Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WNU #1017: Reporter Threatened Over Honduran Election Story

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1017, December 20, 2009

1. Honduras: Reporter Threatened Over Election Story
2. Honduras: De Factos to Leave ALBA, Keep Oil Deal
3. Colombia: Peace Community Called “FARC Haven”
4. Puerto Rico: Thousands Protest Anti-Gay Crimes
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Drug War

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. Honduras: Reporter Threatened Over Election Story
Ernesto Carmona, the Chilean general secretary of the Investigation Commission on Attacks Against Journalists (CIAP) of the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP), told the Cuban wire service Prensa Latina on Dec. 17 that the life of Swedish journalist Dick Emanuelsson was in danger because of an article he wrote questioning official turnout projections in the Nov. 29 Honduran general elections [see Update #1015]. Rightwing forces in the country have claimed there was high voter participation, which they say validated a June 28 coup that removed President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from office; coup opponents said turnout was about 30-40%.

Emanuelsson, who is based in Honduras, wrote an article on Dec. 1 about an interview he held with Rolando Bú, coordinator of the election monitoring nonprofit Fundación Hagamos Democracia (FHD). The interview focused on the discrepancy between the 61.3% voter participation rate given by Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and the 47.6% figure the FHD gave based on its own monitoring of polling places; Emanuelsson also revealed that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) paid up to 29% of the FHD’s $300,000 budget for 2009.

Bú later charged that Emanuelsson taped the interview without permission, and he threatened to press charges. Emanuelsson said one of Bú’s secretaries told him he might “meet the same fate as Father [José Andrés] Tamayo”—a Salvadoran environmental activist and priest who has been ordered expelled from Honduras [see Update #1004]. Emanuelsson thinks he might be physically attacked, according to CIAP. “Things are ugly here, and every day it seems more like Colombia,” Carmona quoted Emanuelsson as saying. The reporter left Colombia previously because of death threats. (PL 12/17/09; Rebanadas de Realidad (Argentina) 12/1/09)

The TSE isn’t expected to give its final count until Dec. 23 at the earliest, but on Dec. 19 its website showed a participation rate of 49.4%--with “100.07%” [sic] of the 2,297,465 votes counted. The total of blank and spoiled ballots was 155,584, according to the website, so that the total valid votes in the official count represented about 46% of registered voters, far below the TSE’s original figure. It is unknown how many voters spoiled their votes or left them blank on purpose to protest the de facto government, but the pro-coup Tegucigalpa daily La Tribuna showed a picture of a spoiled ballot: the voter had written “coup-perpetrating SOBs” across the pictures of the presidential candidates. (Honduras Coup 2009 12/19/09; La Tribuna 12/13/09)

*2. Honduras: De Factos to Leave ALBA, Keep Oil Deal
On Dec. 16 de facto Honduran president Roberto Micheletti Bain sent the National Congress a proposal for Honduras to withdraw from the Venezuelan-inspired Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America trade bloc (ALBA, formerly the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America). De facto presidency minister Rafael Pineda Ponce said the move only concerned the ALBA pact and “will not affect in any way commercial or other types of relations that have been maintained, or the importation of oil or anything connected to PetroCaribe,” a system through which Venezuela provides oil to other Caribbean countries at favorable terms. Honduras currently receives 20,000 barrels a day; it pays 60% of the cost in 90 days and the rest over 25 years at just 1% interest a year.

Deposed president Manuel Zelaya called Micheletti’s move “insolent” and charged that the de facto government had wasted “more than $100 million coming from ALBA and Petrocaribe.” He noted that Micheletti was president of the Congress when it approved Honduras’ entry into ALBA in August 2008; Honduras joined PetroCaribe in January 2008. Congress won’t take up Micheletti’s proposal until it resumes its sessions in January. (Honduras Laboral 12/16/09; Página 12 (Argentina) 12/17/09; Adital 12/18/09)

Also on Dec. 16, de facto president Micheletti blamed coup opponents for the murder the night before of 16-year-old Kathleen Nicolle Rodríguez Cabrera. Two men on a motorcycle shot her as she, her boyfriend and two friends were driving in a Tegucigalpa neighborhood. Rodríguez Cabrera, who was eight months pregnant, was pronounced dead at the hospital; doctors saved the baby, who was reportedly in critical condition in an incubator.

The murder victim’s mother was Karol Cabrera, a radio and television broadcaster who supports the coup. Police were investigating the possibility that the murder was revenge by the resistance for her commentaries, but on Dec. 17 Francisco Murillo López, head of the National Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DNIC), indicated that the likely cause of the murder was a fight between youth groups supporting two different local soccer teams, the Olimpia and Motagua clubs. There are reports that Rodríguez Cabrera’s boyfriend was connected to one of these groups. Attorney Fredin Funes of the Lawyers’ Front Against the Coup d’Etat charged that Micheletti’s statements were irresponsible and that the de facto president “is inciting [people] to repression and revenge.” (EFE 12/16/09; El Tiempo (San Pedro Sula) 12/16/09, 12/18/09; La Tribuna 12/17/09)

*3. Colombia: Peace Community Called “FARC Haven”
The US-based Colombia Support Network (CSN) is calling for letters to Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot (wsj.ltrs@wsj.com) to protest a Dec. 14 opinion piece about the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia. In the article the paper’s Latin America correspondent Mary Anastasia O’Grady repeated charges from a former rebel commander, Daniel Sierra Martinez ("Samir"), that despite the community's claim of rejecting the presence of all weapons and armed groups, it is really a “safe haven” for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). “Samir” also claimed that when he was a rebel leader, “the supposed peaceniks who ran the local NGO”—the faith-based human rights group Justice and Peace—“were his allies and an important FARC tool in the effort to discredit the military,” O’Grady wrote.

People familiar with the community say its members have been harassed and attacked repeatedly by all sides in Colombia’s internal conflict--the military, the rightwing paramilitaries and the rebels [see Update #966]. According to a CSN statement, “more than 30 Peace Community residents have been murdered by FARC guerrillas since 1997.” In a letter to Gigot, the well-known Colombian human rights activist Father Javier Giraldo Moreno called O’Grady’s article “libelous,” “repulsive and despicable” and a “disgrace.” He said it repeated disinformation that reflects a “media strategy, directed during the last 13 years by [the Colombian military’s] Seventeenth Brigade), which seeks to destroy the Peace Community.” (WSJ 12/13/09; CSN statement 12/15/09; CSN Urgent Action 12/16/09; Giraldo Moreno letter 12/18/09)

*4. Puerto Rico: Thousands Protest Anti-Gay Crimes
On Dec. 16 the body of an unidentified man was found in a motel in the southern Puerto Rican city of Ponce; he had been stabbed 20 times and partly decapitated. Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Association for the Defense of Homosexuals, said the police should investigate the possibility that this was a hate crime against gays. Serrano added that no one has ever been charged with an anti-gay hate crime in Puerto Rico and that "not doing anything creates a climate of homophobia, hate and persecution." (Univision 12/17/09)

Thousands of people had demonstrated in San Juan the evening of Nov. 25 to protest what they called the Puerto Rican government’s indifference in the similar case of Jorge Steven López Mercado, a gay university student whose dismembered and burned body was found on Nov. 12 in the southern town of Cayey. Juan Martínez Matos confessed to the murder, saying he killed López Mercado, who was dressed as a woman, when he found out that the victim was a man. Prosecutors charged Martínez Matos with murder but not with a hate crime. "We are gay people, heterosexual people, young and old,” Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesperson for the US-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said at the candlelight protest outside the Puerto Rican Justice Department. “It’s Puerto Rico that’s marching tonight.” There were also vigils in New York, Los Angeles and other US cities. (EFE 11/25/09; Universo Gay (Spain) 11/26/09)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Drug War

Memory and Justice: A Photo Essay on Argentina's Human Rights Movement

Colombia: AQIM-FARC "narco-terrorism" charged in al-Qaeda conspiracy indictments

Colombia: FARC and ELN broach merger

Colombia: Ex-Paramilitary Implicates Two U.S. Companies in Murder of Trade Unionists

Colombia and Honduras: It's Holiday Shopping Time, while the Peace of the Graveyard Marches on

Venezuela: Chávez sees Curaçao threat

Nicaragua Names an Ombudswoman for Sexual Diversity

El Salvador: another anti-mining activist assassinated

Honduras: reject amnesty for abuses during coup

Gay activist assassinated in Honduras

Amnesty: Full and Prompt Investigation Needed Into Death of Honduran LGBT Human Rights Campaigner

Speech by Honduran Ambassador Rodolfo Pastor de Maria y Campos at Georgetown University

Amid Repression, Mobilizing Against the Coup Continues in Honduras

Guatemala: Army Records Spur Hopes for Justice

International Day for Human Rights “Celebrated” in Guatemala City

Rody Alvarado Peña and Guatemala's Lingering War

Critiquing the Trajectory of the Zapatista Movement

Mexico: kingpin Arturo Beltrán Leyva killed in shoot-out

Drug War Sea Change in the US Congress?

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