Monday, June 25, 2012

WNU #1134: Could an “All-Out” Effort End Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1134, June 24, 2012

1. Haiti: Could an "All-Out" Effort End the Cholera Now?
2. Haiti: UN Troops Try to Invade Public University
3. Costa Rica: Port Workers Strike Again in Anti-Privatization Struggle
4. Honduras: Woman Dies in Airport After US Deportation Flight
5. Mexico: OAS Agency Reports 8 LGBT Murders in Guerrero
6. Mexico: Republicans Push "Fast and Furious" Conspiracy Theory
7. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico, US/immigration

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Haiti: Could an "All-Out" Effort End the Cholera Now?
The cholera epidemic that has killed more than 7,200 people in Haiti since October 2010 could possibly be brought to an end “in just months,” according to a leading French cholera expert, Dr. Renaud Piarroux. “But it would be necessary to go all out in the areas where cholera is being transmitted,” he added in a little-noted interview with Radio France Internationale on Apr. 16, “and, of course, we’d need to have the means of identifying [the cholera], with an epidemiological surveillance that is faster and more effective than what is being done currently.”

Piarroux is an epidemiologist and specialist in tropical medicine at a public hospital in Marseilles and at the University of Aix-Marseilles. He was the first medical expert to identify a base maintained by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) near Mirebalais as the source of the outbreak [see Update #1060]. Later studies confirmed MINUSTAH’s role in bringing the epidemic to Haiti.

In the radio interview, Piarroux based his conviction that the epidemic can ended quickly on the decline in cases earlier this year compared to the same period last year. “[W]hile there were more than 1,000 deaths because of cholera during the first trimester of 2011,” he said, “only some 40 have been counted between Jan. 1 and Mar. 27” of this year. But Piarroux warned that “there are still active centers [of the disease], particularly in the north of the island, and these centers could expand in the rainy season.” In these places “it’s necessary to fight the cholera with the maximum of tools. For example, it’s necessary to bring chlorine, to bring water, to bring soap.”

The Haitian government and the United Nations deputy special envoy for Haiti, Paul Farmer, a US doctor who started the widely respected clinics of Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante, are promoting a vaccination campaign instead of the sort of effort Piarroux described [see Update #1105]. Piarroux expressed doubts about the campaign. “[T]he vaccine that will be used is of mediocre effectiveness,” he said. “The protection afforded by this vaccine is a little above 50%. This is not a very effective vaccine.”

He also questioned the plans for the initial phase of the campaign, in which about 1% of the population would be vaccinated. This would take place in areas like the western coastal city of Saint-Marc, where there are now very few cholera cases, rather than in the active centers that remain dangerous. “Maybe if the companies that are marketing a vaccine want to test their vaccine, want to use it in field trials, that’s is where they should intervene,” Piarroux said. (Haiti Chery blog 4/20/12; interview transcript by Haiti Chery 4/20/12; AlterPresse (Haiti) 6/15/12)

[A field trial of the cholera vaccine, Shanchol, in February 2011 on 240,000 inhabitants of Mirpur, a suburb of Dhaka, Bangladesh, led to protests by the Health Rights Movement National Committee of Bangladesh, citing many of the same concerns raised by Piarroux. (News from Bangladesh Special Report 9/29/11)]

US media coverage has been promoting the vaccination option. In a May 26 editorial, the Washington Post wrote that “until recently, international health organizations dragged their feet on vaccines, worrying they might be too expensive or difficult to administer. They preferred a systemic infrastructure fix. That’s simply indefensible.” The editorial predicted that “[I]t would take just $40 million to administer oral vaccines to every person in Haiti,” while admitting that “there will be logistical hurdles” for a vaccination program.

The Post dismissed the claims of “thousands of Haitian cholera victims [who] have demanded millions of dollars of reparations from the United Nations, citing the disease’s introduction by the [MINUSTAH] peacekeepers.” Money from the United Nations “would be more profitably spent on a much more aggressive cholera vaccination program,” the editors wrote. (WP 5/26/12)

*2. Haiti: UN Troops Try to Invade Public University
Brazilian soldiers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) made three attempts on June 15 to enter the Human Sciences Faculty (FASCH) of the State University of Haiti (UEH) in Port-au-Prince by force, according to faculty, students and local media. “We don’t know the reason for this criminal and inopportune visit,” the FASCH’s dean, Hancy Pierre, told the online Haitian news service AlterPresse. “It’s a disgrace for the country.” In Haiti security forces are expected to get permission from university authorities before entering a campus.

The soldiers arrived at the FASCH around 11 am. Students quickly closed the front gates, and the soldiers reacted by firing rubber bullets and sending a tear gas grenade into the school’s enclosure. “We didn’t fail to remind them that there was no one to rape at the FASCH and that we didn’t need for them to come infect us with cholera,” one student said, referring to the 10,000-member international force’s responsibility for a number of sexual abuses and for triggering the outbreak of cholera in 2010 [see Updates #1060, 1095]. MINUSTAH troops made two more attempts to enter the school in the afternoon, disrupting classes and a student-faculty assembly.

Some FASCH professors have denounced MINUSTAH as an occupation force since its arrival in Haiti in June 2004, and student organizations have protested the troops with press releases, signs and banners, including signs they have posted at the school’s entrance. On June 18 the Mobilizing Committee for Reparations for Cholera Victims issued a press release citing three other attacks by MINUSTAH soldiers on UEH students: the Jan. 20, 2009, beating of student and artist Don Camelo; the beating of student Jean Willy Belfleur the next day; and the May 24, 2010 arrest of student Frantz Mathieu Junior [see Update #1035]. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 6/15/12; AlterPresse (Haiti) 6/18/12; Let Haiti Live website 6/19/12)

According to MINUSTAH communications director Eliane Nabaa, the Brazilian troops were carrying out “a reconnaissance patrol in the area so as to be able to identify displaced persons camps [when] suddenly they were attacked with rocks and broken bottles by the local population and the students.” The FASCH is located in a residential neighborhood; none of the camps for people who were left homeless by a January 2010 earthquake are in the area. (AlterPresse 6/21/12)

*3. Costa Rica: Port Workers Strike Again in Anti-Privatization Struggle
The 1,500 workers in Costa Rica’s two Caribbean ports, Limón and Moín, went on strike on June 12 to oppose a 30-year concession the government of President Laura Chinchilla has granted to a Netherlands-based container management multinational, APM Terminals. The two ports handle about 80% of the country’s international trade.

The strike quickly shut down shipping operations, leading to a loss of some 300 million colones ($600,000) in its first 36 hours, according to Alan Hidalgo, the head of the Board of Port Administration and Economic Development of the Atlantic Shelf (JAPDEVA), which manages the ports. On June 14 the government sent some 500 police agents to the ports, with specialized units from the Ministry of Public Security taking control of Costa Rica’s two main roads. Clashes broke out in Limón between police and unidentified persons who set a truck on fire and blocked roads with ditches.

The “acts of vandalism aren’t by the workers but by common criminals,” José Luis Castillo, the head of the JAPDEVA Workers Union (SINTRAJAP), said on June 15. Union leaders charged that the authorities had brought in Panamanian workers to staff the facilities but said the Limón port was only operating at 5% capacity despite the presence of police and strikebreakers. According to Castillo, 100% of the Costa Rican workers were participating in the strike.

The job action was the latest phase of the workers’ fight against government moves for complete privatization of the ports, which started in 2006 with a plan to sell off JAPDEVA. The union agreed in principle to the privatization of JAPDEVA in May 2010 [see Update #1033], but the concession granted to APM Terminals appears to be the first step putting the agreement in practice. The multinational is to invest some $990 million in building a port that can handle the larger ships that will take advantage of the expanded Panama Canal starting in 2014. The government claims that the building and operation of the facility, to be completed in 2016, will create 2,000 jobs directly and another 8,000 indirectly. The workers argue that the concession gives the company a monopoly over the ports and will lead to a loss of jobs.

The government and the union reached an accord on June 19 after a 15-hour negotiating session. The union agreed to end the strike, while the government promised to invest $70 million in modernizing the existing port facilities. Castillo called the strike a “first round” in the struggle against the APM concession, with subsequent actions to take place in the courts. Meanwhile, other unions are planning a one-day strike on June 26 against the government’s fiscal policies and in support of the port workers. (Prensa Latina 6/14/12; AFP 6/15/12 via Terra (Peru); EFE 6/19/12 via Siglo 21 (Guatemala))

*4. Honduras: Woman Dies in Airport After US Deportation Flight
Honduran national Cintia Yadira Herrera died of heart problems on June 18 shortly after arriving at San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras on a mass deportation flight arranged by US immigration authorities. She took a few steps after disembarking from the plane in Ramón Villeda Morales Airport and then collapsed, according to firefighters who came to her assistance; she died in the airport. Herrera was 33 or 34, according to different media reports, and was the mother of three children.

According to some of the other 102 Honduran deportees on the chartered plane, Herrera had said she felt ill from the beginning of the flight. Her family blamed the US government for her death. “The immigration authorities in the US didn’t listen to my daughter’s pleas, even though she told them she didn’t feel well,” José Herrera told reporters.

Cintia Herrera left her home in the eastern department of Olancho in March to join her husband, Luis Matute, in the US. She was captured by US immigration authorities the day she arrived in the country and was held in detention until she was put on the flight. Humanitarian organizations estimate that each day about 100 Hondurans leave their country to look for work in the US. About one million Hondurans now live in the US, and remittances from US-based Hondurans to Honduras exceed $2.5 billion a year. The US deports more than 20,000 Hondurans annually. (La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 6/20/12; EFE 6/21/12 via Univision)

*5. Mexico: OAS Agency Reports 8 LGBT Murders in Guerrero
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), reported on June 18 that eight members of the LGBT community in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero have been murdered since the beginning of the year. The latest victim was 18-year-old Antonio Calderón Peralta, whose body was found in Chilpancingo, the state capital, on June 9. The youth, who was dressed in women’s clothes, had been beaten to death. The discovery of Calderón’s body came two days after Guerrero’s LGBT community held a march in Chilpancingo supporting sexual diversity.

The IACHR called on the Guerrero government to investigate the killing, to determine “whether this murder was committed because of the victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation,” and “to punish the persons who are found to responsible.” The agency noted that the killings have taken place “in a context of impunity and lack of due investigation of these deeds.” (AFP 6/19/12 via Noticias de Querétaro; La Jornada de Guerrero 6/22/12)

*6. Mexico: Republicans Push "Fast and Furious" Conspiracy Theory
US president Barack Obama invoked executive privilege on June 20 to justify the Justice Department’s refusal to provide the House of Representatives with some of its documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious, a bungled program in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) inadvertently let about 2,000 firearms “walk” into Mexico during 2009 and 2010. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had subpoenaed the documents from the Justice Department. The House of Representatives could vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to comply with the subpoena.

The bickering between Obama, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled House over Fast and Furious comes as Obama campaigns to win reelection on Nov. 6 in what is expected to be a close race with the presumed Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Rep. Issa denies that there is any political motivation in his investigation of Fast and Furious. (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/21/12 from AFP)

Issa and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) vigorously pursued the Fast and Furious investigation last year, but the probe appeared to lose momentum in October when the two Congress members learned that the administration of Republican former president George W. Bush (2001-2009) had run a similar program, Operation Wide Receiver [see Update #1104]. Another drawback for the investigation was the way it focused attention on the lax gun control laws in the US; these law make it relatively easy to purchase weapons in Southwestern states and then smuggle them to drug cartels in Mexico, where nearly 50,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since the end of 2006. Issa and Grassley are both strong opponents of gun control [see Update #1095].

But recently Fox News and other rightwing media have started promoting a conspiracy theory—originated by Michael Vanderboegh, a blogger reportedly connected to anti-government militias—that makes the Fast and Furious investigation more acceptable to gun control opponents. According to Vanderboegh, the Obama administation purposely let the guns go to the drug cartels so that the resulting bloodbath in Mexico could be used to justify strict federal gun control legislation.

Issa and Grassley have picked up on this idea. Grassley cited it in a television interview, while Issa asked at the National Rifle Association’s April convention: “Could it be that what they really were thinking of was in fact to use this walking of guns in order to promote an assault weapons ban? Many think so.” Issa went further on Fox News. “Very clearly,” he said, “they made a crisis and they’re using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people’s 2nd Amendment rights.” (Los Angeles Times 6/22/12; New York Times 6/22/12)

While acknowledging the political motive for the Republicans’ Fast and Furious inquiry, the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada reminded Mexican readers that the Obama administration is in fact holding back information on an operation that “exhibits the government in Washington as a provider of arms for the drug cartels that operate in our country.” The new government elected in Mexico’s presidential and legislative voting on July 1 will “need to analyze seriously the appropriateness of continuing” with the current militarized “war on drugs,” which La Jornada described as “a security strategy promoted by the US that not only has been ineffective in [achieving] its objective and has generated counterproductive effects for the country; it has also implied an unacceptable abandonment of national sovereignty and has exposed Washington’s hypocrisy in its supposed promise to combat narco trafficking and eradicate violence.” (LJ 6/21/12)

*7. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico, US/immigration

Repsol Sues Argentina Over YPF Nationalization

Uruguay plans to legalize marijuana sale

Paraguay: deadly clash as police evict armed peasant squatters

Paraguay: 'There are More Dead Comrades'

Paraguay: "express coup d'etat" in wake of peasant massacre

What will Washington do about Fernando Lugo's ouster in Paraguay

Tragic Week in Paraguay

Rio+20: Declaration of Kari-Oca II Adopted by Five Hundred Indigenous Representatives in Sacred Ceremony (Brazil)

Brazil Takes Steps to Confiscate Property of Landowners Using Slave Labour

Bolivia: police mutiny, mineral interests protest nationalization

Bolivian police mutiny over pay widens

Bolivia: Evo fetes Ahmadinejad, betrays Iran's indigenous Kurds

Bolivian indigenous leaders "unmask" Evo Morales at Rio People's Summit

Bolivia: Aymara mark year 5520 with pledge to fight for Mother Earth

Democracy from Below in Bolivia: An Interview with Oscar Olivera

Peru: new violence in Cajamarca anti-mining struggle

REDD: Land-Grab In The Name Of Climate Change Mitigation? Peruvian Rainforest Dwellers Charge Privatization Scheme

Julian Assange seeking asylum in Ecuadorean embassy in London

Assange to Ecuador: three questions nobody (on the left) is asking

Colombia: Movement for the Defense and Liberation of Mother Earth Commences the Festival of the Sun

Our Man in Caracas: The U.S. Media and Henrique Capriles

Accused mastermind in Facundo Cabral slaying faces charges in three countries (Central America)

U.S. Hand in Honduran Massacre

Honduras: DEA agent kills in Miskito Coast narco raid

Occupy Guatemala: Shantytown Dwellers Occupy Congress—And Win

Guatemala: Exhumation Inside Coban’s Military Garrison

Peña Nieto signals further "Colombianization" of Mexico

Mexico: El Chapo's son not arrested; hidden war in Tamaulipas goes on

Behind the Headlines in Mexico

Mexican Student Movement Challenges Media Manipulation of Elections

Inside Mexico’s New Youth Rebellion

The Mexican Campaign: AMLO Against the Polls

Bullets and Blood: The High Price of Anti-Mining Resistance in San José del Progreso

Violence Forces Mexican Workers Center to Close

Women Workers at Flex-N-gate Demand Their Labor Rights

Mexican High-Tech Workers Demand Justice

UNASUR Debates Reduction of MINUSTAH Contingent (Haiti)

Undeserved Confidence: A Broken System of Aid in Haiti – Part 2

ACLU report: Puerto Rico police abusing power

ALBA Expels USAID from Member Countries (US)

Barack Obama’s Immigration Reform for Youth: A Dream Deferred? (US/Immigration)

Supreme Court partially strikes down Arizona immigration law (US/Immigration)

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:

Monday, June 18, 2012

WNU #1133: English to Replace Spanish in Puerto Rican Classrooms

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1133, June 17, 2012

1. Puerto Rico: English to Replace Spanish in Classrooms
2. Honduras: Campesinos Evicted, Indigenous Leaders Attacked
3. Mexico: Police Charged in Kidnapping for Drug Gang
4. Mexico: Protests Continue to Target TV's Favorite Candidate
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US/immigration

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at  For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Puerto Rico: English to Replace Spanish in Classrooms
The Puerto Rican public school system is about to start a program intended to replace Spanish with English as the language used in teaching most courses, Education Secretary Edward Moreno Alonso told the Spanish wire service EFE on June 8. The change will begin this August at 66 of the system’s 860 schools: at 31 schools children ages 5-9 will be taught all courses in English except history and Spanish; the other 35 schools will offer at least some of the course work in English. The government plans to complete the switch to English in all schools within 10 years.

Moreno Alonso said the change is in response to parents' demands, but critics suggested that the real motive lay in an effort by Gov. Luis Fortuño and his rightwing New Progressive Party (PNP) to have Puerto Rico annexed to the US as its 51st state. Héctor L. Pesquera, co-president of the Hostosian National Independence Movement (MINH), predicted that the program would be a failure. “[R]egrettably our students will be the victims of this pedagogical and political blunder,” he told the Cuban wire service Prensa Latina on June 9.

“It may be that many [teachers] know English,” María Elena Lara, president-elect of the Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), said in a radio interview on June 8, “but they weren’t trained to teach in English.” Like Pesquera, she expected “a big failure.” “Much of our school population is in special education because they have trouble learning in their maternal language,” Aida Díaz, president of the smaller Teachers’ Association of Puerto Rico (AMPR), said on the same program. “Imagine [learning] mathematics and science in English!”

Both union leaders said they supported teaching English as a second language, along with other languages. Mandarin is an important language to learn for business, Díaz noted; the problem “is wanting to substitute one language for another purely as an ideological matter.”

Both English and Spanish are official languages in Puerto Rico, but only 30% of Puerto Rico’s 3.9 million residents speak English at a high level, according to EFE, while Spanish is the primary language for 96%. English was used as the language of school instruction starting in 1900, two years after the US took control of the island from Spain; the practice was ended in 1948. (EFE 6/8/12 via Fox News Latino; El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 6/8/12; Prensa Latina 6/9/12)

In other news, on June 15 Norberto González Claudio, a former member of the rebel Boricua Popular Army (EPB)-Macheteros, pleaded guilty in a Connecticut federal court to charges stemming from the group’s 1983 armed robbery of $7.1 million from a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford. In exchange for the plea, US prosecutors agreed to recommend a five-year prison sentence. González Claudio spent 25 years as a fugitive before being arrested in Puerto Rico in May 2011 [see Update #1095]. In a letter to federal judge Alfred Covello, González Claudio wrote that “[t]he circumstances surrounding the struggle for Puerto Rican independence are different today from when I was younger.” He expressed hope that the struggle would now follow a “path…of peace and understanding.” (END 6/15/12; EFE 6/16/12 via Fox News Latino)

*2. Honduras: Campesinos Evicted, Indigenous Leaders Attacked
Early in the morning of June 11 some 200 Honduran security agents--including Preventive Police, National Criminal Investigation Directorate (DNIC) agents and soldiers from the 105th Infantry Brigade—evicted campesinos occupying more than 4,000 hectares on three estates in San Manuel in the northern department of Cortés. About 30 people were arrested, mostly women, according to press reports, but DNIC sub-director Reinaldo Rubio said the agents only found 20 people at the site and arrested them for land usurpation. The eviction was authorized by a judge in the nearby city of San Pedro Sula.

The soldiers and police “were dishonest and didn’t have the courage to tell us what they’d come for,” one of the occupiers, María Reyes, told a reporter. “They just indicated that they were going to explain some matter to us, but minutes later they arrested us and put us in a bus, as if we were criminals.” After removing the campesinos, the security forces brought in tractors and razed the structures the occupiers had built out of bamboo and metal sheets, including three small shops. The security forces “didn’t spare anything,” according to another women, who was arrested while she collected plastic bottles to sell to recyclers.

The campesinos, members of the San Manuel Campesino Movement (MOCSAM), had occupied the land since May 23. They occupied the same estates for a little more than one day on Apr. 17 as part of a massive demonstration in which some 3,500 families took over land in different parts of the country to mark the International Day of Campesino Struggles [see Update #1126].

The titles to the three estates are held by Compañía Azucarera Hondureña, SA (CAHSA), a sugar company; another company, Inversan (Inversiones San Manuel); and an individual named José Jacobo Zacapa. MOCSAM says the occupation is justified by a recent ruling from the National Agrarian Institute (INA) that the lands were designated for agrarian reform and the current owners had therefore bought them illegally. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 6/12/12; Agencia Púlsar 6/13/12; EFE 6/13/12 via Latin American Herald)

Land disputes continue to create tensions throughout northern Honduras, despite a partial settlement the government made with one group of campesinos on June 5 in the Lower Aguán Valley, in Colón department [see Update #1132]. The Permanent Human Rights Monitoring Center for the Aguán, an organization formed by Honduran and international groups last fall, has accused the government of carrying out a “remilitarization” of the valley. “Groups of up to 60 soldiers do guard duty in the landowners’ African palm oil processing plants, in the African palm plantations and at points considered strategic for the security of the landowning companies’ properties,” the organization wrote. There are monitoring operations located “at little distance from campesino settlements to keep close to the campesino population, which is the object of permanent repression.” (Adital (Brazil) 6/11/12)

On June 13 two indigenous activists were shot at in the La Cuchía community, in the northwestern department of Santa Bárbara, as they were driving from a meeting about a local land conflict and the imprisonment of a community member. Two men on a motorbike fired at least twice at Juan Vásquez and Sotero Chavarría, members of the Executive Committee of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), causing their vehicle to crash. The two activists weren’t hurt, but the vehicle, which belongs to the organization, was damaged.

COPINH says that for several months the group and its members have been subjected to a “campaign of threats, intimidation and aggression…on the part of armed men from the Honduran government and paid members of companies that plan to develop megaprojects in indigenous territories.” (COPINH 6/14/12; Frontline Defenders 6/15/12)

*3. Mexico: Police Charged in Kidnapping for Drug Gang
Backed up by Mexican soldiers, state homicide detectives arrested the municipal police chief and six other police agents in Lagos de Moreno in the western state of Jalisco on June 6 for allegedly participating in the kidnapping of three men five months earlier. The victims—attorney César Raúl Alcalá Gaona; his assistant, Jorge Alejandro Arredondo Siller; and construction worker Jorge Alberto Bustos Nájera, all from Saltillo, Coahuila—were found dead from asphyxiation and beating a few hours after they were kidnapped. The police agents are believed to have been working for Jalisco New Generation, a drug gang.

Videotapes from security cameras at a hotel showed police agents and men in civilian clothes entering the hotel and removing the victims, handcuffed and in their underwear--in the early morning of Jan. 20. The victims had apparently come to Jalisco to collect rent for a ranch, but the killers may have mistaken them for members of a rival drug cartel based in Coahuila.

Jalisco attorney general Tomás Coronado Olmos released the videos to the media on June 13, and parts were shown on Mexican television. “One assumes that in some cities ... the municipal police work for the drug cartels," said Jorge Chabat, an expert on security and drug trafficking at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching, told the Associated Press wire service. “But what is different here is that there is a video. It’s not the same thing to imagine that this going on, and to see it.” Chabat noted that in 2010 seven local police agents in Santiago in the northern state of Nuevo León were arrested on charges of working for the Zetas drug gang and kidnapping and murdering Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos, who had been trying to cut corruption. (Milenio (Mexico) 6/13/12; AP 6/14/12 via Miami Herald)

As many as 50,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related killings since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa began militarizing the “war on drugs” in late 2006. Federal and local authorities generally attribute the violence to drug cartels, but it is unclear how much should be blamed on the security forces. Last November Mexican human rights attorney Netzaí Sandoval filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague charging the federal government with responsibility in at least some of the killings [see Update #1107].

*4. Mexico: Protests Continue to Target TV's Favorite Candidate
Tens of thousands marched through the center of Mexico City on June 10 in a festive protest against former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto, the frontrunner in the July 1 presidential election, and against the television networks that the demonstrators said were promoting his candidacy. The march was the latest in a series of protests since a new student movement widely known as “#YoSoy132” (“I’m number 132”) appeared suddenly in May in opposition to Peña Nieto and the likely return of his centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power; the PRI dominated Mexican politics for 71 years until losing the presidency in 2000.

The capital’s police estimated the crowd at 90,000 on June 10, about twice the police estimate for a similar march on May 19 [see Update #1130]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/11/12)

Some 600 Mexico City youths attended a protest performance the evening of June 13 outside the Chapultepec Avenue offices of Televisa, Mexico’s most powerful television network. The youths used one of the building’s walls to project videos showing various incidents for which they blamed the PRI, including the 1968 massacre of students and their supporters at the Tlatelolco housing project in Mexico City; the suspected fraud in 1988 through which former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) is thought to have defeated center-left candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano; and the violent repression of campesinos in San Salvador Atenco in México state in May 2006, when Peña Nieto was governor [see Update #1039]. Students have also been carrying their message to the subway system with political theater. (LJ 6/14/12)

Students aren’t the only people questioning Peña Nieto’s favorable coverage in Mexico’s media. The Mexico correspondent of the British daily The Guardian has pointed out that US diplomats were secretly suspicious of the media coverage and the opinion polls when he was still a governor. In a confidential Jan. 26, 2009 cable from the US embassy, released last year by the WikiLeaks group, Deputy Chief of Mission Leslie Bassett wrote that “analysts and PRI party leaders alike have repeatedly expressed to [US political officers] their belief that [Peña Nieto] is paying media outlets under the table for favorable news coverage, as well as potentially financing pollsters to sway survey results.” (The Guardian 6/11/12)

On June 15, Camila Vallejo Dowling, one of the leaders of last year’s massive student strike in Chile, visited the Xochimilco campus of Mexico City’s Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM). She told an audience of hundreds of students that Latin America needed a network of the various social movements, “with a common platform of horizons for struggle, which doesn’t imply forgetting or marginalizing local demands.” At a forum earlier in the day she warned that activists needed to give up the old forms in which “one demands of the usual people changes which we know they are never going to carry out…. We still haven’t resolved how we are approaching the dispute over power; there is no full awareness of this process.” (LJ 6/16/12)

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

Chile protesters rally against Pinochet film

There's Something About Mary Anastasia O'Grady (Chile)

Paraguay probe of ranchers' attempted land-grab in indigenous territory

Bolivia: another Aymara leader arrested

Peru: Amazon highway moves ahead in Congress, indigenous leaders protest

Peru: dialogue in Espinar mining conflict —but new violence in Cajamarca

Connecting with an International Historical Reality: Book Review of "Jose Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology" (Peru)

Bolivia: indigenous opposition to Amazon highway fractures

Land Restitution in Colombia: Failure, Rising Expectations, and Armed Opposition

International Criminal Court to probe Colombian army in civilian killings

US sends combat commanders to Colombia

Colombia: US charges ex-security chief with drug trafficking

Venezuela Happiest Country in South America

Central America: Still a Long Way to Go in Fight Against Sexual Violence

Support Mounts for Salvadoran Gang Truce

International Hearing Highlights Abuses in Honduras While Government Signs Loan to Buy Part of Contested Territory

Guatemala: attentat against gold mine opponent

Guatemala: Photo Essay of Exhumation Inside Coban’s Former Military Garrison

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit over US medical experiments in Guatemala

Struggle for Release of Indigenous Political Prisoners Patishan and Santiz Lopez Continues in Mexico

A Candidate is Marketed as Mexicans Prepare to Vote

Pena Nieto or Lopez Obrador? (Mexico)

Mexico’s Long and Bloody Electoral Road

Mexico's Spiral of Violence Causes Spike in PTSD  

Another reporter killed in Veracruz (Mexico)

Time to Rein in the Global Arms Trade (Mexico)

Ruidoso racetrack raided in crackdown on stateside Zeta network

In Wake of Scandals and Cholera, Anger Rises Against Minustah (Haiti)

Will Obama’s Actions Finally Offer Relief for Some Undocumented Youth? (US/immigration)

Congressman to sue Obama over new immigration policy

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:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WNU #1132: Honduran Land Dispute Partially Settled

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

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

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at  For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Argentina's Desaparecidos – the Epilogue

Elders in Peruvian Andes Help Interpret Climate Changes

Peru: lawmakers resign from ruling party as mining conflicts escalate

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

Venezuelan Anti-Capitalists March in Solidarity with Global Movements

Pacific Rim Ruling Threatens El Salvador’s National Sovereignty

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

Honduras: US claims success in drug war militarization

Next for Honduras: "charter city" neocolonialism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mexico: Year of the Grasshopper

Typical: The Economist Fails Caribbean History

As Caracol Industrial Park Progresses, Scrutiny of Problems Grows

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

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

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

For immigration updates and events:


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:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

WNU #1131: Mexican Presidential Race Heats Up as Students Protest

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1131, June 3, 2012

1. Mexico: Presidential Race Heats Up; Student Protests Continue
2. Mexico: Indigenous Leader Murdered in Michoacán
3. Guatemala: Pérez Molina Downsizes Peace Archives
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US/immigration

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

Note: Last week’s Update was misdated. The date should have been May 27, 2012.

*1. Mexico: Presidential Race Heats Up; Student Protests Continue
Former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto is still favored to win Mexico’s July 1 presidential elections, but polls released at the end of May showed his lead over the other candidates slipping. After being considered the certain winner for months, Peña Nieto, the candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was only four percentage points ahead of former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a poll published by the conservative daily Reforma on May 31. Peña Nieto led voter intentions with 38%, according to Reforma, down from 45% in March; López Obrador, who is running with a center-left coalition, followed closely with 34%, up from 22% in March; and Josefina Vázquez Mota, the candidate of the governing center-right National Action Party (PAN), came in third with 23%, down from 32% in March.

Three other polls from the same period showed Peña Nieto with a larger lead and López Obrador and Vázquez Mota close to each other in voter intentions. Milenio/GEA-ISA, for example, showed Peña Nieto with 45.9%; López Obrador was far behind with 24.9% and was virtually tied with Vázquez Mota, who had 24.3%. However, most polls agreed that Peña Nieto and Vázquez Mota were losing ground and López Obrador was gaining. “The possibility exists that [the Reforma poll] is going in the right direction, that the contest is moving that way,” Roy Campos, from the rival Consulta Mitofsky polling company, told a reporter. ( (Mexico) 5/31/12)

Peña Nieto and his campaign advisers are said to be concerned by the improved numbers for López Obrador, who lost the 2006 presidential race by a very narrow margin in a disputed official count. The left-leaning daily La Jornada reports that PRI leaders don’t believe that López Obrador is just four points behind their candidate--but they also don’t believe Peña Nieto is ahead by 20 or 21 points. The student protests that have started to plague Peña Nieto’s public appearances are another factor worrying the candidate’s advisers, according to La Jornada. (LJ (Mexico) 6/2/12)

The student movement--widely known as #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”) and sometimes as “Mexican Spring”—appeared suddenly in May to challenge media coverage of the campaign and the perception that the PRI candidate was sure to win [see Update #1130]. While continuing to march against Peña Nieto and the television networks, the students are now also developing links with other Mexican protest movements.

A meeting at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City on June 1 called on students to participate in the capital’s annual LGBT Pride march the next day and in a protest on June 3 in defense of the Wirikuta, a site in the north central state of San Luis Potosí that is sacred to the Wixárika (Huichol) indigenous group; the Wixárika say the site is threatened by a mining concession granted to the Canadian firm First Majestic Silver Corp (FMS) [see Update #1081]. On June 4 students planned to protest in solidarity with some of the parents of the 49 children that died in a fire in the Guardería ABC, a childcare center in Hermosillo, Sonora on June 5, 2009. (LJ 6/2/12; Terra (Mexico) 6/2/12)

Correction: Last week’s Update described a May 19 march in Mexico City as sponsored by university students. Students accounted for much of the participation, but no group sponsored the demonstration, which was organized through social networks.

*2. Mexico: Indigenous Leader Murdered in Michoacán
The body of indigenous teacher and activist Teódulo Santos Girón was found on May 16 in the town cemetery in La Ticla in the western Mexican state of Michoacán. According to official sources, Santos Girón, who had just finished his term as a local official in the indigenous Nahua community of Santa María Ostula, had been kidnapped in La Ticla the night before; he was shot in the head and in the body.

Santos Girón was active in promoting maintenance of the Náhuatl language and culture, and he was a strong supporter of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) who also admired the indigenous rebels of the Zapatista National Liberation Front (EZLN), based in the southeastern state of Chiapas. He helped lead the movement of Ostula residents that occupied disputed land near the Pacific coast in the summer of 2009. The occupiers were subsequently granted more than 1,000 hectares by Michoacán’s state government, but drug dealers and other forces have been trying to drive the community out of the area. As of last December, 28 community members had been murdered, including leaders Trinidad de la Cruz Crisóstomo (“Don Trino”) and Pedro Leyva Domínguez [see Update #1110]. (La Crónica de Hoy (Mexico) 5/18/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/19/12)

Another Michoacán indigenous activist, Jesús Sebastián Ortiz, was found dead on May 24 in the Cherán autonomous municipality, where he was a community leader. He had left his home a week earlier to go to a ranch, but he never returned. Community members feared he had been attacked by forcesengaged in illegal logging; eight people were killed near Cherán the morning of Apr. 18 during a dispute between Cherán residents and loggers [see Update #1126]. But the state Attorney General’s Office said on May 25 that an autopsy showed Sebastián Ortiz had died of a heart problem. An older brother accepted the autopsy results, saying that the community leader, who was 70, had suffered from heart disease. (LJ 5/25/12; El Universal (Mexico) 5/25/12)

*3. Guatemala: Pérez Molina Downsizes Peace Archives
During the last week of May the government of Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina began a process that human rights defenders charge will virtually close down the Peace Archives, the agency in charge of preserving and investigating military and police records from the country’s bloody 1960-1996 civil war. Newly appointed Peace Secretary Antonio Arenales Forno announced that the agency was unnecessary. Its function, he said, is “to computerize and analyze military archives to establish human rights violations, but this is the responsibility of the human rights community, and the investigation of crimes is the responsibility of the Prosecutor’s Office.”

The government notified 17 workers in the Peace Archives on May 28 that they would be laid off at the end of June, and Arenales Forno indicated that there more than 100 unnecessary positions in the Peace Secretariat that might be eliminated. The government hasn’t decided where the Archives’ records will kept, but they may be divided between several different Guatemalan agencies and the General Archives of Central America.

Mandated by the peace accords of 1996 and put into operation in 2008, the Peace Archives has already computerized two million documents and published nine reports on topics ranging from the National Police archives to forced disappearances during the war years and the illegal adoptions of children. Staffers from the agency have served as expert witnesses in trials for genocide and crimes against humanities, including the ongoing trial of former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983).

Kate Doyle, a director of investigations at the Washington, DC-based research group National Security Archive, wrote on June 1 that “[t]he closing of the Peace Archives ends an important source of support to human rights prosecutions in Guatemala, and may in part reflect the current government’s particular distaste for the genocide cases.” President Pérez Molina has denied that there was ever genocide in the military’s counterinsurgency campaigns. The president himself was a major in the army during the Ríos Montt dictatorship, operating around Nebaj, El Quiché department, in the Ixil Mayan region [see Updates #1114, 1115]. (Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 5/31/12; EFE 6/1/12 via (Peru); National Security Archive blog 6/1/12)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US/immigration

Rocky Road to Gender Equality in Latin America

The Pentagon Seeks to Regain the Initiative in South America

Peru: four dead, mayor arrested in Cuzco mining conflict

Peru: police fire on protesters in Cajamarca

Peru: Mick Jagger drawn into dispute over expansion of Camisea gas fields

Colombia: "armed strike" against glyphosate spraying

Colombia signs pact with China for trans-oceanic pipeline

The Path of the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the United States

Colombia Denounced for Continued Impunity for Human Rights Crimes

DEA-linked Deaths Show Faults in Central American Drug Plan

U.S. Human rights activists document U.S. participation in massacre of Moskito people

World Press Freedom Day: An Opportunity to Ignore Honduras

Human Rights Violations in Guatemala: Hearing Indigenous Voices

'Dirty War' Tactic of Disappearances Reappears in Mexico

The Mexican State Goes on Trial in Ciudad Juarez

Two Murders in Veracruz, Mexico

A Civil War in Mexico?

A Mexican Spring begins to blossom

"No Matter What the Result, We Will Continue to Resist," Says Mexican Electrical Workers Union Leader

Going for Broke: The Corporate Players Behind the Demise of the Caribbean Banana Trade (Part 2)

GOLD RUSH IN HAITI! – Who will get rich?

Video: The Migrant Trail Walk

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: