Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1024, March 7, 2010
1. Peru: 5 Killed in Market Vendor Protest
2. Colombia: Transport Strike Paralyzes Bogotá
3. Guatemala: Teachers’ Strike Settled
4. Mexico: Same-Sex Weddings Set to Start
5. Haiti: US and Canada Draw Down Troops
6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, development
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/
*1. Peru: 5 Killed in Market Vendor Protest
A confrontation on Mar. 3 between police agents and market vendors in Piura, capital of Peru’s northwestern Piura province, resulted in the deaths of at least five civilians, according to the authorities; 95 civilians and 25 agents were injured in the incident, and 137 people were arrested. The vendors were protesting Piura mayor Mónica Zapata’s plan to remove them from their current location in the Modelo Market to a new market area that they considered inadequate.
According to police, some two thousand vendors marched on city hall Mar. 3 in response to an order for their removal, which was supposed to take place that day. When Mayor Zapata refused to meet with them, the vendors reportedly threw rocks at the building and carried out acts of violence in various streets in the center of the city. The authorities said police used tear gas and fired shots into the air to disperse the protesters. Five people were killed, according to the government, but the Peruvian daily La República reported that seven people died, including two underage youths who hadn’t been part of the demonstration. One youth was shot in the head and the other in the chest; witnesses told La República that they saw a police agent shoot one of the youths.
On Mar. 4 national police director Miguel Hidalgo and Interior Minister Octavio Salazar testified on the incident before the congressional Defense Committee, which expressed its unanimous support for the actions of the police. Also on Mar. 4, hundreds of people attended funerals for the victims. “Mónica murderer,” they chanted, referring to Mayor Zapata.
After the confrontation, Zapata expressed willingness to consider a different location for the new market, and as of Mar. 5 she and representatives of the vendors were in negotiations. Carlos Sánchez, general manager of the Piura Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern over the loss of business during the crisis and said he hoped there would be a solution soon. “The city’s growing economically and is getting the attention of big companies that find this is a strategic area for doing business,” he explained. “That’s the case with Open Plaza and Ripley, which are opening their doors [here] this year.” (Los Tiempos (Bolivia) 3/5/10 from AP; La República 3/5/10; El Comercio (Peru) 3/6/10) [Open Plaza is a chain of shopping malls, and Ripley is a department store chain.]
*2. Colombia: Transport Strike Paralyzes Bogotá
On the morning of Mar. 1 members of Bogotá’s Small Transport Providers Association (Apetrans), which represents about 90% of the Colombian capital’s transport owners and workers, pulled some 16,400 buses and collective taxis out of service in a dispute with Mayor Samuel Moreno Rojas over his plans for modernizing the city’s public transportation. Bogotá residents used trucks, bicycles and even vehicles drawn by animals to get to work and school in what most observers described as “chaos.” On Mar. 3 Mayor Moreno ordered the closing of public schools to relieve the congestion caused by the strike and authorized the sharing of individual taxis and other alternative transportation methods. He also sent 500 extra police agents to the streets in collaboration with the army’s 13th Brigade.
By the time the mayor and Apetrans president Alfonso Pérez reached an agreement on Mar. 4, the police claimed to have arrested at least 215 people for looting, attacks on transport or disorderly conduct. On the night of Mar. 2 some 300 youths reportedly destroyed a police station in the La Gaitana neighborhood in northwestern Bogotá. Businesses said their sales had fallen by 60%.
Mayor Moreno’s plan, the Integrated Public Transport System (SITP), seeks to rationalize the capital’s transport by consolidating routes, replacing antiquated and polluting buses with new buses, and starting a subway system. Apetrans was demanding a greater role for its members in the new system and a higher rate of compensation for older buses retired from service. In the settlement, Moreno increased the payments for buses, while the transport providers gave in on their demand for more participation in the SITP.
Politicians on the right took advantage of the strike to attack Moreno, a member of the center-left Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA) party. Bogotá “lacks a mayor,” former president Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002, Conservative Party) announced on Mar. 3. Moreno needs to “do his job,” Pastrana continued, “or if he can’t, he runs the risk of being recalled.” On Feb. 18, well before the strike, Germán Vargas Lleras, presidential candidate of the rightwing Radical Change party, said he wouldn’t discount the possibility of promoting a referendum for Moreno’s recall. (La República (Peru) 3/3/10 from EFE; El País (Colombia) 3/4/10 from Colprensa; La Opinión (Los Angeles) 3/5/10 from El Diario-La Prensa (New York))
*3. Guatemala: Teachers’ Strike Settled
After lengthy negotiations on Feb. 26, Guatemala’s new education minister, Dennis Alonzo, and Joviel Acevedo, head of the 80,000-member National Teachers Assembly (ANM), reached an agreement settling a wage dispute that had set off a series of militant actions starting Feb. 22. Thousands of teachers tied up traffic throughout the country and occupied a central plaza in Guatemala City to push their demand for a 16% pay increase this year, including an 8% raise the government had failed to provide in 2009 [see Update #1023].
Acevedo announced the terms of the deal before hundreds of teachers in the Plaza de la Constitución on Mar. 1. The teachers are to receive a 10% increase this year—the 8% pay hike promised for 2010 plus 2% from the 8% raise due last year. A technical group will analyze budgeting a 14% increase next year, representing 8% for 2011 along with the 6% still owed from 2009. Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom also addressed the demonstrators, acknowledging that more needed to be done to improve the education system and calling for fiscal reforms to generate additional income for social programs. (Prensa Latina 2/27/10; EFE 2/27/10; Guatemala Hoy 3/2/10)
*4. Mexico: Same-Sex Weddings Set to Start
There were celebrations in Mexico City’s downtown Alameda park on Mar. 4 as 31 same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses at the Civil Registry on the nearby Arcos de Belén avenue under a new law that took effect that day in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City). The DF legislature passed the law on Dec. 21, making Mexico City the first city in Latin America to recognize same-sex marriages [see Update #1018].
Theater director and performer Jesusa Rodríguez and Argentine-born singer Liliana Felipe were among the applicants, along with activists Judith Vázquez and Lol Kin Castañeda. Only 19 of the couples completed their registrations, but legal adviser Leticia Bonifaz Alfonzo said the other 12 couples simply needed to come back another day with additional documentation. Conservative forces are challenging the law’s constitutionality, but even if the Supreme Court rules against same-sex marriage, couples that have already married will be protected, according to Bonifaz Castañeda. (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/5/10)
*5. Haiti: US and Canada Draw Down Troops
About 100 Canadian soldiers were scheduled to leave Haiti on Mar. 7 and return to the Valcartier base northwest of Quebec city in Quebec province. An 850-member force deployed to the Port-au-Prince area from the base after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated much of southern Haiti on Jan. 12. The Canadians indicated that they were planning to withdraw the rest of the troops gradually, but Canadian defense minister Peter MacKay, who was in Haiti on Mar. 7 during a two-day visit, said his government would be doubling the size of its contingent in the 9,000-member United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which has occupied the country since June 2004. (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 3/7/10)
The US has also been drawing down its force in Haiti. The US military said 700 paratroopers withdrew on the weekend of Mar. 6, leaving a total of 11,000 soldiers in the country, more than half of them on ships near the shore. At its high point, on Feb. 1, the force had 20,000 members. "Our mission is largely accomplished," said Gen. Douglas Fraser, who as head of US Southern Command is in charge of the Haiti operation, but he said a smaller US force would remain as the Haitian government and MINUSTAH take over. According to the Associated Press (AP) wire service, some Haitians expressed concern about security in the absence of US troops. But Ted Constan, chief program officer for Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante, a US-Haitian medical group, told AP: "The real solution is to deliver services...rather than turn Haiti into a military state." (AP 3/7/10)
In other news, Haitian women’s groups were planning to mark International Women’s Day on Mar. 8 with an outdoor ceremony honoring Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan, three feminist leaders who died in the earthquake. Activists were also planning commemorations in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Honduras and Puerto Rico for the three women, who established shelters for victims of trafficking and sexual violence, and promoted legal reforms recognizing sexual violence as a violation of women’s rights. (Adital (Brazil) 3/4/10)
*6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, development
Argentina: Food Must be Produced Locally
Philip Morris vs. Uruguay
Celebrating Compromises in Uruguay: José Mujica Inaugurated as President
Brazil as a Key Player
Brazil Faces Its Post-Lula Future
Chile's Socialist Rebar
Bolivian Women Rise Up
Bolivia: Cash for Checkups to Slash Maternal Deaths
The U.S./Bolivia Drug Show
Peru: Relocating Entire Villages for Mines, Dams
Gold Fever: Artisanal and Industrial Extraction in the Nicaraguan Mining Triangle
Clinton presses leaders to recognize Honduras at drug war summit
Suit charges Coca-Cola complicity in Guatemala rights abuses
Guatemalan police destroy opium, cannabis crops
Guatemala: top cops busted, death squads exposed
Mexico: police stage protest after deadly ambush outside Monterrey
"Rebuilding Haiti" -- the Sweatshop Hoax
A Future for Agriculture, A Future for Haiti
From the NACLA Archives: Development, Unthinking the Past
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
WNU #1024: 5 Killed in Peruvian Vendor Protest
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