Monday, February 27, 2012

WNU #1119: Is Privatization Behind the Argentine Train Disaster?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1119, February 26, 2012

1. Argentina: Critics Blame Train Crash on 1990s Privatization
2. Chile: Residents Block Roads in Aysén Region
3. Honduras: Campesinos Sign Aguán Land Accord
4. Mexico: Chiapas Indigenous Protest Dams, Electric Rates
5. Haiti: PM Forced Out After Four Months in Office
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, 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. It is archived at For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Argentina: Critics Blame Train Crash on 1990s Privatization
An Argentine commuter train smashed into a barrier at Station 11 in the center of Buenos Aires on the morning of Feb. 22, killing 51 passengers and injuring 706. Failing brakes caused the crash, the train’s operator told a judge. According to a source in the judicial system, Marcos Córdoba testified that the brakes had failed twice before the crowded train crashed, and that he had warned his supervisors. “In each station I advised the traffic controller by radio that I had problems with the brakes,” Córdoba said. “From the other side they answered: ‘Go on, go on, go on.’”

National Transportation Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi said that tapes of conversations between the operator and the controller would be turned over to the judge. (El Informador (Guadalajara, Mexico) 2/26/12 from EFE and Notimex)

A spokesperson for Trenes de Buenos Aires (TBA), the company that runs the commuter line, initially suggested that the disaster resulted from “human error,” and rumors circulated that Córdoba, who was rescued from his cab and hospitalized, had been drinking. Tests showed later that he had not consumed any alcohol. Labor unions blamed TBA management, charging that it and the companies holding Argentina’s railroad concessions have been pocketing subsidies from the government instead of investing in maintenance and new equipment. A mechanic working for TBA reported that the trains are using brake compressors that are 60 years old. (La Jornada (Mexico) 2/24/12 from correspondent)

Argentina’s extensive state-owned rail system was privatized under former president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) as part of a radical program of neoliberal “reforms.” Privatization proponents said privatization would improve service and reduce operating deficits. But after the economic collapse of late 2001, Argentine’s federal government had to start providing subsidies to keep the system running. The subsidies continued and actually increased later as the economy improved, rising from $4.9 million a month in 2003 to $60 million in 2008.

The Feb. 22 crash has led to calls for the federal government to renationalize the railroads, but this comes at a time when the administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is struggling with growing deficits. (Notimex 2/25/12 via El Financiero (Mexico); Télam (Argentina) 2/24/12) [Earlier this year Fernández’s government cut federal subsidies for the “Subte,” the Buenos Aires subway system, in half and turned over its operation to the municipal government in a cost reduction move that resulted in large fare increases and militant protests by riders and subway workers; see Update #1114.]

In other news, about 5,000 people marched from the Congress to the presidential residence in Buenos Aires on Feb. 23 in support of communities in the northwestern provinces which have been protesting since the beginning of the year against open-pit mining in their region [see Updates #1116, 1117, 1118]. The march was called by the Union of Citizen Assemblies (UAC), a coalition of some 100 local assemblies in the northwest; the demonstration was backed by 1980 Nobel peace prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, members of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, student organizations and leftist parties. Speakers from the assemblies called on President Fernández, who supports open-pit mining, to put aside “ignorance and arrogance” and “listen to the affected communities.”

The organizers had considered postponing the demonstration because of the train crash the day before, but they decided instead to honor the victims with a black flag at the head of the march. (La Nación (Buenos Aires) 2/24/12; Los Andes (Mendoza) 2/24/12)

Update, Feb. 27: According to a tape released by TBA on Feb. 25, the operator of the commuter train that crashed in Buenos Aires on Feb. 22 never told the traffic controller that there was a problem with the brakes. Operator Marcos Córdoba’s voice is only heard on the 18-minute tape at the beginning of the trip. (La Gaceta (Tucumán) 2/27/12 from La Nación)

*2. Chile: Residents Block Roads in Aysén Region
After blocking roads for 13 days to demand more resources for Chile’s isolated southern Aysén region, local citizens’ groups opened up the Presidente Ibáñez Bridge in Puerto Aysén on Feb. 25. The move came one day after the Social Movement for the Aysén Region, the coalition of fishing people, unionists, cab drivers and students that has led the protests, presented the national government with a new list of demands, asking for a response over the weekend. Iván Fuentes, one of the movement’s leaders, told Radio Cooperativa that the protesters opened the bridge “first of all [to provide] free access to the community, and most importantly, to give a signal to the government that just as we are vigorous in our mobilization, we’re also rational people who can carry on a conversation.” (AFP 2/25/12 via La Nación (Paraguay))

Located some 1,300 km from Santiago, the Aysén region is difficult to reach from the rest of the country, and the 100,000 residents pay some of the highest rates for fuel in the country; they say they spend about $220 a month just for heating. The protesters’ 11 demands on the government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera include a new hospital, the creation of a regional university, and subsidies for transportation, fuel and basic food supplies. (La Jornada (Mexico) 2/21/12, 2/22/12 from correspondent)

Violence broke out between protesters and the carabineros militarized police the night of Feb. 21-22 over control of the Ibáñez Bridge. At least 10 people were injured and nine were arrested. Three people were transported to a hospital in Santiago after being shot in the face with pellets; one lost an eye, and all three were reportedly in danger of losing their vision. National Human Rights Institute (INDH) president Lorena Fries acknowledged that the carabineros had acted in an “indiscriminate and disproportionate” manner, using tear gas in enclosed spaces. Fries could not confirm the protesters’ charge that police agents had fired metal pellets at them, but she said that even if the bullets were rubber, the way they were fired violated police regulations. The protesters responded to police violence by peacefully occupying a police station, an act supported by officials in Coyhaique, the regional capital. (LJ 2/23/12 from correspondent; Prensa Latina 2/25/12)

Other Chileans have been sympathetic to the Aysén protests, with support appearing even at the famous international song festival held each February in the coastal city of Viña del Mar. Police have managed to keep ticket holders from carrying in signs supporting the Aysén movement, but at one point local actor and musician Daniel Muñoz shouted “¡Viva Aysén!” from the stage, to applause from the audience. Outside the events, some protesters have displayed signs about Aysén, while student activists--whose strike tied up Chile’s secondary and university system for much of last year—have denounced the lavish expenditures at the red-carpet festival. (PL 2/25/12)

The Aysén region has also been the subject of protests over the HidroAysén project, a plan to build a complex of five dams that environmentalists say would threaten fjords and valleys in the Patagonia region [see Update #1101]. Chilean health minister Jaime Mañalich has charged that the current protests are led by opponents of the dam project: the journalist Patricio Segura and the organization Patagonia Without Dams. “[T]here is an agenda by Patagonia Without Dams forces, financed by national and international forces, to radicalize this movement,” Mañalich said. Protest leaders dismissed the claim. Local labor leader Jovel Chodil noted that Patagonia Without Dams is only one of the many groups in the regional protest movement. (El Diario de Aysén 2/24/12)

*3. Honduras: Campesinos Sign Aguán Land Accord
In a ceremony broadcast on national television from the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on Feb. 17, Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa and National Agrarian Reform Institute director (INA) César Ham signed an accord with two campesino organizations to finance the purchase of land for campesino cooperatives in the Lower Aguán Valley in the north of the country. The government has presented the land deal as at least a partial solution to long-running disputes in the Aguán that have left more than 50 people dead over the past two years.

President Lobo and the two organizations, the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), agreed in April 2010 on a plan for campesino cooperatives to acquire thousands of hectares of land currently held by large landowners, principally agribusiness and food processing magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum. But the deal has stalled repeatedly over the terms of the financing and over campesino charges of harassment by the government, which has militarized the region [see Update #1116]. The Feb. 17 agreement establishes that the land purchase will be financed by a 15-year loan from the Honduran Bank for Production and Housing (Banhprovi) at an annual rate of 6% with a three-year grace period. (Proceso Digital (Honduras) 2/17/12)

The campesino struggles in the Aguán Valley have received strong backing from other social movements in Honduras, and activists chose Tocoa, a city in the region, as the site for a Feb. 16-20 International Meeting for Human Rights in Solidarity With Honduras. More than 1,000 people attended, including supporters from Latin America, Europe, Australia and the US. Attendees announced their support for the struggles of Honduran organizations, denounced the rise in human rights violations following a 2009 rightwing military coup, and called for an international day of solidarity with Honduras to be held on June 28, the anniversary of the coup. The conference also addressed other issues in the hemisphere; the demands included the release of five Cubans imprisoned in the US for alleged espionage and the withdrawal of United Nations troops from Haiti, where another meeting is to be held in July. (Adital (Brazil) 2/22/12)

*4. Mexico: Chiapas Indigenous Protest Dams, Electric Rates
About 1,000 indigenous people and campesinos held a march in Huixtán in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas on Feb. 25 to protest the high rates the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) charges, to oppose the construction of more dams in the region and to demand that electric power generation not be privatized. The march was organized by the Feb. 29 Popular Struggle Front, which was also marking the eighth anniversary of its founding.

The front’s leader, Pedro Álvarez Vázquez, charged that the CFE “has installed towers with high-tension lines on the land of communities and ejidos [campesino cooperatives] to carry power to other municipalities, and it doesn’t pay anything to the owners…who can’t work on the land because of the danger.” In addition to charging high rates, the commission doesn’t maintain the lines and transformers properly, causing power outages, especially during rainstorms, according to the activist. “[I]t isn’t possible that they give us the power at such a cost when Chiapas has various hydroelectric dams that generate electricity for other parts of the country,” he added.

Álvarez Vázquez said the march included indigenous people from some 20 Huixtán communities that have been resisting payment for electricity for more than a decade, along with organizations in solidarity from Las Roas, Altamirano and Socoltenango municipalities. (La Jornada (Mexico) 2/26/12)

In related news, federal authorities arrested schoolteacher and environmental activist Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez in Juchitán de Zaragoza in the neighboring state of Oaxaca as she was leaving a meeting with the CFE’s regional director on Feb. 22. She was released on bail 24 hours later, charged with the illegal deprivation of freedom of CFE workers and with opposition “to the exploitation of national riches.” [In Mexico activists are sometimes charged with “illegal deprivation of freedom” when they block access to buildings or roads.]

Cruz Velázquez is a member of the Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Tehuantepec Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory and has been a leader in struggles against high electric rates and against a project for building wind turbines in the Tehuantepec Isthmus. The human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) expressed concern over her arrest. (Proceso (Mexico) 2/23/12)

*5. Haiti: PM Forced Out After Four Months in Office
Haitian prime minister Garry Conille submitted a letter of resignation the morning of Feb. 24 as rumors grew of tension between him and President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”). The prime minister was said to have become more and more isolated in the government; according to several sources no other government ministers appeared at a cabinet meeting he called the day before. Conille only served four months. After rejecting two previous choices, Parliament approved Conille’s appointment in October [see Update #1100], and he took office on Oct. 18. At the time Martelly said that he and his prime minister were “a winning pair of dice.”

Conille is a longtime associate of former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), now the United Nations special envoy for Haiti and an influential figure in the country. The US embassy issued a statement on Oct. 24 praising Conille and calling for political stability and the rapid confirmation of a new prime minister who could organize the parliamentary and local elections scheduled for the spring. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 2/24/12; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 2/24/12)

Martelly can point to few accomplishments after nine months in office, and resentment may be growing. On Feb. 17 rocks were reportedly thrown at him when he and a group of supporters attempted to enter the Ethnology Faculty of the State University of Haiti (UEH), near the Champ de Mars park and the president’s official residence, the National Palace. According to a witness, “people who were not police” in the president’s group then forced their way into the Ethnology Faculty’s grounds, throwing rocks and beating students with clubs. Gunfire was also reported, possibly from police agents accompanying the president. According to an official communiqué, the president “was able to return safe and sound to the grounds of the National Palace.” (AlterPresse 2/17/12)

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

Anti-Systemic Movements on Planet Earth: The People's Struggle For the Good Life (Latin America)

Buenos Aires Train Crash Kills 50; Argentina Declares Period of Mourning

The Bitter Taste of Brazil’s World Cup

Bolivia’s García Linera: ‘Moving beyond capitalism is a universal task’

Bolivia: police clash with disabled

Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict: Letting the People Decide?

Peru: indigenous movement calls for new regulations on Law of Prior Consultation

Action Alert! Two Weeks to Stop the Diverting of the Yuma-Guacahayo-Magdalena River (Colombia)

Venezuela’s Chavez News of Second Operation Provokes Opposition and Press Rumours

Honduras: growing unrest in wake of prison fire

Hundreds Killed in Honduras Jail Fire Shows Post-Coup Impunity

Help End U.S. Funding to Honduran Police and Military

US immigration judge rules former Salvador defense minister may be deported

Guadalajara, Guadalajara (Mexico)

Mexico busts more Sinaloa kingpins —but still not El Chapo

US, Mexico open transboundary waters to oil and gas exploitation

Gulf of Mexico Agreement: Increased Oil Cooperation in a Time of War

Havana, Cuba: Med Students Taken out of School to Check City for Dengue

The non-reconstruction of the State University – Putting the nation in peril (Haiti)

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

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Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Our weekly Immigration News Briefs has ended publication.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

WNU #1118: Monsanto GMOs to Start Occupying Mexico

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1118, February 19, 2012

1. Mexico: Monsanto to Start Commercial GMO Planting
2. Argentina: Government Launches Pro-Mining Campaign
3. Puerto Rico: Thousands Protest Gas Pipeline
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Caribbean

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. Mexico: Monsanto to Start Commercial GMO Planting
After a decade of small-scale experimental planting [see Update #1080], biotech multinationals are now free to start commercial development of transgenic corn in Mexico. On Dec. 31 the government’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Cattle Raising, Rural Development, Fishing and Food (Sagarpa) quietly lifted the last barrier to the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) for corn sold to consumers. The Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto will lead the way by sowing 63 hectares in the northern state of Sinaloa, to be followed with genetically modified corn in other northern states: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Sonora.

Sowing in Tamaulipas will begin a little later, bringing the total land under cultivation to 1,000 hectares, and commercial production is eventually to include some 2 million hectares. Other multinationals—Bayer AG, Dow Chemical Company, Pioneer Hi-Bred (owned by DuPont) and Syngenta AG)—apparently will be involved in the project, with public relations handled by a Mexican firm, AgroBIO México. The left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada devoted a three-part series, starting on Feb. 13, to the change in policy; otherwise it seems to have received little coverage in the media.

As with the experimental planting over the past decade, the commercial transgenic corn will be grown mostly in the relatively arid north, where the government claims there are few native varieties of corn at risk of being contaminated. Corn diversity is a major concern in Mexico, where the crop was first cultivated; the country now has 52 to 70 different varieties. But even the small quantity of experimental transgenic corn that was grown under controlled conditions in the north may have spread as far as the southern state of Oaxaca. Evidence of transgenic corn was found there as early as 2000, according to a 2001 article in the US journal Nature by University of California Berkeley microbiologist Ignacio Chapela and then-graduate student David Quist. The biotech industry responded with a campaign to discredit the article and its authors, but the main contention was confirmed by a later study.

GMO proponents claim the benefits of transgenic crops outweigh the threat to biodiversity. Elena Álvarez Bullya, a biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and president of the Union of Socially Committed Scientists, counters that the industry has had 20 years to prove that it could dramatically improve food production. “Globally, there are more hungry people than there were two decades ago,” she told La Jornada. She noted that in the US transgenic planting is becoming more costly as weeds develop resistance to the herbicide glyphosate (sold by Monsanto as Roundup); one of the benefits of transgenic crops was supposed to be that the herbicide could be used on weeds without harming the crops. The industry “wants to present itself as leading edge,” Álvarez Bullya said, “but it’s already an obsolete technology.” (LJ 2/13/12, ___, 2/14/12)

In other news, authorities in the southwestern state of Guerrero reportedly found human remains in San Luis la Loma, Tecpan de Galeano municipality, on Feb. 16 that might be those of Eva Alarcón Ortiz and Marcial Bautista Valle, environmental activists who were kidnapped on Dec. 7 [see Update #1116]. As of Feb. 18 there had been no official confirmation, and Javier Monroy Hernández, the coordinator of the Community Development Workshop (Tadeco), said human rights organizations were skeptical about the report. Ortiz and Bautista are leaders in the Organization of Ecologist Campesinos of the Sierra de Petatlán and Coyuca de Catalán (OCESP), which has been a target for drug traffickers and the authorities since it was started in 1998 to fight deforestation in the Guerrero highlands. (La Jornada de Guerrero 2/19/12)

*2. Argentina: Government Launches Pro-Mining Campaign
In response to a judicial order, on Feb. 16 supporters of open-pit mining at the Bajo de la Alumbrera gold and copper deposit in northwestern Argentina ended a roadblock they had set up in Andalgalá in Catamarca province. The mining supporters began their protest on Feb. 11 after the repression of similar roadblocks that local opponents of mining had set up in several towns and cities in Catamarca and neighboring Tucumán province. Provinicial authorities violently dispersed three of the anti-mining protests on Feb. 8 and Feb. 10, with dozens of protesters arrested or injured [see Update #1117].

Some sources describe the mining supporters in Andalgalá as miners, their families, and suppliers for La Alumbrera. But Radio Popular Che Guevara, a station in the northeastern province of Santa Fe, described the counter-protesters as “a street gang” (“una patota”) that blocked reporters and human rights investigators’ access to the area. On Feb. 12 the mining supporters attacked a delegation sent by the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ), a human rights organization, and the police only intervened to warn the human rights activists to leave, according to the station. The delegation was followed for 50 km by a van without license plates. Local residents say the counter-protesters also blocked access to residents who opposed the mine, and journalist Gabriel Levinas, a columnist for Radio Mitre and the website, told BBC Mundo that he was kept from entering the area by counter-protesters who had the assent of the police.

Although there seems to be no definite proof of what forces are behind the counter-protest, the national government and various provincial governments have partial ownership or some other financial interest in many mining operations; the mines themselves are largely controlled by foreign multinational corporations.

Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner backs the expansion of open-pit mining, and her center-left faction of the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist) has the capacity to mobilize demonstrations through unions and some grassroots organizations. On Feb. 9, as the anti-mining protests were growing, Fernández appeared on a nationally televised program. During the show she spoke by video conferencing with a worker identified only as “Antonio” in the city of Olavarría, in Buenos Aires province. “We mineworkers want to work in peace,” “Antonio” said, “and we don’t want four or five pseudo-environmentalists blocking our roadway.” He insisted there were no environmental dangers: “We’re the ones who know the work best… We’re not suicidal, we want to live, so we’re not going to put ourselves in an unsafe place.” Fernández thanked him and added: “You’re not a political director, you’re a worker defending his source of work.”

The media quickly discovered that “Antonio” was actually Armando Domínguez, secretary general of the Olavarría section of the Mine Workers’ Association (AOM), which is an affiliate of the country’s largest union federation, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT). Domínguez is also vice president of the local Justicialist Party branch.

Journalists like Gabriel Levinas believe the president’s support for mining reflects the government’s need to generate more resources as the country’s deficit grows. Miguel Bonasso, a former legislative deputy and a leader in the political wing of the Montoneros rebel group of the 1960s and 1970s, has accused Fernández herself of having ties with the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation, which is developing the Pascua Lama mine [see Update #1089]. (Adital (Brazil) 2/16/12 from Radio Popular Che Guevara; Página 12 (Argentina) 2/17/12; BBC Mundo 2/17/12; La Razón (Buenos Aires) 2/11/12)

On Feb. 18 Julián Rooney--vice president of the local subsidiary of Swiss-British mining company Xstrata PLC, which operates La Alumbrera—weighed in by denying anti-mining protesters’ charge that the mine uses cyanide in the extraction process. He claimed a study shows that “there are no effects on the health of the people who live around the project.” Rooney admitted that the mining companies had sometimes had failures of communication. (La Nueva Provincia (Bahía Blanca) 2/18/12 from DyN (Agencia Diarios y Noticias))

*3. Puerto Rico: Thousands Protest Gas Pipeline
Thousands of Puerto Ricans marched to La Fortaleza, the governor’s residence in San Juan, on Feb. 19 to protest rightwing governor Luis Fortuño’s plan for a 92-mile, $450-million natural gas pipeline cutting through the island [see Update #1089]. The march included political figures like Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), a US Congress member of Puerto Rican descent, and Puerto Rican senator Alejandro García Padilla, the gubernatorial candidate of the centrist Popular Democratic Party (PPD); environmental activists like Alexis Massol, founder of People’s House (“Casa Pueblo”), which has organized opposition to the pipeline; and youths in street theater acts representing potential dangers of the pipeline, which is popularly known as the “Gasoducto.” A support march was reportedly taking place in New York City at about the same time.

Fortuño insists that the imported gas the pipeline would bring to San Juan is necessary to keep down the cost of electricity, while pipeline opponents say this wouldn’t make up for the dangers of explosions and the damage to farmland, forests and archeological sites that the Gasoducto would create. Opponents also cite the cost of the project and claim that its real purpose is to create business for friends of the governor and of Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner (non-voting representative) to the US Congress.

At the San Juan demonstration, Sen. García Padilla charged that Puerto Rico’s Electric Energy Authority (AEE) has already spent $100 million even though nothing has been built. The senator said the expenses include $20 million for consultants, $3.5 million for publicity, $10.3 million for acquiring houses and vacant lots along the pipeline’s route, and $116,000 on promotional materials like pens and brochures. He demanded that the US Justice Department investigate what he called “the largest misappropriation of funds in the history of Puerto Rico.” (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 2/19/12; Prensa Latina 2/19/12)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Caribbean

Argentine union to boycott UK ships

Victims of State Terrorism in Argentina No Longer on Their Own

Brazil: Police Allegedly Killed 30 People During Strike

Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict: In Search of an Alternative Highway Route

Peru: The Many Faces of Human Rights Terrorism

Ecuador journalist seeks asylum from libel suit

Indigenous Leaders Call for Ecuador Government to Stop Oil Leasing Plans

President Santos and the Question of Land Reform in Colombia (Part II)

Action Alert! Colombian Police Violently Remove Anti-dam Protestors

Venezuela: The Sham that was the Opposition Primaries

Chavista anti-Semitism —again

Honduras: at least 360 killed as prison "time bomb" explodes

Honduras in Flames

Mining Debate in Guatemala Rages On

Interview With Javier Sicilia Part II: Reweaving Mexico’s Social Fabric

Mexico: at least 44 dead in Nuevo León prison riot

Santiago Xanica: A Zapotec Village's Fight for Autonomy in Mexico

Mexico: Tensions Flare over Canadian-owned Mine in Oaxaca

Mexican Students Demand Justice for Protestors Killed by Police

Please Join the Fight to Defend the Labor Rights of Mexican Workers During the International Days of Action -- February 19 - 25!

López Obrador Forms Alliance with Electrical Workers' Union

Stratfor’s Myth in Mexico

New Survey Shows that Residents of Port-au-Prince Want MINUSTAH to Leave and Compensate Victims of Cholera

ALBA Expands its Allies in the Caribbean (Part 1 of 2)

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.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

WNU #1117: Accords on Mining in Panama, Repression in Argentina

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1117, February 12, 2012

1. Panama: Government Caves After Indigenous Protest--Again
2. Argentina: Police Repress Anti-Mining Roadblocks
3. Haiti: Ex-Soldiers Are Taking Over Old Bases
4. Mexico: Court Frees Seven Convicted in 1997 Massacre
5. Puerto Rico: Report Faults FBI in Rebel’s Death
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, 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. It is archived at For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Panama: Government Caves After Indigenous Protest—Again
A committee composed of deputies from Panama’s National Assembly, representatives of the Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous group, and observers was to meet on Feb. 10 to discuss a possible ban on hydroelectric projects in Ngöbe-Buglé territories. The negotiations resulted from an agreement that indigenous leaders and the government of rightwing president Ricardo Martinelli reached on Feb. 7; the pact ended more than a week of massive protests that had led to at least two deaths and dozens of arrests. (Prensa Latina 2/10/12)

The Ngöbe-Buglé began blocking highways in the western provinces of Chiriquí and Veraguas on Jan. 30 in an ongoing dispute over Law 415, a set of changes the Martinelli government is proposing for Panama’s Mining Code. The Ngöbe-Buglé said the government had agreed in October to a ban on mining and hydroelectric projects in their territories but that Article 5, which included the ban, was dropped when the Assembly began debating the law in January. The Ngöbe-Buglé’s roadblocks cut off crucial highways, stranding tourists and creating shortages in the cities. Despite efforts by Catholic officials to start negotiations, on Feb. 5 the government sent police to break up the protests with tear gas, rubber bullets and, according to the protesters, live ammunition. Protester Jerónimo Rodríguez Tugrí (whose name was given previously as Jerónimo Montezuma) was killed during the confrontations [see Update #1116].

Another protester, 16-year-old Mauricio Méndez, died in a hospital early the morning of Feb. 7, although the cause of death was in dispute. He was badly burned when anti-riot police threw a smoke bomb that hit him in the face, according to some reports, while others said he was shot. The police said the youth may have died accidentally while trying to build a homemade explosive.

It seemed that the police action on Feb. 5 only succeeded in broadening the protests. The four main indigenous groups in eastern Panama, including the Embera and the Wounaan, announced they would hold protests in solidarity with the Ngöbe-Buglé, while members of the militant Only Union of Construction and Similar Workers (SUNTRACS) began picketing in various cities, and banana workers reportedly started a strike. Vigils and marches were planned for Feb. 6 and 7 in Panama City’s Porras Park, and in the towns of David (Chiriquí province), Changuinola (Bocas del Toro province) and Santiago (Veraguas province). Outside the country, activists announced solidarity demonstrations at the Panamanian embassies in Costa Rica and Honduras.

Faced with the wave of protests, President Martinelli decided to compromise. After mediation by Jose Luis Lacunza, Catholic bishop of David, on Feb. 7 representatives of the president and of Ngöbe-Buglé leader Silvia Carrera signed the San Lorenzo Accord, in which the indigenous group agreed to end the roadblocks while the government agreed to discuss changes to Law 415, to free all arrested protesters, to remove anti-riot police from indigenous territories and to restore cell phone service in the area. (Adital (Brazil) 2/7/12; Europa Press (Spain) 2/7/12; Rainforest Foundation press release 2/7/12; EFE 2/8/12 via Latin American Herald; Indian Country Today Media Network 2/10/12)

The latest confrontation followed a pattern observed since Martinelli took office in July 2009. In 2010 the president proposed a set of neoliberal reforms in Law 30, which became known as the “sausage law” (“ley chorizo”) because of the various elements stuffed into it, including anti-union measures and the weakening of environmental safeguards. Militant grassroots protests in July 2010 forced him to back down. In February 2011 Martinelli proposed neoliberal reforms to the Mining Code. Militant protests by the Ngöbe-Buglé again forced him to back down. In October 2011 Martinelli tried to reintroduce neoliberal policies in Law 415, according to indigenous leaders; this was met by renewed indigenous protests, leading to the agreement on hydroelectric projects which is at the center of the most recent dispute [see Updates #10531070, 1103].

Before the signing of the San Lorenzo Accord, Ngöbe-Buglé leader Silvia Carrera expressed doubts about Martinelli’s intentions in the current situation. “We have not yet achieved anything,” she said. “The indigenous Ngöbe people are struggling more than 500 years, and this has prompted us to disbelieve in the authorities, but today we all want to go home quietly, with the hope of seeing the promises of the government.” (Indian Country Today 2/10/12)

*2. Argentina: Police Repress Anti-Mining Roadblocks
Police from the northwestern Argentine province of Catamarca used tear gas and rubber bullets the morning of Feb. 10 to disperse some 100 local residents who were blocking a road near the town of Tinogasta to protest open-pit mining. “[B]etween 12 and 13 people went to the hospital with some type of contusion or wound,” Catamarca governance secretary Francisco Gordillo reported, but he claimed that 11 anti-riot police were also wounded. The police operation was necessary, according to Gordillo, because trucks carrying explosives for a nearby mine were being held up on the highway, which he said represented “a danger for society.”

Several hours earlier on Feb. 10 provincial police had broken up an anti-mining protest by about 50 residents at the town of Amaicha del Valle in neighboring Tucumán province. The protesters there had been blocking a road since Jan. 28. Catamarca police attacked another roadblock in the town of Belén on Feb. 8, arresting 26 protesters, who were released later.

Anti-mining protests gathered momentum in the northwestern provinces in January when thousands of residents blocked access to a site at the Nevados de Famatina mountain in La Rioja province [see Update #1116]. The protests in Catamarca and Tucumán have been blocking trucks heading to the massive Bajo de la Alumbrera gold and copper deposit near the border with Chile; area residents believe the use of cyanide in mining is contaminating their scarce water resources. The Bajo de la Alumbrera deposits belong to a joint enterprise made up of the Catamarca and national governments and the public National University of Tucumán, but the mine is owned and operated by a consortium including the Swiss-British mining company Xstrata PLC and two Canadian companies, Goldcorp Inc. and Yamana Gold Inc. In 2010 the mine was producing an annual net profit of more than $1.2 billion.

As the police moved in on them on Feb. 10, the protesters at Tinogasta chanted slogans against Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. On Feb. 9 Fernández, who heads a center-left faction of the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist), had called for “responsibility and seriousness” from the protesters, who she said had taken “dogmatic and obstinate” positions. (AFP 2/10/12 via Univision; La Gaceta (Tucumán) 2/11/12 from DyN (Agencia Diarios y Noticias); La Nueva Provincia (Bahía Blanca) 2/11/12 from DyN)

Despite the police violence on Feb. 10, Tinogasta residents returned to the highway by Feb. 12 to continue blocking access to Bajo de la Alumbrera. Meanwhile, Belén residents have responded to the police action there by holding an open-ended popular assembly. Protests also continue in the Catamarca cities of Santa María and Andalgalá.

The protesters gained an ally in environmental attorney Romina Picolotti, who was environment secretary in President Fernández’s government before being fired in 2008. She charged that the president is following the neoliberal mining policies of former president Carlos Menem (1989-1999). “For 10 years they’ve been mining in Catamarca in one of the largest gold mines in the world,” she said, “and the people have received no benefits.” The mine has made $11 billion, according to Picolotti, while many citizens in the area don’t have sewers, water, streets or schools. (La Gaceta 2/12/12 from DyN)

*3. Haiti: Ex-Soldiers Are Taking Over Old Bases
Former soldiers of the disbanded Armed Forces of Haiti (FAd’H) had reportedly been occupying old military bases and training camps for several weeks as of Feb. 9. They took over a base in the Lamentin section of Carrefour, a city just southwest of Port-au-Prince in the West department, according to Carrefour mayor Yvon Jérômel, and occupations were also reported in the northwestern city of Gonaïves, Artibonite department, and at Cerca-la-Source in the Central Plateau, Center department. The former soldiers were said to be wearing uniforms and carrying out exercises; it isn’t clear who their leaders are or who has been financing their actions.

The Fad’H was abolished on Jan. 6, 1995 by then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Growing out of a military and police force created by the US during its 1915-1934 military occupation, the Haitian army carried out several military coups during its 60-year history and gained a reputation for massacres and other atrocities against the civilian population.

Rightwing president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) is considering plans for reviving the FAd’H [see Update #1099]. An ad hoc commission was set up in November to study the possibilities; it is scheduled to issue its recommendations in May. But Interior Minister Thierry Mayard-Paul told the AlterPresse internet news service that the base occupations were not carried out “with the government’s blessing.” “We’re inviting [the ex-soldiers] to stay calm,” he said. “The rehabilitation process for the armed forces is very complicated and should be conducted in a rational, progressive and profound manner.”

“[O]ur patience has its limits, we can’t wait forever,” a spokesperson for the Coalition of Demobilized Soldiers (CONAMID), former sergeant David Dormé, said when asked about the occupations. “[T]he demobilized soldiers are determined to protect their bases… We’re not afraid, and we won’t give in to pressure.” (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 2/9/12; AlterPresse 2/10/12)

*4. Mexico: Court Frees Seven Convicted in 1997 Massacre
Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) issued an order on Feb. 1 for the release of seven indigenous Tzotziles who had been convicted of homicide and other crimes in the December 1997 massacre of 45 indigenous campesinos in Acteal, a village in Chenalhó municipality in the southeastern state of Chiapas. The court, which has overturned the convictions of 45 others in the case since August 2009 [see World War 4 Report 8/16/09], ruled that the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) had violated the defendants’ due process rights by influencing witnesses, who had been shown an album of photographs.

The prisoners were released from the El Amate prison in Cintalapa municipality, Chiapas, on the evening of Feb. 1. Although they come from Chenalhó municipality, the released prisoners in the Acteal case have all been relocated to the city of Villafores for their own safety. (La Jornada (Mexico) 2/2/12)

Some observers believe that the main responsibility for the massacre lies with the Mexican government and then-president Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (1994-2000). Zedillo, who is teaching at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, currently faces a $50 million US federal civil suit filed in Hartford in September on behalf of 10 unnamed Acteal survivors [see Update #1112]. Zedillo claims immunity as a former president. During a press conference in Mexico City on Feb. 9, Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa refused to comment on reports that the Mexican government had asked the US court to support Zedillo’s claim. This “concerns a trial that’s in progress, on which we can’t give public information,” Espinosa said. But the Mexican government “will provide all the assistance required,” she added, “as in the case of any Mexican national.” (Reforma (Mexico) 2/9/12 via; La Crónica de Hoy (Mexico) 2/10/12)

*5. Puerto Rico: Report Faults FBI in Rebel’s Death
The Puerto Rican Civil Rights Commission (CDC) has concluded that the killing of Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in September 2005 was illegal and should be investigated, according to people who say they have seen the commission’s 238-page report. The CDC’s conclusions apparently contradict the finding of the US Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in 2006 that Ojeda, the leader of the rebel Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros, had fired on the FBI agents first and that they were justified in returning fire and in waiting 18 hours after Ojeda was wounded before entering his house to check his condition [see Update #863].

Dated Mar. 31, 2011 but never released publicly, the CDC report is said to confirm accounts that FBI agents started shooting with heavy weapons as soon as they arrived at the house in the western town of Hormigueros where Ojeda was living with his wife, and that the independence leader would not have died from his wounds if he had been given medical attention. But the report’s most explosive revelation is apparently a claim by two police agents who participated in the operation: far from being armed and dangerous when he was shot three times by an FBI sniper identified only as “Brian,” Ojeda was playing music on a trumpet, according to the witnesses.

After the initial shootout, Ojeda negotiated his wife’s release to the FBI. He then negotiated for an hour about his own surrender; it was when these talks stalled that Ojeda, who was a professional musician, reportedly began playing on his trumpet. Luis F. Abreu Elías, who had been Ojeda's lawyer, speculated at a Feb. 3 press conference in San Juan that the sniper couldn’t see his target and used the sound of the trumpet to hit Ojeda. Abreu is calling for an international organization like the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to investigate the killing. (Argenpress (Argentina) 1/30/12 from correspondent; Prensa Latina 2/2/12; Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 2/3/12)

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

ALBA Advances towards “Alternative Economic Model”, Pursues Anti-Imperialist Agenda

Twenty years later: Falklands flashpoint for more Malvinas mayhem?

Observations from the World Social Forum in Brazil: The Life and Death of Liberal Democratic Capitalism

MST Leader: 'Let's Build a People's ALBA' (Brazil)

Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict Continues: Fanning the Flames of Discontent

Bolivian Congress Adopts Controversial TIPNIS Consultation Law

Bolivia: "ethnocide" feared after new consultation law on Amazon highway

Peru: march for water rights arrives in Lima

Peru: illegal loggers seized days after photos of "uncontacted" indigenous group released

Native Peruvians See Loopholes in Prior Consultation Law

A Question of Fundamentals: Ecuador’s Divided Vision of Development

Victims Law Decree Fails Afro-Colombian Communities

Show Time in Necoclí, Colombia

Colombian Youth Confront Violence with Creativity

Colombia: Warrant Out For Ex-Peace Commissioner

Colombia: former peace commissioner charged with fraud, arms trafficking

In the Path of the Mining-Energy Locomotive – Resisting Colombia’s Quimbo Hydroelectric Project

El Salvador: FMLN swept from public security cabinet, in tilt to US

Banana Union Target of Deadly Repression in Guatemala

Genocide Trial against Ríos Montt in Guatemala: Declassified Documents Provide Key Evidence

From Perote to Tar Heel (Mexico)

Mexican workers pulverized in 21st century

A Dangerous Precedent: Why Haiti Must Try Jean Claude Duvalier for Human Rights Abuses

As NGOs Begin to Pull Out of IDP Camps, Access to Clean Water Deteriorates (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.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Now You Can Follow Weekly News Update on Twitter

The Update has started a news feed on Twitter. As with the weekly blog and the email version, we’ll supplement the Update itself with links to news articles from alternative sources like NACLA, Upside Down World and World War 4 Report. We’ll also try to send links to important breaking news stories, urgent actions and petitions. The feed will be low volume--usually no more than one or two items a day.

You can follow the Update at . We also have a public list with news from and about Haiti at!/WeeklyNewsUpdat/haiti-update-news-feed , and we hope to have more public lists in the future. Please spread the word.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

WNU #1116: Indigenous Protester Killed in Panama

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1116, February 5, 2012

1. Panama: One Killed in Renewed Indigenous Protests
2. Argentina: Demonstrations Against Mining Spread
3. Honduras: Campesinos Detained as Aguán Land Talks Stall
4. Mexico: Anti-Femicide Activist Attacked Again
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US

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 It is archived at

*1. Panama: One Killed in Renewed Indigenous Protests
At least one indigenous protester was killed on the morning of Feb. 5 as Panamanian riot police cleared roadblocks that members of the Ngöbe-Buglé group had maintained for six days in the western provinces of Chiriquí and Veraguas. Protest leaders identified the victim as Jerónimo Montezuma; they said he died of a gunshot wound in the chest in San Félix, Chiriquí. The roadblocks were set up in the latest round in an ongoing dispute between the Ngöbe-Buglé, Panama’s largest indigenous group, and the government of rightwing president Ricardo Martinelli over environmental protections in indigenous territories [see Update #1103].

“The anti-riot units only have crowd control equipment and no lethal arms,” Security Minister José Raúl Mulino told the Telemetro television channel later in the day, “so this person couldn’t have died from [police] gunfire.” Mulino blamed the protesters for the violence, charging that they had thrown rocks at agents, had burned down a police station in San Félix, had tried to attack a police station in the Chiriquí capital, David, and had looted a bank branch. But Omayra Silvera, a protest leader, told RPC radio: “The riot police fired on us. We were demonstrating so quietly, peacefully, and they repressed us.” Police agents “fired bullets, birdshot [or rubber bullets] and tear gas [grenades],” Carlos de la Cruz, a Catholic priest in Tolé, Chiriquí, told the media, saying he’d taken three wounded protesters to the hospital and had seen the projectiles.

“The important thing is that traffic has been made normal,” Security Minister Mulino said, “that the police are clearing the highways of debris, tree trunks, sheet metal, and that the trucks have started to circulate.” In addition to dispersing the demonstrations, the government cut off cell phone communication in the western region.

The Ngöbe-Buglé used militant protests in February, March and October of 2011 to block President Martinelli’s efforts to change the Mining Code in ways that the Ngöbe-Buglé said would open up indigenous territories to mining. The government finally agreed to have the revised law include a ban on open-pit mining in the territories, but it refused to exclude hydroelectric projects. The Ngöbe-Buglé responded on Jan. 30 by blocking major roads, including the Pan American highway. The action largely cut off Panama’s communication with Costa Rica, stranding tourists and causing shortages in Panamanian cities.

According to Adonais Cortés, a member of a Catholic commission seeking to start a dialogue, the protesters had agreed to lift the roadblocks if the government would negotiate. Government delegates failed to attend talks set up by the church on Feb. 4. After the violence on Feb. 5, Cortés said the government no longer has any credibility; he called the burning of the San Félix police station the result of anger after Montezuma’s death. (AP 2/3/12 via Houston Chronicle; AFP 2/5/12 via Tiempo (Veracruz, Mexico); AP 2/5/12 via La Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador))

As of Feb. 2 some 19 Panamanian environmental, grassroots and labor organizations, along with 15 international organizations, had endorsed a statement calling on the government to respect indigenous rights, to avoid the use of force and to resolve the issues through negotiations. (Enlace Indígena 2/2/12) A petition is posted online in English and Spanish asking the National Assembly to pass the mining law requested by the Ngöbe-Buglé and calling on President Martinelli to enter into negotiations with the mediation of the Catholic bishop of David. (Petition accessed 2/5/12)

*2. Argentina: Demonstrations Against Mining Spread
On Feb. 1 the Montreal-based Osisko Mining Corporation announced that it and the government of the northwestern Argentine province of La Rioja would suspend exploration for a proposed gold mine at the Nevados de Famatina mountain as long as “there is no social license for exploration and development in the area.” The announcement followed weeks of protests against the open-pit mining project by local residents, who selectively blocked access to the area for company employees and officials of the provincial government. Osisko and the provincial government said they were now preparing a “program of information and consultation with the community” to win local support, but assemblies formed by area residents have voted to continue the blockade. “[N]o mega-mining company or project has a social license in our territory,” the assemblies declared. (Página 12 (Argentina) 2/2/12)

Residents of the towns of Famatina and Chilecito say open-pit mining on the Andean mountain would threaten their only source of water. The protest began on Jan. 2 with about 400 people, but on Jan. 16, when the company was to begin work, some 4,000 people turned out to block access; the population of Famatina is just 6,400. The local protest won also the backing of national environmental groups like Greenpeace Argentina and celebrities like documentary filmmaker Fernando “Pino” Solanas.

Similar protests have been taking place in the northern provinces of Catamarca and Tucumán, where residents have blocked roads to demand an end to work at the Bajo de la Alumbrera, one of the world’s main gold and copper deposits. The exploration and development there is being carried out by a consortium including the Swiss-British mining company Xstrata PLC and two Canadian companies, Goldcorp Inc. and Yamana Gold Inc. The protests In La Rioja, Catamarca and Tucumán have also reactivated activism against mining projects in Río Negro, Chubut and Mendoza provinces.

According to the national government’s Mining Secretariat, investments in mining reached a record $2.546 billion in 2011. Official data show some 600 active projects in Argentina.

As has happened in other Latin American countries with center-left governments, the exploitation of natural resources seems to be creating friction between the government and grassroots activists that have formed part of its base. Famatina mayor Ismael Bordagaray, who supports the protesters, is a member of the Front for Victory, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s left-leaning faction of the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist). But La Rioja governor Luis Beder Herrera, also a Front for Victory member, supports the mining project, which includes the province’s state-owned energy and mining company, Energía y Minerales Sociedad del Estado (EMSE), as a partner. Jorge Yoma, a federal legislative deputy from the Front, said on Feb. 4 that President Fernández told him that she also supports mining operations. (Directorio Verde 1/20/12; Inter Press Service 1/25/12 via Upside Down World; El Tribuno (Salta and Jujuy) 2/4/12; EFE 2/5/12 via No a la Mina)

*3. Honduras: Campesinos Detained as Aguán Land Talks Stall
Honduran police detained 13 leaders of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) the night of Feb. 2 at a checkpoint in Arizona, in the northern department of Atlántida, according to the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH). The leaders, who were returning from Tegucigalpa, were reportedly taken to the city of Tela; one leader, Juan Angel Rodríguez, was turned over to the Public Ministry, allegedly because of a warrant for his arrest. (COPINH 2/2/12; OFRANEH 2/3/12)

The day before, on Feb. 1, police had arrested MUCA spokesperson Vitalino Álvarez in Tocoa in the northern department of Colón, apparently without a warrant. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 2/1/12)

The arrests came after a breakdown in negotiations between the MUCA and the government at the end of January over implementation of an April 2010 agreement that was supposed to resolve at least some of the violent land disputes taking place in the Lower Aguán Valley. Under the deal, the government would buy some 5,700 hectares of land from the wealthy agribusiness owner Miguel Facussé Barjum and turn it over to campesino organizations that have been pressing a claim to the land. But the campesinos balked when told they would have to pay interest at a 14% annual rate on a 600 million lempira loan (about $31.5 million) from a private bank. Vitalino Álvarez--the MUCA spokesperson arrested on Feb. 1--had denounced the proposal, noting that the plan was originally for the campesinos to pay a low interest rate.

In December there were reports that Alba-Petróleos, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), might finance the loan and help campesino organizations by building an African palm fruit processing plant for their use [see Update #1111]. Apparently Alba-Petróleos will not be financing the loan but is still planning to pay for the processing plant and guarantee a market for the palm oil it would produce. (El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 1/31/12)

*4. Mexico: Anti-Femicide Activist Attacked Again
An unidentified man attacked Mexican human rights activist Norma Esther Andrade with a knife on the morning of Feb. 3 as she was leaving her current residence in the Coyoacán delegación (borough) of Mexico City. She was cut on one cheek by the attacker, who then fled without speaking. Andrade, a founder of the organization Our Daughters Return Home, has been a leader in denouncing the unsolved murders of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua. She has been staying in Mexico City since she was wounded by gunfire from unknown attackers in Ciudad Juárez on Dec. 2; local authorities claimed the attack might be a carjacking or robbery attempt [see World War 4 Report 12/7/11].

After the latest instance of the authorities’ failure to provide adequate protection--despite repeated threats and an order from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish)--Andrade and her family are considering the possibility of seeking asylum outside Mexico. (La Jornada (Mexico) 2/4/12, 2/5/12)

In other news, on Feb. 2 the federal Chamber of Deputies called on the federal government and the Guerrero state government to intensify their efforts to find environmental activists Eva Alarcón Ortiz and Marcial Bautista Valle, leaders in the Organization of Ecologist Campesinos of the Sierra de Petatlán and Coyuca de Catalán (OCESP) in Guerrero. The two were kidnapped on Dec. 7 while traveling by bus to the state capital, Chilpancingo, and are still missing. A local police commander, Cesario Espinoza Palma, was arrested in connection with the kidnapping in December [see Update #1111], but it is not clear whether any progress has been made in the case since then. (Notimex 2/2/12 via La Crónica de Hoy (Mexico))

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US

Victims of Agrochemicals Break their Silence (Latin America)

Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict Continues: Fanning the Flames of Discontent

Bolivia: pro-highway marchers arrive in La Paz

Terrorism and Development in Peru

Peru: Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Call For Action Against Oil Companies

Peru: more photos released of "uncontacted" Amazon peoples —as roads encroach

Peru: indigenous groups reject draft regulations on Law of Prior Consultation

Peru: national mobilization for water, against Conga mine

Ecuador: Kichwa announce march for water

Ecuador: ex-guerillas return absconded swords

Victims Law Decree Fails Afro-Colombian Communities

The Hidrosogamoso Dam: Communities pay the high price of hydro-electric power in Colombia

Colombia: FARC escalate attacks, indigenous pueblos caught in middle —again

“Bilateralizing” Relations between Peru and Venezuela

Venezuelan Workers Organise, Draft Proposals for New Labour Law

UN Praises Venezuela’s Gun Control and Disarmament Policies

Venezuela: independent gold prospectors march in Bolívar after violence

Inventive Nonviolence in Mexico: A Conversation With Javier Sicilia

From Chiapas to Wall Street: “A collective awakening against global injustice”

The Drug War’s Invisible Victims (Mexico)

Ciudad Juárez: narcos declare war on police

Mexico Climate Politics Heats Up

Canada: A Late but Eager Partner in Policing the Caribbean

Rights Groups Denounce Duvalier Ruling in Haiti

Elliott Abrams' Dark History in Latin America and the Struggle for Justice (US)

Lawmakers, "Experts" Spin Tales of Iranian Terror in Latin America (US)

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

For immigration updates and events:


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