Ecuadorian authorities should investigate and hold accountable demonstrators who committed serious acts of violence and members of security forces who responded with excessive force during ongoing anti-government protests, Human Rights Watch said today.
The protests began on October 3, 2019 after President Lenin Moreno signed off on austerity measures that eliminated a US$1.3 billion gasoline subsidy. Taxi and bus drivers, student groups, and thousands of indigenous people took to the streets in response, resulting in days of unrest.
“Ecuadorian authorities should conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into allegations of excessive force by security forces and due process violations, as well as of violence by protesters,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Accountability is key to ensure victims’ rights to justice and is an effective deterrent to abuse.”
Ecuador’s police have fired tear gas indiscriminately at protesters, sometimes in enclosed spaces or from a distance close enough to cause injuries, Human Rights Watch heard in interviews. The Ombudsperson’s Office reported that Ecuadorian authorities have detained more than 1,000 people since protests began and that some detainees were unable to contact their families or confer with attorneys.
Caracas, Sep 2 (Prensa Latina) Venezuela is continuing on Monday another day of protests in rejection of the coercive measures signed by US President Donald Trump against this South American nation.
Students, workers and the people in general will gather in the central Simón Bolívar Square to sign a petition against the Washington blockade.
On Sunday, Carmen Zerpa, councilwoman for Libertador municipality in Caracas, highlighted how important is to participate in the signature gathering against the executive order issued by the Trump administration.
'Let's understand how important is for us to call for these sanctions be lifted,' Zerpa told the press.
She expressed gratitude for the will of the Venezuelan people who have participated in this process led by the Bolivarian Government, collecting signatures house-to-house, in major squares and in other areas of the city.
'People were moved, because they understood that it is an outrage, it is of serious harm to the nation and that is why the people have been deployed,' she added.
Olympic bronze medallist fencer Race Imboden knelt during the American national anthem after winning gold in the men’s team foil, with a second protest then staged by hammer thrower Gwen Berry here at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games.
Imboden had already claimed a bronze medal in the individual men’s foil event, before topping the podium in the team competition alongside Gerek Meinhardt and Nick Itkin.
The 26-year-old, the world number two, then knelt as the American national anthem was played during the medal ceremony.
The act is seen as a civil rights protest, started by American football player Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
Kaepernick had knelt to highlight police brutality and racism.
The stance has become more commonly referred to as "taking a knee".
Imboden, a men’s foil team bronze medal from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and world champion, posted on Twitter to explain his decision to take the knee after the event.
"We must call for change," he said.
"This week I am honored to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Games, taking home gold and bronze.
"My pride however has been cut short by the multiple shortcomings of the country I hold so dear to my heart.
"Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list.
"I chose to sacrifice my moment today at the top of the podium to call attention to issues that I believe need to be addressed.
"I encourage others to please use your platforms for empowerment and change."
The US has suffered from three mass shootings in the past two weeks, with American President Donald Trump receiving criticism for his response to the tragedies.
Less than 24 hours after Imoden's protest, a second was then staged by Berry, following her victory in the women's hammer throw competition.
Berry was seen raising her right fist at the conclusion of her medal ceremony.
It mirrored the act of Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico 1968 Olympic Games, where the duo won gold and bronze medals in the 200 metre race.
The act was a civil rights protest against racial discrimination.
The Australian Olympic Committee last year awarded a posthumous Order of Merit to Peter Norman, who stood in solidarity with the black American athletes on the podium.
After Carlos had left his gloves at the Olympic Village, it was Norman, who came from a Salvation Army background, who suggested that the pair share Smith's to carry out a salute that Smith later clarified had been for human rights and not black power.
Both Imdoen and Berry are in breach of Panam Sports rules under a section on "advertisements and publicity during the development of the Pan American Games.
The rules state "No kind of demonstration or propaganda of any kind is allowed at the venues of the Games or at other sites or areas considered part of the Games."
The consequences of breaches in the relevant section state: "Any violation of the provisions of the present Section shall result in disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person or delegation concerned.
"The Panam Sports Executive Board may take further measures and/or impose further sanctions against the NOC or Pan American Sport Confederation and/or International Federation that are responsible of such 29 violation.
"The decisions taken by the Panam Sports Executive Board regarding this matter shall be final."
Panam Sports declined to comment when contacted by insidethegames.
United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) have said their leadership are reviewing the consequences that may result from the political protests.
“Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature," USOPC spokesman Mark Jones told insidethegames in a statement.
“In this case, Race didn’t adhere to the commitment he made to the organising committee and the USOPC.
“We respect his rights to express his viewpoints, but we are disappointed that he chose not to honour his commitment.
“Our leadership are reviewing what consequences may result.”
Imboden and Berry are not the first to express anti-Trump sentiment during the Games here.
American nine-times Olympic medallist and former men’s 100 metre world record holder Carl Lewis criticised the President during a press conference.
"We have a president who is racist and a misogynist, who doesn’t value anybody but himself," he said.
The issue has not been exclusive to Lima 2019, however, with women's football player Megan Rapinoe confirming that she would not visit the White House if the US were triumphant at the FIFA Women's World Cup, which they went on to win last month.
During the tournament, she refused to sing the national anthem in protest at a decision by US Soccer to ban players from kneeling during the anthem.
Her actions drew a response from Trump, who accused Rapinoe of "disrespect" in a series of tweets.
Police in San Juan fired tear gas on Monday night to disperse thousands of protesters demanding Puerto Rico’s governor resign over offensive chat messages, the latest scandal to hit a bankrupt island struggling to recover from 2017 hurricanes.
Police moved in at about 11pm to break up protesters still on the streets of San Juan’s old city following day-long demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of residents. It follows Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s attempt to cling on to power despite resigning as president of the ruling New Progressive party and announcing he will not run for re-election next year.
A general strike took place across the US territory on Monday morning, protesters chanting the now familiar cry of “Ricky resign!”, waving flags and banging drums. Demonstrations have gripped the island since hundreds of pages of leaked text messages between the governor and 11 members of his inner circle were published on 13 July.
The messages contain homophobic and sexist slurs against political rivals and cultural figures. They also contain a joke about dead bodies during Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in September 2017.
Puerto Rico’s largest mall, Plaza de las Américas, closed before Monday’s demonstration along with many other businesses. Last week police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters at a huge rally outside the governor’s residence in the island’s capital, San Juan.
Carmen Portela, 40, was among those protesting on Monday. The founder of Local Guest, a Puerto Rico-based travel company, Portela said that Rosselló “has demonstrated that he’s not capable of governing”.
“I think it’s time to have a new Puerto Rico and that begins with a new government … This chat gave light to what we all already knew, that this is a very corrupt government.”
In the Oval Office on Monday, Donald Trump once again laid into Rosselló and the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, a vocal critic of the governor and the president.
“He’s a terrible governor. You have an even worse mayor of San Juan,” Trump said. “We did a great job in Puerto Rico. They don’t want to give us credit … I have many Puerto Rican friends.”
Trump has frequently inflated the amount of aid Washington has given to Puerto Rico following Maria. Although Puerto Ricans are American citizens, those living on the island cannot vote in presidential elections and have no voting member of Congress.
A number of senior Republicans and Democrats have called on Rosselló to resign but the White House has not formally called for him to go.
Protest organizers branded the planned Monday shutdown “660,510 + 1”, representative of the number of people who voted for Rosselló plus one, in order to reject the governor’s suggestion that he is not resigning due to his popular mandate.
In an interview on Fox News, Rosselló struggled to show evidence of support, finally citing a single local mayor when asked by interviewer Shep Smith for “just one name” of a prominent supporter.
As occurred last week, a number of Puerto Rico’s biggest recording artists appeared prominently at Monday’s demonstrations. Singers such as Ricky Martin, himself a subject of homophobic ridicule in the leaked messages, and rappers Resident, Bad Bunny and the singer iLe, have become unofficial figureheads in the leaderless movement to oust Rosselló.
“They mocked our dead, they mocked women, they mocked the LGBT community, they made fun of people with physical and mental disabilities, they made fun of obesity. It’s enough,” Martin said in a video posted on Twitter before the march.
“We’re we’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep being on the streets until he resigns,” iLe told the Guardian. “He knows he has to go in his heart. I know he knows it.”
A truck carrying the singer Ricky Martin and rappers Residente and Bad Bunny joins thousands of people filling the Expreso Las Américas highway. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
“Governor Ricardo Rosselló has made further mockery of the Puerto Rican people by refusing to leave office,” said a statement from Power 4 Puerto Rico, a Puerto Rican diaspora group created after Maria.
“As worldwide demonstrations calling for the governor to step down continue, the Legislature of Puerto Rico must now commence an impeachment process based on the ample evidence corroborated by many jurists of Rosselló breaking the law.”
Rosselló and the 11 others implicated in the message scandal have been issued summonses by the island’s justice department. While a number of those in the chat group, including the former secretary of state Luís Rivera Marín, have resigned over the affair, Rosselló has maintained the messages contained nothing illegal.
