Central America
Costa Rica protest

Student strikes shake Costa Rica

A mass student protest filled the streets of San José, opposing new budgetary terms being imposed on Costa Rica’s public universities. The demonstration, which was also attended by staff and even rectors of the universities, was called after the Ministry of Finance ordered an increase in the percentage of the Special Fund for Higher Education (FEES) that goes to capital expenditures—which effectively means a cut in salaries for teachers and staff. Banners read “The education of our children is not up for negotiation” and “Hands off the UCR,” a reference to the University of Costa Rica. University authorities and students did meet for several hours with government officials after the march in search of an agreement, while thousands of supporters maintained a vigil outside the presidential palace. President Carlos Alvarado, elected as leftist last year but now accused of imposing a neoliberal program, was among those who met with the protest leaders. (Photo: Poder Popular)

Central America
Honduras protest

Honduras: uprising against narco-president

Militant protests have swept through Honduras since the conviction by a federal jury in New York of the brother of President Juan Orlando Hernández on narco-trafficking charges. Thousands have filled the streets of cities and towns across the Central American country to demand the resignation of Hernández. Protesters have repeatedly blocked traffic arteries, erecting barricades with stones and flaming tires. A police transport truck was set on fire in Tegucigalpa. Opposition leader Salvador Nasralla of the Anticorruption Party has thrown his support behind the protests and called on the security forces to stand down, invoking a “right to insurrection” in Article 3 of the Honduran constitution. (Photo via AMW)

Central America
Diana Isabel Hernández

Environmental defender slain in Guatemala

Environmental activist Diana Isabel Hernández was slain in an attack by armed men on a religious procession in her community of Monte Gloria,  in the Guatemalan department of Suchitepéquez. Hernández was a leader of the Mujeres Madre Tierra Association, a group linked to the local Catholic church that worked to protect forests and promote organic agriculture. The Alianza por la Solidaridad human rights network denounced the slaying as a “cowardly murder that adds to the many cases of attacks on leaders who work for the common good.” The network counts 16 social leaders assassinated in Guatemala last year—compared to three in 2017. (Photo via InfoLibre)

Central America

Nicaragua approves police amnesty law

Nicaragua’s Congress approved an amnesty law that will offer protection to police and others involved in crimes against anti-government protesters over the past year. According to rights groups, more than 700 people were arrested in demonstrations that erupted in April 2018 when President Daniel Ortega tried to cut social security benefits. More than 300 mostly opposition protesters died in clashes with security forces, while more than 60,000 Nicaraguans have gone into exile due to political strife over the last 14 months. The new law was approved by 70 votes from Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in the 92-member chamber. It also allows for the release of detainees arrested during the protests, despite the fact that Ortega labelled them “terrorists.” The new law has faced harsh criticism from human rights groups and the UN. (Photo via InSight Crime)

Central America

Central America climate crisis fuels migration

Commentators have noted the roots of the current massive migration from Central America in the political economy of the free trade order. The US-led repression and counter-insurgency in the isthmus in the 1980s allowed the imposition of “free trade” or “neoliberal” regimes in the generation since then—culminating in the passage of CAFTA. This, in turn, has exacerbated the expropriation from the peasantry of their traditional lands by agribusiness and agro-export oligarchies. But this dynamic is now being augmented by factors related to political ecology—the degradation of the land itself due to climate destabilization. (Photo: IOM)

Central America

Honduras: riots, repression amid neoliberal ‘reform’

In the wake of angry protests that swept through Tegucigalpa, Amnesty International is denouncing attacks against human rights defenders by Honduran security forces during the unrest. Amnesty charged that riot police used tear-gas outside the headquarters of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), where demonstrators tried to take shelter. Members of the group were also detained. The protests, which saw the city’s municipal palace set on fire, were called to oppose a package of bills that aim to restructure the ministries of education and health. Doctors and teachers have gone on strike in protest of the proposed reform, which they say will lead to mass firings in the public sector, and represents a step toward privatization of education and health services. (Photo: Amnesty International)

Central America

Indigenous land-rights activist slain in Costa Rica

Sergio Rojas, a leader of the indigenous Bribrí people in Costa Rica, was slain in an attack by unknown gunmen at his home in the indigenous territory of Salitre, Puntarenas province. Rojas was president of the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre and coordinator of Costa Rica's National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAP). He was shot 15 times in the attack. The local conflict stems from a 1977 law that gave the Bribrí and Teribe peoples rights to 11,700 hectares of usurped lands but did not allocate funds to compensate non-indigenous farmers who already occupied those lands. In 2012, Rojas was shot at six times in an apparent assassination attempt. (Photo via Tico Times)

Central America

Honduras: justice at last for Berta Cáceres?

A court in Honduras convicted seven men in the 2016 murder of indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres. Until her assassination Cáceres had been leading a campaign against the Agua Zarca dam, a joint project by Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) and Chinese-owned Sinohydro. The dam was being built on the Rio Gualcarque without prior consultation with the Lenca indigenous community that depends on the river for their food and water. Cáceres, who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, had received numerous threats for her activism against the dam before she was killed by gunmen at her home in the town of La Esperanza. Two of those convicted are former DESA managers. (Photo by UN Environment/ONU Brasil via Wikimedia Commons)

Central America

El Salvador: arrest ordered in Oscar Romero killing

Days after the Catholic Church declared El Salvador's martyred Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero a saint, a judge in the Central American country issued an arrest order for a former military captain long suspected of ordering the killing of the religious leader. Judge Rigoberto Chicas issued the order for national and international authorities to apprehend Alvaro Rafael Saravia,  78. He remains at large and is believed to be in hiding. Saravia had been arrested for the crime in 1987, but the case against him was dropped when El Salvador passed its amnesty law in 1993. The case was re-opened after El Salvador's Supreme Court struck down the amnesty law in 2016. (Photo via Catholic News Agency)

Central America

UN welcomes Guatemala court ruling on genocide

UN human rights experts welcomed a recent Guatemalan court ruling that the deaths of 1,771 ethnic Ixil Mayan people between 1983 and 1984 constituted a "genocide," stating: "Impunity for perpetrators is unacceptable." The deaths occurred during the 36-year-long Guatemalan civil war, in which 200,000 civilians were killed. It was determined that under "Operation Sofia," then-dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt had ordered the army to annihilate the entire Ixil population. Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide in 2013, but that verdict was overturned for procedural errors. Trial resumed last year, but Montt died in April 2018, before the case was concluded. (Photo via Jurist)

Central America

Guatemala: ex-VP sentenced in water scandal

Guatemala’s special anti-corruption Court for High Risk Crimes sentenced former vice president Roxana Baldetti to prison for 15 years and six months for her role in the so-called "Magic Water" scandal. The case concerned the awarding of an $18 million dollar contract to decontaminate Lake Amatitlán, an important water source for peasant communities. The contract went to Israeli firm M. Tarcic Engineering Ltd, which claimed it had a "special formula" that could clean the lake within months. An investigation revealed that the "formula" consisted of water, salt and chlorine. The Authority for the Sustainable Management of Lake Amatitlán (AMSA), establsihed to oversee the clean-up, documented illegal dumping of agricultural and municipal waste into the Río Villalobos, which empties into the lake. The UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) supported Guatemalan prosecutors in the conspiracy case against Baldetti. (Photo via EmisorasUnidas)

Central America

Nicaragua ‘witch-hunt’ against dissent: UN experts

A group of UN human rights experts, including the special rapporteurs on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and extrajudicial exections, issued a statement urging the government of Nicaragua to "stop the repression" following 100 days of unrest in which at least 317 have been killed and 1,830 injured. "Reports indicate that there has been an increase in targeted repression, criminalization and alleged arbitrary detention, which is creating an atmosphere of fear," the statement said. "We are appalled that many human rights defenders, journalists and other opposition voices are being criminalized and accused of unfounded and overly punitive charges such as 'terrorism'." (Poto via Noticiias ONU)