The Assassination of Berta Cáceres

"Most murders go unpunished [in Honduras]," observed School of the Americas Watch. (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)

By Nika Knight, staff writer, Common Dreams

 

More than 50 humanitarian and environmental groups from around the world called on Friday for an independent international investigation into the assassination of Honduran Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in her sleep at 1am on Thursday by two unknown assailants.

“Mrs. Cáceres’ case is the most high-profile killing within a growing trend in the murder, violence, and intimidation of people defending their indigenous land rights in Honduras,” wrote the groups in their letter to the Honduran president.

“We know that in Honduras it is very easy to pay people to commit murders,” Zuñiga Caceres said of her mother’s death to teleSUR. “But we know that those behind this are other powerful people with money and a whole apparatus that allows them to commit these crimes.”

Cáceres was a prominent leader in the Indigenous movement in Honduras against one of Central America’s largest hydropower projects, four enormous dams known as “Agua Zarca” in the Gualcarque river basin, the Guardian reported. The Indigenous group Cáceres founded, Civil Council for Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), has so far been successful in preventing the project from moving forward.

Cáceres was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her activism just last year.

“Berta Cáceres devoted her life to protecting natural resources, public spaces, land rights, rivers from the privatization process that’s underway and that gained speed after the 2009 military coup,” said Karen Spring, the Honduras-based coordinator of the social justice network Honduras Solidarity Group, in an interview with Free Speech Radio News on Thursday. “She spent her life defending land and and basically supporting communities, mostly indigenous communities all over the country.”

As a result of her activism, Cáceres had received death threats and feared for her life, theLos Angeles Times reported, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a prominent human rights organization, had last year formally called on the Honduran government to put protections in place for Cáceres, according to the Guardian. The UN has condemned the Honduras government for failing to protect her, and activists have accused the government of having a hand in her death.

In its most recent report (pdf) released in December, IACHR warned of the violence and threats to their lives that activists such as Cáceres suffer under in Honduras. The group blamed “the increased presence of organized crime and drug traffickers, the recruitment of children and adolescents, and an inadequate judicial response that fuels impunity, corruption, and high levels of poverty and inequality. In addition, according to the information received, part of that insecurity comes from the National Police, the Military Police, and the Army, through their illegitimate use of force, in some cases in complicity with organized crime.”

Student protesters took to the streets in Tegucigalpa on Thursday to mourn the widely beloved environmentalist’s death, the Guardian reported, and the Honduran government, in power since a U.S.-backed coup in 2009, responded with riot police.

One suspect has been arrested, the Honduras government confirmed in a statement toteleSUR on Friday. There were reportedly two assassins involved in Cáceres’ death. But the Cáceres family is demanding “an independent, international investigation [into her death] not led by the Honduran government,” teleSUR reported.

“Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate,” noted School of the Americas Watch, a group that seeks to close the infamous U.S. Army School of the Americas, in a statement on Thursday. “Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm—most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.”

The environmental group International Rivers demanded Thursday that “the U.S, government, in particular, end its support for the Honduran military through loans and through training at the School of the Americas,” drawing attention to the United States’ significant responsibility for the oppressive regime in Honduras today, in order “to honor Berta Cáceres’ lifelong struggle and her ultimate sacrifice for rivers and rights.”

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Changing the World Through Latino Literature

PRESS RELEASE
Feb/5/2016
For Immediate Release
Contact:
Tony Diaz
AztecMuse@aol.com
(713) 867-8943Nuestra Palabra:Latino Writers Having Their Say
Nuestra Palabra Turns 18
Celebrates Changing the World Through Latino Lit

HOUSTON, TX – February 5, 2016 – When Nuestra Palabra began, we were told that Latinos did care about literature. We were told that Latinos were not interested in writing. We were told that there was not much interest in Latino Literature. We are proud to have proven the naysayers wrong for 18 years. Join us to celebrate the landmark of our 18th anniversary as we aknowledge all the milestones we have achieved as a community.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016, 6pm – 8pm, at Talento Bilingue de Houston 333. S. Jensen. Tickets will go on sale Tuesday, February 23, 2016, during the NP Radio Show on 90.1 FM 6p-7p. They will be available at www.NuestraPalabra.org. $25 at the door. $20 in advance. This showcase will feature the poetry, fiction, and teatro of our award-winning authors who started their careers on our stage.

Antonio reading a book by the brook.

Here are just a few milestones.

* Largest Book Fairs in Houston: We organized the Houston Latin Book and Family Festival, which at its peak drew 30,000 folks to the GRB, making it the largest lit event in Houston for any demographic.

* When Arizona banned Mexican American Studies, Nuestra Palabra veteransunited to become the Librotraficantes to smuggle the banned books back into Arizona by using the resources and contacts of Nuestra Palabra.

* We just had our 12 members receive a Master’s Degree in Writing, with 10 MFA’s stemming from our group. Nuestra Palabra has created more Latino MFA’s than the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. As a side note, I’m the first Chicano to recieve in MFA from the UH CWP back in 1995.

* The NP Radio Show: Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say ON THE AIR began broadcasting on 90.1 FM KPFT in March of 2001.

* The Houston Public Library is archiving the Nuestra Palabra papers.

* The UH Library will be archiving our radio broadcasts.

* We are also launching the Nuestra Palabra Anthology.

 More info to come, always MAS.

www.NuestraPalabra.org

Venezuela: A Revolution That Will Not Die

 

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This is not a revolution that can be undone with one election, nor can it be simply legislated out of existence. Much has been written about the outcome of Venezuela’s Dec. 6 legislative elections, with many of the analyses justifiably focusing on the shortcomings of the Socialist Party (PSUV) and the difficulty of the current state of affairs in the country. Indeed, even before the political body was cold, post-mortem examinations abounded in the corporate and alternative media, with dissections of seemingly every aspect of the Bolivarian Republic’s political, economic, and social life.

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But what these journalists and political analysts often overlook is the determination of the core of the Bolivarian Revolution, the radical base that is committed to preserving what Hugo Chavez began building more than 17 years ago. This is not a revolution that can be undone with one election, nor can it be simply legislated out of existence. This Revolution will not, as some cynics have argued, be brought down by the weight of its own contradictions, or by internal rot and corruption, or by external forces such as assassinations and economic destabilization.

Instead, the Revolution will survive. It will be resurgent. It will be reborn thanks to the commitment of millions of dedicated Chavistas.

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While one may take this as an article of faith, it is instead a conclusion born of experience in Venezuela, one that is informed by dozens of conversations with activists and organizers whose words of love and dedication to the revolution are matched only by their actions to build it.

In building the Revolution, these men, women, and children are pledged to defend it.

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The Revolution’s Flesh Wounds

The election results, and the social problems from which they sprang, are undeniably a comment on the level of discontent that many Venezuelans feel, both toward their government and the general state of affairs in the country. To read the corporate media, one would think this is the end for the Bolivarian Revolution, that the defeat at the polls is a repudiation of the entire program of the PSUV and its allied political parties. But such a reading belies the reality and resilience of the revolutionary process, one that has seen and overcome great challenges before.

 

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In April 2002, the U.S.-backed opposition in Venezuela staged a coup against then President Chavez in a desperate attempt to reassert their control over the country and extinguish the Bolivarian Revolution. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans poured into the streets of Caracas, with millions more in other parts of the country, calling for Chavez to be restored tohis rightful office, and for the coup leaders to be arrested. There was really no doubt that the U.S. was responsible for this attempt at forced regime change, with many mainstream news outlets reporting within days that high-ranking officials in the Bush administration were intimately involved in orchestrating the coup.

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Although it may seem like a mere historical footnote 13 years later, the failed coup was a watershed moment in Venezuela –a proving ground for the Revolution – when the people for whom Chavez and the Bolivarian process meant a better future dared to challenge U.S. hegemony and the attempted reestablishment of political power by the capitalist ruling class.

But April 2002 represented even more than just resistance to Washington. The restoration of Chavez to power was a demonstration of the steadfastness with which Venezuelans were prepared to defend their Revolution from external threats, even ones that until 1998 had seemed omnipotent. It showed for the first (but certainly not the last) time that the Revolution would not, and could not, be undone by the dirty tricks of the Empire and its comprador class inside the country.

In the years since 2002 Venezuela has repeatedly been the target of political, economic, and social destabilization by the United States. These coordinated attempts have increased exponentially since the death of Chavez in 2013 and the election of current President Nicolas Maduro. Such subversion has taken many forms, including the use of highly effective and well-planned forms of psychological warfare through the manipulation of media and public opinion.

In 2007, author and investigative journalist Eva Golinger revealed that Washington was funding a program to provide financial support to Venezuelan journalists hostile to Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. Indeed, the effort was aimed at influencing public opinion through the right-wing media, shaping the views of Venezuelans against their government. A battle-tested method of destabilization by the CIA, such tactics of psychological warfare were documented in the CIA’s Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare, a manual distributed to the contras in Nicaragua as Washington attempted to bring down the Sandinista government in the 1980s. As noted here, the CIA wanted to determine “the needs and frustration of the target groups … [and create a] generalized anti-government hostility.” The objective was to create the false impression in the minds of the population that the government was “the cause of their frustration.”

This has been done to great effect in Venezuela. The right-wing media in the country has done everything in its power to undermine the government, and heap all blame onto the PSUV, including for the effects of the economic war waged against it. According to the right wing media, it is President Maduro and the entire government, along with the movement they represent, that has created and exacerbated all these problems with ineptitude and failed policies. While undoubtedly mistakes have been made, it is equally true that many of the major problems in the country were compounded by economic sabotage. The salient point here though is that an economic war is transformed into a psychological war, one that figured prominently in the recent elections.

