Sunday, September 26, Venezuelans will elect the members of their national assembly for the next five years. No one can foretell the outcome of the elections. The stakes are high.
If the opposition can win one third of the seats, they will be able to effectively put brakes on many of the Chávez government’s proposals. But, whatever the outcome, there are some things to keep in mind.
One: the electoral process in Venezuela is one of the finest in the world. I am not able to vote in these national elections because I am not a Venezuelan citizen. But, as a person who has more than ten years residency in the country, Venezuela does give me the right to vote in local and state elections and so I can personally describe the process.
First, one has to be registered to vote. Upon arriving at the proper election place, there is a list indicating which of the voting tables has your personal information and the voting machine you will use. You are required to show proper identification, sign that you have come to vote, and put a thumb print alongside your signature.
All voting is then done electronically, but when you have touched the button to register your vote, you also receive a printout of your choices which you then deposit in a ballot box. (After the elections, 54% of these are checked to verify that they conform to the results of the electronic results). Finally you are required to dip the small finger of your right hand in a cleansing solution to remove any oils before dipping it in a bottle of indelible ink that is impossible to remove for several days, thus preventing a person from returning to vote more than once.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to test iris scanning technology on undocumented immigrants in the border town of McAllen, Texas, according to a report from a Mexican news service.
In a story that has gained little media attention in the United States, DHS representative Amy Kudwa confirmed to Notimex that the agency will be conducting a preliminary test of the technology in October on undocumented immigrants who have been detained in southern Texas. The eye scanners being tested are reported to have the ability to track up to 50 people a minute from several feet away.
Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have already warned against the potential for the technology to be used by the government to abuse the civil rights of citizens and foreigners traveling in the country. The scanners record the biometric information and store it in a database for identification at a later time.
The report quoted Kudwa, saying that “This is a preliminary test of how the technology works. At this point we have no specific plans to acquire or deploy this technology.” However, the test raises the possibility that the technology will be adopted by the agency to replace the collection of finger prints that is normally done when immigrants are locked up.
DHS manages the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies, which detain thousands of immigrants each year.
By Brenda Norrell
Photo: President Evo Morales at traditional feast after playing soccer in the mountains of Bolivia. Photo Brenda Norrell.
Bolivian President Evo Morales and Palestine Authorities will speak in New York on Wednesday, on "The Right to Water of Occupied Palestine," as President Morales presses the nations of the world to guarantee the right to water for humanity.
The right to water is one of the fundamental rights stated in the declarations produced by those attending the World Peoples' Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April. Of the 35,000 people attending, the majority were Indigenous Peoples.
President Morales has carried those standards to the United Nations, as the governments of the world prepare to negotiate at the UN Climate Conference in Cancun, Nov. 29—Dec. 10.
President Morales announced that he would join high-level Palestinian Authorities in New York to speak on the Right to Water, while in New York for the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Tech Firm Wants Faulty Pirated Software Taken Out of Circulation
An East Coast software development company is seeking a court order from a judge in Boston that, if granted, could require the CIA to return “hacked” software it acquired for use in the agency’s Predator Drone program.
The software firm, Intelligent Integration Systems Inc., or IISI, filed a motion recently for a preliminary injunction in Suffolk County Superior Court, where it has been engaged since last November in a heated legal battle with Marlborough, Mass.-based computer maker Netezza Corp.
Should the motion be granted, Netezza would be forced to round up all IISI software programs that it allegedly pirated, re-engineered for a new computer product, and then sold to various customers, including the CIA. That so-called “hacked” software, in the case of the CIA, is now being used to guide killer drones to their targets, according to IISI’s legal pleadings, despite the fact that the modified software doesn’t function properly.
The IISI/Netezza litigation revolves around a series of claims and counterclaims related to a sophisticated, analytical software program, known as Geospatial, that was developed by IISI and is capable of high-speed integration of spatial data (such as maps and visual images) with non-visual data — such as names and phone numbers.
Federal Agency Investigates Itself and, “Surprise,” Finds No Wrongdoing, FOIA Records Show
The internal affairs unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, whitewashed an investigation into an act of intimidation carried out by two of its agents against a journalist, according to an analysis of Freedom of Information Act documents obtained recently by Narco News.
The offending agents worked for ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility (internal affairs), which, like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland, turns out to be the very same unit that was charged with investigating the agents' intimidating actions, the FOIA records reveal.
So, OPR was essentially investigating itself.
In addition, the OPR agents who “investigated” the offense failed to interview any of the witnesses to the intimidation or even the complaining party — the president of the Federal Hispanic Law Enforcement Officers Association (FHLEOA), Sandalio Gonzalez, a former high-ranking DEA commander.
By Brenda Norrell
A joint report for the UN Periodic Review from the US Human Rights Network has been released. Unlike the US State Department's watered-down version of the testimony presented at the Listening Conferences, this 423-page report documents the US human rights abuses of Native Americans and migrants.
The Human Rights Network report includes Indigenous Peoples Rights, US torture in violation of Geneva Conventions and the systematic racial discrimination in the US, in regards to race and gender in housing, employment and elsewhere.
The new report describes the shocking and inhumane treatment of migrants by ICE and Homeland Security and the militarization of the US/Mexico border.
The report states how migrants are held behind barbed wire, subjected to strip searches and denied basic human rights during imprisonment.
"Depending upon where they are detained, they may not be permitted contact visits with family, may be subject to degrading conditions including strip searches, and may face barriers to communicating with their family, counsel, or other support systems. Immigrants in detention may be held for prolonged periods of time without access to the outdoors.
El organismo gubernamental recorta USD$26 millones al programa debido a preocupaciones en materia de derechos humanos
En una acción sin precedentes, el Departamento de Estado de los EEUU decidió recortar USD$26 millones de un total de USD$175 millones que sería usado para la guerra contra las drogas en México.
El dinero es parte de la Iniciativa Mérida (Plan México), un acuerdo de seguridad por USD$1.4 billones aprobado en 2008, en donde los Estados Unidos proporcionan entrenamiento y equipo a las fuerzas de seguridad mexicanas, incluyendo a las Fuerzas Armadas.
Esta es la primera vez que el Departamento de Estado retiene fondos para un acuerdo de seguridad por cuestiones de derechos humanos. El organismo gubernamental afirma que tomó esa decisión basado en los abusos a los derechos humanos cometidos por el Ejército Mexicano.
El diario Arizona Republic, que publicó la nota por primera vez este fin de semana, escribe que:
El gobierno de Obama quiere que México juzgue a los soldados acusados de abusos en los tribunales civiles, fortalezca sus leyes en contra de las violaciones a los derechos humanos y establezca formas para que los grupos de ciudadanos tengan mayor participación en las estrategias de la lucha contra las drogas, dijo Harry Edwards, vocero del Departamento de Estado.
... Bajo los términos de la Iniciativa Mérida, se supone que el Departamento de Estado retendrá 15 porciento de la ayuda antidrogas a menos que México cumpla cuatro condiciones: asegurar que los soldados acusados de abusos a los derechos humanos sean procesados en tribunales civiles, mejorar la rendición de cuentas de la Policía Federal, hacer cumplir la prohibición a la tortura, y consultar con grupos civiles las estrategias antidrogas.
Como Narco News ha reportado, durante la administración de Felipe Calderón ha habido más quejas por abusos a los derechos humanos en contra de militares que nunca antes. De las 4,305 quejas reportadas desde 2006, 56 miembros del ejército han sido sancionados desde entonces.
Citing human rights concerns, agency cuts $26 million from drug war program
In an unprecedented move, the US State Department has decided to cut $26 million from a $175 million payment that will be used to wage the drug war Mexico.
The money is part of the Mérida Initiative (Plan Mexico), a $1.4 billion security agreement passed in 2008, in which the United States provides training and equipment to Mexican law enforcement and military personnel.
It is the first time that the State Department has denied funds from the security pact due to human rights concerns. The agency claims it made the decision based on human rights abuses committed by the Mexican military.
The Arizona Republic, which broke the story over Labor Day weekend, writes that:
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By Brenda Norrell
Photo: Mike Wilson at water station for migrants on Tohono O'odham land, where a large number of migrants die each year of dehydration. Photo Brenda Norrell.
ARIZONA -- Mike Wilson, Tohono O'odham who puts out water for migrants on Tohono O'odham land as humanitarian aid, responded to an e-mail threat of poisoned water.
The anonymous e-mail said, "F you. I hope some real Americans will step up and put poison in the water. I hope you are the first to drink."
The e-mail threat, on Aug. 29, was sent in response to the article, "Tohono O'odham Nation surrendered its will to the Border Patrol." http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2010/03/mike-wilson-tohono-oodham-nation.html
Wilson said, "I'm not surprised by the threat, it is certainly expected and no one is immune. Humane Borders has received these threats for the last ten years, including the writing of 'veneno' (poison) on the sides of its water barrels in the desert.
Ofelia Rivas, traditional O'odham living on the border, released a statement to the National Guard, who are to arrive on the US/Mexico border in Arizona on Monday.
Photo by Jason Jaacks.
To the United States National Guard arriving in O'odham Lands,
We are not compliant people, we are people with great dignity and confidence. We are a people of endurance and have a long survival history. We are people that have lived here for thousands of years. We have our own language, we have our own culture and traditions.
You are coming to my land, you may find me walking on my land, sitting on my land and just going about my daily life. I might be sitting on the mountain top, do not disturb me, I am praying the way my ancestors did for thousands of years. I might be out collecting what may be strange to you but it might be food to me or medicine for me.
Sometimes I am going to the city to get a burger or watch a movie or just to resupply my kitchen and refrigerator. Some of us live very much like you do and some of us live very simple lives. Some of may not have computers or scanners or televisions or a vehicle but some of us do.
While the US is kicking and screaming about Wikileaks posting data, no one pays attention to the documents already posted by the US Army itself, including the Special Operations manual that describes the extensive support to guerrillas (terrorists) by US military special operations to carry out violence. Among the US goals is to destabilize governments and keep wars going.
Wikileaks exposed that the US has been paying the Taliban and resistance forces.
Already online, posted by the US Army itself, is: "A Leader's Handbook to Unconventional Warfare." It describes in detail how the US military supports guerrilla movements (terrorists): http://www.soc.mil/swcs/swmag/Assets/SWCS%20Publications/Leaders%20Guide%20Final.pdf
By Brenda Norrell
Photo: California border by Brenda Norrell.
Updated Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010
The 72 people murdered at a ranch in Tamaulipas State, about 100 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, were migrants. Thirty-one of those murdered were identified on Friday, Aug. 27. They were 14 Hondurans, 12 Salvadorans, four Guatemalans and one Brazilian.
On Sunday, bomb attacks hit Tamaulipas, as police were investigating the mass murder of the migrants. Four devices exploded in just 24 hours, injuring at least 17 people. The lead investigator in the mass murder case, and one police officer, have been missing since Wednesday. Bombs also exploded outside a television station and police station in Tamaulipas during the investigation.
Mexican police suspect the Zetas of the mass murder of the 72 migrants. The Zetas were trained by the United States as special forces, according to School of Americas Watch.
"Many of the Zeta leaders have been identified by Mexican officials as former members of an elite paratroop and intelligence battalion known as the Special Air Mobile Force Group, formerly assigned to the state of Tamaulipas, which borders southern Texas, to fight drug traffickers," according to SOA Watch.
The Mexican government confirmed that several of the Zetas were trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
A core of 31 US trained former battalion members are thought to lead the Zetas. Several members deserted the Special Air Mobile Force Group in 1991, aligning themselves with drug traffickers and establishing their own smuggling routes into the United States, according to SOA Watch.
The 72 murdered migrants were mourned throughout the Americas this week. The lone survivor in the attack of mingrants, from Ecuador, was shot in the neck, pretended to be dead, then escaped and reached military forces who stormed the ranch.
Most migrants are Indigenous Peoples from Central and South America. They have nothing and are walking north through Mexico trying to survive. They are often kidnapped and help for ransom. Those who have no way of paying the kidnappers are shot, one by one, or tortured in front of the others. They are asked to give a phone number of a person in the US that can pay the ransom, if they have no one, they are killed. This is revealed in the new documentary "The Invisibles," which just premiered in Tucson.