Planet Watch
UNDROP

World peasant movements mobilize for UNDROP

The world organization for land-rooted peasant farmers, Vía Campesina, launched an international campaign for full approval of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants & Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), and for implementation of policies in line with its principles. Several events were held around the world marking the International Day of Peasant Struggle. El Salvador was one of the first countries to commit to ratifying UNDROP after it was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018. However, Vía Campesina affiliates in the Central American nation accused the government of pursuing policies contrary to its spirit, noting that in the years since then, there has been a reduction in cultivated areas of maize and beans, with a loss of at least 10,000 hectares of maize. (Image: Vía Campesina)

Planet Watch
climate

2023 hottest year on record —by ‘alarming’ margin

The year 2023 is officially the warmest on record—overtaking 2016, the previous warmest year, by an alarming margin. According to new data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, Earth was 1.48 degrees Celsius hotter last year compared with pre-industrial levels—dangerously close to the 1.5-degree threshold set by the Paris climate deal. 2023 also marked the first year in which each day was over one degree warmer than the pre-industrial average. Temperatures over 2023 likely exceeded those of any year over the past 100,000 years. This was partially due to the year’s El Niño climate phenomenon, but those impacts only began in June—and every subsequent month last year was the warmest on record for that particular month. September represented the largest climatological departure since record-keeping began over 170 years ago. (Image: blende12/Pixabay)

Central America
Panama

Protests prompt Panama mining moratorium

Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo announced that he will hold a referendum to determine the fate of a contentious mega-mining contract, after several days of the country’s largest protests in decades. Cortizo also said he would instate a moratorium on any new mining projects in response to the protests, a move signed into law on Panama’s independence day. The protests, driven by environmental concerns, were sparked by the National Assembly’s earlier vote to award an extended concession to Canadian company First Quantum, allowing it to operate the largest open-pit copper mine on the Central American isthmus for another 20 years. The Cobre Panamá mine, in ColĂłn province, has faced strong opposition from local residents since it opened in 2019, but extension of the contract brought thousands of angry demonstrators to the streets of Panama City. The protests reached the doors of the capital’s Marriott Hotel, where regional environment ministers were meeting for the Latin America & the Caribbean Climate Week summit. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
guna

Relocation of Panama coastal islanders stalled

Human Rights Watch released a report critiquing the Panamanian government’s lax efforts to assist coastal indigenous peoples with relocation as their ancestral homelands are destroyed by climate change. The report focuses on the island of Gardi Sugdub and its Guna indigenous inhabitants. The residents of Gardi Sugdub have been planning an evacuation from the island due to rising sea levels since 2017. However, HRW charges that the Panamanian government’s promised support for the evacuation has been slow to come: little work has been done at the site residents are being relocated to on the mainland, with the location still lacking sewage, water, garbage removal and health services. Additionally, there may not be enough water supply in wells on site to support Gardi Sugdub residents, even if water service is connected. (Photo: Congress hall on Gardi Sugdub. Credit: Erica Bower/HRW)

Central America
Primavera

Guatemala: opposition party headquarters raided

Guatemalan presidential candidate Bernardo ArĂ©valo accused authorities of “political persecution” after police raided his center-left Semilla party headquarters. ArĂ©valo condemned the raid as an attempt to hinder his campaign for the 2023 election, the second round of which is scheduled for August. Prosecutors say they were enforcing a court order that suspended Semilla due to alleged irregularities in party member registration. However, that order had been canceled by Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal. (Image via Twitter)

Central America
Salvador

‘Systematic’ human rights crisis in El Salvador

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for authorities in El Salvador to urgently address human rights concerns as the nation marked one year under a state of emergency. Authorities enacted the state of emergency on March 27, 2022 following a wave of gang-related murders. The measure was initially for 30 days but has been regularly renewed. Since March 2022, 65,000 people have been detained, and 90 people have died in custody. OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado stated that 7,900 complaints of abuses against prisoners have been lodged with El Salvador’s national human rights body. According to the report, many detentions were arbitrary and founded on “poorly substantiated” investigations or “crude profiling.” Conditions in detention have also declined significantly, and the UN has received reports of prolonged solitary confinement and inmates being denied prescribed medications. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Central America
antibitcoin

El Salvador: Bitcoin flop, pseudo-war on gangs

A year ago, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele declared Bitcoin legal tender in the country—a global first. Since then, Bitcoin has lost half its value. Many Salvadorans, who were dubious on the plan to begin with, cashed in on a $30 bonus offered as an incentive to download the Bitcoin app, only to delete it once they received the money. The lack of enthusiasm may have protected people from losses due to Bitcoin’s dive. But many in the country have still sunk deeper into poverty in the past year. One reason is a crackdown on gang violence by the self-described “dictatorial” president that has seen more than 52,000 alleged gang members rounded up since March. Instead of catching criminals, innocent people are being arrested to meet quotas. The majority of those detained may not even have links to gangs, and the arrests have left many poor families without breadwinners. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
roe

El Salvador: warning for post-Roe US

The US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade comes six weeks after a court in El Salvador sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison after she suffered an obstetric emergency that resulted in termination of her pregnancy, according to a local advocacy group that was assisting in her defense. The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion (ACDATEE) denounced the sentence and said it would appeal the conviction. The woman, identified only as “Esme,” was held in pre-trial detention for two years following her arrest when she sought medical care at a hospital. She already had a seven-year-old daughter. (Photo: Debra Sweet/WikiMedia via Jurist)

Central America
salvador

‘Massive’ human rights violations in El Salvador

Amnesty International reported that authorities in El Salvador have committed “massive” human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, due process violations and torture, under cover of an ongoing state of emergency. Amnesty found that 35,000 individuals have been illegally detained without due process since President Nayib Bukele declared a state of emergency in response to gang violence in March, suspending constitutional guarantees. At least 1,190 minors are among the detained, and more than 18 detainees have died in custody. The National Assembly has twice extended the so-called “regime of exception” by 30-day intervals. The day after Amnesty issued the report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged El Salvador’s government to comply with international human rights obligations in implementing security measures. (Photo: Presidencia de El Salvador)

Central America
Archipelago of San Andrés

Win for Nicaragua in maritime dispute with Colombia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague ruled that Colombia must end its “interference” in parts of the Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua, and bring under control fishing and other activities in the zone. This culminates a long conflict between Nicaragua and Colombia. In two rulings in 2007 and 2012, the ICJ recognized the sovereignty of Colombia in the islands constituting the Archipelago of San AndrĂ©s. However, the rulings also recognized the jurisdiction of Nicaragua in the surrounding waters. Colombia continued its activities in those waters, prompting Nicaragua to file a new complaint with the Court in 2013. Colombia argued that its actions were necessary to fight drug trafficking and secure environmental protection of the waters. In its new ruling, the ICJ found that these waters are within the exclusive economic zone of Nicaragua, and the “intervention” of another state is contrary to international law. (Map: Wikipedia)

Central America
salvador

El Salvador: state of emergency over gang violence

El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved a state of emergency at the request of President Nayib Bukele, in response to a sharp increase in the number of killings by criminal gangs. The emergency regimen seeks to dismantle criminal structures by prohibiting associations and disrupting their communications. It also extends the “administrative detention” period, and suspends certain constitutional freedoms. The declaration invokes Article 29 of El Salvador’s Constitution, which allows for the suspension of constitutional guarantees in times of “serious disturbance of public order.” This includes the right to freedom of association and presumption of innocence. The state of emergency will remain in effect for 30 days, in conformity with Article 30, after which it may be renewed. (Map: University of Texas)

Central America

Honduras transition in the New Cold War

Hondurans elected self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Xiomara Castro to be the country’s first woman president. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro pledges to revive his program—and take it much further, instating far-reaching reforms. Castro also announced that she will “open diplomatic and commercial relations with continental China,” which was widely taken as meaning a switch of diplomatic recognition. Honduras is currently one of only 14 countries that recognize Taipei rather than Beijing.  It is tragic to see the Central American republics, in their struggle to break free of Washington’s orbit, acquiesce in Beijing’s design to incorporate Taiwan into its own orbit—or, more ambitiously, its national territory.  (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)