Sunday, January 15, 2006

Impunity Killings in Rio de Janeiro

As locals crowded into the Bar do Raimundo in Morro do Estado, a crowded slum near Rio De Janeiro, one Sunday night in December they had no awareness of the imminent violence just outside.

Within minutes five residents – among them three boys under the age of 15 – lay dead. The weathered cement walls outside the bar were pockmarked with gunshots and the pavement covered in a thick coat of blood.

"It was an execution," one man who was in the bar at the time but was too scared to be identified.

The killings, which came one day after the launch of Amnesty International's report "They come in Shooting: Policing socially excluded communities", have for once caught the public attention in Brazil. Several politicians have denounced what they suspect were "summary executions", while the police have opened an inquiry into what happened that night outside the Bar do Raimundo.

This violence has been escalating in recent years. Between 1999 and 2003 the number of people killed during police operations in Rio more than tripled from 289 to 1,195, according to Justiça Global. The majority were poor, black males from the favelas, aged between 15 and 24.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Key Moment for Dafur

December 2005 was marked by fresh attacks on villages by the Sudanese government and their proxy militias, killing untold numbers and displacing thousands of people. In early January the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Kofi Annan confirmed that the situation in Darfur was deteriorating, as he reported new large-scale attacks against civilians and urged further international action to end the crisis. In February, the U.S. will have a unique opportunity to take the action necessary to stop the violence and protect the people of Darfur. Today we write to invite you to escalate your activism to push the U.S. Administration to seize this moment. Send an e-mail to President Bush, mark your calendars for several important dates, and engage with us as we turn up the heat to stop genocide in Darfur.

Humanitarian organizations across Western Sudan are on the brink of withdrawal. There are currently 3.5 million people in need of food in Darfur. Jan Egeland of the UN estimates that if humanitarian organizations leave Darfur, as many as 100,000 people could die each month. We are out of time. In response to the increasing violence and the threat to civilians and humanitarian aid agencies in Darfur, we must escalate our pressure on the U.S. government to take the action necessary to stop the genocide in Darfur.

In February the U.S. will become President of the UN Security Council for one month, creating the perfect opportunity for the introduction of a resolution at the UN for an international intervention to stop genocide in Darfur. Between now and February we need to escalate our pressure on the State Department. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton at the UN is the man who must introduce that resolution, but the decision to introduce this resolution will be made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President George Bush. Join us in this critical moment.

A statement by Africa Action outlines proposals for ending the genocide.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

CAFTA Threatens AIDS Victims in Guatemala

Guatemala has more AIDS orphans than any other Central American nation, a problem that the government has been slow to acknowledge.

Experts say that the country has reached a critical juncture in the HIV epidemic. Recently Guatemala was granted $8.4 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tiberculosis and Malaria, most of which will be used to provide medicines to those infected.

But provisions of the CAFTA agreement will significantly limit the effect of this money by giving American pharmaceutical companies a five year period of exclusivity for new drugs. Guatemala will no longer be able to import affordable, geneeric AIDS drugs to meet the growing need.

Rachel Cohen, from Doctors Without Borders, calls the efforts to bring in affordable medicine "absolutely critical" because patients often develop resistance to the more commonly used brands;

If those numbers in Guatemala were to rise from 13,000 to 20,000, 30,000, 50,000, it's going to be impossible for Guatemala to contemplate the sort of national response that would be necessary.

The AIDS problem brings into sharp focus the heartless, bottom line mentality of "free trade" agreements and the suffering they bring upon the poor and the powerless.