First Wednesday of the month , back of 1923 Fernwood Rd., upstairs – 7:30pm

The Victoria Central America Support Committee,[CASC], is based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It is a non-profit international solidarity organization. Founded in 1980, CASC is one of the longest-established Latin America solidarity committees in Canada. CASC meets regularly on the FIRST WEDNESDAY OF THE MONTH to plan educational activities and support local and international solidarity initiatives.

CASC organizes Café Simpatico, Victoria’s monthly activist coffeehouse, and engages in many solidarity and educational projects in Latin America and Canada.

ACTION ALERT for Guatemalan workers: PLEASE RESPOND

In the spring of 2012, as a result of labour violations, a group of 27 workers at the Ternium factory where steel materials are manufactured in Villa Nueva decided to unionize as Ternium International Guatemala Worker’s Union organized under the acronym SITRATERNIUM (affiliated with, FESTRAS, Trade Union Federation of Food, Agro-industry and Related Industry Workers of Guatemala & also has special support from STECSA, Coca Cola Worker’s Union, Guatemala.)

This attempt to unionize was met with repressive measures by the employer and these workers were fired. The union workers have continued to fight for their rights under the Guatemalan labour code; they have been successful in the courts. Even the Guatemalan Minister of Labour, Carlos Contreras Solórzano, has denounced the illegal firing of employees and the company’s repressive reaction to unionizing efforts.
Ternium operates three plants in Guatemala—Villa Nueva, Terminal-Zone 9, and Mazatenago. The company has operations in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica as well as locations internationally http://www.terniumcentroamerica/about/default). Ternium is part of an international company, Techint, based in Luxembourg; originally based in Italy. The company has operations in Mexico, Central America and South America.

Ternium has not only violated the Guatemalan labour code, it has violated their employees’ rights to free association, free speech and their right to unionize. Furthermore, Ternium has has shown a lack of adherence to Guatemalan and international labour standards.
Therefore, we are calling for an international campaign to pressure the corporation, support the workers, and motivate Ternium to abide by the law and recognize the rights of its workers to be represented by the union.
There have been grave violations of labour rights, poor treatment, discrimination, and privacy abuses. There has been non-payment of promised wages. There has been a lack of compliance with regards to occupational health and safety. At its roots the labour violations are a response to the workers deciding unionize. The company is violating the group’s right to unionize, to free association and to collective bargaining.
After court appearances, firing of employees, ignored court orders, more firing and further harassment, in July, 2012, there was a re-instatement of some fired employees but the company failed to accept mediation and continued to threaten & harass union activists even though SITRATERNIUM is a legal union. The case is currently being appealed because the company asked the court to dismiss the workers’ petition. SITRATERNIUM will pursue the reinstatement of all workers and pressure Ternium to adhere to Guatemala’s labour code.

The Jorge Enrique Torres Association in Guatemala in conjunction with FESTRAS and STECSA supports the rights of the Ternium workers to unionize.
The Jorge Enrique Torres Association was formed to advance the work started by Jorge Enrique Torres. Enrique, as he was known, was a very well known Guatemala labour lawyer. Enrique obtained his law degree from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala and practiced in Guatemala representing various unions and the marginalized. In 1978, he and his wife survived an assassination attempt that was due to their work with the Guatemalan labour  movement. Enrique and his family left Guatemala soon after recovering from the injuries sustained in the assassination attempt.    

Enrique became a citizen of Canada, and continued his work of building international support for unions in Guatemala, especially the Coca Cola workers’ union, STECSA. In 1997, after the United Nations-brokered peace agreement between the government and the guerilla armies was reached, he returned to Guatemala to practice labour law after an 18 year absence. On February 8, 2012, he died as a result of injuries sustained in an assault. At that time he was deeply involved in negotiating on behalf of the Coca Cola workers.
Enrique fundamentally understood that a respectful negotiation between workers and employers ensures a healthy and balanced economy driven by a healthy middle-class. As a result he had many friends throughout Guatemalan society – in government, business and particularly, of course, in the union movement. Ultimately, Enrique was a negotiator. He knew that compromise was the solution and he was widely respected for that. When he died he and his legal team represented 40 different unions in Guatemala. His team in conjunction with the Jorge Enrique Torres Association continues this work through building on the international network established by Enrique.

Guatemalan workers face a very challenging situation in a system that all too often functions on the basis of intimidation and murder. Unions struggle to achieve their rights within this context. Canadian and other international unions have the capacity to share their networks and connections with their Guatemalan counterparts to help them achieve fair agreements. In some instances Guatemala labour unions need the support of international allies to pressure corporations and the Guatemala government to ensure these collective agreements.
The Jorge Enrique Torres Association builds partnerships between the international labour movement and Guatemala unions with the aim of creating a strong, unified labour movement in Guatemala. The mission of the Jorge Enrique Torres Association is to advance the Guatemalan labour movement, in part, by building these international partnerships.

The Jorge Enrique Torres Assoc. asks you to send the letter below (feel free to personalize) and to ask your friends and co-workers to lend their support to the Ternium workers as well.
Sample letter:
Mr. Paolo Rocca, Chairman, Techint Compañía, Técnica Internacional S.A.C.I. (at all 3 Emails);;;

Dear Sir, I am writing to express grave concerns about the systematic violations of Guatemalan workers’ rights at Ternium’s Villa Nueva plant in Guatemala City.
We demand that your company:
1.Follow the Guatemalan Labour Code;
2.Follow international labour practices;
3.Reinstate all of the 27 workers who were fired this past spring, with back pay; and
4. Stop interfering with the unionization of the Ternium Villa Nueva Plant and ensure that the union workers face no reprisals for their participation in the union.
These Guatemalan workers have our support and we will continue to monitor this situation until their labour rights are respected.

We thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. Please send a copy to

Protecting lives in Colombia


The Breaking Down the Walls Campaign and the Ties of Dignity Foundation send this URGENT ACTION so that the Colombian government will guarantee human dignity and the right to life, integrity and personal security of political prisoner NORBEY TRIVIÑO, according to the following:


1. On April 29, 2012, around noon, NORBEY TRIVIÑO, who is being held in Patio 7 of La Dorada (Caldas) Maximum Security Prison, was a victim of physical aggression with a weapon by other inmates, resulting in serious injuries.

2. The health status of the victim is unknown, as are the reasons for having a weapon in a maximum security facility.


This aggressive act is the responsibility of the Colombian State, the head of the National Penitentiary Institute (INPEC), and the national government, for breaching international humanitarian law that requires all states to ensure political prisoners are held in special institutions (apart from the general prison population).

INPEC denies the existence of political prisoners, at the direction of the national government, which obligates them to be held alongside prisoners associated with paramilitarism and common crimes, demonstrating the absence of guarantees to protect the rights to life and personal security of political prisoners.

At the same time, the presence of arms inside prisons is forbidden and is the responsibility of INPEC, particularly in maximum security prisons, where prisoners’ rights are restricted. In this case, the application of restrictions was insufficient to protect the life and personal security of political prisoner NORBEY TRIVIÑO.


1. The Colombian State must establish special institutions for the retention of political prisoners, according to the norms of humanitarian and human rights law.

2. The Public Defender and Attorney General of Colombia must urgently verify the state of health of political prisoner NORBEY TRIVIÑO and demand that INPEC guarantee his human dignity and rights to life, integrity and personal security.

3. Investigations must be undertaken to determine responsibility, and punish the prisoners responsible for the attack, as well as the guards that may have let it happen.


We ask all media, national and international human rights organizations, social movements and those in solidarity to spread this urgent action and support our demands by sending letters to the following Colombian authorities:

Presidente de la República de Colombia
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 Palacio de Nariño Bogotá
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71

Vicepresidente de la República de Colombia
Carrera 8 No.7-57 Bogotá D.C.
Teléfonos (57 1) 444 2120 – 444 2122
Fax: (57 1) 596 0651

Ministro de Justicia y del Derecho de Colombia
Carrera 9a. No. 14-10 – Bogotá, D.C.
PBX (+57) 444 31 00 Ext. 1820

Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80F Bogotá D.C.

Defensor del Pueblo
Calle 55 # 10-32, Bogotá
Fax: (+571) 640.04.91


As you know Lila
ny Obando who visited Victoria twice has been released from prison. But she is still on trial & is in great danger. PLEASE READ THIS STATEMENT & THEN USE THE SAMPLE LETTER which follows (sent to us by a UK support group) AS A GUIDE TO WRITE YOUR OWN LETTER TO THE COLOMBIAN AMBASSADOR IN OTTAWA.

At 8.30pm on 1st March 2012, Liliany Obando, Colombian trade unionist, academic and human rights defender, was freed after being detained for more than 3 years and 6 months in Buen Pastor Prison, Bogota. Liliany had been held in “preventative detention” since 8th August 2008 falsely accused of“rebellion” on the basis of evidence ruled inadmissible in a separate case. Her legal process suffered severe delays incurred by the authorities and the Colombian legal period for pretrial detention expired in April last year. Ms. Obando’s legal team repeatedly filed for her release on this basis, and on 29th February 2012, the Superior Tribunal of Bogota finally upheld their appeal. Despite her release, the spurious legal case against Ms. Obando continues. Her security situation also remains of utmost concern, as she has received several threatening phone calls, has been under constant surveillance by unidentified men and continues to be branded a terrorist. In particular, an El Tiempo newspaper article on 1st March describes her as “Liliany Obando of the FARC”, an allegation which puts her life in grave danger. Twenty nine trade unionists were assassinated in Colombia in 2011 and six so  far this year – help us make sure it does not happen again.

TAKE URGENT ACTION TO PROTECT LILIANY OBANDO, Colombian trade unionist and former political prisoner.

Write to: H.E.  Ambassador Clemencia Forero-Ucros, #1002,  360 Albert St. Ottawa, ON. K1R 7X7        T:613 230-3760                                                      Fax: 613 230-4416                              E:


Dear Ambassador,

I am writing to ask for the  urgent protection of Ms. Liliany Obando, Colombian academic, trade unionist and human rights defender and to an end to the false accusations against her.

Ms. Obando was detained for more than 3 years and 6 months in Buen Pastor Prison Bogota, without being convicted of any crime. On 1st March she was released from prison, however a spurious legal process continues and her security situation remains of utmost concern: she has received death threats,has been under constant surveillance by unidentified men and continues to be branded a terrorist. In particular, an El Tiempo newspaper article on 1st March describes her as “Liliany Obando of the FARC”, an allegation which puts her life in danger. Former political prisoners have been assassinated in recent years so I ask you to ensure she is protected urgently.

Colombia remains the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist, with 29 assassinated in 2011 and six so far this year. Your government claims to be committed to improving human rights. If this is so, at the very least the state must provide measures for Liliany and other human rights defenders and trade unionists whose lives are in danger. The Colombian authorities must also put an end to the false legal cases and imprisonment.

I look forward to progress in this matter,

Yours sincerely,








Colombia trade unionist released on bail


Victory! Colombian Political Prisoner Liliany Obando to Be Freed on Thursday, March 1st, after 3 1/2 Years of Incarceration on False Evidence

by James Jordan,

Alliance for Global Justice National Co-Coordinator

Liliany Obando outside prison gates

The International Network in Solidarity with the Political Prisoners (of which The Alliance for Global Justice is a co-founder) has just received the wonderful news that labor activist, human rights defender and Colombian Political Prisoner Liliany Obando will be released on bond tomorrow from the prison where she has been held for three years and seven months on charges of “Rebellion”.

Liliany Obando was arrested August 8, 2008 while serving as the Human Rights Coordinator for FENSUAGRO, Colombia’s largest organization of peasant farmers and farm workers unions and associations. She was apprehended while finishing a report about the more than 1,500 Fensuagro members who had been killed by Colombian military and paramilitary troops over its first 30 years of existence. She was detained on the basis of evidence allegedly obtained from computers that “miraculously” survived an attack against a FARC encampment across the border from the Colombian Department of Putumayo, in Ecuador. That camp was not a camp carrying out aggressions, but was involved in negotiations toward the release of FARC captives Ingrid Betancourt and three US citizens. The Uribe administration had learned that the camp had had back-channel talks with members of the US State Department. The attack, ordered by then-Defense Minister and current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, was widely considered to be an attack on hopes for a peace process itself.

Evidence said to be contained in the computers was not credible. The international police agency INTERPOL said that the sources of files the computer contained could not be authenticated. The chain of custody of the evidence was broken and unaccounted for several times during the first days it was seized and at least two Colombian law enforcement personnel testified that the files had been manipulated. Charges against Obando were made on the basis of copies of emails said to have been found on the computer. However, Police Captain Ronald Hayden Coy Ortiz, who oversaw the initial investigation testified in court that the computers contained no email records.

Nevertheless, Obando’s case was stretched out over more than three years without resolution. Even when the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that the evidence against her was inadmissible, she continued to be jailed

But even if the Supreme Court, Interpol and the government’s own witnesses could be ignored, an international campaign for her freedom could not. After years of friend of the court statements signed by such notable supporters as Prof. Noam Chomsky, Sanctuary Movement founder and former President of the Presbyterian Church Rev. John Fife, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin and others, petitions, letters, emails, demonstrations, phone calls and delegations on her behalf, Liliany Obando is finally looking forward to being united with her two children and other friends and family–and to her freedom. It is no mistake that her release was announced concurrent with a major conference in support of the more than 8,000 Colombian political prisoners: the Colombia Behind Bars Forum, with guests from around the world, including representatives of the INSPP and AFGJ. This is yet another example of the power and influence of international pressure!

Press conference

Nevertheless, all is not settled regarding Liliany’s case. The court process has not been suspended and she still could be sent back to jail. Further, political prisoners released into the general public are often at risk of violence in the first days, weeks and months following their liberty.

I spoke today to Liliany at the Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) Women’s Penitentiary just moments after receiving the news. I was so happy, overjoyed I could barely contain myself. Lily greeted me, “You heard the good news?” Yes, of course, I’d heard it. I asked her how she was feeling, and she said, “I have mixed emotions. I want to leave, but I don’t want to leave the other political prisoners behind. We have to keep working until all the political prisoners are free.”

Yes, that is the Liliany Obando that so many of us have come to know, love and look up to. Never tiring of the struggle for peace, justice and human and labor rights, the day she entered the prison she started collecting the testimonies of other political prisoners and organizing on their behalf. From within the jail cells, Liliany proposed the establishment of the International Network for the Political Prisoners and always insisted that we not only advocate for her freedom, but for the freedom of all her comrades deprived of liberty. And she insisted that we not just advocate for the freedom of the political prisoners, but for peace in Colombia.

From the beginning, the INSPP has insisted that a first step toward a real and just peace in Colombia will begin with a humanitarian exchange of Prisoners of War, and with the immediate freedom of all of Colombia’s Prisoners of Conscience and Prisoners Due to Judicial Set-ups.

Today there are many indications that a legitimate peace process could be ready to begin in Colombia. The recent announcements that the FARC would release all their current military prisoners met with the release of Liliany are significant. But international pressure must not let up! Now is the time to demand the freedom of all Colombia’s 8,000 political prisoners and, more, for an inclusive peace process based on dialogue and negotiations, and wit
hout unrealistic pre-conditions. And for us in the US, we must demand an end to our country’s sponsorship of war and repression in Colombia, including our funding and restructuring of Colombian prisons where political prisoners are concentrated under harsh conditions.

But as we vow to continue this struggle…let us also take a moment to celebrate this great victory. As Liliany once told me, “By day we struggle, by night we dance!

As a high profile political prisoner, Liliany Obando is under the threat and risk of violence and there has been a request for international accompaniment for her during her first days of freedom. AFGJ and the INSPP are preparing for the possibility of traveling to Colombia to help provide protection. There is also a need to raise more than $3,000 to cover her bond payment.

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Local human rights activists reporting from Mexico
We had hoped to meet community activists opposing the destruction of their community life and environment by a Canadian mining company. The activist we planned to meet, Bernardo Vasquez Sanchez, was killed last night, March 15, 2012, and his brother and cousin were wounded. This mine, locally called Trinidad, is operated by Minera Cuzcatlan, a subsidiary of Canadian Fortuna Silver mines. It is in San Jose el Progreso, in the Ocotlan Valley, south of Oaxaca For more information about this tragedy see:

For information about this company see:

According to this website, the mine achieved commercial production in September 2011.
In 2011, the mine produced 490,555 ounces of silver and 4,622 ounces of gold. For 2012, San Jose is expected to produce 1.7 million ounces of silver and 15,000 ounces of gold.
The company has initiated plans to expand mine and processing plant treatment capacity and when completed, San Jose is expected to annually produce approximately 3.2 million ounces of silver, 25,000 ounces of gold, or 4.6 million silver equivalent ounces. Life of mine average cash operating cost, net of by-products, is estimated at US$7.84 per silver equivalent ounce.
This is not the first death of a community activist opposed to the operation of this mine. Another community leader was killed & one injured in January, 2012.
Globally, Canadian mining companies are accused of bribing local politicians and officials in order to operate without proper community consultation and without social or environmental concern. As a result, local activists are killed and injured, and many more are subjected to threats and beatings.
Please write to express your concern and shock about these deaths and attempted deaths to: Ralph Rushton, Fortuna Silver Mines Corporate Office, Suite 650, 200 Burrard Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6C 3L6. T: .604.484.4085 & to Also to: The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. Phone: (613) 995-0183 Fax: (613)
996-9795 E-mail:
Please forward this call for urgent action to others who would respond as well.




Por Manuel E. Yepe


Hace más de medio siglo que, en Miami, ciertos sectores de la inmigración cubana -cada vez más reducidos respecto al conjunto de

ésta- hablan de su país natal como de un “paraíso perdido”.

La propaganda contra la revolución cubana presenta la quinta década del pasado siglo como un período de gran prosperidad para “demostrar”

las ventajas del capitalismo para la Isla.

Aunque entre los llamados “líderes del exilio cubano” (algunos  de los cuales devenidos congresistas en Washington) haya unos pocos extremistas que llegan hasta el elogio de la contribución de Batista al desarrollo económico y social de Cuba, la mayor parte de los economistas de origen cubano radicados en Estados Unidos presentan a la década de 1950 como un período de prosperidad para Cuba, lamentablemente afectado por los desmanes de la sangrienta tiranía impuesta mediante el golpe de Estado de 1952.

Para ellos, lo deseable habría sido suprimir esa execrable dictadura y restablecer el orden constitucional y la democracia representativa, sin que fueran necesarios más cambios en la vida política, la economía y la sociedad.

Para argumentar esa supuesta prosperidad, estos economistas comparan algunos indicadores económicos de Cuba en aquellos tiempos que son superiores a los de otros países de América Latina y el Caribe y excluyen de la comparación a otros indicadores que demuestran lo contrario.

Esa homologación estadística manipulada, en una región caracterizada por las mayores desigualdades económicas y sociales del planeta, les permite inferir que la Isla tenía un notable progreso económico y social, cuando ello debía servir como denuncia de la dolorosa situación por la que atravesaban las naciones de América Latina, con indicadores de desarrollo peores aún que los pésimos de Cuba.

Algunos de los indicadores estadísticos superiores que exhibía Cuba entonces no eran sinónimos de desarrollo, sino de la mayor dependencia de un país considerado de gran importancia para la seguridad nacional de Estados Unidos que constituía, por ello, escenario privilegiado para determinadas inversiones por la garantía que derivaba de su alto grado de subordinación al imperio.

A mediados de la década de 1950, Cuba se convirtió en uno de los principales mercados y rutas del tráfico de estupefacientes hacia Estados Unidos con la consiguiente inyección de considerables cantidades de dinero en proceso de lavado.

Bajo la conducción de líderes de la mafia estadounidense como Meyer Lansky y Santos Traficantti, estrechamente relacionados con en el dictador Batista, La Habana vivió un proceso de conversión de la ciudad en Las Vegas de América Latina. Ello trajo un notable incremento del turismo y de la vida nocturna: los ricos, las cúpulas militares y los políticos corruptos integrados con la dictadura vivían bien, pero la inmensa mayoría de la población no disfrutaba ese bienestar.

La imagen idílica de Cuba en los cincuenta la conformaban nuevos hoteles, casinos, cabarets, tiendas departamentales y grandes y lujosos edificios de apartamentos que cambiaron la fachada de la capital cubana a base del dinero lavado por la mafia y la malversación de los fondos públicos que creció a extremos mayores aún que en los de los igualmente corruptos gobiernos anteriores a la tiranía de Batista.

Pero lo cierto es que el telón de fondo que tenían los crímenes de la tiranía y la lucha armada insurreccional contra ella, era bien distinta de esa imagen idílica que le han pretendido adjudicar, a la distancia de los años, a la Cuba de los 50: Oleadas de niños en busca de su sustento en la mendicidad, limpiando parabrisas de autos, lustrando zapatos o vendiendo periódicos, tanto en calles y plazas de ciudades como en los campos, donde la miseria era extrema; ancianos y discapacitados viviendo de la caridad pública; largas filas de hombres en busca de trabajo y extendida angustia de miles de mujeres gestionando empleo como sirvientas, o como prostitutas en burdeles o ambulantes. Proliferaban bares y garitos con juegos de apuestas para pobres que se encargaban de extraer de la población humilde hasta el último centavo, abusando de su desesperanza ante las realidades cotidianas.

Cuba no era en la época inmediata anterior a la victoria sobre la tiranía batistiana, ni un paraíso ni una excepción respecto a los demás países de América Latina.

Hoy sí es una excepción por sus asombrosos resultados en el ejercicio de la independencia plena y la práctica de justicia social, objetivos que el bloqueo y la hostilidad permanente del imperio no han podido impedir, aunque hayan entorpecido y retrasado el logro de otros propósitos irrenunciables del proyecto revolucionario como un mayor desarrollo económico y una democracia más plena.


Octubre de 2011.

Book Review: Fair Trade: A Human Journey

St-Pierre, Éric with Emerson da Silva, Mathieu Lamarre, & Barbara Sandlands.   Fair Trade: A Human Journey. 2009. Les Éditions de l’homme. Montreal, Canada

Review by Theresa Wolfwood with photos from the book

“Today neoliberalism and its Holy Trinity – deregulation, innovation and globalization – are facing a crisis, and we are finding out that the trendy notion of ‘sustainable development’ is… an oxymoron. The time is ripe to rethink our way of doing things and fight the spread of individualism and consumerism… Fair trade proposes an alternative based on the ideas of social justice, product quality and respect for the environment…Its aim is to encourage involvement and solidarity…This book is a sign of hope that another world is possible.” From the preface by D’Francisco Van der Hoff Boersma, an early founder of fair trade.

This beautiful publication is more than a coffee table book; it is all about the coffee we put on that table –  and 11 other major agricultural products available in Canada that are sold as ‘fair trade.’  It also includes handicrafts and soccer balls in its stories. Every product is highlighted by its history and means of product, personal stories of farmers who grow fair trade and statistics giving the conventional and fair trade  production, prices and importers; all illustrated by wonderful and vivid images of workers and their lives. My only regret about this very comprehensive and well presented book is that fair trade Palestinian olive oil and the role of conflict in agriculture were only mentioned in passing. Maybe in the next edition of this impressive work.


For every product there is good news of increasing fair trade and stories of community benefits, schools, clinics, adult literacy programs and improved environment and health. I was pleased to learn that in Switzerland 50% of imported cut flowers is fair trade. Coffee continues to a global success story which is close to home in Victoria. Here the Central America Support Committee bags and markets freshly roasted coffee from Nicaragua. We work with a larger non-profit group that pays producers a premium price, recently raised, and with surplus funds it sponsors community projects in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Several Victoria activists have visited the Ometepe coffee producers and made personal links.

Bananas are, by weight, the largest fair trade product. The major exporter of this fruit is Ecuador – where only 4% of the proceeds from conventional trade stay in the country. The story of the El Guabo association is fascinating. The group does not use herbicides or nematicides – a major health bonus for workers who receive a premium price for fair trade and an extra premium for organic. They have worked through the complexities of production, marketing and transport to become a highly successful association of small farmers.

Fair Trade is a long term commitment and there is much room for growth. One community in Pakistan – Siakolt – produces 70% of the world’s soccer balls. It was not mentioned during the media frenzy about the World Cup that the balls used were made by children in slave-like conditions. Only 3.7% of soccer balls are made in fair trade conditions. Maybe some of those millionaire players could devote some time, money and energy to fair trade and end this exploitation.

Victor Hugo is quoted as saying, “Today’s Utopia is tomorrow’s reality”. In a few decades fair trade has become a reality for many: 6,000 certified products, 125,000 sales outlets and 5$ billion in sales. There are fair trade schools and universities and 650 cities, villages, and regions that endorse fair trade. This success is based on the dreams and hard work of many workers and organizers.

St-Pierre writes, “…fair trade must not be measured only in terms of numbers. You have to be very clever indeed to quantify hope, pride and dignity.” He closes with the hope that we will see in the faces in this book, “the aspirations for happiness and freedom that are common to us all and that identify us as brothers and sisters in the great human family.”

Book Review: Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary

Hooks, Margaret. Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary 1993. Pandora, HarperCollins Publications, London UK

Review by Theresa Wolfwood

Tina Modotti came from a poor family in Italy to the USA: her beauty and strong character lead her into a modelling and acting career. She became a model, mistress and assistant of USA photographer, Edward Weston. Together they went to Mexico; she fell in love with that country and stayed after he went home and became an amazing photographer in her own right – first with photos of flowers but soon her political convictions moved her to social documentary photography.

Cover Image
Cover photo of Tina by Edward Weston


She was a friend and colleague to many of the art and left community in Mexico from Frida Kahlo to the famous male muralists. She posed for her lover Diego Rivera and her image can be found in his murals “the Abundant Earth“, “the Enslaved“, “Germination” and “Virgin Earth” and “In the Arsenal“, at the Secretaría de Educación Pública Building, Mexico City, 1928. Later she was commissioned by several muralists to take documentary photos of the works.

Another one of her many lovers, Julio Antonio Mella, exiled Cuban revolutionary, was assassinated as they walked in Mexico City; he died in her arms. Although she knew the famous and notorious, she never forgot her family and friends; she was a loyal and loving person. Her home was open to exiles and the needy. Although politically very committed, it is her compassion that comes through as a driving force in her life. For many years she fund-raised and helped refugees from fascist Italy.

One of Tina’s photos of a Mexican woman

Her work as a photographer (a total of only 400 photographs) is now being recognized for its own value and she has emerged to be considered independently from her teacher, Edward Weston. . The largest exhibition of her work opened at Kunst Haus Wien in Vienna on June 30, 2010. It presents 250 photos, many never shown before. The exhibition is based on the collections of Galerie Bilderwelt, Berlin and Spencer Throckmorton, NYC, curated by Reinhard Schultz. (Information about exhibitions from online Wikipedia.)

When Mexico’s political climate changed she was exiled to Europe. The Italian government agents attempted to capture her in Holland but she was helped to safety, first in Germany, then Russia. From there she went to the Spanish Civil War as an aid and medical worker where she met Norman Bethune.

Many adventures and dangerous assignments later, she returned to Mexico and died in a taxi of heart failure in 1942. Her tombstone in the Panteón de Dolores in Mexico City has a lovely relief portrait of Modotti by engraver Leopoldo Méndez. Her friend, Pablo Neruda, wrote a poem for her funeral, part of which is on also on her tombstone:

Pure your gentle name, pure your fragile life,
bees, shadows, fire, snow, silence and foam,
combined with steel and wire and pollen
to make up your firm and delicate being.