Tuesday, January 15, 2013

WNU #1159: New Violence in Chile’s Mapuche Region

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1159, January 13, 2013

1. Chile: “Terrorists” Blamed for Killings in Mapuche Region
2. Honduras: Two More Campesinos Murdered in Aguán
3. Dominican Republic: Haitian Workers Protest at Labor Ministry
4. Haiti: Aristide Gets Questioned; Duvalier Gets New Passport
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US/immigration

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

*1. Chile: “Terrorists” Blamed for Killings in Mapuche Region
Chilean landowner Werner Luchsinger and his wife, Vivianne McKay, died in a fire set by some 20 masked attackers on Jan. 4 at their Lumahue estate in Vilcún, in the southern region of Araucanía. Luchsinger, who was 75 years old, reportedly fought back against the intruders with a firearm, wounding at least one. The couple, who owned some 1,000 hectares of farmland in the region, had resisted demands for land from the indigenous Mapuche community. Pamphlets were found at the site commemorating the fifth anniversary of the death of Mapuche student Matías Catrileo Quezada, who was shot in the back by a police agent on Jan. 3, 2008 during an occupation of an estate owned by Werner Luchsinger’s cousin, Jorge Luchsinger [see Update #929].

Rightwing president Sebastián Piñera reacted immediately to the killings with an unscheduled trip to the Araucanía, announcing that he would send a contingent of the carabineros militarized police to reinforce the carabineros already in the region and that he would appoint a special prosecutor for the case. The attackers would be prosecuted under a controversial “antiterrorist” law from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet [see Update #1149], he said. “This struggle isn’t against any group in particular, much less against the Mapuche people,” Piñera said. “It’s a struggle against a minority of criminals, of terrorists and violent people who feel they have the right to go beyond the law.”

Government officials indicated that the attackers were funded by foreign forces. “We’re in the presence of an organized terrorist group, with terrorist methods, with international links that come with training, with training sessions and contacts with the FARC,” General Secretary of the Presidency Cristian Larroulet said on Jan. 8, referring to the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Chilean prosecutors have been trying since 2010 to establish a link between the FARC and militant Mapuche organizations, with a focus on the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM) [see Update #1113]. (A declaration by the CAM published on Jan. 8 denounced the recent violence as “erratic actions committed by some groups not connected to our organization…actions [that] only serve the interests of businesses and the government.”)

As of Jan. 10 Chilean authorities had arrested three people in the deaths at the Luchsinger estate. Celestino Córdova Tránsito, a machi (doctor in traditional Mapuche medicine), was found with a bullet wound near the estate on the day of the attack. His brother, José Córdova Tránsito, was detained on Jan. 9 in the community of Lleupeco (or Yeupeko). Carlos Huerao Carril was arrested when a large number of carabineros and investigations police agents carried out a violent early morning raid in Lleupeco on Jan. 10. A shotgun and a pistol were found in Huerao's home; his wife said the weapons were licensed. Celestino Córdova was indicted on Jan. 11 on four charges, including "terrorist" homicide and arson. José Córdova was released on Jan. 12 after being charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition; he was not charged under the antiterrorism law.

Violent incidents continued in Araucanía, despite tightened security and the presence of 400 carabineros. A shed with machinery inside was set on fire in the early morning of Jan. 5 at the commune of Freire, and two lumber trucks were burned in a separate incident the same morning in the Capitán Pastene sector; there were no injuries in either attack. Another fire was set in a storeroom and an uninhabited house in Padre las Casas on Jan. 8. On Jan. 10 three armed and masked men torched the house of the caretaker of the estate of business owner Joaquín Biwer Meller in Río Bueno municipality in the Los Ríos region, which is directly south of Araucanía; Mapuche activists had tried to occupy this estate in 2009.

Also on Jan. 10, a fire was set in a storeroom at the Trapilhue private school in the Maquehue sector of Araucanía, near Temuco, the regional capital. According to the police, there were no witnesses to the incident but graffiti were found supporting the Mapuche cause and opposing a new airport being built nearby. The school has 90 pupils, 87 of them Mapuches. The arson “constitutes a clumsy effort to link the Mapuche communities in resistance to criminal acts,” unnamed local leaders told the Venezuela television network TeleSUR.

Chile’s 700,000 Mapuches form the largest indigenous group in the country. Their lands, largely in the Araucanía, were taken over in 1883 by the government, which offered them to European settlers; the Luchsingers are descended from Swiss immigrants who arrived some 90 years ago. Since the 1990s Mapuche groups have been demanding the return of the lands they claim, which are now mostly under the control of large landowners and timber companies. Successive governments have responded to Mapuche activism with repression; as many as 13 Mapuche activists have died in the recent struggles over land.

During the past year the Piñera administration has created a development zone in the region which it says has benefited 1,000 families, members of 37 of the 42 Mapuche communities, but at the same time the government continues to apply repression, as in the current application of the Pinochet-era laws. Mapuche leaders deny that their activists have links to outside forces. “The Mapuches don’t need the FARC to sustain their legitimate struggle for the recovery of their territory,” the werkén (spokesperson) Aucán Huilcamán of Consejo de Todas las Tierras (Council of All Lands) told reporters. “The government shouldn’t insist on repressive measures; it should open up a solid, long-term dialogue.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 1/5/13 from DPA, AFP, 1/6/13 from AFP, 1/8/13 from AFP, Notimex, DPA, 1/9/13 from DPA, AFP; Inter Press Service 1/8/13 via Upside Down World; Fortín Mapocho (Chile) 1/8/13; EFE 1/10/13 via Terra.com; TeleSUR 1/11/13; MapuExpress (Chile) 1/11/13, 1/14/13; Werkén (Chile) 1/12/13)

On Jan. 11 a group of Mapuche researchers and academics published an open letter on the Luchsinger killings. “[D]eaths resulting from a conflict are always regrettable,” they wrote, and “contribute to radicalization and polarization of the political and ideological positions and lead to the development of irrational acts.” At the same time, the signers called for an understanding of “the historical background that underlies the contradictions and present conflicts. Violence is never an arbitrary phenomenon.” “We don’t want the events in Vilcún to be a justification for the Chilean state to add new victims to the list of numerous Mapuches who already have been assassinated over the course of this long conflict.” (Declaración pública de investigadores mapuche sobre acontecimientos recientes en La Araucanía, 1/11/13)

*2. Honduras: Two More Campesinos Murdered in Aguán
Two campesinos were shot dead on Jan. 11 in the Lower Aguán Valley in the northern Honduran department of Colón as they were walking out of an estate which they and other campesinos had been occupying for two months. A long-standing conflict between campesino groups and large landowners in the area has resulted in the deaths of some 80 campesinos since the groups began occupying estates in December 2009 to dramatize their demands for land [see Update #1154]. According to Wilfredo Paz Zúniga, spokesperson for the Permanent Human Rights Monitoring Center for the Aguán, the victims were José Luis Reyes and Antonio Manuel Pérez. He said unidentified people shot them at close range from a moving automobile.

The Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), one of the main campesino groups in the region, identified the campesinos as Luis Antonio Ramos Reyes, originally from the Tepusteca de Olanchito Yoro community, and Manuel Antonio Pérez, originally from Remolino on the Aguán river’s left bank. MUCA said the two men were members of another group, the Campesino Movement for the Recovery of the Aguán (MOCRA), whose 600 families began occupying estates on July 20, 2012. According to Paz, the campesinos had been occupying land claimed by the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH); MUCA said the land was owned by UNAH's Atlantic Coast Regional University Center (CURLA), which had abandoned it. (AFP 1/12/13 via Terra.com; Anncol (Colombia) 1/13/13 via Rebelión (Spain))

*3. Dominican Republic: Haitian Workers Protest at Labor Ministry
More than 100 Haitian immigrant workers and their family members remained encamped in front of the Dominican Labor Ministry in Santo Domingo as of Jan. 10 to demand severance pay and other benefits they say they were owed when two coconut processing plants in nearby San Cristóbal province went out of business. According to the workers’ lawyers, the owner of Coquera Kilómetro 5 and Coquera Real, Rafael Alonzo Luna, declared bankruptcy in an irregular form and denied benefits to employees who had worked at the plants for up to 14 years. Conditions at the encampment, which the workers have maintained since Dec. 14, were said to be deteriorating, but the group’s spokesperson, Elmo Ojilus, said the workers planned to continue their protest.

The Haitians, who are mostly undocumented, claim they have received no response from Labor Ministry. Haitian diplomats have been no more helpful, according to the protesters; ambassador Fritz Cinéas reportedly advised them to go back to Haiti. By contrast, Dominican churches and unions have brought them food and medicine. Representatives of the Classist Autonomous Union Conference (CASC), the Roundtable for Migrants and Refugees in the Dominican Republic (Menamird) and the Socio-Cultural Movement of Haitian Workers (Mosctha) visited the protesters on Jan. 8 to demonstrate solidarity and to denounce inaction by the Labor Ministry. (Hoy (Santo Domingo) 1/4/13; AP 1/9/13 via Miami Herald; Listín Diario (Santo Domingo) 1/9/13; AlterPresse (Haiti) 1/10/13; Diario Libre (Santo Domingo) 10/11/13)

In related news, hundreds of Haitians blocked the bridge connecting the northwestern city of Dajabón with the Haitian border city of Ouanaminthe for four days at the beginning of the second week of January after Dominican authorities denied them entry into the country. The action kept Haitians from participating in the market day in Dajabón on Jan. 7; the markets held there every Monday and Friday provide one of the major points of commercial exchange between the two countries, and the loss of business on Jan. 7 was estimated to have cost Dominican merchants large amounts of money.

Regino Martínez, a Dominican Jesuit priest and the president of the immigrant aid organization Border Solidarity, got permission from immigration authorities in December for 2,030 Haitians who work in the Dominican northwest to return after visiting their families for the Christmas holidays. But when the Haitians presented themselves at the border in January, Dominican authorities said their papers weren’t in order, sparking the protest. After negotiations, the Haitian workers agreed to stay in Ouanaminthe while the Haitian government provided them with passports; the Dajabón market operated normally on Jan. 11. Some 920 Haitians were expected to get their papers for reentering the Dominican Republic by Jan. 12, according to Martínez. (EFE 1/7/13 via Diario Vasco (San Sebastián, Spain); Hoy (Santo Domingo) 1/12/13)

*4. Haiti: Aristide Gets Questioned; Duvalier Gets New Passport
Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Lucmane Délile, the chief prosecutor for Haiti’s capital, met with former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004) for about 30 minutes on Jan. 9 to discuss criminal complaints accusing Aristide of theft, swindling and abuse of confidence. The meeting took place in Aristide’s residence in Tabarre, a well-to-do neighborhood northeast of the capital. It was originally scheduled for the prosecutor’s office downtown, but Délile apparently decided to change the location when 1,000 or more Aristide supporters began protesting outside his office.

The complaints against Aristide, filed by individuals who say they were victims, charge that he benefited from a credit cooperative scheme that bankrupted thousands during his second term and that he exploited children in his Fanmi Selavi (“Family Is Life”) foundation by using them for fundraising. Both Délile and President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) have denied that there are political motives behind the charges against Aristide. Dieuseul Simon Desras, the president of the National Assembly, said in early January that the case looked like a political maneuver intended to distract attention from the country’s social and economic crisis and from political problems associated with Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) president Josué Pierre Louis, who is facing a rape accusation.

One of Aristide’s attorneys, Newton Saint-Juste, described the Jan. 9 meeting as “friendly”; the former president’s legal team also included human rights attorney Mario Joseph [see Update #1148] and Camille Leblanc. Afterwards Commissioner Délile said he was forwarding the case to an investigative judge, who will decide whether to proceed. (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 1/4/13; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 1/9/13; AlterPresse (Haiti) 1/9/13, Radio Métropole (Haiti) 1/10/13)

On Jan. 5 investigative judge Carvès Jean confirmed that the government had issued former “president for life” Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier (1971-1986) a diplomatic passport. The judge ruled on Jan. 30, 2012 that Duvalier should face trial for corruption but not for the brutal crimes committed by his government [see Update #1121]. Duvalier could be sentenced to as many as five years in prison for allegedly embezzling $300 million to $800 million during his administration, but he is now free to leave the country. (Haïti Libre 1/5/13)

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

“A Natural Experiment”: William K. Black Compares the Latin American Left to the “Washington Consensus”

Human Mic: Technologies for Democracy

Chile: Historic Mapuche Land Conflict Flares Up

Bolivia wins coca-chewing victory at UN

Bolivia Takes the Leap into the Big Pond of Mercosur

Bolivia: deforestation decree protested

Print Media Withers in Bolivia, While Radio Thrives

Morococha makes the New York Times (Peru)

The Word on Women - Transgender Rights in Ecuador: A Legal, Spatial, Political and Cultural Acquittal

What the Venezuelan Constitution Does, and Does Not, Say about Chávez's Innauguration

Deadly Conflict Over Honduran Palm Oil Plantations Puts CEO in the Spotlight

Honduras: police seize $50,000 gold-plated AK-47

Gustavo Esteva: Recovering Hope - The Zapatista Example (Mexico)

Oaxaca: Triqui Protest Camp Suffers New Eviction

Gasoline Price Hike in Mexican New Year (Mexico)

The Blood of the Sierra (Mexico)

Peace of the graveyard in Ciudad Juárez? (Mexico)

The Mexican Labor Year in Review – 2012

2013: A Brighter Year Ahead for the Caribbean?

In $7-Per-Day Fight, Haitian Workers Call for North American Support

What Are 'Peacekeepers' Doing in a Haitian Industrial Park?

Pressure Builds on UN to Take Responsibility as Cholera Still Far From “Under Control” (Haiti)

Three Years Later: A Round-up of News and Commentary (Haiti)

Haiti by the Numbers, Three Years Later

Billions of Dollars—For the Children (US/immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:

NOTE: An interview with Weekly News Update co-editor David Wilson appears in From Disaster to Hope, a series of interviews conducted by Nicole Titus with people affected by the 2010 earthquake in southern Haiti. Available at:


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