Tuesday, May 4, 2010

WNU #1031: Latin Americans Celebrate May Day

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1031, May 2, 2010

1. Southern Cone: May 1 Marches Focus on Local Issues
2. Andes Region: Government Backers and Opponents March on May 1
3. Central America: May 1 Marches Protest Neoliberalism
4. Mexico: May Day Marchers Blast Labor “Reform”
5. Caribbean: May 1 Marches Focus on “Sacrifice”
6. Links to alternative sources on: Environment, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US

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. Southern Cone: May 1 Marches Focus on Local Issues
Latin Americans generally used the traditional International Workers Day marches on May 1 this year to protest around national issues, but some also demonstrated their support for immigrants in the US, where tens of thousands of immigrants and supporters were marching against anti-immigrant measures and laws.

At least 66 people were arrested in disturbances in Chile on May 1 as marchers protested the policies of President Sebastián Piñera, who took office on Mar. 11. Piñera is the country’s first rightwing leader since the end of the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

In Paraguay labor confederations started the day of events with a mass in Asunción’s Cristo Rey church. Unionists then marched to the Justice and Labor Ministry, where they presented Justice and Labor Minister Humberto Blasco with a petition calling for a 15% pay increase.

Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva used May Day events to promote the campaign of his former cabinet chief, Dilma Rousseff, the Workers Party (PT) presidential candidate in elections this October. “You know who I want,” Lula said during an event in Sao Paulo. (El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua) 5/1/10 from AFP; Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador) 5/1/10 from AFP)

*2. Andes Region: Government Backers and Opponents March on May 1
Thousands of unionized public employees marked International Workers Day on May 1 with marches in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador, joined by members of socialist president Rafael Correa’s PAIS Alliance (AP) party. [“PAIS” is the acronym of “Proud and Sovereign Homeland” in Spanish, and also spells the word for “country.”] Unemployment in Ecuador reached 9.1% in the first quarter of 2010, up from 7.9% at the end of 2009, while underemployment among the country’s 4.6 million economically active workers is officially at 51.3%.

In Colombia--where unemployment stood at 11.8% in March, down 0.2 points from a year earlier—thousands of workers marched in various cities calling for candidates in the May 30 presidential election to promote the creation of “more and better jobs and to halt the violence against unionists and society” [see Update # 1021]. Confrontations between marchers and the police left some 15 people injured.

In Venezuela supporters and opponents of leftist president Hugo Chávez held separate marches. Supporters celebrated the achievements of Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution, while opponents demanded more democracy and respect for the rights of unionists. (El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua) 5/1/10 from AFP; Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador) 5/1/10 from AFP)

*3. Central America: May 1 Marches Protest Neoliberalism
In Panama thousands of workers marched on May 1 to oppose the neoliberal economic policies of President Ricardo Martinelli’s government, which they said was seeking to "take the workers back to the labor conditions of the 19th century.” They protested an increase in prices of staple goods, an increase in consumption taxes, government plans for labor “reform,” and a law which imposes prison sentences of up to two years for blocking traffic during protests—an effort “to stop the unions and to criminalize social protest,” according to Mariano Mena, director of the National Coordinating Committee of Organized Workers.

In El Salvador, more than 75,000 people marched in San Salvador to demand that the government of President Mauricio Funes, of the leftist Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN), "comply with the change" that he promised and not let himself “be seduced” by the right. There were two other May Day marches in the capital, ending with a large rally in the central Gerardo Barrios plaza, where more than 100,000 people gathered, according to the unions.

In Honduras tens of thousands of people marched in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and other cities to protest a June 28, 2009 military coup and to promote demands for a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution. The Honduran labor movement forms a large part of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), a coalition that formed to oppose the coup [see Update #1020].

The colorful Tegucigalpa march included protesters dressed as devils, monkeys and white gorillas; two marchers in prison uniforms wore signs identifying them as coup leaders Roberto Micheletti and Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez. The rightwing Tegucigalpa daily La Tribuna estimated the crowd at more than 100,000; organizers claimed over 500,000.

Thousands of Guatemalan workers protested an anti-immigrant measure in the US state of Arizona, Immigration Law SB1070, which was signed into law on Apr. 23. They also demonstrated their opposition to local mining and drilling operations, which they said cause "irreparable" damage to ecosystems. "We don’t want more violations in the areas around our communities,” said campesino leader Daniel Pascual. “We demand that they respect the results of the community consultations we’ve carried out, which rejected practices that go against our Mother Earth.” (El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua) 5/1/10 from AFP; Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador) 5/1/10 from AFP; Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 5/1/10; Honduras Culture and Politics 5/2/10)

*4. Mexico: May Day Marchers Blast Labor “Reform”
As has become traditional, rival Mexican union confederations celebrated International Workers Day on May 1 with separate rallies in Mexico City’s huge Zócalo plaza. The largest was organized by the independent National Workers Union (UNT), which claimed 250,000 to 300,000 participants; the local police failed to give an estimate.

The marchers opposed labor “reform” proposals from the government of rightwing president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and called for the dismissal of Labor Secretary Javier Lozano Alarcón. They expressed support for strikers at the Cananea copper mine and for 72 hunger strikers from the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) camped out in the plaza to protest the government’s sudden dismissal of 44,000 unionized electrical workers last October [see Updates #1022, 1028].

The demonstrators protested anti-immigrant measures in the US like Arizona Immigration Law SB1070 and criticized what they said was the Calderón administration’s passive attitude towards US immigration policy. One of the featured speakers was Elvira Arellano, an undocumented immigrant to the US who was repatriated to Mexico in 2007 after spending a year in a Chicago church resisting a deportation order. Others protested US immigration policy in a separate rally in front of the US embassy. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/2/10, ___; El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua) 5/1/10 from AFP)

*5. Caribbean: May 1 Marches Focus on “Sacrifice”
Cuban president Raúl Castro led some 800,000 people in the traditional May 1 march to Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. In a brief speech, Salvador Valdés, head of the Cuban Workers’ Confederation (CTC), asked workers to support the government’s economic plan, which he said “will require extraordinary efforts and sacrifices” but is “vital for preserving our social system.” In April President Castro called for a reduction of public spending, the elimination of subsidies and of the black market, a stimulus for agriculture, and layoffs of as many as 1 million workers, about a fifth of the workforce, from their current employment. Castro said the government would seek to create conditions so that everyone would be able to find a productive job. (Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador) 5/1/10 from AFP; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/2/10 from correspondent)

In Puerto Rico the Broad Front of Solidarity and Struggle (FASyL) union coalition, the All Puerto Rico for Puerto Rico Coalition and other groups led a May 1 march from the Luis Muñoz Rivera park in San Juan to the Fortaleza, the governor’s official residence, ending up at the Plaza Colón in the capital’s old city. These groups led a massive demonstration on Oct. 15 against Gov. Luis Fortuño’s plans lay off nearly 17,000 government employees [see Update #1008], but participation in the May 1 demonstration was reportedly in the hundreds.

Striking students at the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) were “setting an example of struggle and combative spirit,” Wilberto Jiménez, head of a university employees union, told the marchers, and people “are going to copy them and take to the streets.” The students, who began a protest against budget cuts at the state university on Apr. 21 [see Update #1030], were still occupying the campus on May 2, despite the UPR administration’s plan to resume administrative work on May 3. The students launched their own radio station, Radio Huelga (“Strike Radio”) at 1650 AM, on May 2. (Primera Hora (Puerto Rico) 5/1/10, 5/2/10)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Environment, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US

Americas Program Biodiversity Report—April 2010

Gulf of Mexico oil spill endangers birds throughout Americas

Argentina: Murder of Human Rights Witness Sparks Fears

Indigenous in Argentina "Drowning in Sadness"

UNASUR to Elect Secretary General at Argentina Summit

Paraguay: Controversy Over Troop Deployment

The Mothers of May: The Difficult Democratization of Brazil's Genocidal State

Bolivia's Resource Dilemma

Bolivia: May Day march amid multiple social conflicts

Nicaragua Protests Escalate

Chiapas: The Reconquest of Recuperated Land (Mexico)

Oaxaca: two dead as paras attack human rights caravan (Mexico)

Mexico: Assassination of Human Rights Defenders in Oaxaca

Merida Initiative Under Scrutiny Following Clinton’s Visit to Mexico

The Mexican History and Geography Gap

US supported economics spurred Mexican emigration

Thomas Friedman: deeply wrong on Mexico

Cuba: U.S. Democracy Programs under Fire as Fallout from Spy Arrest Continues

Haiti: Of Donors and Disasters

From Charity to Solidarity in Haiti: Lessons for the Policy Makers (Part III)

US military enforces attacks on Haitian unions (3 parts)

Obama's Militarized Status Quo in Latin America - Panel Discussion From the 2010 Left Forum

Ignoring the Grassroots in Latin America

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