Tuesday, May 12, 2009

WNU #989: Haitians Protest Lynching in DR

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #989, May 10, 2009

1. Haiti: Protests Over Lynching in DR
2. Honduras: Government Blamed in 1995 Murder
3. Brazil: Dam Protesters Arrested
4. Links to alternative sources on: Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico

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: Protests Over Lynching in DR
Dozens of Haitian activists held a sit-in in front of the Dominican embassy in Pétionville, an eastern suburb of Port-au-Prince, on the morning of May 8 to protest the lynching of Haitian national Carlos Nérilus in Santo Domingo on May 2. The activists denounced both the failure of Dominican authorities to protect Haitian nationals and what they said was the “laissez-faire” policy of the Haitian government; they demanded the immediate recall of Fritz Cinéas, Haiti’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic. The sit-in was organized by the Support Group for the Repatriated and Refugees (GARR), the Platform of Haitian Organizations for the Defense of Human Rights (POHDH) and the National Coordinating Committee of Nongovernmental Actors (CONANE). A Dominican embassy official, Pastor Vásquez, met with a delegation of five activists accompanied by journalists; Ambassador Rubén Silié was away from the embassy.

Two more groups of protesters, mostly students, arrived later in the morning, bringing the crowd to a total of about 150. The newcomers tore down the sign in front of the embassy and wrote “Dominican criminals, Dominican murderers” on the walls. The Associated Press wire service reported that they also threw rocks and broke a window. The youths then proceeded to the nearby Dominican consulate, where police agents prevented them from tearing down the Dominican flag; later they paralyzed traffic in Pétionville. Meanwhile, the human rights groups led a peaceful march to Haitian prime minister Michèle Pierre-Louis’ office, where they tried to deliver a document. In contrast to the Dominican embassy, the prime minister’s office wouldn’t receive a delegation of activists if journalists were included. The protesters refused to accept the condition and marched on to the National Palace to deliver a message to President René Préval. (AlterPresse 5/8/09; Chicago Tribune 5/8/09 from AP; GARR press release 5/4/09)

Nérilus was murdered on 12th Street in Santo Domingo’s Buenos Aires neighborhood on the afternoon of May 2. A man reportedly tortured Nérilus and then cut off his head with an axe while an angry crowd looked on; some people filmed the incident with their cellphones. There is no evidence that the local police attempted to intervene. The killing was said to be in revenge for the decapitation of a Dominican business owner, Pascual de León Lara, allegedly by a Haitian, the day before in another Santo Domingo neighborhood, but it not clear whether Nérilus and his killer had a direct connection to De León Lara’s murder. Dominican authorities later arrested a suspect, Confesor Reyes, and on May 8 a Santo Domingo Province judge, Elizabeth Esperanza Rodríguez Espinal, ordered a three-month detention of Reyes while the case is being investigated. According to one report, Reyes has also been identified as Rusbert de León Lara, Pascual de León Lara’s brother. (Radio Kiskeya 5/3/09; Listín Diario 5/4/09, 5/9/09; Chicago Tribune 5/8/09 from AP)

In other news, after months of delays the Haitian Senate voted unanimously on May 5 to approve a measure raising the minimum wage to 200 gourdes a day (about $4.96) from its current rate of 70 gourdes. The Chamber of Deputies approved the measure earlier in the year [see Update #984]. To become law, the raise still needs to be approved by President Préval and published in the official gazette, Le Moniteur. Business owners strongly opposed the new minimum wage, and it is not clear what measures are planned to enforce it. (AlterPresse 5/6/09)

*2. Honduras: Government Blamed in 1995 Murder
The Costa Rica-based Inter-American Human Rights Court (CIDH) of the Organization of American States (OAS) ruled on May 6 that the Honduran government shared responsibility for the murder of environmental activist Blanca Jeannette Kawas Fernández at her home in Tela on Feb. 6, 1995. Kawas Fernández, the president of the Foundation for the Protection of the Natural Resources of Lancetilla, Punta Sal and Texiguat (Prolansate), had accused timber companies of illegal exploitation of the Punta Sal peninsula and of plans for its illegal appropriation, along with damage to the National Park and other protected sites. She had also opposed several economic development plans in the region.

In its ruling, which was published on May 8, the CIDH found that although the murder was carried out on behalf of “private interests,” it was “facilitated” by government agents; the court found that at least one government agent had participated in the killing, which was followed by other acts of violence and intimidation against environmental activists. The CIDH ordered the government to carry out a national campaign to raise awareness about the importance of the work of defenders of the environment and the contributions they make to the defense of human rights. According to the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), an alliance of Latin American human rights groups, this is the first time the CIDH has ruled on the killing of an environmental activist and the first time it has recognized “an undeniable relation between the protection of the environment and the implementation of other human rights." (Adital 5/8/09; Univision 5/8/09 from AFP)

*3. Brazil: Dam Protesters Arrested
The Movement of People Harmed by Dams (MAB) and the local branch of Vía Campesina (“Campesino Way”) held a vigil the evening of May 7 at the Mártires de Abril Plaza in Belém, capital of the northern Brazilian state of Pará, to demand the release of 18 people arrested on Apr. 26 when the state’s militarized police broke up a sit-in near the Tucuruí dam. The prisoners each face at least 11 charges; if convicted they could be sentenced to 35 years in prison. The vigil, which was supported by the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), campesino unions and the regional fishers’ movement, was part of what organizers called the “Campaign Against the Criminalization of Social Movements.” The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) of the Catholic Church notes that 17 people have been killed in the Tucuruí region over the past three years in struggles over land use.

Some 350-400 people had set up an encampment on Apr. 24 in a work area for the locks along the Tocantins River at the Tucuruí Hydroelectric Plant, about 380 km southwest of Belém. They were protesting violence in the countryside and demanding agricultural resources, infrastructural work and the development of fishing to benefit some 900 families in the area. On Apr. 25 the protesters called for talks with the state and federal government and the Eletronorte company. But on the morning of Apr. 26 more than 100 state militarized police, including a group of 55 sent from Belém, moved in on the encampment. “They arrived beating some people,” said Daiane Carlos Hohn of the MAB’s national directorate. Press reports said there was some resistance from protesters armed with homemade bombs and metal and wooden clubs but that no one was seriously injured. (Adital 4/27/09, 5/7/09; O Globo (Brazil) 4/26/09)

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

Uruguayans Call for a National Vote on Impunity Law

Paraguay: ranchers seek license to destroy uncontacted tribe's land

The Fun House Mirror: Distortions and Omissions in the News on Bolivia

Bolivia: Plan 3000 - Resistance and Social Change at the Heart of Racism

Venezuela: Chávez seizes oil service companies

Venezuela's Opposition: Back Into the Frying Pan

Pacific Rim Mining to sue El Salvador in CAFTA court

What We Want: Voices from the Salvadoran Left - Oswaldo Natarén

Oaxaca: Police Raid Communities around Trinidad Mine

Mexican Civil Society and NGOs Speak Out Against US Militarization

Outbreak of Deadly New Swine Flu Strain, Warning to Rethink Agricultural Trade Model

Advice for Obama from South America

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream andalternative sources:http://nacla.org/articles

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