Tuesday, September 16, 2014

WNU #1233: Who’s Behind the Bombings in Chile?

Issue #1233, September 14, 2014

1. Chile: Who’s Behind the Bombing Spree?
2. Guatemala: Bishop's Killer Runs Prison Ring
3. Peru: Guards Union Leader Brutally Beaten
4. Haiti: UN Mission Reduced; Opposition Grows
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration, US/policy

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. Chile: Who’s Behind the Bombing Spree?
Fourteen people were injured, four of them seriously, when a homemade bomb exploded at 2 pm on Sept. 8 in a shopping center restaurant at the busy Escuela Miltar subway station in Santiago, the Chilean capital. In response, President Michelle Bachelet, a Socialist Party of Chile (PS) leader who began her second term on Mar. 11, held a special security meeting in the La Moneda palace on Sept. 9; she called for increased vigilance and for modifications to the Antiterrorist Law, a measure passed during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The bombing came shortly before the 41st anniversary of the Sept. 11, 1973 coup in which Pinochet’s military overthrew Socialist president Salvador Allende Gossens.

No group had claimed responsibility for the attack as of Sept. 13. There were reportedly 26 attempted bombings in Chile previously this year, several supposedly by anarchist groups, but only four of the earlier bombs exploded, and none resulted in injuries. The media speculated that anarchist groups were involved in the Sept. 8 attack, and the Canal 13 television station suggested the bombing might be linked to the country’s militant student movement [see Update #1219]. Others suggested involvement by the leftist rebel Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), which carried out an assassination attempt against Pinochet on Sept. 7, 1986, almost exactly 28 years before this year’s bombing; five guards were killed, but Pinochet only suffered minor injuries. The group, now demobilized, quickly denied responsibility for the new attack. Rightwing forces “seek through injuring workers and Chileans in general to create political and social conditions to give birth to the reestablishment of security organizations in the style of the military-civilian governments,” the FPMR said in a statement. Analysts noted that Chile’s left groups had in the past avoided daytime attacks in crowded areas like subway stations and shopping centers.

There was also speculation that President Bachelet’s mother, Angela Jeria--the widow of Gen. Alberto Bachelet, who was murdered by the Pinochet regime--might have been the target. She lives in the area near the Escuela Militar station and happened to be in the shopping center at the time of the explosion, accompanied by her usual security team of two carabinero police agents in civilian dress. She was not injured. (Terra Chile 9/8/14 from AFP; Washington Post 9/9/14 from AP; La Opinión (Los Angeles) 9/9/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/10/14 from correspondent; La República (Peru) 9/14/14)

As has been customary for years, militant protests marked the actual anniversary of the coup on Sept. 11, with burning barricades and vehicles and clashes with police in working-class districts of Santiago, including Villa Francia, Peñalolen, San Bernardo, Quilicura and Cerro Navia. President Bachelet used the occasion to call for a repeal of the Amnesty Law, which shields many abusers from the Pinochet era. “In democracy, Chile has not lost its memory and has not forgotten its persecuted, executed and missing arrested children,” she said at a Sept. 11 commemoration. “Neither has [Chile] forgotten the wounds that continue causing pain.” In addition to losing her father, Bachelet herself was tortured under the dictatorship. (VICE 9/12/14)

In related news, Chilean journalist Loreto Daza reported, based on US government documents, that in 1986 the administration of former president Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) feared resistance to the regime in Chile might lead to civil war and considered a plan to remove Pinochet from power and offer him asylum in the US. One document described this as an “honorable departure for President [Pinochet], who would be received as a guest of our government.” According to Peter Kornbluh, director of the Chile Documentation Project at the DC-based National Security Archive, Reagan admired Pinochet so much that he “wanted to go to Chile to personally thank him for ‘saving Chile’ and tell him that ‘it was time to go.’” Then-secretary of state George Shultz nixed Reagan’s idea. (The Guardian (UK) 9/11/14)

*2. Guatemala: Bishop's Killer Runs Prison Ring
On Sept. 3 the United Nations-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) announced that a joint operation with Guatemala’s Public Ministry and Governance Ministry had captured seven members of a criminal network that took bribes to arrange transfers for prisoners; the ring also supplied prisoners with cell phones, special food, conjugal visits and other benefits. According to the authorities, the network’s leaders were Penitentiary System Director Edgar Camargo Liere and a prisoner, Byron Miguel Lima Oliva, who is serving a 20-year term for carrying out the Apr. 26, 1998 murder of Catholic bishop Juan José Gerardi Conedera, a well-known human rights campaigner. A total of 14 people are charged with participating in the bribery ring, but apparently not all had been captured as of Sept. 3. (CICIG 9/3/14)

Lima Oliva, a former army captain who is an inmate in the Pavoncito prison south of Guatemala City, reportedly had an arrangement with Penitentiary Director Camargo that enabled him to charge a prisoner as much as $12,000 to be transferred. Lima Oliva himself apparently was living well in the Pavoncito. He was equipped with as many as five cell phones for his business, made frequent trips out of prison in armored cars, including a Porsche, and invested in real estate, including a beachfront property. The Mexican daily La Jornada reported that the corruption in Pavoncito “was always known.” Lima Oliva himself has claimed to be friends with President Otto Pérez Molina and to have connections with Governance Minister Mauricio López Bonilla; he says he arranged the printing of the campaign polo shirts for Pérez Molina’s successful 2011 election campaign. In February of this year Lima Oliva was apprehended while going to the dentist and overstaying his authorized time outside the prison; he and his entourage were traveling in vehicles used in the 2011 campaign by Pérez Molina’s Patriotic Party (PP).

According to the court that convicted him in June 2001, Lima Oliva bludgeoned Bishop Gerardi to death just two days after Gerardi released a report on abuses during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war; the report blamed many of the abuses on the military. Also convicted were Lima Oliva’s father, former colonel Byron Disrael Lima Estrada, and a former soldier in the Presidential General Staff (EMP), Specialist Obdulio Villanueva Arévalo. The elder Lima was given an early release in 2012 for good behavior; Villanueva was decapitated during an inmate riot at the Preventive Center prison in northern Guatemala City in February 2003. Lima Oliva was in the same prison but was unharmed [see Update #681]. He denies any role in Gerardi’s murder and says he’s a scapegoat.

Lima Oliva’s apparent connections with the government have led to suspicions that the prosecution of the former captain may not be successful. La Jornada correspondent Sanjuana Martínez asked the judge in the case, Miguel Ángel Gálvez, if he might end up fleeing the country, as happened with the chief prosecutor in Lima Oliva’s 2001 conviction. “I hope not,” Judge Gálvez said. When asked if he was afraid, he answered: “Of course, especially since this is a very complex country.” (Christian Science Monitor 9/5/14; Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 9/11/14; LJ 9/14/14; The Guardian (UK) 7/14/12 from AP)

*3. Peru: Guards Union Leader Brutally Beaten
Luis Cárdenas Velásquez, the secretary general of a union representing Peruvian employees of the Spanish security firm Prosegur Compañía de Seguridad, was assaulted near his home early on the morning of Aug. 22 as he was on his way to work. The assailant beat Cárdenas’ head with a rock and then fled in a car which had been kept waiting a block away with the motor running. Nothing was stolen. Cárdenas reported the attack to the authorities and received four stitches at a hospital. A month earlier pamphlets were circulated among Prosegur staff accusing Cárdenas of stealing union funds. Management denied responsibility for the pamphlets and for similar anti-union pamphlets that have been reported at Prosegur sites in Colombia. The company has subsidiaries in a total of eight Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Cárdenas’ union, the Prosegur Workers Union Peru, represents money transport workers who won recognition from management after a five-day strike in September 2013. The union is affiliated with the Swiss-based UNI Global Union, which claims to represent some 20 million service workers in 900 unions worldwide. UNI has protested to Prosegur in Spain, and the British-based LabourStart website is calling for labor rights supporters to send a letter to Presegur president Helena Revoredo Delvecchio and CEO Christian Gut Revoredo; the letter can be sent by email from http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=2477. (La República (Peru) 9/12/13; UNI Global Union 9/18/13, 8/28/14; Sindicato de Trabajadores y Empleados de Prosegur Paraguay S.A. 8/22/14; LabourStart 9/10/14)

*4. Haiti: UN Mission Reduced; Opposition Grows
United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon plans to continue the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) one more year but wishes to cut it significantly, according to a report that the military and police mission’s current head, the Trinidadian diplomat Sandra Honoré, presented to the UN Security Council on Sept. 11. Secretary General Ban recommended extending MINUSTAH for another year when its mandate ends on Oct. 15. However, the military component would be reduced to 2,370 soldiers by June 2015; currently the mission has 5,021 soldiers and 2,601 police agents, along with nearly 2,000 civilian employees and volunteers. Honoré said the Haitian National Police (PNH), which now has 10,963 agents, would be able to take over many of MINUSTAH’s functions. She admitted that “[t[he reinforcement of the national police needs to be accompanied by measures for accelerating the reform of the justice system to support the construction of institutions and to improve local governance.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 9/12/14)

Opposition to MINUSTAH continues to grow in several of the Latin American countries that contribute most of the troops. In June Jubilee South/Americas, a Latin American network focusing on international debt, marked 10 years since the mission’s start by launching a campaign to end it [see Update #1222]. On Sept. 8 some 100 social movements and well-known activists sent Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies a letter calling on the National Congress to end the authorization for the country’s participation; Argentina has 566 soldiers in Haiti. The letter also asked the legislature to demand that the left-leaning government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner use its current position on the UN Security Council to vote no when MINUSTAH’s mandate comes up for renewal on Oct. 15.

MINUSTAH opponents held a press conference at the Chamber of Deputies on Sept. 10 with Nora Cortiñas from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo; 1980 Nobel peace prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; Pablo Micheli, general secretary of the Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA); journalist and human rights defender Herman Schiller; and Jubilee South’s Beverly Keene. “Argentina ought to take into consideration the example of Bolivia and Uruguay, which are discussing the withdrawal of their troops,” Micheli said in his remarks, “and, even more so, the example of Cuba and Venezuela, which, far from sending occupation forces, are guaranteeing the presence of doctors and teachers, which is what the Haitian people need.” (AlterPresse 9/11/14; Adital (Brazil) 9/12/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration, US/policy

The Conservative Restoration in Latin America

Latin America’s Anti-drug Policies Feed on the Poor

The Other Side of Human Rights in Argentina

Brazil: deadly prison uprising ends in deal

Four Peruvian anti-logging activists murdered

Amazon indigenous leaders killed by illegal loggers (Peru)

Venezuela’s PDVSA Discusses Sale of Citgo as Central Bank Reports Drop in Inflation

Film Review: ‘Revolutionary Medicine - A Story of the First Garifuna Hospital' (Honduras)

Organizations Condemn Assassination of Human Rights Activist in Guatemala

Mayan People’s Movement Defeats Monsanto Law in Guatemala

Media in Movement (Interview with Martín Rodríguez Pellecer, Guatemala)

Mexico: demand investigation of military massacre

U.S. Congressmen Demand Freedom for Nestora (Mexico)

Cuba to Send Doctors to Treat Ebola in Africa

Cuba estimates US embargo has cost island $116.8bn in damages in 55 years

Is the Martelly Government Putting Former President Aristide in Danger? (Haiti)

USAID Education Contractor Gets a Bad Grade (Haiti)

Why Immigration Reform Has to Go Hand-in-Hand With Stronger Labor Rights (US/immigration)

US Court Sets Precedent by Ruling Guatemalan Domestic Violence Victim Can Seek Asylum (US/immigration)

On Government Funding of Think Tanks (US/policy)

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