“I have made mistakes and I have apologized for them,” he said during his address on Facebook Live on Sunday evening. “I am a good man who loves his island and everyone. Since I started my term to lead Puerto Rico’s destiny, in front of the most devastating economic and fiscal panorama ever.”
The administration has been plagued by corruption scandals.
Shortly before the text message scandal erupted, the FBI arrested a number of administration officials and contractors – including Rosselló’s former education secretary – over allegations of corruption and misappropriation of $15.5m (£12.5m) in federal funds apportioned to Puerto Rico after Maria.
Many protesters have carried placards with the number 4,645, the estimated death toll in the wake of Maria, according to a Harvard research paper. Rosselló’s administration had initially recorded Maria’s death toll at 64, before eventually revising the number to 2,975.
The island continues to reel from the effects of the devastating hurricane amid a faltering recovery effort led by the Trump administration.
Myrna Figueroa Lopez, 37, said she had travelled from her home in Washington state to be among the Puerto Rican diaspora participating in the protests. She criticized how Rosselló’s government handled recovery funds the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“We, who live in mainland USA, made every effort to mobilize aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria not only to help our families but everyone here,” she said. “But, that aid was left to rot, stolen, or not distributed properly by this government.”
“We feel robbed, not only us but also non-Puerto Ricans who helped, donated, and mobilized the airlines to deliver food, water and all sorts of aid. This is disrespectful to our families.”
Moreno denied, in the BBC interview, that the United Kingdom and the United States forced him to revoke Assange's asylum.
Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno, in an exclusive interview with the BBC, stated that Julian Assange could be an agent of Russia, who has selectively never revealed information about Moscow amid leaking information about other nations.
Moreno also discredited Assange as a journalist and accused the WikiLeaks chief of working to preserve Russia and expose other countries, as evidenced by his interfering with the Vatican, the United States elections and Catalonia’s referendum.
The head of state reaffirmed that the WikiLeaks co-founder was rude to the staff at the Ecuadorean embassy in London and defaced the premises with feces. However, Moreno denied, in the interview, that the United Kingdom and the United States forced him to revoke Assange's asylum, which led to the whistleblower being forcibly removed from Ecuador's London embassy where he lived for seven years.
When asked, by the reporter, if he had moved to swiftly evict Assange from the embassy because he had suffered embarrassment from photographs of him dining on lobster - after announcing austerity measures in the South American nation - had been published, Moreno replied “that was my birthday, I was watching soccer in bed, it was a great day.”
Moreno also added that Assange was a “informational terrorist ”who does not give out information he has, but is selective according to “ideological commitments.”
The Andean leader reiterated that Assange used the embassy to spy and directly violated his status as an asylee when he interfered with the internal affairs if political ally countries.
Pro-independence activists in Catalonia are venting their anger at Madrid’s trial of the region’s provincial leaders. Baton-wielding police scuffled with some of the demonstrators as people also blocked roads and set tires ablaze.
The group behind the protest is called the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs) and has been involved in demonstrations against Spain’s central government for months. The goal of Thursday’s action is to ‘paralyze everything,’ as the group put it.
The protesters managed to disrupt traffic on several major roads with barricades of burning tires. They also interfered with the work of local railroads and occupied an office building in Girona, a city some 100km (62 miles) northeast of Barcelona.
Police in the city of Toulouse came under fire after several officers were caught on tape discussing plans to “shoot” the protesters involved in clashes.
The comments were made in the police command room, as broadcaster France 3 reported, where the officers were watching an intense standoff between police and the demonstrators unfolding on the streets of Toulouse.
While the officers aren’t seen in the video, the voices are heard saying “What a bunch of bastards!” and “The f***ers!”, when the clashes turned violent.
Then a female officer is heard saying, “But you have to shoot!” and the other male officer replying, “When I tell you to, line up two or three rounds.”
@VIGI_MI contre toute attente, plus de 10000 personnes dans les rues de Toulouse. Place du capitole , des collègues épuisés essuient les charges des manifestants. Surpris, émus et estomaqués, des policiers de la salle de commandement appellent à « tirer des bastos ». 1/2
The video was recorded during the Yellow Vests protest on January 12, but was only released recently when the French police labor union Vigi posted it on Twitter. The union distanced themselves from the comments in the footage saying “the words of the policemen have exceeded their thoughts”.
Twitter users have also slammed police officers for their words.
Meanwhile, the Haute-Garonne prefecture released a statement where they called the protests unfolding on the police screens a “scene of rare violence,” which provoked the police officers’ “spontaneous comments.” It has opened an investigation into the “illegal capture of images and sound” in the Police Command and Information Center.
The leaked video comes in the wake of criticism of the French police’s tactics during the Yellow Vests protests, which have been rocking French cities since November. The police used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets against the protesters, resulting in some serious injuries.
One of the leaders of the Yellow Vests movement, Jerome Rodrigues, was left blind in one eye after being hit by a rubber-ball projectile. Officials estimate around 2000 protesters have been injured since protests began on November 17.
In democracy, you can't ban people from expressing their opinions and anger during a demonstration, publisher and writer Aymeric Monville told RT, commenting on the French government's plan to crack down on unsanctioned protests.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Monday that tougher punishments will be introduced for rioters with 80,000 members of the security forces to be deployed next weekend. The government plans to draft new legislation that will ban troublemakers from marches and clamp down on the wearing of masks at demonstrations.
Publisher and writer Aymeric Monville told RT that the spirit of this new law is "to treat the demonstrators like they were hooligans."
Read more French PM says new, tougher laws on unauthorized protests coming in wake of Yellow Vest clashes
"In France you can prevent hooligans from going to the football match; it will be the same with the demonstrators. The problem in the democracy – you can't ban people from expressing their opinion and anger during a demonstration; it is completely silly," he said.
While the announced government measures against violence in the protest movement received mixed reactions, President Emmanuel Macron's plan for a nationwide public debate also received a lot of attention.
On Tuesday, the official appointed by the government to lead a national debate quit following a controversy over her salary. It was revealed that the former sports minister, Chantal Jouanno, was paid over €14,000 per month to head France's National Commission for Public Debate.
That is while many protesters "can't feed their children," Monville noted.
"It is so blatant, it is like at the time of the absolute monarchy – Marie-Antoinette [allegedly] said if people don't have bread, let them eat cake – if they don't have bread, let them debate," he said.
"The government doesn't have anything to offer except blood, sweat and tears."
Monville said that philosopher Luc Ferry, who was close to government circles, suggested the police should be allowed to use guns on protesters. "But people are not cattle; as human beings they can respond… You can slip into a civil war. It is a very risky situation, because the government doesn't have any answer," Monville argued.
Commenting on the violence during the recent Yellow Vests protests, Monville said it is necessary to distinguish between two kinds of protesters.
"You have the violence on the streets, you have burnt cars – they have nothing to do with the real movement. The Yellow Vests' pressure is to block the roundabouts, all refineries… to block the economy. And that is what annoys the government and big businesses in France."
That is the violence they cannot stand and will impose state violence against it, he said.
RT also discussed the latest demonstrations and the PM's announcement with Dr. Paul Smith, associate professor in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Nottingham, who believes that there is a split within the Yellow Vests movement.
"This weekend might have been a tipping point… there is clearly within the Yellow Vest movement a split between the very hard liners, the men and women of violence, and those who want this to be a peaceful demonstration," he said.
He noted that on Sunday there was a big demonstration by women in yellow vests insisting on the peaceful aspect of the Gilets Jaunes movement. He also pointed out that the moderates within the movement are talking about founding their own political party to press their issues and ideas in a peaceful way.
Read more The Emerging: Yellow Vest ex-rep seeks to create political party of ‘common sense’
"Whereas there is still this hardcore and someone might not even be authentic Gilet Jaunes, quite a lot of anarchist troublemakers are involved in and, not to say, extreme alt-right elements involved as well," he added.
Commenting on the French PM's statement on security measures, Smith said that "the prime minster [is] saying we are not going to be pushed around, the rule of law will continue."
According to Smith, some of the crowds are "legitimate Gilet Jaunes" while there also are "professional protesters, black blocs, the anarchist movement."
"On the alt-right there are even some who are kind of a leftover of protests against other legislation from the previous presidency. This is kind of an amalgamation of the anti-everybody league. Plus legitimate Gilets Jaunes who are involved as well. And it is very much of an amalgam of all of those elements. The volume aspect is certainly on the decrease," he told RT.
In his opinion, the government is saying that the law is the law.
"Last week we saw one of the ring leaders was arrested for getting involved deliberately – by his own admission – in an unauthorized demonstration, and you and I know how much the French love to demonstrate," he said.
He said that France has clear laws about when and where you can demonstrate, and declaring where you demonstrate. He believes the government is saying "you can do these things, but you have to respect the law."
"The other thing that is happening in the background is that now they have just opened or about to open this process of public consultation that is linked to the whole movement. So, there are two things happening – the government is saying the dialogue is now open and that is a peaceful thing and that happens through the 36,000 town halls across France. And that will be their way – their means of separating the 'legitimate' Gilets Jaunes movement and those who want to continue down the path of violence."