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February 24 2014

The Venezuela I'll Always Remember

Caracas

Caracas, Venezuela. Image by flickr user danielito311. Used with Creative Commons licence (BY-NC 2.0).

Back then in Peru, terror and fear was part of our daily lives.

I had just graduated from law school in Lima. It was late 1993 and my beloved Peru was recovering from 12 years of internal conflict which had claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Christmas was coming and I decided it was time for my first journey abroad to visit a dear aunt. 

My mother's elder sister moved to Venezuela in the late 1950s. She got married in Caracas and settled there with her husband and two sons. After my younger cousin died in a car accident, my mother and her sister strengthened their bond and never let distance deter them from staying in touch.

When I stepped foot outside Simón Bolívar International Airport [es] in Maiquetía, I was instantly struck by how different everything looked, compared with Lima.

Caracas was a shiny modern city, with high-rises, highways, flyovers, and recently repaved roads.

All the cars looked like they had just rolled off the factory assembly line, glossy and splendid. New cars was something we were just starting to get used to in Peru, after out-of-control hyperinflation [es] had made all of us billionaires with little purchasing power.

The road signs looked like they had been painted the day before.

I could feel progress everywhere I looked, and this was just on the way from the airport to my aunt's house. Rain welcomed me on this adventure, something we Limeans are not used to at all.

The next day I started my tour of the city. I didn't feel like a total outsider. My generation grew up watching Venezuelan soap operas on TV, so some popular areas were familiar to me: Chacao, Chacaíto, the Virgen of Chiquingirá. So was the rhythmic speaking that I noticed was following me everywhere, after a few days.

During a visit to one museum, I saw a guy looking at a list of battles fought by Simón Bolívar, the liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia. There were the names of the battles with no indication of the where they'd been fought, and I stood by next to this tourist and started with a lesson learnt long ago at school: Carabobo, Venezuela; Boyacá, Bogotá, Pichincha, Ecuador; and Junín and Ayacucho, Perú (country of yours truly).

On that trip, during a visit to a beach whose name I have forgotten, my toes first felt the waters of the Atlantic, I owe that to Venezuela too.

But what impressed me above all was the freedom people had, simply living their lives. We could enter any building and there was no military officer waiting to check our bags and belongings. There were no metal detectors or special machines that we had to pass through at the entrance of shopping centers or museums or anywhere for that matter.

I even walked in front of government buildings and ministries, as if that was the most normal thing to do. No one stopped me from being there, no one checked my documents, and no one made me feel like there was something to fear.

That is why I have been overwhelmed with sadness, as the recent stories and images have been trickling out of Venezuela.

Venezuelans are suffering. Venezuelans are crying. Venezuelans are mourning.

Protesters are rallying for liberty and demanding their rights be respected. Young people are dying in the streets, as police and government supporters battle protesters. Brothers are fighting brothers. 

I prefer to remember the Venezuela I knew in 1993. Joyous Caribbean music mingling with traditional Christmas songs wherever I went. Smiling faces greeting me, people welcoming me with kind words open arms, upon learning that I was Peruvian. 

Venezuela, you will always be in my heart.

Gabriela Garcia Calderon is a Peruvian lawyer specialized in Arbitration and Civil Law. She comes from a family connected to the media in Peru. Gabriela has been a member of Global Voices since November 2007.

February 23 2014

Indian Blogger Exposes Fuel Pump Cheating With Viral Video

Screenshot from the video uploaded by Kiruba Shankar

Screenshot from the video uploaded by Kiruba Shankar

In India, where fraud at gas pumps is commonplace and many complaints remain unresolved, a blogger's viral Facebook video has helped shed light on the problem.

Kiruba Shankar, a digital entrepreneur, author, teacher, farmer and long-time blogger in Chennai, India, explained how he first discovered the fraudulent practice:

I just caught the staff red-handed at Bharath Petroleum fuel station on Mount Road. They tried stealing Rs.700 worth of petrol. I paid Rs.2000 for the fuel and as the meter reached Rs.1300, one of the guys tried distracting me by asking me for my car number. Immediately, his accomplice manning the fuel pump stopped the pump and quickly reset the meter. As soon as the guy asked me for the number, I smelled a rat and saw the pump just when the guy was resetting it.

This incident took place in the Bharath Petroleum's Mount Road outlet in Chennai. Kiruba uploaded the video to Facebook, and the one-minute, 44-second-long video went viral with more than 6,000 shares and 3,000 likes. Many people shared their similar experiences in the comments section and local media started reporting on it.

Rajesh Murugesan, a commenter on the video, said:

Hey guys why blame only Bharat Petroleum, it happens with all petrol bunks. our Indian officer's just need to fill their pockets and are not worried about others. These officer's to be punished or teased in public.

Yashwanth Vee, another commenter, wrote:

It is a good thing that you came out and posted this on a social network. Hope the responsible person sees this video and takes some kind of action.

Kiruba posted updates on how the authorities reacted:

The social media outrage coupled with the coverage in national dailies has brought this incident right up to the CMD and top management of Bharath Petroleum.

They requested Mr.Kshitij Midha, Area Sales Manager for South Chennai to meet me in person. He is incharge of overseeing 35 fuel stations, including the one where the incident took place. [...]

The BPCL official did an investigation with the owner and staff at Ashwini Automobiles (the franchisee who runs the fuel station). After cross examining, they did find the two men guilty and they have been fired from their jobs. [...]

BPCL has the official complaint numbers displayed in all petrol pumps but most of the customers don’t take the extra effort to lodge a complaint. He encouraged people to complain which will keep the staff grounded.

Blogger Shushant Kulkarni from Pune advised how not to get cheated in a petrol station:

You might be getting fooled if you are not paying close attention. [...] I have noticed this a lot many times, have gotten first hand experience getting cheated a couple of times :), but eventually learned the pattern. You have experienced these or may be you are not paying attention to these.

The Allrounder blog also has similar tips to share. Vinaya Naidu at Lighthouse Insights blog lauded the role of social media in exposing malpractice in the society:

A rampant malpractice at most fuel stations in the country, one that needs to be tackled in these times of high fuel prices. It is interesting to observe how social media can play an important role in eliminating this, if leveraged fruitfully as Kiruba did.

Census Could Worsen Conflict in Myanmar

Shan minority group in Myanmar. Photo from  Flickr page of EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Shan minority group in Myanmar. Photo from Flickr page of EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Myanmar’s nationwide census scheduled from March 23 to April 10 threatens to inflame more ethnic and religious conflicts in the country over some ‘antagonistic and divisive’ issues included in the questionnaire. Myanmar’s last census was held more than 30 years ago.

The census, supported by the UN, aims to determine Myanmar’s key demographic and socio-economic statistics in order to ascertain the country’s particular development needs. But questions about ethnicity or tribal identification have become controversial after the government listed 135 ethnic groups and sub-groups on the questionnaire. Critics reminded the government that the listing is a colonial legacy which must be revamped. Several ethnic groups have complained about being lumped with other minorities while others claimed they were dropped from the listing.

The government is urged to reclassify the listing based on consultation with ethnic communities. And while the government is doing this, some groups wanted the census delayed for another month.

In Myanmar, majority are Burmans. An estimated 40 percent of the population is considered an ethnic minority, with Shan composing the biggest minority group.

The common complaint of many groups is the inaccurate categorization of ethnic groups. For example, the Palaung (Ta’aung) tribe questioned their inclusion as a Shan race:

We, Ta’aung, settled down in this land before the Shan…We are not the same with other races. We live in mountainous area and have a different culture and language.

Kyaw Thu, head of the civil society consortium Paung Ku, thinks questions on ethnicity and religion should be dropped because they are no longer necessary:

If development is the priority, the data of headcounts—the numbers of people and the age group—is enough to conduct economic projects.

Tun Myint Kyaw, local coordinator in Mon State for the European Union-funded Rule of Law Project, also urged the removal of some controversial questions in the census:

If [the Ministry of Immigration and Population] has a plan to omit the ethnicity and religion category from the national identity card, why would they still include in the census data collection?

Khun Jar of the Kachin Peace Network explained how inaccurate ethnic categorization can cause trouble; and he also warned about the danger of conducting census in some remote areas where armed conflicts are still taking place:

If the government accepts 135 ethnic groups only, it can cause harm to the peace process because ethnic groups can get into armed conflicts if disagreements arise among them

We can’t anticipate who will conduct the census in remote areas and places where there is no ceasefire. In some places there are no schools. Teachers are normally used to collect data on the population. So with no schools, it will not be easy to collect population figures at the refugee camps.

Thet Ko from Minority Affair proposed the drafting of a new listing based on the principle of democratic consultation:

The list of ethnics should be compiled again after consulting with ethnic groups through a democratic procedure.

Some ethnic groups are worried that they might lose political representation if the proposed census will adopt the official listing of ethnic groups in the country. Ethnic minister positions in local parliaments are automatically given to ethnic groups with more than 0.01 percent of the population in the area.

The government is accused of deliberately bloating the number of ethnic subgroups to deny representation to some tribes.

But in the case of the Rohingyas, the government refuses to recognize them as citizens. Kyaw Min of the Democracy and Human Rights Party is appealing for the recognition of Rohingyas, who are mostly Muslims:

Every human race has its own identity. We have our identity already…This is not just now—we have had it for a long time. But we have found that there is discrimination in the country, which ignores our demand that our identity be recognized.

One concern about the inclusion of religion in the census is the destabilization it might generate. In particular, the census might confirm that Myanmar has a growing number of Muslims which could provoke Buddhist extremist groups to cause trouble in many villages.

Worried about the threat, the International Crisis Group, is proposing to limit census questions on age, sex and marital status:

…the coming census, consisting of 41 questions, is overly complicated and fraught with danger. Myanmar is one of the most diverse countries in the region, and ethnicity is a complex, contested and politically sensitive issue, in a context where ethnic communities have long believed that the government manipulates ethnic categories for political purposes

A poorly timed census that enters into controversial areas of ethnicity and religion in an ill-conceived way will further complicate the situation.

Meanwhile, the Burma Partnership fears the census might undermine the national reconciliation process:

Yet the lack of transparency and consultation is a damning indictment of the UN’s – and donors’ – role in the census, while the accusations of inaccuracy and divisiveness only serve to further undermine the credibility of these parties. Moreover, there are real fears about the logistics of collecting the data, both in terms of authorities using the correct forms and accessing remote areas or conflict zones, which would have implications for the accuracy of data recorded

It is clear that this census represents a Pandora’s Box of potential ethnic tensions and conflict. At a time when the Burma government claims to be striving to secure a sustainable peace deal with the armed ethnic groups and cementing political reforms before the 2015 national elections, the timing and nature of the census is strange, to say the least. It risks jeopardizing national reconciliation, undermining the peace process, and exacerbating inter-communal violence.

Apparently, some ethnic groups are cynical of the census process that they chose to conduct a census on their own.

China Internet Giant Tencent's New Acquisition Follows Online2Offline Trend

China is the fastest growing consumption market in the world. As the economy shifts from manufacturing to the service industry, the driving force of the country's GDP will be consumption; online to offline commerce is definitely a fierce battlefield.

A recent example of this is Chinese Internet giant Tencent's acquisition of a 20-percent stake worth 400 million US dollars in Yelp-like website Dianping to further expand its online to offline (O2O) commerce.

Founded in 2003, Dianping is the largest online ratings and reviews platform in China. It provides urban guide for consumption, which includes merchant information, consumer reviews, discount, group buying, online restaurant reservations and take-out ordering services. It had more than 90 million monthly active users and more than eight million local businesses covering nearly 2,300 cities across the Chinese mainland by the fourth quarter of 2013.

Upon the acquisition, the online service platform will be integrated with Tencent's social communications platforms, in particular its instant messaging mobile applications – WeChat's online payment service, as well as Tencent's mobile map application. WeChat has gained about 600 million users by the end of 2013.

Zhang Tao, founder and CEO of Dianping, stated that Tencent's social network and traffic would boost Dianping’s growth and that he would continue to seek for an independent initial public offering for Dianping after Tencent’s investment.

As people's shopping habits have changed from offline to online, O2O commerce has become a golden goose for China's three major Internet giants – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, collectively known as BAT – to compete for. In the past two years, the three corporations have made some strategic moves respectively.

To establish the O2O business, the connection between online social groups and offline services through social media platforms is most crucial. Tencent made the move by integrating WeChat with online shopping platforms, such as JD.com and consumption guides such as Dianping. Baidu invested in Nuomi, a group-buying service. Alibaba merged with microblogging website Sina Weibo to expand its Alipay online payments for businesses including Meitun, China's biggest group-buying site, and Kuaidi, a taxi-hailing app, as well as Citic 21CN Co., a medicine purchase platform.

Tech manager “Yu Feng” commented on the competition between Tecent and Alibaba:

对腾讯来说这绝对是O2O的胜负手,支付宝能做起来,因为背靠着淘宝巨大的交易额,微信的支付需要交易场景的加持才能真正发展起来……你可以把微信支付+大众点评,理解为另一个支付宝+淘宝的组合,就容易看懂了。

It’s a key move for Tencent to push O2O. Alipay has grown quickly because it’s been based on huge trading volume of Taobao. The growth of WeChat payments need a trading scenario……It’d be better understood when you see WeChat payments + Dianping as another Alipay + Taobao [China's biggest online shopping platform].

In the midst of fierce competition among the BAT, whether or not online e-commerce platforms can gain from the integration process remains a question. Tech Journalist “Zhao Nan100″ pointed out that Dianping has paid a large amount of “entrance fee” to Tencent in the acquisition:

为了在微信“我的银行卡”占个座,大众点评实际上不仅没从腾讯拿4亿美元,反而是给了腾讯6.9亿美元,只不过这部分钱是以出让股份的形式表现的。要知道,如果现在IPO,大众点评怎么可能只值20亿美元,折价的部分实际上就是给腾讯的钱。其它创业者们,看到微信“我的银行卡”买一个位置的花费。

Practically Dianping has not taken 400 million from Tencent, instead it’s paid Tencent 690 million in shares for a seat on WeChat’s “my bank cards” [Tencent's online payment system]. Had Dianping listed as in stock market now, it would be worth a lot more than $2 billion. The discounted part become the fee paid to Tencent. Other online business starters can see the price to buy a seat on WeChat's “my bank cards”.

Zhang Pang, a business blogger, believed that such integration will become a trend as O2O commerce continues to expand:

其实现有一个势头正在越来越明显,那就是在中国互联网产业内的创业公司想要“不站队”,保持独立发展,将会越来越艰难,巨头通过注入自身资源而不仅仅是资金,将会迅速影响创业公司在某个领域的竞争环境和前景。这个趋势,将对未来一段时间创业企业的发展路径带来深远的影响。

The trend is getting more obvious. It is more and more difficult for Chinese online businesses to remain independent and stay out of the “clans”. The giants will not only inject capital but its resources and it will affect the environment and future of the business sector. Such a trend will have serious impact on the developmental path of Internet start-ups.

However, netizen “Classmate Ji” disagreed with the technological deterministic view, writing that informative consumer information is more important than “payment connection”:

大众点评APP独立用户数去年就已经超8000万,都是来自于真实口碑用户,用得着去买微信入口?别以为有个入口就能翻云覆雨,当年口碑网挟雅虎巨大流量和资源冲击大众点评,结果怎样,现在还有人知道么。O2O不是互联网人玩概念玩出来的,那是踏踏实实沉下心来做线下做出来的。

Dianping’s independent users have risen to over 80 million last year. Does it need to buy a WeChat entrance? Don’t think you can do everything by owning an entrance. Don’t forget the Koubei.com case, which had battled with Dianping using high traffic and resources from Yahoo, but ended in failure. O2O needs down-to-earth offline work rather than playing around with Internet concepts.

February 22 2014

Top Chinese Journalist Criticized for Giving Birth in the US

One of China's top journalists and TV anchors, Chai Jing, has caused a stir online after she gave birth in the US, with some netizens calling her a “traitor” or a “liberal hypocrisy”.

After pictures of Chai holding a newborn baby at an airport were published online, reports surfaced that she had given birth to a daughter in the US in October 2013. Obviously, the benefit is that the child becomes US citizen.

A highly respected reporter in China, Chai is known for her sharpness, persistence and her direct, cut-to-the point interview technique. She made her name for covering the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.  

Chai Jing holding a newborn baby at an airport (Picture from Sina Weibo)

Chai Jing holding a newborn baby at an airport. Photo from Sina Weibo

Chai giving birth in the US has disappointed a lot of her fans, with many calling her hypocritical.   

Netizen “Tan” wrote:

我们应该明白一点,公知们抨击或批评这个生他养他的国家,不是爱这个国家而是为了有天有扑向美欧等国家怀抱的资本。什么人批评这个国家的不足才是真心的?只有永远是中国人的我们。

We should understand that these public figures attack or criticize their home country, not because they love this country but one day have the capability to embrace the United States, Europe and other countries. Which kind of people who criticize this country are more sincere? Only those who will always be Chinese.

However, a large number of people also expressed their support. Some were sad about the emigration trend among China’s middle class, calling for reflection among Chinese top leaders:

不懂怎么念燊微博达人:非常现实,高层应该反思为何这样,柴静看到未来,她有能力为自己孩子选择一个更为公平公正,制度健全的国家,别人没道理评论。想想自己有能力会不会加入美国籍就懂了。

Very realistic, higher-ups should reflect on why things like this happen. When thinking about the future, she has the ability to select a country with a more fair, equal and sound system for his child. It’s not for anyone else to comment on. If you have the ability, would you become a US citizen? Think about it and you will understand.

文人医生:自己不能改变现状,手中没有选票,为什么孩子还不能改变?柴静在哪里生孩子是自己的自由和私事。

We ourselves cannot change the status quo in this country, we do not have the votes, why can’t we make a change for our children? It’s Chai Jing’s own freedom and personal matter to decide where her child should be born.  

Commentator Liu Xuesong wrote [zh]:

个人爱不爱这个国家,最重要的不是看他把孩子生在哪里,而是看他在这个国家的公民角色中,担了多少当,做了多少有益的事。这个国家值不值得爱,倒是与这个国家的集体意识中,是否展示了大爱的包容、和谐、友善等宽厚本色,是否将注意力放在了富强、公正、文明等向上向善的追求上有关。

Whether one is patriotic or not, the most important thing is not to find out where the child was born, but to see his role as a citizen in this country, and how many good deeds he has done. Whether if it is worth it to love this country has something to do with the collective consciousness of this country, whether it shows love, harmony, friendliness and generosity and whether it focuses on the prosperity, justice and civilization.

Another netizen wrote [zh]:

有网民说,他只是希望孩子有比较正常的生活方式,无关爱国。也许,这才是为政者应该反思的问题。

Some netizens said that she only wants the child to have a more normal lifestyle, which has nothing to do with patriotism. Perhaps, this is the problem the government should reflect on.

February 21 2014

Social Media Rallies to Help Comatose Pakistani Student in US


Screenshot of Facebook page supporting Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa

Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa, a 21-year-old Pakistani exchange student in the US, has been in a coma since 13 November 2013 when a deer collided with the car he and his friends were riding in outside of the city of Minneapolis. At a local hospital after the accident, Bajwa went into cardiac arrest. Doctors were able to resuscitate him, but he suffered brain damage and has been comatose ever since. 

Just as Bajwa was fighting for his life, another battle was brewing. Bajwa's student visa was set to expire on 28 February, and Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth, Minnesota, where he was transferred after the accident, was making plans to deport him to a Pakistani hospital, saying its hands were legally tied. His family feared Bajwa wouldn't survive the flight. 

A student of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Bajwa was also only insured for one semester for the student exchange program with a cap of 100,000 US dollars, not enough to cover the expensive costs of an extended stay in an American hospital.    

As the visa expiration date neared, support on social media for Bajwa began to pour in, and an online campaign to raise funds and to pressure the US to allow the student to stay for treatment quickly spread throughout the web. Finally, after Pakistan’s Ambassador in the US Jalil Abbas Jilani became involved, Bajwa's brother announced on 20 February that US authorities had agreed to extend the student's visa.  

Social media takes up the cause 

Bajwa's medical costs exceeded 350,000 dollars in mid-February and continued to climb. The hospital agreed to absorb the costs and not dip into the insurance money, but warned (before the visa was extended) that it would cease paying on 28 February. Essentia Health also said it would pay the medical evacuation costs, though it threatened to pull the coverage if the family didn't sign off on returning Bajwa to Pakistan, according to his brother Shahraiz Bajwa.  

With the family unable to fund Bajwa's extensive treatment once the hospital pulled its financial support, his brother launched an online fundraising campaign on website gofundme.com, which has collected to date more than 132,000 US dollars of its 300,000-dollar goal.

On Facebook, groups such as “Support For Shahzaib Bajwa“ helped to spread the word about the need for donations. “Inshallah God will help you guys more. People show that humanity still exists in its full context,” one user, Mubarik Hasan, wrote. Other users, A Facebook user like Mohammad Jibran Nasir published statuses urging friends to help.

The peace initiative of the Jang Group of Pakistan and the Times of India, Aman ki Asha, shared a plea on Facebook from someone who had met Bajwa:

From an Indian about a Pakistani: “I request you from the core of my heart if you could help this lovely guy. I met him on my last visit to Pakistan and I've great memories of the time spent with him. I request you to pl help him out of the situation in which he and his family is.”

Meanwhile, an online petition was created on change.org to demand the extension of Bajwa's visa; it has so far received more than 8,000 signatures. Bajwa's family was not hopeful about the quality of treatment he would receive in Pakistan, and his mother feared signing off on the medical flight would be sending her son to his death. 

On the petition, Ivy Vainio from Minnesota wrote:

Shahzaib needs the best medical care that he can receive right now and he will get it where he is at currently. He is one of the most wonderful young men that I have met. Caring and loving to all. Please renew his visa so that he can stay and get the best treatment available to him.

Richard Mienke argued: 

I would rather see such a brilliant student and decent human being be taken care of until full recovery is attained and then give him the means to continue his degree here in the United States. It is not a question of citizenship, it is a question of humanity and doing the right thing. Period.

On Twitter, users pushed the campaign even further with tweets and retweets. Professor of International Relations, Earth and Environment at Boston University Adil Najam wrote:   

Pakistani journalist, artist and documentary filmmaker Beena Sarwar also requested the US extend Bajwa's visa: 

Political analyst and senior TV anchor Nasim Zehra wanted people to show generosity: 

Slow recovery ahead

Bajwa, who suffered severe facial fractures, will eventually need reconstructive surgery. He remains comatose, but can open his eyes, squeeze his mother's hand, shrug his shoulders and has some movement in his legs.

Doctors at the Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center say that it will take at least a few years to determine his chances of complete recovery. With his visa renewed, officials are now making plans to move Bajwa to a long-term facility in the area. 

Thumbnail image: Screenshot of Facebook page praying for early recovery of Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa

Developing Latin America: Winners of the Regional Acceleration Event

dal2013-2
Last year's Developing Latin America event evolved through several segments according to individual schedules for each of the 12 participating countries. The first segment was called the Apps Challenge, during which everybody had different activities such as conferences, hackathons, presentations of projects and other events throughout the month of October, ending the segment on 26 October with Demo Day [es].

The next segment was called Regional Acceleration. The 34 national winners resulting from the evaluations from Demo Day, who had a month to improve their apps, had the option of applying for this segment which consisted of building up the applications that had been developed with the help of Socialab, [click lower left corner for English] an organization specializing in supporting these enterprises.

After the period of nominations and evaluation by the jury, the six winners of the Regional Acceleration were announced on January 10, three in the form of in person presentations (in Santiago, Chile), and three remotely. They will receive Socialab support for three months.

The in-person Acceleration winners were:

Ayni [es] from Ecuador. “A web and mobile application that can geographically identify computer parts. It allows people to upload computer parts they are not using and generate a map of reusable parts. This map will be used by collectors (public or private entities) for faster recycling and clearer identification of each part.”

Dromos [es] from Ecuador. “Dromos is not just a transportation app. Dromos focuses on the landmarks of a city rather than routes. Using metadata tags to define each landmark it is possible to include criminalistics and tourist attractions, among other features. By not depending on the routes, we suggest intelligent alternatives estimating mobilization times, detours, safety and prices with a visually appealing app.”

Bizu Buzú [es] from Brazil. “Mobile application that offers a professional study plan focused on the skill the user wants to develop, taking advantage of free time on the trip to and from work, providing content in multimedia format so that the experience best fits one’s path of travel. These studies will be like a game and users accumulate points (Bizús) with which to establish a ranking.”

The remote Acceleration winners were:

Conciliador Virtual [Virtual Mediator] [es] from Brazil. “Our application will put interested parties in contact in order to reach a solution to their problems through a real mediator, as well as a real mediating session. In the end, the system will generate a signed and sealed contract.”

Tu Primer Trabajo [Your First Job] [es] from Argentina. “A game that allows young people to go through the experience of a job interview, get and then keep a job. The ability to advance in the game will be subject to the participant being able to correctly respond to questions about situations that could occur in the future. It also includes useful advice.”

Wedoo [es] from Chile. “Wedoo is a platform that seeks to promote the initiatives of NGOs and the laws that arise from them or that they hope to create. An NGO will be be able to not only publish an initiative (with its associated laws) and spread it via social networks, but may also, depending on the timing, encourage and coordinate specific actions by its members to boost their reach and influence.”

Given that two Ecuadorian apps took two out of three places in the in-person Regional Acceleration, there were various reactions from that country. For example, Fundapi, the the partner organization for Developing Latin America Ecuador, was among the first to congratulate them:

Congratulations to the Ayni and Dromos teams, who are the winners of the in-person Regional Acceleration

While the Center for Entrepreneurship at the Polytechnic School of the Coast (ESPOL in Spanish) commented [es]:

Felicitamos de forma especial a los ganadores de este concurso, ensalzando no sólo su potencial y talento sino de todos los ecuatorianos. Son un orgullo para nuestro país y para la ESPOL, siendo algunos de ellos ex-alumnos de nuestra institución.

We especially congratulate the winners of this contest, extolling not only their potential and talent but of all Ecuadorians. They make our country and EPSOL proud, since some of them are alumni of our institution.

Afterwards, ECStartups [es] organized a Hangout with the members of the Ayni group, headed by Luis Bajaña, and Dromos, led by Jorge Domínguez, José Espinoza and David Chang.

The Remote Acceleration starts this month, in February, and ends in April. During this time, Socialab will train the winning teams on topics such as Lean Startup, Business Model Canvas, Design Thinking, etc., and will give them the tools to measure the social impact.

In the case of the in-person Acceleration, which will start in March and end in May, apart from the training mentioned above, the teams will participate in an activity of co-creation “on the ground” with potential users and/or customers. They will also carry out their communication and financial plans, and seek funding for the sustainability of their projects. This is besides, of course, the prize of US $10,000 per team.

In conclusion, here’s a video summary of the Apps Challenge for Developing Latin America 2013:

Other related posts:

2011
Desarrollando América Latina – 30 horas de tecnología y sociedad [es]
Developing Latin America Open Data Project

2012
Developing Latin America 2012
Developing Latin America Draws Near
Day 1 of Developing Latin America 2012
Day 2 of Developing Latin American 2012
Winning Applications from Latin America's Biggest Hackathon

2013

Developing Latin America 2013: Apps Challenge for Social Impact
This Weekend at Developing Latin America Apps Challenge Part I
This Weekend at Developing Latin America Apps Challenge Part II
¡DemoDay en Desarrollando América Latina! [es]

Post originally published in Juan Arellano's blog Globalizado [es].

‘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.

Mayoral Elections in Quito, Ecuador: President Correa on the Campaign Trail

20 de noviembre, 2013. El Movimiento Alianza Pais inscribió los nombres de sus candidadtos para las elecciones seccionales del 2014. Foto: Micaela Ayala V./Andes en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

On November 20th, 2013, the ruling PAIS Alliance party registered the names of its candidates for the 2014 local elections. Photo: Micaela Ayala V./Andes on Flickr, used under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

[All links lead to Spanish language pages, except where otherwise noted.]

In the heat of the electoral battle for mayor of Quito, the statements of Ecuador's highest authorities have gotten more attention than those of the candidates themselves.

The electoral process, officially called the 2014 Elections of the Metropolitan District of Quito, will take place this Sunday, February 23. Six candidates remain in the running, including the city's current mayor Augusto Barrera, a member of the governing PAIS Alliance party. The latest polls show that 42% of respondents intend to vote for the candidate Mauricio Rodas, of the opposition party SUMA-Vive, while support for government party candidate Barrera fluctuates between 36 and 39%.

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, worried by the possibility that his party's candidate may not be reelected as mayor of Quito, recorded the following message for party members [es]:

The message was also published in written form on Correa's Facebook page and in other media. In the written version of the message, Correa cites social media tags and mentions that the right wing has united to take over the mayor's office in Quito. Correa adds:

San Ignacio decía: “En una fortaleza asediada, toda disidencia es traición. Cualquier diferencia entre nosotros la trataremos al día siguiente de la victoria. Quito debe seguir siendo la capital de la Revolución Ciudadana”.

Saint Ignatius said: “In a besieged citadel, all dissidence is treason.” We will settle any differences between us on the day after the victory. Quito must continue to be the capital of the Citizen Revolution.

The message provoked reactions of both support and opposition on Facebook. For example, user Romel Pardo comments approvingly:

Romel Pardo: Bueno señor presidente pueden ganar alcaldias. Pero el presidente de Ecuador ES y sera Rafael Correa. A correa no le gana nadie hay que cambiar la constitucion para que se quede UNOs 20 años mas el 80% de ecuatorianos LO apoyamos

Well, Mr. President, they [the opposition] might win mayoral elections. But the president of Ecuador IS and will remain Rafael Correa. No one can beat Correa. They should change the constitution so that he can have 20 more years; more than 80% of Ecuadorians support HIM.

Meanwhile, Diego Quimbaila disagrees:

Diego Quimbaila: Sr. Presidente para usted mi voto en las elecciones nacionales todo 35, pero para alcalde de Quito ya no Barrera hay cosas buenas pero son más los desaciertos, no caminamos a ningún lado hay caos en esta hermosa ciudad no podemos seguir en esto…

Mr. President, you have my vote in the national elections for your “Todo 35″ plan, but we no longer want Barrera for mayor of Quito. There are some good things, but the mistakes outnumber them. We're not going anywhere, there's chaos in this beautiful city, we can't continue like this.

User Alberto Gallifa brings up an important point:

Alberto Gallifa: En una verdadera democracia un Presidente de la República no debe hacer proselitismo político en favor de ningún candidato!!!!! Eso debería estar penado por la misma Constitución y por el Instituto encargado de regular y avalar las contiendas políticas, mientras eso no suceda Ecuador no tendrá la verdadera Revolución Ciudadana que tanto pregona RC y su país jamás será verdaderamente libre y democrático……

In a true democracy, a President of the Republic must not campaign in favor of any candidate!!!!! This should be punishable by the Constitution itself and by the Institute responsible for regulating and managing electoral contests. Until this happens, Ecuador will not have the true Citizen Revolution that Rafael Correa claims to support, and his country will never be truly free and democratic…

This isn't the only message that President Correa has sent. He sent another on February 12, this time addressing all citizens of Quito, where he reviews the projects and successes of Mayor Barrera and stresses that the right wing wants to boycott the Revolution:

To the voters of Quito, with caring and commitment, as always… 

In this case, however, an internet user put forward a response. Paola tweeted:

Our response to Rafael Correa…

Among other comments, Paola notes that Correa only writes to the Ecuadorian people during election time and when he wants something. She also asks how losing a mayoral election could destabilize the government. Paola adds:

Trato de entender por qué es un “DEBER A CUMPLIR” votar por alguien en particular? [...] Por qué debo sacrificar mi bienestar y el de mi familia por el bien del color de un partido, de un ego y absolutamente nada más? [...] Lo siento Presidente, yo voto por quien yo quiera.

I'm trying to understand how it can be a “DUTY TO FULFILL” to vote for someone in particular? [...] Why should I sacrifice my well-being and that of my family for the good of a party flag, an ego, and absolutely nothing more? [...] I'm sorry, President, but I'm voting for whomever I want.

Other public officials, like Héctor Rodríguez, General Manager of the public company YACHAY, also felt the obligation to tell the citizens of Quito his reasons to vote for Mayor Barrera. In a message tweeted from the account @hrodriguez_, Rodriguez stresses the importance of the public spaces reclaimed by Barrera, and states: “It's not fair that a couple of greedy obsolete neoliberals want to take away our opportunity to continue doing great public work.”

My personal position as a member of Juventudes Alianza PAIS: why I'm voting for Augusto [Barrera] for mayor. 

In recent statements, President Correa declared that if the PAIS Alliance loses the mayoral election in Quito, then “we will begin to see results like those in Venezuela, where Nicolás Maduro faces opposition from Caracas itself every day.” Economist Alfredo Velazco reacts to this on Twitter, saying:

Amenazan con q ‪#‎Ecuador‬ se convertirá en ‪#‎Venezuela‬ si pierden ‪#‎Alcaldía‬ ‪#‎Quito‬ – amenazará también q se convertirá en Maduro? Estas ‪#‎EleccionesEC‬ estarán marcadas en amenazas más que en ofertas de campaña.

They're threatening that Ecuador will turn into Venezuela if they lose the Quito mayoral election – will [Correa] also threaten that he will turn into Maduro [en]? These elections will be marked by threats more than campaign promises.

On February 14, a televised debate took place between the two candidates with the best chances of winning: current mayor Augusto Barrera and opposition candidate Mauricio Rodas. On February 19 another debate took place, this time between five of the six candidates (Mauricio Rodas was absent). Twitter user Vero Salvador summarizes the impression shared by many viewers after the latest debate:

What an embarrassment of a debate! Lame ideas, repetitive irony, tiresome jokes. Like they say in Quito, we are wasting money with these candidates.

A final controversial issue is that President Correa will air his usual television program, or sabatina, on Saturday the 22, the day before the elections. This would violate the fifth subsection of Article 207 of Ecuador's Democratic Code or Organic Electoral Law. In response to this issue, a resigned Domingo Paredes, President of the National Electoral Council (CNE), declared:

During the campaign, it would be preferable for Correa to be at a rally than at the sabatina.

More information about the progress of these upcoming local elections – which will be carried out at a national level, not just in Quito – can be found online at Elecciones 2014 Ecuador, on Twitter under the tag #EleccionesEC, and in the special features of newspapers El Comercio and La Hora.

Finally, we leave you with a satirical music video that pokes fun at one of the government party's campaign mottos, “Todo todito 35,” linking it with criticism of various government policies.

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>

Equatorial Guinea Moves Closer to Becoming Portuguese Language Country

The door has been opened for Equatorial Guinea to enter the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) despite the orienting principles of the intergovernmental organization which pledge “the primacy of peace, Democracy, the Rule of Law, Human Rights and social justice”. 

The recommendation for the country's entry into the organization (which includes Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe and Timor-Leste) was approved unanimously by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs for CPLP, who met in Maputo, Mozambique on February 20, 2014, the eve of UNESCO's International Mother Language Day.

Spanish and French are the official languages of Equatorial Guinea, and Portuguese is now closer to become the third. The country, which has been an Associate Observer of CPLP since 2006, announced a proposal in mid-February for the suspension of the death penalty. This change pleased the diplomatic front of the community as the abolition of capital punishment is one of the conditions for membership. 

However, Equatorial Guinea's “human rights record is particularly concerning”, as highlights writer David Shook in an article published on February 19, one day before CPLP's announcement: 

Under the leadership of Guinean president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, now the longest-serving head of state in Africa, Equatorial Guinea continues to rank among the most corrupt states in the world. 

Shook reports that the most important living writer of the country, Juan Tomás Avila Laurel, has been forced into hiding for his work as an activist. Malabo's security forces threatened him just this week after denying his request for permission to stage “a sit-in protesting a recent wave of police brutality”. Shook stresses:

Juan Tomás Avila Laurel’s safety is currently at risk; he faces dire conditions if captured by Guinean security forces. The international visibility of his situation is an important protection.

He also points to The Human Rights Watch “World Report for 2013“:

Corruption, poverty, and repression continue to plague Equatorial Guinea under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979. Vast oil revenues fund lavish lifestyles for the small elite surrounding the president, while most of the population lives in poverty. Those who question this disparity are branded “enemies.” Despite some areas of relative progress, human rights conditions remain very poor. Arbitrary detention and unfair trials continue to take place, mistreatment of detainees remains commonplace, sometimes rising to the level of torture.

All of this doesn't seem to be relevant now for the representatives of the eight governments that count Portuguese as one of the official languages. The heads of state and government will meet in Dili, Timor-Leste in July to make a decision on Equatorial Guinea's membership. 

“African money #CFA #Malabo”. Photo shared on Flickr by Kaysha (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Reacting to the latest news, the Portuguese chapter of Transparency International, the civic association and corruption watchdog “Transparência e Integridade” (Transparency and Integrity) [pt], tweeted that ”money speaks louder” in the lusophone world. 

Although the government of Portugal had rejected the country's request for membership until now, the relations between the two countries might be changing in times of economic crisis.

Lusomonitor, a website dedicated to the analysis of “lusophone issues” reported [pt] that Equatorial Guinea has injected 133 million euros into Portuguese bank Banif, “helping the Portuguese State to unravel a complicated dossier, which has hindered the fulfillment of the goals of economic and financial adjustment program with the ‘troika'”, composed by the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund.

Meanwhile, civil society organizations have promised to mobilize against the accession [pt] in the coming times.

Check out past Global Voices coverage of Equatorial Guinea, including: 

07 June 2011 – Equatorial Guinea: A Language That Ignores Human Rights
08 June 2012 – Equatorial Guinea: Dictatorship Seeks Entry in Portuguese Language Community

Celebrating Netizens Who Blog in Nigerian Pidgin English

A Linguistic map of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Benin. [Image released to  Creative Commons]

A linguistic map of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Benin. Image released to Creative Commons

There are over 500 indigenous languages currently spoken in Nigeria. However, the official language is English.

The other major languages spoken in Nigeria are:

Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ibibio, Edo, Fulfula and Kanuri. Nigeria's linguistic diversity is a microcosm of Africa as a whole, encompassing three major African languages families: Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, and Niger–Congo.

However, Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE) has gained considerable acceptance as an unofficial second language. According to Naija Tori

Nigerian Pidgin English is a version of English and ethnic Nigerian languages spoken as a kind of lingua franca across Nigeria and is referred to simply as “Pidgin”, “Broken English” or “Broken”. It is estimated that Nigerian Pidgin English is the native language of approximately 3 to 5 million people and is a second language for at least another 75 million.

Sadly, despite the widespread use of NPE, it is yet to be given any official approval. North of Lagos laments:

Hundreds of languages are spoken in Nigeria. Apart from the most prominent–Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and English languages–521 other languages exist that have significant numbers of speakers. 521 languages in one country about double the size of Texas, amazing. So how does a Urhobo man from Delta state converse with a man who speaks Edo [a local language in Nigeria]? English is the official language of Nigeria because of British colonial rule. From the time kids start primary school they are learning and speaking English. The numbers are diminishing, but youth still hear their native languages. They learn Tiv or Igala [Nigerian local languages] in the classroom, just like they learn math and science, and of course if their parents speak something other than English at home, they will speak that. But wheat [sic] you hear students gossiping, it is not in proper British English or deep Yoruba. The language is called Pidgin, or Broken. It is Nigeria’s lingua franca, understood in all 36 states. It is how Nigerians in the most northern cities and those in the Nigeria Delta are able to communicate; yet, you will not find a classroom in the whole country that teaches it.  

Nonetheless, there are Nigerian netizens who blog in NPE. 

Wehomezone, “a pidgin blog that brings it home”, runs socio-political commentary in NPE. For instance, this blog entry is a satire on the alleged budgetary allocation for the zoo in State House:

The time Saka de sing dat im craze song, I don port o, the bobo fit no know say that im song go useful pass MTN advert. For the last one week, people de voke for Naija sake of say dem hear say dem FG budget heavy money to take care of animal for Aso Rock zoo. Naija people wetin de do una sef? Make we no de backward na. as early as 1912 wey Titanic sink, na since dat time oyinbo don show us say animal na equal to man…

Animal de always respect and protect person wey de give am food. But some human being na chop and clean mouth dem be. Dem go chop with PDP only to run go APC. Animal no de abuse dem oga for Facebook. Dem no de get two face. One profile for to praise oga and another fake one to de abuse am de leak im secret.

When Saka sang that his crazy song “I don Port O”, the fellow did not realise that his song merit will outlive [telecom provider] MTN's advert. For the past one week, people have been angry in Nigeria because of the news that the FG's [Federal Government] heavy budgetary allocation to take care of animals in Aso Rock Zoo. Nigerians what is really wrong with you? We should not go backward. As far back as 1912 when Titanic sank, that's when the white man showed us that animals are equal to men…

Animals always respect and protect the person that feeds them. Yet human beings will eat and pretend they've not eaten. They will eat with PDP, only to run to APC. Animals do not abuse their boss on Facebook. They are not two-faced hypocrites. Who have one profile to praise their boss and another fake one to abuse him and leak his secrets.

Cikko's Lair is a fiction blog that has this short story “Crash Course” in Nigerian Pidgin English:

“I no go huzzle (till infinity) but I go bubble (till infinity)…”

I pick d phone. Wizboyy na my man. I no go change my ringing tone till I buy my own jeep. Or till Showkey Baba release song again; anyone wey sha happen first.

“Hello, omo how far na?” Na my guy Kajeta been dey call.

“Guuuuy! Yawa don gas o!”

“Ahn ahn. Wetin happen?”

“Jolomi don get belle oh!”

“Jolo-wetin?”

“Jolomi! And she dey tell men say na you give am d belle.”

“Give wetin? I never see im pant na! I never kiss am sef. How I wan take pregnant am?” Make I tell una true: I been don see her pant sha. Smelling pant for dat matter. But I no wan enter yawa abeg. Which kain wahala be dis?

“I won't work (till infinity) but I will enjoy (till infinity)…”

I picked up the phone. Wizzboy is my man. I will not change my ringtone till I buy my own Jeep. Or until Showkey Baba releases another song; whicher happens first.

“Hello, how are you?” It's your guy Kajeta.

“Man! There's trouble!”

“Ahn ahn. What happened?”

“Jolomi is pregnant!”

“Jolo-what?”

“Jolomi! And she's telling people that you're the one responsible for her pregnancy.”

“Give what? I have never seen her panties! I have never kissed her. How come I'm the one responsible for her pregancy?” Let me be frank: I have seen her panties, a smelly one for that matter. But I want no trouble, please. What type of trouble is this?

Chidi Anthony Opara writes poetry in Pidgin. In “Naija Dey Dishonour Honour” he examines the irony of awarding honours in Nigeria:

Every where,
Even before before for Naija
Dem dey take honour
Tell country people
Wey do better thing dem
Well done.
Person do better sport
Dem go take honour
Tell am well done.
Person write better write write
Dem go take honour
Tell am well done.

Everywhere,

Even in days past in Nigeria
They give honours
To deserving Nigerians
In appreciation of their good work
 
One who excels in sports
Is granted an honour
As a compliment
One who writes well
Is granted an honour
As a compliment

These are also some witty sayings in Pidgin English, such as “He who fights and runs away….Na fear catch am”, which means, “He who fights and runs away… is afraid.” Take a look at some other sayings below:

Pikin wey no sabi em mama boyfriend….Dey call am brother.

A child who does not know his mother's boyfriend… calls him a brother

A rolling stone no just dey roll….Na person push am.

A rolling stone does not just roll… someone must have pushed it

He who lives in a glass house….Na im pepe rest.

He who lives in a glass house… is wealthy

A stitch in time….dey prevent further tear tear.

A stitch in time… prevents further tears

Birds of d same feather….na d same mama born dem.

Birds of the same feather… were born by the same mother

PHOTOS: Humans of the Caribbean

Following in the footsteps of photographer Brandon Stanton's blog Humans of New York series, professional and amateur photographers alike have been creating their own versions of the project across the world. Via blogs and Facebook pages, they are collecting images and stories of people from all walks of life. Here is a glimpse into some of the pages that make up the Caribbean's contribution, featuring the work of regional photographers who want to showcase their country or city through portraits of its diverse people.

Humans of Aruba, by Vanessa Paulina, was one of the first regional projects:

“As I was approaching the ladies got intimidated by my camera and fled the scene. He greeted me nicely so I stopped and asked if I could take his picture and explained to him what the purpose was.
He was okay with it so I asked ‘Fransisco Bennet’ what he was up to and if he could tell me what according to him the secret of a good life was. “
Photo by Vanessa Paulina. Used With Permission.

 

Humans of New York inspired Corrie Scott to start Humans of Barbados in Sept 2013. According to her, these types of projects are “…a wonderful way for us all to get to know us humans around the world.”

“How long does it take you to make these hand crafted palm brooms?”
“About 10 minutes not counting the collecting of the palm leaves, shredding them, gathering the wood for handles and more.”
“How long have you been making them? For me they are an art form in their beauty and the best broom I have ever used.”
“40 years.”
“Make lots of sales?”
” Some, but only to older people as the young generation always asking me what they are for.”
Photo by Corrie Scott, Used with Permission.

 

Humans of St. Croix was started in October 2013 by Charlene Springer:

“The Almighty Creator create all of us and then he give us a way of life. He guides the human beings with prophets to teach these human beings how they should live, how you should worship. This is why I color my beard because of our holy prophet, (peace be upon him, and peace be upon all of the holy prophets), he used to color his beard so I just do that to follow him. It is not for style or beauty, just to follow him. My prophet is Mohammed born in Saudi Arabia and his teaching are spread all over the world. His teachings does not deny any teachings of the previous prophets and actually all the previous prophets teach the same thing, it is the people that keep messing with the prophet's teachings. This is why the Almighty keeps sending different prophets to remind them that this is my way don't go astray.”
Photo by Charlene Springer. Used with Permission.

 

John Manderson started the Humans of Bermuda page back in November:

1397911_567566716646232_479817562_o

Johnny Barnes (born John James Randolf Adolphus Mills, June 23, 1923) is a Bermuda native found waving to passing traffic at the Foot of the Lane roundabout in Hamilton, Bermuda, from roughly 3:45 am to 10 am, every workday, rain or shine. A Bermuda institution mentioned in several guidebooks and profiled in a documentary film, he is known for waving and saying ‘I love you, God loves you,’ to passing commuters during the morning rush hour into Hamilton.” Photo by John Manderson, Used with permission.

 

Nathalie Tancrede also created Humans of Haiti last November. This month, she is launching the page and hopes to “bring attention to the beauty and resilience of the Haitian people.”

“My parents could not afford to send me to school. I now live in the streets with a few other guys.”
He acts tough with the others but told me privately that all he wants is to go to school and learn like the other kids
Photo by Nathalie Tancrede. Used With Permission

 

Edward Russell III started Humans of the Bahamas when he discovered the Humans of New York project, soon after he left his job at a local newspaper, where he'd been a photojournalist for five years.

I looked at this man smiling.

I looked at this man smiling.
“You want to take a picture ey?”
I nodded.
“Go ahead then.”
Took the shot.
“That will be two dollars please!”
Photo by Edward Russell III. Used With Permission.

 

Bobby Ramroop runs the page Humans of Georgetown (Guyana):

1377982_437442436359741_2091216032_n

“If you own a chiney resstrawnt, sell actual chicken for once. And if you and somebody fall out, forgive them and wish them the best. Don't send them christmas cards threatening to stick a corncob around the first 2 corners of their large intestine. If you follow that we’d have a better society.”
Photo by Bobby Ramroop. Used with Permission.

The thumbnail image used in this post is by Corrie Scott, used with permission.

Jamaicans Waiting to See if #WorldBoss is Found Innocent or Guilty

Jamaicans – and dancehall music fans – have been anticipating the long-awaited verdict in the Vybz Kartel murder trial. Two days ago, blogger Annie Paul posted this Facebook status update:

Massive roadblocks, crowds milling round downtown Kingston in anticipation of ‪#‎KartelMurderTrial‬ verdict (which may not even be delivered today)

Journalist Emily Crooks, who blogs here, wrote a first-hand account that supported Paul's update:

Its (sic) February 19, 2014.

There is animation and anxiety in the 200 metre space around the Supreme Court on King Street in downtown Kingston. In courtroom number 2, Vybz Kartel sits in the dock with his co-accused as prosecutor Jeremy Taylor prepares to rubbish the closing argument of defence attorney, Tom Tavares Finson who acts for Kartel. The case has been going on since November 20, 2013 – we are nearing the end. The stakes are high. Security is tight as I have never seen it before.

Downtown is on edge. The precise reason is not known to many.

There are whispers that the police had intelligence overnight.

Her post went on to give an account of the day's court proceedings:

Court is about to resume its morning session. The eleven member panel of jurors takes seat in the box. The judge arrives. Jury is again asked to leave. Christian Tavares Finson [the lead attorney's son] wishes to address the court in the absence of the jury. Something weighs heavily on him. In the normal course of a trial, I do not report matters that transpire in the absence of the jury but these matters are later repeated in their presence hence my reporting of Christian’s burden that weighed him down.

He stands and says to the judge – I am very distressed to see the approach the police have taken this morning – extra police personnel who have descend on the building.

Judge – are you privy to intel the police has – is the judge’s almost impatient reply.

Christian – I am not My Lord but this scenario that bothers me – media representatives have identification, lawyers have identification, workers have to provide identification cards but jurors have to disclose that they are jurors to get unto the Supreme Court complex and that is very irregular and dangerous. Additionally, the family of the accused have been prevented from entering the building. There is no indication as to the reason this is so. I do no know that there is any order from this court.

Soon after that, Crooks reported, the members of the jury were called back inside and Kartel's lead attorney, Tom Tavares Finson, again rasied the matter – this time in the presence of the jury:

At the end of the session, the judge calls the superintendent and says ‘I have been made to understand that members of public some related to the family of accused have been denied entry. I don’t know the reason if any. What I will say is that every Jamaican citizen has a right to the court unless security forces have some reason that could interfere with the rule of court. I wish for you to bear that in mind. I can’t give any instructions as I don’t know what your intelligence is. But I ask you to consider the rights of the citizens regarding access to court. I wish for you to bear that in mind’.

Mr Tavares Finson is later to announce to the court that during lunch he had discussions two police personnel – Superintendent Pinnock and Ellis who reported there was ‘a breakdown in communication and I accept what they have said’.

Judge – do you believe if you had gone to them before the matter would have been dealt with

Tom – No My Lord because it was because of what transpired in court why they came to me.

On Twitter, @Pseud_O_Nym said:

As it turned out, the verdict was not delivered on February 19; the nation is still in limbo, but tweeting while they wait. Late yesterday, @Lacey_World noted:

Emily Crooks later updated the legal timeline:

There were tweets that shared links to Vybz Kartel's full statement to the court

…and tweets that focused on the strategy of the prosecution:

Emily Crooks, who has been religiously using social media to inform netizens about trial developments, tweeted the following updates about a half hour ago:

About ten minutes later, she posted the first closing speech of the trial on her blog, explaining:

These are my verbatim notes, as I able to capture, of the closing speech of Kartel’s attorney, Tom Tavares Finson. Kartel having called witnesses to give evidence on his behalf is the first to make a closing address to the jury. The address of the legal team for Kartel is followed by the address of the prosecutor, Jeremy Taylor.

Closing arguments will continue on Monday and if the judge is right, by mid-week Jamaicans will know whether or not their self-appointed #WorldBoss has been declared innocent or guilty.

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.

Parlez-vous français? Learning French According to Global Voices Translators

Bangui, Central African Republic. The French language retains some of its former influence in the former French colonies in Africa.

Bangui, Central African Republic. The French language retains some of its former influence in the former French colonies in Africa. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

I never fully understood the challenges of learning French until my girlfriend decided to take up the language. She would ask me – a native French speaker – questions that I had no answer for. 

My girlfriend speaks Mandarin and English, and as she asked more questions, I began to realise the extent to which the language I had grown up with in Madagascar is loaded with exceptions. Learning a new language can be a daunting prospect for beginners, but for newcomers to France who are starting from scratch, learning French can be especially challenging. 

French was important as a lingua franca until the middle of the 20th century, but its influence has since waned. Some experts blame the relative decline of French worldwide on the the complexity of the language. 

There have been several attempts over the years to reform and simplify the French language, notably at the level of orthography, but they were mostly ignored. A policy introduced in 1990 put forward general rules and lists of modified words, though institutions have been slow to adopt them

Still, the global influence of French language influence in the world should not be dismissed. French, spoken as a first language in France, Monaco, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, and some parts of Canada and the U.S., has an estimated 110 million native speakers. 190 million more speak French as a second language, and it's registered as an official language in 29 countries. The largest numbers of French second-language speakers reside in Francophone Africa, the largest contingent being from the Democratic Republic of Congo (32 million) and Cameroon (7.2 million). 

A good example of its influence is the scope of Alliance Française, an international non-profit organization that aims to promote French language and culture around the world. Each year, 450,000 people of all ages attend French classes at Alliances Française in 136 countries.

The question remains: how does learning French compare with other languages? We posed the question to a few members of the Global Voices family, and also asked them to share any tips they had for beginners. Here's what they said:

 Carol Bidwell 

As an English native speaker who has learnt both French and German, I have to say both are tricky for different reasons. French pronunciation can be quite tricky if you aren't coming from an Romance language background, and I have found that in some situations (mainly dealing with official/ government stuff) French people can be quite dismissive if your pronunciation isn't perfect, which can be demoralizing. In terms of grammar too, French is full of exceptions to rules, so as soon as you feel like you've learnt something there is more to learn! I don't want this to sound too negative though, because it does get easier and sticking at it is definitely worth it!

 Andrew Kowalczuk

French is one of the most idiomatic languages, and there are thousands of them, too many to study, so you have to learn gradually from context.

Thalia Rahme : 

French is my second language after Arabic. In Lebanon, at home or in the streets, Lebanese people speak basic French. Nevertheless, I think that my Lebanese English-educated friends training have had some difficulties because they only start taking French as a third language in schools when they are 11. 
 
But I notice many don't retain much of what they have learned [and they] also tend to feel embarrassed when speaking in public [especially] the pronunciation…Still, the French taught in schools in Lebanon is the formal one,so if you go to France you will feel as if in another planet when hearing some of the local idioms or slang. Also we have developed our Lebanized French i.e. by turning some of the Lebanese expressions into French 

 Alison McMillan quotes from a blog that explains the struggle of learning a new language:

You speak your native language. It is organized in certain ways: the grammar with its subject, verb and object in a certain order; different levels of politeness; and your culture mirrored in this structure as well as in idiom and metaphor. You express yourself in terms of it; you came to yourself through it; in effect, you are it. When you learn another language, you learn a different way to organize reality. When you grow fluent in this new language, you can say and even do things in ways you could not previously; certain new aspects are highlighted, and some things that you originally could more precisely formulate are now missing.

Danielle Martineau:  

French has its quirks like all languages. I started learning French when I was 9 and like anything else it's just commitment and practice and pushing through the hard part in the beginning. I do recommend this video. It is a TED talk by the Fluent in three months guy, Benny Lewis. He says something that I think is really accurate about people learning a new language. Usually they are shy and afraid to make mistakes so they never really jump right in from the beginning for fear of being judged. They think other people will be offended by their imperfect language skills when most people are just thrilled that you are making an effort and taking an interest in their culture and language. Also a lot of French people will correct you when you make mistakes in speech – it's not considered rude, and I actually really love it.  Nothing like making a mistake to learn how to do things right!

Suzanne Lehn

As a French person, my experience with the issue is an indirect one. I know a Chinese lady who married a Frenchman and they live in the US, so the language they have in common is English. [..] The big difference between Chinese and French languages: the grammar, it seems! Almost non-existent in Chinese and cumbersome in French. Also one must be aware that one can/should learn the oral language first. I know a lady who speaks perfect oral French from having lived in France for 2 years, but still cannot write it at all.

Georgia Popplewell

I come from staunchly Anglophone Trinidad and Tobago, but I enjoy learning languages, and didn't find French particularly difficult. After studying it for three years in secondary school, I changed to Spanish, then somehow decided to major in French at university. I don't think I'd still be speaking French fairly fluently today, however, if I hadn't spent five months living and working in Martinique shortly after graduating. Having to communicate exclusively in French for that period seems to have locked the language into my brain.

I also have a far larger vocabulary in French than in Spanish, and I attribute that to the fact that I've read more widely in French. Gaining a solid grasp of a language, in my opinion, entails engaging with both living, contemporary examples of the language, such as you encounter in films, newspapers and magazines, and the more formal kind of language you'd find in literary works as well.

Jane Ellis:

French is a language where, the more you know, the harder it gets. One of the hardest things is definitely the grammar. In particular, I have found the passé simple very hard to use, as well as the subjunctive. I am getting a lot better at the subjunctive, but it is very difficult for a British person who has never even been taught about the existence of the subjunctive in English (!) to compute/process a whole new way of theoretical thinking.

Also, for me, the speaking is definitely the hardest. I freely admit to being hopeless as speaking French! I am confident on paper, but not orally. Lack of practice since I have been living in a Spanish-speaking country for the past three years and learning the local lingo, plus, I have to say, also due to rebuffs when trying to speak French to French-speakers.
As a result, although my Spanish is garbled and pretty hopeless, I am MUCH more confident about trying to speak it because the locals are so encouraging and friendly.

Lova Rakatomalala is Global Voices’ editor for the Francophone region. When he first arrived from Madagascar to the US as a freshman at Tulane University, his fear of speaking English with a French accent was so overwhelming that he selected classes on the sole basis that they not require him to speak in public. He tweets—in French, Malagasy and English!—at @lrakoto.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Nigerian President Suspends Central Bank Head for ‘Financial Recklessness’

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was relieved of his job on February 20, 2014 by President Goodluck Jonathan for “financial recklessness and misconduct”. He has since been replaced by the most senior CBN deputy governor Dr. Sarah Alade.

press release from the presidential adviser for media and publicity detailed the reasons for suspending Sanusi: 

Having taken special notice of reports of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other investigating bodies, which indicate clearly that Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s tenure has been characterized by various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct which are inconsistent with the administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by the core values of focused economic management, prudence, transparency and financial discipline;

Being also deeply concerned about far-reaching irregularities under Mallam Sanusi’s watch which have distracted the Central Bank away from the pursuit and achievement of its statutory mandate; and  

Being determined to urgently re-position the Central Bank of Nigeria for greater efficiency, respect for due process and accountability, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has ordered the immediate suspension of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from the Office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.  

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi [Image released under the Creative Commons Licence]

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Image by David Shankbone and released under the Creative Commons licence.

It's not the first time the former chief banker of Nigeria has been in the news. Last year, the contents of a letter he wrote to the president were leaked to the press

Mr. Sanusi’s had in September written a letter to to President Goodluck Jonathan detailing the theft of close to $50 billion in oil proceeds by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The letter later to the press and became a subject of public discourse.

Although Mr. Sanusi later revised the figure of the missing funds down to $12 billion, reportedly due to threats by associates of President Jonathan to make an issue of his reckless spending and philandering, the president concluded that the CBN governor’ pronouncement is set out to embarrass his government and demean his office.

However, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation denied the allegations from the former bank chief, saying he was playing politics in a report by the Daily Trust newspaper:

Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday denied reports credited to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Sanusi Lamido Sanusi  that it withheld $49.8bn (equivalent N8 trillion) representing 76% of the total crude oil revenues from January 2012 to July 2013.

NNPC spokesman Omar Farouk Ibrahim said in a statement that the allegation is borne out of misunderstanding of the workings of the oil and gas industry and the modality for remitting crude oil sales revenue into the Federation Account.

A defiant Sanusi late last month once again accused the NNPC of corruption, according to a report by Premium Times

Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido, struck a defiant tone again Tuesday, accusing state-run oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, of failing to pay to the federation account at least $20 billion of government oil revenues.

Prior to the announcement, a YouTube video uploaded by Chime Asonye titled “Overcoming the fear of vested interest, Sanusi Lamido at TEDxYouth@Maitama” had gone viral in Nigeria's blogosphere.

The suspension of the bank chief has drawn the ire of Nigerian netizens. Namama thought it's another imprudent decision by the president:

Tunde Bakare asserted that suspending Sanusi will not arrest the corruption in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC):

Helen Alfred insisted that Nigerians deserve the truth about the missing funds that Sanusi spoke about:

Another tweep accused the government of double standards:

Not all tweets were critical of the government though. For instance, blogger and writer, Willy Wonka wondered about the uproar on Twitter:

Recap of the Blog Carnival ‘Do You Love the Internet?’

logofest2

[All links lead to Spanish language pages.]

As we announced a few days ago, the moment has arrived to present the results of our Blog Carnival, this time a whirlwind event of only five days. The theme was I Love the Internet, and how to express this idea was left up to the imagination and creativity of the participating bloggers. The idea emerged in support of the online campaign #YoAmoInternet (I love the Internet).

So let's see what our blogger friends had to say. We'll start with Milton Ramirez, an Ecuadorian living in New York, who posted on Geek's Room that “at first it seems like a grammatical mistake” to talk about loving the Internet, since love is normally something that occurs only between people. But he later explains that “the point is to value the uses of the Web. Express your gratitude in the context of Valentine's Day for the benefits that the Internet offers you.” Finally, he concludes:

Amo el internet porque sin él no estuvieran leyendo estas líneas y porque nos ha servido para conocer millones de personas en miles de áreas. No más expertos y no más restricciones sobre la información.

I love the Internet because without it, you wouldn't be reading these lines, and because it has enabled us to meet millions of people in thousands of places. No more experts and no more restrictions on information.

Ángeles Estrada of Nicaragua, posting from France on her Blog de Ángeles, begins her post with the comment: “It seemed funny to think of the Internet fondly. Like that… with affection everywhere for the day of love and friendship.” After telling us about her journey on the internet, she confesses why she loves it:

Internet me ha dado otra vida. Una vida virtual que se adiciona a mi vida real y suma, llena y complementa. Abre puertas a mi curiosidad y apacigua la inquietud de mi espíritu inquieto, explorador, aventurero, quizás vagabundo. Mi vida hoy es una fusión entre lo real y lo virtual, intima y durable. Una simbiosis perfecta, hongo y árbol.

The Internet has given me another life. A virtual life in addition to my real life, which adds to it, fills it, and complements it. It opens doors to my curiosity and calms the restlessness of my inquisitive, exploring, adventurous, and sometimes vagabond spirit. My life today is a fusion of the real and the virtual, intimate and durable. A perfect symbiosis, like a fungus living on a tree.

Nscap, ciudadana del mundo (2.0) is the blog of Isabel Garnica of Spain, living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She gets straight to the point, stating:

Yo Amo Internet porque: aprendo, enseño, trabajo, comparto mi trabajo, viajo, blogueo, juego, hago amigos, conozco personas, porque #InternetCambiaTodo, porque me siendo una ciudadana global, reivindico derechos, difunde proyectos sociales, nos empodera como ciudadanos, ayuda a caer dictadores, por muchas muchas muchas más razones… y sobretodo porque me permite soñar un mundo mejor.

I Love the Internet because: I learn, teach, work, share my work, travel, blog, play, make friends, meet people, because #InternetCambiaTodo [the Internet Changes Everything], because it makes me feel like a citizen of the world, because it enables us to defend rights and share social projects, because it empowers us as citizens, helps bring down dictators, and for many, many, many more reasons… and above all, because it allows me to dream of a better world.

Gabriela García Calderón writes her blog Seis de enero from Lima, Peru. She reminds us of what it was like when communication took place via letters written on paper, and how things have evolved thanks to the Internet:

¿Por qué amo internet? Porque nos comunica, nos conecta, nos contacta, nos acerca y más con apenas un clic. Y porque además permite que la magia del correo real siga existiendo, espero que por mucho tiempo.

Why do I love the Internet? Because it links us, connects us, puts us in contact, brings us together, and more, with just a click. And because, for that matter, it allows the magic of regular mail to continue existing, hopefully for a long time.

On the blog Creatividad Rezumante, Alicia Cortés of Extremadura, Spain describes her love for the Internet in an inspired poem:

Internet, te amo
por tí navegaría
toda la noche y el día
prendida a tu mano…

Volaría sin tiempo
en tus redes de viento

Internet, I love you
I'd surf with you
All night and all day
Hand in hand
I'd fly, timeless
On the winds of your networks

On her blog Veo y escribo, Daniela Gallardo, of Loja, Ecuador, tells us about her typical day on the internet and her favorite sites to visit, but first gets honest:

Debo amarlo demasiado para dedicarle un post (algo que ni siquiera lo he hecho con mi novio) por San Valentin. La verdad es que #YoAmoInternet porque, básica y sencillamente, me tiene conectada al mundo. Es fascinante si no lo llevamos al extremo, claro.

I must love it too much, if I'm dedicating a Valentine's Day post to it (which I haven't even done for my boyfriend). The truth is that I love the internet because, plain and simple, it keeps me connected with the world. It's fascinating, if we don't take it to the extreme, of course.

Gina Yauri, also of Loja, tells us about her relationship with the Internet in her blog Ximealito, concluding:

Internet es un mundo de información abierto que tiene varias puertas, solo debes saber cómo utilizarlas y bajo tu responsabilidad sabrás llevar una vida plena con una pasión por el internet.

The Internet is an open world of information that has various doors. You just need to know how to use them responsibly, and you'll be able to live a full life with a passion for the Internet.

Iván Mejía, blogger of Tantas Cosas, writes a letter recounting his history with the Internet and reflects:

A veces de tan cotidiano parece difícil procurarle amor al internet, como la electricidad el internet ( o será la internet?) pareciera algo que solo se aprecia cuando se va.

 Sometimes it seems difficult to feel love for the Internet, since it's an everyday thing. Like electricity, the Internet seems like something that only gets appreciated once it's gone.

Israel Rosas of Mexico also writes a letter to the Internet on his self-titled blog:

Dicen que ya no eres aquella a quien solíamos conocer, que los ataques te han hecho cambiar y que las cosas ya no serán como antes. Hoy te escribo convencido de que mantienes esa naturaleza abierta e innovadora con la cual te conocí y que tanto me gusta.

They say that you're no longer who I used to know, that people's attacks have made you change, and that things can't go back to the way they were before. Today I'm writing to you convinced that you still have that open and innovative nature that you had when I met you and that I like so much.

Writing her blog Cosas del Alma from her native Medellín, Colombia, Catalina Restrepo lists the reasons why she likes the Internet, from access to information to sharing with others, and then declares:

a usar internet. A usarlo bien. El problema no es la herramienta, si no su uso. Y es uno el que decide lo que hace con lo que le dan. Creo que yo lo usé para encontrarme con el mundo.

Use the Internet. Use it well. The problem is not the tool, but the way it is used. And it's the individual who decides what to do with what they are given. I think that I used it to meet up with the world.

Madame Web, from the Colombian city of Pasto, writes the blog La lógica de mi Papá. She tells us that this isn't the first time that she's going public about her love for the Internet, but adds:

Debo decir que este amor ya no es el mismo que al principio, ha ido cambiando a medida que la red ha crecido y como en toda relación ahora hay cosas que, pequeños detalles, me molestan…como la propagación de virus, spam y troyanos…pero es algo inevitable, aunque tomando las medidas correctas se pueden prevenir estos males y otros relacionados con la seguridad online. [...] Ahí les dejo esa inquietud, ¿Qué tan buenos usuarios somos?

I have to say that this love isn't the same as it was at the beginning. It has changed as the Internet has grown, and like in any relationship, there are now things, little details, that bother me… like the spread of viruses, spam, and Trojans… but it's inevitable, though you can prevent these and other problems by taking appropriate measures with online security. [...] So I'll leave you with this concern: As users, how good are we?

The people of the Mexican collective blog Sursiendo explain the Internet and why we should love it:

Internet es lo que queramos que sea, por eso lo amamos, porque en nuestras manos  (mentes, corazones…) está darle forma y comprometerse con él/ella(ello), para que no desaparezca, no lo mutilen, no lo neutralicen, no lo desvirtúen o no lo controlen. No lo dejemos en otras manos. Amemos Internet.

The Internet is what we want it to be. That's why we love it. Because in our hands (minds, hearts) lies the responsibility to give it form and commit to it, so that it doesn't disappear or get mutilated, neutralized, distorted, or controlled. Let's not leave it in the wrong hands. Let's love the Internet.

José del Sol writes Buscando el optimismo from Irún, Spain. He recounts how at first it was love at first sight, but now:

De vez en cuando reflexionamos sobre cómo hemos evolucionado. Mis kilos siguen ahí, no como mi pelo, y ella ya no es aquel mundo inocente e ilusionado de cuando nos conocimos. A veces fría y comercial -hay que vivir-, otras enfrascada en luchas políticas, los dos tememos qué le pueda llegar a pasar. Últimamente ha crecido el peligro de que de artesana autónoma pase a ser funcionaria sin identidad de un estado policial o empresaria libertaria sin respeto por la privacidad de nadie. No sabemos qué camino seguirá, pero como con una persona, creo que no podré abandonarla a su suerte.

From time to time we reflect on how we have changed. My extra pounds are still here, unlike my hair, and she [the Internet] is no longer the innocent and hopeful world that she was when we met. Sometimes she's cold and commercial – one must survive – and other times she's caught up in political fights. We both fear what might happen. Lately the fear is growing that she might transform from an independent artist into a faceless servant of a political state or a libertarian business with no respect for anyone's privacy. We don't know which path she will follow, but like with a person, I don't think I could abandon her to her fate.

Mexican activist Jesús Robles Maloof explains his position in a post on his blog:

Defenderé un internet libre porque me ha permitido conectarme con otros y luchar por la libertad de las personas. [...] No me imagino su libertad sin internet y en este sentido amo a internet. La vigilancia masiva de la red amenaza esta capacidad de movilización al dar a los gobiernos la posibilidad de anticiparse.

I will defend a free Internet because it has allowed me to connect with others and fight for people's liberty. [...] I can't imagine their liberty without the Internet, and in this sense, I love the Internet. The massive network surveillance threatens this capacity for mobilization by giving governments the opportunity to forestall action.

Bolívar Loján Fierro writes the blog Ni lo uno ni lo otro, más bien todo lo contrario from Loja, Ecuador. He tells us about the procedure that was necessary to make a phone call 40 years ago and compares it with the immediacy of modern tools like Skype. In a science fiction plot twist, his last paragraph is written from the year 2020:

Estoy a mis 72 años liderando en el mundo una campaña de “Derecho a la privacidad”, mi compañera llamada “Internet”, en una pequeña pelea que tuvimos colocó mis datos a disposición del mundo. Me birlaron lo poco de mis ahorros y de privacidad. Me fui a vivir en la montaña, donde queda un poco de agua, elemento vital que perdimos mientras todos estábamos sentados asumiendo que el mundo se podía construir desde un teclado, cosas táctiles y realidades aumentadas. “Amo a internet”, era mi grito de guerra, ahora es “Amo a mi privacidad”, mientras los analfabetas digitales que viven en el campo felices con sus sementeras y ancestros en la ciudad andan como locos buscando algo que llaman comida virtual. Ya la privacidad poco importa.

I'm 72 years old, leading a campaign called “The Right to Privacy.” During a fight we had, my companion, named “Internet,” posted all my information for the world to see. My meager savings and privacy were stolen. I went to live in the mountains where there was a little water left, a vital element that we had lost while we were all sitting around assuming that the world could be constructed via keyboards, touch screens, and augmented realities. “I love the Internet” was my war cry. Now it's “I love my privacy,” like the digital illiterates who live in the countryside happy with their crop fields, while their ancestors in the city run around like crazy people looking for something that they call virtual food. And privacy matters little.

So, although the Carnical was only 5 days in length, we were pleased to see that various bloggers participated. We recommend following the links in each participating post so that you can read the bloggers’ full opinions. I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude (and that of Global Voices en Español) to all the bloggers for their effort and dedication in contributing their valuable time to this initiative.

And, of course, Happy Valentine's Day!

Spain's Love-Hate Relationship With The New York Times

A news stand in Madrid. Photo by Flickr user Juanedc. CC BY 2.0

A news stand in Madrid. Photo by Flickr user Juanedc. CC BY 2.0

When The New York Times reports on Spain, Spanish media report on The New York Times. The American newspaper's coverage of the country throughout the crushing economic crisis of the last several years has routinely made headlines, and a February 18, 2013 story about the relative lateness of Spain's national schedule was no exception.

The article, titled “Spain, Land of 10 P.M. Dinners, Asks if It’s Time to Reset Clock“, profiles a small movement that wants to bring the country's traditional schedule – with its late bedtime, long lunches and even longer workdays – in line with the rest of Europe in the hopes of boosting productivity. 

The Gray Lady's story, which ran on the front page of the print edition below the fold, made its way into the Spanish news cycle throughout the day, appearing on more than a dozen news sites. Criticism was heaped on reporter Jim Yardley for evoking the stereotypical siesta, or midday nap, a thing of the past for most working people in Spain and a sore spot for Spaniards fed up with skewed foreign coverage. 

Some outlets used headlines claiming that The New York Times “criticizes the Spanish lifestyle” or was outright “against the siesta and Spanish schedule.” A poor translation of the story's own headline that traded “Spain [...] Asks if It's Time to Reset Clock” for the more accusatory “Spain, [...] Ask Yourselves if It's Time to Change Schedules” (“España, el país de las cenas a las 10 P.M, preguntaos si no es hora de cambiar los horarios“) further fanned the flames.

While some Spaniards got behind the idea of dialing back their country's clock, others took to social media to defend Spanish culture.

And we're all bullfighters and play the guitar

It seems that to work at The New York Times it's essential to hate Spain and its customs

Totally in favor of changing our schedule habits, but I prefer dinner at 10 than having a handgun at home

Kick ‘em when they're down

It's not the first time during the economic crisis that The New York Times or other American and British media have acted as a rallying point for Spaniards who see the reporting as sensationalized or arrogant. British newspaper The Telegraph ruffled feathers with a similar report in September 2013 (“Time's up for siestas, delayed meetings and late nights, Spaniards told in effort to make them work better“) on a Spanish parliamentary commission's call to reform the working schedule. A photo of a shirtless pot-bellied man sleeping upright in a chair outdoors originally accompanied the story, but was swapped after the paper received complaints for a less crude shot of a man in a button-up shirt and newsboy cap napping in a horse-drawn carriage. 

Much more outcry followed another front-page, below-the-fold story published in The New York Times in 2012 that featured a black-and-white photo of a man rummaging through a dumpster. The article detailed the problem of hunger against the backdrop of Spain's high unemployment – about a quarter of all Spaniards are out of work, while the number is closer to 50 percent for young people – and cited Catholic charity Caritas’ report that it had provided meals for nearly one million Spaniards in 2010, more than twice the number in 2007 before the crisis. A slide show of photos capturing scenes of protest and poverty was published online alongside it.  

The story and accompanying photos sparked heated discussions online. An Internet campaign #paraNYTimes countered the narrative by collecting more positive snapshots of daily life. One user on Reddit-like website menéame wrote:

Sensacionalista, podría poner fotos similares sobre los EEUU, en blaco y negro y todo, y hacerlos parecer un país tercermundista.

Sensationalized, you could find similar photos about the US, in black and white and everything, and make it seem like a third-world country

In a different discussion thread, user “josejon” argued

El reportaje da una imagen parcial de España: realidad cierta, pero no completa. Es comprensible que media docena de fotos no pueden abarcar todo un país, y que el fotógrafo tiene derecho a escoger y mostrar una parte del todo, según su interés o el tema que desea reflejar, pero después nos encontramos con la opiníon generada por ello en quienes, desde el desconocimiento y la distancia, juzgan el todo por la parte, lo unifican y España entera somos los de las fotos. No es así, y lo sabemos.

The report gives a partial image of Spain: true fact, but not complete. It's understandable that half a dozen photos can't cover the whole country and that the photographer has the right to choose and display only a selection according to his interests or the theme that he wishes to convey, but afterward we are left with the opinion that it generates in people who, in ignorance and from a distance, judge the whole by the part and put it together that all of us in Spain are those in the photos. It's not like that, and we know it.

Holding up a mirror

Others saw the story as confirmation that the situation in Spain had indeed gone from bad to worse. Responding to an analysis published by online news site eldiario.es, “What happens when the most influential newspaper on the planet gives you the third degree,” commenter “kio” wrote:

Muy de marca españa eso de invertir más energía en preocuparse más por la imagen que se da al exterior, “el que dirán”, que de arreglar las cosas de casa. No importa que haya gente que pase o se muera hambre, lo importante es que no se enteren los de fuera. Patético.

Very much in line with the Spanish brand, all this investment of energy in worrying more about the image being broadcast to the world, “what they will say”, than about fixing things at home. It doesn't matter that there may be people starving or dying of hunger. The important thing is that those abroad don't hear about it. Pathetic.

When it was revealed last summer by an ex-Popular Party treasurer that current Spanish President Mariano Rajoy had received payments from a secret slush fund for years, the international media coverage was taken by some as an important echo of the corruption in the country's politics. 

Shameful…even the New York Times says that Rajoy should beat it. How pitiful Spain is, damn…

Even the Financial Times is talking bad about Rajoy, let's see if he has a little bit of dignity left, I doubt it, and steps down once and for all

And a New York Times piece from May 2013 detailing the culture of corruption in local and national politics – about 1,000 officials were under investigation at the time, according to the article – stirred up similar reactions.

“I hope the damage that this New York Times article causes to this rotten system makes it so that there are more and more people who are ready to change this terrible reality of corruption, abuse and power,” a menéame commenter wrote.

The power of foreign coverage 

But why is so much attention given to foreign media's editorial choices? With tourism a major driver of the Spanish economy, accounting for 10.9 percent of the country's economic output in 2012 according to Spain's National Institute of Statistics, many worry about the marca España, or Spanish brand, being portrayed to the rest of the world.

Positive coverage can certainly have an impact. After The New York Times included Burgos in its list of “46 Places to Go in 2013,” the northern Spanish city saw a staggering 145 percent jump in American tourists, what one local paper dubbed “the New York Times effect.” And the level of confidence that potential overseas investors have in the stability of a country can make or break their decision to put money there. 

But with foreign coverage sticking to its largely negative focus and the country's political and economic struggles still ongoing, #MarcaEspaña has become go-to sarcastic commentary on social media for Spaniards unhappy with the current state of affairs.

Still, others recommend ignoring the coverage. For better or worse, foreign media will continue to report on Spain how they want.

The New York Times writes an article about Spain and we get upset. When we stop getting worked up about what others think we will be better off

L. Finch is a journalist, translator, lead Global Voices sub-editor and Spanish-language lover. Originally from the US Midwest, she now calls Madrid home.

Tunisia: Jailed Facebook User Pardoned, Release Unconfirmed

After spending nearly two years in prison, Jabeur Mejri jailed for posting content deemed offensive to Islam, obtained presidential pardon, local media reported on Wednesday.

In March 2012, Mejri was sentenced to seven and half years imprisonment for posting Prophet Muhammad cartoons on his Facebook page. His friend, Ghazi Beji who published an ebook named “the illusion of Islam”, received the same sentence in absentia after fleeing the country. He now lives in France after obtaining asylum there.

They were found guilty of ‘publishing material liable to cause harm to public order or good morals', ‘insulting others through public communication networks’ and ‘assaulting public morals'.

Mejri was repeatedly denied pardon requests made by his defense team, despite multiple promises from interim President Moncef Marzouki to release him.

For instance, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) last September, Marzouki said that he is “waiting for the good political moment” to release Mejri.

“Now when you have this situation with the Salafists, extremely violent, releasing this guy right now could be dangerous for himself”, he added drawing criticism from human rights activists who considered his statement as an excuse to keep Mejri in prison.

On Facebook, the President's office confirmed the pardon[ar]:

الناطق الرسمي باسم رئاسة الجمهورية السيد عدنان منصر على موجات شمس إف إم :رئيس الجمهورية أمضى منذ أيام عفوا خاصا عن جابر الماجري في القضية الأصلية

The official spokesperson of the Presidency of the Republic Mr Adnan Mansar speaking on Radio Shems FM: Days ago, the President of the Republic signed a special pardon for Jabeur Mejri in the first case

Twitter reactions followed:

Ghassen Yahia referred [fr] to the country's new constitution which guarantees freedoms of speech, thought and conscience. The same charter, adopted last January bans “attacks on sanctities”, though.

Jabeur freed? Is this the first implementation of the new constitution?

Yamina Thabet, president of the Tunisian Association for Minorities, tweeted [fr]:

#freejabeur…it is too late, this is not a pardon but an attempt to repair a serious blow to human dignity

Cartoon in support of Jabeur Mejri, by Fey

Cartoon in support of Jabeur Mejri, by Fey


Martin Pradel called for caution [fr]:

The pardon was announced a while ago, it should have been signed. But, caution as long as Jabeur has not been effectively released

Though pardoned, Mejri's release remains unconfirmed. The privately owned radio Shems FM reported that he remains in prison over an old lawsuit against him.

In a statement published yesterday [Feb 19, 2014], his support committee said [fr]:

Nous ne pouvons confirmer ou infirmer, pour le moment, ce nouveau rebondissement dans le dossier de Jabeur Mejri

Right now, we can neither confirm nor deny this new development in the case of Jabeur Mejri

Last January, the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) announced that Mejri would soon be released to travel to Sweden where he obtained political asylum.

Molka Chaari tweeted [fr]:

Pardoned, ok. But is he “obliged” to leave the country???

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