Monday, January 5, 2009

WNU #973: Latin America Reacts to Attack on Gaza

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #973, January 4, 2009

1. Latin America: Reactions to Attack on Gaza
2. Cuba: The Revolution Turns 50
3. Mexico: EZLN Celebrates 15 Years
4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Cuba, 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 It is archived at

*1. Latin America: Reactions to Attack on Gaza
Latin American governments and organizations generally condemned a major assault on the Palestinian territory of Gaza by Israeli military forces that began with an air offensive on Dec. 27 and escalated into a ground attack on Jan. 3. There were also a number of street protests, which the media reported were mostly small.

The strongest condemnations came from leftist governments. Cuba's Communist government issued a statement on Dec. 27, at the beginning of the air campaign, calling the offensive an "act of genocide" and a "criminal military operation, the bloodiest one executed by Israel against the Palestinian people." It "takes place in the midst of an illegal blockade imposed by the Israeli government in the last 18 months against the Gaza Strip, directed at annihilating and subduing the Palestinian population--including children, women and the elderly--by hunger and disease." Cuba expressed its "unyielding solidarity with and support for this long-suffering and heroic people." (Declaración del Gobierno Revolucionario 12/27/08; Prensa Latina 12/28/08) [Israel is the only country that consistently votes with the US each year when the United Nations General Assembly condemns the US economic embargo of Cuba; see Update #966 for the 2008 vote.]

On Dec. 30 the Bolivian Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling the air strikes "crimes" that "represent a severe and massive violation of the International Humanitarian Law." The strikes "killed civilians under the excuse of responding to some militia attacks, and also they have as a military target civilian infrastructure like universities." (Xinhua 12/30/08) On Dec. 27 Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez called the Israeli assault "criminal." (El País (Spain) 12/30/08 from unidentified wire services)

Latin American countries with center-left governments seemed less inclined to place all the blame on the Israeli government. Israel says the assault is intended to stop rocket attacks by the rightwing Islamic group Hamas, which governs Gaza. Mercosur--a trade bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Venezuela in the process of admission--expressed its rejection of "the escalation of violence and intimidation occurring in the Gaza Strip" and "urged the parties to put an end to hostilities" and called for them to "return immediately to dialogue."

However, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva used stronger terms on Dec. 30 to criticize the United Nations (UN) and the US for failing to pass a resolution to stop the air campaign. "What is proven is that the UN doesn't have the courage to make a decision and to make peace in this place," he said. "And it doesn't have the courage because the US has the power of the veto [in the UN Security Council], so things don't happen." The Israel military actions were "disproportionate," he said.

The governments of Chile, Nicaragua and Peru officially condemned the bombardments.

Dec. 29 brought out protesters throughout the region. Some 50 people, mostly Venezuelans of Arab descent, demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in Caracas, chanting in Arabic, spitting on a star of David and burning the Israeli and US flags. A little girl held up a drawing of bleeding children with the words: "No more massacre in Gaza." The protesters left Palestinian and Venezuelan flags hanging at the embassy door, along with a number of shoes--a reference to an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US president George W. Bush at a Dec. 14 press conference.

In Argentina, organizations of people of Arabic origin, along with leftist parties and social movements, protested in front of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. "Israel out of Palestine," "Free Palestine" and "Peace for the Palestinians," they chanted, waving Palestinian flags and shoes. Brazilians of Arab descent protested near the Sao Paulo Art Museum; socialists protested in Chile; and the local Palestinian community protested in Colombia. (El País 12/30/08; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/31/08 from DPA, AFP, PL, Reuters; La Prensa (Panama) 12/29/08; Univisión 12/29/08 from AFP)

In Panama, some 200 people from social movements and unions protested in front of the Israeli embassy. Panama resident Khaled Salama, who is a member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), called Israel a "terrorist state"; he urged "the world to judge these terrorists as war criminals," and demanded that the Israeli and US governments pay for "all the damage they've done" in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. In Panama, he added, there are 50 religions, and Muslims and Jews live and work together without major problems. Genaro López, director of the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (SUNTRACS), said Israel acts as it does "because it has the support of the US" and "an important economic power that backs it." (El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua) 12/30/08 from AFP)

After the Israeli military began its ground offensive on Jan. 3, Mexico's center-right government called for a ceasefire by both sides. Mexico is currently a member of the UN Security Council, and the government pledged to participate "actively and constructively" to end the military escalation. (LJ 1/4/09) The government statement contrasted sharply with a Dec. 29 declaration by participants in the World Festival of Dignified Rage, a 10-day celebration by the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). "This crime [the Israeli assault] represents a dangerous increase in the permanent holocaust against the Palestinian people," they said, condemning the "complicit, hypocritical and unworthy silence of the world.... We declare our dignified rage against this genocide." (LJ 12/31/08)

On Dec. 29 an unnamed Israeli official indicated that his government wasn't worried about world reactions to the assault. "[T]he tone of the criticism is moderate, tempered and balanced," he said, "at least in the countries that count." (El País 12/30/08)

*2. Cuba: The Revolution Turns 50
Cuban president Raúl Castro Ruz led a subdued celebration on Jan. 1 for the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The ceremony took place in the eastern city of Santiago, where Castro's brother, former president Fidel Castro, declared victory over dictator Fulgencio Batista on Jan. 1, 1959. Raúl Castro reminded his listeners of his brother's warning on Nov. 19, 2005 that the US could never destroy Cuba's political system but Cubans themselves could. Raúl Castro said that to avoid this, future leaders must not "become soft with the siren songs of the enemy" and must "remain conscious that, in its essence, [the enemy] will never cease to be aggressive, domineering and treacherous."

Fidel Castro, who stepped down from the presidency for reasons of health in July 2006, published a brief message on Jan. 1: "On the occasion within a few hours of the 50th anniversary of the triumph, I congratulate our heroic people." Although he had been writing articles frequently in his retirement, this was his first public comment in two weeks. (La Jornada 1/2/09 from correspondent)

*3. Mexico: EZLN Celebrates 15 Years
On Dec. 26 supporters of Mexico's rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) began the "World Festival of Dignified Rage" in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City). The series of events marks 15 years since the mostly indigenous group took the world by surprise on Jan. 1, 1994 with the military occupation of four cities in the southeastern state of Chiapas. Some 2,500 people reportedly were participating in the festival, which moved to Oventic in Chiapas on Dec. 31 and then to the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, which the rebels occupied at the beginning of 1994. The festival is to run through Jan. 5. Speakers include representatives of the New York-based Movement for Justice in El Barrio, the Unemployed Workers Movement of Argentina and the Greek Alana Magazine; Argentine-born Mexican writer Adolfo Gilly; former Nicaraguan rebel leader Mónica Baltodano, now a leader of the opposition Movement for the Rescue of Sandinism; Uruguayan writer Raúl Zibechi; and Bolivian activist Oscar Olivera.

Insurgent Sub-Commander Marcos, the EZLN spokesperson, made his first appearance at the event on Jan. 2 with a speech denouncing President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's militarized "war on drugs." He charged that Calderón "decided that instead of bread and circuses for the people, you had to give them violence...since the professional politicians are already providing the circuses, and bread is very expensive." He also criticized the violence of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which governs the DF. [A June 20 police operation in a DF discotheque resulted in 12 deaths, many of underage patrons; see Update #954] (La Jornada 12/31/08; LJ 1/3/09; Narco News 1/3/09)

Correction: This paragraph originally said that Marcos made his speech on Jan. 3 and that the source was LJ 1/4/08.

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Cuba, US Policy

Rancher to face charges in 2005 slaying of activist nun in Amazon

Peru: coca economy destroys rainforest

Inter-American court finds Colombia guilty in assassination

Financing Venezuela's Communal Councils

Venezuela's ALBA in the face of the Global Economic Crisis

Costa Rica: From 'Green' to Gold?

Operation Disrupt Democracy in El Salvador

United for Change in El Salvador: Video on 2009 Elections

Mexico: bloody New Year despite arrest of kingpin

End the Embargo Against Cuba

Video Interview: Edward S. Herman on Latin America and the US

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. Update subscribers also receive, as a supplement, our own weekly Immigration News Briefs.

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

No comments: