Just Americas Blog

Listen Up: Time for Change, Latin America & the War on Drugs

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We’ve seen up close how the production and trafficking of illicit drugs has fueled a war in Colombia, corrupted governments in Central America and brought terrifying violence to Mexican communities.  We know about the devastating effects of drug abuse in our own neighborhoods in the United States.  What has become clear is that solutions the U.S. government has pursued, such as the massive aerial spraying campaign in Colombia which destroys food as well as illicit drug crops or aid that encourages the Mexican army to police the streets and checkpoints do not solve the problem. Instead, it leads to more devastation and violence.

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Guatemala: A Blow to Hopes for Justice

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Guatemalans dreaming of and campaigning for a nation governed by the rule of law were devastated June 7th when the head of a UN-supported body set up to investigate organized crime resigned in frustration. Carlos Castresana had labored valiantly, as head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), to investigate the organized crime that has penetrated the nation.

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Colombia's Authoritarian Spell

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The year was 2004. I was contacted by Colombian human rights activists. Would I please come to Colombia to join them in a book launch of the second edition of The Authoritarian Spell? They were worried that the book, a collectively written critique of what they saw as authoritarian tendencies by the administration of President Alvaro Uribe, would provoke a reaction, and wanted international accompaniment. I said yes, and went to one of the book launches in Medellín, where a professor at the local university spoke and introduced me and several of the book’s coauthors, and we had a genteel, scholarly discussion of current events, in an auditorium filled mainly with students and professors. 

Little did we know that the book, criticized by the government as exaggerated, was in fact far too light a critique of the government’s authoritarian tendencies.

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Guatemala's Week of Natural Disasters

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Here’s an update on the recent natural disasters that have hit Guatemala from Kelsey Alford-Jones of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA (GHRC/USA):

A week after Guatemalans experienced a dual assault from Pacaya Volcano and Tropical Storm Agatha, volcanic ash still hangs in the air. Over 80,000 people wait in emergency shelters—the homes, crops and livelihoods of many completely destroyed.

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The Head-Honchos of Cuban Civil Society Set the Record Straight on U.S. Citizens' Travel to Cuba

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Many in the United States Congress continue to hem and haw when it comes to repealing the unjust ban on U.S. citizens' travel to Cuba, but the head-honchos of Cuban civil society know where they stand -- and, presumably tired of the hardliners invoking their name in opposition to any change to the status quo, they've decided to set the record straight. In a letter made public on June 9th, 74 Cubans urged members of Congress to vote in favor of H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, legislation currently being considered by the House Committee on Agriculture that would restore the right of each and every U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, without getting a permission slip from Uncle Sam, and ease the sale of U.S. food to the island.

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