Essential Afro-Latino/ Caribbean Current Events

Yehuda

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Haitians mobilize against insecurity and high cost of living


The protesters demanded Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s resignation, arguing that under his management, the economic and social crisis got worse in the country

August 25, 2022

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On August 22, thousands of Haitians took to the streets across the country to protest against rampant insecurity, chronic gang violence and the rising cost of living. (Photo: Etant Dupain/Twitter)


On Monday, August 22, thousands of Haitians took to the streets across the country to protest against rampant insecurity, chronic gang violence and a rising cost of living. The protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister and acting President Ariel Henry, arguing that under his management, the economic and social crisis deepened in the Caribbean country.

In the capital of Port-au-Prince, members of several civil society organizations, popular movements, trade unions, and opposition parties held a massive rally, condemning fuel shortages and soaring prices of essential commodities and basic services. Protesters blocked roads with burning tires in and around the capital. Haiti’s central bank reported that inflation had reached 29% and hit a 10-year high.

In Cap-Haïtien, citizens held sit-ins outside banking institutions to reject the devaluation of the national currency, the Haitian Gourde, against the USD, which has lost almost 40% of its value so far this year. Hundreds of people mobilized in the streets criticizing the Henry administration’s inability to combat insecurity or create the conditions necessary to hold elections. They also condemned the international community, especially the US, the UN, the OAS and the Core group for installing a puppet government in Haiti and continuing their interference in the country’s internal affairs.

The protest actions in Cap-Haïtien were called by former senator and former presidential candidate Jean Charles Moïse, leader of the left-wing Platfòm Pitit Desalin party, who recently withdrew his support for the Henry government. Last week, Moïse and various other political leaders withdrew from the political agreement signed last September to find solutions to the crisis facing the country following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. They argued that the ruling right-wing Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK) party has no interest in solving the real problems of Haiti, or organizing the elections before the end of this year, as it promised last year. They also condemned the opposition Democratic and Popular Sector (SDP) and the Fusion of Haitian Social Democrats parties for supporting the Henry government.

Demonstrations and marches took place in other major cities such as Petit-Goâve, Miragoâne, Les Cayes and Jacmel against widespread insecurity, political instability and the cost of living crisis.



The mobilizations coincided with the 231st anniversary of the 1791 slave uprising that triggered a long struggle for Haiti’s independence from France in 1804. The demonstrators marched on the streets chanting slogans, such as “rise up for another independence”.

The authorities responded to these social protests with violent repression. In Port-au-Prince, the police shot tear gas at protesters in an attempt to disperse them from the Delmas 40 highway. A group of armed supporters of the Henry government then opened fire on protesters at Delmas 38. According to the Platform for National Mobilization, at least two people were killed and several were injured.

According to reports from Radio Resistance, on Tuesday, August 23, members of various social organizations and trade unions organized a sit-in outside the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to denounce the situation. They also demanded the resignation of trade minister Ricarden Saint Jean.

Since 2018, Haiti has been going through an acute social, political, institutional and economic crisis. The situation has worsened since the assassination of Haiti’s de-facto president Moïse in July 2021. Following his assassination, armed gangs have been increasingly seizing control of the national territory.

The government has repeatedly claimed that it needs support to arm the police against the criminal gangs. However, civil society organizations and popular movements have claimed the government and the police collaborate with the gangs in looting the citizens and public resources.

According to the UN report in February, kidnappings have increased by 180% in 2021 compared to the previous year. The battles between rival gangs have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. Serious incidents of sexual violence against women and girls, as well as boys being recruited by gangs, have also been reported.

According to a recent report by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, nearly 1.5 million people are trapped in gang-controlled neighborhoods only in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. The agency warned that conditions are worsening as growing violence is keeping people and children from nutritious food, drinking water and adequate health care.

The World Food Program says nearly half of Haiti’s population, some 4.4 million people, are going hungry and need lifesaving assistance.



Haitians mobilize against insecurity and high cost of living
 

Yehuda

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Puerto Ricans demand cancellation of contract with LUMA Energy


Protesters denounce increased power outages, while power prices have risen several times since LUMA began operating Puerto Rico’s electricity system

September 02, 2022 by Tanya Wadhwa

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On August 25, thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets in the capital San Juan against Canadian-American LUMA Energy company Photo: Bandera Roja/Twitter

On Wednesday, August 31, a large demonstration was organized in Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan, demanding cancellation of the contract with Canadian-American electricity transmission and distribution company, LUMA Energy. The Jornada Se Acabaron Las Promesas social movement, which organized the protest, also demanded the withdrawal of the island’s Financial Oversight Board, and the resignation of Governor Pedro Rafael Pierluisi.

