Monday, November 3, 2014

WNU #1240: Local Mapuche Leader Murdered in Chile

Issue #1240, November 2, 2014

1. Chile: Local Mapuche Leader Murdered
2. Argentina: New Energy Law Seeks Foreign Capital
3. Mexico: Supreme Court Rejects Energy Referendum
4. Haiti: Protest Leaders Arrested After Marches
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, 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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Chile: Local Mapuche Leader Murdered
Victor Manuel Mendoza Collío, the werken (spokesperson) for an indigenous Mapuche community in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía, was shot dead the night of Oct. 29 by two unidentified men. A friend of the family said the assailants came to Mendoza Collío’s home in the Requem Pillán community in Ercilla commune, Malleco province, and “killed him at the doorway of his house and in front of his six-year-old little girl, with a shotgun.” According to preliminary information the authorities gave to the media, the killing was the result of a dispute within the Mapuche community; community members themselves strongly denied the authorities’ version.

The Requem Pillán community reportedly had problems with a nearby non-indigenous landowner, and a few days before the murder, community members had apparently occupied lands claimed by a forestry company in the Lolenco sector. Since the 1990s Mapuche activists have frequently used land occupations in a campaign to regain land they consider ancestral territory [see Update #1186]. Jaime Mendoza Collío, another local leader who some sources say is Victor Manuel Mendoza Collío’s cousin, died five years earlier when Patricio Jara, an agent in the carabineros militarized police, shot him in the back during a land occupation that the Requem Pillán community was carrying out at the San Sebastián estate.

Some media suggest that the Oct. 29 murder could be linked to a rightwing paramilitary group. Leaflets calling for reprisals against “the terrorist Mapuche” appeared several weeks earlier in Cañete, in the region just north of Araucanía; the leaflets carried a symbol used by the fascist group Patria y Libertad (“Homeland and Liberty”). (Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 10/29/14; El Ciudadano (Chile) 10/30/14; Radio Universidad de Chile 10/30/14)

*2. Argentina: New Energy Law Seeks Foreign Capital
Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies voted 130-116, with one abstention, on Oct. 30 to pass a new version of a 1967 federal law governing the exploitation of oil and gas resources. The controversial new version had already been approved by the Senate; it will become law once it is signed and published in the Official Gazette by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Under the revised law--which was pushed through the National Congress by the Front for Victory (FPV), President Fernández’s center-left faction of the Peronist Justicialist Party (PJ)—concessions will be granted to private companies for 25 years for conventional oil drilling, for 30 years for offshore drilling and for 35 years for unconventional techniques like hydrofracking. The royalties the companies pay on oil and gas sales will be limited to 12% for the federal government and to just 3% for the oil-producing provinces, which technically control the resources. Private companies can also benefit from a provision letting them sell 20% of their production in international markets without paying export taxes if they invest $250 million over a three-year period.

According to the Fernández government, the law’s goal is to encourage foreign investment and develop Argentina’s petroleum industry rapidly so that the country can achieve “energy sovereignty” instead of using its hard currency to buy imported oil. The general policy isn’t new: the state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), signed a $1 billion agreement with the California-based Chevron Corporation in July 2013 for exploitation of the vast shale deposits in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén. Local Mapuche communities, backed by environmentalist groups, occupied wells to protest the agreement [see Update #1191]. Dow Chemical Co., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Madalena Energy Inc. are some of the other foreign companies now involved in the Vaca Muerta drilling. Their involvement is likely to expand under the new law.

Critics say the rush to bring in foreign-owned multinationals--just two years after the Fernández government in effect re-nationalized YPF by taking control of 51% of the company’s shares [see Update #1126]—is actually an effort to prop up the economy by bringing in hard currency. Mario Negri, a deputy from the centrist Radical Civic Union (UCR), said he feared the new law “could turn Vaca Muerta into a junk business to rescue the [US] dollars that they didn’t know how to administer and which Argentina has lost in the last few years.” (Bloomberg News 10/30/14; La Nación (Paraguay) 10/30/14 from AFP; Jurist 10/31/14)

*3. Mexico: Supreme Court Rejects Energy Referendum
In a 9-1 decision on Oct. 30, Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) rejected two proposals to put President Enrique Peña Nieto’s “energy reform”--a program for a partial privatization of the country’s energy industry--to a vote in an official referendum. The court agreed on Oct. 17 to consider a referendum proposal from the center-left National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), which had presented a petition with two million signatures [see Update #1239]; a larger center-left party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), made a similar proposal. The justices ruled that voting on Peña Nieto’s energy program would violate a constitutional prohibition against referenda on federal revenue policies. The two parties had argued that the vote concerned the use of national resources, not revenue. (New York Times 10/30/14 from AP; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/31/14)

In other news, according to a report released on Oct. 30 by Michael Horowitz, the inspector general for the US Department of Justice, US agents and prosecutors allowed grenade components to be smuggled across the border to Mexican drug cartels sometime between 2008 and 2011 in a way reminiscent of the bungled Operation Fast and Furious, which let about 2,000 firearms pass into Mexico during 2009 and 2010 [see Update #1145]. On two occasions agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) sought to arrest Jean Baptiste Kingery, a suspected weapons smuggler, but were turned down by the US attorney’s office in Arizona on grounds of insufficient evidence. Unable to arrest Kingery, the agents tried to set up a sting operation by marking grenade components that the suspect was planning to buy. In June 2010 Border Patrol agents stopped Kingery and found 114 grenade hulls, 114 grenade fuses and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition. ATF and Border Patrol agents then argued over how to handle the case; one witness said they sounded “like two gangs.” Finally the ATF and federal prosecutors in Arizona decided to turn Kingery into a witness and informant; they released him, and he fled to Mexico. The Mexican authorities finally arrested him in August 2011, supposedly with US aid.

US agents lost track of the grenade components, but after a shootout with cartel members in March 2011, Mexican soldiers found grenade fragments with markings similar to those used by the ATF, according to Horowitz’s report. (LJ 10/31/14 from Notimex; Los Angeles Times 10/31/14)

*4. Haiti: Protest Leaders Arrested After Marches
Two Haitian human rights groups, the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) and the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), issued a joint statement on Oct. 27 demanding “the release of the political prisoners and the demonstrators arrested illegally” by the government of President Michel Martelly in recent weeks. Police agents arrested 18 demonstrators in Port-au-Prince on Oct. 17 during a march protesting government policies and marking the 208th anniversary of revolutionary hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ assassination; the police dispersed the demonstration with tear gas and gunshots. After an Oct. 26 march protesting the government’s failure to hold partial legislative elections on that date, the authorities arrested Rony Timothée and Byron Odigé, two leaders in the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (FOPARC), which backs the Family Lavalas (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). In addition to the 20 arrests in Port-au-Prince, police detained three demonstrators in the city of Les Cayes, South department, on Oct. 12 during a protest demanding electricity.

The two human rights groups indicated that the detainees were arrested for their political positions. The government failed to meet the requirement to question the detainees within 24 hours, the groups said, and they expressed astonishment that “accusations of incitation to violence and destruction could be made against demonstrators and opposition activists when no flagrant crime had taken place.” Timothée and Odigé were also arrested in May, on similar charges, but a judge ordered their release a few weeks later [see Update #1224]. On Oct. 30 demonstrators protested the arrests with a march to the prison in Carrefour, on Port-au-Prince’s southwest outskirts, where Timothée and Odigé were thought to be held. A large police group was on hand, backed up by a truck equipped with a water cannon; stores quickly closed, and mothers reportedly snatched children from schools so that they wouldn’t be exposed to tear gas, but the protest ended without any major confrontations. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/29/14, 10/31/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, US/immigration

Why the Left Continues to Win in Latin America

National Women's Meeting in Argentina: Thousands Marching for Their Rights

Lula’s Brazil will carry on

Brazil’s indigenous population can use their land, but are not its owners

Election Day in the Bolivian Highlands: Local Democracy, Amidst the Contradictions

Hezbollah operative busted in Peru: police

Ecuador court approves vote on term limits

FARC accepts responsibility for civilian deaths (Colombia)

Abrupt Replacement of Minister Rodriguez Torres Raises Questions in Venezuela

Will the EU and IDB Fund Human Rights-Free Zones in Honduras?

Chaos: catharsis of the system in Mexico

Mexico’s Days of Love and Rage

Shock, Horror, Anger at Killing of 5, Disappearance of 43 Students; Marches, Protests, Strikes, Gov’t, Party Buildings Burned

Joint Declaration from National Indigenous Congress and EZLN on Ayotzinapa and for Liberation of Yaqui leaders (Mexico)

Tijuana Border Dump Generates More Controversy (Mexico)

Juarez Violence Spikes (Mexico)

Mexico claims another blow against cartels

Mexico Police Questioned in Murder of 3 US Citizens

WHO Lauds Cuba's Role in Ebola Fight

Border Crisis: Obama Administration Complicates Refugee Status for Central Americans (US/immigration)

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

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