Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network is a network of groups and individuals who are working in solidarity with people struggling for social justice and environmental protection in Latin America, the Caribbean and in our own region. We are writing to express our support for the popular movement in Haiti, which has been pushing for the resignation of President Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe, and for a process to begin that will result in the holding of long delayed elections. Prime Minister Lamothe did resign on December 14th, but President Martelly has nominated Evans Paul to take Lamothe’s place, and has reached an unconstitutional accord with the leaders of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies to extend members terms in office. Many protesters have also called for better living conditions and the end of the occupation of their country by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Thousands of people have taken to the streets of several cities in Haiti on many occasions in the past few months to make the strength of their convictions known. MINUSTAH, the police and other officials have reacted with violence, resulting in many injuries and the deaths of at least six protesters. Many have also been arrested (see “Anti-Martelly Protests Grow in Haiti” by Isabelle L. Papillon and Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, October 29, 2014 , “As Martelly prepares to jettison Lamothe: Nationwide uprising gains strength in Haiti” by Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, December 3, 2014, and “In Haiti, only the face of power has changed” By Amy Wilentz, in LA Times, Dec. 26, 2014. You can also find all of these articles on the Canada Haiti Action Network website).
The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network is particularly concerned about Canada’s role in robbing Haitians of their democratic rights. The Canadian government was instrumental in the fraudulent election of President Martelly (see Yves Engler’s book The Ugly Canadian, pp. 223-225, Red Publishing, Fernwood Publishing, 2012). Canada has also played a significant role in MINUSTAH over the years. MINUSTAH was installed in Haiti shortly after the 2004 coup against President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aristide and his party, Fanmi Lavalas, had won landslide victories in elections in 2000. The whole of Haiti’s government, from the local to the national level was removed from power during the coup. We are convinced by very credible evidence that this illegal ouster was planned and carried out by France, Canada and the United States. A paramilitary force, which was probably backed by the US, and members of the small Haitian elite also played their part (see Canada Haiti Action Network's: Apology to Haiti).
After the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti five years ago on January 12th, 2010 in which over 220,000 people were killed and millions lost their homes, there was a lot of talk of reconstruction. Unfortunately this reconstruction has not come anywhere near to living up to expectations (see “Outsourcing Haiti: How disaster relief became a disaster of it” By Jake Johnston, published in Boston Review, January 16, 2014). In fact further damage was done when MINUSTAH brought cholera to Haiti through the negligent release of sewage into the Arbonite and La Mielle Rivers. So far 8,854 people have died and 725,802 have become ill from the disease. Five of the people affected by this outbreak are suing the UN in a US court (see CBC The Current: US courts must decide if United Nations is responsible for bringing cholera to Haiti).
Thursday, January 15, 2015
The Following letter was sent from ARSN to Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird on Decmber 23rd, 2014:
Hon. John Baird
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
December 23, 2014
Dear Minister Baird,
We write today on behalf of the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network to express our concern over the human rights crisis in Mexico, and to ask the Canadian government to take immediate action. The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network brings together individuals and organizations from across Atlantic Canada who share a commitment to solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean. We have been watching with concern the events unfolding in Mexico in recent months, particularly in response to the violence on September 26th directed against a group of students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a rural teachers college in Guerrero State. This violence left six young people dead, and 43 forcibly disappeared. Recently found human remains have been analysed by forensic anthropologists and it has been confirmed that they belong to one of the 43 missing students.
This tragic event has exposed the deteriorating human rights situation in Mexico, ongoing corruption, and the collusion of state actors with organized crime. It has also mobilized people from across Mexican society who have taken to the streets to demand the return of the remaining 42 missing students and to call for the resignation of high-level Mexican officials. The Governor of Guerrero has already been forced to step down and protests are calling for the resignation of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Protesters have been charged with serious crimes such as conspiracy and involvement in organized crime and are being detained in high security prisons. There are also serious concerns about the safety of human rights defenders who have been accompanying the families of the 43 disappeared students.
These events are taking place in the context of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Like many other free trade agreements, NAFTA was promoted based on the notion that through developing business and trade relationships the human rights situation could be improved. After 20 years of free trade engagement with Mexico, we can now take stock of how this approach to the promotion of human rights abroad has worked.
As the families and communities of the 43 disappeared students continue to search for their loved ones, every day more mass graves with unidentified bodies are uncovered. Since 2006, at least 150,000 Mexicans have been murdered. Guerrero has long been one of the most violent states in the country. In 2012, its homicide rate was just short of Honduras’, considered the most violent country in the world. Mexico has also seen a dramatic rise in the number of forced disappearances. Fifty four people go missing in Mexico every week, totalling 22,610 disappearances since 2007. 2014 has been the worst year on record, with 5,098 disappearances.i
The tendency of the Mexican government is to focus the blame for this violence on the drug cartels, who wield significant power in Mexico. However, focusing on the cartels exclusively ignores the reality of collusion of state forces including police, military and elected and appointed state officials with organized crime. In Iguala, the students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School were shot at and later seized by police, allegedly at the behest of the mayor of Iguala and his wife. Evidence indicates that the police handed them over to criminal gangs to be tortured and killed. A recently released report by Amnesty International found that “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment play a central role in policing and public security operations by military and police forces across Mexico. These practices are widespread and are frequently condoned and tolerated by other law enforcement officials, superior officers, prosecutors, judges and some human rights commissions.”ii Recent reports in a national newspaper cite leaked documents that reveal that state officials knew about the attack on the Ayotzinapa students as it was happening and did nothing to stop it. The case of the 43 disappeared students has exposed the deep-seated corruption of the Mexican State, and the collusion of state forces in terrorizing the Mexican civilian population.
This current reality of the ongoing human rights “crisis” in Mexico reveals the failure of the ‘free trade’ approach to human rights promotion. Since 1994, when NAFTA was signed into effect, the human rights situation in Mexico has drastically deteriorated. Meanwhile, Canadian foreign investment in the region has significantly increased. Mexico is now the foremost destination abroad for Canadian mining interests, and according to the Canadian Press, exports of Canadian weapons and ammunition to Mexico climbed by 93 per cent between 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, as you know, the Canadian government is sending millions of dollars to fund the Mexican military and police forces through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP).
We ask that the Canadian government take immediate action by:
- Making a public statement calling on the Mexican government to respect the peaceful protesters’ rights to freedom of assembly, association, and speech, and right to protest;
- Calling for a guarantee of the safety of human rights defenders, including Vidulfo Rosales and Abel Barrera from the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre , who have been criminalized for their work in defense of human rights in the state of Guerrero and for accompanying the families of the 43 disappeared students;
- Calling for a complete and impartial third-party investigation into the events of September 26th and 27th in Iguala, and the immediate destitution of any and all political officials found to be implicated;
- Suspending any further funding for “security” initiatives in Mexico until a complete review of corruption and collusion with organized crime within the Mexican military and police forces has been completed and the issues identified are addressed;
- Revising its current hemispheric trade agreements and pursuing a different trade agenda based first on respect for human, labour and environmental rights.
The people of Mexico have shown themselves to be strong, resilient, and courageous in standing up against violence and corruption, and we owe them our support.
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network
Marc Garneau, MP
Irwin Cotler, MP
Paul Dewar, MP
Wayne Marston, MP
Elizabeth May, MP
i The statistics provided here are based on official figures and the real numbers can be assumed to be much higher given that the vast majority of crimes are not reported. These numbers are based on the reports from INEGI (the National Statistics and Geographic Institute) and SNSP (the National Public Security System (for 2014 only). Source documents: 1) Proceso, “Los Muertos Que Hablan,” in edition No 1922, September 1, 2013 and also Proceso, “Mas de 121 mil muertos, el saldo de la narcoguerra de Calderón: INEGI,” Jul 30, 2013; 2) INEGI, “En 2013 se registraron 22 mil 732 homicidios” 23 julio 2014; 3) Proceso, “Se reportaron cuatro muertes por hora en enero a mayo: SNSP,” Jun 26, 2014 http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=375776