Thursday, November 15, 2012
Lora Lucero In Gaza: Drones and Bombing
A guest blog from Lora Lucero who has been living in Gaza for several weeks now. Lora has her own blog of her journey in Gaza, you can follow her here.
A sleepless night last night as we sat together at home in the center of Gaza City. Earlier in the afternoon, Israel had assassinated the #1 military chief of Hamas, a targeted killing as they had promised they would do. But everyone expected more, and we got it.
Explosions every 5-10 minutes throughout the night. Some were far away and some were a couple of blocks from our house. Those shook the building and broke the glass. Today there is plenty of glass everywhere.
Living in Gaza for 7 weeks now, I have learned the sound of drones and F-16s. Last night I heard plenty of those, in addition to the bombs.
I have been blogging, posting on Facebook and just learning how to Tweet. When we have electricity (as we do now because someone has turned on the building's generator) I try to send updates.
A number of people have asked me "why are the Palestinians sending rockets into southern Israel. Aren't they asking for a response? Doesn't Israel have a right to defend itself?"
I urge Americans to put this in context. Col. Ann Wright described the recent chronology of events, which I included here. http://loralucero.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/put-israels-assault-in-gaza-in-context/
I don't want to justify violence from either side, but the equities in this situation should be understood.
Israel is an occupying power with the best weapons in the world thanks to American tax dollars ($3 billion per year).
Palestinians in Gaza have some home-made rockets. The Palestinian children who were killed playing football (soccer) had no weapons, and one was shot in the stomach - like target practice.
Israelis living in southern Israel near the hostilities have a choice. They can evacuate to a safer location.
Gazans have nowhere to go. This is one of the most dense locations in the world, with families squeezed in very tight quarters. They have no choice but to sit tight and hope the bombs don't fall on them.
I am very disappointed in Obama's canned response --- that Israel has a right to defend itself.
Of course, both sides have a right to live in peace and security, but Obama's response is not helpful to anyone in the region. The Arab League, Egypt, Russia, France, Turkey, and many other countries have expressed concern and outrage for Israel's deliberate carnage in Gaza. I hope Americans realize that the community of nations understands the dynamics in the Middle East, and our willful ignorance in the U.S. is disgraceful.
Please call or write our new U.S. Senator Heinrich and help educate him.
Thank you from Gaza.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
ONE VOTE 2012 Kick-Off Event
The following announcement is provided by Samantha Kerley; Field Organizer, ONE VOTE 2012.
Vote 2012 kick off event in New Mexico. There will be free food, guest speakers, and great opportunities to learn about ONE, ONE Vote, and how to get involved in an awesome campaign. We focus on issues such as preventable diseases and breaking the cycle of poverty and hungry through smarter agricultural improvements in countries within Africa. Our main goal is to create smarter federal policy priorities for foreign aide and assistance by educating and engaging Senate candidates, elected officials, and members of the community. Learn more and get involved!
Monday, May 09, 2011
Borderland Residents Speak Out Against Violence in Mesilla
Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.
A large and emotional gathering of people from the borderland community joined together on Sunday at the Mesilla Community Center to show solidarity with marches scheduled for this week in Mexico against the drug war and violence south of the border. The event was sponsored by the Comite Amigos de Emilio, a borderlands community organization that supports granting asylum in the United States for exiled journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto.
Ella Nelson of Las Cruces, the organizer, said the event and the committee's goal was to bring greater attention to the case of Gutiérrez and other victims of Mexico's bloodshed. The committee aims to put pressure on U.S. immigration authorities and Mexican officials, and demand action on Gutiérrez's and other asylum-seekers' human rights complaints.
The emotionally charged gathering was keynoted by Mexican journalists Emilio Gutiérrez and Ricardo Chavez Aldana. Both men have been victims of the violence in Mexico and are seeking political asylum in the United States. Gutiérrez fled his town of Ascención, Chihuahua, in 2008 after writing a series of articles criticizing the Mexican army and receiving death threats from the military. Ricardo Chavez Aldana is a radio reporter from Juarez who received death threats and lost several family members who were murdered after he spoke out against the violence on the air in Mexico.
Calling for peace and justice for Mexico, Gutiérrez laid the blame for the violence south of the border on the complicity of the Mexican military and the Calderon government, which he termed "illegitimate," rather than just on any outlaw cartel. "Because of the government policies, over 45,000 innocent people have died," Gutiérrez said. "There are at least 15,000 'disappeared' people, among them 68 journalists."
"How many mother's have lost their children? How many children have been left orphaned? How many more are living in exile?" he asked. "It's a huge pain that we carry inside of us every day. The most painful thing about all this, for me, is the loss of my home and country," Gutiérrez said, "more sorrowful for me than the loss of my parents."
Gutiérrez fled Mexico after receiving death threats from the military. A month earlier, more than fifty military personnel overran and illegally ransacked his home after he spoke out in the press against the violence. After fleeing Mexico with his son, Gutiérrez was detained for seven months by U.S. Immigration when he arrived at the border seeking asylum last June. He is currently staying in Las Cruces while his case is pending in the courts.
Ricardo Chavez Aldana, a radio newsman who is also living in exile, also addressed the rally. Chavez Aldana's nephews were murdered after he spoke out on the radio against the violence in Juarez and criticized the military. "Juarez is a dead city," he said. "Four of every five businesses have closed down, and we see blood everywhere."
Ruben Garcia, the Director of Annunciation House, a shelter in El Paso, recounted the stories of some of those who have sought refuge in his facility, including a mother who has lost four of her five children. "There is a mistaken idea in most of America, promoted by politicians, that one place end and another one begins at a certain line. We need to be mindful of role that the drug trade in America is having on Mexico" Garcia said. "I've heard these stories many times. Im sorry for being emotional" said a tearful Ella Nelson, "but on this Mother's Day, I hope we will take a moment to think about the mothers who have lost their families in this crisis."
For more posts by Stephen Jones, visit our archive.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Notorious Army School of the Americas Connection: Sen. Ortiz y Pino Speaks Out Against Susana Martinez's Nomination of Dr. Jose Garcia for Higher Ed Secretary
Just prior to the holidays, Republican governor-elect Susana Martinez announced she was nominating Dr. Jose Z. Garcia, 65, an associate professor of government at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, for the post of Secretary of Higher Education. Garcia, a conservative who chaired the Democratic Party of Dona Ana County during the early 1980s and still claims to be a Democrat of sorts, was a member of the steering committee of "Democrats for Martinez" during the gubernatorial campaign.
The following is a statement from New Mexico State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino upon learning Dr. Jose Garcia once taught at the U.S. Army School of the Americas. The school has been roundly criticized for the human-rights violations performed by a number of its graduates throughout Latin America.
"The Army School of the Americas has a deeply troubling history of training human-rights abusers throughout Latin America. Dr. Jose Garcia and Susana Martinez must come out and explain his involvement with the school. The halls of New Mexico government are no place for anyone who condones the types of abuses that were spawned from the School of the Americas in the 1980s and early 1990s. Dr. Garcia owes anyone who values human rights a full accounting of his time working for the school."
Jose Z. Garcia, PhD, was “appointed Distinguished Visiting Professor at the United States Army School of the Americas from 1989-1991, where he was named instructor of the year for 1990.” (1)
Background on the Army School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation):
On June 28, 1996, a report was issued by the Intelligence Oversight Board a four-person, independent board created by President Clinton. The IOB, headed by attorney Anthony S. Harrington and including Gen. Lew Allen, Jr., USAF (Retired), found that the "School of the Americas ... used improper instruction materials in training Latin American officers from 1982 to 1991 ... certain passages appeared to condone practices such as execution of guerillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion, and false imprisonment." (2)
According to School of the Americas Watch, these manuals taught repressive techniques and promoted the violation of human rights throughout Latin America and around the globe. The manuals contain instructions in motivation by fear, bounties for enemy dead, false imprisonment, torture, execution, and kidnapping a target's family members. The Pentagon admitted that these manuals were a "mistake."(3)
According to a Get the Facts page on SOA Watch:
Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA, frequently dubbed the “School of Assassins,” has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.
Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.
... From its beginning, the mission of the SOA has been to train soldiers to protect the interests of multinational corporations and maintain the economic status quo for the few rich and powerful in the US and their cohorts in Latin America. Labor leaders and union organizers have always been among the primary targets of SOA violence.
Many readers are probably familiar with SOA Watch because of its annual protest against the School of the Americas:
Since 1990, SOA Watch has sponsored an annual public demonstration of protest of SOA/WHISC at Ft. Benning. In 2005, the demonstration drew 19,000 people. The protests are timed to coincide with the anniversary of the assassination of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, on November 1989, by graduates of the School of the Americas. On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests (Ignacio Ellacuria, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Joaquin López y López, Juan Ramon Moreno, and Amado López); their housekeeper, Elba Ramos; and her daughter, Celia Marisela Ramos, were murdered by the Salvadoran Military on the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador, because they had been labeled as subversives by the government. A United Nations panel concluded that 19 of the 27 killers were SOA graduates.
Given Dr. Garcia's connection with the notorious School of the Americas, it's disturbing that Susana Martinez believes he's a good choice to head New Mexico's Department of Higher Education.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Gov. Bill Richardson Brokers Deal with North Korea for Return of UN Inspectors and More
Today, CNN reported that, "North Korea has agreed with US troubleshooter Bill Richardson to permit the return of UN nuclear inspectors as part of a package of measures to ease tensions on the peninsula."
Also today, Governor Richardson released the following statement about his visit to North Korea and the news that the country will not retaliate for military drills carried out today by South Korea.
"I am very encouraged by the news that North Korea will not react militarily to South Korea's drills,” Governor Richardson said. “During my meetings in Pyongyang, I repeatedly pressed North Korea not to retaliate. The result is that South Korea was able to flex its muscles, and North Korea reacted in a statesmanlike manner. I hope this will signal a new chapter and a round of dialogue to lessen tension on the Korean peninsula."
Governor Richardson said he reached agreement on the following three points during several meetings with top North Korean leaders:
1. Allowing IAEA monitors access to North Korea's uranium enrichment facility.
2. Negotiating a deal for a third party, such as South Korea, to buy fresh-fuel rods from North Korea.
3. Discussing a military commission consisting of representatives from North Korea, South Korea and the United States to monitor and prevent conflicts in the disputed areas of the West Sea. Additionally, creating a hot line between the North Korean and South Korean militaries to avert potential crises.
CNN also reported that Major General Pak Rim-Su, who leads North Korean forces along the tense border with the South, told Richardson that North Korea had recovered the remains of several hundred US servicemen killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War and offered to help secure their return to the United States.
Gov. Richardson was supposed to catch a flight from North Korea to Beijing earlier today (yesterday in North Korea) on his way back to New Mexico, but People's Daily is reporting that the flight was canceled due to heavy fog. CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who traveled with the governor to North Korea, said, "I've never seen such thick fog; and everyone who witnessed it, including our North Korean handlers, said it was the worst fog they'd ever been in." Gov. Richardson got on a later flight (the next day, 12/21 in Korea) and is now in Beijing.
As for the extra night in Pyongyang, Blitzer had this to say:
And here's something you probably never thought you'd hear: What exactly are we doing to kill some time on this extra night in Pyongyang? We're at a karaoke bar singing all the best, latest great hits of the '70s including "Hotel California" and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree". Gov. Bill Richardson didn't sing, instead he was smoking a big fat cigar, enjoying The Eagles.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Noon Today: UN Human Rights Day Event at UNM SUB
Join the UNM Office for Equity & Inclusion for Human Rights Day 2010 on Friday, December 10, from 12:00 to 1:00 PM in the UNM SUB Atrium for music, poetry, speakers and information tables celebrating 62 years since the signing of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
The event is also co-sponsored by the Albuquerque International Association Student Group; Afghan Student Association; Amnesty International; Asian Family Center; Association for the Advancement of Minorities in Medicine; Associated Students for Empowerment; Black Student Union; Community Learning & Public Service (CLPS)/UNM Service Corps; Coalition for Immigration, Race & Social Justice; Coalition for Peace & Justice in the Middle East; ENLACE; Mexican Student Association; Net Impact; Out Queer Grads; Pakistani Student Assocition; Political Science Graduate Student Association; Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color; Queer Straight Alliance; and Raza Graduate Student Association (RGSA).
Click for more information on Human Rights Day 2010.
The theme for Human Rights Day 10 December 2010 is human rights defenders who act to end discrimination. Human rights defenders acting against discrimination, often at great personal risk to both themselves and their families, are being recognized and acclaimed on this day.
Human rights defenders speak out against abuse and violations including discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence. They advocate justice and seek to protect the victims of human rights violations. They demand accountability for perpetrators and transparency in government action. In so doing, they are often putting at risk their own safety, and that of their families.
Some human rights defenders are famous, but most are not. They are active in every part of the world, working alone and in groups, in local communities, in national politics and internationally.
Human Rights Day 2010 will highlight and promote the achievements of human rights defenders and it will again emphasize the primary responsibility Governments have to enable and protect their role. The Day is also intended to inspire a new generation of defenders to speak up and take action to end discrimination in all of its forms whenever and wherever it is manifested.
The story does not end after 10 December 2010. The focus on the work of human rights defenders will continue through all of 2011.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Governor Bill Richardson Confirms Trip to North Korea as Private Citizen
There has been a spate of recent media reports on rumors that Governor Bill Richardson will be traveling to North Korea to meet with the Pyongyang government. Today, Richardson's office issued a statement confirming the trip.
Governor Richardson will travel next week on a private trip to Pyongyang at the invitation of First Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator. The governor will be in Pyongyang from December 16-20, and will be accompanied by his senior advisor, Dr. K.A. Namkung. The trip is being privately funded.
“I am increasingly concerned with the recent actions by the North Koreans, which have raised tensions and are contributing to instability on the Korean Peninsula,” Governor Richardson said. “I am traveling as a private citizen with considerable experience in dealing with the North Koreans.
“I am not carrying any messages, but I want to be helpful during this volatile period,” Governor Richardson said. “If I can contribute to the easing of tension on the peninsula, the trip will be well worth it.”
According to a recent Washington Post story, more of this kind of activity may be in the offing when Richardson leaves office in January:
We're hearing Richardson has signed up with the Washington Speakers Bureau, which will probably enable him to put some fine bread on the table. In addition, he's going to set up a center in Santa Fe to focus on ways to rescue people being held hostage by bad guys and on initiating dialogue with rogue regimes.
As noted in an AP report,
Richardson has traveled to North Korea seven times, most recently in 2007 to recover the remains of American servicemen killed in the Korean War. He also has met in New Mexico with North Korean diplomats three times since 2003, when he became governor.
He was U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration and for years has served as a roving diplomatic troubleshooter, including missions to Sudan, Cuba and Iraq.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Governor Bill Richardson on New Mexico Trade Mission to Cuba
Governor Bill Richardson traveled to Havana, Cuba yesterday as part of a mission to strengthen potential trade and cultural partnerships between New Mexico and Cuba. During the visit, Richardson will help market New Mexico commodities and follow up on inroads made on potential trade partnerships during a visit to Cuba last year, according a press release from the Governor's office.
Richardson says he has made increasing international trade a priority of his administration and the state has seen tremendous growth since 2003. Just this past Friday, Governor Richardson announced he was forming a Task Force on International Trade to look at ways to further expand trade with foreign countries.
A statement released by the Governor's office said, "During his visit last year, Governor Richardson called on the U.S. to ease travel restrictions to Cuba, which the Obama Administration appears poised to soon do, as a first-step to improving relations between the two countries which could potentially lead to increased trade opportunities. The connections New Mexico has made with the commerce officials in Cuba during these missions will put the state in a good position to take advantage of those new opportunities."
This week’s mission will include meetings with officials from Alimport, which is the Cuban Government agency responsible for agricultural commerce. Under a provision of the US Treasury Department Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), states are authorized to sell agricultural, medical and IT products in Cuba on a cash basis.
Accompanying Governor Richardson to Cuba were state Agriculture Department Secretary Miley Gonzalez and Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman.
Governor Richardson and Secretary Ashman will pay for all of their own expenses during the trip. The delegation is set to return to New Mexico on Friday.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Rep. Heinrich Signs Letters to Obama, Uganda President, Opposing LGBT Punishments
To be commended! Rep. Martin Heinrich joined ninety of his colleagues last week in signing letters to President Barack Obama and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni regarding the deteriorating situation in Uganda for the LGBT community. The letters declare strong opposition to pending legislation in Uganda that would outlaw homosexuality and make any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex punishable by prison or even death.
The letter to President Obama (pdf) expresses serious concerns on the part of Rep. Heinrich and the others who signed it about the grave injustices occurring in Uganda and other countries that are taking steps to criminalize or otherwise severely discriminate against the LGBT communities. It declares that the discrimination is an international human rights issue to which the United States needs to respond strongly.
The letter to Ugandan President Museveni (pdf) urges him to use every means possible to convey to leaders in Parliament that this draconian legislation is reckless in both intent and potential impact, and should be withdrawn immediately.
The office of Rep. Ben Ray Luján sent me a statement on this issue saying that Rep. Luján believes that the proposed legislation in Uganda is unacceptable, and he encourages the President to speak out strongly against it. The United States should be a leader in promoting equality and the severity of this legislation requires a strong response from our country’s leadership.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Stories & Testimony of Darfur: Theatrical Drama Set for 10/24
THE PROSECUTION AND DEFENSE OF OMAR AL-BASHIR
PRESIDENT OF SUDAN
VOICES OF DARFUR, VOICES OF KHARTOUM
VOICES OF HOPE, VOICES OF DESPAIR
VOICES OF ANGER, VOICES OF POWER
PEACE AND JUSTICE? PEACE OR JUSTICE?
IMPUNITY FOR WAR CRIMES?
The dramatic presentation features stories and testimony by the people of Darfur, by government officials of Sudan, by observers, by advocates, by journalists and from the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.
The free event is set for Saturday, October 24, at 2:00 PM at the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center at Harvard and Silver. Donations are welcome. Fore more information, contact call 869-4212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Commentary on Obama's Nobel Peace Prize: DPNM Chairman Javier Gonzales, IAEA's ElBaradei
Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Javier Gonzales released the following statement today in response to President Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I think he gets it right:
"I would like to commend the Nobel Committee for their selection today of President Obama as the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. I agree with the President that this award gives momentum to a set of causes that he is championing around the globe. In recognizing the President, the Nobel Committee has not awarded his accomplishments, but rather his vision to bring nations together and reestablish America as a leader in the quest for peace. Anyone who tries to attack the President for receiving this award, as RNC Chairman Michael Steele did today, will only continue the cavalier attitude towards other nations that we hoped had left Washington with the Bush Administration."
I didn't know what to think when I first heard about Obama receiving the Prize. I joined in the talk about whether he deserved it after he had only been in office about nine months. Then I watched this video of an interview with IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, who lays out -- especially in answer to the third question -- the thinking behind Peace Prize awards:
Here are President Obama's remarks today on learning of the award. Excerpt:
I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.
To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.
But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build -- a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.
... this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity -- for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometime their lives for the cause of peace.
Friday, September 25, 2009
(Updated) Rep. Luján Urges Administration to Reject Troop Increase in Afghanistan, Develop Exit Plan
Update: I contacted Rep. Martin Heinrich's office to ask if he signed on to this letter. The response was that he had not because he has a policy of not signing on to letters that have an effect on business that would come before the Armed Services Committee, of which he is a member.
Rep. Heinrich did not sign the letter. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, we have a policy not to sign on to letters that have an effect on business that would come before the Committee.
At last. Almost 60 House Democrats -- including Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) -- are speaking out against a proposed plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Amid concerns about news reports suggesting the Administration may request a significant increase in American troop levels in Afghanistan, Congressman Luján and 57 of his colleagues in the House of Representatives asked President Obama to reject a troop increase in a letter (pdf) sent today.
“While in Afghanistan in August, I met with various U.S. and Afghan officials, discussing the conditions in the country. In my conversations, I focused on our efforts moving forward and how the United States can help the Afghan people through humanitarian and diplomatic means. Through such means, I believe that we can help the Afghan people and support their efforts to take control of their country," said Rep. Luján in a statement released this afternoon.
"It is clear that it is time to develop an exit strategy and prepare to bring our young men and women home," Luján said. "I am concerned about becoming involved in a long-term counterinsurgency that requires hundreds of thousands of troops. We need to give support to the Afghan people through humanitarian and diplomatic means, but troop increases are troubling at this time. I urge the Administration to reject a troop increase.”
In August, Rep. Luján visited Afghanistan, speaking with officials including General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a United State diplomat to Afghanistan.
In June, Rep. Luján voted in favor of an amendment that would have required the Secretary of Defense to provide Congress, by the end of the year, with an outline of its exit strategy for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. The amendment was considered as part of the FY 2010 National Defense Authorizations Act (H.R. 2647). The amendment failed by a vote of 138 to 278. There was a similar standalone bill introduced earlier by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), H.R. 2404, which Rep. Luján cosponsored.