Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WNU #1054: Two Activists Murdered in Mexico

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1054, October 24, 2010

1. Mexico: Two Oaxaca Activists Murdered
2. Argentina: Activist Killed in Labor Clash
3. Costa Rica: Activists Fast to Protest Gold Mine
4. Haiti: Cholera Outbreak Kills Hundreds
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic

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: Two Oaxaca Activists Murdered
Two unidentified men shot and killed Catarino Torres Pereda, general secretary of the Citizen Defense Committee (Codeci), at the indigenous rights group’s office in Tuxtepec in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca on the afternoon of Oct. 22. The murderers escaped in a car waiting for them nearby. In the evening members of Codeci and other organizations protested the assassination with a demonstration at the Alameda de León plaza in the city of Oaxaca, the state capital.

Codeci was part of the protest movement against Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz that shut down much of the state for five months in 2006, and Torres was one of the first activists to be detained in the wave of repression Ruiz Ortiz used to fight the movement. Federal and state police arrested Torres on Aug. 6, 2006, and he was held in the Almoloya de Juárez federal prison until his release on bail on Mar. 8, 2007. Torres continued his work for indigenous rights, and this year he participated in the Free Oaxaca State Democratic Convention, which supported coalition gubernatorial candidate Gabino Cué Monteagudo, who defeated Eviel Pérez Magaña, the candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Gov. Ruiz’s chosen successor. According to Tania Santillán, a Codeci leader, the assassins were wearing shirts with election propaganda for Pérez Magaña. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/23/10)

In Oct. 23, one day after the Torres murder, Heriberto Pazos Ortiz, the director and founder of the Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULT), was killed while riding in Oaxaca city. Two men on a motorcycle approached Pazos’ vehicle and shot him through a window, using silencers on their weapons. Pazos had two state police agents and a personal bodyguard with him for protection, although the authorities didn’t explain what sort of threats he was facing. Members of MULT and the indigenous Popular Unity Party (PUP) protested the killing by blocking the Cristóbal Colón and Ciudad Alemán-Puerto Ángel highways.

Founded in 1981 to struggle for the rights of the indigenous Triqui, in recent years MULT has been engaged in fights with a rival group, the Independent Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULTI), leading to a number of deaths in the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala; the Social Welfare Unity of the Triqui Region (UBISORT), a paramilitary group linked to the PRI, has also been involved [see Update #1049].

Despite the history of violence among the Triqui groups, observers on the left tended to suspect that Pazos’ murder involved forces in the PRI, which will be out of power in Oaxaca for the first time in decades when Ruiz Ortiz ends his six-year term on Nov. 30. The assassination was a “crime of state,” said Flavio Sosa Villavicencio, a state legislative deputy for the small leftist Workers Party (PT) and a leader of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), which spearheaded the protests in 2006.

The Cerezo Mexico Committee Human Rights Organization, a group that formed around the imprisonment of three brothers in 2001 [see Update #980], called the killing part of a government “[s]trategy that was designed as a form of containing, dividing and annihilating the social movement.” The use of what appeared to be professional killers with silencers on a motorcycle--the “same modus operandi as that of the Colombian paramilitaries”--“shows us an advance in the degree of sophistication in paramilitary activity in México,” the group wrote on Oct. 23. (LJ 10/24/10; Prensa Latina 10/24/10; Organización de Derechos Humanos “Comité Cerezo México” bulletin 10/23/10)

*2. Argentina: Activist Killed in Labor Clash
Thousands of Argentines rallied in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires on Oct. 21 to protest the killing of the student Mariano Ferreyra during a demonstration the day before. Ferreyra, a member of the Trotskyist Workers Party (PO), was shot in the chest in what appeared to be a clash between armed members of the Railroad Workers Union (UF) and temporary workers demanding that laid-off workers get permanent employment with the Roca Railroad, which was privatized in the 1990s. Three others were wounded in the incident, one seriously. There were reports that the police did nothing to stop the supposed UF members when they attacked the protesters.

A wide range of groups denounced the Oct. 20 attacks, including the far-left Quebracho group; the Federation of Energy Workers of the Argentine Republic (Fetera), part of the Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA); the Association of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo; student and human rights groups; and supporters of the left-leaning government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. But the incident revealed sharp divisions within the Argentine left and labor movements. Fetera charged that the government’s policies, despite their progressive appearance, are the real source of the violence against protesters. The renowned Argentine filmmaker Fernando “Pino” Solanas also accused the government of being “complicit in everything.”

On Oct. 21 President Fernández deplored the killing and insisted that her government refuses to repress demonstrations despite “the political costs of not repressing.” Luis D’Elía, director of the Federation of Lands and Housing, charged that former president Eduardo Duhalde (2002-2003) was involved in the attack on the protesters. Duhalde, who met recently with UF general secretary José Pedrazza, is an opponent of Fernández and her husband, former president Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007), within the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist). (Adital (Brazil) 10/21/10; Buenos Aires Herald, 10/21/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/22/10 from correspondent)

*3. Costa Rica: Activists Fast to Protest Gold Mine
On Oct. 22 three Costa Rican environmental activists marked two weeks on hunger strike against the projected Las Crucitas open-pit gold mine in San Carlos in the north of the country. Some 14 activists from two organizations, the North Front Against Mining and the Not One Mine Coordinating Committee, began the action on Oct. 8 in an encampment in front of the Presidential Residence in San José. Most of the 14 ended their fast for medical reasons but continued to support the three remaining strikers.

The activists were demanding the cancellation of Environment and Energy Ministry executive decree 34-8001 of 2008, in which former president Oscar Arias (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) declared the mine a matter of “national interest.” This eased the way for permits which were given out “in proceedings considered irregular, especially in respect to the truthfulness of environmental impact studies,” according to the Ecological Action Network (Renace), a Costa Rican organization in solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Activists say that the mining operation will destroy 200 hectares of forest and that the use of cyanide in gold extraction will contaminate two aquifers and affect the San Juan River, which marks the border with Nicaragua. According to Renace, 90% of Costa Rica’s population opposes the project.

Costa Rica’s current president, Laura Chinchilla Miranda, has said that she wants the country to move away from mining but that abrogating the permits might “expose the state to lawsuits in international bodies that could affect our development and our public finances.” Her government has said it will abide by the decision of a Costa Rican court which is currently considering the matter.

The mine is to be owned and operated by Infinito Gold Ltd, formerly Vanessa Ventures, which is based in Calgary, Canada. The company--which expects to extract 700,000 ounces of gold (19.8 tons) in 10 years, for a value of some $800 million--says the mine will create jobs and has promised to reforest hundreds of hectares of terrain. Infinito Gold claims to use the most modern “green mining” methods. (Adital (Brazil) 10/20/10, 10/21/10, 10/22/10; EFE 10/22/10 via Terra.com (Spain))

*4. Haiti: Cholera Outbreak Kills Hundreds
Dr. Gabriel Timothée, the head of Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), announced on Oct. 23 that there were 208 confirmed deaths so far from a cholera epidemic that apparently broke out in the Lower Artibonite River region just a few days earlier. Of these, 194 deaths were in the western Artibonite region and 14 in Mirebalais in the Central Plateau, including three detainees in the Mirebalais prison. Fifty prisoners were infected, and a total of 288 people were hospitalized in Mirebalais; the number of people hospitalized in the northwest was 2,394. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 10/23/10)

United Nations officials announced on Oct. 24 that five cases of cholera had been detected in Port-au-Prince, where about a quarter of the country’s 8 million people live. More than a million Port-au-Prince area residents have been living in temporary encampments since Jan. 12, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of the city and the surrounding region.

Cholera progresses rapidly, with severe diarrhea leading to death through dehydration. Most cases can be treated by administering rehydration packets, although some patients require antibiotics and intravenous rehydration. Good sanitation measures can largely prevent the spread of the disease. Observers are concerned that international aid agencies in Haiti will be slow to mobilize the resources needed to treat the patients, and that the crowded, unsanitary conditions in the camps could allow the disease to spread uncontrollably in the capital.

This is Haiti’s first cholera outbreak in more than 50 years. Many people suspect that the cause was the dumping of raw sewage in the Artibonite River and recent flooding after heavy rains. The Lower Artibonite region, once known "the breadbasket" because of its rice farming, was hit hard economically by competition from cheap US rice imports after the Haitian government lowered rice tariffs in 1995 under pressure from the government of US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) [see Update #1026]. (BBC News 10/24/10; Inter Press Service 10/24/10)

While there seem to be no resources for sewage treatment facilities on the Artibonite River, one of the international community’s planned post-earthquake reconstruction projects is a $190 million hydroelectric dam on the upper part of the river [see Update #1052, where the location of the dam should have been given as the Central Plateau].

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic

Photo Essay: Protest in Argentina for Mariano Ferreyra, Victim of Union Corruption

Mapuche Communities in Chile: Not Underground, Still Fighting For Their Ground

Chile: Women Sterilized Over HIV Status

Evo Morales: Iran, Bolivia share "anti-imperial" view

Peru: Neighbouring Regions Clash Over Water Diversion

Women Sterilized Against Their Will in Peru Seek Justice, Again

Ecuador’s Attempted Coup and Threats to Democracy in the Hemisphere

Ecuador's Challenge: Rafael Correa and the Indigenous Movements

Colombia's President Warns Against Prop 19

Venezuela: hunger strike in solidarity with accused indigenous leaders

Venezuela: Interview with ex-Minister of Trade Eduardo Samán - “Build a radical tendency within the PSUV”

2011 Venezuela Budget Depends Less on Petroleum

Nicaragua Denies Armed Incursion Into Costa Rica at Strategic San Juan River

Obama Asked to Curtail Assistance to Honduras

Violence Against Honduran Resistance Movement, Unionists Continues

Guatemala: Not-So-Magical Realism

Displaced Zapatistas Return Home

Chile Rescue Stirs Up Bitter Memories of Mexican Mining Disaster

Another youth massacre in Ciudad Juárez

Strengthening Law Enforcement, Democratic, and Economic Institutions to Confront the Crisis in Ciudad Juarez

Calderón’s Proposal To Try Mexican Soldiers In Civilian Courts Doesn’t Go Far Enough, Human Rights Groups Say

Mexico divided on California cannabis vote

Haiti report finds officers guilty in prison massacre

Haiti’s Flawed Elections: A Set-Back for the Country’s Political Future-and the Post-Earthquake Rebuilding Process

Beyond Wyclef: What Haitians Want From Elections

Citizen Protests, Government Repression Mount in Haiti

Dominican National Police: A Deadly Tradition

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