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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 147,189

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HRW report on Colombia's neo-paramilitary "chop houses":

Colombia: Disappearances Plague Major Port

Criminal Groups Terrorize Neighborhoods, Displace Thousands

March 20, 2014

(Bogotá) – Paramilitary successor groups have abducted and disappeared scores, and possibly hundreds, of residents of the largely Afro-Colombian port of Buenaventura, Human Rights Watch said in a report and video released today. Thousands of residents have been fleeing their homes in the city each year, making Buenaventura the municipality with the highest level of ongoing forced displacement in Colombia today.

The 30-page report, “The Crisis in Buenaventura: Disappearances, Dismemberment, and Displacement in Colombia’s Main Pacific Port,” documents how many of the city’s neighborhoods are dominated by powerful criminal groups that commit widespread abuses, including abducting and dismembering people, sometimes while still alive, then dumping them in the sea. The groups maintain “chop-up houses” (casas de pique) where they slaughter victims, according to witnesses, residents, the local Catholic church, and some officials.

“The situation in Buenaventura is among the very worst we’ve seen in many years of working in Colombia and the region,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Simply walking on the wrong street can get you abducted and dismembered, so it’s no surprise the residents are fleeing by the thousands.”

Paramilitary successor groups emerged in Buenaventura after the deeply flawed official demobilization of right-wing paramilitary organizations a decade ago. Currently, the Urabeños and the Empresa are the main successor groups operating in the port city. The groups restrict residents’ movement – attacking people if they cross invisible borders between areas controlled by rival factions – recruit children, extort businesses, and routinely engage in horrific acts of violence against anyone who defies their will.


Bolivia's Morales blasts privatisation, urges support for farmers

Bolivia's Morales blasts privatisation, urges support for farmers
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 31 Oct 2014 14:20 GMT

By Chris Arsenault

ROME, Oct 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Bolivian President Evo Morales blasted water privatization and urged governments to fight poverty by doing more to support small farmers during an address at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Thursday.

Morales, an Aymara Indian and former coca grower who became Bolivia's first indigenous president in 2006, comfortably won a third term on Oct. 12 with an estimated 60 percent of the vote.

His anti-poverty programmes and prudent spending of funds from the nationalisation of natural gas and oil businesses have earned him wide support in the country long dogged by political instability.

"A government which privatizes water is not respecting individual or collective rights," Morales said to raucous applause from delegates at the meeting in Rome. "If you don't have water, you don't have life."

Social movements in Bolivia fought protracted battles against water privatization in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which were eventually successful.


Morales gets absolute majority in Bolivia legislature

Morales gets absolute majority in Bolivia legislature
By AFP Oct 29, 2014

In addition to his own reelection, Bolivia's President Evo Morales kept his absolute majority in congress in the October 12 general elections, authorities said Wednesday.

The Supreme Electoral Council said Morales, a socialist in power since 2006 and Bolivia's first indigenous president, won 61.36 percent of the vote against 24.23 percent for his closest rival, wealthy cement magnate Samuel Doria Medina.

His government has nationalized a broad range of industries, including oil, gas, mining, telecommunications and water; rolled out welfare grants for the elderly, children and expectant mothers; and moved to empower previously marginalized groups, among them the indigenous people who make up 65 percent of the population.

Defying opponents' dire warnings of economic catastrophe, Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, has instead seen a boom.


The Roots of the Food Crisis: Starving Central America

Weekend Edition Oct 31-Nov 02, 2014

The Roots of the Food Crisis

Starving Central America


“The drought has killed us,” a young Honduran, Olman Funez, explained last summer. He was referring to what the World Bank called “one of the longest droughts in nearly half a century.” A 60-year-old Guatemalan peasant emphasized he had never “seen a crisis like this.” Carlos Román, a Nicaraguan farmer, told a reporter that “there is nothing. We eat what we can find.”

These men are among the 2.8 million Central Americans “struggling to feed themselves” in the region’s “dry corridor”—“a drought-prone area shared by Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua,” according to the UN World Food Programme. The Nicaraguan government described its drought as the worst in 32 years. And last week the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies “said some 571,710 people were affected by the drought in Honduras,” and that “families are selling their belongings and livestock to secure food for survival, while others are migrating to escape the effects of the drought.” But food crises in Honduras and Nicaragua aren’t new phenomena. And in both countries, U.S. policy has helped starve Central Americans.

Consider Honduras, where the Choluteca Department is part of the “dry corridor.” The U.S. Consul in Tegucigalpa wrote in 1904 of Choluteca’s wide “variety of vegetation,” “ranging from the pines and oaks of the highlands to the palm and cocoanut trees along the coast.” These rich woodlands were devastated seventy years later, declining from 29% to 11% of the census area in the 1960s and ’70s. Pastures increased their territorial coverage from 47% to 64% during the same period. “The cattle are eating the forest,” Billie R. DeWalt explained in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists three decades ago. The anthropologist Jefferson Boyer concurred, noting that Choluteca’s ranchers “simply hired labor to slash and burn the trees and brush, opening the land to grass production.”

Honduras was “being converted into a vast pasture for cattle destined for export,” DeWalt elaborated—a development in line with Washington’s aims. Robert G. Williams noted that Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress boosted Central America’s beef-export business,” for example, and that “the World Bank, AID, and the IADB” all viewed beef “as a pragmatic, quick way to achieve export-led growth.” This beef, DeWalt continued, was “not bound for the estimated 58 percent of Honduran children under five years of age who suffer from identifiable malnutrition,” but rather for the U.S.—the source of “insatiable demand for livestock products” and “the largest importer,” by a long shot, “of Central American beef export.” As U.S. citizens gorge themselves on steaks and hamburgers, “food supplies in poorer countries become scarcer, unemployment increases, and the land and other resources are increasingly degraded.” Poor Hondurans thus were forced “to compete with the animals for the locally available resources.”


Election Day in the Bolivian Highlands: Local Democracy, Amidst the Contradictions

Election Day in the Bolivian Highlands: Local Democracy, Amidst the Contradictions

A report from Bolivia's highland provincial capital of Achacachi, on the elections and the continuing contradictions of Bolivia’s “process of change.”

Emily Achtenberg
Rebel Currents


Election day in Achacachi (Emily Achtenberg) [/center]
On October 12, Election Day in Bolivia, I traveled to the highland provincial capital of Achacachi—60 miles north of La Paz, and 12,600 feet above sea level—as an official observer with the National Lawyers Guild. From this traditional bastion of support for President Evo Morales and his ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, we gained a unique view of the elections and their potential impact on what Bolivians call their “process of change,” including its many contradictions.

Steeped in the lore of Aymara insurgency, Achacachi is famously known as the epicenter of Túpac Katari’s 18th century indigenous revolt against Spanish colonial rule and the birthplace of the 1970s EGTK Katarista guerrilla army—which included among its members Bolivia??s current vice president, Alvaro García Linera. It is also the home of the legendary Ponchos Rojos (Red Ponchos), an indigenous peasant militia that confronted Bolivian troops during the 2003 Gas Wars and continues to play a key role in highland communities.

In the La Paz department where Achacachi is located, Morales prevailed with 69% of the vote, boosting his 61% total nationwide. In the congressional district that includes Achacachi, the MAS candidate won 78% of the vote, contributing to the party’s two-thirds “super-majority” in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly and its increasingly hegemonic control over Bolivian politics.


Túpac Katari Plaza, Achacachi (Emily Achtenberg) [/center]
Election Day in Achacachi, as elsewhere in Bolivia, looked a lot different than in the United States. For starters, it was a national holiday (and a Sunday), with all regular business shut down to encourage voter turnout.


Here's Why Nicaragua Is Unbelievably Safe Despite Being Impoverished

Here's Why Nicaragua Is Unbelievably Safe Despite Being Impoverished
Natasha Bertrand
Oct. 29, 2014, 12:57 PM

Central America, long engulfed by bloodshed and gang warfare, has come to be known as one of the most dangerous regions in the world. Nicaragua, however, is now one of the safest countries in the Southern hemisphere despite being poor and having a bloody past, according to a new NPR report.

This is thanks to the softer approach the country has taken to fighting crime. From the NPR report:

While Nicaragua's neighbors have embraced so-called "mano dura" or iron fist policies, Nicaragua has taken a softer approach.

The Nicaraguan police, for example, pacified the Dimitrov neighborhood by having the community patrol itself and by having police officers mediate talks between gang members often after soccer games.

The government has also developed a program that sends kids to school instead of prison. A new youth training center in Managua helps high-risk youth from bad neighborhoods leave or avoid gangs by educating them in practical fields. Currently, only 70 Nicaraguan juveniles are in jail.


Mexico archaeologists reach end of Teotihuacan tunnel sealed 2,000 years ago, find offering and thre

Mexico archaeologists reach end of Teotihuacan tunnel sealed 2,000 years ago, find offering and three chambers beyond
E. Eduardo Castillo, Associated Press | October 30, 2014 12:40 PM ET
More from Associated Press

Unlike at other pre-Columbian ruins in Mexico, archaeologists have never found any remains believed to belong to Teotihuacan’s rulers. Such a discovery could help shine light on the leadership structure of the city, including whether rule was hereditary.

“We have not lost hope of finding that, and if they are there, they must be from someone very, very important,” Gomez said.

So far Gomez’s team has excavated only about 2 feet (60 centimetres) into the chambers. A full exploration will take at least another year.

Initial studies by the National Institute of Anthropology and History show the tunnel functioned until around A.D. 250, when it was closed off.

Teotihuacan long dominated central Mexico and had its apex between 100 B.C. and A.D. 750. It is believed to have been home to more than 100,000 people, but was abandoned before the rise of the Aztecs in the 14th century.

Today it is an important archaeological site on the outskirts of Mexico City and a major tourist draw known for its broad avenues and massive pyramids.


Please see Ichingcarpenter's earlier thread in Anthropology:

New Mexico begins new policy of refusing voter IDs to Navajo-speaking ‘illiterates’

Source: Raw Story

New Mexico begins new policy of refusing voter IDs to Navajo-speaking ‘illiterates’
David Edwards
30 Oct 2014 at 15:34 ET

The New Mexico Motor Vehicles Division (MVD) has reportedly stopped issuing driver’s licenses or photo identification cards used for voting to so-called “illiterates” who only speak the Navajo language.

In a memo obtained by ProgressNowNM, Bureau Chief Aurora Lopez outlines the policy for MVD employees.

“Agents are not allowed to read the questions on driver’s applications to a customer,” Lopez writes. “They would (need) a letter stating that they have a condition that falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act for us to read the questions.”

“Applicants should be able to read the questions on their own since it raises questions as to how they obtained their driver’s license.”

Lopez adds: “We are not able to issue license (sic) for illiterates.”

Read more: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/10/new-mexico-begins-new-policy-of-refusing-voter-ids-to-navajo-speaking-illiterates/

Death, Taxes and the Cuban Blockade

October 29, 2014

It Must End

Death, Taxes and the Cuban Blockade


The famous expression about the only things that will happen with absolute certainty, death and taxes, is actually missing one: the annual vote in which 99% of the world’s nations declare that the blockade against Cuba is illegal and must end. Yesterday, for the 23rd straight year, the United Nations General Assembly voted to end the U.S. blockade against Cuba by the astounding margin of 188 to 2. The annual resolution may seem like mere political theater meant to embarrass the U.S. government, but in reality it is a sincere objection to an inhumane policy.

Washington will now ignore this resounding rejection, as it always does, and and go on breaking the law with impunity since there is nothing anyone can do to stop them. Don Corleone would be envious of their gall.

Since the last vote against the blockade, it was revealed that the top 10 recipients of U.S. aid all practice torture. During the last year, at least half of these allies have reportedly tortured people on a “massive scale.” This doesn’t even include the U.S.’s close ally Saudi Arabia, who in the last year has beheaded 59 people and sentenced a popular activist to death by crucifiction.

The lone supporter of the blockade, Israel, even tortures Palestinian children, who make up several hundred of the more than 5,000 prisoners held in military custody. All of Israel’s colonial subjects are subjected to “slow-motion genocide” and collective punishment.


Brazil’s Rousseff Re-elected Despite Anti-Workers’ Party Sentiment: What Now?

Brazil’s Rousseff Re-elected Despite Anti-Workers’ Party Sentiment: What Now?
Written by Sabrina Fernandes
Monday, 27 October 2014 12:59

The last polls before the second round of Brazilian elections indicated a victory for Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT), with Aécio Neves, from the centre-right PSDB, trailing closely behind. This was within the reported margin of error and Sunday’s results could not be confidently predicted until the official announcement of Rousseff’s re-election. This is the tightest presidential race for the Workers’ Party in 12 years and the reasons for this are varied and relate both to the reality of Brazilian politics post-June 2013 and the impact of 12 years of PT government on the imaginary of the Brazilian people.

Rousseff is not the only one to take on many challenges as the president of Brazil for the next four years. The PT needs to decide where it stands both as political party and as government leadership. The radical Left parties and social movements need to organize as opposition in ways that promote immediate gains as well as long-term ones. Finally, the problem of depoliticization needs to be taken seriously by all of these actors if the country is to avoid another close encounter with an openly neoliberal and conservative alternative in four years.

The meaning of four more years with Rousseff

Without the advantage of a comfortable victory, Rousseff needs to first and foremost identify ways for reconciling the opposing groups that went head to head during the heated second-round. Such a move would involve reducing the disturbing reactions of the losing side, which have involved racist and xenophobic comments, and the anti-dialogical position promoted by the mainstream media’s blunt support of Neves. Rousseff’s victory speech attended to these aspects by focusing on dialogue, hope, and political maturity. She stressed that she does not believe the elections have split the country in half, although it is evident that she will have to deal with the impacts of the heated polarization of the past months throughout the next four years; calls for consensus will not be enough. Rousseff will also be dealing with a very conservative Congress, which may pose challenges for her campaign promises to expand social rights through inclusion and listen to social movements and popular demands.

She will also be dealing with an energetic opposition from the Left, mainly radical leftist parties, organizations, and movements that believe Rousseff and PT can no longer claim to represent the Left and that Rousseff’s re-election is only a victory insofar as it meant Neves’ defeat. In fact, the socialist political parties PSTU and PCB urged the population to annul their votes given the very few differences between Rousseff and Neves’ political projects and the years of disappointing neoliberal and harmful neo-developmentalist policies on behalf of the PT. The PSOL oriented the 1.6 million people who voted for their presidential candidate Luciana Genro to freely choose between Rousseff and annulling their votes, as long as no vote would go to Neves. In many ways, any support for Rousseff coming from the radical Left was accompanied by explicit critique of the PT and framed as a direct veto to Neves and his policies, which culminated in the campaign pun “Aécio Never.” PSOL’s national veto position and the direct engagement by some of its public figures in support of Rousseff may have actually contributed to some of the votes that decided the presidential race.

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