September 22, 2017

Political Report # 1278 Mexico Quake Victims Aided by Central American 'Migrant Brigade' as Government Fails

As nearly three million people in Mexico struggle with the aftermath of last week's devastating 8.1 magnitude earthquake, impatience is growing in poverty-stricken communities. Instead of waiting for federal assistance that may never arrive, residents in the country's southern Oaxaca state are organizing to assist each other in a spirit of solidarity and mutual assistance.
Among these groups is a brigade of nearly 50 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, who are offering their unconditional support to communities in Oaxaca's poverty-blighted Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The brigade's tireless efforts have earned them the status of heroes in a country where they are usually faced with discrimination, distrust and abuse.
Their orange shirts and red helmets covered in dust, the group of migrants have spent the past several days moving toppled street lamps and electrical poles, digging makeshift graves, providing medical aid to survivors and helping to clean up the piles of rubble and shattered glass in the cities hit hardest by the quake -- Juchitan and Asuncion Ixtaltepec, Oaxaca.
The migrants live in nearby Ixtepec at the Hermanos en el Camino Hostel. The shelter was founded 11 years ago by Catholic priest and human rights defender Padre Alejandro Solalinde, who saw the need to protect refugees from police and criminals.
When the massive quake struck, the shelter's residents immediately joined forces with the Humanitarian Peace Brigade Marabunta to begin addressing the most pressing problems faced by locals.
"Sólo El Pueblo Salvará Al Pueblo" -- Only the People Can Save the People
Longtime migrant justice advocate Hermano Jose Filiberto Velazquez Florencio, a member of Solalinde's mission, helped to coordinate the brigade's aid efforts. The clergyman has been an advocate for the poor and dispossessed for years, standing alongside the country's abused migrants and touring the country with relatives of the 43 disappeared students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College. Velazquez has even traveled to the United States to advocate for undocumented workers and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, holders faced with possible deportation.
Speaking to teleSUR from the neglected Séptima Sección or Seventh Section of Juchitan, Velazquez explained that the government's aid efforts have had little impact on the poorer communities within the city and along its outskirts.
"Right now, the rain is starting and people aren't living in the houses because they are afraid of more earthquakes," Velazquez explained. Over 1,000 aftershocks swarmed the region following Thursday's quake, terrifying residents who choose to live outdoors and sleep in beds moved in front of their homes or in the streets.
"There are shelters, but people don't want to leave their homes" due to thieves robbing the destroyed homes, he added.
The displaced families are now spending their last bit of savings on expensive food sold by price-gouging merchants and cooking it outdoors using bits of wood taken from the rubble.
"The government isn't giving them any support," Velazquez said.
The state of Oaxaca suffered well over 5,000 destroyed homes and 76 of the 96 fatalities resulting nationwide from the quake. However, the multi-ethnic Indigenous people of the region have long been subject to the inequities of government neglect and a failure to properly develop the region.
"Most of the houses were old, maybe more than 100 or 200 years old -- the materials were poor, the structures lacked steel and concrete," Velazquez explained. "This is the primary injustice of the earthquake -- these were poor people who didn't have the houses, the infrastructure, that could stand."
In the meantime, local civil society groups and social movements such as the shelter and the Marabunta Brigade have mobilized their resources toward helping the people of the Isthmus, sparing no effort to prove that "sólo el pueblo salvará al pueblo" -- only the people can save the people.
"We are hearing one voice from the mass media, but the reality is that independent organizations are the ones supporting the people here -- this is the reality that we on the ground can see, that we can hear, and that we can feel in our hands," the theologian notes.
From Distrust to Unity
Migrant Brigade members are no strangers to poverty and desperate conditions. Tens of thousands of Central Americans have fled their home countries in recent years due to a         combination of economic desperation and extreme violence committed by gangs and state security forces.
"Most of these immigrants were on their way to the United States but after the new immigration policies were put in place by Donald Trump, they decided to stay for a bit longer in Mexico, in our shelter," Velazquez explained. The desperate refugees are hardly treated better in Mexico -- from 2013 to the present, the country's authorities have done much of Washington's dirty work of intercepting migrants intent on crossing the US border. Human rights are hardly a concern for Mexico's state security agencies.
"They go through huge difficulties to avoid being deported by the Mexican Institute of Migration," Tijuana-based border activist and aid worker Hugo Castro told teleSUR. A coordinator for Border Angels and comrade of Father Solalinde, Castro has worked directly with countless migrants who've crossed the country and seen the worst it has to offer.
"Police arrest them because they don't have identification, and then the officers torture them while demanding that the refugees name their country of origin, looking for a reason to hand them over to the Mexican migra," Castro explained, adding that poor treatment from citizens also plagues the refugees.
"Business owners pay them less than average because they don't have working documents, and they also face discrimination by Mexicans who see them as potential criminals when they are actually victims of forced migration," Castro said.
A recent study by the National Survey on Discrimination found that seven out of 10 Mexicans distrust or dislike refugees, providing an incentive for brigade members to prove themselves through their good deeds. The brigade has even helped to assist those who once targeted them, including police officers and the prosecutor for crimes against migrants in the region, Ana Maria Clavel.
"Her house collapsed and we helped her find her belongings ... she was very surprised that the migrants helped her, because she has been so hard on them," fellow brigade coordinator Ernesto Castañeda told Sin Embargo.
The migrant brigade is offering their assistance purely from a position of human empathy, Velazquez explained.
"When you ask them why they are helping, their first answer is that it's because they are human beings whose first instinct is to help other humans who are suffering. They feel good when they see that they can help other people."
The migrants plan on continuing their efforts until the job is done or they are no longer needed. However, the government's neglect and outright corruption could ruin any chances that the communities will actually see the recovery promised by officials.
The Future: Corruption or Solidarity?
Media outlets like Univision, TV Azteca and Televisa have largely focused on the "national unity" aspect of the tragedy, broadcasting mournful speeches and press conferences of politicians like President Enrique Peña Nieto and Oaxaca's governor, Alejandro Murat.
Scant attention has been given to the disorganized and careless nature of the government's recovery efforts, which have amounted to a small handout -- simple rations and a blanket -- along with public relations stunts aimed at drumming up support for unpopular politicians hoping to improve their chances in next year's general elections. In many cases, Velazquez claims, the aid is intentionally being blocked for the sake of electoral fraud, a tradition with a long history in Mexican politics.
"Food has been given to the cities but the political leaders are taking all of the aid and in the future they will use the food to buy votes, so the corruption of our leaders is a big problem -- the political parties are getting in the way of the people's needs," Velazquez laments.
Hermano Velazquez and the migrant brigade are hoping that supporters throughout the country and the world will allow them to continue serving the needs of the people in the region.
"The family we helped today are today are very grateful and they know that the people who helped them are immigrants," Velazquez said, gesturing toward a family gathered outside of their wrecked home. "Now they won't see them as strangers or criminals, but as humans when they pass through these cities."
"The people need tents, they need water, they need food ... We need a lot of help here, a lot of hands to clean the houses, but also need donations of food through Hermanos en el Camino so that we can continue working for these people."

Original article can be found here:

September 20, 2017

Abstract, Coercive Inclusion in the Mexican War on Drugs: A Field Study of Human Rights and the State in Michoacán

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Coercive Inclusion in the Mexican War on Drugs: A Field Study of Human Rights and the State in Michoacán
by Philipp Wolfesberger

Qualitative ethnographic study of the human rights violations committed in the course of the militarized combat against drug trafficking organizations in rural Michoacán unmasks state practices of coercive inclusion. The violation of human rights and the subsequent processing of human rights claims paradoxically bind the marginalized population to the formal state and foster its subordination. The practical configuration of the current arena of human rights is not the lever for a democratic, inclusive Mexico but a curtain that conceals the repressive practices that it makes possible. In the processing of human rights complaints, the legal rights of physical integrity and private property become moral rights with no effect of legal justice.

September 19, 2017

Book, "Gender, Body, and Medicine in Urban Ecuador: Ethnographic Explorations of Women’s Embodiment" by Erynn Masi de Casanova

Gender, Body, and Medicine in Urban Ecuador. Ethnographic Explorations of Women’s Embodiment 
by Erynn Masi de Casanova

Book Reviews of:
Casandra Paola Herrera Caicedo Cuerpos en re-construcción: El consumo de cirugía estética en la ciudad de Ambato. Quito: FLACSO Ecuador, 2012.
Elizabeth F. S. Roberts God’s Laboratory: Assisted Reproduction in the Andes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
Ann Miles Living with Lupus: Women and Chronic Illness in Ecuador. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013. London and New York: Zed Books, 2013.

September 18, 2017

Political Report # 1277 In Wake of Hurricane Irma, Vultures Eye Puerto Rico’s Electric Grid for Privatization

By Kate Aronoff, Angel Manuel Soto, and Averie Timm, 

The Intercept 

Vultures circling the wreckage of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Irma are closing in on a long-sought prize: the privatizing of the island’s electric utility.
Puerto Rico avoided the very worst of the storm, which darted just north of the U.S. territory. But it didn’t escape unscathed. Following a request from Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló, the White House declared a state of emergency. Three people were killed and more than 1 million were left without electricity in the storm’s wake.
The fragile body responsible for that power is the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, whose executive leadership warned ahead of the storm that parts of the island could be left without electricity for up to six months. Thanks to the change in the storm’s path and a crew of dedicated line workers, Prepa, the island’s sole electricity provider, now expects most towns to have their lights back on within two weeks and full power within a month. As of Monday, more than 70 percent of homes had already gotten electricity back.
But once the lights are turned on, Puerto Rican households will face a new threat.
“[The investors] have the best sales pitch now,” Carlos Gallisá, a former consumer representative on Prepa’s board of directors, told The Intercept by phone from San Juan. “They have already started, saying that only privatization will serve the people.”

Abstract, Canadian Human Rights Policy toward Guatemala: The Two Faces of Janus?

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Canadian Human Rights Policy toward Guatemala: The Two Faces of Janus?
by Marc-André Anzueto

During Guatemala’s 36-year-long civil war (1960–1996), Canada’s role in response to the conflict diverged from the United States’ realpolitik. In contrast to U.S. policy objectives during the cold war, the Canadian distinctiveness in Guatemala was prevalent in the realm of democracy and human rights policy. The Canadian government and civil society condemned human rights violations in Guatemala, supported the various phases of the peace process, and participated in international efforts to strengthen the rule of law. However, since 2003–2004, the Canadian government has promoted mining investments to the detriment of human rights and its relationship with civil society has deteriorated both at home and in Guatemala. This shift can be linked to a securitization process of human rights within the neoliberal order in Latin America and a change in the identity-based interest of Canadian foreign policy during Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s era (2006–2015).

September 15, 2017

Abstract, The Guatemalan Campesino Movement and the Postconflict Neoliberal State

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The Guatemalan Campesino Movement and the Postconflict Neoliberal State

by Simon Granovsky-Larsen   

The Guatemalan peace process helped to shape both the form of state that emerged following armed conflict and the constraints and opportunities faced by contemporary social movements. Despite the reconfiguration of power by Guatemalan elites through peace negotiation and accord-based reforms, social movements have harnessed neoliberal projects to strengthen grassroots resistance and alternative-building. An overview of the campesino movement and the case of the Comité Campesino del Altiplano indicates that campesinos have engaged strategically with neoliberal resources in order to construct counterhegemonic projects.

September 13, 2017

Political Report # 1276 How the US Imposes the Worst of Its Prison Paradigm Abroad

By Nasim Chatha, Truthout 

The new federal penitentiary in Santa Barbara, Honduras, occupies a strip of land between a highway and cloudy, forested hills. "El Pozo," or The Pit, as it's known, is surrounded by barbed wire and has two additional checkpoints beyond the first gate. It's a maximum-security facility, one of three that have popped up since 2009. Before these were built, Honduras had no maximum-security prisons. El Pozo is one of the products of a United States international prison management program that infuses Latin American penitentiary cultures with some of the most inhumane aspects of US prison systems, and provides no benefit in terms of real security.
At least $22 million have been devoted to a US international prison program focused mainly on Central American prisons. This program operates out of a web of government offices and programs, most prominently the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the US State Department. Because of the extent to which information is classified, it is difficult to track exactly what prison management entails, but it's clear that the US has in some way been involved in the prison systems of at least 34 countries. US activities include training, imparting management strategies and building new prisons. 
The sprawling El Pozo is a departure from Honduras's prisons before 2009, when the US prison program began in Honduras. It looks exactly like a US prison -- it even has a disabled parking spot (unlike, unfortunately, almost any other building in Honduras). Just 15 kilometers away from El Pozo in the city of Santa Barbara, the local, pre-2009 prison is more typical. Located one block from the city's main square, it is a nondescript yellow building built on a steep hill, marked only by a hand-painted sign. The sidewalk outside is occupied by pedestrians and vendors selling goods under awnings. Prison policy permits regular family visits, and family may bring food and some other items. Compared to many US prisons, the prison at Santa Barbara is relatively open to the outside community. This is the type of prison that, with the advent of the US program, has now been deemed inadequate for many of Honduras's incarcerated people.
Indeed, Honduran prisons have long been home to corruption and violence. It is a common occurrence for dozens of incarcerated gang members to escape all at once while guards look the other way, or for an unchecked fire to massacre hundreds. Many of the elites of organized crime remain involved in criminal enterprise while on the inside. The right-wing Honduran government chooses not to view these problems as symptoms of broader societal corruption and impunity, but instead as an issue of weak prison facilities.

Book, "The United States and Cuba: From Closest Enemies to Distant Friends" by Francisco López Segrera

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The United States and Cuba: From Closest Enemies to Distant Friends (Latin American Perspectives in the Classroom) by Francisco López Segrera

This timely book takes the historic restoration of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States in 2015 as the point of departure for a Cuban perspective on future relations. Tracing the history of the long and contentious relationship, Francisco López Segrera analyzes the pre-revolutionary and Cold War periods as well as more recent changes within each nation and in the international environment that led to the diplomatic opening and the abandonment of regime change as the goal of U.S. policy. He considers factors such as the declining influence of hard-line Cuban exiles in the United States; almost universal calls from Latin America, Europe, and other U.S. allies for constructive diplomatic engagement; and the economic restructuring underway in Cuba following the crisis of the “Special Period” triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The author also identifies conditions favoring further progress, as well as outstanding issues that may constitute barriers—especially the blockade, U.S. demands for a Western-style democracy in Cuba, and its refusal to return the Guantánamo naval base to Cuban sovereignty. Comparing the differing perceptions shaping policies on both sides, López Segrera weighs the steps that will be necessary for the two countries to move toward full normalization.

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 140 • Trim: 5 3/4 x 8 3/4
978-1-4422-6721-3 • Hardback • April 2017 • $75.00 • (£49.95)
978-1-4422-6722-0 • Paperback • April 2017 • $25.00 • (£15.95)
978-1-4422-6723-7 • eBook • April 2017 • $23.00 • (£15.95)

September 11, 2017

Political Report # 1275 Brasil vai entrar numa época de manifestações sindicais e sociais, diz sociólogo

Professor Ricardo Antunes analisa mercado de trabalho no Brasil e no mundo

Entrevista - Ricardo Antunes - Jornal do Brasil

O projeto de reforma trabalhista sinalizado pelo atual governo brasileiro é uma "imposição dos interesses financeiros que comandam a economia do país", aponta Ricardo Antunes, professor de Sociologia do Trabalho da Unicamp e autor de diversos livros sobre o tema, entre eles "Sentidos do Trabalho", publicado no Brasil, na Argentina, nos Estados Unidos, na Inglaterra, Holanda, Itália, Portugal e Índia; e "Adeus ao trabalho?", editado no Brasil, na Argentina, Venezuela, Colômbia, Espanha e Itália. "O cenário que vamos ter nos próximos dois trimestres é desalentador, e vai fazer com que o movimento sindical e os movimentos sociais lutem ardorosamente."
A repercussão do trabalho de Antunes em países do mundo inteiro permitiu ao professor debater e analisar tendências globais do mercado de trabalho. Em entrevista por telefone ao JB na noite de quarta-feira (31), Antunes traçou o caminho que o mercado de trabalho tem seguido no mundo, como os trabalhadores têm procurado se organizar para lidar com novos cenários e fez uma leitura da situação brasileira em meio à crise política e econômica.
"Nós vamos entrar numa época de confrontação social, de manifestações sindicais e sociais", destacou Antunes na entrevista. "O período que vai de 2016 a 2018 será uma sucessão amplificada e articulada de crises sociais e crises políticas."
Na ocasião de sua posse, o presidente Michel Temer destacou que vai "modernizar as leis trabalhistas, para garantir os atuais e gerar novos empregos”. Para Antunes, tal modernização abre caminho para uma série de mudanças "profundamente destrutivas" para a classe trabalhadora.
"Estamos no pior momento. Governo nenhum que destrói direitos diz que vai destruir direitos", ressalta Antunes. "Se o governo dissesse 'eu vou devastar', 'eu vou fazer uma verdadeira devastação social' ele teria o repúdio. Então, a grande alquimia, a falácia que é profunda falsidade, é dizer que eu vou criar direitos destruindo direitos."