Wednesday, October 1, 2008

WNU #962: Latin American Leaders React to "Giant's Toppling"

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #962, September 28, 2008

1. Ecuador: Easy Win for New Constitution
2. Latin America: Reactions to "Giant's Toppling"
3. Mexico: Teacher Strikes Continue
4. Haiti: US Holds Up Deportations
5. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, 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. Ecuador: Easy Win for New Constitution
According to exit polls, Ecuadoran voters overwhelmingly backed a proposal for a new Constitution in a referendum held Sept. 28. The Santiago Pérez Investigación y Estudios polling firm showed 66.4% of voters supporting the measure, while Cedatos-Gallup put the proportion at 70%. President Rafael Correa, who had called for the new charter, said the vote was a "new historic triumph" and led supporters in chanting: "The people united will never be defeated." The center-left president got the results while visiting his hometown, Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest and most prosperous city. Santiago Pérez's exit poll showed Guayaquil voters backing the new Constitution, despite fears by Correa's supporters that the city might become an opposition center in the same way that Santa Cruz has become a focus of opposition to Bolivian president Evo Morales, a Correa ally.

The new Constitution, Ecuador's 20th, allows presidents to run for two consecutive four-year terms, opening the possibility that Correa could govern until 2017; promotes a "social and solidarity-based" economic model to replace the current neoliberal policies; forbids the installation of foreign military bases like the US base at Manta; and grants soldiers the right to vote. (San Jose (California) Mercury News 9/28/08 from AP; El Universal (Caracas) 9/28/08 from AP)

*2. Latin America: Reactions to "Giant's Toppling"
Latin American leaders who came to New York the week of Sept. 22 for the annual opening session of the United Nations General Assembly suggested that the US and European countries should use economic models from the South to resolve the growing financial crisis in the North.

On Sept. 23 Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner recalled the arguments US advisers had used to promote neoliberal policies during the 1990s: "that the market solved everything, that the state wasn't necessary, that support for state intervention was nostalgia from groups that hadn't understood how the economy had evolved." But now "the most formidable state intervention in memory was produced precisely in the place when they told us that the state wasn't necessary," she said, referring to a series of government bailouts of financial institutions in the US.

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva emphasized the need for changes in the way multilateral organizations work so that they can confront the dangers of financial speculation and lack of equality among nations. He offered examples from Latin America, such as the current efforts of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to support the government of elected Bolivian president Evo Morales. He noted that Brazil will be the site of the "first Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean." He said no countries would be treated like protectorates at the summit, which would be "based on [the different countries'] own perspectives." (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/24/08 from correspondent)

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías skipped the General Assembly, instead going to China on Sept. 23 for a three-day visit. "It's more important to be in Beijing than in New York," he remarked. In this visit to China--his fifth--Chávez met with Chinese president Hu Jintao, signed 12 economic agreements, including accords on the construction of refineries, and discussed the possible purchase of military aircraft. Venezuela now plans to increase its exports of crude oil to China from 364,000 barrels a day to 500,000 barrels a day in 2009; it currently exports 1.1 million barrels a day to the US. (LJ 9/24/08 from AFP, DPA, Xinhua, 9/25/08 from AFP, DPA, Reuters, Xinhua) Chávez had remarked on Sept. 21 that the "financial collapse of global capitalism" was affecting those countries "that are strongly hitched up to the US economy. We've started to unhitch ourselves." He added: "This doesn't mean we're invulnerable, because this is about the toppling of a giant." (LJ 9/22/08)

During the opening of the General Assembly, US president George W. Bush announced a new US economic plan for the hemisphere, the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas Initiative. The US launched it with a meeting of leaders from the Americas on Sept. 24 in New York. The invitees were presidents Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Alvaro Uribe (Colombia), Oscar Arias (Costa Rica), Leonel Fernández (Dominican Republic), Antonio Saca (El Salvador), Alvaro Colom (Guatemala), Felipe Calderón (Mexico) and Martín Torrijos (Panama), along with Peruvian vice president Luis Giampietri and Canadian ambassador Michelle Wilson. In an opinion column, former Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz compared the new project to President John Kennedy's 1961 Alliance for Progress and President Bill Clinton's 1994 Free Trade Area for the Americas (FTAA), which "received its coup de grâce in Mar del Plata [Argentina] in the year 2005" [see Update #823]. (LJ 9/27/08 from AFP, DPA; Prensa Latina (English) 9/27/08)

*3. Mexico: Teacher Strikes Continue
Teachers in the central Mexican state of Morelos, on strike since Aug. 13 [see Updates #959, 960], escalated their tactics on Sept. 22 by blocking access to state government offices in Cuernavaca, the state capital. Gov. Marco Antonio Adame Castillo, of the governing center-right National Action Party (PAN), responded by asking the federal government for 400 anti-riot agents from the Federal Preventive Police (PFP). Some 20,000 Morelos teachers have been trying to force Adame Castillo to cancel the state's participation in the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE), a national plan supported by Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) head Elba Esther Gordillo. The teachers are members of Section 19 of the SNTE.

On Sept. 23, about 6,000 Morelos strikers joined thousands of teachers from other states for a march in the nearby Federal District (DF, Mexico City); the protest was sponsored by the Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a rank-and-file caucus in the SNTE. Some 200 teachers from the DF, members of SNTE Section 9, caught the authorities off guard by occupying the headquarters of the federal government's Public Education Secretariat (SEP); they succeeded in blocking access for eight hours before being removed. On Sept. 24 Morelos teachers blocked four lanes of the Autopista del Sol turnpike and two lanes of the Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway, along with Cuernavaca's three main avenues: Morelos, Plan de Ayala and Emiliano Zapata. The blockades ended under pressure from motorists.

Also on Sept. 24, the Morelos Democratic Teachers Movement, which represents the strikers, began talks with state and federal officials. But negotiations remained at an impasse as of Sept. 27. The state government claimed 6,000 of the strikers were planning to return to the classroom on Sept. 29, while anger against the strike appeared to be growing among parents.

Teachers have also protested the ACE in other states. Some 13,000 teachers held escalating strikes for a month in Quintana Roo; on Sept. 22 they suspended their strike for 90 days, returning to work in exchange for some concessions from the state government.

In Puebla at least 5,000 teachers from SNTE Sections 23 and 51 protested for three hours on Sept. 23, calling the ACE a plan to privatize education. About 3,000 teachers marched in Guanajuato on the same day; their chants included: "She's not Mickey Mouse, she's not Topo Gigio [an Italian puppet mouse], she's that rat Gordillo." Some 900 teachers and parents marched in Tijuana, Baja California Norte; 500 teachers held a brief strike in Durango; Guerrero teachers walked out of the classroom and blocked state offices in Chilpancingo, the state capital.

Protests continued on Sept. 25 with a march by 15,000 Guerrero teachers and a four-hour occupation of SNTE Section 4's offices in Campeche by 300 dissident teachers. In Oaxaca, where a strike by SNTE Section 22 set off a popular uprising in 2006, some 70,000 teachers marched, declaring support for the Morelos teachers and rejecting President Calderón's economic program and any privatization of Mexico's oil monopoly, Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). (La Jornada 9/23/08, 9/24/08, 9/25/08, 9/27/08, 9/28/08)

*4. Haiti: US Holds Up Deportations
The US government is not currently scheduling any deportations to Haiti, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez said on Sept. 19. According to Gonzales, federal officials are evaluating conditions in the country, which was hit by four tropical storms in less than a month [see Update #961]. Some Congress members from south Florida, which has a large population of Haitian origin, said they were disappointed Haitians have not been granted temporary protected status (TPS), which allows immigrants to stay in the US for a limited time because of wars or environmental disasters in their home countries. But Gonzalez made it clear that the deportation of Haitians would continue: "When we feel it's appropriate to resume, we'll notify members of Congress." (AP 9/19/08)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Haiti

Brazil: high court puts off key ruling on Amazon land rights

An Open Letter to the U.S. State Department Regarding Recent Violence in Bolivia

Information on Washington's Interference in Bolivian Affairs

Peru: Interview with Political Prisoner Lori Berenson

Uncontacted tribes flee Peruvian Amazon: evidence

Ecuador's Constitution Gives Rights to Nature

Mexican diaspora gets bigger

Mexico: arrests in Independence Day massacre

Mexican Activists Turn Over Mexico City Man to Police in Sally Grace Eiler Murder Case

Bad News From Haiti: U.S. Press Misses the Story

McCain-Palin and Latin America

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

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