Central America
Mélidas

Feminist, humanitarian groups raided in El Salvador

Agents of El Salvador’s Fiscalía, backed up by police troops, raided seven non-governmental organizations, ostensibly on the grounds of investigating “corruption.” The Salvadoran popular movement describes the raids as the latest in an escalating campaign of political persecution by President Nayib Bukele against voices critical of the regime. Among the groups targeted were Las Mélidas, a long-standing women’s rights organization, and PRO-VIDA, a humanitarian association that works in areas of healthcare, ecology, and strengthening of democratic institutions. In a statement following the raids, a representative of Las Mélidas condemned them as “unjustified” and meant to “criminalize” the group’s initiatives, which include literacy, violence prevention, sexual health campaigns, and other programs serving the country’s most marginalized women. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
Darién

Danger grows on Darién Gap migrant route

The Darién Gap, a dangerous jungle route used by a growing number of migrants trying to reach the United States from South America, has become even deadlier, according to Panama’s Forensic Sciences Institute. It reports over 50 migrant deaths to date in 2021, although the figure is believed to be far higher. Towns on the Colombian side of the border are swelling with migrants waiting to cross the Gap—mostly Haitians, Cubans and Venezuelans, but some from as far as Afghanistan and Burkina Faso. Colombian authorities say 67,000 migrants have passed through the border zone so far this year, more than 15 times the number in 2020. Former paramilitaries operating in the area are now preying on the migrants, who face rape, armed violence and extortion. (Photo: David González/TNH)

Watching the Shadows
anti-bitcoin

Podcast: rage against the technocracy

In Episode 89 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes heart at the national uprising in El Salvador against the imposition of Bitcoin as legal tender, and draws the connection his own incessant struggles against corporate cyber-overlords Verizon—as well as the to the automated drone terror in Afghanistan. As we are distracted (or, at any rate, should be distracted) by the more obviously pressing issues such as police brutality and climate destabilization, the digitization of every sphere of human activity lurches forward at a terrifying pace—with zero resistance. Until now. The heroic protesters in El Salvador have launched the long overdue revolution of everyday life. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
antibitcoin

Anti-Bitcoin protests shake El Salvador

Protests repeatedly erupted in El Salvador as the country became the first to make Bitcoin legal tender. The US dollar also remains official currency, but the law pushed through by President Nayib Bukele mandates that all vendors also accept Bitcoin. Small merchants and especially those in the informal sector complain of problems in trying to download the official phone app needed to use the currency. Protesters say the new law will deepen poverty by further excluding the already marginalized from the economy. They also assert that it will further enable corruption. “This is a currency that’s not going to work for pupusa vendors, bus drivers or shopkeepers,” one protester told Reuters. “This is a currency that’s ideal for big investors who want to speculate with their economic resources.” (Photo via Twitter)

Planet Watch
Arenal

Denmark, Costa Rica to launch no-fossil-fuel bloc

Denmark and Costa Rica jointly announced that they are launching an alliance of nations committed to setting a firm date to completely phase out use and production of fossil fuels. The two countries hope to present the initiative, tentatively dubbed the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (BOGA), at the upcoming UN climate summit in Glasgow. Nearly 60 countries have made some sort of net zero emissions pledge, but only a handful of those have actually set a target in law or enacted bans on new fossil fuel exploration and production. An International Energy Agency report released earlier this year found that new fossil fuel exploration needs to halt by 2022 in order to keep warming within the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. (Photo: Flickr/photodiscoveries via weather2travel.com)

Central America
salvador

El Salvador: government deal with maras revealed

Details of an investigation into negotiations between the government of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and violent gangs, which involved trading fewer murders and electoral support for improved prison conditions, were revealed by El Faro, an online news site. The talks were carried out by a special unit created by attorney general Raúl Melara, who was ousted in May. Officials apparently conducted discussions with Mara Salvatrucha, Barrio 18 Revolucionarios, and Barrio 18 Sureños, which the government considers terrorist groups. El Faro published audio files and text messages documenting what took place over at least a year beginning in 2019. Gang violence has been a main driver of migration from El Salvador. The US State Department recently accused several Bukele officials of corruption, which has cooled efforts to engage bilaterally on migration strategy. (Map: University of Texas)

Central America
Berta Caceres

Accused author of Berta Cáceres murder on trial

The trial of the alleged mastermind behind the March 2016 murder of environmentalist Berta Cáceres began in Honduras. Cáceres was slain when a squad of gunmen invaded her home at La Esperanza, Intibucá department. A visiting Mexican friend, Gustavo Castro, was also shot but survived. Cáceres had been campaigning against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, then under development by Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA). Four of eight defendants were each sentenced in December 2019 to 34 years in prison for the murder of Cáceres and 16 years for the attempted murder of Castro. Three others were sentenced to 30 years as co-conspirators in the crime. In the new trial that opened in a Tegucigalpa court, a former DESA president and military intelligence officer, Roberto David Castillo, is charged with being the “intellectual author” of the murder. (Photo by UN Environment via Wikimedia Commons)

Central America
Juan Carlos Cerros

Indigenous water protector slain in Honduras

On the eve of World Water Day, an indigenous activist who was leading the fight against construction of a hydroelectric dam was shot dead in front of his family in Honduras. Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante, a member of the Lenca indigenous people, was gunned down directly outside the church at the pueblo of Nueva Granada, in the Caribbean coast department of Cortés. He was on his way to visit his mother, and his children were beside him. Cerros Escalante led the local group Communities United, which was mobilizing residents along the Rio Ulúa to oppose El Tornillito hydro-dam. The pending project would displace 10 communities in the departments of Cortés and Santa Bárbara. (Photo: Radio Progreso)

Central America
boswas

Nicaragua: armed colonists invade indigenous lands

In a video conference with representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, indigenous leaders from Nicaragua’s eastern rainforest protested an illegal “invasion” of their titled territories by armed campesino colonists, who seize lands, clear trees and terrorize their communities. The Miskito and Mayangna leaders said 13 indigenous residents were killed by settlers last year, with eight wounded and hundreds forcibly displaced. Lottie Cunningham of the Center for Human Rights & Justice of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN) said some 30,000 hectares have been expropriated, and the colonists often work in league with timber and mining interests—illegal operations that nonetheless have total impunity in the lawless region. Among the impacted areas is the ostensibly protected Bosawas Biosphere Reserve. (Image: CafeConVoz)

Central America
Guatemala congress

Guatemala: protesters set fire to Congress building

Thousands protested in Guatemala’s capital against a newly approved 2021 national budget that imposes deep cuts in funding for health care, education and programs to combat malnutrition—at a time when the country is hit hard by natural disasters and COVID-19. One breakaway group of protesters hurled improvised incendiary devices at the Congress building, setting it on fire. Police used batons and tear-gas to push protesters back, attacking not only the some 1,000 in front of Congress but also a much larger demonstration in front of the National Palace. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned what it called an “excessive use of force” by the National Civil Police, while the government of President Alejandro Giammattei accused the protesters of “terrorist acts” that will be “punished with the full force of the law.” (Photo via Prensa Libre)

Central America
Hurricane Eta

Villagers abandoned in Eta’s deadly aftermath

Some 150 are dead, with remote indigenous and campesino communities left stricken and without aid, a week after Hurricane Eta tore through Central America. Eta made landfall south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, as a Category 4 storm. Two güiriseros, or artisanal gold-miners, were among the first killed, as a landslide inundated the mining camp of Tigre Norte in Bonanza municipality of Nicargua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. Far worse was follow in Guatemala, where officials have called off the search for dozens believed to have been buried when a mountainside collapsed, engulfing the hamlet of Queja. Ovidio Choc, mayor of San Cristobal Verapaz municipality, said the site of Queja will probably be declared a cemetery. Elsewhere in Guatemala’s Maya Highlands, villagers have had to mobilize their own rescue and recovery efforts, effectively abandoned by the government. (Map: National Hurricane Center)

Central America
Maria Elena Cuadra Movement

Nicaragua: sweeps target opposition activists

Over 30 opposition figures were detained by the National Police in nationwide sweeps across Nicaragua. Most were released after questioning, but some are still being held. The majority of the detained were members of a newly formed opposition body, the National Coalition, which brings together three political parties and several dissident organizations. Among the detained were 17 indigenous Rama and Kriol (Afro-Nicaraguan) activists from the Caribbean coast, including Kriol environmentalist Princess Barberena and Jaime McCrea Williams, president of the Territorial Government of Rama & Kriol. In Managua, police surrounded the offices of the Maria Elena Cuadra Movement, which advocates for the rights of working women, and interrogated the group’s representative Sandra Ramos when she arrived on the scene. Ramos told reporters she believed the group was targeted for its work representing the mothers of political prisoners since the protest wave of 2018. “We’re not a terrorist organization or anything resembling one,” said Ramos. “We’re a shitload of women who defend other women.” (Photo of Sandra Ramos confronting police via Nicaragua Confidencial)