Tuesday, December 16, 2014

WNU #1246: UN “Peacekeepers” Fire on Haitian Protesters

Issue #1246, December 14, 2014

1. Haiti: UN “Peacekeepers” Fire on Protesters
2. Mexico: Official Ayotzinapa Story Questioned
3. Latin America: OAS Group Calls for CIA Torture Probe
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration, US/policy

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Haiti: UN “Peacekeepers” Fire on Protesters
At least two Haitian protesters were wounded by gunfire and another was apparently shot dead during two days of opposition demonstrations in Port-au-Prince on Dec. 12 and 13; there were also protests in the northern cities of Cap-Haïtien and Gonaïves. The demonstrations, which drew thousands of participants, came as the government of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) was taking steps aimed at defusing a political crisis that has been building for several months [see Update #1244].

The Dec. 12 demonstration started with a gathering at the ruins of the Saint-Jean Bosco Catholic church; protesters then marched through a number of working-class neighborhoods and approached the site of the National Palace, which was destroyed by a January 2010 earthquake, in the central Champ de Mars park. At this point security forces, including at least one contingent from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), dispersed the marchers with tear gas grenades and gunfire. Spokespeople for the international group said its members only used tear gas and fired in the air, but a video seems to show at least two men from MINUSTAH taking aim and shooting at eye level; one wears a blue cap and fires a pistol, while the other wears a blue helmet and fires a rifle.

It is unclear from the video whether the men were using live ammunition. Two people were reportedly wounded by gunfire and taken to the hospital during the Dec. 12 march, but who shot them wasn’t reported. This was said to be the first time in several months that MINUSTAH, a joint police-military operation led by Brazilian officers, intervened in an anti-government demonstration. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/13/14, 12/15/14; VICE 12/13/14)

Protesters accused Haitian police of shooting a man dead the next day at the Dec. 13 protest; the victim “had a visible bullet wound in his chest,” according to the Miami Herald. “[N]o one died in today’s protests,” police spokesperson Gary Desrosiers claimed. He suggested that somebody “put the body there.” (MH 12/14/14 from correspondent)

The protests followed several days in which President Martelly made apparent concessions to government critics. On Dec. 9 an 11-member “consultative commission” that Martelly named on Nov. 28 presented its recommendations for a sweeping series of resignations, which the commission called “patriotic sacrifices.” The officials asked to resign included Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe; Arnel Alexis Joseph, the controversial president of the Superior Council of the Judicial Branch (CSPJ); and the entire Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which has failed to organize legislative elections scheduled for 2011. The commission’s report also called for the immediate release of “a number of people” who have been arbitrarily detained and “classed as ‘political prisoners.’” The report laid out a timetable for reforms and agreements intended to clear the way for elections next year and head off a constitutional crisis likely to occur when the terms of one-third of the country’s senators expire on Jan. 12.

Martelly announced his acceptance of the report in a radio address the evening of Dec. 12, and Prime Minister Lamothe taped a resignation speech the evening of Dec. 13, although it wasn’t broadcast until early the next morning. The government also seemed to be moving on at least some of the cases of arbitrary detention. Rony Timothée amd Byron Odigé, two opposition leaders in prison since Oct. 26 [see Update #1243], were released on Dec. 11, in time to participate in the Dec. 12 protest. Police agent Jean Matulnès Lamy, who had been imprisoned since Feb. 21, was freed on Dec. 12; he was arrested after leading other local residents in protests against a tourism project on Ile-à-Vache, a small island southeast of Les Cayes in South department [see Update #1211].

It was far from certain that these moves would satisfy the protesters who have been demanding Martelly’s resignation. At the Dec. 12 demonstration human rights attorney André Michel said democratic forces needed to continue to push for the liberation of more prisoners, including Louima Louis Juste, Jean-Robert Vincent and the brothers Enold and Josué Florestal [see Update #1232]. (AlterPresse 12/12/14, 12/12/14; MH 12/14/14 from correspondent)

*2. Mexico: Official Ayotzinapa Story Questioned
On Dec. 13 the left-leaning Mexican news magazine Proceso published an investigative report challenging the government’s account of the abduction of 43 students and the killing of three students and three bystanders the night of Sept. 26-27 in Iguala de la Independencia in the southwestern state of Guerrero [see Update #1245]. Based on cell phone videos, interviews, testimony by witnesses and leaked official documents, the report’s authors, Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, claim that agents of the Federal Police (PF) were involved in the attack on the students, that the Mexican army was at least complicit, and that the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto has been covering up the role of federal forces.

The official version is that responsibility for violence against the students, who attended the traditionally leftist Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa, lies entirely with Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez, municipal police in the Iguala area and a local drug gang. But a leaked document shows that federal and state police were regularly informed on the students’ movements from the time they left Ayotzinapa for Iguala the evening of Sept. 26 through the time of the attack, according to the Proceso report. Federal forces could have intervened to stop the violence; instead, they may have participated in it. Some of the students reported seeing federal agents during the attack; other students said the police assaulting them had equipment, including a machine gun, not issued to municipal police departments in Mexico.

Guerrero state prosecutors clearly suspected federal involvement. On Sept. 28 they ordered the PF to provide records on the activities of federal agents in the area for the Sept. 24-28 period; the PF didn’t comply. Under political pressure, the state government dropped out of the case on Oct. 4, leaving the investigation entirely in the control of the federal government.

The reporters also questioned the official claim that the Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) gang was involved, since the only evidence for this seems to come from confessions by gang members who had evidently been tortured by the authorities. The government asserts that the abducted students were transferred to members of the gang at a specific Iguala police station. According to the Proceso report, the activity would have been visible to anyone in the area, but neighbors said they saw and heard nothing unusual that night.

Hernández and Fisher charge that the motive for the attack was political: “The attack on and disappearance of the students was directed specifically at the ideological structure and administration of the college.” They note that the students were all members of the college’s Student Struggle Committee and 10 were “political activists in training” with the Political and Ideological Orientation Committee (COPI).

Hernández is an award-winning Mexican journalist and the author of a bestselling book on official corruption and the drug trade; the book was published in English as Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers. Fisher is a US reporter and filmmaker. The research was supported by the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of Berkeley, California. (El Diario de Coahuila 12/14/14 from Proceso; Fusion 12/14/14)

Just as the new issue of Proceso was hitting the newsstands in the early morning of Dec. 14, a confrontation between federal police agents and students and their supporters left 22 people injured in Chilpancingo, the Guerrero state capital. According to a local human rights attorney, Vidulfo Rosales Sierra, some 15 to 20 Ayotzinapa students were setting up for a rock concert they were to hold that morning in the north of the city as part of activities protesting the Sept. 26-27 attacks. At around 5 am a group of federal agents, apparently drunk or on drugs, arrived and attacked the students with fists and rocks, Rosales Sierra said.

Parents, teachers and students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) also became involved in the confrontation, and later some 250 members of the militant State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG) joined in; they have been holding a sit-in at Chilpancingo’s main plaza since Oct. 8. The CETEG members reportedly set three police vans on fire, along with four other vehicles, and detained three federal agents, taking them to Ayotzinapa in nearby Tixtla municipality and then transferring them to the municipal prison. The injured included eight federal agents and two reporters; the rest were students, teachers and parents. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/15/14)

*3. Latin America: OAS Group Calls for CIA Torture Probe
The human rights agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) has joined other international rights groups in calling for the US government to act on a report that the US Senate Intelligence Committee released on Dec. 9 about the use of torture by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). According to its Dec. 12 press release, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) called for the US “carry out a full investigation in order to clarify the facts, and prosecute and punish all persons within its jurisdiction responsible for acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and to provide integral reparations to the victims, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and measures of non-repetition, pursuant to international standards.” The commission added that “the lack of punishment encourages practices that erode respect for integrity and human dignity.”

Critics of the IACHR have questioned the group’s ability or willingness to enforce its call. During his weekly radio show on Dec. 13, center-left Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa dismissed the IACHR statement as a “fake.” “You’ll see that absolutely nothing will happen,” he said, attributing his doubts to the fact that the US finances the Washington, DC-based commission and many of its members “come and go to and from gringo foundations.” The IACHR’s own press release noted that since early in 2002 the commission has repeatedly “called for the reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees at the [US-operated] Guantánamo detention facility to be investigated, and for the facility to be closed.” These calls seem to have had no effect on the US government. (IACHR press release 12/12/14; El Tiempo (Ecuador) 12/13/14 from EFE)

Some US commentators have emphasized that there is nothing new for Latin Americans in the evidence that US agencies employ torture: the region has had decades of experience with torture advocated by US agents.

In 1988 a Honduran Army officer told the New York Times’ James LeMoyne about his training by the CIA and the US Army: “They taught us psychological methods--to study the fears and weaknesses of a prisoner. Make him stand up, don't let him sleep, keep him naked and [in] isolation, put rats and cockroaches in his cell, give him bad food, serve him dead animals, throw cold water on him, change the temperature.” In September 1996 the US Defense Department released documents showing that from 1982 to 1991 the US Army School of the Americas (SOA, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC) trained Latin American military officers with US Army intelligence manuals advocating the blackmail, torture and murder of insurgents [see Update #347]. Four months later, in January 1997, the Baltimore Sun reported that CIA manuals on the use of torture and other forms of coercion were employed in training Latin American military personnel in the 1980s [see Update #369]. The DC-based National Security Archive provides links to these CIA training manuals at http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB122/index.htm.

“[A] direct line runs between what happened in Central America [in the 1980s] and US torture methods during the George W. Bush administration,” according to Bloomberg News’ James Gibney, who points to an unnamed CIA officer mentioned in the Intelligence Committee report. In Central America this officer provided training and “conducted interrogations” for an unidentified group, which according to Newsweek “was almost certainly the Nicaraguan contras,” a rightwing rebel group fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government of the 1980s. “The CIA inspector general later recommended that [the officer] be orally admonished for inappropriate use of interrogation techniques,” the Senate report says. In the fall of 2002, this same officer “became the CIA’s chief of interrogations in the CIA’s Renditions Group, the officer in charge of CIA interrogations.” (Newsweek 12/10/14; Bloomberg News 12/12/14)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration, US/policy

The Torture Report: Latin America’s Lessons for the United States

UNESCO Preserves Uruguay Prison Diary

The Police and the Massacre of Afro-Brazilian Youth

Brazil: truth commission report on military rule

Peru-Brazil Indigenous People Pledge to Fight Amazon Oil Exploration

Developmentalism and Social Movements in Bolivia

Without Respect for Indigenous Rights, There Will be No Solution to Climate Change Report from Lima (Peru)

People's Summit in Lima Envisions Bottom-Up Movement for Global Climate Justice (Peru)

Lima climate summit in shadow of state terror

Kicked Out By Coal (Colombia)

U.S. Congress Passes Venezuela Sanctions, Obama Expected to Sign

The Situation of Human Rights and Democracy in Honduras Since the Elections of November 2013

Indigenous Guatemalans Create Political Platform for 2015 Elections

Ayotzinapa, emblem of the Twenty-First Century social order (Mexico)

Protests Erupt Linking Police Impunity in Ferguson to Ayotzinapa (Mexico)

Mexico’s Epidemic of Violence Against Women

Why USAID Could Never Spark a Hip Hop Revolution in Cuba

Presidential Commission Recommends Removing Prime Minister as Pressure Mounts to Resolve Electoral Crisis (Haiti)

Haiti Rape Accountability and Prevention Project, 16 Days of Activism

Border Farmworkers Still Lack Health Care (US/immigration)

Immigration Enforcement: Anti-Labor Tool (US/immigration)

Latin America: NYPD chief wants to teach the world’s police (US/policy)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Monday, December 8, 2014

WNU #1245: One Ayotzinapa Student Confirmed Dead

Issue #1245, December 7, 2014

1. Mexico: One of Missing Students Confirmed Dead
2. Mexico: Protests Link Ayotzinapa, Ferguson, Garner
3. Costa Rica: State to Compensate Nemagon Victims
4. Chile: Four Women File Sexual Torture Complaint
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Mexico: One of Missing Students Confirmed Dead
The remains of one of 43 students abducted the night of Sept. 26-27 in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero have been identified by DNA tests, parents of the missing students said on Dec. 6. Technicians in Innsbruck, Austria, established that one of 14 bone fragments sent them by the Mexican government came from the body of Alexander Mora Venancio, a 19-year-old student at the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa; gang members and municipal police had detained him along with 42 other Ayotzinapa students in Iguala de la Independencia during attacks which also left three students and three bystanders dead. The bone fragments were found in a dump near Iguala in Cocula municipality after three members of the Guerrero Unidos (“United Warriors”) gang told federal authorities they had helped burn and dispose of the bodies of the missing students there [see Update #1241].

The students’ parents acknowledged the identification of Mora Venancio after talking with a group of independent forensics experts from Argentina; the parents say they don’t trust information from the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto. A notice was posted in the victim’s name on the college’s Facebook page. “Compañeros,” it read, “to all those who have supported us, I am Alexander Mora Venancio…one of the 43 who fell on Sept. 26 at the hands of the narco-government…. I feel proud of you, who have lifted up my voice, courage and freedom-loving spirit. Don’t leave my father alone with his sorrow; for him I mean practically everything—hope, pride, his efforts, his work and his dignity…. I invite you to redouble your struggle. Let my death not be in vain. Make the best decision, but don’t forget me. Rectify if it’s possible, but don’t forgive. This is my message.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/7/14)

The DNA identification seems unlikely to end the widespread anti-government protests that have dominated the two months since the Iguala attacks [see Update #1244]. On Dec. 2 the federal Chamber of Deputies voted 292-100 to pass a measure that would amend the Constitution’s Articles 11 and 73 so that the authorities could limit a demonstration if they judge that it violates citizens’ “right of mobility.” The Chamber’s committee on constitutional matters had returned the measure to the full body for voting on Apr. 23, but the deputies didn’t take action until the current crisis. The center-right National Action Party (PAN) proposed the measure, and deputies from President Peña Nieto’s centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and a small PRI satellite party, the Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), joined them to approve it. The small leftist Labor Party (PT) and two center-left parties, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens’ Movement, opposed the bill, although PRD and Citizens’ Movement deputies on the constitutional committee had backed it in April. The PRD has lost popular support--and even party founder Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano--over the Iguala violence; former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez, accused of ordering the attacks, is a PRD politician.

Rights activists promptly denounced the anti-protest measure. “We are concerned that amid the human rights crisis that the country is going through, the response of the Mexican state is send a message to inhibit social protests,” Carlos Ventura, of the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Center, told a press conference in Mexico City on Dec. 3. The measure was received in the Senate on Dec. 4, but it was unclear how soon the senators would schedule a vote. (LJ 12/3/14, 12/5/14; TeleSUR English 12/4/14)

Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that at least some of the violence by alleged anarchists at Ayotzinapa protests has involved agents provocateurs. On Dec. 3 the online Mexican publication Animal Político posted two videos showing officials or police agents from the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), which has been governed by the PRD since 1997, in civilian dress among the protesters at a Dec. 1 march along the city’s Reforma avenue. In one of the videos, a man later identified as an official in a city agency is seen throwing a metal tube during a confrontation at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest. Two police agents seize the official and begin beating him, but other agents say: “Wait, he’s a compañero.” Agents then lead the official away and release him. (VICE 12/3/14)

*2. Mexico: Protests Link Ayotzinapa, Ferguson, Garner
Hundreds of Mexican immigrants and other activists held actions in at least 47 US towns and cities on Dec. 3 to protest the abduction of 43 teachers’ college students by police and gang members in Mexico’s Guerrero state in September; each of the 43 students had one of the actions dedicated to him. The protests were organized by UStired2, a group taking its name from #YaMeCansé (“I’m tired now,” or “I’ve had it”), a Mexican hashtag used in response to the violence against the students, who attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. The protesters focused on US government financing for the Mexican government--especially funding for the “war on drugs” through the 2008 Mérida Initiative [see Update #952]--but they also expressed outrage over the US court system’s failure to indict US police agents in two recent police killings of unarmed African Americans.

The protest “is a community effort by Mexicans living in the US [to show] that we don’t want our tax money to finance the Mexican government, which is corrupt,” Karla de Anda, one of the organizers of the protest in Miami, told the Associated Press wire service. “They’re giving [Mexican authorities] money for arms,” US writer and activist Roberto Lovato said at a New York vigil. “They’re giving armament for disappearing people, for creating mass graves.” Signs at the various protests called for an end to “Plan Mexico,” comparing the Mérida Initiative to the bloody US-funded Plan Colombia of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The US has given Mexico $1.2 billion under the initiative, according to Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

The Mexican actions were planned just as many people in the US were protesting a grand jury’s decision on Nov. 24 not to indict a white Ferguson, Missouri police agent, Darren Wilson, for the August shooting death of an unarmed African-American youth, Michael Brown. On Dec. 3, as many of the Ayotzinapa actions were starting, a grand jury announced its decision not to indict white New York City police agent Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold-induced death in July of an unarmed African-American street vendor, Eric Garner. Mexican protesters highlighted the parallels with the Mexican killings, which St. Louis University student Ale Vázquez Rubio called “too obvious to ignore.” “The connection is having a government that doesn’t value brown and black bodies,” she said at a protest in St. Louis; Ferguson is a suburb of the city. “The connection is also in the silencing of a lot of voices.” “Our governments are working together to oppress us, so why shouldn’t we be working together?” another St. Louis protester asked. “United we stand” and “Somos unidos,” the participants chanted, alternating English and Spanish.

In New York, UStired2 was holding its scheduled vigil in Times Square in the evening when thousands of people marched to the site in a spontaneous protest of the Garner decision. The Mexican protesters joined in with the chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” a reference to the Brown shooting. “Do you hear that?” Lovato asked a reporter. “It’s like an echo.” Lovato noted that USTired2 put together a conference call between the mothers of the missing students and parents of children in Ferguson the evening before. “The most moving moment was when the indigenous mothers who were looking for their sons who [have] been disappeared by the Mexican police were speaking to African-American mothers about what is happening in Ferguson. They were both saying ‘I know what you feel, I know what this is like.’” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/3/14; Univision 12/4/14; Fox News Latino 12/4/14; Voices of NY 12/4/14)

*3. Costa Rica: State to Compensate Nemagon Victims
A decree by Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís authorizing payments to former banana workers sickened by the pesticide Nemagon became official on Dec. 1 with the measure’s publication in the government’s gazette. Under the decree the government’s National Insurance Institute (INS) will pay out from 25% to 100% of the medical bills for workers who suffered physical or psychological damage from Nemagon, with the percentage based on their years of exposure to the pesticide. The decree currently covers 13,925 former banana workers; cases are pending for 9,233 of the workers’ children and 1,742 of the workers’ spouses. More than 11,000 other applications were dismissed.

Nemagon is a brand name for dibromochloropropane (DBCP), a chemical known to cause sterility, cancer, miscarriages, genetic deformities and other health problems. It was formerly in wide use in Central American banana fields; it was applied in Costa Rica from 1967 until the government banned the chemical’s importation in 1979. Affected Central American banana workers have been demanding compensation for decades. Costa Rica passed a compensation law in September 2001 but without setting up a mechanism for paying the workers. Some 780 Costa Ricans already won a separate settlement in 2011 from California-based fruit and vegetable producer Dole Food Company, Inc., which began making payments in September 2012 [see Update #1144]. The agreement with Dole also covered 3,157 Nicaraguans and 1,000 Hondurans. (La Nación (Costa Rica) 12/2/14; Tico Times 12/3/14)

*4. Chile: Four Women File Sexual Torture Complaint
On Dec. 1 Nieves Ayress Moreno, a Chilean-born naturalized US citizen, formally joined a criminal complaint filed earlier by three other Chilean women over sexual political violence that they say they suffered under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Chilean law doesn’t treat sexual violence as a separate complaint; instead, the crimes are considered “illegitimate pressure,” allowing some of the perpetrators to escape justice. The complaint seeks to have the crimes “incorporated into the penal code and those responsible for them to be able to be punished,” according to another of the plaintiffs, Alejandra Holzapfel. Ayress Moreno, who lives in New York, delayed joining Holzapfel and the remaining two plaintiffs, Soledad Castillo and Nora Brito, in the complaint until she could travel to Chile.

After meeting with Santiago Appeals Court president Mario Carroza on Dec. 1, Ayress described some of her experiences to reporters at a press conference. She was abducted by security forces along with her father and 15-year-old brother in the fall of 1973, she said, and was subjected to electric shocks and sexual violence in the Londres 38 torture center of the now-defunct National Intelligence Directorate (DINA). “Later they brought my father so that he could hear the tortures,” she said, adding that the torturers included Argentines, Brazilians and Paraguayans. “Afterwards they transferred me to Tejas Verdes [a concentration camp], always bound and hooded. The most terrible part was there, because the torture school was there, and the forms of aggressions and sexual violence I was exposed to are unspeakable.” At one point, she said, she witnessed DINA director Manuel Contreras personally directing her torture.

Court president Carroza told the website for the memorial park at Villa Grimaldi, another DINA torture center, that while technically the complaint would have to be treated under Chilean laws in effect at the time of the alleged abuses, Chile had signed on to international human rights conventions that might apply to the cases. “As the judicial power, we need to look at this situation, analyze it and confront it in the shortest possible time,” he said. “We’ve already been condemned in the past by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [CorteIDH], precisely for not carrying out this type of investigation in depth.” (Fox News Latino 12/1/14; Rebelión 12/1/14)

Nieves Ayress is well known in New York as an activist for immigrants and for human rights. Her husband, Víctor Toro, was a founder of Chile’s Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR); he too was tortured by the Pinochet regime. In 2007 the US government started a seven-year effort to deport Toro as an undocumented immigrant, but on Oct. 23 of this year a US immigration court granted him a work permit and permission to remain in the country, while denying his request for political asylum. (TeleSUR English 10/24/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico

The Water Grab That Powers Predatory Development (Latin America)

Shale Oil Fuels Indigenous Conflict in Argentina

Six Guantanamo Detainees Leave for Uruguay

Lessons from Bolivia: re-nationalising the hydrocarbon industry

Bolivian women fight back against climate of violence

“Indigenous Peoples Are the Owners of the Land” Say Activists at COP20 in Peru

Andes: repression ahead of Lima climate summit

Ecuador indigenous leader found dead days before planned Lima protest

Colombia: peace talks resume; Uribe urges 'rebellion'

Colombian general captured by FARC resigns

Pemon Indigenous Occupy Airport in Venezuela: “We Have Had Enough of Broken Promises”

Community Democracy Confronts Mining in El Salvador

Palm Oil and Extreme Violence in Honduras: The Inexorable Rise and Dubious Reform of Grupo Dinant

In Oaxaca, Caravan of Central American Mothers Calls for Unity of Movements

Central American Mothers Build Bridges of Hope

Mexican Immigration Authorities Impede Humanitarian Aid to Central American Migrants

Mexico’s Civic Insurgency

Students March for Ayotzinapa and for Their Future (Mexico)

Ayotzinapa: I read and I share (Mexico)

The Spectre of Ayotzinapa Haunts the Continent (Mexico)

Wixarika Leaders to First Majestic Silver: Follow IMD Mining Ltd Example, Abandon Mining Project in Sacred Lands (Mexico)

Mexico: In the Land of Zapata, a Community Fights Natural Gas Development

The Rebirth of an Urban “Dead Zone”? (Mexico)

We Can Pretend Mexico’s War Isn’t ‘Made in the U.S.A.’, But the Numbers Don’t Lie

How Canada and Mexico Have Become Part of the U.S. Policing Regime

In Memoriam Juan Flores 1943-2014 (Puerto Rico)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

WNU #1244: US Embassy Staff Beat Injured Colombian Workers

Issue #1244, November 30, 2014

1. Colombia: US Embassy Staff Beat GM Protesters
2. Haiti: Martelly Pledges to Resolve Electoral Crisis
3. Mexico: Peña Pledges to Resolve Ayotzinapa Crisis
4. Mexico: Two Defenders of Migrants Are Murdered
5. Central America: Refugee “Crisis” Plan Gets a Debut
6. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/policy

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Colombia: US Embassy Staff Beat GM Protesters
Colombian national police and several employees of the US embassy in Bogota kicked and beat injured former employees of GM Colmotores, the Colombian subsidiary of the Detroit-based General Motors Company (GM), during a protest in front of the embassy on Nov. 18, according to the workers and to a report by a local television station, Canal Capital. Members of the Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of Colmotores (Asotrecol) have been encamped outside the embassy since August 2011 as part of a campaign to get GM to reinstate them and compensate them for the injuries they received while working at the plant [see Update #1193]. The attack came on a day when the workers’ supporters in the US filed a complaint with the US Justice Department and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charging GM with bribing Colombian officials in violation of a US law, the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Some Asotrecol members decided to step up their protest on Nov. 18 by chaining themselves to a post outside the embassy. Although the nonviolent action didn’t block access to the building, US embassy employees in suits joined Colombian police in cutting the chains and then apparently beating and kicking three of the protesting workers. Asotrecol president José Parra was arrested, although the authorities released him the next day. The workers’ supporters are urging US-based activists to contact the embassy (011-57-1-275-2000, ACSBogota@state.gov) and request the release of the names of the embassy personnel who participated in the attack. (The Real News 11/23/14; Asotrecol supporter’s email 11/24/14)

*2. Haiti: Martelly Pledges to Resolve Electoral Crisis
Haitian president Michel Martelly announced on Nov. 28 that he was setting up an 11-member commission to make recommendations within eight days on how to break a deadlock holding up long-overdue partial legislative elections. Haiti hasn’t had any elections since March 2011 runoffs from the 2010 elections. Elections were scheduled in 2012 for 10 of the country’s 30 senators but have been postponed for two years because Martelly’s government wants changes to Haiti’s electoral laws and six opposition parties refuse to accept the amendments. The terms for the 10 senators expire on Jan. 12; in the absence of elections, President Martelly could say the Senate lacked a quorum and could try to rule by decree. This in turn would set off a constitutional crisis, since the current 10 senators announced Nov. 17 that they would refuse to step down in January if no elections were held.

Meanwhile, opposition groups continue to hold militant demonstrations demanding Martelly’s resignation [see Update #1243]. Some 20 Haitian humans rights organizations, including the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), issued a joint call on Nov. 27 for “citizen responsibility” to avoid a worsening crisis; the groups also called on the government not to carry out “political acts,” such as arbitrary arrests of opponents, which could hamper the exercise of democratic rights.

“The country is divided,” Martelly admitted in his brief Nov. 28 announcement, carried live on radio. “The problems are many. The problems are complicated.” Miami Herald correspondent Jacqueline Charles reported that the president’s voice “sound[ed] devoid of the fight and energy that have become a hallmark in his ongoing battle with the country’s opposition over delayed local and legislative elections and his own fate.” The commission he announced is to review the results of consultations that Martelly held with various groups from Sept. 22 to Nov. 24. It will include Gérard Gourgue, an 89-year-old jurist who was justice minister in two provisional civilian-military governments after the overthrow of the Duvalier family dictatorship in February 1986; three religious leaders; three former elected officials; business owner Réginald Boulos; a peasant leader, Charles Suffrard, once close to former president René Préval (1996-2001, 2006-2011); and Paul Loulou Chéry, who heads the Confederation of Haitian Workers (CTH). The only woman in the commission is educator Odette Roy Fombrun. (AlterPresse 11/28/14, 11/28/14; MH 11/28/14)

*3. Mexico: Peña Pledges to Resolve Ayotzinapa Crisis
In a Nov. 27 address Mexican president Peña Nieto announced that he was sending the Congress a series of proposed constitutional amendments he said were intended to resolve a crisis brought on by the killing of six people and the abduction of 43 students the night of Sept. 26-27 in the southwestern state of Guerrero [see Update #1243]. According to federal prosecutors, corruption in the municipal government and police in the city of Iguala de la Independencia were behind the violence; the police and the mayor, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, were reportedly linked to the local drug gang Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”). Peña Nieto’s amendments would end the independence of the police in Mexican municipalities and bring them under the control of state police departments. The president also proposed strengthening laws for the protection of victims. In his presentation Peña Nieto tried to associate himself with popular demands for the return of the 43 missing students by using a slogan repeated throughout the many national and international protests since the attacks: “We are all Ayotzinapa.” The missing students and three of the six people known dead attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. (La Jornada 11/28/14, 11/28/14)

Peña Nieto’s government sent mixed signals about its sympathy for the protesters, however. On Nov. 29 the authorities released 11 detainees who had faced serious federal charges stemming from a Nov. 20 protest in Mexico City; federal judge Juan Carlos Ramírez had ordered the release due to lack of evidence. The detainees’ relatives held a press conference on Nov. 29 at the capital’s Bellas Artes cultural center to insist that the arrests had been arbitrary and to call for the resignation of federal attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam, who they said had promised to step down if the cases didn’t come to trial. (LJ 11/30/14)

Protesters said government harassment was continuing. Sandino Bucio Doval, a student activist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), reported that plainclothes federal police agents apprehended him on the university’s campus in the capital’s Coyoacán section the afternoon of Nov. 28, forcing him into their vehicle and then driving him around the city for several hours. At a press conference on the campus the next day, Bucio Doval charged that the agents beat him, questioned him on his role in the student movement, and threatened to rape him and to damage his family. They then cleaned him up, the student said, and took him to federal prosecutors, claiming they’d seen him put a bomb in his backpack. He was released six hours after his arrest. In Bucio Doval’s opinion the incident was intended to intimidate him and other student activists. (LJ 11/30/14)

The center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) continued to suffer fallout from the violence in Iguala; Mayor Abarca was a party member. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, a three-time presidential candidate for center-left coalitions and one of the PRD’s founders in 1989, resigned “in an irrevocable manner” on Nov. 25, a few hours after a meeting with PRD president Carlos Navarrete. In his resignation letter Cárdenas said he didn’t want to “run the risk of sharing responsibility for decisions taken through myopia, opportunism or self-complacency.” (LJ 11/26/14)

*4. Mexico: Two Defenders of Migrants Are Murdered
Two volunteers who regularly helped feed Central American migrants passing through Mexico were shot dead on Nov. 23 while talking in their car near the house where they lived in Huehuetoca in México state, according to human rights defenders speaking at a Nov. 26 press conference. The victims were identified as Adrián, a local resident who described himself as a transvestite, and Wilson, a Honduran migrant who was granted a humanitarian visa by the government in November after he had testified about criminal activities for the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Special Investigations on Organized Crime (Seido). Human rights defenders asked the media not to use the volunteers’ last names in order to protect their families.

Last February the two volunteers stopped an attempt to kidnap migrants, holding one of the suspects while waiting for the police to arrive. They received death threats after that incident; they were promised police protection but reportedly never got it. Adrián and Wilson cut back their volunteer work for a while but resumed it recently. The Nov. 26 press conference included Jorge Andrade and Andrea González from the Colectivo Ustedes Somos Nosotros (the “You Are Us Collective”); Fray Tomás González, the director of La 72: Refuge-Home for Migrant Persons in Tenosique; and Luis Tapia Olivares from the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (PRODH). The authorities have long known about the criminal gangs operating in the region but did nothing, Andrea González told reporters. “We can no longer permit this type of violence and impunity to permeate our society.” (El Universal (Mexico) 11/26/14; NPR 11/26/14 from correspondent; El Economista (Mexico) 11/27/14)

Mexican authorities regularly allow gangs to prey on Central American migrants as they head north in an attempt to reach the US, Mexican human rights defenders say—sometimes from incompetence or laziness, and sometimes as a result of active collusion with criminal elements. The left-leaning daily La Jornada cited a recent example. Edwin Alexander Medina Rosales, who identified himself as a Honduran, was arrested with two other men on Jan. 12 in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, as they were extorting Central American migrants traveling north on freight trains. But ten months later, on Nov. 24, he was again robbing migrants, this time in Atitalaquia, Hidalgo.

As of Nov. 27 Medina Rosales had been imprisoned in Hidalgo, but according to La Jornada reporter Blanche Petrich his capture happened by chance: extra Atitalaquia municipal police were on duty in anticipation of the arrival of the Caravan of Central American Mothers, a group of women seeking sons and daughters who disappeared while trying to go from Central America to the US. Although the police intervened to detain Medina Rosales and an accomplice, there was a 16-hour delay in processing the suspects, during which the migrant victims were held and threatened with deportation. “For now the predators of the railroad lines are in an Hidalgo prison,” Petrich concluded. “It remains to be seen whether later on they walk free and go back into action.” (LJ 11/27/14)

*5. Central America: Refugee “Crisis” Plan Gets a Debut
The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) hosted a special event on Nov. 14 in Washington, DC to present a plan that El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras—Central America’s “Northern Triangle”—are proposing as a response to the spike earlier this year in immigration to the US by minors from their countries. The “Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle: A Road Map” was originally released in September and is similar to programs announced at a July summit in Washington [see Update #1228]. However, the IADB event, with US vice president Joseph Biden and the three Central American presidents in attendance, “was the real ‘coming out’ party for the proposals,” the DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) wrote in its “Americas Blog.”

According to CEPR’s analysis, the plan is basically a continuation of the security and economic policies the US has been promoting in the region for decades. It includes a “war on drugs” effort similar to “Plan Colombia,” a US-funded project in Colombia which Biden and other speakers cited as a success. Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández also referred to Mexico’s militarized anti-drug policy as a model, despite the ongoing crisis in Mexico since a Sept. 26-27 attack on students by police in collusion with a drug gang. To address continuing poverty in the three countries, the plan proposes “deepen[ing] our existing trade agreements,” such as the 2004 Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The plan raises the possibility of creating “special economic zones,” apparently a revival of earlier efforts to create “model cities,” “charter cities” and “Special Development Regimes (RED)” in Honduras [see Update #1160]. “[T]he plan brings to mind various past cases of crises exploited for economic gain, as Naomi Klein detailed in her landmark book, The Shock Doctrine,” CEPR wrote, highlighting a remark by Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina, who said: “The crisis has become a huge opportunity.” (Americas Blog 11/26/14)

Meanwhile, The Nation and Foreign Policy in Focus have collaborated on an article about the results of DR-CAFTA’s implementation. The authors found that “the pact has had a devastating effect on poverty, dislocation and environmental contamination in the region. And perhaps even worse, it’s diminished the ability of Central American countries to protect their citizens from corporate abuse.” “Overall economic indicators in the region have been poor,” they wrote. “Amid significant levels of unemployment, labor abuses continue” [see Update #1242] and “[w]orkers in export-assembly plants often suffer poor working conditions and low wages.”

The article laid special emphasis on the way DR-CAFTA restricts Central American governments’ ability to stop environmental abuses by foreign corporations. For example, internal documents obtained by activists indicated that fear of losing in arbitration proceedings required under DR-CAFTA was one reason the Guatemalan government failed to act on a 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) to close down the Canadian firm Goldcorp Inc.’s controversial Marlin gold mine [see Update #1110]. “These perverse incentives have led to environmental deregulation’” the authors wrote, “and increased protections for companies, which have contributed to a boom in the toxic mining industry—with gold at the forefront. A stunning 14% of Central American territory is now authorized for mining.” (The Nation 11/24/14)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/policy

Why isn't Brazil exploiting its amazing wind capacity?

Police extermination campaign in Brazil's favelas?

REDD, Neo-Colonialism in the Land of the Pataxo Warriors (Brazil)

Lima’s Leftist Mayor Defeated by Four Years of Right-Wing Attacks (Peru)

Protests Against Contamination of Lake Titicaca Continue: Peru

Indigenous Communities Take Chevron to Global Court for 'Crimes Against Humanity' (Ecuador)

Ecuador: The Breach Dividing Intag

Members of the Indigenous Guard Killed by Farc Guerrillas in Toribio, Colombia

Colombia’s Land Restitution Process Failing Those Forced Off Their Land

Amnesty: concern over Colombia land restitution

13 Dead and 145 Poisoned from "Overdose" After Riot in Venezuelan Prison

Venezuela’s Indigenous Mapoyo Language Added to UNESCO Heritage List

Intimacy and Discovery in Mariana Rondón's 'Bad Hair' (Venezuela)

Central America’s “Alliance for Prosperity” Plan: Shock Doctrine for the Child Refugee Crisis?

What ‘Free Trade’ Has Done to Central America

The corporate nullification of the human right to water: the case of El Salvador

Why the murder rate in Honduras is twice as high as anywhere else

Because Violence and Sexual Slavery Should be Tried in a Court of Law: No Impunity! (Guatemala)

Mexico Faces Political Crisis over Students' Disappearance and Presidential Conflict of Interest

Ayotzinapa Protests: Report from Ciudad Juarez (Mexico)

We’re all tired — protests against state violence go worldwide (Mexico)

Trafficking in Women and Girls and the Fight to End it (Mexico)

Cholera on the Uptick in Haiti as Donor Response Falters

SOA Protest: Grassroots Mobilizations Connect Struggles against State Violence and Injustice (US/policy)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Monday, November 24, 2014

WNU #1243: Honduran Campesino Leader Murdered

Issue #1243, November 23, 2014

1. Honduras: Campesino Leader Murdered in Aguán
2. Mexico: Protests Growing in “Failed State”
3. Haiti: Marchers Shot at Battle Commemoration
4. US: SOA Activists March on Detention Center
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Honduras: Campesino Leader Murdered in Aguán
Juan Angel López Miranda, a campesino leader in the Lower Aguán River Valley in the northern Honduran department of Colón, was murdered on Nov. 11 in the Ilanga Viejo neighborhood of Trujillo municipality, according to a communiqué from the Agrarian Platform, an alliance of campesino groups and nongovernmental organizations. Also known as “Juan Galindo,” López Miranda was a leader in the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and headed the largest campesino settlement in the valley, with 1,500 campesino residents. López Miranda was attacked by two armed men on a motorcycle, the communiqué said, and was hit by eight bullets.

The Aguán Valley is the center of a longstanding conflict between campesinos and large landowners who the campesinos say acquired their land in contravention of Honduras’s agrarian reform program. At least 147 people have been killed, most of them campesinos, since late 2009, when MUCA and other campesino organizations began a series of land occupations to push their claims [see Update #1226]. López Miranda was detained by the military briefly in April 2012 [see Update #1125], and he escaped without injuries from a violent attack in April 2013. The Agrarian Platform demanded that the Honduran government investigate both the people who carried out the campesino leader’s “vile murder” and those who ordered it. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 11/13/14 from ACAN-EFE; Adital (Brazil) 11/17/14)

In other news, on Nov. 5 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), the human rights agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a precautionary measure requiring the Honduran Government to suspend a 16-month work ban imposed on journalist Julio Ernesto Alvarado, the director and anchor for a Globo TV news program and a founding member of the Honduran chapter of the British-based human rights organization PEN International. Honduran courts imposed the ban last December in response to Alvarado’s 2006 coverage of alleged corruption by a university dean, Belinda Flores. This is the first time that the IACHR has ordered the revocation of a ban on practicing journalism. Carles Torner, PEN International’s executive director, called the IACHR ruling “a landmark decision for the protection of the freedom of expression of journalists in the region.” (PEN International 11/12/14; Adital (Brazil) 11/19/14)

*2. Mexico: Protests Growing in “Failed State”
On Nov. 20 tens of thousands of protesters marched through downtown Mexico City in the fourth National and Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa, demanding the return of 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College, located in Ayotzinapa in the southwestern state of Guerrero. The students were abducted the night of Sept. 26-27 in the Guerrero city of Iguala de la Independencia, apparently in a joint action by municipal police and local drug gangs; three other students were killed in the incident, along with three bystanders [see Update #1242]. The Nov. 20 demonstration, which also marked the official anniversary of the start of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, coincided with the arrival in the capital of three caravans led by parents of the missing students; the parents had spent a week traveling through different parts of Mexico to increase public awareness about the disappearances.

The Mexico City march appeared to be the largest action yet for the 43 students. The marchers headed to the central Zócalo plaza in three contingents: from the Angel of Independence, which commemorates the 1810 War of Independence; from the Monument to the Revolution, which commemorates the 1910 Revolution; and from the Tlatelolco housing project, the site of an October 1968 massacre of striking students and their supporters. The left-leaning daily La Jornada put participation at “hundreds of thousands” and reported that marchers were still entering the Zócalo when the main rally ended. (LJ 11/21/14, 11/21/14)

After the rally groups of youths, some masked, tried to seize the metal barricades protecting public buildings. Police agents responded by using pepper spray and water cannons to clear the plaza. The authorities said there were 26 arrests, with 11 of those arrested facing federal charges of criminal association, rioting and attempted homicide. The 11 were quickly transferred to federal prisons hundreds of kilometers from Mexico City—the eight men in the group to Perote, Veracruz, and the three women to Tepic, Nayarit. Relatives of the 11 detainees held a press conference outside federal prosecutors’ offices on Nov. 22. They charged that the arrests were arbitrary, that the detainees were not involved in the confrontation with police and that they were mistreated while in custody and were denied their right to counsel; one of the men charged, Chilean citizen Laurence Maxwell, was simply riding a bicycle in the area when he was arrested, his supporters said. (LJ 11/21/14, 11/23/14)

Mexicans living abroad organized their own Nov. 20 protests in a number of cities, including Paris, Moscow, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. As many as 300 protesters, mostly Mexicans, rallied in the late afternoon outside the Mexican consulate in New York’s midtown section, with chants demanding justice and calling Mexico’s three main political parties “murderer parties.” After a moment of silence and a reading of the names of the 43 missing students, the protesters marched to the Grand Central train station, where they briefly blocked the main entrance; a few protesters held a die-in inside. The march proceeded to a second rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations complex. Along the route marchers distributed fliers to the rush-hour crowds; most passersby seemed unaware of the crisis in Mexico, which has gotten little coverage in the US media. (Latin Post 11/21/14; report from Update editor)

Even though US coverage of the Mexican turmoil has been sparse, investors in the US and other countries are now showing signs of worry.  Mexico’s social problems, along with a disappointing growth rate for the third quarter, have led to “questioning with respect to the promising perspectives which were generated with the start of the new administration” of President Enrique Peña Nieto in December 2012, Alfredo Coutiño, the director of  Moody’s Analytics’ Latin American branch, said on Nov. 20; Moody’s Analytics is a subsidiary of the Moody’s Corporation rating service. “The issue for the economy isn’t that the political and social problems have just now appeared on the horizon, but rather the slow response and the low level of effectiveness of the actions to resolve them.” (LJ 11/21/14)

Politicians in other Latin American countries are also concerned. In an interview with the Latin American edition of Foreign Affairs posted on Nov. 23, Uruguay’s center-left president, José Mujica, questioned Mexico’s ability to handle the crisis. “It gives one a sensation, seen from the distance, that we’re dealing with a sort of failed state,” said Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter whose term ends on Mar. 1, 2015, “that the public authorities have totally lost control, that they’ve rotted away.” (LJ 11/23/14 from AFP)

Some Mexican observers seem to have a similar view. On Nov. 22 Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, a three-time presidential candidate for various center-left coalitions, called for a constituent assembly to formulate a new constitution. The goal would not be “to get rid of the institutions, but for them to be useful, reliable leaders, and committed to the causes of the country and the people.” Cárdenas had warned a week earlier, on Nov. 16, that Mexico’s largest center-left party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), was on the brink of dissolution. Cárdenas was one of the main founders of the party in 1989, following his defeat in the controversial 1988 presidential election. José Luis Abarca Velázquez, the Iguala mayor who allegedly ordered the attack on the Ayotzinapa students, is a PRD politician, a fact that has alienated much of the party’s base. According to a Nov. 3-4 poll ordered by the party leadership, 46% of Mexican citizens have a bad opinion of the PRD and only 11% of them would back it in the 2015 legislative elections—down from 18% at this point in the 2012 race. (TeleSUR English 11/17/14; LJ 11/23/14, 11/23/14)

*3. Haiti: Marchers Shot at Battle Commemoration
At least four demonstrators were wounded in the northern Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas on Nov. 18 when counter-demonstrators opened fire on an opposition march commemorating the anniversary of the 1803 Battle of Vertières, which marked the final defeat of French forces trying to regain control of Haiti. The several hundred marchers had reached the neighborhood of Delmas 32 and were about to turn back toward downtown Port-au-Prince when they were met with a hail of rocks. The marchers responded with more rocks, and the police used tear gas against the attackers. The gunfire started a little later. Two people were hit in the neck, one in the knee and one in the side; all four were taken away for medical care. The police said they recovered more than a half-dozen 9 mm caliber cartridges from the site. The marchers dispersed after the attack.

Some protesters reported seeing a lifeless body lying near a motorbike, and protest organizers held a press conference on Nov. 21 to charge that three people had been shot dead and that police agents had taken their bodies away. The authorities denied the charge, and reporters noted that the press conference didn’t include relatives of the three people said to be missing.

The Nov. 20 march was largely sponsored by opponents of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) and included groups associated with the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Populist senators John Joel Joseph and Moïse Jean-Charles and legislative deputy Arnel Bélizaire were among the politicians present [see Update #1204]. According to the online news service AlterPresse, the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA), which is associated with the leftist labor organization Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), also participated, but the union’s “demands against the presence of United Nations forces in the country [and] for a decent minimum wage…were drowned out by the anti-Martelly slogans.” The Martelly opponents were especially incensed because of an opinion piece by Communication Minister Rudy Hériveaux posted on Martelly’s blog on Nov. 17. Entitled “The Cockroach Syndrome,” the article described anti-government protesters as “roaches” who “trot around in a disgusting folklore in the streets to try to assault the government.” Hériveaux is a former FL senator and until a few years ago led a faction of the party [see Update #1083]. (AlterPresse 11/19/14, 11/21/14)

In related news, two opposition leaders arrested after an Oct. 26 protest, Rony Timothée and Byron Odigé [see Update #1240], have been placed in isolation in the National Penitentiary, according to the daily Le Nouvelliste. Meanwhile, attorney André Michel, who frequently represents opposition figures [see Update #1232], was ordered to appear on Nov. 17 before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire, who is charging him with property destruction in connection with an Oct. 17 demonstration. Michel refused to attend, saying Judge Bélizaire had no authority to order his appearance. (AlterPresse 11/17/14, 11/21/14)

*4. US: SOA Activists March on Detention Center
Seven activists were arrested from Nov. 22 to Nov. 23 for nonviolent acts of civil disobedience during the 25th annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. The protest’s sponsor, SOA Watch, opposes the US Army’s training of Latin American soldiers, charging that SOA graduates have been among the region’s most notorious human rights violators [see Update #1228]. A special focus on the US government’s treatment of immigrants marked this year’s activities, which followed US president Barack Obama’s Nov. 20 announcement that his government would grant a temporary deferral from deportation for several million undocumented immigrants.

Five of the arrests took place on Nov. 22 at the Stewart Detention Center for immigrants in Lumpkin, Georgia, 30 miles from Columbus. Hundreds of activists demanded the closing of the center, which is owned and operated by the private Corrections Corporation of America (CCA); release of the 1,800 immigrants held there; and an immediate end to mass deportations. Although SOA Watch has held small protests at the Stewart facility in the past [see Update #1106], this year’s was significantly larger, according to Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones, who estimated participation at more than 1,000. Two more arrests took place at the gates of Fort Benning on Nov. 23, when some 2,500 protesters held a funeral march and vigil focused on WHINSEC itself. (Columbus Ledger Enquirer 11/20/14; SOA Watch 11/22/14, 11/24/14)

Anti-militarization activists were also planning to hold protests against WHINSEC in El Salvador, Chile and Colombia. The Latin American countries that still send soldiers to the US training program include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. (Adital (Brazil) 11/20/14 from Rebelión)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Book Review: Social Movements and Leftist Governments in Latin America: Confrontation or Co-option?

Queridos Blanquitos: The Hidden Racism of Nuestra América (Latin America)

Chile: colonels imprisoned for torturing Bachelet's father

What Argentina’s Sovereign Debt Dispute Means for Global Finance

Cultivating Climate Justice: Brazilian Workers Leading the Charge Toward Zero Waste

President Morales Promises to Meet Worker Demands (Bolivia)

Peru Exploiting Own Failures to Demarcate Indigenous Territory

What Happened To Progressive Politics In Lima? (Peru)

The Wall Street Journal’s Problematic Reporting on Protests in Ecuador

Colombia: Talks With the Other Guerillas?

Action Demanded Over 178 Peasant Killings in Venezuela’s Land Struggle

Drilling the Caribbean: Indigenous Communities Speak Out Against Oil and Gas Exploration in Honduras

Mexico reels, and the U.S. looks away

Mexico's Undead Rise Up

Mexico’s Youth Under Siege

43 Faces that Move the World (Mexico)

This Mass Grave Isn’t the Mass Grave You Have Been Looking For (Mexico)

The Mexican Crisis

A Silence That Speaks: Ayotzinapa and the Politics of Listening (Mexico)

Tamaulipas: 'citizen journalist' assassinated (Mexico)

USAID Houses Found to be of Poor Quality, Will Cost Millions to Repair (Haiti)

Advocates Blast New Family Detention Plans (US/immigration)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson: