Tuesday, January 10, 2012

WNU #1112: UN Claims Progress in Haiti—Two Years After Quake

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1112, January 8, 2012

1. Haiti: UN Claims Progress--Two Years After Quake
2. Mexico: Guerrero Students Occupy Radio Stations
3. Mexico: Ex-President Claims Immunity in Acteal Massacre
4. Honduras: Police Torture Priest and His Brothers
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US

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. Haiti: UN Claims Progress--Two Years After Quake
International efforts to help Haiti recover from a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the southern part of the country in 2010 have made significant progress, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) associate administrator Rebeca Grynspan told reporters on Jan. 6. Speaking less than a week before the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010 quake, Grynspan cited the creation of 300,000 temporary jobs, with 40% going to women, and the removal of 50% of the debris, about five million cubic meters--enough to fill five soccer stadiums, according to Grynspan. International aid has now shifted “from the humanitarian phase to the recovery and reconstruction phases,” she said. (United Nations News Center 1/6/12; AlterPresse (Haiti) 1/8/12)

Haitian prime minister Garry Conille was equally upbeat when talking to the press in December. He announced that in the two months since his confirmation, the new government had made many advances in helping the earthquake survivors who still live in temporary camps. Conille said his administration’s priority is relocating the thousands of homeless people camped out in the Champ de Mars, a huge park that faces the National Palace in downtown Port-au-Prince, and making sure “that they’ll be able to go to a zone that is secure.” This is to be done, according to the prime minister, through the “16/6” program, a government plan to move the displaced from six camps into 16 neighborhoods, with each family receiving 20,000 gourdes (about $496) to pay for new homes. (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 12/17/11)

But a Jan. 8 report by the Associated Press wire service noted that hundreds of thousands of people continue to live in camps or badly damaged buildings. While United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon and the UN special envoy, former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), promised “that the world would help Haiti ‘build back better,’ and $2.38 billion has been spent, Haitians have hardly seen any building at all,” AP reporter Trenton Daniel wrote. “Of the 10 best-funded projects approved by a reconstruction panel, not one focuses exclusively on housing.”

One of these projects is the Parc Industriel de Caracol (Caracol Industrial Park, PIC), a factory complex being built with $225 million in international financing, $124 million of it from the US [see Update #1108]. The project includes housing for 5,000 workers, but PIC is located in the northeast, 240 km (150 miles) from the area affected by the earthquake. The best-publicized effort to provide new homes for the displaced was the spring 2010 relocation of 5,000 people from a golf course in Pétionville, an affluent Port-au-Prince suburb, to Corail-Cesselesse, a deserted area 24 km north of the capital. This too was promoted as a plan for providing housing around a proposed industrial park [see Update #1052]. “That never happened,” according to the AP report. “Today, the people of Corail-Cesselesse are ravaged by floods or bake in the heat in their timber-frame shelters…far from the jobs that sustained them before the quake.”

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, or CIRH in French and Spanish), which international donors set up in March 2010 to monitor the distribution of international aid, is now out of operation. The Haitian Parliament refused to renew the IHRC’s mandate at the end of October on the grounds that the commission, which Bill Clinton co-chaired, had inadequate Haitian representation [see Update #1099]. (AP 1/8/12 via WTOP (Washington, DC)

*2. Mexico: Guerrero Students Occupy Radio Stations
Dozens of students occupied four radio stations in Chilpancingo, capital of the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero, for about an hour on Jan. 3 in an attempt to publicize their positions on an ongoing conflict at the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the nearby village of Ayotzinapa. The conflict intensified when two students were shot dead on Dec. 12 as state and federal police attempted to remove some 500 protesters blocking the Mexico City-Acapulco highway to push their demands for improvements at the school [see Update #1109]. The students, along with parents and other supporters, occupied the school over the Christmas and New Year break and said they planned to maintain their mobilization after the official school opening on Jan. 3.

The student protests had started with demands for expanding the student body and for resuming classes, which had been suspended since Nov. 2 because of a dispute involving the teachers and the school administration. Following the shootings on Dec. 12, the students added a demand for the resignation of Guerrero governor Ángel Heladio Aguirre Rivero and for a thorough investigation of the police action. The students also want to know the status of the federal police agents who had been active in the operation. The media reported that 12 state police were put under restrictions after the killings but said nothing about the federal police, according to the students.

A gas station near the highway caught fire during the Dec. 12 confrontation, apparently because a Molotov cocktail thrown by a student hit a gas pump. Gonzalo Miguel Rivas Cámara, a worker at the station, was injured in the fire; he died of his injuries early on Jan. 8. (La Jornada (Mexico) 1/2/12, 1/4/12)

*3. Mexico: Ex-President Claims Immunity in Acteal Massacre
Former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (1994-2000) filed papers in US district court in Hartford, Connecticut, on Jan. 6 claiming that his presidential status gives him immunity from a legal action stemming from a December 1997 massacre in the southeastern state of Chiapas. Ten unnamed survivors of the massacre of 45 indigenous campesinos in the community of Acteal are demanding $50 million in damages in a suit they filed against Zedillo in Hartford on Sept. 19. The former president is currently teaching at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Since he is in the US, he is subject to two US laws--the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 and the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act--which permit foreigners to bring suits in US courts for violence that occurred in other countries.

The Acteal killings were carried out by indigenous paramilitaries against members of the Civil Society Organization Las Abejas (“The Bees”). The Mexican government has always contended that the killings arose from long-standing conflicts between indigenous communities. Dozens of men from neighboring villages were convicted of participating in the massacre, although the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) overturned 22 of the convictions in August 2009 [see World War 4 Report 8/16/09].

Zedillo’s 122-page court filing called charges that the former president “was somehow complicit” in the killings “baseless and outrageous.” But the massacre occurred during conflicts between the government and the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), and the Acteal community was sympathetic to the EZLN. A number of Mexican analysts feel that Zedillo’s government may have trained and backed the paramilitaries, or at the very least aggravated tensions between EZLN supporters and opponents in Chiapas.

“[W]ithout doubt, in Zedillo there was complicity or [guilt by] omission for the tragic events in Acteal,” former legislator Jaime Martínez Veloz told the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada. Martínez Veloz had been a member of the Concord and Peacemaking Commission (COCOPA), a multi-party congressional commission sent by the federal government to negotiate with the EZLN starting in 1994. “Ultimately, Acteal is the most brutal expression of the failure to comply with the San Andrés Accords,” he said, referring to an agreement COCOPA worked out providing more autonomy for indigenous communities in Chiapas. Zedillo’s government rejected the accords, leaving the conflicts unresolved. (CNN 1/6/12; LJ 1/7/12 from Notimex, 1/8/12 by staff)

*4. Honduras: Police Torture Priest and His Brothers
Marco Aurelio Lorenzo, a Catholic priest based in the western Honduran department of Santa Bárbara, filed a criminal complaint with the Public Ministry on Jan. 4 charging that he and his two brothers had been tortured by eight police agents. Lorenzo said the attack occurred on Dec. 26 on a road between La Esperanza and San Miguelito, Intibucá department, as the brothers were driving to visit their parents in Yamaranguila, also in Intibucá. “They beat us on every part of our bodies,” Lorenzo told reporters after filing the charges in the northern city of San Pedro Sula.

The new accusation against the police follows several months of media reports about police involvement in corruption, drug trafficking, auto theft and murders, including the Oct. 22 killing of two college students [see Update #1104]. (EFE 1/4/12 via Univision, 1/5/12 via Latin American Herald Tribune)

Lorenzo is known for his activism in defense of the environment. He was arrested and beaten by police agents on July 17, 2007, after a peaceful protest against open-pit mining, and he was beaten by three unidentified men on Aug. 13, 2004. The Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH) is demanding that the Honduran government take measures to guarantee the physical integrity of Lorenzo and his brothers and their access to justice, without allowing reprisals against them. The human rights organization asks for letters to be sent to Honduran officials, including Supreme Court President Jorge Alberto Rivera Avilés (cedij@poderjudicial.gob.hn)   and Public Prosecutions Director (lrubi@mp.hn ), with copies to COFADEH (berthacofadeh@yahoo.com ). (Alliance for Global Justice alert 1/5/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US

Chile: Mapuche "terrorism" blamed in deadly forest fires

A Temporary Suspension of Exile in Chile: Interview with Former MIR Militant Hugo Marchant

Chile Rising: Behind the Student Protest Movement

Bolivia: Cochabamba social summit highlights contradictions

Peru: Cajamarca anti-mining protests resume

Ecuador court upholds multi-billion dollar fine against Chevron

Oil Politics in Ecuador: Saving Yasuní, Without Chevron’s Blood Money

Colombia: National Police mobilized to Urabá as paras declare "armed

Inmates' families occupy Venezuela prison

Favourable Verdict for Venezuelan Government on Exxon Nationalisation Case

US boots Venezuelan consul in supposed cyber-attack plot

New U.S.-Colombia Base in Panama to Combat Undocumented People

Military Maneuvers in the Country Without an Army (Costa Rica)

A Wake-up Call for Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, Not Indicator of Goldcorp's Performance (Guatemala)

Justice Delayed 30 Years in Guatemala

Mexico mobilizes thousands more troops to Tamaulipas amid rising violence

Zapatistas: 18 Years of Rebellion and Resistance

An Emerging Political-Civic Disconnect in Mexico

How US Policies Fueled Mexico's Great Migration

U.S. and Latin America Should Support Prosecution of Haiti’s Duvalier

Haiti: Seven Places Where Earthquake Money Did and Did Not Go

Contractor Accused of Waste in Katrina Reconstruction Lands USAID Contract in Haiti

Mesoamerica Project: Obama’s Message to the Latin American Governments

School of Americas Watch: Vigil to Close the SOA 2011

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