Tuesday, May 13, 2014

WNU #1219: EZLN Backer Killed in Chiapas Strife

Issue #1219, May 11, 2014

1. Mexico: EZLN Backer Killed in Chiapas Strife
2. Cuba: 4 Miami Residents Arrested as Terrorists
3. Chile: Students Restart Marches for School Reform
4. Haiti: Police Repress Workers' May 1 Demo
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Mexico: EZLN Backer Killed in Chiapas Strife
One supporter of Mexico’s rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) was killed and several were wounded on May 2 in violence involving rival indigenous groups in La Realidad, Las Margaritas municipality, in the southeastern state of Chiapas. EZLN sources say La Realidad resident José Luis Solís López died after being shot three times; he also suffered machete wounds. The mostly indigenous Chiapas Highlands and Lacandón Forest region, where La Realidad is located, have experienced several fights between different groups recently [see Update #1215].

La Realidad is the site of an autonomous EZLN base community, but the village also includes supporters of other groups, principally the “Historic” faction of the Independent Central of Agrarian Workers and Campesinos (CIOAC)—which is apparently separate from the CIOAC’s “Democratic” faction. According to CIOAC member and La Realidad municipal agent Carmelino Rodríguez Jiménez, in March CIOAC members seized a van belonging to the local Zapatista Council of Good Government (JBG). EZLN supporters responded on May 1 by detaining a CIOAC representative and then a commission of 15 CIOAC members the next day, Rodríguez Jiménez said. CIOAC supporters retaliated by cutting off water from the Zapatistas and dismantling the JBG’s school. Armed EZLN supporters then arrived, and Solís López was killed in the ensuing confrontation, according to Rodríguez Jiménez; 13 COIAC supporters were also wounded. Reporters saw four people being put on an ambulance headed to a government hospital in nearby Guadalupe Tepeyac.

EZLN supporters refused to speak to reporters on May 3, with the result that Mexican media initially carried the CIOAC version. But on May 5 the Zapatista JBG issued a statement supported by the Chiapas-based Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), which had two observers in La Realidad during the incident. The JBG denied that the EZLN supporters had detained the CIOAC representatives, who were meeting with the Zapatistas to negotiate over the seized van. According to the JBG and Frayba, some 140 La Realidad residents—mostly CIOAC members but also supporters of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the small centrist Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM)—attacked the JBG’s school without provocation the evening of May 2 and used rocks, machetes and guns against a group of unarmed EZLN supporters arriving in three vehicles. Frayba called on the state government to carry out a prompt and impartial investigation and to punish Solís López’s killers and the people responsible for the attack. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/5/14, 5/6/14)

Mexican and international activists and groups have issued statements in solidarity with La Realidad’s EZLN supporters. English writer John Berger, Mexican sociologist Pablo González Casanova, Pervuvian leftist Hugo Blanco Galdós and Mexican leftist Carlos González sent a brief message expressing their “most profound indignation at the aggressions suffered by our compañeras and compañeros.” They charged that the CIOAC “Historic” faction “is being used by the state and federal governments as a paramilitary arm to attack our compañeras and compañeros, trying to make it appear that what’s at issue is an intra-community confrontation. This is what they did in Acteal [where 45 EZLN supporters were massacred in December 1997]; this is what they’re doing now.” (LJ 5/9/14)

*2. Cuba: 4 Miami Residents Arrested as Terrorists
The Cuban government arrested four US residents on Apr. 26 and charged them with planning to attack military installations, according to an Interior Ministry note published on May 7. The four suspects--José Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Raibel Pacheco Santos and Félix Monzón Álvarez—had planned to burst into a military unit, murder soldiers and officers, and “make a call for violence,” according to an article dated May 7 but published the next day in the youth-oriented Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde. The article links the alleged plans to the US government’s failed “Cuban Twitter,” the cell phone-based social network ZunZuneo [see Update #1216]. “It’s quite obvious,” the article said, “that these violent actions of attacking Cuban military installations, with the intent of creating panic and confusion, are very similar to the supposed ‘social explosion’ hoped for by ZunZuneo’s creators.”

According to the Interior Ministry, three of the four suspects admitted that they were following orders from three rightwing Miami-based Cubans linked to earlier terrorist acts against Cuba: Santiago Alvarez Fernández Magriñá, Osvaldo Mitat and Manuel Alzugaray. Alvarez and Mitat were arrested by US federal agents in November 2005 for possession of a large cache of weapons acquired in a plan to carry out attacks in Cuba. Alvarez, a real estate magnate, was also charged with helping former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “asset” Luis Posada Carriles--the alleged mastermind of various anti-Cuban attacks, including the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976—to enter the US in 2005 [see Updates #826, 948, 949]. Alvarez was convicted and served nearly four years in federal prison. He has denied any connection with the four suspects arrested in April. “This is just a bunch of lies,” he told the Reuters wire service on May 7. The charges had more in common with a James Bond movie than with reality, Omar López, director of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), told the AFP wire service. (Juventud Rebelde 5/8/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/8/14 from Reuters, AP, AFP, Notimex; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 5/8/14 from AP)

