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Forum Post: No Justice When Women Fight Back

Posted 11 years ago on Aug. 31, 2012, 9:02 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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No Justice When Women Fight Back

Friday, 31 August 2012 00:00 By Victoria Law, Truthout | News Analysis


What do a nineteen-year-old lesbian from New Jersey, a 23-year-old trans woman in Minneapolis and a 31-year-old mother in Florida have in common? All three were attacked, all three fought back and all three were arrested. All three are currently in prison while their attackers remain free. Oh, yes, and all three are black women.


White Racial Anxiety and the Changing Demographic Tide: Legitimate Concern or Illogical Worry?

Friday, 31 August 2012 00:00 By Michael Ortiz, Truthout | Op-Ed


Census projections show that by 2042, the majority of the American population will consist of people identified as "non-white." In other words, in about 30 years, whites will no longer make up the majority of the American population. But before we actually get to that point when whites indeed become a quantitative minority (whereby some of them will begin to claim to be the "new" racially oppressed minority group in America), let's analyze exactly what this demographic shift entails.


South Africa to Prosecute Strikers Targeted by Police Massacre at Marikana

By Alex Lantier, World Socialist Website

31 August 2012

Ref: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/aug2012/mari-a31.shtml

In an act of naked class justice, the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is laying bogus murder charges against 270 striking Marikana miners after police massacred 34 of their fellow strikers on August 16.

The African National Congress (ANC) government does not contest that it was police who murdered the 34 striking miners who died that day. However, none of the policemen who committed the murders, or the high-level government officials such as Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega under whose instructions they were acting, are in custody. Instead, prosecutors are charging and detaining the strikers who somehow survived the police's murderous onslaught.

Indeed, 6 of the 270 miners charged could not attend the court hearing because they are still hospitalized with wounds from police fire. The 264 other strikers appeared at the Ga Rankunwa magistrates court, where their application for bail was rejected and their hearing was adjourned for seven days.

At least 150 of the detained strikers have already filed claims with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate complaining that they have been assaulted and tortured by police officers while in detention.

The 270 strikers charged with murder also face 78 charges of attempted murder, one for each one of their fellow strikers who was wounded but not killed by police fire.

To advance the barbarous principle that victims can be charged for the crimes the police have committed against them, the ANC is relying on the infamous 'common purpose' doctrine, drawn from the legal arsenal of South Africa's former white-minority racist apartheid regime.

NPA spokesman Frank Lesenyego said that this 'technical' charge places responsibility for any fatal confrontation involving the police on whoever was facing the police. "This is under common law, where people are charged with common purpose in a situation where there are suspects with guns or any weapons and they confront or attack the police and a shooting takes place and there are fatalities, he explained.

This effectively gives police a blank check to attack any group of people they encounter who can plausibly be accused of carrying anything that could be construed as a weapon.

The "common purpose" doctrine was invoked in the case of the Upington Fourteen, a group of activists sentenced to death by hanging in 1989 for the 1985 murder of a policeman, even though the trial judge acknowledged that they had not killed the policeman. Worldwide protests against the ruling compelled the South African courts to overturn it on appeal.

South African lawyer Jay Surju told the BBC that the 'common purpose' doctrine is "very outdated and infamous." Nonetheless, the black capitalist politicians who came to power in 1994 when the ANC became South Africa's ruling party after the end of apartheid never expunged the doctrine from South African law.

The police massacre at Marikana starkly reveals the class logic underlying the ANC's decision. Speaking for the entire South African capitalist class, both black and white, and for its allies in global finance capital, they find the repressive measures of the apartheid era essential to crushing workers' opposition to class oppression in post-apartheid South Africa.

The platinum miners striking at Lonmin PLC's Marikana mine are intensely exploited. They earn $500 a month for laboring under hot and exhausting conditions deep underground, living seven to a shack and far away from their families while producing immense super profits for the mining bosses.

The riches they create for the capitalists of all races are symbolized by the $275 million fortune of Cyril Ramaphosa, the former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, a leading union inside the ANC-affiliated Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

The ANC's prosecution of the victims of the Marikana massacre exposes the utter hypocrisy of President Jacob Zuma's reaction to the massacre. Speaking of the workers, he said that he "felt their pain" and promised a commission of inquiry would investigate the killings. In the meantime, his government is locking up the workers and prosecuting them on utterly bogus charges, while delaying the inquiry into the police action until months into the future.

