Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1148, October 21, 2012
1. Mexico: Police Break Up Michoacán Student Protests
2. Chile: Thousands March for Indigenous Rights on Columbus Holiday
3. Honduras: Court Quashes “Model Cities”; Investors Eye Jamaica
4. Cuba: Spanish Rightist Sentenced in Dissident’s Death
5. Haiti: Government Seeks to Arrest Human Rights Lawyers
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.
*1. Mexico: Police Break Up Michoacán Student Protests
Using tear gas and water cannons, hundreds of federal and state police ended student occupations at three teachers’ colleges in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacán in the early morning of Oct. 15. Protesters and other students were beaten in the raids, which resulted in the arrests of 176 students—168 in the town of Tiripetío, two in the town of Arteaga and six in the autonomous indigenous municipality of Cherán. The students reportedly threw rocks at the police and set fire to 13 of the 90 vehicles, including buses and patrols cars, that they had seized during the weeklong protest. Michoacán officials said 10 police agents were injured, three of them seriously.
The students were demanding a one-year postponement of changes to the curriculum that would require them to study English and computer science; they also sought an increase in the number of fourth-level students. Mexico’s rural teachers’ colleges, which largely provide instruction for campesino and indigenous students, have suffered from neglect and budget cuts for years and have been a focal point for protests [see Update #1109]. This was the second major student protest in Michoacán so far this school year. Students started a building occupation and strike on Sept. 4 in the Michoacán University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH) in Morelia, the state capital; rightwing students led by a group called the “White Angels” broke up the occupation on Sept. 25 and Sept. 26.
The protesters at the teachers’ colleges received strong support from local and national groups. The Michoacán section of the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a large rank-and-file caucus within the conservative National Education Workers Union (SNTE), backed the protests even before the Oct. 15 police operation. In Cherán local officials condemned the raid, which they said “broke into our community with great violence.” The town is the site of an often-violent struggle between residents and illegal loggers that has led the municipality to declare itself autonomous, with the municipal government chosen through indigenous customs rather than formal elections [see Update #1131]. The Network Against Violence and for Solidarity (RvsR), which grew out of solidarity work with the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the southeastern state of Chiapas, denounced “the atrocious manner of humiliating The Other, the manner of treating youths who defend a just struggle with dignity. The violence has been initiated by the governments, by their reforms; they are the ones who are responsible.”
On Oct. 17 thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Morelia, tying up traffic and virtually paralyzing the city, to demand an end to the repression and the release of the 74 students who were still being detained. The protest was organized by the state CNTE; the organizers estimated the crowd at 40,000, while local authorities put the number at 15,000. Participants included local students; students from the teachers’ college in nearby Tiripetío; members of the Purépecha Nation, an organization of activists from the state’s main indigenous group; and leaders in teacher union locals from the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) and the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala and Veracruz. Later in the day, about 500 teachers’ college students seized a refrigerator truck and four buses, using them to block La Huerta Avenue, near a main highway, while about 100 other students demonstrated near the state attorney general’s office.
Demonstrations continued throughout the week. On Oct. 18 CNTE supporters and students started a sit-in at Melchor Ocampo Plaza, in Morelia’s historic center, while others began blocking Madero Avenue in two places the next day. The protesters said they would maintain the sit-in and the blockages until all the students were freed from detention. Also on Oct. 19, groups of students protested inside the state legislature building, holding up photographs that they said showed excessive use of force during the police operations. Legislators from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)—which lost control of the state to the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) with the election of current governor Fausto Vallejo Figueroa in 2011—backed the protesters and charged that the government treated students like criminals while not touching the drug cartels that have established themselves in the state.
In the DF, some 70 students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) blocked Insurgentes Avenue for almost four hours on Oct. 19 in solidarity with the students in Michoacán. As of Oct. 20 all but eight of the students arrested on Oct. 15 had been released, either without charges or else on bail. (Adital (Brazil) 10/16/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/16/12, 10/18/12, 10/20/12, 10/20/12, 10/21/12; Agencia Reforma 10/21/12 via Terra (Mexico))
Outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was scheduled to visit Cherán on Oct. 16 as part of a last official tour of Michoacán, his native state, but the Cherán visit was cancelled after the violence at the teachers’ college there. Calderón had been expected to announce promises of aid for the town. (Quadratín (Morelia, Michoacán) 10/15/12)
*2. Chile: Thousands March for Indigenous Rights on Columbus Holiday
Thousands marched in Santiago on Oct. 15 to demand respect for the rights of Chile’s indigenous peoples—the Mapuches in the south, Aymara speakers in the north, and the Pascuenses (Rapa Nui) of Easter Island. The march, sponsored by the Meli Wixan Mapu Organization, the José Guiñón communities, the community of Wente Winkul Mapu and the Temukuikui Autonomous Mapuche Community, also demanded the release of four Mapuche prisoners who had been on hunger strike in the southern city of Angol for 50 days [see Update #1147]. Media estimates for participation ranged from 3,000 to 7,000.
As regularly occurs in Chile, near the end of the march carabineros militarized police attacked the protesters with tear gas and water cannons. According to the Associated Press wire service, the police were responding to about 100 hooded youths who joined the march and began vandalizing banks, while the correspondent from the Mexican daily La Jornada indicated that the police attacks may have begun without provocation.
The march took place on a national holiday celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in October 1492. “We have nothing to celebrate,” Mapuche spokesperson Natividad Llanquileo told reporters. The Mapuches resisted the Spanish for some 300 years but were defeated militarily in the late nineteenth century and were forced into the southern region of Araucanía. They continue to struggle to regain ancestral land; these struggles have intensified over the past few years and have been met with government repression.
The four Angol hunger strikers, who began fasting on Aug. 27, were moved to a hospital in Concepción on Oct. 11, but they asked to be returned to Angol in order to be closer to their communities. A local court granted the request for three of the prisoners--Daniel Levinao, Paulino Levipán and Rodrigo Montoya—on Oct. 18; the fourth, Erick Montoya, was to stay in the hospital pending a medical report. Five other Mapuche prisoners had been on a liquids-only hunger strike in the city of Temuco since Oct. 1, demanding to be moved to join the other strikers in Angol. They reported harassment by the prison authorities, who they said would bring them food to tempt them to eat, and on Oct. 19 they intensified the hunger strike by refusing liquids as well as solid food. (AP 10/15/12 via Calgary (Canada) Times; LJ 10/16/12 from correspondent; AFP 10/18/12 via Radio Nederland; Radio Bío Bío 10/21/12)
*3. Honduras: Court Quashes “Model Cities”; Investors Eye Jamaica
By a 13-2 vote on Oct. 17, the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) ruled that Decree 283-2010, the constitutional change enabling the creation of privatized autonomous regions known as “model cities,” is unconstitutional. The decision confirmed an Oct. 3 ruling by a five-member panel of the CSJ; the full court had to vote because the panel’s ruling was not unanimous [see Update #1147]. The “model cities” concept was promoted by North American neoliberal economists as a way to spur economic development in Honduras. The autonomous zones, officially called Special Development Regions (RED), would “create hundreds of thousands of jobs in Honduras,” according to Grupo MGK, the US startup that was to manage the first project. (Honduras Culture and Politics 10/17/12)
The CSJ decision clearly upset congressional promoters of the “model cities.” Ricardo Cardona, National Congress president Juan Orlando Hernández’s private secretary, said the project “had failed because of the opposition of the extreme left and the extreme right in Honduras…the same ones who conspired to bring about the coup d’état in 2009.” Now they have “conspired so that 205,000 Hondurans have lost the opportunity to get employment in the ‘model cities,’” he claimed.
Grupo MGK reacted to the CSJ decision by pulling out of Honduras. “Michael Strong, MGK’s president, went to Jamaica and met with high officials of that country and will bring the money that he was thinking of investing in Honduras,” the company’s Honduran representative, Guillermo Peña, said on Oct. 19 during an appearance on Channel 10 television. “Since there aren’t the conditions we asked for [in Honduras], we’ll bring the capital to other countries of the world,” Peña added. MGK was carrying on conversations with various Caribbean and Eastern European countries, according to Peña, who claimed that Greece would be attractive for investment, since “this plan allows them to get out of the economic crisis.” (El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 10/19/12; La Prensa (Tegucigalpa) 10/19/12)
*4. Cuba: Spanish Rightist Sentenced in Dissident’s Death
Cuban television announced on Oct. 15 that a court in the eastern province of Granma had found Spanish national Angel Francisco Carromero Barrios guilty of causing an automobile accident that killed the well-known dissident Oswaldo Payá and another dissident, Harold Cepero, on July 22 [see Update #1147]. Carromero, the leader of the New Generations youth movement of Spain’s governing rightwing Popular Party (PP), had been visiting Payá and was driving the dissidents in a rented car when the accident occurred. Prosecutors charged that Carromero had been speeding, while the defense blamed the condition of the road and a lack of warning signs. The court sentenced Carromero to four years in prison instead of the seven years requested by the prosecution.
Spain’s consul in Cuba, Tomás Rodríguez, described the trial as “clean, open and procedurally impeccable.”
Cuba’s criminal code leaves open the possibility that Carromero might be able to return to Spain before he has finished serving the full sentence, and there is speculation that the Cuban and Spanish governments might make a deal. Relations between the governments were tense after the PP took power in elections last November, but the situation seems to have improved. Spanish foreign minister José María García-Margallo met with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, in New York during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September; the Carromero case was reportedly one of the issues they discussed. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/16/12 from correspondent)
*5. Haiti: Government Seeks to Arrest Human Rights Lawyers
On Sept. 27 Haitian justice minister Jean Renel Sanon abruptly fired Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Jean Renel Sénatus, the chief prosecutor for the capital and the fifth person to hold the position since President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) took office in May 2011. Sénatus’ replacement, Elco Saint-Armand, was only in office one day before he was replaced by Gérald Norgaisse. On Sept. 28 Sénatus announced on the radio that he had been removed because he refused to obey orders to arrest 36 government opponents, including three human rights attorneys: Mario Joseph, Newton Saint-Juste and André Michel.
Mario Joseph is a prominent human rights lawyer who heads the International Lawyers Office (BAI). He has filed a complaint against former “president for life” Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc,” 1971-1986) for human rights violations during his administration, and in July Joseph wrote to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in French), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), asking for the commission to investigate a long list of alleged human rights violations by the Martelly government. Saint-Juste and Michel have filed complaints against Martelly’s wife and son for alleged corruption and embezzlement of public funds. All three lawyers report having received death threats by phone.
The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) is asking for letters in French or English to Minister of Justice and Public Security Jean Renel Sanon (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Gérald Norgaisse (email@example.com), with copies to the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (firstname.lastname@example.org), urging them to investigate the accusation of threats against the lawyers and to provide them with appropriate protection; to explain the alleged order to arrest 36 political opponents; and to ensure that anyone charged is given a fair trial in compliance with international standards. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 9/27/12; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 9/29/12; AI urgent action 10/4/12)
*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration
It’s Time to Abandon Nixon’s War on Drugs (Latin America)
Guarani Women Arise! Indigenous Leader Matilde Lucio Wins International Rural Women's Day Prize (Argentina)
Camila Vallejo's Letelier-Moffitt Acceptance Speech (Chile)
Women’s Groups Say Uruguay’s New Abortion Law Falls Short
Peruvians Stand Up to Newmont Mining
Peru: campesino vigilance at Conga mine site
Citibank to take over "Peru's Chernobyl"
Bolivia: New Road Contract Ramps Up Stakes in TIPNIS Conflict
Peru: narco-mineral integration
Communal Land Titling at a Standstill in Peru
High court rejects Chevron appeal in Ecuador case
In Colombia the Winds of Peace Are Blowing: Interview with Piedad Córdoba
Colombians for Peace: Peace taken hostage and the need for an urgent change to achieve it
Santos's End Game and the Prospects of a Durable Peace in Colombia
Colombia: riot police attack student protesters
Colombia apologizes for Amazon genocide
Chavez Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 54% of the Vote
Latest Step in a Long Road: The Venezuelan Elections
Honduras: Model Cities Definitively Unconstitutional
How Low Can Honduras Go?
Guatemala under Pressure to Investigate Shooting of Native Protesters
Guatemala: arrests in peasant massacre
Guatemala claims arrest of local Zetas boss
‘I don’t want to die without seeing justice’: Sexual Slavery During Guatemala’s Armed Conflict
MS-13 gang makes US "criminal organization" list (El Salvador)
Behind the Chicago Connection (Mexico)
Mexico: Zetas kingpin in cadaver caper?
Heart-to-Heart on the Drug War (Mexico)
Mexico: Arzate against the State
Mexican Authorities Urged to End Torture Epidemic
Bradley Will slaying back in the news... (Mexico)
Over 300 Days in Prison: Francisco Sántiz L?pez, Zapatista Political Prisoner, is Innocent!
Indigenous Communities Rise Up in Mexico
Mexico's Labor Law Reform Sparks Massive Protests
On Both Sides of the Border, Teachers Fight Corporatization
Post-Election Shake-ups in Mexico
Urban Agriculture in Cuba (Photo Essay)
MINUSTAH’s Upcoming Renewal: A Setback for Democracy in Haiti
Forced Evictions Remain Constant Threat as Permanent Housing Solutions Lag
Public Support Grows for Threatened Human Rights Attorney Mario Joseph (Haiti)
The Development-Industrial Complex in Haiti
Friendly fire blamed for Border Patrol death (US/immigration)
It’s Time to Question Border Patrol Use of Deadly Force (US/immigration)
Back Home, an Undocubus Rider Continues the Fight (US/immigration)
Men With Guns, Boys With Rocks in a Dangerous Land (US/immigration)
The Penalty is Exile: How Immigration and Criminalization Collide (US/immigration)
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012
WNU #1148: Mexican Police Break Up Student Protests
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