Sunday, September 28, 2014

Representative meeting calls for the release of French journalists and indigenous leader, Areki Wanimbo detained in West Papua

Representatives from the journalists union EPMU, from the Melanesian community as well as Church figures and human rights activists from several NGOs came together in short ceremony at St Matthews Church in the City.   St Matthews Vicar Dr Helen Jacobi led the proceedings.

Similar events were scheduled to take place today on the steps of Parliament in Wellington and in Sydney outside the Indonesian consulate.

‘Our Government must act on behalf of the two documentary makers and the local leader they met with in Wamena West Papua.  They were trying to tell a story that the world needs to hear.  The incoming Indonesian President has said international journalists should be free to go to West Papua but this draconian reaction to ‘visa irregularities’ sends the opposite message.’

The letter  signed among others by Helen Kelly, CTU President will be sent to Prime Minister elect John Key and his soon to be appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

When Mining Firms Sue

Last week a fracking company was refused permission to drill in the South Downs National Park. Celtique Energie is considering an appeal to Eric Pickles to overrule the decision. He might be reluctant to cause a furore in West Sussex, but would he feel the same if aggrieved companies could sue the government for lost profits? This can happen if foreign firms have access to an investor-state dispute settlement, as provided for in the new trade agreements being finalised by the EU with Canada and the US. Ministers reassure us that the provisions are nothing new, without mentioning that US companies are the world leaders in making ISDS claims. The two main ISDS tribunals, run by the World Bank and the UN, operate behind closed doors, with private attorneys who rotate between being judges and advocates, and have no appeals mechanisms.

North American mining companies appear to find making claims against foreign states almost as profitable as prospecting for minerals. Lone Pine Resources, registered in Delaware, is using an ISDS to bring a $250 million suit against Canada for not allowing it to frack under the St Lawrence River. Big money is already being made by suing poor countries in Latin America that have signed trade agreements with ISDS clauses and struggle to meet the legal bills (typically $8 million per case). Peru is being sued for $800 million by Renco for ordering a pollution clean-up that allegedly forced the company into bankruptcy; Costa Rica for $94 million by Infinito Gold. In October 2012, in the biggest ever ISDS award, Occidental Petroleum was granted $1.7 billion (plus interest) for a terminated contract in Ecuador.

Pacific Rim is suing the El Salvador government for $301 million for refusing a gold mining permit. To make the original claim in 2009, it shifted its HQ from the Cayman Islands to benefit from the ISDS clause in a US trade agreement. When this was rejected, it moved the claim to the World Bank’s tribunal, which begins its secret hearing of the case today. According to El Salvador’s rejoinder, Pacific Rim never complied with the requirements for a mining permit in the first place, preferring to rely on lobbying of government ministers. It didn’t own all the land involved or have permission from landowners. Activists have been threatened or killed and water supplies polluted during exploration.

Canadian mining firms are looking forward to the ‘remarkable agreement’ that could soon be signed between the EU and Canada. Like the TTIP between the EU and US, the CETA hasn’t been published, but both agreements are believed to include sweeping ISDS clauses. France’s moratorium on fracking since 2011, defended twice in domestic courts, could be especially vulnerable to ISDS claims from the US or Canada. In Britain, where George Osborne thinks there is a broad consensus in favour of fracking, local prohibitions or regulations to control it could be threatened under the treaties. Fortunately, Germany seems to be having last-minute doubts about signing them.

In 2008 El Salvador imposed a moratorium on all new mining operations. Pacific Rim’s suit is the first challenge against it, and defending it cost the government $5 million before the case even went to court. If the claim succeeds in full, El Salvador will have to pay the mining company the equivalent of half its national health budget. Today is El Salvador’s independence day. As the country celebrates 193 years of freedom from Spanish rule, its sovereignty is under threat from a private company, pressing its claim behind closed doors at the World Bank.

Source LRB Blog 

Also See 
NZ warned over goldmine legal action
The company behind three South Island gold mines is suing the El Salvador government for refusing to grant it a mining permit. HERE

Monday, August 18, 2014

Liliany Obando Taken Back into Custody

Liliany Obando and Miguel Angel Beltran, two academics and human rights defenders, both victims of repression in Colombia
Human rights defender and peace activist, Liliany (Lily) Obando, was been taken back into custody on August 5, 2014. She has also declared that starting at 10am on Saturday she will begin a hunger strike in protest of her treatment, and to demand her release from this unjust detention.

The International Network in Solidarity with the Political Prisoners (of Colombia) which includes the Alliance for Global Justice is following the situation closely.  Details are still not clear, but as far as we know, she is not facing new charges, but has been jailed again after a period of home detention.  Apparently the time she spent in home detention is not being counted toward her sentence.  We are very worried that if she is returned to the Buen Pastor Women's Penitentiary that she will be targeted for abuse and retribution by prison personnel and prisoners connected to paramilitaries. Currently she is being jailed in a holding cell at the District Attorney's office in the Paloquemao section of Bogotá. Our hope is that she will be returned to home detention rather than face further time in Colombia's US funded and advised prison system. Even more, what we hope for and insist on is that the sentence be commuted and that Lily receive unconditional freedom both from the prison cell and from home detention.  We are particularly concerned about the hardship and suffering this poses for Lily's family, given that she is a single mother and head of household.

Lily was first arrested in August, 2008 and charged with raising funds for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) and with rebellion.  The fund raising charge was thrown out after it was shown that the so-called evidence had been tampered with by agents of the Colombian police. Furthermore, she was accused of raising funds for the FARC-EP during an international labor tour.  However, all those funds were accounted for, going to their legitimate destination, to help the Fensuagro union of agricultural workers. The charge of rebellion is a notorious catch-all charge that has been used to imprison thousands of unionists, student activists and human rights defenders.  For us in the United States, it is important to remember that the US not only funds war and repression in Colombia, but that it also has funded prison construction and advised the restructuring of a penitentiary system that now holds some 10,000 political prisoners.

Phoenix recharged, “Farcpolitics” again (here)
by Liliany Obando,  August 8, 2014

One of Many Saturdays in Prison – Colombia (here)
by Camilo Insuasty-Obando August 15, 2014 
(Camilo is an independent journalist  Liliany's son.) 

Freedom for Liliany Obando ~> On Facebook (here)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fidel: the life of a Revolutionary

Now in English - a tribute to Fidel on his 88th birthday from TeleSur

Check it out 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More US academics join boycott of Israel

The Critical Ethnic Studies Association announced on its website last week that its conference had formally agreed to “endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and honor the call of Palestinian civil society with the passage of a resolution on the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions.”

The association represents scholars working in ethnic studies and fields which tackle areas affected by the global history of “racism, settler colonialism, immigration, imperialism, and slavery.”

According to the association’s website, the move comes after a long period of consultation and workshops on the subject at their 2013 conference and after using online mechanisms.

In addition to calling for an institutional boycott of Israeli academia, the resolution also noted the repression which has met scholars in the USA who have attempted to speak out on Palestine, especially: “Arab and Muslim, Asian, Black, Indigenous, Latin@, and LGBTQ communities, students, activists, and scholars.”

This boycott call is particularly strongly worded for an academic statement, condemning “US support for Israeli settler-colonialism, occupation and racism” and linking the fight for justice in Palestine to other indigenous and decolonization struggles around the world.

The full resolution, which now represents the association’s position on the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, can be read on the association’s website.

In December, the American Studies Association voted by a landslide to join the academic boycott of Israel. The ASA describes itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.”

Get Active - Support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Aotearoa

Mythbuster: Israel’s attack on Gaza

Taking apart the excuses Israel is using to justify its massacre

Red Pepper unpicks the myths that shroud slaughter here

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Take action: 

Add your name to the call for a military embargo on Israel

Six Nobel peace laureates and more than 90 celebrities and public figures are calling for a military embargo on Israel. 
Add your name to the call now

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Salvadoran Feminists Push Debate on El Salvador’s Stringent Abortion Ban

Groups rally outside the Legislative Assembly on July 1st
photo: Ana Virginia Guardado

Salvadoran feminist and women’s organizations are waging an international campaign demanding a pardon for the 17 women currently incarcerated in El Salvador for abortion, in hopes of challenging the country’s harsh anti-abortion laws and beginning to change the anti-choice views held by the vast majority of Salvadoran society.

Each of the 17 women in question was arrested while seeking hospital care for pregnancy complications when medical staff notified the police on suspicion that the women had intentionally interrupted their pregnancies. All women were impoverished, with low education levels; none received proper forensic examinations, nor were they subject to due process before being sentenced to between 12-40 years in prison. Feminist groups argue that the 17 women’s treatment violates myriad international treaties ratified by El Salvador, a country with some of the most stringent abortion laws in the Western Hemisphere, where interrupting a pregnancy is illegal with absolutely no exceptions. Multiple UN agencies have condemned and recommend changes to the laws, which disproportionately affect impoverished and working class women, while wealthy women can seek reproductive care freely abroad or in private hospitals and clinics.

All three branches of government are required to approve a pardon, a particular challenge in a country where the ultra-conservative political Right and the extreme Opus Dei sect of the Catholic Church still exercise enormous power. On April 1st, pro-choice groups presented a petition for pardon to the Human Rights Commission of the National Legislative Assembly. As Salvadoran law requires, the Commission notified the Supreme Court on July 10, which now has until August 9 to issue a decision as to whether or not the Assembly can proceed; the petition then requires a simple majority vote in the Assembly before it can finally pass to the Executive branch, where the President must either approve or veto the request for pardon.

The previous and present leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) administrations have made extraordinary strides in promoting and protecting women’s rights and participation. Still, the legislature’s Human Rights Commission is presided over by a legislator from the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, and just last year, the conservative Supreme Court denied a young woman, given the pseudonym “Beatriz,”a life-saving therapeutic abortion after the Director of the National Forensics Institute, a member of Opus Dei, recommended against the procedure. The Funes administration was the first to take on the controversial topic of modest loosening of abortion prohibitions; former Minister of Health Dr. Isabel Rodriguez advocated for a therapeutic abortion for Beatriz and, after it was denied, approved a pre-term cesarean at the last minute, saving the young woman’s life. In addition, Julia Evelyn Martinez, former director of the Salvadoran Institute for Women’s Development (ISDEMU), signed an international commitment to review the country’s abortion laws. An ensuing media controversy, however, resulted in Martinez being forced to step down from her position, revealing the weight of the staunch opposition to abortion in the majority public opinion.

Unsurprisingly, El Salvador’s right-wing parties have vehemently opposed pardons for the 17 women. As in the past, the FMLN has not taken a public position on the issue, likely out of fear of alienating socially conservative supporters, though some party leaders have expressed public support for the women.

Strong organizing from the women’s movement has pushed the debate forward over the last year, rallying significant international attention. Nevertheless, the topic remains taboo in much of Salvadoran society, and the organized women’s movement has a long struggle ahead to shift public opinion and forge openings toward reproductive justice in El Salvador.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Justice for Víctor

The good news last week that Immigration Court Judge Michael C. Horn in Miami formally linked SOA graduate General Jose Guillermo García to some of the worst human rights abuses of the Salvadoran Civil War. As Defense Minister (1979-83), he failed to hold soldiers under his command accountable for the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the massacre of more than 1,000 civilians at El Mozote, and nine other atrocities. He faces deportation to El Salvador, pending appeal.

This is a step forward in ensuring justice in the Americas, but García is not the only SOA graduate who has until now enjoyed impunity in Florida. We need to turn up the pressure!

 Pedro Barrientos of Deltona, Florida was indited by Chilean Judge Miguel Vasquez Plaza in 2012 for the murder of Víctor Jara and an extradition request is pending with the Obama Administration. 

Contact the Obama Administration today to turn up the heat on our Justice for Víctor campaign to ensure Barreintos stands trial in Chile!

As the ruling against Gen. García clearly demonstrates, the Justice for Víctor campaign is winnable. We need to pressure the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and other branches of the the Obama Administration to change the culture of complicity in the brutal crimes committed in Latin America.

Contact the Obama Administration today and tell them Florida should not be a retirement haven for SOA graduates! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Academics in Service of the American Empire

The Minerva Research Initiative

Since 2008, the U.S. military has relied on an ambitious research program called The Minerva Research Initiative established by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates with the primary goal of achieving "a deeper understanding of the social, cultural and political dynamics that shape regions of strategic interest (to the U.S. government) around the world." Initial funding for this program was fifty million dollars, an amount that has been increasing over the years. The primary purpose has been to finance the work of academics at American universities and experts in other research centers as analysts on issues that may have an impact on the national security policies of the imperialist State.

Through the Minerva Initiative, the Department of Defense aims to support and focus resources on the “best universities in the country”; to define and develop fundamental knowledge about sources of present and future conflicts with a focus on understanding the political trajectories of key regions in the world; and to improve the ability of the Department of Defense to develop a body of "cutting edge social science" and interdisciplinary studies conducted by top researchers in these fields. In short, it seeks to recruit the cream of their intellectual elite for the endurance and glory of Manifest Destiny.

Read the rest 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why USAID’s Cuban Twitter Program was Secret

On April 3, three journalists from the Associated Press (AP) published the first in a series of well-investigated stories about a heretofore unknown U.S. government-funded project in Cuba. They described how an opaque organization within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) called the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) proffered a Twitter-like social networking app to Cuban cell phones. Little did the apps’ users suspect that they were receiving information from and being monitored by an entity of the U.S. government.

While AP pulled off an incredible investigative coup—one that resulted in a tense Senatorial committee hearing on Tuesday April 8—the project AP describes is only part of a long history of such programs in Cuba and around the world. Unfortunately the story focused attention on a project that no longer exists, rather than on the U.S. government entity USAID/OTI, which continues to operate secretly throughout the world. 

Jeremy Bigwood investigates for NACLA check it out

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Truth About Venezuela: A Revolt of the Well-off, Not a 'Terror Campaign'

John Kerry’s rhetoric is divorced from the reality on the ground, where life goes on – even at the barricades

Images forge reality, granting a power to television and video and even still photographs that can burrow deep into people’s consciousness without them even knowing it.

 I thought that I, too, was immune to the repetitious portrayals of Venezuela as a failed state in the throes of a popular rebellion. But I wasn’t prepared for what I saw in Caracas this month: how little of daily life appeared to be affected by the protests, the normality that prevailed in the vast majority of the city. I, too, had been taken in by media imagery.

Mark Weisbrot from Caracas 

Keep up to date with events in Venezuela download 


Solution to Assange case? Not interested.

Swedish authorities decline to meet with distinguished visitor offering way out of legal impasse  

The Swedish officials who are most directly responsible for the ongoing effort to have Julian Assange extradited from England have declined to hear the proposals of Eva Joly, the well-known French magistrate and member of the European Parliament, who  recently visited Sweden to suggest a way out of the legal impasse.  

Get the whole story

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Intercept

The Intercept: a new webpage published by First Look Media, a media project inisiated by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Investigative journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald are the co-founders of the Intercept.

Check it out

The Democracy Now item below Death By Metadata is an interview with Scahill and Greenwald

Death By Metadata

Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald Reveal NSA Role in Assassinations Overseas

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Mission Gone Wrong

"Why are we still fighting the drug war?"

The New Yorker gives a history of the United States' war on drugs at home and in Latin America, underscoring its failures and highlighting why the U.S. strategy remains "on autopilot" despite the spate of shortcomings. It noted, "What is remarkable is how many times the U.S. has tried such militarized counter-narcotics programs and how long it has been apparent how little they amount to.