Monday, September 7, 2009

WNU #1003: Honduran Students Protest Plans for Draft

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1003, September 6, 2009

1. Honduras: Students Protest Plans for Draft
2. Honduras: “Mixed Signals” on US Aid
3. Guatemala: Residents Dispute Goldcorp Charges
4. Ecuador: New Delay in Chevron Amazon Suit?
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

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. Honduras: Students Protest Plans for Draft
Thousands of students marched in the northwestern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Aug. 28 to protest plans to reinstitute compulsory military service. “The current government isn’t legitimate, “ student leaders said, referring to the de facto government put in place by a June 28 military coup, “and we don’t want to waste time; we want to study.” The draft was replaced by voluntary service under former president Roberto Reina (1994-1998), but de facto president Roberto Micheletti’s administration is reportedly seeking to bring it back. Jaime Guifarro, student council president at the Technological Institute of Business Administration (INTAE), said the plan was “a step backwards for Honduras” and would hurt “the poor, not the children of the rich.”

Students from INTAE and other schools, including José Trinidad Reyes, Primero de Mayo and Cristo Rey de Choloma, marched down First Street to the central park beating drums and carrying signs with slogans such as “No to the military coup” and “Now I’m going to teach you to kill and beat the people.” The police did not interfere with the protest. (Honduras Laboral 9/2/09 from Resistencia Morazán; El Tiempo (San Pedro Sula) 8/29/09)

Unionized employees of the National Electric Energy Company (ENEE), the National Aqueduct and Sewer Service (SANAA), the National Telecommunications Company (HONDUTEL) and other state-owned enterprises held a one-day strike on Sept. 3 and participated in protests against the coup regime. According to the strikers, who were occupying their workplaces, the authorities have been laying off longtime workers and contracting new ones to replace them.

Organizers said Sept. 3 was the 68th consecutive day of protests against the coup. For the past several days, coup opponents had been visiting various neighborhoods to build support for the resistance, especially in the poorer areas. People in these neighborhoods tend to oppose the coup, but some have been reluctant to join demonstrations. (Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales 9/3/09 from Comunicaciones - Vía Campesina en Honduras)

Correction: Due to an error in one of our sources, we originally wrote that the student march took place on Sept. 1. It was on Aug. 28, and the El Tiempo article we cited should have been dated Aug. 29.

*2. Honduras: “Mixed Signals” on US Aid
On Sept. 3 US secretary of state Hillary Clinton held a meeting in Washington, DC with Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who was removed from office on June 28 in a military coup. Shortly after the meeting, the State Department announced that the US was taking three steps that would send a “very clear message” to the de facto regime: the cancellation of all non-humanitarian aid, the revocation of the visas of members of the de facto government, and a warning that the US would not recognize the results of the scheduled Nov. 29 general elections if they are held under the current conditions.

Also on Sept. 3, Brazil’s Foreign Relations Ministry announced it was suspending its agreements with Honduras on exemptions for diplomatic, official and service visas, along with an August 2004 agreement waiving visa requirements for citizens of Honduras. (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/4/09 from correspondent; Adital 9/3/09)

On Sept. 5 the de facto Honduran foreign ministry announced that in “strict reciprocity” it was suspending visa exemptions for Brazilian citizens wishing to visit Honduras. On the same day de facto defense minister Adolfo Sevilla warned that the US suspension of aid for fighting narco trafficking would affect the US more than it would affect Honduras: “If we don’t have the support of the country that’s the world’s biggest consumer of drugs, more drugs will go to them. We don’t have the funds; therefore, it will definitely be more difficult for them.” (LJ 9/6/09 from AFP, Prensa Latina)

The US aid suspended on Sept. 3 actually only amounts to some $31 million, part of which was informally suspended right after the coup took place. The affected aid includes $9.4 million distributed through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), $8.7 million in funds for security and the military, $1.7 million in funds for security, and $11 million distributed through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (although this suspension has to be approved officially in a meeting of the corporation the week of Sept. 7). Some $70 million in funds designated as “humanitarian assistance” will continue to go to Honduras, since the State Department is still calling Zelaya’s overthrow a “coup” rather than a “military coup”—a classification which would automatically end all aid. In contrast, another major donor, the European Union (EU), has blocked $90 million in aid. The US is also almost the only country that hasn’t withdrawn its ambassador from Honduras.

The State Department’s position has provoked criticism within the US. On Sept. 3 Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the US should use the “military coup” designation. "This one looks, walks and quacks like a duck,” he said. “It's time to stop hedging and call this bird what it is. And if, for whatever reason, the State Department lawyers do not conclude that this was a [military] coup, Congress should examine other ways by which it can directly affect the flow of aid.” University of California, Santa Cruz historian Dana Frank told the Associated Press wire service that the US government is "sending mixed signals to [de facto president] Micheletti. Why haven't they already frozen all bank accounts and funding? Why are we still at an Air Force base there?" (LJ 9/4/09; Honduras Coup 2009 9/4/09; Reuters 9/3/09; AP 9/2/09)

In what was apparently an effort to distract attention from the impending suspension of US aid, on Sept. 1 the Banco Central de Honduras (BCH) announced that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had assigned Honduras $150.1 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) on Aug. 28 and would assign another $13.8 million in a few days. BCH president Edwin Araque, who was removed from office by the de facto government, told the opposition Radio Globo from Washington on Sept. 2 that this was just an “accounting trick.” Araque said the IMF had set aside a special anti-crisis fund for members on Apr. 2, to be made available at the end of August, but that since it hadn’t recognized the coup regime, the current managers of the BCH couldn’t draw down the funds. On Sept. 4 IMF spokesperson Bill Murray indicated to the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) that this was correct. "[Y]ou should go with what you were told" by the constitutional government of Honduras, he said. (Reuters 9/1/09; Prensa Latina 9/2/09; Upside Down World 9/4/09 from CEPR)

The IMF agreed in April to issue its member countries a total of $250 billion in SDRs to counteract the effects of the world economic crisis. Nicaragua reported receiving $151 million in SDRs on Aug. 28; Mexico was expected to receive most of an assignment of $4 billion in SDRs on the same day, with more coming in September. (Reuters 8/28/09)

*3. Guatemala: Residents Dispute Goldcorp Charges
The Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc is continuing to press charges against five indigenous Mam in connection with a June 12 incident in which a pickup truck and an exploration drill rig were set on fire at the Marlin gold mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacán municipality in the western Guatemalan department of San Marcos [see Update #994]. An arraignment was scheduled for the San Marcos courts in the city of San Marcos on Sept. 7. According to the Canadian-based Rights Action organization, 98% of crimes go unpunished in Guatemala.

Goldcorp’s Guatemalan subsidiary, Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, says that residents of the Saqmuj community, part of the villages of Agel and San José Nueva Esperanza in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, were armed with rocks, sticks and pistols during a dispute on June 11 over the presence of the equipment in Saqmuj, and that they burned the equipment the next day. The company also accuses the parish priest, Father Erik Gruloos, of leading the armed residents, and insists that it had bought the land where the equipment was placed.

Saqmuj residents deny that they had pistols. They say that after a discussion on June 11, Montana’s general manager, Marco Meneses signed a note agreeing to return for negotiations at 9 am the next morning. When Meneses didn’t show up on June 12, the residents became upset, and unidentified people started the fires around noon. The residents also claim that Montana’s purchase of the land from some community members was illegal, because sales that affect the entire community have to be approved by the entire community. (Rights Action alert 9/3/09)

On Aug. 14 Goldcorp announced that the Marlin mine in Guatemala had become the first mining operation in Central America to be fully certified under the International Cyanide Management Code for the Manufacture, Transport and Use of Cyanide in the Production of Gold ("the Cyanide Code"), a voluntary industry program developed under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program. "Marlin's certification highlights Goldcorp's ongoing commitment to maintaining the highest possible standards of environmental stewardship," said Goldcorp president and CEO Chuck Jeannes. (Goldcorp press release 8/14/09; Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador) 8/14/09)

*4. Ecuador: New Delay in Chevron Amazon Suit?
On Sept. 4 Ecuadorian judge Juan Evangelista Núñez recused himself from presiding over a $27 billion lawsuit brought by indigenous Ecuadorians against the US-based Chevron Corporation for environmental damage by the Texaco oil company, which Chevron acquired in 2001. Núñez’s decision came as several branches of the Ecuadorian government announced investigations stemming from videos Chevron released on Aug. 31. The company claims the videos show the judge meeting with parties to the suit and saying that he had already made up his mind to rule against Chevron. The company also claims the videos contained evidence that bribes were discussed.

Núñez, who denied committing any errors, said that he would have made a decision around the end of the year and that his recusal will mean further delays for the 16-year-old case, which is being tried in Nueva Loja (Lago Agrio), capital of the northeastern province of Sucumbíos. (Reuters 9/4/09)

A Chevron spokesperson said on Sept. 1 that the company wouldn’t pay the damages if it lost the suit. "It is a judicial farce," Charles James, Chevron's executive vice president, told the Associated Press wire service. "When you have government complicity with the plaintiffs, a weak legal system and a rush to judgment against you, the only thing you do in these circumstances is fight the enforcement." (AP 9/1/09)

A group of indigenous people from the Amazon region brought a $1 billion suit against Texaco on Nov. 3, 1993 in US federal court in New York, charging that the transnational had caused serious harm to the environment and to 30,000 local people by using obsolete technology in drilling operations from 1964 to 1990 involving 356 oil wells over a territory of 1 million hectares [see Updates #632, 719]. The case was moved to Ecuador in 2003, and in 2007 the amount of the damages was raised to $27 billion, based on an expert’s report to the Nueva Loja Superior Court. (El Comercio (Quito) 9/6/09)

Han Shan, a coordinator with the US-based environmental group Amazon Watch, wrote on Sept. 3 that the videos don’t actually support the claims in Chevron’s press releases. “In fact, the whole episode raises more troubling questions about Chevron than about the judge or Ecuador's judicial process,” he concluded. Shan also noted that Chevron’s "media blitz" came just before the release of a feature documentary on the lawsuit, “Crude,” which is to premiere in New York City on Sept. 9. (Huffington Post 9/3/09)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Iran approves defense minister wanted in Buenos Aires terror blast

Who’s Who in the Bolivian Presidential Elections: Anyone New Opposing Morales?

Evo demands Peru yank asylum status for wanted Bolivian ex-ministers

Peru: VRAE populace rejects "combat zone"

Peru: indigenous leaders reject Hunt Oil concession in rainforest

Peru: "truth commission" on Amazon massacre established

US military bases for Peru?

Peru: narco-senderistas down helicopter

Peru: bus travel reveals stark class divisions

Peru: indigenous leaders go to court to block Amazon oil concession

Chevron Accused of Nixon-style Dirty Tricks Operation In Ecuador

Spying Scandal Highlights the Use of Colombia's Women as Weapons of War

Colombia: hip-hop artist assassinated

Colombia: At Least 12 Indigenous Awa Massacred in Narino

Neoliberalism Needs Death Squads in Colombia

US to make case for Colombian bases before UNASUR

UNASUR Pushes Forward with Continental Integration as Leaders Express Unease over Colombia-US [military agreement]

Venezuelan “Peace Bases” to Counter U.S. Military Buildup in Colombia with Binational Reconciliation

Moving Beyond Representation: Participatory Democracy and Communal Councils in Venezuela

French film-maker who covered Mara gangs killed in El Salvador

Honduran coup has been far from bloodless

IMF bails out Honduras Coup Regime with $150 million

IMF bailing out Honduras?

IMF May Withhold $164 Million Allocated to Honduras

Honduras' Historic Two Months

Guatemala: ecologist assassinated at Lake Izabal

Guatemala: A Traditional Community Fights for Its Land

Resurrecting the "Guatemalan Dream"

Mexico: massacre in Juárez, assassination in Michoacán

Remembering a Champion of the Poor in Haiti

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