Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WNU #1197: Haiti’s UN Cholera Spreads to Mexico

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1197, October 27, 2013

1. Latin America: Haiti’s UN Cholera Spreads to Mexico
2. Brazil: Protesters Target Oil Auction, Transit Fare
3. Guatemala: Ruling Opens Way for Ríos Montt Amnesty
4. Haiti: Government Tries to Arrest Opposition Lawyer
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Grenada, 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. Latin America: Haiti’s UN Cholera Spreads to Mexico
According to Mexican health authorities, 171 cases of cholera had been confirmed as of Oct. 18 in Mexico City and states north and east of the capital; one person had died from the disease. The outbreak, first identified on Sept. 9, apparently involves the South Asian strain of the cholera bacterium responsible for an epidemic that started in Haiti in October 2010. Scientific studies indicate that poor sanitary conditions at a United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) base used by Nepalese troops caused the outbreak in Haiti, infecting at least 682,573 people as of Oct. 10 this year and causing 8,330 deaths and almost 380,000 hospitalizations.

Mexico is the first mainland country in the Americas to report an outbreak from the South Asian strain. The disease hit the Dominican Republic in November 2010 and had killed 458 people there and sickened 31,070 by Oct. 6 of this year. Cases first appeared in Cuba in 2012; Cuban authorities reported 678 cases and three deaths as of Aug. 23 this year. There have also been isolated cases in Chile, Venezuela, Italy, Germany and Holland, apparently affecting people returning from vacations in Cuba.

People would be vulnerable to infection by the disease in much of Latin America because of poor water supply systems, according to Marcos Espinal, director of the transmittable diseases department of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO, OPS in Spanish). The Central American countries are a special concern, Espinal told the Spanish wire service EFE. The last cholera outbreak in Latin America, in 1991, caused 4,000 or more deaths in 16 countries, with 396,536 people infected, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Haitian and international organizations have unsuccessfully called on the United Nations (UN) to accept its responsibility for introducing the South Asian strain to the hemisphere. Several groups filed a class action suit against the UN in a US federal court on Oct. 9 on behalf of the victims in Haiti [see Update #1195]. (National Public Radio blog 10/23/13; EFE 10/26/13 via Terra Peru)

Correction: In Update #1196 we reported that murdered Guerrero activist Rocío Mesino’s brother was disappeared during the “dirty war” of the 1970s. The person disappeared was her father’s brother.

*2. Brazil: Protesters Target Oil Auction, Transit Fare
Hundreds of Brazilian unionists, teachers, students and leftists held a militant demonstration outside the Windsor Hotel in Rio Janeiro’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood on Oct. 21 to protest an auction being held there for rights to develop the Libra oilfield in the Bay of Santos. Denouncing the auction as a partial privatization of the country’s largest source of petroleum, the demonstrators attempted to invade the hotel, confronting some 1,100 soldiers backed by agents of the National Security Force, and the federal, civil and militarized police. Protesters, some of them masked Black Bloc activists, fought with the agents, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. At least six people were injured, and a vehicle belonging to the Rede Record television network was set on fire.

Later that day, the Black Bloc held a second demonstration on the Rio Branco avenue. The slogan for the action, “A million against the auction and oppression and for education,” linked opposition to the auction with support for local teachers striking for better pay and working conditions [see Update #1195}. Another protest, held the same day in São Paulo, resulted in at least three arrests and attacks on two journalists.

The auction itself proceeded without problems. It ended in just 50 minutes, with the development rights going to a consortium of five companies. Brazil’s state oil company, Petrobras (Petróleo Brasileiro S.A.), will have a 40% share in the field’s exploitation, followed by Shell Brasil, a subsidiary of the Netherlands-based Shell company, with 20%; France’s Total, with 20%; and two Chinese companies, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC Limited) and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), with 10% each. The only bid came from this consortium; despite concerns that industrial spying by the US might affect the auction [see Update #1193], no US company bid for the Libra field.

The Brazilian government was “extremely pleased,” with the results, President Dilma Rousseff announced in a brief televised address. “The process initiated today will bring enormous resource to bear for the Brazilian people,” Rousseff said. “Education will gain a windfall.” She denied that privatization was involved in the auction, which brought the government $7 billion immediately and the potential for large royalties in the future. Libra is expected to produce 1.4 millions barrels a day; Brazil’s total production currently is 2.1 million barrels a day. (Adital (Brazil) 10/21/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/22/13 from AFP, DPA, Reuters; Dow Jones 10/22/13)

Opposition to the auction was an issue in a weeklong strike that the Only Federation of Oil Workers (FUP), which includes 14 unions, started against Petrobras on Oct. 17. The union was also demanding a 5% increase in real wages, along with better working conditions, guarantees for contract workers, help with drug prescriptions, and other benefits. The unions claimed 90% adherence to the strike. The job action was suspended on Oct. 23, two days after the auction was completed, with the workers winning an 8.56% wage increase—presumably in nominal wages—along with other benefits. The FUP leadership said local assemblies had approved the suspension. (Adital 10/23/13; TeleSUR 10/24/13)

A three-hour march held in São Paulo on Oct. 25 to demand free public transit turned violent when a group of protesters split off and attacked a bus terminal. Masked protesters, some of them reportedly Black Bloc activists, set a bus on fire and vandalized cash and ticket machines. About 60 people were arrested, according to the local press. The march was called by the Free Pass Movement (MPL), a group whose protests against high transit costs helped spark massive nationwide demonstrations in June [see Update #1182]. Also on Oct. 25, President Rousseff announced a $2.4 billion program for improving the São Paulo’s public transit. (BBC News 10/25/13; La Tercera (Chile) 10/25/13 from AFP)

*3. Guatemala: Ruling Opens Way for Ríos Montt Amnesty
Guatemala’s Constitutional Court (CC) voted 5-2 on Oct. 22 to issue a ruling that could lead to amnesty for former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83), who faces charges of genocide for the killings of 1,771 indigenous Ixil from March 1982 to August 1983 in a counterinsurgency campaign he headed. The CC ordered the trial judge, High Risk Cases Court judge Carol Patricia Flores Polanco, to rule on defense lawyers’ motion for a dismissal of the charges based on Decree 8-86, a 1986 blanket amnesty for all crimes committed by the Guatemala military and leftist rebels during Guatemala’s civil war, which started in 1960.

Judge Flores’ court convicted Ríos Montt on the genocide charges on May 10 of this year and sentenced the former dictator to 80 years in prison, but the CC set the conviction aside 10 days later on a technicality and ordered a new trial [see Update #1178].

Human rights groups denounced the CC’s Oct. 22 ruling as a transparent attempt to dismiss the case against Ríos Montt. Decree 8-86’s validity is questionable. It was issued by dictator Gen. Humberto Mejía Víctores (1983-86) shortly before he ceded power to newly elected president Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo (1986-1991). According to the Center for Legal Action in Human Rights (CALDH), the decree violates Guatemala’s international treaty commitments and in any case was superseded by a later amnesty in the National Reconciliation Law of 1996, passed as part of the process that ended the civil war. The 1996 law’s Article 8 specifies that the “extinction of penal responsibility referred to in this law will not be applicable to the crimes of genocide, torture and forced disappearance.” (El País (Madrid) 10/23/13 from correspondent; Latin American Herald Tribune 10/23/13 from EFE; Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) blog 10/23/13)

*4. Haiti: Government Tries to Arrest Opposition Lawyer
A failed attempt by Haitian police to search the car of a prominent lawyer, André Michel, the evening of Oct. 22 quickly turned into an embarrassment for the government of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”). Riot police stopped Michel in the capital’s Martissant neighborhood after 6 pm, in violation of a constitutional ban on nighttime arrests except in cases of active crimes. Joined by Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Francisco René, the city’s chief prosecutor, the agents tried to search Michel’s car. A crowd of local residents gathered to protect the attorney. The agents dispersed the crowd with tear gas and took Michel to the police headquarters, where he spent the night.

Protests broke out in the downtown area the next morning, with several dozen youths throwing rocks and burning tires. Michel was taken to a judge who tried to send him to prison, but protesters and fellow attorneys removed Michel from the courthouse to the bar association office. In the afternoon three senators, who as legislators have immunity from arrest, took the lawyer under their protection. As of Oct. 24 Michel was still free and giving interviews to the media.

Michel represents the plaintiffs in a case charging President Martelly’s wife, Sophia Martelly, and his son, Olivier Martelly, with corruption. Judge Lamarre Bélizaire, who is close to the government, issued an order on July 26 for Michel to appear in court, but the attorney ignored the order [see Update #1188]. He kept a low profile for two months, but then participated in two large anti-government demonstrations starting on Sept. 30. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/23/13; Miami Herald 10/23/13 from correspondent; New York Times 10/24/13 from AP)

The incident with Michel coincided with the Oct. 23 release of a statement by the French-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) about threats to radio journalist Jean Monard Métellus, host of the popular weekly political talk show “Ranmase” (“Wrap Up”). Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon had warned on Oct. 19 of reports about a contract for Métellus to be killed by two motorcycle hit men for $10,000. RSF said “protection needs to materialize quickly, just as a rapid investigation into the origin of the threats is also needed.” Dozens of people demonstrated outside Radio Télévision Caraïbes (RTVC), the station where Métellus works, on Oct. 25 to show their support for the journalist and their opposition to the government. “We’re facing a power which is in the process of constructing a dictatorship in the country,” warned Marie France Claude, a member of the Haitian Christian Democratic Party (PDCH). Opposition representatives regularly voice harsh criticisms of the government on “Ranmase,” although government ministers also appear on the program. (AlterPresse 10/26/13; MH 10/23/13 from correspondent)

