Tuesday, June 1, 2010

WNU #1035: Guatemalan Gold Mine to Be Suspended?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1035, May 30, 2010

1. Guatemala: Goldcorp Mine to Be Suspended?
2. Mexico: Federal Cops Rout Electrical Workers
3. Honduras: It Was a Coup, President Admits
4. Haiti: Obama Signs HELP Sweatshop Law
5. Haiti: UN Troops Invade Campus, Protests Continue
6. Links to alternative sources on: Trade, Women’s Rights, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico

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. Guatemala: Goldcorp Mine to Be Suspended?
On May 21 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), a Washington, DC-based agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), ordered the Guatemalan government to suspend operations at the Marlin gold mine in the western department of San Marcos within 20 days and to take measures to protect the local environment. The indigenous inhabitants of the communities of Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán have protested the mine--which is owned by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc--since it began operations in 2008.

The IACHR order came three days after the release on May 18 of a study by the University of Michigan revealing that tests conducted in August 2009 had found higher levels of mercury, copper, arsenic, zinc and lead in the blood and urine of area residents who lived near the Marlin mine. The study’s authors said the metals could have been acquired from water contaminated by the mine.

According to Rigoberto García, director of the Multicultural Center for Democracy, the Guatemalan government is required to comply with the order. If it doesn’t, García said, the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (also CIDH in Spanish) of the OAS will proceed to act on a complaint that led to the order; García and leaders of the indigenous communities filed the legal action in June 2009.

Carlos Meany, head of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), said the relevant government ministries would meet and decide on a response to the IACHR order. “There is no reason for us to suspend our project,” Montana Exploradora attorney Jorge Mario Sandoval said. “The government is the one that decides.” The Marlin mine produces 250,000 ounces of gold and 3.5 million ounces of silver a year. (EFE 5/21/10 via Terra.es (Spain); Siglo Veintiuno (Guatemala) 5/22/10; Univision 5/21/10)

The indigenous Mam in the communities around the Marlin mine have charged repeatedly that the mining operation is polluting the area. Five residents were arrested in the summer of 2009 in connection with a June 12 incident during which a pickup truck and an exploration drill rig were set on fire [see Update #1003].

*2. Mexico: Federal Cops Rout Electrical Workers
Some 600 Mexican federal police agents used tear gas and nightsticks to remove about 100 members of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) on May 27 from outside the Teopanzolco substation of the Central Light and Power Company (LFC) in Cuernavaca, capital of Morelos state, south of Mexico City. The unionists, who lost their jobs along with 44,000 other LFC employees when President Felipe Calderón suddenly liquidated the state-owned power company the night of Oct. 10, were blocking access to the facility to keep the police from removing five LFC vans. The workers said they were defending their source of work.

At least 10 workers were injured in the police attack. Later an LFC vehicle hit a worker, who was taken to the Cuernavaca General Hospital; the other protesters surrounded the vehicle, broke windows and injured the driver, an employee of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), which is taking over LFC operations. The federal police also destroyed an encampment the workers had set up outside the substation, along with an encampment at the Ocotepec substation, also in Cuernavaca.

Activists in the western state of Jalisco started a “hunger strike in relays” in Guadalajara’s Plaza de Armas on May 27 to show solidarity with a month-old hunger strike by SME members in Mexico City [see Update #1034]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/28/10)

In other labor news, Section 22 of the huge National Education Workers Union (SNTE) started a two-day strike in the southern state of Oaxaca on May 27, leaving 1.3 million students without classes, according to the local’s general secretary, Azael Santiago Chepi. In addition to local demands, Section 22 was calling for a cancellation of the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE), a program pushed by the federal government and the SNTE national leadership, and its replacement with an alternative program [see Update #988]. Teachers blocked shopping malls, banks, government buildings and tollbooths during the first day of the strike. Santiago Chepi said Section 22 would start an open-ended strike on June 15 if the teachers didn’t receive a satisfactory answer from the state and local governments. (LJ 5/28/10) [Repression of a strike by Section 22 four years ago triggered a popular uprising that paralyzed much of the state for more than four months.]

Some of the Section 22 strikers joined a march in Mexico City on May 28 by about 8,000 teachers from a number of different states. The protest, organized by the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the main rank-and-file caucus in the SNTE, demanded higher pay for teachers and cancellation of the ACE program. (LJ 5/29/10)

*3. Honduras: It Was a Coup, President Admits
In an interview on Spanish CCN broadcast on May 19, Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa agreed that the removal of former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) from office on June 28, 2009 was a coup d’état. “Of course, put it how you will, but it was a coup,” Lobo Sosa said when CNN’s José Levy asked if the removal was a coup. But the Honduran president, who was in Madrid for a May 18 trade summit of European Union (EU) and Latin American and Caribbean leaders, justified the removal. “Democracy did not have sufficient mechanisms to guarantee its maintenance,” he said. During his election campaign last year, Lobo Sosa avoided characterizing the June 28 action. Supporters of Zelaya’s ouster generally have insisted that it was constitutional and not a coup. (Honduras Culture and Politics blog 5/22/10; La Vanguardia (Honduras) 5/21/10)

As of May 26 more than 30 people were holding hunger strikes around a number of issues in Tegucigalpa. Two members of the Association of Judges for Democracy were carrying out the “Hunger Strike Against Impunity,” which started on May 17 to demand the return of four judges dismissed for supporting legal actions in favor of former president Zelaya. A group of 12 campesinos from the Aguán River Valley in northern Honduras started a hunger strike on May 24 to demand the removal of troops from the region [see Update #1033], and 10 former supervisors and officials of the Education Ministry began a hunger strike on May 26 to protest what they said were irregularities in their dismissals.

Along with the hunger strikers protesting actions by the government, a group of 10 parents started fasting on May 17 to protest a teachers’ strike. Some 50,000 teachers left their classrooms to protest the dismissal of nine university professors, allegedly because they had participated in a hunger strike to protest the layoffs of 180 National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) workers by the rector, Julieta Castellanos [see Update #1033]. (Adital (Brazil) 5/26/10)

*4. Haiti: Obama Signs HELP Sweatshop Law
On May 25 US president Barack Obama signed into law a measure intended to promote renewed development of the low-wage apparel assembly industry in Haiti. The Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act of 2010, introduced in Congress on Apr. 28 by a bipartisan group of representatives and senators, extends through 2020 several existing laws giving tariff preferences for apparel stitched in Haiti: the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) and the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Engagement Acts of 2006 (HOPE Act) and 2008 (HOPE II).

Proponents of the measure said HELP would aid Haiti’s recovery from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. "We are confident Haiti will now be able to attract substantial investment that could create tens of thousands of jobs," said Ron Sorini, a principal of Sorini, Samet & Associates, a DC-based consulting firm that represents the Haitian government on trade. The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), a US manufacturers’ association, noted: “While aiding Haiti through recovery, this law works to create a predictable and certain environment for the US apparel and textile industry.” (Fibre2Fashion (Gujarat, India) 5/26/10; Sorini Samet press release 5/21/10; Just-Style (UK) 5/25/10)

US plans to develop the Haitian assembly sectors were among the policies a meeting of European and Latin American social movements in Madrid denounced on May 16, saying that the US was using a “humanitarian alibi” to defend “US geopolitical, economic and military interests” [see Update #1034].

*5. Haiti: UN Troops Invade Campus, Protests Continue
Edmond Mulet, acting head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 9,000-member international military force, issued an apology on May 25 for an incursion by a group of Brazilian soldiers the day before into the Faculty of Ethnology at the State University of Haiti (UEH) in downtown Port-au-Prince. The soldiers arrested a student, Frantz Mathieu Junior, claiming he threw stones at them; they released him later the same day. Students responded to the invasion by burning tires and throwing rocks.

Mulet denied that the troops used tear gas and live ammunition, contrary to reports from UEH students and CNN crews. Homeless earthquake survivors in nearby encampments said they had to flee because of the tear gas, and they reported that at least one baby required medical attention.

The UEH incident came as a broad range of groups continued to protest against the government of President René Préval [see Update #1034]. Hundreds of people marched on the National Palace in central Port-au-Prince on May 25. Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters when they attempted to approach the building. A number of babies and some adults lost consciousness as the tear gas spread to the Champ de Mars, a huge park across the street where there are eight encampments of Port-au-Prince residents left homeless by the quake. Hundreds of people—thousands, according to one report--joined another protest on May 27; police again used tear gas to disperse the protesters as they approached the National Palace.

On May 28 at least four people were reportedly wounded when MINUSTAH forces fired on a demonstration protesting lack of power in the Cité Lescot neighborhood of the northern city of Cap-Haïtien. (Inter Press Service 5/25/10; Agence Haïtienne de Presse (Haiti) 5/25/10, 5/27/10, 5/28/10; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 5/25/10, 5/26/10, 5/27/10; AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/26/10; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 5/28/10)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Trade, Women’s Rights, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico

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A State of Emergency in Paraguay: The Risks of Militarization

The Climate Justice Groundswell: From Copenhagen to Cochabamba to Cancún

Bolivia: Morales Caught Between Gas Revenues and Indigenous Demands

Bolivia and its Lithium: Can the ‘Gold of the 21st Century’ Lift a Nation out of Poverty?

Bolivia announces uranium exploration program

Bolivia scores points with animal-lovers

Bolivia: Evo to negotiate with "Warrior Clans"

Peru: Lori Berenson to Be Released on Parole After 15 Years

Peru: Lori Berenson paroled; hardliners outraged

Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango arrested on return to Peru

Peruvian Congress Calls in Debt from U.S. Oil Executive

Murky Waters Flow From Peruvian Andes: Peasants Protest Irrigation Megaproject

Change Colombians Can Believe In?

The Circle Opens Out: New Evidence on Criminality in Colombian Regime

Colombia: President Uribe's brother said to have led death squad

Colombia: Santos wins first round —amid reports of widespread irregularities

Mexico: mass grave found in Guerrero silver mine

Venezuela: The Myth of "Eco-Socialism": Ecological Contradictions of the Bolivarian Revolution

Mexico: Another Triqui leader Slain in Oaxaca

The Big Snatch: Mexico's Bogus President Regaled by Washington's Phony Hope Prophet

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Obama to send National Guard to Mexican border; Fox fuels terror scare

Mexico: Quintana Roo gubernatorial candidate busted on narco charges

Death toll rising in Jamaica

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

Haiti: Struggle and Solidarity After the Cataclysm: An Interview with Batay Ouvriye

Student Strike in Puerto Rico Continues With Increasing International Support

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