Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WNU #967: Chilean Government Workers Strike

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #967, November 16, 2008

1. Chile: Government Workers Strike
2. Latin America: G20 Holds First Summit
3. Costa Rica: Hu Visits, CAFTA Gets OK
4. Cuba: Castro Assesses the FARC
5. Puerto Rico: Right Wins Elections
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, 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. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Chile: Government Workers Strike
Some 400,000 Chilean public employees staged a two-day strike on Nov. 11 and 12 to push for a 14.5% pay increase. The National Association of Government Employees (ANEF), which includes 15 unions and associations, said the job action was 90% effective, with professors, health workers, administrative workers and municipal workers honoring the strike call. Government service offices were closed, garbage collection stopped in some areas, and some medical services were shut down. The government of Socialist president Michelle Bachelet called the protest "blackmail"; Interior Minister Edmundo Pérez Yoma said workers wouldn't be paid for the two days they missed.

"We're not about to pay for the effects of the financial crisis," ANEF president Raúl de la Puente said, noting that inflation would eat up most of the raise. Chile's inflation rate reached 0.9% in October, bringing the projected annual rate to 9.9%, the highest since 1994. On Nov. 13 the government offered an increase of 5%, raising the offer to 6.5% on Nov. 14. The unions responded with a call for an open-ended strike to start on Nov. 17. (La Jornada (Mexico) 11/12/08 from correspondent; Servicio Informativo "alai amlatino" 11/12/08; Agence France Presse 11/15/08)

*2. Latin America: G20 Holds First Summit
The leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) nations met in Washington, DC on Nov. 15 for the group's first summit--an emergency session to discuss the world financial crisis. The G20 combines the Group of 8 (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US) with growing industrial powers like China and India; together the G20 nations account for as much as 90% of the world's gross domestic product. The Latin American members are Argentina, Brazil and Mexico [see Update #966]; this year Brazil holds the group's rotating leadership.

The meeting failed to meet many members' hopes for a global agreement on regulation of financial speculation. Instead, the final 10-page declaration committed the members to undertaking reforms before Mar. 31. The G20 is to meet again on Apr. 30, 101 days after Barack Obama replaces George W. Bush as US president. But Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva considered the summit an advance. "We are talking about the G20 because the G8 doesn't have any more reason to exist," he said when leaving Brazil for the summit. "In other words, the emerging economies have to be taken into consideration in today's globalized world." At the summit he said that "existing multilateral organizations" like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been "rejected by history. Both the IMF and the World Bank should open themselves to bigger participation of developing economies." (International Herald Tribune 11/15/08 from AP; La Jornada 11/16/08 from DPA, AFP, Reuters and unidentified wire services)

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz was less optimistic. In an article published on Nov. 15, he noted that the G20 leaders were saying nothing about "the nonrenewable resources of the planet" or about ending the arms buildup. He added, alluding to president elect Obama, that "many people dream that with a simple change of office in the leadership of the empire, this [empire] will be more tolerant and less bellicose... It would be naive to believe that the good intentions of one intelligent person could change what centuries of interests and egoism have created. Human history demonstrates something else." (Granma (Cuba) 11/15/08)

*3. Costa Rica: Hu Visits, CAFTA Gets OK
After the Nov. 15 Group of 20 (G20) summit in Washington, Chinese president Hu Jintao flew to Costa Rica for the first visit by a Chinese president to Central America. He and Costa Rican president Oscar Arias were to sign 11 accords, including the creation of a joint enterprise of Refinería Costarricense de Petróleo and China National Petroleum Corporation to modernize Costa Rica's plant; a line of credit from a Chinese bank to the state-owned Banco de Costa Rica; funding for Chinese language instruction in the Universidad de Costa Rica; and $73 million for the construction of a new sports stadium in San José. China has been moving aggressively into economic activities in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the refinery accord opens the possibility that China may invest up to $1.2 billion in a new refinery. (Univisión 11/16/08 from AFP)

On Nov. 11 the Legislative Assembly passed the last enabling laws necessary for the implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), a trade accord strongly promoted by the US. President Arias said it would take effect on Jan. 1. The accord was signed in 2004, and all the other members have implemented it, but Costa Rican legislators wouldn't move on the issue until it was approved in a referendum on Oct. 7, 2007 after a bitter campaign [see Update #918]. (Miami Herald 11/11/08 from AP)

*4. Cuba: Castro Assesses the FARC
On Nov. 12 Cuba released La Paz en Colombia ("Peace in Colombia"), a 265-page book by former president Fidel Castro giving new information about the Cuban government's relations with Colombia's leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In the book, which Castro says took 400 hours of work, the former president repeats criticisms he made last July of the FARC's treatment of prisoners of war and "the capture and holding of civilians not involved in the war" [see Update #953]. In the book he also notes that holding "prisoners and hostages deprived the combatants of the ability to maneuver."

Castro says he tried to convince former FARC leader Manuel Marulanda Vélez, who died in March of this year, that he could make a peace agreement with then-president Andrés Pastrana during negotiations in 1999, but Marulanda didn't negotiate seriously because he thought the US was planning an intervention that would lead to a prolonged war and possibly a "continental struggle." The Cubans told him that "the international situation was entirely different from the way he saw it." Castro says he admired Marulanda's "revolutionary firmness" but felt that armed struggle was no longer viable, noting that Cuba aided the rebels in Nicaragua in the 1970s and in El Salvador in the 1980s. Castro mocks the US insistence that the rebels are terrorists; in 1999, Castro says, a US representative met with the FARC's chief negotiator, the late Raúl Reyes, in Costa Rica to discuss cooperation on an antinarcotics program. (Granma (Cuba) 11/15/08; La Jornada 11/13/08, 11/14/08, 11/15/08 )

*5. Puerto Rico: Right Wins Elections
Puerto Rico's conservative New Progressive Party (PNP) gained easily over the centrist Popular Democratic Party (PPD) in elections on Nov. 4, with PNP gubernatorial candidate Luis Fortuño winning 52.8% of the vote to 41.3% for the PPD candidate, current governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. Rogelio Figueroa of Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico (PPR), a new party with an environmental orientation, got 2.8% of the vote, while Edwin Irizarry of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) followed with 2%. The PNP won 60 of the 78 seats in the legislature, and the PPD won the remaining 18. The PNP won 48 mayorships to 30 for the PPD.

Governor Elect Fortuño is a member of the US Republican party, which lost heavily in elections the same day in the US. Analysts attribute the PPD loss to popular resentment against Acevedo, who raised sales taxes and alienated an important part of the labor movement [see Update #963]; he also faces federal corruption charges. The PNP only gained 31,000 votes over its total in 2004, but the PPD total fell by 183,000 votes as many former supporters stayed home. (Servicio Informativo "alai amlatino" 11/10/08)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, US policy

Connecting Struggles: Documentation from the Social Forum of the Americas

Buenos Aires: The Poorest Resist "Social Cleansing"

Uruguay: Congress Votes to Legalise Abortion, But Veto Likely http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1573/68/

Paraguay: Agreement with Rural Activists Puts End to Protest

Police Repression and Presidential Promises: The Fight for Social Justice in Paraguay http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1574/1/

Bolivia requests extradition of ex-president from US on "genocide" charge

Anti-Bases Coalition Pushes U.S. Military Base out of Ecuador

Ecuador Protests Colombian Paramilitary Incursion, Documents CIA Infiltration

Danger Ahead: Correa Gives Mining the Green Light in Ecuador http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1575/1/

US blocks aid to tainted Colombian army units: report

One dead in Colombian riots over financial scam

Colombian investors riot over pyramid scheme

Emanuel: Obama won't link Colombia FTA to stimulus package

Colombia: An Open Letter From ACIN to U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1566/68/

Salvadoran officers could face charges in Spain for 1989 massacre

Mexico: gunmen kill reporter, kidnap farmworkers

Colombia good model for Mexico: Uribe

Another Economic Casualty: Mexican Remittances

Larry Summers, Champion of Wall Street Greed Attained by Impoverishing the Mexican People

Afro-Latino Voices Shout: Obama! Obama!

Latin America Sends Obama Congratulations--and a Piece of its Mind

Will Obama recognize Latin America is no longer "America's backyard?"

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Weekly News Update on the Americas said...

Note that Fidel Castro's book on Colombia is available on line; just follow the link from Granma:


Weekly News Update on the Americas said...

Sorry, the comment failed to carry the link correctly. To see the book on line, click on the Granma link at the end of item #4.