Killer Hospitals and COVID-19 in Mexico

Illustration by: Haven Morales

 

CW: death

Mexico is currently facing a crisis that will only get worse as COVID-19 continues to impact the country. After years of neglect, the Mexican healthcare system has been facing an onslaught of COVID-19 cases that the hospitals are not properly equipped to handle. With the rising need for medical attention and a lack of resources, hospitals are seeing an overwhelming amount of death. 

 

Mexico’s healthcare system consists of both public and private options. The Mexican government itself offers three public systems: the Instituto de Salud para el Bienestar (INSABI), the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado (ISSSTE), and the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS). INSABI is the 2020 revamp of the Seguro Popular, the former healthcare system that was meant to provide healthcare to low-income Mexicans. ISSSTE is a program designed to provide healthcare and social security to federal employees and their families. IMSS is the organization that provides healthcare to private-sector employees and foreigners working in Mexico. In both the IMSS and ISSSTE, contributions must be made by the employee so funds are discounted from employee’s salaries to maintain healthcare coverage.

 

Government spending on healthcare is extremely low within Mexico. In 2019, the Mexican government only spent 2.8% of its GDP on the domestic government health system. This trend would continue, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, amid a global pandemic in 2020 in which Mexico has lowered this down to only 2.5%. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which is the regional office of the Americas for the WHO, recommends that countries dedicate a minimum benchmark of 6% of GDP to the public expenditure on health. 

 

While Mexican government spending on healthcare has declined, the population has maintained a steady increase, growing by over 15 million people this last decade. COVID-19 has hit Mexico hard with over a million cases reported and over 140,700 deaths as of mid-January. The World Bank also noted that there were only 1.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2015 and 2.4 physicians per 1,000 people in 2017. These statistics have been further exacerbated by COVID-19. The combination of increased demand for hospital beds due to COVID-19 and the lack of sufficient funding for the healthcare system has led to inadequate medical attention and, in many cases, medical negligence. 

 

In early November of 2020, El Universal reported that 10% of COVID-19 hospitals in Mexico were at full capacity. This report stated that a minimum of 94 of the 949 hospitals were reporting that they no longer had any beds, respirators, or spaces in their intensive care units available for new patients. Reaching their full capacity has become a problem for both public and private hospitals. 

 

In a complaint shared with Metropoli, a group of ISSSTE hospital staff reported that the hospital they worked at was a hotbed for COVID-19 infections as COVID-positive patients were being mixed with patients who had not been exposed to COVID. The hospital was also not being disinfected properly. In an article by the New York Times, several doctors and nurses admitted that there were many cases of preventable deaths that had been caused by negligence. They also recounted cases where patients died due to inexperienced staff members accidentally unplugging life support equipment, neglecting vital signs, and abandoning hospital beds.

 

Before COVID-19, complaints of medical negligence were already common in Mexico. According to the National Commission of Medical Arbitration (CONAMED), 2019 saw 17,358 official medical negligence complaints made to the commission. The 2019 figure shows a 22% increase of complaints since 2016 and this only covers the official complaints recorded. An interview with Fernando Aviléz Tostado, the president of No More Medical Negligence, noted that these figures are extremely low estimates of the actual number of cases of medical negligence as many go unreported due to people’s fear or lack of knowledge about their rights.

 

People in Mexico are dying and it’s not just because of the pandemic. Mexico is battling two deadly diseases: the vicious spread of COVID-19 and the insidious lack of quality healthcare. The lack of proper funding is creating a scenario where hospitals are reaching total capacity and patients that are admitted are facing complications or death from preventable errors. Until adequate funding is given, people will continue to suffer in these killer hospitals.

Perú Faces a Presidential Crisis

This November, Perú experienced a period of political unrest as deep rooted corruption rose to the surface and subjected the country to a presidential crisis. 

On November 9th, the Peruvian Congress, headed by Manuel Merino, voted to remove President Martín Vizcarra from office. Vizcarra was removed due to allegations of accepting around $630,000 in bribes in a past position as a regional governor and failing to properly lead the country during the coronavirus pandemic. Congress claimed his “moral incapacity,” based on a broadly interpreted section of the Constitution, served as a reason to remove President Vizcarra. Despite these allegations, Vizcarra remained popular among Peruvian people. 

 

Former President Vizcarra. Image Credit: Wall Street Journal

 

Perú faces a long history of corruption, as many past presidents have been prosecuted as criminals and current lawmakers are being investigated for a large variety of serious crimes. As a result, Vizcarra stood on an anti-corruption platform, which greatly contributed to his popularity. He attempted to stop parliamentary immunity and Congressional re-election. When Congress denied the proposals, Vizcarra called for an election of a new Congress. Peruvian people voted for politicians who belonged to newer political parties in hope of change, but unfortunately, the new members of Congress ended up being just as corrupt as the last. 

 

Graphic Illustration by Sara Robles. Image Credit: @imperspectivas

 

Due to Vizcarra’s popularity, many believe he should not have been removed even if the corruption allegations were true. Many feel that the political turmoil is not worth it during the last few months of the presidency before the upcoming election in April 2021. Others are in agreement with Vizcarra’s removal and believe that even if there is a chance that a lawmaker is corrupt, they should be removed from office. 

After Vizcarra’s removal, Manuel Merino became next in line for the presidency and was quickly sworn in. However, protests broke out throughout the country, as some even believed that a coup had been staged. 

These protests started as small demonstrations in Lima but quickly grew to large protests all over Perú. The demonstrations were composed of diverse groups of mostly young people, who organized over social media without a central leader. 

 

A large demonstration in Plaza San Martín de Lima. Image Credit: RPP Noticias

 

When interviewing Victor Lozano, a young Peruvian, he described his perspective about why people had gone out to protest in full force. He said although the direct cause of the protest was Vizcarra’s removal, many Peruvians feel the true cause of the demonstrations was to speak out against parliamentary immunity and demand an end to the country’s corruption. He describes que “la gente estaba cansada de que les tomen el pelo y salieron a alzar su voz en contra” a la corrupción. It’s important to note young people are fighting against deep rooted issues, not only an unfit president, and due to the intensity of the protests, it is not likely they will back down. 

Though the protests were intended as peaceful demonstrations, many people documented instances of what they saw as unnecessary police violence. Police officers used “blunt force, tear gas, [and] projectiles” to control crowds. Protestors documented instances of police violence against the press, leading La Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú to denounce the use of force on behalf of the police. 

Police violence during protests caused injuries among over 200 people. Police violence led to the deaths of Inti Sotelo Camargo (24) and Bryan Pintado Sánchez (22) due to projectiles shot at them by police forces. 

After these tragic deaths, Manuel Merino resigned from the presidency and was replaced with the third president of the week—Francisco Sagasti, who will remain president until the upcoming 2021 elections. Some are hopeful that Sagasti’s education and experience working in the United Nations indicate that he has the potential to be a good president.Regardless of Sagasti’s experience, the months leading to the election will be difficult as Perú faces government corruption.

illustration of women and girls murdered in Mexico

Living Under a Death Sentence: Femicides in Mexico

illustration of women and girls murdered in Mexico

Illustration by Jessica Martinez

[CW: sexual assault, femicide, violence against women, graphic descriptions]

Being a woman in Mexico is punishable by death. Women of all ages, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds are in danger of being harassed, raped, disfigured, assassinated or disappeared at the hands of men every day. In a country where 10 women are killed daily and 100 women have been assassinated this year alone, being a woman is equal to a death sentence. 

Ingrid Escamilla from Mexico City was murdered, dismembered and skinned by her husband after a disagreement. Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett Antón from Xochimilco was only 7 years old when she was abducted outside of her elementary school; a week later, Fatima’s naked body was found inside a plastic bag with signs of sexual abuse and torture. Ingrid and Fatima’s deaths demonstrate consistent local police misshadlement and dismissal by higher authorities. Painfully, Mexican femicide cases are commonly mishandled and dismissed. 

Thousands of women took to the streets to protest the dismissal from authorities regarding the severity and pervasiveness of these crimes. They demanded action from the government in order to bring justice for all the women lost to femicide. Yet the message from authorities is loud and clear: they do not care. Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), held a press conference soon after the demonstrations where he focused on damages inflicted on national statues by protesters and reminded the public that he did not want his press conference to be “all to be about femicides.” AMLO’s tone-deaf response did nothing to help mitigate the root of the problem and made it clear that national statues are of more value than women’s lives. AMLO’s response also reveals the disregard women face every day at the hands of men, especially those in positions of power. 

Sadly, Mexican women are used to the police and the Mexican president dismissing them, they have heard the same excuses for decades. Women are taught to distrust the government, and rightfully so since the government usually protects the perpetrators of these crimes. Mexican authorities protect the perpetrators of these crimes by classifying women’s deaths as suicides and through their negligence in testing victims for signs of sexual abuse; this corruption leads to the femicide rates in Mexico to go underreported enabling authorities to ignore the problem further. So even when presidents like AMLO claim to have women’s best interest at heart, the statements should be taken with a grain of salt.

Women are tired of empty promises and vague action plans that never culminate into real change. That is why Brujas del Mar, a feminist collective in Veracruz, tweeted out a proposed day without women this upcoming March 9. Following International Women’s Day on March 8, March 9 will be a day where women do not go to work, school, or participate in any domestic work in order to demonstrate the importance of women to Mexican society and demand that the Mexican government enact policy changes to protect women.

The proposed national stop on March 9 took social media by storm with the hashtag #undíasinnosotras being used by thousands to show support and solidarity. Although celebrities and even corporations are showing support, the biggest support came from the families of the thousands of victims who never received justice. Although the majority of support is positive, some Twitter users stated their disagreement with women protesting in “aggressive” forms (i.e. vandalism and obstructing traffic). Disagreement has mostly taken the form of mockery of the movement and women themselves. This is a small glimpse of how the dismissal of femicides by higher authorities has normalized violence against women to the point where it is okay to laugh and dismiss the more than 100 women murdered this year alone. 

So to those who do not understand the pain and anger women are displaying, I will reiterate Elideth Yesenia Zamudio’s powerful words after taking to the streets: “Whoever wants to break things, let them; whoever wants to burn things, let them; and whoever doesn’t want to take part… Get out of the way!” Elideth’s daughter María de Jesús Jaime Zamudio was thrown out of a window in 2016 after being assaulted by four men, yet Mexican authorities were adamant to rule her death a suicide. She has fought for change ever since.

A life of constantly looking over your shoulder is not a life, yet this is the reality for women all throughout Mexico. 63 million women currently face an imminent death sentence due to their gender; that is why I plead that you show solidarity to the women fighting for a safer Mexico by standing next to your sisters this coming March 9. The lives of 63 million women could change if the voices of Mexican women are heard but this will only be possible if we all stand and demand change.

Image of Manuel Calderon, Adria Del Valle, and Paulina Rezain

Getting to Know Estereomance

2019 brought great offerings to ex-Chamanas, Manuel Calderon and Paulina Rezain, who are joined by Adria Del Valle, in the formation of their new and rising band, Estereomance. The band took the pleasure of expressing their stories of activism, forming connections with their audience through familiar backgrounds, and representing their hometown, Juarez and El Paso, Texas, through their jazz and soul singles. 

Having toured Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California starting in September of last year, the band granted La Gente the opportunity in October of last year to sit down with them to discuss the trio’s inspiration behind their music and new singles, “Up” and “Crimson Queen,” leading into their EP which will be released later this year. Their songs pave the way for the rising of untold stories and awareness of tragedies and injustices that they aim to give voice to through their soul-pop. 

Find out more about Esteromance, as they provide a deeper insight into their formation and share about their upcoming projects in the new year.

Alvaro: So you had an experience with The Chamanas. How did that transition into Estereomance? 

Manuel: Estereomance is a new project. When this happened Adria was like, “Hey! I’m here. Let me know if I can help. I want to join.” We’re a hundred percent focused on Estereomance right now, and it’s our only baby right now. Estereomance is a more jazzy, a little more on the soul side. We enjoy a lot of Roy Ayers, like jazz fusion from the 70s, especially Madlib and all those hip-hop artists. The first song we did with Estereo, mance was “Riviera.” 

Alvaro: Are there any activists, aside from musical inspirations, that influence your creativity throughout the process?

Paulina: The inspiration is our hometown, Juarez and El Paso, Texas. There’s a lot of sad things happening right now. For example, women activist are fighting for los derechos de las mujeres que fueron asesinadas.  In Juarez, I feel like everyone is an activist and this is our —nuestra—arma, la music.  Nuestra música puede dar ese mensaje de “you got this.”  Puedes expresar y puedes ser activista. You have to choose a beautiful way. We choose art. 

Manuel: If you want to see a real activist, interview any of the mothers of the girls who have been murdered in Juarez. You don’t understand until it happens to you. It’s intense. Paulina had a classmate that was murdered a month ago; they pinned it as an accidental overdose.  Who overdoses on alcohol these days?  

Paulina: Mis compañeros, estamos alzando la voz. We are in this together.  Es triste pero nos ayuda tener inspiración y poderle dar voz a la gente que no puede hablar, que no puede expresarse.

Adria: The shooting happened recently, and we had a “wow” moment. It’s a reminder that we are lucky to be safe and to have the opportunity to be in both countries. 

Manuel: Never take any of this for granted. Our music is mainly about that.  Especially “Up,” our first single. It was a collaboration between the three of us. Cody, from The Holy Knives helped with some of the lyrics.  Instead of telling people how fucked up everything is, we want to emphasize that we have elements to become a good society. We want to be optimistic about humankind. 

Alvaro: That’s really inspiring. What are some tips that you would share with musicians nowadays? 

Adria: When I went through a really difficult part of my life, I would listen to a lot of Cultura Profetica. He talks about being yourself and doing what makes you happy. It has a great message. 

Manuel: In Juarez and El Paso, the music and art scene is not very big. People don’t take music seriously. I  lived in LA for three years ten years ago; this is where I was born as an engineer and producer. I worked at Westlake Studios, where Quincy Jones made a lot of his records. After I moved to El Paso and worked at Sonic Ranch for ten years. Animal Collective was there, Beach House, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Natalia Lafourcade, and Bon Iver were there this year. In Juarez there’s not much exposure to that. It’s hard; Paulina and Adria understood that. My parents don’t understand what I’m doing, but they’ve been supportive. Paulina’s parents support her. 

Paulina:  I feel grateful. I remember my beginnings and now I’m here. Quiero más y más pero por ahora estoy disfrutando–como dice Manuel, “to be here in el momento.” 

Alvaro: Now you guys have a record deal with Cosmica Artists. How is working with them? 

Adria: To me, it was huge. I played the violin since I was six years old and I never imagined I would be in a band with two amazing artists. We like this label, they represent Latin music. They have cool artists, like Carla Morrison, Gaby Moreno, The Marías, and David Garza. 

Alvaro: And now you’re up there with them!

Adria: Yeah! We’re grateful to be part of Cosmica.

Paulina: De hecho, ayer cenamos con ellos. Tocamos en un café muy bonito.  Se llamaba “Stories.” It was a really intimidating performance. We got dinner y estaba David Garza and Gil from Cosmica. 

Manuel:  I met David Garza at Sonic Ranch, and I worked with him on a lot of records.  When I was working with David, I was doing some demos with an artist back then. I showed them to David and he said, “Wow, brother! This is amazing! Let me show it to Gil.” That’s how The Chamanas was born back then. He’s [Gil] a great human to begin with, which is hard to find in this industry. When we finished our [Estereomance] demos, I sent them to Gil and ten minutes later he calls me, very excited–

Paulina: Estaba en el tráfico y dice -me quería esperar para escucharlo en un buen sonido pero, I can’t wait! Y lo escuché en el tráfico, y estoy muy emocionado.-

Manuel: Gil is one of a kind. We are very happy to have him as a friend and as a manager.  We are confident they’re going to do a great job with our music. 

Alvaro: Do you have any upcoming albums? Any new singles that you’ve been working on?

Adria: We’re releasing our second single in December. It’s called “Crimson Queen.” Nowadays we have Instagram and social media, and we see all these influencers have this “perfect” life.  We want to point out that it’s not a perfect life; everybody is human, everyone has problems. 

Paulina: Nuestra canción se trata de eso. Uno de los lyrics dice, “Why can’t I be like her, why can’t I be a queen? I want to be like her.” Y eso la está haciendo sentirse mal. Porque nos estamos comparando. 

Adria: You can see it in many different ways. We want everybody to feel connected to it. Everyone has different stories.  

Manuel: We want people to interpret our songs and lyrics. It’s a song that’s encouraging people to be who they want to be. It’s interesting to see how people pick up on the message. 

Adria: Next year we release our album.

Manuel: It’s a seven-song album. We’re not set on a date. This tour we’re doing right now is actually a DIY tour; we planned it before we even had a name. 

Alvaro: How did the band name come about?

Manuel: It’s just a made up word, like a stereo or boombox.  Stereo can also mean two-sided. Like El Paso and Juarez. The border. Romance, because we like romantic music. 

Adria: We made like 30 names.

Manuel: David [Garza] asked me if I had a name for the band. I told him “Stereomance,” but Paulina wasn’t sold on it yet, and we didn’t want to do a name if Paulina wasn’t convinced. David is always drawing and writing lyrics. He just added an E to Stereomance. He said, “Hey brother, what about Estereomance?” I ran it through Paulina, and–

Paulina: I was like, how can a letter make such a difference!? 

Manuel: Visually, it’s nice because it starts with an E, ends with an E, and there are 5 E’s! One of my biggest influences is Soda Stereo, so it’s nice to have Stereo there. We ended up convincing Paulina. 

Paulina: Me tuvieron que pagar! 

Manuel: It was driving us crazy, but I said, “Whatever name we come up with is going to end up becoming special with time.” It represents the nerdiness of the project, which is me, and the romantics, which is them. It’s a little bit of both worlds.

Visual by: Jessica Martinez

graphic depicting two hand exchanging the Bolivian flag for money

La Violenta Salida de Evo

Las guerras de independencia concluyeron hace más de 200 años. La meta? Que los sujetos colonizados se liberaran del Imperio español y su legado de colonialismo que dependía de divisiones por clase y color de piel.

Ahora, dos siglos después, es claro que la meta no fue lograda.

El golpe de estado en Bolivia es un testamento a la historia latinoamericana tras un legado de colonialismo que aún persiste y que se exacerba bastante con la llegada del imperialismo norteamericano a mediados del siglo XIX. 

Evo Morales, el presidente y mandatario de Bolivia desde 2006, fue la víctima más reciente por un golpe de estado solamente cuatro años tras el golpe en Brasil que resultó en la condenación de Dilma Rousseff. 

Uno sólo tiene que darse cuenta de las palabras infamantes y racistas de la presidenta autoproclamada Jeanine Áñez que detallan y subrayan una fidelidad al patrimonio de la Iglesia católica: “Dios ha permitido que la Biblia vuelva a entrar al Palacio. Que él nos bendiga.” ¡Qué locura, usar la religión como propaganda para destituir a un presidente que no sea cristiano! Pero hay algo muy importante que recordar: los 400 años de colonialismo bajo España, además de casi 100 años bajo imperialismo y vigilancia estadounidense, han creado un fuerte ambiente de ideologías imperialistas, como el fascismo y el racismo, que se legitiman con el catolicismo europeo. Toma por ejemplo este artículo sobre la casa “lujosa” de Evo Morales en Bolivia. Una cama, un armario, un sofá, y cortinas para las ventanas. La retórica racista de la derecha sobre las pertenencias materiales de Evo es evidencia que para ellos, los indígenas tienen que vivir como vivieron hace cinco siglos: sin casa, sin ropa, sin fuego, sin luz, y sin tecnología—nada de “lujo.”

¿Pero por qué durante la presidencia de Evo Morales no se eliminó esta retórica racista, ni se sanaron heridas causadas por el colonialismo? En vez de culpar a Evo por esto, es mejor preguntar más a fondo por qué no se realizaron estas metas. Hay que comparar el tiempo de Evo como presidente de Bolivia y el tiempo en lo cual Bolivia vivió bajo colonización e imperialismo. ¡Catorce años no pueden ni empezar a erradicar mentalidades coloniales ni el legado del imperialismo norteamericano! En el caso de Cuba, por ejemplo, prejuicios coloniales aún existen 60 años después de la revolución a causa de casi 500 años bajo el mando de España y los Estados Unidos, o por otros motivos, como la disolución de la Unión Soviética en 1992. 

Además, Evo no es más que una persona; tal vez su partido tuvo la mayoría parlamentaria en el Congreso boliviano, pero para prosperar mientras los Estados Unidos y sus lacayos lo mantuvieron bajo vigilancia, Evo tomó bastante precauciones en sus acciones como líder del país. 

Pero hay algo más que me alarma, y también debe de alarmar al público. La llegada de la tecnología y redes sociales han intensificado la lucha imperialista realizada por los Estados Unidos. Un análisis extensivo sobre las cuentas creadas en Twitter que apoyan el golpe de estado encontró que aproximadamente 68 mil de cuentas eran falsas. ¿Qué significa esto? Que los poderes detrás del golpe están dispuestos a esconder que la situación en Bolivia es un violento golpe de estado, y esta meta se realiza a través de cuentas falsas que escriben—en muy buen inglés que casi se parece fabricado—que Evo no se fue a causa de un golpe de estado, sino que fue depuesto por un movimiento democrático. 

Lo más importante es que en Latinoamérica, el legado del colonialismo, tal como el imperialismo, aún persiste. Pero esta lucha se ubica en nuevas fronteras, y el advento de las redes sociales sólo desarrollará más esta lucha cibernética donde cualquier narrativa—falsa o verdadera—puede ser circulada entre millones de personas. El contragolpe también debe de ser realizado por estas mismas fronteras si el imperialismo será confrontado por el pueblo boliviano.

 

English Translation:

The Wars for Independence in Latin America were more than 200 years ago. The goal? For the colonized subjects to win their liberation from the Spanish Empire and its legacy of colonialism, that consisted of a social divide of both race and class.

Now, two centuries later, it’s obvious that goal was never achieved.

The coup in Bolivia is a testament to Latin American history, one beyond a legacy of colonialism that still has not been eradicated in society, and only exacerbates with the arrival of US imperialism to the region of Latin America in the 19th century. 

Evo Morales, the president and leader of Bolivia since 2006 is the most recent victim of a coup, only 4 years after the coup in Brazil, which saw Dilma Rousseff condemned. 

One only needs to learn about the inflammatory and racist words of the self-proclaimed president Jeanine Áñez, which both detail and underline a sentiment very loyal in nature to the patrimony of the Catholic Church: “God has allowed for the Bible to come back to [the] Palace. May He bless us.” What madness, to use religion as propaganda to remove a president who isn’t Christian! But one must remember something very important: the 400 years of colonialism by Spain, mixed in with the almost 100 years of U.S imperialism and vigilance, has created a strong and powerful environment of imperialist ideologies, such as fascism and racism, that mixes well with European Catholicism. Take, for example, this article about the supposed “luxurious” house of Evo Morales in Bolivia. A bed, a wardrobe, a sofa, and curtains for the windows. The racist rhetoric that comes from the right about any material good when it belongs to someone like Evo is evidence that, for them, indigenous peoples must live how they lived five centuries ago: without a home, without clothes, without a fire, without light and electricity, without technology, nothing “luxurious” like those things. 

But why wasn’t this rhetoric nor the damages and trauma caused by colonialism eliminated during the years of Evo Morales? The 14 years of his leadership did not change much in terms of social classes. But instead of blaming him for this, it’s better to ask: why? One should compare the time that Evo spent as president of Bolivia to the years that Bolivia was under colonialism and imperialism. Fourteen years cannot even begin to eradicate the colonized mindsets nor the decay caused by U.S imperialism! Look at Cuba: 60 years after the Revolution and there still exist colonial-era prejudices in society, whether it be for the nearly 500 years under the control of both Spain and the United States, or for another motive, such as the fall of the USSR in the 1990s. 

Besides, Evo is only one person; maybe he has the majority of his party in congress, but to survive under the constant surveillance of both the United States and its lackeys, one must be very cautious of the actions they take as leader of some country. 

But there is also something else that frightens me, and should also frighten various people. The advent of both technology and social media has intensified the imperialist fight done by the United States. A profound analysis on recently made Twitter accounts that support the coup reveal that the accounts are fake, approximately 68 thousand of them. What does this mean? It means that the powers that lead this coup are prepared to erase the narrative that whatever happens in Bolivia is not classified as a coup, and they execute this through the fake accounts that write– in such a perfect form of English that it sounds nearly manufactured– that Evo was not removed because of a coup.

The most important thing is that in Latin America, the legacy of colonialism, much like its bedfellow, imperialism, persists. But this new fight is located in new fronts, and the phenomenon of social media will only develop this cybernetic fight even more, where any narrative– whether false or true– can be circulated between millions of people. The counterattack should also be done through these same fronts and methods if this imperialism will be confronted by the people of Bolivia.

#NoSonTresSomosTodxs

Mexico is currently facing the most violent year in history – with the number of homicides in 2017 being the highest it has ever been, according to the information published by the country’s Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP). It is evident that the violence brought forth by the drug war in Mexico continues to worsen and increase the cases of homicides, abductions, extortion and robbery each year.

In March of this year, Javier Salomón Aceves Gastélum, Marco García Francisco Ávalos and Jesús Daniel Díaz set out to film a school project in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. The last time the three film students were seen alive, they were being forced into a car by two men disguised as police officers.

According to The Washington Post, the film students were filming their school project in a house in Tonala, Jalisco. Unbeknown to the film students, their filming ground was used as the safe house by the Nueva Plaza drug cartel.

As the students were leaving the filming grounds, one of their cars broke down and they were approached by six armed men. The men forced the students into a truck and took them to a different location to be interrogated.

One of the students was tortured so brutally that he was killed during the interrogation; the two other students were killed after the interrogation. The students were tortured, murdered, and their bodies dissolved in acid.

Joseluis Melgoza, a cousin of mine who also happens to be a film student in Guadalajara, says: “It is cruel to think that the three film students’ dreams and aspirations were dispelled by the crime and violence that encompasses our country. It’s difficult and challenging to face the reality that we live in a world which doesn’t understand the importance of respect, peace and harmony.”

The disappearance of the film students caused lots of outrage among their community. Thousands of college students gathered among the streets of Guadalajara and Mexico City – some of the biggest cities in the country – to march, express their anger over the situation, and demand justice not only for the three film students but the thousands of others who have gone missing in Mexico.

During the march, the students held up posters which read “#NoSonTresSomosTodxs” meaning “It’s not three, it’s all of us.” Additionally, the students chanted: “We’re students, not criminals. Will I be next?” Other protesters were seen holding up signs saying “Nos Estan Matando” (“They Are Killing Us”) and “Nos Estan Desapareciendo” (“They Are Making Us Disappear”).

This tragedy has sparked outrage regarding the Mexican government’s lack of response to the disappearance of Mexico’s youth. According to the U.S. News website, by the end of 2016, the drug war in Mexico had led to the disappearance of 30,000 people. The numbers continue to increase every year, indicating a serious problem that is not being handled as it should be.

Juan Martinez Perez, the director of a non-governmental organization known as Rights to Childhood, said “the disappearance of children, teen and young adults is attributable to factors including organized crime, lack of protection by the government, corruption and authorities’ complicity with criminal groups in many places,” according to The New York Times.

From a young age, families teach their kids the importance of staying in school and keeping out of trouble, but so many people tragically lose their lives simply for being at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Javier Salomón Aceves Gastélum, Marco García Francisco Ávalos and Jesús Daniel Díaz should not have had to fear for their life while simply working on a film project for school. College students should not have to plead with the government to find their missing classmates and bring them home alive. Young people should not have to walk the streets of Mexico fearing that they can become another missing person at any given moment.

Melgoza believes that “today more than ever we must demand to live in a society where people with dreams and aspirations can reach for their goals without fearing that violence and organized crime will kill them off.” Melgoza sends his condolences to the families of the brilliant and talented film students; he believes their names were part of the future of Mexico.

There is an undeniable problem with organized crime and lack of interest on behalf of the Mexican government. Now more than ever, it is important for us to come together and demand change. We, as people of Mexican descent and activists, must hold the Mexican government accountable and urge them to get involved in the repercussions brought forth by the drug war and put a stop to the increasing number of disappearances in Mexico.

US-trained Security Forces Kill Hondureños Amid Election Result Blackout

Hondureños took to the streets on Sunday, December 3, after security forces had shot and killed at least three protesters over the weekend. The people of Honduras charged the country’s election commission, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, or the TSE—controlled by the US-backed incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández —with stalling the results of their November 26th election, in an attempt to rig the outcome.

DemocracyNow! reports, “At least three people were killed as Honduran security forces opened fire on the protests. Among the victims is 19-year-old Kimberly Fonseca, who was shot in the head as soldiers opened fire on a blockade erected in the capital, Tegucigalpa, on Friday night.”

The situation for the people of Honduras has rapidly deteriorated since the initial attack by security forces. The country has suspended constitutional rights by implementing a curfew, and the US-trained police and elite forces are now actively suppressing and opening fire on revolting Hondureños.

State militarized police forces, backed by elite military units, responded by launching tear gas into a crowd of an estimated 1,000 Hondureños —including families with their children and elderly relatives.

According to the Intercept, “observers on the ground… have seen elite military police from the TIGRES and Cobras units alongside the Honduran National Police involved in clashes with protesters in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and around the country. The three forces are increasingly coordinated as the violence soars, they say.” The Honduran TIGRES (Tropa de Inteligencia y Grupos de Respuesta Especial de Seguridad) and Cobra (Comando y Batallón de Reacción Antiterrorista) units are elite forces trained by US special forces, and specialize in counter-terrorism and narco-trafficking related matters.

People have taken to Twitter since Friday, reporting that the 6 P.M. curfew has created lawlessness in the streets, and has left them vulnerable to police violence, killings, and even rape. One particular video that has gone viral shows Honduran security forces dragging an individual away across a dim-lit street.

This election saw Hernández running against Salvador Nasralla, “an ex-sportscaster chosen by an alliance of left-wing political parties as their candidate.” Initial tallies of the vote were significant enough that the TSE was reporting Nasralla was holding a substantial lead over Hernández, so much so, in fact, that a representative of the TSE noted it as “irreversible.”

Not long after, the narrative suddenly changed. The TSE had begun reporting that the incumbent, Hernández, had managed to close the gap. Without providing the new tally the tribunal suddenly went dark. The intercept states, “it suddenly stopped publicizing the tally, alleging that its electronic system went down, prompting criticism from European Union election observers.”

The blackout of the TSE is what largely prompted Hondureños to take to the streets.

Following the growing number of people, Hernández ordered the military-imposed curfew on Friday, December 1st, officially lifting all rights and subverting any specter of democracy left in the country. Many suspect the curfew as buying time for the TSE to possibly alter the results. Without any internal monitoring of the election results, there is no guarantee. According to some Human Rights observers, “the curfew and delay of an official recount are steps to produce an inevitable Hernández victory, regardless of the vote tally.”

The Honduran government and police forces have for years received training and large amounts of funding from the United States government in its long controversial relationship fighting narco-trafficking in Central America. Having run on a platform of fighting crime and stopping the drug trade, Hernández’s administration has won the support of neoliberals and neoconservatives in the US, alike.

The Intercept states, “Figures compiled by the Security Assistance Monitor show that Honduras has received nearly $114 million in security support since 2009.” Such funding has often supported neo-fascist regimes across the globe, in the name of suppressing popular movements—often fighting for land and agrarian reform—and protecting economic investment and development in the interest of global financial and corporate institutions.

The escalation in Honduras hits hard as Donald Trump and Republicans use their anti-immigrant rhetoric to attack TPS, Temporary Protected Status, which has helped many Hondureños, as well as Nicaragüenses and Haitians escape the tragedy and violence caused by US foreign policy in the region.

Such atrocities are known all too well by Hondureño activists, like the late Roberta Caceres, living in the aftermath of the 2009 Honduran Coup. The legacy of destruction to human life left by Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy, and those administrations that followed, casts a long and dark shadow over Central America. The US-backed violence proves the blood that has stained America’s hands has yet to wash off.

El Pueblo Unido: The Venezuelan Crisis

Photo by Blas Santander.

On May 7th, Lilian Tintori, the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, expressed to the public that her husband was alive and well, after being unable to visit him in military prison for over a month.

Lopez, isolated in jail and rumored to be in poor health, was informed by his wife about widespread anti-government demonstrations occurring in the country and urged for the continuation of the protests.

In 2014, Lopez was imprisoned after calling for civic action that would displace President Nicolas Maduro, who many believe has ruled Venezuela through oppressive tactics and an authoritarian rule similar to that of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Today, thousands of Venezuelan protesters continue to express discontent with Maduro’s administration through silent marches, rallies for women and other forms of activism.

People of diverse backgrounds have taken to the streets to prolong the series of protests that began three years ago, initially triggered by harsh police response to student protests following an attempted rape on a university campus.

Primarily, Venezuelans are protesting the national government’s incompetence in responding to the deterioration of the country’s economy and its subsequent effect on the population.

While Venezuela has suffered through a recession and extreme inflation, its people have been forced to experience the shortages of basic products, like food and medicine. The National Survey of Living Condition even found that in 2016, about 74% of the Venezuelan population lost more than 18 pounds, likely due to lack of food and extreme hunger conditions.

The country’s most recent demonstrations are a response to a decision by the Supreme Court to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its power, which would concentrate greater power in the Court and thus government loyalists working under Maduro.

Like with demonstrations in the past, recent protests have been met with violent retaliation from police units. The New York Times reports that throughout this year’s demonstrations, about 38 people have died at the hands of government defense forces.

While dozens of individuals have already been killed this year as a result of exacerbated conflict between Maduro’s administration and opposition forces, many predict that the Venezuelan crisis will continue to worsen without real electoral change and new leadership.

Through a worsening crisis, the continued drive of both activists and civilians that are committed to displace Maduro is the unfaltering force that may soon bring about the downfall of authoritarianism in Venezuela.

Indeed, as Lopez has voiced, “El pueblo no se cansa, la dictadura si.”

United opposition to the Venezuelan government may be the only promising means of establishing a government that truly serves the interests and wellbeing of all Venezuelans.

The Ladder of Hope Through the Eyes of an Immigrant

It’s easy to vocalize our artistic ideas but it’s even harder to make these ideas become a reality, no matter how large-scale they may be. Therefore, I crave to hear those stories of struggle, like that of Crescendo screenwriter/director Alonso Alvarez-Barreda-in which one is not driven by success or appearances but rather their own will to inspire others.

One might say that the American Dream is dead, but I’d like to believe that whether you are an immigrant or a struggling artist, life hands us opportunities to rise above. We are handed gifts and talents that people are waiting to witness and if by grace they do, our messages should be used in a way that ignites our fellow brothers and sisters in solidarity.

Thus, Alvarez-Barreda extends to us an invitation to cruise with him on his imaginative journey full of emotional highs and lows, realistic characters, and inspiring stories of hope that leave us pondering at the film’s close.

We are led into a world of cinematographic perspective that many directors don’t typically experiment with and we can’t help but feel that the characters were more than mere actors fulfilling their role.

Alvarez-Barreda’s characters come alive because his stories encapsulate the human experience and every feeling of sadness, joy, and pain that we have ever felt in our lifetime. Rather than leave us to dwell in the emotional turmoil that each character comes to face in his films, we realize that with every pain comes beauty, growth, and wisdom.

When looking at his work and the projects he has created one tends to overlook the taxing process required in writing and directing.

Alvarez-Barreda, as well as countless others, were not handed the opportunities on a silver platter, nor did they idly wait for the opportunities to arise. They were forced to create a new path for themselves, however scary it might have been.

Therefore, rather than take two film school rejections as an answer, Alvarez-Barreda decided to leave his hometown of Tampico, Mexico for Los Angeles, California. It was here where he would shadow his long-term mentor, Alejandro Monteverde, who later inspired various short films and projects.

Alvarez-Barreda recounts his experience and life’s unexpected pathway.

“I did try to pursue a film career in Mexico. I applied to two film schools at the time and I got rejected…I wasn’t accepted, I didn’t pass the test. It was clear to me that I had to do something. I had to try elsewhere. And life and circumstances led me to meet somebody who became my mentor and gave me the opportunity to come to the United States. After a film I did that was successful in the film festivals the opportunity arose to come to the United States which was [still] a dream of mine,” he said.

His dream of pursuing film in the United States eventually flourished into several years of dedication, persistence, and faith. For how can one pursue “passion projects” without practicing these very core qualities? One’s ideas would fall short, which is what makes a storyteller such as Alvarez-Barreda so inspiring. He actively took risks and with perpetual reminders that he had bills to pay and projects to pursue, he was put to the test and forced to survive.

“When I first got here I was basically living on people’s couches for a couple years, taking little jobs here and there. I came here with a tourist visa originally so I couldn’t apply for regular jobs…that was hard. I had to most of the time find investors from Mexico who were willing to support me or fund me for X amount of time…committing to them and turning in scripts for my projects that they were supporting so that was kind of like the key that helped me survive otherwise I don’t know what I would have done,” says Alvarez-Barreda.

As an immigrant, the constant flow of emotions that surround one become difficult to combat. What if your bills aren’t paid on time? What is happening at work and how long will I have my job for? What if they deport me? How much longer will I be able to work in California? And most importantly, who will catch me if I fall?

Everything can crumble in a matter of minutes, yet what still looms in the back of one’s mind is “I must continue on with my passion.”

While it may seem to one that is losing hope that their career might not follow in the direction that they wanted, Alvarez-Barreda remembers to tell himself that more than ever today minorities have access to opportunities in the field.

They are given opportunities to shine a light on their non-white perspective and experiences and for that now is a “great time to be Mexican.” It’s a time to use diversity to our advantage because “the industry is receiving a lot of heat for always hiring white Americans,” says Alvarez-Barreda.

With the rise of Mexican filmmakers such as Alejandro González Iñárritu, and with the ever more diversifying film industry, the American audience is ready for diversity in the theater and we are ready to experience stories told from the eyes of those from another part of the world.

As Alvarez-Barreda reinforces, our backgrounds and experiences are essential in shaping our individual mindsets.

“Being Mexican/Latino is my essence, it’s who I am. I feel like one, my experiences growing up and coming from a different country are perceived by a different brain-a different mentality, a different lens if you will. So that obviously gives you a different voice, something that’s new, a different perspective on the way you tell your stories. That’s always great because I have a different pool of ideas and emotions to tap into,” he says.

His intuitiveness allows him to understand human struggles and how they affect others like himself. It is these themes that he wishes to portray in his films.

Rather than fill our minds with negativity, it is essential that instead we expose ourselves to the messages of positivity and uplifting scenarios that encourage us to thrive in a world that is not always on our side.

We are an impactful and astonishing species and it’s that very idea that Alvarez-Barreda strives to lace through his films.

“[My] messages are useful. I like to tell stories that help people relate to one another, to be more human. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no tragedy or drama, life is exactly that, but it’s how you react to that. It’s how you choose to move forward. So a lot of the stuff I write is the harshness of life and difficult situations. I write characters that somehow find a way out of it through hope and perseverance and believing that there is goodness in people…that everything with worth in this life requires sacrifice,” says Alvarez Barreda.

For this reason, healthy messages are evermore necessary in a society where negativity and aggression often overpower. It’s a matter of what messages we invest our energy into and how we truly reflect on what those messages mean to us all.

Universal messages are more often than not the most personal messages and for that Alvarez-Barreda’s films are highly relatable and emotionally driven.

By communicating with the audience through his films he assures us that although taxing at times, our life circumstances are not always permanent. “It’s okay to go through things in life” he says. “But you have the opportunity to change the outcome of your life…the human spirit is probably the most amazing thing in the world…it is unbreakable. [My] stories celebrate the triumph of the human spirit,” says Alvarez-Barreda.

Alvarez-Barreda, despite viewing the world through a lens marked by struggle, maintains his resilience. As an artist, I find this both hopeful and comforting.

With our artistic mediums, regardless of how idealistic they may sound, we will continue to push forward with our passions because it is our messages that reach the hearts of others.

Forget the acclaim, the fortune, and the recognition because, as Alvarez-Barreda says, “what we define as an accomplishment is a rather loose concept.”

“How do you measure an accomplishment?” he asks. “Is it the one that you get told that people like the most? Or is it the one that has more technical quality? Film is a statement…we make films to share with somebody, to share with an audience. Through true story telling we can find commonalities and realize again that we are humans…that we are powerful, and that we have the chance to change our lives.”