Tuesday, December 27, 2011

WNU #1110: Chilean Students End Protests, Plan for 2012

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1110, December 25, 2011

1. Chile: Students End Protests, Plan for 2012
2. Mexico: Violence Continues Against Ecologists and Indigenous
3. Guatemala: Pollutants Found in Rivers Near Goldcorp Mine
4. Argentina: Junta and US Knew About Baby Thefts
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

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 End Protests, Plan for 2012
After eight months of mobilizations, strikes and campus occupations, on Dec. 22 Chilean university and secondary students held their last protest of the 2011 school year, a march through the streets of downtown Santiago. As in previous demonstrations, there were clashes with the carabineros militarized police, who said the students didn’t have a permit for the protest; some 10 youths were arrested. With an estimated 1,000 to 4,000 participants, the final mobilization was tiny in comparison with the hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and supporters that had marched in the months before [see Update #1098].

The protest came one day after students in Santiago ended their occupations of the University of Chile’s main building and of the José Miguel Carrera National Institute, the country’s oldest institution of public education. The occupation of the Darío Salas high school, also in Santiago, ended on Dec. 22, the day of the march.

With the mass protests winding down, commentators noted that the students had only won small concessions from the rightwing government of President Sebastián Piñera and had failed to achieve their main goal, the reversal of the privatization of the educational system that started under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. But as Santiago University professor and analyst Bernardo Navarrete told the Associated Press wire service, “the students succeeded this year in changing the agenda of a government of the right.” The movement in fact produced the largest mobilizations since the restoration of democracy in 1990 and won wide support from the general population, as was shown when more than a million people voted in a grassroots plebiscite that students and teachers organized in October [see Update #1100]. The Chilean protests also invigorated student movements in Colombia and other parts of Latin America [see Update #1107].

Chile’s main student organizations will have new leaders in March when schools reopen after the summer break. Gabriel Boric has been elected president of the Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH), replacing Camila Vallejo Dowling, who will be vice president. Vallejo, a member of the Communist Youth of Chile (JJCC), became the best-known student leader in both local and international media; readers of the British daily The Guardian made her the paper’s “person of the year” for 2011. The new president of the Federation of Catholic University Students (FEUC) is Noam Titelman, replacing Giorgio Jackson.

Student leaders insist that protests will continue next year in a new form. One of their goals is to expand the Chilean Student Confederation (CONFECH) in 2012 to include student groups from private universities and from secondary schools; student leaders have announced a conference for recreating the movement, to take place in February or March. At the Dec. 22 protest, new FECH president Boric said that next year the student movement will work together with other social movements around common demands. Boric is an independent. Although he denies that he is more radical than Vallejo, he emphasizes the importance of social movements acting outside the traditional political parties. (TeleSUR 12/22/11 from staff, Prensa Latina, Infobae; AP 12/23/11 via Univision; Noticias 123.cl (Chile) 12/23/11; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/23/11 from correspondent)

*2. Mexico: Violence Continues Against Ecologists and Indigenous
Mexican environmental activists Eva Alarcón and Marcial Bautista were reportedly still alive as of Dec. 21, two weeks after their Dec. 7 kidnapping from a bus in the southwestern state of Guerrero [see Update #1109]. According to Francisco Saucedo—an adviser to their group, the Guerrero-based Organization of Ecologist Campesinos of the Sierra de Petatlán and Coyuca de Catalán (OCESP)—officials of the state government supplied the information during a meeting with Alarcón’s daughter, Coral Rosas, and Bautista’s daughter, Victoria Bautista, but said that giving out more information might cause problems.

Founded in 1998, OCESP has led struggles against deforestation in the Petatlán highlands, where campesino and indigenous organizations regularly face harassment and violence from drug traffickers, state police agents, federal soldiers, and goons allegedly working for logging companies and big landowners. The attacks against OCESP members included the May 2005 murder of two children of an OCESP leader, Albertano Peňalosa Domínguez. The group’s founder, Chico Mendes award winner Felipe Arreaga Sanchez, was imprisoned from November 2004 to September 2005 on murder charges that were dismissed after the case received international publicity [see Update #829]. (Arreaga died in a traffic accident in September 2009.)

The mysterious disappearance of 17 people, including nine children, from the Guerrero community of Cerro Verde, on Dec. 18 may be connected to the Alarcón and Bautista kidnapping. The disappeared, members of four different families, were located in nearby Tecpan de Galeana on Dec. 22. According to a relative, Ignacio Salto Villa, 15 armed men broke into the four families’ homes, saying the family members were “Marcial Bautista’s people.” The families actually belong to a different organization, the Hermenegildo Galeana Free Front, Salto Villa told a reporter, describing the front as “a group of campesinos who care for and protect some 300 hectares of pine groves and green areas.” The four families were treated relatively well and were never threatened, according to Salto Villa, who charged that Federal agents and soldiers were involved in the kidnapping. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/22/11; Amnesty International posting 9/21/09; AFP 12/22/11 via Univision; Milenio (Mexico) 12/23/11)

Alarcón and Bautista are also members of the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD), formed this year to oppose President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s militarized fight against the drug cartels. Two other MPJD members were murdered recently in the neighboring state of Michoacán: Trinidad de la Cruz Crisóstomo (“Don Trino”), who was found dead on Dec. 7 [see Update #1109], and Pedro Leyva Domínguez, who was killed on Oct. 6.

Leyva and De la Cruz were leaders of Xayakalan (or Xayacalan), a community founded in the summer of 2009 by indigenous Nahua from Santa María Ostula who occupied disputed land near the Pacific coast and were then granted more than 1,000 hectares by Michoacán’s state government [see Update #998]. (The creation of the community is the subject of a brief video by Notilibertas, apparently a Mexican media collective.) But the community quickly became the target of drug gangs that want to control the area; landowners that dispute the community’s right to the land may also be involved. In September 2010 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), the human rights arm of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a precautionary measure (No. 264-10) calling on the state and federal governments to work with the Xayakalan community to provide protection for its members.

So far the IACHR’s efforts have had little effect. Leyva was murdered shortly after a September meeting with an IACHR delegation about the precautionary measure; De la Cruz was murdered shortly after a Nov. 28 meeting with state and local authorities on protecting the community. Xayakalan residents say De la Cruz was the 28th community member to be killed. Of the 300 families that originally made up the community, all but 30 have left. (LJ 12/22/11)

*3. Guatemala: Pollutants Found in Rivers Near Goldcorp Mine
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) has withdrawn a 2010 order for the Guatemalan government to suspend operations at the controversial Marlin gold mine, according to a Dec. 19 press release from the Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc. The action follows a petition by the Guatemalan government saying its monitors had determined that “no proof exists that there is any situation presenting a threat of serious or imminent harm to persons or that there is a probability that any damage will materialize, and therefore there does not exist a situation of extreme seriousness or urgency to avoid irreparable harm to persons as a result of operations at the Marlin mine.” (Goldcorp 12/19/11 via the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch)

The IACHR, the human rights arm of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued the 2010 order in response to a complaint filed by indigenous Mayan inhabitants of the communities of Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán in the western department of San Marcos. The residents charged that the mine had caused significant damage to their health and to the local environment. The Guatemalan government and the mine’s owner, Goldcorp subsidiary Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, have simply ignored the IACHR order ever since it was issued [see Update #1082].

Shortly before the IACHR issued its decision to withdraw the suspension, the Pastoral Commission Peace and Ecology (Copae) of San Marcos diocese reported that the Tzalá and Quivichil rivers, which pass near the mine, have high concentrations of heavy metals, including cyanide, arsenic, copper, aluminum and manganese.

According to Copae’s Josué Navarro, the presence of cyanide and arsenic are evidence of contamination from the mine and pose a health threat to communities that drink water in the area. But Amílcar Ruiz Téllez, departmental delegate for the Environment Ministry, said the concentrations of metal in the water were within acceptable limits, based on a study by the Community Environmental Monitoring Association (Asociación de Monitoreo Ambiental Comunitario, AMAC). (Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 12/10/11)

[According to an online fact sheet posted by Goldcorp, the AMAC is “an independent and community-based organization” that the company “helped established” (sic) in 2005.]

Correction: Environment Ministry delegate Ruiz Téllez did not actually endorse the AMAC report’s conclusions; he simply cited them, adding: “we’ll have to wait for the repercussions, good or negative.”

*4. Argentina: Junta and US Knew About Baby Thefts
As of Dec. 22 the US government had sent the Argentine human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo a completely declassified copy of a 1982 US State Department memo discussing the abduction of the babies of alleged leftists during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The document undercuts any claims by former members of the ruling junta that the abductions were not systematic or that the military rulers were unaware of the crimes. The human rights group had asked the US for the memo so that it could be used in trials of former de facto president Gen. Reynaldo Bignone (1982-83) and others.

During the dictatorship’s “dirty war” against supposed leftist “terrorists,” the military regularly killed women prisoners and then secretly gave their babies and small children to military and other families. According to the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, about 500 children were “appropriated” in this way; the group has succeeded in reuniting more than 100 with their biological families.

In the memo, then-assistant secretary of state for human rights Elliott Abrams described a Dec. 3, 1982 meeting he held with Argentina’s ambassador at the time, Lucio Alberto García del Solar, at the Jockey Club in Washington, DC. The “two main topics,” according to Abrams, were US certification of the junta’s human rights record and “the question of the disappeared.” “I raised with the ambassador the question of children,” Abrams wrote. “Children born to prisoners or children taken from their families during the dirty war. While the disappeared were dead, these children were alive and this was in a sense the gravest humanitarian problem. The ambassador agreed completely and had already made this point to his foreign minister and president.”

Abrams said he suggested that the junta might tell “everything it could about the fate of individuals” or invite the Catholic Church to reunite the children with their biological families. Apparently the generals wouldn’t consider either plan. “The military is absolutely united and determined to avoid widespread and vengeful punishment for its acts,” Abrams wrote. All the same, Abrams saw no problem with having the administration of then-US president Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) certify that the dictatorship was making progress on human rights.

The memo was originally released in 2002, but some paragraphs were blacked out, which would lessen its credibility as a court document. The censored paragraphs turn out not to have been relevant to the abductions of children.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo thanked US ambassador Vilma Martinez for her help. “We hope that this will be the start of the declassification of all the documents that the United States has, in particular those of agencies like the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation], to contribute to clearing up the crimes against humanity that occurred in our country,” the group wrote.

Abrams, a neoconservative best known for his role in the illegal sale of weapons to Iran in the middle 1980s to fund the rightwing Nicaraguan contras, now works at the Council for Foreign Relations, a Washington, DC-based nonpartisan think tank. A spokesperson told the Associated Press wire service that Abrams “will not comment on the substance of this memo or any other questions due to the fact that he may have to testify in the coming future.” (Página/12 (Argentina) 12/22/11; AP 12/23/11 via ABC News; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/24/11 from correspondent)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

Latino Student Movements: Defending Education

The U.S. Double Standard on Elections in Latin America and the Caribbean

Argentina Shows World How to Beat the Economic Crisis

Embassy Cables Reveal Brazil Supported Chile’s Pinochet Regime

"Godfather" of Colombian Army Intelligence Acquitted in Palace of Justice Case

Interview with Iván Cepeda: Social Movements Fight Against Impunity in Colombia

Venezuela’s Attorney General: Extradition of FARC Singer Conrado Shouldn’t Proceed

Venezuela Sends National Guard To The Streets To Fight Crime

International Solidarity Bolsters El Salvador’s Anti-Mining Resistance

Trials and Tenacity in Honduran Women’s Struggle for Land Rights

What This Company Did to Us: Rape and Displacement in Guatemala

Impunity Still Rules in Mexico: A Few More Deaths Foretold

Mexico’s Dirty War Gets Dirtier

Militarized Mining in Mexico

UNI Global Union Supports Atento Workers in Mexico

Workers at Volkswagen Supplier Fired for Opposing CTM Union Leader

Mexico: Racism Prevalent Among Children, Revealing Cultural Pattern (Study)

Cuba Declares 3-Day Mourning Period For Kim Jong Il

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:

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:

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:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

WNU #1108: Costa Rican Court Rules Against Gold Mine

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1108, December 4, 2011

1. Costa Rica: Supreme Court Rules Against Gold Mine
2. Haiti: Pressure Grows for Reinstating Fired Unionists
3. Chile: Judge Indicts US Officer in 1973 Killings
4. Mexico: Murdered Activist Blamed for Own Murder
5. Latin America: Poverty Down Except in Mexico and Honduras
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com  It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com.

*1. Costa Rica: Supreme Court Rules Against Gold Mine
In a major victory for Costa Rica’s environmental movement, on Nov. 30 the First Chamber of the country’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s November 2010 decision canceling a concession for an open-pit gold mine in Crucitas de San Carlos near the Nicaraguan border. The Supreme Court’s ruling also nullified Environment and Energy Ministry executive decree 34801, with which former president Oscar Arias Sánchez (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) had declared the mine, owned by the Canadian company Infinito Gold Ltd., a matter of “national interest.” The court told the Public Ministry to “start an investigation to determine whether it is proper to pursue a criminal case against” Arias, former vice president Roberto Dobles Mora and six other former officials.

Infinito Gold, which is based in Calgary, Alberta province, indicated it might go to international bodies to try to get back the $127 million it had invested in the mine, which the company had expected to produce a million ounces of gold.

The court’s call for investigating former president Arias points to several irregularities in the case. Arias’ 2008 decree that the mine was in the national interest let Infinito Gold keep the concession for the project despite serious concerns about its environmental impact. More recently, a draft of the Supreme Court’s final decision in the case disappeared in the middle of November, leading to suspicions that the document was stolen and leaked to Infinito Gold’s legal team. Supreme Court alternate magistrate Moisés Fachler has resigned as a result, and the Public Ministry is investigating.

Activists celebrated the Nov. 30 decision with demonstrations in front of the Supreme Court building in San José. Some 90% of the population reportedly opposed the mine, which had inspired numerous demonstrations and a hunger strike [see Updates #1054, 1056, 1057]. (El País (Costa Rica) 11/30/11; Adital (Brazil) 12/1/11; Costa Rica Contaminada blog 12/3/11)

*2. Haiti: Pressure Grows for Reinstating Fired Unionists
The Montreal-based apparel firm Gildan Activewear Inc. has asked its Haitian subcontractor, Genesis S.A., to reinstate four unionized workers that the plant’s managers fired in the last week of September, Gildan senior vice president Peter Iliopoulos told the Montreal Gazette on Nov. 29. The company has “requested the reinstatement of the employees with full back pay dating back to the date of dismissal and also recognition of full seniority for these individuals as though they had never left the company or factory,” Iliopoulos said. Another major North American apparel firm, North Carolina-based Hanesbrands Inc., has taken similar action with its subcontractor in Haiti, Multiwear SA, which fired Hilaire Jean-Jacques, a member of the same union, on Sept. 30.

The five unionists were all officers of the newly formed Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA). A sixth SOTA officer was fired in the same week at One World Apparel, which produces for Superior Uniform Group Inc., a manufacturer based in Seminole, Florida.

Gildan and Hanesbrands’ call for the workers to be reinstated came in response to a Nov. 24 report by Better Work Haiti, a partnership of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) that was set up to monitor labor conditions in Haiti. “There is strong circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the officers of the SOTA trade union were terminated based on their trade union affiliation,” the group concluded, saying the timing of the firings “strongly suggests an effort by employers to undermine the new union, and to curtail its growth before it had the opportunity to expand its membership.” The report recommended reinstating the workers with back pay.

SOTA was formally launched on Sept. 15 with the goal of organizing workers in Port-au-Prince’s garment assembly sector, which currently has no unions; only one of Haiti’s 23 assembly plants is unionized. Unionists and supporters, including the leftist workers’ organization Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), responded to the firings with an international campaign to pressure the plants for reinstatement [see Updates #1099, 1106]. (Montreal Gazette 11/30/11, 12/1/11; Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch 11/30/11)

Better Work Haiti’s sharp criticism of labor relations at assembly plants came as the Haitian government and international donors pushed ahead with plans for more of the tax-exempt plants, which produce for export to the North American market. On Nov. 28 Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”), former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and other dignitaries attended a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Parc Industriel de Caracol (Caracol Industrial Park, PIC) near a small fishing village in Northeast department. The 246-hectare facility, formerly known the Parc Industriel du Nord (PIN) or Parc Industriel de Région Nord (PIRN), is expected to generate 20,000 jobs [see Update #1087]. “Haiti is open for business,” President Martelly announced at the ceremony. (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 11/28/11)

The ceremony was followed by the second Invest in Haiti Forum, which the Haitian government, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Clinton Foundation hosted in Port-au-Prince on Nov. 29 and 30. Some 1,000 investors, business people and government officials attended the event, which highlighted plans for additional export-oriented projects. One was a partnership of the Inter-American Development Bank (BID), the Swiss-based multinational Nestlé S.A. and the National Federation of Coffee Producers of Colombia for developing coffee exports. Another was an agreement by the multinational cell phone company Digicel Group and the Marriott International hotel company to build and manage a $45 million, 168-room hotel in Port-au-Prince--where hundreds of thousands of people continue to live in tents or other temporary shelters nearly two years after a devastating earthquake. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/2/11)

On Nov. 29 Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW, Ayiti Kale Je, “Haiti Keep Your Eyes Open” in Creole), a project sponsored by several Haitian media organizations, released a seven-part assessment of these types of export-oriented development strategies. The series, “Haiti—Open for Business,” detailed low wages and anti-labor practices in the assembly plant sector and described the likely environment damage from the Caracol industrial park in the north. “Basing the country’s development on assembly industries is a big error; it will lead us into a hole, into dependency,” Haitian economist Camille Chalmers of the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), told the investigators. “People need to know what FTZs [free trade zones] are, what has happened in Mexico, or Honduras, so they don’t think these things will ‘save’ us,” Chalmers said.

“Manufacturers do not offshore their jobs in order to ‘jumpstart’ industry or ‘improve the standard of living,’” the HGW reporters concluded. “They do it to make a profit. As Canadian company Gildan Activewear said in a recent newspaper article, the savings offered is ‘too good to pass up.’” (HGW 11/29/11)

Correction: Following our sources, we reported previously that Hanesbrands’ Haitian supplier was One World Apparel, which actually produces for Superior Uniform Group Inc., according to the Montreal Gazette; also, the name of the unionist fired from Multiwear was given incorrectly as “Hilaire Jean-François.”

*3. Chile: Judge Indicts US Officer in 1973 Killings
Chilean judge Jorge Zepeda issued an indictment on Nov. 29 charging former US Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis with involvement in the murders of two US citizens, journalist Charles Horman and graduate student Frank Teruggi, in the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende Gossens. Judge Zepeda asked the Chilean Supreme Court to authorize a request for Davis’ extradition from the US. The judge also indicted retired Chilean army Brigadier Pedro Espinoza Bravo, who is already in prison for several other crimes.

Basing the indictment in part on declassified US documents, Zepeda charged that Capt. Davis, who headed the Military Group at the US embassy in Santiago at the time, could have prevented Horman’s execution by the Chilean military but failed to do so because he thought Horman’s work was “subversive” and “extremist.” The documents also indicate that Horman may have been killed because he had found out about US “collaboration during the military events unfolding,” the judge wrote. Horman and Teruggi were working together on a weekly news digest; both were being monitored by US agents, who passed information on to the Chilean military, according to Zepeda.

Capt. Davis’ wife told the Associated Press wire service on Dec. 1 that her husband has severe Alzheimer’s and is in a US nursing home. Patricia Davis, who lives in Florida, refused to name the nursing home. (AP 11/29/11 via Miami Herald, 12/2/11 via ABC News; New York Times 11/30/11)

*4. Mexico: Murdered Activist Blamed for Own Murder
Unknown assailants gunned down Mexican activist Nepomuceno Moreno Núñez on a street in Hermosillo, the capital of the northern state of Sonora, on Nov. 28. Moreno Núñez had been working with the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD), which was founded by the poet Javier Sicilia this year to oppose the militarized “war on drugs” that has killed as many as 50,000 Mexican since late 2006 [see Update #1079].

Moreno’s political activism began when one of his sons, Jorge Mario Moreno, disappeared in July 2010, apparently after being picked up in Ciudad Obregón by municipal or state police agents. Nepomuceno Moreno and other MPJD members met with President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa this past Oct. 14 at the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City; during the meeting Moreno discussed his son’s disappearance and asked for protection for himself.

Sonora state authorities suggested that Moreno’s murder might be linked to his own criminal record. Moreno was convicted of possession of heroin with intent to sell in Arizona in the 1970s, when he was in his twenties. He was arrested again in Sonora in November 2005 for illegal weapons possession in connection with a shootout in the Los Lagos Golf Club in Hermosillo, but he was acquitted in 2009. At a press conference in Mexico City on Nov. 29, Javier Sicilia called for Sonora attorney general Abel Murrieta Gutiérrez to resign because of this attempt to criminalize the murdered activist. (La Jornada (Mexico) 11/30/11; Adital (Brazil) 12/1/11; Milenio (Mexico) 12/1/11)

In other “drug war” news, on Nov. 27 President Calderón’s office denounced “false and slanderous imputations” against the president and warned that it was analyzing the possibility of “taking legal action against those that make them in various international or national forums and tribunals.” The reference was to a complaint that Mexican human rights attorney Netzaí Sandoval filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on Nov. 25 charging Calderón and others with human rights violations in the fight against drug trafficking [see Update #1107].

Sandoval responded that it was “inadmissible” for the government to try to use lawsuits to silence its critics. “Calderón is betraying the ideology of his own party,” Sandoval said, referring to the center-right National Action Party (PAN). “One of the most persistent criticisms by the PAN and Calderón’s government against the Cuban regime, that of Fidel Castro, is its refusal to allow observation [of the human right situation] by international organizations.” The complaint that Sandoval filed could lead the ICC to place Mexico under observation, as has happened with Colombia. (LJ 11/28/11, 11/29/11)

*5. Latin America: Poverty Down Except in Mexico and Honduras
The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, CEPAL in Spanish) released a report on Nov. 29 showing that the poverty rate in Latin America had dropped from 48.4% to 31.4% between 1990 and 2010, while the indigence rate fell from 22.6% to 12.3%. Despite the progress, 174 million people continue to live in poverty, and their situation is likely to worsen because of rising food costs, according to the UN commission, which is based in Chile.

Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia were the countries that showed the most improvement, according to the report. Only Honduras and Mexico showed an increase in poverty rates, 1.7% for Honduras and 1.5% for Mexico. The Honduran and Mexican economies are both especially dependent on exports to the US, and the global economic crisis that started in 2008 hit Mexico harder than other countries in the region. (MercoPress (Montevideo) 11/29/11; La Jornada (Mexico) 11/30/11)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Latin America: new regional bloc includes Cuba —but not US

Latin America: Not Everyone on Board with Mesoamerica Development Plan

Just Legalize It: ‘Ending the War on Drugs’ Conference in Washington

Argentina: The Assassins of the Landowners

Argentina: Mapuche occupy US-owned gas plant

Homage to a Criminal in Chile

Chilean Student Protesters Vow to Continue Marches

Peruvian Government Expands Scope of Military Activity

Peru: Humala declares state of emergency over Cajamarca protests

Hostage Deaths in Colombia Highlight the Need for More Cautious Policy

Caracas, Venezuela Prepares for CELAC Founding Conference

Transnational Movement “Encachimbados” Brings Occupy Protests to El Salvador

New US Military Bases in Honduras

Honduras: An Urgent Call

"This Land Is Ours!" Land Theft as Legacy of Genocide in Guatemala

Canada Under Pressure to Try Alleged Guatemalan War Criminal

The Mexican Drug War Goes to The Hague

REDD in the Lacandon Jungle: The Political Use of a Program Against Climate Change (Mexico)

Request for Letters from Mexican Electrical Workers (SME)

Electrical Workers Demand That Government Fulfill Promises (Mexico)

"Haiti--Open for Business"

Controversy over Haiti’s development

World Bank Allocates $255 million for Haiti Reconstruction

Blacklisted Contractor Continues Receiving Government Money Through Haiti Contracts

Interview: Cuba's Health Care Miracle in Haiti

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