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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  August 14, 2019 4:00pm-5:01pm PDT

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08/14/19 08/14/19 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from new york, this is democracy now! >> hearing the trump administration wants to expedite executions at the federal level, i have seen from death row in louisiana and texas a complete arbitrariness of who gets the death penalty, even of the criteria is supposed to be the worst of the worst. inin fact, it is always people o are poor and all must always people who kill white people.
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amy: is the trump administration moves to restore the federal death penalty, we will speak with sister helen prejean, leading death penalty activist, the academy award-winning film "dead man walking" was based on her life. but first we speak to pulitzer prize-winning journalist sonia nazario about how corruption, viviolence, and u.s. foreign policy are fueling the migrant crisis. >> mostly fleeing some of the most violent countries honored, honduras, guatemala, el salvador. in recent years i focused on the most of those who are coming here from central america immigrant children, kids who are trying to get into the united states and flee the violence. amy: all of that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. flights have resumed at hong kong international airport after it was effectively shut down for
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two days due to a takeover by pro-democracy protesters. tuesday saw new clashes between protesters and police forces, with several arrests taking place. two men n who were suspected of being undercover officers from mainland china were beaten by a group of protesters. one of the men turned out to be a reporter for the communist party-owned newspaper "global times." some of the protesters apologized wednesday for the disruption at the airport. a post on n a messaging chchannl thatat later was widelely reposd read -- "we apologize for our bebehavior bubut we are just too scared. our police shot us, government betrayed us, social institutions failed us. please help us." hong kong's beijing-aligned chief executive carrie lam warneded tuesday the protests ae "pushing hong kokong onto a path of no return" while china condemned the airport demonstrations as near-terrorist acts. meanwhile, photos showing chinese military tanks lining up in shenzen, near the hong kong border, started to spread tuesday, raising fears of a possible military crackdown.
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china's official state newspaper "the people's daily" published a statement saying the people's armed police are ready to counteract "riots disturbance, , major violence, and crime- and terrorism-related social security issues." on tuesday, president trump tweeted -- "intelligence has informed us that the chinese government is moving troops to the border with hong kong. everyone should be calm and safe!" democratic connecticut senator chris murphy tweeted in response, "this is not foreign policy." following condemnation of the new trump administration rule limiting permanent status for low-income immigrants, acting director of citizenship and immigration services ken cuccinelli attempted to defend the new policy by re-writing the iconic emma lazarus poem on the statue of liberty. this is cuccinelli speaking to npr's rachel martin. >> would you also agree in the lazarus' words on the statue of
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liberty are part of the american youth those? >> they certainly are. give me your tired and poor who can stand on own two feet and who will not become a public charge. that plaque was put on the statue of liberty at almost the same time as the first public charge law was passed. adjusting timing. amy: on tuesday night, cuccinelli defended his comments in an interview with cnn's erin burnett, suggesting emma lazarus' poem was written for "people coming from europe." one of jeffrey epstein's accusers is suing his longtime associate and accused accomplice ghislaine maxwell and three other members of his household staff in the first lawsuit of its kind since the accused serial sex trafficker died by apparent suicide in his new york jail cell saturday. jennifer araoz has accused epstein of raping her when she was just 15 years old. she says ghislaine maxwell and the other unnamed staff members facilitated the abuse. it is one of the first lawsuits
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to be filed under new york's child victims act, which takes effect today. meanwhile, questions are mounting surrounding epstein's death. the warden at the manhattan metropolitan correctional center has since been reassigned and two guards who were tasked with monitoring epstein were put on leave. reports emerged tuesday that the guards may have been sleeping during their shift, failing to check on epstein for three hours and then falsifying time logs. they were supposed to check on him every 30 minutes. the facility, which has housed many high-profile prisoners, has been plagued with reports of under-staffing, over-crowding, and dire conditions for years. the mexican drug lord joaquin "el chapo" guzman called the prison torture. the fbi, the justice department, and the house judiciary committee have launched investigations into epstein's death. in related news, the fbi has raided jeffrey epstein's private caribbean island. the fbi search is being overseen by the attorney's office for the southern district of new y york. on monday, attorney generaral williaiam barr assured epspste's accusers that the case a against epsteiein would not end with his
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death and that "any co-conspirorors should n not ret easy." meanwhile, a flurry of speculations arose after it was revealed that a 4chan user posted about jeffrey epstein's death 38 minutes before the news became public on media outlets. the poster revealed information surrounding the death suggesting they may have been a first responder or otherwise present at the scene when epstein's body was first discovered. the new york city fire department said they investigated the case and determined the information did not come from within their department. epstein claimed a net worth of more than $500 million when being asked to be released on bail, but lawyers for his accusers say they suspect his net worth to be much higher. they will likely look to offshore bank accounts and epstein's closest allies, including his brother mark for additional assets. "the wall street journal" reports the brothers are connected financially through investments and a 200 unit condo on the upper east side of manhattan. lawyer lisa bloom told the
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journal "we're just getting started." to see our 201013 interview with mark epstein on an unrelated issue about cooper union, go to democracynow.org. at the time, he was just the board of trustees of cooper epstein,at is mark jeffrey epstein's brother. president trump has delayed a 10% tariff on some chinese goods, including cellphones, laptop computers, shoes and toys, until december 15. other products will be spared from the tariffs altogether. trump has repeatedly claimed tariffs would only harm chinese producers but appeared to shift his rhetoric slightly tuesday. pres. trump: justst in case they mimight have an impact on peopl, what we have done is we have delayed it so thehey won't be relevant to the christmas shopping season. amy: around $112 billion of chinese goods will be hit with the planned 10% tariff in september. last week, the treasury department designated china a currenency manipulator after it
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weakened i its currency to an 11-year low. in environmental news, a group of 22 states, six cities, and the district of columbia sued the trump administration tuesday in an attempt to block the rollback of obama-era regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants. the new rules were announced by the environmental protection agency in june and allow states to set their own regulations for emissions and decide whether coal-fired plants should make improvements. obama's clean power plan sought to lower carbon emissions through federal regulations, but the plan never took effect due to multiple legal challenges. the new lawsuit claims the epa has a duty, under the clean air act, to limit carbon emissions. letitia james, attorney general for new york, said in a statement -- "without significant course correction, we are careening towards a climate disaster. rather than staying the course with policies aimed at fixing the problem and protecting people's health, safety, and the environment, the trump administration repealed the clean power plan and replaced it with this 'dirty power' rule." in brazil, up to 2000 indigenous
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women gathered in the capital brasilia this weweek to protest the policies of far-right president jair bolsonaro. hundreds occupied a health ministry building tuesday as they demanded the government respect indigenous rights and the amazon. this is joenia wapichana, the first indigenous woman elected to the brazilian congress. >> protest is an important act to defend the rights of indigenous peoples. we are under a series of systematic violent attack. there's a lack of demarcation of indigenous lands. the issue of health, education, this is all in danger. we arere fighting against advertising for a fairer andnd equality education. amy: pakistan's prime mininister imran khan is in kashmir today . indian permits to remains on lock down. pakistan is calling for the u.n. security council to meet over the escalating situation, which they say poses an imminent
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threat to peace in the region and could lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide if a major military confrontation erupts. during his visit, imran khan condemned india's action, but said -- "we are not at war with india. we are against its ideology." amnesty international tuesday urged india to lift its restrictions on movement and communicatioions in kashmir,r, warning ththat "a complelete clampdown on civ libererti iss only l likely to increase tensnsions, alalienate the peope and increase the risk of fther human rights v violations." the family of saudi women's righghts activist loujain al-hathloul say she was offered a release from prison in exchange for taping a video retracting accusations she was tortured in jail, and offer she rejected. loujain was arrested in may of last year, along with four other women activists. hathloul led a movement to lift a ban on female drivers and overhaul the male guardianship system in saudi arabia. according to human rights groups and her family, she has since been held in solitary confinement and has been subjected to abuse, including
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electric shocks, flogging, and threats of sexual violence. her siblings say that mohammed bin salman's former top adviser saudud al-qahtani -- who has ben implicated in t t "washingtgton post" colulumnist jamal khashoggi's murder -- was present while she was being tortured and threatened to rape and kill her. to see our interview with loujain's brother and sister, walid and lina al-hathloul, go to democracynow.org. opera superstar placido domingo is facing allegations of sexual harassment in the e workplace fm at least nine women spanning a period of 30 years. the women say domingo regularly harassed them and tried to pressure them into sexual relationships. several say he forcibly kissed them and/or touched them without consent. in some cases,s, he called them inincessantly y at home, i inclg late a at night. seven out ofof the nine accusers say their careerers were negatively affected after they resisted his advances. domingo, known by many as one of the famed "three tenors," is currently the director and conductor of thehe los angeles opera.a. the l.a.a. opera said d it would hire an outside investigator to look i into the claims.
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he has canceled his tour. cbs and viacom announced tuesday they would rejoin forces after splitting in 2006. the two companies, along with paramount pictures studio, are attempting to head off competition from e entertatainmt giants like disney and streaming services including netflix. the deal is the latest mega merger in the media world after at&t acquired time warner for $80 billion and disney took over 21st century fox business for over $70 billion last year. and starting today, survivors of childhood sexual abuse in new york who previouously could not bring their perpetrators to court due to statues of limitations will be able to do asas the new child victims act goes into effect. the new law allows prosecutors to bring criminal charges against alleged abuserers until the accuser turns 28, while accusers can file a civil lawsuit until they reach the age of 55. in a addition, thehe so-cacalled "look-back window" will allow accusers of any age e to bring chargeges agaiainst their allegd perpetrators, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred, for a
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period of one year starting today. this i is new york l lieutenant governor kathy hocochul speaking tuesday. >> to the perpetrators, the child abusers, the child , made adults with the worst nightmares you can imagine, today your victims will be your worst nightmare because starting tomorrow, they will see you in court. and i don't care if you are hiding in a rectory somewhere, in a rocking chair in florida, you will be brought to justicec. it starts tomorrow here in new york. amy: that is new york lieutenant governor kathy h hogle. nenew york is the state to apply fifth the "look-back window." legal experts say mamajor institutions that have faced sexualal abuse scandals inin ret years, including thehe catholilc church in new york, are likely to face a litany of lawsuits. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!,
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democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. juan: and i'm juan gonzalez. wewelcome to all of our listenes and viewers from around the country and around the world. "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, i lift my lamp beside the golden door!" those are the words of emma lazarus inscribed on the statue of liberty. amy: well, this week the acting director of citizenship and immigration services ken cuccinelli attempted to rewrite the poem in an effort to make a case for l limiting immigrationo the united states. this is cuccinelli speaking to npr's rachel martin on tuesday. >> would you also agree that in the lazarus' words etched on the statue of liberty are also part of the american egos? >> they certainly are. give me your tired and poor who can stand on own two feet and who will not become a public charge. that plaque was put on the statue of liberty at almost the
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same time as the first public charge law was passed. very interesting timing. juan: ken cuccinelli made the comment a day after the trump administration announced a new rule that would make it harder for undocumented -- or documented, low-income immigrants to stay in the country. the so-called public charge rule would penalize immigrants seeking benefits including medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers by allowing officials to deny green cards and visa applications to those individuals. on tuesday night, ken cuccinelli defended his comments in an interview with cnn's erin burnett. >> what do you think america stands for? >> of course that column was referring back to people coming from europe where they had class-based societies, where people were considered wretched if they were not in the right classe. amy: well, we turn now to the pulitzer prize-winning reporter sonia nazario who has closely
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documented why migrants from centraral america are fleeing their homes. earlier this year, nazzario spent a month in honduras documenting how cocorruptionon d gagang violence are foforcing my people to leave. she recently wrote about it a -- about her trip in a piece titled "pay or die" in "the new york times." nazario won a pulitzer prize in 2003 for a reporting on what became her acclaimed book "enriques journey: the story of a boy's dangerous odyssey to reunite with his mother." sonia nazario, welcome back to democracy now! before we talk about this remarkable piece you wrote, if you could respond to president trump's immigration czar cuccinelli rewriting the words home.the lazarus' >> a think most americans disagree with him. it is a wholesale attempt to change who is allowed into this country. give us your rich, don't give us
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yourur poor. ofof course this is contrary to the entire tradition of immigration to the united states. this is what the administration is attempting to do. amy: than saying those words were written about eururopeans. >> that's right. well, at the time they were largely eueupeans who o were coming but in 1965, we changed our immigration laws to ample five who could come to this country legally, and that is the law of the land. amy: on tuesday,y, president trp was asked to respond to can cuccinelli's comment. pres. trump: i'm tired of seeing our taxpayers paper people to come into the country and merely go on to welfare and berries other things. i think we're doing it right. juan: sonia nazario, your response to the president's comments? >> immigrants who come here legally are no more likely to be on welfare than people who are born in this countryry.
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targetingain immigrants, scapegoating immigrants and the reality is that immigrants who have come to this country, whether they are poor or rich, are what have made america great. juan: i want to get your amazing piece that appeared in "the new york times" is only "pay or die." here in the united states, we hear a lot about gang violence fueling some of the migration or much of the migration coming from central america. the people don't really understand what that means. you have done a remarkable effort here to actually go into what is happening. 2010,ntion that since 1500 hondurans who work in transportation have an murdered, shot, strangled, cuffed to their steering wills, or burned alive by these gangs because they did not pay the bribes they were
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supposed to be paying. howyou talk about transportation especially in honduras has become this gold mine for the street gangs? the role ofusing on corruption in these countries like honduras and that is really if swath we have to clean up we want to help clean up in an attempt t slow this influx of peoplele who are c coming to our southern border. the corruption is what allows all of the other bad things to happen, including gangs imposing this reign of terror and charging this war tax, this extortion tax, from anything with wheels. and from businesses in the neighborhood where i spent time, one in four businesses was paying a war tax to the gang.
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one in four businesses had shut down completelyy because they could no longer pay the war tax. this is paralyzing the economy. so i wanteted to show whwhat ths was likeke for these bus owners who are basically told by the gangs, you have to pay up on monday morning -- every monday morning thousands of bus owners are going out and delivering these bricks of cash to these gangs or they are murdered if they say no. a lot of -- if any driver refuses to pay, they will kill a driver randomly. this is what i saw that in just the capital of honduras, these gangs are being paid an a year in$23 million these four taxes. amy: we're going to go to break and come back to hear your description. this month you spent in honduras not only covering those who risk their lives, but you
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risk your life. we're speaking with sonia nazario, pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author of "enrique's journey: the story of a boy's dangerous odyssey to reunite with his mother." she just did a story called "pay or die" about her journey. ♪ [music break]
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amy: this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. why do people come to this country? we're talking to sonia nazario, the pulitzer prize-winning journalist, author of "enrique's journey: the story of a boy's dangerous odyssey to reunite with his mother." she just wrote a "new york times" op-ed he's come the cover story "pay or die: ms-13 and 18th street gangngsters want to run honduras. cutting off american aid isn't going to stop them." you described hunching down behind a bus driver as he is about to make one of these payments. take us on that journey. what happened yet go why were you hiding? >> i wanted to see what it was like to o ke one of f these payments by these us owners, so
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i went -- one of them offered for me to go along as he made the cash drop. so we hopped into his small black car and he drove to a place where he pickedd up a brik of cash, basically, $650. he was paying for history buses and a total of 55 buses just for that week to one gang, one of the two largest gangs i in hondurasas, and central amerera. we get the brick of cash from the bus dispatcher and we start driving up this hill into this streetrhood, and 18th stronghold. as we are going up this hill, there are these gang lookouts, heavily armed with ak-47's, watching. as we reach the top, these two gangsters appear out of nowhere. i am crouching in the backseat wheel well trying to take this on my iphone with my hand up to the window with my iphone.
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the driver rolls down the window two inches, shoves this brick of cash through the window, and these two gangsters disappear. this cash will go through many hands until it reaches the gang leader. but this type of transaction is happening with thousands of bus owners every monday morning. monday morning is the day to pay the gangs. in many of these bus drivers pay 1, 3, even six gangs to not be killed. this is what is driving a lot of the despair in a place like .onduras because the police are paid off by the gangs, because the politicians are paid off by the gangs, because 30% to 40% of the revenue of all of the government are as committed to be siphoned off in corruption by all of these players, , the whole systm is rotten and there is no hope that things will change in a place like honduras. juan: you mentioned the
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corruption at the highest levels of the government that allow this to continue. yoyou documentnt in your story e of the o outright theft that occurred by some of the current president's families and nonprofit groups in honduras have revealed. but around the same time came this new filing in the court case of the president of brother, who is under indictment right now and in jail for drug trafficking. one of the amazing things about this new filing by the fbi is they specifically name as to co-conspirators not only the current president, but the previous president. and they are named as having been participants in discussions with drug dealers and receiving campaign contributions and prpromising to protect the drug
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operations. accurate, end i is honduras has become a narco state in effect at the top while at the bottom of society, all of these gangs are terrorizing the people with government consent. i am wondering your reaction to this latest filing by the federal government? >> a narco state supported by the united states. there are two ways to steal money in honduras. you either take money from the narco cartels or you steal from the public coffers. and a system doing that in recent years has been set up these real or fake nonprofits where yoyou send governmenent business, but in realility you e not doing anything for that or you are doing less than you shouldld be doing in terms of providining services for t the r inin honduras. it is alleged members of t the -
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and the president are involved in both of these. so you have the presidenent's brother being arrested last year in november from moving, according to the allegations in the u.s., tons of cocaine over more than a decade to the united states and labeling it bracingly nandez, the bricks of cococaine with his initials, and you have allegations that president sister who died in a helicoptpter accidident in 2017t she had siphoned off $12 million from the ministry of agriculture into two nonprofits that basically did no work. they were supposed to train people too produce more crops bt instead she use that money for the president's campaign in 2013 to become president. it for personal reasons. and now this bombshell allegation that the president -- the president took money from the
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narco's fofor his campaign. the president was in washington, yesterday and a lot of times were wagging yesterday wondering what he was doing there. amy: any of the very questionable election that just took place with massive protests throughout honduras that went on for week after week when he against the rep. this goes back to 2000 and the u.s.-backed coup against the democratically elected president zelaya. democracy now! followed him back into honduras when he finally returned. i want to turn to the mr. .resident zelaya we spoke to him last month. >> t they're going to look for some solution to the system that is provoking the migrants because everyone talks about ofration, but the e causes
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migration are the u.s. policies, the policies of the southern command for is region are provovoking momore and more migs withth each passining day. so militarizeded and central amererica, militarizing honduras means that escape out the honduran people have had, which is to be able to get work in the , , and the honduranan peoplele have not even looookedr jobs in the united states. itit is the u.s. b businesses, r examplple, they have large crops and cannot pay a u.s. person to work in the countryside. expenses tothe triaial the family members -- travel expenses to the family members of the employees, and that is why there is massive migration to work in the united states. amy: that is ousted honduran president zelaya, just recently
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speaking to us. sonia nazario, if you could comment on that and in your piece, what happens with people refuse to pay? you talk about the murders. and also, if you can talk about the issue of really what you describe as femme aside. when you go to the third-largest city in honduras that has the theest number of femicicides, murders of women? >> would people refusese to pay- as it are mymy report on corruption and a neighborhood in the capital of honduras that i've b been going to per 20 yea. there is a woman at the top of the hill in a neighborhood dominated by 18th streeeet. they demand papayments from thee mom-and-pop ststores every week. you have to fork over half of your eararnings every day to the gang. she sasaid, i'm not t going to y anymore. go aren't some money on your own. anothert a killer from
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part of town so she would not recognize this man. he came up to her storefront and ordered some orange juice and a she cameme back withth this c c, he shot her in the face. she stumbled back toward the back bedroom where her four-year-old daughter wasas sleeping in the bedroom. she died short of reaching her daughter will stop that is what happenens. people know this is what happens to people who refuse to pay the gangs. i also reported in a previous story this year in "the new york times" about why so many women are fleeing. increasingly, the narco cartels and gangs are recruiting women. some joined because there are no other jobs in the neighborhood. 18 to 25-year-olds, half of them are unemployed in the neighborhoods i was in. some joined willingly to sell drugs and some are forced to sell drugs. when they try to leave that light or being the girlfriend of a gang leader, they are murdered.
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what i saw in honduras was that four of 10 women when they a are killed, they are killed with the rude tell it he that far exceeds what is needed to kill them. it is a message. they are shot in the vagina. they are cut to bits. they are skinned alive. i was having horrible nightmares. i am in therapy after returning from honduras. the stories i heard ofof what happened to these women. one woman described it like you are a chicken. they strip you of all of your parts. the policeent -- don't take the claims of domestic violence s seriously. they say, go resolve it between the sheets. maybe you did not give him last night what he needed. maybe you fed him something he did not lilike for dinner. most of these cririmes get no conviction. nine out of 10 of these murders of women get no conviction. the gangs, the narco cartels
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know they can get away with this. to address your previous point, the u.s. has a sordid history in latin america. we can go back 100 years with united fruit and dominance of these countries by u.s. companies and replacing presidents that were not going to be good for u u.s. businesses and in 2009 when many countries in latin america, an international organization said let's have -- not allow this to happen. in 201017 when the current presidident was reelected and vy dubious circumstances, other countries called for a reelection in the united states said we're basically -- we arere good witith this. i think the u.s. days to take a hard look at hernanandez given e fact the rot is starting at the top and given the fact people surging out of honduras until this corruption is addressed.
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juan: one other point about these gangs that many here in the united states don't really the presidentlly is constantly talking about ms 13, these hangs started in the united states. they started in the streets of new york and san francisco and prisons from young people who were living a large part here in the u.s. and convicted of crimes and reported back to central america and reformed their gangs. can you talk about this connection between the origins of these gangs and what is going on now, the violence -- now the most violent place in the world, central america? >> absolutely. i live in los angeles. many centrtral americacans cameo the u.s. in the 1980's. they got picked on by the mexicans are they started their own gun to defend themselves, the ms 13 gangng. in 1996 when the u.s. toughened laws against permanent residents who had committed certainin offenses, we started deporting
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the permanent legal residence. we have supported more than 300,000 criminals to central americica. in many of these temperaments in honduras they say, before this there were gangs but t they were basically controlling turf and arguining over g girls but theye not highly violent. they were not armed in the way they are now. but once these deportations occurred and you took k these gg members and put them in to countries where they knewewo one and had to survive, the level of violence ramped up massively. this, together with the u.s. use of drugs -- we're the biggest consumer of legal drugs on earth .. mamany of these drugs that originate in c colombia a were coming through honduras. the drug flights were landing and honduras. the narco's and they gangs were trying to control the turf to move these drugs north to the united states. this f field a l of f this violence.
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-- this fueled a lot of this file is. amy: i want to end by asking, europe been in honduras many times, what most shocked you this time, especially as we look at president trump's rhetoric coming into this country, about what he calls the invaders? of rot thathe level starts at the top and goes to the bottom, it affects people having medicines that are basically don't work because people get kickbacks to buy by that medicines. there are ghosts teachers because of corruption. it affects peoeople's s daily l. i think what i want to sayays we need to have more compassion too these people who are running from is very violent
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circumstances. and i believe we should not cut off u.s. aid to central america. i know this is a controversial point of view, but i think some of this aid, especiallyy humanitarian aid, not military, not police aid, but humanitarian aid has been used by the u.s. to lower violence, to lower impunity, to lower corruption. this is attended 20-year efforts, but it is more humane and more effective -- it is better to find a way to allow people to stay in these countries and improve conditions there and it is way cheaper than to lock up all of these people in these horrible prisons in the united states, which is costing us billions and billions of dollars. amy: sonia nazario, thank you for being with us, pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author of "enrique's journey: the story of a boy's dangerous odyssey to reunite with his mother." she is a "new york times" contributing op-ed writer. her recent cover story for "the
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new york times" is headlined "pay or die: ms-13 and 18th street gangsters want to run honduras. cutting off american aid isn't going to stop them." when we come back, the trump administration plans to restore the federal death penalty. we will speak with sister helen prejean, leading anti-death penalty activist. stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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amy: this is democracy now!, i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. juan: the trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15 year moratorium. last month, attorney general william barr ordered the execution of five death-row prisoners beginning in december. the federal government has executed just three people since 1963, the last being in 2003. on monday, barr proposed fast -t-tracking exexecutions in mass murderer cases.
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>> we will be proposing legislation providing that in cases of mass murder or in cases of murder of a law enforcement officer, there will be a strict timetable for judicial proceedings that will allow the imposition of ththe death sentee without undue delay must of punishment must be swept. amy: attorney general barr's comments echoed president trump's remarks from last week in the aftermath of the el paso and dayton shootings. pres. trump: today i am also directing the department of justice to propose legislation ensuring those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay. juan: experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the e criminal justice system extends to those
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sentenced to death. according to the death penalty information center, more 160 people who had been wrglgly convicted and sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1973. the death penanalty has enen abolisheinin 106 couountries, while another 28 have moratoriums or effectively do not use the practice. the united nations has called for a global ban on the practice and amnesty international calls it the ultimate cruel, inhuman andedegrading g punishment. amy: well, for more, we're joined by sister helen prejean, one of the world's most well-known anti-death penalty activists. as a catholic nun, she began her prison ministry almost 40 years ago. she is the author of the best-selling book "dead man walking: an eyewitness account of the death penalty." the book was turned into an academy award-winning film starring susan sarandon and sean penn.
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her new book is just out this week. it is called "river of fire: my spiritual journey." continues ton counsel not only inmates on death row, but also the families of murder victims. sister helen prejean, it is great to have you back. congratulations on your book as you hear in the last weeks, the surprise announcement of the attorney g general william barr that they are basically restarting the federal death penalty and they immediately said they would kill five prisoners who have been on federal death row. and then in the wake of the el paso and the dayton killings, just announcing he will particularly go after mass shooters. in this country, it may be that many people agree with him. what are your thoughts? thatll, i'm not surprised
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william barr did this or the trump administration wants to expedite federal executions. it is their whole way of approaching everything, the way is through violence to try to solve social problems. the federal death penalty is not going to be anymore it will justice under law than the state death analgesic have been. -- penalties have been. the mood in the country's to shut the death penalty down. the weather federal death penalty has always worked, it is been up to the discretion of individual federal prosecutors. whereve had side-by-side as in manhattan, new york, the federal prosecutors never went for the death penalty. in texas, , they were alwaways g for the death penalty. this would be no different. so i'm not at all surprised they're doing it. they seem to have no understanding about how the courts work. they can claim all they want that they are going to fast
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track this and speed of these executions, but there is the constitution and there are the appeals. i have been talking to federal offenders of these cases. they're going to do everything they can to save their clients life. juan: in your new book, it is more of a recounting of your life story in terms of how your own journey from a child in louisiana. can you talk about how you developed first in your ministry and when you decided to go into prison ministry? >> it is called "river of fire" and at the graph is "ask not for understanding, ask for the fire." the fire part was when the eruptedand my own soul that i can't just ask god is all the problems of the world or
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just be charitable to the people around me, but that the deepest dimensions of the gospel of jesus called me to justice. so i got involved with poor people in new orleans, african-americans, who became my teachers, helped me understand what white privileges, helped me understand what is digital racism. it is while i was in that terrain living among african american people struggling against poverty and racism, i got an invitation wanted to write a man on death row. i never dreamed he was going to be executed. it was an early 1980's and we had not had an execution in 20 years. i wrote a letter and he wrote back. 2.5 years later, he was executed. and that is the fire because i describe it in the preface of the book "they killed a man with fire one night. they strapped him in a wooden chair and pumped electricity through his body until he was dead. his killing was a legal act. no religious leaders protested ie killing that night. but
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was there. i saw it with my own eyes. and what i saw set my soul on fire, the fire that burns in me still." so i traced my journey of spiritual awakening from private toigion, being apolitical, rolling up my sleeves and getting engaged. if justice is going to come, then we have to be the ones to do it. and in our democracy and in our country. so i've had constant dialogue with my church, the catholic church. all.e, first of i see now that dialogue pays off. aftery, on august 2, 2018 1600 years, pope francis declared under no conditions could we ever trust government to execute their citizens. your country,ve
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when your church, you keep a constant dialogue of what needs to change and helping to make that change happen. amy: i want to go back in time to that film that so rocked this nation, "dead man walking" that starred susan sarandon and sean penn. it is based on yr first book. i i wanted to go to a a trailerf that film. walter man shot lalacorttwooimes in the back hop h head and raped heas smiling and chewing h gu hes a pepeerse misfit and it is time. >> there's been aeqequestor yoto be his spiritual adsosor. thisis b iso be executed in six ys. >> well, matth, i made it. >> you have nevedodone ts bere?? >> no. >> evebebeen ts clclusr murdrd before?
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>> nothat i know of. i juswant to help himakake responsilityty f what t did. >> you look real good toe. >> you a p playi a game. >> you are a white supupmacist, follower of hitler. >> you a making it so easy for them to kill you, congng across as a killer. >> you have to leave. >> i'm not going d do th. e evi man.an >> iid not kill nobody. i i sweato god iidn' >> you blamehe goverenent, blacks will stop what about matthew poncelet? is he innocent? to own up to the part you played.
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and very have the trailer for "dead man walking." susan sarandon would win awards for playing you, won the oscar for that and tim robbins directed, bruce springsteen wrote the music. everyone was nominated. the power of this film was the power of your company in, the story that iss real. and how you started on that process and go through it until today. dzhokhar tsarnaev, the convicted bomber of the boston marathon, one of the focuses of the new discussion about reviving the federal death penalty. you met with him f five times in 2015 and you testified on his ialf saying presented him as a human being. talk about what it is like to meet these prisoners, to a company them to their death.
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>> it is human rights, that human beings can never be identified solely with their actions. that everybody is worth more than the worst thing that ever done. so like at dzhokhar tsarnaev's trial come all the prosecution wanted to do was demonize. he was the younger brother. all of the words i could give up for the jury were, "he is a human being and he felt sorrow for what he did." i showed why i could say that. amy: why could you say that? >> because i had met him. and at some point, and this came out and the testimony, i just said, do you hate us all? would you drop a bomb on all of us? he lowered his eyes like t this and you just said, "no, of course not. nobody deserves to die like that."
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so you had to be so careful in the language. the prosecutor was holding me to just the language you could use, the judge, so forth. with anyone of ever accommodated death, some of them are guilty, two of them were innocent because it is so broken, and they have done a despicable thing but the death penalty is about us. and more more people are standing up now, including guards and wardens who have been close to the killing process. inhave not had an execution louisiana in 17 years. there is no official thing that said we're not when you kill people. that is going on across the country. a lot of times because the guards who've had to do the killings and the wardens don't want to do it anymore because it has nothing.. that has been the heart of the conversation in the catholic church. i said to pope john paul ii, said, does the catholic church only uphold the dignity of innocent life?
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a man shackled hand and foot, surrounded by six guards and their going to walk him down this hall and strapped him down and kill him. he kind of traced to me says, sister, please pray god holds up my legs. can you help the church uphold to dignity of all life, that take a human being and render them defenseless and kill them can never be justified? so pope john paul was the first one and then pope francis finally moved it to completion and said, under no circumstances can we ever allow the state to kill. it is human rights that drives me because i get to meet the human beings. have you been surprised by the gradual shift in public opinion in this country? and also the fact that most americans don't realize what an outlier they united states is compared to the rest of the countries in the world on this issue. >> absolutely. when i came out of the execution firstr, when pat, the
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i just been killed, i threw up. i'd never seen anything like that. i remember thinking clearly, the people are never going to be brought close to this. they are removed from it. they are made to be afraid these murders are evil, they're going to get out and kill people. youmake people afraid and keep them from seeing what actually happens, so that is why i wrote "dead man walking" and why i have been out talking to the american people, mosostly through story, to bring them close. the death penalty is about us. people are going to do terrible crimes, but we have the most premeditated protocol of taking a person, rendering them defenseless, and killing them. we are better than that. and most of the people -- in all of these 50 states i have been in -- they said, we did not know it was like that. bring the people close to the reality. they have e good hearts and they get it.
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i have been very gratified see that happening. amy: you said after you accompanied the first man, patrick, that you were sorry at the time you had not reached out more to the families of the victims. but that is something you have , a great deal over these years. talk about that experience. >> i had a great editor and i wrote "dead man walking." when he's on the first draft i kind of downplayed not reaching out to the victims families, that i had never done this before, i was so in the human rights, he said, helen, you're letting yourself off easily. it was cowardice, wasn't it? you were scared. that was true. he said you need to go back and rewrite that. mistake itat a great
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was not to reach out to the victims families. i just thought they would hate me so much because i was opposed to the execution. and i was wrong. one of the families did in fact take that position. but the man whom i consider the hero in "dead man walking" his son david, 17, had been killed and he confronted me when we met and he said, sister come all this time you have been visiting those but you did not come see us. you cannot believe the pressure we are under and that i made a great mistakeke. i had not reached out to him. he was the first one who began to teach me and then we started helproup "survive" to murdered victims families. they're the ones rising up more and more helping to end the death penalty. when new jersey did away with it 12 years ago in a legislature, 62 murder victims families said, don't kill for us. the death penalty reject a mise is us. we need to be a little breather and move on, but you put us in a
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holding pattern of 15 to 20 years winning for this justice that never happens. juan: and all of these prisoners on death row who are innocence awaiting the execution, the continued growth of the "death row population" even as you say many states are not going through with her executions, what -- what is your sense of their lives as well on death row? >> it is like a living death in so many ways because you are waiting for death to o come. you are in an extremely confined environment. death row cells in louisiana in the summer it is so hot. and the constant noise. all that you are subjected to waiting to be killed. you are considered disposable human waste. you get a thousand signals the day you're not worth anything.
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that is the opposite of what jesus is about, what christianity is about. and when i hear religion quoted did to sessions just justify the separation of children from their parents at the border, pulling in a religious quote from romans 13 that if something is the law, god is behind it. it is with the authority of god. i hate to see christianity used like this. i have had people say, like a member of the pardon board in louisiana, well, jesus was executed for our sins. if he another and execute a by the romans, we would not be saved. we have got to have executions like the image of god behind that is arrest forgot who centered justice has been offended and demand a sacrificial death. what kind of god is that the echo we've got to get jesus right, w have got to get christianity i hate to see religion used to justify violence.
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it is the opposite of what jesus was about. amy: yet the federal government, president trump and willlliam barr, saying they're going to resume the federal death penalty cases, executions, after almost 20 years. yet you have the states one by one, in this country, so the majority of the states, that are saying no to the death penalty. because the trump administration feels that absolute power and they can do whatever they want, so they declare, well, we're going to do this. we notice a pattern that the trump administration is made declarations of what they're going to do to immigrants with a muslim ban, yet no understanding of the court. amy: we have 20 seconds. >> please, god, the federal defenders will be using the constitution to block this. amy: we will do part two of our discussion and post it online
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democracynow.org at. sister helen prejean is the author of "river of fire: my spiritual journey." this follows her book "dead man walking: an eyewitness account of the death penalty." that d
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