brad brace

4/2/2017

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

rn-chixoy

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/

Scorched Earth: The Rio Negro Massacre at Pak’oxom, 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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3/3/2017

Unreported War Crimes: Yemen Famine

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The lack of immediate and unhindered access to people who urgently need food assistance – compounded by a shortage of funding – means that millions of people are in Yemen are on the brink of famine.

Almost 18.8 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance. This includes more than 7 million people that are food insecure; that is one in five of the country’s population. The rate of child malnutrition is one of the highest in the world.

The nutrition situation continues to deteriorate – and an estimated 3 million women and children need nutrition support. According to WFP market analysis, prices of food items spiked in September 2016 as a result of the escalation of the conflict. The national average price of wheat flour was found to be 55 percent higher compared to the pre-crisis period.

Humanitarian organizations need to be able to move freely and safely in order to reach all those in urgent need before they fall deeper into crisis.

WFP requires nearly US$950 million in 2017 to provide much-needed food assistance and carry out nutrition interventions in Yemen. It takes four months from the time WFP receives funds until food reaches the country and into the hands of families in need.

For almost two years, the United States has backed—with weapons, logistics and political support—a Saudi-led war in Yemen that has left over 10,000 dead, 40,000 wounded, 2.5 million internally displaced, 2.2 million children suffering from malnutrition and over 90 percent of civilians in need of humanitarian aid.

A recent UN report on the humanitarian crisis and near-famine conditions in Yemen (that encompassed South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia as well) has led to a rare instance of Western media taking notice of the war and its catastrophic effect. But missing from most of these reports is the role of the United States and its ally Saudi Arabia—whose two-year-long siege and bombing have left the country in ruins.

UN’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien has warned that the conflict-driven food crisis in Yemen could become a full-blown famine this year.

O’Brien told the UN Security Council that two million people need emergency food aid to survive and child malnutrition has risen 63 per cent in a year. He said a child under five dies every 10 minutes of preventable causes. Severe poverty, war damage, and a naval embargo by the Saudi-led coalition have all hit food security. Yemen has been devastated by nearly two years of war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.

This man made famine in Yemen is directly caused by a cruel embargo, which is stopping food from entering the west side of the country where most of the 25 million Yemenis live. The loading cranes at the port of Hodeida are unusable as they were bombed by hostile forces in 2015, and road and bridges that allow distribution of food have also been destroyed. Thousands of farms, warehouses including one run by Oxfam, grain silos, food factories, markets, water pumps, have been destroyed in a systematic manner over the last year. Also many lorries attempting to distribute food have also been bombed. Last week there was a 3 day truce in order to deliver humanitarian supplies – on the day before the truce began, the airports of Sanaa and Hodeida were yet again bombed, so that no aircraft carrying humanitarian supplies could land. Fishermen have been repeated bombed off the coast, making it far too dangerous for them to attempt to go to sea. Over 3.5 million people are displaced and living in makeshift tents caused by the aerial bombardment of their homes, aggravating problems caused by the lack of food and clean water.

This has caused a famine, particularly severe in the area of the Tihama, which borders the Red Sea, but a large part of the western area of Yemen is suffering badly. This has been worsened by the decision to move Yemen Central Bank out from Sanaa, the capital, a strategic decision made by Hadi, whom the world describes erroneously as a democratically elected president of Yemen – in fact he was elected in an uncontested election in February 2012 for a fixed two year term as interim president, and it was the ending of his term that started a major power struggle inside Yemen that precipitated a civil war, the Yemen army sided moved against the deeply unpopular Hadi who called in his neighbours to help him gain control of Yemen. Hadi was warned that moving the bank – that had been heroically paying salaries to all ‘sides’ in the conflict that was in itself delaying catastrophe in Yemen – would precipitate starvation of Yemeni people. Nonetheless Hadi moved the bank and salaries to those in the west of Yemen have now stopped. Bank notes that remain in circulation are tattered and becoming unusable.

Horrific pictures of starving men, women and children are now circulating on the Internet. Almost certainly tens of thousands of small children, maybe hundreds of thousands, have already died. These deaths are not included in war statistics and indeed are not being collected. Cholera is now sweeping Yemen as the water supply is drying up and deteriorating, causing further deaths. All of this with little attention from the world’s media, although there have been programmes late in the evenings on BBC and ITV in the last few weeks, and occasional stories in the British press. Despite the desperate situation amazing and inexplicably there has been no official charity appeal in UK. The man made starvation of Yemen is being done silently but steadily, and is now reaching crisis proportions, apparently with the cooperation of world governments.

It is made worse by the deterioration of the health services in Yemen caused by aerial bombardment and embargo. So many hospitals in Yemen have been destroyed (including four MSF hospitals) that many hospital staff are too frightened to go to work, and patients to terrified to attend. Over 58% of Yemenis now have no access to health care. Additionally, around 200 nutritional centres are not functioning due to the war. Many hospitals that are still admitting starving children can only do so if the patients can pay for care because of their desperate economic plight. When treated patients are discharged, they return to starvation conditions in their homes or temporary accommodation. It is hard to describe the terror of experiencing that chilling sound but not knowing where the bomb will land. The people of Yemen live with that horror and uncertainty every day.

The bald statistics state that 14 million people are hungry while nearly 19 million (70% of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance. It broke my heart to see so many undernourished children. Their skin worn thin and barely covering their bones, they could only make their distress known with thin, reedy cries. They were so weak they could barely stand. For almost two years, the United States has backed—with weapons, logistics and political support—a Saudi-led war in Yemen that has left over 10,000 dead, 40,000 wounded, 2.5 million internally displaced, 2.2 million children suffering from malnutrition and over 90 percent of civilians in need of humanitarian aid.

2/22/2017

Another Sudan Famine

faminesoudin

On 20 February 2017, the United Nations declared a famine in parts of former Unity State of South Sudan and warned that it could spread rapidly without further action. The World Food Programme reported that 40% of the South Sudanese population (4.9 million people) needed food urgently, and at least 100,000, according to the UN, were in imminent danger of death by starvation. UN officials said President Salva Kiir Mayardit was blocking food deliveries to some areas, though Kiir said on 21 February that the government would allow “unimpeded access” to aid organizations.

In addition, parts of South Sudan have not had rain in two years. According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Representative Serge Tissot, “Our worst fears have been realised. Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive. The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch.

The reports also warned that about 5.5 million people, half of South Sudan’s population, are expected to suffer food shortages and insecurity by July 2017. According to Jeremy Hopkins, the South Sudan representative for the UN children’s agency, more than 200,000 children are at risk of death from malnutrition in the country.

http://cdn.wfp.org/donate/

12/18/2016

larsen

11/6/2016

MAY THE EARTH TREMBLE AT ITS CORE

To the people of the world:

To the free media:

To the National and International Sixth:

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

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

We denounce the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From CIDECI-UNITIERRA,

Chiapas, October 2016

For the Full Reconstitution of Our Peoples

Never Again a Mexico Without Us

National Indigenous Congress

Zapatista Army for National Liberation

10/20/2016

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

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

9/1/2016

Violent lead-pellet crackdown

Filed under: government,human rights,india,military,police,violence — admin @ 8:46 am

pellets

Srinagar hospital reports at least 100 eye surgeries after four days of violent crackdown on protesters.

Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir – Despite appeals by rights groups to stop the practice, Indian armed forces have continued to use pellet guns to quell protesters, injuring at least 100 people in the recent violence that broke out in Indiand-administered Kashmir.

Inside the capital Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital, doctors said that they had performed 100 eye surgeries in the past four days.

First introduced to Kashmir by duck-hunting British expeditions, pellet guns send in one shot nearly 600 high velocity ball bearings made of lead.

In Kashmir, pellet guns have been used to quell protests for a long time.

Police say it is a non-lethal weapon that helps breaking protests without casualty, but rights groups reject the assertion, saying it blinds people and must be banned.

In the latest tensions, the youngest victim was a four-year-old girl.

Fearing profiling and reprisals of injured youths by police, hospital officials have assigned serial numbers to pellet gun victims to hide their identity. This development came after it emerged that undercover police officers have been roaming in hospitals hunting for injured protesters.

“I was out to get medicine for my mother when a group of soldiers appeared suddenly and fired on me. There were no protests at that time,” an 18-year-old student of Budgam district said.

Nine-year-old Tamana Ashraf of Ganderbal district is another victim being treated at the Srinagar hospital.

She was sitting at the window in her house when pellets whizzed by, hitting her left eye, her mother Shamima said.

“I saw a small iron ball in her eye. When we tried to hospitalise her, police stopped us and beat us up. I was crying to see what they had done to my daughter. Luckily we managed to reach here,” she said.

Srinagar hospital reports at least 100 eye surgeries after four days of violent crackdown on protesters.

Despite appeals by rights groups to stop the practice, Indian armed forces have continued to use pellet guns to quell protesters, injuring at least 100 people in the recent violence that broke out in Indiand-administered Kashmir.

First introduced to Kashmir by duck-hunting British expeditions, pellet guns send in one shot nearly 600 high velocity ball bearings made of lead.

In Kashmir, pellet guns have been used to quell protests for a long time.

Police say it is a non-lethal weapon that helps breaking protests without casualty, but rights groups reject the assertion, saying it blinds people and must be banned.

Fearing profiling and reprisals of injured youths by police, hospital officials have assigned serial numbers to pellet gun victims to hide their identity. This development came after it emerged that undercover police officers have been roaming in hospitals hunting for injured protesters.

“I saw a small iron ball in her eye. When we tried to hospitalise her, police stopped us and beat us up. I was crying to see what they had done to my daughter. Luckily we managed to reach here,” she said.

Hospitals in Kashmir’s summer capital are packed to capacity these days, their wards overflowing with pellet gun victims injured during violent clashes with government forces.

Sixteen-year-old Kaisar Ahmad Mir has been in hospital since July 9. As X-ray films dangle near his bed, Kaisar stares with haggard eyes at each passerby. Doctors had to amputate three fingers on his right hand after pellets were fired at him from close range during one of the demonstrations. “After the autopsy was done, there were 360 pellets found in [my brother’s] body.”
“I felt some electric current when the pellets hit my right hand. Then the blood started oozing out, followed by intense pain,” Mir said.

Deadly clashes between protestors and government forces engulfed this Himalayan region – India’s only Muslim majority state – on July 8, a day when the army gunned down militant leader Burhan Wani during a three-hour gun battle in the remote south Kashmir region of the state.

The government quickly instituted a curfew across the Kashmir valley, severing internet and phone service. But people defied government restrictions and came out in hordes to protest in cities, towns and remote hamlets of the state. Since July 8, 52 protesters have been killed and more than 2,500 injured, around 600 of them due to pellets. Many of the victims are children.

Aaqib Mir, Kaisar Mir’s younger brother, said that Kaisar was preparing for his class 10 exams this year. “My brother is now crippled for life,” Aaqib said. Eleven-year-old Umer Nazir received more than 12 pellets in his face that damaged his both eyes. He was shot during anti-government protests in the Indian state of Kashmir.

Eleven-year-old Umar Nazir received more than 12 pellets in his face that damaged his both eyes. He was shot during anti-government protests in the Indian state of Kashmir.

The pellets are loaded with lead and once fired they disperse widely and in huge numbers. Pellets penetrate the skin and soft tissues, with eyes especially vulnerable to severe, irreversible damage.

Pellets were introduced in Kashmir as a “non-lethal” alternative to bullets after security forces killed nearly 200 people during demonstrations against Indian rule from 2008 to 2010.The state government’s reasoning was that when fired from a distance, shotgun pellets disperse and inflict only minor injuries.

During this summer’s protests, pellets were extensively used against the protesters, injuring hundreds. According to figures issued by Kashmir’s SHMS hospital, out of 164 cases of severe pellet injuries, 106 surgeries were performed in which five people lost one eye completely.

Riyaz Ahmad Shah, 21, was killed on Aug. 2 after being hit by pellets. An ATM security guard, Shah was returning home when, according to his family, state forces fired pellets at him from close range, killing him on the spot.

“After the autopsy was done, there were 360 pellets found in his body,” said Shakeel Ahmad, Riyaz Shah’s brother.

At least nine people have been killed in the region since pellet guns were introduced in 2010.

“Pellets are not being used against rioters in other parts of the country, but here in Kashmir they are being used quite openly without any remorse from the government,” said human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who is also a program coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.

To protest against the use of pellets, the coalition has created posters with text written in braille to make the world aware of the suffering in Kashmir. “When you don’t see eye to eye with the brutal occupation in Kashmir, this is how they make you see their point,” reads a campaign poster.

8/31/2016

International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances; 3 Campesino Activists Executed

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As Colombia Cease-Fire Begins, 3 Campesino Activists Executed

While the beginning of the cease-fire marked a historical step toward peace in Colombia, rural leaders are still assassinated for defending their lands.

While the beginning of the cease-fire marked a historic step toward peace in Colombia, rural leaders are still being assassinated for defending their land and natural resources, an important reminder of the difficulties the country faces in ending the violence and impunity that have been such a permanent fixture of the five decades-long civil war.

728 Human Rights Activists Killed in Colombia Since 1994

A few hours after the cease-fire between Colombia’s army and the rebels formally started Monday night, three campesino leaders were murdered in the southwestern province of Cauca.

At about 8 a.m. local time, men “dressed as military officers, with balaclavas and large weapons” stopped vehicles traveling to the weekly market in the town of Almaguer, local campesino organization Cima said in a statement.

The assailants then asked the passengers to turn off their phones and forced the three campesinos to come with them, including one of Cima’s historical founders, Joel Meneses, before driving the campesinos a few miles to a spot called Dark Mount, where they were found shot dead.

Meneses, as well as campesinos Ariel Sotelo and another Meneses, whose first name was Mereo, were leading the defense of the territory including the protection of water resources against illegal mining. The group took part in the national agrarian strike in June while Joel Meneses had received a series of death threats over the past year, emphasized the communique.

After a series of murders of campesinos in Cauca last fall, sometimes involving military personnel, Cima denounced “the continuing attacks that campesinos and Indigenous social movements in Almaguer are victims of, affecting its organizational and electoral processes”—as some of their members won in local elections last year.

The country’s ombudsman Fabian Laverde said back then that the issue of violence against campesions was the roots of a number of causes.