Indeed, the economic war is critical to understanding the current state of the country. In the wake of the opposition’s victory at the polls, basic goods started magically reappearing on store shelves in Venezuela, yet another indication that much of the scarcity can be attributed not to failed economic policies, but rather to a coordinated campaign of economic subversion.  Similarly, some of the problems of inflation and sale of contraband can be directly attributed to the U.S.-backed opposition and its patrons in Miami and Washington. This is certainly not to absolve the government of all blame, but rather to point out that Venezuela and its Revolution have been directly targeted by the forces of the Empire.

The destabilization of the country is also very much overt, with assassinations playing a key role. Perhaps no targeted killing has had a greater impact on the country and the Revolution than the 2014 assassination of Robert Serra, a young, up-and-coming legislator from the PSUV who was murdered by individuals connected to former Colombian President and self-declared enemy of the Bolivarian Revolution, Alvaro Uribe.  A young, photogenic, and deeply committed activist and legislator, Serra was seen by many as the future of the PSUV and of the Chavista movement in the country.  His murder was interpreted by millions as a direct assault on the Revolution and the future of the country.

 

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Walking through the radical, working class neighborhoods of 23 January and El Valle, one is likely to find posters and/or graffiti scrawled on walls with the simple phrase “Robert Vive” (Robert Lives), and the iconic image of the young Serra – the future of the Revolution, gunned down before he even had a chance to lead.

And this is the reality of the Revolution: the U.S. and its proxies have done everything in their power to destroy the Bolivarian process. And yet, the Revolution carries on. This is more than just a slogan of resistance, it is objective fact.

Walking through the radical, working class neighborhoods of 23 January and El Valle, one is likely to find posters and/or graffiti scrawled on walls with the simple phrase “Robert Vive” (Robert Lives), and the iconic image of the young Serra – the future of the Revolution, gunned down before he even had a chance to lead.

And this is the reality of the Revolution: the U.S. and its proxies have done everything in their power to destroy the Bolivarian process. And yet, the Revolution carries on. This is more than just a slogan of resistance, it is objective fact.

These elections, which took place amid deteriorating economic conditions and an intense psychological and economic war, still saw more than 5 million Venezuelans cast votes for the PSUV and the Revolution, for socialism and anti-imperialism.

Rumors of Chavismo’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. This dream, this revolution, will not die.

This piece first appeared at TeleSur.

Eric Draitser is the founder of StopImperialism.org and host of CounterPunch Radio. He is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City. You can reach him at ericdraitser@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Vowing ‘Merciless Response’ France Bombs Raqqa

A French fighter jet prepares to launch from an airbase in the United Arab Emirates. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

As the French government launches a major retaliatory bombing campaign against the ISIS-held Syrian city of Raqqa, observers warn that President François Hollande is taking a page from the widely discredited playbook of former American President George W. Bush.

“France is at war,” Hollande declared Monday in an address to Parliament, in which he called for a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the series of attacks Friday in Paris that killed at least 129 people.

The statement came just hours after France—assisted by the United States—launched its largest-yet bombing campaign against Raqqa, which is home to an estimated 200,000 people. The French Defense Ministry said its aircraft dropped 20 bombs on what it described as military targets. However, the Syrian organization Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, which documents the brutality of ISIS, reported that France has also bombed a soccer stadium, hospital, museum, and government building.

“The French air strikes are targeting a crowded, large city,” said Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, in an interview with Common Dreams. “The fact that ISIS has claimed it as its capital does not change the fact that this is a city of ordinary people. It is hard to imagine that there can be this kind of heavy duty bombing and not have significant casualties and destruction of the city.”

Raqqa residents have already endured bombings by the U.S., Russian, Syrian, and French air forces, as well as the brutality of the Islamic State. Khaled al-Homsi, a Palmyra-based activist and nephew of the Syrian archaeologist Khalid al-Asaad who was beheaded by ISIS in August, turned to social media to call for the protection of civilians.

Hollande’s government has been bombing territories in Iraq since September 2014, and over the past two months has launched a handful of airstrikes in Syria, including a smaller attack in Raqqa on October. But Sunday night’s bombing appears to be France’s most extensive yet since it joined the U.S.-led coalition.

Both U.S. and French officials said that American forces backed Sunday’s attack by helping them identify alleged targets, in what are euphemistically referred to as “strike packages.” Meanwhile, President Barack Obama appears to be encouraging France to take military action, vowing cooperation and calling the Paris massacre an “attack on the civilized world.”

ISIS is claiming responsibility for Friday’s attacks in Paris, as well as for another deadly bombing of a Beirut neighborhood that killed at least 43 people. And in Baghdad on Friday, a suicide bomber killed at least 18 people at a funeral, with no immediate claim of responsibility.

In the wake of the Paris attack, Hollande vowed to be “merciless” in going after those responsible. “What happened last night in Paris, and in Saint Denis by the Stade de France, is an act of war,” he said on Saturday. “France, because it was attacked cowardly, shamelessly, violently, France will be merciless against the barbarians of Daesh.”

However, numerous experts, including Vijay Prashad, a professor of international studies at Trinity College, say this kind of rhetoric—and the escalation it threatens—is incredibly dangerous.

“There is a call to do ‘something’ and there is a need to be ‘strong’—otherwise one will lose electoral support,” Prashad told Common Dreams. “But this something and this strong are clichés—in that, the same action is taken each time, namely bombing runs against some part of the world.”

“We all know that these bombing runs, over the past fifteen years, have not been able to undermine the forces of al-Qaeda and later ISIS, but they have created instability which advantages ISIS, and—because of civilian casualties—given ISIS the kind of propaganda coup it requires to attract new recruits,” Prashad continued.

Bennis agreed, warning: “The French seem to be channeling George W. Bush in how to respond to terrorists, taking the position that this is an act of war, and we will have ‘merciless’ war. But terrorism survives wars.”

Many within French civil society are sounding the alarm, including the social movement organization Attac.

“‘France is at war,’ we are told,” the group declared in a statement released Sunday. “But this is not our war: after the American disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan, the current French interventions in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Mali, Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, contribute to destabilizing these regions and trigger the departure of migrants who face Fortress Europe and whose bodies are washed up on our beaches.”

Indigenous Day of Remembrance

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TODAY: Indigenous Day of Remembrance: ABOLISH COLUMBUS DAY!

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The Last Days of the Colony

2015-04-5--10-44-12 Claire O’Brien / 2015

Nobody wanted to bowl.

The court jester’s efforts were desultory, if not grim, and the tour buses kept breaking down in the desert. An abundance of vegetation sprung up where none had grown before, historic buildings sloped sideways, and tourists found themselves trapped in luxury hotels.   2015-04-5--10-44-12 Meanwhile, Love fluttered around like an anxious butterfly without a map, looking for a place to land, Yet, in the midst of it all, the three little girls beamed. 2015-04-5--10-44-12 Art by Claire O’Brien / 2015

New threats challenge Mexico’s Teotihuacán

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LatinaLista — Mexico’s pyramid Teotihuacán is not just a popular tourist destination and iconic symbol of Mexico’s significance in the annals of ancient history but it’s also an archeological treasure living on borrowed time.

Located 25 miles northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacán is a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city renown for its long-standing structures and well-preserverd murals. However, restorers from the country’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) reveal a sad reality: “Forty percent of the murals have disappeared or have been damaged in the past decade.”

Speaking to the Mexican newspaper Excelsior, the restorers attribute the loss of the murals to three things: the use of inadequate techniques in the past, budget constraints and urbanization. ”

As an example of the decline, the restorers cite an area in Teotihuacán known as Atetelco, “where a decade ago there were at least 100 murals, of which 78 have already been lost.” On top of that, anonymous sources tell the newspaper that of the 80 murals removed from the site in the 1960s and placed at the Teotihuacán mural museum, the majority of them are not in a perfect state of conservation.

Though existing murals are disappearing, the good news is that new ones are being discovered. A new mural was found last November in the southwestern corner of the Palace of Quetzalpapálotl, painted between 250 and 300 AD. The new mural is exciting researchers because it shows a procession of several warriors with unique characteristics, namely a distinct bundle carried on the bodies of the warriors and which archeologists have found in the Mayan area.

However, though the discovery of new murals may be able to replace the disappearance of others, there’s nothing that can replace the pyramids of Teotihuacán when they disappear. In March, New Scientist reported reported that Mexican scientists found that the largest of the complex’s pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun, was in danger of collapsing like a “sand castle.”

The pyramid is covered with three million tons of volcanic rock built around an interior of nothing more than a “mound of earth.” On a quest to find interior chambers, the scientists didn’t find any in the Pyramid of the Sun but did discover that “the density of the earth in the pyramid is at least 20 percent lower on one side than the other.”

The consequence is that unless something is done the pyramid is in danger of collapsing in the future — and taking with it a window into humankind’s history

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A HARD RAIN

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I’m going back out before the rain starts falling:
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison.

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Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten.
Where Black is the color and none is the number.

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And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,

And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it

Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinking

But I’ll know my song well before I start singing.

 

EN CALMA TRANSCURRE MARCHA PARA PEDIR EL REGRESO DE DESAPARECIDOS EN GUERRERO

 

It’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard:
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

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Excerpt from Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan