BUILDING a CULTURE of SOLIDARITY.

SUMMER 2016 | In the past few weeks we have been watching with perplexing interest the election cycle unfolding in the United States. Among colleagues and friends we have also conversed about the topic of masculinity and politics; the challenges faced by women when running for public office and the rather disturbing patterns, self-evident for anyone paying attention, shown by some men running for office in America. No doubts there’s complexity involved here, for to become an elected official to any office, whatever level it may be, let alone the highest one in a given country, candidates must possess certain essential qualities, values and world-views that thoughtful and reasonably intelligent people can relate to, and of course some competency skills that would be critical in the performance of their duties, if elected.

AMERICA | It would appear that on this electoral cycle, our neighbours to the South face some stark choices; but then, in such a diverse country of 350 million people, choices have been on the menu for a long time. What is worrisome however is the candidates running for the presidency; neither one particularly compelling, yet, each one offering a deeply contrasting platform. One that is rather dark and apocalyptic, and the other one, a positive, uplifting and pragmatic path to move the country forward. The tone of this electoral cycle in America has been seasoned with lies and deceptions – and a tendency to exaggerate what may or may not be true, in some instances, in a rather hateful atmosphere, occasionally reminding us of entities such as Mussolini, Pinochet and other unsavory historical characters. Indeed, men and politics; perhaps we should say, men & power, its use, its purpose and its abuses. One would hope in November Americans choose wisely.

A CULTURE of SOLIDARITY | We believe that our times demand a strong dose of generosity, and a consistent effort to right the many wrongs facing our world these days; whether you are in the so called “Rust-Belt” in the United States, or the inner cities of Edmonton, Toronto, or Vancouver, or the shanty towns of Rio, Calcutta or Harare. Too many of our fellow humans are suffering the neglect of an economic system that haven’t put people at the centre of its endeavours, and as it has been well demonstrated, benefit few, creating grotesque inequalities, and savage pockets of poverty and misery.

LEADERSHIP | In our opinion; what’s the moment demands from our leaders is a bold new vision of a more just, fair, democratic and humane society. A society that in the words of Rev. William Barber requires a “moral revolution of values” https://youtu.be/gPuK1QG6Rsg … A renewed society that has at its very core, an inclusive, diverse and strong “we” – for, if our societies and our planet is to have a future at all, that’s where we must begin; caring for one another, showing respect for one another; valuing one another and tirelessly working to create the essential conditions that foster healthy individuals and communities.; in short, a village, many villages that actually care, not just by saying they do, but, by showing they do. First Lady Michelle Obama also spoke eloquently https://youtu.be/4ZNWYqDU948 last week on this very topic; we believe as we do with Rev. Barber, we need to listen carefully to their words, and pay close attention to their journey and deeds.

THE FUTURE | As Americans continue on their march to E-Day November 08, 2016, climate change remains one of the most pressing issues of our times. Resilience and adaptation is gradually becoming the “new normal” … In our province, notwithstanding the economic challenges and perhaps because of it, our Premier Rachel Notley leads with grace, clarity and creativity http://edmontonjournal.com/news/politics/one-year-in-power-albertans-overwhelmingly-voted-for-change-has-rachel-notleys-ndp-government-delivered towards a better future for Albertans – not an easy task at the best of times. We remain convinced that her perseverance and transparent leadership will win the day, for gradually many of her electoral promises are becoming a reality. The next provincial election is in 2019 – we hope by then, the new chapter Premier Notley started on May 2015 with her remarkable election victory becomes a refreshing inspiration for a new generation of our fellow citizens, to take her dreams, further.

SERVICE | Meanwhile, we remain at your service. YOU and the individuals & communities we serve remain at the center of what we do. We thank you for your support and welcome your feedback; if we can be of assistance don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Leo Campos Aldunez, Creative Director
The Community Networks Group © 2016

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RECLAIMING the POWER of COMMUNITY.

  1. Our understanding of power has been shaped by the mechanistic worldview which sees power as an attribute of limited quantity which is distributed unevenly to isolated individuals. Power is something which someone or some group has. It is something that can be seized, taken, given, or “put in its place.” This static view of power emphasises the separation between those who “have” power [the power-full] and those who don’t [the power-less]. Because there’s only so much power to go around, one can only have more power by taking it away from someone else [a win-lose situation where their gains is another’s loss], or by persuading those with power to give some of it up [in which case they continue to depend on the goodwill of the powerful who can always “take it back”]. And of course those with more power are free to use it as they wish, constrained only by their own morality and sense of right & wrong. Although we need to understand the workings of power in our society, analyses which focus solely on the ways in which the powerful exercise “power-over” others contribute to our own sense of powerlessness and victimization. It gives us the sense that domination over us is so total that resistance is futile.
  1. A more dynamic understanding of power focusses on the connections between the individuals involved. Power, as a relation, flows from “sender” to “receiver.” The effectiveness of the exercise of power by the “sender” depends on the degree to which the “receivers” consent to the relation. Orders, to be effective, must be obeyed. In this view, power is neither positive nor negative. The form it takes depends on the nature of the relationship through which it flows. Starhawk in Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery distinguishes between three forms of power: power-over, power-with, and power-from-within. The exercise of “power-over ranges from the overt use of force and violence to more subtle forms of persuasion. For “power-over” to flow effectively, there has to be some element of submissiveness, dependency, or fear on the part of the receivers of this power.
  1. In exchange for our obedience we get that which is not directly or easily available to us – we get that which we fear losing. In agreeing to this exchange we fail to realize that the powerful need what we agree to give them [our labour, our resources, approval, etc.]. Our consent is also obtained through mechanism which persuades us through the manufacture of a “truth” which serves the powerful. This “truth” defines the ways in which we should “see” and “be” in the world. There are no alternatives. Other truths, other ways of seeing and being are overshadowed, devalued and discredited. But the power to define, like all power, is a relation. It depends for its effectiveness on the existence of others who are willing to “believe” their truth. To accept this truth is to deny our own experiences, strengths and power.
  1. As individuals, we exercise “power-from-within” when we choose to act from our inner sense of integrity and “truth.” The strength of “power-from-within” does not come from external authority nor from possession of the means of coercion. It emerges from within us; it comes from our willingness to act from, and to protect, the deep bonds that connect us with each other and with the Earth. It is “power-from-within” that gives us the strength to speak out and to join with others in withdrawing our consent for relations of “power-over.” As receivers of “power-over,” we have the option of refusing to act as a vehicle for the exercise of someone else’s power. It is at the point of reception that we’re presented with the opportunity of refusal – the exercise of our power-from-within. It is then in our resolve, willingness and readiness to exercise this power that the authority of “power-over” is weakened. When the number of individuals who are prepared to exercise their power-from-within increases, that “power-over” begins its conversion to “power-with.”
  1. In joining with others we exercise “power-with” – the collective side of “power-from-within.” Moreover; “power-with” is the “power not to command, but to suggest and be listened to, to begin something and see it happen. The source of power-with is the willingness of others to listen to our ideas. We could call that willingness respect, not for a role, but for each unique person.” This form of power is exercised within the limits of community – the net of relations which sanctions the ordered use of our individual and collective powers. It is a fluid, constructive and creative form of leadership which “retains its strength only to restraint. It affirms, shapes, and guides a collective decision – but, it cannot enforce its will on the group, or push it in a direction contrary to community desires.” To do so, would be to exert “power-over” – the form of power normally exercises within hierarchical positions of authority. The linking of “power-from-within” and “power-with” offers us a clear alternative to the dominant form of “power-over.” It is through the exercise of these powers that we recover our capacity to act, resist, create and change what needs to be so. © Pricilla Boucher
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THE “NORMALCY” of our TIMES …

1. Sharing coffee with a couple of colleagues recently we couldn’t help but touch on recent world events, mainly the Syrian Crisis, and its painful unfoldings. It wasn’t too long ago when we and millions in Canada and around the world were deeply moved to tears by the picture of that little boy [Alan Kurdihttp://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/11/27/the-family-of-alan-kurdi-the-syrian-boy-on-the-beach-is-coming-to-canada_n_8661346.html drowned on a beach on Turkey’s shores.

It was then that, somehow the world-at-large noticed a civil war that has been ravaging Syria for the past 5 years, give or take. His tragic death was seemingly the painful and very personal catalyst people needed to awaken – and they did, fortunately, for now 25000 Syrian refugees including relatives of this little one will be joining our country in the weeks and months ahead.

2. We debated the merits of a single picture, its power to influence events, to move people to respond at a very visceral level – after all, and to our shame, other kids had also suffered the same fate, yet, they were blended in the vast imagery of war in that painful region of our planet. Alan Kurdi was however, a singular picture, conveying in no uncertain terms, without words, the unmistakable horrors of war; and to it, to him particularly, we could no longer remain indifferent.

3. Tragedies are a daily occurrence on our planet, we know that – scales of catastrophes may vary, the nature of a given incident may be examined, studied, re-examined and lessons learned, or so we hope. Earthquakes; floods; tsunamis; landslides; sinkholes, you name it. And often, our response is to make a donation to the Red Cross or some charitable entity and be done with it.

The astonishing thing with Alan Kurdi was that the picture of his soft body, face down on that beach and at that moment in time, travelling with the speed of light via social media and news outlets around the world, felt like a deep punch to our own solar plexus; unable for a few minutes to exhale, anyone with a deep sense of justice, decency and human compassion could not go on as if nothing had occurred. How did he get there and why?

4. The conflict ravaging Syria is deep rooted – much has been written about it, a menu of views from which to choose. I leave the further explaining/geopolitics to those much more informed https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Civil_War than I am.

What interests me at this juncture is our response to the thousands of Syrians coming to our country, many to my own city. How will we prepare to be of service in their welcoming, proper re-settlement and their gradual adaptation to their new land? Had the little Alan Kurdi not died, he probably would have been joining our Canadian family as well. Will our response to the refugees see us atone for our previous indifference to the suffering of millions of refugees stuck in rather dreadful conditions in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey?

5. I normally work in this world from a perspective of compassion; I think many among you do as well. In a world that so desperately needs our compassionate engagement with it, how could we do differently? If this was a wake-up call to shake us from the comfort of our indifference, let’s make it count where it matters, and let us sustain our journey to serve our fellow humans to the best of our abilities and resources.

Somehow, with heavy heart and misty eyes, my intuition tells me that little Alan Kurdi would expect nothing less from us. Let’s be adults of character and generosity and, if I may say so, let’s embrace the calling from those fellow humans who ask for nothing more than a safe harbor in which to rebuild their shattered lives. –

About the Author: Leo Campos Aldunez www.tcng.ca is a poet, cultural worker, interpreter/translator, adult educator and multilingual social media professional based in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada).

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WHAT is ETHICAL LEADERSHIP?

We know that leadership in general is about many things – such as, vision, principle and integrity. Leadership is especially about the power to motivate others through words and deeds. And ethical leadership is about ethically motivating others in ethical directions. Obviously ethical leadership is a complex matter and we will return many times in the work of the Foundation to think further about the question, ‘What is ethical leadership?’ But let us set out a few ideas here and hope to stimulate your interest to pursue the topic.

It may be useful to get started by thinking of ethical leadership as having both procedural and more substantive, or character-based, dimensions. On the procedural side we would expect to find, for example, issues connected with ethical decision-making procedures, such as consultation.

We would expect ethical leaders to recognize the importance of consultation with those affected by their decisions before they take action. To take consultation seriously is to treat people impacted by a decision with the dignity and respect they are due and can as well result in much better outcomes because a broader range of input has been taken into account.

A fair bit of attention has been paid the procedural side of the ethical leadership equation in recent years. Much has been heard, for example, about the accountability of leaders for actions taken by the organizations of they are a key part, especially in business and politics. Here Canadians have only to think of the political advertising scandal that led to the defeat of the Liberal government of Paul Martin in the 2006 federal election.

Because of scandals, again especially in the business sector, but not only there, we have seen an increasing number of organizations adopt formal codes of ethics. But codes of ethics can be misleading and give rise to their own ethical issues. For if ethics is a complicated matter – and it is – then we must acknowledge that codes of ethics can never answer all our ethical questions.

Indeed, if the job of acting ethically is to think through the application of general ethical principles – such as the duty to treat every person with dignity and respect – to the facts of particular cases, then codes of ethics can never hold complete solutions. They can even be misleading, as where they dictate that in all circumstances a particular thing is wrong, whereas in certain perhaps limited circumstances this need not be the case.

A widely endorsed code of fundraising ethics condemns the practice of paying fundraisers “finders’ fees, commissions or other payments based on either the number of gifts received or the value of funds raised”. But properly handled – including complete openness with potential donors about the fact that the fundraisers are being paid by, say, commission – it is difficult to see why fundraising of such a kind is unethical.

We know that as a procedural matter, leaders should not put themselves in conflicts of interest. Even apparent conflicts of interest should be avoided whenever possible. But what exactly is a conflict of interest, how we do we recognize them when they arise and how do we know when the problem is a truly serious one? These are often difficult questions, requiring careful discussion and reflection.

The substantive side of ethical leadership is at least as important as the procedural, but seems to receive less examination. Thoughtful reflection on what it means substantively to be an ethical leader would have us consider the role of courage, for example. It is often very uncomfortable to lead in the ethically desirable direction, especially where that requires opposing the more immediately popular point of view. Imagine how unpleasant it was for those who first advocated for racially integrated sports teams or, for a more modern example, first spoke out in favour if gay marriage. How do we nurture such courageous leadership?

We know that one ingredient of moral courage is independence of thought. The ethical leader is one who can resist jumping on “band-wagons”. But where does this personality trait come from and how can its development be supported? There are many other dimensions of ethical leadership.

For example, ethical leadership recognizes the moral obligation to know enough to do the job right. Personal integrity and respectful decision-making processes are not always enough. Could we call “ethical” a contemporary leader who did not recognize the importance of environmental concerns, or a municipal politician that did not see homelessness and poverty as crucial parts of his or her mandate?

Sometimes consideration of the obstacles to ethical leadership can teach us a great deal. What stands in the way of ethical leadership? Lack of courage or independence of thought are obvious obstacles. But what are some of the other impediments to showing ethics in leadership? One of them is lack of imagination: sometimes what stops us from doing the ethically right thing is that we cannot see beyond the usual confines of an issue – we cannot see our way through to ethically better solutions. And sometimes what prevents us from leading ethically is staleness: we have been at the same job for too long and cannot see that the creative spark and tenacious dedication necessary to ethical leadership has long ago disappeared.

2015 © Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership

Kindly visit: http://www.chumirethicsfoundation.ca/

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ALBERTA > From Fossil Fuels to a Low Carbon Future.

Dear Colleagues & Readers – In December 2015, Premier Rachel Notley will lead an Alberta government delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. As home to the world’s single largest hydrocarbon deposit, Alberta will face significant pressure to take concrete action on climate change if it wishes to earn social license to develop the oil sands. I’ve joined with Professor Ramprasad Sengupta to offer a path forward for Alberta and Canada as the Paris meeting seeks global consensus on a common standard to meet the challenges of climate change. This is published as Policy Brief No. 22 on the Cambridge Strategies site here: www.cambridgestrategies.com – Satya Das, Edmonton, Alberta (Canada)

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HUMAN RIGHTS in COLOMBIA

By Forest Peoples Programme – This past April 2015, Fernando Salazar Calvo was gunned down brutally outside his home. He was a prominent human rights defender and community member of the Resguardo Indígena Cañamomo Lomaprieta (Caldas) in Colombia. A long time member of the Resguardo’s Ancestral Miners’ Association (ASOMICARS), 52-year-old Fernando Salazar was a key spokesperson for implementing the Traditional Authorities’ rules and regulations for ancestral mining taking place within Resguardo Territory.

While the facts are not yet clear on why Salazar was killed, several members of ASOMICARS and the Cabildo, the highest authority of the Resguardo, have received death threats in the past in response to their exercise of their authority within the Resguardo. In addition, a November 2014 Risk Report, issued by Colombia’s Early Warning System (SAT), determined that the Resguardo and surrounding areas are affected by the activities of illegal armed groups. In these circumstances, these leaders fear they may be targets for illegal armed groups and individuals with interests in the rich gold resources embedded in Resguardo Territory. The Cabildo is calling urgently for a speedy and exhaustive investigation into Fernando Salazar Calvo’s murder.

[“We don’t want a shoddily run, local investigation of the case,” says Hector Jaime Vinasco, Coordinator of Mining Issues for the Resguardo Indígena Cañamomo Lomaprieta, and former Governor of the Resguardo. “We’ve had too many awful, local investigations. We need pressure for a top-level investigation, now.” “What is under attack are our rights to self-determination and autonomy,” says Vinasco, “Our rights to regulate our own ancestral mining, under our own jurisdiction.”]

This is not the first time that community leaders from the Resguardo have been killed. Previous incidents include the 2003 La Herradura massacre, when the then governor and three other leaders were killed. These and other incidents have led the Constitutional Court to issue precautionary measures for the communities and their leaders. Despite these measures and the ongoing serious security threat facing Resguardo members (as confirmed in a risk assessment carried out by the ombudsman’s office in 2014), it is disturbing that the Resguardo’s latest concerns about security were dismissed as mere “rumours” in a recent letter from the local prosecutor’s office in Caldas.

Indeed, located high in a mountainous area known as Colombia’s Gold Belt, the Resguardo Indígena Cañamomo Lomaprieta has been home to ancestral gold miners since well before the establishment of the Colombian State. Exercising its Special Jurisdiction recognised under Colombia’s Constitution, the Cabildo of the Resguardo Indígena Cañamomo Lomaprieta has established a series of rules and regulations for mining within its territory. These include implementing environmental and labour management plans, prohibiting the use of harmful substances such as mercury and cyanide, and prohibiting foreign miners and investors. The Cabildo has declared the Resguardo a no-go zone for large-scale mining, and has also developed its own community protocols around consultation and consent. These measures are particularly important in light of the small amount of territory the Resguardo has for its steadily growing population (it has a land base of some 4862 hectares, equivalent to some 37.6 km2, home to 22,823 Embera Chami community members).

While the Cabildo has managed to stave off incursions by outside miners with interest in its territories, the entire Resguardo is criss-crossed with concessions issued without the Cabildo’s consultation or consent. The State has also issued a Special Interest Mining Reserve that overlaps with Resguardo Territory, and that could go out for company bidding shortly. While the Cabildo has managed to stave off incursions by outside miners with interest in its territories, the entire Resguardo is criss-crossed with concessions issued without the Cabildo’s consultation or consent. The State has also issued a Special Interest Mining Reserve that overlaps with Resguardo Territory, and that could go out for company bidding shortly. As well, it is now regularly reported by the media that illegal armed actors are increasingly turning to mining as a means to launder their money and to fuel their activities. The Cabildo calls for a national-level investigation of the murder of human rights defender Fernando Salazar Calvo, and the punishment of both the perpetrators of and co-conspirators involved in this heinous crime.

Source: Upside Down World © 2015
http://www.upsidedownworld.org

About: Forest Peoples Programme works with forest peoples in South America, Africa, and Asia, to help them secure their rights, build up their own organisations and negotiate with governments and companies as to how economic development and conservation are best achieved on their lands. The vision of the organisation is that forests be owned and controlled by forest peoples in ways that ensure sustainable livelihoods, equity and well-being based on respect for their rights, knowledge, cultures and identities. For more information, please visit: www.forestpeoples.org

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IS Mexico a CRIMINAL COUNTRY?

By Rafael Barajas & Pedro Miguel – When a police force arrests 43 students and hands them over to narco-gangsters who kill them as a “lesson”, then the police work for a narco-state that entwines organised crime and political power. The same police force also machine-gunned students, killing six and seriously wounding six more; it seized a student, tore the skin from his face, ripped out his eyes and left him lying in the street. This is a narco-state that practises terrorism. These things happened in Iguala, the third-biggest city in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. The police attacked a group of students from the Ayotzinapa rural teacher training college and are accused of leading them to their deaths. Iguala’s mayor, José Luis Abarca, and his wife, María de Los Angeles, who have close links with a cartel in the region, are suspected of ordering this operation. They were arrested on 4 November.

Mexico’s rural teacher training centres were established 80 years ago to provide high-quality rural teaching and give young teachers from poor backgrounds the chance to better themselves. But these aims, inherited from the revolution (1910-17), have clashed with the neoliberal economic model adopted since the 1980s. According to neoliberal logic, public education limits the scope to exploit education as a commodity, and the countryside harbours relics of the past (indigenous communities or peasant farmers who stand in the way of expanding export-focused agro-business). That is why Mexico’s 15 remaining rural teacher training centres are under threat, as is evident from budget cuts and the accusation by the media and politicians that they are “seedbeds for guerrillas”, according to the former secretary general of the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI), Elba Esther Gordillo; havens for “good-for-nothings and delinquents”, according to a debate on Televisa (1 December 2012); and “dens of organised crime,” as Ricardo Alemán wrote in El Universal, 7 October 2014.

The Ayotzinapa students are fighting for their college’s survival. They have been topping up meagre state subsidies – $3.6m a year to cover tuition, accommodation and medical care for just over 500 students, 40 instructors and six administrative staff – through fund-raising. The Ayotzinapa students kidnapped on 26 September had gone to Iguala to organise a fund-raiser. A police witness has revealed that the injured students were made to walk a long distance before being beaten, humiliated, doused with petrol and burned alive. All that remained was ashes, teeth and bone fragments.

Drug Money Oils the Economy – Mexicans have grown used to news of decapitations, group executions and torture, but this story has aroused unprecedented indignation, leading to widespread protests in late November. This proof of terrorism stemming from the way power is shared by politicians and cartels raises troubling questions about the reach of Mexico’s narco-state and its capacity for repression. It also exposes a structural problem: drug money makes the Mexican economy go round. A 2010 US-Mexican study estimated that the cartels are responsible for an annual cash flow of between $19bn and $29bn from the US to Mexico. According to Kroll, the leading risk and security consultancy, the figure fluctuates between $25 and $40bn. So the drugs trade may be the main source of foreign currency revenue, ahead of oil exports ($25bn) and remittances from expatriates ($25bn). This money feeds directly into the financial system, which is the backbone of the neoliberal order. Stemming the flow would lead to the economic collapse of the country. Mexico and the narco-economy are mutually dependent.

The alliance between politics and drugs extends throughout the country. Entire regions – including the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Michoacán, Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Oaxaca – are under the cartels’ control. They appoint civil servants and police chiefs and cut deals with state governors. Irrespective of the political affiliation of the state’s representatives, authority remains in the hands of organised crime. A few weeks ago, a video released by the Knights Templar cartel showed Ricardo Vallejo Mora, the son of the former governor of Michoacán, in relaxed conversation with Servando Gómez Martínez, known as “la Tuta”, the godfather of the criminal organisation that runs this state. In these regions, organised crime takes its cut, and engages in kidnap, rape and murder with impunity. Inhabitants live in a nightmare, and in some states their only option has been to organise self-defence militias.

There are indications that the narco-state has infected the highest spheres of Mexican political life. No party or region is immune, especially the biggest: the ruling PRI, the National Action Party (PAN) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The cartels cannot operate without the cooperation of politicians and civil servants at all levels. Money plays a determining role in election campaigns, which also offer an effective means of laundering cash.

President Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI has been in power since 2012, and there is no direct evidence linking him to organised crime. But during one of the most expensive election campaigns in Mexico’s history, the press revealed murky dealings amounting to several million dollars. The scandal made waves in Mexico, but the international community stayed silent. It is impossible to measure just how much money Peña Nieto spent to win the election. But on 5 November an electoral commission established that the PRI had spent more than 4.5bn pesos ($330m, 13 times the legal limit). The commission was unable to investigate many secret transactions that would have produced a higher figure. Officially, no one knows the source of this money, a worry in a country riddled with drug trafficking. In territories dominated by organised crime, the local cartels actively support the PRI.

Promises Not Kept – Promises to tackle narco-trafficking effectively were a key part of Peña Nieto’s campaign; he guaranteed results within a year. That was three years ago. Many of the electorate hoped that the PRI’s policy would be more effective than that of its predecessor, led by Felipe Calderón, but its security plan is almost exactly the same: the US is watching to ensure its security doctrine is followed. So the murders have gone on. According to a federal government agency, the National Public Security System (SNSP), there were 57,899 wilful homicides during the first 20 months of Peña Nieto’s government. The violence from organised crime tends to relegate the crimes of the state to second place, yet they are far from insignificant. The government claims that the Ayotzinapa killings were an isolated incident. Mexicans have good reason to think otherwise. Peña Nieto, during his time as governor of the state of México in 2006, ordered a crackdown on the citizens of San Salvador Atenco, who had long resisted the seizure of their land for the building of an airport. Many human rights violations were committed, including sexual assaults on female detainees. No charges have ever been brought.

Since Peña Nieto came to power, the prisons have been full of people whose only crime is to have fought for their rights, land or patrimony and defended their families against organised crime. This August, the Nestora Libre committee, a defence organisation for political prisoners, claimed that since December 2012 at least 350 people had been locked up on political grounds. In Michoacán, Dr. José Manuel Mireles, the founder of a self-defence militia, was arrested with 328 members of his group. In Guerrero, Nestora Salgado, 13 community police officers and four people’s leaders who opposed the construction of La Parota dam were also imprisoned. In Puebla, 33 people are behind bars for opposing the building of a highly polluting thermo-electric power station. In Mexico City, Quintana Roo, Chiapas and many other states, it is impossible to count the number of political prisoners. In the states of Sonora and Chiapas, citizens who protested about water privatisation have been jailed, along with those who asked for fertiliser.

From the start of Peña Nieto’s administration, the forces of order have employed dirty war tactics, reminiscent of the political repression in Latin America from the 1960s to the 80s. Nepomuceno Moreno, a member of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, was tortured and killed in the state of Sonora while taking part in a caravan for peace. In Chihuahua, assassins killed Ismaël Solorio and Manuelita Solis, who were defending water resources against Canadian mining companies. Atilano Roman, the leader of a movement for people displaced by the construction of the Picachos dam, was killed in the state of Sinaloa. The atrocities in Iguala have increased popular anger, now visible in traditionally apathetic sectors. The survival of the regime is under threat in a previously unthinkable way. None of the PRI’s traditional weapons – co-optation, hostile media coverage, infiltration, provocation, defamation – have managed to contain it. Attempts to buy families’ silence, acts of repression, incitements to violence, the campaign against Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the main leader of the opposition left, trying to blame him for the violence against the students, and the mainstream media’s defence of the president, have only heightened anger and increased the desire for change.

The movement in support of the students and their families took unprecedented action on 10 November and blocked Acapulco’s international airport for more than three hours. This is a major tourist entry point to the country. It is likely that further action will follow, targeting Guerrero’s other major airports and motorways. Mexico’s prosecutor general, Jesús Murillo Karam, repeated that Ayotzinapa was an isolated case on 7 November when he was asked if he believed it was a state crime. “Iguala is not the state,” he replied. But what happened there shows what this state has become. –

Source: Le Monde Diplomatique © 2015

Translated by George Miller / http://mondediplo.com

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