“First, the national government refuses to recognize the existence of paramilitarism. Second, the complaints from the social movements made about situations of threats or concrete actions against residents of these territories have been completely ignored,” he said.

At least 300 campesinos leaders have been killed in Colombia in 2015.

Land distribution in Colombia is extremely unequal. Less than 1 percent of the population owns roughly half of the land, and 70 percent of the population owns only 5 percent of the land. Campesinos who fight for their land are often at risk of losing their lives

International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

August 30 is a day for commemorating those disappeared by repressive regimes, a day originally brought forward by families and human rights bodies struggling to find out the truth about their loved ones.

The Killing of Innocents: False Positives in Colombia

Six years ago on Wednesday, scores of young men from the poor neighborhood of Soacha near Bogota, Colombia, were offered work but ended up dead, and labeled left-wing guerillas. A recruiter later testified that he had received US$500 from the Colombian military for each man he recruited and delivered to them.

The Legacy of Disappearances in El Salvador

As El Salvador, Latin America, and the world celebrates the Vatican’s beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, one of the causes most dear to the slain priest remains an open wound for the country: los desaparecidos, or the disappeared. During the Salvadoran Civil War (1979-1992), an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 civilians were disappeared, the vast majority victims of the military regime’s “dirty war” against Salvadoran civil society.

Canada’s Disappeared Indigenous Women

According to the most recent report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s national police force, there were at least 1,181 cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada over a 30-year period from 1980 to 2012. This report doubled the original estimate from the Native Women’s Association of Canada, who under the Sisters in Spirit campaign in 2010 met with Indigenous families and found no less than 600 murdered and missing. Even these two reports must be taken in the context of previous reports which have long highlighted Canada’s disappeared as a growing crisis.

Mexico’s Crisis of Enforced Disappearances Hits Women Hard

A gender crisis that sees four women forcibly disappeared every month in the western Mexican state of Jalisco has prompted authorities to launch a new initiative to immediately begin searching for missing women and girls in the state, local media reported Monday.

The families of victims and activists marched in Mexico City once again on Monday to urgently demand legislation to hold those responsible accountable. Our correspondent Clayton Conn has more.

Hundreds of mothers protested and demanded justice for their disappeared sons and daughters.

A London-based journalism advocacy group presented a report saying that 23 journalists have disappeared in Mexico since 2003, making it 2 every year, the highest number in the world. Most of the disappeared were covering corruption and organized crime.

Honduras After the Coup

“To defend life is the most beautiful thing that a human being can do.” Meet Bertha Oliva, whose husband was forcibly disappeared in Honduras and is now a leading human rights defender speaking up for those who can’t speak anymore.

From Reagan to Obama: Forced Disappearances in Honduras

Forced disappearance refers to the practice of secretly abducting and murdering victims, making them disappear from society without a trace. Bodies of the disappeared are often carefully hidden, or rendered unrecognizable, to instill fear without the identity of the victim or the perpetrator becoming known.

Operation Condor Remembered

For five decades, each week, these mothers and grandmothers have been meeting at Plaza De Mayo in Argentina seeking justice for their loved ones, the children who were disappeared during the era of state terrorism between 1976-1983.

The U.S. gave the green light for the tortures, murders, and disappearances that took place during the Argentine dictatorship.

Operation Condor: Cross-Border Disappearance and Death

Operation Condor was a covert, multinational “black operations” program organized by six Latin American states (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, later joined by Ecuador and Peru), with logistical, financial, and intelligence support from Washington.

Operation Condor was the culmination of a U.S.-orchestrated campaign that entailed the ruthless silencing, murder, torture, and disappearance of tens of thousands of left-wing opponents of U.S. imperialism and the fascistic military dictatorships backed by the CIA and supported by infamous Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

8/26/2016

Made in the U.S.A.

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Cluster munitions are dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground or sea, opening up in mid-air to release tens or hundreds of submunitions, which can saturate an area up to the size of several football fields. Anybody within the strike area of the cluster munition, be they military or civilian, is very likely to be killed or seriously injured. The horror, the shame.

The fuze of each submunition is generally activated as it falls so that it will explode above or on the ground. But often large numbers of the submunitions fail to work as designed, and instead land on the ground without exploding, where they remain as very dangerous duds.

A cobalt bomb is a theoretical type of “salted bomb”: a nuclear weapon designed to produce enhanced amounts of radioactive fallout, intended to contaminate a large area with radioactive material. The concept of a cobalt bomb was originally described in a radio program by physicist Leó Szilárd on February 26, 1950. His intent was not to propose that such a weapon be built, but to show that nuclear weapon technology would soon reach the point where it could end human life on Earth, a doomsday device.

139 financial institutions worldwide are investing over US$24 billion in companies producing cluster munitions: investment in the producers of this deadly weapon by banks, pension funds and other financial institutions around the world. Cluster munitions have recently been used against civilians in Syria. These weapons have killed and injured thousands of people for decades, which is why the majority of the world’s nations have banned them. Syria has not joined the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. Syria’s use of cluster munitions should be a wake-up call for governments and financial institutions of the severe and real consequences of this indiscriminate weapon. Financial institutions have invested in cluster munition producers since June 2010. The majority of these investments come from financial institutions in states that have not yet joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The ‘Hall of Shame’ includes 22 financial institutions from 6 countries that are part of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions: Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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.

6/21/2016

Global forced displacement hits record high

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reasons are threefold:

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

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

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

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

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

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

3/18/2016

Indigenous activist Nelson Garcia has been shot dead in Honduras

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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.

3/5/2016

Berta Cáceres Assassinated

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Honduran Indigenous Leader Berta Cáceres Assassinated, Won Goldman Environmental Prize

Honduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres has been assassinated in her home. She was one of the leading organizers for indigenous land rights in Honduras.

In 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). For years the group faced a series of threats and repression.

According to Global Witness, Honduras has become the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental campaigners were killed in the country.

In 2015 Berta Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. In awarding the prize, the Goldman Prize committee said, “In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.”

Statement from SOA Watch:

HONDURAS–At approximately 11:45pm last night, the General Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. COPINH is urgently responding to this tragic situation.

Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources.

Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people.

Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.

Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated. In Rio Blanco on February 20, 2016, Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH’s work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta Cáceres had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.

Since the 2009 military coup, that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm–most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.

8/1/2014

Death at Five Times the Speed of Sound

Filed under: china,india,military,russia,usa — admin @ 5:06 am

The latest in push button warfare, hypersonic weapons have launched a new arms race among the big powers–emphasis on the race.

The Department of Defense recently awarded a $44 million contract to the Miltec Corporation, of Huntsville, Alabama. A low-key defense contractor located in the heart of American rocket country, Miltec produces very fast things: hypersonic weapons for the U.S. Army. Hypersonic weapons–missiles that can go five or six times the speed of sound–promise a uniquely American answer to warfare: a purely technological, pushbutton solution to the need to kill something. The U.S. isn’t the only power developing hypersonic weapons. Hypersonic weapons are the new arms race, with the United States, Russia, India and China all racing to develop them. Some hypersonic weapons are boosted to target atop intercontinental ballistic missiles, the same missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads in a nuclear war. What could possibly go wrong? Hypersonic is the new supersonic, a frontier of speed dreamed of but not yet conquered. Hypersonic weapons travel at extremely high speeds, anywhere from 3,840 to 16,250 miles an hour. A hypersonic weapon launched from New York could reach Moscow in less than 40 minutes. (By comparison, a Boeing 777 would make the same trip in eight and a half hours.) Miltec’s contract is for development of the so-called Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The “weapon”–a cone-shaped object with winglets–is launched on top of a repurposed Poseidon nuclear missile. Using the “boost glide” method, the weapon is boosted 60 miles high, then glides at five times the speed of sound to within 30 feet of the target. A 2011 test flew 2,400 miles–from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands–and was considered a partial success. A new test is scheduled in August, and we can look forward to another in 2019. Washington’s hypersonic obsession–part of a larger concept dubbed Prompt Global Strike–is not new. Oddly enough, it was initially conceived as a weapon for the Global War on Terror. “PGS was conceived in the early 2000s to deal with a very specific problem,” explained Brian Weeden, technical advisor at the Secure World Foundation, “how to attack a high priority, time-sensitive target such as a meeting between high-level terrorists or theft of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world.” The Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon is being developed under the Prompt Global Strike umbrella. There are problems operating at such incredible speeds. Friction between air and the weapon creates temperatures of up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt steel. Air itself becomes an obstacle–as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency inelegantly puts it, “Air doesn’t travel around you–you rip it apart.” Finally, traveling at speeds of up to 3.6 miles per second makes guidance, navigation, and control tricky problems. Outside of Prompt Global Strike, NASA is developing a separate system for the Air Force that straps a hypersonic weapon onto a powerful jet engine and launches it from an aircraft. This is the technology behind NASA’s X-51A Waverider, which in 2010 reached Mach 5, or roughly 3,700 miles an hour for approximately 200 seconds. Hypersonic drones, like the drones before them, are the latest innovation in push-button warfare. Both kill the enemy remotely at long distances with minimal human involvement. A hypersonic weapon operator may be a thousand miles from the weapon he or she launches, and thousands more from the target. But like drones, there is a trade-off involved, one not as apparent to the operator than to those that risk becoming collateral damage. As convenient as drone warfare has been, the distance between the operator and the target is part of the reason more than 400 civilians have been killed in drone strikes in the last decade. Used in battle, hypersonics could exact a similar toll. The United States was the first to conduct large-scale hypersonic weapons research, but other nations are racing to catch up. The U.S. has shown that such weapons are technically feasible, but in doing so has also created a situation where rivals must research their own… or risk being outclassed in wartime. “Ultra-fast hypersonic weapons may be able to reach Russian territory virtually in no time to accurately hit strategic facilities, and we shall have nothing to fight back with,” a Russian deputy defense minister told Itar-TASS in 2013. Unsurprisingly, Russia has started work on hypersonic weapons. In 2012, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dimitry Rogozin stated, “I think we need to go down the route of hypersonic technology and we are moving in that direction and not falling behind the Americans.” Russia has announced that PAK-DA, Russia’s next-generation long-range bomber, will carry hypersonic missile, and Russia plans to develop a working model by 2020. That’s unlikely; hypersonics is a notoriously tough science to master; but the declaration speaks to Moscow’s ambitions. China has also entered the hypersonic race. On January 9, China tested a hypersonic boost glide system conceptually similar to the Army’s AHW, known to U.S. intelligence as the WU-14. China is already developing DF-21D “carrier killer” missiles, ballistic missiles modified to attack American aircraft carriers and create a “no go” zone for the U.S. Navy. Both types of weapons are difficult to shoot down, and adding hypersonic glide weapons to China’s arsenal would make the U.S. Navy’s job of keeping carriers afloat much harder. Even India is developing hypersonic weapons, with the development of the Brahmos II missile. Brahmos II is expected to fly at speeds of up to Mach 7, but is limited by international agreements to relatively short ranges, making it primarily useful against ships and ground targets. The result of all this is a classic arms race. As the Russian defense minister noted, the big powers all have to either develop hypersonic weapons or risk becoming outclassed. Nuclear weapons could prove the only way for it to retaliate in-kind, and nobody wants that. Another worry with hypersonic weapons is that the launch of ICBMs carrying hypersonic weapons would–at least initially–look identical to the launch of ICBMs carrying nuclear weapons. A frightened country could be prompted to quickly retaliate with nuclear weapons. Proponents claim there are ways to distinguish a conventionally-tipped boost glide missile from a nuclear-tipped ICBM in flight, but asking a country to wait and observe the trajectory of a possible nuclear missile without retaliating, especially in a crisis, may be unrealistic. Hypersonic weapons are here to stay. Proponents claim that hypersonic weapons will eventually becomes “socialized”–that is, we’ll all get used to them and the new dangers they bring. It will be up to American people to reconcile the likelihood of innocents killed with the need for a speedy, time-critical weapon system. In the meantime, Miltec owes the U.S. Army a working missile by June 5, 2019.

Fiji’s Military Dictator Announces Democratic Elections

Filed under: corruption,fiji,government,human rights,military,tourism — admin @ 4:54 am

Fiji has been under the control of a military dictator since Rear Admiral Bainimarma seized power during a military coup in 2006. The island nation of Fiji has had a troubled political past with four military coups in the past decade. The international community has since put pressure on Fiji in order to push it toward democracy. Fiji is heavily reliant on tourism as a source of income and a stimulus for their economy. Both Australia and New Zealand introduced travel bans on Fiji in order to motivate political change in the country. The United Kingdom suspended Fiji’s Commonwealth Status, denying it the benefits of association with Great Britain.

In March Bainimarma announced that he would be stepping down as dictator and stating that he will run for re-election as a civilian and a member of Fiji’s ‘First Party’, which he now supports. Bainimarma claims that his coup in 2006 was necessary to ensure the restoration of democracy and to purge the rampant corruption that plagued the previous Fijian government. He says that he now looks to implement his plan for a better Fiji by holding open elections. In the wake of these statements the international community has reacted positively, praising Bainamarma for his decision. The government’s of Australia and New Zealand have lifted the travel bans on the island nation. The United Kingdom has also said they will reinstate commonwealth status if elections are successful.

However, there are still many issues with the upcoming elections, while Bainimarma announces they will be free and democratic there are some troubling events that have happened behind the scenes. Fiji has a history of restraining human rights and free speech; after recent constitutional change the military government heavily restricted these freedoms. There were incidents last year where protesters protesting the new constitution were arrested for failure to have a permit. There are many other stories of the regime arresting human rights defenders, journalists and trade union leaders. Critics in the press are skeptical of the upcoming elections and say that Bainimarma’s actions have no real teeth and will not effect change.

Despite the many instances of limiting the freedoms of the Fijian people, Bainimarma is extremely popular amongst the voters. He has implemented policies such as free education, free transportation for children and price controls on staple foods, all of which have made the military leader popular amongst the lower socioeconomic classes. In addition to these policies he has greatly improved the infrastructure of the islands making him popular amongst the rural population as well. It remains to be seen whether the elections will affect change in Fiji but Bainimarma has stated his intentions, his campaign is popular and the election in September will show whether he is sincere or not.

6/27/2014

JEJU ISLAND – A PIVOT ON THE PEACE ISLAND

Filed under: human rights,korea,military,usa — admin @ 3:49 pm

Since 2007, activists have risked arrests, imprisonment, heavy fines and massive police force to resist the desecration caused as mega-corporations like Samsung and Daelim to build a base to accommodate U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines for their missions throughout Asia. The base fits the regional needs of the U.S. for a maritime military outpost that would enable it to continue developing its Asia Pivot strategy.

Jeju Island, South Korea – For the past two weeks, I’ve been in the Republic of Korea (ROK), as a guest of peace activists living in Gangjeong Village on ROK’s Jeju Island. Gangjeong is one of the ROK’s smallest villages, yet activists here, in their struggle against the construction of a massive naval base, have inspired people around the world.

Since 2007, activists have risked arrests, imprisonment, heavy fines and wildly excessive use of police force to resist the desecration caused as mega-corporations like Samsung and Daelim to build a base to accommodate U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines for their missions throughout Asia. The base fits the regional needs of the U.S. for a maritime military outpost that would enable it to continue developing its Asia Pivot strategy, gradually building towards and in the process provoking superpower conflict with China. “We don’t need this base,” says Bishop Kang, a Catholic prelate who vigorously supports the opposition. He worries that if the base is completed, Jeju Island will become a focal point for Far Eastern military struggle, and that this would occur amid accelerating military tensions. “The strongest group in the whole world, the military, takes advantage of National Security ideology,” he continues. “Many people make money. Many governments are controlled by this militarism. The military generals, in their minds, may think they are doing this to protect their country, but in fact they’re controlled by the corporations.”

Jeju Islanders cannot ignore or forget that at least 30,000 of their grandparents and great grandparents were slaughtered by a U.S.-supported Korean government intent on crushing a tenacious democracy movement. The height of the assault in 1948 is referred to as the April 3 massacre, although the persecution and murderous suppression lasted many years. The national government now asking sacrifices of them has rarely been their friend.

But for the construction, Gangjeong seems a truly idyllic place to live. Lanes curving through the village are bordered by gardens and attractive small homes. Villagers prize hard work and honesty, in a town with apparently no need to lock up anything, where well-cultivated orange trees fill the eye with beauty and the air with inexpressible fragrance. Peaks rise in the distance, it’s a quick walk to the shore, and residents seem eager to guide their guests to nearby spots designated as especially sacred in the local religion as indicated by the quiet beauty to be found there.

One of these sacred sites, Gureombi Rock, is a single, massive 1.2 km lava rock which was home to a fresh water coastal wetland, pure fresh water springs and hundreds of plants and animal species. Now, it can only be accessed through the memories of villagers because the Gureombi Rock is the exact site chosen for construction of the naval base. My new friend, Tilcote, explained to me, through tears, that Gureombi has captured her heart and that now her heart aches for Gureombi.

Last night we gathered to watch and discuss a film by our activist film-maker and friend Cho Sung-Bong. Activists recalled living in a tent camp on Gureombi, successful for a time in blocking the construction companies. “Gureombi was our bed, our dinner table, our stage, and our prayer site,” said Jonghwan, who now works every day as a chef at the community kitchen. “Every morning we would wake and hear the waves and the birds.”

The film, set for release later this year, is called “Gureombi, the Wind is Blowing.”¬† Cho, who had arrived in Gangjeong for a 2011 visit at the height of vigorous blockades aimed at halting construction, decided to stay and film what he saw. We see villagers use their bodies to defend Gureombi. They lie down beneath construction vehicles, challenge barges with kayaks, organize human chains, occupy cranes, and, bearing no arms, surround heavily armed riot police. The police use extreme force, the protesters regroup and repeat. Since 2007, over 700 arrests have been made with more than 26 people imprisoned, and hundreds of thousands in fines imposed on ordinary villagers. Gangjeong village now has the highest “crime” rate in South Korea!

Opposing the real crime of the base against such odds, the people here have managed to create all the “props” for a thriving community. The community kitchen serves food free of charge, 24 hours a day. The local peace center is also open most of the day and evening, as well as the Peaceful Caf?©. Books abound, for lending, many of them donated by Korean authors who admire the villagers’ determination to resist the base construction. Food, and much wisdom, are available but so much more is needed.

After seven years of struggle many of the villagers simply can’t afford to incur additional fines, neglecting farms, and languishing, as too many have done, in prison. A creative holding pattern of resistance has developed which relies on community members from abroad and throughout the ROK to block the gate every morning in the context of a lengthy Catholic liturgy.

Priests and nuns, whose right to pray and celebrate the liturgy is protected by the Korean constitution, form a line in front of the gate. They sit in plastic chairs, for morning mass followed by recitation of the rosary. Police dutifully remove the priests, nuns and other activists about ten times over the course of the liturgy, allowing trucks to go through. The action slows down the construction process and sends a symbolic, daily message of resistance.

Returning to the U.S., I’ll carry memories not only of tenacious, creative, selfless struggle but also of the earnest questions posed by young Jeju Island students who themselves now face prospects of compulsory military service. Should they experiment with conscientious objection and face the harsh punishments imposed on those who oppose militarization by refusing military service?

Their questions help me pivot towards a clearer focus on how peace activists, worldwide, can oppose the U.S. pivot toward increasing militarization in Asia, increasing conflict with its global rivals, and a spread of weapons that it is everyone’s task to hinder as best they can.

Certainly one step is to consider the strength of Gangjeong Village, and to draw seriousness of purpose from their brave commitment and from the knowledge of what is at stake for them and for their region. It’s crucial to learn about their determination to be an island of peace. As we find ways to demand constructive cooperation between societies rather than relentless bullying and competition, their struggle should become ours.

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.

5/24/2014

Water

Filed under: military,resource,syria — admin @ 4:31 am

The United Nations, which is trying to help resolve the widespread shortage of water in the developing world, is faced with a growing new problem: the use of water as a weapon of war in ongoing conflicts.

The most recent examples are largely in the Middle East and Africa, including Iraq, Egypt, Israel (where supplies to the occupied territories have been shut off) and Botswana.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week expressed concern over reports that water supplies in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo were deliberately cut off by armed groups for eight days, depriving at least 2.5 million people of access to safe water for drinking and sanitation.

4/7/2014

Malaria drugs

Filed under: disease/health,military,rampage,usa — admin @ 6:59 am

Lariam (mefloquine) is one of the most widely used malaria drugs in America. Yet it has been linked to grisly crimes, like Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ 2012 murder of 16 Afghan civilians, the murders of four wives of Fort Bragg soldiers in 2002 and other extreme violence.

While the FDA beefed up warnings for Lariam last summer, especially about the drug’s neurotoxic effects, and users are now given a medication guide and wallet card, Lariam and its generic versions are still the third most prescribed malaria medication. Last year there were 119,000 prescriptions between January and June. Though Lariam is banned among Air Force pilots, until 2011, Lariam was on the increase in the Navy and Marine Corps.

The negative neurotoxic side effects of Lariam can last for “weeks, months, and even years,” after someone stops using it, warns the VA. Medical and military authorities say the drug “should not be given to anyone with symptoms of a brain injury, depression or anxiety disorder,” reported Army Times–which is, of course, the demographic that encompasses “many troops who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.” In addition to Lariam’s wide us in the military, the civilian population taking malaria drugs includes Peace Corps and aid workers, business travelers, news media, students, NGO workers, industrial contractors, missionaries and families visiting relatives, often bringing children.

