Tuesday, January 13, 2009

WNU #974: 600 Haitians Occupy Dominican Church

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #974, January 11, 2009

1. Dominican Republic: 600 Haitians Occupy Church
2. Haiti: US Rejects TPS Plea
3. Latin America: Gaza Protests Continue
4. Mexico: Cops Kill, Pentagon Frets
5. Colombia: CIA Knew About Army Para Ties
6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Latin America

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: 600 Haitians Occupy Church
On Jan. 6 Dominican soldiers removed some 600 Haitian immigrants without incident from the Nuestra Señora del Rosario church in the city of Dajabón, on the northwestern border with Haiti. The immigrants had occupied the church the day before after Dominican authorities denied them permission to return from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, where they had been living and working. Following lengthy negotiations with Father Regino Martínez, the Jesuit head of the Dominican human rights group Border Solidarity, the authorities allowed 75-80 of the Haitians to stay in the Dominican Republic. Escorted by soldiers, the other immigrants--including whole families carrying their belongings on their shoulders--walked to the neighboring Haitian city of Ouanaminthe.

Father Martínez and other human rights activists had met with immigration service director Gen. José Aníbal Sanz Jiminián on Dec. 18 to tell him that 1,696 Haitian workers planned to travel home for Christmas and return in January. But Dominican authorities denied reentry to about 600 of the workers and their family members on Jan. 4 on the grounds that they lacked documents. The immigrants spent the night in the church in Ouanaminthe and entered Dajabón the next day, Monday, Jan. 5; the border is open for Dajabón's market days on Mondays and Fridays. The immigrants then took over the Dajabón church, where they were welcomed by Martínez, who celebrated a mass with them.

Martínez said the northwestern area was now suffering a shortage of workers; undocumented Haitian immigrant are a large of the workforce in agriculture and construction. An official of the Immigration Directorate said Martínez could be charged with illegal trafficking of immigrants, but two bishops, Diómedes Espinal of the Mao-Monte Cristi diocese and auxiliary Santiago bishop Plinio Valentín Reynoso, backed the priest. (Univisión 1/7/09 from AP; Listin Diario (San Domingo) 1/6/2009, 1/8/2009; Prensa Latina 1/7/09; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 1/6/08 from EFE, 1/7/08 from AP; Latin America Herald Tribune 1/7/08, 1/8/09)

Dominican authorities said on Jan. 7 that they had deported 1,120 Haitians in the previous three days and had allowed at least 950 others with permits to enter the country. (LAHT 1/8/09)

*2. Haiti: US Rejects TPS Plea
On Dec. 19 US Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff wrote Haitian president René Préval that "[a]fter very careful consideration" he was rejecting the Haitian government's request for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for undocumented Haitians in the US. This would have allowed the immigrants to remain in the US until Haiti recovered from the two hurricanes and two tropical storms that hit in one month during the summer; the US granted TPS to many Central Americans after hurricane Mitch struck in 1998, and the designation has been renewed ever since. The US briefly suspended deportations to Haiti after the storms but resumed in December [see Update #970]. Homeland Security spokesperson Michael Keegan said 28 Haitians had been repatriated since the resumption.

The storms reportedly destroyed 15% of Haiti's gross domestic product (GDP). "That's the equivalent of eight to 10 hurricane Katrinas hitting the US in a month's period of time," Randy McGrorty, executive director Catholic Legal Services, told the Miami Herald. He said that "after eight years of dealing with this administration and their policy toward Haiti," he had to think one reason for the rejection was racism. (Miami Herald 1/6/09; South Florida Sun-Sentinel 1/7/09)

*3. Latin America: Gaza Protests Continue
On Jan. 6 the Venezuelan foreign ministry announced that it was expelling the Israeli ambassador, Shlomo Cohen, to express solidarity with the "heroic Palestinian people" after Israeli's Dec. 27 military assault on the Palestinian territory of Gaza [see Update #973]. Before the announcement, President Hugo Chávez Frías had described the Israeli military as "cowardly" and had called for Israeli president Shimon Peres and US president George W. Bush to be tried by the International Criminal Court for genocide.

Abraham Levy Benshimol, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations, said Chávez's remarks were unjust, fundamentally unreal and "worrisome" for the nearly 15,000 people in Venezuela's Jewish community. (La Jornada (Mexico) 1/7/09 from DPA, AFP, Reuters, PL; Adital 1/7/09; New York Times 1/8/09 from AP; Miami Herald 1/8/09 from McClatchy News Service) In Israel, the Communist Party sent Chávez a letter on Jan. 8 thanking him for his position. "We believe that yours is an example to imitate, not only for other Latin American governments," the letter said. "It must be the position of all the states in our region, the Middle East." (Press release 1/8/09 via MRzine.org)

On Jan. 8 Ecuadoran foreign minister Fander Falconi called Israeli military actions "flagrant violations" of international law and urged the United Nations (UN) to issue "a condemnation of Israel for crimes against humanity." The government saluted all demonstrations showing solidarity with the Palestinian people, Falconi said. (Xinhua 1/8/09)

As of Jan. 11, the largest Latin American demonstration against the assault was a march of some 20,000 people in Argentina on Jan. 6. "Zionist state, you're the terrorist," the crowd chanted as it moved from the Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires to the Israeli embassy. The organizers included the Land and Housing Federation (FTV), the Socialist Workers Movement (MST), the Workers Party, the Communist Party, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Argentine Islamic Association. Alejandro Salomón, head of the Federation of Argentine Arab Entities (Fearab), called for the government to break relations with Israel. "We don't want any dealings with a state that has always voted against Argentina in its claim for the Malvinas," he said; the islands, known in English as the Falkland Islands, are also claimed by the United Kingdom. There were also smaller demonstrations in other cities on Jan. 6; about 100 people protested in the Plaza Independencia in Tucumán. (Miami Herald 1/8/09 from McClatchy News Service; La Gaceta Tucumán (Argentina) 1/7/09)

On Jan. 9 Fearab and the FTV launched a national solidarity campaign for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The campaign will extend to Jan. 23, Fearab's Roberto Ahuad said at a press conference held at the office of the Federation of Popular Movements, which is headed by Luis D'Elía. (Télam (Argentina) 1/9/09) [D'Elia is a leader of the leftist Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA) and the FTV--a part of the piquetero (picketer) unemployed movement. He was also an official in the government of former president Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007).]

Hundreds of people marched from the Hemiciclo a Juárez to the US embassy in Mexico City on Jan. 10 to protest Israel's actions. "Palestine lives, the struggle continues," they chanted, throwing shoes at the building. The protest was organized by the Mexican Movement of Solidarity with Palestine and other organizations. (LJ 1/11/09)

*4. Mexico: Cops Kill, Pentagon Frets
Three undocumented immigrants were killed and eight others injured when state preventive police fired on a truck near San Cristóbal de las Casas in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas on the morning of Jan. 9. Police agents opened fire after the driver refused to stop the truck, which was carrying some 30 Chinese, Ecuadoran and Guatemalan immigrants entering from Guatemala in transit to the US. The agents continued to shoot during a 20-minute chase that ended with the truck crashing. All the injured and at least one of the dead had received bullet wounds; the driver and an immigrant smuggler escaped. Two of the agents were reportedly detained. (La Jornada 1/10/09)

Also on Jan. 9, some 4,000 people marched in Ocotlán in the western state of Jalisco to protest the killing of 21-year-old Fernando López Alejandre by municipal police on Jan. 1 and to demand the removal of Mayor Absalón García Ochoa, of the center-right National Action Party (PAN). Police chief Filiberto Ortiz Amador had been dismissed two days earlier. The agents shot López Alejandre, a bass player with the Arcadia Libre rock band, as he was driving with a friend. Residents say the police regularly harass youths. Both Mayor García Ochoa and former police chief Ortiz Amador are reportedly close to Jalisco governor Francisco Ramírez Acuña, a PAN leader. García Ochoa and Ortiz Amador were state security officials in May 2004 when state police violently repressed a demonstration in Guadalajara against a summit held there [see Updates #748, 749, 751]. (LJ 1/10/09)

In a Jan. 9 meeting with ambassadors and consuls in Mexico City, President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, also of the PAN, denied that there was chaos in Mexico and that "the civilian population was being massacred in the streets." He was apparently referring to fighting among drug cartels and between drug traffickers and the government. (LJ 1/10/09) More than 8,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug wars over the past two years. A study by the US Joint Forces Command, a US military planning group, warns that the Mexican state may "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse" because of "sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels... Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone." (International Herald Tribune 1/9/09 from Reuters)

*5. Colombia: CIA Knew About Army Para Ties
On Jan. 8 the National Security Archive, a Washington, DC-based research group, released declassified US government documents showing that US diplomats and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) knew at least since 1994 that the Colombia security forces "employ death squad tactics in their counterinsurgency campaign," in the words of a 1994 CIA report. The military had a "history of assassinating leftwing civilians in guerrilla areas, cooperating with narcotics-related paramilitary groups in attacks against suspected guerrilla sympathizers and killing captured combatants," the CIA report said. The release of the documents came six days before Colombian president Alvaro Uribe was to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US president George W. Bush. (Latin America Herald Tribune 1/9/09)

In other news, Diego Tobón, Colombia's ambassador to Moscow, has told the Italian press agency ANSA that Russia will extradite Yair Klein, a former Israeli colonel, to Colombia in March. Klein has been charged with aiding the Medellín drug cartel; he is also accused of training rightwing paramilitary groups [see Update #895]. (Colombia Reports 1/6/09)... On Jan. 7, the Colombian government authorized Senator Piedad Córdoba to participate in the release of six hostages from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The mission will be headed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). [President Uribe indicated previously that he didn't want Córdoba involved; see Update #972].
(LAHT 1/8/09)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Latin America

Argentina: GM Soy Wreaks Cultural and Economic Havoc in Jujuy

Between Law and Politics: The Continuing Struggle Against Impunity in Uruguay

Peru: oil company poised to enter uncontacted tribes' territory

Peru: A Mining Town's Woes

Indigenous anti-mining protests hit Ecuador

Colombian drug lord shot dead in Spanish hospital

Venezuela breaks ties with Israel:
US Congress signs off on Gaza aggression as global outrage grows

Human Rights Watch Responds to Criticism of Venezuela Report

El Salvador: Community Fights Private Waste Dump Construction

Honduras: Stormy Economic Outlook for 2009

Mexico: fishermen strike over fuel prices

Mexican cabinet report: US arms drug cartels

Mexico: narcos wage terror campaign against media

Video Interview with Eduardo Galeano: Latin American History and Politics

Invasion of Gaza Met With Protests Throughout Latin America

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