Monday, September 30, 2013

WNU Supplement: Nicaragua Solidarity Back in the News

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Special Supplement, September 30, 2013

1. NYC Mayoral Frontrunner Was Nicaragua Activist: NY Times
2. The Right Reacts: Anti-Semitism and the “Marxist Playbook”
3. “Purely and Nobly American”: Times Writers
4. Solidarity Activists Deconstruct the Media Coverage
5. Who Were the Real Anti-Semites?

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. NYC Mayoral Frontrunner Was Nicaragua Activist: NY Times
On Sept. 23 the New York Times ran a 2,000-word front-page article by reporter Javier Hernandez about New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio’s work in solidarity with Nicaragua during the late 1980s and early 1990s. De Blasio, the Democratic candidate and the current frontrunner in the Nov. 5 election, has spoken a number of times about his activist past, but the Times article was the first lengthy treatment of the subject. It highlighted his work with Quest for Peace--a program of the Quixote Center, a faith-based Maryland social justice organization--and with the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York (NSN). The NSN was formed in 1985 as a coalition of local Nicaragua solidarity groups and sister city projects; its only activity now is the sponsorship of the Weekly News Update on the Americas.

Although the facts in the article were generally accurate, the tone revived the dismissive attitude toward solidarity activism that was common in US mainstream media during the 1980s, when the US government was sponsoring a war of attrition in which rightwing fighters known as “contras” tried to wear down support for Nicaragua’s ruling party, the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Hernandez described the young de Blasio as “scruffy,” characterized the Quixote Center by its offices “filled with homegrown squash and peace posters,” and referred to the NSN as “a ragtag team of peace activists, Democrats, Marxists and anarchists.”

Hernandez also recycled, with some qualifications, several of the charges that rightwing commentators made against the solidarity movement. “In the mid-1980s, the Treasury Department investigated whether the center had helped smuggle guns, but the claim was never substantiated, and the group’s leaders said the inquiry was politically motivated,” he wrote of the Quixote Center. The NSN’s primary focus was getting out accurate information on Nicaragua and protesting US government support for the contras, but instead Hernandez emphasized the group’s occasional sponsorship of dances and other activities promoting Friends of the Frente, a group that raised money for the FSLN after its candidates lost the February 1990 elections. De Blasio was “an ardent supporter of the Nicaraguan revolutionaries,” Hernandez wrote, and he quoted longtime NSN activist and Update co-editor Jane Guskin as saying: “People who had shallow party sympathies with the FSLN pretty much dropped everything when they lost. Bill wasn’t like that.” (NYT 9/23/13)

*2. The Right Reacts: Anti-Semitism and the “Marxist Playbook”
Republican mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota, who was trailing badly in the opinion polls, quickly picked up on the Cold War-style innuendos in the Times article. “Bill de Blasio needs to explain himself—and explain himself now—to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who escaped Marxist tyranny in Asia, Central America, and from behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe,” Lhota said in a statement released on Sept. 23, the day the article appeared in print. “Mr. de Blasio’s class warfare strategy in New York City is directly out of the Marxist playbook. Now we know why.” (Politico 9/24/13)

Rightwing media had a similar reaction. Andrew Kaczynski, a former Republican National Committee intern and now a BuzzFeed editor, visited the NSN archives at New University’s Tamiment Library and photographed what he called “the 19 most revealing documents from Bill de Blasio’s socialist past”—mostly drafts of NSN fundraising letters and fliers against US military interventions. Only one of the documents appeared to have any connection to de Blasio: a fund appeal letter for which he was one of the signers. (BuzzFeed 9/24/13)

“De Blasio ignored Nicaragua anti-Semitism,” according to a Sept. 26 headline in the New York Post, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid empire. The article resurrected claims made by US president Ronald Reagan (1981-89) about what Post reporter Beth DeFalco called “the hatred spewed by the Sandinistas at Jews.” (NY Post 9/26/13) FrontPage, the website of leading neoconservative David Horowitz, himself a former leftist, claimed the Sandinistas attacked a synagogue and made its president sweep the street in “a scene reminiscent of Nazi behavior in occupied Europe.” The piece’s author, Daniel Greenfield, made it clear that he hoped to weaken de Blasio’s support among New York’s large number of Jewish voters, who generally vote for the Democratic ticket. (FrontPage 9/24/13)

*3. “Purely and Nobly American”: Times Writers
Articles in other media undercut the thrust of Hernandez’s Times piece. Two of these come from writers with strong connections to the same newspaper.

Current Times columnist Michael Powell derided Lhota’s claims about de Blasio’s “class warfare strategy.” “As a resident of haute bourgeois Park Slope and the owner of a rapidly appreciating row house, the middle-aged Mr. de Blasio seems unlikely to embrace property expropriation,” Powell wrote. “[A]s to those Sandinistas: This was a complicated revolutionary movement. A remarkably diverse coalition at first, it overthrew a cruel dictator. The leadership included some Communists, as well as social democrats and priests…. Whatever their failings, the Sandinistas did not impose a repressive regime on their impoverished Central American nation. There was no mass jailing of opponents nor mass execution of opposing soldiers.” People who supported revolutionary movements in Central America in the 1980s “may have been more than a touch naïve about the nature of these movements, but they at least realized that these nations had suffered terribly at the hands of United States-supported dictators.” (NYT 9/25/13)

Writing in the British daily The Guardian, former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer suggested that the attacks on de Blasio were part of a national Republican effort to “block the rise of a Democratic candidate in a strongly Democratic-leaning city.” Kinzer was frequently critical of the Sandinistas from 1983 to 1990, when he worked as the Times’ Nicaragua bureau chief, but in the Guardian piece he wrote favorably about de Blasio’s work with Nicaragua. Solidarity activists “saw violent injustice and sought to oppose it,” Kinzer wrote. “No impulse is more purely and nobly American.” Instead, he criticized de Blasio for “reticence” about his past activism. What de Blasio should say now, according to Kinzer, is: “Yes, I worked against the contra war, and I'm proud to have done so because that war was wrong. Did I turn a blind eye to the excesses of the Sandinistas? Maybe, and I regret that. But I saw poor people being killed and made to suffer because of decisions made in Washington, and I used my rights as an American to oppose that policy in a legal way.” (The Guardian 9/25/13)

*4. Solidarity Activists Deconstruct the Media Coverage
Former Nicaragua solidarity activists also responded to Hernandez’s article, although the mainstream media have generally ignored their comments.

Lou Proyect, who headed the New York chapter of the technical aid group TecNica in the 1980s, questioned the idea that de Blasio was ever a serious solidarity activist. Writing on the CounterPunch website, Proyect described de Blasio’s “occasional appearance[s] at NY Nicaragua Solidarity steering committee meetings nearly 25 years ago” as “an investment that could pay future dividends.” Later, de Blasio “was careful to retain his liberal coloration even though he became an ally of Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn pol who once belonged to Meir Kahane’s terrorist Jewish Defense League,” Proyect claimed. (CounterPunch 9/25/13)

Proyect didn’t work closely with de Blasio, and there was less doubt about de Blasio’s sincerity among people who knew him from the solidarity organizations where he was active. Instead, these activists responded to what they considered the media’s misleading representations of the Nicaragua revolution and the US solidarity movement.

Times reporter Hernandez found out about the Treasury Department’s investigation of the Quixote Center from documents in the center’s archives at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Current Quixote director Tom Ricker initially couldn’t find staffers from the 1980s who remembered such an investigation, but eventually he uncovered documentation of at least one case: an inquiry that the US Customs Service, then under the Treasury Department, started in late 1986. But the Quixote Center never took the investigation seriously. “The Customs Service, after barreling in just before Christmas looking for ‘gun shipments to Nicaragua,’ closed its review of our humanitarian shipments in February, finding no fault,” the center wrote in its June 1987 newsletter.

“I do wonder why of all the things that could have been mentioned about the Center ($100 million in humanitarian aid collected and delivered in one year is a pretty good tidbit as well) this was the item chosen” for the Times article, Ricker wrote. (Quixote Center blog, updated 9/26/13) Another question would be why the Customs Service would suspect that a humanitarian organization founded by Jesuits would be smuggling guns to Nicaragua, or why anyone would even think of smuggling guns to the Sandinista government at a time when the Soviet Union was massively supplying firearms and missiles. In fact, the Reagan administration regularly accused the Sandinistas of smuggling their excess weapons to the rebel Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN) in El Salvador. “The alleged Sandinista support [for the FMLN], dating back almost a decade, is a principal reason for the US decision to provide generous military support for the Salvadoran government,” the Associated Press wire service noted in November 1989. (AP 11/20/89)

NSN member Guskin challenged Hernandez’s characterization of the NSN’s attitude toward the FSLN. She wrote in a Sept. 23 Facebook post that Hernandez had misquoted her, making de Blasio look like “a party hack for the FSLN. What I actually said--at great length, several times, so I don't think the reporter could have misunderstood--was that the people whose commitments were shallow, and who were focused on supporting the FSLN as a party, dropped out when [the Sandinistas] lost. Those of us who stayed involved--including Bill, I believe--cared more about the PEOPLE, and the grassroots base of the Sandinistas who had been struggling for a better world while our government tried to crush their dreams, than we did about the party.” (Facebook 9/23/13)

*5. Who Were the Real Anti-Semites?
The claims about Sandinista anti-Semitism were conclusively refuted in the 1980s. Rabbi Balfour Brickner of New York’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue “investigated charges of anti-Semitism by the Sandinista Government during a visit in July 1984,” the Times wrote in March 1986, but found no evidence that Nicaragua’s tiny Jewish community was being persecuted. (NYT 3/19/86) The claims were also “refuted by five separate (Jewish and non-Jewish) fact-finding investigations--as well as by the US State Department, former US ambassador to Nicaragua Anthony Quainton and ex-contra Arturo Cruz,” according to Robert Siegel, who investigated the issue while working with Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) in the 1980s and early 1990s; he was quoted in a media alert released by the national Nicaragua Network on Sept. 26 about the New York Post article on “Nicaragua anti-Semitism.”

“This lie originated at a spring 1983 meeting in Coral Gables, Florida, attend[ed] by contra leader Edgar Chamorro and three CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] agents,” Siegel wrote. “The CIA plan called for inviting two Jewish exiles from Nicaragua, Abraham Gorn and Isaac Stavisky, to the White House to denounce the Sandinistas for persecuting them.” The three CIA agents at the meeting “knew full well” that Gorn and Stavisky left Nicaragua because they were allies of the 1937-1979 Somoza family dictatorship, “not because they were victims of anti-Semitism.” According to Siegel, “the CIA agents said to Chamorro: ‘The American media is controlled by Jews, and if we could show that Jews are being persecuted in Nicaragua, it would help a lot.’”

The Nicaragua Network’s media alert advises activists to “[u]se your own knowledge and experience in Nicaragua plus the information [from Siegel] to write a letter to the editor of the Post at and send a copy to the Nicaragua Network at” (Nicaragua Network media alert 9/26/13)

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:

WNU #1194: Dominican Court Leaves Haitian Descendants Stateless

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1194, September 29, 2013

1. Dominican Republic: Court Excludes Descendants of “Illegal” Haitians
2. Honduras: Legal Group Challenges Indigenous Leader’s Criminalization
3. Mexico: Cananea Miners Left Jobless After Strike Is Broken
4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, 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. Dominican Republic: Court Excludes Descendants of “Illegal” Haitians
In a decision dated Sept. 23 the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Tribunal (TC) in effect took away the citizenship of all people born in the country to out-of-status parents since June 20, 1929. The court noted that the authorities are currently studying birth certificates of more than 16,000 people and have refused to issue identity documents to another 40,000; the justices gave electoral authorities one year to determine which people would be deprived of their citizenship. Since most undocumented immigrants in the Dominican Republic are Haitians, the ruling mainly affects Dominicans of Haitian descent. The TC is the highest court for constitutional issues, and the decision--TC/0168/13, in the case of the Haitian-descended Juliana Deguis Pierre--cannot be appealed.

The Dominican Constitution was amended in 2010 to exclude the children of undocumented immigrants from citizenship; even before that, the Central Electoral Council (JCE) had refused for several years to issue papers to the grown children of undocumented immigrants [see Update #1184]. The new ruling goes much further. It is based on a clause in the 1929 Constitution granting citizenship to “all persons who are born in the territory of the Republic, with the exception of the legitimate children of foreigners resident in the country as diplomatic representatives or those who are in transit in it.” Citing a 1939 law, the TC ruled that “in transit” was different from “transient” and included everyone without legal status. The decision could apparently take citizenship away from Haitian-descended Dominicans now in their 80s and render them stateless.

Migration General Director José Ricardo Taveras Blanco called the decision “historic” and said it “opens doors to resolving definitively a problem which has been an open wound in Dominican society.” Human rights advocates were appalled. Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson for the US-based group Human Rights Watch, said the ruling “cuts against the rights of thousands of people born in the Dominican Republic, and could immediately undermine their access to education and health services.” The Bonó Center, a Catholic human rights organization in the Dominican Republic, called the decision “absurd,” “senseless” and “unjust.” It affects “the fundamental rights of more than four generations of men and women who during their whole lives had formed a part of the Dominican people and have contributed to this republic’s material, cultural and spiritual development,” the group said. “The court ignores the principles behind decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish], along with international agreements and treaties which have constitutional seniority.” (El Día (Dominican Republic) 9/26/13; AP 9/26/13 via Yahoo News; El Diario-La Prensa 9/26/13, 9/27/13, 9/28/13 from correspondent)

In related news, Major-Gen. Rubén Darío Paulino Sem announced during the week of Sept. 22 that 47,700 undocumented Haitians had been deported since Aug. 16, 2012, more than twice the 20,541 deported the year before. (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 9/29/13)

*2. Honduras: Legal Group Challenges Indigenous Leader’s Criminalization
The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), a legal advocacy group with offices in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and the US, has requested a hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) about the case of Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, who was ordered into preventive detention on Sept. 20 [see Update #1193]. CEJIL director Marcia Aguiluz said the group has also raised the case with the United Nations. Cáceres, an indigenous Lenca, is the general coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). The government has charged her with damaging property in connection with her support of protests by indigenous Lenca communities against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on and near their territory. Aguiluz said that the “criminalization of Berta Cáceres” is an “example of a new manner of persecution, since it’s the use of the judicial apparatus to keep rights defenders from carrying out their work.” (El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 9/26/13 from EFE)

Correction: In Update #1193 we reported, following our source, that Cáceres was sent to prison on Sept. 20. Rights Action confirmed by email that as of Sept. 25 she was still free.

In other news, according to a CID Gallup poll of 1,220 voters surveyed between Sept. 6 and 12, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the presidential candidate of the newly formed center-left Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), was leading with 29% of voter preferences in elections now scheduled for Nov. 24. She was followed closely by Juan Orlando Hernández of the rightwing governing National Party (PN) with 27%; Mauricio Villeda of the center-right Liberal Party (PL) continued to trail far behind with 16%. Castro and Hernández were in a statistical tie, since the poll’s margin of error is 2%. Despite Castro’s good showing, 33% of those surveyed thought Hernández would win, against 28% for Castro. One reason for the disparity may be another of the poll’s findings: there are “doubts about the capacity of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal [TSE] to organize and execute honest and transparent elections.” (Honduras Culture and Politics 9/26/13)

*3. Mexico: Cananea Miners Left Jobless After Strike Is Broken
The giant Buenavista del Cobre copper mine in Cananea, near the US border in the northwestern state of Sonora, is in full operation again, a little more than three years after a police assault ended a 2007-2010 strike over health and safety conditions by Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM, “Los Mineros”) [see Update #1048]. The mine produced earnings of $288.69 million for its owner, Grupo México (GM), in the second quarter of this year, according to an article in the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada. But the town itself hasn’t prospered. The article reports that the past 10 years have brought an increase in “organized crime, unemployment, shortages of drinkable water, a growing incidence of different types of cancer and acute respiratory diseases, ecological deterioration, alcoholism, and, because of a large transient population, problems with housing and urban infrastructure.”

The town’s residents say only about 20% of the workers at Buenavista del Cobre and the other two Cananea mines, Industrias Peñoles’ Minera María and Minera Frisco’s Minera Milpillas, are local people. According to residents, Grupo México has followed a strategy of refusing to hire former Section 65 members and other local workers with union experience. Thousands of workers have come from other states, many of them employed by third-party contractors rather than directly by the mine. The influx of outsiders has overwhelmed Cananea’s limited housing resources. Many of the new workers are housed in eight warehouses that have been outfitted with bunks, bathrooms and improvised cafeterias. (LJ 9/25/13)

The strike against Grupo México was part of a major struggle by the SNTMMSRM against efforts by mining companies and the federal government to break the union. In 2006 the government pressed corruption charges against SNTMMSRM president Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, who has been living in exile in Vancouver ever since. A judge quashed the arrest warrant for Gómez Urrutia in the spring of 2012, and the union leader’s lawyer predicted at the time that his client would soon return to Mexico [see Update #1128]. But legal actions continued, and Gómez Urrutia stayed in Canada. Leaders of two international labor federations, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the IndustriALL Global Union, now see no major impediment to Gómez Urrutia’s return. They held a meeting on Aug. 23 with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, who they say assured them that he recognized Gómez Urrutia as the head of the union and that he didn’t intend to carry out political persecutions of independent labor leaders. (Proceso (Mexico) 9/3/13)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration

Dilma Speaks Out Against Spying and Boeing “Top Salesman” Obama May Lose $4 Billion Deal (Brazil)

Breaking U.N. Protocol, Brazil Lambastes U.S. Spying

Guarani Kaiowá retake traditional land, demand Brazilian government respect their rights

Evidence of Yanomami ‘Violence’ Relies on False Data, New Paper Reveals (Brazil)

The Great Soy Expansion: Brazilian Land Grabs in Eastern Bolivia

Bolivia: Aymara dissidents charge repression

From the Mines to the Streets: A Bolivian Activist's Life – Book Review

Peru: deadly attack on family of miner leader

Ecuador: Some Observations Regarding the Yasuní-ITT Proposal

Illegal road to Yasuni oil bloc? (Ecuador)

FARC Leader “Timochenko” Expresses Frustration with Santos’s Negotiating Strategy (Colombia)

Who “Calls the Shots” for NGO’s in Colombia?

Colombia: river defender assassinated

Venezuela's Maduro Cancels UN Trip, Alleges Former US Officials Involved in “Crazy” Plot

Venezuela withdraws from OAS rights body

Because this Land is Ours: The Rights of Mother Earth vs. Carbon Trading (Panama)

Honduran Presidential Polling Shows Race Tightening

The Mexican Uprising Deepens

Mexico: The Shadow of Acteal

Tribunal Denounces Privatization, Pollution and Plundering of Mexico’s Water

Border Baseball Massacre Renews War Fears (Mexico)

Literary Bash for Ciudad Juarez (Mexico)

Cuba’s Other Internationalism: Angola 25 Years Later

"Jalousie in Colors" – Makeup for misery (Haiti)

OAS to Send Electoral Monitors to Haiti for Election Yet to be Scheduled

The Beast Strikes Again: Central American Migrants Feel Brunt of Failed Immigration Policies (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:

Monday, September 23, 2013

WNU #1193: Honduran Indigenous Leader Jailed

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1193, September 22, 2013

1. Honduras: Indigenous Leader Jailed, Union Leader Attacked
2. Colombia: Injured GM Workers Continue Fight for Compensation
3. Argentina: Students Occupy Schools to Protest “Reform”
4. Brazil: Documents Expose US Industrial Espionage
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, 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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Honduras: Indigenous Leader Jailed, Union Leader Attacked
On Sept. 20 a judge in the southwestern Honduran department of Intibucá issued an order for the preventive detention of indigenous leader Berta Cáceres on charges of having broken into the property of a company constructing a hydroelectric project. Cáceres, the general coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was taken to the prison in La Esperanza, Intibucá. The charges stem from her support of indigenous Lenca communities in their protests against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on and near their territory; the struggle against the project has already cost the life of Tomás García, an indigenous leader the protesters said was shot dead by soldiers on July 15 [see Update #1185].

Cáceres and two other COPINH leaders, Aureliano Molina and Tomás Gómez, were charged on Aug. 14 in connection with the protests and were required to report to the judge every 15 days [see Update #1189]. Molina and Gómez remain free, but they must continue to report to the judge and are now forbidden to go near the hydroelectric project. In a Sept. 20 telephone interview from the prison, Cáceres told the Honduran radio station Radio Globo that she was holding her head high and that the business owners had made a mistake in thinking that the Lenca people would let up on their historic struggle (La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 9/20/13; Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 9/20/13)

Less than a week earlier, in the early morning of Sept. 14, armed men tried to break down the door at the home of union leader Víctor Crespo in Puerto Cortés, near San Pedro Sula in the northern department of Cortés. They fled after Crespo’s neighbors woke up and became potential witness. Crespo, who is the general secretary of the Dockworkers Labor Union (SGTM), had received a number of anonymous death threats before the incident. He has been leading a struggle to win a collective bargaining agreement with Operadora Portuaria Centroamericana (OPC), a company which in February won the concession to operate and modernize the Puerto Cortés seaport. OPC is a subsidiary of the Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI), one of the world’s largest maritime operators; the company says the modernization will be completed by 2020.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), a global federation of 690 unions, says it has taken steps to ensure Crespo’s safety. The British-based Labour Start website has set up a letter activists can email to Honduran president Profirio Lobo Sosa calling for police protection for Crespo and adequate guarantees for the port workers’ collective bargaining rights; the letter is available at (ITF press release (English) 9/20/13; ITF press release (Spanish) 9/20/13 via Rebanadas de Realidad; América Economía 9/4/13)

*2. Colombia: Injured GM Workers Continue Fight for Compensation
A small number of former employees of GM Colmotores, the Colombian subsidiary of the Detroit-based General Motors Company (GM), remain encamped in front of the US embassy in Bogotá more than two years after they started a campaign to get the company to reinstate them and compensate them for work-related injuries [see Update #1155]. Off-and-on talks with GM over the past year have failed to produce an agreement; the most recent was held in August. According to Jorge Parra, the president of the Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of Colmotores (Asotrecol), the injured workers were laid off because of their injuries and should get the same compensation as auto workers in the US, where disabled workers can receive up to two-thirds of their salary for the rest of their lives. He says GM only offered $35,000 for each worker; company officials say they have made better offers.

“When we first came [to the embassy], they thought we would be here for a week,” Parra told the US magazine In These Times. “But we’re here for two years already, and we've shown that we have the determination not to give up.” The protests have worn the workers down, however. Only 13 of the 68 originally in the group are still active, and they admit to being discouraged at times, despite expressions of solidarity and some financial support from US unionists. But the protest remains an embarrassment for the US government, which as a result of a 2009 federal bailout is GM’s largest shareholder. The US is also concerned because of a free trade pact with Colombia which the US Congress approved in 2011 only after negotiators agreed on a detailed plan for labor protections [see Update #1101]. The situation of the laid-off GM Colmotores workers casts doubt on the effectiveness of the trade pact’s labor clauses. (ITT 9/13/13)

In other news, Charlotte, NC-based Chiquita Brands International Inc is trying to have the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals dismiss lawsuits by thousands of Colombians whose relatives were killed by paramilitaries from the rightwing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). In 2007 Chiquita admitted to having paid out $1.7 million to the AUC over seven years; the US government, which listed the group, now officially disbanded, as a terrorist organization, fined the company $25 million. The lawsuits, consolidated before a federal judge in West Palm Beach, Florida, seek to hold Chiquita liable for killings by the AUC.

The company’s lawyers say the suit is without merit because the AUC extorted the payments from Chiquita and Chiquita officials didn’t directly order the murders—although documents made public in 2011 indicate that the company hired the paramilitaries on as security guards, just as it had done earlier with leftist rebels when they controlled the area where Chiquita operated [see Update #1075]. Another of Chiquita’s arguments is that the suit was brought under the federal Alien Tort Statute, a law from 1789 whose application the US Supreme Court severely restricted in April when it threw out the Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum case [see Update #1173]. (Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 9/21/13 from AP; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/22/13 from AP)

*3. Argentina: Students Occupy Schools to Protest “Reform”
As of Sept. 20 Argentine high school students had occupied 10 schools in Buenos Aires to protest an “educational reform” program that the capital’s rightwing mayor, Mauricio Macri, plans to institute at the beginning of the next school year in March 2014. The students held assemblies at each school to decide whether to take action. Some schools voted against the occupations: 495 of the 565 students at Julio Argentino Roca voted not to occupy, as did 340 of 420 students at Normal 6. Students from the occupied schools held a joint assembly and announced plans for a Sept. 23 press conference.

Students in Buenos Airies have used the occupation tactic several times since 2012. The movement reflects many of the same concerns about neoliberal education programs that sparked the student movement in Chile and teachers’ protests in Mexico [see Updates #1182, 1191]. Protesters say Macri’s plan for a “new high-quality secondary school” (NESC) will reduce students’ options for different plans of study from 158 to just 10, with limitations on such fields as history and geography. Esteban Bullrich, the city’s education ministry, noted that the new program would only affect the students who enter high school in 2014, not the students now protesting. “We’re not just thinking about ourselves but about the future of public education,” student leaders answered, “and it actually offends us that Minister Bullrich should think that when we demand a better education, we’re doing it from egoism, from individualism.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/18/13 from correspondent; El Cívico (Buenos Aires) 9/21/13)

Public employees are also protesting the Macri government’s policies. On Sept. 17 hundreds of city workers held a march to demand a stay in the criminal cases against eight public employees arrested on Apr. 26 when some 200 or 300 municipal police agents fought protesters attempting to stop the demolition of a building at the José T. Borda public psychiatric hospital [see Update #1174]. As many as 50 people were reportedly injured in the confrontation, the most violent incident in recent Buenos Aires history. (LJ 9/18/13 from correspondent)

*4. Brazil: Documents Expose US Industrial Espionage
On Sept. 8 the “Fantástico” news program on Brazil’s Rede Globo television network presented documents indicating that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on Brazil’s giant semi-public energy company, Petrobras (Petróleo Brasileiro S.A.). The allegations came one week after the same program presented evidence that the NSA had spied on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto [see Update #1191]. As in the earlier news program, the spying claims were based on documents given to Glenn Greenwald, a US blogger and columnist for the UK daily The Guardian who lives in Brazil, by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden.

The “Fantástico” program showed a top-secret NSA presentation, dated May 2012, that the agency used to train new agents in accessing private computer networks. The name of Petrobras appears at the beginning of the document, under the title: “MANY TARGETS USE PRIVATE NETWORKS.” Other targets listed include the internet company Google, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ private network, and the SWIFT network, a cooperative linking over 10,000 banks in 212 countries. Greenwald and Globo reporter Sonia Bridi had blacked out the name of other targets on the grounds that these groups might be linked to terrorism and that revealing their names could compromise genuine US counterterrorism operations.

The US continues to insist that its spying is directed at preventing terrorist attacks. On the evening of Sept. 8, after the program aired, US director of national intelligence James Clapper issued a statement denying that the US is engaged in industrial espionage: “What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of--or give intelligence we collect to--US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”

Brazilian energy experts are skeptical. Infrastructure specialist Adriano Pires says the US could be interested in ocean-floor exploration technology, especially in the geological formations known as pre-salt layers. “Petrobras is the world’s number one in drilling for oil at sea,” he told Globo reporters on the Sept. 8 program. “Pre-salt layers exist all around the world--there’s a pre-salt in Africa, in the Gulf of Mexico, in the North Sea. If I have this technology, I can drill for oil anywhere I want.” Former Petrobras Director Roberto Villa suggested that the spying could affect an auction to be held in October for exploration of Brazil’s Libra Field in the Bay of Santos. Only Petrobras is supposed to know which are the field’s richest lots. “If this information was leaked and someone else has obtained it, he would be in a privileged position at the auction,” Villa said. “He’ll know where to invest and where not to. It’s a handy little secret.” (O Globo (Brazil) 9/8/13 (English), O Globo 9/8/13 (Portuguese); The Guardian (UK) 9/9/13)

On Sept. 17 Rousseff cancelled a state visit to Washington, DC, scheduled for Oct. 23. A statement from Rousseff’s office cited the US government’s “lackof…explanations and commitment to cease interceptive activities… The illegal interception of communications data belonging to citizens, companies and members of the Brazilian government [is] a grave matter, an assault on national sovereignty and individual rights, and [is] incompatible with relations between friendly nations.” (Los Angeles Times 9/17/13)

In other news, late on Sept. 19 a court in Pará state sentenced rancher Vitalmiro Bastos Moura to 30 years in prison for ordering the 2005 murder of US nun and environmentalist Dorothy Stang [see Update #899]. Bastos had been convicted before but was later released; this was his fourth trial in the case. Another rancher, Regivaldo Galvão, has also been found guilty of ordering Stang’s murder; the Supreme Court authorized his conditional release in 2012 when he appealed his 2010 conviction. One of the men who carried out the killing was freed in July of this year after serving just six years of a 27-year sentence. (Reuters 9/20/13)

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

What Do Latin American Countries Stand to Gain from the TPP?

U.S. Urged to Curb Militarization in Latin America

The Other September 11: The Legacy of Chilean Socialism and Salvador Allende

Brazil: “The Oil Is Ours” – But Its Secrets Are the NSA’s

Brazilian president postpones Washington visit over NSA spying

Awá: Top Human Rights Watchdog Demands Answers from Brazil

Peru: Andean Self-determination Struggles against Extractive Capitalism

Peru: police fire on Cajamarca campesinos —again

Colombia: 60% of indigenous face 'extinction'

Colombia: gains seen as peasants end strike

You Probably Didn’t Hear that Venezuela Was Again Ranked the Happiest Country in South America

We Are (Almost) All Chávez: Challenges in the Deployment of the Chavista Political Identity

Corpoelec Workers Protest Conditions as Venezuelan Electricity Minister Vows to “Restore Confidence” in Power Grid

Guatemala - Massacre in San Jose Nacahuil: Whoever is Responsible, Minister López Bonilla Should be Removed

Popular Resistance Rises to Mexico’s Neoliberal Reforms

Photo Essay: Following Police Eviction, Mexico's Teachers Keep Fighting for Quality Education

The Unequal Fury of Floods (Mexico)

Alberto Patishtán: Message from the Mexican State

Another UN Soldier Accused of Rape in Haiti

Restoration of the Haitian Army: Martelly Keeps One Campaign Promise

“Do the Yankees Want More Hitters?”: My Encounter With a U.S. Border Patrol Agent (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:

Monday, September 16, 2013

WNU #1192: Chileans Mark Anniversary of 1973 Coup

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1192, September 15, 2013

1. Chile: Thousands Mark 40th Anniversary of Rightwing Coup
2. Mexico: Police Break Up Dissident Teachers’ Encampment
3. Mexico: Ex-Braceros Tour US to Demand Their Pensions
4. Haiti: Jobs Still Missing at US-Funded Industrial Park
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

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. Chile: Thousands Mark 40th Anniversary of Rightwing Coup
Tens of thousands of Chileans marched down the Alameda avenue in central Santiago on Sept. 8 in one of a series of events marking the 40th anniversary of the US-backed Sept. 11, 1973 coup that installed the military dictatorship headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet Urgarte (1973-1990). The marchers, some carrying signs reading “40 years since the coup, nothing and no one is forgotten,” demanded justice for the victims. The organizers said 60,000 people participated in the action, which is sponsored each year by the National Assembly for Human Rights, while the police put the number at 30,000. A confrontation broke out at the march’s end between agents of the carabineros militarized police and masked protesters; 31 people were arrested and seven agents were injured, according to the police. (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/9/13 from AP, AFP)

The commemorations continued on the morning of Sept. 10 with an unusual protest called “Wanting Not to See” (“Querer No Ver”): 1,210 people lay down for 11 minutes in a line stretching for blocks on the sidewalk along the Alameda from the Plaza Italia to the La Moneda presidential palace. The action was organized by actress and theater director María José Contreras as a reminder that approximately 1,200 people were disappeared under the dictatorship and are still not accounted for. On the same day former president Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010), the frontrunner in the Nov. 17 presidential election, visited the site of the Villa Grimaldi, a torture center where she was held with her mother, Angela Jeria, in 1974, after the death of her father, Socialist leader Alberto Bachelet. (Santiago Times 9/10/13; LJ 9/11/13 from correspondents and unidentified wire services)

On Sept. 11, the date of the coup, thousands of people attended the traditional ceremony near La Moneda during which floral tributes are placed at the statue of Salvador Allende Gossens, the Socialist president who was overthrown in the coup; Allende committed suicide as the military attacked the palace. Other Chileans marked the anniversary by setting up barricades in various sections of the capital; five vehicles were set on fire during protests in the communes that surround Santiago. The Secondary Students Coordinating Assembly (ACES) announced that students occupied seven high schools in the metropolitan area to honor the memory of students murdered under the dictatorship. The authorities said 13 people were arrested during the day in various incidents in Santiago, less than they had anticipated.

President Sebastián Piñera, the first rightwing politician to occupy La Moneda since the end of the dictatorship, used the anniversary to criticize politicians, judges and media that he said had been “complicit” during the Pinochet years, but he insisted that “the time has come, after 40 years, not to forget but to overcome the traumas of the past.” According to a 2004 report by the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture (known as the “Varech Commission”), at least 30,000 people were victimized under the dictatorship, with more than 28,000 of them subjected to illegal detention, torture, execution or disappearance; the report estimated that about 3,000 people were killed. (TeleSUR 9/11/13; Clarín (Argentina) 9/12/13 from EFE, AFP, DPA)

The Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group, suffered disproportionately from the Pinochet regime. Although the Mapuche say Chile’s left parties didn’t have programs that incorporated the full range of indigenous demands, the Mapuche were inspired by the victory of Allende’s Popular Unity coalition in 1970 and benefited from policies carried out by his government. Under Allende’s agrarian reform program 4,401 estates were expropriated by 1973, and the Mapuche recovered 30,000 hectares of land that they considered their historic territory; the Mapuche recovered another 70,000 hectares through their own direct actions during the period. About 300 Mapuche were killed under the Pinochet regime, and some 50 were disappeared. The military government also passed laws restricting Mapuche rights, including an “antiterrorist law” which still remains partially in effect [see Update #1161]. (Mapu Express 9/11/13)

*2. Mexico: Police Break Up Dissident Teachers’ Encampment
Carrying plastic shields and armed with nightsticks and tear gas canisters, some 3,600 helmeted Mexican federal police moved in on Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zócalo, at 4 pm on Sept. 13 to clear out an encampment teachers had set up as a base for actions that they had been carrying out since Aug. 21 to protest changes in the educational system [see Update #1191]. The National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the dissident union group leading the protests, had negotiated an agreement with the government to vacate the plaza in time for the Sept. 15-16 ceremonies that traditionally celebrate Mexico’s independence from Spain, but a smaller group of teachers from the militant locals in the southern state of Oaxaca tried briefly to hold out against the police. Confrontations followed for several hours involving police agents, teachers and local anarchists. National Security Commission (CNS) head Manuel Mondragón gave a preliminary count of 29 people arrested. (Los Angeles Times 9/13/13 from correspondent; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/14/13)

The clearing of the Zócalo provoked protests in other cities on the evening of Sept. 13. In Oaxaca City militant teachers and supporters occupied the main plaza while other supporters seized city buses and used them to block off the city’s historic center. Police agents managed to detain one teacher, but the protesters responded by detaining two police commanders; all three were eventually released. Other groups occupied the installations of the Corporación Oaxaqueña de Radio y Televisión, took over Radio Universidad, the station of a local university, and blocked two highways. In the central state of Tlaxcala teachers blocked highways leading to the state capital, while in the eastern state of Veracruz protesters cut off access to the Minatitlán airport and the Orizaba industrial park. (LJ 9/14/13) In Xalapa, a city in central Veracruz, some 100 police agents armed with cattle prods removed about 300 teachers from the main plaza. Police also attacked the media in the Xalapa operation. Freelance journalist Melina Zurita was beaten by police agents, who stole her camera, and agents from an anti-riot unit seized the equipment of Oscar Martínez, a photographer for the Reuters wire service, returning it a half hour later after erasing the images. (Proceso (Mexico) 9/14/13)

CNTE leaders indicated that they planned to reoccupy the Mexico City Zócalo on Sept. 18 and would hold their own Independence Day celebration there. (LJ 9/15/13)

The teachers were protesting an “educational reform” plan that they say will lead to a partial privatization of the system, part of a “reform” package being pushed by President Enrique Peña Nieto that also includes the partial privatization of the energy sector and changes in the labor code and the tax system. Peña Nieto was expected to propose extending the value-added tax (a sales tax known by its initials in Spanish, IVA) to food and medicine, but the program he announced in a speech on Sept. 8 continued the food and medicine exemptions. Instead, the president proposed new taxes on capital gains, carbon emissions and soft drinks; a gradual elimination of a gasoline and diesel subsidy; and increased income taxes on people making more than the equivalent of US$39,000. The president said the increased revenues from the new taxes would go to support a universal pension system, unemployment insurance and the educational system. The center-right National Action Party (PAN), which generally backs Peña Nieto’s reform agenda, had little to say about the tax plan. “The government is 100% in charge of this,” PAN president Gustavo Madero told the New York Times. “Let the government defend it.” (NYT 9/9/13 from correspondent; LJ 9/9/13)

In other news, on Sept. 12 a three-judge panel from the 20th circuit federal court, based in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of the southeastern state of Chiapas, denied an appeal by Alberto Patishtán Gómez, an indigenous schoolteacher who has been serving a 60-year sentence since 2000 for his alleged involvement in the killing of seven police agents in El Bosque municipality in June of that year [see Update #1190]. Patishtán, a supporter of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) who denies any connection with the incident, has no further options for appeals in the Mexican court system, although he can appeal to international bodies or request a pardon from the president. Former center-left presidential candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano condemned the court’s decision, which he called “totally unjust, inappropriate.” Chiapas governor Manuel Velasco Coello also condemned the decision, saying that Patishtán should seek the pardon. Asked on Sept. 13 about the possibility of an appeal to the president, the prisoner himself answered: “I’ve always said I’m not going to resort to the pardon. What will I request a pardon for? On the contrary, they’d have to ask me for a pardon for what they’ve done to me.” (LJ 9/12/13, LJ 9/13/13, LJ 9/14/13)

*3. Mexico: Ex-Braceros Tour US to Demand Their Pensions
Some 50 Mexicans and local supporters protested in front of the Mexican consulate in New York City on Sept. 13 to demand money that they say the Mexican government owes them from a 1942-1964 program that brought Mexicans into the US as farmworkers. The guest workers, known as “braceros” (“laborers” or “farmhands”), had 10% deducted from their wages by the US government; the money was supposed to go to Mexico’s Campesino Savings Fund for their pensions after retirement. The US says it sent the deducted money to the Mexican government, but the braceros and their survivors say the workers never got their pensions.

The protesters included 17 Mexicans—ex-braceros, activists and relatives of deceased braceros—who came to the US in late August to publicize the case. After visiting Los Angeles and Kansas City, the tour, organized by the Ex-Bracero Binational Coordinating Committee, arrived in New York on Sept. 10 to ask the United Nations to support their claims. They were to leave on Sept. 15 for Washington, DC, where they would ask the US government to provide copies of the paperwork showing their money was sent on to Mexico.

Surviving braceros described the conditions under which they worked while the US and the humiliations they received. “They would take us, naked, to a room where they checked whether we had diseases and then to another hall where they fumigated us,” said Luis Cabral, who worked in asparagus fields in California for three months in 1958. “They poured a lot of white powder on us, in case we had lice.” Many of the protesters at the consulate were activists from New York-based immigrant rights groups that oppose plans in an “immigration reform” measure now before the US Congress that would drastically increase guest worker programs. “We’re here showing solidarity,” said Donald Anthonyson, an Antiguan-born organizer with the group Families for Freedom (FFF), “and to highlight the results of the first guest worker program. If this is what they did back then, what will happen now?” (Associated Press 9/8/13 via; EFE 9/14/13 via Informador (Mexico); report from Update editor)

*4. Haiti: Jobs Still Missing at US-Funded Industrial Park
Eleven months after it was officially opened, the Caracol Industrial Park (PIC) in Haiti’s Northeast department has failed to live up to the promises made by its promoters, according to an article by Jonathan Katz, a former Associated Press correspondent in Haiti [see Update # 1185]. The project, for which the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB, or BID in Spanish) have set aside $270 million, has only generated 1,500 jobs to date, far short of the 65,000 jobs the US State Department claims will eventually appear in Caracol. Wages for piece-rate workers at the industrial park are based on a minimum wage of $4.56 a day, even though under a Haitian law that took effect last October their minimum wage should be about $6.85 a day [see Update #1179].

The Haitian government took 600 hectares of land from 366 farmers for the park, with payments averaging about $3,200 for each farmer, but nearly 95% of the land is still unused. The Korean apparel firm Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd remains the only major tenant at Caracol; there is one other tenant, a Haitian franchisee of Sherwin-Williams Paints that employs a few dozen workers. Other companies seem reluctant to invest, despite inducements like a 15-year tax holiday. A port that USAID is in charge of constructing to serve the facility “is barely in the planning stage,” Katz writes.

US officials said that building Caracol would help Haiti recover from the earthquake that devastated much of the southern part of the country in January 2010—even though the park is about 100 miles from the area hit by the quake. In fact, construction at the industrial park seems to be taking away funding from post-earthquake reconstruction: aid for rebuilding homes in the earthquake zone has been cut, while about two-thirds of the houses the US plans to build in Haiti will be near Caracol. While millions of dollars have gone into building the park, according to Katz “less than a third of the $651 million USAID said it would spend in Haiti [for earthquake aid] has been disbursed.” Katz notes that “the US is generally eager to finance” projects for “setting up a low-paying textile sector to cheaply stock US stores and closets,” in contrast to its approach to “other forms of development aid.” (Aljazeera America 9/10/13)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

CELAC issues statement on Syria (Latin America)

Latin America rejects US aggression against Syria

Pinochet’s Policies Still Rankle in Chile

Chile's September 11: Forty Years Later

Colombia pays Ecuador for fumigation damages

Colombia: ASOQUIMBO Continues Land Liberations and Resistance to the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project

OAS Human Rights Bodies “Protectors of the Powerful” says Venezuela as It Officially Withdraws from IACHR

In Honduras, military takes over with US blessing

Blaming the Victims: U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Doubles Down Regarding Ahuas Shootings

Honduras grants title to Miskito territory

Urgent Communiqué on the Massacre in Nacahuil, Guatemala

Guatemala: mineral interests behind massacre?

Protesting Mexican Teachers’ Vow “This Will Not End Here”

Women in the Teachers’ Movement: A Lesson in Resistance (Mexico)

Mexico’s Teacher Uprising

The Corporatization of Street Dealing (Mexico)

Photo Essay: Indigenous in Mexico Reweaving Struggles

Mexico judiciary stops all mining operations in the sacred territory of Wirikuta

Mexico: The Yaqui Tribe Defend their Right to Water

Haiti PM: UN Has “Moral Responsibility” to Address Cholera Epidemic

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:

Monday, September 9, 2013

WNU #1191: US Spied on Brazilian and Mexican Leaders

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1191, September 8, 2013

1. Latin America: US Spied on Brazilian and Mexican Leaders
2. Brazil: 300 Arrested in New Round of Protests
3. Argentina: Mapuche Blame Oil Campany Guards for Fires
4. Mexico: Congress Passes “Education Reform”; Demos Continue
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, 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. Latin America: US Spied on Brazilian and Mexican Leaders
The US National Security Agency (NSA) has spied on emails, phone calls and text messages to and from Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, according to NSA documents presented on Brazil’s Globo television network on Sept. 1. These documents, like those made public in July about US spying on at least 14 Latin American nations [see Update #1184], were given to Glenn Greenwald, a US blogger and columnist for the UK daily The Guardian who lives in Brazil, by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in June. Snowden is now residing in Russia; he says he is unable to comment on the documents because of the terms under which Russian authorities are letting him stay in the country for one year.

The documents, which come from a top-secret report intended to demonstrate the NSA’s spying capabilities, show that in June 2012 the agency collected communications in which Peña Nieto, then the front-running candidate in July 2012 presidential elections, discussed plans for appointments to his cabinet. The report includes two text messages--marked “interesting messages”--from Peña. At about the same time the NSA was tracking communications between President Rousseff and her top advisers, although the report doesn’t show the texts of the communications. (O Globo (Brazil) 9/1/13; The Guardian 9/2/13 from Reuters)

In a Sept. 2 statement, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE) expressed “great surprise” at the revelations and asked for an explanation from the US. “[T]he government of Mexico rejects and categorically condemns any espionage activity on Mexican citizens in violation of international law,” the statement said. (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/3/13) The Brazilian government had a stronger reaction: officials indicated that President Rousseff might cancel a state visit to Washington scheduled for Oct. 23. Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), who is close to Rousseff and is, like her, a leader in the center-left Workers’ Party (PT), charged that the US was “threatening the world’s sovereignty,” adding that the US “wasn’t elected to act as the world’s sheriff.” “The Americans can’t bear the fact that Brazil has become a global actor,” Lula said. “Basically, the most they’ll accept is for Brazil to go on as a subordinate, the way it used to be.” He called for US president Barack Obama to apologize “humbly” to Rousseff and Brazil. (The Guardian 9/2/13 from Reuters; El País (Madrid) 9/6/13 from correspondent)

Apparently President Obama succeeded in lowering the temperature during private meetings he held with Rousseff and Peña in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5 at a summit of the Group of 20 (G20), a working group of finance ministers from 20 major economies. On Sept. 6 Rousseff said that Obama had promised an explanation of the spying report by Sept. 11 and that the October visit might proceed as planned. (New York Times 9/6/13 from Reuters)

*2. Brazil: 300 Arrested in New Round of Protests
Some 300 people were arrested and 35 injured when thousands of Brazilians held protests in more than 150 cities on Sept. 7, Brazil’s Independence Day. As in massive demonstrations that broke out in June [see Update #1181], the protesters on Sept. 7 demanded improvements in healthcare, education and other public services and opposed the large expenditure of government funds to build sports stadiums for the 2014 World Cup soccer championship and the 2016 Olympic Games. The new actions were reportedly much smaller and more violent than the earlier demonstrations.

The police in Brasilia used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters attempting to break though police lines around the Mané Garrincha stadium, where Brazil was playing Australia; a total of 39 people were reportedly arrested in the various protests around the capital, which included 2,000 people marching on Congress with a model of a prison which they said was intended for corrupt politicians. Protesters in downtown São Paulo tried to invade the City Council; at least one was seriously injured when agents fired tear gas grenades at the crowd. Meanwhile, masked youths in the Black Bloc tendency attacked a total of seven bank branches in the city. In Rio de Janeiro a group of some 300 protesters managed to invade the military’s Independence Day parade even though more than 2,000 police agents were guarding it. The police used tear gas grenades to stop the protesters; the gas forced parade guests to flee the reviewing stands, along with the spectators, many of them with children.

The protests were largely arranged through a Facebook page and a website. The main force behind them, according to some reports, was Anonymous, a loose network of hackers and internet activists, but the protests attracted support from groups on both the right and the left, including an organization with an English-language name, Brazil No Corrupt, which calls for the return of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship. Another group, the Day of “Enough, claims to be nonpartisan, with a focus on corruption and impunity. At the same time, members of the governing center-left Workers’ Party (PT) were also organizing protests for the day, while in Maceió, capital of the eastern state of Alagoas, a demonstration was organized by the Cry of the Excluded, a network based on progressive social movements and backed by the Catholic hierarchy. (Adital (Brazil) 9/4/13; El País (Madrid) 9/8/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/8/13 from AFP)

*3. Argentina: Mapuche Blame Oil Campany Guards for Fires
Some 200 indigenous Mapuche blocked the entrance to a facility of Argentina’s state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company on Aug. 31 in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén to protest the burning of five of their buildings. The residents blamed YPF security guards for the fires, which destroyed four homes and the meeting place for their community, Campo Maripe, on Aug. 30 and in the early morning of Aug. 31. The company denies responsibility, but Mapuche spokespeople noted that there is security at the YPF site, provided by the Neuquén provincial government, and that YPF is building a separating plant just 100 meters from the first of the houses to be set on fire. They asked how it was possible “that a building could be set on fire just hundreds of meters from the oil wells and derricks and no one observed anything.”

Mapuche communities occupied four oil wells in the Vaca Muerta region in July to protest a $1 billion agreement between YPF and the California-based Chevron Corporation to drill for oil in the area’s shale deposits, both because residents fear environmental damage from the drilling method, hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”), and because Chevron has refused to settle a $19 billion judgment in favor of Ecuadorian indigenous people whose territory was damaged by oil exploitation [see Update #1185]. (Europa Press 9/1/13; Kaos en la Red 9/2/13)

In other news, on Sept. 4 Chile extradited Argentine judge Otilio Romano, who is accused of committing almost 100 human rights crimes as a prosecutor under Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship. The judge had fled Argentina to avoid prosecution. Interpol Chile director Fernando Villegas said police agents took Romano to the Santiago airport to be delivered to Argentine Interpol agents and flown to the north-central Argentine city of Mendoza. (New York Times 9/4/13 from AP)

*4. Mexico: Congress Passes “Education Reform”; Demos Continue
The Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress voted 390-69 on Sept. 2 in favor of the Professional Teaching Service Law, legislation that requires teachers to be evaluated periodically, although it allows two retests for teachers who fail the evaluation. This is the third in a series of “educational reforms” being pushed by President Enrique Peña Nieto [see Update #1190]. The Senate completed the approval process the next day by voting 102-22 for the law. In both chambers the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) was split; five of the party’s 22 senators backed the law. (Europa Press 9/2/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/4/13)

The main organization for dissident teachers, the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), had called for a national day of action on Sept. 4 even before Congress passed the law. Tens of thousands of teachers demonstrated that day in 22 states. Striking teachers blocked the airport in Los Cabos, in the western state of Baja California Sur, for two hours, while about 1,000 protesters in Ciudad Juárez, in the northern state of Chihuahua, marched to the Córdoba International Bridge on the US border, distributing fliers and intermittently blocking traffic. In the eastern state of Veracruz, 2,000 teachers took over a tollbooth on the Córdoba-Orizaba highway and let traffic pass for free; other Veracruz teachers blocked the Costera del Golfo, Nuevo Teapa-Cosoleacaque and Minatitlán-Coatzacoalcos highways. Unionists claim that 50,000 teachers observed a strike in the southeastern state of Chiapas; local media put the number at 30,000. (LJ 9/5/13)

Thousands of teachers, many from the southern state of Oaxaca, continued the protests they had been mounting in Mexico City since Aug. 21. On Sept. 5 they held their second blockade of the city’s international airport in just two weeks; for nine hours the teachers kept vehicles from driving up to the facility. For a while it seemed that there would be a confrontation with the police, and protesters armed themselves with metal poles from a fence and with blocks of cement, but the protest ended peacefully in the early evening. (LJ 9/6/13)

The dissident teachers insist that they would support a meaningful education reform, with improved funding for schools in the impoverished southern states, and are not simply fighting against evaluations. The CNTE posted a video entitled “Why are the teachers protesting?” to explain their position. In it a teacher denounces recent changes in the curriculum. “Before,” she says, “we studied Marxism starting in high school. Not anymore…. Before, we had logic and set theory in the field of mathematics, and now it’s nowhere to be found. So a lot of the areas of knowledge which helped us reason in an orderly, organized way are being taken from us. Why? Because they need for the kids who come out to be experts in English and technology, because that’s what the big maquiladoras need.” (Maquiladoras are assembly plants that benefit from tax and tariff exemptions while producing for foreign markets--in Mexico’s case, for the US.) (Latin Times 9/2/13)

Peña’s “reform” agenda also includes partially opening up the energy sector to private companies. On Sept. 8 thousands of people rallied in Mexico City to protest the proposal. Former center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (“AMLO”) called Peña’s plan “a vile and shameless robbery.” “It’s an act of treason to the country equal to or greater than that of Antonio López de Santa Anna,” he said, referring to the Mexican president who lost one half of Mexico’s territory to the US in the 1846-48 Mexican-American War. (El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 9/8/13 from AP)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US/immigration

Enforced Disappearances Still an Appalling Reality in the Americas

Uruguay Prepares for Iron Rush: Civil Society Opposes Proposed Mining Legislation

Paraguay’s militarized democracy

Ecuador: The Rights of Nature Threatened in Yasuní National Park

Colombia: “It's Unacceptable that the Actions of a Few Impact the Lives of the Majority”

Free Trade: Colombia Protests and Rural Development

Venezuela’s Maduro Writes Letter to Obama, “No War in Syria”

Venezuela: Maduro charges 'electrical coup'

Brutal Repression of National Strike in Colombia: Santos Declares Militarization of Bogotá

Outrage (Honduras)

Guatemalan Indigenous Organizations File Complaint over Mining Law with Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The art of building a new world: Freedom according to the Zapatistas (Mexico)

It’s about time to tell NAFTA environment ministers to boost media outreach (Mexico)

Community Defenders Celebrate 4th Anniversary Blockade of Proposed Hydroelectric Project on Oaxacan Coast (Mexico)

Mexico: The Eye is on the Mines

The Ancestral Values We Inherited: Protecting Indigenous Water, Land, and Culture in Mexico

The Environmental Consequences of Privatizing Mexico’s Oil

A War Without War Correspondents in Mexico

Ciudad Juárez: femicide avenger strikes back

Should the Caribbean Follow Uruguay’s Marijuana Policy?

Derailment of ‘La Bestia,’ Another Tragedy in a Broken Immigration System (US/immigration)

Will Syria Crisis Stifle Immigration Reform? (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: