Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1108, December 4, 2011
1. Costa Rica: Supreme Court Rules Against Gold Mine
2. Haiti: Pressure Grows for Reinstating Fired Unionists
3. Chile: Judge Indicts US Officer in 1973 Killings
4. Mexico: Murdered Activist Blamed for Own Murder
5. Latin America: Poverty Down Except in Mexico and Honduras
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com.
*1. Costa Rica: Supreme Court Rules Against Gold Mine
In a major victory for Costa Rica’s environmental movement, on Nov. 30 the First Chamber of the country’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s November 2010 decision canceling a concession for an open-pit gold mine in Crucitas de San Carlos near the Nicaraguan border. The Supreme Court’s ruling also nullified Environment and Energy Ministry executive decree 34801, with which former president Oscar Arias Sánchez (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) had declared the mine, owned by the Canadian company Infinito Gold Ltd., a matter of “national interest.” The court told the Public Ministry to “start an investigation to determine whether it is proper to pursue a criminal case against” Arias, former vice president Roberto Dobles Mora and six other former officials.
Infinito Gold, which is based in Calgary, Alberta province, indicated it might go to international bodies to try to get back the $127 million it had invested in the mine, which the company had expected to produce a million ounces of gold.
The court’s call for investigating former president Arias points to several irregularities in the case. Arias’ 2008 decree that the mine was in the national interest let Infinito Gold keep the concession for the project despite serious concerns about its environmental impact. More recently, a draft of the Supreme Court’s final decision in the case disappeared in the middle of November, leading to suspicions that the document was stolen and leaked to Infinito Gold’s legal team. Supreme Court alternate magistrate Moisés Fachler has resigned as a result, and the Public Ministry is investigating.
Activists celebrated the Nov. 30 decision with demonstrations in front of the Supreme Court building in San José. Some 90% of the population reportedly opposed the mine, which had inspired numerous demonstrations and a hunger strike [see Updates #1054, 1056, 1057]. (El País (Costa Rica) 11/30/11; Adital (Brazil) 12/1/11; Costa Rica Contaminada blog 12/3/11)
*2. Haiti: Pressure Grows for Reinstating Fired Unionists
The Montreal-based apparel firm Gildan Activewear Inc. has asked its Haitian subcontractor, Genesis S.A., to reinstate four unionized workers that the plant’s managers fired in the last week of September, Gildan senior vice president Peter Iliopoulos told the Montreal Gazette on Nov. 29. The company has “requested the reinstatement of the employees with full back pay dating back to the date of dismissal and also recognition of full seniority for these individuals as though they had never left the company or factory,” Iliopoulos said. Another major North American apparel firm, North Carolina-based Hanesbrands Inc., has taken similar action with its subcontractor in Haiti, Multiwear SA, which fired Hilaire Jean-Jacques, a member of the same union, on Sept. 30.
The five unionists were all officers of the newly formed Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA). A sixth SOTA officer was fired in the same week at One World Apparel, which produces for Superior Uniform Group Inc., a manufacturer based in Seminole, Florida.
Gildan and Hanesbrands’ call for the workers to be reinstated came in response to a Nov. 24 report by Better Work Haiti, a partnership of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) that was set up to monitor labor conditions in Haiti. “There is strong circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the officers of the SOTA trade union were terminated based on their trade union affiliation,” the group concluded, saying the timing of the firings “strongly suggests an effort by employers to undermine the new union, and to curtail its growth before it had the opportunity to expand its membership.” The report recommended reinstating the workers with back pay.
SOTA was formally launched on Sept. 15 with the goal of organizing workers in Port-au-Prince’s garment assembly sector, which currently has no unions; only one of Haiti’s 23 assembly plants is unionized. Unionists and supporters, including the leftist workers’ organization Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), responded to the firings with an international campaign to pressure the plants for reinstatement [see Updates #1099, 1106]. (Montreal Gazette 11/30/11, 12/1/11; Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch 11/30/11)
Better Work Haiti’s sharp criticism of labor relations at assembly plants came as the Haitian government and international donors pushed ahead with plans for more of the tax-exempt plants, which produce for export to the North American market. On Nov. 28 Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”), former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and other dignitaries attended a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Parc Industriel de Caracol (Caracol Industrial Park, PIC) near a small fishing village in Northeast department. The 246-hectare facility, formerly known the Parc Industriel du Nord (PIN) or Parc Industriel de Région Nord (PIRN), is expected to generate 20,000 jobs [see Update #1087]. “Haiti is open for business,” President Martelly announced at the ceremony. (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 11/28/11)
The ceremony was followed by the second Invest in Haiti Forum, which the Haitian government, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Clinton Foundation hosted in Port-au-Prince on Nov. 29 and 30. Some 1,000 investors, business people and government officials attended the event, which highlighted plans for additional export-oriented projects. One was a partnership of the Inter-American Development Bank (BID), the Swiss-based multinational Nestlé S.A. and the National Federation of Coffee Producers of Colombia for developing coffee exports. Another was an agreement by the multinational cell phone company Digicel Group and the Marriott International hotel company to build and manage a $45 million, 168-room hotel in Port-au-Prince--where hundreds of thousands of people continue to live in tents or other temporary shelters nearly two years after a devastating earthquake. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/2/11)
On Nov. 29 Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW, Ayiti Kale Je, “Haiti Keep Your Eyes Open” in Creole), a project sponsored by several Haitian media organizations, released a seven-part assessment of these types of export-oriented development strategies. The series, “Haiti—Open for Business,” detailed low wages and anti-labor practices in the assembly plant sector and described the likely environment damage from the Caracol industrial park in the north. “Basing the country’s development on assembly industries is a big error; it will lead us into a hole, into dependency,” Haitian economist Camille Chalmers of the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), told the investigators. “People need to know what FTZs [free trade zones] are, what has happened in Mexico, or Honduras, so they don’t think these things will ‘save’ us,” Chalmers said.
“Manufacturers do not offshore their jobs in order to ‘jumpstart’ industry or ‘improve the standard of living,’” the HGW reporters concluded. “They do it to make a profit. As Canadian company Gildan Activewear said in a recent newspaper article, the savings offered is ‘too good to pass up.’” (HGW 11/29/11)
Correction: Following our sources, we reported previously that Hanesbrands’ Haitian supplier was One World Apparel, which actually produces for Superior Uniform Group Inc., according to the Montreal Gazette; also, the name of the unionist fired from Multiwear was given incorrectly as “Hilaire Jean-François.”
*3. Chile: Judge Indicts US Officer in 1973 Killings
Chilean judge Jorge Zepeda issued an indictment on Nov. 29 charging former US Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis with involvement in the murders of two US citizens, journalist Charles Horman and graduate student Frank Teruggi, in the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende Gossens. Judge Zepeda asked the Chilean Supreme Court to authorize a request for Davis’ extradition from the US. The judge also indicted retired Chilean army Brigadier Pedro Espinoza Bravo, who is already in prison for several other crimes.
Basing the indictment in part on declassified US documents, Zepeda charged that Capt. Davis, who headed the Military Group at the US embassy in Santiago at the time, could have prevented Horman’s execution by the Chilean military but failed to do so because he thought Horman’s work was “subversive” and “extremist.” The documents also indicate that Horman may have been killed because he had found out about US “collaboration during the military events unfolding,” the judge wrote. Horman and Teruggi were working together on a weekly news digest; both were being monitored by US agents, who passed information on to the Chilean military, according to Zepeda.
Capt. Davis’ wife told the Associated Press wire service on Dec. 1 that her husband has severe Alzheimer’s and is in a US nursing home. Patricia Davis, who lives in Florida, refused to name the nursing home. (AP 11/29/11 via Miami Herald, 12/2/11 via ABC News; New York Times 11/30/11)
*4. Mexico: Murdered Activist Blamed for Own Murder
Unknown assailants gunned down Mexican activist Nepomuceno Moreno Núñez on a street in Hermosillo, the capital of the northern state of Sonora, on Nov. 28. Moreno Núñez had been working with the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD), which was founded by the poet Javier Sicilia this year to oppose the militarized “war on drugs” that has killed as many as 50,000 Mexican since late 2006 [see Update #1079].
Moreno’s political activism began when one of his sons, Jorge Mario Moreno, disappeared in July 2010, apparently after being picked up in Ciudad Obregón by municipal or state police agents. Nepomuceno Moreno and other MPJD members met with President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa this past Oct. 14 at the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City; during the meeting Moreno discussed his son’s disappearance and asked for protection for himself.
Sonora state authorities suggested that Moreno’s murder might be linked to his own criminal record. Moreno was convicted of possession of heroin with intent to sell in Arizona in the 1970s, when he was in his twenties. He was arrested again in Sonora in November 2005 for illegal weapons possession in connection with a shootout in the Los Lagos Golf Club in Hermosillo, but he was acquitted in 2009. At a press conference in Mexico City on Nov. 29, Javier Sicilia called for Sonora attorney general Abel Murrieta Gutiérrez to resign because of this attempt to criminalize the murdered activist. (La Jornada (Mexico) 11/30/11; Adital (Brazil) 12/1/11; Milenio (Mexico) 12/1/11)
In other “drug war” news, on Nov. 27 President Calderón’s office denounced “false and slanderous imputations” against the president and warned that it was analyzing the possibility of “taking legal action against those that make them in various international or national forums and tribunals.” The reference was to a complaint that Mexican human rights attorney Netzaí Sandoval filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on Nov. 25 charging Calderón and others with human rights violations in the fight against drug trafficking [see Update #1107].
Sandoval responded that it was “inadmissible” for the government to try to use lawsuits to silence its critics. “Calderón is betraying the ideology of his own party,” Sandoval said, referring to the center-right National Action Party (PAN). “One of the most persistent criticisms by the PAN and Calderón’s government against the Cuban regime, that of Fidel Castro, is its refusal to allow observation [of the human right situation] by international organizations.” The complaint that Sandoval filed could lead the ICC to place Mexico under observation, as has happened with Colombia. (LJ 11/28/11, 11/29/11)
*5. Latin America: Poverty Down Except in Mexico and Honduras
The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, CEPAL in Spanish) released a report on Nov. 29 showing that the poverty rate in Latin America had dropped from 48.4% to 31.4% between 1990 and 2010, while the indigence rate fell from 22.6% to 12.3%. Despite the progress, 174 million people continue to live in poverty, and their situation is likely to worsen because of rising food costs, according to the UN commission, which is based in Chile.
Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia were the countries that showed the most improvement, according to the report. Only Honduras and Mexico showed an increase in poverty rates, 1.7% for Honduras and 1.5% for Mexico. The Honduran and Mexican economies are both especially dependent on exports to the US, and the global economic crisis that started in 2008 hit Mexico harder than other countries in the region. (MercoPress (Montevideo) 11/29/11; La Jornada (Mexico) 11/30/11)
*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti
Latin America: new regional bloc includes Cuba —but not US
Latin America: Not Everyone on Board with Mesoamerica Development Plan
Just Legalize It: ‘Ending the War on Drugs’ Conference in Washington
Argentina: The Assassins of the Landowners
Argentina: Mapuche occupy US-owned gas plant
Homage to a Criminal in Chile
Chilean Student Protesters Vow to Continue Marches
Peruvian Government Expands Scope of Military Activity
Peru: Humala declares state of emergency over Cajamarca protests
Hostage Deaths in Colombia Highlight the Need for More Cautious Policy
Caracas, Venezuela Prepares for CELAC Founding Conference
Transnational Movement “Encachimbados” Brings Occupy Protests to El Salvador
New US Military Bases in Honduras
Honduras: An Urgent Call
"This Land Is Ours!" Land Theft as Legacy of Genocide in Guatemala
Canada Under Pressure to Try Alleged Guatemalan War Criminal
The Mexican Drug War Goes to The Hague
REDD in the Lacandon Jungle: The Political Use of a Program Against Climate Change (Mexico)
Request for Letters from Mexican Electrical Workers (SME)
Electrical Workers Demand That Government Fulfill Promises (Mexico)
"Haiti--Open for Business"
Controversy over Haiti’s development
World Bank Allocates $255 million for Haiti Reconstruction
Blacklisted Contractor Continues Receiving Government Money Through Haiti Contracts
Interview: Cuba's Health Care Miracle in Haiti
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011
WNU #1108: Costa Rican Court Rules Against Gold Mine
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Nice updates...Really informative one....Thanks
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