Things That Matter

University Student Arrested For Creating Meme Account Calling Out New Government

On the last day of 2019, Bolivian officials arrested a university student for creating a popular meme account that criticized the controversial change of government. Bolivia saw a change from long-beloved indigenous President Evo Morales to the self-declared Conservative Christian Interim President Jeanine Añez Chavez. The arrest of María Alejandra Salinas comes in the wake of rising concern of the stability of the democracy after military personnel violently ransacked President Morales’ home. Morales is currently living in exile in Mexico City, his new asylum home. Now, those who were concerned about the new right-wing government are troubled to learn of Salinas’s arrest in what they perceive as a violation of free speech. Salinas, herself, was worried before she was even arrested. She deactivated her account just days before her arrest for fear of her own personal safety after receiving numerous death and rape threats.

The new government actions are prompting civilian debate about whether it’s okay for the government to censor and arrest citizens for sharing differing political views.

María Alejandra Salinas ran the meme account Suchel, which reached over 10,000 followers until she shut it down.

CREDIT: GUSTAVO GARECA / FACEBOOK

A graduate student in feminist studies at La Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Salinas decided to join the mass protests after the forced resignation of former Bolivian President Morales. She protested in her own way by creating a digital meme account called Suchel that garnered 10,000 followers since Morales’ exile on Nov. 10. If you’re reading this, you probably already understand the art of the meme. Using humor to give cutting insight into political opinions, #Suchel became emblematic of an Internet subculture of Bolivia’s pro-Morales, pro-Indigenous movement.

The government’s move to arrest Salinas only seems to validate Suchel’s followers’ concerns: that the state is seeking to maintain its power by any means necessary, including violating free speech rights.

Others are celebrating the arrest of Salinas, calling her a “digital warrior” seeking to “destabilize the government of our President Jeanine Añez.”

CREDIT: SUCHEL 2.0 / FACEBOOK

A Facebook group called “¡El 21-F SE RESPETA!” that had reached an equal size to Suchel’s leftist group is celebrating her arrest. The right-ist group seems to also employ the same use of memes to spread their political ideology. Still, members are celebrating Salinas’s arrest, claiming that she “comes from a bourgeois family that enjoys the honey of capitalism and defends socialism.”

Meanwhile, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) reported that a bot campaign was employed by far-right government factions to influence public opinion in their favor. The CIDH found that 68,000 fake accounts posted over 1 million tweets during a week-long period before, during, and after the coup. Suchel became one of the few authentic informative accounts that indigenous and liberal Bolivians could rely on. 

“They say that I promote hate, indoctrinate people,” Salinas later wrote in a social media post. “This is just a page that doesn’t even reach 10 percent of the population in Bolivia. I have no power over people,” she added. 

According to Salinas, four men physically assaulted her and threatened to rape her if she didn’t give them her phone password.

CREDIT: @WYATTREED13 / TWITTER

Four men who knew that Salinas was the Suchel administrator ganged up on her and physically held her down in front of two police officers. When she refused to give them her cell phone code, they attempted to rape her. Later, when she confronted the police officers who “did nothing,” they told her “it was my fault because I had not listened to them,” according to a shocking social media post in Spanish (pictured above). Salinas was already the victim of sexual assault and death threats and deserved protection rather than persecution. On Dec. 28, Salinas announced that she would be shutting down the Suchel accounts for fear of her and her family’s safety. “Due to the lack of guarantees, I decided today to close Suchel on Facebook, at least until I am sure that my life and that of my family is not at risk,” Salinas posted to Suchel, according to Pagina SieteThree days later, she was arrested.

In a public statement in Spanish, CIDES demanded that “the corresponding authorities give the unrestricted respect for [Salinas’] rights during the legal process that is being carried out and taking into account the risks that due to the gender condition usually involve in these cases,” according to a local outlet.

Already, Suchel 2.0 accounts have popped up on several social media platforms.

CREDIT: @PAGINA_SIETE / TWITTER

The government’s attempt to control the online narrative of its administration’s rise to power and subsequent human rights violations appears to be unsustainable. While Salinas remains detained by authorities disdainful of her political views, Bolivians continue to raise their voices and seek community on and offline.

READ: An Angry Group Of Anti-Morales Protesters Attacked This Bolivian Mayor Ripping Off Her Clothes And Cutting Her Scalp

A Man Spent A Month In Jail After Feds Thought He Was Carrying 3,000 pounds of ‘Marijuana,’ Lab Results Showed It Was Hemp

Things That Matter

A Man Spent A Month In Jail After Feds Thought He Was Carrying 3,000 pounds of ‘Marijuana,’ Lab Results Showed It Was Hemp

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In what was supposedly a giant drug bust by the Texas Department of Public Safety, led to one giant 3,350-pound mistake.

On Dec. 6, a DPS trooper pulled over and arrested a driver who the agency claimed was carrying multiple boxes that held pounds of marijuana east of Amarillo, Texas along Interstate 40. The trooper called for more backup in the form of DEA agents who thought they had the drug bust of all drug busts. They even took to Facebook to post about the incident that showed that showed dozens of boxes, supposedly stuffed with over 3,000 pounds of marijuana, in front of the U-Haul trailer stopped by authorities. 

The culprit, Florida resident Aneudy Gonzalez, 39, a contract driver who was making a cross country trip from San Jose, California, to New York City. Gonzalez was pulled over by the trooper after he was seen driving on the highway shoulder and that’s when things started getting south. 

Gonzalez was being paid to transport the boxes that the DPS trooper smelled upon inspecting the cargo in the trailer. He suspected it was marijuana after he found pounds of the “green leafy substance” in boxes and black trash bags. 

The boxes, however, didn’t have marijuana in them. Gonzalez was being paid $2,500 to transport boxes of legal hemp from a California farm to a New York company. Yet even after he showed the trooper a lab report that verified the cargo met the state’s new legal definition of hemp, he was still charged with federal drug trafficking charges and placed in jail.

According to the Texas Tribune, A DEA agent testified as being unaware of the state law and was confused by the THC content rules. 

The root of all of this confusion stems from the recently passed HB 1325 that was signed into law by Gov. Abbott in June 2019. The law legalized the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp, as well as allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp under a state-regulated program in Texas. According to the Texas Tribune, “any cannabis with less than that amount of THC is hemp, which is used in products like clothing, twine, protein powder, and CBD oil.”

This is where authorities made the big mistake in not only arresting Gonzalez but also breaking state policy in interfering “with the interstate commerce of hemp”, which is exactly what happened here. According to Gonzalez’s attorney, Adam Tisdell, a cannabis criminal defense lawyer, the lab report that was shown to the trooper was more than enough evidence to let his client go. 

“Especially in a time right now of immense skepticism of law enforcement, the idea that Texas DPS and ultimately, a DEA task force agent, would have no idea what the law is and people go to jail that are completely innocent is horrifying to me and I do believe it should be for the other citizens as well. That’s the moral of this story.” Daniel Mehler, another attorney representing Gonzalez with Tisdell, told KCBD

It took an entire month for Gonzalez to finally be released from jail after authorities finally dismissed the case. He intends to file legal action and sue for violation of his civil rights.  

DPS officials issued a statement that read that the trooper that arrested Gonzalez believed that he was indeed carrying marijuana, not hemp. The agency would then send the confiscated material to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to test for THC levels. The results showed that Gonzalez was indeed carrying hemp and was in compliance with federal law. 

“I was just doing my job and the government threw me in jail for almost a month. I fully intend on pursuing justice, whatever that entails,” Gonzalez told Law 360. “Nobody has apologized to me. Somebody owes me an apology.”

After the test results, federal prosecutors asked a judge a month later to dismiss the case, and Gonzalez was released from jail on Jan. 2, a month after being arrested. That sad part for Gonzalez was that this wasn’t the first time he had been arrested on the trip. He spent a night in jail in Arizona after authorities there also confused his cargo for marijuana. He was eventually released the next day after officials determined it was legal hemp. 

Gonzalez’s case is an example of potential problems that law enforcement may face as hemp legalization spreads across the country, with many not knowing the difference between it and marijuana. In return, Texas has seen a major drop in marijuana prosecutions since hemp became legal. Gonzalez’s lawyer says that police need to be more aware of these new laws and be able to differentiate between the two to avoid situations like this in the future.  

“Today we beat the feds,” Mehler Cannabis, the law firm defending Gonzalez that specializes in marijuana-related laws and litigation, wrote in a Facebook post. “We maintained from the word ‘go’ that all he had was hemp, and this morning the U.S. government moved to dismiss the charges against our client.”

The law firm is seeking the return of the property that was taken from Gonzalez and “just compensation for our client losing a month of his life in the custody.”

READ: A New Florida Law And Lack Of Testing Facilities In The State Means Miami-Dade County Won’t Be Prosecuting Misdemeanor Pot Cases

Twitter And The Internet React With These Hilarious Memes To Pope Francis’ Viral Moment Slapping Away A Woman’s Hand

Entertainment

Twitter And The Internet React With These Hilarious Memes To Pope Francis’ Viral Moment Slapping Away A Woman’s Hand

Andreas Salero / Getty

It happened on New Year’s Eve as the pope was greeting a crowd of people in Vatican City. One rather eager woman grabbed his hand, yanked him toward herself, and clutched onto him. The pope responded by swatting at her –and some Twitter users say, calling her ‘Bruja’— before she let go.

Pope Francis has apologized after slapping the hand of a woman who wouldn’t let go of him, and the memes are already rolling in.

The video immediately spread all over the world, with people eager to weigh in on whether the pope was right to respond as he did or if he had overreacted. Or if this means we should all feel free to slap people.

Pope Francis apologized for the now-viral moment on Wednesday before celebrating Mass.

The incident occurred as Pope Francis made his way to the Nativity scene in Vatican City. On Wednesday, the Pontiff apologized for losing patience with the worshiper before using his New Year’s Day address to denounce violence against women.”Love makes us patient.” “We lose patience many times,” he said, according to CBS. “It happens to me too. I apologize for the bad example given yesterday.”

The Pontiff continued in his address: “Women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb. “Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman.”

While the Vatican probably now considers the matter laid to rest, the internet is not done making memes and jokes about the slap-happy pope.

Since becoming pontiff in 2013, Francis has preached openness – a reform-minded agenda that has irritated a small but vocal group of ultra-conservatives in the church. During the New Year’s Eve Vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis urged people to practice more solidarity.

The memes keep rolling in, days after the incident —and we’re not getting tired of them just yet.

I think all of us have experienced this literally in our lives. At least anyone who has a cat, has been around a cat, knows someone who has a cat or has scrolled Facebook videos for more than 60 seconds. Am I right?

How about this one? 

Then there’s this slice of heaven that pretty much sums up what happened…

May your 2020 be blessed with bountiful memes, and may it slap harder than 2019.

During his address on Wednesday, the Pontiff also spoke about gender equality, telling the congregation that women “should be fully included in decision-making processes.” “Every step forward for women, is a step forward for humanity as a whole.”