Philando Castile, Charleena Lyles, The Body Count in the U.S. War against Black People Continues

 

Before we can even process the acquittal of the murders of Philado Castile, we hear about another murder of a black person by the police occupation forces.  This time the victim, Charleena Lyles, is a black woman who was also five months pregnant.

Again, there is anger, confusion and calls for justice from the black community of Seattle, where the latest killing took place. Many might remember that it was in Seattle where two members of the local black community attempted to call out the racist and hypocritical liberal white community during a visit by Bernie Sanders. The black activists were subsequently shouted down by a majority of Bernie’s supporters.  One of the issues that the activists wanted to raise was the repressive, heavy-handed tactics of the Seattle Police Department.

Some have argued that this rash of killings of black people caught on video or reported by dozens of witnesses is nothing new, that the images of police chocking, shooting and beating poor black and working-class people is now more visible because of technological innovations that make it easier to capture these images. They are partially right.

As an internal colony in what some refer to as a prison house of nations that characterizes the U.S. nation state, black communities are separated into enclaves of economic exploitation and social degradation by visible and often invisible social and economic processes. The police have played the role not of protectors of the unrealized human rights of black people but as occupation forces. In those occupied zones of repression, everyone knows that the police operate from a different script than the ones presented in the cop shows that permeate popular entertainment culture in the U.S. In those shows, the police are presented as heroic forces battling the forces of evil, which sometimes causes them to see the law and the rights of individuals as impediments. For many viewers, brutality and other practices is forgiven and even supported because the police are supposedly dealing with the evil irrational forces that lurk in the bowels of the barrios and ghettos in the imagination of the public. 

It was perfectly plausible for far too many white people in the U.S. that a wounded Mike Brown, already shot and running away from Darren Wilson the cop who would eventually murdered Michael, would then turn around and run back at Wilson, who claim he had no other choice but to engulf Michael in a hail of bullets killing this “demon” as Wilson described him. And unfortunately, many whites will find a way to understand how Charleena, who called the police herself to report a burglary, would then find herself dead at the hands of the police she called.

But the psychopathology of white supremacy is not the focus here. We have commented on that issue on numerous occasions. The concern is with some black people who have not grasped the new conditions that we find ourselves in—that black people don’t understand that there will never be justice as defined by the cessation of these kinds of killings.  Why? Because incarceration, police killings, beatings, charging our children as adults and locking them away for decades, all of these are inherent in the logic of repression that has always characterized the relationship between the U.S. racist settler-state and black people. 

In other words, if Black people really want this to stop we have to come to the difficult conclusion, for some, that the settler-colonial, capitalist, white supremacist state and society is the enemy of black people and most oppressed people in the world. Difficult for many because it means that Black people can no longer deny the fact that we are not equal members of this society, that we are seen as the enemy and that our lives, concerns, perspectives, history and desires for the future are of no concern to the rulers of this state and for vast numbers of ordinary whites.

That is why Charleena Lyles joins Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and Philando Castile, just a few of the names of our people victimized in the prime of their lives by the protectors of white power wearing police uniforms.

She will not be the last. 

The logic of neoliberal capitalism has transformed our communities and peoples into a sector of the U.S. population that is no longer needed. This new reality buttressed by white supremacist ideology that is unable to see the equal value of non-European (white) life has created a precarious situation for black people, more precarious, than any other period in U.S. history.

African (Black) people are a peaceful people and believe in justice.  But there can be no peace without justice. For as long as our people are under attack, as long as our fundamental collective human rights are not recognized, as long as we don’t have the ability to determine our own collective fate, we will resist, we will fight, and we will create the conditions to make sure that the war being waged against us will not continue to be a one- sided conflict.   

The essence of the People(s)-Centered Human Rights framework is that the oppressed have a right to right to resist, the right to self-determination, and the right to use whatever means necessary to protect and realize their fundamental rights.

Charleena, we will say your name and the names of all who have fallen as we deliver the final death-blow against this organized barbarism known as the U.S.

 

Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch magazine.  His latest publications include contributions to Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence (Counterpunch Books, 2014), Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA (HarperCollins, 2014) and Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral ( CODESRIA, 2013). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com

 

Victory for Black Struggle in Buenaventura, Colombia

Three-week national strike in Buenaventura was a collective human rights struggle which challenged neoliberalism head on

 

Report from Black Alliance for Peace

 

After many hours of dialogues and negotiations an agreement was reached in the early hours of Tuesday 6th June, bringing an end to a 22-day strike in Buenaventura, Colombia. The strike, in the mainly Afro-descendant and Indigenous city on Colombia’s Pacific Coast was an inspirational reminder of how collective, local level and “people-centered” human rights (Baraka, 2013)[1] processes can challenge economic powers and neoliberal politics.

 

The strike commenced on the 16th May, calling on the national government to declare an economic, social and ecological emergency in the city in accordance with article 215 of the 1991 Constitution, and commit resources to address urgent human rights issues.  A history of government abandonment, structural racism and lack of investment in infrastructure and basic services has left Buenaventura’s population of just over 400,000 facing widespread violations of basic human rights.  Over 60% of the population lives in poverty and 9.1% in extreme poverty.  Only ¾ of the population enjoy running water which arrives for a mere few hours of day at most and the sewage system covers just 60% of the city.  The infant mortality rate is rate is 27.6 per 1000, and in 2015 the city’s public hospital was closed leaving the population with access only to primary health care.  Less than a quarter of the population have access to secondary education and unemployment rates are at 62% with the vast majority of workers surviving from informal work.[2]  

 

Thus for 21 days and nights as many as 200,000 members of the community of Buenaventura gathered, marched and protested to demand the government fulfil their basic human rights. But there was another, underlying, much more structural issue being addressed here. The civic strike called into question the very neoliberal economic model that has left the city with some of the lowest socio-economic indicators in the country.

 

Challenging neoliberalism through grass roots, collective protest

 

Buenaventura is home to Colombia’s most important international port, through which 70% of the country’s imports and exports pass, generating billions in revenue each year.  However since the port was privatised under neoliberal adjustments in 1994, the city has seen a steep rise in unemployment and a lack of investment as the majority of profits go straight into the hands of private owners most of whom are from outside the city.  Ongoing mega-development projects to expand the port, building new terminals, allowing for increased capacity and more container ships to dock, have caused environmental damage to the ecosystem of the surrounding mangrove forest, destruction of traditional livelihoods and the forced displacement of fishing communities who have lived on the sea front for generations.   These same development projects are sighted as the root cause of the intense violence faced in many of the poorest barrios closest to the port over the last decade.  Violence in which countless people, community leaders, unionists, young people and women have been threatened, tortured, raped or murdered, spreading terror through the communities which many activists assert are a strategy to provoke displacement and clear the territory for development.

 

Thus, the strike chants to fulfil human rights to education, health care and decent employment were accompanied by critiques of the economic model which allows foreign and national business people to profit from Buenaventura’s port and resources at the cost of the dignity and the very lives of its population. As members of the Civic Strike Committee called for dialogues with the government, the community upheld the strike by holding cultural events at strategic meeting points along the main roads leading in and out of the port. The meeting points functioned as road blocks, preventing cargo trucks from entering and leaving the port, creating instant concern from private investors and thus forcing the government to pay attention to the strike.  After the first day of the strike the Chamber of Commerce reported losses of COP $10,000 million (USD $3.5 million)[3] and by the 31st May that figure had risen to COP $11,000 million (USD $3,767,170).[4]

 

If there could be any doubt that this strike was a challenge to the neoliberal order the response of the state made it clear.  From the fourth day of the strikes the government sent the ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron) to violently repress the strikers, attacking meeting points with tear gas to clear the way for the cargo trucks to reach the port.  This soon became a routine, night after night the ESMAD and SIJIN (undercover police) would arrive to attack the strikers and once crowds had dispersed a caravan of cargo trucks would file into or out of the city flanked by numerous police and military. 

 

Not only did forces attack protestors in the streets, but tear gas was also fired into homes in some of the most vulnerable communities, and there were reports of an attack on a health centre in the barrio of Independencia on the 31 May. A commission, made up of local, national and international human rights organisations was set up to monitor the human rights situation during the strikes. It reported that excessive use of force by public security forces, including the ESMAD and the SIJIN had left more than 300 people injured, at least 10 from fire arms.  By the end of the strike over 200 children had been severely affected by tear gas and tragically at least two pregnant women had lost their babies. The city’s main clinic, heaving with casualties from the nightly attacks, was completely militarised and there were reports that injured victims were being threatened and intimidated so as not to make official complaints about the actions of the public security forces.

 

The human rights commission condemned the war-like tactics used by the state against a community exercising its right to peaceful protest. In a press conference on the 1st June, Human Rights defender and member of Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), Danelly Estupiñan asserted “we reject the Colombian State’s military response to an issue that could have been resolved by political means, it’s as if social protest were a crime.”[5]

 

The scenario was a chilling example of Enrique Dussel’s (2000) model of the “myth of modernity” in which he describes the so-called “just colonial wars” waged against colonised peoples when they dare oppose or present themselves as an obstacle to modernity.[6] Or perhaps Maldonado-Torres’ depiction of the “coloniality of being” in which, drawing from Fanon, he shows how racism functions to naturalise the non-ethics of war, creating a situation in which during supposedly peaceful times, war-like actions are carried out against colonised peoples, those wretched of the earth, in defence of the colonial project of modernity.[7]  Indeed, at a time when peace agreements between the government and the FARC are just being implemented in Colombia, the military actions of Nobel Peace Laureate President Santos against his own citizens caused outrage.  His denials of the excessive use of force[8] in the face of evidence contained in countless videos caused further indignation.

 

The corporate media also played its part in upholding the discourse and agenda of the neoliberal establishment.  While channels such as RCN and Caracol, Colombia’s main TV news stations dedicated endless segments to ongoing opposition protests in neighbouring Venezuela, they barely reported on the strikes in Buenaventura during the first few days. While opposition in Venezuela were described as peaceful protestors, resisting state oppression, and fighting for their rights, strikers in Buenaventura were “vandals” and “looters”.  While the Venezuelan state was critiqued for its use of force, there was little mention of the violent repression exercised by the Colombian ESMAD, police and military in Buenaventura.  Only after the people themselves released countless video evidence of attacks by the security forces did the media begin to report on the reality. Yet for some media outlets the focus remained fixed on the loss of profits the strike was causing for the port and the country.  As has often been asserted by politicians and media alike, Afro-descendant and indigenous strikers were presented as an obstacle to development and progress.  

 

Yet, in the face of such opposition, violence and repression, the people of Buenaventura stood firm and remained committed to the strike throughout the 22 days.  Defying state imposed curfews and bans on marching, they took to the streets and demanded their rights.  This is not the first time such an historic and unique public protest has taken place in the city. In June 2016, in the context of the National Agrarian Summit strikes, a fleet of over 100 fishing boats took the waters surrounding the port for an entire day blocking the entrance of cargo ships into the port terminal amid chants and calls for human rights, territorial rights and justice.

 

Indeed, this historic action was just the latest in a long history of activism by Afro-descendant and indigenous communities. As with previous actions, this was a participatory and people-centred human rights process, which from the beginning sought to involve the community in the mobilisation and decision-making processes. Dialogues between the Civic Strike Committee and the Government delegation were transmitted live on local television and streamed on the internet, the public was invited to meetings and a general assembly was held to discuss the dialogues. The strike involved 117 social organisations, from cargo boat operators, to taxi drivers, the association of business people, to the association of evangelical churches, women’s groups, young people’s and student groups and national and local organisations dedicated to the defence of the ethno-territorial rights of Afro-descendant and indigenous communities.

 

A special heritage fund for Buenaventura

 

Early on in the dialogues the government asserted it would not declare a state of emergency as demanded by the strikers. Instead it called on the Civic Strike Committee to come up with alternative proposals in relation to the main issues presented in the original demand. After many days and nights of negations the government accepted an alternative demand to create an exclusive fund to invest in Buenaventura. The agreement, which was signed on the morning of Tuesday 6th May by representatives of the government, the civic committee and guarantors including the representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, included commitments to:

 

·       Create an integrated ten-year development plan for Buenaventura, financed by a special autonomous fund with resources considered as the “heritage” of the people in Buenaventura and which includes certain institutional reforms and effective community participation;

·       Adopt programmes and projects to ensure the full enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights for the people of Buenaventura including rights to health, water and sanitation for the entire city, access to quality and culturally relevant education, rejuvenation of ancestral livelihood practices and adequate housing in rural and urban areas;

·       The heritage fund will initially be funded by 50% of the taxes from the businesses and companies that profit from activities related to the port, plus US $76 million dollars that the government will raise from credits with international banks;

·       These initial funds will address immediate needs in the city including the construction of a hospital complex, the first phase of a master plan for urban sanitation and rural aqueducts, and an intensive care unit, among others. 

·       The development plan and projects will be presented to congress in an urgent legal bill on 20th July 2017.[9]

 

Importantly one of the conditions of the proposal was that the funds would be administered by a board of directors in which not only the government, but also the leaders of the strike will participate, with international monitoring from bodies such as the United Nations. The government also agreed to carry out proper investigations and penalization for the abuses and human rights violations committed by state forces, guaranties for those who has been criminalized and assurance of security and protection for the many leaders that guided the 22 days of peaceful, organized and successful struggle.

 

Buenaventura will accept no more empty promises

 

For the Afro-descendant communities of Buenaventura, and around the country, this is not the first time that agreements for resource allocation and guarantees of rights have been made with the national government. Since their ancestors fought for their emancipation from slavery, activists can point to a long history of broken promises. One of the most important achievements in the history of Afro-descendant struggle in Colombia was the adoption of Law 70 in 1993 which guarantees collective territorial rights for black communities. Yet while many thousands of hectors of lands have been given collective titles, communities still face ongoing battles against transnational corporations and the state to protect the environment and natural resources of their territories. 

 

In the framework of Colombia’s “Victims Law” of 2011, Decree law 4635 of 2011 created processes for collective reparations for Afro-descendant communities affected by the armed conflict, but so far only one claim for collective reparations has been completed and it has not yet been implemented. Even in the recent peace process indigenous and Afrodescendant communities had to fight to be recognised and included as collective victims of the armed conflict. They submitted a 20 page document safeguarding ethnic and territorial rights in the post-conflict era, but this “ethnic chapter” was reduced to just 3½ pages that were only included in the now more than 300 page peace agreement, in the last minutes of negotiations and due to huge pressure from activists. 

