Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WNU #1109: Two Mexican Students Killed at Protest

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1109, December 18, 2011

1. Mexico: Police Kill Two Guerrero Students at Protest
2. Mexico: Ex-Officials Now Work for US Drug Enforcement
3. Haiti: UN Troops Beat and Rob Delivery Workers
4. Dominican Republic: Haitian Descendents Protest “Denationalization”
5. Peru: Berenson Is Harassed, Fujimori Seeks Pardon
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, CELAC, Climate Conference, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, 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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com

Note: We were unable to produce the Update last week because of a technical problem.

*1. Mexico: Police Kill Two Guerrero Students at Protest
Two Mexican students were killed by police gunfire around noon on Dec. 12 as police agents and soldiers attempted to disperse protesters blocking the Mexico City-Acapulco highway near Chilpancingo, the capital of the southwestern state of Guerrero. The victims, Jorge Alexis Herrera Pino and Gabriel Echeverría de Jesús, were students at the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the nearby village of Ayotzinapa, and they had joined about 500 other students and their indigenous supporters to demonstrate for improvements at the school.

Some 300 security agents were sent to remove the protesters, who were blocking a well-traveled highway on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a popular holiday for Mexican Catholics. The agents—including state troopers, members of the state Attorney General’s Office, federal police and some soldiers from the Mexican army—used tear gas on the protesters, who responded by throwing rocks and some molotov cocktails. The shooting began after one of the firebombs landed at a filling station near the protest and set a gas pump on fire. In addition to the two students killed, one other protester was hospitalized with serious injuries, and more than 20 were arrested. The buses that the students came in were hit in the shooting, along with a truck.

Gen. Ramón Arreola Ibarría, who headed the contingent of state troopers at the scene, denied that any agents were armed, and Guerrero attorney general Alberto López Rosas immediately charged that the students were responsible for the shooting. One student, Gerardo Torres Pérez, was arrested for allegedly firing an AK-47 automatic rifle.

By the end of the day more than 200 Mexican human rights organizations and other nonprofit groups had placed the blame on the security forces, which have a long record of abuses in Guerrero. The federal government’s Public Security Secretariat (SSP) announced on Dec. 13 that according to its analysts at least some of the gunfire came from a state Attorney General’s Office agent dressed as a civilian. Most of the detainees were released on Dec. 13. Gerardo Torres was freed in the evening; he said that after he had been arrested, federal agents and agents from the state Attorney General’s Office beat him and took him to a vacant lot, where they forced him to fire an AK-47 five times.

Guerrero officials announced on Dec. 13 that Gov. Ángel Aguirre Rivero had removed Attorney General López, Public Security Secretary Ramón Almonte Borja and Gen. Arreola from office. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/13/11, ___, 12/14/11; AFP 12/13/11 via Univision)

The students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college had been demanding a meeting with Gov. Aguirre, who they said had failed to keep four appointments. They were seeking resumption of classes, which had been suspended since Nov. 2 because of a dispute, and an increase in the student body from 140 to 170 for the 2011-2012 school year. Mexico’s 16 rural teachers’ colleges, which were mostly established by the center-left government of President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940), have suffered from neglect and budget cuts. The problems at Ayotzinapa have been ongoing for decades, according to alumni who joined current students and other activists at a protest march in Chilpancingo on Dec. 16. The marchers insisted that they weren’t satisfied with the dismissal of the attorney general and the public security secretary. “There’s no one more guilty than Gov. Aguirre, who gave the order for the removal of the protesters,” said Daniel Gómez Ruiz, a student leader at Ayotzinapa. (LJ 12/13/11, 12/17/11)

Aguirre was elected governor last January as the candidate of a coalition that included the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the small leftist Workers Party (PT) and the social democratic Convergence party. Previously he had been a leader in the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which dominated Guerrero politics for decades, often through violent repression. Aguirre was interim governor from 1996 to 1999 as the handpicked successor of the PRI’s Rubén Figueroa Alcocer, who was forced to leave office in the aftermath of a June 1995 massacre by state police of 17 unarmed members of the leftist South Sierra Campesino Organization (OCSS) at Aguas Blancas near Acapulco [see Updates #320, 381].

*2. Mexico: Ex-Officials Now Work for US Drug Enforcement
At least 80 former Mexican government employees with backgrounds in intelligence and security are now working for US government agencies as analysts and informants, according to a Dec. 18 article in the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada. Unnamed top officials in Mexican federal security agencies told reporter Gustavo Castillo García that the informants range from high-level ex-officials to former low-ranking police agents, and that “it hasn’t been discounted that current employees may also be working for the US.” Most of the former Mexican employees are reportedly employed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), but some are with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); they work in Mexico City locations that include the US embassy, a building at 265 on the Reforma avenue, and one floor of a hotel at the Ángel de la Independencia. (LJ 12/18/11)

The new revelations come at a time when many Mexicans are expressing concern over what appear to be US violations of Mexican sovereignty as the two countries work together in a “drug war” against Mexican narco-trafficking cartels [see Update #1103]. Just two weeks earlier, a Dec. 4 article in the New York Times revealed that US “narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds” to and from Mexico in order to use the money to track criminal operations. Reporter Ginger Thompson cited “current and former federal law enforcement officials,” who said most of the agents involved in the laundering and smuggling are employed by the DEA. The article noted the similarity of the drug agents’ money laundering to the bungled Operation Fast and Furious, in which the ATF allowed guns to cross illegally into Mexico in the hopes of tracing criminal activities [see Update #1105]. (NYT 12/4/11)

Alejandra Sota, a spokesperson for President Felipe Calderón Hinojoso, told reporters on Dec. 11 that the Mexican government knew nothing about the DEA money laundering but was investigating. (LJ 12/12/11)

In other “drug war” news, an activist with the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD), which was formed this year to oppose President Calderón’s militarized fight against the cartels, was found dead of gunshot wounds on Dec. 7 in Aquila municipality in the central western state of Michoacán. The victim, Trinidad de la Cruz Crisóstomo, was a well-known community leader in Xayakalan, Michoacán, and was active with the indigenous Nahua community in Santa María Ostula.

De la Cruz had received threats and had been assaulted in the month before he was killed; his murder may have been related to local struggles [see Update #998] rather than to his activism with the MPJD. However, his body was discovered just hours after two other MPJD activists, Eva Alarcón and Marcial Bautista, were kidnapped while riding on a bus from Petatlán, Guerrero, to Chilpancingo, the state capital. MPJD activist Nepomuceno Moreno Núñez was shot dead on a street in Hermosillo in the northern state of Sonora on Nov. 28 [see Update #1108]. After the kidnapping of the two activists in Guerrero, poet and MPJD founder Javier Sicilia called for a suspension of the group’s public activities while the members considered how to safeguard their security. (LJ 12/8/11)

*3. Haiti: UN Troops Beat and Rob Delivery Workers
According to a report by the Haitian organization National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), Brazilian soldiers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) detained two water delivery workers and a friend in Port-au-Prince in the early morning of Dec. 14 without cause, robbing them and beating them repeatedly. MINUSTAH is a Brazilian-led military and police operation with more than 10,000 members that was sent to Haiti in June 2004 ostensibly to maintain peace between political factions and to control gang violence.

The two workers, Joseph Gilbert and Abel Joseph, had finished delivering water in Cité Soleil’s Ancien Fort Dimanche neighborhood when their truck broke down late on Dec. 13. Unable to repair the truck, they decided to stay there to guard it; they were joined by a neighborhood youth, Armos Bazile. At around 3 am the next morning a routine MINUSTAH patrol stopped at the truck. The soldiers arrested the three men and took the proceeds from the day’s delivery, 4,500 gourdes (about $112), along with Gilbert’s cell phone and the men’s identification cards. The soldiers took the three Haitians to the courtyard of a school, the Institution Mixte Educative de La Saline, where they beat them; the beatings left visible marks. Neighbors intervened, saying that they knew the men. The troops responded by forcing the detainees into a vehicle and driving them along Route 9 to a plantain field, where they were beaten again. After taking their victims’ clothes and setting them on fire, the soldiers drove away, leaving the three Haitians in the field.

RNDDH is calling on MINUSTAH and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the incident and punish the soldiers involved. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/16/11)

Haitian activists have repeatedly demonstrated against the presence of the troops, who have been accused of rapes and other sexual abuse; irresponsible sanitary practices at a MINUSTAH base in October 2010 caused a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 6,500 people [see Updates #1102, 1105]. A survey of 600 Port-au-Prince households in August 2011 by two Columbia University graduate students found that 30% of those surveyed wanted the troops withdrawn immediately, 10% wanted them out during the next six months, 25% wanted them to leave over the next year, and 19% wanted withdrawal over the next two years. Only 16% wanted the troops to remain more than two years. “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch,” a blog produced by the DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), notes that the survey’s authors strangely described these results as showing that the majority of Haitians support the mission. (CEPR 12/8/11)

*4. Dominican Republic: Haitian Descendents Protest “Denationalization”
Hundreds of Dominicans of Haitian origin demonstrated near the Supreme Court of Justice building in Santo Domingo on Dec. 8 to protest a court ruling a week earlier supporting a 2007 claim by the Central Electoral Council (JCE) that it can invalidate the citizenship of people born in the country if it believes their parents were undocumented immigrants. Jenny Morón, a spokesperson for the protesters, said some 4,000 Dominicans were now in a “process of denationalization” because the JCE had decided to revoke their citizenship.

The demonstrators noted that revocation of citizenship leaves Haitian-descended Dominicans stateless and without juridical status, since they have no way of claiming Haitian citizenship. Previously only the courts could invalidate Dominican citizenship.

The demonstration was organized by the Dominican-Haitian Women's Movement (MUDHA), the Jacques Viau Dominican-Haitian Encounter Network and the Movement for Civil Registry Without Discrimination. During the protest, participants commemorated the human rights activism of MUDHA head Sonia Pierre, who died on Dec. 4 at the age of 48.

The country’s most prominent Catholic leader, Santo Domingo archbishop Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López, also claimed to lament Pierre’s death, but he denounced the protest itself, telling journalists on Dec. 8 that the demonstrators should respect the authority of the Supreme Court and that protests are not a solution. “We’re in the Dominican Republic, so if the Supreme Court of Justice doesn’t have the authority, then who is going to have it?” he asked. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/9/11; Listín Diario (Dominican Republic) 12/9/11; EFE 12/9/11 via Univision)

Despite her national and international prominence, Pierre herself was a target of the JCE’s efforts to revoke the citizenship of Dominicans with Haitian parents. In April 2007 the JCE reportedly claimed that Pierre’s parents were in the country illegally at the time of her birth, even though they were in fact working as sugarcane cutters under a program set up by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina in 1957 and they had presented identity papers from the State Sugar Council (CEA) for their daughter's birth certificate [see Update #893].

*5. Peru: Berenson Is Harassed, Fujimori Seeks Pardon
After a three-day delay, Peruvian authorities finally allowed US citizen Lori Berenson to leave Lima on Dec. 19 for a brief visit to her family in New York. A court had ruled earlier in the month that she could visit the US with her young son until Jan. 11; Berenson has been living in Lima on parole since May 2010 after serving almost 15 years of a 20-year sentence for collaborating with the leftist rebels of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Berenson’s first attempt to leave was blocked by immigration authorities at the Lima airport on Dec. 16, repeating a pattern of harassment and judicial irregularities that have marked her case since she was arrested in 1995 [see Update #1045]. (The Guardian (UK) 12/20/11 from AP)

Berenson’s effort to visit her family after serving 15 years in prison for nonviolently supporting a rebel group has attracted much more media attention in the US than a concurrent campaign by right-populist former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) to win a humanitarian pardon after serving just four years of a 25-year sentence for crimes that included the deaths of 25 people, two kidnappings, corruption and illicit enrichment [see Update #1019]. On Dec. 17 Fujimori’s attorney, César Nakazaki, announced that the process of seeking a pardon on health grounds had already started and that a medical team would be releasing its findings on the physical condition of the 72-year-old former president, who seized dictatorial powers with a “self-coup” in 1992. (Notimex 12/17/11 via Univision)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, CELAC, Climate Conference, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

South America consolidates its role as an emerging power

Out of the Backyard: New Latin American and Caribbean Bloc Defies Washington

Calderón, Chávez, and CELAC

Fiddling on Climate

Pablo Solón: the Outcome of the Climate Change Conference in Durban will be Worse than in Cancun

Argentina: Poison from the Sky

Dictatorship Relics in Chile: Paying Homage to Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko

Paraguay to Hand Over Indigenous Land

Bolivia: Negotiating 'Untouchability' as the TIPNIS Conflict Continues

Peru: Protest Against Mine Continues Despite State of Emergency

Peru: martial law lifted as Cajamarca agrees to end civil strike

Peru: ex-military man takes over in cabinet shake-up

Humala Surrounds Himself with Uniforms, Takes Hard-Line Stance Against Protests

UN rights representative calls for peace in Colombia

Colombia: new anti-FARC "joint task forces" announced

Colombia Asked to Shelve Proposed Expansion of Military Jurisdiction

Colombian secret police agency's parting shot: fake NGOs

Venezuela, Bolivia: protecting or fighting the cartels?

Central America: Thousands of Sugar Cane Workers Die as Wealthy Nations Stall on Solutions

Feeding the Monster: Militarization and Privatized Security in Central America

El Salvador apologizes for Mozote massacre —as regime tilts right under US pressure

Honduras: another journalist assassinated

Guatemala: Why Did War-Torn Areas Vote for Pérez Molina?

Guatemalan Shooting Victim Announces Third Human Rights Lawsuit against Canada's HudBay Minerals

Guatemala’s Colom Apologizes for Dos Erres Massacre

Honduras: another journalist assassinated

Honduran Police Beat Journalists During Protest

The Militarization of Policing in Honduras

Why Should We Care About Mexico?

The Mexico Numbers Game

Clandestine Detention Centers in Mexico

US indictment claims Zetas-Hezbollah link

Zetas: we are not terrorists

Ciudad Juárez: femicide opponent wounded in assassination attempt

The City of Outrage: The Impact of Violence in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico)

Mexican Peace Movement Demands Justice for Murdered Activist

Mexico: No Protection for Activists

Defying the Myth of Native Desolation: Cultural Continuity in Oaxaca

Legal Battles in Mexico

Freedom Through a Pencil: The 1961 Literacy Campaign in Cuba

MINUSTAH by the Numbers (Haiti)

The “dream house” nightmare (Haiti)

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

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