Monday, December 29, 2014

WNU #1248: Honduran News Anchor Murdered

Issue #1248, December 28, 2014

1. Honduras: Left-Leaning TV News Anchor Murdered
2. Mexico: Raúl Salinas Cleared in Corruption Case
3. Mexico: San Fernando Massacre Document Released
4. Ecuador: CIA Justifies Reyes “Targeting” in 2008
5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

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: Left-Leaning TV News Anchor Murdered
Unknown assailants shot and killed TV news presenter Reynaldo Paz Mayes on the morning of Dec. 15 as he was exercising at an outdoor sports centers in Comayagua, capital of the central Honduran department of Comayagua. A supporter of the center-left opposition Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), Paz owned a small local television station, RPM TV Canal 28, where he hosted a news program known for its criticism of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s rightwing government and the June 2009 military coup that removed then-president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) from office. Another station owner, Juan Ramón Flores, said Paz had received various threats, including an anonymous phone call the week before, because of his political views.

Police spokespeople said they were working on the assumption that the assailants were after the victim’s pistol, which was missing. They said the area where Paz died is dangerous, even though the sports center is located just 200 meters from a transit police post.

Paz was at least the ninth Honduran media worker murdered this year [see Update #1231], and the second TV station owner killed since August. Dagoberto Díaz, who owned Canal 20 in the southeastern department of El Paraíso, was killed by unknown attackers in Danlí on Aug. 24. Based on a count earlier in the year by the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH), Paz’s death would bring the total of Honduran media workers killed since November 2003 to 49. The French-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization holds that at least 27 of the media deaths since 2000 are “possibly or clearly related” to the journalists’ work. The authorities “must end the unacceptable impunity for crimes of violence against journalists in Honduras,” Claire San Filippo, who heads RSF’s Americas desk, said in a statement on Dec. 18. According to the group, “[f]reedom of information has declined dramatically” since the 2009 coup. Honduras ranks 129 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2014 World Press Freedom Index. (La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 8/25/14; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 12/15/14; The Guardian (UK) 12/17/14; Terra (Peru) 12/18/14 from EFE; RSF statement 12/18/14)

*2. Mexico: Raúl Salinas Cleared in Corruption Case
On Dec. 12 a federal judge in Mexico City acquitted Raúl Salinas de Gortari, brother of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), of corruption charges in a case that has been argued in the courts since 1996. The Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) charged Raúl Salinas with unlawful enrichment involving some 224 million pesos--about US$14.7 million at the time—that had gone missing from a secret presidential discretionary fund between 1990 and 1994. Salinas was cleared by a federal court on July 31, 2013, but the PGR appealed that decision. The Dec. 12 ruling, which is final, concludes that the PGR failed to prove the charges, bringing the high-profile case to a conclusion after nearly 19 years. Once he had delivered his verdict, the judge left for a vacation.

Raúl Salinas’ controversial acquittal came in the midst of a political crisis set off by a Sept. 26-27 police attack on a group of teachers’ college students in the southwestern state of Guerrero [see Update #1246]. For many Mexicans the decision confirmed a widespread belief that the country’s rich and powerful enjoy total immunity however flagrantly they break the law. In addition to the unlawful enrichment charge, over the years Raúl Salinas has faced federal charges for tax evasion, money laundering, embezzlement and drug trafficking. He spent 10 years in prison after a murder conviction, but the conviction was overturned and all the other charges were eventually dropped.

The circumstantial evidence for corruption seemed overwhelming. During the early 1990s Salinas bought a total of 41 properties in nine states, valued at about $15 million, while he was working for a modest salary in a now-defunct federal program, the Basic Commodities Distribution Company (CONASUPO). Salinas also moved tens of millions of dollars into foreign bank accounts during the period, including some $100 million he reportedly transferred from 1992 to 1994 through New York-based Citibank to the Cayman Islands and London and ultimately to bank accounts in Switzerland [see Update #463]. Salinas has never adequately explained how he acquired all this money. (Reforma (Mexico) 12/16/14; CNN Expansion 12/16/14; New York Times 12/17/14 from correspondent; Vanguardia (Mexico) 12/22/14 from El País (Madrid))

Salinas’ murder conviction was for allegedly masterminding the Sept. 28, 1994 murder of his former brother-in-law, José Francisco Ruiz Massieu. The victim was the general secretary of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and his killing was the second of two bizarre murders that year involving officials of the party, which had ruled Mexico virtually unchallenged since 1929; PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta had been gunned down at a campaign rally in Tijuana on Mar. 23 [see “Mexican Murder Mysteries, Part 2”]. The case against Salinas grew more bizarre as it progressed. The first prosecutor was the victim's brother, Mario Ruiz Massieu, who resigned from the investigation and ended up committing suicide in New Jersey in 1999 while under house arrest on US federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges [see Update #503]. The second special prosecutor, Pablo Chapa Bezanilla, employed a psychic and was implicated in the October 1996 planting of a body on Salinas’ ranch; he fled to Spain, was extradited but was cleared of all charges [see Update #469]. Salinas was finally convicted of Ruiz Massieu’s murder on Jan. 21, 1999; he received a sentence of 50 years in prison.

A court overturned the conviction in 2005, and Salinas was released from the Santiaguito prison in Almoloya de Juárez, México state, on June 14 of that year. According to the left-leaning newsweekly Proceso, all three judges involved in his release--José Nieves Luna Castro, Adalid Ambriz Landa and Manuel Baráibar Constantino—have found their judicial careers advancing smoothly since 2005. (Proceso 12/20/14)

*3. Mexico: San Fernando Massacre Document Released
Police agents in San Fernando in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas aided the Los Zetas drug gang in carrying out massacres of hundreds of Central American migrants and others in 2010 and 2011, according to a partially redacted document declassified by Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR). Although collusion between local Tamaulipas police and criminal gangs was already well known--US diplomatic cables released by the US government in 2013 discussed it [see Update #1199], and local people referred to the police as “polizetas”—this is first time that the PGR has been required to release a document from an ongoing criminal investigation. Previously federal prosecutors had insisted that Mexican freedom of information laws didn’t apply to open investigations. The document is now available on the website of the Washington, DC-based National Security Archive, along with other relevant documents, including reports from US government agencies and US diplomatic cables released by the Wikileaks group.

The undated PGR document is based on testimony from some of the 17 San Fernando police agents who were detained in connection with mass killings in the area; the most famous, often called the San Fernando massacre, involved the discovery of 72 bodies of migrants in a mass grave in August 2010. “I know that police and transit officials in San Fernando help the Zetas organization,” Alvaro Alba Terrazas, one of the detainees, told investigators, “because rather than take detainees to the ‘pentagon,’ which is to say the municipal jail, they would deliver them to the Zetas.”

Michael Evans, the director of the National Security Archives Mexico Migration Project, noted the similarity to the Sept. 26-27 abduction of 43 students from Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College, located in Ayotzinapa in the southwestern state of Guerrero [see Update #1246]. According to federal investigators, the Iguala municipal police detained the students and then turned them over to a local drug gang. “If all this sounds eerily familiar,” Evans told the Mexican newsweekly Proceso, “it’s because we’ve seen it before. Murders like this are disturbingly common in Mexico, and the forces behind the chaos—generally drug cartels counting on the collaboration of, at a minimum, the local police—have been remarkably consistent over time.”

Evans and another National Security Archive analyst, Jesse Franzblau, noted that the document raises a number of questions: why it lists 17 detainees when the media reported 16 at the time of their arrests, why two of the detained agents are described in later media reports as actual members of the Zetas, whether the detainees are still detained, and where they are now. (Expresión Libre (Cancún) 12/21/14 from Proceso; National Security Archive 12/22/14)

*4. Ecuador: CIA Justifies Reyes “Targeting” in 2008
According to a secret study released by the Wikileaks group on Dec. 18, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) considers the killing of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) second-in-command Raúl Reyes by Colombian forces in Ecuadorian territory on Mar. 1, 2008 [see Update #937] an example of ways that assassinations of rebel leaders “can play a useful role.” In addition to the Reyes case, the paper reviews the use of “high-value targeting (HVT)”—the killing or capture of top leaders—in fighting rebels in Afghanistan, Algeria, Colombia, Iraq, Israel, Peru, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka. HTV can have “negative effects,” the study concludes, but the practice can “contribute to successful counterinsurgency outcomes” if used strategically. The July 9, 2009 study, marked “secret” and “NOFORN” (“no foreign nationals”), is entitled “Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool”; it apparently forms part of a “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency” series.

Reyes, the FARC’s chief spokesperson and negotiator, was killed when the Colombian military launched a nighttime air raid and then an incursion against a rebel encampment in Ecuador’s northeastern Sucumbíos province about three kilometers from the Colombian border. Some 19 FARC members were killed in the operation, as were four Mexican students who had been visiting the encampment while in Ecuador to attend a leftist conference. Although the Colombian government and the media treated the attack as a simple raid against a group of rebels, the CIA study refers to it as part of a number of “successful HVT strikes against top insurgent leaders in early 2008, in conjunction with earlier strikes against second and third-tier leaders and finance and logistics specialists.” Reyes’ death “is likely to have seriously damaged FARC discipline and morale, even among its leadership, according to a CIA field commentary.” As an example of the operation’s success, the CIA noted that “[p]ublic support for the Colombian government solidified in the wake of the killing…with President Alvaro Uribe’s approval rating increasing from the mid-70% range to as high as 84%.”

The study treats the Reyes killing as a strictly Colombian operation, although there have been reports that in fact the Colombians dropped US “smart bombs” and that an HC-130 airplane, used for refueling helicopters, took off from the US base then at Manta, Ecuador, just hours before the attack. The FARC itself claimed in a Mar. 14 communiqué that the US Southern Command had led the operation [see Update #940]. Theoretically US agencies are not allowed to participate in targeted assassinations. Executive Order 12333, signed by US president Ronald Reagan on Dec. 4, 1981, states that “[n]o person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/19/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

Brazil: victory for indigenous land struggle

Bolivia Revolutionizes Urban Mass Transit: From the Streets to the Sky

How One Indigenous Woman Took on a Multinational Mining Corporation... and Won (Peru)

Peru to evacuate village in Amazon conflict

Against Judicial Attacks, International Support for Venezuela’s Communes

December 20, 1989: The Day that Black Lives Did Not Matter in Panama

Panama Canal Workers Continue Labor Strike

Nicaragua: protests as canal construction begins

Guatemalan Genocide Trial Set to Resume Amid Amnesty Battles

Ayotzinapa Protesters Urge Boycott of 2015 Mexican Elections

Zapatistas Host World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion (Mexico)

Sentencing in Sinaloa Cartel's Chicago connection (Mexico)

Former Ambassador Says Mexico Provoked Cuba to Appease Bush White House

Freedom fighter, journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal speaks out on behalf of Nestora Salgado (Mexico)

Cuba and the United States: A triumph of political realism

Reflections from Former Chief of U.S. Interests Section (Cuba)

Assata Shakur as political football (Cuba)

John Conyers and 76 Other Members of Congress Urge UN to Provide Settlement Mechanism for Cholera Victims and their Families (Haiti)

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

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

WNU #1247: Panamanians Remember US Invasion

Issue #1247, December 21, 2014

1. Panama: Victims Remember US Invasion
2. Cuba: US Agrees to Normalize Relations
3. Cuba: Leftists, US Firms Praise New Policy
4. Cuba: USAID Head Quits After Latest Scandal
5. Venezuela: US Imposes Sanctions on Officials
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, 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. Panama: Victims Remember US Invasion
Victims and survivors of the 1989 invasion of Panama by the US held a public ceremony on Dec. 20 to mark the 25th anniversary of the start of the military action. As they have for 25 years, the ceremony’s participants called for the US government to acknowledge the damage from the invasion, indemnify the victims and their survivors, and reveal the location of mass graves where some of the dead were buried. “There were bodies that were thrown in the sea, and there are bodies scattered in different places, so we can never finally offer them a tribute,” Trinidad Ayola, whose husband died defending an airport, told the AFP wire service. “Without justice there can’t be peace or reconciliation, and we can’t turn the page.” President Juan Carlos Varela attended the ceremony, announcing that the government would form a commission to consider the families’ demands, including the declaration of Dec. 20 as a national day of mourning. He is the first Panamanian president to attend the annual commemoration.

Codenamed “Operation Just Cause,” the invasion was ordered by then-president George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) and overseen by armed forces head Gen. Colin Powell. The stated goal was to capture Panamanian military leader Manuel Antonio Noriega, a longtime asset of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in order to restore democracy and end cocaine trafficking through Panama. Others have suggested that Bush invaded because Noriega refused to help the US attack the government of Nicaragua, then headed by the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), and because he wouldn’t renegotiate the Torrijos-Carter treaty, in which the US agreed to return control of the Panama Canal to Panama in 1999. After serving out a prison sentence in the US, Noriega was extradited to Panama in 2011 and remains in prison there.

According to official sources, 314 Panamanian soldiers and 23 US soldiers died in the invasion. The Panamanian government says some 200 civilians were killed, but Panamanian human rights organizations estimate that more than a thousand died. US bombing caused widespread damage in the country, setting off fires in Panama City’s impoverished El Chorrillo neighborhood that destroyed some 4,000 homes.

Panamanians may not have been the only victims of the invasion. Writing in TomDispatch on Dec. 21, New York University history professor Greg Grandin concluded that the success of “Just Cause”--both in achieving its military goals and in influencing US public opinion--encouraged US leaders to larger and even bloodier military interventions. “[T]he invasion of Panama was the forgotten warm-up for the first Gulf War, which took place a little over a year later,” according to Grandin. “The road to Baghdad, in other words, ran through Panama City. It was George H.W. Bush’s invasion of that small, poor country 25 years ago that inaugurated the age of preemptive unilateralism, using ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ as both justifications for war and a branding opportunity.” (El Siglo (Panama) 12/18/14 from AFP; Fox News Latino 12/21/14; TomDispatch 12/21/14)

*2. Cuba: US Agrees to Normalize Relations
In a surprise move, Cuban president Raúl Castro and US president Barack Obama announced in separate television appearances on Dec. 17 that their two countries were now working to renew diplomatic relations, which the US broke off nearly 54 years earlier, in January 1961, under former president Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961). The two countries were releasing a total of 58 prisoners in the agreement, officials said, and the US will loosen some restrictions on contacts with Cuba by US residents; however, the US government’s 52-year-old embargo against trade with Cuba will remain in effect.

The accord was worked out in 18 months of secret discussions and meetings, apparently with some mediation from Argentine-born Catholic pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio). President Castro said the agreement “in no way means that the heart of the matter has been resolved,” but he added that “the progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems.” President Obama described the previous US policy towards Cuba as “an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests” and said the accord will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”

As part of the agreement Cuba released US citizen Alan Gross, who had been serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba since 2011 for his work there as a contractor for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) [see Update #1241]. At the same time the US released Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández and Ramón Labañino, three of the “Cuban Five,” a group of Cuban agents that US courts convicted in 2001 of espionage-related activities; the other two agents, René González and Fernando González, were released earlier after serving their sentences [see Update #1211]. Cuban officials said Gross, who was unwell, was freed for humanitarian reasons. Apparently the three Cubans were not exchanged for Gross but for a US spy who had been imprisoned in Cuba for nearly 20 years. The Cuban government also agreed to release 53 Cubans that the US had described as “political prisoners.” (New York Times 12/18/14)

Cuban and US officials refused to name the US spy who was released, but unidentified former US intelligence agents told the media they were certain the spy was Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a Cuban cryptologist who was arrested in 1995 and was serving a 25-year sentence for revealing Cuban secret codes to the US. Reportedly his actions helped lead US intelligence to the exposure of a number of important Cuban agents in the US: the Cuban Five, Ana Belén Montes [see Update #664], Walter Kendall Myers and Gwendolyn Myers. Although officials said the spy was freed and sent to the US as part of the deal, as of Dec. 19 Sarraff Trujillo’s relatives said they hadn’t heard from him and were concerned for his safety. (Los Angeles Times 12/18/14; NYT 12/19/14 from AP)

The US government is to ease restrictions on different categories of travel to Cuba by US residents--for family visits, official visits, and journalistic, professional, educational and religious activities, and public performance--and travelers will also be able to bring back $400 worth of goods, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products. However, private tourism will still be forbidden. Banking connections will be increased, and US residents will be able to send family members in Cuba $2,000 every three months, up from $500 at present. The US State Department has been instructed to “re-evaluate” its 22-year-old listing of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” a designation which has been questioned even by establishment groups like the Council on Foreign Relations think tank. The US president lacks the authority to end the trade embargo, which Congress has mandated through various laws, but on Dec. 17 Obama asked for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it. (Boston Globe 12/17/14; NYT 12/18/14; US Today 12/19/14)

*3. Cuba: Leftists, US Firms Praise New Policy
US president Barack Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement that the US would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba was “an historic triumph for the society and the government of the island,” the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada asserted in an editorial the next day. “[T]he hostility converted into Washington’s government policy has arrived at its end—although the repeal of the blockade laws is still pending—and this occurred without Havana’s having made any concession in its political and economic model.” The paper added that the policy change demonstrated “the correctness of the position of the Latin American governments, which advocated for decades for an end to the official US hostility to Cuba.” (LJ 12/18/14)

The change won praise from Latin American leaders on both the left and the right. “For us, social fighters, today is an historic day,” center-left Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff said at conference of South American countries in Argentina. “We imagined we would never see this moment.” Venezuela’s leftist president Nicolás Maduro, attending the same conference, called the move an “historic victory for the Cuban people…. [W]e have to recognize the gesture from President Barack Obama, a courageous and necessary gesture.” Center-right Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos expressed his hope that the new policy would lead to attaining “the dream of having a continent where there is total peace.” (Washington Post 12/18/14 from correspondents)

The response in the US was generally favorable, despite heavy media coverage of opponents of the policy change like Cuban-American senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). A poll by Zogby Analytics found 56% of US voters in favor of the new policy and only 27% opposed. Among Latino voters, 70% supported the policy and 21% opposed it.

Support seemed to be especially strong among US business groups hoping to take advantage of the new relationship. “We deeply believe that an open dialogue and commercial exchange between the US and Cuban private sectors will bring shared benefits, and the steps announced today will go a long way in allowing opportunities for free enterprise to flourish,” US Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donahue said on Dec. 17. Some US corporations did more than just support the move. Heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc., personal care product maker Colgate-Palmolive Company and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies have each spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying for an end to the embargo. The liquor company Bacardi Limited and the Swedish-owned General Cigar Company have also been lobbying, while Carnival Cruise Lines, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, the Coca Cola Company and heavy equipment manufacturer John Deere have all expressed interest in doing business in Cuba. (The Hill 12/17/14; Fortune 12/18/14; LJ 12/20/14 from correspondent)

*4. Cuba: USAID Head Quits After Latest Scandal
On Dec. 17, less than a week after the Associated Press (AP) wire service reported on a failed effort by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to co-opt Cuban hip-hop artists, agency administrator Rajiv Shah announced that he was leaving his post in February. Shah’s announcement came the same day as news that the US was moving towards normalizing relations with Cuba and that the Cuban government had released imprisoned USAID contractor Alan Gross. Shah didn’t give a reason for his resignation but said he had “mixed emotions.” In a statement released that day US president Barack Obama said Shah, who has headed the USAID since December 2009, “has been at the center of my administration’s efforts to advance our global development agenda.” (Bellingham (WA) Herald 12/17/14 from AP)

According to a Dec. 11 AP article, documents obtained by the wire service show that from 2009 to 2011 USAID “secretly infiltrated Cuba's underground hip-hop movement, recruiting unwitting rappers to spark a youth movement against the government.” The program, which the AP describes as “amateurish and profoundly unsuccessful,” was run through Washington, DC-based private contractor Creative Associates International and employed the services of Serbian rock promoter Rajko Bozic, who claims to have been part of the Serbian student movement that helped remove Slobodan Milosevic from power in 2000. The project’s contractors ended up “putting themselves and their targets at risk” and “compromising Cuba's vibrant hip-hop culture,” AP investigative reporters concluded. (AP 12/11/14)

AP reported earlier this year on two other failed USAID “democracy promotion” projects, also contracted through Creative Associates: the ZunZuneo “Cuban Twitter” program and an effort to build an anti-government youth movement. All three projects were carried out during Shah’s tenure as USAID administrator, although they appear to have started before he took over [see Updates #1215, 1230].

Shah, a former executive with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, preceded his resignation with a visit to Haiti over the weekend of Dec. 19. There he signed a partnership agreement with the healthcare nonprofit Partners in Health’s Haitian branch, Zanmi Lasante; he reportedly also met with Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer, who was the Obama’s administration’s first choice to head USAID. (Devex 12/17/14) Like the Cuban programs, USAID projects for Haiti have experienced a number of failures under Shah. The “New Settlement Program,” for example, was supposed to build 4,000 houses by 2012 to replace homes lost in the earthquake that struck southern Haiti in January 2010; the cost was to be about $53 million. Only about 816 houses had been built when USAID’s inspector general issued a report in April 2014, but the program’s cost had soared to $90 million. According to a Nov. 20 news item by the DC-based nonprofit Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), 750 of the houses are so badly constructed that they will need millions of dollars of repairs. (CEPR 11/20/14; Fiscal Times 12/9/14)

*5. Venezuela: US Imposes Sanctions on Officials
On Dec. 18 US president Barack Obama signed a bill into law that will impose sanctions on those Venezuela officials that the US government decides were involved in repressing demonstrators during rightwing protests last spring. The measure, which Congress passed the week before, would deny visas to the officials and freeze any assets they may hold in the US. Diplomats in Venezuela said dozens of officials could be affected, although the US is not expected to publish their names. A total of 43 people were reportedly killed in the three months of demonstrations, including government supporters, government opponents and security agents.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro noted that Obama signed the bill just one day after announcing plans to normalize relations with Cuba following a half-century of sanctions. “These are the contradictions of an empire that seeks to impose its domination by whatever means, underestimating the power and conscience of our fatherland,” Maduro wrote in his Twitter account on Dec. 18. In a New York Times op-ed National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello Rondón noted the “unfortunate coincidence” that Congress passed the sanctions bill “just as scores of people demonstrating against police brutality were being arrested on the streets of New York and other cities” and “a Senate report revealed the extent of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency” [see Update #1246]. (NYT 12/19/14; Reuters 12/19/14)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, US/immigration

Climate Justice: Uniting Struggles Across Latin America

The Torture Consensus in U.S. Democracy (Latin America)

Argentina: Dock Workers End Strike at Major Grain Port

Argentina: Mining Corporations vs. Democracy

PEC 215: No Vote by Special Commission of Brazilian House

Gratitude for the Defense of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil

Denunciation of the Suppression of Rights and Attempts to End the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil

Peru: campesino family scores win against mine

An Open Letter from Boaventura de Sousa Santos to Ecuadorian President Correa on Kicking the CONAIE Indigenous Movement Out of its Headquarters

CONAIE Indigenous Organization Evicted from Headquarters by Ecuadorian Government

Ecuador: Correa acts against CONAIE

Colombia: FARC declare ceasefire —amid fighting

Colombia: corrupt cops caught in crackdown

Beyond Ayotzinapa: How U.S. Intervention in Colombia Paved the Way for Mexico’s Human Rights Crisis

Venezuela sanctions highlight US hypocrisy on human rights

Tomgram: Greg Grandin, How the Iraq War Began in Panama

The Struggle for Indigenous Land and Autonomy in Honduras

Mining interests in Guatemala challenged by indigenous direct democracy

Unearthing the Truth: Mexican State Violence Beyond Ayotzinapa

The Revolution of Lupe Reyes (Mexico)

Collapse of Oil Prices, Fall in Peso Exacerbate Mexican Crisis

Mining Water in Sonora: Grupo México’s “Irregular” Water Permits in the Sonora, Yaqui, and San Pedro River Basins (Mexico)

Making Mining Dreams Come True in Mexico

Mining, Megaprojects, and Metrosexuals in Sonora (Mexico)

Atento Workers Seeking Democratic Union Lose Election Re-run (Mexico)

#Fergazinapa: Liberating Our Outrage, Remapping Our Action (Mexico/US)

Report on "Solidarity from the Ground Up: an Organizers' Tri-national Exchange" (Mexico/US/Canada)

Do Cubans Really Want U.S.-Style Internet Freedom?

Raúl Castro: The New Opening With the USA (Cuba)

The Fight against Migrant Family Detention Continues (US/immigration)

Migrant Deaths and Displacement Soar in 2014(US/immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

WNU #1246: UN “Peacekeepers” Fire on Haitian Protesters

Issue #1246, December 14, 2014

1. Haiti: UN “Peacekeepers” Fire on Protesters
2. Mexico: Official Ayotzinapa Story Questioned
3. Latin America: OAS Group Calls for CIA Torture Probe
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, 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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Haiti: UN “Peacekeepers” Fire on Protesters
At least two Haitian protesters were wounded by gunfire and another was apparently shot dead during two days of opposition demonstrations in Port-au-Prince on Dec. 12 and 13; there were also protests in the northern cities of Cap-Haïtien and Gonaïves. The demonstrations, which drew thousands of participants, came as the government of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) was taking steps aimed at defusing a political crisis that has been building for several months [see Update #1244].

The Dec. 12 demonstration started with a gathering at the ruins of the Saint-Jean Bosco Catholic church; protesters then marched through a number of working-class neighborhoods and approached the site of the National Palace, which was destroyed by a January 2010 earthquake, in the central Champ de Mars park. At this point security forces, including at least one contingent from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), dispersed the marchers with tear gas grenades and gunfire. Spokespeople for the international group said its members only used tear gas and fired in the air, but a video seems to show at least two men from MINUSTAH taking aim and shooting at eye level; one wears a blue cap and fires a pistol, while the other wears a blue helmet and fires a rifle.

It is unclear from the video whether the men were using live ammunition. Two people were reportedly wounded by gunfire and taken to the hospital during the Dec. 12 march, but who shot them wasn’t reported. This was said to be the first time in several months that MINUSTAH, a joint police-military operation led by Brazilian officers, intervened in an anti-government demonstration. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/13/14, 12/15/14; VICE 12/13/14)

Protesters accused Haitian police of shooting a man dead the next day at the Dec. 13 protest; the victim “had a visible bullet wound in his chest,” according to the Miami Herald. “[N]o one died in today’s protests,” police spokesperson Gary Desrosiers claimed. He suggested that somebody “put the body there.” (MH 12/14/14 from correspondent)

The protests followed several days in which President Martelly made apparent concessions to government critics. On Dec. 9 an 11-member “consultative commission” that Martelly named on Nov. 28 presented its recommendations for a sweeping series of resignations, which the commission called “patriotic sacrifices.” The officials asked to resign included Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe; Arnel Alexis Joseph, the controversial president of the Superior Council of the Judicial Branch (CSPJ); and the entire Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which has failed to organize legislative elections scheduled for 2011. The commission’s report also called for the immediate release of “a number of people” who have been arbitrarily detained and “classed as ‘political prisoners.’” The report laid out a timetable for reforms and agreements intended to clear the way for elections next year and head off a constitutional crisis likely to occur when the terms of one-third of the country’s senators expire on Jan. 12.

Martelly announced his acceptance of the report in a radio address the evening of Dec. 12, and Prime Minister Lamothe taped a resignation speech the evening of Dec. 13, although it wasn’t broadcast until early the next morning. The government also seemed to be moving on at least some of the cases of arbitrary detention. Rony Timothée amd Byron Odigé, two opposition leaders in prison since Oct. 26 [see Update #1243], were released on Dec. 11, in time to participate in the Dec. 12 protest. Police agent Jean Matulnès Lamy, who had been imprisoned since Feb. 21, was freed on Dec. 12; he was arrested after leading other local residents in protests against a tourism project on Ile-à-Vache, a small island southeast of Les Cayes in South department [see Update #1211].

It was far from certain that these moves would satisfy the protesters who have been demanding Martelly’s resignation. At the Dec. 12 demonstration human rights attorney André Michel said democratic forces needed to continue to push for the liberation of more prisoners, including Louima Louis Juste, Jean-Robert Vincent and the brothers Enold and Josué Florestal [see Update #1232]. (AlterPresse 12/12/14, 12/12/14; MH 12/14/14 from correspondent)

*2. Mexico: Official Ayotzinapa Story Questioned
On Dec. 13 the left-leaning Mexican news magazine Proceso published an investigative report challenging the government’s account of the abduction of 43 students and the killing of three students and three bystanders the night of Sept. 26-27 in Iguala de la Independencia in the southwestern state of Guerrero [see Update #1245]. Based on cell phone videos, interviews, testimony by witnesses and leaked official documents, the report’s authors, Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, claim that agents of the Federal Police (PF) were involved in the attack on the students, that the Mexican army was at least complicit, and that the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto has been covering up the role of federal forces.

The official version is that responsibility for violence against the students, who attended the traditionally leftist Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa, lies entirely with Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez, municipal police in the Iguala area and a local drug gang. But a leaked document shows that federal and state police were regularly informed on the students’ movements from the time they left Ayotzinapa for Iguala the evening of Sept. 26 through the time of the attack, according to the Proceso report. Federal forces could have intervened to stop the violence; instead, they may have participated in it. Some of the students reported seeing federal agents during the attack; other students said the police assaulting them had equipment, including a machine gun, not issued to municipal police departments in Mexico.

Guerrero state prosecutors clearly suspected federal involvement. On Sept. 28 they ordered the PF to provide records on the activities of federal agents in the area for the Sept. 24-28 period; the PF didn’t comply. Under political pressure, the state government dropped out of the case on Oct. 4, leaving the investigation entirely in the control of the federal government.

The reporters also questioned the official claim that the Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) gang was involved, since the only evidence for this seems to come from confessions by gang members who had evidently been tortured by the authorities. The government asserts that the abducted students were transferred to members of the gang at a specific Iguala police station. According to the Proceso report, the activity would have been visible to anyone in the area, but neighbors said they saw and heard nothing unusual that night.

Hernández and Fisher charge that the motive for the attack was political: “The attack on and disappearance of the students was directed specifically at the ideological structure and administration of the college.” They note that the students were all members of the college’s Student Struggle Committee and 10 were “political activists in training” with the Political and Ideological Orientation Committee (COPI).

Hernández is an award-winning Mexican journalist and the author of a bestselling book on official corruption and the drug trade; the book was published in English as Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers. Fisher is a US reporter and filmmaker. The research was supported by the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of Berkeley, California. (El Diario de Coahuila 12/14/14 from Proceso; Fusion 12/14/14)

Just as the new issue of Proceso was hitting the newsstands in the early morning of Dec. 14, a confrontation between federal police agents and students and their supporters left 22 people injured in Chilpancingo, the Guerrero state capital. According to a local human rights attorney, Vidulfo Rosales Sierra, some 15 to 20 Ayotzinapa students were setting up for a rock concert they were to hold that morning in the north of the city as part of activities protesting the Sept. 26-27 attacks. At around 5 am a group of federal agents, apparently drunk or on drugs, arrived and attacked the students with fists and rocks, Rosales Sierra said.

Parents, teachers and students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) also became involved in the confrontation, and later some 250 members of the militant State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG) joined in; they have been holding a sit-in at Chilpancingo’s main plaza since Oct. 8. The CETEG members reportedly set three police vans on fire, along with four other vehicles, and detained three federal agents, taking them to Ayotzinapa in nearby Tixtla municipality and then transferring them to the municipal prison. The injured included eight federal agents and two reporters; the rest were students, teachers and parents. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/15/14)

*3. Latin America: OAS Group Calls for CIA Torture Probe
The human rights agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) has joined other international rights groups in calling for the US government to act on a report that the US Senate Intelligence Committee released on Dec. 9 about the use of torture by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). According to its Dec. 12 press release, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) called for the US “carry out a full investigation in order to clarify the facts, and prosecute and punish all persons within its jurisdiction responsible for acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and to provide integral reparations to the victims, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and measures of non-repetition, pursuant to international standards.” The commission added that “the lack of punishment encourages practices that erode respect for integrity and human dignity.”

Critics of the IACHR have questioned the group’s ability or willingness to enforce its call. During his weekly radio show on Dec. 13, center-left Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa dismissed the IACHR statement as a “fake.” “You’ll see that absolutely nothing will happen,” he said, attributing his doubts to the fact that the US finances the Washington, DC-based commission and many of its members “come and go to and from gringo foundations.” The IACHR’s own press release noted that since early in 2002 the commission has repeatedly “called for the reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees at the [US-operated] Guantánamo detention facility to be investigated, and for the facility to be closed.” These calls seem to have had no effect on the US government. (IACHR press release 12/12/14; El Tiempo (Ecuador) 12/13/14 from EFE)

Some US commentators have emphasized that there is nothing new for Latin Americans in the evidence that US agencies employ torture: the region has had decades of experience with torture advocated by US agents.

In 1988 a Honduran Army officer told the New York Times’ James LeMoyne about his training by the CIA and the US Army: “They taught us psychological methods--to study the fears and weaknesses of a prisoner. Make him stand up, don't let him sleep, keep him naked and [in] isolation, put rats and cockroaches in his cell, give him bad food, serve him dead animals, throw cold water on him, change the temperature.” In September 1996 the US Defense Department released documents showing that from 1982 to 1991 the US Army School of the Americas (SOA, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC) trained Latin American military officers with US Army intelligence manuals advocating the blackmail, torture and murder of insurgents [see Update #347]. Four months later, in January 1997, the Baltimore Sun reported that CIA manuals on the use of torture and other forms of coercion were employed in training Latin American military personnel in the 1980s [see Update #369]. The DC-based National Security Archive provides links to these CIA training manuals at

“[A] direct line runs between what happened in Central America [in the 1980s] and US torture methods during the George W. Bush administration,” according to Bloomberg News’ James Gibney, who points to an unnamed CIA officer mentioned in the Intelligence Committee report. In Central America this officer provided training and “conducted interrogations” for an unidentified group, which according to Newsweek “was almost certainly the Nicaraguan contras,” a rightwing rebel group fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government of the 1980s. “The CIA inspector general later recommended that [the officer] be orally admonished for inappropriate use of interrogation techniques,” the Senate report says. In the fall of 2002, this same officer “became the CIA’s chief of interrogations in the CIA’s Renditions Group, the officer in charge of CIA interrogations.” (Newsweek 12/10/14; Bloomberg News 12/12/14)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration, US/policy

The Torture Report: Latin America’s Lessons for the United States

UNESCO Preserves Uruguay Prison Diary

The Police and the Massacre of Afro-Brazilian Youth

Brazil: truth commission report on military rule

Peru-Brazil Indigenous People Pledge to Fight Amazon Oil Exploration

Developmentalism and Social Movements in Bolivia

Without Respect for Indigenous Rights, There Will be No Solution to Climate Change Report from Lima (Peru)

People's Summit in Lima Envisions Bottom-Up Movement for Global Climate Justice (Peru)

Lima climate summit in shadow of state terror

Kicked Out By Coal (Colombia)

U.S. Congress Passes Venezuela Sanctions, Obama Expected to Sign

The Situation of Human Rights and Democracy in Honduras Since the Elections of November 2013

Indigenous Guatemalans Create Political Platform for 2015 Elections

Ayotzinapa, emblem of the Twenty-First Century social order (Mexico)

Protests Erupt Linking Police Impunity in Ferguson to Ayotzinapa (Mexico)

Mexico’s Epidemic of Violence Against Women

Why USAID Could Never Spark a Hip Hop Revolution in Cuba

Presidential Commission Recommends Removing Prime Minister as Pressure Mounts to Resolve Electoral Crisis (Haiti)

Haiti Rape Accountability and Prevention Project, 16 Days of Activism

Border Farmworkers Still Lack Health Care (US/immigration)

Immigration Enforcement: Anti-Labor Tool (US/immigration)

Latin America: NYPD chief wants to teach the world’s police (US/policy)

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

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Monday, December 8, 2014

WNU #1245: One Ayotzinapa Student Confirmed Dead

Issue #1245, December 7, 2014

1. Mexico: One of Missing Students Confirmed Dead
2. Mexico: Protests Link Ayotzinapa, Ferguson, Garner
3. Costa Rica: State to Compensate Nemagon Victims
4. Chile: Four Women File Sexual Torture Complaint
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico

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. Mexico: One of Missing Students Confirmed Dead
The remains of one of 43 students abducted the night of Sept. 26-27 in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero have been identified by DNA tests, parents of the missing students said on Dec. 6. Technicians in Innsbruck, Austria, established that one of 14 bone fragments sent them by the Mexican government came from the body of Alexander Mora Venancio, a 19-year-old student at the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa; gang members and municipal police had detained him along with 42 other Ayotzinapa students in Iguala de la Independencia during attacks which also left three students and three bystanders dead. The bone fragments were found in a dump near Iguala in Cocula municipality after three members of the Guerrero Unidos (“United Warriors”) gang told federal authorities they had helped burn and dispose of the bodies of the missing students there [see Update #1241].

The students’ parents acknowledged the identification of Mora Venancio after talking with a group of independent forensics experts from Argentina; the parents say they don’t trust information from the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto. A notice was posted in the victim’s name on the college’s Facebook page. “Compañeros,” it read, “to all those who have supported us, I am Alexander Mora Venancio…one of the 43 who fell on Sept. 26 at the hands of the narco-government…. I feel proud of you, who have lifted up my voice, courage and freedom-loving spirit. Don’t leave my father alone with his sorrow; for him I mean practically everything—hope, pride, his efforts, his work and his dignity…. I invite you to redouble your struggle. Let my death not be in vain. Make the best decision, but don’t forget me. Rectify if it’s possible, but don’t forgive. This is my message.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/7/14)

The DNA identification seems unlikely to end the widespread anti-government protests that have dominated the two months since the Iguala attacks [see Update #1244]. On Dec. 2 the federal Chamber of Deputies voted 292-100 to pass a measure that would amend the Constitution’s Articles 11 and 73 so that the authorities could limit a demonstration if they judge that it violates citizens’ “right of mobility.” The Chamber’s committee on constitutional matters had returned the measure to the full body for voting on Apr. 23, but the deputies didn’t take action until the current crisis. The center-right National Action Party (PAN) proposed the measure, and deputies from President Peña Nieto’s centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and a small PRI satellite party, the Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), joined them to approve it. The small leftist Labor Party (PT) and two center-left parties, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens’ Movement, opposed the bill, although PRD and Citizens’ Movement deputies on the constitutional committee had backed it in April. The PRD has lost popular support--and even party founder Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano--over the Iguala violence; former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez, accused of ordering the attacks, is a PRD politician.

Rights activists promptly denounced the anti-protest measure. “We are concerned that amid the human rights crisis that the country is going through, the response of the Mexican state is send a message to inhibit social protests,” Carlos Ventura, of the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Center, told a press conference in Mexico City on Dec. 3. The measure was received in the Senate on Dec. 4, but it was unclear how soon the senators would schedule a vote. (LJ 12/3/14, 12/5/14; TeleSUR English 12/4/14)

Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that at least some of the violence by alleged anarchists at Ayotzinapa protests has involved agents provocateurs. On Dec. 3 the online Mexican publication Animal Político posted two videos showing officials or police agents from the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), which has been governed by the PRD since 1997, in civilian dress among the protesters at a Dec. 1 march along the city’s Reforma avenue. In one of the videos, a man later identified as an official in a city agency is seen throwing a metal tube during a confrontation at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest. Two police agents seize the official and begin beating him, but other agents say: “Wait, he’s a compañero.” Agents then lead the official away and release him. (VICE 12/3/14)

*2. Mexico: Protests Link Ayotzinapa, Ferguson, Garner
Hundreds of Mexican immigrants and other activists held actions in at least 47 US towns and cities on Dec. 3 to protest the abduction of 43 teachers’ college students by police and gang members in Mexico’s Guerrero state in September; each of the 43 students had one of the actions dedicated to him. The protests were organized by UStired2, a group taking its name from #YaMeCansé (“I’m tired now,” or “I’ve had it”), a Mexican hashtag used in response to the violence against the students, who attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. The protesters focused on US government financing for the Mexican government--especially funding for the “war on drugs” through the 2008 Mérida Initiative [see Update #952]--but they also expressed outrage over the US court system’s failure to indict US police agents in two recent police killings of unarmed African Americans.

The protest “is a community effort by Mexicans living in the US [to show] that we don’t want our tax money to finance the Mexican government, which is corrupt,” Karla de Anda, one of the organizers of the protest in Miami, told the Associated Press wire service. “They’re giving [Mexican authorities] money for arms,” US writer and activist Roberto Lovato said at a New York vigil. “They’re giving armament for disappearing people, for creating mass graves.” Signs at the various protests called for an end to “Plan Mexico,” comparing the Mérida Initiative to the bloody US-funded Plan Colombia of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The US has given Mexico $1.2 billion under the initiative, according to Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

The Mexican actions were planned just as many people in the US were protesting a grand jury’s decision on Nov. 24 not to indict a white Ferguson, Missouri police agent, Darren Wilson, for the August shooting death of an unarmed African-American youth, Michael Brown. On Dec. 3, as many of the Ayotzinapa actions were starting, a grand jury announced its decision not to indict white New York City police agent Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold-induced death in July of an unarmed African-American street vendor, Eric Garner. Mexican protesters highlighted the parallels with the Mexican killings, which St. Louis University student Ale Vázquez Rubio called “too obvious to ignore.” “The connection is having a government that doesn’t value brown and black bodies,” she said at a protest in St. Louis; Ferguson is a suburb of the city. “The connection is also in the silencing of a lot of voices.” “Our governments are working together to oppress us, so why shouldn’t we be working together?” another St. Louis protester asked. “United we stand” and “Somos unidos,” the participants chanted, alternating English and Spanish.

In New York, UStired2 was holding its scheduled vigil in Times Square in the evening when thousands of people marched to the site in a spontaneous protest of the Garner decision. The Mexican protesters joined in with the chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” a reference to the Brown shooting. “Do you hear that?” Lovato asked a reporter. “It’s like an echo.” Lovato noted that USTired2 put together a conference call between the mothers of the missing students and parents of children in Ferguson the evening before. “The most moving moment was when the indigenous mothers who were looking for their sons who [have] been disappeared by the Mexican police were speaking to African-American mothers about what is happening in Ferguson. They were both saying ‘I know what you feel, I know what this is like.’” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/3/14; Univision 12/4/14; Fox News Latino 12/4/14; Voices of NY 12/4/14)

*3. Costa Rica: State to Compensate Nemagon Victims
A decree by Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís authorizing payments to former banana workers sickened by the pesticide Nemagon became official on Dec. 1 with the measure’s publication in the government’s gazette. Under the decree the government’s National Insurance Institute (INS) will pay out from 25% to 100% of the medical bills for workers who suffered physical or psychological damage from Nemagon, with the percentage based on their years of exposure to the pesticide. The decree currently covers 13,925 former banana workers; cases are pending for 9,233 of the workers’ children and 1,742 of the workers’ spouses. More than 11,000 other applications were dismissed.

Nemagon is a brand name for dibromochloropropane (DBCP), a chemical known to cause sterility, cancer, miscarriages, genetic deformities and other health problems. It was formerly in wide use in Central American banana fields; it was applied in Costa Rica from 1967 until the government banned the chemical’s importation in 1979. Affected Central American banana workers have been demanding compensation for decades. Costa Rica passed a compensation law in September 2001 but without setting up a mechanism for paying the workers. Some 780 Costa Ricans already won a separate settlement in 2011 from California-based fruit and vegetable producer Dole Food Company, Inc., which began making payments in September 2012 [see Update #1144]. The agreement with Dole also covered 3,157 Nicaraguans and 1,000 Hondurans. (La Nación (Costa Rica) 12/2/14; Tico Times 12/3/14)

*4. Chile: Four Women File Sexual Torture Complaint
On Dec. 1 Nieves Ayress Moreno, a Chilean-born naturalized US citizen, formally joined a criminal complaint filed earlier by three other Chilean women over sexual political violence that they say they suffered under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Chilean law doesn’t treat sexual violence as a separate complaint; instead, the crimes are considered “illegitimate pressure,” allowing some of the perpetrators to escape justice. The complaint seeks to have the crimes “incorporated into the penal code and those responsible for them to be able to be punished,” according to another of the plaintiffs, Alejandra Holzapfel. Ayress Moreno, who lives in New York, delayed joining Holzapfel and the remaining two plaintiffs, Soledad Castillo and Nora Brito, in the complaint until she could travel to Chile.

After meeting with Santiago Appeals Court president Mario Carroza on Dec. 1, Ayress described some of her experiences to reporters at a press conference. She was abducted by security forces along with her father and 15-year-old brother in the fall of 1973, she said, and was subjected to electric shocks and sexual violence in the Londres 38 torture center of the now-defunct National Intelligence Directorate (DINA). “Later they brought my father so that he could hear the tortures,” she said, adding that the torturers included Argentines, Brazilians and Paraguayans. “Afterwards they transferred me to Tejas Verdes [a concentration camp], always bound and hooded. The most terrible part was there, because the torture school was there, and the forms of aggressions and sexual violence I was exposed to are unspeakable.” At one point, she said, she witnessed DINA director Manuel Contreras personally directing her torture.

Court president Carroza told the website for the memorial park at Villa Grimaldi, another DINA torture center, that while technically the complaint would have to be treated under Chilean laws in effect at the time of the alleged abuses, Chile had signed on to international human rights conventions that might apply to the cases. “As the judicial power, we need to look at this situation, analyze it and confront it in the shortest possible time,” he said. “We’ve already been condemned in the past by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [CorteIDH], precisely for not carrying out this type of investigation in depth.” (Fox News Latino 12/1/14; Rebelión 12/1/14)

Nieves Ayress is well known in New York as an activist for immigrants and for human rights. Her husband, Víctor Toro, was a founder of Chile’s Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR); he too was tortured by the Pinochet regime. In 2007 the US government started a seven-year effort to deport Toro as an undocumented immigrant, but on Oct. 23 of this year a US immigration court granted him a work permit and permission to remain in the country, while denying his request for political asylum. (TeleSUR English 10/24/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico

The Water Grab That Powers Predatory Development (Latin America)

Shale Oil Fuels Indigenous Conflict in Argentina

Six Guantanamo Detainees Leave for Uruguay

Lessons from Bolivia: re-nationalising the hydrocarbon industry

Bolivian women fight back against climate of violence

“Indigenous Peoples Are the Owners of the Land” Say Activists at COP20 in Peru

Andes: repression ahead of Lima climate summit

Ecuador indigenous leader found dead days before planned Lima protest

Colombia: peace talks resume; Uribe urges 'rebellion'

Colombian general captured by FARC resigns

Pemon Indigenous Occupy Airport in Venezuela: “We Have Had Enough of Broken Promises”

Community Democracy Confronts Mining in El Salvador

Palm Oil and Extreme Violence in Honduras: The Inexorable Rise and Dubious Reform of Grupo Dinant

In Oaxaca, Caravan of Central American Mothers Calls for Unity of Movements

Central American Mothers Build Bridges of Hope

Mexican Immigration Authorities Impede Humanitarian Aid to Central American Migrants

Mexico’s Civic Insurgency

Students March for Ayotzinapa and for Their Future (Mexico)

Ayotzinapa: I read and I share (Mexico)

The Spectre of Ayotzinapa Haunts the Continent (Mexico)

Wixarika Leaders to First Majestic Silver: Follow IMD Mining Ltd Example, Abandon Mining Project in Sacred Lands (Mexico)

Mexico: In the Land of Zapata, a Community Fights Natural Gas Development

The Rebirth of an Urban “Dead Zone”? (Mexico)

We Can Pretend Mexico’s War Isn’t ‘Made in the U.S.A.’, But the Numbers Don’t Lie

How Canada and Mexico Have Become Part of the U.S. Policing Regime

In Memoriam Juan Flores 1943-2014 (Puerto Rico)

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

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson: