Human Rights Report Condemns State Violence in Colombia

By |19/July/2021|

A new investigation shines a light on the brutal state violence being inflicted on protesters in Duque’s Colombia.

A much-anticipated report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has documented the extent of human rights violations committed by Colombian security forces since massive national strike protests were initiated in late April.

The IACHR released its findings on Wednesday 7 July, a little under a month after a delegation visited the country to assess the situation over 8-10 June.

The IACHR is an organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) which monitors regional states’ compliance with international standards of human rights — it is equivalent to the European Commission for Human Rights

The latest round of protests, which have been held periodically across Colombia since November 2019 but which have massively intensified since April this year, called for the repeal of a tax reform which strike organisers said would have disproportionate impact on poorer social sectors.

Other demands included a comprehensive state response to the pandemic, an end to the killings of social activists and concerted government efforts to advance implementation of the 2016 peace agreement.

Rather than engage with these legitimate concerns, the Colombian state responded with intense repression, with security forces reported to have killed at least 44 people while also committing sexual and gender-based violence, attacks on journalists and medics and over 2,000 arbitrary arrests.

More than 80 people have been blinded or partially blinded by police projectiles, while an unconfirmed number have been reported missing after last being seen in police detention.

Altogether, human rights groups have documented more than 4,600 instances of police violence.

Given the appalling abuses taking place, in May opposition politicians, trade unions, social organisations and activists requested a visit by the IACHR to compile a report on the human rights situation.

While the government initially rejected a visit, it finally permitted one to go ahead, but not without attempting to influence the delegation’s focus onto what it claimed were abuses committed by protesters.

In its report, the IACHR highlighted unwarranted levels of violence that state forces have inflicted on protesters, in addition to the activities of armed groups.

Multiple social media videos have shown plain-clothes assailants shooting at protesters while alongside uniformed police officers, a particularly alarming development given Colombia’s long history of collusion between security forces and paramilitary groups.

‘The Inter-American Commission expresses its firm condemnation and rejection of the high levels of violence registered in the context of social protest, caused both by the excessive use of force by the public security forces and that provoked by groups outside the protest itself,’ said the report.

The report rejected the government’s claim that road blockades formed by protesters to shut down several major highways were an act of terrorism, asserting that such acts are legitimate forms of protest protected under the constitution.

It also criticised the deliberate blocking of internet

Indestructible Podcast #5: Bolivia and on the Ground Reporting

By |17/July/2021|

Rodrigo Acuña interviews journalist Camila Escalante about her reporting from Bolivia and across Latin America.

Indestructible: Latin America with Rodrigo Acuña is a new podcast from Alborada bringing you monthly discussions with some of the most interesting voices working on and from Latin America.

The podcast is available on Spotify and other podcast streaming websites.

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Please consider supporting the podcast on Patreon.

::: Episode 5:

Bolivia and on the Ground Reporting: An Interview with Camila Escalante

Listen to episode 5 on Audioboom and range of other podcast streaming websites.

Click here to go to the Indestructible homepage.

Presented by Alborada contributing editor Rodrigo Acuña

Produced and edited by Pablo Navarrete

Music by Chylez Productions.

Please consider supporting the podcast on Patreon.

Get in touch with the podcast: info [at] alborada [dot] net

Chile: Votemos para Enterrar al Neoliberalismo

By |14/July/2021|

Un mensaje de apoyo de Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein y Vijay Prashad al posible candidato presidencial Daniel Jadue antes de las elecciones de noviembre en Chile.

Fue en Chile, tras el horrendo golpe de Estado que derrocó al Gobierno de la Unidad Popular encabezado por Salvador Allende en 1973, cuando los ‘Chicago Boys’ implementaron sus crueles políticas de austeridad para muchos y grandes riquezas para pocos. La dictadura militar impuso la dictadura del dinero a un pueblo que había comenzado a transitar – con el gobierno de la Unidad Popular – un camino humano.

Chile aún no ha podido superar totalmente esa herencia del neoliberalismo, impulsada primero por el general Augusto Pinochet y luego por un conjunto de gobiernos sin voluntad de buscar un nuevo camino.

