Things That Matter

Costa Rican Officials Find A Body They Believe Could Be That Of Missing Miami Woman

What should have been a fun birthday trip in Costa Rica for 36-year-old Carla Stefaniak has now turned into tragedy for her family. The woman, a Miami resident born in Venezuela, had gone to Costa Rica to celebrate her birthday with her sister-in-law, but when she didn’t arrive home on November 28, and her family got worried.

Carla Stefaniak last spoke to friends and family on November 27.

CREDIT: facebook.com/findingcarla

It was on the day that she dropped off her sister-in-law at the airport. Stefaniak was scheduled to leave the following day. Stefaniak took an Uber from the airport and was reportedly going to do some sightseeing around San Jose, the BBC reports, before she was ultimately dropped back at her Airbnb.

That evening she texted with family and friends and sent an ominous message that left her family feeling worried.

CREDIT: facebook.com/findingcarla

She told them that the power had gone out due to the heavy rain and also called the area where she was staying in as “pretty sketchy.” By this point, Stefaniak had already checked in to her flight, and scheduled an Uber to pick her up and take her to the airport the following day.

According to her family, the Airbnb rental owner and the local security guards claim that they saw Stefaniak “get into an unknown car with her luggage at around 05:00 local time.”

CREDIT: facebook.com/findingcarla

However, her family says that scenario “makes no sense.” Officials there also claim that they didn’t initially investigate the situation because she got into a car willingly.

Costa Rican officials report that they have found a body 200 feet from the Airbnb where Stefaniak had been staying.

CREDIT: facebook.com/findingcarla

The family is currently at the morgue awaiting to see if the body is their daughter.

“For the last four hours they are just there waiting,” family friend and spokesperson Bugra Demirel, told the BBC. “It’s a horrible wait, and every single minute that Costa Rican officials are not showing the body is just a tremendous amount of pain on the family.”

Since the day that Stefaniak was scheduled to arrive home but did not, her family launched a Facebook page for their daughter in which they claim Stefaniak was kidnapped.

Just a couple of days ago they posted: “HOW TO HELP: We are doing everything we can to get the U.S. Department of State: Consular Affairs to utilize their resources to help us bring Carla Stefaniak back home safely! This is what we need to get the FBI more involved and for them to be allowed to utilize their resources!!. WE NEED HELP IN NUMBERS!! If you would like to help please copy the below “Official Statement” and send it to your local congress representative, governor or the state department at email –> ProtocolHelp@state.gov You can also tweet this link –> https://gma.abc/2RziRlj to these twitter addresses and write “Please Help, American Tourist Kidnapped in Costa Rica.”

Demirel told the BBC that while the family is hoping for the best, they understand that the body found could in fact be their daughter.

“Even the best circumstance is really a nightmare scenario — we’re hoping it’s not Carla, but then it’s somebody else’s daughter,” Demirel said. “We’re hoping it’s not Carla based on what we know, but there’s still a lot of possibility that it could be.”

The family also reports on Facebook that they have no updates as of yet. “The wait is so painful but all the love and support for Carla and the family is beyond amazing! We will update everyone as soon as we know! Thank you so much!”


READ: This Woman’s Body Was Found A Week After She Disappeared. Latinos Are Furious Mass Media Didn’t Cover Her Story

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Congress Finally Passed a Law to Address the Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in America

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Congress Finally Passed a Law to Address the Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in America

Image Credit: Seattle City Council from Seattle

The House of Representatives finally passed a bill called “Savanna’s Act”, a measure that will require the Justice Department to develop a protocol in response to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women that is crippling native communities across the country. It is now headed to the president’s desk, waiting to be signed.

The bill was named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old woman of Indigenous descent who was murdered in 2017 when she was eight months pregnant. 

According to CNN, the bi-partisan bill is designed not only to create better guidelines for authorities to respond to this pervasive problem, but also instructs the Justice Department to “provide training for law enforcement agencies and to work with tribes and tribal organizations in implementing its strategy.” 

“Savanna’s Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country,” said North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “[It] helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans.”

From now on, the Justice Department will also be forced to provide an annual report on the numbers of missing Indigenous women–numbers that are, right now, unclear.

According to Omaha Tribe of Nebraska member Tillie Aldrich (whose daughter was found dead in January), the historical lack of government response to the issue of violence against Native women boils down to structural racism. 

“If we have a non-Native [person] missing in a city 25 miles north of us, it’s all over the news, the newspapers, posters going up,” Aldrich told Teen Vogue. “If we have someone missing, one of our Native missing, they try to keep it quiet.”

via @R_OWL_MIRROR/TWITTER

The plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women is a pervasive but underreported problem.

According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, 5,712 missing Alaska Native and American Indian women and girls were reported missing in 2016. Only 116 of them were registered in the Department of Justice database

The FBI’s National Crime Information Center database reports that Native American and Alaska Native women made up 0.8% of the U.S. population, but made up 1.8% of 2017 missing persons cases.

And these statistics only reflect the reported number of cases. Many native people have feelings of hopelessness when it comes to reporting their missing loved ones. They know that authorities won’t even try to find their missing family members.

Both family members of Indigenous people as well as Indigenous activists explain that there is a general attitude of apathy, victim-blaming, and lack of urgency when it comes to the local government’s response to these missing women. 

“When no one in authority looks for a missing woman, it sends a strong statement to the families and to communities that this life doesn’t matter–it is an expendable life,” said University of Kansas Professor Sarah Deer to Teen Vogue.

“Victim-blaming is often a part of this dynamic,” Deer continued. “If she’s done X, Y, or Z–no wonder she got caught up in trouble. Unlike an innocent white college girl, this Native woman doesn’t deserve prioritization.”

But as of now, activists and organizers are hopeful that Savanna’s Act will change the way government institutions respond to this all-too-common problem. 

“Missing and murdered Indigenous women are no longer invisible. They are no longer hidden in the shadows,” said former North Dakota Senator and bill co-sponsor Heidi Heitkamp. “By raising awareness about this crisis and taking concrete action to help address it, we can help make sure Indigenous women are better protected.”

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The Miami Herald Apologizes For Including Racist, Anti-Semitic Insert In Newspaper

Things That Matter

The Miami Herald Apologizes For Including Racist, Anti-Semitic Insert In Newspaper

@BillCorben / Twitter

Readers of the Miami Herald and the El Nuevo Herald noticed a racist and anti-Semitic insert in one of the latest editions. The column in the insert compared BLM activists to Nazis while talking down about the Jewish community.

The Miami Herald recently published a racist and anti-Semitic insert.

The offensive piece, written by Cuban exile Roberto Luque Escalona, received harsh and immediate backlash. Escalona expresses his displeasure for the Jewish community and those seeking racial justice by joining BLM with one column.

“What kind of people are these Jews” writes Escalona. He then continues to “teach” Jewish people the history of the Holocaust and claims that BLM supporters are worse than the Nazis during Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, because the Nazis simply destroyed things and didn’t steal.

The newspaper has apologized for the insert going so far as to admit that it was not properly vetted and that “internal failures” were at play.

According to an open letter, higher ups at the Miami Herald admit to the insert not being read and vetted by the staff. The obvious overlook led to a 40-page insert of right-wing propaganda to be distributed to the readers of both the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. Since the publication, the Miami Herald claims to have ended their relationship with Libre, the insert with the racist and anti-Semitic content.

Those responsible at the Miami Herald admitted to not reading the insert before it was distributed.

“We are deeply sorry that inflammatory, racist and anti-Semitic commentary reached our el Nuevo Herald subscribers through LIBRE, a Spanish-language publication that paid our company to have the product printed and inserted into our print edition as a weekly supplement,” reads part of an open letter to readers. “The fact that no one in leadership, beginning with us, had previously read this advertising insert until this issue was surfaced by a reader is distressing. It is one of a series of internal failures that we are investigating in order to prevent this from ever recurring.”

Readers are outraged that the newspaper would allow such offensive things to be published and distributed.

The right-wing conspiracies pushed by Libre are part of a larger Spanish-language disinformation campaign targeting Cubans in southern Florida. The community has been inundated with disinformation ahead of the 2020 election preying on the fears and ignorance within the staunchly conservative Cuban community.

“It’s difficult to measure the effect exactly, but the polling sort of shows it and in focus groups it shows up, with people deeply questioning the Democrats, and referring to the ‘deep state’ in particular — that there’s a real conspiracy against the president from the inside,” Eduardo Gamarra, a pollster and director of the Latino Public Opinion Forum at Florida International University, told Politico. “There’s a strain in our political culture that’s accustomed to conspiracy theories, a culture that’s accustomed to coup d’etats.”

The disinformation is targeting Cubans because of the growing Latino communities who tend to vote Democratic.

According to Politico, the campaign is Cuban specific. The Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, Colombian, Venezuelan, and Dominican communities in Florida, which continue to grow, typically vote Democratic. These shifting demographics have left Republicans doing anything it takes to keep a strong hold of the Cuban community, even by means of racism, anti-Semitism, and disinformation.

READ: Politicians Need To Stop Assuming That The Latino Vote Is A Monolith Because It Is Not The Truth

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