Tuesday, March 16, 2010

WNU #1025: Chilean Grassroots Groups Respond to Quake

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1025, March 14, 2010

1. Chile: Grassroots Groups Respond to Quake
2. Honduras: Cops Evict Thousands of Squatters
3. Peru: Old Crimes Catch Up With Ex-Officers
4. Links to alternative sources on: Regional, Environment, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Haiti, Canada

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. Chile: Grassroots Groups Respond to Quake
Some 12 Chilean social and grassroots organizations have formed a solidarity network in response to what they consider the authorities’ failure to act quickly and appropriately when a 8.8 magnitude earthquake devastated much of central and southern Chile on Feb. 27. The network will work for Chileans to “reconstitute ourselves as an organized people to confront the present tragedy in an effective and dignified manner,” the groups said in an undated statement posted on the website of Vía Campesina, the international peasant federation, on Mar. 10.

The statement criticized the army for its failure to provide accurate information to the government that could have saved “hundreds of lives.” It also criticized the incoming government of rightwing billionaire Sebastián Piñera, whose term as president began on Mar. 11. The right tried “to take political advantage of the country’s misfortune,” the groups said, while the other political parties failed to react. (Presumably this includes the Socialist Party of outgoing president Michelle Bachelet). More generally, the statement called the “slow, disorganized and individualistic way” in which aid was delivered a “direct consequence of forms of centralized, authoritarian organization” and of social practices “based on repression of organizations and political debate.” The damage to housing, schools, bridges, hospitals and highways was, according to the statement, the “product of a business sector that spent decades making profits, acting in an irresponsible and criminal manner.”

The groups said they would promote “real and effective social participation" in decisions about reconstruction and aid distribution so that the process “doesn’t become a big business for the big companies” or a way for politicians to create divisions in different sectors. The military could have a “vital role in support for logistics and infrastructure,” they said, but without “the repressive role it played in the past.”

In addition to the Chilean branch of Vía Campesina, the organizations in the network include the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (ANAMURI), the Ranquil Confederation, the World March of Women's Chile branch and the Center of National Studies for Alternative Development (CENDA). (“Chile: Organizando Red Solidaria--Pueblo y Organización” declaration 3/10/10; Adital (Brazil) 3/10/10)

*2. Honduras: Cops Evict Thousands of Squatters
On Mar. 12 hundreds of Honduran soldiers, police and agents of the National Criminal Investigation Directorate (DNIC) removed thousands of families from some 200 manzanas (about 340 acres) of land they were living on in the Montes de León, La Mesa, Santa Rosa and Loarque Sur neighborhoods in Comayagüela, Tegucigalpa’s twin city. Deputy Police Commissioner Leandro Osorio said the operation was in compliance with an eviction order issued by a Tegucigalpa court. According to the authorities, the land belongs to the Social Fund for Housing (Fosovi) and was occupied illegally. After the residents were removed, bulldozers destroyed their homes, which had been built mostly from materials like sheet metal and pieces of wood.

The Agence France Presse (AFP) wire service reported that 2,000 families were living at the site, while the San Pedro Sula daily La Prensa put the number at 15,000. La Prensa, which supported the June 28, 2009 coup d’état against former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, called the police operation “peaceful” and reported one arrest. AFP said the removal was violent and quoted Deputy Commissioner Osorio as saying dozens of people were arrested.

"They lied to us,” resident Carolina Amador told AFP, referring to the authorities. “They promised us they were going to negotiate with us, and they came and surprised us.” Amador said her husband works as a street vendor; the couple has two small children. “We don’t have anywhere to go—what are we going to do?” she asked. The capital is surrounded by improvised settlements of people who have left the countryside; these settlements are largely concentrated in Comayagüela, which is south of Tegucigalpa; the two cities form the country’s Central District. (AFP 3/12/10 via Vos el Soberano website (Honduras); La Prensa 3/13/10; La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 3/12/10)

Armed masked men seized two farm workers, Ramón Ulises Castellanos and Miguel Sauceda, the evening of Mar. 8 at their homes in El Naranjo community in the northern department of Atlántida. Their bodies were found beside a highway the next day with bullet wounds in the head, chest and abdomen. The masked men reportedly identified themselves as DNIC agents. “They all had black vests and ski masks. One of them had the initials ‘DNIC’ on his vest,” said the wife of one of the victims. (Prensa Latina 3/9/10)

Correction: This item originally described La Prensa as a "Tegucigalpa daily." It's published in San Pedro Sula.

*3. Peru: Old Crimes Catch Up With Ex-Officers
According to a report in the Peruvian daily La República on Mar. 5, Jesús Sosa Saavedra, a former agent of Peru’s Army Intelligence Service (SIE), has confessed to prosecutor Alicia Chamorro Bermúdez that he participated in the 1988 “Operation Lucero,” in which the SIE captured and executed alleged Ecuadorian spy Enrique Duchicela and Lt. Marco Barrantes, a Peruvian officer also accused of espionage. Sosa Saavedra said Col. Oswaldo Hanke Velasco, then the head of the SIE, ordered the operation. According to La República, this testimony may bring Hanke Velasco to trial; he had avoided prosecution in the past.

Sosa Saavedra--nicknamed "Kerosene" because he used the fuel to kill his victims--was already in prison as a former member of the Colina Group, a death squad organized by military intelligence and allegedly reporting to former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). Fujimori was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for causing deaths and serious injuries while in office [see Update #1019]. (Los Tiempos (Cochabamba, Bolivia) 3/5/10 from EFE)

On the night of Mar. 11 Peruvian judicial police captured another former SIE agent, army captain Víctor Penas Sandoval, who had been in hiding. The First Special Tribunal of Lima has accused Penas Sandoval of carrying out terrorist acts on the orders of Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori’s intelligence adviser and the founder of the Colina Group; Montesinos too is now a prisoner.

Penas Sandoval allegedly made and sent at least five letter bombs in 1991, while he was stationed in Lima. Attorney Augusto Zúñiga Paz, of the Human Rights Commission (Comisedh), lost an arm when he opened the first of these letter bombs on Mar. 15; Víctor Ruiz León was killed on June 21 when he opened the second, which was intended for a neighbor, the director of Cambio, a magazine supporting the rebel Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA); on June 28 the third blew off the arm of a caretaker at El Diario, a publication supporting the rebel Communist Party of Peru (PCP, Sendero Luminoso); the fourth killed Cambio editor Melissa Alfaro Méndez on Oct. 10. Penas Sandoval was moved out of Lima after he failed in an effort to assassinate leftist legislative deputy Ricardo Letts Colmenares by letter bomb.

In 1993 a military court charged Penas Sandoval with the October 1992 murder of eight drug traffickers and the theft of 300 kilos of drugs in Balsayacu, Alto Huallaga. Penas Sandoval decided to respond by exposing military crimes, and he arranged to meet with officials at the US embassy in Lima on June 30, 1994. He is apparently the unnamed officer cited in a declassified document released by the National Security Archives, a Washington, DC-based nongovernmental organization; the document reports on a lengthy conversation in which a Peruvian intelligence officer admitted to making the letter bombs and said they were ordered by Montesinos. The officer also told the officials about the army’s routine practice of torturing, raping and murdering captives during military operations against rebels during the 1980s. He sometimes chuckled while describing torture techniques.

Penas Sandoval reportedly asked to be admitted to the US. The embassy officials recommended against admitting him, but it is not clear what action the US took, if any, in response to his revelations of terrorist acts by the Peruvian government, a US ally. (AFP 3/12/10; La República 3/13/10; “The Search for Truth: The Declassified Record on Human Rights Abuses in Peru,” Document 26, National Security Archives 8/28/03)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Regional, Environment, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Haiti, Canada

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