Bolivia Fights Prison Overcrowding, Pardons 1,800 Prisoners

Source:  TeleSUR
December 25 2016

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Bolivian President Evo Morales. | Photo: Reuters

It is the fourth time President Morales has approved pardons since 2012.

Bolivian President Evo Morales pardoned around 1,800 prisoners Saturday, including pregnant women, handicapped people, inmates with minor sentences and those in custody awaiting trial.

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“The present decree’s aim is to give amnesty and total or partial pardons to people who have been deprived of their liberty,” he told a news conference in the central department of Cochabamba.

It is the fourth time Morales has approved pardons, a measure meant to address the issue of prison overcrowding in the country — there are about 15,000 prisoners in Bolivia, of whom less than a third have been sentenced, according to the official estimate.

Morales said that those pardoned included inmates with sentences of less than five years, one-time offenders, prisoners under the age of 28, single mothers with incarcerated children, prisoners with terminal illnesses as well as people with disabilities.

The decree will not be applied to prisoners convicted of homicide charges, terrorism, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, contraband, corruption, human trafficking, and assault on state officials.

Yo, sí puedo implemented in Argentine prisons

Guillermo Cabruja (left), alongside Cuban program advisor Angel Raimundo Alvárez Alonso, are taking the Yes, I can literacy method to prisons in Santa Fe, Argentina. Photo: Orlando Perera

The Cuban developed literacy method Yo, sí puedo (Yes, I can) is seeing positive results in Argentina, where it is being implemented in prisons; an initiative supported by the Multi-sectoral Solidarity with Cuba Organization in the city of Rosario, Santa Fe province.


Speaking to Granma International on a visit to Havana, the Director of the organization, agriculture sector worker Guillermo Cabruja, stated that he felt optimistic given the results obtained by facilitators who have imparted 65 classes, aided by text books and audiovisual materials, and taught young inmates to read and write.
”Today we have been working for over three years,” stated the Argentine activist, “We have taught over 50 inmates between the ages of 18 and 35 to read and write. Meanwhile another one hundred or so are currently enrolled in the program in other prisons. We even receive support from pedagogical school students from the region, as well as artists and intellectuals.”

Extending Yes I Can

Guillermo Cabruna noted that the idea to teach prisoners to read and write emerged from a previous experience which saw thousands of people graduate from the Yes, I can program implemented in different communities across Argentina.

In late 2013, organizers proposed to extend the initiative to poorer and more vulnerable communities, and in particular marginalized youths lacking in opportunities as a result of neoliberal policies.

In order to do so, the project sought support from the Evangelical church, which works closely with prisons, and facilitated communication between organizers and institution authorities, which led to the creation of a strong link with the church and the opportunity to provide the program to young offenders.

18 inmates graduated in July 2014

The first 18 inmates graduated in July 2014, an event which received positive press coverage and praise from church officials. Every student was allowed to invite two family members to share this special occasion in their lives. The achievement also served to demonstrate the legitimacy of the Cuban method which had previously been banned by municipal education authorities, citing banal and ambiguous excuses.

With participants frequently requesting dictionaries to look up certain words, the idea of giving each a book donated by the population emerged. Given such a large number of donations, a mobile library was created, offering a vast array of literary works and named after Federico Pagura, the Bishop who worked to establish the program in the prison, and a good friend of Cuba.

Young prison inmates holding their Yes, I can literacy workbooks. Photo: Courtesy of interviewee

Guillermo Cabruna has published a lot of information related to literacy efforts in prisons on social media and organized a meeting to attract more collaborators. He had hoped to bring together at least ten people, but over 80 of varying professions showed up, out of which emerged the idea of continuing educational efforts through vocational training workshops on literature, painting, music, yoga, self-esteem, family and gender violence, among others.

For Fidel

The pieces written by inmates as part of the literature workshop were complied into a book: Entre mandarinas y tumbas, una antología de poesía y relatos, a signed copy of which was sent to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, as a gesture of gratitude. Four of the authors featured in the book learned to read and write through the Yes, I can program, one of which wrote: “My name is Iván Ezequiel Galarza. Not many people know me. Always failing, today I won.”
The most important lesson of the process, according to Guillermo Cabruna, is that “these adolescents felt unloved by everyone. They didn’t choose to leave school at six or seven years old. They suffered from a lack of love, violence and were abandoned by society. Our number one aim is to help them to achieve their goal of becoming better people.”

The Cuban literary method was created in 2001 by renowned educator, the late Leonela Relys, at the Latin American and Caribbean Pedagogical Institute and was recognized in 2006 by UNESCO.

Angel Raimundo Alvárez Alonso, Cuban program collaborator in Argentina, was responsible for providing course materials and training facilitators who would later teach inmates.

Over 30,000 people taught to read and write

Alvárez Alonso, Educational Sciences MSc stated that “The Yes, I can method has been implemented in 17 provinces and 76 municipalities in Argentina and at a national level has taught over 30,000 people to read and write. The 65 classes are recorded on a 17 disc DVD series and adapted to the characteristics of where the program is being taught, such as idiomatic phrases particular to the specific area.”
A teary-eyed Alvárez Alonso noted that he felt a great nostalgia for the work started, and later continued, by project advisor Mario Salas Coteron, summed up with the phrase: “I learned a lot with the Argentines.”

The Katrina Pain Index, 2013

 While some elected officials and chambers of commerce tout the positive aspects of the city post-Katrina, widespread pain and injustice remain.

New Orleans Eight Years Later


new orleansEight years after Katrina, nearly a hundred thousand people never got back to New Orleans, the city remains incredibly poor, jobs and income vary dramatically by race, rents are up, public transportation is down, traditional public housing is gone, life expectancy differs dramatically by race and place, and most public education has been converted into charter schools.

Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005.  The storm and the impact of the government responses are etched across New Orleans.  A million people were displaced.   Over a thousand died.    Now, thanks to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center (GNOCDC) and others, it is possible to illustrate the current situation in New Orleans.  While some elected officials and chambers of commerce tout the positive aspects of the city post-Katrina, widespread pain and injustice remain.

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Calypso message: Free them … The Mighty Gabby (Barbados)


The Cuban Five are National Heroes

Anthony Carter, known as Mighty Gabby is a Barbadian calypsonian and a Cultural Ambassador for the island of Barbados. He won the calypso crown in Barbados at age 19 in 1968 and went on to win the Calypso king title again in 1969, 1976, 1985, 1999, 2000 and again in 2010. He has written over 700 songs and was awarded Folk Singer Of The Year in 1977, 1978, 1979. He wrote a song about the Cuban 5 called FREE THEM. Mighty Gabby recently participated in the “5 Days for the Cuban 5” in Washington DC and performed in a number of activities.

Below is a letter from the Mighty Gabby to President Obama calling for freedom for the Continue reading

Cuba to the UN Human Rights Council: End the hypocrisy, selectivity, and double standards

Anayansi RodriguezCuba demanded today that the Human Rights Council end hypocrisy, selectivity, and double standards,which are harmful practices that in the past have damaged the Council’s reputation. During the 22nd session of that U.N. agency, Cuban Ambassador in Geneva Anayansi Rodriguez warned that many industrialized nations, particularly the United States, have lists of countries they accuse of committing alleged violations, yet they remain silent about brutal cases of repression in others.

Rodriguez said that in some cases, these charges are being used as a pretext to justify interventions, and promote regime change.

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Source:  Presna Latina