Tuesday, February 16, 2010

WNU #1022: Haitians Protest and Organize

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1022, February 14, 2010

1. Haiti: Capital’s Residents Protest and Organize
2. Mexico: Unions Threaten General Strike
3. Honduras: 4 Campesinos Wounded in Land Dispute
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, 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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Haiti: Capital’s Residents Protest and Organize
A heavy rain fell on Port-au-Prince for about a half hour in the early morning of Feb. 11, drenching the estimated 1.1 million people who have been sleeping outdoors or in improvised shelters since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake destroyed or seriously damaged their homes on Jan. 12. This was the first heavy rain in Haiti’s capital and the surrounding area since the quake, which occurred during the dry season. More frequent rainstorms may come as early as March, and medical experts warn of a great increase in disease if better shelters aren’t constructed in time. Relief agencies say 22,000 tents have been distributed and another 50,000 are slated to be brought into the country; the Haitian official in charge of temporary shelter, Charles Clermont, said on Feb. 11 that he expected 400,000 tarps by Feb. 20. International institutions estimate that there are 310 spontaneous encampments in the Port-au-Prince area.

By around 6 am on Feb. 11 many residents had joined demonstrations denouncing the government of President René Préval for its failures in organizing relief. Préval “sleeps peacefully while the people are soaked,” they chanted. (Haiti Press Network 2/11/10; AlterPresse (Haiti) 2/11/10; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 2/11/10; Le Devoir (Montreal) 2/12/10, some from AFP) [Problems with food distribution provoked similar protests during the two weeks before; see Update #1021].

In at least one encampment, people have responded to lack of effective measures by the government and the relief agencies by “looking out for themselves,” according to the Associated Press wire service. Residents in a dry riverbed in the Marassa neighborhood, not far from the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in the north of the capital, have organized themselves into two communities. Each community has a security committee which watches out for the residents and even issues them ID tickets. (AP 2/11/10)

Although it is not clear from press reports how many communities have formed such committees, in a Feb. 7 statement the leftist labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye (Workers’ Struggle) called for the creation of more. Area residents should organize “autonomous committees to receive [the] aid and distribute it in the most effective manner,” the group advised. “The committees should build coordination between themselves, in a dynamic manner.” According to the statement, the failures of the government and the international community demonstrate once again that “[i]f we want to realize our own interests, we have no other choice--we need another state. We need our own state.” (Adital (Brazil) 2/11/10); BO statement 2/7/10 (in English, in Spanish))

On Feb. 11 the Metal Workers Union of São José dos Campos and the Region, an industrial center in Brazil’s São Paulo state, announced that the General Motors workers there had agreed to donate 1% of their pay to Batay Ouvriye. Other metal workers in the area have also donated: all together, more than 10,000 of the union’s members have given a total of about 380,000 reais ($204,740). “This money will be put directly into the hands of the workers,” union president Vivaldo Moreira Araújo said. “We’re not going to give anything to military troops or to the government. This is class solidarity to help the Haitian people reorganize themselves and reconstruct a free nation without imperialist occupation.” (Sindicato dos Metalurgicos de São José dos Campos e Região website 2/11/10)

*2. Mexico: Unions Threaten General Strike
On Feb. 14 a group of Mexican unions announced their intention to hold a general strike in 25 of the country’s 32 states on Mar. 16 if the government attempts to remove striking workers from the giant Cananea copper mine in Sonora state. Some 1,400 workers in Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM) have maintained a strike at the facility—which is owned by the powerful Grupo México--since July 30, 2007.

Mexico's Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board (JFCA) declared the strike illegal last April, but a judge issued a temporary injunction suspending the JFCA decision [see Update #987]. On Feb. 11 this year, the First Circuit's Second Collegiate Labor Tribunal upheld the original JFCA decision, opening the way for Grupo México to fire all the workers and have the police seize the mine.

The SNTMMSRM is backed by unions in the independent National Workers Union (UNT), including the Telephone Workers Union of the Mexican Republic (STRM). The Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), representing some 44,000 Mexico City area electrical workers who were suddenly laid off last October, has allied itself closely with the Section 65 strikers [see Update #1020]. The SME has called for “widespread civil disobedience” along with the general strike as an “overwhelming response to the federal government and its policies.” (El Universal (Mexico) 2/14/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 2/14/10; Prensa Latina 2/14/10)

*3. Honduras: 4 Campesinos Wounded in Land Dispute
Four campesinos were wounded, two with bullets, on Jan. 27 when police and private security guards attacked members of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) at the Río Aguán in Trujillo municipality, near La Ceiba in northern Honduras. Antonio Estrada was shot in his left eye, and Rosendo Reyes was hit in the leg; both were hospitalized in La Ceiba. The incident occurred the day Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa of the National Party (PN) began his four-year presidential term [see Update #1020].

The MUCA members were trying to reoccupy land which they had been forced to leave in January. On Jan. 8 police arrested 30 campesinos while trying to remove them from land they were occupying. Some 150 police agents and 100 soldiers returned on Jan. 14 to remove the campesinos. The land has been the subject of a dispute between MUCA and three landowners, Miguel Facussé, René Morales and Reinaldo Canales, since 2006. MUCA charges that the landowners acquired the land illegally, since the National Agrarian Institute (INA) didn’t authorize the sale, and that they are violating the agrarian reform law by not using the land productively. In a press conference on Jan. 13, Francisco Funes, INA director in the government of former José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2010), said that the power of big landowners and repression against campesinos had increased since the military coup against Zelaya on June 28, 2009. (Adital 1/29/10 from MUCA 1/27/10; Vos el Soberano 2/14/10) [One of the landowners, Miguel Facussé, is the uncle of former president Carlos Flores Facussé (1998-2002) of the Liberal Party (PL), the owner of the daily La Tribuna and a strong supporter of the coup.]

On Feb. 11 the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup d’Etat, a coalition of grassroots organizations that formed after the June 28 coup, issued a communiqué charging that President Lobo Sosa was planning to lay off a large number of public employees and that the National Association of Public Employees of Honduras (ANDEPH) had received threats that its current leadership might be replaced. The Lobo administration was on its way to “intensifying the application of the neoliberal model, which would allow [big business owners] to go on concentrating wealth at the cost of [labor] exploitation, and the theft and destruction of natural resources.” (Communiqué # 47, 2/11/10)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti

Argentina: 'To Resist Is to Survive'

Bolivia to launch Coca Colla —this one is really the real thing

Bolivia to launch Túpac Katari satellite with Chinese aid

Ecuador: Chevron Hires 12 PR Firms

Students as Spies: The Deep Politics of U.S.-Colombian Relations

Colombia's Uribe Signs Security Pact with Honduras' Lobo

Colombia: Magazine Closure Deals Major Blow to Investigative Reporting

Colombia: Stop Abuses by Paramilitaries’ Successor Groups

Colombia: deadly FARC ambush on gubernatorial candidate

184 Communes Currently in Formation in Venezuela

Costa Rica: Chinchilla to Join Club of Women Presidents

El Salvador: Appalling Situation in the Export Processing Zones

History Repeats: Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared of Honduras

Interview: Tortured, Exiled Honduran Journalist Recalls His Experiences

Mexico: Consumers Join Electrical Workers

Ciudad Juarez: Murder Capital of the World

Ciudad Juárez marches against narco violence, militarization

After the Earthquake: One Thousand Tents for Haiti

Humanitarian aid for Haiti — Not troops and occupation!

The "Shock Doctrine" for Haiti

Victims of Free Trade "Voodoo" (Haiti)

From the NACLA Archives:
Haiti's Nightmare and the Lessons of History

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