Archive | February 22nd, 2017

US Supreme Court to Hear Case of Slain Mexican Teen at Border

  • A U.S. border patrol agent walks along the border fence separating Mexico from the United States near Calexico, California, Feb. 8, 2017.
    A U.S. border patrol agent walks along the border fence separating Mexico from the United States near Calexico, California, Feb. 8, 2017. | Photo: Reuters
His parents wonder whether he died in “a unique no man’s land — a law-free zone in which U.S. agents can kill innocent civilians with impunity.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Tuesday the case of the death of a 15-year-old Mexican boy shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in 2010, to decide whether the family can sue for his death. Legally, the case is particularly tricky as the shooting took place across the U.S.-Mexico border.

RELATED:  Eight People Flee U.S. Border Patrol to Seek Asylum in Canada

Sergio Hernandez was shot more than six years ago by U.S. Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa. Hernandez’s family, who is still seeking justice, says he was playing with friends around a border fence between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez when he was shot. The case will be examined in Washington on Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hernandez’s parents, Maria Guadalupe Guereca and her husband Jesus Hernandez, had originally filed suit in U.S. District Court, on the basis that Mesa had violated Sergio’s Fourth Amendment protection against unjustified lethal force and his Fifth Amendment right to due process of law.

But their case was dismissed when a judge ruled that those protections do not apply to the unmarked border where Hernandez was killed. As a Mexican citizen, his death would have to be adjudicated in Mexico. And while Mexican authorities did indict Mesa for murder, the United States has refused to extradite him. They have warned that throwing out the family’s lawsuit could harm diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Hernandez’s family is seeking justice once more across the border. While a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans initially ruled that Mesa could be sued, that decision was overturned by the full court.

That’s left the young Mexican’s parents to wonder whether, as their lawyers argue, their son died in “a unique no man’s land — a law-free zone in which U.S. agents can kill innocent civilians with impunity.”

The Supreme Court must now decide whether any or all of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees applied to the deceased teen.

RELATED:  Trump May Send 100,000 National Guard Troops as ‘Border Force’: Memo

“If you lose yourself in the Supreme Court and deny legal rights to Sergio’s parents, that’s practically giving the green light to a massacre of Mexicans,” Richard Boren, a volunteer from the Border Patrol’s Network of Victims Civil union that supports relatives of victims of similar incidents, told AFP.

Guereca has just two photographs left of her 15-year-old son. The rest were taken away by her children. They did that so she isn’t pained by his memory. But Guereca still takes out her son’s clothes every month to wash them. And every week you can find her at his grave site, laying fresh flowers on his tombstone.

“Justice,” she pleads in a choked voice when she recalls his tragic death.

Even seven years after the incident, Guereca is not giving up hope.

“We were always very close,” the 59-year-old mother told AFP. “But look at what life is like, it took (him) away forever.”

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Racist Le Pen Scraps Meeting with Muslim Leader over Headscarf


Marine Le Pen stands in front of the logo of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, Maarab, Lebanon Feb. 21, 2017.

  • Racist Islamophobic Marine Le Pen stands in front of the logo of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, Maarab, Lebanon Feb. 21, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

France’s far-right presidential candidate has campaigned for a public ban on Muslim headscarves and refused to wear one during a meeting in Lebanon.

The ongoing debate in France about headscarves for religious purposes has taken another twist, this time in Lebanon. Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen canceled a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with one of Lebanon’s top Muslim leaders because she refused to wear a headscarf.

RELATED:  Dutch Far-Right Leader Vows to Rid Nation of ‘Moroccan Scum’

Le Pen was due to meet with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, who is the top cleric for Sunni Muslims in the country. However, after Le Pen arrived at the Grand Mufti’s office, she was offered a headscarf by an aide and told that it was customary in Lebanon.

Le Pen reportedly returned to her car and said that she had previously met with the grand mufti of Al-Azhar in Egypt without wearing a headscarf.

“You can pass on my respects to the grand mufti, but I will not cover myself up,” Le Pen said, according to Reuters.

The grand mufti’s office said that it was surprised by Le Pen’s reaction because her staff had been already told about the headscarf requirement.

“The mufti’s office regrets this inappropriate behavior in such meetings,” the leader’s press office said in a statement.

Le Pen’s two-day visit to France’s former colony has been seen as a way to boost her foreign policy image as well as target the votes of French citizens of Lebanese descent, many who fled to France following a civil war.

The headscarf debate has been swirling in France for some time and headscarf restrictions are viewed by many French conservatives as upholding secularism. Le Pen plans to ban Muslim headscarves in all public spaces in France. The country already prohibits public service employees and high school students from wearing headscarves.

In the midst of the recent terrorist attack in the country, a number of cities and municipalities also banned women from wearing the “burkini,” a bathing suit that covers the body and the face and is popular with Muslim women.

France will hold its first round of presidential elections in April, and Le Pen’s National Front Party has seen an upsurge in support for her anti-immigration and eurosceptic platform.

OPINION:  What Is Left of the Left? Benoît Hamon Answers

Le Pen has proposed leaving the euro zone, taxing imports and on-the-job contracts for foreigners, lowering the retirement age and making foreigners pay for their children to go to schools free to French citizens.

Le Pen is not the first politician to refuse to wear a headscarf while visiting another country. Other female political figures, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. First Ladies Laura Bush and Michelle Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton caused controversy by refusing to wear headscarves while visiting Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime.


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Nazi Soldier Gets Lenient 18 Month Sentence for Killing Wounded Palestinian

  • Israeli soldier Elor Azaria has not expressed remorse for killing wounded Palestinian Abed Fatah Sharif as he was bleeding on the ground.
    Nazi soldier Elor Azaria has not expressed remorse for killing wounded Palestinian Abed Fatah Sharif as he was bleeding on the ground. | Photo: Reuters
The victim’s family criticized the case as a “show trial” distracting from a deep culture of impunity for Nazi soldiers who execute Palestinians.

Nazi soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian in an execution-style killing that a court deemed revenge was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in jail for manslaughter, sparking outrage among Palestinians and rights groups over Nazi regime lenient treatment of soldiers’ excessive use of force in occupied Palestinian territories.

RELATED: Nazi PM Wants Killer Soldier Pardoned Despite His Grave Crime

Nazi Sergeant Elor Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter last month for putting a bullet in the head of Palestinian man Abed Fatah Sharif as he was bleeding on the ground. Sharif had been gunned down and incapacitated by Nazi soldiers after carrying out a stabbing attack at a military checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Eleven minutes after Sharif was injured and unable to pose a threat to Nazi soldiers, Azaria shot him dead at close range. The incident was captured on video by a Palestinian activist working with the Human rights group B’Tselem.

Nazi Judge Maya Heller, who handed down the sentence Tuesday in Tel Aviv, said Azaria has not expressed remorse for the killing.

Nazi Azaria’s conviction carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. But the case also spurred a right-wing backlash, with several staunchly conservative politicians calling for the 20-year-old defendant to be pardoned.

The defense is expected to file an appeal to attempt to block the sentence, scheduled to begin March 5, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.

Although Sharif’s family had demanded a life sentence for Nazi Azaria and criticized the Nazi legal process as a “show trial” to draw attention away from the larger problem of systemic impunity for Nazi abuses and extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, they also said they were not surprised by the court’s lenient treatment.

OPINION: The Mainstreaming of Israel’s Genocide of Palestinians

“We are not surprised, from the onset we knew this was a show trial that will not do us justice,” said family members in response to the sentencing, according to Zionist newspaper Haaretz. “The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones.”

Members of the Palestine Liberation Organization also slammed the light 18-month sentence.

“This sentencing demonstrates the active devaluation of human life, especially the lives of Palestinians that have been oppressed and held captive by an Israeli occupation for far too long,” said PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi in a statement, adding that the case demonstrates that the Israeli justice system for being corrupted by “systemic racism, injustice and the culture of hate.”

Sharif’s family has previously announced plans to take the case to the International Criminal Court.

Nazi regime has been criticized by several human rights bodies and even the United Nations for its systematic extrajudicial killings of alleged attackers, who only had knives for weapons and whose threat could have been neutralized without using deadly force.

A recent report from the Palestinian Ma’an news agency found that more than 111 Palestinian were killed in 2016, almost all of them at the hands of Nazi forces. According to the report, 34 of the Palestinians killed, or 30.6 percent, were from the Hebron district where Azaria shot Sharif dead in March.

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Christian Zionists Practice I$raHell Worship

This excellent and balanced news report from Australia exposes the war based religion that is known as Christian Zionism. Even though this program was originally aired in 2007, it is still accurate and applicable today. The reporter from the Australian Broadcasting Company interviews Christian Zionist. mega church, Christian Zionist, Pastor John Hagee, who founded the pro-Israel lobby, Christians United For Israel (CUFI), the Christian Zionist version of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). A Jewish rabbi in Hagee’s home town of San Antonio, TX, that is interviewed expresses that Hagee’s agenda is detrimental to Jews in America and to Israel. Also interviewed is the Palestinian Ambassor. who is a Christian, and who says that Hagee’s brand of Christianity is an embarassment to Palestinian Christians. (17 mins.)

American Jews don't all agee with Christian Zionists like John Hagee and CUFI

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The “White Helmets” Go to Hollywood


By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice 

The Netflix movie The White Helmets may win an Oscar in the “short documentary” category at the Academy Awards on Sunday February 26.  It will not be a surprise, despite the fact that the group is a fraud and the movie is a contrived infomercial.

The White Helmets are a “feel good” story like a Disney hero movie: 90% myth and fabrication. Most of what is claimed about the Syrian rescue group is untrue. They are not primarily Syrian; the group was initiated by British military contractor James LeMesurier and has been heavily funded (about $100 million) by the USA, UK and other governments. They are not volunteers; they are paid. This is confirmed in the Al Jazeera video which shows some White Helmet “volunteers’ talking about going on strike if they don’t get paid soon. Most of the heavy funding goes to the marketing which is run by “The Syria Campaign” based in New York. The manager is an Irish America woman Anna Nolan who has never been to Syria. As an example of its deception, “The Syria Campaign” website features video showing children dancing and playing soccer implying they are part of the opposition demand for a “free and peaceful” Syria. But the video images are taken from a 2010 BBC documentary about education in Syria under the Baath government.

White Helmets and Nusra

When eastern Aleppo was finally freed from the armed militants, it was discovered that the White Helmets headquarters were alongside the headquarters of the Al Qaeda Syrian militant group. Civilians from east Aleppo reported that the White Helmets primarily responded when the militants were attacked. Soon after departing Aleppo in government supplied buses (!) the White Helmets showed up in the mountains above Damascus where they allied with terrorist groups in poisoning then shutting off the water source for five million people in Damascus.

The White Helmets’ claim to be neutral and independent is another lie. They only work in areas controlled by the rebel groups, primarily Nusra/Al Qaeda. Their leaders actively call for US and NATO intervention in Syria. Video shows White Helmet workers picking up the corpse of a civilian after execution and celebrating Nusra/Al Qaeda terrorist battle wins.

White Helmets and Nusra

The movie is as fraudulent as the group it tries to heroize. The film-makers never set foot in Syria. Their video footage takes place in southern Turkey where they show White Helmet trainees in a hotel and talking on cell phones. Thrilling. There is some footage from inside Syria but it looks contrived. The opening scene depicts a White Helmet “volunteer” going to work and beseeching his son not to give mommy a hard time. Real or scripted?

The message is simple: here are people we can support; they are under attack by the brutal “regime” … shouldn’t we “do something” to stop it??!

ISIS and One Finger Salute

White Helmets’ One Finger Salute

Khaled Khatib is said to be the person who filmed the footage from inside Syria. He has reportedly received a US visa and will attend the Oscars. This will likely garner special media attention. Ironically, some of those who have exploited the refugee issue for their own fund-raising campaigns, like Human Rights Watch, are groups which promote the war which created the refugee crisis.

Khatib has tweeted the first video he took showing the White Helmets. It looks remarkably unrealistic, with a girl who was totally buried being removed without injuries or wounds or even much dirt. Is it really possible to rescue people that quickly? In the real world, rescue workers are told to work slowly so as to not damage or exacerbate body injuries. The original video has the logo of Aleppo Media Center (AMC) which was created by the Syrian Expatriates Organization.  Their address on K Street in Washington DC suggests this is yet another Western funded media campaign driven by political objectives.

In the past few days, with perfect timing for the upcoming Oscars, there is yet another miracle rescue … another girl totally buried but then removed and whisked away in record breaking time — perfect for social media.  Is it real or is it contrived?

This raises a question regarding the integrity of the Academy Awards. Are awards given for actual quality, authenticity, skill and passion? Or are Oscars sometimes given under political and financial influence? There is political motivation to promote the White Helmets as part of the effort to prevent the collapse of the Western/Israeli/Gulf campaign to overthrow the Syrian government. These same governments have given boatloads of money to fuel the propaganda campaign. Last week Syria Solidarity Movement reached out to three marketing firms in the LA area to request help challenging the White Helmets nomination. Two of the firms declined and the third said they were already being paid to promote the nomination!

The true source and purpose of the White Helmets was exposed almost two years ago. More recently Vanessa Beeley has documented the fact there is a REAL Syrian Civil Defence which was begun in the 1950’s and is a member of the International Civil Defense Organizations. This organization is opposite to the group created in Turkey in 2013. According to on-the-ground interviews in Aleppo, terrorists began by killing real Syrian rescue workers and stealing their equipment. Since then the White Helmets have been supplied, by the West through Turkey, with brand new ambulances and related rescue equipment.

Max Blumenthal has written a two part detailed examination of theshadowy PR firm behind the “White Helmets”. And Jan Oberg has written an overview survey of the “pro” and “con” examinations in his work Just How Gray are the White Helmets“.

Yet mainstream media, and some ‘alternative’ media, continue to uncritically promote the myth of the “White Helmets”. The promoters of the group absolutely deserve an award for marketing and advertising. This is a field where truth and reality is irrelevant; it’s all about sales and manipulation. On that basis, the “White Helmets” has been an incredible success. The group was started as “Syria Civil Defense” in Turkey in 2013. It was re-branded as the “White Helmets” in 2014. It was heavily used in 2014 and 2015 by Nicholas Krisof, Avaaz and others to campaign for all out aggression against Syria. In 2016 the group received the Rights Livelihood Award and was seriously considered for a Nobel Peace Prize. These facts show how corrupt and politically and financially influenced the Rights Livelihood Award and Nobel Peace Prize can be.

Meet the White Helmets

The White Helmets movie is a tactic in the ongoing campaign of distortion and deception around Syria. It’s a fraud, just like the fake kidnapping of NBC reporter Richard Engel. The Oscars will be a demonstration of the integrity of the Academy Awards. The reporting on the story will be a test of the integrity and accuracy of media outlets. Ironically, the Israeli mainstream TV program I24 presented both sides and titled the segment “White Helmets: Heroes or Hoax?” In contrast, the highly popular and widely respected DemocracyNow! has only broadcast a puff piece promoting the “White Helmet” disinformation. The coming days will reveal more about the ongoing information war against Syria. Meanwhile an on online petition continues to gather signatures to NOT give the Oscar to the White Helmets deception.

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Russian Scientists Learn How to Identify Suspected Terrorists by Their Walk



© Photo: pixabay
Researchers at the National Research Nuclear University/Moscow Engineering Physics Institute are developing a computer program capable of recognizing unusual behavior by an individual in a crowd environment, including by his or her manner of walking. The invention may prove extremely useful in helping to prevent acts of terror in public places.

According to a university press service obtained by RIA Novosti, the program operates by analyzing complex images from conventional security cameras. The program helps recognize and focus on suspicious individuals in a crowd environment based on the manner in which they walk, their physique, clothing style, etc. Development work aimed at providing the program with these capabilities is entering its final stages.

According to Vadim Danishin, the project’s lead developer, the program does not require any additional expensive hardware; the computing power of a conventional smartphone is sufficient.

“We have plans to test this invention, tasking it with the collection and analysis of statistics on the behavior of buyers and sellers in large shopping centers,” Danishin explained. “In the future, our algorithms can be used to identify unusual behavior, affixed to surveillance cameras in airports, train stations and on public transport,” he added. “This is a priority for contemporary IT security systems.”

In addition to its security applications, the new program could be used for virtual reality gaming, interactive advertising in shopping centers, and to create simulators providing automatic classification of behavior for drivers, pilots, doctors, firefighters, military personnel.

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Why New US National Security Adviser is a Worrying Signal to Russia, World


Commenting on the recent appointment of US Army Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond McMaster as the next US president’s national security adviser after the resignation of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, RIA Novosti political analyst Alexander Khrolenko provides his reasons why it should be viewed as a “worrying signal to Russia and the world.”

“How useful for the US Herbert McMaster will be in the role of the national security adviser remains to be seen. However his reputation of a commander has already been engraved in stone,” Khrolenko writes in his article for RIA Novosti.

He calls the appointment of McMaster, whom the US media describes as “the US Army’s leading warrior-intellectual,” a “worrying signal to Russia and the world.”

Khrolenko points to an article written by Politico’s national security correspondent Bryan Bender on the “secret US army study that targets Moscow,” which at the time was overseen by Army Lt. Gen. McMaster.

U.S. President Donald Trump looks toward his new National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster after making the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump looks toward his new National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster after making the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017

“Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster has a shaved head and a gung-ho manner that only add to his reputation as the US Army’s leading warrior-intellectual, one who often quotes famed Prussian general and military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz. A decade ago, McMaster fought a pitched battle inside the Pentagon for a new concept of warfare to address the threat from Islamist terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan, Iraq and other trouble spots. Now, his new mission is more focused. Target: Moscow,” Bender wrote for Politico back in April.

It was McMaster, the author noted, who was the first to tell the Senate Armed Services Committee that “it is clear that while our Army was engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia studied US capabilities and vulnerabilities and embarked on an ambitious and largely successful modernization effort.”

McMaster, the author said, was not just simply critical of his colleagues, but put together a manual on the Ukrainian war theater entitled Russia New Generation Warfare Study.

“The high-level but low-profile effort is intended to ignite a wholesale rethinking — and possibly even a redesign — of the Army in the event it has to confront the Russians in Eastern Europe,” he further said.”It is expected to have a profound impact on what the US Army will look like in the coming years, the types of equipment it buys and how its units train,” he suggested.

McMaster, as head of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Fort Eustis, Virginia therefore “is responsible for figuring out what the Army should look like in 2025 and beyond.”

His effort is expected to become “the most dramatic rethinking since the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

“These are the kind of issues the US Army hasn’t worked since the end of the Cold War 25 years ago,” the author quotes retired General Wesley Clark, who served as NATO commander from 1997 to 2000, as saying.

While addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee, McMaster then said that “Russia possesses a variety of rocket, missile and cannon artillery systems that outrange and are more lethal than US Army artillery systems and munitions.”

Meanwhile, Bender quoted retired General Wesley Clark as saying that Russia’s tanks “are so improved that they are “largely invulnerable to anti-tank missiles.”Bender also noted that US military and intelligence officials worry that “Moscow now has the advantage in key areas. Lighter armored vehicles like those the Army relied on heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan are highly vulnerable to its new weapons. And main battle tanks like Russia’s T-90 —thought to be an anachronism in recent conflicts — are still decisive.”

As well as about “the combination of unmanned aerial systems and offensive cyber and advanced electronic warfare capabilities,” which “depict a high degree of technological sophistication.”

“Eloquent comparison,” Khrolenko says, taken that Russia and US had never met as adversaries on a battlefield.

“Those in Pentagon now think that Russia’s efforts on modernization of its nuclear forces and the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and in Syria will lead to serious changes in the US ground troops. And the new US president’s national security adviser is able to seriously boost the militarization of US,” RIA Novosti correspondent says.

In his analysis of the new US national security adviser, Khrolenko also refers to the article of Defense One on McMaster’s Russia New Generation Warfare Study.

“Speaking recently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., McMaster said that the two-year-old conflict [in eastern Ukraine] had revealed that the Russians have superior artillery firepower, better combat vehicles, and have learned sophisticated use of UAVs for tactical effect. Should US forces find themselves in a land war with Russia, he said, they would be in for a rude, cold awakening,” the outlet quotes him as saying.“We spend a long time talking about winning long-range missile duels,” said McMaster. But long-range missiles only get you through the front door. The question then becomes what will you do when you get there.

“Look at the enemy countermeasures,” he said, noting Russia’s use of nominally semi-professional forces who are capable of “dispersion, concealment, intermingling with civilian populations…the ability to disrupt our network strike capability, precision navigation and timing capabilities.” All of that means “you’re probably going to have a close fight… Increasingly, close combat overmatch is an area we’ve neglected, because we’ve taken it for granted.”

Commenting on the above remarks, Khrolenko therefore notes that “Ukrainian realities bring McMaster back to military concepts and anti-guerilla strategies on a qualitatively new level, a level of foreign policy decisions.” The Aim of such decisions will be direct and indirect containment of Russia without drawing the US into the Third World War.

“If we extrapolate the longstanding experience of the new US national security advisor and his views on the US’ foreign policy, we could foretell high probability of new military conflicts in various parts of the planet in the nearest future. I also suggest that the new Pentagon’s chief, James Mattis will be eager to support hybrid concepts and military solutions of his co-thinker,” he finally stated.

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5 Social Movements Resisting Repression in Latin America

  • Honduras
    Honduras’ National Popular Resistance Front. | Photo: Reuters
On World Day of Social Justice, teleSUR spotlights a few of the many social justice movements resisting repression in Latin America.

Leftist governments across Latin America have fought tooth and nail to create more socially just societies.

RELATED: Human Rights Violations Persist After Peace in Colombia: Report

Countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Uruguay have improved conditions for marginalized people after years of political and armed struggle. They’ve won rights for workers, peasants, women and members of the Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ communities.

Despite murders and death threats, oppressed communities struggling for equality continue to stand up and fight back.

Today, on World Day of Social Justice, teleSUR spotlights a few of the many social justice movements resisting repression in Latin America.

Argentina’s Anti-Austerity Movement

Anti-Macri protests in Argentina. | Photo: Reuters

Since right-wing Argentine President Mauricio Macri replaced former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in December 2015, Argentines have experienced nonstop austerity.

Gas and electricity prices are rising. Jobs are being cut. Government institutions are downsizing. Private companies linked to the ruling administration are getting tax cuts.

But Macri’s rollback of social programs implemented by Kirchner’s populist government is breeding resistance.

RELATED: Is Argentina’s Macri Trying to Top Trump Immigration Policies?

Since early February, thousands of Argentines have led daily protests across the country against the “Tarifazo,” the national increase in gas and electricity prices. Armed with pots, pans and whistles, demonstrators have been calling for the resignation of Argentine Energy Minister Juan Jose Aranguren and a corruption probe against Macri. Protesters have been hosed down by water cannons, beaten with police nightsticks, and arrested en mass.

Simultaneously, thousands of Argentines have protested alongside 380 printing plant workers who were laid off earlier this year amidst spending cuts. The workers, who are demanding for their jobs to be reinstated, have also been met with violence, facing rubber bullets from police.

Brazil’s Indigenous Land Rights Movement

Anti-Temer protests in Brazil. | Photo: Reuters

The United States-supported removal of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in August 2016 has introduced nonstop austerity, similar to Argentina’s economic shock therapy. But in Brazil, austerity is disproportionately affecting Indigenous communities trying to protect their land from neo-liberalism.

Center-right Brazilian President Michel Temer proposed legislation earlier this month that aims to lift limits on foreign purchases of agricultural land in the country’s northern Amazon region. Currently the world’s largest rainforest, it is also home to thousands of Indigenous communities that have lived in the area for hundreds of years.

The legislation would allow foreign multinational corporations to buy out what remains, tear down existing trees, extract natural resources, and send profits back to billionaires living outside of the country. It would also forcibly displace the Indigenous communities living in Amazonia without giving them a share of profits made from privatization.

RELATED: Brazilian Army Orders 9,000 Troops on Streets of Rio de Janeiro

Since the bill was introduced to the Brazilian Congress, protests have erupted in the northern states of Amazonas, Para and Piaui. Indigenous, environmental and socialist activists protesting the proposed legislation have been beaten and arrested by police.

And three months ago, when Temer announced plans to privatize Brazil’s Amazon, dozens of police led a preemptive raid on the Landless Workers’ Movement’s Guararema headquarters. Police stormed their way into their facility by forcing their way through the main gate shooting live bullets, and threatening people, the Centre for Global Research reports.

Colombia’s Campesino Movement

Colombians protesting human rights abuses against peasants. | Photo: EFE

Colombia’s peasants have a long history of resisting repression.

In 1928, the U.S.-backed Colombian military massacred over 1,200 United Fruit Company workers leading a union strike for better working conditions. Populist leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan and survivors of the massacre led mass protests against the ruling Conservative Party government.

Then, between 1948 and 1958, in the years that were referred to as “The Violence,” subsequent Conservative Party administrations are estimated to have killed over 5,000 peasants. This led to the formation of communist guerilla groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, and National Liberation Army, ELN, which have been fighting government and right-wing paramilitary groups alongside peasants ever since.

RELATED: FARC Troops Help Boost Colombia’s Landmine Removal Effort

Attacks on Colombia’s peasants, however, continue to this day.

Last week, armed paramilitaries threatened Indigenous Bari families in the country’s northern Catatumbo region. And earlier this month, Indigenous Wiwa activist Yoryanis Isabel Bernal Varela was shot and killed by paramilitaries.

More than 110 peasants and human rights activists have been murdered since the FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government last year.

Honduras’ Environmental Movement

Honduras’ National Popular Resistance Front. | Photo: Reuters

Honduras is the deadliest country for environmental activists, a report released by environmental rights group Global Witness confirmed in January 2017.

Since the 2009 U.S.-backed coup that removed democratic socialist President Manuel Zelaya from power, 123 environmental activists in Honduras have been killed. By now, you’ve probably heard some of their names: Margarita Murillo, Berta Caceres and Jose Angel Flores.

Murillo, the leader of a peasant’s association in northern Honduras, was shot and killed by members of a right-wing death squad in 2014 for her political activities. Along with fighting to win higher wages for workers, she protected Indigenous Lenca territories from wealthy landowners planning to deforest the areas for profits.

RELATED: The Fight for Gender Equality Continues on Honduran Women’s Day

Caceres, an Indigenous Lenca leader of one of Honduras’ largest environmental groups, was murdered in 2016. She gained prominence for leading her native people in a struggle against the Agua Zarca Dam, a controversial development project in the community of Rio Blanco that was launched without consent from local communities.

Flores, a leader of the Unified Peasant Movement of Honduras, was shot and killed last October outside of his organization’s office. He led protests against land grabs committed by the same wealthy landowners connected to Murillo’s assassination.

Murillo, Caceres and Flores were all members of the National Popular Resistance Front, the grassroots socialist movement that has protested Honduras’ right-wing coup government since 2009.

Mexico’s Teachers Movement

Dissident teachers marching down Mexico City. | Photo: teleSUR

Teachers are among the most persecuted workers by industry in Mexico.

“Normalistas,” teachers of working-class origin who train high school graduates to become educators, have been targeted for decades. They’ve been involved in leading important student movements across the country since Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa led the Mexican Revolution in 1910. State university professors have also led mass protests against the pro-U.S. administrations that have ruled the country since the fall of the Revolution.

In recent years, Mexican teachers resisting state repression have made headlines.

RELATED: Parents of Ayotzinapa 43 Resume Talks with Mexican Government

In 2014, when 43 leftist students from Ayotzinapa’s Normalista school were abducted, teachers across the country immediately protested the Mexican government, whom many believe was responsible for the abduction. Although many of the protesting teachers have been harassed and threatened by federal police, they continue to seek answers for the kidnapping of the 43 students to this day.

Revolutionary Mexican teachers also made headlines last June when the National Coordinator of Education Workers, CNTE, protested education privatization reforms implemented by President Enrique Peña Nieto. CNTE teachers set up blockades on major streets in Oaxaca and led nationwide strikes. Mexican police, however, killed over 12 teachers and injured hundreds more with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Normalistas, the CNTE and educators from across the country are currently participating in mass protests against Mexico’s “Gasolinazo,” a nationwide hike in gas prices also implemented by Peña Nieto.

Posted in South AmericaComments Off on 5 Social Movements Resisting Repression in Latin America

‘I Am Muslim Too’: Solidarity Rallies Back Immigrants Across US

  • People take part in an "I am Muslim Too" rally in Times Square Manhattan, New York, U.S.
    People take part in an “I am Muslim Too” rally in Times Square Manhattan, New York, U.S. | Photo: Reuters
People stood in solidarity with Muslims and against Trump’s immigration policies.

In the continuing wave of protests against U.S. President Donald Trump, “I am Muslim too” rallies cropped up in cities throughout the weekend in solidarity with Muslims and against Trump’s immigration policies.

RELATED:  Trump Makes up Terror Attack in Sweden to Defend ‘Muslim Ban’

More than 1,000 people congregated in New York on Sunday in Times Square, and attendees heard from rabbis, imams, Sikh clergymember, a Buddhist, Episcopalian and Presbyterian reverends, a Mennonite, a Seventh Day Adventist minister, a Hindu, a Baptist pastor, local politicians and civil rights advocates.

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the rally, saying “we have to dispel the stereotypes” and that the United States is “a country founded to protect all faiths and all beliefs.”

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons headlined the event and told the crowd that even while Muslims are being scapegoated, “diversity will prevail.”

Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian Muslim activist and one of the organizers of the Women’s March, also spoke at the rally in New York.

RELATED: ‘Day Without Immigrants’ Protests Shake Major US Cities

“I am unapologetically Muslim, all day, every day,” she told the crowd, as reported by CNN. “I am not afraid because fear is a choice; it is not a fact. So today I ask you, in the true grit and spirit of a New Yorker, that you choose courage in the face of fear.”

Across the country, in Oregon, people demonstrated in front of the Oregon State Capitol to voice their support for immigration rights, with people carrying placards that read “we the people are greater than fear”.

In Dallas, a day earlier on Saturday, police estimated that more than 1,700 people rallied downtown in support of immigrants and refugees.

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Democratic Ex-Dove Proposes War on Iran


Exclusive: The Democrats’ rush to rebrand themselves as super-hawks is perhaps best illustrated by the once-dovish Rep. Alcee Hastings proposing stand-by authorization for the President to attack Iran, reports Nicolas J S Davies.

By Nicolas J S Davies

Rep. Alcee Hastings has sponsored a bill to authorize President Trump to attack Iran. Hastings reintroduced H J Res 10, the “Authorization of Use of Force Against Iran Resolution” on Jan. 3, the first day of the new Congress after President Trump’s election.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida

Hastings’s bill has come as a shock to constituents and people who have followed his career as a 13-term Democratic Member of Congress from South Florida. Miami Beach resident Michael Gruener called Hastings’s bill, “extraordinarily dangerous,” and asked, “Does Hastings even consider to whom he is giving this authorization?”

Fritzie Gaccione, the editor of the South Florida Progressive Bulletin noted that Iran is complying with the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and expressed amazement that Hastings has reintroduced this bill at a moment when the stakes are so high and Trump’s intentions so unclear.

“How can Hastings hand this opportunity to Trump?” she asked. “Trump shouldn’t be trusted with toy soldiers, let alone the American military.”

Speculation by people in South Florida as to why Alcee Hastings has sponsored such a dangerous bill reflect two general themes. One is that he is paying undue attention to the pro-Israel groups who raised 10 percent of his coded campaign contributions for the 2016 election. The other is that, at the age of 80, he seems to be carrying water for the pay-to-play Clinton wing of the Democratic Party as part of some kind of retirement plan.

Alcee Hastings is better known to the public as a federal judge who was impeached for bribery and for a series of ethical lapses as a Congressman than for his legislative record. The 2012 Family Affairs report by the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found that Hastings paid his partner, Patricia Williams, $622,000 to serve as his deputy district director from 2007 to 2010, the largest amount paid to a family member by any Member of Congress in the report.

But Hastings sits in one of the 25 safest Democratic seats in the House and does not seem to have ever faced a serious challenge from a Democratic primary opponent or a Republican.

Alcee Hastings’s voting record on war and peace issues has been about average for a Democrat. He voted against the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) on Iraq, and his 79 percent lifetime Peace Action score is the highest among current House members from Florida, although Alan Grayson’s was higher.

Hastings voted against the bill to approve the JCPOA or nuclear agreement with Iran and first introduced his AUMF bill in 2015. With the approval of the JCPOA and Obama’s solid commitment to it, Hastings’s bill seemed like a symbolic act that posed little danger – until now.

In the new Republican-led Congress, with the bombastic and unpredictable Donald Trump in the White House, Hastings’s bill could actually serve as a blank check for war on Iran, and it is carefully worded to be exactly that. It authorizes the open-ended use of force against Iran with no limits on the scale or duration of the war. The only sense in which the bill meets the requirements of the War Powers Act is that it stipulates that it does so. Otherwise it entirely surrenders Congress’s constitutional authority for any decision over war with Iran to the President, requiring only that he report to Congress on the war once every 60 days.

Dangerous Myths    

The wording of Hastings’s bill perpetuates dangerous myths about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program that have been thoroughly investigated and debunked after decades of intense scrutiny by experts, from the U.S. intelligence community to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani celebrates the completion of an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program on Nov. 24, 2013, by kissing the head of the daughter of an assassinated Iranian nuclear engineer. (Iranian government photo)

As former IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei explained in his book, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times, the IAEA has never found any real evidence of nuclear weapons research or development in Iran, any more than in Iraq in 2003, the last time such myths were abused to launch our country into a devastating and disastrous war.

In Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, investigative journalist Gareth Porter meticulously examined the suspected evidence of nuclear weapons activity in Iran. He explored the reality behind every claim and explained how the deep-seated mistrust in U.S.-Iran relations gave rise to misinterpretations of Iran’s scientific research and led Iran to shroud legitimate civilian research in secrecy. This climate of hostility and dangerous worst-case assumptions even led to the assassination of four innocent Iranian scientists by alleged Israeli agents.

The discredited myth of an Iranian “nuclear weapons program” was perpetuated throughout the 2016 election campaign by candidates of both parties, but Hillary Clinton was particularly strident in claiming credit for neutralizing Iran’s imaginary nuclear weapons program.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry also reinforced a false narrative that the “dual-track” approach of Obama’s first term, escalating sanctions and threats of war at the same time as holding diplomatic negotiations, “brought Iran to the table.” This was utterly false. Threats and sanctions served only to undermine diplomacy, strengthen hard-liners on both sides and push Iran into building 20,000 centrifuges to supply its civilian nuclear program with enriched uranium, as documented in Trita Parsi’s book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran.

A former hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran who rose to be a senior officer on the Iran desk at the State Department told Parsi that the main obstacle to diplomacy with Iran during Obama’s first term was the U.S. refusal to “take ‘Yes’ for an answer.”

When Brazil and Turkey persuaded Iran to accept the terms of an agreement proposed by the U.S. a few months earlier, the U.S. responded by rejecting its own proposal. By then the main U.S. goal was to ratchet up sanctions at the U.N., which this diplomatic success would have undermined.

Trita Parsi explained that this was only one of many ways in which the two tracks of Obama’s “dual-track” approach were hopelessly at odds with each other. Only once Clinton was replaced by John Kerry at the State Department did serious diplomacy displace brinksmanship and ever-rising tensions.

Next Target for U.S. Aggression?

Statements by President Trump have raised hopes for a new detente with Russia. But there is no firm evidence of a genuine rethink of U.S. war policy, an end to serial U.S. aggression or a new U.S. commitment to peace or the rule of international law.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona. March 19, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

Trump and his advisers may hope that some kind of “deal” with Russia could give them the strategic space to continue America’s war policy on other fronts without Russian interference. But this would only grant Russia a temporary reprieve from U.S. aggression as long as U.S. leaders still view “regime change” or mass destruction as the only acceptable outcomes for countries that challenge U.S. dominance.

Students of history, not least 150 million Russians, will remember that another serial aggressor offered Russia a “deal” like that in 1939, and that Russia’s complicity with Germany over Poland only set the stage for the total devastation of Poland, Russia and Germany.

One former U.S. official who has consistently warned of the danger of U.S. aggression against Iran is retired General Wesley Clark. In his 2007 memoir, A Time To Lead, General Clark explained that his fears were rooted in ideas embraced by hawks in Washington since the end of the Cold War. Clark recalls Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz’s response in May 1991 when he congratulated him on his role in the Gulf War.

“We screwed up and left Saddam Hussein in power. The president believes he’ll be overthrown by his own people, but I rather doubt it,” Wolfowitz complained. “But we did learn one thing that’s very important. With the end of the Cold War, we can now use our military with impunity. The Soviets won’t come in to block us. And we’ve got five, maybe 10, years to clean up these old Soviet surrogate regimes like Iraq and Syria before the next superpower emerges to challenge us … We could have a little more time, but no one really knows.”

The view that the end of the Cold War opened the door for a series of U.S.-led wars in the Middle East was widely held among hawkish officials and advisers in the Bush I administration and military-industrial think tanks. During the propaganda push for war on Iraq in 1990, Michael Mandelbaum, the director of East-West studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, crowed to the New York Times, “for the first time in 40 years, we can conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about triggering World War III.”

Self-Inflicted Nightmare

As we begin the fifth U.S. administration since 1990, U.S. foreign policy remains trapped in the self-inflicted nightmare that those dangerous assumptions produced. Today, war-wise Americans can quite easily fill in the unasked questions that Wolfowitz’s backward-looking and simplistic analysis failed to ask, let alone answer, in 1991.

Former Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. (DoD photo by Scott Davis, U.S. Army. Wikipedia)


What did he mean by “clean up”? What if we couldn’t “clean them all up” in the short historical window he described? What if failed efforts to “clean up these old Soviet surrogate regimes” left only chaos, instability and greater dangers in their place? Which leads to the still largely unasked and unanswered question: how can we actually clean up the violence and chaos that we ourselves have now unleashed on the world?

In 2012, Norwegian General Robert Mood was forced to withdraw a U.N. peacekeeping team from Syria after Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron and their Turkish and Arab monarchist allies undermined U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

In 2013, as they unveiled their “Plan B,” for Western military intervention in Syria, General Mood told the BBC, “It is fairly easy to use the military tool, because, when you launch the military tool in classical interventions, something will happen and there will be results. The problem is that the results are almost all the time different than the political results you were aiming for when you decided to launch it. So the other position, arguing that it is not the role of the international community, neither coalitions of the willing nor the U.N. Security Council for that matter, to change governments inside a country, is also a position that should be respected.”

General Wesley Clark played his own deadly role as the supreme commander of NATO’s illegal assault on what was left of the “old Soviet surrogate regime” of Yugoslavia in 1999. Then, ten days after the horrific crimes of September 11, 2001, newly retired General Clark dropped in at the Pentagon to find that the scheme Wolfowitz described to him in 1991 had become the Bush administration’s grand strategy to exploit the war psychosis into which it was plunging the country and the world.

Undersecretary Stephen Cambone’s notes from a meeting amid the ruins of the Pentagon on September 11th include orders from Secretary Rumsfeld to, “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

A former colleague at the Pentagon showed Clark a list of seven countries besides Afghanistan where the U.S. planned to unleash “regime change” wars in the next five years: Iraq; Syria; Lebanon; Libya; Somalia; Sudan; and Iran. The five- to ten-year window of opportunity Wolfowitz described to Clark in 1991 had already passed. But instead of reevaluating a strategy that was illegal, untested and predictably dangerous to begin with, and now well past its sell-by date, the neocons were hell-bent on launching an ill-conceived blitzkrieg across the Middle East and neighboring regions, with no objective analysis of the geopolitical consequences and no concern for the human cost.

Misery and Chaos

Fifteen years later, despite the catastrophic failure of illegal wars that have killed 2 million people and left only misery and chaos in their wake, the leaders of both major U.S. political parties seem determined to pursue this military madness to the bitter end – whatever that end may be and however long the wars may last.

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”

By framing their wars in terms of vague “threats” to America and by demonizing foreign leaders, our own morally and legally bankrupt leaders and the subservient U.S. corporate media are still trying to obscure the obvious fact that we are the aggressor that has been threatening and attacking country after country in violation of the U.N. Charter and international law since 1999.

So U.S. strategy has inexorably escalated from an unrealistic but limited goal of overthrowing eight relatively defenseless governments in and around the Middle East to risking nuclear war with Russia and/or China. U.S. post-Cold War triumphalism and hopelessly unrealistic military ambitions have revived the danger of World War III that even Paul Wolfowitz celebrated the passing of in 1991.

The U.S. has followed the well-worn path that has stymied aggressors throughout history, as the exceptionalist logic used to justify aggression in the first place demands that we keep doubling down on wars that we have less and less hope of winning, squandering our national resources to spread violence and chaos far and wide across the world.

Russia has demonstrated that it once again has both the military means and the political will to “block” U.S. ambitions, as Wolfowitz put it in 1991. Hence Trump’s vain hopes of a “deal” to buy Russia off. U.S. operations around islands in the South China Sea suggest a gradual escalation of threats and displays of force against China rather than an assault on the Chinese mainland in the near future, although this could quickly spin out of control.

So, more or less by default, Iran has moved back to the top of the U.S.’s “regime change” target list, even though this requires basing a political case for an illegal war on the imaginary danger of non-existent weapons for the second time in 15 years. War against Iran would involve, from the outset, a massive bombing campaign against its military defenses, civilian infrastructure and nuclear facilities, killing tens of thousands of people and likely escalating into an even more catastrophic war than those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Gareth Porter believes that Trump will avoid war on Iran for the same reasons as Bush and Obama, because it would be unwinnable and because Iran has robust defenses that could inflict significant losses on U.S. warships and bases in the Persian Gulf.

On the other hand, Patrick Cockburn, one of the most experienced Western reporters in the Middle East, believes that we will attack Iran in one to two years because, after Trump fails to resolve any of the crises elsewhere in the region, the pressure of his failures will combine with the logic of escalating demonization and threats already under way in Washington to make war on Iran inevitable.

In this light, Rep. Hastings’s bill is a critical brick in a wall that bipartisan hawks in Washington are building to close off any exit from the path to war with Iran. They believe that Obama let Iran slip out of their trap, and they are determined not to let that happen again.

Another brick in this wall is the recycled myth of Iran as the greatest state sponsor of terrorism. This is a glaring contradiction with the U.S. focus on ISIS as the world’s main terrorist threat. The states that have sponsored and fueled the rise of ISIS have been, not Iran, but Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the other Arab monarchies and Turkey, with critical training, weapons and logistical and diplomatic support for what has become ISIS from the U.S., U.K. and France.

Iran can only be a greater state sponsor of terrorism than the U.S. and its allies if Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, the Middle Eastern resistance movements to whom it provides various levels of support, pose more of a terrorist danger to the rest of the world than ISIS. No U.S. official has even tried to make that case, and it is hard to imagine the tortured reasoning it would involve.

Brinksmanship and Military Madness

The U.N. Charter wisely prohibits the threat as well as the use of force in international relations, because the threat of force so predictably leads to its use. And yet, post-Cold War U.S. doctrine quickly embraced the dangerous idea that U.S. “diplomacy” must be backed up by the threat of force.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Hillary Clinton has been a strong proponent of this idea since the 1990s and has been undeterred by either its illegality or its catastrophic results. As I wrote in an article on Clinton during the election campaign, this is illegal brinksmanship, not legitimate diplomacy.

It takes a lot of sophisticated propaganda to convince even Americans that a war machine that keeps threatening and attacking other countries represents a “commitment to global security,” as President Obama claimed in his Nobel speech. Convincing the rest of the world is another matter again, and people in other countries are not so easily brainwashed.

Obama’s hugely symbolic election victory and global charm offensive provided cover for continued U.S. aggression for eight more years, but Trump risks giving the game away by discarding the velvet glove and exposing the naked iron fist of U.S. militarism. A U.S. war on Iran could be the final straw.

Cassia Laham is the co-founder of POWIR (People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism and Racism) and part of a coalition organizing demonstrations in South Florida against many of President Trump’s policies. Cassia calls Alcee Hastings’s AUMF bill, “a dangerous and desperate attempt to challenge the shift in power in the Middle East and the world.”  She noted that, “Iran has risen up as a pivotal power player countering U.S. and Saudi influence in the region,” and concluded, “if the past is any indicator of the future, the end result of a war with Iran will be a large-scale war, high death tolls and the further weakening of U.S. power.”

Whatever misconceptions, interests or ambitions have prompted Alcee Hastings to threaten 80 million people in Iran with a blank check for unlimited war, they cannot possibly outweigh the massive loss of life and unimaginable misery for which he will be responsible if Congress should pass H J Res 10 and President Trump should act on it. The bill still has no co-sponsors, so let us hope that it can be quarantined as an isolated case of extreme military madness, before it becomes an epidemic and unleashes yet another catastrophic war.

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