 

The very strike held this month in Buenaventura was a follow-up after agreements had not been implemented from a previous strike in February 2014. The 2014 strike resulted in the creation of a fund Todos Somos Pazcífico (A play on the phrases “we are all peaceful” and “we are all from the Pacific”) which allocated US $400 million for infrastructure projects in four cities across the region, but has faced serious delays and political obstacles.  

 

The attitude of the government ministers and delegations throughout the dialogues demonstrated a lack of political will to meet the demands of the strikers, and the use of force clearly showed that their loyalties lie, not with the people, but with private profit.  Thus, while the signing of the agreement was a cause for celebration, as people were able to return to work, to move freely through the city, to sleep at night without fear of tear gas attacks, Buenaventura entered this post-strike era with its eyes wide open. When signing the agreement, in front of thousands of spectators watching online and on local television, the Civic Strike Committee members were clear about this. The strike had not ended, it was merely suspended on the condition that the government meets its commitments. If the agreement is not honoured by August 2017, the community of Buenaventura will take to the streets again.

 

But whatever happens with the implementation of the agreement, one thing is for sure. 22 days of collective action and community education through direct participation in the strike has created a new level of consciousness and resistance among the population of Buenaventura.  The achievements of the strike may well be material, but they are also symbolic and ideological. The main chant of the strike “el pueblo no se rinde carajo” (the people won’t give up), first emerged during the “Mobilisation of Black Women in Defence of Territory and Life”, members of PCN who in November 2014, marched to Bogota to demand the removal of mining equipment from their river in Northern Cauca. To hear hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds in Buenaventura and across the country chant these same words was incredibly powerful and shows the reach and significance of the strike.

 

The protests in Buenaventura reminded the country and the world of the urgent situation in the city. The fact that people, described by the city’s Mayor after the first day of the strike as rebuscadores (people who live day to day, surviving on informal work) were able to hold out for 22 days is both historic and heroic.  Buenaventura showed the world that it would fight for its dignity and would no longer allow the state to violate its rights.  It showed the world that its people had had enough. As Strike Committee member Victor Vidal declared before signing the agreement “we have achieved agreements that will leave some important actions for Buenaventura in terms of management, projects and resources. But this is not their main significance, their main significance is that the people of Buenaventura have shown the world what we are, we are great, important and capable people.”

 

Solidary and political pressure both from national and international colleagues and friends of the Afro-descendant movement in Colombia was also fundamental in this strike.  While mainstream media largely ignored the situation, social media was abuzz with articles, videos, testimonies and tweets that were shared internationally. Colleagues and friends of movement from the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) and the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN), The Group of Academics in Defence of the Afro-Colombian Pacific (GAIDEPAC), the Institute of the Black World (IBW 21), the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and many others mobilised support, writing petitions, releasing statements and calling on congress people to put pressure on the Colombian State. Letters of solidarity and calls to the Colombian president from unions and activist groups were sent from the US and the UK and protests were held outside embassies.  

 

Afro-descendant activists all over Colombia held marches, rallies and protests in support of the strike.  Brothers and sisters in the Chocó Department who also held a an 18 day civic strike and who celebrated the signing of an agreement on the 27th May continued to show solidarity and support for the ongoing strike in Buenaventura.  In Cali a group of black women, many who had taken part in the march to Bogota in 2014 entered the offices of the regional Ombudsman and declared permanent assembly until the office would give an adequate response to the human rights violations in Buenaventura. 

 

This was indeed a collective process and a struggle that will not only affect the people of Buenaventura but the Afro-descendant and indigenous movements throughout the country.  There is no doubt that this historic strike will be a source of inspiration and important learning for social movements struggling against the harsh impacts of neoliberal policies around the world, demonstrating how grass roots collective action and community-based education can achieve change in the face of powerful oppression.  As the strikers of Buenaventura chanted as they marched through the streets of their territory, “pueblo unido, jamás será vencido” “A united people will never be defeated!”

 

Report was prepared by Esther Ojulari, Human rights consultant and researcher, Member Black Alliance for Peace (BAP)

 

Black Alliance for Peace: A People(s)-Centered Human Rights Project Against War, Repression and Imperialism

 

Blackallianceforpeace.com

 

 

[1] Baraka, A. (2013). “People-centered” human rights as a framework for social transformation. Retrieved from http://www.ajamubaraka.com/peoplecentered-human-rights-as-a-framework-for-social-transformation/

[2] Figures reported by the Afro-Colombian Congressional Bench in“Latentes problemas en el pacífico colombiano” (24 Mayo, 2017) available at:  http://www.reporterosasociados.com.co/2017/05/latentes-problemas-en-el-pacifico-colombiano/

[3] https://90minutos.co/paro-civico-buenaventura-perdidas-millonarias-17-05-2017/

[4] http://caracol.com.co/radio/2017/05/31/economia/1496182171_026535.html

[5] https://colombiaplural.com/la-respuesta-militar-del-gobierno-buenaventura-300-heridos-10-arma-fuego/

[6] Dussel, E. (2000). Europa, modernidad y eurocentrismo. In E. Lander (Ed.), La colonialidad del saber: eurocentrismo y ciencias sociales. Perspectivas Latinoamericanas. Buenos Aires: CLACSO, Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales.

[7] Maldonado-Torres, N (2007) 'On the Coloniality of Being', Cultural Studies, 21:2, 240 - 270

[8] http://caracol.com.co/m/radio/2017/06/06/politica/1496784157_890962.html

[9] Singed agreement available at: http://www.mininterior.gov.co/sites/default/files/noticias/2017-06-06_08-48.pdf

 

Statement on the end to the Civic strike in Buenaventura, Colombia

Greetings everyone.

 

I'm happy to inform that the Civic Strike in Buenaventura has reached an agreement with the national government and the strike has been suspended.

 

This is a major and historical moment not only for the people in Buenaventura but for Black movement and people in Colombia. The strike demonstrated to racist Colombians and Colombian government that for years have been indifferent to the suffering of centuries of racism, exclusion, abject poverty and state sanctioned and non-state violence, that Black people had reached a point where no more would be tolerated.

 

The agreement has four important components:

 

1. The creation of a special autonomous fund with resources that are consider patrimony of the people in Buenaventura, coming from 50% of the taxes from the business and companies that profit from activities related to the port, plus $76 million dollars that the government will raise from credits with international banks, regulated by a law that should be signed in a month.

 

2. A initial investment of COP$1.500 billions to address the immediate needs for basic infrastructure for water, health and sanitation services in rural and urban areas.

 

3. An integrated development plan for the city that includes certain institutional reforms and effective community participation with objective to make of Buenaventura a port for the people and not simply for profit.

 

4. The proper investigations and penalization for the abuses and human rights violations committed by state forces, guaranties for those who has been criminalized and ensuring security and protection for the many leaders that guided the 22 days of peaceful, organized and successful struggle.

 

In the name of the people in resistance in Buenaventura, in the name of the Black Communities' Process in Colombia (PCN) and me, thank you for your unconditional fraternal solidarity. Your participation helped to put the pressure and ensure that an action that main stream media was eager to minimize and ignore got international attention, interest and support.

 

Although it has been a historic victory, this is not the end. These agreements can be easily ignored by the Colombian government.  Also, some in government and in civil society have condemned the Buenaventura leaders for the significant loss of money that resulted from the strike. We certainly expect that for those individuals, many connected to the paramilitary elements that are still present in our communities, that this expression by the people will not be forgotten.  That is in many ways the Colombian way.  But we will not be deterred. With your help, we will continue to struggle for self-determination for ourselves, but also on behalf of all who are resisting oppression and struggling for new societies. 

 

Things you can do now:

 

- Issue a statement in support of the people of in Buenaventura.  Recognize them for their strength and courage, but also the level of political clarity and organization that made the strike successful.

 

- Continue condemning the violent repression and violations that were committed by the state forces and ask Colombian authorities to ensure proper investigation and penalization of the ESMAD as whole. There is not point on looking for individuals, the ESMAD as part of police institution committed serious violations of human rights and humanitarian provision, abusing its responsibility to provide security and instead creating a war-like situation against unarmed civilians, particularly in neighborhoods at night when people was sleeping. Reports from the Strike's human rights committee counted 209 children severely affected by tear gas, and still counting. 

 

- Condemn the negligent response of president Juan Manuel Santos who could have controlled the ESMAD excesses. Remind him of his duty as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of a peace-building process that the whole world is watching.

 

- We will still be in need for translations and organizing brief reports on writing, audio and video. There are a number of people, including me, that are available for interviews in Spanish and English. Much still needs to be said about the Buenaventura strike. 

 

- Consider organizing visits to Buenaventura for monitoring purposes, and stay informed about the developments of the agreement.

 

- I will be in the US, mostly in the south from June 16 to July 4th. Consider organizing conversations with your community, radio talks or any other opportunity to educate people about the struggle in Colombia. I will be happy to accommodate to the best of my possibilities while there. If you would like to bring me to your community please send a message to info@blackallianceforpeace.com

 

- If possible, those with the knowledge, help us to thank the Orishas for protecting and guiding the people and leaders in Buenaventura, and pray for their safety.

 

This is a time for moving from fraternal solidarity to broader movement building with common agendas for the liberation and self-determination of Black people. We are one people. My struggle is your struggle.

 

Thank you very much from our hearts.

 

The struggle continues.

 

Charo

PCN

 

 

PEACEFUL STRIKERS ARE STILL BEING ATTACKED BY ARMED POLICE IN BUENAVENTURA, BUT THE PEOPLE WON’T GIVE UP!

Article for the Black Alliance for Peace
By: Esther Ojulari

march to Isla de la paz 31 may.JPG

“I know you’re fighting a just cause…We go all round the country and we see people fighting just causes all the time…But this is our job…our role here is to attack, so that’s what we do.”

These were the words my friend was told when he engaged in conversation the other night with an agent of the ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron) on the streets of Buenaventura, Colombia, in the context of the ongoing civic strike.

The mainly Afro-descendant and indigenous community of Buenaventura on the Pacific Coast of Colombia has been on a civic strike now for 16 days. 16 days in which business, banks, shops and schools have been closed down and taxis and buses have stopped working to demand that the national government fulfils is basic human rights obligations to its citizens.   

The demands of the strike are clear. Due to the desperate human rights situation which the community faces in Buenaventura, the Strike Committee called for the National Government to adopt a State of Social, Economic and Ecological Emergency in accordance with article 215 of the 1991 Colombian Constitution.  This declaration would commit the government to providing within 30 days (90 days with extension) sufficient funds to address urgent issues in the city; basic and fundamental human rights which are seriously lacking, such as clean drinking water, a hospital with tertiary level health care, adequate sewage systems, quality and culturally relevant education institutions, and reparations for victims of violence, conflict and injustice. The Civic Strike Committee has been in and out of talks with the government for two weeks and the government has so far refused to meet the demands of the strikers.

Meanwhile day after day up to 200,000 strikers have taken to the streets marching or congregating in collective meeting points along the main Avenida 6o  (6th Avenue) and the Via Alterna Interna  (ring road) which both lead from the outskirts of Buenaventura to the city centre, and Colombia’s most important international port.  The strikers protest at the injustice of neoliberal economic policies which leave a city of over 500,000 people without basic public services, infrastructure and human rights, while the profits from tens of billions of dollars of imports and exports each year line the pockets of private owners.  

The meeting points, consisting of open-air tents and sound systems, in which strikers peacefully resist this economic model, though cultural traditions of music, singing, dancing, storytelling, banging pots and pans and chanting for basic human rights, have a another function; preventing the cargo trucks, from entering and leaving the city. This is a historical and monumental form of resistance, not only to Colombia’s economic model, but to the wider global economic system, as a small group of determined protestors block one of the most strategic international ports for trade between Latin America and Asia.  The response from the state has been has been violent, brutal and repressive.

Since the 19th March the ESDMAD have been present in the city, and backed up by the police, military and undercover police operations, has rained down on strikers firing not only tear gas but on several occasions fire arms. Tear gas has repeatedly been fired at residential areas and in particular into the most vulnerable communities where it easily enters into Buenaventura’s traditional casas de palafitos (wooden houses on stilts) causing asphyxiation for babies and young children, many of whom have been rushed to the clinic on the backs of motorbikes in the early house of the mornings. Night after night the ESMAD has torn down meeting points to make way for the cargo trucks that enter and leave the city just before dawn.

Last night was a particularly bad night. We arrived at the Sabrosuras meeting point in El Dorado barrio shortly before midnight after reports of earlier attacks by the ESMAD. As we arrived we were greeted by at least 150 strikers, men, women, and children, chatting, drinking coffee, singing along to music. All was quiet for a couple of hours, but then at around 2am we got news from a meeting point further along the road that the ESMAD were on their way back.

Groups of young strikers prepared to defend themselves and the meeting point, committed to preventing the trucks from passing. They strengthen the makeshift road blocks of tree branches, tires and planks of wood, and set up shields made from billboards several hundred metres from the official meeting point were people of all ages were still gathered. From our vantage point we could see the public security forces slowly advancing, first a battering tank to take out the road blocks, then an ESMAD tank followed by ESMAD agents on foot, and behind them several policemen on motorbikes and more tanks, trucks and cars.  It felt like an army had been sent to overpower a couple of hundred unarmed protestors, with nothing but stones for self-defence.  

The first encounter was brief, the battering tank took out the road blocks in a matter of seconds and the ESMAD began firing tear gas scattering the protestors into the nearby streets. The convoy thundered on, creaking and moaning under the weight of so metal armour, easily reaching and passing the tents of the meeting point.  For a short time after they passed and continued down the road there was relative silence as protestors wearily made their way back to the main road. Then more ESMAD trucks and agents arrived and a two-hour confrontation ensued between ESMAD and a hundred or so mainly young people.

When the attack finally calmed down, the dust settled and most of the protestors had been scattered the cavalry arrived.  The raison d'être for all this violence. First an ESMAD tank, then police cars, then a line of 20 or so police on bikes ceremoniously ushered a procession of no less than 50 cargo trucks into the city. One after one the trucks thundered by as outraged bystanders shouted angrily at the drivers and ESMAD agents point blank shot tear gas at anyone who looked like they might try to stop the neoliberal caravan of profit as it made its way to the port.

The ESMAD hung around well after the trucks had passed through, still shooting the odd tear gas canister, revealing their immaturity as they hid behind walls, clearly enjoying playing at war while the city’s residents walked the streets attempting to go about their morning activities in peace.  Except it wasn’t a game and the scene really resembled one of occupation and war.  When the ESMAD finally moved out strikers and bystanders gathered on the sidewalks to mockingly cheer and clap the national heroes. The agents responded with equal scorn, taunting the crowds, laughing and putting their thumbs in the air.

The confrontations at El Dorado and Independencia barrios didn’t end there, they continued well into the morning, even as the Civic Strike Committee organised and planned for the day’s cultural activity, a march from El Dorado and other meeting towards the Isla de la Paz barrio located near the Via Alterna Interna.

Yes. Last night was a particularly bad night. There were numerous injuries from tear gas and a further six fire arms injuries confirmed so far.  Evidence was gathered and shared by strikers of empty tear gas canisters, bullets from army rifles, photos of armed, plain clothed officers in the crowds and videos of the ESMAD advancing and firing tear gas at the unarmed strikers and at the houses in the nearby streets. The voice of one young woman carried across the wind as she called from a balcony in a building engulfed with tear gas a few streets away, repeating over and over “murderers, murderers, you are killing us, murderers.”

As the strikes entered their 16th day in Buenaventura, and the Committee prepared for the arrival of government ministers this morning to present their reformed demands, the call they have been making for weeks for the government to remove the ESMAD forces and end the violence on the streets and in the communities of Buenaventura resonated more strongly than ever. For how can we negotiate agreements in the middle of a war?  The continued presence of the ESMAD, who in their own words, are here to “attack,” has made it impossible to negotiate a truly peaceful end to the strike, and demonstrates that the government has little intention of respecting the demands and rights of the community and is farm more concerned about protecting the private interests of the port.  Nevertheless, in the face of an indifferent government the people of Buenaventura have stayed strong and committed to this people-centred human rights and political process.  As the dialogues commenced in the afternoon of the 16th day, the community of Buenaventura continued to assert their right to march, strike and protest in the streets, to demand their fundamental human rights and to chant day after day and night after night that “el pueblo no se rinde carajo!” the people won’t give up!

 

 

 

Afro-Colombian representative to update international community on massive Black resistance movement in Colombia

Over the last week Black organizations in Colombian have been engaged in a massive “civic strike” and resistance. The strike and ongoing mobilizations in Buenaventura, the country’s main port city, and the department of Choco was fueled by the ongoing human rights crisis that includes continued violence by paramilitary forces directed at black organizers and communities, lack of basis governmental services such as an uninterrupted supply of water, inadequate housing, forced displacement, police brutality and land thefts. 

Buenaventura was shut down along with its port resulting in the loss of millions of pesos for the government. Instead of dialog with the people, the response from the government was to unleash ESMAD (National Security Forces) in an effort to open up the port and suppress the mobilizations that have seen tens of thousands take to the streets in Buenaventura and in Choco.

Now that the peaceful mobilizations are being violently repressed by the state, representatives of various black organizations including the Afro-Colombian National Council of Peace are calling on the international community to call for an end to the repression and a dialog with the communities to address the demands of the people.

Charo Mina-Rojas, a member of the national leadership and international coordinator of the Black Community Process and Afro-Colombian National Council of Peace as well as a member of the Ethnic Commission is available to discuss the situation in Colombia.

According to Charo Mina-Rojas, “it is important for the international community to understand, and especially the black communities of the U.S. because of the support the Colombian government receives from the U.S., that the peace process touted by Colombian President Juan Santos in his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump has not resulted in peace or security for Black people in Colombia.  

For more information see: https://afrocolombian.org/ - https://blackallianceforpeace.com/
###

 

Press Availability

Contact: Charo Mina-Rojas

57 314 370 8931

charominarojas@gmail.com

@AfroColombians

 

National Strike in Buenaventura

Esther Ojulari

Submitted to Black Alliance for Peace

                                                      Mass action closing down port in Buenaventura, Colombia May 21

                                                      Mass action closing down port in Buenaventura, Colombia May 21

Monday 22nd May 2017

 

The city of Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific coast is home to the country’s main international port through which billions of dollars of imports and exports pass every year. Yet due to decades of abandonment form the government, the mainly Afrodescendant and indigenous community of Buenaventura does not have access to adequate health services, education or running water. Further, neoliberal development projects to expand the port threaten the very existence of communities as traditional fishing livelihoods are destroyed and whole communities violently displaced from their ancestral lands. 

Since last Tuesday 16th May the community of Buenaventura (along with communities in the Chocó region of Colombia) has been on general strike demanding that the government fulfils basic human rights to water, education, health, culture, land and freedom from racism and violence.  Businesses were closed, road blocks were set up at several points along the main road and peaceful protestors chanted, sang, danced and banged cooking pots to call attention to the desperate situation. On the first day along the Chamber of Commerce reported the strikes had caused up to 10,000 million pesos (about $3.5 million USD) in losses. 

For three days there was a sense of joy and hope as the Civic Strike Committee entered into discussions with the government. But unfortunately due to lack of consensus the discussions were suspended and on Friday 19th the national government sent the ESMAD (riot squad) to repress the protestors and violently remove the road blocks. The crowds and communities were attacked with tear gas throughout the day and into the night of the 19th causing numerous injuries.  Tragically in the community of Punta el Este, located at the end of Buenaventura’s main bridge to the port and city centre, Puente Piñal, a baby was suffocated from the gas causing outrage and indignation throughout the community. The ESMAD had one aim here, to open the road for the trucks to leave the port and allow the global capitalist machine to clunk back into action. Once again private business interests were prioritised over the lives of the black and indigenous community. 

On Saturday the government installed a prohibition on public demonstrations and a curfew in response to looting of supermarkets by some people, although many have claimed these actions were instigated by outside forces.  Nevertheless the peaceful protestors have remained firm in their objectives and calls for a satisfactory response to their demands. On the 20th March over 30,000 people put on white shirts and marched to the city centre to demonstrate that the strike would go on, and on the 21st, National day of Afro-Colombian Heritage, we estimate that up to 200,000 marched to the outskirts of the city. Up to 200 people have been detained by the authorities accused of participating in looting and rioting and while the freedom of some has now been secured many have ongoing legal processes. 

Today as the Committee returns to discussions with the government the people of Buenaventura continue to strike and continue to march under the calls “el pueblo no se rinde carajo” (the people won’t give up…), and “pueblo unido, jamás será vencido” (a united people will never be defeated). 

In solidarity with the struggling people of Black Colombia and in defence of fundamental human rights, the Black Alliance for Peace calls on the people in the United States to sign the petition below, but also to circulate information on this situation through your networks since it is being “whited out” by the corporate press. We are also asking that you send statements of solidarity to Charominarojas@gmail.com

Solidarity with the Civic Strike in Btura/Soliaridad con el Paro Civico en Buenaventura

 

Ultimatum to the National Government Regarding a Humanitarian Crisis and the Lack of Inclusion of Afrodescendents in the Peace Accords

Bogota, 19 May 2017

The National Afrocolombian Peace Council (CONPA) sends a greeting to the Colombian people, and in particular, a greeting of life, happiness, freedom to our sisters and brothers in resistance in the port city of Buenaventura and in the Choco region.

We thank the media present here for responding to our call, on the eve of the celebration of the Day of AfroColombianity, May 21.

The Black, Afrocolombian, Raizal and Palequero in Colombia are living through a historical and systematic situation of exclusion and racism, which, during these days, has developed into a humanitarian crisis and threatens our very existence. In April of this year, according to our communities, there have been new occurrences of mass displacement, as well as forced confinements, which affect thousands of our families; new assassinations, disappearances, kidnappings and denunciations related to the reappearance of armed groups in the lower San Juan, upper Baudo and Rio Sucio, Carmen del Darien in the department of Choco, in Southern Bolivar, in rural and urban zones of Tumaco and in Northern Cauca, areas where this is a concentration of the FARC.

In the territories, we continue to find mutilated and tortured bodies, we continue to live through combat and armed harassment, threats, arbitrary detention, we suffer attacks and killings of community leaders, forced urban recruitment and recently we have been receiving threats against our sons and daughters, with the message that if they are found outside of the house after 6 in the evening, they will be raped and killed.

In face of this situation of secular neglect and incompliance of State obligations, lack of recognition for, as well as protection and advancement of our rights, and in the face of economic policies and megaprojects that are being imposed in our territories which continue being factors of plundering and impoverishment of our people, the civic strikes have been organized in the department of Choco and in the port of Buenaventura. These will continue into other areas in order to continue to call for the attention of the State.

The celebration of the Day of Afrocolombianity reminds us of the actions taken for enforcement of our rights, initiated by our ancestors, and which we continue to advance with strong will for the construction of peace.

Mister President Juan Manuel Santos, and representatives of Congress, as a way of advancing our rights, CONPA proposes:

- To work with a Normative Framework that covers all issues and topics necessary for the implementation of the 29 agreements contained in the Ethnic Chapter, together with the peoples represented through the High Level Body created by the Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Accords

  • -  A guarantee for the establishment of a special fund for the implementation of the accords in Black territories and communities

  • -  A guarantee that the fundamental right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent will not be regulated via the fasttrack process.

  • -  Implementation of a route for participation, as agreed upon with the government within framework of the National, Campesina, Ethnic and Popular Minga and the strike in Choco, and which guarantees compliance with the agreements that are reached with the government with the Civic Strike of Buenaventura also related to the expedition, this coming 27 of August of 2017, the regulated decrees for Law 70 of 1993.

  • -  Formulation, in collaboration with the people, their authorities and organizations, of a specific and differentiated policy for the eradication and substitution of illicit crops that covers collective and ancestral territories of Ethnic Peoples.

  • -  Inclusion of San Basilio de Palenque in the Territory Focussed Development Plans (PDETs)

  • -  A guarantee of the conditions for the updating of the Integral and Long Term Development Plan

    for Black, Afrocolombian, Raizal and Palequero people, in a participatory way, and based on consultation, and that this is converted into the Plan for the Afrodescendent Decade, guaranteeing the resources assigned yet not implemented in the 2014-2017 plan are reintegrated and added to this current Plan.

  • -  A guarantee that in the High Level Body for Gender of the Peace Process, there is full participation of Indigenous and Afrodesdendent women, to guarantee a ethnic-racial gender perspective

  • -  That necessary measures are taken to ensure that the established institutional mechanisms, or those yet to be established, for the implementation of the peace accords, are based on consultation, guaranteeing the participation of ethnoterritorial Indigenous and Afrodescendent authorities, towards the compliance of its functions and protocols.

We would like to take this opportunity to make public the invitation, this 25 of May, Day for the Dignity of Victims of Sexual Violence, to participate in a symbolic act, where Afrodescendent women will make public 1000 cases of sexual violence against Afrodescendent women in the framework of the armed internal conflict, and to recognize the T-622 Court Decision of November 10, 2016, that recognizes the Atrato River as a subject of rights.

As Afrodescendent people, we are living a humanitarian crisis that threatens our very existence as peoples. The Civic Strikes in Choco and Buenaventura, and those that are to come, are a response to State neglect. If, within 30 days, there are no significant advances, we will seek out the international community and agencies that are following what is happening regarding peace in this country, peace which has become a reference point for the world.

Afrocolombian National Peace Council - CONPA

Press conference – video (in Spanish) https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=6WJP3e3_pUA& feature=youtu.be

 #VamosPuebloCarajo

 

 Statement on Venezuela

by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) & the Black Alliance for Peace

Massive May Day march in Caracas not reported by the media

Massive May Day march in Caracas not reported by the media

 

 The United States has been conducting a brutal, 20-year-long campaign of destabilization against Venezuela in an attempt to cause “regime change” in that country.  This has taken the form of economic sabotage and financial manipulation as well as support for the mobilization of right-wing forces in increasingly violent demonstrations.

 

This is not a recent policy but one that has also been carried out under the Obama and Bush administrations as well as the present Trump administration.  In 2002, right-wing forces inside Venezuela attempted a coup against then-President Hugo Chavez. Many sources have confirmed that the U.S. gave the go-ahead to the opposition to orchestrate the coup and promised support.  Soon after the coup, the people of Venezuela turned out in the streets in massive numbers and restored Chavez to the presidency.

 

Barack Obama continued the assault on the Venezuelan revolution by imposing crippling sanctions and asserting that Venezuela was a “security threat” to the United States. These attacks from the U.S. exemplify attempts to realize full-spectrum dominance, the epitome of imperialist intervention which has brought so much suffering to the world.

 

Some of the very same opposition leaders who were involved in the 2002 coup attempt are today behind the present unrest, which has seen well-financed opposition forces leading violent protests against the government of Nicolas Maduro.  The U.S. corporate media has reported on these actions but has blamed the violence on the Venezuelan government and has not reported the huge mobilizations in defense of the Maduro government.

 

Now a bipartisan bill has been submitted in the Senate (S.1018) with the intention of further destabilizing Venezuela.  For more information on this bill and some actions you can take to oppose it, please go to http://afgj.org/take-action-today-to-support-venezuelas-democracy.

 

The economic crises in Venezuela is severe.  The Venezuelan economy is dependent on its large oil resources.  The oil has been nationalized since 1976, but there has been a continual push from U.S. interests as well as wealthy Venezuelans to privatize it.  Though the oil remains nationalized, the refining, transportation, and markets are all private and have been used to undercut the ability of the oil industry to support the economy.  Additionally, in the past few years, with the encouragement of Wall Street, oil production around the world has been kept high, driving down the price, which hurts oil-dependent economies, including those of countries that the U.S. opposes, such as Russia and Iran, in addition to Venezuela.

 

The U.S. media also has been full of stories of Venezuelan supermarkets with near-empty shelves and long lines of people seeking basic necessities. What hasn’t been reported is that the privately owned food corporations are deliberately hoarding supplies intended for working-class neighborhoods while making sure that food and other goods are readily available in the wealthier areas.

 

The Bolivarian Revolution has always endeavored to be an ally of the people of United States and to extend a hand of friendship and solidarity.  When the U.S. government turned its back on the people of the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Venezuelan government offered humanitarian aid but was rebuffed. Venezuela provided fuel assistance to low-income Black and Brown people when the U.S. government would not.

 

These acts reinforced the strong support that many in the Black community had for the process in Venezuela and deepened the commitment of Black activists to stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela and their process. This support is in line with the long-standing Black radical tradition of defending nations under imperialist attack by the U.S. government. 

 

The defeat of the Bolivarian Revolution at the hands of U.S. imperialism and its reactionary right-wing allies in Venezuela would be a defeat for progressive forces all over the world and a disaster for the people of Venezuela and its people, as it has been in Libya and Ukraine and Haiti and every nation that has lost its sovereignty to the two-party commitment to imperialist intervention.

 

UNAC and the Black Alliance for Peace demand:

 

End US interference in the affairs of Venezuela!

Self-determination for the Venezuelan people!

End the sanctions and economic warfare now!

###

 

 

 

New statement by the Palestinian Prisoners Movement: We call for urgent action to confront the plans for the prisoners’ execution

 

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement engaged in the Strike of Freedom and Dignity within Israeli prisons issued a new statement on 6 May, the 20th day of open hunger strike.

The strike was launched on 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, by 1500 Palestinian prisoners and has been joined by a series of prominent leaders of the prisoners’ movement and the Palestinian national movement. Marwan Barghouthi, member of the Fateh central committee, launched the strike; leaders from all Palestinian political movements, including Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat, PFLP leader Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, Islamic Jihad leader Zaid Bseiso, Hamas leaders Hasan Salameh and Abbas al-Sayyed, DFLP leader Wajdi Jawdat, People’s Party leader Bassam Kandakji and many others, including the longest-held Palestinian prisoners Nael Barghouthi and Karim Younes.

The strikers have a series of demands, including an end to the denial of family visits, the right to appropriate health care, the right to education in prison and an end to solitary confinement and “administrative detention,” imprisonment without charge or trial.

The following statement was released today in Arabic by the Palestiian Prisoners’ Movement on behalf of the strikers and is translated into English below. We urge its widest distribution and the implementation of its calls to action, including the escalation of our international organizing and solidarity to build support around the world for the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and their just demands for dignity and freedom. (Click here for translation in Italian)

In the name of God, the most merciful

“Those to whom hypocrites said, ‘Indeed, the people have gathered against you, so fear them.’ But it merely increased them in faith, and they said, ‘God alone is sufficient for us and he is the best disposer of affairs.’” – the Holy Qur’an

Statement issued by the Palestinian Prisoners’ National Movement
Follow-Up Committee for the Hunger Strike

As the Dignity Strike of the prisoners’ movement enters its 20th day, it is the beginning of a stage of extreme danger to the lives of the prisoners on hunger strike. This day also marks a specific point in the context of the targeting of the strike by the fascist occupation government, which announced yesterday, led by Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan, that work is being done to recruit doctors from another country to carry out the crime of feeding the prisoners forcibly and that this heinous crime will take place in the Ramle prison clinic, which we have always experienced as a place of isolation and torture. We are also threatened with repression and murder by the al-Matsada repressive units, and informed of their permanent readiness for possible developments and confrontations inside prison.

This trend carries with it preparation for a targeted crime against the prisoners with the intention of murder. It is clear that we are in the next stage now, that of repression, abuse, and attempts to break the strike through threatening the lives of the prisoners. The ongoing preparations indicate that there is a decision taken against the prisoners to their deaths at the hands of a gang of fascists in Tel Aviv. This is what makes this confrontation an extraordinary moment. Dealing with it requires vision, programs and activities that rise to the level required. We emphasize that the government of the fascist murderers and security forces did not yet understand well our decision for 50 leading prisoners to join the strike, and that if this message has not yet reached the Zionist gangs, they will be well aware of it in the coming days.

In this context, we emphasize that any attemptto implement the crime of forced feeding against any prisoner on hunger strike will mean for us a project of the execution of the prisoners. We will deal with it on that basis and we will turn the prisons into sites of confrontation with our bare bodies, armed with oru faith, our will, our determination and our confidence in our people, the Arab and Islamic nation and the forces of freedom and justice in the world to stand by our side. This is a battle of freedom in confrontation of injustice, persecution and oppression, a battle to preserve and fight for human values and concepts in the face of the barbarity and racism represented by the occupation and its agents.

We are aware of the seriousness of the current situation prepared by the fascists in the Tel Aviv government. In this context, we call for:

1) After 20 days of strike and the entry of the prisoners into a dangerous and fateful phase, we call today for a week of outrage shared by all sectors of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in exile, a weel in which our people direct their lava, their volcanoes of anger to the sites of confrontation with the occupation. This also means the continuation of marches, protests and sit-ins, and marches to sit-in tents with the prisoners in Palestinian towns and villages, and besieging the embassies of the occupation throughout the world.

2) We demand the Palestinian Authority immediately end security coordination with the occupation. These are days of national confrontation and action.

3) We call for the launch of a wider international campaign by unions of Palestinian and Arab doctors, warning of the dangers of doctors agreeing to participate in the crime of forcibly feeding the prisoners.

4) We urge action to pursue and prosecute the criminals of the occupation prison administration and intelligence agencies, and the Minister of Internal Security, the terrorist Gilad Erdan, for judicial action everywhere in the world, with the announcement of a list of names, officials and ministers of the enemy to prosecute them as war criminals.

5) We call for the formation of a leading Palestinian national framework with the membership and participation of all of the national and Islamic forces and national Palestinian figures to lead and follow up the actions of struggle for the Palestinian prisoners on the Palestinian, Arab and international level. We emphasize the need for the follow-up committee in occupied Palestine to lead in forming this framework. The Palestinian people everywhere they are have a critical role to play in promoting the struggle of the prisoners. This confrontation deserves to be represented and supported by a national and unified framework.

6) We turn to the Palestinian young men and women, students, workers, the forces of revolutionary initiative who hold the title to the future, and we urge them to participate creatively in struggle and to play the role required of them. You have never disappointed the prisoners for one day, and you will continue to confront and struggle, and we rely on you always.

In conclusion, the coming days will carry new developments from us and as we confront the policy of occupation, we will confront this policy of execution approved by the occupation government against us, the prisoners of the armed resistance and the daily popular struggle.

“And those who do wrong will come to know by what overturning they will be overturned.”

Glory to the martyrs and the revolution continues. We march in the footsteps of victory!

Your brothers, comrades and mujahideen
Palestinian Prisoners’ National Movement
6 May 2017
20th Day of the Strike of Freedom and Dignity

 

JUSTICE FOR HAITIAN ACTIVIST ROMARIO DANGELO SAINT JEAN!

APPEAL TO TRADE UNIONS, POPULAR ORGANIZATIONS, & POLITICAL PARTIES COMMITTED TO DEMOCRACY AND THE DEFENSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS

This is the official International Solidarity Appeal to demand justice for the assassination of Comrade Azaka, Romario Dangelo Saint John, murdered by a death squad April 18th.

Trade unions, peoples organizations, and political parties who support democracy and universal human rights are urged to sign on to this statement, adopt their own resolutions in defense of MOLEGHAF and its targeted activists, and write letters to the officials listed at the end of the appeal.

On Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 9 PM, while going out to buy groceries for his 22-year-old fiancée who was caring their 6-month-old baby daughter at home, Romario Dangelo Saint Jean, a 26-year-old militant of the Freedom & Equality Movement of Haitians for Brotherhood (Mouvement de Liberté et d’Egalité des Haïtiens pour la Fraternité, or MOLEGHAF), was the victim of a cowardly murder on rue Icard, Port-au-Prince.

Dangelo had been threatened with death and attacked on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 by police officers consisting of the hirelings of the UN Office of Project Services (UNOPS) in Fort National. Right away, his mother had accompanied him to the Port-au-Prince public prosecutor's office to bring a complaint against these officers denounced by the popular hue and cry as being the murderers of Davidtchen Siméon in August 13, 2016 and abusers of David Oxygène in August 21, 2016. Given the silence of the police and judicial authorities, Romario Dangelo Saint Jean’s parents were planning to send him to a foreign country to save his life, but the delay of the country’s public institutions in the delivery of papers gave way to the assassins of the National Police of Haiti (PNH) and to criminal impunity.

This heinous murder happens just 8 months after these two criminal offences that we wish to remind to the national and international public opinion:

  • On Saturday, August 13, at 3: 30 PM, in the popular district of Fort National, as a MOLEGHAF meeting concluded, a group of armed men assassinated Davidtchen Simeon, a 23-year-old MOLEGHAF activist, very involved in the fight against the UN occupation forces (MINUSTAH). And before this heinous murder, Wednesday 10 and Thursday, August 11, 2016, Davidtchen had already been violently assaulted and threatened by the police officer Jean Maxime.

  • On Sunday, August 21, 2016, 9 days after the assassination of Davidtchen Simeon, at 6:30 PM, on this same street, rue Icard, near St-Antoine Church, after having been assaulted violently, David Oxygène, MOLEGHAF Secretary-General and an emblematic figure of the Haitian resistance against the UN occupation forces and the dominance of transnational capital, was just missed by shots fired by police officer Jean Maxime.

It is important to emphasize that these acts of serial murder and attacks against MOLEGHAF militants are committed with impunity and with the complicity of the judicial and police authorities. For MOLEGHAF has invoked all the legal procedures, accompanied by lawyers of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) at the national level and those of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) according to the Haitian laws and international covenants and conventions signed and ratified by the Haitian State, but the police and judicial authorities are turning a deaf ear.

These acts of barbarism originated from a critical position taken by MOLEGHAF militants with regard to a construction project, including buildings and a road, that UNOPS wanted to put in their neighborhood without public consultation, accompanied by a miserable salary for construction workers. In fact, as everyone knows, in occupied Haiti, “projects” implementation in the popular districts is often conducted only through the use of henchmen who intimidate the population into compliance.

MOLEGHAF, the Organization to which Davidtchen Siméon, Romario Dangelo Saint Jean and David Oxygène all belong, is known in Haiti for its tenacious fight in defense of national sovereignty and for the withdrawal of the MINUSTAH from Haiti—without which, MOLEGHAF considers that the preconditions for the exercise of democracy do not exist.

But, regardless of the diversity of political views that can be held on such subjects, the assassination of Davidtchen Siméon, the assassination of Romario Dangelo Saint Jean and the assassination attempt on David Oxygène must be condemned with the utmost firmness by all who defend democracy and the most basic human rights.

In this way, we, the presidium of the studies workshop on the situation of freedom of expression and association in the context of the UN occupation in Haiti, gathered in Port -au-Prince this Saturday, April 22, 2017, in the premises of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), located in #3, 2ème impasse Lavaud, Lalue, are appealing to the solidarity of national and international trade unions in order to demand of the competent authorities—particularly the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Office of the Citizens’ Protector (OPC) and the Inspector General of the Haitian National Police (PNH)—that all the backers and implementers of the identification and conviction of Davidtchen Siméon’s murder, the assassination of Romario John Dangelo be identified, tried and convicted, and that disciplinary measures be taken against the policeman Jean Maxime for his assassination attempt on the person of David Oxygène.

Down with the occupation! Down with barbarism! United Nations out!

In defense of democracy against barbarism: punishment to those responsible for the serial assassinations of our comrades Davidtchen Simeon, Romario Dangelo Saint Jean and to the police officer Jean Maxime for his assassination attempt on David Oxygène!

Send your messages to:

By letter (these offices have no email addresses to receive messages):

  • Ministère de la Justice et de la Sécurité Publique (Ministry of Justice and Public Safety (MJSP) : Av. Charles-Summer 18, Port au Prince - post code: HT6113

  • Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale d’Haïti (General Inspectorate of the National Police of Haïti (PNH): 07 Autoroute de Delmas (zone Delmas 2, Haïti) - Postal Code: HT6120

By e-mail:

  • Office Protecteur Citoyen (OPC) Protectorate Citizen Agency : Av. John Brown, Lalue (Port au Prince) – tel : (+ 509) 2940 3065 / 3702 0656 e-mail: OPC@protectioncitoyenhaiti.org; opc-haiti@hotmail.com; plainte@protectioncitoyenhaiti.org;

Send copies to: ctsp.haiti@yahoo.fr; avokahaiti@aol.com ; moleghaf17@yahoo.fr

 

 

 

Oppose the war on North Korea, Reject Trump Budget proposal to increase military spending

 

While the Congress debates an appropriation bill this week to keep the government funded for the rest of the year, the Trump Administration called all 100 U.S. Senators to a meeting to discuss the administrations’ plans on North Korea.

The opportunism of this public relations stunt could not be more obvious. An important element of any Continuous Resolution to keep the government funded and eventual budget agreement will have to address at some point the obscene demand from the Trump administration to increase the Pentagon’s budget by $54 billion dollars.  While the corporate media and democrats have focused on issue of funding for the border wall, the issue of increase military spending is the proverbial elephant in the room.

To fund the U.S. war machine, Trump’s proposals call for cutbacks in programs that fund education, provides meals to seniors, support for housing, after-school tutoring programs, heating assistance, food for poor children, just to name a few of the draconian cuts that will occur.

The issue of North Korea and reckless machoism plays so well with the chicken-hawks in Congress and the media. This is meant to pre-empt opposition to the outrageous assault on the agencies and programs still in place that provide a modicum of relief from the inherently brutal consequences of an economy unable to provide a decent, dignified life for millions. The illegal attack on Syria, escalating tensions with Russia, bellicose statements on China and continued provocations with North Korea are all meant to keep the U.S. public on a war footing and justify the ongoing theft of public funds to the turn of over $600 billion dollars that goes straight into the pockets of the 1%.

Those of us in the Black Alliance for Peace will not allow ourselves to be manipulated. We demand an end to the lawlessness of the U.S. state and the criminal waste of the people’s resources.

International law is supposed to govern the conduct of states and funnel any threats to international peace into the mechanisms that have been set-up to prevent and resolve grave threats to peace and human rights. Yet the U.S. continues to act outside of international law with its arbitrary and unilateral actions. For good reason, the U.S. is now seen by many in the world as the greatest threat to world peace and international law.

As a result of its criminal actions, millions have been murdered, states destroyed and countless people displaced.

The first to fight and die are the poor and working people of this country and the nations that are attacked by the U.S.

We call on members of the Congressional Black Caucus, specifically, and all members of congress to reject the Trump proposal to increase military spending.

End the madness. Stop the U.S. war machine and take back our resources and use them for the people.