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

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