Monday, May 28, 2012

WNU #1130: Chilean Students March, Support Quebec Strikers

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1130, May 27, 2012

1. Chile: Students March, Support Quebec Strikers
2. Mexico: Students March Against PRI, Media
3. Honduras: Police Chief Removed After Reporter’s Murder
4. Haiti: Is the Government Cracking Down on Ex-Soldiers?
5. Links to alternative sources on: Environment, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US/immigration

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. Chile: Students March, Support Quebec Strikers
Tens of thousands of Chilean students demanding education reform held their second large national demonstration of the 2012 school year on May 16, continuing a movement that shut down many of the country’s secondary schools and universities with a strike last year. Protesters marched in Santiago, Valparaíso, Concepción, Copiapó and other cities; student leaders estimated the total turnout nationwide at about 100,000.

The students continued to call for a return to free higher education, dismissing as inadequate the concessions made recently by rightwing president Sebastián Piñera, who proposed raising the corporate tax rate so that the government can provide low-interest student loans [see Update #1127]. “We’re going to go on being rebels, because the student movement isn’t going to settle for corrections to a few excesses,” Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH) president Gabriel Boric said. “We’re here to fight for a new type of democracy. This struggle isn’t going to come to an end this year.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/17/12 from correspondent)

The Chilean student movement is the largest and the best known of a number of such movements that have sprung up in the Americas over the past two years, starting with a 62-day strike at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in the spring of 2010 and continuing with protests in Honduras, Colombia and other countries in 2011 [see Updates #10371093, 1106, 1107]. In February this year some students in Canada’s Quebec province began boycotting classes to protest a plan by the provincial government to raise tuitions at public universities. The movement has now grown to include tens of thousands of students in what they call “Maple Spring” (Printemps érable, a play on Printemps arabe, French for Arab Spring).

On May 24 a number of Chilean academics and student leaders, including FECH president Boric and vice president Camila Vallejo Dowling, signed a declaration of support for the Quebec movement. The signers strongly denounced Law 78, which the Quebec government passed on May 19 in an effort to end the student strike by criminalizing many types of protest and penalizing calls for these protests. “The people of Quebec have stood with the people of Chile during long years in active solidarity,” the Chileans wrote. “It is for this reason that we feel called upon to express and demonstrate our broadest solidarity with their student organizations and their leaders, with their union federations and with the whole citizens’ movement.

“We do this in solidarity, but also because we understand that any attack against freedoms anywhere in this globalized world is an attack against our freedoms. The so-called ‘Hinzpeter law’ promoted by the Chilean government [an effort by Chilean interior minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter to limit student protests last year; see Update #1100] follows the same repressive and anti-democratic perspective. The struggle of the Québécois students, academics and workers is also our struggle.” (“Nous Sommes Tous des Québécois! ¡Todos Somos Quebequenses,” declaration 5/24/12)

Tens of thousands of Québécois have responded to Law 78 by taking to the streets in the evenings and beating on pots and pans; Chileans responded the same way last year to Hinzpeter’s repression. Some of the more than 10,000 Chileans living in Quebec province pointed out that this form of protest—the cacerolazo—was first popularized in Chile. In the early 1970s upper middle-class Chileans beat on pots and pans to protest the socialist government of then-president Salvador Allende, paving the way for the military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 1973. But Pinochet’s opponents took up the tactic in the 1980s as a broad section of society began protesting his brutal military regime--although as Chilean-born University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) history professor José del Poso pointed out, anti-Pinochet protesters held their cacerolazos indoors, because “they risked blows from nightsticks and could even have been killed” if they had demonstrated in public.

Cacerolazos have also been used in Bolivia, in Uruguay and in Argentina, notably during Argentina’s 2001-2002 economic crisis, and have spread to European countries, including Spain and Ireland. (Le Soleil (Quebec City) 5/26/12; Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, vol. 20, #1, 2004)

*2. Mexico: Students March Against PRI, Media
Private and public university students sponsored a massive march in Mexico City on May 19 to protest media coverage of the July 1 presidential and legislative elections and the widely expected victory of former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto, the presidential candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The marchers also rejected the candidate of the center-right National Action Party (PAN), Josefina Vázquez Mota, who shares second place in most polls with center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

“One, two, three; not one vote for the PRI,” the protesters chanted in a combination of English and Spanish as they moved from the city’s main plaza, the Zócalo, to the Angel of Independence. “Three, two, one; not one vote for the PAN.” “Peña Nieto’s got the TV, but we’ve got the streets and the social networks,” “I’m working-class, but I know how to read” were among the slogans. The marchers also expressed their distrust of the media’s crowd estimates: “We’re not one, we’re not 100; sold-out press, count us well.” (The television networks gave contradictory accounts of the turnout: on Twitter the giant Televisa network cited the capital’s center-left government as putting the crowd at 10,000, while CNN México gave the same source for its Twitter report of 46,000.) (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/20/12)

Mexico City authorities estimated participation at 15,000 for a second student demonstration, on May 23. This time the focus was on calls for democratizing the media, especially the two giant private networks, Televisa and TV Azteca, whose programming focuses on telenovelas (soap operas). Slogans included: “We want schools, not telenovelas”; “Lucero, Gaviota [references to a TV star and to a telenovela character played by Peña Nieto’s wife, Angélica Rivera]: the idiot box is done for”; and “Education is the vaccine against media manipulation.” Emphasizing the nonpartisan nature of the protest and widespread disaffection with all the political parties, some marchers heckled novelist Paco Ignacio Taibo II when he hinted during a speech that the students should support López Obrador. (LJ 5/24/12)

The new student movement and its opposition to Peña Nieto have surprised some Mexican analysts, who noted that youths today were children in 2000 when the PRI lost the presidency after ruling Mexico for 71 years, often through repression and corruption.

The catalyst appears to have been an appearance by the PRI candidate on May 11 at the Ibero-American University (widely known as “Ibero”), a Jesuit school in an exclusive Mexico City neighborhood. Booing by many students forced Peña Nieto to leave the auditorium. The PRI announced that the hecklers weren’t students from the university, and Ibero authorities suggested that López Obrador supporters had organized the booing. The students responded with a video posted on YouTube in which 131 Ibero students showed their student IDs. Supporters quickly adopted the hashtag “#YoSoy132” (“I’m number 132”). (El Universal (Venezuela) 5/27/12)

Now referred to both as “Yo Soy 132” and as “ Mexican Spring,” the new student movement quickly spread to other private schools and to the public universities. On May 17 representatives of students in 17 universities met at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City and agreed to continue building a movement that would be nonpartisan but not apolitical. They expressed support for many other groups, including the campesinos of San Salvador Atenco; the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD) started by the poet Javier Sicilia, and activists in Ciudad Juárez and other cities fighting for justice for the victims of femicide [see Updates #1039, 1109, 1121].

Later in the day student groups held a rally in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas at the Tlatelolco housing project, the site of a massacre by the police and military that shattered Mexico’s 1968 student movement. Speakers made proposals for extending their movement beyond the schools and past the July 1 elections. “If we want to be successful in this struggle,” UNAM students said, “we need to go outside the social networks—to make contact with the people in the streets, in the parks, as much as we can, to promote why we’re struggling, but also so that [citizens] participate in the electoral process in a critical manner, so that they reflect on their vote.” Another demonstration is planned for May 29. (LJ 5/27/12)

Correction: Students accounted for much of the participation in the May 19, but no group sponsored the demonstration, which was organized through social networks.

*3. Honduras: Police Chief Removed After Reporter’s Murder
The body of Honduran journalist Angel Alfredo Villatoro Rivera, a reporter and news coordinator for the HRN radio chain, was found in Tegucigalpa on the evening of May 15, six days after he was kidnapped while driving to work [see Update #1129]. He had been shot twice in the head, according to Security Ministry spokesperson Héctor Iván Mejía; local media reported that the body was dressed in a police uniform. (EFE 5/15/12 via Univision)

As of May 21 the police had arrested five people in connection with the kidnapping and murder. Two of the suspects were serving prison sentences in Danlí, El Paraíso department, at the time of the murder: Miguel Angel Alvarez Ortez, a former Preventive Police agent convicted of being an accomplice in a murder, and Juan Ramón Fonseca, who was serving time for robbery. According to the authorities they had called Villatorio’s family repeatedly from the prison to demand a ransom payment. Members of the Honduran police have been accused of numerous crimes, including the murder last October of the son of Julieta Castellanos, the rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) and a member of the government’s Truth Commission [see Update #1104]. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 5/12/12)

On the night of May 21 President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa fired National Police chief Ricardo Ramírez del Cid, who was appointed last October in an earlier effort to crack down on crime within the force. His replacement is Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, a graduate of the carabineros police academy in Chile who was accused in 2002 of belonging to “Los Magnificos,” a group of former and active Honduran police agents said to have carried out extrajudicial executions of suspected gang members. He was acquitted when the prosecutor quit the case. During recent assignments in Copán and Olancho departments, he reportedly exposed police agents who were collaborating with drug traffickers, and this may be why he has been chosen to clean up the police department.

In a related move, President Lobo called the National Congress back from its recess to approve several new measures: the elimination of due process guarantees for police agents in dismissal proceedings, the creation of a new Executive Branch Directorate of Investigation and Intelligence, and an anti-doping law allowing drug tests of police agents. (Honduras Culture and Politics blog 5/22/12, 5/24/12)

*4. Haiti: Is the Government Cracking Down on Ex-Soldiers?
More than 100 people claiming to be former members of the disbanded Armed Forces of Haiti (Fad’H) marched to Port-au-Prince from Carrefour, on the capital’s southwestern outskirts, on May 18 to mark Haiti’s Flag Day. They were wearing combat fatigues and some were armed. A few admitted to a reporter that they were too young to have been in the military in 1995 when it was disbanded by then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004); others were women, even though the Fad’H had been all male. The marchers were calling on the government of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) to restore the old military.

Inside Port-au-Prince the march was met by agents of the National Police of Haiti (PNH) and soldiers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH); about 50 people were arrested. Junior Public Security Minister Reginald Delva described the group as a criminal association, but the ex-soldiers’ leaders say they will continue their activities, which since January have included training exercises, occupations of old military bases and camps, and an armed march on the Parliament [see Updates #1117, 1127).

