Tuesday, February 11, 2014

WNU #1208: Haitian Rights Activist Gunned Down

Issue #1208, February 9, 2014

1. Haiti: Human Rights Activist Gunned Down
2. Brazil: Fare Protesters Open Turnstiles in Rio
3. Dominican Republic: New Plan Announced for “Foreigners”
4. Puerto Rico: Bonds Are Junked Despite Reforms”
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Haiti: Human Rights Activist Gunned Down
An unknown assailant shot Haitian human rights activist Daniel Dorsinvil (or Dorsainvil) dead in Port-au-Prince’s Canapé Vert neighborhood the afternoon of Feb. 8; Dorsinvil’s wife, Girdly (or Gerly) Larêche, was also killed. Dorsinvil was the coordinator of the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) and a founder of the recently formed Patriotic Democratic Popular Movement (MPDP), a coalition of 30 groups [see Update #1207]; Larêche’s brother Ronald Larêche is a legislative deputy from Northeast department for the Unity party of former president René Préval (1996-2001 and 2006-2011).

Official sources suggested that robbery was the motive; according to the police, the couple had been in a bank, and the killer reportedly took Larêche’s handbag. POHDH executive secretary Antonal Mortimé questioned the official explanation and demanded a full investigation. “For us this was an execution,” he told reporters. “This is a harsh blow for the human rights sector in Haiti.” Human rights attorneys Newton St-Juste and André Michel called the killing “a political crime meant to intimidate the human rights sector, which is considered embarrassing for the powers that be.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 2/9/14; Haiti Press Network 2/9/14)

The double murder came shortly after Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) ended a Feb. 4-7 visit to Washington, DC, receiving what the Miami Herald called “rave reviews” from US officials. At his first meeting with the Haitian president, US president Barack Obama indicated that he was pleased with Martelly’s commitment to holding the long-delayed senatorial and municipal elections this year, saying that this will “help resolve some of the political roadblocks that stalled some progress.” Obama is facing criticism for failing to disburse all the funds designated for helping Haiti recover from a devastating January 2010 earthquake, while South Florida immigration activists and 100 Congress members have called for him to approve a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program that would let 110,000 Haitians join their families in the US. The president admitted that “we have a lot more work to do.” Martelly thanked the US “for always standing by the Haitian people.” (MH 2/6/14)

*2. Brazil: Fare Protesters Open Turnstiles in Rio
As many as 2,000 Brazilians demonstrated in Rio de Janeiro during evening rush hour on Feb. 6 to protest an increase in local bus fares from 2.75 reais (about US$1.15) to 3.00 reais (about US$1.26); the fare hike, imposed by Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, took effect on Feb. 8. The protesters marched about a mile from the Candelária area without incident, but as the demonstration approached the Estacião Central do Brasil, the city’s main transit hub, dozens of youths reportedly from the Black Bloc charged into the station, jumping over turnstiles and inviting commuters to join them. Some protesters vandalized ticket booths, while others set fires in garbage cans outside the station, blocking cars and tying up traffic. The militarized police attacked the youths with tear gas and concussion grenades, creating panic among the crowds of commuters, and protesters responded with rocks and clubs. SuperVia Trens Urbanos, the company that runs the city’s trains, decided to let passengers ride for free while the chaos continued. Police agents escorted thousands of commuters, some choking on tear gas, to the trains.

According to the police, 28 people were arrested at the protest. There was one serious injury: Santiago Andrade, a camera operator for TV Band, was hospitalized with head injuries and remained in a coma after four hours of surgery. One colleague said Andrade was hit by a police grenade, while other witnesses said he was hit by a flare, which could have been thrown by either side. Apparently he was shooting footage from a tree, and the injuries may have been caused by his fall when the object hit him.

The protest was organized by the Rio de Janeiro Free Pass Movement (MPL), with support from the Revolutionary Popular Student Movement (MEPR); some protesters carried the banners of the Unified Socialist Workers Party (PSTU), a Trotskyist group, and the Freedom and Socialism Party (PSOL), an electoral coalition. Anger over high transportation costs in Brazil, which was one of the triggers that set off massive demonstrations throughout the country in June [see Update #1181], remains strong. The new increase in Rio means that a daily commuter there will be paying some 120 reais a month (about US$50), nearly a sixth of the minimum wage of 724 reais (about US$304) a month—more if the commuter needs to take more than one bus. Adding to popular resentment, the four companies that operate most of the buses are controlled by several of the city’s oldest and wealthiest families. “I totally support this protest," a health worker named Fabiana Aragon told a correspondent for the British daily The Guardian. She was spending almost a third of her 1,000 reais (about US$416) monthly income on transportation, she said, adding: “The situation now is absurd.” (The Guardian 2/5/14 from correspondent, 2/7/14 from correspondent; Terra (Brazil) 2/6/14; Página 12 (Argentina) 2/8/14)

*3. Dominican Republic: New Plan Announced for “Foreigners”
On Feb. 5 the Dominican government presented the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva with its National Regularization of Foreigners Plan, a program for determining the status of the tens of thousand Dominican residents who were stripped of their citizenship last September by a Constitutional Tribunal (TC) ruling [see Update #1201]. The court’s Decision 168-13 declared that no one born to undocumented immigrants since 1929 was a citizen. Human rights groups estimate that this affects some 200,000 people, mainly Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Apparently the regularization plan is the same as Decree 327-13, which President Danilo Medina signed on Nov. 29. The decree suspends deportations for 18 months and calls on undocumented immigrants and Dominican nationals affected by Decision 168-13 to apply to the government by providing personal identity documents, which will be entered into a “registry of evaluation.” According to the decree, officials will consider applications based on such factors as ties with Dominican society (including knowledge of Spanish) and labor and socioeconomic conditions. Some applicants would qualify to be naturalized, while others would be given an immigration status. Those who don’t qualify would be deported at the end of the 18 months. Deputy Foreign Minister Alejandra Liriano told reporters that the “government has set up, in record time, the most ambitious and comprehensive plan in the country’s history in this area.” She insisted that the government has a “strong stance” that “no person having Dominican nationality will be stripped of it.” (Caribbean Journal (Miami) 2/5/14)

It isn’t clear that President Medina’s regularization plan will be enough to counter the international condemnations that followed the TC’s September ruling. The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) reacted on Nov. 27 by suspending the process of admitting the Dominican Republic to the group. On Dec. 5 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged the Dominican government “to rapidly take steps to restore the nationality of individuals affected” by Decision 168-13. Dismissing the government’s plan for naturalizing former citizens, the UNHCR asserted that “[i]nternational legal standards require that the government automatically restores the nationality of all individuals affected by the ruling.” (UNHCR press release 12/5/13) One day later, on Dec. 6, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), said the TC ruling implied “arbitrary deprivation of nationality and lack of recognition of these individuals’ legal personhood,” which in turn “leads to a situation of extreme vulnerability in which violations of many other human rights arise.” (IACHR press release 12/6/13) The decision has also created tensions with the Haitian government, and the two countries have been holding “binational dialogues” on the situation; the most recent was held on Feb. 3 in the Dominican city of Jimaní, near the Haitian border in the western province of Independencia. (Adital (Brazil) 2/5/14)

The TC’s decision has also led to bitter quarrels within the Dominican Republic. On Feb. 7 Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, the archbishop of Santo Domingo and the leading Catholic figure in the country, called Mario Serrano, a Dominican Jesuit, “shameless” because of his advocacy for the nationals deprived of their citizenship. The next day the president of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), Manuel María Mercedes, said during a radio interview that the cardinal should be held responsible if Serrano suffers physical harm. Mercedes also revealed that he had written to the Vatican two months earlier asking for the cardinal’s removal on the grounds that he’d passed the Church’s mandatory retirement age of 75. “If there’s anyone who has to leave his post in the Catholic Church to give way to a new generation, it’s the cardinal,” he said. (Hoy Digital (Dominican Republic) 2/8/14)

*4. Puerto Rico: Bonds Are Junked Despite Reforms”
The US financial services company Standard & Poor's Ratings (S&P) announced on Feb. 4 that it was reducing the Puerto Rican government’s bonds to junk status; another US ratings agency, Moody’s Corporation, made a similar move on Feb. 7. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla responded on Feb. 4 that Puerto Rico would be able to overcome the financial crisis by implementing budget cuts; for the fiscal year 2014-2015 the island would have its first balanced budget since the 1970s, he said. The government faces a tremendous $70 billion debt, fueled in past years by its ability to offer tax-free municipal bonds to US investors. For comparison, last July the US city Detroit declared bankruptcy because it faced a debt of $28 billion; with a much larger debt, Puerto Rico is ineligible for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy protection. The administration of US president Barack Obama has indicated that it isn’t considering a bailout for the island. (Prensa Latina 2/5/14; Reuters 2/7/14)

In his remarks after S&P lowered the bonds’ rating, Gov. García Padilla complained that his government had done everything the bondholders had asked. Writing in the Puerto Rican weekly Claridad, University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Hispanic studies professor Félix Córdova Iturregui agreed that the government had shown “total docility…before the financial interests that hold the economy captive. The government is a hostage of the bond rating agencies.” Successive Puerto Rican governments have in fact routinely followed Wall Street’s recommendations for austerity and privatization; the latest example was the reduction of teachers’ pensions in December, setting off a two-day teachers’ strike in mid-January [see Update #1205]. These policies “have failed spectacularly,” Prof. Córdova wrote, calling for “the country’s democratic forces to restructure our economy,” possibly starting with a debt moratorium. (Claridad 2/4/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration

The Hypocrisy of Human Rights Watch (Latin America)

Aymara Culture Protects Their Children from Psychological Distress (Chile)

Munduruku People Kick Miners Off Indigenous Territory, Seize Equipment (Brazil)

Rival Factions in Bolivia's CONAMAQ: Internal Conflict or Government Manipulation?

Prosecution of Forced Sterilizations in Peru Still Possible

Peru: US court action over Cajamarca repression

Canadian and Chinese- Owned Mining Concessions Illegal in Ecuador, Argues Report

A New Wiretapping Scandal Casts Doubt on the Colombian Military's Support for Peace Talks

Colombia: war has claimed 6 million victims

FARC proposal to protect coca, cannabis growers (Colombia)

The Pros and Cons of Venezuela's Currency Controls

Costa Rican National Elections: Immediate Results, Longstanding Challenges

Prying Native People from Native Lands: Narco Business in Honduras

Violence continues in Guatemala

Mexico Chucks Test Bonuses, National Exam

After The Plantones: Looking Back On An Autumn Of Struggle In Mexico City

Self-defense Groups and Community Police Forces in Mexico: Differences as Seen from the Villages

How NAFTA Unleashed the Violence in Mexico

The New Free Trade Fever (Mexico)

Jim O’Neill’s MINT Theory Advances a "Perfect Storm"—for Whom? (Mexico)

"Alfy" Fanjul Eyes Cuban Sugar Despite Labor Allegations

Martelly to Meet with Obama in Washington Today, Elections Top Agenda (Haiti)

How arts and organizing helped defeat Alabama’s anti-immigration law (US/immigration)

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