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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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The assassination of Berta Cáceres has been dealt on various occasions in Honduran courts. In June the sentencing of David Castillo finally took place and the case even entered the Dutch legal system. This month, another important aspect of the case, corruption dealt in the Gualcarque Fraud case, went to trial. July also saw the devastating second anniversary of the forced disappearance of the four Garifuna men and leaders from the Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz. Two social leaders, Edward Iván Cáceres and Ubodoro Arriaga Izaguirre were murdered this month. But there was also some good news. A judge dropped the usurpation charges against members of indigenous defenders from Marcala and the Radio Progreso correspondent Sonia Pérez. A key topic this month continued to be the selection of the new Supreme Court judges which should take place in September. After weeks of debates, in Congress, but also more broadly, a new framework for the selection of the Nominating Board for the judges was approved on July 19. It is now up to the seven mandated organizations to appoint their representatives to the board. July also saw another highlevel multiple murder. Among the victims were the 19-year old son of former president Pepe Lobo, the 23-year old nephew of former general Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, and the nephew of Nationalist congressman Walter Chávez. Welcome to another month in Honduras.

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We are excited to share with you the video recording of our Author Talk with former Border Patrol agent and whistleblower Jenn Budd. Budd's new memoir "Against the Wall: My Journey from Border Patrol Agent to Immigrant Rights Activist" chronicles Budd's personal journey and exposes the corruption, human rights violations, and culture of racism and violence that characterize the Border Patrol. Content Warning: Both the book and Author Talk contain discussion of physical and sexual violence and suicide.

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What do you think when you hear the words “fair trade”? A smiling coffee farmer? A cup shared with friends? Maybe you think of chocolate, or of an artisan bending over a handmade craft. Those are common images of fair trade. But the reality is changing. Other products, including those grown on large-scale farms and plantations, are outpacing traditional fair trade products in market growth. The face of fair trade has changed a lot since I founded Fair World Project 12 years ago. Fair trade certification now is big business. In a new paper, we look at what that shift towards big business means–and how growing corporate consolidation in the food system changes what it means to "look for the label." Because we believe in giving you actionable analysis to take into your lives and your communities, the paper concludes with some recommendations for change - what would it look like to have strong, human-centered certification standards? What kind of better buying practices could grocery stores, colleges and universities, and brands commit to for more fair supply chains?

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Four years after the installation of the Camp for Water and for Life, defenders of Guapinol reiterated their commitment to the defense of the river and the demand for the cancellation of illegal mining operations in the Carlos Escaleras National Park. “They tried to silence our opposition to illegal mining with jail and repression. They tried to end our love for the river, but they can't." The Committee for the Defense of Common and Public Assets pointed out that the opposition of the communities to the mining projects and the defense of the Carlos Escaleras National Park persists despite the violent attacks, criminalization, imprisonment, and hate campaigns against them.

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In January 2022, Xiomara Castro became Honduras’s first woman president, restoring electoral democracy to the country after more than a decade of dictatorship. Running with the leftist Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) party, Castro’s election breaks with the century-old two-party system that traded power between elites in the establishment National and Liberal Parties. With a mandate for transformation and high popular expectations, Castro faces significant challenges in a context of profound systemic crisis.

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Nacla reports on the destruction of a 200-year old Maya Chortí cemetery by the mining company Aura Minerals. "MINOSA, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based multinational mining company Aura Minerals, enjoys free rein in the municipality of La Unión. Despite the legally binding decision taken at the 2015 cabildo abierto, the company had exhumed over a hundred bodies by 2018 as part of its strategy to exploit the gold deposits below the cemetery. The company did so in full view of municipal authorities, who on a number of occasions colluded with MINOSA to undermine community decision-making power. (...) In the weeks and months that followed, MINOSA seems to have given up any pretense of respect for Honduran law. Shortly after the initial mass exhumations, an appeals court overturned Judge Tabora’s ruling. In March, the Ministry of Natural Resources issued a subsequent executive notice reiterating the company’s obligation to halt all activity in the area. Video footage of mining activities taken after the communique’s publication indicate that the company has continued to prepare the area for exploitation."

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Last month, the White House announced more than $1.9 billion in ​“private sector commitments” to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as part of Vice President Harris’ ​“Call to Action” to address the root causes of migration from northern Central America. The irony apparently lost on the White House is that it is promoting the same economic model that has caused so many to be forced to leave their homes and migrate in the first place. The United States has long promoted corporate interests, which generate profits for U.S. companies and local elites, at the expense of the majority of the peoples of northern Central America, and this new ​“Call to Action” is no different. 

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Using the law as a weapon of repression, the corrupt, pro-global capitalist regime in Guatemala arrested Ruben Zamora, the latest defender of democracy and rule of law, human rights and justice, land and the environment to be ‘criminalized’. The U.S., Canada, IMF, World Bank and transnational companies and banks maintain ‘business-as-usual’ economic, political and military relations.