Monday, June 2, 2008

WNU #949: Lula Visits Haiti, Protests Banned

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #949, June 1, 2008

1. Haiti: Lula Visits, Protests Banned
2. Colombia: Paras' Laptops Go Missing
3. Chile: Colombo Suspects to Be Tried

4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, 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. For a subscription, write to It is archived at

*1. Haiti: Lula Visits, Protests Banned
Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made a brief official visit to Haiti to May 28. During the few hours before he headed off for a tour of Central America, Lula had a private conversation with Haitian president René Garcia Préval, took part in a signing ceremony for six agreements (including accords on agriculture, education and women's rights), and visited the headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 9,000-member military force headed by Brazil.

"We have told President Lula to send more police instead of military," Préval said as the two leaders made statements at the National Palace after their meeting. Lula too played down the military occupation, expressing his "certainty that social, institutional and economic recovery is the only way to avoid new crises in Haiti." Lula was accompanied by representatives of various Brazilian corporations, including the Odebrecht construction company, the Andrade Gutierrez S.A. industrial group and the Camargo Corrêa holding company. An unnamed Brazilian company has already received $80 million from the European Development Bank for the first phase of the rebuilding of Haiti's highways.

The police refused to give the labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye ("Workers' Struggle") a permit to hold a protest at the gates of the National Palace during Lula's visit. The police also turned down the group's counter-offer for protests in the nearby Champ de Mars plaza, at the Foreign Ministry or at the Brazilian embassy. Batay Ouvriye says MINUSTAH's real purpose is to guarantee a "project of exploitation" planned by "the imperialists along with the [local] bourgeoisie." (AlterPresse 5/28/08; Haiti Support Group News Briefs 5/28/08 from Reuters; Campaña Continental Contra el ALCA 5/30/08 from Servicio Informativo "alai-amlatina"; Batay Ouvriye press release 5/27/08, English by email, Creole from AlterPresse 5/28/08)

On May 28 a group of 73 Brazilian social organizations--including Jubilee South, the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), the Brazilian section of Vía Campesina (Campesino Way), unions and student and church groups--issued a "manifesto against the military occupation of Haiti by MINUSTAH." "The unassisted and oppressed people of Haiti don't need troops or soldiers, military intervention or policing," the manifesto said, "but to be unburdened from an illegal and illegitimate external indebtedness maintained only for the benefit of the system of international financial speculation." (AlterPresse 5/29/08)

Various groups called for a "continental day of action" against the occupation throughout South America on June 1, the fourth anniversary of the day that MINUSTAH troops officially started taking over from the Canadian, French and US troops that occupied Haiti after the removal of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004 [see Update #748]. (Adital 5/30/08)

On May 27, one day before Lula's visit, Save the Children UK issued a report concluding that "children living in conflict-affected countries fear to report sexual exploitation and abuse by [United Nations] peacekeeping troops and humanitarian aid workers." The report details the abuse of children as young as six by United Nations troops and international aid workers in Ivory Coast, Southern Sudan and Haiti. The abuse includes "trading food for sex, rape, child prostitution, pornography, indecent sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex" [see Update #926]. (Save the Children UK report and press release, 5/27/08; CaribWorldNews.Com (New York) 5/27/08)

*2. Colombia: Paras' Laptops Go Missing
Colombian prison authorities waited more than 48 hours before securing laptop computers and cell phones belonging to 14 rightwing paramilitary leaders who were suddenly extradited to the US on May 13 [see "Colombia extradites paramilitary commanders," World War 4 Report 5/15/08]. Eventually the prison authorities turned 10 laptops over to prosecutors, along with seven cell phones, one Blackberry wireless messaging device, six or more USB memory sticks, and 72 CDs belonging to Diego Fernando Murillo ("Don Berna"); the CDs were said to be "labeled with [mass] graves by region." Paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso's laptop was sent to a repair shop on May 10, two days before the extradition, and hadn't been recovered as of May 27. SIM memory cards from cell phones belonging to Mancuso, Ramiro Vanoy and Juan Carlos Sierra were also missing.

Prisons director Eduardo Morales said he never got an order from superiors to preserve evidence in the prison cells after the inmates' surprise removal. Journalists have speculated that someone could have removed data incriminating politicians and business people during the time before the equipment was secured; 33 members of Congress have gone to jail in connection with their association with paramilitary leaders. Independent analyst Claudia Lopez said it was "outrageous" that "the computers of the paramilitaries can't survive an inspection by [prison authorities] in a maximum-security prison" when computers belonging to Raúl Reyes, a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), were supposedly found intact after the Colombian military bombed a FARC camp in Ecuador on Mar. 1, "in a foreign country in the middle of the night" [see Updates #937, 949]. (International Herald Tribune 5/28/08 from AP)

*3. Chile: Colombo Suspects to Be Tried
On May 26 Chilean judge Víctor Montiglio ordered 98 former police agents and military people to face trial for their involvement in the 1975 "Operation Colombo," in which 119 opponents of dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet were kidnapped and murdered. This was the largest number of people tried to date in Chile for human rights violations committed under the 1973-1990 military regime, which executed or disappeared more than 3,000 people. The trial specifically cites the "permanent kidnapping" of 42 victims whose bodies have never been recovered
Operation Colombo was coordinated with other South American military regimes through the clandestine "Operation Condor" program. To cover up the murders, two one-issue periodicals were put out in July 1975--one in Argentina and one in Brazil--with articles claiming that "60 Chilean extremists" had been killed in in Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Panama and France "by their own comrades in struggle."

Also on May 26, Joan Jara, widow of the Chilean musician Víctor Jara, petitioned the Supreme Court to reopen the case of her husband's 1973 murder. On May 15 Judge Juan Eduardo Fuentes Belmar found retired colonel Mario Manríquez Bravo guilty of the murder and closed the case; the family contends that several others were also involved and should be tried [see Update #948]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/27/08)

Correction: In Update #948 we reported that Cuban American real estate magnate Santiago Alvarez is serving a 46-month prison sentence for illegally stockpiling weapons. US District Judge James Cohn has reduced Alvarez's sentence to 30 months. Alvarez was also sentenced to 10 months in prison for refusing to testify against Cuban-born rightwinger Luis Posada Carriles. (Miami Herald 5/19/08)

More breaking stories from alternative sources:

Damming Patagonia's Rivers: A Dirty Energy Business

Amazon: "uncontacted" tribe train arrows on government aircraft

Stalemate in Bolivia?

Bolivia: Right-wing mob humiliates indigenous leaders in Sucre

Peru: Indigenous Organizations Aim for the Presidency

Retired Colombian General with Ties to the CIA Arrested Over "Forced Disappearances"

Open Letter to the U.S. Department of Justice concerning CISPES

Guatemala: Ambush-Protest at Mejia VictoresÆ Home

Guatemala: convictions in Río Negro massacre

Guatemala: Threats Against People Dealing with Crimes of the Past

Mexico: campesinos occupy Chihuahua gold mine

Legal Victory Leads to Historic Recovery for Massacre Survivors in Haiti

Back to the Future: Limits of Economic Growth in Latin America

Behind Latin America's Food Crisis

South American Nations Form New Regional Grouping

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