Monday, April 30, 2012

WNU #1127: Bribery Scandal Hits Wal-Mart in Mexico

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1127, April 29, 2012

1. Mexico: Wal-Mart Stocks Plunge After Bribery Exposé
2. Chile: Youth Wounded in Raid on Mapuche Village
3. Haiti: Armed Ex-Soldiers Disrupt Parliament Session
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, 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. Mexico: Wal-Mart Stocks Plunge After Bribery Exposé
Wal-Mart de México’s stocks fell by a total of 15.46% on the Bolsa Mexicana de Valores (BMV, the Mexico City stock market) from Apr. 23 through Apr. 24 following a report in the New York Times that the company’s US-based owner, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., had covered up a major bribery scandal in 2005. The Mexican branch of the giant retailer is the largest private employer in the country, with 2,138 outlets: 1,250 stores under the Aurrerá name, 214 Wal-Mart stores, 127 Sam’s Clubs, 88 Superamas, 94 Suburbias and 365 restaurants. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/24/12, 4/25/12)

The Times reported on Apr. 22 that in 2005 Wal-Mart investigators found evidence that the Mexican subsidiary had fueled its explosive growth with more than $24 million in bribes to obtain building permits, circumvent environmental requirements and stifle community opposition. The bribery violated laws in both Mexico and the US, but Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, failed to report the illegal acts to the two governments. Instead, executives essentially shut the investigation down, according to the Times. The company finally notified the US Justice Department in December 2011, after it learned that the newspaper was working on the story. (NYT 4/22/12)

Wal-Mart began operating in Mexico in 1991, when it formed a connection with the Aurrerá chain (the name means “forward” in Basque). The administration of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) gave special privileges to the firm, according to Enrique Bonilla, director of the National Front Against Wal-Mart. Bonilla says the company only pays 1.6% in taxes on its sales and is allowed to use unpaid employees—packers and parking lot attendants who have to get by on their tips and receive no employee benefits. “This company’s very rapid growth [in Mexico] can’t be explained without support from the highest levels of government,” Bonilla claims. (LJ 4/28/12)

Government favor for Wal-Mart may not have ended. On Apr. 23 Attorney General Marisela Morales suggested that her office wasn’t in a hurry to bring charges in the corruption scandal. “It’s a case that we still don’t have,” she said, “but if in a given moment it’s in our jurisdiction, of course we’re going to act and ask for whatever is necessary.” (EFE 4/23/12 via Univision)

The new revelations brought sharp criticism of Wal-Mart both in Mexico and in the US. An editorial in the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada noted that the scandal comes on top of many complaints against the company: the very low prices it pays its suppliers; its record of driving out small businesses and reducing overall employment; and such labor practices as “low wages, banning of unions, protection contracts, exhausting workdays without overtime.” (LJ 4/24/12) Richard Trumka, president of the largest US labor federation, the AFL-CIO, charged that “the Walmart episode shows the utter futility of expecting large corporations, their boards and their law firms to police themselves” and “reveals the tragic folly of NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement]… a race to the bottom in every respect--including rule of law.” Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the US as well as in Mexico, and it opposes labor organizing just as strongly in the US as it does in Mexico. (Huffington Post 4/26/12)

The US media stressed that corruption is endemic in Mexico and in Latin America in general. In a follow-up article on the Wal-Mart scandal, the Times wrote that “bribery and other forms of corruption are taken in stride” in Mexico. (NYT 4/24/12) The US media avoided mentioning two earlier bribery scandals that involved another major US corporation, the computer giant IBM. In Argentina the multinational allegedly paid $21 million in bribes to win a $249 million contract with the state-owned bank Banco Nación in 1993; the Argentine judge in the case wasn’t able to get IBM employees extradited from the US to testify. A second scandal emerged in 1998 in Mexico City, where IBM had to pay a large settlement in a bribery case involving three IBM executives and a $27 million contract for a database system for the city. After the Mexico City scandal, IBM announced that it had “decided to sign no more direct contracts with the public sector in the region for systems engineering” [see Update #440].

*2. Chile: Youth Wounded in Raid on Mapuche Village
A 16-year-old Chilean youth was seriously wounded with metal pellets on Apr. 20 when agents from the carabineros militarized police raided the indigenous Mapuche community of Temucuicui in the southern region of Araucanía. The youth, Lautaro Naín, was rushed to the city of Victoria for emergency treatment.

According to Mijael Carbone, the community’s werken (spokesperson), about 100 uniformed police burst into the village and began firing at houses. The Chilean Foundation in Support of Children and Their Rights (Anide) denounced “the violence exercised by the police forces against the Mapuche communities, a violence which once again has a child as its victim.” The organization called for an end to police raids against Mapuche communities in Araucanía and for negotiations to end “the conflict created by the Chilean state by dispossessing the Mapuche communities of their ancestral land.” The Mapuche Territorial Alliance (ATM) demanded the immediate removal of local prosecutor Luis Chamorro from investigations in the area, charging that he had an anti-Mapuche attitude and constituted “an obvious public danger.” (Prensa Latina 4/22/12) [See Update #1124 for reporting on an earlier raid, led by Luis Chamorro, against a Mapuche village.]

In other news, both the government and student organizers seemed taken by surprise on Apr. 25 when thousands of students and their supporters marched in Santiago for educational reforms. In contrast to the massive mobilizations of the 2011 school year, student actions had been small since the current school year started in March [see Update #1122]. But even the police estimated the turnout in Santiago on Apr. 25 at 48,000, while organizers put the number at 70,000; there were also demonstrations in Valparaíso, Concepción, Temuco, La Serena and other cities.

Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH) president Gabriel Boric called the strong showing at the march “a very clear signal that the students aren’t going to back down from their conviction that education in Chile has be a right for all Chileans, and not by getting into debt.” Under pressure from the students’ popular demand for a return to a system of free public education, rightwing president Sebastián Piñera has proposed legislation raising corporate tax rates from 18.5% to 20% as part of a fiscal overhaul that will allow the government to provide student loans at 2%, replacing the current privately financed loans. However, student leaders consider these concessions inadequate. (Adital (Brazil) 4/26/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/26/12 from correspondent; Business Week 4/27/12)

*3. Haiti: Armed Ex-Soldiers Disrupt Parliament Session
The Chamber of Deputies of the Haitian Parliament abruptly ended its session on Apr. 17 when a group of armed men in uniforms entered the legislature’s grounds in two vans. The men claimed to be former soldiers from the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAd’H), which was officially disbanded in 1995 during the first administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Chamber president Levaillant Louis Jeune refused to meet with the men and suspended the session. “It’s a serious issue when a working parliament is besieged by armed bandits,” he said. Groups of former soldiers have been seen since the beginning of the year carrying out exercises in various parts of the country, sometimes using old military bases and training camps; apparently the government has done nothing to interfere [see Update #1117].

Before the interruption, the Chamber of Deputies was meeting to start the confirmation process for Laurent Lamothe, President Michel Martelly’s nominee for prime minister. Lamothe, currently the foreign minister, would replace Garry Conille, who submitted his resignation on Feb. 24, just four months after taking office [see Update #1119]. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/17/12, 4/18/12) Meanwhile, President Martelly left the country on Apr. 16 in his third visit to Florida for medical treatment since October. The president’s office said the first two trips were for a shoulder problem, but this time the doctors diagnosed a pulmonary embolism. “I’m doing better presently, and I’m in contact with the government team and the members of my cabinet so that everything will continue to function normally,” Martelly said in a communiqué. (AlterPresse 4/18/12)

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

Latin America: What Comes After the Back Yard

First School for Transvestites Opens in Buenos Aires

Brazilian Mining Giant under Fire for Deaths, Environmental Damage

Brazil: Environmentalists, Farmers Await Changes To Forest Code

Bolivia: Amazon road war escalates again

Bolivia: TIPNIS Protesters Launch National March, Seek Indigenous-Urban Alliance

Bolivia: strikes paralyze La Paz, Cochabamba

Oil company Perenco accused of ‘1970s-era’ methods in Peru’s Amazon

Peru announces climate change initiative —as illegal logging soars

Peru: narco card against Cajamarca ecological struggle?

Ecuador: Plurinational March for Life, Water, and Dignity

Exporting Security: Israeli and U.S. Defense Chiefs Visit Colombia

228 Venezuelan Movements Form Sexual Diversity Council

Nicaragua turns to China for ALBA refinery —but opens interior to corporate "gold rush"

Charter Cities in Honduras: A Proposal to Expand Canadian Colonialism

Goldcorp’s Legacy: Criminalization and Mining Resistance in San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala

Remains Of 99 People Found In Guatemalan Mass Graves

Women of Las Patronas Aid Central American Migrants in Mexico

Impunity Revisited: Another Confrontation in Cherán

Peasants and Farmers Protest in Capital, States; Demand Aid

Court Rules in Favor of Gómez Urrutia; Final Warrant Dismissed

Strike at Estrella Blue Jeans Plant in Coahuila into Ninth Month

A Colonial WikiLeaks? The Migrated Archives and the Caribbean Pt.3

Donor Disbursements Slowing According to Latest Data from Special Envoy

The Killing of Anastasio Hernández Rojas, and the Boundaries of Accountability

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, April 23, 2012

WNU #1126: Campesinos Hold Worldwide Day of Action

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1126, April 22, 2012

1. International: Campesinos Hold Worldwide Day of Action
2. Honduras: Thousands Occupy Land in Massive Agrarian Protest
3. Argentina: Government Plans to Re-Nationalize Oil Company
4. Mexico: Questions Surround 8 Deaths in Logging Dispute
5: Mexico: Counterinsurgency General Assassinated
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Mexico, Caribbean, 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. International: Campesinos Hold Worldwide Day of Action
Campesino groups around the world planned more than 250 activities to mark the International Day of Campesino Struggles on Apr. 17, according to the international rural workers movement Vía Campesina. The day of action--which was announced at the International Campesino Conference held in Mali last Nov. 14-17—was intended to bring attention to the need for carrying out agrarian reform, for stopping the concentration of land in the hands of wealthy landowners, and for maintaining agricultural production based on campesino farming and the principles of food sovereignty. A special focus this year was to be opposition to monoculture for export and to the production of bio-fuel crops.

The Apr. 17 activities were expected to range from marches and land occupations to conferences and photographic exhibits. Countries with participating groups included Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Indonesia, Mozambique, Canada, the US, France, Spain, Australia and the Palestinian territories.

Groups in Brazil got a head start on Apr. 16 when the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) occupied the Agrarian Development Ministry in Brasilia; a tax office in Cuiabá, capital of the western state of Mato Grosso; the headquarters of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra), located in Rio de Janeiro; and an estate in the southern state of Río Grande do Sul. (Adital (Brazil) 4/17/12; TeleSUR 4/17/12)

In Haiti, more than 1,000 campesinos demonstrated on Apr. 17 in the town of Colladère, near Hinche in the Central Plateau, to demand agrarian reform and oppose the monopolization of land for biofuel production. The protest was organized by the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), whose spokesperson, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, praised a model of biological agriculture which he said was able both to counteract global warming and to provide enough food for the world’s 7 billion inhabitants.

The group used the occasion to present what it called “the country’s first ecological village,” which houses 10 families that moved to the countryside after a January 2010 earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince and nearby cities. The homes were built using local materials, with financial aid from a US faith-based group, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City. Jean-Baptiste said the MPP plans to build a total of five of these villages for people displaced by the earthquake. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/17/12)

Campesinos groups chose Apr. 17 for the international day of action as a way of commemorating the massacre of 19 Brazilian campesinos on Apr. 17, 1996, when police attacked a demonstration by some 1,500 MST members in Eldorado dos Carajás in the northern state of Pará. All but two of the police agents involved were acquitted [see Updates #646, 847]. (Adital 4/17/12)

*2. Honduras: Thousands Occupy Land in Massive Agrarian Protest
In a dramatic show of force, more than 3,500 Honduran campesino families occupied land in estates in different parts of the country early in the morning of Apr. 17 to demand implementation of an effective national agrarian reform policy. The mobilization, the Honduran activity for the International Day of Campesino Struggles, was organized by a coalition of 10 campesino groups, including the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and the Honduran branch of the international rural workers’ movement Vía Campesina. In a statement issued on Apr. 17, the organizers said protesters had occupied a total of 12,000 hectares in eight of the country’s 18 departments: Cortés, Yoro, Santa Bárbara, Intibucá, El Paraíso, Choluteca, Comayagua, and Francisco Morazán.

On Apr. 18 security forces dispersed the largest land occupation, at a 2,500-hectare estate operated by a sugar company in San Manuel, near San Pedro Sula in the northern department of Cortés. The campesinos, members of the San Manuel Campesino Movement (MOCSAM), left peacefully in the afternoon after a police contingent arrived with a court order.

The protest organizers said the lands the campesinos occupied either belonged to the government or were not “fulfilling a social function.” “The [Agrarian] Reform Law is clear and states that government lands are for the purposes of the Agrarian Reform,” the organizers said in their statement, but despite requests for these lands over the years with the National Agrarian Institute (INA), the government’s response had been “open repression, violent evictions, the imprisonment of campesinos and campesinas.” If the lands were turned over to the campesino families, they would produce “4 million quintales of corn, 1.5 million quintales of rice, and 800,000 quintales of beans for the food sovereignty of our people,” according to the statement. (A Honduran quintal is about 46 kg.) The protesters were also demanding passage of a law they proposed in October 2011 for “integral agrarian transformation.”

Government officials charged that the mass mobilization was politically motivated. But protesters dismissed the claim. “We aren’t criminals,” Marvin Morales, a schoolteacher and a leader in the San Manuel occupation, told a reporter, “and what has forced us to move into the land is hunger, not the influence of other political sectors.” (Communiqué from Honduran campesino goups 4/17/12,  posted on Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular website; La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 4/18/12; AP 4/19/12 via Fox News Latino)

On Apr. 19 thousands of students, unionists and others marched in various cities in a protest called by the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) to protest increases in the price of fuel, basic foods, public transportation and public utilities. In Tegucigalpa a large march started from the Francisco Morazán National Pedagogic University (UPNFM) and moved to the center of the city, where a committee including activist leaders Juan Barahona and Carlos H. Reyes and former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales presented the National Congress with a list of popular demands. Thousands also marched in the industrial capital, the northern city of San Pedro Sula, and there were protests in El Paraíso, Juticalpa, Choluteca, La Ceiba, Santa Bárbara and Colón. (Red Morazánica de Información 4/19/12 via FNRP website)

*3. Argentina: Government Plans to Re-Nationalize Oil Company
Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced on Apr. 16 that her government planned to take control of 51% of the shares in YPF SA, the country’s largest oil company. The Spanish company Repsol has had majority ownership of the Argentine company, formerly known as Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, since 1999. Later in the week the government took control of YPF Gas, which is also owned mostly by Repsol. A tribunal is to determine how much Argentina will pay in compensation to the companies' private shareholders.

A telephone survey conducted by Argentina’s Poliarquia polling institute and published on Apr. 22 by the daily La Nación found 26% of respondents strongly in favor of the move, with another 36% supporting it less strongly. (New York Times 4/17/12; AFP 4/22/12 via France24)

The plan to expropriate the company came in the midst of continuing economic instability in Europe, and the Spanish government reacted angrily to Argentina’s move. After an interview with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in Brussels on Apr. 19, Spanish foreign affairs minister José Manuel García-Margallo told a press conference that Spain and the US “are going to analyze the way in which it might be possible to collaborate together to restore international legality.” He said the two countries might work together in the World Bank, “in the International Monetary Fund [IMF], in the G-20 [Group of 20 major economies], in the Paris Club, in any other institution in which one could carry out an action to try to have the government of Argentina correct itself.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/20/12 from DPA)

The privatization of the state-owned Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales was the most important element in the massive sell-off of government enterprises carried out by the government of former president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) during an era of extreme neoliberal policies that ended with economic collapse in late 2001 and early 2002. The Menem government started by laying off 50,000 employees in four years. On Sept. 24, 1992, the Chamber of Deputies approved a law privatizing the firm, now named YPF SA, with majority control going to provincial governments. The private sector gradually bought more and more shares in the YPF until 1999, when Repsol obtained complete control. Later the Petersen Group, headed by Argentine entrepreneur Enrique Eskenazi, acquired about 25%.

The decision to re-nationalize the company has a number of ironies. President Fernández’s general secretary of the presidency, Oscar Parrilli, was a promoter of the privatization in 1992, when he was a deputy from Neuquén province. “We are here in this session,” he said in a pro-privatization speech in Congress that year, “with the firm conviction that we are taking the steps that Argentine society and the world are demanding of us in order to achieve the transformation of our country.” Cristina Fernández, then a provincial legislator in Santa Cruz, also supported the privatization. (La Capital (Rosario) 4/17/12)

The main force behind selling off YPF was Carlos Menem, who is now a senator for La Rioja province. In an Apr. 20 interview in the daily Crónica he said he planned to vote in favor of the re-nationalization. “The scenario has changed, the situation isn’t the same as when I privatized it,” he explained. “I know they’re going to beat me up, but it won’t be the first time.” (Clarín (Buenos Aires) 4/21/12) [Until last year Menem was in a faction of the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist) that strongly opposes the PJ faction that Fernández heads. Menem became a Fernández ally around the time he was starting to face trials on various criminal charges; see Update #1097].

*4. Mexico: Questions Surround 8 Deaths in Logging Dispute
Eight indigenous Purépecha were shot dead the morning of Apr. 18 near the autonomous community of Cherán in the western Mexican state of Michoacán. Two of the victims were from Cherán, which has been engaged in a year-long struggle to protect local forests from illegal loggers; six of the people killed were from the town of Casimiro Leco, better known as El Cerecito, where many of the loggers live.

According to Cherán residents, the violence began when a group of men from El Cerecito ambushed some 20 laborers from Cherán who were doing reforestation work as temporary employees for the federal Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat. The Michoacán authorities treated the incident as a shootout, blaming Cherán residents for the deaths of the six people from El Cerecito. Police agents detained a number of Cherán residents later on Apr. 18, and community people responded by detaining a dozen police agents from the Special Operations Group (GOE) and holding them until the next day.

Cherán’s governing council denied that Cherán residents were responsible for the killings of the six from El Cerecito. The workers from Cherán were attacked by “paramilitary groups associated with organized crime and the loggers,” Cherán activist Salvador Campanur told reporters. The same people “are planting corpses in our territory,” Campanur explained. “We don’t know the motive for the six deaths… [T]here are internal disputes between organized crime and the paramilitaries, and what the authorities are doing is to make these deaths appear to be part of a confrontation that didn’t take place.” [Campanur also works with the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD), which was founded by the poet Javier Sicilia last year to oppose the Mexican government’s militarized “war on drugs”; see Update #1079.]

But relatives of the victims from El Cerecito blamed Cherán residents. At the burial of five of the dead, in the community of Tanaco, on Apr. 19, family members—“who live in extreme poverty,” according to reporters from the Mexican daily La Jornada—denounced Cherán residents as “murderers.”

A little more than a year ago, on Apr. 15, 2011, the people of Cherán rose up against the criminal gangs and illegal loggers who had destroyed a large part of the local forests. Cherán residents then declared their community autonomous, throwing out the municipal government and replacing it with an assembly and a council selected according to Purépecha “uses and customs.” Community patrols provide security and guard the entrances to the town, and the inhabitants plan to boycott state and federal elections.

Even in Cherán there is some sympathy for impoverished Purépecha from El Cerecito who engage in illegal logging. “It isn’t just a police matter,” an unnamed teacher at the Superior Technological Institute of de Cherán told La Jornada, noting that the logging provides employment for hundreds of poor families, who in effect become serfs of the people who trade in the timber. “There need to be options for these people,” he said. “Or if not, what are they going to do afterwards?” (LJ 4/19/12, 4/20/12; EFE 4/20/12 via Latin American Herald Tribune)

*5: Mexico: Counterinsurgency General Assassinated
An unknown assailant killed retired Mexican general Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro Escapite with three shots to the head on the evening of Apr. 20 at an auto shop in the Anáhuac section of Mexico City; the general had just brought his car there for repairs. The killer and an accomplice escaped on a motorcycle. This was the second attack against the general in two years; he was shot in the abdomen in Mexico City on May 18, 2010, in a supposed robbery attempt.

Acosta Chaparro joined the Mexican military in the 1960s and received training in counterinsurgency and psychological warfare from the US Army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He became part of the so-called “White Brigade,” formed to combat rebel groups, especially the Sept. 23 Communist League and the Party of the Poor, which operated in the southwestern state of Guerrero under the leadership of Lucio Cabañas Barrientos.

In 2000 Acosta Chaparro was convicted of protecting Juárez Cartel head Amado Carrillo Fuentes, known as “The Lord of the Skies” for his use of jets to carry drugs. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison but later won acquittal on appeal. In 2002 Acosta Chaparro was charged, along with Gen. Francisco Quiroz Hermosillo, with the murder of campesinos in Guerrero during the “dirty war” against the Army of the Poor in the 1970s. He was eventually cleared of these charges as well.

Activists have accused Acosta Chaparro of involvement in “death flights” to dispose of bodies of the military’s victims by dropping them into the sea from airplanes. There were also reports that Acosta Chaparro was present when security forces massacred 17 campesinos at Aguas Blancas, in Coyuca de Benítez municipality, Guerrero, on June 28, 1995 [see Updates #392, 661]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/21/12; AP 4/23/12 via El Paso (Texas) Times)

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

Latin America Unravels the Populist Putdown

Argentina's Critics Are Wrong Again About Renationalising Oil

New Twist for TIPNIS Road: Bolivia Cancels Highway Contract

Peru: new environmental review of Conga project submitted —as protests continue

Cajamarca Anti-Mining Movements Celebrate and Question Study Results For Peru Conga Gold Mine

Peru: new report on Conga project fails to win social peace

La Oroya: "Peru's Chernobyl" to stay closed —for now

Peru: Sendero contests official story in Camisea hostage affair

Peru: Trade Deal Injustice for the Children of La Oroya

Contradictions in Power: Reflections on the Plurinational March for Water and Extractivism in Ecuador

Ecuador: clergy question mineral model

Colombia: sex scandal overshadows ongoing war

Colombia: The Movement against the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project Deepens its Resistance

Obama approves Colombia FTA —despite continued anti-labor violence

Progress or Promises? Free Trade and Labor Rights in Colombia

Venezuela: Complexities of the Socialist Alternative

More than 1 Million Venezuelans Benefit from Land Reform Program

The History and Resurgence of Death Squads in Central America

Drugs and Business: Central America Faces Another Round of Violence

Uighur Gitmo detainees released to El Salvador

Mexico’s False Dilemma: Human Rights or Security

The Politics of the Drug War in Mexico

FNS News: 1,700 Disappeare?d People (Mexico)

Mexican Seeds, the New Spoils for Food Corporations

A Colonial WikiLeaks? The Migrated Archives and the Caribbean Pt.2

Last Summit of the Americas Without Cuba

Liquid Death (Haiti)

Haiti Using Funds from PetroCaribe to Finance Reconstruction

Why Haiti Wasn’t “Built Back Better”

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, April 16, 2012

WNU #1125: Argentina Coup Aimed at Creating Market Economy

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1125, April 15, 2012

1. Argentina: 1976 Coup Aimed at Creating a Market Economy
2. Dominican Republic: Is a General Plotting Against Haiti’s President?
3. Mexico: Activist Stages Mock Crucifixion to Demand Child’s Return
4. Honduras: AFL-CIO Protests Labor Rights Violations
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean, 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: 1976 Coup Aimed at Creating a Market Economy
Imprisoned former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla has admitted for the first time that the military disappeared—detained and killed--thousands of people and sometimes abducted the victims’ children during its 1976-1983 “dirty war” against leftists and others [see Update #1110]. The killings “were the price that regrettably Argentina had to pay to go on being a republic,” Videla said in one of several interviews journalist Ceferino Reato held with him from October 2011 to March 2012 in the Campo de Mayo prison. Now 86, the former dictator was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 for crimes against humanity. Human rights groups estimate that the military disappeared some 30,000 people in the violence and turned over several hundred of their children to foster parents.

The interviews appear in Reato’s book Final Disposition, which went on sale on Apr. 14; some interviews were also videotaped and are available on the internet.

“Our objective” in the Mar. 24, 1976 coup that started the seven years of bloody military rule “was to discipline an anarchized society,” Videla explained to Reato. The generals wanted “to get away from a populist, demagogic vision; in relation to the economy, to go to a liberal market economy. We wanted to discipline unionism and crony capitalism.” Argentine business owners were directly involved in the killings, Videla added, although “they washed their hands” of the actual violence. “They said, ‘Do what you have to do,’ and later they would add some on. How many times they told me, ‘You’ve come up short, you should have killed a thousand more, 10,000 more’!”

The coup leaders decided they needed to keep the extent of the killings secret. “[L]et’s say there were 7,000 or 8,000 people who had to die [so we could] win the war against subversion. We needed for it not to be obvious, so that society wouldn’t notice.” The remains had to be eliminated “so that there wouldn’t be protests inside or outside the country.” In the case of Mario Santucho of the Revolutionary Army of the People, for example, if the body appeared it would “provide an occasion for homages, for commemorations. It had to be made opaque.” The title of Reato’s book comes from the Argentine military term “disposición final” (final disposition or disposal), which is used for getting rid of worn-out clothes or equipment. The generals used the term for the process of eliminating the bodies of their victims. (InfoBAE (Argentina) 4/14/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/14/12 from correspondent; Reuters 4/14/12)

*2. Dominican Republic: Is a General Plotting Against Haiti’s President?
Retired Dominican general Pedro Julio (“Pepe”) Goico Guerrero has been heading a plot to destabilize the administration of Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”), Dominican president Leonel Fernández’s information secretary, Rafael Núñez, announced at a Santo Domingo press conference late on Apr. 12. The alleged plot also involves a Haitian citizen, Pierre Kanzki, according to Núñez, who was accompanied by Dominican foreign affairs minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, Haitian justice minister Michel Brunache, Dominican attorney general Radhamés Jiménez, and ambassadors Fritz Cineas (Haiti) and Rubén Silie (Dominican Republic). Returning to Haiti on Apr. 13, Justice Minister Brunache announced that his department was investigating Kanzki; he didn’t mention any criminal charges against either of the two men named in the alleged plot. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/13/12, ___)

The accusation that Gen. Goico was plotting against Martelly came a little less than two weeks after Dominican reporter Nuria Piera charged that two of Dominican senator Félix Bautista’s construction firms, which have contracts for replacing buildings destroyed in Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, had paid some $2.5 million to President Martelly over the past two years [see Update #1124].

Some observers connect both of these accusations with the Dominican Republic’s general elections on May 20, in which Danilo Medina, the candidate of Fernández’s centrist Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), is in a tight race against former president Hipólito Mejía (2000-2004), the candidate of the social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). Sen. Bautista belongs to the PLD and is close to Fernández; the suggestion that he might be bribing Haitian officials comes on top of accusations of illegal enrichment in the past when he headed the Public Works Supervisory Office. Gen. Goico was in charge of security for Mejía during his administration and remains close to the former president. On Apr. 13 Mejía dismissed the claim that Goico was plotting against Martelly as “a smokescreen to cover up Félix Bautista’s scandals.”

Meanwhile, Mejía was facing criticism for a reference he made to US president Barack Obama during a recent visit to New York. “If Obama, who came from Africa, was born there and is [US] president,” he told a group of PRD supporters, “why can’t one of you make it, you who are a more attractive mixture than Obama?” On Apr. 13 the Dominican Senate, which the PLD controls, made an official apology to the US that was probably meant to add to Mejía’s embarrassment over the incident. (EFE 4/12/12 via Univision; El Nuevo Diario (Dominican Republic) 4/13/12; AlterPresse 4/13/12)

Opinion polls are split on the presidential race. A survey that the JZ Analytics firm released on Apr. 3 gave Mejía a five-point advantage over Medina, while a poll the New Link Group published a few hours later showed Medina with 49.1% of the vote against 44% for Mejía. The day before, a poll by Asisa Research had Medina winning with 52.8% to 45%. (Prensa Latina 4/4/12) The uncertainty of the polls reflects widespread disaffection with both parties. Asked which candidate they’d vote for, respondents have given such answers as: “Elections don’t matter to me,” “The two parties are the same thing,” “I don’t vote,” “For the devil,” “For Jesus Christ,” and “I don’t believe in politicians.” (Listín Diario (Santo Domingo) 4/15/12)

*3. Mexico: Activist Stages Mock Crucifixion to Demand Child’s Return
After 15 days on hunger strike, on Apr. 10 Antonia López Cruz sewed her lips together and had herself tied to the fence outside the federal Senate building in Mexico City in a mock crucifixion to demand the return of her six-year-old daughter, Concepción (“Cuco”) Antonia Fernández López. Puebla state Public Ministry coordinator Leticia Villaraldo took the child from her parents on Mar. 21 and turned her over to the state Integral Family Development (DIF) service, claiming she was an abuse victim because of an injury to her arm.

The father, Antonio Fernández Sánchez, who was encamped with López Cruz and their two sons outside the Senate, told reporters that the girl’s arm was hurt while she was playing with her little brother. “They took our daughter Concepción Antonia as a reprisal because my wife and I defend indigenous people and campesinos against arbitrary acts by the Puebla government, which is headed by [Gov.] Rafael Moreno Valle,” he said. “Villaraldo told us we should abandon the defense of indigenous and campesino human rights and then she’ll return our daughter.” Fernández Sánchez said he and López Cruz are members of an organization called the Supreme Mexican Fraternal Alliance in Defense of Human Rights.

Sen. Rosario Ibarra de Piedra [see Update #946], a longtime activist who heads the Senate Human Rights Commission, came out to meet with López Cruz. Ibarra then sent a request to the Puebla state attorney general for a report on the case, and spoke with the state governance under secretary, asking him to meet with the family. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/11/12)

On Apr. 5 activist José Luis Castillo Carreón and his son were put in preventive detention in the northern state of Chihuahua on charges of armed robbery of a Ciudad Juárez massage parlor in August 2008. Castillo became politically active after his 14-year-old daughter Esmeralda Castillo Rincón disappeared in May 2009. He and his son participated in protests demanding government action to end the wave of violence that has left more than 500 women and girls dead in the Juárez area since 1993 [see Update #1121]. The police said the owner of the massage parlor identified the two men from photos in media coverage of the demonstrations. (Vanguardia (Mexico) 4/6/12; EFE 4/11/12 via Latin American Herald Tribune)

*4. Honduras: AFL-CIO Protests Labor Rights Violations
On Mar. 29 the AFL-CIO, the main US labor federation, joined with two Honduran union federations to file a petition with the US Department of Labor’s Public Office of Trade and Labor Affairs (OTLA) asking the US to push the Honduran government to address labor violations. Evangelina Argueta Chinchilla, representing Honduras’ General Workers Central (CGT), and Francisco Joel López Mejía, deputy general secretary of the smaller Independent Federation of Workers of Honduras (FITH), traveled to Washington to file the petition.

The federations’ complaint is based on provisions for labor rights in the US-sponsored Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). Unions and grassroots movements in the affected countries strongly opposed the agreement when it was proposed [see Update #988] and had little confidence in the labor right provisions. Six years after the agreement went into effect, the labor provisions have not in fact been meaningfully enforced in Honduras, according to the union representatives.

“For many years our government has neglected workers and even has violated their own promises,” Argueta said. “They have ignored Honduras’ unions, while dealing openly with corporations. They have passed laws that undermine unions and reduce standards of living.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stressed “the long-term cooperation and commitment of the AFL-CIO and the Honduran labor movement to promote and protect worker rights.” (Honduras Weekly 3/30/12; People’s Weekly World 4/9/12)

In other news, on Apr. 13 the military detained two campesinos, Juan Galindo López and Oveniel (or Obeniel) Cáceres in the Marañones settlement in the Lower Aguán Valley, the site of a long-running conflict between campesinos and large landowners over land rights [see Update #1123]. On Apr. 14 the Canadian-based organization Rights Action reported that Galindo had been released but Cáceres was apparently still in detention. (Adital (Brazil) 4/13/12 from Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH); Rights Action posting 4/13/12; Rights Action email 4/14/12)

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

Obama in Cartagena: No Change, Dwindling Hope (Latin America)

South American Fiber Optic Ring

Dismantling the monoculture mentality (Argentina)

Argentina Thirty Years After the Malvinas War: Demanding Sovereignty and Healing the Wounds of War

Brazil: judge suspends Teles Pires dam, upholds indigenous rights

Brazil, U.S. Deepen Ties Ahead of Obama's Latin America Week

Bolivia: Evo Morales cancels contract for controversial Amazon highway

Shifting Alliances in Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict

Peru: Sendero Luminoso take Camisea workers hostage

Peru defies UN breakthrough on uncontacted tribes

Peru: trapped miners freed —and scapegoated

Peru: civil strike against mining project shuts down Cajamarca —again

Peru: state of emergency as Sendero demands ransom for Camisea workers

Peru: Sendero fires on police helicopter in Camisea hostage crisis

Peru: Sendero hostages freed —but how?

Peru's President Humala faces "dirty war" complaint before OAS rights commission

Ecuador: A Revolutionary March Versus a Counter-Revolutionary March

More mining projects for Ecuador rainforest

Colombians Commemorate First Official Day Honoring Conflict Victims (photo essay)

Small-Scale Miners in Nariño Face Crackdown as Foreign Companies Set Sights on Colombia

New Low for Obama on Colombia Worker Rights; Reportedly Plans to Throw Away Trade Leverage at Summit

Llaguno Bridge: Keys to a Massacre (Venezuela)

New Agreements Between Haiti, Venezuela and Cuba for Social and Economic Development

Canada Deepens Ties with Deadly Regime in Honduras  

Honduran Campesinos in the Crosshairs

Gathering in Bajo Aguán: Oligarchy and Human Rights Violations in Honduras

Mexican Candidates Blast the Airwaves, Stir Up the Social Networks

A Colonial WikiLeaks? The Migrated Archives and the Caribbean Pt.1

Haiti Reconstruction Fund: Building Back …When?

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

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Monday, April 9, 2012

WNU #1124: Did a Dominican Contractor Pay Haiti’s President?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1124, April 8, 2012

1. Haiti: Did a Dominican Contractor Give Millions to Martelly?
2. Chile: Carabinero Shot After Raid on Mapuche Village
3. Argentina: Menem to Be Tried for AMIA Bombing Coverup
4. Mexico: Study Blames NAFTA in Obesity Epidemic
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, 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. Haiti: Did a Dominican Contractor Give Millions to Martelly?
Several construction companies controlled by Dominican senator Félix Bautista have paid a total of more than $2.5 million to Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) since 2010, according to a Mar. 31 television report by Dominican investigative reporter Nuria Piera. At least two of the companies were awarded major contracts by the Haitian government for rebuilding in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake: Hadom S.A., which won a $33 million contract to construct a new building for the Parliament, and Roffy S.A., which is getting $174 million for a housing project in the capital’s Fort National section. [The ceremony to mark the start of the Fort National project last year was called off because of protests by area residents who demanded greater transparency; see Update #1063.]

On Apr. 2 Bautista denied that he had ever given money to President Martelly; he charged that the bank transactions detailed in Piera’s report came from “anonymous documents with altered and distorted information.” Martelly’s office called the report a “media lynching” and said it was “part of a process that seeks to impede the change in Haitian politics and the modernization of the country that the president is carrying out.”

Martelly isn’t the only politician who could face problems if Piera’s corruption accusations turn out to be true. According to Piera, Bautista’s companies also contributed $250,000 to Mirlande Manigat, Martelly’s opponent in the March 2011 presidential runoff. The Haitian rebuilding contracts were awarded to Bautista’s companies in 2010, during the administration of former president René Préval (1996-2001 and 2006-2011), so Préval and his prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, could come under scrutiny. Dominican president Leonel Fernández is said to be close to Bautista, who represents San Juan de la Maguana province in the Senate for Fernández’s Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). On Apr. 4 Piera charged that Dominican intelligence services were persecuting people they suspected of being her sources for the report. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/2/12, 4/5/12; Miami Herald 4/2/12 from correspondents; Listín Diario (Santo Domingo) 4/3/12)

On Apr. 4, five days after the scandal broke, Martelly flew to Florida for surgery on his shoulder. According to his press office, he will return on Apr. 12, in time to meet Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, who will be making his first visit to Haiti. The operation will be the second Martelly has had for his shoulder; he was in the US for a similar operation from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3 last year, also during a political crisis—in that case, the crisis caused by the arrest of Parliament member Arnel Bélizaire [see Update #1103]. (AlterPresse 4/5/12)

In other news, the number of cholera cases rose in the Artibonite, Northwest and West departments when rainfall increased in late March. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO, or OPS in French and Creole) expects an additional 200,000 cases this year. As of Mar. 18, 7,056 people had died in the epidemic, which struck Haiti in October 2010, and 286,343 had been hospitalized, according to the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), which reports a total of 531,683 known cases. (AlterPresse 4/5/12)

*2. Chile: Carabinero Shot After Raid on Mapuche Village
A sergeant in Chile’s carabineros militarized police force, Hugo Albornoz, died in a hospital in Temuco, the capital of the southern region of Araucanía, the evening of Apr. 2; he had been shot in the neck by unknown attackers earlier in the day. Sgt. Albornoz was part of a large group of police agents from the carabineros Special Operations Group (GOPE) that had searched through homes of indigenous Mapuche that morning in the village of Wente Winkul Mapu in Ercilla commune, Araucanía, for evidence about an October 2011 attack on the Centenario estate, the property of Juan de Dios Fuentes.

According to Luis Chamorro, a local prosecutor who led the search, the operation resulted in three arrests and the seizure of weapons and ski masks, but there was no confrontation with the inhabitants or any use of tear gas. After the agents left the village, they were fired on by about 15 men in the woods around the road, the authorities said. In addition to Albornoz, two other carabineros were hit, but their injuries were not life-threatening. (Radio Biobío (Chile) 4/2/12; AFP 4/2/12 via Univision; La Tercera (Chile) 4/3/12)

On Apr. 3 a spokesperson for Wente Winkul Mapu, Daniel Melinao, denied that village residents were involved in the shooting. “We don’t know where this bullet came from, but we are peaceful as a community, although we are also worried by the situation,” he said. (Radio Cooperativa (Chile) 4/4/12 via Mapu Express)

The Araucanía and Biobío regions in southern Chile have been in turmoil for years because of disputes between timber companies and Mapuche activists who say the companies are invading Mapuche ancestral lands [see Update #1113]. With about one million members, the Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group; according to José Aylwin, co-director of the Temuco office of the Citizens’ Monitoring Center, one third of the country’s Mapuche population lives in Araucanía. “The state has, regrettably, generated violence for a long time” in the region by siding with the timber companies, he told Radio Cooperativa. Two companies, Arauco S.A. and Forestal Mininco, made $1.5 billion in profits in 2010 alone, Aylwin said. Sgt. Albornoz was the fourth person to die in the conflict in the last decade, Aylwin noted; the other three were Mapuche killed by carabineros. (Radio Cooperativa 4/3/12)

Luis García Huidobro, a Jesuit who said he witnessed the Apr. 2 raid, called it “a totally useless operation” involving “some 10 police vehicles, a small tank, a zorrillo [vehicle for dispensing tear gas], an armored bus for transporting carabineros, and various vans.” “They shouldn’t send carabineros,” he wrote in an open letter; “but should send someone from the government to open up a dialogue and return those lands so that there will be peace.” (Prensa Latina 4/3/12)

In other news, on Apr. 4 the House of Deputies voted 58-56 to approve an anti-discrimination law which had been languishing in Congress for seven years. The Senate passed the bill last September. The deputies’ action followed calls both in Chile and abroad for laws against hate crimes like the brutal assault that resulted in the death of a gay young man, Daniel Zamudio, on Mar. 27 [see Update #1123]. Some provisions of the bill still need to be finalized before it can become a law. (The Jurist 4/5/12)

*3. Argentina: Menem to Be Tried for AMIA Bombing Coverup
Unidentified Argentine judicial sources reported on Mar. 30 that federal judge Ariel Lijo has ordered former president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) to stand trial on charges that during his presidency he impeded the initial investigation into a July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires [see Update #978], The judge in charge of the original investigation, Juan José Galeano, is also to stand trial, along with former intelligence service directors Hugo Anzorreguy and Juan Carlos Anchezar, and two commanders of the federal police.

The bombing, generally considered the worst anti-Semitic violence since World War 2, killed at least 85 people and injured 300; Argentine prosecutors accuse the Iranian government of planning the attack and the Lebanese organization Hezbollah of carrying it out. Many Argentines suspected that Menem, a strong proponent of neoliberal economic measures and a favorite of the US government at the time, had interfered in the investigation to protect family friends, the late Syrian-Argentine business owner Alberto Kanoore Edul and his son, Alberto Jacinto Kanoore Edul. Alberto Jacinto is said to be linked to Mohsen Rabbani, a former cultural attaché to Iran’s embassy in Buenos Aires who is suspected of masterminding the AMIA bombing.

Menem is now a senator for La Rioja province, and even if convicted he won’t face a prison sentence unless he is impeached by the Senate. (InfoBAE (Argentina) 3/30/12; Página 12 (Argentina) 3/31/12; BBC News 4/2/12) [Last September he was acquitted in a corruption trial stemming from the illegal sale of weapons to Croatia and Ecuador when he was president; there were suspicions of political interference in that trial--see Update #1097].

*4. Mexico: Study Blames NAFTA in Obesity Epidemic
A study published in the March issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health finds that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may be partly responsible for the sharp increase in obesity among Mexicans since the accord took effect in January 1994. Entitled “Exporting obesity: US farm and trade policy and the transformation of the Mexican consumer food environment,” the study indicates that by opening Mexico up to investment and food imports from the US, NAFTA altered Mexicans’ eating habits in a way that has affected their health.

Between 1988 and 1999 the average energy Mexicans obtained daily from fats rose from 23.5% to 30.3%--a 28.9% increase--while the consumption of refined carbohydrates rose by 6.3% and the consumption of soft drinks by 37.2%, according to the study. These changes coincided with increased imports of food products—including processed food and snacks—from the US, and with an increased US presence in food outlets. McDonalds, which opened its first Mexican restaurant in 1985, now has some 500 shops in 57 Mexican cities. The number of Wal-Mart stores jumped from 114 in 1993 to 561 in 2001; by 2005 Wal-Mart controlled 20% of the retail food sector in Mexico.

Weight problems increased in Mexico as these changes were taking place; from 2000 to 2006, for example, obesity and excess weight rose by 12%. The effects were especially severe among children. Alejandro Calvillo, director of the nonprofit group Consumer Power, says national surveys show obesity and excess weight increasing by 40% from 1999 to 2006 among children between the ages of five and 11.

According to David Wallinga, a co-author of the study and a science adviser at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) in Minneapolis, “As Mexico’s food environment has come to resemble that of the US, with more ubiquitous sodas, processed meats and other processed snacks high in added fats and sweeteners, it’s no wonder that Mexico’s struggle with obesity and its related life-threatening problems—diabetes, stroke, heart disease—has become ‘Americanized’ as well.” (Common Dreams 4/5/12; Prensa Latina 4/5/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/6/12 from correspondent)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti

Metrics of U.S. Militarization in Latin America

The Southern Command Opens a Base in the Argentine Chaco: Humanitarianism or U.S. Control Center?

Chile: high court rejects challenge to hydroelectric dam project

Shifting Alliances in Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala’s Brother Complains of Prison Beating

Regional Peruvian Government Fights Conga Gold Mining: An Interview with Dr. César Aliaga Díaz

Peru: Cajamarca militarized on eve of regional strike

Peru Passes Monumental Ten Year Ban on Genetically Engineered Foods

Peru: oil industry blamed in mass dolphin die-off

Colombia: another indigenous leader assassinated

The Capital of Colombia Says, “Farewell to Arms”

Colombia’s FARC Release Hostages Held for 12 Years

FARC denies being weakened, rejects "terrorist" label

The Increasing ‘Americanization’ of the Colombian Conflict

Venezuela Rejects U.S. Democrat’s Calls for “Robust” Mission to Monitor Election

U.S. Narcotics Chief Defends Drug War During Central American Tour

US-Latin America: HR3783 and the Mega-Embassy That Never Was (Nicaragua)

Dying in Defense of Land in Mexico

Mexico’s Corn Festivals – a Haven from Transgenic Crops

Fear, Loathing and Electoral Love in Mexico

Juárez drug cartel leader gets life in US consulate killings

The People vs. The Pirates: Controversy Abounds in Haitian Reconstruction Investigations

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, April 2, 2012

WNU #1123: Gay Chilean’s Death Focuses Attention on Hate Crimes

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1123, April 1, 2012

1. Chile: Gay Youth’s Death Focuses Attention on Hate Crimes
2. Guatemala: Indigenous Protesters March on the Capital
3. Honduras: Four Are Killed in the Latest Aguán Violence
4. Mexico: Commission Blames Police in Guerrero Repression
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Central America, 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. Chile: Gay Youth’s Death Focuses Attention on Hate Crimes
Thousands of Chileans turned out in Santiago on Mar. 30 for the funeral of Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man killed by a group of neo-Nazis. Many people brought flowers and signed petitions calling for an end to discrimination; almost 100 vehicles accompanied the cortege from the Zamudio family’s home to the General Cemetery. Rightwing president Sebastían Piñera responded to the news of Zamudio’s death by announcing “the government’s total commitment against all arbitrary discrimination and for a more tolerant country.” After criticism from the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh), even the conservative Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church finally denounced “the intolerance, aggression and violence” in the attack on Zamudio.

Four young men have been charged in the assault, which took place in Santiago on Mar. 3; they have been held in preventive detention. The group reportedly tortured Zamudio for six hours, beating him, burning him with cigarettes, cutting off an ear, and carving three swastikas on his body. He lay in a coma in the Public Assistance hospital for 24 days with fractures in his skull, chest and limbs; he died on Mar. 27. The alleged assailants had been investigated by the police in the past for attacks on Peruvian immigrants. The courts have set Apr. 23 as the date for formally charging the suspects with voluntary manslaughter in Zamudio’s death.

On Mar. 30 Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, called for “the Chilean Congress to pass a law against discrimination, especially discrimination based on sexual orientation.” President Piñera’s government is now planning to send Congress a bill establishing measures against discrimination, according to government spokesperson Andrés Chadwick. However, legislators have still not acted on a bill Piñera sent them last year to recognize same-sex civil unions [see Update #1086]. ( (Chile) 3/27/12; Adital (Brazil) 3/30/12; Juventud Rebelde (Cuba) 3/30/12; El Telégrafo (Ecuador) 3/31/12 from AFP, EFE)

In other news, the government reported on Mar. 30 that 228 people were arrested and 22 injured in protests that started in Santiago, Valparaíso, Concepción, Lota and other cities on the evening of Mar. 29, a date many Chileans mark as the Day of the Young Combatant. In the capital the carabineros militarized police entered the University of Santiago de Chile (Usach) and arrested at least 56 students. Usach rector Juan Manuel Zolezzi condemned the police action as a violation of the traditional autonomy of the university.

The Day of the Young Combatant commemorates the Mar. 29, 1985 murder of the brothers Rafael and Eduardo Vergara Toledo, 18 and 20 years old, by the carabineros in a Santiago suburb during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. This year’s Mar. 29 commemorations also included a cultural event in honor of three members of the Communist Party of Chile (PCC), Manuel Guerrero, Santiago Nattino and José Manuel Parada, killed by carabineros at almost the same time as the Vergara brothers--either on Mar. 29 or Mar. 30, 1985.

Despite the arrests, Under Secretary of the Interior Rodrigo Ubilla called the protests this year “a quiet day of action.” He explained that “if we compare it with the previous dates, [it] had less violence and participation.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/30/12, 3/31/12 from correspondent) [In 2007 at least 475 youths were arrested and about 100 police agents were reportedly injured in Day of the Young Combatant commemorations; see Update #893.]

*2. Guatemala: Indigenous Protesters March on the Capital
Some 1,500 indigenous campesinos arrived in Guatemala City on Mar. 27 after an eight-day, 214-km walk from Cobán, Alta Verapaz department, to promote their demands for land, debt cancellation and a halt to mining operations. Supporters joined them as they approached the capital, and the number of marchers eventually swelled to about 10,000, forming a line that stretched for 6 km. The protesters announced that they would stay encamped in the central Plaza de la Constitución until their main demands were met.

The campesinos presented the government a total of 68 demands, some addressed to the court system, some to the Congress and some to the executive. One major focus was on providing land and aid for the 600 families that were violently evicted from their settlements in the Polochic Valley a year ealier, in March 2011 [see Updates #1087, 1093]. Another demand was for the cancellation of some $100 million that campesinos owe to the government for loans they have used to acquire land; the campesinos say the most of the land offered was not suitable for farming and didn’t produce enough to pay off the debt. Additional demands included the release of dozens of detained campesino leaders, and passage of Law 4084 (Integral Rural Development) and Law 4087 (Community Communication Media).

This was the first major campesino and indigenous protest that President Otto Pérez Molina has had to deal with since he took office on Jan. 14 amid accusations that he committed human rights violations against indigenous communities in the 1980s [see Update #1114]. He and Vice President Roxana Baldetti surprised the marchers by going to meet them on the highway on Mar. 23 with an offer to negotiate and a request for them to end the march. The protesters continued with the march, but the government began the negotiating process with them soon after they reached Guatemala City.

The march was organized by the Campesino Unity Committee (CUC), one of the country’s main campesino organizations. Vicente Menchú, the father of 1992 Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum, was a cofounder of the group, which was formed in the 1970s. (Adital (Brazil) 3/26/12 from TeleSUR, 3/28/12; AFP 3/27/12 via Univision)

*3. Honduras: Four Are Killed in the Latest Aguán Violence
Four Honduran campesinos were killed and 11 were wounded in an ambush Mar. 29 at the Marañón estate, near the city of Trujillo in the northern department of Colón. The victims were members of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), one of several organizations struggling to gain farmland in the Lower Aguán Valley. MUCA vice president Juan Chinchilla told the Associated Press wire service that the victims “were leaving for work and were traveling in various vehicles where they were attacked by armed men without having a chance to flee or defend themselves.” About 50 campesinos have been killed in the Aguán region since 2009, mostly in disputes with major landowners; some died in unexplained violence sometimes attributed to criminal gangs. (AP 3/29/12 via Univision) [Juan Chinchilla himself was the victim of a kidnapping in January 2011; see Update #1063.]

The ambush at the Marañón estate came three days after a similar attack in the same area left five soldiers wounded, two of them seriously. On the evening of Mar. 26 some 30 unidentified men with high-caliber weapons opened fire on the soldiers as they were traveling in an area known as Panamá, near Sonaguera, Colón. The soldiers are stationed in the region as part of Xatruch 2, a military operation the government says is intended to reduce violence in the Aguán Valley.

The attack on the military patrol led to a flurry of contradictory statements by officials. President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa immediately denied that the attack was connected to the land disputes in the area. “These are not campesinos,” he said on Mar. 26. “This has nothing to do with the agrarian conflicts. These are other people, the same gang, I think, that was in San Francisco de La Paz; they’re moving between Olancho [department] and Colón.” But a military spokesperson announced that the attackers were campesinos involved in the land disputes, while Gen. René Osorio Canales, head of the Armed Forces Joint General Staff, suggested that the campesinos were being armed and trained by Nicaraguan and Venezuelan instructors. [This isn't the first time Gen. Osorio has attributed violence to guerrilla activities; see Update #1097.] (El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 3/27/12; Prensa Latina 3/27/12; Honduras Culture and Politics blog 3/28/12; AP 3/29/12 via Univision)

*4. Mexico: Commission Blames Police in Guerrero Repression
On Mar. 27 Mexico’s governmental National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued recommendations strongly condemning state and federal officials and police agents for their actions in a Dec. 12 confrontation between the police and student protesters in the southwestern state of Guerrero that left three people dead. The recommendations called for compensation to be paid to the people injured and for officials to apologize to the victims and their relatives in a public ceremony in Guerrero. CNDH president Raúl Plascencia Villanueva said the commission was also planning to file a criminal complaint with the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) against 184 officials and police agents.

The Dec. 12 confrontation started when police agents and soldiers tried to disperse hundreds of protesters blocking a highway to publicize their demands for improvements at the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College, located in the Guerrero village of Ayotzinapa. Two students were shot dead in the violence, and a worker from a nearby gas station died in a fire that police said was caused by a Molotov bomb thrown by a student. Police officials on the scene blamed the students for the shooting deaths, claiming that the agents had all come to the protest without firearms [see Updates #1109, 1113].

In fact, 91 of the 168 federal and state agents on the scene were carrying guns, according to Plascencia Villanueva, while there was no evidence that the students had any firearms. In addition to the deaths, “[t]here were arbitrary arrests, torture, cruel treatment, blows, as well as kicking, against the students,” the CNDH president said. He accused the former state attorney general, Alberto López Rosas, of “fabricating guilty parties and planting evidence.” López Rosas “then turned over two edited videos,” according to Plascencia Villanueva, “[and] lied in reporting that the [state] ministerial police arrived at the scene when the students had already died, which is false, since it has been proved that they arrived minutes before the students died.” Plascencia Villanueva called for proceedings to strip some former state officials of the immunity from prosecution they enjoy for one year after they leave office. (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/28/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Central America, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Americas Summit: Path from the Drug War to Peace

International Labor Organization raps Brazil over Belo Monte dam

UN Body Says Brazil Violating Indigenous Rights

Dirty war justice blocked in Brazil; exhumations in Uruguay

The Morales government: neoliberalism in disguise? (Bolivia)

Bolivia: Ninth Indigenous March called to oppose TIPNIS road

Bolivian Radical Feminist Maria Galindo on Evo Morales, Sex-Ed, and Rebellion in the Universe of Women

Peru: Cajamarca Protests Continue as Conga Gold Mine Awaits Green Light

What is it with Vargas Llosa anyway? (Peru)

Ecuador: national March for Water arrives in Quito

Colombia: FARC "political prisoners" on hunger strike

As gains against FARC claimed, invisible violence against Colombia's campesinos

FARC commander conviction overturned in Santo Domingo massacre

Deconstructing the Colombian Government’s Latest Offensive Against the FARC

Venezuelan Government Says IACHR Ruling against it is “Biased”

Guyana: Remembering Dr. Cheddi Jagan

Discovering Central America in the 1970s and 1980s

Salvadoran Civil War Survivors Demand Restorative Justice

El Salvador: Reported Truce Between Gangs Raises Questions

Indigenous Guatemalan Protestors March in Defense of Territory

Photo Essay: Indigenous, Peasant and Popular March arrives to Guatemala City

Displaced Guatemalan Peasants Demand Answers

Mexico: Blood for Silver, Blood for Gold

Chihuahua News: Court Upholds Indigenous Rights (Mexico)

Mexico violence to top Calderón's final NAFTA

AMLO: No Resentment Here! (Mexico)

Will the Red Cross Put Shelter for Paying Tourists and Aid Workers Before IDP's? (Haiti)

Fighting Fire in Haiti

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