Indigenous Groups in Brazil Rise in Opposition to Jair Bolsonaro

Source: Internationalist 360°

https://peoplesdispatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/EleNao-Brazil.pngIllustration by @nana/ Twitter

  • A number of indigenous candidates from various political groups from the Amazon region called for the creation of an Indigenous Parliamentary Front

Ahead of the first round of the elections in Brazil on October 7, indigenous communities openly declared their opposition to the right-wing candidate, Jair Bolsonaro. A number of indigenous candidates from various political groups from the Amazon region called for the creation of an Indigenous Parliamentary Front to resist the possibility of the formation of a right-wing government under Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro’s racist remarks and stances have been a major reason for such a development.

Bolsonaro, the candidate of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), had earlier said that he would not give an inch to indigenous reservations. He also regards the current area under reservations for indigenous nationalities to be too high and has vowed to scrap it. According to certain reports, Bolsonaro has been endorsed by big business ventures which want to scrap sovereign land rights given to indigenous communities over 118 million hectares, especially in the Amazon region. These rights prevent such capitalists from exploiting the resources in these areas. The agribusiness lobby (large landowners, cattle ranchers and producers of grains for export markets) too is targeting the indigenous land demarcated by the 1988 constitution for the expansion of their industries. The 2010 census in Brazil shows that there were 896,917 indigenous people in Brazil (0.47% of the population of 190.7 million in 2010) and they occupy around 13% of the national territory, which the powerful agribusiness lobby is eager to exploit.

Bolsonaro’s vice-presidential candidate, Antonio Hamilton Mourao, a retired army general, has also evoked protests with his racist remarks against indigenous communities. These comments by the candidates come at a time when violent attacks against indigenous activists are high in the Amazon region. This has been among the factors that have prompted members of the indigenous communities to propose a clear political line against Bolsonaro.

Occupation and genocide disguised as “discovery”

Source:  Cuba-Network in Defense of Humanity

February 1 2018

by Jerome Duval

occupation and genocide as discovery“We have been told, and still are, that it was the pilgrims of the Mayflower that populated America. Had it been empty before?” Eduardo Galeano.

What was really discovered

“What was really discovered [in 1492] is what Spain really was, the reality of Western culture and that of the Church at that time. (…) They did not discover the other world, they covered it. What was manifested was a ‘discovering of the conquest’, and a ‘violent and violating covering of the conquered populations, their cultures, their religion, the people themselves, their languages. What remains to be done today is to discover what was covered over, and to create a ‘new world’ that is not just the repetition of the old, but which is truly new. Is this possible? Is it pure utopia?” Father Ignacio Ellacuria, a few months before being savagely murdered by the Atlácatl Battalion of the Salvadoran army on 16 November, 1989.

Replacing the colonies of yesterday

The so-called “developing countries” (DC) of today replace the colonies of yesterday: large Western multinational companies settle in former colonies, invest and extort resources to accumulate exorbitant profits which escape into tax havens. All of this is taking place under the approving gaze of corrupt local elites, with the support of northern governments and international financial institutions (IFIs) demanding repayment of odious debts inherited from the colonial period.

By means of debt leverage and the imposed neo-capitalist policies that condition it, the dispossessed populations still pay for the colonial crimes of yesterday and the elites surreptitiously perpetuate them today. This is what is known as neocolonialism. Meanwhile, apart from some late and altogether far too few acknowledgements of the crimes committed, every effort has been made to organize collective amnesia and avoid any debate about possible reparations. For they would pave the way for popular claims, and could set in motion an emancipating memory trail that might lead to demands for restitution, something that should certainly be nipped in the bud!

The demographic catastrophe of genocide

On Friday the 3rd of August, 1492, la Pinta, la Niña and la Santa María, the three ships of Christopher Columbus, left the port of Palos de la Frontera in Andalusia with nearly 90 crew members. Less than three months later, the expedition landed in several parts of the Americas, including Cuba on the 28th of October. 1492 marks the misnamed “discovery of America”, but it is also the year when Spain, after nearly eight centuries, finally overcame the last stronghold of the Muslim religion with the conquest of Granada on 2 January 1492. The Church’s so-called “holy war” against Islam, led by Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, who had unified their rival domains through marriage, was victorious. “Nationalist” exaltation fed a xenophobic impulse based on intolerance.

Three months later, approximately 150,000 Jews who had refused to convert to Roman Catholicism were expelled from Spain (31 March 1492). The warlike culture of the crusades was exported to the new colonies. Queen Isabella, who had patronized the Inquisition, was also consecrated the First Lady of this “New World” by the Spanish Pope Alexander VI. The kingdom of God was extended, and the conquistadors forced the various native peoples, misnamed “Indians”, to convert to the Catholic faith.

At least 10 million people from the Americas were exterminated between 1500 and 1600, with the Vatican’s blessing. But the figures could be much more alarming than this low estimate, if we consider that the Americas were much more heavily populated than has been previously acknowledged. Indeed, many scientists now estimate that “the population of the two American continents before 1492 was somewhere between 90 and 110 million inhabitants (including 5 to 10 million in the Amazon rainforest).

In other words, contrary to what we still learn in history textbooks, more people lived in America than in Europe at that time!” . Taking into account the”septic shock“ upon contact with the first conquistadors: shipments of unknown epidemics in these territories, namely smallpox, influenza, measles, the plague, pneumonia or typhus, spread like wildfire among native populations, decimating 85 to 90% of the Native American population in the century following the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

If we add to that malaria and yellow fever imported by the Europeans to America, the conquest by arms and forced labour, which often led to death, we reach a figure of 95% of Amerindians who disappeared between 1492 and 1600. As Charles C. Mann points out in his works of reference 1491 and 1493, the human and social cost is beyond comprehension; indeed there is no comparable demographic catastrophe in the annals of human history.

A turn to African labour

The massacre was on an immense scale. As there were too few Amerindians left to constitute a durable workforce, the colonial powers had to rely on African labour to pursue the colossal enterprise of the greatest looting of all time. As the aforementioned genocide of Native Americans took place, historian Aline Helg reminds us that 8 to 10 million Africans died “when captured on their land, in the marches to reach African ports and during the long wait in the coastal warehouses” before being crammed into the holds of the slave ships leaving for the “New World”.

Eventually, at least 12 million Africans torn from their homeland were deported to the Americas and the Caribbean between the 16th and the 19th centuries“. But a large number of them, almost 2 million (about 16% of the total) did not survive the trip and died during the transatlantic crossing before reaching the European colonies.

For the survivors, their fate was governed, as far as France was concerned, by the infamous Code noir, drafted by Colbert and enacted in 1685, of which Article 44 declared “slaves are moveable property” thus conferring legal status on the slave trade and slavery. Thousands of African captives landed each year for sale in the slave markets of the Americas.

The decade from 1784 to 1793 was the culmination of the slave trade with imports averaging nearly 91,000 Africans a year. But the absolute record was reached in 1829, when 106,000 captives landed, almost all in Brazil, Cuba and the French Caribbean. Once bought by their masters, the slaves were branded (after earlier branding on the boat or while boarding), suffered all sorts of blows to encourage work, and women were frequently raped.

Attempts to rebel, whether proven or not, were severely repressed by whipping, followed by a sentence of death by torture. Slaves were torn apart by stretching on the wheel, and were mutilated, castrated, hanged or burned alive at the stake. Heads were exhibited, in the public square or in front of the plantations, to set an example. For escape attempts, ears were cut off or the shin sliced. There was no limit to the forms of torture that could be imagined… this list is not exhaustive.

It is important to put these two major events of the year 1492 into context, and to emphasize the fact that they were intrinsically linked. We cannot understand the violence perpetrated in America without perceiving it as the result of the Crusades. Dissociating them from one another, as textbooks do, does not aid our understanding of one of the darkest pages in our history and underestimates the predominant role of the Church on the old continent as in the “New World”. Religious orders also owned slaves, and in the Iberian and French colonies, Roman Catholicism imposed on them evangelization and baptism, whether they were African captives or born in America. Spanish and Portuguese become the languages of conquest, with the Church’s blessing.

Colonial heritage and cultural debt in Africa

Imperial languages, like the Islam and Catholicism, the religions imported by the colonizers, played a major role in the annihilation of local ancestral cultures and prevented their memories from being handed down. We can speak here of cultural debt whose most visible aspect is undoubtedly materialized by the looting of the art objects of these peoples, exhibited in the museums of the colonial West.

At the end of 1996, Jacques Chirac received a terracotta statuette from Mali for his birthday. The work came from a group of objects seized by the police a few years earlier on the grounds of illegal excavation, stolen during their transfer to the Museum of Bamako. After more than a year of negotiations, Mr. Chirac had to return the work to the Malian museum. Apart from some restitutions like this one or that of the three terracotta nok and sokoto originating from illicit excavations in Nigeria and exhibited in April 2000 at the inauguration of the Louvre Museum’s Tribal and Aboriginal Arts gallery in Paris (showcase for the future Quai Branly Art Museum of Indigenous Arts), and finally returned to the Nigerian State, countless works of art still remain outside their country of origin and have not yet been restored. However, many resolutions adopted since 1972 by the UN General Assembly “promot[e] the return of cultural property to its country of origin or its restitution in the case of illegal appropriation”.

Knowing and acknowledging past genocidal horror helps to understand, on the one hand, how North America was propelled into becoming a new capitalist empire and, on the other, the impasse of false development into which the imperialist West has led the subjugated Southern countries.

Cuba-Network in Defense of Humanity

Trinidad Joins World Protests Against Columbus Day, Statue Defaced

Source:  TeleSUR
October 10 2017

trinidad joins world protest.pngColombus “decimated first peoples of the Americas, destroyed their way of
life then turned around and denied their humanity,” the project further
wrote. | Photo: Reuters

The organization plans deliver a letter to the city mayor to remove the statue on Wednesday. 

Joining many cities in protest against the Oct. 9 Christopher Columbus Day, protestors in Port of Spain also took a stand and reached out to the mayor’s office officially demanding the Columbus statue be removed from the capital city.

RELATEDSocial Media Blasts Racist ‘Columbus Day’ in Favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The Italian’s statue was splattered in blood-colored paint to reflect the “Genocidal Genovese Sailor” who “decimated the first peoples of the Americas destroyed their way of life then turned around and denied their humanity,” a grassroots program, Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, CRFP, said on Facebook.

Columbus “decimated first peoples of the Americas, destroyed their way of life then turned around and denied their humanity,” the group wrote.

Deputy mayor, Hillan Morean, said that he doesn’t have a problem meeting with the group, but he does have a problem with someone defacing a public property.

“Notwithstanding their thoughts and opinions, utilizing hate to cancel the same hate they’re fighting is not the approach,” Morean said.

Director of The Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, Shabaka Kambon responded saying that he was deeply troubled by the country’s association with the voyager’s colonialist past and while not condoning the defacing of the statue, urged authorities to not take action against anyone.

columbus' statue in buffalo new york.jpg

Columbus’ statue in Buffalo, New York

Many U.S. cities like New York, Chicago saw protests against the commemoration day of the Italian sailor, many statues across the U.S. were also defaced and vandalized.

 

Nearly 52 cities have already replaced Columbus day with the Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The condemnation also comes at a time of widespread reactions against white supremacy and protests in the United States to remove statues that glorify Confederate officers who fought for maintaining slavery in the U.S. civil war.

Indigenous Resistance DayMany South American nations also celebrate the day commemorating the Indigenous peoples in their countries, like Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, which officially renamed the Columbus Day as the Day of Indigenous Resistance in 2002.

The CRFP also returned from a trip to the South American country of Venezuela after visiting the Monument to Indigenous Resistance in the capital city, Caracas.

day of decolonization Bolivia.jpg

Celebrating the Day of Decolonization in Bolivia

CRFP also urged the government to set up a commission that looks into the people who are commemorated and venerated in the country, adding that many regions in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas are now rescuing public spaces “from history’s most vile epochs to honor humanity’s highest values.”

The organization plans to lead an online campaign under the banner “RhodesMustFallCaribbean” and a delegation will deliver a letter to the city mayor to remove the statue on Wednesday.

 

rhodes statue removed 1.png

The removal of the Cecil John Rhodes Statue at UCT, Cape Town, South Africa

The 25 principles of Good living in the Native Constitution of Bolivia and Ecuador

Source:  Cuba: Network in Defense of Humanity / Vibromancia / The Dawn News /
September 19 2017

25 principlesThe Principles of Good Living are ingrained in the Constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador, and were inspired by the knowledge of ancestral cultures of the region, like the Aymara, Quechua and Guarani people.

rafael y evo 2.jpgGood Living is a philosophy promoted by Andean governments of South America, pioneered by Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Rafael Correa (Ecuador). It goes back to the roots of ancestral cultures of the region and posits a model for human life in harmony with nature.

A platform for intercultural thought

It considers human beings to be second to the environment. It is neither socialism (which prioritizes the needs of humankind) nor capitalism (whose priorities are money and profit).

This line of thought was initiated by the Kichwa peoples of the Pastaza river in the late 1990s, as a proposal to organize their way of life and the bases of their relation to the territory, according to their cosmovision. Nowadays, this current integrates the cosmovisions of many cultures. Therefore, Good Living can be understood as “a platform for intercultural thought that is under construction, and which is intended to build alternatives to development in the future”.

The principles of Good Living are woven into the Constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador as Constitutional principles, which is a novelty in the world in terms of institutional organization.

These are the 25 principles of Good Living:

Prioritizing life: Good Living is life in community, where every member cares for all the others. The most important thing is not the human being (as socialism posits) nor money (as capitalism posits) but life. Its goal is a simpler life, the way of harmony with nature and life.

To reach agreements in consensus: Good living is seeking consensus between everyone. People might have think differently, but through dialogue we must seek a neutral point where everyone agrees without conflict. It’s about deepening democracy, because there’s also submission in democracy and “submitting the neighbour is not living well”.

Respecting differences: Good living is respecting the neighbour, being able to listen to everyone who wants to speak, without discrimination or some form of submission. We don’t posit tolerance but respect, because each culture or region has a different way of thinking, and in order to live will and in harmony we need to respect those differences. This doctrine includes all beings inhabiting the planet.

To live in complementarity: Good living is prioritizing complementarity between all beings. In communities, children complement grandparents, man complements woman, and so on. Plants and animals complement the existence of human beings and help them survive.

Balance with nature: Good living is leading a life in balance with all beings. Like democracy, justice is also considered discriminative, because it only considers people and not the most important principle: harmony between human beings and nature. Good living aspires to a society with equality and without exclusion.

Defending identity: Good living is valuing and recovering identity. It implies fully enjoying life based on values that have endured for over 500 years and which have been transmitted by families and communities who lived in harmony with nature and the cosmos. One of the main goals of Good Living is recovering unity between all peoples.

Accepting differences: good living is respecting similitudes and differences between the beings that inhabit the planet. It goes beyond the concept of diversity. It also means that equal or different beings should never harm each other.

Prioritizing cosmic rights: good living means prioritizing cosmic rights before human rights. When the Government speaks of climate change, it’s also referring to cosmic rights. Therefore, it is more important to speak about the rights of Mother Earth than about the rights of human beings.

Knowing how to eat: Good Living is knowing how to eat, and combining proper foods according to each season of the year. This principle is based on the elders, who based their diet on one particular product for each season. Knowing how to eat guarantees health.

Knowing how to drink: Good living is drinking alcohol moderately. In indigenous communities, each celebration has a meaning, and alcohol is present in celebrations, but it must be consumed without exaggeration and without harming others. Knowing how to drink in community doesn’t mean going to a bar and poison ourselves with alcohol until we kill our neurons.

Knowing how to dance: Good living is knowing how to dance, which is not just shaking the body. Dance is related to specific events like sowing or harvesting. Communities still honor the Pachamama with dance and music, especially in agricultural cycles, however, native dances are considered just folklore in the cities. In the new doctrine, dance will recover its true meaning.

Knowing how to work: Good living means considering work as a celebration. Unlike capitalism, where work is considered a burden, the new model recovers the ancestral way of looking at work as a celebration. It is a way of growing as a person, therefore in indigenous cultures people work since they are children.

Recover the Abya Laya: Good living is promoting peoples to come together in a big family. This means for the regions of the country to form what was formerly known as Abya Laya—a big community. This should extend to all countries. It is considered a good sign that some presidents are trying to unite all the peoples.

Recover agriculture: Good living is reincorporating agriculture to communities and recovering forms of life in community, like working the land and cultivating products to provide for the basic needs of everyone.

Knowing how to communicate: Good living means knowing how to communicate, and recovering the communication that ancestral communities had. DIalogue is the result of this good communication: speaking among us like our parents used to, and solving problems without generating conflicts.

Social control: Good living means that inhabitants control the public affairs of the community. It differs from the concept of social participation, which reduces the amount of true participation of the people. in ancestral times, everyone controled the roles of their main authorities.

Working reciprocally: Good living is recovering the reciprocity of work in the communities. In some indigenous peoples, this practice is called ayni, which is nothing more than giving back, in the form of work, as a way to thank for the help provided by a family in an agricultural task, such as sowing or harvesting.

Not stealing and not lying: Ama sua and ama qhilla, in quechua language. It is fundamental for communities to respect these principles to maintain the wellness and trust between its inhabitants.

Protecting seeds: so that we don’t need transgenic products in the future. preserving ancestral agricultural abundance through the creation of seed banks to avoid using transgenic seeds and chemicals, which destroys thousand-year seeds.

Respecting women: because they represent the Pachamama, Mother Earth, the giver of life and the protector of its fruits. Woman is valued and present in all of the activities related to life, upbringing, education and culture.

Good living, NOT better living: Good living does not mean living better, in capitalistic terms. Living better is related to egotism, individualism lack of interest in others. The capitalist doctrine promotes the exploitation of people in order to concentrate wealth in just a few hands, while Good Living aims for a simple life with balanced production.

Recovering resources: Recovering the natural abundance of the country and allowing everyone to benefit from it in a balanced an equitative manner. It also includes nationalizing and recovering the strategic companies of the country in a framework of balance and coexistence between humankind and nature.

Exercising sovereignty: reaching a common consensus that defines and builds unity and responsibility in favor of the common good, without excluding anyone. In this context, communities and nations will build a sovereign nation that will be administered in harmony between individuals, nature and the cosmos.

Protecting water: rationally distributing water and using it correctly. Water is the vital liquid of the beings that inhabit the planet, so we must value it and preserve it as much as possible.

Listening to the elderly: reading into the wrinkles of the old to find the right path.One of the main sources of knowledge are the elderly of the community, who treasure the stories and customs that erode with the passing of time. Our elders are walking wisdom, so we must always learn from them.

Indigenous Activists Detain Panama’s President for 2 Hours

Source:  TeleSUR
August 23 2016

The Indigenous protesters are upset about a government plan to develop a hydroelectric project they fear will destroy their lands.

Indigenous activists detain panama's president.jpg

Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, President Juan Carlos Varela and Ngabe Bugle representative Silvia Carrera | Photo: EFE

A dozen Indigenous people detained the president of Panama at a school on Tuesday to protest a deal he signed that could lead to the building of a highly controversial Barro Blanco Dam project in Chiriqui Province. Construction on the hydroelectric dam, which is nearly finished, was frozen last year in response to protests.

RELATED:  Panama Govt Suspends Barro Blanco Dam Under Indigenous Pressure

“Burn down”the agreement to build the dam

President Juan Carlos Varela was detained after he was about to give a public speech praising a recent deal with some Indigenous leaders to resume construction. Opponents of that agreement threw stones at police cars, injuring four officers, reported local media.

The president’s security team immediately took Varela and Indigenous representative Silvia Carrera inside a nearby school, where they were forced to stay for two hours while the Indigenous dissidents threatened to not let them out until the agreement was “burned down.”

Movimiento 10 de Abril

The dissidents are part of Indigenous group Movimiento 10 de Abril, or M-10, a movement representing communities affected by the dam. The M-10 denies Carrera the authority to represent them, saying she is “sold to the government.”

They blocked the school’s main entrance for two hours, until Varela threatened to arrest the dissidents if they did not let him go.

RELATED:  Panama Indigenous Group Calls for Help Fighting Unwanted Dam

The hydroelectric project will soon be resumed … President Varela

“This is just an isolated incident promoted by a dozen disrespectful Indigenous people that do not officially represent the Ngabe Bugle community,” the president said after he was released. He affirmed that the hydroelectric project will soon be resumed, in accordance with the deal signed with the official Ngabe Bugle authorities as soon as Congress ratifies the text within the next 30 to 60 days.

Under the deal, the government will seek another independent firm to carry out the project and remove the license initially assigned to Panamanean mining firm Generadora del Istmo S.A., or Genisa.

Until the government finds a new contractor, Genisa’s shares will be placed in Panama’s National Bank. European banks are also funding the project, including Germany’s DEG, Deutsche Entwicklungsgesellschaft and Netherlands Development Finance Company.

Future projects will be subjected to popular consultation

The government has also agreed to cancel all the licenses for hydroelectric projects planned on the Tabasara River. Future projects will also be subjected to popular consultation and require approval from official Indigenous and campesinos authorities.

But according to M-10 leader Ricardo Miranda, the floodgates on the dam were already opened in some places on Saturday afternoon in order to start filling the reservoir, flooding the lands of dozens of nearby families.

RELATED:  8 Latin America Indigenous Rights Victories as Struggle Goes On

Barro Blanco dam will flood nearly 15 acres of Indigenous lands

Barro Blanco dam, whose construction is 95 percent finished, will flood nearly 15 acres, or 6 hectares, of Indigenous lands surrounding the site of the dam on the Tabasara River.

The Ngabe Bugle communities affected by the project—representing about 170,000 people—have argued that their rights to free, prior and informed consent under International Labor Organization Convention 169 have been violated and that they never gave permission for the dam.

The local Ngabe Bugle people

Critics of the dam fear that the project will displace tens of thousands of people, harm the local agricultural sector, and flood Ngabe Bugle land and traditional sacred sites. The Tabasara River is fundamental to the livelihoods of the local Ngabe Bugle people, who rely on it for water, fishing, and agricultural production along its fertile banks.

Outrage as Another Indigenous Activist Leader Assassinated in Honduras

Source:  Common Dreams
March 16 2016

by  Nika Knight, staff writer

Less than two weeks after Berta Cáceres’ brutal slaying, another member of her activist group was shot and killed after the Honduran government violently evicted his Indigenous community from its ancestral land

another indigenous activit assassinated.png

Indigenous people and environmentalists around the world have been mourning Cáceres and fearing for her fellow activists’ safety in Honduras since her assassination on March 3. (Photo: Getty Images)

Another member of Berta Cáceres’ Indigenous rights group was brutally murdered by unidentified assailants on Tuesday, following a violent eviction of Indigenous people from their land.

