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September 20, 2023
In addressing gang violence, El Salvador has become a world leader in imprisonment. Vast numbers of innocent people are jailed in the process. Over 67,000 people are incarcerated in El Salvador right now. This is the second highest per capita carceral rate in the world, surpassed only by the US.
Come hear a report back from a panel of organizers who’ve been collectively stewarding relationships of solidarity for over 100 years, about the context of US policy, and from IRTF members’ recent CIS delegation to El Salvador.
October 7, 2023
This annual in-person event at John Carroll University (with COVID safety protocols) is expected to bring together hundreds of fair trade supporters, advocates, retailers, and vendors from across the state. The Expo will be an opportunity to continue building energy around the already vibrant Ohio fair trade movement and previous Expos. In addition to the Global Marketplace of fair trade vendors, we’ll host educational presentations and panels, including a fair trade fashion show for high school students and our Fair Trade Around the World passport program for kids.
September 19, 2023
Please join US-El Salvador Sister Cities on Tuesday, September 19 at 8pm ET / 5pm PT to discuss current events in El Salvador and ground US policy in history. During this interactive 1.5 hour event, we will cover paths of solidarity and accompaniment. This is a great opportunity to get caught up on the political reality in El Salvador, and to discuss how our work is especially relevant today.
September 12, 2023
On August 23 the campaign to free the Santa Marta and ADES water defenders celebrated a small victory as the judge of the lower court of Sensuntepeque ordered house arrest for the 5 community leaders who had been languishing in jail since January 11, under the horrific conditions of the Salvadoran penitentiary system.
The Water Defenders have been charged with a crime that allegedly occurred in 1989, in the context of the Salvadorean civil war. However, legal experts have pointed out first that the attorney general´s lawyers have failed to provide evidence to warrant their detention, and second, that the National Reconciliation Law of 1992 gave amnesty to FMLN combatants in order to guarantee their transition into civil life. Last June, the legal defense team presented the first application to have the case annulled based on the 1992 National Reconciliation Law, but the application was dismissed on technical grounds. If the second attempt to have the charges dropped fails, then the case will continue its normal course and possibly go to trial after a February 2, 2024, deadline granted to the Attorney General´s lawyers in order to conduct further investigations.
From the beginning, Salvadoran environmental organizations have argued that the detention of the Santa Marta and ADES water defenders had nothing to do with bringing justice to war victims, as the Salvadorean Attorney General claimed, but more as an act of intimidaton to demobilise organized communities of Cabañas. Since 2019, environmentalists have dennounced that the Salvadorean government is slowly taking steps to revert the 2017 mining ban.
September 5, 2023
In the Cleveland EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review, aka Immigration Court), there has been a significant increase in FY23 in both 1) new deportation proceedings filed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and 2) deportation orders issued by Cleveland EOIR immigration judges.
New Deportation Proceedings Filed in Cleveland
FY22 = 940 average per month
FY 23 = 2,015 average per month
Deportation Orders Issued by Judges in Cleveland
FY22 = 293 average per month
FY23 = 449 average per month
IRTF publishes these numbers in the monthly Migrant Justice newsletter, which can be accessed at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/blog .
August 26, 2023
On August 3, the ELN (National Liberation Army) signed a 6-month ceasefire with the government of Colombia. But just one day before, they kidnapped two community leaders in the southwest department of Caquetá.
At 6:30 am on August 2, Alexis Chocho Chamapuro from the Wounaan-Nonán Puerto Pizario reservation was traveling with another 25 passengers in the community boat that provides transportation service to the Port of Colonias in Calima. Six armed men in another motorboat intercepted them between Puerto Pizario and Palestina. The armed men were holding a list and some photographs. They also had with them Geiler Lizalda, member of the Community Council of Palestina, an Afro-descendant community, whom they had forcibly seized from his home. They proceeded on the Río San Juan toward the town of Istmina.
The ELN later admitted to the kidnapping. As of August 25, there has been no word from the ELN whether the two men are still alive.
August 25, 2023
The continued persecution of environmental and territorial defenders in the Aguán Valley is alarming.
Arnold Alemán was one of the eight defenders from Guapinol who were released from prison in February of 2022 after having spent 29 months incarcerated without just cause. Police illegally detained him on August 15 as he, his spouse, and his daughter were returning from a doctor’s appointment at 9pm. Although he had been acquitted of all criminal charges, the police stated that an arrest warrant was still in force. He was later released.
