Tuesday, April 22, 2014

WNU #1217 : Was the Fire in Chile a “Natural Disaster”?

Issue #1217, April 20, 2014

1. Chile: Was Valparaíso Fire a “Natural Disaster”?
2. Honduras: Radio Progreso Executive Murdered
3. El Salvador: US Judge Rules Against SOA Grad
4. Haiti: Human Rights Activist Threatened
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

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. Chile: Was Valparaíso Fire a “Natural Disaster”?
The central Chilean port city of Valparaíso remained under military control as of Apr. 15, three days after forest fires began sweeping into some of the city’s working-class neighborhoods, leaving at least 15 people dead and destroying 2,900 homes. Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said the government hoped to have the fires under control by Apr. 16, but the national forestry agency indicated that it might take the 5,000 firefighters and other personnel in the city as long as 20 days to extinguish the fires completely. Some 12,500 people are now without homes in Valparaíso; this disaster follows an 8.2-magnitude earthquake in northern Chile that killed five people on Apr. 1 and made 2,635 homes uninhabitable.

Declared a World Heritage City in 2004 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Valparaíso is located in an area prone to forest fires. But experts and reporters said the extent of the devastation resulted less from natural conditions than from political failures. Witnesses reported that the firefighters--all unpaid volunteers, according to Chilean historian Sergio Grez--were slow to arrive when the fires started on the afternoon of Apr. 12, and they were equipped only with shovels and one truck. Driven by strong winds, the fires spread quickly through the close-packed wooden structures in the poorer neighborhoods, made vulnerable by decades of unplanned growth. Roads were often too narrow for fire engines, and there was no running water for fire hoses in the affected areas. Helicopters came with water hours later.

“We have been the builders and architects of our own dangers,” Valparaíso mayor Jorge Castro admitted on Apr. 13. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet told the national daily El Diario de Cooperativa on Apr. 15 that her government would try “to rebuild in a more orderly manner.” “It’s not enough to reinstall houses or support families,” she said. “We have to do something more substantive.” (El Mostrador (Chile) 4/14/14; Les InRocks (France) 4/14/14; US News & World Report 4/15/14 from AP)

*2. Honduras: Radio Progreso Executive Murdered
Honduran journalist Carlos Hilario Mejía Orellana was stabbed to death the night of Apr. 11 at his home in the city of Progreso, in the northern department of Yoro. Mejía was the marketing executive for Radio Progreso, a community radio station established by Jesuits, and was also a member of the Jesuits’ Reflection, Investigation and Communications Team (ERIC). Police investigators suggested that he was killed by someone close to him in a “crime of passion,” but the radio station’s director, the Jesuit priest Ismael Moreno, called the murder “a direct attack not only on the life of our colleague, but a frontal attack on the work produced by Radio Progreso.” The station, which provided favorable coverage of resistance to the June 2009 military coup that overthrew then-president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009), has been the target of threats over the years [see Updates #1184, 1215]. The Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), called on the Honduran government in 2009—and again in 2010 and 2011--to provide protection for 16 Radio Progreso staffers, including Mejía.

National and international observers condemned Mejía’s murder and raised questions about the police investigation. Three US Congress members—Reps. James McGovern (D-MA), Sam Farr (D-CA) and Janice Schakowsky (IL)—issued a statement on Apr. 15 expressing “dismay” over the Honduran government’s failure to provide adequate protection for the station’s staff. They called on the authorities “to immediately implement protective measures for Radio Progreso and ERIC employees and to carry out a thorough investigation of the murder.” The French-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for the creation of a protection mechanism for the country’s journalists, who have been subject to more than 100 attacks and threats since 2010, according to a report by the Honduran government’s National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH). Earlier in the month Mexican novelist Álvaro Enrigue had attended an IACHR session in Washington, DC, to read the names of 32 Honduran journalists killed in the last decade. (Latin American Herald Tribune 4/13/14 from EFE; Adital (Brazil) 4/15/14; Rep. McGovern press release 4/15/14; Journalism in the Americas 4/16/14)

*3. El Salvador: US Judge Rules Against SOA Grad
A US immigration judge has ruled that former Salvadoran defense minister José Guillermo García Merino (1979-1983) is eligible for deportation from the US because of “clear and convincing evidence” that he “assisted or otherwise participated” in 11 acts of violence during the 1980s, including the March 1980 murder of San Salvador archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Gen. García also helped conceal the involvement of soldiers who raped and killed four US churchwomen in December 1980 and “knew or should have known” about the military’s December 1981 massacre of more than 800 civilians in the village of El Mozote, according to the 66-page decision by Immigration Judge Michael Horn in Miami. The judge ruled against García on Feb. 26, but the decision was only made public on Apr. 11 as the result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the New York Times. García’s lawyer said the general would appeal.

The decision against García comes after repeated efforts to bring him to justice in the US for war crimes committed in El Salvador. He came to the US in 1989 and was granted political asylum a year later. In May 1999 the families of the four murdered US churchwomen filed a suit (Ford et al. v. García, Vides Casanova) against García and former defense minister Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova (1983-1989) in Florida, where both generals have lived since moving to the US. A jury cleared the generals. Also in 1999 the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) brought a suit (Ramagoza Arce v. Garcia and Vides Casanova) against the generals on behalf of Salvadoran torture victims; the jury awarded the victims $54.6 million in 2002. US prosecutors began seeking the generals’ deportation in 2009, and an immigration judge cleared the way for Gen. Vides Casanova’s removal in February 2013 [see World War 4 Report 2/24/13].

Like many Salvadoran military officers, García and Vides Casanova received training at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), which was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001 [see Update #1200]. García completed a counterinsurgency course in 1962, when the SOA was located in Panama; it is now in Fort Benning, Georgia. García and Vides Casanova were both recipients of the US Legion of Merit, an award from the US Armed Forces for meritorious service, during the 1980s. (NYT 4/12/14; SOA Watch press release 4/15/14; National Catholic Reporter 4/17/14)

The war crimes with which García and Vides Casanova are charged took place during a bloody counterinsurgency against the rebel Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN); the fighting left 70,000 people dead. The FMLN later became a legal political party under a 1992 peace accord, and it backed current president Mauricio Funes, an independent, in his 2009 campaign. A leader of the FMLN, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, won the presidency in a runoff on Mar. 9 this year and is to take office on June 1. (BBC News 3/17/14)

*4. Haiti: Human Rights Activist Threatened
On Apr. 2 Pierre Espérance, the executive director of the Haitian nonprofit National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), received a letter at the organization’s Port-au-Prince office warning him not to issue “false reports destabilizing for the country.” “In 99 we missed you, this time you won't escape it, stop speaking,” the letter’s authors wrote, referring to a 1999 attack in which Espérance suffered bullet wounds to the shoulder and knee while driving in Port-au-Prince. Recent reports by the RNDDH have dealt with such subjects as the slow pace of the prosecution of former “president for life” Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier (1971-1986) [see Update #1210] and alleged ties between drug traffickers and the government of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”).

The threatening letter came less than two months after the Feb. 8 murder of Daniel Dorsinvil, the coordinator of the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), and his wife, the pediatric nurse Girdly Larêche [see Update #1208]. Two international human rights organizations, Amnesty International (AI) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, have issued notes expressing their concern about the threat to Espérance, and on Apr. 9 a criminal complaint was filed with the prosecutor’s office in Port-au-Prince. (Associated Press 4/15/14; AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/16/14, 4/16/14)

In related news, on Apr. 16 the Port-au-Prince-based Bureau of International Lawyers (BAI) and its US partner, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), issued a report on recent anti-union acts by Haitian employers and on apparent government complicity with the owners. The report cites the January firing of at least 36 unionists in the garment sector following two days of strikes and marches in December for an increased minimum wage [see Update #1210]. The report notes that the country’s garment assembly plants still have not complied with minimum wage requirements that went into effect in October 2012. Union leaders at Electricité d’Haïti (EDH), the state-owned electricity company, have also been illegally terminated, according to the report. On Jan. 10 the treasurer of the EDH workers’ union was knocked unconscious when EDH security guards tried to break up a press conference the unionists were holding on the street outside the company’s parking lot. (Center for Economic and Policy Research, Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch 4/17/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

Natural Resources as the Dynamic Axis of UNASUR Strategy (Latin America)
http://alainet.org/active/72475

Latin America - Economic Socialism in the 21st Century: Neoliberalism “Pure and Simple”
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/international-archives-60/4796-latin-america-economic-socialism-in-the-21st-century-neo-liberalism-pure-and-simple

National Congress of Brazil’s Landless Movement: Reinvention in Motion
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11875

The World Cup and the Neoliberal Transformation of Brazilian Cities
http://nacla.org/news/2014/4/17/world-cup-and-neoliberal-transformation-brazilian-cities

Rio de Janeiro: military operation against favelas (Brazil)
http://ww4report.com/node/13167

Brazil: anti-terrorism law sparks rights concerns
http://ww4report.com/node/13166

Bolivia demands return of Chile coastline
http://ww4report.com/node/13018#comment-452054

Logging Concessions Enable Illegal Logging Crisis in the Peruvian Amazon
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4800-logging-concessions-enable-illegal-logging-crisis-in-the-peruvian-amazon

Peru: police harassment of Conga protesters
http://ww4report.com/node/13145#comment-452055

Ecuador: ¡Lo Logramos! Despite All Odds, Activists Present Signatures Needed to Save Yasuní (Ecuador)
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/ecuador-archives-49/4794-ilo-logramos-despite-all-odds-activists-present-signatures-needed-to-save-yasuni

Bogotá Mayor’s Ouster Undermines Political Struggle for an Inclusive (Colombia)
http://nacla.org/blog/2014/4/17/bogot%C3%A1-mayor%E2%80%99s-ouster-undermines-political-struggle-inclusive-city

President Santos to Apologize for Uribe's Slander (Colombia)
http://nacla.org/blog/2014/4/16/president-santos-apologize-uribes-slander

Colombia: 'terrorist' attack on union headquarters
http://ww4report.com/node/13162

US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement 3 years on–the Long Road to Solidarity by Avi Chomsky
http://lawcha.org/wordpress/2014/04/15/us-colombia-free-trade-agreement-3-years-long-road-solidarity/

Colombia: pressure grows to expand drug decrim
http://ww4report.com/node/13154

Photo Essay: The Beehive Collective's First Tour in Colombia of the New Graphic Campaign ‘Mesoamérica Resiste’
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/colombia-archives-61/4799-photo-essay-the-beehive-collectiveas-first-tour-in-colombia-of-the-new-graphic-campaign-mesoamerica-resiste

Interview with Luis Britto Garcia, “The Blockades have Reduced and the Opposition is Divided” (Venezuela)
http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10622

More Mining Abuse in Guatemala
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4801-more-mining-abuse-in-guatemala

Convocation for the “Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán Lives! The Bachajón Struggle Continues!” (Mexico)
http://intercontinentalcry.org/convocation-two-weeks-worldwide-action-juan-vazquez-guzman-lives-bachajon-struggle-continues/

Peoples’ Encounter in Resistance Against the Extractive Mining Model in Mexico
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/4807-peoples-encounter-in-resistance-against-the-extractive-mining-model-in-mexico

Border Narco War Returns (Mexico)
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/border-narco-war-returns/

Why USAID’s Cuban Twitter Program was Secret
http://nacla.org/news/2014/4/14/why-usaid%E2%80%99s-cuban-twitter-program-was-secret

Free Alan Gross by Freeing the Cuban Five
http://nacla.org/news/2014/4/18/free-alan-gross-freeing-cuban-five

New Report Details Persecution of Public and Private Sector Union Activists in Haiti
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/relief-and-reconstruction-watch/new-report-details-persecution-of-public-and-private-sector-union-activists-in-haiti

Inspector General: USAID Project to Provide Housing Comes up Short (Haiti)
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/relief-and-reconstruction-watch/inspector-general-usaid-project-to-provide-housing-comes-up-short

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:
http://www.cipamericas.org/
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/967/blastContent.jsp
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/
http://intercontinentalcry.org/
http://www.ueinternational.org/MLNA/index.php
http://nacla.org/
http://upsidedownworld.org/
http://venezuelanalysis.com/
http://wagingnonviolence.org/
http://ww4report.com/node/

For immigration updates and events:
http://thepoliticsofimmigration.blogspot.com/

END

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

WNU #1216 : Chilean Water Activist to Be Jailed for “Slander”

Issue #1216, April 13, 2014

1. Chile: Water Activist to Be Jailed for “Slander”
2. Argentina: General Strike Targets Fernández Policies
3. Mexico: HP Fined in Latest PEMEX Scandal
4. Cuba: Did USAID KO Deal for Gross Release?
5. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, 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. Chile: Water Activist to Be Jailed for “Slander”
On Apr. 7 a court in La Ligua, in Chile’s Petorca province, Valparaíso region, convicted agronomist Rodrigo Mundaca of slander and sentenced him to 541 days in prison for accusing former government minister Edmundo Pérez Yoma of water usurpation. Mundaca, the secretary of the Movement in Defense of Water, Land and the Environment (Modatima), also faces a fine. According to current Modatima spokesperson Luis Soto, the court’s decision won’t stop the group’s activist work. He said Modatima would take the case “to the Valparaíso Appeals Court, and if we aren’t successful there, we’ll go to the Supreme Court.”

Pérez Yoma is a Christian Democratic Party (PDC) politician who served twice as defense minister under former president Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (1994-2000) and then as interior minister in the first term (2006-2010) of current president Michelle Bachelet. He owns 90% of an agricultural firm, Sociedad Agrícola El Cóndor Ltda. Modatima says the company has taken water illegally from the Los Ángeles estuary for its crops, depriving local farmers and small businesses of the resource, which is scarce in much of Chile. The group has made the same accusation against Agrícola San Ignacio, owned by Ignacio Alamos, and Agrícola Iguana, owned by Marcelo Trivelli. Apparently Pérez Yoma sued for slander after Mondaca aired the charges on CNN Chile during a 2012 interview. (El Ciudadano (Chile) 4/5/14; Radio Universidad de Chile 4/8/14; Modatima communiqué 4/9/14)

In other news, after a year and a half of imprisonment on charges filed under Chile’s “antiterrorist law” [see Update #1161], six indigenous Mapuche have been cleared by the Oral Criminal Court in Temuco, the capital of Araucanía region. José Antonio Ñirripil, Eliseo Ñirripil Cayupán, Elvis Millán Colicheu, Jorge Cayupán Ñirripil, Cristian Alexis Cayupán Morales and Daniel Canio Tralcal were accused of setting a fire at the Brasil estate in Vilcún community in September 2009; several of them were also charged with robbery with intimidation. At one point they held a hunger strike to demand their release.

Three other Mapuche prisoners began a hunger strike in the Angol prison on Apr. 10 to push for a review of their sentences and a pardon for a fourth prisoner, José Mariano Llanca, who is terminally ill. The three strikers, Cristian Pablo Levinao Melinao, Luis Humberto Marileo Cariqueo and Leonardo Eusebio Quijón Pereira, were sentenced to 10 years in prison for homicide and robbery with intimidation. They previously held a hunger strike in October 2012 [see Update #1147]. (Adital (Brazil) 4/11/14)

The Argentina-based organization Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ) and Argentine human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, winner of the 1980 Nobel peace price, have sent a letter to Chilean president Bachelet expressing their concern about the threat to Mapuche communities from what they called “the multiplication of investment projects of an industrial character, such as hydroelectric plants and the salmon industry’s fish farming.” SERPAJ and Pérez Esquivel praised the changes Bachelet promised as she started her new term in office on Mar. 11, and they predicted “an historic significance for your government if you encourage the application of the Mapuche communities’ right to [their] territories.” (MapuExpress (Chile) 4/8/14)

*2. Argentina: General Strike Targets Fernández Policies
A large part of Argentina’s labor movement participated a 24-hour general strike on Apr. 10 to demand increases in wages and pensions and to protest the economic policies of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. With support from the Automatic Tramways Union (UTA) and three airline workers’ unions, the strike shut down surface trains, subways, air service, schools and businesses in many parts of the country. Union leaders said the action was 90% effective, and the Argentine business consulting firm Orlando Ferreres & Asociados S.A. set the losses for the day at almost $1 billion. Government officials and Fernández supporters downplayed the significance of the strike, charging that relatively few workers actively participated and that people stayed home only because transportation was cut off by the UTA and by roadblocks that leftist parties and groups had set up.

The Apr. 10 action was the second major strike against the Fernández government in a year and a half, following nearly a decade of labor support for the president and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, who was president from 2003 to 2007 [see Update #1153]. Hugo Moyano--the longtime leader of the truck drivers’ union who heads the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) dissident faction and was a strong ally of Fernández until 2012--is now spearheading the labor attacks on her government. The current strike was backed by two other labor federations: the section of the left-leaning Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA) headed by Pablo Micheli and the more conservative CGT White and Blue faction, which is led by Tourism, Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union (Uthgra) head Luis Barrionuevo. Also supporting the strike was the Workers' Left Front, an alliance of three Trotskyist parties: the Workers' Party (PO), the Socialist Workers' Party (PTS), and Socialist Left (IS).

The strike reaffirmed the strength of Argentina’s labor movement, which represents 8 million workers, nearly half the labor force. At the same time the strike highlighted the movement’s divisions: it was strongly opposed by a section of the CTA and by the large CGT faction headed by Antonio Caló. (Wall Street Journal 4/9/14; InfoBAE (Argentina) 4/11/14; La Jornada 4/11/14 from correspondent)

*3. Mexico: HP Fined in Latest PEMEX Scandal
On Apr. 9 the California-based technology company Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced that it was paying a $108 million fine to the US Justice Department and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to end an investigation into subsidiaries in Poland, Russia and Mexico that allegedly paid bribes to officials. The HP subsidiaries “created a slush fund for bribe payments, set up an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts to launder money, employed two sets of books to track bribe recipients, and used anonymous email accounts and prepaid mobile telephones to arrange covert meetings to hand over bags of cash,” according to a statement by the Justice Department. HP said the corruption “was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company.”

In Mexico the bribery was aimed at winning contracts worth some $6 million “to sell hardware, software, and licenses” to Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), the giant state-owned oil monopoly, the Justice Department said. “HP Mexico understood that it had to retain a certain third-party consultant with close ties to senior executives of PEMEX. HP agreed to pay a $1.41 million ‘commission’ to the consultant.” The consultant then paid about $125,000 to a PEMEX official, according to the Justice Department statement. (San Jose (California) Mercury News 4/9/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/10/14 from AFP, Reuters)

This is the second revelation in less than two months of corruption involving PEMEX and a US corporation. At the end of February the US banking corporation Citigroup Inc. announced that its Mexican subsidiary, Banco Nacional de Mexico (Banamex), had lent some $400 million to a major PEMEX contractor, Oceanografía SA de CV, based on falsified invoices that Oceanografía claimed it had issued to PEMEX [see Update #1212]. According to initial reports, some PEMEX employees and one Banamex employee had collaborated in this scheme. But on Apr. 2 the New York Times reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York had started a criminal inquiry into the possibility that Citigroup employees in the US were involved. The investigators are also looking to see whether the bank ignored warning signs, according to the article. In addition, the US attorney’s office in Massachusetts has issued subpoenas in connection with suspicions that Citigroup may have failed to maintain proper safeguards against money laundering. (NYT 4/2/14)

In addition to corruption scandals, PEMEX faces complaints about environmental damage. As of Apr. 9 some 75 communities in Nacajuca and Jalpa de Méndez municipalities in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco had blocked roads to oil installations for a week to demand that representatives of PEMEX and the state return to discussions with local residents. The communities want to be compensated for damages caused by the escape of gas from the Terra 123 oil well starting on Oct. 19; the problems continued into December. The discussions broke off on Mar. 25 when PEMEX announced it wouldn’t pay for damages. According to Verónica Pérez Rojas, a legislative deputy from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), about 50,000 families were affected by the leak, which she said contaminated crops and bodies of water and caused the deaths of farm animals. (LJ 4/9/14)

*4. Cuba: Did USAID KO Deal for Gross Release?
US citizen Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for his work there as a contractor for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), held a liquids-only hunger strike from Apr. 3 to Apr. 11 to protest his treatment by both the Cuban and the US governments. According to Scott Gilbert, Gross’s Washington, DC-based lawyer, the prisoner started his hunger strike after he learned about an Apr. 3 Associated Press report on ZunZuneo, the “Cuban Twitter” service that USAID launched after his arrest in December 2009. Gross was charged with seeking to subvert the Cuban government by supplying dissidents with internet technology, and the ZunZuneo had the potential to damage his legal case [see Update #1215].

A statement released by a public relations firm hired by Gross’s family said he had called off the fast at the request of his 91-year-old mother but that he planned to continue protesting. “There will be no cause for further intense protest when both governments show more concern for human beings and less malice and derision toward each other,” Gross added, according to the statement. (Miami Herald 4/13/14)

Actions by USAID officials and contractors may in fact have directly sabotaged efforts to arrange an early release for Gross, an Apr. 9 article by Newsweek reporter Jeff Stein suggested, citing Fulton Armstrong, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Council (NSC) Latin America specialist who worked as an aide to then-senator John Kerry (D-MA) in 2010. According to Armstrong, the Cuban government was willing to consider freeing Gross if the US rolled back some of its “regime change” programs in Cuba. Armstrong said he and an aide to then-representative Howard Berman (D-CA) got an agreement from top USAID and State Department officials for the rollback.

Cuban officials “responded very positively and said that the cleanup—which they understood would be done in phases—would certainly help them make the case for expedited procedures for Gross’s release,” Armstrong told Newsweek. But some USAID officials refused to go along with the plan. “They reassured their contractors and grantees that, despite rumors of change, business would continue as usual—information that would surely reach Cuban ears—and they later leaked to the press that, in fact, program funding remained unchanged and the reforms were not being implemented,” Armstrong said. “At that point, the discussions about program reforms to gain Gross’s release ended.” (Newsweek 4/9/14)

Another article by Jeff Stein raises questions about the quality of USAID’s Cuba contacts and contractors. One of Gross’s contacts was José Manuel Collera Vento, the grand master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba’s Freemasons; on Apr. 1, 2011, the Cuban government revealed that Collera Vento was a Cuban agent. One of USAID’s contractors for Cuban operations was DC-based public relations entrepreneur Akram Elias, who worked with both Gross and Collera Vento. Elias has contracts with 18 US government agencies, according to his Capital Communications Group website, but his business interests aren’t limited to the US. In November 2010 he flew to Damascus to offer his services to the Syrian government; he proposed to work for $22,000 a month at improving Syria’s image in Washington and possibly ending sanctions the US had imposed. (Newsweek 4/7/14)

Daniel Ramos, who heads operations for Cuba’s state-owned telecommunications company, Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba SA (Etecsa), in effect admitted at an Apr. 9 press conference in Havana that Cubans’ limited access to the internet has contributed to the success of operations like ZunZuneo. “[One] of our desires and our intentions this year is to succeed in bringing the internet to the population,” he said. (Radio Rebelde (Cuba) 4/9/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/10/14 from AP, Reuters, Prensa Latina, Xinhua)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, US/immigration

“Because we remember, we sow justice” (Argentina)
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11858

Defending the Earth in Argentina: From Direct Action to Autonomy
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/argentina-archives-32/4783-defending-the-earth-in-argentina-from-direct-action-to-autonomy

Paraguay: imprisoned campesinos on hunger strike
http://ww4report.com/node/13136

Paraguay: indigenous Aché people charge genocide
http://ww4report.com/node/13135

Paraguay: guerilla attacks escalate
http://ww4report.com/node/12567#comment-452045

Brazil’s World Cup Security Turns Repressive
http://alainet.org/active/72855

Brazil: Police Close ‘Private Militia’ Firm Following Guarani Murders
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4792-brazil-police-close-private-militia-firm-following-guarani-murders-

Police close 'militia' following Guarani murders (Brazil)
http://ww4report.com/node/13149

Bolivia: new mining minister sworn in
http://ww4report.com/node/13123#comment-452043

Bolivia: cocaleros clash with eradication force
http://ww4report.com/node/13149

Peru: 24 arrested on Shining Path links
http://ww4report.com/node/13137

Peru: Cajamarca repression sparks protests
http://ww4report.com/node/13145

Peru: Shawi indigenous leader assassinated
http://ww4report.com/node/13144

A Rebirth of Hope in Colombia
http://ww4report.com/node/13142

Colombia: land rights activist assassinated
http://ww4report.com/node/13138

Colombia: ‘That is How Dead Guerillas are Made’, Through False Positives
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/colombia-archives-61/4786-colombia-that-is-how-dead-guerillas-are-made-through-false-positives

Colombia Approaches a Point of No Return in Loss of Biodiversity
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/colombia-archives-61/4793-colombia-approaches-a-point-of-no-return-in-loss-of-biodiversity

U.S.-Colombia Labour Rights Plan Falls Short
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4790-us-colombia-labour-rights-plan-falls-short

Chavistas Debate the Pace of Change in Venezuela
http://nacla.org/news/2014/4/9/chavistas-debate-pace-change-venezuela

Human Rights Watch Should Stick to the Facts on Venezuela
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/human-rights-watch-should-stick-to-the-facts-on-venezuela

Venezuelan Government and Opposition Sit Down to Talks
http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10605

Guatemala - Interview with Judge Yassmín Barrios: “The Door to Impunity and Corruption is Being Opened”
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4787-guatemala-interview-with-judge-yassmin-barrios-the-door-to-impunity-and-corruption-is-being-opened

Femicide Courts in Guatemala: A Beacon of Light in the Fight against Impunity
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4785-femicide-courts-in-guatemala-a-beacon-of-light-in-the-fight-against-impunity

Mexican Workers in the Continental Crucible
http://nacla.org/news/2014/4/8/mexican-workers-continental-crucible

Behind the Scenes: What the Fans of Wirikuta Fest Bought With Their Tickets
http://intercontinentalcry.org/behind-scenes-fans-wirikuta-fest-bought-tickets-22679/

Mexico Armed
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/mexico-armed/

Michoacán: 'community police' out of control —already? (Mexico)
http://ww4report.com/node/13133

Big Banks Back Mobsters and Murder in Mexico (Audio)
http://nacla.org/blog/2014/4/10/big-banks-back-mobsters-and-murder-mexico-audio

Three years after a murder, Mexican movement demands justice
http://wagingnonviolence.org/2014/04/three-years-murder-mexican-movement-demands-justice/

Bocafloja's Latest Release: Alambre (Mexico)
http://nacla.org/news/2014/4/11/bocaflojas-latest-release-alambre

Migrant Shelter Sees Growing Number of Minors Heading North (Mexico)
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11860

A Little Girl Named Nohemi: Martyr of Migration (Mexico)
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/a-little-girl-named-nohemi-martyr-of-migration/

Transparently Untransparent – USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (haiti)
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/relief-and-reconstruction-watch/transparently-untransparent-usaids-office-of-transition-initiatives

Canadian Corporation Plans Tar Sands Strip Mining in Trinidad and Tobago
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/caribbean-archives-45/4791-canadian-corporation-plans-tar-sands-strip-mining-in-trinidad-and-tobago

Immigrant Labor, Immigrant Right (US/immigration)
http://nacla.org/news/2014/4/10/immigrant-labor-immigrant-rights

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:
http://www.cipamericas.org/
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/967/blastContent.jsp
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/
http://intercontinentalcry.org/
http://www.ueinternational.org/MLNA/index.php
http://nacla.org/
http://upsidedownworld.org/
http://venezuelanalysis.com/
http://wagingnonviolence.org/
http://ww4report.com/node/

For immigration updates and events:
http://thepoliticsofimmigration.blogspot.com/

END

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:
http://thepoliticsofimmigration.org/

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WNU #1215 : Kennedy Backed Plan for 1964 Brazil Coup

Issue #1215, April 6, 2014

1. Brazil: Kennedy Backed Plan for 1964 Coup
2. Cuba: USAID’s “Cuban Twitter” Flops
3. Mexico: Four Die in Chiapas Land Dispute
4. Honduras: Three Convicted in Reporter's Murder
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin Amercia, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, 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: Kennedy Backed Plan for 1964 Coup
On Apr. 1, the 50th anniversary of the military coup that removed left-leaning Brazilian president João Goulart (1961-64) from office, the Washington, DC-based research group National Security Archive posted 16 Brazil-related documents from the administration of US president John Kennedy (1961-1963) on its website. The documents—which include declassified National Security Council (NSC) records and recently transcribed tapes of White House conversations—detail the administration’s efforts to bring President Goulart into line, and its plans for dealing with him if he continued to implement social reforms and to oppose US policy on Cuba.

President Kennedy and his advisers were considering a military coup as early as July 1962, according to a tape Kennedy made secretly of a July 30 meeting in the Oval Office. “We may very well want [the Brazilian military] to take over at the end of the year, if they can,” then-deputy assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs Richard Goodwin advised. Lincoln Gordon, the US ambassador to Brazil, said that “one of our important jobs is to strengthen the spine of the military. To make clear, discreetly, that we are not necessarily hostile to any kind of military action whatsoever if it’s clear that the reason for the military action is…[Goulart’s] giving the country away to the...” “Communists,” Kennedy interrupted, finishing the sentence.

On Dec. 11, 1962, a meeting of the NSC’s Executive Committee considered three options on Brazil: “do nothing and allow the present drift to continue”; “collaborate with Brazilian elements hostile to Goulart with a view to bringing about his overthrow”; and “seek to change the political and economic orientation of Goulart and his government.” The committee decided on the third option, saying that Goulart’s opponents lacked the “capacity and will to overthrow” him and that there wasn’t “a near-future US capability to stimulate [a coup] operation successfully.” But the NSC felt that the coup option “must be kept under active and continuous consideration.”

President Kennedy sent his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to talk to Goulart on Dec. 17, but the Brazilian president continued with his reforms and his independent foreign policy. By October 1963 the US president felt he’d had enough. “Do you see a situation where we might be—find it desirable to intervene militarily ourselves?” he asked at an Oct. 7 meeting. “I would not want us to close our minds to the possibility of some kind of discreet intervention which would help see the right side win,” Ambassador Gordon said, and called for contingency plans to get ammunition or fuel to pro-US factions of the military. After the meeting, Gordon returned to Brazil and supervised the preparation of these plans at the US embassy. The plans had what a Nov. 22 transmission memorandum described as “a heavy emphasis on armed intervention.”

Kennedy never read the Nov. 22 memo; he was assassinated that day. It was left to the administration of his successor, President Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969), to back the Brazilian military when it overthrew Goulart in April 1964. (National Security Archive 4/2/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/3/14 from correspondent)

As the center-left government of current Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff marked the coup anniversary this month, a grassroots organization, the Xingu Alive Forever Movement (MXVPS), charged that old policies of spying on activists were continuing despite the restoration of democracy in 1985. MXVPS coordinator Antonia Melo has filed a complaint against the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) and the Belo Monte Construction Consortium (CCBM) charging that they spied on the group during its annual planning meeting in February 2013. The MXVPS is a collective of organizations opposing the building of the giant Belo Monte dam in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará [see Update #1189]. (Adital (Brazil) 4/3/14)

*2. Cuba: USAID’s “Cuban Twitter” Flops
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), a US government foreign aid agency, secretly ran a cell phone-based imitation of the Twitter social networking service in Cuba from 2010 to 2012, according to an Apr. 3 report by the Associated Press (AP) wire service. The service—named “ZunZuneo,” Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s tweet—was developed in conjunction with two private contractors, the Washington, DC-based Creative Associates International and the Denver-based Mobile Accord. ZunZuneo was popular with young Cubans, who were unaware of its origin; by 2012 the service had some 40,000 subscribers.

The Cuban government restricts internet access but encourages the use of cell phones, provided by the state-owned enterprise Cubacel. Starting in 2009 and using 500,000 phone numbers supplied secretly by a “key contact” at Cubacel, USAID and Creative Associates began constructing a messaging service similar to Twitter but based on cell phone text messages rather than the internet. ZunZuneo went public in February 2010, with nonpolitical messages on subjects like music and sports.

But providing Cubans with a social network was apparently not USAID’s main goal. The agency eventually planned to use ZunZuneo to create what it called “smart mobs” in “critical/opportunistic situations,” according to USAID documents, with the strategic objective of “push[ing Cuba] out of a stalemate through tactical and temporary initiatives, and get[ting] the transition process going again towards democratic change.” Planning for ZunZuneo started about a year after USAID officials discussed “between five to seven different transition plans” for “hastening a peaceful transition to a democratic, market-oriented society” in Cuba, according to documents filed in federal court in Washington in January 2013 [see Update #1160]. USAID also used the service to construct what AP described as “a vast database about the Cuban subscribers, including gender, age, ‘receptiveness’ and ‘political tendencies’”; the agency said it could use this information to “maximize our possibilities to extend our reach.”

The “Cuban Twitter” project eventually unraveled because of the difficulty of keeping ZunZuneo’s origins secret and the cost of running it—including the large payments USAID’s front companies had to make to Cubacel for the text messages. By the end of 2012 ZunZuneo had collapsed--to the disappointment of many Cuban users—without ever being used to promote “smart mobs.” (AP 4/3/14)

The Cuban government quickly denounced the project after the AP story’s publication. “The US should respect international law and the intentions and principles of the United Nation’s Charter,” Cuban Foreign Ministry North American division director Josefina Vidal said on Apr. 4. She called for the US to “end its illegal and covert actions against Cuba.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/5/14 from AFP, DPA) Reaction was not much more favorable in Washington, where USAID head Rajiv Shah is scheduled to testify on Apr. 8 before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee. In a television appearance on Apr. 3, the subcommittee’s chair, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), described the project as “dumb, dumb, dumb.” (AP 4/4/14)

*3. Mexico: Four Die in Chiapas Land Dispute
Four people died the morning of Apr. 5 in a confrontation between indigenous Mexicans over land in Chilón municipality in the highland region of the southeastern state of Chiapas. The violence broke out when some 25 people tried to remove members of the Regional Organization of Autonomous Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO) from a 84-hectare ranch; sources differ on whether the ranch is called San Luis or Luis Irineo. The attackers were apparently egged on by the former owner of the ranch, which a group of ORCAO members took over in 1994. On Apr. 6 the state attorney general’s office announced that four people had been arrested in the incident. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/6/14; SDP Noticias (Mexico) 4/6/14)

The Jan. 1, 1994 uprising of the Chiapas-based Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) sparked land occupations throughout the state’s highlands, but not all the occupying groups were sympathetic to the Zapatistas; disputes continue to this day. Zapatista supporters in the Apr. 10 Ejido (communal farm), located between Altamirano and Las Margaritas in the highlands, say ORCAO members joined some 300 people from the “Democratic faction” of the Independent Central of Agrarian Workers and Campesinos (CIOAC) in a Jan. 30 attack on the ejido with stones, clubs and machetes that left six people injured [see World War 4 Report 2/19/14]. Medical workers from Altamirano’s San Carlos Hospital were reportedly attacked when they attempted to help the injured. EZLN supporters accuse the Las Margaritas municipal government as well as the state and federal governments of inciting the violence. (Proceso (Mexico) 2/19/14)

Zapatista sympathizers report that Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, the regional coordinator of the pro-EZLN Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, was murdered on Mar. 21 while in Chilón municipality, a little less than one year after the murder of another member of the ejido, Juan Vázquez Guzmán. The sources are not clear on the motives for the killings, but they point to Chilón mayor Leonardo Guirao Aguilar, of the small centrist Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), and mention a possible connection of the violence to the Florida-based Norton Consulting real estate company and plans for the development of tourism in the region, which includes the Palenque archeological site. (Koman Ilel (Mexico) 3/22/14; Enlace Zapatista (Mexico) 4/2/14)

*4. Honduras: Three Convicted in Reporter's Murder
On Mar. 25 a Tegucigalpa court convicted three men in the May 2012 murder of Honduran journalist Angel Alfredo Villatoro Rivera [see Update #1130]. Marvin Alonso Gómez and the brothers Osman Fernando and Edgar Francisco Osorio Argujo are scheduled to be sentenced on Apr. 25; prison terms could range from 40 years to life. At least 40 Honduran journalists have been murdered in the past decade, with few convictions. Cases include the July 2013 kidnapping and murder of television journalist Aníbal Barrow [see Update #1184] and the October 2013 shooting death of Globo TV camera operator Manuel Murillo Varela [see Update #1199]. The French-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Honduras 129th out of 180 countries in its 2014 press freedom index. (Thomas Reuters Foundation 3/28/14; IFEX 3/31/14)

In related news, there have still been no arrests in the August 2013 shooting deaths of three members of the Tolupan indigenous group near an anti-mining and anti-logging protest in the community of Locomapa in the northern department of Yoro [see Update #1190]. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued precautionary measures for the protection of 38 Locomapa residents on Dec. 19, but the suspects in the killings remain free. On Mar. 27 Selvin Matute, one of the two main suspects, warned an anti-mining activist that if the protesters continued to make declarations on Radio Progreso, they would be dragged from their houses and their tongues would be cut off. (América Latina en Movimiento (ALAI) 4/4/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin Amercia, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US/policy

Natural Resources as the dynamic axis of UNASUR strategy (Latin America)
http://alainet.org/active/72475

Are Brazil’s Dams to Blame for Record Floods in Bolivia?
http://nacla.org/blog/2014/3/31/are-brazil%E2%80%99s-dams-blame-record-floods-bolivia

Bolivia: three dead in miners' protests
http://ww4report.com/node/13123

In Bolivia, Being a Journalist and Organizer go Together
http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/cochabamba-bolivia-communicator-organizer-go-together/

Colombia: gains against Buenaventura butchers?
http://ww4report.com/node/13125

Venezuela: A Call for Peace
http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10565

Where is Venezuela’s Political Violence Coming From? A Complete List of Fatalities from the Disturbances
http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10580

Lessons from the Costa Rican Elections
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11776

One Year Later: Rio Blanco Still Holds Strong Against Damming and Death (Honduras)
http://intercontinentalcry.org/one-year-later-rio-blanco-still-holds-strong-22592/

One Year of Resistance in Rio Blanco (Honduras)
http://nacla.org/news/2014/4/2/one-year-resistance-rio-blanc

Tolupan Land Defenders Subject to More Threats in Honduras
http://www.alainet.org/active/72712&lang=es

Where Does the Left Stand in Guatemala?
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/guatemala-archives-33/4771-where-does-the-left-stand-in-guatemala-

Tell Secretary Kerry: No US Funds to the Guatemalan Army!
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4778-tell-secretary-kerry-no-us-funds-to-the-guatemalan-army

On Mexican Isthmus, Indigenous Communities Oppose Massive Energy Projects
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11751

Fracking, Seismic Activity Grow Hand in Hand in Mexico
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4776-fracking-seismic-activity-grow-hand-in-hand-in-mexico

Mexican Peace Activist Says Focus Must Be More on Justice than Peace
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11739

Va Por Kuy: Deadly "Non-Lethal" Weapons and Disappearance Under Peña-Nieto's Reign (Mexico)
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/4779-va-por-kuy-deadly-qnon-lethalq-weapons-and-disappearance-under-pena-nietos-reign

NAFTA Linked to Massive Human Rights Violations in Mexico
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11779

Canada Arms Mexico
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/4772-canada-arms-mexico

USAID Subversion in Latin America Not Limited to Cuba (US/policy)
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/usaid-subversion-in-latin-america-not-limited-to-cuba

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:
http://www.cipamericas.org/
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/967/blastContent.jsp
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/
http://intercontinentalcry.org/
http://www.ueinternational.org/MLNA/index.php
http://nacla.org/
http://upsidedownworld.org/
http://venezuelanalysis.com/
http://wagingnonviolence.org/
http://ww4report.com/node/

For immigration updates and events:
http://thepoliticsofimmigration.blogspot.com/

END

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:
http://thepoliticsofimmigration.org/

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

WNU #1214: Paraguayans Hold First General Strike in 20 Years

Issue #1214, March 30, 2014

1. Paraguay: Workers and Campesinos Hold General Strike
2. Panama: Ngöbe-Buglé Step Up Fight Against Dam
3. Mexico: Bidding Set to Start on Energy Sector
4. Cuba: New Law Expands Foreign Investment
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, 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. Paraguay: Workers and Campesinos Hold General Strike
Starting on the evening of Mar. 25, thousands of Paraguayan unionists, campesinos and students participated in a 24-hour general strike to protest the economic policies of President Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara. Union sources said the action shut down transportation, schools and most businesses in Asunción. This was the country’s first general strike in 20 years, and the first major demonstration against the government since President Cartes’ inauguration last August. Cartes, a member of the rightwing Colorado Party, was elected in April 2013; the previous elected president, the left-leaning former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo, was removed from office by Congress in a de facto coup on June 22, 2012, one year before the end of his term [see Update #1135].

The general strike was sponsored by a broad range of organizations, including the Classist Union Current (CSC), the Organization of Education Workers of Paraguay-National Union (OTEP-SN), the National Campesino Federation (FNC) and the leftist Paraguay Pyahurã Party (PPP). It was scheduled to coincide with the Poor Campesinos’ March, an event campesino groups have held for 21 years to press for agrarian reform. The campesinos were also demanding controls over the prices of staple products and an end to an agricultural system based on large estates. Unionists were calling for a 25% increase in the minimum wage and were protesting the Public-Private Alliance Law, a proposal by Cartes that opponents see as a way to privatize public infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, Asunción’s international airport and toll highways from the capital to Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. Cartes had raised the minimum wage by 10% in February, from 1,658,232 to 1,824,005 guaranís a month (about US$373 to about US$410), but he acted without consulting union leaders, who dismissed the raise as inadequate.

The general strike opened with a music festival at the Plaza de la Democracia in Asunción the evening of Mar. 25 and a gathering of campesinos in front of the city’s cathedral. The government mobilized 26,000 agents of the National Police to monitor the strike and guard presidential offices and the Congress building, but there appeared to be no reports of violence. (Adital (Brazil) 3/26/14; InfoBAE (Argentina) 3/26/14; Mercopress (Uruguay) 3/27/14)

*2. Panama: Ngöbe-Buglé Step Up Fight Against Dam
Silvia Carrera, the traditional leader (cacica) of Panama’s indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé, announced on Mar. 30 that she would present an appeal the next day to the Supreme Court of Justice concerning land expropriated for the controversial Barro Blanco dam [see Update #1180]. She said this would be part of a legal action against Law 18. Passed on Mar. 26, 2013, the law allows the Public Services Authority (ASEP) to expropriate, evict and indemnify the population living beside the Tabasará river in the western province of Chiriquí, where the dam is being built. According to Ngöbe-Buglé activists, some 3,000 people will be relocated because of the project, which is now said to be 64% complete.

The Ngöbe-Buglé have been protesting the construction of the dam for the past two years. They insist that since the project is in their own designated territory (comarca), construction should not have been started without first holding a referendum of the indigenous group’s members. In a television interview on Feb. 11, Silvia Carrera charged that the government of rightwing Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli had failed to respond to indigenous concerns because it has interests in common with Generadora del Istmo, S.A. (GENISA), the Honduran-owned company building the dam. Martinelli responded by charging that the Ngöbe-Buglé were playing electoral politics.

Meanwhile, protesters have set up barricades and a camp at the dam’s construction site in an effort to block the work. The Apr. 10 Movement, an indigenous community group that is independent of the traditional leadership, announced it would publicize information on attacks on human rights and environmental damage in the territory with the goal of stopping the dam. (Adital (Brazil) 3/27/14; Prensa Latina 3/30/14)

*3. Mexico: Bidding Set to Start on Energy Sector
After 75 years of state control over oil and gas production, the Mexican government is planning to open up about two-thirds of its reserves to bidding by private companies, according to information that Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly, passed on to potential bidders on Mar. 28. This is the first indication of what can be expected from President Enrique Peña Nieto’s controversial “energy reform” program. Changes to the Constitution enabling the program were passed by Congress and a majority of states in December, over strong opposition from grassroots organizations and parties on the left; doubts about contracting out oil and gas exploitation increased following fraud allegations against a major PEMEX contractor, Oceanografía SA de CV [see Update #1212].

PEMEX estimates that Mexico has reserves of oil and gas totaling some 112.8 billion barrels, but more than half (about 60.2 billion barrels) is in unconventional sources such as shale gas. PEMEX is asking for control over about 31% of the total, but most of this would be in proven reserves that can be exploited by conventional means. Outside contractors would be bidding largely for shale deposits and oil reserves deep in the Gulf of Mexico; PEMEX is seeking just 15% of the shale reserves, for example. However, private contractors will continue to be involved in PEMEX’s operations, as they are now.

The government claims that the program will increase production from 2.5 million to 6 million barrels a day. Martí Batres, president of the newly formed center-left National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, called the production goal irrational. “This will also produce more greenhouse gases, global warming and other environmental consequences,” he said. (Reuters 3/26/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 3/29/14; Mexican Labor News & Analysis, March 2014)

In other news, two activists, Ignacio García Maldonado and Emanuel López Martínez, were shot dead on the early morning of Mar. 29 while they were driving near Ciudad de las Canteras in the southern state of Oaxaca. García Maldonado belonged to the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), a leading force in a movement that paralyzed much of the state for months in 2006 [see Update #1054]. The two men had been involved in peace talks between two communities in the Sierra Sur region, Santiago Amoltepec and San Mateo Yucutindoo, and they were traveling in a vehicle borrowed from the Human Rights Advocacy of the Human Rights of the Peoples of Oaxaca (DDHPO), apparently as part of this work. Oaxaca attorney general Joaquín Carrillo Ruiz promised a speedy investigation of the double murder. (LJ 3/30/14)

*4. Cuba: New Law Expands Foreign Investment
In a four-hour extraordinary session on Mar. 29 attended by President Raúl Castro Ruz, the 612 deputies in Cuba’s unicameral National Assembly of Popular Power voted unanimously to approve a new law governing foreign investment. Replacing a measure put in place in 1995 under then-president Fidel Castro, the Foreign Investment Law will allow foreign companies to operate in Cuba independently, rather than in joint ventures with state enterprises, according to a report in the Cuban daily Juventud Rebelde published shortly before the legislation was passed. Most foreign companies will be required to pay a 15% tax on profits, half the current rate, the article said, and they will enjoy a tax moratorium for the first eight years of their operations in Cuba. Rates may be higher for companies that exploit natural resources, such as nickel or fossil fuel.

The new policy includes guarantees that foreign property won’t be nationalized, as happened after the 1959 Revolution, except when national interests are involved, and in these cases the owners will receive compensation.

Vice President Marino Murillo, who is in charge of the economic sector, told the National Assembly that the country needs to have its gross domestic product (GDP) reach a 7% annual rate of growth, with accumulation or investment rates of 20%, and that this will only be possible with outside investment. The new investment will be oriented toward priority sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, wholesale trade, industry, tourism, construction, energy, mines and transportation, according to Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca. The law will allow investment by Cubans living abroad, but Malmierca noted that the Cuban American community based in Miami would still be restricted from investing because of the US government’s trade embargo against Cuba.

The new law is to go into effect in 90 days. It follows other moves by the Cuban government since September 2010 to build up the private sector at the expense of state enterprises [see Update #1128]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/29/14 from AP, AFP, DPA, 3/30/14 from Reuters, AP, AFP, DPA)

Correction: Following our source, in Update #1212 identified, Catholic University of Chile assistant professor Juan Luis García as “García Juan Luis.”

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, US/immigration

Argentina’s Desaparecidos on the 1976 Coup Anniversary (Interview With Camilo Juárez)
http://nacla.org/blog/2014/3/29/argentina%E2%80%99s-desaparecidos-1976-coup-anniversary-interview-camilo-ju%C3%A1rez

The Bolivian Transportation Sector, Regional Integration and the Environment
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/the-bolivian-transportation-sector-regional-integration-and-the-environment

Peru: Senselessness in the VRAE Region
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/peru-archives-76/4763-peru-senselessness-in-the-vrae-region

Peru to loosen oversight on energy projects
http://ww4report.com/node/13103

Peru: artisanal miners block highways again
http://ww4report.com/node/13102

COP Out? Peru Pulling the Plug on Environmental Oversight in View of COP 20
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4765-cop-out-peru-pulling-the-plug-on-environmental-oversight-in-view-of-cop-20

Colombia: Peace Talks Fail to Stop Human Rights Abuses Ahead of UN Review
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/colombia-archives-61/4769-colombia-peace-talks-fail-to-stop-human-rights-abuses-ahead-of-un-review

One-Third of Colombia’s Newly-Elected Senators Have Paramilitary Ties
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4762-one-third-of-colombias-newly-elected-senators-have-paramilitary-ties

UNASUR Urges Peace in Venezuela, US “Prepared” to Use Sanctions
http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10546

Venezuela: Wayúu protest militarization
http://ww4report.com/node/13104

Venezuela arrests generals accused in coup plot
http://ww4report.com/node/13101

Venezuelan Human Rights Experts Call for End to “Media Distortion” of Protests and State Response
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4767-venezuelan-human-rights-experts-call-for-end-to-media-distortion-of-protests-and-state-response

The “Cubanization” of U.S. Policy Towards Venezuela
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/the-cubanization-of-us-policy-towards-venezuela

Venezuela: When Some of the Most Important News Comes in the Form of Corrections
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/venezuela-when-some-of-the-most-important-news-comes-in-the-form-of-corrections

Honduras: Is it possible to defend human rights where rights have died?
http://alainet.org/active/72447

Death, Child Deportation Continue on the Migrant Trail (Mexico)
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/death-child-deportation-continue-on-the-migrant-trail/

Mexican President Praises, but Many Protest Energy Reform on Anniversary of Expropriation of the Foreign Oil Industry
http://www.ueinternational.org/MLNA/mlna_articles.php?id=222#1688

Impact of Energy Reform Now Clear: Two-thirds of Oil Reserves Auctioned Off
http://www.ueinternational.org/MLNA/mlna_articles.php?id=222#1689

A New Gas Pipeline for Texas-Tamaulipas (Mexico)
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/a-new-gas-pipeline-for-texas-tamaulipas/

U.S. Radiation Leak Concerns Mexicans
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/u-s-radiation-leak-concerns-mexicans/

Living Legacy of Machismo: Rape Victim Charged for Self-Defense in Mexico
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/4761-living-legacy-of-machismo-rape-victim-charged-for-self-defense-in-mexico

Michoacán cartel boss 'killed' —again! (Mexico)
http://ww4report.com/node/13098

Michoacán: cannibalization of 'community police'? (Mexico)
http://ww4report.com/node/13106

Border crossings refocus immigration debate on families (US/immigration)
http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/border-crossings-refocus-immigration-debate-families/

Turning the tide: inside a Texas city’s struggle to stop deportations (US/immigration)
http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/turning-tide-inside-texas-citys-struggle-stop-deportations/

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:
http://www.cipamericas.org/
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/967/blastContent.jsp
http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/
http://intercontinentalcry.org/
http://www.ueinternational.org/MLNA/index.php
http://nacla.org/
http://venezuelanalysis.com/
http://upsidedownworld.org/
http://wagingnonviolence.org/
http://ww4report.com/node/

For immigration updates and events:
http://thepoliticsofimmigration.blogspot.com/

END

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:
http://thepoliticsofimmigration.org/

Monday, March 24, 2014

Links but No Update for March 23, 2014

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

A Step Toward Justice in the Long “War on Terror”: Uruguay Offers to Welcome Guantanamo Detainees
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/uruguay-archives-48/4757-a-step-toward-justice-in-the-long-war-on-terror-uruguay-offers-to-welcome-guantanamo-detainees

Uruguay agrees to take five Guantánamo prisoners
http://ww4report.com/node/13090

Repsol sells Amazon oil stake (Peru)
http://ww4report.com/node/12537#comment-452029

Peru: new repression at Conga mine site
http://ww4report.com/node/13088

Chevron seeks $32 million in Ecuador case
http://ww4report.com/node/13091

HRW documents mass displacement in Colombia
http://ww4report.com/node/13092

Displaced and Duty-Free in El Tamarindo, Colombia
http://nacla.org/blog/2014/3/24/displaced-and-duty-free-el-tamarindo-colombia

Colombian president orders removal of Bogotá mayor
http://ww4report.com/node/12954#comment-452028

Should the Media Report on Who is Killing Whom In Venezuela, When Death Tolls are Reported?
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/should-the-media-report-on-who-is-killing-whom-in-venezuela-when-death-tolls-are-reported

The Truth about Venezuela: A Revolt of the Well-off, Not a 'Terror Campaign'
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4750-the-truth-about-venezuela-a-revolt-of-the-well-off-not-a-terror-campaign

OAS Votes Not to “Turn Itself Into a Circus” (Venezuela)
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/oas-votes-not-to-turn-itself-into-a-circus-earlier-this-week-in-a-highly-irregular-move-panama-offered-its-seat-at-the-regular-meeting-of-the-oas-permanent-council-today-to-venezuelan-opposition-lawmaker-maria-corina-machado-machad

Several More Die in Venezuela’s Disturbances, Opposition Reject Dialogue Call
http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10530

Venezuela’s Black Market Dollar Plummets on News of New Exchange Rate Mechanism
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/venezuelas-black-market-dollar-plummets-on-news-of-new-exchange-rate-mechanism

Native Lines - La Trocha de Platanares (Panama)
http://intercontinentalcry.org/native-lines-la-trocha-de-platanares/

A Precarious Victory in El Salvador
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4754-a-precarious-victory-in-el-salvador

Radicalized Right Grasps for Reins of Power in El Salvador
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4753-radicalized-right-grasps-for-reins-of-power-in-el-salvador

Canadian Aid, Honduran Oil
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/4759-canadian-aid-honduran-oil

Honduras: Who Should Really Be On Trial For the Rio Blanco Dam?
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/honduras-archives-46/4748-honduras-who-should-really-be-on-trial-for-the-rio-blanco-dam

Honduras: New Colonel for Operation Xatruch, More of the Same for Lower Aguan?
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/honduras-archives-46/4741-honduras-new-colonel-for-operation-xatruch-more-of-the-same-for-lower-aguan

Ecocide in Guatemala: Call for International Solidarity
http://intercontinentalcry.org/ecocide-in-guatemala-call-for-international-solidarity-22541/

Guatemala's ex-prez took bribes from Taiwan
http://ww4report.com/node/13087

Fashion Faux Pas? Free Trade and Sweatshop Labor in Guatemala
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/guatemala-archives-33/4745-fashion-faux-pas-free-trade-and-sweatshop-labor-in-guatemala

Mexico’s Oil Belongs to Its Citizens, Not the Global 1%
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/4749-mexicos-oil-belongs-to-its-citizens-not-the-global-1

Assault case highlights gender bias in Mexican courts
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11708

Michoacán crackdown on narco-mineral nexus (Mexico)
http://ww4report.com/node/13097

Free Zapatista Textbook Now Available in English (Mexico)
http://intercontinentalcry.org/free-zapatista-textbook-now-available-english/

The Zapatistas at 20: Building Autonomous Community (Mexico)
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/4758-the-zapatistas-at-20-building-autonomous-community

In Southeastern U.S., Poultry and Migration Booms Change the Face of Rural America (US/immigration)
http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11699

"Bring Them Home" Undocumented Activism: Week One in Otay (US/immigration)
http://nacla.org/news/2014/3/15/bring-them-home-undocumented-activism-week-one-otay

#BringThemHome Campaign Reunites Families at the Border (Photo Essay) (US/immigration)
http://nacla.org/bringthemhome-campaign-reunites-families-border-photo-essay

Why are so many migrants here in the first place? (US/immigration)
http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/power-asking-simple-question-many-migrants-first-place/