A big fish in a little pond,” Valdez says.

There were also a few who had been big even in a pond the size of Los Angeles. They marshaled their underlings in San Pedro Sula and set to recruiting a whole new crop of chairmen for their army.

“The gangs exploded, the membership exploded, and everything exploded,” Valdez says.

The result was that the murder rate in San Pedro Sula rose to 187 per 100,000, or more than double that of Honduras itself, and 10 times that of Chicago. San Pedro Sula had become known as the most dangerous city on Earth.

Neither gang hesitated to torture and kill youngsters, telling one boy, “You’re either with us or against us.” Anybody perceived as being against them was liable to be found shot and maybe tortured.

When the rumor swept Central America that unaccompanied children were being allowed to remain in the United States, few youngsters left Nicaragua. Poverty there is as crushing as elsewhere in Central America, but the gang presence is relatively minimal.

More than 2,200 kids left San Pedro Sula, heading in desperation for the very country that gave rise to the gangs they were fleeing.

“People don’t want to die,” Valdez observes.

The youngsters arrived at our border with the unspoken message that we reap what we sow.

Now some of us are clamoring for an added cruel irony. They want to send the border youngsters back on what would become Con Air for Kids.

Italy migrants: Nineteen ‘suffocate’ aboard boat from Africa

Survivor of shipwreck in Lampedusa, Italy Thousands of migrants have risked their lives to reach Italy this year

Nineteen migrants have died, reportedly by suffocating, aboard a crowded boat travelling from North Africa to Italy.

The migrants are thought to have choked on fumes from an old engine while they were confined below deck, Italian news agency Ansa reports.

Rescuers found 18 people in a tangle of bodies. Another person is said to have died during the evacuation. The boat was carrying some 600 people.

Italy is struggling to cope with a rising flow of migrants to its shores.

Many of them make the dangerous crossing from Africa on crowded and unseaworthy vessels, says the BBC’s Rome correspondent, Alan Johnston.

The boat in the latest incident was heading for the Italian island of Lampedusa. It was intercepted after it sent out an SOS signal.

Two passengers from the boat have been taken for treatment to a hospital in Sicily.

In the past month, at least 45 migrants have died in similar circumstances – as a result of being crushed or asphyxiated aboard overcrowded boats.

On Friday, Ansa reported that migrants rescued by a merchant ship this week had spoken of a shipwreck in which 60 people had drowned. Migration to Italy and Malta There has recently been a huge rise in the number of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Italy.

EU border agency Frontex says almost 60,000 migrants have already landed in southern Italy this year.

Most are from Africa or the Middle East and pay large sums to smugglers in Libya and Tunisia, who transport them in unsafe fishing vessels.

Officials say Libya’s continuing political instability is partly to blame for the rise.

Italy – which bears the brunt of migrants making the crossing – launched a rescue operation in the Mediterranean last year, and has repeatedly appealed for the EU’s help to tackle the problem.

6/27/2014

Controversy Over Australian Detention Centers

Filed under: australia,government,human rights,intra-national,png — admin @ 3:47 pm

Thousands of people attempt to reach Australia by boat each year to seek asylum, mostly from Indonesia and other pacific islands. It has been the practice of the Australian government to intercept these asylum seekers at sea and transport them to one of a number of asylum detention centers until the government decides what to do with them. One of these detention centers in located on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and another on the small atoll of Naru.

Asylum seekers being rescued by Australian Navy Personnel

In February unrest broke out over night at the Manus Island detention center where one asylum seeker was killed and a great deal more were injured, 2 had to be flown to Australia to receive treatment, one with a gun shot wound and another with a fractured skull. Similar unrest has also occurred at the Naru detention center where the asylum seekers burned down their shelters at the facility last year.

Amnesty International reports that the asylum seeker who died in the February Manus riots was Iranian and that during the riots he was beaten and hit in the head until he died. Amnesty International‚^¿^Ÿs investigation of the incident, reports that the local police and the security staff used brutal and excessive force on the night of the riot. The investigation blames both the Australian government and the government of Papua New Guinea. Amnesty International reports that the asylum seeker who died in the February Manus riots was Iranian and that during the riots he was beaten and hit in the head until he died. Amnesty International‚^¿^Ÿs investigation of the incident, reports that the local police and the security staff used brutal and excessive force on the night of the riot. The investigation blames both the Australian government and the government of Papua New Guinea.

Despite the unrest Australia plans to continue its practice of offsite detention centers. The government maintains that it is still the best way to handle the issue of immigration, which is a serious political issue across the country. The government has cited the safety of the asylum seekers as one of the main reasons for the policy. The government claims that is it is important to deter these immigrants from attempting the perilous journey to Australia in open top boats. These boat are usually crammed to capacity or over capacity with immigrants and the journey is extremely perilous.

Even though the Australian Government presents valid points for their policies, human rights organizations have recorded a number of human rights violations at these detention centers. There have been numerous allegations of hunger strikes, suicide attempts, self-harm and unsanitary living conditions. Amnesty international has received reports that the detention centers do not provide adequate medical care. Amnesty international visited the Manus detention center this past November and reported asylum seekers were enduring unacceptably harsh conditions and humiliating treatment.

Empire Of Prisons: How The US Is Spreading Mass Incarceration Around The World

This article explains how the United States is exporting its model of mass incarceration and social and political control to at least 25 countries. This “prison imperialism” is rooted in the Program for the Improvement of the Colombian Prison System signed in March, 2000 by the US Embassy and Colombia’s Ministry of Justice. That program coincided with a rapid increase in Colombia’s prison population including a rise in political arrests and the militarization of the prison system. Other aspects of this experience are worsened overcrowding, human rights abuses and unhealthy conditions. Nevertheless, the US-Colombia collaboration has become the standard for prison imperialism around the world with Colombian training programs forming a major component. US involvement in international prison systems is carried out by several government agencies including the Bureau of Prisons, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Pentagon, and the US State Department’s Bureaus of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), Democracy, Human Rights and Law Enforcement (DRL) and Consular Affairs, as well as state penal systems. This article provides close-ups of prison imperialism in Colombia, Mexico and Honduras and ends with a discussion of international resistance to the US model by Prisoners of Empire and their allies. The author especially wishes to thank the Colombian human rights group, Lazos de Dignidad (Links of Dignity) for their invaluable help in researching and developing the ideas presented herein, and for their tireless advocacy for Colombia’s political prisoners. This article is a result of an ongoing joint effort between Lazos and the Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ) in exposing and resisting the Empire of Prisons, and in standing up for its antidote: peace with justice and real, participatory democracy.)

Prison Imperialism: an Overview

The United States, which leads the world in imprisonment rates, is exporting its model of mass incarceration to developing countries around the world. This “prison imperialism” is one of the foundational components to the infrastructure of Empire. Along with the militarization of police forces and borders, mass incarceration enables neoliberal economies to manage by force and intimidation the inevitable consequences of global capitalism: widespread social disruption and rising political dissent. (Neoliberalism is a system including free trade agreements, austerity programs and other measures that assure profitability is treasured above any other social value, and in the developing countries of the US Empire, it is backed up by the US military and its allies.)

Since 2000, there has been an explosion in US efforts to augment and restructure international penitentiary systems, providing training for prison personnel and/or building new jails in at least 25 different countries. The first of these efforts was the Program for the Improvement of the Colombian Prison System, signed by the US Embassy and the Colombian Department of Justice on March 31, 2000. The program was funded as part of the $9 billion the US has invested since 1999 in Plan Colombia mostly to benefit the military and law enforcement.

By 2002 in Afghanistan, and 2003 and 2004 in Iraq, the US was building and managing prisons as part of the invasion and occupation of those countries. These programs were connected from the start with the so-called “Global War on Terrorism” as well as the “Drug War”, through which many prison efforts have been funded. Closely related was the establishment of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in January 2002. Many have heard the horror stories of abuses in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the Bagram military detention camps. What most are unaware of is that US involvement in foreign jails has become a worldwide affair and is not just associated with direct military occupations.

The Foundation is Laid in Colombia

Virtually unreported in the US media were the appalling conditions that resulted from the initial US-Colombia collaboration that laid the foundation for future international programs. Funding began with an initial grant from the US of $4.5 million. The first prison built was the penitentiary in Valledupar, commonly known as Tramac?a, completed in November, 2000. Conditions at Tramac?a are so bad that prisoners have access to clean water for only an average 10 minutes a day, sanitary facilities rarely work, torture is common, neglect of health care is systemic and UN and Colombian authorities and international observers have on three different occasions documented the presence of fecal matter in prison food. Alleviation of overcrowding and improvement of prison conditions were cited as reasons for the Colombian restructuring program. However, the accord itself more explicitly links the project to the War on Drugs. The document states that, “Within the objective of the program of narcotics control, the project…seeks to consolidate strategies aimed at controlling illicit actions committed from the interior of the prisons by persons that belong to groups on the margin of the law and that are related to the [narcotics] traffic and crimes against humanity.”

The document goes on to declare that, “The financial support of the United States government to the Ministry of Justice and Law – INPEC [Colombian Bureau of Prisons], will be supplied under this Appendix of the Supplement to Plan Colombia and with annual allocations from the Department of State/ Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL)….”

The reality is that this program has little to do with narcotrafficking or “crimes against humanity”. This is shown by the double standard applied in Colombian prisons. Right-wing paramilitaries and narcotrafficking gangs are often one and the same, and paramilitary organizations and the military have been responsible for 70 to 80% of political violence and atrocities during the more than 50 years of the Colombian Civil War. Yet paramilitaries, big narcotraffickers and their associates regularly enjoy privileges and favors far beyond what is available to common prisoners. Of course, most rarely if ever see the inside of a jail. Murderers of unionists and human rights defenders enjoy a 98% impunity rate for their crimes and many who are convicted are awarded with house arrest-rarely an option for Colombia’s political prisoners.

A 2008 article by the Colombian weekly La Semana exposed how at the ItaguÌ maximum security prison, paramilitary prisoners were using cell phones to arrange murders and other violent operations. In a common area near paramilitary leaders’ cells, security cameras were not functioning, and a search found a pistol, grenade and money hidden inside books. La Semana questioned prison Director Yolanda Rodriguez about this, to which she responded that whenever she tried to do anything about paramilitary privileges, she found her “hands tied”. She said that on a daily basis she received communications from high government officials, including the Regional and General Directors of INPEC and the Minister of Justice, ordering rule changes in favor of paramilitary prisoners.

The experience is very different for the general populace and especially for the political prisoners. Indeed, Colombian prisons have been converted into theaters of war. While common prisoners already must deal with overcrowding, neglect and abuse, these are multiplied greatly for political prisoners and prisoners of war for whom direct attacks and torture are common occurrences. Prison professionals are being replaced with current and ex-members of the Colombian Armed Forces, including several instances of School of the Americas graduates put in charge of penitentiaries. Part of the legacy of US involvement has been the formation of GRI (Immediate Reaction Groups) and CORES (Operative Commandos with Special Reference to Security) in the prisons. These SWAT-style special operations units have on multiple occasions launched assaults on political prisoners and prisoners of war, especially those participating in hunger strikes and other forms of nonviolent protest. Raquel MogollÛn visited Tramac?a prison representing the Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ) shortly after an attack by the GRI and CORES against striking prisoners in June, 2011. Many of the inmates had suspended themselves in protest from makeshift hammocks and harnesses attached to railings up to 5 floors high. In an AfGJ article about Mogollon’s visit, she reports that:

“‘The GRI took these little nasty mats they had, about two inches thick, and put them on the floors. When they would start to cut down prisoners from their harnesses and hammocks, they would hope they hit the mats. Some did, some didn’t. One prisoner after another reported they counted as many as 50 to 60 times that projectiles were fired.

