Tuesday, August 27, 2013

WNU #1189: Honduras Brings Back Military Police

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1189, August 25, 2013

1. Honduras: Congress Resurrects Military Police Force
2. Mexico: Migrants Killed as "The Beast" Derails
3. Mexico: Teachers Start New Strike Against "Reform"
4. Brazil: Farmers Block Belo Monte to Demand Electricity
5. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, 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. Honduras: Congress Resurrects Military Police Force
Honduras’ National Congress voted on Aug. 21 to approve a law creating the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP), a new 5,000-member police unit composed of army reservists under the control of the military. This will be in addition to a 4,500-member “community police” force that the government is forming, according to an Aug. 12 announcement by Security Minister Arturo Corrales. Although he called the move a “change of course,” Corrales failed to explain the difference between the community police, which to be operative by September, and the existing national police force.

The government’s plan to raise the number of police agents by 9,500 is clearly meant to respond to the dramatic increase in crime in Honduras; according to the United Nations, the country now has an annual murder rate of 84 for every 100,000 people, the highest in the world. Police corruption is a major problem, and police agents have been convicted of high-profile crimes [see Update #1187]. The current police force had 14,472 agents on the payroll as of May, but in a new police scandal, only 9,350 agents could be found at work during July.

The police changes come as candidates prepare for Nov. 24 general elections, which will choose a new president, the 128 members of Congress, the 20 representatives to the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), and local mayors [Update #1162]. The main force behind the new military police is Juan Orlando Hernández, who has resigned from his post as president of the National Congress to run as the presidential candidate of the center-right National Party (PN)—the party of current president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa, who has governed Honduras since January 2010 without being able to contain the crime wave.

Human rights activists strongly oppose the proposed military police unit. “In no part of the world have the soldiers resolved security problems,” Omar Rivera, who directs the Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ), a coalition of civil society, organizations, told the French wire service AFP. He added that a serious fight against crime would require a fight against impunity. Bertha Oliva, the coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), called the creation of the new force “a step backwards in the demilitarization of society and the democratization of the country.” “The soldiers in the streets have only left more death and mourning, because they aren’t prepared for being guarantors of security,” she said. The national police were removed from the military and put under civilian control in 1997. Death squads operated by the military and the police were implicated in the killings of 184 government opponents in the 1980s.

Critics also asked how the government would be able to pay for two new police units that would double the current number of active agents. José Simón Azcona, a legislative deputy from the centrist Liberal Party (PL) who supported the measure, suggested that the US would pay. The US government “offered collaboration…under the previous administration” for the conversion of four military battalions into police units, he said. (It is unclear whether he was referring to a previous administration in Honduras or in the US.) (El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua) 8/12/13 from ACAN-EFE; Honduras Culture and Politics 8/22/13; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 8/22/13; La Nación (Costa Rica) 8/23/13 from AFP, EFE; Prensa Latina 8/24/13)

In other news, on Aug. 14, Berta Cáceres, Aureliano Molina and Tomas Gómez were required to testify before a judge in La Esperanza in the southwestern department of Intibucá. The three, who are leaders of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), face charges of land usurpation, damage to private property and coercion in connection with protests by indigenous Lenca communities against the Agua Zarca dam [see Update #1185]. They remain free, but they have to report to a judge every 15 days. Another hearing is scheduled for Sept. 12-13. (Rights Action 8/24/13)

*2. Mexico: Migrants Killed as “The Beast” Derails
Six or more people were killed in the early morning of Aug. 25 when a freight train derailed near the border between the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. The federal government reported later in the morning that four people were killed and 35 were injured, some seriously; shortly afterwards, Jazmín Cano, the mayor of Las Choapas in southern Veracruz, put the number of deaths at six and the number of injured at 22. The accident was reportedly caused by the combination of rain and excessive speed.

The victims were presumed to be Central Americans passing through Mexico on their way to the US. Undocumented migrants frequently climb on to the freight train, which runs between Tabasco and Tlaxcala; the ride is dangerous, and the Central Americans refer to the train as “The Beast” [see Update #1178]. A civil defense official in Veracruz estimated that 300 people had been riding on the train, suggesting that the number of deaths might rise. After the accident dozens of Central Americans arrived in the Las Choapas train station, where they were given water, food and clothes by residents and the Red Cross. According to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), some 140,000 Central Americans enter Mexico without authorization each year in an effort to reach the US. (Reforma (Mexico) 8/25/13 via Noticias Mexico; La Jornada en línea (Mexico) 8/25/13)

*3. Mexico: Teachers Start New Strike Against “Reform”
Some 2.3 million students in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Michoacán missed classes on Aug. 19, the first day of the 2013-14 school year, as thousands of teachers in the two states started an open-ended strike in the latest protest against US-style changes to the education system [see Update #1174]. The job action kicked off a week of demonstrations focusing on an Aug. 21-23 extraordinary session of the Congress that was to consider legislation proposed by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to make teacher evaluations mandatory. The protest movement was led by the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a large dissident group in the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), with the support of several SNTE regional sections, including Oaxaca’s Section 22 and Michoacán’s Section 18.

Chanting “Urgent, urgent, evaluate the president,” thousands of teachers gathered in Mexico City by Aug. 21 and proceeded to block off the buildings used by the two chambers of the Congress. Forced to meet at the Banamex Convention Center, some 18 km from the San Lázaro Legislative Palace, the Chamber of Deputies voted on Aug. 21 to postpone the vote on the evaluation law to another session. However, Congress passed two of three secondary laws, infuriating the protesters. On Aug. 23 some 7,000 teachers from Oaxaca blocked off a main access road to the Mexico City International Airport for 11 hours; passengers and flight crews had to get to the airport by foot.

The protesters finally lifted the blockade that evening, after the CNTE held four hours of negotiations with Governance Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong and congressional leaders; the teachers refused to meet with Public Education Secretary Emilio Chuayffet Chemor, whose resignation they have demanded. The two sides agreed to continue talks starting on Aug. 26. The teachers ended their blockades of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies on Aug. 24, moving their banners and tents to the capital’s main plaza, the Zócalo, where CNTE members have maintained a protest encampment since May. Despite the agreement to continue the dialogue, CNTE leaders said in a press conference on the evening of Aug. 23 that they had no confidence in the federal government’s good faith. (La Jornada (Mexico) 8/20/13, 8/22/13, 8/22/13, 8/24/13, 8/24/13, 8/25/13)

On Aug. 24 teachers from SNTE Section 7 in the southeastern state of Chiapas announced that they would go on strike on Aug. 28. Alberto Mirón Vázquez, part of the leadership of the section’s Democratic Block, predicted that from 75% to 80% of the state’s 55,000 education workers would observe the strike, which could leave some 1.325 million students without classes. (LJ 8/25/13)

*4. Brazil: Farmers Block Belo Monte to Demand Electricity
Some 150 farmers blocked the access road to one of the construction sites for the giant Belo Monte dam in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará on Aug. 20 to demand access to electricity. The farmers said Norte Energia S.A., the consortium in charge of the dam, was running electric lines past their homes for the construction but wasn’t giving them access to the power. Some 300 families live in the area without access to electricity, according to Iury Paulino, a member of the Movement of Those Harmed by Dams (MAB). The residents were also demanding the construction of a bridge near the community of Volta Grande do Xingu.

According to Paulino, this is the third time the farmers have held a protest because of the failure of Norte Energia officials to meet with them. The company says it plans to provide the residents with electricity but it needs the cooperation of the state power authority. Norte Energia claimed that the protest only held up some buses carrying workers and didn’t seriously delay construction on the dam. Protests by local residents, by the region’s indigenous groups and by construction workers have repeatedly interrupted the $13 billion project since it began in March 2012 [see Update #1175]. (O Globo (Brazil) 8/20/13; Adital (Brazil) 8/21/13)

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

Paraguay: military unleashed to fight guerillas

Bolivia: prison massacre sparks protests

Peru: protesters tear down gate at Conga mine site

Civil Society Calls for Vote on Drilling in Ecuador’s Yasuní Park

The Rural General Strike and the Crisis of the Rentier Economy (Colombia)

Chiquita Playing the Victim Card in Latest Legal Battle (Colombia)

Venezuela on the move: Breaking dependency on oil profits

Venezuelan Milk Workers Demand Worker Control Following Sabotage

US Military Considers IMF-Mandated Policies to Be Dangerous for Honduras, Declassified Document Shows

What Makes Killings by Police in St. Lucia Different from Those in Honduras?

Without Our Land, We Cease to Be a People: Defending Indigenous Territory and Resources in Honduras

Unions Under Siege in Guatemala

Mexican President Proposes Opening State Oil Company to Private and Foreign Investment; U.S. Corporations Line up to Return

Mexican Government and PEMEX: Shared Opacity and Corruption

Mexico's 'Queen of Pacific' faces new charges

"Now They're All Dead": Threats of Assassination to Human Rights Advocates in Haiti

Human Rights Defenders Continue to Face Threats and Intimidation (Haiti)

Border Security Results Act: Border Militarization Disguised as “Accountability Measure” in House Reform Effort (US/immigration)

A Grocery Boycott Resumes in Brooklyn (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.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

WNU #1188: Mexico Plans Fracking and Oil Privatization

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1188, August 18, 2013

1. Mexico: “Energy Reform” Promises Privatization and Fracking
2. Honduras: US-Korean Maquila Accused of CAFTA Labor Violations
3. Colombia: Coke Bottler Fires Outsourced Workers
4. Haiti: Lawyer for Homeless Threatened With Arrest
5. Chile: Investors Sue Barrick Over Pascua Lama Mine
6. Argentina: Menem Faces Trial for Factory Explosion
7. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, 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: “Energy Reform” Promises Privatization and Fracking
On Aug. 12 Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto formally announced his plan for transforming the country’s nationalized energy sector by opening up the giant oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) to shared risk contracts with Mexican and foreign private companies and by allowing private companies to generate electricity for the Federal Energy Commission (CFE). Mexico is currently the world’s largest oil producer, with about 2.5 million barrels pumped each day, but Peña Nieto said his “energy reform” would raise oil production to 3 million barrels a day in 2018 and 3.5 million 2025 and natural gas production from 1.7 million cubic feet now to 8 million cubic feet in 2015. The reform, which would require changes to articles 27 and 28 of the Constitution, is supported by the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and Peña’s centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI); the votes from the two parties should be enough to get the legislation through the Congress.

Far from meaning the privatization of Pemex and the CFE, Peña said, his program would maintain state ownership, continuing the policies of President Lázaro Cárdenas del Río (1934-1940), who nationalized the petroleum industry in 1938 but allowed contracts with private companies. In fact, private companies already contract for drilling and other production, but the risk contracts would allow companies to share the profits for the first time. According to Peña, this would provide capital and technological expertise necessary for expanded production. Pemex currently pays the government some 70% of its revenues, providing about one-third of the national budget but shortchanging investment in oil exploration and production, critics say.

The dramatic expansion of gas production in Peña’s proposal would be in the Eagle Ford shale formation, which extends from southern Texas into northern Mexico. On the US side companies have 9,100 permits for drilling, producing large amount of natural gas through the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”) method. Mexico has done relatively little drilling in the region. (La Jornada (Mexico) 8/13/13; Global Post 8/13/13)

US companies responded enthusiastically to Peña’s proposal. “This is a good start,” Kurt Glaubitz, a spokesperson for the California-based Chevron Corporation, told the New York Times. “We’re optimistic about the reforms that are taking place and the opportunities that Mexico is presenting to international oil companies.” The US “would be the most likely beneficiary of a new Mexican oil boom since its fields are close to Gulf of Mexico refineries,” the Times noted. Experts expect that the changes will reduce US dependence on oil from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); Mexico isn’t a member of the cartel. (NYT 8/14/13)

The reform is expected to meet strong opposition in Mexico. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, Lázaro Cárdenas’ son and the founder of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), questioned the claim that Pemex needs private capital. “I don’t see…where there’s a lack of capital,” he said in an Aug. 13 radio interview. “I don’t see where there’s a lack of resources or an inability by Pemex to get resources from credits.” Cárdenas, who holds an engineering degree, noted that he had repeatedly called for reforms in the company’s finances, which he said would cover any shortfall. (LJ 8/14/13) Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor (2000-2005) who came in second as a center-left coalition candidate in the 2006 and 2012 presidential elections, has called for a protest in the capital’s central Zócalo plaza on Sept. 8. He also supports a call for a plebiscite issued by another former Mexico City mayor, Marcelo Ebrard (2006-2012), although López Obrador added that even without a vote he was sure most people oppose the reform, “or else we Mexicans would be masochists.” (Ciudadanía Express (Mexico) 8/17/13)

On Aug. 11, the day before Peña’s announcement, community police organizations from four indigenous villages marched in Tlapa in the southwestern state of Guerrero in opposition to any privatization of Pemex and the CFE. (Los Angeles Press 8/13/13)

Other critics questioned the reform’s continued reliance on the burning of fossil fuels and technologies like hydrofracking instead of alternative energy sources. “Right now petroleum is the main natural agent leading to the suicide of the species,” Víctor M. Toledo, a former researcher at the Ecology Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), wrote in an op-ed. He noted that Mexico “is one of the countries with the greatest risk from climate change. Three phenomena made more acute by the global imbalance will hit Mexico hard: a) the increase in the number and power of hurricanes; b) the recurring droughts that will be aggravated in the center and the north of the country; and c) the general increase in temperatures.” (LJ 8/17/13)

*2. Honduras: US-Korean Maquila Accused of CAFTA Labor Violations
Some 30 inspectors from the Honduran Labor Ministry visited the Kyungshin-Lear Honduras Electrical Distribution Systems auto parts assembly plant in a suburb of the northern city of San Pedro Sula on Aug. 13 after local media reported that some employees had to wear diapers at work because of restrictions on their bathroom breaks. Workers for the company, an affiliate of the Michigan-based Lear Corporation and Korea’s Kyungshin Corp, say there are many other labor violations, such as forcing pregnant women to stand while doing assembly work. According to an Aug. 12 press release from the AFL-CIO, the main US labor federation, management has fired 26 workers so far this year for trying to form a union at the maquildora (assembly plant with tax exemptions producing for export).

Selvin Martínez, the Labor Ministry’s chief of inspection, claimed inspectors had tried to enter the factory five times in the past year and had fined the company 5,000 lempiras (about US$245) on each occasion for denying them entry. But the government’s renewed interest in the plant seemed to be largely because of the publicity from a visit by US labor leaders, organized in cooperation with the Honduran office of the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center and the General Workers Central (CGT), the most conservative of Honduras’ main labor federations. The delegation was led by Charles Kernaghan, the director of the Pittsburgh-based Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (formerly the National Labor Committee) and a well-known anti-sweatshop activist for some 30 years. The AFL-CIO has been applying pressure on the Honduran government through labor standards set up in the 2004 Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) [see Update #1125]. Theoretically, Honduras could lose trade preferences with the US if it doesn’t enforce the labor agreements, although there is no evidence that the administration of US president Barack Obama has been pushing the Honduran government on the issue.

A spokesperson for Kyungshin-Lear at the company’s Alabama sales office denied the unionists’ allegations. Daniel Facussé, president of the Honduras Maquiladora Association, called the charges “a falsehood and a slander set up by workers manipulated through the interference of the US unions, which want to recover the jobs that they lost in their country.” (AFL-CIO blog 8/12/13; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 8/13/13 from AP; ABC News 8/14/13) Facussé is a member of a powerful Honduran business family that includes former president Carlos Roberto Flores Facussé (1998-2002), who owns the Tegucigalpa daily La Tribuna, and cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum, whose security guards have been repeatedly accused of killing campesinos in a land dispute in the northern Aguán Valley region [see Update #1182].

*3. Colombia: Coke Bottler Fires Outsourced Workers
Using a subterfuge to remove its direct employees from the plant, on July 27 the Coca-Cola bottling company in Medellín in Colombia’s northwestern Antioquia department laid off 132 workers contracted through the EFICACIA outsourcing company, according to the National Union of Food Industry Workers (Sinaltrainal), which represents bottling workers, including 18 of the laid-off employees. Management had notified the regular employees the day before that they would be going to another location for training on safety. Once the direct workers were out of the way, EFICACIA’s director told the contracted workers that the plant was switching to another contractor, SEDIAL, and that they were all laid off. Sinaltrainal said the Coca-Cola bottlers had used a similar trick to fire a group of contract workers in 2001. (Sinaltrainal 7/28/13; Adital (Brazil) 8/9/13)

In the past US activists have accused Coca-Cola of collaborating with death squads to kill, threaten and intimidate unionists at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia starting in the 1990s [see Update #599]. The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke has pushed to ban the sale of Coca-Cola on campuses, including the 24 schools in the City University of New York (CUNY), with a total student body of 270,000. The campaign succeeded in stopping sales of the company’s products at Brooklyn College, at the CUNY Law School in Queens and at some other campuses. In July, the university system announced that it was signing a contract with Pepsi and cutting Coca-Cola out. CUNY spokesperson Michael Arena denied that the activist campaign affected the decision. Pepsi “offered more money,” he said. (New York Times 8/14/13)

*4. Haiti: Lawyer for Homeless Threatened With Arrest
Haitian human rights attorney Patrice Florvilus and his supporters announced on Aug. 16 that he had been asked to appear at the government prosecutor’s office in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 19 in connection with a complaint from Reynold Georges, a lawyer for former “president for life” Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier (1971-1986). Florvilus heads the legal aid organization Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), which was formed to help people left homeless by the January 2010 earthquake that devastated much of southern Haiti. The complaint appears to be in retaliation for a complaint the DOP filed against agents of the national police suspected of having murdered Meris Civil, a porter they arrested on Apr. 15 at the Acra displaced persons’ camp in the Delmas 33 section of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. According to Florvilus, fires were set on Apr. 13 and Apr. 15 at the camp, which occupies property claimed by Duvalier.

“Today freedom of expression and the practice of law are being threatened in Haiti,” Florvilus said at an Aug. 16 press conference. Reyneld Sanon, the executive secretary of the grassroots housing coalition Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA), said the attack on the lawyer is part of a policy of discrimination, repression and forcible eviction targeting the displaced people still living in tents more than three years after the earthquake. Florvilus is being represented by attorneys Mario Joseph and André Michel, who, along with attorney Newton St-Juste, were themselves threatened with arrest by government prosecutors in September 2012 [see Update #1148]. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 8/16/13)

André Michel was threatened with arrest again on July 26 when Judge Lamarre Bélizaire requested that he and Enold Florestal—a friend or an employee of Michel’s, according to different accounts—appear in court in connection with the killing of Florestal’s brother-in-law, the student Frantzy Duverseau, on Oct. 18, 2010. The Duverseau family says Frantzy Duverseau had intervened when Florestal was beating his wife, Duverseau’s sister, that day. Florestal brought the police to the family home, according to the family, and a police agent shot Frantzy Duverseau dead when he failed to cooperate. It is unclear whether prosecutors have ever charged the police agent in the case or why the investigation is taking place now, three years later. The National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) charges that the government’s real intent is to persecute Florestal and Michel; Florestal and his brother Josué Florestal are plaintiffs in a case charging Sophia Martelly, the wife of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”), and his son, Olivier Martelly, with corruption. Michel is the attorney for the Florestals. (AlterPresse 8/1/13)

Corruption charges against the Martelly family have also come up in connection with the sudden death on July 13 of Judge Jean Serge Joseph, who was investigating corruption complaints. Some witnesses claim that President Martelly and Prime Minster Laurent Lamothe met with Judge Joseph on July 11 and pressured him to drop the case, leading to speculation that the judge was poisoned after refusing to close the investigation. Martelly and Lamothe denied reports about the meeting. Joseph was a naturalized Canadian citizen, and his family had him buried in Canada after the Quebec province coroner’s office performed an autopsy. In early August the doctor in charge of the autopsy, Jean Brochu, backed up the Haitian authorities’ claim that Joseph had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The coroner’s office will still run toxicology tests, but Brochu said the results wouldn’t be available until the fall. He didn’t expect the results to be definitive, since the body had been embalmed in Haiti. (AlterPresse 8/1/13, 8/2/13; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 8/5/13)

In other news, a group of unidentified people attacked two men they took for homosexuals in Port-au-Prince on July 19, the same day that some 1,000 demonstrators participated in a march against homosexuality and same-sex marriage [see Update #1185]. Police rescued the two men, said to be manicurists, according to police spokesperson Gary Desrosiers. (They were not killed, as some media initially reported.) On Aug. 10 a group attacked a house in the generally well-to-do suburb of Pétionville where two men were holding an engagement party. Two cars were set on fire and windshields were broken, as were some of the windows at the house. Charlot Jeudy, president of the LGBT rights organization Courage, described the incident as a “homophobic attack” and “banditry.” (AlterPresse 7/20/13, 8/12/13)

*5. Chile: Investors Sue Barrick Over Pascua Lama Mine
The unfinished Pascua Lama gold and silver mine high in the Andes on the Chilean-Argentine border continues to bring problems for the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation [see Update #1185]. The multinational has announced a loss of $8.56 billion for the second quarter of this year, largely because of a $5.1 billion write-down of the mine’s value. The $8.5 billion project is stalled because of environmental concerns and legal actions in Chile. The suspension of construction at the mine coincided with a record 23% drop in international gold prices from April through June.

The company also faces a class action lawsuit in the US over Pascua Lama. The New York law firm of Labaton Sucharow LLP filed a suit in federal court for the Southern District of New York on Aug. 2 charging that Barrick made false and misleading statements about the project to investors who bought the company’s shares on the New York Stock Exchange from May 7, 2009 to May 23, 2013. Confidential witnesses who say they used to work for Barrick allege that the company knew about environmental issues and was aware that the costs would go far beyond the projections. Barrick denies the claims. (Labaton Sucharow press release 8/2/13; Yahoo News 8/5/13; Bloomberg News 8/19/13)

*6. Argentina: Menem Faces Trial for Factory Explosion
On Aug. 13 Argentine federal judge Carlos Ochoa reopened a criminal case charging former president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) with responsibility in the Nov. 3, 1995 explosion of a military arms factory in Río Tercero in the central province of Córdoba [see Update #488]. Prosecutors and Río Tercero residents have long held that the daylong series of explosions was set off deliberately to destroy evidence that the Menem government was selling arms illegally to Ecuador and Croatia, but the case was shut down by federal judges in 2008. It has been reopened following Menem’s conviction on Mar. 8 this year of involvement in the arms smuggling [see Update #1167]. Seven people were killed in the explosions, which also left 300 people injured and destroyed a number of private homes. Even If convicted, the 83-year-old Menem will probably not face prison time; he currently enjoys immunity as a senator for La Rioja province. (Página 12 (Argentina) 8/13/13; Clarín (Argentina) 8/14/13)

*7. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Americas: Governments Must Stop Imposing Development Projects on Indigenous Peoples’ Territories

A Deal with the Devil? Argentina Reaches a Fracking Agreement with Chevron

Chile’s law criminalizing protest gutted but not dead

Tide Begins to Turn against FIFA in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Bolivia: Snowden Case Reignites Controversy Over Brazilian Asylum For Morales Foe

Peru: oil spill threatens rainforest reserve

Peru: high court rules for indigenous rights

Ecuador: indigenous leaders get prison terms

Ecuador opens Yasuni reserve to oil interests

Are the Peace Negotiations in Havana between the FARC and the Colombian Government Deadlocked?

Colombia: multinationals on 'trial' for rights abuses

Colombia: strike wave begins with violence

Venezuela’s Diana Industries Workers Claim Victory in Struggle vs. Managerial “Imposition”

Value Us! Fair Pay for Domestic Work in Nicaragua

El Salvador: Private Sector Seeks to Expand the Reach of P3 law with US Support

Foreign Policy Pinkwashing: Russia’s New Law and Continuing Violence in Honduras

Honduran Union Leader Faces Death Threats

On Anniversary of Autonomy, Zapatistas Welcome Students to “the Little School” (Mexico)

The Zapatistas’ first school opens for session (Mexico)

Mexican military harasses Zapatista gathering

Mexico: Gulf Cartel kingpin busted

Firm Action on Obesity Crisis Urged (Mexico)

Studies – and Editorials - Pile Up Pointing to UN Responsibility for Cholera in Haiti

Haitian Senate Committee Calls for President Martelly to be Charged with High Treason

After Two Bans, Styrofoam Trash Still Plagues Haiti

Stand Your Ground, Border Policing and the Mass Production of Corpses of Color (US/immigration)

The Price of Immigration Reform is Steep (US/immigration)

Migrants and Migrant Rights Organizations Denounce Punitive Reform and Vow to Continue Organizing (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.

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

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Links but No Update for August 11, 2013

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

Latin America Lags on Reproductive Rights

Kirchner Promotes UNASUR and CELAC, Criticizes NSA spying at UN Security Council (Argentina)

Chile: judge rejects prosecution of ex-general

Get your legal marijuana high in Uruguay

Greenwald Testifies to Brazilian Senate about NSA Espionage Targeting Brazil and Latin America

Peru: government denies existence of indigenous peoples —again

Road Wars of Colombian Amazonia

Colombian Town Says ‘No’ to Gold Mine

Colombia: coca production down as narcos diversify portfolio

Venezuela: Yukpa killed in land confrontation

Armed Groups in Venezuela's Capital Disarm

Honduras: Expanding Palm Oil Empires In The Name Of ‘Green Energy’ And “Sustainable Development’

The Murder of Tomas Garcia by the Honduran MilitaryThe Murder of Tomas Garcia by the Honduran Military

What's "Rural" in Honduran Immigration?

Guatemala’s ‘Femicide’ Courts Hold Out New Hope for Justice

Huichol indigenous People and Desert Dwellers Unite in Defense of Sacred Land (Mexico)

It begins with respect: the meaning of living well for the Tseltal and Tsotsil Mayans of Chiapas (Mexico)

‘Til Debt do us Part’-Mexico Financial Reforms

Leahy Freeze on Mexico Drug War Funds Will Save Lives and Money

Mexico: notorious kingpin Caro Quintero freed

CARICOM Moves Forward with Reparations Committee (Caribbean)

Defending the History and Culture of Ciudad Juarez (Mexico)

Arizona Border Crosser Deaths at Record High (US/immigration)

Lost in the System: Unidentified Bodies on the Border (US/immigration)

Dream 9 Continue to Challenge Unjust Immigration Policies (US/immigration)

NACLA-Global Voices Podcast—Latin America: Migrant Journeys (US/immigration)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WNU #1187: Mexican Environmental Activist Murdered

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1187, August 4, 2013

1. Mexico: Veracruz Environmental Activist Murdered
2. Costa Rica: Eight Arrested in Turtle Defender’s Killing
3. Honduras: Attacks on Human Rights Activists Increase
4. Colombia: US Court Throws Out Suit Against Drummond
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US/policy, 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: Veracruz Environmental Activist Murdered
Mexican environmental activist Noé Salomón Vázquez Ortiz was murdered the early afternoon of Aug. 2 in his hometown, Amatlán de los Reyes, in the eastern coastal state of Veracruz. The killing came one day before the town was to host the Tenth National Meeting of the Mexican Movement Against Dams and in Defense of Rivers (MAPDER). Vázquez Ortíz and a minor were gathering flowers and seeds for a floral tribute to be used at the conference when a group of men appeared, ordered the minor to leave and began stoning Vázquez Ortíz. His body was found later with the hands and legs bound and the throat slit. State police arrested four men the day of the murder; they reportedly said they had personal differences with the murdered man.

Vázquez Ortíz, a construction worker who also painted pictures and created handicrafts, started doing environmental work while in high school. During the last two years he was active with the organization Green Defense: Nature Forever and fought against construction of a local dam by Hidroeléctrica El Naranjal SAPI de CV, a company owned by Guillermo González Guajardo. Vázquez Ortíz also worked in opposition to another hydroelectric project, the Bandera Blanca Project.

“This wasn’t a common crime, or about a quarrel,” Rosalinda Hidalgo, an activist in The Veracruz Assembly of Environmental Defense Initiatives (Lavida), said at Vázquez Ortíz’s funeral on Aug. 3. “The killing follows a series of threats against other Green Defense: Nature Forever members; we’ve documented at least 10 in the area.” She added that the four men arrested had been watching Vázquez Ortiz’s home, had visited his family’s store and were seen right before an informational meeting by the group. Lavida and MAPDER spokespeople said the conference would go ahead as scheduled. (La Jornada (Mexico) 8/3/13, 8/4/13)

*2. Costa Rica: Eight Arrested in Turtle Defender’s Killing
In six raids in the early morning of July 31, agents from Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) arrested six men and two women in the eastern province of Limón in connection with the murder of environmental worker Jairo Mora Sandoval the night of May 30-31. The authorities were planning to charge the men—four Costa Ricans and two Nicaraguans—with participating in the murder; the women, the wives of two of the men, reportedly would be charged with the possession of stolen property and with stealing eggs of the leatherback turtle, an endangered species. The raids came amid growing pressure for action in the two-month-old case, including a protest in San José and statements by a United Nations human rights official, John Knox, and a US Congress member, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA).

Mora worked for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) trying to keep poachers from stealing eggs from the turtles’ nests. A group of men seized Mora and four volunteers—three from the US and one from Spain—as they were patrolling the beach. The volunteers managed to escape and call the police, but Mora was killed. OIJ officials theorized that the men were a gang of common criminals that had kidnapped a tourist couple on May 18, raping the woman and beating the man. But the authorities also suggested that WIDECAST had brought the attack on itself by attempting to buy off the poachers, who became angry when the organization ran out of money to pay them.

Vanessa Lizano, a longtime friend of Mora’s who patrolled the beach with him, and Didiher Chacón, WIDECAST’s Costa Rica director, both disputed the official theories. “Poaching in Limón is a big organization,” Lizano told the English-language online newspaper Tico Times. “I think [the murder] does have to do with poaching, and it wasn’t just a criminal gang.” According Lizano, she and Mora had employed 10 former poachers in 2012 to help with the patrols but couldn’t afford to continue the program. She denied that they were trying to buy the poachers off. “This was our way of giving these guys a second chance. Police told us they think the particular poachers that we hired in 2012 are not involved with this group.” Lizano noted the connection between poaching and the level of poverty in the area: “These poachers are living in huts, they have no electricity, they have no water.” (Tico Times 7/31/13; New York Times Dot Earth blog 8/2/13)

*3. Honduras: Attacks on Human Rights Activists Increase
Some 10 armed men identified as security guards from a mining project threatened and detained two foreign volunteers for the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH) for more than two hours on July 25 in the Nueva Esperanza community in the northern Honduran department of Atlántida. Area communities have faced threats and harassment for at least a year while organizing in opposition to open-pit mining by Minerales Victoria, part of the Alutech metal company owned by Lenir Pérez [see Update #1182]. The two international volunteers, one French and one Swiss, went to Nueva Esperanza hoping that their presence would deter further aggression by the mining company. Less than 24 hours later security guards and a group of mineworkers threatened them and forced them to leave the community.

The Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) has issued precautionary measures for two community leaders in the area, César Alvarenga and Roberto García, members of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), because of death threats texted by Lenir Pérez in August 2012. Catholic priest César Espinoza and a group of nuns received threats in January, and armed men assaulted and threatened community residents in June. “The terror we lived for two hours is the tragic everyday life in this town,” Orlane Vidal, one of the detained volunteers, told the Lista Informativa Nicaragua y Más (LINyM) blog in an interview. On July 26 some 250 people marched to Nueva Esperanza in support of the community’s peaceful opposition to the mine and of the work of international human rights observers. (LINyM 7/27/13, English translation at Upside Down World 7/31/13; Friendship Office of the Americas urgent action 7/29/13)

On July 29 the London-based rights organization Amnesty International (AI) issued a statement “condemn[ing] the recent killings of people defending justice, equality and human rights” in Honduras. The organization noted that at least three were killed in less than two weeks in July.

The first was Tomás García Domínguez, a leader of the indigenous Lenca who was killed by the military on July 15 in Intibucá department in western Honduras during a demonstration at the headquarters for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project [see Update #1185]. On July 21 Herwin Alexis Ramírez Chamorro, an Afro-Honduran transsexual also known as “Africa Noxema Howell,” was found dead in La Ceiba, Atlántida department; he was active in the Ceiba Pro-Union Organization (OPROUCE), which works for HIV prevention and LGBT rights, and the Ethnic Community Development Organization (ODECO), which works for the development of Afro-Honduran communities. On July 24 armed men on a motorbike shot and killed Judge Mireya Efigenía Mendoza Peña in El Progreso, in the northern department of Yoro. Mendoza was a judge in the El Progreso Trial Court and also a member of the Association of Judges for Democracy (AJD), a nongovernmental organization working to strengthen the Honduran justice system. AI said it “call[ed] on the Honduran authorities to conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigation” into each of the killings. (AI 7/29/13; Adital (Brazil) 7/30/13)

On July 27 the authorities arrested a man named Bairon Martínez for Judge Mendoza’s murder, citing evidence from a surveillance camera that they said captured the incident. Mendoza’s killing brought to 64 the number of attorneys and judges murdered since President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa took office in January 2010, according to the government’s own Human Rights Commission (CONADEH). (EFE 7/27/13 via Latin American Herald Tribune)

In related news, on Aug. 1 a criminal court in Tegucigalpa sentenced each of four former police agents to at least 43 years in prison for the Oct. 22, 2011 murder of two university students, Alejandro Rafael Vargas Castellanos and Carlos David Pineda Rodríguez; Vargas Castellanos’ mother, Julieta Castellanos, is the rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). The crime exposed the level of corruption and other criminal activity in the Honduran police force; after the four agents were first detained in October 2011, the Tegucigalpa police chief released them, allowing them to escape temporarily [see Updates #1104, 1107]. (AP 8/1/13 via New York Times; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 8/2/13)

*4. Colombia: US Court Throws Out Suit Against Drummond
On July 25 US District Judge David Proctor in Birmingham, Alabama, dismissed a 2009 lawsuit seeking to hold the Alabama-based Drummond Co. Inc. coal company liable for killings by rightwing paramilitaries near a Drummond mine in Colombia. The suit, Balcero Giraldo v. Drummond Co., charged that the company had been paying the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which the US listed as a terrorist organization in 2001, to protect a rail line used to ship Drummond coal. Judge Proctor based his decision on the US Supreme Court’s Apr. 17 decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which sharply restricted the use of the 1789 Alien Tort Statute for foreign nationals to sue for human rights violations that took place outside the US [see Update #1173]. Proctor ruled that under the Kiobel decision the plaintiffs would need to present sufficient evidence that the alleged crimes were planned in the US; the judge said they had failed to do so.

This was labor rights attorney Terry Collingsworth’s third failure in an effort to have US federal courts act on evidence that Drummond was responsible for the murders of Colombians, including unionists working for the company in Colombia. In January a Colombian court found former Drummond contractor Jaime Blanco guilty in the 2001 murders of two union members; Blanco has charged that Drummond senior managers ordered the murders, and the judge that convicted Blanco asked Colombian authorities to investigate Drummond’s role [see Update #1163]. (Birmingham Business Journal 7/31/13; Bloomberg News 8/1/13)

As of Aug. 2 Drummond was still confronted with an open-ended strike that miners in the company’s Colombian mines started on July 23 over wage issues [see World War 4 Report 7/24/13]. Labor Ministry officials were trying to organize direct talks between the two sides in Santa Marta in the Caribbean department of Magdalena; the company’s Pribbenow and La Loma mines are located in the nearby department of Cesar. A union negotiator, Humberto Suárez, told Bloomberg News that a deal might be made “in the next few days.” (Business Week 8/2/13 from Bloomberg) Meanwhile, a group of former Drummond employees with health problems occupied the cathedral in Santa Marta on Aug. 2 and began a hunger strike to protest the lack of attention by the company and the government to their situation. (El Tiempo (Bogotá) 8/2/13)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US/policy, US/immigration

Argentina: Millions Against Monsanto

Battle Over Seeds Heats Up in Argentina

UN expert urges Chile to stop using anti-terror law

Benjamin Kohl, Temple professor, expert on Bolivia

Bolivian education vice-minister charges 'racism'

Peru: Culture Ministry halts Camisea expansion

Mine-affected campesinos have elevated levels of metal in blood (Peru)

Victory for campesina in Cajamarca land dispute case (Peru)

Peru: pro-coca lawmaker ordered imprisoned

Peru: police 'death squad' leader absolved

'We have made mistakes, some serious': FARC (Colombia)

Colombian town expels mining company

Maduro’s First 100 Days in Office Marked by Street Government, Latin American Integration, Economic Debate (Venezuela)

Extraction-ism, Movements, and Revolution (Venezuela)

Venezuela gets a 'birther' conspiracy theory

This American Life Whitewashes U.S. Crimes in Central America, Wins Peabody Award

Nicaragua: indigenous groups challenge canal plan

Amid Repression, Honduran Congress Fast Tracks Resource Development

Mining Company's Security Threatens International Human Rights Observers, Terrorizes Communities in Honduras

Mexico’s Guilt by Omission

Denver-based Mining Company Retreats from Oaxaca (Mexico)

The Mothers’ Long Road to Justice (Mexico)

Haitian Grassroots Groups Wary of “Attractive” Mining Law

Controversy Follows Death of Prominent Haitian Judge

USAID Takes Step Toward Increased Transparency but Limits Remain (Haiti)

Wealthy Nations Thwart Hopes of World's Landless Peoples (US/policy)

Analysis from National Endowment for Democracy Used in The Atlantic, with Significant Errors and Omissions (US/policy)

What Bradley Manning Taught Us about US Policy in the Americas (US/policy)

Immigrants: Much More Than an Abstract Number (Part II) (US/immigration)

Immigrant Advocates Score Major Legal Wins (US/immigration)

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

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