Ayotzinapa & Uvalde Presente! Victims in the US & Mexico Join Forces to Demand an end to the Flow of Assault Weapons Into Their Communities

Kimberly Rubio, from Uvalde Texas and Cristina Bautista From Ayotzinapa Mexico, Joined Global Exchange in a Call to end Gun Violence in Both Countries Through Binational Legislation.

WASHINGTON – The stories of Kimberly Rubio and Cristina Bautista cannot be heard without sharing in their pain – the void that exists from losing their children senselessly combined with the pain and rage of systemic inaction. This is why The People’s Movement for Peace and Justice (PMPJ) has brought together a unique coalition of organizations and families from two countries to call for the passage of the  Stop Arming Cartels Act and the ARMAS Act with the support of Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04) and Representative Joaquin Castro (TX-20). 

“In the United States, there is a lot of talk about the violence of the drug cartels in Mexico, but there is not enough talk about where their guns originate. We don’t have to look far,” said Congressman García. “A recent data leak of Mexican military intelligence revealed that 78,000 firearms recovered in Mexico came from gun shops and smugglers in the United States. Gun violence is a binational issue, and addressing the root causes of this violence and its interconnected effects requires a binational approach. It requires the commitment and involvement of civil society, elected leaders, advocates, and survivors.” 

In a one-of-its-kind summit, the group gathered in Washington this week as part of the Binational Advocacy Days for Peace & Human Rights, three days of events that included a civil society gathering, a congressional briefing, scores of congressional visits, and a town hall, all featuring survivors of gun violence from the U.S. and Mexico. 

“I am the mother of Benjamin Ascencio Bautista, one of the 43 students in Ayotzinapa that were forcibly disappeared,” said Doña Cristina Bautista. “At first, they blamed the cartels, but then it was proven that the local police and other state actors played a role in the disappearance of my son.”  More than 8,200 receipts obtained from the Mexican military show that the Mexican Army sold U.S.-exported weapons to police, including state and local police in Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Chihuahua, and other states with extensive documented records of state violence and corruption. 

“There were 18 children and 2 teachers murdered on the same day as my daughter. An 18-year-old walked into her building and began murdering students. It took 77 minutes for 376 officers to confront one teenager armed with an assault weapon. They were scared of the guns. It’s the guns. My purpose is to join the gun violence prevention movement to end gun violence. For Lexi Rubio and all victims of gun violence,” said Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter Lexi was among 19 children killed in the massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. 

PMPJ introduced the Binational Agenda for Peace and Justice, which includes 10 bold proposals to curb illegal gun and drug trade, humanely address the region’s migration flow, protect the environment, and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples. “Weapons of war are taking thousands of lives in the U.S. and 

Mexico every year; we cannot continue to operate in silos,” said Marco Castillo, co-executive director of Global Exchange and founding member of PMPJ. “There are more than 200,000 firearms flowing annually into Mexico from the U.S., more than 110,000 disappeared in Mexico and more than 650 mass shootings annually in the U.S. – that is why we have come to Washington to make our voices heard – the time for binational action is now.”

PMPJ coordinates cross-border demands emerging from civil society across different sectors and issues, organized around four core platforms: Black Co-Networks, Pueblos Indígenas and Native Americans, Survivors of Gun Violence, and Migration. Our goals are to elevate our impact on policy debates that impact our lives and hold our governments accountable.  With the upcoming presidential election the U.S. and the first woman elected President of  Mexico, this work is crucial. The time to build united, inclusive political power is now. For more information, click here.

Israel’s invasion of Rafah has begun. There is nowhere left to go in Gaza, as Rafah was the final ‘safe space’ left, where over a million people are sheltered. Missiles and bombs rain from the sky, flattening entire blocks of dwellings. Israeli troops have closed down the Rafah border crossing, cutting off a vital source of aid for the people of Gaza, already facing widespread famine.

Last week, prior to the invasion, the Biden Administration put a hold on a shipment of munitions to Israel. The Administration stopped shipment on two types of Boeing ‘precision’ bombs to send a ‘political message’ to Israel. And Biden has publicly stated that the invasion of Rafah represents a “Red Line.”

And yet May 7th, Biden once more affirmed that his commitment to Israel is ironclad. That red line, perhaps, written in pencil.

Hamas agreed to the terms of the ceasefire, which included the release of all hostages. The text was released. The entire world has seen for themselves the canard that Israel is negotiating in good faith. Though Hamas has agreed to the release of all hostages, Israeli officials have declared their intentions to decimate Rafah – and followed through with aerial bombardment and a ground invasion.

Domestically, Netanyahu is isolated, facing the anger of hostage’s families and an all but certain removal from office should the military operations in Gaza come to an end. And around the world, Israel faces widespread condemnation, with the United States often the lone voice of support in international forums.

Similar cross-currents buffet the Biden Administration. The public is now widely opposed to Israel’s conduct in Gaza. Student protest encampments have made the issue all the more salient, as we’ve seen the power of the state, including riot police, unleashed against peaceful student protestors. All across the country, from coast to coast, and even internationally, students are putting their bodies on the line to bring a halt to the ongoing genocide.

We are at an inflection point. We must continue to pressure the Biden Administration to hold to their professed values and to domestic and international law. That means respecting the right to peaceful protest. That means an immediate ceasefire, the cessation of any and all arms shipments to Israel. And in the longer run, an end to apartheid and the pursuit of a Free Palestine.

If you haven’t already done so, please take a few moments to sign our action demanding President Joe Biden and Congress cease providing aid to Israel.

And, of course, please come out for ongoing resistance events, find local, Bay Area, events here and national actions here.PS. In 1967, John Tinker and his sister were expelled from their high school in Des Moines, Iowa, for wearing armbands in protest of the United States’ genocidal war in Vietnam. They protested their expulsion all the way to the Supreme Court, where they won – establishing the principle that neither students nor teachers “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.

The same John Tinker has produced and given Global Exchange new black armbands with the word Gaza emblazoned on them. Give us your address details here, and we will send you one at a sliding scale cost as long as supplies hold out.

The discovery and reporting of mass graves outside Gaza hospitals has spurred the United Nations to call for an independent investigation. Buried beneath rubble and refuse, bodies found bound, executed, including doctors and children.

There appears to be no atrocity too great to stem the flow of US military aid to Israel, as the very same week these horrors were relayed to the world, Congress voted to send billions more in military aid to Israel.

And yet we are hopeful that change is coming. The war machine will be stopped. There will be a free Palestine. Because around the world, we are seeing the immense courage to resist.

On April 15th, millions of people around the world joined in protests, some putting their bodies on the line in direct actions that brought business as usual to a halt. On April 26th, an international Freedom Flotilla sets sail with 5,500 tons of aid on board.

And on campuses throughout the United States and beyond, students are setting up encampments and holding massive free schools, all to call direct attention to the genocide in Gaza.

Columbia. The University of Michigan. Yale. USC. NYU. University of Texas, Austin. UCLA. Emerson College. MIT. Every day, more crop up. Members of Congress and many media have attempted to misrepresent the aims and tactics of these student protests. But the students themselves, speaking through editorial boards and directly through social media, have pushed back against this misinformation.

Predictably, the state has responded to these peaceful protests with violence, sending in local and state police to clear out and brutalize students. Already, we’ve seen members of the press arrested at UT Austin, and in Georgia, a handcuffed student tasered. But as courageous protestors have chanted at the police sent to confront them “we are not afraid of you.”

We are not afraid of the authoritarian response of the state. We are not afraid because we are not alone. Across the country and across the world, we are united in our demands for a Ceasefire, for an end to military aid to Israel, for a Free Palestine. If you can, please come out for ongoing resistance events, find local, Bay Area, events here and national actions here.

In closing, we hope the words of a 14-year-old girl in Gaza named Lujayn (translated and shared with the Nation) will fill you with the same hope and courage they did for us:

“I don’t know if the war will stop while we’re still alive, but what matters is that there are many people resisting what is more important than weapons. Every day, a father walks under bombardment to feed us. A mother stands against bulldozers and tanks, hoping to protect her daughter, knowing that even if she dies, what matters is that her daughter will live. A grandson carries his grandmother and never thinks of leaving her behind for even a moment. “ sister pulls her brother out from under the rubble, away from death, and tries to save him.”

Take a list to our live cast from El Salvador (in English) to bring you closer to the grim realities on the ground “Behind the Bukele Myth.”

The live cast brought together several experts, including John Guliano, director of the Tamarindo Foundation, a youth development center in Guarjila, Chaletenango. His (entirely innocent) co-director was arbitrarily arrested nearly three months ago and has been jailed and deprived of any semblance of due process ever since.

We were also joined by Noah Bullock of Cristosal, one of the leading Human Rights organizations in El Salvador. He gave us a picture of the deteriorating human and civil rights conditions countrywide.

Investigative journalists Michael Fox and Manuel Ortiz – both friends of and collaborators with Global Exchange also shared their experiences and insights. Global Exchange Human Rights director Ted Lewis moderated.

Join us in honor of Romero’s legacy in defense of the Salvadoran people’s right to organize in the face of militarized repression!

March 27 marks two years since Nayib Bukele suspended constitutional rights in El Salvador under an emergency measure known as the State of Exception, following a weekend spike in gang homicides. Since then, the measure has been used to arrest over 78,000 people without warrants, including union leaders, student organizers, environmental activists, land defenders and parents of victims who have been outspoken against their children’s disappearance.

Tune in to this panel, organized in collaboration with The CISPES Solidarity with El Salvador, with popular movement leaders and human rights defenders in El Salvador, journalists, solidarity organizers and human rights advocates about:

Fraud during recent elections in El Salvador that allowed Bukele to secure another term – in violation of the constitution.

How the Bukele regime is using military and police repression to target communities where there is organized resistance.

How economic exploitation is fueling a new wave of displacement.

The Biden administration’s continued demonstrations of political support along with police and military aid to Bukele.

The end of March also marks 44 years since U.S.-backed death squads killed Salvadoran archbishop Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero following his open letter to President Jimmy Carter defending the right of the organized masses to resist their exploitation and questioning U.S. financing of brutal repression by El Salvador’s security forces.

Let’s learn about the relevance of Romero’s legacy in defense of El Salvador’s mass organizations in the 70s given the current situation in El Salvador and the role of international solidarity today!

We turn our focus to the underreported armed conflict on the Chiapas-Guatemala border. This conflict, fueled by territorial disputes among organized crime groups, has devastating consequences for the largely Indigenous population of Chiapas. The communities displaced by the violence are in the thousands, and violence and terror have become part of daily life.
Join us for an important discussion with Chloé Stevenson, a human rights defender with Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (Frayba), as we delve into the complexities of this crisis and the urgent need for international solidarity. Stevenson, along with a coalition of organizations, published a report: Siege of Daily Life, Terror for Territorial Control, and Serious Human Rights Violation.

Siege on everyday life, terror for territorial control and serious human rights violations. Report from civil society organizations in Chiapas on violence in the border region. 

The Chiapas-Guatemala border has been affected since around 2021 by an unrecognized armed conflict based on the territorial dispute of organized crime structures fighting for control over goods, services, individuals, legal and illegal products, as well as the lives of the local population. This zone, known as the Frontera region, includes the municipalities of La Trinitaria, Frontera Comalapa, Chicomuselo, Siltepec, Escuintla, Motozintla, Mazapa de Madero, El Porvenir, La Grandeza, Bejucal de Ocampo, Amatenango de la Frontera and Bella Vista.

The turning point that reveals the dispute between criminal groups in the state is the events that occurred on July 7, 2021. On that day, Gilberto Rivera, “El Junior,” son of the operator of one of the organized crime groups that maintained control in the state, was assassinated. His murder was claimed by the antagonistic criminal group.

Due to its geographical location and strategic natural resources, Chiapas is a key territory for the control and promotion of both legal and illegal economies. It is important to note that the region, with a predominantly Indigenous population, has been historically abandoned by the Mexican State. The border zone, at the epicenter of the current violence crisis, is home to an Indigenous population from the Mam community, a mixed-race population, as well as Jacalteco, Q’anjob’al, Akateko, and Quichéccommunities, some of which are descendants of the Guatemalan exile of the 1980s.

The year 2023 has witnessed several significant peaks of violence. Notably, there was the “four-day war” in May, where organized crime groups clashed in the community of Nueva Independencia, also known as Lajerío, affecting neighboring communities, all within the municipality of Frontera Comalapa. The “four-day war” resulted in approximately 3,500 people being forcibly displaced from their communities, jeopardizing their lives, safety, and personal integrity.

Throughout the last year and up to the present date, the civilian population has been taken hostage, used as a shield, and forced to participate in mobilizations, blockades, and confrontations in support of one of the disputing factions. Basic supplies such as food, gasoline, gas, electricity, or telephone services have been cut off, keeping the population in suspense and distress, isolated, facing food shortages, and unable to move. Additionally, the phenomenon of disappearances is a matter of great concern. It is challenging to document in the border zone due to the scarcity of reports stemming from the lack of trust in authorities and the fear to which the population is subjected. However, even official figures reveal an increase.

According to the documentation that serves as the basis for this report, criminal groups employ various strategies to gain control of the territory. Documented tactics include widespread and recurring confrontations, continuous surveillance, and physical occupation of private plots that even displace individuals from their lands, among others. Similarly, these groups focus on controlling the population through actions aimed at fostering social acceptance, using persuasive strategies, but also resorting to violence, such as forced recruitment.

The “economía de conflicto” established in the area includes the dispossession of the population, an increase in extortion, the closure of businesses, and the sexual exploitation of girls and women, with significant economic, social, and psychological impacts. In general, people living in the area see almost every aspect of their daily lives affected, and it is not always easy to identify the motives of the present groups.

At the institutional level, it is evident that organized crime has infiltrated health services, garbage collection, government administrative units, food supply, and education at various levels, among others. The control over these institutions is ambivalent, and depending on the group and the state of conflict in the zone, it can shift from cooptation and financing to situations where institutions must remain either closed or open despite ongoing confrontations.

The consequences of terror and the control of individuals and territories are devastating for the populations. Thousands of people have been forced to relocate, making it difficult to document the numbers and destinations precisely. However, we can assert that a combination of physical, economic, psychological, and sexual violence has led to the internal displacement of at least 7,500 individuals in the region between June 2021 and November 2023. In some communities, approximately 15% of the population is reported to have been forcibly displaced. These forms of control and infiltration also weaken and fragment social and peasant organizations, destroying and manipulating decision-making dynamics and internal sanctions, ultimately eroding the profound sense of community life.

The practices of organized crime groups in the border region of Chiapas create a widespread situation of serious human rights violations whose implications undermine the most basic sense of humanitarian protection. Assessing these impacts can be problematic at first glance, as it is not state agents directly violating human rights. Furthermore, there is no official recognition of an internal armed conflict (Non-International Armed Conflict) in the zone. However, there are armed groups with the capacity to generate severe impacts on the lives, dignity, and personal integrity of all residents who are not part of the conflict, whose protection is indeed the responsibility of the Mexican State.

Given this backdrop, state interventions have primarily been characterized by omission, acquiescence, and, in some cases, collaboration. Faced with the widespread vulnerability resulting from the territorial dispute among organized crime groups, the population has repeatedly demanded the urgent intervention of the Ejército Mexicano and the Guardia Nacional. However, in contrast, it has been the inaction and complicity of the state security forces that have led to civilian populations’ demands for their withdrawal from certain zones.

In fact, throughout the conflict-ridden border region, organized crime interacts with government officials, forming criminal structures that intervene and escalate tensions and conflicts over territorial control. The level of infiltration into government structures is such that in some municipal seats, it has been reported that “the entire municipal government is within criminal structures and serves their interests.

Our approach to the current situation in the border region of Chiapas-Guatemala allows us to categorize the conflict as a Non-International Armed Conflict, a perspective supported by the legal framework of International Humanitarian Law.

Here is a link to the full report (Spanish). 

People are starving to death in Gaza. In fact, 80% of all people starving in the world right now are in Gaza because of the brutal and unceasing attack from Israel’s armed forces. More than 25,000 Palestinians are already dead.

It is time to massively increase food and humanitarian supplies, not deal them a death blow like the United States, United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Germany are doing by suspending financial support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)  – based on allegations of connections to the Hamas attacks on October 7, by a handful of the more than 30,000 relief workers UNRWA employs in Gaza.

UNRWA has been vital to millions of Palestinian refugees displaced since the 1948 Palestine War.  As of 2019, more than 5.6 million Palestinians have registered with them. Cutting them off now during the worst humanitarian crisis ever to beset Gaza is inhumane and despicable, no matter what a few misguided souls may – or may not – have done on October 7th.

We’re calling on President Biden to put your money where your mouth is: restore full-funding to UNRWA and demand a CEASEFIRE NOW! Sign the petition today to send an immediate message to President Biden!