Tuesday, November 20, 2012

WNU #1152: Mexican Congress Passes “Labor Reform”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1152, November 18, 2012

1. Mexico: “Labor Reform” Passes; Economists Are “Upbeat”
2. Chile: Pascua Lama Mine Suspended Over Safety Issues
3. Dominican Republic: Austerity Protests Spread Abroad
4. Haiti: Students Protest Killing by Police Agent
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, 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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Mexico: “Labor Reform” Passes; Economists Are “Upbeat”
The Mexican Senate voted 96-28 on Nov. 13 to approve changes to the 1970 Federal Labor Law (LFT) that will legalize the use of part-time and contract employees, allow the hiring of workers for trial periods, and limit the amount of back pay businesses are required to give laid-off workers [see Update #1146]. The controversial “labor reform,” which had been approved by the Chamber of Deputies the week before, was sent on to President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, who was expected to sign it into law.

The labor code changes were pushed through--after a total of 71 days of debate in the two chambers--by legislators from the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), with the support of two small centrist parties, the Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) and the New Alliance Party (PANAL). Both President Calderón, a member of the PAN, and president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, a PRI member who is to succeed Calderón on Dec. 1, supported the changes. The only opposition in the Senate came from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the small leftist Labor Party (PT).

PAN and leftist legislators worked together in the past to include articles in the bill that would promote union democracy. The PRI, which historically has a base among conservative union leaders, strongly opposed these articles, and the Chamber of Deputies stripped them out of the final bill. An alliance of the PAN and the left in the Senate restored two of the articles, 388 and 390, by a vote of 65-61 during the Nov. 13 session; these would allow workers to use the secret ballot to choose the union that represents them and to vote on whether to approve a contract. But the Senate leadership separated these two articles from the bill and sent them back to the Chamber of Deputies for discussion; the rest of the bill was sent to Calderón to become law.

“[N]o one will be able to hide the fact that this bosses’ reform is being imposed by Peña Nieto, in association with the one who’s leaving [Calderón],” Senator Manuel Bartlett, the coordinator of the PT bench, announced. Bartlett, a PRI governor of Puebla state in the 1990s before reemerging as a leftist, expressed his confidence that Mexican workers would fight the new law and demand social justice, the way European workers were fighting similar attacks on labor—apparently a reference to anti-austerity strikes many European unions were planning for Nov. 14. (La Jornada (Mexico) 11/14/12; Americas Blog 11/15/12)

A blog at the US business weekly Barron’s called the new bill a “much-needed labor reform” and said “economists are still upbeat” even though “[t]he reform is watered-down a bit.” Marco Oviedo, the head Mexican economist for the British banking group Barclays, described the bill as a “very important structural advance” that could lead to a 1.5 to 2% increase in Mexico’s GDP growth over the next decade. (Barron’s 11/14/12)

*2. Chile: Pascua Lama Mine Suspended Over Safety Issues
The Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation has had to suspend some of its operations at Pascua Lama--a giant open-pit gold, silver and copper mine being built in the Andes at the border between Argentina and Chile--as a result of an inspection by Chile’s National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) on Oct. 24. Sernageomin ordered the suspension on Oct. 31 after its inspectors found unsafe levels of fine particles in the air at the mine; a report blamed “incorrect technical monitoring” of the earth being excavated. Barrick said it suspended the operations voluntarily on Oct. 27. Chilean mining minister Hernán de Solminihac indicated that the suspension may last several weeks. (Radio Universidad de Chile 11/10/12; Bloomberg News 11/11/12 via BusinessWeek)

Workers at the mine have reported safety issues in the past, and on Aug. 4 group of 23 contract workers protested conditions at the facility by occupying the San Ambrosio Church in Vallenar, capital of the northern Chilean province of Huasco [see Update #1139]. The $8 billion mining project has also been the subject of protests in both Chile and Argentina by environmentalists who say the mine threatens glaciers and the local water supply [see Update #1140]. The two issues “are part of the same problem,” according to Lucio Cuenca, director of the Santiago-based Latin American Monitoring Center for Environmental Conflicts (OLCA). The location of the mine high in the Andes “is negative for the workers because of altitude conditions, but climatic conditions have environmental impact effects and effects on workers’ health,” he said. “When you talk about the dust that affects the health of the workers, it’s the same dust that’s destroying the glaciers.” (Radio Universidad de Chile 11/13/12)

*3. Dominican Republic: Austerity Protests Spread Abroad
A large crowd of Dominicans, mostly youths, demonstrated in the Plaza de la Bandera in Santo Domingo the evening of Nov. 17 to protest a “fiscal reform” package proposed by President Danilo Medina and passed by the Congress the week before [see Update #1151]. The government says the package, which will raise the country’s sales tax from 16% to 18% and will establish some new taxes, is necessary to make up for a deficit of 187 billion pesos (about US$4.704 billion); the protesters charge that they are being made to pay for wasteful spending by former president Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2008 and 2008-2012) and are being subjected to an austerity program demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Some media reported that thousands participated in the Nov. 17 action and described the demonstration as the largest yet in the two weeks since the anti-austerity protests started.

Students in the crowd insisted that they weren't political opponents of the governing Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). “Our only party is the Dominican Republic,” they told reporters. “This is Dominican youth who have become indignant, who have finally opened their eyes and realized that what the political class here does is exploit society and not work for the people—and they even deny the right to education and social security for the poorest people,” one youth said. “Our country deserves better treatment.” Other protesters called on the international media to cover the movement, “since the media here are sold out.” (La Nación Dominicana (Santo Domingo) 11/18/12; Listín Diario (Santo Domingo) 11/18/12)

Dominicans living abroad also protested the austerity measures; many of the actions have been organized through a special website, “No DR Fiscal Reform.” About 50 Dominicans, mostly arts and graduate students, protested in front of their country’s embassy in Argentina on Nov. 14. A delegation tried to present a letter to the embassy staff, but an Argentine police agent said no embassy official was present to receive it—even though 30 people are listed as working in the embassy. The protesters agreed to organize further actions. (El Nuevo Diario (Santo Domingo) 11/14/12)

Dominicans in Spain protested at the consulate in Barcelona on Nov. 17 as President Medina visited Spain to attend a meeting of the Ibero-American Summit. There were also protests in Italian cities that day, and dozens of Dominicans gathered in front of the consulate in New York’s Times Square to demand imprisonment for the politicians responsible for the deficit. Other protests were reportedly planned in Florida, Mexico and Berlin. (almomento.net (Santo Domingo) 11/17/12; La Nación Dominicana 11/18/12)

Protesters also targeted repression by the police. Medical student Willy Warden Florián Ramírez was shot dead in Santo Domingo on Nov. 8 by police as they were trying to break up a student protest against the fiscal reform. Schoolteacher Angela Moquete Méndez was wounded by police the same day during a demonstration protesting a water shortage in the Villa Estela neighborhood in the southwestern city of Barahona; she died of her wounds the night of Nov. 9 in a clinic in Santo Domingo. Moquete Méndez was a leader in the teachers’ section of the social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). (Hoy (Santo Dominigo) 11/10/12)

*4. Haiti: Students Protest Killing by Police Agent
Damaël D’Haïti, an economics student at the State University of Haiti (UEH), was shot dead the evening of Nov. 10 during an event at the university’s Faculty of Law and Economics (FDSE) facility in Port-au-Prince. According to witnesses, the killer was an agent of the Haitian National Police (PNH), Macéus Pierre-Paul (or Pierre-Paul Macéus); the motive was unclear. Pierre-Paul was detained, and Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Lucmane Délile, the chief prosecutor for the capital, insisted that justice would be carried out in this case.

UEH students began a series of protests on Nov. 12, with hundreds of youths setting up barricades of burning tires and blocking traffic along Christophe Avenue in downtown Port-au-Prince. Police from the PNH and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) used tear gas and shots in the air to disperse the protesters. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 11/12/12) The students were back on Nov. 13, joining a demonstration by several teachers’ unions demanding better working conditions and protesting a 2% tax the government has imposed since October on salaried employees. Regular and riot police used tear gas and firearms against students in the large Champ de Mars park near the National Palace; the students responded by throwing rocks. The confrontations continued for hours, paralyzing much of the downtown area. According to press reports, armed criminals took advantage of the chaos to rob passers-by. By the end of the day, two students had been wounded. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 11/14/12)

Protests continued throughout the week. On Nov. 14 police and students confronted each other in the Champ de Mars and in front of several different UEH schools. Students set up barricades outside the Faculty of Humanities (FASCH) on Christophe Avenue; the police agents chased them into the small campus and then hurled tear gas canisters over the gate, causing panic among the students trapped inside. The tear gas also affected neighborhood residents and students at nearby schools. Meanwhile, Josué Mérilien, coordinator of the National Union of Haitian Teachers (UNNOH), charged in a press briefing that the police were the ones responsible for the chaotic situation on Nov. 13; he demanded the release of three students who had been arrested.

Port-au-Prince commissioner Délile appealed for calm and repeated that the investigation into Damaël D’Haïti's death was continuing. (AlterPresse 11/15/12; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 11/15/12) Délile himself was a student leader in 2004 in the movement against former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). He is the eighth person to be appointed Port-au-Prince commissioner since President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) took office in May 2011 [see Update #1148]. (Radio Kiskeya 11/12/12)

An unidentified young man was shot dead near the Champ de Mars during a student protest on Nov. 16. Students initially blamed the PNH and MINUSTAH, but both organizations denied responsibility. According to police spokesperson Frantz Lerebours, the victim was a robber who was killed by an unknown individual, not the police. An accomplice of the victim was wounded in the incident and the police had detained him, Lerebours said. (AlterPresse 11/16/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration

Argentine Judge Freezes Chevron Assets To Pay $19 Billion Ecuador Fine

Trouble at Brazil's Belo Monte Dam Stops Construction for Now

Earth First? Bolivia’s Mother Earth Law Meets the Neo-Extractivist Economy

The Descent of the Colombian Army

Colombia: Diary of a Displacement

Action Alert: Leader of Sogamoso River Defense in Colombia Disappeared

Former Colombian Defence Minister Admits Sending Drones into Venezuela

Venezuelan Government to Hold Assembly With Yukpa Indigenous Group

The Task of Reading Guatemala’s Bones

Mexican Senate Passes Labor Reform Bill, Weakening Worker Rights

Blood on the Silver: The High Cost of Mining Concessions in Oaxaca

Mexico: People’s Tribunal Defends Native Villages from Dams

OAS Human Rights Commission Demands Protection for Activists (Mexico)

Despite Global Opposition, United States Votes to Continue Cuban Embargo

Haiti's Excluded Majority Opposes Army's Re-Creation

The Hell that is Haiti
http://socialistaction.org/2012/11/the-hell-that-is-haiti /

Cholera as a Human Rights Issue (Haiti)

Ronald Reagan and Comprehensive Immigration Reform (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. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link. 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:

No comments: