Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WNU #1092: Chilean Students Plan More Protests

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1092, August 14, 2011

1. Chile: Students Lay Out Plans for More Protests
2. Mexico: Anger Mounts as US Steps Up “Drug War” Role
3. Haiti: Are Authorities About to Evict More Quake Victims?
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, 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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Chile: Students Lay Out Plans for More Protests
After a six-hour meeting on Aug. 13 at the University of Concepción in Chile’s central Biobío region, leaders of the Chilean Student Confederation (CONFECH) announced their rejection of a government proposal for talks to resolve more than two months of militant protests for reform of the educational system [see Update #1091]. Instead, CONFECH leaders said they would push ahead with a series of actions they had announced the day before: a nationwide one-day school strike on Aug. 18; participation in a 48-hour general strike on Aug. 24 and 25 called by the Unified Workers Confederation (CUT), the main Chilean labor federation; and continued pressure on the government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera at least until Sept. 11, the anniversary of the bloody coup that started the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Camila Vallejo, president of the Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH), denied rumors that there were splits in the movement. “It’s been ratified by many organizations, not just in universities but also in secondary schools, that the mobilizations will go on,” she said.

The students refused to participate in a proposed three-way dialogue—to include the government and members of the National Congress—because they felt the administration hadn’t given specific answers to their proposals. The protest movement has been calling for a reversal of policies passed at the end of the Pinochet era that drastically decentralized and privatized the public educational system. The students have proposed a national plebiscite on the issue.

On Aug. 11 President Piñera signed the Education Quality Assurance Law, a package of reforms that had been developed over several administrations. The new law establishes an agency to oversee the quality of the educational system, allows more scholarships for poor students and refinancing for the overdue debts of some 110,000 students, and lowers interest rates on student loans from 5.3% to 4%. But Piñera rejected any major overhaul, especially the students’ demand for a return to free public higher education. “Nothing is free in this life,” he said, “since in the end everything is implemented through taxes, paid by society as a whole… [S]omeone has to pay.” (Radio Universidad de Chile 8/13/11; La Jornada (Mexico) 8/12/11 from correspondent and unidentified wire services, 8/13/11 from correspondent )

The push for education reform has produced the most powerful mass movement in Chile since the restoration of democracy in 1990. The students showed their strength again on Aug. 9 in a nationwide strike, with demonstrations in Santiago and many other localities, including Valparaíso, Concepción, Puerto Montt, Arica, Iquique, Calama, Antofagasta, Copiapó, La Serena, Talca, Coyhaique and Easter Island. This was the movement’s fifth major action since the beginning of June. Police estimated that 70,000 protesters turned out in Santiago, while the organizers claimed 150,000 participants, with some 40,000 more in other cities. By the organizers’ count, this protest was only surpassed by a march of as many as 200,000 people on June 30, easily Chile’s largest demonstration in the last two decades [see Update #1084].

In contrast to a much smaller march on Aug. 4, the Aug. 9 march in Santiago was authorized by the government and it remained peaceful until near the end, when dozens of masked youths attacked cars and buildings. Similar disturbances broke out in Valparaíso. Students charged that the rioters were police agents in civilian clothes, and they produced some evidence: protesters had discovered a plainclothes agent in the march in Valparaíso. The commander of the carabineros (militarized police) who guard the National Congress, Hernán Silva, admitted that the man was a police agent.

Just as they had done after the Aug. 4 march, in the evening of Aug. 9 people in Santiago neighborhoods beat on pots and pans—a type of protest called a cacerolazo in Spanish—to express support for the students. (La Tercera (Santiago) 8/9/11; EFE 8/9/11 via Terra.es (Spain); LJ 8/10/11 from correspondent and unidentified wire services)

Some 5,000 Argentine students marched on Aug. 9 to support the actions in Chile; there were also reports of support demonstrations in Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. (Adital (Brazil) 8/11/11)

*2. Mexico: Anger Mounts as US Steps Up “Drug War” Role
US agents have been posted in recent weeks at a Mexican military base to carry out intelligence and planning work with Mexican officials against drug cartels, according to an Aug. 7 article by New York Times reporter Ginger Thompson. The team includes “fewer than two dozen” agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials and “retired military personnel members from the Pentagon's Northern Command,” Thompson wrote. They are working at a “compound modeled after ‘fusion intelligence centers’ that the United States operates in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor insurgent groups.” The US is also “considering plans to deploy private security contractors” in a counter-narcotics unit of the Mexican police, according to the article.

“[T]he new efforts have been devised to get around Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating on its soil,” Thompson noted. The posting of the US personnel at the military base follows three years of increased US assistance to Mexico’s fight against drug traffickers under the $1.4 billion Mérida Initiative [see Update #952]. Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa began militarizing the “drug war” soon after taking office in December 2006; since then more than 40,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related violence. (NYT 8/7/11)

Various Mexican sources consulted by the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada confirmed much of the Times story. Federal legislators told the paper that the posting of the US agents was agreed to in a letter of understanding Calderón signed with US president Barack Obama in March 2010. Sources in the Senate said the Mexican agency in charge of the “fusion intelligence center” is the Center for Investigations and National Security (CISEN), Mexico’s main intelligence organization. Other sources indicated that even without the latest insertion of US agents, the US government already had a major presence in Mexico, with about 400 agents in the country and a “great number of informants and functionaries that they have also coopted in places like Ciudad Juárez, Acapulco, Culiacán and Mazatlán, Tijuana, Manzanillo and Monterrey.”

Resentment has been growing both about Calderón’s “war on drugs” and US involvement in it. So far this year there have been revelations that the US is flying drones over Mexican airspace for the surveillance of suspected drug traffickers; that a bungled US program called Operation Fast and Furious allowed some 2,000 firearms to enter Mexico illegally from the US; and that some of the heavy weapons used by the drug cartels were originally supplied by the US to rightwing Central American militaries in the 1980s and 1990s [see Updates #1072, 1078]. Mexican senators said they planned to question Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa Cantellano and Governance Secretary José Francisco Blake Mora about Calderón’s agreement with Obama during scheduled hearings the week of Aug. 15.

“It’s an agreement of subordination,” said Ricardo Monreal, a senator from Zacatecas state for the small leftist Workers Party (PT), “which tries to mock the Constitution by passing off as simple police agents these former US soldiers, who aren’t coming here to collaborate but to put themselves in charge of the war against narco-trafficking--given Calderón’s inability to stand up to organized crime.” (LJ 8/11/11, ___ , 8/12/11)

*3. Haiti: Are Authorities About to Evict More Quake Victims?
Students from the Faculty of Ethnology of the State University of Haiti (UEH) set up barricades at the nearby Champ de Mars, Port-au-Prince’s main park, early in August to protest what they said was an increase in crime in the area. The protests started after an ethnology student, Philibert Sergo, was killed in a robbery in July. According to police inspector Dupont Joseph, 23 armed robberies were reported in the zone in June and July, although he said the number was declining.

The Champ de Mars, which faces the ruins of the National Palace, became a vast tent city within hours of a massive January 2010 earthquake as Port-au-Prince residents fled their damaged homes. Thousands of people continue to live there in improvised shelters 19 months after the disaster, providing an easy target for robbers and rapists. Residents say the National Police of Haiti (PNH) has proven incapable of taking on the criminals, while some accuse the police agents of actually being in league with them. The justice system simply releases most suspects after they are arrested, according to the victims, who say they are scared to report crimes to the police, since they fear reprisals once the suspects are free.

The students, who have reportedly burned tires and thrown rocks at patrol cars, called for the government to restore peace to the area by moving the camp residents to decent housing in suitable locations. They stressed that they opposed the sort of forced relocations that have occurred at other encampments [see Update #1081]. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 8/12/11; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 8/12/11)

On Aug. 10 Port-au-Prince mayor Muscadin Jean Yves Jason announced his intention to relocate some 20,000 people from the park, if the national government approves the plan. Apparently this would be part of what President Michel Martelly has called a “special program” for “six priority camps” to “allow 30,000 people to return to their original neighborhoods and to live in decent housing and urbanized neighborhoods.” But Patrick Rouzier, a housing and reconstruction consultant with the national government, told the online Haitian newspaper Haïti Libre that Mayor Jason wants to move the families to “Morne Cabrit,” a mountain north of the capital. He said the national government has reservations about the plan. (HL 8/13/11 (French, English))

Apparently Rouzier was referring to Morne à Cabrits (“Goat Mountain”), a small mountain in the dry, sparsely inhabited range north of Port-au-Prince; it is about 25 miles from the city. In June Mayor Jason proposed a $76 million construction project for the area. (Le Matin (Haiti) 6/19/11)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US

Latin American Stocks Plummet Amid Fears of U.S. & European Woes

Protests Demand Deeper Reforms of Unequal Education System in Chile

Persecution of Paraguay Indians Exposed to UN

Brazil: narco-massacre of "uncontacted" Amazon tribe?

Bolivia: arrest of "big fish" in Santa Cruz cocaine mafia leaves trail of intrigue

Bolivia signs lithium exploration deal with China

Bolivia: Indigenous Groups to March Against TIPNIS Highway

Bolivia: Amazon Road Plan Has Native People on the March Again

Bolivia: indigenous mobilize against trans-oceanic highway

Five Years Demanding Justice for the Murder of My Father (Colombia)

The Showdown Between the Judiciary and the Santos Government

The Andean Connection: Tracking the Drug War’s Coca Leaves and Failed Policies (Colombia)

Expert Witnesses Receive Death Threats after Guatemala Massacre Trial

Guatemala: Food Crisis in the Polochic Exacerbates as Government Repression Continues

Guatemala Labor Case: US Steps Up Pressure

Prospecting the Terrain of Struggle in Guatemala

Mexico: drug lord arrested in 900 murders trained with Guatemala's Kaibiles

Mexico rights body alleges regular police misconduct

Sinaloa Cartel kingpin charges DEA gave him "carte blanche"

Violence Increases Against Migrants and Their Advocates in Mexico

Photo Essay: Migrants Search for Justice in Mexico

A Successful Failure (Mexico)

Stemming the Arms Flow: Will Obama Face Down the NRA? (Mexico)

Hip-Hop: Straight Outta Havana

MINUSTAH: Mission (Almost) Accomplished? (Haiti)

The Delusion of Power (US “Drug War”)

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:

No comments: