Monday, October 11, 2010

WNU #1052: Chile’s Mapuche Prisoners End Hunger Strike

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1052, October 10, 2010

1. Chile: Mapuche Prisoners End Hunger Strike
2. Haiti: Donors Detail “Reconstruction” Plans
3. Haiti: Who Speaks for Lavalas in the Elections?
4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico

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. Chile: Mapuche Prisoners End Hunger Strike
Ten indigenous Mapuche prisoners in the city of Angol in Chile’s southern Araucanía region agreed late on Oct. 8 to end a liquids-only hunger strike protesting the use of Law No. 19.027, an “antiterrorism” measure from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, against indigenous activists [see Update #1049]. A total of 34 Mapuche prisoners in six locations had participated in the hunger strike, which started on July 12, but 24 of them ended their action on Oct. 2.

Jorge Huenchullán, the spokesperson for the 10 prisoners in Angol, said that they made the agreement because of the serious health conditions of some of the strikers even though “from the beginning we made it clear that [the agreement] wasn’t sufficient.” The Mapuche prisoners are serving long sentences under Law No. 19.027, which treats land occupations and attacks on the equipment or personnel of multinational companies as acts of terrorism; indigenous activists say they need to use these tactics to protest illegal seizures of their land.

It was not clear what concessions the government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera had made during the eight hours of negotiations that secretaries of state held with six strikers in the Victoria hospital in Angol on Oct. 8, but officials made several conciliatory gestures that day as the negotiations were taking place. Piñera visited the heavily Mapuche area of Purén, and the government announced a proposal for the Constitution to recognize indigenous peoples. Presidential spokesperson Ena von Baer announced plans for a Nov. 2 meeting in Concepción between a government representative, Mapuche spokesperson Natividad Llanquileo and Catholic archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, who acted as a mediador during the hunger strike.

Congress recently passed a modification to the “antiterrorism” law that exempted minors under the age of 18 and reduced the penalties for arson; the charges against the prisoners included setting fire to ranches and agricultural machinery. The government is also talking about improving roads, schools and health care in the Mapuche region.

The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group, accounting for about 700,000 of the country’s 17 million inhabitants. (Prensa Latina 10/9/10; La Tercera (Chile) 10/10/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/10/10 from correspondent and unidentified wire services)

*2. Haiti: Donors Detail “Reconstruction” Plans
On Oct. 6 Haitian president René Préval, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) attended a meeting in Port-au-Prince of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (CIRH), the group in charge of monitoring the use of international aid to help the country recover from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. This was only the third time the group has met since it was formally established on Apr. 21.

At the Oct. 6 meeting the CIRH approved 18 new projects, expected to cost $803.2 million; the group has now approved a total of 49 projects. But Bellerive and Clinton, the CIRH’s two co-presidents, said the new focus needs to be on executing projects, not just approving them. According to Clinton, the priorities should be creating a system of universal education, providing women’s health services, constructing new homes and removing the rubble left by the earthquake. Clinton expressed regret for delays in the delivery of promised funds from the US, which he said would start flowing within days, and he called on other donor nations to expedite their payments. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 10/6/10; AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/6/10; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 10/7/10)

At least some of the CIRH’s reconstruction projects seem intended to benefit the private sector in the donor countries, including the US and Brazil.

During the week of Oct. 4 details were released on an agreement the Haitian and US governments signed on Sept. 20 for creating two industrial parks for assembly plants where low-wage workers will stitch together garments for export, principally to North American manufacturers and retailers [see Update #1050]. The first will be, as expected, near the government-organized camp for displaced persons at Corail-Cesselesse just north of Port-au-Prince; the 220-hectare park is to be leased by Seoul-based Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd. The Inter-American Development Bank (IBD) is paying for the planning studies, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) is building the park, and the US government is giving support for electric power and supplying 10,000 housing units. The second industrial park will be in the north of the country at a location to be determined; the South Korean Hansoll Textile, Ltd company will lease the park, and the US will supply power and 12,000 housing units. (AlterPresse 10/7/10)

During a Sept. 29-30 visit to Haiti, Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim presented the results of a study for building a hydroelectric dam on the Artibonite River in the Central Plateau at a cost of $190 million. Brazil is putting up $40 million, and Haiti is seeking the rest from international institutions like the IBD. Although Brazil is donating the money through the CIRH, the project has been being planned for three years, since long before the earthquake. (AlterPresse 9/30/10) Brazilian companies are expected to build the dam. ( 3/2/10)

Correction: This paragraph originally misidentified the location of the dam.

The day before the CIRH meeting economist Camille Chalmers, executive secretary of the nonprofit Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), held a press conference criticizing the international efforts at reconstruction. “Nine months after the earthquake it is unacceptable that only 4% of the rubble has been removed, only 2-3% of the promised funds have been disbursed,” he said. He also criticized the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which he said continues to charge interest on loans. Some international institutions, including the IDB, cancelled Haiti’s debts, but they have attached conditions to the cancellations.

Chalmers called for reducing Haitian dependence on these institutions. “An extraordinary inter-Haitian solidarity was already displayed after Jan. 12 and needs to be supported by concrete policies and alternative financing mechanisms,” he said. (AlterPresse 10/5/10)

In other news, on Oct. 8--two days after Bill Clinton called for a system of universal education--riot police used tear gas to disperse teachers, students and parents demonstrating outside the National Education and Professional Training Ministry (MENFP) in Port-au-Prince to call for the government to expand the education system. Two people were wounded. A police bullet reportedly hit math and physics teacher Jean Philbert Louis (or Jean Louis Filbert) in the head; he died the next day at the Hospital of the State University of Haiti (HUEH). Jean Pierre Edouard, who denied being part of the protest, was lightly injured and didn’t need to be hospitalized. (Agence Haïtienne de Presse (Haiti) 10/8/10; Radio Kiskeya 10/9/10)

*3. Haiti: Who Speaks for Lavalas in the Elections?
In a letter sent to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton the week of Oct. 4, a group of 45 US Congress members called on the US government not to support presidential and legislative elections in Haiti on Nov. 28 if the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) continues its exclusion of 14 political parties from the ballot. The letter focused on the exclusion of the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004) [see Update #1039]; the letter’s author was Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who is said to be close to Aristide and to FL. The elections will cost some $29 million and will largely be financed by the international community, including the US. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 10/8/10; New York Times 10/9/10 from Reuters)

The situation seemed less clear back in Haiti. FL coordinator Maryse Narcisse indicated in mid-September that she supported calls to boycott the elections [see Update #1049], but a number of politicians associated with FL or Aristide have decided to run with other parties. Three of them are officially approved presidential candidates: former prime minister Yvon Neptune; Yves Christalin, one of FL’s founders; and Aristide’s former lawyer, Jean Henry Céant [see Update #1043]

On Oct. 7 Sonny Aurélien (or Sony Orélien), general secretary of the Cell for Reflection of the FL Grassroots Base Organizations, spoke at a press conference announcing his group’s support for Christalin, who he said would bring Aristide back from his exile in South Africa. According to a local radio station, Radio Kiskeya, the press conference was held at the home of folksinger and longtime FL activist Annette Auguste (“Sò Ann,” “Sister Ann”), although she was not present. Like Rep. Waters, Sò Ann is considered close to Aristide. On Oct. 8 Ansyto Félix of the FL Mobilization Commission denied that the FL was supporting Christalin. (Radio Kiskeya 10/7/10; Agence Haïtienne de Presse (Haiti) 10/7/10, 10/8/10)

But Yvon Neptune, who was Aristide’s last prime minister (2002-2004) and was imprisoned for two years after Aristide’s ouster on Feb. 29, 2004, is clearly not seeking support from FL or Aristide. During an Oct. 6 interview on Radio Kiskeya, he said that Aristide had resigned in proper form in 2004. “I had a copy of Mr. Aristide’s resignation letter,” he said. “It was authentic.” Aristide and his supporters have always insisted that he was the victim of a “modern kidnapping” by the US and possibly other countries. Neptune also said that the bands of Aristide supporters widely known as chimè had been integrated into the police force in the last days of Aristide’s administration. (Radio Kiskeya 10/6/10)

President René Préval has also been having problems with a former prime minister, Jacques-Edouard Alexis, who is now running for president for the Mobilization for Haiti’s Progress (MPH) after being passed over for the nomination of Préval’s Unity party in favor of Jude Célestin. On Oct. 5 Alexis charged that Préval had distributed firearms to his supporters to ensure Unity’s victory in the elections. (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 10/5/10)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico
Brazil: Social Movement Leaders Predict Gains with Rousseff

Brazilian Elections: Shifting Dynamics and the Green Vote

Guaraní under siege (Brazil)

Bolivia: newspapers protest proposed racism law

Seven SOA graduates convicted in Peru

Peru: indigenous leader Alberto Pizango runs for president

Standing Up for Democracy in Ecuador

Ecuador Detains 46 Police Officers; Obama Calls Correa To Ask For Calm

Ecuador: Air Force and Navy Reluctantly Backed President

SOA graduate charged in Ecuador coup attempt

U.S. Base Deal for Colombia: Back to the Status Quo

Where Flowers Bloom So Does Hope: Colombia’s Troubled Flower Industry

Venezuela: Chávez announces new land seizures

Chávez Revving Up Revolution with Land Takeovers

Venezuelan Mitsubishi Workers Protest Further Firings and Government Treatment

Colombian-Venezuelan Integration Furthered after July Break in Ties

Panama Awakes

Mexico Ordered To Pay Damages To Two Indigenous Women Raped By Soldiers

State Department Backing US Troops In Mexico

Goldcorp’s Peñasquito Mine Sparks Controversy In Mazapil, Mexico

San Juan Copala evacuated (Mexico)

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