Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WNU #1040: Storm Hits “Safe” Haitian Camp

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1040, July 18, 2010

1. Haiti: Storm Hits “Safe” Camp for Quake Survivors
2. Argentina: Senate Passes Marriage Equality Law
3. Mexico: Courts Rule for Miners, Against Electrical Workers
4. Honduras: Sweatshop Campaign Presses Nike
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Amazon, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti

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: Storm Hits “Safe” Camp for Quake Survivors
On July 12, exactly six months after an earthquake devastated much of southern Haiti, a storm caused serious damage in a camp authorities had set up for quake survivors in Corail-Cesselesse, a deserted area about 24 km north of Port-au-Prince. Some 1,700 of the camp’s 7,000 residents were left without shelter when the storm ripped up or otherwise damaged 344 ShelterBox tents, which are supposedly designed for resistance to storms. About six people were injured by debris, and a woman and her baby were hit by lightning; the woman was badly burned, and local radio reported that the baby died.

Critics said the camp in Corail—which the government and international agencies set up in April for some of the more than one million people left homeless by the earthquake—was poorly planned and built in haste. There are no trees, and it is exposed to flooding from a nearby mountain range. “Nature came and said Corail is not a good place for tents,” a resident told the New York Times. (Montreal Journal Métro 7/13/10 from AP; NYT 7/14/10 from correspondent)

The first people moved to Corail had been living since the earthquake in an improvised settlement at a golf course in the upscale southeastern suburb of Pétionvillle; the government claimed they would be unsafe at the golf course when the rainy season came. People being moved to Corail complained that the area was isolated and far from their jobs or schools [see Update #1029] The labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”) charged that there were plans to build low-wage assembly plants at remote places like Corail where there would be few jobs except at the plants [see Update #1034].

On July 11, the day before the storm, Jonathan Katz of the Associated Press wire service reported that the person the government initially appointed to head relocation efforts was Gérard-Emile "Aby" Brun, president of Nabatec Development, “a consortium owned by some of Haiti's most powerful families.” The Corail camp is on land owned by Nabatec, which “now stands to gain part of $7 million the government will spend compensating landowners,” according to Katz. “Nabatec is also a lead negotiator with South Korean garment firms to build factories that Haitian officials say will likely go into Corail-Cesselesse, and the camp [Brun] set up is a potential source of workers for those factories, which can take advantage of generous US import laws for Haitian-assembled textiles.”

Government planner and envoy to the United Nations Leslie Voltaire--a US-trained economist who has worked for several Haitian administrations since 1994--said Corail-Cesselesse will eventually become the key industrial city of the Caribbean, with some 300,000 inhabitants. (Austin (Texas) American-Statesman 7/11/10 from AP)

Demonstrations against the government of President René Préval resumed on July 13, after a month-long break during the World Cup finals in South Africa. Several thousand people joined a march in Port-au-Prince, including Rosny Smarth, a prime minister in Préval’s 1996-2001 administration, and supporters of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004); other protesters reportedly carried pictures of former dictator Jean Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier (1971-1986). There were also demonstrations in Petit-Goâve, Miragoâne and Jacmel. Senator Edmonde Supplice Beauzile of the Fusion party and Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste headed up a demonstration in Hinche, capital of the Central Department. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 7/13/10; Agence Haïtienne de Presse 7/13/10)

2. Argentina: Senate Passes Marriage Equality Law
After a heated 14-hour session, Argentina’s Senate voted 33-27 with three abstentions in the early morning of July 15 to approve a bill extending the right to marry and to adopt to same-sex couples. The Senate vote completed the approval process for the measure, which the Chamber of Deputies had passed on May 5 [see Update #1039]. Argentina is now the first country in Latin America to extend full marriage equality to same-sex couples.

Hundreds of activists held a vigil in the Plaza de los Dos Congresos during the session despite a winter cold wave. They applauded, hugged and cried when they heard the result; the celebration continued until dawn. “To start the day like this is really delightful for our couples,” said César Cigliutti, president of the Argentina Homosexual Community (CHA), noting that the Catholic hierarchy’s fierce opposition to the measure had turned out to be a “bad strategy.” (Clarín (Buenos Aires) 7/15/10, ___ )

3. Mexico: Courts Rule for Miners, Against Electrical Workers
In a full session on July 5, Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) ruled against a suit by the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) challenging President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s sudden liquidation of the state-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC) last October [see Update #1037]. The union had argued that the liquidation, which resulted in the layoffs of 44,000 electrical workers, was unconstitutional and violated Convention 87 of the International Labor Organization (ILO). However, the SCJN ruled in favor of the union’s representation claim: the SME will continue to represent the LFC’s retirees and laid-off workers and can act in their name in the courts and the labor boards. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/6/10; Mexico Labor News and Analysis July 2010, Vol. 15, #5)

On July 9 a panel of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) threw out corruption charges against Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, general secretary of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM), and cancelled a warrant for his arrest. The DF was the fourth major Mexican entity to drop charges against Gómez Urrutia since the federal government tried to remove him as union head in 2006; the other three are the states of Sonora, Nuevo León and San Luis Potosí. Leo Gerard, president of the North American-based United Steelworkers (USW), hailed the decision on July 16. The Mexican government “continues to use every device it can to persecute the leadership of an independent and autonomous trade union that stands up for Mexican workers,” he said. (LJ 7/12/10; MLNA July 2010, Vol. 15, #5) The USW signed an agreement with the SNTMMSRM on June 21 to explore the possibility of a merger. (MRZine.org 6/28/10)

On July 13 the México state Attorney General’s Office announced that a state court had cancelled the arrest warrant for campesino activist América del Valle, who had taken refuge in the Venezuelan embassy in Mexico City. The SCJN ordered the release of Del Valle’s father, Ignacio del Valle, and 11 other members of the Front of the Peoples in Defense of the Land (FPDT) two weeks earlier, overturning long prison sentences stemming from a confrontation with police in San Salvador Atenco in May 2006 [see Update #1039]. América del Valle’s arrest warrant was based on the same charges. (Latin American Herald Tribune 7/13/10 from EFE)

4. Honduras: Sweatshop Campaign Presses Nike
As of July 15 a campaign started by students at various North American campuses in the fall of 2009 around the labor practices of Oregon-based Nike, Inc in Honduras seemed to be on its way to winning several new victories. In an internal June 28 letter, Cornell University president David Skorton announced that the institution would let its sports apparel licensing agreement with the giant sportswear firm lapse on Dec. 31 “unless significant progress is made” in resolving severance pay issues from the January 2009 closing of two Honduran plants, Vision Tex and Hugger de Honduras. Two weeks later, on July 14, Pennsylvania State University spokesperson Geoff Rushton said in an email that the university was urging Nike "to play a positive role in assisting" the laid-off workers and was “continuing to monitor the issue.”

Nike is also facing pressure at the University of Washington, where the advisory committee for trademarks and licensing has recommended letting the Nike agreement lapse when it expires in December. A student group, the Student Labor Action Project, is calling for faster action.

The campaign’s first victory came on Apr. 9, when the University of Wisconsin in Madison announced it was cancelling its Nike contract because of the company’s failure to provide legally mandated back pay and severance packages worth some $2.1 million to more than 1,600 workers for two Nike contractors in Honduras [see Update #1030]. According to the internet news site Inside Higher Ed, “past campaigns…have shown that once a few universities take a stand, others often follow.” (Inside Higher Ed 7/2/10; State College.com 7/15/10; Seattle PI blog 7/16/10)

Plant closings became a major labor issue in Honduras in 2009 because of the world economic crisis and a deterioration in labor rights after a June 28 military coup ousted then-president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who had good relations with the country’s labor movement [see Update #1016].

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Amazon, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti

Argentina Allows Gay Marriage

Chile: Mapuche political prisoners on hunger strike

Amazon leaders visit BP-devastated Gulf Coast

Peru: logging threat to uncontacted tribes

Peruvian Government Draft Report Buries the Truth about Bagua, Resurrects Racist Stereotypes

Alleged Spy Vicky Pelaez Plans To Leave Russia To Return To Her Native Peru

A New Wave of Criminalization Against Social Movements in Ecuador

Indigenous Liberation and Class Struggle in Ecuador: A Conversation with Luis Macas

Colombia: Ingrid Betancourt's request for millions in damages sparks controversy

Colombian Peasants Continue To Suffer Displacement Due To War

Colombia Support Network (CSN) Representatives detained at Miami airport

Colombia demands OAS action on supposed Venezuelan guerilla threat

Venezuela turns Colombian traffickers over to US

Two More Trade Unionists Murdered in Venezuela; National Union of Workers Demands Justice http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5493

Buying Venezuela’s Press With U.S. Tax Dollars

Documents reveal multimillion-dollar funding to journalists and media in Venezuela

Venezuela Should Follow Argentina's Example on Gay Rights

Panama: general strike claims success

US Marines to Costa Rica

Fear, Suspicion as US Military En Route to Costa Rica

Oaxaca Votes Out Ruling Party as the Siege in San Juan Copala Continues

The CIA, the Cold War, and Cocaine: The Connections of Christopher “Dudus” Coke (Jamaica)

Land Ownership at the Crux of Haiti's Stalled Reconstruction

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