Tuesday, August 10, 2010

WNU #1043: Venezuelan Cops Sentenced in Unionists’ Deaths

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1043, August 8, 2010

1. Venezuela: 15 Cops Sentenced in Unionists’ Deaths
2. Honduras: Campesino Leader Detained in Aguán Valley
3. Mexico: Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage
4. Haiti: Bands Compete in Election Campaign
5. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, 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. Venezuela: 15 Cops Sentenced in Unionists’ Deaths
The Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office announced on Aug. 2 that the Fourth Trial Court of the eastern state of Anzoátegui had handed down prison sentences to 15 police agents for the Jan. 29, 2009 shooting deaths of two unionists at the Mitsubishi Motors Corp (MMC) Automotriz auto factory in the Los Montones de Barcelona industrial park, located outside the city of Barcelona [see Update #977]. Five agents were sentenced to 12 years and nine months for voluntary homicide in the killing of Pedro Jesús Suárez Poito, a plant employee, and Javier Marcano, who worked at the Macusa auto parts factory, and for injuries to Alexander García, a worker at the Barcelona plant. Ten agents received three-year prison terms for their involvement, and six were acquitted.

The same court sentenced police agent Juan Carlos Álvarez Rojas to 16 years and 10 months in prison last December for his part in the killings.

The killings took place when police tried to remove striking Mitsubishi workers who had occupied the Barcelona plant. Workers said they threw rocks and bottles at the police in response to the attempt to end the sit-in and that the police fired tear gas canisters and then shot at them. Company executives claimed that the workers were armed, but the announcement of the court’s decision didn’t mention any charges against the workers.

The leftist news site Laclase.info claims that an Anzoátegui state official initially blamed the strikers for the confrontation and that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez implied at first that the workers were armed. The site called the sentencing of the police agents “an important victory, although still incomplete,” pointing out that the judge who ordered the operation was not tried. The site also called for an investigation of the role of Anzoátegui governor Tarek William Saab Halabi, a Chávez ally. (Dow Jones 8/2/10 via Fox Business News; Laclase.info (Venezuela) 8/3/10)

*2. Honduras: Campesino Leader Detained in Aguán Valley
Local police detained a national Honduran campesino leader, Juan Ramón Chinchilla, on Aug. 4 in Copán Ruinas in the western department of Copán and held him almost 21 hours without offering a legal justification. Police agents stopped Chinchilla at around 11:30 am as he was returning with friends from a wake for a relative in a nearby community; the charge was apparently riding without a seatbelt. Chinchilla’s friends paid a fine at a local bank for the traffic violation, but the police continued to hold the campesino leader on various pretexts, such as a supposed need to wait for a deputy commissioner. They finally released him at 8 am on Aug. 5.

Chinchilla is a member of the National Executive Committee of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), which coordinated resistance to the military coup d’état that removed then-president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales from office in June 2009. He is also a member of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), which represents thousands of campesinos in a land dispute in the Aguán Valley in northern Honduras; the group’s members have suffered violent attacks from the police and the military [see Update #1038].

On Aug. 2, two days before Chinchilla’s detention, two young campesinos were arrested in the community of Las Pilas, Trujillo municipality, Colón department, according to MUCA, which represents the families at the estate where the youths were arrested. The campesinos—Salvador Flores and Olvin Rivas, who is a minor—were charged with illegal possession of firearms. Attorney Rodolfo Zamora wrote in an email that "while they were held in the office of the National Police in Tocoa [a city in Colón department], a police captain…gave an order to have the youths pose without shirts on and with arms in their hands. That’s what they did! I personally heard and saw what I’m telling you. I explained that they were violating the Constitution and the code for criminal trials, and, of course, they didn’t care.” (Adital (Brazil) 8/5/10 from Food First Information & Action Network (FIAN) Honduras; FNRP statement 8/4/10 via Vos el Soberano (Honduras))

*3. Mexico: Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage
On Aug. 5 Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) upheld a law enacted in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) last December recognizing same-sex marriages [see Update #1024]. Eight of the 11 justices voted with the majority; two opposed the marriage equality law and one was absent for reasons of health.

Federal attorney general Arturo Chávez Chávez, representing an administration led by the center-right National Action Party (PAN), filed a challenge to the DF law in January on the grounds that it violated constitutional protections for the integrity of the family. Six of the justices upheld the law on the basis of constitutional guarantees of fundamental rights, while two based their decision on the narrower grounds that the Constitution doesn’t define marriage and therefore leaves the definition to the states. (In most matters of government the DF counts as a state.)

The court was to rule in a week on two more issues in the DF law: adoption by same-sex couples and recognition of the DF’s same-sex marriages by other states. (La Jornada (Mexico) 8/6/10, ___; Jurist 8/6/10)

The SCJN has leaned to the left in two other recent decisions. In April a five-member panel ruled that two women vendors from the Otomí indigenous group had been falsely imprisoned in Querétaro state [see Update #1036], and in June a five-member panel ordered the release of 12 campesinos held in prison since a 2006 confrontation between police and residents of San Salvador Atenco in México state [see Update #1039]. But in July a full session of the court upheld President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s October 2009 liquidation of the state-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC), which resulted in the laying off of some 44,000 unionized workers [see Update #1040].

*4. Haiti: Bands Compete in Election Campaign
A total of 33 candidates met the Aug. 7 deadline for filing to run for president in Haiti’s general elections, scheduled for Nov. 28. The candidacies won’t be official until they are approved by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP); the decisions are to be made by Aug. 17.

Among the more prominent candidates were: Jude Célestin, running for the Unity party of President René Préval; Jacques Edouard Alexis, a former prime minister in the Préval government who is now the candidate of the Movement for the Progress of Haiti (MPH); Coalition of National Progressive Democrats (RDNP) candidate Myrlande Hyppolite Manigat, a former senator and the wife of former president Leslie Manigat (February-June 1988); economist Leslie Voltaire [see Update #1040], the candidate for the Together We Are Strong coalition; and pastor Chavannes Jeune of the Alliance of Christians and Citizens for the Reconstruction of Haiti (ACCRHA).

Former prime minister Alexis—who was removed from office when high food prices sparked militant protests in April 2008 [see Update #943]—was expected to be Préval’s choice, but the Unity party replaced him at the last minute with Célestin, who heads the National Equipment Center (CNE), the well-funded road construction department of the Public Works, Transport and Communications Ministry (MTPTC). (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 8/6/10, 8/7/10, ___; AlterPresse (Haiti) 8/6/10) The CNE is credited with much of the work of removing tens of thousands of corpses from Port-au-Prince after a major earthquake hit the city on Jan. 12; this was one of the few visible actions of the Préval government in the days after the quake. (AOL News 7/13/10)

Although the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004) has been barred from the ballot, several politicians associated with Aristide or the party filed to run. Yvon Neptune, the prime minister during Aristide’s second administration, is running for the Haitians for Haiti Party; he was imprisoned for two years after Aristide’s ouster in February 2004. Social Affairs Minister Yves Christalin, one of FL’s founders, is the candidate of Organization Future. (In Haiti cabinet ministers are not required to resign before filing to run for office.) Aristide’s former lawyer, Jean Henry Céant, is running for the Love Haiti party. (Radio Kiskeya 8/6/10; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 8/6/10)

In the US, media attention was focused almost exclusively on the candidacy of Wyclef Jean, a Haitian-born US hip-hop star who hasn’t lived in Haiti for 30 years. Jean filed in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 5 accompanied by hundreds of supporters, by disk jockeys on sound trucks and by musicians on foot playing traditional rara music. A reporter compared the scene to Haiti’s carnaval celebrations before the start of Lent. Another musical celebrity, Joseph Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”), filed on the same day, but in contrast to his sometimes controversial performances on stage, the candidate was described as “sober and elegant” on this occasion. (AlterPresse 8/6/10)

Haitian journalist Michèle Montas, who now advises the United Nations in Haiti, noted that Jean doesn’t speak French and has problems in Haitian Creole. “Everything is done in French and Creole in government,” she said. “There is no English.” She questioned his appearances on US television. “His announcing on ‘Larry King’ is very peculiar. I don't think the US public is voting.” (Los Angeles Times 8/6/10 from correspondent)

Many Haitian leftists question the validity of the entire election, which will be held in a devastated country occupied by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 9,000-member military force; reconstruction spending will be under the control of a commission co-chaired by former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001). “Wyclef has arrived at a time when sovereignty is an empty word in Haiti,” Panel Lindor, apparently a Haitian graduate student in Paris, wrote on the AlterPresse website about Jean’s candidacy. “Wyclef has arrived at a time when nearly 2 million are homeless, at a time when Bill Clinton reigns as lord and master over Haiti.” Lindor noted that Jean’s “first visits were to the White House” in Washington. (AlterPresse 8/6/10)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US

Bolivia: protests paralyze Potosí

Bolivia: civilian defense training begins amid intervention fears

Peru: Amazon strike spreads to north

Ecuador Signs Historic Deal to Keep Oil in the Soil and CO2 Out of the Atmosphere

Ecuador agrees to keep Amazon biodiversity treasure free of oil drilling

Colombia: SOA Watch protests at Tolemaida military base

Colombia: hip-hop artist assassinated —again

Colombia-Venezuela Conflict Discussed At Mercosur Meeting; Chávez Will No Longer Attend

Venezuela Detects Increased Colombian Spy Flights, Increases Border Military Presence

Auditors: Venezuela’s State Oil Company Recovering from Oil Price Slump

The Quiet Revolution: Venezuelans experiment with participatory democracy

El Salvador: students demand justice on 35th anniversary of massacre

World Bank approves mining company suit against El Salvador

CAFTA Attack on Green Policy: Did Obama Need More Reasons to Renegotiate Bush's NAFTA-Style Trade Deals? (El Salvador)

Despite Aguan “Land Agreement”, Continued Repression in Honduran African Palm Oil Plantations

Mexican Government Raises Figure For Drug War Deaths For Second Time In Four Months

Transition to a New Government in Oaxaca? Not so Fast!

Oaxaca: land conflicts turn bloody

Dread and Redemption: A History of Monstrous Mexico City

Wyclef Jean Faces Challenges As He Officially Announces Candidacy In Haiti’s Presidential Race

Canada's Failed Aid to Haiti

Citizen Mobilization For Housing in Haiti

Previously unpublished: two reports by Update co-editor on Haiti in January 2010:

Day 4 in Port-au-Prince: On the Veranda
Days 5 and 6 in Port-au-Prince: Escape From Katrina

Larry Rohter Strikes Out Yet Again on South of the Border

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