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In Guatemala the struggle for water protection has been grueling for activists and inhabitants of reserves alike. In few areas is this as visible as in Huehuetenango, an department that borders Mexico. This natural paradise containing rivers, forests and mountains is home to a majority Indigenous population,  cultivating coffee and other native crops. But the diverse and untouched land is endangered. More and more immigrants moving northwards and being funneled through Huehuetenango as well as the rapid militarization of the Mexican border disturbs the peace. And that is only the slightest problem. For years, more and more corporations and mining actors have been invading the land, robbing it of its natural resources and poisoning and privatizing water for use in production. To protect their profits, corporations build up militarized and violent security networks. Support for these activities comes from the Guatemalan state, which in coalition with invaders, uses military grade equipment against civilians who are demanding their right to clean and safe water supplies. 

But the habitants are putting up a fierce fight for the security of their homes and utilities with their weapon of choice, community organizing. In 2016 hundreds of mostly poor and Indigenous protesters joined forces in Guatemala City to fight for water protection. Events like these are not only important as a means to put forward their demands, but also serve as get-togethers and  conferences to discuss strategies and goals. For the Huehuetenago residents, this means establishing municipal water protection in 31 communities in their western  territory.

Although the organizing on a municipal level may seem inefficient, the communities have good reason for this strategy. The so-called Municipal Water Agreements state that under national and international law, the Guatemalan government is responsible for the insurance of its peoples survival, a duty that can only be fulfilled by the protection of water as an essential resource. If this agreement would pass, it would make the privatization of water illegal and punishable by law. This is a major blow to mining companies. But for the law to come into effect, the agreement has to be signed by all municipal mayors, an unlikely event. Thirty-three mayors have allied themselves with the industry, being spoiled by political power and bribery. The only way to push these mayors to support the project is an organized community that builds up pressure as a means to save their livelihood. To reach free and organized communities, activists get together to educate the residents by providing workshops, posters, having individual conversations with the community, and organizing events to establish a united voice in the struggle for water and land protection. 

But a dark shadow lies over the organizations and their leaders. Internationally, Guatemala is known for its violence against activists with many ending up in prison or even dead. In Guatemala the rate of environmentalists killed is one of the highest in the world. 

We need to shed a light on this violence by the state and companies alike, while learning from the water protection fighters. There is an urgent need for international solidarity in the fight for human rights as well as the preservation of our planet.         

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After an attack on an Indigenous community in a territory belonging to the Miskito, Mayangna and other indigenous groups, Nicaraguan police have arrested 24 invading settlers. The 22 men and two women allegedly were armed with machetes, sticks and stones during the assault but were overwhelmed and detained by community members. The residents handed the offenders over to the police who took the group to jail. Officials stated that the attackers will be charged with organized crime, land seizure and environmental crimes, but activists and residents doubt that the investigations will be followed through. 

This was the first large arrest and announcement of detention since the beginning of the invasion of non-Indigenous settlers years ago. So far the authorities are known for their slow investigations or ignorance towards these crimes. 

Since the beginning of the logging invasion into the Mayangna's and Miskito's land in 2015, at least 28 community members and leaders have been killed and 3,000 displaced. So far big mining and logging companies have invaded 60% of the Indigenous territory, bringing in at least 5,000 settlers many of whom are former soldiers. 

Indigenous communities denounced the government for a lack of protection. Authorities deny these accusations.

To efficiently protect Indigenous land and communities, it is not enough to call the government for help. The perpetrator in this injustice is an industry of mass production which puts profit over the environment and the communities suffering from their land exploitation. We need to support Indigenous communities in their struggle for peace and defense against these offenders.

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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: 

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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.        

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Friday, January 13. Without any notice towards the wider public, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a proclamation of a new workers' rights policy carrying the unexciting headline “DHS Announces Process Enhancements for Supporting Labor Enforcement Investigations.” The policy specifically aims to support undocumented immigrant workers who are victims of abusive working conditions, wage theft or exploitation. It grants a new level of protection to whistle blowers, speaking out on behalf of exploited workers, and implements a system in which victims are able to report abuse and other mistreatment at a local, state or federal level. The new protection takes away workers fear of retaliation by making it easier to apply for temporary protection from detention and deportation at the DHS. Workers who are granted so-called “deferred action” will be allowed to stay and work legally while their employers are being investigated, and perhaps longer.   
Worker advocacy groups have been pushing the Biden Administration since day one, demanding a safe way of reporting abuse and exploitation. This is especially necessary considering the fact that undocumented immigrant workers make up the back bone of the US economy and have kept the country running during the Covid 19 pandemic. But the new policy is not only a victory for undocumented immigrant workers, allowing them to speak out without fear and putting pressure on employers to resolve grievances, as oppressive working conditions often affect citizen workers as well. Holding employers accountable for their actions is a necessary first step in any labor struggle.

Now it's on the Biden Administration to promote and defend this important new policy, for as long as the oppressed working people don't know about it, the new whistleblower system will be useless.

But even though this is a new milestone in workers' rights, one thing is clear. To end the system of abusive and oppressive labor established in the United States and abroad, all working people, regardless of race, legal status or field of work, have to unite in the struggle for workers rights!  

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For years Colombian social leaders and human rights activists have been living in fear. Every year more than a hundred lose their lives due to violent attacks and assassinations. But 2022 marks a sickening new record in this bloodshed with 225 recorded killings of these important members of society. Over the cause of the year illegal armed groups have been intensifying the violence, especially in major drug trafficking areas. In a statement, the government's ombudsman Carlos Camargo said, "It's a serious impact on the basis of democracy, because these are leaders who take up the concerns of the people, who are spokespersons and who work for a country where human rights are respected."

Despite the newly elected President Gustavo Petro's pushes for peace, the violence is still ongoing. Striving for peace, Petro has started talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), plans on implementing a peace agreement with remaining dissident FARC fighters and bring gang violence to a halt and members to justice, by offering a reduced sentence to those who surrender.

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For Years activists in Atlanta have been in the fight opposing the project "Cop City" which aims to tear down a local forest, to build the biggest police training facility in the nation. The predominantly Black, underserved local residents oppose the project. They had hoped that the area--a canopy of trees that serve as a buffer against climate change--would be turned into a municipal park instead of a symbol of oppression.

A week ago, at the site of the protests, 26-year-old environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita) was shot dead by an Georgia State Trooper inside his tent. Hearing about it from Panama City, Panama where she lives, Manuel's mother said: “they killed him … like they tear down trees in the forest – a forest Manuel loved with passion.”

Manuel Esteban Paez Terán ¡PRESENTE!