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Thursday:  July 31, 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 Honduras (5)

Friday
Mar162012

Carbon Blood Money in Honduras (COMMENTARY) 

By Rosie Wong

With its muddy roads, humble huts, and constant military patrols, Bajo Aguán, Honduras feels a long way away from the slick polish of the recurring UN climate negotiations in the world’s capital cities. Yet the bloody struggle going on there strikes at the heart of global climate politics, illustrating how market schemes designed to “offset” carbon emissions play out when they encounter the complicated reality on the ground.

Small farmers in this region have increasingly fallen under the thumb of large landholders like palm oil magnate Miguel Facussé, who has been accused by human rights groups of responsibility for the murder of numerous campesinos in Bajo Aguán since the 2009 coup. Yet Facussé’s company has been approved to receive international funds for carbon mitigation under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The contrast between the promise of “clean development” and this violent reality has made Bajo Aguán the subject of growing international attention — and a lightning rod for criticism of the CDM.

The Coup and Its Aftermath

In June 2009, a military coup in Honduras deposed the government of Manuel Zelaya, stymieing the government’s progressive social reforms and experiments with participatory democracy. "It was not only to expel President Zelaya,” says Juan Almendarez, a prominent Honduran environmental and humanitarian advocate. The coup happened “because the powerful people in Honduras were acting in response to the people’s struggles in Honduras.”

The result has been social decay and political repression. The homicide rate in Honduras has skyrocketed under the Porfirio Lobo regime, registering as the world’s highest in 2010. Human rights groups highlight the ongoing political assassinations of regime opponents. In this small country of 8 million people, 17 journalists have been killed since the coup. LGBTI organizers, indigenous rights activists, unionists, teachers, youth organizers, women’s advocates, and opposition politicians have also received death threats or been killed. Those responsible are rarely punished by the justice system, which instead devotes its energies to prosecuting social and human rights activists. Protests are often met with teargas canisters and live ammunition.

The coup has also proved a setback for campesino activists seeking to halt the encroachment of large landowners on their farms.

The Struggle for Land in Bajo Aguán

Highly unequal land distribution has long been an issue in Honduras, and genuine land reform has been evasive. However, partial agrarian reform in 1961 made the rainforests of Bajo Aguán available for cooperatives of farmers who migrated there from other parts of the country. Clearing the forests to make the land suitable for farming was extremely difficult work, but the farmers’ perseverance turned it into one of the most desirable and fertile agricultural lands in the country. 

However, under pressure from international financial institutions, Honduras’s government passed the Law of Agricultural Modernization in 1994, allowing large producers to extend their territories beyond the maximum legal property limits. As a result, large landowners began to buy up the land of small farmers, effectively reversing whatever limited land reform had been achieved. The human costs were immense. According to Juan Chinchilla of the Unified Campesino Movement of Aguan (MUCA), “it forced masses of farmers to migrate to the cities and to the U.S. under terrible conditions.”

An older movement, the MCA (Campesino Movement of Aguan), has organized several dramatic acts of resistance to this dislocation. In May 2000, the collective orchestrated a remarkable mass occupation of a former U.S. military base on a large tract of arable land controlled by agro-industrialists. Coordinating with landless farmers from all over the country, the MCA organized 50 trucks and, early one morning, entered the former base and tore down its fences. This occupation continues today, despite threats and persecution.

In 2008, MUCA occupied one of Miguel Facussé’s palm oil processing plants and subsequently entered into negotiations with then-President Zelaya to have occupied lands legally transferred to small farmers. When the coup occurred and jeopardized these hard-won gains, landless farmers mobilized against it, with MUCA officials travelling to the Nicaraguan border to meet Zelaya on his second attempt to return to Honduras. It was there that MUCA decided to organize a mass land occupation starting on December 9, 2009.

But despite this resistance, aggressive landholders buoyed by the coup have continued their onslaught against the farmers of Bajo Aguán. According to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, 42 farmers were assassinated between September 2009 and October 2011 in Honduras. More recent reports have the numbers in the 50s by 2011. In one surprisingly brazen incident in November 2010, after five farmers were killed in El Tumbador, Facussé gave a press statement acknowledging that it was his hired security guards who were responsible.

A community member from the Marañones settlement in Bajo Aguán described an eviction of small farmers from the Guanchía cooperative on 8 January 2010, carried out by a contingent of 500 police and soldiers with teargas and guns: “It was a violent eviction where they had nothing legal to show us; the first greetings they gave us were the weapons. They began to shoot at us, to capture and beat ourcompañeros. There were captured children, nine of them…compañeras were raped…our homes were destroyed, our food – they took part of it and destroyed the other parts.”

Almost every farmer I interviewed said that it was unsafe to leave their settlements. The countryside is dotted with military checkpoints, and farmers have been killed travelling to or from their settlements. “The way we see it, it has become a crime to be a farmer here,” Heriberto Rodríguez of MUCA explained. There have been at least four military operations in the area since 2010.

Palm Oil and Power

Bajo Aguán’s small farmers are already under siege. But carbon trading with the global North could help to fuel in this aggression even further under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Set up under the current UN climate treaty, the CDM is supposed to encourage “clean” technology in the South and to provide Northern actors with the most efficient (i.e., cheapest) way to reduce global pollution. The basic equation is simple: a project in the global South that ostensibly reduces carbon emissions generates carbon credits. These credits can then be bought and sold by companies in the global North, who can use them to meet government requirements to reduce pollution without actually reducing emissions in their factories or power plants.

Dinant, Facusse´s palm oil company, has set up one of these projects. In the past, the company's palm oil mill pumped its waste into large open pits, a process that produces large quantities of methane. Dinant's project involves capturing this greenhouse gas and using it to power the mill. The project's blueprint claims that it will reduce pollution in two ways: first, by not letting the methane from open pits escape straight into the atmosphere, and second, by preventing pollution from burning the fossil fuels that were formerly used to power the mill.

Dinant’s approval is obviously problematic for a number of reasons.

First, with the expanding palm oil industry contributing to massive deforestation in sensitive tropical regions, it’s ironic that Dinant would be rewarded for environmentally sound practices. Moreover, its CDM approval essentially endorses a business model of producing palm oil for export—instead of food for local consumption—in a country where one in four children suffers chronic malnutrition. As Heriberto Rodríguez argued, “We don’t need palm oil here. We need what we can eat.”

Finally, if Wikileaks cables detailing some of Facussé’s more unsavory dealings—including but not limited to his potential links to drug traffickers (to say nothing of his documented violence against local farmers)—are any indication, Facussé’s misdeeds are no secret to the North. And yet one CDM board member told a journalist that “we are not investigators of crimes” and that there is “not much scope” to reject the project under CDM rules.

As rights groups have brought these problems to light, Northern companies associated with the project have pulled out one by one, including a consultant that contributed to the project application, the German government bank that had agreed to give a loan to Dinant, and the French electricity company that had agreed to buy the credits. This has left Miguel Facussé and Dinant out on a limb. However, the struggle to stop European carbon market money from flowing to Bajo Aguán is not finished: the CDM board has re-approved the project, and the British government has not withdrawn its support, which means that new buyers could still appear.

Not for Sale

At an international human rights conference in February, MUCA signed an agreement with the Lobo regime that included a financing plan for the farmers to pay the large landholders for occupied land. But critics say that even if the government can be trusted (itself a questionable proposition), the crucial issues of assassinations and impunity were ignored. Facussé´s company is now accusingfarmers of new “invasions.”

Needless to say, the situation in Bajo Aguán continues to be incredibly dangerous. Local rights groups have called for a Permanent Human Rights Observatory to witness, document, and discourage the ongoing violence against farmers in the region.

Although growing international condemnation has made it more difficult for Dinant to access carbon market money, the project remains officially sanctioned, and loans from international development banks have not been cancelled.Heriberto Rodríguez, speaking from his roadside hut in an Aguán settlement, had no doubt about the impact of this international support: "Whoever gives the finance to these companies also becomes complicit in all these deaths. If they cut these funds, the landholders will feel somewhat pressured to change their methods.”

MUCA spokesperson Vitalino Alvarez rejects the idea of carbon trading projects altogether. “To get into these deals is like having [our land] mortgaged,” he said. “So to this we say no; this oxygen, we don’t sell it to anybody." 

Rosie Wong has accompanied the anti-coup movement in Honduras since 2009, visiting Honduras three times and doing organizing work in Sydney, Australia. She compiles monthly updates at http://www.sydney-says-no2honduras-coup.net and can be contacted at latinamerica.emergency@gmail.com. Kylie Benton-Connell, currently based in Brazil, provided research support.

This work by Institute for Policy Studies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

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 

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

Wednesday
Apr282010

As Killings of Journalists Rise, More Local Reporters Targeted

(HN, April 28, 2010) - Most deaths of journalists are now among locals covering sensitive stories such as high-level crime and corruption for national media.

The finding was announced on the eve of World Press Freedom Day by the Geneva-based International News Safety Institute (INSI). It said that so far this year, at least 42 journalists have been killed worldwide - with April the bloodiest month fort media in five years, with 17 journalists killed.

With a journalist being killed every 1.5 days in April, INSI said today the numbers have reached "shocking new levels."

Said INSI Director Rodney Pinder: "Freedom shrieks whenever a journalist is kiled for doing their job."

But it is local journalists that are bearing the brunt of the violence against media representatives. So far this year, seven journalists have been killed in Honduras, six in Mexico, and four in Pakistan. Three died in Colombia and Nigeria and one each in Nepal, Venezuela, Cyprus, Russia, Ecuador and Turkey.

The latest targeted killing of a journalist occurred April 25 in Lagos, Nigeria. Edo Sule Ugbagwu, 42, a senior judiciary correspondent working for The Nation newspaper, was shot in his dwelling. His gruesome death occurred just a year after the killing of another Nigerian journalist, Bayo Ohu, assistant Politics Editor of the Lagos-based Guardian Newspaper.

It is not clear whether fewer foreign correspondents are being targeted due to the decline of foreign news coverage by major western news organizations.

On May 3 - World Press Freedom Day - INSI is calling for a minute silence in newsrooms around the world.

Staff, agencies, INSI