FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Tuesday:  November 25, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Guatemala (6)

Monday
Mar262012

Guatemala President Calls for Drug Legalization Ahead of Summit Of The Americas (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: Guatemalan President Otto Molina & Honduras' Vice President Samuel Reyes speak during an anti-drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel, Antigua, Guatemala/IBT)(HN, March, 26, 2012) - This past weekend, three Central American heads of state attended a regional summit to discuss the drug issue which has plagued their nations and their neighbors for decades.  In Antigua, Guatemala, Saturday for the first time, leaders met explicitly to discuss ending the war on drugs as we know it.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said the war on drugs has "failed", and it's time to end the "taboo" on discussing decriminalization for the Americas.

Also in attendance were Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a harsh critic of US-style drug policies and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy was an invited guest and addressed the summit. Outside of Central America, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have expressed support for the meeting.

Invited to attend but who didn't were El Salvador President Mauricio Funes, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.  While Funes initially expressed support for the summit, he has since backed away. Lobo and Ortega have opposed the idea from the beginning.  Funes and Ortega did send lower ranking members of the governments to the meeting, and the Salvadoran delegation called for a future meeting on the subject, saying it remained a topic of great interest and importance to the region.

"We have realized that the strategy in the fight against drug trafficking in the past 40 years has failed. We have to look for new alternatives," said President Molina, a former army general who first called for such a meeting last month, shortly after taking office. "We must end the myths, the taboos, and tell people you have to discuss it, debate it."

(PHOTO: Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla attends Saturday's drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel in Antigua/CRTV)He said that drug use, production, and sales should be legalized and regulated and suggested that the region jointly regulate the drug trade, perhaps by establishing transit corridors through which regulated drug shipments could pass.

But US-backed drug policies in the region have in recent years brought a wave of violence to the region, which is used as a springboard for Colombian cocaine headed north to the US and Canada, either direct or via Mexico. Mexican drug cartels have expanded their operations in Central America in the past few year, perhaps in response to the pressures they face at home.

High levels of poverty and the strong presence of criminal gangs, particularly in El Salvador and Honduras,  combined with the cartel presence is making the region one of the world's deadliest.

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with Jamaica, have the world's highest murder rates; and Guatemala recently has been saying it is being "outgunned by gangs".

In its most recent annual report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said violence linked to the drug wars has reached "alarming and unprecedented" levels in the region.

"How much have we paid here in Central America in deaths, kidnappings, extortion?" asked Chinchilla. "Central America has to ask whether it is time that we raise this issue at the Security Council of United Nations."

President Molina also suggested that, barring legalization and a regulated drug trade, consumer countries should be taxed for the drugs seized in the region on their behalf - including the United States.

"For every kilo of cocaine that is seized, we want to be compensated 50% by the consumer countries, he said, adding that the has a "responsibility" because of its high rates of drug use.

While Saturday's summit produced no common platform or manifesto, it is an important step in the fight for a more sensible, effective, and humane response to drug use and the regional drug trade.

Some leaders are pushing for a discussion on alternatives to the drug war to be on the agenda at next month's Organization of American States (OAS) summit in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14-15 where President Santos has also been signaling an openness to debate on the issue. 

Members of the OAS include 35 countries:  Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico,      Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Suriname, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Bahamas, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Canada, Belize, and Guyana.

The White House says US President Barack Obama will host Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico for a North American summit in Washington on April 2. The meeting is expected to focus on economic growth and competitiveness, security, energy, and climate change; along with North America’s role in the upcoming Summit of the Americas

Ahead of the summit, Obama said Monday he was suspending trade benefits for Argentina from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program, which waives import duties on thousands of goods from developing countries because of the South American country's failure to pay more than $300 million in compensation awards in two disputes involving American investors; effective in 60 days.

Argentina's top exports under the program were grape wine, prepared or preserved beef, sugar confections and olive oil. Washington waived about $17.3 million in duties on those goods from Argentina last year.

