June 18, 2018

Political Report # 1348 “Never Again Can There Be a Mexico Without Indigenous Peoples:” Recovering Native Languages in Mexico





By Daniela Pastrana, Toward Freedom

(IPS) - Ángel Santiago is a Mexican teenager who speaks one of the variations of the Zapotec language that exists in the state of Oaxaca, in the southwest of Mexico. Standing next to the presidential candidate who is the favorite for the July elections, he calls for an educational curriculum that “respects our culture and our languages.”
Juan José García Ortiz, a teacher who is also mayor of Guelatao, a small town in this southwestern state, speaks in Zapotec and Spanish about the problems of education in Mexico, and ends with a message: “Never again can there be a Mexico without indigenous peoples.”
So does the poet Irma Pineda López, who reads the commitments drafted by the country’s best-organised teachers’ union, from Oaxaca, the state with the largest indigenous population in Mexico and where 418 of the 570 municipalities have a majority indigenous population and are governed by native customs.
The presidential candidate, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, nods. Next to him is Susana Harp, a prominent international singer of traditional Zapotec music, who is a candidate for the Senate for the presidential candidate’s party, Morena.
Behind them is Esteban Moctezuma, who López Obrador plans to appoint as minister of education if he wins the Jul. 1 elections.
This scene took place on May 12 in the town where the only indigenous president of Mexico, Benito Juárez (1858-1872), was born. On this occasion, López Obrador presented his proposal to reform education in the country and, remarkably, all the participants spoke first in their native mother tongue and then in Spanish.
One of the candidate’s campaign pledges is to establish bilingual schools in all regions with an indigenous majority.
The event in Guelatao is a sign of a new phenomenon that has begun to slowly emerge in the country: the recovery of native languages.
More speakers
In the last decade, according to the population census conducted every five years by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), the number of speakers of indigenous languages in Mexico increased 20 percent, practically at the same rate as the population growth.
In fact, for the first time in 80 years, the downward trend in the population of speakers of native languages has stopped.

June 15, 2018

Political Report # 1347 The disappeared of Guatemala: a family’s search for their murdered son


By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian

As the court delivered the damning verdict convicting powerful ex-military officers of crimes against humanity, sexual violence and the forced disappearance of 14-year-old Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, his three older sisters and mother clung to each other and wept.
It’s almost 37 years since the schoolboy was bundled into a sack by officers after they had ransacked the family home looking for his sister, Emma Guadalupe, who had managed to escape a military torture chamber.
Marco Antonio’s family has never stopped looking for him, but the boy who dreamed of becoming an engineer was disappeared by a military regime that considered children fair game in its quest to crush political dissent.
The guilty verdicts handed down in Guatemala City last month satisfied the Molina Theissen family’s pursuit for justice against the former “untouchables” - the high command that ordered the systematic persecution, torture, murder and disappearance of civilians considered enemies of the state.
Peacetime efforts to tackle impunity have been impeded by the domination of post-war governments by military strongmen. Now is no exception. In the aftermath of the verdict, as rescue workers searched for victims of the Fuego volcano, politicians with military links attempted to sneak through a reform guaranteeing impunity for officers accused of crimes against humanity.
The convictions in Marco Antonio’s case were a victory not just for his family but for thousands of Guatemalans whose lives were destroyed by a US-backed counterinsurgency war masquerading as a legitimate national security policy.
“The verdict is in our name but belongs to all the people like us, who were terrorised and bereaved just for thinking differently,” Maria Eugenia Molina Theissen, one of Marco Antonio’s sisters, tells the Guardian.

Abstract, New Media and the Disillusion of Brazil’s Radical Left

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New Media and the Disillusion of Brazil’s Radical Left
by Catherine Morgans

In contrast to recent waves of ad hoc social-media-fueled protest, Brazil’s leftist social movements consider new media unreliable, supplementary, and dominated by hegemonic actors. Owing to a shift in power relations online, these virtual spaces pose an approximation to their capitalist adversaries, a degree of institutionalization, and a breach of traditional trenches of resistance, leading anticapitalist movements to restrict their use of new media. Their wariness counters resurgent cyberoptimism that regards the Internet as a politically neutral or autonomous space favored by marginalized and alternative political actors.

June 13, 2018

Abstract, Civic Organizations and Internet Social Networks: A Case Study in the Province of Buenos Aires

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Civic Organizations and Internet Social Networks: A Case Study in the Province of Buenos Aires
by Ana Cecilia Silva

A neighborhood assembly in a medium-sized city in the province of Buenos Aires formed in connection with a petition for designation as a historical protection area uses the Internet to generate visibility spaces alternative to those of the traditional media and install its own agenda, to include in those new spaces the voices and perspectives of new social actors, and to organize and improve its own participatory management. Its use of Facebook has acquired some of the features of “community media.” At the same time, its use of the Internet for internal communication and coordination is clearly accessory to face-to-face interaction. There is a generational difference in access to and decision making about the content to be posted in the various media, and spokespersons have become authorized voices. Appealing to both the traditional and the new media is a crucial aspect of the assembly’s positioning strategy, but the strategy is in constant revision.

June 11, 2018

Abstract, Hall of Mirrors: Media, Democratization, and the Public Sphere in Maranhão, Brazil

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Hall of Mirrors: Media, Democratization, and the Public Sphere in Maranhão, Brazil
by Julián Durazo Herrmann

Freedom of expression and access to diverse sources of information are seen as critical elements of democracy, although their concretization on the ground is subject to strong interference. Recent regime change in Maranhão, one of Brazil’s poorest states, has led to the emergence of new media and some expansion of the public sphere. The traditional oligarchy continues to dominate the media, however, and the opposition media replicate its exclusion of nonelite actors. The Maranhão experience confirms that normative approaches to the media either as automatic contributors to democracy or as instruments of elite manipulation have little value for understanding media dynamics.

June 8, 2018

Abstract, Argentine Documentary Film and the Politics of Presence: Jorge Prelorán’s Valle Fértil

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Argentine Documentary Film and the Politics of Presence: Jorge Prelorán’s Valle Fértil
by Christopher Moore

Jorge Prelorán’s experiences directing and distributing his 1972 film Valle Fértil force us to reconsider what we regard as the significance of documentary. Far too often the historiography of Argentine and Latin American cinema rests either on director biographies, wherein auteurs’ party allegiances define their work, or on textual analysis of the final cut, wherein we isolate finished products from the history of their making. The case of Valle Fértil suggests that the localized, personal interactions inherent to production and distribution are an equally relevant legacy of the filmmaking experience. Given that other documentaries at this time were similarly predicated on sustained contact with select populations, the work of filmmakers ranging from Fernando Birri to Fernando Solanas might then likewise be analyzed through such a lens. For this reason, Jorge Prelorán, so often seen as unique or as a counterexample in the history of Argentine film, becomes instead exemplary.

June 6, 2018

Political Report # 1346 Fundraiser or Friendly Dinner? The Congressman Planning Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Future Would Rather Not Talk About It


By AJ Vicens, MotherJones

Last week, Representative Rob Bishop (R-Utah) was the guest of honor at a private dinner at the San Juan home of a prominent Puerto Rican businessman and major GOP donor. The dinner, which one lobbyist who attended initially described as a fundraiser, was attended by Jose B. Carrión III, the chairman of the financial oversight board created by Congress to help repair the debt-ridden island’s financial situation. Bishop chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the board and many other aspects of life in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has called for “more transparency and more clarity” about the event, suggesting at a May 7 press conference that questions about whether Carrión’s involvement in the event presented a conflict of interest should be directed to him.
“I do not think there were conflicts of interest at the dinner,” Carrión told Mother Jones, “My political contributions are well known and of the public record. Everyone in Puerto Rico knows I am a Republican.”
The island’s government and Bishop have increasingly been at odds over the pace of progress in addressing the island’s debt issues, and Bishop has been agitating for Carrión to take a greater role in speeding the process, and for the board he chairs to take an even more active hand in governing the island’s finances and budget.
At the heart of the matter is an unresolved debate over whether the board or the island’s own government has ultimate control. In late-March, Bishop sent the board a letter urging it to make its own deals with the hedge funds and other creditors that hold some $120 billion of Puerto Rican debt. The board’s fiscal plans, Bishop wrote, are not “advisory documents or mere suggestions to the Puerto Rican government,” pressing Carrión, the board’s president, to carry out his “statutory duty to mandate any reforms-be they fiscal or structural-on the government of Puerto Rico.”

