Tag Archives: human rights

‘A New-New Left in Latin America?’ with Verónika Mendoza Event Recap

Thanks to everyone who joined us last Friday for our event ‘A New-New Left in Latin America?: The Challenge of Progressive Politics in the Midst of a Conservative Turn.’ More than two hundred students, professors, activists, local media, Peruvian journalists and community members joined us at KJCC Auditorium to hear former Peruvian Presidential candidate Verónika Mendoza speak about the rise of  a ‘New-New left’ in the region.

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CLACS Assistant Director Omar Dauhajre presented the event and panelists. Speakers included essayist and poet Mariela Dreyfus who highlighted the feminist activism in Peru and Jose Luis Rénique, historian and principal professor at Lehman College, who discussed democracy, education, and the promise of the left. Panelist Paula Garcia shifted the conversation to the challenges of the Frente Amplio as an organization.

Verónika shared her perspectives about the challenges of the Left in the new Latin American scenario, her strong results in notoriously conservative Peru, and her vision of the future. One of her strongest messages was,  “The absence of the left in national politics represents an opportunity to create something new.”

You can watch a video of the event on the CLACS NYU Youtube page, included below!


Thanks again for joining us, please be sure to learn more about our events on our webpage here.

Security, Red Tape, and Human Rights on the Mexico-Guatemala border

By Laura Weiss, NYU CLACS student

Instituto Migratorio

My research this summer has to do with social movement responses to human rights abuses that have arisen or worsened as a result of U.S.-Mexico policy. One of my case examples for my thesis will be to explore the buildup and consequences of the Southern Border Plan – and the responses by NGOs and activist groups in Mexico and the United States.

Recently, I had the opportunity to join a delegation with the American Friends Service Committee on human rights, migration and militarization in Mexico, for a portion of their two-week trip, to the city of Tapachula in Chiapas, and its outskirts, on the Mexico-Guatemala border. It was a great opportunity to see firsthand a lot of what I’ve studied on the Southern Border and connect with a group of inspiring activists, researchers, journalists and filmmakers interested in similar topics. Going to Tapachula, meeting with human rights groups, and seeing the border zones deepened and complicated my understanding of the migration situation in Southern Mexico today.

Contextualizing the Southern Border Plan

Before coming to Mexico, I’d read a lot about the Southern Border Plan, or Plan Frontera Sur. The program, with the stated intention of improving border and human security on the 541 mile border between Mexico and Guatemala, was announced shortly after the “child migrant crisis” of 2014. In the summer of 2014, 70,000 Central American children arrived at the US-Mexico border, seeking refuge from the life-threatening conditions they faced in their home countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The program aimed to stop migrants and asylum-seekers in Mexico, before they reached the United States, and allotted funding for more migration officers, as well as new detection technologies and detention centers, with support from the United States. The plan also included methods to dissuade migrants and asylum-seekers from boarding the infamous Bestia cargo train that many traveling through Mexico have used as transportation northward – by speeding it up and inserting posts along the trail to make it more difficult to board.

The disbursement of funding has been extremely opaque, and denial hasn’t helped make it any clearer. When I was in Puebla, Mexico, in January for a course on social welfare and child migrants through NYU’s School of Social Work, both the National Migration Institute  (INM) delegate in Puebla and US Embassy representatives in Mexico City denied any financial pressure or support from the US government for the plan. But the law begs to differ. The congressional appropriations for 2015 clearly show that at least $75 million was appropriated to Mexico to secure its southern borders, that in addition to the yearly budget for the US-Mexico bilateral security initiative, Plan Mérida, which has included over $2.6 billion in U.S. funding since 2008.

Meanwhile, measures to help improve services for Central Americans fleeing violence in their home countries have come much more slowly than those securitizing the southern border. The US and Mexico have both defied international law that state that a person cannot be sent back to a country where they face threats to their life and person. As I wrote in an article, “Secure Borders Now, Protect People Later,” for NACLA in February, it wasn’t until January 2016 that the US government announced any sort of specific refugee program to allow Central American child migrants to remain in the country. By national security measures, however, Plan Frontera Sur seemed to work—at least in the short term. Detention and deportation rates from Mexico to Northern triangle countries increased by 40% in the year followed the passage of Plan Frontera Sur, according to the Migration Policy Institute. However, more recent estimates show that the number arriving at the US-Mexico border is once again rising.

With all of this information in mind, I set off to Tapachula.

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“La Bestia” and La Casa del Migrante Saltillo

Posted by Katie Schlechter – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU

In Saltillo the presence of the migrant feels more present than it does in Mexico City, but also somehow a bit tucked away. On my first walk around the hot city the afternoon that I arrived, I could already hear the trains. “La Bestia” runs right through here, mostly carrying migrants towards the border with Texas—from here it’s only a three and a half hour drive to Laredo without traffic. Yet some migrants are also catching the train south, after a serious injury or an inability to pay the “cuota” to cartel groups in order to continue their journey north forced them to backtrack.

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Train tracks less than a block away from the Casa del Migrante Saltillo in northern Mexico. (Photo: Katie Schlechter)

The train horns carry on throughout the night and I can hear them from the room where I’m staying near the center of town. As it gets later and the traffic noise dies down, I can actually hear train wheels click-clacking and screeching as they pull in and out of the main station a few blocks away. La Casa del Migrante Saltillo is a thirty minute hike down Calle Alvaro Obregón—a sweaty walk that I was disappointed to find offers none of the typical plethora of street food options I’m accustomed to in Mexico City. A panadería was my best bet for breakfast, and shortly after shelling out eight pesos for a few pineapple empanadas, I was turning off Obregón towards the shelter next to the train tracks.

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Talking Drug Prohibition at Mexico City’s Museum of Tolerance

Posted by Laura Weiss – MA student at CLACS

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I’ve now been in the beautiful, chaotic, multilayered Mexico City, or DF, for over a week. Since I arrived, I’ve barely rested for a moment: as it turns out, field research is time consuming! In addition to interviews I’ve set up with local NGOs like the Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS), the Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (CentroPro), and doing ethnographic observations of the many protests occurring on Avenida de la Reforma, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the many cursos, talleres and coyunturas this city has to offer.

On Saturday morning, I attended a free curso at the Museo de Tolerancia y Derechos Humanos, located on the Alameda in Mexico’s Centro, across the street from the lively Hidalgo market and downwind of the swanky Reforma Hilton, and more Starbucks than I would care to see. I visited the museum during my last trip to DF, located in a modern, spacious building with exhibits about human rights atrocities around the world, from the Holocaust to the Sudanese conflict to child migrant deaths. The museum offers a series of free courses and events every month, many of which are related to my thesis project. This one was the second session of “La Guerra Contra El Narcotráfico: El Fracaso Ante Los Derechos Humanos” (The War on Drugs: The Failure of Human Rights).

The lecture took place in the large auditorium, and at least 100 people sat in the audience. The session was described as: “La guerra contra las drogas desde el contexto internacional. Identificar los elementos la política criminal que comenzó en Estados Unidos y que se han reflejado en la política criminal internacional y que México ha adoptado desde sus propias características.” (The war on drugs in the international context. Identify the elements of the politics of criminalization that began in the United States and has been reflected in the politics of criminalization international and that Mexico has adopted from its own point of view.)

The lecturer, Jorge Jiménez, a sociologist and criminologist who teaches at Universidad de la Valle in Mexico City, was young and very energetic. He spoke about a mile a minute. He started by talking about the history of prohibition, which officially began in Mexico in 1917, when then-President Francisco Madero proposed the Convention de la Haya, which was ratified between 1924 and 1927. Between 1917 and 1927, the law shifted form mainly being about quality and regulation to focusing primarily on eradication under administrative and penal sanction. However, from its very inception, the laws that dictated eras of prohibition versus tolerance of drugs have been largely shaped by pressure and threats by the U.S. government, who have use the power imbalance between the U.S. and Mexico to influence Mexican policy and practice for a century.

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Meet Djatawo, the First Haitian Superhero

Post by Juan Carlos Castillo, CLACS MA Candidate

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The evening of October 27th, CLACS hosted the event “A Conversation with the Creator of Djatawo, Haiti’s First Comic Book Superhero,” with Anthony Louis-Jeune (Aton). This event was co-sponsored with the Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York. The intimate conversation with Aton held at CLACS room 404, which included live-sketching by the artist, was attended by a diverse group of 23 people which included Kreyol students, comic book fans, and members of the Haitian community. 

It took a whole night to shave his body completely. His eyelashes were the only hair he didn’t remove. And there he was, inside of a pyramid made of wood, tranquil and meditating before his performance. He then came out, silently and peacefully, holding a bronze Egyptian sun disc. He walked through the room, approaching all those present and gave each of them tiny golden hands that were embedded in the medallion. After that, the performance was over.

This was Anthony Louis-Jeune, whom back then was a visual arts senior undergrad student at the Altos de Chavón School of Design, introducing the faculty and fellow students  present to the first Haitian superhero, Djatawo.

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Bagua Not Forgotten

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June 5 marked five years since the bloodshed in the Peruvian city of Bagua, situated in the Amazon. The Peruvian government negotiated a Free Trade Agreement with the United States that came into effect in February of 2009. It gave mining corporations special rights to access the Amazon for oil exploration and subsequent exploitation.  There were numerous protests that year from multiple indigenous groups, like the awajun and wampis. In June, President Alan Garcia declared a state of emergency and sent in the Peruvian National Police to stop the protests.  At least 33 people were killed, including members of the police and indigenous groups.  Although some politicians resigned their posts, like the then Prime Minister Yehude Simon, no politicians have been brought to justice as being the intellectual perpetrators of the crime. Many Peruvians now view both the police and the awajun and wampis peoples as victims of a game in which the players care much more for the benefit of transnationals and their own pockets than the lives of “second class citizens,” as  President Garcia defined them when asked what he thought of the happenings on June 5, 2009.

Starting at around 5:00 at the Plaza San Martin, a wide array of different organizations began a a demonstration in commemoration of the day of the Earth and the fifth anniversary of the bloodshed at Bagua.

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Many different leaders spoke to the crowd of about 100 people at the Plaza San Martin that evening. Between every speaker the crowd cried out in unison: “Conga no va! Conga no va! Toromocho tampoco! Toromocho tampoco!”  The first is a protest against a gold and copper mining project led by Newmont Corporation in Cajamarca, the second a copper and molybdenum mining project led by Minera Chinalco Peru.  Newmont is U.S.-owned, while Chinalco’s roots go all the way to China.

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Stories of El Salvador: The Civil War and Its Aftermath

Photo by Lyn McCraken

Photo by Lyn McCraken

Next April the Graduate Association of Latin American Studies (GALAS) at NYU will open an exhibition entitled Stories of El Salvador: The Civil War and Its Aftermath. Raúl Guzmán and Camilla Querin, two students of the joint degree Master’s program in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Museum Studies will be curating the exhibition that will be exhibited at the Stovall Gallery in the Kimmel Center.

The exhibition is the result of collaboration between GALAS, CLACS, NACLA, Museum Studies, the Mujeres de la Guerra project and the Stovall Gallery. The photo exhibition will focus on the Civil War in El Salvador and the role of women during and after the conflict. The exhibition will present a historical view of the Salvadoran Civil War through portrait photos, videos and oral histories of women involved in the conflict.

The intention is to educate people about the Salvadoran Civil War, about the power of women, their resilience and their organizational abilities. The aim is to tell their inspiring stories and share their hope, wisdom and dedication with the world, to make people reflect upon different forms of activism and to reach not only an NYU audience, but also the Salvadoran community in NYC, people interested in activism, feminism, community organization, photography and resilience after armed conflicts.

Posted by Raúl Guzmán and Camilla Querin – MA Candidates at CLACS / Museum Studies

Human Trafficking is a New Crime for Peruvian Justice

I came to Peru to study how the illegal mining for gold in Madre de Dios province, on the Peruvian border with Brazil and Bolivia, has increased prostitution and human trafficking. The weak presence of the state, combined with the opening of the Interoceánica highway, the growth of illegal mining for gold, the trafficking of goods (arms, drugs) and people, and a high rate of population increase have resulted on severe social, cultural and environmental effects in the area.

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According to a research conducted by INFOS Peru, for every new illegal mining camp in MDD, 45 “prostibares” (brothels) open, and between 2004 and 2011 there were close to 1.700 denounces of human trade in the area (RETA). In MDD, the illegal mining camps have grown keeping pace with brothels.

Despite the core of my research was in Madre de Dios, my fieldwork started in Lima. Before going to the field, I needed to have a bigger picture on how human trafficking for sexual exploitation was understood by the Peruvian state. I interviewed Ricardo Valdés, from Capital Humano y Social Alternativo, an NGO specialized in human trafficking.

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Yuyanapaq: To Remember Peru’s Violent Past

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(Photos taken with permission at Yuyanapaq; collage original)

I recently began my summer fieldwork in Lima, Peru, where I visited the photo exhibit Yuyanapaq, or “To Remember” in Quechua. Created by Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2003, the exhibit is a compilation of photographs that document the impact of political violence on the Peruvian population in the 1980s and 1990s. It groups violent events geographically and categorically, portraying the aftermath of bombings, murders, and attacks by the Peruvian military, the Maoist group the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), and the other communist armed group the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Yuyanapaq is impressive not only in that it does not shy away from exposing the realities of violence, but in that attracts a wide range of Peruvian visitors who, upon being reminded of the country’s violent period, will hopefully work to prevent it from recurring.

The photos evoke Peru’s violent past, even showing physical harm done to the war’s victims. Multiple images show dead and mutilated bodies. They capture inadvertent looks of shock and awe from survivors and first responders, and the utter anguish of family members as they look over the corpses of their loved ones. The only thing that I can think to compare the exhibit to in the United States is a miniature version of the Holocaust Museum. Yet whereas in the Holocaust it was easy to place the blame on the Nazis, and even on one clear, specific perpetrator, in Peru political violence and human rights abuses were committed by both the state military and leftist armed groups such as the Shining Path. How might the moral ambiguity that this type of conflict generates help us better understand the nature of violence? Were all those who committed violent acts in the context of Peru’s war “bad people” at heart, no matter what side they were on? If not, then what pushes otherwise decent people to commit such horrific acts?

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Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani: Creación colectiva y memoria colectiva

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Casa de Yuyachkani: Calle Tacna 363, Magdalena del Mar – Lima 17, Perú

La casa del Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani – o “los Yuyas” como el tiempo y el cariño les ha dado como nombre – se encuentra en el antiguo distrito de Magdalena, cerca del mar limeño. Desde esta casona republicana han salido y a esta casa han ingresado los materiales humanos y culturales que alimentan una historia grupal de más de 40 años. Los integrantes del grupo – Augusto Casafranca, Amiel Cayo, Ana Correa, Débora Correa, Rebeca Ralli, Teresa Ralli, Julián Vargas, y su director, Miguel Rubio Zapata – descubrieron muy pronto que, para hacer un teatro en diálogo honesto con la historia política y social peruana, tenían que sondear en un pasado compartido, participar activamente en un presente fragmentado, y construir juntos un futuro abierto a la inclusión. En estas coordenadas temporales en constante flujo, sus cuerpos y sus voces fueron la materia prima que le permitió a Yuyachkani adentrarse individual y colectivamente en un viaje que se ha nutrido de memoria y que, a la vez, ha producido un espacio en donde ahora residen partes vitales de la memoria colectiva peruana. Continue reading