Tuesday, May 25, 2010

WNU #1034: Mexican Workers Maintain Hunger Strike

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1034, May 23, 2010

1. Mexico: Electrical Workers Maintain Hunger Strike
2. Puerto Rico: Cops Beat Student Strikers at Sheraton
3. Haiti: Madrid Meeting Rejects “Humanitarian Alibi”
4. Links to alternative sources on: Trade, Economy, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica, 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. Mexico: Electrical Workers Maintain Hunger Strike
Five participants in an open-ended hunger strike by dozens of laid-off Mexican electrical workers were taken to the hospital on May 21 and 22 as the protest reached the four-week mark. About 68 hunger strikers remained camped out in Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zócalo, in the workers’ latest protest against President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s sudden liquidation of the government-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC) the night of Oct. 10. More than 17,000 of the 44,000 laid-off LFC workers, represented by the 95-year-old Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), have rejected the government’s severance package, choosing to fight the closing with protests and lawsuits [see Update #1028].

The mass hunger strike began on Apr. 25 with 10 participants subsisting on a combination of water, honey and a nutrient solution; 10 more were to join them each day, although most of these were limiting their participation to 24 hours. Another 13 workers started a hunger strike in Toluca in nearby México state. Four of the 10 original strikers were still fasting in the Zócalo on May 22; of a group of 10 women who joined later, only one had dropped out. A total of 12 strikers had had to stop for medical reasons, including blood pressure alterations and kidney and gastrointestinal problems.

On May 22 the SME’s interior secretary, Humberto Montes de Oca, said the strike would continue despite the loss of strikers due to health problems. “There are a lot of compañeros waiting for us to give them the green light to join the strike,” he said. “The important thing is that the fast already has an impact on society, as a demonstration that there can be resistance to the government’s authoritarian acts.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/23/10, ___)

*2. Puerto Rico: Cops Beat Student Strikers at Sheraton
On May 18 union leaders in the All Puerto Rico for Puerto Rico Coalition claimed success for a 24-hour general strike they held that day to support students striking against a proposed $100 million cut in the budget of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) [see Update #1033]. The unionists said their members had shut down nine of the country’s 10 government centers, along with port operations in San Juan. Marcos Rodríguez-Ema, secretary for Gov. Luis Fortuño, denied the unionists’ claims, saying government offices were operating normally. The Cuban wire service Prensa Latina reported that traffic in the capital was greatly reduced, while the Spanish wire service EFE called the situation normal.

It seemed clear that the May 18 general strike was much less effective than an unprecedented one-day shutdown last Oct. 15, in which 100,000 to 200,000 people protested Gov. Fortuño’s plans to lay off 16,970 of Puerto Rico’s 180,000 public employees [see Update #1008]. But the May 18 action demonstrated growing public support for the students. Thousands of protesters gathered later in the day outside the gates of the university’s Río Piedras campus in San Juan, where the strike started on Apr. 21; 10 of the UPR’s 11 campuses are now participating in the action. Arturo Ríos, a member of the students’ negotiating committee, thanked the country’s working class for its support and criticized people who had initially called the students idealists and dreamers. “We’re not doing this capriciously,” he said, “but because we understand that it’s the most just [course of action], and no one’s going to stop us.” (Prensa Latina 5/18/10; EFE 5/18/10 via Univision TV)

The students have also won support from abroad. On May 19 Cuba’s National Assembly announced “the most complete solidarity with Puerto Rican youth and with the people [of Puerto Rico],” while some of the unions backing the May 18 general strike are affiliated with the two main US labor federations, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/20/10 from AFP)

The most violent incident so far in the UPR strike came on May 20 when about 100 students entered the Sheraton Hotel in San Juan’s Miramar Convention District to protest Gov. Fortuño’s presence at a fundraising dinner for the conservative New Progressive Party (PNP). The protesters sang and displayed banners in the entrance and then tried to go to the second floor, where the dinner was taking place. The riot police responded by beating protesters and spraying tear gas. Several people were injured, including union leaders Luisa Acevedo and José “Lole” Rodríguez Báez, and the daughter of actor Eugenio Monclova. The police grabbed a woman sitting near the entrance, apparently a tourist, and roughed her up. Hotel security reportedly asked the police to let the students go and to stop beating them in the hotel. There were five arrests. (El Reportero Las Vegas (Nevada) 5/20/10 from unidentified wire services; Argenpress.info (Argentina) 5/24/10 from correspondent)

*3. Haiti: Madrid Meeting Rejects “Humanitarian Alibi”
On May 16 European and Latin American social movements meeting in Madrid adopted a statement denouncing the US and European response to a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti as “the utilization of the humanitarian alibi with the sole goal of defending US geopolitical, economic and military interests, with the complicity of the European Union (EU).” The groups were meeting in the Fourth Assembly of Enlazando Alternativas (EA4, “Linking Alternatives”), held May 14-18 on the eve of a May 18 trade summit of EU and Latin American and Caribbean leaders in the Spanish capital. Haiti, which signed an economic partnership agreement with the EU in 2009, was expected to attend the summit.

The social movements’ statement called for respect for Haitian sovereignty; a three to five year moratorium on economic agreements signed by Haiti in the past; an end to the conditions traditionally imposed by the international financial institutions; an end to the use of military force as a response to the crisis; the “immediate, total, unconditional and real cancellation of the external debt”; and normalization of the status of all undocumented Haitian immigrants in the EU and the US.

The EA4 specifically condemned what it called plans to “transform Haiti into a single free trade zone, fully exploiting its inexpensive workforce and its natural resources.” Free trade zones (FTZs) are industrial parks for tax-exempt assembly plants that produce mainly for export, known in Spanish as maquiladoras. The labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”) has charged that there are plans to build FTZs at the relatively remote areas outside Port-au-Prince, like Corail–Cesselesse, where the government of Haitian president René Préval has been moving people left homeless by the earthquake [see Update #1029]. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/17/10; EA4 statement via AlterPresse 5/17/10)

Protests against the Préval government [see Update #1033] continued on May 17 when thousands of people demonstrated at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. One person received a bullet wound during the protest, which was sponsored by a number of political parties. Many of the parties have been enemies in the past, including the Organization of the People in Struggle (OPL) and the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004). (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 5/17/10, 5/19/20)

The protests have also drawn in grassroots organizations not affiliated with the parties. One of these, the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), called on May 20 for the parties to be excluded from the mobilizations. “[T]here are 10,000 reasons to mobilize against the people in power,” the group said in a statement, but since Préval took office in 2006 these opposition parties “have never missed a chance to take their piece of the cake while the people died of hunger and the country’s sovereignty was mocked with the presence of the MINUSTAH”--the 9,000-member United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti that has occupied the country since 2004. (AlterPresse 5/20/10)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Trade, Economy, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti

Neoliberalism Alive and Well, as Trade Deals Inked Between EU, Latin America

Inter-American Development Bank Megaprojects: Displacement and Forced Migration

UNASUR: An Emerging Geopolitical Force

Argentina: indigenous march arrives in capital

Bolivia: Elections Deepen Local Democracy

Bolivian Government Negotiates Internal Conflicts

Amazon Indigenous Communities Plan 1,000-km March in Bolivia

Peru: oil companies banned from uncontacted tribes' reserve

Decision Delayed Over Ecuador's New Water Law

Ecuador: Correa Looks to Reopen Unpopular Mining Project in Junin

Two-time Honduran dictator Oswaldo López Arellano dies a free man

Honduras drops World Court case against Brazil

Scientists Find Elevated Levels of Potentially Toxic Metals in Some Guatemalans Living Near Goldcorp-owned Mine

Oaxaca: The Ongoing Extermination of San Juan Copala’s Autonomous Triquis (Mexico)

Oaxaca: Triqui indigenous leader assassinated (Mexico)

Calderón scolds US on guns, immigration; Fox News slaps back (Mexico)

More claims: Mexican government tilts to Sinaloa Cartel

Mexico: general shot in presumed "mugging" linked to cartels, "dirty war"?

Jamaica to extradite "Shower Posse" kingpin; trouble feared

State of emergency in Jamaica

Urban warfare breaks out in Jamaica

Poverty-Wage Assembly Plants as Development Strategy in Haiti: An Interview with the Center for the Promotion of Women Workers

Haiti's State Phone Company Finally Privatized

Empty Promises and Empty Bellies: Bill Clinton’s Doubletalk on Haitian Agriculture

Haiti according to Haiti: International Aid as Colonialism – By Raúl Zibechi

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