Things That Matter

As Human Rights Violations Continue In Nicaragua, The Catholic Church Is Calling For Peace Talks

There are increased concerns coming out of Nicaragua due to an on-going human rights crisis that began in April 2018 over planned cuts to welfare benefits. The government of President Daniel Ortega has been at the front of this situation and have done everything they can to silence and stop protesters.

This has all lead to multiple violent clashes on city streets between pro-government forces and protesters that have claimed more than 300 lives, injured more than 2,000 people and countless more have been imprisoned. According to human rights groups, this has included torture and the denial of due process. In return, the violence has prompted thousands of Nicaraguans to go into exile. 

Here’s how we got to this point and what is being done to put an end to the violence in Nicaragua.

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Back in April, the Nicaraguan Government announced that there would be cuts in social security payments. This resulted in immediate nationwide protests that brought flashbacks of the violence seen last year. These cuts were eventually rescinded but not the protests and calls for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega, who’s in his fourth term, to step down and for swift elections to follow. President Ortega balked at the notion of leaving office and says he’ll serve his full term until the next elections in 2021. 

The Catholic church continues to be the mediator between the Ortega government and opposition forces in its efforts to initiate talks between the two bitterly entrenched sides to resolve the crippling ongoing crisis. Last week, a Vatican representative called for the continuation of talks and negotiations. The goal here is to try to release reforms to begin “free and transparent elections” in Nicaragua. 

“The Holy See has been following with great attention the sociopolitical situation in Nicaragua and believes that the unsettled disputes should be solved as soon as possible,”  Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva, told Reuters.

The Vatican is hoping to bring both sides together in a “renewed spirit of responsibility and reconciliation” to hopefully bring forth a resolution “that respects the truth, reestablishes justice and promotes the common good.”  Jurkovic said at a speech on Sept. 10 during a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on the situation in Nicaragua that these talks will be necessary if there is any hope of peace in the country. 

“The Holy See strongly believes that it is essential to implement the agreements reached last March, to return immediately to open and mutually respectful negotiations and to realize, at the earliest, the electoral reforms for the holding of free and transparent elections with the presence of international observers,” Archbishop Jurkovic told Reuters.

The United Nations has also called for the immediate resignation of President Ortega, who has overseen violations of human rights in Nicaragua. 

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As the Vatican voiced its concern about Nicaragua, Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, made comments on the same day about the violence in the country. She noted that while violence has decreased since the Ortega government and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy met for peace talks in February, there is still human rights violation occurring. 

“Between August 2018 and July 2019, human rights violations continued to occur in Nicaragua,” Bachelet told the Human Rights Council. “However, since the end of February 2019, when the Government and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy resumed their dialogue, the number of violations against life and personal integrity has decreased, proof that dialogue is a possible and peaceful way to overcome the crisis.”

From mid-March to mid-June, the Ortega administration had released nearly 400 people who were detained due to protests over the last year. The majority, however, were released under restrictive measures. While most major protests have calmed over the last few months, there have been multiple human rights violations that have occurred. The government has banned public demonstrations from those that have criticized them and have also used violent tactics to stop citizens from public self-expression.  

“We cannot remain in total silence, we cannot be silent,”  Juan Mata Guevara, a bishop of Esteli, Nicaragua, said at the bishops’ conference.“This way of proceeding is an exercise of irrational authoritarianism. This reflects how the regime does not see the needs of those who suffer.”

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Indigenous Women Of Brazil Are Refusing To Keep Quiet Over The Country’s President’s Policies

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Indigenous Women Of Brazil Are Refusing To Keep Quiet Over The Country’s President’s Policies

Last week, hundreds of Indigenous women took to the streets to protest against the policies of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. According to BBC, indigenous women occupied the building of Brazil’s health ministry in the capital of Brasília and demanded better healthcare for the Indigenous people of the country and called for an end to the destruction of the Amazon. 

It has been reported that about 300 Indigenous women condemned the proposed changes to women’s healthcare and deforestation in Brazil in a peaceful demonstration that lasted over 10 hours. 

The Indigenous women of the country were protesting, according to a tweet by AJ+,  “rollbacks on Indigenous rights and efforts to open up Indigenous lands to minding and agriculture.” AJ+ shared powerful images of Indigenous women coming together to fight for their rights and to “cry out for help.” 

Under the far-right president Bolsonaro, Brazil has backtracked on rights and protections for the Indigenous community. For example, Brazil has let “agriculture ministry make decisions about Indigenous land, blocked any new reservations, [and] proposed to close specialized Indigenous health care offices.” 

“We’ve been left abandoned,” 43-year-old Teresa Cristina Kezonazokere told Correio Braziliense newspaper (in Portuguese, according to BBC). “They treat Indigenous people like animals.”

According to The Associated Press, Bolsonaro’s administration—since taking office in January—has continuously “clashed with environmentalists and others over possibly opening up the Amazon rainforest to development and agribusiness.”

The president wants to open their lands to agriculture and mining. The Globe Post also reports that President Bolsonaro has been warned by experts and activists about such policies that will have “devastating environmental impacts, particularly in worsening climate change.”

However, Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the facts and data showing that the effects of his policies will affect Indigenous land. “Bolsonaro has dismissed the data as lies and sacked the head of the government agency tasked with tracking tree clearing,” The Globe Post reports. 

Further, Brazil’s government wants to make towns and cities responsible for providing medical services to its Indigenous people—putting the pressure on community leaders and local officials. But community leaders fear that their communities lack the “infrastructure” to do this. According to BBC, the federal government is currently in charge of these responsibilities.

Tamikua Faustino of the Pataxó tribe told the AP that “if we don’t stick together, in the near future we’ll be eliminated.”

This surge in deforestation that occurs on Indigenous reserves would essentially eliminate Indigenous folks from the places they inhabit.

In an AJ+ video shared on Twitter, articulation of the Indigenous people of Brazil Sonia Guajajara said: “We will resist because we’ve been here for five centuries and we have a good experience in resisting.” The Indigenous community is being backed by thousands of community members and supports in fighting back against President Bolsonaro’s government.

When Indigenous folks took the streets of Brazil to protest, they didn’t hold back. Many did so carrying bows, arrows, and spears, and the Indigenous women advanced on Congress in Brasilia carrying a large banner that read: “Resist to exist.” Women leading the frontlines are demanding the protection of their land. 

A couple of days after the initial demonstration took place, about 1,500 indigenous women from 110 ethnic groups were expected to join a protest to defend their rights that are under threat under the Bolsonaro administration.

According to BBC, the president has “promised to integrate Indigenous people into the rest of the population and repeatedly questioned the existence of their protected reserves, which are rights guaranteed in the country’s constitution.” The president who favors development over conservation of Indigenous land and reservations has also said that the Indigenous territories are “too big in relation to the number of people who live there,” therefore making it okay to open land that does not belong to him, to agriculture, minding, and essentially destruction. 

Earlier this month, The Globe Post published an opinion piece highlighting the ways in which Bolsonaro and his presidency were destroying the Brazilian Amazon.   

According to data, deforestation in the Amazon region has skyrocketed and there’s no turning back. In June 2019, deforestation showed to be 88 percent higher than the levels of deforestation seen in June 2018. And in the first half of July 2019, it was 68 percent higher than the entire month of the previous year. 

It’s important to note that more than 800,000 Indigenous people live in 450 Indigenous territories across Brazil and most are located in the Amazon region and some communities live totally isolated. 

But the Indigenous women of Brazil are not backing down. In a video posted by AJ+ on Twitter, one of the women can be seen saying that they’re going to defend nature and defend the forest. “We are defending our children’s lives, but also the lives of the people on the other side of the world,” she adds. “Because the air we breathe is the air you breathe.”

Activists Are Warning That The Guard Running His Truck Through Protesters Is Not Going To Be The Last

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Activists Are Warning That The Guard Running His Truck Through Protesters Is Not Going To Be The Last

People across the U.S. are stunned by a viral Twitter video showing a contract Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guard driving his pick-up truck through a crowd of protesters. The protesters, part of the Jewish activist organization Never Again Action, posted videos of the assault on Twitter and it has sparked outrage at the actions of law enforcement at the scene. Here’s what happened.

Captain Thomas Woodworth has been placed on administrative leave following the incident, according to authorities.

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“The incident which occurred last night is currently being investigated by the Rhode Island State Police,” a statement to the Boston Globe read. “Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility Warden Daniel Martin is also conducting a top to bottom review of the incident, Wyatt correctional officers’ response, and the Wyatt’s protocols regarding protest activities outside of the facility. Captain Thomas Woodworth has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the independent investigation being conducted by the Rhode Island State Police, and the Wyatt’s internal investigation.”

People are spreading his information as far and wide as they can to shame him for his actions.

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The video has been shared all over social media and people have reacted with shock and anger. Other activists are pointing out that the use of a car to ram protesters is becoming a more common thought and occurrence than in recent history.

Others are using the video as a moment to question what exactly is happening inside the detention centers they are protesting.

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People have been trying to get people’s attention to the humanitarian crisis in the detention centers. There is a real concern that if guards can run their car through a group of lawful protesters, what are they doing to migrants in detention?

Activists captured video of an ICE guard using his pick-up truck to break through a group of protesters in Rhode Island.

Credit: @NeverAgainActn / Twitter

Protesters were stationed outside of the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island. During the protest, a pick-up truck drives up the protesters and honks the horn before driving through the crowd of protesters. However, the truck was not the only time the protesters were assaulted during the protest.

During the incident, law enforcement at the scene used pepper spray on the protesters to break up the crowd.

Credit: @NeverAgainActn / Twitter

“We will not be deterred by the violence that was taken against us last night,” a spokesperson for Never Again Action told NBC News. “People are being harmed in ICE custody every day. This is exactly why we are doing what we’re doing.”

People are horrified at the blatant attack on peaceful protesters.

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The video is a chilling reminder of the violence we have seen against protesters in recent times. Two years ago, the world watched in shock as a white supremacist ran his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia during the Unite the Right rally. The attack claimed one life, Heather Heyer, in the name of hate. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured during the incident on Wednesday night.

Five people were hospitalized after the guard ran over protesters.

Two people were hospitalized because of the truck driving into the crowd and three people were hospitalized for the pepper spray. The whole incident has not deterred the organization from standing against ICE and its detention practices.

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