Category Archives: Political Repression

Gunmen in Brazil caught on video shooting at Indigenous Guarani

By Rick Kearns, April 18, 2014. Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Photo: Aty Guasu/Survival International

Photo: Aty Guasu/Survival International

Hired gunmen firing at Guarani in Brazil were filmed recently by the indigenous people who are continuing their struggle to regain stolen territory.

According to Survival International (SI), which posted the video on their website, gunmen have been terrorizing the Guarani of Pyelito Kue since they returned to their ancestral land last month, years after the government had officially recognized their right to move back, forcing the rancher on that land to move out.

On Monday, April 7 they filmed two armed men shooting at them “in broad daylight.”

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Filed under Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, War

Environmentalist murders escalating worldwide

By Saroja Coelho, April 15, 2014. Source: Deutsche Welle

Brazil is one of the most dangerous places for environmental activists worldwide. Photo: Global Witness

Brazil is one of the most dangerous places for environmental activists worldwide. Photo: Global Witness

Competition for access to natural resources is intensifying as the global population grows and consumer waste forces up demand. This has placed enormous pressure on the world’s forests and other natural areas. A battle has broken out between conservationists and corporations with competing interests.

Rights group Global Witness has been monitoring the violence and in a new report, they reveal that nearly a thousand people have been killed in the past decade. Oliver Courtney, a senior campaigner with Global Witness, discussed his findings with DW.

DW: Where are we seeing an increase in violence?

Oliver Courtney: This is a global problem. But Latin America and Asia Pacific are two regions particularly hard hit by this problem.

Why are people being attacked?

Ordinary people are coming into conflict when they oppose the sale or taking of their land for large scale natural resource projects. The key drivers are the expansion of industrial logging trade, land grabs by agribusiness and mining projects.

We are seeing deals being done behind closed doors. Large scale resource deals for land that belongs to local people or that people have lived on for generations. This land is being taken off them without their consent, without consulting them. When they object, they are forcibly ejected from their land – often with fatal consequences, as we are seeing here. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Political Repression

Colombia’s breadbasket feels the pinch of free trade

By Helda Martínez, April 8, 2014. Source: Inter Press Service

The home of a poor farming family in the mountains of Cajamarca, in the central Colombian department of Tolima. Photo: Helda Martínez/IPS

The home of a poor farming family in the mountains of Cajamarca, in the central Colombian department of Tolima. Photo: Helda Martínez/IPS

“Things are getting worse and worse,” Enrique Muñoz, a 67-year-old farmer from the municipality of Cajamarca in the central Colombian department of Tolima, once known as the country’s breadbasket, said sadly.

“Over the past five decades, the situation took a radical turn for the worse,” activist Miguel Gordillo commented to IPS, referring to what is happening in Tolima, whose capital is Ibagué, 195 km southwest of Bogotá.

“Fifty years ago, Ibagué was a small city surrounded by crops – vast fields of cotton that looked from far away like a big white sheet,” said Gordillo, head of the non-governmental Asociación Nacional por la Salvación Agropecuaria(National Association to Save Agriculture).

“In Tolima we planted maize, tobacco, soy, sorghum and fruit trees, and the mountains that surrounded Cajamarca were covered with green coffee bushes protected by orange trees, maize and plantain, and surrounded by celery,” Muñoz said.

His voice lost in the past, he said the farms in the area also had “piggies, chickens, mules, cows; everything was so different.”

Gordillo said, “In the north of the department we had fruit trees of all kinds, and the rivers were chock full of fish. There’s still rice, some maize, coffee…but even the fish have disappeared.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, Politics, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Ethiopian military opens fire on resettled communities

April 4, 2014. Source: Ethiopian Satellite Television

A squad of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) that has travelled to the Southern Omo region of Ethiopia to quell the month long fights between the Bodi and Konso communities has on April 2, 2014 fired heavy weapons on the Bodi people wounding many. Among the wounded, at least 17 elderly women, children and youth are attending medical treatment in Hana Health Centre in Jinka, Southern Ethiopia, the Omo Peoples Democratic Unity (OPDU) office told ESAT.

The Administrator and the Deputy Administrator of Selamago Woreda are in a row with the Head of the Security Head of the area following the actions taken by the ENDF.

According to OPDU, the Konso elders have complained to the officials “When you resettled us here, you told us that you have talked with the people and that everything was alright. However, after we have come here we faced several clashes. Despite our progresses in resolving our conflicts via peaceful and traditional methods, you have taken such a reckless measure which could dim our hope of living together after now. ”

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Filed under Africa, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Political Repression, War

How Indigenous communities in Honduras are resisting US-backed multinationals

By Beverly Bell, April 2, 2014. Source: The Nation

Members of a Lenca indigenous community protest against the planned construction of a dam in Honduras. Photo: AP Photo/Edgard Garrido

Members of a Lenca indigenous community protest against the planned construction of a dam in Honduras. Photo: AP Photo/Edgard Garrido

“Screw the company trying to take our river, and the government. If I die, I’m going to die defending life.” So said María Santos Dominguez, a member of the Indigenous Council of the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, Honduras.

April 1 marks one year since the Rio Blanco community began a human barricade that has so far stopped a corporation from constructing a dam that would privatize and destroy the sacred Gualcarque River. Adults and children have successfully blocked the road to the river with their bodies, a stick-and-wire fence and a trench. Only one of many communities fighting dams across Honduras, the families of Rio Blanco stand out for their tenacity and for the violence unleashed upon them.

The Honduran-owned, internationally backed DESA Corporation has teamed up with US-funded Honduran soldiers and police, private guards and paid assassins to try to break the opposition. Throughout the past year, they have killed, shot, maimed, kidnapped and threatened the residents of Rio Blanco. The head of DESA, David Castillo, is a West Point graduate. He also served as former assistant to the director of military intelligence and maintains close ties with the Honduran Armed Forces.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Hydroelectric dams, Indigenous Peoples, Political Repression

Defending the earth in Argentina: From direct action to autonomy

By Marina Sitrin, April 6, 2014. Source: Tidal

argentina1While corporations continue to land grab, exploit and privatize the little we still hold in common – people around the globe have been rising up. Women are preventing dams from being built in India; indigenous are Idle No More, defending the earth; entire town and villages have organized to prevent airports, roads and mines from being developed in France, Italy and Greece; thousands in the US have used their bodies to block the construction of pipelines intended for fracking; and throughout the Americas there are struggles everywhere against mining and the exploitation of land and water. Not only are people fighting back – but in many places, such as the one in Corrientes, Argentina described below, people are creating horizontal and self organized ways of being in the space of the resistance. Not only are people collectively shouting  No! and using direct action en mass to prevent the destruction of the earth, but together they are finding ways to autonomously recreate their relationships with one another, to work and with the land.

The below conversation is with Emilio Spataro, an organizer in Corrientes, who has been active in various movements in Argentina since his teen years. He was a part of the popular rebellion in December of 2001 and the subsequent neighborhood assemblies, building occupations and horizontal self organized projects. Since 2009 he has been living in Corrientes, collaborating with territorially based movements. He is currently on tour in the US with another movement participant from Guardians of Iberá ( One of the targets of their most recent campaign is Harvard University. Harvard owns massive timber plantations in Corrientes and the movements together with students, faculty and staff at Harvard have been organizing to hold them accountable.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, Politics, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Solutions

It’s very easy to get onto the terrorist database, and impossible to get off it

By Mary O’hara, March 29, 2013. Source: Vice

The Department of Justice released an audit of the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist protocol on Tuesday. This claimed that while the agency has improved its speed when it comes to adding — and removing — names to the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), it still isn’t adding them fast enough.

The heavily redacted report makes clear that individuals who are not being officially investigated by the FBI can be, and often are, added to terrorist lists. What the audit doesn’t make clear is why. And that’s causing a growing unease among civil liberties groups, lawyers, and activists.

A week earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a paper claiming that the TSDB grew from about 158,000 listings in 2004 to over 1.1 million in 2009. That was before the “underwear bomber,” a 2009 incident that greatly increased monitoring.

The “no-fly list” more than doubled in one year after that failed bombing attempt. But that is just one of eleven lists that include the Consular Lookout and Support System, the Interpol list, and the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF).

“There’s no due process for the watchlists,” Lauren Regan, executive director of Oregon’s Civil Liberties Defense Center, told VICE News. “The information about who’s on them isn’t available and there’s no process for countering or getting yourself off them.”

Regan says her law office receives a lot of calls from individuals that are surprised to discover themselves listed. “Like a woman who calls sobbing because she tried to fly home for her child’s wedding and was stopped at the airport.”

The ACLU report is packed with stories of everyday people being mistakenly, or mysteriously, placed on no-fly lists that led to detainment, incarceration, and interrogations, including a group of US military vets that ended up suing the government.

The audit also does not make clear what distinction, if any, is made between “gang” and “terrorist” activity, and how those two definitions intersect on the TSDB.

‘The reasonable suspicion standard is below the probable cause standard. It’s one step above a hunch.’
Regan has noticed that low-level activists in environmental protest are now being listed under an “Eco Warrior” gang designation.

Kyle Odness, a 24-year-old environmental activist from Oklahoma, was arrested last June during a demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline. All charges were dropped against him, but this January Odness noticed strange things happening.

“I was on a camping trip in Texas. On our way out, we had to drive through a border patrol checkpoint. They ran our IDs, then came back and asked if any of us was a known gang member,” Odness told VICE News. “A friend of mine had already been told twice that she was flagged as part of a gang called Eco Warriors, so I asked if it was Eco Warriors and he said ‘something like that.’”

A month later it happened again, this time in Florida. “The sheriff’s office ran our ID’s and told me, ‘so you’re a gang member?’ I asked again if it said Eco Warriors, and he said ‘yeah, it’s some gang I’ve never heard of.’”

VICE News contacted the FBI about the so-called Eco Warrior gang, but was told that the bureau would not release information about specific gangs.

Ryan Shapiro, an MIT researcher described by the DOJ as the “most prolific” Freedom of Information Act requester, told VICE News that among the 40,000 pages he’s managed to get from the FBI, he’s never seen “Eco Warriors” listed as a gang.

“There are a number of official monikers used as subject headers like eco-extremism, animal rights, and animal extremism,” Shapiro said, “It’s not a gang designation, it’s basically a sub-header of domestic terrorism.”

Yet Shapiro added: “At the local level there’s a lot of weird stuff that happens in terms of gang information.” He recalled the 2009 indictment of animal rights activist Kevin Olliff, in which the State of California claimed that the Animal Liberation Front was a “gang.” Convicting Olliff under gang charges would have increased his sentence from two years to more than 20 years. At a 2010 pre-trial hearing, a judge ruled that ALF did not qualify as a gang.

According to law professor Jeffrey Kahn, author of the book Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists, federal watchlists can trickle down to local law enforcement. Kahn believes that these authorities then don’t always comply with the directive not to share them. “So information leaks out of the system,” he said.

Kahn explained to VICE News that police officers can check the TSDB during a traffic stop. While they won’t be able to see any classified information, if your name is in the database the officer may be told to call the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). “The TSC may then connect the officer to the holder of the intelligence about you to decide what to do — whether to arrest or detain you, or to try to get more information from you.”

The DOJ audit explains that subjects are nominated to watchlists if they meet a “reasonable suspicion” standard. “The reasonable suspicion standard is below the probable cause standard. It’s one step above a hunch,” Kahn said. “It’s like Stop and Frisk: an officer doesn’t need probable cause to do that, he just needs a reasonable suspicion based on articulable facts that you might be a threat.”

According to court documents the FBI sent to VICE News, Debra Lubman of the TSC told a court last year that nominations to terrorist watchlists “must not be made solely based on… the exercise of First Amendment protected activities such as free speech, the exercise of religion, freedom of the press, or freedom of peaceful assembly.” Lubman did not clarify which criteria are used to add individuals to the VGTOF gang list.

Regan is concerned that watchlisting is being used to intimidate even first-time activists. “In the last several years, you see young, very young activists who are 19 years old and doing their first protest, those people now have an FBI number.”

Regan said that in her 17 years of experience, she rarely saw federal involvement in low-level cases until recently.

“One of the biggest impacts on civil liberties is the chilling effect on normal people,” she added. “Putting everyday people on these watchlists, the effect of that is ‘be afraid of being branded a terrorist if you go to a single protest.’” Regan believes this is the point of the operation: “The volume of the information they’re collecting, most of that information isn’t useful to the feds, but the paranoia that the collection instills is useful.”

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Why are so many migrants here in the first place?

By Henia Belalia, March 24, 2014. Source: Waging Nonviolence

After decades of U.S. war and intervention in El Salvador, a full quarter of the country’s population has migrated north across the U.S-Mexico border fence. (Flickr/BBC World News)

After decades of U.S. war and intervention in El Salvador, a full quarter of the country’s population has migrated north across the U.S-Mexico border fence. (Flickr/BBC World News)

Often, for those of us fighting for migrant rights, the actions and campaigns we coordinate when loved ones are held in detention centers or imminent deportation dates are looming overhead have a sense of urgency. And it becomes a fight against the clock, in which we compromise the slow time of reclaiming stories that dig deep and far back into history.

As the migrant justice movement gets away from the divisive notion of “who deserves to stay,” we must also tackle the question of why people are migrating in the first place. The stories we tell must expose the neoliberal policies and practices that made our parents, grandparents and cousins leave their countries in the first place. We must debunk the U.S.-centered fairy tale that this county is the perfect model of democracy and the place where all dreams come true, and that those are reasons why so many millions of people have risked their lives to live here.

It’s a fairy tale that is commonly held among migrants moving to other imperial countries as well, such as when my family left Algeria for France. Harsha Walia (an organizer with No One is Illegal in Canada) defines this common global phenomenon as border imperialism. As she explains, seeing it through the lens of imperialism, “It take us away from an analysis that blames and punishes migrants, or one that forces migrants to assimilate and establish their individual worth. Instead, it orients the gaze squarely on the processes of displacement and migration within the global political economy of capitalism and colonialism.”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Migration/Migrant Justice, Political Repression

Honduras: Who should really be on trial for the Rio Blanco dam?

By Brigitte Gynther, March 19, 2014. Source: Upside Down World

María with her nephews.  Photo: Brigitte Gynther

María with her nephews. Photo: Brigitte Gynther

María Santos was walking home on March 5th, 2014, when seven people suddenly jumped out of hiding, surrounded her, and then attacked her with machetes, striking her head and chest. María has been a vocal leader in the struggle against the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Dam, defending the Lenca territory of Rio Blanco and the Gualcarque River for her children and grandchildren to come. She is an active member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH, Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras), and a tireless fighter in the struggle of the Lenca people of Rio Blanco to prevent DESA, a private dam company, from privatizing and building a dam on their river.

When María’s husband heard that she was surrounded, he and her 12-year-old son ran and found her. Her husband pleaded with the attackers not to kill her and her young son ran to his bleeding mother’s side. One of the attackers swung his machete down on the young boy, splitting his ear and part of his face. Her husband was also attacked. All three are seriously injured and had to be hospitalized. Doctors found that María’s son’s cranium was fractured.

María’s husband, Roque, had previously been attacked by several men as he was leaving the site where the community has physically blocked the dam company from accessing the river, and has been effectively preventing the construction of the dam for over a year.  Even though the identities of the men who attacked him are known, that crime has been left in complete impunity.  The collusion between powerful interests and the Honduran justice system means that the justice system routinely serves those interests and that attacks against those who stand for their rights are rarely brought to justice.  Before the most recent attack on her life, María had received numerous death threats for her vocal opposition to the dam, including threats from this same group of people who have now put her in the hospital. One Sunday evening, when María was walking to her house from the roadblock, a man came up her, took out a pistol, and threatened María, asking, “Do you want to be shot?”  None of these death threats have been investigated. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Hydroelectric dams, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Water

Civil society organizations unite in support of Nicaraguan sugarcane workers

Note: Read more about the kidney disease epidemic facing communities in Nicaragua here.

-The GJEP Team

March 14, 2014. Source: La Isla Foundation

Sugarcane workers in Nicaragua were attacked by police during a demonstration last year. Photo: La Isla Foundation

Sugarcane workers in Nicaragua were attacked by police during a demonstration last year. Photo: La Isla Foundation

In response to police violence in Chichigalpa in January, La Isla Foundation today published a joint civil society statement signed by 14 local, regional and international organizations asking for justice from the Nicaraguan government.

The declaration calls upon the government of Nicaragua to intervene in the ongoing conflict between ex-sugarcane workers who are sick from Chronic Kidney Disease of nontraditional causes (CKDu) and their former employer Ingenio San Antonio (ISA).

The joint statement condemns the repressive police activity against protesters on January 18, 2014 and calls for the Nicaraguan government to lead an effective process of reconciliation between those protesters and ISA. The consequences of the protest included the homicide of Juan de Dios Cortés (a 48-year-old ex-worker) and the grave injury of the child Juan Ignacio Valladares Méndez (13 years old). Over 30 individuals were detained, many of them sick with CKDu, and an unknown number of others suffered injuries at the hands of police forces.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Industrial agriculture, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression