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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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Colombian Peasants Are Taking on an Irish Multinational-- and Being Met With Violence

Indigenous leaders protesting cardboard packaging giant Smurfit Kappa Group face threats and retaliation.


Indigenous Misak women rest at a Smurfit Kappa forestry plantation in Cajibío, Colombia, in January 2022. Removing the trees’ lower bark makes them unusable to the company, a form of nonviolent resistance.


There’s a good chance your latest delivery arrived in a box produced by the Irish multinational Smurfit Kappa Group. A leading producer of cardboard packaging globally, Smurfit Kappa owns 68,000 hectares of forestry plantations it intensively cultivates for paper production.

Almost 99% of that land is in Colombia. The company’s Dublin headquarters told In These Times it is committed to restoring ​“a healthy coexistence to the area and the communities,” but locals say the company’s vast landholdings are endangering both. Campesino activist Andrea Sierra (who asked for a pseudonym in fear of retaliation), from Cajibío, tells In These Times that, because of Smurfit Kappa’s presence, local peasants have lost much of the land needed for growing food. Smurfit Kappa’s monocropping and use of agrochemicals has ​“done great environmental damage,” Sierra says. ​“The native forests of my municipality are disappearing, as is the water of the streams.”

Over the past two years, Sierra and other Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and campesino activists have fought to reclaim some of the vast tracts Smurfit Kappa controls in the Cauca and Valle del Cauca provinces. Since mid-2021, local activists have occupied forests where the company operates, demanding it return all the company’s land in Cajibío to local communities.

But resistance of any kind in Colombia is regularly met with violent repression, as Human Rights Watch documented in a study of human rights defenders killed in the country. Sierra, who has been an activist for decades, says she’s experienced significant retaliation since joining the fight against Smurfit Kappa, though the ultimate source of these threats is unclear. For a time, threatening vehicles lingering outside her house forced her ​“to move far from the area with my family because I felt my life was in danger.”

. . .

Alberth Ochoa, a representative for the campesino organization Coordinador Nacional Agrario, says that, in Colombia, ​“businessmen and paramilitaries have historically been linked — one gives the orders and the other carries them out.” The Chiquita fruit company’s use of paramilitaries to quell community activism is one well-known example, as In These Times has reported.


The Rise of Nayib Bukele, El Salvador's Authoritarian President

Letter from El Salvador September 12, 2022 Issue

The budding strongman has ridden Bitcoin schemes and a repressive crackdown on gangs to become Latin America’s most popular leader.

By Jonathan Blitzer
September 5, 2022

El Penalito, the little jail, is a squat concrete structure on a busy commercial street in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. On the morning of April 7th, a Thursday, fifty women were lined up along its front wall, wearing surgical masks and holding umbrellas against the sun. They’d been gathering there all week. It was nine-thirty, and about ninety degrees. Most of the women had been waiting since eight to reach a small window where a police official shared information on the whereabouts of their sons and husbands.

Toward the back of the line, wearing a long denim skirt and a red T-shirt, was a middle-aged woman with dark, lined skin and deep-set eyes. Her name was Yanira, and her son, she said, was a twenty-year-old with autism. He’d been arrested three days earlier, at home, where the two had been working throughout the pandemic, cleaning and reselling discarded plastic sleeves that hold bottles of hand sanitizer. Yanira rarely leaves him alone, but she had to run an errand. When she returned, thirty minutes later, the police had taken him away. “Sometimes he’ll wander into the street without his shoes,” she told me. “All the neighbors know him. But someone who doesn’t might think he’s a criminal, or crazy.”

A week before, members of El Salvador’s largest gang, MS-13, had murdered eighty-seven people in three days. The country has long been ravaged by gang violence, but these killings were unusual in their ruthlessness. People with no ties to crime were targeted: a fruit seller, a surf instructor, a homemaker, a cobbler. The gangsters went after everybody, but their message was directed at one person—the country’s President, Nayib Bukele, who has promised to radically reduce crime and to change El Salvador’s image abroad. Gang members left a corpse on the road leading to Surf City, a stretch of beachfront real estate on the Pacific Coast which Bukele had refurbished and renamed to attract international tourists.

In recent decades, every Salvadoran President has contended with the gangs. One administration sent soldiers to poor neighborhoods and filled the country’s prisons, under a policy it called mano dura, or “strong hand”; another reprised it as super mano dura. When Bukele was the mayor of San Salvador, he called these responses “immoral” and “impractical.” But now he declared war. Just after midnight on the second day of the homicide spike, the National Assembly, which Bukele’s party controls, instituted a “state of exception,” under which authorities could arrest anyone they considered suspicious. Detainees were not entitled to a legal defense. The right to gather in groups larger than two was suspended, and all minors would be tried as adults. On his Twitter account, Bukele, who is forty-one years old and has an approval rating of more than eighty per cent, shared a running tally of the arrests that followed, along with scabrous commentary, posting photographs of tattooed men in handcuffs and underwear (“little angels”), some of whom appeared to have been roughed up (“He must have been eating fries with ketchup”). Critics of the new policy—whether common citizens, journalists, or foreign governments—supported “the terrorists,” he wrote.


Explosive Evidence Suggests Energy Companies Helped Finance Colombia's Civil War

By Matthew Smith - May 27, 2023, 2:00 PM CDT

  • Colombia has been locked in a civil war for over six decades now, with control of the country’s vast natural wealth a central part of it.

  • New and explosive testimony from a former senior paramilitary commander suggests energy companies helped finance paramilitary groups.

  • The commander accused companies including Ecopetrol and Drummond of paying paramilitaries to protect their operations from attacks by leftist guerrillas.

    Colombia has been locked in a vicious multiparty civil war for control of the country’s vast natural wealth, including fertile agricultural land, fossil fuels, and gold, for over six decades. It is the strife-torn country’s substantial oil and coal resources that have been at the center of that bloody struggle after a series of major discoveries during the 1980s. Allegations of collusion between Colombia’s government, corporations, including mining as well as oil companies, and rightwing paramilitaries to suppress organized labor and opposition to energy projects have swirled for decades. This includes claims that Colombia’s armed forces trained and armed paramilitary units while corporations, including national oil company Ecopetrol, financed their campaigns of intimidation and murder. The explosive testimony of former senior paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso, who was second in command of the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia (AUC – Spanish initials), and statements from other fighters have once again put those allegations under the spotlight.

    In Mancuso’s controversial testimony before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace he accuses major corporations, including Chiquita Brands, Coca Cola, Drummond, and Ecopetrol, of financing paramilitary groups. The JEP is a transitional justice mechanism established as part of the 2016 peace agreement with Colombia’s largest guerilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC – Spanish initials). Former combatants from the FARC, Colombia’s armed forces, and third parties who have participated in Colombia’s bloody low-level asymmetric civil war, such as paramilitaries, are eligible to be investigated and tried by the tribunal. The JEP is a restorative justice mechanism designed to provide answers and where possible justice for victims of the conflict while imposing alternative penalties to prison for perpetrators.

    Mancuso, who was once second in command of the AUC, revealed in his testimony how energy companies Drummond, a U.S. coal miner, and Ecopetrol maintained lengthy financial relationships with paramilitaries. This was done in exchange for the protection of their operations from attacks by leftist guerrillas. The former paramilitary commander went on to detail how security chiefs from those companies provided the names of unionists who were then murdered by paramilitary fighters. Mancuso further alleged paramilitary units were used to intimidate as well as even murder local community leaders, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, and environmental protectors opposed to energy projects. According to Mancuso, Colombia’s former internal security agency the Administrative Department of Security (DAS – Spanish initials), police and army, provided the AUC with lists containing the names of potential targets who were believed to be guerrilla sympathizers.

    Mancuso is not the only former paramilitary to level accusations at Drummond and its involvement in financing what were essentially rightwing death squads operating extra-judicially with the backing of the Colombian state. Former paramilitary Jairo de Jesús Charris Castro, who is serving a 30-year sentence for homicide, testified to the JEP in April 2023 about the 2001 murder of three trade unionists from Sintraminergetica, Colombia’s mining union. Charris alleges those killings were conducted at the behest of U.S multinational coal miner Drummond, which since 1985 has been operating in Colombia. Drummond holds three mining concessions with two operational coal mines, Pribbenow and Descanso in Cesar department, along with another three operations in development.

  • San Miguel volcano (El Salvador): near-constant eruptions continue

    Mon, 29 May 2023, 05:35 05:35 AM | BY: MARTIN

    The explosion from San Miguel volcano on 27 May (image: Ministerio de Medio Ambiente)

    The explosive eruption at the volcano continues at roughly regular intervals.
    Surveillance cameras of San Salvador's Ministerio de Medio Ambiente observed ash eruptions from the summit crater. The heights of grey ash plumes are unknown as they weren't reported by the VAAC nor the volcano observatory, but from the attached video from 27 May, they seem to rise several hundred meters above the vent.


    In the Amazon, Brazilian ecologists try new approach against deforestation and poverty

    FABIANO MAISONNAVE Associated Press 11 hrs ago

    CARAUARI, Brazil — In a remote corner of the Amazon, Brazilian ecologists are trying to succeed where a lack of governance has proved disastrous. They’re managing a stretch of land in a way that welcomes both local people and scientists to engage in preserving the world’s largest tropical forest.

    The goal is ambitious, counter the forces that have destroyed 10% of the forest in less than four decades and create something that can be replicated in other parts of the Amazon.

    Jose Alves de Morais maneuvers a boat, in Carauari, Brazil on Sept. 1, 2022. A Brazilian non-profit created a model for land ownership that welcomes both local people and scientists to collaborate in preserving the Amazon. “This is something that doesn’t exist here in the Amazon, it doesn’t exist anywhere in Brazil. If it works, which it will, it will attract a lot of people’s attention,” Morais, a resident, told The Associated Press.
    Jorge Saenz, Associated Press

    It began with a four-month expedition along the Juruá River in 2016. Researchers visited some 100 communities that at first sight looked similar: rows of wooden homes on stilts along the water. But they were struck by contrasts in the living conditions.

    These areas have been shown to be more vulnerable to deforestation. Land robbers drive traditional communities off the land and then clear it, hoping the government will recognize them as owners, which usually happens.

    “It’s very unequal. Inside protected areas, there are many positive things happening, but outside, they seemed to be 40 years behind,” João Vitor Campos-Silva, a tropical socio-ecologist, told The Associated Press.o understand what they saw, it’s important to know that 29% of the Amazon, an area roughly three times the size of California, is either public land with no special protection, or public land for which no public information exists, according to a study by the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment.

    A man trails a dog in Lago Serrado community, near Carauari, Brazil, on Sept. 1, 2022.
    Jorge Saenz, Associated Press

    The researchers were aware that the part of the river known as Medio Juruá, near the city of Carauari, has remarkable social organization and people manage its fish and forest products, such as acai, sustainably. The land designation here is “extractive reserves,” public lands where residents are allowed to fish and harvest some crops.

    But outside these reserves, in many places, people take orders from self-appointed landowners, Campos-Silva said. Entire communities are denied access to lakes, even to fish to feed their families. People don´t own the land, and they don’t know who does.



    Right-wing populist Javier Milei gains support in Argentina by blasting 'political caste'

    The Associated Press

    Story by By DANIEL POLITI, Associated Press • 3h ago

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — He believes selling human organs should be legal, climate change is a “socialist lie,” sex education is a ploy to destroy the family and that the Central Bank should be abolished. He also could be Argentina’s next president.

    Javier Milei, an admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump, is the latest example of how right-wing populists are making inroads in Latin America, appealing to a citizenry angry with politics as usual and eager for outsiders to shake up the system.

    A libertarian economist and self-described “anarcho capitalist,” Milei made a name for himself by shouting against the “political caste” on television. His presidential candidacy looked like a sideshow until recently. Polls show his popularity rising, and his proposals dominate discussions ahead of October elections.

    Argentine presidential candidate Javier Milei arrives to present his book "The End of Inflation" at the Buenos Aires book fair in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, May 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
    © Provided by The Associated Press

    “Today no one can say that Milei isn’t someone who could get to the presidency,” said Luis Tonelli, a political scientist at University of Buenos Aires.

    Milei jumped from talking head to politician in 2021 when he won a seat in Argentina’s lower house of Congress. Since then, he’s had little legislative activity, but 2.7 million people have signed up for his monthly raffle to give away his salary.


    Argentina's Javier Milei, left, Brazil's Eduardo Bolsonaro and Chile's José Antonio Kast, right, at CPAC Brazil in June.
    Twitter (@BolsonaroSP)

    "Through social networks, the former presidential candidate of the Chilean right, José Antonio Kast, has given an account of his time at the third Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that took place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and that it is organized by the Conservative-Liberal Institute led by the son of the President of that nation, Jair Bolsonaro."

    ~ ~ ~

    The loons are already putting Milei in pictures with Trump:

    Scientists discover 417 Mayan cities in Guatemala's forested area


    Mayan pyramid and ruins in the famous Tikal National Park, Guatemala. (Getty Images Photo)

    Scientists have discovered 417 ancient Mayan cities in a densely forested area, with a history dating back to around 1000 B.C. in Guatemala.

    Researchers from a joint U.S.– Guatemala archaeological expedition revealed in an interview with The Washington Post that they had uncovered 417 cities connected by a network of "highways" spanning 177 kilometers (109.9 miles), dating back approximately 3,000 years.

    This discovery challenges historians to rethink what they know about the ancient Maya civilization.

    According to The Washington Post, the discovery of a road and city network, hydraulic systems, and agricultural infrastructure indicates that the communities living in Central America were more advanced than previously thought.


    Operation Condor: The Cold War US Conspiracy That Terrorized South America

    (Just discovered this article, believe it's totally worthwhile to people unacquainted with this phase of US history: )

    Operation Condor: The Cold War US Conspiracy That Terrorized South America


    Giles Tremlett | The Guardian - TRANSCEND Media Service

    During the 1970s and 80s, eight US (Henry Kissinger)-backed right wing military dictatorships jointly plotted the cross-border kidnap, torture, rape and murder of hundreds of their left wing political opponents. Now some of the perpetrators are finally facing justice.

    3 Sep 2020 – The last time Anatole Larrabeiti saw his parents, he was four years old. It was 26 September 1976, the day after his birthday. He remembers the shootout, the bright flashes of gunfire and the sight of his father lying on the ground, mortally wounded, outside their home in a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina, with his mother lying beside him. Then Larrabeiti remembers being taken away by armed police, along with his 18-month-old sister, Victoria Eva.

    The two children became prisoners. At first, they were held in a grimy car repair garage that had been turned into a clandestine torture centre. That was in another part of Buenos Aires, the city that their parents had moved to in June 1973, joining thousands of leftwing militants and former guerrillas fleeing a military coup in their native Uruguay. The following month, in October 1976, Anatole and Victoria Eva were taken to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, and held at the military intelligence headquarters. A few days before Christmas, they were flown to a third country, Chile, in a small aircraft that climbed high above the Andes. Larrabeiti remembers looking down on snowy peaks from the plane.

    Young children do not usually make epic journeys through three countries in as many months without parents or relatives. The closest thing they had to family was a jailer known as Aunt Mónica. It was probably Aunt Mónica who abandoned them in a large square, the Plaza O’Higgins, in the Chilean port city of Valparaíso, on 22 December 1976. Witnesses recall two young, well-dressed children stepping out of a black car with tinted windows. Larrabeiti wandered around the square, hand-in-hand with his sister, until the owner of a merry-go-round ride spotted them. He invited them to sit on the ride, expecting some panicked parents to appear, looking for their lost children. But nobody came, so he called the local police.

    No one could understand how the two children, whose accents marked them as foreign, had got here. It was as if they had dropped from the sky. Anatole was too young to make sense of what had happened. How does a four-year-old who finds himself in Chile explain that he does not know where he is, that he lives in Argentina, but is really Uruguayan? All he knew was that he was in a strange place, where people spoke his language in a different way.

    The next day, the children were taken to an orphanage, and from there they were sent on to separate foster homes. After a few months, they had a stroke of luck. A dental surgeon and his wife wanted to adopt, and when the magistrate in charge of the children asked the surgeon which sibling he wanted, he said both. “He said that we had to come together, because we were brother and sister,” Larrabeiti told me when we met earlier this year in Chile’s capital, Santiago.

    Today, he is a trim, smartly suited 47-year-old public prosecutor with hazel eyes and a shaven head. “I have decided to live without hate,” he said. “But I want people to know.”

    What Larrabeiti wants people to know is that his family were victims of one of the 20th century’s most sinister international state terror networks. It was called Operation Condor, after the broad-winged vulture that soars above the Andes, and it joined eight South American military dictatorships – Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador – into a single network that covered four-fifths of the continent.


    Deleted by poster. Sorry. Wrong forum.

    'Slavery Simulator' Game Removed From Google Play After Backlash

    The MagnusGames app is being investigated by federal prosecutors in Brazil

    Robert Carnevale | May 25, 2023 @ 3:32 PM

    The mobile developer MagnusGames released a game on the Google Play Store entitled “Slavery Simulator.” As one might expect, it has caused a stir. Chiefly, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, is now investigating the app and has asked Google for the developer’s email

    Though Google has since removed the game from the store, it was downloaded over one thousand times before being taken down, and its store page was accompanied by “hate speech” in the comments area.

    “It is a game in which the user plays the role of slave owner and can choose between the possibility of making a profit and preventing escapes and rebellions or fighting for freedom and achieving abolition, the Brazil prosecutors office said.

    For wider context, slavery is not verboten in modern games. It’s present in many titles, including history-focused grand strategy games such as “Europa Universalis IV” and overtly lurid games like “Slaves of Rome,” wherein you buy sex slaves in ancient Rome.


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