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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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Guatemala teacher pedals classroom to students in pandemic

Moises Castillo, Associated Press
Updated 6:50 pm CDT, Monday, July 27, 2020

Photo: Moises Castillo, AP
Standing just inside the doorway of his home in a black button down shirt tucked into navy blue trousers, 11-year-old Oscar Rojas greets his teacher Gerardo Ixcoy, known universally as "Lalito 10", in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. "Teacher Lalito only comes for a little while to teach me, but I learn a lot."

SANTA CRUZ DEL QUICHE, Guatemala (AP) — When the novel coronavirus closed Guatemala’s schools in mid-March, teacher Gerardo Ixcoy invested his savings in a secondhand, adult tricycle.

But this is not just transportation. It’s also a mobile classroom, with plastic sheets to protect against virus transmission, a whiteboard and a small solar panel that powers an audio player he uses for some lessons.

Each day, the 27-year-old pedals among the cornfields of Santa Cruz del Quiché to give individual instruction to his sixth-grade students.

On a recent day, 12-year-old Paola Ximena Conoz wiped her glasses as she waited for Ixcoy to set up just outside the door to her home. They greeted each other warmly — though without contact. Ixcoy deployed the mop that measures the distance between him and his students.

. . .

Photo: Moises Castillo, AP
Gerardo Ixcoy teaches 12-year-old student Paola Ximena Conoz about fractions from his mobile classroom, parked just outside the door to her home in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Each day the 27-year-old sets out pedaling among the cornfields of Santa Cruz del Quiche to give individual instruction to his sixth-grade students.

Photo: Moises Castillo, AP
Teacher Gerardo Ixcoy, wearing a protective face mask, found a way to give individual instruction to his sixth-grade students amid the new coronavirus pandemic, in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Ixcoy, known universally as "Lalito 10", quickly realized there were challenges to remote learning in this farming community in Guatemala's western highlands and invested his savings in an adult tricycle and converted it into a mobile classroom.

Photo: Moises Castillo, AP
Teacher Gerardo Ixcoy conducts a math class from a secondhand, adult tricycle that he converted into a mobile classroom, in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, Wednesday, July 15, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. The 27-year-old teacher deploys a sponge mop to serve as a safe distance reminder between him and his students.

Photo: Moises Castillo, AP
IMAGE 10 OF 20
Eleven-year-old Oscar Rojas listens to his teacher Gerardo Ixcoy, parked in a classroom-on-a-trike just outside Oscar's home in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The pandemic has really altered Oscar's routine, "because now I'm not receiving normal classes," he said.


If these photos bring tears to your eyes, you're not alone. Bless this gifted, selfless, dedicated young man and everyone he has reached. He is a real star.

Google translation:

Coronavirus: travels 160 km on a tricycle to teach kids without internet
Gerardo Ixcoy is a teacher and helps students who cannot access virtual classes during quarantine.
JUNE 26, 2020 - 1:17 PM

He feared that the coronavirus pandemic would lead to school dropouts and he started (literally): Gerardo Ixcoy travels 160 kilometers on a tricycle to teach .

Noting that many of his students did not have internet access and that half of them did not send their homework virtually, he decided to adapt his vehicle to transform it into a kind of home classroom .

“ It has a small cabin with a blackboard , where I explain the different subjects. It is designed so that children can learn and be protected, keeping healthy measures at a distance so as not to infect us ”, explains Ixcoy, known as El profe Lalito .

The initiative of the teacher has as its main objective that the boys can continue with their academic training , beyond the context and the suspension of classes.

The parents of the students were very grateful for the teacher's attitude. In Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala , they already recognize him as one of the many heroes without capes that became visible during the pandemic .

SOURCE: With information from Ruptly.


More images at google image:


Caetano Veloso: 'Bolsonaro is so confused, so incompetent'

Caio Barretto Briso and Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
The musician, 77, exiled to London under Brazil’s military dictatorship says he fears the president’s ‘ultra-reactionary bunch’ will not let go of power easily

Wed 29 Jul 2020 05.15 EDT

Half a century has passed since agents of the Brazilian dictatorship appeared on the doorstep of the music legend Caetano Veloso and announced: “You’d better bring your toothbrush.”

Six months of detention and confinement later he was forced into European exile, spending the next two and a half years as a resident of Chelsea, West Kensington and Golders Green, where he would rehearse what remains his most celebrated album, Transa, in the vestry of a local church.

. . .

In recent months hardcore Bolsonaro supporters have hit the streets with banners calling for the closure of Congress and the reintroduction of the dictatorship-era decree that paved the way for Veloso’s exile – with the president himself attending several of the rallies.

“An utter nightmare. It’s just madness,” the musician said of the rightwing “fanatics” demanding the return of military rule, with Bolsonaro at the helm.


Adding a song from this artist, from 1972:

Bachelet: Haiti 'death squad' leader must be served justice


GENEVA (29 July 2020) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said today that former Haitian paramilitary leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, who was deported from the United States last month, must be held accountable for the horrendous human rights violations committed during 1990s.

In a landmark judgment for justice in Haiti, Constant was convicted in absentia on 16 November 2000 and sentenced to life imprisonment over his involvement in the 1994 Raboteau massacre when military and paramilitary forces attacked the neighbourhood of Raboteau in Gonaïves. The victims were between 10 and 80 years old. The total number of victims remains unknown as bodies were thrown into open sewers.

Constant, who fled to the United States in 1994 after President Aristide’s return to power, was deported from the United States on 23 June 2020 and arrested upon his arrival in Port-au-Prince.

On 10 July, the judiciary announced they could not locate the judicial file related to his detention. The absence of the judicial file raises concerns as to the legal basis for his detention, raising the prospect of his release and signalling he may effectively escape justice.


~ ~ ~

Intensely useful information on a paramilitary monster, from the old days in Haiti, one of the death squad terror military gang used by "Papa Doc" Duvalier, blood-thirsty dictator who was completely supported by the US right-wing:

Giving "The Devil" His Due
For several years in the early 1990s U.S. intelligence maintained close ties with a Hatian named Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, the founder of a savage paramilitary group that has been held responsible for a prolonged wave of killings and other atrocities. Toto Constant today walks the streets of Queens, a free man. How did he come to find refuge in the United States? Who has been holding up his deportation?



No one remembers who first saw him in the neighborhood, but one day last summer Emile Maceus was nearly certain that Emmanuel "Toto" Constant—the man everyone called "the devil"—was standing on his front stoop. The man was six-foot-three, maybe more; he wore a coat and tie, and his hair—a tightly curled Afro—was neatly combed. He had come, he said, to show a client Maceus's house, a three-bedroom in Queen's Village, New York. He was a real-estate agent, he said, and had seen the pink for sale sign on the front lawn.

Maceus stared at him. The man's face was pudgier than Maceus remembered from Haiti, during the military regime of the early 1990s. Back then he had been bone-thin and ghostlike, sometimes appearing with an Uzi or with a .357 Magnum tucked under his shirt. To help keep the junta in control he had terrorized the population with his paramilitary squad— a legendary outfit of armed civilians who, together with the Haitian military, allegedly tortured, raped, and murdered thousands of people. "Can we look around?" the man asked.

Maceus wasn't sure what to do. Maybe it wasn't Constant. He was bigger than Maceus recalled, more genial, and before Maceus knew it, the man was walking through his house, poking his head into each room, looking at the floorboards and the toilets, taking note of the overhead space in the kitchen, and commenting in Creole. In the living room the man passed a poster on the wall of Jean-Bertrand Aristide—the once and future Haitian president, and the paramilitaries' archenemy—but didn't give it a second look. Maybe he was just a real-estate agent after all, just another Haitian immigrant trying to survive in New York.

But as the real-estate agent was leaving, Maceus kept thinking, What if he is Toto Constant? Maceus knew that in 1994, after the United States overthrew the military regime, Constant, a fugitive from Haitian justice, had been allowed, inexplicably, to slip into the country. Maceus had heard that after Constant had finally been arrested and ordered deported, he had in 1996 mysteriously been released under a secret agreement with the U.S. government—even though the Haitian government had formally requested his extradition and U.S. authorities had found photos of his group's victims, their bodies mutilated, pasted to the walls of his Port-au-Prince headquarters like trophies. As the man was opening the front door, Maceus's curiosity overcame him. He asked in Creole, "What's your family name?"

The man hesitated. "Constant."

It was Toto Constant. For an instant the two Haitians stood there, staring at each other. Then Constant and his client sped off in a car. Maceus went inside and found his wife. She was trembling. "How could you bring that devil in my house?" she shouted. "How could you?"

News of the encounter spread through the city's sprawling Haitian community, from Flatbush to Laurelton to Cambria Heights to Brooklyn, as it would have in Haiti—by teledjòl, word of mouth. Constant had ventured out into the community several times since the U.S. government had set him free, but never with such audacity—selling houses to the same people he had driven into exile. When he first arrived in Queens, he seemed to emerge only periodically. He was spotted, someone said, at a disco, clad in black, dancing on the day of Baron Samedi, the voodoo lord of death who guards cemetery gates in his top hat and tails. He was seen at a butcher shop and at a Blockbuster. Haitian-community radio and local newspapers reported the sightings—"haiti's grim reaper partying in u.s.," announced one headline—but he always managed to vanish before anyone could locate him. Finally, in 1997, the rumors led to a quiet street in Laurelton, Queens, near the heart of the Haitian community, where for years exiles had hoped to shed the weight of their history—a history of never-ending coups and countercoups—and where Constant could be seen sitting on the porch of the white-stucco house he shared with his aunt and mother. "The whole idea of Toto Constant living free in New York, the bastion of the Haitian diaspora, is an insult to all the Haitian people," Ricot Dupuy, the manager of Radio Soleil d'Haiti, in Flatbush, told his listeners after Constant moved in.

It was not long before residents draped the street's trees and lampposts with pictures of Constant's alleged victims, their hands and feet bound with white cord or their limbs severed by machetes. Neighbors shoved one of the most horrifying pictures—a photo of a young boy lying in a pool of blood—under Constant's door. But a few days later Constant was back on his porch. Locals came by and spat at his bushes; they stoned his door. Then, last summer, after Constant's appearance at the Maceus house, an angry crowd appeared around his home, yelling "Murderer!" and "Assassin!" At one point, as they were gathering, someone spotted a figure down the road—a well-known ally of Constant's, "a spy," as one person cried out—and the crowd chased after him. When he disappeared and there was still no sight of Constant, the crowd marched to the real-estate office, four miles away, where it threatened to drive the Haitian owner out of business unless he fired his new employee.

By last November, Haitians had created permanent Toto Watches—networks that tracked Constant's every whereabouts. At about this time I met Ray Laforest, one of the Toto Watchers, and he agreed to show me where "the devil" could be found. He told me to meet him at Binnette's Hair Palace, on Linden Boulevard, next to the real-estate office in front of which Constant had been seen smoking on his lunch break, and we would look for him.


The Notorious 'Yellow House' That Made Washington, D.C. a Slavery Capital

Located right off the National Mall, the jail lent institutional support to slavery throughout the South

Pierre Charles L'Enfant's Plan for Washington D.C., as revised by Andrew Ellicott. Engraved by Thackara and Vallance sc. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

By Jeff Forret, Zócalo Public Square
JULY 22, 2020

Washington, D.C. was a capital not just of the United States, but of slavery, serving as a major depot in the domestic slave trade. In the District, enslaved men, women and children from homes and families in the Chesapeake were held and then forcibly expelled to the cotton frontier of the Deep South, as well as to Louisiana’s sugar plantations.

Slave dealers bought enslaved individuals whom owners deemed surplus and warehoused them at pens in the District of Columbia until they had assembled a full shipment for removal southward. Half a mile west of the U.S. Capitol, and just south of the National Mall (and today, across the street from the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden), sat William H. Williams’ notorious private slave jail, known as the Yellow House.

By the mid-1830s, the Yellow House was one more piece of the machinery that controlled slave society. Whip-wielding owners, overseers, slave patrollers, slave catchers with vicious dogs, local militias and a generally vigilant white population, who routinely asked to see the passes of enslaved people whom they encountered on the roads, all conspired against a freedom seeker’s chances of a successful flight. Private and public jails lent further institutional support to slavery, even in the heart of the nation’s capital.

Some slave owners visiting or conducting business in Washington detained their bondpeople in the Yellow House for safekeeping, temporarily, for a 25-cent per day fee. But mostly it was a place for assembling enslaved people in the Chesapeake who faced imminent removal to the Lower South and permanent separation from friends, family, and kin. Abolitionist and poet John Greenleaf Whittier condemned “the dreadful amount of human agony and suffering” endemic to the jail.


The Maya Ruins at Uxmal Still Have More Stories to Tell

The remains of a provinical capital on the Yucatan Peninsula attest to a people trying to fortify their place in the world

The Pyramid of the Magician stands over 100 feet tall and contains five different temples built in succession. (Elizabeth Landau)

By Elizabeth Landau

JUNE 17, 2020

As the sun sets over the Yucatan jungle, its fading light falls on the western staircase of the Pyramid of the Magician, just as it has for more than a millennium. In pre-Hispanic times, on Maya religious holidays, a priest or ruler might ascend these stairs to pass through the gateway to a holy temple—or, as historian Jeff Kowalski writes in Encyclopedia of the Ancient Maya, “a cave portal to a sacred creation mountain.” Watching from the plaza below, the commoners may have seen a leader emerging from this ornate doorway as a manifestation of the planet Venus, or as the sun itself.

More than a four-hour drive from the spring break cliché of Cancun, the Maya ruins of Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mawl) preserve the grandeur of what was. The second-most visited archaeological park in Mexico (before the COVID-19 pandemic), Uxmal was a seat of power in the Puuc region, the low range of hills in the otherwise flat grasslands of the Yucatan. Its ruins contain ornate carvings, friezes and sculptures embedded in the architecture, but at some point in the 10th century, construction on this thriving city stopped, and before the Spanish came, the Maya left.

"At Uxmal the last buildings, such as the Nunnery Quadrangle, and House of the Governor, the House of the Turtles, and the later upper temples of the Pyramid of the Magician, all display a kind of superlative finished cut stonework that, I guess you would say, that is some of the finest architectural sculpture found in the ancient Maya world, particularly sculpture made from cut stone," Kowalski says.

The dates of Uxmal’s eventual abandonment are unknown and controversial, although the Maya likely stayed there longer than in their southern cities, which fell beginning in the 9th century. Kowalski thinks Uxmal was no longer an active political capital in the region by about 950 A.D., though some scholars say a centralized government continued deeper into the 10th century or later.


Report links world's top meat firm JBS to deforestation

AFP, JUL 28 2020, 08:06 IST UPDATED: JUL 28 2020, 08:06 IST

Aerial picture showing a deforested piece of land in the Amazon rainforest near an area affected by fires, about 65 km from Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia, in northern Brazil. Credit: AFP File Photo Brazilian firm JBS, the world's biggest meat...

Brazilian firm JBS, the world's biggest meat processing company, was again accused Monday of "laundering" cattle from ranches blacklisted for destroying the Amazon rainforest.

The charge, leveled in a report by an investigative journalism consortium, marks at least the fifth time in just over a year that the company, which exports around the world, has been accused of cattle laundering.

That is a practice in which animals from a blacklisted ranch are transferred to one with a clean record to dodge a ban on sales.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, British newspaper the Guardian and Brazilian journalism group Reporter Brasil said in the joint report that pictures posted on Facebook by a JBS truck driver appeared to show him and his colleagues transporting cattle from a blacklisted ranch, Estrela do Aripuana, to a "clean" one 300 kilometers (185 miles) away, Estrela do Sangue, in July 2019.

The drivers wore JBS uniforms and drove JBS trucks in the pictures.

Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/business/report-links-worlds-top-meat-firm-jbs-to-deforestation-866528.html

~ ~ ~

You might recall Donald Trump gave the owners, the Batista Brothers, boatloads of money from the US taxpayers this year when he dumped out mountains of it upon US farmers, as flipping creepy as this sounds!

Gangsters, thugs

JBS: The Brazilian butchers who took over the world

By Andrew Wasley , Alexandra Heal , Lucy Michaels , Dom Phillips , André Campos , Diego Junqueira , Claire Smyth , Rory Winters

Published July 2 2019

If you eat meat, you probably buy products made by one Brazilian company. A company with such power it can openly admit to having bribed more than 1,000 politicians and continue to grow despite scandal after scandal. And you’ve probably never heard of it.

Meat is now the new commodity, controlled by just a handful of gigantic firms which together wield unprecedented control over global food production. The Bureau has been investigating the biggest of all: JBS, a Brazilian company which slaughters a staggering 13 million animals every single day and has annual revenue of $50bn.

When it comes to scandals, you can take your pick — during its rapid rise to become the world’s biggest meatpacker, JBS and its network of subsidiaries have been linked to allegations of high-level corruption, modern-day “slave labour” practices, illegal deforestation, animal welfare violations and major hygiene breaches. In 2017 its holding company agreed to pay one of the biggest fines in global corporate history — $3.2bn — after admitting bribing hundreds of politicians. Yet the company’s products remain on supermarket shelves across the world, and its global dominance only looks set to grow further.

In a two-part investigation published today, the Bureau revealed in partnership with the Guardian and Repórter Brasil that Amazon deforestation and dirty meat are very much part of how JBS has done business. Today we lift the lid on the company itself, and ask: what is the true cost of cheap meat?


~ ~ ~

Farm Bailout Paid to Brazilian Meat Processor Angers Lawmakers
Lawmakers want to know why a Brazilian-owned company got payments from a program aimed to help American farmers weather President Trump’s trade war.

By Maggie Haberman and Alan Rappeport
Feb. 7, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration, confident that the Chinese government will follow through on its agreement to buy more American agriculture, plans to shutter its bailout program for farmers hurt by tariffs.

But allegations of unfairness and other criticisms continue to dog the $28 billion initiative, which President Trump created to ease the economic hardship on rural America, which constitutes a large portion of his political base.

What was meant to be a financial lifeline for struggling farmers has been widely derided by critics as a corporate bailout for big agriculture companies and those who live in metropolitan areas but own farms in rural America. The program has also been attacked for providing financial support to American subsidiaries of foreign agriculture companies that operate in the United States.

For months, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has been pressing the Trump administration to explain payments to a Brazilian-owned company with a troubled past.

About $67 million in bailout funds have gone to JBS USA, the subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian company that is the world’s biggest meat-processing firm.

Lawmakers have argued that a company with foreign-held ownership should be getting more scrutiny, particularly one that encountered legal troubles three years ago. In 2017, two of JBS S.A.’s former top executives, brothers Wesley and Joesley Batista, pleaded guilty to corruption charges in Brazil.


Revealed: oil giants help fund powerful police groups in top US cities

Investigation portrays fossil fuel industry as common enemy in struggle for racial and environmental justice in America

Nina Lakhani in New York
Published onMon 27 Jul 2020 11.00 EDT

Big corporations accused of driving environmental and health inequalities in black and brown communities through toxic and climate-changing pollution are also funding powerful police groups in major US cities, according to a new investigation.

Some of America’s largest oil and gas companies, private utilities, and financial institutions that bankroll fossil fuels also back police foundations – opaque private entities that raise money to pay for training, weapons, equipment, and surveillance technology for departments across the US.

The investigation by the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit corporate and government accountability research institute, and its research database project LittleSis, details how police foundations in cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Washington, New Orleans and Salt Lake City are partially funded by household names such as Chevron, Shell and Wells Fargo.

Police foundations are industry groups that provide substantial funds to local departments, yet, as nonprofits, avoid much public scrutiny.

The investigation details how firms linked to fossil fuels also sponsor events and galas that celebrate the police, while some have senior staff serving as directors of police foundations.


11th Circuit OKs Unmasking Of Plaintiffs Who Accuse Chiquita Of Funding Colombian Terrorists

Plaintiffs fear reprisal if they reveal their identities in the case involving Chiquita International, they have stated.
By Florida Phoenix/States Newsroom, News Partner
Jul 20, 2020 10:25 am ET

From the Florida Phoenix:

By Michael Moline

July 17, 2020

Colombians who accuse Chiquita Brands International Inc. of paying paramilitaries who killed their loved ones are not entitled to withhold their identities while litigating a massive class action in South Florida, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said the plaintiffs hadn't demonstrated that revealing their names, addresses, and other personal information would put themselves or their loved ones at risk of reprisal.

"Lacking specific evidence, the pseudonymous appellants cite general evidence showing that those who oppose paramilitary groups or paramilitary affiliated entities face risks of paramilitary violence," the court said in an unsigned opinion released Thursday.

"But this evidence does not compel the conclusion that the … plaintiffs face those risks. Indeed, their evidence focuses on human rights defenders who protest paramilitary activity in Colombia, seek land restitution in Colombia, or oppose paramilitary-affiliated entities in Colombia. The evidence does not compel the finding that litigants pursuing tort claims against a paramilitary-affiliated entity in the United States face similar risks of harm."

The litigation involves allegations that Chiquita paid $1.7 million to the AUC, known in English as the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia, during the 1990s and early 2000s — as protection money, the company initially claimed. The litigants claim the paramilitaries used the money to target banana workers, trade unionists, and social reformers.


So the panel is dirty. Why would they think anyone would buy their obnoxious implication that the relatives of victims will not be harmed by these death squads, who chase people down all over the world, even when they use assumed names, and change their cell phone numbers, etc., and try to become invisible? Shameful. Easy to see who will win this pretension of justice.


The Incan empire quickly grew during the 16th century CE to encompass nearly the entire western coast of South America, from the southern area of modern-day Chile and Argentina in the south, up through Bolivia, all the way to the western tip of Colombia, per Ancient. The empire's heart was located in Peru in the capitol of Cuzco, and found ways to thrive in the peaks of the Andes mountains, through ingenuous terraced cities and mountaintop architecture such as that found in Machu Picchu. Prior to the fall of the empire in 1633 CE vis-a-vis the capture of king Atahualpa by the Spanish conquistador Pizarro (and his subsequent execution despite having his ransom paid), the Incan empire followed an hierarchical, prescribed lifestyle. Villages and tribes were scooped up, integrated into the empire, and taxes were paid in the form of foodstuffs, textiles, metals, etc., through a regimented, tiered system of 80 governors. 

Within this highly prescribed governmental structure, women often played the role of local nobles called kurakas. Small municipalities were referred to as ayllu, a collection of individual households, which were ruled by kurakas, through whom tribute flowed. This kind of stacked hierarchy flowed all the way up to the king, for whom particularly talented weavers, such as those of the Chan Chan or Titicaca region, crafted their wares (within uniform, allowable Incan style guidelines). Some of these women lived in temples under vows of chastity, aiding with religious rituals much like Catholic nuns, all within the watchful eyes of a local matron dubbed Mama Cuna. Many of these women became either concubines for royalty, or sacrifices for the gods, as described in Britannica.


For those women in the Incan empire confined by neither gods nor aristocracy, the family sphere defined nearly their entire lives. Puberty was the great demarcation of Incan life, and once a woman reached such an age, she had a feast in her honor and was given a name to her by her eldest uncle, as described in Ancient. It's interesting to note that Incans had no surnames, only first names that operated more or less like nicknames, as the entire civilization regarded itself as one giant family having originated with the creator god Viracocha arriving in Lake Titicaca from the Pacific Ocean  

Predictably, women were expected to marry in their teens, although for non-nobles the choice was largely up to them. They simply consulted with their parents, came to a mutual agreement, and the marriage was more or less done (dependent on a gift of coca leaves). Women would move in with their husbands and immediately begin working at his family's house, while half of the property she gained from the marriage went back to the local ayllu. Birth control wasn't practiced in Incan society, neither was infanticide, and neither sex was discriminated against at birth. 

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/228082/what-life-was-like-for-women-in-the-inca-empire/?utm_campaign=clip

How Cuba Survived


Helen Yaffe

For decades, commentators predicted that Cuba's socialist model couldn't survive without the USSR or Fidel Castro. They were wrong – and even in the face of continued sanctions, its unique system endures.

For sixty years, the Cuban Revolution has defied expectations and flouted the rules. Cuba is a country of contradictions; a poor country with world-leading human development indicators and has mobilised the world’s largest international humanitarian assistance; a weak and dependent economy which has survived economic crisis and the extraterritorial United States blockade; anachronistic but innovative; formally ostracised, but with millions of ardent defenders around the world. Despite meeting most of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015, Cuba’s development strategy is not upheld as an example. These contradictions require explanation. ‘Cuba is a mystery’, Isabel Allende, director of the Higher Institute for International Relations, told me in Havana, ‘it is true, but you have to try to understand that mystery.’

Historians like anniversaries; they help to mark the passage of time and to provide perspective to its passing. 2019 marked sixty years since the Rebel Army seized power from the Cuban dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. But at the half-way point was another useful marker: it was thirty years since Fidel Castro publicly declared that were the Soviet Union to disintegrate, the Cuban Revolution would endure. He said that on 26 July 1989, eighteen months before the USSR collapsed and four months prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. For three decades, the survival of Cuban socialism was attributed to Soviet aid. Today, the Revolution has existed in the post-Soviet world for longer than it did under the Soviet sphere of influence. How on earth did Cuban socialism survive?

The Revolution is now older than the new head of state, President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who is entirely a product of Cuban socialism. He is the son of a mechanic and a schoolteacher, born in April 1960 in Placetas, a small city in central Cuba founded by Spanish colonists in 1861. In April 2018, with a not-quite unanimous vote from the National Assembly of People’s Power, Díaz-Canel took over from Raul Castro. His ascendency is one of history’s conundrums solved: the end of the Castro reign did not signal the end of the Cuban Revolution.

For years, students of Cuba were conditioned to believe that the Revolution’s trajectory could only be understood by reference to Fidel Castro’s biology or psychology. Then Fidel ailed, he resigned, he died, but the Revolution lived on. Raul Castro took over. He was referred to as the ‘brother’, as if that explained his governance; the ‘reformer’, as if a peaceful transition to capitalism was assured. Raul came, he reformed, he resigned, and the socialist system prevailed.

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