Tuesday, May 31, 2011

WNU #1081: Two Chilean Hunger Strikers Are Hospitalized

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1081, May 29, 2011

1. Chile: Two Mapuche Hunger Strikers Are Hospitalized
2. Honduras: Zelaya Returns, Resistance Responses Vary
3. Mexico: Indigenous Group Protests Mining Concessions
4. Haiti: Cops Evict More Earthquake Survivors
5. Haiti: US Extends TPS, Deportations Continue
6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, 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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Chile: Two Mapuche Hunger Strikers Are Hospitalized
Two Chilean Mapuche prisoners, Ramón Llanquileo Pilquimán and José Huenuche Reimán, were admitted to a hospital in Victoria, Malleco province, Araucanía region, on May 26 after 72 days of a liquids-only hunger strike. Corrections authorities denied that the prisoners’ lives were in danger; Araucanía health secretary Gloria Rodríguez said “the Mapuches are being monitored permanently,” without offering an opinion on their condition.

Two other Mapuche prisoners, Héctor Llaitul Carillanca, Jonathan Huillical Méndez, are also on hunger strike; the four strikers have each lost about 20 kilograms (44 pounds). They are “very weak” and their relatives are concerned about their health, according to Millaray Garrido, Huenuche’s wife.

The four prisoners, who are held in the Angol prison, started the strike on Mar. 15 to protest their treatment in a “terrorism” case relating to a fire and an attack on a prosecutor, Mario Elgueta, in Arauco province in October 2008. All 17 defendants were acquitted of the terrorism charges on Feb. 22 this year, but the four hunger strikers were convicted of common crimes and given sentences of 20 to 25 years in prison. They say the trial was unfair because prosecutors used an unidentified witness and filed charges based on a harsh “antiterrorism” law that dates back to the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and has been used to repress protests by the Mapuches, Chile’s largest indigenous group [see Update #1077].

Chilean indigenous communities and parts of the political opposition consider the case a show trial set up by prosecutors, police agents and business people to get Mapuche leaders behind bars and stop their struggle to recover Mapuche land. (Adital (Brazil) 5/25/11; La Tercera (Santiago) 5/27/11)

Solidarity with the hunger strikers was one of the themes of a large march in Santiago on May 28 whose main focus was opposition to the HidroAysén project, a plan to build a complex of five dams that environmentalists say would threaten fjords and valleys in the Patagonia region [see World War 4 Report 5/12/11]. Natividad Llanquileo, a spokesperson for the strikers, called on the protesters to participate in future demonstrations for Mapuche prisoners. The march also supported demands raised by university students and sexual minorities. (Radio Universidad de Chile (Santiago) 5/28/11)

Note: In previous reports we gave Ramón Llanquileo’s name as “Llanaquileo,” following some of our sources.

*2. Honduras: Zelaya Returns, Resistance Responses Vary
Thousands of Hondurans gathered at Tegucigalpa’s Toncontín International Airport on May 28 to greet former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) as he returned from a 16-month exile. After arriving in a Venezuelan plane proceeding from Managua, Zelaya told the crowd at the airport that he would continue to fight for a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the 1982 Constitution; a similar call for a Constituent Assembly was the pretext for a military coup that removed Zelaya from office on June 28, 2009. “We are going to power with the popular resistance,” he said.

The military flew Zelaya to Costa Rica during the 2009 coup, but he managed to slip back into Honduras that September and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Zelaya agreed to go into exile in the Dominican Republic in January 2010 when current president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa took office. The return from exile was arranged through an agreement, brokered by Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos Calderón and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías, which Zelaya and Lobo signed in Cartagena, Colombia on May 22. The Organization of American States (OAS), which suspended Honduras after the 2009 coup, apparently agreed to readmit Honduras as a member once Zelaya was permitted to return. Honduras’ readmission might come as early as June 1,

On May 29 Zelaya was scheduled to meet with five teachers who have been on hunger strike in Tegucigalpa and to give an interview to the left-leaning Radio Globo. After that he was planning to go to his home in Olancho department. (El Universo (Guayaquil, Ecuador) 5/29/11; TeleSur (Venezuela) 5/29/11)

In addition to allowing Zelaya’s return, the accord signed in Cartagena also provides for the return of members of his government and other people who fled the country after the coup; it says the Lobo government will respect human rights and notes the creation of a new Ministry of Justice and Human Rights; it says that the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), a broad coalition of labor and grassroots organizations that formed to resist the coup, has the right to constitute itself as a political party; and it indicates that under a constitutional amendment passed in January this year a popular referendum can be held to call for a Constituent Assembly [see Update #1063]. (Honduras Culture and Politics blog 5/22/11)

The FNRP supports Zelaya and has designated him as its general coordinator, but it's a broad coalition and member groups have different views of the Cartagena agreement. Juan Barahona, an FNRP spokesperson and a campesino leader, told reporters on May 29 that the front was ready to start gathering signatures to get recognition as a political party, with the goal of “taking power.” But an official statement by the FNRP political committee was more discreet, simply referring to the possibility of forming a party as an “advance.” The statement also expressed skepticism about the Lobo government’s willingness to respect human rights.

The Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the country's main indigenous coalition, is an important force in the FNRP. Its May 27 statement welcoming Zelaya’s return was implicitly critical of the agreement. Far from accepting Lobo’s good faith, the group pledged to “deepen all our efforts at denouncing the criminal dictatorship led by Porfirio Lobo Sosa, peon of the oligarchy and of North American imperialism.” “We will not forget,” the statement concluded, “we will not forgive, and WE WILL NOT reconcile!!” (Europa Press 5/19/11; Honduras Culture and Politics blog 5/24/11, 5/27/11)

*3. Mexico: Indigenous Group Protests Mining Concessions
Some 500 people marched in Guadalajara, capital of the western Mexican state of Jalisco, on May 20 to demand that the federal and state governments honor their commitments to protect land that is sacred to the Wixárika (Huichol) indigenous group. The protesters’ main focus was the 22 concessions that the federal Economy Secretariat has given to First Majestic Silver Corp (FMS), a Canadian mining company, to extract gold and silver in some 6,000 hectares around Real de Catorce in the north central state of San Luis Potosí. They say this was done without the consent of affected indigenous groups.

The Wixárika now live in an area that includes parts of Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas, but they say their ancestral homeland was in San Luis Potosí, and every year some Wixárika walk 500 km to the Wirikuta area in Real de Catorce to gather the peyote that they use in religious ceremonies. The San Luis Potosí government declared the Wirikuta a protected area in 1994, and on Apr. 28, 2008, Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and the governors of Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas signed the Pact of Hauxa Manaka’a, in which they agreed to respect the area’s ecological integrity.

The Wirikuta’s environment was damaged by silver mining in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the Wixárika protesters in Guadalajara expressed fears that even more damage would result from new methods of extraction that FMS is expected to use. Activist Antonio Hayanueme García Mijárez said the concessions were sold to FMS and its Mexican subsidiary, Minera Real de Bonanza, S.A. de C.V., for just $3 million, “less than was paid for Chicharito”—the Guadalajara born soccer star Javier Hernández, who plays with the English soccer club Manchester United.

There were also solidarity actions in Mexico City, New York and Vancouver. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/9/11, 5/21/11; Upside Down World 4/1/11)

The Vancouver action was part of Mining Justice Week, a series of events the week of May 16 to call Canadians’ attention to the role of Canadian mining companies in Latin America. In addition to the FMS concessions in the Wirikuta, indigenous activists focused on Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc’s Marlin mine in Guatemala, operated by the wholly owned subsidiary Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, and Goldcorp’s San Martín mine in Honduras [see Update #1056, World War 4 Report 9/21/07]. (Intercontinental Cry 5/26/11)

*4. Haiti: Cops Evict More Earthquake Survivors
Armed with machetes and knives, Haitian national police and local officials destroyed some 200 tents in a homeless camp on a public space in the Delmas 3 neighborhood northeast of downtown Port-au-Prince the morning of May 23. Camp residents, who were living there because they lost their homes in a devastating earthquake in January 2010, ran for cover or protested the action while their temporary shelters were demolished. Wilson Jeudy, the mayor of Delmas, a subsection of the capital, claimed that the operation’s target was not the earthquake victims but criminal gangs he said had been using the camp.

“This is the work of animals,” resident Guérin Pierre told the Miami Herald after the raid. “This is the worst kind of humiliation someone can experience. They chose to do this at the start of the hurricane season. This is abuse.”

In contrast to many previous evictions from the displaced persons' camps, the Delmas 3 operation drew international attention. US congressional representatives Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Donald M. Payne (D-NJ), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) issued a joint statement on May 25 deploring the evictions. On May 26 Sylvie van den Wildenberg, spokesperson for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), announced at the occupation force’s weekly press conference that “[f]orced expulsions go against the guiding principles regarding displaced persons.”

Rightwing Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) moved quickly to distance himself from Delmas mayor Jeudy; the new evictions took place just eight days after Martelly’s inauguration, leading to suspicions that Martelly was pushing for the evictions. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/23/11, 5/27/11; Agence Haïtienne de Presse (Haiti) 5/26/11; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 5/27/11; Miami Herald 5/27/11)

According to the intergovernmental International Organization for Migration (IOM, OIM in French and Creole), some 234,000 people were removed from camps from June 2010 to April this year and 166,000 of the 680,000 people still living in camps are currently under the threat of eviction [see Update #1080]. However, a report being prepared for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is said to challenge these numbers.

LTL Strategies, the Washington, DC-based business consulting firm that is writing the report, “Building Assessments and Rubble Removal in Quake-Affected Neighborhoods in Haiti,” says it conducted a house-to-house survey and concluded that the number of people living in the camps is just 5-10% of the IOM numbers. In its May 13 report, the consultants also estimated that 46,190 to 84,961 people were killed in the earthquake, about 2.2% of the population in the affected area. The Haitian government’s estimate is 200,000 to 300,000 killed, or nearly 10% of the population in the area.

The lower numbers of victims and of displaced persons could have a significant effect on the levels of aid Haiti receives. An unnamed Haitian official found it “surprising that we should be talking about new figures now.” Mark Toner, a US State Department spokesperson, noted that the report was still just a draft and that it had “internal inconsistencies” that would have to be examined. (Haïti Libre 5/28/11)

*5. Haiti: US Extends TPS, Deportations Continue
The US Department of Homeland Security announced the week of May 16 that it was extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians for another 18 months, until Jan. 22, 2013. TPS is a program that allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the US because of temporary conditions in their homelands that would prevent them from returning safely, such as a natural catastrophe. TPS was first granted to Haitians living in the US without documents in January 2010 following an earthquake that devastated much of southern Haiti. (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 5/17/11; Homeland Security announcement 5/19/11)

However, the US is continuing to deport Haitians who have been convicted of a crime, despite the dangerous conditions in the country and the bad publicity the US received following the death of Wildrick Guerrier, apparently from cholera, shortly after he was repatriated in January of this year [see Update #1066]. Another mass deportation occurred on Apr. 15. The University of Miami Immigration and Human Rights Clinics, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, FAMN and Alternative Chance have prepared an internet petition calling on US president Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to halt the deportations. At the end of May 29 there were 4,044 signatures on the petition, which can be accessed at http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/383/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6590

To bring more attention to the issue, CCR created a 15-second ad calling for an end to the deportations and paid for it to run once an hour on a Jumbotron screen operated by CBS Outdoor in New York’s Times Square. But CCR received an email from the Neutron Media marketing firm saying: “The CBS censors have pulled down your creative for being too controversial.” CCR is calling for people to write CBS Outdoor at info@cbsoutdoor.com and ask the company to explain its reasons for removing the ad. (New York Daily News 5/24/11)

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

Chilean Government Resumes Use of Tear Gas As HidroAysén Protests Continue

Fresh Chile autopsy to solve Allende mystery

Brazil lower house passes reforms easing restrictions on deforestation

2 Environmental Activists Shot Dead In Brazil, As Congress Debates Loosening Restrictions On Clearing Amazon Rainforest
http://latindispatch.com/2011/05/26/2-environmental-activists-shot-dead-in-brazil-as-congress-debates-loosening-restrictions-on-clearing-amazon-rainforest /

Bolivia: Communities Pioneer Sustainable Development

The Real Cola Wars (Bolivia)

Peru: indigenous protesters seize Lake Titicaca border city to oppose mining project

The “Fascist Threat” on Peru’s Doorstep

Colombia: ecology, indigenous rights in the balance as high court strikes down mineral code

Colombia passes victim compensation law —as armed conflict continues

Hugo Chávez pledges support to Syria's Assad against "fascist conspiracy" (Venezuela)

Venezuela Condemns U.S. “Imperialist” Sanctions

Interview: New Petrol Law Will Ensure that Profits from Crude-Oil Exports are Distributed to the People

Venezuela: Rural Killers Enjoy Impunity

El Salvadoran Government & Social Movements Say No to Monsanto

Honduras: "normalization" ...of political violence?

Zelaya's Return: Neither Reconciliation nor Democracy in Honduras

Ousted president’s return to Honduras doesn’t mean repression is over

The Hidden History of Mexico/U.S. Labor Solidarity

Labor Law Reform – A Key Battle for Mexican Unions Today

Zapatistas March in Solidarity Against Calderon’s Drug War (Mexico)

Mexico's No More Bloodshed Movement (Video report)

Calderón in Juárez (Mexico)

Mexico’s Agustín Carstens Bids To Head IMF; Faces Tough Competition From France’s Lagarde

Presumed Guilty: Oaxaca Justice (Mexico)

Haitian Mayor’s Office Launches Violent Campaign to Destroy Refugee Camps

Obama To Visit Puerto Rico In June; First Official Presidential Visit To Island Since Kennedy

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