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Sunday, November 22, 2009

the topic of prisons--brought up at the showing of "down by law"

jason and i had a great conversation about imprisonment and the institution of prisons, and i wanted to share some of the conversation.

it started with the email reminder that sent to the guerilla drive-in list. jason said, "I also want to remember friends and comrades that are currently caught up in the jail/prison system. Let's talk about this system and our experiences, either from being inside or being close to those that were/are. How do we support each other and challenge this mode of oppression?"

and i responded by saying "i want to expand that question a bit. i also want to talk about people caught up in the system who we might not be close to. people who might not be our friends and comrades. i want to talk about the poor, black or latino, gangbanger who is in prison for murder.
i want to challenge us to connect with, and feel compassion for, that person and their family despite the fact that we don't feel like we have much in common with them."

jason responded by saying "i agree with you and in fact i am opposed to the "criminal justice system" and so share your perspective. folks are caught in the system that does not serve them or me and i also consider all worthwhile of support. for the email i wanted to begin from a personal point of view but that is not an ending place for me and in fact the larger picture is on my mind. thanks for also contributing your perspective. let's talk tomorrow and see what kind of question and audience participation aspect we can craft."

the audience participation was great. there were a number of people who talked about friends in the struggle for a better world who are in jail because of their direct action.

one man took some time to remember his cousin who was recently killed in a gang related murder. this cousin had been a drug addict, but not a gangbanger. then he got busted for drugs and went to prison, where he fell in with gangs and came out of prison in worse shape than he had gone in. to me, this was the perfect example of why we should all be concerned about the state of prisons and the high rate at which people are incarcerated.

in santa cruz, a 16 year old was recently stabbed and killed by a gang member. since then, the town has been in an uproar with the dialogue mostly revolving around fear and anger. i think fear and anger in this situation is reasonable, but it can not be the basis for decision making, and we certainly need to be thoughtful and rational when we talk about solutions for a safer society. i firmly believe that prison is not the answer.

lastly, i was moved by the comments of a woman in the audience who mentioned an inmate in a women's prison in arizona who died due to heat stroke. the audience member said that, though she had never met the woman, she felt sad for the way her life was treated so callously.

i hope that in thinking about prisons, we can share this audience member's compassion. i think the key to building a better world is to think about and feel compassion for everyone, even the people we don't know.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Down by Law, Fri. Nov. 20th at 8pm at SubRosa


                                           The first film of the winter series...

Down by Law

Friday November 20th 8pm
at SubRosa (inside if cold and outside if warm)
 703 Pacific Ave. (downtown)

Down by Law is a 1986 black-and-white independent film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch with Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni.The film centers on the arrest, incarceration, and escape from jail of three men. It discards jailbreak film conventions by focusing on the interaction between the convicts rather than on the mechanics of the escape. A key element in the film is Robby Müller's slow-moving camerawork, which captures the architecture of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou to which the cellmates escape.

Plus fabulous subversive shorts!

SANTA CRUZ GUERILLA DRIVE-IN is an outdoor movie theatre under the stars and inside that springs up unexpectedly in the fields and industrial wastelands. Beyond showing great movies and bringing a broad community together, part of our mission is to help reclaim public space and break down alienation in this urban environment.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Anarchism in Venezuela, a benefit for El Libertario and Sabino Romero, at SubRosa


El Libertario and Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In present:

Anarchism in Venezuela:

Another Perspective about the Bolvarian "Revolution"

Films and discussion from an anti-capitalist and anarchist
perspective about the Chavez government and it's contradictions
...the truth behind Chavez's "revolution."

A Benefit for the anarchist newspaper El Libertario and indigenous leader Sabino Romero.

Romero has been imprisoned by the state due to his resistance to coal companies'

exploitation of indigenous communities in Venezuela (read more below).

Wednesday Nov. 11th at 7pm
$5-$10 slide (no one turned away)
At SubRosa, 703 Pacific Ave. (downtown Santa Cruz)

Our Oil and other tales: A documentary about the Venezuelan oil industry and it's nationalization, and about the relationship between the Bush administration and oil company Chevron-Texaco with the

"revolutionary" company PDVSA.

Venezuela 27F: A documentary about the popular uprising of February1989, the first revolt against the IMF/WB, and about a country caught in the middle of an insurrection.

more information at:

SANTA CRUZ GUERILLA DRIVE-IN is an outdoor movie theatre under the stars that
springs up unexpectedly in the fields
and industrial wastelands. Beyond showing great movies and bringing a broad community together, part of our mission is to help reclaim public space and break down this urban environment.  


Below are two articles I found online about ongoing tensions in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Yukpa Indigenous Community Attacked, Two Murdered Following Land Grants
Friday, 16 October 2009
Mérida, Venezuela -- On Tuesday, the day after the national government granted more than 40,000 hectares of land to Yukpa indigenous communities in northwestern Venezuela, assassins attacked the community of Yukpa chief and indigenous rights activist Sabino Romero, killing two and injuring at least four.

Yukpa chief Sabino Romero (Aporrea)
Romero's son in law, Ever Garcia, and a young, pregnant Yukpa woman were shot dead in the attack. Romero received three bullet wounds and is currently in the hospital in stable condition, according to reports from the community. Romero's daughter, grand daughter, and nephew were also hospitalized with bullet wounds, and are now in the hospital in stable condition.
Romero was one of several Yukpa chiefs who led land occupations last year to demand that the government pay indemnity to the private estate owners and transfer the land to the Yukpa in the form of collective property, in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution and indigenous rights laws passed by the government of President Hugo Chavez.
Since the land occupations began in July 2008, the Yukpa communities involved have been subject to repeated death threats and attacks by thugs believed to have been hired by large estate owners and their local government allies.
In August 2008, estate owner Alejandro Vargas participated in an attack on Romero's community, during which Romero's father, a community elder of more than one hundred years of age, was beaten and killed.
Vargas, a cattle rancher, in an attempt to justify his deadly raid on the Yukpa, accused Romero of stealing several head of cattle. He also claimed on one occasion to have paid bribes to local legal authorities for protection against prosecution, according to the victims of the attacks.
The Yukpa reported the attacks to local police, who said investigations were opened, but no suspects have been arrested.
The National Guard maintains a heavy presence and the government plans to build a new military base in the sparsely populated and conflict-ridden border zone, which is rich in coal deposits and affected by the spillover of refugees, guerrilla insurgents, and paramilitaries from the civil war in Colombia.
Romero and other Yukpa chiefs allied with him are openly opposed to the land grants issued by the government on Monday. They say the government did not effectively consult with the Yukpa communities about the proper demarcation of Yukpa land, and instead carved up Yukpa territory to protect large estate owners, preserve access to coal deposits, and preserve space for a military base in the region. Meanwhile, several other Yukpa chiefs have allied themselves with Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nicia Maldonado and supported the government's plan for indigenous land demarcation.
Author: James Suggett


VENEZUELA: Indigenous People Killed, Injured in Land Dispute
By Humberto Márquez

CARACAS, Oct 16 (IPS) - Two members of the Yukpa indigenous community in Venezuela were killed and others were injured in a firefight between supporters and detractors of a government initiative to distribute land to the ethnic group at the northwest tip of Venezuela, where the Yukpa are caught up in a long-running conflict over land with ranchers and mining companies.

The incident involved members of the communities of Chaktapa and Guamo Pamocha, located near the city of Machiques, 650 km west of Caracas, in the early hours of Wednesday morning – just 24 hours after the government of Hugo Chávez handed over communal land titles to 41,600 hectares to three of the more than 100 Yukpa communities.

The victims were Eber García, from Chaktapa – the son-in-law of Sabino Romero, the leader of the group opposed to the government initiative – and Mireya Romero, the 16-year-old pregnant sister of Olegario Romero, a Guamo Pamocha chief.

Three people were shot and injured: Sabino Romero, who was hit in the shoulders and arms, and his 11-year-old daughter and a young nephew. A boy named Leonel is missing, and other people involved in the conflict were apparently beaten up.

Sabino Romero was taken Wednesday to a hospital in Maracaibo, the biggest city in western Venezuela. But in the early hours of Thursday morning, dozens of police officers and army troops stormed into the building and took him to a military hospital in the city, reporters with community stations who were present at the time told IPS.

"This incident and its sad outcome is the result of multiple factors, especially instigation by landowners, farmers and sectors in the government who want the Yukpa territory to be fragmented, in order to occupy it and pave the way for coal mining in the future," Lusbí Portillo, with Homo et Natura, an environmental group that advocates for indigenous rights and has been involved in the Yukpa cause for 25 years, told IPS.

President Chávez lamented the incident, announced "an exhaustive investigation" by the attorney general's office and the police, and said "the necessary measures" would be taken to resolve the situation.

The Yukpa, who were gradually driven up into the mountains over the past century by cattle ranchers and oil industry interests, lay claim to an ancestral territory of 285,000 hectares of flatlands to the east of the Sierra de Perijá mountains.

Some of the ethnic group's 10,000 members have come down from the mountains in recent years and occupied parts of cattle ranches that they claim as their traditional territory. In the resulting land conflict with the ranchers, who accuse them of stealing livestock, both sides have accused local authorities and the military of siding with their adversaries. There are also complaints that paid gunmen are used to "solve" disputes.

The Yukpa are worried as well that the land will be destroyed if coal mining ventures are allowed to go ahead.

A more recent problem emerged when part of the ethnic group accepted the government's "Plan Yukpa" to start distributing land, credit and vehicles to some of the communities. The plan is also bringing in health programmes.

Twenty human rights groups from western Venezuela and Caracas issued a statement accusing the "Plan Yukpa" of generating divisions and clashes within the ethnic group, part of which continues to demand legal recognition of a larger, continuous Yukpa territory, instead of areas granted to separate communities.

Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami said Thursday that he would not have any information on the causes of the incident until the police investigation was concluded. But he added that "it certainly stands out that irrational sectors, blinded by hatred, say it was the result of the Plan Yukpa, thus trying to discredit it."

The minister said "this was an isolated incident, which occurred outside of the area where the land titles were handed over Monday to the Aroy, Tinacoa and Shirapta communities. Hence, it clearly has nothing to do with the Plan Yukpa."

He also warned ranchers to stop taking their own measures against the Yukpa, saying Chávez's Bolivarian "revolution is on the side of the indigenous people."

Manuel Heredia, president of Venezuela's ranchers federation, said "they are falsely trying to blame what happened on the rural producers from Machiques, when the real problem is that false expectations have been created among the indigenous people, who were led to believe that 220,000 hectares of land were going to be handed over to them."

Like the Yukpa, the Wayúu, Barí and Japreira indigenous groups are fighting for their rights to their land and against cattle ranching and coal mining in their territories, in the same region in northwest Venezuela, on the border with Colombia.

Homo et Natura is demanding that the Yukpa be granted "territories demarcated according to their traditions and purchased from cattle ranching and mining operations."

In March, delegates of some of the indigenous communities and representatives of the ranchers reached an agreement under which the latter would give up their land if the government also compensated them for improvements they have made to the property over the past decades, such as houses, barns, sheds, fences, artificial lakes, dikes, electric wiring, rural roads and fixed machinery.

But in its agrarian reform efforts, the government argues that landowners must be able to show an unbroken chain of land titles that can be traced back at least 160 years, and refuses to pay for improvements to expropriated rural property if the owners cannot do so.

Unclarified incident

Sabino Romero and several people who were with him at the time said the incident began when his son-in-law García was set upon by inebriated relatives of Guamo Pamocha chief Olegario Romero, who accused García of belonging to a group that allegedly stole more than 100 head of cattle from three local ranches a few days earlier.

After García was beaten up, he went back to Chaktapa and told his family what happened to him. Sabino and his relatives then headed to Guamo Pamocha to complain about the violent attack and about the rumours that they were cattle thieves.

According to Sabino and his fellow Chaktapa villagers, Olegario reportedly pulled out a shotgun and fired at them, and they fled.

García's widow, Guillermina Romero, said that after her husband was shot, he got his hands on a shotgun and opened fire in the direction of the people from Guamo Pamocha, killing the young pregnant girl.

The rest of the injured are from Chaktapa, one of the communities demanding a continuous, unfragmented Yukpa territory of at least 285,000 hectares for the entire group.

"The state has a responsibility to settle the longstanding debt to the indigenous people, and it must provide them with protection and abstain from carrying out or allowing actions that undermine their right to life and other rights," Marino Alvarado, with the human rights group Provea, told IPS.

Provea and the other 19 human rights groups that signed the statement blaming the government plan for creating divisions among the Yukpa are asking the Chávez administration to stop treating Sabino Romero as a criminal, to modify the Plan Yukpa, to reform the committee for the demarcation of indigenous territories, and to pay the ranchers for the improvements to their land, so the indigenous group can recover its ancestral territory.

They also recommend that "ancestral and traditional authorities from the Yukpa people be included in decision-making on issues that most directly affect them, that the most important documents in the demarcation process be translated into the Yukpa language, and that each community be consulted with, in compliance with the principle of previous consultation, carried out in good faith."

The Wayúu representative on the land demarcation committee, Aimée Larreal, called for the work to be temporarily halted and revised, in light of this week's violence.

The 1999 constitution, adopted after Chávez took office, requires the demarcation of indigenous territories.

The constitution, which was rewritten by an elected constituent assembly that included delegates of indigenous organisations, also stipulated for the first time that Congress must include representatives of native groups.

Besides granting communal land titles to indigenous groups like the Yukpa, the government has issued identity cards through a programme named Mission Identity to nearly 300,000 of the country's roughly 500,000 indigenous people, who belong to 32 different ethnic groups, in this country of 27 million. (END/2009)