Guatemala’s special anti-corruption Court for High Risk Crimes sentenced former vice president Roxana Baldetti to prison for 15 years and six months for her role in the so-called "Magic Water" scandal. The case concerned the awarding of an $18 million dollar contract to decontaminate Lake Amatitlán, an important water source for peasant communities. The contract went to Israeli firm M. Tarcic Engineering Ltd, which claimed it had a "special formula" that could clean the lake within months. An investigation revealed that the "formula" consisted of water, salt and chlorine. The Authority for the Sustainable Management of Lake Amatitlán (AMSA), establsihed to oversee the clean-up, documented illegal dumping of agricultural and municipal waste into the Río Villalobos, which empties into the lake. The UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) supported Guatemalan prosecutors in the conspiracy case against Baldetti. (Photo via EmisorasUnidas)
A group of UN human rights experts, including the special rapporteurs on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and extrajudicial exections, issued a statement urging the government of Nicaragua to "stop the repression" following 100 days of unrest in which at least 317 have been killed and 1,830 injured. "Reports indicate that there has been an increase in targeted repression, criminalization and alleged arbitrary detention, which is creating an atmosphere of fear," the statement said. "We are appalled that many human rights defenders, journalists and other opposition voices are being criminalized and accused of unfounded and overly punitive charges such as 'terrorism'." (Poto via Noticiias ONU)
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern for a law approved in Nicaragua, ostensibly aimed at money-laundering, arms-trafficking and terrorism. The statement warned that the definition of "terrorism" under the law is dangerously "vague," and that it could be used to suppress opposition. The law defines as "terrorism" any damage to public or private property, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, anyone found guilty of directly or indirectly financing or aiding so-called "terrorist operations" can also face up to 20 years. The law was introduced in April, just as Nicaragua's political crisis was breaking out. The OHCHR noted that the law was passed by a National Assembly "almost completely controlled" by the ruling Sandinista party. (Poto via Noticiias ONU)
In Episode 11 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg compares the legacies of revolutionary struggle in Nicaragua and Syria. The Somoza and Assad regimes were both hereditary family dictatorships. The Sandinistas and Syrian revolutionaries alike have roots in anarchism. Yet Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, again Nicaragua's president, is today himself facing a militant opposition movement, and has betrayed the Syrian revolutionaries in the interests of playing for Russian support in the Great Power game. In Syria, meanwhile, the secular, pro-democratic civil resistance continues to exist in spite of everything, and still governs areas of the country under a model of council-based popular democracy. The Kurdish autonomous zone in Syria is also informed by an anarchist ethic of direct democracy. Yet the Kurds and Arab-led civil resistance have been pitted against each other by Great Power intrigues. How can activists in New York and the United States move past global divide-and-rule stratagems and build solidarity with Syria's Arab and Kurdish opposition alike, as well as the campesinos and grassroots-democratic forces in Nicaragua? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo composition: Today Nicaragua, Waging Nonviolence)
The "Mothers of April" movement condemned the "massacre" that took place during the group's march on Nicaragua's Mother's Day, and called on the business sector to declare a national work stoppage to press for the resignation of Daniel Ortega's government. “They went out to massacre that sea of people who came out to support us in our mourning, in the largest march in the recent history of the country. Therefore, we ask the business people to call a national work stoppage, because although we will suffer from hunger for a few days, it's better than them continuing to kill us," said Rosa Cruz Sanchez, mother of Michael Cruz, a young man killed during the April protests. The Mother's Day march in Managua, demanding justice for protesters slain in the April repression, itself turned deadly when it was attacked by police and pro-government turbas (mobs), leaving 15 dead. (Photo: Today Nicaragua)
In Episode 10 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the re-emergence in the news of three figures associated with the drama that played out over revolutionary Nicaragua in the 1980s. Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua then, is again today, and just faced massive protests calling for his ouster. Oliver North, who headed the Reagan White House covert operation to destabilize Nicaragua's Sandinista regime back then, was just named as head of the National Rifle Association. And Luis Posada Carriles the right-wing Cuban terrorist who was part of North's private spy network back then, just died. Historical ironies abound. North, who supported a counter-revolutionary terrorist network in Nicaragua (the "contras"), now baits nonviolent gun-control activists as "terrorists." Ortega, whose government distributed land to the campesinos in the '80s, is now seizing land from campesinos for his monstrous inter-oceanic canal plan. And the conspiracy theory popular among the NRA's white heartland base about the government preparing to disarm the populace and detain resisters in military camps has its roots in the actual FEMA martial law plan drawn up by Oliver North, to be implemented in the event of a US invasion of Nicaragua—with Central American refugees to be detained in military camps. A final irony is the NRA-Russia connection, which comes as Nicaragua is cooperating with a resurgent Russian military presence in the Caribbean. Vladimir Putin recently became the first Russian (or Soviet) leader to visit Nicaragua. So is it possible that we are today so far through the proverbial looking glass that Oliver North and Daniel Ortega are now on the same side? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image: Wikipedia)
Four retired senior members of the Guatemalan military—including two high-ranking officers previously thought to be untouchable, former Army Chief of Staff Benedicto Lucas García and former chief of military intelligence Manuel Callejas y Callejas—were convicted of involvement in crimes against humanity. Three received a sentence of 58 years in prison, while one was sentenced to 33 years. The former officials faced charges arising from the detention, torture and sexual violation of Emma Molina Theissen, and the enforced disappearance of Emma’s 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio, in 1981. (Photo: Waging Nonviolence)
Tens of thousands from across Nicaragua marched on the capital Managua, including large delegations of campesinos from the countryside, in a "pilgrimage for peace" called by Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes following days of angry protests and repression that left some 50 dead. The Catholic Church agreed to mediate a dialogue between the government and opposition over the planned reform of the social security system that set off the protests. But the "pilgrimage" struck a political tone, with marchers calling for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega. (Photo: Nuevo Diario)
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report detailing human rights violations in the aftermath of the 2017 Honduran presidential election. The report documents violence committed by security forces against protestors and civilians in the period between election night on Nov. 26 and inauguration day on Jan. 27. According to the report, at least 1,351 people were detained under a curfew put in place early December. Civilians were detained in illegal house raids. In addition, 23 were killed and 60 injured in post-election protests, including 16 victims shot to death by security forces. There were no charges pressed for the killings. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women march in Nicaragua's capital was shut down by the riot police, who blocked the streets off shortly after demonstrators gathered. The Managua march was emotionally charged, as it was led by Elea Valle—a campesina woman whose husband, son and daughter were killed two weeks earlier in a raid by army troops on their home in the country's eastern rainforest.
The US "certifies" Honduras for continued military aid exactly as the government declares a state of emergency and unleashes the armed forces on protesters. The crisis was sparked by President Juan Orlando Hernández's apparently fraudulent election to a second term. Yet Hernández and his conservative National Party supported the 2009 coup d'etat that ousted Manuel Zelaya from the presidency for merely broaching a second term in supposed violation of the constitution.
Independence Day celebrations in Guatemala were disrupted by protests across the country, as thousands took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Jimmy Morales. The protests were sparked after the country's Congress voted down a measure to remove Morales' immunity from prosecution and instead approved legislation that decreases the penalties for campaign finance crimes.