Monday, January 19, 2009

WNU #975: Peruvian Farmers Strike Over Water

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #975, January 18, 2009

1. Peru: Farmers Strike Over Water
2. Honduras: Teachers Sit In for Back Pay
3. Dominican Republic: Cops Kill Unionists
4. Cuba: Embargo to Remain for Now
5. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, 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. Peru: Farmers Strike Over Water
Peruvian agricultural producers ended three days of mobilizations on Jan. 17 after Enrique Málaga, president of the National Users Council of the Irrigation Districts of Peru (JNUDRP), met with Prime Minister Yehude Simon and Agriculture Minister Carlos Leyton. "The strike has been suspended in consideration of our having reached an agreement for approval of the General Law of Water, which we were demanding," Málaga told the media. "This law is going to be promulgated next week." Málaga indicated that the agreement also included the formation of a commission for the solution of small agricultural producers' debt problems. (24 Horas Libre (Peru) 1/17/09; Univision 1/17/09 from AFP)

JNUDRP, with a membership of 1.6 million, had begun an open-ended strike on Jan. 15, with campesinos using tree trunks, boulders and truck tires to block highways and railroads. In Zarumilla in the northern department of Tumbes, protesters held a sit-in at the international bridge between Peru and Ecuador, paralyzing commerce between the two countries. Picketers clashed with police at the Sullana-Talara highway in nearby Piura department; one protester, Alejandro Yarlequé, was injured. In Chiclayo in Lambayeque department, about 500 producers marched peacefully near the Pan American highway.

In the south, a group of campesinos blocked the railroad to the Machu Picchu archeological site, in Cusco department, as well as the highway to Abancay in neighboring Apurímac department, reportedly leaving some 400 tourists stranded. In the coastal department of Ica, producers blocked the Pan American highway at km 329. Further south, about 10,000 producers observed the strike in Arequipa department. Some 1,000 protesters kept trucks from transporting food, although they let passenger vehicles and trucks carrying other cargos drive through.

In addition to passage of the General Law of Water, JNUDRP was demanding the repeal of legislative decrees 1081 (which creates a National Water Resources System) and 1083; JNUDRP members say these decrees, passed last year, promote privatization of water and are part of the package of laws required for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA, or TLC in Spanish) with the US. [Producers and others mounted major protests against the TLC in June 2006, June 2007 and February 2008; see Updates #859, 905 and 936, where JNUDRP is referred to as the "National Council of Irrigation Users (JNUDR)"]. The government of President Alan García strenuously denied that the decrees would lead to privatization.

Water is a major issue in Peru because of its scarcity. Much of the country depends on glacial runoff for energy, and scientists predict that global warming will deplete this resource in 25 years. (Adital 1/15/09; 24 Horas Libre 1/15/09; Reuters 1/15/09; Correo (Peru) 1/16/09; Coordinadora Nacional de Radio 1/16/09)

Miners are planning to vote on Jan. 31 on a possible strike to protest the firing of 5,500 workers at units run by Gerdau SA, Renco Group Inc. and Volcan Compañía Minera SAA; they also want to press for passage of legislation on pensions and profit-sharing. (Bloomberg 1/13/09)

*2. Honduras: Teachers Sit In for Back Pay
On Jan. 13 Honduran teachers began a series of protests against the government's delays in paying salaries for some 2,600 teachers and its failure to pay full year-end bonuses. For the first phase of the mobilization, the unions representing the nation's 48,000 teachers called for "informational assemblies" throughout the country. The assembly held in the Hibueras de Comayagüela Institute in Tegucigalpa quickly turned into a demonstration. At 11 am the participants marched to the Education Secretariat. Entering the building, they chanted: "Out with [Education Minister Marlon] Brevé!" and "We want to be paid, we're hungry!" Ministry employees left their offices, and the teachers shut the doors to the building. Brevé accused the teachers of sedition and sent for the police. About 30 agents of the National Police with shields and nightsticks blocked the doors to keep more teachers from entering. After an all-night standoff, the agents removed the protesters at about 4 am on Jan. 14.

The teachers went on strike in August in 2006 and 2007 over pay issues [see Updates #863, 910], but this was the first protest they held during a vacation; classes are scheduled to resume on Feb. 2. Union leaders said they would continue with mobilizations during the vacation period, including takeovers of buildings, bridges and highways. (La Tribuna (Honduras) 1/14/09, __; El Heraldo (Honduras) 1/15/09)

*3. Dominican Republic: Cops Kill Unionists
Nine Dominican police agents, including two officers, should be tried for the Dec. 30 shooting deaths of five men in Santo Domingo's Mirador Sur section, according to a report that a special commission presented to National District attorney general Alejandro Moscoso Segarra on Jan. 15. The police had claimed that the five men died during an exchange of gunfire, but an autopsy report from the Forensic Pathology Institute found that four of the victims had been shot in the back. One of the four was shot in the back of the neck at close range, according to forensic physician Sergio Sarita, and the fifth victim was shot "in front while seated, lying down or on his knees." Attorney General Moscoso Segarra said he would decide in 48 hours whether to proceed with the case.

At least 500 people were killed by the Dominican police in 2008, according to a complaint filed with the Interamerican Human Rights Court (CIDH) of the Organization of American States (OAS) by a Dominican group, the Human Rights Commisison (CNDH). The group's president, Dr. Manuel Maria Mercedes, estimates that 75% of the victims were executed. (Soitu (Spain) 1/15/09 from EFE; Primicias (Dominican Republic) 1/17/09) On Jan. 17 journalists and community leaders in the northern city of Santiago de los Caballeros called on President Leonel Fernández to order the police to explain the deaths of some 40 people killed by police and criminals in the city. Some groups in Santiago have brought court cases against the national police chief, Maj. Gen. Rafael Guillermo Guzmán Fermín, for the large number of crimes committed since he has been in command. (El Nuevo Diario (Dominican Republic) 1/17/09)

Three of the victims of the Dec. 30 Mirador Sur incident were members of a leading union, the New Option National Transport Federation (FENATRANO). On Jan. 2 the union's secretary general, Juan Hubieres, charged that the National Police had a "criminal plan" to "exterminate" FENATRANO members; the next day Maj. Gen. Guzmán Fermín denied that there was a plot against either the union or Hubieres. (Latin American Herald Tribune 1/4/09; Listin Diario (San Domingo) 1/3/09; El Diario-La Prensa (New York) 1/3/09 from correspondent; 7 Días 1/4/09) In December more than 40 FENATRANO members staged a hunger strike to demand that the Office for Reordering Transport (Opret) not eliminate routes feeding the Metro system; on Dec. 15 the agency agreed to the union's demands. (Diario a Diario (Dominican Republic) 12/16/08)

*4. Cuba: Embargo to Remain for Now
The administration of Barack Obama, who is to be sworn in as US president on Jan. 20, will eliminate some current US sanctions against Cuba but "it is not time to lift" the 47-year-old US economic embargo, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC on Jan. 13. Her appearance before the committee was part of a process that is expected to win her a quick confirmation as the new administration's secretary of state. Clinton answered a number of questions orally and in writing about US relations with Latin America. The Obama administration "will return to a policy of vigorous involvement" in the region, she said.

"President-Elect Obama believes the Cuban-Americans especially can be important ambassadors for change in Cuba," Clinton wrote in answer to a written question from Richard Lugar (R-IN). "As such, [Obama] believes that it makes both moral and strategic sense to lift the restrictions on family visits and family cash remittances to Cuba. We do not currently have a timeline for the announcement of such a new policy..." Lugar also asked about a number of other issues, including the possibility of taking Cuba off the State Department's "State Sponsors of Terrorism" list; of increasing cooperation with Cuba in fighting drug trafficking; and of developing cooperation around "energy security and environmentally sustainable resource management." Clinton didn't go beyond indicating that the new administration "anticipate[s] a review of US policy regarding Cuba." (La Jornada (Mexico) 1/14/09 from correspondent; Steve Clemons, Huffington Post 1/16/09)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, US policy

Paraguay: New Insurgent Group or Framing of Rural Activists?

Bolivia's Economy: Strong 2008 Performance, Uneasy Start to 2009

Bolivia turns to Brazil for drug war aid

Bolivia breaks ties with Israel over Gaza aggression

Water in Bolivia: Defeating the Multinationals Is Just the Start of the Problem

Ecuador: New Mining Law Approved Amidst Rising Tension

Ecuador Anti-Mining Blockades Met With Repression, National Mobilization Called for January 20

Colombia: Secret Documents Show US Aware of Army Killings in 1990s

Palestinian Government Open Letter to Chavez

Did Venezuela's Opposition Meet with US Officials in Puerto Rico?

Critics Respond to Human Rights Watch's Defense of Venezuela Report

Youth Demand Transparency as El Salvador Prepares Municipal and Legislative Elections

Plan Mexico and Central American Migration

Autonomy Under Siege

Oaxaca: activist survives stabbing attack

Mexico: indigenous communities battle mega-tourism

Mexico reacts to ominous Pentagon report ùas pundits plug military aid

Obama Reaffirms Promise to Renegotiate NAFTA

Firing The Boss: An Interview with Chicago Factory Occupation Organizer

WTO: Staying the Course in the Face of Mistakes

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