Tuesday, June 5, 2012

WNU #1131: Mexican Presidential Race Heats Up as Students Protest

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1131, June 3, 2012

1. Mexico: Presidential Race Heats Up; Student Protests Continue
2. Mexico: Indigenous Leader Murdered in Michoacán
3. Guatemala: Pérez Molina Downsizes Peace Archives
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US/immigration

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. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

Note: Last week’s Update was misdated. The date should have been May 27, 2012.

*1. Mexico: Presidential Race Heats Up; Student Protests Continue
Former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto is still favored to win Mexico’s July 1 presidential elections, but polls released at the end of May showed his lead over the other candidates slipping. After being considered the certain winner for months, Peña Nieto, the candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was only four percentage points ahead of former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a poll published by the conservative daily Reforma on May 31. Peña Nieto led voter intentions with 38%, according to Reforma, down from 45% in March; López Obrador, who is running with a center-left coalition, followed closely with 34%, up from 22% in March; and Josefina Vázquez Mota, the candidate of the governing center-right National Action Party (PAN), came in third with 23%, down from 32% in March.

Three other polls from the same period showed Peña Nieto with a larger lead and López Obrador and Vázquez Mota close to each other in voter intentions. Milenio/GEA-ISA, for example, showed Peña Nieto with 45.9%; López Obrador was far behind with 24.9% and was virtually tied with Vázquez Mota, who had 24.3%. However, most polls agreed that Peña Nieto and Vázquez Mota were losing ground and López Obrador was gaining. “The possibility exists that [the Reforma poll] is going in the right direction, that the contest is moving that way,” Roy Campos, from the rival Consulta Mitofsky polling company, told a reporter. (ADNpolitico.com (Mexico) 5/31/12)

Peña Nieto and his campaign advisers are said to be concerned by the improved numbers for López Obrador, who lost the 2006 presidential race by a very narrow margin in a disputed official count. The left-leaning daily La Jornada reports that PRI leaders don’t believe that López Obrador is just four points behind their candidate--but they also don’t believe Peña Nieto is ahead by 20 or 21 points. The student protests that have started to plague Peña Nieto’s public appearances are another factor worrying the candidate’s advisers, according to La Jornada. (LJ (Mexico) 6/2/12)

The student movement--widely known as #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”) and sometimes as “Mexican Spring”—appeared suddenly in May to challenge media coverage of the campaign and the perception that the PRI candidate was sure to win [see Update #1130]. While continuing to march against Peña Nieto and the television networks, the students are now also developing links with other Mexican protest movements.

A meeting at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City on June 1 called on students to participate in the capital’s annual LGBT Pride march the next day and in a protest on June 3 in defense of the Wirikuta, a site in the north central state of San Luis Potosí that is sacred to the Wixárika (Huichol) indigenous group; the Wixárika say the site is threatened by a mining concession granted to the Canadian firm First Majestic Silver Corp (FMS) [see Update #1081]. On June 4 students planned to protest in solidarity with some of the parents of the 49 children that died in a fire in the Guardería ABC, a childcare center in Hermosillo, Sonora on June 5, 2009. (LJ 6/2/12; Terra (Mexico) 6/2/12)

Correction: Last week’s Update described a May 19 march in Mexico City as sponsored by university students. Students accounted for much of the participation, but no group sponsored the demonstration, which was organized through social networks.

*2. Mexico: Indigenous Leader Murdered in Michoacán
The body of indigenous teacher and activist Teódulo Santos Girón was found on May 16 in the town cemetery in La Ticla in the western Mexican state of Michoacán. According to official sources, Santos Girón, who had just finished his term as a local official in the indigenous Nahua community of Santa María Ostula, had been kidnapped in La Ticla the night before; he was shot in the head and in the body.

Santos Girón was active in promoting maintenance of the Náhuatl language and culture, and he was a strong supporter of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) who also admired the indigenous rebels of the Zapatista National Liberation Front (EZLN), based in the southeastern state of Chiapas. He helped lead the movement of Ostula residents that occupied disputed land near the Pacific coast in the summer of 2009. The occupiers were subsequently granted more than 1,000 hectares by Michoacán’s state government, but drug dealers and other forces have been trying to drive the community out of the area. As of last December, 28 community members had been murdered, including leaders Trinidad de la Cruz Crisóstomo (“Don Trino”) and Pedro Leyva Domínguez [see Update #1110]. (La Crónica de Hoy (Mexico) 5/18/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/19/12)

Another Michoacán indigenous activist, Jesús Sebastián Ortiz, was found dead on May 24 in the Cherán autonomous municipality, where he was a community leader. He had left his home a week earlier to go to a ranch, but he never returned. Community members feared he had been attacked by forcesengaged in illegal logging; eight people were killed near Cherán the morning of Apr. 18 during a dispute between Cherán residents and loggers [see Update #1126]. But the state Attorney General’s Office said on May 25 that an autopsy showed Sebastián Ortiz had died of a heart problem. An older brother accepted the autopsy results, saying that the community leader, who was 70, had suffered from heart disease. (LJ 5/25/12; El Universal (Mexico) 5/25/12)

*3. Guatemala: Pérez Molina Downsizes Peace Archives
During the last week of May the government of Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina began a process that human rights defenders charge will virtually close down the Peace Archives, the agency in charge of preserving and investigating military and police records from the country’s bloody 1960-1996 civil war. Newly appointed Peace Secretary Antonio Arenales Forno announced that the agency was unnecessary. Its function, he said, is “to computerize and analyze military archives to establish human rights violations, but this is the responsibility of the human rights community, and the investigation of crimes is the responsibility of the Prosecutor’s Office.”

The government notified 17 workers in the Peace Archives on May 28 that they would be laid off at the end of June, and Arenales Forno indicated that there more than 100 unnecessary positions in the Peace Secretariat that might be eliminated. The government hasn’t decided where the Archives’ records will kept, but they may be divided between several different Guatemalan agencies and the General Archives of Central America.

Mandated by the peace accords of 1996 and put into operation in 2008, the Peace Archives has already computerized two million documents and published nine reports on topics ranging from the National Police archives to forced disappearances during the war years and the illegal adoptions of children. Staffers from the agency have served as expert witnesses in trials for genocide and crimes against humanities, including the ongoing trial of former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983).

Kate Doyle, a director of investigations at the Washington, DC-based research group National Security Archive, wrote on June 1 that “[t]he closing of the Peace Archives ends an important source of support to human rights prosecutions in Guatemala, and may in part reflect the current government’s particular distaste for the genocide cases.” President Pérez Molina has denied that there was ever genocide in the military’s counterinsurgency campaigns. The president himself was a major in the army during the Ríos Montt dictatorship, operating around Nebaj, El Quiché department, in the Ixil Mayan region [see Updates #1114, 1115]. (Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 5/31/12; EFE 6/1/12 via Terra.com (Peru); National Security Archive blog 6/1/12)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US/immigration

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The Pentagon Seeks to Regain the Initiative in South America

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Peru: Mick Jagger drawn into dispute over expansion of Camisea gas fields

Colombia: "armed strike" against glyphosate spraying

Colombia signs pact with China for trans-oceanic pipeline

The Path of the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the United States

Colombia Denounced for Continued Impunity for Human Rights Crimes

DEA-linked Deaths Show Faults in Central American Drug Plan

U.S. Human rights activists document U.S. participation in massacre of Moskito people

World Press Freedom Day: An Opportunity to Ignore Honduras

Human Rights Violations in Guatemala: Hearing Indigenous Voices

'Dirty War' Tactic of Disappearances Reappears in Mexico

The Mexican State Goes on Trial in Ciudad Juarez

Two Murders in Veracruz, Mexico

A Civil War in Mexico?

A Mexican Spring begins to blossom

"No Matter What the Result, We Will Continue to Resist," Says Mexican Electrical Workers Union Leader

Going for Broke: The Corporate Players Behind the Demise of the Caribbean Banana Trade (Part 2)

GOLD RUSH IN HAITI! – Who will get rich?

Video: The Migrant Trail Walk

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