Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WNU #984: UN Head Pushes FTZs for Haiti

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #984, April 5, 2009

1. Haiti: UN Head Pushes More FTZs
2. Guatemala: Attorney Kidnapped, Journalist Killed
3. Honduras: Chortí Occupy Mayan Site
4. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Guadeloupe

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. Haiti: UN Head Pushes More FTZs
In an op-ed in the Mar. 31 New York Times, United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced economic development plans for Haiti based on the expansion of “free-trade zones” (FTZs), industrial parks for tax-exempt assembly plants producing for export (maquiladoras). Ban said this will enable Haiti to take advantage of 2008 US legislation known as HOPE II, which gives Haiti duty-free, quota-free access to US markets for nine years. At an international donors conference in Washington, DC in mid-April, Ban will seek aid for “creating the sort of industrial ‘clusters’ that have come to dominate global trade...dramatically expanding the country’s export zones, so that a new generation of textile firms can invest and do business in one place.” This export strategy was worked out by Ban’s special adviser, Oxford University development economist Paul Collier, along with the government of President René Préval, according to the op-ed. Ban and former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) visited Haiti on Mar. 9 in preparation for the donors conference [see Update #983]. (NYT 3/31/09)

Charles Arthur of the Haiti Support Group (HSG), a British solidarity organization, said his group was “appalled” by the plan. He noted that international lending institutions have pushed an export strategy for decades with no positive results for Haiti. In the early 1980s the Haitian garment assembly sector employed some 60,000 workers, but the number has declined as foreign contractors moved production to other countries. Prospects for the sector seem even worse now that the global economic crisis is driving down demand for imports. Arthur called Ban’s plan "a slap in the face" for President Préval and Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis. Since the outbreak of food riots in April 2008 and widespread destruction by four tropical storms in August and September, the president has stressed the importance of expanding national production, especially in agriculture, Arthur said [see Update #943]. (No Sweat website 3/31/09)

Meanwhile, Haitian business groups have been lobbying against legislation which would raise the minimum wage to 200 gourdes a day (about $4.96) from the current rate of 70 gourdes. The Chamber of Deputies passed the raise earlier this year, but the measure has been stalled in the Senate. On Mar. 24 the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee held a two-hour closed door meeting with business leaders. Participants wouldn’t say what the results were, but Haiti Chamber of Commerce and Industry president (CCIH) Reginald Boulos warned afterwards that while wages need to be increased, a 200 gourde minimum wage might provoke inflation and lead to massive layoffs and could hurt the government’s job-creation program—apparently a reference to the plan for FTZ expansion. (Haiti Press Network 3/25/09; Radio Métropole 3/25/09, 3/28/09)

*2. Guatemala: Attorney Kidnapped, Journalist Killed
Three masked men kidnapped Guatemalan attorney and university professor Gladys Monterroso on Mar. 25 as she was eating breakfast in a restaurant in Guatemala City and held her for 13 hours before leaving her on a street in the Atlántida neighborhood. She said the men burned her with cigarettes, beat her and subjected her to sexual and psychological abuse; at one point they put a pistol in her mouth and said they would kill her. They didn’t demand a ransom.

Monterroso’s husband, Sergio Morales, is the government’s human rights prosecutor (ombudsperson). On Mar. 24, the day before the kidnapping, he released a report, “The Right to Know,” documenting evidence in recently discovered government archives linking officials to human rights violations during the 1960-1996 civil war. “I think there could be something fundamental about the National Police archives or the army archives that is in the process of being declassified,” Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom said in an interview with the South American television network TeleSUR, “and there are people with a commitment to the past who could be worried about the release of these archives.” Secret documents on the structure and functioning of the National Police from 1975 to 1985 were discovered in July 2005.

The New York-based organization Human Rights First has posted a sample letter to its website demanding an investigation of Monterrosa’s kidnapping; go to http://action.humanrightsfirst.org/campaign/Gladys . (Human Rights First alert 4/3/09; Siglo 21 (Guatemala) 3/31/09; Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 4/1/09, 4/2/09)

On Apr. 1 two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed Rolando Santis, a reporter for Telecentro Trece television, and seriously wounded Juan Antonio de León Villatoro, a camera operator. Santis is the fourth Guatemalan journalist killed in the past year; the others were Jorge Mérida, Rubén Bazarreyes and Abel Girón. During the same year 13 journalists were assaulted and 10 received death threats. (Adital 4/2/09; Univision 4/3/09 from AFP)

*3. Honduras: Chortí Occupy Mayan Site
From Apr. 2 to Apr. 3 hundreds of indigenous Chortí blocked access to Copán archeological park, probably Honduras’ most important ancient Mayan site, to press demands for land. Tourism minister Ricardo Martínez said the protesters agreed to leave after the government offered to start negotiations on Apr. 15. An estimated 400 European and US tourists visit Copán a day, each paying a $15 entrance fee.

The Chortí are demanding that the government grant them 14,700 hectares for cultivation in Copán and Ocotepeque departments, bordering Guatemala in western Honduras. In the past 12 years they have received about one third of the territory they are asking for. Maya Chortí National Council spokesperson Cristóbal Pineda said the Chortí were tired of waiting and were ready “to act…so that [the government] won’t go on deceiving us.” The government has signed a number of accords with the Chortí since 1995; the most recent, in May 2008, promised $1 million for land that year, of which only $800,000 has been paid out. The Chortí have carried out similar occupations five times since 1997.

There are seven indigenous peoples in Honduras, with a total of about 400,000 members living in 100 communities. The Chortí account for 52 of these communities. (El Universal (Mexico) 4/5/09 from AP)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Guadeloupe

UN human rights report blasts Bolivian opposition

Peru: oil rush accelerates, government weighs new reserves for uncontacted

Colombia: Fighting Development Banks for the Human Right to Water

Venezuela: Coca-Cola plant replaced with "socialist commune"

Chávez disses G20, opens joint bank with Iran

Hugo Chávez offers to accept Gitmo detainees

What's Next for Venezuela's Opposition?

Crime in Venezuela: Opposition Weapon or Serious Problem?

Venezuela Expropriates Cargill Rice Plant that Evaded Price Controls

Photo Essay: El Salvador's Historic Election

El Salvador Elections: The Ghosts of Izalco

Mexico: authorities crack down on "Santa Muerte" narco-cult

Narco wars leave trail of bodies across Mexico's southwest

Mexico, US pledge new era of cooperation against cartels

Mexican senate approves pre-conviction property seizures in narco cases

U.S. Military Funded Mapping Project in Oaxaca: University Geographers Used to Gather Intelligence?

Guadeloupe on Strike: A New Political Chapter in the French Antilles

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1 comment:

commercial real estate said...

thanks for this updates...i will look forward for the other news here...