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  For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*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)

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