Sunday, November 2, 2008

WNU #966: Paras Threaten Colombian Peace Community

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #966, November 2, 2008

1. Colombia: Paras Threaten Peace Community
2. Latin America: Leaders United on Crisis?
3. Cuba: Diplomats Woo UN, Brazil, Mexico
4. Haiti: Storm Victims Starve
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Honduras, 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 . It is archived at

*1. Colombia: Paras Threaten Peace Community
The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in Colombia's northwestern Antioquia department reported on Oct. 31 that rightwing paramilitaries were threatening to murder community members. A joint operation of paramilitaries and the army's 17th Brigade murdered eight people in San José de Apartadó on Feb. 21, 2005 [see Updates #787, 788, 791]; retired colonel Guillermo Armando Gordillo confessed this year that his troops participated in the massacre. Peace communities refuse to collaborate with any armed forces, including rebels, paramilitaries and the army.

According to the peace community, paramilitaries stopped three people on Oct. 30 and told them that residents of La Esperanza settlement, part of the peace community, had to leave if they wanted to avoid being massacred; the paramilitaries said they had a list of six people they were going to murder. Similar threats preceded the 2005 massacre, and the military has been pressuring the community recently. On Oct. 28 and 29 army troops spent the day in homes and the school in La Esperanza, keeping children from attending classes; when asked to leave, they called the community a "nest of guerrillas." Soldiers have also photographed residents and conducted an illegal census. The US-based Colombia Support Network (CSN) is urging people to contact US Congress members, US embassy attaché Scott Fagan (, Colombian defense minister Dr. Juan Manuel Santos (, and, and others to demand a stop to the planned massacre and respect for the rights of civilians. (Agencia Bolivariana de Prensa 11/2/08 from Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó communiqué 10/31/08; CSN urgent action 10/31/08; World War 4 Report 8/2/08)

*2. Latin America: Leaders United on Crisis?
The official theme of the 18th Ibero-American Summit, held Oct. 29-31 in San Salvador, El Salvador, was "Youth and Development," but the global financial crisis was the main topic of discussions by the representatives of Spain, Portugal and 19 Latin American countries.

Despite strong differences among the 19 heads of state who attended--from supporters of neoliberalism like Salvadoran president Elías Antonio Saca and Mexican president Felipe Hinojosa Calderón to supporters of state intervention like Bolivian president Evo Morales and Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa--the participants agreed on a united message for Argentina, Brazil and Mexico to take to a meeting in Washington, DC of the Group of 20 (G20, the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations plus the largest "emerging economies"). They are to call for a sharp change in the advanced nations' policies of extreme deregulation, which Latin American leaders blamed for the crisis.

Latin American economies were initially somewhat resistant to the global meltdown, in part because of a recent policy of "unhitching" or "decoupling" their economies from the US [see Update #962]. But the crisis began to hit Latin America seriously the week of Oct. 6 as the Brazilian real and the Mexican peso plunged violently. Argentina's economy is now suffering from a fall in the price of the grains that represent 45.2% of its exports, while Venezuela faces a sharp drop in the price of oil, which accounts for 90% of its exports. Brazil is also affected by lower prices for oil, while the real's drop has forced the Central Bank to intervene in the private banking system. Mexico, which is exceptionally dependent on the US economy, has had to use 10% of its foreign reserves to support the peso.

Last year Latin America's overall gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.6%; this year the increase is expected to be 4% or less. Since the beginning of the month the two largest economies, Brazil and Mexico, have been growing at a 3% and 1.5% annual rate respectively. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/28/08 from Economist Intelligence Unit, 10/31/08 from correspondent; AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/31/08 from correspondent; Xinhuanet (China) 10/31/08)

*3. Cuba: Diplomats Woo UN, Brazil, Mexico
The United Nations General Assembly voted on Oct. 29 to condemn the US embargo on trade with Cuba that has been in effect since 1962. This is the 17th time the group has supported a nonbinding resolution against the embargo. The vote was 185-3 with one abstention, a slight change from last year's 184-4 vote [see Update #920]. The US, Israel and Palau voted against the resolution; the Marshall Islands, which voted with the US in 2007, joined Micronesia in abstaining. Albania, which was absent in 2007, backed this year's resolution. (Prensa Latina (Cuba) 10/29/08)

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrived in Havana the evening of Oct. 30 for a 24-hour visit after he had attended the Ibero-American Summit. He immediately met with President Raúl Castro, personally inviting the Cuban leader to the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean on Integration and Development, to be held Dec. 16-17 in Salvador de Bahía. Lula's main official business on the island appeared to be signing a treaty for joint petroleum exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, but the larger goal was clearly to raise Brazil's profile as a trading partner with Cuba. With $450 million in trade a year, Brazil is Cuba's second most important Latin American partner, after Venezuela. This was Lula's second visit to Cuba in 2008 [see Update #931]. (La Jornada 10/31/08 from correspondent)

Improved relations between Cuba and Mexico were evident in the Oct. 19-21 visit of Cuban foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque to Mexico City. On Oct. 20 he and Governance Secretary Juan Camilo Mouriño signed a memorandum of understanding on immigration policy; the two countries agreed to cooperate in ending the practice by which hundreds of Cubans enter Mexico illegally by sea on their way to the US [see Update #964]. On Oct. 21 Roque met with Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and invited him to visit Cuba. Relations between the countries had been minimal starting in 2002 under Calderón's predecessor, Vicente Fox Quesada, who, like Calderón, is a member of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and a supporter of the US. Trade between Cuba and Mexico is now up by 80% over what it was in the same period in 2007. (LJ 10/20/08, 10/21/08, 10/22/08)

*4. Haiti: Storm Victims Starve
About a dozen people reportedly died of starvation in the Baie d'Orange communal section in Belle-Anse in Haiti's Southeast department towards the end of October. Local authorities say malnutrition is a major problem in the area, which was hit by a series of storms two months ago; people are also suffering from dysentery, fevers and skin diseases. Apparently food relief failed to reach Baie d'Orange until recently because of the area's isolation, which was worsened by the storms. (AlterPresse 10/30/08)

International institutions have sent minimal aid to Haiti after the storms [see Update #964]. There is still no sign they will offer the country debt relief, or even admit that there is a problem. During a visit to Port-au-Prince on Oct. 20, World Bank president Robert Zoellick reportedly told journalists that Haiti's $1.7 billion debt was "half-forgiven" and promised "the rest of the debt" could soon be cancelled. $500 million of Haitian debt had already been cancelled, he said, according to reports. Local and international groups say that in fact none of Haiti's debt stock has been cancelled by the World Bank, and in recent weeks the World Bank has delayed debt cancellation for Haiti by six months. (AlterPresse 10/31/08)

In other news, on Oct. 28 former rightwing paramilitary leader Emmanuel ("Toto") Constant was given a 12 to 37 year prison sentence for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme in New York state [see Update #956]. Justice Abraham Gerges of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn said schemes like the one by Constant and his associates "played a role" in "the nationwide economic meltdown and the foreclosure crisis." In asking for leniency Constant said he worked for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Haiti from December 1991 to December 1994. (New York Times 10/29/08; Brooklyn Daily Eagle 10/28/08)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, US policy

Latin America's New Consensus

Revealed: McCain's Private Visit With Chilean Dictator Pinochet

El "Técnico" y el "Pepe": Seeking Electoral Unity in Uruguay

Bolivia boots DEA

Winds of Civil War in Bolivia: Understanding a Four-party Conflict

Multi-Layered Conflict Poses Uncertain Future for Bolivian Reforms

What did Bolivian Society Say Through the Recall Referendum?

The Bolivian Crisis, the OAS, and UNASUR

The Failure of U.S. "Democracy Promotion" in Bolivia

Militarization and the War on Drugs in Peru: Interview with Ricardo Soberón

Colombia: officers purged over "false positive" executions

Colombia's Indigenous march against President Uribe

U'wa Fight New Oil Exploration

Colombia: Uribe stands up indigenous leaders

Colombia: Where Dialogue Seems Impossible

Colombia: FARC agrees to peace dialogue

Colombia: "We Are not Subversives, and We Demand Respect"

Creation of an Urban Guerrilla

Honduras: All That Glitters Isn't Gold - A Story of Exploitation and Resistance

Hemispheric Conference against Militarization Says No to Merida Initiative, U.S. Military Bases

Mexico: federal police chief steps down in narco-scandal

Mexico: Sinaloa Cartel spies infiltrated Prosecutor General, US Embassy

Mexico: Tijuana Cartel kingpin busted

The Failure of Operation Chihuahua

Will an Obama Administration act differently towards South America?

Over 360 Latin America Experts Call on Obama to Improve U.S.-Latin American Relations

Toward a New US-Latin America Foreign Policy

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