Monday, April 1, 2013

WNU #1170: Panamanian Anti-Dam Activist Murdered

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1170, March 31, 2013

1. Panama: Ngöbe-Buglé Murdered After Anti-Dam Protest
2. Mexico: 22 Injured in Oaxaca Wind Farm Protest
3. Chile: Students Resume Marches for Education Reform
4. Haiti: Haïti Progrès Editor Honorat Gunned Down
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

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

*1. Panama: Ngöbe-Buglé Murdered After Anti-Dam Protest
Onésimo Rodríguez, a leader in Panama’s Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous group, was killed by a group of masked men in Cerro Punta, in western Chiriquí department, the evening of Mar. 22 following a protest against construction of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam. Carlos Miranda, another protester who was attacked along with Rodríguez, said the assailants beat both men with metal bars. Miranda lost consciousness but survived; Rodríguez’s body was found in a stream the next day. Miranda said he was unable to identify the attackers because it was dark and their faces were covered. Manolo Miranda and other leaders of the Apr. 10 Movement, which organizes protests against the dam, charged that “the ones that mistreated the Ngöbes were disguised police agents.”

The Ngöbe-Buglé stepped up their demonstrations against the Barro Blanco project in January, when construction continued at the site despite a United Nations (UN) report that largely substantiated indigenous claims that the dam would flood three villages, cut the residents off from food sources and destroy important cultural monuments [see Update #1168]. As of Mar. 26 an independent study mandated by the UN report and agreed to by the government had still not started.

In addition to protesting the Honduran-owned company building the dam, Generadora del Istmo, S.A. (GENISA), indigenous activists blame two European banks for funding the project: Germany’s private Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) and the Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V. (FMO), in which the Dutch government holds a controlling interest. Dam opponents say GENISA also sought funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) but withdrew the application after learning that bank officials planned to visit the affected communities themselves. ( 3/25/13; La Estrella (Panama) 3/26/13)

In other news, as of Mar. 19 the National Coordinating Committee of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama (COONAPIP) had decided to withdraw from the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (UN-REDD+) program, which focuses on environmental problems in developing nations. The indigenous group charged in a statement that the UN and the Panamanian government “have appeared to marginalize the collective participation of the seven indigenous peoples and 12 traditional structures that make up COONAPIP” and have put “legal and administrative obstacles in the way” of indigenous participation. The Mesoamerican Alliance of People and Forests (AMPB), a coalition of Central American and Mexican indigenous and environmental groups, is backing COONAPIP’s decision. ( 3/19/13; Adital (Brazil) 3/21/13)

*2. Mexico: 22 Injured in Oaxaca Wind Farm Protest
Some 1,200 agents from the police forces of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca tried unsuccessfully on Mar. 26 to remove local residents who were blocking a road leading to the Bii Yoxho wind farm, which is under construction in Juchitán de Zaragoza municipality near the Pacific coast. The operation was also intended to recover construction equipment protesters had seized on Feb. 25 in an ongoing effort to stop the completion of the wind project, which is owned by the Mexican subsidiary of the Spanish company Gas Natural Fenosa. Local prosecutor Manuel de Jesús López told the French wire service AFP that 22 people were injured in the Mar. 26 operation, including 11 police agents, and one police agent was taken prisoner. Protesters reported eight local people with serious injuries, including Carlos Sánchez, the coordinator of Radio Totopo, a community radio station.

Several companies have been building wind farms in southeastern Oaxaca on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Residents in the Juchitán area, mostly from the Zapotec and Ikoots (Huave) indigenous groups, say the Bii Yoxho project is being built in an area they use for fishing and farming that also includes ceremonial sites, along with mangrove forests that are critical to the local environment. The barricade blocking access to the Bii Yoxho project on the Juchitán-Playa Vicente road is one of four main points of resistance to the wind turbines. Activists have also occupied the town hall in San Dionisio del Mar since January 2012; have refused to recognize the mayor in San Mateo del Mar, Francisco Valle, because he favors the projects; and have set up a barricade in Juchitán’s Alvaro Obregón neighborhood to block access to another wind park, owned by the Mareña Renovables company.

The resistance has been subjected to police harassment, such as the 24-hour detention by federal police of Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez, a leader in the Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Tehuantepec Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory, in February 2012 [see Update #1119]. Protesters also report the presence of armed paramilitary groups, some with connections to unions and other groups affiliated with the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) or close to the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). On Mar. 21 a group of men linked to Juchitán’s PRI mayor, Francisco Valle Piamonte, briefly detained reporter Rosa Rojas and photographer Francisco Olvera, both from the left-leaning national daily La Jornada, along with three reporters from alternative media and a San Mateo resident. On the morning of Mar. 29 a paramilitary group dismantled Radio Totopa, seizing a laptop and the transmitter and cutting the power cables, according to the Popular Assembly of the Juchiteco People (APPJ). APPJ spokespeople called this “another attack by the state government and the transnational companies which are trying to use violence to silence the voices of those who oppose the construction of wind parks.”

After negotiations with representatives of the Oaxaca state government on Mar. 28, the APPJ returned 12 vehicles, including a backhoe, to Gas Natural Fenosa; in exchange the state agreed not to press charges against the protesters. However, the APPJ rejected the state’s proposal for them to lift the road blockades on Apr. 1 and attend an Apr. 2 meeting in the city of Oaxaca. The protesters said they would maintain their barricades, and they called on Oaxaca governor Gabino Cué Monteagudo to come meet with them in Juchitán. (Desinformémonos 3/24/13; Bloomberg News 3/27/13 from AFP; statement by assemblies of the peoples of the Isthmus 3/29/13 via Kaos en la Red; La Jornada 3/29/13)

*3. Chile: Students Resume Marches for Education Reform
An estimated 20,000 Chilean secondary and university students marched through downtown Santiago on Mar. 28 to call for free, high-quality education. This was the first major student demonstration of the new school year, continuing a series of demonstrations that started in 2011 to protest the privatization of secondary and higher education that started during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. At their high point in 2011 the marches brought hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and supporters to the streets and dramatically lowered the approval rating of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera; these were the largest demonstrations in Chile since the end of military rule [see Update #1110].

The march, which began around 10:45 am at the University of Santiago, was authorized by the office of the metropolitan intendant (city supervisor). But according to Manuel Erazo, a university student leader, the authorities suddenly changed the route at 8 pm the night before, angering the students, who wanted to continue with the original route. Later, as has been common in these demonstrations, a group of masked youths appeared and confronted the police with rocks and clubs. Authorities said 60 people were arrested and one police agent was injured. Erazo told reporters that the movement blamed infiltrators from the carabineros militarized police for these incidents, which resulted in damage to cars and store display windows. (BBC News 3/28/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 3/29/13 from correspondent)

*4. Haiti: Haïti Progrès Editor Honorat Gunned Down
Two or more men on a motorcycle shot and killed Haitian journalist and political activist Georges Honorat on the evening of Mar. 23 in front of his home in Delmas in the north of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. National Police of Haiti (PNH) spokesperson Inspector Gary Desrosiers said on Mar. 24 that there were still no suspects. The police had also not determined a motive for the murder. The victim had been “receiving threats, anonymous phone calls,” according to Yves Joseph, an administrator at Honorat’s newspaper, Haïti Progrès, a weekly published in Port-au-Prince and Brooklyn.

Honorat was the editor in chief of the paper, which was started in 1983 as a leftist weekly fighting the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier (1971-1986). Honorat was a longtime member of the editorial team headed by the paper’s founder, former Haitian ambassador-at-large Ben Dupuy, but the two men fell out later. Honorat also had a leadership position in the small National Popular Party (PPN). At time of his death he was working as a consultant at the office of Laurent Salvador Lamothe, the prime minister in the government of rightwing president Michel Martelly.

Both Prime Minister Lamothe and the Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH) expressed “consternation” at the killing. The French-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for a thorough investigation, noting that the Apr. 3, 2000 murder of Radio Haïti Inter director Jean Dominique [see Update #1166] and the Mar. 5 murder of Radio Boukman director Jean-Liphète Nelson remain unsolved. Haiti ranks as number 49 of the 179 countries rated in RSF’s most recent survey on press freedom. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 3/24/13; AlterPresse 3/25/13, 3/25/13; RSF statement 3/26/13 via (Guadeloupe and Martinique))

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

From Bad to Worse: Canada’s Development Agenda in the Americas

Brazil: Awá tribe's desperate call to evict loggers

Peru: scandal over Israeli security contractor

Ecuador: Quito bicyclists get a martyr

Colombia: coffee strike claims advances

Peasant Reserve Zones in Colombia: Between Magical Realism and Revolutionary Praxis

Nicolas Maduro – The Bus Driver (Venezuela)

Venezuela's Debt to Indigenous Peoples

Venezuela: environmentalist detained in Zulia

Torture Victims in El Salvador Speak Out

El Salvador’s “Farm Jails” Seek Gang Rehabilitation

Did the AP Catch State Department Officials Lying to Congress About Honduran Death Squads?

“We’re Witnessing a Reactivation of the Death Squads of the ‘80s”: An Interview with Bertha Oliva of COFADEH (Honduras)

Guatemala: Recurring Violence in Area of Tahoe Resource-Goldcorp Mine Demands Investigation and Company Withdrawal

Mexico’s Human Rights Crisis Deepens

Alberto Patishtán and Solidarity with the Voice of el Amate, a Cry for Justice (Mexico)

Mexico: "community police" seize conflicted town

Wave of barroom balaceras across Mexico

Mining and Displacement Put Mexican Millionaires on the Forbes List

Special Report: Mexico’s Immigration Policies under Renewed Fire

Inter-American Commission Grants Protection to IDP Camp Facing Eviction (Haiti)

 Haitian Government Hires U.S. Lobbying Firm

Garbage In, Garbage Out (Haiti)

Time to Rethink Immigration Detention (US/immigration)

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

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