In other news, a report released by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) on Oct. 16 confirmed earlier reports that management at Haiti’s 24 garment assembly plants circumvents the current 300 gourde a day (about $6.85) minimum wage requirement by setting unrealistically high quotas for piece work [see Update #1179]. “The majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income,” according to the report. The offenders include the Caracol Industrial Park (PIC) in northern Haiti, built in part with aid from the US ostensibly intended to help the country recover after a January 2010 earthquake devastated much of southern Haiti. (NYT 10/16/13)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Grenada, US/immigration

Chile: Police Special Forces Evict Mapuche Community From Contested Lands

Chile: Time for Starbucks to Stop Union Busting

Chile’s 40 Year Anniversary in Photos: Part 2, Resistance, Past and Present

Brazil: deadly prison riot sets off angry protests

US Speaking Tour - From the Mines to the Streets: A Bolivian Activist’s Life

Indigenous Language Recovery in Peru

Colombia-Ecuador: Serious Revelations About Spraying Glyphosate on the Border

Colombia: Paramilitary Group Threatens Indigenous Protesters with ‘Social Cleansing’

This Is Peace: "Walking The Word" in Colombia

Opposition Use Presidential Security Decree to Label Venezuelan Government “Dictatorial”

AULA Blog on Venezuela Gets It Wrong

5 Ongoing Media Myths about Nicaragua and Reagan

The Return of the Nicaraguan Revolution

Honduras Elections: Violent Attacks Against Opposition Candidates Provoke Increasing Concern

Chixoy Dam Justice And Reparations Delayed: 31.5 Years And Counting (Guatemala)

Mexico: San Sebastián Bachajón, Six Months after the Assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán

An Extermination of Social Leaders (Mexico)

Anabel Hernández: Mexico's new narco order

Tijuana kingpin killed by gunman in clown costume

NSA Spy Revelations Show Need to Recast US-Mexico Security Programs

IOM Reports Big Drop in IDP Population after Removing 3 Areas from “Official” Camp List (Haiti)

Forced Evictions in Haiti's Top-Down Post-Earthquake Reconstruction

30 years on: The legacy of Reagan's invasion of Grenada

Activists Turn to Direct Action (US/immigration)

Until the president stops deportations, we will stop them ourselves (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, October 22, 2013

WNU #1196: Chilean Police Raid Mapuche Community

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1196, October 20, 2013

1. Chile: Special Forces Raid Mapuche Community
2. Mexico: US Spied on Former President Calderón
3. Mexico: Guerrero Campesino Leader Gunned Down
4. Dominican Republic: CARICOM Condemns Anti-Immigrant Ruling
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Grenada

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

*1. Chile: Special Forces Raid Mapuche Community
Some 300 Chilean police agents carried out a raid on the morning of Oct. 9 at an estate occupied by members of the indigenous Mapuche community of Temucuicui in the southern region of Araucanía. According to community members, agents from the carabineros militarized police destroyed houses and crops, beat residents and ran over sheep with their vehicles, killing 15 animals and injuring many others. At least four people were arrested, including werken (spokesperson) Mijael Carbone Queipul; his wife, Susana Venegas Curinao; werken Jorge Huenchullán; and his brother, who was reportedly wounded by a bullet.

The police operation took place at the Nilontraru estate, which is claimed by landowners René Urban and Luis Valenzuela. The Temucuicui community says the estate is on ancestral Mapuche land, and community members have been living and farming there for two years. Temucuicui residents are actively reclaiming land from estate owners, including estates officially belonging to the landowner Martín Ruf and the Zeit family. These actions have apparently brought reprisals from the government, including a raid on May 23 of this year. Police also attacked community residents on July 23, 2012, shortly after the Mapuche occupied another estate; the agents shot two minors at close range with rubber bullets, provoking outrage and protests in other parts of Chile [see Update #1138, where the landowners’ names are given as “Ruff” and “Seinz”].

Temucuicui werken Jorge Huenchullán traveled to Europe in September and addressed the 24th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the situation of the Mapuche in Chile. He also presented the Mapuche case in meetings with members of the European Parliament. The Temucuicui community believes that the Oct. 9 raid was the government’s response to Huenchullán’s European visit. (Radio Universidad de Chile 10/9/13; UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) 10/10/13; Adital (Brazil) 10/15/13)

The Mapuche are the largest indigenous group in Chile, and the Mapuche organization Meli Wixan Mapu sponsored an indigenous rights march in Santiago on Oct. 12, the official anniversary of the arrival of Spanish colonizer Christopher Columbus in the Americas. “Today is not a day to celebrate,” one protester said. “It is a day to condemn and repudiate all the abuses that we've suffered for more than 500 years.” The march, which drew thousands of indigenous people and their supporters, was peaceful until the end, when some confrontations broke out between police agents and protesters at the corner of Miraflores and Agustinas streets. (CNN Chile 10/12/13; Huffington Post 10/15/13)

Mapuche activists in Melipeuco, a town in Cautín province in Araucanía, won a victory at the beginning of October when the Ingeniería y Construcción Madrid Limitada company withdrew its plan to build a $24 million hydroelectric plant on the Truful-Truful river [see Update #1167]. Mapuche organizations were joined by tourism interests in filing complaints against the plan with the government’s Environmental Evaluation Service (SEA) charging that the dam would compromise the Trayenko area, which is sacred to the Mapuche. (Kaos en la Red 10/8/13)

*2. Mexico: US Spied on Former President Calderón
The US National Security Agency (NSA) hacked into the public email accounts of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) and members of his cabinet, according to an Oct. 20 report in the German newsweekly Der Spiegel; the report was based on a secret NSA document leaked by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden. This is the second revelation in less than two months about US spying on a Mexican president. On Sept. 1 Brazil’s Globo television network presented other documents leaked by Snowden showing that the NSA intercepted text messages from current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto in June 2012, while he was still running for the presidency [see Update #1191]. Former president Calderón, a leader in the center-right National Action Party (PAN), was an exceptionally close ally of the US government.

The US accessed Calderón’s email in an operation codenamed “Flatliquid” and run by the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) department. “TAO successfully exploited a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican presidential network to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calderón’s public email account,” an NSA document reported in May 2010. Since cabinet ministers also used the Presidencia email domain, the NSA now had access to “diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico’s political system and internal stability,” the agency reported. It described the president’s office as “a lucrative source.”

Other NSA documents show intensive US spying on the Mexican government. In August 2009, the agency gained access to the emails of officials in the Public Security Secretariat (SSP), a federal ministry which was replaced early this year by the National Security Commission (CNS). An NSA document from 2009 highlights the agency’s “tremendous success” in spying on Mexico and looks forward to “future successes”: “These TAO accesses into several Mexican government agencies are just the beginning--we intend to go much further against this important target.”

Asked by Der Spiegel to comment, the NSA responded: “We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, and as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.” (Der Spiegel 10/20/13 (English language edition))

*3. Mexico: Guerrero Campesino Leader Gunned Down
An unidentified man assassinated Rocío Mesino Mesino, the director of the leftist South Sierra Campesino Organization (OCSS), in the early afternoon of Oct. 19 near the community of Mexcaltepec, Atoyac de Alvarez municipality, in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero. Mesino was hit by four bullets, apparently from an AK-47 assault rifle. The killer escaped in a vehicle driven by another man; the military and the municipal police searched for the assailants but reported no success.

The killing was carried out in front of dozens of witnesses. Mesino was standing with her sister Nora and other family members at a site where some 60 workers were repairing a bridge damaged in mid-September by the tropical storms Manuel and Ingrid. The OCSS leader, who held a local office from 2009 to 2012 as a member of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), had opened a canteen for the workers a week before the assassination.

The Mesino family has been the subject of attacks since the time of the federal government’s “dirty war” against Guerrero leftists in the 1970s, when Mesino’s 20-year-old uncle Alberto was disappeared. The Mesinos and other local leaders formed the OCSS on Jan. 14, 1994; a little more than one year later, on June 28, 1995, state police killed 17 OCSS members in what is known as the Aguas Blancas massacre. Rocío Mesino’s father, Hilario Mesino Acosta, was detained by the federal government along with then-OCSS director Benigno Guzmán Martínez for a period in the late 1990s. Her brother Miguel Angel Mesino was held on homicide charges for 10 months in 2003 but was released; three unidentified men gunned him down in broad daylight on Sept. 18, 2005, near the police station in the Atoyac town center [see Update #818]. Rocío Mesino herself was detained on Mar. 13 of this year in connection with the homicide of Victorino Luengas García, who was kidnapped and then murdered in June 2011 in Coyuca de Benítez, Guerrero, but Judge Marco Antonio Ordorica released her after six days for lack of evidence.

At least six other leftist leaders have been murdered recently in Guerrero. Arturo Hernández Cardona, Félix Rafael Bandera Román and Angel Román Ramírez, three of the eight leaders of the Iguala Popular Unity, were found dead on June 3, a few days after they were kidnapped near the Mexico City-Acapulco highway. Raymundo Velázquez Flores, director of the Emiliano Zapata Revolutionary Agrarian League, and two colleagues were murdered on Aug. 5 in the outskirts of Coyuca de Benítez. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/20/13)

Correction: Alberto Mesino was originally identified as Rocío Mesino’s brother; he was her father’s brother.

*4. Dominican Republic: CARICOM Condemns Anti-Immigrant Ruling
The Guyana-based Secretariat of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization of 15 Caribbean countries, issued a statement on Oct. 17 criticizing a ruling by the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Tribunal (TC) that denied citizenship to people born in the country to undocumented immigrant parents [see Update #1194]. Immigrant rights activists say the TC’s Sept. 23 ruling affects more than 200,000 Dominicans, mostly the descendants of Haitian immigrants, and includes people born as early as 1929 who have been recognized as Dominican citizens for more than a half century. The ruling makes people “stateless in violation of international human rights obligations,” the CARICOM statement charged; the Secretariat called on the Dominican government to protect the rights of “those made vulnerable by this ruling and its grievous effects.” Haiti is a CARICOM member; the Dominican government has indicated that it plans to join. (New York Times 10/17/13 from AP)

The ruling has sparked demonstrations in Haiti and at least two protests in New York City, which has large Dominican and Haitian communities. A group called the Haitian Diaspora for Civic and Human Rights (HDCHR) held a protest on Oct. 17 in front of the Dominican consulate in New York. “Stop racism,” “End apartheid,” “No ethnic cleansing” and “There’s genocide in the Dominican Republic” were among the slogans on protesters’ signs. A number of Dominican community organizations endorsed the action, including La Aurora Community Action, the Association of Progressive Women and the Dominican Woman’s Center. About a dozen Dominican activists had held a separate protest earlier in the month in front of Boricua College in Northern Manhattan and announced plans for further demonstrations. (Diario Horizonte (Santo Domingo) 10/4/13; Diario Libre (Santo Domingo) 10/14/13; AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/17/13)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Grenada

Latin America Builds Momentum Against U.S.-Backed Drug War

Sustainable Food Systems for Security and Nutrition: The Need for Social Movements (Latin America)

“The Rise of the Middle Class” in Latin America? The World Bank is Still Tone Deaf After all These Years

Indigenous March in Chile’s Capital on Columbus Day

Chile’s 40 Year Anniversary in Photos: Part 1, Recovering Memories

Good News for World Food Day: Suicide Seeds Are Dead… for the moment (Brazil)

Lawfare: Ecuador’s New Style of Governance?

From Intag: An Open Letter to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa

The Venezuelan Revolution Has Brought Substantial Improvements to Working-Class Neighbourhoods

Diego de Holguín Boulevard: A Case of Rampant Corruption in El Salvador and One Government’s Quest for Justice

El Salvador: Activists Struggle to Recover Human Rights Archives

Are Honduran Election Polls Reliable?

Columbus Day, Chiapas Style (Mexico)

Mexican Federal Court Halts Invasion of Genetically Modified Corn

U.S. Crisis Unsettles Mexico

Mexico: Bracero Guestworkers, Unpaid

Photo essay: One-year Anniversary of the Death of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez (Mexico)

Haiti’s Apparel Factories: Reports Find Wage Theft, Sexual Harassment, and Poor Safety and Sanitation Standards

Lawsuit Filed in Federal Court Against UN over Cholera (Haiti)

Grenada Preparing Unique Approach to Debt Restructuring

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, October 15, 2013

WNU #1195: Mexican Judge Suspends GM Corn Planting

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1195, October 13, 2013

1. Mexico: Judge Suspends GM Corn Planting
2. Mexico: Commemoration of 1968 Massacre Turns Violent
3. Argentina: Will Iran Thaw Bring Justice for AMIA Victims?
4. Brazil: Teachers and Indigenous Hold Mass Protests
5. Haiti: UN Force Faces Lawsuit, New Accusations
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic

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: Judge Suspends GM Corn Planting
Mexican federal judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo has issued an injunction ordering the Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa) and the Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) not to grant further licenses for the sowing of genetically modified (GM) corn, a group of environmental organizations announced on Oct. 10. Mexican law restricts the use of transgenic corn, but recently the government has greatly expanded the area where GM seeds can be sown in pilot projects by companies like the Monsanto Company, Pioneer, Syngenta AG and Dow AgroSciences [see Update #1177]. Environmental activists want to ban all transgenic corn, which they say threatens both Mexico’s biodiversity and the ability of independent farmers to grow organic crops.

Judge Verdugo cited “the risk of imminent harm to the environment” as the basis for the injunction, a temporary restraining order in response to a suit that scientists, farmers, activists and environmental groups filed on July 5 with the Twelfth Federal District Civil Court in Mexico City. The Mexican branch of the international organization Greenpeace noted that the injunction is just “the first step for the definitive protection of biological diversity.” According to attorney Romualdo Hernández Naranjo of the legal advocacy group Collective Actions AC, the real significance of the judge’s order is that the judicial branch has finally agreed to participate in the debate over the use of GM seeds in the country. Until now the federal executive branch has acted on the issue with no oversight from other parts of the government. (Animal Político (Miami) 10/11/13; Food First 10/11/13)

The news of the Mexican injunction came just two days before activists held an international March Against Monsanto, the Missouri-based multinational that dominates the transgenic seed industry. Protests were reportedly organized for Oct. 12 in more than 500 cities in as many as 57 countries, with about the same level of participation as on a similar day of action on May 25 [see Update #1178].

Chileans marched in 14 cities, from Arica to Punta Arenas, to reject GM crops and to oppose a proposed Vegetable Breeders Law, which opponents dismiss as “the Monsanto Law.” According to the carabineros militarized police, some 800 protesters gathered in Santiago’s Plaza Italia. Brazilian activists met at Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach to protest the “enormous damage that the agribusiness multinationals, symbolized by Monsanto, have caused in Brazil and in the world.” There were also protests in dozens of US cities, including New York, where some 300 demonstrators marched from 42nd Street to Columbus Circle. “Monsanto’s GMO [genetically modified organisms] are like heroin, like cocaine or crack,” said one of the academic researchers who participated in the New York protest. “Once you resort to them, you’re forced to go on using them each year. In part, this is why more than 10,000 farmers in India have committed suicide recently when they weren’t able to go on farming to feed their families; some of them drank the Monsanto pesticide they were forced to buy.” (CNN Chile 10/12/13; Terra Brazil 10/12/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/13/13 from correspondent)

*2. Mexico: Commemoration of 1968 Massacre Turns Violent
As has become traditional, on Oct. 2 present-day students joined veterans of a 1968 student strike in a march in Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of a massacre of strikers and their supporters there by police and the military. The attack, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas next to the Tlatelcolco housing project, left at least 44 dead, although many witnesses claim that hundreds were killed. At this year’s march, which marked 45 years since the attack, protesters demanded a full accounting for the massacre and punishment for the perpetrators.

As in the past, the demonstrators intended to march the 2.7 km from the Tlatelolco project to the capital’s main plaza, the Zócalo. But Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police blocked them, forcing the march to turn toward the Angel of Independence. At this point hooded youths began attacking the police and vandalizing cars and stores. Many of the marchers, including teachers protesting changes in the educational system [see Update #1192], tried to continue the peaceful demonstration despite the ongoing confrontations between police and hooded youths. The DF authorities reported a total of 67 arrests by the end of the day, with 32 police agents injured; no totals were given for injured protesters and bystanders.

On Oct. 3 representatives of several human rights groups, including the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (LIMEDDH), charged that the police used excessive force. “What we saw yesterday was clearly a rather unprofessional police [force],” said Darío Ramírez, who heads the Mexico chapter of Article 19, an international organization defending press freedom. He cited 22 documented instances of police aggression against journalists covering the march and said journalists Gustavo Ruiz Lizárraga and Pavel Alejandro Primo were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. The human rights groups also claimed that plainclothes agents had acted as provocateurs. A number of witnesses said the hooded youths included “infiltrators” who attacked both the police and peaceful demonstrators. In one incident a youth seized an independent journalist’s camera. “This is a tool of my trade,” the journalist said. “When did you ever work in your life?” “This is my work,” the attacker responded, punching the journalist, who lost a tooth. “You’d better go,” another hooded youth warned. “You got off easy.”

Similar charges of police infiltration followed violence at protests last Dec. 1 during the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto [see Update #1158]. Ironically, agents provocateurs appear to have been used to set off the 1968 massacre [see Update #714]. The DF is now governed by the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD); a number of the party’s founders were activists in the 1968 strike. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/3/13, 10/3/13, 10/4/13; EFE 10/4/13 via Latin American Herald Tribune)

Several hundred people demonstrated at the Reclusorio Norte prison on Oct. 5 to demand the release of 27 protesters still being detained. No arrests were reported. (LJ 10/6/13)

*3. Argentina: Will Iran Thaw Bring Justice for AMIA Victims?
Argentina and Iran have agreed to proceed with a joint investigation into the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, Argentine foreign minister Héctor Timerman said after a Sept. 28 meeting in New York with the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Argentina has formally charged several former members of the Iranian government with planning the attack, which left 85 dead and some 300 injured in the worst incident of anti-Semitic violence since World War 2; Argentine prosecutors say the Lebanese organization Hezbollah supplied the suicide bomber who carried out the attack [see Update #1124].

Argentina and Iran signed a memorandum in January of this year agreeing to set up a Truth Commission that would probe the bombing [see World War 4 Report 1/28/13]. The Argentine Congress approved the pact in February, but until September the Iranian government hadn’t given its formal approval. The two foreign ministers are to meet in Geneva in November to put the plan into action and to start creating the Truth Commission. Then Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman and Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral are expected to go to Iran to take testimony in the case.

The apparent progress in the AMIA investigation comes as relations seem to be improving between the US and Iran following the inauguration of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in August. In late September the administration of Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner formally asked US president Barack Obama to include the AMIA case in a dialogue which Iran and the US have agreed to start.

The AMIA investigation still faces a number of obstacles, and the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (DAIA), the main body representing the country’s large Jewish community, issued a statement on Sept. 28 saying Iran’s approval of the joint investigation “brings no benefit.” The Iranian government has consistently denied any Iranian involvement in the bombing, and it has a standing arrest warrant for prosecutor Nisman, which clearly would have to be removed if he is to travel to Iran. Some political factions in Iran reportedly oppose any deal on the AMIA case, despite Argentina’s importance as a source of grain for the country.

There are also problems with Argentina’s investigation. Argentine political scientist Marcelo Falak wrote on Oct. 12 that Nisman has built a strong case for Iranian involvement but that he may have overreached in places. Falak stressed the importance of getting the US to make the investigation “one more condition presented to Iran in order to normalize its relationship with the international community. Only that would prevent Iran from delaying its obligations…and using the Truth Commission as a way to simply discredit the Argentine investigation.” (Reuters 9/28/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/2/13 from correspondent; Buenos Aires Herald 10/12/13)

*4. Brazil: Teachers and Indigenous Hold Mass Protests
Despite a heavy rain, tens of thousands of Brazilians marched in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 7 to support local teachers on the 60th day of a strike over pay and benefits. Organizers said 50,000 people participated in what media reports called one of the largest demonstrations since an unprecedented wave of mass protests in June [see Update #1184]. The immediate issue of the strike was what the teachers considered an inadequate pay and benefit package offered by Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, but the demonstration attracted broad support because of widespread anger over police brutality at earlier protests and over the failure of local and national governments to provide services in health and education. "We have support from the people,” schoolteacher Aline de Luca told the British daily The Guardian at the march. “Many of those who are here are not education professionals. I am hopeful things will improve, because we have never seen society as mobilized as it is now.”

Much of the media attention was focused on confrontations between police agents and Brazil’s relatively new Black Bloc, along with other anarchist groups. Youths vandalized banks and burned a bus, while police agents fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Union leaders blame agents provocateurs for the violence. Marta Moraes, general director of the State Union of Rio de Janeiro Education Profesionals (SEPE-RJ), charged that “the conflicts took place because of an obvious presence of infiltrated police agents, the so-called ‘P2,’ who go around in civilian clothes to initiate or encourage confrontation, making it appear that the appalling action comes from the demonstrators.” (Adital (Brazil) 10/8/13, 10/9/13; The Guardian 10/8/13 from correspondent)

The Rio de Janeiro protest followed a week of demonstrations in different parts of the country by indigenous Brazilians and members of quilombos, communities founded in colonial times by fugitive slaves of African origin. The Sept. 30-Oct. 5 National Week of Indigenous Mobilization, organized by the Coordination of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), marked the 25th anniversary of the 1988 Constitution, which extended a number of rights to the indigenous communities. A series of proposed constitutional amendments (PECs) threatens to restrict these rights and open up indigenous territories to exploitation by miners and large landowners, according to the protesters. A special focus of the protests was PEC 215, which would give Congress control over the demarcation of indigenous territories, a function now held by the president.

The week of protests included a march to the federal ministries in Brasilia on Oct. 1 by some 1,300 indigenous people, quilombolas (quilombo residents) and agricultural workers. More than 100 indigenous Xavante blocked a highway for two and a half hours that day near Primavera do Leste in the central state of Mato Grosso. On Oct. 2 about 1,000 indigenous Pataxó and Tupinambá used rocks and tree branches to block a highway near Itamaraju in the eastern state of Bahía, although the protesters let ambulances pass, along with official vehicles and trucks carrying perishable goods. Indigenous groups and their supporters held protests and educational forums throughout the country during the week, and even organized a protest in front of the Brazilian embassy in London. (Adital 9/30/1310/1/13, 10/2/13; AFP 10/1/13; Los Angeles Times 10/2/13 from correspondent)

In other news, on Oct. 2 Rio de Janeiro police investigators said they were charging 10 agents in the torture and murder of construction worker Amarildo de Souza Lima the night of July 14. The state’s Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) had picked him up in an anti-drug operation in Rocinha, the large favela (improvised urban settlement) where he lived in the south of the city; the police claimed to have released him. De Souza’s family persisted in demanding an investigation, and “Where’s Amarildo?” became a major slogan in demonstrations protesting police brutality [see Update #1186]. (Adital 10/2/13, 10/3/13; New York Times 10/3/13 from correspondent)

Favela residents say De Souza’s disappearance wasn’t an isolated case. They charge that agents have been regularly disappearing residents as the police carry out a campaign to fight crime in Rio neighborhoods. Reporters from the Associated Press wire service found that “since 2007, a year before the security push into the city's slums, the number of missing person cases in the city and its impoverished outskirts has shot up 33%, to 4,090 reports last year.” In 2008 Human Rights Watch estimated that agents killed some 11,000 people in Rio and São Paulo from 2003 to 2009. (AP 10/7/13)

*5. Haiti: UN Force Faces Lawsuit, New Accusations
On Oct. 9 several advocacy groups filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of New York against the United Nations (UN) on behalf of victims of a deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti. The outbreak started in October 2010 because of poor sanitary conditions at a military base used by Nepalese troops in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), an 8,690-member UN “peacekeeping” force that has been in Haiti since June 2004. The 67-page complaint, filed by groups including the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haitian affiliate, the Bureau of International Lawyers (BAI), charges the UN military force with gross negligence. The epidemic has killed more than 8,300 people and sickened more than 650,000; about 1,000 people continue to die each year.

The same groups filed for compensation on behalf of 5,000 victims of the epidemic in November 2011. The UN finally responded in February of this year, claiming it had no legal liability, based on section 29 of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN [see Update #1165]. (IJDH press release 10/9/13; New York Times 10/10/13)

Also on Oct. 9, Transparency International UK, a London-based group that monitors corruption, released a report identifying “28 types of corruption that threaten peacekeeping” in the countries where UN troops are stationed. The alleged corruption includes bribery, theft, unauthorized sale of equipment, accounting fraud and sexual exploitation. The next day, on Oct. 10, the UN Security Council voted to extend MINUSTAH’s mandate to Oct. 15, 2014. (NYT 10/10/13, 10/11/13; AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/11/13)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic

At the UN, a Latin American Rebellion

Argentina Blindly Exploiting Groundwater, Scientists Warn

The Unknown Truth Behind The Moais (Chile)

Militarization, Austerity and Privatization: What’s Happening in Paraguay?

Ecuador: Correa Pushes Mining, Targets International Human Rights Observers in Intag

An Urgent Call for International Solidarity from Colombia: Support the Peace Process!

Colombia: The Triumphant Return of the Peasantry

U.S. “Cowboy” Foreign Policy From Libya to Colombia

Workers End 22 Day Strike at Venezuela's Sidor

New York Times Slanted Sandinista Coverage: From McCain to de Blasio (Nicaragua)

Rio Blanco Dam: Honduran Rights Defenders to be Jailed while Transnational Investors are Above the Law

Berta Cáceres Is Still Alive (Honduras)

Re-militarizing the Police: Turning the Clock Back in Honduras

New Report Details Multilateral Development Bank, U.S. Role in Human Rights Abuses in Río Blanco, Honduras

The End of Impunity? Indigenous Guatemalans Bring Canadian Mining Company to Court

Conflict Over Proposed Dam Flares Up in Guatemala

Mexico: The federal authorities must immediately release Alberto Patishtán

In Mexico, a voice for freedom, imprisoned

Canadian Mining Abroad: The Boom and the Backlash (Mexico)

Mexico busts more Sinaloa Cartel biggies —but still not El Chapo

Behind Haiti’s Hunger

USAID’s Largest Post-Quake Program Comes to a Close; More Questions than Answers (Haiti)

Dominican Republic “Denationalization” Program Seeks to Strip Citizenship from Haitian Descendants

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, October 8, 2013

Links but No Update for October 6, 2013

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

Abortion Rights in Latin America: A Tale of Varying Woes

Disgraced Chilean General Mena Commits Suicide

Disgraced Chilean General Mena Commits Suicide

Brazil: 1500 Indigenous Peoples occupy the Esplanade of Ministries

Massive Indigenous Rights Movement Launches Across Brazil

In Chile, Remembering 9/11: Reflections

Justice catches up to Chile, Ecuador war criminals

Brazil-Bolivia tensions over narco-diplomatic scandal

Bolivia, Venezuela reject US drug criticism

Evo Morales betrays Syrian people

Peru: Conga protest camp fired on

Petraeus' Statement on Plan Colombia at Odds With Reality

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

After 65 Years—Will Peace Finally Come to Colombia? An Interview with Ricardo Esquivia

Blame it on Caracas (Venezuela)

Rural Deaths in Venezuela Politically Motivated, Linked to Paramilitaries, Rights Group Says

Strikes Continue at Venezuela's Sidor

Surinam strongman's son popped in Panama

Guatemala: The Deported Return

Mexican Teachers Win Moral Victory—Struggle Continues

Left Coalition Opposes President Peña Nieto's Petroleum Plan (Mexico)

Mexican Senate Must End Impunity for Armed Forces' Human Rights Violations

Climate Whacks Mexico’s Economy

Mexico busts more Sinaloa Cartel biggies —but still not El Chapo

New, Old Grievances Rile Border Residents (Mexico)

US accused of violating human rights in Puerto Rico

Oct. 5 “Day of Dignity”–Under threat of deportations, immigrants can’t wait (US/immigration)