Environmental Lawyer Steven Donziger is Free After 993 Days

Environmental lawyer Steven Donziger, who has just been released from nearly a thousand days of house arrest as part of a legal ordeal that began after he successfully sued Chevron on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorian Amazonian Indigenous people for dumping 16 billion gallons of oil into their ancestral land. In 2011, Ecuador’s Supreme Court ordered Chevron to pay $18 billion in a landmark ruling seen as a major victory for corporate accountability. But Chevron refused to pay or clean up the land. Instead, it launched a legal attack on the ruling, targeting Steven Donziger.

Last year, the judge in the case found Donziger in criminal contempt of court after he refused to turn over his computer and cellphone, sentencing him to six months in prison for contempt of court — a misdemeanor. In an extremely unusual legal twist, the judge had appointed a private law firm with ties to Chevron to prosecute Donziger, after federal prosecutors declined to bring charges. After 45 days in prison, he returned to house arrest — until Monday, when he finished his sentence and was released, after about a thousand days under house arrest. Last night he had a block party in Manhattan celebrating his freedom.

— source democracynow.org | Apr 26, 2022

Nullius in verba

Salvadoran journalists’ phones hacked with spyware

The cell phones of nearly three dozen journalists and activists in El Salvador, several of whom were investigating alleged state corruption, have been hacked since mid-2020 and implanted with sophisticated spyware typically available only to governments and law enforcement, a Canadian research institute said it has found. The alleged hacks, which came amid an increasingly hostile environment in El Salvador for media and rights organizations under populist President Nayib Bukele, were discovered late last year by The Citizen Lab, which studies spyware at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. Citizen Lab said it found evidence of incursions on the phones that occurred between July 2020 and November 2021. It said it could not identify who was responsible for deploying the Israeli-designed spyware. Known as Pegasus, the software has been purchased by state actors worldwide, some of whom have used the tool to surveil journalists.

— source reuters.com | Jan 13, 2022

Nullius in verba

El Salvador Reopens Probe into 1989 Massacre of Jesuits by U.S.-Trained Death Squad

El Salvador’s Supreme Court has reopened a criminal investigation into the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests carried out by a U.S.-trained death squad during the Salvadoran civil war. Their housekeeper and her daughter were also killed. Five of the priests were from Spain, and one was Salvadoran. There have been ongoing attempts to prosecute all of those involved in the massacre, since a 1993 amnesty law was declared unconstitutional in 2016. A Spanish court in 2020 sentenced former Salvadoran Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano to 133 years for the killings of the Spanish priests. He’s the only person linked to the massacre currently behind bars.

— source democracynow.org | Jan 11, 2022

Nullius in verba

Mining companies threatening Indigenous people

Josefina Tunki, the first woman to preside over the Shuar Arutam People (PSHA), an Indigenous association in Ecuador, faces death threats due to her opposition to mining on Indigenous lands. The Ecuadoran government has granted 165 concessions to mining companies — for copper, gold and molybdenum — that covers 56% of PSHA territory in the Condor mountain range in southeastern Ecuador. According to the NGO Amazon Watch, the Ecuadoran government has granted 165 mining concessions that occupy 56% of the 230,000 hectares (about 568,000 acres) of PSHA territory. Since the 1990s, these concessions have been granted to Solaris Resources of Canada, SolGold (Australia), ExplorCobres S.A. (EXSA, a Chinese-Canadian joint venture), and Aurania Resources (Canada) to extract copper, gold, and molybdenum. several waterways originate in these mountains, and if they’re contaminated by mining activity, they could set off a chain reaction of environmental damage.

— source news.mongabay.com | 5 Jan 2022

Nullius in verba

When the United Fruit Company Tried to Buy Guatemala

In 1952, the United Fruit Company made the elected government of Guatemala a simple offer: If y’all want democratic self-government so badly, you can have it—for a small fee. It’ll cost you about $19,355,000.

If you’re just joining us, this is the second installment of “How Much Could a Banana Republic Cost?” The previous post introduced the goal of the series, which is to identify the rulers of the world. Are our lives run by Big Guns (armies and mafias), Big Green (multinational corporations and investors), or by Big Graphs (technocrats and tech companies)? The central question of the series suggests one way of finding out: by figuring out how much it actually costs to be the boss. The story that answers this question might also help explain why a sitting, elected national government was in the position of having to buy its own country.

Before we dive into comparing the Big Green, Big Guns, and Big Graphs theories, we should take a second to appreciate why we’d bother with any of them. All are ways of sidestepping the elephant in the room: the formal power structures of our elected governments. Many people assume that the formal “government”—those people with official titles in the state’s institutions—are also the true holders of power in society. Yet none of our three theories necessarily focus on elected officials. In 1952, Guatemala had its fair share: an elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, as well as an elected national Congress. The story of the United Fruit Company helps clue us in on what we’d be missing if we thought you could figure out who was in power just by looking at who was in office. We will need this larger kind of story, and the shadowy characters it involves, to find out who is

— source thenation.com | Olúfémi O. Táíwò | Dec 7, 2021

Nullius in verba

40 Years Later, El Mozote Massacre Victims Vow to ‘Keep Demanding Justice’

As Salvadorans this weekend mark 40 years since nearly 1,000 rural villagers were murdered in El Mozote and nearby hamlets by troops from an elite U.S.-trained army unit, the pursuit of justice by survivors and victims’ families is being threatened by El Salvador’s right-wing president—who critics say is trying to derail the prosecution of the massacres’ perpetrators in a bid to protect the armed forces and solidify his power.

Even as somber ceremonies were held to commemorate those slain in the deadliest mass killing in modern Latin American history, President Nayib Bukele was accused of demagoguery and disrespect after he showed up in El Mozote Friday without consulting local residents, accompanied by soldiers from the same army that committed the massacre.

The 40-year-old populist president, who is often seen wearing a leather jacket and backward baseball cap, has called himself “the world’s coolest dictator.” He’s widely known outside his country for making Bitcoin legal tender; however, inside El Salvador he has stoked fears of a return to authoritarianism with a series of policies and actions that have alarmed human rights defenders at home and abroad.

Earlier this year, Bukele’s allies in the Legislative Assembly summarily fired the attorney general and all the judges in the Supreme Court of Justice’s constitutional chamber.

— source commondreams.org | Brett Wilkins | Dec 11, 2021

Nullius in verba

Cuban double agent reveals CIA machinations in Cuba

In Enemigo (Enemy), Cuban writer and university professor of history, Raúl Capote, reveals his life as a double agent; agent Pablo for the CIA, and agent Daniel for Cuban intelligence. This is not a work of fiction or a classic spy novel. It is the real experience narrated by the protagonist about plans by the CIA and its allies to destroy the Cuban Revolution. His story reveals one of the many facets of the US war against Cuba. For over half a century plans of espionage, sabotage, terrorist attacks, assassination, subversion, military, economic and political aggression, have been made and executed from the US. Most of these plans have failed, thanks to the work and sacrifice of men like Capote.

Capote does not consider himself to be anything but an ordinary Cuban. In the 1980s Capote was vice-director of the cultural association Hermanos Saiz, in Cienfuegos province. This organisation brings together artists, musicians, writers and others in the cultural field. Capote had published literature, which was known outside Cuba and was considered to be critical of Cuban society, even though it had been published by Cuban state publishers. This had caught the attention of the US Interests Section (USIS), a substitute for

— source cubanos.org.uk | Raidel López | 07 Jun 2014

Enemigo by Raúl Capote, Editorial Jose Marti, 2011 (in Spanish)

Nullius in verba

Victims of a 1981 El Salvador Massacre See Justice Slip Away Again

In a makeshift courtroom on the second floor of a nondescript brick building in northeastern El Salvador, Judge Jorge Guzmán has spent the last six years painstakingly gathering evidence from the survivors of one of the worst massacres in the modern history of Latin America: the slaughter of a thousand old men, women and children by the Salvadoran army during the country’s civil war.

Forty years after the massacre, former senior military officers, including the minister of defense at the time, have been facing charges ranging from kidnapping and rape to murder. The military and the Salvadoran elite have repeatedly sought to block any accountability for the massacre, and the current president, Nayib Bukele, a 40-year-old right-wing populist who is often compared to Donald Trump and reminds some of Hungary’s Viktor Orban, may have just succeeded. He has made no secret of his desire to terminate the investigation.

On Aug. 31, the legislature, controlled by Bukele’s party, fired every judge in the country older than 60. Guzmán is 61. Within El Salvador, the prevailing view is that one of

— source propublica.org | Raymond Bonner, Nelson Rauda | Sept. 13, 2021

Nullius in verba