Early Wednesday morning, Jornada organized a peaceful roadblock with tires on a section of Luis Muñoz Rivera Avenue, in front of the Seaborne building where the offices of the Financial Oversight Board (JCF) and the Energy Bureau (NEPR) are located. They shouted slogans such as “Get out LUMA, get out Pierluisi, get out the Board.” A few hours later, the police moved in to clear the protesters from the road, violently arresting twelve of them.

The arrested protesters were taken to the Hato Rey West police station. The movement, through its Facebook account, claimed that the lawyers of the arrested members were barred from meeting with their clients, and condemned the police for violating the right to legal representation. The group called on Puerto Ricans to mobilize against the illegal arrests.

That evening, dozens of people gathered outside the Hato Rey West police station and demonstrated until late. Demonstrators refused to leave the police station until their fellow comrades were released. After a few hours of peaceful picketing, the arrested members were released.

The protest was the latest in the series of demonstrations that began last week against LUMA Energy. On August 25, 26 and 27, thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets of San Juan, demanding termination of the contract signed between the state Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and LUMA Energy, over constant power blackouts and repeated increases in the electricity bill.

Protesters argued that since LUMA began operating in Puerto Rico, on June 1, 2021, the electricity services have worsened and outages have increased due to lack of maintenance, while power rates have hiked at least seven times in a year.

Reportedly, in recent weeks, Puerto Ricans have been experiencing prolonged power outages at least twice a week, in addition to voltage dips multiple times a week. The blackouts have damaged appliances that in turn have sparked fires, which destroyed homes. A family recently lost their home after a generator exploded as they attempted to start it during a blackout. Multiple hospitals have been left in darkness after their generators malfunctioned.

People on the streets have demanded that the PREPA re-assume full control of the electric power system, and gradually move toward a renewable electricity system.

In addition, the protesters also demanded dissolution of the Financial Oversight Board in the wake of the implementation of numerous anti-people policies since its establishment six years ago. They also called for Governor Pierluisi’s resignation, arguing that he has been supporting the neoliberal measures, ignoring the urgent needs of the citizens, since his election last year. They also condemned him for repeatedly defending LUMA.

Citizens denounced that since the establishment of the board in 2016, under the US federal law PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act), the cost of water, food, and tolls have risen sharply. The people decried the privatization of the University of Puerto Rico, highways, beaches, and other assets of the country. They also criticized the housing shortage due to overvaluation and displacement of communities to favor tourism. Puerto Ricans condemned the increase in corruption under the Pierluisi administration.

Slogans chanted since on the streets include “the contract is a robbery, it is the people who pay for the robbery,” “get out LUMA, get out Pierluisi,” “LUMA is the worst for the working class people” and “there will be no peace if LUMA doesn’t leave.”

“We hold the governor, the Financial Oversight Board, the Energy Bureau and the US government accountable for the energy crisis that the island is going through. More than a year ago, it was warned that the LUMA contract would trigger a terrible social, humanitarian and economic crisis. Today, the blackouts and the incapacity of this company are our daily bread,” said Jocelyn Velázquez, the spokesperson of Jornada.

Velázquez called on the people to continue mobilizing. “We must take to the streets en masse so that the system understands that it is time to back down. That contract must be canceled and the displaced PREPA employees must return to their jobs to repair the mess caused by LUMA,” he said.



On August 27, a group of 30 people associated with Jornada organized a cacerolazo against the private energy consortium in the Plaza Las Américas shopping center. A cacerolazo is a kind of protest in which people call attention by banging pots, pans, and other utensils. In the afternoon, over two hundred citizens gathered on Fortaleza street to continue the peaceful protests, demanding better electricity service and corruption-free governance. In the late evening, protesters held another cacerolazo. At around 10 pm, the situation had become tense when the police arrested a 16-year-old minor, violently dragging him by his legs after he jumped past the barricades they had erected.



On August 25, the police violently repressed the protesters, who marched to the governor’s office, La Fortaleza, to express their rejection of the inconveniences caused due to the chronic interruptions in the electricity service. The agents fired tear gas and pepper spray at the protesters and attacked them with batons in order to disperse them.

According to reports from Latino Rebels, on the night of August 25, in addition to several protesters, at least four other journalists were also attacked by police despite being duly identified as press. According to a police press conference on Friday, four people were arrested at the protest.



On August 25, thousands of citizens, including famous artists, environmentalists, political leaders, social activists, students, teachers, and workers from across sectors peacefully demonstrated on Fortaleza street in old San Juan. They held a cacerolazo, sang and danced, calling on the government to heed their demands.

Despite the repression on Thursday night, hundreds of people continued demonstrating on Fortaleza street for the next two days.



Puerto Ricans demand cancellation of contract with LUMA Energy
 

Yehuda

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Charles' succession stirs Caribbean calls for reparations, removal of monarch as head of state


By Kate Chappell and Michela Moscufo
September 9, 2022 | 9:19 AM GMT-3 | Last Updated 3 days ago


KINGSTON/NEW YORK, Sept 8 (Reuters) - (This August 8 story corrects the number of countries in the Commonwealth in paragraph 4 to 56, not 54)

The accession of King Charles to the British throne has stirred renewed calls from politicians and activists for former colonies in the Caribbean to remove the monarch as their head of state and for Britain to pay slavery reparations.

Charles succeeds his mother, Queen Elizabeth, who ruled for 70 years and died on Thursday afternoon. read more

The prime minister of Jamaica said his country would mourn Elizabeth, and his counterpart in Antigua and Barbuda ordered flags to half-staff until the day of her burial.

But in some quarters there are doubts about the role a distant monarch should play in the 21st century. Earlier this year, some Commonwealth leaders expressed unease at a summit in Kigali, Rwanda, about the passage of leadership of the 56-nation club from Elizabeth to Charles. read more

And an eight-day tour in March by now heir-to-the-throne Prince William and his wife, Kate, to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas was marked by calls for reparation payments and an apology for slavery. read more

"As the role of the monarchy changes, we expect this can be an opportunity to advance discussions of reparations for our region," Niambi Hall-Campbell, a 44-year-old academic who chairs the Bahamas National Reparations Committee, said Thursday.

Hall-Campbell sent condolences to the Queen's family and noted Charles' acknowledgment of the "appalling atrocity of slavery" at a ceremony last year marking the end of British rule as Barbados became a republic.

She said she hopes Charles would lead in a way reflecting the "justice required of the times. And that justice is reparatory justice."

More than 10 million Africans were shackled into the Atlantic slave trade by European nations between the 15th and 19th centuries. Those who survived the brutal voyage were forced to labor on plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas.

Jamaican reparations advocate Rosalea Hamilton said Charles' comments at the Kigali conference about his personal sorrow over slavery offered "some degree of hope that he will learn from the history, understand the painful impact that many nations have endured 'til today" and address the need for reparations.

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth sits next to Prince Charles during the State Opening of Parliament in central London, Britain June 21, 2017. Stefan Rousseau/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The new king did not mention reparations in the Kigali speech.

The Advocates Network, which Hamilton coordinates, published an open letter calling for "apologies and reparations" during William and Kate's visit.

The Queen's grandchildren have the chance to lead the reparations conversation, Hamilton added.

Jamaica's government last year announced plans to ask Britain for compensation for forcibly transporting an estimated 600,000 Africans to work on sugar cane and banana plantations that created fortunes for British slave holders.

"Whoever will take over the position should be asked to allow the royal family to pay African people reparations," said David Denny, general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, from Barbados.

"We should all work towards removing the royal family as head of state of our nations," he said.

Jamaica has signaled it may soon follow Barbados in ditching royal rule. Both remain members of the Commonwealth.

An August survey showed 56% of Jamaicans favor removing the British monarch as the head of state.

Mikael Phillips, an opposition member of Jamaica's parliament, in 2020 filed a motion backing the removal.

"I am hoping as the prime minister had said in one of his expressions, that he would move faster when there is a new monarch in place," Phillips said on Thursday.

Allen Chastanet, a former St. Lucia prime minister and now leader of the opposition, told Reuters he backed what he said was a "general" movement toward republicanism in his country.

"I certainly at this point would support becoming a republic," he said.

Reporting by Kate Chappell in Kingston; additional reporting by Robertson Henry in St. Vincent and Michela Moscufo in New York Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Leslie Adler

Charles' succession stirs Caribbean calls for reparations, removal of monarch as head of state
 

Yehuda

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Antigua and Barbuda to hold republic referendum within three years, says PM

Prime minister Gaston Browne reiterates plan for referendum in wake of Queen’s death

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The Earl and Countess of Wessex give Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne a gift during their April visit. Browne plans to hold a referendum on becoming a republic within three years.
Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty Images

Press Association
Sun 11 Sep 2022 03.23 BST


The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, has said he will call for a referendum on the country becoming a republic within three years, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Browne signed a document confirming Charles III’s status as the new King, but minutes later, said he would push for a republic referendum after indicating such a move earlier this year during a visit by the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

The Caribbean country is one of 14 nations to retain the British monarch as their head of state.

Browne told ITV: “This is not an act of hostility or any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy, but it is the final step to complete that circle of independence, to ensure that we are truly a sovereign nation.

When asked for a timeframe on the referendum, he said: “I’d say probably within the next three years.”

Browne told ITV on Saturday his country would remain a committed member of the Commonwealth, even if it removes the monarchy via referendum.

Browne in April called on the Wessexes during a trip to Antigua in April to use their “diplomatic influence” to achieve “reparatory justice”, and outlined his country’s wish to one day become a republic.

Prince Edward was criticised as “arrogant” for joking that he had not been taking notes during Browne’s comments.

William and Kate, meanwhile, were accused of harking back to colonial days in Jamaica in March after the pair shook hands with crowds behind a wire mesh fence and rode in the back of a Land Rover, just as the Queen had done 60 years prior.

Demonstrators accused them of benefiting from the “blood, tears and sweat” of slaves, while in the Bahamas they were urged to acknowledge the British economy was “built on the backs” of past Bahamians and to pay reparations.

Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, suggested to William and Kate that his country may be the next to become a republic, while a minister from Belize said afterwards that perhaps it was time to “take the next step in truly owning our independence”.

William acknowledged after the trip that the monarchy’s days in the Caribbean may be numbered as he stated the future “is for the people to decide upon”.

Antigua and Barbuda to hold republic referendum within three years, says PM

 

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Law 70 of 1993, which seeks to protect the identity and rights of Afro-descendants, turns 29

The national government commemorated the creation of this Law and promised to continue strengthening the struggle for the dignity of the Afro-Colombian, Raizal and Palenquero peoples.

August 27, 2022

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The national government commemorated the creation of this Law and promised to continue strengthening the struggle for the dignity of the Afro-Colombian, Raizal and Palenquero peoples. (Photo: Colprensa — Raúl Palacios)

This August 27 marks the creation of Law 70 of 1993, one of the greatest achievements of the Afro-descendant community in Colombia. This law established the legal mechanisms for the protection of the cultural identity and the rights of the black communities of Colombia as an ethnic group.

At the commemoration, the national government, headed by Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez, reiterated its intention to protect the rights of Afro-Colombian, Raizal and Palenquero communities.

“We reaffirm the commitment of the Government of Change, to continue strengthening black people's identity processes, promoting the defense, control and proper use of the ancestral and collective territories and the legacy of our elders”, said President Petro this Saturday.

Likewise, he assured that he will continue “working for fundamental rights and closing the historical gaps with the black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal and Palenquera communities. We live better when we live in peace and equality!”.

On the occasion of this commemoration, the national government held an event in which cabinet officials participated, such as the Minister of Agriculture, Cecilia López; the Minister of the Interior, Alfonso Prada; the Minister of Culture, Patricia Ariza; the chancellor, Álvaro Leyva; ethnic organizations, representatives of the Afro-Colombian community, and of course President Gustavo Petro and Vice President Francia Márquez.

Gustavo Petro spoke of total emancipation

During his speech, the president assured that Law 70 of 1993 is “a milestone in the black struggles of Colombia, in the emancipation that has yet to be carried out in Colombia”.

While developing his argument, he stressed that “it is not gratuitous, it is not a coincidence, it is not a paradox that the territories the slaves chose as lands of freedom are today the poorest regions of Colombia: the Pacific coast, the Caribbean regions and other regions of the country are the poorest in Colombia”.

Petro assured that the white elite in power excluded Afro-Colombian communities for centuries. “They decided that slavery must continue in another way and that was exclusion, it was relegating these communities to oblivion”.

Likewise, he added that in this government a new emancipation must be built, one that shall be complete. That is to say, that the goal of total equity must be achieved. “Make those regions where slaves and freedmen once came to found families become equal to other regions so we can equally prosper”.

In that regard, he stressed that Vice President Francia Márquez simbolizes this struggle. “The vice president is the partial expression of the real emancipation we want to achieve in our country”, he said.

Petro recalled that one of the main tasks of the Vice Presidency in his government is to achieve equity in the regions of Colombia.

Francia Márquez will fight so that no one in Colombia is ever discriminated against because of their skin color again

The vice president, for her part, began by thanking the security forces for accompanying black communities and peasants, but also, and especially, the “extended family” that for years has fought against the subjugation suffered by Afro-descendant communities.

“It was you who taught me and taught us that we must fight for the dignity of our communities. It was you who taught us not to get on our knees and it was you who taught us to stand up with dignity, respect and courage but also with rebellion when necessary”, said Márquez.

“The same dignity, rebellion, courage, but also love, because I learned with black people what the extended family means to us. An extended family that has been fractured for multiple reasons. But the time has come to rebuild our family, to hold hands, to build on the difference and make that difference a virtue to change and to guarantee our children and grandchildren that they will never again be discriminated against in this country for the color of their skin”, she said.

Emphasizing one of the struggles she has had for years as a leader, and now as the Vice Presidency of Colombia, once again Francia Márquez promised to work for the rights of the country's ethnic communities.

Law 70 of 1993, which seeks to protect the identity and rights of Afro-descendants, turns 29
 

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The Court recognizes “unjustified reduction” in the number of Afro-Colombian people registered in the census in 2018

26 August, 2022

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The complainants consider that said reduction violated the rights of the Afro-Colombian population

The complainants consider that said reduction violated the rights of the Afro-Colombian population

Two years ago, several NGOs denounced before the Constitutional Court an unjustified population reduction by the National Administrative Department of Statistics (Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística; DANE).

Now, in just 10 months, the DANE must carry out an evaluation study of the causes that led to this result, among other measures.

Reduction

The plaintiffs found a reduction in the number of Afro-Colombian people given during the XVIII National Census of Population and VII of Housing 2018, at that time in charge of the former director, Juan Daniel Oviedo.

Clearly, these deficiencies violated the fundamental rights of the Afro-Colombian population in general, they affirmed.

According to attorney Daniel Gómez Mazo, a member of the NGO ILEX Acción Jurídica, the numbers were inaccurate when compared to results from previous years.

“While the 2005 census counted 4,311,757 Afro-descendants in the country, the 2018 census counted only 2,982,224”, said Gómez.



The foregoing represents a decrease of 30.8% with respect to the number of Afro-Colombian people counted compared to the previous census, carried out 13 years ago.

In its defense, the DANE admitted that multiple difficulties arose in the process that had to be faced such as “security problems in the territories, distrust of the people when being censused, lack of training in the census personnel and shortcomings in the execution of the census process itself”, as specified in the Court's official statement.

For this reason, it was proposed to establish a Technical Committee to launch actions that would allow to solve the problem.

The ruling

Indeed, the First Review Chamber, with a presentation by Judge Diana Fajardo Rivera, ruled in favor of the affected communities, arguing that the shortcomings that took place in the 2018 Census and resulted in said decrease “constitute a breach of the role that corresponds to the State in guaranteeing the right to material equality”.

According to the sentence, these omissions affect “the official recognition of diversity in the Colombian population”, as well as “obstruct the design of suitable public policies that allow overcoming the enormous gaps that disproportionately affect Afro-Colombian communities”, the High Court pointed out.

The DANE must respond

“As the damage has already been done”, the DANE cannot remedy the error with statistical exercises of lesser scope. However, the Court ruled on the merits and issued general orders to prevent this type of situation.

The first is to carry out an evaluation study on the causes that have hindered and reduced the identification of the black population in the country in the last 3 censuses (1993, 2005 and 2018).

It also decided to discuss, with the National Space for Prior Consultation with the Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal and Palenquero Communities, “the feasibility, risks and convenience of including it in the next Quality of Life Survey”.

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Photo: DANE

The Court urged the entity to continue with the implementation of the differential ethnic-racial approach, as well as ordering it to design a Comprehensive Plan of Preparation for the Census in terms of identification of the Afro-descendant population.

The Court recognizes “unjustified reduction” in the number of Afro-Colombian people registered in the census in 2018
 
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