Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WNU #1028: Haitian Cops Evict Earthquake Survivors

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1028, April 11, 2010

1. Haiti: Cops Evict Earthquake Survivors
2. Haiti: President Satisfied With Donor Meeting
3. Honduras: Army Moving in on Aguán Campesinos?
4. Mexico: Electrical Workers Plan Hunger Strike
5. Links to alternative sources on: Environment, Operation Condor, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, 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: Cops Evict Earthquake Survivors
On the evening of Apr. 9 agents of the National Police of Haiti (PNH) began removing some 1,300 families—about 7,335 people—from Port-au-Prince’s Sylvio Cator soccer stadium, where they had camped out since a Jan. 12 earthquake destroyed much of the city, killing as many as 230,000 people and leaving some 1.3 million without homes. “Soccer has to be brought back to life,” said stadium director Rolny Saint-Louis. “There are players waiting to be able to play and feed their families from their work.” The stadium’s managers say the Taiwanese are planning to repair the bleachers and replace the artificial turf, which the earthquake survivors had reportedly damaged.

“When they throw us out without telling us where we’re going to sleep in the evening, without offering us an alternative, it’s irresponsible, because families are going to end up in the street,” one camp resident told the local station Radio Métropole. “Nothing’s been prepared to receive them in another center,” said a man wandering in the stadium. “The government’s not serious.” The stadium managers offered each family a tent to replace the improvised shelters the police agents had smashed during the removal, but one resident said the tents were too small: only two or three people could fit in each tent, while many of the families were quite large.

Heavy rains fell on the city in the evening as some of the stadium’s former residents were still looking for a new place to camp out. (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 4/10/10; Haiti Press Network 4/9/10; Asia One News (Singapore) 4/12/10 from AFP)

There are about 400 encampments in the metropolitan area, many on private property. Some 11,000 people are living on the St-Louis Gonzague prep school’s field. The school failed to reopen on Apr. 5, the date the government set for a partial resumption of classes. Other homeless people are camped out at a golf course in Pétionville, an upscale suburb southeast of Port-au-Prince; the authorities say the encampment is overcrowded and prone to mudslides and flooding.

The Haitian government and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have a plan to move people out of many of these camps as the rainy season starts. In contrast to the forced removal at the Sylvio Cator stadium, the authorities claim that people in other encampments will voluntarily relocate to two new sites the government has prepared. One is at Corail–Cesselesse, 20 km north of the city; the other isn’t ready yet.

People are understandably reluctant to leave the existing camps, where residents have often organized themselves and some aid groups have set up facilities. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has established a field hospital at the St-Louis Gonzague field and has constructed latrines. "We’ll see what the government’s going to do, and then we’ll react,” Salha Issoufou, MSF’s mission head in Haiti, said about the plan to move the homeless people. “It’s not in our nature to help displacements of population.” (L’Express (France) 4/8/10 from correspondent; Asia One News (Singapore) 4/12/10 from AFP)

*2. Haiti: President Satisfied With Donor Meeting
Speaking at an Apr. 6 press conference at the ruined National Palace in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haitian president René Préval expressed his satisfaction with the results of an international donors meeting held by the United Nations (UN) in New York on Mar. 31 to discuss the reconstruction of Haiti after the devastation of the Jan. 12 earthquake [see Update #1026]. The donors pledged nearly $10 billion in aid and about $350 million in direct support for the government’s 2010 budget. During the next 18 months the management of the various projects will be overseen by a commission made up of Haitians and international representatives. Haitian prime minister Jean Max Bellerive and former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), now the UN’s special envoy for Haiti, are currently the co-chairs of the commission. Préval insisted that the Haitian president would always have the last word on the plans.

Préval, who is not permitted to succeed himself when his term ends on Feb. 7, 2011, insisted that national elections will be organized in the fall. These would combine the presidential election with legislative elections that were scheduled for Feb. 28 but were postponed because of the earthquake. “Elections are necessary,” he said. “It’s important for stability, for the reconstruction.” He admitted that there are serious administrative problems, including the destruction of voting offices and the displacement of a large number of voters from their places of residence. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/6/10)

*3. Honduras: Army Moving in on Aguán Campesinos?
The pro-government Tegucigalpa daily El Heraldo reported on Apr. 11 that Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa had ordered a “strong militarization” of the lower Aguán River Valley in northern Honduras, the site of a land conflict between influential landowners and some 3,000 campesino families. “Today, the lower Aguán has been totally militarized, and we’ve detected at least 30 military vehicles with troops carrying high-caliber weapons,” said Yony Rivas, a member of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), which has fought since 2001 for some 20,000 hectares of land it claims were bought illegally by three wealthy business owners, Miguel Facussé Barjum, Reinaldo Canales and René Morales.

Andrés Pavón, director of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH), said the troop movements are unusual, since “the police, not the military, resolve conflicts of a civilian character.” (El Heraldo 4/11/10; Honduras Culture and Politics blog 4/11/10)

The militarization followed a week of growing tension in the Aguán region.

On Apr. 2 MUCA charged that the military, police and paramilitaries were planning to remove thousands of campesinos “in a violent and bloody manner” from lands they had occupied in the Aguán region. The area is used for cultivating African oil palm trees, a source of cooking oil; a Facussé family business, Grupo Dinant, is exploring ways to use palm oil in biofuel production as well [see Update #1027].

On Apr. 5 the government rejected a plan from MUCA that would restore 28 cooperatives formed under the country’s agrarian reform law, giving each of the 3,000 campesino families about five hectares of land. The government has proposed buying 4,500 hectares from the landowners and distributing the land to the campesinos, which would give about 1.5 hectares for each family. (Honduras Culture and Politics blog 4/9/10)

On Apr. 7, two men on a motorcycle killed a MUCA leader, José Manuel Álvarez Guerra, with five shots as he arrived at his home in the Manga Seca neighborhood in Tocoa, capital of Colón department. This was the fourth murder of a MUCA member in less than a month [see Update #1027]. (El Financiero (Mexico) 4/7/10, some from Notimex; Prensa Latina 4/8/10)

On Apr. 9 the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP, apparently the former National Front Against the Coup d’Etat, a coalition of labor and social organizations) charged that US soldiers were carrying out patrols in two Black Hawk helicopters on both sides of the Aguán River. The helicopters were taking off from the US miliary’s Soto Cano Air Base (the former Palmerola base) in the central department of Comayagua, the FNRP said. From inside the Black Hawks “US military personnel take photographs and carry out observation, search and intelligence-gathering work over the terrain.” (Prensa Latina 4/9/10)

On Apr. 12 the Quixote Center, a Washington, DC-based human rights group, called for people to contact Ambassador Craig Kelly at the US State Department (202-647-6754), the State Department Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs (202-647-0834, WHAAsstSecty@state.gov ) and the White House (http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/ or 202-456-1111) to “express alarm” over the situation in the Aguán region and possible US air support for Honduran military repression. (Quixote Center email 4/12/10)

*4. Mexico: Electrical Workers Plan Hunger Strike
On Apr. 11 the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) announced that some 2,300 members were planning to start a mass hunger strike in Mexico City’s central plaza, the Zócalo, as part of the union’s continuing protest against President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s sudden liquidation of the government-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC) the night of Oct. 10. The union says 17,247 of the 44,000 LFC workers laid off in the liquidation have refused to accept the government’s severance package; they are demanding either the reopening of the LFC or jobs at the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), which has taken over LFC’s operations. These workers have carried out a series of protests, often large and militant, over the last six months, but without success [see Update #1020].

The SME leadership said some 5,000 workers volunteered for the hunger strike. A medical laboratory provided examinations and determined that 2,300 of the workers were healthy enough to undertake a hunger strike. “The strike will be open-ended,” SME labor secretary Eduardo Bobadilla said. The protest “isn’t an act of desperation, but a sign that we electrical workers will fight to the end.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/11/10)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Environment, Operation Condor, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Americas Program Biodiversity Report—March 2010

New Evidence: Kissinger Rescinded Warning Against Condor Assassinations

Argentina: Central Bank Independence ... Independent from Whom?

Earthquake and Tsunami in Chile: The Militarization of Natural Disasters

Brazil: A Tragedy of Local and Global Dimensions

Bolivia: Moderate Gains for Morales' MAS Party

Peru to Investigate Uncontacted Tribes’ ‘Possible’ Existence

Terrorist Attack Points to Ongoing Violence in Key City for US-Colombia FTA

Chavez Fuels the South Bronx

Venezuelan Yukpa Appeal for Use of Indigenous Legal Customs in Murder Case

El Salvador: Monsignor Romero, 30 years later

U.S. covering up reality in Honduras

WOLA vs. Honduran Democracy

Coca-Cola Sued for ‘Campaign of Violence’ in Guatemala

Goldcorp Mining Project in Guatemala Faces Cross Border Opposition

Mexican Soldiers Murder Two Children, US Media Covers Up the Crime

Cananea Mine Battle Reveals Anti-Labor Offensive in Mexico, United States

Mexico: Phase 2 of the Drug War

National Assembly of Environmentally Affected Groups Warns of an "Environmental Disaster" in Mexico

Mexico's New Dirty War

NGOs and the Business of Poverty in Haiti

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