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February 27 2014

Uruguayan President José Mujica Rejects “Foreign Interference” in Venezuela

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The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, and his Uruguayan counterpart, José Mujica, in 2013. Photo published by Secretaría de Comunicación on Flickr under Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Uruguayan president José Mujica declared his opposition to any “foreign interference” in the current volatile situation in Venezuela, where the government and the opposition are involved in a bitter conflict. In an interview with TV channel Telesur, the head of state expressed his solidarity with the government and people of Venezuela and urged respect for the Venezuelan Constitution.

“Today I want to express the wish that within the framework of the Venezuelan Constitution, which, if respected, is ample – possibly the most ample in Latin America – a peaceful solution to the conflict can be found,” said Mujica, adding that “the weakest end up paying the price” in violent conflicts.

He ended his statement with a call to avoid external intervention in the conflict, appealing to reason as a way to mediate tensions: “Staying prudent in tense moments is a recommendation that should be kept in mind. Again, I emphasize my hope that no one will interfere with events in Venezuela.”

The official Twitter account of the Presidential Secretary of Communication [es] posted a summary of President Mujica's interview on the channel Telesur:

Mujica reaffirms his solidarity with the government, institutions, and people of Venezuela.

On February 14, the National Political Bureau of the Broad Front, Uruguay's governing party, released a statement [es] against the violent situation in Venezuela, calling it “an attempt [by radical sectors of the political opposition] to destabilize the constitutional government.” The Broad Front urged the nations of Latin America to remain strong and alert.

On February 17, the National Executive Committee of the Movement of Popular Participation (MPP) also voiced their opinion [es] on the situation in Venezuela, showing their concern about the conflicts taking place in its sister nation. The members of the MPP expressed their solidarity with the people and government of Venezuela, reaffirming their confidence in a peaceful and democratic solution to the unstable situation, placing the responsibility on the most conservative sectors of the Venezuelan right. They also emphasized their solidarity with the victims of the conflicts and their families.

The protests began in the state of Táchira on February 4, initiating a surge of violence that spread to other cities, including the capital. The conflicts have left at least 13 dead [es] and hundreds injured and detained.

For his part, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro blamed right-wing groups for the incidents and called on his backers to show their support of the government.

Colombian journalist Javier Arana [es] voiced his appreciation for the Uruguayan president's diplomatic speech:

‘Pepe’ Mujica, the renowned president of Uruguay, admired for his tact and peaceful overtures, very diplomatic in face of the violence in Venezuela.

Communications strategist Jorge Ruiz Crespo [es] also shared his opinion on Mujica's speech:

Careful, people: the violence in Venezuela is objectionable, but they need to solve it themselves. Be careful, Latin America…

Elisa Escovar (@elisaescovar [es]) commented:

Pepe Mujica is the most honest guy on this continent: the only one who has spoken out in support of Venezuela.

Mujica's statement against foreign interference in Venezuela gave rise to questions and criticism of the presence of Cuba in that country. User @Rerr1 [es] commented with irony:

Mujica says that foreign interference in Venezuela would be a coup, maybe he's referring to the Cuban helicopters and elite squads?

Simon José Antonio (@BolivarOfficial) [es] stated categorically:

President Pepe Mujica rejects “any foreign interference” in Venezuela. He only accepts interference from Cuba.

Chinese Netizens React to Ukraine Revolution

While the current Ukraine revolution has many Chinese asking: “When are we going to take to the streets?”, netizens also learned from Ukraine that democracy isn’t the answer to all problems. Law professor Dong Zhiwei, a long-standing advocate of constitutionalism in China, called the anti-government protests in Ukraine a “coup” that is more of a clash between different power groups than between democracy and authoritarian rule. Offbeat China has more details. 

 

Chechen Dictator and Russian Nationalist NOT Taking Over Ukraine

A Yin and Yang of Russian trollitics, Leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov and nationalist blogger Egor Prosvirnin. Unlikely bedfellows. Images remixed by author.

Yin and Yang of Russian trollitics, highly unlikely bedfellows Leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov and nationalist blogger Egor Prosvirnin. Images remixed by author.

Time and time again Russian Internet users and Russophone mass media prove that they will fall for any hoax, no matter how bizarre or unbelievable. It's not as if it is the first time someone took the fake Twitter account of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for the real thing. @KadirovRussia [ru] was started before the real Kadyrov joined Twitter and quickly gained a following. These days, however, almost everyone is aware that although Kadyrov does tweet at his own account, @rkadyrov [ru], he mainly uses it to link to his favorite social networking platform, Instagram [Global Voices report].

Nevertheless, multiple bloggers, forum users, and online media outlets were taken for a ride with a recent tweet by @KadirovRussia:

Prosvirnin and I are riding the “friendship train” to support Russians in Crimea.

Crimea is a primarily Russophone region of Ukraine currently protesting the change of power in Kiev. Crimeans are afraid that nationalist Ukrainians will infringe on their culture, and many Russians share their fear, stoked as it is my mainstream Russian media. A beach paradise not far from where the Sochi Winter Games took place, it is also home to a Russian naval base, and is currently a pressure cooker of ethnic tension between Russians, Ukrainians, and Crimean Tartars. Not a day passes that there aren't rumors of Russia deploying troops or Kiev sending its own militia to the region. The most recent development [ru] is that armed men have occupied a regional administration building and hung Russian flags from it.

In this climate the announcement that the gruff Chechen leader has joined causes with nationalist blogger Egor Prosvirnin (of Sputnik & Pogrom fame), who has been vocally advocating for Crimean independence [ru] for the past several days, fell on fertile ground. Never mind that Prosvirnin harshly mocks and lambastes Kadyrov, the news was reported by several Ukrainian outlets, including Ukrainian Komsomolskaya Pravda [cache], Obozrevatel [ru], and Korrespondent [cache], with commentary noting the increasingly violent climate in Crimea. Kadyrov's alleged involvement must have been particularly troubling — it was the Chechen “Vostok” Battalion that was in the lead during Russia's 2008 armed conflict with Georgia over the breakaway province of Abkhazia.

Prosvirnin himself was amused with the confusion, writing [ru]:

Разбудили звонком с НТВ, спросив, правда ли мы с Кадыровым едем в Крым. Спросонья ступил и сказал, что они там совсем что ли ебу дались, и уже повесив трубку понял, что НАДО БЫЛО ВСЕ ПОДТВЕРДИТЬ.

Was woken up with a call from NTV, asking if its true that Kadyrov and I are going to Crimea. I was still dozy and stupidly said that they were out of their f*cking mind, but as I hung up I realized that I SHOULD HAVE CONFIRMED EVERYTHING.

He said that the news might have scared the Crimean Tartars who are currently against any talk of secession. Later he also joked [ru] that Kadyrov has agreed to take charge of the western Ukrainian province of Lviv.

Chechen “Vostok” Batallion troops at a Crimean beach, or what it might look like if they were. Images remixed by author.

Meanwhile, the real Kadyrov has actually sounded off about Ukraine [ru] on his Instagram account:

Получаем информацию, что у проживающих в этой стране соотечественников появились серьезные проблемы с сохранностью бизнеса и личной безопасностью. Мы никогда не претендовали на чужое, но и своё защитим. Следует четко осознавать, что не дадим в обиду чеченцев и других россиян, где бы они не находились.

We have received information that our countrymen living in that country are having serious problems with safety of their businesses and personal safety. We have never wanted what isn't ours, but we will protect our own. It needs to be clearly understood, that we won't let Chechens and other Russians come to harm, wherever they may be.

A troubling statement — perhaps more troubling than any fake news of rapprochement with Russian nationalists.

February 26 2014

Bangladeshis Protest Bollywood Film ‘Gunday’ for Misrepresenting Liberation War

A new Bollywood film, “Gunday“, has people outraged in Bangladesh against the movie's mischaracterizing their country's 1971 war for independence. 

The film begins with a scene of the 1971 India-Pakistan war and ignores the events of 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh. It highlights only the 13 day long India-Pakistan war which occurred at the fag end, ignoring the essential element of the nine month long Bangladesh's struggle for liberation from Pakistan, in which an estimated three million people died.

Bangladeshis took to social media networks to express their anger and demand an apology from the production company behind the film, Yash Raj.

There have been offline protests as well. Several youth groups engaged in Street Protests in capital Dhaka. The government also officially protested.

Poster of Gunday movie. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Poster for the film “Gunday”. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Twitter user Abdullah Al Nadim wrote:

Worldfriend4u questioned the film director's knowledge of history:

Saima Selim tweeted:

Zarin Tasnim Maliha complained:

Facebook user Sedative Hypnotics argued with documents the historic facts of Bangladesh's 1971 war of liberation which the film misrepresented:

৯০ হাজার পাকিস্তানী আর্মি ভারতীয় বাহিনীর কাছে আত্মসমর্পণ করে নি। করেছে বাংলাদেশ-ভারত যৌথবাহিনীর কাছে। এই কপি টা ভারতের প্রতিটা ঘরে ঘরে পৌছায় দেবার দাবি জানাই। প্রথমে ‘গুন্ডে’ মুভির পরিচালকের বাসায়।

90,000 Pakistani army prisoners did not surrender to the Indian army. They surrendered to the Bangladesh-Indian joint force. I demand that this copy of historic facts should reach every Indian house. Firstly, the documents should be sent to the “Gunday” director's home.

Mrityunjay Devrat, who is the director of the film “Children of War” based on the Bangladesh Liberation War has expressed his displeasure for the film in an interview with Bollywood Hungama, questioning the way the war was depicted:

If I am allowed to be honest, then I'd have to say that the makers of Gunday have been factually incorrect. I think it is hugely irresponsible and derogatory to use a sensitive subject such as the Bangladesh war for purely commercial purposes.

Yash Raj films has apologized in a statement on their blog for “any disrespect or hurt” that the film has caused Bangladeshis.

February 25 2014

El ‘Chapo’ Guzmán, World's Most Wanted Man, Captured in Mexico

“El Chapo” Guzman is transfered to a Federal Police helicopter on February 22, 2014. Photo by Omar Franco Pérez Reyes, copyright Demotix.

In the touristic beach of Mazatlán in the state of Sinaloa in northeast Mexico, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, who goes by the alias El “Chapo”, was taken into custody on charges of drug trafficking, organized crime and several murders.

After Osama bin Laden's assassination by the United States Navy SEAL team in May 2011, El “Chapo” Guzmán became the world's most wanted man. Guzmán was also considered one of the most powerful men on the planet, according to Forbes magazine, which pointed him out as the CEO of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Guzmán had already been in a maximum security prison in Mexico in the state of Jalisco; nonetheless, he escaped under suspicious circumstances in 2001 during the administration of former President Vicente Fox.

The Associated Press was the first new agency to spread the news of the arrest on its Twitter account on February 22, 2014:

On Twitter, the news has been thoroughly commented on, to the point that many have been making jokes on the matter:

I didn't know I was working for the C.I.A. with so many national security experts! Speaking about Chapo's arrest

User Pablo M. Aguilar questioned the timing of the drug lord's detention considering a very controversial cover story published by TIME magazine:

It is curious that El Chapo's arrest happened two days before TIME magazine launched its cover story of EPN [Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto] with the slogan “Saving Mexico”.

Isaias Villa G pointed out that there should be a more exhaustive investigation:

Instead of doubting or minimizing Chapo's capture, we should demand to know the extent of his ties with Mexico and the US

John M. Ackerman, a well-known opponent of Enrique Peña Nieto‘s government, said the following regarding El Chapo's arrest:

Chapo Guzmán was Fox's and Calderon's spoiled drug lord. Who'll be the substitute during Peña's era? Great democratic “alternation”.

Journalist Ciro Gómez Leyva [es] talked about the possible involvement of the US Drug Enforcement Administration in Guzmán's detention:

Nosotros, la DEA, atrapamos a El Chapo Guzmán junto con marinos mexicanos. Eso es al menos lo que podía leerse desde anoche en el New York Times, y que se acoplaría con la forma en que se fue conociendo la noticia el sábado.

Antes que cualquier funcionario, AP y el propio New York Times confirmaron, con todo y fotografía, la nota de la captura de El Chapo. ¿Quién les filtró menudo banquete? ¿El gobierno mexicano (por razones que podrían ser entendibles), o fue la DEA? La noticia oficial la dio el presidente Peña Nieto a las 13:43, con un retraso de casi tres horas respecto de los adelantos que salieron de Estados Unidos.

We, the DEA, took El Chapo Guzmán into custody along with Mexican marines. This is at least what the New York Times published last night, and it fits into the way the news broke on Saturday.

Before any officer, the AP and New York Times confirmed, photo included, the news on El Chapo's arrest. Who leaked such a feast? The Mexican government (for reasons that could be understood), or was it the DEA? The official news was given by President Peña Nieto at 13:43, almost three hours after the news got out in the United States.

El “Chapo” Guzmán's arrest came as violence has been getting worse in Michoacán (a state controlled by armed groups that are the enemy of Sinaloa Cartel) and many years after the “war” against organized crime started – which has taken a toll of thousands of Mexican lives. 

This is the second high-profile detention during Enrique Peña Nieto's administration. The previous one being Elba Esther Gordillo's, also known as the “Teacher”, which took place in February 2013.

PHOTOS: Venezuelan Women March for Peace in Caracas

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 -- Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country. A woman holds a sign that reads: 'Hail to peace and love'. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 — Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country. A woman holds a sign that reads: ‘Hail to peace and love'. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

Women who support the government of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro took to the streets on Saturday, February 22, to demand an end to the violence that has been sweeping the country as protests continue.

Photographer Jesus Gil shared photos of the demonstration on Demotix:

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 -- Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country.  A woman with a Hugo Chavez poster joins the march. Photo by Jesus GIl, copyright Demotix.

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 — Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country. A woman with a Hugo Chavez poster joins the march. Photo by Jesus GIl, copyright Demotix.

Women march for peace in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

Women march for peace in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

The day before the march, Andreína Tarazón, Minister of Women's Affairs and Gender Equality in Venezuela, invited women to join the demonstration:

 We march to demand an end to vandalism and violence, and [to demand] respect for the Constitution.

You can see more photos, reports and opinions under the hashtags #MujeresPorLaPaz (Women for peace) and #MujeresContraElFacismo (Women against fascism)

Protesters who oppose the government also denounced violence during demonstrations held that same day. You can read more about the opposing marches under the hashtag #22F.

List of Deceased in Venezuela Protests Available in 5 Languages

In the blog Panfleto Negro [es], John Manuel Silva and Emiliana Duarte are keeping a list of confirmed deaths from the ongoing protests taking place in Venezuela. The list -originally in Spanish- has been translated into English, German, Italian and French.

Police Repression Legalized as Mining Protests Grow in Peru

This article, written by Luis Manuel Claps, was originally published on the NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) blog Extractives in Latin America. Luis Manuel Claps studied Communications at the Buenos Aires University. He has followed mining in Latin America since 2004 as editor of the Mines and Communities Website. He is based in Lima, Perú.

Elmer Campos Álvarez, a 32-year-old farmer, is from the Caserío Tupac Amaru in the province of Celendín, Cajamarca Region, Northern Peru. On November 24, 2011, Elmer, along with some friends, set out for the mountains of Cajamarca to protest against a massive open-pit gold mine proposed for the districts of Sorochuco and Huasmín. Elmer and his friends call themselves los defensores de las lagunas (the Defenders of the Lakes). See Elmer's video testimony [es] published by La Mula in January 2012.) Still defending the lakes, anti-mining protesters such as Elmer face a new threat in a new law that allows police to use deadly force without fear of consequences.

Three days later they reached the Maque-Maque crossroads, between the Azul and El Perol lakes, two of the four lakes threatened by the project. Meanwhile, a general regional strike had been declared in opposition to the mine. In the early morning of November 29, a confrontation broke out when some 30 police officers contracted by Minera Yanacocha to guard the concession site ordered the protestors to go away. The police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition.

When the police started firing, Elmer went to aid one of his friends and was shot in the back. He lost consciousness and was taken to the city of Chota, and then to the coastal city of Chiclayo, where he was hospitalized for a week. He lost a kidney and his spleen, and suffered a spinal cord injury that paralyzed him from the waist down. An estimated 24 other protestors were injured in the Maque-Maque crackdown.

(infoconga.wordpress)

(infoconga.wordpress)

People in Cajamarca know all too well of the impacts of large scale gold mining. For the past two decades, Newmont Mining and Buenaventura have operated the Yanacocha mine, the largest open-pit goldmine in South America. A planned expansion known as the Conga project is said to assure another twenty years of production. The total investment tops $4.8 billion, one of the biggest ever in Peru’s mining sector. A plant with the capacity to process 92,000 tons of rock a day would produce 3.1 billion pounds of copper and 11.6 million ounces of gold (an executive summary of the project's Environmental Impactv Study, or EIA, is accessible here [es]).

Compañía de Minas Buenaventura is Peru's largest publicly traded precious metals company and a major holder of mining rights throughout the country. It has two big U.S. partners: Denver-based Newmont Mining at Minera Yanacocha in Cajamarca and Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan at Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde in Arequipa. Peru is the world's sixth-largest gold producer.

Protesters have challenged the Conga mine for the past several years, and police repression is currently the subject of two legal proceedings in Peru. The first is a criminal investigation against the two commanding police officers the day of the attacks, Coronel Amador Bacalla Guadalupe and Captian Wagner Ocampo Huamán. The second is a civil lawsuit against the police authorities [es] and responsible government officials.

Elmer simply wants justice [es]: “I didn’t do any harm and the authorities have been very cruel. I don’t know what will happen to me, the doctor says there is nothing that can be done to my spinal cord.” Mar Pérez, a lawyer at the National Human Rights Coordinator, representing Elmer, adds: “We seek justice, accountability, and greater protection for human rights, and to end a culture of impunity for police repression of legitimate protest activity.”

The struggle has returned to the United States as well. On January 2, 2014, EarthRights International (ERI), representing Elmer Campos, filed a federal court motion in Newmont's hometown, Denver, Colorado, seeking information held by the company including photographic and video evidence, reports of Yanacocha security or employees, records of communications with the police, and internal company communications, that shed light on the events of that day and for the benefit of the Peruvian legal proceedings. The action was filed under 28 U.S.C. § 1782, a law which allows parties in foreign legal proceedings to obtain documents and information from individuals or companies in the United States.

“Police repression of social protest against mining operations is endemic in Peru,” said Benjamin Hoffman, ERI’s Amazon Staff Attorney. “The problem is exacerbated in cases like this where public police officers are deployed in the service of private security.”

Elmer and ERI’s legal action attracted considerable attention in late January in the Peruvian press [es] and social media. This coincided with a coordinated offensive to present the local leaders opposed to Minera Yanacocha in Cajamarca as “backed by foreigners interested in blocking the economic development of our country,” as a researcher associated with the mining sector claimed recently [es] in El Comercio newspaper. The propaganda campaign [es] to delegitimize local leaders also targeted the Piura region, where Buenaventura wants to develop the El Faique gold project.

A Violent Consensus

Starting with a strong precedent under former President Alan García, government response to protest in Peru has been overwhelmingly militarized. Steven Levitsky calls it the “Lima consensus” [es]: Lima elites adhere to orthodox neoliberalism, such that the use of lethal force seems to be a legitimate way to deal with social protests in mining areas. Despite the fact that Ollanta Humala’s administration has sometimes sought more political and negotiated means, this consensus remains in place.

A report released in December 2013 by Peruvian NGOs Grufides, Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras (Human Rights without Borders), the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (National Coordinator for Human Rights, CNDDHH), and the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) of Switzerland, revealed that foreign mining corporations have signed agreements with the National Police to secure their operations. These agreements allow them to request permanent police presence or ask for rapid deployment of larger units to repress social protests. In some cases, the report reveals, the companies provide the police with full financial and logistical support.

International human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others, have asked President Humala to prevent the unlawful use of lethal force by security forces during crowd-control operations. But Peru’s government seems to be going in the exact opposite direction, as an article in the penal code was modified last month in a way that critics say allows police and the military to use deadly force without facing consequences. The new Law 30151 says that members of the Armed Forces and the National Police are “exempt from criminal responsibility” if they cause injury or death through the use of their guns while on duty.

In a statement [es] condemning the law, the Public Ombudsman’s office recalled that since mid-2011, 34 civilians have been killed and more than 949 people wounded in social conflicts, including five military and 357 police. A number of national [es] and international human rights organizations, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [es] have also condemned Law 30151.

As Yanacocha comes to exhaustion, mining operations need to expand. The Conga project is one of these expansion plans, perhaps the most ambitious. A long history of mining conflicts in Cajamarca suggests that Elmer’s struggle for justice will be a long one, and in all likelihood, one of many.

Pakistan, Stay Out of Syria's Civil War

A day after a tiny news items titled, “Saudi Arabia ‘seeking Pakistani arms for Syrian rebels” appeared in Pakistani newspapers, political blogger Ahsan Butt posts a provocative piece warning Pakistan's foreign policymakers against tiptoeing into Syria's affairs.

In “This is not our war (The Syria Edition)” on the Five Rupees Blog, Ahsan writes:

What Pakistan is doing vis-a-vis Syria is one of the dumbest things Pakistan has done in a long time, and that’s really saying something. The Syrian civil war, tragic as it is, has nothing to do with Pakistan. Pakistan has no interests in that conflict. None.

Saudi Arabia is in talks with Pakistan to provide Pakistan-made anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets. Ahsan warns:

Is it wise and advisable to wade into a sectarian civil war two thousand miles away?[...]

Just examine the trajectory of sectarian violence over the last decade.

He explains that any interference in Syria will force the Pakistani state to pay attention to rising sectarian violence in the country:

What are the possible ramifications for such a policy on sectarian violence in Pakistan? Is it likely to exacerbate and make more deadly sectarian cleavages or the opposite?

Ahsan lists four more provocative questions which you can read here.

February 24 2014

10 Reasons Why I Do Not Want Shariah In Pakistan

One of the Taliban negotiators pulled out during a recent talk with the Pakistan government demanding that the agenda includes the strict imposition of Sharia law. Pakistani Blogger and Journalist Beena Sarwar highlights a protest note posted in Facebook titled '10 reasons why I do not want Shariah in Pakistan’ by communities The Traitors of Pakistan (Liberal/Secular Pakistanis against oppression, discrimination, extremism and intolerance) and Pakistan Votes (activist community). Here are some gems:

1. Religion and how I choose to practice it is my business and not that of the State.

2. Enforcing Shariah will not make me a better Muslim nor will it make Pakistan a welfare state. The world’s welfare states are all governed by secular governments.

3. I reject the idea that Shariah in any form can be enforced by those who have raped and plundered my country, blown up schools and mosques and beheaded soldiers. I will not give these criminals the right to dictate to me.

4. I will not give up my civil rights, including freedom of thought and expression, under the guise of Shariah.

Al Qaeda Calls for Jihad in Bangladesh

Screenshot of a video by Ayman al-Zawahiri

Screenshot of a video by Ayman al-Zawahiri

Global militant organization Al Qaeda has called for jihad in Bangladesh via a video released online. The audio message was circulated in a video featuring the leader of the organization, Ayman al-Zawahiri, calling for followers to resist what he called anti-Islamic conspiracies and launch an “intifada” (uprising) in Bangladesh.

He invited Muslims in Bangladesh:

To confront this crusader onslaught against Islam, which is being orchestrated by the leading criminals in the subcontinent and the West against Islam, the Prophet of Islam and the Islamic creed, so that they may turn you into slaves of a despotic and disbelieving system.

Here is a transcription of the video message (PDF).

The entire clip lasting 28 minutes and 58 seconds, titled “Bangladesh: Massacre Behind a Wall of Silence”, features the message from al-Zawahiri along with his image as well as others, such as the Hifazat's rally in May last year. Aaron Y. Zelin, who runs the site Jihadology, reported in an interview to EuroBDNewsOnline.com that he is certain that this voice is of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Bangladesh’s elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) tracked the source of the message and arrested Rasel Bin Sattar Khan for circulating the controversial message from Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri. He is an admin of controversial Facebook page Basherkella and some other militant blogs [bn] believed to be run by extremist operatives. He confessed [bn] that he started spreading this video in Bangladesh, which was first uploaded in a Pakistani website.

Recently in Bangladesh, religious extremist organizations like Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefazat-e-Islam have engaged in a lot of violence. Some netizens have speculated that the call for jihad in Bangladesh is somehow related.

Diaspora legal practitioner Rayhan Rashid (@rayhanrashid) tweeted:

Jamaat, who once worked fought against the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan, had always denied their involvement with militants. However, Mofaqkharul Taufique wrote that Jamaat can no longer deny the truth given this video:

এ বার ভিডিও-বার্তায় প্রকাশ্যেই জামাত-নেতাদের পাশে দাঁড়ালেন আল কায়েদার শীর্ষ নেতা আয়মান আল জাওয়াহিরি। এর পরেও কি কেউ বলবেন যে জমাত জঙ্গী সংগঠন নয় ?

In this video message, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has openly supported Jamaat. Can anyone deny that Jamaat is not a militant organization?

Jamaat and Hefazot both have officially denied any involvement with Al Qaeda.

Activists of Hefajat-e Islam march through as part of its Dhaka siege programme to press home its 13-point demand, near Buriganga Bridge-1. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (5/5/2013)

Activists of Hefajat-e Islam march as part of its Dhaka siege programme to press home its 13-point demand that includes the arrest of atheist bloggers. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (5/5/2013)

Dr. Imran H. Sarker, a blogger and the spokesperson for the Shahbag movement activists, a movement that supports the death penalty for liberation war criminals, wanted to hear reactions from other political parties:

এক ভিডিও বার্তায় জামাত- হেফাজতের আন্দোলনকে সমর্থন করে ধর্মের নামে মানুষ হত্যার কথিত জিহাদের ডাক দিয়েছে আল-কায়েদা প্রধান আয়মান আল জাওয়াহিরি।

জোটবদ্ধ রাজনৈতিক দলগুলোর প্রতিক্রিয়া কি? যুদ্ধাপরাধী, সন্ত্রাসী সংগঠন জামাত-শিবির, হেফাজত কে নিষিদ্ধ করতে আর কতো অপেক্ষা?

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has called for jihad (killing humans for religion) supporting the cause of Hefazot/Jamaat.

What are the reactions of different political parties and alliances? How long will it take to ban anti-liberation and militant organizations like Jamaat, Hefazot?

Abdullah Al Mamun, a reader on Bangla daily Prothom Alo, commented:

এটি বাংলাদেশ নামক রাষ্টের প্রতি সরাসরি হুমকি বা হস্তক্ষেপ। এসব হুমকি আমাদের সবাইকে ভাবিয়ে তুলছে।

This is a direct threat against Bangladesh as a country. This has worried all of us.

Journalist Anjan Roy, however, called for verifying this video:

বাংলাদেশে প্রতিরোধ গড়ে তোলার আহ্বান জাওয়াহিরি- এই ভিডিওটি এখন আলোচনায়, প্রথমত দরকার ভিডিওটির তথ্য সত্যতা যাচাই। সত্য হলেও বিন্দুমাত্র শংকার নাই- আমরা শত্রু এলে অস্ত্র হাতে লড়তে জানি। এটা আফগানিস্তান না, পাকিস্তান না। এটা বাংলাদেশ- আল কায়দাকে কায়দা করতে দেয়ার জন্য আমাদের পিতা আর ভাইয়েরা যুদ্ধ করেন নি। আমাদের মা আর বোনরাও জানেন কিভাবে অনুপ্রেরণা দিতে হয় প্রিয়জনকে যুদ্ধে যাবার।

Al-Zawahiri called for resistance in Bangladesh – this video is a source of a hot debate. First we need to determine whether the video is credible or genuine. We need not worry even if this is true. This is not Afghanistan or Pakistan. We Bengalis know how to fight. Our fathers and brothers did not fight the independence war to let Al Qaeda reign. Our loved ones know how to prepare ourselves for fight.

A K M Wahiduzzaman wrote that this video has another purpose – to spark debate in the political arena:

দেশে-বিদেশে যখন এই বিচার বহির্ভূত হত্যাকাণ্ডের তীব্র সমালোচনা হচ্ছে, এমন কী সভ্যদেশগুলো যখন এই হত্যাকারী বাহিনীর সদস্যদের প্রশিক্ষণ কর্মসূচি বাতিল করছে। তখন ‘বিডি নিউজ ২৪’ গত ১৪ জানুয়ারি আল শাহাব মিডিয়ার তৈরি এবং জিহাদোলজি ডট নেট সাইটে প্রকাশিত একটি ভিডিও বার্তা নিয়ে মাঠ গরম করে বিচার বহির্ভূত হত্যাকাণ্ডের বৈধতা দেবার পাশাপাশি জঙ্গী ইস্যু দিয়ে পশ্চিমাদের মন গলানোর চেষ্টা করছে।

আরে গর্ধবের দল, ওটা সত্যি হলে আরো একমাস আগেই পশ্চিমা মিডিয়া এবং আল জাজিরা লিড নিউজ করতো।

When there are talks in the country about extrajudicial killings of security forces, even some countries have cancelled training for these security forces amidst the controversy. At this very moment, a video released by the Jihadology.net site and made by Al Shahab media is being highlighted by BDNews24.net to harp on militancy issues.

If this was real, international media and Al Jazeera would have made it top news a month ago.

The government is investigating the threat by Al Qaeda, but State Minister for Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal does not see it as a big threat. Security Analyst Major (Retired) Abdur Rashid said in an interview with BBC Bangla that Bangladesh should not take it lightly:

আল কায়েদার শক্তি কমে গেলেও ভাবাদর্শগতভাবে বাংলাদেশে তাদের অনুসারী আছে। তারা উজ্জীবিত হয়ে আল-কায়েদার সহায়তায় কোন নাশকতা করতে পারে। এ আশংকাকে আমি উড়িয়ে দিচ্ছি না।

Although Al Qaeda has been weakened, a number of dedicated followers of them exists in Bangladesh. We cannot rule out any violent activity by them after the support of Al Qaeda.

Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, a retired air force official and a security analyst, commented in an op-ed in the Daily Star:

Those of us who dream of a democratic state, a multi-religious, multi-cultural society, an educated, healthy and prosperous nation, the Zawahiri message, even if it is a hoax, is a stark reminder that we have an enemy at the gate, and only together we can defeat it. We as a nation need to close ranks on the minimum agenda, and on the question of fighting religious extremism there is no other option but a national consensus.

Brief Summary of the Situation in Venezuela for the Curious or Poorly Informed

The protests are being carried out in many parts of the country and are lacking in center and direction, having being called through social media networks. Among the protesters themselves, there are many diverse opinions about the opposition political parties, so it’s possible to find many expressions of support and also rejection at the same time.

In the case of Caracas the middle class and college students are the primary actors in the demonstrations. On the other hand, in other states, many popular sectors have joined the protests. In Caracas the majority of the demands are political, including calls for the freedom of the detainees and the resignation of the president [Maduro], while in other cities social demands are incorporated, with protests against inflation, scarcity and lack of proper public services.

Human rights defender, sociologist and journalist Rafael Uzcátegui (@fanzinero) [es] writes a “brief summary of Venezuela’s situation for curious people and/or the poorly informed,” originally published in Spanish [es] but now translated into English.

UNICEF Calls for “Child-Free” Protests in Thailand

After a grenade explosion killed three children in an anti-government protest site in Bangkok, the United Nations Children’s Fund urged government and protest leaders to protect children by keeping them away from protests. Bijaya Rajbhandari, the UNICEF Representative in Thailand, made this appeal:

(The UNICEF) condemns the violence that resulted in these tragic and senseless deaths and injuries to children. These incidents underscore the urgent need to keep children out of harm’s way in order to ensure their safety. UNICEF urges the Government, pro- and anti-government protest leaders and all parents to ensure children do not enter protest sites and are kept well away from all protest areas.

February 23 2014

Venezuelans in Mexico to Protesters: “You Are Not Alone”

The situation in Venezuela continues to be extremely tense, with enormous marches and gatherings around the whole country that have left ten people killed and hundreds wounded. Venezuelans around the world who oppose their government have organized peaceful gatherings to make their voices heard and ensure local governments understand what their compatriots are living through. Mexico has been no exception.

Mexico City, February 16th

Mexico City, February 16th. Photo by Patricia Acosta, author of original article.

Venezuelans resident in Mexico used social media to arrange a march on February 16th. After meeting at the Simon Bolivar (Venezuela's founding father) obelisk in the Polanco area, demonstrators walked down the main Reforma Avenue towards the Angel of Independence. There, with the support of several Mexicans, Venezuelans demanded freedom of information in the presence of media censorship and shouted in unison “freedom”, “peace”, and “no more deaths”, then sung the Venezuelan national anthem as seen in the following video [es]:

After this march, Venezuelans arranged a vigil in front of the OAS (Organization of American States) headquarters in the Mexican capital on February 18th. 

Vigil, Tuesday February 18th

Invitation to the February 18th Vigil

 
Wearing white and carrying candles, Venezuelans prayed for the students who died on February 12th. “Here is my message for Venezuela: You are not alone”, exclaimed a woman at the vigil. 

In Mexico City

Mexico City Vigil, Photo by Patricia Acosta, author of original article.

February 22 2014

Pro-Maidan Video Goes Viral Thanks to Pavel Durov, Russia's Zuckerberg

Screen capture from

Screen capture from “Fear Is Not Real.” YouTube.

Pavel Durov, the creator of Russia's most popular online social network, Vkontakte, is an unusual man. Young and fabulously wealthy (he made nearly half a billion dollars [ru] last month divesting from VK), Durov has something of a mixed reputation. In December 2011, he gained a reputation for defending civil rights, when he publicly defied a police request to delete certain Vkontakte groups formed in opposition to United Russia, the country's dominant political party. Early last year, however, Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia's best established anti-regime newspapers, revealed evidence that Durov may have cooperated with the authorities in more subtle ways. In the last year, Durov has been at the center of a shareholders conflict with United Capital Partners, an investment group that bought 48% of Vkontakte in April 2013. Last month, Durov sold his remaining 12% in the company to a close ally of Alisher Usmanov, preserving Mail.ru Group's majority control.

While he's no longer a part-owner in the website, Durov remains Vkontakte's CEO. That arrangement might not last much longer. Indeed, there is widespread speculation in Russia that Durov will soon be forced out of the company entirely. Durov has fought hard to remain at Vkontakte, but his recent divestment suggests he may finally be acquiescing. (Losing his creation undoubtedly costs him some sleep, but Durov can now toss and turn on a bed of 420 million dollars, thanks to the stock sale.) 

Besides selling off his shares, Durov did something else recently that could signify his impatience with keeping himself in the good graces of Russia's powerful. On February 20, 2014, Durov republished an evocative two-minute video featuring combat footage from Kiev, narrated in a dramatic male voice cheering on demonstrators. The video is thoroughly pro-Maidan, challenging protesters to overcome the fear of battle and encouraging them to continue resisting. At the time of this writing, Durov's post has almost 32 thousand views and over 17 thousand “likes.”

Given the political climate in Russia now, Durov's willingness to stake such an unabashedly pro-opposition position on the Ukraine crisis is rather astounding. Durov leads a multi-billion-dollar company—the “Facebook of the Russian Internet”—where an unpredictable competition between two investment tycoons will decide his future. Outside Vkontakte, Russian politicians have been on a spree of attacks against anyone who promotes “extremism” (read: any kind of support for Ukraine's opposition). As I've documented in past Global Voices posts, there have been assaults on television and radio stations, websites, and individuals—sometimes for behavior as innocuous as a bad joke. Is Durov's daring a show of open defiance? 

The video: “Fear Is Not Real”

Artist Alexander Makedonskiy originally authored the video that Durov published on Vkontakte. YouTube hosts the clip, as well, on Makedonskiy's channel and other accounts. The commentary in the video is a curious mix of dialogue from two Hollywood movies: the 2013 film After Earth, starring Will Smith, and the 2006 movie Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone's sixth and final Rocky installment. (The scenes harvested for the narration include father-and-son moments from each film, and the speech Rocky delivers to the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission, when he tries to renew his boxing license.)

What follows is a transcription [ru] of the “Fear Is Not Real” Maidan video, with the original English text from the two films mentioned above. The video itself, with English subtitles, can be viewed below.

Страха в реальности нет!
Страх живет в одном закоулке в наших мыслях о будущим.
Страх это плод нашего во брожения.
Он заставляет нас боятся того чего нет! И вероятно не будет ни-ког-да!
Это ж чистое безумия.
Ты только пойми меня правильно!
Опасность это реальный факт, но страх это твой выбор!
Я скажу то что для тебя не новость. Мир не такой солнечный и приветливый.
Это очень опасная и жесткая места.
Если толька дашь слабину, он опрокинет с такой сили тебя что больше уже не встанешь!
Не ты, не я не кто на свете не бьет так сильно как жизнь!
Совсем не важно как ты ударишь , а важно какой держишь удар.
Как двигаешься в перед будешь идти иди если с испугай не свернешь!
Толька так побеждают!
Если знаешь чего ты стоишь?! Иди бери свое!
Но будь готов удары держат!
А ни плакаться и говорит ” я нечего не добился из-за его из-за нее и из-за кого-то. Так делает трусы а ты не трус!!! Быт этого не может!
Если человек сам хочет за что то драться, хочет добиваться своего, кто правы остановит его?! А может кому-то из вас тоже чего-то хотелось.?! Чего-то о чем мечтал, чего-то не обычного. А его не дают “нет” говорят и точка.
Кто имеют права так говорит “кто?” Ни кто !
Человек сам решает в какую сторону ему повернуть. Права каждого быт именно тем кем он захочет быт!

Fear is not real.
The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future.
It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist.
That is near insanity.
Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.
It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.
You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.
But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.
How much you can take and keep moving forward.
That’s how winning is done!  
Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth!
But you gotta be willing to take the hits.
And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody!
Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! 
Because if you’re willing to go through all the battling you've got to go through to get where you wanna get—who’s got the right to stop you? Maybe some of you guys got something you never finished, something you really want to do, something you never said to somebody—something!—and you’re told “No,” even after you pay your dues?
Who’s got the right to tell you that? Who? Nobody!
It’s your right to listen to your gut. It ain’t nobody’s right to say “No” after you earned the right to be where you want to be and do what you want to do.

February 21 2014

‘Central African Republic's Most Pressing Need Is Security for its People’

Mme Beatrice Epaye via Centrafrique Press blog -Domaine public

Béatrice Epaye via the CAR Press blog – Public domain

Béatrice Epaye is a former member of Parliament and today a member of the Central African Republic's National Transition Council (CNT), the body tasked with selecting a transitional president who will lead the war-torn country until the next presidential elections. When an uprising plunged the country into crisis in late 2012, the previous President-elect François Bozizé was removed by the Séléka rebels.

The terrible religious conflict continues still in the Central African Republic (CAR). On February 19, heavy fighting erupted near the airport in the capital Bangui. Anti-Balaka groups tried to block the evacuation of Muslims and disrupted a visit by a top United Nations (UN) aid official.  

Epaye agreed to answer our questions on the current situation in the Central African Republic and the steps which need to be taken to avoid a human catastrophe in her country. In addition to her role on the National Transition Council, she is the president of the “La Voix du Coeur” (Voice of the Heart) Centre, which is currently a place of welcome and support for street children in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. She also sits on the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa's parliament (CEMAC) in Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, where she represents the Council.

Global Voices (GV): What's the latest situation in your area? 

Béatrice Epaye (BE): Je suis une habitante de Bangui la capitale de la RCA, une ville meurtrie par le conflit. Tous les jours, de chez moi, j'entends des coups de feux venus de certains quartiers de Bangui. Ma maison comme beaucoup d’autres accueillent des proches venus de quartiers plus fragiles. Les gens fuient et beaucoup se sont regroupés dans des lieux qu'ils estiment sécurisés : Aéroport, Mosquées, Églises, dans des familles, en brousse dans la périphérie de Bangui ou en République Démocratique du Congo de l'autre côté du fleuve Oubangui.

De même, le Centre « Voix du Cœur » que j’ai fondé est devenu un lieu de regroupement pour les enfants de la rue en détresse. Là chrétiens et musulmans se côtoient, s’entraident.

Béatrice Epaye (BE): I live in Bangui the capital of the CAR, a town battered by conflict. Every day from my own home I hear shots coming from different areas of Bangui. Like many others, my house welcomes friends who come from the most fragile areas. People are fleeing and many gather together in areas which they feel are more secure: the airport, mosques, churches, with families, in the bush on the edge of Bangui, or in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the other side of the Ubangi River.

Likewise, the Voice of the Heart Centre which I founded has become a gathering place for distressed street children. Christians and Muslims come together and help each other.

GV: How do you manage the uncertainties? What are the most pressing needs so far?

BE: Effectivement c'est une situation difficile et précaire pour tout le monde : à tout moment le pire peut se produire! Quand on sent le danger, on cherche un abri.

Le plus difficile pour les familles et sur les sites des déplacés, c'est de ne pas avoir à manger ni avoir la possibilité de se soigner. Les salaires ne sont pas payés depuis 4 mois, et l'aide humanitaire n'est pas suffisante, ou même parfois inexistante. Dans leurs fuites les populations ont laissé derrière elles le nécessaire pour le quotidien et manquent du minimum pour la survie. Ensuite les enfants ne vont pas à l'école… on en est à un tel point que je ne peux pas le décrire.

BE: It's really a very difficult and precarious situation for everyone: the worst can happen at any moment! When we sense danger we look for shelter.

The most difficult thing for the families, and at the internally displaced persons sites, is having nothing to eat and no possibility of taking care of yourself. Salaries haven't been paid in four months, and humanitarian aid is not sufficient and sometimes even non-existent. As they fled, populations left behind things necessary for daily life and don't have the minimum needed to survive. Then children aren't going to school… we've reached such a point that I can't even describe it.

GV: How has the violence between Christians and Muslims increased so quickly in a country that isn't known for religious conflicts?

BE: Effectivement, le pays n'a jamais connu de conflits religieux. Les deux communautés ont toujours vécu ensemble en cohésion. Les familles s'échangent les repas lors des fêtes de Pâques, de la Tabaski, du Ramadan, de Noël et lors des mariages religieux. Lors du coup d’État nous avons vu parmi les rebelles des étrangers, engagés comme mercenaires. Depuis le début de leur progression ils ont utilisé les communautés musulmanes avec un discours de libérateurs des musulmans face aux mécréants qui les maltraitent. Ils ont pu enrôler beaucoup de jeunes qui les ont aidé à s'attaquer aux biens de l’église et faire les exactions que nous avons tous connues. Jusqu’à maintenant, nous avons toujours recherché à vivre en harmonie entre Centrafricains, avec nos différences de confessions ; comme nation, nous avons aussi accueilli beaucoup de personnes et de familles venant des pays voisins.

Cependant, il y a l'attitude de certains agents de l’État face à des concitoyens ou des résidents qu’ils supposent musulmans. Ceux-ci sont freinés dans leur démarche pour un papier administratif ou pour passer un barrage des forces de l'ordre. De même, les populations du nord-est de la RCA proches du Tchad et du Soudan (Darfour), vivant à plus de 1000 KM de la capitale, et majoritairement musulmanes, bénéficient peu du soutien de l’Etat parce que l’administration et les services publics sont quasi inexistants dans cette région, ce qui peut amener les habitants à se sentir laissés pour compte. Ces populations sont plus liées aux populations frontalières des autres pays voisins, ce qui est normal et parlent ensemble la même langue, ont une culture proche, mais ils sont alors perçus comme étrangers et eux-mêmes se sentent loin de la majorité chrétienne du pays. Au cœur du conflit que nous vivons, en ce moment, la grande majorité silencieuse des Centrafricains refusent la violence et beaucoup ont eu a agir pour protéger ou sauver la vie d’autres, souvent d’une autre communauté religieuse qu’eux.

BE: The country has never really known religious conflict. The two communities have always lived together with cohesion. Families exchange meals at Easter, Tabaski, Ramadan, Christmas and at religious marriages. When the revolution happened, we saw foreigners amongst the rebels, taken on as mercenaries. Since they started to advance they've made use of Muslim communities by making speeches about freeing Muslims from infidels who have treated them badly. They were able to recruit many young people who have helped them attack church property and carry out abuses which we've all experienced. Until now, we've always sought a harmonious life between Central Africans with our different faiths. As a nation we've also welcomed many people and families from neighbouring countries.

However, there is an attitude which certain public officials have concerning fellow citizens or residents who they believe to be Muslim. The movement of these people is slowed down by checking administrative documents or going through a security checkpoint. In the same way, populations in the northeast of the CAR close to Chad and Sudan (Darfour), who live more than 1,000 km from the capital and the majority of whom are Muslims, receive little benefit from state aid because the administration and public services are almost non-existent in this region, which can lead to local residents feeling overlooked. These populations are more closely linked to border populations from other neighbouring countries, which is normal, they speak the same language together, have cultural similarities, but then they are seen as foreigners and themselves feel a long way from the country's Christian majority. At the heart of the conflict which we're living in at the moment is the large Christian silent majority refuses violence and many have had to act to protect or save other people's lives, often from a different religious community to their own.

GV: You say that it's critical that the communities talk to each other and have a dialogue in order to solve problems. In your opinion, what conditions are needed in order to set up this dialogue? How can the international community help in this area?

BE: J'estime que parallèlement à la sécurisation du pays il faut commencer la réconciliation entre les communautés.

Tout d'abord, rassurer la communauté musulmane qui est en train de quitter le pays, elle fait partie prenante de la RCA. Il s'agit de réfuter toute idée soit de les chasser, soit de scission du pays. Il faut éliminer dans les mentalités la confusion systématique entre Seleka et musulman.

Inviter à ouvrir un processus de dialogue politique entre toutes les parties prenantes aux conflits, mais aussi avec les acteurs non-armés afin de lancer un processus de réconciliation nationale à même d'apaiser aujourd'hui les populations désemparées et leur redonner confiance dans l'avenir.

Dès la rentrée scolaire, qu'on commence à mettre en place un programme sur le vivre ensemble pour les enfants, et aussi l'élargir dans les quartiers et villages.

Il faut renforcer la sensibilisation déjà initiée par la plate-forme inter-religieuse dans les Églises, les Mosquées et autres Temples, ainsi que d'autres initiatives locales qui concourent à la paix”. Il est vrai que l'idée d'organiser des élections fait partie des priorités de la Communauté internationale, mais cette idée fait certainement peur à la communauté musulmane centrafricaine. C'est pourquoi il serait souhaitable que parallèlement au processus électoral, soit amorcé un programme de réconciliation nationale, une démarche qui assure à chacun qu’il sera reconnu comme centrafricain à part entière.

BE: I believe that parallel to securing the country we have to start the reconciliation process between communities.

First of all, we must reassure the Muslim community, which is in the process of leaving the country, that they are a stakeholder in the CAR. We have to refute any idea of banishing them or splitting the country. We have to eliminate the systematic confusion in people's minds between Seleka and Muslim.

We must encourage the opening of a political dialogue between all parties taking part in the conflict, but also key players who are not fighting, in order to start a national reconciliation process to give comfort to helpless populations and give them back confidence in the future.

Once the new school year begins we must set up a children's program about living together and also extend this to urban areas and villages.

We have to support the raising of public awareness, which has already been initiated by the inter-religious platform in churches, mosques, and other temples, just like other local initiatives which lead to peace. It's true that the idea of organising elections is amongst the priorities of the international community, but this idea also scares the Central African Muslim community. That's why it would be desirable to launch a national reconciliation program alongside the electoral process, an approach which assures everyone that they will be recognised as fully Central African.

GV: What are the other pressing needs for Central Africa at the moment? What solutions can be put forward?

BE: Le besoin le plus pressant pour la RCA c'est d'abord la sécurité pour son peuple. L'idéal serait que les familles rentrent chez elles avant les premières pluies du mois de février, que l'aide humanitaire arrive aux habitants partout où on peut les trouver (alimentation, eau potable, soins, couchages, produits d'hygiène, vêtements…). Ce serait aussi le paiement des salaires aux fonctionnaires.

BE: The CAR's most pressing need is security for its people. Ideally, families would be able to return to their homes before the first rains in February and humanitarian aid would arrive for local people wherever they are (food, drinking water, medical supplies, sleeping bags, hygiene products, clothes..). Also, public officials would have their salaries paid.

There Will Be No Peace in Colombia Without Women

[Links are to Spanish-language pages except where noted otherwise.]

The documentation centre No habrá paz sin las mujeres [There will be no peace without women] enables female leaders, professionals and survivors of the armed conflict in Colombia to express themselves and share their experiences so that, according to the website, “the lifework they have dedicated to peace is not forgotten.” Their testimony is offered through an online photography exhibition and video interviews.

Historiadora, documentalista e integrante del colectivo H.I.J.O.S. Afiche del proyecto No habrá paz sin las mujeres.

Alejandra Garcia Serna, historian and documentary filmmaker. Poster for the project “There will be no peace without women”. 

All peace processes should actively involve women.

Alejandra Garcia Serna, a historian and documentary filmmaker, also works for justice and memory as part of the H.I.J.O.S. cooperative. She is the orphaned daughter of Francisco Gaviria, a student leader murdered along with 4,000 militants and sympathizers of the Unión Patriótica by State agents and paramilitaries between 1985 and 1994 in a campaign of political genocide.

The project, created by the Asturian Cooperative Development Agency, gives voice to Colombian women so they can ”learn from each other's experiences and strategies, be empowered in the fight to build a more just society, and advance their own proposals for peace in the process of reconciliation, reconstruction, reparation and justice.

No habrá paz sin las mujeres began with the experiences of Colombian women during the armed conflict [en] that has endured for more than 50 years. The group maintains that, although there are signs of hope in ongoing peace talks [en] taking place in Havana, Cuba, between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) [en] and the Colombian government, “women are noticeably absent from the peace process: neither the issues crucial to them nor their claims or proposals for peace are being listened to.” 

The website goes on to explain that talks have not taken into account United Nations Resolution 1325 [en], which calls attention to the issue of gender in conflict resolution. 

Y precisamente son las mujeres las que más sufren las consecuencias de la guerra: la violencia sexual ha sido empleada por los tres actores de la guerra, los paramilitares, el Estado y la guerrilla; el reclutamiento de menores ha afectada a las niñas como combatientes pero también como esclavas sexuales; son el mayor porcentaje de población desplazada y la mayoría con cargas familiares…

It is women who suffer most from the consequences of war: sexual violence has been used by all three factions, the paramilitary, the State and the guerrillas; the recruiting of minors has damaged girls both as combatants and as sex slaves; displaced persons are disproportionately women, most of whom have families…

Efforts to help redress the situation are publicized on the website's home page through video interviews and testimonials.  

One of these videos is about the artist Patricia Ariza, who found a way to express the Colombian reality through her work. Patricia also uses artistic expression to exorcize the injustice she sees in her country and of which she herself is a victim, her family having been displaced because of the violence. 

</p> <p>Another video shows a campaign where Colombian women are committed to safekeeping their land and not allowing the multinational&nbsp;<a href="http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/AngloGold_Ashanti">AngloGold Ashanti</a>&nbsp;to set up gold-mining operations. The<a href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/2013/12/campesinas-contra-la-fiebre-del-oro/">&nbsp;following video</a>&nbsp;is an interview with a local woman, Judith P&#233;rez Guti&#233;rrez, who lives on a country road in the municipality of Cajamarca, Tolima; and it speaks to the dedication of women to protecting their surroundings.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, the interview reveals the fear and anxiety of P&#233;rez Guti&#233;rrez and her neighbours&#8212;the vulnerability and lack of support they feel at the hands of Colombian authorities, as evidenced by the&nbsp;<a href="http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article10730">serious confrontations they have had with security forces</a>:</p> <p></p> <p>Ester Carmen Mart&#237;nez, a teacher in <a href="http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitalito">Pitalito</a>, Huila, [a major coffee-producing area] tells her personal story and that of her neighbours, who were murdered, evicted or displaced by paramilitary groups.&nbsp;</p> <p></p> <p>The project also publishes texts&nbsp;<a href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/2014/01/mas-mujeres-en-riesgo-por-reclamar-derechos-de-ley-de-victimas/">such as this one</a>, which explains some of the dangers faced by women who choose activism:</p> <blockquote><p>En Bajo Cauca por lo menos otras cuatro l&#237;deres han sido amedrentadas y obligadas a abandonar la regi&#243;n en los &#250;ltimos cuatro a&#241;os. La restituci&#243;n no avanza, y el miedo hace que ni siquiera re&#250;nan las mesas de v&#237;ctimas.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>&#8220;Las v&#237;ctimas estamos arrinconadas&#8221;, dijo el testigo consultado. &#8220;Hay muchas amenazas. La &#250;ltima fue contra una mujer que fue v&#237;ctima de desplazamiento forzado y se fue para el barrio Par&#237;s. All&#225; lider&#243; la junta de acci&#243;n comunal y los pillos la amenazaron nuevamente y hasta iban a atentar contra su vida y se tuvo que ir del municipio. Lo m&#225;s triste es que ni la Administraci&#243;n Municipal ni la Fuerza P&#250;blica atiende nuestras peticiones. &#191;Usted cree que alguna de nosotras, pese a las amenazas, tiene esquema de seguridad?&#8221;</p></blockquote> <blockquote class="translation"><p>In Bajo Cauca at least four other leaders have been intimidated and forced to abandon the region in the last four years. Restitution is no further ahead, and fear means the victims don't even dare meet together anymore.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>&#8220;We victims are cornered,&#8221; said the witnessed we consulted. &#8220;There are many threats. The last was against a woman who was a victim of forced displacement and went to the Par&#237;s area. There she led the committee for communal action and the thugs threatened her again, they were even going to try to kill her, and she had to leave the town. The saddest part is that neither the municipal government nor public security paid attention to our petitions. Do you think that any of us, despite the threat, receives any protection?&#8221;</p></blockquote> <p><span>The project </span><a target="_blank" href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/descargate-las-postales-y-posters/">has several posters</a><span>&nbsp;depicting the reality of the many ways women suffer, in particular sexual violence.</span></p> <div id="attachment_226940" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="1002" alt="Superviviente de la matanza de El Salado (Foto: Patricia Sim&#243;n)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/sexual-afiche.png" width="723" class="size-full wp-image-226940" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Yoladis Z&#250;&#241;iga, survivor of the massacre in El Salado (Photo: Patricia Sim&#243;n)</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>I suffered sexual violence but it did not defeat me.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Yoladis Z&#250;&#241;iga was raped by ten paramilitaries in front of her husband, who was later murdered, in a massacre that claimed the lives of 100 people in five days in the town of El Salado in 2000. Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war by all three factions in the conflict: guerrillas, paramilitaries and the State.</p></blockquote> <p>The posters also highlight the work of women who have dedicated their lives to peace and activism.&nbsp;</p> <div id="attachment_227006" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="991" alt="Defensora de derechos humanos (Foto: Alex Zapico)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Captura-de-pantalla-2013-11-30-a-las-22.38.57.png" width="710" class="size-full wp-image-227006" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Mari La Negra, defender of human rights (Photo: Alex Zapico)&nbsp;</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>Words motivate, examples convince.</strong></p> <p>Mari La Negra began her career as an activist for workers and human rights when she was 14 years old. Not long afterwards, she was raped by State agents and jailed for three months, where she was tortured because of her efforts on behalf of organized labour. At 40, she has survived many attempts on her life and continues to be threatened by paramilitaries because of her fight for the rights of those most marginalized in society.</p></blockquote> <div id="attachment_227008" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="1002" alt="Feminista e investigadora integrante de Mujeres Feministas Antimilitaristas (Foto: Alex Zapico)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Captura-de-pantalla-2013-11-30-a-las-23.16.17.png" width="724" class="size-full wp-image-227008" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Marta Restrepo, feminist and community organizer (Photo: Alex Zapico)&nbsp;</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>Freedom for women means removing the right to take advantage of them.</strong></p> <p>Marta Restrepo, a member of&nbsp;Mujeres Feministas Antimilitaristas (Antimilitarist Feminist Women), has dedicated her life to exposing the murder of women, a plague that claims the lives of more than 1,100 victims a year in Colombia. She also militates against the use of women as sex slaves, which in many cases leads to them becoming prostitutes in Spain, and the exploitation of women as a form of currency in the war economy that rules her country.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>For more information, videos, and posters, visit <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nohabrapazsinlasmujeres">Facebook</a>&nbsp;and Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/Nopazsinmujeres">@nopazsinmujeres</a>.</p> <p class="gv-rss-footer"><span class="credit-text"><span class="contributor">Written by <a title="View all posts by Lully" href="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/author/lully-posada/">Lully</a></span> &middot; <span class="contributor">Translated by <a title="View all posts by Victoria Robertson" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/author/victoria-robertson/" class="url">Victoria Robertson</a></span></span> &middot; <span class="source-link"><a title="View original post [es]" href="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/18/no-habra-paz-sin-las-mujeres-en-colombia/">View original post [es]</a></span> &middot; <span class="commentcount"><a title="comments" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/21/there-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women/#comments">comments (0) </a></span><br /><a title="read Donate" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/donate/">Donate</a> &middot; <span class="share-links-text"><span class="share-links-label">Share: </span> <a target="new" title="facebook" id="gv-st_facebook" href="http://www.facebook.com/share.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F"><span class="share-icon-label">facebook</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="twitter" id="gv-st_twitter" href="http://twitter.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;text=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women&#038;via=globalvoices"><span class="share-icon-label">twitter</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="googleplus" id="gv-st_googleplus" href="https://plus.google.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F"><span class="share-icon-label">googleplus</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="reddit" id="gv-st_reddit" href="http://reddit.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">reddit</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="StumbleUpon" id="gv-st_stumbleupon" href="http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">StumbleUpon</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="delicious" id="gv-st_delicious" href="http://del.icio.us/post?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">delicious</span></a></span> </p>

Venezuela Protests: ‘Dear International Media: Step it Up!’

Dear International Editor:

Listen and understand. The game changed in Venezuela last night. What had been a slow-motion unravelling that had stretched out over many years went kinetic all of a sudden.

What we have this morning is no longer the Venezuela story you thought you understood.

In the blog Caracas Chronicles Francisco Toro reacts to the lack of media coverage about the escalating violence and the events on February 19.

Francisco shows screen captures of news sites like the BBC, The New York Times, CNN, The Guardian, Al Jazeera English, and Fox News on the morning of February 20 –all missing articles on the violent events from the day before.

He concludes:

The level of disengagement on display is deeply shocking.

Venezuela’s domestic media blackout is joined by a parallel international blackout, one born not of censorship but of disinterest and inertia. It’s hard to express the sense of helplessness you get looking through these pages and finding nothing. Venezuela burns; nobody cares.

Let me put this clearly. Y’all need to step it up. The time to discard what you thought you knew about the way things work in Venezuela is now.

You can check out our special coverage page about the protests in Venezuela here.

February 20 2014

Violence Escalates as Protests Continue in Venezuela

Manifestantes esquivan gases lacrimógenos lanzados por la Guardia Nacional. 19 de febrero, 2014. Altamira, Caracas. Foto de Sergio Alvarez, copyright Demotix.

Protesters avoiding tear gas thrown by the National Guard. February 19, 2014. Altamira, Caracas. By Sergio Álvarez, copyright Demotix

After Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced [es] in a national broadcast that he would carry out special measures in the Táchira state to control demonstrations, internet users from different cities started to report irregularities related to police officers, the National Guard and some armed civilian groups in motorbikes.

Venezuela is going through an economic, political and social crisis which brought about thousands of citizens taking the streets to express [es] their discontent. For more than a week, Venezuelans have been involved in mass protests that, until now, have caused five deaths and hundreds of wounded and incarcerated people.

On February 19, Twitter and Facebook were used by protesters and witnesses to denounce the day-to-day repression carried out by security forces. However, this is not new, since a viral video by the research unit of the Últimas Noticias newspaper showed some members of the secret police SEBIN (Bolivarian National Intelligence Service) in the same moment and place where people were found dead last February 12. 

This Youtube video allegedly shows members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB for its initials in Spanish) destroying everything they find in their way in Valencia, the capital city of Carabobo state, located nearly 250km away from Caracas.

Ortega Brothers shared a photo related to the situation in Valencia.

Most of the reports in Caracas came from the east and downtown areas of the city. As a matter of fact, repression started in Altamira, the scenario for most of these street protests. In his Twitter account, José Márquez not only recounts his experience in this area of the city, but he also denounces that the GNB threw expired tear gas at protesters.

In Altamira, the GNB throws tear gas which expired in 2010, today, February 19.

Some users also posted videos reporting that they were being attacked by both security forces and armed men in motorbikes.

Similarly, citizens also denounced that people were being repressed in another residential area in the east of Caracas. Carlos Bruguera posted on Twitter that even though there were no protesters around, they were being repressed.

The GNB roams through the Rómulo Gallegos Avenue, throwing gas and shooting towards the buildings. It is important to note that there are no protesters. What is this!?

Jorge Estevez also described what was happening:

Minutes ago a GNB contingent crossed the Rómulo Gallegos avenue shooting.

Other people asserted there were armed groups attacking buildings.

 Carmela Longo asked for help and described what she was witnessing: 

Help! groups are shooting at buildings in Horizonte

However, Luigino Bracci reported that protesters provoked the National Guard:

Minutes ago, opposition groups in Montecristo provoked the GNB by throwing firecrackers at those who were in the Rómulo Gallegos Avenue

Downtown Caracas was the most repressed area. During the night users shared two videos that allegedly showed National Guard Forces shooting at civilians, leaving a wounded man in the road (Warning: the following videos may contain strong images).

 

Although there was no official information about what happened to these civilians, the Twitter account for El Universitario [es] affirmed that two people had died

Two people confirmed dead during protests tonight in Caracas: one in La Candelaria and another one in Panteón Avenue.

Update: Alba Ciudad [es] reports that “the crime reporter for the opposition newspaper El Nuevo País, Altagracia Anzola, informed through her Twitter account that both individuals were alive and one had been discharged [from the hospital].”

Other states are also experiencing moments of high tension. Citizens affirm that Táchira state is under siege [es], and some users reported that their internet service was suspended.

Marc Bonet reported about this situation.

Táchira right now with no internet service and no light in many areas. The army is in the streets. State of siege implemented but not declared.

Frases Únicas shared a photo about the situation in Táchira. 

Barricade in Carabobo Avenue, Tachira. Waiting for GNB attack from Faro. Táchira will not kneel down.

Some of the citizens used their Twitter account to provide a brief analysis on the escalating violence. One of them was Sinar Alvarado, who asserts that there could be even more repression if the government feels more threatened.

Chavismo [government supporters] will display even more violence as they see their power threatened.

Others criticized that the state channel, Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), was not covering these events. Victor Amaya (@VictorAmaya) affirmed this on his Twitter account:

On VTV they are denouncing that buses were attacked by the fascist right. They don't say anything about the wounded and those shot dead. Poor buses.

Finally, Audrey M. Dacosta in the blog Caracas Chronicles writes the following about the protests on February 19:

A grave line has been crossed. Real, physical violence is finally catching up with the huge reserve of pent-up rhetorical violence we’ve suffered through since 1999.

We’ve spent 15 years fearing this.

Now we’re living it.

Russians Eye Ukrainian Turmoil with Hope, Fear

Iron Maiden's

Heavy metal band Iron Maiden's mascot “Eddie the Head” gets a Ukrainian restyling in this meme. Anonymous image found online.

The latest development in a long running stand-off between the Ukrainian government and opposition, deadly clashes between protesters and riot police erupted near Kiev's Independence Square on Tuesday, February 18. As events unfolded, authorities halted the city subways, barricaded roads, and blocked a major opposition TV channel,  Channel 5 Ukraine [Ukr]. According to recent numbers as many as twenty-five protesters and police have died in the violence, over 200 people have been hospitalized, and over 1,000 have been otherwise injured. The numbers also include journalists and bystanders.

Russian bloggers have been carefully observing these events, so much so that many Russian Internet users have lost interest [Global Voices report] in the Sochi Winter Games in favor of protests on the Maidan. Positive commentary ranges from expressing sympathy for the protesters to demanding that Russia not meddle in Ukrainian internal affairs. At the same time pro-Kremlin bloggers and state-sponsored Russian media outlets have lambasted the protesters as extremists. 

As usual, members of the Russian opposition gave some vicarious analysis of the situation. Journalist Sergei Smirnov, formerly a member of the radical and banned National Bolshevik party, tweeted:

Seriously, 13 wounded armed cops equals urban warfare. That is, this means the opposition has several times more wounded.

Opposition politician Boris Nemtsov made the same comparison, lamenting the violence [ru]:

В Киеве продолжаются уличные бои. 9 убитых. 7- гражданских и два милиционера. И все потому что Янукович цепляется за власть и не хочет объявить досрочные выборы.

Urban warfare is continuing in Kiev. 9 killed. 7 civilians and 2 policemen. And all because [President] Yanukovich is hanging on to power and doesn't want to announce snap elections.

Vladimir Milov's second in command at DemVybor party, Kirill Shulika wrote [ru]:

Виноват, естественно, Янукович со своим маниакальным желанием удержать у власти группировку донецких бандитов. Да, можно говорить о вине оппозиции, но есть президент, который просто обязан не допускать этого. А если он уже не в состоянии контролировать ситуацию, ему надо уходить.

Of course Yanukovich is to blame, with his maniacal desire to maintain power for a group of Donetsk bandits. Yes, one can also fault the opposition, but there is a president who simply cannot not allow this [violence]. And if he can no longer control the situation, he should leave.

Some Ukrainians also tweeted in Russian. Singer Oleksandra Koltsova tweeted about the much-discussed split between Ukraine's Russian speaking East and EU-oriented West:

People in the east aren't “for Yanukovich.” They've also been robbed. They are also ready to trade him in for a better candidate, but they need concrete proposals and different faces [in the opposition leadership.]

In the end, though, RuNet discussions of the Ukrainian “problem” should remain online discussions, thinks Russian writer Maxim Kantor [ru]:

Началась украинская гражданская война. [...] Россия не должна участвовать в этой войне. Сегодняшнее украинское правительство дискредитировано, и его призыв о помощи (если будет) нельзя рассматривать как призыв народа. А народ ни о чем не просил.

The Ukrainian civil war has begun. [...] Russia should not participate in this war. The current Ukrainian government has lost credibility, and its call for help (if it happens) should not be seen as the voice of the people. And the people themselves haven't asked for anything.

Vladimir Putin, who reportedly ignored a recent phone-call from President Yanukovich, seems to be on same page.

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