The Municipal Committee in Defense of the Common and Public Goods of Tocoa (CMDBCPT) has denounced since August 2022 a hate and smear campaign that has escalated to surveillance, harassment, and threats against the lives of community leaders who oppose concessions given to Inversiones Los Pinares to mine iron oxide inside the Carlos Escaleras National Park. CMDBCPT has also warned that agribusiness corporations are surveilling and planning to assassinate campesino leadership because of the campesino cooperatives’ efforts to reclaim stolen lands (land recuperation). Indeed, two Guapinol defenders have been assassinated this year (cf our letters 24 JAN 2023, 21 JUN 2023).
We are urging that the government of Honduras establish protocols to expunge arrest warrants for defenders who have been granted their freedom, and create protocol to share the records across the judiciary, Public Ministry, and police.
August 24, 2023
Almost 30 years after the end of the armed conflict, Indigenous families in Guatemala are still feeling the violent effects of displacement and genocide.
This month we wrote to authorities about a violent eviction carried out by the Guatemalan National Police (PNC) on a Maya Indigenous campesino community in Kumatz, Barrillas municipality, Huehuetenango Department.
On July 19, 2023, the governor ordered 2,500 officers of the National Civil Police (PNC), including riot police, to carry out the violent eviction of these Indigenous families from their ancestral lands. Several community members, both men and women, were physically assaulted by police and dragged out by their hair. The following day, the families’ houses, personal belongings, and livestock were burned by the private security forces of private landowners who have been accused by the community of arbitrarily appropriating their land during the internal armed conflict.
Since the families returned to reclaim their ancestral lands after decades of displacement, they have been met with harassment, surveillance, and armed violence by the private finqueros (plantation owners) now occupying their lands, culminating in a shooting in June 2023 that left two Q’anjob’al Mayan farmers dead (cf our letter of 24 JUN 2023).
With the future of the community of Kumatz uncertain, we are urging that authorities legally settle the land dispute, recognizing the ancestral stewardship of this land by the Maya Indigenous peoples and their forced displacement during the internal armed conflict.
August 23, 2023
Land disputes are at the root of much of the state-sponsored violence in Honduras. There are many tracts of land that campesino families were given under previous programs of agrarian reform, but private landholders and companies still challenge the land titles.
In Yoro, 700 campesino families recently experienced firsthand the crushing violence of the state in its support of private companies. Azucarera del Norte SA (Azunosa) filed a civil lawsuit against the peasant organizations in the Guanchías sector, but no legal resolution has been determined. Instead, more than 100 police officers arrived on August 9 with tanks and other armored vehicles to force the campesino families to leave within two hours. They evicted about 3,000 people, united in at least 30 cooperatives. Crops and homes were burned in this egregious act of illegal state violence. Just the day before, the campesino organizations had signed an agreement with the Honduran Institute of Agricultural Marketing (IHMA) to sell their corn. But on August 9, police burned about 865 acres of corn, which would have yielded approximately 626,000 pounds of the essential grain in a nation the United Nations declared has 4.9 million suffering from moderate to mild food insecurity.
Recently, the government of President Xiomara Castro installed the Commission for Agrarian Security and Access to Land (Comisión de Seguridad Agraria y Acceso a la Tierra). Although the Commission has the objective of settling disputes over land titles, violent evictions have increased since its inception.
August 23, 2023
In this monthly newsletter, we highlight the work of Ohio Immigrant Alliance in advocating for the asylum rights of Black Mauritanians.
Black, African and Caribbean migrants seeking safety in the United States have been treated unfairly for decades. They are subject to deportation proceedings at a higher rate than other migrants. They are denied asylum at higher rates. They have higher rates of detention and solitary confinement. All of this is rooted in institutionalized racism.
The racist treatment of Black migrants is very much reflected in Ohio’s sole immigration court (Cleveland) where deportation proceedings against Mauritanians are disproportionately represented. While Cleveland is just one of 69 immigration courts, 18% of all deportation proceedings filed against Mauritanians have been filed in Cleveland this fiscal year (11,623 nationally; 2,146 Ohio).
In the Take Action section, you can learn more about Ohio Immigrant Alliance’s efforts to get DHS (Dept of Homeland Security) to designate TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for Mauritanians. If granted TPS, they would not be placed into deportation proceedings.
Read this monthly newsletter in its entirety at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/blog.