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Anti-Militarism: News & Updates

News Article

In the months leading up to the Guatemalan presidential election on June 25, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has denied left-wing Indigenous leader Thelma Cabrera the ability to run as a candidate.  As a pretext, the  TSE says that Cabrera's vice-presidential candidate, Jordan Rodas, would not meet all legal requirements. This is most likely based on complaints against him for his prior work as the national Ombudsman for Human Rights (Procurador de los Derechos Humanos).  On February 3, the TSE blocked Cabrera from registering as a candidate.  After Cabrera appealed, judges validated the rejection of her candidacy on February 16. As a last chance to be registered for candidacy in the election, Cabrera now has to apply in front of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court. 

In protest of the court's ruling, farmers blocked twelve national highways and the Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP) and supporters took to the streets. Indigenous environmental activist Bernardo Caal Xol stressed that "Preventing the registration of Thelma Cabrera as a presidential candidate is an act of racism." In fact, it is believed that corrupt groups and the far-right have mobilized to prevent Cabrera from running in the elections.

Thelma Cabrera, who already took part in the 2019 presidential elections and won 10% of the votes, has since risen in popularity and is believed to be an actual threat to the right-wing candidates. Thelma Cabrera, the former attorney general, and Jordan Rodas, the former ombudsman for human rights, were fired from their posts by the right-wing administration in Guatemala. Both are now living in exile.  

It is apparent that the Guatemalan ruling body fears a loss of power and an Indigenous, leftist government. The recent protests have shown that especially the Indigenous population is fed up with the rule of a class carrying the legacy of colonialism.        

News Article

Honduras has seen massive oppression towards Indigenous land defenders. In the past two months alone, seven social movement members were assassinated in the northern Honduran Bajo Aguán Valley. All of these murders are traceable to a rising food and African palm industry in the country. The largest for-export player in the Honduran African palm business is the Dinant Corporation, controlled by the most powerful land baron family Facussé. Some members of the infamous Facussé family are already directly implicated as the 'intellectual authors' and financiers of the assassination of prominent land and Indigenous rights defender Berta Cáceres in 2016. For years one of the largest investors and profiteers of Dinant's violent operations was the internationally known World Bank. 

The post below provides summaries and links to a collection of articles on topics like the recent assassination of Hipólito Rivas and his 15-year-old son on February 12, the assassinations of Berta Cáceres and Gregorio Chavez in 2016, the history of violence and oppression in the Bajo Aguán area between 2009 and 2014, the US and Canadian backed coup, activism by Rights Action and  the connections between the food and African palm industry, Dinant Corporation and its business partners like the World Bank and violent land barons.

As one article points out, violence against Indigenous communities and land defenders is far from a local Honduran problem. All over the world, corporations work together with oppressive industrial agriculture land owners, paramilitary groups and friendly governments as a means to smash any opposition and generate as much profit as possible.              

News Article

Only a few days ago we reported on the release of 222 political prisoners from Nicaraguan prisons. Now less than a week later, new, very concerning news reaches us from the country.

On Wednesday February 15, Nicaraguan Appeals Court Justice member Ernesto Rodríguez Mejía declared that the state will immediately cancel the citizenship of 94 political opponents. Rodríguez Majía stated that the 94 individuals were "traitors" and accused them of "spreading false news" and planning a "conspiracy to undermine national integrity." Next to the repealing of citizenship, Rodríguez Majía said that all their properties will be confiscated. It is still unclear under which law the journalists, activists, politicians and former Sandanista rebels were stripped of their citizenship, but a law which would allow the procedure is currently being debated in the National Assembly. However, so far the law has not been approved and can't be used as a legitimization. Many legal experts and activists call the step a political move and suggest that it violates international law. In 1961 the Nicaraguan government, together with many other nations, signed a UN treaty which states clear rules to prevent statelessness. The treaty includes a prohibition of "deprive[ing] any person or group of persons of their nationality on racial, ethnic or political grounds." 

Targets of the most recent move are widespread and even include members of the Sandinistas guerillas and Sandinista government, many of whom got disillusioned in the 1990s and distanced themselves from the government leadership. 

Although a large number of the targeted individuals fled into exile after the 2018 crackdown on political opposition and nongovernmental organizations, the consequences for those still in the country are unclear. 

For the 222 released and expelled a similar story unfolded. All were stripped of their nationality and declared enemies of the state. Shortly after the deportation of the individuals, the Spanish state made an offer for an unrestricted citizenship, while the United States is offering two years of temporary protection.     

News Article

After yet another killing of a Black man by the hands of police officers, the call for police reforms rises once again. On January 7, the 29-year-old Tyre Nichols was stopped in his car two minutes from his home. Shortly after stopping Nichols, the police officers involved started assaulting Nichols, beating him violently. Three days after the attack,  Nichols succumbed to his injuries in a hospital. 

Extreme brutality has been an abscess in United States policing for years. The peak of the violence was reached in 2022, according to the organization Mapping Police Violence. Last year 1,192 individuals were killed in interaction with police forces. The statistics substantiate the fact, that African Americans are by far more likely to be killed by police violence than most other ethnic groups. Even though they only make up 13% of the United States population, 26% of victims killed by police were African American. The racial violence affects others as well. Last year the number of Indigenous Americans who were killed by officers was the highest percentage in relation to their population. But this data does not show the whole spectrum of violent policing. Thousands of injuries are not reported-- a vicious circle that intensifies the chain of state violence.  

The statistics also show that the vast majority of murders occur during non-threatening situations like traffic stops or mental health related incidences, while most of the killings could have been resolved nonviolently. 

As an act of solidarity and  a  means to oppose police violence, the United Church of Christ (UCC) has set up a draft email message to send to congresspeople. The Church also states that the reality of policing does not align with the values of their community.  The UCC urges us to send letters to our congresspersons, calling on Congress to reintroduce the "George Floyd Justice Act," which includes reforms like: 

  • restrictions on no-knock warrants
  • prohibition of choke holds
  • a national police misconduct registry for complaints about mistreatment and violence
  • requiring police officers to complete a training on racial profiling and implicit bias
  • the duty for officers to intervene in case of unjust violence by a colleague

It is apparent that after the devastation that Gorge Floyd's killing has inflicted on the US population, the protests have lost traction and many people have forgotten about police violence.

We have to honor those who were killed by police forces while fighting the system built on violence and xenophobia--and in which officers are allowed to use as much power as they deem "necessary" with out fear of consequences.  

News Article

Unexpected news comes from Nicaragua, as the government has released 222 p0litical prisoners, flew them to the United States on February 9.

The 222 individuals include activists, journalists and key members of the political opposition, like former foreign minister Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa and the two 2021 presidential candidates Cristiana Chamorro and Arturo Cruz. The mass imprisonment in Nicaragua began following a 2018 uprising in which hundreds were killed and thousands injured. The crackdown against opposition intensified in the forerun of the 2021 election as a means to obliterate all opposition to the current government led by Daniel Ortega.

Otrega, who came into power 2007, has so far won every following presidential election in the country. National opposition as well as the US president Joe Biden have doubted the legitimacy of the last election and claiming that it was rigged. 

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, called the release “a constructive step towards addressing human rights abuses” and added, that the move “opens the door to further dialogue between the United States and Nicaragua.”

The Nicaraguan government has so far not commented on the reason for the release, but state-controlled media have shared a statement by magistrate Octavio Rothschuh Andino that the prisoners were deported in order to protect national security, public order and peace. Octavio stated that "The deportees were declared traitors to the motherland."


News Article

Since the new ceasefire in Colombia, the government has announced an immense reduction in violence and especially killings. After nearly six decades of armed conflict, which has cost at least 450,000 lives and displaced millions of Colombians, the new president Gustavo Petro has negotiated a ceasefire with four armed groups which came into effect on December 31, 2022. The Sierra Nevada paramilitaries, Clan de Golfo gang, and two FARC dissident groups have agreed to a halt on fighting. Initially Petro declared an additional ceasefire with the militant ELN group, but this was denied by ELN. Currently the Colombian government is still holding peace talks with the group but is also carrying out attacks on ELN strongholds and leaders.

So far Petro's promise to either negotiate peace or surrender agreements with armed groups seems to be acted on. Although ceasefires are far from actual peace deals, the effects are already visible. Homicides in the areas included in the agreements have decreased by up to 68%. They decreased 

  • 68% in Chocó, a pacific province 
  • 66% in Arauca, at the border to Venezuela
  • 52% in Córdoba   
  • 37% in Magdalena

Furthermore, the government has announced a 50% reduction in mass killings in the first month of the ceasefire. 

News Article

It's almost unbelievable. On Thursday, February 02, 2023 the Biden administration released prisoner Majid Kahn from Guantánmo. Khan, a Pakistani citizen who was born in Saudi Arabia in 1980, moved with his family to the United States as a teenager in 1996. They settled just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. In 1998 the family was granted asylum, but five years later, in 2003, Khan was captured by the CIA. For three years he was held in a secret CIA facility until being transferred to Guantánamo in 2006. In Guantánamo, Khan served an additional 16 years, one of them after he had  already been cleared for release. After his release, Khan was transferred to the small Central American country Belize. In Belize, he is receiving the chance to restart his life, a difficult task for a person who spent half his life in a torture prison. Khan is the sixth inmate released by the Biden administration and only the third who was resettled.

But this is far from a victory! Today 34 individuals still remain imprisoned in the facility. The Biden administration has to keep its word and finally shut down this torture prison for good!      

News Article

For years Colombia has seen a bloody civil war between left-wing guerillas on one hand, and the Colombian state on the other hand. The conflict has cost thousands of lives, and even more displacements and destruction. 

In 1985, after a ceasefire and lengthy negotiations between the FARC guerillas and the Colombian government, the door was opened for a non militant, legal left-wing party, the Patriotic Union (UP). But since its creation the UP was in the cross hairs of opposing right wing actors. To counter the rise of the left, an alliance between politicians, paramilitaries, businessmen and public forces was created and with it a wave of violence and oppression towards the UP rolled over the country. Between 1984, the starting year of the negotiations, until today, at least 6,000 UP members have been victims of systematic violence. This includes:

  • 3,170 executions 
  • 1,596 forced replacements
  • 521 forced disappearances
  • 285 attacks or attempted homicides 

These are only the official numbers; it is likely that the actual number of victims is much higher. Over the years, a culture of impunity for violence against UP members and other left-wing activists was established. This led to a justice system in which the bulk of violence against those individuals stays uninvestigated.  Now, after 39 years of oppression, violence and a culture of impunity,  the Inter-American Court has condemned Colombia for the extermination of the UP party. In its verdict the court concluded that Colombia violates the political rights of the UP party and criticizes the fact that most cases of violence against UP and leftists are never or very ineffectively investigated.

Finally, the court ordered that the Colombian state has to:

  • pay reparations to victims
  • initiate or continue investigations to determine criminal responsibilities, "within a responsible time"  
  • search for victims of forced disappearances, as well as establish a commission to verify the identities and relationships of the victims
  • carry out a public act of recognition of responsibility
  • establish a national day of remembrance
  • build a monument in honor of the victims

Whether all these demands will be fulfilled is still unclear. In a statement, President Gustavo Petro has claimed that the government of Colombia will assure justice "against impunity."

Update, Gustavo Pero announced a payment of reperations. More on that and the crimes against UP members here: 

News Article

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, El Salvador, 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 , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

News Article

For years the United States government's migration policies were deeply interconnected with its ideological struggle against "the Evils of Communism." This brought with it an unequal treatment of South and Central Americans, as well as Caribbean refugees fleeing war, violence and poverty. While the Cold War was splitting the world into two, the United States established an unofficial policy assessing the political and economic risks and benefits of the acceptance of refugees and assigning priorities based on the country of origin. Individuals fleeing socialist countries were granted asylum regularly, while those coming from friendly, capitalist countries were rejected. Irrespective of the often violent and tyrannic regimes supported by the United States, immigrants from these countries were classified as economic refugees and denied entrance in to the United States.

But over time the ideological strategy changed into a more repressive and rejecting approach towards all migration from South and Central American, and Caribbean countries. This is particularly visible in Joe Biden's extension of the xenophobic Title 42 to Cuban, Venezuelan, Haitian and Nicaraguan immigrants.  
Restricted by all Title 42 regulations, these individuals now have to apply for protection status from their home countries, find financial sponsors and have access to air travel to enter the United States. For the four new countries the Biden Administration has set a limit of 30,000 people monthly, over a two year period.

The history of the treatment of immigrants coming from these countries gives insight into the United States' ideological approach, deeming them as victims of communism, while often being responsible for the circumstances driving the migration itself. 

Following the Cuban Revolution and the failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, the United States established an embargo blocking all foreign aid to the island, as well as banning the import of Cuban goods into the United States and any exports going to Cuba. But the attempt to starve the island into submission and erupt protests against the government failed and the country was able to stand against this attack on civil society. Nevertheless, many victims of this economic warfare were driven to leave their homes and leave Cuba. For many years the United States welcomed these "Victims of Communism." But with the Mariel Boatlift of 1980, Cuban mass migration and the "Haiti Refugee Crisis," the mentality towards these groups changed with President Reagen using the War on Drugs to deem refugees as a criminal threat. This marked the kickoff of the still ongoing militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border. Even though the United States still considers Cuba a hostile nation, the political and economic interests shifted.

For Nicaraguan refugees the story is in many contexts similar to that of the Cubans. In the 1980s the United States aided the creation of the Contra paramilitary as an effort to undermine the left-wing FSLN (Sandinista) government. In the United States, Nicaraguans fleeing the violence and destruction of the Nicaraguan revolution and later the civil war between the US-backed Contra and the FSLN were labeled victims of socialism and welcomed in larger numbers than refugees coming from other countries. With the new restriction, this procedure has changed.

Instead of an ideologically driven migration narrative, today's policies are focusing on the accumulation of profit. The prison industrial complex uses the ongoing criminalization of lower-class PoC-communities to gain profits. In the Detention-Industrial Complex, for-profit prison corporations are moving in, building holding facilities, fences and other border security infrastructure as well as maintaining and running them. Motor and arms companies provide the tools border defense forces use to harass, assault and arrest peaceful refugees seeking a safe and stable life. 

The further criminalization of immigrants and militarization of the border sheds a light on the United States' expanding profit-over-people approach to immigration.