Monday, January 24, 2011

WNU #1064: Puerto Rican Students Start CD Actions

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1064, January 23, 2011

1. Puerto Rico: Student Strikers Start Mass CD Actions
2. Mexico: US Pays Colombia to Train Mexican Soldiers
3. Mexico: UN Calls for Inquiry in Migrants’ Kidnapping
4. Haiti: Duvalier Is Back--But Why?
5. Haiti: US Pressures Préval, Starts Deporting
6. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, 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 . It is archived at
*1. Puerto Rico: Student Strikers Start Mass CD ActionsChanting slogans from a student strike at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), on Jan. 21 a group of students and activists interrupted a talk that conservative Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuño Bruset was giving at Valladolid University Law School in Valladolid, Spain. The activists said they were Puerto Ricans living in Spain who wanted the international community to know about Gov. Fortuño’s “destruction” of the UPR, and “the repression, the criminalization and abuse of power against the student demonstrators.” A group of students has been on strike at several of the university’s campuses since December to protest an $800 surcharge on tuition at the large public university [see Update #1063].

Fortuño was visiting Spain as part of a trade mission that the protesters denounced as “a subterfuge by this colonial administration so as not to confront the social and political situation that the country is undergoing.” (Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 1/22/11)

Earlier in the week, UPR students and their supporters began a series of mass civil disobedience actions, blocking entrances to the Río Piedras campus in San Juan to escalate their protest against the surcharge. A total of 49 protesters were arrested on Jan. 19, including Sister Elizabeth Concepción, from a Catholic community in the El Volcán neighborhood of Bayamón; solidarity activist Mary Ann Grady; and Rafael Feliciano, president of the Teachers' Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR). There were 44 arrests on Jan. 20; among the detainees was the well-known environmental activist Alberto de Jesús Mercado (“Tito Kayak”). (Primera Hora 1/20/11; El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 1/20/11, 1/21/11)

The UPR administration claimed that 90% of the students had registered for the semester and had paid the surcharge by Jan. 21. At a Jan. 22 press conference Xiomara Caro, a spokesperson for the Student Representative Committee (CRE), said that the actual number given by UPR president José Ramón de la Torre was 35,407 registrations from a student body of 61,565, nowhere near 90%. She noted that the strikers hadn’t asked students not to register; instead, strike supporters could stay in school by paying the first installment of the fee, but they were urged to mark their checks “Payment Under Protest.”

Caro said another round of civil disobedience was planned for the next week. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 1/23/11; Huffington Post 1/18/11)

*2. Mexico: US Pays Colombia to Train Mexican SoldiersSome 7,000 Mexicans have participated in a program through which the Colombian government trains Mexican soldiers and police in techniques for fighting drug cartels, according to an article in the Jan. 22 Washington Post. The administration of US president Barack Obama is encouraging this effort, and the US is paying part of the costs. Washington’s share so far is $800,000, according to the article.

The program provides the Obama administration with “a politically viable way to improve Mexican security forces without a substantial American military or police presence in Mexico,” reporter Juan Forero writes. "The American military can indirectly do a lot more through the Colombians than they politically would be able to do directly," Roderic Ai Camp, of Claremont McKenna College in California, told the Post. "Given the loss of half of Mexico's national territory to the United States in the 19th century, and the Mexican army's hesitant cooperation with their American counterparts, the Colombians are a logical proxy."

Nearly 35,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related violence since Mexican president Felipe Calerón Hinojosa militarized the fight against drug trafficking soon after taking office in December 2006; the US helps fund this “war on drugs” through the Mérida Initiative, a security cooperation agreement between the Mexico, the US and Central American countries [see Update #1059]. “Mexico has what we had some years ago, which are very powerful cartels,” Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos told the Post. “What we can provide is the experience that we have had dismantling those cartels, training intelligence officers, training judicial police.” (WP 1/22/11)

The Colombian military is notorious for human rights violations, including the practice of creating “false positives”—murdering civilians and counting them as rebels killed in battle. An article in the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada about the Post’s revelations drew a number of sarcastic comments on the Mexican paper’s website. “Don’t forget to give them a lot of courses in HUMAN RIGHTS and the PREVENTION OF DRUG ADDICTION,” one reader wrote. “Will the course include the subject ‘obtaining false positives’…?” another asked. One comment called the program a “training camp for prospective Zetas,” referring to Los Zetas, a criminal gang started by Mexican Special Forces deserters and specializing in the drug trade. (LJ 1/23/11)

*3. Mexico: UN Calls for Inquiry in Migrants’ KidnappingOn Jan. 21 United Nations high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay called on the Mexican government to determine whether there was complicity by the military, the police or other officials in the mass kidnapping of some 40 Central American immigrants by an armed gang in the southern state of Oaxaca on Dec. 16.

The incident, which brought protests from Mexican human rights activists [see Update #1062], took place as some 250 immigrants were riding on a freight train operated by Ferrocarril del Istmo de Tehuántepec, a company owned by the federal government. Mexican police, soldiers and immigration officers detained some of the immigrants but let the rest proceed. The train operator then tried to extort money from the immigrants but wasn’t satisfied with the amount they offered. A short while later, an armed group entered the train, robbed and beat the immigrants, and abducted about 40. The whereabouts of the victims are still unknown. (New York Times 1/22/11)

With an increase in news stories about the mistreatment, kidnapping and murder of undocumented Central Americans in Mexico, the Mexican government has been working to improve relations with Central American governments on immigration issues. Mexican and Honduran officials held their first high-level meeting on immigration on Jan. 22 in Mexico City. The two governments agreed to carry out a joint campaign to warn undocumented immigrants about the dangers they might encounter and to advise them on their rights and obligations and where they can file legal complaints or seek assistance. (La Jornada (Mexico) 1/23/11)

*4. Haiti: Duvalier Is Back--But Why?On Jan. 21 former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier (1971-1986) gave his first press conference since arriving unexpectedly in Port-au-Prince the evening of Jan. 16 after 25 years of exile in France. Speaking at a private residence in Montagne Noire, on the eastern edge of the capital, Duvalier expressed his “profound sorrow” on behalf of his “compatriots who legitimately claim that they were victims” of his regime, along with his “sympathy” for his “millions of supporters,” especially the “thousands” who were “cravenly assassinated…roasted…their houses, their goods pillaged, uprooted.”

Duvalier said his “departure” from Haiti in a US plane on Feb. 7, 1986, was “voluntary” and that he had wanted “to avoid a bloodbath and to facilitate a conclusion to the political crisis.” His return this year was to express his “solidarity” with the victims of a devastating January 2010 earthquake, he said. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 1/22/11)

Duvalier didn’t return “to support the Haitians or to take part in politics,” National Disarmament Commission director Alix Fils-Aimé said on Jan. 18 as he filed a legal complaint against Duvalier for his imprisonment in the notorious Fort Dimanche prison in April 1976. The former dictator came “to demonstrate to the Swiss bankers that he doesn’t have any pending business with the justice system, and so to get the $8 million dollars unfrozen from his accounts,” Fils-Aimé said.

Others share Fils-Aimé’s opinion, although they give $6 million rather than $8 million as the amount of money currently frozen in Duvalier’s Swiss bank accounts because of claims by the Haitian government that he had embezzled it. A new Swiss law will take effect on Feb. 1 that would allow Swiss authorities to transfer the funds to the Haitian government, and Duvalier had to move quickly if he hoped to get the money. According to New York Times reporter Ginger Thompson, Duvalier suffers from lupus and may have pancreatic cancer. “[S]o what did he have to lose?” an unnamed official said to Thompson.

“This was probably a calculation on Duvalier’s part, that the state was so weak that he could return to Haiti and leave without being charged with anything,” Human Rights Watch spokesperson Reed Brody told the Times. “Then he could go back to Swiss authorities and argue that he should get his money because Haiti’s not after him anymore.” If so, the ploy backfired. Haitian authorities opened a case against Duvalier for embezzlement on Jan. 18 and told him not to leave the country. (NYT 1/21/11; La Jornada (Mexico) 1/22/11)

Duvalier’s return has increased pressure for the return of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004). Despite factional disputes within his Lavalas Family (FL) party, several FL leaders were united on Jan. 19 in calling for the Haitian government to renew Aristide’s diplomatic passport so that he could leave South Africa, where he has lived in exile since 2004. Aristide himself issued a statement that day saying he wanted to return to Haiti “[t]o contribute to serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education.” He also cited “medical reasons.” “It is strongly recommended that I not spend the coming winter in South Africa because in six years I have undergone six eye surgeries.” (Agence Haïtienne de Presse (Haiti) 1/19/11; Haïti Libre 1/19/11)

Haitian president René Préval was asked about Aristide’s possible return at a joint press conference that he held with Dominican president Leonel Fernández on Jan. 22 during a brief visit to Santo Domingo. Préval said that the 1987 Haitian Constitution did not allow for exile and insisted that Aristide was therefore free to return. (Radio Kiskeya 1/22/11)

*5. Haiti: US Pressures Préval, Starts DeportingWhile media attention remained focused on the return of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier to Haiti, disputes over the Nov. 28 presidential and legislative elections continued. A week after a technical group from the Organization of American States (OAS) recommended a runoff between presidential candidates Mirlande Hyppolite Manigat (Coalition of National Progressive Democrats, RDNP) and popular singer Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky,” Peasant Response) [see Update #1063], Haitian president René Préval still had not agreed to have his Unity party’s candidate, Jude Célestin, cede the number two spot on the ballot to Martelly.

The US government appeared to be pressuring Préval to accept the OAS recommendation. On Jan. 22 Unity’s coordinator, Senator Joseph Lambert, confirmed in a radio interview that the US was now suspending entry visas for a number of Unity members and supporters, including Social Affairs and Labor Minister Gérald Germain; former interior minister Jean Joseph Molière; former commerce and industry minister Jean François Chamblain; and René Momplaisir, an activist in grassroots organizations linked to ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Family (FL). Momplaisir apparently supported Célestin in the November election.

Senator Lambert said these people weren’t too disturbed about the visa denial, but he acknowledged that a meeting of party leaders the night before had discussed the possibility of Célestin’s withdrawal from the race. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 1/23/11)

At the same time that it was apparently pressuring Préval on the elections, the US government issued a new travel advisory for its citizens on Jan. 20. The US “strongly urges avoiding all but essential travel” to Haiti because of dangers from crime, violent protests and the cholera epidemic, the warning said. Previously the US had simply “recommend[ed] against non-essential travel” [see Update #1061].

Also on Jan. 20, the US carried out its first deportation of Haitian immigrants since an earthquake devastated southern Haiti in January 2010. A group of 27 Haitians were flown to Port-au-Prince, including Lyglenson Lemorin, who was charged in an alleged conspiracy to destroy the Sears Tower a Chicago but was acquitted in 2007. (US Department of State travel warning 1/20/11; Agence Haïtienne de Presse (Haiti) 1/21/11)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

would this not be a good thing for the younger people?? unless the country is like canada or america or greece or ireland (or any other totally broke nation! or Cek Magdurlari) this could be good for the young. atleast they would have jobs. but i suppose those jobs would be pretty worthless if their income got taxed away!!

i think this way because i just read the Macleans magazine Dec 06/10 article entitled: "What the boomers are leaving their children, fewer jobs. lower pay. higher taxes. bleaker futures. now the "screwed generation" is starting to push back"....boomers just don't want to retire !! greed? need? shocking too is that only 44% of canadian boomers have their mortgages paid off!!!! scary!