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Afro-Descendant & Indigenous: News & Updates
March 25, 2021
In Nicaragua, governmental recognition of land rights was the first step in tackling incursions by non-Indigenous settlers from western Nicaragua and the violent conflicts they sometimes produce. But because colonization of Indigenous territories has been taking place for decades, taking the next steps – delineation of the territories, dealing with illegal titles (primarily given under previous governments) and potentially removing settlers – is a complex process that involves delicate negotiation and agreement at the local level. Sadly but inevitably, the invasions by settlers have become another issue on which to attack Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. Also, Nicaragua briefs and updates are included.
March 25, 2021
Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante, age 41, was president of the Nueva Granada Board of Trustees and a leader of the local Lenca indigenous community in his hometown of Chinda, Santa Bárbara Department. On March 21, unknown assailants fired 40 shots at him in front of his children as they were returning from his mother’s house in the village of Nueva Granada, municipality of San Antonio in Cortés Department. Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante led Communities United of Chinda, a local group opposing the “El Tornillito” hydroelectric dam that is being constructed by HIDROVOLCÁN (Hidroeléctrica El Volcán Company) in hamlets near the Rio Ulúa. This dam, which will be the second largest in Honduras, will mean the disappearance of ten communities of an indigenous Lenca population because the livestock, crops and houses of these two municipalities would drown, and their inhabitants would be forced to move.
March 22, 2021
A Honduran Lenca Indigenous activist who helped led a fight against the construction of a dam has been killed. Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante led a local group called “Communities United,” which was active in hamlets near the Rio Ulúa and which opposed the El Tornillito hydroelectric dam. He was shot dead in front of his children. “We condemn the killing of yet another comrade and activist,” said Betty Vásquez, the coordinator of the Santa Barbara Environmental Movement. “It is not conceivable, it is not right, that they criminalize people, persecute people and later kill them for defending the land. We consider this a political assassination.”
La Lucha Sigue: The Struggle Continues. A film festival in honor of World Water Day, presented by SOA Watch
March 20, 2021 to March 21, 2021
SOA Watch presents a 2-day film festival as a celebration of World Water Day and the communities that put their lives on the line to defend it. Each film will be followed by a community specific panel with fierce Indigenous and Black women leaders. A large group discussion with all the women warriors together will close out the festival. Join us to hear directly from the visionary frontline leaders that are building a global movement to protect the earth, put health over wealth, and show people that another world is possible. Greed and destruction is not our destiny. Free: www.soaw.org
March 16, 2021
President Biden has taken steps to address some urgent needs in the immigration system, but deportations and expulsions continue. Previous and current administrations have failed in their legal duty to protect the human rights of all migrants, particularly Indigenous peoples. The Biden administration needs to recognize, consult, and directly engage with the leadership of Indigenous and Black migrants.
Thank you NISGUA for the petition and image.
March 13, 2021
We wrote to officials in Colombia because of our concern for the safety of church leaders who are speaking out against armed violence. We are especially concerned that Bishop Ruben Dario Jaramillo, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca Department, is receiving death threats. The bishop told a radio journalist on March 3 that he received a death threat via WhatsApp and was warned he could become the victim of a bomb attack. We are concerned that paramilitary organizations are succeeding in seizing control over several districts of Buenaventura because the local security forces are complicit in allowing them to do so. The paramilitary groups are trying to impose their control in the city through fear, various extortionist tactics, and advertising what they call a “social cleansing” in the city. In the process, they are forcibly recruiting youth. The ongoing violence in Buenaventura is a clear example of how impunity for paramilitary actors threatens the true possibility of peace.
March 12, 2021
We urge protection for Wounan Phobur indigenous leader Ricardo Gonzáles Chirimia, a director of the Association of Communities Building Peace in Colombia (CONPAZCOL); he is being threatened in Buenaventura, Colombia. In 2003 paramilitaries forcibly displaced Ricardo Gonzáles Chirimia and his community from Bajo Calima village. In order to preserve their cultural identity, he and many of his indigenous community members temporarily settled in a small area designated by the Community Council del Bajo Calima. Since then they have been waiting for the national government’s Territory Renewal Agency (ART) to designate another site for definitive relocation. We are urging that (1) authorities investigate the threat received by Ricardo Gonzáles Chirimia, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice; (2) the National Protection Unit activate preventative protection measures, in consultation with Ricardo Gonzáles Chirimia, and according to his wishes; and (3) the Territory Renewal Agency (ART) guarantee the definitive relocation of the Wounan Phobur indigenous community as soon as possible.
March 11, 2021
Criminal groups vying for control of illegal economies in Buenaventura, a port city on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, have long caused violence. In addition, the city’s majority Afro-Colombian population lacks access to necessities like clean water, decent jobs, and educational opportunities. Recently, residents have been raising awareness and calling for major policy changes to address both the current conflict and underlying issues.
March 11, 2021
The Department of Antioquia was hardest hit by a wave of violence in February, due mostly to the predominance of the paramilitary group Clan del Golfo (Gulf Clan) in the region. Our letter to the president and attorney general of Colombia includes these incidents of horrific violence: a massacre of five farm workers, assassinations, threats to school teachers, and a 13-year old indigenous boy who lost his leg when he stepped on a landmine. We are urging that authorities in Colombia: (1) take all necessary steps to fully implement the 2016 Peace Accords, (2) immediately finalize the National Commission on Security Guarantees’ public policy for dismantling armed groups and their networks, and (3) strengthen the Special Investigation Unit to identify and prosecute both the material assailants and intellectual authors of attacks on human rights defenders and former combatants.
March 11, 2021
Criminal groups vying for control of illegal economies in Buenaventura, a port city on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, have long caused violence. In addition, the city’s majority Afro-Colombian population lacks access to necessities like clean water, decent jobs, and educational opportunities. Recently, residents have been raising awareness and calling for major policy changes to address both the current conflict and underlying issues. Over the last few weeks people have organized marches and protests to demand the attention and help they need. Young people have taken an especially active role in organizing, using the hashtag #SOSBuenaventura on social media to publicize their efforts.