Prisoner Wilson Rodriguez said that he had been thrown from the fourth floor. He was one of five prisoners carried unconscious from the prison and hospitalized. He was later locked away and given access to water only five minutes each day. Osvaldo Guzman Toro, had fallen three floors. Rodriguez added, “They put out these little mattresses, pretending to use them for safety, but some of the people were being cut down from the fifth floor.”‘

MogollÛn described the GRI, the guards who undertook the attacks, saying that they `…look like SWAT teams, with shields, helmets and all. Several of the prisoners said they pleaded with the GRI not to attack, saying that the GRI shouldn’t be there, that the strike was peaceful. But the GRI responded that they were following orders, that they couldn’t back down. Specifically, the inmates said the GRI told them that they had been “ordered by the Minister and the General….”

MogollÛn reported that, `At least three inmates told me that guards stripped them naked and shot tear gas cans at their genitals. They said that during the attacks the guards were using “pimienta, pata y palos”, or, “peppers, kicks and batons”. Prisoners reported that some of the canisters they were shooting were the size of their forearms-about a foot long.'”

What have been the general results of the US-Colombia prison improvement program? With regards to overcrowding, the problem has not been alleviated but has gotten worse. According to the Office of the People’s Defender, the rate of overcrowding is 58%, the worst rate ever reported and some jails are overcrowded by as much as 400%. In 1998, two years before the program began, the Colombian prison population, according to INPEC figures, was 51,633. By 2007, the population had risen to 63,603. By December 2013, the number of prisoners had reached 120,032. Torture has become widespread. INPEC’s office for internal disciplinary control documented 79 cases of physical or verbal abuse against prisoners during the first six months of 2008. These included beatings, broken bones, denial of medical care, death threats, sexual harassment and hog-tying prisoners with both hands and feet handcuffed. In a 2008 survey of 230 prisoners, 54% of respondents answered they had been tortured in jail–46% did not answer the question at all, possibly for fear of reprisals. Psychological torture was reported by 86% of those who did answer, including isolation, threats to relatives and simulated executions.

Another feature of the Colombian model has been massive relocation of prisoners far from family and friends. For poor families, these transfers make it virtually impossible to maintain contact with loved ones. When family members are able to visit, they are frequently subjected to humiliating treatment and sudden policy changes that often result in denial of the visitor’s entry into penal institutions.

The rate of increase of political prisoners has gone up considerably as well. In a meeting with Colombia’s MOVICE (the Movement of Victims of State Crimes) in 2009, the Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ) was told that between 1992 and 2002, there were some 2,000 provably arbitrary political arrests later thrown out of courts. Between 2002 and 2006, there were 8,000 such arrests. Detainees were usually charged with “rebellion” based on falsified evidence and the testimony of paid informers. Charges were usually dropped after “suspects” had served an average two to three years in jail. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and those jailed as a result of frame-ups for nonviolent political activities do not have their cases dismissed and are condemned to spend long years in prison. Prisoners of war, who make up a minority of the political prisoners, are treated the worst of all. The social and political context to their imprisonment has been largely unrecognized or denied, although the current peace process will likely address their situation as part of the negotiations, provided it is not derailed by Colombia’s extreme right wing.

Exact statistics are not currently available regarding rates of political arrests today. However, based on the experience of the AfGJ and what we are hearing from our partners and contacts in Colombia, all indications are that the rate has not diminished but risen, especially since the installation of the Marcha PatriÛtica (Patriotic March) popular movement for a just peace. Marcha PatriÛtica leaders and members have been specifically targeted for repression. The state is especially targeting leaders of farmers strikes and union officers for arrest.

Honduras

Colombia has provided the pattern for US involvement in international prison systems, including the institutionalization of abuses that are now being exported globally. Especially, the Colombian model has been applied to Mexico and Central America where the US (and Colombia) have been involved in prison programs since 2009. Once again, these have been funded and overseen as part of the Drug War via the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). Of great concern has been the support the US has given to Honduras following the 2009 coup. Since that time, reports of human rights abuses have skyrocketed. In 2012, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield visited Central American countries offering funds from a $200 million package earmarked to fight drug trafficking by reinforcing police departments, borders, courts and prisons.

In his March, 2012 visit to Honduras, Brownfield designated an additional $1.75 million for Honduras to spend on prison, police and border and port security. In his announcement, Brownfield heaped praise on the Honduran coup government and Armed Forces. A State Department spokesman said of the visit that “”By partnering with Honduran law enforcement agencies, the United States aims to boost anti-drug trafficking efforts, promote citizen safety, and help young people find alternatives to joining gangs.” By May, 2012 the US government had authorized another $50 million for security aid to Honduras.

The 2014 Human Rights Watch report on Honduras, maintains,

“Honduras suffers from rampant crime and impunity for human rights abuses. The murder rate, which has risen consistently over the last decade, was the highest in the world in 2013. Perpetrators of killings and other violent crimes are rarely brought to justice. The institutions responsible for providing public security continue to prove largely ineffective and remain marred by corruption and abuse, while efforts to reform them have made little progress.

Journalists, peasant activists, and LGBTI individuals are particularly vulnerable to attacks, yet the government routinely fails to prosecute those responsible and provide protection for those at risk….

Impunity for serious police abuses is a chronic problem. Police killed 149 civilians from January 2011 to November 2012, including 18 individuals under age 19, according to a report by Honduras’s National Autonomous University. Then-Commissioner of the Preventive Police Alex Villanueva affirmed the report’s findings and said there were likely many more killings by police that were never reported….”

Specifically in regards to prisons, a February 13, 2014 report by Marcos Rodriguez of the HRN radio network informs us that,

“The investigations of HRN reveal that overcrowding in the country’s jails has soared by 300%….Presently apprehensions by the police increased 35% according to official statistics….It is calculated that by the end of 2014, the penitentiary population in Honduras could exceed 19,000 inmates….In these instances the 24 jails of the country are occupied by almost 13,000 inmates, however the system only has capacity for 8,500 prisoners, signifying a [rate of] overcrowding of approximately 49%.”

