Democracy Now!

Border Patrol Has Killed At Least 97 People Since 2003. Hear Some of Their Victims' Stories

U.S. Border Patrol agents have killed 97 people since 2003, including at least six Mexicans on Mexican soil. Democracy Now! traveled to the borderlands of Arizona earlier this month to cover one of these killings: the death of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was gunned down by a Border Patrol agent in 2012. We met with Richard Boren of the Border Patrol Victims Network in Nogales, Arizona, at exactly the spot where agent Lonnie Swartz pointed his gun through the border wall to shoot and kill José Antonio. At this site, Richard Boren displayed a banner with images of José Antonio and other victims of Border Patrol and told us their stories.

Family of Mexican Teenager Slain by Border Agent Awaits SCOTUS Ruling to Determine If They Can Sue

This fall, the Supreme Court will decide whether the parents of Sergio Hernández Güereca, a 15-year-old Mexican teen killed by a Border Patrol agent in 2010, can sue the American agent in a U.S. federal court. It’s been nearly 10 years since Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa Jr. shot across the El Paso-Juárez border and struck Hernández Güereca in the head. The central question in the case is whether a Mexican citizen killed on Mexican soil by a U.S. border agent is protected by the U.S. Constitution — allowing for the family members of victims to file civil lawsuits. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hernández Güereca’s case, the decision will likely impact other cross-border killing cases, including that of 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was shot and killed by Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz on the Mexico side of the border in 2012. We speak with Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who represents José Antonio Elena Rodríguez’s family in the civil lawsuit.

Justice for José Antonio: Family Demands Accountability for Mexican Teen Killed by U.S. Border Agent

Nearly seven years ago, 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez was killed in Nogales, Mexico, by U.S. Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz, who fired his gun from the U.S. side of the border. The teenager — who was unarmed — died face-down on the sidewalk just a couple of blocks from his home. Border Patrol has for years been plagued with hundreds of allegations of abuse and unnecessary use of deadly force, including the cross-border killings of at least six people on Mexican soil. Most cases are not investigated, and border agents are rarely criminally charged for using violent force. After nearly five years of legal delays, José Antonio’s mother, Araceli Rodríguez, and his grandmother, Taide Elena, brought Lonnie Swartz to trial for second-degree murder in 2017. A Tucson jury acquitted him and were deadlocked on manslaughter charges. In a second trial in November 2018, Swartz was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. During Democracy Now!'s trip to the borderlands, we spoke with José Antonio's family, including both Araceli Rodríguez and Taide Elena, at the exact spot where he was gunned down by Swartz. Araceli Rodríguez says, “He was murdered, and there has been no justice. He was killed, and the world is the same. He was murdered, and Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz is still free.”

"All-Out Attack": Trump's Anti-Immigrant Policies Target Children, Cancer Patients & Servicemembers

On Tuesday, the Trump administration reportedly ended its “medical deferred action” program, which allows immigrants with serious health problems to stay in the U.S. for up to two years beyond the terms of their visas to receive critical treatment. Just one day later, it announced that some children born to U.S. servicemembers and government employees stationed overseas will no longer automatically receive citizenship. The policy changes come days after the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to allow the Trump administration to implement its rule banning almost all migrants from seeking asylum in the United States. Amid these crackdowns, border wall construction began this week on federally protected lands in the remote Arizona desert, and many immigrant families remain separated due to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which was supposed to have ended more than a year ago. We speak with Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Headlines for August 30, 2019

Remembering Legendary Peace Activist Frances Crowe, Who Died at 100 After Decades of Resisting War

The legendary peace activist Frances Crowe died this week at the age of 100 in Northampton, Massachusetts. Over the past seven decades, Frances had been arrested countless times while protesting war, nuclear weapons, nuclear power and the construction of new pipelines. She is survived by her two sons, a daughter and an international community of peace activists. We revisit a 2005 interview of Francis Crowe by Amy Goodman, and recognize her lifetime of advocacy.

Boris Johnson Suspends Parliament Ahead of Brexit in "Shameless and Brazen Attack" on U.K. Democracy

The United Kingdom is in uproar after Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the queen to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament from mid-September to mid-October, leaving little time for lawmakers to avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit when the country exits the European Union on October 31. Thousands took to the streets in London and across the country Wednesday to protest the move. We speak with Ash Sarkar, senior editor at Novara Media, who describes Johnson’s latest move as unprecedented, calling it “the most shameless and brazen attack on the British democratic process” in decades. “The unspoken rule of the British constitution is that you don’t ask the queen to get involved in political matters. … Boris Johnson has thrown that unspoken rule completely out of the window,” she says.

Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Arrives in NYC to Fight "Biggest Crisis Humanity Has Ever Faced"

Following weeks of anticipation, Swedish climate justice activist Greta Thunberg arrived on the shores of Lower Manhattan Wednesday afternoon after a 15-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in an emissions-free yacht. She was welcomed on land by hundreds of supporters at the North Cove Marina. As Thunberg’s yacht sailed over the horizon and past the Statue of Liberty, youth climate activists chanted “The sea levels are rising, and so are we!” and “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” The 16-year-old climate activist is kickstarting a months-long tour of the Americas. For her first action, she will be joining New York students climate-striking outside the U.N. Friday morning. She will then take to the streets for a massive climate march in New York City on September 20, followed by two U.N. climate summits here. In December, she will attend the COP25 climate summit in Santiago, Chile. We hear highlights of Greta’s first speech and news conference upon arriving in New York City and speak to her father Svante, as well as New York youth climate activists Alexandria Villaseñor and Xiye Bastida.

Headlines for August 29, 2019

Airstrikes in Lebanon, Syria & Iraq Mark Dangerous Escalation in Decades-Long Israeli Aggression

Tensions are mounting across the Middle East following a series of Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Lebanese President Michel Aoun likened the recent Israeli attacks to a “declaration of war.” Israeli drones bombed targets in Lebanon on both Monday and Tuesday. Meanwhile, some Iraqi lawmakers are calling on the United States to fully withdraw its troops following a series of Israeli air raids conducted by Israel. Israel has only claimed responsibility for an attack on Syria Saturday, which they said targeted an Iranian-operated base that was preparing to launch a drone assault on Israel. We speak with Rami Khouri, senior public policy fellow, adjunct professor of journalism and journalist-in-residence at the American University of Beirut, as well as a columnist at The New Arab. “What’s happened over the last few days is a convergence of a trend that has been going on for about 50, 60 years in the Middle East, with Israel asserting its philosophy that it must always be militarily stronger than any combination of foes around it,” says Khouri.

How Bolsonaro's Climate Change Denial & Anti-Indigenous Policies Led to Massive Fires in the Amazon

In Brazil, fires continue to rage in the Amazon, and new drone footage shows the smoke and flames gathering strength. A vast plume of smoke has spread across South America and the Atlantic Ocean and is visible from space. The fires are also destroying large swaths of land in Bolivia. The fires are unprecedented in recorded history, and environmentalists say most of the fires were deliberately set by illegal miners and cattle ranchers. So far this year, there have been nearly 73,000 fires in Brazil, with over half of them in the Amazon region — an 83% increase from the same period last year. Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has worked to deregulate and open up the Amazon for agribusiness, logging and mining since he came into office in January, and indigenous peoples in the country say they are on the frontlines of the destruction. We speak with Maria Luísa Mendonça, director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil.

"We're in a Crisis of Deaths": Migrant Death Toll Tops 900 in Mediterranean as 40 Die Off Libya

At least 40 refugees and migrants are feared dead off of the coast of Libya after a boat carrying dozens of people en route to Europe capsized Tuesday morning in the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Libyan coast guard, some 65 migrants and refugees, mostly from Sudan, were rescued with the help of local fishermen. With Tuesday’s tragedy, the number of migrants and refugees who have lost their lives this year in the Mediterranean en route to Europe is up to 900. Meanwhile, far-right European leaders like Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini continue to criminalize refugees and migrants, as well as humanitarian aid workers who often lead search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean. We speak with Charlie Yaxley, spokesperson for the U.N. Refugee Agency.

Headlines for August 28, 2019

"Kochland": How David Koch Helped Build an Empire to Shape U.S. Politics & Thwart Climate Action

Billionaire conservative donor David Koch died Friday at the age of 79 from prostate cancer. David Koch — who was worth some $42 billion — and his brother Charles poured massive amounts of money into funding climate change denial through conservative think tanks and politicians. The Koch brothers founded the political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity in 2004, which is credited with turning the “tea party” into a full-fledged political movement. They also backed “right-to-work” efforts, which aim to weaken labor rights and quash union membership. The brothers made their fortune running Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the United States. We speak with the business journalist Christopher Leonard, who just last week published a major new book examining the business dealings of the Koch brothers. It’s titled “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.”

"This Ruling Is Huge": Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $572 Million for Fueling Opioid Epidemic

In a landmark ruling, an Oklahoma judge has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for contributing to the state’s opioid crisis. It marks the first time a drug company has been held responsible for the opioid crisis, though it fell far short of the $17 billion judgment sought by the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 400,000 people died from an overdose involving opioids from 1999 to 2017, including from prescription and illicit opioids. Court documents say more than 6,000 people have died of painkiller overdoses in Oklahoma alone. The Oklahoma ruling sets the stage for the more than 40 states that are currently pursuing similar claims against drug makers and distributors. A massive federal lawsuit brought by almost 2,000 cities, counties and Native American tribes is scheduled to begin in October. We speak with Julia Lurie, senior reporter at Mother Jones, who has covered the opioid crisis for years.

Headlines for August 27, 2019

"The Situation Was Very Bad": Feminist Activist Kavita Krishnan on What She Saw in Kashmir

In Kashmir, residents have entered their fourth week of a severe lockdown after India revoked the special status of the Indian-controlled part of the Muslim-majority territory. On August 5, India imposed a curfew and cut off all communications to the region. More than 4,000 people, including many political leaders, have been detained, while local residents report facing increasing shortages of food and medicine. Over the weekend, India blocked a delegation of Indian opposition politicians from visiting Kashmir, including Rahul Gandhi, the former president of the Indian National Congress. India’s actions have led to a spike in tensions with its nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, which also claims control of Kashmir. We recently spoke with Kavita Krishnan in New Delhi, India, who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to Kashmir. She serves as the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association and is a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation.

Unreported Deaths, Child Cancer & Radioactive Meat: The Untold Story of Chernobyl

Following a mysterious nuclear accident in Russia that left seven dead, we look back at the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. It sent a cloud of radioactive fallout into Russia, Belarus and over a large portion of Europe, but the death toll from Chernobyl remains unknown. Chernobyl is considered the worst nuclear accident in history, but Kate Brown, an MIT professor of science, technology and society, says much of what we understand about the disaster is inaccurate. Her new book, “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future,” chronicles the devastating and underreported impact of radiation on tens of thousands in the Soviet Union that went unreported for decades. Brown says, “After about five years of research, I realized that much of what we know about Chernobyl is just either incomplete or fully incorrect.”

Mysterious Russian Nuclear Missile Accident Sparks Fears of Cover-Up & "Chernobyl Redux"

Questions are swirling over a mysterious nuclear accident in northern Russia on August 8. Seven people, including five nuclear scientists, died in an explosion, which caused a radiation spike in the surrounding area — and possibly as far as Scandinavia. U.S. experts suspect the explosion was caused during a test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Russia initially denied a radiation leak, but earlier today its state weather agency confirmed radioactive isotopes have been found in test samples in the city of Severodvinsk near the military test range. Norway’s nuclear test ban monitor now believes two explosions likely occurred on August 8, with the second one being the likely source of radiation. Russia’s handling of the nuclear accident has drawn some comparisons to the Soviet Union’s cover-up of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, which is considered the worst nuclear accident in history. We speak with Kate Brown, a professor of science, technology and society at MIT specializing in environmental and nuclear history. Her new book is “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future.”

Headlines for August 26, 2019