Just Americas: A Blog by LAWG

82 Members of Congress Call on President Obama to Restore Military-Style Firearms Import Ban to Reduce Violence in Mexico


Just last week, 80 Members of Congress joined with Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) to call on the Obama Administration to resume enforcement of a 1968 law that bans imports of non-sporting assault weapons. This law was enforced by Bush I and strengthened under the Clinton Administration, but was silently discontinued by Bush II. There’s no need for Congress’s approval; President Obama has the power to restore this ban, an important tool to reduce violence in communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, today.  

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What is Wrong with the White House’s Plan for Democracy in Cuba?


ZunZuneo
or the “Cuban Twitter” continues to dominate headlines as details regarding U.S. Agency of International Development’s (USAID) failure to inspire a “Cuban Spring” through a “discreetly” funded social networking platform remain unclear. The Associated Press (AP) first broke the story on April 3, 2014 outlining the parameters of the USAID and Creative Associates International program to develop a bare-bones “Cuban Twitter,” using cell phone text messaging to evade Cuba's strict control of information and its restrictions of the internet. The idea behind the development of the social media platform, according to AP, was to create a credible news source for Cubans on the island. ZunZuneo drew more than 40,000 followers and gathered data (such as location, cell phone numbers) on its users which was hoped to be used for political purposes. According to the AP, the social network managers hoped to use this information to trigger “smart mobs” that would protest the current Cuban government and generate a “Cuban Spring,” head nodding to the “Arab Spring,” a series of protests and uprisings that swept through a handful of Arab countries from 2010-2013.

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A Plan Still on Paper: Three Years of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan


DSC_0846Monday, April 7th marks the third anniversary  of the failed U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan (LAP). Intended to address the concerns about labor rights that long stalled the U.S. Congress’s approval of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the LAP was supposed to be, in theory, a tool that would create structural changes for workers to improve their working conditions in a country known more for its anti-union violence than its adherence to the rule of law. Unfortunately, practice is far removed from theory.  Rather than celebrating this anniversary, we are just once again reminded that Colombia still has far to go to protect labor rights and labor unionists’ lives.

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Disturbing Developments with Mexico’s Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists


For many months, civil society organizations have expressed growing frustration with the slow pace of implementation of the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Journalists, a program housed in the Interior Ministry (SEGOB) tasked with providing protection measures for HRDs and journalists under attack. Many HRDs and journalists who have sought protection through the Mechanism have been put on hold for upwards of 6 months. La Jornada reported on March 26th that of the 152 journalists and HRDs who applied for protection, only 41 of cases had been reviewed. Funding issues plaguing the Protection Mechanism have compounded these problems. Although nearly 263 million pesos (US $20.3 million) had been designated for the mechanism, bureaucratic hurdles have made these funds all but inaccessible.

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USAID’s Cuban Twitter: “Democracy Promotion” Does More Harm than Good

Hours after Vice President Joe Biden welcomed famed Cuban blogger and social media political activist Yoani Sánchez for a high profile photo op and meeting, the Associated Press broke a story about a clandestine U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program that reportedly stole thousands of phone numbers of Cuban cellphone users in an elaborate attempt to inspire social unrest in Cuba.
 
According to the AP, in 2010 the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives and contractor Creative Associates secretly created a Twitter-like cell phone platform that allowed U.S. information technology contractors to gather private data on its 40,000 Cuban users and blast out text messages to the subscribers. The platform, called ZunZuneo, also allowed Cubans to communicate via text message with people who subscribed to their feed.

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