Over a dozen activists with banners and a sound system disrupted Thursday a special meeting of the Conference of American Armies, CAA, which included military leaders from North, Central and South America, as they gathered at a hotel in Toronto to discuss "domestic operations."
The protesters came from different rights groups and movements in the country “who associate the CAA with the repression of political activists and land defenders” in countries across the Americas, a press release by Mining Injustice Solidarity Network said, using the acronym for the military conference.
Jaydene Lavallee, a Metis organizer present at the hotel action, highlighted how these domestic operations often include crackdowns on Indigenous peoples, referencing the recent one by the U.S. state against the North Dakota water protectors.
"The state, and the military backing it, come down with brutal force on Indigenous peoples asserting their responsibilities to protect the water, as has been so illustrated in the camps of Standing Rock with the involvement of the National Guard," Lavallee was quoted as saying while protesting at the hotel where the conference was taking place.
While North American militaries engage in repression against Native Americans and First Nations peoples, Indigenous peoples in Central America at the forefront of the battle against corporations suffer the most from local armies.
“Even today, CAA liaison officers are linked to the repression of civilians in their own countries who are engaged in land defense struggles or political activism,” according to the press release.
Grahame Russell, a member of the non-governmental organization Rights Action, explained how “in 2009, Hudbay Minerals had support from the Guatemalan military, including the feared 'Kaibil' special forces, to carry out repression against local Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities and make way for Hudbay’s mining operations."
The CAA was created as part of a Cold War strategy to increase collaboration with militaries in Latin America, the press release said.
In Honduras, CAA liaison officers are involved in the repression of Indigenous communities defending their natural resources and territories from corporate projects, Honduras Solidarity Network coordinator Karen Spring said.
The press release revealed that from 2013 to 2014, Gabriel Rixci Carcamo Bonilla, the CAA liaison officer for Honduras, was the commanding officer for a Honduran unit in the northern town of Naco that gave training to intelligence and military groups that were “used extensively to repress” social movements in the country.
According to Spring, "the conference in Toronto and the presence of Honduran military on Canadian soil demonstrates Canada's clear foreign policy objectives of militarization and imperialism in complete disregard of basic human rights in Honduras.”
She further criticized the Canadian government for its continuing “support of the Honduran regime despite in-depth reports and documentation of extremely high levels of human rights violations, impunity and corruption.
The CAA was created in 1960 by U.S. commander-in-chief of Southern Command Major T.F. Bogart, helping establish communication systems for regional armies to collaborate.
It also laid the groundwork for Operation Condor, a multinational program launched in the 1970s, led by the United States, designed to eliminate all opposition to right-wing dictatorships in South America.