Tuesday, November 9, 2010

WNU #1056: Is Goldcorp Still Polluting Guatemala?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1056, November 7, 2010

1. Guatemala: Is the Goldcorp Mine Still Polluting?
2. Costa Rica: Gold Mine Protesters End Fast
3. Haiti: Hurricane Passes, Cholera Spreads
4. Peru: CIA Releases Report on “Drug Plane” Shooting
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, 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. Guatemala: Is the Goldcorp Mine Still Polluting?
Guatemala’s Environment Ministry filed a criminal complaint on Sept. 28 against Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, for possible pollution of the Quivichil River at the controversial Marlin mine near the San Miguel Ixtahuacán community in the western department of San Marcos. According to the complaint, Montana, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc, acted without government authorization on Sept. 23 when it discharged water which might contain heavy metals used in the gold extraction process.

The Environment Ministry also asked the Foreign Ministry to notify the Mexican government, since the Quivichil flows into Mexico.

Montana claimed in paid newspaper ads on Sept. 30 that the discharge was necessary because of heavy rains and that it was done “in a framework of transparency, during which public institutions conducted monitoring and had regulatory oversight.” But the Environment Ministry said it was a coincidence that government inspectors were present during the discharge; they had simply been in the area to get water samples. San Miguel Ixtahuacán residents said there had been a chemical smell around the river below the mine for two months, and they suspected the mine had discharged water at various times before Sept. 23. (Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 10/4/10; Comisión Pastoral Paz y Ecología (COPAE, Guatemala) 10/8/10)

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), a Washington, DC-based agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), had ordered Guatemala in May to suspend operations at the Marlin mine [see Update #1038]. The government and Montana have apparently ignored the order, which was in response to a complaint from area residents. On July 7 two men shot a resident, Diodora Antonia Hernández Cinto, in the head, leaving her blind in one eye. Hernández Cinto has been active in resistance to the mine; according to the North American nonprofit group Rights Action, one of the two men was a former Marlin employee and the other was a current employee. (Friends of the Earth action alert, undated; Rights Action alert 9/22/10)

Montana has reportedly received three permits to explore for gold, silver, copper and zinc in the mountains of Cabricán municipality in the neighboring department of Quetzaltenango, where many residents are indigenous Mam. On Oct. 20 the Mam Council and a local group, the Environment and Territory Defense Committee, held a referendum in 34 communities in Cabricán, with observers from outside organizations, including the Presidential Human Rights Commission (Copredeh). According to the organizers, 5,265 registered voters participated, along with 2,657 adult residents without voter cards and 5,849 minors under voting age. Only 73 people voted to allow mining in the area, and 130 cancelled their ballots; the rest voted against the mining project. Angel Vicente, Cabricán’s parish priest, said the results would be sent to President Alvaro Colom and the Ministry of Energy and Mines. (Prensa Libre 10/22/10)

*2. Costa Rica: Gold Mine Protesters End Fast
A group of Costa Rican environmental activists held a “Cultural Festival for Life” on Nov. 2 to conclude a hunger strike they began on Oct. 8 against the projected Las Crucitas open-pit gold mine in San Carlos in the north of the country [see Update #1054]. The hunger strike started with 14 activists encamped in front of the Presidential Residence in San José; all but two had dropped out for medical reasons by Nov. 1, when striker David Rojas was taken by ambulance to the state-run Carlos Durán Clinic to be treated for serious dehydration and gastritis. The remaining striker, Andrés Guillén, apparently decided to end the action the next day.

The activists said their goal was to increase President Laura Chinchilla’s sensitivity to the issue, but she refused to overturn executive decree 34-8001 of 2008, in which former president Oscar Arias (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) declared the mine—which belongs to the Canadian firm Infinito Gold Ltd, formerly Vanessa Ventures--a matter of “national interest.” Chinchilla may have feared political damage from the hunger strike, however: the president’s office said she had ordered the Presidential Residence’s physician, Adrián Rechnitzer, to monitor the activists’ health during the strike. (El País (Costa Rica) 11/1/10; EFE 11/1/10 via MSN Latino; Adital (Brazil) 11/5/10)

*3. Haiti: Hurricane Passes, Cholera Spreads
At least eight people died and two disappeared when Hurricane Tomas struck Haiti the night of Nov. 5 and the morning of Nov. 6. The worst damage was reported in Grand’Anse, Nippes and South departments, located on the long peninsula that makes up the southwestern part of the country, according to a preliminary report by the government on Nov. 6. Homes and camps were flooded in Port-au-Prince, where more than 1 million people still live in improvised shelters 10 months after a Jan. 12 earthquake devastated the capital, but the rains there weren’t as heavy as had been feared. (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 11/6/10; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 11/6/10)

Meanwhile, the cholera epidemic that broke out in mid-October continues, and health experts are afraid that the flooding from Tomas may help it spread, especially in the capital. The Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) reported on Nov. 4 that 501 people had died and 7,359 had been hospitalized since the start of the epidemic, with the highest number of deaths in the lower Artibonite River region. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 11/6/10)

On Nov. 4 a Haitian nonprofit group, the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), called for an investigation into allegations that Nepalese troops from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were the source of the epidemic [see Update #1055]. The group pointed to longstanding problems with the MINUSTAH base at Mirebalais in the Central Plateau, where the infection seems to have started. According to RNDDH, the base was responsible for the collapse of the Latèm bridge in September 2008: containers from the base washed downstream during a tropical storm and caused the bridge to fall. MINUSTAH is a 13,000-member military-police mission that has occupied Haiti since June 2004. (AlterPresse 11/4/10)

Officials from the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have insisted that investigating the cause of the outbreak would be a distraction from fighting the spread of the disease. But cholera expert John Mekalanos, who chairs Harvard University's microbiology department, told the Associated Press wire service on Nov. 3 that he considered the official claims “an attempt to maybe do the politically right thing and leave some agencies a way out of this embarrassment.”

Melakonos said the evidence suggests that the Nepalese soldiers did in fact bring the novel and virulent strain of the cholera bacterium now present in Haiti. "The organism that is causing the disease is very uncharacteristic of [Haiti and the Caribbean],” he said, “and is quite characteristic of the region from where the soldiers in the base came.” He also cast doubt on the validity of UN tests of water near the base, saying that false negatives were common in this type of test.

At least one UN official disagreed with the UN’s position that there’s no need for further investigation. “That sounds like politics to me, not science,” Dr. Paul Farmer, the UN deputy special envoy to Haiti, told the AP. But Farmer, who is also a co-founder of the widely respected Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health clinics in Haiti, called for investigating the outbreak’s causes “without pointing fingers.” (Washington Post 11/3/10 from AP)

*4. Peru: CIA Releases Report on “Drug Plane” Shooting
On Nov. 1 the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released the full text of a declassified 2008 report on the agency’s involvement in the April 2001 downing of a small civilian plane in Peru [see Updates #586, 587, 708]. A Peruvian Air Force jet shot the plane down on orders from CIA agents as part of the US “War on Drugs,” killing US missionary Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter Charity. Bowers’ husband and son and a pilot were also on the plane but survived the attack.

The Bowers’ plane was one of 15 shot down in “Narcotics Airbridge Denial," a 1995-2001 US program that was supposed to interdict the shipment of coca paste from Peru to Colombia by shooting down small civilian planes when there was a "reasonable suspicion" they were transporting drugs. Many of these planes fell into remote areas of the Amazon region and were never inspected to see if there were actually drugs on board. The program was suspended after the April 2001 incident.

The report shows a pattern of violations of procedures in the attacks on the planes. “CIA officers knew of and condoned most of these violations,” according to the report, “fostering an environment of negligence and disregard for procedures.” The report also shows that CIA officials misled the White House and the Senate Intelligence Committee and withheld information from Justice Department investigators.

According to a CIA press release issued on Nov. 1, 16 current and retired officers received administrative penalties from current CIA director Leon Panetta in December 2009. But ABC television revealed last February that the punishment may just be a letter of reprimand inserted in the files of the people still working for the agency.

"If there's ever an example of justice delayed, justice denied, this is it," Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) told ABC in February. The Bowers live in Hoekstra’s district, and Hoekstra, a conservative and a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has led the fight to get information on the shootdown. "The [intelligence] community's performance in terms of accountability has been unacceptable,” he said. “These were Americans that were killed with the help of their government, the community covered it up, they delayed investigating." (Associated Press 11/1/10 via El Comercio (Peru); New York Times 11/2/10; ABC News 2/3/10; Drug War Chronicle #619 2/4/10)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti

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Bolivian President Evo Morales Struggles To Balance Environmentalism And Development

Peru: indigenous communities end blockade of Río Marañon —for now

Ollanta Humala Proposes A Nationalist Program As A Response To Globalization

US Court OKs Extradition of 'Butcher of the Andes' to Peru

Peru: judge reinstates parole for Lori Berenson

The U.S. Media and the Crisis in Ecuador

Uribe ordered to testify in Drummond case

Colombia: Uribe ordered to testify in Drummond case

FARC guerilla who killed "Ivan Rios" gets prison

China and Colombia in trade, military pacts

Santos Visit to Caracas: Venezuela and Colombia Consolidate New Relationship

Venezuela Helps Cuba Overcome US-Imposed Internet Restrictions

Costa Rica requests OAS action on alleged Nicaraguan incursion

Honduras: indigenous mobilize against dams

How Legalizing Marijuana Would Weaken Mexican Drug Cartels

Tear Down the Dam and Rebuild the Commons (Mexico)

Update: Oaxaca’s Hidden Drug War Revealed in Two Additional Murders

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The Disappearance of Rosendo Radilla Pacheco: An Open Letter to Mexican President Calderón

Haiti: Quake Refugees Seek Moratorium on Evictions

Sex Work Flourishes In Post-Earthquake Haiti

Action Alert: U.S. Embassies Deny Visas to SOA Watch Vigil Speakers

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