Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WNU #1032: Haitians Protest “Emergency Law”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1032, May 9, 2010

1. Haiti: Opposition Protests “Emergency Law”
2. Haiti: Phone Company Privatized--to Vietnamese
3. Mexico: Women’s Groups Call for Cancún Boycott
4. Argentina: Death Flight Pilot Extradited
5. Colombia: FARC Frees Moncayo and Calvo
6. Links to alternative sources on: Mercosur, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico

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. Haiti: Opposition Protests “Emergency Law”
On the night of Apr. 15-16 the Haitian Senate approved an 18-month extension of the state of emergency that President René Préval decreed after a Jan. 12 earthquake killed some 230,000 people and devastated the capital area. The “emergency law,” which had been approved by the Chamber of Deputies one week earlier, would take effect once Préval had it published in the official government gazette, Le Moniteur.

Thirteen senators voted for the new law, while two opposed it and one abstained; 11 senators boycotted the Apr. 15-16 session, charging that the vote’s outcome was already decided. Sen. Hector Amacacis, who supported the law, said that before the vote a meeting was held at a Western embassy “to push the members of Parliament” to approve the law. “The foreigners put all their weight into the balance to get the law adopted,” he said.

In addition to extending the state of emergency, the new law formally establishes an Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH) to oversee projects funded by the nearly $10 billion pledged by various countries at an international donors meeting on Mar. 31 in New York [see Update #1028]. Of the CIRH’s 16 members, nine are foreigners and just seven come from Haiti. The commission’s co-presidents are current Haitian prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), now the United Nations (UN) special envoy for Haiti [see Update #1026].

The law also significantly expands the powers of the Haitian government’s executive branch, authorizing the president to approve contracts without bids, to requisition private land to build camps for people displaced by the earthquake, and to evacuate the displaced from their current camps. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/16/10; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 4/17/10)

On May 5 Préval, whose five-year term ends on Feb. 7, 2011, sent Parliament a proposal to modify article 232 of the 2008 electoral law so that if new elections can’t be held before the end of November, he would remain in office until as late as May 14, 2011. Other elected officials would also have their terms extended. Préval, the UN and the US have been pushing for national elections in the fall that would combine this year’s presidential election with legislative elections that were scheduled for Feb. 28 but were postponed because of the earthquake [see Update #1028]. [Due to delays in the presidential elections scheduled for 2005, Préval didn’t take office until May 14, 2006.] (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 5/5/10)

Préval’s moves ceding Haitian sovereignty to foreign officials and increasing his own power have provided an opening for the political opposition. On Apr. 12, three days before the emergency law came before the Senate, a number of opposition parties--including the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004), the Union party, the Union of Democratic Haitian Citizens for Development and Education (UCCADE), and the Alternative coalition—announced the formation of a new coalition, Tèt Kole (literally “heads close together”). Two of the coalition’s most prominent spokespersons are longtime opponents. René Civil is the leader of the militantly pro-Aristide Popular Power Youth (JPP), while former radio commentator and Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul (“K-Plim”), a leader of the Democratic Unity Committee (KID), worked to drive Aristide from office in 2004. (Agence Haïtienne de Presse (AHP) 4/12/10; Radio Métropole 4/12/10)

The coalition has held a series of demonstrations against the emergency law. On Apr. 27 protesters banged on pots and pans in Cap Haïtien to demand Préval’s departure, while more than 200 members of different organizations marched in the streets of Miragoane the same day. Some 500 protesters marched again in Miragoane on Apr. 30. Several thousand reportedly marched in Jacmel on May 1 in a protest sponsored by the Regional Coordinating Committee of Organizations of the Southeast (CROS). Lavalas members marched in Cap Haïtien on May 1, but another group of protesters claiming to represent a different branch of Lavalas reportedly attacked them with stones and bottles. There have also been protests in Léogane, Hinche, Cayes, Saint Marc, Gonaïve and Port-au-Prince. (Radio Métropole 4/27/10, 4/30/10, 5/1/10)

Most of the Tèt Kole parties apparently plan to run in the elections this fall. In contrast, an Apr. 19 statement from the leftist Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle,” BO) dismissed the elections as a “maneuver…to mask the dictatorship of the ruling classes.” The group has called for building a grassroots movement to fight for a new political and social system. (“Nou ale,” BO statement 4/19/10)

*2. Haiti: Phone Company Privatized--to Vietnamese
On Apr. 29 the Vietnamese telecommunications company Viettel formally acquired 60% of the shares in Haiti’s state-owned phone company, Télécommunications d'Haïti (Haiti Téléco) [see Update #1016]. Central Bank president Charles Castel said the company, which escaped the privatization process that led to the sell-off of several state enterprises in the 1990s, was constantly in the red and required monthly subsidies from the government. According to Téléco director Michel Presumé, the company had “more than 5,000 employees who weren’t doing anything.” “A lot of them spent more time in the radio stations than in their places of employment,” he added, presumably referring to workers giving interviews about their opposition to the company’s privatization.

Viettel representative Nguyen Khac Chung said the Vietnamese company already operates in several countries, including Cambodia and Laos. The Haitian government will continue to own 40% of the shares in Téléco, which will now be known as Natcom. (Radio Métropole 4/30/10)

The only result of the sale will be the enrichment of Viettel, Haitian economist Camille Chalmers, executive secretary of the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), said on May 6. He noted that Téléco was very profitable as recently as the early 1990s, adding that privatization programs hadn’t benefited the general population in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela, which were now doing the opposite---nationalizing private companies. (AHP 5/6/10)

*3. Mexico: Women’s Groups Call for Cancún Boycott
Civil Pact for Life, Liberty and the Rights of Women of Mexico, an association of 90 groups, held a rally in Mexico City on May 5 to call for a boycott of the seaside resort city of Cancún in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo as a protest against the state government’s anti-choice policies. Like more than half of Mexico’s 31 states, Quintana Roo recently passed a strict anti-abortion law. The protesters charged that the state, governed by the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), acts “as if it was a church.” “Get your rosaries out of our ovaries,” they chanted.

Mexican women’s groups have focused on the case of a pregnant 11-year-old indigenous girl in Quintana Roo. The girl, known as “Amalia,” says she was raped and impregnated by her stepfather when she was 10. She is now being forced to have the baby, although even under the new state law a rape victim can still choose to abort.

Marta Lamas, from the Elective Reproduction Information Group, and journalist and activist Lydia Cacho have charged that the local branch of the Mexican government’s family welfare agency, Integral Family Development (DIF), sent Amalia to a clinic run by the anti-abortion group Provida instead of directing her to a state health agency where she would have been told her options. After passing the 12th week of pregnancy, Amalia could no longer get an abortion even in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), which passed a law in April 2007 permitting elective abortion through the first three months [see Update #959]. The activists say the pregnancy is highly dangerous for Amalia, not only because of her age but also because her family is impoverished and she suffers from the effects of malnutrition.

[Lydia Cacho is the author of a 2005 book on a child prostitution ring in Cancún and its powerful backers; the exposé’s publication led to her arrest and abduction by Puebla state authorities in December 2005; see Update #904.]

According to Unicef and the state health authorities, the rate of reported sexual abuse cases in Quintana Roo is almost three times the average for Mexico. In 2009, 881 minors became pregnant through rape in the state, while the number this year is already 458. (New York Times 5/6/10 from AP; Diario de Yucatán (Mexico) 5/6/10 from EFE; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/19/10)

*4. Argentina: Death Flight Pilot Extradited
Spanish authorities extradited former Argentine military pilot Juan Alberto Poch to Argentina on May 5 to face charges that he flew some of the "death flights" in which as many as 1,000 opponents of Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship were thrown from planes into the Atlantic. He is specifically charged in the “kidnapping, disappearance, torture and murder” of the journalist and writer Rodolfo Walsh, the Swedish youth Dagmar Hagelin, and French nuns Alice Domón and Leonie Duquet.

Spanish police arrested Poch on Sept. 21 at the airport in Valencia as he was piloting a plane for Transavia, an airline owned by KLM and Air France [see Update #1005]. His coworkers had turned him in because he bragged about his role in the death flights and tried to justify the killings.

On May 4 Argentine authorities arrested José (“Joe”) Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, the dictatorship’s economy minister from 1976 to 1981, in connection with the kidnapping of Federico Gutheim and his son Miguel Gutheim. The Gutheims were allegedly held captive for five months until they agreed to give up control of their cotton export company to a firm approved by the economy ministry. Martínez de Hoz, who is 84, is being held in a private clinic due to poor health, but an attorney, Rodolfo Yanzón, has filed a complaint charging that Martínez de Hoz is following what Yanzón called the “great Pinochet” strategy. Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s dictator from 1973 to 1990, avoided trial in his later years by claiming serious health problems. (Associated Press 5/6/10; Clarín (Argentina) 5/6/10, 5/8/10)

*5. Colombia: FARC Frees Moncayo and Calvo
Two Colombian soldiers, Sgt. Pablo Emilio Moncayo and Pvt. Josué Daniel Calvo, returned to their hometowns on Apr. 15 following their release by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and more than two weeks of rest and medical tests in Bogotá. Calvo, who was freed by the FARC on Mar. 28 after 11 months in captivity, was greeted by family, friends and the departmental governor in Popayán, capital the southwestern department of Cauca, while Moncayo, who was released on Mar. 30, arrived at Sandoná in the southwestern department of Nariño accompanied by his parents and other family members.

Along with José Libio Martínez Estrada, who remains in captivity, Moncayo is the soldier who has spent the most time as prisoner of the FARC; he and Martínez were captured in a rebel attack on an army base on Dec. 21, 1997. Moncayo is especially well-known because his father, the schoolteacher Gustavo Moncayo, carried out a "walk for peace" for several years to call for the government and the FARC to negotiate his son’s release [see Update #1018].

Shortly after being freed, Sgt. Moncayo thanked his father, the “indefatigable” Colombian senator Piedad Córdoba, Colombians for Peace, the Catholic Church and the International Red Cross for their work in arranging his release. “I want to thank the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa,” he added, “because he called for the guerrillas to make a gesture of peace with my handover. Also I want to thank the efforts of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and of Brasil, [Luiz Inácio] Lula da Silva.” (EFE 4/15/10 via terra.com (Spain); Venezuelanalysis.com 4/1/10 via Upside Down World)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Mercosur, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico

South America: Mercosur’s Cooperatives in an Age of Integration

Paraguay: Controversy Over Troop Deployment

Paraguay paranoid as guerillas re-emerge

Second rancher sentenced for killing of activist nun in Brazilian Amazon

Bolivia Nationalizes Energy Firms

Bolivia: Morales Faces First Workers Protests

Strikes across Bolivia in Evo Morales' first showdown with labor

Evo Morales delivers Cochabamba climate summit resolutions to United Nations

Otto Reich speaks at Capitol Hill Evo-bashing session

Bolivia: five military chiefs cited in "Black October" violence

Bolivia cracks down on "Norwegian Cartel"

Peru: Spanish oil giant targets "uncontacted" peoples' rainforest

Peru: Sendero establishes new command for Upper Huallaga

Ecuador: The Debate in the Streets

Ecuador: armed attack on Amazon indigenous community

Water protests rock Ecuador

Action Alert: Four Educators Assassinated in Cordoba, Colombia

Movie Review: The Coca-Cola Case (Colombia)

Venezuela is not Greece

Out of the Past, a New Honduran Culture of Resistance

Honduras "truth commission" starts investigation

A Real Truth Commission for Honduras

Pressure Mounts on Honduras as Journalist Death Toll Rises

Guatemala peasant massacre suspect arrested in US

Mexico: International Human Rights Caravan Ambushed, Two Murdered En Route to San Juan Copala

Oaxaca Caravan Attack: The Paramilitarization of Mexico.

Mexico's State of Impunity

Mexico: army exonerates itself in Tamaulipas atrocity

Mexico extradites ex-governor as cartel crackdown widens

U.S. Legislation to Cancel Haiti’s Debt, Boost Garment Sector

The Poisoning of Puerto Rico

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