Tag Archives: political killings

Killings of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples highlight tensions of land disputes

By Jonathan Watts, August 8, 2013. Source: The Guardian 

Guarani and Kaiowa Indians are in conflict with ranch owners over the allocation of land in Brazil. Photo: Celso Junior/AP

Guarani and Kaiowa Indians are in conflict with ranch owners over the allocation of land in Brazil. Photo: Celso Junior/AP

Celso Rodrigues was walking by a river near his home in Mato Grosso do Sul, when he was ambushed by a gunman in a balaclava, shot with a pistol and then finished off with a rifle.

It might have been just another killing in Brazil, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates. But Rodrigues’s case has attracted international attention because he was a member of the Guarani ethnic group, which is at the heart of a fierce national dispute over indigenous rights.

In recent months, the national guard has been dispatched, a senior official has resigned and protests from both sides – tribes and landowners – have moved closer to the office of President Dilma Rousseff.

Police have arrested a farm manager, Ivonel Gabriel Vieira, in connection with the case. Survival International, which campaigns for indigenous people’s rights, claims that the murder was carried out on the orders of landowners.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, War

San Sebastián Bachajón: Following the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán, the struggle for the defense of the land continues

By Jessica Davies, July 25, 2013. Source: Upside Down World


“The government does not like the people to organize and defend what is theirs; they repress us with state forces and order assassination to silence our movement”, declared theejidatarios (communal landholders) of San Sebastián Bachajón recently. Despite the assassination of their much-loved community leader Juan Vázquez Guzmán, they insist: “we are here, we are staying here and we are not going to leave our land which is the birthplace of our mothers and fathers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, who also fought and gave their lives for the mother earth.”

Their struggle against luxury tourism in their territory

The indigenous Tzeltal ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón is situated in the jungle region of   the state of Chiapas in South-East Mexico. It is located in an area of great natural beauty, rich in flora and fauna. The common lands of the ejido straddle the access road to the spectacular series of turquoise waterfalls of Agua Azul, and are not far from the great Maya archaeological site of Palenque. For over 20 years, the Mexican government has planned, as part of the “Maya World” concept, a high class tourist mega-project in Chiapas to rival Cancun; Agua Azul is to be the “jewel in the crown” of this development, with a luxury “eco-lodge retreat” complete with arrival at the waterfalls by helicopter or seaplane. Unfortunately for the people who have lived on and cared for this land for centuries, for whom territory is the basis of a dignified life, they are now the only obstacle to what could become, for rich tourists, “one of the most special experiences in the Western hemisphere”, and, for the resort owners, a lucrative source of income. The realization of this project would inevitably involve dispossessing or co-opting the indigenous population, and taking over their ancestral lands and territory.

As a result, the ejidatarios of Bachajón have become the recipients of daily threats, aggressions, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, imprisonment, extensive use of torture, and attacks from paramilitary groups. The strategy of the three levels of government has been to develop alliances with, and give support to, local political party members so they will back the government plans, and to criminalise those who resist these plans, with the aim of generating conflict among the communities in the area.

Since 2006, Juan Vázquez Guzmán had been at the center of the struggle in defense of the common lands of the ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón. On 24 April, 2013, he was shot dead with six bullets in the doorway of his home. He was aged only 32, and the father of two small children aged four and seven. His community members were left devastated, and his assassins escaped into the impunity which reigns in Mexico. There has been no evidence of an investigation into the murder, and the material and intellectual authors of the crime have not been identified.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Chiapas, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression

Action Alert: Indigenous Xinca leaders abducted after mining referendum

March 21, 2013. Source: Center for International Environmental Law

Photo: Mimundo.org

Photo: Mimundo.org

Urgent Action: Indigenous Xinca Leaders Abducted After Mining Referendum

For more than two years, communities in the municipalities of San Rafael Las Flores and Mataquescuintla, Guatemala have been peacefully resisting the development of Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine. Recently, individual villages located in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores began holding a series of 26 public referenda to determine whether community members support development of extractive industry projects.

On Sunday, the President of the Xinca Indigenous Parliament and three other Xinca leaders were abducted by a group of heavily armed masked men after attending one of these public referenda to show their solidarity. This comes only two days after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on the Government of Guatemala to protect human rights defenders and specifically referenced the conflict in San Rafael Las Flores, among other communities.

Two of the abducted Xinca leaders escaped. On the morning of Monday, March 18, 2013, the President of the Xinca Parliament’s vehicle was found with multiple bullet holes, and Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, one of the four who were kidnapped, was found dead. That evening, Xinca President Roberto González Ucelo was found alive.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Mining, Political Repression

Honduras: US-trained unit named in Aguán abuses

February 24, 2013.  Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas

Rights Action, a human rights organization based in Toronto and Washington, DC, released a report on Feb. 20 documenting killings and other abuses carried out since late 2009 during land disputes between campesinos and major landowners in the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras. The 64-page report, “Human Rights Violations by US-backed Honduran Special Forces Unit,” finds that soldiers from the Honduran military’s 15th Battalion are directly implicated in at least 34 abuses, including “kidnappings, killings, threats, torture and abuse of authority,” according to the report’s author, Annie Bird.

Since 2008 or earlier, Bird says, the battalion has “received assistance and training from the Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) of the United States Armed Forces.” Honduran media have reported that Spanish and Israeli special forces have also trained the soldiers; local informants say Colombian and Panamanian trainers have participated as well.

Based on dozens of interviews and on reports from the Honduran media and human rights groups, Bird compiled a list of at least 88 campesinos killed since January 2010, including two killed on Feb. 16, right before the report’s release. An additional five people were apparently killed because they were mistaken for campesinos. According to the report, “at least 77″ of the campesino deaths “clearly have the characteristics of death squad killings, contradicting reports from the Honduran government human rights commission CONADEH [the National Human Rights Commission] and US State Department that characterize the killings as the result of ‘confrontations.'” Bird also cites as many as 13 killings of security guards employed by the big landowners, noting that many of the guards are themselves campesinos; there are suspicions that some of these killings were carried out by other security forces.
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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, War