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Environmental Human Rights: News & Updates

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The implications of the Monroe Doctrine in Mexico, Central America, and Honduras, highlighting the failures of US policies like the Merida Initiative and drug war strategies. It emphasizes the devastating impact on these regions, resulting in violence, human rights abuses, and corruption. The focus is on adopting new paradigms, shifting away from punitive drug policies to prioritize human well-being, domestically and internationally. It also sheds light on the US influence in Honduras, pointing out interventions, support for corrupt regimes, and obstructing reforms. Furthermore, it addresses immigration, stressing the need for a humane approach rather than militarization. Recommendations include investigating DEA activities, reforming drug policies, anti-militarism measures, non-interference in Honduran affairs, and prioritizing human rights in immigration reforms.

 
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Beatriz's case, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, reflects El Salvador's stringent anti-abortion laws. Denied the termination of her pregnancy despite grave health risks, Beatriz's plea was rejected by the Salvadoran Supreme Court, citing the child's rights over the mother's. Eventually, after intervention from the IACHR, a delayed cesarean section led to the baby's death and worsened Beatriz's health. This case symbolizes the repercussions of El Salvador's severe abortion restrictions, especially affecting marginalized women. Despite hope for justice, the country's political landscape remains staunchly against abortion rights. Similar challenges have been seen in Manuela's case, where the IACHR ruled in her favor posthumously. The government's resistance to acknowledging these violations showcases its alignment with conservative factions. This stance, influenced by international right-wing groups, reflects a growing regression on abortion rights in El Salvador.

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Colombian President Gustavo Petro challenges traditional diplomatic norms in a beachside Dubai interview, emphasizing the urgency of addressing climate change. He advocates for a global shift away from fossil fuels, positioning Colombia as a model for decarbonization. Petro, known for his unconventional style and leftist views, proposes using financial institutions to reduce debt in exchange for environmental protection. Internationally, he plays a crucial role in COP28, supporting a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Despite ideological differences, Petro's approach aligns with a growing global consensus to phase out fossil fuels amid escalating climate concerns

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Panama's Supreme Court declared a new mining contract with a Canadian firm unconstitutional, concluding over a month of widespread protests. The contract, fast-tracked by Congress, aimed to boost profits but faced opposition from unions, teachers, students, and Indigenous groups. The mine, operated by First Quantum, contributed 5% to Panama's GDP. The court ruling sets a precedent against foreign companies exploiting lax rules, reflecting a broader resistance to short-term gains at the expense of environmental damage and national identity. Central America Studies scholar Jorge Cuéllar sees the ruling as curbing extreme extractive industry practices and protecting Panama's natural patrimony.

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Guatemala Election Watch #44

An important summary of the Indigenous reality of what "Guatemala" is, for more than 500 years, now leading the struggle in defense of the August 20, 2023 election results, and the construction of a different Guatemala for the future.

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Yuly Velásquez, an environmental activist in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, has survived three assassination attempts in two years for her efforts to expose water pollution in the industrial city. Colombia is deemed the most perilous country for environmental defenders, with 60 activists murdered in 2022. Latin America faces the highest number of killings, attributed to the region's active civil society and Indigenous groups. Despite Colombia's biodiversity and improved security post a 2016 peace treaty, criminal groups, drug traffickers, and corrupt officials persistently target activists. Velásquez, facing threats since denouncing irregularities in a city contract, emphasizes the environmental fight's importance despite risks. The government's response includes a protection program and the Escazú Agreement, yet killings rose in 2022, highlighting ongoing challenges. Velásquez remains determined, stating the fight must continue for the environment.

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Amnesty International declared that El Salvador is undergoing a severe human rights crisis, attributing it to President Nayib Bukele's aggressive anti-gang measures. The report alleges that the approximately 74,000 individuals detained in the crackdown faced "systematic use of torture and other mistreatment." The Americas director for Amnesty International, Ana Piquer, expressed deep concern over the documented deterioration in human rights, linking it to Bukele's repressive security policy and the erosion of the rule of law. The report, based on 83 interviews, highlighted instances of abuse, while former inmates, interviewed by The Associated Press, recounted severe beatings by prison guards. Critics argue that Bukele's broad sweep in detaining suspected gang members has ensnared individuals based on factors like low-wage jobs, limited education, or place of residence. Local rights groups claim 327 people are missing, and at least 190 have died due to the crackdown. Despite the controversial policy's success in reducing the homicide rate and boosting Bukele's popularity, he aims to seek re-election, challenging a constitutional prohibition.

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Honduran authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Daniel Atala Midence, the alleged mastermind behind the murder of Indigenous environmental leader Berta Cáceres. Cáceres, known for opposing the construction of an internationally financed hydroelectric dam, was assassinated in her home in 2016. Atala Midence, the former financial manager of the dam company Desa, is part of a powerful political and economic family. Desa's president, David Castillo, previously sentenced to 22 years and six months for his role in the assassination, also ran the company. Atala Midence, implicated in running operations, was excused from testifying in Castillo's trial due to being under investigation. The majority shareholders of Desa, Atala Midence's father and uncles, were not implicated. Cáceres's children welcomed the charges, seeking justice. Cáceres, coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), opposed the Agua Zarca dam project and was murdered by hired hitmen. The dam, sanctioned after a 2009 coup, lacked compliance with environmental and community requirements. The current president, Xiomara Castro, has not commented on the case.

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Park ranger Adonias Cruz, part of a team monitoring illegal oil palm crops in Honduras, faced a death threat at his home. The dangerous nature of their work stems from groups involved in palm oil exploitation and drug trafficking. Palm oil, a lucrative export for Honduras, poses environmental risks, threatening biodiversity and water quality. The cultivation boom, fueled by financial incentives, has also led to illegal plantations, impacting national parks. Drug traffickers invest in oil palm to legitimize income, control territory, and exploit government incentives. Environmental activists, combating illegal plantations, face deadly consequences, with Honduras being the deadliest country for them. Despite efforts, including the establishment of the Green Battalion, logistical challenges and corruption hinder effective protection against illegal oil palm activities.

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Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is a facet of international law enabling private corporations to sue governments impeding their profits. This mechanism, embedded in bilateral investment treaties (BITs), often favors wealthy states, compelling less powerful nations to accept ISDS provisions for market access. ISDS allows corporations to challenge governmental actions, even those addressing public health or environmental concerns. The dystopian nature of ISDS is exemplified in the case of Honduras Próspera, a US company attempting to establish a libertarian enclave in Honduras. Despite the Honduran government's efforts to repeal laws facilitating this project, Honduras Próspera initiated an $11 billion ISDS case. Progressive International launched a campaign, denouncing this as 'corporate colonialism' and highlighting the broader threat to global South nations challenging corporate influence through democratic means. The situation underscores the ongoing struggle against neoliberalism and neocolonialism, emphasizing the importance of international solidarity to secure economic and political rights.

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