Monday, February 28, 2011

WNU #1069: Indigenous Chileans Acquitted of “Terrorism”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1069, February 27, 2011

1. Chile: Mapuche Activists Acquitted of “Terrorism”
2. Mexico: Reyes Salazars Demand an End to the “Stupid War”
3. Puerto Rico: ACLU May Investigate Rights Situation
4. Haiti: Groups Campaign Against Neoliberal Accords
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, 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 . It is archived at

*1. Chile: Mapuche Activists Acquitted of “Terrorism”
In a significant setback for Chilean prosecutors, judges in Cañete in the central province of Arauco voted on Feb. 22 not to convict 17 indigenous Mapuche activists on “terrorism” charges relating to a fire and an attack on a prosecutor, Mario Elgueta, in Tirúa in October 2008 [see Update #985]. The judges acquitted most of the defendants of all charges, but they found four of the activists--Héctor Llaitul, Ramón Llenaquileo, José Huenuche and Jonathan Huillical—guilty of attempted homicide, a common crime, in the attack on Elgueta.

The four convicted activists may receive prison terms of up to 15 years at their sentencing, scheduled for Mar. 22, but they could have been condemned to 103-year terms if prosecutors had succeeded in convicting them on “illegal terrorist association,” a charge based on Law No. 19.027, which was enacted during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The accused, said to be members of the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM), were among 34 Mapuche prisoners who participated in a hunger strike in the late summer of 2010 to protest the law, which treats land occupations and attacks on the equipment or personnel of multinational companies as acts of terrorism. Indigenous activists say they need to use these tactics to protest illegal seizures of their land [see Update #1052].

Chilean activists and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) treated the acquittals as a “positive step.” But the terrorism law remains on the books, with some modifications, and in deciding to acquit the defendants the judges cited the lack of convincing evidence, not problems with the law. (País Mapuche (Chile) 2/22/11 from Radio Biobio; AFP 2/22/11 via Terra (Peru); La Jornada (Mexico) 2/24/11 from correspondent)

National Public Defender Paula Vial, whose office defended some of the activists, charged that the trial was marked by irregularities, despite the acquittals. The four convictions were based on testimony from a “faceless witness”—a witness whose identity remains secret—and on statements by one of the accused that were apparently obtained through torture. “Is it possible to affirm that these citizens confronted the arms of the government on equal terms?” Vial asked. “Is it possible to affirm that they received a just trial?” (La Nación (Chile) 2/25/11)

*2. Mexico: Reyes Salazars Demand an End to the “Stupid War”
On the morning of Feb. 25 Mexican soldiers reported finding the bodies of María Magdalena (“Malena”) Reyes Salazar, her brother Elías Reyes Salazar and Elías' wife, Luisa Ornelas Soto, by the Juárez-Porvenir highway, some 3 km from their home in Guadalupe Distrito Bravos, near Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua. The three had been kidnapped by unidentified armed men on Feb. 7. [See Update #1067, where we reported, following our source, that they were seized while riding in a truck; some reports now say they were taken from their home.] Six members of the Reyes Salazar family have been murdered in the past two years.

Family members had responded to the abduction with protests to demand that the state and federal governments locate the three kidnapping victims and protect the rest of the family. Malena and Elías’ sisters Claudia and Marisela Reyes Salazar were carrying out hunger strikes in front of government offices—Claudia in Ciudad Juárez and Marisela in Mexico City--when they received word that the bodies had been found.

In an emotional press conference on Feb. 25, Marisela Reyes Salazar lashed out at Jorge González Nicolás, a Chihuahua state prosecutor, and at Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, who ordered the militarization of the fight against narco-trafficking in the northern states soon after taking office in December 2006; the toll from this “war on drugs” is now over 35,000. González Nicolás was “useless,” Marisela Reyes said, and should resign “because he doesn’t know how to do his job.” Calderón, she continued, should “withdraw his troops” and end this “stupid and dirty war that he’s got. We, the people, didn’t ask for it, and we don’t need it.”

The series of attacks on the family began in 2008 when Josefina Reyes Salazar, another of the siblings, charged that the army had disappeared her son Miguel Ángel, who was later jailed in Tamaulipas state for alleged ties to organized crime. Another son, Julio César, was murdered in 2009. Josefina, a former local official and a member of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), continued to protest against the military. She herself was murdered on Jan. 3, 2010; afterwards the military searched her home three times. Her brother Rubén, also a former official and a PRD member, was murdered on Aug. 18. On Feb. 15 of this year, a week after the kidnapping of Malena and Elías Reyes Salazar and Luisa Ornela, unidentified persons used Molotov cocktails to set the house of Sara Salazar, the mother of Josefina, Rubén, Malena and Elías, on fire.

Some Mexican activists suspect involvement by members of the military and point to what appears to be a calculated effort to depict the family as criminals with drug connections. Malena and Elías Reyes Salazar and Luisa Ornela seem to have been buried soon after they were murdered, but once the case had drawn national and international attention, their bodies were dug up and placed in a visible location at the highway. Notes were found with the corpses; these reportedly contained death threats against Marisela Reyes Salazar and warned her to admit that she came from a family of hit men and thugs.

“How convenient, how timely,” the Cerezo Mexico Committee Human Rights Organization wrote on Feb. 25. The group, which was formed to defend three brothers imprisoned for an alleged bomb plot in 2001 [see Update #980], added: “If we forgot the causes that motivated these acts, we might…think the state is right when it explains that they were connected with crime, but let’s remember that the struggle that the Reyes Salazar family took on was and continues to be against the militarization, against the narco-paramilitary state…” (El Diario (Ciudad Juárez) 2/25/11; Cerezo Committee 2/25/11; La Jornada (Mexico) 2/26/11, 2/27/11)

*3. Puerto Rico: ACLU May Investigate Rights Situation
On Feb. 18 Puerto Rican education secretary Jesús Rivera Sánchez fired 11 members of the Executive Committee of the Teachers' Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR) from their jobs in the public school system and cancelled their teaching certificates, depriving of them of the ability to teach in either public or private schools. In the letter terminating the teachers, Rivera Sánchez accused them of “abandonment of service,” citing a one-day strike led by the FMPR and other education workers’ unions last August to protest the system’s failure to hire enough teachers [see Update #1046]. FMPR president Rafael Feliciano called Rivera Sánchez’s action repressive and unprecedented. He said the fired teachers would continue to lead the union without pay. The FMPR, Puerto Rico’s largest union, has a long history of militancy.

Guillermo de La Paz, a spokesperson for the Socialist Front of Puerto Rico, noted that the firings came “days after a US federal judge put the president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association (CAPR) in prison and while repression continues against the student movement,” which has been protesting an $800 tuition surcharge at the University of Puerto Rico [see Update #1068]. This act “confirms once again the plans of the government [of conservative governor Luis Fortuño] to dismantle all the organizations that represent a danger to its plans to turn over all the public institutions to big capital and its cronies.” While opposing the firing of the unionists, De La Paz noted that his group had “differences” with the FMPR leadership. (Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 2/22/11; Prensa Latina 2/23/11)

Meanwhile, police returned to the UPR’s Río Piedras campus on Feb. 24, a little more than a week after Gov. Fortuño withdrew them following widespread complaints of police brutality in dealing with student protests [see Update #1067]. The return of the police was apparently in reaction to a one-day student strike on Feb. 23. However, an open-ended strike some protesters backed had already been suspended by a student assembly on the campus the day before. The assembly voted 1,050 to 714 to discontinue the strike but to fight the tuition surcharge with occasional “days of struggle,” starting with the one-day action on Feb. 23. (La Raza (Chicago) 2/22/11 from INS; Primera Hora 2/25/11)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has declared the civil and human rights situation in Puerto Rico a “high priority for the organization,” William Ramírez, director of the legal defense group’s Puerto Rican chapter, said during a visit to New York City the week of Feb. 21. The situation at the UPR was just one among many issues the organization was concerned about, according to Ramírez, who also mentioned the closing off of the Capitol building during the Legislature’s vote on unpopular budget cuts last June and police attacks on people who tried to exercise their right to attend the session [see Update #1039]. “This is in contrast to what’s happening in Wisconsin, where hundreds of people entered to protest without the police intervening,” he noted, referring to an occupation of the state capitol in Madison starting the week of Feb. 14 in response to an anti-union measure proposed by the governor.

Ramírez said that the ACLU would decide in March whether to respond to the situation in Puerto Rico with a full-scale investigation. This would be the first time the ACLU has carried out such an inquiry on the island since the group’s investigation of the 1937 Ponce Massacre, in which police killed 17 unarmed civilians and wounded some 235 others. (La Opinión (Los Angeles) 2/26/11 from El Diario-La Prensa (New York))

*4. Haiti: Groups Campaign Against Neoliberal Accords
Some 17 Haitian groups have launched a new campaign against the neoliberal economic policies that Haiti has followed under successive governments over the last three decades. The immediate goal is to implement a moratorium “of at least five years on the trade liberalization agreements [between the Haitian government and international lending institutions] and the putting in place of an economic and social policy outside the logic of the market and of structural adjustment policies.”

“The grassroots social movement is unanimous in recognizing that the catastrophe [of the January 2010 earthquake in southern Haiti] is the result of a socio-historical process whose principal characteristics are exclusion, injustice and social inequalities,” the groups wrote. They dismissed the “reconstruction” projects of the international community as worse than useless: “While the situation of the [earthquake] victims and the displaced tends to get worse, the plans of the imperialist powers to use the country as a paradise for free trade zones [industrial parks exploiting cheap labor] are moving along nicely.”

The focus for the first 10 months of the campaign is to be on educating the population about the neoliberal accords, with the assistance of Haitian artists, intellectuals and musicians; putting pressure on the government and on international groups; proposing alternative policies; and participating in protests and other events. Among the groups in the campaign are the Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA), the Support Group for the Repatriated and Refugees (GARR), the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), the Society for the Animation of Social Communication (SAKS) and Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA). (AlterPresse (Haiti) 2/25/11)

Nearly a million people continue to live outside in tents or improvised shelters more than a year after the earthquake. The rainy season is approaching, and this will be the second rainy season without proper housing for the displaced. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, or CIRH in French and Spanish), a group set up last year by donor nations to disburse and monitor international aid, says that one of its priorities is clearing away the rubble in Port-au-Prince so that new housing can be built. On Feb. 24 CIRH executive director Gabriel Verret announced that so far 20% of the rubble has been removed from the capital, and he promised that 40% would be removed by the end of the year. According to Verret, of the $5.3 billion that the international community is supposed to supply for reconstruction over an 18-month period, just 30% has been made available. (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 2/24/11)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti

¡Golpistas! Coups and Democracy in the 21st Century

Latin leftist leaders in love-in with Libyan lunatic

UDW Editor West Coast Book Tour: Dancing with Dynamite in Latin America

Governing by Obeying the People: Bolivia's Politics of the Street

Washington, Peru and Ollanta Humala: You Can’t Always Believe What You Read in WikiLeaks

Ecuador: Still a Ways to Go, After Historic Ruling Against Chevron

Celebrating Popular Struggle in Cauca, Colombia

Leaked U.S. Cables say Colombia’s Uribe Authorized “Clandestine Cross Border Operations” into Venezuela

Agro-Fuel Debate Takes Root in Central America

With Increased US Aid, Honduras Militarises Anti-Drug Fight

El Salvador's Environmental Crisis

Putting People Over Money in El Salvador

The Aristegui case and other attacks on freedom of expression (Mexico)

Calderón Criticizes U.S. On Mexican Drug War Effort; Says Feds Not Doing Enough

Mexico Arrests Suspects In Shooting Death Of ICE Agent; Says It Was Mistaken Identity

Mexico: leader of "La Resistancia" apprehended

More Than 50,000 Rally for Global Days of Action on Mexico

Mexican Trade Unionist Juan Linares Released from Jail

Fidel Castro: NATO to occupy Libya

Cuban Authorities Set Date For Trial Of U.S. Contractor Alan Gross

Haitians Mobilize for Aristide's Return

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:

Monday, February 21, 2011

WNU #1068: Indigenous Panamanians Protest Open-Pit Mining

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1068, February 20, 2011

1. Panama: Indigenous Groups Protest Open-Pit Mining
2. Puerto Rico: Bar Association Head Jailed in “Rights Crisis”
3. Honduras: US Cable Blasts Coup Leaders’ “Backroom Deals”
4. Mexico: Rebels Reemerge to Denounce “Drug War”
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, 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 . It is archived at

*1. Panama: Indigenous Groups Protest Open-Pit Mining
On Feb. 15 some 5,000 members of Panama’s Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous group held a day of national protests against changes to the Mining Resources Code that they said would encourage open-pit mining for metals by foreign companies. The protests, organized by the People’s Total Struggle (ULIP), started at 10 am in San Félix, in the Ngöbe-Buglé territory in the western province of Chiriquí. Demonstrators interrupted traffic on the highway leading to Costa Rica and reportedly attacked Deputy Labor Minister Luis Ernesto Carles, who had been sent to talk with them. At noon there were demonstrations in front of the Banco General in Santiago, Veraguas province, and the Aquilino Tejera Hospital in Penonomé, Coclé province. Actions continued in the afternoon with protests at the Central Avenue in Changuinola, Bocas del Toro province, and at Vía España in Panama City.

The National Assembly, which is dominated by the coalition supporting conservative President Ricardo Martinelli, voted 42-15 on Feb. 10 to pass the mining law changes, which supporters say will ease the way for foreign investment in the country. They also insist that the law increases controls over the mining companies by stepping up incentives, regulations and fines, and that mining will not be allowed in indigenous territories. But more than 70 Panamanian and international environmental organizations charge that open-pit mining will have serious effects in a rainy tropical climate like Panama’s. They have asked the government to carry out a dialogue on the changes.

Ngöbe-Buglé leaders called on Martinelli to revoke the new law by Feb. 17. He refused, and on Feb. 18 protesters blocked a bridge over the Pacora River east of the capital, interrupting the flow of traffic. The demonstrators fought back with clubs and stones when some 200 anti-riot agents were sent in to remove them. There were seven arrests and several police agents were injured, according to José Castillo, police chief for the metropolitan area.

Indigenous leaders set a new deadline of Feb. 23 for revoking the changes to the law and called for protests to continue. There was a demonstration in David, the capital of Chiriquí province, on Feb. 19, and a delegation of Ngöbe-Buglé were holding a vigil over the weekend of Feb. 19 at the National Assembly building in Panama City. On Feb. 20 an indigenous delegation interrupted a convention of the Panameñista Party in Chiriquí, forcing Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, the party’s leader, to hold a meeting with them.

The social democratic opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) has announced that it supports the indigenous demands “publicly and unconditionally” and will revoke the law if its candidates win the 2014 elections. (Adital (Brazil) 2/15/11; Radio Temblor (Panama) 2/16/11 via Adital; AFP 2/18/11 via Terra (Peru); Telemetro (Panama) 2/20/11; EFE 2/20/11 via Qué.es (Spain))

*2. Puerto Rico: Bar Association Head Jailed in “Rights Crisis”
Chief US federal district judge José Fusté sent Puerto Rican Bar Association (CAPR) president Osvaldo Toledo Martínez to prison on Feb. 10 for refusing to pay a $10,000 fine for contempt of court. This was the latest incident arising from a federal class action suit that challenges the bar’s use of compulsory dues to buy life insurance policies for all its members. CAPR supporters say the association has discontinued the practice and the suit is politically motivated.

Last year the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld an injunction that barred the use of dues for the insurance program, but the court overturned a $4 million damages judgment and said lawyers can opt out of the class action suit. A lower court could then reduce the damages, the appeals court ruled. In defiance of a gag order barring discussion of the case, Toledo held a press conference on Feb. 8 to tell lawyers about their option to get out of the suit; he warned that the CAPR headquarters might have to be sold to pay the judgment. Judge Fusté then found Toledo in contempt and imposed the fine. Toledo surrendered on Feb. 10 at the federal courthouse in Hato Rey rather than pay. “I am here to turn myself in because I don’t want officials to break the doors to my house at 3 am,” he said, “or shoot pepper spray at my family, or bring federal patrol cars. I want my family to sleep peacefully.”

Toledo was released from jail on Feb. 14 after a motion was filed saying that he would pay the fine, but under protest and at the urging of his wife. Once he was released, Toledo treated by a urologist for a possible urinary infection and then taken to a hospital emergency room due to high blood pressure. (Caribbean Business (Puerto Rico) 2/10/11; ABA Journal 2/14/11, 2/15/11)

Coming amidst charges of repression by the administration of conservative governor Luis Fortuño against student protesters at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) [see Update #1067], Judge Fusté’s jailing of Toledo triggered strong support for the bar association president. Some 250 CAPR members and others held a vigil in front of the federal prison in Hato Rey the night of Feb. 11. Environmental activist Alberto de Jesús Mercado (“Tito Kayak”) climbed an electric power pole and unfurled a banner reading: “Osvaldo, all of Puerto Rico is with you.” The Ibero-Americana Union of Bar Associations denounced Fusté’s actions as an abuse of power and a throwback to “the ancestral debtors’ prison.” (NotiCel (Puerto Rico) 2/11/11)

The case came up in the US House of Representatives on Feb. 16, when Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) called the situation in Puerto Rico a “human rights and civil rights crisis” and compared it to Egypt during the repression of protests there in late January and early February.

Standing next to photograph of Judge Fusté, Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, described the island as “[a] part of the world where a student strike led the university to ban student protests on campus and where students protesting the crackdown on free speech were violently attacked by heavily armed police….a part of the world where the bar association has been dismantled by the legislature because it takes stands in opposition to the government, and its leader has been jailed for fighting a politically motivated lawsuit.” Charging that Fusté has “close political ties to the ruling party and a personal history of opposing the Puerto Rico bar association,” Gutierrez entered into the Congressional Record Toledo’s instructions on how CAPR members could opt out of the suit. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 2/16/11)

Meanwhile, student protesters were planning to continue their fight against an $800 tuition surcharge at the UPR. Having won their demand for the police to be withdrawn from UPR campuses, members of the Student Representative Committee (CRE) said they would ask a Feb. 22 General Assembly of students at the Río Piedras campus in San Juan to endorse their call for a strike like the successful strike against budget cuts in the spring of 2010.

Some students who support the protesters’ demands oppose the use of the strike on strategic grounds. Even if the assembly backs the plan, the vote may not become official. Last August Gov. Fortuño signed a law requiring all student assembly decisions to be ratified by an electronic vote open to all the students. Some students say that if the assembly backs a strike plan, the administration could refuse to put it up for the electronic vote, claiming that university strikes are illegal. (END 2/20/11; Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 2/20/11)

*3. Honduras: US Cable Blasts Coup Leaders’ “Backroom Deals”
A US diplomatic cable released by the WikiLeaks group on Jan. 29 has raised new questions about possible corruption in the de facto regime that ruled Honduras between the June 28, 2009 coup against then-president José Manuel (“Mel’) Zelaya Rosales and the Jan. 27, 2010 inauguration of current president Porifirio Lobo Sosa.

The confidential Feb. 20, 2010 cable by US ambassador Hugo Llorens deals with a concession for the José Cecilio del Valle dam and hydroelectric plant near Nacaome, in Valle department in southern Honduras. The Honduran Congress passed a law on Jan. 16, 2010 granting the concession to a consortium including the Italian companies Italian Industrial Agency S.R.L. and B&P Altolumie SNS, and the Honduran firms Hidrocontrol S.A. and Desarrollo y Construcciones y Equipos S.A. De facto president Roberto Micheletti Bain signed the bill on Jan. 20, and it was published in a special edition of the government gazette with only about 20 copies, apparently to keep the law from attracting attention. This maneuver with the gazette and the hurried way the law was passed did in fact draw attention, and the new Lobo administration put the project on hold.

Ambassador Llorens wrote in the cable that “[a]ccording to [US] Embassy sources, Micheletti was one of the Honduran partners in the consortium granted the concession. The chief actors included [then-Congress president José Alfredo] Saavedra, Micheletti Minister of Public Works Saro Bonanno, and Micheletti intimates Johnny Kafati and Roberto Turcios. It is inconceivable that this deal could have been put together without Micheletti's knowledge.” Llorens then commented: “While Micheletti and his colleagues portrayed themselves as practitioners of efficient and honest government in contrast to President Manuel Zelaya's chaotic administration, they appear to have cut a significant number of backroom deals, which were egregious even by local standards. The approval of a huge hydroelectric deal, with such little benefit to the state, just a week before the regime left office is the prime example.”

Micheletti reacted to the leaked cable during a Feb. 15 conference organized by the rightwing Civic Democratic Union (UCD)—entitled “Antidote to 21st Century Socialism”—by announcing that that he would sue Llorens in US courts as soon as the ambassador left office and no longer enjoyed diplomatic immunity. The Honduras Culture and Politics blog noted that a private communication between Llorens and his employer, the US government, could hardly be considered either slander or defamation in the US: “This is a lot of bluster and bravado with no legal basis under US law.” (Honduras Culture and Politics blog 2/16/11; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 2/17/11)

*4. Mexico: Rebels Reemerge to Denounce “Drug War”
Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s militarization of the struggle against drug trafficking is “a war from above” largely for the benefit of US interests, according to a letter published on Feb. 14 and written by “Sub-Commander Marcos,” the spokesperson of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), which is based in the southeastern state of Chiapas.

The war, which Calderón launched when he assumed the presidency in December 2006, “grants [the US] profits, territory, and political and military control without the uncomfortable body bags and the crippled people that arrived, before, from Vietnam and now from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Marcos wrote in the letter, which is addressed to the Mexican philosopher Luis Villoro Toranzo. “The results of this war won't only be thousands of dead… and juicy economic winnings. Also, and above all, it will result in a nation destroyed, depopulated, and irreversibly broken.”

Except for a communiqué after the death on Jan. 24 of former Chiapas bishop Samuel Ruiz García, this letter was said to be the first public statement since 2009 by the once-prolific Marcos. The EZLN, which hasn’t used arms since a brief insurrection in January 1994, has focused recently on developing the 20 communities in its own autonomous region. Gerardo González, a professor at the College of the Southern Border who studies the Zapatista movement, told the French wire service AFP that Marcos’ reappearance “can be explained by his reading of a favorable conjuncture with social movements like what is happening in Egypt, in the Arab countries, in Italy, and in other countries.” (AFP 2/15/11 via Terra (Peru); English translation of Marcos’ letter from My Word Is My Weapon blog 2/14/11)

The US House of Representatives voted 277 to 149 on Feb. 18 for an amendment that blocks a proposal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to require some 8,500 gun dealers near the US-Mexico border to report sales within five consecutive business days of two or more semi-automatic rifles greater than .22 caliber with detachable magazines. The proposal was intended to help the ATF catch people running semi-automatic rifles to Mexico, where they are used by drug gangs.

The amendment, which was added to a spending bill funding the US government through September, had strong bipartisan support; it was introduced by Rep. Dan Boren (D-Ok) and was backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA). However, it needs to pass the Senate and be signed by US president Barack Obama to become official. Mexico’s ambassador to the US, Arturo Sarukhán, called the vote “unfortunate.” Andrew Selee, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, said the amendment was “very bad news for everyone who is worried about arms trafficking to Mexico.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 2/20/11 from Notimex; Washington Post 2/20/11)

The vote follows the WikiLeaks group’s recent release of US diplomatic cables indicating that some of the heavy weapons used by Mexican drug gangs were originally supplied to armies in the region by the US military [see Update #1067]

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

The New Latin American “Progresismo” and the Extractivism of the 21st Century

People's Power: Participatory Budgeting from Brazil to Chicago (Latin America)

What Wikileaks Teaches Us About Obama and Latin America

In Brazil, Peasants Claim Farmland

Rio de Janeiro’s Former Police Chief Accused of Leaking Information About Corruption Bust

Water Evaporates in Peru's For-Export Crops

Ecuador: judge orders Chevron to pay $8.6 billion in pollution case

Ecuadorian Court Rules Against Chevron in Historic Case

China to build trans-oceanic rail link through Colombia

Colombian navy seizes another narco-submarine

Obama Requests Funding for Venezuelan Opposition in 2012 Budget

Accused JFK bomb plot conspirator gets life (Guyana)

Martial Law, Repression, and Remilitarization in Guatemala

Action Alert! Q’eqchi’ Leaders Massacred in Guatemala

Mexican agriculture in crisis

Mexico: US ICE agent killed amid growing violence

Mexico Arrests Two Police Officers In Killing Of Nuevo Leon State Senior Officer

Ciudad Juárez: escalating attacks on activists (Mexico)

Mexico’s Federal Police Open Fire on Protesters, Throwing Merida Initiative Accountability Into Question

Tourism Is Poisoning the Mexican Caribbean

Haiti: Resettlement Plan Excludes Almost 200,000 Families

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:

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Weekly News Update Turns 21

The Weekly News Update started 21 years ago this month as a few photocopied pages with news about the impending elections in Nicaragua.

People sometimes forget how much has changed since then. The internet was new and slow, and there were few alternative sources for news from Latin America and the Caribbean. Solidarity activists were confused and demoralized by events like the collapse of the East Bloc and then the Sandinistas’ electoral defeat. Many activists were unaware of the growing grassroots resistance to neoliberal policies—or even of the existence of neoliberal policies.

The many developments since 1990 have meant that the Update can provide a lot of things now that we couldn’t have imagined then.

-- Better and more timely information from the region. The dramatic growth of the region’s grassroots movements and left and left-center political forces has coincided with wider access to the internet. Now we often learn about a labor struggle, a land occupation or an act of repression as soon as they happen—both from local media and from the participants themselves.

-- A weekly digest of alternative sources. A number of online alternative media have grown up here in the US that carry news on Latin America and the Caribbean. Good information is now available from sources like NACLA’s website, Upside Down World, World War 4 Report and many others. Instead of trying to cover everything ourselves, now we can provide links to important articles at progressive sites and concentrate on the stories we feel the others may have missed.

-- Quick access to primary sources. Most of our source material is now available on the web, so we can provide links from the blog version of the Update, enabling you to follow up on our sources. We also try to link to the websites of the groups that we’re writing about.

-- News at no cost. As our readers increasingly switched to the online Update, we were able to drop the printed version and save the costs of duplication and mailing. We’re an all-volunteer operation, so this means we’ve been able to make the Update free.

Through all the changes, we’ve kept our focus on the dangers of neoliberal polices and US intervention and on the resistance from below: on the struggles of the Mapuche in Chile for their land, the connection between Honduran sweatshop owners and the 2009 coup, the hunger strikes by laid-off Mexican electrical workers and Costa Rican environmentalists, the protests against cutbacks by Puerto Rican students, the evidence that UN “peacekeepers” caused Haiti’s cholera epidemic.

But we feel these stories aren’t reaching enough people. If you think the information is important, you can help by circulating the Update yourselves.

-- You can forward the Update to your lists (please include the link to the blog so people can access the extra information there).
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two Memorials for Rebel Journalist John Ross (1938-2011)

Mexico City, February 22
22 febrero, 2011
19:00 – 22:30
Teatro de la Ciudad
"Esperanza Iris"
Donceles 36

con la participación de
Elena Cepeda, representante de la Ciudad de México
Dante Ross y Carla Ross-Allen, hijo e hija de John Ross
Jaime Avilés
Oscar Gómez-Cesar
y otros amigos y colegas de John

San Francisco, February 26
Ross Memorial

In celebration of poet, author + rabble-rouser
John Ross (1938-2011)

Saturday, February 26 at 3-5 p.m.
* 3-5 p.m. - Words + music by family + friends
United Mission Presbyterian Church
23rd St. and Capp
* 5 p.m. - Jazz parade to Cafe La Boheme
24th St. and Mission
for reception and public remembrances

Catering provided by La Boheme / no-host bar
Bring stories, photos, artwork + poems for the remembrance book.

(Updated 2/18/11)
For updated information, go to:

Monday, February 14, 2011

WNU #1067: Puerto Rican Professors Go on Strike

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1067, February 13, 2011

1. Puerto Rico: University Professors Strike, President Resigns
2. Mexico: US Holds Murdered Activist’s Son and Granddaughter
3. Mexico: WikiLeaks Cables Treat “Drug War,” FARC Links
4. Guatemala: Cable Claims Zetas Are Taking Over the North
5. Haiti: US Liberals Push for Aristide’s Return
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, 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 . It is archived at

*1. Puerto Rico: University Professors Strike, President Resigns
A confrontation between police and University of Puerto Rico (UPR) students on Feb. 9 at the Río Piedras campus in San Juan quickly escalated into what appeared to be the most violent event in two months of protests against an $800 tuition surcharge imposed this year [see Update #1066].

The day began with two separate demonstrations. A group of students started to paint protest slogans on a street inside the campus, while administrative workers, members of the Brotherhood of Exempt Non-Teaching Employees (HEEND), took over the office of UPR rector Ana Guadalupe to demand the removal of the police from campus. Police agents attempted to photograph the student protesters, who claimed they were exercising their constitutional right to free speech. Shoving matches led to beatings and the use of pepper spray by helmeted riot police. Agents arrived on horseback and motorcycles while a helicopter circled over the campus. The students fled, but then regrouped twice and fought back against the police as many other students joined the protest. Outside supporters of the students organized two marches into the campus.

By the evening there were reports that 23 students had been arrested and 14 agents were injured, as were an unknown number of students; some agents, students and journalists had been splashed with the paint that was intended for writing slogans. Students hung a banner from the campus’ landmark tower reading: “We will win.” (WAPA-TV (Puerto Rico) 2/9/11, some from CyberNews; Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 2/9/11; Indymedia PR 2/10/11; NCM Noticias 2/13/11 via Indymedia PR)

There are indications that the conservative administration of Gov. Luis Fortuño had made plans to escalate the violence, even though police tactics in earlier protests had already brought charges of brutality and sexual abuse. The Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU), which represents UPR professors, said it had information about a high-level meeting on Feb. 7 in which it was remarked that “everything was turning out well” in the UPR crisis and that “all that’s missing” is a death to blame on the students. (NCM Noticias 2/13/11)

If the Puerto Rican government was trying to provoke an incident, the tactic misfired badly. Even police superintendent José Figueroa Sancha admitted in a radio interview that the police response had been excessive. The APPU and the HEEND called a 24-hour strike for Feb. 10 to protest the police presence on UPR campuses and to shut down Río Piedras in order to prevent more violence. Campus maintenance workers joined the strike, which was extended through Feb. 11 despite the university’s announcement that it would dock the strikers’ pay. (Prensa Latina 2/11/11)

As the strike was in progress on Feb. 10, UPR president José Ramón de la Torre sent a letter to police superintendent Figueroa Sancha requesting “the withdrawal of the police from the University of Puerto Rico.” De la Torre, who had previously supported the police presence, then resigned “for family reasons.” The resignation was made official on Feb. 11. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 2/11/11; TeleSUR 2/12/11)

On Feb. 12, thousands of students and supporters turned out for “I Love the UPR,” a march to demand the withdrawal of the police. Supported by 72 social organizations and opposition political parties, the mass protest moved through San Juan streets, with motorists honking in support, and marched into the campus, with chants of “Out, out,” past police agents who were unable or unwilling to stop the procession. “If this is the minority, where is the majority?” protesters asked, referring to claims that only a small minority of students and other Puerto Ricans support the protests. Even former governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá (2005-2009) joined the march, although some protesters jeered him because of his efforts to break a teachers’ strike in 2008 [see Update #936].

“Whoever thinks this movement has run out of gas should look at this demonstration and think again,” Student Representative Committee (CRE) spokesperson Ian Camilo Cintrón told the crowd. “The police are in the university to guarantee a project for the privileged and the elite and not a project for the majority. What’s at stake here is accessibility for young people who can’t count on the resources to be able to come to this institution.” (END 2/13/11; NCM Noticias 2/13/11)

As the crisis continued in Puerto Rico, on Feb. 11 Gov. Fortuño was in Washington, DC, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The governor is considered a rising star in the US conservative movement, and Republican strategists feel he might help the party reach out to Latino voters. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is hoping for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, has mentioned Fortuño as a potential running mate. (Times of India 2/11/11 from AP; The Virginian-Pilot 2/8/11 from Politico)

Update, Feb. 14: Today Gov. Fortuño announced the partial removal of police agents from the Río Piedras campus. “The police shouldn’t be in the UPR,” he said. “They should be in the streets.” Agents were seen gathering their equipment and preparing to move out. (END 2/14/11)

*2. Mexico: US Holds Murdered Activist’s Son and Granddaughter
Friends of the Women of Juárez, an organization based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, has written US Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano to call for the release of three-year-old Mexican national Heidi Barraza Frayre and her uncle, Juan Manuel Frayre, to the care of relatives in El Paso, Texas. The granddaughter of slain Mexican activist Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, Heidi Frayre is in US custody while the government investigates whether her El Paso relatives will be able to care for her. She has been staying in a Houston shelter for immigrant children run by a Catholic charity. Juan Manuel Frayre, one of Escobedo’s sons, is in immigration detention in Chaparral, New México.

Heidi Frayre’s father, Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, confessed to murdering her mother, Rubí Marisol Frayre Escobedo, in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, in 2008, but a Chihuahua court ordered him released. Marisela Escobedo then devoted herself to caring for her granddaughter and to seeking justice for her daughter. She was gunned down last Dec. 16 while protesting in front of the main government office in the city of Chihuahua. After her husband’s lumber store was set on fire and her brother-in-law was kidnapped on the day of her funeral, Dec. 18 [see Update #1061], Escobedo’s brother and her two sons fled with Heidi Frayre to Texas, where they applied for asylum for themselves and their niece.

US immigration authorities released Escobedo’s brother and one of her sons pending a decision on their asylum claims but decided to hold Heidi and Juan Manuel Frayre. Luis Benjamin Lara Escobedo, director of protection for the Mexican Consulate in Houston, spoke with the child in late January. “She wanted to know when she could go back and play with her toys,” Lara, who is not related to the family, told the Houston Chronicle. (Houston Chronicle 2/2/11; El Paso Times (Spanish) 2/10/11)

Three relatives of another slain activist, Josefina Reyes, were kidnapped by armed men in Guadalupe Distrito Bravos, east of Ciudad Juárez, on Feb. 7. Reyes’ sister Malena, her brother Elías and Elías' wife, Luisa Ornelas, were traveling in a truck with Reyes’ mother, Sara Salazar, and Reyes’ small daughter. The armed men seized Ornelas and Malena and Elías Reyes and then drove off, leaving Salazar and the child by the side of the road.

Josefina Reyes was shot dead on Jan. 3, 2010; her brother Rubén was killed on Aug. 18. Amnesty International (AI) says Josefina Reyes was “active in protests against violence in the area being carried out by organized criminals and human rights violations committed by the military.” She participated in an August 2009 Forum on Militarization and Repression in Ciudad Juárez. AI called for Mexican authorities to “take urgent steps to find [the three kidnapping victims] while providing protection for [the] rest of the family." (AI 2/10/11)

Four Reyes Salazar family members began a hunger strike in front of the state prosecutor’s Ciudad Juárez office on Feb. 9 to demand that state and federal authorities work actively to rescue their kidnapped relatives. They warned that if the three were abandoned in a deserted area they might die from the cold wave hitting the region. The hunger strikers, who were being guarded by two state police patrol cars, said they planned to emigrate from Ciudad Juárez once their missing relatives were returned. (El Universal (Mexico) 2/10/11)

*3. Mexico: WikiLeaks Cables Treat “Drug War,” FARC Links
The left-of-center Mexican daily La Jornada announced on Feb. 10 that it had received some 3,000 US diplomatic cables from Sunshine Press Productions, which is presided over by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The cables deal with Mexican issues and provide “a window on the background and the tone of the bilateral relation between Mexico and the US,” La Jornada’s editors wrote. The paper said it “has taken on the task of reading, systematizing and treating [the material] journalistically.” (LJ 2/10/11)

The first article in the paper’s WikiLeaks series dealt with some 100 cables from the US consulate in Monterrey, in the northern state of Nuevo León, from 2007 into 2010. The cables, written by Consul Luis Moreno and his successor, Bruce Williamson, show growing doubts over the efficacy of President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s effort to control drug trafficking in the northern states by bringing in the military. A Feb. 26, 2010 confidential cable describes metropolitan Monterrey as “Zeta territory,” referring to the Los Zetas drug gang. “Zeta influence here is longstanding and widespread throughout local and state government,” Williamson wrote. The consulate’s sources said former Nuevo León governor Natividad González Parás (2003-2009) was involved with another drug trafficking organization, the Sinaloa cartel.

The consulate was also concerned with the heavy arms being used by the drug traffickers, some of them with markings for US military equipment, including an M26 A2 fragmentation grenade thrown in an attack against the Monterrey station of the Televisa television network, along with 21 other grenades found in a gang’s arsenal. Apparently the grenades were part of a 1990 shipment from the US to the Salvadoran military, which the US was then backing against the rebel Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN). (LJ 2/10/11)

In response to the article, former governor González Parás denied charges that he was involved with the Sinaloa cartel. The current US consul in Monterrey, Nace Crawford, said that the cables from his predecessor were informal reports that do not reflect the policy of the US. (Prensa Latina 2/11/11)

On Feb. 13 La Jornada wrote about a Mar. 28, 2008 secret cable on alleged links between the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and leftist and criminal groups in Mexico. Media stories about FARC connections in Mexico picked up after four Mexicans, three of them students, were killed in a Mar. 1, 2008, bombing raid by the Colombian military against a FARC camp inside Ecuadorian territory. The Mexican Attorney General's Office (PGR) started an investigation of the four dead Mexicans and the one surviving Mexican, Lucía Morett Alvarez, on Mar. 3. Morett and the victims’ relatives said the students had been in Ecuador for a “Bolivarian Congress,” a meeting of Latin American leftists, and had decided to visit the FARC camp to observe it [see Update #939].

According to the cable, officials of Mexico’s Center for Investigations and National Security (CISEN) thought that in fact “[m]ost of the students attending the Bolivarian Congress in Quito shortly before the attack on the FARC camp were clearly political tourists.” A US agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), investigated charges that the FARC was supplying weapons to drug cartels or Mexican rebel groups like the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). These charges too did not hold up. “[T]here is no evidence that the FARC is supplying guns or ordnance to Mexican drug cartels, the EPR or any other groups in Mexico,” the ATF concluded, according to the cable. (LJ 2/13/11)

*4. Guatemala: Cable Claims Zetas Are Taking Over the North
Some 100 members of Los Zetas, a Mexican drug gang, had settled in the north central Guatemalan city of Cobán, capital of Alta Verapaz department, by early 2009 and were enjoying protection from “corrupt” police who were reportedly “allied with traffickers,” according to a Feb. 6, 2009 confidential diplomatic cable by US ambassador Stephen McFarland. The cable was one of about 3,000 US diplomatic cables from the WikiLeaks organization that were given to the Mexican daily La Jornada because they dealt with issues relating to Mexico. The Los Zetas gang grew out of a group of Mexican Special Forces soldiers, some of them reportedly trained in counterinsurgency by the US military.

The report was based on an investigation in Cobán by two US officials, who found that “some judges and prosecutors are too frightened to do their jobs properly; others are in league with the traffickers.” The police “sometimes even provide…escort” to the traffickers, the investigators said. One source told an investigator that “immigration authorities are helping the Zetas obtain Guatemalan passports and other documents to normalize their status in the country. The Zetas also are believed to operate a training camp in the area.” Another source “said Zetas freely use the airport, even during daylight hours.”

McFarland concluded the cable with a warning that the Guatemalan government had already lost control in six of the country’s 22 departments: “Zacapa and Izabal fepartments, as well as parts of Jutiapa, Chiquimula, San Marcos, and Petén departments.” “Without outside intervention, Cobán will join the growing list of areas lost to narcotraffickers,” McFarland wrote, without specifying what he meant by “outside intervention.” (LJ 2/13/11)

*5. Haiti: US Liberals Push for Aristide’s Return
On Feb. 7 Haiti’s Immigration and Emigration Service issued a diplomatic passport for former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004), who has lived in exile in South Africa since he was forced from office in 2004. The passport is good for five years, with an expiration date of Feb. 6, 2016. Aristide’s US lawyer, Ira Kurzban, arrived in Haiti several days earlier to pick up the document for his client. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 2/7/11)

It was not clear whether the US government would take steps to block the former president’s return. At a Feb. 9 news briefing in Washington, DC, State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said the US “would hate to see” anything that might cause problems with Haiti’s presidential and legislative elections, now scheduled for Mar. 20 [see Update #1065]. “I think that we would be concerned that if former president Aristide returns to Haiti before the election, it would prove to be an unfortunate distraction,” he said. “The people of Haiti should be evaluating the two candidates that will participate in the runoff, and that I think that should be their focus.” (Voice of America 2/9/11)

A spokesperson for Aristide’s Lavalas Family (FL) party, Félix Ansyto, denounced the State Department position as “an intimidation maneuver.” “It’s not up to the US to know what’s going to disturb or not disturb the country,” he added. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 2/11/11) But Ira Kurzban seemed more optimistic about the US government, which flew Aristide out of the country in 2004, during the presidency of George W. Bush (2001-2009), a conservative Republican. Asked by Haiti’s Radio Métropole about relations with France and the US, Kurzban said that the new governments of these countries had a different view of the situation, presumably referring to current US president Barack Obama, a moderate Democrat. (Radio Métropole 2/11/11)

In fact, US liberals linked to the Democratic Party have been pushing for Aristide’s return. A number of liberal celebrities, including actor Harry Belafonte, civil rights veteran Rev. Jesse Jackson and film director Oliver Stone, signed a full-page ad, “Return Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti,” that ran in the Miami Herald on Jan. 23. Another signer was Dr. Paul Farmer, who serves as the deputy to United Nations special envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton, a former US president (1993-2001) and the husband of current secretary of state Hillary Clinton. (San Franciso Bay View 1/23/11)

An opinion piece in the British daily Guardian said that the current US policy on Haiti was also “meeting…resistance” from an important group of Democratic legislators, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). The CBC “forced then-President Bill Clinton to restore Aristide to the presidency in 1994,” according to the article. (Guardian 2/2/11) [The US returned Aristide to office in October 1994 after 20,000 US troops had occupied Haiti and Aristide had agreed to follow a neoliberal economic plan.]

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

International Speculation Culprit in Rising Food Prices

Bolivia: protests over food prices

Hundreds Protest against Ecuadorian Indigenous Leader’s Arrest

Ecuador: Serious Concern Over the Misuse of Terrorism Charges

Colombia’s FARC Releases Politician Taken In 2009 As Gesture Of Peace

Increasingly Broad Social Movements Fight Mining in Colombia

Liliany Obando: Political Prisoner in Colombia

January Reports Indicate Dismal Times Ahead for Colombia's 7,500 Political Prisoners

As Egypt Attacks Press, teleSUR Staff in Cairo Detained, Threatened and Released (Venezuela)

Venezuelan Workers March in Support of Government, Push for New Labor Law

February 2011 12:44 Central American Nations Seek 'Plan Central America'

Democracy There, Democracy Here: Honduras

Labor Resistance in Post-Coup Honduras

Surviving the Sexist Genocide in Guatemala

Don Samuel Ruíz, bishop who brokered Zapatista peace talks, dead at 86

Mexico - Don Samuel Ruiz García: From the People, Below and to the Left

Three Teenagers Killed In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; Two U.S. Citizens

Virtual Warfare Escalates on U.S.-Mexico Border

US army high official invokes "insurgency" in Mexico

States of Exception—Haiti’s IDP Camps

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

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

WNU #1066: Haitian Deportee Dies, the Displaced Are Forgotten

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1066, February 6, 2011

1. Haiti: Deportee Dies, the Displaced Are Forgotten
2. Haiti: Coup Enforcer’s Son Murdered in Honduras
3. Puerto Rico: Student Protesters Face “Egyptian” Repression?
4. Mexico: Rights Group Pins Killings on Military
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Amazonia, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, 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 . It is archived at

*1. Haiti: Deportee Dies, the Displaced Are Forgotten
A Haitian national with symptoms of cholera died in Haiti just two days after his Jan. 20 deportation from Florida by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Wildrick Guerrier was one of 27 Haitians repatriated in ICE’s first deportation of Haitian immigrants since an earthquake devastated southern Haiti in January 2010 [see Update #1064]. Immigrant rights advocates had warned about the dangers of resuming deportations, especially after a cholera epidemic struck Haiti in mid-October. “This is death by deportation,” Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC) executive director Cheryl Little said in a Jan. 31 press release.

On arriving in Haiti the detainees were put in one of the country’s notoriously unsanitary prisons. Guerrier, 34, suffered from “extreme vomiting and uncontrollable diarrhea,” according to FIAC. These are symptoms of cholera, which can develop in less than one day after exposure, although the cause of death seems not to be established--Guerrier was complaining of stomach pains before his deportation.

ICE officials say they are only deporting Haitians convicted of violent crimes. Guerrier, a permanent US resident who came to Florida as a teenager in 1993, had been sentenced to an 18-month prison term, but it’s not clear what he was convicted of. “A criminal record should not be a death sentence for Haitians,” Little said. “Sadly, Guerrier's family now mourns his loss.” (FIAC press release 1/31/11; Miami New Times blog 2/3/11)

Dominican authorities are also deporting Haitians, but their pretext is that the immigrants could spread the cholera among Dominicans. More than 3,000 Haitians were expelled in January, according to Dominican officials cited in a press release from Haiti’s Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad. The ministry said “a number of repatriated citizens” reported “acts of brutality, humiliating persecutions on public streets, the separation of families, the loss of goods and merchandise.” A Dominican group, the Jesuit Service for Refugees and Migrants (SJRM), charged that “[t]hese actions are not effective for avoiding the spread of the epidemic, but instead they undermine the rule of law, give rise to violations of migrants’ human rights, promote racism and generate economic losses.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Haitians remain homeless in the Port-au-Prince area more than a year after the 2010 earthquake. The International Organization for Migration (IOM, or OIM in French) reports that the number of people living in temporary camps has gone down to 810,000 from 1.5 million in January 2010, but it is not clear how many actually obtained shelters and how many continue to live outdoors after leaving the camps--or being expelled from them by people who claim to own the land.

The deportations and the situation of displaced persons are largely ignored in the media as attention stays focused on disputes over the chaotic Nov. 28 presidential and legislative elections, according to Haitian journalist Wooldy Edson Louidor. “The current post-electoral political crisis tends to make people forget more and more the multiple urgent problems the country faces,” he wrote on Feb. 4. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 2/4/11)

On Feb. 3, one day behind schedule, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced its official election results. As expected, the council named two conservatives--Mirlande Hyppolite Manigat (Coalition of National Progressive Democrats, RDNP) and popular singer Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky,” Peasant Response)—as the candidates for the Mar. 20 presidential runoff [see Update #1065]. US ambassador Kenneth Merten congratulated the CEP on its decision. “Finally it’s a good day for Haiti,” he said. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 2/3/11)

*2. Haiti: Coup Enforcer’s Son Murdered in Honduras
Jean-Michel François, the son of exiled former Haitian police chief Joseph Michel François, was killed the night of Feb. 3 in the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. The younger François, a law student, was thrown from a moving vehicle in front of his father’s electronic appliance store in the Medina neighborhood; he died hours later at a nearby hospital. According to some sources he died of bullet wounds, while others say he was badly beaten and died from his injuries. No motive had been given as of Feb. 5.

The elder François, then a lieutenant colonel, was part of a triumvirate of military officers that overthrew then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a bloody September 1991 coup and ran a ruthless dictatorship until a US military intervention restored Aristide to office in the fall of 1994. François was allowed to leave for the Dominican Republic but was expelled in 1996. He then moved to Honduras. The US indicted him for drug trafficking in 1997 [see Update #372], but the Honduran Supreme Court rejected the US extradition request. The other coup leaders, Gen. Raoul Cédras and Gen. Philippe Biamby, both moved to Panama, where Biamby died of cancer in 2008.

“Crime isn’t just in Honduras,” François said after his son’s murder, according to the Honduran daily La Prensa. “It’s in all countries…. [T]here’s a saying that ‘everything that happens in the life of a believer is for the good,’ because God is sovereign.” (La Prensa 2/4/11; Latin American Herald Tribune 2/4/11 from EFE; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 2/4/11, 12/15/08)

*3. Puerto Rico: Student Protesters Face “Egyptian” Repression?
Students protesting an $800 tuition surcharge imposed this year at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) marked the beginning of the spring semester on Feb. 7 with a two-hour march and rally at the school’s Río Piedras campus in San Juan. Adriana Mulero, a spokesperson for the protesters’ Student Representative Committee (CRE), called the demonstration a success, since “they didn’t use brute force,” referring to the large police presence at the campus.

The CRE had made it clear on Feb. 4 that at this point they were simply calling for an interruption of classes, not a strike like the one that shut down the UPR last spring. The UPR administration has been trying to maintain a ban on all demonstrations at the system’s 11 campuses. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 2/7/11; Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 2/4/11 from Inter News Service)

Civil disobedience actions by the students during the school’s registration period over the previous two weeks were met with harsh police tactics, which were forcefully denounced by UPR professors and the local media [see Update #1065]. On Feb. 5 four women legislators presented a resolution in the Chamber of Representatives calling for an investigation into “offensive and undue” acts by police while arresting protesters at the Capitol on Jan. 27. Rep. Brenda López de Arrará said a young woman “was touched inappropriately by an agent” while she was handcuffed inside a police vehicle. (END 2/3/11 from INS) Wanda Vázquez Garced, conservative governor Luis Fortuño’s nominee to head the Office of the Women’s Advocate, has also condemned the groping of women protesters by police agents. (La Opinión (Los Angeles) 2/6/11 from INS)

Some commentators drew parallels with the repression of protesters in Egypt, where massive demonstrations started shaking the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak the week of Jan. 24.

“As I watch the news from the States and I see [US secretary of state Hillary Clinton] exhort the Egyptian police and military to use ‘restraint’ and demand that leaders in the Middle East open up to reforms,” Puerto Rico-based constitutional law professor Judith Berkan told US senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) in a Feb. 2 open letter, “I ask myself--why the silence about Puerto Rico, the largest remaining direct colony of the United States?” (Puerto Rico Daily Sun 2/2/11) Elba Carrasquillo, a Puerto Rican living in Egypt, praised the UPR protesters and warned that “if Puerto Ricans don’t wake up about what has been going on in my island…the road to becoming a country like the Egypt of the past 30 years will get shorter and shorter.” (NotiCel (Mayagüez) 2/3/11 from INS)

Meanwhile, UPR students were trying a new tactic in fighting police repression. On Feb. 4 the Student Communication Center (CCE) released a short video, “No, Sir: 7 Arrested Students Talk to the Police.” Noting that police agents too are exploited, the students explain that the struggle against the tuition surcharge “isn’t just for those of us who are here, because we want a university that’s accessible to all, because we want for you too to be able to aspire to it.” “[Y]ou too can disobey,” the students said. “You don’t have to carry out an unjust order that goes against your principles--orders that seek to go on fomenting injustice and to go on committing abuses and violations of civil rights.” (Primera Hora 2/4/11 from INS)

*4. Mexico: Rights Group Pins Killings on Military
There were at least eight killings last year in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León “that evidence indicates were the result of unlawful use of lethal force by army and navy officers,” according to a Feb. 3 press release from the New York-based nonprofit Human Rights Watch (HRW). A recent fact-finding mission by the group to Nuevo León also “documented more than a dozen enforced disappearances in which the evidence points to the involvement of the army, navy, and police,” HRW said.

One case the group researched was the shooting of a married couple, Rocío Romeli Elías Garza and Juan Carlos Peña Chavarria, by soldiers on Mar. 3 in Anáhuac. The couple was caught in a shootout between the military and armed men; Peña was wounded, but he and Elías managed to take cover behind an automobile. “When the shooting stopped, Elías raised her hands and pleaded for help for her husband, yelling that they were civilians and were unarmed. She was shot by a soldier standing approximately 10 feet away. Soldiers approached the bodies and shot them again from point-blank range. Then, the witnesses said, the soldiers moved the bodies and planted arms near both victims.”

Another case was the killing of a Vicente de León Ramírez and Alejandro Gabriel de León Castellanos, a father and his teenage son, near Apodaca on Sept. 5 when soldiers opened fire on the family car on a highway [see Update #1049]. Other victims included Jehú Sepúlveda Garza, who disappeared on Nov. 12 after being arrested in San Pedro Garza García and José Guadalupe Bernal Orzúa, who disappeared on May 23 in Monterrey.

“Victims' families told Human Rights Watch that they had complained to state and federal authorities, and that in most cases investigations had been formally opened,” the report says. “But no one has been held accountable for any of the crimes Human Rights Watch documented in Nuevo León, according to the families.” (HRW press release 2/3/11; La Jornada (Mexico) 2/4/11) Human rights complaints against the military have risen dramatically since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa deployed soldiers in a “war on drugs” shortly after taking office in December 2006 [see Update #1065].

In other news, thousands of unionists and campesinos marched in Mexico City on Jan. 31 in what has become a traditional annual protest against the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the federal government’s neoliberal economic policies [see Updates #933, 1020]. This year about 40,000 people participated, according to the organizers; the Mexico City police estimated 22, 000. Martín Esparza, general secretary of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) [see Update #1057], called for driving President Calderón out of office, even though his term ends in less than two years. “This government only has a few months left,” Esparza told the marchers, “but we should overthrow it, the way they did in Tunisia and the way it’s being done in Egypt. We need to raise up a civil and peaceful insurgency throughout the country.” (LJ 2/1/11)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Amazonia, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico

Living under the Oppression of Democracy – The Mapuche People of Chile

Is Amazon rainforest becoming net CO2 emitter?

New photos of "uncontacted" Amazon tribe released (Brazil)

Brazil: construction of Belo Monte dam (illegally) approved

Brazil: Why land reform makes sense for Dilma Rousseff

Brazil Lending a Hand to Less Developed Countries

Bolivia: Cochabamba coca chew-in for legalization

Peru: appeals court upholds release of Lori Berenson

Peru: Camisea consortium in royalty dispute

Ecuador: protest demands release of Amazon indigenous leaders

Colombia: indigenous reintegrate demobilized guerrillas

Multinational Banana Corporation Displaces Afro-Colombian Peace Communities

Banana companies steal land from Afro-Colombian peace communities

An Assessment of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution at Twelve Years

Venezuela’s Chavez Calls for Non-Interference in Egypt

Venezuela: Chávez threatens to boot Coca-Cola

Central America Raises Its Voice in Defense of Its Migrants

Panama: indigenous protesters blockade capital

Hondurans march in solidarity with Egyptian uprising

Action Alert! Death Threats against Environmental Defenders in El Salvador

Guatemala: campesinos targeted in "state of siege"

MexicoBlog Editorial: Napolitano in Texas: Tough Talk, Little Coherence

Mexican Political Transition Underway

Mexico: narcos escalate war on security apparatus

New Cuba Travel Regulations Published in Federal Register Today

The Right to Housing for Internally Displaced Haitians

Violence Against Student Strike in Puerto Rico Escalates With Police Brutality and Rubber Bullets

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