Tuesday, August 26, 2014

WNU #1231: Mexican Miners Protest Toxic Spill

Issue #1231, August 24, 2014

1. Mexico: Unionists Protest Cananea Toxic Spill
2. Honduras: Child, Journalist Murders Continue
3. Haiti: Aristide’s Lawyers Question Inquiry
4. Brazil: Haiti Mission Shaped Rio Police Unit
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, 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.

Note: There will be links but no Update on August 31, 2014. Publication will resume the following week.

*1. Mexico: Unionists Protest Cananea Toxic Spill
At least 800 members of Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM, “Los Mineros”) began blocking the three main entrances to the giant Buenavista del Cobre copper mine in Cananea, near the US border in the northwestern state of Sonora, on Aug. 20 to protest environmental damage caused two weeks earlier when about 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution spilled from the mine into the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers. Most of the unionists lost their jobs four years ago when the mine’s owner, Grupo México S.A.B. de C.V., broke a 2007-2010 strike over health and safety issues [see Update #1194]. “During the strike we made several complaints about the improper and inadequate measures Grupo México implemented for preventing overflows from the dams” for chemicals and heavy metals, Section 65 director Sergio Tolano Lizárraga told the national daily La Jornada. He said the blockade would continue until the company recognized the workers’ old contract. (LJ 8/22/14)

Authorities shut down wells in the region following the Aug. 6 spill, depriving an estimated 22,000 residents of water; 89 schools had to be closed just as classes were starting for the new school year. On Aug. 19 officials from the Federal Attorney General’s Office for Protection of the Environment (Profepa) said they had filed charges against Grupo México, which could be fined up to 43 million pesos (US$3.3 million) and would be responsible for cleanup costs. The company denied reports that it hadn’t initially reported the spill. On Aug. 23 officials from Profepa and the National Water Commission (Conagua) said they had now found leaks in the temporary dam set up to stop the overflow of toxic substances into the Sonora. (Wall Street Journal 8/19/14; LJ 8/24/14)

“Grupo México is a serial killer,” labor activist Cristina Auerbach Benavides told La Jornada. “It’s never made repairs in the environment where it has passed through. Grupo México rots everything it touches.” Auerbach--who directs the Pasta de Conchos Family, an organization of relatives of 65 coal miners killed in a methane explosion at a Grupo México mine in Coahuila in February 2006 [see Update #1139]—dated the company’s history of environmental disasters and industrial accidents back to 1908, when 200 miners died in a gas explosion at the Rosita 3 coal mine in Coahuila.

Guillermo Martínez Berlanga, director of the Ecological Committee for Wellbeing, noted the small size of the proposed fine against Grupo México for creating a major disaster; in contrast, the US government fined the company’s US subsidiary Asarco $800,000 just for failing to allow an audit. The Mexican government’s approach to national companies like Grupo México and the state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) raises questions about President Enrique Peña Nieto’s controversial “energy reform,” which will open up the energy sector to private and foreign companies [see Update #1214]. “These ecological disasters demonstrate that Mexico isn’t ready for the energy reform,” Martínez Berlanga said, “because if the government can’t control PEMEX’s spills and Grupo México’s contamination, much less will it be able to control multinationals that are 10 times more powerful and [have] a greater power to corrupt.” (LJ 8/24/14)

In other news, protests were being planned internationally on Aug. 21 to mark the first anniversary of the imprisonment of community activist Nestora Salgado and to demand her release [see Update #1223]. Sites for the protests included her hometown, Olinalá in the southwestern state of Guerrero; Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland in the US; and Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Mexican author Elena Poniatowska, Mexican director and actor Jesusa Rodríguez, and US Congress member Adam Smith (D-WA) are among the people supporting Salgado, who holds dual Mexican and US citizenship; she was arrested while heading the community police in Olinalá. (LJ 8/21/14)

*2. Honduras: Child, Journalist Murders Continue
At least five Honduran minors recently deported from the US were among the 42 children murdered in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, Cortés department, since February, according to Hector Hernández, who heads the city’s morgue. The number could be as high as 10, he told Los Angeles Times reporter Cindy Carcamo. In June and July the administration of US president Barack Obama responded to a dramatic increase of tens of thousands of Central American minors seeking refuge in the US by emphasizing that most will be repatriated; the administration even arranged and publicized a special deportation flight of mothers with young children to San Pedro Sula on July 14 [see Update #1227]. But Carcamo’s reporting suggests that publicity won’t be enough to stop youths from trying to flee gang violence in Honduras. “There are many youngsters who only three days after they've been deported are killed, shot by a firearm,” Hernández said. “They return just to die.”

One San Pedro Sula resident told Carcamo that a teenage cousin was shot dead just hours after arriving on a deportation flight. The resident refused to identify himself or the victim for fear of reprisal from neighborhood gangs. “I would be killing my entire family,” he said. The morgue reported 594 homicides in the region around the city as of mid-July; the toll for all of last year was 778. (LAT 8/16/14 from correspondent)

The murders of Honduran journalists continue [see Update #1217]. Nery Soto Torres, who directed a television program on Channel 23, was gunned down on Aug. 14 in front of his home in Olanchito in the northern department of Yoro, east of San Pedro Sula. The authorities said the killers didn’t steal anything from the victim. Soto was the seventh journalist murdered in Honduras this year; the sixth was Herlyn Espinal, whose body was found on July 21 at a ranch between La Barca and Santa Rita municipalities in Yoro. The National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH) says a total of 47 media workers have been killed since November 2003 and 91% of the cases have not resulted in convictions. A group of journalists held a march in Olanchito on Aug. 19 to demand a prompt and thorough investigation of Soto’s killing. Most investigations of journalists’ murders “are completely abandoned,” Miguel Romero, president of the Yoro Journalists Association, said at the march. (Latin American Herald Tribune 8/17/14 from EFE; Washington Post 8/19/14 from AP; La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 8/19/14 from EFE)

*3. Haiti: Aristides Lawyers Question Inquiry
Former Haitian prime minister Yvon Neptune (2002-2004) appeared before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire at the judge’s Port-au-Prince office on Aug. 22 to answer questions in an inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Bélizaire has notified the authorities that 33 people, most of them connected with Aristide’s Lavalas Family (FL) party, are not permitted to leave the country because of their connection with the investigation. After the Aug. 22 session, Neptune, who has broken with Aristide, told reporters that he had no problem answering Bélizaire’s summons. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 8/23/14)

Lawyers for Aristide, on the other hand, have challenged Bélizaire’s entire inquiry and his qualifications to head it. Aristide was reportedly ordered to appear before Bélizaire on Aug. 13, but human rights advocate Mario Joseph, Aristide’s lead attorney, said the former president never received the summons. Joseph himself went to Bélizaire’s office to deliver a letter on the subject, but the judge wasn’t present. Aristide’s legal team is demanding that Bélizaire be removed from the case on the grounds that there were irregularities in his appointment as judge and that he is a member of the center-right Tèt Kale Haitian Party (PHTK) of President Michel Martelly (tèt kale is Creole for “Bald Head,” a nickname for the president). Lavalas supporters have maintained barricades around Aristide’s house in the northeastern suburb of Tabarre since mid-August in case Judge Bélizaire issues an arrest warrant for the former president.

Aristide’s backers aren’t the only ones questioning Bélizaire’s investigation. “This case should be handled by another judge, one who understands respecting the law,” Pierre Espérance, the director of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) and a longtime Aristide opponent, told the online Haitian news service AlterPresse. “Judge Lamarre lacks character and temperament. He kneels before the executive.” According to Espérance, Bélizaire hasn’t had training to investigate financial crimes. “If he stays on the case, it’s because he has a personal interest.” (AlterPresse 8/13/14, 8/13/14; Radio Kiskeya 8/17/14, 8/17/14)

The Haitian court system is often accused of being influenced by political interests. On Aug. 11 a court in the northwestern city of Gonaïves sentenced Wilford Ferdinand (“Ti Wil”) and his cousin Alix Suffrant (“Bout Zòrèy”) to nine years at hard labor for the April 2007 murder of Johnson Edouard, a former correspondent for the weekly Haïti Progrès and a regional coordinator for FL. Ferdinand was a leader in the so-called “Cannibal Army,” a local group that initially supported Aristide but later joined rightwing paramilitary groups seeking to overthrow him. Ferdinand charged that the sentence against him was politically motivated. “Investigative judge Pierre Michel Denis is a member of the Lavalas Family party,” Ferdinand said. But he thanked the public ministry’s representative, Enock Géné Génélus, for his help. Normally the public ministry, which is responsible to the Martelly government, would be expected to lead the prosecution; in this case, it supported the defendant. (AlterPresse 8/14/14)

In a major embarrassment for the criminal justice system, 329 prisoners broke out of the prison in Croix-des-Bouquets, northeast of Port-au-Prince, on Aug. 10. One of the escapees was Clifford Brandt, a wealthy business leader’s son who is charged with masterminding the October 2012 kidnapping of other members of the elite. There was speculation that Brandt’s backers were behind the massive jailbreak. Brandt was captured two days later by Dominican soldiers in Hondo Valle, just across the border from Haiti. As of Aug. 13 only some 20 of the escaped prisoners had been recaptured. (AlterPresse 8/13/14, 8/13/14)

*4. Brazil: Haiti Mission Shaped Rio Police Unit
Two Brazilian experts in police work have confirmed longstanding claims that the Brazilian military and police used their leading role in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) as a way to train their forces for operations in Brazil’s own cities. According to Lt. Col. Carlos Cavalcanti, of the Brazilian Peace Operations Joint Training Center (CCOPAB), the Brazilians were especially interested in the concept of permanent “strong points” in urban areas, which MINUSTAH forces used to “pacify” Port-au-Prince’s huge Cité Soleil section in 2005 and the Cité Militaire neighborhood in 2007. “Rio de Janeiro’s Militarized Police even sent a group to Haiti while these operations were still being carried out, with the object of taking in the Brazilian army’s experiences,” Cavalcanti said.

These experiences inspired the use of special police groups known as Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) in controlling the impoverished urban areas in Brazil known as favelas, according to Claudio Silveira, a defense specialist at Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ). The UPP in Rio was the target of repeated protests in the summer of 2013 because of unit members’ alleged torture and murder of construction worker Amarildo de Souza Lima [see Update #1195]. One advantage of MINUSTAH for the Brazilian military is apparently that it helps make up for what top officers feel is an inadequate budget for training soldiers. In Haiti the soldiers get real-life training, for which the Brazilian government has paid out 2.11 billion reais (US$923 million) since the mission’s start in June 2004; the United Nations has reimbursed it with 741 million reais (US$324 million). (Adital (Brazil) 8/13/14)

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

Washington Should Follow Latin America’s Lead in Condemning Israel’s War on Palestine

Land rights in Latin America: where are the voices of indigenous women?

The Changing Map of Latin America

Argentina Takes on Pirates and Vultures

Do the Holdout Hedge Funds Hold Argentine Credit Default Swaps?

Window Dressing for the Vulture Funds (Argentina)

Peru leaks: oil company rewrote environmental law

Mining Firms in Peru Mount Legal Offensive Against Inspection Tax

Cajamarca: campesino family convicted in retrial (Peru)

Ecuador: Free Pacto from Mining

Colombia - Hope in the Midst of a Violent Crisis: Life in Buenaventura's Urban Humanitarian Space

Gabriel García Márquez: The Last Visit (Colombia)

F-16 Missile Attacks Venezuelan Humanitarian Aid Mission in Gaza

Aruba frees wanted Venezuelan 'narco-general'

The Carrot, the Stick, and the Seeds: U.S. development policy faces resistance in El Salvador

Progressive Tax Reforms Approved in El Salvador

Report: World Bank Loan in Honduras Ignores Environmental and Social Risks

Cold Warrior Criticizes Cold War and Drug War, Hires Cold Warrior to Promote Drug War (Guatemala)

Guatemala: The End of the Spring of Claudia Paz y Paz

Women-Led Resistance against False Development in Guatemala

Indigenous Mexico Rising Again

National Indigenous Congress and Zapatistas Unite Against Plundering of Their Lands (Mexico)

Voices From the Field: Puebla’s Campesinos Resisting the Theft of Their Land (Mexico)

Sweet Victory for Mexico Beekeepers as Monsanto Loses GM Permit

A Toxic Shade of Orange (Mexico)

Sonora: mining threatens disappearing waters (Mexico)

Sinaloa kingpin prevails in prison hunger strike (Mexico)

The Mission to Mexico: California Governor Jerry Brown’s Diplomatic Coup

Reclaiming Life from Streets of Death (Mexico)

As Men Emigrate, Indigenous Women Gain Political Opportunities and Obligations in Mexico

Will Former President Aristide be Arrested? After 10 Years of Investigations, He Has Never Been Charged

Who Counts as a Refugee in US Immigration Policy—and Who Doesn’t (US/immigration)

Where Is the Voice of Migrant Children in the Immigration Crisis? (US/immigration)

Georgia Police Chief Severely Restricts Annual SOA Protest: Social Organizations and US Reps Respond (US/policy)

Mastering movements — An interview with immigrant rights activist Carlos Saavedra (US/immigration)

Children of the Monroe Doctrine: The Militarized Roots of America's Border Calamity (US/immigration)

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