Monday, September 24, 2012

WNU #1145: Activist Honduran Lawyer Murdered

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1145, September 23, 2012

1. Honduras: Lawyer for Aguán and Model Cities Struggles Is Murdered
2. Colombia: Student Hunger Strikes Protest Education Cutbacks
3. Haiti: Thousands Demonstrate Against Corruption, Rising Prices
4. Mexico: Report Blasts US Government for Fast and Furious
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

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

*1. Honduras: Lawyer for Aguán and Model Cities Struggles Is Murdered
Activist Honduran attorney Antonio Trejo Cabrera was killed by unknown assailants the evening of Sept. 22 in Tegucigalpa’s América neighborhood near the Toncontín International Airport. Trejo, who was also a Protestant minister, received a call on his telephone while he was in a church attending a wedding; he stepped outside and was gunned down. He died an hour later in a teaching hospital. Trejo was active in two major political conflicts: a long-standing dispute over land in the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras and a new struggle over the Special Development Regions (RED, also known as “model cities”), a neoliberal project for creating several privatized semi-autonomous zones near ports.

Trejo was the attorney for the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), one of the main campesino collectives involved in the Aguán disputes; he was arrested along with 24 MARCA members at a demonstration outside the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) building in Tegucigalpa on Aug. 21 [see Update #1142]. Annie Bird, co-director of the Toronto-based solidarity organization Rights Action, wrote after Trejo’s death that his “dedicated efforts had regained legal ownership of four farms owned by [wealthy landowners] Miguel Facussé, René Morales and Reinaldo Canales…. Now MARCA will have a hard time continuing to defend their land from the judicial hitmen.” In a statement on Sept. 23, another campesino collective, the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), charged that Facussé, Morales and Canales were responsible for Trejo’s murder. (El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 9/23/12; Rights Action email 9/23/12; Notimex 9/23/12 via Univision)

Trejo was also one of several attorneys who filed a complaint with the Public Ministry charging the legislative deputies who voted in favor of the “model cities” project with “the crime of treason to the nation and abuse of authority.” A number of legal challenges have been filed against the project on the grounds that it cedes national sovereignty to private and foreign groups; the main investors appear to be Canadian and US firms [see Update #1144], although some deputies suggested that one US investor, Michael Strong, might be fronting for some Honduran business interests. The Public Ministry itself has found the project unconstitutional, according to Danelia Ferrera, the director of prosecutors at the ministry, although she said any legal action would be on hold until the CSJ makes a ruling. (El Heraldo 9/15/12, 9/19/12)

Opposition to the “model cities” isn’t limited to court challenges. A number of organizations have joined together in a National Campaign Against the Model Cities, which has called for “the most aggressive actions by all the organized sectors and by the citizenry in general, going beyond mere public pronouncements.” The campaign called for a demonstration on Sept. 19 outside the CSJ. (Adital (Brazil) 9/17/12)

Public school teachers included the “model cities” among the issues they protested with a one-day strike on Sept. 21 that shut down classes for two million students; the teachers also protested a change in the schedule for their pay day, which had previously been on the 20th of each month, and the cost of fuel. In Tegucigalpa the teachers gathered at 8 am outside the Francisco Morazán National Pedagogic University (UPNFM) and then spread out to different parts of the capital. One group of strikers blocked traffic on the Centroamérica Boulevard near the National Institute of Teachers’ Social Security (Inprema), which handles teachers' pensions. In northern Honduras a number of teachers and students blocked Puerto Cortés, the country’s most important port, bringing economic activity to a halt. (A conservative parents’ group responded to the strike by calling for teachers to be subject to drug testing.) (El Heraldo 9/22/12)

Members of the Garífuna ethnic group have combined opposition to the “model cities” project with their continuing struggle to regain land they claim along the northern coast. One of the supposedly “uninhabited” regions being considered for the first “model city” is the area near Puerto Castilla in Colón department, territory that the Garífuna say their ancestors began settling in the early 19th century, more than a decade before 1821, when Honduras became an independent country. On Aug. 26 some 200 Garífuna families occupied the Vallecito area on the coast, with support from a leading Garífuna organization, the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH); apparently this was intended as a preemptive move to establish the Garífuna claim to the area.

The coastal region is near the Aguán Valley, the site of the land dispute between landowners and campesinos, and the Garífuna settlers say they have been harassed by paramilitaries who may be linked either to drug traffickers or to Aguán landowner and cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé. (Desinformemos 9/17/12 via Lista Informativa Nicaragua y Más; Upside Down World 9/18/12)

*2. Colombia: Student Hunger Strikes Protest Education Cutbacks
As of Sept. 18 six students at the Fusagasugá campus of the University of Cundinamarca, in the central Colombian department of Cundinamarca, were continuing a hunger strike they began on Sept. 10 to demand that university authorities negotiate with students on educational issues. The strikers say tuition is too high and sometimes is higher than the legal minimum wage; they are also protesting the university’s use of professors with four-month contracts rather than permanent teaching staff, and the reduction of the semester to just 16 weeks.

There were originally seven strikers; one became ill on Sept. 14 and was taken to the San Rafael Hospital. Students from the National University visited the strikers on Sept. 16 in a show of solidarity. (Adital (Brazil) 9/18/12)

Another student hunger strike began on Sept. 18 at the Amazonia University at Florencia, in the southwestern department of Caquetá. Albeiro Benítez, president of the Amazonia University Student Council (CEUNAM), sewed his lips shut to push demands for a rollback of tuition increases and for a discussion about the quality of education at the school. He was still on hunger strike as of Sept. 22, although his physical condition was weakening.

The action received support from the majority of the university’s political organizations and from Aníbal Quiroga, vice president of the Union Association of University Professors (ASPU). Quiroga said he considered the protest justified because “they raised the tuition for the students and excluded the most vulnerable,” because “the administration took away autonomy from the academic community” and because “protest is being criminalized” in a “‘dirty war’ against the sectors that struggle for the common interest.”

According to La Nación, a daily based in Neiva in the southwestern Department of Huila, the University of Cundinamarca hunger strike was also continuing as of Sept. 22. (La Nación 9/22/12)

*3. Haiti: Thousands Demonstrate Against Corruption, Rising Prices
Several thousand people took to the streets of Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second largest city and the capital of North department, on Sept. 21 to protest a rise in the cost of basic foods and what they perceived as corruption and nepotism in the government of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) and Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe. The day of protests was called by various grassroots organizations and local opposition politicians, notably Senator Moïse Jean-Charles of the Unity party of former president René Préval (1996-2001, 2006-2011).

Protesters set up barricades of burning tires in various streets, especially in the working-class neighborhoods of La Fossette, Samarie and Cité Lescot, blocking traffic in parts of the city. Confrontations broke out when Martelly supporters threw stones at the opposition protesters in Cité Lescot. For their part Martelly opponents were seen ripping the “pink bracelets,” a symbol of support for the government, from the arms of passersby. Agents of the Haitian National Police (PNH) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse the crowds. Commercial banks closed down by 11 am, and public transport was delayed throughout North and Northeast departments. By the evening Cap-Haïtien’s streets were deserted as residents kept to their homes.

There had also been confrontations between police and protesters the night of Sept. 20-21, leaving two people wounded by bullets and one police agent injured by rocks, according to Departmental Director Carl Henry Boucher.

Other protests took place on Sept. 21 in the southern part of the country. Burning barricades appeared in the streets of Les Cayes (South department), and several hundred people reportedly protested in Miragoâne (Nippes department). (AlterPresse (Haiti) 9/21/12; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 9/21/12; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 9/22/12)

The day of protests in Cap-Haïtien on Sept. 21 was the second time this month that people used street actions there to express their dissatisfaction with economic conditions and with President Martelly’s failure to fulfill the promises he made during the 2010-2010 electoral process. A similar protest on Sept. 12 was called by a coalition of about 20 organizations, including the labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), and was backed by Senator Jean-Charles. (AlterPresse 9/13/12)

Adding to tensions over the economy, on Oct. 1 the minimum wage is set to rise for workers in the “free trade zones” (FTZs), the tax-exempt assembly plants producing for export, principally to the US and Canada. After a six-month struggle over wages in the sector, the Parliament passed a law on Oct. 6, 2009 raising the daily minimum wage to 200 gourdes (about $4.75 at current rates) for all industrial and commercial workers except those in the FTZs. The minimum wage remained at 125 gourdes ($3.00) for the assembly plant workers, but in a compromise the law stipulated that their minimum would rise to 200 gourdes this year [see Update #1083, where we originally reported, following our source, that the raise took place in October 2010]. Article 2.2 of the law raises the minimum further for workers paid by the piece in plants producing exclusively for export. In those factories “the price per unit of production (notably the piece, the dozen, the gross, the meter) should be set in such a way as to allow the worker to receive at least three hundred (300) gourdes [about $7.12] for his or her day’s work of (8) eight hours.”

The Martelly government noted on Sept. 19 that the new rates would go into effect on Oct. 1, but it remains to be seen whether businesses will obey the law and whether the government will enforce it. Meanwhile, the government has responded to rising prices by announcing the importation of 300,000 sacks of rice in order to drive down food costs. Several economists dismissed the move as cosmetic. (AlterPresse 9/19/12)

*4. Mexico: Report Blasts US Government for Fast and Furious
On Sept. 19 Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the US Department of Justice, released a 471-page report on Operation Fast and Furious, a bungled program in which the Arizona office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) inadvertently let about 2,000 firearms pass into Mexico during 2009 and 2010, with many of the weapons apparently going to Mexican drug traffickers [see Update #1135]. The inspector general, a sort of internal auditor for the Justice Department, found that the ATF and US prosecutors in Arizona were at fault in the operation, along with Justice officials in Washington who were responsible for supervising the ATF and the federal prosecutors.

The report recommended that the actions of 17 officials be reviewed for administrative or disciplinary measures. Lanny Breuer, chief of the department’s criminal division, has already been admonished; Jason Weinstein, an assistant deputy attorney general, resigned on Sept. 19, and former ATF acting director Kenneth Melson retired on the same day. But Michael Horowitz cleared Attorney General Eric Holder of any responsibility in the case and provided no evidence to back a rightwing conspiracy theory that the government allowed the weapons into Mexico on purpose to create a case for stricter gun control laws. (New York Times 9/20/12)

Mexican media were especially interested in the report’s finding that in 2011 Breuer proposed to Mexican officials that the US and Mexico cooperate in a similar program to monitor illegal gun purchases as a way of tracking gun smuggling operations. (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/21/12 from DPA, AFP, Notimex) Apparently nothing came of Breuer’s proposal, but in 2010 the administration of Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa had already proposed a law that would allow the Mexican government to carry out operations like Fast and Furious [see Update #1105].

In other news, the Mexican government continues to play down an Aug. 24 incident in which Mexican federal police in at least four vehicles shot up a US embassy van carrying two US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents to a Mexican Navy installation; the two agents were wounded and are being treated in the US [see Update #1143]. On Sept. 17 a Mexican official suggested that the attack was the result of simple confusion. The police agents were looking for a gang that had kidnapped an employee of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in the same area, the official said. They were focused on the unusual presence of an armored van traveling at high speed on a country road, and they didn’t notice that the vehicle had diplomatic license plates, according to the official, who said he couldn’t be cited by name. (Associated Press 9/17/12 via Terra Argentina)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Freedom House: The Language of Hubris (Latin America)

Interview with Marta Harnecker on the Latin American Left

Book Review: Feeding on Dreams – Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile (Chile)

Peru Urged to Prevent Unlawful Killings of Protesters

Peru: jungle shoot-out as narco-flight intercepted

Peru: Cajamarca regional strike remobilizes

"El Loco" Barrera, Colombia's most wanted, busted in Venezuela

Colombian GM Workers Back on Hunger Strike After Negotiations Break Down

Venezuela, Bolivia give US backtalk over drug war "blacklist"

Former US Ambassador Outlines Post-Election Interventions against Venezuela

Panama: Isolated and Ignored Naso Fear Police Repression

Honduran Charter Cities Are a Symptom of, Not a Solution to, Instability

Vallecito Resists, Satuye Lives! The Garífuna Resistance to Honduras’ Charter Cities (Honduras)

Guatemala: wins, threats for peasant ecologists

Guatemalan Government and Mining Company Attack Community Members in San Rafael Las Flores

Guatemala: Ten Arrest Warrants Issued against Community Leaders from Barillas Revoked

Buying Time: Belize Narrowly Avoids Default

Mexico's prez-elect broaches oil privatization —almost

Army troops sent to patrol Mexico City suburb

UN Secretary General Recommends Creating Timeline for MINUSTAH Withdrawal

Driving in the "Constitution-Free Zone" (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:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Links but No Update for September 16, 2012

[There is no Update this week; we'll be back next week. Below are links to stories from other sources.]

Chile: outrage explodes on the "other 9-11"

Against Impunity in Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict: Ex-Defense Minister Speaks Out

Peru: first "prior consultations" on Amazon oil development

Talisman Energy Withdraws from Peruvian Amazon

Assange and Ecuador: no monopoly on hypocrisy

The Long Journey From War System to a Possible Peace in Colombia

Venezuela, Bolivia give US backtalk over drug war "blacklist"

Venezuela: The Dangers of a Revolution against a Woman’s Right to Abortion

Mining for Gold in El Salvador: A “Pact With the Devil”?

Masked Security Guards Threaten, Fire Warning Shot at Human Rights Observers in Honduras

Bumps in the Road Toward "Model Cities" in Honduras

Canadian Parliamentarians meet with Guatemalan Legislators on Goldcorp’s Ticket

Mexico’s Lopez Obrador To Start New Leftwing Party

Occupy the Railroad: Mexico Water Conflict Flares

Mexico: blows against cartels claimed, bloodletting continues

Traitors, Tattlers, Tourists and Terror (Mexico)

Book Review - Drug War Mexico: Politics, Neoliberalism and Violence in the New Narcoeconomy

U.S. Guns Bring Mexican Casualties

Public Security–the Greatest Casualty of the Drug war (Mexico/US)

Signs Point toward Controversial Renewal of MINUSTAH’s Mandate in Haiti

Citizens in Name Only: Muslim-Americans on the U.S.-Canada Border (US/immigration)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

WNU #1144: Nicaragua to Withdraw From the SOA

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1144, September 9, 2012

1. Nicaragua: Ortega Announces Withdrawal From SOA
2. Central America: Dole Starts to Pay in Pesticide Settlement
3. Honduras: “Model Cities” Project Set to Begin?
4. Mexico: Persecuted Gay Teacher Wins Asylum in US
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Curaçao, 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. Nicaragua: Ortega Announces Withdrawal From SOA
Nicaragua will no longer send military personnel to the US military’s controversial Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), President Daniel Ortega said during a meeting with a delegation of human rights activists in Managua on Sept. 4. Nicaragua will be the first Central American country to withdraw from the school, which critics say has trained many of Latin America’s most notorious human rights violators since its founding in 1946. Five South American nations have ended their relations with SOA/WHINSEC: Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Venezuela, and, as of June 27, Ecuador (see World War 4 Report 6/28/12).

“The SOA is an ethical and moral anathema,” President Ortega said during the meeting. “All of the countries of Latin America have been victims of its graduates. The SOA is a symbol of death, a symbol of terror.” Nicaragua has reduced its participation in the school since he returned to the presidency in 2007, Ortega said, sending five soldiers in 2011 and none this year. The country has also withdrawn from the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR, for its initials in Spanish), a military pact linked to the Organization of American States (OAS).

Ortega is the leader of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and served a term as Nicaragua's president from 1985 to 1990, at a time when the US was funding and training the rightwing contra rebels fighting against the FSLN government. Withdrawing from SOA/WHINSEC “is the least that we can do,” Ortega said. “We have been its victims.” But he indicated that the move was difficult, since Nicaragua is a small, impoverished nation whose economy is largely dependent on its ties to the US.

The human rights delegation was organized by two US-based organizations: the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), which seeks the closing of SOA/WHINSEC, and the Nicaragua Network, an organization promoting solidarity with Nicaragua. Delegation members included SOAW founder Father Roy Bourgeois, SOAW Latin America coordinator Lisa Sullivan and Alejandro Ramírez, a member of a Honduran human rights organization, the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH). SOAW is planning a delegation to meet with representatives of the government of US president Barack Obama on Sept. 17 to push for closing the school.

SOA/WHINSEC trained nearly 14,000 military and police personnel from 2001 to 2011. Almost half were from Colombia; Chile and Peru also sent large numbers of soldiers and police agents. The Central American countries with the greatest participation from 2008 to 2011 were Honduras, with 234 soldiers, and El Salvador, with 227. (Adital (Brazil) 9/5/12; SOAW press release 9/6/12)

*2. Central America: Dole Starts to Pay in Pesticide Settlement
On Sept. 4 the giant California-based fruit and vegetable producer Dole Food Company, Inc. finally began funding a settlement it made more than a year earlier with some 5,000 former banana workers in Central America who said their health had been damaged by exposure to the pesticides Nemagon and Fumazone, brand names for dibromochloropropane (DBCP). Dole had refused to pay until all judgments against it had been dismissed and each of the plaintiffs had signed a release agreeing not to sue Dole again for injuries linked to DBCP.

Speaking in Chinandega in northwestern Nicaragua on Sept. 6, Dole spokesperson Humberto Hurtado confirmed that the money was available. The settlement covers 3,157 Nicaraguans along with 780 Costa Ricans and 1,000 Hondurans; they all worked for Dole during the period from 1973 to 1980 when the company used the pesticides, which are now banned. Many of the workers spent 16 years struggling to win the settlement, which covers five lawsuits in the US and 33 in Nicaragua; the Nicaraguan suits were for a total of $9 billion in damages.

Only the former banana workers represented by the Texas-based law firm Provost Umphrey are included in the settlement. Another 13,874 Nicaraguan workers have pending cases being handled by other law firms [see Update #1094]. Hurtado said Dole “might be available for possible agreements with other groups.”

Dole wouldn’t reveal the size of the settlement, but the company indicated that the payments wouldn’t significantly affect its financial condition. A statement from Dole executive vice president C. Michael Carter insisted that “there is no reliable scientific basis for alleged injuries from the agricultural field application of DBCP.” (Ventura County Star (California) 9/6/12; La Prensa (Nicaragua) 9/7/12)

*3. Honduras: “Model Cities” Project Set to Begin?
Honduran National Congress president Juan Orlando Hernández announced on Sept. 4 that the government’s Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Alliances (COALIANZA) had signed an agreement for the first of three “model city” projects--semi-autonomous regions mandated under a 2010 constitutional amendment [see World War 4 Report 6/9/12]. COLIANZA claims the project, which still needs approval from the Congress, will create 5,000 direct and indirect jobs this year, 15,000 jobs in 2013, 30,000 in 2014, and 45,000 in 2015.

The project is likely to be located near Puerto Cortés or Puerto Castilla on the Atlantic coast, or in Choluteca department on the country’s narrow Pacific coast. “It should be noted that these model cities will be established in depopulated areas of Honduras,” Hernández told the media. “It does not imply the displacement of people or social groups.” The Honduras Culture and Politics blog noted: “None of these regions is completely vacant. Reading between the lines, what Hernández is saying is that there are no large cooperatives or powerful landowners in these regions, groups that might vocally protest the expropriation of the land on which they live and work.”

The main funding for the “model city” is coming from an unidentified Canadian company. Other funders include a US company identified as the “NKG Group” or “MKG Group,” and a start-up called Future Cities Development Corporation. Both companies seem to have rightwing libertarian orientations. A leading executive at NKG Group, Michael Strong, appears to be associated with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey; a Michael Strong is listed with Mackey as a co-founder of FLOW, an organization dedicated to “liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good.” One of Future Cities Development Corporation’s founders is Patri Friedman, the grandson of University of Chicago economist and neoliberal theorist Milton Friedman. (Honduras Culture and Politics 9/5/12)

Some 14 groups or individuals--including campesino organizations and the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH)—filed a legal challenge to the “model cities” law on Sept. 7, citing a motion filed in October 2011 by Oscar Cruz, a former government attorney for constitutional issues. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the presidential candidate of the leftist Freedom and Refoundation (LIBRE) party and the wife of former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009), issued a statement denouncing the law as “incompatible with the concept of sovereignty, independence and equality of opportunity for national and foreign investment.” She warned people who start these projects that “they are exposing themselves to the loss of their investments.”

LIBRE was formed in June 2011 by the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), a coalition of unions and grassroots organizations that led the resistance to the June 2009 military coup that removed former president Zelaya from office.

The project has even received criticism from Paul Romer, the New York University professor whose “charter cities” concept is the basis for the Honduran “model cities” law. Romer reportedly may quit the Honduran transparency commission he was chairing because he feels he hasn’t been give sufficient information and authority to carry out his responsibilities. (Honduras Culture and Politics 9/7/12; Xiomara Castro de Zelaya statement 9/7/12 via Vos el Soberano (Honduras))

*4. Mexico: Persecuted Gay Teacher Wins Asylum in US
The Mexican daily La Jornada reported on Sept. 6 that the US had granted political asylum to Mexican teacher Agustín Estrada Negrete, who claimed he had suffered persecution and torture from officials of México state because of his homosexuality. Estrada was removed from his post as a school principal after he had appeared in women’s clothes at a festival against homophobia in May 2007. Following a march demanding his reinstatement in 2009, México state police arrested Estrada in Toluca and took him to the La Palma prison, where he said he was beaten and gang-raped. He arrived in San Diego in September 2010 in a wheelchair to seek asylum.

Jaime López Vela, the president of the sexual diversity collective Agenda LGBT, told La Jornada that the grant of asylum to Estrada “shows that the human rights violations he reported have been fully proven.” “Throughout the process we always demanded that his labor rights be restored, but there were only rejections by the México state authorities, based on homophobia, since they said that as long as he continued with his ‘homosexual attitudes,’ he wouldn’t go back to work.” The state’s governor during the period was Enrique Peña Nieto, the official winner of this year’s July 1 presidential election; his inauguration takes place in December.

In addition to his US asylum bid, Estrada filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), which issued a precautionary measure, number MC 222/09, in April 2010 calling on México state to protect the lives and physical integrity of Estrada and his family. According to CIDH spokesperson María Isabel Rivero, the measure is still active, since Estrada’s mother and sister remain in Mexico. (La Jornada 9/6/12; Los Angeles Press 9/6/12)

In an interview with the Spanish-language website Los Angeles Press in April 2012, Estrada claimed that he and Peña Nieto were secretly lovers for seven years and implied that the president-elect had persecuted him in an effort to conceal the affair. (Los Angeles Press 4/25/12)

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

South America: Soy's Great Homeland

Enforced Disappearances in the Americas are a Crime of the Present

Interview with Camila Vallejo: “Another Chile Is Possible, with Greater Democracy and Social Rights” (Chile)

Chile: The Disappeared of Cuartel Simón Bolivar

Brazil: Landowners Declare War against Indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá in Mato Grosso do Sul

Bolivia: TIPNIS consultation extended amid protests over militarization

Peru: protests as "terrorism denial" law introduced

Indigenous Consultations in Peru to Debut in Amazon Oil Region

Peru: mine tailing spill contaminates Río Huallaga

Peru: justice sought in slaying of mine opponent

A Tale of Two Asylums: Assange, Palacio, and Media Hypocrisy (Ecuador)

Colombia: army general gets 25 years for para collaboration

Colombia: peace talks announced with rappin' FARC

Hope in the Colombian Peace Talks

Colombia: no ceasefire during peace talks

Venezuelan authorities deny Yanomami massacre

Venezuelan Opposition Legislator Decries MUD “Hidden Agenda”, Expelled Hours Later

OAS rights body presses for truth in Yanomami massacre claims (Venezuela)

Goldcorp on Trial: First International People's Health Tribunal Held in Guatemala

Guatemala: Swiss arrest ex-police commander

Guatemala ex-president to be extradited to US for embezzlement trial

Nueva Esperanza, Guatemala

Mexico ex-prez gets immunity in massacre suit

Mexico’s Felipe Calderon Defends Security Policies in Final Speech

“We won’t back down,” assert Zapatistas in response to a series of aggressions (Mexico)

Mexican Peace Caravan Occupies Wall Street: Opposing the "Drug War" on Both Sides of the Border

PDVSA oil spill fouls Curaçao

Reduced Charges Against Uruguayan MINUSTAH Troops Latest Example of Lack of UN Accountability

In the Name of Anti-Trafficking: Racism, Detention, and Deportation (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, September 3, 2012

WNU #1143: Mapuche Prisoners on Hunger Strike Again

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1143, September 2, 2012

1. Chile: Mapuche Prisoners Start Latest Hunger Strike
2. Honduras: Five Killed in Continuing Aguán Violence
3. Dominican Republic: Denied an Abortion, Teen Cancer Patient Dies
4. Mexico: PRI Candidate Declared Winner, Students Protest
5. Mexico: Peace Caravan “Disarms Houston”
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic/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. Chile: Mapuche Prisoners Start Latest Hunger Strike
As of Aug. 31 six Mapuche activists were on hunger strike to protest what they consider the Chilean government’s repression of struggles by the indigenous group, the country’s largest. The strikers include five prisoners in Angol, in the southern region of Araucanía, and Pascual Catrilaf, a machi (healer and spiritual authority) who lives in Temuco, also in Araucanía. A seventh striker, Mewlen Huencho, a werkén (spokesperson) for the Mapuche Territorial Alliance, ended her six-day fast at the Santiago offices of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) after speaking to UNICEF officials on Aug. 31.

The five prisoners in Angol are from the Wente Winkul Mapu community in Ercilla commune, Araucanía, a village where an agent of the carabineros militarized police was fatally wounded in April [see Update #1124]. They began their open-ended hunger strike on Aug. 27 to protest what they called the “discriminatory, racist and political” prison sentences of 11 years and eight months that two of the prisoners-- Paulino Levipán Coyán and Daniel Levinao Montoya--were given by court in Angol on Aug. 13. They had been convicted of attempted homicide and illegal possession of firearms in an attack on carabineros near Chequenco, Araucanía, on Nov. 2, 2011; they are appealing the conviction.

In addition to demanding the annulment of the sentences for Levipán and Levinao, the hunger strikers called for adherence by the Chilean government to International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169, which protects the rights of indigenous peoples; an end to the use of protected witnesses in Mapuche cases; an end to raids on Mapuche communities; and the release of all political prisoners and the return of indigenous lands to the communities.

Mewlen Huencho began fasting on Aug. 25 after sitting in at the UNICEF office for a month to promote demands for the international organization to denounce police attacks on women, children and the elderly in Chile; the sit-in was precipitated by a July 23 raid by carabineros on the Temucuicui community in Araucanía in which two children were shot with pellets and badly injured [see Update #1138]. Huencho suspended her hunger strike after Tom Olsen, UNICEF Representative in Chile, promised to go to Ercilla and meet with Mapuche authorities the afternoon of Sept. 3.

Machi Pascual Catrilaf began his hunger strike in solidarity with the other protests on Aug. 27.

Mapuche activists charge that that the government uses excessive force and unjust applications of criminal law to repress their actions, with which they seek the return of ancestral lands now being exploited by timber companies and other businesses. Some 34 Mapuche prisoners participated in a liquids-only hunger strike in the summer and fall of 2010, some for more than two months, and four Mapuche prisoners fasted for almost three months in the spring of 2011 [see Updates #1052, 1083]. Maricheweu International, a group in solidarity with Mapuche struggles, says letters to “convey your support and encouragement to the hunger-strikers, and to request information on their state of health” can be sent to UNICEF’s Thierry Lemaresquier ( and the Angol prison authorities ( (TeleSUR 8/28/12; Maricheweu International 8/29/12, 8/31/12; País Mapuche (Chile) 8/27/12, 8/30/12; Terra (Peru) 8/13/12)

*2. Honduras: Five Killed in Continuing Aguán Violence
A Honduran campesino, Marvin Orlando Rivera Mejía, was killed around 6 am on Sept. 1 during a confrontation between security guards and a campesino group at the Boleros estate, at the edge of Trujillo in the northern department of Colón. The victim was reportedly not involved in the confrontation and was shot unintentionally. A guard, José Reyes González, was hit by a bullet in the back and was taken to a clinic in the city of San Pedro Sula. The campesinos fled when police and soldiers arrived; an unknown number were wounded. Departmental police chief José Mejía claimed the campesino group was heavily armed.

