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Hundreds of Afro-Colombian Leaders Meet for Historic Summit

Hundreds of Afro-Colombian Leaders Meet for Historic Summit

Twenty Years after Passage of Landmark Afro-Colombian Communities Law, Rights Remain Unrealized

23 Aug 2013

 

Afro-Colombian leaders from throughout the country, as well as international observers, are meeting in Quibdo, Colombia, for the first Autonomous Congress of Black, Afro-Colombian, Palenquero, and Raizal Peoples. The Congress, which comes 20 years after the landmark ‘Law 70’ law guaranteeing the collective land and other rights of Afro-Colombians, will serve to chart next steps in the ongoing struggle for basic rights.

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) applauds this historic event and stands with its Afro-Colombian partners from national, regional, displaced and religious organizations and community councils in fighting for an end to continued racial discrimination, forced displacement, and violence against afrodescendant communities. Our hope is that at this conference Afro-Colombian leaders will devise efforts that strengthen the communities’ right to prior consultation on development projects, protect the rights of Afro-Colombian women, and guarantees effective implementation of Law 70 of the black communities, as well as, Constitutional Court Order 005 on Afro-Colombian displacement.

We echo the statement made by eight members of the United States Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in calling on the Colombian government to implement a human rights agenda that adequately responds to the challenges faced by Afro-Colombian people.

Although it is encouraging that the government remains engaged in peace talks to end the internal conflict, continued violence disproportionately affects Afro-Colombians. If a lasting peace is to be achieved in Colombia, the government must work to protect the rights and safety of Afro-Colombian communities.

http://www.wola.org/commentary/hundreds_of_afro_colombian_leaders_meet_for_historic_summit

Cientos de líderes y lideresas afrocolombianos y afrocolombianas se reúnen en cumbre histórica

Veinte años después de la aprobación de la ley para las comunidades afrocolombianas, los derechos no son realizados

23 Aug 2013

Cientos de líderes y lideresas afrocolombianos y afrocolombianas de todas partes del país, así como observadores internacionales, se reunirán en Quibdó, Colombia, para el Primer Congreso Nacional Autónomo del Pueblo Negro, Afrocolombiano, Palenquero y Raizal. El Congreso, que viene 20 años después de la aprobación de la histórica “Ley 70″ que garantizó los derechos colectivos a la tierra y otros derechos de los afrocolombianos, servirá para trazar los próximos pasos en la lucha por los derechos fundamentales.

La Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA, por sus siglas en inglés) celebra este evento histórico y se solidariza con sus colegas afrocolombianos y afrocolombianas de las organizaciones nacionales, regionales, desplazados y religiosos y los consejos comunitarios en la lucha para poner fin a la constante discriminación racial, el desplazamiento forzado y la violencia contra las comunidades afrodescendientes. Esperamos que en esta conferencia los líderes afrocolombianos y las lideresas afrocolombianas elaboren los esfuerzos que fortalecerán el derecho de las comunidades a la consulta previa acerca de los proyectos de desarrollo económico, la proteccion de los derechos de las mujeres afrocolombianas y garantizaran la aplicación efectiva de la Ley 70 de las comunidades negras, así como, el Auto 005 de la Corte Constitucional sobre el desplazamiento interno afrocolombiano.

Nos hacemos eco de la declaración realizada por ocho miembros del Grupo de Congresistas Negros (Congressional Black Caucus, CBC) que insta que el gobierno colombiano implemente una agenda de derechos humanos que responda adecuadamente a los retos que enfrentan el pueblo afrocolombiano.

Aunque es positivo que el gobierno de Colombia sigue comprometido en el proceso de paz que busca poner un fin al conflicto interno, la violencia continúa afectando a las personas afrodescendientes de forma desproporcionadamente. Para lograr una paz duradera en Colombia, el gobierno debe trabajar para proteger los derechos y garantizar la seguridad de las comunidades afrocolombianas.

http://www.wola.org/node/4038

July 25th is the International Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Day: Black Women of Brazil raise their voices, call for struggle and unity against racist and sexist oppression

HUE:

July 25th is the International Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Day

Originally posted on Black Women of Brazil:

A few of the many women that exalted and exalt Brazilian culture. Tia Ciata, Tia Bebiana, Mãe Menininha do Gantois, Vó Maria Joana, Tia Maria (both of Jongo da Serrinha), Clementina de Jesus, Tia Vicentina, Tia Doca, Beth Carvalho, Dona Ivone Lara, Jovelina Pérola Negra, Leci Brandão, Alcione, Dona Zica and Clara Nunes. Photo courtesy of the "Raiz do Samba em Foco" blog

A few of the many women that exalted and exalt Brazilian culture. Tia Ciata, Tia Bebiana, Mãe Menininha do Gantois, Vó Maria Joana, Tia Maria (both of Jongo da Serrinha), Clementina de Jesus, Tia Vicentina, Tia Doca, Beth Carvalho, Dona Ivone Lara, Jovelina Pérola Negra, Leci Brandão, Alcione, Dona Zica and Clara Nunes. Photo courtesy of “Raiz do Samba em Foco”

Note from BW of Brazil:Today, July 25th, is a day to celebrate the unique experiences of black women in Latin America and Caribbean. Although International Women’s Day is celebrated every March 8th, this celebration of black women speaks to issue that while women of African ancestry are of course women, their experiences as black contribute to an entirely different understanding of what it means to be a woman.  As this blog has consistently given examples of the invisibility of black women in the Brazilian media, it should come…

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Demanding Justice for Aiyana Jones

Police Search Girl Killed

Written by Mychal Denzel Smith for Feministing

Back in June, before George Zimmerman was acquitted on charges of murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, a jury failed to reach a decision in the case of Joseph Weekley, the police officer responsible for shooting and killing seven year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in Detroit on May 26, 2010. The young girl was asleep in her home when Detroit’s version of SWAT entered, looking for a murder suspect that lived in the apartment on the level above Aiyana and her family, and Weekley fired a single shot that struck her in the head and killed her.

According to a Change.org petition, started by Jamila Aisha Brown of Hue Global, “On July 25, 2013 Wayne County Judge Cynthia Hathaway reconvene to determine whether Weekley will face retrial for Aiyana’s murder.” It further asks: “Please voice your support to retry Joseph Weekley’s case so that a jury may reach a verdict. Aiyana Stanley-Jones represents another Black life taken too soon. Justice must be served.”

I wrote about this for The Nation:

Even if what Weekley claims is true, that his weapon was discharged by accident after a tussling with Aiyana’s grandmother, the entire ordeal could have been avoided if the police acted as police should. If it sounds irrational to require a SWAT team to apprehend one man accused of killing one person, that’s because it is—but it has become standard operating procedure. What happened to Aiyana is the result of the militarization of police in this country, itself a byproduct of the “war on drugs.” Over the course of the past thirty-plus years, police have become more and more reliant on military weaponry and tactics (big and small police forces alike have bazookas, machine guns and mini-tanks for domestic use) in response to crime. They hardly pretend to be interested in information gathering, investigating, protecting and serving any longer.

In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, it’s imperative to be vocal in the demand that black life be valued by the systems charged with enacting justice. And while it’s still true that the justice system in this country is a broken mess, recognition that black life is important has value beyond that.

Sign and share the petition to ensure that what happened to Trayvon and his family doesn’t happen to Aiyana.

 

#BYP100 Responds to George Zimmerman Verdict

U.S. Moving in Right Direction on Afro-Colombians

Originally posted by the Washington Office on Latin America here:

http://www.wola.org/commentary/us_moving_in_right_direction_on_afro_colombians

On June 12 and 13, the United States and Colombia are holding the first meeting on the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality. At this meeting, the two countries are exchanging ideas on how to tackle racial discrimination against Afro-Colombians and indigenous persons in the sectors or employment, education, health, and housing. The purpose of the meeting is to bring civil society and private sector representatives together in order to develop a work plan mapping priorities for 2013-2014. At Monday’s reception at the Colombian Embassy to launch this meeting, both Ambassador Carlos Urrutia and Assistant Secretary State for Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson made important speeches expressing key support to combat racial discrimination in Colombia. While the inclusion of a broader number of Afro-Colombian organizations should be considered for the future, this meeting was is a good step for the two countries in tackling long-standing issues of racial discrimination, exclusion, and marginalization faced by Afro-Colombians.

The human rights situation faced by Afro-Colombians remains grave. Chief among the concerns is the protection of Afro-Colombian leaders and communities affected by the internal armed conflict. According to the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), in 2012, 36 percent of all new displacements took place along Colombia’s primarily Afrodescendant Pacific Coast. This marks a 22 percent increase in displacements compared to 2011, and 20 percent of all newly displaced persons in Colombia in 2012 were Afro-Colombian. Much of the new displacement is due to the continued armed conflict, wars among drug narco-traffickers, and violence linked to resource extraction, such as mining operations. Indeed, civilians in Afro-Colombian areas of Valle del Cauca and Nariño are hard hit by abuses and violence led by illegal armed groups. According to religious groups, betweenJanuary 1 and April 19 of this year, some 91 disappearances were reported to the authorities in Buenaventura. Forced recruitment of minors—including children as young as eight years old—and sexual abuse by armed groups are generating displacement and confinement of the local population. Given the displacement crisis, it is encouraging that Assistant Secretary of State Anne C. Richard visited Colombia and Ecuador in May. While Ms. Richard expressed optimism on Colombia’s developments regarding internally displaced persons and supported the peace process, she highlighted concerns about ongoing violence and displacement.

Security for Afro-Colombian leaders also remains a major concern. WOLA has received increased reports of death threats, security incidents, and assassination attempts against Afro-Colombian leaders and human rights defenders who work on Afro-Colombian issues in recent months. These death threats are more than idle words, as demonstrated by the murders of Miller Angulo of AFRODES, Demetrio Lopez of Community Council of La Caucana (Valle del Cauca), and Socrates Paz Patiño, the legal representative of the community council of Iscuande (Nariño). According to the Regional Association of Black Communities (ASORCON), the 29th Front of the FARC murdered Patiño on May 28, presumably for protesting the extortion of local miners and the negative impacts illegal mining has had on the Afro-Colombian territory.

Miller’s murder, a peaceful protest by AFRODES at a forum with Colombia’s Vice President, and new death threats and security incidents against several AFRODES leaders have prompted a dialogue between Colombia’s National Protection Unit and AFRODES. This, is leading to the development of collective protection measures for AFRODES leaders in six areas of the country. While this process will take some time to come to fruition, efforts by the U.S. Embassy, State Department, USAID and its contractor Chemonics to work with Colombian authorities have been key to advancements in the provision of security for this group, allowing them to continue to operate. A recent statementfrom U.S. Embassy in Bogota and Ambassador Michael McKinley condemning recent violence against Afro-Colombian leaders—and vowing to continue to engage with the Colombian government on security mechanisms—is an important step toward recognizing and addressing the human rights abuses and security risks afrodescendant communities continue to face.Beyond AFRODES, U.S. officials have taken key action on all major security incidents affecting Afro-Colombians in the past six months.

Lastly, it is worth highlighting that after many years of U.S. international cooperation getting it wrong on Afro-Colombian projects, new USAID programming supporting Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples organizations is finally getting it right. Currently implemented by ACDI/VOCA, the programs are successfully generating new economic opportunities for Afro-Colombians. Recently, this program partnered with businesses Movistar Colombia and Atento to open a call center in Quibdó—a city that often makes the headlines due to problems associated with unemployment—benefiting some 700 people. In Barranquilla, some 900 Afro-Colombians are benefiting from a USAID project that brought together the Mayor’s office and local businesses to generate employment.

While changing decades of Colombia’s history of societal marginalization, exclusion, and racism against Afro-Colombians and fully addressing the causes of violence that generate security problems and abuses against Afrodescendant communities will take time, it is positive to see that the U.S. is taking steps to begin tackling these problems. The hope is that Colombia and the FARC will negotiate a lasting peace, and that in a post-conflict Colombia, the seeds of U.S. programs will succeed in helping Afro-Colombian communities to overcome many of the long-standing issues they continue to face.

 

 

 

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- Aiyana Stanley – Amadou Diallo – Corey Brown – DeAunta Terrel Farrow – Derrick Jones – Emmett Till – Guy Jarreau Jr. – Jimmell Cannon – Kenneth Harding – Kiwane Carrington – Orlando Barlow – Oscar Grant – Ousmane Zongo – Patrick Dorismond – Ramarley Graham – Reginald Doucet – Rekia Boyd – Ronald […]

Latin America’s Economic Powerhouse | Interview with Jamila Aisha Brown

Abby Martin talks to Jamila Aisha Brown, global strategist with HUE Global, about Obama’s recent visit to Latin America, and discusses how the economic growth in the region is shifting the dynamic between industrialized nations and the global south.

 

El Momento Es Ahora –End the Cuban Embargo Now

POSTED BY  FOR THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS FOUNDATION’S THE VILLAGE

The Carters, rapper/mogul Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé, found themselves caught in an international controversy after vacationing on the communist island of Cuba for their fifth wedding anniversary.

Rumors and allegations swarmed the couple’s visit as photos were released of the two touring the sites of Old Havana. Were they guests of the Castros? Was their trip sending the wrong message? Did they acquire the necessary travel visas from the U.S. Treasury Department?

Amid outcry and outrage heard across the nation, the denouncement from Cuban Americans rang loudly.  Travel to Cuba by American citizens being a federal offense, Republican Florida representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart issued a letter of investigation into the couple’s visit to the communist nation.

Jay-Z true to his battle rap roots, voiced his response to critics over a Swizz Beatz and Timbaland produced track:

“This communist talk is so confusing/When it’s from China, the very mic that I’m using”

While the moment could be dismissed as a celebrity gaffe and yet another diss track to be easily forgotten in the annals of celebrity pop culture, it provides an opportunity for lawmakers and citizens alike to revisit the United States’ 51-year-old economic embargo against the Republic of Cuba.

The embargo stands as one of the last remaining vestiges of American Cold War policies. Despite the fall of the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro’s advanced age and illness forcing him to relinquish leadership to his younger brother Raúl, the regime still stands. Sanctions have neither quelled human rights abuses nor coerced the communist country into embracing democracy and are widely condemned as a failure of U.S. foreign policy.

Even Cubans in opposition to the communist government, among them dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez, support an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba saying the embargo is “anti-Cuban and not anti-Castro.”

When I traveled to Cuba in 2010 with the US Women and Cuba Collaboration to meet with Afro-Cuban women to discuss gender and racial equality, signs of the embargo were evident even before arriving at our destination. Cuban-American families brought with them an abundance of “gifts” for their relatives mainly clothing and household items many of us take for granted. On the island itself universal healthcare is juxtaposed by the lack of access to high-quality medical equipment and medicines (most of which carry U.S. patents and therefore are prohibited) and the benefit of free education comes at a cost of limited school supplies.

American policy is not only aberrant in comparison to the rest of the world that regularly trades with Cuba, but it highlights the stark contradictions in U.S. foreign policy.

As Jay-Z rhymed, the United States has normalized, albeit at times contentious, relations with communist China. Moreover, its vow to penalize Cuba for its humanitarian record brings into question its relationship with other noted oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain whom the American government counts as close allies.

After five decades the US-Cuban embargo has only succeeded in pushing residents of the island deeper into poverty and with American economic constraints unable to sway Cuban political will, it is time for a new approach to Cuba. While visiting a school in Matanzas, Cuba that trains students to become art, music, and dance teachers in efforts to preserve Cuban culture, I was struck by the talent of this singer and composer who performed his song “El Momento Es Ahora” (The Moment Is Now). Indeed it is.

 

Justice Served? Commemoration and Reparations in Plan de Sánchez

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by Jamila Aisha Brown

Jamila Aisha Brown completed her term in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz as a human rights accompanier with NISGUA’s Guatemala Accompaniment Project (G.A.P.) in November 2005. “Justice Served? Commemoration and Reparations in Plan de Sánchez” was originally published in the Fall 2005 issue of the Report on Guatemala.

Last year, witnesses stood before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and denounced the 1982 massacre of their village of Plan de Sánchez, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. After years of state delays and denial, in April 2004 the Óscar Berger Administration admitted responsibility for the violation of nine articles of the American Convention on Human Rights. [See Report on Guatemala V.25 N.3.] Following this admission, the Inter-American Court released a historic settlement mandating the government to provide monetary, infrastructural, and symbolic reparations to the massacre’s survivors and their community. The Court further ordered the Guatemalan government to prosecute those responsible for the violence.

However, despite a large-scale commemoration of the massacre in which the Vice President publicly announced state culpability, it remains to be seen if the government will fulfill its obligations. At present the state appears to have prioritized the completion of national reparations to former civil patrollers (ex-PACs) over the Court’s decision. Furthermore, the national cases charging former officials with genocide continue to experience slow and arduous progress. In the midst of threats to their personal safety by those opposed to the process of justice, the people of Plan de Sánchez continue to await their reparations.

Commemoration

On July 18, 2005, Vice President Eduardo Stein admitted to the people of Plan de Sánchez that the government was responsible for the 1982 massacre of their loved ones. His acknowledgment came 23 years after Guatemalan armed forces and civil patrols barraged a home with grenades and bullets, setting fire to 268 Achi Maya men, women, and children after hours of rape, torture, and assassination. “We are here today to ask forgiveness in the name of the Guatemalan state from all the victims of the conflict,” Stein declared to a crowd of nearly one thousand.

This was not the first massacre commemoration in Plan de Sánchez. For many years, survivors had gathered together, far away from the spotlight of the Vice President and the press, using their meager resources to mourn and remember. Meeting in the small hillside chapel that stands as a monument to the massacre site, they would adorn the altar with pictures, candles, and flowers to pay homage to those lost.

This year’s commemoration presented a remarkably different scene. Hordes of national and international reporters, human rights activists, government officials, and curious onlookers descended onto the soccer field of the rural mountain village to witness this historic event, overwhelming the small community of approximately 35 houses. The President’s Office of Human Rights (COPREDEH), now led by Frank La Rue, organized the event, providing programs listing the day’s speakers and sequence of events. No candles, flowers, or photographs of those assassinated surrounded the metal fence enclosing the stage on which the Vice President sat. The chapel stood in the background as a quiet remnant of the past as the activities commenced.

Nevertheless, one familiar element of past commemorations remained: the dramatization of the violence that had occurred, enacted by school children and members of the community. The reenactment opened the day’s events with a powerful message: “These are not theatrical plays. They are the stories of our families, so that [history] will never repeat itself and we will never forget them.” As the students portrayed what had unfolded that day, the Vice President openly wept in unison with the grieving. During his turn to speak, he once again became emotional as he confessed that the state’s army had “unleashed bloodshed and fire to wipe out an entire community.”

Unfortunately, his tear-soaked speech failed to answer the questions of those seeking reparations and justice. He made no mention of when the money would come to Plan de Sánchez. Nor did he state when prosecution against the alleged perpetrators would begin.

Moreover, after having claimed state responsibility, thereby fulfilling his obligation to the Court, Stein quickly exited. He did not stay to hear the words of Fernando López, outgoing director of the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), the team providing legal counsel to Plan de Sánchez survivors. López spoke of the achievements in the Plan de Sánchez case and the importance of advancement within the Guatemalan courts. [See related article, page 13.]

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Reparations

On November 19, 2004, the Inter-American Court delivered its sentence finding the government of Guatemala guilty of committing acts that amounted to genocide. The unprecedented ruling was the Court’s first to accuse a nation of ethnic cleansing.

This ruling was accompanied by the highest amount of reparations ever awarded by the Court: almost eight million dollars (US), approximately 55 million quetzales, to be allotted to Plan de Sánchez for community projects meant to promote socio-economic development. The decision acknowledged the destruction of homes, livestock, and crops as part of the scorched-earth strategy and the fact that the community was left with no resources afterwards with which to rebuild. As part of the hefty package the government has pledged to:

  • Improve Rabinal’s municipal road network, drinking water supply, and sewage systems
  • Provide qualified bilingual schoolteachers to local schools
  • Establish a health clinic in Plan de Sánchez and a health center in Rabinal
  • Provide survivors with free psychological care
    • Construct houses within the village
    • Pay US$25,000 for the upkeep of the memorial chapel to the massacre victims

These projects are to be completed over the course of five years, with the government sending a yearly report to the Inter-American Court on its advancements.

In accordance with their findings, the Court assigned the government to complete the following acts in order to demonstrate the State’s admission of its wrongdoings and its commitment to support indigenous culture:

  • Organize a ceremony, to be covered by the media in Spanish and Achi Mayan, in which a high-ranking government official admits to State involvement in the massacre
  • Publish sections of the Court’s judgment in its official gazette and in a major
  • national newspaper in both languages
  • Translate the American Convention on Human Rights and the Court’s Plan de Sánchez judgments into Achi
  • Promote the study and awareness of Achi language and culture

Moreover, in an effort to recoup the personal losses and suffering of the victims, the Court ordered that Q175,000 (US$25,000) be awarded to each massacre survivor and next-of-kin of those murdered. The Court set a deadline of payment of January 2006, after which the Guatemalan State will have to pay interest. As of this writing, the government has not set a date for delivering the individual payments or carrying out the communal projects.

Community Commentary

After ten years of fighting within the court system, it appeared that Plan de Sánchez finally received its justice. However, for people who have been failed by their government multiple times, the promise of reparations without immediate results was not convincing. “It was nice for him to come, but it still has not helped us,” voiced one community member in the Guatemalan daily, Prensa Libre. These words reflect the sentiments of most throughout Plan de Sánchez. Many, who believed the Vice President was coming not only to denounce the acts of the state but also to deliver the money, found themselves once again disappointed by the government. Others, who never believed the state would honor its promises, had their doubts reaffirmed.

Those within the community remain astutely aware of the power that Efraín Ríos Montt and other government officials who led the violence hold within the government today. It was only two years ago that Ríos Montt came to Rabinal to rally support in his race for the presidency. Though he was met with boos and rock-throwing in Rabinal, Ríos Montt enjoys a considerable following in some rural areas. He continues to be a player in the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) party. His status as a high-profile leader disturbs those seeking justice. “Ríos Montt is free, eating well, and living well. He is rich and happy while we continue to suffer,” remarked one survivor. This state-condoned impunity for the perpetrators makes it difficult to believe the government’s commitment to awarding reparations in Plan de Sánchez.

Survivors note that the amount of money allotted will never repay the lives that were taken that day. “If they had killed my cow, I can tell you exactly how much it cost and I would ask for the value I paid for it,” explained María. “But I do not know how much to ask for the life of my husband. I cannot calculate the amount of money he would have earned over the years or how much his not being here has cost my family.”

The only resolution that would give survivors a semblance of peace is for those responsible to go to jail. “We hope that they fulfill the sentence and prosecute those responsible…they killed us, took advantage of us and left us without anything, then persecuted us for years,” bemoaned Juan.

Even if the money is delivered as promised, opinions of its effectiveness remain mixed. Some believe that the financial reparations will lift them from abject poverty, while others doubt that the payment will have a significant, long-term effect. As of now the decision of the Inter-American Court has not made any impact in the lives of those in the village, and they can only wonder about the changes and challenges reparations will bring.

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Challenges Facing the Community

Located in the midst of heavily organized ex-PAC communities, Plan de Sánchez has endured much resistance in their struggle for justice. Many of the former civil patrollers participated in the 1982 massacre and fear prosecution should criminal cases advance. Further complicating matters, the government has agreed to give reparations to ex-PACs with the condition that they complete a reforestation project. Those who participate will receive nearly 6,000 quetzales (US$780) over the next three years, a mere fraction of the US$25,000 Plan de Sánchez’s victims will receive.

Consequently, tensions have worsened between the two groups. Following the commemoration, one ex-PAC from a neighboring village promised that “there will be deaths” once the money arrives. He claimed to have connections with gang leaders who would organize the robbery and possible murder of those in Plan de Sánchez.

Petty thefts of animals and home invasions are currently on the rise in Rabinal as the popularity of feared gang Mara 18 grows. In the midst of pre-existing social delinquency, the handover of large sums of money to individuals will augment security concerns.

The Impact on the National Genocide Cases

People from Plan de Sánchez have joined the Association of Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) to file charges in domestic courts against the intellectual authors of Guatemala’s genocide. These genocide cases were halted for nearly seven months without a public prosecutor until July 2005 when Hans Noriega was assigned to the post. He holds the authority to prosecute Ríos Montt and others accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. On September 9, 2005, Noriega attended the bi-annual conference of the AJR at which he pledged to push forward the cases.

Noriega’s nomination could be viewed as a direct response to the Vice President’s promise “to push the investigation into the events that occurred to allow for the clarification of what happened and permit us to identify, try, and punish the intellectual and material authors of these offenses.” However, a series of other factors may have influenced the government’s actions.

Several days before Noriega’s appointment, approximately 30,000 secret files of the National Police (PNC), containing information of people disappeared, tortured, and kidnapped during the violence, were uncovered. The discovery of these police files serves as a reminder to foreign funders that the Guatemalan government has yet to come to terms with the atrocities of the past.

Guatemala has recently signed economic agreements with the United States and Japan. Heavily dependent on international funding, Guatemala hopes to demonstrate, at least superficially, that it is tackling human rights issues in order to create a more favorable atmosphere for trade.

These elements, together with the public and historic decision by the Court, have pushed the government to pledge reparations and judicial action. Whether deeds will follow these words is a matter to be seen. War survivors across the country wait to see if the Court’s ruling will truly succeed in advancing a State commitment to justice and improving the lives of people in Plan de Sánchez.

March 25 is the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Theme for 2013: “Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation”

originally posted by the United Nations

Poster created for the 2012 observance

For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history.

The annual observance of 25 March as the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade serves as an opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system, and to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.

This year’s theme, “Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation,” pays tribute to the emancipation of slaves in nations across the world. This year is particularly important with many key anniversaries, including 220 years since France’s General Emancipation decree liberated all slaves in present-day Haiti; 180 years since the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 ended slavery in Canada, the British West Indies and the Cape of Good Hope; and 170 years ago, the Indian Slavery Act of 1843 was signed. Slavery was also abolished 165 years ago in France; 160 years ago in Argentina; 150 years ago in the Dutch colonies; and 125 years ago in Brazil.

2013 is also the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States, which declared that, on 1 January 1863, all persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.

 

 

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