The government is panicked by the spread of strike action throughout South Africa's strategic mining industry, as well as to broader sections of the workforce. While only eight percent of workers had reported to work at Lonmin's operations this week, strikes are spreading to other mining firms' operations throughout the country.

Yesterday, a strike vote was scheduled for South African textile workers. They are calling for a 13.5% wage increase but face employer demands for a 20 percent wage cut for new hires. Last year, the South African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union already signed an accord allowing new hires to work at wages 30% below the minimum specified in the contract.

The government and the entire South African ruling class are nervously watching the impact of the Marikana massacre on South Africa's position on world financial markets and thus, on their fortunes.

While laying out the charges against the striking miners in court, State Prosecutor Nigel Carpenter absurdly argued that they were liable for the effect that news of the police massacre had on South Africa's currency, the rand. "There were reports in the morning that the rand fell by 12%," he said.

At a meeting in Perth, South African Mines Minister Susan Shabangu promised global financiers that the ANC would squelch any plan to nationalize the mines and ruthlessly crush opposition in the working class.

She said, "We urge our investors, incumbent and prospective, to take comfort in the solid foundations set by our constitution, government, legal and civil institutions. ¦ The president and people of South Africa are determined to isolate bad elements in our society that are seemingly committed to undermine the democratic gains of the country to date."

Such comments only underscore the profound hypocrisy of the South African ruling class' democratic pretensions. The post-apartheid institutions the South African bourgeoisie has worked out with international capital do not create foundations for democracy, but lay the basis for extracting profits from a super-exploited working class policed by bloody repression and police-state rule.



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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 years ago

The Marikana Massacre: A Turning Point for South Africa?

Saturday, 01 September 2012 07:11 By Nigel Gibson, Truthout | News Analysis


It is true that labor produces for the rich wonderful things - but for the worker it produces privation. It produces palaces - but for the worker, hovels. It produces beauty - but for the worker, deformity. -Marx, "Alienated Labor"

It's better to die than to work for that shit. People are coming back here tomorrow. I am not going to stop striking. We are going to protest until we get what we want. They have said nothing to us. Police can try and kill us but we won't move. -Thandubuntu Simelane, Lonmin miner.

Sometimes an event occurs that lifts the veil on a society and exposes its naked reality for all to see. Such was the case on Wednesday, August 16, at Marikana near Rustenberg in the North West Province when heavily armed police opened fire on striking platinum miners, killing 34 workers and injuring 78 others who were on strike. Though there have been an increasing number of police murders and stories of cover-ups, of brutality and corruption over the past 18 years, nothing like this had happened since the African National Congress (ANC) took power in South Africa. It was a national shock. A tragedy that will not be assuaged by the crocodile tears and homilies from the political leaders.

The strike was led by rock drill operators who work a grueling job that drains the life out of you. They earn 4,000 Rand a month ($500) and demanded a three-fold wage increase. The strike was borne of anger and frustration against Lonmin, a privately owned London-based company, and the union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which seemed increasingly remote and disconnected to many rank-and-file workers. The strike began as a wildcat, only later to be supported by a smaller union and rival to the NUM, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

The majority of the world's platinum comes from South African mines and the Lonmin Marikana mine is one of its largest. It makes huge profits and pays its workers a pittance. As in Marx's description above, the workers create riches and beauty for the rich and poverty for themselves. They produce palaces, but live in shacks next to the mine.

South Africa was built on mining, specifically on cheap African labor. This was true for the colonial period and the apartheid period and it remains true today; in other words, the ANC is the party of big capital (and some of its big names Cyril Ramaphosa, Khulubuse Zuma and Zondwa Mandela, are directly connected with the industry). Today, just as they did in those earlier periods, the mining companies rely on subcontracted and migrant labor and recruit along ethnic lines to keep costs down and divisions among the workforce up. But a key element in post-apartheid labor management has been the NUM.

The NUM had been one of the most important and militant unions in the 1980s. During the late apartheid period, it frightened mine owners and multinational capital. But like other successful unions, it has become increasingly bureaucratic, exchanging connections to the everyday working-class reality of miners' lives access to management. The union is changing. It is losing members like the rock drillers to another more militant union.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 years ago

Disaster Capitalism in New Orleans and Haiti

Saturday, 01 September 2012 11:33 By Beverly Bell, Other Worlds | News Analysis


As a native and resident of New Orleans who has spent three decades in and out of Haiti, and as director of an organization with offices in both places, this has been a harrowing week. The two locales sit squarely in Hurricane Isaac's path. We don't know yet how New Orleans will weather the giant storm. The official death toll in Haiti was 24, but many more will surely die from secondary effects of cholera or, for those who have lost their slim margins of sustenance, hunger. As has been the case since Haiti's earthquake on January 12, 2010, those left homeless and living in displaced persons' camps, roughly 390,000, have suffered most. Thousands of fragile shelters of plastic or nylon were damaged or destroyed by Isaac - a Haitian right-to-housing coalition estimates 45-50% in the cross-section of camps they have visited. (A new campaign launched by Haitians and their international allies, Under Tents, is calling on the Haitian and U.S. governments to provide permanent, quality housing for this forgotten population).

Except in scale, the damage, neglect, and subsequent disaster capitalism that each place experienced during its last major crisis mirrored the other.

Exactly seven years ago today, New Orleans was spared Hurricane Katrina, which dodged the city at the last minute. However, 53 levees broken in its wake caused the epic flood that in turn ravaged lives and neighborhoods. Now, to an uninformed eye, the Big Easy looks fully recovered. New, high-end restaurants and shops are packed, houses are being flipped in a booming real estate market, and the town is being labeled a 'boutique city.' Yet many who were forced out after the flood have not yet been able to return, lacking assistance for rebuilding and resettling. The African-American population has shrunk by 118,500 since then.

In Haiti, the 7.0 earthquake two and a half years ago left hundreds of thousands dead and 1.9 million homeless. Today, many parts of impacted towns have been cleared of rubble, and in Port-au-Prince new supermarkets and restaurant cater to the small elite and the growing development class. But for most of the destitute survivors, almost nothing has changed. Little of the highly touted billions in foreign aid, and no discernable Haitian governmental assistance, benefit them. Almost unimaginably, most are far poorer than they were before.

New Orleans and Haiti were profoundly connected long before their dual disasters. Nowhere else in the US has a longer, deeper relationship with Haiti than New Orleans. Their histories crisscross: Both suffered colonization and enslavement by the Spanish and French. Louisiana even came to be part of the US because of Haiti: France sold the Louisiana Territory - approximately one-third of the current US land mass - to the US in 1803 to recoup some of the financial losses it incurred while trying to defeat the Haitian revolution. (France also wanted to create a "maritime rival," as Napoleon called it, to England[i]). Blacks, mulattoes, and whites, free and enslaved, moved back and forth between the two places so much that, by 1809, one in two of New Orleans' inhabitants was from Haiti.[ii] Today, the populations share gene pools and names via the same French, Spanish, and African ancestors.

They have similar cultures, with connections between the music, the living French language and slightly overlapping Creole ones, Carnival and parading (rara, musical troupes in Haitian streets, and the uniquely New Orleans street traditions of second lines and Mardi Gras Indians), Creole food and Creole architecture, and the religion spelled Vodou in Haiti and Voodoo in New Orleans. Both are rich in laid-back and highly interactive communities, and keeping them strong is what underlies a lot of the traditions, like courtyard- and stoop-sitting, 'speaking to' your neighbor, and communal street reveling.

What kept many alive after the flood and earthquake, and is keeping them alive today, is a culture and economy of solidarity, or mutual aid. Solidarity is a strategy through which on-the-margins communities and their individual members can survive, and through which relationships, loyalty, and tradition thrive. In both places, community members came forward as first and second responders. They saved people from roofs and waters in New Orleans, and from buildings and rubble in Haiti. Neighbor and stranger alike compiled what food they had or scrounged it from abandoned stores - what outsiders often referred to as 'looting' - to distribute to the hungry. They shared water, shelter, money, and emotional support with loved ones and those they'd never seen before. People who had lodging took in abandoned children, elders, injured and ill, whole families, and animals.

Beyond spontaneous gestures, grassroots and other non-profit groups led solidarity-based relief efforts. In New Orleans, they set up clinics in living rooms, organized systems to track down neighbors relocated around the nation, created free restaurants in yards and internet centers in gutted buildings, collected tools that were free for the borrowing, converted churches to shelters, drew in volunteers from around the country to help with clean-up, etc. In Haiti, community groups provided refuge, medical care, leisure activities, security, and support for much-needed agricultural production. They offered community mental health support, trauma recovery, and education or recreation for children, since no schools were functioning.

The catastrophes stripped naked the trappings of difference between the richest and poorest countries in the hemisphere. New Orleans and Haiti are two predominantly Black, low-income areas where the ongoing devastation has been only partly about nature. It has also been about inequitable distribution of power and wealth, and the race- and class-biased policies that have left certain groups highly vulnerable. It has been about government neglect, beginning years in advance when the authorities failed to heed experts' warnings about the disintegrating levees in New Orleans and the active fault systems under Haiti. The destruction has also been about corporate malfeasance and government disregard of it. Similar development models have been patterned on privatization and market-driven solutions, and have led to highly unequal redevelopment. Only some – generally lighter-skinned and wealthier citizens – have been able to return to their homes.

The relief responses reflected each other, too. In both places, we saw the opening of a collective heart, and we saw troubling exploitation. Both received mammoth attention which died out long before the problems were addressed. Volunteers and aid workers teemed in to offer some very sensitive and useful humanitarian assistance and community organizing support, as well as some very paternalistic and harmful charity. The emergency aid so publicized by the occupant of the White House of the time – Bush Junior during the flood and Obama during the earthquake - largely went missing. Both suffered a lack of aid accountability from government and agencies like the Red Cross.

As for disaster capitalism, Ambassador Merten's February 1, 2010 cable to Washington said it all: "THE GOLD RUSH IS ON!" Plenty of the aid went not to desperate New Orleanians or Haitians but to profiteers. Some of the very same corporations operated in New Orleans and Haiti. They have also wrested financial and political gain from the countries hit by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and lots of other places. Reconstruction plans have been shaped more by developers and contractors than by those most directly impacted.

Both sites experienced media coverage hyping the image of Black savages gone wild with thievery and violence.[iii] Examining the press through the story of rape is instructive. In both places, tensions were high, effective policing was nonexistent, and most defensive resources that women may have previously had were unavailable. Thousands of survivors were crowded into shelters without adequate food, water, sanitation, or security. This was a perfect storm for gender-based violence.[iv] In New Orleans, instead of highlighting the causes or possible solutions, a slew of media outlets peddled stories told by police about babies being raped in the Superdome and a girl's throat being slit in the Convention Center, all of which were subsequently proven false.[v] In Haiti, some media bordered on the salacious or suggested that rape was an essential expression of Haitian culture. A lot of the international coverage seemed to imply that the high incidence of rape was a mirror into the heart of darkness of a barbaric nation; articles referenced "gang-raping monsters" and "a culture where an offense so heinous as rape is so commonplace, and basically accepted as part of daily life."

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 years ago

New Orleans and Haiti both experienced the colonial narrative that Black people must be saved. To give just a few naked examples: The father of neoliberalism, Milton Friedman, came out of retirement a few months after the flood to address the public school system, with its overwhelmingly African-American teachers and student body. He wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system." Several years later, the influential think tank Heritage Foundation posted a news blog about the same topic in New Orleans; it said that "sometimes things get so bad that radical change can happen." The trope was repeated in the same Heritage Foundation blog days after the earthquake. Entitled "Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S", it discussed the "opportunities to re-shape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy..." We heard the same about Haiti from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon two months after the earthquake: "[W]hat we envision is a wholesale national renewal, a sweeping exercise in nation-building on a scale and scope not seen in generations."

Residents of both places who were not connected to either wealth or the power elite immediately deployed to demand that they be part of the reconstruction planning, and that they benefit from it. They demanded that their voices be included in political decisions and that their needs be included in the budget. Grassroots advocacy focused on the UN-protected right of return, that is, the obligation of government to create the conditions so that displaced peoples can return home. Regardless, those most adversely impacted continue to be sidelined. And the grassroots continues to organize.

Despite all, New Orleans after the flood and Haiti after the earthquake serve as object lessons: except in cases of extreme, prolonged violence, the capacity of humanity to survive, create positive change, sustain culture, and even hold joy is without limit. No matter the external circumstances, it's unsinkable, like a cork that won't stay underwater.

Still, the tolls from the last major catastrophes have been great on both peoples, as they will be again once Isaac has finished its destruction. A New Orleanian in the aftermath of the flooding expressed what I've heard from many Haitians, especially those left to languish in displaced persons' camps: "I'm tired of being resilient." (If you want to help with a solution for the hundreds of Haitian families who find themselves homeless again after this week's hurricane, please join the Under Tents campaign. Haitians and international allies are urging the Haitian government and international community to create quality housing for the nearly 400,000 left homeless since the earthquake. Sign your support to the campaign here, and learn more about it on the campaign webpage.)

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 years ago

The Things That are the Richest are the Least Valued: New Orleans and Haiti, Post-Catastrophe

Sunday, 02 September 2012 07:23 By Beverly Bell, Other Worlds | Op-Ed


Tomorrow, seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina dodged New Orleans, the city will be venturing out to assess Hurricane Isaac's overnight imprint on its neighborhoods. Yet parts of the city – especially low-income, African-American parts – are still damaged from the flood that followed the 2005 storm, when more than 50 levees broke and filled New Orleans with killing waters.

Below, writer Lolis Eric Elie speaks to the connections between his native New Orleans and Haiti, which did not escape Hurricane Isaac. Officially, 24 people died when the hurricane passed through on August 25, though the numbers of those who will die from secondary effects such as hunger and cholera will never be counted. Elie's discussion, however, focuses on an earlier disaster in Haiti, the epic 7.0 earthquake of January 12, 2010.

Elie is one of the writers of the HBO hit series Treme and co-producer of the documentary Faubourg Treme.

A friend of mine visited Haiti post-earthquake and he sent back a bunch of pictures of fresh graves of people with my last name. I've always known that there were Elies there, but that personal connection, seeing it that way... I can't escape imagining people with my last name and my blood perishing in the earthquake.

In terms of obvious connections, the architecture strikes you immediately: the shutters and the stucco construction, the colors people paint their houses. These things make places in Haiti look very much like parts of New Orleans. The food is also a striking parallel. In Haiti, you have a version of New Orleans' red beans and rice. You also get a sense of celebration in that culture that parallels our own. For example, considering how small Haiti is, it's amazing that their visual art has had the incredible influence that it has had. There are at least a half dozen signature styles of Haitian visual arts, whereas you couldn't say, "That's obviously a painting from Brazil, or from Poland."

We also share with Haiti the fact that the things that are richest are the same that are the least valued by the people who count these things. Part of what was so heartbreaking about New Orleans post-levee failure was the fact that we had to explain to people why we were important, why we mattered. And even in the context of trying to make that case, we often found ourselves minimizing our cultural riches and maximizing our discussions of international trade and oil refining and drilling. We found ourselves forced to speak in the language of a marketplace when that is certainly not the thing that has made New Orleans singular.

Haiti is similar. If you took it out of the world market picture, financial markets would not collapse. But if you took Haiti out of the cultural picture through its music, its architecture, its visual arts, we as a world community would be greatly impoverished.

The other thing we share with Haiti is this assumption that somehow we deserve our misfortune. Or that somehow misfortune follows us so closely and so consistently that no one should be surprised.

The shorthand for what happened, whether we're talking for Haiti or New Orleans, is that this was a natural disaster, and nothing could be further from the truth. It is so easy to attribute our difficulties to natural disasters or acts of God, but no one investigates very closely how much unnatural disasters and acts of man are really at the heart of these twin catastrophes. In New Orleans, if the federal levees had been built to the standards that they were supposed to be built to, Katrina would have caused moderate damage. Of course, in Mississippi and Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, it would still have been devastating, but New Orleans would not have been devastated the way it was. If the forced urbanization of Haiti had not taken place in the l980s [when many small farmers went out of business due to the influx of foreign goods at prices made extremely low by IMF pressure on trade tariffs], if millions had not flocked to the city, then the destruction of Port-au-Prince would not have taken the human toll that it took. The forces behind this migration were anything but natural.

Post-flood, there was both euphoria and dread. Euphoria at the possibility that we could rebuild and apply to the rebuilding a degree of intelligence unprecedented in the city's history. There was also an immense dread that the same kinds of developers and profiteers would guide the rebuilding, thereby amplifying and expanding all that was bad prior to the levee failures. It is impossible these days to speak about major disasters without referencing Naomi Klein [the intellectual author of disaster capitalism, as described in her book The Shock Doctrine]. Implicit in the rebuilding strategies I hear about for Haiti, and heard about for New Orleans, is the sentiment that we are so desperate that we should be glad for any assistance, no matter how lethal.

The other thing the rebuilding of New Orleans and Port-au-Prince have in common is a sense that what we need is outside experts. At no point has anyone looked at our history and asked about the extent to which outside experts have been culpable in our misfortune. The outside experts who knew how to drain swamps and develop subdivisions had us building in places that we probably should not have built. The outside experts from the Army Corps of Engineers assured us that the levees would protect these areas. They did not. In the case of Haiti, outside experts have been going there at least since the American occupation of 1915 to 1934. The assumption is that foreigners, especially white foreigners, are automatically more qualified than someone in Haiti who can do the work. You cannot escape the racial dimension of the post-earthquake assistance.

(If you want to help with a solution for the hundreds of Haitian families who find themselves homeless again after this week's hurricane, please join the Under Tents campaign. Haitians and international allies are urging the Haitian government and international community to create quality housing for the nearly 400,000 left homeless since the earthquake. Sign your support to the campaign here, and learn more about it on the campaign webpage.)

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 years ago

Not On Our Land: Land Recovery Kicks Off in Honduras

Saturday, 01 September 2012 07:35 By Carla Garcia, Lauren Elliott and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds | Op-Ed


In what many indigenous people call a "second coming of Columbus," globalization and its twin offspring of resource exploitation and mega development threaten the survival of indigenous and small-farming communities all over our world. But as widespread as the threat is the response by organized peoples. The strategies for stopping the destruction of their land, claiming their rights to it, and protecting their way of life are diverse - land occupations, protests, and legal claims. Though movements are challenged at every step and are still on the defensive, victories in their own communities dot the world map. Meanwhile, they are gathering strength through cross-border alliances.

In Honduras, 300 leaders of the Afro-Indigenous Garífuna people are saying, "Not on our land." On Monday, they and their allies around the world launched the Land Recovery Campaign in the village of Vallecito which, with 2,500 acres, is the largest single landholding of the Garífuna people. There, they are occupying land that has been taken from them to build mega-tourism projects.

"In strength, the Garífuna community in Honduras fought to defend the country against invasion and, in strength, the Garífuna community fights today to defend our land," says Carla Garcia, a human rights organizer with the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras, OFRANEH.

In 2009, the Honduran elite backed a military coup d'état in an effort to suppress the strengthening grassroots movements for land reform and indigenous sovereignty. The US government went on to tacitly support the coup regime even though WikiLeak documents show it knew the coup was illegal and unconstitutional. [i] Since the coup, developers have been emboldened to take land from small-farming and indigenous communities. When communities have peacefully resisted these land grabs, they've faced intimidation and assassinations. Just this month, the Garífuna community of Trujillo awakened one morning to find their fresh-water lagoon – their main water source – poisoned, with all the life of the lagoon floating dead at the surface.

Just this morning OFRANEH wrote to their international allies about the ongoing intimidation in Vallecito,where their Defense of the Land campaign is underway. "Another long night of machine gun fire and armed men entering the Garífuna camp in Vallecito... Despite owning titles to six cooperatives, the Garifunas is unable to exercise their right to this property..."

Below, Carla Garcia speaks about the ongoing land struggle in the Garífuna communities. To get information on joining this call or to offer financial support to OFRANEH, contact Stephen Bartlett of Agricultural Missions at sbartlett@ag-missions.org or (502) 896-9171. Please consider calling Honduran government officials and asking them to ensure the safety of the campaign participants – in the past two days international pressure has proven essential. For 215 years we have lived in harmony with the environment. We know that without land we have no future.

We've taken care of our surroundings and now our region is really desirable. Economically powerful men and women want to build [what we call] 'industry without smokestacks,' the tourist industry, here. Our titles say that Garífuna land is nontransferable because it is common land. It doesn't belong to any one person. So through deceit and fraud, [developers have] acquired Garífuna land for tourism development, but it's not development that's benefiting the surrounding community.

OFRANEH has been working principally with land issues for more than 30 years. Today we're well-organized. We struggle, we fight, we write letters and try to tell people about our struggle. Even during the coup d'état, OFRANEH never stopped protesting.

But the coup taught us a big lesson. It taught us to fear. If they could do that to the president, what could they do to us? But we also learned that fear won't get us anywhere, and now people are back to protesting, fighting for their rights, stronger than ever.

But there is so much maneuvering... They [the government and developers] try to weaken us from one side and then the other but we're going to keep fighting.

We have a problem with the Charter City, which is going to be inside Garífuna land. They say that region is sparsely populated, but there are about 20,000 of us living there. Twenty thousand Garífunas would have to leave and find somewhere else to live, only coming back when the Charter City is built to see if they can work there. There is one community with many elderly people who wouldn't be able to work in the Charter City.

There was a project to build a dock for cruise ships supported by the government. The president even came to inaugurate it. They chose to develop in Rio Negro, where the land was titled individually. The people were pressured to sell their plots, told that if they didn't, tourism and development would never come to their community. They were paid a small amount for their land and promised jobs and 10% of the profits of the dock after it was built. [Then, the developers] fenced off the beach and wouldn't let the community of Rio Negro access it. For a community that lives off fishing and the ocean, not having access to the beach is a huge problem in terms of basic subsistence. Today, the dock project hasn't even started. This is an example of problems the whole Garífuna community is facing. The government is also taking away our right to be Garífunas. It's a great way for the government to keep taking our land, by making us disappear as a people with a culture. They want to categorize us as "African-descent." We reject the term because we have our indigenous mother. We're Afro-Indigenous. We're Garífuna. Nobody is going to give up here. In each community we have Defense of the Land Committees. And through community radio, people can now open their eyes and see what's happening in their communities. Through the radio we're saying, "We're against those that sell their land, we're against those that buy land. We are starting international proceedings [against those taking our land]." Before it was very difficult to communicate this to everyone.

Last year we started legal proceedings against Randy Jorgensen [one of the major developers on Garífuna land] because his purchase of Garífuna lands has no legal basis. We're also prosecuting the Garífuna people and community leaders that sell their land. We don't want them to go to jail, but we do want them to learn their lesson and for our children and young people to learn that we have to take care of our land.

But we have many deficiencies because we don't have enough money to do everything. Our poverty marks the difference between us and our aggressors. We are forced to struggle precisely because we're poor. The government has money, foreign investors have money. We have our mission: we're from the people, with the people, for the people and any organization that doesn't have that mission is not one with whom we relate.

Well, we know the people of the United States have the same cultural value that we do: open doors, where everyone can live in communion and solidarity. However, just like we have people in our communities that are undesirable, so too does the US. There are people there with a lot of money, to whom destroying a community or a way of life matters very little. And we know, even as we go to the US to make international demands against Washington, that the people of the US can help us. We need you to tell people that we're having problems. And not just us; this is happening to all the African and Indigenous communities of Latin America. Don't stay quiet. The Garífuna community is very strong, always. In strength, [indigenous] men and women left [their original land in] Orinoco because of fights with other tribes and went to San Vicente [where the Garífuna people originated] to survive. In strength, our African men escaped from their slave ships and came to San Vicente. In strength, the Garífuna community fought the French and the English. In strength, the Garífuna community in Honduras fought to defend the country against invasion and, in strength, the Garífuna community fights today to defend our land.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 11 years ago

I'll share this on www.dailypuma.blogspot.com after midnight West Coast time.