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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 85,996

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Peru Passes a Packet of Neoliberal Reforms, Erodes Environmental Protections and Labor Rights

Peru Passes a Packet of Neoliberal Reforms, Erodes Environmental Protections and Labor Rights
Written by Lynda Sullivan
Friday, 25 July 2014 13:52

The Peruvian Congress approved a packet of laws on July 3 which critics say subjects the country to neoliberal reforms that threaten to undermine environmental and labor protections and is a gift to the extractive industry.

The Minister of Economy and Finance Luis Miguel Castilla first presented to Congress on this packet of laws on June 25 in order for them to be debated and approved. This has led to an outcry by civil society, as many have compared this law bundle to the neoliberal 'paquetazos' of the 1980s and 90s by the previous governments of Alan Garcia and Alberto Fujimori governments. President Ollanta Humala rejects this criticism.

The term ‘paquetazo’ refers to a large bundle of laws supposedly aimed at reinvigorating the economy. In the days of the Garcia and Fujimori governments, the introduction of these paquetazos usually lead to hyperinflation, currency devaluation, extreme price hikes, and an increase in social conflicts and police repression. President Humala’s current attempt to reinvigorate the economy centers round removing any obstacles for investing companies (mainly in the extractive industries), which critics say will irreversibly damage the environment and fuel more social unrest.

Despite the outcries and protests, the packet was approved with surprising ease. Two of the few congress members to vote against the package were Verónika Mendoza and Rosa Mavila. Mendoza pleaded that, minimally, the chapter on the theme of the environment should be debated, revised, and corrected by the Commission of Indigenous People and the Environment. Mavila opposed the chapter on the environment and the rest of the reforms, because "it is a vision of total guarantee for extractive capitalism and nothing for the Peruvians, nothing for the people, and nothing for the workers."

MINAM under Attack

The most contentious piece of legislation promotes environmental deregulation and is seen as an attack on the authority of Ministry of Environment (MINAM) and its ability to effectively do its job. MINAM will be stripped of various key functions related to the setting and regulating of environmental norms. For example, it will no longer be able to approve the Maximum Permissible Limits (LMP by its Spanish acronym) and Standards of Environmental Quality (ECA), nor will it be able to establish reserved zones under the National Service of State Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP). Instead, these functions will be given to the Council of Ministers (made up of all the Ministers of the State), giving them a political, rather than a technical function. Out of the 18 ministers present on the council, the only one with any technical proficiency in environmental regulation is the Minister of the Environment; therefore diminishing his voice to equal standing among 17 others with little environmental expertise, and possibly with conflicting interests, is risking the integrity of environmental legislation.

MINAM was formed just four years ago as part of the free trade agreement with the United States. Noticias SER states that this suggests that the desire to form a Ministry of Environment never really came from the Peruvian state but was rather an imposition in exchange for Peruvian access to external markets.


Is This US Coal Giant Funding Violent Union Intimidation in Colombia?

Is This US Coal Giant Funding Violent Union Intimidation in Colombia?
Thursday, 24 July 2014 10:13
By Rosalind Adams, The Center for Public Integrity | Report

Bogota, Colombia - Cesar Florez is often hesitant to answer his phone because there might be another death threat at the end of the line. Sometimes the threat comes in a phone call, other times in a text message or an email. In April, flyers were posted in the restroom stalls at Florez’s workplace, declaring him and his colleagues “permanent military targets.”

Until last month, Florez served as a local president of Sintramienergetica, a labor union in Colombia that represents the employees of Drummond Company, a U.S.-based coal-mining firm, in a country known for some of the world’s most severe violence against union leaders. Florez has been a Drummond employee for 17 years and active in the union for the last 14. Most recently, he worked as a marine operations technician in Drummond’s port near Santa Marta, where its coal is shipped out on barges.

But his position as a union leader has also meant he’s attracted a significant number of threats, including attempts on his life, which happen to spike around labor disputes, he said. In July 2013 the union went on strike, calling for a pay raise and to move from an hourly wage to a salary, among other demands. For 53 days the strike wore on amid tense negotiations, while the threats that Florez and his colleagues received only accelerated.

“They said if we didn’t lift the strike we’d be a target,” Florez said, describing some of the phone calls he received. “They said they already knew where my family was.”


The Threat of Good Example: Socialist Cuba Exports Health Care, Gains Important Recognition

Weekend Edition July 25-27, 2014
The Threat of Good Example

Socialist Cuba Exports Health Care, Gains Important Recognition

by W.T. WHITNEY, Jr.

In Cuba recently press conferences and new reports celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Operation Miracle, known also as “Mision Miracle,” which occurred on July 8. This internationalized project aimed at restoring vision on a massive scale took shape within the context of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.

Cuba and Venezuela launched ALBA in late 2004. Latin American and Caribbean nations belonging to ALBA engage in mutually beneficial trade-offs of educational and medical services, scientific projects, even commodities. They are referred to as solidarity exchanges. ALBA exemplifies Cuba and Venezuela’s central role in promoting regional integration.

Under Operation Miracle, Cubans and Venezuelans benefit from surgical eye care, as do tens of thousands of foreign nationals who’ve traveled to Cuba for treatment. Cuban ophthalmologists serving in Venezuela took the lead in establishing 26 eye care centers throughout that national territory. Staff consisting of eye surgeons, nurses, technicians, and other physicians have served Venezuelans and also vision- impaired people from 17 Latin American countries plus Italy, Portugal, and Puerto Rico. More recently organizers established centers in 14 Latin American and Caribbean nations. Ten years after its start the project operates in 31 countries, some in Africa and Asia.

Those receiving diagnosis and treatment through Operation Miracle had gone without eye care because of poverty and/or geographic inaccessibility. The most common cause of reduced vision the teams deal with is cataract. They provide treatment also for glaucoma, strabismus, retina problems, and abnormal ocular growths. Corrective lenses are provided. Services are available for patients at no personal cost, as are transportation and accommodations.

Operation Miracle reportedly has improved or restored vision for 3.4 million individuals. That measure of the project’s reach takes on additional meaning through World Health Organization data showing that 39 million people in the world are blind. These figures are within reach of one another, especially because most visual impairment – 80 percent – is preventable or curable.


Private Prison Corporation Geo Group Expands Its Stable of Former Top Federal Officials

Weekend Edition July 25-27, 2014
Meet Julie Myers Wood

Private Prison Corporation Geo Group Expands Its Stable of Former Top Federal Officials


Two weeks ago the private prison corporation Geo Group added yet another former government official to its inner circle. On July 2 Geo Group’s management voted unanimously to expand their board of directors to seven seats, adding Julie Myers Wood. From 2006 to 2008 Wood was the Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Wood is now the second member of Geo Group’s inner circle to have been employed by ICE. Geo Group’s executive vice president for corporate development, David Venturella, was an executive within ICE for 22 years before joining Geo Group in 2012.

Of course ICE is a major customer of Geo Group. Geo Group’s federal prison contracting began in 1987 when ICE signed a deal with the company to build and operate an immigrant prison in Colorado called the Aurora ICE Processing Center. Later this year Geo Group will open a new 400 bed immigrant “transfer center” in Louisiana. ICE will pay Geo Group $8.5 million a year to hold detainees in this prison.

Some might remember Julie Myers Wood for presiding over an infamous Halloween costume party at ICE’s Washington D.C. headquarters in 2007. Some ICE employees dressed up as immigrant fugitives. Wood awarded the best costume prize to an ICE employee who donned a dread lock wig and blackface paint, explaining to amused colleagues that he was a Jamaican detainee who had escaped from ICE’s Krome prison near Miami. Wood was accused by the House Committee on Homeland Security of exercising “poor judgement” when she rewarded the employee for the costume, and also of covering up the incident afterward when she ordered the deletion of pictures. The pictures included a photo of her smiling next to the make-believe Jamaican immigrant prisoner. (The pictures were later recovered.)


Colombia’s largest paramilitary ‘landgrabber’ captured in Venezuela: govt

Colombia’s largest paramilitary ‘landgrabber’ captured in Venezuela: govt
Jul 24, 2014 posted by Nicolas Bedoya

Colombian authorities announced on Thursday that Venezuela captured former AUC paramilitary commander Omar Montero Martinez, alias “Codazzi,” who is accused of stealing up to 25,000 acres from farmers in northern Colombia.


Codazzi was part of the “Bloque Norte” of the paramilitary umbrella organization, AUC. Codazzi was a close confidant of alias “Jorge 40,” commander of the “Bloque Norte.”

Codazzi has 18 warrants for his arrest for the crimes of forced disappearances, homicide, recruitment of children, robbery, and displacement. He was sentenced to 39 year in jail for the homicide of a lawyer in 2003.

Codazzi also allegedly participated in six massacres in 2001 and 2002. In one particular event, 47 fisherman were brutally murdered in a hail of gunfire and machetes. Jorge 40 was sentenced to 47 years in prison for ordering the massacre, but will only serve eight years since he is enrolled in the Justice and Peace Law.

Accion Social conducted a study that documented over 36,000 displaced people in the area where Codazzi operated, according to the Colombian show “Fugitivos.” Much of the territory Codazzi seized is now in the hands of third parties and plantations of palm trees.



Peru now has a ‘licence to kill’ environmental protesters

Peru now has a ‘licence to kill’ environmental protesters

Law exempts soldiers and police from criminal responsibility if they cause injuries or deaths

Posted by
David Hill

Sunday 29 June 2014 12.46 EDT

Some of the recent media coverage about the fact that more than 50 people in Peru – the vast majority of them indigenous – are on trial following protests and fatal conflict in the Amazon over five years ago missed a crucial point. Yes, the hearings are finally going ahead and the charges are widely held to be trumped-up, but what about the government functionaries who apparently gave the riot police the order to attack the protestors, the police themselves, and – following Wikileaks’ revelations of cables in which the US ambassador in Lima criticized the Peruvian government’s “reluctance to use force” and wrote there could be “implications for the recently implemented Peru-US FTA” if the protests continued – the role of the US government?

The conflict broke out in northern Peru after mainly indigenous Awajúns and Wampis had been peacefully protesting a series of new laws which were supposedly emitted to comply with a trade agreement between Peru and the US and which made it easier, among other things, for extractive industries to exploit natural resources in their territories. Following a blockade of a highway near a town called Bagua – and an agreement that the protestors would break up and go home, reached the day before – early on 5 June the police moved to clear it and started shooting. In the ensuing conflict, 10 police officers, five indigenous people and five non-indigenous civilians were killed, more than 200 injured – at least 80 of whom were shot – and, elsewhere in the Bagua region, a further 11 police officers were killed after being taken hostage.

“So far only protesters have been brought to trial,” said Amnesty International in a statement marking five years since the conflict and pointing out that human rights lawyers have said there is no serious evidence linking the accused to the crimes they are being prosecuted for – which include homicide and rebellion. “o far little progress has been made to determine the responsibility of the security forces. Likewise, no progress has been made to investigate the political authorities who gave the orders to launch the police operation.”

Does this desperate failure of justice not effectively constitute a “licence to kill” for the police? Maybe, maybe not, but whatever the answer Peru has now formalised that licence by emitting a law that, as the Dublin-based NGO Front Line Defenders (FLD) puts it, grants:

. . . members of the armed forces and the national police exemption from criminal responsibility if they cause injury or death, including through the use of guns or other weapons, while on duty. Human rights groups, both nationally and internationally, the Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensoria del Pueblo) as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights all expressed deep concern about the law. In the words of the Instituto Libertad y Democracia , the law equates, in practice, to a “licence to kill.”


Court throws out Chiquita terror payment claims

Source: Associated Press

Court throws out Chiquita terror payment claims
| July 24, 2014 | Updated: July 24, 2014 2:37pm

MIAMI (AP) — A divided federal appeals court on Thursday threw out claims against produce giant Chiquita Brands International made by relatives of thousands of Colombians killed during years of bloody civil war.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that federal courts have no jurisdiction over the Colombian claims. The lawsuits accused Chiquita of assisting in the killings by paying $1.7 million to a violent right-wing paramilitary group known as the AUC, the Spanish acronym for United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

Chiquita, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, formerly operated large banana plantations in Colombia through its Banadex subsidiary. Chiquita insists it was the victim of extortion and was forced to pay the AUC or face violence directed at its employees and assets in Colombia.

The majority cited a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum that imposed limits on attempts by foreigners to use U.S. courts to seek damages against corporations for human rights abuses abroad. Chiquita had insisted that ruling meant the Colombians' lawsuit had to be tossed out.

Read more: http://www.chron.com/news/crime/article/Court-throws-out-Chiquita-terror-payment-claims-5644479.php

Cuba looks to mangroves to fend off rising seas

Cuba looks to mangroves to fend off rising seas
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press | July 23, 2014 | Updated: July 23, 2014 11:05pm

HAVANA (AP) — Many people in this tiny hamlet on the southern coast of Cuba remember when the shore lay about 100 meters (yards) farther out. That was four decades ago.

Since then, rising waters have gradually swallowed up rustic homes, a narrow highway that once paralleled the coast, even an old military tank that people now use to measure the sea's yearly advance.

"There was a road there," said Jose Manuel Herrera, 42, a fisherman and former charcoal harvester, pointing toward the gentle waves. "You could travel from here all the way to Mayabeque."

Worried by forecasts of rising seas from climate change, the effects of hurricanes and the salinization of farmlands, authorities say they are beginning a forced march to repair Cuba's first line of defense against the advancing waters — its mangrove thickets, which have been damaged by decades of neglect and uncontrolled logging.

In the second half of 2013, a moratorium was declared on mangrove logging. Now, the final touches are being put on a sustainable management master plan that is expected to be in place before the end of the year. President Raul Castro has said the plan is a top priority.


Venezuelan Network Telesur Expands Into English

Venezuelan Network Telesur Expands Into English
CARACAS, Venezuela — Jul 23, 2014, 7:39 PM ET
Associated Press

The Spanish-language television network started by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a vehicle for promoting in Latin America his leftist brand of political change will now reach audiences in English.

Under the motto "Don't resign yourself to having just one side of the story," Telesur has unveiled a news website that will serve as a hub for multimedia programming in English from correspondents and pundits across Latin America and the United States.

The website goes live Thursday to coincide with the ninth anniversary of Telesur's launch and the celebration of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar's birthday.

The network hired about 100 native English-speaking journalists and producers for the launch. Many are based in Quito, Ecuador, where a studio was built to produce the bulk of English-language programming.


(Short article, no more at link.)


10 Colombia Senators ‘inherit’ votes from jailed ex-Senators

10 Colombia Senators ‘inherit’ votes from jailed ex-Senators
Jul 23, 2014 posted by Daniel Medendorp Escobar

Colombia’s recently inaugurated Senate will bring a new dynamic to national politics, though not necessary a new face to its politicians.

The arrival of former President Alvaro Uribe and his Democratic Center (Centro Democratico) party on the scene means a new right-wing opposition set to join the changed face of the leftist opposition, which now includes figures like Claudia Lopez and Ivan Cepeda.

Despite these developments, the shadow of corruption still looms large over Congress, after over 10% of the previous Congress was dismissed on charges including vote buying, nepotism, and links to illegal armed groups. Indeed, in this Senate, a number of politicians have direct family ties to members convicted on related charges.

MORE: 10% of Colombia’s 2010-2014 Congress kicked out of office

Of the 102 senators now starting their terms, 10 “inherited” votes, political structures, and support from jailed family members. In the vast majority of cases, the individuals in question were jailed for so-called parapolitics, political coordination with paramilitary death squads.

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