Monday, November 24, 2014

WNU #1243: Honduran Campesino Leader Murdered

Issue #1243, November 23, 2014

1. Honduras: Campesino Leader Murdered in Aguán
2. Mexico: Protests Growing in “Failed State”
3. Haiti: Marchers Shot at Battle Commemoration
4. US: SOA Activists March on Detention Center
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, 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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Honduras: Campesino Leader Murdered in Aguán
Juan Angel López Miranda, a campesino leader in the Lower Aguán River Valley in the northern Honduran department of Colón, was murdered on Nov. 11 in the Ilanga Viejo neighborhood of Trujillo municipality, according to a communiqué from the Agrarian Platform, an alliance of campesino groups and nongovernmental organizations. Also known as “Juan Galindo,” López Miranda was a leader in the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and headed the largest campesino settlement in the valley, with 1,500 campesino residents. López Miranda was attacked by two armed men on a motorcycle, the communiqué said, and was hit by eight bullets.

The Aguán Valley is the center of a longstanding conflict between campesinos and large landowners who the campesinos say acquired their land in contravention of Honduras’s agrarian reform program. At least 147 people have been killed, most of them campesinos, since late 2009, when MUCA and other campesino organizations began a series of land occupations to push their claims [see Update #1226]. López Miranda was detained by the military briefly in April 2012 [see Update #1125], and he escaped without injuries from a violent attack in April 2013. The Agrarian Platform demanded that the Honduran government investigate both the people who carried out the campesino leader’s “vile murder” and those who ordered it. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 11/13/14 from ACAN-EFE; Adital (Brazil) 11/17/14)

In other news, on Nov. 5 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), the human rights agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a precautionary measure requiring the Honduran Government to suspend a 16-month work ban imposed on journalist Julio Ernesto Alvarado, the director and anchor for a Globo TV news program and a founding member of the Honduran chapter of the British-based human rights organization PEN International. Honduran courts imposed the ban last December in response to Alvarado’s 2006 coverage of alleged corruption by a university dean, Belinda Flores. This is the first time that the IACHR has ordered the revocation of a ban on practicing journalism. Carles Torner, PEN International’s executive director, called the IACHR ruling “a landmark decision for the protection of the freedom of expression of journalists in the region.” (PEN International 11/12/14; Adital (Brazil) 11/19/14)

*2. Mexico: Protests Growing in “Failed State”
On Nov. 20 tens of thousands of protesters marched through downtown Mexico City in the fourth National and Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa, demanding the return of 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College, located in Ayotzinapa in the southwestern state of Guerrero. The students were abducted the night of Sept. 26-27 in the Guerrero city of Iguala de la Independencia, apparently in a joint action by municipal police and local drug gangs; three other students were killed in the incident, along with three bystanders [see Update #1242]. The Nov. 20 demonstration, which also marked the official anniversary of the start of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, coincided with the arrival in the capital of three caravans led by parents of the missing students; the parents had spent a week traveling through different parts of Mexico to increase public awareness about the disappearances.

The Mexico City march appeared to be the largest action yet for the 43 students. The marchers headed to the central Zócalo plaza in three contingents: from the Angel of Independence, which commemorates the 1810 War of Independence; from the Monument to the Revolution, which commemorates the 1910 Revolution; and from the Tlatelolco housing project, the site of an October 1968 massacre of striking students and their supporters. The left-leaning daily La Jornada put participation at “hundreds of thousands” and reported that marchers were still entering the Zócalo when the main rally ended. (LJ 11/21/14, 11/21/14)

After the rally groups of youths, some masked, tried to seize the metal barricades protecting public buildings. Police agents responded by using pepper spray and water cannons to clear the plaza. The authorities said there were 26 arrests, with 11 of those arrested facing federal charges of criminal association, rioting and attempted homicide. The 11 were quickly transferred to federal prisons hundreds of kilometers from Mexico City—the eight men in the group to Perote, Veracruz, and the three women to Tepic, Nayarit. Relatives of the 11 detainees held a press conference outside federal prosecutors’ offices on Nov. 22. They charged that the arrests were arbitrary, that the detainees were not involved in the confrontation with police and that they were mistreated while in custody and were denied their right to counsel; one of the men charged, Chilean citizen Laurence Maxwell, was simply riding a bicycle in the area when he was arrested, his supporters said. (LJ 11/21/14, 11/23/14)

Mexicans living abroad organized their own Nov. 20 protests in a number of cities, including Paris, Moscow, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. As many as 300 protesters, mostly Mexicans, rallied in the late afternoon outside the Mexican consulate in New York’s midtown section, with chants demanding justice and calling Mexico’s three main political parties “murderer parties.” After a moment of silence and a reading of the names of the 43 missing students, the protesters marched to the Grand Central train station, where they briefly blocked the main entrance; a few protesters held a die-in inside. The march proceeded to a second rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations complex. Along the route marchers distributed fliers to the rush-hour crowds; most passersby seemed unaware of the crisis in Mexico, which has gotten little coverage in the US media. (Latin Post 11/21/14; report from Update editor)

Even though US coverage of the Mexican turmoil has been sparse, investors in the US and other countries are now showing signs of worry.  Mexico’s social problems, along with a disappointing growth rate for the third quarter, have led to “questioning with respect to the promising perspectives which were generated with the start of the new administration” of President Enrique Peña Nieto in December 2012, Alfredo Coutiño, the director of  Moody’s Analytics’ Latin American branch, said on Nov. 20; Moody’s Analytics is a subsidiary of the Moody’s Corporation rating service. “The issue for the economy isn’t that the political and social problems have just now appeared on the horizon, but rather the slow response and the low level of effectiveness of the actions to resolve them.” (LJ 11/21/14)

Politicians in other Latin American countries are also concerned. In an interview with the Latin American edition of Foreign Affairs posted on Nov. 23, Uruguay’s center-left president, José Mujica, questioned Mexico’s ability to handle the crisis. “It gives one a sensation, seen from the distance, that we’re dealing with a sort of failed state,” said Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter whose term ends on Mar. 1, 2015, “that the public authorities have totally lost control, that they’ve rotted away.” (LJ 11/23/14 from AFP)

Some Mexican observers seem to have a similar view. On Nov. 22 Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, a three-time presidential candidate for various center-left coalitions, called for a constituent assembly to formulate a new constitution. The goal would not be “to get rid of the institutions, but for them to be useful, reliable leaders, and committed to the causes of the country and the people.” Cárdenas had warned a week earlier, on Nov. 16, that Mexico’s largest center-left party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), was on the brink of dissolution. Cárdenas was one of the main founders of the party in 1989, following his defeat in the controversial 1988 presidential election. José Luis Abarca Velázquez, the Iguala mayor who allegedly ordered the attack on the Ayotzinapa students, is a PRD politician, a fact that has alienated much of the party’s base. According to a Nov. 3-4 poll ordered by the party leadership, 46% of Mexican citizens have a bad opinion of the PRD and only 11% of them would back it in the 2015 legislative elections—down from 18% at this point in the 2012 race. (TeleSUR English 11/17/14; LJ 11/23/14, 11/23/14)

*3. Haiti: Marchers Shot at Battle Commemoration
At least four demonstrators were wounded in the northern Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas on Nov. 18 when counter-demonstrators opened fire on an opposition march commemorating the anniversary of the 1803 Battle of Vertières, which marked the final defeat of French forces trying to regain control of Haiti. The several hundred marchers had reached the neighborhood of Delmas 32 and were about to turn back toward downtown Port-au-Prince when they were met with a hail of rocks. The marchers responded with more rocks, and the police used tear gas against the attackers. The gunfire started a little later. Two people were hit in the neck, one in the knee and one in the side; all four were taken away for medical care. The police said they recovered more than a half-dozen 9 mm caliber cartridges from the site. The marchers dispersed after the attack.

Some protesters reported seeing a lifeless body lying near a motorbike, and protest organizers held a press conference on Nov. 21 to charge that three people had been shot dead and that police agents had taken their bodies away. The authorities denied the charge, and reporters noted that the press conference didn’t include relatives of the three people said to be missing.

The Nov. 20 march was largely sponsored by opponents of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) and included groups associated with the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Populist senators John Joel Joseph and Moïse Jean-Charles and legislative deputy Arnel Bélizaire were among the politicians present [see Update #1204]. According to the online news service AlterPresse, the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA), which is associated with the leftist labor organization Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), also participated, but the union’s “demands against the presence of United Nations forces in the country [and] for a decent minimum wage…were drowned out by the anti-Martelly slogans.” The Martelly opponents were especially incensed because of an opinion piece by Communication Minister Rudy Hériveaux posted on Martelly’s blog on Nov. 17. Entitled “The Cockroach Syndrome,” the article described anti-government protesters as “roaches” who “trot around in a disgusting folklore in the streets to try to assault the government.” Hériveaux is a former FL senator and until a few years ago led a faction of the party [see Update #1083]. (AlterPresse 11/19/14, 11/21/14)

In related news, two opposition leaders arrested after an Oct. 26 protest, Rony Timothée and Byron Odigé [see Update #1240], have been placed in isolation in the National Penitentiary, according to the daily Le Nouvelliste. Meanwhile, attorney André Michel, who frequently represents opposition figures [see Update #1232], was ordered to appear on Nov. 17 before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire, who is charging him with property destruction in connection with an Oct. 17 demonstration. Michel refused to attend, saying Judge Bélizaire had no authority to order his appearance. (AlterPresse 11/17/14, 11/21/14)

*4. US: SOA Activists March on Detention Center
Seven activists were arrested from Nov. 22 to Nov. 23 for nonviolent acts of civil disobedience during the 25th annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. The protest’s sponsor, SOA Watch, opposes the US Army’s training of Latin American soldiers, charging that SOA graduates have been among the region’s most notorious human rights violators [see Update #1228]. A special focus on the US government’s treatment of immigrants marked this year’s activities, which followed US president Barack Obama’s Nov. 20 announcement that his government would grant a temporary deferral from deportation for several million undocumented immigrants.

Five of the arrests took place on Nov. 22 at the Stewart Detention Center for immigrants in Lumpkin, Georgia, 30 miles from Columbus. Hundreds of activists demanded the closing of the center, which is owned and operated by the private Corrections Corporation of America (CCA); release of the 1,800 immigrants held there; and an immediate end to mass deportations. Although SOA Watch has held small protests at the Stewart facility in the past [see Update #1106], this year’s was significantly larger, according to Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones, who estimated participation at more than 1,000. Two more arrests took place at the gates of Fort Benning on Nov. 23, when some 2,500 protesters held a funeral march and vigil focused on WHINSEC itself. (Columbus Ledger Enquirer 11/20/14; SOA Watch 11/22/14, 11/24/14)

Anti-militarization activists were also planning to hold protests against WHINSEC in El Salvador, Chile and Colombia. The Latin American countries that still send soldiers to the US training program include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. (Adital (Brazil) 11/20/14 from Rebelión)

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

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What Argentina’s Sovereign Debt Dispute Means for Global Finance

Cultivating Climate Justice: Brazilian Workers Leading the Charge Toward Zero Waste

President Morales Promises to Meet Worker Demands (Bolivia)

Peru Exploiting Own Failures to Demarcate Indigenous Territory

What Happened To Progressive Politics In Lima? (Peru)

The Wall Street Journal’s Problematic Reporting on Protests in Ecuador

Colombia: Talks With the Other Guerillas?

Action Demanded Over 178 Peasant Killings in Venezuela’s Land Struggle

Drilling the Caribbean: Indigenous Communities Speak Out Against Oil and Gas Exploration in Honduras

Mexico reels, and the U.S. looks away

Mexico's Undead Rise Up

Mexico’s Youth Under Siege

43 Faces that Move the World (Mexico)

This Mass Grave Isn’t the Mass Grave You Have Been Looking For (Mexico)

The Mexican Crisis

A Silence That Speaks: Ayotzinapa and the Politics of Listening (Mexico)

Tamaulipas: 'citizen journalist' assassinated (Mexico)

USAID Houses Found to be of Poor Quality, Will Cost Millions to Repair (Haiti)

Advocates Blast New Family Detention Plans (US/immigration)

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