Tuesday, August 26, 2014

WNU #1231: Mexican Miners Protest Toxic Spill

Issue #1231, August 24, 2014

1. Mexico: Unionists Protest Cananea Toxic Spill
2. Honduras: Child, Journalist Murders Continue
3. Haiti: Aristide’s Lawyers Question Inquiry
4. Brazil: Haiti Mission Shaped Rio Police Unit
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

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

Note: There will be links but no Update on August 31, 2014. Publication will resume the following week.

*1. Mexico: Unionists Protest Cananea Toxic Spill
At least 800 members of Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM, “Los Mineros”) began blocking the three main entrances to the giant Buenavista del Cobre copper mine in Cananea, near the US border in the northwestern state of Sonora, on Aug. 20 to protest environmental damage caused two weeks earlier when about 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution spilled from the mine into the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers. Most of the unionists lost their jobs four years ago when the mine’s owner, Grupo México S.A.B. de C.V., broke a 2007-2010 strike over health and safety issues [see Update #1194]. “During the strike we made several complaints about the improper and inadequate measures Grupo México implemented for preventing overflows from the dams” for chemicals and heavy metals, Section 65 director Sergio Tolano Lizárraga told the national daily La Jornada. He said the blockade would continue until the company recognized the workers’ old contract. (LJ 8/22/14)

Authorities shut down wells in the region following the Aug. 6 spill, depriving an estimated 22,000 residents of water; 89 schools had to be closed just as classes were starting for the new school year. On Aug. 19 officials from the Federal Attorney General’s Office for Protection of the Environment (Profepa) said they had filed charges against Grupo México, which could be fined up to 43 million pesos (US$3.3 million) and would be responsible for cleanup costs. The company denied reports that it hadn’t initially reported the spill. On Aug. 23 officials from Profepa and the National Water Commission (Conagua) said they had now found leaks in the temporary dam set up to stop the overflow of toxic substances into the Sonora. (Wall Street Journal 8/19/14; LJ 8/24/14)

“Grupo México is a serial killer,” labor activist Cristina Auerbach Benavides told La Jornada. “It’s never made repairs in the environment where it has passed through. Grupo México rots everything it touches.” Auerbach--who directs the Pasta de Conchos Family, an organization of relatives of 65 coal miners killed in a methane explosion at a Grupo México mine in Coahuila in February 2006 [see Update #1139]—dated the company’s history of environmental disasters and industrial accidents back to 1908, when 200 miners died in a gas explosion at the Rosita 3 coal mine in Coahuila.

Guillermo Martínez Berlanga, director of the Ecological Committee for Wellbeing, noted the small size of the proposed fine against Grupo México for creating a major disaster; in contrast, the US government fined the company’s US subsidiary Asarco $800,000 just for failing to allow an audit. The Mexican government’s approach to national companies like Grupo México and the state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) raises questions about President Enrique Peña Nieto’s controversial “energy reform,” which will open up the energy sector to private and foreign companies [see Update #1214]. “These ecological disasters demonstrate that Mexico isn’t ready for the energy reform,” Martínez Berlanga said, “because if the government can’t control PEMEX’s spills and Grupo México’s contamination, much less will it be able to control multinationals that are 10 times more powerful and [have] a greater power to corrupt.” (LJ 8/24/14)

In other news, protests were being planned internationally on Aug. 21 to mark the first anniversary of the imprisonment of community activist Nestora Salgado and to demand her release [see Update #1223]. Sites for the protests included her hometown, Olinalá in the southwestern state of Guerrero; Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland in the US; and Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Mexican author Elena Poniatowska, Mexican director and actor Jesusa Rodríguez, and US Congress member Adam Smith (D-WA) are among the people supporting Salgado, who holds dual Mexican and US citizenship; she was arrested while heading the community police in Olinalá. (LJ 8/21/14)

*2. Honduras: Child, Journalist Murders Continue
At least five Honduran minors recently deported from the US were among the 42 children murdered in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, Cortés department, since February, according to Hector Hernández, who heads the city’s morgue. The number could be as high as 10, he told Los Angeles Times reporter Cindy Carcamo. In June and July the administration of US president Barack Obama responded to a dramatic increase of tens of thousands of Central American minors seeking refuge in the US by emphasizing that most will be repatriated; the administration even arranged and publicized a special deportation flight of mothers with young children to San Pedro Sula on July 14 [see Update #1227]. But Carcamo’s reporting suggests that publicity won’t be enough to stop youths from trying to flee gang violence in Honduras. “There are many youngsters who only three days after they've been deported are killed, shot by a firearm,” Hernández said. “They return just to die.”

One San Pedro Sula resident told Carcamo that a teenage cousin was shot dead just hours after arriving on a deportation flight. The resident refused to identify himself or the victim for fear of reprisal from neighborhood gangs. “I would be killing my entire family,” he said. The morgue reported 594 homicides in the region around the city as of mid-July; the toll for all of last year was 778. (LAT 8/16/14 from correspondent)

The murders of Honduran journalists continue [see Update #1217]. Nery Soto Torres, who directed a television program on Channel 23, was gunned down on Aug. 14 in front of his home in Olanchito in the northern department of Yoro, east of San Pedro Sula. The authorities said the killers didn’t steal anything from the victim. Soto was the seventh journalist murdered in Honduras this year; the sixth was Herlyn Espinal, whose body was found on July 21 at a ranch between La Barca and Santa Rita municipalities in Yoro. The National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH) says a total of 47 media workers have been killed since November 2003 and 91% of the cases have not resulted in convictions. A group of journalists held a march in Olanchito on Aug. 19 to demand a prompt and thorough investigation of Soto’s killing. Most investigations of journalists’ murders “are completely abandoned,” Miguel Romero, president of the Yoro Journalists Association, said at the march. (Latin American Herald Tribune 8/17/14 from EFE; Washington Post 8/19/14 from AP; La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 8/19/14 from EFE)

*3. Haiti: Aristides Lawyers Question Inquiry
Former Haitian prime minister Yvon Neptune (2002-2004) appeared before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire at the judge’s Port-au-Prince office on Aug. 22 to answer questions in an inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Bélizaire has notified the authorities that 33 people, most of them connected with Aristide’s Lavalas Family (FL) party, are not permitted to leave the country because of their connection with the investigation. After the Aug. 22 session, Neptune, who has broken with Aristide, told reporters that he had no problem answering Bélizaire’s summons. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 8/23/14)

Lawyers for Aristide, on the other hand, have challenged Bélizaire’s entire inquiry and his qualifications to head it. Aristide was reportedly ordered to appear before Bélizaire on Aug. 13, but human rights advocate Mario Joseph, Aristide’s lead attorney, said the former president never received the summons. Joseph himself went to Bélizaire’s office to deliver a letter on the subject, but the judge wasn’t present. Aristide’s legal team is demanding that Bélizaire be removed from the case on the grounds that there were irregularities in his appointment as judge and that he is a member of the center-right Tèt Kale Haitian Party (PHTK) of President Michel Martelly (tèt kale is Creole for “Bald Head,” a nickname for the president). Lavalas supporters have maintained barricades around Aristide’s house in the northeastern suburb of Tabarre since mid-August in case Judge Bélizaire issues an arrest warrant for the former president.

Aristide’s backers aren’t the only ones questioning Bélizaire’s investigation. “This case should be handled by another judge, one who understands respecting the law,” Pierre Espérance, the director of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) and a longtime Aristide opponent, told the online Haitian news service AlterPresse. “Judge Lamarre lacks character and temperament. He kneels before the executive.” According to Espérance, Bélizaire hasn’t had training to investigate financial crimes. “If he stays on the case, it’s because he has a personal interest.” (AlterPresse 8/13/14, 8/13/14; Radio Kiskeya 8/17/14, 8/17/14)

The Haitian court system is often accused of being influenced by political interests. On Aug. 11 a court in the northwestern city of Gonaïves sentenced Wilford Ferdinand (“Ti Wil”) and his cousin Alix Suffrant (“Bout Zòrèy”) to nine years at hard labor for the April 2007 murder of Johnson Edouard, a former correspondent for the weekly Haïti Progrès and a regional coordinator for FL. Ferdinand was a leader in the so-called “Cannibal Army,” a local group that initially supported Aristide but later joined rightwing paramilitary groups seeking to overthrow him. Ferdinand charged that the sentence against him was politically motivated. “Investigative judge Pierre Michel Denis is a member of the Lavalas Family party,” Ferdinand said. But he thanked the public ministry’s representative, Enock Géné Génélus, for his help. Normally the public ministry, which is responsible to the Martelly government, would be expected to lead the prosecution; in this case, it supported the defendant. (AlterPresse 8/14/14)

In a major embarrassment for the criminal justice system, 329 prisoners broke out of the prison in Croix-des-Bouquets, northeast of Port-au-Prince, on Aug. 10. One of the escapees was Clifford Brandt, a wealthy business leader’s son who is charged with masterminding the October 2012 kidnapping of other members of the elite. There was speculation that Brandt’s backers were behind the massive jailbreak. Brandt was captured two days later by Dominican soldiers in Hondo Valle, just across the border from Haiti. As of Aug. 13 only some 20 of the escaped prisoners had been recaptured. (AlterPresse 8/13/14, 8/13/14)

*4. Brazil: Haiti Mission Shaped Rio Police Unit
Two Brazilian experts in police work have confirmed longstanding claims that the Brazilian military and police used their leading role in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) as a way to train their forces for operations in Brazil’s own cities. According to Lt. Col. Carlos Cavalcanti, of the Brazilian Peace Operations Joint Training Center (CCOPAB), the Brazilians were especially interested in the concept of permanent “strong points” in urban areas, which MINUSTAH forces used to “pacify” Port-au-Prince’s huge Cité Soleil section in 2005 and the Cité Militaire neighborhood in 2007. “Rio de Janeiro’s Militarized Police even sent a group to Haiti while these operations were still being carried out, with the object of taking in the Brazilian army’s experiences,” Cavalcanti said.

These experiences inspired the use of special police groups known as Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) in controlling the impoverished urban areas in Brazil known as favelas, according to Claudio Silveira, a defense specialist at Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ). The UPP in Rio was the target of repeated protests in the summer of 2013 because of unit members’ alleged torture and murder of construction worker Amarildo de Souza Lima [see Update #1195]. One advantage of MINUSTAH for the Brazilian military is apparently that it helps make up for what top officers feel is an inadequate budget for training soldiers. In Haiti the soldiers get real-life training, for which the Brazilian government has paid out 2.11 billion reais (US$923 million) since the mission’s start in June 2004; the United Nations has reimbursed it with 741 million reais (US$324 million). (Adital (Brazil) 8/13/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Washington Should Follow Latin America’s Lead in Condemning Israel’s War on Palestine

Land rights in Latin America: where are the voices of indigenous women?

The Changing Map of Latin America

Argentina Takes on Pirates and Vultures

Do the Holdout Hedge Funds Hold Argentine Credit Default Swaps?

Window Dressing for the Vulture Funds (Argentina)

Peru leaks: oil company rewrote environmental law

Mining Firms in Peru Mount Legal Offensive Against Inspection Tax

Cajamarca: campesino family convicted in retrial (Peru)

Ecuador: Free Pacto from Mining

Colombia - Hope in the Midst of a Violent Crisis: Life in Buenaventura's Urban Humanitarian Space

Gabriel García Márquez: The Last Visit (Colombia)

F-16 Missile Attacks Venezuelan Humanitarian Aid Mission in Gaza

Aruba frees wanted Venezuelan 'narco-general'

The Carrot, the Stick, and the Seeds: U.S. development policy faces resistance in El Salvador

Progressive Tax Reforms Approved in El Salvador

Report: World Bank Loan in Honduras Ignores Environmental and Social Risks

Cold Warrior Criticizes Cold War and Drug War, Hires Cold Warrior to Promote Drug War (Guatemala)

Guatemala: The End of the Spring of Claudia Paz y Paz

Women-Led Resistance against False Development in Guatemala

Indigenous Mexico Rising Again

National Indigenous Congress and Zapatistas Unite Against Plundering of Their Lands (Mexico)

Voices From the Field: Puebla’s Campesinos Resisting the Theft of Their Land (Mexico)

Sweet Victory for Mexico Beekeepers as Monsanto Loses GM Permit

A Toxic Shade of Orange (Mexico)

Sonora: mining threatens disappearing waters (Mexico)

Sinaloa kingpin prevails in prison hunger strike (Mexico)

The Mission to Mexico: California Governor Jerry Brown’s Diplomatic Coup

Reclaiming Life from Streets of Death (Mexico)

As Men Emigrate, Indigenous Women Gain Political Opportunities and Obligations in Mexico

Will Former President Aristide be Arrested? After 10 Years of Investigations, He Has Never Been Charged

Who Counts as a Refugee in US Immigration Policy—and Who Doesn’t (US/immigration)

Where Is the Voice of Migrant Children in the Immigration Crisis? (US/immigration)

Georgia Police Chief Severely Restricts Annual SOA Protest: Social Organizations and US Reps Respond (US/policy)

Mastering movements — An interview with immigrant rights activist Carlos Saavedra (US/immigration)

Children of the Monroe Doctrine: The Militarized Roots of America's Border Calamity (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, August 12, 2014

WNU #1230: Opposition Grows to Mining in Haiti

Issue #1230, August 10, 2014

1. Haiti: Opposition Grows to Mega Mining
2. Argentina: US Sued at Hague Over Default
3. Cuba: Another USAID Program Exposed
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, 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. Haiti: Opposition Grows to Mega Mining
At a July 25 meeting in Port-au-Prince, some 28 Haitian organizations expressed their interest in joining a movement to oppose plans under way for open-pit mining in the north of the country, with a focus on gold mining operations by the Vancouver-based Eurasian Minerals company. The meeting was organized by the Collective Against Mining, which was formed a year ago by Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen (“Small Haitian Peasants Unity”), the Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA) and Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”).

There have been estimates that Haitian minerals--mostly gold, copper and silver-- could be worth as much as US$ 20 billion, and Haitian firms fronting for US and Canadian firms have reportedly received licenses for research, exploration or mining in some 2,400 square kilometers of Haitian territory. On July 11 the Collective Against Mining and the Global Justice Clinic--part of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHR&GJ) at New York University’s Law School—expressed concern about a new mining law proposed by the World Bank. The measure would change the 1976 mining code to allow the Bureau of Mines and Energy (BME) to sign directly with the mining companies without having to win approval from Parliament. In 2010 the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested about US$5 million in Eurasian Minerals’ Haiti operations, getting Eurasian shares in exchange. At the July 28 meeting PAPDA’s Camille Chalmers pointed to Haiti’s previous experience with mineral extraction. The mining of bauxite from the 1950s to the early 1980s by the now-defunct Reynolds Metals Company produced $83 million in profits; only $3 million of this went to the Haitian state, Chalmers said. (Haiti Grassroots Watch 8/1/13; Radio Television Caraibes (Haiti) 7/12/14; AlterPresse 8/1/14)

In other news, on Aug. 4 the labor organization Workers’ Antenna marked the fifth anniversary of the start of a wave of marches and wildcat strikes by garment workers demanding an increase in the minimum wage for the assembly sector [see Update #1000]. The struggle over the minimum wage has continued off and on since then; another wave of job actions last December led to the layoffs of a number of union leaders and supporters [see Update #1218]. Complaints that the laid-off workers filed with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST) have yet to be settled. (AlterPresse 8/5/14)

Meanwhile, 81 workers have been dismissed in a wage dispute at the Compagnie de Développement Industriel S.A. (Codevi) “free trade zone” in Ouanaminthe in Northeast department at the Dominican border. Workers at the AMI jeans plant were being paid 375 gourdes (about US$8.48) a day, well above the current minimum wage in the assembly sector, but management suddenly reduced their pay to 300 gourdes (about $6.78) and started laying them off on Aug. 1 after they protested the pay cut. (Haiti Press Network 8/7/14)

*2. Argentina: US Sued at Hague Over Default
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague said on Aug. 7 that Argentina had asked it to take action against the US for what the South American country called “violations of Argentine sovereignty and immunities and other related violations as a result of judicial decisions adopted by US tribunals” that interfered with the payment of its debts. Financial services agencies declared Argentina in default on July 30 when it failed to arrive at a settlement with a small group of investors led by US hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius Capital Management [see Update #1229]. A federal judge in New York, Thomas Griesa, had ruled that unless it had an arrangement with the hedge funds, Argentina couldn’t make payments to the majority of its creditors, who had agreed to accept discounted exchange bonds.

The current dispute goes back to Argentina’s 2002 default on some $100 billion dollars following a December 2001 economic collapse brought on by a decade of extreme neoliberal policies. The country settled most of the debt with exchange bonds, but NML and Aurelius Capital, firms of the type often called “vulture funds,” held out against the settlement. The Argentina has run advertisements in US media saying it hasn’t defaulted, on the grounds that it tried to make a required interest payment on one of its bonds. The country deposited $539 million in a New York bank in June to cover the payment, but Judge Griesa ruled that the bank would be in contempt of court if it paid the money out. At an Aug. 8 hearing Griesa told Argentina’s lawyers, the firm of Cleary Gottlieb, that he would hold the country in contempt if it continued to say it had met its debt obligations.

The ICJ, better known as the “World Court,” is the United Nations’ highest court for disputes between nations. Court officials said Argentina’s request for action had been sent to the US government but that the court wouldn’t move ahead “unless and until” the US accepts the court’s jurisdiction in the case. The US has sometimes recognized the court’s jurisdiction in the past, but in at least one case, a 1984 suit over US funding and direction of attacks inside Nicaragua, the US government simply ignored the ICJ’s 1986 ruling when it turned out to be in Nicaragua’s favor. (The Guardian (UK) 8/7/14 from Reuters; La Jornada (Mexico) 8/9/14 from Reuters, Notimex)

In other news, on Aug. 7 Estela Barnes de Carlotto, the president of the Argentine human rights organization Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and other family members met for the first time with her grandson, who is one of the estimated 500 children that the 1976-1983 military dictatorship secretly placed in adoption after executing their parents during its “dirty war” against suspected leftists. The military abducted Barnes de Carlotto’s pregnant daughter Laura Carlotto in November 1977 and executed her after she’d given birth. Oscar Montoya, the child’s father, was also executed. Their son, Guido Montoya Carlotto, was placed with a farming family that apparently didn’t know about his origins; he was reunited with his biological family through DNA testing. The organization Barnes de Carlotto heads is dedicated to locating the missing children of the military’s victims. (Associated Press 8/5/14; LJ 8/8/14 from correspondent)

*3. Cuba: Another USAID Program Exposed
From October 2009 to some time in 2011 the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored a program that paid almost a dozen youths from Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela to travel to Cuba in order to obtain intelligence information and identify potential government opponents among students and other youths, according to an investigation that the Associated Press (AP) wire service published on Aug. 4. The revelation comes four months after AP reported on the agency’s ZunZuneo “Cuban Twitter” program [see Update #1215]. Like ZunZuneo, the program employed the Washington, DC-based private contractor Creative Associates International for operations. Analysts said these revelations indicate that the US is losing interest in the older generation of Cuban dissidents and is trying to develop opposition among younger Cubans.

“USAID’s young operatives posed as tourists, visited college campuses and used a ruse that could undermine USAID’s credibility in critical health work around the world: an HIV-prevention workshop one called the ‘perfect excuse’ to recruit political activists,” AP reported. The youths in the programs risked 10 years in prison for anti-government activities if caught, but some were paid as little as $5.41 an hour. On Aug. 4 US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki defended the program as “support for Cuban civil society,” but documents that AP posted online suggest something more like a secret intelligence operation. When speaking to AP, Yajaira Andrade, the administrator of a Venezuelan group called Renova that was involved in the program, described her group’s activities as “some Venezuelans…working to stir rebellion.”

On Aug. 8 Cuban public health official María Isela Lantero Abreu called the use of an HIV program for political purposes “monstrous.” The Cuba operation “may have been good business for USAID’s contractor,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who chairs the US Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees USAID, said on Aug. 4, “but it tarnishes USAID’s long track record as a leader in global health.” An editorial in the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada described the Cuba operation as “a reiteration of the inveterate US mania for destabilizing sovereign governments in the hemisphere.” As Latin American governments move towards increased cooperation among themselves, these programs “will end up deepening the isolation of the superpower in the region… Washington, far from being a guarantor of international legality, democracy and human rights, has become an habitual and systematic violator of such principles.” (AP 8/4/14; LJ 8/5/14 editorial, 8/9/14 from correspondent)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, US/immigration

The Crisis of Small-Scale Fishing in Latin America

Neoliberalism and Vulture Funds (Argentina)

Wall Street Journal Uses Bogus Numbers to Smear Argentine President

Why Argentina is Right to Defy the Taliban of Global Finance

Quinoa Soup: What Our Consumption Means for Bolivian Growers

Subsistence-Based, Non-Repressive Drug Programs Actually Work (Bolivia)

'Massacre' evidence on Peru's Amazon borderlands

Indigenous Seed Savers Gather in the Andes, Agree to Fight Climate Change with Biodiversity (Peru)

Peru: new ops against 'narco-senderistas'

Venezuela to Take in Palestinian Child Refugees “As Soon As Possible”, Gaza Aid Ready

El Salvador: Maternity and Maternalism

Finally Free: Mass Burial of Wartime Victims in Guatemala Exhumed from Former Military Garrison of Comalapa

Guatemala-Mexico Agreement on Migrants in Baja Signed

EZLN and Indigenous Peoples Will Gather to Share Experiences (Mexico)

Inauguration of the First Exchange of Indigenous Peoples of Mexico With Zapatista Peoples

Coffee, a crisis about to explode (Mexico)

The (Institutionalized) Revolution Will Be Televised (Mexico)

Extradition Sought in Border Massacre Probe (Mexico)

Mexico: still more 'narco-fosas' uncovered

Hell in the Icebox (US/immigration)

How We Scapegoat Children From Gaza to the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (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, August 5, 2014

WNU #1229: 3 More Nations Recall Israel Envoys

Issue #1229, August 3, 2014

1. Latin America: 3 More Nations Recall Israel Envoys
2. Argentina: US Hedge Funds Force Bond Default
3. Mexico: Maya Campesinos Beat Monsanto in Court
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/policy, 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. Latin America: 3 More Nations Recall Israel Envoys
A total of five Latin American governments had recalled their ambassadors to Israel as of July 29 in an escalation of diplomatic protests against an operation the Israeli military had been carrying out in the Palestinian territory of Gaza since July 8 [see Update #1228]. With the Palestinian death toll passing 1,500—including more than 300 children--centrist and even rightwing Latin American governments started joining left and center-left government in distancing themselves from the main US ally in the Middle East.

Chile, El Salvador and Peru called their ambassadors home for consultations on July 29; Ecuador had already recalled its ambassador on July 17, followed by Brazil on July 24. While it condemned the firing of rockets into Israel by the Gaza-based Hamas organization, the center-left government of Chilean president Michelle Bachelet denounced Israeli attacks on the Palestinians as “collective punishment,” saying they “violate the principle of proportionality in the use of force, an indispensable requirement for the justification of legitimate defense.” El Salvador’s center-left government said it was responding to “the serious escalation in violence and the realization of indiscriminate bombing from Israel into the Gaza Strip,” while the centrist Peruvian government charged that Israel’s actions “constitute a new and reiterated violation of the basic norms of international humanitarian law.”

Also on July 29, four of the five members of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur)--Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela—issued a joint statement during a summit held in Caracas saying they “energetically condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, which in the majority affects civilians, including children and women.” Argentina and Uruguay didn’t recall their ambassadors, but the left-leaning government of Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner issued a statement expressing concern over the safety of an Argentine priest working in Gaza and that of 30 disabled children, nine elderly people and six nuns in his care. Venezuela broke off relations with Israel over a similar Israeli operation in Gaza in 2009; it is planning to send humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory now.

On July 30 the rightwing government of Paraguay, the one Mercosur member that didn’t join in the statement, called for “an immediate end to aggression and hostilities” in the Gaza Strip. The center-right government of Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos also seemed to be moving away from support of Israel. In a July 10 press release Colombia had condemned “acts of violence and terrorism against Israel,” without mentioning Israeli operations, but a July 22 statement from the Foreign Ministry said Colombia “rejects the military offensive by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip” and expresses condolences for “victims of Israel’s retaliatory actions.”

The harshest condemnation of Israel’s actions came from center-left Bolivian president Evo Morales, who on July 30 described Israel as a “terrorist state.” He announced that his government was cancelling an agreement that had been in effect since 1972 allowing Israelis to visit without a visa requirement. Bolivia has had limited diplomatic ties with Israel since 2009, when Morales’ government restricted relations to protest the Gaza operation then.

With the strong statements from its governments, Latin America “has set itself apart from other regional blocs,” according to Michael Shifter, the president of the centrist Washington, DC-based think tank Inter-American Dialogue. The “emerging consensus condemning Israel for its military actions in Gaza is not surprising,” he said, given that 11 Latin American governments had recognized Palestine as a state by 2011 [see Update #1153]. Farid Kahhat, a political scientist and Middle East expert with the Catholic University of Peru, noted that now “[i]t isn’t only the nations with left-leaning governments that have recalled their ambassadors… This transcends ideologies.”

The Israeli government continued to react angrily to the protests from Latin America. “Israel expresses its deep disappointment with the hasty decision of the governments of El Salvador, Peru and Chile to recall their ambassadors for consultations,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said on July 30. “This step constitutes encouragement for Hamas, a group recognized as a terror organization by many countries around the world.” The statement was more moderate than Palmor’s dismissal of Brazil a week earlier as a “diplomatic dwarf,” a remark that led the Brazilian Jewish Confederation (CONIB), an umbrella body of Brazilian Jewish groups, to apologize to the government of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff on July 24. CONIB itself had charged that Rousseff’s administration had “a one-sided attitude to the conflict in Gaza in which the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticizes Israel and ignores the actions of the terrorist group Hamas,” but CONIB president Claudio Lottenberg called Palmor’s comments, which included a sneer at the Brazilian soccer team, “very unfortunate.” “Brazil has the right to express its point of view,” Lottenberg said. (Haaretz (Israel) 7/24/14 from Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 7/30/14 from staff; Wall Street Journal 7/30/14; Latin American Herald Tribune 7/30/14 from EFE; The Americas Blog 7/31/14)

*2. Argentina: US Hedge Funds Force Bond Default
The US financial services company Standard & Poor’s Ratings (S&P) declared Argentina in default the afternoon of July 30 after last-minute negotiations failed to produce an agreement between the country and a group of creditors who insisted that they be paid in full for the $1.5 billion in Argentine bonds they own. This was Argentina’s second default since an economic collapse in December 2001 brought on by a decade of extreme neoliberal austerity and privatization measures [see Update #621]. Opinions were divided on how the new default would affect the country, which was already entering a recession. “The ordinary Argentine citizen will be the real and ultimate victim,” Daniel Pollack, the mediator appointed by a US federal court in New York, said in a statement. But Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof was defiant. “We aren't going to sign any agreement that would jeopardize the future of Argentines,” he said at a news conference after the negotiations ended on July 30.

The holdout creditors were led by US billionaire Paul Singer; two of his companies, Elliott Management and a subsidiary, NML Capital; and Aurelius Capital Management. NML and Aurelius are hedge funds of the type known as “vulture funds” for their practice of investing in weak debt that the debtors are likely to default on. These hedge funds bought up cheap Argentine bonds after the 2001 collapse. From 2005 to 2010 Argentina’s government negotiated settlements with the other bondholders, who agreed to accept exchange bonds at a 70% discount for the debt they were holding; this is a fairly standard arrangement for defaults by countries, like bankruptcy proceedings for a company or an individual. But Singer and his associates held out for full payment and took the case to a US federal court. In 2012 New York District judge Thomas Griesa ruled in Singer’s favor. He held that when Argentina paid the discounted exchange bonds, it also had to pay the holdouts in full. Argentina tried make a payment to the holders of the exchange bonds this June, placing $539 million in the Bank of New York Mellon, but the bank couldn’t pay out the money: Judge Griesa had ruled that any financial firm that distributed payments to the bondholders would be in contempt of court. Argentina turned to the US Supreme Court, but the justices rejected the appeal.

Estanislao Malic, an economist at the Scalabrini Ortiz Center for Economic and Social Studies in Buenos Aires, told the New York Times that the “default is not a drastic change.” “Argentina has been living in a default reality for over 10 years” since the earlier default, he explained. But there are implications for the global financial system, where exchange bonds have been a mechanism for resolving financial crises in the absence of any international bankruptcy procedures. “The danger here is all too easy to see,” British journalist Larry Elliott wrote on July 31. “The legacy of the financial crisis of 2007-08 is that many countries find themselves saddled with big budget deficits. In the event of another financial crisis, something that seems all too likely, there would be a wave of sovereign debt defaults.” The administration of US president Barack Obama appeared to agree on the seriousness of the threat: the US attorney general in New York, Preet Bharara, filed a brief in an appeals court in 2012 supporting Argentina against Judge Griesa.

Joseph Stiglitz, a former World Bank chief economist and now a Columbia University professor, called the US courts’ decisions in the case “America throwing a bomb into the global economic system.” “We don't know how big the explosion will be--and it’s not just about Argentina,” he said. (New York Times 7/30/14; McClatchy DC 7/31/14; BBC News 7/31/14; The Guardian (UK) 7/31/14)

*3. Mexico: Maya Campesinos Beat Monsanto in Court
A district court judge in the eastern Mexican state of Yucatán ruled in July against a license that the federal Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa) had granted the Missouri-based multinational Monsanto Company in 2012 for sowing 253,500 hectares with genetically modified (GM) soy in Yucatán and six other states. A group of campesinos from the Maya indigenous group filed a suit charging that the license endangered the traditional production of organic honey in a region including the Yucatán communities of Ticul, Santa Elena, Oxkutzcab, Tzucacab, Tekax, Peto and Tizimin. The judge’s ruling was “a great achievement because there is recognition of our legitimate right to make decisions about our territory and our livelihood,” Maya farmer Lorenzo Itzá Ek said. “[B]eekeeping is the main traditional economic activity we carry out, and we don’t want our honey contaminated with transgenics or with toxic products like agrochemicals that kill our bees.”

This was the third defeat for GM soy in eastern Mexico this year. In March and April a court in Campeche ruled in favor of two suits brought by Maya beekeepers from the Hopelchén and Pac-Chen communities in Campeche’s Cancabchen municipality. The decisions on GM soy follow a ruling in October 2013 by a federal judge that restrained Sagarpa and the Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) from granting further licenses for planting GM corn in Mexico [see Update #1195]. But Ximena Ramos, an adviser for the Litiga OLE legal assistance group, said the July ruling in Yucatán was especially important because the judge ordered a public consultation with the affected indigenous communities before any resolution could be made about the sowing of GM soy. This enforces “the multicultural principle in the Constitution, along with the human rights implied in the right to prior consultation with the Maya,” she said. (Terra Mexico 7/22/14; El Ciudadano (Chile) 7/30/14)

In related news, Brazilian farmers are calling on four multinational seed manufacturers to reimburse them for pesticide they used on GM corn they planted this year. According to Ricardo Tomczyk, president of the Aprosoja farm lobbying group in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the Spodoptera frugiperda (also known as the “corn leafworm” or “southern grassworm”) has developed a resistance to the poisonous protein in the type of GM corn known as “Bt corn.” The result is that farmers had to spend an average of 120 reais (about US$54) per hectare on pesticide to protect their crop, he said. The seed’s manufacturers are the US-based companies Monsanto, Dow Chemical Co and DuPont, and Syngenta AG, which is based in Switzerland. (Reuters 7/28/14)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/policy, US/immigration

Update on Latin American Responses to Israel's Siege on Gaza

What the NML vs Argentina case means for the world

The World Cup Has Come and Gone and Brazil Didn’t Crash and Burn

Gunmen threaten to assassinate Yanomami leader (Brazil)

Medellín kingpin busted in Spain (Colombia)

Obama Throws Another Bone to the Right on Venezuela

Inside Venezuela's "Proceso"

Venezuela to Send Aid to Gaza, Welcome Refugees, as Regional Leaders Condemn Assault

US Policies Exacerbate Migration Crisis in Guatemala

Guatemalan Court Rules in Favor of Indigenous People Over Goldcorp Mining in Sipacapa

Laws That Kill Protesters in Mexico

Defending Communication Rights: “We will not remain silent” (Mexico)

Understanding and Countering Corruption and Migrant Abuse by Mexico’s National Migration Institute

Reconstruction or Haiti's Latest Disaster? Tourism Development on Île-à-Vache Island

US Congress Passes Aid Accountability Legislation as Local Procurement Falls in Haiti

Police Should Not Be Managing the Drug Problem. Doctors Should Be. (US/policy)

We Reap What We Sow: The Link between Child Migrants and US Policy (US/immigration)

The Central American Child Refugee Crisis: Made in U.S.A. (US/immigration)

New Senate Bill Fails To Address Root Causes of Central American Migration (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 29, 2014

WNU #1228: Latin Americans Protest Attack on Gaza

Issue #1228, July 27, 2014

1. Latin America: Gaza Attack Draws Strong Protests
2. Central America: Leaders Hold Summit on Child Migration
3. US: Police Try to Block Annual SOA Vigil
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

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

*1. Latin America: Gaza Attack Draws Strong Protests
An Israeli military offensive on the Palestinian territory of Gaza starting on July 8 has brought widespread condemnation from governments and activists in Latin America. The response to the current military action, which is codenamed “Operation Protective Edge,” follows a pattern set during a similar December 2008-January 2009 Israeli offensive in Gaza, “Operation Cast Lead,” when leftist groups and people of Arab descent mounted protests and leftist and center-left governments issued statements sharply criticizing the Israeli government [see Update #973].

In Argentina, dozens of people demonstrated on July 25 at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires to demand that the left-leaning government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner break off relations with Israel to repudiate “the brutal and criminal attack against the Palestinian people.” The protest was organized by the Argentine Committee of Solidarity With the Palestinian People and various left parties. While the government hasn’t broken relations with Israel, at a meeting of the United Nations (UN) Security Council Argentine representative Maria Cristina Perceval accused Israel of “indiscriminate abuse of militarism” and “disproportionate use of force.” (Terra Mexico 7/25/14; Fox News Latino 7/23/14, some from AP)

Some 5,000 Chileans marched to the Israeli embassy in Santiago on July 19 to protest the military operation. Some demonstrators glued pictures of children who have died in the attacks to the walls of the building; the marchers then proceeded to the US embassy to protest US support for the Israeli operation. The day before, on July 18, representatives of the Mapuche indigenous group joined some 200 protesters in Temuco, the capital of the southern region of Araucanía, in a march calling for “an end to the massacre of the Palestinian people.” The protest was organized by the Arab Union for Palestine in Temuco and included Romina Tuma, the regional housing secretary, who charged that the Israelis are committing genocide; President Michelle Bachelet supports the Palestinian people, Tuma added. Bachelet’s center-left government has in fact suspended free trade agreement negotiations with Israel to protest the Israeli operation, and the Foreign Ministry has announced plans for aid for Palestinian victims in Gaza, according to the Santiago Times. Chile has a population of about 300,0000 people of Middle Eastern and Arab ancestry. (AFP 7/21/14 via Times of Israel; Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 7/18/14; Mapu Express 7/18/14; Fox News Latino 7/23/14, some from AP)

Uruguay also condemned Israel’s military attacks. A government statement said the operation in Gaza “caused dozens of civilian deaths and injuries, including women and children, in a disproportionate response to the launch of rockets against the Israeli territory on the part of armed Palestinian groups.” The Palestinian organization Hamas came in for criticism as well, because of its “repeated [rocket] launchings that put the civilian population in central and southern Israel at risk.” (The Americas Blog 7/21/14)

Late on July 24 Brazil’s center-left government announced its condemnation of the “disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip, from which large numbers of civilian casualties, including women and children, resulted.” Foreign Ministry officials said that they had recalled the Brazilian ambassador to Israel for consultations, and that Brazil had voted in favor of a United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR) decision to send a team to investigate accusations of war crimes in the region. Israeli officials appeared to be infuriated by the snub from a country which has bought and leased billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and fighter planes from Israel in the last 15 years. “Such steps do not contribute to promote calm and stability in the region,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor announced on July 25. “Rather, they provide tailwind to terrorism, and naturally affect Brazil’s capacity to wield influence.” He called Brazil “a diplomatic dwarf” and sneered at the Brazilian soccer team for losing a World Cup match to Germany 7-1 on July 8. (News Latino 7/23/14, some from AP; Wall Street Journal online 7/24/14; Haaretz (Israel) 7/25/14; Washington Post 7/25/14)

Bolivian president Evo Morales has petitioned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to consider opening a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.” Morales’ center-left government restricted diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 because of the earlier operation against Gaza. (The Americas Blog 7/21/14)

Hundreds of Peruvians, many of them of Palestinian descent, protested at the Israeli embassy in Lima on July 25, calling for their own government to recall its ambassador to Israel. “Countries that don’t withdraw their ambassadors are becoming somewhat complicit in this massacre,” one of the protesters told the Canal N television channel. A week earlier, the government had expressed its great concern about the violence, condemning both the Israeli attack and the launching of rockets against Israel by Hamas. (Terra 7/25/14 from EFE)

Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño announced on July 17 that the center-left government of President Rafael Correa was recalling its ambassador to Israel for consultations “because of violence unleashed and deaths produced in the Gaza Strip.” “We condemn the Israeli military incursion in Palestinian territory; we demand an end to operations and indiscriminate attacks on a civilian population,” Patiño said. (El Universo (Quito) 7/17/14 from AFP) In related news, a July 12-16 meeting in Quito of the Women’s Collective of the South American section of the international small-scale farmers’ organization Vía Campesina denounced the Israeli operation as a “genocidal invasion” and demanded “respect for the principle of sovereignty and the right of Palestinian campesinas and campesinos to live, produce and remain in their land and territory.” The collective accused Israel of “colonial practices.” (Vía Campesina 7/22/14)

In Venezuela hundreds of protesters, including legislative deputies, demonstrated in Caracas on July 14 against the Israeli operation. The leftist government of then-president Hugo Chávez Frías broke off ties with Israel in 2009 to protest Operation Cast Lead. The government of current president Nicolás Maduro released a statement on July 19 charging that the latest attacks “initiated a higher phase of [Israel’s] policy of genocide and extermination with the ground invasion of Palestinian territory, killing innocent men, women, girls and boys.” The government “also rejects the cynical campaigns trying to condemn both parties equally, when it is clear you cannot morally compare occupied and massacred Palestine with the occupying state, Israel, which also possesses military superiority and acts on the margins of international law.” (HispanTV (Iran) 7/14/14; Chicago Tribune 7/19/14 from Reuters)

In Nicaragua hundreds of people marched to the UN office in Managua on July 14 to demand an end to the Israeli offensive, chanting: “No to genocide in Gaza and all of Palestine,” “Solidarity between the peoples” and “Long live free Palestine.” The marchers included the Palestinian ambassador to Nicaragua, Mohamed L. Saadat, who called for a “Palestine free of violence.” Along with Guatemala, Haiti, and Paraguay, Nicaragua hadn’t made an official statement on the conflict as of July 21. (Terra 7/14/14 from EFE; The Americas Blog 7/21/14)

About 50 students and other activists took to the streets in El Salvador on July 14 to protest the Israeli offensive. “Palestine is a free state, stop Israel’s terrorism” and “I’m no friend of Israel” were among the slogans the protesters chanted outside the Israeli embassy. “We want to show our indignation over the suffering of the Palestinian people, and so we demand that Israel end this genocide in the Gaza Strip,” Amalia Pineda, a representative of the Palestine Solidarity Network, told journalists. The center-left government of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén has condemned what it called “Israel’s increased armed aggression against the Gaza Strip,” citing the “loss of human lives, hundreds of injuries and the flight of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, besides serious material damage.” The UN’s legitimate self-defense clause “does not justify the use of disproportionate military force against another state, much less against its civilian population,” the government said. (Noticias 7/14/14; The Americas Blog 7/21/14)

In Mexico, indigenous Mayans who have converted to Islam held their first protest ever in the southeastern state of Chiapas. About 60 of the area’s 600 or 700 Tzotzil Muslims marched in San Cristóbal de las Casas on July 24 to demand that “the genocide end.” “We are few but we can’t be silent before the massacre against the people of Palestine,” Hibrahim Checheb, a representative of the Al-Kauz mosque, told a reporter. The group of Tzotziles, mostly from the nearby municipality of San Juan Chamula, converted about 18 years earlier. (La Jornada 7/24/14) Activists in Mexico City held a protest on July 11 outside the Foreign Relations Secretariat. About 300 people participated in the action, whose sponsors included the Solidarity With Palestine Coordinating Committee (Corsopal). The organizers expelled five members of a group called “Black Eagles” from the protest; they were carrying signs with anti-Semitic slogans. (Milenio (Mexico) 7/11/14)

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry charged Israel with “us[ing] its military and technological superiority to execute a policy of collective punishment with a disproportionate use of force which causes civilian casualties and enormous material damage.” The country’s Communist government broke off diplomatic ties with Israel in 1973 and has provided Palestinian groups with financial and diplomatic support over the years. (The Americas Blog 7/21/14; Fox News Latino 7/23/14, some from AP)

*2. Central America: Leaders Hold Summit on Child Migration
US president Barack Obama hosted a meeting in Washington, DC, on July 25 with three Central American presidents—Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala and Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras--to discuss the recent increase in unauthorized immigration to the US by unaccompanied minors [see Update #1227]. About 57,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly from the three Central American presidents’ countries, were detained at the Mexico-US border from October 2013 through June 2014. President Obama called for joint work to discourage further child migration; the US would do its part by making it clear that the minors would be repatriated unless they could convince US officials they were in danger if they returned, Obama said. The left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada headlined its coverage with the sentence: “The US has great compassion for child migrants; they’ll be deported: Obama.”

The Obama administration had been floating a proposal for setting up an office in Honduras, and possibly in El Salvador and Guatemala, to process youths and families seeking refugee status. But Obama played the idea down after the summit. “There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” he said. “But I think it’s important to recognize that that would not necessarily accommodate a large number of additional migrants.” (La Jornada 7/26/14 from correspondent; Associated Press 7/26/14 via CBS (Washington, DC))

The Central American presidents all emphasized the importance of crime and poverty as forces motivating migration, but rightwing presidents Pérez and Hernández seemed mostly interested in getting more US military aid. The US-funded “drug war” programs in Colombia and Mexico, Plan Colombia and the Mérida Initiative, “were successful for the US and those two countries in the struggle against narco trafficking, but they gave us a tremendous problem,” Hernández said the day before the summit, referring to the relocation of some drug smuggling activities into Central America. “So we need to have our own plan.” (LJ 7/25/14 from AFP)

While media coverage stressed pressure on Obama from anti-immigrant conservatives, human rights groups and religious organizations were pressing him from the left. More than 40 organizations signed on to an open letter started by the DC-based Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) calling for the US to provide children and families with “all due [legal] protections.” “[M]ore border security will not help,” according to the open letter, which was released on July 24; the US must “face the root causes of violence at the community level.” Adam Isacson, WOLA’s senior associate for regional security policy, dismissed the calls for more military assistance to Central America. “What we’d like to see is a package of assistance to Central America that is focused entirely on the civilian side of what it takes to protect,” Isacson told the Inter Press Service (IPS): “getting police to respect people,” “a much stronger justice system,” and “more emphasis on creating opportunities…combined with Central American presidents’ commitment to raise more taxes from their wealthiest.”

Also on July 24, two organizations, the New York-based Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and the DC-based Detention Watch Network, released a statement deploring conditions at the Artesia Family Detention Facility in New Mexico. After interviewing immigrant families at the detention center, 22 organizations concluded that “[t]he Administration’s intent to deport everyone as quickly as possible for optics is sacrificing critical due process procedures and sending families--mothers, babies, and children--back despite clear concerns for their safety in violation of US and international law.” (IPS 7/25/14 via Upside Down World)

*3. US: Police Try to Block Annual SOA Vigil
The US advocacy group SOA Watch reported on July 22 that the police in Columbus, Georgia, are trying to impose unacceptable restrictions on the annual vigil the group has held there every November since 1990 to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA) [see Update #1200]. According to SOA Watch, Columbus police chief Ricky Boren wants to limit the vigil to 200 people on sidewalks outside the US Army’s Fort Benning, where WHINSEC is based. In previous years thousands of people have demonstrated at a gate leading to the base. Boren is also seeking to deny a permit for the group to post its stage and sound system at the usual spot.

“This year, more than any other, we are called to demonstrate our solidarity with the people of Latin America,” Roy Bourgeois, the Catholic priest who founded SOA Watch, said in response to the restrictions. “When our military training continues to target communities, forcing the unaccompanied migration of thousands of refugee children, we must speak out.” Noting that it won in federal courts in 2001 and 2002 against government efforts to restrict the vigils, SOA Watch has started a petition “calling on the Columbus police department to reverse its decision and to uphold the constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.” The petition can be accessed at http://org.salsalabs.com/o/727/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=16129. (SOA Watch press release 7/22/14; National Catholic Reporter 7/22/14)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

The BRICS Bank: part of a new financial architecture (Latin America)

Land Rights in Latin America: Where are the Voices of Indigenous Women?

Radical Cities – Latin America's revolutionary housing solutions

How Have Latin America’s Political Leaders Responded to Israel’s Siege on Gaza?

Challenging Myths About Chapare Coca Paste Production (Bolivia)

Bolivia’s Military and Police Protests: The “Children of Evo” Speak Out

Amazon Oil Spill Has Killed Tons of Fish, Sickened Native People (Peru)

Peru Passes a Packet of Neoliberal Reforms, Erodes Environmental Protections and Labor Rights

Peru and Colombia: Community self-defense against megaminería

Is Water Still a Human Right in Ecuador?

Global Climate Change in Rural Colombia Is About More Than Just the Climate

Chavista Debate More than Pragmatists vs Radicals (Venezuela)

Child Migrants Are Refugees the U.S. Helped Create (Central America)

U.S. Turns Back on Child Migrants After Its Policies in Guatemala, Honduras Sowed Seeds of Crisis

U.S., Regional Leaders Convene over Migration Crisis (Central America)

Violence, Main Motor of Child Migration in El Salvador

Hondurans don’t need yet another neoliberal boondoggle

Guatemala: Opposition to Mining, the New Threat to National Security

The Morena Party Obtains Legal Status, Prepares for 2015 Elections; What Will Morena Mean for Mexico’s Political Future?

Mexico Arrests Self-defense Force Leader Mireles and Others

Johnson Controls Workers in Reynosa Demand Their Rights (Mexico)

Mexican Fracking Foes Lose a Big Round

Forgotten Refugees: Mexico’s Displacement Crisis

Migrant Shelter Faces Police Abuses on the Border (Mexico)

Secretary General in Haiti for Cholera “Photo-op” as Transparency Questions Continue to Dog the UN

“Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” Passed by Congress

Blowback on the Border (US/immigration)

Massive Rights Violations Charged at New Mexico Detention Facility (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: