Sunday, June 22, 2008

WNU #951: No Prime Minister in Haiti, Missing Cubans in Texas

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #951, June 22, 2008

1. Haiti: Still No Prime Minister
2. Mexico: Maquila Union Threatened
3. Cuba: "Missing" Emigrés Found in US
4. Latin America: Anger at EU Immigration Measure
5. Links to alternative sources on: Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Central America, El Salvador

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: Still No Prime Minister
On June 12 Haiti's Chamber of Deputies voted 57-22 with six abstentions to reject President René Garcia Préval's latest nominee for prime minister, Robert Manuel. A commission assigned to study Manuel's qualifications found that he failed to meet two requirements in the 1987 Constitution: he didn't own property in Haiti and he hadn't lived in the country for the last five years consecutively. Manuel is a longtime friend of Préval and was the security chief during Préval's first term as president (1996-2001). The Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide pushed for Manuel's removal in 1999 [see Update #506], and he left the country, returning near the end of 2005.

Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis had to resign on Apr. 12 following militant protests triggered by the rising cost of food [see Update #943]. But he has continued to head a caretaker government while Parliament and Préval try to settle on a replacement. Parliament rejected an earlier nominee, Ericq Pierre. (Haiti Support Group News 6/12/08 from Reuters; AlterPresse 6/12/08)

Also on June 12, some 30 nongovernmental organizations from the Group of Eight (G8) industrial countries and other European countries issued a letter calling on G8 governments to respond to the food crisis by cancelling Haiti's external debt or at least declaring a moratorium on debt service, which will be $58.2 million for 2008. Haiti's total external debt as of 2006 was $1.3 billion. Of this about $1 billion was owed to international credit institutions like the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. (AlterPresse 6/12/08)

*2. Mexico: Maquila Union Threatened
Workers at the Mexmode garment factory in Atlixco municipality in the central Mexican state of Puebla report that the state and local governments are maneuvering to destroy the Independent Union of Mexmode Company Workers (SITEMEX), one of the few independent unions in Mexico's maquiladoras (tax-exempt assembly plants producing for export). The workers say Antorcha Campesina ("Campesino Torch")--an organization linked to the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which governs the state--has taken hold in the factory and is threatening and intimidating the union leadership. Atlixco director of culture Maritoña Espejel has been photographed distributing fliers outside the plant; she reportedly called on workers to lynch a group of observers during a work stoppage.

On June 18 state labor officials announced they would call a meeting of workers to hold an election between current SITEMEX president Josefina Hernández and someone from Antorcha Campesina's union. Workers say this action is illegal under Mexican law, which establishes union autonomy and prohibits the government from interfering in the internal affairs of unions. The Chicago-based labor solidarity group USLEAP is calling for letters to the Puebla government protesting this situation; to send a letter, go to
(Campaign for Labor Rights alert 6/18/08)

[Workers at Mexmode, formerly the Korean-owned Kukdong Internacional SA de CV, formed SITEMEX after a nine-month struggle, which was supported by student and labor groups in Canada, Korea and the US; see Updates #572, 574, 578, 609.]

*3. Cuba: "Missing" Emigrés Found in US
A group of undocumented Cuban immigrants who were supposedly "snatched" from Mexican immigration authorities by an armed commando on June 11 in the southeastern state of Chiapas have been located in Hidalgo, Texas, Mexican authorities said on June 18. The Mexican Attorney General's Office (PRG) will investigate nine employees of the National Migration Institute (INM) in connection with the incident, according to officials.

The Mexican navy detained 33 Cubans on June 8 in the eastern state of Quintana Roo. On June 10 the INM decided to move the Cubans and four Central American immigrants to a detention facility in Tapachula, Chiapas, claiming that the facilities in Quintana Roo were full. A group of six to nine heavily armed men in masks "kidnapped" the 37 immigrants in Chiapas on June 11 while they were being transported to Tapachula by seven unarmed INM agents and two bus drivers. The immigrants were then reportedly taken to Palenque, Chiapas, and through Tabasco and Veracruz to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, where they crossed the international bridge to Hidalgo. Apparently they had been supplied with false documents and had no trouble with either Mexican or US authorities. According to the Mexican daily La Jornada, 23 Cubans were found in Texas, while the Associated Press put the number at 18. The location of the other Cubans and the four Central Americans was unknown.

The immigrants' route took them through areas where the so-called "Gulf Cartel" operates; the group has been linked to people smuggling as well as drug trafficking. Chiapas justice secretary Amador Rodríguez Lozano charged that the "Miami mafia"--rightwing Cuban Americans living in Florida--financed the operation. Cuba's ambassador to Mexico, Manuel Aguilera had made a similar suggestion the weekend of June 13. (La Jornada 6/19/08; El Diario-La Prensa 6/20/08 from AP (print edition only))

*4. Latin America: Anger at EU Immigration Measure
On June 18 the European Union (EU) Parliament passed guidelines that would allow member countries to hold immigrants in special detention centers for up to 18 months before being deported. The guidelines are meant to standardize the way EU members treat undocumented immigrants; currently France limits detention to 32 days, while seven countries, including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, allow indefinite detention.

Bolivian president Evo Morales met with European ambassadors in La Paz to discuss the issue and propose alternatives. He told foreign correspondents that his government would lead a campaign against the new guidelines, and that he would bring the campaign up at a meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) at Tucumán, Argentina, at the end of June. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez went further, saying on June 19: "Our oil shouldn't go to those countries" that adopt the guidelines. Venezuela is a minor supplier of oil to Europe, but some European companies, including France's Total and Norway's Statoil, operate in Venezuela. He warned that European companies could come under scrutiny if their countries locked up South Americans. "We aren't going to take anyone prisoner, but the company would have to take its investments back there," he said. (San Francisco Chronicle 6/19/08 from AP; Prensa Latina 6/21/08)

More breaking stories from alternative sources:

Return to Putis: EPAF Resumes Exhumations of Mass Graves

Chinese mining interest to relocate Peruvian peasants

Peru: Tambogrande Mine Returns Amidst Two Other Conflicts

Unburying the Evidence of Peru's Biggest "Dirty War" Massacre

Ecuador says no to ALBA --for now

Colombia: "shock" rise in coca production

Colombia: riot police attack indigenous land occupation

Paramilitaries Threaten Canadian Embassy in Bogotá

Colombia: No Reduction in Assassinations and Death Threats

U.S. Has Central America's Northern Triangle in Its Sights

What the Census Didn't Count: Water Rights and Privatization in El Salvador

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

For immigration updates and events:


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