Letter from Mexico: disappearance of the student teachers and our responsibilities.

Protest in Mexico about the disappearance of the 43 student teachers in Guerrero State.

Protest in Mexico about the disappearance of the 43 student teachers in Guerrero State. From LAB. Click for the news article on the LAB site.

I received this from Mario Flores Lara, a Community Psychologist from Cuba who has also worked in Ecuador and who is currently in Mexico.  See his blog HERE.  I have translated it for the website with his permission.  It is a fairly loose translation: the angry poetic prose does not always translate direct.  Others with better Spanish might be able to suggest improvements.

Mario refers to an article in La Jornada that makes the connection between terrorist acts against civilian populations and the suppression of dissent.  This was seen in the Central American conflicts, in the US war on the Vietnamese people, and in the occupation of Iraq.  We see it in Palestine today.

Mario discusses what community psychologists can do in the face of such outrages.  Your contributions, thoughts, reactions and suggestions would be very welcome.

“10 November, 2014

“Friends, Comrades, Sisters and Brothers,

The events in Iguala-Ayotzinapa, here in Mexico paralyse us with pain and rage.

Impacts that go beyond the borders of Mexico.

Latin America and the world looks at this governmental barbarism with unease and alarm.

Murder by the system together with the usual impunity imply a process of discipline, control and submission through violence, fear and terror. The paralysis and immobilisation can also be seen in terms of this tactical and strategic objective.

Today (10 November, 2014) in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, there is an interesting article from the journalist Carlos Fazio, which I think is well worth reading.

The aim is to paralyse the population through terror. The disappearances are one method, the principal pobjective was to break up any form of resistance and maintain the population in a state of harsh uncertainty…. The ultimate aim of the terrorist State is the discipline of the body politic.”

This text, and all the sad events of recent times, make me resonate with responsibility, both individual and community-social, that we all have. Each of us, wherever we are, can, however we may, with small yet great actions, denounce, express, while stubbornly continuing to build roads to dignity, respect and life.

The murder of the 43 trainee teachers, disappeared in Ayotzinapa, is an affront to all of Mexico, for all of Latin America and all the world: an affront that is both personal and collective.

A Chilean friend asked me, by email, “how can we offer solidarity from here?”, and it occurred to me personally to think that all initiatives of witness and denunciation are valid and necessary, and so creativity and courage continue to be a fundamental part of our resources and abilities: from being informed, putting up a poster at the entrance of the university, talking about the theme together, torchlight processions, writing to Mexican embassies, messages to Mexican student organisations …. and many others.

And taking the long view, I keep on thinking that social atomisation, individualism, loneliness, fear, immobilisation, can be seen as strategic objectives, established symptoms of a decadent and dehumanising economic and political model. Partial deaths of a culture of death that reaches its climax with these brutal murders: today Ayotzinapa, before Acteal [Chiapas, Mexico: massacre of 45 indigenous Tzotzil Zapatista supporters in 1997], Trelew [Argentina: collective execution of leftist and Peronist activists by the military government, 1972], Pando [ambush leading to death of at least 19 Bolivian peasants, likely part of a right wing coup attempt against the MAS government of Evo Morales after its 2008 victory], Ranquil [Chile, 1934: massacre of around 500 forestry workers and Mapuche residents, protesting against labour and colonisation practices], La Moneda [bombing of the Chilean Presidential Palace, and murder of Salvador Allende, 11 Sept, 1973].

And I continue thinking about our responsibilities and tasks, now and in the future: dwelling in conviviality, going with and from the heartbeat of communities, continue advancing social dialogues that draw upon difference and multiplicity, so that respect for human dignity becomes a real reality, as the right of all and for all, and not just for the privileged few; that as Latin Americans the ethical-moral duty of de-colonising ourselves from a modernity seen as a excluding, negating and dominating mono-cultural paradigm.

In the face of a culture of death, a culture for life.

And not just resisting, but coming up with alternatives and constructing them.”

Mario Flores Lara

Community Psychologist


Spanish original:

Los acontecimientos de Iguala-Ayotzinapa, acá en México, nos llenan de dolor, rabia y estupor. 
Impactos que han trascendido las fronteras de tierras mexicas. 
Latinoamérica y el mundo mira con desconcierto y alarma esta barbarie con rango de política de Estado.
El crimen sistemático y la impunidad consuetudinaria se propone el  disciplinamiento, control y sometimiento mediante la violencia, el miedo y el terror. La paralización e inmovilidad se dibuja también como su horizonte táctico-estratégico.
Hoy en el periódico La Jornada (http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas) aparece un interesante artículo del periodista Carlos Fazio, que creo vale la pena leer: “El propósito era paralizar a la población mediante el terror. Los desaparecidos eran un medio; el objetivo principal era desarticular cualquier forma de resistencia y mantener a la población en una incertidumbre duradera.” “La finalidad del Estado terrorista es el disciplinamiento del cuerpo social.” 
Este texto, y todos los tristes acontecimientos del último tiempo, me hacen resonar en la responsabilidad individual-singular y social-comunitaria que todxs tenemos: Cada unx dónde esté, cómo pueda, cómo quiera, con pequeñas-grandes acciones, para denunciar, para expresar, para seguir proponiendo y porfiadamente construyendo caminos de dignidad, respeto y vida.
Los asesinados y los 43 normalistas desaparecidos de Ayotzinapa son una afrenta para México, para toda América Latina y para el mundo. Una afrenta personal y colectiva.
Una amiga chilena me preguntaba ayer por correo “¿cómo nos podemos solidarizar desde acá?”, y en lo personal se me ocurre pensar que todas las iniciativas de denuncia son válidas y necesarias, y que entonces la creatividad y el coraje siguen siendo parte fundamental de nuestros recursos y capacidades: desde estar informadxs, pegar una cartulina a la entrada de la universidad, conversar el tema en colectivo, un plantón relámpago, usar las redes ciber, escribir a las embajadas mexicanas, mensajes a las organizaciones estudiantiles mexicanas… y así un etcétera sin cotos…
Y con la “mirada larga” sigo sentipensando que la atomización, el individualismo, la soledad, el miedo, la inmovilidad, están trazados como objetivos estratégicos y se erigen como síntomas de un modelo político-económico decadente y deshumanizante. Muertes parciales de una cultura de la muerte que alcanza su paroxismo en estos brutales asesinatos masivos: hoy Ayotzinapa, antes Acteal, Trelew, Pando, Ranquil, La Moneda…
Y se me antoja continuar pensando en nuestras responsabilidades y tareas presentes-futuras: Habitar las grupalidades; Latir en-con-desde las comunidades; Seguir avanzando en los diálogos sociales sustentados en la diferencia y multiplicidad; Que sea realidad real el respeto a la dignidad humana como Derecho de todxs y para todxs y no sólo para algunxs privilegiadxs; Que como latinoamericanxs tenemos el deber ético-moral de descolonizarnos de una Modernidad como paradigma monocultural excluyente, negador y dominador…
Ante una cultura de la muerte, una CULTURA DE LA VIDA.
Ya no sólo resistir, sino proponer y construir.
Mario Flores Lara
Psicólogo Comunitario

Explaining Liberation Psychology in English

At the International Community Psychology Conference in Fortaleza last month (Sept. 2014) there was a round table Doing Liberation Psychology in English”

Here is one of the presentations – from Mark Burton:

Explaining Liberation Psychology in English. Notes for paper.  and  Slides.

More to follow.

IMG_0502compPoster from the co-operative learning programme, Cipo, Pentecoste, Ceará.
“Freedom is only possible once you are also whole enough to face the responsibility of being free.”  “Freedom means responsibility and that’s why most people fear it.”
….. what do you think?


Coalition for an Ethical Psychology: Statement on the APA’s failure to investigate Guantánamo Bay affair

image of bare room

from ethicalpsychology.org

from the COALITION FOR AN ETHICAL PSYCHOLOGY  www.ethicalpsychology.org

The Ethics Office of the American Psychological Association (APA) has announced that it will not proceed with formal charges against military psychologist Dr. John Leso, despite extensive public documentation that this APA member designed and participated in abusive interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In fact, Susan Crawford, the convening authority on military commissions at Guantanamo appointed by President George W. Bush, refused to refer the case of detainee Mohammed al Qahtani to trial because she concluded his interrogation met the legal definition of torture. Dr. Leso is known to have been a supervisor and participant in that interrogation.

Because Dr. Leso’s documented actions so clearly violated psychological ethics and because this abuse of psychological expertise was undertaken at the behest of governmental authorities, this case represents a landmark test of the independence of psychological ethics and professional standards from governmental and institutional pressures. The APA’s failure to pursue charges against Dr. Leso jeopardizes our profession’s fundamental ethical principles. In this synopsis we review (1) APA’s repeated vow to bring such cases to account; (2) the public record of clearly documented violations by Dr. Leso; (3) APA’s justifications for closing the Leso case without formal charges; and (4) our procedural and ethical assessment of the APA’s resolution of this case.

read the full statement.


Honduras Resistance

Dec. 2, 2013   Amigos,

I’ve been to Honduras, but was not able to see Chavelo. There is a new petition circulating on his behalf, so link to it rather than the one of Nov. 21. A message I put out to friends on my return following the election of Nov. 24 is pasted below, fyi, and includes the petition link.

Adrianne Aron

Dear friends,

I’m back, safe, and grateful for your being “on call” while I was in Honduras observing the elections as part of the Alliance for Global Justice/Task Force on the Americas team of about 50 volunteers. For detailed info, look for report-backs by people of our Honduras Solidarity Network, but for a quick-and-dirty summary, let me say that although I did not personally observe any serious irregularities in the election procedures, I believe the LIBRE party is correct in challenging the results. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, LIBRE candidate for president, has demanded an inspection of the tallies sent to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (the TSE), so as to compare them with the figures the TSE used to confirm a victory for the Nationalist Party. This demand for a comparison of the tallies, guaranteed by the constitution, is both appropriate and essential, for evidence of fraud at that stage of the process is very strong. (Defects were found in the tallies from nearly 3,000 polling places).

As in Haiti, where I observed the 2000 election that gave a landslide victory to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in Honduras, too, at the level of the polling place workers did their best to assure the integrity of the process. Wretchedly poor, Honduras nevertheless enjoys conditions a notch above those in Haiti. There were bathrooms in the schools that served as polling stations in Honduras; unlike in Haiti, workers did not have to be furnished with a roll of toilet paper to use in the bush. And the schools have electricity. In Haiti I had watched poll workers counting votes by candlelight.  In Honduras, 42% of the population is illiterate, yet there was little need to explain anything to the voters. Nearly everyone knew how to sign their names and did not have to put a fingerprint in lieu of a signature. At the polling place where I watched the counting of the ballots, people were glad to be voting, glad to be registering their opposition to the status quo by voting for the new anti-coup, pro-democracy LIBRE party. Xiamora Castro led in this polling place by a margin of 2 to 1. There is no question that nationally, regardless of which party ultimately takes office for president, the LIBRE party has made a formidable show of strength. It broke the stranglehold of the traditional two-party system, where the National Party (a rough equivalent of the U.S. Republicans) and the Liberals (analogous to the U.S. Democrats) have held sway for decades—both in the service of the 10 families who make up the oligarchy that runs the country.

The violence and acts of intimidation surrounding the elections had to do with efforts by the powers-that-be to prevent the LIBRE party from gaining power. Twenty of the party’s candidates for office and activists were assassinated, some on the very eve and the very morning of the election. Repression of campesinos, lawyers, teachers, journalists, human rights advocates and members of the LGBT community has been fierce, with murders, disappearances, detentions without charges or trial, and telephoned death threats from anonymous callers. In some areas of the country it was so dangerous to openly support the LIBRE party that young people who wanted to work at the polls were too scared to do so, because in order to work, party affiliation must be disclosed. International election delegations were advised by the human rights group COFADEH to avoid sending observers to those areas of great violence.  Thus, the voting stations to which we were deployed may have projected to us a picture of honesty and good intentions that was not “typical,” because these stations were already vetted as “safe.”  In spite of our relatively sheltered condition, some members of our team encountered LIBRE people who were ambushed by masked men on their way to go work at the polls in the Department of Copan, close to the Guatemalan border. The tires of their vehicle were slashed, they were taken to a hotel room and held there until two hours after the polls opened. Giving their testimony to our international observers, they were shaking, weeping, traumatized. During the interview the cell phone of one of them rang. An anonymous voice said, “You’re still in town? You better leave.” Thinking it might be helpful for these victims to talk to a psychologist, I told two honchos of the LIBRE party that I would be willing to go see them. They did not know where the people were, they had not heard of the kidnap! “There are so many cases like this, we can’t keep track of them,” they told me. One pointed to his own cell phone. “They’ve got all our numbers. I keep getting death threats over the phone.”

I did not see these victims. José Isabel Morales (“Chavelo”), a victim I saw and evaluated on my last trip to Honduras, two years ago, is still in prison on false charges. After much international pressure the court ordered his release, but he has not been released. If you want to do a good deed for one innocent victim of the repression in Honduras, sign this new petition that is being circulated, and pass it on to your friends to sign: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/341/189/267/freedom-for-chavelo-now-libertad-para-chavelo-ahora/

I’m relieved to be home in one piece, and thank you MUCHO, MUCHO for your moral support during this difficult time.

In solidarity, with lots of abrazos,



Hi Friends,

There is a new petition circulating, in defense of Chavelo Morales, a political prisoner I saw 2 years ago on a trip to Honduras, and who I hope to see again when I return in November as an observer of the national elections. Please sign the petition to the Supreme Court, the President, the Secretary of the Penal Dept:


Like many, many others, this man was falsely accused, then thrown in prison, then, finally, 4 years later, tried, convicted, and sentenced, all without due process. Other prisoners, in the pay of big landowners, made threats against his life every single day. If I do get to see him, I will report back to you on his psychological condition, which 2 years ago was serious and deteriorating. Since then he has been moved to a different jail (after much international pressure) so I hope he is doing better.

There is concern for the safety of the international election observers. Two European human rights workers were detained and threatened last month–a warning. Sixteen candidates running on the LIBRE ticket have been assassinated. Hopefully, we’ll be okay. But just in case, I will contact you if I can, asking that you try to mobilize support to get me or others released, if they are holding us.

Thanks, warm regards. Adelante!

Adrianne Aron



24 Years

It was 24 years ago today, 16 November, 1989, that members of the Atlacatl battalion of the Salvadorian army entered the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador and murdered 8 people.

Commemorative placards at the UCA (from http://aquiescribo.wordpress.com)

They were Elba Ramos and her 16 year old daughter Celina Ramos, and 6 Jesuit academics, among them Ignacio Martín-Baró, the inspirational figure for Liberation Psychology.

We don’t dwell in the past, and thankfully El Salvador today has one of the better governments in Latin America, the FMLN, although the extreme right remains a powerful force, a threat limiting the pace of reform.  However, it is important to remember those events, and to recognise that standing firm against oppression can have consequences.

Ignacio Martín-Baró has not been the only psychologist to have been killed as a consequence of his work and commitment.  We fear that some young psychologists in Mexico met a similar fate last year.  In Haiti, the community worker and human rights activist, also a psychologist, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was disappeared in August 2007.  And there have been others.  Elsewhere socially committed psychological workers are being sacked or otherwise marginalised as universities and other bodies strive to meet the requirements of the dominant system of value extraction and commercialisation.

In one more year it will be a quarter of a century since Martín-Baró’s death.  What a fitting memorial it would be if in 12 months time we can show that the tide can be turned: that psychology can be a force for liberation, helping to construct new, liberatory social relations and a better world where people live in harmony with one another and the natural world.

Mark Burton


Dussel’s Ethics of Liberation is out in English

cover:  Ethics of LiberationLong awaited, Philosopher of Liberation, Enrique Dussel’s key work, Ethics of Liberation is now available for the first time in English.  First published in Spanish in 1998, this text is a remarkable tour de force, integrating a number of philosophical perspectives on ethics from diverse traditions, all within an overall paradigm of ‘transmodernity’ – the idea and practice of going beyond the modern, Eurocentric model of thought and action and without discarding the ‘good bits’ correcting it with a critique from below, from the excluded, the oppressed, the marginalised of the world system.In this he gives us the philosophical underpinnings for the psychology of liberation – an approach consistent with Martín-Baró’s critical reconstruction of the discipline from the standpoint of the oppressed majority.

The contents, foreword and preface can be read here: http://enriquedussel.com/images/Etica_in.JPG
The publisher’s page for the book is here: http://www.dukeupress.edu/Ethics-of-Liberation/
(please don’t buy it from Amazon – the company avoids paying tax and uses zero hours contracts for its workers).

And by way of introduction, you can read some of my own articles that engage simultaneously with the psychology of liberation and Dussel’s approach here:

The analectic turn: critical psychology and the new political context

Introducing Dussel: the Philosophy of Liberation and a really social psychology. (with JM Flores Osorio)


A year later, no progress in the Mexican disappearances | ¡NO MAS VICTIMAS!

A year later, no progress in investigating the disappearance of three youths in Paracho | ¡NO MAS VICTIMAS! (NO MORE VICTIMS!.

Sadly just over a year after the disappearance of three young professionals, tow of them psychologists, in Paracho, Michoacán, Mexico, thre is still no word of what happened to them.  The above link is to the website that covers their disappearance and the inaction, or likely complicity of the local authorities.  It’s a reminder that in some places those committed to a better world do run significant risks.

If you haven’t signed the petition (link from the site) then please do as it is one way of reminding the families they are not alone and the authorities that we are watching them.



APA Fiddles While Psychology Burns | Psychology Today

Hawaiian Mind Games: APA Fiddles While Psychology Burns | Psychology Today.

Here is an article by Eidelson and Soldz about the American (sic) Psychological Association’s continued collusion in abusive practices at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp in an occupied corner of Cuba.  Ironically enough the Polynesian Hawaiian islands were colonised by the USA in the 19th Century.  Here is a section of this excellent article:-

“As has been reported many times over the past decade, psychologists designed, implemented, supervised, researched, and provided ethical cover for abuses committed by the CIA and U.S. military. As a result, the APA has faced repeated calls to take action to prevent future abuses by members of the profession. But rather than engaging in a careful evaluation and reconsideration of the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in national security settings, the Association’s leaders have instead responded, over and over again, with little more than empty talk and feeble resolutions devoid of any real significance. And true to form, last week the APA successfully enacted one of the most vacuous of these recurring exercises.”
read more:  web version or  pdf version


Hearing Voices* newsletter

Mary Watkins writes:
This newsletter is entitled “Hearing Voices.*”. We intend this in two senses: in our
commitment to hear the multiple voices of psyche, communities, and earth –
particularly those that are marginalized; and in raising our own voices that are
informed by what we have closely listened to and witnessed in the world and in
ourselves for social justice, peace and sustainability.
The newsletter contains a variety of work from the Liberation Psychology inspired programme at Pacifica Graduate Institute, USA.
Read the newsletter (3.9 MB, .pdf)

* not to be confused with the Hearing Voices network MB


Petition to convict Rios Montt

See the previous post for detail and relevance of this case in Guatemala for Liberation Psychology.  As of 28 May there is still no resolution although it appears that the allegation made by Rios Montt’s lawyer was unfounded.
There is a petition to the Guatemalan Constitutional Court here.  As of the time of writing there have been 21,451 signatures of a target of 22,000.  Please consider adding your voice too HERE.