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Threats to environmental rights + lessons from the Brazilian election – 28 October 2022

We have some inspiring news to share. The final part of our 2021-2022 collaboration with King’s College London, and a significant milestone in the project, our book ‘Women Resisting Violence: Voices and Experiences from Latin America’ will be published on November 15. The book compiles powerful narratives of women’s and girls’ initiatives to fight against the gendered and intersectional violence epidemic all over the continent.  You can pre-order a copy now. If you’d like to write a review of the book or interview one of the authors, you can contact the team on wrv@lab.org.uk
News from the region

Nicaragua and the Global Day of Action on Abortion Rights
Essential improvements have been happening in several Latin American countries regarding the continuous fight for women’s freedom to choose over their bodies. However, many regimes still inflict strict and conservative rules that oppress and control women’s rights. For the WRV blog this past 28 September, Marilyn Thomson shed light on how Ortega’s government still blatantly restricts improvements in the field and shared a communiqué issued by the Nicaraguan Campaign for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in Latin America calling for feminist solidarity with Nicaraguan women. 

LAB author Francis McDonagh reports on the Ortega regime’s persecution of the Church, from restricting the Church’s media channels and academic institutions, to arresting priests critical of his rule.  Brazil, the environment, and elections Oliver Freiberg covers Marilene Ribeiro’s ‘provocative’ online multimedia exhibition, OPEN FIRE, centred around Brazil’s destruction by continuous fires in the Amazon. ‘What better metaphor than OPEN FIRE, when Brazil’s historical, social, and biological heritage has become more frail and more vulnerable; and what sharper weapon than fire to turn them to ash?’ Freiberg writes. As Oliver highlights, in the second round of presidential elections, to be held this Sunday October 30, ‘Brazil will decide the next four years of its history – either by reelecting Bolsonaro, who has not committed to preserving the Amazon, the Pantanal, Indigenous lands, or anything vital to keep Earth alive; or by bringing back ‘Lula’ da Silva, who, despite a number of political slips, managed to reduce deforestation and increase protected Indigenous areas in both his terms as president in 2003 and 2007 and in his successor’s (Dilma Rousseff) in 2011 and 2015.’

LAB correspondent Sue Branford offers her opinion on the lessons for the Progressive Party following the first round of elections. She writes that ‘it has become brutally clear that the left seriously underestimated Bolsonarism’; she remarks on the dangers a close win for Lula could bring; and by collecting the views of several Brazilian academics, she portrays the complex and disappointing scene that precedes the final decision round.
Lula’s PT (Workers’ Party) supporters carry flags and dress in red for the first round of elections on October 2 2022.

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Guatemala, Mexico, and Environmental Defenders

Threats against ancestral land sparked a resurgence of pride in Xinka identity in eastern Guatemala. For our Environmental Defenders series in collaboration with Guatemalan outlet No Ficción, we look at how Xinka leaders in Jumaytepeque and Quesada exemplify permanent resistance and empowerment through their use of legal strategies and tools to preserve their culture.

This year, Mexico overtook Colombia as the deadliest country for Environmental Defenders. Katie Jones summarises a report by Global Witness with the latest updates on the situation in Latin America. She highlights the increased dangers that Indigenous communities face. Katie also spoke on the topic during a webinar with Peru Support Group which you can now watch back here.

‘Free trade and investment agreements are tools for the “deviation of power” away from communities and into corporate boardrooms. This is what the experience of people in Mexico teaches us,’ according to a new report by GRAIN, an international non-profit organization that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. 

For the Indigenous communities in pre-pandemic Chiapas, Mexico, weak health systems and even weaker trust in authorities had dangerous consequences. Following a research trip this summer, Neil Harvey, head of the Department of Government at New Mexico State University, broke down the central facts – from underreporting to conspiracy theories – which led to an erroneously relaxed impression of the Covid situation in the state and played down the extent of its effects on Indigenous communities. 
Chiapas artist Raymundo López expresses in his piece ‘La Máscara’ how ‘Many people in San Andrés did not believe in the virus initially, they said it did not exist and that it was only a mask used by the government like at election time.’ Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist and the Galería MUY.
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