Monday, March 25, 2013

WNU #1169: Arms Smuggling to Mexico Said to Keep US Dealers in Business

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1169, March 24, 2013

1. Mexico: Study Says Arms Smuggling Keeps US Dealers in Business
2. Brazil: Protesters Briefly Reoccupy Belo Monte Dam
3. Chile: Mapuche Leaders Demand Autonomy
4. Guatemala: Rios Montt Goes on Trial at Last
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, 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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Mexico: Study Says Arms Smuggling Keeps US Dealers in Business
About 253,000 firearms are bought in the US and transported illegally into Mexico each year, according to estimates published on Mar. 18 by researchers at the University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute and the Rio de Janeiro-based Igarapé Institute. The researchers’ report, “The Way of the Gun: Estimating Firearms Traffic Across the US-Mexico Border,” estimates that these sales generate $127.2 million a year in revenue and account for about 2.2% of the annual firearms sales in the US. During 2010-2012 an estimated 46.7% of federally licensed firearm dealers “depended for their economic existence on some amount of demand from the US-Mexico firearms trade to stay in business,” the report says.

The new study’s estimates are much higher than the figures the Mexican and US governments cited in the past. These were based on the number of firearms seized by Mexican authorities; in November 2011, for example, US assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer told the US Senate that of 94,000 firearms seized over the previous five years in Mexico, 64,000 had come from the US [see Update #1104]. The new estimates were calculated by comparing sales with the dealerships’ proximity to the Mexico-US border and with the size of the population and the average income in the areas they service. Some 6,700 of the 51,300 licensed gun dealers in the US are located in the four states on the southwestern border. “The Mexican demand explains that abundance [of gun shops near the border] and the successful nature of the business,” researcher Robert Muggah said.

US politicians opposed to gun control laws have tried to play down the number of US-made firearms found in Mexico or have blamed their presence on Fast and Furious, a bungled operation by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that allowed some 2,000 guns to slip into Mexico in 2009 and 2010—less than 1% of the annual average, according to the new study’s calculations [see Update #1145].

While in the US attention has been focused on controlling assault weapons of the type used in recent mass shootings, a large number of the estimated 50,000-60,000 drug-related homicides in Mexico since the end of 2006 have involved handguns, especially the sort of .38-caliber handgun manufactured in the US. The report proposes that the US federal government ban cash transactions for arms purchases in the border states and institute better background checks to help flag “straw purchasers.” (McClatchy Newspapers 3/18/13; El País (Madrid) 3/21/13 via Vanguardia (Coahuila))

*2. Brazil: Protesters Briefly Reoccupy Belo Monte Dam
In the early morning of Mar. 21 some 150 indigenous people and other local residents occupied one of the four construction sites at the giant Belo Monte dam now being built on the Xingu River in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. The action, which brought construction at the Pimental site to a halt, was carried out by members of the Juruna, Xypaia, Kuruaia and Canela indigenous groups and by non-indigenous riverside dwellers, who mostly support themselves by fishing. The protesters were demanding clarification of the boundaries of their territories and also compensation they said had been promised them by Norte Energía, the consortium of private and state-owned companies in charge of the hydroelectric project.

The controversial Belo Monte dam, to be built at a cost of $13 billion, will be the third-largest in the world, after China’s Three Gorges dam and the Itaipu dam, which is managed by Brazil and Paraguay on the Paraná river. It is expected to flood an area of 500 square kilometers and displace as many as 40,000 people. According to Maira Irigaray, an attorney who works with the Oakland California-based environmental group Amazon Watch and Brazil’s Xingu Alive Forever Movement, the Mar. 21 action was the “fourth or fifth occupation of the site since last June.”

Indigenous protesters from the community of Jericoá say that because of the construction they can no longer fish in the river and no longer have drinkable water, and that the river's current is now dangerous for their boats. The mostly non-indigenous protesters from the K 45 community charged that Norte Energía assured them that they wouldn’t be removed at the same time that the consortium was telling the indigenous Juruna that the K 45 land belongs to them. Activists noted the potential for a creating a conflict that might break the alliance between the indigenous and non-indigenous protesters.

The construction workers at the Belo Monte dam have their own complaints against Norte Energía; last November buildings were set on fire at three of the construction sites during a wage dispute [see World War 4 Report 11/25/12]. The protesters on Mar. 21 said many of the workers expressed support for their action and compared the system of work at the site to a prison. (Adital (Brazil) 3/21/13 from Movimiento Xingú Vivo para Siempre; AFP 3/21/13 from Terra (Chile) and Global Post)

The protesters ended their occupation the night of Mar. 21 after a group of 12 activists met with Norte Energía officials to discuss their demands. The negotiators scheduled two further meetings, on Mar. 22 and Apr. 3. ( (Brazil) 3/21/13; (Brazil) 3/22/13)

*3. Chile: Mapuche Leaders Demand Autonomy
After a meeting on Mar. 21 in Temuco, the capital of the southern Chilean region of Araucanía, indigenous leaders called for the rapid implementation of self-government for the Mapuche, the country’s largest indigenous group. The leaders also repeated their rejection of plans announced by the government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera for an indigenous council, a consultation process and a special law for Araucanía. Piñera, Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick and other officials made the proposals in January after an outbreak of violence in the region exacerbated a longstanding struggle between the Mapuche and settlers and forestry companies over lands that the Mapuche claim [see Update #1159]. Indigenous leaders responded to Piñera’s proposal by holding a summit at the Cerro Ñielol park in Temuco on Jan. 16 and forming a new alliance, the Mapuche Pact for Self-Determination.

The Mar. 21 meeting was part of a series of meetings by the alliance. The leaders had planned to hold a march in Temuco the next day, but they postponed it until after their next meeting, scheduled for Apr. 11, because of the sudden death of a famous lonko (local leader), Pascual Pichún, from a heart attack on Mar. 20.

Pichún, who headed the community Antonio Niripil de Temulemu in Traiguen, near Temuco, was tried on an arson charge in 2004 under an “anti-terrorism” law from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. He was convicted of making threats of terrorism and served four years in prison; the trial was the subject of a 2007 documentary, “El Juicio de Pascual Pichún.” Pichún insisted on his innocence and filed a complaint with the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) of the Organization of American States (OAS); his case is still open before the court. Some 500 mourners attended Pichún’s funeral on Mar. 23. (Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 3/22/13; Radio Universidad de Chile 3/22/13; AP 3/24/13 via Windsor (Canada) Star)

*4. Guatemala: Rios Montt Goes on Trial at Last
With some 500 people packed into the courtroom, the trial of former Guatemalan military dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) for genocide and other crimes against humanity began in Guatemala City on Mar. 19. The charges include the deaths of 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayan civilians in the central department of Quiché as part of the “scorched-earth” policy implemented during Ríos Montt’s dictatorship, which was marked by some of the worst atrocities in a 36-year counterinsurgent war that left an estimated 200,000 people dead, mostly indigenous civilians. Ríos Montt’s former intelligence chief, Gen. José Rodríguez, is on trial with him. The proceedings are expected to involve some 130 witnesses and 100 experts and to last for several months. If convicted, Ríos Montt, who is 86, could face a sentence of up to 50 years.

The trial’s opening was delayed because of problems with Ríos Montt’s legal team. The presiding judge, Iris Yazmin Barrios, removed Danilo Rodríguez and the three other defense attorneys on the grounds that Rodríguez had friends in the panel of magistrates. Ríos Montt then brought in attorney Francisco García Gudiel as his lawyer. After García Gudiel made six motions to suspend the trial and announced that he and Barrios were personal enemies, the judge removed him and ordered José Rodríguez’s lawyers to act as temporary attorneys for the former dictator.

Ríos Montt managed for years to evade efforts to bring him to trial, using a 1996 amnesty and the immunity he enjoyed by serving in the Congress from 1990 to 2004; in 2003 he even ran for president, although he lost badly [see Update #737]. But in January 2012 Judge Carol Patricia Flores ruled that there was sufficient evidence to make him stand trial [see Update #1115]. On Mar. 19 Ana Menchú, the sister of 1992 Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum, said it was “historic” that after 30 years of efforts Ríos Montt was finally brought to trial. But current president Otto Pérez Molina, who was a major in the army during Ríos Montt’s regime, told a press conference on the same day that while “the application of justice” was important in this case, there was no genocide. Genocide “didn’t happen in Guatemala,” he said. “I’m saying what I’ve read, what I know and what I’ve tried to investigate on the subject.” (AFP 3/19/13 via Global Post; La Jornada (Mexico) 3/20/13 from DPA, AFP, Reuters, Notimex)

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

The Other Side of the IACHR Reform Debate (Latin America)

The Pope's History Reflects the Church's Past (Argentina)

Police Death Squads in Honduras Then and Now

Peru: radio station closed in conflicted Espinar

Peru: new anti-mining struggle in Cajamarca

Peru: irregularities seen in Bagua massacre case

Ecuador: campesinos march on World Water Day

Ecuador: "uncontacted" Amazon group kills two

Chevron subpoenas in Ecuador suit challenged

Cauca: Lines Drawn at the Heart of Colombia’s Crisis

"Humanity Has Lost a Titan": Interview with William I. Robinson on the Legacy of Hugo Chavez

Polls Show Maduro Leading Capriles for Venezuelan Presidential Elections

Salvadoran Labor Rejects US-Backed Public-Private Partnership Law: An Interview with Jaime Rivera

Honduras: US "drug war" aid linked to death squad

Women Raise Banner of Women’s Rights in Honduran Popular Movement

World Bank Must End Support for Honduran Palm Oil Company Implicated in Murder

Honduras: Activists Protest Lack of Transparency in Extractive Industry

Experiments with truth and reconciliation (Guatemala)

Photo Essay: Genocide Trial begins in Guatemala

President Peña Nieto on a Roll (Mexico)

The EZLN Announce the Fiesta for their 10 Years of Self-government

Labor, Worker Rights Activists Condemn Attacks on Workers' Rights in Mexico

Border Workers Rally on Both Sides of Rio (Mexico)

The Brookings Institute on Mexico: Lower Taxes and Make (Better) War to End Violence

Deportation, Drugs and Delinquency in Tijuana (Mexico)

Confronting Crisis: The Need for Political Innovation in the Caribbean

Haiti's Duvalier Needs Company in the Dock

Two journalists attacked by World Vision worker (Haiti)

UN Human Rights Expert: Haiti and International Community Should “Throw Light” on Cause of Cholera Outbreak

Security Made Simple—in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, Israel-Palestine, and The New York Times (US/immigration)

National bus tour drives calls for immigration reform (US/immigration)  

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

For immigration updates and events:


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