By Salena Tramel and Saulo Araujo
December 11th, 2008
Sixty years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we at Grassroots International recognize that more often than not the reality has failed the vision put forth in that document. Our commitment to defending land, water, and food as the most basic of human rights is reflected throughout the 30-article treaty. Globally, people in all corners of the world currently experience a quadruple crisis that includes food, finance, energy, and the environment. From Latin America to the Middle East, our partners and allies are facing serious threats to their lives and livelihoods. Policies and actions of governments and corporations represent the grave violations of the core principles of the treat
By Saulo Araujo
August 12th, 2008
"Life in Silin community in Honduras is coming back to normal," said Wendy Cruz, an advisor for Via Campesina Central America based in Honduras. In a telephone call yesterday, Cruz expressed gratitude for the prompt actions taken by allies: "Thanks for your support and solidarity. We received hundreds of emails and calls from friends worldwide. Your rapid response and caring gives strength to continue our struggle for land rights in Honduras."
Grassroots International would like to salute Jesus León Santos, the leader of a democratic, farmer-to-farmer network in Oaxaca, Mexico, for winning the 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize – one of the most esteemed awards in the global environmental movement.
They were peacefully protesting water privatization in a corner of their home country, El Salvador -- until the Salvadoran government arrested them and labeled them "terrorists."
Now, the 13 protestors from Suchitoto are free, following a recent decision by El Salvador's attorney general to drop the terrorism charges. Prosecutors were unable to substantiate the charges under the "Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism" -- a 2006 law that the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador strongly supported. (The ruling party in El Salvador is a close ally of the U.S.)
In a promising development for North American workers, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio, recently introduced legislation that would require the U.S. to renegotiate NAFTA. The goal of the legislation is to address the environmental harm, decrease in jobs and wages, and other social and economic problems caused by the failed trade agreement.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Accountability Act (H.R. 4329) would require the Executive Branch of the U.S. government to certify that certain benchmarks have been met by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (the countries covered under the agreement). Such benchmarks include increased U.S. domestic manufacturing, stronger health and environmental standards, and the guarantee of Mexican democracy.
In a few weeks, Guatemalans will cast their votes in the final round of the Presidential elections. They will choose between two candidates, the impresario Alvaro Colom and the army general Otto Perez Molina. So far, it seems that the next president will be elected with a small margin of votes with the two candidates disputing every vote in the capital of Guatemala City, where the election is expect to be decided.
Far in the mountains, the votes of Mayan peasants will have almost no impact on the final outcome of the election. This lack of impact is evident in both political platforms, which fail to address the main issues and concerns of the Mayan population, including landlessness and the dire agrarian situation in the country.
Agrarian Reform and Peasant and Women's Leadership Strengthened at the Francisco Morazan Central America Peasant School
Over the last two days, I have been participating as an observer in the Central American Regional Conference on Agrarian Reform of the Via Campesina at the Francisco Morazan Central American Peasant School, named after the 19th century Central American leader who tried to create a united, progressive Central America.
As I waited for my flight to El Salvador on Tuesday, I decided to browse the newspapers for news about the election in Guatemala and saw a small blurb about the defeat of Rigoberta Menchu. The newspaper article reads that Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, received only 3% of the valid ballots in last Sunday's presidential election in Guatemala.
The tiny Central American nation of El Salvador has long been out of sight, out of mind to most U.S. residents. Once the guns of the 12 year civil war went silent in 1992, the country signed peace accords, disbanded the famously repressive National Guard, modernized the police force incorporating ex-combatants from both sides into its ranks and embarked upon a somewhat haphazard process of healing.
Guatemala’s National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Campesinos (CONIC), was established to promote sustainable livelihoods and community-led development for indigenous peoples across Guatemala.
- Building grassroots power to win rights to land, water and food for the indigenous people of Guatemala, including redistributing excessive land holdings and returning communal lands to their traditional owners;
Launching a model of rural development and land reform based on the Mayan cosmology;
Promoting citizen participation and local power in the countryside;