Monday, July 7, 2008

WNU #953: Latin American Pride, Mexican Torture Training

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #953, July 6, 2008

1. Latin America: Pride Marches Continue
2. Mexico: Cops Tape Torture Training
3. Mexico: Capital Market Union Wins
4. Colombia: Reactions on Freed Captives
5. Cuba: US Aid Caravan Reaches Havana
6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico

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. For a subscription, write to It is
archived at

*1. Latin America: Pride Marches Continue
A record 6,000 people celebrated the International Day for the Human Rights of Sexual Minorities--Pride Day--in Santiago, Chile, on June 28 with an eight-hour Cultural Event for Diversity and Non-Discrimination, held in the Plaza de Armas. The organizers reached out to other excluded groups, such as ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, indigents, people with disabilities, HIV-positive people, and youths and women. Rolando Jiménez, president of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh), said one goal was to raise awareness among citizens so that in the upcoming municipal elections they would vote for candidates who don't discriminate.

About a thousand people took part in the Gay Pride March in Lima, Peru, on June 28. Argentines marched that day in La Rioja, Mar del Plata, and Buenos Aires. This year two Argentine cities held their first Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride marches: Rosario on June 26 and Santa Fe on June 28. In Montevideo, Uruguay, various groups sponsored an event on June 28 to mark the 39th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City.

The largest Pride march in Brazil and probably in the world is held in Sao Paulo; this year's march took place on May 25. But Brasilia, Curitiba, Campinas, Alfenas, Fortaleza, Itajaí, Bahía and Sao Gonçalo held their Pride events the weekend of June 27-June 29. (AG (Actitud Gay) Magazine (Argentina) 6/29/08)

Thousands of Mexicans marched on June 28 in Mexico City's 30th Pride event. Juan Jacobo Hernández, director of the Sun Collective, remarked on the contrast with the tiny number of people who came out for the 1978 march. This year's mobilization included a political demand: for May 17 to be declared a National Day Against Homophobia. (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/29/08)

*2. Mexico: Cops Tape Torture Training
On June 30 El Heraldo de León, a newspaper based in León in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, released two graphic videotapes showing police agents from León's Special Tactical Group (GET) torturing other agents during training sessions. The victims, who had reportedly volunteered, were subjected to a practice known as the tehuacanazo, in which mineral water is forced up the nose, and were threatened with the pocito, in which the subject's head is submerged in excrement. In one scene, a trainee collapses and throws up; another agent then pushes him into his own vomit.

León police chief Carlos Tornero Salinas said the tapes were made in April and that the training went on for 160 hours over the course of 12 days. The sessions were conducted by an unidentified person of English nationality, according to Mayor Vicente Guerrero Reynoso, a member of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) of Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.

León public safety secretary Alvar Cabeza de Vaca Apendinni acknowledged on June 30 that GET agents had received the training "because we need to have a special group to respond to certain conditions" due to the spread of organized crime in the city and the state. "It's extreme training for extreme conditions," he said. The course was to prepare the agents to deal with "high-stress" situations, police chief Tornero explained on July 1. "This doesn't imply...that the training was for the application of methods of torture." He said the tortures were just simulations, and complained that by airing the videos journalists were trying "to discredit the institution [the police department], one way or another." "Please, be more ethical, be more responsible," Mayor Guerrero Reynoso told reporters. "You're doing a lot of damage to society." (La Jornada 7/1/08, 7/2/08)

On June 30--the day of the Guanajuato torture revelations--in Washington, DC, US president George W. Bush signed a supplemental appropriations bill into law providing $162 billion for the US occupation of Iraq and $465 million for the Mérida Initiative [see Update #952]. This initiative, which critics call "Plan Mexico," allocates $400 million to Mexico and $65 million to Central American countries to fight drug trafficking. The law provides for 15% of Mexico's allotment to be held up until the US secretary of state certifies that the Mexican government is showing improvements in various areas, including respect for human rights by the military and police, and the prohibition of torture. (LJ 7/1/08 from correspondent)

*3. Mexico: Capital Market Union Wins
According to a July 1 press release from the Authentic Labor Front (FAT), an independent Mexican labor group, one of its affiliates has won a settlement in a two-month struggle with the Central de Abasto, Mexico City's huge wholesale food market. The Union of Workers of Commercial Buildings, Offices and Stores, and the Like and Related (STRACC), which represents about 40 workers who clean bathrooms in the facility's flowers and vegetables area, signed an agreement in which management recognized the union and its contract and confirmed the rights and working conditions the workers had before the conflict started on Apr. 29. STRACC also won full payment of wages lost due to the conflict, along with better working conditions and schedules. The employees returned to work on July 1.

Central de Abasto's management had contracted the bathroom maintenance out to a private company, which tried to replace the union workers, who are mostly women, with contracted workers [see Update #947]. STRACC responded with legal actions and with a strike on May 30. FAT attributed the union's success in part to "solidarity from international unions and Mexican organizations that supported the movement." (FAT press releases 7/1/08, 6/3/08, 5/30/08)

*4. Colombia: Reactions on Freed Captives
Latin American leftists expressed satisfaction at the release of 15 people held captive by the leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)--including French-Colombian ex-presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three US military contractors--in a Colombian military operation on July 2. "Out of a basically humanist sentiment, we rejoiced at the news," former Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz wrote in an article dated on July 3. "The civilians should have never been kidnapped, neither should the militaries have been kept prisoners in the conditions of the jungle. These were objectively cruel actions. No revolutionary purpose could justify it." ("Reflections by Comrade Fidel" 7/3/08)

On July 3 Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías announced he had called Colombian president Alvaro Uribe the night before to congratulate him on the operation. Chávez said "we are still ready to help until the last hostage of the Colombian guerrillas is released, and to achieve peace, a full peace in Colombia." He noted that on June 8 he had called on the FARC to release all the captives. "I even said [to the FARC leaders] that if I were a guerrilla, I wouldn't kidnap anyone... [I]t's no longer the time for guerrilla fronts, it's the time for surges of the peoples." (La Jornada 7/4/08 from AFP, DPA, PL, Reuters) The likely Republican candidate for US president in November, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), also cited Chávez's June 8 call to the FARC. He hoped the guerrillas would follow Chávez's advice, he told reporters on July 2 before ending a 24-hour visit to Colombia. (LJ 7/3/08 from AFP, DPA, Reuters)

But mainstream media in Europe raised questions about the operation after a July 4 report on Radio Suisse Romande (RSR) charged that the rebels had been paid a $20 million ransom and that the release was "a masquerade." Attributing the report to "a reliable source, tested many times over the past 20 years," RSR, which is operated by Swiss public radio, said the US was behind the transaction; it also claimed that the three US contractors were agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). (RSR 7/4/08) Betancourt told France-3 television she was sure the guerrillas weren't play-acting, but if there was a ransom: "Good, if it's true; so much the better. I mean, why not?" (RSR 7/5/08)

*5. Cuba: US Aid Caravan Reaches Havana
Some 100 members of the 19th US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, an annual shipment of humanitarian aid organized by the New York-based group Pastors for Peace, arrived in Havana on July 5. Reverend Lucius Walker led the delegation, which was met at the José Martí International Airport by Communist Party and religious leaders. Pastors for Peace has been collecting and shipping aid to Cuba since 1992. To challenge the 46-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba, the group refuses to request a license from the US Treasury Department for the shipment.

The caravan collected about 100 tons of donated material during a tour of US and Canadian cities; the aid included medical, educational, art and sports equipment, along with several buses. US agents confiscated 35 computers as caravan members attempted to drive the material into Mexico at the Pharr Bridge border crossing between the states of Tamaulipas and Texas. Caravan supporters occupied one lane of automobile traffic for a half hour to protest the seizure. The group then traveled to the port of Tampico to send the material to Cuba by ship. (Granma Internacional 7/6/08 (English))

More breaking stories from alternative sources:

Educational Reform Conflicts Continue in Chile

Paraguay: Fourteen Years in the Wilderness

Evo charges: US plans bases in Peru

Colombia: Blood on Britain's Hands

Colombia: Uribe's "Populist Dictatorship"

Colombia: Ingrid Betancourt Released

Uribe calls on FARC to make "peace" after hostage rescue

Did Uribe piggy-back FARC hostage raid on European talks?

Ransom charges emerge in Betancourt release

Israeli connection emerges in Betancourt release

Venezuelan Recycling Workers Struggle for Justice

Venezuela: bishops bash Bolivarian Catholics

Panama expunges Posada pardon

Did McCain slug Sandinista?

Mexico: Ulises Ruiz Ortiz Denied Entry Into Zaachila

Outsourcing the Iraq War: Mercenary Recruiters Turn to Latin America

Harper's Free Trade Mantra: Hush, Rush, and Sign

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

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