--- HUMNEWS (c) 2012

Wednesday
Feb012012

Femicide and The Drug War's Invisible Victims (PERSPECTIVE) 

(On The Edge, a documentary covering the brutal murders of hundreds of young women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico since 1993. {2006})

By Laura Carlsen

There are many kinds of war. The classic image of a uniformed soldier kissing mom good-bye to risk his life on the battlefield has changed dramatically. In today’s wars, it’s more likely that mom will be the one killed.

UNIFEM states that by the mid-1990s, 90% of war casualties were civilians-- mostly women and children.

Mexico’s drug war is a good example of the new wars on civilian populations that blur the lines between combatants and place entire societies in the line of fire. Of the more than 50,000 people killed in drug war-related violence, the vast majority are civilians. President Felipe Calderón claims that 90% of the victims were linked to drug cartels. But how does he know? In a country where only 2% of crimes are investigated, tried, and sentenced, the government pulled this figure out of its sleeve.

There is no official information on why these thousands were killed. When their bodies are found in unmarked mass graves, no one even knows who they were. With violence the norm, executions can—and do--target grassroots leaders, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, and rebellious youth under the cloak of the drug war.

(PHOTO: Victim's families hope for justice/FP) Not Just Homicide

There are also war tolls beyond the body counts. The homicide number misses the disappeared, the thousands whose bodies--dead or alive--are never found to be counted. And it hides the mutilation of lives caused by “collateral damage”: the loss of loved ones, families forced from their homes, permanent injury, orphans and widows, sexual abuse, lives lived in fear.

These costs fall primarily on the shoulders of women--the mothers, daughters, and sisters who are left with the nearly impossible task of seeking answers and redress in a justice system outpaced by the violence and overrun by the corruption. They are often re-victimized by government agencies that ignore, reject, or stifle their pleas for justice.

“Families that demand that our children be found face all kinds of threats… the loss of our property, isolation, rejection by our own families,” said Araceli Rodríguez, a mother whose son, a young policeman, was disappeared on the job. His police unit refuses to give information on his disappearance.  “I wake up and find that it’s not a nightmare, that his absence is real and the impunity is also real.”

It’s rare to hear the voices of the women who bear the brunt of the drug war. Their pain doesn’t make headlines. Some need anonymity to remain alive. Many have been granted protective measures by the government or international human rights organizations because of the extreme threats they face.

Telling Stories

Despite all these difficulties, some 70 women told their stories amid tears and despite fear for their lives in Mexico City on January 22. The meeting called by the Nobel Women’s Initiative brought an international delegation led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams together with Mexican women victims of the violence and women human rights defenders.

From the sketchy statistics available, women make up a relatively small proportion of the murdered in Mexico, but they are the majority of citizens who denounce disappearances, murders, and human rights violations in the drug war. They work on the front lines of defending communities and human rights. For their efforts, they become targets themselves. In Mexico, six prominent women human rights defenders have been murdered in the past two years.

(PHOTO: Nobel Women's Initiative delegation to Mexico/NWI)The last report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders recognized that threats and especially “explicit death threats against women human rights defenders are one of the main forms of violence in the region, with more than half coming from Latin America, most of those (27) from Mexico.”

Sometimes it’s the drug cartels that seek to silence women activists. But a recent survey of Mexican women human rights defenders revealed that they cite the government (national, state, and local) and its security forces as responsible in 55% of cases of violence and threats of violence to women defenders. Among government officials charged with public safety and justice, they encounter at best indifference and at worst death threats and attacks. A human rights defender from the state of Coahuila explained that searching for a disappeared loved one implies “always having to be in the hell of the institutions, which are often infiltrated by crime.”

Gender-based violence including femicide has skyrocketed in the context of the overall violence.

The number of femicides in Chihuahua since sending the army in has risen to 837 for the period 2008-2011 June - nearly double the total femicides in 1993-2007. Women rights defenders report that the vast majority of threats and acts of violence against them include gender-based violence.

Silent No More

Olga Esparza, whose daughter Monica disappeared in Ciudad Juarez in 2009, explains through her tears that the government simply doesn’t care. “We’re the ones who have to carry out the investigations, with our own resources.” She adds that government officials often add insult to injury, “They say she’s probably just gone off with her boyfriend or she’s a prostitute or drug addict.” In her case, as with so many others, there’s no investigation, no results, no justice.

(PHOTO: Keeping memories alive/Dominio Público)Another woman described how her work with indigenous communities led to her rape and torture by police agents. She continues to live in terror due to threats against her life and her family.

Alma Gomez of the Center for the Human Rights of Women in Chihuahua summed up what she sees in the center, “Women are the invisible victims, we are always at risk in this military and police occupation. We know of gang rapes by security forces that the women don’t even report; arbitrary arrests; women who make the rounds between army barracks and city morgues searching for their sons, fathers, or husbands… We are the spoils of war in a war we didn’t ask for and we don’t want.”

“Victim” is really the wrong word for these women. The mother whose son disappeared more than two years ago said, “In the struggle to find my son, I joined the peace movement. I learned that I can transform my pain into a collective force and together we can help more people to have a voice and to now be empowered to defend their rights.”

Valentina Rosendo, a Me’phaa indigenous woman from the State of Guerrero, was raped by soldiers and took her case all the way up to the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. She sums up the reason for participating in the Nobel Women’s forum, “It’s really hard to speak out, but it’s more painful to keep quiet.” 

- Laura Carlsen is director of the Americas Program for the Center for International Policy in Mexico City. Originally published by Foreign Policy in Focus licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Related click here 

Saturday
Oct292011

Floods in Central America Cause Death, Displacement, Chaos 

(PHOTO: UNISDR)(HN, October 29, 2011) – Ten days of heavy rains in Central America have caused the deaths of an estimated 123 persons; forced tens of thousands from their homes and destroyed crops, livelihoods and infrastructure in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

In El Salvador, 35 persons are reported dead and some 55,000 persons were evacuated from their homes and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has begun to deliver assistance and manage shelters in the flood zone.  As part of the UN Flash Appeal for El Salvador, IOM is appealing for US$709,522, which includes US$ 288,997 from the CERF.

With funds from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), in El Salvador IOM will support the management of 42 temporary shelters currently housing 1,895 persons; that the shelters comply with safety and hygiene standards; provide basic materials to improve the shelters; and distribute non-food emergency items amongst most affected families. 

"This week, all assessments were finished, and so with that concrete information in hand we can now begin the delivery of relief supplies and the rehabilitation of shelters", explains Jorge Sagastume, IOM Shelter and Emergency Coordinator in El Salvador, where the need is focused on urgent shelters and return kits for the families to rebuild their damaged homes.

"The rains have stopped, but the emergency continues," said Sagastume, head of the IOM eight-person assessment team which this week visited the departments of Ahuachapán, Sonsonate, La Libertad, Usulután, La Paz y San Miguel.

"Hundreds of persons have left the shelters, but have returned to communities that are still suffering from lack of clean water, proper hygiene, and bacterial infections, especially amongst the children," added Sagastume.

In Guatemala, where 39 people are reported dead and more than 500,000 have been affected, IOM is requesting US$ 442,417 from the CERF to repair and upgrade basic living and sanitary conditions in temporary shelters and provide non-food emergency assistance to some 2,000 families in the departments of Santa Rosa, Escuintla, Retalhuleu, Quetzaltenango, Jutiapa y San Marcos.

IOM's Sebastian Berkovich headed the three-person IOM team that this week visited seriously affected communities in the southern department of Santa Rosa"We had relentless rains for more than a week; non-stop rain for more than seven days.  During our trip to Santa Rosa we saw chunks of highway that had been washed away by the rains and entire communities isolated on the other side of the road," recounted Berkovich.  

Marta Zamora, Nursing Assistant at the village of La Bomba health centre, told IOM, "The water has receded a bit, but access to the clinic is still very difficult.  Fortunately one of our colleagues was able to go the nearest town and fetch medicine, so we have supplies.  We're treating children with upper respiratory infections and many people with fungal infections." 

At the peak of the rains and floods, the Nicaragua Government reported that 10,000 persons had been evacuated to emergency shelters.  Although some 3,000 have returned home, IOM Nicaragua is working with its partners to rebuild and rehabilitate existing shelters, strengthen the capacity of shelter managers, distribute non-food items (house cleaning implements, kitchen kits, comfort kits, and hygiene kits) to the estimated 7,000 persons who remain homeless and in shelters.  As part of the UN Flash Appeal, IOM Nicaragua is appealing for US$ 637,374.

This week, the IOM Nicaragua team visited the most affected departments of Estelí, Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Leon and Chinandega.  The team worked hand-in-hand with IOM's local staff in Chinandega and Estelí, as well as with authorities and the NGO Shelter Box to assess the extent of damage to the homes, as well as the living conditions of those who took refuge in official shelters.

IOM Officer Daizen Oda reported heard from people whose homes completely collapsed or were washed away; others lamented that their home was missing the roof or a wall.

"Some shelters are filled with more than 200 people, including women and children.  They told us that they had lost most of their belongings.  IOM, working with its many partners, is ready to begin distributing non-food items to this population the moment funds become available," said Oda.

A woman from Villanueva, in the department of Chinandega, who was forced to seek refuge in a school told IOM: "It is not easy to live in a school with so many other people and with students coming in every day for their classes." 

As the lead agency in charge of shelter, IOM Nicaragua will work with its partners to rebuild or rehabilitate existing shelters, strengthen the capacity of shelter managers, distribute non-food items (house cleaning implements, kitchen kits, comfort kits, and hygiene kits) to families in shelters; provide protection and psychosocial support to some 4,000 children and adolescents in shelters, and support the prevention of gender-based violence in shelters in Managua.  

To carry out these activities in Nicaragua, and as part of the UN Flash Appeal, IOM is appealing for US$ 637,374.  The approval of the UN's Flash Appeal for Nicaragua is expected today.

IOM is working with governments in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua and Honduras, as well as national and international partners, and is appealing for US$ 2,783,926 to provide emergency assistance to the affected communities.

In the past 40 years, the region has endured a multitude of natural disasters that have killed some 50,000 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

--HUMNEWS staff, IOM

Tuesday
Oct252011

Hurricane Rina Heading Towards Mexico As Many Parts of Central America Suffer From Severe Flooding (NEWS BRIEF)

(graphic courtesy of National Weather Service) (HN, October 25, 2011) Hurricane Rina, which spent days nagging the coastline of Honduras as a disorganized depression, has now coalesced into a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, could barrel into Belize and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula by the end of the week, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

The storm was packing sustained winds of 40 miles (65 kilometers) per hour and was tracking to the northwest at six miles per hour.

"Some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours," and Rina could unleash up to five inches (12.5 centimeters) of rain in some areas, the Miami-based NHC said in a bulletin.

Rina's center was about 135 miles northeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios, on the Nicaragua-Honduras border, and was predicted to pass north of the Honduran coast.

Several nations in Central America have only just begun to dig out from recent torrential rains which triggered deadly flooding and landslides, swamped huge swathes of farmland and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

The number of fatalities across the region topped 100, including 36 deaths in Guatemala, 34 in El Salvador and 18 in Honduras, from non-stop downpours that have affected hundreds of thousands of people, destroyed crops, livelihoods and infrastructure. 

Throughout the region, some 1.2 million people have been affected, said the UN.

According to the Salvadoran Ministry of Natural Resources, almost 60 inches (150 centimetres) of rain have fallen in the past 10 days.  The cumulative record for Hurricane Mitch, which in 1998 killed 11,000 people in the region, was 34 inches (86 centimetres).

The region has endured a multitude of natural disasters, in the past 4 decades, that have killed some 50,000 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

- HUMNews Staff 

Saturday
Jul022011

Immigrants and 11 Latin America Nations Fight New US Immigration Laws (REPORT) 

Protestors hold signs and chant while marching to Georgia's state capitol Saturday. (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS 2011) (Atlanta, Georgia, USA-HN, 7/2/11) – Today, thousands marched on the US state of Georgia’s Capitol in protest of House Bill 87 – an anti immigration bill which passed and was signed earlier this year - chanting cries of “Humans are not for sale” and “Justice for all”.  Protestors called upon US President Barack Obama to step in and do something to halt the stringent requirements.

In March of this year, after a moderate amount of debate in the state House of Georgia, the legislature passed a strict immigration bill that has sparked ire among 11 Latin American countries and various civil and human rights groups.

Following a similarly controversial step in the US states of Arizona, Utah and South Carolina, Georgia passed the law, known as House Bill 87, targeting illegal immigrants and those who harbor them in the state. It carried by a largely Republican party-line vote of 113-56 in the House; with a 37-19 vote in the Georgia State Senate. HB 87 is also called the `Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011'.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal went on to sign the bill, one of the nation’s toughest immigration enforcement measures in May, and both the Georgia law and the South Carolina law took effect July 1.  All of these laws have challenged the thorny debate over illegal immigration in the United States and triggered immediate court appeals.

Under Georgia’s sweeping HB 87, police will be empowered to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects and Georgia employers will be required to check the status of potential workers by using the US Federal `E-Verify’ system before hiring. The measure also sets new regulations and penalizes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants in the state. 

State lawmakers have cited passage of these bills as being necessary because they say “efforts to get comprehensive immigration legislation through the US Congress have failed”, complaining the federal government has not secured the nation's borders.

Immigration protestors want Justice for All on Saturday in Georgia (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS 2011) But federal judges in both Utah and Arizona have halted both of those states' laws amid complaints that they are unconstitutional. In Georgia last week, two of the more controversial provisions of the state’s new immigration enforcement law were blocked by US federal judge Thomas Thrash; but other provisions that were not overturned go into effect July 1. It is now a criminal offense to apply for a job with a false I.D. in Georgia, punishable by up to $250,000 in fines and 15 years in jail.

Aside from the 11 Latin American countries, the US Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and several other civil and immigrant rights groups are party to the legal cases hoping to stop Georgia HB 87 from going forward.

The governments of Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru filed court papers stating that HB 87 is unconstitutional because there is already a federal immigration law on the books.

“HB 87 substantially and inappropriately burdens the consistent country to country relations between Mexico and the United States of America,” Mexico says in its brief in support of halting the law. It also claims the bill is “interfering with the strategic diplomatic interests of the two countries and encouraging an imminent threat of state-sanctioned bias or discrimination.”

In its defense, the state of Georgia has also filed court papers against the challenge to dismiss the lawsuits.

Even before the law in Georgia took effect yesterday, there were reports of immigrants, Hispanics and others who may be affected by the new law leaving the state to avoid detection or prosecution.

In a state – and indeed region where agriculture is one of the biggest industries for the South – the consequences include serious labor shortages with crops rotting in fields, and forcing farmers to raise prices to pay for new workers.

"When this all started in May there was big concern whether we would have enough labor to harvest the crops," Executive Director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Charles Hall, said.

Immigrant workers have been leaving the state since Georgia's bill passed. (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto HUMNEWS 2011) Judge Thrash’s ruling last week has stemmed the flow of people leaving for the time being. But many remain worried, and in recent days have taken to Georgia’s streets and called for a `Human Rights Summer’ in the state to stop the bill from fully coming into practice. Organizers plan to visit Latino communities throughout the state to educate people and organize mobilizations.

The two provisions halted by the judge would have resulted in police checking the immigrant status of anyone detained for traffic violations or some other crime and would have criminalized the harboring and transporting of undocumented immigrants.

Still in play and set to go into effect on January 1, 2012 are parts of the bill which will require employers with 500 or more employees to use the federal E-Verify system to determine job applicants’ legal status before hiring them. Federal law says that E-Verify can only be used for new employees; so many undocumented workers will be unaffected unless they lose their jobs.  That requirement will be phased in for all businesses with more than 10 employees by July 2013.  Also starting January 1, applicants for public benefits must provide at least one state or federally issued “secure and verifiable” document.

In South Carolina, a new illegal immigration enforcement unit has been established by that state’s law and the unit will coordinate between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

Critics of the bill cite both the need for migrant workers for food harvesting but also other economic issues as being impacted with the state’s decision.  Metro Atlanta school officials plan to closely monitor their enrollment figures over the summer.  The reason: many illegal immigrants could leave the state and pull their children out of public schools if opponents are unable to block the law in federal court. In Arizona, which passed a similar immigration law last year, hundreds of children left some of its schools after the bill passed. The state’s tourism business is also taking a hit too.

On Saturday immigrants and US citizens alike took to the streets of Atlanta (CREDIT J DiBenedetto HUMNEWS 2011) On Friday in Georgia, the day HB 87 took effect, a Latino community group called The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights organized a “day without immigrants” to protest the measure. It called for a day of non-compliance, asking businesses to close and community members to stay home and not work or shop. Accounts suggest that at least 125 Atlanta-area businesses closed to show their support Friday.

“We will mark our presence with our absence so that the state of Georgia takes note of the important role and contributions of Latinos in the state,” the group’s president, Teodoro Maus, said.

At Plaza Fiesta, a mall in Atlanta that caters to the growing immigrant population, many stores were closed, with signs in the windows expressing opposition to the law and saying they would be closed Friday in solidarity with the immigrant community. Many restaurants in the food court, however, were open.

The group is also trying to create shopping zones that are friendly to the immigrant community. After a business owner signs a “pledge of non-compliance” with the new law, they get a sign to put in their window that says “Immigrants Welcome Here, Georgia Buy Spot.”

Georgia’s Hispanic population has nearly doubled since 2000, to 865,689, or nearly 10 percent of the state’s population, according to 2010 US Census figures.

But the legal fight nationally is far from over. It could drag on for months and reach the chambers of the US Supreme Court before long.

----HUMNEWS staff

Sunday
Dec052010

Human Trafficking in Mexico Gets More Attention (News Brief)

(HN, December 5, 2010) - More than 20,000 people are estimated to be trafficked each year in Mexico, many of them ending up in the northern border state of Chihuahua.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), most of the victims are from Central America - especially Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Last week, IOM finalized an agreement with a Mexican non-governmental organization (NGO) - Sexualidad Responsable (SERE by its Spanish acronym) - based in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez. It will help to shed light on human trafficking trends in the area.

IOM said it aims to produce additional information about human trafficking along the northern border - informing and raising awareness on human trafficking amongst at-risk populations and the public in general. The project also involves strengthening government and civil society's capacities to detect and assist victims of human trafficking.

"It is important to foster joint initiatives in order to bring together experiences and strengths from different sectors to combat human trafficking in areas where this crime has lacked the attention it deserves," says IOM Mexico Chief of Mission, Thomas Lothar Weiss.

Human trafficking has received little attention in Ciudad Juarez, IOM says, with the result that there is little awareness of it among the general population. It has mainly been overshadowed by the disappearances and murders of women which have monopolized the attention of the authorities, civil society organizations and the media during the last decade.

However, Chihuahua has been identified by the Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH by its Spanish Acronym) as a destination point for trafficking victims in a country where more than 20,000 people are estimated to be trafficked each year.

Between 2005 and 2010, IOM has assisted more than 175 victims of trafficking in Mexico, most of them from Central America.

A surveyed carried out by SERE in 2009, based on its years of experience working in the field of sexual health, revealed that some 5,000 women work as prostitutes in Ciudad Juarez. Many of them are from other Mexican states such as Veracruz, Oaxaca, Zacatecas, Coahuila and Chiapas, and others are foreigners, mainly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

--- HUMNEWS staff, files