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April 24 2013

Visiting World's ‘Most Dangerous Country’

Every day I wake up, shivering with fear, hoping I’ll make it to see the light of another day here in Honduras. I live behind doors enforced with triple bolt locks and I barely dare to go out on the street. [...]

If that’s what you want to hear, there you have it.
But the truth is quite different.

Blogger Carin Steen argues that “the most dangerous country in the world” is actually not that dangerous for tourists.

April 10 2013

Honduras’ Indigenous Reject Hydroelectric Project

Simply put, this dam is a death sentence to the indigenous communities that have lived here for generations.

Indigenous communities of Rio Blanco, Honduras, blocked the main access road to the “Agua Zarca” hydroelectric dam on April 5 to demand the closing of the project. Construction is already underway, even though the communities “were not adequately consulted nor allowed to participate in the process leading to the project,” as Joshua Nichols reports for Intercontinental Cry.

March 10 2013

The State of Torture in the World in 2013

On January 23, 2013, an excerpt from the annual report of l'ACAT-France, A World of Torture 2013, makes a fresh assessment of the state of torture in the world [fr]:

“A report called A World of Torture in 2013, assesses torture practices that continue to be alarming, from Pakistan to Italy, by way of South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Bolivia. From authoritarian regimes to democratic countries, none are exempt from criticism on the topic. In 2013, torture remains as endemic, omnipresent and multi-faceted as ever”.

February 28 2013

Latin America Turns to iPhone App to Take Hammerheads Off the Chopping Block

The 400-pound hammerhead shark, hunting through the waters of Latin America, first marked its territory 400 million years ago. Now, the process of “finning”  — chucking their bodies seaward after sawing off their pricy fins — threatens to wipe them off the map.

Countries across Latin America are on a mission to wrangle them onto the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) list for protection. They’re armed with a new iPhone app that promises to make fin identification  — previously a roadblock to protecting the prehistoric predator  — quick and easy.

“Basically, you push a button. It asks a question. You look at the phone, and you say, ‘Does it have a big white patch on there?’ You click ‘yes,’ and it just guides you through, and at the end it tells you the answer to what it is,” explained Demian Chapman, a marine biologist with PEW Charitable Trust's shark-saving campaign. He streamlined his shark fin research from a stack of paper into an all-inclusive icon, tentatively titled “shark fin soup.”

Cites tussled with the idea of putting three hammerhead sharks — scalloped, great and smooth  — along with the oceanic whitetip and spiny dogfish on their endangered species list in 2010. They rejected all but the porbeagle shark, pointing out that regulators have to be able to tell fins of different species apart to enforce the law, previously thought to be an impossible task. Listing the sharks at the March 2013 meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, would help fund financially strapped programs in Latin America and restrict global trade.

Defenders of Wildlife, an animal advocacy group, blogged:

Being listed under CITES would mean that international trade in the fins and other parts of sharks would be closely monitored and regulated to make sure that the species would not be threatened with extinction. Given that one of the largest threats to the species is due to trade, regulation could make a huge difference.

Inspiration for the app first struck Chapman from Chinese fin traders. They easily rattle off names for each shark’s fin and fork over a different value for each one.

“If Chinese traders can tell the sharks apart, so can customs workers and other enforcement. We found that it is very easy to train people to do what the Chinese traders do,” said Chapman.

Hammerhead shark, Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Image from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Hammerhead shark, Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Image from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Tens of millions of sharks end up in shark fin soup each year, according to Oceana, a marine conservation group. Diners prefer the larger hammerhead fins, chalked full of a key soup ingredient called fin needles.

Thanks to their beefy fins, hammerhead numbers plummeted 80 percent in some regions.

In Panama, hammerheads swim to shore to give birth, making them easier prey than deep sea fish for smaller boats. As a result, 96 percent of cleaved fins belong to sharks too young to have reproduced, according to MarViva, an organization that helps enforce fishing laws in Central and South America.

Chapman flew to Latin America, where the fin trade is booming, to collect samples. He has gathered, photographed and analyzed over 1000 fins from more than 40 shark species around the world. His team crossed referenced their findings with DNA samples to ensure accuracy.

They transformed their research into an app, currently formatted for the iPhone with future designs to make it available across the board for smartphones.

Every shark on the app sports unique characteristics on their dorsal fins.

“The oceanic whitetip, as its name implies, has this massive white patch, which is very distinctive on the top of its dorsal fin. The porbeagle actually has a similar white patch, but it’s on the lower edge of the fin,” said Chapman.

Questions flash: “Is it a shark fin? Are the edges black or white? The questions are very specific… We make decisions based on those answers, that’s what computers are really good at,” said George Mandala, the app developer.

Untrained law enforcement will sort through fins with enough knowledge in hand to spot a red flag, allowing for further testing to find out if a fin belongs to an endangered species.

“These guys are not marine biologists. This boils it down for them to really quickly be able to say yes or no,” said Mandala.

Scientists will verify and answer questions through an email feature.

“We can agree or disagree and give you pointers on things to look for,” said Chapman. “What we’re really interested in is taking away the ability of people to break the law and just slip fins through with enforcement not being able to know what they are looking for.”

The app intrigued other endangered species groups, who struggle with authorities catching endangered animals being traded, Mandala said.

“From a computer programming standpoint, a question is a question, so if they wanted to do it for elephants, or lions, or tigers, or whatever, it could be retrofitted to that.”

Scientists lack data about migratory patterns and exactly how many fins make it to market. The app, currently available in English, French and Spanish, will send key information that will help collect statistics: fin photos, location and a description.

Latin America launches hammerhead rescue effort

In Latin America, Honduras first petitioned that the three species of hammerhead join the Cites list. Costa Rica and Brazil immediately signed on, followed by Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador.

Although Panama voiced support, the Defenders of Wildlife launched their “Ask Panamá to Support Shark Conservation” campaign to turn up the pressure on the Panamanian government to support the predator at the Cites meeting next week.

The petition reads:

Panamá may cast the decisive vote on these critical proposals…This is a critical opportunity to put badly-needed controls in place to halt the rapid decline of these top predators.

MarViva and other shark advocacy groups promoted the campaign through Twitter and Facebook. So far, it has 17,808 signatures.

Latin America leads hammerhead protection, according to Sean Juan Posada from Mar Viva.

Last year, the president of Honduras outlawed shark fishing entirely. Honduras hosted its neighbors at a conference to raise awareness and rally shark support in October, where Posada and representatives from Latin American nations first laid their eyes on the identification app.

Overcoming the hurdles to convince Cites to list the sharks, he said, will open up the funding needed to get them protected.

“Getting support from authorities is our biggest challenge. They don’t have the resources. They don’t have boats, or people to cover extensive areas,” Mr. Posada said. “They have laws, but the ability to enforce the law is lacking.”

Chapman said he’s “very interested in making sure there are still sharks around for me to study for people to swim with for tourism and to fulfill their ecological role. They need protection and they need someone to speak up for them.”

February 21 2013

Honduras: President Lobo vs. Freedom of the Press

We make no claim that the Honduran press is exceptionally reliable, or lacking in bias. But Lobo Sosa wants to stop the press from doing anything that makes his government uncomfortable, even though part of the role of a free press is just that: making the powerful uncomfortable.

RNS from Honduras Culture and Politics reports on a proposal for a new law that “would allow the government to close media outlets, and would introduce an unprecedented censorship body.”

December 21 2012

Honduras: “Don't Worry, Be Happy”

La Gringa, from La Gringa's blogicito shares her sentiments about so long anticipated December 21, 2012:

Today is December 21, 2012, the last day of the Mayan calendar. Enjoy it as if it is the last day of the world! […] My last meal is going to be ice cream just in case. ;-)

She shares images and some shady predictions.

November 29 2012

Why Have Honduras Expats Stopped Blogging?

Laurie Matherne from Honduras Gumbo shares three theories about why expatriates in Honduras have stopped blogging: it's too dangerous, the economic crisis has forced many to leave, and those who stay “are forced to live in near chaos.”
(more…)

November 22 2012

Honduras' Presidential Candidates for 2013

On Sunday, November 18, 2012, three Honduran political parties (Liberal, National, and Libre) chose their presidential candidates for next year's election. Blogger David Moran from El Catracho [es] writes about Sunday's elections and the country's electoral system:

For common Hondurans it's about choosing between a known evil and the evil which is to come; for politicians and those close the them, it's a party because they live and get rich from it.

November 19 2012

Ibero-America: Free Software Assessment Report 2012

The recently released Free Software Assessment Report 2012 shows the opinion, assessment and preferences of more than 5,000 people from Spain and Latin America. The study published in its fourth edition is promoted by PortalProgramas and supported by a number of experts and collaborators [es]. The report aims to contribute to a better understanding, use and dissemination of free software in Latin America. The summary of the study can be accessed online [es] and more information can be found on the report's conclusions for 2012 [es].

November 13 2012

Blogging Contest Focuses on Child Development

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced its first contest for bloggers, which will focus on issues related to child development:

Now is your chance to share your ideas! You can tell us about a child development success story in your country or analyze various innovative methodologies. The topic is open. In order to participate, you just have to get your creative juices flowing and share your winning idea with us.

(more…)

October 19 2012

Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica Continue on the Road to 2014 World Cup

Tuesday, October 16 marked the last matches in the third round of the Concacaf (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) qualification competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Because the Federation is one of the largest (due to the amount of islands), the qualification consists of three rounds where six teams rank for a final round called ‘the Hexagonal‘. Those six teams will fight for three and half tickets to the World Cup.

With the classification of these six teams, a qualifying round two years in the making has started to take shape. Fernando Palomo (@Palomo_Espn) [es] lists the six ranking countries in this Tweet:

@Palomo_Espn: México, Honduras, Panamá, Estados Unidos, Costa Rica, Jamaica entran al Hexagonal de Concacaf.

@Palomo_Espn: Mexico, Honduras, Panama, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica form the Hexagonal of Concacaf.

Thus three Central American countries enter among the six best in the Federation.

Football fans on various social networks have been discussing the qualification matches. The “marea roja” or the “red tide” (the name that followers of the Panamanian selection identify with), for example, took over Twitter last Friday and managed to create a global trending topic under the label “Somos Marea Roja” [es] (We Are the Red Tide).

Panama La Marea Roja Esta Contigo

Panama The Red Tide is with You, image shared by José A. Balmaceda A. (@elbalma507) on Twitter

October 16 was no exception, and although Panama dealt with an agonizing tie in Cuba, Panamanians celebrated their entry to the Hexagonal in the streets and on social networks. Felipe Baloy (@pinbaloy23) [es], the captain of the Panamanian team, posted on his account:

@pinbaloy23: Panama Disfruten el pase a la Hexagonal ya habra tiempo de ver q se hizo mal y q se hizo bien y trabajaremos para corregir, objetivo cumplido

@pinbaloy23: Panama Enjoy the spot in the Hexagonal. There will be time to see what was done wrong and what was done right and we will work to correct it, objective accomplished

Meanwhile Honduras, which needed a win to classify, crushed Canada in San Pedro Sula with a final score of 8-1. Honduran fans also expressed their joy on social networks, like Héctor Martínez (@heremaga2009) [es]:

@heremaga2009: Buenos días.. Despertando después de esa borrachera de goles de #Honduras ayer ante#Canadá y darle esa alegría a ese pueblo q lo necesita.

@heremaga2009: Good morning.. Waking up after that inebriation of goals by #Honduras yesterday against #Canadá and the joy that the team gave to this nation which needs it.

Costa Rica also qualified in a crushing manner beating Guyana 7-0 in San Jose. Joel Campbell (@joel_campbell12) [es], a promising young Costa Rican footballer, commented after the game:

@joel_campbell12: Primer objetivo cumplido, pero esto apenas empieza, la meta es el mundial de Brasil, juntos llegaremos, gracias por tanto Costa Rica!

@joel_campbell12: First objective completed, but this is just the beginning, the goal is the World Cup in Brazil, together we'll make it together, thank you for everything Costa Rica!

The Hexagonal begins in February 2013 and will certainly be full of surprises and more activity on social network sites. The table is set.

October 02 2012

Honduras: Charter Cities Threaten Garífuna Communities

The government of Porfirio Lobo caused great controversy after it recently signed [es] an agreement with Group MGK to implement a variant of Charter Cities, called Special Development Regions (REDs), in Honduras.

Some, like Ryan William Nohea Garcia from Libertopia underground, welcome the project:

Rejoice! Honduras’ Regiones Especiales de Desarrollo (Special Development Regions (REDs)) are official. (Roundup of news: here, here, and here.) REDs are forums within Honduras for innovative political and legal systems that better promote prosperity by securing Individual rights, offering stable regulatory and judicial structures, and implementing more streamlined immigration procedures. This is great news for Hondurans and the greater Free City movement. This blog post recognizes and praises the Honduran officials who advocated and implemented for REDs, a fortiori in the face of significant domestic, nativist opposition.

REDs can only be implemented in uninhabited land; in the case of Honduras, however, 24 Garífuna communities could be removed from their territory. The blog Being Garifuna explains:

"Because I was made in Honduras, I say NO. Join the protest against the traitors of the country, those who want to sell your country piece by piece, those who don't respect the constitution of your country, those who don't respect you!" Poster by Anonymous Honduras. No rights reserved.

“Because I was made in Honduras, I say NO. Join the protest against the traitors of the country, those who want to sell your country piece by piece, those who don't respect the constitution of your country, those who don't respect you!” Poster by Anonymous Honduras. No rights reserved.

Garifuna people are a unique afro-Caribbean ethnic group descended from indigenous Arawak Indians, Carib Indians and escaped African slaves who lived together in St. Vincent. The Garifuna of Honduras’ northern coast have been struggling for decades to protect their lands from predatory investors eyeing coastal lands for large-scale tourist projects, mega-hotels, and gated vacation communities. The “Charter City” project—brainchild of NYU economist Paul Romer—which aims to create a sovereign, business-friendly city-state on the Northern coast, is one of the biggest threats.

According to several reports, these lands have belonged to Garífuna communities since 1804 [es]. In a post on the issue, Tim Russo from Upside Down World quotes Miriam Miranda, president of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH):

Vallecito is the heart of the territory where they are promoting the creation and installation of Honduras' Charter City. So, we are not only up against the interests of organized crime; we’re up against the interests of a government that—without consulting us—makes decisions about our territory.

More than 200 families currently live in Vallecito, on the Atlantic coast of Honduras, and their voices were not taken into consideration when signing the agreement.

The project is the brainchild of Paul Romer. Mr Romer and other experts were appointed to become members of the Transparency Commission for the Special Development Regions (REDs) which was supposed to serve as the governance organ of the cities. However, up to this date these appointments have not been confirmed, raising doubts about the transparency and accountability of the project. Without the appointed Transparency Commission, the only safeguard for the transparency of the process is the Honduran Congress.

Many bloggers have criticized the project and demand that the government look after local peasants and farmers [es] instead of foreign companies. For others, like CapoSud [es], giving away the sovereignty of the territory is unconstitutional. Furthermore, other bloggers like Tony Molony [es] argue that the government is selling the country piece by piece, and Analisis Afrodescendiente describes this as the second phase [es] of the 2009 coup.

Anonymous Honduras launched #OpEstadoFallido (Operation Failed State), taking down several government websites [es]. There is also a petition on Avaaz [es] calling for the defense of the territory where the RED projects would be implemented. Another petition, in English, is hosted in GoPetition and promoted by OFRANEH. It reads:

According to public notices, the RED is to be established on the northern coast, the ancestral territories of the Garifuna and Miskito Peoples, violating their human, cultural, social and economic rights. International law and the legal framework on the territorial rights of indigenous peoples – including a number of instruments signed by the Government of Honduras – enshrine these rights. According to the hierarchy of norms, their application must be preferential and is mandatory.

Hondurans are not the only ones skeptical about the project. Duncan Green, a strategic adviser for Oxfam, expressed his concern and pointed out that such a structure in one of the most corrupt countries in the world will not work.

The project will be lead by Michael Strong, founder of a project called Conscious Capitalism. He argues that his project will deliver positive results: prosperity, jobs, and better living standards.

However, the community is already feeling this project's toll.

Garífuna Lands,  by Renata Avila under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Garífuna Lands,  by Renata Avila under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Violence and extrajudicial executions are increasing in Honduras. During September, human rights defenders Antonio Trejo Cabrera and Manuel Eduardo Díaz Mazariegos were murdered. While the murders are not related, it is a worrying fact. Trejo was a lawyer defending peasants and Garifuna communities opposing the Special Development Regions.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights explains:

On September 24, 2012, the special prosecutor on human rights of the Choluteca Department, Eduardo Díaz Mazariegos, was killed with 11 bullets by two unidentified persons riding on motorcycles, in the vicinty of the headquarters of the Office of the Prosecutor in the city of Choluteca, in the southeast of Honduras.

On September 22, 2012, unidentified persons shot Antonio Trejo Cabrera in Tegucigalpa, and that in the previous he had received several death threats, which he had reported to the authorities. Antonio Trejo Cabrera was the legal representative of the Movimiento Auténtico Reivindicador Campesino del Aguán (MARCA), and he worked defending and promoting the rights of the peasant community cooperatives in the region of the Bajo Aguán.

A few days earlier, a group of Human Rights observers from different countries were threatened in the same area by masked, armed men.

Amnesty International also condemned the murder, and raised their concerns on increased violence and sexual abuse by private actors:

Private security personnel working for landowners and companies in Bajo Aguán have been accused of a series of alleged human rights abuses, including threats against local farmers as well as rape and other violent attacks.

The reaction by the Unified Campesino Movement of Aguan (MUCA) - the peasant movement which Trejo defended - was strong:

The Aguan campesino movement condemns this vile murder, which now is added to the list of those who have been shot and killed in their struggle to defend their people. On several occasions, Trejo denounced the threats he had received to the media and held the Bajo Aguan landowners responsible for any attempts to kill him or his family.

Trejo handled the legal affairs of the San Isidro, La Trinidad, and El Despertar cooperatives[…]

The Aguan campesinos are in solidarity with him and express our deepest condolences to his family, wife, and children.

The communiqué continues:

There is no doubt that Trejo's murder is a message from the powerful groups that live in the Aguan and those who make decisions in the country, to the campesinos

The situation is increasingly complex as the communities face legal and physical threats, now without the help of Trejo. With the signed agreement, in spite of all the opposition from civil society, the project will likely continue and the families will face eviction from the land they have inhabited for almost a century.

Furthermore, a Constitutional Reform is currently underway to authorize such cities. As reported by Human Rights Watch, Trejo had presented a constitutional writ, challenging the validity of the agreement signed by the government for the REDs. He joined the peasants in a peaceful protest against the government's measures in front of the Supreme Court of Justice on August 21, 2012. After repression from police forces, Trejo was arrested.

There are 22 pending constitutional writs opposing the REDs waiting to be solved. Most of them were presented by members of the community and civil society in Honduras, including Catholic priest Fausto Milla [es], who once headed the Civil Society Truth Commission. Honduras does not enjoy independence in their judiciary; in fact, the system is a quite corrupt, as pointed out by Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, on his recent visit report [es].

Nevertheless, the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice will have the last word on the future of the project.

August 03 2012

Central America Begins to Stand Out in the London Olympic Games

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

A week has passed since the London 2012 Olympic Games started, and while the medal count is being disputed strongly between China and the United States, Central America has also experienced moments of joy and hope with small triumphs in the midst of complaints of lack of support and obvious comparisons between well prepared athletes and some who are semi-amateurs.

Social networks have been a fundamental part of these Olympic Games, where people share their impressions, complaints, and dreams that Central America will bring home a medal after these games. These are some of the highlights up until this moment.

Guatemala

With a delegation of twelve athletes, Kevin Gordon and Ana Sofía have been Guatemala's best representatives this week. Gordon was able to advance into the next round of Badminton and competed strongly before being eliminated. Guatemalans expressed their satisfaction and pride in this participation, as demonstrated by Mario Santizo (@mario_santizo) [es], who wrote an excited Tweet after the first triumph:

(@mario_santizo) Kevin gordon gano su primer partido Felicidades #OrgulloChapin

(@mario_santizo) [es] Kevin gordon won his first game. Congratulations #OrgulloChapin

Additionally, the gymnast Ana Sofía classified into the final rounds of gymnastics, and in spite of being eliminated, she honored Guatemala's name, as dozens of people agreed on Twitter. Roba Mentes (@RobaMentes) [es] wrote:

(@RobaMentes) ¡FELICIDADES ANA SOFÍA GÓMEZ! ¡GRACIAS POR PONER A GUATEMALA EN ALTO!

(@RobaMentes) ¡CONGRATULATIONS ANA SOFIA GOMEZ! ¡THANK YOU FOR LIFTING GUATEMALA ON HIGH!

Honduras

Honduras reached its highlight of the week when their men's soccer team defeated the favorite Spanish team. Honduras is the only country from Central America that is participating in a team sport. Honduras tied with Morocco and Japan, classifying into quarterfinals  where they will face another favorite: Brazil.

The blogger Fabricio Estrada writes about this on his blog Bitácora del Párbulo [es] pointing out how even in the midst of difficult circumstances in their country, there has been time to cheer the goals and celebrate the accomplishments:

Qué días más difíciles en los que nos toca verles triunfar, compitas, y aún así, siempre, siempre, nos detenemos, hacemos pausa para gritar en silencio, con un orgullo extraño, olímpico, imposible de explicar, y una vez que sabemos que somos los mismos hermanos despojados de todo, me sumo al equipo humilde, al que muestra al mundo lo que podemos lograr y celebrar desde la nada impuesta. Arriba los humildes, arriba los pobres del mundo que siempre damos las grandes lecciones!!

What difficult days in which we have to see you triumph, brothers, and even so, we always, always, stop, we pause to cheer in silence, with a strange pride, Olympic, impossible to explain, and once we know that we are the same brothers striped of everything, I join the humble team, the one that shows the world what we can achieve and celebrate from the imposed nothingness. Long live the humble people, long live the poor of the world that always give great lessons!

Nicaragua

The highlight from Nicaragua this weeks was brought by Osmar Bravo, who obtained for the first time a boxing triumph for the Central American country. The boxer continues in the competition and could cause a stir and obtain a medal.

Amalia del Cid (@AmaliadelCid) [es] celebrates the event on her Twitter account:

(@AmaliadelCid) Osmar Bravo, la primera victoria de#Nicaragua en el boxeo olímpico en los últimos 20 años. #Londres2012 @JJOO

(@AmaliadelCid) [es] Osmar Bravo, the first victory for #Nicaragua in Olympic boxing in the last 20 years.#Londres2012 @JJOO

There are still several weeks of Olympic Games left and Central America will not give up the hope of obtaining a medal. This weekend the track and field competitions begin, where there is an important delegation of Central American athletes and with them the hopes of all the Isthmus.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

June 21 2012

Journeys Through Latin America

Since August 15, 2011, readers of the Blog de la Ruta (The Route's Blog) [es] have been traveling Latin America through the stories told by bloggers from the website Otramérica. The team behind Otramérica [es], a nonprofit initiative from Human Rights Everywhere, decided to enlist bloggers to tell stories “from the ground” while they traveled through little-known places in Latin America.

The post [es] that kicks off the journey explains that this project has two goals: to “tell” and to “connect”:

Contar las realidades que suelen pasar inadvertidas o que son invisibles para la mayoría de los medios de comunicación industriales; y enredar (en redes) a personas, movimientos y organizaciones en esta tarea de desenredar la vida para entenderla y transformarla.

To tell readers about the realities that tend to go unnoticed or that are invisible in the majority of industrial media; and connect (through networks) people, movements and organizations in this task of unraveling life in order to understand it and transform it.

The blog includes an interactive map where readers can keep up with the journey and click on related stories:

Interactive map routing trip through Latin America

Interactive map routing trip through Latin America

The Guianas

Paco Gómez Nadal [es], a well-known Spanish journalist who has covered Latin America extensively, launched the blog and the journey. He started by introducing readers to The Guianas in several posts [es] before his first stop in Cayenne, French Guiana.

In his next stop, Suriname, Paco writes about the capital city [es] (Paramaribo), the country's problem [es] with gold [es], old and new forms of slavery [es], gay rights [es] (see video, in English, below), and more [es].

The journey was interrupted [es] in September 2011 after a brief stop in Guyana [es]. But a month later journalist Victor Alejandro Mojica picked up the blog with a trip [es] to Honduras and Guatemala.

Honduras and Guatemala

Victor dedicates numerous posts to Honduras' past [es] and present [es]. He tells several stories of struggles that are rarely covered by mainstream media, like those of the indignados (outraged) [es] of Intibucá, who have been fighting for almost two decades against hydroelectric dams in their area:

Este Honduras ni se escucha, ni se conoce, es invisible al mundo occidental. Y aquí, donde parece que la tierra lo es todo, es donde ocurren las violaciones menos éticas. Porque los recursos naturales, aunque parezcan de ellos, están vendiéndose a capitales sin pudor.

Lo que no saben, o rehúsan saber, es que estos indignados, que se alimentan de café y pan, tienen casi dos décadas de existencia.  Y aunque no siempre ganan, siempre continuan…

This Honduras or is neither heard, nor known, it is invisible to the Western world. And here, where land seems to be everything, is where least ethical violations occur. Because natural resources, even if it seems like they belong to them, are shamelessly being sold to businesses.

What they don't know, or refuse to know, is that these indignados, who feed themselves on coffee and bread, have been outraged for almost two decades. And although they don't always win, they always keep going…

Salvador Zúñiga, an "indignado" of Intibucá. Photo by  Victor Alejandro Mojica, used with permission from Otramérica.

Salvador Zúñiga, an "indignado" of Intibucá. Photo by Victor Alejandro Mojica, used with permission from Otramérica.

In Guatemala, Victor looks at the legacy of the country's civil war through the perspective of a former guerrillero [es], family members of a missing [es] man, and an indigenous maya-ixil community [es]. He also looks at the issue of femicides [es] in Guatemala, stating that, “There is an ingrained sexism in all sectors of the population that makes hundreds of women die every year.”

The Southern Cone, Bolivia, and Mexico

The blog welcomed a new contributor, Solange González Henott, in early 2012. Solange began her trip through South America's “Southern Cone” (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) with a story about an attempted escape by inmates in a Chilean [es] jail.

In Argentina, Solange describes what summer [es] is like in Buenos Aires, and visits a villa (a marginalized urban settlement), where she meets two women who migrated [es] to the Argentine capital from Bolivia and Paraguay.

In Montevideo, Uruguay, Solange introduces readers to Llamadas [es], carnival parades that take place every summer. She also talks to unionized [es] sugarcane workers about their triumphs and struggles. In neighboring Paraguay, Solange writes about “the king of Soy” and the country's “gun culture” [es].

During a stop in Bolivia, Solange blogs about the “cowardly and cruel murder” of two journalists [es] in El Alto. She then describes the Aymara indigenous tradition of “ajtapi” [es], a communal meal.

Ajtapi in El Alto, Bolivia. Photo by Solange González Henott, used with permission from Otramérica.

Ajtapi in El Alto, Bolivia. Photo by Solange González Henott, used with permission from Otramérica.

Paco Gómez Nadal returns to the ‘Blog de la Ruta' to write about his experience in Mexico [es] during March 2012. There, he blogs about the complexities [es] of violence and death. He also looks at the current state of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity [es] and its leader, Javier Sicilia[es].

Latin America's low lands

In May 2012, Pedro González del Campo became to blog's latest contributor, covering Latin America's “low lands” [es], tierras bajas in Spanish: the places that have been most marginalized by the powerful and by history.

During May and June, Pedro has been discovering Paraguay's “low lands” by traveling [es] through [es] the Paraguay River. In one of his stops he meets Martín, a 36-year-old man working in a cattle ranch in the Paraguayan Chaco. The ranch is owned by a Brazilian man who is in the business of large-scale farming in Brazil. Pedro explains that ranching is taking a toll on the Chaco's nature and its inhabitants:

El Chaco es una ecoregión extensa que alberga hasta 3 ecosistemas diferentes y en el que viven de manera tradicional muchas personas que ven cómo la ganadería acaba con su medio, en el cual se sienten integrados como seres que habitan este planeta. Si nadie lo remedia, su destino es la desaparición y la pérdida de biodiversidad y biomasa que hará de este planeta un lugar menos habitable, además de la escandalosa degradación a nivel social que esto implica para sus pobladores.

The Chaco is a vast ecoregion that holds up to 3 distinct ecosystems, where many people who live in a traditional way are seeing how cattle raising destroys their environment, where they feel integrated as beings who inhabit this planet. If no one fixes this, the destiny of the Chaco is disappearance and loss of biodiversity and biomass which will make this a less habitable planet, on top of the outrageous social degradation that this implies for its residents.

Sharpening a saw to build a house in a ranch in the Chaco. Photo by Pedro González del Campo, used with permission from Otramérica.

Sharpening a saw to build a house in a ranch in the Chaco. Photo by Pedro González del Campo, used with permission from Otramérica.

Almost a year after the start of this journey, Pedro's trip through Latin America's “low lands” has just begun. Blog de la Ruta provides a glimpse into the continent's varied and complex reality. You can keep up with the journey and read previous entries in the Otramérica website [es].

Featured image from Otramérica, used with permission.

June 08 2012

Featured photojournalist: Rodrigo Abd

The Argentinian photographer documents life at San Pedro Sula Central Corrections Facility in Honduras



June 01 2012

RightsCon: Future of Digital Rights in Latin America and Beyond

Activists, business representatives, thinkers and policy makers are meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Human Rights and Technology Conference, hosted by Access in partnership with the Center for Technology and Society from Getulio Vargas Foundation in Brazil.

Speakers and participants discussed everything from social movements and digital natives, to Net Neutrality and the digital divide.

Andrew Mclaughlin from Tumblr described the most relevant threats to a free Internet:

Here are the key battles: Censorship and political control, which is the erection of a technical architecture of control that can be used for ill. Surveillance and piracy is battleground number two, where we see within the rule of law, outside the rule of law, and by companies themselves. And finally, the structure of the internet is under attack, the battles around network neutrality, wireless network neutrality, competition or the lack thereof, and the legislation that would control it, like SOPA/PIPA, ACTA and CISPA.

Jochai Ben Abi from Access at Rightscon Picture by Paulo Rena under a Creative Commons License

Brett Solomon, director of Access, highlighted the importance of Latin America in shaping the future:

We acknowledge the leadership in Latin America on the many things that are taking place. The marco civil in Brazil, the Costa Rican recognition of access to the internet as a fundamental human right.

Via video conference, Marietje Schaake, MEP for the Netherlands, told attendees we are entering a new era of diplomacy:

A new era of global Internet politics kicked off with the introduction of the idea of the ITU managing the Internet. I don’t believe that a UN body could regulate this effectively, and I don’t believe that government alone, without a multi-stakeholder approach, could govern the Internet. And we must be careful that emerging economies don’t push human rights off the agenda, when economic growth is on the table. Western companies must stop providing technology for censorship and surveillance. IT is a fundamental misunderstanding of the rule of law.

A roundtable also discussed how digital natives are changing the World, using the #yosoy132 movement in Mexico as an example.

While discussing privacy and security, computer expert and activist Jacob Appelbaum advocated for strong protection of privacy and cautious use of social networks. He said:

Facebook in some ways is Stasibook–you report on your friends all the time.

He later explained the importance of security technologies being available for all, even for the “bad guys”:

As a planet, I think we need to make a decision to all be secure, even some bad guys, rather than to all be insecure, and policed by governments which are not good at self-regulating, and are not transparent or accountable about what they do with this information.

A small delegation of Global Voices authors is attending the conference, including Ellery Biddle and Jillian York from the U.S.A., Claudio Ruiz from Chile, Diego Casaes from Brazil, and Elaine Diaz from Cuba.

During the conference The Guardian Project, an initiative which aims to create technologies and hardware to protect communications and personal data from intrusion and monitoring, organized the Free Bird Event, a one-day workshop that aims to empower mobile technology users with greater knowledge about security and privacy.

At the conference, the Access Innovation Prize was announced, which will distribute USD100,000.00 around the World. The deadline to apply for the prize is August 15, 2012 and anyone in the World can apply for any of its five categories. The award's website explains:

The Access Innovation Prize is designed to discover and reward ideas that demonstrate unique promise, opportunity and possibility. You can submit a near to complete project, improve an existing tool or create something totally new.

The conference ends today, June 1, with a discussion on the future of digital rights in Latin America and beyond, but the conversation around theses issues is just starting.

Liveblogging has been facilitated by @krmaher; Live-streaming has also also available, and the Twitter account @rightscon –tweeting in three different languages– is more active than ever. Anyone around the World can send a question to specific panels, so start the conversation and share your comments on how businesses can improve and side with citizens while defending digital freedom.

May 29 2012

Honduras: US State Department Releases Human Rights Report

Honduras Culture and Politics looks closely at the United States State Department report on human rights: “There's been a blind eye to certain kinds of human rights abuses in Honduras that happen, but don't seem to warrant action by the Secretary or her employees, including the Ambassador. So, we turned with some trepidation to the country report on Honduras.”

May 02 2012

Honduras: “Too much violence to keep track of”

Adrienne Pine explains that, “since the bold repossession of lands by thousands of campesinos around Honduras on the International Day of Peasant Struggle, there have been increasingly worrisome retaliations, so frequent that I can't keep track of them.” She reports on some of these cases and on other types of violence in Honduras, including attacks on journalists. Adrienne also links to several articles on these issues.

April 17 2012

Honduras: Campesinos Reclaim Land on International Day of Peasant's Struggles

On April 17, the International Day of Peasant's Struggles, Adrienne Pine reports: “campesinos from all over Honduras are reclaiming land that was stolen and/or illegally taken from them in contravention of the stipulations and spirit of Agrarian Reform. One of those actions is happening right now in San Manuel, Cortés. 1500 families in the Movimiento Campesino de San Manuel, Cortés have retaken over a 3200 hectares of land there.” Read more in her blog Quotha.

April 12 2012

Honduras: Report Highlights Country's Human Rights Situation

The Organization of American States (OAS) human rights commission (CIDH for its initials in Spanish) has released its 2011 annual report on human rights, highlighting the situation in Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, and Venezuela. RNS from Honduras Culture and Politics looks at the report's findings on Honduras and how it has been covered by local media.

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