Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network is a network of groups and individuals who are working in solidarity with people struggling for social justice and environmental protection in Latin America, the Caribbean and in our own region. We are writing to express our support for the popular movement in Haiti, which has been pushing for the resignation of President Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe, and for a process to begin that will result in the holding of long delayed elections. Prime Minister Lamothe did resign on December 14th, but President Martelly has nominated Evans Paul to take Lamothe’s place, and has reached an unconstitutional accord with the leaders of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies to extend members terms in office. Many protesters have also called for better living conditions and the end of the occupation of their country by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Thousands of people have taken to the streets of several cities in Haiti on many occasions in the past few months to make the strength of their convictions known. MINUSTAH, the police and other officials have reacted with violence, resulting in many injuries and the deaths of at least six protesters. Many have also been arrested (see “Anti-Martelly Protests Grow in Haiti” by Isabelle L. Papillon and Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, October 29, 2014 , “As Martelly prepares to jettison Lamothe: Nationwide uprising gains strength in Haiti” by Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, December 3, 2014, and “In Haiti, only the face of power has changed” By Amy Wilentz, in LA Times, Dec. 26, 2014. You can also find all of these articles on the Canada Haiti Action Network website).
The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network is particularly concerned about Canada’s role in robbing Haitians of their democratic rights. The Canadian government was instrumental in the fraudulent election of President Martelly (see Yves Engler’s book The Ugly Canadian, pp. 223-225, Red Publishing, Fernwood Publishing, 2012). Canada has also played a significant role in MINUSTAH over the years. MINUSTAH was installed in Haiti shortly after the 2004 coup against President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aristide and his party, Fanmi Lavalas, had won landslide victories in elections in 2000. The whole of Haiti’s government, from the local to the national level was removed from power during the coup. We are convinced by very credible evidence that this illegal ouster was planned and carried out by France, Canada and the United States. A paramilitary force, which was probably backed by the US, and members of the small Haitian elite also played their part (see Canada Haiti Action Network's: Apology to Haiti).
After the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti five years ago on January 12th, 2010 in which over 220,000 people were killed and millions lost their homes, there was a lot of talk of reconstruction. Unfortunately this reconstruction has not come anywhere near to living up to expectations (see “Outsourcing Haiti: How disaster relief became a disaster of it” By Jake Johnston, published in Boston Review, January 16, 2014). In fact further damage was done when MINUSTAH brought cholera to Haiti through the negligent release of sewage into the Arbonite and La Mielle Rivers. So far 8,854 people have died and 725,802 have become ill from the disease. Five of the people affected by this outbreak are suing the UN in a US court (see CBC The Current: US courts must decide if United Nations is responsible for bringing cholera to Haiti).
Thursday, January 15, 2015
The Following letter was sent from ARSN to Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird on Decmber 23rd, 2014:
Hon. John Baird
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
December 23, 2014
Dear Minister Baird,
We write today on behalf of the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network to express our concern over the human rights crisis in Mexico, and to ask the Canadian government to take immediate action. The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network brings together individuals and organizations from across Atlantic Canada who share a commitment to solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean. We have been watching with concern the events unfolding in Mexico in recent months, particularly in response to the violence on September 26th directed against a group of students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a rural teachers college in Guerrero State. This violence left six young people dead, and 43 forcibly disappeared. Recently found human remains have been analysed by forensic anthropologists and it has been confirmed that they belong to one of the 43 missing students.
This tragic event has exposed the deteriorating human rights situation in Mexico, ongoing corruption, and the collusion of state actors with organized crime. It has also mobilized people from across Mexican society who have taken to the streets to demand the return of the remaining 42 missing students and to call for the resignation of high-level Mexican officials. The Governor of Guerrero has already been forced to step down and protests are calling for the resignation of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Protesters have been charged with serious crimes such as conspiracy and involvement in organized crime and are being detained in high security prisons. There are also serious concerns about the safety of human rights defenders who have been accompanying the families of the 43 disappeared students.
These events are taking place in the context of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Like many other free trade agreements, NAFTA was promoted based on the notion that through developing business and trade relationships the human rights situation could be improved. After 20 years of free trade engagement with Mexico, we can now take stock of how this approach to the promotion of human rights abroad has worked.
As the families and communities of the 43 disappeared students continue to search for their loved ones, every day more mass graves with unidentified bodies are uncovered. Since 2006, at least 150,000 Mexicans have been murdered. Guerrero has long been one of the most violent states in the country. In 2012, its homicide rate was just short of Honduras’, considered the most violent country in the world. Mexico has also seen a dramatic rise in the number of forced disappearances. Fifty four people go missing in Mexico every week, totalling 22,610 disappearances since 2007. 2014 has been the worst year on record, with 5,098 disappearances.i
The tendency of the Mexican government is to focus the blame for this violence on the drug cartels, who wield significant power in Mexico. However, focusing on the cartels exclusively ignores the reality of collusion of state forces including police, military and elected and appointed state officials with organized crime. In Iguala, the students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School were shot at and later seized by police, allegedly at the behest of the mayor of Iguala and his wife. Evidence indicates that the police handed them over to criminal gangs to be tortured and killed. A recently released report by Amnesty International found that “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment play a central role in policing and public security operations by military and police forces across Mexico. These practices are widespread and are frequently condoned and tolerated by other law enforcement officials, superior officers, prosecutors, judges and some human rights commissions.”ii Recent reports in a national newspaper cite leaked documents that reveal that state officials knew about the attack on the Ayotzinapa students as it was happening and did nothing to stop it. The case of the 43 disappeared students has exposed the deep-seated corruption of the Mexican State, and the collusion of state forces in terrorizing the Mexican civilian population.
This current reality of the ongoing human rights “crisis” in Mexico reveals the failure of the ‘free trade’ approach to human rights promotion. Since 1994, when NAFTA was signed into effect, the human rights situation in Mexico has drastically deteriorated. Meanwhile, Canadian foreign investment in the region has significantly increased. Mexico is now the foremost destination abroad for Canadian mining interests, and according to the Canadian Press, exports of Canadian weapons and ammunition to Mexico climbed by 93 per cent between 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, as you know, the Canadian government is sending millions of dollars to fund the Mexican military and police forces through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP).
We ask that the Canadian government take immediate action by:
- Making a public statement calling on the Mexican government to respect the peaceful protesters’ rights to freedom of assembly, association, and speech, and right to protest;
- Calling for a guarantee of the safety of human rights defenders, including Vidulfo Rosales and Abel Barrera from the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre , who have been criminalized for their work in defense of human rights in the state of Guerrero and for accompanying the families of the 43 disappeared students;
- Calling for a complete and impartial third-party investigation into the events of September 26th and 27th in Iguala, and the immediate destitution of any and all political officials found to be implicated;
- Suspending any further funding for “security” initiatives in Mexico until a complete review of corruption and collusion with organized crime within the Mexican military and police forces has been completed and the issues identified are addressed;
- Revising its current hemispheric trade agreements and pursuing a different trade agenda based first on respect for human, labour and environmental rights.
The people of Mexico have shown themselves to be strong, resilient, and courageous in standing up against violence and corruption, and we owe them our support.
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network
Marc Garneau, MP
Irwin Cotler, MP
Paul Dewar, MP
Wayne Marston, MP
Elizabeth May, MP
i The statistics provided here are based on official figures and the real numbers can be assumed to be much higher given that the vast majority of crimes are not reported. These numbers are based on the reports from INEGI (the National Statistics and Geographic Institute) and SNSP (the National Public Security System (for 2014 only). Source documents: 1) Proceso, “Los Muertos Que Hablan,” in edition No 1922, September 1, 2013 and also Proceso, “Mas de 121 mil muertos, el saldo de la narcoguerra de Calderón: INEGI,” Jul 30, 2013; 2) INEGI, “En 2013 se registraron 22 mil 732 homicidios” 23 julio 2014; 3) Proceso, “Se reportaron cuatro muertes por hora en enero a mayo: SNSP,” Jun 26, 2014 http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=375776
Friday, October 31, 2014
Register NOW for the Atlantic Region Solidarity Network Annual Gathering
Fri., Nov. 14th at 7pm to Sun., Nov. 16th at 1pm at the Tatamagouche Centre.
Fri., Nov. 14th at 7pm to Sun., Nov. 16th at 1pm at the Tatamagouche Centre.
For more information, or to receive a registration form, contact kathrynande(at)gmail.com
Please send your registration no later than Nov. 9th. This helps the planning committee and the kitchen! The full fee for the gathering, which includes accommodations, meals, and registration is $176.50; bursaries as well as alternative arrangements are possible.
Making the Connections:
Resistance and Movement Building
Across Borders and Nations
Jen Moore, Mining Watch Canada
Alma Brooks, Wabanaki Confederacy
Eliza Knockwood, Mi’kmaq Youth Bundle-Keeper
Gain inspiration and new understandings of solidarity from resource people who are building solidarity relationships across borders and nations, including the recent People’s Social Forum in Ottawa, the U.N. Forum on Mining and Indigenous Peoples in May 2014 and the ongoing struggle against fracking in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick.
Join us and our resource people:
Jen Moore, Mining Watch Canada, supports communities, organizations and networks facing mining challenges from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras to Ecuador, Colombia and Chile. Jen was a social justice journalist in Ecuador and has written about the struggles of indigenous and non-indigenous communities affected by Canadian-financed mining companies. She gave leadership to the Mining Justice Assembly at the recent People’s Social Forum in Ottawa.
Alma Brooks, Saint Mary’s First Nation NB, is a highly respected Maliseet traditional leader with the Wabanaki Confederacy. She has been a leader in the New Brunswick resistance to fracking and other resource-based projects in forestry and mining. Alma attended the May 2014 U.N. Forum on Mining and Indigenous Peoples in New York.
Eliza Star Child Knockwood, a Mi’kmaq woman from Abegweit First Nation, PEI, spent the summer of 2013 in Elsipogtog NB working with indigenous and non-indigenous people to resist fracking. She describes herself as a Youth Bundle-Keeper, passing on traditional and contemporary knowledge to this generation and ones yet to come.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
ARSN has signed on to the following letter from Canadian civil society organizations expressing concern over the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement - you can express your concern by finding your Member of Parliament and writing to her/him.FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 13 February 2014
Canada-Honduras FTA will deepen conflict
Civil society organizations from Canada and Quebec are concerned that the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently being debated in the House of Commons will further undermine human rights and democracy in Honduras. The debate began days after the inauguration of Juan Orlando Hernandez following highly contested presidential elections. The elections were fraught with irregularities as well as violence, and deemed fraudulent by most independent international observers. The proposed legislation sends the message that Canada rewards illegitimate governments as long as they serve Canadian economic interests.
The bilateral trade deal was signed on November 5th, 2013, in the lead up to the presidential election, despite wide-spread opposition and mounting evidence to suggest that the deal will exacerbate the social and human rights crisis. Since the 2009 military coup against democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, violence and repression have reached an all-time high. Human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, trans and queer) community, the Garifuna, Indigenous people, union leaders, farmers and journalists are being systematically threatened or killed.
Police corruption and militarization of the state:
Police corruption is rampant with high ranking members implicated in criminal activity, contributing to widespread impunity as well as a judicial and law-enforcement system that perpetuates the problem. Just recently, Constantino Zavala the police chief in the western province of Lempira was suspended for allegedly being involved in drug trafficking.
The return of the military security state has been a major focus of President Hernandez who spearheaded the legislative effort that created the Law of Public Order Military Police (PMOP). To fund this new military police, the government was able to draw 24.5 million lempiras ($1.2 million), from a new “security tax” paid for by large corporations. These new units will take over neighbourhoods, residential developments, or public spaces in order to crack down on supposed illegal activities. Human rights defenders in Honduras have testified that they are witnessing the reactivation of the death squads of the 80s with a pattern of assassinations of women, youth and political opponents.
During presidential elections on November 24, 2013, many Hondurans were hopeful that a new political landscape would ensure a break from traditional two party politics in Honduras and lead to improved conditions. However, the situation has taken a turn for the worst with Hernandez’ questionable election. International and local human rights observers reported wide-spread vote buying, irregularities in the voter registry, selling of electoral credentials, militarization, intimidation and even assassinations. Nonetheless, Hernandez was declared the winner and the country has been driven further into crisis.
Canada contributes to social conflict:
Although the FTA has not yet been implemented, Canadian investments are already contributing to social conflict in Honduras, particularly in the mining, export manufacturing and tourism sectors.
The Canadian government provided technical assistance and support for the General Mining and Hydrocarbons Law, passed in January 2013. Notably, the new mining law lifts a seven-year moratorium on new mining projects and earmarks 2% of the royalties paid by extractive companies for a Security Tax to help fund Honduran state security. The law paves the way for new mining projects which have given rise to increased conflict and militarization in affected communities where mining projects operate. According to the Honduras Documentation Centre, 52% of all conflict in Honduras is rooted in natural resource management.
The most notorious case is that of Vancouver-based Goldcorp which operated the San Martin gold and silver mine in Valle de Siria. The project’s legacy is one of water contamination, dried up streams, and reports of serious public health problems in surrounding communities which have yet to be fully addressed.
In the garment and textile export sector, the factories of Montreal-based Gildan Activewear in northwestern Honduras are noted for the debilitating work-related injuries suffered by workers due to excessively long work shifts and high production targets and for firing workers for attempting to unionize. Finally, in the tourism sector, Canadian investments are displacing Indigenous and Afro-Honduran peoples from their territories with no respect whatsoever for their cultural and land rights.
It is misleading to argue that the FTA will improve the situation in Honduras. FTAs severely weaken the ability of government to legislate for the public good and undermine community, human, labour and environmental rights. Meanwhile, investor rights provisions are substantive, allowing corporations to sue governments if they make decisions companies disagree with. The environmental and labour side agreements are mere window dressing devoid of any enforcement mechanisms. As such, the FTA favours narrow economic interests, and is bound to lead to greater conflict as well as further violence in Honduras.
We call on Canadian parliament to refrain from passing legislation to implement the Canada-Honduras FTA and for the Conservative government to reconsider its priorities around Honduras, putting priority on the wellbeing of communities, human and labour rights.
Americas Policy Group (APG)
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN)
Breaking The Silence (BTS)
British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Climate Justice Saskatoon
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL)
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN)
Council of Canadians
Council of Canadians – Saskatoon Chapter
Council of Canadians – London Chapter
CUPE Ontario International Solidarity Committee
Latin American-Canadian Solidarity Association (LACASA)
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network (LACSN)
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)
For more information: Raul Burbano, Common Frontiers 416 522 8615
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Join members of the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network in protesting Canada's involvement in the 2004 coup d'etat against the democratically elected Lavalas government; the event is planned for March 1st in New Glasgow, NS, at Minister of Justice Peter MacKay's office! For more information, you can contact Catherine at the number above. Join us in solidarity with Haiti!