Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WNU #1227: US Deports Hondurans as Violence Continues

Issue #1227, July 20, 2014

1. Honduras: US Deports Migrants as Violence Continues
2. El Salvador: Workers Win $1.5 Million in Maquila Closing
3. Brazil: BRICS Nations Plan New Development Bank
4. Haiti: UN Head Makes "Pilgrimage" for Cholera Victims
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico

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: US Deports Migrants as Violence Continues
A plane chartered by the US government carried 38 Honduran deportees from an immigration detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, to the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on July 14. This was the first US deportation flight entirely dedicated to mothers and children: eight mothers, 13 girls and nine boys were scheduled for the trip, although two couldn’t travel because of illness. Reporters, Honduran officials and Ana García de Hernández, the wife of President Juan Orlando Hernández, were on hand for the flight’s arrival. President Hernández's government promised the deportees job leads, a $500 stipend, psychological counseling and schooling, but a returning mother, Angélica Gálvez, told the Los Angeles Times that in the end she and her six-year-old daughter Abigail didn’t get enough money to pay for the three-hour trip to their home in La Ceiba. “They havent helped me before,” she said. “Why should I believe them now?”

The publicity around the flight was apparently part of a US effort to reduce a recent increase in unauthorized immigration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, mostly by unaccompanied minors and women with their children; some 57,000 unaccompanied child migrants have been detained at the Mexico-US border since October, 35,000 of them Central Americans [see Update #1225]. An unnamed official from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) described the deportation flight as “just the initial wave.” “Our border is not open to illegal migration, and we will send recent illegal migrants back,” the official said. (LAT 7/14/14)

Other US government efforts to discourage immigration include commissioning songs that stress the dangers of attempts to enter the US without authorization. This started in 2004 when the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a DHS agency, sent a five-song CD to radio stations throughout Mexico. Currently 21 Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran radio stations are playing a CBP-commissioned cumbia song, “La Bestia,” named for the notoriously dangerous train Central American migrants often ride to get through southern Mexico; migrants call it “The Beast” [see Update #1220]. The song, which the radio stations play without any reference to its US origin, is reportedly very popular. (The Daily Beast 7/12/14)

Honduran critics of US policies charge that these efforts don’t address the causes underlying the wave of departures from the country. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate; with a population of about 438,00, San Pedro Sula, the home of many of the people heading north, had 778 homicides in 2013 and 594 so far this year, the municipal morgue reports. According to Hugo Ramón Maldonado, vice president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (Codeh), some 80% of the people emigrating from Honduras are fleeing criminality or violence. He blamed the government’s failure to pursue criminals and dismissed the government reception of the deportees on July 14 as “a political show with our returned migrants.” “What is happening in this country is a great tragedy,” he added. (LAT 7/14/14)

In an interview published July 14 by the Mexican daily Excélsior, rightwing president Hernández blamed the violence on US drug policy. “The root cause is that the US and Colombia carried out big operations in the fight against drugs,” he said. “Then Mexico did it.” This “drug war” policy pushed drug traffickers into the northern Central American countries, El Salvador,Guatemala and Honduras, he indicated, “creating a serious problem for us that sparked this migration.” However, Hernández is apparently seeking US funding so that he can start similar operations in his own country. (Reuters 7/14/14 via Huffington Post)

In fact, drug traffickers appear to operate quite openly in parts of Honduras. On July 17 a group of heavily armed men seized some 20 members of the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), a leading organization of the Garífuna ethnic group, in Vallecito in the northern department of Colón. Some OFRANEH members managed to escape and mobilize supporters, with the result that the gang eventually released the captives, who included OFRANEH coordinator Miriam Miranda. The Garífuna’s right to the Vallecito territory was recognized by the government’s National Agrarian Institute (INA) in 1997, and the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the group’s claim against cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum’s attempt to seize part of the land the next year. More recently, drug traffickers invaded Vallecito and built a landing strip there. The Garífuna regained control in 2013, but the gang appeared to be trying to restore the landing strip this July. The OFRANEH members were investigating when they were seized. They noted that their kidnappers didn’t bother to hide their faces; as of July 18 there had been no arrests. (Adital (Brazil) 7/18/14; Rebelión 7/19/14 from Lista Informativa Nicaragua y Más (LINyM))

Meanwhile, Honduran police agents continue to be accused of major crimes [see Update #1203]. On July 14 three agents of the National Directorate of Special Investigation Services (DNSEI) were indicted in connection with the murder of two women, Yury Fabiola Hernández and Gessy Marleny García, at a restaurant in a Tegucigalpa suburb on July 9; they were also accused of wounding a third women, who is now a protected witness. Agent Marvin Joel Gallegos Suárez was charged with the murders, while agents Fredy Gerardo Mendoza Arriaza and Gregorio Alexander Anariba Meraz were charged with complicity in the murders and with violation of their duties. (Latin American Herald Tribune 7/13/14 from EFE; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 7/15/14)

*2. El Salvador: Workers Win $1.5 Million in Maquila Closing
On July 12 the 1,066 laid-off employees of El Salvador’s Manufacturas del Río (MDR) apparel factory began receiving benefits, back wages and severance pay that they were owed after the plant closed suddenly on Jan. 7. MDR--a joint venture of the Mexican company Kaltex and the Miami-based Argus Group which stitched garments for such major brands as Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Lacoste, Levi Strauss and Adidas—shut down without notice after the Textile Industry Workers Union (STIT), an affiliate of the Salvadoran Union Front (FSS), spent two months attempting to negotiate a contract. No apparel plant in El Salvador has a labor contract.

Salvadoran unionists said that although they took the necessary steps with the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Office and the courts to win compensation, international solidarity was crucial to the victory. The STIT filed complaints with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) in the US and put pressure on the Argus Group with support from two US-based groups, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ. In Mexico student activists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), and the Center for Labor Research & Consulting (CILAS) aided a campaign to pressure Kaltex. The German-based Christian Initiative Romero (CIR) backed the Salvadoran union’s efforts in Germany to inform Adidas shareholders about the MDR closing; Adidas had sourced garments from the plant for 10 years. (International Union League for Brand Responsibility 7/15/14)

*3. Brazil: BRICS Nations Plan New Development Bank
The BRICS group of five nations--Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa--held its sixth annual summit this year from July 14 to July 16 in Fortaleza in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará and in Brasilia, the Brazilian capital. The main business for the five nations’ leaders was formalizing their agreement on a plan to create a development bank to serve as an alternative to lending institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are largely dominated by the US and its allies. Although the project will need approval from the countries’ legislatures, the BRICS leaders indicated that the group’s lending institution would be called the New Development Bank, would be based in Shanghai and would be headed for the first five years by a representative of India. The bank is to start off in 2016 with $50 billion in capital, $10 billion from each BRICS member. The BRICS nations will maintain control of the bank, but membership will be open to other countries; in contrast to the IMF and the World Bank, the New Development Bank will not impose budgetary conditions on loan recipients.

The BRICS nations--which together now account for about 20% of the world’s total gross domestic products, according to Russian president Vladimir Putin—all have major economies but lack the economic power of the traditional advanced industrial sector based in Europe, Japan and North America. However, there are important differences in their economies, their political systems and their objectives; the New Development Bank plan was held up for years as China, by far the largest of the five economies, sought to dominate the bank. (The Guardian (UK) 7/15/14 from Reuters; Wall Street Journal 7/16/14)

Grassroots organizations charge that the BRICS governments frequently don’t represent the needs and wishes of their populations. The Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples (Rebrip) joined with a number of other groups to hold a sort of counter-summit in Fortaleza on July 15. “[S]trong social inequalities and development models based on the super-exploitation of natural resources motivate social organizations and movements in the bloc’s countries to set up joint actions that aim to guarantee rights, equality, and social and environmental justice,” the event’s announcement said. “We believe that the BRICS’ impacts—positive or negative—in the international system and in our societies depend on the ability of the peoples to mobilize themselves, to debate and to dispute the directions taken by their countries and the international coalitions that they are part of.” (Adital (Brazil) 7/16/14)

On the way to the summit, Russian president Putin visited Cuba and then Argentina, where he and Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed several accords on July 12, including one on nuclear power. A Russian delegation was planning to visit the Vaca Muerta region’s shale deposits, which Argentina is planning to exploit through hydrofracking in a joint venture with the US-based Chevron Corporation [see Update #1221]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/13/14 from correspondent)

*4. Haiti: UN Head Makes "Pilgrimage" for Cholera Victims
United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon made a two-day visit to Haiti on July 14 and July 15 to promote a $2.2 billion program that he launched in December 2012 to eliminate cholera from the country over the next 10 years. He traveled with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to the village of Las Palmas, near Hinche in the Central Plateau, to announce a “Total Sanitation Campaign,” the second phase of the cholera elimination program, which remains underfunded. Ban called the visit a “necessary pilgrimage”; at a church service in Las Palmas he acknowledged “that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear” and that it “continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.”

Many Haitians remained critical of Ban, who has refused to accept UN responsibility for the cholera outbreak, despite overwhelming evidence that it was caused by poor sanitation in October 2010 at a base used by troops from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) [see Update #1195]. Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph said it was “an insult to all Haitians for the secretary general to come to Haiti for a photo opportunity when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic.” The Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP) said the visit would be a good occasion for Ban to say “when MINUSTAH will leave the country,” to “recognize officially the UN’s responsibility in the introduction of cholera in Haiti” and “to define a compensation plan for the victims.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 7/14/14; The Guardian (UK) 7/16/14, some from unidentified wire services)

Ban’s visit came a month after a June 13 incident in New York in which a professional process server attempted to hand the secretary general a formal complaint in connection with a lawsuit filed in March at a Brooklyn federal court. Stan Alpert, one of the attorneys for the 1,500 plaintiffs in the suit, which seeks to make the UN accept responsibility for the epidemic, said Ban was given the complaint; the UN denies that he received it. (Miami Herald 6/17/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico

Argentina: Mapuche Community Takes Direct Action Against Oil and Gas Exploitation on Its Territory

Why did Uruguay Request its Own Integration into the Trade in Services Agreement?

The Promises and Limitations of Revolutionary Change in Bolivia: A Book Review of Evo’s Bolivia

Bolivia: 'dirty war' fears as Evo seeks third term

Ethnic cleansing on Peru's jungle border

A Massacre of Convenience: Democracy, Progress, and the Disappearance of a People In the Ecuadorian Amazon

The Problem with the Venezuela Sanctions Debate

Maduro Extends Planned “Shakeup” of Venezuelan State and Economy

Nicaragua Vive! 35 Years Since the Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution

Nicaragua: inter-oceanic canal route approved

Salvadoran Feminists Push Debate on El Salvador’s Stringent Abortion Ban

The Depths of Hell in Honduras: Honduran Collapse, Mining and Organized Crime

The Drones of Mexico

How the Mexican Drug Trade Thrives on Free Trade

Mexico’s Health Care Professionals Rise Up

NAFTA Advocates Continue to Make Misleading Claims (Mexico)

How the Mexican Drug Trade Thrives on Free Trade

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, July 15, 2014

Links but No Update for July 13, 2014

[There is no Update this week; we'll be back next week. Below are links to stories from other sources.]

U.S. on Its Own, Once Again, at OAS Meeting on Argentinean Sovereign Debt

Argentina: Communities to Resist Oil Extraction in National Park

Putin signs Argentina nuclear deals on Latin America tour

Conservatives in Uruguay Want to Put More Youth in Prison. Civil Society is Saying No.

Pioneering Cannabis Regulation in Uruguay

Cartes, A Year Later (Paraguay)

Brazil, Defeat and the High Cost of Hosting FIFA’s World Cup

Brazil’s Agribusiness Lobby Pushes Back Against Indigenous Land Recognition

Brazil: Where Indian Lives are not Worth a Traffic Sign

Brazil: Where Indian Lives are not Worth a Traffic Sign

Shining Path leaders indicted in US court (Peru)

Peru: interior minister linked to journalist's murder

Peru: protest new legal assault on environment

Cajamarca: police attack campesino community (Peru)

Peru: mass mobilizations for persecuted regional leader

Analysts Confused as Venezuelans Say Their Country is Second Most Democratic in Region

Venezuela: new attack on indigenous leader

Voices of the Resistance Movement in Guatemala

Guatemalan Government Moves to Expel Witnesses to Police Violence at US-Canadian Mine Site

A Day Like Today, Now. (Honduras)

Status of violence against women in Honduras

The Government of El Salvador Lacks Accurate Data on Child Migration

Juarez Violence and Arrest Patterns: Then and Now (Mexico)

Fracking Fights Loom Large in Mexico

Interview With the Last Peyote Guardians: José Luis “Katira” Ramírez And Clemente Ramírez (Mexico)

Carlos Slim’s Empire Broken Up But Oligarchs Still Control Mexico

A Cover-up in a Young Migrant’s Death? (Mexico)

US Border Patrol smuggled arms for Sinaloa Cartel? (Mexico)

Mexico: campesinos block Tabasco oil wells

Despite Flawed Electoral Process, International Community Support Continues Unabated (Haiti)

The Caribbean: A Clean Energy Revolution on the Front Lines of Climate Change

Does the US Have a Double Standard When it Comes to Spying on Latin America? (US/policy)

The U.S. Roots of the Central American Immigrant Influx (US/immigration)

Advice on Public Spending from an Undocumented Felon (US/immigration)

Latino Youth Activists Teach Murrieta and the Nation A Civics Lesson

Immigrant justice activists call upon Central American children to be treated as refugees

And a word from our friends at UDW:

Support Grassroots Media: Donate to Upside Down World

Monday, July 7, 2014

WNU #1226: New Death Reported in Honduran Land Struggle

Issue #1226, July 6, 2014

1. Honduras: New Death Reported in Land Struggle
2. Brazil: Campesino Protesters Occupy Banks
3. Brazil: US Turns Over Documents on Military's Abuses
4. Chile: Judge Confirms US Role in 1973 Killings
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Mexico, 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: New Death Reported in Land Struggle
Honduran security forces mounted a major operation on July 3 to remove hundreds of campesinos from an estate they had occupied in a dispute over land in the Lower Aguán River Valley in the northern department of Colón. One of the occupiers, Pedro Avila, was shot dead in the operation and two were wounded, according to Santos Torres, who heads the campesinos’ organization, the Gregorio Chávez Collective. Some 400 families were “violently evicted” and “repressed with tear gas and live ammunition,” the campesinos charged in a statement, and at least 20 people were detained. The operation was carried out by soldiers under the command of Col. René Jovel Martínez and by National Police agents and by security guards in the pay of the Corporación Dinant food-product company, the campesinos said. The estate, named Paso Aguán, is owned by Honduran entrepreneur and landowner Miguel Facussé Barjum, Dinant’s founder [see Update #1204]. On July 4 Dinant business relations director Roger Pineda denied that company security guards were involved. Pineda claimed no one was killed, although “the effects of the tear gas made [one person] pass out.”

At least 147 people, including more than 104 campesinos, have died violently in the region since a number of campesino collectives started occupying estates in late 2009 to promote their claim that the landowners had illegally acquired territory intended for family farmers in an agrarian reform program in the 1990s [see Update #1221]. Facussé’s Paso Aguán estate has repeatedly been a target of occupations by one of the largest campesino groups, the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA); the violent July 3 eviction followed a removal of occupiers from the same site just a week before, on June 26. The Gregorio Chávez Collective appears to be named for a 69-year-old MUCA supporter whose body was found buried on the estate in July 2012; there was evidence that he was tortured before being killed [see Update #1136]. (El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 6/27/14; Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 7/3/14 from AFP; La Tribune (Tegucigalpa) 7/5/14)

About 500 families from another group, the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), occupied the El Despertar estate on June 24. Soldiers, police agents and security guards under the command of the military’s Col. German Alfaro removed the occupiers and arrested five campesinos later the same day; no injuries were reported. Col. Afaro claimed his forces found three M16 rifles, a Falk rife, 30-calibre rifle, a Macarov pistol, bulletproof vests and police uniforms at the site. The campesinos had reoccupied the estate after being removed on May 21. (El Heraldo 6/24/14)

El Despertar is owned by a Nicaraguan entrepreneur named René Alberto Morales Carazo [see Update #1137, which incorrectly described him as an “entrepreneur and politician”]. Apparently Morales Carazo is involved in the distribution of African palm oil grown in Honduras, as are Miguel Facussé and the Dinant company. According to a March 2007 article in the Nicaraguan daily El Nuevo Diario, Morales Carazo is the brother of Jaime René Morales Carazo, a leader in the rightwing contra war against the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) government during the 1980s--and later the country’s vice president in the 2007-2012 administration of the FSLN’s Daniel Ortega Saavedra. (END 3/12/07)

*2. Brazil: Campesino Protesters Occupy Banks
Some 3,000 campesinos, including children and seniors, some with musical instruments, staged sit-ins on June 26 in the states of Goiás, Bahía and Piauí at 18 branches of Brazil’s two largest state-owned banks, the Banco do Brasil and the Caixa Económica Federal. The daylong protest, organized by the Popular Campesino Movement (MCP), targeted budget cuts in the government’s popular low-income housing program, My House My Life; MCP leaders said 950 campesino families had been dropped from My House My Life’s National Rural Habitation Program (PNHR). The group demanded an increase in housing construction for the rest of this year, payment for projects already in progress, and improvements in the PNHR for next year. “The campesino families are struggling for a dignified life and don’t accept having to wait more time for reform, enlargement [of the program] and construction of housing,” the MCP said in a statement. “Waiting longer means increasing the exodus from the countryside and increasing the problems of rural life.”

The protesters left the banks at the end of the day after the Caixa--which administers My House My Life, with investment from the government and from private investors--promised to include the MCP in the PNHR program and to fund the projects already started, with the possibility of constructing 1,000 new housing units in the three states. The bank also agreed to discuss the MCP’s reform proposals. (Jornal Opção (Goiânia) 6/26/14; Adital (Brazil) 6/26/146/27/14)

*3. Brazil: US Turns Over Documents on Military's Abuses
During a visit to Brasilia on June 17, US vice president Joe Biden presented Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff with 43 declassified US State Department documents referring to abuses committed under the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship. The handover of the documents, which will go to Brazil’s National Truth Commission (CNV), was part of an effort to mend relations with Brazil after revelations in 2013 that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had been spying on Brazilian government agencies and on President Rousseff herself [see Update #1193]. The NSA revelations led to Brazil’s cancellation of a planned state visit to the US in September 2013 and to the US manufacturer Boeing Co’s loss of a $4 billion fighter jet contract with the Brazilian air force. (Reuters 6/17/14)

The CNV posted all 43 documents to its website on July 2, and the Washington, DC-based National Security Archive research group’s blog Redacted links to five documents of special interest. One of these, an April 1973 cable from the US consul general in Rio de Janeiro entitled “Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives,” detailed a “sophisticated and elaborate psychophysical duress system” used to “intimidate and terrify” suspected leftists. In some cases suspects were placed naked on a metal floor “through which electric current is pulsated.” The military also used more violent methods, and the suspects were sometimes “eliminated”; the media were told that these prisoners were killed in shootouts. “The shootout technique is being used increasingly in order to deal with the public relations aspect of eliminating subversives,” the cable said, and to “obviate ‘death-by-torture’ charges in the international press.”

The State Department seemed less concerned about the reports of torture than about the possibility that the US Senate might pass an amendment proposed by then-senator John Tunney (D-CA) to pressure the Brazilian military to end the practice. A July 1972 cable from the US embassy in Brasilia, “Allegation of torture in Brazil,” claimed that top Brazilian officials were trying to halt the use of “excessive police measures,” but “without undermining the continuing and notably successful battle against terrorism.” The cable’s author--presumably then-ambassador William Rountree--said there appeared to be a reduction in the reports of torture, “undoubtedly due in part to [Brazilian government] success in substantially reducing number of active terrorists.” The US government did not “condone” what the cable described as “harsh interrogation techniques,” the writer noted, but he said he “strongly support[ed] the [State] Department’s efforts to dissuade senators from advancing the new proposal [for an anti-torture amendment], and to encourage its defeat if offered.”

The military was apparently not selective about which people it arrested and tortured. “Conditions in DEOPS Prison as Told by Detained American Citizen,” an Oct. 7, 1970 memo, recounted the experiences of Robert Henry North, described as a “tall, clean-cut” US citizen working for a Brazilian seed company. North was arrested at an airport on his return from a trip to the US and was kept for three days in a cell with six other detainees. He reported that all of his cellmates were being held without charges and had been tortured. North, who was fluent in Portuguese, was convinced that five of the cellmates “were absolutely innocent of subversive political activity,” although the sixth “looked like he might easily throw a bomb.” The authorities arrested North himself because they had a watch list with the names of members of the radical US Weather Underground group, including the activist Robert Henry Roth; it seems the name was enough of a match for the military to justify an arrest. (Redacted 7/3/14)

*4. Chile: Judge Confirms US Role in 1973 Killings
Chilean investigative judge Jorge Zepeda has ruled that US intelligence agents shared responsibility for the killing of US journalist Charles Horman and US graduate student Frank Teruggi by the Chilean military in the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 coup that overthrew leftist president Salvador Allende Gossens. “US military intelligence services played a fundamental role in the murders of two US citizens in 1973, providing the Chilean military with information that brought [them] to death,” Zepeda concluded in his report, which the Associated Press wire service cited on July 1. This was the first official confirmation of suspicions by Horman and Teruggi’s families and friends that the US shared in the responsibility for the killings, the subject of the 1982 film “Missing.”

Zepeda named retired Chilean army colonel Pedro Espinoza as the mastermind behind both murders and counterintelligence agent Rafael González Berdugo as an accomplice in Horman’s death. Zepeda had requested the extradition of former US Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis in 2011 to stand trial for providing the information that led to the killings; Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice upheld the request in October 2012 [see Update #1149]. Apparently the courts were unaware that Davis was in fact living in Chile; he died in a Santiago nursing home in 2013. (El Nuevo Herald 7/1/14 from AP; The Jurist 7/2/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Mexico, US/immigration

Popular agrarian reform: an alternative to the capitalist model (Latin America)

"World Cup For Who?" Photo Report From Outside the Stadiums (Brazil)

Brazil Organizations Challenge Legality of Belo Monte Dam in Court

U.S. Gives Brazil Declassified Documents Detailing Torture and Executions During its Dictatorship Era

Brazil: 'imminent' threat to isolated peoples

The Fifth Anniversary of the Bagua Massacre in Alternative Media and Art (Peru)

Mining and Post-conflict in Colombia

Venezuelan Farmers on Disputed Land Say They Have No Intention of Vacating

Narco wars drive migrant kids to US borders (Central America)

Honduran Charter Cities New Model for Salvadoran Private Sector

Being Young and Zapatista in La Realidad (Mexico)

From El Barrio to La Realidad, Women Lead Struggles to Transform the World (Mexico)

Burn Them Alive! (Mexico)

The Big History of Little Chihuahua (US/immigration)

In Oregon, activists have forced sheriffs to defy ICE (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:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

WNU #1225: Brazilian Judge Blocks Gold Mine

Issue #1225, June 29, 2014

1. Brazil: Canadian Gold Mine Loses License
2. Chile: Bachelet Promises New Mapuche Policy
3. Central America: What's Causing Child Migration?
4. Cuba: Foreign Investment Law Takes Effect
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, 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. Brazil: Canadian Gold Mine Loses License
Brazilian federal judge Claudio Henrique de Pina has revoked Toronto-based Belo Sun Mining Corp.’s environmental license for the construction of the $750 million Volta Grande open-pit gold mine near the Xingu river in the northern state of Pará, the federal Public Ministry office in the state announced the evening of June 25. Upholding a suspension ordered last November, the judge ruled that Belo Sun had failed to address the “negative and irreversible” impact the mine would have on three indigenous groups in the area, the Paquiçamba, the Arara da Volta Grande and the Ituna/Itatá. The communities are already under threat from the construction of the nearby Belo Monte dam [see Update #1189], which will cut water flows by 80% to 90% when it goes into operation, according to the government’s National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI).

A Belo Sun news release said the decision only means that the company needs to complete a five-month impact study; it has already commissioned the study, which will start as soon as researchers have permission to access indigenous lands, according to the news release. The mine was expected to open in 2016 and to produce 313,100 ounces of gold each year over a 10-year lifetime; if built, it will be the largest gold mine in Brazil. Belo Sun’s shares were down nearly 10% on the Toronto Stock Exchange by noon on June 26. (Ministério Público Federal no Pará press release 6/25/14; Reuters 6/26/14; Mining.com 6/26/14). [This is the latest in a series of reversals for gold mining projects in Latin America, most notably Barrick Gold’s mammoth Pascua Lama mine on the Argentine-Chilean border in the Andes; see Update #1223.]

Meanwhile, a new study by researchers at the Federal University of Pará finds that construction at the controversial Belo Monte dam, expected to be the third largest in the world, has led to the sexual exploitation of local indigenous people. The groups impacted were the Parakanã, the Arara da Cachoeira Seca, the Arara da Volta Grande do Xingu and the Juruna do Paquiçamba, the researchers said. There is also evidence of sexual trafficking of minors. According to the daily Folha de São Paulo, the reported cases of sexual abuse of minors in Altamira--the city most affected by the Belo Monte project and the 25,000 workers building it--rose from 43 in 2010 to 75 in 2011, the year construction began. (Terra Brasil 6/8/14)

*2. Chile: Bachelet Promises New Mapuche Policy
Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced a new government policy for the country’s indigenous communities on June 24, We Tripantu, the last day of the June 21-24 New Year celebrations observed by the Mapuche, the largest of the indigenous groups. The new policy includes the creation of an Indigenous Affairs Ministry; a Council of Indigenous Peoples to develop proposals and oversee negotiations; designated seats in Congress for indigenous groups; a commission to establish an official version of indigenous history acceptable to all sides; and a continuation of an existing program through which the government buys territory in the south-central Araucanía region and transfers it to Mapuche communities that claim it, with the goal of ending land disputes and occupations that have troubled the region in recent years [see Update #1216].

“Almost 25 years and five presidencies have passed since we recovered our democracy and despite our effort we are still in debt to [Chile’s] indigenous people,” Bachelet said, referring to the period since the end of the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. “Now is the time to have the courage to take new steps forward, not with an eye on the short term but aiming to achieve the progress that has long eluded our brothers and sisters from the indigenous communities.”

Some Mapuche activists were not convinced by Bachelet’s program. Aucán Huilcamán, who represents the Council of All Lands, an organization including Mapuche from both Chile and Argentina, dismissed the Council of Indigenous Peoples as “a kindergarten” and said the government’s policy continued “colonialism and the domestication of the indigenous peoples.” (Santiago Times 6/24/14; Reuters 6/24/14; Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 6/24/14) In a statement released on June 15, a week before Bachelet’s announcement, the militant Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM) described the president’s approach as “[o]n one hand echoing the pressures of the capitalist business class in the Mapuche zone, and on the other deepening the militarization and the repression against our communities.” The CAM said it was “taking up with greater conviction its anti-capitalist struggle based on self-defense and territorial control until the Mapuche national liberation.” (La Haine (Spain) 6/15/14)

On June 19 Chile’s ambassador to the international organizations based in Geneva, Marta Maurás, gave the United Nations Human Rights Council the Bachelet government’s commitment to end the application of Chile’s “antiterrorist” law to Mapuche activists. Cuba, Germany and the US had asked Chile to discontinue the use of the law, which gives the police and courts extraordinary powers in cases the government designates as terror-related. This was one of 185 recommendations the Human Rights Council has made to Chile; the country has accepted 180 of them. The law dates back to the military dictatorship, but all the governments since the restoration of democracy, including Bachelet’s 2006-2010 administration, have used it against Mapuche activists struggling to reclaim indigenous lands. (El Nacional (Venezuela) 6/19/14 from EFE)

*3. Central America: What's Causing Child Migration?
In a statement released in the last week of June, the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), a leading organization of the Garífuna ethnic group, charged that the US-backed Honduran government was largely responsible for the dramatic increase in minors trying to migrate from Central America over the past few years [see Update #1224]. The organization said the government “blames the numbers only on narco trafficking; however, they forget that this catastrophe is also caused by collusion among politicians, business leaders, state security forces and criminal organizations linked to the trafficking of narcotics. The government has seen the situation worsen for years without doing anything to change the scenario, much less to avoid it.”

Honduras is the country providing the largest number—more than 13,000--of the nearly 35,000 underage Central Americans detained at the US border in the last six months; the others come mostly from Guatemala and El Salvador. OFRANEH pointed to statistics from the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Casa Alianza Honduras, which reported that 287 people were murdered in Honduras in May alone, 104 of them under the age of 23. From 2010 to 2013, more than 27,000 people were killed in Honduras, according to OFRANEH; about 450 of the victims were younger than 14. (Adital (Brazil) 6/23/14)

In related news, on June 23 unidentified assailants gunned down Luis Alonso Fúnez Duarte, the producer of a music program on the Súper 10 radio station in Catacamas, in the eastern department of Olancho. He was reportedly the second producer of a music program to be murdered in Olancho in June, and the 42nd Honduran media worker killed in the five years since the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009). (Adital 6/25/14)

Much of the US coverage of the child migrants has played down the violence against minors in the countries they come from and instead has emphasized reports that the migrants were drawn to the US by the expectation of lenient treatment. According to US journalist David Bacon, this version of events largely started with a report from the US Border Patrol which was “leaked” to Brandon Darby, a former informant and infiltrator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who is close to the rightwing Tea Party; reports based on this leak were circulated on the far-right website breitbart.com. (CounterPunch 6/26/14)

In contrast, a report released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Mar. 12 cited fear of violence as the main cause for the increased migration. A careful survey of child migrants in 2013 found “that no less than 58% of the 404 children interviewed were forcibly displaced” because of violence, and that they warrant protection as refugees under United Nations conventions. In an interview with the National Journal, UNHCR senior protection officer Leslie Vélez, one of the report’s authors, said 48% of the children “shared experiences of how they had been personally affected by the augmented violence” from “organized armed criminal actors, including drug cartels and gangs, or by state actors.” Only nine of the 404 children “mentioned any kind of possibility of the US treating children well.” She noted that the Central American migrants are not just fleeing to the US. Many go to Mexico, and migration to Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama has increased by 712% since 2008. (NJ 6/16/14)

A reporter from the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada got similar results from interviews at an immigration detention center in Tapachula in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas. “Going back means losing your life because of the gangs,” a Honduran man traveling with his baby told the reporter. An older man with two granddaughters, ages seven and 10, said: “I left Honduras because they already killed three of my four sons. I can’t stay to wait for them to take away my granddaughters. There the gangs kill for anything, take our houses, our pay. Everything.” Asked if he wanted to go home, a six-year-old Honduran boy began to cry and told the reporter: “They kill people there, and you can’t play.” (LJ 6/29/14)

*4. Cuba: Foreign Investment Law Takes Effect
Cuba’s new Foreign Investment Law went into effect on June 28, as was planned when the National Assembly of Popular Power passed the measure in March [see Update #1214]. The government is hoping to generate some $2.5 billion in investment each year under the law, which cuts tax rates for foreign investors from 30% to 15% and guarantees that most foreign-owned companies will be exempt from expropriation. Investment is expected to be focused on light industry, packaging, chemicals, iron and steel, building materials, logistics and pharmaceuticals; much of it will go to the Mariel port, 40 km west of Havana, which is being developed as a major “free trade zone.” The government is currently studying 23 proposals for projects from Brazil, China, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Russia. The new law doesn’t allow for private Cuban citizens to invest, and Cubans will work for the foreign companies through state-owned employment companies, not directly. (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/29/14 from DPA, AFP, Prensa Latina; Global Post 6/29/14 from Xinhua)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, US/immigration, US/policy

A Turning Point for Drug Policy (Latin America)

How the Drug Trade Criminalizes Women Disproportionately

Raúl Zibechi: Latin America Today, Seen From Below

People’s Tribunal Seeks to Counter Canadian Pro-Mining Spin (Latin America)

Elbit: Exporting Oppression from Palestine to Latin America

Pérez Esquivel to Griesa: it is just not to pay an illegitimate and immoral debt (Argentina)

Chile's Bachelet Promises to Return Land to Indigenous People

Argentina Seeks to Ward Off “Paradoxical” Default

For 2nd Anniversary of “Curuguaty Massacre,” New Report Sheds Light on the Criminalization of Peasants and Right to Land in Paraguay

Peru now has a ‘licence to kill’ environmental protesters

Jurassic Park amid Peruvian poverty

Colombia: security workers blockade coal mine

Venezuelan President Maduro Responds to Former Ministers’ Criticisms

The U.S. Re-militarization of Central America and Mexico

Nicaragua’s Mayagna People and Their Rainforest Could Vanish

Puerto Castilla, Honduras: Corporate and Military Interests Above Garífuna Community Survival

Mayan People’s Council Organizes National Strike in Guatemala

Mexico: From “the land belongs to those who work it” to “the land belongs to those who drill it.”

Subcomandante Marcos announces: “We have decided that as of today, Marcos no longer exists” (Mexico)

Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians (Mexico)

Mexico Rape Victim Faces Prison Time for Self-Defense

Thousands of Physicians March in Mexico: "We Are Doctors, Not Gods or Criminals"

Wage Theft in Mexico: the Cost of an Unpaid Lunch Break

Child Migrants and Media Half-Truths (US/immigration)

Confronting the Central American Refugee Crisis

Immigrants or Refugees? (US/immigration)

Tea Party and Border Patrol Spin the Story of Children in Detention

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, June 24, 2014

WNU #1224: US Acts on “Danger” From Central American Children

Issue #1224, June 22, 2014

1. Central America: US Acts on Child Migrant “Danger”
2. Mexico: Wages Stay Down in Stalled Economy
3. Haiti: Martelly Harasses Opponents, Gets Award
4. Puerto Rico: Austerity Law May Spark Strike
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, 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. Central America: US Acts on Child Migrant “Danger”
US vice president Joe Biden made a one-day visit to Guatemala on June 20 for a meeting with regional authorities on the recent increase in Central Americans, especially underage minors, apprehended while attempting to enter the US without authorization at the Mexican border. Calling the influx of children “an enormous danger for security” as well as a “humanitarian issue,” Biden said the US planned to continue repatriating the young immigrants but would provide Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras with US$9.6 million to reintegrate the deportees into society. The US is also offering financial aid that US officials say will help stop the flow of immigrants: US$40 million to Guatemala to launch a five-year program to reduce youth recruitment into gangs; US$25 million for a five-year program to add 77 youth centers to the 30 already operating in El Salvador; US$18.5 million through the six-year-old US-sponsored Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) to support Honduran institutions in the fight against crime; and another US$161.5 million for CARSI throughout the region.

Participants in the meeting—the last stop on a tour that had taken Biden to Brazil, Colombia and the Dominican Republic—included Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, Salvadoran president Salvador Sánchez Cerén, Honduran government coordinator Jorge Ramón Hernández and Mexican governance secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio.

The number of unaccompanied Central American minors detained at the Mexico-US border from October 2013 through May 2014 increased by 66% over the number in the same period a year earlier, according to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The total of 34,611 detained Central American children included 9,850 Salvadorans, 11,479 Guatemalans and 13,282 Hondurans. US officials blame the sudden increase on Central American governments’ failure to control the drug-related violence that drives many youths to flee their countries; the US also cites reports of rumors that US immigrant authorities would be lenient with unaccompanied minors caught at the border.

Central American officials respond by pointing to the US government’s failure to control the demand for drugs in the US, the main stimulus for drug trafficking in the Caribbean Basin region, and also to frustration over the US government’s apparent inability to change its laws to accommodate some 11 million immigrants now living in the country without documents. The Central Americans “have focused their diplomatic efforts on pushing for better conditions for the detained children,” according to the New York Times. Guatemalan president Pérez Molina has asked the US to grant Guatemalans temporary protected status (TPS) in the US, while Honduran foreign minister Mireya Agüero de Corrales has called for Honduran minors to be granted special status to stay in the US with family members. Honduras’ rightwing president, Juan Orlando Hernández, pointedly skipped the meeting with Biden so he could attend the World Cup soccer championship in Brazil. (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/18/14; Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 6/20/14 from EFE; NYT 6/21/14)

Progressive organizations are also critical of US policies. In a June 18 statement SOA Watch, a US-based group that tracks abuses by Latin American military officers trained at the US Army’s School of the Americas (SOA, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC), noted that the increases in unauthorized migration from Honduras followed the “SOA-graduate led coup” in that country on June 28, 2009, almost exactly five years before Biden’s 2014 visit. “The current humanitarian crisis on the border is a direct result of the drastic US-led militarization of the drug war [in Central America and Mexico], unequal economic relationships (e.g. Free Trade Agreements that have ravaged campesino communities), and US support for the cartel-infiltrated post-coup government of Honduras,” SOA Watch charged. The group encourages US residents to sign a petition to the US Congress “to end the counterproductive funding of the Drug War and the corrupt Honduran regime” (accessible at http://org.salsalabs.com/o/727/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15901).
(SOA Watch 6/18/14 via Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County)

On June 21 the Mexican Senate’s Human Rights Commission called on the US government to respect the rights of the minors detained at the border and asked Mexican diplomats to make visits to detention centers to ensure that the youths are being treated properly. But Mexican human rights groups continued to focus on the mistreatment of Central American migrants passing through Mexico [see Update #1220]. Central Americans traveling in the northern state of Coahuila cite the local police along with criminal gangs as the main dangers they face. Pedro Pantoja, a Catholic priest and an adviser at a Coahuila shelter for migrants, says the travelers sometimes fear the police more than the gangs: “They don’t know who to run from.” A Mexican reporter describes the municipalities of Coatzacoalcos, Tierra Blanca and Las Choapas in the south of Veracruz as “the Bermuda Triangle for Central American migrants” because of the regular attacks by armed gangs. In the most recent case, three Central Americans were shot by robbers as they tried to ride a freight train in the area on the weekend of June 13; one died from his wounds. (LJ 6/18/14, 6/22/14)

*2. Mexico: Wages Stay Down in Stalled Economy
Even as Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto continues to push for economic “reforms” [see Update #1214], government agencies report that the economy still has one of the worst records in the hemisphere. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew just 1.1% in 2013, the poorest result in four years, and the government has reduced its forecast for growth in 2014 to 2.7%. The Banco de México, the country’s central bank, cut its key interest rate this June to stimulate economic activity, warning that the growth outlook was “weaker than expectations even a couple of weeks ago.” Only one-half of the population works in the formal economy, and even these workers are probably earning less than their parents did. Mexico’s legal minimum wage has fallen at least 66% in purchasing power over the last three decades, according to Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, CEPAL in Spanish).

In an interview published by the left-leaning daily La Jornada, Bárcena said the largest drop in the minimum wage occurred in the 1980s; the wage stabilized in the 1990s, but it failed to grow and then fell slightly with the 2008 world economic crisis. Mexico is one of the few Latin American countries where the minimum wage didn’t recover during the past 10 years, in sharp contrast to Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Uruguay. Citing the example of Brazil, where the minimum wage doubled from 2002 to 2011, Bárcena said a clear and consistent minimum wage policy is what has been most effective in fighting poverty and inequality over the past decade. CEPAL is supporting a call from Miguel Angel Mancera, the center-left head of government for Mexico’s Federal District (DF, Mexico City), for a national discussion of the minimum wage. (LJ 6/9/14; Financial Times (UK) 6/18/14)

Mexico’s economy has been closely tied to the US economy, especially in the 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect. The agreement has created both winners, such as Mexico’s automotive assembly sector, and losers, notably agriculture, according to Alicia Girón, an economic researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). “In our case, with opening up and removing the duties on corn, genetically modified (GM) corn has arrived in Mexico and displaced production at the local level,” Girón told the Pervuvian online magazine Mariátegui. “So if we observe the fields that were abandoned or simply stopped producing corn, now they are centers for narco trafficking.” The loss of work in the countryside was also a major force driving migration to the US, she said. “It’s a lesson that all the free trade treaties that have been signed with the US, such as those with Colombia, Chile, Peru, should take into account.” (Mariátegui 6/6/14)

*3. Haiti: Martelly Harasses Opponents, Gets Award
Haitian investigative judge Sonel Jean François ordered political activist Rony Timothée provisionally released on June 4 while an inquiry continued into charges that he had set fire to a vehicle and incited others to crime during a May 14 demonstration against the government of President Michel Martelly. Timothée--a spokesperson for the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (FOPARC), which backs the Family Lavalas (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004)-- was arrested by armed civilians on May 17 with a misdated warrant and was held in prison in Arcahaie, a town some 30 km north of Port-au-Prince, starting on May 19. Judge François is also investigating two other defendants in the case, Assad Volcy and Buron Odigé.

“Everyone knows that Timothée’s arrest was of a political nature,” his attorney, André Michel, told the online news agency AlterPresse on June 4. “He had the good luck to appear before an independent judge,” Michel added, contrasting Timothée’s treatment to the situation of two other clients, Enold and Josué Florestal, who have been imprisoned since August 2013 [see Update #1188]. Another opposition figure has also faced government harassment. Moïse Jean-Charles, a senator for North department [see Update #1204], was attacked by national police agents on May 8 as he was returning to Port-au-Prince from a funeral for another activist, Fritz Gérald Civil, at Miragoâne in Nippes department. On May 30 the senator was barred from visiting Timothée at the Arcahaie prison, and several witnesses say he was attacked by guards at the prison. (AlterPresse 5/30/24, 6/5/14, 6/9/14)

On June 19 President Martelly attended a black-tie fundraiser in midtown New York to receive an award for work in education from the Happy Hearts Fund, a foundation that builds schools in areas hit by natural disasters. Former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) was honored at the same event for his work as the top United Nations (UN) envoy for the Indian Ocean tsunami recovery effort. The event, which reportedly raised $2.5 million, featured business leaders, fashion models and entertainment figures. At one point Martelly, formerly a singer of Haitian konpa music under the stage name “Sweet Micky,” joined with Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean to perform Bob Marley's “No Woman No Cry.” The Happy Hearts Fund’s founder, the model Petra Nemcova, is romantically involved with Martelly’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe.

Some 40-50 New York-area Haitians and their supporters protested outside on 42nd Street for about three hours, chanting “Where is the money?” from behind barricades as celebrities like fashion designer Donna Karan entered the event. Billions of dollars were raised for relief efforts after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated much of southern Haiti in January 2010, but Haitians say very little seemed to reach them. Bill Clinton headed the now-defunct Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), an international group charged with monitoring the funds. (Wall Street Journal online 6/20/14; report from Update editor)

*4. Puerto Rico: Austerity Law May Spark Strike
As of June 19 several Puerto Rican public employee unions appeared set to call a general strike to protest Law 76, a special austerity measure that Gov. Alejandro García Padilla signed on June 17. A coalition of 35 unions said it had selected a date for a general strike but would keep it secret so as to take the government by surprise; the union didn’t describe the form the strike would take. Two major unions—the Union of Workers of the Electrical Industry and Circulation (UTIER), which represents workers at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA, AEE in Spanish), and the Authentic Independent Union (UIA), which represents workers at the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA, AAA in Spanish)--held strike votes on June 17 and then staged a protest at San Juan’s Plaza Las Américas shopping mall. Some unions also started holding smaller job actions in the first week of June. In October 2009 the unions responded to earlier austerity measures with a powerful one-day general strike [see Update #1008], but it was unclear whether they would be able to mount a similar action now.

Law 76, the Special Law of Fiscal and Operational Sustainability of the Government, is a response to a fiscal crisis from February, when US rating agencies decided to reduce Puerto Rican bonds to junk status [see Update #1208]. The measure allows the government to renegotiate public employees’ contracts, liquidate unused sick days and freeze salaries; there are also options for privatizing PREPA and closing 100 public schools. Investors seemed unsure the austerity measures would work: yields on the $3.5 billion junk bonds issued in March soared in June, reaching 9.65% on June 19.

Union leaders insist that the drastic measures are unnecessary. On June 20, Julio Vargas, the president of UTIER’s Solidarity Program (ProSol), charged at a press conference that management employees had given themselves raises of as much as $3,500 a month in the last third of 2013, shortly before insisting on sacrifices by unionized workers. Meanwhile, UIA president Pedro Irene Maymí told demonstrators outside the Government Development Bank that day that the government had outsourced work in a total of $8 billion in contracts, not the $1.5 billion claimed by Gov. García Padilla. “This is the way they’re carrying off the money, to García Padilla’s friends,” Maymí said. The Puerto Rican Socialist Workers Movement (MST) called for the government to declare a moratorium on the public debt. (In These Times 6/9/14; Reuters 6/19/14; El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 6/20/14; Prensa Latina 6/21/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, US/immigration, US/policy

Latin America’s Rightwing Parties Are Falling Apart

Canada Found Guilty for Role in Mining Injustices in Latin America

Is the Chilean Student Movement Being Co-opted by Its Government?

Soccer Is Democratic. The World Cup Is Oligarchy. (Brazil)

Repressing World Cup protests — a booming business for Brazil

Peru: prison for regional leader who opposed mine

US Scientists, Oil Giant Stole Indigenous Blood (Ecuador)

Ecuador’s CONAIE Indigenous Movement: A Return to the Bases in a Fight for Water Rights

Against the war, a mandate for peace (Colombia)

Colombia Peace Talks Survive Elections, May Have Lasting Implications for Regional Integration and US-Led “War on Drugs”

Santos' Presidential Win in Colombia is a Vote for Peace

Protest and Destabilization in Venezuela: The Difference Between the Violent And Non-Violent Right Is Smaller Than You May Think

Is Poverty Still Falling in Venezuela?

Venezuela: Amazon indigenous protest mining law

El Salvador: charter to recognize indigenous rights

The Root Causes of Migration: End U.S. Funding of the Drug War and the Corrupt Honduran Regime

There Has Never Been a Better Time to be Forced into Exile for Being Gay in Honduras

Guatemalans File Lawsuit Against Canadian Mining Company for 2013 Shooting

Zapatistas Mourn a Death and Begin a New Cycle of Building Indigenous Autonomy (Mexico)

Mexican Workers Battle Firings, Peso-Pinching

Puerto Rico Unions Threaten Strike Against Austerity Budget

Juarez Mother Seeks U.S. Political Asylum (US/immigration)

The Latino Media Gap: A Conversation with Frances Negrón Muntaner (US/immigration)

How Deportation Created A New Class Of Disposable Soldiers (US/immigration)

Another US Spying Problem in Latin America: The US DEA (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: