Monday, March 14, 2011

WNU #1071: Women Protest Violence and Discrimination

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1071, March 13, 2011

1. South America: Women’s Day Events Focus on Violence, Poverty
2. Central America: Women Protest Rise in Femicides
3. Mexico: Demos Target Murders of Women Activists
4. Caribbean: Cuban Women Dance, Dominicans March Backwards
5. Puerto Rico: Students’ Aggression Clouds Women’s Day Events
6. Argentina: Mapuche Win One, Lose One in Land Disputes
7. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, 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 . It is archived at

*1. South America: Women’s Day Events Focus on Violence, Poverty
South Americans celebrated International Women’s Day on Mar. 8, the holiday’s 100th anniversary, with actions calling attention to the murders of women, along with other forms of violence against women and failures by the region’s governments to provide security from these crimes.

In Argentina, unions and social and human rights organizations held marches in the main cities to demand an end to violence against women; some also called for approval of a law decriminalizing abortion. Meeting House (Casa del Encuentro), a women’s support organization, scheduled a sit-in in front of the National Congress with the slogan “No one listened to them,” referring to women who report family violence of which they are victims but are ignored by the police. “We’re witnessing alarming numbers of women being burned by their partners,” Leonor Arrigo, the director of the Abused Woman’s Aid Center, said on local radio stations. Women’s organizations have recorded 50 cases of gender-based violence so far this year, according to Arrigo, but she noted that the lack of reliable official statistics on this sort of violence forces nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to depend on accounts in the media.

Dilma Rousseff, the first woman to be president of Brazil, marked the day with a message calling the “elimination of gender discrimination and the valuing of women and girls...indispensable strategies for bringing about the struggle against poverty.” “In Brazil poverty has a face—it is feminine,” she explained. Rousseff has called the eradication of poverty the “fundamental” objective of her administration. (AFP 3/8/11 via Terra (Peru); La Raza (Chicago) 3/9/11 from EFE)

Some 70 Peruvian organizations held a sit-in in front of the Judicial Branch in Lima and delivered a letter to its president, César San Martín, demanding that justice be accessible to women who are victims of violence. According to the Judicial Branch, at least 123 women were murdered by their partners or ex-partners in 2010. (AFP 3/8/11 via Terra (Peru)) In Ayacucho, capital of the southern province of Huamanga, dozens of women from the National Association of Relatives of the Kidnapped, Detained and Disappeared of Peru (Anfasep) marched through the main streets with signs referring to the political violence of the 1980s and the failure of the government to pay attention to the victims. Protester Mercedes Gutiérrez Ochoa’s two children disappeared in 1983. “Maybe my children are alive,” she said. “At least I’d be resigned if I could bury their bodies, but now I know nothing.” She said she’d come from Arizona community in Vinchos. “I got soaked by the rain, but I have to come to make my voice heard,” she said. (Correo Perú 3/9/11)

The United Nations agency for women, UN Women, opened its office for Colombia on Mar. 8 in Bogotá. Local director Margarita Bueso said women are “without doubt the ones most hurt” by the country’s armed conflict. Guests for the opening reception included women in the government of rightwing president Juan Manuel Santos--Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín, Attorney General Viviane Morales and others--and the director of the Women for Peace Initiative (IMP), Angela Cerón. Created last July, UN Women is headed by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet. (AFP 3/8/11 via Terra (Peru); Radio Santa Fe (Bogotá) 3/8/11)

International Women’s Day coincided with traditional Carnaval (Mardi Gras) celebrations on the last day before Lent. In Venezuela, a group of women participated in a Carnaval parade in a float celebrating the women heroes of the country’s struggle for independence. The government of President Hugo Chávez reportedly promoted this activity. (AFP 3/8/11 via Terra (Peru))

*2. Central America: Women Protest Rise in Femicides
Central America is said to have the highest rate of femicides—misogynist murders—in Latin America, and many women’s rights organizations marked International Women’s Day on Mar. 8 with street protests demanding that the region’s governments take measures to stop the killings.

In Nicaragua, hundreds of women participated in a cultural event in which they defended their right to live free of violence and called for more opportunities to win public offices. Elections for the presidency and the National Assembly are scheduled for Nov. 6.

Various Salvadoran organizations demonstrated in El Salvador in favor of a gender equality law that would guarantee the dignity of women.

Dozens of Honduran women demonstrated on Mar. 7, the day before International Women’s Day, carrying candles in memory of murdered women and charging that “the crimes remain in the most absolute impunity.” The conservative government’s National Human Rights Commission (Conadeh) reported that the number of violent deaths continues to rise, reaching 343 in 2010, with at least 60 so far this year.

In Guatemala thousands of women marched through Guatemala City’s historic center to demand greater political participation and an end to impunity for violence against women. According to human rights organizations, there are an average of two murders of women every day in Guatemala, with at least 700 in 2010. (AFP 3/8/11 via Terra (Peru))

*3. Mexico: Demos Target Murders of Women Activists
Mexican social organizations and human rights groups carried out actions in at least eight states on Mar. 8, International Women’s Day, to demand that the authorities end the murders of women, categorize femicide as a special crime, and pay attention to women’s demands.

Much of the focus was on the recent murders of women activists in the northern state of Chihuahua. Dozens of people marched outside the state prosecutor’s local office in Ciudad Juárez to demand action on the murders of Juárez-based activists, including Marisela Escobedo, six members of the Reyes Salazar family and Susana Chávez, a poet and activist who was strangled on Jan. 5. Demonstrators also demanded investigations of the disappearances of many area women, such as Silvia Arce, who was reportedly taken away by ex-federal judicial police agents 13 years ago [see Updates #1061, 1067, 1069]. So far this year, 87 women have been killed in the state, 57 of them in Juárez.

The center-left government of the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) is currently providing police protection and medical and psychological services for 12 members of the Reyes Salazar family. Violence against the family started after activist Josefina Reyes Salazar began denouncing the federal government’s militarized “war against drugs,” including the arrest of one of her sons. The family is in Mexico City while it considers seeking political asylum in another country.

In Nuevo León, another northern state suffering from “drug war” violence, dozens of activists demonstrated in front of the state government building in Monterrey calling for an end to the murders of women and for respect for gender equality. They lit candles in memory of murdered women and carried three crosses spelling out the slogan: “Not one more.”

Some 5,000 people demonstrated and blocked four highways in the largely indigenous southeastern state of Chiapas to protest violence against women. The actions took place in 15 municipalities, including San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chenalhó, Ixtapa, Pueblo Nuevo, Frontera Comalapa and Ocosingo. Some 500 women from the Civil Society Organization Las Abejas (“The Bees”), marched 3 km from Majomut community, Chenalhó, to protest at a military base. Soldiers blocked the way when the women tried to enter the base to pray. The 45 indigenous people massacred in Acteal on Dec. 22, 1997, were members of the organization [see Update #427].

In the southern state of Oaxaca, teachers from the militant Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) suspended classes and marched through the state capital, Oaxaca city, for a rally; organizers said there were 40,000 people at the demonstration, while state police put attendance at 20,000. (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/8/11, 3/9/11)

Also on Mar. 8, women’s rights activists said they were taking seriously an announcement by Humberto Moreira Valdés, president of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), that he would hold a consultation to establish his party’s position on abortion. Currently abortion is legal only in the DF, while 16 states have toughened their anti-abortion laws recently, often with the votes of PRI legislators [see Update #1047]. Both Moreira and former PRI president Beatriz Paredes have said they support a woman’s right to choose. (LJ 3/9/11)

*4. Caribbean: Cuban Women Dance, Dominicans March Backwards
The National Ballet of Cuba, under the direction of the renowned Alicia Alonso, marked International Women’s Day with a special performance on the evening of Mar. 7, honoring women heroes of the 1959 Revolution, including the late Vilma Espín, wife of current president Raúl Castro. (AFP 3/8/11 via Terra (Peru))

In Santo Domingo a group of Dominican women dressed in black celebrated Mar. 8 with a backwards march. Women are “those most affected by the great evils the country is experiencing,” organizers said, “since they are the ones who do the most purchasing, who suffer the most from the blackouts in the home, the lack of employment, the lack of security, among many other evils.” With signs reading “Today women are in mourning,” “No to corruption in the government,” “No to the high cost of food,” “No to the blackouts,” the women walked backwards to the music of “The Bus Is in Reverse,” a song by Dominican singer Juan Luis Guerra. The protest was organized by the women of the Democratic Institutional Party (PDI), which appears be a spit-off from the social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). (La Raza (Chicago) 3/9/11 from EFE)

Correction: This paragraph originally gave an incorrect acronym for the Democratic Institutional Party.

*5. Puerto Rico: Students’ Aggression Clouds Women’s Day Events
A coalition of Puerto Rican feminist organizations held a march in San Juan on Mar. 8, International Women’s Day, from the Labor Department building to the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), the site of months of student protests against an $800 tuition surcharge [see Update #1068]. The marchers held a rally when they reached the campus, with an artistic presentation and various speeches. Adriana Mulero, a leader in the student protests, charged that conservative governor Luis Fortuño had worked against women’s rights with his austerity program, which she had left many women heads of households without jobs. She also dismissed “Man’s Promise,” a program Fortuño has promoted as a way to end domestic violence, as reinforcing male stereotypes.

Mulero was questioned about an incident the day before in which a group of student protesters disrupted a meeting UPR rector Ana Guadalupe was attending at the Architecture School and physically attacked Guadalupe and the dozen campus guards accompanying her. Mulero said this was not the time to discuss the incident. However, other speakers denounced the students’ actions.

On the day of the attack, the Student Representative Committee (CRE), which has led the protests against the surcharge, qualified the attitude of the students involved as “reactionary,” although the CRE said the campus guards had partly provoked the violence. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 3/8/11; NCM 3/9/11 via Puerto Rico Indymedia)

Supporters of the student protesters held a World Day of Solidarity with the University of Puerto Rico on Mar. 11, the 40th anniversary of a violent confrontation between police and student protesters at Río Piedras, and one day before the anniversary of the UPR’s founding on Mar. 12, 1903. Activists organized events in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, Spain and the United States. In the United Kingdom, where students have been protesting similar education cutbacks, University of Manchester students joined with solidarity activists for a march against the surcharge. (Adital (Brazil) 3/11/11)

*6. Argentina: Mapuche Win One, Lose One in Land Disputes
Indigenous Mapuche-Tehuelche organizations and allied groups marched in Esquel, in the western Argentine province of Chubut, on Mar. 10 to support Santa Rosa Leleque community members as they filed an appeal in a land dispute with Compañía Tierras Sur Argentino S A, a subsidiary of the Italian multinational Benetton. A decision by Judge Omar Magallanes favoring Benetton had been announced on Mar. 1; Magallanes conceded the multinational 500 hectares where the community is located and ordered the Mapuche residents to leave within 10 days.

A judicial order first awarded the land to Benetton in 2002, but community members reoccupied it in 2008. They base their claim to the land on provisions of the Argentine Constitution and International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169. The community argues that it is “resisting and fighting in 534 hectares, while Benetton owns more than 1.5 million hectares” in Argentina’s Patagonian region. (Adital (Brazil) 3/9/11; Organización Periodística Independiente Santa Cruz (Argentina) 3/11/11)

At almost the same time, the Cutral-Có Civil Court 2 in the western province of Neuquén ruled in favor of a Mapuche group and against an oil company, basing its decision on the same provisions of the Argentine Constitution and ILO Convention 169 that the Santa Rosa Leleque community is citing in its appeal. The Neuquén ruling, made on Feb. 16 but not announced until early March, found that the Mapuche Wentru Trawel Leufu community had rights regarding the land it occupied and needed to be consulted in any exploitation of its resources. Analysts say the decision could be an important precedent for indigenous rights both in the province and in the country.

The Neuquén government granted the Piedra del Aguila oil company a concession of 3,800 hectares in the Picún Leufú region in January 2007. When the Wentru Trawel Leufu community resisted, the company contracted 40 people to drive the residents away, killing almost 100 animals and setting fire to two houses and one vehicle. The company also got a court order backing its claims to the land, but in 2008 the community filed the appeal that led the higher court to overturn the earlier ruling. (Página 12 (Argentina) 3/9/11)

*7. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti
Wikileaks Cables of Interest on Latin America, February 27 to March 6, 2011

Moving to the Latin Beat: Dancing with Dynamite in Latin America

Independence is Another Name for Dignity (Uruguay)

Brazilian-U.S. Overtures Bode Well for U.S. Companies

Land Clearing Begins for Destructive Amazon Dam in Brazil

Rural Women Protest Use of Toxic Agrochemicals (Brazil)

From Red October to Evo Morales: The Politics of Rebellion and Reform in Bolivia

Colombia Slips Into the Abyss as FTA Threatens Further Havoc

Chavez Gambles on Gaddafi Diplomacy

Venezuela Hosts Global Grassroots Women’s Conference to Mark 100-year Anniversary of International Women’s Day

U.S. Feels Threatened by MERCOSUR Consolidation and Venezuela’s “Generosity” in the Region

Court In El Salvador Sentences 10 Gang Members to Prison For Killing Of Journalist Christian Poveda

Military Coups are Good for Canadian Business: The Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement

Guatemalan First Lady Sandra Torres de Colom Announces Bid For Presidency

Ciudad Juárez: the silencing of women’s voices

Women Human Rights Defenders Risk Death, Discrimination (Mexico)

Mexico Arrests Alleged Zeta Financier In Killing of ICE Agent

Day 23 in the Trial of Posada Carriles (Cuba)

Haiti Election Boycott Takes Shape: World Intellectuals and Activists Call to Annul Elections

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