What makes Lariam so deadly? It has the same features that made the street drug PCP/angel dust such an urban legend in the 1970s and 1980s. It can produce extreme panic, paranoia and rage in the user along with out-of-body “disassociative” and dream-like sensations so that a person performing a criminal act often believes someone else is doing it. An example of such disassociative effects was seen in Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ rampage; according to prosecutors at his trial, Bales slipped away from his remote Afghanistan post, Camp Belambay, in a T-shirt, cape and night-vision goggles and no body armor to attack his first victims. He then returned to the base and “woke a fellow soldier, reported what he’d done, and said he was headed out to kill more.”

In addition to Bales’ 2012 attacks and the 2002 Fort Bragg attacks, Lariam was linked in news reports to extreme side effects in an army staff sergeant in Iraq in 2005 and to the suicide of an Army Reservist in 2008.

Former Army psychiatrist Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, former U.S. Army Major and Preventive Medicine Officer Remington Nevin and Jerald Block with the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center agree in a recent paper that Lariam may be behind “seemingly spectacular and impulsive suicides.” It can produce “derealization and depersonalization, compulsions toward dangerous objects, and morbid curiosity about death,” they write, describing frequent hallucinations “involving religious or morbid themes” and “a sense of the presence of a nearby nondescript figure.” The researchers refer to two reports of people jumping out of windows on Lariam under the false belief that their rooms were on fire.

Lariam is one of five malaria drugs listed by the CDC for people who will be exposed to malaria. Other drugs include Malarone, a combination of the drugs atovaquone and Proguanil, Aralen (chloroquine,) primaquine and the antibiotic doxycycline marketed as Vibramycin. None of the drugs are ideal–Malarone can have renal effects and Aralen can have liver, blood and skin effects. Some do not work right away or are ineffective against resistant malaria strains. But the main reason for Lariam’s historic popularity is that it is taken weekly, unlike all the other drugs (except chloroquine) which are taken daily. Some travelers also report that Lariam is cheaper than other malaria drugs and say they only experience symptoms like memory loss and vivid nightmares. Still, since awareness of Lariam’s dangers, many users are now required to read and sign an informed consent form.

Early Example of Public Funding of Pharma Profits

Lariam was an early example of “technology-transfer” between publicly funded and academic research and Big Pharma, driven by the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. The Bayh-Dole Act dangled the riches of “industry” before medical institutions just as the former were floundering and the latter was booming, observes Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. Turning universities into think tanks for Big Pharma has been so profitable, Northwestern University made $700 million when it sold Lyrica, discovered by one of its chemists, to Pfizer enabling it to build a new research building.

Lariam was developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in the 1960s and ’70s after a drug-resistant strain of malaria did not respond to medications and sickened troops during the Vietnam War. Though Lariam was developed with our tax dollars, all phase I and phase II clinical trial data were given to Hoffman LaRoche and Smith Kline free of charge in what was the first private public partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense and Big Pharma . You’re welcome! It was approved by the FDA in 1989.

Roche, which retained the patent, did well with the government largesse. In 2009, it spent $46.8 billion to buy Genentech (for comparison the entire yearly budget of the National Institutes of Health is $60 billion a year) and its cancer drug, Avastin, makes up to $100,000 per patient per year, despite reports of its limited effectiveness for some cancers for which it is used. Nor was the testing of Lariam kosher. It was first tested on prisoners and soldiers who are not necessarily able or willing to refuse participation in clinical trials and it was also widely given to Guantanamo detainees. Phase III trials, supposed to be conducted on larger patient groups of up to 3,000 people, were not conducted at all, wrote the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2007 and “there was no serious attempt prior to licensing to explore the potential drug-drug interactions.” In fact, all users “have been involved in a natural experiment to determine the true safety margin,” says the journal, because “Consumers have been unwitting recruits to this longitudinal study, rather than informed partners.” No wonder Lariam causes adverse effects in as many as 67 percent of users.

As seen with other drugs that have neuropsychiatric effects, like the antidepressant Cymbalta and seizure drug Neurontin, the military, government and Big Pharma blamed the effects on the patients not the drugs. When the wives of four Fort Bragg soldiers were murdered during the summer of 2002–one was stabbed 50 times and set on fire–military investigators blamed “existing marital problems and the stress of separation while soldiers are away on duty,” instead of Lariam. Right. Three of the four soldiers also took their own lives.

The military, government and Big Pharma similarly blame the current suicide epidemic among military personnel on factors others than the ubiquitous psychiatric drugs in use–even though 30 percent of the victims never deployed and 60 percent never saw combat. A recent five-year study by Pharma-funded academic, government and military researchers about military suicides does not even consider the drugs given to an estimated fourth of soldiers–almost all of which carry warnings about suicide.

It is also worth noting that the alarming side-effects linked to Lariam which patients, doctors and public health officials reported for at least a decade, were not acknowledged until profits ran out and Lariam became a generic, as has happened with other risky drugs. When sentiment turned against Lariam in 2008, its manufacturer, Hoffmann-La Roche ceased marketing it in the US and now the words “Lariam” and “malaria” draw no search results on its US website. Who, us?

One group that has tried to raise awareness of the dangers of Lariam is Mefloquine (Lariam) Action, created in 1996 when founder, Susan Rose, noticed Peace Corps workers given Lariam were falling ill. Rose soon enlarged the scope of Mefloquine (Lariam) Action to include travelers and military personnel.

“This black box [the strongest FDA warning on drug packaging] officially establishes that mefloquine can cause permanent, brain damage and more. It validates what we have been saying since the beginning,” Jeanne Lese, director of Mefloquine (Lariam) Action told me. The problem is far from solved by the black box, says Lese. “The drug continues to be given out at travel clinics all over the U.S. and elsewhere every single day. What’s more, it is often prescribed with no hint to the patient about the black box, and no screening for contraindications such as history of previous depression or other neuropsych problems.” Lariam’s Checkered Past

The case of the four Fort Bragg soldiers charged with killing their wives during the summer of 2002 is not the only time Lariam has been in the news. There was also the case of Staff Sergeant Andrew Pogany who volunteered to serve in Iraq in 2003 and experienced such panic and PTSD symptoms in the war theater, he was sent back to Fort Carson and charged with “cowardly conduct as a result of fear.” Pogany and his attorney were able to prove that his reaction probably stemmed from Lariam and he received an honorable discharge. But Pogany, understandably, became a vehement advocate for the rights of soldiers with PTSD, especially those who have been given psychoactive drugs that make them worse.

The wife of a 17-year marine veteran I interviewed in 2011 reported a similar story. After being deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, her husband developed extreme PTSD. “He went from being loving on the phone, to saying he never wanted to see me and our daughter again,” the wife said. “He said not to even bother coming to the airport to meet him, because he would walk right past us.” When the couple did reunite, the husband was frail and thin, and “the whites of his eyes were brown,” says the wife. The formerly competent drill instructor became increasingly and inexplicably unpredictable, suicidal and violent and was incarcerated in the brig at Camp Lejeune for assault in 2011. I asked the wife to ask him during her visits if he had been given Lariam and she said he said yes.

In the nonfiction book, Murder in Baker Company: How Four American Soldiers Killed One of Their Own, Lariam is also raised as a possible factor in the brutal death of Army Specialist Richard Davis. When asked about Lariam in the crime in an interview, the author Cilla McCain said, “Although it was never mentioned in court, I think if this same case were to happen today, it would definitely be considered as a defense. These soldiers were overdosing on Lariam in massive amounts because there wasn’t proper oversight. In reality, proper oversight is impossible in a war zone but steps could have been taken to make sure that overdosing didn’t occur. Even without over-dosage the Lariam issue is a volatile one at best and I’m positive we will be hearing more about the damage it has caused for years to come. Some scientists are linking Lariam directly to the historical rise of suicides in the United States.”

As a dark cloud grows over Lariam, there is both good and bad news. The good news is in 2013, the Surgeon General’s Office of the Army Special Operations Command told commanders and medical workers that soldiers thought to be suffering from PTSD or other psychological problems or even faking mental impairment may actually be Lariam victims. The bad news is a new malaria drug developed at Reed during the same time period as Lariam called tafenoquine is now fast-tracking toward FDA approval. Jeanne Lese and Remington Nevin worry that the new drug has not been adequately tested for the same types of neurotoxic effects seen with Lariam and that it will become Lariam 2.0.

11/20/2013

Save Jeju Now No War Base on the Island of Peace

Filed under: culture,global islands,korea,military,usa — admin @ 1:21 pm

Save Jeju Now No War Base on the Island of Peace

History an introduction to jeju One Island Village’s Struggle for Land, Life and Peace

By Anders Riel Müller* | April 19, 2011

In early April I had the chance to visit one of the most beautiful areas in South Korea. Gangjeong Village on the island of Jeju is a small farming and fishing community on the island’s southern coast. Entering the village you see citrus groves and greenhouses on all sides. On the main street, women were sitting on the sidewalk cleaning fish and selling them to the locals. The cherry trees lining the main street were just beginning to bloom. It was a welcome break from congested and crowded Seoul where I live. In many ways it reminds me of the island in Denmark where I grew up. Nothing special seems to be going on, and that’s the beauty of it. But this community of approximately 1,500 farmers and fishermen is in the midst of a struggle against the South Korean government’s attempt to build a major naval base right in the middle of their village. The Navy and the Korean government claim that the base will have minimum impact on the environment and that it will create jobs and attract new tourists to the area. The villagers will have none of it. They see that the base will destroy their way of life, their village and the peace that Jeju islanders strive for. But the navy continues to raze farms and fishing grounds despite their protests. Jeju’s Geo-strategic Curse

The island of Jeju is as far away from Seoul as you can get geographically and mentally. This autonomous island province, located south/southwest of the Korean peninsula is in many ways distinct from mainland Korea. It’s relative geographic isolation, volcanic geological history, and warmer climate has formed a people whose traditions, food, and culture is as distinct as the islands natural features. Because of this, Jeju is also the biggest single tourist destination in Korea often named “Honeymoon Island” as it is a favored destination for newlywed Korean couples. The island economy is also distinct. Agriculture, tourism, and fishing are the three main economic sectors, helping the island preserve its natural beauty and traditional way of life. Development in Jeju can be said to have followed a pace in which it was possible to modernize without having to completely compromise the island’s environment, traditions and culture. This is not to say that Jeju is an untouched island paradise. Luxury tourist resorts, golf courses, and tacky tourist attractions can be found in many places, but once you venture a bit off the beaten path you will find the Jeju that makes it a special place.

Nevertheless, Jeju’s curse is its strategic location between South Korea and Japan, and its close proximity to China. It is only 300 miles from the Chinese mainland and Shanghai. For centuries, Jeju has been the battleground for conflicts that had little to do with the islanders themselves. In modern times, Jeju was annexed along with the rest of the Korean Empire by Japan in 1910. Thousands of island men were sent to work in mines and factories in Japan and Manchuria, while women were forced into prostitution to service the Japanese Imperial Army. Towards the end of World War II, the Japanese heavily fortified the island, deployed 70,000 soldiers, and forced the islanders to construct coastal defenses in anticipation of a U.S. invasion. When Japan surrendered in 1945, Jeju joined the rest of Korea to celebrate the end of decades of colonial rule and exploitation. But for the people of Jeju, the horrors experienced under Japanese rule were nothing compared to what was to come. The Jeju Massacres

The division of the Korean Peninsula by the United States and the Soviet Union turned Jeju into a battlefield for subsequent cold war conflicts on the peninsula. In 1948, with U.S. and U.N. support, South Korea held elections that established a separate state in the south, thus solidifying Korea’s division. In response, 30,000 islanders in Jeju went out to protest the elections, which was abruptly ended when police opened fire and killed eight protesters. This prompted riots throughout the island and the boycott of the South Korean elections by Jeju islanders. Unfortunately, the United States overseers annulled the Jeju election results due to their lack of participation, and Syngman Rhee was elected without the votes from Jeju counted. But that wasn’t all. Korean right wing nationalists labeled the entire island as Communists sympathizers. When U.S. backed leader Syngman Rhee took power following the elections, he initiated a massive “Red” cleansing campaign targeted the Jeju general population. Using the South Korean military and ultra rightist paramilitary groups from the Northwest Korean Youth Association, the Rhee government employed a scorched earth strategy of repression resulting in the indiscriminate raping of women and burning of villages. Thousands of people were killed. It is estimated that 70 percent of entire villages were razed to the ground and 30,000 people—ten percent of the island’s population—were murdered. It was a brutal precursor to what the mainland would experience during the Korean War.

At the newly constructed Peace Park Museum and Memorial for the massacre, one can take a few moments to reflect on Jeju’s fate as a battleground for imperial and ideological conflicts and the meaningless loss of lives that people here have suffered. I went there on April 4th for the commemoration of “Sasam” as the massacre is called locally. From the thousands of people who were gathered for the memorial ceremony, it is clear that the massacre has left deep scars in Jeju society. For years, any mention of the massacre could lead to imprisonment and torture. Relatives of those who had been labeled as Communists were prevented from taking public service positions or jobs in many companies. Many are still afraid to talk about what happened.

It was not until 2006 that the late President Roh Moo-Hyun officially apologized for the massacre and designated Jeju “Island of World Peace”. For 50 years, successive governments in Seoul silenced the Korean people’s memories of systematic murder, rape and torture. As one exits the museum, a sign reads: “Jeju April 3rd Incident will be remembered as a symbol of the preciousness of peace, unity and human rights.” But the government’s memory is short. Plans for a major naval base on Jeju had been in the works since 2002 at different locations, but opposition from local residents halted construction several times. The Plight of Gangjeong Village

In Gangjeong however, the navy and the South Korean government seem determined to construct the base by any means necessary. I met an artist and activist Sung-Hee Choi is living in Gangjeong to support the struggle of the villagers. Gangjeong means the “Village of Water,” she says, referring to the abundance of surface fresh water in the area, a rarity on this island of porous volcanic rock. The clean water from the Gangjeong stream is what makes the farmland some of the most fertile on the island. Greenhouse after greenhouse and miles of citrus orchards confirm that farming here is a good way of life for the residents. Much of this will soon be paved over if the Navy and central government get their way. As we walk down to the beach, we pass bulldozed fields with chopped down wilted citrus trees and collapsed green houses. The Navy contractors from Samsung and Daerim are not wasting any time. It is quite obvious that such physical destruction is part of the Navy’s strategy to silence resistance in the village. Some residents have already given up the fight and sold their land fearing that they will be fined if they did not sell. The government alleges that the construction is legal, that the residents have been offered fair compensation, but many locals feel pressured and cajoled into selling their land.

Down at the beach one quickly recognizes that this is a uniquely beautiful coastal stretch. The volcanic rocks, many coves and unique fresh water tidal pools provide habitats for a wealth of animal and plant life. Underneath the water, endangered soft corals provide habitat for an abundance of sea life. The importance of these ecosystems have been officially recognized by UNESCO as part of its designation of the Jeju biosphere reserve and the provincial government is currently seeking nomination as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. But again the government seems to care little about these designations. Construction companies have already destroyed large areas of volcanic rock formations with their bulldozers and trucks.

As we walk along the cliffs and lava rock formations, we have a moment to stop at a few of the fresh water tide pools filled with marine life. “I never noticed these pools before,” Sunghee says. “I have been too busy watching the navy watching us.” She points to the navy headquarters a few hundred yards away from where they track and monitor all movement on the coast. Except for a few women gathering shellfish, we are alone. Sunghee tells me that usually spies working for Samsung or the Navy disguised as sport fishers watch them. I can see that the constant monitoring is taking its toll on both activists and villagers. Each time I saw Sunghee over the few days, she always looked exhausted. From the perspective of villagers and activists, the navy is playing a game of psychological warfare with those who oppose base construction. We walk back to where we entered the beach. Artworks, posters and boards tell visitors about the unique ecosystems of this coastal stretch and how all of it will be destroyed by the base construction.

On the rocks we meet well-known movie critic Professor Yang Yoon-Mo. A Jeju native, Mr. Yang has lived in a tent on the rocks for four years to protest the base construction. I ask for a brief interview but Mr. Yang declines. “There is no more to be said or explained,” says Yang. “Now I just want to enjoy the beauty of this place.” It is a beautiful and quiet spring day and the coast is almost deserted besides a few tourists. The peace is disturbed only when two minivans come down to the beach. Sunghee’s and Mr. Yang’s faces light up. The minivans have transported solidarity delegations from Okinawa and Gwangju to Gangjeong to support the villagers. Both delegations have experienced the consequences of being victims of larger geopolitical and ideological conflicts. Okinawans have protested U.S. military presence for decades and Gwangju delegates are relatives of the victims of the brutal Gwangju massacre in 1980.

Sunghee explains that construction machines are usually there, but that they were probably withdrawn for fear of conflict with protestors during the weekend of the Sasam commemoration and the solidarity demonstration announced by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). Several villagers, including the mayor, have been injured and arrested from skirmishes with the police. It seems that this day the Navy and construction companies have decided it is wisest to withdraw given all the media attention during Sasam. Why the Naval Base on Jeju

The Korean Navy claims that the new ”eco-friendly” naval base will create jobs and increased security for the island. But it is difficult to imagine an eco-friendly 50-hectare naval base that will house 8,000 marines, up to 20 destroyers, several submarines and two 150,000-ton luxury cruise liners. Considering that each destroyer has up to a 100,000 horsepower engine it is difficult to see how the base can be considered safe for an ecologically sensitive environment, not to mention that most of the volcanic rock formation will be paved over with cement and concrete. The second argument is that the new base will provide an economic boost for the island. But what kind of jobs will be created? People in Gangjeong are farmers and fishers living off the wealth of land and sea. The jobs that usually accompany military bases are more likely to be in service industries such as bars, brothels and souvenir shops. The sheer size of the naval base will inevitably lead to the complete erasure of this community, and the villagers know it.

The final argument for the base is that it will provide vital security for the island. But history shows otherwise. Any time a major military force has been present on the island it has led to death, displacement, and destruction of the local population. Jeju islanders experienced atrocities from the Japanese during the occupation and later by their own countrymen during the Jeju massacre. The real issue here is not about the security of Jeju, but rather the strategic placement of a new naval base tasked with securing shipping lanes which are the lifeline of South Korea’s resource intensive corporations. This new strategically located fleet will also take on an increasingly offensive role in the East China and South China Sea.

In a recent article Christine Ahn and Sukjong Hong reveal how the base will play a strategic role in efforts by the U.S.-South Korea-Japan alliance to reign in Chinese naval expansion. While South Korea claims that the base is not intended for use by the United States, the likelihood that the U.S. Navy would utilize the base in any military conflict in the region is obvious given U.S. operational control over Korea’s military. The base is also viewed by some in the military establishment as symbolic of South Korea’s emergence as a world power in which the navy will play a central role. In an interview with the conservative paper JoongAng Daily Admiral Jung Ok-keun of the ROK Navy said, “The establishment of the flotilla is a sign that we are becoming one of the powerful navies in the world, the goal we have been dreamed of.” There can hardly be any doubt that this new 953 billion Won naval base will serve as a strategic offensive outpost for South Korea and its allies. In this context it is difficult to understand how a base in Gangjeong will increase security for Jeju residents. In a potential military conflict with China, Gangjeong will be an important strategic target, just as Pearl Harbor was for the Japanese in WWII. Still Hope

Sunghee and I walk back to the village. She is clearly encouraged by the arrival of the Gwangju and Okinawa delegations, and re-energized by the peaceful and beautiful coastline. After teaching an English class to some local students, we walk over to one of the local restaurants for dinner before joining a solidarity demonstration organized by KCTU later that evening. We have to give up finding food in the center of the village because most of the restaurant owners have left for the demonstration. Sunghee tells me that the village has been torn apart by the struggle – neighbor against neighbor, and relatives and against relatives. Many have given up, exhausted and fearful of the Navy. Not all, however, have thrown in the towel.

We arrive at the community soccer field situated right across the road from the main gate to the Navy headquarters. We greet the dog that activists, in a gesture of humor, have placed to watch the Navy headquarters, and join the 1,300 protesters who have come from all over Korea to support the villagers. It is already dark when we arrive, but the hundreds of candles held by the protesters provide a comforting atmosphere. Protesters are of all ages and walks of life: families with children, villagers, workers and activists. Watching the crowd sing songs for peace and reunification, it is hard to believe the government’s claim that the protest is the work of a handful of extreme activists.

Sitting in the bus on the way back to my hotel, I reflect on the last few days in Jeju and how if this naval base is not stopped, the Gangjeong villagers’ livelihoods, histories and traditions may soon be erased from memory, all because of strategic geo-political ambitions that have nothing to do with them or their way of life. On April 6th, two days after my visit to Gangjeong, the navy began construction again. Sunghee Choi and Yoon-mo Yang were arrested and detained by the police. Sunghee was released the following day, but Mr. Yang was not released until April 8th. Meanwhile the villagers continue to block the construction of the base. To stay updated, follow Sunghee Choi’s blog.

This UNESCO World Heritage designated island stands to lose much of what makes it part of our world heritage. The transformation of Jeju into a military base also shows that much has yet to change in South Korea before a true democracy is established. The strategies of subtle coercion and lack of transparency by both the Navy and the South Korean government against its own people are discouraging to any person concerned about democracy and the rights of people. The struggle of Gangjeong villagers for land, life, and peace should concern us all.

*Anders Riel Müller is a fellow with the Korea Policy Institute who is living in South Korea.

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