Tuesday, August 3, 2010

WNU #1042: Nike to Pay Laid-off Honduran Workers

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1042, August 1, 2010

1. Honduras: Nike Agrees to Pay Laid-off Workers
2. Mexico: Relations With Honduras Normalized
3. Haiti: Haitians and Brazilians Protest UN Occupation
4. Colombia: Unionist Threatened, Campesino Leader Seized
5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, El Salvador, 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. Honduras: Nike Agrees to Pay Laid-off Workers
On July 26 Nike, Inc and the General Workers Central (CGT), one of Honduras’ three main labor federations, announced that the Oregon-based sports apparel giant was paying $1.54 million to some 1,600 workers laid off in last year’s closure of two Nike subcontractors in the Choloma region of the northwestern department of Cortés. The package also includes a year of medical coverage through the Honduran Social Security system, a training program and priority for hiring at other factories that Nike may use in the country. The fund is to be administered by the CGT; the Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO, the main US labor federation; and the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), a US-based labor rights monitoring group.

The two apparel assembly plants--Vision Tex, which employed Korean capital, and Hugger de Honduras, owned by Donaldo Reyes Villeda, the son of a legislative deputy for the center-right National Party (PN), Donaldo Reyes Avelar--closed without warning in January 2009. The only compensation the workers received was from the sale of machinery and office equipment. This came to 21% of the severance pay mandated by law for the Hugger workers and 26% for the Vision Tex workers. Workers’ rights advocates say the total package offered by Nike is worth about $2 million, the amount of severance pay still owed to the workers.

Nike claimed it wasn’t responsible for the subcontractors’ failure to compensate their workers. In the fall of 2009 the US-based United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) launched a campaign to pressure Nike to pay, following a model the group used to get Russell Athletic of Atlanta to rehire 1,200 workers laid off in January 2009 when Russell closed its unionized Jerzees de Honduras plant [see Update #1013]. With the slogan “Just pay it,” USAS and affiliated groups arranged tours for two laid-off Honduran workers at more than 40 US campuses that have sports apparel contracts with Nike.

By mid-July, Cornell University had decided to end its contract with Nike, and pressure was growing for Pennsylvania State University and the University of Washington to do the same [see Update #1040]. According to the CGT’s Choloma coordinator, Evangelina Argueta, Nike signed the compensation agreement on July 20. (La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 7/26/10, some from EFE; New York Times 7/27/10; Revistazo.com (Honduras) 7/28/10; In These Times 7/28/10)

At a press conference in Tegucigalpa on July 28, representatives of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) charged that the economic policies of President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa, a National Party leader, were creating a fiscal and labor paradise for import and export businesses. The FNRP, which was formed to resist the coup d’état that removed then-president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales in June 2009, cited new taxes which it said penalized the poorest, a plan to legalize hourly temporary work, cancellation of labor rights for teachers, and delays in increasing the minimum wage.

“The de facto president [Lobo] knows that the minimum wage is in direct relation to the price at which business people sell the basic canasta,” the FNRP said, referring to the “basket” of consumer staples which Latin American governments use to measure the cost of living. Currently the canasta is 6,500 lempiras (about $344) a month, according to the FNRP, which is calling for a mobilization on Aug. 18 to demand an increase in the minimum wage and to reject any plans to devalue the currency or impose a temporary work law. The protest will also demand respect for human rights and the dismantling of the regime established by the 2009 coup. (Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 7/28/10 from Defensoresenlínea.com)

*2. Mexico: Relations With Honduras Normalized
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE) announced on July 31 that the government of President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was normalizing diplomatic relations with Honduras and that the Mexican ambassador, Tarcisio Navarrete, would return to Tegucigalpa in a few days to resume his functions. Mexico broke off relations with Honduras on June 29, 2009, one day after then-president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales was removed by a military coup d’état.

The SRE cited a report by a High Level Commission of the Organization of American States (OAS) set up to analyze the situation. According to the Mexican government, the report “reflects significant advances” by the government of Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa towards resolving problems created by the coup. Lobo won a clear majority in elections held on Nov. 29, but the process was widely questioned: the voting was organized by a de facto regime put in place by the coup, and the OAS refused to send observers. Many Hondurans boycotted the vote; elections officials gave contradictory turnout figures—from 49% to 61.3%--while opponents of the coup estimated that the turnout was just 30-40% [see Update #1015].

Edmundo Hernández-Vela, a retired political science professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada that the SRE’s decision set a bad precedent. “It’s obvious that the régime [Lobo’s government] arose from the coup d’état itself, not from a clean process,” Hernández-Vela said. “But Mexico, like many other countries, understands that the US looks on what happened in Honduras with great sympathy.” He noted that Mexican president Calderón had his own problems, since his election in 2006 “should be qualified as irregular, at the least.” Millions of Mexicans still reject Calderón’s official win over center-left coalition candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador by very narrow margin [see Update #858]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 8/1/10, ___ )

*3. Haiti: Haitians and Brazilians Protest UN Occupation
On July 28 Haitians protested in Port-au-Prince, Hinche, St-Marc and other cities to mark the 95th anniversary of the start of the 1915-1934 US military occupation of their country.

Dozens of supporters of the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004) held a sit-in in front of the US embassy in the northeastern Port-au-Prince suburb of Tabarre to demand Aristide’s return from South Africa, the firing of election officials and the withdrawal of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 9,000-member military and police occupation force. Embassy officials met with a delegation of FL leaders, including Maryse Narcisse, who demanded that the US not finance the scheduled Nov. 28 general elections as long as the FL continued to be excluded from the ballot [see Update #1039].

Hundreds of supporters of other opposition parties marched in the center of the capital to demand the resignation of President René Préval as well as the removal of election officials and of MINUSTAH troops. Some protesters set up barricades of flaming tires and threw rocks at government vehicles. An unknown person on one of these vehicles fired a gun, wounding one protester, Jean-Claude Dorélus, and then escaped. Eventually the police used tear gas to disperse the protesters at Lamartinière Ave in the Bois Verna neighborhood.

Also in Bois Verna, a number of organizations held a sit-in outside the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s new location to demand the removal of MINUSTAH forces. Yanick Etienne, from the labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), noted that despite its name, MINUSTAH had done nothing to bring stability to Haiti since the soldiers arrived in 2004. Other groups at the protest included the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA) and organizations representing the Duvivier neighborhood and laid-off public employees. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 7/28/10; Agence Haïtienne de Presse 7/28/10; Maximini.fr 7/28/10)

The sit-in at the foreign ministry was coordinated with a number of protests in Brazil, the country that heads up the MINUSTAH forces. In São Paulo activists protested in front of the Haitian consulate, whose officials agreed to meet with representatives on July 30. In Belo Horizonte, the protest was headed by the women’s movement and grassroots and student groups; participants denounced violence against women in Brazil as well as in Haiti. In Río de Janeiro, protesters passed out an open letter at the United Nations Information Center calling for an end to the MINUSTAH and charging that other countries had abandoned Haiti, which was devastated by a major earthquake.

The Brazilian protests were sponsored by the National Coordinating Committee of Stuggles (Conlutas), Jubilee South and the Landless Workers Movement (MST). Jubilee South’s Sandra Quintela said that Haiti’s need for international aid was no reason for foreign interference in the country. "It’s not the artists or the politicians going to Haiti to promote themselves that are going to be the protagonists at this time,” she said. “The protagonists required by the country’s reconstruction are Haitian men and women, and organizations from the country.” (Adital (Brazil) 7/29/10)

There was also a protest in New York City, where dozens of activists rallied outside the United Nations headquarters to oppose the MINUSTAH occupation. (Eyewitness report 7/28/10)

According to the non-governmental Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), only Brazil, Estonia and Norway have sent any of the reconstruction aid promised at a Union Nations meeting in New York on Mar. 31—just 1.5% of the total international commitment. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (ICRH, or CIRH in French and Spanish), set up four months ago to administer international aid, still doesn’t have an executive director, PAPDA wrote on July 22, and the main concern of the donor nations seems to be making sure their own companies get a share of the reconstruction money. (Adital 7/30/10)

*4. Colombia: Unionist Threatened, Campesino Leader Seized
Colombian union sources report that Alejandro Betancur, president of the Union of Mining Industry Workers (SINTRAMINEROS) in the northwestern department of Antioquia, received a death threat by telephone on July 26 in connection with his union activities. According to Carlos Julio, president of Colombia's Unitary Workers Central (CUT), Betancur was threatened because of his efforts on behalf of about 100 miners employed by companies belonging to Industrial Hullera, which is now in liquidation. The dispute, which has gone on for 13 years, concerns labor rights and pensions. (El Mundo (Medellín) 7/31/10; Adital (Brazil) 7/29/10)

Also in Antioquia, the Campesino Association of the Lower Cauca (ASOCBAC) charged on July 29 that José Alcides Ochoa, president of the Communal Action group in the village of El Rayo in Tarazá municipality, was illegally detained that morning by troops from the 25th Mobile Brigade of the army’s Seventh Division. ASOCBAC called for the Public Ministry to locate Alcides Ochoa immediately and to start an investigation into the detention. The group is also asking for activists to write to Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez (auribe@presidencia.gov.co ), president elect Francisco Santos (fsantos@presidencia.gov.co ) and other officials to demand an end to human rights abuses by the 25th Mobile Brigade and other military units. (ASOCBAC urgent action 7/29/10 via Colombia Indymedia; El Mundo 7/31/10)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Brazil: indigenous protesters seize hydro-electric plant

Indians Hold Construction Workers Hostage at Amazon Dam Site

Bolivia: remains of "disappeared" socialist leader at military high command?

Peru: state of emergency over extreme weather; protests over toxic spill

Peru moves to expel ecologist in wake of Amazon oil spill

Peru: regional strike paralyzes south over gas exports —again

Peru Wages 'Slanderous Campaign' Against Inter-American Court

Peru cancels US metal company's smelter license, citing eco-disaster

Colombia: documents reveal US complicity in atrocities

Plan Colombia Linked to Increased Military Abuses

Colombia: government denies existence of Meta mass grave

Colombia: OAS rights commission condemns murder of indigenous leader

Reversed: Colombian journalist Hollman Morris is free to come to Harvard as a Nieman Fellow

Venezuela Concerned about Colombia Aggression Intentions, UNASUR Concludes without Consensus

Colombia-Venezuela Dispute Will Be Better Resolved in South America

Venezuela: indigenous protest at supreme court

Panama: General Strike Against Killings

Is Free Trade a Gold Mine? (El Salvador)

US to file first free trade labor rights case against Guatemala

Breaking (Mexico): San Juan Copala, Oaxaca, Under Paramilitary Control Following Police Raid

Mexico: San Juan Copala Again Under Fire

Support the Mexican Electrical Workers

Protest Against Canadian Mine in Mexico

Mexico: biggest "narco-grave" yet yields 51 bodies near Monterrey

Mexico: army kills Sinaloa Cartel kingpin —but not El Chapo

Mexico’s Economic Collapse

López Obrador’s Alternative Plans for Mexico

Wyclef Jean May Run For President of Haiti In 2010

Rape a Part of Daily Life for Women in Haitian Relief Camps

Opportunities are Washing Away in Haiti

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