Tuesday, April 21, 2009

WNU #986: Indigenous Peruvians Occupy Airport

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #986, April 19, 2009

1. Peru: Indigenous Occupy Airport
2. Haiti: Violence, Abstention Mar Election
3. Dominican Republic: Police Attack Medical Workers
4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Biodiversity, Summit of the Americas

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. Peru: Indigenous Occupy Airport
On the morning of Apr. 16 at least 200 indigenous Yashínanka and Yines occupied the airport in Atalaya, capital of Atalaya province, Ucayali region, in Peru’s Amazonian area. The Inter-Ethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Forest (Aidesep) had been leading a strike since Apr. 13 (or earlier, according to one source) around demands for the repair of environmental damage and for an end to illegal cutting and to the granting of land for mining and oil drilling without consultation with the local communities. The protesters also demanded that the government drop the proposed Law 840/2006, known as the “Law of the Forest,” which would increase private investment in the development of state-owned forests.

Aidesep vice president Daysi Zapata Fasabi said Prime Minister Yehude Simon had promised to hold a dialogue with the indigenous groups on Apr. 16, but the government announced on Apr. 13 that the meeting was postponed until Apr. 20. “The government is laughing at the indigenous people,” she told the media. “We’ve been disrespected again.” The occupation of the airport was said to be disrupting operations by the Repsol, Pluspetrol and Petrobras oil companies since it kept employees from reaching the companies’ camps. Aidesep leaders said 1,350 indigenous communities supported the strike, which could escalate to include the blockage of rivers like the Urubamba if the government doesn’t pay attention to the demands. (El Comercio (Peru) 4/16/09; La Primera (Peru) 4/17/09; La República (Peru) 4/20/09)

According to a report released in March by the government’s Office of the Ombudsperson (the Defensoría del Pueblo), during the past year conflicts over mining and drilling have grown to make up 49% of the country’s social conflicts; 13% were over local government issues and 9% concerned labor issues. Sociologist Nelson Manrique says the increase in conflicts about environmental issues resulted both from the government’s style of encouraging development and from a growing awareness of the issue in the population. He predicted that these conflicts would continue but that labor disputes would increase sharply over the next few months because of the economic crisis affecting Peru. (Adital 4/17/09 from Ecoportal)

2. Haiti: Violence, Abstention Mar Election
Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) suspended voting for senators on Apr. 19 in the Central Plateau department after violence disrupted the process there in at least three cities. A candidate and his supporters occupied a polling place in Lascahobas, in the Central Plateau near the Dominican border. Armed men in five vehicles disrupted voting at two polling place in downtown Mirebalais, and an election worker received a bullet wound early in the day. Local electoral authorities suspended voting in Saut d’eau after people threw rocks at a voting center and charged into others.

Senator Edmonde Supplice Beauzile, who took refuge in Mirebalais’ Mirage hotel with the candidate of her Fusion Center party, charged that there was a plot by President René Préval’s Lespwa (“Hope”) party and the Haitian Citizens Union for Democracy, Development and Education (UCADDE) to prevent the likely victory of the Fusion candidate. The UCADDE’s Willot Joseph was reportedly carrying a Galil assault rifle and threatening to kill Beauzile if he saw her.

Voting continued in the rest of the country; 12 of the 30 seats in the national Senate were up for renewal. “The people have voted,” CEP president Frantz-Gérard S. Verret said at the end of the day, “but not massively.” “[W]e’ve done our duty,” he added. “We’ve carried out good elections.” There were no official figures on turnout nationwide, but observers said it was very low. The CEP had rejected the candidates of Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004), who refused to file paperwork from his exile in South Africa [see Updates #978, 979, 980], and the party called for a boycott of the election. Verret complimented FL members for their “citizen-like behavior” and said they had not been blamed for any of the violence. (AlterPresse 4/19/09, __, __; Radio Kiskeya 4/19/09)

[Low turnout has been the norm in recent Haitian legislative elections. International observers said turnout was as low as 15% in runoff elections in April 2006; see Update #848.]

Correction: This item originally gave Aristide’s first term as 1990-1996; Aristide was elected in December 1990 and was inaugurated in February 1991.

3. Dominican Republic: Police Attack Medical Workers
Six striking doctors were lightly injured on Apr. 15 when Dominican police suppressed a peaceful march by doctors and nurses near the Darío Contreras hospital in eastern Santo Domingo. Police agents hurled tear-gas grenades at the protesters and attacked them with nightsticks. Dominican Medical Guild (CMD) president Waldo Ariel Suero said the agents also used pistols. The injuries weren’t serious, he added, but “the consequences could have been greater.” The commander of the police operation, Ventura Hilario, said he tried to stop the march because the medical workers didn’t have a permit and because they were blocking traffic.

Doctors and nurses had called a four-day strike starting on Apr. 15, halting consultations and surgery at the country’s 126 hospitals. The doctors’ demands included a pay raise from the current rate of $500–$1,000 a month to about $1,700 a month; the creation of positions for interns; and improvements in the pension system for medical workers. This was the 16th strike by the medical workers in a year and a half; there are about 16,300 doctors in the CMD.

On Apr. 15 Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gómez denied that the strike was effective, but the newspaper Listin Diario reported widespread complaints from patients on Apr. 17. Rafaela Figueroa, president of the National Union of Nursing Services, warned that the government’s efforts to suppress the strike would just radicalize the strikers. CMD president Suero said that on Apr. 20 the medical workers would announce plans for more actions. (Univision 4/15/09 from AP; LD 4/18/09)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Biodiversity, Summit of the Americas

Brazil: New Offensive for Faster Land Reform

Bolivia: Croatian militants in Evo Morales assassination plot?

Morales Ends Hunger Strike

Mining Co. Bailout Eclipses Environmental Disaster in Peru

Peru: Sendero pledges more attacks; army uses child soldiers?

Proof and Consequence: Peru Convicts Fujimori

Colombia: top kingpin "Don Mario" captured

Venezuela: opposition leader goes into hiding

Thailand's Thaksin to take refuge in Nicaragua?

The Left Triumphs in El Salvador

False Charges on San Salvador Vendors Dismissed

Guatemala: Popular resistance to Xalala Dam finds international law on its side

Social Movements Reject the EU-Central America Free Trade Agreement

Obama moves against Mexican cartel finances

Mexico: Obama met with protests demanding immigration reform

Mexico debates marijuana legalization

Indigenous Community Radio in Mexico

Mexico: eight federales dead in Nayarit narco-ambush

The IDB—50 Years, Zero Reflection

Obama in Latin America: How The Nation Magazine Saved the American Empire

Latin America Changes: Hunger Strikes in Bolivia, Summits in the Caribbean

Summit of the Americas: Obama Should Begin Working with Castro and Chavez

Latin leftists bash Obama at Caribbean confab

March Monthly Biodiversity Report from the Americas Program

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