Monday, October 8, 2012

WNU #1147: Honduran Court Blocks “Model Cities”—for Now

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1147, October 7, 2012

1. Honduras: Supreme Court Blocks “Model Cities”—for Now
2. Chile: Five More Join Mapuche Prisoners’ Fast
3. Cuba: Blogger Detained as Trial Starts in Dissident’s Death
4. Mexico: Did Cartel Organize Attack on CIA Agents?
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, 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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

Note: There will be no Update on October 14, 2012. Publication will resume the following week.

*1. Honduras: Supreme Court Blocks “Model Cities”—for Now
A five-member panel of Honduras’ Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) ruled in a 4-1 decision on Oct. 3 that legislation creating Special Development Regions (RED), autonomous regions also known as “model cities,” is unconstitutional. The only opposing vote came from Justice Oscar Fernando Chinchilla, who failed to recuse himself despite an apparent conflict of interest: he is a close friend of National Congress president Juan Orlando Hernández, a promoter of the project, and has visited Korean economic development zones in Southeast Asia with Hernández. Because the decision was not unanimous, the full court of 15 justices must make the final determination. Chief Justice Jorge Rivera Avilés has set Oct. 17 as the date for the session.

The “model cities” project has sparked dozens of legal challenges [see Update #1145]. Although much of the opposition comes from the left, the plan is unpopular across the political spectrum. In September Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio, a conservative, announced his opposition to the project, which proponents claim will spur economic development. “[If] you want to have a developed country, it should be the whole country, not privileged zones,” he wrote in a communiqué, adding that “the national territory can’t be divided because that would be finishing off the country and putting an end to the nation.”

Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa said on Oct. 6 that he would push ahead with the project. “[I]f Honduran society today is afraid to make the leap, we’ve talked with the Supreme Court of Justice about sitting down to dialogue and about what changes would have to be made for [the RED] to be compliant with the law.” (Honduras Culture and Politics 10/3/12; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 10/5/12; La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 10/6/12)

*2. Chile: Five More Join Mapuche Prisoners’ Fast
Five prisoners from Chile's indigenous Mapuche group began a hunger strike on Oct. 1 in the city of Temuco in the southern Araucanía region, joining four Mapuche prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Angol, also in Araucanía, since Aug. 27 [see Update #1146]. The Temuco strikers--Leonardo Quijón Pereira, Luis Marileo Cariqueo, Fernando Millacheo, Guido Bahamondes and Cristian Levinao--said they were protesting the conspiracy by the “state, the business owners and the large landowners to use the laws against us to keep us far from our families and loved ones.” The prisoners are asking to be moved to the Angol prison, which is closer to their homes, and are calling on the government to end the “humiliating and annoying searches the Gendarmerie of Chile [the prison authorities] carries out on relatives and friends who visit us in the prison.”

Although they are charged with or convicted of common crimes, the strikers consider themselves political prisoners who have been falsely accused or have been given disproportionately long sentences for political actions. The Mapuches, who represent about 4% of Chile’s total population and 87% of the indigenous population, are struggling to regain land that they say has taken from them illegally since the second half of the 19th century. (Prensa Latina 10/5/12)

Leonardo Quijón and Luis Marileo, two of the strikers in Temuco, were arrested on Sept. 4 for the Sept. 1 killing of Héctor Gallardo Aillapán, a small farmer in Ercilla, in Malleco province in Araucanía. A youth was also arrested in connection with the crime, but his name wasn’t released because he is a minor. Quijon and Marileo deny involvement in Gallardo’s death and have offered to provide DNA samples on the condition that Luis Chamorro, the chief prosecutor in the city of Collipulli, be removed from the case. [Chamorro has a history of prosecutions of Mapuche activists and raids on Mapuche villages; see Update #1127.] (Radio Biobío (Chile) 9/19/12)

Gallardo was killed during a robbery attempt at his brother’s house, where he was visiting. The three youths were identified by Gallardo’s brother, but it’s not clear how he identified them, since the killers had covered their faces with scarves. Quijón was charged with two crimes in 2009, when he was 17: participation in a confrontation with carabineros militarized police agents and the burning of two buses. He was acquitted in both cases despite the government’s use of unidentified witnesses against him.

Quijón was shot with pellets during the alleged confrontation with the carabineros. Representatives of three European organizations in solidarity with the Mapuches charged in an open letter on Sept. 20 this year that Quijón was hit with some 200 pellets in his leg and had still not received proper medical treatment, with the result that his immune system is compromised, “producing also other diseases that are life-threatening.” (Mapuexpress 9/8/12; Maricheweu International 9/21/12)

*3. Cuba: Blogger Detained as Trial Starts in Dissident’s Death
Angel Francisco Carromero Barrios, the leader of the New Generations youth movement of Spain’s rightwing Popular Party (PP), was tried on Oct. 5 in Bayamo in the eastern Cuban province of Granma on charges of causing a car accident in which Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero died. Carromero was driving with the two Cubans and Jens Aron Modig, chair of the youth wing of Sweden's center-right Christian Democratic Party, on July 22 when they entered an area where the road was being repaired and Carromero lost control of the rented car. Prosecutors said he was speeding and called for a seven-year prison sentence. It isn’t clear when the five-judge panel will announce its verdict.

Payá, who headed the Christian Liberation Movement, was a prominent opponent of the Cuban government. His wife, Ofelia Acevedo, said she didn’t believe Payá’s death was accidental, and some dissidents charged that the car was run off the road. During the trial Carromero agreed with government investigators that he had “regrettably” lost control of the car. He expressed his “profound feeling of pain for the unfortunate accident” but denied that he’d been speeding, saying he was traveling at 80-90 km an hour when he came to the roadwork area. According to Spanish newspapers, Carromero was about to have his license revoked in Spain after receiving 45 traffic fines since March 2010, several of them for speeding.

The trial was public, but the courtroom was small and could only hold about 30 people. Rosa María, Oswaldo José and Reynaldo Isaías Payá, the dissident’s children, were unable to attend; an official said this was because they hadn’t notified the authorities in advance that they were coming. (El Mundo (Spain) 10/5/12 from correspondent and unidentified wire services; NPR 8/20/12)

On Oct. 4, the day before the trial, Yoani Sánchez, who writes the well-known dissident blog Generation Y, was detained in Bayamo along with her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, and other dissidents. The pro-government blogger Yohandry Fontana announced that Sánchez had been detained because she was planning to create “a provocation and media show that would prejudice the proper development of the trial.” Sánchez was released about 30 hours later, too late to cover the trial. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/5/12 from Reuters, AFP; Los Angeles Times 10/5/12 from correspondents)

Payá was the organizer of the Varela Project, which in May 2002 delivered a petition with 11,020 signatures from registered Cuban voters to the National Assembly calling for a referendum on freedom of expression and association; amnesty for political prisoners who had not taken part in violent acts; free enterprise; electoral reform; and elections within one year. The Cuban government never acted on the petition, while some rightwing Cuban American groups opposed it because it “implicitly accepted” the existing Cuban Constitution. In 2004 Payá opposed a plan announced by then-US president George W. Bush supposedly to bring about a “transition” to a “free and democratic” Cuba. Payá said the plan would “complicate” matters for the internal opposition; its authors “looked into their own needs, rather than those of Cuba and the peaceful opposition movement” [see Updates #641, 745].

*4. Mexico: Did Cartel Organize Attack on CIA Agents?
US officials suspect that organized crime was behind an Aug. 24 attack by Mexican federal police on a US embassy car on a road near the Tres Marías community, south of Mexico City in the state of Morelos, the Associated Press wire service reported on Oct. 2. In the incident, a dozen police agents in several unmarked cars attacked an armored US car with diplomatic license plates in which two agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a member of the Mexican Navy were traveling to a Navy installation for a training session—apparently part of the aid the US provides to Mexico’s “war on drugs.”

The police agents claimed the attack was a case of mistaken identity, and the US media and Mexican officials have tended to take the claim seriously [see Update #1145]. Speaking to AP on condition of anonymity, a US official close to the investigation dismissed the federal police version. “That's not a ‘We’re trying to shake down a couple people for a traffic violation’ sort of operation,” the official said. “That’s a ‘We are specifically trying to kill the people in this vehicle.’ This is not a ‘Whoops, we got the wrong people.’” Asked if organized crime was involved, the official said: “The circumstantial evidence is pretty damn strong.”

Also speaking anonymously, a Mexican official told AP that Mexican authorities were investigating possible involvement by the so-called Beltrán Leyva drug cartel. The gang is active in Morelos; a top cartel leader, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, was killed by Mexican Navy special forces in December 2009 at a luxury apartment building in the state capital, Cuernavaca [see World War Report 12/17/09]. (AP 10/2/12 via News Times (Danbury, Connecticut))

The Mexican daily La Jornada reported on Oct. 5 that Mexican authorities have brought specialists in organized crime into the investigation, another indication that the authorities think a criminal gang was behind the attack. The newspaper also reported that officials of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) went to Washington, DC the weekend of Sept. 29 to take testimony from the two CIA agents, Jess Hood Garner and Stan Dove Boss, who were wounded in the attack. The agents continued to insist that the police attacked them without provocation.

In a news conference on Oct. 4, Assistant Human Rights Secretary Facundo Rosas Rosas admitted that the federal police agents didn’t comply with protocol if they attacked the US diplomatic vehicle. However, this “does not immediately become a human rights violation,” he said, “and a series of other conditions need to be present to give it this character.” He explained that human rights violations concerned the rights of citizens, suggesting that an unprovoked attack on a Mexican marine and two US agents might not qualify. (LJ 10/5/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Media Pluralism at Risk of Extinction in Chile

The Seeds of Discord (Paraguay)

Zibechi: Brazil is covering Venezuela's back

Renegotiating Nationalization in Bolivia’s Colquiri Mine

Mining Conflicts and The Politics of Post-Nationalization Bolivia

Peru: indigenous consulta rejects mineral project

More controversy around children "rescued" from Sendero (Peru)

US to revise defense pact with Peru

U.S./Colombia Free Trade Agreement Fails to Stop Killings of Unionists

Talks in Colombia: The FARC Negotiating Team and the Critical Role of Venezuela

Venezuela: A Pre-election Report

3 Million Strong Chavista March Shakes Caracas, Venezuela

Why the US demonizes Venezuela's democracy

Third-party candidates marginalized Venezuela

Guatemala: peasant massacre under investigation

Guatemalan Civil Society Condemns Massacre in Totonicapán

PRI-Zetas war behind Mexican politico slayings?

Never Forget October 2 (Mexico)

Coffee, Culture and Recovery in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico)

Haitian Government Faces Mounting Popular Anger

Welcome Back? Martelly Returns to Widespread Protests (Haiti)

Manufacturing Consent for UN Troops in Haiti

Red Light on the Canadian Red Cross in Haiti?

Inspector General Finds Lack of Oversight of Chemonics…Again (Haiti)

Faith and Works on the Border (US/immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:

Two events from the Latin American Solidarity Committee, a task force of the Western New York Peace Center:

Saturday, Oct. 13, 7 pm--Sr. Neely Del Cide, member of Resistance Movement and advocate for non-violence in Honduras, sponsored by Sr. of Mercy, Sr. Karen Center and the Latin American Solidarity Committee at the Network of Religious Communities, 1272 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY.

Monday, Oct. 15, 7 pm—The October Latin American Coffeehouse, at Canisius College at Regis North, Buffalo, NY.



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