Mexico

In Mexico, the US is funding the construction of up to 16 new federal prisons and is advising an overall prison “reform” based on the US and Colombian models. The Federal Center for Social Readaptation (CEFERESO) #11 in Hermosillo, Sonora is the first Mexican prison built with private investment and will be managed by a for-profit company for the next 20 years. True to form, the opening of Ceferso #11 was occasioned with the massive transfer of 1,849 prisoners from all over Mexico. Five months after the transfer, prisoners were still being denied access to family and legal defense teams.

Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) visited CEFERESO #11 in October, 2013 a year after its installation to investigate conditions in Mexico’s for-profit prison and reported that the institution had “…even graver deficiencies than those found in other jails of the Republic of Mexico without private capital.” The abuses noted by the CNDH included arbitrary and sudden transfers, being held for long periods incommunicado, being kept in cells for excessively long periods, no classification system for prisoners, insufficient food, poor quality of health services, lack of sports, recreation and cultural activities, lack of work and job training, and insufficient personnel. In only 4 months, the CNDH received 47 complaints regarding sudden transfers to CEFERSO #11 without warning or notice either to families or legal reps.

And while exact figures are not readily available, reports from a number of sectors in Mexico indicate a significant increase in politically motivated arrests since US involvement, including notable political detentions of labor and indigenous leaders.

Once more, the Drug War is the main reason cited for US involvement in the Mexican prison system. But in a country that has been itself described as a “Narco-state” with a 98% impunity rate for violent crime, one must question the veracity of this justification just as we must in Colombia, Honduras and elsewhere. According to a report by the Universal Periodic Review (EPU by its Spanish initials) of the United Nations Human Rights Council in coalition with three Mexican human rights organizations, 60% of those incarcerated in Mexico are there for minor crimes and only 12% for grave crimes such as murder, rape and violent robbery. Again, we must state the obvious: US funded and restructured prisons are about social and political control, not about drug trafficking. Federal prison construction in Mexico is the southern twin to immigrant detention centers on the US side of the border. Privately run immigrant detention centers make profits off of the misery of those uprooted by the neoliberal policies imposed by the US government and the US and Mexican oligarchy, and off of the displacement of rural communities, the vacuum of which has been filled by the proliferation of extremely violent narco-gangs.

Colombia as Partner in Prison Imperialism In Mexico, Central America and elsewhere, the US has drafted Colombia as a major partner in prison imperialism. Both in collaboration with the US and independently, Colombia operates its own international training programs. Between 2009 and 2013, Colombia had given training to 21,949 international students, including military, police, court and prison officials. Half of those trained are from Mexico. Honduras, Guatemala and Panama are the other leading recipients of this training.

An earlier April 14, 2012 US Department of State Fact Sheet on the Colombia Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI) reported that Colombia had trained over 11,000 police officers in 20 Latin American and African countries, as well as in Afghanistan. It reported that “Colombia has trained more than 6,000 Mexican federal and state law enforcement personnel, over 500 prospectors and judicial personnel and 24 helicopter pilots. Prison guards and officials are included among the “law enforcement personnel”.

General John Kelly who oversees the US Southern Command, told a House hearing on April 29, 2014 that

“The beauty of having a Colombia – they’re such good partners, particularly in the military realm, they’re such good partners with us. When we ask them to go somewhere else and train the Mexicans, the Hondurans, the Guatemalans, the Panamanians, they will do it almost without asking. And they’ll do it on their own. They’re so appreciative of what we did for them. And what we did for them was, really, to encourage them for 20 years and they’ve done such a magnificent job.

But that’s why it’s important for them to go, because I’m-at least on the military side-restricted from working with some of these countries because of limitations that are, that are really based on past sins. And I’ll let it go at that.”

Prison Imperialism Around the World

According to a Report on International Prison Conditions released by the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Law Enforcement (DRL), the US has been involved in prison programs in at least 25 countries since 2000. State Department agencies participating in international prison programs besides the DRL include the Bureaus of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) and Consular Affairs. The report also refers to participation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Bureau of Prisons and state prison systems.

In 2003, the INL along with the Department of Justice and International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) led efforts by the US government to reestablish Iraq’s national security system. The INL is now funding 23 programs overseas in partnership with federal and state agencies. The report also tells us that “In South Sudan, for example, INL has obligated $6.5 million since 2010 in support of the country’s first prison training center for corrections officers, the Lologo training academy.” Similarly, since 2010, the DRL has spent $5 million in programs around the globe, including in Iraq, Morocco and South Korea.

What this document downplays is perhaps more telling than anything. In the whole report, Colombia only bears the following mention: “In Haiti, Colombia, El Salvador, and Guatemala, USAID Missions have worked to address prison overcrowding through the reform of penal codes and by improving processes such as alternative dispute resolution to reduce the amount of time individuals spend in pre-trial detention.” An appendix states that “…prison and detention facility conditions in the following 25 countries whose governments receive United States assistance raise serious human rights or humanitarian concerns….” Nowhere on that list is Colombia.

Likewise, the report downplays the role of the US Bureau of Prisons, letting us know that “The Federal Bureau of Prisons…has also provided prison reform assistance to 17 countries. This assistance is primarily comprised of visits by foreign delegations to BOP institutions and briefings by BOP staff on issues ranging from inmate and staff management to prisoners’ rights and correctional services.” What they don’t let us hear is anything about the major construction projects carried out with BOP supervision in Colombia and Mexico, nor the extent of BOP advice, direction and accreditation in restructuring those countries’ prison systems.

Also unmentioned are US military detention centers. It is with military oversight that the transitions of these centers to civilian institutions is undertaken. We have already seen the example of the INL and other agencies that in the midst of the invasion and occupation of Iraq were tasked with setting up a new prison system. US prison imperialism is one of many threads that weave together the US government’s civilian and military branches.

In Conclusion – and in Resistance

For us in the United States it is important that we remember that US international prison programs are reflections and extensions of our own internal situation. The US has the highest overall rate of incarceration in the world. This rate has almost quadrupled since 1980 despite falling crime rates. In 1980 the rate was 221 per 100,000 US residents. Today the rate is 716 prisoners per 100,000. The number of US federal prisoners has risen by 790% since 1980. Thus we can see that this expansion overseas parallels what is happening at home. To further put this matter in perspective, the US has 700,000 more prisoners than China, even though China has four times our population.

The US prison system has over 80,000 persons in solitary confinement. In 2012 the Justice Department estimated that that year alone there had been 216,000 victims of prison rape. We have more political prisoners than many know of or care to admit, and our basic rights to protest and dissent are being undermined and even criminalized on an almost daily basis. Overcrowding, denial of health services, physical abuse and torture, lack of safety, lack of job training and rehabilitation services, forced relocation far from home communities and family and denial of access to visitors and legal counsel for long periods of time are all features of prison imperialism that are rooted in the policies and practices of the US penal system. It almost goes without saying that the beginning of resistance to prison imperialism must therefore begin at home.

But it must not stop there. We must link our struggles with international struggles. We have seen how the experiment that began in 2000 in Colombia has spread to Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, Honduras, South Sudan and across the planet. By looking specifically at the examples of Colombia, Mexico and Honduras, we start to see the kinds of results and concerns we must look for as we examine prison imperialism in other countries.

The US government is clearly spreading an Empire of Prisons around the world. And just as clearly, around the world Prisoners of Empire are resisting abuses. On July 25, 2013, the AfGJ reported on a prison hunger strike in Colombia that, without planning, was happening at the same time similar hunger strikes were happening in California and elsewhere, noting that,

“Prisoners in the DoÒa Juana Penitentiary in Colombia are halfway through the third week of a hunger strike to demand better conditions. Located in La Dorada, Caldas, the prison is one of the jails built with US funding and advice as part of the `New Penitentiary Culture`. Typical of such prisons are overcrowding, lack of medical treatment, a concentration of political prisoners, and beatings and other forms of torture by prison guards…It is no coincidence that prisoners at DoÒa Juana and prisoners in the California prison system began hunger strikes on the same day. Strikes are or have been also underway in Guantanamo and Afghanistan. From California to Colombia, all are protesting US `Prison Imperialism` that jails the population at high rates and uses inhumane practices such as solitary confinement, torture and denial of services to dehumanize the incarcerated.”

Shortly after the above statement was released, AfGJ also learned of hunger strikes happening in immigration detention centers in Arizona.

The international awareness and linking together of each others’ struggles is something that is just starting to happen and grow. We are seeing these struggles come together spontaneously and by accident. These movements resist not only the US model of mass incarceration: they resist the Empire itself. If these movements can become more cognizant of each other and interconnected through shared international solidarity, it may be more than just the prisons that are liberated.

James Jordan is an organizer with Alliance for Global Justice.

How Mexico’s Cartels Are Behind the Border Kid Crisis

Filed under: human rights,intra-national,mexico,usa — admin @ 2:38 pm

Mexico’s drug gangs have taken over the human-trafficking business along the border, and agents suspect they may have a hand in the unprecedented number of underage migrants stagnating in Arizona’s detention centers.

NOGALES, Mexico — Father Ricardo Machuca strides back and forth between six long, metal picnic tables packed with men and women as volunteers pass out plates piled high with corn, beans, rice and pork rinds. Clutching a microphone and wearing jeans, a white tunic, sandals and a messenger bag, Machuca looks more like a bohemian motivational speaker than a Jesuit priest.

Don’t accept offers from strangers who want to help you cross, he warns his audience in Spanish as they quietly dig into their meals. Crossing with coyotes is human trafficking and it’s “un delito federal,” he says. A federal offense. In recent years, warnings about who to avoid on the streets of Nogales have become a key part of Machuca’s advice to those who pass through the binational Kino Border Initiative’s migrant outreach center. Better known as the Comedor, meaning “soup kitchen” in Spanish, the center has been offering hot meals, first aid, clean clothing, and spiritual guidance to migrants since 2009. Someone offering to help wire money could rob you, Machuca tells the migrants. Or a stranger willing to let you use their cellphone to call your family might save their number and use it to extort them later.

“The vulnerability is very high here on the border,” Father Sean Carroll, Machuca’s American counterpart, tells me as an assembly line of volunteers rushes hot plates from the kitchen to the tables. “They want to contract the migrants to try to cross again.”

Carroll is referring to Mexican drugs cartels, along with the smugglers hired by the cartels to recruit desperate migrants looking for a way back into the United States. Over the past decade, after long existing side by side with coyotes, the cartels decided to get in on the action. Now, they’ve turning what was once a relatively informal and somewhat familial underground operation into a highly sophisticated human trafficking network.

While the journey north was always treacherous and costly, in the hands of the cartels it has become deadlier than ever. The entire border, and the routes leading up to it, are controlled by some combination of the Los Zetas, Sinaloa and Knights of Templar cartels, along with a few smaller groups–making it impossible to cross without their permission. And their permission will cost you. Where migrants may have once paid a single person from their hometown $300 to $500 to guide them across, the initial going rate to cross the cartel-occupied border can range between $3,000 and $6,000 per person, the price varying depending on the age, gender, and origin of the migrant. Most people can’t afford that much up front, so family members in the States will often wire money to the smugglers, or pay in installments along the way.

Under the cartel-run migration model, migrants typically make arrangements to cross from their hometowns and are told to find their own way to a certain point where they will meet the coyote. The city of Altar, for example, about 112 miles from Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, is a popular launching point for border crossers, and as such, it has become a center of immigration commerce. Here, smugglers often tell migrants to wait for days before they cross, during which time they are nickel-and-dimed into buying stealth desert-crossing gear–camouflage backpacks, black water bottles, and carpet booties–from vendors who set up shop around town.

For those coming from Central America, just getting to a meeting place like Altar often means riding buses or atop freight trains from southern Mexico where they may be subjected to robbery, beatings, and getting thrown off the train by cartel lackeys. Those who make it will continue to encounter crippling fees at practically every leg of their journey to the border. Refusal or inability to pay may result in migrants being forced to carry backpacks filled with marijuana, getting kidnapped in order to extort money from their families, or being murdered on the spot. Last year, Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales was captured by Mexican Marines and charged with ordering the kidnapping and murder of 265 migrants. For female migrants, there is always a good chance they could be raped along the way, either by their guide or one of the stray predators who stalk the desert.

It’s almost impossible to separate the cartels’ migration takeover from the security crackdown on the U.S.-Mexico border. In the 13 years since U.S. Border Patrol became a part of the post-9/11 Department of Homeland Security and adopted the mission of keeping terrorists out of the country, the Southwest border has been transformed into a militarized zone, with nearly 700 miles of varying degrees of steel fencing, 21,000 Border Patrol agents, security cameras and ground sensors, with more high-tech surveillance on the way. Some combination of this beefed-up security, a George W. Bush-era policy of jailing and formally deporting all illegal border crossers, plus the U.S.’ weakened housing and job markets, brought the net flow of migration from Mexico to a standstill in 2011. While traffic over the border has slowed, those still crossing have been funnelled into the roughest corners of the desert, where human predators are only part of the danger.

To avoid areas where Border Patrol agents are most highly concentrated, migrants must take longer routes through Mexico, often walking for days through the blistering heat and unpaved and often mountainous desert terrain, dodging rattlesnakes, yellow jackets and cacti, before they even reach the international line. It’s physically impossible to carry the amount of water needed for more than a few days in the desert.

To coyotes getting paid for each person who successfully makes it over, it’s not worth the risk of stalling the whole group to stop and care for someone who is hurt or sick. More often than not, those who can’t keep up will be left to die in the desert. Even as the number of illegal crossers apprehended at the border has reached all-time lows, more people are dying than ever. According to a report by the human-rights group the Washington Office on Latin America, 463 migrants died in fiscal year 2012. The last time that there were more deaths was in 2005, when 492 migrants died. But the pool of people crossing over was much larger–that year, Border Patrol apprehended three times as many people as in 2012.

Juanita Molina is the executive director of Border Action Network and Humane Borders, two Tucson, Arizona-based humanitarian groups that set up water tanks in the desert based on their maps of where the most deaths occur and advocate for humane treatment of migrants and border communities by Border Patrol. She argues that the criminalization of economic migration has backed an already vulnerable group of people into a corner, with the cartels capitalizing on the situation.

“As a society, we feed the danger by forcing all of these people into the shadows,” Molina told me at her office in Tucson. She speculates that limiting the ability to cross the border to the most dangerous areas was part of the Border Patrol strategy to deter people from crossing.

“Or maybe they didn’t care that people were dying, that there is a certain amount of collateral damage that comes with enforcement,” she says. “It’s hard to know.”

What Molina does know, from mapping desert deaths for the past 12 years, is that people are dying closer to the international line and farther from the roads in town. “The dynamic of pushing people further into these wilderness areas is almost like putting out meat for the wolves,” she says.

Central American migrants are naturally more vulnerable to cartel manipulation and violence on the journey north than native Mexicans. But the cartels may actually be responsible for the recent influx of Central Americans attempting to cross the Southwest border and, specifically, the surge in unaccompanied minors coming from the region.

In 2011, the World Bank declared narcotics trafficking to be one of the greatest threats to development in Central America. After Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on drug traffickers within his country in 2006, Mexico’s most powerful cartels–Los Zetas, Sinaloa and others–started to spread south, recruiting local gangs to join their operation and terrorizing Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran cities with the same indiscriminate violence that once made Ciudad Juarez the world’s murder capital. Whereas three political parties plus institutions like the Catholic Church and the business community have prevented Mexico from completely crumbling under the cartel chaos, Central America’s historically fragile economy and easily corruptible political, judicial and military systems are much less poised to withstand the weight of the wealthy and heavily-armed drug cartels. Peace accords to end Guatemala’s civil war in 1996, for example, cut the country’s army by two-thirds, leaving a major opening for organized crime. As of 2011, Guatemala’s murder rate was double that of Mexico. And while that rate technically dropped during the past three years, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security noted in its 2013 Crime and Safety Report that the commonly cited statistics provided by Guatemala’s Policia Nacional Civil undersell the homicide situation, as they do not include murders in which the victim didn’t die right at the scene of the crime.

“Guatemala’s worrisome murder rate appears driven by four key factors: an increase in narco-trafficking activity, growing gang-related violence, a heavily armed population (upwards of 60 percent possess a firearm), and a police/judicial system that remains either unable or unwilling (or both) to hold most criminals accountable,” read the report. “Well-armed criminals know there is little chance they will be caught or punished.”

Meanwhile, Honduras and El Salvador have maintained the world’s highest and second-highest homicide rates since the mid-1990s.

By making these countries so dangerous and virtually unlivable for their poorest citizens, the cartels have effectively created an incentive for people to flee, providing themselves with more clientele for their human smuggling business to supplant the hole left by the drop in Mexican migrants.

The cartels are also driving the current border-children crisis in the U.S. Since last October, 52,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended by Border Patrol. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans have blamed local news coverage in Central American countries of Obama’s pathway to citizenship for the massive influx of kids. But as The Huffington Post discovered by scouring Central American news reports, regional media has accurately covered DACA and the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform and regularly depicts President Obama as tough on immigration.

In reality, it’s more likely a loophole in the George W. Bush-era policy of expeditiously charging, imprisoning, and deporting adult illegal border crossers that is drawing children in droves. According to this policy, while Mexican minors can be sent back over the border immediately, minors from other countries must be held in Customs and Border Protection’s custody for a maximum of 72 hours before they are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. ORR houses the minors in shelters while searching for U.S.-based relatives with whom they can stay during their deportation proceedings. As of March 2014, there were 366,758 pending deportation cases in U.S. immigration courts. That backlog means even just receiving a court date could take years, by which time the minor could make the case that they are better off with their extended family in the States. Or they could just not show up to court and choose to live under the radar like the 11 million other undocumented immigrants in the United States. No doubt the criminals interested in recruiting border crosses have emphasized to families that kids face better odds in the U.S.–and so the children keep on coming.

