Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa tours a new health center in the province of Cotopaxi, Aug. 25, 2015. | Photo: Ecuadorean Presidency
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa Tuesday inaugurated three new health centers in the province of Cotopaxi, which are destined to serve more than 55,000 people.
The health centers were built at a cost of US$7 million and serve a part of Ecuador currently at risk of being affected by the possible eruption of the Cotopaxi volcano.
President Correa said these centers are already equipped to deal with any potential emergency related to a possible eruption.
The new health centers are part of a push by the government to improve public health in the country by reducing visits to larger hospitals and placing a greater emphasis on prevention.
These centers, run by the Ministry of Public Health, are available to all residents free of charge.
“In 2015 alone, 2.5 million dollars have been allocated to health, a human right, and the best possible investment of money,” said Correa.
Since 2007 and the arrival of Correa to the presidency, 46 health centers and 12 hospitals have been built throughout the country, with more set to be opened over the next few years.
“We are continuing on the path so that public services serve as an example, that they are the best, that’s the dream that the Citizens Revolution holds,” said Minister of Health Carina Vance, referencing the name given to the political process led by President Correa.
These new health centers are deliberately built in areas previously under-served by government services. The three new centers inaugurated Tuesday are located in a part Ecuador where the majority of the residents are indigenous peoples.
President Correa said that these types of services are an example of the commitment the government has toward serving indigenous communities and the reason why the Citizens Revolution continues to enjoy support from the majority of indigenous peoples.
A segment of the indigenous movement recently declared an “uprising” against the government, holding marches and rallies throughout the country to demonstrate their opposition.
The smaller “type B” health center inaugurated by the president includes outpatient services, dental attention, X-rays, a clinical laboratory, emergency services, clinical psychology, physiotherapy, and a pharmacy.
A second “type B” center and a larger “type C” center were simultaneously unveiled. The president said they intended to inaugurate all three centers with a visit to the largest one but changed their plans after an opposition political group said they would try to storm the center during the president’s visit.
In response to President Rafael Correa’s proposed inheritance tax, a far right coalition in Ecuador has launched a campaign of anti-government protest in the country. This movement is being joined by some forces on the green and Indigenous left, long opposed to Correa’s economic strategy of neo-extractivism, that is, the exploitation of Ecuador’s rich deposits of oil to fuel the economy as well as providing the majority of government revenue. Correa’s economic approach has been to aggressively push forward oil operations, even in environmentally sensitive areas, and then use the proceeds to pay for poverty reduction programs. The various Eco-Indigenous groups have legitimate concerns about the sustainability of the neo-extractivist approach, but it is a fact that since Correa came into office in 2007 one million Ecuadorians have been lifted out of poverty. In 2007 4 of 10 Ecuadorians lived in poverty. Today less than a quarter of the population does.
COHA calls for an end to the violence that has accompanied the protests, with over 100 police and military now having suffered injuries, including grave ones. COHA supports dialogue between the various opposition sectors and the government, and the continuation of the positive trend in Ecuador of settling political differences by democratic procedures, not golpismo.
By Larry Birns, Director of COHA and Senior Research Fellows: Jim A. Baer, Nicholas Birns, William Camacaro, Lynn Holland, Frederick B. Mills, Ronn Pineo.
From Regional War, “Regime Change” to Global Warfare
2015 has become a year of living dangerously.
Wars are spreading across the globe.
Wars are escalating as new countries are bombed and the old are ravaged with ever greater intensity.
Countries, where relatively peaceful changes had taken place through recent elections, are now on the verge of civil wars.
These are wars without victors, but plenty of losers; wars that don’t end; wars where imperial occupations are faced with prolonged resistance.
There are never-ending torrents of war refugees flooding across borders. Desperate people are detained, degraded and criminalized for being the survivors and victims of imperial invasions.
Now major nuclear powers face off in Europe and Asia: NATO versus Russia, US-Japan versus China. Will these streams of blood and wars converge into one radiated wilderness drained of its precious life blood?
Living Dangerously: The Rising Tide of Violent Conflicts
There is no question that wars and military threats have replaced diplomacy, negotiations and democratic elections as the principal means of resolving political conflicts. Throughout the present year (2015) wars have spread across borders and escalated in intensity.
The NATO allies, US, Turkey and the EU have openly attacked Syria with air strikes and ground troops. There are plans to occupy the northern sector of that ravaged country, creating what the Erdogan regime dubs a ‘buffer zone’ cleansed of its people and villages.
Under the pretext of ‘fighting ISIS’, the Turkish government is bombing Kurds (civilians and resistance fighters) and their Syrian allies. On Syria’s southern border, US Special Forces have accelerated and expanded operations from their bases in Jordan on behalf of the mercenary terrorists – funded by the monarchist Gulf States.
Over 4 million Syrians have fled their homes as refugees and over 200,000 have been killed since the US-EU-Turkey-Saudi-sponsored war against the secular Syrian government was launched four years ago.
Dozens of terrorist, mercenary and sectarian groups have carved up Syria into rival fiefdoms, pillaged its economic and cultural resources and reduced the economy by over ninety percent.
The US-EU-Turkish military intervention extends the war into Iraq, Lebanon and…. Turkey – attacking secular governments, ethnic minority groups and secular civil society.
The feudal, monarchist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have invaded Yemen with tanks, launching air strikes against a country without any air defenses. Major cities and towns are devastated. Saudi ground troops and armored carriers are killing and wounding thousands – mostly civilians. The brutal Saudi air and sea blockade of Yemen’s ports have led to a humanitarian crisis, as ten million Yemenis face starvation deliberately imposed by a grotesque and obscenely rich monarchy.
The Yemeni resistance fighters, driven out of the major cities, are preparing for prolonged guerrilla warfare against the Saudi monsters and their puppets. Their resistance has already spread across the frontiers of the absolutist Saudi dictatorship.
The brutal Israeli occupation troops, in collaboration with armed ‘settler’ colonists, have accelerated their violent seizure of Palestinian lands. They have stepped up the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze and Christian inhabitants replacing their communities with racist ‘Jews-only’ colonial settlements.
Daily assaults against the huge ‘concentration camps’ of Gaza accompany an armed blockade of land, air and water, preventing the reconstruction of the tens of thousands of homes, schools, hospital, factories and infrastructure, destroyed by last year’s Israeli blitzkrieg.
Israel’s continued annexation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian territory precludes any diplomatic process; colonial wars have been and continue to be Israel’s policy of choice in dealing with its Arab neighbors and captive populations.
Africa’s wars, resulting from earlier US-EU interventions, continue to ravage-the Continent. Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Libya are riven by bloody conflicts between US-EU backed regimes and armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.
Throughout North and Sub-Sahara Africa, US-EU backed regimes have provoked armed upheavals in Libya, Nigeria (Boko Harem), Egypt (ISIS, Moslem Brotherhood et al), Chad, Niger, South Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.
Imperial client Egyptian and Ethiopian dictators rule with iron fists – financed and armed by their EU and US sponsors.
Imperial wars rage throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Hundreds of experienced Baathist Iraqi military officers, who had been expelled or jailed and tortured by the US Occupation army, have now made common cause with Islamist fighters to form ISIS and effectively occupy a third of Iraq and a strategic swath of Syria.
There are daily bombings in Baghdad undermining its US client. Strategic advances by ISIS are forcing the US to resume and escalate its direct combat role
The US-Baghdad retreat and the defeat of the US-trained Iraqi military in the face of the Baathist-Islamist offensive is the opening salvo of a long-term, large-scale war in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish air-war against the Kurds in Iraq will escalate the war in Northern Iraq and extend it into southeast Turkey.
Closer to ‘home’, the EU-US-backed coup (‘regime change’) in Kiev and the attempt to impose dictatorial-pro-West oligarchic rule in Ukraine have detonated a prolonged civil-national war devastating the country and pitting NATO’s proxies against Russian-backed allies in the Donbas.
US, England, Poland and other NATO powers are deeply committed to pushing war right up to Russia’s borders.
There is a new Cold War, with the imposition of wide-ranging US-EU economic sanctions against Russia and the organizing of major NATO military exercises on Russia’s doorsteps. It is no surprise that these provocations are met with a major counter-response – the Russian military build-up. The NATO power grab in Ukraine, which first led to a local ethnic war, now escalates to a global confrontation and may move toward a nuclear confrontation as Russia absorbs hundreds of thousands of refugees from the slaughter in Ukraine.
The US puppet regime in Afghanistan has faced a major advance of the Taliban in all regions, including the capital, Kabul.
The Afghan war is intensifying and the US-backed Kabul regime is in retreat. US troops can scarcely advance beyond their bunkers.
As the Taliban military advances, its leaders demand total surrender of the Kabul puppets and the withdrawal of US troops. The US response will be a prolonged escalation of war.
Pakistan, bristling with US arms, faces a major conflict along its borders with India and permanent war in its semi-autonomous Northwest frontier states with Islamist and ethnic Pashtu guerrilla movements backed by mass regional political parties. These parties exercise de facto control over the Northwest region providing sanctuary and arms for Taliban militants operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Armed ethno-religious conflicts persist in western China, Myanmar and northern India. There are large-scale popular resistance movements in the militant northeast Thailand opposed to the current military-monarchist dictatorship in Bangkok.
In the 21st century, in South and Southeast Asia, as in the rest of the world, war and armed conflicts have become central in resolving ethnic, social, tribal and regional differences with central states: diplomacy and democratic elections have been rendered obsolete and inefficient.
Latin America – On the Verge
Burgeoning violent extra-parliamentary right-wing movements, intent on overthrowing or ‘impeaching’ elected center-left Latin American governments face major confrontations with the state and its mass supporters.
In Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, US-backed opposition groups are engaged in violent demonstrations, directed toward ousting the elected regimes. In the case of Ecuador, ‘popular sectors’, including some indigenous leaders and sectors of the trade union movement, have called for an ‘uprising’ to oust President Correa. They seem oblivious of the fact that the hard-right oligarchs who now control key offices in the three principal cities (Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca) will be the real beneficiaries of their ‘uprisings’.
The resurgent Right envisions violent ‘regime change’ as the first step toward ‘wiping the slate clean’ of a decade of social reforms, independent regional organizations and independent foreign policies.
‘Civil war’ may be too strong a word for the situation in Latin America at this time – but this is the direction which the US-backed opposition is heading. Faced with the mess and difficulty of dislodging incumbent regimes via elections, the US and its local proxies have opted for the choreography of street violence, sabotage, martial law and coups – to be followed by sanitized elections – with US-vetted candidates.
War and violence run rampant through Mexico and most of Central America. A US-backed military coup ousted the popularly elected, independent President Zelaya in Honduras. The ensuing US-proxy regime has murdered and jailed hundreds of pro-democracy dissidents and driven thousands to flee the violence.
The 1990’s US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ in El Salvador and Guatemala effectively blocked any agrarian reform and income redistribution that might have led to the rebuilding of their civil societies. This has led to over two decades of mass disaffection, the rise of armed ‘gangs’ numbering over 100,000 members and an average of six to ten thousand homicides a year with El Salvador becoming the ‘murder capital of the hemisphere’ on a per capita basis. The annual murder toll under the US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ now exceeds those killed each year during the civil war.
The real ‘carnage capital’ of the hemisphere is Mexico. Over 100,000 people have been murdered during the decade-long, US-backed ‘war on drugs’ – a war which has become a state-sponsored war on the Mexican people.
The internal war has allowed the Mexican government to privatize and sell the crown jewels of the national economy – the petroleum industry. While thousands of Mexicans are terrorized and slaughtered, the US and EU oil companies are curiously shielded from the drug lords. The same Mexican government, its police, officials and military, who collaborate with the drug lords in dividing up the billions of drug dollars, protect foreign oil companies and their executives. After all, narco-dollars are laundered by banks in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and London to help fuel the speculation!
From Regional to Nuclear Wars
Regional and local wars spread under the shadow of a looming world war. The US moves its arms, planes, bases and operations to the Russian and Chinese borders.
Never have so many US troops and war planes been placed in so many strategic locations, often less than an hour drive from major Russian cities.
Not even during the height of the Cold War, did the US impose so many economic sanctions against Russian enterprises.
In Asia, Washington is organizing major trade, military and diplomatic treaties designed to exclude and undermine China’s growth as a trade competitor. It is engaged in provocative activities comparable to the boycott and blockade of Japan which led to the Second World War in Asia.
Open ‘warfare by proxy’ in Ukraine is perhaps the first salvo of the Third World War in Europe. The US-EU-sponsored coup in Kiev has led to the annexation of Western Ukraine. In response to the threat of violence toward the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea and the loss of its strategic naval base on the Black Sea, Russia annexed Crimea.
In the lead-up to the Second World War, Germany annexed Austria. In a similar manner the US-EU installed a puppet regime in Kiev by violent putsch as its own initial steps toward major power grabs in Central Asia. The military build-up includes the placement of major, forward offensive military bases in Poland.
Warsaw’s newly elected hard-right regime of President Andrzej Duda has demanded that Poland become NATO’s central military base of operation and the front line in a war against Russia.
Wars and More Wars and the Never-ending Torrents of Refugees
The US and EU imperial wars have devastated the lives and livelihoods of scores of millions of people in South Asia, North and Sub-Sahara Africa, Central America, Mexico, the Balkans and now Ukraine.
Four million Syrian refugees have joined millions of Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi, Yemeni, Somali, Libyan, Palestinian and Sudanese refugees fleeing US-EU bombs, drones and proxy mercenaries ravaging their countries.
Millions of war refugees escape toward safety in Western Europe, joining the millions of economic refugees who have fled free market destitution in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Balkans and other EU satellites.
Panic among the civilian population of Western Europe sets in as hundreds of thousands cross the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Balkans.
Droves of refugees perish each day. Tens of thousands crowd detention centers. Local labor markets are saturated. Social services are overwhelmed.
The US builds walls and detention camps for the millions trying to escape the harsh consequences of imperial-centered free markets in Mexico, narco-terror and the fraudulent ‘peace accord’-induced violence in Central America.
As Western wars advance, the desperate refugees multiply. The poor and destitute clamber at the gates of the imperial heartland crying: ‘Your bombs and your destruction of our homelands have driven us here, now you must deal with us in your homeland’.
Fomenting class war between the refugees and ‘natives’ of the imperial West – may not be on the agenda . . . for now, but the future for ‘civil’ society in Europe and the US is bleak.
Meanwhile, more and even bigger wars are on the horizon and additional millions of civilians will be uprooted and face the choice of starving, fleeing with their families or fighting the empire. The ranks of seasoned and infuriated resistance fighters are swelling in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.
The US and EU are becoming armed fortresses. US police deal with the marginalized citizenry as an occupying army, assaulting African-Americans, immigrants and dissidents – while looting poor communities . . . and protecting the rich…
War is everywhere and expanding: No continent or region, big or small, is free from the contagion of war.
Imperial wars have spawn local wars . . . igniting mass flights in a never-ending cycle. There are no real diplomatic success stories! There are no enduring, viable peace accords!
Some pundits may protest this analysis: They point to the recent US – Cuba rapprochement as a ‘success’. They conveniently forget that the US is still subverting Cuba’s biggest trading partner, Venezuela; that Washington’s major regional proxies are demanding regime change among Cuba’s allies in Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia and that Washington is increasingly threatening Cuba’s alternative markets in Russia and China. The vision of the US flag flapping in the breeze outside its embassy in Havana does little to cover Washington’s iron fist threatening Cuba’s allies.
Others cite the US – Iran peace accord as a major ‘success’. They ignore that the US is backing the bloody Saudi invasion of neighboring Yemen and the massacre of Shiite communities; that the US has provided Israel with a road map detailing Iran’s entire defense system and that the US [Israel] and EU are bombing Iran’s Syrian ally without mercy.
As for the US – Cuba and Iranian agreements– are they enduring and strategic or just tactical imperial moves preparing for even greater assaults?
The war epidemic is not receding.
War refugees are still fleeing; they have no homes or communities left.
Disorder and destruction are increasing, not decreasing; there is no rebuilding the shattered societies, not in Gaza, not in Fallujah, not in the Donbas, not in Guerrero, not in Aleppo.
Europe feels the tremors of a major conflagration.
Americans still believe that the two oceans will protect them. They are told that placing NATO missiles on Russia’s borders and stationing warships off China’s shores and building electrified walls and laying barbed wire along the Rio Grande will protect them. Such is their faith in their political leaders and propagandists.
What a packet of lies! Inter-continental missiles can ‘rain down’ on New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
It is time to wake up!
It is time to stop the US – EU headlong race to World War III!
Where to start? Libya has been irrevocably destroyed; it is too late there! Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are aflame. We are being plunged deeper into war while being told we are withdrawing! Ukraine sucks in more guns and more troops!
Can we really have peace with Iran if we cannot control our own government as it dances to the Israelis tune? And Israel insists on war – our waging war for them! As the Israeli war criminal General and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told some worried American Zionists: “Trouble with the US? We lead them by the nose…!”
Just look at the terrified families fleeing carnage in the Middle East or Mexico.
What is to be done?
When will we cut our losses and shake off the bonds of these war makers – foreign and domestic?
A march protesting U.S. troops in Peru earlier this year. | Photo: teleSUR / Rael Mora
Ahead of the arrival of more than 3,000 U.S. military personnel in Peru, Peruvians marched in the capital city Lima to protest U.S. military intervention in the South American country, Prensa Latina reported Thursday.
Protesters condemned frequent U.S. military presence as an assault on Peruvian national sovereignty and security.
“We reject this presence and those who authorized it, like this traitor government and the congress that currently does not represent anybody,” said Guillermo Bermejo of the group Agora Popular, according to Prensa Latina. “Let it be known that this struggle for respect for our sovereignty is just beginning.”
The march began from the Plaza San Martin in central Lima and moved to the U.S. embassy. Demonstrators protested the government’s decision to allow the U.S. to send 3,200 soldiers armed with weapons, ships, and planes to Peru, whose arrival is expected September 1.
Activists said that the march would prove to be the first of many to raise this issue and put pressure on the government to change its ways with respect to allowing U.S. military involvement in the country.
Marches also took place earlier this year to protest President Ollanta Humala’s policies, such as welcoming U.S. troops, that contradict his electoral promises of increased independence from the U.S. in favor of Latin American regional integration.
The 3,200 military personnel will be in Peru only temporarily, while three more U.S. military groups of at least seven contingents that have arrived in Peru this year will stay for 12 months.
Protesters also drew attention to the history of U.S. military presence and its deadly consequences, including its involvement in massacres, torture, disappearances, and other human rights abuses.
Many of Peru’s more than 70,000 disappearances during the country’s so-called “war on terror” counter-insurgency strategy between 1980 and 200 have been seen as part of the U.S.-backed Operation Condor, which saw dictatorships quash rebellious voices and leftist movements throughout the continent.
As this year’s Indigenous Film Festival concluded over the weekend, the Argentine Governor of Chaco province, Jorge Capitanich, announced the creation of a national school for indigenous cinema.
“Today we confirm the (creation of) the Indigenous School of Cinema. Its a call on people to their own history, based on what they are capable of doing,” Capitanich said.
Indigenous films aim to portray modern and historic events from the perspective of colonized peoples who continue to suffer from extreme inequality.
The school will be created within the Culture Institute, and its creation falls under Law 26,522 Audiovisual Communication Services.
The Indigenous school will provide training in audiovisual basics and will promote production of local content in the different indigenous communities of Capitanich’s province.
The Indigenous Film Festival began in 2008, with the idea that movies are a social tool that go beyond entertainment and transform reality through social inclusion. The festival supports full rights for the indigenous peoples of the Americas and brings locally produced films to other regions.
Ecuadorean opposition leader Carlos Perez called on the Ecuadorean military and police to rebel against the government during an interview with Ecuadorean TV channel TeleAmazonas Tuesday.
“I call on the military, police you must rebel. You cannot blindly follow an illegitimate act, you cannot do this,” Perez told the interviewer from TeleAmazonas. “If I go to prison for saying this, I welcome this.”
Perez was being interviewed together with his partner Manuela Picq. Both were detained during violent protests last week against the government of Rafael Correa in the Ecuadorean capital. Picq’s detention led to scrutiny of her immigration status, which was found to be “irregular.” A judge ruled Monday that Picq — who said she would begin the process to obtain permanent residency — could stay in the country.
Perez called for the rebellion while commenting on a clash Monday between opposition protesters and police in the province of Loja, where police — backed by the military — arrived to clear an illegal roadblock and were attacked with sticks, rocks, and fire bombs. One police officer was later kidnapped, but managed to escape his captors during the night.
Perez’s remarks are likely to generate controversy in the country, given that the failed 2010 coup against the Correa government began as a police rebellion. In June, a disturbing video surfaced that appeared to incite the Ecuadorean police force to join opposition protests against proposed tax increases on Ecuador’s wealthiest sectors.
Perez, who previously served 8 days in prison for interfering in the delivery of public services, was caught on video Thursday calling on his supporters to surround the presidential palace, where government supporters had assembled. Following his remarks, protestors clashed with police, who were blocking access to the area in order to avoid conflict between the sides.
During the interview, the pair accused the government of illegally detaining them during the violent protests. Picq had previously told the El Comercio newspaper that she “was treated like a criminal simply for walking on the street,” however, she then admitted on Tuesday that she physically interfered with police, who were attempting to detain Perez.
President Correa said opposition groups have opted to turn to violence due to the “failure” of the work stoppage called by opposition-aligned groups last week. The political coalition United Front, which supports the government, also said the national action had failed, citing that no work stoppages had taken place and the protests had lower turnout than expected.
The violent tactics of segments of the opposition have come under heavy scrutiny. In a statement, the Ecuadorean ombudsperson’s office said, “Violent acts are incompatible with democracy, which is why we challenge all forms of aggression that violates rights, regardless of where it comes from.”
In an interview with the Andes news agency, Mario Ramos, director of the Andean Center for Strategic Studies said, “We do not have democratic opposition, that must be clear: there is a subversive opposition that is acting against the security of the Ecuadorean state, against democracy, against the Constitution. Let me be clear, this is not a democratic opposition, this is a subversive opposition.”
Ecuador’s Armed Forces revealed via a tweet that 11 soldiers and police officers were injured Saturday after being attacked with live ammunition as they attempted to clear an illegal roadblock in the Amazonian province of Morona Santiago.
The roadblock had been set up as part of opposition protests against the government of elected president Rafael Correa. Officials confirmed that six people had been arrested as a result.
On Saturday, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa criticized the organizers of the opposition demonstrations for their role in promoting violence, which resulted in more than 80 police and several journalists being injured.
Ecuador’s capital was rocked by violent protests Thursday which formed part of what a segment of the indigenous movement and opposition-aligned trade unions were calling an “uprising” and “work stoppage.”
Government supporters classified Thursday’s protests as an effort to destabilize the democratically-elected government.
Despite various opposition groups coming together, those opposed to the government failed in their objective to oust the government, which President Correa classified Aug. 13 as “historic” victory for the country’s democracy.
Correa expressed dismay at the violence exhibited by opposition demonstrators during his weekly television program broadcast from the province of Imbabura.
“I’ve never seen them so violent, so aggressive,” declared Correa, adding that “those who used violence will be punished with the full rigor of the law.”
The president reserved some of his harshest criticisms for leaders of opposition indigenous organizations, who despite previous assurances that the action would be peaceful and was not aimed at ousting the government, participated in inciting the violence.
Ecuarunari president Carlos Perez was caught on camera encouraging protesters to storm the plaza where government supporters had gathered. Responding to this call, opposition demonstrators — including the Governor of Zamora, Salvador Quishpe — violently attacked police, who endured attacks with sticks, poles, steel barricades, fireworks, and firebombs.
Quishpe, who was seen attacking police lines using the barricades, became covered in soot from the burning tires placed in front of police by demonstrators. The opposition politician subsequently claimed that he been beaten by police.
President Correa also heavily criticized the logic of the organizers of Thursday’s actions, saying the shutting down highways only harmed ordinary Ecuadoreans instead of causing harm to the government.
Correa blasted statements from protest organizers Jorge Herrera of the Conaie Indigenous group and Perez of Ecuarunari. Herrera called on the National Assembly to withdraw a series of proposed constitutional amendments currently under discussion, while Perez demanded Correa resign – despite the fact that Correa maintains high levels of popular support.
The leaders warned they would continue their protests and threatened to escalate their actions if their demands were not met.
“This president does not accept blackmail from anyone,” said Correa responded.
Correa criticized the hypocrisy of right-wing politicians, such as right-wing former banker Guillermo Lasso and Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot, who declared their support for the protests despite historically opposing the demands made by those who organized Thursday’s protests.
The president warned that these types of protests were likely to continue as part of a concerted effort to wear down the government.
Indigenous leader Sabino Romero of the Yukpa was murdered in 2013
One of the accused murderers of the prominent Venezuelan indigenous leader Sabino Romero was sentenced to 30 years in prison for homicide on Friday in a landmark move to prosecute the killer of an indigenous person for the first time.
Angel Romero Bracho, known as “El Manguera,” was given the maximum sentence for his role in Sabino’s murder, according to a statement from the attorney General’s office. Another five suspects had already been sentenced to seven years in prison for their involvement in the crime.
Sabino, a leader of the Yukpa indigenous group in western Venezuela and famed national symbol of indigenous resistance, was killed in March 2013 after a heated land conflict between indigenous groups with legal title to the land and large ranchers who wanted to stake their claim to the farmland.
Although the trial in the case of Sabino’s death was lengthy, justice has finally been served in a historic ruling to punish the murderer of an indigenous leader. Violence against indigenous people has long been treated with impunity in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America. While the national government has taken many steps to support indigenous rights, ranchers are usually able to bribe judicial officials. In the trial of Romero Bracho, the public prosector received death threats.
Family members and supporters hope that the conviction against Romero Bracho will pave the way to further investigations to punish the other masterminds behind the murder.
“Sabino Romero has denouced threats and violence in the Sierra de Perija of the latifundistas against the Yukpa people.”
Sabino was the target of an assassination plot in the western Venezuelan state of Zulia for his role in the indigenous struggle against large ranchers who sought to monopolize landholdings, even though indigenous campesinos held legal title to the land under an agrarian reform law implemented by former President Hugo Chavez in 2001.
Sabino’s wife and fellow movement activist Lucia Martinez was also injured in the attack.
Sabino was a well-known and important leader among the Yukpa people, but also stood as a national icon of the broader indigenous movement and struggle for indigenous rights.
Earlier this summer, Ruben Espinosa fled Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz after receiving death threats. His work as a photojournalist there had made him an enemy of the state’s governor, who presides over one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a reporter.
On July 31, Espinosa was found beaten and shot dead in a Mexico City apartment.
Eight months ago, Nadia Vera, a student activist and cultural worker, looked boldly into a camera lens and told an interviewer that if anything happened to her, Veracruz governor Javier Duarte and his cabinet should be held responsible. She also fled Veracruz to the nation’s capital after suffering attacks.
On July 31, Nadia Vera was found sexually tortured and murdered, shot point-blank in the same apartment.
Three more women were assassinated in the normally tranquil, upper-middle class neighborhood that afternoon — an 18 year-old Mexican named Yesenia Quiroz, a Colombian identified only as “Nicole,” and a 40 year-old domestic worker named Alejandra. The press generally refers to the case as “the murder of Ruben Espinosa and four women,” relegating the women victims to anonymity even in death.
At a recent demonstration of journalists and human rights defenders, the sense of dread was palpable. As communicators in Mexico, we’re angry and intensely frustrated at how so many of our ranks have been killed, disappeared, displaced, or censored with no repercussions.
For many, including me, this crime especially hit home. For a long time, whenever I was asked if I was afraid to speak out critically in Mexico, I answered that fortunately Mexico City was relatively safe. Drug cartels and their allies in government only kept close tabs on reporters in more disputed areas.
The quintuple homicide in a quiet corner of the city shattered that myth — and with it what was left of our complacency. Several days before his murder, Espinosa told friends that a man had approached him to ask if he was the photographer who fled Veracruz. When he said yes, the man replied, “You should know that we’re here.”
Once considered a haven, Mexico City has become a hunting ground in a country where, too often, journalists end up reporting on the brutal assassinations of their colleagues — and wondering who will be next.
Ruben Espinosa had photographed social movements in the state of Veracruz for the past eight years, including journalists’ protests over the murder of Regina Martinez in 2012, a journalist and colleague of Espinosa at Proceso magazine. He covered the protests against the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa by local police in Guerrero and acts of repression by the Veracruz state government.
Espinosa captured a front-page photo of Governor Duarte, big-bellied and wearing a police cap, which appeared on the cover of Proceso alongside the title: “Veracruz, a Lawless State.” Espinosa noted that the governor was so enraged by the photo he had his agents obtain and destroy as many copies of the magazine as they could get their hands on. He reported that while he was taking pictures of the eviction of protesters, a government agent told him, “You better stop taking pictures or you´ll end up like Regina.”
The Mexican Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression recognizes 102 journalists murdered from 2000 to 2014.
Yet the Mexico City prosecutor didn’t even mention the threats and attacks against Nadia Vera, an activist and a member of the student organization YoSoy132, as a line of investigation in her murder. The UN High Commission on Human Rights in Mexico stated that Vera and the other female victims found with Espinosa showed signs of sexual torture. Mexico City investigators announced that they were applying investigative protocols for possible femicides, but didn’t say why or confirm the reports of rape and sexual torture.
The invisibility of the women victims in the press and the official statements has been partially compensated for by social media. In social networks, millions of posts and tweets have brought to light the lives of the women, and especially Nadia’s more public and activist past, in an impromptu campaign that insists that women’s lives also matter.
Signs of a Cover-Up?
Now, just days into the investigation, with the nation — and especially journalists — reeling from the news, there are already signs of a cover-up.
On August 2, Mexico City Attorney General Rodolfo Rios gave a press conference reporting on advances in the case. Although Rios promised to pursue all lines of investigation, he downplayed the possibility that this could be a political crime against freedom of expression, claiming that Espinosa was not currently employed.
Rios also stated that the photojournalist came to Mexico City to look for work — a thinly veiled attempt to pre-empt the dead journalist’s own version of the facts that he was forced to leave Veracruz due to ongoing persecution. The city attorney’s office has put forth robbery as the principal motive of the crime, despite the execution-style torture and killings, and hasn’t called on anyone from the Veracruz government to provide testimony.
These are signs that the city government may be trying to railroad the investigation, and they’ve outraged the public, especially journalists. The attorney general’s absurd claim that Espinosa was unemployed at the time of his murder, seemingly suggesting that his journalistic work wasn’t a motive, caused particular indignation.
On August 5, investigators announced that they’d arrested and were questioning a suspect based on a match with a fingerprint found in the apartment. Despite apparent advances, there’s a growing fear that the government has no intention of really investigating a crime that could lead straight to a powerful member of the president’s own party.
The U.S. Role
The involvement of the Mexican government in the crime itself, or at least in creating the climate that led to the crime and failing to prevent it, raises serious questions for U.S. policymakers as well. The watchdog organization Article 19 reports that nearly half of the aggressions against journalists registered were carried out by state agents.
Since 2008, the U.S. government — through the Merida Initiative and other sources — has provided some $3 billion to the Mexican government for the war on drugs. This is a period when attacks on human rights defenders and journalists have skyrocketed, and more than 100,000 people have been killed by criminals and security forces alike.
A fraction of that money has gone to mechanisms for protection that have so far proved worthless. Rather than helping, this serves to support the false idea that the Mexican state is the good guy in a war on organized crime. The cases of corruption, complicity, and abuse that pile up week by week have demolished this premise.
Supporting abusive governments and security forces while claiming to support the journalists and human rights defenders being attacked by them is like pretending to help the fox while arming the hunter — it just prolongs the hunt. Mexican citizens who speak up are being hunted, too often by their own government. It’s time the U.S. government came to grips with that and immediately suspended the Merida Initiative.
Until there is accountability and justice — and an end to the murder of those who tell the truth about what’s happening here — sending U.S. taxpayer money to Mexican security forces is a vile betrayal of Mexicans’ friendship and of the highest principles of U.S. foreign policy.
Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS).
A retired Pinochet-era Chilean general and former head of the DINA secret intelligence unit committed suicide Thursday at the age of 76, after being convicted of dictatorship crimes earlier this week.
Former General Hernan Ramirez Rurange was one of 14 military personnel convicted Tuesday for involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Eugenio Berrios, a chemist and secret police agent under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Berrios was disappeared in the early 1990s after escaping from hiding in Uruguay. He had been sent there as part of DINA’s Operation Silence to avoid testifying in cases of assassinations carried out by secret police in the 1970s in the dictatorship-era Operation Condor.
Ramirez was sentenced to a total of 20 years and two days in prison this week: 10 years and one day for being the mastermind behind Berrios’ kidnapping, and another 10 years and one day for illicit association.
The former general died in the hospital after shooting himself in the head Thursday. His suicide immediately after the sentencing provoked strong reactions on social media.
“Hernan Ramirez couldn’t deal with his conscience or he was too cowardly to face his punishment, because he didn’t have any problem torturing.”
“Hernan Ramirez, today you join in heaven Odlanier Mena, Himmler, Hitler, Goebbels, Goring, Hess and other who valiantly committed suicide.”
Ramirez’ suicide comes a week after Manuel Contreras, another former head of DINA during the dictatorship, died Friday age of 86, remaining unrepentant until his death for the grave human rights abuses he committed, including torture, murder, and disappearances.
Ramirez was a right-hand man to Pinochet. He committed serious crimes aimed at protecting the dictatorship military regime at the beginning of the 1990’s, during the transition to democracy, when the Chilean government launched investigations into military personnel for human rights abuses perpetrated under the dictatorship, according to Chilean newspaper La Tercera.
In the Berrios case, Ramirez testified that Pinochet had directly ordered him in 1991 as a DINA operative to take Berrios into hiding in Uruguay and that Pinochet knew “perfectly” who Berrios was.
Berrios oversaw the development of chemical weapons for use by DINA under Pinochet’s dictatorship. Such biochemical weapons included sarin gas, a chemical used to kill victims silently and without a trace by mimicking a heart attack.
DINA was key in executing Operation Condor, a six-country regional intelligence operation and terror campaign to assassinate political opponents of the participating U.S.-backed right-wing regimes.
Pinochet came to power after a U.S.-backed coup on Sept. 11, 1973, that removed the democratically elected, socialist President Salvador Allende. Pinochet’s bloody regime ruled until 1990, during which time over 3,000 people were murdered and tens of thousands tortured and disappeared.
Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was released from a psychiatric hospital Tuesday, after undergoing seven days of tests that effectively delayed his retrial for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Attorney Jaime Hernandez, who is part of Rios Montt’s defense team, confirmed that psychiatrists had finished their assessment of the 89-year-old retired-general and submitted their final report to the Public Ministry, about one week earlier than planned.
The court must now wait until Aug 18 when it will hear testimony from the doctors who examined Rios Montt and the ministry to determine whether he is physically and mentally fit to face the severe charges.
Rios Montt is accused of killing at least 1,771 Guatemalans in the Mayan area of Ixil, committing 1,400 human rights violations, and displacing tens of thousands of indigenous people during his 1980’s dictatorship.
His military regime marked one of the bloodiest periods of Guatemala’s 36-year civil war (1960-1996).
In May 2013, Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity for thousands of human rights abuses, but the historic verdict and accompanying 80-year prison sentence were overturned just 10 days later, purportedly due to errors in process.
In July, the courts ordered that Rios Montt be admitted to a psychiatric hospital to undergo tests, after defense lawyers presented a report that declared him mentally unfit to face a re-trial, saying he is not capable of comprehending the charges against him or of defending himself.
The court order was the latest in a long string of delays and procedural setbacks for the retrial of the former-general, which was supposed to begin in January. Next week the courts will make the final decision whether or not to finally proceed with the retrial.
According to the Regional Security and Justice Coordinator and Popular Citizens Police (CRSJ-PCP), a municipal government in the violent Mexican state of Guerrero and local political party the Antorcha (Torch) Campesina, an offshoot of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), forcibly disappeared 20 people, including women and children.
“The enforced disappearances took place on Sunday and we hold municipal and state authorities responsible for the outcome of this incident,” reported the local nongovernmental organization.
According to CRSJ-PCP, the forced disappearances took place in San Antonio Coyahuacan in the Olinala municipality, about 100 miles southeast of Iguala, where the 43 Ayotzinapa students were attacked Sept. 16, 2014 and allegedly handed over to a drug gang.
San Antonio is also located 150 miles north of Acapulco, the third most dangerous city in the world. Fifteen people were killed in the city over the weekend, including activist Miguel Angel Jimenez, who led a search team looking for the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students and 257 other victims of forced disappearances.
“We fear for the lives of our comrades. The municipal government of Olinala says it has nothing to do with these disappearances, but its police brandish their AK-47s along with the Antorchista (members of the PRI Antorcha Campesina), who are the same anyway,” the organization said.
“These acts are repulsive and represent a stupid provocation, and if this is sanctioned by the state government then we are talking about political dementia,” the statement added.
The community group also accused the government of using Antorcha Campesina to carry out aggressions against the people, including forced disappearances.
Citlali Perez, leader of the CRSJ-PCP, called on the government to immediately release the 20 people forcibly disappeared.
The group said the local, state and federal government reject the existence of the local community police PCP. However, many argue they have increased security to a region that was deep in despair as a result of official negligence.
According to the CRSJ, the conflict in the region is also about land, as Antorcha Campesina wants to illegally take over the land commissioner’s office.