Tag Archives: La-migra

Lorenzo Molina, Trumpet Player of the Mavericks, Assaulted in Alleged Hate Crime

Last weekend, Lorenzo Molina, member of Grammy Award-winning band The Mavericks, was the victim of an alleged hate crime, as he and a friend Oscar Morales were assaulted in a sports bar in Franklin, Tennessee, reportedly for speaking Spanish among themselves. “My friend Orlando and I were just brutally attacked at a sports bar because […]

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Cuba’s Government Throws Its Repressive Playbook at a Journalist

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Journalist Camila Acosta wears a facemask saying “no to Decree 370,” a 2019 law curtailing free speech in Cuba, on August 1, 2020.
© Camila Acosta

The Cuban government’s brutal restrictions on free speech fall particularly hard on journalists. Camila Acosta has learned this from experience. In just the one year since August 2019, when she began working as an independent journalist for the news website CubaNet, Acosta has endured multiple instances of targeted abuse.

Earlier this summer, Acosta was waiting for friends in a park in Havana when two officers asked for her ID, arrested her, and took her to a police station. Inside her bag, they found several facemasks reading, “No to Decree 370,” an abusive 2019 law forbidding the dissemination of information “contrary to the social interest.” The officers forced Acosta to strip her clothes and searched her further, she told Human Rights Watch. The police fined her and threatened further prosecution for protesting the decree.

But this was only the most recent in a string of multiple incidents of harassment against Acosta.

In November 2019, an immigration official stopped Acosta as she was trying to board a plane for a human rights event in Argentina. He said she was forbidden to leave the country, Acosta told Human Rights Watch.

Since February, Acosta has been forced to move houses in Havana at least six times. Each time she rented a new house, the owners soon told her she had to leave. Some said police had chastised them for hosting a “dissident.”

In March, police arbitrarily detained Acosta as she was covering a demonstration in Havana. During a two-hour interrogation, one officer threatened to prosecute her for allegedly “usurping public functions” by reporting the news.

The police eventually let her go. But two weeks later, she was summoned back to a police station, where an officer showed her three of her recent Facebook posts, including a meme of Fidel Castro. The officer invoked Decree 370 and imposed a fine of 3,000 Cuban pesos (roughly US$120), several times the average salary in Cuba.

This repeated weaponizing of Cuba’s free speech restrictions against Acosta leads to the question: Why are authorities so afraid to let a journalist do her job?

Why Is #TrumpKillsPuertoRico Trending on Twitter?

A video released Sunday evening by independent political action group Meidas Touch dubbed “Trump Kills Puerto Rico” has sparked the hashtag of the same name, #TrumpKillsPuertoRico, to one of the top trending spots on Twitter early Monday morning. The scathing video is in English with Spanish subtitles and includes video footage from Hurricane Maria that […]

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Los Lobos, Kesha & More To Perform on Joe Biden’s Online Weekly Concert Series ‘Team Joe Sings’

Launching tonight (September 18) is a concert series benefitting the Biden-Harris campaign, and the mix of artists in what PR says is only the first installment of Team Joe Sings is a stylistically varied bunch. The debut show includes new performances from pop star Kesha and Grammy winner Anthony Hamilton, plus previously posted performances from […]

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Afro-Mexican Revolutionary Leader Vicente Ramon Guerrero Saldaña Abolished Slavery in Mexico

Mexico’s independence from Spain is partially a result of the work of Afro-Mexican revolutionary leader Vicente Ramon Guerrero Saldaña. He was born on August 9, 1783 in Tixtla–which is now Guerrero, named after him–to a father, Juan Pedro Guerrero, who was Afro-Mexican, and a mother, Guadalupe Saldaña, who was Indigenous. He spent his youth working […]

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Piñata Protest Revamps ‘Mexico Lindo y Querido’ To Rep the Legacy of Mexican American Music in Texas

As part of the celebration of Mexican Independence Day, Tecate has helped put on quite the music celebration. Through a live streaming that takes place Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 September, they will be shining a light to the legacy of unsung Mexican American musicians, starting with pioneers that have paved the way to the […]

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Saudi Arabia: Prominent Detainees Held Incommunicado

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Prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul had been on hunger strike for six days before Saudi authorities finally allowed her parents to visit on August 31, according to family members. Al-Hathloul had spent almost three months before that in incommunicado detention.
© Private

(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia has denied some prominent detainees contact with their family members and lawyers for months, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter requesting access to the country and private prison visits with detainees. The situation raises serious concerns for the detainees’ safety and well-being.

Saudi authorities have banned in-person visits with prisoners across the country since March 2020 to limit the spread of Covid-19. But Saudi activists and other sources say that the authorities have also unduly denied numerous imprisoned dissidents and other detainees regular communication with the outside world.

“Saudi authorities appear intent on making certain detainees and their loved ones suffer even further by denying them the ability to hear each other’s voices and know for certain they are ok,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “All prisoners should be allowed unfettered communication with their families and the world outside their prison cells, but especially so during these trying times.”

A family member of a leading women’s rights activist told Human Rights Watch they have not received phone calls from their detained relative in over two months. A relative of a prominent imprisoned cleric, Salman al-Awda, said the family has not heard from him since May.

Family members of another prominent women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, said that the authorities finally allowed her parents to visit on August 31, after she spent almost three months in incommunicado detention. They said she had begun a hunger strike six days before the visit after learning that some other detainees had been allowed to call their families. Saudi authorities have detained all three for over two years or longer in what informed sources indicate are abusive conditions, while they face repeatedly adjourned trials based on charges that violate their basic rights.

According to lawyers representing the former crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, he has been detained without charge since his arrest in March, and his current whereabouts are unknown. While the prince has occasionally been allowed to make calls to family members, some of which were reportedly made under duress, the lawyers said that he has been denied visits with family members since his arrest and his personal doctor since his initial period of detention. The lawyers said they do not know whether the prince has received treatment for his diabetes and that there are serious concerns about his well-being and health.

Saudi authorities arrested al-Hathloul along with a number of other prominent Saudi women’s rights activists in May 2018, marking the beginning of a brutal crackdown on the women’s rights movement in Saudi Arabia. For the first three months, the authorities held her incommunicado, without access to her family and lawyer. In August, the authorities embarked on a second wave of arrests.

In November 2018, human rights organizations began reporting accusations that Saudi interrogators had tortured al-Hathloul and at least three other detained women, including with electric shocks and whippings, and had sexually harassed them.

Saudi Arabia brought charges against several women’s rights advocates, including al-Hathloul, that appear almost entirely related to their human rights activities and opened their trials in March 2019. As of August 2020, more than a year since, none of them had been sentenced and no new hearing dates have been set.

Al-Awda, 63, was among the first of dozens of people detained in mid-September 2017 by the Presidency of State Security, an agency established only months before, following Mohammad bin Salman’s appointment as crown prince. Al-Awda was held in solitary confinement, with no lawyer and a limited ability to contact family members.

In September 2018, Saudi prosecutors sought the death penalty against him on a host of vague charges related to his political statements, associations, and positions. None of the charges refer to specific acts of violence or incitement to violence. His relative said that he remains in solitary confinement, that his trial has been suspended since late 2019, and that his hearings have been postponed numerous times without explanation. Since May, Saudi prison authorities have denied him all contact with his family, leaving them seriously concerned for his health.

Contact with the outside world is an essential right of prisoners. International standards dictate that prisoners must be allowed to “communicate with their family and reputable friends at regular intervals, both by correspondence and by receiving visits.”vLimitations on contact and movement should be proportionate and measured, and a prosecutor or prison director may not arbitrarily withdraw a prisoner’s rights to such contact. International standards require that “communication of the detained or imprisoned person with the outside world, and in particular his family or counsel, shall not be denied for more than a matter of days.”

Even before the pandemic, Human Rights Watch had documented that prison administrations would often halt prisoners’ communications with relatives without explanation and would heavily monitor calls when they do allow them, cutting the lines if prisoners tried to discuss their cases or complain about detention conditions. Some prisoners also said that phone calls are usually restricted to 2 to 10 minutes.

Saudi Arabia has recorded a steady rise in Covid-19 cases since March 2, with 303,973 cases and 3,548 deaths recorded by August 20. Infectious diseases like Covid-19 pose a serious risk to populations in closed institutions like prisons and detention centers. In Saudi Arabia’s prisons, where human rights groups have long documented ill-treatment, overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and denial of adequate medical care, it is virtually impossible to adequately protect the mental and physical health of already vulnerable prisoners in case of an outbreak.

On April 24, a leading Saudi human rights figure, Abdullah al-Hamid, 69, died while serving a long prison term. The Saudi human rights organization ALQST reported that al-Hamid’s health condition had deteriorated in recent months, and that the authorities had delayed a heart operation a doctor told al-Hamid he needed in early 2020. ALQST said that authorities took steps to prevent al-Hamid from discussing his health condition with his family. He suffered a stroke on April 9 and remained hospitalized in a coma until his death.

On July 19, a writer and journalist, Saleh al-Shehi, died in the hospital two months after his release from detention. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for an independent international investigation to determine whether there is a link between his detention conditions and his death from an illness that has not been formally identified but that some local media outlets said was Covid-19. Saudi authorities released Al-Shehi from prison on May 19 without explanation after he had served two and a half years of a five-year sentence on speech-related charges.

Saudi authorities should promptly allow independent international monitors to enter the country, regularly monitor prison and detention facilities, carry out impartial investigations into allegations of torture and suspicious deaths in detention, and conduct private and regular visits with prisoners, Human Rights Watch said.

“Following the devastating deaths of prominent detainees in suspicious circumstances, Saudi Arabia’s allies should demand that they immediately release all those unjustly detained for exercising their basic rights before it’s too late,” Page said. “The families of detainees held incommunicado should not have to spend another day anxiously wondering what has become of their relatives.”

Las Notis: The National Guard Rescues Dozens of Puerto Ricans After Tropical Storm Isaias & More

Las Notis is a daily news column that gets you up to speed on the political, media + other going ons in Latin America and the diaspora—all in one quick digest.  Here’s your glimpse at what’s going on today. Dozens of people had to be rescued by the National Guard in Puerto Rico as Tropical[…..]

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Eva Longoria & Cecile Richards Partner With Latino Victory Fund to Raise Awareness of Latina Candidates

In 2018, Latino Victory Fund launched the Year of the Latina initiative to increase Latina representation across government. Now, it’s bolstering its efforts with First Latinas—a program announced on Wednesday. The joint partnership with actress Eva Longoria and women’s rights activist Cecile Richards is designed to endorse and raise awareness of Latina candidates running for[…..]

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France: Children Face Abusive, Racist Police Stops

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(Paris) – French police use overly broad stop-and-frisk powers to conduct discriminatory and abusive checks on Black and Arab boys and men, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Curbing these powers is key to addressing biased policing, including racial or ethnic profiling, and repairing police-community relations.

The 44-page report, “‘They Talk to Us Like We’re Dogs’: Abusive Police Stops in France,” documents repetitive, baseless police stops targeting minorities including children as young as 10, older children, and adults. These stops often involve invasive, humiliating body pat-downs and searches of personal belongings. Most stops are never recorded, the police don’t provide written documentation or usually tell people why they were stopped, and measures to improve accountability have been ineffective. Several of the children and adults interviewed said police used racial slurs.

“There is ample evidence that identity checks in France, in particular because they have a discriminatory impact, drive a deep and sharp wedge between communities and the police, while doing virtually nothing to deter or detect crime,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities shouldn’t keep ignoring the calls for change.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 90 French men and boys belonging to minority groups, including 48 children, between April 2019 and May 2020 in Paris, Grenoble, Strasbourg, and Lille. Many said they were stopped because of what they look like and where they live, not their behavior. Ethnic profiling – stopping people based on appearance, including race and ethnicity, rather than the person’s behavior or a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing – is unlawful and harmful to individuals and society at large.

Human Rights Watch found that police often target minority youth, including young children, for the stops. Children as young as 12 described being forced to put their hands against a wall or car, spread their legs, and submit to invasive pat-downs, including buttocks and genitalia. These stops can take place in front of or near schools, and on school field trips.

Koffi, 12, said he and his entire class were subjected to a police identity check in front of their middle school in Bobigny, outside Paris, as they were leaving on a field trip to the Louvre. He said three police officers searched all of their bags. “They put their hands in my pockets. They spread my legs and touched my genitals,” Koffi said, adding that his teacher objected but the police said they could do whatever they wanted.

Des policiers effectuent un contrôle pendant le confinement dû au Covid-19 à Nice, France, le 8 avril 2020
© 2020 Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Sekou, a 14-year-old living in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, said he’d been stopped at least 6 times. “We never see white kids getting checked,” he said. “When I’m with my white friends, the police don’t even look at them…. They say ‘freedom, equality, fraternity,’ but there’s no equality when it comes to this kind of thing.”

Children, parents, and educators described the negative impact of these experiences. Research in the United States found that boys who experienced abusive police stops also had higher rates of post-traumatic stress.

Abusive and discriminatory identity checks are a longstanding problem in France and are at the heart of concerns around institutional racism and discrimination, Human Rights Watch said. Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in France in the wake of the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white policeman in Minneapolis on May 25. Many have drawn parallels to the 2016 death in police custody in a Paris suburb of 24-year-old Adama Traoré, which began with an identity check.

In response to these protests, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced on June 8 a “zero tolerance” approach and measures to hold individual officers accountable for racist behavior. On identity checks, Castaner simply reminded officers of their duty to display their tag numbers and called for reinforcing the use of body cams. In a speech to the nation on June 14, President Emmanuel Macron condemned all forms of racism but did not specifically address police abuse, saying only that law enforcement deserve “the support of public authorities and the gratitude of the nation.”

While the authorities have consistently rejected calls to collect and publish statistics about police stops, data released about stops to enforce lockdown measures amid the Covid-19 pandemic showed a bias involving minorities in poor neighborhoods. In late April, government statistics showed that police had conducted more than double the national average of stops in Seine-Saint-Denis, the poorest area of metropolitan France. Numerous videos have circulated showing police stops that appear abusive, violent, and discriminatory.

Human Rights Watch documented abusive and discriminatory police stops targeting minorities in a 2012 report. In 2014 and again in 2017, the Defender of Rights, the national human rights institution, criticized these abusive practices and called for reforms. In 2016, the Court of Cassation ruled that police stops of three young men constituted ethnic profiling and a “gross misconduct that engages the responsibility of the state.” In 2014, the authorities amended the police code of ethics to explicitly prohibit basing police identity checks on “any physical feature or distinctive mark … unless there is a specific alert” and to avoid “harming the dignity” of the person.

International and French law prohibit discrimination, unjustified interference with the right to privacy, degrading treatment, and violations of the right to physical integrity. International and national standards require respectful treatment by the police.

Despite increased awareness and modest advances, the law and practice of identity checks in France remain deeply problematic, Human Rights Watch said. The law gives the police overly broad discretion to carry out stops without any suspicion of wrongdoing, leaving too much room for arbitrary and biased decisions. The police appear to use these powers as a means to exert authority, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The lack of written documentation and systematic data collection about identity checks makes it very difficult to assess their effectiveness or lawfulness.

While the June 8 announcements represent a step forward, they are insufficient to end and redress abusive and discriminatory police stops, Human Rights Watch said. The French government should adopt legal and policy reforms to prevent ethnic profiling and abusive treatment during stops. All identity checks and pat-downs should be based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion. Anyone stopped should receive a written record, including the legal basis for the stop. The authorities should develop specific guidelines for stops involving children.

“Cleavages between communities and law enforcement make neighborhoods less safe and the police less effective, and discrimination is damaging to individuals and to entire societies,” Jeannerod said. “The French government should urgently reform police powers to stop, search, and frisk.”

Voices from the Report:

Paul, 17, from Argenteuil, said:

Yesterday a friend of mine [also 17, also Black] was downtown [Argenteuil] and got stopped. At first he was alone, he got stopped by the national police. Then me and my friends joined him, there were four of us. Another police team came and did an identity check on us. My friend asked, “Why are you stopping us?” and one of the officers said, “It’s profiling.” And they teased him, saying “Negro” and things like that. And then again, later, another team came and they check us again. Every time, the police frisked us, they asked us for our identity documents, and they searched our bags.

Dabir, 15, from Paris, said:

It was after school, it was a group of 10 of us, there were Blacks and Arabs, and 1 white [kid]. We were walking to the Franprix [a supermarket]. A police car came, the officers got out and came toward us. They touched everyone’s pockets except the white guy. They checked all of us except him. They checked to see if our phones were stolen. They asked us to turn them on and put the code. They asked our ages.

Abdul, 18, from Lille, said:

I had a hoodie, it was winter and it was cold. I was training for the karate France championships. When I was about to cross the road, a car blocked my way…. Four colossal men got out, I knew immediately they were police. It was a stop. When I asked why they wanted to stop me, they told me it was their job to ask the questions. They told me to open my bag so I did, but then one of them just took it and emptied it onto the ground. I was really angry, I asked him, “Why are you doing this?” I got down on all fours to pick up my things. When I stood up, an officer pushed me against the car, he spread my legs and touched me everywhere. He touched my testicles. I can still feel the tears in my eyes.

Amad, 15, from Strasbourg, said:

They put us against the wall, in front of the school’s football area. They frisked me and took my bag to search it. I told them my name, they checked it. They asked me a lot of questions: are you already known to the police, do you have anything on you, what are you doing here? It took time, recess had ended, so I had to get a late note. I didn’t say I had been stopped by the police, I said I’d gone to the bathroom. Otherwise, they would have told my parents and that wouldn’t have been good.

Annick Bousba, a mother in Grenoble whose son was stopped for the first time when he was 14, said:

He said they’d done it “in front of all my friends like I’m some kind of thug.” My son doesn’t think the police are there to protect him. What my son has experienced has made me question a lot the actions of the police and their training.

Hasnia Djerbi, a mother in Grenoble, said:

It’s hard for him [her son] to talk about it. Everything is fine until one day, and you don’t know why, you become suspect. It makes you feel like you’re not part of this society. I could see how affected he was. And I was revolted. I understand why young people hate the police. I find them racist now. I used to think differently.