Tuesday, December 29, 2009

WNU #1018: Mexico City OKs Same-Sex Marriage

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1018, December 27, 2009

1. Mexico: Federal District OKs Same-Sex Marriage
2. Colombia: Who Killed Gov. Cuéllar, and Why?
3. Bolivia: Government Wants Immigrants Back
4. Panama: Families Mark 20 Years Since US Invasion
5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, 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. Mexico: Federal District OKs Same-Sex Marriage
On Dec. 21 Mexico City’s legislature, the Federal District Legislative Assembly (ALDF), voted 39-20 to permit same-sex marriage; another 39-20 vote later in the session gave same-sex couples the legal right to adopt children. Deputies from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the small leftist Workers Party (PT) voted for the measure, while the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the small Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) opposed it. Two deputies from the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) voted with the opposition, and five abstained. PAN coordinator Mariana Gómez del Campo and PRI coordinator Israel Betanzos said they would challenge the law’s constitutionality before the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN).

Federal District (DF) head of government Marcelo Ebrard—in effect, Mexico City’s mayor—is a member of the PRD and is expected to sign the bill. If he does, the Mexican capital will become the first city in Latin America to recognize same-sex marriages. (Associated Press 12/21/09; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/22/09). [The DF was the first Mexican political unit to approve same-sex civil unions, in a vote on Nov. 9, 2006; see Updates #874, 905].

2. Colombia: Who Killed Gov. Cuéllar, and Why?
Colombian senator Piedad Córdoba announced on Dec. 26 that she had asked the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to state whether they are responsible for the Dec. 21 abduction of Luis Francisco Cuéllar, governor of the southern department of Caquetá; his body was found with a slashed throat outside the state capital, Florencia, on Dec. 22. Police agent Javier García Gutiérrez was also killed in the incident, and two agents were injured. The government of rightwing president Alvaro Uribe immediately blamed the FARC for the kidnapping and deaths. Agencia de Noticias Nueva Colombia (ANNCOL), a news agency which carries communiqués from the rebels, called the government’s claim “irresponsible,” but as of Dec. 26 there had been no denial from the FARC.

Many governments—including those of Chile, France and the US--issued statements denouncing the killings. On Dec. 23 the center-left government of Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa expressed its “most energetic condemnation and rejection of the kidnapping and murder” and its “solidarity with the relatives of the governor and the police agents.”

The incident may put a brake on negotiations that Sen. Córdoba and the organization Colombians for Peace had been holding with the FARC for the unilateral release of two soldiers the rebels are holding captive: Pablo Emilio Moncayo and Josué Daniel Calvo. President Uribe reacted to the abduction and killing by announcing that his government would take military action to free all FARC prisoners. As of Dec. 26 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which had been making arrangements for the transfer of the prisoners, had suspended its participation, citing the lack of safety guarantees if the government is carrying out military actions.

The case of Pablo Moncayo, a noncommissioned officer, is especially familiar to the Colombian public because his father, the schoolteacher Gustavo Moncayo, has been carrying out a "walk for peace" for several years to call for the government and the FARC to negotiate his son’s release [see Update #909]. Gustavo Moncayo has asked the government not to attempt a rescue of his son. (El Universal (Caracas) 12/26/09; Prensa Latina 12/23/09, 12/26/09; El Tiempo (Colombia) 12/23/09; EFE 12/23/09)

Aside from delaying or possibly sabotaging the prisoner release, the operation against Gov. Cuéllar seemed badly timed in other ways for opponents of President Uribe, one of the US government’s few remaining Latin American allies. Elections are scheduled for Mar. 14 to select 102 senators and 166 representatives for the Congress, along with five members of the Andean Parliament; on May 30 voters are to choose the president and vice president, with a runoff on June 20 if no one wins a majority. Uribe, who has based much of his political career on confrontations with the FARC, is contemplating a controversial run for a third term. Cuéllar’s death is “opportune” for Uribe, Argentine-born journalist Irene Selser wrote in her column in the conservative Mexican daily Milenio on Dec. 24. It also “legitimizes the presence in the country of US troops, who will be arriving in the next weeks to ‘defend…democracy from these narco-terrorists,’ as the White House put it” on Dec. 23.

The FARC unit that operates in Caquetá is the Teófilo Forero column, which is known for such spectacular operations as the kidnapping of Green presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and the hijacking of former senator Eduardo Gechem Turbay’s plane, both in February 2002. But recently the unit has been quiet, according to Selser, who wrote that “a possible action of infiltration by the US can’t be discounted.” The Venezuela-based television network TeleSUR reported on Dec. 23 that according to its Colombia correspondent “some Colombians have indicated that the governor’s death could be a matter of a ‘false positive’ carried out by the Colombian government”—a reference to cases of the Colombian military killing civilians and then dressing their bodies in FARC uniforms. (Prensa Latina 12/26/09; Milenio 12/24/09; El Tiempo (Colombia) 12/23/09; Colombia Reports 12/23/09)

But others thought the operation may have stemmed simply from local Caquetá politics. The rebels frequently accused Cuéllar of supporting the rightwing paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) when he was mayor of Morelia, and they had kidnapped him for ransoms a total of four times before the Dec. 21 incident.

Meanwhile, this year the national government was investigating Cuéllar for “parapolitics,” based on accusations by former paramilitary leader Luis Alberto Medina Salazar (“Cristo Malo”) that the governor had funded paramilitaries. In an appearance before the prosecutor’s office in Bogotá in early November, Cuéllar denied the charges, which he said were politically motivated. In fact, a political rival, former governor Juan Carlos Claros, allegedly had members of the Heroes of the Andaquíes Bloc—a paramilitary group reportedly tied to Claros—plant 300 uniforms camouflage uniforms in one of Cuéllar’s ranches in 2005 to create the appearance that Cuéllar was still working actively with the paramilitaries. (Rebelión 12/24/09)

In other news, the Corporation Humanitarian Action for Coexistence and Peace in the Antioquian Northeast (Cahucopana) reported the discovery of the body of Luis Alberto Aris Pran (presumably a local resident) on Nov. 21 in Remedios municipality in the northwestern department of Antioquia. According to some reports, the killing was carried out by paramilitaries operating in the region; the group is said to include an army deserter. On Dec. 13 the vendor Sergio Alonso Gallego was murdered in Remedios; the motive and identity of the killers is unknown. (Adital 12/22/09 from Prensa Rural)

3. Bolivia: Government Wants Immigrants Back
At a ceremony in La Paz marking International Migrants Day on Dec. 18, Bolivian foreign minister David Choquehuanca said the leftist government of President Evo Morales had an “obligation” to help Bolivian migrants return to their country. “The recovery of our natural resources is important for us so that Bolivians who for different reasons have gone abroad to look for work or to study can return to our country and can build [their] dreams in our lands,” Choquehuanca said, linking the issue to the government’s nationalization policies. He also announced accords with Spain to make it easier for Bolivian immigrants to Spain to get drivers’ licenses there.

Alfonso Hinojosa, who heads Bolivia’s consular offices, told the Spanish wire service EFE that the government had taken several steps to encourage the return of migrants, including an offer of land to Bolivian immigrant communities in Argentina and Chile. The government is also considering incentives for Bolivians working at low-wage jobs in shops in Argentina and Brazil to come home, he said. According to the government more than two million people have left Bolivia in the past 30 years, most of them moving to Argentina, where about 1.5 million Bolivians are living. Some 250,000 Bolivians are in the US, and around the same number live in Brazil, while as many as 350,000 may have immigrated to Spain from 2002 to 2007. (La Opinión (Los Angeles) 12/23/09 from EFE)

4. Panama: Families Mark 20 Years Since US Invasion
Relatives of people who were killed when the US military invaded Panama in 1989 marked the 20th anniversary of the intervention on Dec. 20 with a protest outside the old US embassy in Panama City, burning effigies of US president Barack Obama and Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli. The Association of Relatives of the Fallen is calling for a Truth Commission to investigate the events of December 1989, including possible war crimes. The protesters said they have brought this demand to four Panamanian governments without success and are now trying to get action from rightwing president Martinelli, who took office on July 1.

Some 26,000 elite US troops invaded Panamanian cities and installations in the early morning of Dec. 20, 1989; they were joined by 12,000 soldiers from the more than 100 bases the US still maintained in the Canal Zone at the time. The invasion, codenamed “Operation Just Cause,” was ordered by then-president George H.W. Bush without a declaration of war and without approval from the United Nations; the pretext was that the US needed to end drug trafficking by the regime of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, who for most of his career had been a paid informant of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The operation, following the “overkill” strategy of Gen. Colin Powell, then the head of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, included bombing civilian areas in Panama City and Colón. Official sources say 427 people were killed in the invasion, but relatives and social organizations put the number at 4,000. Local media said 14,000 homes were destroyed and estimated the material damage at $1.5 billion.

The protesters noted that Martinelli had agreed to give the US access to as many as 11 new Panamanian bases, allegedly to fight narcotrafficking under the US-funded Mérida Initiative [see Update #1012]. The first of these bases opened on Dec. 1 on the Pacific island of Chapera. (Prensa Latina 12/20/09; Earth Times 12/20/09 from DPA; La Jornada 12/21/09, from AP, DPA, Notimex)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico

Brazilian Guarani Tortured and Murdered

Bolivia Debates Media Law Reform

Bolivia: Native People Take First Steps Towards Self-Government

Bicentennial and Breaking Continuity: Ecuador, Latin America, and Obama

Canada-Ecuador: When Stock Exchanges Fuel Human Rights Violations

Colombia: Chicha, Fashionable Survivor

Colombia: FARC blamed in slaying of Caquetá governor

Venezuela signs new oil deals with China, imposes power cuts on industry

Honduran Coup d'état Finds Rival in Nicaragua

El Salvador: Ramiro Rivera Shot to Death in Cabañas

Action Alert: Demand an Investigation Into the Murder of Anti-mining Activist Ramiro Rivera Gómez

Hitmen Assassinate Prominent Woman Activist in Cabañas; Pro-Mining Violence Continues

El Salvador: another anti-mining activist assassinated

Killing Activists in Honduras

Mexico: Where the Holidays are a Cruel Hoax

Mexico: Drug War in Guerrero: A War on the Poor

Mexico: Quintana Roo journalist 12th killed in 2009

Mexico: grisly vengeance follows Arturo Beltrán Leyva killing

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