Tuesday, August 31, 2010

WNU #1046: Puerto Rican Strike Shuts Down Schools

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1046, August 29, 2010

1. Puerto Rico: One-Day Teachers’ Strike Shuts Down Schools
2. Honduras: Cops Attack Striking Teachers, Again
3. Haiti: Camp Residents Continue Protests
4. Links to alternative sources on: Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba

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. Puerto Rico: One-Day Teachers’ Strike Shuts Down Schools
A one-day strike by Puerto Rican teachers over budget issues and the need for additional teachers shut down about 90% of the island’s 1,500 public schools on Aug. 26, according to the Teachers' Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR). The walkout was the largest teachers’ strike since early 2008, when the FMPR led a militant 10-day strike [see Update #938]. Interim education secretary Jesús Rivera Chávez called the Aug. 26 strike’s effect “devastating.”

The walkout was called by three unions: the FMPR, the largest, with 42,000 members; the smaller Teachers Association of Puerto Rico (AMPR); and the new National Union of Educators and Education Workers (UNETE). The FMPR and UNETE also led thousands of teachers in a march from San Juan’s Colón Plaza past the Capitol building to La Fortaleza, the governor’s residence.

The teachers charged that the government had failed to fill 1,000 vacancies for the new school year; they said this hurts the students and gives extra work to the teachers, who are also facing a shortage of textbooks and photocopies. The authorities said that they had now filled all but 330 posts, and Education Secretary Rivera Chávez blamed the problem in part on a lack of qualified teachers.

Some 30,000 teachers observed the strike while 13,000 reported for work, according to the government. Union leaders said that parents had generally kept their children at home. “This strike brought about reflection on the part of each family,” UNETE’s Emilio Nieves remarked, “and they came to the conclusion that they should be in solidarity with the teachers.” Rafael Feliciano of the FMPR said the teachers were planning to hold an assembly in September “if the government continues with the same attitude” and would decide whether to hold more job actions. (El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 8/26/10 from AP; Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 8/26/10)

The teachers’ strike follows a number of strikes and protests in the past year over austerity measures imposed by Gov. Luis Fortuño in response to the US economic crisis [see Update #1041].

*2. Honduras: Cops Attack Striking Teachers, Again
Honduran police arrested some 150 people while using tear gas and water cannons to disperse a demonstration by teachers, students and others in Tegucigalpa on Aug. 27, the 23rd day of a strike by teachers over their pension fund and other issues [see Update #1045]. The protest, which blocked Central America Boulevard for three hours, was called by the Federation of Teachers Organizations of Honduras (FOMH), which includes six unions, and the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), a coalition that formed last year to oppose the June 2009 military coup against then-president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales.

"We had to repel violent aggression and remove the protesters,” police commissioner Mario Chamorro said in a press conference. "And we almost immediately released the detainees.” The police said the demonstrators burned tires, set up barricades and confronted police agents with clubs, rocks and firebombs. The Associated Press wire service reported that masked teachers fired rifles and revolvers and broke car and shop windows, although it was not clear whether the AP correspondent claimed to have witnessed this or was citing police sources.

The unions and the FNRP said the police attacked the protesters “in a savage manner,” launching hundreds of tear gas grenades indiscriminately against protesters and bystanders. Agents clubbed protesters and charged into the nearby Francisco Morazán National Pedagogic University (UPNFM), where they searched classrooms for protesters. The operation was directed by Deputy Police Chief Rene Maradiaga Panchame, accused by human rights organizations of participating in the notorious Battalion 3-16 death squad, which disappeared around 100 people during the 1980s. “Before, the sicarios [hired killers] hid themselves—now they don’t,” said Berta Oliva, coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), a leading human rights organization.

It was not clear how many people were injured by the agents or affected by the tear gas. Protesters charged that two public institutions, the School Hospital and the Social Security Hospital, turned the injured away without treatment. (El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 8/27/10 from AP; Red Morazánica de Información 8/27/10 via FNRP website, ___)

Negotiations to end the strike, which affects some 2 million students, had broken down on Aug. 26. Apparently the government and the unions largely agreed on a settlement under which the government would make overdue payments to the teachers’ pension fund, the National Institute of Teachers’ Social Security (Inprema), that have accumulated since 2007. The teachers estimate that the fund is owed some 3.7 billion lempiras (about $194 million). A union leader, Edwin Oliva, said the stalemate was over interest rates and scheduling for the payments, while Planning and International Cooperation Minister Arturo Corrales, the lead government negotiator, said the problem was the unions’ demand for President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa to negotiate the removal of Education Minister Alejandro Ventura. (EFE 8/26/10 via Terra.ar)

*3. Haiti: Camp Residents Continue Protests
In the largest protest to date by Haitians left homeless by a massive Jan. 12 earthquake [see Update #1045], hundreds of people marched in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 26 to demand that the authorities take immediate measures to provide decent housing. The protesters threatened not to take part in presidential and legislative elections scheduled for Nov. 28. “There can be no elections with 1.5 million people living in tents,” demonstration organizers said.

The marchers came from several of more than 1,000 improvised encampments where earthquake survivors have been living for over seven months. The protesters suggested that international aid intended for them had been diverted elsewhere, and they accused the government of President René Préval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive of “political bargaining” with the situation. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 8/26/10)

Also on Aug. 26, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 9,000-member international military and police force, announced plans to double the number of police agents in the camps from 400 to 800, starting on Sept. 15. “This measure is aimed at preventing crime and protecting the most vulnerable groups in the camps,” United Nations Civilian Police spokesperson Jean François Vezina announced at a press conference. There have been repeated calls for more protection in the settlements, especially for women and girls, who have frequently been victims of sexual assaults.

MINUSTAH puts the number of camps at 1,354 in the Port-au-Prince area alone. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 8/26/10)

Twelve Haitian social organizations are planning to hold a conference on the homelessness crisis from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4. The International Symposium on the Right to Housing is to include seminars, protests, press conferences and meetings with the authorities to prioritize the need for proper shelter for earthquake survivors. The conference, timed to coincide with the United Nations’ World Habit Day, celebrated this year on Oct. 1, is also intended to build for Haitian participation in the 2011 World Social Forum (WSF), to be held next February in Dakar, Senegal. (Adital (Brazil) 8/27/10)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Biodiversity, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba

Americas Program Biodiversity Report – July 2010

Chile: Mapuche occupy radio station

Chilean Miners Sent First Supplies in 18 Days; Families Seeking Legal Action Against Mining Company

IV Americas Social Forum: Grassroots Organizations Are Still in Charge (Paraguay)

Pachamama and Progress: Conflicting Visions for Latin America’s Future (Paraguay)

Brazil's president signs "death sentence" for Amazonian river

The Price of Fire in Bolivia: Reflecting on the Journeys of a Book

Potosí, Bolivia Protest: Resolved or Postponed?

Peru: Students, Workers, and Teachers in Defense of the Public University

Water or Gold in Ecuador

Colombia: Violent "Agrarian Counter-Reform" Conspiracy

Colombia: indigenous leaders murdered

Colombia: Santos pledges to return 6 million hectares to displaced

Colombia: Blackwater busted for "unauthorized" military training

NYT Exploits Own Iraq Death Toll Denial to Trash Venezuela

Venezuelan Central Bank: Economy on Path Out of Recession

Venezuela-Colombia Border Security and Commerce a Top Priority as Bilateral Ties Restored

Mexico: migrants massacred in Tamaulipas

Mexico: Tamaulipas terror escalates

In Northern Mexico, Bodies of 72 Migrants Found

Mexico: The Voice of the Community Faces Numerous Threats

Growing Fuel Instead of Food: Agro-fuels in Chiapas (Mexico)

Cuba Agrees To Free More Dissidents Into Exile In Spain; U.S. May Take Some

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