Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1082, June 5, 2011
1. Mexico: Is Hank Rhon Arrest an Electoral Maneuver?
2. Argentina: Indigenous Activists Fast for Land Rights
3. Guatemala: Government Said to OK Goldcorp Mine
4. Haiti: US Cables Released, New Housing Dangers Revealed
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, 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 email@example.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/
*1. Mexico: Is Hank Rhon Arrest an Electoral Maneuver?
Acting on what military authorities said was an anonymous tip, Mexican soldiers raided the home of casino and off-track betting magnate Jorge Hank Rhon the early morning of June 4 in Tijuana, in the northwestern state of Baja California. The military reported finding 88 firearms, 9,298 rounds of ammunition, 70 chargers and one gas grenade. Hank Rhon, a politician in the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Tijuana’s mayor from 2004 to 2007, was arrested on charges of illegal possession of weapons, a federal crime, along with 10 bodyguards and other employees. The authorities flew Hank Rhon to Mexico City late in the day for questioning.
María Elvia Amaya de Hank, Hank Rhon’s wife, said any weapons found in the house were for the use of security employees of the Agua Caliente racetrack, which Hank Rhon owns. The house is in a compound that includes the racetrack, a private zoo and the Fiesta Americana hotel, which belongs to current Tijuana mayor Carlos Bustamante Anchondo. (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/5/11, ___)
Jorge Hank Rhon has been associated with crimes in the past, including the 1988 murder of Héctor Félix Miranda, co-director of the weekly tabloid Zeta; one of the men convicted in the killing was an employee of Hank Rhon’s racetrack. A report by the US National Drug Intelligence Center in the late 1990s said Jorge Hank Rhon, his brother, Carlos Hank Rhon, and their father, Carlos Hank González, were so involved in drug trafficking and money laundering that they “pose a significant criminal threat to the United States.” The father, who died in 2001, was a past mayor of Mexico City and a major force in the PRI, which dominated Mexican politics for 70 years; his favorite saying was: “A politician who's poor is a poor politician.” [See Updates #489, 602, 752]
Jorge Hank Rhon’s arrest was “good news,” according to Carlos Navarrete, coordinator of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) faction in the Senate; Navarrete suggested that the former Tijuana mayor had been supplying arms to the drug cartels. Politicians in President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s center-right National Action Party (PAN) insisted that there were no political motives in the arrest. “The government was simply applying the law, keeping acts of impunity from continuing,” Senator Rubén Camarillo, elections secretary of the PAN’s National Executive Committee, told the left-leaning daily La Jornada.
But the arrest comes shortly before July 3 gubernatorial elections in Coahuila, México state and Nayarit. PRI candidate Eruviel Ávila Villegas is the frontrunner in the large, central state of México, which is governed by Enrique Peña Nieto, the likely PRI presidential candidate in 2012. The Hank family has a long association with the México state PRI, and Jorge Hank Rhon is said to be close to Peña Nieto. According to Jorge Rojo, a federal legislative deputy in the PRI, “Calderón’s governmental strategy aims at shaking Enrique Peña’s electoral rise, and it confuses the public by linking Jorge Hank with the México governor’s political career.” Earlier in the week rumors were circulating that the federal government was considering criminal charges against several former PRI governors. PRI president Humberto Moreira Valdés called the rumors “political terrorism.” (LJ 5/31/11, 6/5/11)
Mexican presidents are limited to a single six-year term, but problems in Calderón’s presidency will probably hurt any candidate the PAN chooses to run in the 2012 presidential race. Calderón’s most obvious liability at this point is his militarization, with US backing, of the “war on drugs.” Mexicans increasingly see the fight as failure that has done nothing to weaken the drug cartels since it started in December 2006, while causing more than 35,000 deaths [see Update #1079].
Disillusionment with US-backed strategies for fighting drug use is spreading outside Mexico as well. On June 2, two days before Hank Rhon’s arrest, a high-level international panel, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, released a report announcing: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President [Richard] Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”
The commission’s 19 members include former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan; former NATO secretary general Javier Solana; former presidents Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (Mexico, 1994-2000), Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil, 1995-2002) and Cesar Gaviria Trujillo (Colombia, 1990-1994); former US secretary of state George Shultz; former US Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker; and Mexican author Carlos Fuentes and Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa. (LJ 6/2/11; Wall Street Journal 6/3/11)
*2. Argentina: Indigenous Activists Fast for Land Rights
As of May 23 negotiations were continuing between the Argentine federal government and representatives of the indigenous Qom community of the Toba ethnic group over disputed land in the northern province of Formosa. The government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner finally agreed to negotiate seriously on May 2 after 16 Qom community members started an open-ended hunger strike in Buenos Aires and well-known activists like Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, 1980 Nobel peace prize winner, took up the cause.
The dispute centers on 600 hectares of some 5,000 hectares that the federal government ceded to the Qom community in 1940. Some of the community’s land was later given to an individual, Rosario Celia, and another part was incorporated into the Río Pilcomayo National Park in 1951. In 2007 Formosa province received some of Celia’s land to use for building the National University of Formosa. Part of the land was claimed by the Qom community, but provincial governor Gildo Insfrán seized 600 hectares for the university and evicted nine Qom families who had been living there.
After making a number of claims to the land, in July 2010 the community decided to protest by blocking National Highway 86. On Nov. 23 the provincial police mounted an operation to remove the protesters by force. One community member, Roberto Lopez, died, allegedly from police bullets, and 35 people were arrested. Another protester died a few days later in what the community considers a suspicious accident.
Following the attack, some 70 community members went to Buenos Aires to demand that President Fernández intercede with Gov. Insfrán, who is a political ally. They set up a camp at a downtown intersection and stayed there for five months asking for talks with the government. On Apr. 25 the protesters started their hunger strike and announced plans for partial blockages of July 9 Avenue. These actions, along with plans for a May 2 press conference with Pérez Esquivel, apparently forced Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo to start a round of negotiations with the community.
“Did it have to come to this?” Pérez Esquivel asked while he visited the encampment in May. “Setting up a camp? The hunger strike? Blocking the avenue? What does this mean? It took so much time just to have a meeting with the authorities?” (Underreported Struggles, April 2011; Comambiental (Buenos Aires) 5/23/11)
A number of indigenous groups have been pushing for land in Argentina’s northern provinces. Another Toba group was part of a three-month indigenous protest the summer of 2006 in Chaco province, resulting in an agreement with the provincial government that included a pledge to issue land titles to 140,000 hectares of land to indigenous people [see World War 4 Report 9/3/06]. In Tucumán province more than 600 protesters from 15 indigenous communities marched in the provincial capital on June 1 of this year to protest evictions and other repressive acts against them as they try to defend their rights. The march was sponsored by the Union of the Nation of the Diaguita People and the Lule People. (Adital (Brazil) 6/1/11; Tucumán a las 7 (Tucumán) 6/1/11 from ContraPunto-Prensa Alternativa; Unión de los Pueblos de la Nación Diaguita website 6/1/11)
*3. Guatemala: Government Said to OK Goldcorp Mine
The Guatemalan government is planning not to honor a year-old order from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) to suspend operations at the Marlin gold mine in the western department of San Marcos, according to members of the Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán Mayan communities. The IACHR, a Washington, DC-based agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued the order in May 2010 in response to charges from the two communities that the mine was causing significant damage to residents’ health and the local environment [see Update #1056]. The Marlin mine is owned by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc.
In a statement dated May 30, members of the communities said the minister of energy and mines had told them that government reports found no contamination or health problems resulting from the mine’s operations. In three weeks the mining authorities will rule against the suspension, according to the minister. President Alfaro Colom is to make the final decision, but it appears that he will inform the IACHR that Guatemala is refusing to comply. (No a la Mina website (Esquel, Argentina) 5/30/11); Adital (Brazil) 5/30/11 from No a la Mina)
*4. Haiti: US Cables Released, New Housing Dangers Revealed
The WikiLeaks group is releasing a total of 1,918 previously unpublished US diplomatic cables concerning Haiti to the weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté, which is published in New York and Port-au-Prince. The cables cover a period of seven years, from Apr. 17, 2003 to Feb. 28, 2010, shortly after the January 2010 earthquake that shattered much of southern Haiti.
Haïti Liberté is planning a series of articles based on the cables. The first article, which appeared in the May 25-30 edition, details US diplomats’ unsuccessful efforts to keep former president René Préval (2006-2011) from having Haiti join PetroCaribe, a program through which Venezuela supplies oil to Caribbean Basin countries on favorable terms. Later articles are to show how the US government backed assembly plant owners fighting an increase in the minimum wage and how the US militarized the distribution of aid after the earthquake. (Haïti Liberté 5/25/11-5/30/11; AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/31/11)
The cables are appearing on the WikiLeaks site as they are released. Those originating from the US embassy in Haiti are posted at: http://www.wikileaks.org/origin/59_0.html
In other news, controversy continues around a draft report for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) that dramatically lowers estimates for the death toll in the earthquake and for the number of homeless survivors still living in camps. There have been suggestions that the lower estimates could lead to a reduction in international aid [see Update #1081].
But as the DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) notes, the discussion overlooks a more important estimate in the report. Last year engineers assessed the damage to surviving buildings, using yellow to mark unsafe buildings that need repairs and red to mark buildings that need to be demolished. The USAID report found that many survivors had returned to these buildings—preferring the danger to the unsafe and unsanitary conditions in the camps and lacking any alternatives in the absence of new housing.
This “means that as many as 570,178 people (114,493 residential groups or families) are living in 84,951 homes that may collapse in foul weather or in the event of another tremor,” according to Timothy Schwartz, the lead author of the study. “That’s yellow buildings. For red buildings it means that 465,996 people (100,430 residential groups) are living in 73,846 buildings that might collapse at any moment.” CEPR calls this “the most relevant and alarming data” in the study, which clearly “does not portray a Haiti that needs less help.” (CEPR, Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch, 6/2/11)
*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico
A Crime or a Cure? (Latin America)
Pentagon Using Drug Wars as Excuse to Build Bases in Latin America
Right-wing Unleashes Campaign Against Democracy in Latin America
Book Review: Memory and Justice in Democratic Chile
Brazil: Amazon defenders slain; timber barons suspected
Blood in the Amazon: Brazilian Activists Murdered as Deforestation Increases
Peru in shock move to abolish "uncontacted" tribe's reserve
Peru: Anti-Mining Blockades Suspended For Elections
The “Fascist Threat” on Peru’s Doorstep
Peru's Presidential Election: A Battle Over Memory and Justice
Peru: populist prevails in presidential poll; plutocrat prognosis pessimistic
Ecuador: Government Shuts Down Illegal Gold Mines
FARC strike contributes to Urabá violence (Colombia)
FARC Kills Two Colombian Mayoral Candidates; Release Communique Calling For “Political Solution”
The Comfortable Impasse and the Hyper Security State in Colombia
Chiquita and the “Cost of Doing Business” in Colombia
US judge allows Colombian paramilitary victims to sue Chiquita, in landmark ruling
Venezuelan Governments Detains Suspected FARC Musician Julián Conrado
Paranoia over Venezuela's ties to Iran —real and imaginary
Thousands March in Venezuela against U.S. Sanctions
Central American integration —and militarization
Ousted Honduran President Zelaya Returns Home 23 Months After U.S.-Backed Coup
Massive Turnout for Zelaya Launches New Chapter of Honduran Struggle
OAS Readmits Honduras To Regional Block After 32-1 Vote
Guatemala's high court rules for indigenous rights
Mexico Investigates Grenade Attack On Newspaper In Saltillo
Mexico Debates Drug War Death Toll Figure Amid Government Silence
Ciudad Juarez: The Long (and Bloody) Road to June 10 (Mexico)
Social Insecurity (Mexico)
Women’s/Human Rights News: The Police and Sexual Assault
Mexico: arrested migrants on hunger strike; growing concern about abuses
The Rebirth of Solidarity on the Border (Mexico)
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
WNU #1082: Mexican Election Maneuvers in Hank Rhon Arrest?
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It now appears that US diplomatic cables originating from the US embassy in Haiti are not posted at the URL listed above but at:
Some cables about Haiti originate from other embassies. All cables that WikiLeaks tagged as related to Haiti appear at:
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