Tuesday, August 2, 2011

WNU #1090: Four Killed in Eviction of Argentine Squatters

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1090, July 31, 2011

1. Argentina: Four Killed in Eviction of Jujuy Squatters
2. Honduras: Workers Claim Mistreatment at US-Owned Maquilas
3. Mexico: Relatives Demand Action on Disappearances
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, 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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Argentina: Four Killed in Eviction of Jujuy Squatters
Four people were killed the morning of July 28 when provincial police forcibly evicted some 700 families from land they had been occupying in the city of Libertador General San Martín in the northwestern Argentine province of Jujuy. The police and the squatters confronted each other with clubs and rocks during the eviction, and the police agents reportedly used tear gas and both rubber and lead bullets. Some witnesses said a few protesters were armed, but Enrique Mosquera--the director of the Jujuy branch of the leftist Classist and Combative Current (CCC) organization, which backed the land occupation--denied this. “Nobody was armed,” he said. “We defended ourselves with rocks and stones, throwing them and then leaving.”

The victims included squatters Ariel Farfán and Félix Reyes and police agent Alejandro Farfán (the two Farfáns were not related, according to news reports). Another protester died from a bullet wound shortly after being admitted to the local hospital. As many as 49 people were injured, and 27 were arrested.

The squatters had been occupying the land--15 hectares belonging to the Ledesma S.A. corporation, which produces sugar and paper--since July 20. According to the Tupaj Katari Social and Cultural Movement, homeless families had been negotiating for the land for five years and decided on the occupation when the local government and the company failed to fulfill an agreement to give them land.

The police violence quickly inspired new protests. Some 3,000 people had reoccupied the land by the evening of July 28. Members of the CCC and leftist parties besieged Jujuy province’s offices in Buenos Aires, breaking windows and painting slogans on the walls. Jujuy governor Walter Barrionuevo, a Justicialist Party (PJ) politician who backs Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, moved quickly to control the political damage: the officer in charge of the police operation was removed, and Pablo La Villa, the province’s government minister, resigned the night of July 28.

On the morning of July 29 CCC members were joined by the Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA), the National Confederation of University Teachers (Conadu Histórica), the University of Buenos Aires Teachers Association (AGD-UBA) and the Association in Defense of the Liberty and Rights of the People (Liberpueblo) in a demonstration at the Obelisk in Buenos Aires to demand an investigation of the Jujuy eviction and the punishment of those who were responsible for the violence. (Clarín (Buenos Aires) 7/28/11, ___ ; Adital (Brazil) 7/29/11; Buenos Aires Herald 7/29/11)

The Ledesma corporation, with a total of 157,556 hectares in its possession, is the main landowner in the Libertador General San Martín area, which is experiencing a severe housing shortage. The “La Brecha” Current of Base Organizations (COB), a network of community groups, says there are estimates that just 40 hectares of land would be enough to resolve the housing problem. According to the COB, Ledesma, which is owned by the Blaquier family, has a history of repression dating back to the end of the 19th century and including the killing of protesting sugarcane workers in the company’s early years and crimes committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. (Adital 7/29/11)

On the evening of July 30 some 100 families of police agents occupied unfinished homes in a housing project started by the provincial government in 2009. “We’re not leaving,” said Analía Wierna, wife of police agent Juan Pablo. “We’re 100 families of police agents from the town itself who suffer from the housing crisis as much as the people who seized the Ledesma estate.” “Who are they going to send to evict us?” asked Hemelinda Magno, mother of agent Fernando Cisneros. “Our husbands and sons?”

Within a few minutes of this action, a group of women nurses from the municipal hospital also tried to occupy some of the project’s unfinished homes, many of which lack plumbing, gas and electricity. “You don’t have more rights than we do just because you’re married to police agents,” a nurse said as she tried to enter the project. “I’m here with my little children, and I’m asking you to let me occupy a house, even if it doesn’t have a roof.” (Clarín 7/31/11)

*2. Honduras: Workers Claim Mistreatment at US-Owned Maquilas
The labor and human rights of women workers are being violated at two factories in northern Honduras owned by the US clothing firm Delta Apparel, Inc., according to a July 25 statement by the Honduran Women’s Collective (CODEMUH). Workers at Delta Apparel Honduras and Delta Apparel Cortés, maquiladoras (tax-exempt assembly plants producing for export) in Cortés department, say management uses harassment, reprisals and threats of firing to get employees to meet excessively high production quotas. Some workers reportedly suffer muscle or bone injuries because of long hours in uncomfortable positions; they say that when they are reassigned due to the injuries, they are called “the sick ones” and “the Barbies.”

Delta workers have reported these conditions to various government agencies, including the Regional Labor Inspection Office and the Labor and Social Security Secretariat (STSS), but with no results. Noting that there are similar conditions in other Honduran maquiladoras, including the ones producing for the Canadian firm Gildan Activewear Inc. and the US firm HanesBrands Inc., the CODEMUH statement calls on the authorities to carry out ergonomic studies in the assembly plants to determine proper standards for quotas, work assignments and job schedules. CODEMUH also called on “European and North American buyers of PUMA, Adidas and Nike brands to demand that these internationals fulfill their social responsibilities as businesses [and] stop the violation of labor law in Honduras.” (Adital (Brazil) 7/26/11, 7/29/11) [CODEMUH didn’t indicate whether there was any connection between Delta and these brands.]

On July 28, Delta Apparel Inc. reported sales of about $475 million in the fiscal year ending on July 2, an increase of 12% over the previous fiscal year. Despite problems in the US economy, the company, based in Greenville, South Carolina, expects net sales “in the range of $500 to $520 million” for the next fiscal year, a 5% to 9% increase. Delta’s subsidiaries include M. J. Soffe, LLC; Junkfood Clothing Company; To The Game, LLC; Art Gun, LLC; and TCX, LLC. (Delta press release 7/28/11 via MarketWatch)

*3. Mexico: Relatives Demand Action on Disappearances
Mexican governance secretary Francisco Blake Mora held a meeting in Mexico City on July 29 with more than 160 relatives of people who have been “disappeared”—kidnapped by criminals, by the police or by the military. The family members, many carrying photographs of the victims, were demanding action from the federal Governance Secretariat (SG), which is in charge of the country’s internal security. The relatives came from a number of states, including Guanajuato, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca and Zacatecas, but the greatest number were from the northern state of Coahuila, where the “drug wars” between the authorities and drug traffickers and between different drug gangs have been especially intense.

“Enough of speeches and proposals,” the mother of a disappeared person told Blake and other federal officials. “What we want is answers.” “We aren’t sitting here because we want to say hello and get acquainted,” a man said, “but because we’re burdened with a history of sorrow. We don’t trust you.” Blake admitted that there were problems with “corruption” and “omissions,” but the federal officials insisted that the “great majority” of the disappearances were by carried out by organized crime groups, not the police or military. The relatives said there were thousands of disappearances and the situation called for a special prosecutor’s office. Blake answered that the federal government was only working on 184 disappearance cases and that a special office wasn’t necessary—although the SG’s assistant secretary for judicial affairs and human rights, Felipe Zamora, said officials were seeking a “mechanism” for investigating disappearances.

Raúl Vera López, the left-leaning Catholic bishop of Saltillo in Coahuila, came to the meeting along with the relatives. He made it clear that he thought the situation had been made worse by the militarization of the “drug war” that President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa started shortly after taking office in December 2006. This “mistaken strategy of confronting crime” through a war “now has sufficiently serious consequences,” he told Blake. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/30/11)

The meeting of high-level officials with victims’ relatives came as public anger continued to grow over disappearances and drug-related killings—more than 35,000 Mexicans have died in the violence since President Calderón became president. On July 14 the relatives of 10 disappeared men began a hunger strike in Oaxaca [see World War 4 Report 7/20/11].

The Association of Relatives of the Detained, Disappeared and Victims of Human Rights Violations in Mexico (Afadem), a nongovernmental organization (NGO), has records of about 4,000 disappearances during the Calderón administration, according to the group’s executive director, Julio Mata Montiel. “There are people who talk of 10,000 or 20,000, but it’s very hard to determine the exact number,” he told the Mexican daily La Jornada. Since there is no central database of disappearances, relatives have to travel to different states and municipalities to file reports. There is also no central database for DNA, so the relatives have to give samples at each locality. Generally the victims are working people, and their family members can’t afford the travel or the loss of workdays.

Adding to the relatives’ difficulties, the authorities tend to treat disappearances as an indication that the victims themselves had links to the drug gangs. (LJ 7/31/11)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

WikiLeaks Cables of Interest on Latin America, Released July 11-23, 2011

Bolivia: Evo fears US plot to frame him for drugs

Peru: peasant ecologists issue declaration against mineral export model

Humala Sworn In As Peru’s New President; Promises Growth Will Include Poor

Peru’s Mining Conflicts: Ollanta Humala’s Ticking Time Bomb

Trickle-Down Economics Confronts a New President in Peru

Peru: extractive industries, popular movements both cautious as Ollanta Humala sworn in

Conference for Water and Pachamama (Ecuador)

Colombian Court Tells Congress To Rule On Gay Marriage

Behind the Oil Workers’ Strike in Colombia

Colombia: Native Groups Mobilise Against Escalation of War

Venezuelans March for Workers' Control

Venezuela to release 40% of prisoners to reduce overcrowding

Three Neoliberal Tales in Honduras: The Inter-oceanic Train, Metro-buses and Charter Cities

Indigenous and Afro-Honduran Women: Autonomy and an End to Violence Against Us

Honduran Police Burn Community to the Ground

War crimes trial over Guatemala massacre begins

Ciudad Juárez Prison Riot Leaves At Least 17 Dead

Book Review - To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War

Military Impunity: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Teachers’ Leader Gordillo Creates National Scandal for Calderón

Electrical Workers Leadership Calls for New Labor Federation

Mexico: climate change threatens Chihuahua biodiversity

Raquel Gutiérrez: Why is the US so afraid of me? (Mexico)

Inside the Haiti Reconstruction Fund Annual Report

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

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