Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Links but No Update for March 25, 2012

[There is no Update this week; we'll be back next week. Below are links to stories from other sources.]

Americas Summit: Path from the Drug War to Peace

New Declassified Details on Repression and U.S. Support for Military Dictatorship in Argentina

Book Review: El Mal Introduces Argentinians to Barrick Gold

Unveiling Canada's Role in Chile’s Environmental and Political Conflicts

Chile: Anti-Discrimination Bill Fast-Tracked After Brutal Gay Bashing

Chilean military incursions into Peru?

Brazilian Prosecutors File Criminal Charges Against Chevron And Transocean

Bolivia: TIPNIS Communities Plan National March and Resistance to Government Consulta

Bolivia's TIPNIS Conflict: Indigenous Peoples Denounce Legal Persecution

Bolivia: Sachs Versus the Facts

US chews out Peru on coca eradication; Bolivia chews back

Peru: Humala announces deal on contested Camisea gasfield

Peru warned on growing water conflicts

Chairman Gonzalo to profit from eviction of peasants? (Peru)

Economic Growth with Social Deficit (Peru)

Commentary: Mining a Leading Issue for Marchers in Quito (Ecuador)

Colombia: guerillas, popular mobilizations threaten pipeline expansion

Venezuelan Social Movements Denounce Private Newspaper Allegations of Links to Paramilitary Groups

Central America: Between Past and Present

Repression and Resistance in Honduras: Interview with Jesse Freeston on His New Documentary

Campesinos Refusing To Disappear: Guatemala's Polochic Valley One Year After the Evictions

Guatemalan Paramilitaries Sentenced To 7,710 Years For Massacre

Can a Better-Trained Police Force, Embedded in Civil Society, Defeat the Narcos? (Mexico)

Mexico: The Bonfires of Cherán

Will Mexico’s Drug Cartels Influence the Country’s Presidential Election?

Activists Demand to Ban Cyanide in Dominican Republic, Protest Barrick Gold

A Palestinian in Indefinite Detention--10 Years Ago in the United States (immigration)

Monday, March 19, 2012

WNU #1122: Will Panama’s Ngöbe-Buglé Accept New Accord?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1122, March 18, 2012

1. Panama: Will Ngöbe-Buglé Accept Accord With Government?
2. Chile: Police Repress Latest Student and Aysén Protests
3. Mexico: Teachers Strike, March Against Evaluations
4. Mexico: Two More Activists Are Murdered
5. Guatemala: General Sentenced in 1982 Massacre
6. Bolivia: Historic Mineworkers’ Leader Dies
7. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean, 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. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com.  For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Panama: Will Ngöbe-Buglé Accept Accord With Government?
Leaders of the Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous group reached an agreement with the Panamanian government the night of Mar. 15 that would ban mining in the group’s territory and limit hydroelectric projects. The accord is the latest development in a struggle between the Ngöbe-Buglé and rightwing president Ricardo Martinelli that started in February 2011 and led to major demonstrations and the deaths of two protesters in February of this year [see Update #1120].

The agreement “cancels all concessions…for the exploitation of mineral resources” in and near the Ngöbe-Buglé’s territory and stipulates that any hydroelectric project the government plans in the territory will require approval by the indigenous authorities and will be submitted to a referendum of the area’s residents. The Ngöbe-Buglé are to receive 5% of the annual billing from the projects, and at least 25% of the non-specialized jobs at the projects are to go to indigenous people or other residents of the area. The accord is now part of a proposed Article 5 of Special Law 415 on mining, which goes to the National Assembly’s Commerce Committee for debate starting on Mar. 19.

The accord is backed by Ngöbe-Buglé leader (“cacica”) Silvia Carrera and by Rogelio Montezuma, leader of the Coordinating Committee for the Defense and Rights of the Ngöbe-Buglé People, but the agreement may not end the protests. Ngöbe-Buglé deputy leader Mijita Andrade opposes the accord, as does the Ngöbe-Buglé General Congress, which represents the traditional indigenous leadership and doesn’t recognize officials like Carrera who were chosen in elections organized by the government’s Electoral Tribunal. The negotiators “ended up giving in to the interests of the government and the hydroelectric companies,” General Congress president Celio Guerra told the AFP wire service.

Carrera denied reports that she had received $15,000 and two vehicles for signing the accord, and she returned to the Ngöbe-Buglé terrritory with Rogelio Montezuma to explain the agreement to the residents. (AFP 3/16/12 via Univision; La Estrella (Panama) 3/16/12; Prensa Latina 3/17/12)

*2. Chile: Police Repress Latest Student and Aysén Protests
In the first student demonstration of Chile’s new school year, some 5,000 youths marched in Santiago on Mar. 15 in support of the student movement’s demand last year: free, high-quality education [see Update #1110]. The Santiago authorities hadn’t issued a permit for the action, and carabineros militarized police, including some on horseback, blocked the marchers at Bustamante Park. The police used tear gas and water cannons, and hooded protesters responded by hurling sticks, rocks and bottles. Traffic was blocked with barricades in some parts of the city, and a bus was set on fire. By evening, 105 people were detained and three agents were injured, according to the authorities.

Agents also invaded the University of Chile campus at Vicuña Mackenna Avenue, using tear gas and hitting students with nightsticks, according to Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH) president Gabriel Boric, who said he was among those hit. The police also detained Ricardo Uribe, a Colombian video journalist, during the day’s events, the Association of International Press Correspondents (ACPI) in Chile reported.

Along with their own demands, the students also expressed support for protests that started a month earlier in southern Chile’s isolated Aysén region to demand subsidies and other aid to compensate for the high cost of living in the area [see Update #1120]. A group from the Communist Youth of Chile (JJCC), headed by FECH vice president Camila Vallejo Dowling, briefly occupied the Santiago headquarters of the rightwing Independent Democratic Union (UDI) to denounce repression by President Sebastián Piñera’s government and to show solidarity with Aysén residents. The UDI is the largest party in the ruling coalition.

In Aysén itself negotiations with the government broke down once again, leading to more protests and police repression the night of Mar. 14 and the early morning of Mar. 15. (La Tercera (Chile) 3/15/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 3/16/12 from correspondent)

While 2011 was dominated by massive student protests in Chile, some local media have suggested that 2012 is starting to look like the real “year of the protest.” In the country’s southernmost region, Magallanes y Antártica, a Citizens’ Assembly has raised demands similar to those of Aysén residents, saying it was ready to initiate protests. In Calama, a city in the arid Antofagasta region in the north, there are plans for a demonstration on Mar. 20 to demand that proceeds from the region’s important copper mines be used to benefit local residents. Workers in the nation’s ports held a three-day strike in January, while independent fishing people in the Los Ríos region announced a demonstration for Mar. 15 against proposed legislation on fishing.

Protests also continue around environmental issues. Activists demonstrated in Santiago on Mar. 14 as part of the International Day Against Dams (also known as the International Day of Action for Rivers), which was first observed in 1997 in Curitiba, Brazil. In Chile the main focus of environmental protests has been the HidroAysén project, a plan to build five dams in the south. Several opinion polls taken in 2011 showed opposition to the project running at more than 70%. (Prensa Latina 3/14/12, ___)

*3. Mexico: Teachers Strike, March Against Evaluations
Tens of thousands of Mexican teachers in several states went on strike or took to the streets Mar. 14-16 in three days of “Action in Defense of Education.” In addition to local demands, the actions were focused on opposition to a proposed “national evaluation” exam that the teachers consider a step towards privatizing public education, and rejection of the 23-year leadership of Elba Esther Gordillo Morales in the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), Latin America’s largest teachers’ union. The actions were called by the union’s main rank-and-file caucus, the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), with the support of some state sections of the SNTE.

On Mar. 14 the 70,000 teachers in SNTE Section 22 in Oaxaca state stayed out of the classroom to demand the return of teacher Carlos René Román Salazar, who disappeared one year before, on Mar. 14, 2011. The day’s events included a march by thousands of teachers in Oaxaca city. Some 40,000 teachers went on strike in the southeastern state of Chiapas in support of the national demands, with about 20,000 of them marching in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital. Teachers also walked out in Guerrero.

On Mar. 15 the actions moved to the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), where the organizers said 60,000 teachers from Oaxaca, Michoacán, Guerrero, Chiapas, Morelos and other states marched to the central plaza, the Zócalo, and set up tarps and tents in preparation for a sit-in of at least 24 hours. According to the federal Public Education Secretariat (SEP), a strike by teachers in Section 9, the DF branch of the SNTE, closed 42 of the city’s schools and was partially observed in another 251; the teachers said they had shut down 1,000 schools.

Contingents from different states held protests and tied up traffic in various locations around Mexico City on Mar. 16, including the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), the stock exchange (Bolsa Mexicana de Valores, BMV), the US embassy and the Angel of Independence. During the day the CNTE leadership negotiated with the SEP, which agreed to participate in a forum being held in the Senate during the coming week to discuss the universal evaluation test. CNTE leaders admitted that the SEP’s concession was “limited,” but they agreed not to continue the protests and the Zócalo sit-in after Mar. 16. (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/15/12, 3/16/12, 3/17/12)

*4. Mexico: Two More Activists Are Murdered
LGBT groups in Mexico City were planning a march on Mar. 18 from the Angel of Independence to Puebla state’s office in the city to protest the Mar. 10 murder of transgender activist Agnes Torres Sulca in Puebla city and to demand protection from homophobic hate crimes in the state. Puebla authorities claim the killers were a group of about five local youths; one of the youths, Luis Fernando Bueno, was arrested in Mérida in the eastern state of Yucután on Mar. 16 and was said to have confessed. (Adital (Brazil) 3/16/12; Milenio (Mexico) 3/17/12)

Anti-mining activist Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez was killed in an ambush on a highway in the Ocotlán region of the southern state of Oaxaca the night of Mar. 15; two other activists in the car with him, Rosalinda Dionisio Sánchez and Andrés Vásquez Sánchez, were wounded. Bernardo Vásquez was the spokesperson for the United Peoples of the Ocotlán Valley Coordinating Committee (COPUVO), which has been engaged in a three-year struggle against the Trinidad silver mine owned by Compañia Minera Cuzcatlán S.A. de C.V., a subsidiary of Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver Mines Inc.

The ambush occurred as the three activists were returning from a meeting with state officials to discuss the ongoing conflict over the mine among residents of San José del Progreso municipality. Two other COPUVO supporters were killed there on Jan. 18 in a shooting incident which opponents to the mine blame on Mayor Alberto Mauro Sánchez Muñoz [see Update #1115]. Bernardo Vásquez’s brother, Leovigildo Vásquez Sánchez, blamed the latest killing on what he called the “hit men” of Mayor Sánchez Muñoz and the Trinidad mine. (Proceso (Mexico) 3/16/12)

*5. Guatemala: General Sentenced in 1982 Massacre
After an 18-day trial, a Guatemalan court has sentenced former general Pedro Pimentel to 6,030 years in prison for his participation in the Dec. 6, 1982 massacre of 201 civilians--most of them women and children--in the village of Dos Erres in the northern department of Petén. The sentence, 30 years for each of the victims plus 30 years for crimes against humanity, was made public the night of Mar. 12.

Pimentel, an officer in the elite Kaibiles battalion, which was specially trained in counterinsurgency, is the fifth member of the military to be sentenced for the massacre; the other four were sentenced on Aug. 2, 2011. Pimentel had been living in the US until the US government deported him in July 2011 [see World War 4 Report 7/16/11, 7/27/12].

Five collaborators with the military were scheduled to go on trial on Mar. 14 for their role in the July 18, 1982 massacre of 256 indigenous Mayans in the community of Plan de Sánchez, in Rabinal municipality, Verapaz department. Like the Dos Erres massacre, this atrocity took place during the dictatorship of Efraín Ríos Montt, who is now on trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity [see Update #1115]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/14/12 from AFP, DPA, Notimex)

*6. Bolivia: Historic Mineworkers’ Leader Dies
On Mar. 13 the Bolivian government declared three days of mourning for union and leftist leader Domitila Barrios de Chungara, who died of lung cancer at her home in Cochabamba earlier that day. Born into a mineworkers’ family in 1937, Barrios de Chungara started her political work in a women’s auxiliary for the mineworkers union in the Siglo XX mining district and eventually became a prominent union leader. In 1978 she initiated the mass hunger strike that resulted in the collapse of the 1971-1978 dictatorship of Col. Hugo Banzer Suárez and the restoration of formal democracy. (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/14/12)

Barrios de Chungara described her early political activism and her imprisonment and torture in the book Si me permiten hablar (Let Me Speak in the English translation), written with the collaboration of Brazilian journalist Moema Viezzer.

*7. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti

Latin America: Local Resistances, Global Movements

Latin America: Facing the World Water Forum, We Look Forward and Maintain Hope

Mining Industry Puts a Freeze on Mapping of Argentina’s Glaciers

Argentine Supreme Court Allows Abortion For Victims of Rape

Brazil: Human Rights Prosecution a Landmark Step

Bolivia and the United States: A Relationship in Transition?

Remembering Domitila: Making Bolivian History

Peru: arrest of leaders re-activates Cajamarca anti-mining struggle

Peru: dirty war cases back in the news

Peru: three dead in miners' uprising

Colombia's ambassador to Peru resigns over paramilitary ties

Venezuelan Government Hands out Traditional Musical Instruments as Part of Crime Prevention Strategy

Right-Wing Makes Gains in Salvadoran Congress Election

El Salvador: FMLN Suffers Minor Setback at the Polls

Honduras: When Engagement Becomes Complicity

The G20 Under the Mexican Presidency

Unions Mobilize Worldwide to Demand Labor Rights in Mexico

Honda in Mexico: Employer Impunity

Is it Safe to Party in Cancún? (Mexico)

Mexico: Another Activist Murdered for Resisting a Canadian Mine

Mexican Transgender Activist Agnes Torres Sulca Found Dead

Canadian Banks and Economic Control in the Caribbean

Music and Revolution: Interview with Cuban Musician Vicente Feliú

Shelters That Don’t Shelter the Needy (Haiti)

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.

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

Friday, March 16, 2012

Panels on the Americas at Left Forum in New York City, Mar. 17-18, 2012

If you are able to attend the Left Forum conference in New York City this weekend, you might be interested in these panels dealing with Latin America and the Caribbean or related subjects.

For more information on the Left Forum and for schedule updates:

SATURDAY, March 17

10:00 p.m. – 11:50 p.m.

U.S.-Mexican Politics and The U.S. Role in Mexico's Drug War
Session 1 W618 Sat 10:00am - 11:50am
Sponsored by: NACLA Report on the Americas

Michael Fox -- North American Congress on Latin America
Fred Rosen -- North American Congress on Latin America
Daniel Brito -- Drug Policy Alliance
Charlie Goff -- Cemanahuac Language School

US Terrorism Against Cuba: the 5 Cuban U.S. Held Political Prisoners and the Case of Posada Carriles
Session 1 E325 Sat 10:00am - 11:50am

Stan Smith -- Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5
Michael Smith
Jose Pertierra
Juan Lamigueiro

12:00 p.m. – 1:50 p.m.

What's Happening in Puerto Rico?
Session 2 W601 Sat 12:00pm - 01:50pm

Andrés Torres
Olga Sanabria -- Borough of Manhattan Community College
Saulo Colón -- Independent Boricua socialist
David Galarza -- NY Contra el Gasoducto

Bolivia under Morales: Critical Marxist Perspectives
Session 2 E304 Sat 12:00pm - 01:50pm
Sponsored by: Historical Materialism

Jeffery R Webber -- Queen Mary, University of London
Jason Farbman -- Former Fellow, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, NYU
Sarah Hines -- PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley, History
Tom Lewis -- Professor, University of Iowa, Spanish

Deportations, Immigrant Movements and Activism
Session 2 W610 Sat 12:00pm - 01:50pm

Ramona Hernández -- CUNY City College
Alfonso Gonzáles -- CUNY Lehman College
Fenix Arias, Ysaira Paulino -- New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)
Ibrahim García-González -- University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and Union of Socialist Youth (UJS-MST)

3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.

Venezuela's Social Movements and Chavez's Reelection
Session 3 E304 Sat 03:00pm - 04:50pm
Sponsored by: Venezuela Analysis and NACLA

Gregory Wilpert -- Brooklyn College Grad. Cntr. for Worker Ed.
Steve Ellner -- Universidad del Oriente
Dario Azzellini -- Johannes Kepler University
George Ciccariello-Maher -- Drexel University
Williams Camacaro

The School of Americas Watch Movement - Stopping US Imperialism in Latin America to See Justice Flourish
Session 3 E323 Sat 03:00pm - 04:50pm

Bernie McAleer -- NYC School of Americas Watch
Mara Bard -- Long Island SOA Watch
Andrew Kafel

New Developments In Cuba
Session 3 E325 Sat 03:00pm - 04:50pm
Sponsored by: ML Today.com

Roger Keeran -- Empire State College SUNY
Nelson Valdes -- University of New Mexico
Juan Lamigueiro -- Deputy Chief of Cuban Interest Section, Washington, DC
Patricia Pego Guerra -- First Secretary, Cuban Interest Section Washington, DC

5:00 p.m. – 6:50 p.m.

Occupying in Latin America: Social Movements Taking Over Land, Factories and Schools
Session 4 E304 Sat 05:00pm - 06:40pm
Sponsored by: Toward Freedom and Between The Lines Radio Newsmagazine

Scott Harris -- Between The Lines Radio Newsmagazine
Michael Fox -- NACLA
Esneider Arevalo -- Friends of the MST
Nathan Schneider -- Waging Nonviolence

Accountability in Post Earthquake Haiti: Reconstruction Failures and the UN's Cholera Problem
Session 4 E316 Sat 05:00pm - 06:40pm

Mark Weisbrot -- Center for Economic and Policy Research
Mark Shuller -- York College (CUNY), Melinda Miles -- Let Haiti Live / TransAfrica Forum
Manolia Charlotin -- The Boston Haitian Reporter
Pablo Morales

Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959
Session 4 E325 Sat 05:00pm - 06:40pm
Sponsored by: Haymarket Books

Suzi Weissman -- Against the Current
Samuel Farber -- Brooklyn College
Lisandro Pérez -- John Jay College
Michelle Chase -- Bloomfield College
Peter Roman -- Hostos Community College/CUNY

SUNDAY, March 18

10:00 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.

The Birth of Antillean and Latin American Art Music in the Manifestation of a New People
Session 5 W621 Sun 10:00am - 11:

Professor Jose Ramos Santana -- Catholic University of the Americas in Washington, DC
Professor Ana M Lopez
Thelma Ithier Sterlin
Samuel Marchan -- New York City Public School educator

Occupy the World: Perspectives from Asia, Latin America and Europe
Session 5 E304 Sun 10:00am - 11:50am

Shen Tong -- Tiananmen Square Organizer; Occupy Wall Street
Rudy Amanda Hurtado Garcés -- Palen(k)e Universitario, Universidad del Cauca
Sabu Kohso -- Japanese writer and activist
Mark Bray -- Rutgers University, Occupy Wall Street
Preeti Kaur Paul -- "The New Significance;" UK Student Occupations; Human Rights Organizing

Global Slump, Global Resistance
Session 5 W625 Sun 10:00am - 11:50am
Sponsored by: Historical Materialism

Jeffery R Webber -- Queen Mary, University of London
David McNally -- Professor, Political Science, York University
Erin Chun -- Solidarity
Adaner Usmani -- PhD Candidate, NYU, Sociology

Neoliberalism and Worker Mobilization in North America
Session 5 W613 Sun 10:00am - 11:50am
Sponsored by: Working USA

Immanuel Ness -- Brooklyn College/CUNY
Robin Alexander -- United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)
Dan La Botz -- Mexican Labor News and Analysis
Benedicto Martínez Orozco -- Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT)
Ashwini Sukthankar -- Global Workers Justice Alliance

China: the Politics of Multi-lateralist Relationships in a Unilateralist Global Order
Session 5 W618 Sun 10:00am - 11:50am

David Ewing -- US-China Peoples Friendship Association[USCPFA]
Cristina Martinez -- Independent Scholar; Center for Marxist Education
Gary Hicks -- Researcher, Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, Oakland CA
Duncan McFarland -- United for Justice and Peace [UJP], Boston MA

12:00 p.m. – 1:50 p.m.

Latin America Unites and the Challenge to US Hegemony
Session 6 E316 Sun 12:00pm - 01:50pm
Sponsored by: CEPR, NACLA, and Venezuelanalysis.com

Alexander Main -- CEPR
Carol Delgado -- Consulate of Venezuela in New York
Greg Grandin -- New York University
Mark Weisbrot -- CEPR
Michael Fox -- NACLA

Global Labor Migration and Environmental Exodus in the Contemporary Era
Session 6 W604 Sun 12:00pm - 01:50pm
Sponsored by: Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

Lorraine Minnite -- Rutgers University
Younes Abouyoub -- Columbia University
Alex Julca -- United Nations
Immanuel Ness
Salimah Valiani -- Ontario Nurses Association

From General Assemblies to Popular Assemblies
Session 6 E311 Sun 12:00pm - 01:50pm

Camilo Viveiros -- http://www.activism2organizing.org/
Arya Zahedi
Alexander Dwinell -- South End Press collective, OWS Safer Spaces working group

The Cuban Revolution Today: Revolutionary Continuity and Change
Session 6 E325 Sun 12:00pm - 01:50pm

Ike Nahem -- Cuba Solidarity New York; July 26 Coalition
Nancy Cabrero
Jorge Bolanos
Frank Velgara -- ProLibertad Freedom Campaign; Socialist Front of Puerto Rico

3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.

Killing Che: How the CIA Got Away With Murder
Session 7 E303 Sun 03:00pm - 04:40pm

Michael Smith -- Center for Constitutional Rights
Michael Ratner -- Center for Constitutional Rights
John Gerassi

Global Insurgencies Amidst the End of Empire
Session 7 Schimmel Sun 03:00pm - 04:40pm
Sponsored by: Venezuelanalysis.com and Working USA: The Journal of Labor & Society

Francis Shor -- Wayne State University
Gregory Wilpert -- Brooklyn College / CUNY
Neil Smith -- CUNY Graduate CenterPhyllis Bennis -- Institute for Policy Studies
Michael Klare -- Hampshire College

Lessons Learned: Critical Reflections On The Popular Struggles In The Middle East And Latin America
Session 7 E304 Sun 03:00pm - 04:40pm

Sabah Alnasseri -- Political Science, York University
Nima Nakhaei -- Political Science, York University
Ali Behran Ozcelik -- York University
Manuel Larrabure -- York University

Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

Monday, March 12, 2012

WNU #1121: Latin American Women March and Petition on Women’s Day

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1121, March 11, 2012

1. South America: Activists March and Petition on Women’s Day
2. Central America: Women Demand Political Equality, No More Impunity
3. Mexico: Government Apologizes in 2002 Rape Case
4. Haiti: Women’s Groups Protest UN Troops, Duvalier Impunity
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica, 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. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/.  For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. South America: Activists March and Petition on Women’s Day
This year the United Nations (UN) designated Mar. 8, International Women’s Day, as an occasion to honor rural women, but as in previous years, many of the marches and protests celebrating the day focused on violence against women [see Update #1071]; others emphasized demands for abortion rights and equality in political representation.

Some 10,000 Chileans celebrated International Women’s Day in Santiago with a march from the Plaza Italia to La Moneda, the presidential residence. The demonstration, entitled “Power, Rights, Freedoms,” was organized by women’s organizations and the Unified Workers Confederation (CUT), the country’s largest labor federation, and included union presidents and leaders of last year’s student strike. As often happens in Chile, the march concluded with confrontations near La Moneda between the carabineros militarized police and hooded youths. Police agents used water cannons and tear gas on protesters, while unidentified youths set a microbus on fire, along with some partitions and chairs from a bank; 20 people were reportedly arrested.

The government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera marked the day by sending Congress an initiative for reducing the maximum workweek for domestic workers from 72 to 45 hours, in line with the workweek for other workers; the proposed law would allow another 15 hours but at a higher rate of pay. (AFP 3/8/12 via Univision; EFE 3/9/12 via lainformacion.com) [Piñera’s popular support has declined as his neoliberal policies face challenges from the student movement and from protests in the Aysén region in the south; see Updates #1110, 1120.]

In Argentina activists gathered postcards in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo calling on President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the 257 legislative deputies in Congress to legalize abortion. “Not one more woman dead from clandestine aboritions” and “Neither husband nor boss, my body, my choice” were some of the signs the activists displayed. Clandestine abortions are the main cause of death for women of child-bearing age in Argentina, with a toll of one death every two days, according to Laura Velazco, an activist in the center-left Free of the South Movement.

In Uruguay activists posted signs on buildings and statues on Mar. 8 to call for decriminalization of abortion, while Paraguayan protesters banged on pots and pans in a cacerolada to demand that public institutions provide more aid for pregnant women.

In Brazil the Senate approved a bill during the week of International Women’s Day to impose fines on companies that pay less to women than to men doing the same work. In 2011 Brazilian women’s pay was 72.3% of the pay for men, unchanged since 2009, according to the governmental Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.

In Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, some women marked Mar. 8 by donating their hair to make wigs for women who had lost their own hair when men assaulted them with acid, a form of violence against women that has been on the rise. According to statistics released by Presidential Adviser on Equality for Women Cristina Plazas, 1,444 women were murdered in Colombia in 2010, 26% of them in their own homes. Women represent 84% of the victims of sexual crimes, with 16,916 cases in 2010; 51% of the crimes were committed by relatives. (AFP 3/8/12 via La Nación (Costa Rica); EFE 3/8/12 via terra.com)

*2. Central America: Women Demand Political Equality, No More Impunity
Nicaragua’s National Assembly observed International Women’s Day on Mar. 8 by unanimously passing a law which requires political parties to have women as at least 50% of their candidates for municipal posts. The government’s special attorney for women, Deborah Gradinson, said Nicaraguan society remains in many ways “tolerant” of violence against women, with at least 17 women murdered so far in 2012 by partners, former partners or acquaintances. The María Elena Cuadra Movement of Working and Unemployed Women reported that only half of the 81 cases of women killed by violence in 2011 ever reached a court. “Justice for women, no more impunity” should be the slogan for the day, according to human rights activist Vilma Núñez.

Thousands of Salvadoran women marched in the main streets of San Salvador on Mar. 8 to demand an end to gender-based violence and full compliance with the Law of Equality, Equity and No Discrimination Against Women, which was passed in 2010. “We need a better climate for women in the country,” said Ima Guirola, a representative of the Norma Virginia Guirola de Herrera Institute of Women’s Studies (CEMUJER). UN Women, a United Nations agency for women’s rights, reports that 647 Salvadoran women were murdered in 2011, up dramatically from 193 in 2000. Also on Mar. 8, Vanda Pignato, President Mauricio Funes’ wife, criticized “the little party leadership groups that don’t let women get into power” and demanded laws to increase women’s representation in the next legislature. Only 23% of the candidates in the current Mar. 11 legislative and municipal elections are women. (AFP 3/8/12 via La Nación (Costa Rica); EFE 3/8/12 via terra.com)

In Honduras, women in the country’s branch of the international campesino movement Vía Campesina launched a new campaign on Mar. 8 under the slogan “for women’s dignity, we demand our right to the land.” Some 2,000 campesino, indigenous and African-descended women from around the country marched in front of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) and the National Congress in Tegucigalpa to demand a new agrarian reform law and an end to violence against women. Femicides (misogynist murders) “have increased in recent years without any investigation being carried out,” Ana Ferrera, director of the Center for Women’s Studies (CEM), told the Spanish wire service EFE. “Just this year some 50 women have been reported killed by violence.” (EFE 3/8/12 via terra.com; Adital (Brazil) 3/9/12 from Vía Campesina)

*3. Mexico: Government Apologizes in 2002 Rape Case
Mexican governance secretary Alejandro Poiré formally apologized to indigenous campesina Inés Fernández Ortega at a ceremony in Ayutla de los Libres in the southwestern state of Guerrero on Mar. 6 for her rape by three Mexican soldiers in 2002. Along with Valentina Rosendo, who was raped by soldiers in a separate incident, Fernández filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), which ruled in October 2010 that the Mexican government was responsible and must apologize to the two women. Federal attorney general Marisela Morales and Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre were also present for the apology.

The Mexican government initially denied the charges and accused Fernández of lying. In the apology he offered on Mar. 6, Poiré simply referred to the rape as “regrettable acts” and failed to mention that the perpetrators were soldiers. When Fernández’ turn came to speak, soldiers in civilian dress at first blocked her access to the podium, apparently not realizing that the indigenous woman was the guest of honor.

Fernández, who only speaks the Me’phaa (Tlapaneco) language), ignored the officials and addressed her community: “Listen to me, everyone, men, women, children: the people from the government, even though they say they’re on your side, they’re not going to come through. Don’t pay attention to them.” She said the soldiers committed the crime against her “because we are poor,” and went on to describe continuing aggressions, including checkpoints, interrogations, illegal searches, the murder of her brother Lorenzo, the theft of their crops, and orders by municipal presidents not to provide resources to her village, Barranca Tecuan. “The government doesn’t let us organize,” she charged. “The soldiers go on not letting us move freely in our communities.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/7/12)

The ceremony in Guerrero came just two days before International Women’s Day. “[T]here’s not much to celebrate” in Mexico, human rights activist Norma Esther Andrade told the Spanish wire service EFE, “and less on Women’s Day.” Andrade’s daughter was murdered in Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua in 2001; Norma Andrade herself was attacked in Juárez in December 2011, and then again on Feb. 3 in Mexico City, where she’d moved for greater security [see Update # 1116]. The National Femicide Monitoring Center (OCNF) reports that 1,235 women were murdered from January 2010 to June 2011 in just eight of the country’s 32 federal entities (31 states and the Federal District, which includes Mexico City). (EFE 3/8/12 via terra.com)

*4. Haiti: Women’s Groups Protest UN Troops, Duvalier Impunity
Hundreds of Haitians marked International Women’s Day on Mar. 8 with a march in downtown Port-au-Prince to demand justice for the women who were victims of the 1957-1986 Duvalier family dictatorship and to call for the departure of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 11,200-member international police and military force.

“[Former dictator Jean-Claude] Duvalier and his accomplices must be judged,” "Impunity can’t be Haiti’s destiny,” “Down with the occupation, down with those who sell the country out,” “Good working conditions for women,” and “Women won’t step back” were among the main signs at the march, which was organized by Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA) and the labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), with support from the Women’s Network of the Bureau of International Lawyers (BAI), the Mobilization Collective for Compensation for the Cholera Victims (Komodevik) and other groups.

One focus of the demonstration was a Jan. 30 decision by investigative judge Carvès Jean that one-time “president for life” Duvalier (1971-1986) should face trial for corruption but not for the brutal crimes committed by his government. Another focus was the refusal by the United Nations (UN) to take responsibility for the cholera epidemic that started in October 2010 because of poor sanitary practices at a MINUSTAH base [see Update #1105]. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 3/9/12)

On Mar. 7, the day before the march, former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), now the UN special envoy for Haiti, admitted during a visit to the country that MINUSTAH troops brought the epidemic. “I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera into Haiti, the UN peacekeeping soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus,” Clinton said, in response to a question from independent US journalist Ansel Herz. “It was the proximate cause of cholera, that is, he was carrying the cholera strain,” Clinton went on, but then added that “what really caused it is that you don’t have a sanitation system.” Rather than blame the soldiers, he said, “it's better to focus on fixing it.”

This is the first time a UN official has acknowledged that the disease, which has killed 7,000 Haitians so far, came from the UN troops. (Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Relief and Reconstruction Watch 3/7/12; ABC News 3/9/12) [Note: cholera is a bacterial disease; it is not caused by a virus.]

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti

Argentine Women Refused Legal Abortions in Cases of Rape

Chile: Attack On Gay Man Highlights Debate On Anti-Discrimination Law

Peasants Launch Manifesto for Agrarian Reform after Historic Meeting in Brasilia

Peru: successor to captured Shining Path leader captured —already

Peru: more strikes and protests rock mineral sector

CONAIE and Social Movements Mobilize in Ecuador

Ecuador: anti-mining march advances; Correa intransigent

Colombia: Despite Diverting of the River, Movement Against Quimbo Dam Vows to Grow Stronger

Colombia: 'Carbon credit' scheme a cover for land grab

The FARC and its Peace Initiative in Colombia

Colombia: 49 Human Rights Activists Murdered in 2011

Colombia’s Santos and Venezuela’s Chavez Meet in Havana, Sign Accords

US Ruling Against Salvadoran Ex-General a ‘Huge’ Victory for Victims

Hondurans Continue Protests in Bajo Aguán Region

Carbon Blood Money in Honduras

Justice for Whom? The Massacre at El Aguacate, Guatemala

Guatemala Women Defenders Defy Canadian Mines and Plead for Help

Violence Batters Former Mexican Showcase

Epidemic of Sexual Assault on Migrant Trail in Mexico: Excerpt from book "Migrants Don't Matter

Recovery in the U.S. and Mexico: A View From the Bottom

Hypocritical Justice: Police Killings Rattle Jamaica

Reconstruction Money Flushed Away? (Haiti)

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

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

WNU #1120: Four Injured in Renewed Panamanian Protests

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1120, March 4, 2012

1. Panama: Four Indigenous Protesters Wounded, Talks Break Down
2. Chile: Aysén Roadblocks Renewed, Negotiations at “Point Zero”
3. Argentina: Relatives March for Train Crash Victims
4. Colombia: Journalist Gets 18-Month Sentence for Article
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Jamaica, 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. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com.  For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Panama: Four Indigenous Protesters Wounded, Talks Break Down
Leaders of the Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous group suspended talks with Panamanian officials and resumed their blockade of the Pan American highway on Mar. 1 after four young protesters were wounded by rubber bullets near the National Assembly building in Panama City. The Ngöbe-Buglé and their supporters had shut down traffic in the western provinces of Chiriquí and Veraguas for more than a week starting on Jan. 30 but lifted the roadblocks on Feb. 7 when the government of rightwing president Ricardo Martinelli agreed to hold talks on their demands to ban all mining and hydroelectric projects from Ngöbe-Buglé territories [see Update #1117].

The violence in Panama City broke out the afternoon of Mar. 1 as National Assembly security agents confronted about 100 indigenous protesters who had been holding a vigil for several days in a plaza near the National Assembly building, where Ngöbe-Buglé representatives were meeting with officials. The security agents initially denied that they’d fired on the protesters but later admitted using rubber bullets. The guards claimed that the youths in the plaza were armed and drunk and were throwing rocks; the protesters denied this.

The negotiations had already been stalled before the Mar. 1 incident. The government agreed to the demand for a mining ban in Ngöbe-Buglé territory but resisted the call to suspend three hydroelectric projects. Governance Minister Jorge Ricardo Fábrega said on Mar. 1 that President Martinelli’s government would not accept ending one project, the Barro Blanco dam. According to the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (FRENADESO), a grassroots and labor coalition, Martinelli is linked to the owners of Btesh & Virzi Real Estate Developers and other interests that are behind the hydroelectric projects. (Adital (Brazil) 2/28/12 from FRENADESO, 3/2/12 from TeleSUR; Prensa Latina 3/2/12)

At least two demonstrators were killed in the Jan. 30—Feb. 7 protests. One of the victims, 16-year-old Mauricio Méndez, died in the early morning of Feb. 7 after being injured in Las Lomas community in Chiriquí. Police sources suggested that he was killed by an explosion while trying to build a bomb. But the official autopsy showed no evidence of an explosion; instead, the youth was hit with overwhelming force by an object that destroyed much of his face, according to the medical examiners. José Caballero, the Méndez family lawyer, said this was consistent with the firing of a tear gas canister at the teenager and noted that eyewitnesses had reported seeing a police agent step out and fire at protesters blocking a road in Las Lomas that night. (La Estrella (Panama) 2/17/12)

President Martinelli’s repeated confrontations with indigenous groups have severely damaged his popularity. According to a poll of 1,200 Panamanians taken by the Dichter & Neira firm on the weekend of Feb. 11-12, the president’s approval rating had fallen to 33%, down from 73% in March of 2011. While 57.3% of those sampled disapproved of the protesters’ blocking of the Pan American highway, 80.3% disproved of Martinelli’s handling of the situation and 71.8% felt there had been an “unjustified use of force” in the clearing of the highway. (La Estrella 2/14/12)

*2. Chile: Aysén Roadblocks Renewed, Negotiations at “Point Zero”
New confrontations broke out in Chile’s southern Aysén region on the morning of Mar. 3 when police agents confronted about 100 protesters at barricades residents had set up in the small town of Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez. Like residents of other parts of the region, protesters in the town had resumed blocking traffic a few days earlier when the government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera set new conditions for negotiations.

A broad coalition of labor and grassroots organizations started blocking roads in Aysén region on Feb. 12 to push 11 demands for alleviating the high cost of living in the isolated region with fuel and food subsidies and a regional wage scale [see Update #1119]. On Feb. 25 protest leaders agreed to let traffic pass through in order to start talks with the government, but they continued to maintain the roadblocks. Government officials refused to accept this and said they wouldn’t negotiate without a complete end to the roadblocks. “We’ve come back to point zero,” one of the protest leaders, Misael Ruiz, told the media, “but not because of the negotiating group, not because of the spokespeople, but only because of the government.”

In other news, the authorities reported on Mar. 3 that four miners had died in a small copper mine in northern Chile, apparently from carbon monoxide inhalation. (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/4/12 from AFP, Prensa Latina)

*3. Argentina: Relatives March for Train Crash Victims
Hundreds of relatives and friends of people killed or injured in the crash of an Argentine commuter train on Feb. 22 marched in downtown Buenos Aires the night of Feb. 28 to demand a thorough investigation of the accident and punishment for those responsible. Carrying candles, pictures of the victims and signs describing the commuter trains as “metal tombs,” the protesters called for a meeting with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The march ended with a vigil at the Obelisk in the Plaza de la República. (Clarín (Buenos Aires) 2/28/12)

Fifty-one people were killed and 706 were injured when the train, running on the Sarmiento commuter line, smashed into a barrier in Station 11 in Buenos Aires at a speed of about 20 km an hour [see Update #1119]. Although investigators have yet to determine the exact cause of the accident, more and more evidence has emerged of a failure to maintain the line by its owner, Trenes de Buenos Aires (TBA), and of a lack of oversight by the federal government.

According to the Argentine daily La Nación, the National Transportation Regulation Commission (CNRT) found that a hydraulic bumper at Station 11 wasn’t working. The bumper should have absorbed much of the impact of the train hitting the barrier; instead, “it was as if [the train] hit a wall,” railroad workers’ union spokesperson Horacio Caminos said. “If the hydraulic bumper had been working correctly, the impact of the train at 20 km an hour would have been less and maybe wouldn’t have provoked the tragedy that it caused.” Similar problems appear in a report the CNRT presented to the government last year about the Sarmiento and Mitre lines, which were taken over by TBA after the system was privatized in the 1990s. According to the Argentine media, the commission found that TBA was fined more than $1.5 million from 2008 to 2009 and was responsible for more than 60 derailments.

A report by the National Inspector General’s Office, completed on Feb. 29 but not made public, is said to have found that the federal government was also responsible because of its failure to monitor TBA. Much of the criticism has focused on Transportation Minister Juan Pablo Schiavi; the stress may have contributed to heart problems for Schiavi, who had an emergency angioplasty on Feb. 29 to clear an obstructed artery.

Meanwhile, doubts grew about the condition of the rest of Argentina’s extensive rail system, including the Buenos Aires subway, which was operated by the federal government until this year [see Update #1114]. Center-right Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri announced on Feb. 29 that the city was breaking off talks with President Fernández’s administration about the transfer of responsibility for the subway system from the federal to the municipal government. “This can’t go on,” Macri said at a press conference. “We can’t take on the burden of these 10 years of lack of investment,” a reference to the nine years that the federal government has been in the control of the left-leaning Fernández and her predecessor and late husband, Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007). (Ironically, Transportation Minister Schiavi was Macri’s campaign manager before switching to Fernández’s party). (La Razón (Buenos Aires) 3/1/12 from EFE; Univision 3/1/12)

Questions remain about the state of the train’s brakes before the crash. The operator, Marcos Antonio Córdoba, testified to federal judge Claudio Bonadío on Feb. 24 that the brakes had failed three times during the trip before the crash and that he had alerted the TBA traffic controller to the problem. The day after Córdoba testified, TBA management presented the judge with a tape of the controller’s conversations; Córdoba’s warnings didn’t appear on the tape. But some of the media noted that the tape covered only 18 minutes of a 35-minute trip. This wouldn’t be surprising, since the recording device was apparently voice-activated, but it left open the possibility that the company could have edited the tape. (Diario Uno (Tucumán) 2/26/12)

*4. Colombia: Journalist Gets 18-Month Sentence for Article
On Feb. 29 the Superior Court of Colombia’s Cundinamarca department upheld a lower court’s conviction of journalist Luis Agustín González for “injurias” (“abuse” or “insults”) against former governor and senator María Leonor Serrano de Camargo. The court threw out the lower court’s conviction of González for libel. The journalist faces a sentence of 18 months in prison and fine of 9.5 million pesos (about $5,450).

At issue was an editorial González wrote in 2008 for Cundinamarca Democrática, which he edits. He accused Serrano of “arrogance” and “despotism” while she was governor of the department, which includes Bogotá. González also suggested that Serrano might be connected with a murder and with disappearances that occurred in 1989 in the town of Fusagusagá while she was the mayor there; he implied that she could face charges before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The ruling against González brought condemnations from the Miami-based Inter American Press Association (Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa, SIP) and the French-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which called it “a serious precedent, a boost for self-censorship and a gag on freedom of opinion.” Comparing González’s conviction to Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa’s libel suit against the editors of the daily El Universo [see World War 4 Report 2/17/12], RSF said that “this latest case highlights the urgent need to decriminalize the offences of defamation, slander and libel in Colombia.” (RSF 3/1/12, Spanish and English; EFE 3/2/12 via lainformacion.com)

In other news, on Feb. 29 a Bogotá judge ordered the immediate release of Liliany Obando, the former director of the National Unified Agricultural Union Federation (FENSUAGRO), after three years and seven months in prison. She was arrested in August 2008 on charges of organizing events and managing money for the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [see Update #958]. The judge ruled that prosecutors had failed to comply with time limits in pursuing the case. (Colombia Reports 3/1/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Jamaica, US

People’s Struggles in Latin America Extends to Natural Resources

Argentina: Mapuche Community and NBA All-Star Manu Ginobili in Conflict over Land

Social Unrest on the Rise in Southern Chile

Official report confirms presence of "hiding tribe" on Paraguay ranchlands

Paraguay: Land, Soy and Boots

TIPNIS Conflict Challenges Bolivian Workers Federation

Spread of ‘Human Safaris’ Threatens Peru’s Uncontacted Indians

Ecuador’s Correa Issues Pardons Amid Free Speech Concerns

FARC announce intention to release hostages, abandon kidnapping

UN: Colombia's land victims in danger

Colombian Political Prisoner Liliany Obando to Be Freed

United States Intervention in Colombia (Part II)

Venezuela’s Chavez Confirms Quick Recovery to Nation

Venezuela "Does not Fear" Sanctions, Will Continue to Supply Syria with Oil

Napolitano defends Drug War; Costa Rica breaking ranks?

Repression is the Negotiating Strategy in Honduras

Former Guatemala dictator denied amnesty

Mexico’s Ambiguous (and Fleeting?) Alliances

The Mexican Election and the Split on the Left

How to Pay a Debt Past Due (Mexico)

Will He Sing or Stay Silent: Sentencing of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke Delayed (Jamaica)

As Relocation of Champ de Mars Begins, Criticism Over Lack of Adequate Housing Plan Mounts

WikiLeaks: Stratfor VP States Washington Would Have Assassinated Presidents of Bolivia and Venezuela in Past Years

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

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