Nelson Garcia, a father of five and community leader, was shot four times in the face—”gunned down in his home,” the Nation reported. His assassination occurred less than two weeks after Cáceres’, and only days following her funeral.

Megadam project 

Local reports say that his death occurred shortly after the Honduran government’s dispatching of riot police and bulldozers to evict 150 Indigenous people from their homes in Rio Chiquito, where they had occupied ancestral land for two years in protest of the Agua Zarca megadam project.

TeleSUR reported:

“They said that they would be peaceful and they were not going to throw anyone out of their houses, but at midday they started to tear down the houses, they destroyed the maize, the banana trees and the yuca plantations,” said Tomas Gomez, a COPINH coordinator.

“When they finished the eviction, our companion Nelson Garcia went to eat in his house, they were waiting in the zone that the commission of COPINH pass, but it was diverted. Garcia arrived first and they killed him,” he added.

Garcia was a leader in the Rio Chiquito community, all of whom were members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Indigenous rights group formed by Cáceres. COPINH has been instrumental in preventing the construction of the Agua Zarca megadam.

Ancestral territory of the Lenca tribe

The megadam is to be built on the Gualcarque River, ancestral territory of the Lenca tribe—of which Cáceres was a member—and a critical water source for the Indigenous people.

Cáceres’ daughter, Bertha Cáceres, only yesterday told the Guardian in an interview that her mother’s death “is not the first assassination, but one of a series of assassinations of human rights defenders.”

“I don’t want another human rights defender to be assassinated,” Bertha said.

14 members now murdered

Garcia’s death “brings to 14 the number of COPINH members who have been murdered since the group was founded in 1993,” observed fellow activist Beverly Bell.

A witness to Cáceres’ murder and fellow Indigenous activist Gustavo Castro was blocked by the Honduran government from returning to Mexico last week, and he is currently still being held by the Mexican Embassy in Tegucigalpa despite international pleas for the government to allow him to safely leave the country, DemocracyNow reported.

A brutal regime – the highest murder rate in the world

Honduras is suffering under a brutal regime put in place by a U.S.-backed coup supported by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state. Since the coup, the country has maintained the highest murder rate in the world, and many environmental and Indigenous rights activists have been killed under the military junta’s rule.

After news of Garcia’s murder broke, the Europe-based development banks FMO and Finnfund announced that because of the violence and killings they would end their operations in Honduras entirely, which will mean pulling their funding for the Agua Zarca megadam.

TeleSUR reported that USAID, on the other hand, is continuing to fund Agua Zarca in defiance of activists’ protests at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. earlier this week, and despite the continued violence and murders of environmentalists and Indigenous activists in Honduras.

Panama: First Indigenous Poetry Anthology, A Weapon of Struggle

Source: TeleSUR
16 November 2015

panama indigenous people.jpgIndigenous writers and poets hope the new anthology will prompt Panama’s Culture Ministry to allocate more funds to preserve indigenous heritage. | Photo: EFE

The new anthology contains ode to revolutions, ancestors and heroes, lands and struggles.

Using art as a way to reclaim their identity

The first anthology of indigenous poetry was launched in Panama on Sunday in what the authors say is using art as a way to reclaim their identity and redefine Panama.

In a country where well-over 90 percent of the indigenous population lives in conditions of poverty or extreme poverty, the “First Anthology of Indigenous Poetry” is seen as part of a larger struggle for dignity and cultural survival, according to the poets.

“For us it is very important to preserve culture, identity, the struggle for the land, territory, natural resources. All of this is very important to us. This is why we have to mention it in everything; be it in poetry, in oratory, drawings, paintings,” Mani Gueuigdinapi, the book’s editor told HispanTV.

Odes to revolutions, ancestors and heroes

As such, the anthology contains odes to revolutions, ancestors and heroes, land and struggles authored by 14 different poets from the Indigenous Guna and Ngäbe-Buglé communities.

ANALYSIS: Dignifying the Indigenous Figure through Performing Arts

“Never has there been a compilation of so many poets like this. It is important for the history of Panama, and it is important for Guna youth to see that they also have poets,” said writer and poet Aristides Turpana.

Indigenous heritage

Meanwhile, the indigenous writers and poets hope the book launch can turn into an opportunity to push Panama’s Culture Ministry to allocate more funds to preserve and diffuse its indigenous heritage.

Panama’s indigenous populations have historically been displaced from their lands and subjected to conditions of mass poverty as a result of systemic racism. In 2010, a U.N. report said that “the persistence of racial discrimination and its historical causes have led to the marginalization, poverty and vulnerability of Afro-Panamanians and Indigenous peoples,” adding that “there is no general provision prohibiting discrimination based on race or the criminalization of acts of racial discrimination.”

Source: Panama: First Indigenous Poetry Anthology, A Weapon of Struggle

Latin America Celebrate October 12: Day of Indigenous Resistance

Source:  TeleSUR
October 11 2015

October 12: Day of Indigenous Resistance 

indigenous marchOn Monday, some Latin American countries celebrated the Day of the Indigenous Resistance, instead of Christopher Columbus’ non-discovery of the continent in 1492 and the beginning of its so-called “civilization.”

Following the proposal of then president of the Ibero-American Union, Faustino Rodriguez San Pedro in 1913, Latin American governments began to pay tribute every October 12 to the “enrichment” that the Spanish mixing with indigenous peoples represented, under the disgraceful name of “Day of Race” — and “Day of Hispanity” in Spain.

The worst demographic catastrophe of human history

However the so-called “discovery” of the America caused the worst demographic catastrophe of human history, with around 95 percent of the indigenous population annihilated in the first 130 years of colonization, according to the U.S. Professor of Anthropology Henry Farmer Dobyns – without mentioning the victims from the African continent, with about 60 million people sent to the Americas as slaves, and only 12 percent of them arrived alive.

International Day of Indigenous Peoples

With indigenous people increasingly demanding their rights in the 1980s, the United Nations declared the year 1992 as the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, ruining thereby the determination of Spain and other countries to call it International Day of America’s Discovery.

With the rise of progressive governments in the Latin American region over the past decade, indigenous peoples have been able to find a better ear to their requests, like the change of the name “Day of Race.”

Country by country review

hugo chavez 16Venezuela was the first country of the region to grant the demand under Hugo Chavez’s administration, accepting their suggestion of “Day of Indigenous Resistance” in 2002. Chavez described the previous name “Day of Race” chosen by then President of Venezuela, Juan Vicente Gomez in 1921, as “discriminatory, racist and pejorative.”​

daniel ortega 3Nicaragua and Daniel Ortega´s Sandinista government has been the only country going as far as Venezuela until now, also choosing the name “Day of Indigenous Resistance” in 2007.

With several exceptions, such as the conservative governments of Paraguay, Colombia and Honduras, for instance, many other countries of the continent have nevertheless changed the infamous name “Day of Race.”

Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity

It became the “Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity” in Argentina, after the failure of a legislative project in 2004 to change it to “Day of Resistance of Indigenous Peoples.” Argentina has more than 1,600 indigenous communities, and over a million Argentinian people who claim their indigenous identity according to the National Institution of Indigenous People.

Yet the indigenous communities of Argentina organize counter-marches to protest against this name, recalling the damages caused by the conqueror Julio Argentino Roca to their ancestral lands at the end of the 19th century.

In Chile as well, where the Mapuche community are still fighting to claim their native lands in the fertile south of the country, the day was renamed even more weakly, “Day of the Encounter Between the Two Worlds” in 2000.

Day of Mourning for the Misery, Diseases and Hunger Brought by the European Invasion of America

evo morales 26In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa changed the name to “Day of Inter-culturality and Pluri-nationality” in 2011. That same year in Bolivia, President Evo Morales (right), the first indigenous leader in South America, changed it to “Day of Mourning for the Misery, Diseases and Hunger Brought by the European Invasion of America.” The diseases were indeed the main cause of the indigenous genocide, as the invaders brought viruses and bacterias the indigenous peoples were not immune to.

Last year, Salvadorean and Uruguayan indigenous peoples began demanding a name change of their governments. The Charrua community of Uruguay for instance has made the demand since 2010, but has faced strong opposition by conservative sectors. In 2014, the National Assembly approved a legislative project, but only changed the name to “Day of Cultural Diversity.” The ruling party Broad Front (Frente Amplio) had pushed for the same name as in Venezuela and Nicaragua, but the legislative commission then chose to modify it.

In El Salvador, social and indigenous organizations presented a legislative project before the parliament, for which the congresspeople of the governing Farabundo Marti Front (FMLN) expressed their support. In June 2014, the congress finally approved a constitutional reform recognizing the existence of indigenous peoples in the country.

Current challenges for indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples in Latin America account for about 13 percent of the total population – about 40 million, with around 670 different nations or communities, according to the CEPAL. Most of them are in Mexico, Guatemala, and Andean countries. They all face some evils of racism, discrimination and poverty, suffering more than the rest of the population from an unequal access to resources like employment, health and education services, but also deprived of their ancestral lands and natural resources – about 40 percent of rural populations are indigenous, according to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.

Recently however the indigenous people have increased their levels of organization, communicating their issues to a larger audience, and receiving greater international attention. The arrival of new progressive governments has also contributed to granting them legal recognition of their basic political, social and economic rights and cultural identity.

However, there is a long way to go before such rights are truly respected and implemented. The extractivist model designed to attract foreign investment and take advantage of the numerous natural resources available, especially on the lands traditionally owned by indigenous communities, is a threat.

Latin American governments will have an important opportunity to show their support for indigenous communities soon, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December. Climate change remains one of the greatest challenges for indigenous peoples, whose cultural and economic survival strongly depend on Pachamama (Mother Earth in the Andean region).

Source:  October 12: Day of Indigenous Resistance  TeleSUR

Beauty Queen Uses Celebrity Status for Political Good

Source:  TeleSUR
September 1 2015

The newly crowned Mrs Universe has called for political action against Canadian Prime Minister Stephen and demanded Indigenous issues take precedence. 

” If I have that voice to bring awareness, I’m going to use it”  Ashley Burnham

Ashley Burnham mrs universe 9-2-2015 8-22-46 AMAshley Burnham, the first ever Indigenous or Canadian crowned Mrs Universe, encouraged the country’s First Nations people to vote out Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the upcoming elections in October.

In an interview with the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network Monday, Burnham said that is it “so crucial that we vote a new prime minister in, because we need a new prime minister.”

“Other countries need to know what’s going on in ours. It feels like the government just does not care about us (First Nations),” she said. “This government is very controlling of our people and soon enough our rights might be taken away. And if I have that voice to bring awareness, I’m going to use it.”

RELATED: Canada Committed Genocide Against Indigenous People, Says Report

Burnham is from the Enoch Cree Nation near Edmonton, Alberta, and has worked as both a model and an actress. She was crowned Mrs Universe at this year’s contest in Minsk, Belarus last weekend.

The contest this year was dedicated to the topic of combating domestic violence, a topic that resonated with Burnham who has in the past spoken out against physical and sexual abuse in the home after enduring abuse as a child.

Missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada

Burnham has now extended that argument and is using her new title to talk about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, a major problem  in the country.

According to the most recent report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada’s national police force, there were at least 1,181 cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada over a 30 year period from 1980 to 2012. That number has also continued to rise over the past three years, with most of the cases remaining unsolved and not pursued by police.

Faces of canada's disappeared indigenous women

Faces of Canada’s disappeared indigenous women

Canada’s Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has been in power since 2006, has repeatedly denied that it is a sociological issue and refused to open a national inquiry, ignoring the demands of many Indigenous communities across the country.

Double standards

“I think that the murdered and missing subject is so crucial. It’s so sad,” Burnham told APTN. “Say, for example, a Caucasian woman is missing in the news, it’s a big deal, but for First Nations women we are just pushed aside because there’s so many of us missing.”

RELATED: Canada’s Disappeared Indigenous Women

Burnham encouraged the Indigenous community to vote Harper out of power in the federal elections Oct. 19, but did not specifically back another candidate.

A role model in many dimensions

Burnham has received many messages of support on social media, claiming she is “a role model in many dimensions,” and encouraging her to take charge and “do the damn thing!”

However, the messages of support include comments of astonishment such as “Beauty AND Brains,” which highlight the nature of beauty competitions that glorify beauty and bodily perfection over women’s ability to think.

On her Facebook account Monday night, Burnham posted a message in response to apparent criticisms that the new beauty queen was being too political.

I have a title, a platform and a voice

“Really? People think I’m too political for my first day as Mrs Universe. Did you really think I was going to just sit there and look pretty? Definitely not. I have a title, a platform and a voice to make change and bring awareness to First Nations issues here in Canada. I’m getting all this media attention and I’m going to use it to the best of my ability. I’m not your typical beauty queen. Look out … I have a voice for change and I’m going to use it!”

Her comments highlight what women’s rights activists have deemed a major societal issue – that people only listen to you when you are beautiful. Despite Burnham’s apparent critique of the industry, she has long competed in beauty pageants both nationally and internationally.

One Twitter user commented that, “It’s clear Ashley Callingbull is the most interesting person in Canada right now,” despite the fact that many activists – who have not won beauty pageants – have tried for years to raise awareness of these issues, but have gained little media attention inside or outside the country, such as Harsha Walia and Pam Palmeter to name only a couple.

Source:  Beauty Queen Uses Power for Political Good  TeleSUR