Abstract, Beyond Pluralism and Media Rights: Indigenous Communication for a Decolonizing Transformation of Latin America and Abya Yala

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Beyond Pluralism and Media Rights: Indigenous Communication for a Decolonizing Transformation of Latin America and Abya Yala
by Kathryn Lehman

In resisting genocidal projects of modernity since the Conquest and their most recent phase, neoliberalism, indigenous peoples have provided leadership in maintaining pluralist societies and protecting the rights of all living beings. This role is little known even to many on the left because of the history of the nation-state and current communications and research practices. Drawing on community-based autonomous alternatives to neoliberalism, indigenous media contribute to twenty-first-century Latin American participatory democracy and plurinational socialism by defending communication as a basic human right. They evoke a long history of place-based narratives whose values are encoded in language, and their epistemologies are strengthened by transnational indigenous communication networks and practices. Moving beyond pluralism and media rights, indigenous communication transforms media practices in order to decolonize relations among humans, other living beings, and the environment that sustains life.

June 4, 2018

Political Report # 1345 How US Civil Law Is Being Used to Bring Human-Rights Abuses to Court




By Linda Farthing, The Nation
Linda is also a LAP editor
Two weeks after the verdict in a landmark human-rights case in Fort Lauderdale, Thomas Becker was still excited. “This is a historic victory,” the attorney said. “This case shows that you can be a poor person and stand up for human rights, justice and social change. And you can win.”
Becker was talking about the early April jury decision in a civil trial that has significantly boosted the reach of US human-rights law against foreign government officials.  The events in the case took place 15 years ago and thousands of miles away from the US district federal courtroom in downtown Fort Lauderdale where the trial played out. For three weeks in March, the families of people killed by the Bolivian military during a 2003 country-wide uprising testified against former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and his minister of defense Carlos Sánchez Berzaín. The verdict finally came back on April 3: The case marks the first time that an ex-head of state was forced to face his accusers in a US court for human-rights abuses.
The tragedy began with a government proposal to construct a pipeline: The plan was to increase exports of the landlocked country’s immense natural gas reserves-at the time the second largest in South America-by piping the gas through Bolivia on to Chile, the country’s long-time adversary. Across the country, large swathes of the population saw the proposal as one more instance of a long and painful history of foreigners stealing the country’s natural resources and territory. Protests were most intense in the highlands, where the largely indigenous city of El Alto blocked food and fuel destined for the city of La Paz, which sits in a basin below. The coalition government of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, popularly known as Goni, who had won his second term with the help of US Democratic Party election consultants, declared a state of siege and militarized El Alto and surrounding areas.
Once the dust settled, around 60 people had been killed and over 400 wounded, almost every one of them working class people of Aymara indigenous heritage. All of the case’s plaintiffs lost family in the uprising; many of them lost elderly parents or young children. “Even though it took 15 years, we never gave up hope that we would get our day in court,” said Teófilo Baltazar, one of the nine plaintiffs. His wife who was five months pregnant was shot to death through the wall of their home.
Felicidad Rosa Huanca Quispe, from a small community south of La Paz where protestors were blocking roads, was preparing lunch for her five children on October 13, 2003, when her 69-year-old father Raúl Ramon headed to a nearby corner shop to buy a soft drink. On the stand in the Fort Lauderdale courtroom, dressed in the wide skirts that characterize Aymara women, she began to sob uncontrollably as she told the court, “the military shot him in two places and killed him.”

Abstract, Zapatismo as a Resonant Public Pedagogy

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Zapatismo as a Resonant Public Pedagogy
by James K. Anderson and Noah J. Springer

As a critical pedagogy similar to the type described by the philosopher-educator Paulo Freire, Zapatismo expresses resistance to the power-over relationships institutionalized in capitalism and the state through open-ended questioning. Previous analyses have argued that the Zapatista struggle has been incommunicable, that it can be defined in terms of new media, that Zapatismo advances a Leninist ideology, and that its resonance is rhizo-matic. A challenge to these assumptions drawing on negative dialectics suggests that, as prefiguration of other worlds beyond the neoliberal reality, Zapatismo resonates because it teaches the recovery of democracy by direct collective decision making and horizontal organization and communication. Philosophical inquiry shows that Zapatismo has recollected the radical imaginary and resonated through the Independent Media Center network and Occupy Wall Street and continues to be borrowed and adapted by Occupy offshoots, anticapitalist collectives, and ongoing initiatives.