Issue #998, July 19, 2009
1. Dominican Republic: 2 Killed in Blackout Protests
2. Mexico: Nahuas Win Land Struggle
3. Mexico: International Unions Back Miners
4. Honduras: Dockworkers Call for Boycott
5. Links to alternative sources on: Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/*1. Dominican Republic: 2 Killed in Blackout Protests
Protests broke out in various parts of the Dominican Republic on the evening of July 16 over electricity shortages that had been plaguing the country for two weeks. Dozens of people took the streets in the Capotillo neighborhood in the north of the National District (which contains the capital, Santo Domingo). Agents of the National Police shot two people dead: Miguel Ángel Encarnación, a 13-year-old who worked shining shoes, and Carlos Francisco Peguero, a 24-year-old blacksmith. After the deaths, heavily armed police in bulletproof vests patrolled the neighborhood. Protests were also reported in other Santo Domingo neighborhoods.
Protests that started on July 16 in Hermanas Mirabal province in the north intensified on July 17. In the province’s Salcedo municipality a group of protesters set off a homemade bomb near a park; no injuries were reported. The police said police major Osiris González Hilario was hit by a bullet while he was trying to extinguish a tire protesters had set on fire. In Navarrete municipality in Santiago province, also in the north, dozens of people held vigils to protest the blackouts. José Espinal, who is a spokesperson for the Broad Front of Popular Struggle (FALPO), a coalition of grassroots organizations, said people in Navarrete were getting electricity just four to five hours a day, even though they had to pay high electric rates “religiously.” There were also protests in Pino and Santiago de la Cruz municipalities, in the area bordering Haiti, and in Pueblo Nuevo, Jaibón, Las 300 and Los Cambronales in the northwestern province of Valverde.
The police initially said unidentified people had caused the two deaths in Capotillo. Residents threw rocks at the National District’s chief prosecutor, Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, when he tried to talk to them on July 17. He came back the next day for a meeting with community leaders and Miguel Ángel Encarnación’s mother; he told them that one police agent had been detained in the shootings and that he needed witnesses from the community to help with the prosecution. (El Financiero (Mexico) 7/17/09 from Notimex; La Opinión (Los Angeles) 7/18/09 from El Diario-La Prensa correspondent; Listin Diario (Dominican Republic) 7/19/09)
Militant protests over blackouts, along with violent police repression, have occurred repeatedly in the Dominican Republic since the privatization of the power system in the 1990s; the companies buying into the system included the now-bankrupt US power giant Enron. [See Updates #404, 646, 752.]
*2. Mexico: Nahuas Win Land Struggle
On June 29 about 1,000 indigenous Nahuas from the communities of Santa María de Ostula, Coire and Pómaro in the central western Mexican state of Michoacán occupied La Canahuancera, a 700-hectare area near the Pacific coast. According to the Nahuas, men armed with pistols in the employ of local political bosses tried to stop the effort to take the land, and a campesino, Manuel Serrano, was hit by a bullet. The Ostula community police captured eight of the attackers; they released five of them later and turned three others over to state prosecutors on July 5. The Nahuas also set up a roadblock on the Manzanillo-Lázaro Cárdenas highway. The indigenous communities say they have titles to La Canahuancera dating back to 1802; they charge that a group of small landowners from the community of Placita, Aquila municipality, seized the land 45 years ago.
On July 17 Michoacán governance secretary Fidel Calderón Torreblanca and the Nahuas’ legal adviser, Carlos González García, reached an agreement in which the Placita landowners would cede 1,309 hectares of land to the Nahuas and would receive compensation from the state government. The parties ratified the accord on July 18 and also agreed to have the Mexican Navy patrol the area to prevent further violence.
The June 29 land occupation came two weeks after the central Pacific section of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI)--an umbrella organization established in 1996 to bring together all of Mexico’s indigenous groups [see Update #350]--met in Ostula for its 25th assembly. On June 13-14 the assembly, in which indigenous groups in nine states were represented, approved the “Ostula Manifesto,” a document asserting that indigenous groups have the right “to organize themselves and to carry out the defense of their lives, their security, their freedoms and basic rights, and their culture and territories.” The assembly based the right to self-defense on article 39 of the Mexican Constitution. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/7/09, ____, 7/18/07; La Jornada de Michoacán 7/18/09, 7/19/09)
Correction: The item originally said three attackers were turned over to state prosecutors on "June 5"; the correct date is July 5.
*3. Mexico: International Unions Back Miners
A delegation of union leaders and parliamentarians from 13 countries visited Mexico for five days during the week of July 8 to show support for the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM) in its three-year struggle against the Mexican government and the Grupo México transnational. Organized by the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), and the United Steelworkers (USW), the delegation included legislators from Australia, Canada and Peru, and union leaders from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Norway, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the US.
The confrontation in the mines and steel mills, which started in 2006 when the government removed SNTMMSRM head Napoleón Gómez Urrutia for alleged corruption, has included a two-year strike at the giant Cananea copper mine in Sonora state and numerous clashes between workers and security forces [see Update #987]. Four union members have died in the struggle.
Jack Layton, the head of Canada's New Democratic Party (NDP) and the leader of the delegation, said the best hope for getting labor rights recognized in Mexico is for President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and his center-right National Action Party (PAN) to be swept from power. The SNTMMSRM, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding on July 11, has also received support from the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and from 27 members of the US Congress, who wrote to Calderón on July 7 that the situation raises “serious questions about labor practices in your country.” The delegation’s visit received minimal coverage in the Mexican and the US media. (Mexican Labor News and Analysis, July 2009 Vol. 14, #6; Frontera NorteSur (FNS) 7/11/09; Toronto Star 7/10/09)
*4. Honduras: Dockworkers Call for Boycott
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which represents 656 unions worldwide with 4.5 million members, issued a call on July 17 for its members to carry out protests against Honduran shipping. The federation said it was expressing opposion to a June 28 military coup which replaced Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales with a de facto government. “We have to put real pressure on the Honduran military to allow the country to revert to democracy,” ITF general secretary David Cockroft said.
The federation said the call to action was likely to affect the loading and unloading of the 650 ships that fly the Honduran flag. This is a “flag of convenience,” according to the ITF--“a low-cost cosmetic ship registration by companies with no link to the country and no intention of employing its citizens onboard.”
On July 3 ITF-affiliated unions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua protested the coup with demonstrations at the borders with Honduras--in El Amatillo, El Salavdor; Izabal, Guatemala; and Los Tres Pasos de Frontera, Nicaragua. Transport workers from Venezuela and Mexico also participated. (ITF press releases 7/10/09, 7/17/09; Prensa Latina 7/17/09; TeleSUR 7/17/09)
In other news, Father José Andrés Tamayo, an activist Honduran priest and 2005 Goldman Environmental Prize recipient, was in Tegucigalpa on July 16 to participate in protests blocking the highway to the north of the capital. Tamayo, a leader of the environmental movement in Olancho department whose life has been threatened repeatedly, went into hiding briefly on July 1 after escaping a military attack on a roadblock in the countryside [see Update #996]. At the Tegucigalpa protest he noted “the large number of women and men of advanced age. This means that they have a spirit of courage and have lost their fear. We’re coming to a stage where people are taking on the struggle personally as a people. This generates much more force and resistance, because the people are no longer trusting the media, the police, the business owners and the traditional politicians…. [O]nly the people defend the people.” (Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales 7/16/09 from Comunicaciones Vía Campesina)
*5. Links to alternative sources on: Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico
Peru's 'Cold War' Against Indigenous Peoples
Peru: Fujimori admits bribery —but not "criminal responsibility"
Ecuador: CONFENIAE Condemns Decree 1780 and the Militarization of their Territories
Plan Colombia: Exporting the Model
Questions Brew in Colombia, As Coffee Farmers Face Record Shortfalls
Behind the Headlines: Escobar’s Hippo and the Calibío Battalion
US equals Colombia in cannabis production
Bogotá claims FARC link to Ecuador's Correa
Colombia nears deal with Washington for military base
Colombia extradites Betancourt captor
Venezuela: ex-defense minister charged in Caracazo
Debate Intensifies Over Venezuela’s Proposed Same Sex Civil Union Law
Panama Does Not Intend to Suspend Dam Construction on Ngöbe Lands
Nicaragua: An unfinished revolution
Nicaragua: Ortega seeks constitutional reform
The FMLN Victory and Transnational Salvadoran Activism: Lessons for the Future
El Salvador: body of missing activist found with signs of torture
Honduras: talks break down; Arias fears "civil war"
The Closing of the Southern Highway from Tegucigalpa: An Eye Witness Report
Micheletti Tried to Change the Honduran Constitution 1985
Honduras: Are We Going to Make Concessions to Those Who Perpetrate Coups?
What's Next For Honduras?
Honduras: The Criminal Right and the Obama Ultimatum
Indigenous Leader Berta Cáceres: "If the people didn't support him, they wouldn't have had to carry out a coup"
U.S. Press Falsely Claims Honduran Plurality for Coup
The U.S. is Compromising Democracy in Honduras
Central America: Shades of Coups Past - And Yet to Come?
The Hired Gun of Roberto Micheletti: History of the Torturer Joya Améndola
Honduras: more talk of "unity government" as protest actions continue
Honduras: protest actions continue; compromise in works?
Honduras: Micheletti seeks normalization; Zelaya invokes "right to insurrection"
Honduras: popular organizations resist coup in courts and streets
Anarchism, Marxism, and Zapatismo
"State of exception" in Michoacán
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