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'Systematic' human rights abuse. With these words the human rights organization Amnesty International has described El Salvador's anti-gang efforts in a report on April 3.

More than a year ago, the Salvadoran Bukele government has established a still ongoing "state of exception" in an effort to combat gang activities in the country. Since the first introduction, the state of exception, which only stays active for a month on a time, has been renewed 12 times, and with every additional month the devastating consequences of Bukele's strategy are worsening.      

According to Amnesty International, government security forces and the national judicial sector have committed wide spread human rights violations, such as mass arrests, torture, forced disappearances and the denial of a fair process. In the course of the last year, more than 66,000 individuals have been detained, many of whom not even having any gang affiliation. Furthermore, according to Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, at least 132 individuals have died in custody. Guevara-Rosas stated that, “The systematic violation of human rights and the dismantling of the rule of law are not the answer to the problems facing the country.”

Despite the international criticism, Bukele is holding on to his iron fist crack down strategy, and his popularity has only been surging since the implementation of the state of exception. Only a few months ago, the largest of Bukele's projects, a new mega-prison called "Terrorism Confinement Center" was finished. So far, the prison has a population of 4,000 despite having the capacity to hold up to 40,000 individuals, but this is believed to change soon. Proud of the arrest and the "Confinement Center," Bukele stated: “This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, all mixed, unable to do any further harm to the population.”   

In their report Amnesty International condemns the reliance on imprisonment, with Guevara-Rosas saying that “The dehumanization that thousands of unjustly imprisoned people are suffering is intolerable.”

IRTF supports Amnesty International's denunciation of the Salvadoran anti-gang crackdown. We believe that the problem of gang violence can not be solved by more violence and imprisonment. We call for a solution that goes to the roots of the problem like poverty, ghettoization, the lack of future prospects for the youth, and one that actually protects the innocent population instead of criminalizing them.   

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Today, March 21, marks the International Day against Racism. As IRTF we will stay on the forefront of the fight against racism. Only if this parasite, which puts one live over another, is defeated, a peaceful and solidaric society will bloom!

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Last Saturday, March 18, marked the International Day of Political Prisoners. Around the world hundreds of thousands are imprisoned for supporting political movements, taking part in protests or not complying with their governments' will. As IRTF we stand with all jailed activists and especially the thousands unrightfully imprisoned in Central America and the US. By the day, more and more critical voices are being silenced and peoples' rights are taken away. As a tool for intimidation, political imprisonment has been used excessively by oppressive regimes around the world.

But regardless of the fear this repression may cause in us, we have to remember: They can't arrest us all!

Our strength lies in solidarity! 

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The following article by the long time fair trade activist Kim Lamberty gives insight into the challenges Fair Trade businesses and producers face in a world run on profits and competition. In her years as an organizer and as the founder of the coffee non-profit "Just Haiti," Kim was confronted with a number of difficulties, one of which is pricing. As a fair trade business, Just Haiti requires paying  producers a living wage which can support them and their families. This ambition is hard to retain on a commodity market that keeps the price for a pound of coffee down at $1.90. For Just Haiti and other fair trade businesses that pay high enough to sustain small farms, it means they have to operate as a non-profit with volunteer labor outside of production. In addition to the low prices, rising inflation puts heavy pressure on producers and fair trade businesses.

While one might think that a rise in commodity prices would help farmers to sell their products at higher profits and lift them out of their fatal financial position, that is only partly true. Since most of the farmers living under the poverty line spend most their earnings on food and other utilities for their families, the higher commodity prices come back around and pull even more people into poverty. This exploitation of working families and the ongoing impoverishment becomes especially disgusting when taking into account the fact that quarterly profits in the U.S. non-financial sector have skyrocketed. Within the last two years, profits went up by more than 80%, adding up to a profit of $2 trillion in the 3rd quarter of 2022. To make such a rise in profits possible, corporations increase their prices under the veil of commodity prices, in many cases even surpassing the increase in production and commodity costs.

This kind of behavior by international corporations make it evident that there is more to the struggle for fair business trading than most people expect. If change is to come, production and prices of these goods have to be rethought. The first step is holding corporations accountable for the treatment of their workers as well as cutting dividends for investors as well as salaries and bonuses for CEO's. But it's not all on the businesses. For years, consumer pressure has kept prices low, keeping producers in poverty and actively depressing wages. It is apparent that these systematic problems require a systematic solution. 

To change this inequality, all of us can take measures. We need to organize and educate ourselves as well as our communities on ways to support those who struggle and oppose corporate greed. We can invest and buy from companies paying fair wages. We can make sure not to buy from companies with exploitive off-shore contractors, and we can support non-profits like the Quixote Center, which invest in small partner businesses in Haiti. The Quixote Center additionally works to invest national aid dollars into small community-based businesses to keep profits within these communities and out of the hands of exploitive corporations.  

As conscious people, we all must stand up against corporate crimes against workers, communities and the planet!

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Emily Terry is a former student intern who has recently joined the IRTF Board of Trustees. In her letter, Emily traces the journey of her grandparents and parents in their resistance to racial segregation and her own working class, Catholic upbringing that have brought her to where she is today—committed to building a more peaceful and just world.

“I am proud to serve on the Board of Trustees with organizers who recognize that radical solidarity must transcend geographical boundaries. I invite friends of the organization to join us in the fight for social, economic, and environmental justice. Please consider making a gift to IRTF so we can continue to work toward collective liberation.”

Now in our fourth decade, we hope you’ll consider a gift of $40 or more toward the $25,000 we need to raise this spring to keep building our movement of solidarity with marginalized and vulnerable communities in Latin America, at our border, on the streets of Cleveland, and together with movements across the Americas resisting environmental destruction, racial violence, land displacement, labor exploitation, the criminalization of human rights defenders and more.  To make a tax-deductible contribution, see or send your check to: IRTF, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113

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On February 20, the Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) hosted a webinar to launch its new report:  US Intervention Monitor Report: One Year of Xiomara Castro, One More Year of US Intervention in Honduras. With the participation of more than 90 people, primary report author Karen Spring related how the US State Department has been reacting to, responding to, and intervening in the reforms that President Castro is trying to put forward. Many of her policy initiatives are campaign promises she made  in response to calls from communities all over the country who have suffered tremendously during the 12 years of the narco-dictatorship.  Continuous interference from the US is aimed at  weakening the Honduran government’s agenda and undermining President Castro’s progressive platform.

Things got so bad that on October 31, 2022, Honduran Foreign Affairs Minister Enrique Reina requested a formal meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Laura Dogu, to present a formal protest against the ambassador’s public statements disapproving of new government reforms. Specifically, the ambassador criticized the new president’s Energy Reform Law, Temporary Labor Law, and the repeal of the legislation that gave birth to the widely unpopular Zones of Economic Development and Employment (ZEDEs, or charter cities).

It would be impossible to overstate the damage done to Honduran democracy and economic development by U.S. domination historically and in the recent past.  Public comments, behind-the-scenes meetings, and political coercion are some of the many ways that U.S. interventionism seeks to maintain U.S. power and its economic interests in the region. There’s a pattern to these actions which repeats again and again in both Honduras and the rest of Latin America.

See the article below for the Facebook Live recording and the link to the complete report. PDFs are available in both Spanish and English. See also the link to the opening remarks by HSN member Judy Ancel who set the context for the webinar and report by giving us an overview of US imperialism in the region, past and present.

What can we do? At the very least, we can share this report with foreign policy staffers at the offices of our US representatives and senators. For a sample email script, please contact or call (216) 961 0003. Thank you.

U.S. INTERVENTION MONITOR: One Year of Xiomara Castro, One More Year of U.S. Intervention in Honduras

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Madam President… the decision to halt the massacre of rural peasants in El Aguan is in your hands

Published Feb 18 2023

The Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) condemns the February 12th, 2023 assassination of peasant leader Santos Hipolito Rivas and his son Javier Riva. This shameful criminal act is followed by an uplifting of the demands of family, friends, cooperative members, and other relations of the deceased:

1. Santos Hipolito Rivas was active in fighting for peasants’ rights and for recuperating land from agrarian reforms, and received a lot of threats to his life because of this. The Honduran government has an obligation to protect him, and to seek justice against the unpunished perpetrators of his murder and the murder of many others.

2. They demand an immediate investigation into the murders and for justice to be served, for the crime against Santos Hipolito Rivas and for all of the crimes committed against peasants in the Aguan Valley. They call on the government to stop acting as servants and accomplices to the agribusiness powers that have been usurping peasant lands since the 80s.

3. They remind the Honduran government and President Xiomara Castro that this is the seventh assassination of peasant leaders in the course of two months. They further remind the government that it is supposed to be a government of the people, and to ensure the life and integrity of peasant families.

4. They denounce the businesses and narco-dictatorships directly responsible for the critical situation in Bajo Aguan. They further question why so many military and police personnel can be mobilized to protect agribusiness, but not to stop the murders and human rights abuses committed against rural peasants with impunity by agro-industrialists and their gangs.

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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see , or ask us to mail you hard copies.