Tag Archives: genocide

War Bonnet and Bullet Bag – The hidden genocide in a free-range steak

Note: Hallie Boas is on the Board of Global Justice Ecology Project.  Recently, she has been working on the frontlines of the battle to protect women’s rights in Texas.  She sent us the following essay from Wyoming, where she is on vacation.

-The GJEP Team

By Hallie Boas, GJEP Board Member, July 23, 2013.  

I’m taking a vacation in a beautiful place. I rode my bike through majestic mountains today and felt happy whizzing past verdant forests and valleys of fragrant sage brush. We are staying at the foothills of one of the most incredible chains of mountains and lakes. The sun is twinkling on the last remnants of the snow capped peaks of the winter.

I walk into the place we are eating dinner. My heart sinks into the bottom of my stomach and every molecule in my body starts racing.

‘”War Bonnet and Bullet Bag” Given to French traders by Unknown Indians 1870″ I look around me. Murals of the “Indian Wars”, rugs, ceremonial objects, pottery, paintings and more war bonnets populate the walls. I am sitting here looking down at my plate of fancy salad and glance up. A beautiful headdress is encased in glass above a table of diners laughing and enjoying their company. Guess what they look like.
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‘Yes, there was genocide!': Guatemala’s Ixil vow to continue fight for justice

By Robert Mercatante, June 28, 2013. Source: America’s Program


In the early hours of June 21 hundreds of human rights defenders, artists, feminists, musicians, religious workers, community organizers, independent journalists, international accompaniers, campesino and indigenous activists and others gathered in Guatemala City to participate in “The Caravan for the Dignity of the Ixil People and Against Genocide”.

Buses, vans, and cars decorated with banners that read, “Yes there WAS genocide!” and “Justice for the victims of the massacres!”made a seven-hour journey through flat farmland and winding mountain roads en route to Nebaj, Quiché. Along the way, buses carrying community members from Huehuetenango, Ixcán, the Southern coast and other regions of the country joined the caravan.

Upon arriving in Nebaj, we were met by local indigenous authorities who, with ceremonial staffs in hand, headed up the multitudinous march through the spectator-filled streets. A light drizzle didn’t dampen spirits as we proudly carried banners, shouted slogans, and played music in defense of truth, historic memory, and justice.

Juana Brito Bernal, an Ixil woman and genocide survivor, explained the nature of what was at once a protest and a celebration. “Every nation in the world should know that genocide happened here in Guatemala,” she told the crowd. “They tried to exterminate us, but they couldn’t exterminate us.”
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, War, Women, Youth

Despite historic conviction, genocide continues in Guatemala

By Leonor Hurtado, May 15, 2013. Source: Food First

On May 10th, the Guatemalan Court of Justice convicted the ex-dictator General Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison for the massacres of indigenous people during the 1980s [1]. Many Guatemalans hope that the judicial process against the criminals of the country’s “dirty war” will continue [2].

But while the Guatemalan people celebrate the conviction, the processes of genocide initiated 30 years ago by Ríos Montt’s massacres still continue by other means.

In the last decade, the expansion of oil palm plantations and sugarcane production for ethanol in Northern Guatemala has displaced hundreds of Maya-Q´eqchi´ peasant families, increasing poverty, hunger, unemployment and landlessness in the region, confirms Alberto Alfonso-Fradejas in the new Food First report, “Sons and Daughters of the Earth: Indigenous Communities and Land Grabs in Guatemala” [3]. There is a tremendous contradiction here: at the same time that the ex-General Ríos Montt is convicted for genocide, the state allows the oligarchy, allied with extractive industries, to displace entire populations without taking into account the human cost, and in many cases, resulting in the murder and imprisonment of rural people who resist the assault. The genocide against the indigenous peasant population in Guatemala no longer has the face of a military dictatorship supported by the United States…. Now it is the corporations, the oligarchy and the World Bank who push peasants off their lands. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Latin America-Caribbean, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Former Guatemalan dictator is guilty of genocide against Mayan group

Note: “When General Ríos Montt seized power in March 1982, President Ronald Reagan’s administration cultivated him as a reliable Central American ally in its battle against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government and Salvadoran guerrillas. ”  Another US-backed dictator brought to justice.  Here’s to you, President Reagan.

-The GJEP Team

By Elisabeth Malkin, May 10, 2013. Source: NY Times

Photo: Moises Castillo/Associated Press

Photo: Moises Castillo/Associated Press

A Guatemalan court on Friday found Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator who ruled Guatemala during one of the bloodiest periods of its long civil war, guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Judge Yasmín Barrios sentenced General Ríos Montt, 86, to 80 years in prison. His co-defendant, José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, who served as the director of intelligence under the general, was acquitted of the same two charges.

“We are completely convinced of the intent to destroy the Ixil ethnic group,” Judge Barrios said as she read the hourlong summary of the ruling by the three-judge panel. Over five weeks, the tribunal heard more than 100 witnesses, including psychologists, military experts and Maya Ixil Indian survivors who told how General Ríos Montt’s soldiers had killed their families and wiped out their villages.

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Profiting from genocide: The World Bank’s bloody history in Guatemala

By Cyril Mychalejko, March 8, 2013. Source: Truthout

Luis A. Moreno, President of Inter-American Development Bank. Photo: World Economic Forum / Flickr

Luis A. Moreno, President of Inter-American Development Bank. Photo: World Economic Forum / Flickr

The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) supported genocide in Guatemala and ought to pay reparations, according to a recent report by Jubilee International.

This well-documented accusation surfaces as the Central American nation becomes the first country in the Americas to try a former president for genocide and crimes against humanity in a domestic court. But the prosecution of war criminals and the accusations against International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have so fardone little to protect vulnerable communities from the ongoing expansion of miningoil and other economic interests invading their territories and violating their human rights.

Generating Terror,” the Jubilee Debt Campaign’s report issued in December, examines how international lending and debt by IFIs such as the World Bank and the IDB helped legitimize Guatemala’s genocidal regimes of the late 1970s and early 1980s and essentially subsidized their terror campaigns. Continue reading

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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, World Bank

Goodbye Columbus

Note: Today is an official holiday in the U.S. celebrating Christopher Columbus’ “discovering” the Americas.  It’s sad to see Christopher Columbus getting any tribute.  But this is the country that has smart bombs, bunker-busters and bails out the rich when times get tough.

Howard Zinn, in a Peoples History of the United States, quotes Columbus’ diary on his encounter with the Arawaks. Columbus’ scribbles are an ugly hargbinger of  the colonialism that promotes genocide, land grabs and other nefarious things that occurred in the past, continue to the present and unfortunately are heading in the same direction for the future…

–The GJEP Team

Cross-posted from History is a Weapon

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

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Natural History Museum expedition ‘poses genocide threat’ to Paraguay tribes

In early 2009, Global Justice Ecology Project’s Co-director/Strategist, Orin Langelle, went to the Gran Chaco region in Paraguay with Iniciativa Amotocodie and Global Forest Coalition with permission to take photographs in the Ayoreo community of Campo Loro, for a project with the community called: Sharing the Eye.  Campo Loro was targeted by American missionaries and one of the first Ayoreo communities to be colonized.   A community leader took Langelle through the village and pointed out important things to him and other Ayoreo that lived there, which Langelle photographed.  By mid 2009, the Ayoreo community of Campo Loro (near the town of Filadelfia) received the photographs where they were exhibited for the entire community.  You can view the exhibit Sharing the Eye by clicking here. GJEP is the North America Focal Point for Global Forest Coalition.

–The GJEP Team


Cross-posted from The Guardian

John Vidal, environment editor

Field trip to find new plant and insect species in the Chaco will endanger remote Indian tribes, anthropologists and indigenous leaders warn

Click the image below to watch the video from Survival International

Anthropologists and indigenous leaders have warned that a Natural History Museum expedition to Paraguay could lead to “genocide” and are calling for it to be abandoned. They fear that the scientists and their teams of assistants are likely to make accidental contact with isolated indigenous groups in the remote region they are planning to visit and could pass on infectious diseases.

The 100-strong expedition is due to set off in the next few days for two of the remotest regions of the vast dry forest known as the Gran Chaco, which stretches over northern Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. The expedition organisers hope to find several hundred new species of plants and insects.

But the two sites where the British and Paraguayan teams of botanists, biologists and other scientists plan to stay in for up to a month are known to be home to groups of Ayoreo Indians. They live in voluntary isolation and reject and avoid all contact with Westerners, said Benno Glauser, director of leading indigenous peoples‘ protection group Iniciativa Amotocodie.

Glauser, with the backing of Ayoreo leaders who have left the forest in the last 20 years, has sent the museum more than 40 pieces of data showing the presence of isolated peoples in the Chovoreca and Cabrera Timane regions.

“According to our data, the expedition you plan constitutes beyond any doubt an extremely high risk for the integrity, safety and legal rights of life and self-determination of the isolated Ayoreo, as well as for the integrity and stability of their territories. There exists a considerable menace and risk also for the safety of the scientists taking part of the expedition, as well as the rest of expedition participants,” says Glauser in a letter to the museum.

Until about 1950 it is estimated that around 5,000 Ayoreo lived in the Chaco forest as isolated hunter-gatherers without contact with the ranchers and religious groups who were given land by the Paraguayan government. Since then almost all have left the forest after being targeted by American missionaries. It is estimated that there are now only six or seven isolated groups numbering around 150 people in total. It is now the only place in South America outside the Amazon where uncontacted Indians still live.

Ayoreo leaders who have settled near the town of Filadelfia in northern Paraguay this week appealed to the president of Paraguay and the Natural History Museum to abandon the expedition, saying that their relatives were in grave danger.

“Both of these regions belong to the Ayoreo indigenous territory … We know that our people still live in the forest and they don’t want to leave it to join white civilisation.”

He said there are at least three uncontacted groups in the area. “If this expedition goes ahead we will not be able to understand why you prefer to lose human lives just because the English scientists want to study plants and animals. There is too much risk: the people in the forest die frequently from catching white people’s diseases – the get infected by being close. Because the white people leave their rubbish, their clothes, or other contaminated things. It’s very serious. It’s like a genocide,” they said in a statement.

According to Survival International, an NGO that campaigns for the rights of tribal peoples, contact with any isolated Indians would be disastrous for either party. “Contact with isolated groups is invariably violent, sometimes fatal and always disastrous,” said Jonathan Mazower, a spokesman. “It is highly likely that there are small groups of isolated Indians scattered throughout the Chaco. The only sensible thing to do is err on the side of caution because any accidental contact can be disastrous. This has happened before [in the Chaco]. On two previous occasions, in 1979 and 1986 expeditions were sent in by US missionaries to bring out Indians and people were killed on both occasions.”

The expedition, one of the largest undertaken by the museum in more than 50 years, has taken several years to plan and is believed to be costing more than £300,000. It hopes to map and record species of thousands of plants and insects, which will then go to local Paraguayan museums. Until last month, the museum’s website had claimed that the area the scientists will visit “has not been explored by human beings”.

This created consternation in the Ayoreo communities. “Some people say they are going to places in which no human being has ever been. That means we Ayoreo are not human beings,” said one of the leaders in a statement to the Guardian. “Our uncontacted brothers have the right to decide how they want to live – if they want to leave or not.”

The Chaco, known as “green hell” is one of the least hospitable but most biologically diverse places on Earth. The barely populated expanse of almost impenetrable forest is twice the size of the UK, but home to at least 3,400 plant species, 500 bird species, 150 species of mammals, 120 species of reptiles, and 100 species of amphibians. Jaguars, pumas, giant anteaters and giant otters are common.

In a statement, the Natural History Museum said it had planned the expedition in conjunction with the Paraguayan government and would be working with Ayoreo Indians: “We recognise the importance of the concerns which have been taken into account during the planning of the expedition. They form part of the ongoing consultations that are still taking place with the Paraguayan authorities. The information and specimens collected on this trip will help scientists to understand for the first time the richness and diversity of the animals and plants in this remote region and the governments and conservation groups are able to use such information to better understand how to manage fragile habitats and protect them for future generations.”

It continued: “We are delighted to be working with representatives of the indigenous people. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to combine traditionally acquired knowledge with scientifically acquired knowledge to our mutual benefit. As with all expeditions, the team is continually reviewing the situation. Our primary concern is for the welfare of the members of the expedition team and the people of the Dry Chaco region.”

Uncontacted tribes around the world

There are around 100 remaining groups of isolated, or “uncontacted” people, including 40-67 in Brazil, 15-18 in Peru, 15-30 in Papua and others in Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, and the Andaman islands of India. As oil companies, loggers and farmers go deeper into the remotest forests, evidence of more groups is being discovered.

A few groups may have no idea of country or other languages and no one has come close to them. Some are the descendants of tribes contacted more than 100 years ago by colonists who fled deeper into the forest in fear of enslavement or decimation by disease. Others shun all contact with western civilisation but have a good idea of life outside the forest and may have machetes or other tools which they could have acquired from contact with other groups.

According to Survival International, these tribes all remain in isolation because they choose to, and because encounters with the outside world have brought them only violence, disease and murder.

Isolated tribes are the most vulnerable people on Earth, having no immunity to the diseases brought in by outsiders. Colds and flu can become killers, and 50-90% of tribe members commonly die from first contact with outsiders.

Epidemics of measles, smallpox, yellow fever, whooping cough, influenza and later malaria have all had devastating effects.

More than 20% of the Yanomami Indians of northern Brazil died in the 1980s and 90s when they came into contact with goldminers who brought in illnesses. Ninety per cent of Indians in the Javari valley in Amazonas state in Brazil, including six uncontacted tribes, suffered from malaria or hepatitis brought into the area in 2006.

The result, says Survival, is that entire cultures that have taken centuries to evolve can be being wiped out in days as disease invades a population.

Anthropologists now take precautions including wearing masks to avoid accidentally passing on diseases.

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