Tuesday, February 25, 2014

WNU #1210: Candidate’s Brother Killed in Honduran Electoral Dispute

Issue #1210, February 23, 2014

1. Honduras: Candidate’s Brother Killed in Electoral Dispute
2. Brazil: 230 Arrested in World Cup Protest
3. Haiti: Court Rules Duvalier Case Can Proceed
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

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

*1. Honduras: Candidate’s Brother Killed in Electoral Dispute
Indigenous Honduran campesino Justiniano Vásquez was found dead on Feb. 21 in San Francisco de Opalaca municipality in the western department of Intibucá, where the victim’s brother Entimo Vásquez is challenging the results of a Nov. 24 mayoral election. Justiniano Vásquez’s body had deep wounds, and there were signs that his hands had been bound. Community members charged that the killing was carried out by Juan Rodríguez, a supporter of former mayor Socorro Sánchez, who the electoral authorities said defeated Entimo Vásquez in the November vote. Rodríguez had reportedly threatened Entimo Vásaquez in the past. San Francisco de Opalaca residents captured Rodríguez and turned him over to the police. The Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which reported Vásquez’s death, demanded punishment for the perpetrators and called on the authorities “to carry out their work objectively [and] effectively.”

Entimo Vásquez ran for mayor as a candidate of the new center-left Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE) in the November presidential, legislative and local elections; Socorro Sánchez was the candidate of the rightwing National Party (PN). Vásquez formally challenged the results, but the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) backed Sánchez. Community residents, who are mostly members of the Lenca indigenous group, charged that the vote was fraudulent and also accused Sánchez of irregularities during his previous term as mayor. Vásquez’s supporters have occupied the town hall since late January, preventing Sánchez from taking office. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 2/13/14; COPINH 2/21/14; La Prensa (Nicaragua) 2/22/14 from AFP)

In related news, on Feb. 10 a court in the western department of Santa Bárbara issued a definitive dismissal of weapons possession charges against COPINH general coordinator Berta Cáceres. A group of soldiers arrested Cáceres and another COPINH official on May 24 last year, claiming they had found an illegal firearm in the activists’ car [see Update #1178]. Cáceres was in Santa Bárbara at the time to support protests by indigenous Lenca communities against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on and near their territory. In an interview with the Uruguay-based Radio Mundo Real on Feb. 13 Cáceres said national and international solidarity had been fundamental for winning dismissal of the charges. (Radio Mundo Real 2/13/14)

*2. Brazil: 230 Arrested in World Cup Protest
In the latest protest against what activists say is the Brazilian government’s diversion of funds from social services to sports events, more than 1,000 people marched in downtown São Paulo from the Praça da República to the Anhangabaú subway station on the evening of Feb. 22. The protest ended with some 1,000 agents of the militarized police using stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the marchers and making a total of 230 arrests. Among those arrested were five journalists, two photographers and three reporters; the reporters were from the newspapers O Globo and Folha de São Paulo and from the news website G1. Bruno Santos, a photographer for the Terra Brasil website, received an injury in his leg. Protesters charged that the arrests were arbitrary and that the police contingent, which included plainclothes infiltrators and a special unarmed unit trained in martial arts, attacked the march without provocation. A video by the Unified Socialist Workers Party (PSTU), shows agents surrounding a large group of demonstrators and apparently starting to arrest them. The police blamed the confrontation on masked members of the Black Bloc, who reportedly vandalized stores and a branch of the Itaú Unibanco bank. All of the 230 people detained were released by the next day.

As in much larger demonstrations in June 2013 [see Update #1181], the Feb. 22 marchers protested national and local governments’ underfunding of education, transportation and health services while pouring billions into preparations for this year’s World Cup soccer championship and the 2016 Olympics. The action was organized through the Facebook page of a group called Against the 2014 Cup. Brazil is expected to spend some $11 billion on the series of World Cup games from June 12 to July 13, the largest amount spent in the history of the events. “The government is trying to make us believe that Brazil is just happiness and Carnaval, but it isn’t that way,” protester Lucas Souza told the Argentine wire service InfoBAE. “It’s a very unequal country.” (Jornal do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro) 2/22/14; PSTU 2/22/14; InfoBAE 2/22/14; Prensa Latina 2/23/14)

The national government is stepping up efforts to contain protests during this summer’s games. “The federal police, the national public security force, the highway police--all these organs are ready and positioned to act within their areas of competence,” President Dilma Rousseff said in a radio interview on Feb. 19. “If it’s necessary, we will also mobilize the armed forces.” (Agence France Presse 2/19/14) The federal Senate is considering two bills directed against protests. One of them, written by a congressional committee, would treat as “terrorism” the act of “provoking or instilling terror or widespread panic through an attack or an intention of attack against a person’s life, physical well-being [or] health or the deprivation of a person’s freedom.” The bill would also increase penalties for vandalism. Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, of the leftist Freedom and Socialism Party (PSOL), called “[t]his generic classification of terrorism…an instrument against any free demonstration, against any organized civilian mobilization.” He compared it to a measure in force during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship. On Feb. 12 Rio de Janeiro state public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame proposed a separate bill making it a crime to create disorder in a public space. (AFP via Terra Chile 2/12/14)

The media have promoted these measures with widespread coverage of the death of Santiago Andrade, a TV camera operator who succumbed to injuries he received while covering a Feb. 6 protest in Rio de Janeiro [see Update #1209]. Two young protesters, Caio Silva de Souza and Fabio Raposo, allegedly caused Andrade’s death with a firework that they intended to throw at police; they were arrested, jailed and charged with criminal homicide. The media expressed outrage over the incident; in contrast, Arlita Andrade, the victim’s widow, said: “I feel great pain for these two kids.” Attorney Marcos Fuchs, director of the Pro Bono Institute and associate director of the nonprofit Conectas Human Rights organization, noted another contrast--between the expedited police action against the protesters and the usual pace of criminal investigations in Brazil. “All the homicide cases should be solved with this same speed,” he told the Brazilian edition of the Spanish newspaper El País, which reported that less than 8% of Brazilian homicide cases are ever solved.

On Feb. 12, as the media focused on the Andrade case, another criminal homicide case was suspended. Thor Batista--the son of Brazilian mining, oil and gas magnate Eike Batista, who was one of the world’s richest individuals before his companies’ stocks plummeted in 2013—is charged in the 2012 death of a cyclist he hit while allegedly driving his Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren at 100-115 km per hour. In this case the suspect hasn’t spent a single day in prison. (Terra Chile 2/12/14)

*3. Haiti: Court Rules Duvalier Case Can Proceed
After a nine-month delay, a three-member Port-au-Prince appeals court panel held a new hearing on Feb. 20 to consider human rights complaints filed against former “president for life” Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier (1971-1986) [see Update #1205]. To the surprise of many observers, the judges ruled that the case could go forward, overturning a January 2012 decision by investigative judge Carvès Jean that the statute of limitations had run out on rights violations that occurred under Duvalier’s dictatorship. “Serious indications relative to indirect participation and criminal responsibility of the accused, Jean-Claude Duvalier, are obvious,” Judge Jean Joseph Lubrun said, citing Duvalier’s apparent failure “to take the necessary and reasonable measures in order to prevent the commission of the crimes and to take the reasonable measures to punish the authors.”

The panel appointed appeals court judge Durin Duret Junior as the new investigative judge in the case. He is to take testimony from additional witnesses and to determine the standing of people who filed complaints based on alleged crimes against their deceased spouses. This process is expected to take months, with no guarantee that Duvalier will actually go on trial. But complainants and human rights advocates were happy with the court’s decision. “This ruling today is a total victory not only for the victims of Jean-Claude Duvalier but also the Haitian legal system,” said Nicole Phillips, a human rights lawyer with the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). “This is a very, very important ruling.” Robert Duval, one of the complainants, called it “a great step forward, since they’re going to call all of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s associates, who can be brought before the justice system.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 2/20/14; Miami Herald 2/20/14 from correspondent)

Despite the ruling in the Duvalier case, the human rights situation remains problematic in Haiti, according to rights advocates, who are still shocked by the Feb. 8 murder of Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) coordinator Daniel Dorsinvil and his wife, pediatric nurse Girdly Larêche [see Update #1208]. The police arrested a suspect on Feb. 16 but failed to identify him, leading the couple’s friends and colleagues to question the arrest. “We don’t want the police to go ahead with arrests of innocent individuals, but [with arrests] of real suspects,” said POHDH executive secretary Antonal Mortimé. (AlterPresse 2/19/14)

In another prominent case, human rights attorney Patrice Florvilus has now fled to Canada with his family. Flovilus represented homeless people living in the Acra displaced persons camp in the Delmas section of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. He and his organization, the Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), reported receiving death threats [see Update #1190], and on Nov. 27 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), ordered the Haitian government to take measures to ensure the lawyer’s physical well-being. However, Lawyers Without Borders Canada (ASFC) reported that concerns for safety led him and his family to move to Montreal on Dec. 3. (ASFC 12/12/13; NACLA “The Other Side of Paradise” blog 2/21/14)

Meanwhile, efforts to win the rehiring of six unionists fired from the One World Apparel S.A. garment assembly plant on Jan. 8 continued to be stalled [see Update #1207]. A Feb. 17 meeting at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST) was cancelled, supposedly because no MAST inspectors were available. The workers contend that they were fired as a reprisal for their role in organizing walkouts in December for a higher minimum wage. They are represented by attorney Kevenot Dorvil of the Bureau of International Lawyers (BAI), an IJDH affiliate; he warned that this could be a long struggle. (AlterPresse 2/17/14)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Argentina: clash with police in Chaco water protest

Landless Movement again raises the question of Agrarian Reform (Brazil)

Democracy and World Cup 2014: Brazil’s State of Emergency

Peru escalates cannabis crackdown

Air Force Bombings Endanger and Kill Civilians in Colombia

Death Toll in Venezuela Clashes Rises to Ten

Venezuelan Government Reiterates Calls For Dialogue With Opposition

Violent Protests in Venezuela Fit a Pattern

What the Wikileaks Cables Say about Leopoldo López (Venezuela)

U.S. Support for Regime Change in Venezuela is a Mistake

Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests

Towards Another Coup in Venezuela?

Protest Coverage in Haiti and Venezuela Reveals U.S. Media Hypocrisy

Why Venezuela Matters to the Indigenous Movement

'Fascism' and the Venezuela protests

Groups Appeal to UN to Halt Imminent Forced Evictions of Indigenous Ngöbe COMMUNITY (Panama)

Salvador terror: gang warfare or new death-squads?

Environmentalist and Communicator from the Siria Valley, Honduras Denounces Threats

Guatemala: Pressure to Construct Xalalá Hydroelectric Dam; Local Opposition Remains Strong

Chiapas: Zapatisa base communities under attack (Mexico)

Mexico busts Jalisco cartel kingpin

Mexican feds: 'Got Shorty!' El Chapo busted —at last

Autodefensas Gain Legitimacy Where the Mexican State Has None

Indigenous group defends water, land against dam threat (Mexico)

Abducted in Oaxaca: A Journalist's Encounter With Police Repression (Mexico)

New Forms of Revolution (Part 2): The Oaxaca Commune (Mexico)

Americas Program: What to Expect at the North American Summit (Mexico)

The Deportee Chronicles: Life After Diesel Therapy (US/immigration)

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