Mar 6, 2017

Anniversary of indigenous water protector Bertha Caceres’ murder: Memory of martyrs inspires ongoing demands for environmental justice

-->  By Talli Nauman
The anniversary March 2 of Honduran indigenous environmental and human rights activist Bertha Caceres’ violent death at the hands of assassins focused attention on the sad-but-true fact that the henchmen of the transnational kleptocracy are at the top of their game.
When Caceres took a lethal bullet in her home in 2016, she was coordinating the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), of which she was a founder. Her leadership in the fight to prevent the Agua Zarca Dam made her one of 123 Hondurans murdered since 2010 for standing up against corrupt usurpation of ancestral habitat both sacred and necessary for the survival of indigenous communities.
While eight fall-guys have been fingered to take the blame for offing her, no culprit has been brought to the fore. The international outcry over the injustice has resulted in a study naming Honduras the world’s deadliest country in which to be a water protector or a land defender.
The findings of the two-year study by Global Witness throw into relief the militarily backed lethal collusion between government and corporate stooges not only in forcing megaprojects on Honduras, but also in trampling indigenous resistance to extractive industries throughout the hemisphere.
Its recommendations for bringing U.S. policy pressure to bear beginning with Honduras are noteworthy, while likely to fall on deaf ears in the Administration of newly installed President Donald Trump, who is busy beating back domestic indigenous opposition to his pet U.S. petroleum pipeline projects, Dakota Access and Keystone XL.

“Our investigations reveal how Honduras’ political and business elites are using corrupt and criminal means to cash in on the country’s natural wealth, and are enlisting the support of state forces to murder and terrorize the communities who dare to stand in their way,” said Global Witness campaign leader Billy Kyte in releasing the study on Jan. 31.

The study notes impunity and lack of accountability. Chief among relevant examples is the case of Gladis Aurora López, vice-president of Honduras’ Congress, president of ruling National Party and wife of Arnold Gustavo Castro. She denies any involvement in deals with her husband, who controls the planned Los Encinos hydropower project in which the dismembered bodies of three indigenous opponents were found with evidence of torture.

“We were evicted by a squadron of around 15 police, accompanied by a group of civilians. They destroyed our crops, they burnt our food. They left us completely on the street - a community robbed of everything,” said Roberto Gomez, an indigenous activist who has vocally opposed Los Encinos.

As if that weren’t enough, says Kyte, “We have documented countless chilling attacks and threats, including the savage beating by soldiers of pregnant women, children held at gunpoint by police, arson attacks on villagers’ homes, and hired assassins who still wander free among their victims’ communities.”

The United States, meanwhile, continues to pump money into Honduran military and industry, despite concerns raised in the U.S. Congress about the Central American country’s dubious human rights record.

The U.S. embassy has been promoting ramped-up foreign participation in Honduras’ extractive industries, for instance, with U.S. mining giant Electrum planning a $1-billion investment.  

Main Recommendations from Global Witness Report: 
Honduran, foreign state, and business actors currently contribute to attacks against land and environmental activists. Concerted action is needed by all actors and the following recommendations must be prioritized:
·       The Honduran government must prioritize the protection of land and environmental defenders, properly resource the new protection system and implement emergency measures.
·       The Honduran government, police and judiciary must bring the perpetrators of crimes against these activists to justice, and end the corruption behind abusive business projects.
·       The Honduran government must work with civil society to strengthen and implement laws that guarantee the consent of indigenous communities before projects are given the green light.
·       The United States must review its aid and investment policy to Honduras in order to ensure activists are better protected, crimes against them are prosecuted and communities are consulted before business projects go ahead.
·         Foreign investors and international financial institutions should stop any planned investments in the industries causing the violence – mining, dams, logging, tourism and large-scale agricultural projects.  

Last year, tens of millions of U.S. aid dollars were directed to the Honduran police and military, both of which are heavily implicated in violence against land and environmental activists, Global Witness says.

“As Honduras’ biggest aid donor, the U.S. should help bring an end to the bloody crackdown on Honduras’ rural population,” Kyte said.

“Instead it is bankrolling Honduran state forces, which are behind some of the worst attacks. The incoming U.S. administration must urgently address this paradox, which is fueling, not reducing, insecurity across the country.”

That, however, is not about to happen unless activists continue to build on the movement for environmental justice inspired by Caceres and others like one of the latest victims, Mexico’s late indigenous leader Isidro Baldenegro, who like Caceres was an internationally recognized Goldman Environmental Prize recipient for grassroots organizing.

On March 2, the Global Day of International Direct Action helped keep the memory alive and light the
 the way for continued activism. The event was initiated by Copinh and amplified by the media outlet Abya Ayala as part of the Intra-Continental Solidarity with all Water Defender Nations of Mother Earth.

Caceres’ memory must be invoked along with that of dozens of other martyrs for the defense of the sanctity of all living beings, as the cross-boundary struggle builds to reinstate indigenous primacy in the protection of land tenure rights, biological diversity, habitat, food and water security, and the balance of nature.

Feb 18, 2017

Mexican Consulates Flooded With Fearful Immigrants

New York Times
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A crowd gathered at the Mexican Consulate in New York City on Friday. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times
LOS ANGELES — First came the anxious calls in the days after the election of President Trump. Now, people begin lining up before 8 a.m. and crowd the waiting rooms inside the Mexican Consulate here.

Mexican citizens come to renew passports that have been unused for more than a decade. They desperately ask lawyers if they can do anything to help them stay in the United States. They register their children for Mexican citizenship, just in case they are sent back and decide to move their whole family with them.

When the consulate began to get reports of dozens of Mexicans being arrested by immigration officials last week, they immediately dispatched lawyers to the federal detention center downtown. Officers closely monitored social media, simultaneously trying to get information and quash unfounded rumors. In one case, they helped a man whom immigration officials had quickly sent to the border for deportation return to Los Angeles for a hearing in immigration court.

These are demanding times for the 50 Mexican consulates scattered throughout the United States. With Mr. Trump’s promise to crack down on immigrants living in the United States illegally and an executive order that vastly expands who is considered a priority for deportation, Mexicans living here illegally are increasingly on edge.

And consulates are moving quickly to help. As official representatives of the Mexican government in the United States, the consulates can provide legal guidance and resources for people and families dealing with immigration issues. Mexicans make up about half of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The relationship between Mexico and the United States is at its lowest point in years. After a 35-year-old mother of two American citizens was deported in Arizona last week, the Mexican government warned their citizens living in the United States of a “new reality.” It urged “the entire Mexican community” to “take precautions” and be in touch with the nearest consulate.

Mexican officials say they are eager to keep families already living in the United States together. There are economic concerns too: Mexicans living abroad send more than $25 billion back home, with most of the money coming from the United States, according to Mexico’s central bank.
Felipe Carrera oversees the department of protection in the Los Angeles office of the Mexican Consulate, where dozens of lawyers assist with immigration cases. “Our main purpose is to find out if there have been violations of due process,” Mr. Carrera said regarding arrests last week. “People need to know they have constitutional rights.” Credit Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times
Perhaps nobody is as busy as Carlos García de Alba, the consul general in Los Angeles, one of the largest offices in the country. He has begun to train nearly every employee in basic legal services and expects to bring in many more immigration lawyers. Still, in recent months, Mr. García has felt torn between his efforts to increase services to worried constituents and trying to calm their nerves.

“We don’t want to provoke and feed a kind of paranoia among our nationals here,” Mr. García said in an interview. “There is a kind of psychosis, people are really scared. Up to now we haven’t seen anything that is really different than the last several years, but the environment is making people panic and they are completely fearful. They want to know what is going to happen and how to protect themselves.”

In the last week, the Mexican government has created a 24-hour hotline to help answer any questions for Mexicans in the United States. Last month, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that he would spend $50 million to pay for lawyers at every consulate to help people facing deportations. And consulates have been distributing fliers detailing what to do if someone is approached by deportation agents — advising them not to open their doors without proof of a warrant or speak to officers without a lawyer.

Foreign service officers who have spent decades in the United States said in interviews that they had all encountered increased anxiety among undocumented immigrants, as several states have passed their own laws to deal with illegal immigration. But they said this was the most hostile national atmosphere for Mexicans in recent memory, making their jobs both more difficult and more urgent.

Scared by rumors and rhetoric, some consulates have heard of immigrants taking drastic steps to avoid the authorities, like keeping their children home from school, quitting their jobs or selling their homes for cash. And many immigrants may not immediately consider turning to the Mexican government for help.

“There is an inherent feeling of vulnerability that comes with being undocumented in this country, and that vulnerability moves you to get away of anything that is official government,” said Carlos González Gutiérrez, the consul general in Austin, Tex., who estimates that about half of the 200,000 Mexicans living in the region are undocumented. “The first challenge for us is to make sure that immigrants understand that the consulate is a safe place where they can get accurate information.”
Like other consuls, Mr. González has tried to assuage fears by appearing frequently on Spanish-language television and radio, offering information that American officials may not be willing to share. He has been careful to emphasize that the operations appeared to be targeted, not widespread raids as some feared, but also pointed out that several people without criminal records had also been arrested.

Many of the consulates’ most pressing concerns now are defensive. In several cases last week, immigration agents were “unwilling to provide our nationals with the option to talk with our consulate and the obligation to notify us,” said one Mexican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue was still under investigation. Under the Vienna Convention, a 1963 international treaty, any citizen of another country should be offered a chance to speak with their consulate.
In the waiting room at the Los Angeles office of the Mexican Consulate. The consulate, an official representative of the Mexican government in the United States, can provide legal guidance and resources for people and families dealing with immigration issues. Credit Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times
Felipe Carrera oversees the department of protection in the Los Angeles consulate, where dozens of lawyers assist with immigration cases. For years, the office has sent a lawyer to the federal immigration center daily, monitoring who is taken in and talking to as many as 15 people a day. Minutes after he heard reports of dozens of arrests last week, several lawyers went there to talk with as many Mexicans as they could.

“Our main purpose is to find out if there have been violations of due process,” Mr. Carrera said. “People need to know they have constitutional rights. We want them to know about the Fifth Amendment and make sure they are properly advised about what happens if they plead guilty.”

Claudia Franco, the consul general in Phoenix, said much of her time these days was spent offering a kind of psychological support to immigrants, answering basic questions and calmly listening to their fears. “We want people to consider worst-case scenarios, to be prepared and have a plan,” she said. The round-the-clock national hotline, based in Tucson, received more than 1,500 calls one day this week, more than double than the average number of calls before Mr. Trump was inaugurated.

Consulates throughout the country said requests for legal assistance had also spiked in the last two months — some come from people who received deportation orders years ago that were never enforced. Others have criminal convictions for using fake Social Security cards; still others may be eligible for special visas because they were victims of domestic abuse or other crimes.

“Most people do not understand what their legal options are,” said Javier Díaz de León, the consul general in Atlanta. “There are a number of people who don’t really have a legal recourse, but it’s much more preferable to know that before you get detained so you can make a wise decision.”

While many people are looking for advice have plans to stay here, many parents of American-born children are now registering them for Mexican citizenship — a kind of insurance in case they are deported and want their children to join them. The Mexican government has offered this kind of dual citizenship for more than a decade. Before the election, Mr. Díaz said, the office handled about 15 applications a day, now they receive double that.

Other offices have experienced similar increases. Monica Sanchez, 26, came to Los Angeles from Morelia, Mexico, more than 10 years ago. Although she has stayed out of legal trouble, she said she was constantly worried that things would change quickly and she would be forced to move back.
“I want to do something, whatever I can do to feel safer and less scared,” she said. “We all want help to take the control we can get, to have some power.”

A kingpin's killing puts the complexity and brutality of Mexico's drug war on vivid display

Business Insider, Christopher Woody. Feb. 14, 2017

On the evening of February 9, a Mexican navy helicopter hovering over the city of Tepic in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit laced a home in the city with a six-second stream of machine-gun fire.

Mexican officials said the gunfire came because gunmen had opened fire on marines with "high-caliber" weapons in the area and then barricaded themselves in the upper level of a house.

One official told the Associated Press that the Black Hawk helicopter had been called in for "dissuasive fire," meant to suppress fire from the house.

"To reduce the level of aggression and lower the risk of death among civilians and federal forces, (troops) repelled the attack with the support of dissuasive fire from a helicopter," a statement from the Mexican navy said. 

Mexican marines were engaged in the initial exchange but were then joined by federal police and the army.

The first encounter led to the death of Juan Francisco Patron Sanchez, aka "H2," reportedly the leader of the Beltran Leyva Organization in Nayarit and the southern part of neighboring Jalisco state, and seven other suspects. A "second aggression" later near the city's airport ended with four more suspects dead. 

The governor of Nayarit praised the operation as "surgical" and called it "proof that Nayarit is ... at peace." No Mexican personnel were killed.

While Mexican authorities have used the kind of "minigun" mounted on the helicopter in the past over rural areas, it's rare to see it used over urban areas. 

The Mexican navy said it was deployed in line with rules of engagement. (There were reports early last year of Mexican military helicopters firing on homes during the search for "El Chapo" Guzmán.) 
Mexican authorities also recovered a grenade launcher and several rifles and pistols at the scene.

The exchange underscores the complexity and brutality that has come to characterize engagements between Mexican security forces and suspected criminals in Mexico, particularly the northwestern part of the country.

The Mexican government has acquired several Black Hawk helicopters from the US government through the Plan Merida initiative. Despite their sophistication, Black Hawks, like other helicopters, are not immune from cartel firepower.

In May 2015, members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel shot down a helicopter over Jalisco state, killing eight people on board. In September, suspected members of the Knights Templar cartel downed a state-government helicopter over the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan, reportedly using a Barrett .50-caliber rifle.

Mexico cartel enforcer manpan rocket launcher missileMexican drug cartel shootout gun battle crime scene
A bullet-ridden sports utility vehicle is taken away by authorities after a gun battle in which a man identified as the leader of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel was killed, in Tepic, Nayarit state, Mexico, February 10, 2017.(AP Photo/Chris Arias) 
Those are not the only antiaircraft weapons some of Mexico's criminal groups have at their disposal. 
In April 2009, Mexican authorities in the northern border state of Sonora seized a weapons cache containing a .50-caliber antiaircraft machine gun mounted on a van, capable of firing 800 rounds a minute up to 1,500 meters away. 
The following month, a hotel employee came across what appeared to be a SA-7 Soviet-made heat-seeking antiaircraft missile, which could be fired from the shoulder.

Nov 28, 2016

Pronunciamiento de organizaciones mexicanas: Repudio absoluto al programa político del presidente electo Trump"

Nosotros, mexicanas y mexicanos, unidos al país del norte por los ríos, montañas y desiertos de nuestra geografía compartida, y por la sangre que fluye en las venas de nuestras familias binacionales, declaramos nuestro repudio absoluto al programa político del presidente electo de los Estados Unidos, Donald J. Trump.
Juntos, nos comprometemos a DEFENDER a los más vulnerables y al planeta, y a RESISTIR permanentemente el odio y el autoritarismo apoderados del gobierno del país vecino.
Vimos con horror cómo Trump construyó una campaña basada en la xenofobia, el racismo y la misoginia. Estamos frente a la consolidación de un proyecto que reivindica abiertamente el supremacismo y el patriarcado, poniendo en grave riesgo derechos y vidas de miles de personas dentro y fuera de sus fronteras. México fue convertido en el chivo expiatorio de las fallas estructurales del modelo económico y político de los Estados Unidos. Se culpa a México y sus migrantes por el desempleo, la precariedad, la falta de servicios básicos y perspectivas de mejoramiento para grandes sectores de la población estadunidense.
Este escenario, producto de la globalización desde arriba y la desigualdad, se vive de manera aún más cruel en nuestro país donde el pueblo sufre los mismos impactos de la integración económica y financiera, multiplicados. Ahora en EEUU el 1%, representado por Trump, no sólo ganó el voto de buena parte del 99%, sino que les hizo creer que ellos mismos —pero de otro color, otra religión, otro país— son el problema.
Las promesas de campaña de Trump que a raíz de los trágicos resultados del 8 de noviembre podrían volverse proyectos de gobierno, tendrán un impacto fuerte en México, entre ellos:
* La construcción del muro fronterizo * La deportación de millones de compatriotas * La retención de remesas para pagar el muro * La detención y encarcelamiento de migrantes * El aumento de agentes del ICE en la frontera en 200% * El odio anti-migrante * La tarifa de 35% a ciertos productos mexicanos * La renegociación unilateral del TLCAN * La eliminación de regulaciones ambientales y el aliento a la industria extractiva que despoja y contamina tierras y aguas * La intensificación de la militarización de las fronteras EEUU-México y México-Guatemala * El retroceso en los derechos de la mujer * El discurso anti-derechos humanos y pro-tortura
La aplicación de estas políticas, así sea parcial, nos llevaría a una emergencia humanitaria enorme y una crisis económica severa; agravaría la actual crisis de derechos humanos, crecería la pobreza y colapsaría la infraestructura de atención humanitaria en las fronteras.
Hemos visto con gran preocupación que Trump no muestra ninguna intención de matizar los planteamientos racistas y anti-México de su campaña. Ha dicho que empezará “cuanto antes” la construcción del muro y la deportación de entre 2 y 3 millones de migrantes.
Frente a esta nueva realidad:
RECHAZAMOS la construcción del muro ilegal y ofensivo, la deportación masiva de nuestros compatriotas y la separación de familias, el bloqueo de nuestras remesas y la militarización.
REPUDIAMOS el discurso de odio e intolerancia del nuevo gobierno. Lo enfrentamos con la unidad y la lucha no-violenta.
CONDENAMOS la justificación abierta de Trump del acoso sexual, y la aceptación de la tortura sexual y la violación como actos individuales o políticas de estado. Defendemos los derechos y la dignidad de la mujer y refrendamos su derecho a decidir sobre su cuerpo y a la salud reproductiva y sexual frente el resurgimiento y legitimización de los fundamentalismos anti-mujer.
COMPARTIMOS el sentir de millones de trabajadores estadunidenses de que la globalización desde el gran capital ha generado una grave crisis en el nivel de vida de nuestras familias.
RECONOCEMOS que el Partido Demócrata cultivó las condiciones que llevaron a la elección de Trump, por su incapacidad para responder a la necesidad de cambiar el rumbo de la economía global que ha beneficiado a los de arriba y empobrecido a los de abajo. Rechazamos la opción fascista que culpa por la crisis a los sectores discriminados y vulnerables.
NOS SOLIDARIZAMOS con los mexicanos, afroamericanos, personas LGBT, mujeres, musulmanes y otros grupos vulnerables que protestan todos los días contra el proyecto de Trump y la derecha supremacista reflejada en su gabinete.
RECHAZAMOS la postura sumisa del gobierno de México que debe abandonar su actitud vacilante frente a las agresiones. No es con las recetas de siempre, cargadas de demagogia y de tibias promesas de apoyo a los migrantes, con lo que será posible enfrentar la nueva realidad.
NOS COMPROMETEMOS a unir fuerzas en la solidaridad y defensa de los sectores más susceptibles a los ataques racistas, sexistas y xenofóbicos, aquí y allá, así como a demandar un mejor nivel de vida para la población y el impulso a la soberanía alimentaria basada en la economía campesina e indígena.
LLAMAMOS a todos los mexicanos, en ambos lados de la frontera, a construir un gran frente de resistencia pacífica, intersectorial, binacional y antirracista, para defendernos juntos, para atajar con puentes de solidaridad y apoyo mutuo el odio de Trump y la amenaza que representa a la democracia y los valores fundamentales de la convivencia.

Nov 24, 2016

Who Are the Millions of ‘Bad Hombres’ Slated for US Deportation?

The Wire: In an interview with CBS’s ’60 Minutes’, US President-elect Donald Trump highlighted some campaign promises that he actually plans to keep. Among others, he confirmed that he will build his promised wall on the Mexican border and deport up to three million undocumented migrants.

If the US is serious about kicking out the “bad hombres” from Mexico and Latin America, then it’s important to ask: who, in fact, are these people?

In Trump’s apocalyptic worldview, they’re a hoard of Latino “gang members” and “drug dealers” with “criminal records” who are invading America. But analysis reveals that image is far from reality. Read more