Monday, July 30, 2012

WNU #1138: Chilean Police Attack Mapuche Children

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1138, July 29, 2012

1. Chile: Carabineros Attack Mapuche Children
2. Argentina: Gold Mine Problems Spook Barrick Investors
3. Haiti: Four Killed in Police Raid at National Park
4. Haiti: Workers in New FTZ Complain About Wages
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Paraguay, Brazil,  Peru, Colombia, Venezuela,  El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Cuba, 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: Carabineros Attack Mapuche Children
Some 200 carabineros militarized police violently removed about 60 Mapuche on July 23 from land the indigenous people had occupied hours earlier near their homes in the Temucuicui community in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía. The carabineros threw tear gas grenades and fired pellets from shotguns to disperse the occupiers, including children and old people. A number of Mapuche were injured, and 12 were arrested--five men, four women and three girls. The women and girls were taken in a police bus to the nearby city of Collipulli; they reported being humiliated and sexually harassed by at least two police agents.

The carabineros attacked members of the Temucuicui community again later in the day when a group of Mapuche gathered at the Collipulli hospital to wait for injured friends and relatives being treated there. The agents reportedly fired pellets at the group from close range, wounding Fernanda Marillán, 12; Fabián Llanca, 16; and one adult.

Community members claim the land they occupied—officially the property of the Seinz, Valenzuela and Urban families and Martin Ruff and the Bosques Arauco S.A. company—was ancestral territory taken illegally from the Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group. Land disputes are the main source of conflict in the Mapuche regions and have led to police violence against the Temucuicui community in the past [see Update #1127]. (Adital (Brazil) 7/24/12; Prensa Latina 7/25/12)

Photographs of Fernanda Marillán and Fabián Llanca’s wounds provoked outrage and protests after they began circulating on the internet. Some 30 members of the Mapuche Territorial Alliance protested outside the Santiago offices of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on July 26 while five others held a sit-in inside. The protesters were calling for the organization to sponsor a press conference to denounce the suffering of the underage victims. (Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 7/26/12)

The government’s response was inconsistent. “[W]e’re not going to allow police action to go outside the framework of the law,” rightwing president Sebastián Piñera promised on July 25, “and we’re investigating this matter and we’re not going to allow it.” (PL 7/25/12) On July 27 Lorena Fries, the director of the government’s National Human Rights Institute (INDH), announced that the agency was seeking an injunction on behalf of a total of four Mapuche minors that she said had been injured. (La Tercera (Chile) 7/27/12) But in Araucanía itself Regional Ministerial Secretary Mauricio Ojeda tried to shift the blame to the Mapuche, who he claimed were using minors as “human shields.” “First we have to analyze what the parents are doing with these children before we criticize the government,” he said on July 25. “We’re not the ones who bring the children to this type of situation, to expose them [to danger].” (Cooperativa (Chile) 7/25/12)

The government had already planned a “Security Summit” on the situation in Araucanía, in response to a request from big landowners who want a state of siege declared in the region. The meeting--held on July 24 in La Moneda, the presidential palace in Santiago, with police officials, regional authorities and Attorney General Sabas Chahuán—concluded with a decision to send more police agents. (Adital 7/24/12; PL 7/25/12)

The carabineros carried out a new operation against the Temucuicui community on the afternoon of July 25 according to Radio Bío Bío. “Alert to the world,” indigenous spokespeople wrote in a message posted on Facebook. “Violent raid is taking place inside the ancestral Temucuicui community, hundreds of police have entered the community and houses of community members. The violence is unusual and criminal against women and children who remain inside their houses.” There appeared to be no reports of injuries or detentions, however. (PL 7/25/12)

*2. Argentina: Gold Mine Problems Spook Barrick Investors
Jamie Sokalsky, CEO of the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation, announced on July 26 that major problems were delaying the opening of the company’s controversial Pascua Lama gold and silver mine, located in the Andes on both sides of the border between Argentina and Chile. The project will cost as much as $8 billion, he said, 60% more than previously projected, and gold won't be produced until mid-2014, a year later than expected. Barrick’s stocks dropped quickly, although they recovered somewhat, ending the day down by about 4.32%. The mining giant’s shares have fallen by almost 33% since the beginning of the year.

“As the CEO I accept full responsibility for this,” Sokalsky said in a conference call with investors. He attributed problems at the mine, one of the world’s largest, to the project’s complexity, the difficulties of working at high altitudes, a shortage of skilled engineers and “bi-national external factors as well.”

Sokalsky suggested that the “external factors” were labor issues and Argentina’s inflation rate, but he was obviously also referring to opposition by residents and environmentalists in Argentina and Chile and to a July 3 ruling by the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice leaving in effect a law to protect glaciers [see Update #1137]. “There's no way Pascua Lama can operate under this law,” Gonzalo Strano, who leads Greenpeace-Argentina's glaciers protection campaign, told the Associated Press, “because it’s clearly occupying a peri-glacial area, in the presence of glaciers.”

One source of environmental damage from the mine, according to Strano, would be the disposal of toxic wastes in a containment pond covering about 400 hectares on the Argentine side of the border. The mine would also strain the region’s water resources, he said: the gold and silver production method would require the use of 82 gallons (311 liters) of clean water per second for the next 25 years. While Barrick claims that Pascua Lama will be one of the world’s cheapest gold mines, Strano said the main cost savings would come from huge tax breaks and the fact that the company will essentially get the water for free. “If they really had to pay for the water like any other resident of the province, they wouldn't do this project.” (Miami Herald 7/26/12 from AP; Clarín (Buenos Aires) 7/27/12)

*3. Haiti: Four Killed in Police Raid at National Park
At least four people died in an unsuccessful effort by the Haitian National Police (PNH) on July 23 to remove some 140 families from the La Visite National Park, south of Port-au-Prince in the Southeast department. The police operation--which included 36 riot police from the Order Maintenance Departmental Unit (UDMO), departmental police director Ovilma Sagesse, six police vehicles and one ambulance—was ordered by the national government’s Environment and Public Security ministries.

Residents resisted an order to vacate and threw rocks at the agents, who fired on the protesters. Witnesses said eight people were killed, but only four bodies had been found as of July 27; the victims were identified as Désir Enoz, Nicolas David, Robinson Volcin and Désir Aleis. Four children were reported missing, and three houses were burned down. The police reported five injured agents. “In the face of the aggressiveness of these individuals [the residents], we had to suspend the operation to avoid having victims,” police director Sagesse said on July 24. With the agreement of the local population, a four-member committee was set up under the supervision of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to investigate the incident.

Small farmers have reportedly been living illegally in La Visite since 1942. By clearing forest areas for farmland, the residents have lowered the water table in the park, which is a source of water for the Southeast and West departments, including Jacmel and the capital. Successive national governments have tried negotiations to get the residents out of the park, with no success.

The government of current president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) has taken a hard line on squatter communities that it says endanger the environment [see Update #1135]. So far the only inducement it has offered the farmers is a package of 50,000 gourdes (about US$1,189), half in advance and half after they have left. The residents say this isn’t enough to buy land to replace what they would lose. A July 28 statement from MINUSTAH backed up the residents, saying forced expulsion without an alternative for adequate housing is contrary to international regulations on human rights. (Haïti Libre 7/27/12, 7/28/12)

*4. Haiti: Workers in New FTZ Complain About Wages
The first plant in a giant “free trade zone” (FTZ) being built with international aid near Caracol in Haiti’s Northeast department went into operation at the beginning of July, with about 400 workers assembling apparel for a company identified only as “S & H Global S.A.” The Parc Industriel de Caracol (Caracol Industrial Park, PIC, previously called the Parc Industriel du Nord) is expected to employ 1,200 workers by the end of the year, and its promoters project that 50,000 Haitians will eventually find jobs there. The main producer at the FTZ will be South Korea’s leading apparel manufacturer, Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd.

Some of the first 400 workers have already started to complain about the pay rate at the new FTZ--150 gourdes (about US$3.57) a day. The employees include women who formerly worked for another FTZ, the Compagnie de Développement Industriel S.A. (Codevi), 45 km southeast of Caracol in Ouanaminthe on the Dominican border.

During a visit to the Caracol FTZ on July 17, Haitian president Michel Martelly--accompanied by Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and Haitian commerce and industry minister Wilson Laleau--asked the workers to be patient. Laleau assured them that as a signatory to the “Better Work” agreement, the Haitian government would demand improved conditions at the plant. “We’ve already signed an agreement with the [South] Korean government for the construction of a professional school inside the park,” he added. “Other facilities are envisioned for transportation and food services for the park’s employees.” Martelly noted that the FTZ had signed on its first Haitian firm, the paint manufacturer Peintures Caraïbes, S.A. (Radio Métropole (Haiti) 7/19/12; AlterPresse (Haiti) 7/25/12)

The FTZ’s promoters have also had to deal with a front-page article in the July 6 New York Times, which detailed criticisms of the project at length. Although many of the criticisms had already appeared in Haitian media [see Update #1087], much of the material was new. Reporter Deborah Sontag revealed that In December 2010 the AFL-CIO, the largest US labor federation, produced a five-page memo on what it called Sae-A’s “worst labor and criminal law violations” at its maquiladoras (duty-exempt assembly plants) in Guatemala. The memo “accused Sae-A of using bribes, death threats and imprisonment to prevent and break up unions,” Sontag wrote, “and said a local union suspected company officials of involvement in a union leader’s rape never investigated by Guatemalan authorities.”

Although Sae-A was finally pressured into allowing a union to form, it began moving its operations to Nicaragua. Now it’s making plans to move that production to Haiti once US trade preferences for Nicaragua expire in 2014. Although Caracol’s promoters claim the FTZ will “create jobs,” a Guatemalan newspaper described the process more accurately; when Sae-A shut down its main Guatemalan factory in the fall of 2011, the paper wrote: “A Maquila Closes and Goes to Haiti.”

Production is also likely to be shifted from Codevi, the only unionized garment assembly operation in Haiti, according to Yannick Etienne of Batay Ouvriye, the workers’ organization that led the struggle to form the union there. Fernando Capellán, Codevi’s owner, agreed. “They’re going to destroy my jobs to create cheaper jobs in Caracol,” he told the Times. (NYT 7/6/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Paraguay, Brazil,  Peru, Colombia, Venezuela,  El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Cuba, US/immigration

Hemispheric Resistance to Canadian Mining

Paraguay’s Bitter Harvest: Multinational Corporations Reap Benefits from Coup Government

Amidst Broken Promises, Indigenous Authorities Detain Belo Monte Dam Engineers (Brazil)

Peru: Court Reduces Grupo Colina Death Squad Sentences

Operation Injustice: Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Human Rights Defenders and Community Leaders Face Mass Arrests and Arbitrary Detention

Assault on Colombian Trade Unions Continues Unabated

Chavez Announces “Immediate” Withdrawal from Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Right-wing participation in civil society mobilization reveals political motivations behind the “conflict of powers” in El Salvador

Guatemala Photo Essay: "In San Rafael Las Flores and my House, the Mine does not Pass"

Canadian Mining Goliaths Devastate Mexican Indigenous Communities and Environment

Resisting the Silence: Voices of Survival in Mexico

#YoSoy132 Statement on Today's Symbolic Occupation of Televisa (Mexico)

Mexican Official: CIA ‘Manages’ Drug Trade

Is the War on Drugs in the Caribbean Going Up in Smoke?

Cuban Dissident Oswaldo Paya Killed In Car Crash

Post-9/11 Sodus: The U.S.-Canadian Border on Display (US/immigration)

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:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

WNU #1137: Argentine Activists Fight “Mega-Mining”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1137, July 22, 2012

1. Argentina: Activists Continue Struggle Against “Mega-Mining”
2. Chile: Catholic Charity Rejects Barrick Gold Donation
3. Honduras: More Evictions, More Occupations in the Aguán
4. Mexico: More Protests Planned Against “Imposition”
5. Mexico: Money Laundering Scandals Multiply
6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, 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. Argentina: Activists Continue Struggle Against “Mega-Mining”
On July 20 soldiers, police and supposed “pro-mining activists” broke up an encampment that environmentalists and area residents had set up at Cerro Negro in the northwestern Argentine province of Catamarca to protest open-pit mining. The environmentalists--who came from Córdoba, La Rioja, Santa Fe, San Juan and Buenos Aires as well as from Catamarca—had camped out at the intersection of national highways 40 and 60 since July 9 to block trucks heading to the massive Bajo de la Alumbrera gold and copper deposit near the border with Chile. The protesters let other traffic pass.

About 120 people who identified themselves as “pro-mining” arrived at the encampment in the afternoon of July 20, followed a few minutes later by some 30 soldiers from the infantry; 10 police agents were already at the scene. Catamarca provincial prosecutor Silvia Alvarez announced that she had a court order to allow the passage of a truck carrying explosives to the Alumbrera. To avoid a confrontation, the demonstrators let the truck go through. But 30 minutes later the “pro-mining” group--thought to have been organized by local governments--began throwing rocks and stun grenades at the encampment. Prosecutor Alvarez then announced that she had a court order to close  the encampment down. The soldiers, masked and carrying clubs and shields, advanced on the protesters, who again conceded in order to avoid violence.

When 56 protesters attempted to regroup across the border in the nearby province of La Rioja, the Catamarca police followed their bus and forcibly prevented them from getting out. Protesters said they weren’t allowed to stop until they’d reached Córdoba province, some 250 km from Cerro Negro.

Provincial governments and the federal government of center-left president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner have repeatedly repressed the mining protests, which were started in the northwestern provinces in January by area residents who believe the use of cyanide in mining is contaminating their scarce water resources [see Update #1117]. “We’re not against mining,” protester Darío Moreno explained. “We’re against transnational mega-mining,” which he said was similar to foreign multinationals’ introduction of genetically modified soy and their “theft of petroleum.” The Bajo de la Alumbrera mine is owned and operated by a consortium including the Swiss-British mining company Xstrata PLC and two Canadian companies, Goldcorp Inc. and Yamana Gold Inc.

In the morning of July 20, just hours before the operation against the Catamarca protesters, human rights activist and 1980 Nobel peace prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, accompanied by legislators and representatives of civil organizations, presented the Supreme Court of Justice and the National Human Rights Secretariat with a document calling for an end to “the criminalization of social protest.” “The people currently participating in the selective blockade in Cerro Negro are defending human rights, the territory, health, life, biodiversity and our common assets,” the document said, “and they are exercising their right to preserve and protect the environment and other fundamental rights.” (Adital (Brazil) 7/16/12; Plaza de Mayo (Argentina) 7/21/12; Clarín (Buenos Aires) 7/21/12)

*2. Chile: Catholic Charity Rejects Barrick Gold Donation
The Chilean Catholic foundation Sisters of the Good Samaritan announced on July 6 that it was turning down an offer from the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation to donate 800 million pesos (about US$1.64 million) to build a shelter for the sick and disabled in Vallenar, capital of the northern province of Huasco. The charitable group based its refusal on the social and environmental conflicts the Canadian mining giant had created in the region.

The source of the conflicts has been Pascua Lama, an open-pit gold, silver and copper mine located partly in Argentina’s San Juan province and partly in Chile’s Huasco province. Opponents say the mine, which is scheduled to open in 2013, will deplete scarce water resources and contaminate the region through the use of toxic materials such as cyanide. Barrick, the world’s largest gold mining company, has generated some support in the province by promising job creation and, according to opponents, by making donations to local groups.

On July 17 some 55 Chilean organizations issued a declaration praising the “bravery and moral quality” of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and calling on the Chilean government to provide the resources needed to build the shelter. Andrea Cisternas, the director of the Huasco Valley Social-Environmental Movement, expressed hope that other organizations would follow the charity’s example. Cisternas remarked that “in the end, Barrick is doing these things under the table [and] is doing them badly. Now everyone knows it, because this buying of consciences maybe isn’t just about consciences—life is also what’s being sold.” (Radio Universidad de Chile 7/13/12; Adital (Brazil) 7/18/12)

Barrick has also received a setback in its Argentine operations. On July 3 the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice quashed preliminary injunctions the mining company had won from lower courts blocking parts of a law intended to protect glaciers. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace have charged that mining at Pascua Lama and at Veladero, an open-pit mine already in operation in the northwestern province of San Juan, is causing the shrinkage of glaciers, which are a key source of water in the region [see Update #1089].

Barrick had won the injunctions by claiming the law was unconstitutional since it gave the national government power over mining operations, which had previously been under the control of the provinces. The Supreme Court didn’t rule on the legislation’s constitutionality but said “the law must be applied [until] its constitutional validity is resolved.” (AP 7/3/12 via Businessweek)

*3. Honduras: More Evictions, More Occupations in the Aguán
The situation in northern Honduras’ Lower Aguán Valley, where land disputes have led to as many as 70 deaths in the past three years, remained tense and confused as of July 20, with prior agreements and court rulings apparently being contradicted by later developments.

The National Agrarian Institute (INA) was reportedly ready in the second week of July to implement agreements made between the government, campesino groups and major landowners in June to settle disputes over eight estates [see Update #1132]. The INA would pay out 636 million lempiras (more than US$33 million) to two major landowners--Honduran cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum and Nicaraguan entrepreneur and politician René Morales Carazo--for the estates and then turn them over to the members of two campesino organizations, the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA). The campesinos would pay the money back with 6.5% interest annually over a period of 15 years.

About 85% of the money was to go to Facussé for more than 4,000 hectares of land currently occupied by 3,500 families belonging to the MUCA. Seven estates were included: Marañones, Isla Número Uno, Isla Número Dos, La Confianza, La Aurora, Lempira and Concepción. Morales was to give up one estate, San Esteban, now occupied by some 600 families belonging to MARCA. (Honduran press reports were contradictory; some said San Esteban would go to MUCA members.)

The agreement didn’t cover four other disputed estates. Two of them, Despertar and La Trinidad, were officially owned by Morales but occupied by MARCA members. A court ruled on June 29 that they should go to the occupiers; the ruling also covered Facussé’s San Isidro estate, which is claimed by MARCA members. The landowners appealed these rulings to a higher court.

Another of Facussé’s estates, Paso Aguán, was occupied briefly on at least two occasions by some 700 families protesting the murder of campesino Gregorio Chávez, whose body was found buried on the estate on July 6 [see Update #1136]. The protesters formed an organization, the Gregorio Chávez Refoundation, which is backed by the MUCA. (El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 7/10/12; MARCA statement 7/17/12 via Vos el Soberano (Honduras))

Within a week the agreements on the eight estates seemed to have unraveled. The money for the landowners didn’t appear; Facussé still hadn’t been paid as of July 20, and Roger Pineda, a lawyer for Facussé’s food product and cooking oil company, Grupo Dinant, demanded the eviction of campesinos from the disputed estates.

Meanwhile, the Ceiba and Francisco Morazán Appeals Court issued an injunction blocking the lower court’s ruling in favor of the campesinos and backing Facussé’s claim to the San Isidro estate. On July 18 some 300 police agents and soldiers arrived at San Isidro to remove the occupiers there, but they were met by hundreds of MARCA members and supporters and decided to withdraw. The next day, some 250 campesino families occupied another of Facussé’s estates, Los Laureles, located south of the city of Tocoa in Colón department; the occupiers belong to a new group said to be supported by the MUCA. The police tried to remove them that morning but failed because of the presence of supporters. The police were successful in a new attempt on July 20. Meanwhile, a group of 200 campesinos again occupied Paso Aguán on the same day.

After the unsuccessful operation at San Isidro on July 18, Kenneth Sabillón, a police commissioner, complained to the local media about the confusing situation in the Aguán. “[I]t’s not possible that [the courts] should tell us one day to evict the [landowners’ security] guards and then the next tell us that we have to evict the campesinos,” he said, calling for the different parties to sit down and negotiate. (Lista Nicaragua y Más blog 7/19/12 via ALAI; Prensa Latina 7/20/12; El Heraldo 7/20/12)

*4. Mexico: More Protests Planned Against “Imposition”
Thousands of people marched in Mexico City on July 22 to protest what they called the “imposition” of Enrique Peña Nieto, the official winner in the July 1 presidential election, and his party, the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) [see Update #1136]. Signs and chants emphasized claims that Peña Nieto, the former governor of México state, had won the presidency through fraud, vote buying and biased coverage from the mainstream media, especially the giant television network Televisa, which demonstrators called a “lie factory.”

The authorities didn’t give a crowd estimate, but the Associated Press (AP) wire service reported that the July 22 march was smaller than a similar march on July 7, which the wire service said drew a crowd of 50,000. The reporter suggested that the movement was weakening. (AP 7/22/12 via El Carabobeño (Caracas))

The march was one of a series of events planned on July 15 in a gathering of at least 300 organizations in San Salvador Atenco, a town northeast of Mexico City in México state. The first “National Convention Against Imposition” brought together a broad range of student, labor and campesino groups with other social organizations. Participants included the newly formed #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”) student movement; the militant Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME); the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a large rank-and-file caucus in the teachers’ union; and the Front of the Peoples in Defense of the Land (FPDT), a campesino community organization based in Atenco. FPDT and Atenco were subjected to brutal repression by México state police in May 2006, during Peña Nieto’s term as governor [see Update #1039].

The convention decided on a plan of action that includes a protest against Televisa on July 27; a national civic strike on Aug. 8; an SME-sponsored mobilization in Mexico City on Aug. 11; a second convention on Sept. 22-23, to be held in Oaxaca; and a series of actions from Nov. 20, when Mexico officially marks the anniversary of the start of the 1910 Revolution, to Dec. 1, the day the new president is to be inaugurated. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/16/12)

*5. Mexico: Money Laundering Scandals Multiply
At an unusual joint press conference in Mexico City on July 19, the presidents of Mexico’s governing center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) called on the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to investigate evidence of money laundering by the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). PAN president Gustavo Madero and PRD president Jesús Zambrano cited indications that during the campaign for the July 1 presidential and legislative elections PRI officials moved large sums of money through fake corporations and the Grupo Financiero Monex foreign exchange company in order to circumvent campaign finance restrictions. Madero said there was no implication that the money came from organized crime, but it may have been “stolen, from tax evasion, from companies, from the government, from state governments.” (La Jornada 7/20/12)

Jesús Murillo Karam, the PRI’s legal representative for electoral matters, admitted on July 19 that the party had paid some  workers through gift cards—a total of 7,851 cards worth 66,326,300 pesos (about US$5.05 million)—and he said the cards may have been funded through Monex. But the PRI dismissed allegations that it used millions of dollars’ worth of gift cards for Organización Soriana, Mexico’s second-largest retailer, to pay voters to mark their ballots for PRI candidates [see Update #1136]. (LJ 7/20/12)

Correction: In this paragraph we originally understated the amount that the PRI admits to having paid out to party workers in gift cards.

The focus on Monex, which some Mexicans are starting to refer to as “Monexgate,” comes amid investigations of widespread money laundering through Mexican exchange houses. On July 17 a US Senate subcommittee released a 330-page report on the failure of the London-based corporation HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, to institute safeguards to prevent money laundering through some of its affiliates. The subcommittee said it had found that HSBC Mexico “transported $7 billion in physical US dollars to [HSBC Bank USA] from 2007 to 2008, outstripping other Mexican banks, even one twice its size, raising red flags that the volume of dollars included proceeds from illegal drug sales in the United States.”

The bank also looked the other way when some bank accounts seemed suspicious. For example, HSBC saw no major risk in the accounts of Chinese-Mexican pharmaceutical entrepreneur Zhenli Ye Gon, who moved $90 million through the bank in the early and middle 2000s. The US indicted Ye Gon in 2007 for alleged involvement in the importation of methamphetamine; US prosecutors later dropped the charges, but an indictment Mexico filed against Ye Gon is still open [see World War 4 Report 9/20/08]. (LJ 7/18/12)

Ye Gon also had accounts at Monex. The Mexican government has found evidence of money being laundered through the firm by Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, including the Tijuana and Beltrán Leyva cartels, and Monex is one of the companies through which former PRI governor of Tamaulipas Tomás Yarrington allegedly laundered $7.2 million. Yarrington was accused earlier this year of laundering money for the Los Zetas drug gang and the so-called Gulf Cartel. (Página 24 (Aguascalientes) 7/13/12) (The Mexican exchange house Monex apparently has no connection to a US firm with the same name.)

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that drug trafficking worldwide is worth some $320 billion a year. (UNODC press release 7/16/12) How much of this passes through the banking system is unclear, but in 2009 then-UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa told the British weekly newspaper The Observer he had seen evidence that the proceeds of organized crime were “the only liquid investment capital” available to some banks at the height of the 2008 world financial crisis. “Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities,” Costa said. “There were signs that some banks were rescued that way.” He declined to name the banks. (The Observer 12/13/09)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

Chile: Ex-Colonels Charged For Torturing Michelle Bachelet’s Father

Betraying Memory in Chile: Documental Pinochet's Manipulation of History

Uruguay’s Marijuana Bill Provokes Mixed Reactions

A Coup Over Land: The Resource War Behind Paraguay’s Crisis

Post-Coup Paraguay: An Interview with Fernando Lugo

Brazil: Xavante territorial rights affirmed following ranchers' uprising

Bolivia: government yields to indigenous demands in Mallku Khota mining conflict

Evo Morales: Maya calendar portends end of Coca-Cola... and capitalism

Bolivia: coca production down, cocaine production up?

Peruvians Face Off Against Newmont Mining

Ecuador: Authorities Misuse Judicial System to Stop Protests

Colombia: indigenous protester killed as army retakes base

The Resurrection of Uribe in Colombia

Uribe Meets with Venezuelan Opposition to Protest “Chavista Dictatorship”

News Reports Confirm Drastic Deterioration of Honduran Sovereignty

Canada’s Promotion of Mining Industry Belies Claims of Corporate Social Responsibility (Honduras)

Photo Essay: The Peoples’ International Health Tribunal in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala

Guatemala’s Highest Court to Hear Landmark Indigenous Challenge against Mining Law

Communities Continue Legal Offensive against Guatemalan Mining Law

The Faces of Resistance to Mining Injustice Across Guatemala

Reportero: An Interview with Sergio Haro (Mexico)

Thousands of Mexicans Protest Alleged Elections Fraud

Guántanamera, Courtesy of the U.S.-Cuban Embargo

Unsustainable Solutions to Haiti’s Housing Crisis

104 Members of Congress Call for the UN to Take Responsibility for Cholera (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:

Monday, July 16, 2012

WNU #1136: Foreign Banks Investigated in Mexican Money Laundering

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1136, July 15, 2012

1. Mexico: Foreign Banks Investigated in Drug Money Laundering
2. Mexico: Left Makes Moderate Gains in Elections
3. Mexico: Thousands Protest “Imposition” of PRI
4. Honduras: Three Die in Continuing Aguán Violence
5. Puerto Rico: Environmentalist Kayaks for Prisoner's Release
6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, 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. Mexico: Foreign Banks Investigated in Drug Money Laundering
The US Senate is expected to issue a report on July 17 about international money laundering through the London-based corporation HSBC, Europe’s largest bank; much of the focus is reportedly on the laundering of drug money through the group’s Mexican subsidiary, HSBC Mexico. The US Justice Department is also investigating, and the bank is expected to end up paying a fine of more than $1 billion, both for the Mexican operation and for HSBC’s business activities with parties in Iran, in violation of US trade sanctions against that country.

The Reuters wire service reports that it has reviewed documents showing that “US law-enforcement agencies have examined Mexican money that moved from [Mexican] exchange houses, known as casas de cambio, into the HSBC banking system” and that “[t]he transactions were tied to laundered drug proceeds.” The HSBC subsidiary is one of Mexico’s five largest banks. The country has 42 banking companies, but the top five hold 70% of the assets; four of them are owned by foreign companies, a result of neoliberal measures in the 1990s that opened Mexican banking up to foreign investment.

Mexico’s government has introduced measures to control money laundering, but according to the US State Department’s 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, drug money continues to flow back and forth between Mexico and the US, in part because of the “combination of a sophisticated financial sector and a large cash-based informal sector” in Mexico. In addition to laundering money into the US banking system through exchange houses in Mexico, the drug cartels also ship drug sale proceeds from the US into Mexico, mostly “via couriers, armored vehicles, and wire transfers,” the report says. US authorities estimate that “drug trafficking organizations send between $19 and $39 billion annually to Mexico from the United States.” The Mexican government disputes the number. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/14/12 from Reuters, 7/15/12 from staff; Reuters 7/14/12 via Latinos Post)

[Much of the drug money remains in the US. A United Nations official reported in 2010 that the majority of the gross profits from cocaine sales never leave the US; see Update #1038]

Until now the largest case of money laundering by Mexican cartels through a foreign-owned bank involved the Wachovia Corporation of Charlotte, North Carolina, which was acquired in 2008 by Wells Fargo & Company. In 2010 Wachovia paid the US $160 million in penalties for allowing $378.3 billion to pass from Mexican exchange houses into its system from 2004 to 2007 without adequate safeguards against money laundering. As of 2011 investigators said about $20 billion of this money appeared to have “suspicious origins.” Some of the money that passed through Wachovia was used to buy a DC-9 airplane the Mexican military intercepted in April 2006 in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche; it was carrying 5.7 tons of cocaine. (The Guardian (UK) 4/2/11)

*2. Mexico: Left Makes Moderate Gains in Elections
As of early on July 6, with 99.51% of polling places counted, Mexican officials said former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had been elected president with 38.22% of the valid votes cast on July 1. Center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador followed with 31.57% of the votes, and Josefina Vázquez Mota from the ruling center-right National Action Party (PAN) came in third with 25.42%. Gabriel Quadri, the candidate of the centrist New Alliance Party (Panal), trailed with 2.28%. The results--which matched a rapid count the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) carried out the evening of July 1 [see Update #1135]—followed a substantial recount of the votes after charges of irregularities.

López Obrador’s showing this year was not as good as in 2006, when he lost by about 0.5% in a questionable official count. However, his total was much larger than most opinion polls had predicted, although some pollsters had suggested that he was gaining momentum towards the end of the race [see Update #1131]. The states he carried—Guerrero, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Tlaxcala, along with the Federal District (DF, Mexico City)—are the impoverished southern states that have tended to be the center of much of Mexico’s political activism. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/6/12)

Like López Obrador, the center-left coalition that backed him performed well in the July 1 voting, although not as well as a similar coalition had done in 2006. The Progressive Movement regained the number-two position in the Chamber of Deputies of the federal Congress with 136 of the 500 seats—101 for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), 19 for the Labor Party (PT) and 16 for the Citizens’ Movement. The PRI and its ally, the small Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), got a combined total of 240 seats, 11 less than the absolute majority it needs to avoid compromises with other parties. The PAN slipped to third place with 114 seats. Panal won 10.

The center-left parties slipped in the Senate, whose members are elected every six years. The PRI and PVEM will have 61 of the 128 seats, followed by the PAN with 38, the Progressive Movement with 28 (22 for the PRD, four for the PT and two for the Citizens’ Movement). Panal won one seat. The PAN was the largest group in the previous Senate, followed by the PRI-PVEM and the center-left parties. (El Universal (Caracas) 7/10/12)

The center-left coalition did better in the DF and in the seven states that elected governors on July 1. Progressive Movement candidates won in Morelos and Tabasco, two states the left had never succeeded in winning before. The PRI held on to Yucatán and took Jalisco from the PAN, while the PVEM won Chiapas in alliance with the PRI and Panal. The PAN retained Guanajuato, its only win in the state races. The PRD continues to dominate politics in the DF, which it has governed since 1997; PRD candidate Miguel Ángel Mancera was elected the head of government (mayor) with 63.56% of the vote. (Informador (Guadalajara) 7/9/12; El Economista (Mexico) 7/3/12)

*3. Mexico: Thousands Protest “Imposition” of PRI
Mexico City residents responded to the country’s July 1 presidential and legislative elections with a massive and apparently spontaneous demonstration on July 7 repudiating the official results. Thousands marched from the Angel of Independence to the Zócalo plaza to protest what they called the “imposition” of Enrique Peña Nieto, the presidential candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). They charged his electoral victory was the result of fraud, vote buying and biased publicity by the media.

The protesters’ targets included the giant television network Televisa, which reportedly has taken money over the years to promote Peña Nieto’s political career [see Update #1135], and Organización Soriana, Mexico’s second-largest retailer; the PRI reportedly gave out thousands of Soriana gift cards to voters if they agreed to mark their ballots for Peña Nieto.

Some of the marchers took their protest to the Regina Coeli church, where comedian Eugenio Derbez and actor and singer Alessandra Rosaldo were being married in a wedding transmitted by Televisa. “Peña didn’t win, Televisa helped him!” they chanted, and “Fraud, fraud, fraud, fraud.” “Turn around, the news is here,” they told news photographers, who had their cameras pointed toward the entrance to the church. “Sold-out press!” the protesters added.

Center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who came in second, has rejected the official results, but he hasn’t called on his supporters to protest, as he did after his very narrow loss in the official tally in 2006. Apparently there was no need. Opposition to Peña Nieto has been growing since May, when a student protest movement known as #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”) emerged. “This isn’t for López Obrador, it’s for the nation,” read one sign at the July 7 march, which reportedly was organized through social networks and by word of mouth. Student movement members supported the march but said they didn’t organize it. (La Jornada 7/8/12)

There have also been smaller local demonstrations. On July 14 a little group of people stood at the entrance to a Soriana store in Mexico City’s Tlalpan delegación (borough) with signs and leaflets charging that “five million votes were bought, and Soriana helped with half of them.” The group quickly grew larger, and when the number was around 100, the protesters pushed inside the store chanting: “From Chetumal to Tijuana, don’t buy in Soriana” and “If there’s imposition, there will be revolution.”

In another Soriana store in Tlalpan, protesters filled shopping carts with merchandise and then left them in the store, to symbolize “the purchases that would have been made if Soriana hadn’t participated in vote buying.” (LJ 7/15/12)

*4. Honduras: Three Die in Continuing Aguán Violence
Unidentified persons seized Gregorio Chávez, a 69-year-old campesino, on July 2 while he was working near the Paso Aguán estate in the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras. Residents of the nearby Panamá community said they heard gunshots and found signs that someone had been dragged toward the estate. After searching for four days, on July 6 residents found Chávez’s body buried on the estate, with evidence that the campesino had been tortured, according to a communiqué by the Permanent Human Rights Monitoring Center for the Aguán.

Chávez’s murder indicates that the violence in the Aguán is not subsiding despite several agreements between the government and a number of campesino organizations aimed at ending the region’s longstanding agrarian conflict [see Update #1133]. The Paso Aguán estate is owned by cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum, probably the richest man in Honduras and the focus of many of the land disputes. Panamá residents accused Facussé’s security guards of kidnapping and murdering Chávez, who was reportedly not a member of any campesino organization but supported the large Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA).

After giving Chávez a proper burial, local people occupied the entrance to the estate and held it until July 7, when police agents and soldiers from the 15th Infantry Battalion cleared a space so trucks could carry out African palm oil, the estate’s main product.

Murders continued in the region over the next two days. On July 7 campesino Jacobo López Erazo was shot dead near his home in the community of Quebrada de Arena. He had worked with MUCA organizations. On July 8 campesino José Luis Dubón, a member of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), was shot and killed near the La Lempira settlement. Another campesino, Francis Bueso, was wounded; he received emergency surgery in a hospital in Tocoa, Colón department. Local people responded to the new killings with a second demonstration at the Paso Aguán estate on July 8. The protesters demanded an end to the killing of campesinos, the immediate withdrawal of troops from the Aguán, a definitive solution to the agrarian conflict and the approval of a Law of Agrarian Transformation.

The Permanent Human Rights Monitoring Center for the Aguán suggested that the latest outbreak of violence was a reaction to a court ruling upholding a claim by another campesino group, the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), to land held by Facussé. According to Facussé, an appellate court has now overturned the lower court's ruling. (Adital (Brazil) 7/11/12; Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 7/12/12)

*5. Puerto Rico: Environmentalist Kayaks for Prisoner's Release
On July 12 Puerto Rican environmentalist Alberto de Jesús arrived at Fort de France, capital of the French overseas department of Martinique, the latest stop in a 1,100 journey from Venezuela to Puerto Rico by kayak that the activist has undertaken to publicize the situation of Oscar López Rivera, an independence fighter who has been imprisoned in the US for 31 years. De Jesús, who is widely known as “Tito Kayak,” began his trip on June 20 at the Venezuelan town of Macuro, on the Paria peninsula. Despite an injury to his wrist and damage to the kayak during the first days of the journey, De Jesús was determined to continue to Puerto Rico; afterwards he may go on to the US East Coast.

López Rivera was arrested in 1981 and accused of conspiracy to overthrow the US government in Puerto Rico. The US government said he was linked to the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), which carried out bombings in New York City and Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s that caused several deaths, but US prosecutors never connected him directly to any bombings. He was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

De Jesús is known for a number of daring protests, especially during the campaign that led to the withdrawal of the US Navy from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques in 2003. In 2000 he placed a Puerto Rican flag on the crown of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, and in 2007 he was imprisoned in Israel for flying a Palestinian flag on a tower in the wall that separates that country from the Palestinian territories. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 6/27/12; InterNews Service 7/12/12 via Claridad (Puerto Rico); Primera Hora (Guaynabo) 7/12/12)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guayana, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Student Forum in Rosario: From the University to the Territory (Argentina)

Argentina: A Decade Without Dario and Maxi (Argentina)

Argentina: ex-dictators sentenced in baby thefts

Express Coup Rattles Paraguay

Brazil: indigenous tribes occupy Belo Monte dam site

Domitila Chungara, Revolutionary Heroine of Bolivia: An Interview

Bolivia: TIPNIS Marchers Return Home, Pledge to Resist Government Consulta

Bolivia: police attack indigenous protest camp in La Paz

Peru: three dead in Cajamarca anti-mining protests

Peru: one more dead in Cajamarca; protest leader detained

Peru: Sendero Luminoso attacks spread

Peru: Cajamarca martyrs put to rest amid ongoing civil strike

Peru: national solidarity builds with Cajamarca struggle

Peruvian Government Urged to Halt Violence against Citizens Opposed to Mining Projects

Colombia: Embera people strike deal for return of usurped lands —as terror continues

Sao Paulo Leftists Debate Alternatives to Neoliberalism in Caracas (Venezuela)

Everything That Glitters Isn’t Green in Guyana

Botched DEA Raid in Honduras Exposes How Militarization Terrorizes Communities Around the World

We want Pencils, not Weapons: San Juan Sacatepéquez rejects new Military Brigade in Guatemala

Student eviction does not stop Guatemalan movement against privatization

Guatemalan Femicide: The Legacy of Repression and Injustice

Stranded Central American Migrants Await Aid in Mexico

Observing in Ecatepec–Who’s in Charge Here? (Mexico)

From the “Perfect Dictatorship” to the Imperfect Democracy (Mexico)

The Mexican Election: Not Yet a Done Deal

Mexico’s hot political summer

Denied the Right to Vote in Mexico’s Presidential Election

Photo essay: Yo Soy 132 in New York City

The Cause of Drug War Violence: Interview with Author Peter Watt

Colombia and Mexico: Drug War Capitalism

Mexico Fails to Tackle Increased Levels of Violence Against Women

Outlook Dim for Mexican Workers

The Morne à Cabri mystery houses (Haiti)

In MINUSTAH Abuse Case, Cover-Up Goes Unpunished (Haiti)

Haiti’s Military Monster Makes a Creeping Comeback

Under Tents: Taking Action for Haiti’s Homeless

'Secure Communities' and the U.S. Immigrant Rights Movement: Lessons from New York State (US/immigration)

Guest Workers Take On Wal-Mart in Lower Manhattan (US/immigration)

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.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

WNU #1135: Paraguayan Coup Backers Push for US Bases

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1135, July 1, 2012

1. Paraguay: Coup Backers Push for US Military Bases
2. Chile: Students Protest Profiteering in Education
3. Mexico: The PRI Regains the Presidency
4. Mexico: New Facts Emerge on Fast and Furious
5. Haiti: Quake Victims March to Protect Their Homes
6. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration, US/policy

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

Note: There will be no Update on July 9, 2012. Publication will resume the following week.

*1. Paraguay: Coup Backers Push for US Military Bases
A group of US generals reportedly visited Paraguay for a meeting with legislators on June 22 to discuss the possibility of building a military base in the Chaco region, which borders on Bolivia in western Paraguay. The meeting coincided with the Congress’s sudden impeachment the same day of left-leaning president Fernando Lugo, who at times has opposed a US military presence in the country. In 2009 Lugo cancelled maneuvers that the US Southern Command was planning to hold in Paraguay in 2010 as part of its “New Horizons” program.

More bases in the Chaco are “necessary,” rightwing deputy José López Chávez, who presides over the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Defense, said in a radio interview. Bolivia, governed by socialist president Evo Morales, “constitutes a threat for Paraguay, due to the arms race it’s developing,” according to López Chávez. Bolivia and Paraguay fought a war over the sparsely populated Chaco from 1932 to 1935, the last major war over territory in South America.

The US has been pushing recently to set up military bases in the Southern Cone, including one in Chile and one in Argentina’s northeastern Chaco province, which is close to the Paraguayan Chaco, although it doesn’t share a border with Paraguay [see Update #1129]. Unidentified military sources say that the US has already built infrastructure for its own troops in Paraguayan army installations near the country’s borders with Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil; for example, an installation in Mariscal Estigarribia, some 250 km from Bolivia, has a runway almost 3.8 km long, in a country with a very limited air force. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/1/12 from correspondent in Argentina)

The Chaco is thought to have some oil reserves. Richard González, a representative of Texas-based Crescent Global Oil, announced on June 28 that the company was investing $10 million in the region, starting with exploratory drilling in September or October of this year. The announcement came after Crescent’s representatives met with Federico Franco, who was Lugo’s vice president before being appointed president by Congress. Supporters of Lugo’s ouster claim the investment by the US company could ease Paraguay’s total dependence on foreign oil. Venezuela, which supplies 30% of Paraguay’s oil, cut off shipments after the removal of the elected president. (Prensa Latina 6/29/12; La Nación (Paraguay) 6/29/12)

*2. Chile: Students Protest Profiteering in Education
Joined by mineworkers and other supporters, tens of thousands of Chilean students marched in Santiago on June 28 to protest the highly privatized educational system put in place during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The protesters say the government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera is stalling in talks over their demand for free, high-quality education, a demand that triggered a seven-month student strike in 2011. Despite rain and cold weather, the march was the largest demonstration so far in the current school year [see Update #1130], according to organizers, who estimated the crowd at 120,000. There were also protests in other cities, including Concepción, Copiapó, Valparaíso and Valdivia.

As has happened repeatedly in marches by Chilean students, the generally peaceful and festive demonstration ended with acts of vandalism by hooded youths. Police agents used tear gas and water cannons on protesters and arrested dozens.

A week before the June 28 protest, the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Education issued a report showing that seven supposedly nonprofit private universities and one public institution had circumvented laws that require them to reinvest any profits back into the institutions. In some of the cases, the universities set up “mirror corporations” which owned the buildings used by the schools and charged them rent. The legislative committee referred the schools to Public Ministry head Sabás Chaguán, who will appoint a special prosecutor “due to the magnitude of the apparent crimes.” (AP 6/28/12 via; La Jornada (Mexico) 6/29/12 from correspondent)

*3. Mexico: The PRI Regains the Presidency
On July 1 Mexicans went to the polls to elect a new president, and all 128 senators and all 500 legislative deputies in the federal Congress. New governors were being voted on in six of the 31 states--Chiapas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Tabasco and Yucatán—while the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) was choosing a new head of government, the 66 DF Assembly members and the 16 delegates who represent the city’s delegaciones (boroughs). Some 79 million Mexicans were eligible to vote. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/1/12)

Shortly before midnight Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) president Leonardo Valdés announced the results of the rapid count for the presidential race. According to the IFE, former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate of a coalition including the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), had won with 37.93-38.55% of the votes counted. Former DF head of government Andrés Manuel López Obrador, running for the center-left Progressive Movement coalition, received 30.90-31.86% of the votes, and Josefina Vázquez Mota, representing the center-right National Action Party (PAN) came in third with 25.10-26.03%. Gabriel Quadri, candidate of the centrist New Alliance Party (Panal), only won 2.27-2.57% of the votes. Valdés said turnout was a little above 62%. (Prensa Latina 7/2/12)

The PAN has held the presidency for the last 12 years. Before the PAN’s victory in 2000, the PRI had held the presidency and dominated the country's politics for 71 years, making Mexico virtually a one-party state.

Although Peña Nieto regularly led in opinion polls, his popularity began to slip when a student movement known as #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”) emerged in May to question his record as México state governor and, especially, his favorable coverage on television. The British daily The Guardian ran several articles indicating that the country’s largest network, Televisa, may have taken money to have its news programs promote Peña Nieto in 2005 and 2006, his first two years as governor [see Updates #1132, 1133].

In her latest exposé, published June 26, Guardian correspondent Jo Tuckman wrote that according to documents and unidentified sources, in 2009 Televisa set up a secret unit known as “team Handcock” that “commissioned videos promoting [Peña Nieto] and his PRI party and rubbishing the party's rivals.... The documents suggest the team distributed the videos to thousands of email addresses, and pushed them on Facebook and YouTube, where some of them can still be seen.” Televisa was careful to make sure the videos didn’t appear to come from the network, according to one source. “Team Handcock” members were “encouraged not to use their Televisa email addresses or Televisa IPs to distribute material,” Tuckman wrote.

At least one US company was apparently paid to advise Televisa’s campaign--Blue State Digital. In one document that the Guardian saw, an employee of the US company inquired about payment for “several tasks for Televisa,” including “many conference calls and meetings to discuss the web strategy for Handcock.” Blue State Digital helped develop the internet strategy for US president Barack Obama's successful 2008 presidential campaign. (The Guardian 6/26/12)

*4. Mexico: New Facts Emerge on Fast and Furious
The US House of Representatives voted on June 28 to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena for documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious, a bungled program in which the Arizona office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) inadvertently let about 2,000 firearms pass into Mexico during 2009 and 2010 [see Update #1134]. The ATF is an agency of the Justice Department, which the attorney general heads.

This was the first time in US history that Congress cited a sitting member of the president’s cabinet for contempt, but it would have little practical effect unless the Justice Department chose to enforce the contempt citation. Holder and the department insist they are withholding the documents legally, since US president Barack Obama has invoked executive privilege in the case.

The 255-67 vote on the contempt motion in the House, which is controlled by the Republicans, was clearly intended to hurt President Obama, a Democrat, as he runs for reelection on Nov. 6. Only 17 Democrats supported for the motion, and about 100 walked out of the chamber to protest the vote. What is “curious” about the move, as the correspondent for the Mexican daily La Jornada notes, is that the gun lobby was energetically promoting it; the politically powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) warned the 435 members of the House that voting to support Holder might cause them problems when they stand for reelection in November.

The scandal would seem to focus attention on lax gun control laws in the US which allow “straw buyers” to purchase weapons in states like Arizona and then smuggle them to drug cartels in Mexico, but the Republicans and the gun lobby have come up with a conspiracy theory that would put the onus on supporters of gun control. Republican politicians claim the Obama administration purposely let the guns go to the drug cartels so that the resulting bloodbath in Mexico could be used to justify strict federal gun control legislation. As many as 50,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related violence since the end of 2006. (LJ 6/29/12)

A June 27 investigative piece by Fortune magazine reporter Katherine Eban undercuts the conspiracy theory. Based on interviews she held with ATF agents and documents she obatined, Eban concluded that ATF officials in Arizona wanted to arrest the straw buyers and confiscate the weapons but were prevented from doing this by the local US Attorney’s office. The Arizona ATF group only let illegally purchased guns “walk” on one occasion, in June 2010, when agent John Dodson provided six AK Draco pistols to suspected gun trafficker Isaiah Fernandez. Seven months later, in February 2011, agent Dodson--who was feuding with his boss, David J. Voth--suddenly started acting as a whistleblower. Dodson appeared on CBS News claiming the ATF had purposely “walked” all the guns and that he had opposed the practice [see Update #1070].

Eban wrote that the investigation of Fast and Furious by the House over the last year has seriously damaged ATF efforts to stop the flow of guns from Arizona to Mexico; between 2010 and 2011, gun seizures by the ATF in Phoenix dropped by 90%. She noted that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has led the investigation, “has a personal history on this issue: In 1972, at age 19, he was arrested for having a concealed, loaded .25-caliber automatic in his car.”

But while Eban’s reporting seems to clear the ATF of some of the responsibility, it implicates other operatives of the Justice Department: the US attorneys in Arizona who refused to prosecute straw buyers. More revelations may come in a few months when the Justice Department’s inspector general produces a report on the case. “Among the discoveries,” Eban wrote, is the fact that “Fast and Furious’ top suspects—Sinaloa Cartel operatives and Mexican nationals who were providing the money, ordering the guns, and directing the recruitment of the straw purchasers—turned out to be FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] informants who were receiving money from the bureau.” Like the ATF, the FBI is an agency of the Justice Department. (Fortune 6/27/12 via CNN Money)

*5. Haiti: Quake Victims March to Protect Their Homes
More than 1,000 Haitians marched through downtown Port-au-Prince on June 25 to protest a plan to destroy homes they have built on hillsides overlooking the city. Haitian police and members of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) fired tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters when they tried to approach the National Palace; some protesters threw rocks at the police and at passing cars. This was the second demonstration on the issue in a week.

The protesters came from poor neighborhoods on the capital’s southern flank, such as Jalousie in the generally well-to-do Pétionville section and Morne l’Hôpital in the Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood. The Environment Ministry reportedly wants to have some 400 houses razed in these improvised communities so that the hills can be reforested and channels can be dug to prevent the flash flooding that affects Port-au-Prince during the rainy season; the hillside dwellers themselves sometimes lose their homes and even their lives in the floods.

But many of the residents are among the hundreds of thousands who lost their homes in the devastating earthquake that struck southern Haiti in January 2010 earthquake. Some built on the hillsides after they were driven out of displaced persons camps without any provisions to get them new housing, and they are furious that the government of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) is now planning to drive them out of their new homes. “Martelly wants to destroy houses while he doesn’t build any,” some protesters shouted, alluding to the promises the president made when he took office last year that he would build housing to replace homes lost in the quake.

During the march demonstrators threw rocks at the construction site for the Oasis Hotel—a luxury facility financed partly by the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which former US presidents Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and George W. Bush (2001-2009) set up ostensibly to aid earthquake victims [see Update #1080]. (Associated Press 6/25/12 via Boston Globe; AlterPresse (Haiti) 6/26/12; Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 6/26/12)

According to the International Organization for Migration (OIM), an intergovernmental agency, there are now 390,276 displaced people living in camps in the area affected by the earthquake, a 7% decline since April. The government has been offering financial aid to get people to leave six of the largest camps; for example, a family is supposed to receive 20,000 gourdes (about $470) if it leaves the encampment near the National Palace in the Champ de Mars park. But the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) considers this no substitute for a program to provide adequate housing. Especially in the camps on private property, many people have left because of threats or physical violence, according to the group, which estimates that 100,000 families have been arbitrarily forced out of the camps. (AlterPresse 6/27/12)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration, US/policy

E'a: Alternative News Source From Paraguay

Paraguay’s Political Crisis

Monsanto Strikes in Paraguay  

Pressure from the Region Could Be Decisive in Paraguay’s Crisis

Can Morales survive Bolivia's social unrest?

Bolivia: Second Tipnis March Arrives in La Paz

Bolivia: mining engineers "kidnapped" by Aymara comunarios

Iran, Brazil aid Bolivian "drug war"

Peru: gold miners shut down Puno

Peru: Cajamarca protesters symbolically bury President Humala —despite threats

Ecuador to withdraw troops from School of the Americas

Judicial Reform in Colombia?

Colombia: indigenous mobilization against military base

Five More Indigenous Venezuelans Murdered

Venezuela: indigenous leaders assassinated

"Historical Moment" as Venezuela Becomes a Full Member of Mercosur

‘We Are All Barillas’: A new moment in Guatemala’s anti-extraction movement

Mexico’s youth movement forges ahead

Tricks, Treats and Titillations: Mexico’s Elections in an Era of Climate and Culture Change

Third March to Protest PRI Candidate (Mexico)

Pity (Some of) the Poor Pollsters: Mexico Prepares to Vote

Mexico City airport shoot-out leaves three dead

Car bomb in Nuevo Laredo (Mexico)

Behind the Numbers: Haiti’s Homeless Population Drops

A Palestine-Mexico Border (US/immigration)

Latin America: how the US has allied with the forces of reaction

Honduras: What's in it for the United States?

U.S. Prison Industrial Complex Moves South of the Border

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: