Tuesday, October 30, 2012

WNU #1149: Chilean Court Annuls Two Mapuche Convictions

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1149, October 28, 2012

1. Chile: Supreme Court Annuls Two Mapuche Convictions
2. Chile: Court Approves Call for US Officer’s Extradition
3. Mexico: Torture and Abuse Cases Continue to Increase
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Grenada, Haiti, US

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

*1. Chile: Supreme Court Annuls Two Mapuche Convictions
By a unanimous vote, on Oct. 24 Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice overturned the convictions of two young Mapuche prisoners for the attempted homicide of Gen. Iván Besmalinovic, a commander of the carabineros militarized police, in November 2011. The two prisoners had been on a liquids-only hunger strike along with two other Mapuche prisoners since Aug. 27 in the city of Angol in the southern region of Araucanía [see Update #1148]. After receiving word of the court’s decision, the hunger strikers met with members of their home community, Wente Winkul Mapu, and on Oct. 25 they decided to end their fast.

“We assess the decision positively,” Wente Winkul Mapu spokesperson Daniel Melinao told the Associated Press wire service on Oct. 24. “[W]e’ve been saying for a long time that the brothers didn’t intend to murder the general, and today the court agreed that at no time there was an attempted homicide.” Mapuche activists hold that they are subjected to exaggerated charges and inflated sentences—sometimes under an “antiterrorist” law from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet—for political actions caried out in their struggle to regain ancestral land.

A criminal court in Angol had sentenced Paulino Levinao Montoya and Paulino Levipán Coyán to 10 years in prison on Aug. 13 on the attempted homicide charge, plus 541 days for illegal possession of firearms. In its Oct. 24 decision the Supreme Court ordered a retrial of Levinao Montoya, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of intending to kill police agents. In the case of Levipán Coyán the justices found that the youth had wounded carabineros as they carried out a raid on Wente Winkul Mapu, but the court determined that he hadn’t fired with an intention to kill. His sentence was reduced to three years, which he can serve on parole. The court upheld the sentences for arms possession for both prisoners.

The two other hunger strikers, the brothers Erick and Rodrigo Montoya, are awaiting trial for attempted homicide of a police agent in a separate incident.

Five Mapuche prisoners in the city of Temuco ended a 23-day hunger strike on Oct. 23 when prison authorities agreed to their demand to be moved to the Angol prison, where they would be closer to their communities and other Mapuche prisoners. They went without food or water for the last five days of their fast. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/24/12 from correspondent, 10/25/12 from correspondent and unidentified wire services, 10/26/12 from correspondent; AP 10/25/12 via Univision)

*2. Chile: Court Approves Call for US Officer’s Extradition
A panel of Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice voted 4-1 on Oct. 17 to approve a request for the extradition of former US Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis to stand trial for his involvement in the murders of two US citizens, journalist Charles Horman and graduate student Frank Teruggi, in the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende Gossens. Chilean investigative judge Jorge Zepeda asked for the extradition in November 2011 when he indicted Davis for allegedly failing to prevent the murders; the indictment was based in part on declassified US documents [see Update #1108]. The court’s one dissenter held that a 15-year statute of limitations applied in the case, but the majority held that the charges were for a crime against humanity and therefore were not subject to the limitation.

Horman’s widow, Joyce Horman, has persistently sought justice in the case. In 1977 the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a suit on her behalf in the US charging former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and other high-ranking US officials with complicity in the murders. The suit was eventually dismissed after the US government used “national security” as a pretext to prevent the discovery of evidence. Later Joyce Harmon filed a suit in Chile with the assistance of Chilean attorney Sergio Corvalán and CCR vice president Peter Weiss, and this led to Judge Zepeda’s 2011 indictment.

“It is gratifying that, while our own government invoked the state secrets doctrine in the US case, the investigating judge in the Chilean case spent years of determined effort to get at the truth,” Weiss said in response to the Supreme Court’s decision. According to the CCR, this is probably the first time a country has sought the extradition of a high-ranking US military official in a human rights case. (CCR press release 10/18/12; El Mostrador (Chile) 10/18/12; New York Times 10/18/12)

*3. Mexico: Torture and Abuse Cases Continue to Increase
Mexico’s Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (PRODH) held a press conference in Mexico City on Oct. 23 to announce the release of a report on the alleged torture of Israel Arzate Meléndez, a resident of Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua, by state police and the military. According to the report, Tortured, Imprisoned and Innocent, two soldiers arrested Arzate on Feb. 3, 2010, charging him with participation in the massacre of 15 youths in Ciudad Juárez’s Villas de Salvárcar neighborhood the previous Jan. 30 [see Update #1065]. The report says the soldiers took Arzate to a military installation, stripped him naked, tied up his hands and feet, placed a plastic bag over his head and tortured him with electric shocks to get him to confess to involvement in the killings.

Torture and arbitrary detention “continue to be daily bread” in Mexico, Javier Hernández Valencia, the Mexico representative of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at the press conference. These are “a mechanism for investigation which the police and military never give up resorting to,” he added. The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (CSJN) has agreed to consider the Arzate case. (Milenio (Mexico) 10/23/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/24/12)

On Oct. 24 government officials denied that there is systematic use of torture by the police and the military. “The only public servants in the armed forces that haven’t had a course on human rights are the new ones,” Governance Secretary Alejandro Poiré said, “but in practice they are given this course within three or four months of joining.” (LJ 10/25/12)

Complaints of torture and other abuse by the police and the military have increased dramatically since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa escalated the military's involvement in Mexico’s “war on drugs” shortly after he took office in December 2006. The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) released a report on Oct. 11 charging that the Calderón administration has “effectively turned a blind eye” to the problem. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) received 1,669 reports of police and military torture and abuse in 2011, almost three times as many in 2008, when the commission received 564 complaints, according to the report, Known Abusers, but Victims Ignored: Torture and Ill-Treatment in Mexico. (Los Angeles Times 10/11/12)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Grenada, Haiti, US

Contradictions and Discrepancies: Media Coverage in Argentina

The Chilean Safe Abortion Hotline: Assisting Women With Illegal, But Safe, Misoprostol Abortion

Uruguay rejects “the war on drugs”

Brazil: Guarani threaten mass suicide?

Bolivia enacts new "Law of Mother Earth"

Peru: OAS rights commission to hear Conga case

Peru: indigenous development plan for Amazon

Peru: will land titling undercut Sendero?

Peru: land, water conflicts grow in Cajamarca

Riots rock Lima —in footsteps of Hillary Clinton (Peru)

UN experts urge Colombia to reconsider reform of military criminal law

FARC factionalizing amid peace talks?

Colombia: judge orders return of usurped lands

Venezuelan Think Tank Panelist Condemns 100 Percent of Venezuelans

Venezuela’s Chavez to Ministers: Now is the Time for Self-Criticism

Venezuela joins Mercosur: A New Strategic Alliance

Panama: strikes halt trade zone land sale

Guatemala: Peaceful Resistance in the Face of Violence

Criminal gangs threaten Maya Biosphere Reserve (Guatemala, Mexico)

“Walking the True Word Around the World”: State Violence, Global Solidarity, and a New Campaign to Support the Zapatistas

Treaty Tolls Death Knell for Mexican Countryside

Mexico: lives claimed in Chihuahua water wars

Labor Law Reform Stalled as Mexican Congress Debates Process

Despite Major Legal Victory, Electrical Workers Not Back at Work

Yaqui Resistance: Against the Aqueduct, Agricultural Chemicals and Transgenics Crops on their Ancestral Lands (Mexico)

The Fight for Corn (Mexico)

A Bitter Anniversary: Remembering the Invasion of Grenada

Celebrities and Foreign Officials Tout Caracol, While Report Finds 95% of Factories Fail to Pay Minimum Wage

Double defeat for the White House and the Pentagon (Latin America)

The Maria Moors Cabot Prizes: Better Than Ever This Year (US)

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. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link. Our weekly Immigration News Briefs has ended publication.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bernie McFall, ¡Presente!

We are holding a memorial for Bernie on Friday, November 30, 2012, 6:30 pm at the AJ Muste Memorial Institute, 339 Lafayette Street, buzzer 11, New York, NY, at Bleecker Street. (Take the 6 train to Bleecker Street, or the B,D,F or M to Broadway-Lafayette.) Please join us.

Longtime solidarity activist Bernie McFall died of complications from pneumonia in Elmhurst Hospital in Queens on Oct. 16. He was 76 and had been fighting two forms of cancer.

Bernie was a reliable presence at demonstrations, vigils and picket lines in the New York area for more than two decades, with a special focus on solidarity with the peoples of Central America, Cuba, Haiti and Palestine. During the contra war of the 1980s Bernie worked with the California-based organization TecNica in Nicaragua as a volunteer consultant on IBM mainframes. In the 1990s he traveled to the West Bank to observe conditions there, and he visited Cuba in the early 2000s.

Photo: Life or Liberty
Although he was probably best known for his dedication in handling the routine work of political organizing—photocopying, leafleting, mailing out fliers—Bernie was knowledgeable in many areas, especially Middle Eastern history. He could read an astonishing number of languages, including French, Spanish, German, Italian, Latin, Greek and some Mandarin. He studied Fijian in the 1970s when he was in the Peace Corps, and he learned Arabic in a US military school during the late 1950s, when he was stationed in Eritrea, which was then annexed to Ethiopia. Years later he would smile and say: “They wouldn’t necessarily approve of how I’ve used what they taught me.”

The New York-based Palestinian activist Farouk Abdel-Muhti was a close friend, and he was staying at Bernie’s apartment in April 2002 when a joint task force of immigration agents and the New York City police arrested him in what quickly became a cause célèbre. Bernie worked steadily in the two-year campaign that finally won Farouk's release; the federal judge who freed Farouk described the Palestinian’s imprisonment as “Kafkaesque.” Bernie himself was threatened and harassed by the police and others during the campaign; filmmaker Konrad Aderer provides more information on Bernie's role at the Life or Liberty website.

Bernie was involved with the Weekly News Update from its first days in 1990, working tirelessly to select and clip articles to be summarized and often arranging for photocopying. We will be joining with others to honor him with a memorial; we’ll announce the plans as soon as we know them.

A few weeks before he died, Bernie asked to make sure his books were made available to people who would make good use of them. Please contact us at weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com if you would like more information on the collection, which includes a number of books in Arabic.

Bernie's birthday, February 2012. Photo: Rena Cohen/NYC

A Tribute From Bernie’s Family 
Bernie was much loved by family members too numerous to mention individually--23 surviving nieces and nephews, as well as 41 second- and 14 third-generation nieces and nephews. He attended all the family reunions, weddings, special occasions, celebrations and gatherings he possibly could, and they were numerous. Bernie will be remembered as the fun-loving, playful, favorite uncle who was game for anything and everything that crossed his path.

Bernie at an immigrant rights demo
He had a great love for life. His passions were many, encompassing all types of arts (opera, symphony, ballet, languages, paintings, and sculptures) as well as education, which consequently transferred to many family members and friends. He traveled the world never meeting a stranger and was extremely involved in defending human rights. Bernie gave much support and encouragement, not only monetarily but in any way he could.

He will be greatly missed by so many that he touched and will always have a very special place in all of our hearts.

Bernie in the 1980s. Photos: Rena Cohen/NYC

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

WNU #1148: Mexican Police Break Up Student Protests

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1148, October 21, 2012

1. Mexico: Police Break Up Michoacán Student Protests
2. Chile: Thousands March for Indigenous Rights on Columbus Holiday
3. Honduras: Court Quashes “Model Cities”; Investors Eye Jamaica
4. Cuba: Spanish Rightist Sentenced in Dissident’s Death
5. Haiti: Government Seeks to Arrest Human Rights Lawyers
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Mexico: Police Break Up Michoacán Student Protests
Using tear gas and water cannons, hundreds of federal and state police ended student occupations at three teachers’ colleges in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacán in the early morning of Oct. 15. Protesters and other students were beaten in the raids, which resulted in the arrests of 176 students—168 in the town of Tiripetío, two in the town of Arteaga and six in the autonomous indigenous municipality of Cherán. The students reportedly threw rocks at the police and set fire to 13 of the 90 vehicles, including buses and patrols cars, that they had seized during the weeklong protest. Michoacán officials said 10 police agents were injured, three of them seriously.

The students were demanding a one-year postponement of changes to the curriculum that would require them to study English and computer science; they also sought an increase in the number of fourth-level students. Mexico’s rural teachers’ colleges, which largely provide instruction for campesino and indigenous students, have suffered from neglect and budget cuts for years and have been a focal point for protests [see Update #1109]. This was the second major student protest in Michoacán so far this school year. Students started a building occupation and strike on Sept. 4 in the Michoacán University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH) in Morelia, the state capital; rightwing students led by a group called the “White Angels” broke up the occupation on Sept. 25 and Sept. 26.

The protesters at the teachers’ colleges received strong support from local and national groups. The Michoacán section of the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a large rank-and-file caucus within the conservative National Education Workers Union (SNTE), backed the protests even before the Oct. 15 police operation. In Cherán local officials condemned the raid, which they said “broke into our community with great violence.” The town is the site of an often-violent struggle between residents and illegal loggers that has led the municipality to declare itself autonomous, with the municipal government chosen through indigenous customs rather than formal elections [see Update #1131]. The Network Against Violence and for Solidarity (RvsR), which grew out of solidarity work with the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the southeastern state of Chiapas, denounced “the atrocious manner of humiliating The Other, the manner of treating youths who defend a just struggle with dignity. The violence has been initiated by the governments, by their reforms; they are the ones who are responsible.”

On Oct. 17 thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Morelia, tying up traffic and virtually paralyzing the city, to demand an end to the repression and the release of the 74 students who were still being detained. The protest was organized by the state CNTE; the organizers estimated the crowd at 40,000, while local authorities put the number at 15,000. Participants included local students; students from the teachers’ college in nearby Tiripetío; members of the Purépecha Nation, an organization of activists from the state’s main indigenous group; and leaders in teacher union locals from the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) and the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala and Veracruz. Later in the day, about 500 teachers’ college students seized a refrigerator truck and four buses, using them to block La Huerta Avenue, near a main highway, while about 100 other students demonstrated near the state attorney general’s office.

Demonstrations continued throughout the week. On Oct. 18 CNTE supporters and students started a sit-in at Melchor Ocampo Plaza, in Morelia’s historic center, while others began blocking Madero Avenue in two places the next day. The protesters said they would maintain the sit-in and the blockages until all the students were freed from detention. Also on Oct. 19, groups of students protested inside the state legislature building, holding up photographs that they said showed excessive use of force during the police operations. Legislators from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)—which lost control of the state to the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) with the election of current governor Fausto Vallejo Figueroa in 2011—backed the protesters and charged that the government treated students like criminals while not touching the drug cartels that have established themselves in the state.

In the DF, some 70 students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) blocked Insurgentes Avenue for almost four hours on Oct. 19 in solidarity with the students in Michoacán. As of Oct. 20 all but eight of the students arrested on Oct. 15 had been released, either without charges or else on bail. (Adital (Brazil) 10/16/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/16/12, 10/18/12, 10/20/12, 10/20/12, 10/21/12; Agencia Reforma 10/21/12 via Terra (Mexico))

Outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was scheduled to visit Cherán on Oct. 16 as part of a last official tour of Michoacán, his native state, but the Cherán visit was cancelled after the violence at the teachers’ college there. Calderón had been expected to announce promises of aid for the town. (Quadratín (Morelia, Michoacán) 10/15/12)

*2. Chile: Thousands March for Indigenous Rights on Columbus Holiday
Thousands marched in Santiago on Oct. 15 to demand respect for the rights of Chile’s indigenous peoples—the Mapuches in the south, Aymara speakers in the north, and the Pascuenses (Rapa Nui) of Easter Island. The march, sponsored by the Meli Wixan Mapu Organization, the José Guiñón communities, the community of Wente Winkul Mapu and the Temukuikui Autonomous Mapuche Community, also demanded the release of four Mapuche prisoners who had been on hunger strike in the southern city of Angol for 50 days [see Update #1147]. Media estimates for participation ranged from 3,000 to 7,000.

As regularly occurs in Chile, near the end of the march carabineros militarized police attacked the protesters with tear gas and water cannons. According to the Associated Press wire service, the police were responding to about 100 hooded youths who joined the march and began vandalizing banks, while the correspondent from the Mexican daily La Jornada indicated that the police attacks may have begun without provocation.

The march took place on a national holiday celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in October 1492. “We have nothing to celebrate,” Mapuche spokesperson Natividad Llanquileo told reporters. The Mapuches resisted the Spanish for some 300 years but were defeated militarily in the late nineteenth century and were forced into the southern region of Araucanía. They continue to struggle to regain ancestral land; these struggles have intensified over the past few years and have been met with government repression.

The four Angol hunger strikers, who began fasting on Aug. 27, were moved to a hospital in Concepción on Oct. 11, but they asked to be returned to Angol in order to be closer to their communities. A local court granted the request for three of the prisoners--Daniel Levinao, Paulino Levipán and Rodrigo Montoya—on Oct. 18; the fourth, Erick Montoya, was to stay in the hospital pending a medical report. Five other Mapuche prisoners had been on a liquids-only hunger strike in the city of Temuco since Oct. 1, demanding to be moved to join the other strikers in Angol. They reported harassment by the prison authorities, who they said would bring them food to tempt them to eat, and on Oct. 19 they intensified the hunger strike by refusing liquids as well as solid food. (AP 10/15/12 via Calgary (Canada) Times; LJ 10/16/12 from correspondent; AFP 10/18/12 via Radio Nederland; Radio Bío Bío 10/21/12)

*3. Honduras: Court Quashes “Model Cities”; Investors Eye Jamaica
By a 13-2 vote on Oct. 17, the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) ruled that Decree 283-2010, the constitutional change enabling the creation of privatized autonomous regions known as “model cities,” is unconstitutional. The decision confirmed an Oct. 3 ruling by a five-member panel of the CSJ; the full court had to vote because the panel’s ruling was not unanimous [see Update #1147]. The “model cities” concept was promoted by North American neoliberal economists as a way to spur economic development in Honduras. The autonomous zones, officially called Special Development Regions (RED), would “create hundreds of thousands of jobs in Honduras,” according to Grupo MGK, the US startup that was to manage the first project. (Honduras Culture and Politics 10/17/12)

The CSJ decision clearly upset congressional promoters of the “model cities.” Ricardo Cardona, National Congress president Juan Orlando Hernández’s private secretary, said the project “had failed because of the opposition of the extreme left and the extreme right in Honduras…the same ones who conspired to bring about the coup d’état in 2009.” Now they have “conspired so that 205,000 Hondurans have lost the opportunity to get employment in the ‘model cities,’” he claimed.

Grupo MGK reacted to the CSJ decision by pulling out of Honduras. “Michael Strong, MGK’s president, went to Jamaica and met with high officials of that country and will bring the money that he was thinking of investing in Honduras,” the company’s Honduran representative, Guillermo Peña, said on Oct. 19 during an appearance on Channel 10 television. “Since there aren’t the conditions we asked for [in Honduras], we’ll bring the capital to other countries of the world,” Peña added. MGK was carrying on conversations with various Caribbean and Eastern European countries, according to Peña, who claimed that Greece would be attractive for investment, since “this plan allows them to get out of the economic crisis.” (El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 10/19/12; La Prensa (Tegucigalpa) 10/19/12)

*4. Cuba: Spanish Rightist Sentenced in Dissident’s Death
Cuban television announced on Oct. 15 that a court in the eastern province of Granma had found Spanish national Angel Francisco Carromero Barrios guilty of causing an automobile accident that killed the well-known dissident Oswaldo Payá and another dissident, Harold Cepero, on July 22 [see Update #1147]. Carromero, the leader of the New Generations youth movement of Spain’s governing rightwing Popular Party (PP), had been visiting Payá and was driving the dissidents in a rented car when the accident occurred. Prosecutors charged that Carromero had been speeding, while the defense blamed the condition of the road and a lack of warning signs. The court sentenced Carromero to four years in prison instead of the seven years requested by the prosecution.

Spain’s consul in Cuba, Tomás Rodríguez, described the trial as “clean, open and procedurally impeccable.”

Cuba’s criminal code leaves open the possibility that Carromero might be able to return to Spain before he has finished serving the full sentence, and there is speculation that the Cuban and Spanish governments might make a deal. Relations between the governments were tense after the PP took power in elections last November, but the situation seems to have improved. Spanish foreign minister José María García-Margallo met with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, in New York during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September; the Carromero case was reportedly one of the issues they discussed. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/16/12 from correspondent)

*5. Haiti: Government Seeks to Arrest Human Rights Lawyers
On Sept. 27 Haitian justice minister Jean Renel Sanon abruptly fired Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Jean Renel Sénatus, the chief prosecutor for the capital and the fifth person to hold the position since President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) took office in May 2011. Sénatus’ replacement, Elco Saint-Armand, was only in office one day before he was replaced by Gérald Norgaisse. On Sept. 28 Sénatus announced on the radio that he had been removed because he refused to obey orders to arrest 36 government opponents, including three human rights attorneys: Mario Joseph, Newton Saint-Juste and André Michel.

Mario Joseph is a prominent human rights lawyer who heads the International Lawyers Office (BAI). He has filed a complaint against former “president for life” Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc,” 1971-1986) for human rights violations during his administration, and in July Joseph wrote to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in French), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), asking for the commission to investigate a long list of alleged human rights violations by the Martelly government. Saint-Juste and Michel have filed complaints against Martelly’s wife and son for alleged corruption and embezzlement of public funds. All three lawyers report having received death threats by phone.

The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) is asking for letters in French or English to Minister of Justice and Public Security Jean Renel Sanon (secretariat.mjsp@yahoo.com) and Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Gérald Norgaisse (parquetpap@yahoo.fr), with copies to the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (info@ijdh.org), urging them to investigate the accusation of threats against the lawyers and to provide them with appropriate protection; to explain the alleged order to arrest 36 political opponents; and to ensure that anyone charged is given a fair trial in compliance with international standards. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 9/27/12; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 9/29/12; AI urgent action 10/4/12)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

It’s Time to Abandon Nixon’s War on Drugs (Latin America)

Guarani Women Arise! Indigenous Leader Matilde Lucio Wins International Rural Women's Day Prize (Argentina)

Camila Vallejo's Letelier-Moffitt Acceptance Speech (Chile)

Women’s Groups Say Uruguay’s New Abortion Law Falls Short

Peruvians Stand Up to Newmont Mining

Peru: campesino vigilance at Conga mine site

Citibank to take over "Peru's Chernobyl"

Bolivia: New Road Contract Ramps Up Stakes in TIPNIS Conflict

Peru: narco-mineral integration

Communal Land Titling at a Standstill in Peru

High court rejects Chevron appeal in Ecuador case

In Colombia the Winds of Peace Are Blowing: Interview with Piedad Córdoba

Colombians for Peace: Peace taken hostage and the need for an urgent change to achieve it

Santos's End Game and the Prospects of a Durable Peace in Colombia

Colombia: riot police attack student protesters

Colombia apologizes for Amazon genocide

Chavez Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 54% of the Vote

Latest Step in a Long Road: The Venezuelan Elections

Honduras: Model Cities Definitively Unconstitutional

How Low Can Honduras Go?

Guatemala under Pressure to Investigate Shooting of Native Protesters

Guatemala: arrests in peasant massacre

Guatemala claims arrest of local Zetas boss

‘I don’t want to die without seeing justice’: Sexual Slavery During Guatemala’s Armed Conflict

MS-13 gang makes US "criminal organization" list (El Salvador)

Behind the Chicago Connection (Mexico)

Mexico: Zetas kingpin in cadaver caper?

Heart-to-Heart on the Drug War (Mexico)

Mexico: Arzate against the State

Mexican Authorities Urged to End Torture Epidemic

Bradley Will slaying back in the news... (Mexico)

Over 300 Days in Prison: Francisco Sántiz L?pez, Zapatista Political Prisoner, is Innocent!

Indigenous Communities Rise Up in Mexico

Mexico's Labor Law Reform Sparks Massive Protests

On Both Sides of the Border, Teachers Fight Corporatization

Post-Election Shake-ups in Mexico

Urban Agriculture in Cuba (Photo Essay)

MINUSTAH’s Upcoming Renewal: A Setback for Democracy in Haiti

Forced Evictions Remain Constant Threat as Permanent Housing Solutions Lag

Public Support Grows for Threatened Human Rights Attorney Mario Joseph (Haiti)

The Development-Industrial Complex in Haiti

Friendly fire blamed for Border Patrol death (US/immigration)

It’s Time to Question Border Patrol Use of Deadly Force (US/immigration)

Back Home, an Undocubus Rider Continues the Fight (US/immigration)

Men With Guns, Boys With Rocks in a Dangerous Land (US/immigration)

The Penalty is Exile: How Immigration and Criminalization Collide (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. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link. 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, October 8, 2012

WNU #1147: Honduran Court Blocks “Model Cities”—for Now

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1147, October 7, 2012

1. Honduras: Supreme Court Blocks “Model Cities”—for Now
2. Chile: Five More Join Mapuche Prisoners’ Fast
3. Cuba: Blogger Detained as Trial Starts in Dissident’s Death
4. Mexico: Did Cartel Organize Attack on CIA Agents?
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

Note: There will be no Update on October 14, 2012. Publication will resume the following week.

*1. Honduras: Supreme Court Blocks “Model Cities”—for Now
A five-member panel of Honduras’ Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) ruled in a 4-1 decision on Oct. 3 that legislation creating Special Development Regions (RED), autonomous regions also known as “model cities,” is unconstitutional. The only opposing vote came from Justice Oscar Fernando Chinchilla, who failed to recuse himself despite an apparent conflict of interest: he is a close friend of National Congress president Juan Orlando Hernández, a promoter of the project, and has visited Korean economic development zones in Southeast Asia with Hernández. Because the decision was not unanimous, the full court of 15 justices must make the final determination. Chief Justice Jorge Rivera Avilés has set Oct. 17 as the date for the session.

The “model cities” project has sparked dozens of legal challenges [see Update #1145]. Although much of the opposition comes from the left, the plan is unpopular across the political spectrum. In September Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio, a conservative, announced his opposition to the project, which proponents claim will spur economic development. “[If] you want to have a developed country, it should be the whole country, not privileged zones,” he wrote in a communiqué, adding that “the national territory can’t be divided because that would be finishing off the country and putting an end to the nation.”

Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa said on Oct. 6 that he would push ahead with the project. “[I]f Honduran society today is afraid to make the leap, we’ve talked with the Supreme Court of Justice about sitting down to dialogue and about what changes would have to be made for [the RED] to be compliant with the law.” (Honduras Culture and Politics 10/3/12; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 10/5/12; La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 10/6/12)

*2. Chile: Five More Join Mapuche Prisoners’ Fast
Five prisoners from Chile's indigenous Mapuche group began a hunger strike on Oct. 1 in the city of Temuco in the southern Araucanía region, joining four Mapuche prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Angol, also in Araucanía, since Aug. 27 [see Update #1146]. The Temuco strikers--Leonardo Quijón Pereira, Luis Marileo Cariqueo, Fernando Millacheo, Guido Bahamondes and Cristian Levinao--said they were protesting the conspiracy by the “state, the business owners and the large landowners to use the laws against us to keep us far from our families and loved ones.” The prisoners are asking to be moved to the Angol prison, which is closer to their homes, and are calling on the government to end the “humiliating and annoying searches the Gendarmerie of Chile [the prison authorities] carries out on relatives and friends who visit us in the prison.”

Although they are charged with or convicted of common crimes, the strikers consider themselves political prisoners who have been falsely accused or have been given disproportionately long sentences for political actions. The Mapuches, who represent about 4% of Chile’s total population and 87% of the indigenous population, are struggling to regain land that they say has taken from them illegally since the second half of the 19th century. (Prensa Latina 10/5/12)

Leonardo Quijón and Luis Marileo, two of the strikers in Temuco, were arrested on Sept. 4 for the Sept. 1 killing of Héctor Gallardo Aillapán, a small farmer in Ercilla, in Malleco province in Araucanía. A youth was also arrested in connection with the crime, but his name wasn’t released because he is a minor. Quijon and Marileo deny involvement in Gallardo’s death and have offered to provide DNA samples on the condition that Luis Chamorro, the chief prosecutor in the city of Collipulli, be removed from the case. [Chamorro has a history of prosecutions of Mapuche activists and raids on Mapuche villages; see Update #1127.] (Radio Biobío (Chile) 9/19/12)

Gallardo was killed during a robbery attempt at his brother’s house, where he was visiting. The three youths were identified by Gallardo’s brother, but it’s not clear how he identified them, since the killers had covered their faces with scarves. Quijón was charged with two crimes in 2009, when he was 17: participation in a confrontation with carabineros militarized police agents and the burning of two buses. He was acquitted in both cases despite the government’s use of unidentified witnesses against him.

Quijón was shot with pellets during the alleged confrontation with the carabineros. Representatives of three European organizations in solidarity with the Mapuches charged in an open letter on Sept. 20 this year that Quijón was hit with some 200 pellets in his leg and had still not received proper medical treatment, with the result that his immune system is compromised, “producing also other diseases that are life-threatening.” (Mapuexpress 9/8/12; Maricheweu International 9/21/12)

*3. Cuba: Blogger Detained as Trial Starts in Dissident’s Death
Angel Francisco Carromero Barrios, the leader of the New Generations youth movement of Spain’s rightwing Popular Party (PP), was tried on Oct. 5 in Bayamo in the eastern Cuban province of Granma on charges of causing a car accident in which Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero died. Carromero was driving with the two Cubans and Jens Aron Modig, chair of the youth wing of Sweden's center-right Christian Democratic Party, on July 22 when they entered an area where the road was being repaired and Carromero lost control of the rented car. Prosecutors said he was speeding and called for a seven-year prison sentence. It isn’t clear when the five-judge panel will announce its verdict.

Payá, who headed the Christian Liberation Movement, was a prominent opponent of the Cuban government. His wife, Ofelia Acevedo, said she didn’t believe Payá’s death was accidental, and some dissidents charged that the car was run off the road. During the trial Carromero agreed with government investigators that he had “regrettably” lost control of the car. He expressed his “profound feeling of pain for the unfortunate accident” but denied that he’d been speeding, saying he was traveling at 80-90 km an hour when he came to the roadwork area. According to Spanish newspapers, Carromero was about to have his license revoked in Spain after receiving 45 traffic fines since March 2010, several of them for speeding.

The trial was public, but the courtroom was small and could only hold about 30 people. Rosa María, Oswaldo José and Reynaldo Isaías Payá, the dissident’s children, were unable to attend; an official said this was because they hadn’t notified the authorities in advance that they were coming. (El Mundo (Spain) 10/5/12 from correspondent and unidentified wire services; NPR 8/20/12)

On Oct. 4, the day before the trial, Yoani Sánchez, who writes the well-known dissident blog Generation Y, was detained in Bayamo along with her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, and other dissidents. The pro-government blogger Yohandry Fontana announced that Sánchez had been detained because she was planning to create “a provocation and media show that would prejudice the proper development of the trial.” Sánchez was released about 30 hours later, too late to cover the trial. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/5/12 from Reuters, AFP; Los Angeles Times 10/5/12 from correspondents)

Payá was the organizer of the Varela Project, which in May 2002 delivered a petition with 11,020 signatures from registered Cuban voters to the National Assembly calling for a referendum on freedom of expression and association; amnesty for political prisoners who had not taken part in violent acts; free enterprise; electoral reform; and elections within one year. The Cuban government never acted on the petition, while some rightwing Cuban American groups opposed it because it “implicitly accepted” the existing Cuban Constitution. In 2004 Payá opposed a plan announced by then-US president George W. Bush supposedly to bring about a “transition” to a “free and democratic” Cuba. Payá said the plan would “complicate” matters for the internal opposition; its authors “looked into their own needs, rather than those of Cuba and the peaceful opposition movement” [see Updates #641, 745].

*4. Mexico: Did Cartel Organize Attack on CIA Agents?
US officials suspect that organized crime was behind an Aug. 24 attack by Mexican federal police on a US embassy car on a road near the Tres Marías community, south of Mexico City in the state of Morelos, the Associated Press wire service reported on Oct. 2. In the incident, a dozen police agents in several unmarked cars attacked an armored US car with diplomatic license plates in which two agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a member of the Mexican Navy were traveling to a Navy installation for a training session—apparently part of the aid the US provides to Mexico’s “war on drugs.”

The police agents claimed the attack was a case of mistaken identity, and the US media and Mexican officials have tended to take the claim seriously [see Update #1145]. Speaking to AP on condition of anonymity, a US official close to the investigation dismissed the federal police version. “That's not a ‘We’re trying to shake down a couple people for a traffic violation’ sort of operation,” the official said. “That’s a ‘We are specifically trying to kill the people in this vehicle.’ This is not a ‘Whoops, we got the wrong people.’” Asked if organized crime was involved, the official said: “The circumstantial evidence is pretty damn strong.”

Also speaking anonymously, a Mexican official told AP that Mexican authorities were investigating possible involvement by the so-called Beltrán Leyva drug cartel. The gang is active in Morelos; a top cartel leader, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, was killed by Mexican Navy special forces in December 2009 at a luxury apartment building in the state capital, Cuernavaca [see World War Report 12/17/09]. (AP 10/2/12 via News Times (Danbury, Connecticut))

The Mexican daily La Jornada reported on Oct. 5 that Mexican authorities have brought specialists in organized crime into the investigation, another indication that the authorities think a criminal gang was behind the attack. The newspaper also reported that officials of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) went to Washington, DC the weekend of Sept. 29 to take testimony from the two CIA agents, Jess Hood Garner and Stan Dove Boss, who were wounded in the attack. The agents continued to insist that the police attacked them without provocation.

In a news conference on Oct. 4, Assistant Human Rights Secretary Facundo Rosas Rosas admitted that the federal police agents didn’t comply with protocol if they attacked the US diplomatic vehicle. However, this “does not immediately become a human rights violation,” he said, “and a series of other conditions need to be present to give it this character.” He explained that human rights violations concerned the rights of citizens, suggesting that an unprovoked attack on a Mexican marine and two US agents might not qualify. (LJ 10/5/12)

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

Media Pluralism at Risk of Extinction in Chile

The Seeds of Discord (Paraguay)

Zibechi: Brazil is covering Venezuela's back

Renegotiating Nationalization in Bolivia’s Colquiri Mine

Mining Conflicts and The Politics of Post-Nationalization Bolivia

Peru: indigenous consulta rejects mineral project

More controversy around children "rescued" from Sendero (Peru)

US to revise defense pact with Peru

U.S./Colombia Free Trade Agreement Fails to Stop Killings of Unionists

Talks in Colombia: The FARC Negotiating Team and the Critical Role of Venezuela

Venezuela: A Pre-election Report

3 Million Strong Chavista March Shakes Caracas, Venezuela

Why the US demonizes Venezuela's democracy

Third-party candidates marginalized ...in Venezuela

Guatemala: peasant massacre under investigation

Guatemalan Civil Society Condemns Massacre in Totonicapán

PRI-Zetas war behind Mexican politico slayings?

Never Forget October 2 (Mexico)

Coffee, Culture and Recovery in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico)

Haitian Government Faces Mounting Popular Anger

Welcome Back? Martelly Returns to Widespread Protests (Haiti)

Manufacturing Consent for UN Troops in Haiti

Red Light on the Canadian Red Cross in Haiti?

Inspector General Finds Lack of Oversight of Chemonics…Again (Haiti)

Faith and Works on the Border (US/immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:

Two events from the Latin American Solidarity Committee, a task force of the Western New York Peace Center:

Saturday, Oct. 13, 7 pm--Sr. Neely Del Cide, member of Resistance Movement and advocate for non-violence in Honduras, sponsored by Sr. of Mercy, Sr. Karen Center and the Latin American Solidarity Committee at the Network of Religious Communities, 1272 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY.

Monday, Oct. 15, 7 pm—The October Latin American Coffeehouse, at Canisius College at Regis North, Buffalo, NY.

Information: waltpeace@gmail.com,  http://www.lascwny.org/


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, October 1, 2012

WNU #1146: Mexican Right and Center Push “Labor Reform”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1146, September 30, 2012

1. Mexico: Center-Right Bloc Pushes Neoliberal “Labor Reform”
2. Chile: Mapuches Block Roads to Protest Court Decision
3. Honduras: A Second Human Rights Attorney Is Murdered
4. Haiti: Protests Continue, Follow Martelly to New York
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, St. Lucia

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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Mexico: Center-Right Bloc Pushes Neoliberal “Labor Reform”
After a 14-hour session, the Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress voted in the early morning of Sept. 29 to approve major changes to the 1970 Federal Labor Law (LFT). The 346-60 vote in the 500-member Chamber was pushed through by an alliance of the governing center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). There was one abstention, and many deputies from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) walked out of the session in protest before the vote. The measure, which was passed under a special “fast-track” provision, now goes to the Senate, which must act on it within 30 days.

The PAN has been pushing for changes to the LFT for years, with the strong support of business owners. The PRI, which has a base among old-line union bureaucrats, switched to supporting “labor reform” in April 2011 [see Update #1074]. Both current president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, from the PAN, and the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto, who succeeds Calderón on Dec. 1, back the new measure.

The last issue to be settled before the changes passed was a proposal from the PAN and the PRD for the new law to mandate direct, universal and secret elections of union leaders. The PRI and its satellite party, the Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), blocked with the small New Alliance Party (PANAL) to crush the proposal; the vote was 248-187 with one abstention. PANAL’s leader in the Chamber, Deputy Lucila Garfias Gutiérrez, charged that the proposal would violate constitutional protections for union autonomy; the PANAL is headed by Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, a former PRI leader who has held the presidency of the country’ largest union, the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), since 1989.

The changes--billed as “flexibilization” and a way to create some 150,000 new jobs each year--would eliminate many protections Mexican workers have under current law, although the law is often not enforced. The new measure would allow businesses to pay workers by the hour rather than for a full day; to hire employees for trial or training periods and then lay them off; and to outsource some of the work. The “reform” would place additional limits on the right to strike, and employers would only have to pay a maximum of 12 months’ lost wages in cases of unfair dismissals. (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/29/12, 9/30/12; Reuters 9/29/12; Los Angeles Times 9/27/12 from correspondent)

Labor lawyers Alfonso Bouzas and Carlos de Buen denounced the new law as something that “will affect the whole structure of Mexican labor law and return the country to 1910”—that is, to the period before the Mexican Revolution brought about major gains for labor. Independent unions protested the changes with several demonstrations in Mexico City during the days before the vote. Some 30,000 workers marched on Sept. 28, according to the organizers, although the Federal District (DF) police put the number at 10,000. Some unions and the #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”) student movement sponsored a sit-in to block entrances to the Chamber of Deputies building in the San Lázaro neighborhood. Deputies resorted to various maneuvers to get in; PVEM deputy Rosa Elba Pérez disguised herself as a police agent. (LJ 9/27/12, 9/28/12)

*2. Chile: Mapuches Block Roads to Protest Court Decision
Members of the Huilliche indigenous group blocked the highway between Valdivia and Paillaco in southern Chile’s Los Ríos region the morning of Sept. 28, burning rubbish and setting up barricades to protest a Sept. 21 Supreme Court decision denying them access to a sacred site. A communiqué from an organization calling itself the Huilliche Aynil Leufu Mapu Mo Resistance claimed responsibility for the action, which was also in support of a hunger strike that five Mapuche prisoners in Angol, Araucanía region, began on Aug. 27 [see Update #1143]. The Huilliche are a sub-group of the Mapuche, the largest indigenous group in Chile.

The Huilliches claim they should have access to the Ngen Mapu Kintuante area in Río Bueno commune; they say the area is a ceremonial religious center for them. The Valdivia Appeals Court upheld the Huilliche claim, but a five-member panel of the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the site was on private property belonging to the Protestant minister Juan Heriberto Ortiz Ortiz. The court also found that the Huilliche community had occupied Ortiz’s land illegally. A group of masked people set fire to Ortizs house in June.

The conflict over the Ngen Mapu Kintuante area is part of a larger struggle by the Huilliches against three hydroelectric projects in the region which they say will violate their right to use ancestral lands that include important sacred sites. The first, the Central Hidroeléctrica Rucatayo, opened earlier this month on the Pilmaiquén River, despite resistance by the Huilliche communities; it is operated by the Hidroeléctrica Pilmaiquén S.A. company. Central Hidroeléctrica Osorno, one of the other two projects, will flood the Kintuante area if it is built. (Soy Chile 9/24/12; IndigenousNews.org 9/25/12; Radio Biobío (Chile) 9/22/12, 9/28/12; Noticias Terra Chile 9/25/12)

Four of the five Mapuche prisoners who began fasting on Aug. 27 in Angol were still on hunger strike as of Sept. 29. The strikers--Daniel Leminao, Paulino Levipán, Rodrigo Montoya and Eric Montoya—are weak and have reportedly lost an average of 11 kilograms each. “They’re children, very young, they’re very thin,” said Manuel Andrade, a member of the Ethical Commission Against Torture (CECT). (Leminao is 18 years old and Levipán is 19; available sources did not give the ages of Rodrigo and Eric Montoya.) The strikers are demanding that the Supreme Court review and annul their sentences; other demands include an end to the use of militarization and “anti-terrorist” legislation against the Mapuches’ struggles for ancestral lands. Some 100 Mapuche activists and non-Mapuche supporters marched in Santiago the evening of Sept. 20 to demand the release of the four strikers. (Prensa Latina 9/21/12, 9/29/12)

*3. Honduras: A Second Human Rights Attorney Is Murdered
Unidentified assailants gunned down Eduardo Manuel Díaz Mazariegos, a prosecutor with the Honduran Public Ministry, shortly before noon on Sept. 24 near his office in Choluteca, the capital of the southern department of Choluteca. Díaz Mazariegos had worked on human rights cases as well as criminal cases for the ministry. He was the seventh Honduran prosecutor murdered since 1994, and his killing came less than two full days after the similar murder of Antonio Trejo Cabrera, an activist private attorney who represented a campesino collective in a dispute over land in the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras [see Update #1145]. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 9/24/12; EFE 9/25/12 via Univision)

The Associated Press wire service reported on Sept. 24 that Trejo had written a request in June 2011 for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) in Washington, DC, to order emergency precautionary measures for his protection. “If anything happens to me, to my goods or to my family,” Trejo wrote, “I hold responsible Mr. Miguel Facussé [and two others that AP declined to name], who can attack my life through hit men, since they know that the lawsuits against them are going well and that the campesinos are going to recover the lands that [Facussé and the others] stole from them illegally.”

Cooking oil magnate Facussé is the main owner of disputed land in the Aguán; presumably Trejo also named the two other major landowners in the dispute, René Morales and Reinaldo Canales. After Trejo’s murder Facussé issued a written denial of any “direct participation of my person or of the personnel of my companies in so abominable an act,” although he added that Trejo had committed “fraudulent acts against [Facussé's] company.” Marlene Cruz, an attorney who represents another Aguán collective, told AP that she and Trejo were scheduled to attend a hearing at the CIDH in Washington on Oct. 19. Cruz is now thought to be in danger.

Trejo, who came from a campesino family and was born in the San Isidro collective in northern Honduras, was also involved in another high-profie case: he had filed a complaint against a neoliberal project, the Special Development Regions (RED, also known as “Model Cities”), for creating privatized autonomous regions in the country. Trejo denounced the project in a television debate less than 24 hours before his assassination, saying it was backed by “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves of the government.” Michael Strong, the director of the US-based MGK Group, a leading “model cities” sponsor [see Update #1144], said he was “horrified” by the murder and that “if Trejo had lived long enough to be acquainted with us, he would have concluded that our approach is beneficial for Honduras.” (AP 9/24/12 via El Nuevo Herald (Miami))

*4. Haiti: Protests Continue, Follow Martelly to New York
A series of demonstrations that started in Cap-Haïtien, North department, on Sept. 12 to protest rising food prices and alleged corruption in the government of Haitian president Michel Martelly [see Update #1145] continued in various cities during the last week of September. Several hundred students demonstrated in Gonaïves, the main city in the northwestern Artibonite department, on Sept. 24 to protest Education Minister Vaneur Pierre’s visit to the Public University of the Artibonite at Gonaïves (UPAG). Pierre had to leave the campus; his vehicle remained in the control of student protesters for several hours. Chanting slogans against the Martelly government, the students then built barricades in the Bigot neighborhood in the south of the city and tied up traffic for several hours. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 9/25/12)

Several thousand people demonstrated in Cap-Haïtien on Sept. 27 in the city’s third major demonstration of the month. As in the earlier protests, North department senator Moïse Jean-Charles played a leading role. On this occasion Jean-Charles noted that the march had brought together different factions in the opposition, such as the Organization of the People in Struggle (OPL) and the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). The senator announced that Martelly needed to resign within two months but insisted that the president’s departure wouldn’t be accompanied by violence.

Dozens of people demonstrated on Sept. 27 in Jérémie, in the southwestern department of Grand Anse. In addition to protesting rising prices, they demanded clean water and access to electricity. (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 9/28/12; AlterPresse 9/28/12)

Several thousand people marched past the ruins of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince on Sept. 30 to protest the high cost of living and to mark the 21st anniversary of the coup against Aristide that led to three years of de facto military rule. Although organized by FL, the demonstration included figures from other parties, such as Paul Denis, director of the Unity party of former president René Préval (1996-2001, 2006-2011). (AlterPresse 9/30/12)

Statistics on recent price increases aren’t readily available, but the Haitian internet news service AlterPresse cited several examples from residents of Anse-à-Pitres in Southeast department. Since August the price of a 25-kilogram sack of rice has risen from 900 to 1,150 gourdes ($21.35 to $27.28), the residents said; a sack of flour went from 1,100 to 1,300 gourdes ($26.10 to $30.84); and a gallon of cooking oil rose from 300 to 450 gourdes ($7.12 to $8.07). However, the residents said the problem wasn’t limited to Haiti; they found similar price increases at the market in Pedernales across the Dominican border. (AlterPresse 9/27/12)

President Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe were in New York during the last week of September for the opening of the 67th United Nations (UN) General Assembly. Martelly and Lamothe held a public event with several hundred members of New York’s large Haitian community the night of Sept. 26 at Brooklyn College. Martelly claimed his administration had made advances in promoting education and in stimulating the economy, citing the creation of 6,000 jobs at the new “free trade zone” at Caracol in northern Haiti [see Update #1138]. (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 9/28/12)

Across the street from the campus several hundred other New Yorkers of Haitian origin stood in an intermittent light rain protesting the president. “Down with Martelly, down with the UN occupation”—a reference to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)--was a popular sign. Other protesters held up pictures of Martelly from his earlier career as the popular singer “Sweet Micky,” with the future president making obscene gestures or wearing revealing costumes. (Report from Update editor)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, St. Lucia

Chilean Students and Police Clash at Protest

Peru coca crop rises for sixth year: UN

Peru: Amazon Indians Win Court Case over Land Rights

Peru: court rules for indigenous sovereignty

AEI Event Aims to Discredit Ecuador and Assange, but Collapses

Government Negotiators and the Prospects for Peace in Colombia

Carter Center Conducts Study Mission to Venezuela Elections

UN report: drug trafficking threatens rule of law (Central America and Caribbean)

Left International Solidarity in Post-Coup Honduras

Lawyer Representing Authentic Campesino Movement of Aguan (MARCA) Murdered

Behind the Model Cities Memorandum of Understanding (Honduras)

Legal Challenges to Model Cities Law Proliferate (Honduras)

Women’s Gathering in Defense of Water, Life and Territory (Guatemala)

Q&A: Guatemala’s Bold Attorney General Makes a Dent in Impunity

Army’s Former Sex Slaves Testify in Guatemala

Mexico: Zetas' "El Taliban" busted by federals

Unions Oppose Labor Law Reform: for Quite Different Reasons (Mexico)

SME Wins Major Victory (Mexico)

An Unexpected Ally: St. Lucia to Maintain Recognition of Taiwan

Housing Exposition Exposes Waste, Cynicism (Haiti)

Reconstruction of the capital's downtown? Or of the ministries? (Haiti)

Haitian Prime Minister: Cholera Under Control

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: