15 Sep

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Spokesman for Rodrigo Duterte rejects accusations of extrajudicial killings – which include feeding man to crocodile

Former militiaman Edgar Matobato testifies before the Philippine Senate: he said he was part of a squad ordered to kill drug dealers and users.

Former militiaman Edgar Matobato testifies before the Philippine Senate: he said he was part of a squad ordered to kill drug dealers and users. Photograph: Aaron Favila/AP

The Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, ordered members of a death squad to kill criminals and opponents and even personally “finished off” a justice department employee with a submachine, a self-confessed former assassin has testified.

Edgar Matobato, 57, told a nationally-televised senate committee hearing that he had heard Duterte order some of the assaults that left around 1,000 people dead from 1988 to 2013 in Davao city, where Duterte was mayor for more than two decades.

The inquiry is being led by senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign that has left more than 3,000 suspected drug users and dealers dead since he assumed the presidency in June.

Duterte, who is known as both “the Punisher” and “Duterte Harry” for his bloody stance on fighting crime, has previously denied involvement in extra-judicial killings, but also made contradictory statements that he either condones or is even part of the vigilante group known as the Davao Death Squad.

Presidential spokesman Martin Andanar rejected Matobato’s accusation on Thursday, saying the government had investigated Duterte’s time as mayor. “I don’t think he’s capable of giving a directive like that. The Commission on Human Rights already investigated this a long time ago and no charges were filed,” he said.

Matobato told the senate hearing that he had carried out about 50 of the killings, including a man who was fed to a crocodile in 2007.

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As US-driven immigration crackdown forces many to find alternative routes through Mexico, activists fear an increase in trafficking and drownings

Fishermen in Paredón say the village is used by smugglers to transport migrants by sea. The boats come from Central America and stop here to refill petrol tanks.

Fishermen in Paredón say the village is used by smugglers to transport migrants by sea. The boats come from Central America and stop here to refill petrol tanks. Photograph: Encarni Pindado for The Guardian

The highway from Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas into the neighbouring region of Oaxaca hugs the Pacific coast, cutting through dusty towns and densely forested mountains. It only takes a few hours to drive, but for migrants trying to reach the United States, it is one of the most perilous sections of the overland route.

Undocumented travelers who take a bus or hop a freight train will almost certainly be detained by immigration agents. Those who choose to walk face a gruelling two-day journey through remote forests – and risk robbery, rape and even death at the hands of armed robbers who prey on the men, women and children heading north.

Yet, a rising number of Central American migrants are heading out to sea in small open boats to evade the immigration officials and bandits who have proliferated along Mexico’s southern border.

Coyotes – or people smugglers – have established maritime networks linking isolated villages along the Pacific coast to transport people along routes previously favoured by drug traffickers, according to migrants, fishermen and local residents.

It’s not the first time Mexico’s long shorelines have been used to smuggle people, but maritime routes have proliferated since a US-driven immigration crackdown forced migrants to find alternative routes through Mexico.

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The Democracy Now! host has been accused of entering private property during her reporting on the Native American protests of an oil pipeline

The arrest warrant for award-winning journalist Amy Goodman has raised concerns about free speech violations and press intimidation.

The arrest warrant for award-winning journalist Amy Goodman has raised concerns about free speech violations and press intimidation. Photograph: Right Livelihood Foundation / HO/EPA

North Dakota police have issued an arrest warrant for the Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, who has been reporting on the Native American protests against an oil pipeline, accusing her of entering “private property” to conduct interviews.

The charges have raised concerns about possible free speech violations and press intimidation, since the Morton county sheriff’s office accused the award-winning broadcast journalist after Democracy Now! filmed security guards working for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters.

“This is an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press,” Goodman said in a statement after police accused her of criminal trespass, a misdemeanor offense.

On 3 September, Goodman reported at the site of the Native American-led protest of a controversial $3.8bn oil pipeline that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says poses a threat to its water supply and could damage its cultural heritage.

There is a battle under way near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, over plans for a multibillion-dollar oil pipeline. The North Dakota Access pipeline will run just outside the formal boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, and tribal members fear it will pollute local drinking water and disturb sacred sites

Goodman’s dispatch on the use of dogs quickly spread online and was viewed more than 13m times on the news program’s Facebook page. Many outlets rebroadcast the footage, including CBS, NBC, NPR and CNN, according to Democracy Now!.

An 8 September criminal complaint was filed against Goodman and Cody Hall, a protest organizer. The charging document from the state’s attorney for Morton County calls on the defendants to be “arrested and dealt with according to law”.

Lindsay Wold, a special agent with the North Dakota bureau of criminal investigation, wrote in an affidavit that a “large group of protesters” were blocking a highway and that employees of the Dakota access pipeline were working in a nearby field, “utilizing heavy equipment to clear the land”.

Security workers had formed a line to try to block the activists, Wold wrote.

The agent alleged that the protesters broke through a fence, crossed on to the private land, halted the employees from working, and assaulted security guards.

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US politics

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When I was fighting for civil rights, the backlash was intense. Black protest always upsets majority opinion


‘Protest will always make someone uncomfortable.’ Photograph: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The backlash against Colin Kaepernick – and all of his colleagues who are refusing to stand for the national anthem – is growing. His protest against racism and police brutality is being widely panned as unpatriotic, and some have gone as far as to call him a traitor. I would say the backlash is puzzling, except it’s not. I have long recognized that this is a common response to black protest – one I witnessed as far back as the civil rights movement.

Within the context of sports protest, the raised black-gloved fists of protest by John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Mexico Olympics comes immediately to mind. Less noticed than their dramatically raised fists was the fact that both athletes wore black socks and no shoes when they accepted their medals. This was to represent the poverty of African Americans in the United States. They suffered insult and abuse when they returned home. Time magazine wrote: “Faster, Higher, Stronger” is the motto of the Olympic Games. “‘Angrier, nastier, uglier’ better describes the scene in Mexico City last week”.

Most Americans opposed the sit-ins when they erupted in 1960; and opposed the Freedom Rides when they took place in 1961. Young black people were pushing too hard, demanding too much too soon was the typical charge. The country was changing; give it time. Most black people it should be said here were not engaged in sit-ins or Freedom Rides for there was risk, sometimes great risk, involved in public protest. But it also must be said that the country changed because of aggressive pushing against segregation and white supremacy and the silence that supported it.

Protest will always make someone uncomfortable, or governments uncomfortable. It is, however, the American way – a liberty for which blood has been shed at home and overseas. The civil rights movement of the 1960s, for example, was not only a struggle for civil rights, but for civil liberties – the right to speak and to engage in public protest.

And yet, to this day, some forms of protest are more criticized than others. I cannot help but notice that the public rage being directed at Kaepernick and those emulating him is disproportionate. Compare Kaepernick’s “crime” with that of the Bundy brothers and their group, which orchestrated an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. While Kaepernick has been called unpatriotic, the Bundy brothers and the rest of the so-called Citizens for Constitutional Freedom were never labeled that way.

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