The arrests of the alleged US-based terrorists came just days before the US State Department’s Apr. 30 publication of its annual listing of nations accused of sponsoring terrorism. Cuba was listed, along with Iran, Syria and Sudan, for the 32nd consecutive year since 1982. The claim of terrorism sponsorship was based only on Cuba’s granting of asylum to a few refugees from the US legal system and to members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) group and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). However, the report noted that the Cuban government had cooperated with Spain in arranging the repatriation of a number of ETA members in 2013 and had hosted peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government. Cuba’s Foreign Relations Ministry responded to the State Department’s list by insisting that “the national territory never has been and never will be used to harbor terrorists of any origin, or for organizing, financing or perpetrating acts of terrorism against any country in the world, including the US.” (Adital (Brazil) 5/8/14)

*3. Chile: Students Restart Marches for School Reform
Tens of thousands of Chilean college and high school students marched in Santiago on May 8 in the first major demonstration for educational reform since President Michelle Bachelet began her second term on Mar. 11. Bachelet, a Socialist, has promised to make changes to the educational system, which was heavily privatized during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet; the protest was intended to pressure her to honor her commitments, which students also criticized as too vague. The organizers estimated the crowd at 100,000, while the carabineros militarized police put the number at 40,000. There were also protests in other cities; some 4,000 students marched in Valparaíso and 3,000 in Concepción. The Santiago march ended with isolated acts of violence by hooded youths.

The marchers included several Congress members who had been student leaders in 2011, when the massive demonstrations began during the administration of conservative president Sebastián Piñera [see Update #1172]: Camila Vallejo from the Communist Party of Chile (PCC), Giorgio Jackson from Democratic Revolution (PD) and Gabriel Boric, an independent. “We’re no longer the representatives of the student movement,” said Vallejo, who like the other former student leaders was elected in November 2013, “so we’re only here to support, but we’ll have one foot in Congress and the other in the streets with the students.” (Télam (Argentina) 5/8/14)

In other news, as of May 7 three Mapuche prisoners incarcerated in Angol, the capital of Malleco province, were still on a hunger strike that the indigenous activists began on Apr. 10 to push for a review of their sentences and a pardon for a fourth prisoner, José Mariano Llanca, who they say is terminally ill [see Update #1216]. Justice Minister José Antonio Gómez met on May 6 with the prisoners’ representatives in response to a sit-in their relatives held at the prison on May 3, but the representatives reported that there had been no progress in the talks. The prisoners, Cristian Pablo Levinao Melinao, Luis Humberto Marileo Cariqueo and Leonardo Eusebio Quijón Pereira, said they would continue their fast. (ALER (Madrid and Quito) 5/7/14)

*4. Haiti: Police Repress Workers' May 1 Demo
Workers in Haiti’s garment assembly sector observed International Workers’ Day on May 1 with a march continuing their campaign for a minimum wage of 500 gourdes (US$12.69) for an eight-hour day [see Update #1218]. The protest--organized by the leftist labor organization Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”) and the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA) and backed by the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP) and other groups—started at the large industrial park in the north of Port-au-Prince. After a long march including a brief protest in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST), the protesters planned to conclude at the statue of revolutionary hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines in the city’s central Champ de Mars. Agents from the Corps for Intervention and the Maintenance of Order (CIMO), a riot police unit, blocked the marchers, hurling tear gas grenades and beating and arresting two students. Several assembly plant workers required treatment at a hospital.

The two students were released later that day after union leaders intervened with the judicial authorities, but other students held a protest on May 2 against the arrests, using barricades of burning tires to block Christophe Avenue near the Human Sciences Faculty (FASCH) of the State University of Haiti (UEH). (AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/2/14, 5/3/14)

Labor protests continued the following week. The Parc Industriel de Caracol (Caracol Industrial Park, PIC), a massive facility built in the Northeast department with international aid to house assembly plants, was shut down most of May 5-7 when the workers walked out to protest the lack of a road. The facility, which US officials once claimed would generate at least 20,000 jobs, currently employs 3,600 workers. There were also protests at the Compagnie de Développement Industriel S.A. (Codevi) “free trade zone” in Ouanaminthe in Northeast department at the Dominican border; in this case the issue was the lack of electricity in the city. (Miami Herald 5/9/14 from correspondent)

After talks on May 6 with the National Education and Professional Training Ministry (MENFP), several teachers’ unions agreed to have their members return to the classrooms on May 8, ending a job action that started on Apr. 23. Other teachers’ unions decided to continue the walkout. Josué Mérilien, the coordinator of the National Union of Haitian Teachers (UNNOH), said his organization would wait for an agreement to be signed before it would call an end to the strike. (AlterPresse 5/9/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Mexico, Haiti
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