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Covert Surveillance ‘Project Speargun’ Fires Up New Zealand Election

ANNA MAJAVU of Pacific Media Watch reports for The Daily Blog on an extraordinary event in Auckland on 15 September 2014:

NEW ZEALAND Prime Minister John Key has been accused of allowing the secret installation of equipment that would enable spooks to tap into New Zealand’s undersea fibre optic cable as part of a covert mass surveillance system of citizens.

This was the word from globally acclaimed whistleblower Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (both speaking via video link), Kim Dotcom and US Pulitzer prize-winner Glenn Greenwald last night at a packed meeting of more than 2000 people in Auckland.

An Election Film Week in Lebanon to Say #NoToExtension of Parliament Term

What better than the seventh art to mobilize? In another effort to push for Elections in Lebanon and prevent an extension of the Parliamentary term #NoToExtension, Lebanese NGO Nahwa Al Muwatiniya (meaning Towards Citizenship) held an “Election Film Week”.

Six works from Chile, Iran, China, Ghana and the US, varying between documentaries and fiction are being screened between August 28 to September 2 at Cinema Metropolis (a theater promoting indie movies)  in collaboration with the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE).

On the Facebook Page of the event, where the programme is listed, the organisers note:

We have been struggling with a fragile democracy in Lebanon, ever since its independence. Today, more than in the darkest days of the civil war, the foundations of our democracy are at risk. But we’re not alone in this. The world is full of stories about the human struggle for self-determination and democratic participation. Broadening our perspective serves our effort to improve the quality of the political system in Lebanon. 

The films we picked share stories from different countries, all which portray the election process. Collectively, they reveal a combination of human values and ideals and the efforts politicians make to win an election.

To see a glimpse of the movies, check out the trailer posted on Nahwa Al Muwatiniya Youtube Page.

The current parliament extended its four-year stay for the first time in May 2013. And like a year before, various parties are supporting the move this time around under the pretext of security conditions.

The end of the parliamentary term comes amidst a period of turmoil in Lebanon. The country has lacked a president since May 25 after parliament failed to elect a new head of state and top officials could not reach political consensus. A general strike by syndicates demanding to approve a new enhanced wage scale for civil servants has threatened to paralyze the entire country. Lebanon has experience instability on both Syrian and Israeli borders after soldiers were kidnapped by members of Islamic militant organization ISIS.

How Kenyans Can Lead a Double Life in the US

Danstan Obara shows how Kenyans can lead a double life in the US:

The American double life starts by making sure that your social security card does not have the stamp that says “Valid for work only with INS authorization”. The things that people do to get rid of this stamp are amazing. I will not go into those details here.

The next step is to walk into an organization or business and apply for a job. You will have to pretend that you are an American, born and raised in America. This can be a very dumb thing to say sometimes because in many cases when you are fresh out of Kenya, it is difficult for anybody to miss the accent. Amazingly almost everybody I know has always gotten away with it. There is a law against racial and ethnic profiling in America so, employers would rather go with the information they are provided with and stick with what they can prove.

Individuals with visiting visas, who opt to extend there stay do not even get the social security cards. What this means is that they cannot legally work anywhere. The things they do are even more hilarious. It is a psychological fact that white people cannot easily differentiate black people. So people simply share identification documents. Imagine of a guy walking into an office to apply for a job with an identification card that has someone else’s photo on it. Once again, not even one person I know has ever been caught.

“Racism is Not an Issue in Latin America” — Seriously?

In an opinion piece for the New York Times titled “Latin America's Talent for Tolerance,” Enrique Krauze proposes the notion that Latin America is less prone to racism:

[...] European-style racism — which not only mistreats and discriminates but also persecutes and, in the very worst cases, tries to exterminate others because of their ethnicity — has been the exception and not the rule in modern Latin America.

Krauze's opinion piece prompted blogger Julio Ricardo Varela to question the validity of his position in an article written for Latino Rebels:

At the beginning of the piece, Krauze starts with FIFA’s “Say No To Racism” campaign,”a message” that “was particularly directed toward the soccer stadiums of Europe, where there have been many instances of racial taunting and physical aggression by hostile fans against African and other black players.” Just a few sentences later, Krauze is quick to let us know that such racism doesn’t occur in the Americas: “the stadiums of Latin America have for the most part been free of this phenomenon, despite the fervent nationalism and fanaticism of the fans.” I am guessing that neither Krauze nor his Times editor did some actual fact-checking because in just five minutes, I was able to locate several examples of racism in Latin American stadiums.

After pointing out that so-called “European-style racism is what formed Latin America in the first place,” Varela concludes with these words:

When we as Latin Americans admit the truth and confront it head on, only then can real change occur. In the meantime, the literal whitewashing of Latin American history needs to be monitored and when it appears in mass media, we must all do our best to quickly call out this ignorant attitude. The only way to transform society is to ensure that we don’t allow certain opinions to become the standard. We can do better, and we will. One tweet at a time.

US and China's Strategic and Economic Dialogue

China File invited economist William Adams and Political Economy Professor from Peking University, Zha Daojiong, to comment on the upcoming high-level bilateral diplomatic exchange known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the U.S. and China.

Migrant Children from Central America Are Not Mere Statistics

Niños migrantes en clase. Imagen en Flickr del usuario pies cansados (CC BY-ND 2.0) .

Migrant children in a schooclass. Image on Flickr by user pies cansados (CC BY-ND 2.0).

In an opinion piece for the American newspaper Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Global Voices contributor Jamie Stark wonders, “What kind of parent would pay $10,000 for a stranger to bring a child 1,400 miles through gangland and hostile border crossings? A good parent, perhaps.”

As a concerned citizen about the crisis of migrant children, Stark reflects:

What do we do with these kids? An important decision, to be certain, but one that overlooks the humanity, the story, of each child crossing our border.
[...]
When a parent from Central America hears the rumor that children are being allowed to stay in the U.S., it's not so hard to imagine spending life savings of $10,000 to $15,000 for a stranger to guide a son or daughter north.
[...]
These kids are not mere statistics. Many never wanted to be here in the first place.

Global Voices has published stories on this issue in the past:
- The Humanitarian Tragedy of Children Emigrating Alone
- An Open Letter to Salvadoran Migrant Children
- Trafficked Ecuadorian Children Pass Through Hell on the Way to the US

Eerie Similarities in Deaths Provoked by Police Brutality in Staten Island and Paris

Eric Garner was a 44-year-old African-American man who died following an attempted arrest by the NY Police Department. On July 17, 2014, when police officers attempted to arrest Garner, he had broken up a fight. Garner who suffered from asthma was wrestled to the ground. Medical examiners concluded chokehold and chest compression as the primary causes of Garner's death and Garner's heart problems, obesity and asthma as additional factors. Here is a video of the accident [Warning: Graphic Images]

A few days later (28 August) in Roissy, France, Abdelhak Goradia, a 51 year old Algerian citizen also died inside a police van. The police was carrying Goradia to the airport to be deported back to Algeria when they initially affirmed that he died of a heart attack. Justice department corrected that assessment and stated that Goradia died from choking on his own gastric fluids. His lawyer stated that Goradia called him to say that he was taken away in handcuffs and a head gear. Goradia was previously charged with theft, petty crimes and violence.

A Documentary That Allows Transgender People's Voices to Be Heard

Though gays and lesbians are gradually gaining more acceptance in Puerto Rico, the same cannot be said yet of transgender people. That is why a film like Mala Mala, a documentary in which trans people speak freely about their stories, is so important. The film, directed by Dan Sickles (@dan_sickles) and Antonio Santini, is on the official selection of the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

One of the people interviewed for the film is Paxx Moll, a chef who is also a transgender female-to-male. In an article published in La Respuesta, a digital magazine about the Puerto Rican diaspora, he talks to E. J. Dávila about who he is, his experience being part of the documentary, and about the lack of social and medical spaces for trans people in Puerto Rico, particularly for transgender men.

This is the teaser trailer for Mala Mala, which will premier in Puerto Rico in the coming months:

What We Take With Us

Tegucigalpa

Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo on Flickr by user chamo estudio (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

From Tegucigalpa, capital city of Honduras, Madame Gumbeaux tells she will return to live in the United States in a few weeks, and lists what she will miss… and other things she won't:

I will miss….
1. the guy on the motorbike who rides through the ‘hood twice a day, selling his mom's fresh tortillas. What could be better than hot-off-the-grill tortillas sold by a cute guy on a bike?
[...]
3. the sound of children everywhere. Honduras is a young country. Children playing ball, walking to and from school, calling out to one another is a constant in this place.
4. the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables on sale on street corners and parked trucks all over the city and countryside.
[...]

I WON'T miss…..
[...]
4. the loud music pouring out of every neighborhood, church, market, etc at any given hour, day or night. It may make Hondurans dance, but I get cranky when I am confronted with amplified music day and night.
5. the slooowwww service in almost every restaurant, supermarket, or store. No one, I mean no one, is in a hurry here. It's just so against my cultural upbringing.

What Democracy? Questioning Oscar López Rivera's Imprisonment in the United States

Puerto Rico's most widely circulated newspaper, El Nuevo Día, published an editorial [es] in its Sunday edition on June 1, 2014 in which it questions the moral standard of the United States’ government to intercede in favor of political prisoners around the world while insisting on unjustly maintaining Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera [es] incarcerated:

Habría que preguntarse cuál es el empecinamiento de un gobierno, el de Estados Unidos, que presume de sus acciones en favor de los presos politicos del mundo entero -en Ucrania, con Yulia Timoshenko; en China, con el artista Ai Weiwei; en Venezuela, con el opositor Leopoldo López; en Cuba, con el exprisionero Guillermo Fariñas, y hasta en Rusia con el grupo feminista punk “Pussy Riot”, – pero que en su propia casa mantiene sepultado a un puertorriqueño que, de 1986 a 1998, sufrió uno de los regímenes carcelarios más crueles que existen, el de confinamiento en solitaria en la prisión de Marion, Illinois.

[...]

El gobierno de Estados Unidos está moralmente impedido de interceder por ningún preso político, en ningún lugar del mundo, mientras continúe el presidente burlándose de la memoria de [Nelson] Mandela y violando los derechos civiles, políticos y el derecho a la libertad de Oscar.

We should ask ourselves about the stubbornness of a government, that of the United States, which boasts of its actions in favor of political prisoners around the entire world – in Ukraine with Yulia Timoshenko, in China with artist Ai Weiwei, in Venezuela with political candidate Leopoldo López, in Cuba with former prisoner Guillermo Fariñas, and even in Russia with feminist punk group “Pussy Riot” – but keeps a Puerto Rican who suffered one of the cruelest prison regimes that ever existed, from 1986 to 1998 in solitary confinement in a prison in Marion, Illinois.

[...]

The government of the United States is morally unable to advocate for any political prisoner anywhere in the world while the President continues to mock the memory of [Nelson] Mandela and violates Oscar's right to freedom as well as his civil and political rights.  

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