Monday, April 21, 2008

WNU #944: Colombian Paras Threaten Activists

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #944, April 20, 2008

1. Colombia: Paras Threaten Activists
2. Mexico: Bosses End Strike, Close Mine
3. Puerto Rico: FBI "Visits" Activists
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Nicargua, Guatemala, Mexico

ISSN#: 1084-922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to It is archived at

*1. Colombia: Paras Threaten Activists
According to the US-based Colombia Support Network (CSN), the Northern Block of the Black Eagles, a rightwing paramilitary group, has threatened three activists in Tiquisio, a community in the northern Colombian department of Bolívar. The threat names Father Rafael Gallegos, Marta Lucía Torres and Said Echevez, members of Citizens Process for Tiquisio, and mentions their opposition to the "democratic security" policies of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Vélez. The government is promoting development of the area around Tiquisio by AngloGold Ashanti, a South African-based multinational gold mining company. CSN charges that the paramilitaries are seeking to force campesino communities off their lands "to make them available for the multinationals to extract gold."

CSN is asking for letters to tell US Congress members to oppose US support for these actions by the Colombian government; to AngloGold Ashanti's South American exploration manager, Chris Lodder (email, telling him to stop the company's collaboration with paramilitary forces; and to President Uribe (email, fax +57 1 566 2071) demanding protection for the activists, an investigation of the threats, and punishment for those responsible. (CSN alert 4/14/08)

On Apr. 15 a group of 63 Congress members sent a letter to Uribe asking him to reject publicly comments by his adviser, Jose Obdulio Gaviria, who had said that a Mar. 6 march for the victims of paramilitary violence [see Update #938, which erroneously gave the date as Mar. 8] was organized by "allied members" of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The letter said six grassroots leaders had been murdered since Obdulio Gaviria's comments, which specifically mentioned National State Crime Victims Movement leader Iván Cepeda Castro. Cepeda Castro attended a meeting on Apr. 15 at the Capitol in Washington, DC, coordinated by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney. Speakers cited the violence in Colombia as a reason to oppose the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which Uribe and US president George W. Bush are seeking to have the US Congress approve. (Prensa Latina 4/16/08; El Tiempo (Bogotá) 4/17/08)

*2. Mexico: Bosses End Strike, Close Mine
After an eight-month strike, the Grupo México mining company has started to shut down its San Martín copper, silver and zinc mine in Sombrerete municipality in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas, according to Jesús Jiménez, a delegate in Zacatecas and Jalisco for the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMRM). Jiménez said the company has already terminated 100 of the mine's 450 workers on a claim that the mining operation was unsustainable. The workers went on strike on July 30, 2007, as part of a strike over safety conditions that included the huge copper mine in Cananea, Sonora, and a mine in Taxco, Guerrero [see Update #911]. Grupo México has reportedly lost $120 million in revenues at San Martín since the strike began. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/18/08)

[Police and soldiers attempted to end the Cananea strike forcibly on Jan. 12; the union responded with an eight-hour national strike on Jan. 16--see Update #931]

The SNTMMRM has been organizing protests in Mexico City around safety issues at Grupo México mines and a demand that the company retrieve the bodies of miners killed in a methane explosion in the Pasta de Conchos mine in the northern state of Coahuila on Feb. 19, 2006; only two of the 65 bodies have been recovered. Miners in groups of 10 have stood holding signs from 9am to 6pm each weekday in intersections, plazas and major tourist sites like the Angel de la Independencia statue and the esplanade of the Bellas Artes building. The protests are in rotating shifts, with unionists coming to the capital for one week and then returning home. One of the signs shows a photograph of Grupo México president Germán Larrea Mota Velasco with the caption: "Through the fault of this murderer my dad isn't resting in peace and has left us orphans. Where is justice?" The company is suing the union over the sign for the "crime of discrimination"; the SNTMMRM says the company has also organized goons to attack the protesters. (LJ 4/19/08)

*3. Puerto Rico: FBI "Visits" Activists
Agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) interviewed a number of Puerto Rican independence activists in a coordinated operation on Apr. 16 at their homes in San Juan, Yauco, Peñuelas, Bayamón and Guaynabo. The activists included Tania Delgado, Miguel Sánchez and Miguel Viqueira.

The agents "tried to interview Miguel Viqueira and Tania Delgado on their activities as independence supporters" and asked if they knew about actions by the rebel Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros, according to attorney Alvin Couto. Agents also visited an alleged former Machetero leader, identified in different sources as "José Castillo" or "Papo Castillo." They told Castillo that they were aware of a plot to kill him and were legally required to inform him. Couto dismissed this as an "invention of the federal agents. No patriotic organization is going to make an attempt on the lives of others. This follows a policy of trying to create gossip and rumors to create anxiety and uncertainly" among pro-independence groups, he said.

FBI spokesperson Harry Rodríguez acknowledged that agents had visited people because they "might have information about investigations that are under way." Reports that the activists had been treated with "hostility" were a matter of "perception," Rodríguez said. (Note by El Nuevo Día staffer Pedro Bosque Pérez 4/17/08 posted on Univision forum; El Diario-La Prensa 4/17/08 from correspondent, print version only)

More breaking stories from alternative sources:

Argentina: From Sweat Shop to Co-op

Chilean Diplomat's Book Critiques Washington's Rush to War

Chile passes Tibet resolution, Mapuche heartened

Elections in Paraguay: Indigenous Woman on Course for Senate

Porto Alegre's Participatory Budgeting at a Crossroads’s-participatory-budgeting-at-a-crossroads/

Colombia: conscientious objector freed following protests

Colombia: Open Letter To Nancy Pelosi and the US Congress

Colombia's Three Amigos Rustle Up Support for Free Trade Deal

Venezuela to nationalize steel company

Massive Show Of Support For Venezuelan President Chavez On Coup Anniversary

Manitoba First Nation appeals to Chávez in pipeline fight

South America Looks to Create NATO-Style Defense Council

Nicaragua headed for General Assembly presidency; US, Colombia miffed

US pushes police powers at Salvador "anti-gang" summit

Guatemala: bishop recieves death threats for defending campesinos

Mexico: Pemex protests paralyze congress

Boss of Mexico's feared "Zetas" busted in Guatemala

"Wild West bloodbath" in Ciudad Juárez

Madison Avenue exploits Mexican irredentism

Border Land Battle Pits Development against Human Rights

Two Chicken Stories: NAFTA's Real Winners and Losers

U.S.-Latin America: The Intersection of Trade and Security

Latin America: Food or Fuel--That Is the Burning Question

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

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