Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1058, November 28, 2010
1. Haiti: Chaos Wins the Elections
2. Haiti: Cuba Increases Aid for Cholera Victims
3. Honduras: Army Seeks “Arms Cache” in Aguán Valley
4. US: SOA Protest Marks 20th Year
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Honduras, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/
*1. Haiti: Chaos Wins the Elections
Thousands of Haitians took to the streets shortly after the polling places closed at 4 pm on Nov. 28 to protest what they said were delays, confusion, irregularities, violence and outright fraud in presidential and legislative elections that day. In Port-au-Prince, Pétionville, Carrefour, Petit-Goâve, Saint-Marc, Gonaïves and Jérémie, protesters demanded the annulment of the election, sometimes storming polling places and throwing ballots in the street.
The elections—funded and strongly supported by the US and the United Nations--were intended to let Haiti’s more than 4 million voters select a new president, all 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies, and 11 of the 27 senators. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is scheduled to announce the preliminary results on Dec. 7 and the final results on Dec. 20.
Problems started early in the day. Some were inevitable in a country where more than a million people remain displaced 10 months after a Jan. 12 earthquake shattered the capital, destroying identification papers and voter rolls. Many people couldn’t find their names on the lists in their usual polling places, although they often saw the names of friends and relatives who had died in the quake. Other problems resulted from fraud or partisan politics. At a station in Cap-Haïtien in the north, voters said the ballot boxes were filled with votes for candidates of the Unity party of President René Préval. Two people were killed in confrontations in Aquin, a community near Les Cayes in South department.
Turnout appeared to be light in most of the country.
By the end of the day, Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive confirmed that there had been irregularities in the process. At a press conference in Port-au-Prince, 12 of the 19 presidential candidates denounced the vote as fraudulent and called for the results to be annulled. Pierre Espérance, director of the independent National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), described the day’s events as “a total disorder, a shame for the CEP and the United Nations mission in the country.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 11/28/10, __ ; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 11/28/10; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 11/28/10, __ ; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 11/28/10)
A number of grassroots organizations had opposed the plan to hold a vote under current conditions, as had many of the displaced people living in camps since the earthquake. “No to elections under tents and tarps!” protesters chanted during a demonstration by hundreds of camp residents in Port-au-Prince on Nov. 12 [see Update #1057].
In a statement issued shortly before election day, Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen (“Small Haitian Peasants Unity”) said it “has no candidate and supports no candidate in these elections organized by the international community and the government in order to put in power their president, their senators and deputies to continue to rule in their interests, against those of the country and the Haitian people.” The group emphasized that the vote was being held under the control of “foreign occupation forces”—the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)—“and a subordinate government.” “The strength and the future of the people rest in the construction of progressive popular political organizations” rather than in elections like these, Tèt Kole insisted. (AlterPresse 11/25/10)
*2. Haiti: Cuba Increases Aid for Cholera Victims
In a Nov. 26 newspaper column, former Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz announced that the Cuban government was sending “a contingent of the Henry Reeve Brigade, composed of 300 doctors, nurses and healthcare technicians” to Haiti to help fight a cholera epidemic there. This will bring the number of Cuban professionals in Haiti to about 1,265. Cuban personnel are treating almost 40% of the cholera victims, according to Castro.
The Henry Reeve Brigade is named for a US citizen who died in 1876 while fighting for Cuba’s liberation from Spain.
Castro noted that while Latin America and the Caribbean were free of cholera for most of the 20th century, an epidemic that broke out in Peru in January 1991 quickly spread through 16 countries in the region, with 650,000 cases appearing over the next six years. “It is of the highest importance to avoid having the epidemic extend to other Latin American and Caribbean countries, because in the current circumstances it would cause extraordinary harm to the nations of this hemisphere,” Castro wrote. (La Jornada (Mexico) 11/26/10)
The United Nations (UN) is seeking $164 million to fight the epidemic, but it had only received $19.4 million from donor nations as of Nov. 26, according to UN spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs, who called for a faster response. The Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) reported on Nov. 26 that at least 1,648 people had died from cholera since it appeared in Haiti in mid-October, 72,017 people had contracted the disease, and 31,210 of them had required hospitalization. (LJ 11/27/10 from AFP, DPA)
Six cases had been confirmed in the neighboring Dominican Republic as of Nov. 27. The two most recent cases were a three-year-old girl in Villa González, Santiago province, and a 12-year-old boy in Santo Domingo province. Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gómez said both patients were out of danger. (Hoy Nueva York 11/28/10 from El Diario-La Prensa)
Correction: The name of the Henry Reeve Brigade was originally misspelled in this item.
*3. Honduras: Army Seeks “Arms Cache” in Aguán Valley
Some 500 Honduran soldiers and police agents reportedly occupied the regional office of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) in Sinaloa community, Tocoa municipality, Colón department, on the morning of Nov. 23. Apparently the security forces were searching for arms in the office, which is located in northern Honduras’ Lower Aguán Valley, the site of protracted and often violent disputes over land ownership [see Update #1048]. The INA is a semi-autonomous government agency charged with implementing agrarian reform; no arms were found in the office.
Security Minister Oscar Alvarez has charged that some 1,000 AK-47 and M-16 rifles are hidden in the Lower Aguán Valley. President Porfirio Lobo Sosa seconded Alvarez’s claims on Nov. 24, saying groups were being trained in the region to attack the government. "We have traces of the people who have been voyaging outside of Honduras to receive training, we have them all located, including the places where they are being trained outside of here, of Honduras; it's a large quantity of arms they have, and we're going after them," he said. Lobo Sosa did not present evidence for the accusations. (Adital (Brazil) 11/23/10; Honduras Culture and Politics blog 11/25/10)
The hunt for rifles began after a Nov. 15 incident in which five private guards killed at least five campesinos from the Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MCA) at the El Tumbador African palm plantation, in Trujillo, Colón. According to initial police reports, the guards were trying to stop some 200 campesinos from occupying the plantation, which is claimed by wealthy landowner Miguel Facussé Barjum. Roger Pineda, a lawyer for the Facussé family’s Grupo Dinant food product company, told a radio program that the 200 campesinos were armed with AK-47s. Photos were also taken of campesinos’ dead bodies supposedly holding rifles. Available reports didn’t indicate that any of the five guards were injured in the alleged gun battle, which was said to last an hour. (La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 11/15/10, some from EFE; Honduras Culture and Politics blog 11/25/10)
Miguel Facussé and Grupo Dinant have been seeking land in the region for growing African palms, which can be used both for cooking oil and for biofuels. In 2009 Dinant got a $7 million loan from the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) [see Update #1027] and a $30 million loan from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), in part for increased cultivation of the palms. (Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 11/26/20 from Red Morazánica de Información) The acquisition of land has involved Facussé in a longstanding dispute over farmlands claimed by thousands of campesino families in the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA).
The dispute with the MCA over the El Tumbador plantation is separate, however. The director of the INA, César Ham, says Facussé has no right to the land, which is part of an old military base, the Regional Military Training Center (CREM), and therefore is government property which is available to be apportioned to campesinos under land reform. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 11/17/10) [Ham was the 2009 presidential candidate of the small leftist Democratic Unification (UD). He accepted the cabinet-level agrarian reform post from President Lobo even though most left and grassroots organizations refuse to recognize the Lobo government as legitimate.]
For campesino organizations and other grassroots and human rights groups there is no question that the El Tumbador incident was a massacre by the armed guards.
The National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) coalition condemned the “terrible crime,” which it said was the “responsibility of the oligarch Miguel Facussé.” Andrés Pavón, president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (Codeh), called for support from international groups. “We have to tell the international community that there’s impunity here, that we’ve exhausted the internal justice system here.” He noted that Facussé had received loans from such international institutions as the World Bank. On Nov. 25 the Canada-based organization Rights Watch charged that by lending money to Dinant, the World Bank “sent a very clear message, to the company and its owners, that they could enjoy absolute impunity for their actions.” (Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 11/16/10, 11/26/10 from Red Morazánica de Información; Prensa Latina 11/18/10)
*4. US: SOA Protest Marks 20th Year
About 5,000 activists marched in front of the US Army's Fort Benning base in Columbus, Georgia, on Nov. 20 in the 20th annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). The school trains Latin American soldiers; SOA Watch, which sponsors the protests, says SOA graduates are among the region's most notorious human rights violators.
A total of 26 people were arrested during or after the demonstration. Two protesters were detained for crossing into the base, while 10-12 were arrested for blocking a highway outside the base in a nonviolent civil disobedience. Local police made more arrests after the rally had started to break up; the detainees included bystanders, journalists from Russia Today television and two radio reporters.
Rally participants included Thomas Gumbleton, Roman Catholic bishop of Detroit; United Auto Workers (UAW) president Bob King; Father Jesús Alberto Franco, a defender of the human rights of indigenous, campesino and African-descended communities in Colombia; and Alejandro Ramírez, an activist in the resistance to the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras. The US State Department initially denied Ramírez a visa but relented under pressure from US organizations. The crowd was about the same size as last year; the largest demonstration to date was in 2006, when SOA Watch reported 22,000 participants [see Update #1013]. (SOA Watch 11/21/10; La Jornada (Mexico) 11/21/10 from correspondent; New York Times 11/21/10)
*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti
Cancún Climate Summit: Time for a New Geopolitical Architecture
Kirchner and the myth
Recycling for Hope and Dignity on Paraguay's Streets
Brazilian Foreign Policy under Dilma: Interview with Igor Fuser
Lessons to Be Learned From Paulo Freire
Evo Morales Criticizes U.S. At Conference; Robert Gates Focuses Talks On Drugs and Disasters
Tens of Thousands of Venezuelan Students March for New University Law
The Snakes Sleep: Attacks against the Media and Impunity in Honduras
Challenges and Risks for the Mexican Armed Forces, National Security and the Relationship with the United States
Former Governor of Colimas Silverio Cavazos Ceballos Killed By Gunmen In Mexico
Special Report: Mexico 1910-2010
Cuba May Lift Restrictions On Baseball Players Signing Abroad
Elections 2010 (Haiti)
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Monday, November 29, 2010
WNU #1058: Chaos Wins Haitian Elections
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