Seattle 11/15: Resistencia film screening with Honduran social movement leaders

Resistencia - Poster Seattle - ENG - 8-1_2x11

Join Honduran Resistance leaders Miriam Miranda and Berta Cáceres and film-maker Jesse Freeston for a special evening & screening of the film “Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley”

Cost: $10 at the door. ¡Evento bilingüe!

Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley from Makila, Coop on Vimeo.

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Seattle, 11/23: “Drug War Capitalism” release with Dawn Paley @ Left Bank

Drug War Capitalism author event with Dawn Paley, Seattle, Left Bank Books, Sunday November 23 6:30pm

Drug War Capitalism

Book release event with author Dawn Paley,
published by AK Press

Left Bank Books
Sunday, November 23, 6:30pm

92 Pike St. 206 622 0195

Drug wars are good business.

Though pillage, profit, and plunder have been a mainstay of war since precolonial times, there is little contemporary focus on the role of finance and economics in today’s “Drug Wars”—despite the fact that they boost US banks and fill prisons with poor people. They feed political campaigns, increase the arms trade, and function as long-term fixes to capitalism’s woes, cracking open new territories to privatization and foreign direct investment.

Combining on-the-ground reporting with extensive research, Dawn Paley moves beyond the usual horror stories, beyond journalistic rubbernecking and hand-wringing, to follow the thread of the Drug War story throughout the entire region of Latin America and all the way back to US boardrooms and political offices. This unprecedented book chronicles how terror is used against the population at large in cities and rural areas, generating panic and facilitating policy changes that benefit the international private sector, particularly extractive industries like petroleum and mining. This is what is really going on. This is drug war capitalism.

Dawn Paley is a freelance journalist who has been reporting from South America, Central America, and Mexico for over ten years. Her writing has been published in the Nation, the Guardian, Vancouver Sun , Globe and Mail, Ms. Magazine, the Tyee, Georgia Straight, and NACLA, among others.

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Toronto: Conmemoración pública de dirigente comunitario guatemalteco

Under-Mining Guate

Conmemoración de Adolfo Ich Chamán En Toronto, llegaron más de 40 personas a la conmemoración del 5to aniversario del asesinato de Adolfo Ich Chamán. Foto de Allan Lissner.

Territorio de los Pueblos Huron-Wendat, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee (Toronto, Canadá) – viernes, 26 de septiembre de 2014 – Decenas de personas asistieron a la conmemoración del 5to aniversario del asesinato de Adolfo Ich Chamán supuestamente perpetrado por las fuerzas de seguridad de Hudbay Minerals. La conmemoración planteó el apoyo a las comunidades indígenas maya q’eqchi’ de la región de Izabal, Guatemala en su demanda contra Hudbay y se realizó paralelamente con una conmemoración en El Estor, donde ultimaron a Ich Chamán.

foto por Allan Lissner El ajq’iij Tata Bartolo, guía espiritual maya quiche, dirigió el memorial frente al torre donde se encuentra la oficina de Hudbay en Toronto. Foto de Allan Lissner.

El ajq’iij Tata Bartolo, guía espiritual maya quiche, llevó a cabo la ceremonia organizada por la Red de Solidaridad Contra…

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Rivers for Life: Cultural Resistance to the Xalalá Dam (NISGUA Fall Tour 2014)

Rivers for Life: Cultural Resistance to the Xalalá Dam (NISGUA Fall Tour 2014)

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Until the Rulers Obey: March 8 @ Black Coffee

Until the Rulers Obey-Seattle

Social movements across Latin America powered a huge wave of change at the turn of the 21st century. The new book, “Until the Rulers Obey: Voices From Latin American Social Movements” (PM Press) brings together interviews with more than 70 leaders, organizers, and activists from 15 countries. Please join co-editors Clifton Ross and Marcy Rein, and contributors Phil Neff and Marie Trigona, in dialogue about what these movements represent and what we can learn from them.

Saturday, March 8, 7:00pm
Black Coffee Co-op
501 E. Pine St., Seattle

Co-sponsored by NISGUA, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala

For more information on the book, see the PM Press web site and the book’s companion site,

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For those who have not lived to see justice

Today more than ever I dedicate this poem to those who have not lived to see justice. For full updates on the Guatemala genocide trial and to support survivors and human rights defenders, connect with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala@NISGUA_Guate.

Interment (For those who have not lived to see justice)

The General’s sickroom is a cell—
through drapes a glimpse
of bloody bougainvillea,
an elegant spiral of razor wire.
Withering fingers grip the stock of a rifle,
shove home a bayonet to its depths,
grasping at satin sheets.
The voice that severed the raw will of conscripts,
exhorting conquest of coward morality,
is silenced in fevered gasps.
Somatic provinces in open revolt,
its body becomes shadow
of the blood-slicked torture chamber.

His will be an honorable death,
unstained by official infamy.
Military-school comrades will send their condolences,
bouquets stinking with hollow awareness
of their creeping fates.

The General will be congratulated in state
by high society, by the economists,
for a life spent crushing the dreams
of peoples whose dreams mean nothing to their world,
except as things to be crushed,
and feared.

The General yet sleeps fitfully,
suffocating on a goose-down pillow.
Silent men and women come to his bedside,
dressed brightly, as for a carnival procession.
The celebrants carry heavy sacks anchored to their foreheads,
small wooden boxes balanced like crowns.
The lids are lifted with an echo
of laughter disinterred.

A sudden cry—
the notes of laughter crystallize their air,
falling in a rain of shattered bones.
With a sighing of machetes the sacks are slit open—
in the dream of the celebrants
the General drowns
in a torrent of ashes.

Photos via other content copyleft

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Chapín black humor meets the Guatemala genocide trial

Today I found myself absorbed in the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala’s  coverage of the country’s historic first trial for genocide, which opened today. See NISGUA’s Twitter feed for an archive of live updates, and NISGUA’s blog for a summary of the first day’s proceedings.

This hopeful and emotionally charged moment felt even more intense as it comes during a wave of brutal repression against social movement activists across Guatemala, including most recently the kidnapping of four indigenous Xinca community leaders Sunday night following a community consultation regarding mining. Exaltación Marcos Ucelo was found murdered, with hands tied and signs of torture. Two of the other men escaped, while Xinca Parliament President Roberto Gonzalez was released the next day in Chimaltenango. NISGUA has updates and links to actions, as well as information on the broader context of criminalization that activists face.

In this climate, I was heartened to see Guatemalan commentators online reacting with great interest to the trial, as well as showing evidence of the indomitable Chapín tendency to confront horror with the blackest of comedy. The jokes mostly took the piss out of the Generals’ malicious and bumbling defense strategy, and dropped off as survivors of genocide began to give their devastating testimony of genocide lived in the flesh, picking up again at the end of the day. Here, without further comment, I want to collect some of the cutting and sidesplitting examples of this tendency that I saw today, as well as some more philosophically contemplative aphorisms:

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Black Orchid Collective


This Thursday, March 21, 2013 @3PM (Westlake) there will be an Idle No More march on the Seattle port to protest SSA Marine’s attempt to build a coal export terminal on Lummi Nation Sacred Land. These terminals are further colonizing indigenous land and threatening the ecology of the planet. Please spread the word widely to build solidarity with this crucial action!

For posters or flyers to put up or pass out, please swing by Black Coffee Coop cafe (on Capital Hill at Pine and Summit).

From the Facebook invite:

We will be meeting at Westlake Center in Seattle at 3pm we will have some amazing speakers and will then commence a March through downtown to the SSA Marine Office/Terminal in support of the Lummi Nation and Mother Earth in our fight against this company SSA Marine, Big Oil and Coal that intends to build the biggest Coal/Oil Export Terminal in the World on their…

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The brutal legacy of the “Salvador Option” in Iraq

Today The Guardian has released an hour-long documentary and article investigating the role of U.S. counterinsurgency advisers and top military and government officials in training and supervising the Special Police Commandos and paramilitary units responsible for acts of torture and sectarian violence during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  Since early 2005 it was clear that the “Salvador Option” in Iraq would mean the imposition of terror against the Sunni civilian population by majority Shiite police forces and paramilitaries coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior, sparking the explosive civil conflict which wracked the country in the following years. Brutal tactics including torture and government death squads have been central to U.S. supported counter-insurgency campaigns from Vietnam to Central America and the Middle East, as personified by retired U.S. military officer James Steele, a veteran adviser of the Salvadoran military during the 1980s and a high-level civilian “consultant” to the U.S. occupation and Iraqi security forces.

In my undergraduate research at the time, I elaborated on the functional similarities between the Iraqi and Salvadoran death squads and special forces, and detailed the human rights violations which these repressive structures committed. I also highlighted the policy of official denial and obfuscation with which the U.S. government responded to allegations of human rights violations in El Salvador during the 1980s.

The Guardian’s report makes clear that despite their denials, U.S. government officials and military commanders were intimately involved with the strategic decision to bolster sectarian militias and aware of the abuses committed by the Iraqi security forces, even ordering U.S. troops to ignore acts of torture and mistreatment of detainees, in contravention of international humanitarian law. For this information we must thank courageous U.S. military and Iraqi whistle-blowers, especially Chelsea Manning, who has taken responsibility for the release to Wikileaks of the classified logs which expose the extent of the reported abuse of detainees, as well as the memos which reveal Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s close supervision of adviser James Steele’s work with the Iraqi security forces.

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This report is especially timely as U.S. Special Forces have been accused of committing disappearances and other abuses in Afghanistan, and as El Salvador faces the possibility of future trials for human rights violations committed during the armed conflict following the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling that the country’s amnesty law cannot block the investigation of atrocities such as the 1981 El Mozote massacre, committed by an elite U.S.-trained battalion. The Guardian’s investigation also highlights the impunity enjoyed by U.S. government and military officials for their roles in masterminding the implementation of brutal counterinsurgency policies which have led directly to acts including ethnic cleansing in Iraq and genocide in Guatemala.

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GuateSec: Justice and security briefs

GuateSec is intended to provide a regular focus on issues relating to security and justice in Guatemala and the surrounding region, offering commentary and synthesis of key news reports and expert analysis.

It has been a busy and disturbing couple of weeks in Guatemala, with a series of high-impact incidents of violence and developments in key legal cases of justice for human rights violations. GuateSec has collected relevant reports and offers preliminary analysis on these topics below. Follow @cascadiasolid on Twitter for updates.

Genocide trials moved up

Following Judge Miguel Angel Galvez’s widely-reported decision to try of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and his intelligence chief Rodriguez Sánchez for genocide and crimes against humanity, presiding Judge Yazmin Barrios announced that public oral arguments in the trial will commence March 19, rather than in August as originally scheduled. The accelerated timeline will limit defense lawyers’ continued attempts to delay the trial through repetitive injunctions; most recently, the Generals unsuccessfully argued that the judges overseeing the process should be recused due to their previous role in obtaining convictions for the Dos Erres massacre. The genocide trial is likely to last several weeks, with the prosecution alone offering more than 900 pieces of evidence, including survivor testimony and reports by expert witnesses.

Totonicapán massacre case collapses

In less heartening legal news, prosecutors failed to secure charges of extrajudicial execution against 9 soldiers accused of the October 4, 2012 shooting of 6 K’iche Maya protesters and wounding of at least 14. Instead, Judge Carol Patricia Flores charged the soldiers with homicide (and attempted homicide) in a state of violent emotion, carrying a possible sentence of 2 to 8 years prison, compared to 25-30 years or extrajudicial execution. Commanding officer Juan Chiroy Sal was charged with breach of duty, with a possible 1 to 3 year sentence. Crucially, these charges do not implicate the state or military in the Totonicapán massacre, which would limit the possibility of reparations for survivors and families of the victims. The judge and courtroom observers criticized an incomplete investigation and shoddy presentation of evidence by public prosecutor Aida Granillo, including “cut-and-paste” accusations and failure to account for bullet casings which did not correspond to the weapons used by the soldiers. Lawyers for the victims announced plans to appeal the ruling, as well as the potential for future civil and international suits.

Impunity assassination could widen institutional fissures

On the evening of February 14, criminal lawyer Lea de Leon and her driver were machine-gunned to death by unknown assailants. De Leon was involved in multiple high-profile cases, including acting as defense lawyer for the Paiz brothers, accused of hiring the assassins in the 2009 Rosenberg affair; as well as Maria Melgar, accused in the murder of former Interior Minister Victor Rivera. Though de Leon’s murder is under investigation and its motive has yet to be clarified, the case bears all the hallmarks of a killing intended to preserve impunity—though for whom is unclear. Most troubling, de Leon’s husband, Prensa Libre newspaper editor Edin Hernandez, suggested at the scene of the crime that the lawyer had been threatened by Rony Lopez, a public prosecutor involved the Valat financial fraud case which she was litigating. These allegations could provoke serious instability within the justice and security institutions. Attorney General Claudia Paz and MP representatives denied having received reports of threats, and were aware only of “procedural differences” between the lawyer and prosecutor. Lopez also denied the allegations.

VIP prisoner’s privileges cause shakeup

Captain Byron Lima Oliva was caught red-handed on February 15th as he returned from a trip outside the walls of Pavoncito prison in a caravan of two bulletproofed SUVs. The military intelligence officer is the only conspirator remaining imprisoned for the 1998 murder of human rights advocate Bishop Juan Gerardi; his father, Colonel Byron Lima, and priest Mario Orantes were both released on good conduct during the last year. According to Interior Minister López Bonilla, Captain Lima and other prisoners enjoy regular improperly-authorized leaves from prison as a result of corruption and lax controls. Lima argued that his leaves were authorized for urgent medical operations, though his drivers admitted that the Captain left the prison several times a week, and two unregistered weapons were found in the detained vehicles.

As a result of Captain Lima’s arrest, prison system director Luis Alberto Gonzalez and the director of Pavoncito prison were both removed from their posts. Gonzalez, a fellow military officer, had previously described Lima as a “model prisoner” responsible for directing rehabilitation efforts, a charitable description of Lima’s widely-denounced role as a prison strongman. Although a judge dismissed charges of evasion against Lima, it was announced that he would be transferred to a different prison. Edy Fisher, another military special forces officer, who also signed off on Lima’s sojourns, was named as director of penitentiaries.

It remains unclear whether Lima was the target of a specific investigation, though investigative journalist and rumor-monger José Ruben Zamora suggests in El Periodico’s El Peladero column that the spectacle of Lima’s arrest served to divert attention from the murder of lawyer Lea de Leon, as well as reporting that imprisoned narco bosses have put out contracts on Lima in retaliation for his attempts to raise payments for his henchmen’s security services within the jails. The Lima case is also being used as a pawn in the ongoing political war between the governing Patriot Party and opposition party LIDER, which has seized on allegations that the SUVs used to ferry Lima belong to a Patriot Party congressman, and has asked the UN Commission Against Impunity to investigate. Whatever the background machinations, it seems that Lima’s stock is falling—at least in terms of perception.

MinGob jumps at shadows

In an episode that made the international press, Interior Minister Lopez Bonilla announced the possible death of Sinaloa cartel boss “El Chapo” Guzmán in a shootout between rival trafficking caravans in the Petén. After this bombshell had provoked a media frenzy, the Minister was forced to report that security forces could not even reliably confirm that the rumored confrontation had occurred, much less that El Chapo himself, or anyone resembling him, had been killed in Petén. In addition to potentially provoking instability in the cartel ecosystem, the incident is embarrassing for Guatemala’s security institutions on at least two fronts, revealing a lack of territorial control and accurate intelligence, as well as a serious lack of judgment in publicly acknowledging explosive, unconfirmed rumors.

(Even the fake Chapo got in on the fun…)

Motorcyclist’s death leads to calls for social cleansing

The gruesome death of an alleged thief on February 20th in Guatemala City prompted expressions of both approval and rejection of armed vigilantism and “social cleansing” violence. Though details remain under investigation, the narrative which circulated first via social media and later in the press told of an armed thief aboard a motorcycle who burned to death when another motorist—reportedly either the victim of theft of a wallet or another driver who witnessed the assault—fired and ignited the motorcyclist’s gas tank. The victim was identified as 28-year-old Edgar Giovanni Cifuentes Pérez, described as a gardener by family members. Photos of the crime scene circulated on Twitter with the approving hashtag #MuerteALosMotoLadrones, which was attributed to a Twitter user reportedly associated with the popular broadcaster Radio Sonora. President Pérez Molina himself got in on the action, responding to the killing by saying “Let it serve as a lesson for criminals.” The incident shortly followed an attempted lynching just blocks from Guatemala City’s Central Park and National Palace on February 10th, in which two presumed muggers narrowly avoided death at the hands of a mob, which also attacked police attempting to intervene.

Popular Injustice by Angelina Snodgrass Godoy (Stanford University Press 2006) and Dispersing Power by Raúl Zibechi (AK Press 2010)

Popular Injustice by Angelina Snodgrass Godoy (Stanford University Press 2006) and Dispersing Power by Raúl Zibechi (AK Press 201

Academic and political analyses suggest that lack of trust in a failed state justice system and the rupture of community social fabric due to displacement, mass violence, and state terror are at the root of phenomena such as lynchings and other forms of non-state punitive measures against criminals—see Angelina Snodgrass Godoy’s Popular Injustice and Raúl Zibechi’s Dispersing Power for two incisive treatments of this topic. Though lynchings generate high-profile media coverage, cases resulting in death are relatively rare, with 13 in 2012 according to official statistics. “Social cleansing” killings, carried out clandestinely by state or para-state actors, are thought to have reached a peak of some 3,500 deaths during the administration of President Oscar Berger; several members of his administration continue to face charges internationally relating to the extrajudicial execution of prisoners. The iron-fisted “mano dura” security policy that Otto Pérez Molina promised to implement upon election is popularly associated with acts of social cleansing, as evidenced by the number of #MuerteALosMotoLadrones Tweets referencing mano dura.

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