Their latest demonstration came just two days after President Martelly officially installed Laurent Lamothe as his prime minister, the second in the year since Martelly took office. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/18/12; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 5/18/12, 5/19/12)

On May 25 one of the ex-soldiers, former sergeant Serge Réginald, told Haiti’s Radio Kiskeya that the government’s new attitude—as expressed in the May 18 arrests and in the retaking of some camps from the group since then--amounted to “treason.” Speaking from the former Lamentin camp in Carrefour, Réginald implied that previously Martelly and his government had backed the ex-soldiers and given them aid. (Radio Kiskeya 5/25/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Environment, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, US/immigration

Disappearing Andean glaciers, devastating Amazon floods signal hemispheric climate shift (Environment)

Repsol Sues Argentina for $10 Billion Over YPF Nationalization

Bolivia’s TIPNIS March in a Changing Political Environment

Bolivia: Aymara stand up to authorities over Potosí mining project

Peru: more peasant protests over mining projects

Peru: new mobilization against Conga mine prepared

United States Sends Combat Commanders to Colombia

Chávez's Economics Lesson for Europe (Venezuela)

Honduras: Which Side Is the US On?

Echoing the State: The New York Times on Honduras

Honduras: Miskito villagers demand answers after deadly raids

Guatemalan judge orders second genocide trial for former dictator

Guatemalan Communities Have No Say in Exploitation of Resources

Guatemala: assassination, state of siege in conflict over hydro-dam
The New Migration Law: Mexico’s Continuing Failure to Protect Migrants

Threatened With Death, an Activist Priest Leaves Mexico (for a while)

Mexico: Freedom of Expression Still Under Attack as Six Journalists Killed

Mexican Farmers Block New Law to Privatize Plants

Urgent Action: Workers' Rights Activist Kidnapped and Tortured (Mexico)

Please Support Striking Garment Workers (Mexico)

Mexico: Tens of Thousands March against PRI’s Presidential Candidate

Mexico: Populist Candidate Lopez Obrador Appeals to Business

Anti-Austerity Fight Crosses Borders (Mexico, US)

Going for Broke: The Corporate Players Behind the Demise of the Caribbean Banana Trade (Part 1)

HGW discovers: Partners in deforestation and slumification

OCHA White Washes Forced Evictions as New Threats Loom (Haiti)

Photo Essay: A Long and Silent Border War (US, immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:

For New Yorkers:
THURSDAY, MAY 31st, 6:30-8:30 pm

You’re invited to the Annual Dos Pueblos Garden Extravaganza!

Please join us for a fun evening of song, dance and commentary, support our children’s libraries and clean water projects and celebrate the launch of our preventive health education program in the beautiful Upper West Side home and garden of Brian and Jeanne Kerwin.

RSVP here:  (address will be sent after RSVP)
More information:


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, May 25, 2012

Paul Baizerman, ¡Presente!

The Update learned recently that longtime solidarity activist Paul Baizerman died last December in New York at the age of 67. A retired public school teacher, Paul dedicated much of his time to the Skilled Trades Task Force, a group he helped found to promote solidarity exchanges between trade unionists in Nicaragua and trade unionists in the US.

Paul leading a delegation in Nicaragua
Paul’s work in Nicaragua began in the middle 1980s when he volunteered with TecNica, a California-based organization that brought technical assistance to Nicaragua at the height of the US-sponsored contra war against the new revolutionary government there. Paul quickly saw the potential and the need for developing direct solidarity between the labor movements in the two countries. With fluent Spanish and years of experience in the politics of the New York teachers’ union, he formed a close relationship with unionists in Nicaragua and began sending US unionists to Nicaragua and organizing tours of Nicaraguan unionists to the US.

The Skilled Trades Task Force was started as part of TecNica, but it continued to operate after the Sandinistas’ 1990 electoral defeat brought TecNica itself to an end, along with many other solidarity groups. Far from being discouraged, Paul expanded the project to include work with Cuban unionists and labor activists from other Latin American countries.

Paul was typically modest about his work. Generally he only talked about his role in providing material aid, such as the way he would drive tools and spare machine parts to Nicaragua in beat-up old VW bugs, which he donated along with the other equipment to Nicaraguan unions. When conversations got too ideological, he would shrug and say: “I don’t understand any of this crap; I’m from Brooklyn.” But he did understand, much better than most of us did at the time.

Now the idea of cross-border solidarity has won acceptance across a wide range of groups and people, from Occupy Wall Street activists to leaders of the AFL-CIO. But we must never forget that this acceptance is the result of the vision, dedication and hard work of Paul Baizerman and others like him.

For more information, go to: 1

For two articles by Paul, go to:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Links but No Update for May 20, 2012

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

Buenos Aires Offers Same-Sex Marriage to Foreign Couples

Repsol Sues Argentina for $10 Billion Over YPF Nationalization

Belo Monte: Brazil's Damned Democracy

Chile’s Native Communities Find Ally in Supreme Court; Canadian Mining Project Halted

Chile Commemorates International Day Against Homophobia And Transphobia

Israeli power company expands in Peru —but gets nationalized in Bolivia

Peru: army, cabinet shake-up in fallout from Amazon hostage crisis

Peru: Asháninka indigenous people fight hydro scheme in new war zone

Peru: Humala Takes Off His Gloves

Colombia: Community Takes on Uribe and Allies Over Controversial Tunnel

Colombia's Resistance to Corporate Mining Excess has Lessons for the World

Venezuelan Authorities Regain Control of La Planta Prison after Violence

Venezuela demands extradition of exiled judge from US

CNN: The Latest Outlet for Roger Noriega’s Paranoid Speculations (Venezuela)

Consequences of the Military Occupation in Honduras

Honduras: A Violence, Repression and Impunity Capital of the World

Honduras: angry protests on Miskito Coast over US militarization

Collateral Damage (Honduras)

Honduras: campesinos protest hydro-electric plan that would flood their lands

Mexican Families March on Mother’s Day on Behalf of Disappeared Relatives

Mexico: crackdown on armed forces narco links?

