Tuesday, February 3, 2009

WNU #977: 2 Workers Shot in Venezuelan Plant Sit-In

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #977, February 1, 2009

1. Venezuela: 2 Workers Shot in Plant Sit-In
2. Colombia: FARC Releases 4 Prisoners
3. US: 6 SOA Protesters Sentenced
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, 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. Venezuela: 2 Workers Shot in Plant Sit-In
Two striking workers were shot dead on Jan. 29 during a confrontation with the authorities at the Mitsubishi Motors Corp (MMC) Automotriz auto factory in the Los Montones de Barcelona industrial park outside Barcelona in the eastern Venezuelan state of Anzoátegui. Strikers said state police agents fired the shots that killed Pedro Jesús Suárez Poito, an MMC employee, and Javier Marcano, who worked at the nearby Macusa auto parts factory and was present in an act of solidarity. (According to some reports Marcano was the MMC employee and Suárez worked at Macusa.) Members of the New Generation Union (Singetram) took over the factory on Jan. 12 to protest management's decision to lay off 135 contract workers. Workers had voted 863-21 at a mass assembly in favor of the occupation.

The confrontation started in the afternoon of Jan. 29 after administrative employees, state police and two judges arrived at the plant; according to some witnesses the National Guard was backing up the state police. Workers said they threw rocks and bottles at the police in response to an attempt to end the sit-in and that the police fired tear gas canisters and then shot at them. Company executives charged that the workers were armed. Anzoátegui governor Tarek William Saab quickly ordered the suspension of all police agents involved in the incident. In the evening of Jan. 29 investigators took statements from 27 police agents and detectives, along with the two judges and five MMC executives. Gov. Saab, an ally of President Hugo Chávez Frías, had issued an order in 2005 banning police from using firearms in protests.

According to the Marxist Revolutionary Current (CMR) group, the MMC occupation is linked to struggles at the Vivez, Franelas Gotcha, INAF and Acerven factories, where workers are reportedly demanding nationalization and workers control. The CMR is asking for activists to send letters of solidarity to Singetram (sindicatonuevageneracion@gmail.com) and demands for an end to police violence to Gov. Saab (dalia.vega@tarekrindecuentas.com). (Campaign for Labor Rights alert 1/30/09; Venezuelanalysis.com 1/30/09; International Herald Tribune 1/30/09 from AP; El Tiempo (Venezuela) 1/31/09)

*2. Colombia: FARC Releases 4 Prisoners
On the morning of Feb. 1 the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released three captured police agents and one soldier to a humanitarian mission in the jungles of the southern Colombian department of Caquetá. The prisoners, all captured in 2007, were the first of six FARC detainees scheduled to be released over a period of four days. The rebel group said it would free former governor Alan Jara on Feb. 2 and former legislator Sigifredo López on Feb. 4. Jara was kidnapped on June 5, 2001; López has been held since Apr. 11, 2002.

The handover of the prisoners required a complicated arrangement involving the Brazilian government, the Colombian military, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the activist group Colombians for Peace, which includes Iván Cepeda, president of the National Movement of Victims of Crimes of the State (MOVICE); Gloria Cuartas, a former mayor in the Apartadó region; and Carlos Lozano, director of the Communist weekly Voz. The mission that received the prisoners was to go first to San Gabriel de Cachoeira in Brazil and then fly into Colombia in a Cugar helicopter provided by Brazil for the meeting with the FARC. After receiving the prisoners, the mission, headed by opposition senator Piedad Córdoba, flew them to Villavicencio in Meta department.

The Feb. 1 handover went relatively smoothly, although the FARC and Colombians for Peace charged that the Colombian military hadn't honored its commitment to suspend operations in the area. Originally President Alvaro Uribe had objected to any involvement by Senator Córdoba, who worked with leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez for a hostage release in January 2008 [see Updates #930, 972, 974]. (Adital 1/30/09 from PL; Semana (Colombia) 2/1/09; Clarín (Argentina) 2/2/09)

*3. US: 6 SOA Protesters Sentenced
On Jan. 26, US federal magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth in Columbus, Georgia, sentenced five activists to two-month prison terms for trespassing on the US Army's Fort Benning base on Nov. 23 as part of an annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). Faircloth sentenced an additional protester, Louis Wolf, to six months of house arrest and imposed a $1,000 fine; Wolf, a cofounder of the magazine CovertAction Quarterly, requires special medical care, according to his lawyer, Bill Quigley. The other activists sentenced were Rev. Luis Barrios, an Episcopal priest in New York City; public interest advocate Theresa Cusimano; seminary student Kristin Holm; Sr. Diane Pinchot, a Catholic nun and art professor; and retired teacher Al Simmons.

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in the demonstrations at Fort Benning since they began in 1990, and hundreds have served prison sentences for civil disobedience at the base [see Update #838]. The school trains Latin American soldiers, and many of its graduates are among the region's most notorious human rights violators. In her statement to the court, Pinchot referred to the rape and murder of fellow Ursuline nun Dorothy Kazel and three other religious workers by a rightwing death squad in El Salvador on Dec. 2, 1980. "These images don't go away from me," she said. "I'm hoping that people will listen and the School of the Americas will be closed." (SOA Watch press release 1/26/09; Univision 1/27/09 from AFP; Columbus (Georgia) Ledger-Enquirer 1/27/09)

Correction: This item originally gave "Jan. 36" as the date of the sentencing.

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, US Policy

Argentina: Women Keep Disappearing

Brazil: illegal miners murder Amazon indigenous leader

World Social Forum protests Amazon destruction

Brazil's Landless Movement Turns 25, Opens "New Phase" of Struggle

Bolivia: new constitution approved

Bolivia: constitutional vote passes without violence --close call?

Peru reconsiders controversial Amazon oil project

Peru: Furnaces Used to Remove Evidence of Dirty War Killings

Venezuela: gunmen ransack Caracas synagogue

Venezuela: Local Reactions to the Re- Election Reform

Venezuela: Local Reactions to the Re-Election Reform

Venezuela: Students and Security Forces Clash as Referendum Debate Intensifies

El Salvador: Legislative and Municipal Elections Conducted with Flaws

Econo-protests paralyze Mexico City, Juárez-El Paso bridge

Mexico: farmers blockade government offices in Chihuahua

Ciudad Juárez vigilantes threaten deadly vengeance campaign

NAFTA's Dangerous Security Agenda

Global Crisis is Good News for IFIs in Latin America

Dirty Business, Dirty Wars: U.S.-Latin American Relations in the 21st Century

Lessons Learned: Latin American Left Has Much to Teach Obama Supporters

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:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The six people on trial in Columbus, GA, participated in a public drama of crime and punishment. The small view of the news is that their crime was trespassing on an American military base. The larger view is the news that Americans can live up to our noble ideals of truth and justice.

For too long, WHINSEC has represented the military, economic, and political oppression that destroys people's bodies and threatens people’s souls. The news is that the trespassers on WHINSEC property believe change is possible. Americans, capable of great good and terrible destruction, can live into our better selves. We should not try to silence or ignore such messengers.

They remind us that there is a better way. The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation can be held accountable. Yes it can. Those who strive for peace, justice, love and community become messengers of good news. They nurture the hope that injustice, exploitation, greed and fear will not determine our actions towards other people.