Tuesday, June 28, 2011

WNU #1085: Haitian Peasants Demand an Agricultural Policy

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1085, June 26, 2011

1. Haiti: Peasants March for a “Real Agricultural Policy”
2. Haiti: UN Office Criticizes Aid Distribution
3. Mexico: Military Admits 44 Violations in “Drug War”
4. Links to alternative sources on: Environment, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, 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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Haiti: Peasants March for a “Real Agricultural Policy”
Thousands of Haitian peasants marched in the city of Hinche in the Central Plateau region on June 21 to demand that the government promote food sovereignty, the restoration of the environment and the development of an agriculture “adapted to the reality of our country.” “There needs to be a real agricultural policy,” protesters said, in distinction to current policies that encourage the importation of food, seeds and other agricultural commodities.

“Every day we see our neighbors giving up farming in the absence of any decent income,” said a longtime planter who gave his name as Jérôme. “Young peasants are very often discouraged by the lack of economic prospects [and] the prohibitive cost of land.” Another farmer, who came to the demonstration from the nearby town of Papaye, charged that competition from “agricultural commodities produced in the countries of the north in an intensive manner with enormous mechanical resources ruins food-producing agriculture that is respectful of human beings.” Camille Chalmers, an economist from the Port-au-Prince-based nonprofit Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), noted that the invasion of public land by private investors is also a threat for local populations, which are deprived of their means of subsistence.

The protest was organized by several grassroots organizations, including the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), which sponsored a similar demonstration in June 2010 against the “poisoned gift” of hybrid seeds offered by the US multinational Monsanto [see Update #1036]. Like last year’s protest, the June 21 march ended with a rally in Hinche’s Charlemagne Péralte plaza, where organizers distributed locally produced seeds and seedlings. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 6/22/11)

*2. Haiti: UN Office Criticizes Aid Distribution
The distribution of international aid after the devastating January 2010 earthquake in southern Haiti has been slow and in some ways counterproductive, according to a United Nations (UN) report released in June of this year. “Has Aid Changed? Channeling assistance to Haiti before and after the earthquake” was prepared by the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Haiti; the office was set up in May 2009 “to assist the Haitian government and people in carrying out their priorities with the help of the international community,” according to a UN press release.

Following the earthquake international donors pledged a total of $4.58 billion in aid for 2010 and 2011. Only $1.74 billion has been disbursed so far, leaving $2.84 billion, about 60%, still not paid out, the report says. “And yet disbursing funds is only part of the aid picture,” the report adds. About 99% of the short-term relief aid after the earthquake was given to “bilateral and multilateral humanitarian agencies, the Red Cross movement and international non-state service providers, including NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and private contractors”; only 1% went to the Haitian government. Some 55% of the long-term recovery aid has gone to “multilateral agencies, international non-state service providers, and non-specified recipients,” with just 12% going directly to the Haitian government.

Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti Paul Farmer, a US doctor who founded Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante, a respected community-based health service in Haiti, writes in a forward to the report that “the already challenging task of moving from relief to recovery—which requires government leadership, above all—becomes almost impossible” when “over 99% of relief funding [is] circumventing Haitian public institutions.” “We have heard from the Haitian people time and again that creating jobs and supporting the government to ensure access to basic services are essential to restoring dignity,” he continues. “To revitalize Haitian institutions, we must channel money through them.” (UN press release 6/23/11; AlterPresse (Haiti) 6/25/11)

The Office of the Special Envoy is headed by former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), who is also co-president of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, or CIRH in French and Spanish), a group set up by donor nations in March 2010 to disburse and monitor international aid. A number of Haitians, including Haitian members of the CIRH, have criticized the commission for leaving Haitians out of its decision-making process [see Update #1061].

*3. Mexico: Military Admits 44 Violations in “Drug War”
According to Mexico’s National Defense Secretariat (Sedena), the military has taken responsibility for 44 cases of violations of civilians’ human rights since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa ordered soldiers to join in the fight against drug trafficking. Sedena says it has initiated criminal or administrative proceedings against 223 soldiers, including officers, in these cases. However, no general has faced charges so far, and no soldier has received a sentence in cases resulting from recommendations by the government’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). A total of 5,055 complaints against the military have been received by the CNDH during this period; the military dismisses some of these as “presented by members [of criminal organizations] to discredit the military institution and in this way to limit its operations.”

The military has opened criminal proceedings in five new cases this year.

One stems from an incident the night of June 20, 2009, on the Chilpancingo-Las Peñas-Puebla federal highway in the southern state of Guerrero. Soldiers at a roadblock stopped a bus and inspected the passengers, arresting one for “probable” unauthorized use of an official uniform. The military says the bus driver then tried to drive away despite orders to stop and the soldiers fired on the bus, killing one person.

In another case, soldiers fired on a family car the night of Sept. 5, 2010, on the Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo highway in the northern state of Nuevo León, killing Vicente de León Ramírez and his 16-year-old son, Alejandro Gabriel de León Castellanos, and injuring six other people [see Update #1049].

In a third case, on Sept. 30, 2009, officials of Emiliano Zapata municipality in the southern state of Tabasco reported that 10 people with their faces covered took detainees to a military base, where they were allegedly mistreated. There are also proceedings related to a newspaper report that a civilian had died during a confrontation between the military and a criminal organization; Sedena didn’t indicate where or when this took place.

In the fifth case, the complainants were riding in a van at night on Sept. 18, 2009, in Comitán de Domínguez municipality in the southeastern state of Chiapas when soldiers at a checkpoint apparently told them to stop and fired on the van when they didn’t respond to the order. One person was killed and three were wounded. (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/24/11)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Environment, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti

Renewable Energies Will Devour Metal Resources in Latin America

Memory in Exile: An Interview with Jorge Coulon of Inti Illimani (Chile)

Chile: court suspends HidroAysen mega-hydro project

Brazil confirms existence of "uncontacted" tribe —as illegal timber interests encroach

Bolivia grapples with "food sovereignty" —and food crisis

Bolivia inaugurates new gas pipeline to Argentina

Peru: Aymara protest leaders in dialogue with mining ministry

Peru To Pass Colombia As World’s Largest Coca Producer, UN Report Says

The Ollanta Humala Victory in Peru: Moving Beyond Neoliberalism?

Peru: more killed in Puno, Huancavelica protests; demand investigation of García for repression

Colombia: disease threatens survival of Amazon tribe displaced by political violence

The Changing Political Economy of the War System in Colombia

Venezuelan Prelates Defied Pope over Efforts to Oust Chavez, Cables Show

Behind the Venezuelan Prison Riots: the State of Venezuela’s Prisons Today

Security Conference Vows to Push Drug War into Central America

Honduran President Denies “Secret Pact” with Venezuela

Ex-Guatemalan General Appears In Court On Charges Of Orchestrating Massacres

Former General Hector Lopez Fuentes: First Arrest in Connection to Genocide in Guatemala

UN applauds arrest of Guatemala genocide suspect

PRI Presses Forward with Its Labor Law Reform, Backed by Pan (Mexico)

Mexican journalist, wife, son slain in Veracruz home

Mexico: Guerrero campesinos displaced by narco violence

El Wache and the Most Vulnerable (Mexico)

Mexico: Impunity and Profits - Video

Voices from the Drug War Front (Mexico)

Private Contractors Making a Killing off the Drug War 

Mexico: "drug war" protest leaders meet with Calderón

Citizen’s Pact for Peace with Justice and Dignity (Mexico)

Development and Migration: The Missing Link (Mexico-US)

Immigration and the Culture of Solidarity (Mexico-US)

US Border Patrol shoots Mexican migrant at San Ysidro

Caribbean Dilemma: Between Barack and a Hard Place

WikiLeaks: Haiti’s Elite Tried to Turn the Police into a Private Army

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