Mexico: journalists targeted in wave of torture killings

Mexico’s Cananea Strikers: Fighting for the Right to a Union

Another Score for the Tiger of the Monsanto Law (Mexico)

Judge Rejects Declassification Of CIA Volume On Bay of Pigs (Cuba)

Streamlining the Border Patrol (Immigration)

Monday, May 14, 2012

WNU #1129: Chilean Activists Protest New US Base

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1129, May 13, 2012

1. Chile: Human Rights Activists Protest New US Base
2. Peru: Questions Persist on 1997 Hostage Rescue
3. Honduras: One Journalist Murdered, One Kidnapped
4. Mexico: Demand Grows for Release of Chiapas Schoolteacher
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico

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. Chile: Human Rights Activists Protest New US Base
A US military training center in the port city of Concón, in the central Chilean province of Valparaíso, will be used for exercises “clearly oriented toward the control and repression of the civilian population,” according to an open letter that more than 20 human rights organizations sent Defense Minister Andrés Allamand on May 7. The US government has spent $460,000 constructing the installation, which opened on Apr. 5 at the Chilean military’s Fort Aguayo naval base. UPI Business News writes that the site “is growing into a major destination for regional military trainers and defense industry contractors.”

According to the US Southern Command (USSC), which heads US military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, the installation will be used for training in Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) by Latin American soldiers as they prepare for international operations, such as United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions. But the human rights groups wrote in their letter that the Fort Aguayo training ground—a simulation of an urban zone, with eight buildings and sidewalks and roads—suggests plans for military intervention in civilian society. The groups noted that the installation was opened at a time when “broad and massive social demonstrations are developing on the part of the citizenry throughout the country.” [The government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera has been shaken over the past year by militant protests by students, the indigenous Mapuche, residents of the southern region of Aysén, and other groups; see Updates #1122, 1127].

The human rights organizations said the US lacks “the moral quality to teach ‘peace operations,’” since “it has promoted coups, financed destabilization operations in sister countries, and has promoted war in the world. We don’t forget that in 2009 the Soto Cano base in Honduras, with US military personnel, was used to implement the coup d’état” against former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales [2006-2009]. The letter also held the US responsible for the brutal 1973 coup in Chile and for training “the worst human rights violators in our country” at the US Army’s School of the Americas. (El Ciudadano (Chile) 5/9/12; Adital (Brazil) 5/10/12; People’s World 4/26/12; UPI Business News 4/30/12)

The Southern Command is also planning to build an installation in Argentina, at the airport in Resistencia, capital of the northeastern province of Chaco. The plan seems to contradict center-left president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s policy against allowing foreign military bases, although the province’s governor, Jorge Milton Capitanich, insists that the installation isn’t a “base,” since the US now describes its facilities with terms like “Cooperative Security Location” (CSL) and “Forward Operating Location” (FOL).

The $3 million installation in Chaco will ostensibly be a humanitarian aid center for dealing with natural disasters, but critics suspect the real goal is to monitor the sensitive Triple Frontier region, where the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, and the Guaraní Aquifer, one of the world’s largest sources of fresh water. The US officer in charge of the project is Col. Edwin Passmore, who was expelled from Venezuela in 2008 on a charge that he had engaged in espionage while serving as US military attaché there. In November 2011 Passmore was involved in an incident in which a US military plane landed in Buenos Aires carrying undeclared electronic monitoring equipment, medications, and intelligence transmission devices.

The US currently has about 800 bases worldwide, with 22 in Latin America, including bases in Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Paraguay and Peru; naval stations in Aruba and Curaçao; and a “CSL” under construction in the Dominican Republic. (People’s World 4/26/12; El Ciudadano 5/5/12)

*2. Peru: Questions Persist on 1997 Hostage Rescue
The Peruvian military held a ceremony at its Chorrillos base, near Lima, on Apr. 20 to commemorate a commando operation 15 years earlier that freed 71 hostages who had been held by rebels from the leftist Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) for 126 days at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in the capital. One hostage, two soldiers and all 14 rebels were killed in the operation, which took place on Apr. 22, 1997. The raid, codenamed Operation Chavín de Huántar, was ordered by the government of former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), then a US ally; Fujimori is now serving a 25-year prison term in Peru for corruption and for ordering killings and kidnappings [see Update #1109].

