Tuesday, September 15, 2009

WNU #1004: Honduran Resistance Boycotts Elections

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1004, September 13, 2009

1. Honduras: Resistance Plans Election Boycott
2. Honduras: US Deports Coup Supporter
3. Argentina: Subway Workers Open Turnstiles
4. Haiti: Students Arrested in New Protests
5. Guatemala: Charge 9 in Rosenberg Murder
6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, 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. Honduras: Resistance Plans Election Boycott
Two Honduran presidential candidates announced in a communiqué on Sept. 9 that they will not participate in the Nov. 29 general elections unless four conditions are met: the return of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who was removed from office by a military coup on June 28; an end to human rights violations; the demilitarization of Honduran society; and an end to a slander campaign against the leftist Democratic Unification (UD) party, which currently holds four of the 128 seats in the Congress. The two candidates are former union leader Carlos H. Reyes and legislative deputy César Ham, who heads the UD. Both are active in the National Front Against the Coup d’Etat, the leading resistance coalition; the front issued a communiqué on Sept. 7 calling for a boycott of “the electoral farce called by the coup perpetrators.”

The announcements by the front and the two leftist candidates seemed to conclude a debate within the resistance on whether to participate in elections under the present circumstances [see Update #1002]. The president, three vice presidents, 256 legislative deputies and alternates, 40 deputies to the Central American Parliament, and 298 mayors are to be selected in the balloting, which was scheduled in May before the coup; some 7.5 million Hondurans are eligible to vote. The de facto government headed by Roberto Micheletti—along with the two traditional parties, the National Party (PN) and the Liberal Party (PL)--have been hoping that the November vote would give them a way to legitimize Zelaya’s removal. (Diario Hoy (Dominican Republic) 9/9/09 from AP; Frente Nacional Contra el Golpe de Estado communiqué #23, 9/7/09)

Most countries, including the US, have indicated that they won’t recognize elections held under the de facto government. On Sept. 10 the European Commission announced in Brussels that the European Union (EU) will not send observers to the November vote if it is overseen by the coup regime. (Latin American Herald Tribune 9/10/09 from EFE)

Honduran business owners reportedly have a new strategy for making the elections successful. They are considering a plan to “give a discount in all the businesses to people who vote, so that people will go to the stores with the ink on their fingers [after voting] and get an automatic discount on any purchase they make anywhere in the country,” National Association of Industries of Honduras (ANDI) president Adolfo Facussé said in the Sept. 9 issue of the daily La Tribuna. The goal is “to strengthen democracy and overcome voter abstention,” Facussé told the paper, which is owned by his cousin, former president Carlos Flores Facussé (1998-2002). (La Tribuna 9/9/09)

In addition to clarifying its position on the elections, the National Front used its Sept. 7 communiqué to announce the formation of a National Coordinating Committee for the next three months, a commitment to “struggling for a Constituent Assembly” to rewrite the 1982 Constitution, and an effort to defend longtime environmental activist Father José Andrés Tamayo [see Update #998] from the de facto government’s efforts to deport him to his native El Salvador. The front also announced the formation of an International Commission to coordinate solidarity work with activists outside Honduras. (Frente Nacional communiqué #23, 9/7/09; Comisión Internacional Nota informativa #1, 9/7/09; Prensa Latina 9/8/09; Honduras Coup 2009 blog 9/7/09).

*2. Honduras: US Deports Coup Supporter
Honduran business leader Adolfo Facussé arrived at Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport near the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula the morning of Sept. 13 after being deported from the US. He was reportedly detained by US immigration authorities and sent back to Honduras after flying to Miami on Sept. 12. Facussé was apparently a casualty of a decision announced by the US State Department on Sept. 3 to revoke visas of Hondurans involved in the June 28 coup [see Update #1003]. Also on Sept. 12, Honduran officials said the US had revoked visas for de facto president Roberto Micheletti, 14 Supreme Court judges, the de facto foreign relations secretary and attorney general, and the armed forces chief (El Heraldo (Honduras) 9/13/09; New York Times 9/13/09 from AP)

On Sept. 9 the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US government aid agency chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, agreed, as was expected, to suspend $11 million in funding for two transportation projects in Honduras and to withhold $4 million for a road building a road project sponsored jointly with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration. An aid cutoff of some $31 million that the State Department announced on Sept. 3 apparently consisted of this aid suspension by the Millennium Challenge and of funds the US had already suspended unofficially on July 2--$1.9 million from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and $16.5 million in military funding. (Bloomberg 9/10/09)

On Sept. 6 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) office in Tegucigalpa denied the de facto government’s claim that it had received $150.1 million in special drawing rights (SDR) from the fund [see Update #1003]; IMF headquarters in Washington confirmed the denial on Sept 8. The IMF said it hadn’t recognized the de facto regime and that as a result the regime can’t convert the SDRs to cash. On Sept. 10 an IMF spokesperson said the fund suspended aid to Honduras three days after the coup; nonprofit groups in Washington report that IMF staffers have told them that all 186 member nations would have to agree to any decision to recognize the de facto government. (Honduras Coup 2009 blog 9/7/09; Reuters 9/8/09; El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua) 9/10/09 from AFP; Quixote Center letter 9/11/09)

*3. Argentina: Subway Workers Open Turnstiles
An independent union of Argentine transit workers, the Union Association of Subte and Premetro Workers (AGTSyP), held job actions on Sept. 9 and 10 in the Buenos Aires transit system in a push to win official recognition. In the Sept. 9 action the workers opened the turnstiles for two hours, letting commuters ride for free. On the second day, they shut much of the system down for two hours, affecting about 160,000 riders, according to Metrovías, S.A., the company that has managed the capital’s subway and commuter lines since they were privatized in 1994. A unionist jumped on the tracks at the Pueyrredón station to block the trains, while a group of workers blocked the C Line tracks at the Avenida de Mayo station.

The workers are currently represented by the Automatic Tramways Union (UTA), an affiliate of the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), which is allied with the governing Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist). But the new union says it already has the support of 1,600 of the system’s 2,600 workers and should be recognized by the government. Members of the new union said they were not impressed by the UTA’s claim that it had just won a 21% salary increase. “What good does 10 pesos more or less do me,” asked Roberto Pianelli, a delegate from Line E for the new union, “if I lose it tomorrow in unhealthy working condition because I have a union that for nine years has been signing contracts against the workers?”

The new union planned to carry out similar job actions the week of Sept. 14 if it didn’t win recognition. According to the left-leaning Argentine newspaper Página/12, the tactic of opening turnstiles is popular with commuters but carries “greater legal risks” than a conventional strike. (Página/12 9/10/09)

*4. Haiti: Students Arrested in New Protests
On Sept. 9 Haitian riot police and SWAT teams entered the grounds of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy (FMP) of the State University of Haiti (UEH) in downtown Port-au-Prince and arrested about 20 students who had been occupying a building there since Sept. 7 to prevent the start of classes. Although police agents are generally not allowed on campuses in Haiti, the authorities said the raid was legal because the school’s administration had asked for it and a justice of the peace was present to monitor the operation. Students from the UEH’s Faculty of Ethnology responded to the raid by throwing rocks, and demonstrations continued at least through Sept. 11, when some 40 vehicles were reportedly attacked by students.

UEH students have been protesting regularly since last winter over curriculum changes and in solidarity with workers demanding a minimum wage of 200 gourdes a day (about $4.97) [see Updates #996, 1000, 1001]. “[T]his is a class struggle, an intergenerational struggle,” said FMP student Jean Blaise Bontemps, wearing his doctor’s gown, on Sept. 9. “Our demands are just.” (AlterPresse 9/9/09; Haiti Press Network 9/9/09, 9/11/09)

On Sept. 11 the Senate voted 18-0 with three abstentions for a modified minimum wage measure proposed by President René Préval and approved on Aug. 15 by the Chamber of Deputies. With both chambers of the Parliament approving the new measure, Préval is expected to promulgate the measure as law. According to Haitian news reports, the new measure fixes the minimum wage at 125 gourdes ($3.11) a day for workers in the assembly industry—the plants assembling principally for export, known in Spanish as maquiladoras--but at 200 gourdes for other industrial workers. [Previously our sources were unclear on whether the 125 gourdes minimum would apply to all industrial workers.] (AlterPresse 9/11/09)

*5. Guatemala: Charge 9 in Rosenberg Murder
On Sept. 11 Guatemalan and United Nations (UN) authorities arrested nine suspects in connection with the May 10 murder of attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano. The suspects include William Gilberto Santos Divas, a former officer of the National Civil Police (PNC) who is considered the ringleader; his brother, Alberto Estuardo Santos Divas, also a former PNC officer; two former police agents; and a former army specialist. According to Carlos Castresana, head of the UN-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the investigation was based entirely on physical evidence: tapes from video cameras near the crime scene in Guatemala City’s Zone 14; a search of William Santos Divas’ car, identified from the tapes; and some 12,000 messages on Santos Divas’ cell phone.

The investigators said the nine men arrested were suspected of carrying out the murder; the search for the “intellectual authors”—the people who ordered it—is ongoing, the authorities said, along with an investigation into a possible connection with the earlier murders of business owner Khalil Musa and his daughter Marjorie. In a video made shortly before his death, Rodrigo Rosenberg said Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom and people in his circle should be held responsible in the event of the attorney’s murder. Colom has repeatedly denied having any connection to the crime.

The CICIG was set up in 2007 under UN auspices but with a mandate to operate under Guatemalan law in cooperation with the Guatemalan authorities. Its work in the Rosenberg case has won praise from National Civic Movement coordindator Luis Pedro Álvarez, Helen Mack of the Myrna Mack Foundation, the US government, and Rosenberg’s brother, Eduardo Rodas Marzano. (Guatemala Hoy, Centro de Estudios de Guatemala 9/12/09, __)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico

Chile's Mapuches Call for Regional Autonomy

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

Chile: The Mapuche Nation Ups the Ante

Peru: veteran guerilla fighter Hugo Blanco speaks on Amazon struggle

Rural Revolution in Colombia Goes Digital

Throwing Bullets at Failed Policies: US Plans For New Bases in Colombia

Rerun in Honduras: Coup pretext recycled from Brazil '64

Honduras: Vote to Go Ahead Despite Int'l Refusal to Recognize

Video: Honduras - Mr. Zelaya Goes to Washington

Honduras: US State Dept Condemns "Coup d'Etat", Curtails Aid

Guatemalan Court Sets Precedent in the Case of Israel Carías

Mexico: The Great Swine Flu Cover-Up

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:
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