Monday, December 20, 2010

WNU #1061: Mexican Activist Killed, Survivors Harassed

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1061, December 19, 2010

1. Mexico: Activist Murdered, Survivors Harassed
2. Mexico: Leak Shows Rivalry With Venezuela
3. Honduras: Cops Evict Campesinos, Arrest Reporters
4. Haiti: UN to Probe Cholera Source, Protester Killed
5. Haiti: US Warns on Travel, Resumes Deportations
6. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, 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 It is archived at

*1. Mexico: Activist Murdered, Survivors Harassed
Mexican human rights activist Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was buried in Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua on Dec. 18, two days after she was shot dead by an unidentified man as she was protesting in front of the main government office in the state capital, also named Chihuahua. Police provided security for the funeral, which was originally planned for Dec. 21 but was rescheduled after a group of at least 10 men burned down the lumberyard belonging to Escobedo’s husband, José Monge Marroquín, earlier on Dec. 18 and kidnapped his brother.

More than 50 cars of friends, relatives, activists and reporters followed the hearse, accompanied by police patrol cars. Activists also held vigils at the site where Escobedo was shot.

The murder took place while Escobedo was protesting what she said was state governor César Duarte Jáquez’s failures in prosecuting the 2008 murder of her daughter, Rubí Marisol Freyre. The activist had identified the killer as Sergio Rafael Barraza, who the state attorney general’s office says is linked to organized crime. Barraza was finally arrested on Apr. 30 of this year, but a three-judge panel ordered him released for lack of evidence. Barraza then went into hiding.

An appeals court later sentenced Barraza to 50 years in absentia, and the three judges that released him were suspended, but according to Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson, from the state human rights commission, the real blame for Barraza’s release lies with former state prosecutor Patricia González Rodríguez and the Public Ministry for failing to produce sufficient evidence before the court.

Hundreds of young women have been murdered in Ciudad Juárez since the early 1990s, and most of the killings are officially unsolved [see Update #670]. The city is also one of the centers of the federal government’s militarization of the fight against drug trafficking; more than 30,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa declared the “drug war” shortly after taking office four years ago [see Update #1059]. At least eight other local activists are said to have been threatened with death, including Evangelina Arce, vice president of the Independent Chihuahua Pro Human Rights Committee (CICH). Her daughter, Silvia Arce, was allegedly disappeared by ex-federal judicial police agents in 1997, and her grandson, Ángel Octavio Atayde Arce, was murdered in 2006. (EFE 12/18/10 via La Prensa (San Antonio, Texas); La Jornada (Mexico) 12/19/10)

*2. Mexico: Leak Shows Rivalry With Venezuela
Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa has been trying to “repair” relations with Venezuela, according to an Oct. 27, 2008 US diplomatic cable obtained by the WikiLeaks group and posted by the Spanish daily El País on Dec. 18, but there are tensions because the two countries are both “looking to assert [their] leadership in the region, particularly in Central America.”

An embassy cable released earlier had said that President Calderón was trying to help the US fight the influence of leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías and his “Bolivarian” programs [see Update #1059]. In the new cable, however, the Mexicans seem more concerned about a rivalry with Venezuela over the countries in Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), a regional integration project linking Central America, Mexico and the US. Bosco Martí, an official who then headed the Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE) office for PPP, “complained…that Mexico could not compete with Venezuela when it came to the kind of money it was tossing at member countries through its ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas) initiative.”

The Mexican government was also concerned about Venezuela’s influence inside Mexico. The main Mexican intelligence agency, the Center for Investigations and National Security (CISEN), had “identified some 500 serious Bolivarian activists--all Mexican citizens--across the country, which are often in contact with each other and tend to be linked to larger social movements,” according to the cable. Other sources told the embassy that “Venezuelan officials also have regular contact with members” of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and other parties. But CISEN had said it had “no evidence…that Venezuela currently is providing direct funding to Mexican political candidates.” “Sensitive collateral reporting also indicates that the Venezuelan Embassy has been unsuccessful in building rapport with [2006 center-left presidential candidate Andrés Manuel] López Obrador.”

CISEN was “looking for close links between Venezuela and the more radical, violent groups in Mexico,” like the rebel Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), but hadn’t succeeded in finding any.

The US embassy concluded that “Mexico does not offer the kind of fertile ground for Bolivarian activism as do some other countries in the hemisphere.” The embassy also noted that according to CISEN, “the Venezuelan and Cuban Embassies seem to operate quite independently on most matters in Mexico.” (El País (Madrid) 12/18/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/19/10)

*3. Honduras: Cops Evict Campesinos, Arrest Reporters
Honduran police, soldiers and private guards injured three campesinos and detained 12 on Dec. 15 during an attempt to evict a family from their home in Coyolito community on the Zacate Grande peninsula, Valle department, on the stretch of Pacific coast in the southwestern part of the country. The order for the Hernández family’s eviction was based on a default on a mortgage held by the London-based HSBC multinational bank, but José Luis Hernández insisted that his family owned the house and that the person who took out the mortgage had never lived there. Coyolito residents responded to the eviction attempt by blocking a road. Among the detained were two reporters from La Voz de Zacate Grande, a local community radio station.

Meanwhile, hundreds of soldiers had occupied Guadalupe Carney, a community of some 1,200 families in the Lower Aguán River Valley in Colón department, in northern Honduras. The community has a clear title to its land, but the military moved in after residents blocked a road to protest recent violence against campesinos in the area [see Update #1059]. There are reports that some residents were detained and that the military was trying to confiscate the equipment of the community’s radio station. Guadalupe Carney is named after a US-born Catholic priest, Jim Carney (“Father Guadalupe”), who died in 1983, possibly at the hands of the Battalion 316 death squad.

The National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), a major coalition of grassroots and labor organizations, charged that the two operations at opposite ends of the country were “carried out in a coordinated way with the objective of preserving the economic interests” of landowner and business leader Miguel Facussé Barjum and other landowners. Facussé, who is seeking to expand his cultivation of African oil palms, has been at the center of the land conflicts in the Aguán Valley [see Update #1058]. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 12/15/10; Rights Action urgent action 12/16/10; Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 12/16/10)

On Dec. 17 the French-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Honduran authorities to release the two La Voz de Zacate Grande reporters, Elba Yolibeth Rubio and Elia Xiomara Hernández, whose whereabouts were still unknown. The group charged that the station, which started broadcasting on Apr. 14, has been constantly harassed by the authorities for its position on land disputes involving Miguel Facussé. RSF said the criminalization of opposition media had become “a sinister norm since the coup d’état of June 28, 2009,” which removed then-president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales from office. (EFE 12/17/10 via (Spain); Defensores en Línea 5/10/10)

*4. Haiti: UN to Probe Cholera Source, Protester Killed
One protester was killed on Dec. 18 and three were arrested when Haitian police dispersed hundreds of residents demanding that the authorities close down a dump near the Duvivier neighborhood in Port-au-Prince’s impoverished Cité Soleil section. The victim was identified as “Robin Raymond” or “Ramon Robert,” the owner of a hardware store.

This was the fourth protest the Duvivier Recovery Committee had organized against the dump. The group charged that both private and public companies had been depositing untreated human wastes there, leading to a rise in cholera cases in Duvivier. A cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in mid-October had caused 2,535 deaths as of Dec. 18, according to the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP). The cholera bacterium generally spreads through human fecal matter.

National Police of Haiti (PNH) agent Réginald Larosilière has been accused of the killing; Duvivier Recovery Committee members say police the fired at the protesters to disperse them. The PNH claims there was an exchange of gunfire. The executive secretary of the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), Antonal Mortimé, called for the appropriate punishment for Larosilière if his guilt is established. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/18/10; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 12/18/10)

On Dec. 17 United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced “the creation of an international scientific panel to investigate the source of the cholera epidemic.” UN spokespeople had previously dismissed accusations that the disease came from infected Nepalese troops in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) [see Update #1060], but Ban said in his announcement, made at a press conference in New York, that “there remain fair questions and legitimate concerns that demand the best answer that science can provide.” Ban didn’t name the panel members. He also noted that so far donor nations had only contributed 21% of the $164 million the UN had asked for to fight the epidemic. (UN press release 12/17/10)

Donor nations have been just as slow to contribute to the fund that is supposed to help rebuild Haiti after a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. Only $897 million of the more than $5.7 billion pledged for 2010-11 had been delivered as of Dec. 14, when the international group that monitors the funds, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (CIRH), held its fourth meeting. Haitian CIRH members complained in a letter that they had been left out of decision-making and that projects the group had approved “do not advance the reconstruction of Haiti and long-term development.” “I share their frustration,” UN special envoy and CIRH co-president Bill Clinton, the former US president (1993-2001), said at a press conference on Dec. 15 in Port-au-Prince, “but I think they will see a big increase in the pace of movement next year.”

The Associated Press wire service noted that the CIRH meeting had to be held outside Haiti, in Santo Domingo, “after violence broke out following Haiti's disputed Nov. 28 presidential election” [see Update #1060]. The Dec. 14 meeting approved projects worth $3.1 billion, including one for an industrial park that reportedly could generate 60,000 jobs—presumably low-wage assembly jobs. (AP 12/15/10 via WTOP (Washington, DC); AlterPresse 12/16/10)

*5. Haiti: US Warns on Travel, Resumes Deportations
On Dec. 10 the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau announced that it expects to start repatriating Haitian immigrants with criminal records in January, ending a temporary suspension of all deportations of Haitians that the US imposed after an earthquake hit Port-au-Prince and other parts of southern Haiti last January.

Three New York-based human rights groups, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Alternative Chance, protested the decision to resume deportations. “The situation in Haiti has not improved and may be even worse now than when the deportations were halted in the weeks after the devastating earthquake of January 2010,” the groups said. They noted that one day before the ICE announcement the US State Department had issued a warning to US citizens against non-essential travel to Haiti because of the “continued high crime, the cholera outbreak, frequent disturbances in Port-au-Prince and in provincial cities, and limited police protection and access to medical care.” (Miami Herald 12/10/10 from AP; 12/13/10)

ICE is currently holding about 350 Haitian immigrants said to be violent criminals. One of those slated for deportation is Lyglenson Lemorin, who was in fact acquitted by a federal jury in the 2007 trial of the “Liberty City Seven,” a group charged with conspiring to attack Chicago's Sears Tower. Lemorin has been held in immigration detention since 2007 because Immigration Judge Kenneth Hurwetz ruled that he was a dangerous terrorist who had to be deported despite his acquittal. Lemorin has been challenging his detention before the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and on Dec. 15 his attorney, Charles Kuck, filed an emergency motion to stay Lemorin’s removal. (Wall Street Journal 12/15/10)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico

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