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 email@example.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)
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Monday, March 12, 2012
WNU #1121: Latin American Women March and Petition on Women’s Day
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