Monday, January 19, 2015

WNU #1251: Haitian President to Rule by Decree

Issue #1251, January 18, 2015

1. Haiti: Deal Fails, Martelly Rules by Decree
2. Mexico: Students’ Parents Storm Army Base
3. Puerto Rico: Machetero Prisoner Is Released
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

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

Note: The Update is ceasing publication on Feb. 15. In each of the remaining issues we will try to include some updated information on stories we covered in the past.

*1. Haiti: Deal Fails, Martelly Rules by Decree
Haiti entered a long-threatened period of constitutional crisis on Jan. 12 when terms expired for all 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies and for 10 of the country’s 30 senators; the terms had already run out for another third of the senators. Since the government had failed to hold overdue elections for these seats, Parliament no longer had a quorum to pass laws and President Martelly was free to rule by decree in the absence of a viable legislature. He and the leaders of Parliament had announced an agreement on Dec. 29 that would extend the legislators’ terms if Parliament met a Jan. 12 deadline to pass amendments to the electoral law [see Update #1249], but the deal didn’t win the agreement of the main opposition parties. The vote never took place.

The slide into direct presidential rule came on the day when Haitians were marking the fifth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of Port-au-Prince and left tens or hundreds of thousands of people dead. (Radio-Canada 1/11/15 from correspondents; Radio France Internationale (RFI) 1/13/15 from correspondent)

Martelly’s opponents said they would continue with the anti-government demonstrations they have been sponsoring since the fall to demand Martelly’s resignation. On Jan. 15 an opposition coalition announced plans for marches in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 16, Jan. 17, Jan. 20, Jan. 22 and Jan. 23. The coalition includes the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (Mopod) and a new political party, Pitit Desalin (“Children of Dessalines,” referring to the revolutionary hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines). Pitit Desalin’s leader is ex-senator Moïse Jean-Charles, who until late 2013 was associated with the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004) [see Update #1204]. FL itself has refrained from calling for Martelly’s resignation, but according to former FL senator Louis Gérald Gilles, the party is demanding the resignation of Martelly’s new prime minister, Evans Paul, a longtime Aristide opponent who hadn’t been confirmed by Parliament before it lost its quorum. If Paul doesn’t step down, Gilles said, FL will join the other opposition groups in demanding Martelly’s resignation. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 1/15/15; Haïti Libre 1/17/15)

As of Jan. 15 the so-called “Core Group”--the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the US and the European Union (EU), along with the special representatives of the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS)—had declared their countries’ “support for the president of the republic in the exercise of his constitutional duties.” The US had backed the failed agreement to extend the legislators’ terms, and US ambassador Pamela White angered many Haitians by attending a meeting of Parliament the evening of Jan. 11 when the deal was being discussed. She apparently hadn’t been invited. “You want to know what I think of Pamela White?” a passerby told an RFI correspondent the next day. “These people have long since been interfering in the country’s affairs. They’re the ones who chose Martelly, because he sold them the country.” The speaker was referring to interference by foreign powers in the 2010-2011 elections [see Update #1062]. (RFI 1/13/15; AlterPresse 1/15/15)

In contrast to the Core Group, the center-left government of Uruguay may react to the situation by withdrawing its troops from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), as it threatened in December [see Update #1249]. Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro was reportedly planning an “emergency” visit to UN headquarters in New York to coordinate the withdrawal of his country’s 605 MINUSTAH members in the near future. (AlterPresse 1/15/15)

It was unclear how much effect the dissolution of Parliament would have on the government’s operations, which were already hampered by a longstanding stalemate between Martelly and the opposition, but an anti-mining coalition, the Mining Justice Collective (previously the “Collective Against Mining”), is concerned that the president may take advantage of the situation to impose a law that would greatly expand the mining sector [see Update #1230]. The measure, which was stalled in Parliament, would change Haiti’s 1976 mining code to allow the Bureau of Mines and Energy (BME) to sign directly with mining companies without having to win approval from Parliament, opening up northern Haiti to massive open-pit gold mining by foreign companies. The World Bank helped draft the law, and six Haitian groups filed a formal complaint with the bank on Jan. 7, noting that the measure was written without the public consultation often required by the bank’s own policies. (Upside Down World 1/13/15 from IPS)

*2. Mexico: Students’ Parents Storm Army Base
At least seven people were injured, some seriously, on Jan. 12 when dozens of protesters tried to enter a Mexican military post in Iguala de la Independencia in the southwestern state of Guerrero, saying they were looking for students who were abducted in the area the night of Sept. 26-27 [see Update #1248]. The missing students had attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the town of Ayotzinapa, and the protesters were other students from the school and parents and relatives of the missing youths. The military post, staffed by the 47th Infantry Battalion, is near the sites where local police and others—possibly including soldiers and federal police--gunned down six people and abducted 43 students in the September violence. So far authorities have only identified the remains of one of the missing students, leaving 42 unaccounted for.

“[Y]ou too were complicit in the violent acts that happened in Iguala,” one of the parents told the soldiers, addressing them over a megaphone. “Today we’ve come to demand that you give us our children, because you know where they are…. Today we’re telling these cowardly and murderous soldiers that they aren’t good for anything but killing students, not for confronting organized crime, which they’re scared of.” Unable to get into the installation, a group of students commandeered a Coca-Cola delivery truck and knocked down one side of a gate. Inside the post the protesters were outnumbered by some 300 military and state police agents, who used tear gas and fire extinguishers in an attempt to disperse them. The protesters responded with rocks, which the agents hurled back. The injured included four parents, two students and one reporter from the Venezuela-based television network TeleSUR. Two demonstrators were detained and held for about one hour.

After being driven from the post, the protesters joined with members of the militant State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG) to march to the Iguala-Chilpancingo highway, where they set three trucks on fire. (La Jornada 1/13/15)

The Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) insists that the September attack was the work of municipal police from Iguala and nearby Cocula and the members of a local gang, Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”). In the official version, the gang members took the 43 students and executed them, incinerating the bodies at a dump in Cocula. The government has arrested 97 people in the case, and is pressing charges against former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa. Federal officials say the investigation has been completed, although they claim to be continuing the search for the 42 students who are still missing.

Insisting they had nothing to hide, on the evening of Jan. 13 federal authorities said they would make arrangements for the parents of the missing students to visit military installations. Federal governance secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong announced on Jan. 14 that the military would also invite the government’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to inspect the Iguala post, although he denied any involvement by the military in the September events. (LJ 1/14/15, 1/14/15, 1/15/15)

According to an investigative report published on Dec. 13 by the Mexican weekly Proceso, both the military and the federal police monitored the movements of the Ayotzinapa students the evening of Sept. 26 and were probably involved in the violence. Two researchers--Jorge Antonio Montemayor Aldrete from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Pablo Ugalde Vélez from Mexico City’s Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM)—have questioned the PGR’s conclusion that the missing students were killed and then incinerated at the Cocula dump. The researchers say it would be impossible to build a fire at the site that would be hot enough for the sort of full incineration the government claims. The military has its own modern crematoria, and the researchers have asked to see records of their use in late September. (LJ 1/4/15) The researchers also charge that vegetation shown in photos of the dump in November couldn’t have grown back so quickly after the intense heat from the supposed fire, and that if some students had been killed there, blood and other organic material would have left enough DNA in the soil for investigators to make positive identifications of the victims. (LJ 1/14/15)

In other news, a leader of the Triqui indigenous group, Julián González Domínguez, was kidnapped by 10 armed men from his home in Santiago Juxtlahuaca municipality, in Oaxaca near the Guerrero border, and was found dead at a nearby highway on Jan. 12, according to the Oaxaca International Indigenous Network (RIIO). González was a leader for many years in the Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULT); more recently, he was one of the founders of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), a new center-left party started by former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The Triqui zone has been the scene of violent conflicts between the MULT, the rival Independent Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULTI) and the Social Welfare Unity of the Triqui Region (UBISORT); the last organization is said to be a paramilitary group linked to the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) [see Update #1054]. González’s community also had a longstanding agrarian dispute with a nearby community directed by the PRI-affiliated National Campesino Confederation (CNC). RIIO said that González had been receiving threats and that another member of his community was kidnapped and murdered in December. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR, or CIDH by its initials in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), had issued “cautionary measures” calling on the Mexican authorities to protect the Triqui leader’s life. (Sputnik News 1/13/15)

*3. Puerto Rico: Machetero Prisoner Is Released
Some 150 supporters greeted Puerto Rican independence activist Norberto González Claudio at San Juan’s international airport on Jan. 15, hours after he was released from a federal prison in Coleman, Florida. González Claudio, a former member of the rebel Boricua Popular Army (EPB)-Macheteros, had served a three and one-half year prison term for his involvement in the group’s 1983 armed robbery of $7.1 million from a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Connecticut—until then the largest heist on record. Arrested in May 2011 in the central Puerto Rican town of Cayey after spending 25 years as fugitive, González Claudio pleaded guilty in exchange for a shorter prison sentence [see Update #1133]. He was due to be released last September, but his time in Coleman was extended four months because of an alleged infraction. The activist’s relatives and colleagues saw this as part of a pattern of physical and psychological tortures they say he endured.

Supporters and relatives of another prisoner, Oscar López Rivera, were among the people greeting González Claudio at the airport. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 1/15/15; Univision 1/15/15 from Inter News Service; Hartford Courant 1/15/15 from AP)

López Rivera has been in the US prison system for 33 years for his role in another independence group, the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) [see Update #871]. He refused to accept a clemency offer in 1999 from then-US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and is now apparently the last prisoner from the group. Fellow FALN member Haydée Beltrán Torres was released in 2009, and her husband, Carlos Alberto Torres, was released in 2010.

González Claudio was the last prisoner from the Macheteros group, whose leader, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, was shot dead by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in September 2005 [see Update #1117]. Víctor Manuel Gerena, the Wells Fargo driver who carried out the 1983 robbery, is reportedly living in Cuba. Along with African-American activist Assata Shakur (formerly Joanne Chesimard) and FALN activist William Morales, Gerena has become a target of US politicians seeking the return of US political exiles from asylum in Cuba as a condition for improved relations between that country and the US [see World War 4 Report 12/24/15]. (Hunterdon County (NJ) Democrat 1/13/15)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

Did Iran kill Argentine prosecutor?

French Economist Piketty Blasts Vulture Funds in Argentina Tour

Brazil Truth Commission Details Extent of Rape During Military Dictatorship

Peru: protest legal assault on land rights

Peru: youth protest labor law

Ecuador: Defending the CONAIE beyond Its House

Ecuador: Correa blinks in stand-off with CONAIE

Colombia: will government answer FARC ceasefire?

Are the FARC narco-traffickers?

Straight Talk on How Maduro Measures Up to Chávez (Venezuela)

Economic Solutions: Two Perspectives from the Bolivarian Left (Venezuela)

Rudy Giuliani Will Advise El Salvador on Security, Justice Reform

El Salvador: Archbishop Romero Declared Martyr

El Salvador's Other Crisis

Poor Guatemalans Are Taking On North American Mining Companies-and Have the Bullet Wounds to Prove It

Justice in Guatemala Deferred, Again (Audio)

Guatemala postpones ex-dictator's genocide retrial

Trial on Guatemala’s Spanish Embassy Fire Resumes Today: The Rest is History (Video)

2015 US Appropriations Act Maintains Restrictions On US Military Aid To Guatemala

Ayotzinapa: 100 Days of Rage, Sorrow and Struggle in Guerrero

The L.A.-Ayotzinapa Connection (Mexico)

#Alertabachajón - Police Shoot at Indigenous Tseltales Trying to Recover Lands (Mexico)

Mexico’s Economy 2015: Boom, Bust or Burp?

Mexican Labor 2014 in Review

Farewell to the Grand Old Dean of Latin Journalism (Mexico)

US Politicians Descend on Cuba as Normalization Process Begins

Five Years After the Earthquake in Haiti, the Sad State of Democracy and Human Rights

It’s Been Five Years, and All the Money Raised is Gone: What did the Red Cross Accomplish in Haiti?

Haitians Worry World Bank-Assisted Mining Law Could Result in “Looting”

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