The brief military ceremony, broadcast on national television, included a reenactment of the rescue using a full-scale replica of the ambassador’s residence built at the base under the Fujimori administration; the Japanese government tore down the original building a few months after the rescue. (AFP 4/20/12 via Univision)

A small unit of the now-defunct MRTA seized the ambassador’s residence on Dec. 17, 1996, during a reception honoring the Japanese emperor’s birthday. A large part of Peru’s political class was attending, and the rebels initially took about 700 hostages, although most were freed within days. The successful rescue in April 1997 helped diminish the embarrassment the MRTA’s seizure of the residence caused the security forces and the Fujimori government. But the success was marred almost immediately by reports from a few police agents and freed hostages that at least three of the rebels had been executed after they surrendered [see Update #378].

Relatives of Eduardo (“Tito”) Cruz Sánchez, one of the MRTA rebels allegedly executed, repeatedly tried to get the Peruvian court system to act on the reports; currently the charges are included in proceedings against Fujimori’s intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, that have been languishing in the courts for years. Starting this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) has taken up the case as well, infuriating the government of President Ollanta Humala, a former military officer [see World War 4 Report 3/18/12, 4/13/12].

Hidetaka Ogura, a former hostage who was first secretary at the Japanese embassy in the 1990s, is an important witness in the case; he says he saw “Tito” Cruz Sánchez alive and bound after the rescue. The Peruvian military has dismissed Ogura’s testimony and has suggested that he might have collaborated with the MRTA. Another important source of evidence for the case is a secret cable dated June 10, 1997, from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); the National Security Archive, a Washington, DC-based research group, obtained it from the US government in 2007 through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The cable cites an intelligence source apparently involved in the rescue who graphically described a commando killing an unarmed rebel, Roli (“Arabe”) Rojas Fernández, and said an unnamed “female MRTA militant was also executed during the operation after she surrendered.” The intelligence source said Fujimori had given a “take no prisoners” order.

On Apr. 29, a little more than a week after the 15th anniversary celebration, the Peruvian daily La República reported that Kate Doyle, a director of investigations at the National Security Archive, had testified recently at the Montesinos trial on the Callao military base. In addition to confirming that the DIA cable was authentic, she noted that declassified US government documents had been used “in various trials in Argentina, Chile, Guatemala and in Perú, in the Fujimori case.” (Three former military officers are being tried along with Montesinos: Gen. Nicolás Hermoza Ríos, Col. Roberto Huamán Azcurra and Col. Jesús Zamudio Aliaga.) (National Security Archive press release 12/10/07; EFE 4/29/12 via Univision)

There have also been persistent questions about the killing of Supreme Court Justice Carlos Giusti Acuña, the one hostage to die in the rescue and an opponent of Fujimori’s changes to the Constitution. In 2002 a protected witness told a Peruvian prosecutor that Montesinos had ordered Giusti's death and had put Col. Huamán Azcurra in charge of carrying out the killing, according to La República. In March of this year Argentine lawyer Alejandro Teitelbaum, citing a 1997 investigation by the Association of American Jurists, charged that Giusti was wounded in the leg and left to bleed to death. (LR 5/16/02; El Diario Internacional 3/13/12)

*3. Honduras: One Journalist Murdered, One Kidnapped
The body of Honduran journalist and LGBT rights activist Erick Alex Martínez Avila was found by a highway in the Tegucigalpa metropolitan area on May 7. He had reportedly been strangled, and the murder is believed to have taken place the day before. Martínez Avila was the communications director for Kukulcan, an organization that defends the rights of the LGBT community, and he was a founder of the Movement of Diversity in Resistance (MDR) and a member of the leftist group Los Necios Political Organization (“los necios” means “the obstinate ones”). Martínez Avila was also running in the Nov. 18 primary elections to be a candidate for legislative deputy in 2013 on the line of the Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), a new party formed by the grassroots National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP).

According to the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP), Martínez Avila was the 22nd Honduran journalist to be murdered since June 2009, when President José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales [2006-2009] was overthrown in a military coup. The MDR says the journalist was also the 20th member of the LGBT community to be murdered since President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa took office in January 2010. (InfoBAE (Argentina) 5/8/12 from DPA, AFP; Adital (Brazil) 5/8/12, 5/10/12)

Alfredo Villatoro, a reporter and news coordinator for the HRN radio chain, was kidnapped in Tegucigalpa in the early morning of May 9 while he was on his way to work. The police quickly arrested former police sergeant Gerson Basilio Godoy, who was driving a Toyota pickup that had been seen parked in front of Villatorio's house that morning; the truck had also collided with the reporter's car, as was shown by paint marks from the other vehicle. The Public Prosecutor’s office released Godoy after 10 hours, saying the evidence was insufficient.

Godoy was dismissed from the police force in September 2011 on suspicion of belonging to a band of kidnappers and extortionists [see Update #1104 for more on corruption in the police force]. In March he was questioned about a robbery attempt against an official, but he was not charged. (Honduras Culture and Politics blog 5/9/12; La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 5/9/12) As of May 13 Villatorio was still missing, and the Honduran government had brought in police experts from Colombia and the US to help in the investigation. (El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 5/13/12)

*4. Mexico: Demand Grows for Release of Chiapas Schoolteacher
Groups in Argentina, Brazil, France, England, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the US are planning events in the May 15-22 “Week of Global Struggle for the Liberation of Alberto Patishtán Gómez and Francisco Sántiz López,” two indigenous prisoners from the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas. The week of actions was initiated by the New York-based Movement for Justice in El Barrio.

Patishtán Gómez, in prison since 2000, is serving a 60-year sentence for his alleged involvement in the June 2000 killing of seven police agents in El Bosque municipality. Local authorities initially suspected drug traffickers, but prosecutors later shifted their attention to supporters of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). Most of El Bosque had been part of a pro-EZLN autonomous municipality, San Juan de la Libertad, from 1995 until 1998, when it was dismantled in a violent military operation [see Update #542]. Patishtán Gómez, a local schoolteacher, was the only suspect convicted in the case, and the only witness against him was Rosemberg Gómez, the son of Manuel Gómez Ruiz, then El Bosque’s mayor. Years later Rosemberg Gómez reportedly would tell people when he was drunk that he’d lied on instructions from his father, and that he got a new van as a reward.

Sántiz López, an EZLN supporter, was arrested in December 2011 on charges of leading a confrontation in Tenejapa municipality on Dec. 4 in which one person was killed. Twelve witnesses testify that he wasn’t present during the fight. (Radio Zapatista 4/18/12; Upside Down World 5/11/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/12/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico

The Failure of the Summit of the Americas VI

Will Latin America Become the New Middle East?

Chomsky: Latin America, Social Movements, Neo-Liberalism, Free Trade Agreements

Unasur Nations Reveal Military Spending, Deepen Cooperation

The Right to Identity: Argentine Congress Affirms Transgender Rights in Historic Vote

An Argentine Perspective on Degrowth

Chilean Congress Approves “Zamudio Law” Against Discrimination

Chile: high court blocks Patagonia hydro scheme

Che: Behind the CIA’s Killing of a Revolutionary (Bolivia)

Nationalization, Bolivian Style: Morales Seizes Electric Grid, Boosts Oil Incentives

Indigenous Peruvian Community Locked in Dispute with Oil Company

Peru: police arrest villagers following anti-mining protest

Controversy surrounds (supposed) surrender of Colombian kingpin

A Rejuvenated Grassroots Movement in Colombia

Embedded NYT Reporter Boosts US War in Honduras (and Why We Shouldn’t Listen)

Update: The Guatemalan Death Squad Diary and the Right to Truth

Recognizing—and Assisting—the Victims in Mexico

Mexico’s Peace Movement and Javier Sicilia: One Year On

National and International Campaign for the Freedom of Political Prisoners in Chiapas Presses On (Mexico)  

A Stellar Record of Failure: The IMF and Jamaica

Puerto Rico Governor: Students Should Speak Fluent English by 2022

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:

Monday, May 7, 2012

WNU #1128: Latin American May 1 Demos Focus on Minimum Wage

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1128, May 6, 2012

1. Latin America: May 1 Demonstrations Focus on Minimum Wage
2. Mexico: Unions Hold “Last May Day of the PAN Era”
3. Haiti: Sweatshops Raise Wages on May 1--for One Day
4. Nicaragua: Last of the FSLN’s Founders Dies
5. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Immigration

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. Latin America: May 1 Demonstrations Focus on Minimum Wage
Many of the traditional celebrations of International Workers Day on May 1 this year had the minimum wage as a central theme—in some cases because governments marked the occasion by increasing wages, in other cases because the governments refused to do so.

Between 40,000 and 100,000 Chileans marched in Santiago on May 1 in a demonstration organized by the Unified Workers Confederation (CUT) and bringing together unionists and protesters from the student movement [see Update #1127]. CUT president Arturo Martínez called for “a real minimum wage, which this year should reach 250,000 pesos” a month (about $520). According to Labor Minister Evelyn Matthei this “isn’t possible”; she claimed it would cause an increase in unemployment. As frequently happens in Chile, violence broke out at the end of the peaceful protest: some 200 hooded youths threw rocks at police agents, journalists and other demonstrators. Six agents from the carabineros militarized police were reportedly injured and some 20 people were arrested.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s industrial center, unionists marched for a 40-hour week and for lower rates of interest on loans; labor leaders claimed a victory in center-left president Dilma Rousseff’s call the day before for banks to make credit more accessible. The Força Sindical labor confederation claimed that one million people participated in the day’s events. In Sao Luís in the northeastern state of Maranhao, unionists protested the murder of journalist Décio Sa, the fourth reporter to be killed in Brazil this year. (EFE 5/1/12 via Diario Libre (Dominican Republic); La Jornada (Mexico) 5/2/12 from AFP, DPA, PL, Xinhua, Notimex, correspondent)

In Bolivia President Evo Morales marked May 1 by renationalizing the country’s main electric grid, which was privatized in 1997. Morales promised to work out a compensation arrangement within 180 days with the current owner, Empresa Transportadora de Electricidad, a subsidiary of the Spanish company Red Eléctrica de España, S.A. The Spanish government was clearly upset by the takeover, which followed just two weeks after the Argentine government announced its plan to renationalize the oil company YPF SA from Spain’s Repsol [see Update #1126]. Morales’ move “is sending a negative message that generates distrust,” Spanish ambassador Ramon Santos told reporters. Ironically, the power grid was already partially nationalized—to the Spanish government, which owns 20% of Red Eléctrica de España.

Morales has used May Day for similar announcements in the past: he started the process of nationalizing the oil and gas sector on May 1 in 2006, and in 2008 he chose May 1 to announce that the nationalization of the main phone company, Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Entel), had been completed. (AP 5/1/12 via El Paso (Texas) Times; Adital (Brazil) 5/2/12)

Peruvian president Ollanta Humala and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez both announced raises in the monthly minimum wage on May 1—from 675 soles ($253.70) to 750 soles ($281.90) in Peru and from 1,548.22 bolívares ($360) to 2,047 bolívares ($476) in Venezuela. Chávez’s government also reduced the work week from 44 hours to 40 hours, while Humala promised to fight against child labor and the disparity in wages between men and women.

In Colombia, Tarsicio Mora, president of the Unitary Workers Central (CUT), charged that six unionists have been murdered so far this year and that the number has reached 3,000 for the past 15 years, making “Colombia the most dangerous country for carrying out union activities.” Some 64 people were arrested in Bogotá for carrying objects that the authorities said might be used to disrupt the official ceremony, at which President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree regulating teletrabajo (work outside the office via telecommunications) and expressed sorrow that the killing of unionists was continuing. (EFE 5/1/12 via Diario Libre; LJ 5/2/12 from AFP, DPA, PL, Xinhua, Notimex, correspondent)

Hundreds of thousands of Cuban workers marched in Havana on May 1, along with a total of 1,700 unionists from 117 other countries, but the demonstration was unusually short, just one hour. The ceremony included an announcement by Salvador Valdés, head of the Cuban Workers’ Confederation (CTC), that there will be no increase in wages until the country has managed to eliminate subsidies and reduce public sector employment. Until now the trend has been to link wages to productivity. In 2010 the government reported a a 4.2% increase in productivity and a 4.4% increase in the median wage; in 2011, the increase in productivity was 2.8% and the wage increase was 2.7%.

The austerity measure is in line with a radical economic restructuring plan, announced in September 2010, to eliminate 500,000 jobs in state enterprises while building up the private sector [see Update #1057]. The CTC said that 140,000 public sector jobs were eliminated in 2011, somewhat short of the goal of 170,000 layoffs for the year. According to the Labor and Social Security Minister, as of February the country had 371,200 micro-enterprises; the government hopes they will absorb the laid-off state employees. (LJ 5/2/12 from correspondent)

*2. Mexico: Unions Hold “Last May Day of the PAN Era
Left-leaning independent unions dominated celebrations of International Workers Day in Mexico on May 1, while some centrist labor federations decided not to hold marches, reportedly because of concern over security. Tens of thousands of unionists, campesinos and other activists participated in the independent unions’ annual march to Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zócalo; the left-leaning daily La Jornada reported that more unions and more unionists took part than in previous years.

The demonstration was largely a repudiation of what participants called the “PRI-AN”: the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which controlled the national government and most state governments from 1929 to 2000, and the center-right National Action Party (PAN), which has held the presidency since 2000. Speakers called for a “punishment vote” against both parties in the presidential and national elections on July 1 and referred to this year’s demonstration as “the last Labor Day march of the PANista era.” Martín Esparza, secretary general of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) [see Update #1097], called for unionists to back center-left presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, “the only one who has made commitments to the working class.” Esparza denounced the National Electoral Institute, which controls the electoral process, and called for workers to prevent electoral fraud by forming a “parallel IFE.” López Obrador lost to current president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa in 2006 by very narrow margin in the official tally. (La Jornada 5/2/12; EFE 5/1/12 via Diario Libre (Dominican Republic))

The end of the PAN’s control of the presidency this year seems inevitable. According to a poll by the GEA-ISA group published in the daily Milenio, PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto leads with 47.3% of the preferences of voters who have made up their minds. PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota trailed with 27.3%, followed closely by López Obrador, running for a coalition that includes the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), with 24%. About 25.6% of voters remain undecided, according to the survey, based on face-to-face polling of 1,152 Mexicans from May 3 to May 5. (Milenio 5/5/12)

The “PANista era” may already be over on the labor front. During the past six years two successive PAN administrations have tried to remove Napoleón Gómez Urrutia from his post as the general secretary of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM) see Update #1106]. In 2006 the government of then-president Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006) charged Gómez Urrutia in a $55 million corruption case involving union funds, and in 2008 Calderón’s administration overturned his reelection as SNTMMSRM general secretary. Gómez Urrutia has been living in exile in Vancouver since 2006.

But the fight against the union leader collapsed this spring. On Apr. 24 Mexicans learned that Judge Manuel Bárcena Villanueva in Mexico City had quashed the warrant for Gómez Urrutia’s arrest, and on May 2 a panel of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) upheld a lower court ruling that the government exceeded its authority in nullifying the union’s elections. Gómez Urrutia will return to Mexico shortly, according to his lawyer. (Milenio 4/24/12; LJ 5/3/12, 5/4/12)

*3. Haiti: Sweatshops Raise Wages on May 1--for One Day
About 100 Haitian unionists and activists observed International Workers Day on May 1 with a march in Port-au-Prince to demand better wages and conditions for the country’s assembly workers, who mainly produce apparel for sale in North America. Groups organizing the march included the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA), the leftist workers’ organization Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), the Women’s Network of the Bureau of International Lawyers (BAI) and the Mobilization Collective for Compensation for Cholera Victims (Komodevik). SOTA and Batay Ouvriye have been working since the fall to organize assembly plant workers in the capital [see Update #1108].

The march started at the National Industrial Parks Company (Sonapi), a “free trade zone” (FTZ) for assembly plants near the airport in the north of Port-au-Prince; the protesters then proceeded to the Parliament downtown; the day’s slogan was “Work yes, slavery no.” Despite the small size of the demonstration, plant managers took measures to keep assembly workers from joining the march. The managers threatened the workers with firing if they left the plants, and paid them 500 gourdes (about $11.80) for staying on the job during the day. [In August 2009 thousands of Sonapi workers walked off the job to join marches for a daily minimum wage of 200 gourdes (about $2.95); see Update #1001.]

Guy Numa, a member of the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), which helped organize the march, noted that in 2009 the factory owners said they couldn’t afford an increased minimum wage. “These bosses, who did everything they could to block the vote on the 200 gourde minimum wage [back then], are proving on this May Day that they can pay as much as 500 gourdes,” he said. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/30/12, 5/2/12)

On May 3 Commerce and Industry Minister Wilson Laleau was working to interest Chinese, Dominican and US investors in a massive FTZ being built in the Northeast department, the Caracol Industrial Park (PIC) [see Update #1112]. The authorities say the plants at the new park will eventually create 65,000 jobs.

At a press conference that day Laleau admitted that there were problems with the project, which is being promoted by the US government and international agencies, but added that “the positive impacts should largely compensate for the negative impacts.” He was asked about plans for housing, since exaggerated promises of assembly plant jobs in the 1970s and 1980s had led job seekers to move into the Cité Soleil commune near the factories in the north of Port-au-Prince; the result was a huge, overcrowded neighborhood with substandard housing and virtually no public services. Laleau answered that the housing situation was being studied and the results would be released in June. “[I]t is out of the question that what happened around the Port-au-Prince industrial park should be reproduced at Caracol,” he promised. (AlterPresse 5/4/12)

*4. Nicaragua: Last of the FSLN’s Founders Dies
Nicaraguan revolutionary Tomás Borge Martínez died in a Managua military hospital on Apr. 30 at age 81 from pneumonia and other health problems. He was the last surviving member of the small group, including Carlos Fonseca Amador, that founded the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1961. At the time of his death he was serving as Nicaragua’s ambassador to Peru.

Born to a poor family in Matagalpa, Borge left university studies in the 1950s to fight against the Somoza family dictatorship. He was imprisoned in the 1970s but was freed as a result of the FSLN’s dramatic seizure of the National Palace in August 1978. After the triumph of the revolution in 1979, Borge served as interior minister, controlling various police agencies and the prison system. During those years he was accused of numerous human rights violations. Indigenous Miskitos charged that he engineered a policy of displacement and murders against rebels on the Atlantic Coast; others accused him of ordering the killing of 37 imprisoned opponents in Granada, a charge which Borge always denied. He was also accused of enriching himself from government funds after the FSLN was voted out of office in 1990.

“They only remember the errors we committed, like establishing press censorship, which at this point I think was an error,” he said in an interview that he gave many years later to the conservative daily La Prensa, which the FSLN government closed down temporarily in the 1980s. Nobody remembered the improvements he made in prison conditions, Borge said, adding that the policies he implemented as interior minister were collectively decided on by the FSLN’s nine-member National Directorate.

When the FSLN began to split in the 1990s, Borge sided with the faction headed by current Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega Saavedra, while many of his friends joined opposition factions and eventually left the party. Nicaraguan poet Gioconda Belli, who quit the FSLN, is widely quoted as saying that Borge “ended up as a tragicomic figure” during this period. But after his death Belli wrote: “What remains of Tomás for me is affection… I am sure that Tomás loved the idea of the Revolution as much as any of us who lived to make it and to see it triumph. Who of us who lived in that time can say that we managed to live and be the ideal person that we dreamed of?” (AP 5/1/12 via La Prensa (Nicaragua); El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua) 5/1/12, 5/3/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Immigration

South American Fiber Optic Ring
The Washington Post’s Flimsy Critique of Argentina

The Right to Memory in Chile: An Interview with Erika Hennings, President of Londres 38

Chilean Supreme Court Red Lights Goldcorp Mine

Amazon Indians’ Fishing Ritual Brought to Halt in Brazil

Scientist Calls Peru Conga Mining Project an ‘Environmental Disaster:’ Interview with Reinhard Seifert

Venezuela's Inflation Falls for 5 Months in a Row

El Salvador: Court Deliberates on Constitutionality of Military Appointments

Drug Plane "Forced" to Land!? (Honduras)

Guatemala: Decriminalization? Don't Believe the Hype

Iron Fist Cracks Down on Guatemala

Mexico approves law to aid victims of narco violence

"Black Friday" in Nuevo Laredo: 23 dead

Mexico: Calderón Government Monitoring Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity Leaders

Haiti’s Hotel Boom: Progress or Trickledown Economics?

A Dangerously Slippery Slope: Drones and the Dream of Remote Control in the Borderlands

May Day heralds revived movement —but wingnuts (or provocateurs?) mar some marches (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Cuba, US)

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: