Tuesday, October 28, 2008

WNU #965: Two Killed in Dominican Civic Strike

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #965, October 26, 2008

1. Dominican Republic: Two Killed in Civic Strike
2. Puerto Rico: Teachers Back Independent Union
3. Argentina: Police Fight Teachers
4. Mexico: PEMEX "Reform" Rules
5. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, US policy

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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com

*1. Dominican Republic: Two Killed in Civic Strike
On Oct. 21 residents of San Francisco de Macorís in the northeastern Dominican province of Duarte started what was planned as a two-day civic strike for improvements in health and education services; in street and road maintenance; and in infrastructure work. The area has been the scene of numerous protests for years over these and similar demands [see Updates #484, 485, 592, 720, 731, 798, 821]

The current strike--led by the Broad Front of Popular Struggle (FALPO), which was involved many of the earlier protests--started to heat up around midday on Oct. 22 when the majority of store owners closed down their businesses and confrontations broke out between protesters and police agents. Protesters started fires while heavily armed agents, including SWAT anti-riot units, patrolled the streets and set up checkpoints. Two youths not connected to the protests were killed during the confrontations on Oct. 22, according to FALPO spokesperson Eddy Muñoz. Israel Polanco, 17, was shot while playing sports; Luis Gómez, 15, was shot while riding either a bicycle or a motorcycle in an area where police agents were firing at strikers. Some 20 other people were injured during the day, and dozens were reportedly detained.

FALPO responded to the police operation by extending the strike another day. On Oct. 23 hundreds of protesters marched through the downtown area and the Pueblo Nuevo, San Pedro, San Vicente, Hermanas Mirabal, San Martín, Alto de la Javiela and El Capacito neighborhoods. Despite a heavy police presence, there were no incidents. The strike officially ended at 6 am on Oct. 24. FALPO representatives were scheduled to meet that morning with a commission of officials, including Public Works Secretary Víctor Díaz Rúa; National Police chief Maj. Gen. Rafael Guillermo Guzmán Fermín; and National Drinking Water and Sewage Institute (INAPA) director Mariano Germán. Duarte governor Luz Selene Plata, who said the strikers' demands were just, was backing the meeting. (Prensa Latina 10/23/08, 10/24/08; Listín Diario 10/23/08, 10/24/08)

*2. Puerto Rico: Teachers Back Independent Union
Voting results released on Oct. 23 showed Puerto Rico's teachers rejecting by a 18,123-14,675 margin a bid by the Puerto Rican Teachers Union (SPM) to represent them. The "no" vote was vigorously promoted by the teachers' current union, the militant Teachers' Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), which the Labor Relations Commission excluded from running in the new election [see Update #963]. The Puerto Rican government decertified the FMPR after it defied a law against strikes by public employees in late February with a militant 10-day job action over wages, classroom size and health issues.

With an exceptionally high turnout--33,818 out of a reported 36,000 eligible voters participated--the results were a blow to the SPM and the affiliated Teachers' Association (AM), which represents school principals and administrators. The two unions are affiliated with the US-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU). With both the Puerto Rican government and a US union backing the SPM, the FMPR was at a tremendous disadvantage. FMPR leaders claimed that the SEIU and the SMP spent $20 million on the campaign and contracted 500 campaign workers from affiliated unions, while an FMPR activist estimated that the independent union spent a total of $50,000. The FMPR was even barred from having observers at the polling places. (FMPR press release 10/23/08; CounterPunch 10/24/08)

*3. Argentina: Police Fight Teachers
Two leaders of Argentine teachers' unions--Stella Maldonado, general secretary of the Federation of Education Workers of the Argentine Republic, and Alejandro de Michelis, press secretary for the Union of Education Workers--were among those injured on Oct. 20 when Buenos Aires city police agents tried to keep protesting teachers from installing a tent in front of the municipal building. The teachers had planned to start a 100-hour vigil at the site. After the confrontation, the teachers' unions and the Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA) declared a 24-hour national strike starting at noon on Oct. 21. Teachers in the capital have been pushing since August for a 20% pay raise, the return of scholarships to students and improvements in school cafeterias. Mauricio Macri, the center-right head of the city's government, is facing a number of conflicts as students and cultural and healthcare workers press their own demands.

In other news, Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was reportedly planning to announce the elimination of the system of private pensions set up by former president Carlos Menem (1989-1999). For the past two years many workers have been able to switch over to government-managed pensions. Fernández apparently wants to speed up the process because of the effect the world financial crisis is having on the private pensions. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/21/08 from correspondent)

*4. Mexico: PEMEX "Reform" Rules
On Oct. 23 Mexico's 128-member Senate voted almost unanimously to pass legislation that opponents say will open the way to the partial privatization of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), the giant state-owned oil monopoly. The 500-member Chamber of Deputies approved the Senate's version without debate on Oct. 25. The Senate session was held in a downtown skyscraper to avoid protesters at the Senate building; some 1,200 agents from the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) guarded the session, with federal Public Safety Secretary Genaro García Luna leading the force himself. Police forcibly removed deputies from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) who tried to enter the room where the Senate was meeting. Deputy Aleida Alavez, who is two months pregnant, said someone from García Luna's staff pulled her by the hair and threw her on the floor.

The vote was lopsided in both chambers. Four PRD senators and two from the small leftist Workers Party (PT) voted against all seven sections of the bill, while three from the Convergence party voted against two of the sections. The majority of PRD senators supported the measure, even though the party's 2006 presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has been leading the movement in opposition to it [see Updates #956, 957]. Most PRD legislators, members of the party's New Left (NI) faction, supported the bill in the Chamber of Deputies as well, but some PRD deputies joined PT and Convergence deputies when they walked out over a procedural dispute.

Even the opposition movement backed most of the legislation, which was greatly modified from the proposal that center-right president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa made earlier in the year. The opposition asked for 12 words to be added to bar contracts that might allow "the granting of exclusive blocks or areas" to private companies; the majority rejected the amendment. (La Jornada 10/24/08, __, 10/26/08; Mexico Solidarity Network Weekly News and Analysis, 10/20/08-10/26/08)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, US policy

Pentecostalism and South America's Social Movements

Brazilian military exercises heighten tensions with Paraguay

Bolivia Reaches Agreement on Constitution Vote

Bolivia: Congress Approves Referendum on Constitution

Refugees in Ecuador: Organizing for Human Rights

Colombia: An Historic Day for Indigenous Peoples

Another Front in the Conflict: Colombian Government's Propaganda vs. Indigenous Media Perspectives http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1532/1/

Colombia: indigenous protesters march on Cali

Colombia: Hezbollah tie to drug gang claimed

Colombia: secret police chief resigns in spy scandal

Smoke and Mirrors: An Analysis of Human Rights Watch's Report on Venezuela

Mexican Government Ignores Overwhelming Evidence, Charges Oaxacan Activists with Brad Will's Murder http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1535/68/

Mexico: Sinaloa kingpin busted as Rice schmoozes top cops

Mexico: 20 dead in Reynosa prison riot; more violence in Tijuana

The Reggaetón Factor in the U.S. Elections

Obama on Latin America

A Quick, Easy Way to Lower World Food Prices

The World Food Crisis: What's Behind it and What We Can Do About it

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