Tuesday, July 29, 2014

WNU #1228: Latin Americans Protest Attack on Gaza

Issue #1228, July 27, 2014

1. Latin America: Gaza Attack Draws Strong Protests
2. Central America: Leaders Hold Summit on Child Migration
3. US: Police Try to Block Annual SOA Vigil
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, 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. Latin America: Gaza Attack Draws Strong Protests
An Israeli military offensive on the Palestinian territory of Gaza starting on July 8 has brought widespread condemnation from governments and activists in Latin America. The response to the current military action, which is codenamed “Operation Protective Edge,” follows a pattern set during a similar December 2008-January 2009 Israeli offensive in Gaza, “Operation Cast Lead,” when leftist groups and people of Arab descent mounted protests and leftist and center-left governments issued statements sharply criticizing the Israeli government [see Update #973].

In Argentina, dozens of people demonstrated on July 25 at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires to demand that the left-leaning government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner break off relations with Israel to repudiate “the brutal and criminal attack against the Palestinian people.” The protest was organized by the Argentine Committee of Solidarity With the Palestinian People and various left parties. While the government hasn’t broken relations with Israel, at a meeting of the United Nations (UN) Security Council Argentine representative Maria Cristina Perceval accused Israel of “indiscriminate abuse of militarism” and “disproportionate use of force.” (Terra Mexico 7/25/14; Fox News Latino 7/23/14, some from AP)

Some 5,000 Chileans marched to the Israeli embassy in Santiago on July 19 to protest the military operation. Some demonstrators glued pictures of children who have died in the attacks to the walls of the building; the marchers then proceeded to the US embassy to protest US support for the Israeli operation. The day before, on July 18, representatives of the Mapuche indigenous group joined some 200 protesters in Temuco, the capital of the southern region of Araucanía, in a march calling for “an end to the massacre of the Palestinian people.” The protest was organized by the Arab Union for Palestine in Temuco and included Romina Tuma, the regional housing secretary, who charged that the Israelis are committing genocide; President Michelle Bachelet supports the Palestinian people, Tuma added. Bachelet’s center-left government has in fact suspended free trade agreement negotiations with Israel to protest the Israeli operation, and the Foreign Ministry has announced plans for aid for Palestinian victims in Gaza, according to the Santiago Times. Chile has a population of about 300,0000 people of Middle Eastern and Arab ancestry. (AFP 7/21/14 via Times of Israel; Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 7/18/14; Mapu Express 7/18/14; Fox News Latino 7/23/14, some from AP)

Uruguay also condemned Israel’s military attacks. A government statement said the operation in Gaza “caused dozens of civilian deaths and injuries, including women and children, in a disproportionate response to the launch of rockets against the Israeli territory on the part of armed Palestinian groups.” The Palestinian organization Hamas came in for criticism as well, because of its “repeated [rocket] launchings that put the civilian population in central and southern Israel at risk.” (The Americas Blog 7/21/14)

Late on July 24 Brazil’s center-left government announced its condemnation of the “disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip, from which large numbers of civilian casualties, including women and children, resulted.” Foreign Ministry officials said that they had recalled the Brazilian ambassador to Israel for consultations, and that Brazil had voted in favor of a United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR) decision to send a team to investigate accusations of war crimes in the region. Israeli officials appeared to be infuriated by the snub from a country which has bought and leased billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and fighter planes from Israel in the last 15 years. “Such steps do not contribute to promote calm and stability in the region,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor announced on July 25. “Rather, they provide tailwind to terrorism, and naturally affect Brazil’s capacity to wield influence.” He called Brazil “a diplomatic dwarf” and sneered at the Brazilian soccer team for losing a World Cup match to Germany 7-1 on July 8. (News Latino 7/23/14, some from AP; Wall Street Journal online 7/24/14; Haaretz (Israel) 7/25/14; Washington Post 7/25/14)

Bolivian president Evo Morales has petitioned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to consider opening a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.” Morales’ center-left government restricted diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 because of the earlier operation against Gaza. (The Americas Blog 7/21/14)

Hundreds of Peruvians, many of them of Palestinian descent, protested at the Israeli embassy in Lima on July 25, calling for their own government to recall its ambassador to Israel. “Countries that don’t withdraw their ambassadors are becoming somewhat complicit in this massacre,” one of the protesters told the Canal N television channel. A week earlier, the government had expressed its great concern about the violence, condemning both the Israeli attack and the launching of rockets against Israel by Hamas. (Terra 7/25/14 from EFE)

Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño announced on July 17 that the center-left government of President Rafael Correa was recalling its ambassador to Israel for consultations “because of violence unleashed and deaths produced in the Gaza Strip.” “We condemn the Israeli military incursion in Palestinian territory; we demand an end to operations and indiscriminate attacks on a civilian population,” Patiño said. (El Universo (Quito) 7/17/14 from AFP) In related news, a July 12-16 meeting in Quito of the Women’s Collective of the South American section of the international small-scale farmers’ organization Vía Campesina denounced the Israeli operation as a “genocidal invasion” and demanded “respect for the principle of sovereignty and the right of Palestinian campesinas and campesinos to live, produce and remain in their land and territory.” The collective accused Israel of “colonial practices.” (Vía Campesina 7/22/14)

In Venezuela hundreds of protesters, including legislative deputies, demonstrated in Caracas on July 14 against the Israeli operation. The leftist government of then-president Hugo Chávez Frías broke off ties with Israel in 2009 to protest Operation Cast Lead. The government of current president Nicolás Maduro released a statement on July 19 charging that the latest attacks “initiated a higher phase of [Israel’s] policy of genocide and extermination with the ground invasion of Palestinian territory, killing innocent men, women, girls and boys.” The government “also rejects the cynical campaigns trying to condemn both parties equally, when it is clear you cannot morally compare occupied and massacred Palestine with the occupying state, Israel, which also possesses military superiority and acts on the margins of international law.” (HispanTV (Iran) 7/14/14; Chicago Tribune 7/19/14 from Reuters)

In Nicaragua hundreds of people marched to the UN office in Managua on July 14 to demand an end to the Israeli offensive, chanting: “No to genocide in Gaza and all of Palestine,” “Solidarity between the peoples” and “Long live free Palestine.” The marchers included the Palestinian ambassador to Nicaragua, Mohamed L. Saadat, who called for a “Palestine free of violence.” Along with Guatemala, Haiti, and Paraguay, Nicaragua hadn’t made an official statement on the conflict as of July 21. (Terra 7/14/14 from EFE; The Americas Blog 7/21/14)

About 50 students and other activists took to the streets in El Salvador on July 14 to protest the Israeli offensive. “Palestine is a free state, stop Israel’s terrorism” and “I’m no friend of Israel” were among the slogans the protesters chanted outside the Israeli embassy. “We want to show our indignation over the suffering of the Palestinian people, and so we demand that Israel end this genocide in the Gaza Strip,” Amalia Pineda, a representative of the Palestine Solidarity Network, told journalists. The center-left government of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén has condemned what it called “Israel’s increased armed aggression against the Gaza Strip,” citing the “loss of human lives, hundreds of injuries and the flight of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, besides serious material damage.” The UN’s legitimate self-defense clause “does not justify the use of disproportionate military force against another state, much less against its civilian population,” the government said. (Noticias 7/14/14; The Americas Blog 7/21/14)

In Mexico, indigenous Mayans who have converted to Islam held their first protest ever in the southeastern state of Chiapas. About 60 of the area’s 600 or 700 Tzotzil Muslims marched in San Cristóbal de las Casas on July 24 to demand that “the genocide end.” “We are few but we can’t be silent before the massacre against the people of Palestine,” Hibrahim Checheb, a representative of the Al-Kauz mosque, told a reporter. The group of Tzotziles, mostly from the nearby municipality of San Juan Chamula, converted about 18 years earlier. (La Jornada 7/24/14) Activists in Mexico City held a protest on July 11 outside the Foreign Relations Secretariat. About 300 people participated in the action, whose sponsors included the Solidarity With Palestine Coordinating Committee (Corsopal). The organizers expelled five members of a group called “Black Eagles” from the protest; they were carrying signs with anti-Semitic slogans. (Milenio (Mexico) 7/11/14)

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry charged Israel with “us[ing] its military and technological superiority to execute a policy of collective punishment with a disproportionate use of force which causes civilian casualties and enormous material damage.” The country’s Communist government broke off diplomatic ties with Israel in 1973 and has provided Palestinian groups with financial and diplomatic support over the years. (The Americas Blog 7/21/14; Fox News Latino 7/23/14, some from AP)

*2. Central America: Leaders Hold Summit on Child Migration
US president Barack Obama hosted a meeting in Washington, DC, on July 25 with three Central American presidents—Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala and Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras--to discuss the recent increase in unauthorized immigration to the US by unaccompanied minors [see Update #1227]. About 57,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly from the three Central American presidents’ countries, were detained at the Mexico-US border from October 2013 through June 2014. President Obama called for joint work to discourage further child migration; the US would do its part by making it clear that the minors would be repatriated unless they could convince US officials they were in danger if they returned, Obama said. The left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada headlined its coverage with the sentence: “The US has great compassion for child migrants; they’ll be deported: Obama.”

The Obama administration had been floating a proposal for setting up an office in Honduras, and possibly in El Salvador and Guatemala, to process youths and families seeking refugee status. But Obama played the idea down after the summit. “There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” he said. “But I think it’s important to recognize that that would not necessarily accommodate a large number of additional migrants.” (La Jornada 7/26/14 from correspondent; Associated Press 7/26/14 via CBS (Washington, DC))

The Central American presidents all emphasized the importance of crime and poverty as forces motivating migration, but rightwing presidents Pérez and Hernández seemed mostly interested in getting more US military aid. The US-funded “drug war” programs in Colombia and Mexico, Plan Colombia and the Mérida Initiative, “were successful for the US and those two countries in the struggle against narco trafficking, but they gave us a tremendous problem,” Hernández said the day before the summit, referring to the relocation of some drug smuggling activities into Central America. “So we need to have our own plan.” (LJ 7/25/14 from AFP)

While media coverage stressed pressure on Obama from anti-immigrant conservatives, human rights groups and religious organizations were pressing him from the left. More than 40 organizations signed on to an open letter started by the DC-based Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) calling for the US to provide children and families with “all due [legal] protections.” “[M]ore border security will not help,” according to the open letter, which was released on July 24; the US must “face the root causes of violence at the community level.” Adam Isacson, WOLA’s senior associate for regional security policy, dismissed the calls for more military assistance to Central America. “What we’d like to see is a package of assistance to Central America that is focused entirely on the civilian side of what it takes to protect,” Isacson told the Inter Press Service (IPS): “getting police to respect people,” “a much stronger justice system,” and “more emphasis on creating opportunities…combined with Central American presidents’ commitment to raise more taxes from their wealthiest.”

Also on July 24, two organizations, the New York-based Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and the DC-based Detention Watch Network, released a statement deploring conditions at the Artesia Family Detention Facility in New Mexico. After interviewing immigrant families at the detention center, 22 organizations concluded that “[t]he Administration’s intent to deport everyone as quickly as possible for optics is sacrificing critical due process procedures and sending families--mothers, babies, and children--back despite clear concerns for their safety in violation of US and international law.” (IPS 7/25/14 via Upside Down World)

*3. US: Police Try to Block Annual SOA Vigil
The US advocacy group SOA Watch reported on July 22 that the police in Columbus, Georgia, are trying to impose unacceptable restrictions on the annual vigil the group has held there every November since 1990 to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA) [see Update #1200]. According to SOA Watch, Columbus police chief Ricky Boren wants to limit the vigil to 200 people on sidewalks outside the US Army’s Fort Benning, where WHINSEC is based. In previous years thousands of people have demonstrated at a gate leading to the base. Boren is also seeking to deny a permit for the group to post its stage and sound system at the usual spot.

“This year, more than any other, we are called to demonstrate our solidarity with the people of Latin America,” Roy Bourgeois, the Catholic priest who founded SOA Watch, said in response to the restrictions. “When our military training continues to target communities, forcing the unaccompanied migration of thousands of refugee children, we must speak out.” Noting that it won in federal courts in 2001 and 2002 against government efforts to restrict the vigils, SOA Watch has started a petition “calling on the Columbus police department to reverse its decision and to uphold the constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.” The petition can be accessed at http://org.salsalabs.com/o/727/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=16129. (SOA Watch press release 7/22/14; National Catholic Reporter 7/22/14)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

The BRICS Bank: part of a new financial architecture (Latin America)

Land Rights in Latin America: Where are the Voices of Indigenous Women?

Radical Cities – Latin America's revolutionary housing solutions

How Have Latin America’s Political Leaders Responded to Israel’s Siege on Gaza?

Challenging Myths About Chapare Coca Paste Production (Bolivia)

Bolivia’s Military and Police Protests: The “Children of Evo” Speak Out

Amazon Oil Spill Has Killed Tons of Fish, Sickened Native People (Peru)

Peru Passes a Packet of Neoliberal Reforms, Erodes Environmental Protections and Labor Rights

Peru and Colombia: Community self-defense against megaminería

Is Water Still a Human Right in Ecuador?

Global Climate Change in Rural Colombia Is About More Than Just the Climate

Chavista Debate More than Pragmatists vs Radicals (Venezuela)

Child Migrants Are Refugees the U.S. Helped Create (Central America)

U.S. Turns Back on Child Migrants After Its Policies in Guatemala, Honduras Sowed Seeds of Crisis

U.S., Regional Leaders Convene over Migration Crisis (Central America)

Violence, Main Motor of Child Migration in El Salvador

Hondurans don’t need yet another neoliberal boondoggle

Guatemala: Opposition to Mining, the New Threat to National Security

The Morena Party Obtains Legal Status, Prepares for 2015 Elections; What Will Morena Mean for Mexico’s Political Future?

Mexico Arrests Self-defense Force Leader Mireles and Others

Johnson Controls Workers in Reynosa Demand Their Rights (Mexico)

Mexican Fracking Foes Lose a Big Round

Forgotten Refugees: Mexico’s Displacement Crisis

Migrant Shelter Faces Police Abuses on the Border (Mexico)

Secretary General in Haiti for Cholera “Photo-op” as Transparency Questions Continue to Dog the UN

“Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” Passed by Congress

Blowback on the Border (US/immigration)

Massive Rights Violations Charged at New Mexico Detention Facility (US/immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:


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