Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WNU #1049: Chilean Activists Fast for Mapuche Hunger Strikers

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1049, September 19, 2010

1. Chile: Activists Fast for Mapuche Hunger Strikers
2. Mexico: Soldiers Arrested for Killing Civilians
3. Haiti: Opposition Parties Call for Election Boycott
4. Guatemala: US Sentences Ex-Soldier for 1982 Massacre
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, 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. Chile: Activists Fast for Mapuche Hunger Strikers
A group of 12 Chilean activists began an open-ended “massive solidarity fast” on Sept. 14 to support indigenous Mapuche prisoners who have been carrying out a liquids-only hunger strike since July 12. The solidarity fasters included the presidents of the Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH) and the Federation of University of Santiago Students; the president of the Copper Workers Commission of the Unified Workers Confederation (CUT); and members of the Coordinating Committee of Santiago Autonomous Mapuche (COOAMS) and the Association of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees. A number of leftists, unionists and artists expressed their solidarity with the fast, which was being held in the FECH offices in Santiago.

As of Sept. 14 there were 34 prisoners in six prisons--Concepción, Temuco, Valdivia, Angol, Lebu and Chol Chol--taking part in the hunger strike. Many were suffering from heart and kidney problems and had lost more than 25% of their original weight, according to the Coordinating Committee of Relatives of Mapuche Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike. The action was started to protest Law No. 19.027, an “anti-terrorism” measure first enacted in 1984 under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet; it treats illegal land occupations and attacks on the equipment or personnel of multinational companies as acts of terrorism and subjects those charged with the offenses to both civilian and military courts. Mapuche activists say that their land has been taken illegally and that the law criminalizes legitimate forms of protest [see Update #1008].

Chile’s rightwing president Sebastián Piñera, who took office on Mar. 11, has proposed modifications to the law and has brought in Concepción archbishop Ricardo Ezzati to serve as a mediator. On Sept. 14 the government authorized the release of two of the striking prisoners, Pablo Conio and Sergio Tralcal, on a bail of about $2,000. Conio and Tralcal said they would continue to participate in the hunger strike despite the release order. (Coordinación de Familiares de Presos Políticos Mapuche en Huelga de Hambre press release 9/14/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/15/10 from correspondent; Indian Country Today 9/14/10 from correspondent)

*2. Mexico: Soldiers Arrested for Killing Civilians
Mexico’s National Defense Secretariat (Sedena) announced on Sept. 13 that four soldiers would be arrested and charged with homicide for the killing of two civilians the night of Sept. 5 on the Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo highway in Apodaca municipality in the northern state of Nuevo León.

The soldiers, from the 7th Military Zone, opened fire on a car in which members of an extended family were driving home after a party. Vicente de León Ramírez and his 16-year-old son, Alejandro Gabriel de León Castellanos, were killed; three other family members were hit by bullets, and two children, 8 and 9, were injured by broken glass. The soldiers said they shot at the car because the driver, Vicente de León’s son-in-law, ignored orders to stop at a checkpoint. The family denied that there was a checkpoint and said they not been ordered to stop.

The killing was similar to an incident in Sinaloa de Leyva municipality, in Sinaloa state, the night of May 31-June 1, 2007, when soldiers fired on a family van, killing two women and three small children. The government’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reports receiving almost 3,500 complaints of military abuses since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa deployed soldiers in a “war on drugs” shortly after taking office in December 2006. Recently the military has been attempting to improve its image by accepting its responsibility in some incidents, including the July 2006 rape of 13 (or 14) women in a dance hall in Castaños, Coahuila state, and the killing of two graduate students in Monterrey, Nuevo León, last March [see Updates #916, 1044]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/7/10; La Opinión (Los Angeles) 9/12/10, 9/14/10)

In other news, David García Ramírez, a resident of San Juan Copala, an autonomous municipality in the southern state of Oaxaca, was shot dead on Sept. 18 as he was attempting to leave the municipality. This was the latest killing in a campaign by two groups of indigenous Triqui, the Social Welfare Unity of the Triqui Region (UBISORT) and the Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULT), to drive members of a third Triqui group, the Independent Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULTI), from the municipality. García Ramírez was reportedly a MULTI supporter, while the killers were said to be paramilitaries from the UBISORT, which is linked to the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) [see Update #810]. (LJ 9/19/10)

*3. Haiti: Opposition Parties Call for Election Boycott
After three days of meetings at the Distinction Night Club in a suburb north of Port-au-Prince, on Sept. 16 four Haitian political coalitions announced their opposition to the general elections scheduled for Nov. 28. The four coalitions--Alternative, Liberation, Rasanble (“Assemble”) and the Union of Democratic Haitian Citizens for Development and Education (UCCADE)— said they were forming a “United Political Front” and expressed their lack of confidence in the current Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). Instead of elections, the coalitions called for a “government of public safety” to take power after President René Garcia Préval’s term ends on Feb. 7 and carry out a transition to full democracy.

Maryse Narcisse, coordinator of Lavalas Family (FL), the party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004), indicated that she supported the position of the four coalitions. “The conditions have not been met for organizing good elections in Haiti,” she explained. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste--the coordinator of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MMP), based in the Center department, and a longtime opponent of FL--also supported the coalitions’ call.

However, there was dissension within the coalitions themselves. Some have candidates on the ballot for the Nov. 28 elections, which are to select a new president, 11 of the 27 seats in the Senate and all 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Former legislative deputy Steven Benoit, for example, said he was continuing to run for Senate on the Alternative line and that he was attending the event to persuade opposition leaders not to boycott the elections. (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 9/15/10; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 9/16/10, 9/17/10; Agence Haïtienne de Presse, Haiti, 9/16/10)

Meanwhile, protests continued over the presence of the 9,000 international soldiers and police of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the failures of the government and international agencies to provide adequate relief after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

On Sept. 10 the Movement of Nationalist Youth (MJN) and other organizations marched to the MINUSTAH barracks in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien to protest the death of 16-year-old Gérald Jean Gilles there on Aug. 17; MINUSTAH says his death was a suicide [see Update #1047].

Also on Sept. 10, some of the Port-au-Prince residents made homeless by the earthquake and forced to live in improvised camps demonstrated at the prime minister’s office in the downtown area to protest their conditions. Three days later, on Sept. 13, dozens of residents of the Canaan camp and the government-organized camp at Corail-Cesselesse, north of the capital, protested near the ruined National Palace, demanding new homes and asking how they could deal with the beginning of the school year on Oct. 4 [see Update #1046 for other protests by camp residents]. Meanwhile, the Platform of Victim Employees of Public Enterprises (PEVEP) was holding a demonstration at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to demand “back pay for employees unjustly dismissed.” (AHP 9/13/10, English translation from the Haiti Support Group (UK))

*4. Guatemala: US Sentences Ex-Soldier for 1982 Massacre
On Sept. 16 Miami federal district judge William Zloch sentenced former Guatemalan soldier Gilberto Jordán to 10 years in prison for concealing his role in a 1982 massacre when he applied for US citizenship. Jordán, a member of the notorious Kaibil counterinsurgency force, is one of 14 soldiers wanted in Guatemala for the brutal murder of some 250 campesinos in the village of Las Dos Erres, Sayaxche (or Libertad), in the northern department of Peten [see Update #786]. He moved to Miami in 1990 and became a US citizen in 1999. Arrested by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency on May 5 this year, he pleaded guilty in July to charges of lying on a citizenship application. Ten years is the maximum sentence for the offense.

Guatemala’s government human rights prosecutor Aura Marina Mancilla said that in August she made an initial application with Guatemalan courts for an extradition request so that Jordán could be tried in Guatemala. (Reuters 9/16/10; Argenpress (Argentina) 9/17/10 from Cerigua (Guatemala)) The Dos Erres massacre was part of a massive counterinsurgency campaign in the 1980s that was unofficially backed by the US government.

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

Argentina: student protests commemorate "Night of the Pencils"

Argentina: anarchist bomb blast protests Mapuche repression

Argentina's Media Crisis

Chile’s Ghosts: The Tyranny of Forgetting

From Rebellion to Reform: Bolivia’s Reconstituted Neoliberalism

Book Review on Bolivia - Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces

U.S. Praise for Peru's Economy Misses the Mark

U.N. Expert Concerned by "Climate of Impunity" in Peru

Quito denies Colombian guerillas launched attack from Ecuador

Colombia: riot squad represses student protests in Medellín

Colombian Paramilitaries Extradited To U.S., Where Cases Are Sealed

U.S. Government and CNN Openly Protect and Support Venezuelan Terrorist

Venezuela's Chavez Hands out Property Rights

Jewish Representatives Meet with Venezuelan President Chávez

US scientist charged with conspiracy to sell nuclear data to Venezuela

Honduras: Mobilization and Repression on Independence Day

Over 1,260,000 Hondurans Demand Refounding of Nation

Zapatista Supporters Attacked in Retaliation for Building an Autonomous School (Mexico)

Mexico: Requiem for Triquis

Reynosa jailbreak: inside job? (Mexico)

Mexican bicentennial celebrations clouded by narco crisis

Matamoros mayhem goes unreported in Mexico

Mexican News Photographer Shot Dead in Juárez

Mexico: armed commando in deadly ambush of Guerrero police

Narcotrafficking in Mexico: Neoliberalism and a Militarized State

Cuba to impose austerity on workers

Cuba Cuts 500,000 State Jobs; Plans to Reduce Private Business Restrictions

Cuban Union Calls for 'Unity' in Face of Job Reduction

Haiti's Disaster Capitalists Swoop In

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