Tuesday, February 2, 2010

WNU #1020: Mexican Electrical Workers Start Sit-In

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1020, January 31, 2010

1. Mexico: Electrical Workers Start Sit-In
2. Honduras: Zelaya Goes, the Struggle Remains
3. US: Maximum Sentence for SOA Protesters
4. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US

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. Mexico: Electrical Workers Start Sit-In
In Mexico’s first major demonstration of 2010, on Jan. 29 thousands of unionists and campesinos marched from the Angel of Independence in Mexico City to the city’s main plaza, the Zócalo, continuing a tradition of annual protests against the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the federal government’s neoliberal economic policies. The demonstration was focused on the high cost of living, and the demands included an emergency pay raise to counter the effects of the world economic crisis. Another goal was to show support for the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), whose 44,000 active members were laid off when President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s administration suddenly liquidated the government-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC) the night of Oct. 10 [see Update #1015].

The march was led by the SME; the National Campesino Confederation (CNC), which is close to the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI); and the National Workers Union (UNT), Mexico’s second-largest union federation. There was also a protest in Cuernavaca, Morelos, south of Mexico City, where more than 2,000 people rallied in the main plaza; participants were largely SME members and their families. Hundreds of teachers from the militant Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) and members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) held a march and rally in Oaxaca city, capital of the southern state of Oaxaca. In the southeastern state of Chiapas, some 200 members of the Independent Regional Campesino Movement blocked the Pan American highway for four hours.

Late-January protests against NAFTA started with a demonstration in Mexico City in 2003 [see Update #933]. This year—the bicentennial of Mexico’s war of independence from Spain and the centennial of the country’s social revolution—the emphasis was on bringing together the struggles of unionists, campesinos and other sectors. The march’s title was “Build Unity Among Those Below.” At the conclusion, SME general secretary Martín Esparza Flores announced that the electrical workers were starting an encampment in the Zócalo as an open-ended protest to press their fight against the layoffs. (La Jornada (Mexico) 1/29/10 from Notimex, 1/30/10; La Crónica de Hoy (Mexico) 1/30/10)

By Jan. 31 the SME’s encampment occupied about half the plaza. At a rally that day, Esparza said the protesters would hold workshops in the Zócalo, work on outreach and prepare strategies for a “social congress” to be held on Feb. 5 in the central state of Querétaro. The encampment would grow, he told the crowd. Sergio Tolano, secretary of Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM), announced that workers from his local and the SME would do a joint educational tour in northern Mexico. Section 65 represents miners at the giant Cananea copper mine in Sonora state, where workers have been on strike for more than two years [see Update #998]. Two SME officials reported on their visit to the US, where they said they’d received offers of support from the AFL-CIO and unions in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento and other California cities. (LJ 2/1/10)

Some SME members have been carrying out more militant actions without the union’s support. In a number of places around Mexico City, workers have set up barricades to prevent the removal of equipment from LFC installations by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), the country’s other government-owned energy utility; when President Calderón liquidated the LFC in October, he put the company under the CFE’s control. On Jan. 8 the police arrested three of the protesters, charging them with “crimes against the nation’s consumption and wealth.” The union has called on the militants to remove the barricades. (Narco News 1/14/10)

*2. Honduras: Zelaya Goes, the Struggle Remains
Thousands of Hondurans marched from Tegucigalpa to the nearby Toncontín International Airport on Jan. 27 to send off deposed president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales on the last day of his official four-year term. Zelaya was overthrown by a military coup on June 28, 2009 and flown out of the country, but he managed to return to Honduras secretly in September and took asylum in the Brazilian embassy, under threat of arrest by the de facto regime that had seized power [see Update #1005]. Incoming president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa arranged for Zelaya to fly to the Dominican Republic on Jan. 27 without interference from the military.

The website Habla Honduras reported that 350,000 coup opponents were at the airport for the farewell, but most sources didn’t give a crowd estimate. The Guadalajara, Mexico daily El Informador, apparently using a report from the Agence France Presse wire service, said simply that this was one of the largest opposition demonstrations since the coup.

Before leaving, Zelaya arranged for his presidential sash—which the outgoing president normally gives to his or her successor—to be turned over to three members of the opposition: labor leader Juan Barahano, a little boy and a grandmother. The crowd chanted slogans calling for a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the 1982 Honduran Constitution, a popular demand that apparently helped trigger the coup. Someone created a poster for the occasion with a cartoon of Zelaya leaving and saying: “I’m going…but the struggle remains.” (Honduras Habla 1/29/10; Vos el Soberano 1/27/10; El Informador 1/27/10)

Honduran labor and grassroots organizations responded to the June 28 coup by coming together in a coalition, the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup d’Etat. In mid-January some 80 of the resistance leaders, including Juan Barahona, Carlos H. Reyes, Rafael Alegría, Bertha Cáceres and Carlos Eduardo Reina, met in the small city of Siguatepeque and reaffirmed the need to maintain unity and not be divided by party politics. In a Jan. 7 communiqué, the National Front reiterated its commitment to continuing the struggle for the Constituent Assembly and denounced the Honduran oligarchy’s “blatant intention to destroy the social conquests that have cost so much to the organized popular sectors.” Among the oligarchy’s plans, according to the National Front, is a reduction of the real minimum wage; the repeal of a law for teachers’ labor rights; an end to free public education; the devaluation of the national currency, the lempira; and privatization of state enterprises and public employees’ pensions.

The US-based Honduras Coup 2009 blog wrote on Jan. 22: “While much of the English-language press has remained focused on the drama of negotiating a dignified exit for President Zelaya, and on the attempts to distance Lobo Sosa from [de facto president Roberto] Micheletti, it is arguable that what will ultimately be most significant for the possibility of effective political transformation in Honduras will be what happens with the resistance.” (Honduras Coup 2009 1/22/10; National Front Communiqué #44, 1/7/10)

*3. US: Maximum Sentence for SOA Protesters
US federal magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth in Columbus, Georgia, surprised observers on Jan. 25 by sentencing three activists to six-month prison terms for trespassing on the US Army's Fort Benning base; this is the maximum sentence for the offense. Nancy Gwin of Syracuse, New York, Father Louie Vitale of Oakland, California, and Ken Hayes of Austin, Texas, were arrested on Nov. 22 as part of an annual protest outside the base against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), which has trained many of the hemisphere’s worst human rights violators [see Update #1013]. A fourth defendant, Michael Walli of Washington, DC, refused to appear for the trial, and Judge Faircloth issued a warrant for his arrest. Walli had told the court during his November arraignment that he would not pay any bail and that he would not voluntarily return for the trial. "I walk out and it's goodbye," he told the judge.

The sentences were much stiffer than the two-month prison terms Judge Faircloth handed down to five activists in 2009 for the same offense [see Update #977]. “It’s the harshest we’ve seen for a very long time,” said Eric LeCompte, event coordinator with SOA Watch, which coordinates the annual protests. “I mean, I’m stunned by the sentences.” (SOA Watch press release 1/25/10; Columbus (Georgia) Ledger Enquirer 1/25/10) This was the second offense at the base for at least one of the defendants: Father Vitale served a three-month sentence in 2002 for an earlier protest. (Las Vegas Review-Journal 4/12/09)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US

New Developmental Extractivism in South America

Will Chile's Move to the Right Open Up Its Political System?

Rio de Janeiro: Control of the Poor Seen as Crucial for the Olympics (Brazil)

Bolivia: Unprecedented Gender Parity in Cabinet

Ecuador's President Correa Faces Off With Indigenous and Social Movements

Ecuador: Indigenous Radio Station Spared Closure

White House drops "Plan Colombia" nomenclature

Colombia: indigenous communities targeted in war —again

Washington war crimes ambassador says US unlikely to join ICC (Colombia)

Venezuela denies Colombian charges of military incursions

Indigenous Peoples in El Salvador Commemorate 1932 Massacre

Honduras meets the new boss; struggle continues

Honduras: Lobo Sworn In; Zelaya Heads into Exile

New Honduras President Must Order Investigation Into Rights Abuses

Honduras’ Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo: Another Disaster for Central American Democracy Waiting in the Wing

Honduras Slideshow: Inside the World’s Newest Police State

Chiapas: Mariano Abarca Lives, and the Struggle Continues

Ciudad Juárez prepares monument to femicide victims

Ciudad Juárez: massacre targets high school kids

Mexico: border militarization continues in 2010

Mexico: Oaxacan activist still imprisoned in Brad Will case

Arrest of Alleged U.S. Spy Sets Back U.S.-Cuba Relations

Guantánamo and GEO Group Ready for Haitians

Violence in Haiti —from police and "peacekeepers"

Helping Haiti: Our dollars aren't enough

Haiti and the Jews: forgotten history

CIP Analysts Look at Obama's First Year

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:

No comments: