Friday, December 24, 2010

Links but No Update for December 26, 2010

[There is no Update this week. Below are links to stories from other sources.]

South America: Unity for Strength in Wake of Crisis

Former Junta Leader of Argentina Jorge Rafael Videla Sentenced To Life In Prison

Anarchist cell claims Rome embassy attacks (Chile)

The Legacy of the Nueva Canción: An Interview with Patricio Manns (Chile)

Dirty Tricks in Chevron Ecuador Lawsuit

Venezuela Approves Changes In Media Laws; Chávez Critics Worry About Free Speech

Salvadoran Gov't Says 50 Migrants Abducted in Oaxaca

Guatemala Declares State Of Siege Due To Zeta Presence Near Mexican Border

Mexican Politician Diego Fernández de Cevallos Freed After Seven Months

Honda Workers in Mexico Face Repression, Firings

Mexico: Days of Action, 14-19 February 2011

US Weapons Fuel Mexican Drug Wars

Cuba: Urban Tribes Prowl Havana Nights

Behind the cholera epidemic

Free Oscar! Join the Petition Campaign (Puerto Rico)

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

Book Review: Dancing With Dynamite

Rulers fear "anarchy" in Argentina squatter riots

Grandson Of Former Chilean President Allende Commits Suicide

Sterilised in Chile for having HIV

Wikileaks Cables Portray A Different Side Of Brazil’s Lula da Silva

Bolivia charges dozens in destabilization complot

Wikileaks Cable Alleges Peruvian Military Ties To Drug Trafficking & Reveals U.S. Fears Over Shining Path

WikiLeaks: Peruvian Army Connected to Drug Trafficking

Colombian 'military plan for FARC'

Chávez Asks Venezuela National Assembly For Decree Powers

US Proposed Multi-Faceted Campaign to Counter Venezuelan President, Wikileaks Cables Show

Venezuelan National Assembly Passes People’s Power “Law of Communes”

Honduras: Campesinos Expelled Like 'Vermin'

Allegations Taint Anti-Corruption Commission's Efforts in Guatemala

Cancun Agreement Succeeds in Meeting Low Expectations (Mexico)

Normalizing Catastrophe: Cancun as Laboratory of the Future (Mexico)

Battle in Cancun: The Fight for Climate Justice in the Streets, Encampments and Halls of Power (Mexico)

Activist Mother Gunned Down (Mexico)

The poor always pay: the electoral crisis in Haiti

Wikileaks, Cablegate and Haiti

Puerto Rico Student Strike Intensifies, Public Education and Civil Rights at Stake

Puerto Rico Launches Tourism Campaign In New York

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Our weekly Immigration News Briefs has ended publication; for news, information and announcements in support of action for immigrant rights in the United States, subscribe to Immigrant Action at:
You can also visit the Immigrant Action blog at:

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WNU #1060: Specialist Confirms UN Caused Haiti’s Cholera

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1060, December 12, 2010

1. Haiti: Specialist Confirms UN Caused the Cholera
2. Haiti: Protests Greet Dubious Election Results
3. Puerto Rico: Police Occupy Campuses
4. Latin America: Argentina, Brazil Recognize Palestine
5. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, 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 . It is archived at

*1. Haiti: Specialist Confirms UN Caused the Cholera
A report by a leading French cholera expert, Dr. Renaud Piarroux, concludes that the outbreak of the disease in Haiti in mid-October originated at a base maintained by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) near Mirebalais in the Central Plateau. “No other hypothesis could be found,” Piarroux wrote, even though he and his team had looked for “another explanation, even an improbable one, [that] could be advanced to explain the sudden occurrence of this cholera epidemic.”

MINUSTAH is a 13,000-member military and police force that has occupied Haiti since June 2004; it was the target of repeated protests even before the cholera outbreak [see “Haiti: Anti-Occupation Protests Boil Over,” WNU supplement 11/18/10].

In interviews with Haitian, Cuban and World Health Organization (WHO) medical personnel and with local residents in the most severely affected areas, Piarroux, who heads the mycology and parasitology department at the La Timone hospital in Marseilles, found that the first reported case was in the village of Meillé, near Mirebalais, on Oct. 14. MINUSTAH troops from Nepal, which had been experiencing a cholera epidemic, arrived in the area on Oct. 8 and Oct. 12; their base is located upstream from Meillé on a small tributary of the Artibonite River, a major waterway which traverses central Haiti.

The epidemic spread downstream to Mirebalais by Oct. 16, and then it appeared in a more explosive form on Oct. 19 in the Artibonite delta region near the western coast. From there it has spread to other departments and to the Dominican Republic. The official death toll from the disease in Haiti had reached 2,120 as of Dec. 10.

Cholera is generally transmitted through human excrement, and Meillé residents reported that a “nauseating” black liquid had been flowing into their river from pipes at the base in mid-October. Although there were no problems at the base when he inspected in early November, Piarroux noted that “nothing can exclude the possibility that measures were taken to eliminate the suspect fecal matter and to erase the traces of a cholera epidemic among the soldiers.” He recommended the opening of “a judicial inquiry into the origins and development of the epidemic, for even if the epidemiological inquiry leaves no doubt about what happened, it wasn’t intended to establish the responsibilities of specific parties.”

The French and Haitian governments had asked Piarroux to carry out the investigation, but as of Dec. 10 the report had not been officially released. UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said in New York on Dec. 7 that the evidence wasn’t conclusive. According to the French daily Le Monde, the UN is concerned about protecting its troops, while “the Haitian government has preferred to suppress the matter so not to embarrass MINUSTAH during an electoral period”--presidential and legislative elections were held on Nov. 28—“which is delicate for the authorities.” (Washington Post 12/8/10 from AP; Le Monde (France) 12/11/10, 12/12/10)

In a Dec. 7 newspaper column, former Cuban president Fidel Castro wrote that reports from Cuban doctors in Haiti support Piarroux’s conclusions. Cuban medical brigades have been a major force in treating patients since the epidemic started [see Update #1058]. But Castro cautioned against blaming Nepal, a former colony of the United Kingdom, for the situation. Nepalese men “were utilized in [Britain’s] colonial wars, and now they seek employment as soldiers,” he noted. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/8/10)

A group of researchers wrote in a Dec. 9 article in the New England Journal of Medicine that genome sequences from Vibrio cholerae bacteria pointed to South Asia—which includes Nepal--as the most likely source of the epidemic. They dismissed claims that the current epidemic was caused by the effect of climate changes on dormant local bacteria. “Our data distinguish the Haitian strains from those circulating in Latin America and the US Gulf Coast and thus do not support the hypothesis that the Haitian strain arose from the local aquatic environment…. It is therefore unlikely that climatic events led to the Haitian epidemic, as has been suggested in the case of other cholera epidemics.” (NEJM 12/9/10)

*2. Haiti: Protests Greet Dubious Election Results
On the evening of Dec. 7 Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced the preliminary results of presidential and legislative elections held on Nov. 28. The elections had been chaotic and sometimes violent, and the majority of the presidential candidates denounced the process as fraudulent even before the polls closed [see Update #1058].

According to the CEP, former senator Myrlande Manigat (Coalition of National Progressive Democrats, RDNP) led with 31.37% of the votes, followed by Jude Célestin (Unity), the candidate backed by current president René Préval, with 22.48%. Popular singer Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky,” Peasant Response) came in a close third with 21.84%, and Jean Henry Céant (Love Haiti), former lawyer for ex-president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004) was fourth with 8.18%. The remaining candidates each received less than 5% of the vote. If the results are confirmed on Dec. 20, Manigat and Célestin will face each other in a runoff on Jan. 16.

Two of the 11 Senate races in contention were settled in the first round, with one victory going to the candidate of Préval’s Unity party. Unity candidates will be in the runoffs for the remaining nine seats. There were 18 victors in the voting for the 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, eight of them from Unity, which will have 58 candidates in the runoffs for the other 81 seats. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/7/10)

The announcement of the preliminary results set off three days of militant protests, many of them by Martelly supporters who felt he was fraudulently denied the second place. Thousands of protesters blocked streets with barricades and burning tires, paralyzing economic activity in Port-au-Prince and many other cities. Stores were burned or vandalized, and at least five people were killed in confrontations between protesters and police or between different political groups. The protests finally seemed to slow down on Dec. 10 in what reporters described as a “tense calm,” but banks, schools and larger stores remained closed in Port-au-Prince. (AlterPresse 12/9/10; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 12/10/10)

The intensity of the demonstrations may have resulted more from anger over the broader situation—the military occupation by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the rapidly spreading cholera epidemic, the situation of the 1.3 million people still homeless 11 months after the Jan. 12 earthquake—than from interest in the elections themselves. Just 22.87% of Haiti’s 4.7 million voters turned out on Nov. 28, according to the CEP’s disputed preliminary count. Edmond Mulet, the Guatemalan diplomat who is acting head of MINUSTAH, reportedly hoped for 40%.

The leading candidates were mostly conservative or centrist. Manigat, whose husband was president for four months in 1987 before being removed by a military coup, campaigned largely around changing the Constitution to allow dual citizenship for the many Haitians living in the US. Célestin was expected to follow Préval’s centrist policies, while Martelly’s political positions were unclear. (Radio Canada 12/7/10, some from AFP and Reuters)

The only leading candidate with significant support from left-of-center groups was Céant. Former president Aristide’s populist Lavalas Family (FL) was barred from running, but three important members of the FL directorate--Euvonie Auguste, Jacques Matelier and René Civil—announced their support for Céant on Oct. 19, saying that thousands of Lavalas supporters would vote for him. (FL coordinator Maryse Narcisse said on Oct. 18 that FL was supporting no candidate, and Aristide himself, in exile in South Africa, had made no statement.) (Agence Haïtienne de Presse (Haiti) 10/19/10) On Oct. 27 Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the spokesperson for the Papaye Peasant Movement (MMP), based in the Central Plateau, officially endorsed Céant. The MPP is one of the country’s largest peasant groups; Jean-Baptiste and FL are longtime opponents. (Radio Kiskeya 10/27/10)

Much of the left, like many voters, stayed clear of the elections. On the weekend of Dec. 4 the labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”) issued a statement rejecting any elections held under military occupation. “The electoral process can’t escape this simple logic. The imperialists are the ones who financed it and organized it, and due to the extreme weakness of the [Haitian] ruling classes and profound incapacity of the reactionary government, they are the ones who actually direct it.” The group concluded that “under occupation, nothing democratic and progressive can be accomplished.” The statement charged that none of the presidential candidates had even taken a position on the presence of MINUSTAH troops. (Adital (Brazil) 12/6/10)

*3. Puerto Rico: Police Occupy Campuses
Students from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) started a 48-hour strike on Dec. 7 to oppose plans for an $800 tuition surcharge at the public university beginning on Jan. 1 [see Update #1057]. Five people were injured during the first day of the strike as students confronted guards at the Río Piedras campus in San Juan, and the campus was closed down through Dec. 8. On Dec. 10 police chief José Figueroa Sancha announced that police agents would patrol UPR campuses, at the request of university president José Ramón de la Torre. This is the first time the police have had a presence in the university in nearly 30 years.

The tuition increase is the main issue that was left unsettled after a 62-day student strike last spring, and UPR administrators and the Puerto Rican government are clearly afraid of a renewal of the student protests, which shut down 10 of the 11 UPR campuses and largely defeated efforts to impose an austerity budget. Some observers think students are less likely to support a strike now, and the authorities are playing to students’ concerns about their education. On Dec. 7 UPR Board of Trustees president Ygrí Rivera warned that the loss of more school days in a strike might lead to the university being denied academic accreditation and possibly funds from the US federal government. (Prensa Latina 12/7/10; EFE 12/10/10 via Telemundo TV Atlanta )

The use of police on campus might build support for more protests, however. Student strikers responded to the police presence at Río Piedras by starting a vigil there, while an assembly of professors at the campus decided not to hold classes as long as the police remained. (La Raza (Chicago) 12/10/10)

On Dec. 12 hundreds of parents, students, professors, alumni and university employees marched against the surcharge in a demonstration organized by the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU) and the National Confederation of Associations of University Professors (CONAPU) and endorsed by the Action Committee of Mothers, Fathers and Relatives of UPR Students. With banners, puppets and drums, the protesters marched in San Juan from the Capitol to La Fortaleza, the governor’s residence; the traditional Christmas-season Three Kings led the parade, carrying Puerto Rican flags. Alis Morales Pérez, a spokesperson for the relatives’ committee, told reporters that she was “the mother of three daughters at Río Piedras that I raised by myself” and “[u]nlike the legislators” she didn’t “have the money to pay even the $800 for one of them, much less the $2,400 to cover the [extra] tuition for all three.” (Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 12/11/10, 12/12/10)

UPR professors noted parallels between the protests in Puerto Rico and those in the United Kingdom, where students held massive mobilizations on Dec. 9 against the imposition of tuition at public universities. “What’s obvious in both cases is that the citizenry and the students are demanding that the state honor its moral and ethical responsibility for public education,” historian Pedro Reina said. According to social sciences professor Samuel Silva Gotay, “both [countries] are experiencing the imposition of the economic policies of neoliberalism…. They could destroy a whole generation of the intellectuals who are the ones that the development of any country or place depends on.” (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 12/12/10)

*4. Latin America: Argentina, Brazil Recognize Palestine
On Dec. 3 the government of Brazil announced that it was recognizing Palestine as an independent state within the borders defined in 1967. Argentina followed on Dec. 6. Uruguay is planning to recognize Palestine in 2011, Foreign Relations Vice Minister Roberto Conde has told the AFP wire service.

A total of 104 countries recognize Palestine, which declared itself a state in 1988. Until this month’s declaration, the only Latin American countries that recognized it were Costa Rica, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Israeli officials are reportedly concerned that Mexico, Ecuador and El Salvador may follow Brazil and Argentina’s lead. Once Uruguay has proceeded with the recognition, Paraguay will be the only full member of the important Mercosur trading bloc that doesn’t recognize Palestine. In his Dec. 6 statement on Palestine, Argentine foreign minister Héctor Timerman was careful to note that “Mercosur maintains relations of friendship and cooperation with Israel, which remain reflected in the Free Trade Agreement signed with the State of Israel.” (AFP 12/6/10 via (Argentina); Jerusalem Post 12/10/10)

On Dec. 9 Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva offered his “solidarity” to Julian Assange, the Australian national who started, a group that is in the process of releasing some 250,000 diplomatic cables from US embassies [see Update #1959]. Assange was arrested in London on Dec. 7 on sexual assault charges filed in Sweden. “I’m surprised they arrested the man and I didn’t see any protest,” Lula said. “The guy was just posting what he read.” Lula said WikiLeaks had “exposed a diplomacy that seemed to be untouchable,” and he warned Brazilian diplomats to be careful not to have the same thing happen to them. “If you don’t have anything to write, don’t write silliness,” he said. (Bloomberg 12/9/10)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

The Tyranny of Soy Agribusiness in Paraguay

The Bolivian Road to Socialism

Ecuador's Fickle Friend: Canada

Colombia’s Álvaro Uribe Faces Scrutiny In Washington Over Lawsuit Alleging Drummond Supported Paramilitaries

Venezuela to Map Sources of Air Pollution Nationwide

Venezuelan National Assembly Passing “Popular Power” Package of Laws

Canadian Mining Company Being Sued for Violent Death of Community Leader in Guatemala

Peasant, Indigenous Organizations Reject Market Schemes for Global Warming (Mexico)

Central America is Present: The Mesoamerican Climate Justice Campaign Makes its Way to Cancun

Protesters Say "No" to Climate Market in Cancun

Interview: Dr. William I. Robinson on Power, Domination and Conflicts in Mexico

Photo Essay: Haiti’s Presidential Elections

Haiti: As Elections Derail

"Miami Rice" - The Business of Disaster in Haiti

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Our weekly Immigration News Briefs has ended publication; for news, information and announcements in support of action for immigrant rights in the United States, subscribe to Immigrant Action at:
You can also visit the Immigrant Action blog at:

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WNU #1059: US Leaks Hit Mexican Military, “Drug War”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1059, December 5, 2010

1. Mexico: US Leaks Hit Military, “Drug War”
2. Mexico: Calderón Tries to “Isolate” Venezuela
3. Mexico: Violence Against Women and Activists Continues
4. Honduras: Campesinos March for Land Rights
5. Guatemala: Canadian Mine Sued in Activist’s Death
6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US

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: US Leaks Hit Military, “Drug War”
The US government hopes to develop a closer relationship with the Mexican military as a result of Mexico’s “war on drugs” and international humanitarian operations, according to US diplomatic cables obtained by the WikiLeaks group and posted on Dec. 2 by the Spanish daily El País. The cables also show that US and Mexican officials know the “drug war” itself is going badly, despite their public expressions of optimism.

The Mexican military has traditionally been suspicious of the US, which invaded Mexico on several occasions and seized one half of its territory in the 1840s, but Mexican attitudes are changing, according to a secret Jan. 29, 2010 assessment by the US embassy. Mexico and the US are now collaborating closely in the fight against drug trafficking, with the US funding Mexican military operations through the Mérida Initiative [see Update #952]. The Mexican navy has been receiving special operations forces (SOF) training from the US military, according to the cable, and by January the army too was asking for training. The Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti also provided an opportunity for closer collaboration: there were “[i]ncipient steps towards logistical interoperability with US forces…ongoing related to Haiti relief,” the embassy wrote. “We need to capitalize on these cracks in the door.”

The cable recommended “[e]ncouraging the Mexican military to participate more actively in the international arena, such as through greater security cooperation outreach to Central America and Colombia, and even with limited participation in regional humanitarian ops to possibly peacekeeping.” This will help “the military transition from a mentality of ‘Protecting the Revolution’”—the 1910 Mexican Revolution—“to a more active, dynamic, and flexible force.”

But the “drug war” has also created problems. More than 30,000 Mexicans have been killed since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa stepped up the militarization of drug law enforcement when he took office four years ago, and this has increasing the armed forces’ involvement in human rights violations [see Update #1049]. The military “has taken a serious beating on human rights issues from international and domestic human rights organizations, who argue with considerable basis in fact that the military is ill-equipped for a domestic policing role,” the embassy warned.

Another problem is the perception that the militarization policy isn’t working. A confidential Oct. 5, 2009 cable reported that two officials of the Attorney General’s Office (PRG) advised a visiting delegation from the US Justice Department to explore “focusing our joint efforts on two or three key cities to reverse the current wave of violence and instability and show success in the fight against the DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] in the next 18 months.” They “believe the symbolism of turning several of the most violent cities would be potent, sending a signal to the rest of the country that the fight against organized crime can be won, and combating the current sense of impotence felt by many Mexicans.”

The two officials, Jorge Tello Peón and Gerómino Gutiérrez Fernández, suggested Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua and Tijuana in Baja California Norte as the cities to focus on. (El País (Madrid) 12/2/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/3/10)

US officials continue to promote the Calderón policy publicly. This year on Nov. 24, a little more than a week before the cables were released, US ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual told an academic conference in Mexico City that the escalation of violence over the past four years wasn’t a result of President Calderón’s policies but a matter of “cartels against cartels, gangs against gangs.” At another event earlier that day, Pascual announced that the US was supplying Mexico with training and equipment worth $600 million by the end of 2011 under the Mérida Initative. (LJ 11/25/10)

Meanwhile, Mexican students have continued their protests against the militarization policy [see Update #1057]. On Nov. 20, the holiday marking the anniversary of the start of the 1910 Revolution, students marched in Ciudad Juárez to demand the removal of the army and the federal police from the area, where 2,800 people have been killed this year. The protesters were mostly from the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez (UACJ) and the Autonomous University of Chihuahua; a group of Catholic youths held a separate march for peace at the same time.

In Mexico City about 80 youths did street theater and passed out information to bystanders as army troops marched in the traditional Nov. 20 parade. Riot police broke up a student march later in the day and beat some protesters; the Federal District’s center-left government apologized to students for the incident, blaming it on lack of coordination. About 20 youths held a peace rally in Tlaxcala, capital of the central state of Tlaxcala. (LJ 11/21/10)

*2. Mexico: Calderón Tries to “Isolate” Venezuela
Mexican president Felipe Calderón has been advising the US on how to fight the influence of leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, according to a secret Oct. 23, 2009 US embassy cable that was made public by WikiLeaks on Dec. 2, 2010. During a meeting on Oct. 19, 2009 with US national intelligence director Dennis Blair, Calderón “emphasized that…Hugo Chávez is active everywhere, including Mexico,” the embassy reported. “Calderon also commented that he is particularly concerned about Venezuela's relations with Iran, and that the Iranian embassy in Mexico is very active.”

“The region needs a visible US presence, [Calderón] noted.” The most important thing was for the US to be “ready to engage the next Brazilian president,” who takes office in 2011. According to Calderón, Brazil “is key to restraining Chávez, but he lamented that President [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] has been reluctant to do so. The US needs to engage Brazil more and influence its outlook.” Calderón has been trying to do his part in countering Chávez: according to the cable, he “said that Mexico is trying to isolate Venezuela through the Rio Group,” an organization of 23 Latin American and Caribbean nations.

Calderón said he believed Chávez funded the 2006 presidential campaign of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-center candidate who narrowly missed beating Calderón according to the official results, which many Mexicans consider fraudulent. (El País (Madrid) 12/2/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/3/10) Shortly after the cable was made public on Dec. 2, López Obrador wrote in his Twitter account: “I demand that this compulsive liar Calderón demonstrate that Chávez financed our 2006 campaign.” (El Universal (Mexico City) 12/2/10)

*3. Mexico: Violence Against Women and Activists Continues
Mexico has the highest rate of violent deaths for women among countries not at war, the regional director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Ana Güezmes, said in Mexico City on Nov. 23, citing a study of 135 countries by the Queen Sofia Center in Spain. A Mexican organization, the Origin Foundation, announced on the same day that between the ages of 15 and 44 Mexican women are in greater danger of rape or abuse at home than of cancer or accidents. “Every day six women die violently: four by homicide and two by suicide,” the group said, “and 30-50% of abuse victims are under 15 years of age; 20% are under 10.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 11/24/10)

On Nov. 24 Javier Hernández Valencia, Mexican representative of the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), said the number of attacks on human rights defenders in Mexico had increased since last year. In 2009 the office reported 128 attacks, while for the one-year period from October 2009 through September 2010 the number of attacks has risen to 165. According to Hernández Valencia’s statistics, 51% of the attacks are by unidentified aggressors; 22% by private individuals; 14% by people in the justice system; 8% by municipal authorities; and 5% by the military. Chihuahua, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero were the states with the highest number of complaints. (LJ 11/25/10)

On Nov. 30 Disability Rights International (DRI) and the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) released a report charging that thousands of Mexican children and adults with mental or physical disabilities are locked away in treatment centers where they experience inhuman conditions and are subjected to dangerous medical practices, including lobotomies and incorrect drug prescriptions. After a similar report 10 years ago, the Mexican government promised to improve the situation in six months; it also promoted an international convention on rights of people with disabilities, which was ratified in 2006. But according to the new report, Abandoned & Disappeared: Mexico’s Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities, nothing has changed. (LJ 12/1/10)

*4. Honduras: Campesinos March for Land Rights
Hundreds of campesinos marched in Tegucigalpa on Dec. 2 to demand that the Honduran government resolve longstanding land conflicts in the Lower Aguán River Valley in the north of the country. The march, from the National Pedagogic University to the National Congress, was organized by various campesino groups and by the local section of Vía Campesina, an international federation of campesino organizations.

The majority of the Aguán Valley land disputes were supposed to be resolved by a pact that President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa signed with the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) on Apr. 18 to distribute a total of 8,000 hectares of farmland to campesino families if they ended their occupations of estates claimed by wealthy landowners [see Update #1029]. It is not clear how well the planned distribution has been progressing. The situation heated up again after Nov. 15, when five campesinos were killed by private guards in a separate dispute with landowner and industrialist Miguel Facussé Barjum [see Update #1058].

Campesino groups responded to the Nov. 15 killings by occupying some nine estates in the Aguán region. Meanwhile, the government deployed hundreds of troops into the area, claiming they were searching for 1,000 AK-47 and M-16 rifles allegedly hidden in the valley by groups being trained to attack the government. On Dec. 1 Security Minister Oscar Alvarez told a press conference that the army had “evidence of the entry of military weapons like AK-47s, M-16s and possibly other, more powerful arms which could be being used by groups that want to destabilize democracy in our country.” “We’ve been informed that they entered through Nicaragua,” he said.

The main military activity in the region seemed to be aimed at ending the land occupations, not at finding rebels and weapons. As of Dec. 3, the military and police had removed some 100 campesinos from the Bolero 1 and 2 estates, with plans to end the occupations at the others. The military was leaving the estates in the control of heavily armed guards contracted by the landowners. Asked why the guards were allowed to carry military weapons, Commissioner Alfredo Villatoro, who headed up the government’s operation, and Commissar Alex Madrid answered simply that the guards’ weapons were registered. According to Rigoberto Rodríguez, one of the leaders of the guards, each estate will now have a private security force of 25 men.

On Dec. 4 President Lobo acknowledged that "[t]here is no evidence of any participation [of] “the government of Nicaragua” in training rebels to destabilize the Honduran government. (EFE 12/2/10 via; Prensa Latina 12/3/10, ___ ; AFP 12/4/10 via MSN)

*5. Guatemala: Canadian Mine Sued in Activist’s Death
On Dec. 1 indigenous Guatemalan Angelica Choc and her lawyers, Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors, announced a lawsuit in Ontario, Canada, against the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals Inc. for the murder of Choc’s husband, Adolfo Ich Chamán, in the community of El Estor in the eastern department of Izabal on Sept. 27, 2009. Choc charges that security guards working for HudBay, HMI Nickel Inc., and their Guatemalan subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, murdered Ich, a leader in the local Q'eqchi' community, because of his opposition to violations by the mining companies.

The lawsuit seeks $2 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Choc is taking the case to Canadian civil courts because of the high level of impunity in criminal cases in Guatemala. The Canadian organization Rights Action has expressed hope that the suit will set a precedent for such actions. According to HudBay official John Vincic, the company’s own investigation found that none of its employees were involved in the killing. He called the suit "misconceived" and "without merit." (Rights Action 12/2/10; CBC News (Canada) 12/2/10; Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 12/3/10)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US

Wikileaks Reveals Cables Criticizing Fernández de Kirchner; Chávez Calls For Clinton’s Resignation

Doubt Cast on Chile's Commitment to Human Rights

WikiLeaks: Paraguay voices concerns on US spying

The Ambassador Has No Clothes: WikiLeaks Cable Lays Bare Washington’s Stance Toward Bolivia

BP Sued in Ecuador for Violating the Rights of Nature

What's next for the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement?

Wikileaks Cables: US Embassy Helping Cubans Get to Miami from Venezuela

Chavez Supporters March in Caracas for "Radicalization" of the Revolution and Against “Imperialism and Bureaucratism”

WikiLeaks Honduras: State Department Busted on Support of Coup

A State of Siege in Northern Honduras: Land, Palm Oil and Media

Dispatch From Cancún: Developing Paradise in the Suicide Capital

WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Authorities’ Uncertainty In Mexican Drug War

Calderon’s Drug War Wreaks Havoc on Mexican Workers, Unions

The Historic End to the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s Rule in Oaxaca

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Suggests U.S. Invasion of Mexico

Haiti election a 'massive fraud'--CBC News witnesses blatant ballot-box stuffing

U.N. Asks Haiti To Ignore Unofficial Elections Results; Cholera Death Toll Tops 1,800

Wikileaks and Latin America: Same Old Imperious U.S. Diplomats

The G20 Summit: IMF Reform and the End of the Washington Consensus

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