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Join our Treasure(r) Hunt and Book Launch, plus news from the region – LAB Newsletter, February 2023

This month, we focused on El Salvador, a country that has recently garnered significant attention both on social media and in the news (and not for the best reasons). We reported on a concerning situation in Chocó, Colombia, regarding Afro-Colombian heritage; the recent killings of two Honduran activists that strongly suggest government involvement in human rights abuses; and a community of environmental defenders in India inspired by Chico Mendes and Latin American struggles for environmental justice. Don’t forget to check out our TV series recommendation, featuring a well-known corruption case from Mexico.

News from LAB

Book Launch

We are delighted to announce the launch of Tom Gatehouse’s new book, ‘The Heart of Our Earth: Community resistance to mining in Latin America’Come and join us on 30 March at Lumen Rooms in London. There will be food, drinks, presentations, an exhibition on Dom & Bruno’s work in the Amazon, and an exclusive discount on the book. Sign up here to attend. Our warmest thanks to everyone who has supported this project so far.

Please get in touch if you’d like to review the book, organise an event around it, or interview the author.

HoOE book launch in London

Treasure(r) Hunt

We are urgently seeking a new treasurer to replace Alistair Clark, who has been a very supportive member of our team for the last two years. This voluntary position involves monitoring LAB’s finances, advising on staff employment, new projects, and other expenses, and preparing a brief Treasurer’s Report for LAB’s quarterly Council Meetings and annual AGM. The ideal candidate should have an interest in Latin America and some basic experience in financial management and budgeting, but formal accounting or bookkeeping skills are not required (LAB has a bookkeeper and accountants). If you or someone you know is interested in the role, please contact LAB.

News from the region

El Salvador –  Human Rights traded for ‘peace?

Last week, President Bukele proudly showcased footage of his new ‘heroic’ prison, designed to strike fear into criminals throughout the country. LAB recently published an article summarising a research report from El Faro journalists, which analyses the trade-off between ending gang violence and sacrificing basic civil rights that we expect institutions to protect in a democracy. This raises an important question: what is worse, living without gang violence or living without basic civil rights?

Mike Gatehouse’s article for LAB portrays this lack of a reliable independent justice system, writing on the arrest of five Water Defenders by the Salvadoran Attorney General. This incident illustrates how Bukele could be on a road to abort protections on exploitative mining and may be using government apparata to restrict environmental activists’ work.

The residents of Las Cañas, Ilopango, play football on a pitch which for many years marked the frontier between the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 Sureños gangs. Now local people are fighting tyo reunite their community. Photo: Victor Peña, El Faro

Colombia – attacks on Afro-Colombian heritage 

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A museum showcasing Afro-diasporic history in Quibdó, Colombia, was closed down after receiving multiple threats from armed groups, including demands for a ‘tax fee’. Its director decided to close their doors to avoid contributing to the armed conflict. Rebecca Wilson quotes the director: ‘It has been a huge challenge to convey to humanity that this nation’s culture is not for sale,’ emphasizing the importance of recognizing Colombia’s history of slavery as a critical part of its heritage.

Muntú Bantú museum Afro-diaspora Colombia Quibdó
Muntú Bantú museum restores African documents and artefacts. It boasts 1,200 pieces distributed throughout eight galleries, demonstrating how and under what circumstances Africans were transported to Colombia as slaves. Credit: Muntú Bantú museum

Honduras – More to environmental activists’ situation

For our Environmental Defenders series, Leon Elliott translated a piece by our partner Expediente Público on the tragic killing of two environmental activists from the community of Guapinol in January. It outlines the mining industry’s interests in Honduras and highlights the authorities’ concerning lack of action and transparency, making it yet another example of neglect and open human rights abuses that leave communities vulnerable and marginalized. 

Peru – Women of Influence

LAB’s Nick Caistor reports on the UK visit of two representatives from OMIAASEC, an organization promoting Indigenous women’s rights in Peru. The women presented five short films created by their communities to highlight the challenges faced by the Asháninka people of Junín, with the help of the women-led film collective EmpoderArte, founded by LAB’s Film Editor Karoline Pelikan.

Brazil – Chico Mendes an inspiration in India

Author and translator Pritilata Biswas translated the 1990 LAB book ‘Fight for the Forest – Chico Mendes in his own words’ into Bengali, in response to a request from Gachh Banchao Committee who are campaigning to save a historic avenue of 4,000 trees that line the busy Jessore Road on the outskirts of Kolkata. In her article, Pritilata describes Gachh Banchao’s work and that of other environmental defence campaigns in India, whose experiences closely mirror those of Brazilians in the Amazon and others across Latin America.

Mexico – The ‘Efecto Corruptor’

I highly recommend recommend the eye-opening docu-series ‘A Kidnapping Scandal: The Florence Cassez Affair’, available to watch on Netflix. This gripping series provides a critical examination of Mexico’s corrupt justice system and highlights the devastating effects of violence that the population has been forced to endure for far too long. 


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