Monday, September 6, 2010

WNU #1047: Mexican Women Jailed for Miscarriages

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1047, September 5, 2010

1. Mexico: Guanajuato Women Jailed for Miscarriages
2. Honduras: Teachers and Government Settle
3. Honduras: Resistance Petitions, Plans Strike
4. Haiti: Did UN “Peacekeepers” Kill a Teenager?
5. Links to alternative sources on: Indigenous peoples, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

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 . It is archived at

*1. Mexico: Guanajuato Women Jailed for Miscarriages
On Sept. 3 Juan Manuel Oliva Ramírez, governor of the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, announced that soon after Sept. 7 the state government would release seven women who had been jailed under Article 156, which establishes a 25-35 year prison sentence for “homicide in the case of close relatives.” Six of the women, campesinas from Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende municipalities, said they lost their babies in involuntary miscarriages; all but one have spent at least three years in prison. Gov. Oliva, of the center-right National Action Party (PAN), said he thought there was a seventh prisoner who would be released, but he didn’t know her name.

Guanajuato was one of 16 conservative states that made their anti-abortion laws more stringent after the Federal District (DF, Mexico) passed legislation in April 2007 legalizing abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy [see Updates #926, 928, 959, 1032]. Under Guanajuato law, women are now subject to up to three years in prison for having abortions. Some 161 women have reportedly been arrested and have served at least some time in the state for having had abortions.

Guanajuato legislators passed Article 156 as part of the anti-abortion campaign, using the vague expression “homicide in the case of close relatives” to penalize mothers who cause the death of a baby born alive.

Several of the women sentenced under Article 156 charged that the police abused them after their arrests and forced them to say falsely that their stillborn babies were alive at birth. They also claimed that their court-appointed defense attorneys helped railroad them. In June state magistrate Miguel Valadez Reyes found that insufficient evidence had been used to convict Alma Yareli Salazar, a domestic servant who had served three years of a 27-year sentence in an Article 156 case. After being released, Salazar said she would sue the state for damages, with the help of the Free Women’s Center, a nongovernmental organization.

Faced with bad publicity from the Salazar acquittal, Gov. Oliva proposed a modification of Article 156, based on recommendations from the United Nations and the state human rights ombudsperson. The reform is a new paragraph that reduces the sentence to three to eight years in cases where “the mother deprives her child of life within the 24 hours immediately after the child’s birth, and also the act is a consequence of motivations of a psycho-social character.” The state legislature approved the modification on Aug. 31 with only one dissenting vote. Since all but one of the women currently in prison have served at least three years, the change allows Oliva to release them without reopening their cases. (Apparently the other prisoner, who has served two years, can be paroled.) (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/1/10, 9/4/10; Guadalajara Reporter (Mexico) 8/13/10)

The Civil Pact for Life, Liberty and the Rights of Women of Mexico held a protest at the Hemiciclo a Juárez in Mexico City on Sept. 2 to demand the prisoners’ “unconditional and immediate” release, saying the women were innocent and calling Oliva’s reform to Article 156 “inadequate.” (LJ 9/3/10)

The rate for maternal deaths is five times as high in Mexico as in industrialized countries, according to a report released this month by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute. In 2008 Mexico’s rate was 57 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births; in the three poorest states, Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, the rate was 97.3 deaths per 100,000 births. Seven percent of the deaths resulted from clandestine abortions. Report co-author José Luis Palma Cabrera, director general of Mexico’s Investigation in Health and Demography (INSAD), called the statistic on abortions “the most absurd from a social and health logic; these are unacceptable deaths.”

The Mexican government says it is seeking to lower the maternal death rate to 22 deaths per 100,000 births by 2025. (LJ 9/3/10)

*2. Honduras: Teachers and Government Settle
Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa announced on Aug. 30 that he had signed an agreement with the education workers’ unions ending a 26-day strike by some 55,000 teachers. The job action was marked by militant demonstrations by the teachers and by repression by the police [see Update #1046]. The strikers were to return to work on Aug. 31.

The government appeared to have met the principal demands of the six unions in the Federation of Teachers Organizations of Honduras (FOMH), which wanted the government to make overdue payments worth as much as 3.7 billion lempiras (about $194 million) to the National Institute of Teachers’ Social Security (Inprema), the teachers’ pensions fund. Lobo, who took office on Jan. 27, said his government was accepting "as its own the debts contracted by previous administrations, 2007, 2008 and 2009, with the teachers’ unions,” referring to the 2006-2009 administration of former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales and to the de facto regime that replaced Zelaya after he was overthrown by a military coup in June 2009.

The teachers failed to win a demand for the removal of Education Minister Alejandro Ventura. (EFE 8/30/10 via

*3. Honduras: Resistance Petitions, Plans Strike
As of Sept. 1, Honduras’ National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) said it had collected 1,019,765 signatures on petitions calling for a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s 1982 Constitution and for the safe return of former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) from his exile in the Dominican Republic. One of the FNRP’s coordinators, union leader Juan Barahona, called reaching the number “a triumph” and said he was “sure we’ll pass the minimum goal we proposed of 1.25 million signatures” by Sept. 15, the final day of the campaign. [The population of Honduras is about 7.5 million, and there were 4.6 million registered voters in the country at the time of the November 2009 elections; see Update #1015].

The FNRP, which formed in response to Zelaya’s overthrow in June 2009, started the petition campaign on Apr. 20 [see Update #1038, where we erroneously reported that the campaign had already gathered 1.2 million signatures in June]. (Prensa Latina 9/1/10; El Tiempo (San Pedro Sula) 9/2/10) The coup against Zelaya came on a day when Hondurans were to vote in a non-binding poll on whether to include a referendum on the constituent assembly in the November 2009 general elections.

The FNRP is planning to hold a demonstration on Sept. 15, the last day of the petition drive and the 189th anniversary of Central America’s declaration of independence from Spain. The group is also calling for a “civic strike” on Sept. 7, which Barahona indicated would be a sort of preview of a national general strike the main labor federations are planning if President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa fails to increase the national minimum wage.

The minimum wage, currently 5,500 lempiras a month (about $290), was supposed to be raised in April, but the business sector blocked the pay hike [see Update #1045]. When negotiations between the unions and businesses fail to resolve the issue, the president has the authority to set the minimum wage, but Lobo still hasn’t taken action. One problem may be external pressure. The Honduras Culture and Politics blog notes: “In order to convince the International Monetary Fund [IMF] that Honduras qualifies for a standby line of credit, Lobo Sosa must prove to them that he has contained government costs in the 2011 government budget, especially salaries…. Obviously, adding a large increase to the budget, specifically for salaries, would undercut meeting that target.” (Red Morazánica de Información (Honduras) 8/31/10 via FNRP website; Adital (Brazil) 8/31/10; Honduras Culture and Politics 9/2/10)

*4. Haiti: Did UN “Peacekeepers” Kill a Teenager?
Students at the Faculty of Ethnology at the State University of Haiti (UEH) in downtown Port-au-Prince said on Sept. 4 that they were planning to file complaints with international agencies about a May 24 incident involving soldiers from the 9,000-member United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The soldiers invaded the campus and arrested a student, Frantz Mathieu Junior, for allegedly throwing rocks [see Update #1035]. MINUSTAH released the student the same day, and the force’s acting head, Edmond Mulet, apologized on May 25, but the students asked why more than three months later no soldiers have been disciplined.

Various groups are planning a demonstration against the United Nations (UN) force on Oct. 15, the date on which the UN Security Council is expected to renew MINUSTAH’s mandate for another year.

MINUSTAH was one of the targets of a demonstration by hundreds of people in Haiti’s second largest city, Cap-Haïtien in the north, on the weekend of Aug. 21. In addition to accusing the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) of partiality in the upcoming Nov. 28 general elections, the protesters raised suspicions that MINUSTAH elements were responsible for the death of 16-year-old Gérald Jean Gilles, whose body was found inside MINUSTAH’s Formed Police Units (FPU) base in Cap-Haïtien on Aug. 17.

MINUSTAH spokespeople said the youth, who did odd jobs for the Nepalese soldiers at the base in exchange for food and money, had hanged himself. But people who live near the base reportedly saw a soldier assaulting Gilles, and officials at the nearby Roi Henri Christophe hotel they had heard someone shouting: “They’re strangling me.” Senate president Kélly Bastien has demanded a thorough investigation of the case.

MINUSTAH units have been charged with serious crimes in the past [see Update #949], including a case involving statutory rape of a teenage girl by members of a Nepalese unit. (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 8/23/10; Adital (Brazil) 9/2/10; Caraib Creole News (Guadeloupe) 9/4/10)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Indigenous peoples, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

After Recognition: Indigenous Peoples Confront Capitalism

Ollanta Humala, “Neither Left, Nor Right” — An Interview (Peru)

Peru: Quechua Congresswoman Fights Discrimination in Education

Protest Georgetown U's honoring of Colombia's Uribe

Afro-Colombian Community Faces Eviction To Make Way For Gold Exploration

Colombia: campesino leader assassinated in Meta

Recession Forcing Colombia-Venezuela Peace

Venezuela’s Opposition: Manufacturing Fear in Exchange for Votes

Venezuelan Government Responds to “Hypocritical” Hunger Strike

Honduras since the coup: Drug Traffickers’ Paradise

Honduras: campesino leader assassinated in Comayagua

Take Action! End the Brutal Repression of the Honduran Social Movement

Guatemala’s New Civil Conflict: The Case of Ramiro Choc

US to withhold "Plan Mexico" funds over rights abuses?

Mexico: Tamaulipas terror still escalating

Behind Mexico's Bloodshed

Mexico Massacre Galvanizes Migrant Rights Activists

2010: Year of the Nini (Mexico)

Bread on our Table (Mexico)

Project of Mass Destruction: Goldcorp's Peñasquito Mine in Mexico

The Sustainable City Project Ruse in Chiapas

Alert: Renewed Aggression Against Bankworkers Union, SUNTBANOBRAS (Mexico)

Victory for Workers! Agreement Reached at Johnson Controls (Mexico)

Workers at General Tire Overwhelmingly Beat Back Charro Take-over (Mexico)

Mexican Community Theater: A Different View of Immigration

Fidel Castro Apologizes For Treatment Of Gays During The Revolution

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