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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bodies of Three Abducted Activists Found in Mexico

Police in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero have found the bodies of three left wing activists that went missing during a demonstration advocating for the rights of farmers last Thursday. Two of the bodies, discovered a few miles north of Acapulco, suffered fatal gunshot wounds; the third was evidently beaten to death. At least five other protestors are still missing. Among the dead is local Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Emiliano Zapata Union of Communal Landholders (UCEZ) leader, Arturo Hernandez Cardona. The PRD and UCEZ are both liberal activist parties dedicated to land reform and the protection of the rural poor and indigenous disenfranchised. During the 1990′s scores of PRD and UCEZ activist were killed by criminal gangs and police alike. Bertoldo Martinez Cruz, a leading PRD member in Guerrero, said he believes authorities were involved in the most recent disappearances. But fellow PRD member Angel Aguirre Rivero said he did not believe the government is responsible for these recent deaths, “we live in different political times.” He added, “I believe this is the result of the violence the whole country is going through.”

Rewards for Justice Updated

The Rewards for Justice program, a U.S. State Department initiative, is now offering large sums of money for information leading to the capture of several militants in Africa. Up to $7 million is offered for Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, whose organization has waged a war against the Nigerian government that has displaced tens of thousands and killed at least 2,500 people. Another $5 million is offered for Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Belmokhtar, also known as Mr. Marlboro, is the founder of al-Mulathamun Battalion which has made the threat of kidnapping de rigueur for foreigners working in Algeria and Mali. Belmokhtar once worked under the umbrella of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), but has left the group to work in affiliation with the Al-Qaeda core, as a recently discovered letter shows. Also included in today’s Rewards for Justice update are leaders for AQIM and another splinter group, Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). Since the program was founded, the U.S. State Department has paid more than $125 million dollars, leading to the notable captures of prominent Al-Ba’athiyya Al-Saddamiyya members Uday and Qusay Hussein and World Trade Center bomber, Ramzi Yousef.

Egypt Sentences NGO Workers to Jail

An Egyptian court sentenced 43 pro-democracy workers, including 16 Americans, to up to five years in prison for working for unlicensed civil-society organizations. All of the Americans were sentenced in absentia, though Robert Becker, who worked for the congressionally-funded National Democratic Institute, did remain in Egypt throughout the trial. Most lower level Egyptian employees were sentenced to one year suspended sentences, while those with midlevel roles, like Becker, received two-year hard labor sentences. Becker watched the sentencing announcement from a cafe and left Cairo for Rome within hours of the verdict. Those that had already fled the country, including Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, received five-year sentences. Trial Judge Makram Awad also ruled that the Egyptians branches of the NGOs that the defendants worked for should be closed, with their property forfeited to the government. Last month, U.S. NGO Human Rights Watch condemned a new Egyptian law which it said “would allow the government free rein to cut off funding and halt activities of groups that it finds inconvenient. It is hostile to the very notion of independent civil society.”

Brazilian Government Seeks Resolution to Indigenous Qualms

One Hundred and Forty-Four Munduruku Indians flew to the Brazilian capital today to meet with representatives from President Dilma Rousseff’s government in order to resolve a conflict over damming rivers in the Amazon basin. Last week the Munduruku stopped work at Belo Monte, a dam on the Xingu river capable of producing 11,233 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to about 10 percent of Brazil’s current generating capacity. The dam would also displace 20,000 indigenous Brazilians. Country wide, Indians have engaged in largely nonviolent occupations of government and private works projects in an effort to win a cessation of damming in the Amazon rainforest. Damming isn’t the only concern. Some 2,000 Kaingang and Guarani Indians set up roadblocks in Rio Grande do Sul state to protest the government’s decision to cease granting ancestral lands to indigenous communities. These land grants were massively opposed by Brazil’s powerful commercial farming lobby. “The government’s policy is unconstitutional. Indian lands must be set aside,” Deoclides de Paulo said by telephone from a blocked highway. “The government has abandoned us; Dilma isn’t supporting indigenous peoples.” And indeed, while more land grants are under consideration, government sources have suggested that Rousseff does not plan to approve any new Indian reservations for the foreseeable future.

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