Tuesday, February 9, 2010

WNU #1021: Groups Condemn US Militarization of Region

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1021, February 7, 2010

1. Latin America: Groups Condemn US Militarization
2. Haiti: Quake Victims Protest Food Distribution
3. Colombia: 40 Unionists Murdered in 2009
4. Puerto Rico: Activist Pleads Guilty in Wells Fargo Case
5. Links to alternative sources on: “Drug War,” Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, St. Lucia

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. Latin America: Groups Condemn US Militarization
Meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Jan. 24-29 for the 10th annual World Social Forum, 24 Latin American social organizations issued a statement denouncing what they called a “new, aggressive escalation of imperialism.” The groups charged that there was an “expansion of the US military presence in the region” that “seeks, in addition to intimidating the political transformation processes in the region, to position [US] military force in strategic areas of great natural wealth.”

The statement cited the creation of seven new military bases with US participation in Colombia; Panama’s agreement to set up 11 bases, also with US involvement [see Update #1018]; and the “military invasion in the name of humanitarian aid after the catastrophe that occurred in Haiti,” a reference to the deployment of thousands of US troops to Port-au-Prince in response to a magnitude 7.0 earthquake there on Jan. 12. Further evidence of US militarization of the region includes, according to the statement, the reactivation of the US Navy’s Fourth Fleet in the South Atlantic and Caribbean, and “coup initiatives, such as occurred in Honduras [on June 28, 2009] with the logistical support of the US military base in Palmerola.”

The groups signing the statement included Vía Campesina (Campesino Way), World March of Women, Jubilee South, Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST), the Honduran National Front of Resistance Against the Coup d’Etat and a number of national and regional labor and grassroots organizations. (Adital 2/4/10; EFE 1/29/10)

“Humanitarian aid, yes! Military occupation, no!” was one of the slogans when Argentine leftist parties and groups marched in Buenos Aires on Feb. 5 from the Plaza Italia to the US embassy to protest the presence of foreign troops in Haiti, both US troops and the 9,000-member Brazilian-led United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Argentina supplies hundreds of the MINUSTAH soldiers. (Adital 2/4/10; Terra 2/5/10 from Noticias Argentinas)

*2. Haiti: Quake Victims Protest Food Distribution
On Feb. 3 several hundred Haitians marched in Pétionville, a generally well-to-do suburb southeast of Port-au-Prince, to protest what they said was corruption in the distribution of food to survivors of a Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the capital and surrounding cities. The demonstrators said Pétionville mayor Claire Lydie Parent was illegally charging 150 gourdes (about $3.77) each for the coupons now being used to organize distribution of food. The protest began in front of the military academy on the Route de Frères and then moved to an encampment outside the mayor’s office.

Port-au-Prince metropolitan area residents charge that aid distribution has been slow and chaotic. Although tons of food have come to Haiti from international relief efforts, many survivors had received little or no aid more than three weeks after the earthquake. On Feb. 3 US marines were guarding long lines of hundreds of people waiting in the hot sun outside food distribution centers in Pétionville, in the capital and in the western suburb of Carrefour. To keep men from taking all the food, aid agencies had started limiting distribution to women, but the Haitian media noted that the women seemed exhausted after transporting the heavy bags of rice.

A week earlier, a similar protest broke out in the city of Léogane, west of Port-au-Prince, near the quake’s epicenter.

The protests in Pétionville resumed on Feb. 7 as demonstrators, mostly women, banged on plastic buckets and waved branches and palm fronds outside the mayor’s office. "I’m hungry, I’m dying of hunger,” a protester said. “Lydie Parent keeps the rice and doesn't give us anything. They never go distribute where we live. ” "If the police shoot at us, we’ll burn everything," the protesters chanted, but the police didn’t intervene. (Haiti Press Network 2/3/10; Radio Métropole 2/4/10; Reuters 2/7/10)

*3. Colombia: 40 Unionists Murdered in 2009
There continues to be a “systematic policy of violation of human rights, of violation of union rights” in Colombia, Alberto Vanegas, head of the Human Rights and Solidarity Department of the country’s main labor federation, the Unitary Workers Central (CUT), charged on Feb. 4 at the start of a two-day conference in the northwestern city of Medellín in Antioquia department. According to the union movement, 40 union leaders and activists were killed in Colombia during 2009, a slight improvement over the 49 killed the year before. Vanegas told the Spanish wire service EFE that "60% of the trade unionists killed worldwide are Colombians.”

“More than a number, this is a whole genocide against the union movement,” Vanegas said. According to the CUT, 2,721 unionists have been murdered since 1986; 573 of the murders have occurred since August 2002, when current Colombian president Álvaro Uribe took office. Just 2% of the murders have been punished, the unions charge. Some 150 people attended the conference, the Second National Meeting of Victims of Anti-Union Violence; about half were relatives of murdered union members, while the rest included representatives of human rights groups and United Nations agencies. The first conference was held in 2007 in the northern city of Barranquilla. (EFE 2/4/10; Latin American Herald Tribune 2/4/10 from EFE)

*4. Puerto Rico: Activist Pleads Guilty in Wells Fargo Case
On Feb. 5 Puerto Rican independence activist Avelino González Claudio, a suspected leader of the rebel Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros, pleaded guilty in US District Court in Hartford, Connecticut, to charges in the 1983 armed robbery of $7.1 million from a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, one of the largest robberies in US history. González Claudio, arrested in Puerto Rico in 2008 after 22 years in hiding [see Update #934], was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and transportation of stolen money out of the country, allegedly to finance Machetero activities. According to US intelligence, most of the money ended up in Cuba.

The maximum sentence is 15 years, but in a plea agreement US attorneys recommended a seven-year sentence and a fine not to exceed $10,000. González Claudio was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease while in prison in Connecticut. His lawyer, James Bergenn, charges that correctional authorities refused to provide González Claudio with medicine until this January. The Hartford Courant reported that the defendant “appeared gaunt and emaciated” while in court, “and the disease had taken such hold that he was barely able to speak.” Sentencing is scheduled for later this year.

Two other suspects have never been captured: González Claudio’s brother Norberto and Víctor Gerena, a Wells Fargo driver at the time of the robbery. (Hartford Courant 2/5/10 (only 2/6/10 version is on line); Primera Hora (Puerto Rico) 2/5/10 from AP)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: “Drug War,” Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, St. Lucia

Drug Surveillance Drones Frequent Flyers in Latin America

High School Diploma Programs in Argentina: Learning on the Move

Bolivia inaugurates indigenous autonomy

Judge: missionaries' suit can proceed against Chiquita in Colombia killings

Colombia: Stop Abuses by Paramilitaries’ Successor Groups

Colombia: VP called to respond to "parapolitics" allegations

US-Colombia joint operation nabs suspected Mexican capos

Four Injured in Air Force Bombing in Northern Colombia

US Intelligence Report Classifies Venezuela as “Anti-US Leader”

El Salvador: Activists Link Mining Company to Recent Murders

Salvadoran Anti-Mining Activists Risk Their Lives by Taking On ‘Free Trade’

Honduras names "Truth Commission" —as rights abuses continue

Honduras: A Lobo in Sheep's Clothing?

Canadian Mining and Popular Resistance in Honduras

Guatemala: anti-mine activist detained, "un-arrested"

Guatemala: municipal trade unionist murdered

Mexico: massacres in Mazatlán, Michoacán

Mexican politicos urge drastic drug war measures

White House asks Congress for $410 million under Merida Initiative (Mexico)

Haiti: After the Catastrophe, What Are the Perspectives?

Haiti Earthquake : A human economic seism has been shaking Haiti particularly since the Duvaliers

Haitian school hoping to reopen with a little help from Tribeca

Unnatural Devastation in Haiti

Haiti: The Impacts of Militarized Aid

"Haitian Communities Need to Be Involved in the Distribution"

Somali pirates to aid Haitian earthquake victims?

St. Lucia: Life After the Lomé Convention

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