Daniel Jadue, el actual alcalde de Recoleta, afirma que si llega a la presidencia de Chile en noviembre, enterrará al neoliberalismo. Jadue ya comenzó a realizar esta agenda en Recoleta. Ahora, es el momento de llevarlo a la Moneda para terminar el trabajo. Cuando Chile sueña con un mejor futuro, el resto del mundo mantiene la esperanza.

Leerlo en inglés

Chile: Please Vote to Bury Neoliberalism

By |14/July/2021|

A message of support from Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and Vijay Prashad for prospective presidential candidate Daniel Jadue ahead of November’s election.

Chile, birthplace of neoliberalism, has a chance to be the burial ground of neoliberalism. It was in Chile, after the horrendous coup that overthrew the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende in 1973, that the ‘Chicago Boys’ brought their cruel policies of austerity for the many and fabulous riches for the few. A military dictatorship enforced the dictatorship of money upon a people who had begun to chart – under the Popular Unity government – a humane way forward. Chile has not yet been able to fully overcome that legacy of neoliberalism, first pushed by General Augusto Pinochet and then by a set of governments without the will to chart a new way.

Daniel Jadue, the mayor of Recoleta, says that if he becomes the President of Chile in November, he will bury neoliberalism. Jadue has already moved such an agenda in Recoleta; now, send him to La Moneda to finish the job. When Chile dreams of a future, the rest of us will have hope.

Leer versión en Español aquí.

Read more of Alborada’s coverage of Chile here.

The Run-Up to Nicaragua’s 2021 Elections: Part Two

By |18/June/2021|

If the Sandinista government can continue its success in managing Covid-19, it will likely pay dividends at the ballot box despite increased interference by foreign powers.

This November, Nicaragua will hold elections for its next government. In the second of our two-part series, Alborada analyses the challenges for the country’s governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

You can read part one here.

Electoral reforms: the Nicaraguan way

Integral to ensuring sovereignty and fairness in Nicaragua’s elections this year are the electoral reforms that were recently passed after intense scrutiny by 85 out of 90 sitting parliamentarians. There are two important aspects to these reforms. The first is the huge step towards gender parity, which is part of the wider FLSN campaign for gender equality. All electoral bodies in the future must constitute at least 50 per cent women, necessitating wider representation on upcoming electoral lists.

In contrast, when such proposals have been put forward in countries such as the UK, they have continually been met with opposition. No such law enshrining women’s representation at parliamentary level exists in the UK, but it now does in Nicaragua. This speaks to a broader system of electoral representation in the country, in which all citizens 16-years-old and over can vote. Photo ID cards with barcodes, which 95 per cent of citizens now possess, are used at the ballot box. A new ID card programme, which has set up 132 offices across the country, is pushing for 100 per cent attainment by November. Electoral turnout has averaged 70 per cent since 1984.

The second amendment of note is the one restricting international financing of candidates and parties. In essence, it maintains national sovereignty over elections and an equal electoral playing field:

The financing system for parties or alliances of parties establishes that they may not receive donations from state or mixed institutions, whether national or foreign, or from private institutions, when they are foreigners or nationals while abroad. They may not receive donations from any type of foreign entity for any purpose. It should be noted that this same system of prohibition of foreign funds for the electoral campaign is also applied in countries such as Germany, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, among others.

It’s certainly not a radical proposal but one that is necessary considering the events of 2018. However, it is this second amendment that led, in part, to the withdrawal of Cristiana Chamorro from this year’s presidential race. Cristiana Chamorro is the daughter of former Nicaraguan president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, the same former president installed in 1990 at the behest of the US after a decade of contra warfare. The Chamorro family owns La Prensa and Confidencial, newspapers funded partly by USAID. In 2020 alone, the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation received US$1,697,400 from USAID as part of a Media Strengthening Programme. Since 2015, they have received US$6 million. Meanwhile, the European Union, through the Spanish government’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), have transferred €831,527 to the Chamorro Foundation.

The fact that

Vaccine Internationalism Is How We End the Pandemic

By |17/June/2021|

While the G7 is prolonging the pandemic, the Summit for Vaccine Internationalism is organising to end it.

Since the last G7 meeting in February, one million more people have died from Covid-19. A new wave of the pandemic is decidedly here — and with it, the warning that the virus could mutate further and become resistant to existing vaccines.

And yet, despite this lethal urgency, a plan and commitment to vaccinate the world failed to materialise in Cornwall. Even the heralded pledge to donate a billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine — a fraction of the 11 billion doses the world needs, and spread over a year and a half — dropped to 870 million by the time the meetings concluded, out of which only 613 million doses are truly new.

We cannot seriously expect the G7 leaders to challenge a global health system that they constructed. Nor can we wait around for fresh promises of charity. As the G7 pose for photographs on the beach, new variants of concern continue to accelerate the virus’s assault: the Alpha variant in the UK, Beta in South Africa, Gamma in Brazil and, now, Delta in India. Every minute that global cooperation is delayed is another neighbourhood of lives at risk.

As of today, the G7 countries have purchased over a third of the world’s vaccine supply, despite making up only 13 per cent of the global population. Africa, meanwhile, with its 1.34 billion people, has vaccinated a meagre 1.8 percent of its population. The result: at the current rate, low-income countries will be left waiting 57 years for everyone to be fully vaccinated.

That is why the Progressive International is bringing together a new planetary alliance of government ministers, political leaders and vaccine manufacturers in an emergency summit for #VaccineInternationalism.

In this moment, every laboratory, every factory, every scientist and every healthcare worker must be empowered to produce and deliver more vaccines for everyone, everywhere. Instead, high- and middle-income countries have used up more than 85 per cent of the world’s vaccine supply. Many have done nothing to waive patent monopolies on vaccines. None of them have done anything to force a transfer of vaccine technology to the world.

Today, as most of the world grapples with having any vaccines at all, the United States and other rich countries grapple with what will soon be huge surpluses of vaccines.

It is clear: the end of this pandemic is now being artificially delayed. It could end — we could make enough vaccines in one year, according to Public Citizen — but instead of sharing technology and cooperating to manufacture vaccines, powerful pharmaceutical companies are choosing to extend it. The IQVIA report on the potential market for booster shots is telling: an estimated $157 billion will be spent worldwide on Covid-19 vaccines through 2025. Governments have already transferred extraordinary amounts of public money into private pockets, creating nine new billionaires — pharmaceutical executives that have handsomely profited from a monopoly on Covid-19 vaccines. Their combined wealth is enough

Castillo Poised to Write New Chapter for Peru

By |10/June/2021|

Pedro Castillo’s victory will represent a huge blow to US interests in Latin America.

With his wide-brimmed peasant hat and oversized teacher’s pencil held high, Peru’s Pedro Castillo has been traveling the country exhorting voters to get behind a call that has been particularly urgent during this devastating pandemic: ‘No más pobres en un país rico’ – No more poor people in a rich country. In a cliffhanger of an election with a huge urban-rural and class divide, it appears that the rural teacher, farmer and union leader is about to make history by defeating – by less than one per cent – powerful far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, scion of the country’s political ‘Fujimori dynasty’.

Fujimori is challenging the election’s results, alleging widespread fraud. Her campaign has only presented evidence of isolated irregularities, and so far there is nothing to suggest a tainted vote. However, she can challenge some of the votes to delay the final results, and much like in the US, even an allegation of fraud by the losing candidate will cause uncertainty and raise tensions in the country.

Castillo’s victory will be remarkable not only because he is a leftist teacher who is the son of illiterate peasants and his campaign was grossly outspent by Fujimori, but there was a relentless propaganda attack against him that touched on historical fears of Peru’s middle class and elites. It was similar to what happened recently to progressive candidate Andrés Arauz who narrowly lost Ecuador’s elections, but even more intense. Grupo El Comercio, a media conglomerate that controls 80 per cent of Peru’s newspapers, led the charge against Castillo. They accused him of being a terrorist with links to the Shining Path, a guerrilla group whose conflict with the state between 1980 and 2002 led to tens of thousands of deaths and left the population traumatised. Castillo’s link to the Shining Path link is flimsy: while a leader with Sutep, an education worker’s union, Castillo is said to have been friendly with Movadef, the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights, a group alleged to have been the political wing of the Shining Path. In reality, Castillo himself was a rondero when the insurgency was most active. Ronderos were peasant self-defence groups that protected their communities from the guerrillas and continue to provide security against crime and violence.

Two weeks before the elections, on 23 May, 18 people were massacred in the rural Peruvian town of San Miguel del Ene. The government immediately attributed the attack to the remnants of the Shining Path involved in drug trafficking, although no group has taken responsibility yet. The media linked the attack to Castillo and his campaign, whipping up fear of more violence should he win the presidency. Castillo denounced the attack and reminded Peruvians that similar massacres had occurred in the run-up to the 2011 and 2016 elections. For her part, Fujimori suggested Castillo was linked to the killing.

On the economic front,


The Run-Up to Nicaragua’s 2021 Elections: Part One

By |10/June/2021|

There is no socialist country on this planet that isn’t subject to international political interference. Such is the case with Nicaragua.

In 1979, the people of Nicaragua famously rose up against the US-dictatorship overseen by the dynastic Somoza family. The Sandinista revolution – led by the socialist vanguard party Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (Sandinista National Liberation Front, FSLN) – inspired people across the world as it introduced free education, free healthcare, land reforms and other fundamental human rights to the country for the first time. Unfortunately, after a decade of bombing, blockades, disinformation and assassinations orchestrated by the US government, the people of Nicaragua were forced to surrender to a US-puppet regime in 1990, this time fronted by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro of the Union Nacional Opositora (National Opposition Union, UNO). There followed 16 years of neoliberal rule which oversaw a stringent programme of austerity and privatisation, reversing many of the social gains introduced by the Sandinistas.

However, Sandinismo was never eradicated and the FSLN were triumphantly voted back into power in 2007, with Sandinista revolutionary Daniel Ortega at the helm. Since then, the country has once again embarked on a mission to uplift the poorest sections of society, including programmes of poverty eradication, total literacy, food sovereignty, universal healthcare, free education, decent housing, agroecology, green energy, labour rights, gender equality and indigenous autonomy. 58 per cent of the 2021 budget has been allocated for social spending, with health, education, housing and equality regarded as human rights.

In this two-part article, we’ll be looking at the potential problems facing the country ahead of the crucial election on 7 November this year.

The 2018 failed coup and its repercussions

With its radical plan for democratic equality, the FLSN has attracted the attention of many countries in the international community. Its mixed economic model of state planning with controlled free-market elements has helped to maintain national sovereignty since 2007. It has put the people of Nicaragua at the forefront and refused to become a neo-colony of its former occupier or any other country. But from the days of the Monroe Doctrine to Operation Condor to contemporary imperialism, the US has often seen Latin America as its backyard: a site for resource extraction, cheap labour and balmy vacations. Ideological or economic independence is therefore not tolerated. Thus, in 2018, after another decade of Sandinista rule, the US attempted another coup. As in the 1980s, it did this through a series of what we might call new contra forcespaid domestic and international opposition groups who initiated the street violence and media disinformation needed to force regime change.

The financial and ideological connections between the 2018 contra forces and the US government have been expertly documented in English by Ben Norton at The Grayzone, Stephen Sefton at Tortilla con Sal and John Perry in various places. The primary funders of the failed coup were USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, both of which operate as well-known covert (and overt) arms of

No Evidence of Systematic Fraud Found in Peru Elections

By |9/June/2021|

The Progressive International statement on the 2021 presidential elections in Peru.

Neither statistical models analysing results in real-time nor our time physical monitoring of this process have revealed any evidence of systematic fraud in the course of the 2021 Peruvian presidential elections.

The delegation of the Progressive International in Lima congratulates the Peruvian people in the exercise of their democratic will through a peaceful and free vote on 6 June 2021.

But the electoral process is not yet over. It is imperative to maintain patience and vigilance as the final results are counted – especially in the face of fresh attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the democratic process.

We denounce and reject baseless allegations of fraud, made without evidence in the final moments of this democratic celebration. These accusations jeopardise the integrity of the electoral process and the votes of tens of millions of Peruvians who cast their ballots this Sunday. We must ensure that their will is respected.

The delegation of the Progressive International has seen no evidence of systemic fraud in the course of the 2021 Peruvian presidential elections. Neither statistical models analysing results in real-time nor our time physical monitoring of this process have revealed any evidence of fraud.

We know too well the danger of false accusation of fraud claims. In November 2019, a violent coup in Bolivia removed democratically elected former president Evo Morales from office on the false pretence that the Movement Toward Socialism had interfered in the electoral process.

These claims were systematically proven to be false. But in the interim, an unelected coup regime reigned with impunity.

One year later, President Donald Trump provoked a revanchist attack on the US Capitol in order to ‘stop the steal’ – again provoking a violent reaction to democracy on the basis of false accusations of fraud.

The people of Peru are now concluding a free and fair election, overseen without major irregularities by the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones (JNE) and the Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorals (ONPE). Fellow international electoral observation delegations – including the Unión Interamericana de Organismos Electorales (UNIORE) – have likewise come to the same conclusion.

Through a tragic pandemic, a dizzying media campaign, and a severe economic crisis, the Peruvian people have mobilised to exercise their right to popular sovereignty. Our obligation now is to defend it.

This statement was originally published by Progressive International and has been edited for style.

Alborada is a member of the Progressive International wire service.

Crunch Time in Mexico

By |5/June/2021|

Success in mid-term elections will be a huge step forward for president Andres Manuel López Obrador.

Ever heard of a country where electoral fraud favours the opposition? Try Mexico, with its corrupt and aberrant Electoral Commission (National Electoral Institute, INE by its Spanish initials).

Political polarisation has been growing in Mexico over several aspects of president Andres Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO’s) “Fourth Transformation” – national control of oil and electric power, reform of a notoriously corrupt judicial system, bringing delinquent old-regime politicians to justice, ending false subcontracting and ensuring gender parity and indigenous rights.

Now the entire direction of travel has reached a critical point not seen since AMLO’s election in 2018, with the mid-term elections coming up on 6 June.

At stake are all 500 seats in the Lower House of the Mexican Congress, 15 of 32 state governorships, legislative assemblies in most of the states and thousands of mayoral and councillor positions in local governments.

If AMLO’s Morena party wins most of these positions, the Fourth Transformation will be consolidated and accelerated. If it loses, the country will be thrown into severe crisis.

On the whole the polls are looking good for Morena, but the elections are far from being a pushover. This is because of several institutional roadblocks which favour the opposition.

The first roadblock is INE, controlled by a small cabal of longstanding members who scarcely even try to disguise their sympathies for the old-regime parties, PRI and PAN.

Even before the start of the official two-month campaign period, INE imposed a gagging order on the president, forbidding him from discussing party politics or claiming partisan credit for governmental programmes in his morning press conferences.

INE has also used its powers of supervision over party campaigns in blatant discriminatory fashion, disqualifying 49 Morena candidates for alleged minor infractions in election spending while ignoring any infractions by other parties.

Opposition governors and mayors in several important states and cities continue to bend and break the electoral rules with impunity as INE looks the other way.

While striving to avoid direct confrontation, AMLO has openly denounced the bias of INE and of the Judicial Electoral Tribunal which supposedly acts as a check on INE but shares its corrupt tendencies.

Indeed AMLO has indicated that after the elections he will introduce legislation to reform INE and other defective organisations, but this will not deal with the immediate problem.

As the president insists, ‘Only the people can guarantee democracy’ – and there must be mass mobilisation to vote on 6 June and to exercise vigilance at polling stations and in the count.

Thanks to AMLO’s reforms there are some institutions with integrity which have begun to intervene against fraudulent actions by the opposition.

The attorney-general’s office (FGR by its Spanish initials) has brought legal actions against some right-wing politicians for fraudulent transactions, threats and coercion of voters and the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) has been suspending bank accounts of opposition politicians suspected of bribery and links to organised crime.

AMLO succeeded in appointing a progressive attorney general and an incorruptible chief

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