Some suspect the recent inundation of unaccompanied minors at the border is part of a strategic move by the cartels to distract Border Patrol while they move drugs.

Last week the Obama administration publicized plans to open more facilities to detain children and families, and to reassign immigration officers and judges to population (upwards of 60 percent possess a firearm), and a police/judicial system that remains either unable or unwilling (or both) to hold most criminals accountable,” read the report. “Well-armed criminals know there is little chance they will be caught or punished.”

Meanwhile, Honduras and El Salvador have maintained the world’s highest and second-highest homicide rates since the mid-1990s.

By making these countries so dangerous and virtually unlivable for their poorest citizens, the cartels have effectively created an incentive for people to flee, providing themselves with more clientele for their human smuggling business to supplant the hole left by the drop in Mexican migrants.

The cartels are also driving the current border-children crisis in the U.S. Since last October, 52,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended by Border Patrol. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans have blamed local news coverage in Central American countries of Obama’s pathway to citizenship for the massive influx of kids. But as The Huffington Post discovered by scouring Central American news reports, regional media has accurately covered DACA and the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform and regularly depicts President Obama as tough on immigration.

In reality, it’s more likely a loophole in the George W. Bush-era policy of expeditiously charging, imprisoning, and deporting adult illegal border crossers that is drawing children in droves. According to this policy, while Mexican minors can be sent back over the border immediately, minors from other countries must be held in Customs and Border Protection’s custody for a maximum of 72 hours before they are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. ORR houses the minors in shelters while searching for U.S.-based relatives with whom they can stay during their deportation proceedings. As of March 2014, there were 366,758 pending deportation cases in U.S. immigration courts. That backlog means even just receiving a court date could take years, by which time the minor could make the case that they are better off with their extended family in the States. Or they could just not show up to court and choose to live under the radar like the 11 million other undocumented immigrants in the United States. No doubt the criminals interested in recruiting border crosses have emphasized to families that kids face better odds in the U.S.–and so the children keep on coming.

Some suspect the recent inundation of unaccompanied minors at the border is part of a strategic move by the cartels to distract Border Patrol while they move drugs.

Last week the Obama administration publicized plans to open more facilities to detain children and families, and to reassign immigration officers and judges to population (upwards of 60 percent possess a firearm), and a police/judicial system that remains either unable or unwilling (or both) to hold most criminals accountable,” read the report. “Well-armed criminals know there is little chance they will be caught or punished.”

Meanwhile, Honduras and El Salvador have maintained the world’s highest and second-highest homicide rates since the mid-1990s.

By making these countries so dangerous and virtually unlivable for their poorest citizens, the cartels have effectively created an incentive for people to flee, providing themselves with more clientele for their human smuggling business to supplant the hole left by the drop in Mexican migrants.

The cartels are also driving the current border-children crisis in the U.S. Since last October, 52,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended by Border Patrol. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans have blamed local news coverage in Central American countries of Obama’s pathway to citizenship for the massive influx of kids. But as The Huffington Post discovered by scouring Central American news reports, regional media has accurately covered DACA and the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform and regularly depicts President Obama as tough on immigration.

In reality, it’s more likely a loophole in the George W. Bush-era policy of expeditiously charging, imprisoning, and deporting adult illegal border crossers that is drawing children in droves. According to this policy, while Mexican minors can be sent back over the border immediately, minors from other countries must be held in Customs and Border Protection’s custody for a maximum of 72 hours before they are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. ORR houses the minors in shelters while searching for U.S.-based relatives with whom they can stay during their deportation proceedings. As of March 2014, there were 366,758 pending deportation cases in U.S. immigration courts. That backlog means even just receiving a court date could take years, by which time the minor could make the case that they are better off with their extended family in the States. Or they could just not show up to court and choose to live under the radar like the 11 million other undocumented immigrants in the United States. No doubt the criminals interested in recruiting border crosses have emphasized to families that kids face better odds in the U.S.–and so the children keep on coming.

Some suspect the recent inundation of unaccompanied minors at the border is part of a strategic move by the cartels to distract Border Patrol while they move drugs.

Last week the Obama administration publicized plans to open more facilities to detain children and families, and to reassign immigration officers and judges to speed up deportation proceedings. During a visit with senior leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in Guatemala on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would be dedicating $225 million to the Central American countries to better prosecute gang members, cut down on gang recruitment with youth outreach programs, and help reintegrate deportees.

On the opposite side of the border in Nogales, Arizona Border Patrol spokesman Peter Bidegain is pointing at a two-story yellow brick house just across the border fence. “This yellow building here, it’s operated by the one of the cartels as a scouting facility,” he says. Nearby, a yellow Caterpillar excavator sits idle next to an opening that once led into a cross-border tunnel. “You can see guys on the porch sometimes with binoculars. They work in shifts just like we do.”

Bidegain describes a common cat-and-mouse game played by smugglers and the Border Patrol agents in which migrants are led over the fence on a ladder, prompting the agents to go after the migrants and allowing drug smugglers to sneak by. Vast scouting networks using cellphone or radio transmissions, powered by solar panel battery chargers in the mountains, allow lookouts on both sides of the border to study Border Patrol agents’ every move, waiting for the perfect time to pounce. With Border Patrol and Mexican police stacked on either side of the 15-foot-high steel wall, drugs stuffed in the sides of cars or fake fruit in the back of trucks or even on the back of a single person have a better chance of making it through Nogales than a group of migrants.

“A lot of times the people who are being smuggled here are just being used as bait,” he says.

Some suspect the recent inundation of unaccompanied minors at the border is part of a strategic move by the cartels to distract Border Patrol while they move drugs.

