Tuesday, January 27, 2009

WNU #976: Colombia and Venezuela Plan Stimulus

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #976, January 25, 2009

1. Colombia: Uribe, Chavez Plan Stimulus
2. Colombia: Ex-Mayor Guilty in 2003 Murder
3. Latin America: Reactions as Obama Takes Office
4. Cuba: Fidel Castro Reappears
5. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti, Latin America

ISSN#: 1084. Weekly News 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. Colombia: Uribe, Chávez Plan Stimulus
Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez met in Cartagena in the northern Colombian department of Bolívar on Jan. 24 to discuss economic cooperation in response to the global crisis. They set up an economic commission which started working immediately "to design a package of new tools, to review the ones that exist and to strengthen them," Chávez said during a press conference after the meeting. The two presidents also agreed to create a $200 million joint fund to extend credits to small and medium businesses and to stimulate trade between the two countries; in addition, they plan a fund for infrastructure work in the areas along the Colombia-Venezuela border.

Trade between the two countries reached a record $7.2 billion in 2008, with Colombian sales to Venezuela totaling about $6 billion; Venezuela is second only to the US as a trading partner for Colombia. At the Jan. 24 press conference Chávez projected that trade between Colombia and Venezuela could be increased by 43% within one year. He stressed the importance of this sort of economic activity to fight a crisis that he called "a threat to the world" which "is starting to strike the five continents harshly." The presidents plan to sign the accords at their next meeting, in April in Venezuela. (El Nacional (Caracas) 1/24/09 from AFP; UnionRadio.net (Caracas) 1/25/09; CadenaGlobal.com (Caracas) 1/25/09)

This was Chávez's first official visit to Colombia since Aug. 31, 2007, although the two presidents held meetings at border towns in October 2007 and July 2008. Relations have been tense between Uribe's rightwing government and the leftist Chávez over the past year and a half, with Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos accusing Chávez of "supporting" the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). [In March 2008 Chávez called Uribe a "lackey," "liar" and "criminal"; see Update #937.] "[I]f I were supporting any subversive, terrorist or violent movement in Colombia, I wouldn't be here," Chávez told reporters when he arrived in Cartagena for the Jan. 24 meeting. He said he was "making a plea to the Colombians and the Venezuelans: let's not do damage [to our relations], let's not be masochists." (La Jornada (Mexico) 1/25/09 from AFP, Notimex, DPA)

*2. Colombia: Ex-Mayor Guilty in 2003 Murder
On Jan. 21 the Colombian Attorney General's Office reported that Julio César Ardila Torres, the former mayor of Barrancabermeja, Santander department, had been found guilty of ordering the Apr. 6, 2003 murder of local journalist José Emeterio Rivas [see Updates #689, 727]. Judge Nelly Vallejo Aranda sentenced Ardila to 28 years and eight months in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of 1.192 billion pesos (about $530,000). The court also convicted two former municipal employees, Fabio Pajón Lizcano and Abelardo Rueda Tobón, and sentenced them to 26 years and eight months.

Rivas was the host of a radio program that exposed links between the Barrancabermeja city government and the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). According to testimony by former paramilitary Reiner Enrique Brocate, Ardila planned the murder with paramilitary leader Pablo Emilio Quintero ("Bedoya"), who confessed in June 2007 to carrying out the actual killing. Ardila surrendered to authorities on Apr. 30, 2008, after several years as a fugitive. "Here everybody knew that [Ardila] had ordered José Emeterio killed," a co-worker of Rivas' said after the sentencing. "What surprised us was that they convicted him." (Semana (Colombia) 1/22/09, some information from Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (Flip); Latin American Herald Tribune 1/22/09)

*3. Latin America: Reactions as Obama Takes Office
Latin American leaders were generally cautious in their assessment of Barack Obama, a former Democratic senator who was sworn in on Jan. 20 as US president, succeeding conservative Republican George W. Bush.

On Jan. 19, during his weekly radio show, "Breakfast with the President," Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said: "I think if he wants to, Obama can improve the bilateral relations" between Brazil and the US. He urged the new president to end the US trade embargo against Cuba since "there is no scientific and political explanation for the embargo to continue." (Xinhua 1/20/09)

In an opinion piece posted on Juventud Rebelde's website on Jan. 22, former Cuban president Fidel Castro wrote: "I personally harbor no doubt of the honesty with which Obama expressed his ideas" in his inauguration address. But Castro added that "despite his noble intentions, some questions remain unanswered. Like, how can a wasteful, consumerist system protect the environment?" (Bloomberg 1/22/09) Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was visiting Cuba when Obama was inaugurated, remarked that it was good to have a president with "intelligence and rationality." (World Politics Review 1/22/09)

The harshest words came from Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. During the week of Jan. 11 the US Spanish-language network Univision broadcast an interview in which Obama accused Chávez of blocking progress in the region and "exporting terrorist activities." On Jan. 18 Chávez said he thought "the same stench is coming" as with Bush. "This is the US Empire we're talking about," he added. (World Politics Review 1/22/09; La Jornada (Mexico) 1/25/09 from AFP, Notimex, DPA)

*4. Cuba: Fidel Castro Reappears
On Jan. 21 Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Castro met with former Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz during a brief visit to Havana. In a column published the same day, Castro said his discussion with Fernández was "intense and interesting, as I expected." Fernández told reporters afterwards that Castro seemed to be "very well." This was apparently Castro's first meeting with a visiting leader since Nov. 18, when he was photographed with Chinese president Hu Jintao; the article was his first statement in 20 days. There had been speculation that Castro was seriously ill [see Update #973].

In an opinion piece published on Jan. 22, Castro said he was "well" but had cut back on his columns in 2009 "in order not to interfere with or impede the compañeros of the [Communist] party or the government in the constant decisions they must make in response to the objective difficulties arising from the world financial crisis." Castro, who is 82, was formally replaced as president by his brother Raúl Castro in February 2008 [see Update #936]. Fidel Castro remarked in his Jan. 22 column that he doesn't expect to have the "privilege" of observing and meditating on political events in four years when US president Barack Obama's first term ends. (La Jornada 1/22/09, 1/24/09 from correspondent, 1/23/09 from Reuters, AFP)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti, Latin America

Bolivia Looking Forward: New Constitution Passed, Celebrations Hit the Streets

Bolivia: Evo nationalizes foreign gas company on eve of constitutional vote

Spilling Ink Instead of Blood: Bolivia Poised to Vote on New Constitution

¿Sí o No? Bolivians Mobilize for National Vote on New Constitution

Bolivia's New Constitution

Peru seeks investment for gas pipeline, energy projects

Peru: two police killed evicting squatters from nature reserve

Peru: indigenous community takes mineral company workers hostage

Ask the Ecuadorian Government to Protect Human Rights During Upcoming Anti-Mining Demonstration http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1672/68/

Ecuador: Mining Protests Marginalized, But Growing

Chávez hot and cold on Obama

Why Obama Should Meet With Hugo Chavez

2009 Salvadoran Elections Blog Launch

El Salvador: elections marred by violence, irregularities

New Report on El Salvador Elections

El Salvador: Spanish Judge to Investigate Murders of Jesuit Priests http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1675/68/

Deported Mexican activist to Obama: stop immigration raids

NAFTA boosted Mexican immigration: study

Mexico: farmers block roads to protest fuel prices

Mexico: human "stew-maker" busted, more severed heads appear

After Four Years, No Justice for Murdered Haitian Journalist http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1676/68/

After Bahia: Toward a New Latin America of the 21st Century http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1674/1/

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


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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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com

*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 http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1661/68/

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

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and
alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Update subscribers also receive, as a supplement, our own weekly Immigration News Briefs.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

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

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and
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Monday, January 5, 2009

WNU #973: Latin America Reacts to Attack on Gaza

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #973, January 4, 2009

1. Latin America: Reactions to Attack on Gaza
2. Cuba: The Revolution Turns 50
3. Mexico: EZLN Celebrates 15 Years
4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Cuba, 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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com

*1. Latin America: Reactions to Attack on Gaza
Latin American governments and organizations generally condemned a major assault on the Palestinian territory of Gaza by Israeli military forces that began with an air offensive on Dec. 27 and escalated into a ground attack on Jan. 3. There were also a number of street protests, which the media reported were mostly small.

The strongest condemnations came from leftist governments. Cuba's Communist government issued a statement on Dec. 27, at the beginning of the air campaign, calling the offensive an "act of genocide" and a "criminal military operation, the bloodiest one executed by Israel against the Palestinian people." It "takes place in the midst of an illegal blockade imposed by the Israeli government in the last 18 months against the Gaza Strip, directed at annihilating and subduing the Palestinian population--including children, women and the elderly--by hunger and disease." Cuba expressed its "unyielding solidarity with and support for this long-suffering and heroic people." (Declaración del Gobierno Revolucionario 12/27/08; Prensa Latina 12/28/08) [Israel is the only country that consistently votes with the US each year when the United Nations General Assembly condemns the US economic embargo of Cuba; see Update #966 for the 2008 vote.]

On Dec. 30 the Bolivian Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling the air strikes "crimes" that "represent a severe and massive violation of the International Humanitarian Law." The strikes "killed civilians under the excuse of responding to some militia attacks, and also they have as a military target civilian infrastructure like universities." (Xinhua 12/30/08) On Dec. 27 Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez called the Israeli assault "criminal." (El País (Spain) 12/30/08 from unidentified wire services)

Latin American countries with center-left governments seemed less inclined to place all the blame on the Israeli government. Israel says the assault is intended to stop rocket attacks by the rightwing Islamic group Hamas, which governs Gaza. Mercosur--a trade bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Venezuela in the process of admission--expressed its rejection of "the escalation of violence and intimidation occurring in the Gaza Strip" and "urged the parties to put an end to hostilities" and called for them to "return immediately to dialogue."

However, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva used stronger terms on Dec. 30 to criticize the United Nations (UN) and the US for failing to pass a resolution to stop the air campaign. "What is proven is that the UN doesn't have the courage to make a decision and to make peace in this place," he said. "And it doesn't have the courage because the US has the power of the veto [in the UN Security Council], so things don't happen." The Israel military actions were "disproportionate," he said.

The governments of Chile, Nicaragua and Peru officially condemned the bombardments.

Dec. 29 brought out protesters throughout the region. Some 50 people, mostly Venezuelans of Arab descent, demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in Caracas, chanting in Arabic, spitting on a star of David and burning the Israeli and US flags. A little girl held up a drawing of bleeding children with the words: "No more massacre in Gaza." The protesters left Palestinian and Venezuelan flags hanging at the embassy door, along with a number of shoes--a reference to an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US president George W. Bush at a Dec. 14 press conference.

In Argentina, organizations of people of Arabic origin, along with leftist parties and social movements, protested in front of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. "Israel out of Palestine," "Free Palestine" and "Peace for the Palestinians," they chanted, waving Palestinian flags and shoes. Brazilians of Arab descent protested near the Sao Paulo Art Museum; socialists protested in Chile; and the local Palestinian community protested in Colombia. (El País 12/30/08; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/31/08 from DPA, AFP, PL, Reuters; La Prensa (Panama) 12/29/08; Univisión 12/29/08 from AFP)

In Panama, some 200 people from social movements and unions protested in front of the Israeli embassy. Panama resident Khaled Salama, who is a member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), called Israel a "terrorist state"; he urged "the world to judge these terrorists as war criminals," and demanded that the Israeli and US governments pay for "all the damage they've done" in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. In Panama, he added, there are 50 religions, and Muslims and Jews live and work together without major problems. Genaro López, director of the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (SUNTRACS), said Israel acts as it does "because it has the support of the US" and "an important economic power that backs it." (El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua) 12/30/08 from AFP)

After the Israeli military began its ground offensive on Jan. 3, Mexico's center-right government called for a ceasefire by both sides. Mexico is currently a member of the UN Security Council, and the government pledged to participate "actively and constructively" to end the military escalation. (LJ 1/4/09) The government statement contrasted sharply with a Dec. 29 declaration by participants in the World Festival of Dignified Rage, a 10-day celebration by the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). "This crime [the Israeli assault] represents a dangerous increase in the permanent holocaust against the Palestinian people," they said, condemning the "complicit, hypocritical and unworthy silence of the world.... We declare our dignified rage against this genocide." (LJ 12/31/08)

On Dec. 29 an unnamed Israeli official indicated that his government wasn't worried about world reactions to the assault. "[T]he tone of the criticism is moderate, tempered and balanced," he said, "at least in the countries that count." (El País 12/30/08)

*2. Cuba: The Revolution Turns 50
Cuban president Raúl Castro Ruz led a subdued celebration on Jan. 1 for the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The ceremony took place in the eastern city of Santiago, where Castro's brother, former president Fidel Castro, declared victory over dictator Fulgencio Batista on Jan. 1, 1959. Raúl Castro reminded his listeners of his brother's warning on Nov. 19, 2005 that the US could never destroy Cuba's political system but Cubans themselves could. Raúl Castro said that to avoid this, future leaders must not "become soft with the siren songs of the enemy" and must "remain conscious that, in its essence, [the enemy] will never cease to be aggressive, domineering and treacherous."

Fidel Castro, who stepped down from the presidency for reasons of health in July 2006, published a brief message on Jan. 1: "On the occasion within a few hours of the 50th anniversary of the triumph, I congratulate our heroic people." Although he had been writing articles frequently in his retirement, this was his first public comment in two weeks. (La Jornada 1/2/09 from correspondent)

*3. Mexico: EZLN Celebrates 15 Years
On Dec. 26 supporters of Mexico's rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) began the "World Festival of Dignified Rage" in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City). The series of events marks 15 years since the mostly indigenous group took the world by surprise on Jan. 1, 1994 with the military occupation of four cities in the southeastern state of Chiapas. Some 2,500 people reportedly were participating in the festival, which moved to Oventic in Chiapas on Dec. 31 and then to the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, which the rebels occupied at the beginning of 1994. The festival is to run through Jan. 5. Speakers include representatives of the New York-based Movement for Justice in El Barrio, the Unemployed Workers Movement of Argentina and the Greek Alana Magazine; Argentine-born Mexican writer Adolfo Gilly; former Nicaraguan rebel leader Mónica Baltodano, now a leader of the opposition Movement for the Rescue of Sandinism; Uruguayan writer Raúl Zibechi; and Bolivian activist Oscar Olivera.

Insurgent Sub-Commander Marcos, the EZLN spokesperson, made his first appearance at the event on Jan. 2 with a speech denouncing President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's militarized "war on drugs." He charged that Calderón "decided that instead of bread and circuses for the people, you had to give them violence...since the professional politicians are already providing the circuses, and bread is very expensive." He also criticized the violence of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which governs the DF. [A June 20 police operation in a DF discotheque resulted in 12 deaths, many of underage patrons; see Update #954] (La Jornada 12/31/08; LJ 1/3/09; Narco News 1/3/09)

Correction: This paragraph originally said that Marcos made his speech on Jan. 3 and that the source was LJ 1/4/08.

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Cuba, US Policy

Rancher to face charges in 2005 slaying of activist nun in Amazon

Peru: coca economy destroys rainforest

Inter-American court finds Colombia guilty in assassination

Financing Venezuela's Communal Councils

Venezuela's ALBA in the face of the Global Economic Crisis

Costa Rica: From 'Green' to Gold?

Operation Disrupt Democracy in El Salvador

United for Change in El Salvador: Video on 2009 Elections

Mexico: bloody New Year despite arrest of kingpin

End the Embargo Against Cuba

Video Interview: Edward S. Herman on Latin America and the US

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and
alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Update subscribers also receive, as a supplement, our own weekly Immigration News Briefs.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson: