Tuesday, April 19, 2011

WNU #1076: Argentine Junta’s Last President Gets Life Sentence

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1076, April 17, 2011

1. Argentina: Junta’s Last President Gets Life Sentence
2. Honduras: Will Teachers and Government Settle?
3. Mexico: Cops Are Still Homophobic, Survey Says
4. Haiti: Workers Strike at Privatized Phone Company
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico

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. Argentina: Junta’s Last President Gets Life Sentence
In Buenos Aires on Apr. 14, Argentine federal judge María Lucía Casaín sentenced Gen. Reynaldo Bignone, the last president in the country’s 1976-1983 military regime, to life in prison for crimes against humanity. The judge also handed down life sentences to former military officers Santiago Omar Riveros and Martín Rodríguez, and former Escobar mayor Luis Patti, who was a police agent under the dictatorship. Another former police agent, Juan Fernando Meneghini, was sentenced to six years in prison. The 83-year-old Bignone, who was president from July 1982 to December 1983, had already been sentenced to 25 years of prison in 2010 for crimes committed during the dictatorship in the Campo de Mayo, a military camp that included four torture centers.

The trial that led to the Apr. 14 sentences focused on criminal acts in Escobar, a department north of Buenos Aires, including the 1976 kidnapping and murder of Gastón Gonçalvez, a member of the Montoneros rebel group, and the murder of legislative deputy Diego Muñiz Barreto, who was detained illegally in Escobar.

Hundreds of human rights activists celebrated after the sentences were announced. “This is a historic day for all Argentines of good will,” said Estela de Carlotto, leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group formed by people whose children and grandchildren were “disappeared” under the military junta. “Many countries are viewing Argentina with growing respect because we are carrying the banners of truth and justice on behalf of the 30,000.” Human rights organizations estimate that 30,000 people were victims of the military’s “dirty war” against supposed leftists, and that 500 of the victims’ children were secretly turned over to officers and their accomplices for adoption. More than 100 of the children have since learned their true identities.

An amnesty law originally protected officers and others involved in these crimes. The law was revoked in 2005, and since then Argentine courts have convicted more than 200 leaders of the military regime, while about 800 former soldiers and police agents have yet to be tried. (BBC 4/14/11; Adital (Brazil) 4/15/11 from Agencia Brasil, El Mundo, Tierra, Yahoo)

*2. Honduras: Will Teachers and Government Settle?
A meeting on Apr. 14 between the Honduran government and teachers’ union representatives in Tegucigalpa seemed to be heading towards a settlement of a month-long national strike by 60,000 teachers over pension issues and a decentralization plan that they say would lead to privatization of the schools. The strike, which has continued with some interruptions since Mar. 7, has been characterized by militant demonstrations on the teachers’ side and violent repression from the police and military, with the death of an assistant principal at one protest and several attacks on journalists covering demonstrations. At least two government cabinet meetings included debates between ministers on the human rights situation and its possible effect on Honduras’ international standing [see Updates #1072, 1073, 1074].

At the Apr. 14 meeting the teachers reportedly got the government to back down on the firings and substitutions of some striking teachers and the suspension of 702 others. According to Edwin Oliva, president of the Honduran Professional Guild of Teachers’ Improvement, there was also agreement on a new way of regulating the national public school system, on a new General Law of Education and on respect for the Statute of the Teacher, a sort of bill of rights for education workers.

The government also agreed to release teachers who had been arrested in demonstrations, and to review the financial situation at the National Institute of Teachers’ Social Security (Inprema), which handles teachers' pensions and has been a subject of dispute between the government and the unions at least since last August [see Update #1047]. Issues that remained unresolved included the government’s monitoring committee for Inprema and deductions from teachers’ salaries for the days they were out. (Prensa Latina 4/15/11; La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 4/15/11; Adital (Brazil) 4/15/11, some from Prensa Latina and La Tribuna)

*3. Mexico: Cops Are Still Homophobic, Survey Says
About a third of the Mexicans surveyed in the federal government's National Poll on Discrimination in Mexico (Enadis) for 2010 said that what gives them the greatest anxiety is the fear of violent robbery. Another quarter told Enadis, a survey carried out each year since 2005, that they were most afraid of violence by drug traffickers, while for one out of five of those polled, the main worry is “being victims of abuse by the forces of public security.”

A report on the Enadis findings, released by the government's National Council to Prevent Discrimination (Conapred) in Mexico City on Apr. 12, showed a widespread perception of violence and discrimination in Mexican society, especially against women. People reported feeling that many women are beaten and that women are frequently denied employed. Children are often hit to ensure obedience, according to many of the people polled. One half of lesbians, homosexuals and bisexuals felt that discrimination was their main problem. The police are the most intolerant sector of society, according to 42.8% of the lesbians, homosexuals and bisexuals surveyed, while 35.3% considered that people “from their church or congregation” were the most intolerant.

The continuing discrimination comes despite advances for lesbian and gay rights in a few places, including Mexico City [see Update #1044]. In March both chambers of Congress passed a constitutional reform that would include sexual preferences among constitutionally protected human rights; the reform still requires ratification by a majority of the states. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/13/11; Adital (Brazil) 4/15/11)

On Apr. 12 a number of organizations, including the Special Femicide Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, launched a campaign calling for femicide (misogynist murders) to be categorized as a special crime, not simply as murder or a hate crime [see Update #1071]. More than 1,400 murders of women were recorded in 15 of Mexico’s 32 states during 2010; in 70% of these cases the motives are unknown and the perpetrators haven’t been found, according to María de la Luz Estrada, coordinator of the National Citizens’ Observatory of Femicide (OCNF). (Adital 4/13/11)

*4. Haiti: Workers Strike at Privatized Phone Company
Workers at Nationale Communication (Natcom), a Haitian telephone company, began striking in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area early in the week of Apr. 11 to demand a full 36 months’ salary in compensation for their impending layoffs. Dozens of workers occupied Natcom offices in Delmas in the north of the capital and in Pétionville, a wealthy suburb to the southeast.

The strike spread to other cities over the next few days, including Cap-Haïtien (North department), Les Cayes (South department) and Mirebalais (Center department). In Cap-Haïtien administrative personnel continued to work, while the strike was only partial in Mirebalais. “Aware of the precarious situation in Mirebalais in relation to communication, we’re a little flexible about the work stoppage started by our colleagues in Port-au-Prince and other cities,” said Pedro, a technician.

Natcom is the new name of the former state telephone company, Télécommunications d'Haïti (Haiti Téléco), which was privatized in April 2010. The Vietnamese telecommunications company Viettel acquired 60% of the shares, with the Haitian government retaining 40% [see Update #1032]. As part of an accord between Viettel and the government, employees were offered a choice between two plans for voluntary retirement. Plan A provided a severance package for workers leaving immediately, while Plan B guaranteed employment for one full year but gave the company the option to terminate the employees at the end of the period, on Aug. 31, with much less severance pay than in Plan A.

The Plan B workers, many of them long-term employees, are now striking for a larger severance package. If management goes on “turning a dear ear, we’re going to pursue our strike, and it will be less peaceful next week,” some Delmas strikers warned on Apr. 13. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/13/11, 4/16/11)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico

CHINA SYNDROME: China’s Growing Presence in Latin America

Losing Latin America

Latin America and the US: Social Movements Are the Engines of Change

Uruguay Senate Votes to Annul Amnesty Law For Crimes During Dictatorship

China Cautiously Opens Its Market To Brazil

Tensions escalate over Amazon mega dam (Brazil)

Police Charged for Role in Bagua Massacre in Peru

Peru: Humala and Fujimori in Final Stretch

Águilas Negras: Rising from the Ashes of Demobilization in Colombia

Victims of 2002 Coup in Venezuela Seek Justice

Opposition Has Internal Problems and Fighting, According to U.S Caracas Embassy Cables (Venezuela)

Journalists, Activists Targeted as Honduran Repression Grows

Protestors Across Honduras Challenge IDB-Funded 'Shock' Program Met with Violence and Repression

Special Report: Honduran Teachers get Shock Treatment

16 Mexico Police Officers Arrested Under Accusations Of Helping Zetas With Mass Grave

From the Lacandon Jungle to the CPR-Salvador Fajardo: Settlements of the Displaced

Mexico: The Hour of the Poet

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