Inter Press ServiceLatin America & the Caribbean – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 18 Jan 2019 20:26:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Climate Change Threatens Mexico’s Atlantic Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 08:52:40 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159669 “I couldn’t plant my cornfield in May, because it rained too early. I lost everything,” lamented Marcos Canté, an indigenous farmer, as he recounted the ravages that climate change is wreaking on this municipality on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. The phenomenon, caused by human activities related especially to the burning of fossil fuels, has altered the […]

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Ecosystems such as the Síijil Noh Há (where water is born, in the Mayan tongue) lagoon, in Felipe Carrillo Puerto on the Yucatán peninsula, are suffering the impacts of climate change in one of the most vulnerable of Mexico's municipalities to the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Ecosystems such as the Síijil Noh Há (where water is born, in the Mayan tongue) lagoon, in Felipe Carrillo Puerto on the Yucatán peninsula, are suffering the impacts of climate change in one of the most vulnerable of Mexico's municipalities to the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

“I couldn’t plant my cornfield in May, because it rained too early. I lost everything,” lamented Marcos Canté, an indigenous farmer, as he recounted the ravages that climate change is wreaking on this municipality on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

The phenomenon, caused by human activities related especially to the burning of fossil fuels, has altered the ancestral indigenous practices based on the rainy and dry seasons for the “milpa” – the collective cultivation of corn, pumpkin, beans and chili peppers, the staple crops from central Mexico to northern Nicaragua.

It has also modified the traditional “slash and burn” technique used to prepare the land for planting.

Canté, a representative of the Xyaat ecotourism cooperative, told IPS that “climate change affects a lot, the climate is changing too much. It’s no longer possible to live off of agriculture.” As he talks, he prepares for the new planting season, hoping that the sky will weep and water the furrows.

The farmer lives in the Señor eijido in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP) in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo. Señor is home to about 450 “ejidatarios” or members of the ejido, a traditional Aztec system of collectively worked lands that can be sold.

This state and its neighbors Campeche and Yucatán comprise the Yucatán peninsula and are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as are the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Tabasco, on the Gulf of Mexico which, along with the Caribbean Sea, make up Mexico’s Atlantic coast.

These consequences include rising temperatures, more intense and frequent hurricanes and storms, rising sea levels due to the melting of the Arctic Ocean, droughts and loss of biodiversity.

The Yucatan peninsula has a population of 4.5 million people, in a country of 129 million with a total of 151,515 square kilometers and a Caribbean coastline of 1,766 square kilometers.

In addition, this peninsular region suffers the highest rate of deforestation in the country, and government subsidies have failed to change that, according to the report “Forest subsidies without direction,” released in December by the non-governmental Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Agriculture.

The peninsula is home to the largest remaining tropical rainforest outside of the Amazon, and is a key area in the conservation of natural wealth in Mexico, which ranks 12th among the most megadiverse countries on the planet.

María Eugenia Yam, another indigenous resident of FCP, a municipality of 81,000 inhabitants, concurred with Canté in pointing out to IPS with concern that “the rains are no longer those of the past and it is no longer possible to live off of the milpa.”

Yam, an employee of the Síijil Noh Há (where water sprouts, in the Mayan tongue) cooperative, owned by the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido, in the municipality of the same name, lamented that agricultural production is declining, to the detriment of the peasant farmers in the area who also grow cassava and produce honey.

A trail in the Síijil Noh Há (where the water is born, in the Mayan tongue) community reserve in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, part of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. The conservation of the jungle is a climate change adaptation measure, because it contributes to maintaining steady temperatures and curbing the onslaught of hurricanes. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A trail in the Síijil Noh Há (where the water is born, in the Mayan tongue) community reserve in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, part of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. The conservation of the jungle is a climate change adaptation measure, because it contributes to maintaining steady temperatures and curbing the onslaught of hurricanes. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The three states of the peninsula produce a low level of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The biggest polluter is Campeche, producing 14.5 million tons of GHGs, responsible for global warming. It is followed by Yucatán (10.9 million) and Quintana Roo (3.48 million), according to the latest measurements carried out by the state governments.

In 2016, Mexico emitted 446.7 million net tons of GHG into the atmosphere, according to the state-run National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC).

Within the peninsula, the state of Yucatan has 17 municipalities vulnerable to climate change, Campeche, 10, and Quintana Roo, three, including FCP. In total, 480 Mexican municipalities are especially vulnerable to the phenomenon, out of the 2,457 into which the country is divided, according to an INECC report.

In Campeche, the State Climate Change Action Programme 2030 predicts a temperature increase of between 2.5 and four degrees Celsius between 1961 and 2099, with impacts on communities, economic activities and natural wealth.

Also, the 2012 study “Impacts of the increase in mean sea level in the coastal area of the state of Campeche, Mexico”, prepared by the World Bank and the state government, warns that vulnerability to the rising sea level affects 440,000 people, more than half of the local population.

“Climate change will increase flooding and coastal erosion in the future” and the probability of extreme storm surges on the coasts will increase, according to the study, which predicts a rise in water level between 0.1 to 0.5 meters in 2030 and from 0.34 to one meter in 2100.

In Quintana Roo, annual rainfall will become more and more irregular. The rainy season will be shortened by five to 10 percent in 2020, while it will range from a 10 percent increase to a 20 percent drop in 2080. In addition, the temperature will rise between 0.8 and 1.2 degrees Celsius in 2020 and between 1.5 and 2.5 degrees Celsius in 2080.

The state of Yucatan faces a similar scenario, with the average annual temperature rising between 0.5 and 0.8 degrees for the period 2010-2039. Annual rainfall will alternate drops of up to nearly 15 percent and rises of one percent in that period.

Although the three states have instruments to combat the phenomenon, such as climate change laws -with the exception of Campeche-, special programmes and even a regional plan, the situation varies widely at a local level, as many municipalities lack such measures.

The Climate Change Strategy for the Yucatan Peninsula, drawn up by the three state governments, aims for the development of a regional adaptation strategy, the implementation of the regional programme to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the creation of a climate fund.

The plan seeks to reduce emissions from this region by 20 percent by 2018 and 40 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

The region launched the Yucatan Peninsula Climate Fund in September 2017, but it is just beginning to operate.

So far, the scrutiny of the implemented actions has been a complex task.

The “Strategic Evaluation of the Subnational Progress of the National Climate Change Policy,” published by INECC in November, which investigated three municipalities on the peninsula, concluded that state and municipal authorities report multiple adaptation actions, but without clarifying how vulnerability is addressed.

For this reason, it considers the creation and promotion of capacities to face climate change to be an “urgent need”.

“We have to make everything more sustainable, but it’s a local effort. If those who govern and make decisions had more awareness, we would be able to do it,” said Canté.

Yan proposed reforesting, reducing garbage generation, conserving biodiversity and educating children about the importance of environmental care. “Maintaining the forest is a good adaptation measure. But the municipalities should have climate programmes and appoint officials who know” about the issue, he suggested.

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Journalism in Nicaragua Under Siegehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/159604/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=159604 http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/159604/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 08:31:06 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159604 Eight months of social and political crisis in Nicaragua have hit the exercise of independent journalism in the country, with 712 cases of violations of the free exercise of journalism, one murdered reporter, two in prison and dozens fleeing into exile, in addition to several media outlets assaulted by the security forces. A report by […]

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Presentation of the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Prize for Excellence in Journalism by the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation on Jan. 9 in Managua, where a report was also launched on the harsh repression of journalism in 2018. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro (1924-1978) gave birth to a journalistic dynasty in Nicaragua. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

Presentation of the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Prize for Excellence in Journalism by the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation on Jan. 9 in Managua, where a report was also launched on the harsh repression of journalism in 2018. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro (1924-1978) gave birth to a journalistic dynasty in Nicaragua. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

Eight months of social and political crisis in Nicaragua have hit the exercise of independent journalism in the country, with 712 cases of violations of the free exercise of journalism, one murdered reporter, two in prison and dozens fleeing into exile, in addition to several media outlets assaulted by the security forces.

A report by the non-governmental Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, called “2018 Year of Repression against Press Freedom in Nicaragua”, published on Jan. 9, states that between April and December there were 712 violations of press freedom and the exercise of journalism.

Guillermo Medrano, author of the report, told IPS that the study reflects that journalism has become a high-risk profession in Nicaragua, “to the extent that journalism has been officially criminalised by charging two journalists who criticised the government with terrorism.”

Medrano refers to journalists Lucía Pineda and Miguel Mora, press director and owner of the television news channel 100% News, respectively.

They were arrested on Dec. 21 at the station’s headquarters and later charged with “provocation” and “conspiracy to commit terrorist acts”.

Before they were arrested and were incomunicados for several days, sympathisers of Daniel Ortega’s government filed a report against Pineda, Mora and other journalists from the channel at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, accusing them of “promoting hatred” because of their critical editorial line.

Their families and lawyers have not been able to see the journalists, who are to be tried later this month. The TV station was shut down, its signal taken off the air and its accounts and assets seized by the authorities.

The arrests of the two journalists triggered protests by international human rights and press freedom groups.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement backed by 300 leading journalists from around the world condemning the arrests and demanding their prompt release.

The document also includes a strong condemnation of the Nicaraguan government for the assault and seizure of the newsrooms of the Confidencial magazine, the Niú website and the television programmes Esta Semana and Esta Noche.

The magazine and TV programmes belong to journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro and the Dec. 14 seizure marked the beginning of Ortega’s last, radical offensive against independent journalism.

Apart from the criminalisation of the two journalists, the report details that a reporter was killed in April, at least 54 have been exiled because of threats and political persecution, and 93 were beaten and injured.

In addition, 102 media outlets and journalists were censored, 21 suffered judicial harassment or investigative processes and 171 have faced different forms of intimidation.

A policeman guards the closed building of the Confidencial magazine and other digital and television media owned by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, which was seized by the Nicaraguan police on Dec. 14. Credit: Jader Flores/IPS

A policeman guards the closed building of the Confidencial magazine and other digital and television media owned by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, which was seized by the Nicaraguan police on Dec. 14. Credit: Jader Flores/IPS

“It’s a situation we haven’t seen since the years of the Somoza (dictatorship), not even during the contra war against the United States. It’s terrifying,” writer Gioconda Belli, president of the Nicaraguan chapter of PEN-International, told IPS.

According to the writer, the regime of Ortega, a former Sandinistaguerrilla, “has surpassed the horrors of the dictatorships of the past that Latin America remembers” by targeting peasant farmers, students, feminists, religious sectors and, finally, journalists and the media.

“He has committed the atrocity of accusing journalism of terrorism; he has kidnapped and prosecuted two journalists, Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda, as criminals; he has assaulted newsrooms and confiscated private media outlets, such as the Confidential,” she denounced.

In addition, “now he wants to strangle La Prensa by denying it paper,” Belli warned.

The newspapers with the largest circulation in Nicaragua, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario, both opposition papers, have reported that their paper reserves will be exhausted in a few months and that the customs authorities are blocking imports of raw material.

A small newspaper, Q´hubo, published by ND Medios, closed down in December due to a lack of paper.

The building where the Confidencial magazine operated was taken over by the National Police, after the legislature eliminated the legal status of several non-governmental organisations.

The government links the media to the Centro de Investigaciones de la Comunicación, one of the nongovernmental organisations whose legal status was repealed along with eight others on charges of “fomenting terrorism.”

However, Chamorro stated that both the office building and the censored media outlets belong to the company Invermedia and Promedia and have no relation whatsoever with the NGO that was shut down.

Carlos Fernando Chamorro (C), among a group of fellow journalists, filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office of the Republic of Nicaragua on Dec. 19 regarding the seizure of Confidencial and other media facilities and equipment by police officers five days earlier. Credit: Jader Flores/IPS

Carlos Fernando Chamorro (C), in the middle of a group of fellow journalists, filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Nicaragua on Dec. 19 regarding the seizure of Confidencial and other media facilities and equipment by the police five days earlier. Credit: Jader Flores/IPS

The raid and the confiscation of their equipment and facilities were, he denounced, “a direct attack against journalism and private enterprise.”

Arlen Cerda, editor-in-chief of Confidencial, who was granted precautionary protection measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), said the publication is the victim of an “unprecedented” escalation of repression against modern-day Nicaraguan journalism, while he said its journalists planned to continue reporting, “even with their fingernails.”

“In the raid, the equipment, files and databases were taken away, we didn’t have a roof over our heads in order to work,” he said. “But also from the beginning we have maintained the firm conviction that we will not be silenced, and that we will do everything possible to continue to provide quality material to our public.”

In crisis since April

Ortega, 74, ruled the country between 1985 and 1990 as leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which defeated dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979. After the triumph of the Sandinista revolution, he was also a member of the government junta.

The current crisis in this Central American country of 6.4 million people began in April 2018, triggered by a controversial social security reform that was later withdrawn, revealing broad discontent with the government.

The protests, led by university students, lasted until July, and according to the IACHR, 325 people were killed during the unrest, mainly at the hands of police and irregular forces organised by the government.

The government puts the number of casualties at 199, and blames “terrorist groups attempting to mount a coup d’état.”

Voices in exile

Luis Galeano, director of the program Café con Voz, which was broadcast on the 100% Noticias channel, left the country in December after the government issued an arrest warrant against him for “fomenting terrorism.”

“The accusations are absurd, they seek to silence critical voices, but they won’t succeed, because we as journalists are going to continue reporting from anywhere, from exile, from prison, from social networks, from clandestinity, from everywhere,” he told IPS from Miami.

Journalist Jeniffer Ortiz, director of the digital platform Nicaragua Investiga, told IPS that she left the country because of direct threats against her for her journalistic work.

“I have been away from Nicaragua for a couple of months. I left because of the constant threats and sieges of our house. They were also sending us messages through the social networks,” she said from San José, Costa Rica.

She said that due to the increasing repression, many of her sources stopped talking to her media outlet which, added to the economic crisis and threats, forced her to continue her work from outside Nicaragua.

“We are now in exile aware that our colleagues there are finding it increasingly difficult to do their work because of threats. The sources are afraid, and from here we can continue our work and contribute to the daily flow of information that people are asking for,” she told IPS.

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Shedding Light on Forced Child Pregnancy and Motherhood in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2019 08:35:45 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159601 Research and campaigns by women’s rights advocates are beginning to focus on the problem of Latin American girls under the age of 14 who are forced to bear the children of their rapists, with the lifelong implications that entails and without the protection of public policies guaranteeing their human rights. The Latin American and Caribbean […]

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Argentina’s Indigenous People Fight for Land Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/argentinas-indigenous-people-fight-land-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentinas-indigenous-people-fight-land-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/argentinas-indigenous-people-fight-land-rights/#respond Sat, 12 Jan 2019 00:24:33 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159595 Nancy López lives in a house made of clay, wood and corrugated metal sheets, on private land dedicated to agriculture. She is part of an indigenous community of 12 families in northern Argentina that, like almost all such communities, has no title to the land it occupies and lives under the constant threat of eviction. […]

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A group of Wichí children play in the mud in the indigenous community of El Quebracho, in northern Argentina. This country’s laws recognise the right to bilingual support in the education of native children, but in practice the rule is not enforced and children suffer discrimination when they speak their native languages. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

A group of Wichí children play in the mud in the indigenous community of El Quebracho, in northern Argentina. This country’s laws recognise the right to bilingual support in the education of native children, but in practice the rule is not enforced and children suffer discrimination when they speak their native languages. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
TARTAGAL, Argentina , Jan 12 2019 (IPS)

Nancy López lives in a house made of clay, wood and corrugated metal sheets, on private land dedicated to agriculture. She is part of an indigenous community of 12 families in northern Argentina that, like almost all such communities, has no title to the land it occupies and lives under the constant threat of eviction.

A widow and mother of nine, she has heard stories of better times. “My father told me that before they come and go and stay wherever they wanted. There was no talk of private land, no soybeans, no barbed wire. They felt free. Today they call us usurpers,” she told IPS.

López belongs to the Wichí people, one of the most numerous indigenous group of the 31 registered in Argentina. According to official data, native people represent 2.38 percent of the population of this South American country of 44 million people, although experts and indigenous leaders consider that the real percentage is much higher."The indigenous people who live on the outskirts of the cities are refugees who have been displaced from their place in the forest over the past 100 years by non-indigenous farmers who arrived with their cows and, in recent decades, by agribusiness.” -- John Palmer

Today, indigenous people in Argentina are struggling to preserve their way of life in a scenario made complex mainly due to conflicts over land.

Ninety-two percent of the communities do not have title to the land they live on, according to a survey published in 2017 by the National Audit Office, an oversight that depends on the legislative branch.

The scope of the conflict is huge. Approximately half of the 1,600 native communities in the country have carried out or are carrying out the process of surveying their lands that the State began more than 10 years ago, and they lay claim to eight and a half million hectares – a total area larger than the country of Panama.

The backdrop is the pattern of discrimination that persists in Argentina despite advances made on paper, as then UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples James Anaya reported after a visit to the country in 2011.

“There are still legacies from the colonial era and the history of exclusion is still highly visible,” Anaya wrote in his report.

Nancy López, a leader in her community, says children no longer want to speak Wichí, because if they do, they suffer discrimination at school, which must have a bilingual assistant teacher, according to the National Education Law in effect since 2006.

“The bilingual assistant is given jobs like making photocopies or running errands. He barely translates to the kids what the homework is. There’s a lot of racism,” Lopez said, as local children from the community played with mud in the rain.

Nancy López sits next to her house built of mud, wood and corrugated metal sheets in the Wichí community of El Quebracho, Salta province, northern Argentina. The indigenous community lives on privately owned agricultural land, to which they returned after being evicted in a major police operation. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Nancy López sits next to her house built of mud, wood and corrugated metal sheets in the Wichí community of El Quebracho, Salta province, northern Argentina. The indigenous community lives on privately owned agricultural land, to which they returned after being evicted in a major police operation. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Her community, El Quebracho, is one of dozens located near Tartagal, a city of 80,000 people in the province of Salta, on route 86, which is actually just a dirt road that leads to the Paraguayan border.

López explains that the families in her community settled six years ago in the countryside where they now live, without the owner’s permission, “because this used to be uncleared forest.”

The Wichí and other indigenous peoples of the area, who are hunter-gatherers, have historically depended on the forest for food, medicine, or wood to build their houses.

But every day there are fewer forests. Along with neighboring Santiago del Estero, Salta is the Argentine province that has suffered the greatest deforestation in recent years, due to the expansion of the agricultural frontier, pushed mainly by transgenic soy, which today occupies more than half of the area planted in the country.

“As the city of Tartagal grew, they pushed our indigenous communities out, so we go wherever we can,” explains López, who says that a couple of years ago they were evicted in an operation in which some 200 police officers participated.

“We stayed on the side of the road for about two months, until the policemen left and we went back in. We have nowhere else to go. This used to be all forest. Today we are surrounded by soy,” she says.

Since Argentina became a nation in 1853, one of its main goals was to exclude or assimilate indigenous people.

In fact, the constitution that went into effect that year called for “the preservation of peaceful treatment for the Indians, and the promotion of their conversion to Catholicism”, while, on the other hand, it imposed on the government the obligation to encourage European immigration.

Posters at the entrance to an indigenous community in the province of Salta say the State has already carried out a survey recognising the land as ancestrally occupied by native people. But no progress has been made in the titling of community property in this area of northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Posters at the entrance to an indigenous community in the province of Salta say the State has already carried out a survey recognising the land as ancestrally occupied by native people. But no progress has been made in the titling of community property in this area of northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The directive on the original population was still in force until just 25 years ago. Only in 1994, during the last constitutional reform, was it replaced by an article that recognises “the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of indigenous peoples” and “community possession and ownership of the lands they traditionally occupy.”

However, according to then rapporteur Anaya, the constitutional change did not modify a reality marked by “the historical dispossession of large tracts of land by ranchers and by the presence of agricultural, oil and mining companies that operate on lands claimed by indigenous communities.”

In 2006, Congress passed the Indigenous Communities Act, which declared indigenous lands in an emergency situation, ordered surveys of ancestrally occupied land and suspended evictions, even in cases with a judicial ruling, for a period of four years.

Since then, however, the survey has not even begun to be carried out in half of the communities, despite the fact that the law has been extended three times. And the great majority of the communities where the survey has been conducted still have no community property titles.

Today it is also reported that evictions are still being carried out, although the law in force prohibits them until 2021.

According to Amnesty International, which in 2017 released a study that detected 225 unresolved conflicts throughout the country, it is not surprising that the vast majority of the conflicts involving indigenous people in Argentina are over land.

“Some provinces have granted property titles, but there are no institutional mechanisms for access to indigenous community property in Argentina. We need a national law,” attorney Gabriela Kletzel, of the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), told IPS.

This non-governmental organisation brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) the case of a group of communities whose ownership of 400,000 hectares was recognised by the government of the province of Salta in 2014.

“However, these communities are not yet able to take control of the land because they do not have title to it. And they still can’t get white families to take their cattle off their land, which destroys the natural resources that are the foundation of indigenous life,” Kletzel said.

John Palmer, an English anthropologist who arrived in Salta more than 30 years ago and married a Wichí indigenous woman, told IPS: “The indigenous people who live on the outskirts of the cities are refugees who have been displaced from their place in the forest over the past 100 years by non-indigenous farmers who arrived with their cows and, in recent decades, by agribusiness.”

“The destruction of the forests has wiped out all of the resources that their economy is based on. So, like many animals that no longer have anything to eat, they came to the cities,” concluded Palmer, who lived for years in a rural Wichí community until he moved to Tartagal with his wife and their five children.

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Indigenous People, the First Victims of Brazil’s New Far-Right Governmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/indigenous-people-first-victims-brazils-new-far-right-government/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-people-first-victims-brazils-new-far-right-government http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/indigenous-people-first-victims-brazils-new-far-right-government/#respond Thu, 10 Jan 2019 02:39:32 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159569 “We have already been decimated and subjected, and we have been victims of the integrationist policy of governments and the national state,” said indigenous leaders, as they rejected the new Brazilian government’s proposals and measures focusing on indigenous peoples. In an open letter to President Jair Bolsonaro, leaders of the Aruak, Baniwa and Apurinã peoples, […]

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"We are fighting for the demarcation of our territory," reads a banner in a march of indigenous women who came to Rio de Janeiro from the communities of the 305 native peoples of Brazil, to demand respect for the rights recognised by the constitution, which far-right President Jair Bolsonaro began to ignore as soon as he was sworn in. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

"We are fighting for the demarcation of our territory," reads a banner in a march of indigenous women who came to Rio de Janeiro from the communities of the 305 native peoples of Brazil, to demand respect for the rights recognised by the constitution, which far-right President Jair Bolsonaro began to ignore as soon as he was sworn in. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 10 2019 (IPS)

“We have already been decimated and subjected, and we have been victims of the integrationist policy of governments and the national state,” said indigenous leaders, as they rejected the new Brazilian government’s proposals and measures focusing on indigenous peoples.

In an open letter to President Jair Bolsonaro, leaders of the Aruak, Baniwa and Apurinã peoples, who live in the watersheds of the Negro and Purus rivers in Brazil’s northwestern Amazon jungle region, protested against the decree that now puts indigenous lands under the Ministry of Agriculture, which manages interests that run counter to those of native peoples.

Indigenous people are likely to present the strongest resistance to the offensive of Brazil’s new far-right government, which took office on Jan. 1 and whose first measures roll back progress made over the past three decades in favor of the 305 indigenous peoples registered in this country.

Native peoples are protected by article 231 of the Brazilian constitution, in force since 1988, which guarantees them “original rights over the lands they traditionally occupy,” in addition to recognising their “social organisation, customs, languages, beliefs and traditions.”

To this are added international regulations ratified by the country, such as Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the International Labor Organisation, which defends indigenous rights, such as the right to prior, free and informed consultation in relation to mining or other projects that affect their communities.

It was indigenous people who mounted the stiffest resistance to the construction of hydroelectric dams on large rivers in the Amazon rainforest, especially Belo Monte, built on the Xingu River between 2011 and 2016 and whose turbines are expected to be completed this year.

Transferring the responsibility of identifying and demarcating indigenous reservations from the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) to the Ministry of Agriculture will hinder the demarcation of new areas and endanger existing ones.

There will be a review of the demarcations of Indigenous Lands carried out over the past 10 years, announced Luiz Nabhan García, the ministry’s new secretary of land affairs, who is now responsible for the issue.

García is the leader of the Democratic Ruralist Union, a collective of landowners, especially cattle ranchers, involved in frequent and violent conflicts over land.

Bolsonaro himself has already announced the intention to review Raposa Serra do Sol, an Indigenous Land legalised in 2005, amid legal battles brought to an end by a 2009 Supreme Court ruling, which recognised the validity of the demarcation.

Hamilton Lopes and his daughter, members of the Guarani indigenous community, stand in front of their hut, where their family lives a precarious existence on land that has not been demarcated, where they face threats of expulsion, on Brazil's border with Paraguay. Large landowners seize the lands of the Guarani, the second-largest native community in the country, causing a large number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Hamilton Lopes and his daughter, members of the Guarani indigenous community, stand in front of their hut, where their family lives a precarious existence on land that has not been demarcated, where they face threats of expulsion, on Brazil’s border with Paraguay. Large landowners seize the lands of the Guarani, the second-largest native community in the country, causing a large number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This indigenous territory covers 17,474 square kilometers and is home to some 20,000 members of five different native groups in the northern state of Roraima, on the border with Guyana and Venezuela.

In Brazil there are currently 486 Indigenous Lands whose demarcation process is complete, and 235 awaiting demarcation, including 118 in the identification phase, 43 already identified and 74 “declared”.

“The political leaders talk, but revising the Indigenous Lands would require a constitutional amendment or proof that there has been fraud or wrongdoing in the identification and demarcation process, which is not apparently frequent,” said Adriana Ramos, director of the Socio-environmental Institute, a highly respected non-governmental organisation involved in indigenous and environmental issues.

“The first decisions taken by the government have already brought setbacks, with the weakening of the indigenous affairs office and its responsibilities. The Ministry of Health also announced changes in the policy toward the indigenous population, without presenting proposals, threatening to worsen an already bad situation,” she told IPS from Brasilia.

“The process of land demarcation, which was already very slow in previous governments, is going to be even slower now,” and the worst thing is that the declarations against rights “operate as a trigger for violations that aggravate conflicts, generating insecurity among indigenous peoples,” warned Ramos.

In the first few days of the new year, and of the Bolsonaro administration, loggers already invaded the Indigenous Land of the Arara people, near Belo Monte, posing a risk of armed clashes, she said.

