Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WNU #1132: Honduran Land Dispute Partially Settled

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1132, June 10, 2012

1. Honduras: Aguán Land Dispute Partially Settled
2. Panama: Indigenous Wounaan Finally Get Land Title
3. Mexico: Did Politicians Pay Off the TV Giant Televisa?
4. Latin America: Left Leaders Diss OAS Rights Group
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, 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.

1. Honduras: Aguán Land Dispute Partially Settled
The government of Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa signed an agreement on June 5 under which some 4,000 hectares of farmland in the north of the country will be granted to members of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), a large campesino collective that has been staging land occupations in the area since December 2009. The government is to buy the land from cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum for some $20 million and resell it to MUCA members, who are to pay the government back with a loan from the Banco Hondureño de Producción y Vivienda (Banhprovi), a private bank. They will need to repay the loan in 15 years with a 6% annual interest rate after a three-year grace period.

Talks between MUCA and the government stalled in late January over the financing of the loan. The impasse was apparently broken when a deadline for purchasing the land passed on May 31 and Facussé got a judge to issue an eviction order against campesinos occupying parts of his estates. This pushed the government to move faster to finalize an agreement. (Based on a garbled report from the Associated Press on June 4, US media said the campesinos had “agreed to move out”; in fact, the campesinos will remain on the land under the agreement. The AP report was partly corrected the next day.)

The campesinos signed the agreement “at gunpoint, under threats and pressure,” MUCA spokesperson Vitalino Alvarez told reporters. “The fight continues.” The June 5 agreement falls far short of a deal President Lobo signed in April 2010 granting MUCA members 11,000 hectares [see Update #1029]. For MUCA members the latest accord is only a partial, unsatisfactory settlement to a dispute that has reportedly left at least 47 campesinos dead since 2009, along with 10 security guards and two police agents.

The campesinos deny that Facussé and other large landowners in the area have any right to the disputed land, which they bought illegally, according to the campesinos, since it was dedicated to use in the country’s agrarian reform program. President Lobo himself, a member of the center-right National Party (PN), supports the campesinos’ claim. On June 5 he described the land dispute as “a problem that was generated by an error in other administrations in which men and women of the countryside were allowed to sell their lands, in a period which an agrarian counter-reform took place. An error was committed, which needs to be corrected.”

The campesinos are also concerned about the cost of the bank loan. César Ham, the head of the government’s National Agrarian Institute (INA), said the campesinos will be able to pay the loan off by selling the fruit of African oil palms, a major product of the Lower Aguán Valley, to companies that can process it into palm oil—that is, to companies like Facussé’s Grupo Dinant [see Update #1077]. “In other words,” the Honduras Culture and Politics blog notes, “MUCA is being asked to take on a large debt to a private bank, for funds that are being passed on, via the Honduran government, to the private individual who MUCA argues does not have a defensible claim to the land, and then to spend the next fifteen years at the mercy of the processing plants owned by the same individual (and others).” (Honduras Culture and Politics 6/4/12; AP 6/6/12 via CBS News; Prensa Latina 6/6/12)

[There have been no media references recently to earlier plans for Alba-Petróleos, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), to pay for a processing plant for the campesinos; see Update #1116.]

2. Panama: Indigenous Wounaan Finally Get Land Title
After a 30-year struggle, on June 4 two indigenous Wounaan collectives in the eastern Panamanian province of Darién received titles from the government to their traditional lands. Puerto Lara and Caña Blanca were the first communities to benefit from Law 72, which was passed in 2008 to recognize indigenous communities that were left out of the process in which Panama created five comarcas, large, semi-autonomous regions for many of the country’s indigenous peoples. Thousands of Wounaan and Emberá are awaiting titles in another 39 communities in eastern Panama. Indigenous people in these communities say the lack of titles has left their territories open to invasions by ranchers and loggers. (Rainforest Foundation 6/1/12, 6/5/12)

Two people were killed and at least three injured in two clashes between Wounaan and loggers on Mar. 30 near the Wounaan community of Platanares. Community members had approached a tractor being used by loggers working for the Maderera company to cut Cocobolo timber, an endangered variety of rosewood. One of the loggers shot Platanares leader Aquilino Opúa, who managed to return to the community but died there soon afterwards; community members then attacked the loggers, and a tractor driver, Ezequiel Batista, was killed. (Rainforest Foundation 3/31/12; Intercontinental Cry 4/4/12)

3. Mexico: Did Politicians Pay Off the TV Giant Televisa?
In an article dated June 7, the British daily The Guardian said it had received documents apparently showing that Mexico’s largest television network, Televisa, was paid in 2005 to have its news and entertainment programs influence voters’ perceptions of various politicians. The documents are in the form of computer files given the paper by someone who formerly worked with Televisa.

One document is a PowerPoint presentation, dated Apr. 4, 2005, whose stated goal is to make sure center-left presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (“AMLO”) “does not win the 2006 elections.” Other documents show payments to give prominence to Enrique Peña Nieto, who was then starting his 2005-2011 term as governor of México state. There are also documents indicating that while in office former president Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006) had Televisa bill the government in ways that would conceal how much the presidency was paying the network, which the British paper calls “the largest media empire in the Spanish-speaking world.”

Two of the politicians in the Guardian’s story are the leading candidates in this year’s July 1 presidential election: former México state governor Peña Nieto is the candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), while former Mexico City mayor López Obrador is again running as the candidate of a center-left coalition, after narrowly losing the 2006 election in the official count. The Guardian article appeared as Peña Nieto’s lead was slipping in the polls and students had started protesting the favorable coverage he had gotten from the media, principally Televisa and the second largest network, TV Azteca. After a slow start this year, López Obrador has moved into second place [see Update #1131].

Televisa initially wouldn’t comment on the documents; later it dismissed them as forgeries. The Guardian said that it couldn’t authenticate the computer files but “extensive cross checks have shown that the names, dates and situations mentioned largely line up with events.” Several ideas proposed in the documents appeared later on Televisa programs. The paper posted one of the documents on its website on June 8, a budget for promoting Peña Nieto while he was governor. The Mexican magazine Proceso obtained and published a hardcopy version of the same budget in 2005; Peña Nieto and Televisa have always maintained that that it could be a forgery. (The Guardian 6/7/12)

Although Peña Nieto is still well ahead of López Obrador in most opinion polls, Mexico’s political class seems concerned about the possibility of a center-left candidate winning the presidency. On June 3 former president Fox threw his support behind Peña Nieto, deserting Josefina Vázquez Mota, the candidate of his own center-right National Action Party (PAN), who has fallen into third place. (Ironically, Fox’s election to the presidency in 2000 broke the PRI’s 71-year hold on the executive branch.) On June 9 the PRI tried to shift concerns about corruption to López Obrador: the party filed a complaint with the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) charging that the candidate was violating campaign financing laws by raising money through the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), a nonparty association he founded last year. (Milenio (Mexico) 6/4/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 6/10/12)

4. Latin America: Left Leaders Diss OAS Rights Group
The 42nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), held June 3-5 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was dominated by calls from leftist South American leaders for restructuring the group and ending domination by the US. Bolivian president Evo Morales, the host of the meeting, set the tone by declaring that “for the OAS there are two roads: either it dies in the service of imperialism, or it is reborn to serve the peoples of America.” Headquartered in Washington, DC, the OAS includes every country in the hemisphere except Cuba, which was denied representation in 1962 under pressure from the US.

A special target for leaders on the left was the OAS rights organization, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), which is based in Washington, DC, with an affiliated human rights court in San José, Costa Rica. “If it doesn’t want to watch over individual guarantees in the US, it’s better that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights should disappear,” Morales said at the General Assembly. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, who was criticized by the IACHR in a dispute he had with the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo, described the organization as a “defender of the freedom of the press to extort” that “is totally influenced by hegemonic nations, by the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and the interests of big capital.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/4/12 from AFP, Xinhua, Reuters)

[Peru made similar criticisms of the IACHR in January, when the commission agreed to hear a case concerning accusations that Peruvian security forces carried out summary executions in the 1997 hostage rescue mission at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima; see World War 4 Report 4/13/12.]

Rightwing Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer pointed out on June 9 that the IACHR has in fact frequently criticized the US, along with US allies in Latin America. “Last year,” he wrote, “the commission passed 11 resolutions requesting the United States to take urgent actions to correct human rights abuses. The only country that received more commission requests for urgent corrective actions was Honduras, which was the target of 12 commission resolutions. Colombia ranked third among the countries with the most commission urgent action requests, Mexico fourth, and Argentina and Cuba were tied for fifth place, with three requests each. By comparison, the commission passed only one urgent action request against Venezuela, one against Bolivia and one against Ecuador last year.” Oppenheimer noted that in 2011 the IACHR had criticized the US government’s routine detention of undocumented immigrants, the deportation of Haitians with health problems, and the indefinite detention of Muslim prisoners in the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. (Kansas City Star 6/9/12)

Oppenheimer didn’t note, however, that the US government and media paid little attention to the IACHR’s criticisms of the US in 2011. Probably very few people in the US were aware of the IACHR documents Oppenheimer cited; or of the commission’s statements on the judicial executions of Manuel Valle, Mark Anthony Stroman and Humberto Leal García in the US; or of an IACHR rapporteur’s “concern over the arrests and assaults on journalists and media workers during the coverage of the demonstrations of the Occupy Wall Street groups in Nashville and Oakland” in November 2011.

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US/immigration

Argentina's Desaparecidos – the Epilogue

Elders in Peruvian Andes Help Interpret Climate Changes

Peru: lawmakers resign from ruling party as mining conflicts escalate

Colombia and Guatemala Again Ranked 1st and 2nd in Murders of Trade Unionists

Venezuelan Anti-Capitalists March in Solidarity with Global Movements

Pacific Rim Ruling Threatens El Salvador’s National Sovereignty

World Bank tribunal grants PacRim Mining jurisdiction in case against El Salvador

Honduras: US claims success in drug war militarization

Next for Honduras: "charter city" neocolonialism?

Laboratory, Honduras: Dueling truth commissions, ongoing repression, and Canada’s role in the new Honduras

Protesters in the United States Shape Media Coverage of Porfirio Lobo (Honduras)

Media Analysis: 'This American Life' Digs for Truth about the Dos Erres Massacre in Guatemala, but Fails to Unearth the Role of the United States

Photo Essay: Third Month of Resistance Against a Radius Gold-owned Mine in Guatemala

Mexico’s G20 Summit: In the Eye of the Storm

Man Arrested in 2006 Brad Will Murder–Finally a Step Toward Justice? (Mexico)

Mexico: Year of the Grasshopper

Typical: The Economist Fails Caribbean History

As Caracol Industrial Park Progresses, Scrutiny of Problems Grows

Bringing the Battlefield to the Border: The Wild World of Border Security and Boundary Building in Arizona (immigration)

Your Local Police Officer in Northern Washington State: A U.S. Border Patrol Agent (immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:


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1 comment:

Steve Salmony said...

If we agree to “think globally” about climate destabillization and at least one of its consensually validated principal agencies, it becomes evident that riveting attention on more and more seemingly perpetual GROWTH could be a grave mistake because we are denying how economic and population growth in the communities in which we live cannot continue as it has until now. Each village’s resources are being dissipated, each town’s environment degraded and every city’s fitness as place for our children to inhabit is being threatened. To proclaim something like, ‘the meat of any community plan for the future is, of course, growth’ fails to acknowledge that many villages, towns and cities are already ‘built out’, and also ‘filled in’ with people and pollutants. If the quality of life we enjoy now is to be maintained for the children, then limits on economic and population growth will have to be set. By so doing, we choose to “act locally” and sustainably.

More economic and population growth are soon to become no longer sustainable in many too many places on the surface of Earth because biological constraints and physical limitations are immutably imposed upon ever increasing human consumption, production and population activities of people in many communities where most of us reside. Inasmuch as the Earth is finite with frangible environs, there comes a point at which GROWTH is unsustainable. There is much work to done locally. But that effort cannot reasonably begin without sensibly limiting economic and population growth.

Problems worldwide that are derived from conspicuous overconsumption and rapacious plundering of limited resources, rampant overproduction of unnecessary stuff, and rapid human overpopulation of the Earth can be solved by human thought, judgment and action. After all, the things we have done can be undone. Think of it as ‘the great unwinding of human folly’. Like deconstructing the Tower of Babel. Any species that gives itself the moniker, Homo sapiens sapiens, can do that much, can it not?

“We face a wide-open opportunity to break with the old ways of doing the town’s business…..” That is a true statement. But the necessary “break with the old ways” of continous economic and population growth is not what is occurring. There is a call for a break with the old ways, but the required changes in behavior are not what is being proposed as we plan for the future. What is being proposed and continues to occur is more of the same, old business-as-usual overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities, the very activities that appear to be growing unsustainbly. More business-as-usual could soon become patently unsustainable, both locally and globally. A finite planet with the size, composition and environs of the Earth and a community with the boundaries, limited resources and wondrous climate of villages, towns and cities where we live may not be able to sustain much longer the economic and population growth that is occurring on our watch. Perhaps necessary changes away from UNSUSTAINABLE GROWTH and toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises are in the offing.

Think globally while there is still time and act locally before it is too late for human action to make any difference in the clear and presently dangerous course of unfolding human-induced ecological events, both in our planetary home and in our villages, towns and cities. If we choose to review the perspective of a ‘marketwatcher’ who can see what is actually before our eyes, perhaps all of us can get a little more reality-oriented to the world we inhabit and a less deceived by an attractive, flawed ideology that is highly touted and widely shared but evidently illusory and patently unsustainable.