Tuesday, April 29, 2014

WNU #1218: Indigenous Guatemalan Killed in Attack

Issue #1218, April 27, 2014

1. Guatemala: 1 Killed in Attack on Indigenous Village
2. Mexico: Thousands Protest “Televisa Law”
3. Haiti: President Sets Minimum Wage by Decree
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

Note: There will be links but no Update on May 4, 2014. Publication will resume the following week.

*1. Guatemala: 1 Killed in Attack on Indigenous Village
Heavily armed men employed by the son of a local landowner shot five indigenous Q’eqchi’ on Apr. 7 in the community of Nueve de Febrero, Cobán municipality, in the northeastern Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz, according to community residents. The wounded Q’eqchi’ were taken by ambulance to the national hospital in Cobán; one died from his injuries on Apr. 20. Residents say the attackers were under the command of Augusto Sandino Ponce, the son of landowner David Leonel Ponce Ramírez. The Ponces are said to be linked to a project by the Hidroeléctrica Santa Rita S.A. company for building a dam in the Monte Olivo region. The Nueve de Febrero community has been active in opposition to the dam for the past two years.

Juan Humberto Botzoc, from the Mayan Association for Integral Community Development (ASOMADIC), told an interviewer on the web-based Radio Mundo Real that Hidroeléctrica Santa Rita supporters had tried to end the opposition first by bringing false charges against activists and then by carrying out acts of violence, including an August 2013 assassination attempt against community leader David Chen which resulted in the death of two children. In November security guards employed by the Ponce family fired at community members, wounding one; another attack, in December, left four youths wounded. Far from taking action against the project, Botzoc said, “the department’s governor has been saying on the radio that ‘these communities are troubled, these communities don’t want development.’” Botzoc noted that tensions had also developed around another hydroelectric project in the department, the RENACE 3 dam, which he said would affect eight communities in San Pedro Carchá municipality. On Apr. 21 Carlos Vicente Chub, the secretary of a local community council there, was shot in the foot after receiving several threats, according to Botzoc. (Prensa Comunitaria (Guatemala) 4/7/14; Radio Mundo Real 4/24/14)

Attacks like those against the dam opponents have become common since President Otto Pérez Molina, a former general, took office in January 2012. An Apr. 24 article in Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) charged that Pérez Molina’s government has been taking “careful and calculated” steps “to stifle dissent.” The article details attacks, sometimes fatal, on journalists, human rights defenders, dam opponents and unionists. Even judges and prosecutors are under attack. On Apr. 4 the Guatemalan bar association suspended Judge Yasmín (or Jazmín) Barrios, who presided over the court that on May 10, 2013 convicted former dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) of genocide against indigenous peoples during his administration; the conviction was annulled 10 days later by the Constitutional Court (CC) [see Updates #1176, 1178]. International groups, including the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), and the Spanish bar association, the General Council of the Spanish Bars (CGAE), condemned Barrios’ suspension, which was based on a complaint from Ríos Montt’s defense attorney, Moisés Galindo. Efforts are also reportedly under way to remove the widely respected attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz, from office six months before her term expires in December. (Latin American Herald Tribune 4/21/14 from EFE; FPIF 4/24/14)

At least seven labor organizers in Guatemala’s banana-growing sector have been murdered since 2011. According to a report by the US-based nonprofit US Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP), “[i]t is nearly impossible for workers to organize unions to improve wages and conditions on the Pacific coast of Guatemala,” where working conditions and pay “are some of the worst in Latin America.” With banana sales at $623.4 million in 2013, Guatemala is now the world’s third largest exporter of the fruit, after Costa Rica and Colombia. (Tico Times (Costa Rica) 4/22/14)

*2. Mexico: Thousands Protest “Televisa Law”
Thousands of protesters formed a human chain in Mexico City on Apr. 26 in a demonstration against a telecommunications law proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto and now under consideration in the Senate. The protesters included former Mexico City mayor Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano (1997-2000), one of the founders of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD); youths from #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”), a student movement that formed in 2012 in opposition to the election campaign of then-candidate Peña Nieto, of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) [see Update #1130]; and some members of the center-right National Action Party (PAN). The organizers estimated participation at 7,000, while the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police put the number at 3,000.

After forming the human chain—which stretched more than three miles, although with some gaps, from the Auditorio Nacional to the Televisa television network’s offices in the Chapultepec neighborhood—the protesters marched to the Senate building for a rally. Only unity and mobilization from opponents would keep the government from imposing censorship and strengthening the television monopolies, Cárdenas said. “We’re not going to give up,” he added. “For this we’re going to exercise our rights, whether they like it or not.” There were also smaller protests in León, Guanajuato; Saltillo, Coahuila; and Ciudad Juárez and the city of Chihuahua in Chihuahua state.

The proposed law is supposed to provide a legal framework for implementing constitutional reforms passed last years. Supporters, including all the PRI senators and many from the PAN, claim the bill would weaken the de facto monopolies of billionaire Carlos Slim over cell phone service and of Televisa and the rival Azteca (formerly TV Azteca) over television. But opponents say it would actually strengthen the two dominant television networks, and critics refer to the bill as the “Televisa law.” According to opponents the proposal would give the federal Governance Secretariat the power to review radio and television content, would do nothing to encourage independent production of television and radio material by Mexicans, and would weaken public, indigenous and community media, which already face major hurdles when they try to win licenses [see Update #1213]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/27/14, 4/27/14)

The bill originally included a requirement for telecommunication companies to give intelligence agencies the geographical location of users if requested; another provision would allow the government to block communications temporarily in situations where the authorities claim national security is at risk. Activists responded with internet campaigns. One group posted an English-language appeal on YouTube for international solidarity, and the hash tag “EPNvsInternet” (referring to Peña Nieto’s initials) was soon cited more than 400,000 times on the internet and reached more than 58 million Twitter users. Protesters marched to the Televisa offices in Chapultepec the evening of Apr. 22 in a demonstration against the new “national security” powers the bill would have given the government. DF police agents blocked the marchers as they approached the building, beating and arresting four youths. The agents also beat representatives of the municipal government’s own DF Human Rights Commission (CDHDF) when they tried to intervene. Later that night senators from the PRI announced that they would remove the provisions from the bill. (Wall Street Journal 4/23/14; AP 4/24/14 via Huffington Post; LJ 4/24/14)

*3. Haiti: President Sets Minimum Wage by Decree
Bypassing Parliament, on Apr. 16 Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) issued a decree setting new minimum wage levels for different categories of employees, to go into effect on May 1. The decree basically follows recommendations made on Nov. 29 by the tripartite Higher Council on Wages (CSS) [see Update #1202], with the minimum wage ranging from 260 gourdes (US$6.60) a day in a category that includes bank employees, electricians and telecommunication workers to just 125 gourdes (US$3.17) a day for domestic workers. The decree confirmed the most controversial of the CSS’s recommendations, a 225 (US$5.71) gourde daily minimum for hourly workers in the country’s garment assembly plants, which produce for export and benefit from tax and tariff exemptions; this is just a 25 gourde increase over the minimum in effect since October 2012 under a 2009 law. For piece-rate assembly workers—the majority of the sector’s work force—the rate remains at the October 2012 level, 300 gourdes (US$7.61) a day. (Haïti Libre 4/19/14)

Assembly workers and international observers all agree that factory owners have never complied with the 300 gourde minimum for piece work; they have allegedly circumvented the requirement by setting unrealistic quotas [see Update #1197]. In December assembly workers went on strike for two days in Port-au-Prince to demand a wage of 500 gourdes (US$12.69); the owners retaliated by firing union activists [see Update #1210]. The 300 gourde minimum “wouldn’t be enough” now, due to the rising cost of living, economist Camille Chalmers of the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA) said, “and the 225 gourdes are a retreat.” The labor solidarity group Workers’ Antenna called for “rebellion and mobilization,” while the National Confederation of Haitian Workers (CNOHA) said it would continue to seek the 500 gourde minimum. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/21/14, 4/24/14)

In other news, violence broke out at a large homeless encampment at Camp Caradeux, on the northeastern outskirts of Port-au-Prince, after riot police arrived in some dozen vehicles in the early morning of Apr. 24 to put down a demonstration. The residents—about 13,000 people who lost their homes in a massive January 2010 earthquake and still have nowhere to live--were upset when a team from the International Organization for Migration (OIM in French and Creole) came to carry out a survey of the camp’s population. The residents said they hadn’t been warned and were afraid the survey was part of a plan to evict them from the camp. The OIM team left when the residents began to demonstrate, but the police agents proceeded to attack the protesters with clubs and tear gas. “The babies are in a critical state after having inhaled tear gas,” Ernst Jean-Baptiste, an assistant coordinator of the village of Caradeux, told a reporter. “Several young men and women were clubbed” by the riot police, he said. (AlterPresse 4/25/14)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

The Politics of Pachamama: Natural Resource Extraction vs. Indigenous Rights and the Environment in Latin America

‘Indigenous People’s Day’ will be the day we regain our lands (Brazil)

Brazil Assumes Leadership in Future of Internet Governance

Bolivian Women: We Must Also Be Included In The Mining Law Debate

The Struggle Over Sumak Kawsay in Ecuador

Ecuadorian Military Breaks Yasunidos Blockade

Colombia: agrarian strike re-mobilizes

Venezuelan Government-Opposition Dialogue Produces Results, Army Moves on Barricades (+ Video)

Venezuela: Petro-‘Socialism’ in its Labyrinth

Central America: 'narco-deforestation'?

US Continues Ransoming Development Aid, Now Using CAFTA to Threaten Social Programs (El Salvador)

Honduras: The Deep Roots of Resistance

Guatemala: Suppressing Dissent at Home and Abroad

Mexican Economy Falters

Energy, Integration, and Colonialism (Mexico)

El Chapo's Arrest: Money Laundering and Mexico's Drug War

One Woman’s Fight against Femicide Crosses Borders (Mexico)

Fighting for Independent Unions in the Maquilas (Mexico)

Sunshine State Thaws U.S.-Cuba Relations

International Day of Farmers’ Struggles: What Haitian Farmers Organizations are Fighting For

Good Enough to Work: Low Pay and No Rights (US/immigration)

Commentary - Lies and Deceit: One Neighbor’s Deportation Sheds Light on the Inhumanity of US Immigration Enforcement (US/immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:


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