Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1077, April 24, 2011
1. Chile: Mapuche Prisoners Start New Hunger Strike
2. Honduras: Rights Abuses May Catch Up With Aguán Landowner
3. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, El Salvador, 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 email@example.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/
*1. Chile: Mapuche Prisoners Start New Hunger Strike
A group of activists for the rights of indigenous Mapuche Chileans interrupted the Easter mass at Santiago’s Metropolitan Cathedral on Apr. 24 to call for the release of four Mapuche prisoners who have been on hunger strike since Mar. 15. The activists, led by the prisoners’ spokesperson, Natividad Llanquileo, waited until a few minutes after the homily to begin their protest; they shouted slogans and unfurled a banner that read: “Freedom for the Mapuche political prisoners.” Carabinero police agents arrived and dispersed the demonstrators; two were detained but were released later.
The protest was “an expression of human sorrow more than an interruption,” said Santiago archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, who was presiding over the service, “and it asks us to experience Easter by extending a hand to those who suffer.” Ezzati was a mediator in negotiations that ended a lengthy hunger strike by 34 Mapuche prisoners in the fall of 2010 [see Update #1052]. (La Nación (Chile) 4/24/11)
The four prisoners--Héctor Llaitul, Ramón Llenaquileo, José Huenuche and Jonathan Huillical—were among 17 indigenous Mapuche activists tried this year on “terrorism” charges relating to a fire and an attack on a prosecutor, Mario Elgueta, in October 2008. All the defendants were acquitted of the “terrorism” charges on Feb. 22, but these four prisoners were convicted of attempted homicide, a common crime, in the attack on Elgueta [see Update #1069]. Their sentences were expected to be up to 15 years in prison, but on Mar. 22 the judges handed down prison terms of 20 to 25 years. The four activists started their hunger strike before the sentencing to protest the prosecutors’ use of an unidentified witness in the case and the use of charges based on a harsh “antiterrorism” law that dates back to the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
The four prisoners took part in last year’s hunger strike, and they started the new fast in a weakened state of health. As of Apr. 20 Guatemalan indigenous activist and 1992 Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum had joined Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, French musician Manu Chao, US sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, Mexican sociologist Pablo González Casanova, Brazilian philosopher Emir Sader and many others in signing a letter of solidarity with the prisoners. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the Argentine winner of the 1980 Nobel peace prize, had sent a letter earlier to Chilean Supreme Court president Milton Juica Arancibia condemning the convictions and the sentences. (Adital (Brazil) 4/15/11 from Radio Universidad de Chile; Prensa Latina 4/20/11)
In other news, Mapuche leaders made a complaint to the military prosecutor for Valdivia province the week of Apr. 18 concerning alleged abuses by Carabineros in the communities of Juan Painepe and Vicente Reinahuel in Panguipulli in the Los Ríos region of southern Chile. “At 6 pm they entered the community and began to harass the people, who now have to stay in the mountains,” charged Jorge Hueque, a member of the Mapuche parliament in Koz Koz valley. “They even harass the children. The children have to stay in the mountains, go to school in the morning and then return.” The police agents were sent to the area at the beginning of April in response to a complaint by a company, Las Vertientes, which claims land also claimed by the Mapuche communities. Community members have occupied some of the disputed area. (Adital 4/20/11)
*2. Honduras: Rights Abuses May Catch Up With Aguán Landowner
On Apr. 8 a German development bank, DEG Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH, cancelled a previously approved loan to Grupo Dinant, a large Honduran company that produces snacks, other food products and cooking oil; the loan was reportedly worth $20 million. Shortly afterwards, EDF Trading, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the French energy firm Electricité de France SA, cancelled a contract to buy carbon credits from a Dinant subsidiary, Exportadora del Atlántico, under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for carbon trading.
Although the two European companies didn’t explain why they were backing out of their Honduran deals, the moves appeared to result from an international campaign around allegations of human rights abuses in northern Honduras’ Lower Aguán Valley by Dinant’s founder, wealthy landowner Miguel Facussé Barjum.
Along with other big landowners, Facussé has been engaged in a longstanding, often bloody dispute over land in the Lower Aguán region claimed by campesino families living in the area. In a recent incident, five private guards killed five members of the Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MCA) on Nov. 15 at Facussé’s El Tumbador African palm plantation, in Trujillo, Colón. In addition to raising African palms on Lower Aguán land for cooking oil, Facussé and Dinant have been trying to use African palms to get a foothold in the international biofuel market. Dinant has secured a $7 million loan from the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) and a $30 million loan from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) in part to expand the company’s African palm cultivation [see Updates #1027, 1058].
A number of environmental and human rights organizations--including two German-based groups, the environmental watchdog CDM Watch and the human rights group FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN)--have been working to publicize Honduran activists’ charges of human rights violations by Facussé and Dinant. On Mar. 25, a FIAN-led fact-finding mission submitted a report to the rapporteur for Honduras of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) saying that 23 peasants were killed in the Lower Aguán between January 2010 and February 2011 and stressing the five deaths in the Nov. 15 incident. DEG and EDF decided to withdraw their support for Dinant a little more than two weeks after release of the report.
The environmental and human rights groups are now putting pressure on the United Nation’s Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board to reject Dinant as a recipient of CDM carbon credits. The United Kingdom’s CDM agency has also authorized the Dinant project, and in March 76 organizations sent the British government an open letter calling for an end to the authorization.
Dinant is responding with claims that the company might have to close because of “misleading statements” by the rights groups. “Eight thousand people could lose their jobs” if Dinant closes, company treasure Roger Pineda told the Bloomberg business news service on Apr. 19. Pineda said Dinant is investigating the deaths of 10 security guards and a 13-year-old boy in relation to “trespassing” on its land, and he charged that the human rights organizations “don’t seem to care about the people who get killed by the peasants.” (CDM Watch press release 4/18/11; Bloomberg 4/18/11, 4/21/11; Honduras Culture and Politics blog 4/21/11)
Miguel Facussé continues to push Dinant’s biofuel project, which he said could help fight the recent rise in oil prices in Honduras. “Not only is palm oil magnificent for health, even if used for frying, but it also could be a tremendous substitute for petroleum, which is constantly getting scarcer and more expensive,” he told the Tegucigalpa daily La Tribuna, which is owned by his nephew, former president Carlos Flores Facussé (1998-2002). Currently Honduras is the third largest African palm oil exporter in Latin America, according to the Honduran government. Facussé said the industry could create 120,000 jobs but is now being hurt by the land disputes.
Facussé also told the paper about his “a strong presentiment that things will go much better” for the country, “especially with the new law that seeks to strengthen education.” He was referring to a proposal for decentralizing the public school system that helped set off a month-long strike by teachers starting in March [see Update #1076]. (La Tribuna 4/12/11)
*3. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti
From The “Dirty War” to Poisoned Food: The World According to Marie-Monique Robin (Argentina)
Rebellion in the Brazilian Amazon
April 17: Brazil's National Day of Struggle for Agrarian Reform
Miami Herald Catches Chevron in Lie about Ecuador Well Site
Chávez Withdraws Venezuela From Andean Trade Pact; Blames Colombia & Peru Free Trade Agreement With U.S.
Interview with Edgardo Lander: The Path for Venezuela cannot be Neoliberalism or Stalinism
Venezuela’s Rural Social Movements Condemn Murder of Two Peasant Activists
Air-Conditioned Vestiges of an Empire in Panama
Obama Administration Lawyers Charge Salvadoran Ex-General With Human Rights Abuses
Honduran Government Responsible For Murders And Human Rights Abuses, Resistance Leader Says
Global Action for Release of Indigenous Zapatista Supporters in Mexico
How Ending the Drug War Would Support Human Rights in Mexico
Mexicans Reject Calderón’s War
Mexico: police arrested as mass graves unearthed in Tamaulipas
Coyotes and Resistance on the U.S. Mexico Border
A Labor Law Bosses Would Love (Mexico)
Cuba Shuffles Communist Party Leadership And Approves Economic Reforms
Cuba: Raúl Castro Proposes Change from Within Socialist System
El Paso Jury Acquits Arch-Terrorist Posada Carriles of all Charges
Haiti and the international aid scam
Hillary Clinton Meets With Haitian President-Elect Michel Martelly
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011
WNU #1077: Mapuche Prisoners in New Hunger Strike
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