Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WNU #1048: Fighting Breaks Out at Mexican Copper Mine

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1048, September 12, 2010

1. Mexico: Fighting Breaks Out at Cananea Mine
2. Honduras: Army Takes to the Streets After Massacre
3. Honduras: IMF Ends Boycott, Resumes Loans
4. Puerto Rico: Independence Leader Mari Brás Dies
5. US: Solidarity Activist Lucius Walker Dies
6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, 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: Fighting Breaks Out at Cananea Mine
At least three people suffered serious injuries and 26 were arrested when fighting broke out between striking miners and others at the giant Cananea copper mine in the northern Mexican state of Sonora on Sept. 8. One of the injured, apparently a strikebreaker, was shot in the head but survived, despite initial reports that he had died.

Members of Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM) have been on strike at the mine for three years. The owner, the powerful Grupo México corporation, regained control of the mine from the strikers after hundreds of police agents stormed the facility on June 6 [see Update #1037]. (As is traditional in Mexico, the strikers had been sitting in at the site.) The company then contracted workers from outside to get the mine back in operation. However, the union won a temporary court order on Aug. 12 allowing strikers to picket at the facility.

According to the state government’s account of the Sept. 8 events, strikers assaulted the contract workers and one striker, identified by the authorities as Jesús Gallegos Cabrera (“El Güero”), fired a gun at the strikebreakers, causing the worst injuries. Section 65 has become “a subversive, criminal group,” Sonora governor Guillermo Padrés Elías, of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), charged on Sept. 11, adding that he would no longer negotiate with the strikers: “I have nothing to talk about with them.” The state had released four of the 26 arrested union members, the governor said, but had detained another, so that 23 were in detention as of Sept. 11.

The union and its supporters gave a different story. According to an alert from the nongovernmental Project on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PRODESC) and the US-based United Steelworkers (USW) union, a group of about 300 people in civilian clothes used stones and clubs to attack picketers at the mine’s Gate 2 on the afternoon of Sept. 7. The strikers retreated to Section 65’s union hall. The bloody Sept. 8 confrontation started when some 600 people attacked the strikers at the union hall at about 5:30am, according to this account. At a press conference shortly after the confrontation, Section 65 leaders charged that federal and state police dressed as civilians had joined strikebreakers, including workers from Central America, to attack the strikers. The leaders denied that a unionist could have fired the shots, since Section 65 workers, according to a union press release, “never go armed, following a union line, while the police and paramilitaries are armed.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/12/10; United Electrical Workers (UE) urgent action 9/9/10; Section 65 press releases 9/8/10, 9/12/10)

Representatives from a number of independent unions met at the headquarters of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) in Mexico City on Sept. 9 to discuss plans to form a broad front “against the aggressions, murders and acts of repression.” The unions also called for a number of demonstrations and caravans on Sept. 14 and 15, as Mexicans mark the bicentennial of the start of the War of Independence from Spain on Sept. 15-16. (LJ 9/10/10) The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) asked for letters to President Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa (felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx ), Governance Secretary José Francisco Blake Mora (secretario@segob.gob.mx ), Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez (ofproc@pgr.gob.mx ) and others to demand protection for the striking miners and a thorough investigation of the Sept. 7-8 incidents. (UE urgent action 9/9/10)

*2. Honduras: Army Takes to the Streets After Massacre
On Sept. 9 military units began carrying out street patrols in Honduran cities, mainly Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, the northern industrial center, in what the government said was an effort to help the police fight crime. The authorities didn’t set an end date for the patrols, whose duties include searches of individuals and vehicles for drugs and illegal arms. “The idea is to fight without truce against crime and to bring tranquility to Hondurans,” Minister Oscar Alvarez explained. (El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 9/10/10 from EFE)

The anti-crime push followed the killing of 17 workers at the Christopher Shoe Factory, in San Pedro Sula’s San Francisco neighborhood, on Sept. 7 by four or five armed men; several other workers were wounded. Police officials quickly attributed the killing to rivalry between two criminal gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18. Relatives of the victims denied the police conclusion, noting that investigators had found no arms, drugs or gang insignia in the factory. “This is a lie,” said the factory’s owner, Miguel Alas, whose son was one of the victims. Opposition groups also questioned the government’s speed in blaming gang wars before the investigation was finished, and suggested that the government was taking advantage of the massacre to militarize the country. (Red Morazánica de Información 9/10/10 via Vos el Soberano (Honduras); Radio Progreso and ERIC-SJ (Honduras) 9/10/10 via Vos el Soberano)

The massacre overshadowed a “civic strike” the three main labor federations and the opposition National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) held the same day to demand an increase in the minimum wage and the return of exiled opponents of the June 2009 military coup against former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) [see Update #1047]. Thousands of workers, students and teachers marched from the east of Tegucigalpa to the center of the city; the demonstration ended with a vigil at the Chilean embassy in solidarity with indigenous Mapuche political prisoners in Chile. During the march one group of protesters threw rocks at the buildings of two television companies, Channel 10 and Televicentro, and at the office of government human rights commissioner Ramón Custodio. “People are indignant with these media that aren’t impartial and objective,” Rafael Alegría, an FNRP coordinator, explained. “And the commissioner…well, you know,” Alegría added, referring to Custodio’s support for the coup [see Update #1029]. (AFP 9/7/10 via Univision; Vos el Soberano 9/9/10)

In other news, on Sept. 10 a group of men shot and killed campesino Francisco Miranda as he headed towards the La Aurora encampment, where he lived, near the city of Tocoa in the northern department of Colón. Miranda was a leader in the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), which represents thousands of campesinos in a land dispute in the Aguán River Valley. He is reportedly the 12th campesino to be murdered since December 2009. On Aug. 17 campesinos Víctor Manuel Mata Oliva, Sergio Magdiel Amaya and Rodving Omar Villegas, all MUCA members, were murdered as they were going from Tocoa to the community of Panamá. (Red Morazánica de Información 9/10/10 via Vos el Soberano)

*3. Honduras: IMF Ends Boycott, Resumes Loans
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) made an agreement in principle in Tegucigalpa on Sept. 10 for a standby loan to the Honduran government. This gives the country immediate access to $196 million and will clear the way for loans of $80 million from the Inter-American Development Bank, $40 million from the World Bank, $52 million from the European Union (EU), $7 million from Germany and an unspecified amount from Taiwan.

Przemeck Gajdeczka, who headed the IMF’s delegation to Tegucigalpa, said the Honduran government had made a commitment to “improve the administration and collection of taxes; monitor expenses, including salaries; focus social spending on the poorest; and improve the financial position of the main public enterprises and the pension funds.”

The last standby loan agreement was made with former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) on Apr. 8, 2008, but the Zelaya government failed to comply with the agreement’s requirement to cut public spending. Along with other international institutions, the IMF suspended loans to Honduras after Zelaya’s overthrow in June 2009. The IMF loan is one of current president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa’s main successes in restoring relations with international groups since he took office on Jan. 27. Efforts to have Honduras readmitted to the Organization of American States (OAS) remain blocked by leftist and center-left Latin American governments. (El Universal (Caracas) 9/11/10 from AFP)

*4. Puerto Rico: Independence Leader Mari Brás Dies
On Sept. 10, Puerto Rican politicians from across the spectrum praised leftist independence activist Juan Mari Brás, who died earlier that day at 82 of lung cancer in his home in Río Pedras, San Juan. Mari Brás was a “legendary leader who fought for his ideals,” according to Gov. Luis Fortuño, of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP). Héctor Ferrer, president of the centrist Popular Democratic Party (PPD), called Mari Brás “an example for all of us who believe in an ideal and seek the best for Puerto Rico,” while Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) president Rubén Berríos Martínez said: “Thank you, Juan, for your life and your example.”

Mari Brás founded the Pro Independence Movement (MPI) in 1959 and the leftist Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP) in 1971. His son Santiago Mari Brás was murdered in 1976; many suspected that the killing was politically motivated. Juan Mari Brás continued to be active into his later years: in 1994 he renounced the US citizenship which people born in Puerto Rico receive automatically [see Update #437], and in 2002 he was arrested while protesting the US Navy’s testing grounds on the island of Vieques. (Prensa Latina 9/10/10; New York Times 9/11/10)

*5. US: Solidarity Activist Lucius Walker Dies
Latin America solidarity activist Rev. Lucius Walker, 80, died of a heart attack on Sept. 7 at his home in Demarest, New Jersey. Walker, a Baptist minister, was also active in the US civil rights movement; in 1967 he founded the New York-based Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO).

Walker was wounded in eastern Nicaragua in 1988 when US-backed contra rebels attacked a boat in which he was traveling with a fact-finding delegation; two civilians were killed in the attack. [Reuters reported in error that the attack was by government soldiers and that the US backed the Nicaraguan government.] Walker stepped up his solidarity work after the attacks, founding Pastors for Peace and leading 21 “Friendshipment” caravans to take humanitarian aid to Cuba [see Update #1000]. He also organized caravans to Central America and to the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, and in 1999 he led the first US delegation to meet with Lori Berenson, a US citizen imprisoned for leftist activities in Peru [see Update #1045].

On Sept. 8 Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s National Assembly, called Walker an “insuperable example of solidarity and love of one’s neighbor.” Alarcón, who knew Walker from his time serving as a diplomat in New York, said the minister’s “life was an authentic realization of the true Christian spirit.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/8/10 from correspondent; Prensa Latina 9/8/10; New York Times 9/12/10 from Reuters)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

Border Mining Projects in Latin America Before Ethics Tribunal (Chile)

Chilean miners won't get paid while they're buried alive

No Dialogue in Mapuche Conflict in Chile

Bolivia: The Lessons of Potosí

El buen vivir: Peruvian Indigenous Leader Mario Palacios

US military pact with Colombia dealt setback

Indigenous Colombians Face Possibility Of Extinction, U.N. Report Says

UN Report: Thirty-four Colombian Tribes Face Extinction

Venezuela Elections Too Close to Call

Venezuela: Voices on the Struggle

Venezuela: Crime in the Context of a Democratizing Process

Venezuelan Private Gas Company Workers Demand Nationalization

Chavez Allowed to Campaign Says Venezuelan Electoral Council

Devastating floods hit Central America —again

Honduras: drug gang behind factory massacre?

Guatemala: judge orders soldiers to stand trial for peasant massacre

Clinton: Mexico needs "equivalent" of Plan Colombia

A Plan Colombia for Mexico

Mexican Military Launches Investigation Into Killing Of Civilians

Oil Companies: Under No Obligation to Report Exploratory Pollution (Mexico)

Pollution Knows no Borders (Mexico)

Mexico: Unending Violence for the Indigenous People of San Juan Copala

Fidel to Ahmadinejad: "Stop slandering the Jews" (Cuba)

Education and the Cataclysm in Haiti: An Interview with Rea Dol

Haitian refugee camps model future society

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