Monday, December 3, 2012

WNU #1154: Anti-Mining Activists Assaulted in Argentina

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1154, December 2, 2012

1. Argentina: Anti-Mining Activists Assaulted in Chubut
2. Mexico: Peña Nieto Takes Office as Youths Riot
3. Honduras: Another Campesino Murdered in Aguán
4. Haiti: One Killed in Infrastructure Protest
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, 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

*1. Argentina: Anti-Mining Activists Assaulted in Chubut
According to Argentine environmentalist groups, dozens of opponents of large-scale mining projects were injured when hundreds of construction workers attacked them at the provincial legislature building in Rawson, the administrative capital of the southern province of Chubut, on the late afternoon of Nov. 27. At a press conference held the next day in the offices of the Chubut Education Workers Association (ATECH), local activists charged that the attack had been carried out by members of the Construction Workers Union of the Argentine Republic (UOCRA) contracted by Chubut governor Martín Buzzi, of the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist), and federal legislative deputy Carlos Eliceche. UOCRA general secretary Gerardo Martínez is said to have worked as a secret agent at the Campo de Mayo military base during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Local activists had been attending sessions of the provincial Chamber of Deputies twice a week for more than three months to protest against Gov. Buzzi’s effort to circumvent the province’s Law 5001, which bans open-pit mines and the use of cyanide in mining operations in Chubut. The activists, organized in a community assembly, have called for a referendum on the issue. When they arrived for the session on Nov. 27, they were confronted by construction workers armed with clubs and chains who had come to Rawson in 30 UOCRA minivans; some witnesses said mining company vehicles were also present. The most seriously injured in the attack included a boy of 15, a young woman and an older woman.

“The mining companies have taken the law into their own hands, and the government has allowed it,” local deputy Roberto Risso said, “and the officials are going to have to answer for this.” Anti-mining assemblies from other provinces sent statements of support for the Chubut activists. (Adital (Brazil) 11/28/12 from Unión de Asambleas de la Patagonia (UAP); Bariloche Opina (Argentina) 11/28/12)

The federal government and the provincial governments get significant funding from deals with international mining corporations, and the movement against large-scale mining that has developed over the past year in areas near the Andes has sometimes been met with government repression. An encampment by local environment activists in the northwestern province of Catarmarca was attacked by soldiers, police and supposed “pro-mining activists” on July 20 [see Update #1137].

*2. Mexico: Peña Nieto Takes Office as Youths Riot
Protests against Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto during his inauguration on Dec. 1 quickly turned into violent confrontations between police and demonstrators that disrupted much of downtown Mexico City. The protests were called by the National Convention Against the Imposition, a coalition of groups holding that Peña Nieto’s election last July was manipulated, and #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”), a student movement that arose in the spring in response to the election campaign [see Update #1130]. But masked youths, many of them wearing black t-shirts with anarchist symbols, quickly became the center of attention at the Dec. 1 demonstration.

The confrontations began around 7 am near the San Lázaro subway and bus stations at the heavily guarded and barricaded Chamber of Deputies, where the inauguration was to take place about three hours later. Determined to break through the metal barriers, the masked youths threw rocks, metal pipes and Molotov cocktails at the federal police, who responded with exceptional violence, using tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons. The media reported that the agents also used rubber bullets; police spokespeople denied the reports. Many #YoSoy132 supporters moved away from the masked youths, as did the famously militant teachers from the southern state of Oaxaca, although both groups organized brigades to assist protesters who were wounded or were overwhelmed by the tear gas.

Dozens of protesters were injured. At around 10 am #YoSoy132 reported that a youth named Carlos Yahir Valdés had been killed by a tear gas canister or a rubber bullet; Adrián Ramírez, president of the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (LIMEDDH), said the victim was named Carlos Valdivia and had been seriously wounded but not killed.

Eventually the youths in black moved west towards the Zócalo plaza and then on to the Palacio de Bellas Artes cultural center and the Alameda park. Along the way they smashed windows, streetlights, phone booths and ATMs; looted stores and gas stations; and battled the Mexico City police. At times passers-by supplied the protesters with bricks to throw at the police, while smiling tourists took pictures. At least one private car was destroyed and one motorcycle was set on fire. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/2/12)

During his first day in office, President Peña Nieto announced “13 specific decisions” to improve the situation in Mexico, including a universal social security system, life insurance for heads of households, educational reforms, and revival of passenger railroads. He also promised to maintain a zero deficit in the budget while carrying out his programs. (LJ 12/2/12)

Outgoing president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012)--whose militarized fight against drug trafficking set off the violence in which 50,000 Mexicans died, according to critics—is planning to leave Mexico, at least temporarily. On Nov. 28 Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced that Calderón will hold a one-year fellowship at the school starting in January. “This fellowship will be a tremendous opportunity for me to reflect upon my six years in office,” Calderón said in a statement.

Calderón received a master’s degree from the Kennedy school in 2000. The Reuters wire service noted that other recent students at the school include Bo Guagua, son of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, and Paula Broadwell, co-author of a book about former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned after acknowledging that he’d had an affair with her. (Reuters 11/28/12) Another former student was the late Guatemalan general Héctor Alejandro Gramajo Morales. At his graduation in June 1991 human rights activists served Gramajo with court papers for a federal civil suit under the Alien Tort Claims Act; nine Guatemalans charged him with acts of torture, abduction and murder during counterinsurgency operations in western Guatemala in 1982, when he was army chief of staff. Gramajo lost that and another human rights suit later in the year by default [see Update #737].

*3. Honduras: Another Campesino Murdered in Aguán
Unidentified men on motorcycles shot Honduran campesino Adelmo Leiva dead the morning of Nov. 25 as he was waiting for a bus with his wife and daughter in Trujillo, in the northern department of Colón. Leiva was a member of the Despertar Cooperative, one of the cooperatives forming the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA). Along with other campesino organizations, MARCA has sponsored occupations of estates in the Lower Aguán River Valley in Colón since December 2009 to regain land that the campesinos say big landowners bought illegally in the 1990s.

Although some of the land disputes have been settled this year, other struggles continue, as has the killing of campesinos [see Update #1151]. According to the French wire service Agence France Presse, the number of dead in the violence over the past three years is now about 90, the great majority of them campesinos. After Leiva’s murder the Honduran branch of the international campesino movement Vía Campesina said that living in the Aguán region involved “high risk.” “The terror appears to be a well thought-out strategy to provoke a mass exodus from the zone with pernicious and dangerous objectives,” the group charged. (Adital (Brazil) 11/26/12; AFP 11/26/12 via La Tribuna (Honduras))

*4. Haiti: One Killed in Infrastructure Protest
A series of demonstrations that started in the city of Jérémie in the southwestern Haitian department of Grand'Anse on Nov. 27 turned violent on Nov. 30 when more than 50 agents of the Haitian National Police (PNH) arrived to reinforce the local police. Agents of the Company of Intervention for the Maintenance of Order (CIMO), the Haitian riot police, reportedly used tear gas and gunfire to disperse several hundred protesters, who responded by hurling rocks at the agents. A vendor whose name was given as Wilber Bien-Aimé by one source and Hilder Victor by another was shot dead in the Sainte-Hélène neighborhood, and three other people were wounded. Three police agents were injured by rocks.

The crowd carried the victim’s body to the local chief prosecutor, Rosny Saint-Louis, and then set fire either to the official’s house or to his mother’s house--the sources differ. No injuries were reported from the fire.

The protests came in response to delays in a project for repairing the 69-km highway from Jérémie to Les Cayes in South department. The Brazilian company Construtora OAS Ltd contracted with the Haitian government, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to carry out the project for $95 million. OAS started work in 2009 but suspended its operations in August 2012, leaving a section unfinished. Local residents charged that the company appeared to be removing its equipment and materials; this claim apparently precipitated the militant protests that paralyzed Jérémie for four days as residents blocked roads with flaming tires. On Nov. 30 Public Works Minister Jacques Rousseau promised that work would resume on the rehabilitation project. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 11/29/12, 11/30/12; AlterPresse (Haiti) 11/30/12; Haiti Chery blog 8/15/12 from Le Matin (Haiti))  [Jérémie is at the tip of the long southwestern peninsula that was especially hard hit by the hurricane Sandy in October; see Update #1150.]

In other news, on Nov. 28 representatives of some 35 community radio stations demonstrated in front of the National Telecommunications Council (Conatel) and the Communication Ministry in Port-au-Prince to protest the Nov. 9 closing of Radyo Vwa Klodi Mizo (RVKM, “Voice of Claudy Museau”), a community station in Les Cayes. Conatel said it took the step because the RVKM didn’t have a license, but protesters dismissed the claim. “Pure dictatorship,” one participant said. “This is reminiscent of the practices of Jean-Claude Duvalier,” the former “president for life” (1971-1986). “Baboukèt la tonbe,” the protesters chanted—“the muzzle is gone,” a slogan that was popular after Duvalier’s ouster in 1986. Social organizations such as the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) and the Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA) were also supporting the station, which is named for a teacher and activist murdered in 1992 under a 1991-1994 military regime.

The station’s directors say they have applied for a license, and an unnamed source close to Conatel told the Haitian online news service AlterPresse that meetings were under way to regularize the station’s status. “There’s hope for RVKM,” the source said. (AlterPresse 11/13/12, 11/28/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Immigration

Mapuche Indians Fight New Airport in Southern Chile

Brazilian Mining Giant Given Green Light for Perilous Railway Plan

Using the Airwaves for Empowerment of Quechua Women in Bolivia

"Yes to Life! No to Gold!" Indigenous Communities in Peru Struggle to Defend Land From Mining

Indigenous Protests Grow as Ecuador Auctions Amazon Oil Blocks

Ecuador's Election: Correa, His Opponents, and Possible Outcomes

Colombia: ICC "false positive" probe advances

The United States and the Future Security Role of Colombia

Colombia: war with Nicaragua "last resort"

Gender and Sexuality Groups Rally for Greater Gender Equality in Venezuela

Guyana Seeks to Shield Gold Miners from Mercury Ban

US-El Salvador: Threats to Privatize Education Meet International Resistance

Honduras’ Party Primaries: Voters Went to the Polls, But Can Next Year’s Elections be “Free and Fair”?

Honduras: record coke bust as US pledges Drug War support

Action Alert! Guatemalan Anti-Mining Activists Threatened

Guatemala: Rural Farmers Lose Livestock Due to Water Contamination by Marlin Mine

The Skeletons in Calderon's Closet (Mexico)

Mexico: peasant ecologist killed in Guerrero

Mexico: more mass graves in Chihuahua, Guerrero

The Contradictions of the “New” Juárez (Mexico)

Mexico Passes Pro-business Labor Law Reform; Independent Unions Promise Resistance

Two Decades of "free Trade" Is Enough: Mexican Organizations Meet, Say No to Expansion Through the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP)

Haiti, D.R. to Present $2 Billion Plan to Improve Health and Sanitation Infrastructure to Fight Cholera

Our Resistance: An Interview With Rafael Cancel Miranda

Divided Loyalties: Indigenous Communities Struggle Over Dual Residency (Immigration)

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