The indigenous Guaraní people, the second largest indigenous group in the country, after the Tikuna, who live in the north, are the most vulnerable to the situation, especially their communities in the central-eastern state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

They are fighting for the demarcation of several lands and the expansion of too-small areas that are already demarcated, and dozens of their leaders have been murdered in that struggle, while they endure increasingly precarious living conditions that threaten their very survival.

Karioca Cupobo Indians are painted and armed for combat before participating in a demonstration for indigenous rights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Karioca Cupobo Indians are painted and armed for combat before participating in a demonstration for indigenous rights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The grave situation is getting worse under the new government. They are strangling us by dividing Funai and handing the demarcation process to the Ministry of Agriculture, led by ruralists – the number one enemies of indigenous people,” said Inaye Gomes Lopes, a young indigenous teacher who lives in the village of Ñanderu Marangatu in Mato Grosso do Sul, near the Paraguayan border.

Funai has kept its welfare and rights defence functions but is now subordinate to the new Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, led by Damares Alves, a controversial lawyer and evangelical pastor.

“We only have eight Indigenous Lands demarcated in the state and one was annulled (in December). What we have is due to the many people who have died, whose murderers have never been put in prison,” said Lopes, who teaches at a school that pays tribute in indigenous language to Marçal de Souza, a Guarani leader murdered in 1982.

“We look for ways to resist and we look for ‘supporters’, at an international level as well. I’m worried, I don’t sleep at night,” she told IPS in a dialogue from her village, referring to the new government, whose expressions regarding indigenous people she called “an injustice to us.”

Bolsonaro advocates “integration” of indigenous people, referring to assimilation into the mainstream “white” society – an outdated idea of the white elites.

He complained that indigenous people continue to live “like in zoos,” occupying “15 percent of the national territory,” when, according to his data, they number less than a million people in a country of 209 million inhabitants.

“It’s not us who have a large part of Brazil’s territory, but the big landowners, the ruralists, agribusiness and others who own more than 60 percent of the national territory,” countered the public letter from the the Aruak, Baniwa and Apurinã peoples.

Actually, Indigenous Lands make up 13 percent of Brazilian territory, and 90 percent are located in the Amazon rainforest, the signatories of the open letter said.

“We are not manipulated by NGOs,” they replied to another accusation which they said arose from the president’s “prejudices.”

A worry shared by some military leaders, like the minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet, retired General Augusto Heleno Pereira, is that the inhabitants of Indigenous Lands under the influence of NGOs will declare the independence of their territories, to separate from Brazil.

They are mainly worried about border areas and, especially, those occupied by people living on both sides of the border, such as the Yanomami, who live in Brazil and Venezuela.

But in Ramos’ view, it is not the members of the military forming part of the Bolsonaro government, like the generals occupying five ministries, the vice presidency, and other important posts, who pose the greatest threat to indigenous rights.

Many military officers have indigenous people among their troops and recognise that they share in the task of defending the borders, she argued.

It is the ruralists, who want to get their hands on indigenous lands, and the leaders of evangelical churches, with their aggressive preaching, who represent the most violent threats, she said.

The new government spells trouble for other sectors as well, such as the quilombolas (Afro-descendant communities), landless rural workers and NGOs.

Bolsonaro announced that his administration would not give “a centimeter of land” to either indigenous communities or quilombolas, and said it would those who invade estates or other properties as “terrorists.”

And the government has threatened to “supervise and monitor” NGOs. But “the laws are clear about their rights to organise,” as well as about the autonomy of those who do not receive financial support from the state, Ramos said.

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Local Innovation Facilitates Solidarity-Based Biogas Networks in Cubahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 02:52:46 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159528 Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards. The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is […]

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Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards.

The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is thanks to engineer Alexander López Savran, who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to create distribution networks with the few basic materials available in this Caribbean island nation.

“A new biodigester has been designed to obtain pressure, which means that biogas can be distributed more than five kilometers away without the need for a compressor or blower. That is where the innovation lies,” the engineer, who lives in the city of Cabaiguán, capital of the municipality of the same name, where La Macuca is located, in the central province of Santi Spíritus, told IPS."Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas…We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.” -- Yuniel Pons

López, 32, made headlines in 2017 when he received the Green Latin America Award in Ecuador, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology included him among the 35 young Latin Americans whose innovations improved the lives of their communities.

With a long-standing movement of biogas promoters and current regulations for private pork production favorable to its expansion, Cuba faces the challenge of creating efficient distribution networks to further exploit this ecological resource and raise the quality of life of rural localities, amidst an anemic economy.

“We started by taking a close look at the problem,” López recalled. “We had pork-raising centers that needed biodigesters, but the volume they were going to produce would be much greater than the consumption of those state facilities. On the other hand, we didn’t have the equipment to be able to distribute it.”

This fuel arises from the decomposition of organic matter, especially cattle manure and human feces. But on many farms with biodigesters there is a surplus of methane gas which, if not used, puts pressure on the equipment and is often released into the atmosphere, contributing to pollution.

In addition, biogas is most efficient for cooking because up to 70 percent of the energy is lost when it is used to generate electricity or fuel a vehicle.

“Two factors were considered: we had too much energy and there are difficulties in cooking food in the communities due to deficits in access to energy or electricity costs,” López said, referring to the dependence of most Cuban households on electric appliances.

After two years of study and design, López came up with the first prototype, which over time “has changed structurally to gain in efficiency, durability and performance,” he said, when interviewed by IPS in Pons’ home, where Pons lives with his wife Sandra Díaz and their son.

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family's land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family’s land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Most of the biodigesters designed by López have been built as part of the Biomás Cuba project, which is coordinated by the state-run Indio Hatuey Experimental Pasture and Forage Station, located in the province of Matanzas, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

This initiative, which seeks to bring about energy sustainability in the Cuban countryside, provides part of the inputs, while the producer provides another part, to build the biodigester, which with fixed-dome technology is expensive because it requires a large volume of building materials but is compensated with distribution and 40 years of durability.

López estimated that his 10-cubic-meter biodigester costs the equivalent of 1,000 dollars in Cuba, but with an efficiency equal to that of a standard 15-cubic-meter biodigester. Less profitable are the polyethylene biodigesters, which cost about 800 dollars, serve just one home and have a useful life of up to 10 years.

So far, 10 biodigesters have been built with this local innovation in four localities of Cabaiguán: El Colorado (two), Ojo de Agua (one), Juan González (six) and La Macuca (one), which supply 102 homes and improved the lives of 600 people, saving 65 percent of electricity consumption per household.

And the technology was also replicated in Matanzas, although the engineer lamented the lukewarm reception by decision-makers with respect to the biodigester, which could contribute to the national plan for renewable energies to provide 24 percent of electric power by 2030, compared to just four percent today.

In well-equipped corrals, Pons keeps between 100 and 150 pigs behind his house as part of an agreement between state companies and private producers that in 2017 produced a record 194,976 tons, which did not, however, meet the demand of the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants. And that total was apparently not surpassed in 2018.

“Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas,” recalled the producer, who is supported by Biomás. “We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.”

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

After lighting the gas stove in his kitchen, Diaz, a homemaker, explained that “cooking food like this is faster, it’s wonderful… I used to cook with an electric hotplate and pressure cooker, but they were almost always broken,” she said.

The network reaches the modest home of Denia Santos and her family, who live next door to Pons. “Now I cook with biogas and I also use it to boil (disinfect) towels and bedding, something I did with firewood that I would chop up myself,” said Santos, who takes care of her mentally disabled son.

Other benefits described by families who have biogas are that it is a better way to cook food for their animals and boil water for human consumption, and that it generates a strongersense of community as everyone is responsible for maintaining the biodigester.

José Antonio Guardado, national coordinator of the Movement of Biogas Users, which emerged in 1983 and today has more than 3,000 members spread throughout almost all of Cuba’s provinces, said he was happy with the trend in Cuban agriculture to create solidarity biogas networks.

Guardado told IPS that there is “greater awareness, political support and participative activities in the context of local development,” although obstacles to distribution persist because “materials in the market are not optimal, sufficient or affordable” and “there is a lack of institutional infrastructure to provide this service in an integrated manner.”

Meanwhile, in El Cano, outside of Havana, the solidarity plans of farmer Hortensia Martínez have come to a halt despite the fact that she used her own resources to build a biodigester with a traditional fixed 22-cubic-meter dome on her La China farm, to supply the farm itself and share with five neighboring homes.

“Now I plan to give it a boost, but we haven’t been able to implement it because we don’t have the connections to the community’s houses and it has valves, special faucets and a type of hose that makes it possible to bury the network underground,” the farmer, who is well-known for her community projects, especially targeting children, told IPS.

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Solar Energy Crowns Social Housing Programme in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/solar-energy-crowns-social-housing-programme-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-energy-crowns-social-housing-programme-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/solar-energy-crowns-social-housing-programme-brazil/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 20:35:43 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159511 “Solar energy makes my happiness complete,” said Divina Cardoso dos Santos, owner of one of 740 houses with photovoltaic panels on the rooftops in a settlement on the outskirts of this central Brazilian city. “The first blessing was thishouse,” said the 67-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 14. “I paid 600 reais (155 dollars) […]

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A view of houses with solar panels on their rooftops in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, two kilometres from the city of Palmeiras de Goiás. With 740 homes, it is the largest solar energy project in social housing complexes in the state of Goiás, in central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A view of houses with solar panels on their rooftops in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, two kilometres from the city of Palmeiras de Goiás. With 740 homes, it is the largest solar energy project in social housing complexes in the state of Goiás, in central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
PALMEIRAS DE GOIÁS, Brazil, Jan 4 2019 (IPS)

“Solar energy makes my happiness complete,” said Divina Cardoso dos Santos, owner of one of 740 houses with photovoltaic panels on the rooftops in a settlement on the outskirts of this central Brazilian city.

“The first blessing was thishouse,” said the 67-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 14. “I paid 600 reais (155 dollars) a month for rent in the city of Palmeiras, and now I pay monthly quotas of just 25 reais (6.50 dollars) for this house, which is mine,” she told IPS.

Her retirement pension, which for the past two years has assured her an income equivalent to the minimum wage (250 dollars) a month, and visits from a daughter who lives in Switzerland are “other blessings,” which preceded the solar panels, which allow her to save almost the entire cost of the electricity bill – about 15 dollars a month.

The Maria PiresPerillo Residential complex, a group of 740 homes that began to house poor families in 2016, is a social housing project of the Housing Agency (AGEHAB) of the state of Goiás, in west-central Brazil.

Located two kilometres from Palmeiras de Goiás, a city of 28,000 people, it is the largest of the four residential complexes that AGEHAB will supply with solar energy. The agency is a pioneer in Brazil in includingsolar power in housing programmes.

“We would like to build all the new housing complexes with solar panels and also install them in the ones built previously,” Cleomar Dutra, president of AGEHAB, told IPS.

The agency subsidises the installation, granting 3,000 reais (780 dollars) to each family, through the”ChequeMaisMoradia”programme for the improvement of homes. The money covers the cost of two solar panels and the necessary equipment, such as inverters, cables and supports.

But this year’s devaluation of the Brazilian currency, the real, drove up the cost of the panels and other equipment, which is almost all imported. Additional resources for the facilities in the Palmeiras complex, which are yet to be completed, had to be sought, said Dutra.

Divina Cardoso dos Santos stands in front of her house in a social housing complex, for which she pays a monthly fee of about 6.5 dollars, on the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Palmeiras de Goiás. That's 24 times less than the rent she used to pay. On the neighbouring rooftop can be seen a solar water heater, which all of the homes in the neighbourhood have. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Divina Cardoso dos Santos stands in front of her house in a social housing complex, for which she pays a monthly fee of about 6.5 dollars, on the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Palmeiras de Goiás. That’s 24 times less than the rent she used to pay. On the neighbouring rooftop can be seen a solar water heater, which all of the homes in the neighbourhood have. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“Not all of the houses will have solar panels, because some did not sign the financing contract for the ‘Cheque Mais Moradia’,” said Pedro de Oliveira Neto, the 32-year-old technician who runs the facilities at the Maria Perillo Residential Complex, installed by Nexsolar.

Oliveira has been doing this work for the past four months, after taking a specialised course. Before that, he worked in the meat industry and in mining. Now he wants to stay in the field of solar energy, “which has a future, it’s innovation,” he told IPS.

Actually, most of the houses in the complex have solar panels, but few of them generate their own energy. After they are installed, other conditions must be met in order for the local power company, Enel from Italy, to connect each home’s system to the grid.

The process began in March 2017 when solar units were installed in three homes as a test.

Patricia Soares de Oliveira, 31, married with an eight-year-old daughter, was included in that first installation. Her electricity bill fell to one-fifth of the previous one. Now she pays about four dollars a month.

“We have two TV sets, a refrigerator, a washing machine, a computer and fans,” she told IPS to explain how much electricity they use.

“Now we want to reduce the water bill, which costs us 10 to 12 times more than electricity,” she complained.

Her family also no longer has to pay rent because they were granted a home in the complex. Whereas they used to pay 350 reais (90 dollars) a month they now pay just 25 reais (6.50 dollars) per month, the fee for the small portion of the financing that the owners have to pay.

The low cost of the home is due to a subsidy of up to 20,000 reais (5,200 dollars) granted by AGEHAB, through the ‘Cheque Mais Moradia’ programme for construction, to poor families with incomes of up to three minimum wages (about 740 dollars), said Dutra, the head of AGEHAB.

Two workers install solar panels on a house in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, an additional benefit for the poor families who are buying their homes at a very low cost. The Goiana Housing Agency of the state government of Goias, in central Brazil, subsidises most of the housing and the solar energy. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two workers install solar panels on a house in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, an additional benefit for the poor families who are buying their homes at a very low cost. The Goiana Housing Agency of the state government of Goias, in central Brazil, subsidises most of the housing and the solar energy. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The families settled in the complex are only paying the complementary financing from the Federal Economic Fund, a government bank.

“A 44-square-metre house, like the ones in the complex, are built with materials that cost 29,000 reais (7,500 dollars), but the cost can be reduced if the purchase is collective,” estimated Dutra. So the ‘Cheque Mais Moradia’ is insufficient, but almost enough.

If the beneficiary families are in charge of construction, working together collectively, or if the mayor’s office provides the labour, the houses can be built practically without running up a debt, Dutra said.

The housing complexes are aimed at the most needy local families, since AGEHAB does not have the resources to assist everyone, she said.

Palmeiras de Goiás was included in the system because the population grew well above the state average, due to immigration. New meat, dairy and animal feed industries attracted many people looking for work.

Generating electricity from solar panels is a novelty of the last two years in the Goiás housing programme, but solar energy was already used in social housing projects for heating water – there are solar boilers on every rooftop.

It is a cheaper and more accessible technology, quite widespread in Brazil, even in the Northeast region, where people are not used to bathing with hot water, due to the high local temperatures.

Patricia Soares de Oliveira, who was the first to receive solar panels as a test in 2017, stands in front of her house and next to an electric meter that reads "danger of electric shock". Her power bill in this social housing complex on the outskirts of Palmeiras de Goiás in central Brazil has fallen to one-fifth of what she previously paid. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Patricia Soares de Oliveira, who was the first to receive solar panels as a test in 2017, stands in front of her house and next to an electric meter that reads “danger of electric shock”. Her power bill in this social housing complex on the outskirts of Palmeiras de Goiás in central Brazil has fallen to one-fifth of what she previously paid. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Photovoltaic electricity generation has immense potential in Brazil. In the Midwest, solar radiation from a 30-square-metre rooftop could produce five times the electricity consumed by a low-income family, estimated Dennys Azevedo, an engineer who is works manager at AGEHAB.

That generation would be enough for 3.5 households consuming the national average, 157 kilowatts/hour per month, he told IPS.

But the rules set by the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), the Brazilian regulatory body, do not allow consumers to sell the energy they generate. The only benefit they receive is that the energy that they generate and consume is deducted from their electric bill.

The houses of the Maria Perillo Residential complex, for example, only have two solar panels, which occupy only about one-fifth of the rooftop. An additional panel would exceed the consumption of local families.

That rule, which does not exist in countries that have greatly expanded solar generation, such as Germany, is difficult to eliminate because of “pressure from distribution companies that would lose market share,” said Azevedo.

In addition, these power companies want to charge a tax for distributed (decentralised) solar generation, basically a tax for the use of the power lines, a cost that is currently subsidised, according to them. But “we’ve all already paid an availability tax” for the power grid, said the engineer.

Another restriction is the importation of equipment not yet manufactured in Brazil. The prices depend on the exchange rate, and any devaluation of the national currency makes everything more expensive, making planning impossible, he argued.

In addition, multiple expensive taxes raise the prices of solar equipment in Brazil, cancelling out part of the cost reduction for all solar energy components, said Azevedo, who explained that efforts are being made to avoid that taxation, “perhaps by buying equipment through the United Nations,” and to obtain funds for new projects.

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Mexico’s Forests, Both Victim of and Solution to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change/#respond Thu, 03 Jan 2019 20:48:52 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159473 “I dream of a healthy, sustainable, well-managed forest,” says Rogelio Ruiz, a silviculturist from southern Mexico, who insists that “we have to clean it up, take advantage of the wood, and reforest.” These activities are essential for the ecosystem, especially to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the president of the La Trinidad Communal […]

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The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
IXTLÁN DE JUÁREZ, Mexico, Jan 3 2019 (IPS)

“I dream of a healthy, sustainable, well-managed forest,” says Rogelio Ruiz, a silviculturist from southern Mexico, who insists that “we have to clean it up, take advantage of the wood, and reforest.”

These activities are essential for the ecosystem, especially to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the president of the La Trinidad Communal Lands Commissariat, in the municipality of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the state of Oaxaca, some 840 km south of Mexico City, told IPS.

Forest habitats are precisely one of the best natural mechanisms for mitigating climatic change, but at the same time they face the consequences, such as rising temperatures, variations in rainfall regimes and the spread of pests.

The ecoregion where La Trinidad is located, the Sierra Juárez mountains, is well aware of this. Since 2017 it has been facing an outbreak of the pine sawfly, which eats the needles of the pine tree, the most common species in this area of central Oaxaca. Local organisations estimate that some 10,000 hectares are at risk from this pest.

Ruíz explained that 106 of his community’s 805 hectares have been damaged. La Trinidad has a traditional Mexican system of government for collectively-owned and worked land, which is different from an “eijido” because the land here cannot be sold.

In September, “we applied aerial fumigation” of a biopesticide and now “we will use handpumps,” said the community leader, one of those attending the celebration in Ixtlan this month of the 35 years of struggle against the private forest concessions that were once predominant here. The struggle gave rise to community-managed forests like this one.

La Trinidad, made up of 291 community members and their families, has a permit to annually extract 5,000 cubic metres of wood during an eight-year management plan, in effect since 2014.

These undertakings exemplify the development of Mexican community forestry, considered a global model, for its success in generating social, economic and environmental benefits.

In 2016, Mexico, the second-largest country in Latin America, with 1.96 million square kilometres (196 million hectares), had 20.3 million hectares of temperate forest, 850,000 hectares of mesophilic mountain forest, 50.2 million hectares of scrubland, 7.9 million hectares of grasslands, 11.5 million hectares of rainforest and 1.4 million hectares of other vegetation, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains, sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains, sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The non-governmental Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry lists 4,886 forest communities and ejidos, of which some 2,100 commercially exploit the forests.

But only seven million hectares, in the hands of some 600 communities, operate with a management and conservation plan, a requirement for obtaining approval for the harvesting programmes promoted by the state-run National Forestry Commission.

Mexico’s timber production totals seven million cubic metres annually, of which Oaxaca in the south contributes just under seven percent.

Forest ecosystems provide water to urban areas, regulate the water cycle, provide food, and capture carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas responsible for global warming, among other ecological services, according to scientific studies.

As a result, in the face of the threats posed by climate change, forests require public policies that generate better economic incentives, offer legal certainty about land tenure, expand markets and increase productivity, say silviculture organisations and experts.

Ixtlan, which means “place of threads or fibers” in the Zapotec language and where 600 hectares have been damaged, has undertaken the fight against pests by experimenting with five species of pine in the community nursery.

“In November and December, we do seed selection. We want faster-growing, pest-resistant species. We are confident that the new species will be more resistant,” explained Sergio Ruiz, forestry advisor for the community enterprise Santo Tomás Ixtlán Forest Union.

The community of Ixtlán, also in the municipality of the same name, owns 19,125 hectares, of which 30 percent is used for forestry.

Its activities also include ecotourism, a gas station, a shop, a furniture factory and a water bottling plant. In 2018, the community nursery provided 360,000 seedlings, 100,000 of which went to reforestation while the other 260,000 were donated to nearby communities. The hope is to create a seed orchard.

A study under preparation by the state-run Technical University of Sierra Juárez analyses climatic factors such as temperature, moisture and soil conditions in Ixtlán.

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In 2015, Mexico emitted 683 million tons of CO2, making it the second largest polluter in the region after Brazil. Of that total, 20 million tons came from the loss of forest lands.

This Latin American country adopted its own goal of zero deforestation by 2030, a real challenge when average annual logging represents 200,867 hectares lost between 2011 and 2016, according to estimates by the Superior Audit of the Federation, the Mexican government comptroller’s office.

Other sites in the Sierra Juarez mountains are also exposed to climate change, although their height above sea level temporarily protects them from insects. Such is the case in the municipality of San Juan Evangelista, where silviculturists are preparing to adapt their forests to the phenomenon.

“It is important to clean up the forest, because it takes away combustion power and the risk of pests. In addition, managed forests allow more carbon sequestration than unmanaged forests. They can help prevent climate change from accelerating,” Filemón Manzano, technical adviser to the forestry community in that municipality, told IPS.

Analco, which means “on the other side of the river” in Nahuatl, consists of 150 community members, the owners of 1,600 hectares, of which 1,000 are covered by forests and 430 of which are exploited. The community operates a nursery for 3,000 seedlings.

Manzano and academics from the state-run Postgraduate College of Agricultural Sciences are preparing research on CO2 absorption by managed forests, estimated at five tons per year per managed hectare.

Under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Mexico pledged to reduce, by 2030, up to 14 million tons of annual CO2 emissions from land use, land use change and forestry, by promoting sustainable forest management, increasing productivity in forests and jungles and promoting forest plantations.

But the outlays needed to implement mitigation measures would total 11.789 billion dollars up to that year, at a cost of 53 dollars per ton of CO2. Zero deforestation would require 7.923 billion dollars and sustainable forest management would require 3.861 billion dollars.

In July, the Mexican forestry sector proposed a long-term policy, greater investment, an adequate legal framework, strengthening community forest management, community participation in the design of measures and a link to climate change, as part of the “Forests with people, forests forever” campaign.

Rogelio Ruiz called for more support to better care for the ecosystem and thus reap more benefits.

The study “Toward a Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands”, published in September by the Rights and Resources Initiative, a Washington-based global network of 15 partners, estimated that Mexican community forests trap 2.8 million tons of CO2.

Manzano called for more forest management. “We want to show how managed forests contribute to the conservation of the planet. It’s going to be important to have more resistant species and create a good mix of species,” he said.

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Climate Change Forces Central American Farmers to Migratehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-forces-central-american-farmers-migrate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-forces-central-american-farmers-migrate http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-forces-central-american-farmers-migrate/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 20:02:38 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159467 As he milks his cow, Salvadoran Gilberto Gomez laments that poor harvests, due to excessive rain or drought, practically forced his three children to leave the country and undertake the risky journey, as undocumented migrants, to the United States. Gómez, 67, lives in La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the […]

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Gilberto Gómez stands next to the cow he bought with the support of his migrant children in the United States,which eases the impact of the loss of his subsistence crops, in the village of La Colmena, Candelaria de la Frontera municipality in western El Salvador. This area forms part of the Central American Dry Corridor, where increasing climate vulnerability is driving migration of the rural population. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Gilberto Gómez stands next to the cow he bought with the support of his migrant children in the United States,which eases the impact of the loss of his subsistence crops, in the village of La Colmena, Candelaria de la Frontera municipality in western El Salvador. This area forms part of the Central American Dry Corridor, where increasing climate vulnerability is driving migration of the rural population. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
CANDELARIA DE LA FRONTERA, El Salvador, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

As he milks his cow, Salvadoran Gilberto Gomez laments that poor harvests, due to excessive rain or drought, practically forced his three children to leave the country and undertake the risky journey, as undocumented migrants, to the United States.

Gómez, 67, lives in La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western Salvadoran department of Santa Ana.

The small hamlet is located in the so-called Dry Corridor of Central America, a vast area that crosses much of the isthmus, but whose extreme weather especially affects crops in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

“They became disillusioned, seeing that almost every year we lost a good part of our crops, and they decided they had to leave, because they didn’t see how they could build a future here,” Gómez told IPS, as he untied the cow’s hind legs after milking.

He said that his eldest son, Santos Giovanni, for example, also grew corn and beans on a plot of land the same size as his own, “but sometimes he didn’t get anything, either because it rained a lot, or because of drought.”

The year his children left, in 2015, Santos Giovanni lost two-thirds of the crop to an unusually extreme drought.

“It’s impossible to go on like this,” lamented Gómez, who says that of the 15 families in La Colmena, many have shrunk due to migration because of problems similar to those of his son.

The Dry Corridor, particularly in these three nations, has experienced the most severe droughts of the last 10 years, leaving more than 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned as early as 2016.

Now Gómez’s daughter, Ana Elsa, 28, and his two sons, Santos Giovanni, 31, and Luis Armando, 17, all live in Los Angeles, California.

“Sometimes they call us, and tell us they’re okay, that they have jobs,” he said.

The case of the Gómez family illustrates the phenomenon of migration and its link with climate change and its impact on harvests, and thus on food insecurity among Central American peasant families.

La Colmena, which lacks piped water and electricity, benefited a few years ago from a project to harvest rainwater, which villagers filter to drink, as well as reservoirs to water livestock.

However, their crops are still vulnerable to the onslaught of heavy rains and increasingly unpredictable and intense droughts.

Domitila Reyes pulls corn cobs from a plantation in Ciudad Romero, a rural settlement in the municipality of Jiquilisco, in eastern El Salvador. The production of basic grains such as corn and beans has been affected by climate change in large areas of the country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Domitila Reyes pulls corn cobs from a plantation in Ciudad Romero, a rural settlement in the municipality of Jiquilisco, in eastern El Salvador. The production of basic grains such as corn and beans has been affected by climate change in large areas of the country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

In addition to the violence and poverty, climate change is the third cause of the exodus of Central Americans, especially from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the new Atlas of Migration in Northern Central America.

The report, released Dec. 12 by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and FAO, underscores that the majority of migrants from these three countries come from rural areas.

Between 2000 and 2012, the report says, there was an increase of nearly 59 percent in the number of people migrating from these three countries, which make up the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America. In Guatemala, 77 percent of the people living in rural areas are poor, and in Honduras the proportion is 82 percent.

In recent months, waves of citizens from Honduras and El Salvador have embarked on the long journey on foot to the United States, with the idea that it would be safer if they travelled in large groups.

Travelling as an undocumented migrant to the United States carries a series of risks: they can fall prey to criminal gangs, especially when crossing Mexico, or dieon the long treks through the desert.

Another report published by FAO in December, Mesoamerica in Transit, states that of the nearly 30 million international migrants from Latin America, some four million come from the Northern Triangle and another 11 million from Mexico.

The study adds that among the main factors driving migration in El Salvador are poverty in the departments of Ahuachapán, Cabañas, San Vicente and Sonsonate; environmental vulnerability in Chalatenango, Cuscatlán, La Libertad and San Salvador; and soaring violence in La Paz, Morazán and San Salvador.

And according to the report, Honduran migration is strongly linked to the lack of opportunities, and to high levels of poverty and violence in the northwest of the country and to environmental vulnerability in the center-south.

With respect to Guatemala, the report indicates that although in this country migration patterns are not so strongly linked to specific characteristics of different territories, migration is higher in municipalities where the percentage of the population without secondary education is larger.

In Mexico, migration is linked to poverty in the south and violence in the west, northwest and northeast, while environmental vulnerability problems seem to be cross-cutting.

“The report shows a compelling and comprehensive view of the phenomenon: the decision to migrate is the individual’s, but it is conditioned by their surroundings,” Luiz Carlos Beduschi, FAO Rural Development Officer, told IPS from Santiago, Chile, the U.N. organisation’s regional headquarters.

He added that understanding what is happening in the field is fundamental to understanding migratory dynamics as a whole.

The study, published Dec. 18, makes a “multicausal analysis; the decision to stay or migrate is conditioned by a set of factors, including climate, especially in the Dry Corridor of Central America,” Beduschi said.

For the FAO expert, it is necessary to promote policies that offer rural producers “better opportunities for them and their families in their places of origin.”

It is a question, he said, “of guaranteeing that they have the necessary conditions to freely decide whether to stay at home or to migrate elsewhere,” and keeping rural areas from expelling the local population as a result of poverty, violence, climate change and lack of opportunities.

In the case of El Salvador, while there is government awareness of the impacts of climate change on crops and the risk it poses to food security, little has been done to promote public policies to confront the phenomenon, activist Luis González told IPS.

“There are national plans and strategies to confront climate change, to address the water issue, among other questions, but the problem is implementation: it looks nice on paper, but little is done, and much of this is due to lack of resources,” added González, a member of the Roundtable for Food Sovereignty, a conglomerate of social organisations fighting for this objective.

Meanwhile, in La Colmena, Gómez has given his wife, Teodora, the fresh milk they will use to make cheese.

They are happy that they have the cow, bought with the money their daughter sent from Los Angeles, and they are hopeful that the weather won’t spoil the coming harvest.

“With this cheese we earn enough for a small meal,” he said.

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Women in Argentina Are Empowered as They Speak Out Against Gender Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/women-argentina-empowered-speak-gender-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-argentina-empowered-speak-gender-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/women-argentina-empowered-speak-gender-violence/#comments Sat, 22 Dec 2018 03:38:04 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159423 “In 2001 I was raped. I was 31 years old, had two university degrees and was still doing postgraduate studies, I had family, friends, a job. Many more resources than most rape victims have. Even so, it was the start of an ordeal whose scars I still feel today.” Stories like this one, published on […]

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"Without equality there is no justice" reads a mural with an image of that justice, demanding greater protection for women's rights, painted in the Caballito neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The women's movement gained great visibility this year in Argentina, with campaigns, for example, for the decriminalisation of abortion, although it was defeated in parliament. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

"Without equality there is no justice" reads a mural with an image of that justice, demanding greater protection for women's rights, painted in the Caballito neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The women's movement gained great visibility this year in Argentina, with campaigns, for example, for the decriminalisation of abortion, although it was defeated in parliament. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 22 2018 (IPS)

“In 2001 I was raped. I was 31 years old, had two university degrees and was still doing postgraduate studies, I had family, friends, a job. Many more resources than most rape victims have. Even so, it was the start of an ordeal whose scars I still feel today.”

Stories like this one, published on Twitter on Dec. 13 by Ana Castellani, a sociologist and professor at the University of Buenos Aires, are popping up all over Argentina’s social networks these days.

At the same time, public and private institutions dedicated to the defence of women’s rights are overwhelmed by an unusually heavy stream of demands."Her public statement broke down the common idea that these issues should not be talked about in public…In the case of sexual assaults on women in Argentina, the shame was not on the side of the aggressor but on the side of the victim, because it was thought that she had surely done something to turn him on." -- Eleonor Faur

This South American country is experiencing an explosion of reports of sexual violence against women and children, following a shocking public event that occurred on Dec. 11.

That day, at a Buenos Aires theater, more than 200 actresses surrounded a young colleague, Thelma Fardín, who reported that in 2009, when she was 16, she was raped by a well-known soap opera star, Juan Darthés, almost 30 years older, during a tour of Nicaragua with a children’s television programme.

“Thanks to the fact that someone broke the silence, I can now talk about what happened,” said Fardín in tears, referring to two other actresses who had reported weeks earlier that they were the victims of sexual harassment by Darthés. In the days prior to this public revelation, Fardín had traveled to the Central American country to file a criminal complaint against the actor.

“The public repercussion was much greater than we expected. What Thelma said encouraged thousands of women to who were silent to speak out,” Mirta Busnelli, a renowned actress with more than 40 years of experience in film, theatre and TV, told IPS. She is part of the group that backed the complaint with her presence.

“When you talk to women, inside and outside the arts scene, almost all of them have suffered a situation of sexual harassment or abuse, which they silenced even in their own conscience,” said Busnelli.

She added: “This doesn’t happen by chance. It happens because the person who dares speak out is usually revictimised. The veracity of her story is questioned or people wonder whether the woman herself has not provoked the problem because of how she was dressed or because of her attitude. We trust that things will begin to change.”

The magnitude of the wave of reports of sexual violence was such that political leaders felt compelled to take an active stance.

Just a few hours after Fardín spoke out publicly, President Mauricio Macri announced the inclusion, during an extraordinary session of Congress, which usually holds a recess in December, of a bill that establishes mandatory training on the gender perspective for public officials of all branches of power.

The bill was presented by an opposition congresswoman in 2017 after the rape and murder in the eastern province of Entre Ríos of 17-year-old Micaela García by a man who had already served time for rape and was on parole.

A picture from the end of the year party of the Argentine Actresses collective, which came out in full support of the public revelation by a colleague who said she was raped at the age of 16, in 2009, by a famous soap opera star almost 30 years older than her. Credit: Facebook-Actrices Argentinas

A picture from the end of the year party of the Argentine Actresses collective, which came out in full support of the public revelation by a colleague who said she was raped at the age of 16, in 2009, by a famous soap opera star almost 30 years older than her. Credit: Facebook-Actrices Argentinas

Like Macri, the deputies and senators acted quickly, because in their first extraordinary session, on Wednesday Dec. 19, they passed the law with only one vote against, from Deputy Alfredo Olmedo, who a few hours earlier had traveled to Brazil, where he was photographed with far-right president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro.

“I was the only deputy who voted against gender ideology. I will continue to maintain that God created man and woman,” Olmedo boasted on the social networks.

As a sign of the current climate, the Dec. 19 session in the Senate began with the half-hearted defence of a senator of the governing alliance Cambiemos, Juan Carlos Marino, who after Thelma Fardín’s revelation was denounced by a congressional employee, who said he molested her in an office of Congress and harassed her with Whatsapp messages.

The cases that touched on politics and entertainment were many, in reality, but none was as shocking as that of Luis María Rodríguez, sports director of the city of San Pedro, 170 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires.

Rodriguez was denounced on Dec. 16 by a young woman who uploaded a video to Youtube in which she said that he had raped her when she was 13 years old and he was her dance teacher. Hours later Rodriguez was found hanged in his home.

The 2015 murder of a teenage girl by her boyfriend was the spark that gave birth to the movement #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less), which has obtained several victories and raised public awareness about femicides – gender-based murders.

“In the last few days, our phones have blown up,” said María Soledad Dawson, one of the coordinators of the Ministry of Justice’s Victims Against Violence Programme, which receives reports of abuse and ill-treatment.

“After the Thelma Fardín case, a lot of people started calling who had never before dared, or who thought that, after several years, they couldn’t report a case,” she told IPS.

“We usually received the bulk of the calls between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.. Now we continue to answer the phone into the wee hours of the morning,” she added.

The National Child Sexual Abuse Hotline reported that the day after the actress’s complaint, 214 calls were received, compared to 16 the day before.

For its part, the government’s National Women’s Institute revealed that the hotline for women in situations of violence received 6008 calls in the four days prior to the Fardín case and 12,855 in the four subsequent days.

The sociologist Eleonor Faur, who specialises in gender issues, said the impact is due to the fact that “the presentation by the Argentine Actresses collective was very solid. It was very well-organised, with advice from lawyers and feminist journalists.”

“Above and beyond the specific case, they showed that sexual violence is a completely accepted modus operandi in show business,” she told IPS.

Figures from organisations that address male violence indicate that in this country of 44 million people, some 300 women are murdered each year because they are women. In 2017 there were 295 femicides, indicating that the #NiUnaMenos movement did not manage to reduce these crimes.

The Argentine Actresses, a group made up of more than 300 artists, was formed in April, when the country mobilised for the legislative debate on the decriminalisation of abortion, which in August was narrowly defeated by the Senate (by 38 votes to 31), after it was approved in the Chamber of Deputies.

In fact, when Thelma Fardín made her public statement, the actresses surrounding her wore green scarves on their wrists or necks – the local symbol of the struggle for the legalisation of abortion.

“Her public statement broke down the common idea that these issues should not be talked about in public,” Faur added.

The sociologist explained that “in the case of sexual assaults on women in Argentina, the shame was not on the side of the aggressor but on the side of the victim, because it was thought that she had surely done something to turn him on.”

“Now the most interesting thing will be to see how the public institutions and the different social organisations react, which after this cultural change are going to have to do a lot of back-pedalling,” she said.

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BAPA+40: An Opportunity to Reenergize South-South Cooperationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bapa40-opportunity-reenergize-south-south-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bapa40-opportunity-reenergize-south-south-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bapa40-opportunity-reenergize-south-south-cooperation/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 12:35:46 +0000 Branislav Gosovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159409 Branislav Gosovic, worked in UNCTAD, UNEP, UNECLAC, World Commission on Environment and Development, South Commission, and South Centre (1991-2005), and is the author of the recently-published book ‘The South Shaping the Global Future, 6 Decades of the South-North Development Struggle in the UN.’

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Global South-South Development Expo 2018. Credit: UNOSSC

By Branislav Gosovic
GENEVA, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

The upcoming conference on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA+40), scheduled to take place in the Argentine capital on 20-22 March 2019, ought to be more than just another UN conference where the developing countries assemble to present their demands and seek support from the North.

Also, it must not turn out to be a replay of the 2009 1st UN High-level Conference on South-South Cooperation*, i.e. an anodyne event in terms of impact and follow-up, though such a scenario may be preferred by some, risk of which exists since the 2019 gathering is also scheduled to last only three days, not enough time for genuine deliberations and negotiations.

Therefore, it is up to the developing countries to build up BAPA+40 into a major global event.

a. South-South cooperation and the United Nations system

One of the key objectives of the Global South at BAPA+40 should be to place South-South cooperation at the very centre of the UN system of multilateral cooperation.

The UN system needs to recognize the diversity and broad spectrum that SSC subsumes, to resist the limits being imposed on SSC and it being distanced and cut off from its original institutional and political roots and aspirations.

The United Nations ought to introduce clear and specific measures and programmes, necessary human and financial resources, and mandates by “mainstreaming” and “enhancing support” for SSC in every organization and agency of the UN system, to have them incorporate the needs and objectives of South-South cooperation.

It needs also to be reiterated that South-South cooperation is not a substitute for North-South development cooperation, but a parallel and new sphere of multilateral cooperation that opens new and promising opportunities, stimulates North-South cooperation, and provides alternative and innovative approaches in development cooperation.

In the fold of the UN, a significant, yet very limited step to mainstream South-South Cooperation has been taken by upgrading the UNDP Special Unit for TCDC first into a Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and then into the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

This cannot and should not be the end-station, but needs to be followed up ambitiously and seriously at the global level, by appointment of a UN Secretary-General’s high level representative who would provide political vision for South-South cooperation and the establishment of a UN specialized entity within the UNDP platform or in the UN Development System (UNDS) in the making, whose mission would be to promote South-South cooperation, as recommended by the Group of 77 Ministerial Meeting.

Any such entity would need to have its own intergovernmental machinery, a major capital development fund for South-South projects, and fully staffed substantive secretariat equipped to perform a number of important functions, including initiating and funding projects, undertaking research, maintaining a data base on SSC and a directory of national actors involved in SSC, and publishing a regular, periodic UN report on South-South Cooperation called for by G77 Summits.

A suggestion has been floated to consider entrusting this task to UNCTAD, given that its mandate concerning North-South issues has been eroded and its role marginalized.

Such a central entity for SSC would need to be backed, at the regional level, by greatly strengthened and invigorated UN regional economic commissions in the South.

These Commissions are the principal UN bodies based in and with a full knowledge of their respective regions. Their key mission should be the promotion of South-South cooperation or “horizontal cooperation”, as traditionally referred to in Latin America.

The proposed structure, drawing also on UN specialized agencies in their areas of competence, would have as one of its tasks to support and energize sub-regional, regional and inter-regional South-South cooperation.

Regular, high-level UN conferences on South-South cooperation would need to be convened, and a consolidated and regular substantive, analytical and statistical UN report on the state of South-South cooperation will need to be prepared.

b. Global South and South-South cooperation

Given the overall global context, the developing countries cannot rely solely on the United Nations, even if and when the suggested institutional improvements are approved and become operational.

South-South cooperation is an opportunity for the Global South to contribute to achieving a number of outstanding goals and aspirations and be a vehicle for reshaping the global system.

For this to happen, however, what is needed on the part of the developing countries is hard work, mobilization of resources and of collective power, major and sustained efforts and commitment/obligation to pursue and attain a series of objectives that need to be identified and agreed on.

In their efforts to follow this advice, in addition to many practical obstacles and problems, the developing countries would also encounter opposition and doubts within their own ranks, not to mention a frontal or undercover resistance by actors of the North.

This resistance would especially come from those who would consider every major move in that direction as a potential threat to their own interests and global designs, and would, very likely, take steps, including within individual developing countries, often with local support and even via ”inconvenient” regime and leadership change, to influence and embroil the collective efforts.

What matters, however, is that today the Global South has the resources and collective power to move forward, and that this is not a “mission impossible”, as some who are familiar with problems and difficulties encountered in South-South cooperation efforts and undertakings and the building and management of joint institutions might point out. There is little that stands in the way of:

    • Undertaking a critical, in-depth review and analysis of: South-South cooperation, important actions and proposals agreed on over the years and their implementation, experiences, public attitudes, performance of individual countries, functioning of joint institutions and mechanisms of cooperation and integration, main obstacles and shortcomings that call for action, including the all too frequent difficulties or failure to follow up on important decisions taken at the political level.
    • Focussing on how to resolve the issue of lack of adequate financing for South-South cooperation, activities, projects and institutions, probably one of the most serious practical obstacles standing in the way of SSC being put into practice as desired and called for.

    • Inspiring, informing about and involving in the South-South cooperation project the public and individuals; with this in mind, applying capacity-building and training to raise the awareness of the existing experiences and opportunities; using to this end also educational, marketing, media and public relations approaches, which are so common in contemporary society and are used not only to advertise and publicize goods and services, but also political and social goals and causes, in this case the common identity of the South as an entity.

    • Setting up a South organization for South-South cooperation, and pooling together and networking intellectual and analytical resources available in the South and internationally to staff and support the work of that institution.

    • Placing on the agenda the challenge of intellectual self-empowerment of the Global South and the harnessing of its intellectual resources and institutions into an interactive network for support of common goals and collective actions.

    • Evolving, at the highest level, a representative system of political authority (e.g., heads of state or government, one delegated from each region) for regular and ad hoc communication, consultations and contacts, for meetings to assess progress in the implementation of agreed SSC goals, and for communication/interaction with all heads of state and/or government in the Global South.

    • Based on the workings and experience of the South Commission, of the now defunct UN Committee on Development Planning and of the G77 High-Level Panel of Eminent Personalities of the South, to consider establishing a permanent South-South commission or committee to bring together, on a regular basis, high-stature personalities and thinkers from the South to reflect and deliberate on challenges faced by the developing countries and by the international community.

    • Elaborating and agreeing on a blueprint for national self-empowerment for South-South cooperation, to guide and be used as a reference by the individual developing countries in line with their own characteristics and capacities, and transforming this blueprint into a legal instrument binding for all developing countries.

    • Nurturing, training and educating future cadres and leaders for South-South cooperation, directly exposing them to and familiarizing them with different problems and different regions of the South, and, when they are ready, deploying them in national, sub-regional, regional and multilateral, including UN, settings.

    • Focussing on the role of “digital South-South cooperation” in the promotion and energizing of all forms of South-South cooperation, including closer contacts, communication, information sharing and interaction, mutual understanding between and among the peoples and countries of the South, transfer of technology, and education and culture.

    • Calling for closer cooperation between and joint initiatives of G77 and NAM, an important pending political and institutional topic on the agenda of the Global South.

There is little new in the above suggestions, which draw on practical experiences and have been articulated over the years and in different contexts. What they propose is within reach, is doable, and would represent a major “leap forward” for South-South cooperation.

What is needed today is firm political will, long-term vision and determined initiative for a group of the South’s countries and leaders to launch such a process on the desired track and, most importantly, sustain it with the necessary political commitment and financial and institutional support.

The 2019 Buenos Aires Conference in March next year is an opportunity for the South to stand up and raise its collective voice, as at the very beginnings of South-South cooperation in Bandung (1955), Belgrade (1961), Geneva (1964) and Algiers (1967).

* This article is a shortened version of the concluding pages of an extensive essay “On the eve of BAPA+40 – South-South Cooperation in today’s geopolitical context”, which was published in VESTNIK RUDN. International Relations, 2018, Volume 18, Issue 03, October 2018, pp. 459-478, the international journal of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN), formerly Patrice Lumumba University, in a special volume to mark the 40th anniversary of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. (See http://journals.rudn.ru/international-relations/article/view/20098/16398 )

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Excerpt:

Branislav Gosovic, worked in UNCTAD, UNEP, UNECLAC, World Commission on Environment and Development, South Commission, and South Centre (1991-2005), and is the author of the recently-published book ‘The South Shaping the Global Future, 6 Decades of the South-North Development Struggle in the UN.’

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Global Pact Gives Dignity and Rights to Latin American Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-pact-gives-dignity-rights-latin-american-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-pact-gives-dignity-rights-latin-american-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-pact-gives-dignity-rights-latin-american-migrants/#respond Thu, 20 Dec 2018 01:29:20 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159374 A landmark global migration pact provides dignity and rights to migrants in every situation and context, stressed representatives of non-governmental organisations in Latin America and the Caribbean, where some 30 million people live outside their countries, forced by economic, social, security, political and now also climatic reasons. Experts and migrants from the region lamented that […]

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Immigrants in Chile, which draws migrants from other countries in Latin America, celebrate the Fiesta of Cultures for a Dignified Migration waving flags from their countries at the emblematic Plaza de Armas in Santiago on Dec. 18, International Migrants Day. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Immigrants in Chile, which draws migrants from other countries in Latin America, celebrate the Fiesta of Cultures for a Dignified Migration waving flags from their countries at the emblematic Plaza de Armas in Santiago on Dec. 18, International Migrants Day. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Dec 20 2018 (IPS)

A landmark global migration pact provides dignity and rights to migrants in every situation and context, stressed representatives of non-governmental organisations in Latin America and the Caribbean, where some 30 million people live outside their countries, forced by economic, social, security, political and now also climatic reasons.

Experts and migrants from the region lamented that some countries are marginalising themselves from this multilateral and collaborative effort to solve a global problem by breaking with a pact that “establishes a minimum foundation for dialogue,” as Rodolfo Noriega of Peru, leader of the National Immigrant Coordinating committee in Chile that includes 72 organisations, told IPS.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was approved at a Dec. 10-11 intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, Morocco by 164 countries, which on Dec. 19 endorsed it in a vote at the United Nations in New York."There are places where the most urgent thing is for the migrant not to lose his or her life, or not to be persecuted, or not to be kidnapped by a trafficking network. There are other contexts in which the problem has to do with discrimination, access to opportunities, access to rights, one's value as a person and not being seen as just a number." -- Juan Pablo Ramacciotti

The right-wing governments of Chile and the Dominican Republic abstained from voting on the agreement, arguing that it does not protect the interests of their countries. This South American country is currently a destination for migrants from neighboring countries, and the Dominican Republic receives a major influx of people from Haiti, with which it shares the island of Hispaniola.

The non-binding agreement has 23 objectives and aims to “minimise the structural factors” that force mass exodus, while including measures against trafficking in persons and the separation of migrant families, and calling for international cooperation, as a first step towards establishing a common approach in a world in which one in 30 people is a migrant.

Juan Pablo Ramacciotti, an official with the Chilean Jesuit Migrant Service, told IPS that the agreement “recognises migrants as people who have dignity and rights in every situation and every context.”

The expert in Latin American migration recalled that currently in this region of 657 million inhabitants, the points of greatest need and crisis for migrants in the region are in the northern triangle of Central America and Venezuela.

In the first case, migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador cross Mexico in their attempt to reach the United States, and in the second, thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing a collapsing country and changing the situation in other South American countries.

“Today the caravan of 7,000 migrants (heading to the U.S. via Mexico) has made the headlines around the world, but it is a situation that is constantly repeated. There are caravans that may not be so massive, but they are permanently seeking to reach the United States. It’s a serious situation, a critical issue, where violations of rights and discrimination abound,” Ramacciotti said.

He added that the second problem arises from the economic and political crisis in Venezuela “because many people are leaving that country, presenting a humanitarian challenge, also because of the incorporation of Venezuelans in different countries, especially in South America.”

There are 258 million migrants around the world, and about 30 million of them are from Latin America and the Caribbean. The phenomenon of migration “has a diverse range of expressions that have placed the issue on the global agenda,” said Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Venezuelan immigrants, whose presence grew explosively in Chile as a result of the chaos in their country, successfully sell their products and typical foods in stalls in Vega Central, Santiago's main food market, which has become a meeting point for Venezuelans. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Venezuelan immigrants, whose presence grew explosively in Chile as a result of the chaos in their country, successfully sell their products and typical foods in stalls in Vega Central, Santiago’s main food market, which has become a meeting point for Venezuelans. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

This U.N. agency was responsible for coordinating the Latin American position during the talks leading up to the pact. At its headquarters in Santiago, the first regional meeting to establish a common position was held in August 2017, which concluded with the demand that the agreement ratify the human right to free movement of persons.

In this region, migration increased mainly with the exodus from Central America to the United States. By 2015, 89 percent of Salvadoran migrants, 87 percent of Guatemalan migrants and 82 percent of Honduran migrants resided in the United States.

Bárcena has indicated that the pact “is a response by the international community to the challenges and opportunities posed by migration, in a global agenda. It is a historic instrument that constitutes an example of renewed multilateral interest.”

In the opinion of the senior U.N. official, the complexity of the phenomenon of migration in the region “has been growing, as revealed by the movements in Central America and the insufficient responses to the so-called mixed flows, including unaccompanied migrant children; emigration from Venezuela and the new realities faced by the receiving countries; and emigration from Haiti and the discrimination suffered by migrants from that country.”

“And as a corollary, the picture of contrasting realities expressed in the endless adversities faced by many migrants on their journeys,” Bárcena said.

Ramacciotti pointed out that migration is caused by situations of humanitarian crisis, political crisis, extreme poverty and war and that therefore it is very important “that we jointly take charge of a problem and a challenge that we all face.”

Juan Pablo Ramacciotti, an expert on migration in Latin America with the Chilean Catholic Jesuit Migrant Service, gives an interview to IPS in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Juan Pablo Ramacciotti, an expert on migration in Latin America with the Chilean Catholic Jesuit Migrant Service, gives an interview to IPS in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), whose regional headquarters are also in Santiago, added two other ingredients driving people out of Latin American countries: climate change and the lack of opportunities in the countryside.

In Central America, for example, “The massive irregular migration we have seen in recent months is a direct consequence of food insecurity, climate crises, the erosion of the social fabric and the lack of economic opportunities in the rural villages and areas of these countries,” said Kostas Stamoulis, deputy director-general of FAO’s Economic and Social Development Department, earlier this month.

Because of the complexity of the phenomenon, “that migration is an issue that each country sees according to its own criteria, from the borders inward, is not a path that allows us to approach the phenomenon with a vision of the future or understanding that it is a problem that involves everyone: countries of origin, transit and destination,” Ramacciotti said.

He added that the fact that “we reached a pact in which we agree on major issues and which helps us move forward together is very good news for all.”

Noriega, for his part, criticised the non-binding nature of the pact and said that, furthermore, “the power and authority of the State is overvalued without giving a more explicit and full guarantee to the right to migrate.”

The pact means “having a minimum level of dialogue,” he said, but he criticised the reaffirmation of “the power of the State to decide who enters and who does not enter their countries and to decide what treatment irregular or regular immigrants should receive.”

He added that “a rather positive aspect is that it reaffirms principles that international law has already been asserting, such as, for example, that deportation should be a last resort in exceptional circumstances.”

With regard to the biggest threats to migrants, Ramacciotti said that depends on the context and the area in question.

“There are places where the most urgent thing is for the migrant not to lose his or her life, or not to be persecuted, or not to be kidnapped by a trafficking network. There are other contexts in which the problem has to do with discrimination, access to opportunities, access to rights, one’s value as a person and not being seen as just a number,” he explained.

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Local Communities in Mexico Question Benefits of Mayan Trainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 22:43:47 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159298 “If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico. Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in […]

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The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

“If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico.

Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP), told IPS that they lack detailed information about the megaproject, one of the high-profile initiatives promised during his campaign by the new leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his acronym AMLO.

“It’s not clear to us. We don’t know about the project,” said Euán, who also questioned the benefits promised by the president, who was sworn in on Dec. 1, for the local population, as well as the mechanisms for participation in the project and the threats it poses to the environment."They are violating our indigenous rights. We don't agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don't see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses." -- Miguel Ku

“What will be the benefit for the local community members, for the craftswomen? As ecotourism communities, will we be able to promote our businesses and goods?” said the spokeswoman for the Community Tourism Network of the Maya Zone of Quintana Roo, one of the states in southeastern Mexico that share the Yucatan Peninsula, on the Atlantic coast, with 1.5 million inhabitants.

The network, launched in 2014, brings together 11 community organisations from three municipalities of Quintana Roo and offers ecotourism and cultural tours in the area, its main economic activity.

In the municipality of FCP, home to just over 81,000 people, there are 84 ejidos,areas of communal land used for agriculture, where community members own and farm their own plots, which can also be sold.

One of them, of the same name as the municipality, FCP, covering 47,000 hectares and belonging to 250 “ejidatarios” or members, manages the ejidal reserves Síijil Noh Há (“where the water flows,” in the Mayan language) and Much’KananK’aax (“let’s take care of the forest together”).

Euán’s doubts are shared by thousands of inhabitants of the peninsula, which receives almost seven million tourists every year.

IPS travelled a stretch of the preliminary TM route through Quintana Roo and the neighboring state of Campeche and noted the general lack of detailed information about the project and its possible ecological, social and cultural consequences in a region with high levels of poverty and social marginalisation.

The government’s National Tourism Fund (Fonatur) is promoting the project, at a cost of between 6.2 and 7.8 billion dollars. The plan is for it to start operating in 2022, with 15 stations along 1,525 kilometers in 41 municipalities in the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán.

The locomotives will run on biodiesel -possibly made from palm oil- and the trains are projected to move about three million passengers annually, in addition to cargo.

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The new government argues that the project will boost the region’s socioeconomic development, foster social inclusion and job creation, safeguard indigenous cultures, protect the peninsula’s Protected Natural Areas (PNA), and strengthen the tourism industry.

Ancient ecosystems

The railway will cut through the heart of the Mayan jungle, an ecosystem that formed the base of the Mayan empire that dominated the entire Mesoamerican region – southern Mexico and Central America – from the 8th century until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

This is the most important rainforest in Latin America after the Amazon region and a key area in the conservation of natural wealth in Mexico, which ranks 12th among the most megadiverse countries on the planet.

The region belongs to the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor consisting of habitats running from southern Mexico to Panama, the southernmost of the seven Central American countries, and is home to about 10 percent of the world’s known species.

In the Yucatan Peninsula, shared by the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan, there are 25 PNAs, with a total area of 8.5 million hectares.

In fact, two TM stations will be contiguous to the 725,000-hectare Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and the 650,000-hectare Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

“What’s going to happen? We don’t know the route, we don’t have information. We have to study this closely,” Luís Tamay, the indigenous president of the Commissariat of Common Assets of the Nuevo Becal ejido in the municipality of Calakmul, in Campeche, told IPS.

Like Euán, Tamay fears the arrival of crowds of tourists, for which Calakmul “is not prepared; this is a high-impact project” for a municipality of just over 28,000 people.

Nuevo Becal has 84 landowners, covers 52,800 hectares and carries out six projects of timber exploitation, agroforestry, seeds and environmental conservation.

Although the TM will not pass through the immediate vicinity of Nuevo Becal, the megaproject will have impacts on the area.

In Calakmul, the government will carry out technical and environmental impact studies in 2019, with the idea of starting construction the following year in the locality.

To build the railway network, the government must negotiate with the ejidatarios, who own most of the land in the five states along the planned railway, as there are 385 in Campeche, 279 in Quintana Roo and 737 in Yucatán.

The government has already asked for 30 hectares in the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido to build a station, as a contribution to the project, which was first proposed in 2007 by the then governor of Yucatan, Yvonne Ortega, who projected the Transpeninsular Rapid Train in 2007.
Shortly after taking office in December 2012, AMLO’s predecessor, conservative Enrique Peña Nieto, adopted it as a national plan to connect the region. But public spending cutbacks in 2015 put the project on hold.

To the original project which will be added more than 300 kilometers of rundown railroads that functioned between 1905 and 1957, first for military transport and then also for passenger traffic.

On Nov. 24-25, before AMLO took office, his team obtained support for the railway network, along with a new refinery in the state of Tabasco and the execution of other projects, during a National Consultation on 10 Priority Social Programmes.

But this support, in a consultation that was only carried out in certain localities through a process that was not very representative, did not appease the criticism of the TM in the region.

On Nov. 15, a group of academics asked López Obrador to stop the works because of their ecological, social, cultural and archaeological impacts.

Three days later, a collective of indigenous organisations rejected the project, demanded respect for their forests and jungles, and called for free, prior, informed and culturally appropriate consultation.

“They are violating our indigenous rights. We don’t agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don’t see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses” in the sector, Miguel Ku, representative of the Network of Environmental Service Producers, told IPS.

This organization brings together 3,756 ejidatarios from 33 agrarian communities in the municipality of José María Morelos, and three more in the municipality of FCP, all of which are in Quintana Roo. Together, they own 257,000 hectares that are used for forestry, agriculture, beekeeping and livestock.

Local organisations are seeking another socioeconomic model. “We have shown that conservation allows for good development. We have natural resources, let us take advantage of them, that’s how we can support ourselves,” said Tamay.

Ku protested what he called a repeat of what has happened with previous projects. “We are sick and tired of others taking the benefits even though we own the land. The government could do something else. We want the ejidos to develop their own projects,” he said.

But López Obrador appears to be in a hurry to move forward with the Mayan Train, and on Dec. 16 he laid the first stone in the city of Palenque, Chiapas, without waiting for Fonatur to present the environmental impact assessment to the environment ministry.

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“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemalahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 13:32:06 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159268 According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises. They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor. The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

    “Some of the guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”

A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”

For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.

The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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Brazil Will Test a Government in Direct Connection with Votershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/brazil-will-test-government-direct-connection-voters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazil-will-test-government-direct-connection-voters http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/brazil-will-test-government-direct-connection-voters/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 18:47:07 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159261 The government that will take office on Jan. 1 in Brazil, presided over by Jair Bolsonaro, will put to the test the extreme right in power, with beliefs that sound anachronistic and a management based on a direct connection with the public. “People’s power no longer needs intermediation, new technologies allow a new direct relationship […]

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Jair Bolsonaro and his vice president-elect are retired military officers, and the president-elect will appoint seven other officers to the ministerial cabinet. Since he was elected president of Brazil, the far-right politician has shown his predilection for participating in military ceremonies, such as the graduation of Navy officers in Rio de Janeiro seen in this photo. Credit: Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil-Fotos Públicas

Jair Bolsonaro and his vice president-elect are retired military officers, and the president-elect will appoint seven other officers to the ministerial cabinet. Since he was elected president of Brazil, the far-right politician has shown his predilection for participating in military ceremonies, such as the graduation of Navy officers in Rio de Janeiro seen in this photo. Credit: Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil-Fotos Públicas

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

The government that will take office on Jan. 1 in Brazil, presided over by Jair Bolsonaro, will put to the test the extreme right in power, with beliefs that sound anachronistic and a management based on a direct connection with the public.

“People’s power no longer needs intermediation, new technologies allow a new direct relationship between voters and their representatives,” Bolsonaro said when he received the document officially naming him president-elect by the Superior Electoral Tribunal on Dec. 10 in Brasilia.

It is no secret what role was played by the social networks, especially WhatsApp, in Brazil’s October elections, which led to the election of a lawmaker with an obscure 27-year career in Congress."Democracy is not in crisis because of WhatsApp, but because of the lack of a social pact, because trade unions and political parties are no longer representative…He (president-elect Jair Bolsonaro) knew how to use the social networks to present himself as the solution (and) they may or may not help him once he's in the government." -- Giuseppe Cocco

But now he has to govern. Based on his speeches and recent experience, Bolsonaro, 63, will continue to turn to the social networks as president and successful disciple of U.S. President Donald Trump.

“But they are two very different realities, the elections and governing. The president-elect has shown that he is still campaigning, but now it’s not about promises, it’s about presenting results,” said Fernando Lattmann-Weltman, professor of political science at the Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ).

“Without satisfactory results, the greatest risk is that the government will become unviable, if its relations with the other branches of power and with institutions and organised groups deteriorate,” and the strong expectations of change created in the elections are frustrated, he said.

Bolsonaro also made the usual promise that he would govern for all, as “president of Brazil’s 210 million people.” But experts agree that direct communication with voters is biased and tends to fuel antagonism that lingers after the elections, as in the case of the United States of Donald Trump.

Social networks expand the possibilities of dialogue between people, as interactive media accessible to growing parts of the population. But they are not public like the press, radio and open television. They are limited to family, friends or circles of common interest.

As a political tool, they often give rise to groups of shared opinions and beliefs, or digital sects. They do not promote debate, argumentation and confrontation of ideas, also because in general they are used for short messages, slogans and “fake news”.

In this sense, they aggravate polarisation and antagonism. A government based on these connections would tend to accentuate conflicts, crises and threats to democracy, analysts argue.

“Democracy is not in crisis because of WhatsApp, but because of the lack of a social pact, because trade unions and political parties are no longer representative,” said Giuseppe Cocco, a professor at the School of Communication at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Social networks do have a “club effect,” but today they are “an indisputable aspect of our lives” in their various dimensions, whether it be material production, communication, services or even politics, he told IPS.

In Cocco’s view, “its use in the election campaign does not explain Bolsonaro’s triumph,” which he said was due to the desire of the majority of Brazilian voters for a change against corruption, a political system that has lost credibility, the economic crisis and growing crime and insecurity.

“He knew how to use the social networks to present himself as the solution,” he said, adding that “they may or may not help him once he’s in the government,” depending on how he uses them.

Jair Bolsonaro receives the document officially naming him president-elect of Brazil, next to his wife, two of his five children - one of whom is a member of the lower house and the other a senator - and their wives. A staunch defender of the traditional family, his will have a strong presence in his government, which has already begun to spark conflicts and scandals involving some of his offspring. Credit: Roberto Jayme/Ascom/TSE-Fotos Públicas

Jair Bolsonaro (C-L) receives the document officially naming him president-elect of Brazil, next to his wife, two of his five children – one of whom is a member of the lower house and the other a senator – and their wives. A staunch defender of the traditional family, his will have a strong presence in his government, which has already begun to spark conflicts and scandals involving some of his offspring. Credit: Roberto Jayme/Ascom/TSE-Fotos Públicas

But there are a number of researchers around the world who say the social networks have had a negative effect on democracy, due to their use in the wide dissemination of “fake news”.

They also refer to foreign interference in elections, such as the suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and to pressure exerted by directly connected voters as if they were “the voice of the people.”

At the same time, Whatsapp has become the most widely utilised instrument when it comes to organising major social mobilisations, such as the truck driver strike that paralysed Brazil in May and the “yellow vest” uprising in France, which began on Nov. 17 as protests against fuel price hikes and ballooned into a much broader movement.

In the past that role was played by the landline telephone, now almost completely replaced by the cell phone. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook became decisive in elections like Trump’s in 2016 and mobilisations such as the “Arab Spring” in North Africa, said Cocco, an Italian who has lived in Brazil since 1995.

But it is not only a technical evolution; WhatsApp is a “closed network” that does not allow the provenance of the messages to be identified, or whoever is responsible when messages that could be criminal are disseminated, in contrast with other media.

This warning comes from Alessandra Aldé, postgraduate professor of Communication at UERJ and coordinator of a research group on this application, who repeated it in interviews given to local media after the October elections.

Bolsonaro used WhatsApp massively in his election campaign.

In addition, businessmen allegedly used their own money to spread false accusations on WhatsApp against the candidate of the leftist Workers’ Party, Fernando Haddad, in violation of the country’s election laws, reported the daily Folha de São Paulo on Oct. 18, 10 days before the presidential runoff election.

Many analysts point to similarities between Trump and Bolsonaro because of their electoral success driven by social networks and their extreme right-wing policies.

But the Brazilian leader was elected with “a more fragile support base,” without the backing of a party like Trump’s Republican Party, or of experienced lawmakers, Lattman-Weltman told IPS.

Bolsonaro comes from a military background. In 1988, the retired army captain became a city councillor in Rio de Janeiro. Two years later he was elected to the lower house of Congress, and was eventually re-elected six times. He never held an executive branch position and was not a leader of any political party.

The party he joined in May, the Liberal Social Party (PSL), only won a single seat in the lower house of Congress in 2014. But in October it garnered 52 of the 513 seats, and gained a foothold in the Senate for the first time, taking four seats – five percent of the total. A large part of its success was due to the sudden popularity of Bolsonaro.

Another risk, with perhaps more serious and immediate consequences, is the beliefs of the two central power groups in the next government, one deeply religious and the other military. “God above all” was the slogan of Bolsonaro’s campaign and of the government that begins its four-year term on Jan. 1.

Seven armed forces officers will form part of the 22-member ministerial cabinet. In addition there is the president and his vice president, retired General Hamilton Mourão, making up the most militarised government in the history of Brazil’s democracy.

Bolsonaro has rejected, for example, the holding of the world climate conference in Brazil in 2019, and threatens to pulls out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, saying it jeopardises Brazil’s sovereignty over 136 million hectares of Amazon rainforest, because of a plan to turn it into an ecological corridor, the Triple A.

This type of fear is widespread among the Brazilian military, who also suspect that land reserved for indigenous people may become part of the international domain or independent, which is why they resist the demarcation of indigenous reserves.

But actually the Andes-Amazon-Atlantic (Triple A) ecological corridor was proposed by a Colombian environmental organisation, Gaia Amazonas, and was neither approved by nor is part of the climate talks.

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Costa Rica: First Country to Protect Sustainable Fisheries of Large Pelagics Specieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 12:31:47 +0000 Kifah Sasa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159227 Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Officer at UNDP Costa Rica

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Credit: UNDP

By Kifah Sasa
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

Twelve years ago, in a restaurant in Puntarenas on the pacific coast of Costa Rica, a group of long line fishermen met with three UNDP conservation specialists.

The conservationists wanted to understand how best to avoid illegal fishing inside Cocos Island Marine Protected Area, located off the shore of Costa Rica and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As part of their stakeholder engagement strategy, they decided to meet longline fishermen for dinner. It didn’t turn out quite as they had hoped – not many hands were shaken after dessert.

There was one table but two very different perspectives. The UNDP personnel were working on a project which saw illegal fishing on Cocos Island as a conservation issue.

On the other hand, the group of local entrepreneurs from Puntarenas were challenged by depleted resources and closed markets. Though some of them were indeed responsible for illegal fishing, none were big businessmen with major ambitions, but rather owners of a couple of long line vessels trying to make a living — with little access to credit and paying the highest social security costs in the region for every member of their expeditions.

The prospect of UNDP supporting the government to further restrictions on their livelihoods, was not taken lightly. A lot of mistrust turned the food, and the mood, sour.

According to data estimated by the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA), the country’s fishing sector is made up of around 400 boats with each boat carrying between five and eight people, forming a working population of around 2,000 to 3,200 directly linked to the sector.

Together with the families that depend on this activity, the affected population reaches between 10 to 16 million people and this is without including those indirectly linked through the thousands of other indirect jobs which ensure fishing activity such as transportation, fishing supplies, food, mechanics, and others.

Credit: UNDP

Fast forward to the present day and twelve years later, the perspectives of both the conservationists and the fishermen have changed. Last November, not far from that restaurant in Puntarenas, Costa Rica was the first country in the world to launch a National Action Plan for sustainable fisheries of large pelagic species, using UNDP’s methodology.

Through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) and the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the country officially presented a plan with three main areas of work: improving the fisheries of large pelagic species in Costa Rica such as tuna, swordfish and mahi mahi; increasing the supply of seafood from sustainable sources and ensuring the social welfare of the people linked to the fishing activity.

During the presentation of the plan, one of those same sector leaders from the restaurant took the opportunity to approach the same UNDP staff member he met all those years ago and said to him, “I wanted to thank UNDP for the trust it has given us and for helping us build a formal plan with institutions”.

A clear victory for UNDP’s firm confidence and strong commitment to multi-stakeholder dialogue as the key element to achieve systemic change for sustainable commodity production.

The National Action Plan for Large Pelagic Fisheries will run for ten years and will directly contribute to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Costa Rica.

Credit: UNDP

A model case study of successful convening and collaboration between different stakeholders, it is the result of a process of dialogue lasting twelve months and involving more than one hundred representatives of government, academia, civil society, international cooperation, fishermen, exporters, restaurants and supermarkets.

A group of people who were not likely to be happy in same room a few years ago but are now committed to working together towards a more sustainable, inclusive and promising future for Costa Rican fisheries.

Through 2019, we celebrate ten years of UNDP supporting multi-stakeholder approaches to the sustainability challenges of highly-traded commodities around the world.

Through the Green Commodities Programme, UNDP’s approach has been to build trust among stakeholders by facilitating neutral spaces where they can collaborate on a shared vision and agenda for action, coming to a collective agreement on the root of the sustainability problems of key commodities and on how they will work together to resolve them.

Through its multi-stakeholder National Commodity Platforms, the programme is currently working on palm oil, cocoa, coffee, beef, soy, pineapple and fisheries in Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

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Excerpt:

Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Officer at UNDP Costa Rica

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Q&A: How Will the Global Compact for Migration Aid the Work of Civil Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-will-global-compact-migration-aid-work-civil-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-will-global-compact-migration-aid-work-civil-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-will-global-compact-migration-aid-work-civil-society/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 19:42:35 +0000 Steven Nsamaza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159207 IPS correspondent Steven Nsamaza interviews CLAUDIA INTERIANO from Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democratico de Derecho

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Claudia Interiano from Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democratico de Derecho, a Latin American organisation that works to access justice for persons killed or missing during transit through Mexico to the United States. Credit: Steven Nsamaza/IPS

By Steven Nsamaza
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

Claudia Interiano from Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democratico de Derecho, a Latin American organisation that works to access justice for persons killed or missing during transit through Mexico to the United States, spoke to IPS about the foreseeable future of migration in a world after the end of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) conference.

Inter Press Service (IPS): What does your organisation do?

Claudia Interiano (CI): My organisation works to access justice—we seek to restore human rights for migrants, for people who have disappeared during journeys, particularly women, and we are also part of the Latin American Block, a network of non-governmental organisations in the region.

IPS: Following the adoption of the Global Compact on Migration, what is the way forward?

CI: That is a good question and a big one. For us, we have been working on all of these things, women issues, people who disappear, human rights of migrants and their families, for many years. What the Global Compact for Migration means for us is that it is a tool, because the whole world has been negotiating and having conversations that have now advanced. Before, migration has not been taken as importantly as it needs to be.

From here, we go back to our countries and will have to sit down with the states of origin, the states of transit and the states of destination involved in migration. As every state has its own difficulties, we as the civil society need to ask for the introduction of these policies the governments have agreed in Marrakesh and laid out by the GCM.

For example, objective eight of the Compact concerns the exchange of information about people who disappear, and trying to save lives through coordinated international efforts. We are going to ask governments to support the rights of migrants, and to ask what their polices are going to be to represent people’s voices in each country.

IPS: Will the Global Compact for Migration help your work as a civil society organisation?

CI: Yes, I think so. It’s going to be a tool, not a solution for all the problems we have in our countries. The Global Compact for Migration will be a way to push governments to ask them to implement what they agreed to, because it is their responsibility.

IPS: The Global Compact for Migration is not legally binding, so how will it work?

CI: That is an interesting thing, and that could be an advantage because it starts political discussions and agreements. It starts the conversation: it is like the first step to the development of migration that the world needs. In the beginning, it may not work as it should: some governments may not want to commit. But at least they will have started the conversation.

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Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Steven Nsamaza interviews CLAUDIA INTERIANO from Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democratico de Derecho

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Final Thoughts as the Global Compact for Migration Starts its Own Long Journey Against the Oddshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/final-thoughts-global-compact-migration-starts-long-journey-odds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=final-thoughts-global-compact-migration-starts-long-journey-odds http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/final-thoughts-global-compact-migration-starts-long-journey-odds/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 18:39:28 +0000 Steven Nsamaza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159205 As the red carpets are rolled up in Marrakesh after two days of intense declarations and commitments by more than 160 countries, what are the smaller players in this global phenomenon taking back with them? During the final presentations concluding the two-day Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), assuring voices were heard […]

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Louise Arbour, the U.N. Special Representative for International Migration, urged those who were still sceptical of the Compact to reread it, very carefully, and form their own opinion. Courtesy: Global Compact for Migration

By Steven Nsamaza
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

As the red carpets are rolled up in Marrakesh after two days of intense declarations and commitments by more than 160 countries, what are the smaller players in this global phenomenon taking back with them?

During the final presentations concluding the two-day Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), assuring voices were heard on the future of migration, while also trying to counter misinformation about the content of the GCM document.

“We came here with a clear goal and we have achieved it,” says María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the United Nations General Assembly.

Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister and also President of the GCM Conference, declared that the GCM has “breathed new life” into the migration issue, while acknowledging it still remains for the Compact to be implemented by U.N. Member States.  

Louise Arbour, the U.N. Special Representative for International Migration, urged those who were still sceptical of the Compact to reread it, very carefully, and form their own opinion, taking heed of the U.N. Secretary-General’s points about dispelling the myths surrounding the overall issue of migration.

“For the first time in the history of the United Nations, we have been able to tackle an issue that was long seen as out of bounds for a truly concerted global effort,” says Arbour, noting that there is probably no principle more fundamental in international affairs than the geographic allocation of space on the planet, confirmed by the universal recognition of State sovereignty.

Inter-governmental consultations are expected to continue up to Dec. 19, when the Compact will formally be adopted. Then it will be reviewed every four years, starting in 2022.

“The Global Compact for Migration is a new promise and history will be the judge,” Bourita says.

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Water, an Environmental Product of Agriculture in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/water-environmental-product-agriculture-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-environmental-product-agriculture-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/water-environmental-product-agriculture-brazil/#respond Sat, 08 Dec 2018 00:19:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159092 For the first time in her life, retired physical education teacher Elizabeth Ribeiro planted a tree, thorny papaya, native to Brazil’s central savanna. The opportunity arose on Nov. 28, when the Pipiripau Water Producer Project, which is being carried out 50 km from Brasilia, promoted the planting of 430 seedlings donated by participants in the […]

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Central America: Eradicating Gender Violence is Vital to State Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 08:08:55 +0000 Richard Barathe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159067 Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Credit: Caroline Trutmann / UNDP

By Richard Barathe
PANAMA CITY, Panama, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

María is a 35-year old Salvadoran woman with three young children. Growing up, María knew her mother but never met her father. When María was six, she started working at the Central Market of San Salvador and at the age of 12 she was raped and became pregnant for the first time.

Later, María was expelled from her home once her mother got married for a second time, “My stepfather did not want to take care of me, even less with a son”, she told the researcher for “Resilient Youth, The Opportunity for Central America”, a study developed by the Regional Project Infosegura, a UN Development Programme-USAID joint initiative.

María lived in many different places until she met the father of her second daughter- who was killed years later. After his passing, María had a third child with a third partner whom she soon separated from, due to domestic violence. Currently, María’s teenage son lives with her father, uncle, and grandmother since she simply could not take care of him while also working full time.

Richard Barathe

Women all across El Salvador, women just like María have a life expectancy of around 75 years. It is safe to say that about half of María’s life has been deeply marked by the violence that women experience in Northern Countries of Central America, a region that for the past two decades has seen chronic violence despite Central America not having a regional war in decades.

When speaking of violence in the Northern Countries of Central America, it is assumed to be a problem concerning young men, since “only” 11 percent of the victims of violent deaths are women. However, the story of María is more common than is realized.

María is just another example of how women of this region live surrounded by a violence that affects them differently and specifically just because they are women.

This violence is not necessarily lethal, and victims often survive, but these women continue to be subjected to the same cycle of violence throughout their whole lives, impacting families and communities through generations, affecting their economy and sustainability, and distorting their capacities for development.

Data shows that in María’s home country, 93 percent of the victims of sexual crimes are women. Over two in every five the victims are under the age of 18. We also know that domestic violence is present throughout the adulthood of a woman and that a woman between 12 and 50 years old is at high risk of “disappearing”.

Over 3,500 women have been killed between the years 2010-2017, while nearly 2,700 were reported as Enforced Disappearances around the same period (201-2016) with 43 percent of them being minors.

We know this because the Salvadoran State has made progress in the management of information on citizen security with a focus on gender and has oriented public policies to guarantee evidence-based analysis.

Migration is a phenomenon that also characterizes this region, and data indicates that violence against women is an important factor to be considered. Our initiative also analyzed returnees data: migrants detained in transit who were sent back to their place of origin.

We know that 26 percent of these ‘returnees’ are women and 30 percent of all women say they have migrated due to violence, compared to only 18 percent of men who say violence is the main reason for leaving their country.

Every November, national, regional, and global actors campaign to eradicate violence against women. It is crucial to recognize violence against women as an essential element of citizen security: tackling it is a key step to build more cohesive and peaceful societies.

Addressing general societal violence with a special focus on violence against women must be at the foundation of comprehensive public policies on citizen security, that aim to eradicate all types of violence. Understanding everyday violence that women experience in their homes and streets is a security problem for communities and nations.

No nation will be safe unless women can live safely and develop their full potentials.

In this spirit, the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide a holistic model for a comprehensive approach to ensure that women have a life free from all types of violence. All of society thrives with firm steps towards development when no one is left behind.

At UNDP, we are systematizing good practices and success stories of the work in Central America within the framework of the UNDP-USAID Infosegura Regional Project, which is dedicated to the development of capacities for the formulation of public policies based on evidence and with a gender approach. We are, thus, establishing standards, methodologies and scalable processes.

An essential part of the process has been to build trust and coordinate our work with national institutions producing and analyzing data, leveraging new technologies, national experts and innovation.

This coordination has resulted in regional accomplishments in information management with a gender focus, such as specialized surveys and standardized reports on acts of violence against women.

In El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, understanding the context of María’s story as accurately as possible will allow us to efficiently eradicate violence against women as well as all other types of violence. If countries are to achieve the 2030 Agenda, boosting gains in the economic, social and environmental realms, this can only be done if we ensure that no “Marías” are left behind.

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Excerpt:

Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

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