Apparently the campesinos were attempting to occupy land on the estate. Campesinos have taken over thousands of hectares in the region, the Lower Aguán Valley, since late 2009 in an effort to get possession of land they say big landowners acquired illegally during the 1990s [see Update #1142]. Vitalino Álvarez, a spokesperson for the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), said tensions would continue in the countryside unless the government treated the land problem seriously on a national level. Until now, he said, César Ham, the minister in charge of the National Agrarian Institute (INA), has only provided palliatives by arranging to transfer land ownership to members of some big campesino groups like MUCA. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 9/2/12)

Rivera Mejía’s violent death was the fifth in the Aguán region in less than a week, and the second that appeared to be related to the land struggle. On Aug. 27 José Braulio Díaz López, secretary of the campesino group Tranvío, a MUCA affiliate, was shot dead by heavily armed men near the city of Tocoa as he was checking a problem with his car. Mario Roberto Hernández, who was helping him with the car, was wounded. According to MUCA, the men who shot Díaz were driving a vehicle belonging to security guards employed by cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum, a major landowner in the Aguán and one of the richest people in Honduras. MUCA said the national police removed all of Díaz’s possessions from the scene, including legal documents relating to the transfer of land to campesinos; as of Aug. 28 the police had not handed the documents over to MUCA.

Three other killings that occurred in the region from Aug. 27 to Aug. 29 seemed to be the result of common crimes or personal disputes, but they undercut government claims that it was limiting violence by banning firearms in the Aguán. Two young married people were killed while at their home in Sabá, and an unidentified man was beaten to death with a stone in Tocoa’s San Isidro neighborhood. Also in Tocoa, a 15-year-old girl was wounded by gunfire intended for someone else, and three members of one family were wounded in their home in a drive-by shooting.

One other shooting may have been politically motivated. A compesino identified as Daniel Sosa was wounded when a MUCA vehicle was shot up near the San Isidro African palm plantation, which is claimed by Facussé. (MUCA statement 8/28/12 via Vos el Soberano (Honduras); La Tribuna 8/29/12)

*3. Dominican Republic: Denied an Abortion, Teen Cancer Patient Dies
The case of a pregnant 16-year-old Dominican with leukemia has reignited controversy over the amended 2010 Constitution’s Article 37, which holds “that the right to life is inviolable from conception until death.” The anti-abortion amendment was part of a series of constitutional changes pushed by rightwing forces; other amendments in the 2010 document ban same-sex marriage and limit citizenship to people with Dominican parents, in effect leaving many Dominicans of Haitian descent stateless [see Update #1141].

The pregnant teenager—called “Esperanza” or “Esperancita” in the media; her name was withheld because of her age—entered the Teachers’ Medical Insurance (Semma) hospital in Santo Domingo on July 4. The chemotherapy used to treat leukemia was likely to harm the fetus she was carrying, but the doctors refused to perform a therapeutic abortion from fear of being prosecuted under Article 37. They apparently also feared prosecution if the fetus died as a result of the chemotherapy, which they failed to provide until forced to by public pressure 20 days after the patient was admitted.

“Esperanza” didn’t respond to the chemical treatment, and her body rejected a blood transfusion on Aug. 16, according to the hospital’s Dr. Antonio Cabrera, who said she had a miscarriage the morning of Aug. 17 and then died of cardiac arrest. Since autopsy results weren’t immediately released, it was unclear whether the miscarriage was the direct cause of the girl’s death or what her chances of survival would have been if she’d had an abortion or had been given chemotherapy at the beginning of July. According to her mother, Rosa Hernández, “Esperanza” had become hopeful about her chances of recovery and had begun talking about the start of the new school year.

Feminist groups in the Dominican Republic and abroad blamed Article 37 for the girl’s death. An Aug. 18 statement by the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network (RSMLAC, for its initials in Spanish) said the treatment of “Esperanza” “was a form of unacceptable violence and torture” and called her death “a femicide carried out by political-religious alliances.” Hernández, an impoverished employee of the school system, had pleaded for a therapeutic abortion. “My daughter’s life is what’s most important,” she said. “I know that [abortion] is a sin and is illegal, but my daughter’s life comes first.” (CNN 8/17/12; RSMLAC statement 8/18/12; Servicio de Noticias de la Mujer de Latinamerica y el Caribe (SEMLAC) 8/20/12 via Diario Rotativo (Querétaro, Mexico); Adital (Brazil) 8/30/12)

*4. Mexico: PRI Candidate Declared Winner, Students Protest
Mexico’s 2012 presidential election came to a close on Aug. 31 when the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Branch of the Republic (TEPJF) officially declared former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto the winner of the July 1 vote. One day earlier the tribunal had dismissed charges by the coalition backing center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador that Peña Nieto’s 6.62% lead over López Obrador was the result of fraud, vote buying and media manipulation by Peña Nieto’s centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexico’s ruling party from 1929 to 2000 [see Update #1137]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 8/31/12, 9/1/12)

These results were expected, and #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”), the student movement that formed suddenly in the spring to oppose what its supporters called the “imposition” of the PRI candidate, had already planned a “funeral for democracy” to be held in Mexico City the afternoon of Aug. 31. Starting from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) campus, the protesters, some carrying cardboard coffins, marched through the city for about 10 km, tying up traffic at various points. About 5,000 people participated, far less than the estimated 50,000 protesters who came out for demonstrations against the PRI in the week after the July 1 vote. (LJ 9/1/12)

*5. Mexico: Peace Caravan “Disarms Houston”
In an unusual and dramatic protest against lax gun control laws in the US, relatives of victims of drug-related violence in Mexico destroyed a .357 Magnum pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle in Houston’s Guadalupe Plaza Park on Aug. 27 and buried the remains in cement. The protesters were part of a Caravan for Peace that started a month-long tour of the US in San Diego on Aug. 12 to raise awareness of the US role in a “drug war” that has cost some 50,000 lives in Mexico since the beginning of 2007. The tour is to end in Washington, DC on Sept. 12.

Two caravan supporters bought the firearms at a High Caliber Gun & Knife Show in Pasadena, Texas, on Aug. 25 to show how easily gun smugglers can purchase weapons in Texas; the US is the main source of illegal guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico. The pistol was purchased in a five-minute transaction by a woman with a foreign accent who was not asked for identification. A man with US citizenship bought the AK-47, the favorite weapon of Mexican drug traffickers, after a 10-minute background check.

The Caravan for Peace was organized by the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD), an organization started in 2011 by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son Juan Francisco was killed in late March of that year, apparently by gang members [see Update #1079]. The movement opposes the militarized fight against the drug cartels started by President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, with funding and political support from the US government, shortly after he took office in December 2006.

Sicilia sawed the barrels of the weapons in Houston with an electric metal saw provided by an undocumented Mexican immigrant who works in Texas as a welder. Then other relatives of victims smashed the weapons with sledgehammers.

Araceli Rodríguez wept as she put fragments of the guns in a wooden box and buried them in cement. Her son, Luis Ángel León Rodríguez, a Mexican federal police agent stationed in Hidalgo, Michoacán, was kidnapped in November 2009, apparently by members of the so-called “Michoacán Family” drug cartel; his body was never found. She said after the protest that for her the burial of the guns symbolized the Christian burial she would never be able to give her son in Mexico. ( video 8/27/12; Fellowship of Reconciliation blog 8/28/12; Vanguardia (Mexico) 8/30/12)

In related news, the Mexican daily La Jornada reported on Aug. 28 that the two US agents wounded in a shooting incident near Tres Marías in Morelos on Aug. 24 [see Update #1142] were from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), not the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Citing unidentified “official sources close to the investigation,” the newspaper also said the attack was carried out by five vehicles, not four, and that the shooting began after the assailants were able to see the victims close up. The agents were driving a heavily armored US embassy car, a Toyota Land Cruiser, on their way to a Navy training facility, apparently to provide instruction to marines involved in the “war on drugs.” According to later reports, the US agents survived only because of the car’s armor.

While the first reports said only federal police agents were implicated in the attack, there are indications that members of a criminal organization were directly involved. The official sources cited 18 attackers in civilian clothes, but only 12 federal police agents have been detained so far. (LJ 8/28/12, 8/29/12)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic/Haiti, US/immigration

Before Occupy Wall Street, there was La Victoria (Latin America)

Brazil: Supreme Court Judge Overturns Suspension of Belo Monte Dam

Brazil: quilombo threatened by rancher gunmen

Brazil: judge agrees to first war crimes trial for members of dictatorship

Bolivia: TIPNIS Consulta on Hold, Communities Reject Militarization

Women In the Forefront of Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict

Ecuador not to deport Belarussian whistle-blower

Colombian Ex-General Sentenced in Death Squad Case

Colombia's ex-security chief pleads guilty to para collaboration

Water and Sanitation Socialism in Caracas: Interview with Victor Díaz (Venezuela)

41 Killed in Gas Explosion in Venezuela, 3 Days of National Mourning Declared

Venezuela: refinery disaster politicized

Venezuela: Yanomami massacred by outlaw miners

El Salvador: Killed in Cold Blood on the Banks of the River at El Calabozo

Media Ignore New Report Questioning U.S. Role in Honduras Drug Raid

Guatemala: Swiss arrest ex-police commander

Goldcorp Organizes Junket for Canadian Parliamentarians to Guatemala

Outer Darkness in Coatzacoalcos: The Plight of Migrants in Mexico

Mexico’s Independent Unions Prepare to Confront the Pri

Mexican Miners Reelect Napoleón Gómez Urrutia; Chart Course

Life in a Border Town Marred by Tension (Dominican Republic/Haiti)

Families Divided: Dateline Nogales (US/immigration)

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