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February 19 2014

February 18 2014

February 17 2014

February 16 2014

February 15 2014

February 14 2014

Ecuador Makes List of Countries Where Press Freedom Has Declined

Ecuador is the only Latin American country featured on the Committee to Project Journalists’ (CPJ) annual Risk List. CPJ explains:

The list is based on the expertise of CPJ staff, but also takes into account press freedom indicators such as journalist fatalities and imprisonments, restrictive legislation, state censorship, impunity in anti-press attacks, and journalists driven into exile. Those places on the Risk List are not the worst press freedom offenders, but rather spots where CPJ documented the most significant deterioration of the media climate during 2013.

Samantha Bagden from the Journalism the Americas Blog gives more context:

The Ecuadorian National Assembly approved the new law intended to regulate editorial content in June. The law gives authorities the right to impose arbitrary sanctions and censor the press and it’s enforced by a state watchdog loyal to President Rafael Correa.

[...]

In its report, CPJ quoted Monica Almeida, editor at Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo, saying that the atmosphere is much worse because of the law.

“Before, there was a level of control by the government … but they did not have this legal framework like the Communications Law which allows them to do many things in their favor.”

February 13 2014

Day of Protests in Venezuela Leaves Three Dead and Censorship in the Media

Estudiante protestando el 12 de febrero, 2014. Foto de Carlos Becerra, copyright Demotix.

Student protesting on February 12th, 2014. Photo by Carlos Becerra, copyright Demotix.

[All links lead to Spanish language pages, unless otherwise noted]

Yesterday Venezuela saw a wave of protests [en] in the streets of its major cities. The citizens, mainly university students, took to the streets to demand that the authorities release a group of young people who had been arrested in previous demonstrations. They also demanded improvements in food supply (food shortages [en] are around 27%) and public safety.

The march, which aimed to reach the federal prosecutor's office, was organized mainly by opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. The protest unfolded peacefully until the demonstrators neared the center of Caracas, where a group of riot police and members of armed security forces, hooded and on motorcycles, had taken control of the zone. The majority of the protesters left the area, but a small group remained and clashed with the security forces.

The confrontations in the center of Caracas resulted in two fatalities: a student and a member of a collective. Users uploaded videos of the moment when Bassil Alejandro Da Costa Frías was hit by a bullet and killed.

The protests spread to the east of the city, and during the night, another student was killed. The day ended with a toll of three deaths and dozens of people injured and arrested.

 

Jóvenes protestando en Caracas el 12 de febrero, 2014. Foto de Carlos Becerra, copyright Demotix.

Young people protesting in Caracas on February 12th, 2014. Photo by Carlos Becerra, copyright Demotix.

During the events, including the march and the ensuing violence, Venezuelan media continued to air their regular programming, after authorities threatened [en] to sanction any media that covered the protests. Those who sought information about what was happening had to tune in to the cable news channel NTN24.

In reaction to these events, Hilda Lugo Conde posted on Facebook:

Mientras se reportan heridos graves y hasta un muerto según la agencia Reuters en la marcha de hoy en Caracas, esto es lo que se ve en las pantallas de televisión de señal abierta en el país en este momento:
1- Venevisión: telenovela En nombre del amor
2- Globovisión: las películas más taquilleras en Estados Unidos este fin de semana según NTN24
3- Canal I: Mundo Fitness
4- VTV: Diosdado Cabello en la sesión especial de la Asamblea Nacional por los 200 años de la Batalla de la Victoria
5- Televen: telenovela Las Santísimas
6- La Tele: telenovela Cada quien a su santo
7- Tves: Pocoyo

Y la radio, también, en su mundo paralelo. Ese que impone la censura, la autocensura…

While the agency Reuters is reporting serious injuries and even a death during the march today in Caracas, this is what is being seen on open-signal television in the country right now:
1. Venevisión: Soap opera “En nombre del amor”
2- Globovisión: The highest-grossing movies in the United States this weekend, according to NTN24
3- Canal I: Mundo Fitness [Fitness World]
4- VTV: Diosdado Cabello in the special session of the National Assembly for the 200-year anniversary of La Batalla de La Victoria
5- Televen: Soap opera “Las Santísimas”
6- La Tele: Soap opera “Cada quien a su santo”
7- Tves: Pocoyo
And the radio, too, exists in a parallel universe. One that is under censorship, self-censorship…

In the afternoon, journalists of the news channel NTN24 condemned the fact that the government had pressured subscription television companies to remove NTN24 from their selection of channels. Minutes later, the complaint had become reality, and Venezuelans could see the channel only via internet.

Fran Monroy posted on Twitter:

At 6:17 PM Caracas time, the signal for NTN24 went dead on MovistarVe.

Rodrigo Blanco posted an alert about the situation:

To our friends outside of Venezuela: two students killed and information blackout by the government. Police are repressing.

Estudiantes protestando en Caracas. Foto de Juan Hernandez, copyright Demotix.

Students protesting in Caracas. Photo by Juan Hernandez, copyright Demotix.

 

Daniel Prat questioned the state of democracy in the country after what took place in the capital:

Don't protest, because I'll shoot you. Don't make demands, because I'll take you prisoner. Don't inform, because I'll take you off the air. Nice democracy, right?

However, Gabriel Lopez expressed his disagreement with the protests proposed by Leopoldo Lopez and marked by the hashtag #LaSalida:

“La salida” [The Exit] that some people are proposing is undemocratic. There are loopholes and ways to “exit” the government, including a recall referendum. Not by force.

The night ended with a national parade where President Nicolas Maduro celebrated Youth Day and the bicentennial of La Batalla de la Victoria.

Furthermore, a judge issued an arrest warrant for Leopoldo Lopez. This morning, the office of his party, Voluntad Popular, was searched.

The protests have not stopped.

The Facebook page Rebelión 2014 is collecting reports and photos (unverified) of the current protests.

Ecuador to Implement Charges for Private Copying Levy

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: S_L

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: S_L

UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article in Spanish, there have been no significant changes to the information reported, except that the list of products to be taxed by the Levy was publicized on Facebook [es] by the association Usuarios Digitales (Digital Users). 

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

A proposal put forward by the Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property (IEPI) would impose an additional tax of 4%-10% on the importation of all music and video players, such as cell phones, personal computers, and tablets, as well as storage devices (CDs, DVDs, etc).

Faced with rumors and varying opinions about the proposal, known as Compensated Remuneration for Private Copying (RCCP), or private copying levy, the IEPI released a statement on December 10th explaining that the proposed measure is not a tax and that it falls under the provision of the current Ecuadorian Intellectual Property Law. The statement emphasizes that the current law already establishes the RCCP in its articles 105 to 108, so the project they are working on has to do with the implementation of the RCCP, as well as the distribution of the compensation that is collected. The IEPI added:

Se desinforma cuando se afirma que existe un impuesto a descargas, o un cargo tributario dirigido al Servicio de Rentas Internas, al Servicio de Aduanas o directamente al IEPI por cada descarga que se realiza. Eso es falso y contiene una intencionalidad deliberada para confundir a los usuarios.

It is mistaken to claim that there exists a tax on downloads or a fiscal tax going to the Internal Revenue Service, Customs Service, or directly to the IEPI for each download that takes place. This is false and is intended to deliberately confuse users.

Roberto Aspiazu, executive director of the Ecuador Business Council and the Ecuadorian Telecommunications Association (ASETEL), is one of those who has made clear his rejection of the measure, saying that it is only a different name for a tax of 4% for cell phones and other devices.

In an interview with local media on the subject, Aspiazu criticized the contradictions of the Ecuadorian government: “We will end up with a 24% tax. Brazil, which produces electronics, has a 16% tax, but that is in order to protect its industry. We, who have no industry, are raising the tax to 24% and then claiming that we want public policy that facilitates access to mobile Internet.”

JJ Velasco, writing for ALT1040, compares this measure to similar laws in Mexico and Spain (the Sinde Law [en]), and explains that it is not a tool of dissuasion, but rather a collections process whose original model dates back to around 2007. This model assumes that everyone is pirating and therefore increases the cost of devices that can be used for such activity. Velasco continues:

En estos años el escenario ha cambiado mucho y la oferta de contenidos legales es enorme y sigue estando a buen precio. Spotify sigue su expansión por Latinoamérica (acaba de aterrizar en Chile y Colombia), Google ofrece música a través de Google Play, Apple también ofrece música a través de iTunes y, gracias a Netflix, también podemos encontrar películas y series en streaming legal; con tanta oferta multidispositivo ¿en serio van a imponer un canon a los dispositivos? El Gobierno defiende la medida porque supone una fuente de financiación para los artistas ecuatorianos pero, realmente, tiene un impacto directo sobre el usuario final.

In these years, the situation has changed significantly: the availability of legal content is enormous and continues to be affordable. Spotify is continuing its expansion in Latin America (it just made its debut in Chile and Colombia), Google offers music via Google Play, Apple also offers music through iTunes, and, thanks to Netflix, we can also legally stream movies and TV shows. With so many multi-device options, are they really going to impose a levy on these devices? The government defends the measure because it would be a source of funding for Ecuadorian artists but, in reality, it has a direct impact on the end-user.

On the blog Derecho en Bicicleta, the anonymous author lists several reasons that s/he believes justify his/her opposition to this project: first, it is unconstitutional, and second, it contradicts the concept of the social knowledge economy, which was defended by the President of Ecuador himself. Regarding the unconstitutionality of the project, the blogger argues that it violates Article 287 of the Ecuadorian constitution, explaining:

La remuneración por copia privada es una tasa creada en una ley de 1998, que establece la obligación de que un particular (el importador o fabricante) pague a otro particular (la sociedad recaudadora creada por los artistas) por algo que no han acordado mutuamente: es una imposición. Puede comprenderse que el Estado imponga la obligación de pagar impuestos, pero es irracional que una ley obligue a un privado pagar un valor a otro privado, sin que haya mutuo consentimiento. Por esto es clave enfatizar que quien recibe el canon digital no es una entidad pública: no es el Estado, es un particular. Es esto lo que lo hace (a mi juicio) inconstitucional.

The private copying levy is a tax created in a law from 1998, which establishes the obligation of one party (the importer or manufacturer) to pay another party (the collections society created by the artists) for something that has not been mutually agreed upon: it is an imposition. It is feasible for the State to impose an obligation to pay taxes, but it is irrational for a law to require a private entity to pay a given amount to another private entity without mutual consent. For this reason, it is important to emphasize that the recipient of the private copying levy is not a public entity: it is not the State, but a private entity. This is what makes the levy, in my opinion, unconstitutional.

Various discussions on the topic can be found on Twitter under the tags: #Impuestospordescargas (Taxes on downloads), #pagoSINreproducir (I pay WITHOUT copying), and #noalcanon (no to the levy). Below are several highlights from the Twitter debate.

Efrén Guerrero speaks out against benefiting a dubious group of Ecuadorian artists: 

Everyone should earn their living through their work. Not by being compensated for not being able to compete in the market.

Diego Cevallos put together a Storify with tweets on the subject: 

Levy for “Compensated Remuneration for Private Copying”

Carlos Correa of Creative Commons Ecuador shares a video conference with Santiago Cevallos, the National Director of Copyright and Derivative Rights of the IEPI:

video conference with Santiago Cevallos of IEPI.

Mauricio Becerra argues that the anti-pirating measures should be focused elsewhere: 

They're inventing this to avoid dealing with who knows who… they're so afraid of going up against the real pirates.

Finally, Guillermex of the blog The Wild Children suggests that we should keep in mind the old saying “Innocent until proven guilty,” and then reflects:

Mientras el resto del mundo se vuelve loco por compartir y poner la música disponible y al alcance de todos; mientras en otras regiones, los computadores, laptops, tablets y todo aparato tecnológico se liberan de aranceles; mientras en todo el planeta tierra, los artistas suben a internet su material para que sea escuchado grateche; aquí, en el país de la revolución, hacemos todo mal y todo al revés.

While the rest of the world goes crazy sharing and making music available and accessible to everyone; while in other regions, computers, laptops, tablets, and all sorts of technology become free from taxes; while all over planet Earth artists are uploading their material to the internet to be listened to for free; here, in the country of the revolution, we are doing everything wrong and backwards.

For the time being, the result of this proposal is that internet users are putting forward a comprehensive discussion about the copyright model and casting doubt upon the government's proposal regarding digital media and the society of knowledge. Let's wait and see how the discussion develops.

‘Costa Ricans Are Fed Up’

A myriad of articles about the recent Costa Rican elections have proclaimed the country’s “turn to the left.” Perhaps some do this because it is simply too convenient to whip up an article or op-ed about leftist victories in El Salvador and Costa Rica. Or perhaps some are still trapped in the Cold War. But these headlines miss the more salient point of Costa Rica’s elections – Costa Ricans are fed up. And they’re fed up with the status quo.

Christine Wade writes a guest post in the blog Central American Politics where she discusses “the general political malaise amongst Costa Ricans”. She concludes:

It’s time to move beyond the left-right discourse that all too frequently characterizes the analysis of Central American politics if we are to better understand the political dynamics of a region in flux. As the case of Costa Rica demonstrates (and this is true for El Salvador as well), such superficial explanations obscure more than they enlighten.

Another Journalist Dies in Mexico: Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz

Mexican authorities have confirmed the murder of Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, aka “Goyo”.

The lifeless body of Jiménez de la Cruz was found in a clandestine grave on February 11, 2014, according to reports in El Universal [es] and La Jornada. [es] [Report in English by the BBC here]

The electronic version of the weekly Proceso [es] had previously reported the disappearance of the reporter, demanding answers from the authorities.

On Twitter, the hashtag #HastaQueAparezcaGoyo [es] was used to express support for the family and colleagues of Jiménez de la Cruz during the darkest hours.

The journalist Paola Rojas was one of the first to spread the word on Twitter:

The Special Prosecutor of Veracruz has confirmed that journalist Gregorio Jiménez was murdered.

The activist Jesús Robles Maloof asked for the resignation of the governor in Veracruz, where Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz practiced his profession as a journalist:

It's time that Javier Duarte is removed from the government.

On the morning of February 11, the activist shared this photo:

Twitter user Másdel131 also shared a photo from the same protest:

From the Veracruz’ government's representation in the Federal District, journalists protest

While Pertaesus asked:

The demand raised in the hashtag #HastaQueAparezcaGoyo raises another equally painful question–how long until we get our country back?

“Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists,” according to Reporters Without Borders. The organization adds that “more than 80 have been killed in the past decade, and 17 have disappeared”.  The death of Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz must be added to this number.

In Mexico there is an atmosphere of uncontrolled war and violence, ever since the previous President, Felipe Calderón, launched an attack on drugs in 2006. Judging by the death of Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, the violence in the country continues under the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto.

February 11 2014

Brazilian Activists Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance

The day the world has come together to take a stand against mass surveillance, on February 11, 2014, Brazilian citizens, organizations and collectives too are bringing momentum to #TheDayWeFightBack campaign.

Anti-surveillance collective Antivigilancia.tk (@antivigilancia on Twitter), one of the 15 Brazilian signatories of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, has a website with complete information, in Portuguese, on how to participate in #TheDayWeFightBack, as well as several resources for the day of action, such as banners and memes.

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Well-known Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff took on the challenge launched by Web We Want early in February to create original visual works on online surveillance and the right to privacy. 

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

On Twitter, many Brazilians are linking the day of action with the country's pioneer bill of rights for Internet users, the “Marco Civil”, which is going to be discussed in a plenary session [pt] in the House of Representatives today. A group of civil society organizations is expected to meet the Minister of Justice [pt] to let him know of “serious concern” toward the latest modifications to the bill, especially with respect to “the right to the inviolability and secrecy of the flow and content of private communications, the right to privacy and freedom of expression.”

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

 All submissions to the Web We Want contest are available on Flickr.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Mapping Conflicts Between Indigenous Peoples and Corporations in Latin America

map conflicts latin america

Codpi (Coordination for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) has created a map to monitor projects that are affecting indigenous territories, as their website explains [es]:

This map aims to collect cases of conflict that arise due to the presence of transnational corporations -mainly those with headquarters in Spain- in the territories of indigenous peoples in Latin America.

In Otramérica [es], Diego Jiménez from Codpi adds:

It is a tool in permanent construction, which collects some of the most important cases of violations, and that will be completed periodically to reflect a total of 50 identified [cases]. For each [case] a record is published -accessible from the interactive map- that contains basic information about the violated rights, the resistance posed by the indigenous people and a summary of the current situation. We have also included a number of links and additional audiovisual material.

With all this, we don't want to limit ourselves to denouncing a situation of enormous and increasing severity. We also hope that this tool will be useful and effective for indigenous peoples and also for the organizations, social movements and groups working with them.

Argentina: ‘We Increase’ Progress or Corruption?

Imagen del usuario @AdrianBono en Twitter

“Don't buy Pantene, 40% increase”; “Don't buy Elvive due to excessive increase” Image by user @AdrianBono on Twitter

A speech on national television by President Cristina Fernández in which she announced a new increase in retirement pensions and in education allowances, among other things, provoked immediate responses among Twitter users who began using the hashtag #Aumentamos (we increase) to give their own account of what has ‘increased’ in the country.

Since the beginning of 2014, for example, one of the issues that most impacts Argentinians is the increase in prices. From the cost of basic household goods to appliances and cars, there have been substantial changes affecting the economy in general.

User casarosada uploaded the February 4 speech to YouTube [es]:

During the speech, Cristina Fernández emphasized the positive gains generated during her tenure:

Aumentamos las medidas que permitieron aumentar: hemos aumentado los puestos de trabajo, 6 millones de puestos de trabajo. Hemos aumentado las fábricas, más de 58 mil fábricas desde 2003; hemos aumentado los parques industriales.

We’ve increased the measures that allowed gains: we’ve increased jobs, 6 million new jobs. We’ve increased the number of factories, more than 58,000 factories since 2003; we’ve increased [the number of] industrial parks.

Fernández continues:

Aumentamos las universidades nacionales, tenemos nueve más; aumentamos el número de escuelas y de aulas [...] aumentamos la cantidad de becas y salarios para que los científicos se quedaran en la Argentina; aumentamos la inversión en ciencia y tecnología [...] Aumentamos la infraestructura en riego, en camino, en obras que permitieron recuperar miles de hectáreas bajo el agua; aumentamos la cantidad de argentinos que tienen agua potable y cloacas, también aumentamos el pavimento.

We’ve increased national universities, we have nine more; we increased the number of schools and classrooms […]; we’ve increased the number of scholarships and salaries so that scientists will stay in Argentina; we’ve increased investment in science and technology; […] we increased irrigation infrastructure, road works, and works that allowed us to recover thousands of acres of land under water; we increased the number of Argentinians who have potable water and sewer, and we’ve increased [the amount of] paved areas.

And finally:

Aumentamos el número de jubilados en más de 2,5 millones, gente que no tenía una cobertura previsional y que nos convierte en el país de Latinoamérica de mayor cobertura previsional, con 93%; aumentamos los salarios [...]. Aumentamos la compra de medicamentos [...]. Aumentamos las inversiones en viviendas [...]. Aumentamos la cobertura de aquellos que todavía no tienen un trabajo registrado, que están en ese limbo que se denomina trabajo informal [...].

We increased the number of retirees by more than 2.5 million, people who had no pension coverage, and that makes us the largest country in Latin America with pension coverage at 93%; we increased wages […] We increased purchases of medications […].  We increased investment in housing […] We increased coverage for those who don’t have registered work, who are in that limbo called informal work […]

She also said that her government has increased ‘consumption capacity’ and added: “I don’t think there are any Argentinians going hungry.”

Following the speech, the phrase “we increased” [es] quickly became a local trend on Twitter, with opinions for and against:

We’ve increased EVERYTHING! Corruption, poverty, hatred, the pockets of officials, shamelessness, lies, insecurity, her wealth

We’ve increased poverty, taxes, corruption, ignorance, insecurity, unemployment, violence, etc. The most corrupt government in history!

We’ve increased theft, prices, people who don’t have anything to eat, floods, deaths. But no worries, Cris says nobody is lacking anything (?)

But those who were in agreement with the national broadcast expressed their support:

We're with you yesterday, today and always! Happiness and commitment with the people!

A society that doesn’t help its elders and doesn’t help educate its children is a society that has no memory

What can I tell you about our beloved president after listening to her? That today more than ever: we will keep supporting this project!

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