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In Jericó, Colombia, farmers and villagers are resisting the construction of a large copper mine by AngloGold Ashanti, fearing it will harm their water supply and agricultural livelihood. The company, seeking to extract significant amounts of copper, gold, and silver, has faced opposition from locals who blocked environmental impact studies necessary for the mining license. The town is divided, with some residents supporting the mine for its economic benefits, including job creation and community investments. Despite these benefits, environmental concerns and potential impacts on local water sources have fueled protests. The project remains stalled, awaiting further environmental studies and government approval.

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During the time of the military government of Romeo Lucas García (1978-1982), the Guatemalan state and army designed and implemented its policy of genocide. While Romero Lucas García was in power, more than 1,700 people were victims of the crimes of genocide, forced disappearance and crimes against humanity by the military operations deployed in the Maya Ixil region. Currently, two former military chiefs will face trial for these crimes in the Ixil Lucas García Genocide Case.

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Since January 2023 when the Bukele administration arrested five water defenders in Cabañas Department on criminal allegations from 34 years ago, IRTF has been part of an international campaign to Free the Santa Marta 5. The five community leaders from Cabañas Department were instrumental in the national campaign—a 13-year mobilization—that led to the national ban on open-pit metal mining—the first in the world! They fought against the Pacific Rim company (aka OceanaGold) because there would be untold contamination of regional waterways.

President Bukele’s crackdown on gangs and violent crime that he calls the State of Exception (initiated in March 2022) has resulted in suspension of constitutional rights, mass arrests and mass incarceration. Many critics have pointed out that Bukele’s crackdown on violent crime is being used to mask arrests of political dissidents. President Bukele, in efforts to attract foreign investment, is suspected of wanting to get rid of the monumental national ban on open-pit metal mining.

TAKE ACTION: We need folks in the U.S. to call on their congresspersons to 1) reach out to the US State Department and encourage them to call for due process and send representatives to observe the trial of the Santa Marta 5; 2) tweet to demand that the charges against the #SantaMarta5 be dropped; 3) take action to halt US police and military assistance to El Salvador in light of the suspension of constitutional rights and mass incarceration currently happening under President Bukele’s State of Exception (State of Emergency). 

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Contact us with any questions: irtf@irtfcleveland.org or (216) 961 0003.

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Over 700 campesinos in Cartagena del Chairá, Colombia, are restoring 4,762 hectares of degraded rainforest, planting nearly a million trees in a deforestation hotspot. Collaborating with researchers from SINCHI and the Association of Community Action Boards (Asojuntas), they have documented over 600 plant and 100 animal species. This initiative, involving environmental education and restoration activities for all ages, has inspired many youths to pursue environmental careers. Economic pressures previously drove deforestation, but now, communities are actively replanting and protecting the forest, valuing its biodiversity and ecological importance. The restoration project has fostered environmental awareness and a commitment to sustainable development among locals, with a long-term vision of a greener, biodiverse future.

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The Northeast Ohio Worker Center (NEOWC) and the Young Latino Network have partnered to host monthly wage theft clinics to educate and empower workers in the region. Wage theft, which includes unpaid overtime and misclassification of workers, is a significant issue, costing workers billions annually. The NEOWC, established in 2019, aims to support non-unionized workers by educating them about their rights and connecting them with legal services. The clinics provide bilingual support and help workers understand and exercise their labor rights, including protections against discrimination and wage theft, regardless of immigration status. The NEOWC offers various resources and referrals to assist workers in advocating for fair treatment in the workplace.

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News articles in this month’s Migrant Justice Update:

(1) See Us. Here Us. #ReuniteUS. (2) ICE Air: Update on Removal Flight Trends. (3) Migration Declining. (4)  At the Border: Recent Incidents at and around the US-Mexico Border. (5) Guatemalan Youth Defy Tragedy, Continue Trek to US Despite Familial Losses.  (6) Kidnapping of Migrants and Asylum Seekers at the Texas-Tamaulipas Border Reaches Intolerable Levels.  (7) President-elect of Panama pledges to close the Darién Gap.  (8) Trans & Nonbinary Migrants File Complaint Over Treatment at ICE Detention Facility in Colorado

TAKE ACTION items:

(A) Migrant Families in Cleveland Need Household Items. (B) Root Causes: Cut US Militarism in Latin America. (C) Root Causes: Stop Deportation Flights to Haiti. (D) Root Causes: Redesignate TPS for Nicaraguans. (E) Support Migrants in Detention.

 

Immigration enforcement continues to be top of mind for many in the US electorate. We’re likely to see the two presidential candidates duke it out on who pledges to be tougher on immigration.

With changes in presidential administrations in two of the countries that the US sees as crucial partners in stemming migration (Panama and Mexico), it’ll be interesting to see how things unfold over the next several months leading up to the US elections on November 5.

In Panama, conservative José Raúl Mulino was elected on May 5 and will be sworn in on July 1. He has  pledged to close down the treacherous Darién Gap, through which more than a half a million migrants crossed last year. “The border of the United States, instead of being in Texas, moved to Panama.” He also pledged to “repatriate all these people.”

In Mexico, a new president will be elected on June 2 and inaugurated on October 1. The Biden Administration has worked closely with the current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to stem the steady streams of immigration into Mexico headed toward the US southern border.  Mexico has been cracking down on migrants at the Guatemala border and within its borders.  Mexico’s migration enforcement set a record in November 2023 with 97,969 apprehensions, only to break that record in January 2024 (120,005 apprehensions) followed by a short dip in February (119,943). And the Mexican government is busing migrants away from its northern border and sending them to destinations deep in the country’s interior or back to the southern border.  The large numbers of people currently bottled up throughout Mexico is causing harm to migrants and is unsustainable.

The next administration in the US will face political challenges with respect to border enforcement. Thousands of migrants currently in Mexico will likely try to head north again—not to mention the thousands yet to depart their home countries. Migrant justice advocates in the US continue to stress the urgent need for an increase in funding for the asylum process and efficient adjudication of those cases. The system dedicates fewer than 725 judges to a backlog of 3 million cases. The US government needs to invest in an immigration and asylum system that is faster, fairer, more humane, and sustainable.

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A new report from the Organization of American States (OAS) highlights the severe human rights crisis in Honduras, focusing on violence against environmental defenders, particularly in agrarian land disputes affecting Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. The report underscores that many human rights abuses, including threats, murders, and violence, are disproportionately targeted at those defending the environment, land, and territory. The OAS recommends that the Honduran government improve land titling and strengthen institutions to hold perpetrators accountable. Long-standing agrarian conflicts, inadequate land titles, and large-scale industrial projects have exacerbated violence and social unrest. The report calls for better legislation to protect collective territories and ensure prior consultation processes for affected communities.

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San Pedro Sula, Honduras, currently has the worst air quality in the Americas due to forest fires exacerbated by El Niño and climate change. IQAir reported PM2.5 levels at 249.1 mcg/m³, far above the WHO's safe limit of 5 mcg/m³. Authorities have issued high-level health warnings, closed schools, and advised residents to stay indoors. The health sector has seen a 20% rise in respiratory infections, with increased emergencies among children and seniors.

Thick smog has disrupted air travel, forcing flight diversions and airport closures. The El Niño phenomenon has intensified droughts and wildfires, particularly affecting Central America's "dry corridor." Over 2,500 fires have burned 211,292 hectares in Honduras this year. La Tigra national park near Tegucigalpa was nearly destroyed, harming the ecosystem.

Officials warn that without policy changes, such environmental crises could become more frequent, threatening millions. The International Federation of the Red Cross anticipates more climate-related disasters across Central America, highlighting the need for enhanced response preparations.

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