“We have grave concerns that dangerous cartel activity, including narcotics smuggling and human trafficking, will go unchecked because Border Patrol resources are stretched too thin,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson this month, requesting $30 million for additional law enforcement. Recent U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration statistics back this theory. Total marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine seizures between January 1 and June 14 of this year have dropped across all states that line the U.S.-Mexico border, but the decrease in Texas–the center of the surge in unaccompanied minors–has been bigger than the average, at 34 percent. The DEA and Border Patrol have said it’s too soon to tell whether the decrease in drug seizures is at all connected to the increase in underage crossers.

As policymakers debate how best to handle the current immigration crisis, the day-to-day game of Whack-A-Mole continues along the border. Border Patrol zeroes in on the highest trafficked areas and, in turn, smugglers change position.

“They will use what’s successful, so they’ll try anything,” Bidegain told me. “It just depends on the smuggling du jour.”

5/24/2014

Migrants

At least 17 people were killed when a ship carrying migrants sank Monday about 100 miles off southern Italy, the Italian navy said Tuesday.

Just over 200 other people who’d been on the ship were rescued, the navy said. 2013: Video shows naked migrants being hosed

The incident came a day after a boat carrying illegal migrants sank off the coast of Tripoli, Libya, killing at least 40 people, according to an account from Libya’s Interior Ministry.

Southern Italy — especially tiny Lampedusa, which is the closest Italian island to Africa — is a frequent destination for refugees seeking to enter European Union countries from Africa. Migrants often pack into unseaworthy and ill-equipped boats, and shipwrecks off Italian shores are common.

The Italian military has rescued about 2,000 migrants in the last five days alone, Italy’s navy said Monday, highlighting the difficulty in keeping up with the flow of migrants seeking to reach European soil.

Tens of thousands of people are rescued from the Mediterranean Sea each year, according to the European Union border agency, Frontex.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed its dismay Tuesday over the rising number of migrants dying as they try to make the perilous crossing. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters that those who lost their lives Monday include 12 women, three children and two men.

In addition, 121 people are believed to have died in three separate boat accidents off the Libyan coast over the past two weeks, he said.

Some of the 53 survivors of a shipwreck off Libya on May 6 told the UNHCR that the smugglers pushed them onto the boat and set off even though the boat was damaged in the middle, Edwards said. It’s believed 77 people drowned in that incident.

The deaths of more than 300 African migrants in a shipwreck off Lampedusa last October shocked Italy and the world, and led to calls for EU lawmakers to review their migration policies.

A rescue operation established by the Italian government after that tragedy saved more than 20,000 people at sea through early April, the United Nations refugee agency said. Nearly 43,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea in 2013, according to the agency.

Many of the migrants are from African nations, while others have fled war-torn Syria.

The UNHCR believes more than 170 migrants have died at sea trying to reach Europe so far this year.

It praised rescue efforts by the Italian and Libyan authorities, as well as private boats, but said more still needs to be done.

“We also urge governments around the world to provide legal alternatives to dangerous sea journeys, ensuring desperate people in need of refuge can seek and find protection and asylum,” the agency said. “These alternatives could include resettlement, humanitarian admission, and facilitated access to family reunification.”

4/7/2014

State news agency aligns covert ZunZuneo program with other ‘anti-Cuban’ plots including failed Bay of Pigs invasion

Filed under: capitalism,cuba,culture,government,ideology,intra-national,media,usa — admin @ 6:38 am

Revelations of a secret US government programme to set up a cellphone-based social network in Cuba are being trumpeted in the island’s official media as proof of Havana’s repeated allegations that Washington is waging a “cyber-war” to try to stir up unrest.

“ZunZuneo joins an extensive list of secret anti-Cuban operations” including the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and plots to assassinate Fidel Castro, state news agency Prensa Latina said.

The findings of an Associated Press investigation, published on Thursday, featured prominently on multiple Cuban state TV newscasts and occupied a full page in the Communist Party newspaper Granma on Friday. They also were to be the focus of the nightly two-hour news analysis show “Mesa Redonda”, or “Roundtable”.

Prensa Latina recalled a 1 January speech in which President Ra??l Castro warned of “attempts to subtly introduce platforms for neoliberal thought and for the restoration of neocolonial capitalism‚^¿^›.

“Castro’s denunciations of the US government’s destabilising attempts against Cuba were corroborated by today’s revelation of a plan to push Cuban youth toward the counterrevolution, with the participation of a US agency,” Prensa Latina said.

US officials defended the program as being in line with the mission of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which oversaw it. They said it did not amount to a “covert” operation, although they said the government takes steps to maintain discretion when working in “non-permissive environments” such as Cuba.

Documents obtained by the AP showed that the network, dubbed ZunZuneo after the Cuban word for hummingbird, operated from 2009 until it vanished in 2012. Some Documents obtained by the AP showed that the network, dubbed ZunZuneo after the Cuban word for hummingbird, operated from 2009 until it vanished in 2012. Some 40,000 island cellphone users signed up and used ZunZuneo to receive and send text messages, mostly innocuous jokes or snippets of international, sports and entertainment news.

However the AP revealed that the network, which was built using secret shell companies and financed through a foreign bank, sought to first build an audience of mostly young people and then nudge them toward dissent.

In a statement late Thursday, Josefina Vidal, director of US affairs at Cuba’s foreign ministry, demanded that Washington halt “its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba”. She said the ZunZuneo case “shows once again that the United States government has not renounced its plans of subversion against Cuba”.

Cuba has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world, though the country has taken small steps to expand access. Last year it opened about 200 cyber-cafes around the country, though at $4.50 an hour many Cubans are effectively priced out. The government also controls nearly all traditional media.

Cellphone use is increasingly common among the island’s population of 11 million. Official statistics say there were about 1.8 million active Cuban mobile accounts in 2012, compared with 400,000 in 2007.

On the streets of Havana, some echoed their government’s complaints about US interference and ZunZuneo.

“Coming from them [the United States], nothing can surprise us anymore,” said 25-year-old Claudia Garcia.

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.

7/11/2011

Filed under: art,brazil,General,intra-national,japan — admin @ 4:44 am

intriguing japanese-brazilian artist

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