Tuesday, October 18, 2011

WNU #1101: Latin American Indignados Join the “Occupy” Protests

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1101, October 16, 2011

1. Latin America: Thousands of Indignados Join the “Occupy” Protests
2. Latin America: Leaders and Writers Assess Occupy Wall Street
3. Trade: US Congress Approves Colombia and Panama FTAs
4. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

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

==> If you’re in the New York metropolitan area this week, don’t forget the final two days of our massive book giveaway, Oct. 19 and Oct. 22. More information at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/2011/10/still-more-free-books-from-new-york.html

*1. Latin America: Thousands of Indignados Join the “Occupy” Protests
Joining others in more than 900 cities around the world, Latin American activists protested on Oct. 15 to demonstrate their discontent with the global economic system. The demonstrations got a significant boost from Occupy Wall Street, a US movement that started with an action in New York on Sept. 17, but the Latin American protests also referenced the Real Democracy Now movement that developed in Spain last spring; the Spanish protests were inspired in turn by protests in Tunisia and Egypt at the beginning of the year. In Spanish-speaking countries the movement is widely known as “15-M,” from May 15, the day when protests started in Madrid. Like the Spanish protesters, Latin American participants call themselves los indignados and las indignadas—“the angry ones,” or “the indignant ones.”

Thousands of Chileans marked the global day of action by marching with music and dancing from the University of Chile campus in central Santiago along the Alameda avenue to the O’Higgins Park. They called for reform of the political system and for a constituent assembly to write a new constitution to replace the current document, which was created under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). The protesters also backed the demands of student strikers for a free public education system and expressed opposition to the HidroAysén project, a plan to build a complex of five dams that environmentalists say would threaten fjords and valleys in the Patagonia region [see Updates #1081, 1100]. Organizers estimated that 5,000 people participated; the police didn’t give an estimate. Similar protests were scheduled for other cities, including Arica, Iquique, Coquimbo, La Serena and Valparaíso. (Radio Universidad de Chile 10/15/11; Observador Global (Argentina) 10/15/11; Adital (Brazil) 10/14/11)

More than 1,000 Argentines, many wearing masks or costumes, marched on Oct. 15 from the Plaza del Congreso de la Nación in central Buenos Aires to the Plaza de Mayo. The marchers included Juan Marino, the leader of the Revolutionary Piquetero Tendency (TPR), part of a movement of the unemployed that developed in response to the neoliberal policies of former president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) and the financial crisis of 2001. “It can’t go on like this,” said another marcher, Bernardo Molina. “The rich created the crisis, and we, the poor, always end up paying.” Argentines also demonstrated in La Plata, Córdoba, Mar del Plata, Rosario, Mendoza, Tucumán, Jujuy and other cities. (People’s Daily (China) 10/16/11)

In Brazil, some 200 people, mostly youths, gathered under a heavy rain at Sao Paulo’s Museo de Arte on Paulista Avenue in the banking and commercial district, while others met in the Largo de Sao Bento, a colonial building in the center of the city. Some participants were from political parties, but one group of youths carried a sign saying they rejected parties. There were also protests in Rio de Janeiro and other cities. (ANSA 10/15/11)

About 500 Peruvians marked the global day of action with a gathering at the Plaza San Martín in the center of Lima. Slogans on their signs included: “Wake up,” “Raise your voice, demand change,” and “The earth and the water belong to the people, not to the businesses.” The mobilization was “peaceful, apolitical and nonpartisan,” Luis Álvarez, from the Take the Plaza collective, which had called the protest, told Radio Programas del Perú (RPP). (EFE 10/15/11 via Qué.es (Spain))

In Colombia about 70 indignados and indignadas met at Bogotá’s National Park to call for a regeneration of the democratic and economic system. The group originally planned to march to Plaza de Bolívar, in front of the presidential palace, but participants decided to stay in the park and develop the movement by holding an assembly in which they exchanged opinions on what should be the principles of the “15-O” (Oct. 15) movement. They also made signs expressing themes of the global movement, such as “Real democracy now,” mixed with references to local issues, such as “No to mining.” (EFE 10/15/11 via El Espectador (Bogotá))

Like their Colombian counterparts, the approximately 400 protesters who gathered at the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico City on Oct. 15 focused on both local and global issues, from the Mexican government’s “war on drugs” to consumerism and fraudulent banking practices. The group that called for the mobilization, the Permanent Assembly of Mexican Indignados, read a communiqué saying that “the country is hurling itself into the disaster of daily and widespread violence; into unemployment and hunger; into the violation of the most fundamental rights; into the destruction of the social fabric and the loss of human values.” “If those below get moving, those above fall down,” “Less tele and more vision,” and “If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep” were among the signs, along with “We’ve had it up to here” (Estamos hasta la madre), a slogan which has dominated Mexican demonstrations for much of this year [see Update #1079].

There were protests in 20 other Mexican cities, including a sit-in at the Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada de Jalapa plaza in the eastern state of Veracruz and at the Explanada de los Héroes in the central plaza of Monterrey in the northern state of Nuevo León. (Observador Global 10/15/11; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/16/11, ___ )

*2. Latin America: Leaders and Writers Assess Occupy Wall Street
Latin America’s protests on the Oct. 15 global day of action around the economic system were not especially large--in comparison either to the massive protests in Europe that day or to many Latin American demonstrations around the same issues over recent years. But for leaders, writers and activists in the region the day was an historic event, both because of the participation of people around the globe and because of the unusual leading role of a movement based in the US.

“We agree with some of the expressions that some movements have used around the world [in] demonstrations like the ones we see in the US and other countries,” Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, a member of the center-left Workers Party (PT), said in an official speech in Porto Alegre on Oct. 14. She noted that she herself had taken a slogan from these movements: “No, we’re not going to pay for your crisis.” (ANSA 10/15/11)

Hugo Chávez Frías, the leftist president of Venezuela, warned US rulers that “something’s germinating” in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Rather than “trying to stop the peaceful march of Venezuela,” he said at an Oct. 15 cabinet meeting broadcast by the government’s television network, Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), US leaders should “worry instead about the indignados they have there in the heart of Wall Street. Today there were marches in half the world, in all the world. Let them worry about that.” (EFE 10/15/11 via El Nuevo Herald (Miami))

Oct. 15 “is going to be an unforgettable date for the human race,” organizers of the protests in Chile wrote on their website. “This will be the first universal gathering of citizens for a better world.” “I have great joy in my heart because for the first time in the history of the planet all of humanity is raising its voice against a dominant power which has kept us lulled to sleep and which is responsible for the current global crisis,” one of the older protesters in Colombia, Jorge Reyes, told the Spanish wire service EFE. The renowned Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano called the 15-M movement a “pure vitamin of hope” which shows that “everything can change” and “we’re not condemned to living in the most dangerous universal dictatorship, that of the masters of finance.” (Adital (Brazil) 10/14/11; EFE 10/15/11 via El Espectador (Bogotá))

An editorial in Mexico’s left-leaning daily La Jornada noted: “[T]he fact that the protests have appeared in scenarios as different from each other as the developed nations of Europe and the peripheral nations of Latin America, Asia and Africa confirms once again the destabilizing and self-destructive character of economic globalization.” The world financial centers have “succeeded in globalizing discontent and indignation.” But the paper warned that “the appearance of these spontaneous expressions of dissent…and the justified unrest of the demonstrators aren’t enough to change [the] status quo…for that it is necessary to have a massive participation of the majority sectors of the world population.” (LJ 10/16/11)

*3. Trade: US Congress Approves Colombia and Panama FTAs
Just as opposition to neoliberal economic policies was generating new protests around the world, on Oct. 12 the US Congress passed long-delayed neoliberal free trade agreements (FTAs, or TLCs in Spanish) with Colombia, South Korea and Panama. The three agreements were negotiated by the administration of former US president George W. Bush (2001-2009); the Colombia FTA was signed in 2006, and the Korea and Panama FTAs were signed in 2007. But approval by Congress was delayed because of partisan maneuvering and the unpopularity of previous agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Many Democrats and US labor leaders opposed the Colombia pact because of continuing murders of unionists in the South American country [see Update #1099].

Despite this opposition, the FTAs passed Congress with large majorities. The vote in the House of Representative was 262-167 for the Colombia agreement, 278-151 for Korea and 300-129 for Panama; the Senate voted 66-33 for the Colombia FTA, 83-15 for Korea and 77-22 for Panama. The agreements will eliminate or reduce tariffs restricting imports from the US, improve protection for what US companies consider their intellectual property rights, and give freer access for US investors. The US International Trade Commission (USTR) projects that the three FTAs will boost US national exports by about $13 billion a year, some 0.1% of the US gross domestic product (GDP). (The Jurist 10/13/11)

“More jobs will be created in both countries” through the Colombia-US FTA, Ricardo Tribín, former president of the Colombia Chamber of Commerce, told the Miami radio station WQBA after the pact was approved. “[I]n the case of Florida it was almost necessary to approve it, because of the problem of unemployment,” he said. “Now it just needs to be implemented.” (EFE 10/13/11 via WQBA) US president Barack Obama and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos made similar claims. Obama said the pact would stimulate the stagnant US economy, while Santos promised a permanent 1% increase in Colombia’s growth rate, the creation of 250,000 new jobs and a 6% rise in exports.

But Mauricio Cabrera Galvis, a columnist for the daily Vanguardia in the northern department of Santander, wrote that the Colombian government hadn’t explained how it arrived at such high figures for job growth. The USTR only projected 7,000 new jobs for the US, with exports to Colombia growing by $1.1 billion a year and Colombia’s exports growing by much less--just $487 million. Moreover, some Colombian business people are worried that labor protection clauses in the FTA will raise wages and reduce their competitive edge, Cabrera wrote. (Vanguardia 10/16/11)

Colombian labor leaders didn’t share this concern about increased wages. The unionists, who have repeatedly demonstrated against the FTA [see Update #1075], expect that the FTA “will bring a great loss of jobs and the destruction of the agricultural sector, which isn’t prepared for the competition” with US agribusiness, in the words of Tarcisio Mora, who heads the Unitary Workers Central (CUT), Colombia’s main labor federation. (TeleSUR 10/13/11 via Adital (Brazil)) Colombian economist Mario Alejandro Valencia went further. Noting that the US Congress passed the FTA on Oct. 12, when Latin Americans commemorate the beginning of the European invasion and colonization of the region, Valencia charged that the pact “legally decrees the recolonization of Colombia, this time at the hands of the US multinationals, the most powerful that have ever existed.” (Prensa Rural (Colombia) 10/14/11)

Union leaders in Panama had the same concerns. “With this treaty Panamanian agriculture and employment will obviously be affected,” Samuel Rivera, from the National Council of Organized Workers (Conato), told the French wire service AFP. “This is a fight between a heavyweight and a flyweight… [W]ith the [government] subsidies that US products get, there is no human way our country can compete.” (AFP 10/13/11 via Estrategia y Negocios (Honduras))

*4. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba

The Year in Revolts: A South American Perspective of the Arab Spring

Argentina to Wall Street: Latin American Social Movements and the Occupation of Everything

Argentine connection in Iran assassination plot alleged

Chile: Mapuche march on Santiago to mark Columbus invasion

‘A Poetic Concept of Identity’: An Interview with Mapuche Poet David Aniñir Guilitraro (Chile)

Paraguay: indigenous Aché defend land with bows and arrows

Bolivia cancels controversial Amazon highway —for now

Has Bolivia really canceled Amazon highway project?

Bolivia's TIPNIS Conflict Moves to La Paz

Ecuador: Mining in Times of Referendums

Colombian workers, students hit streets in nationwide protests

Colombia: nomadic Amazon tribe caught between paras, guerillas

Abortion Ban Rejected By Colombian Senate

Reflections on the U.S.-Colombia FTA Agreement Approved Yesterday by Congress

Colombian Senator: Trade Deal "Worst Decision" to Date

Workers in Nationalised Companies in Venezuela Demand More Worker Control

Conjugal Visits For Gay Couples Legalized In Costa Rica

Guatemala: Former President Mejía Declared Fugitive For Genocide

Oaxaca: displaced Triqui struggle for the land (Mexico)

Gangsters or Paramilitaries: What’s in a Name? (Mexico)

Mexico: 20 dead in Matamoros prison riot

The Cockamamie Iran-Mexico Terrorist Plot

Iran-Contra Remix for the Twenty-First Century (Mexico)

Mexico: Rural Women Organize to Weather Multiple Crises

Occupy Wall Street Movement Breaks Borders (Mexico)

Cuban 5: Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Other Celebrities Ask Obama To Send René González Home

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Our weekly Immigration News Briefs has ended publication; for news, information and announcements in support of action for immigrant rights in the United States, subscribe to Immigrant Action at:
You can also visit the Immigrant Action blog at:

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

No comments: