Monday, December 31, 2012

WNU #1158: Mexico Frees Last Detainees From Dec. 1 Protests

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1158, December 30, 2012

1. Mexico: Remaining Detainees From Dec. 1 Protests Are Freed
2. Argentina: Silver Mine Is Defeated, But Chevron Gets Fracking Deal
3. Argentina: Ex-President Gets Off for 2001 Repression
4. Chile: Ex-Officers to Stand Trial for Jara Murder
5. Cuba: Imprisoned Spanish Rightist Is Sent Home
6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico

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 links but no Update on January 6, 2013. Publication will resume the following week.

*1. Mexico: Remaining Detainees From Dec. 1 Protests Are Freed
On the evening of Dec. 27 the authorities in Mexico’s Federal District (DF, Mexico City) released 13 men and one woman who had been in detention since Dec. 1 on charges of “attacks on the public peace” during protests that day against the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. A total of 106 people were arrested during the demonstrations, in which masked youths caused considerable property damage, but 92 of the detainees were released within eight days, after human rights organizations and the DF’s own Human Rights Commission (CDHDF) presented evidence that many detainees were clearly not involved in the destruction [see Update #1155].

The continuing detention of the remaining 14 arrestees sparked protests and the creation of a defense committee, the Dec. 1 Coordinating Committee. On Dec. 24 five of the 13 male detainees started a hunger strike, saying they would go without food until they were released. The other eight men held a 72-hour fast, as did a number of relatives and supporters, who were camped outside the DF government’s main building in central Mexico City and outside the Reclusorio Norte prison, where the men were being held, in the north of the city. The only woman among the detainees, nursing student Rita Neri Moctezuma, decided not to join the strike, since she was the only one of the detainees in the Santa Martha Acatitla women’s prison. Moctezuma is reportedly the great niece of the famous leftist schoolteacher and labor leader Othón Salazar Ramírez.

In addition to criticizing the arrests, the CDHDF recommended that the DF Legislative Assembly (ALDF) repeal the DF criminal code’s article 362, which provided a broad definition of “attacks on the public peace” and mandated a five to 30 year prison sentence for the offense. The legislators compromised on Dec. 26 by passing an amendment lowering the sentence to two to seven years and restricting the definition of the crime. With the gravity of the crime reduced, the courts were able to free the detainees on bail. The total bail and other compensation the courts set for the 14 detainees came to 141,000 pesos (US$10,820); the money was put up by two legislators from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), José Luis Muñoz Soria and Roberto López Suárez.

After their release, the detainees held a press conference to say they intended to continue the struggle for their ideals, which they still considered correct. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/26/12, 12/27/12, 12/28/12; Univision 12/28/12; Milenio 12/28/12)

The handling of the Dec. 1 protests has been an embarrassment for the PRD, which has governed the DF since 1997. The demonstrations took place during the transition between the administrations of former DF head of government Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón (2006-2012) and Miguel Angel Mancera Espinosa, who took office on Dec. 5. An unnamed DF police captain told the left-leaning daily La Jornada that there was a “command vacuum” on Dec. 1, although he accused Ebrard of ordering the police to start arresting protesters.

The captain appeared to back up reports that agents provocateurs were involved in the damage to property. Some of the alleged anarchist vandals wore a black glove with the fingers cut off, he said, and several didn’t even know how to paint the anarchist symbol. The police captain said he considered it inexplicable that videos made by the police Command and Control Center hadn’t been used to determine what happened during the protests. (LJ 12/10/12) (A number of plainclothes agents reportedly wore white gloves during the October 1968 massacre of students and their supporters at the Tlatelolco housing project so that uniformed soldiers and police would know they were agents.)

*2. Argentina: Silver Mine Is Defeated, But Chevron Gets Fracking Deal
Minera Argenta, the Argentine subsidiary of the Vancouver-based mining company Pan American Silver Corp., announced on Dec. 21 that it was suspending its Navidad silver mining project in the southern province of Chubut and would close its offices in Puerto Madryn and Trelew. The principal reason for the suspension was the failure of the province’s governor, Martín Buzzi, to get the legislature to back his plan to circumvent Law 5001, which bans open-pit mines and the use of cyanide in mining operations in Chubut. Residents of the province had organized popular assemblies to oppose Buzzi’s plan; dozens of mining opponents were injured when construction workers attacked them in Rawson, the province’s administrative capital, on Nov. 27 [see Update #1154].

Gov. Buzzi had also antagonized Pan American Silver: he proposed a law that would add a 5% net smelter-return royalty to the province’s current 3% royalty on mines and would also give the provincial government’s oil and mine company, Petrominera, at least 4% of total mineral sales. Pan American faces similar problems at its Manantial Espejo silver mine in the southern province of Santa Cruz, where Gov. Daniel Peralta has proposed legislation that would raise the province’s royalties to 8% and give the provincial mining company Fomicruz a 10% equity stake in current and future mines.

The Canadian company says it spent some $82.5 million developing the Navidad project in 2010 and 2011; the mine was expected to produce 632 million ounces of silver and around 3 billion pounds of lead, making it one of the world’s largest mining projects. (Adital (Brazil) 12/21/12; (Tucumán) 12/21/12; Dow Jones Newswires 12/21/12 via Fox Business)

Just two days before the victory for Argentine environmentalists in Chubut, Miguel Galuccio, president of Argentina’s state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company, was in Houston on Dec. 19 to sign a letter of intent with Ali Moshiri, Latin America and Africa chief for the California-based Chevron Corporation, for a $1 billion pilot project to drill for natural gas in shale deposits in the southwestern province of Neuquén’s Vaca Muerta region. Experts say the area has the world’s third-largest shale resources. A little more than a week later, on Dec. 28, YPF signed a preliminary agreement with the Bridas Corporation, which is jointly owned by Argentine oil magnate Carlos Bulgheroni and China’s state-controlled China National Offshore Oil Corporation, also for shale exploration in the Vaca Muerta region.

Argentine environmentalists say the extraction of the gas from the shale deposits would be carried out through hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”), a controversial practice with serious environmental side effects. In the US, where it has been used extensively, it is now banned in the state of Vermont, and its use has been suspended in New Jersey and New York. France and Bulgaria have banned hydrofracking, and the United Kingdom has imposed a moratorium on its use.

YPF was privatized in 1992, partly to the Spanish company Repsol, which by 1999 had bought the majority of shares. Center-left Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner re-nationalized YPF in the spring of 2012 by taking over 51% of the shares [see Update #1126]. The deal between YPF and Chevron was made despite an Argentine judge’s decision on Nov. 8 to embargo Chevron’s assets in Argentina because of a $19 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador for environmental damage and injuries to the health of indigenous residents in the Amazon rainforest [see World War Report 11/11/12]. Chevron’s Moshiri said the judge’s decision was not a problem. “It’s a legal action of Ecuador’s government against Chevron,” he told reporters, “an issue between lawyers trying to sue everyone and not benefiting anyone.”

Meanwhile, Repsol is threatening to sue any company partnering with Argentina over the $10 billion investment it claims it lost in the re-nationalization. (Time 12/19/12; Kaos en la Red 12/25/12; Reuters 12/28/12)

*3. Argentina: Ex-President Gets Off for 2001 Repression
On Dec. 27 an Argentine federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision to stay a possible prosecution of former president Fernando de la Rúa (1999-2001) in connection with the deaths of 39 people during protests and massive looting after an economic collapse in December 2001. De la Rúa had been under investigation for the killing of five people and the wounding of 110 others by federal police when thousands of people defied the state of siege by demonstrating in Buenos Aires in the Plaza de Mayo and at the Obelisk in the Plaza de la República [see Update #621]. The other 34 victims were killed in the provinces, where the police were not under the orders of the federal president.

The court ruled that De la Rúa’s declaration of the state of siege was legitimate and that he was not responsible for the repression that followed. The ruling doesn’t cover former security secretary Enrique Mathov, former federal police chief Rubén Santos and six other former police agents, who will be tried for the five deaths in Buenos Aires. Relatives of the dead and the wounded said they would appeal the exoneration of De la Rúa.

The ruling would seem to clear the way for current president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to declare a state of siege in response to a new wave of lootings that hit the country from Dec. 20 through Dec. 22 of this year [see Update #1157]. The death toll in the current disturbances had risen to five as of Dec. 26, when hospital authorities in Rosario, Santa Fe province, announced that Carina Paz and Emiliano Sánchez, a teenager, had died from gunshot wounds they received several days earlier during the looting there. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/27/12, 12/28/12 from correspondent; El País (Madrid) 12/28/12 from correspondent)

In other news, former economy minister Felisa Miceli (2005-2007) was sentenced to four years in prison on Dec. 27, the day that the appeals court ruled in De la Rúa’s favor. Police discovered 100,000 in pesos and $30,000 in US currency in the private bathroom of Miceli’s government office in 2007. Miceli claimed the cash was a loan she was going to use to buy a house, not money connected to her government post. After the sentencing she announced her intention to appeal. In an interview published on Dec. 30 by the daily Tiempo Argentino, Miceli called the sentence “arbitrary and out of proportion with other influential judicial cases that leave criminals free, or absolve De la Rúa, who was guilty of deaths.”

The decision by center-left former president Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) to appoint Miceli, the first woman to head the country’s economy ministry, was considered at the time a move to the left on the part of the government [see Update #828]. Some groups on the left are backing her up now, including the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and former labor leader Luis D’Elía. It was “striking that the bribes in the IBM-Banco Nación scandal for $30 million didn’t bring a single conviction,” D’Elía said, referring to the revelation in 1994 that IBM's Argentine subsidiary had paid off officials in order to win a $250 million contract for a computer system at Banco de la Nación; the amount most sources give for the bribes is $21 million [see World War 4 Report 8/12/12]. (LJ 12/28/12 from correspondent; La Gaceta (Tucumán) 12/30/12 from DyN)

*4. Chile: Ex-Officers to Stand Trial for Jara Murder
Chilean judge Miguel Vázquez Plaza issued an order on Dec. 28 for the detention and trial of eight former military officers for their alleged participation in the murder of renowned singer and songwriter Víctor Jara during the military coup that established the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The leftist musician was one of the first and best known of the estimated 3,000 people murdered or disappeared by the dictatorship.

The judge named former lieutenants Hugo Sánchez Marmonti and Pedro Barrientos Núñez as the people who carried out the murder, which took place on Sept. 16, 1973 at a Santiago sports stadium where political prisoners were being held. Jara was tortured and then shot dead; when found, his body had at least 44 bullet wounds. The judge charged former officers Roberto Souper Onfray, Raúl Jofré González, Edwin Dimter Bianchi, Nelson Hasse Mazzei, Luis Bethke Wolf and Jorge Smith Gumucio as accomplices in the killing. Pedro Barrientos is living in Daytona Beach, Florida; Chile is expected to seek his extradition. The suspects will probably be held at Santiago’s Police Battalion Number 1, which the Mexican daily La Jornada describes as a “luxury prison for murderers in uniform.”

Four of the eight officers took courses at the US Army’s School of the Americas (SOA), then located in Panama, according to SOA Watch, which monitors the school, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) and based in Fort Benning, Georgia. Pedro Barrientos, second in command at the stadium, and Raúl Jofré took the Officers' Orientation course in 1968; Edwin Dimter Bianchi took a Combat Arms Orientation course in 1970; and Jorge Smith Gumucio took a Combat Arms Orientation course in 1972. SOA holds protests each November at Fort Benning, charging that the school is responsible for training many of the most notorious human rights abusers in Latin America [see Update #1153]. (BBC News 12/28/12; La Jornada 12/29/12 from correspondent; SOA Watch website, accessed 12/30/12)

*5. Cuba: Imprisoned Spanish Rightist Is Sent Home
Spanish national Angel Francisco Carromero Barrios, sentenced to four years in Cuba after being convicted of causing an automobile accident that killed Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on July 22 [see Update #1148], was flown from Havana to Madrid on Dec. 29 accompanied by four Spanish Interpol agents. Carromero will be able serve out his sentence in Spain because of a 1998 agreement between Cuba and Spain. Another Spanish citizen, Miguel Vives Cutillas, was with Carromero on the flight; under the same agreement Vives will be able to stay in Spain for the remaining 14 years of an 18-year sentence imposed by a Cuban court for drug trafficking.

At the time of Carromero’s sentencing in October, there was speculation that the Cuban and Spanish governments had worked out a deal for his speedy return to Spain; Carromero is the leader of the New Generations youth movement of Spain’s governing rightwing Popular Party (PP). A Spanish prison board will review his classification. If it assigns him to Class 3, Carromero will be only be required to sleep in the prison on Sunday through Thursday nights; he will able to carry on normal activities during the day and stay at home during the weekend. (EFE 12/29/12 via

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico

A Year of Progress in Argentina’s Human Rights Trials

Peru: Conga project to advance in 2013?

Peru: protest over mine's water diversion

Bolivia: progress seen in coca policy

Bolivia: Aymara declare mine personnel "fugitives"

Bolivia: prison corruption scandal widens

The Electoral Strategy of the Venezuelan Opposition Comes Back to Haunt Them

Miguel Facusse is Tragically Misunderstood (Honduras)

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation Announces Next Steps (Mexico)

2012: Year of Indigenous Resistance in Mexico

Campesinos block gold mine in Zacatecas (Mexico)

Mexico: bloody Christmas in Michoacán, Sinaloa

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

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Note: An interview with Weekly News Update co-editor David Wilson appears in From Disaster to Hope, a series of interviews conducted by Nicole Titus with people affected by the 2010 earthquake in southern Haiti. Available at:

Wilson will be speaking at a forum in New York City on the third anniversary of the earthquake on January 12, 2013. More information at:


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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

WNU #1157: Mexicans Compare Newtown and “Drug War” Deaths

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1157, December 23, 2012

1. Mexico: Analysts Compare Newtown Killings and “Drug War” Deaths
2. Mexico: New Details Emerge on Wal-Mart Bribery Scandal
3. Argentina: Massive Looting Returns After 11 Years
4. Argentina: First Civilian Official Sentenced for “Dirty War” Crimes
5. Puerto Rico: Government and US Agree on Police Reforms
6. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, Haiti, Dominican Republic, US/policy, 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: Analysts Compare Newtown Killings and “Drug War” Deaths
The Mexican media have closely followed the renewed US interest in gun control after the killing of 20 children and eight adults in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 15. Laws regulating the sale of firearms in the US have an immediate impact on Mexico, where some 50,000 people have been killed since 2006 in the government’s “war on drugs” and in fighting between rival drug cartels. Statistics that the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) submitted to the US Senate in 2011 indicate that some 70% of the illegal firearms seized in Mexico in 2009 and 2010 came from the US; Mexico itself has very strict controls on gun ownership [see Update #1083].

A Dec. 17 editorial in the left-leaning daily La Jornada called proposals for tightening US gun regulations “hopeful,” but said it was “illuminating that the society of the neighboring country, shocked by the nearly 30 murders carried out [in Newtown], isn’t able to react, on the other hand, to the tens of thousands of homicides committed in Mexico in the past six years with arms sold in the US. Washington demands that Mexican authorities monitor and block the passage of illegal drugs to the north of the common border, but until now hasn’t shown the political will to proceed in the same way with the firearms, including high-caliber weapons, that proliferate in the Mexican market.” (LJ 12/17/12)

“It is shocking how the debate over gun control in the wake of the Newtown massacre has avoided mentioning gun violence south of the border,” National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) professor John M. Ackerman wrote in the Huffington Post on Dec. 19. “The 20 children gunned down at [Newtown’s] Sandy Hook Elementary School can now be added to the excruciating list of at least 1,200 North American children who have been violently killed since the beginning of the US-backed militarized ‘drug war’ in 2006.” Ackerman also criticized the US government’s failure to prosecute the British bank HSBC for allowing money laundering through its Mexican branch [see Update #1156]. “The body count will inevitably rise as banks will be able to continue to help drug cartels transfer money freely to purchase assault weapons in the United States without risk of criminal prosecution,” he wrote. (Huffington Post 12/19/12)

The gun violence in Mexico has in fact gotten some attention in the US media, but mostly from gun control opponents. Some claim Mexico’s experience shows that gun control laws don’t work. In Mexico, a columnist wrote in the Allentown (Pennsylvania) Morning Call on Dec. 22, “rigid gun control means only criminals and the police, who often are in cahoots, can legally be armed. Everybody else is at their mercy.” (Allentown Morning Call 12/22/12) Others, like Robert Farago of the online magazine The Truth About Guns, simply deny that the drug cartels get their rifles from US gun shops. His recommendation for Mexico is to eliminate gun controls. “If anything, Mexicans should be copying our gun laws and Second Amendment rights,” Farago told BBC News. “What Mexicans need are more magazines, more guns, more bullets in the hands of law-abiding citizens.” (BBC News 12/22/12)

In reality, “[m]ost law-abiding Mexicans…believe more guns are the last thing the country needs,” according to the BBC. Ironically, the US gun control debate was heating up just as Mexico happened to be tightening its own laws. On Dec. 17 the Mexican Senate passed a law mandating a two-to-six year prison sentence for possession of magazines for automatic weapons. (El Sol de México 12/18/12; BBC News 12/22/12)

*2. Mexico: New Details Emerge on Wal-Mart Bribery Scandal
Following up on an exposé last April of bribery by Wal-Mart de México, the Mexican subsidiary of US retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the Dec. 18 edition of the New York Times provided details on how the company used payoffs to get around community opposition and building and environmental regulations that might slow down its campaign to build more stores. Reporters David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab wrote that by reviewing tens of thousands of documents they had identified Wal-Mart 19 stores whose construction was aided by corruption.

According to the Times, the company, Mexico’s largest private employer, paid $341,000 in bribes to build a Sam’s Club near Mexico City’s Basílica de Guadalupe--a Catholic shrine which attracts several million pilgrims each year—“without a construction license, or an environmental permit, or an urban impact assessment, or even a traffic permit.” With $765,000 in bribes Wal-Mart was able to construct “a vast refrigerated distribution center in an environmentally fragile flood basin north of Mexico City, in an area where electricity was so scarce that many smaller developers were turned away.”

The company paid more than $200,000 to get permits for an Aurrerá department store it built in 2004 just outside the ruins at Teotihuacán, one of Mexico’s most important archeological sites, 30 miles northeast of Mexico City in México state. The bribes at Teotihuacán apparently included as much as $81,000 for officials of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and $114,000 for Guillermo Rodríguez, then the mayor of the nearby town of San Juan Teotihuacán. [In April Rodríguez told the Mexican daily La Jornada that Wal-Mart had paid off some local leaders but didn’t mention his own role; see World War 4 Report 8/12/12.]

The Times investigation “reveals that Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business,” the reporters wrote. “Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de México was an aggressive and creative corrupter,” using bribes “to subvert democratic governance” and to “circumvent regulatory safeguards that protect Mexican citizens from unsafe construction.” (NYT 12/18/12)

Wal-Mart insists that it is thoroughly investigating the corruption allegations, but Mexico’s daily La Jornada noted that the manager of the Arkansas-based company’s international operations in 2005, when Wal-Mart executives decided not to pursue leads they had already received about the bribery in Mexico, was current Wal-Mart president and CEO Michael Duke. The new revelations in the Times coincided with other bad publicity for Wal-Mart. On Nov. 24 112 workers died in a fire at Bangladesh’s Tazreen garment company, where two Wal-Mart contractors were having apparel made. On Dec. 15 a young man used a Bushmaster AR-15, among other weapons, to kill 28 people at and near an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut; the gun model, which was also used in recent massacres in Oregon and Colorado, is sold in 1,700 US Wal-Mart stores. The company removed the weapon from its website shortly after the Newtown killings. (LJ 12/19/12)

Wal-Mart, which strongly opposes unionization, has also been hit recently by an organizing drive among its US employees. On Dec. 14 some 3,000 Wal-Mart employees in Argentina reportedly held brief walkouts as part of a global day of solidarity with the US workers. Rubén Cortina, the president of the Americas division of the global union federation UNI, noted that Wal-Mart’s Argentine workers are unionized. “When Walmart first came,” Cortina told The Nation, “they were terrible.” Early in the struggle, “workers burned tires and broke windows… We had to fight tough in every place and try to convince [Walmart] that they had to talk to us,” Cortina said. (The Nation 12/21/12)

The Times’ revelations about the Wal-Mart store at Teotihuacán have also created problems for INAH officials. INAH general director Sergio Raúl Arroyo, who appears to have been involved in the payoffs, was conspicuously absent from the ceremonies in Mérida, the capital of the eastern state of Yucatán, on Dec. 22 to inaugurate the Mexican government’s new Great Museum of the Maya World (LJ 12/22/12)

*3. Argentina: Massive Looting Returns After 11 Years
A wave of store lootings, the first in Argentina since 2001, started on Dec. 20 when people with covered faces broke into six supermarkets in San Carlos de Bariloche, in the southwestern province of Río Negro. At the request of local authorities, the center-left government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner sent 400 members of the Gendarmería militarized police to the city, which is best known as an Andean sky resort popular during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. The national government blamed small criminal gangs, while local authorities said anarchist groups were responsible.

The looting spread to other provinces within hours and continued at least through Dec. 22. Two people were killed and 130 were arrested on Dec. 21 in Rosario, a major city in the northeastern province of Santa Fe; at least 25 stores were looted, and some were set on fire. One of the victims was shot, while the other died from injuries suffered when a display window was smashed. There were 117 arrests in Campana and neighboring Zarate in the eastern province of Buenos Aires. Later on Dec. 21, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to stop hundreds of looters in parts of the city of Buenos Aires, including the Virreyes, San Fernando and Lomas de Zamora neighborhoods. There were also incidents in the northeastern province of Chaco. The Argentine Confederation of Medium Businesses (CAME) reported that a total of 292 small and medium businesses were looted in 40 cities during the incidents on Dec. 20 and Dec. 21.

At least four stores were looted on Dec. 22 in San Miguel de Tucumán, capital of the northern province of Tucumán. One person, Ramón Rosario Acosta, was killed when hit by a truck; the driver had turned suddenly to avoid a crowd he thought was planning to rob his truck. It was unclear whether the victim was part of the crowd or a bystander.

The lootings were reminiscent of a “social explosion” that broke out in December 2001, resulting in some 40 deaths and the resignation of the government of then-president Fernando de la Rúa (1999-2001). But the looting 11 years earlier followed four years of recession, the collapse of the banking system and the country’s default on $132 billion in public debts, the results of an extreme neoliberal economic program followed by former president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) [see Update #621]. Analysts noted that the country has now had a growth rate of about 8% almost every year under the state-interventionist policies of President Fernández and her late husband, former president Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007).

Politicians close to President Fernández stressed that the looters had stolen goods like televisions and computers, not staples. “[C]arrying off a plasma [screen television] isn’t about hunger, it’s vandalism,” Buenos Aires province governor Daniel Scioli said. He and others implied that political forces had organized the looting to destabilize the country. Argentina’s largest union federation, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), and the more radical Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA) had sponsored a nationwide general strike on Nov. 20 [see Update #1153] and another action on Dec. 19 to protest the government’s economic policies. CGT general secretary Hugo Moyano, formerly a Fernández ally in the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist), denied responsibility for the looting. “This is probably triggered by the difficult situation the people of Argentina are facing,” he said. “I cannot imagine that this has been organized by someone.”

Increases in food prices “are seriously affecting the most impoverished sectors,” Néstor Pitrola, director of the Trotskyist Workers’ Party (PO), told the Inter Press Service (IPS). Pitrola endorsed private banks’ estimates that the annual inflation rate is now 30%, against the government’s insistence that the rate is 9%. “The government is accumulating explosive circumstances, and we shouldn’t be surprised if we have more of these social explosions,” Pitrola said. However, he didn’t discount the possibility that dissident Peronist factions might “be taking advantage of the situation of marginality” to stir up discontent. (BBC News 12/21/12, 12/22/12; IPS 12/22/12 via Rebelión (Spain); Terra (Argentina) 12/23/12)

*4. Argentina: First Civilian Official Sentenced for “Dirty War” Crimes
An Argentine federal court handed down life sentences on Dec. 19 to former Buenos Aires province interior minister Jaime Smart (1976-1979), former Buenos Aires province police investigations director Miguel Osvaldo Etchecolatz and 14 former police and military personnel for genocide and crimes against humanity in the cases of 280 people detained during the 1976-1983 “dirty war” against suspected leftists. Another seven police agents and civilians were given sentences of two to 25 years.

Smart, the first civilian minister sentenced for crimes committed under Argentina's military dictatorship, was convicted of the murder of Jorge Rubinstein, attorney for the banker David Graiver, and the illegal deprivation of liberty of 43 people. Etchecolatz was convicted of the murders of 12 people and the torture and illegal deprivation of liberty of 101 people; he had already been sentenced to life in prison in September 2006 in another case [see Update #970].

The prosecution held that the two men were responsible for setting up six illegal detention centers at which detainees were tortured and murdered. Among the cases considered during the trial were the presumed murders of six high school students, the subject of the film “La Noche de los Lápices” (“The Night of the Pencils”), and the detention and torture during two and a half years of the popular journalist Jacobo Timerman, who was then the editor of the left-leaning newspaper La Opinion. One of his sons, current foreign minister Héctor Timerman, was present during the sentencing.

Etchecolatz protested his sentence by holding up a sign reading “Judgment and punishment for the corrupt justice system.” He was removed from the courtroom while members of the public shouted “murderer” and accused him of genocide (BBC News 12/19/12; La Nación (Argentina) 12/20/12)

*5. Puerto Rico: Government and US Agree on Police Reforms
The government of Puerto Rico and the US Justice Department signed a 106-page agreement on Dec. 21 for reforming the island’s 17,000-member police department. The reforms are intended to address numerous police abuses detailed in a September 2011 Justice Department report; the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued its own report on abuses in June 2012 [see World War 4 Report 9/10/11 and 6/25/12]. The Justice Department also filed a lawsuit requiring the Puerto Rican government and police department to comply with the Justice Department’s earlier directives, but this was considered a legal formality, since the agreement apparently represents the compliance the US was seeking.

The Justice Department negotiated the agreement with Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuño and Police Superintendent Héctor Pesquera, but Fortuño will not be implementing it. Alejandro García Padilla, who defeated Fortuño in a Nov. 6 election [see Update #1151], will start his four-year term on Jan. 2, and he has hinted that he may replace Pesquera. The Justice Department gave the Puerto Rican government until Apr. 15 to implement the accord in order to give the new administration time to review its provisions. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 12/21/12, 12/23/12; Associated Press 12/22/12 via Arizona Daily Star)

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

Paraguay: Government speeds up arrival of electro-intensive company

Aymara dissident denounces Evo Morales in Geneva

Peru's Congress marks Putis massacre

Peru: Conga mine opponents threatened

Peru: suit launched to stop Camisea expansion

Ecuador: urban guerilla suspects freed

Ecuador: pipeline protests in Guayaquil

The End of the Chávez Era? (Venezuela)

Reading Tea Leaves in Venezuela: How to Interpret the Results of Sunday’s Regional Election (Venezuela)

Venezuela’s 2012 State Election: Lessons for Chavismo and the Opposition

Venezuela's Uncertain Future

The Honduran People under a Permanent Coup d'Etat

Strategies of a New Cold War: US Marines and the Drug War in Guatemala

Big Landowners Block Rural Development Law in Guatemala

Soccer and Sea Turtles: Community Conservation in Guatemala

Guatemala-Canada: Clashing World Views at a Crossroads

Chiapas: Abejas mark 1997 Acteal massacre (Mexico)

Chiapas: Zapatistas mark Maya calendar change (Mexico)

Mexico: prison seized by army after uprising

Peña Nieto Pushes Plan for Education Reform; Workers Wary

A Land of Bootstraps (Mexico)

Peña Nieto Lays Out Plans to Deal with Drug Cartels: More Police

Selling Citizenship in the Caribbean

World Bank "success" undermines Haitian democracy

U.N.'s Cholera Initiative: Underfunded and Unapolagetic (Haiti)

Haiti's New Dictatorship

Haiti-Dominican Republic Trade: Exports or Exploits?

Obama signals four more years of bad relations with Latin America (US/policy)

Students Learn About the Reality of Mexican Agricultural Workers in the United States (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:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

WNU #1156: HSBC Gets Off Easy in “Drug War” Case

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1156, December 16, 2012

1. Mexico: HSBC Gets Off Easy in "Drug War" Case
2. Argentina: Ford Motor Investigated for “Dirty War” Torture
3. Colombia: Petroleum Workers Leader Murdered
4. Haiti: "Earthquake Relief" Helps Build New Luxury Hotel
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, 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: HSBC Gets Off Easy in "Drug War" Case
The London-based corporation HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, will pay the US government $1.92 billion in fines for its failure to prevent money laundering through some of its affiliates, including its Mexican branch, US assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer announced at a press conference in Brooklyn on Dec. 11. However, the US Justice Department has decided not to bring criminal charges against the bank. Breuer noted that bank executives faced some penalties. “HSBC has replaced virtually all of its senior management,” he said, “and agreed to partially defer bonus compensation for its most senior officials” over a five-year period.

As indicated in a 330-page report by the US Senate in July, Mexican drug cartels were major beneficiaries of the bank’s decision not to institute standard precautions against laundering [see Update #1137]. According to Breuer, the bank “failed to monitor over $670 billion in wire transfers from HSBC Mexico between 2006 and 2009, and failed to monitor over $9.4 billion in purchases of physical US dollars from HSBC Mexico over that same period.” “From 2006 to 2010 the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, the Norte del Valle Cartel in Colombia, and other drug traffickers laundered at least $881 million in illegal narcotics trafficking proceeds through HSBC Bank USA,” Breuer said. Traffickers “would sometimes deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows in HSBC Mexico’s branches.” The US also accused the bank of circumventing US trade sanctions against several countries, including Cuba, Iran and Sudan.

Analysts indicated that the Justice Department failed to press criminal charges for fear that this would put one of the world’s largest banks at risk and might destabilize the international financial system. Since 2010 the Justice Department and the Treasury Department have investigated at least six banks—Credit Suisse, ING and Barclays in Europe, and JP Morgan Chase, Wachovia and Citigroup in the US—for similar failures to monitor transfers. The investigations have brought the US government more than $2 billion in fines, not counting the HSBC settlement, but to date no bank or bank executive has faced criminal charges. (New York Times 12/11/12; US Department of Justice 12/11/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 12/12/12 from correspondent)

Noting that HSBC’s $1.92 billion fine represents about five weeks’ income for the bank, Rolling Stone financial columnist Matt Taibbi proposed in a blog posting that the Justice Department should treat the bank the way it regularly treats “ordinary people involved in ordinary drug cases”—by jailing all the executives involved and confiscating their bank accounts and personal property, along with HSBC’s entire holdings. “[B]y approving this settlement,” Taibbi concluded, “Breuer removed the government's moral authority to prosecute anyone for any other drug offense. Not that most people didn’t already know that the drug war is a joke, but this makes it official.” (Rolling Stone blog 12/13/12)

The HSBC case isn’t Lanny Breuer’s first contact with Mexico’s bloody “war on drugs.” The New York Times reported in September that the Justice Department had admonished him in connection with Operation Fast and Furious, in which the US allowed thousands of guns to be purchased illegally and smuggled into Mexico, largely for use by the drug cartels. In 2011 he reportedly proposed to Mexican officials that the US and Mexico cooperate in a similar program to monitor illegal gun purchases as a way of tracking gun smuggling operations [see Update #1145].

*2. Argentina: Ford Motor Investigated for “Dirty War” Torture
On Dec. 5 Argentine judge Alicia Vence opened an investigation into the possible involvement of four former executives of Ford Motor Company’s Argentine subsidiary in the kidnapping and torture of at least 25 autoworkers during the “dirty war” against suspected leftists under the 1976-83 military dictatorship. According to prosecutor Félix Crous, former Ford Motor Argentina president Nicolás Courard, former manufacturing director Pedro Müller, former industrial relations director Guillermo Galarraga and former security chief Héctor Sibilla are suspected of collaborating with the military in the abuses, which took place in 1976 next to the company’s plant in the city of General Pacheco in Buenos Aires province, just north of the city of Buenos Aires.

Previously the only person facing charges in the case had been military commander Santiago Riveros, who has already been convicted of other crimes of state terrorism. Ford Motor acknowledges that it asked for military protection during the period, saying two executives were murdered and two others were wounded in attacks by the Montoneros rebel groups from 1973 to 1975, but the company denies that its plant was used as a torture center.

Workers were a principal target of the “dirty war”; 30% of the estimated 30,000 people disappeared worked in factories. Executives from a number of companies are now under investigation for possible human rights abuses during the dictatorship. The companies include Mercedes-Benz  Argentina and Acindar, a metal manufacturing firm now owned by ArcelorMittal. José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, the dictatorship’s economy minister from 1976 to 1981, is a former Acindar president; he was arrested in May 2010 in connection with the kidnapping of industrialist Federico Gutheim and his son Miguel Gutheim [see Update #1032]. Food processing and biofuel magnate Carlos Pedro Blaquier also faces charges of collaborating with the military during the period [see Update #1090]. Former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, now an adviser to the Argentine Chamber of Deputies’ Human Rights Commission, is supporting Blaquier’s claim of innocence. (El País (Madrid) 12/6/12 from correspondent)

These charges come while a court in the capital is hearing the third trial on crimes committed at the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA) during the dictatorship. Some 5,000 detainees were held there; most never returned. The trial is the largest ever dealing with the “dirty war”: 68 defendants are charged with crimes against 789 people, with about 900 witnesses expected to testify over two years. The trial started on Nov. 28; as of Dec. 9 the charges were still being read.

In the first trial the only defendant, former navy officer Héctor Febres, was charged with participating in torture, kidnapping and other crimes. Febres was found dead in his cell on Dec. 11, 2007, two days before he was to be sentenced; he died of a heart attack, but traces of cyanide were found in his body, and the death is considered a suicide [see Update #929]. The second trial resulted in the conviction of 16 former military and police officers; 12 of them, including former Navy captain and spy Alfredo Astiz (“The Blond Angel of Death”), were sentenced to life in prison on Oct. 26, 2011, while four received shorter sentences [World War 4 Report 10/27/11].

The current trial is the first to deal with the notorious “death flights,” in which as many as 1,000 of the ESMA detainees were drugged with pentothal, loaded on to planes, flown over the Río de la Plata, the Atlantic or the Paraná River delta, and then pushed out, naked and with their hands and feet bound. Some of the defendants were already convicted of other crimes in the second trial: Astiz, Están Jorge Acosta (“The Tiger”), Juan Antonio Azic, Adolfo Donda and Ricardo Cavallo. The new trial includes eight men charged with piloting the planes, including Juan Alberto Poch, who was working as a pilot for the Dutch airline Transavia when he was arrested in September 2009 [see Update #1032].

An important part of the evidence against the defendants comes from several corpses that washed ashore in 1977. Forensics experts identified them in 2005 as the bodies of detainees who disappeared from the ESMA, including several women from a group that Astiz had infiltrated; two founding members of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group that demonstrated each week in central Buenos Aires to demand the return of their disappeared children; and the French nun Léonie Duquet. Another missing nun, Alice Domon, was apparently killed on the same flight, but her body was never found; naval personnel at the base reportedly joked that Duquet and Domon were the “flying nuns.”

Another important part of the evidence resulted from investigations by Argentine journalist Miriam Lewin, who herself was detained in the ESMA. She located a plane used in the death flights, one of five Irish-built Skyvan planes that the Argentine coast guard acquired in 1971. This allowed prosecutors and human rights organizations to investigate flight logs and other records. The plane is currently used to carry goods from south Florida to the Bahamas. (IPS 12/3/12 via Upside Down World ; Christian Science Monitor 12/7/12; El País 12/9/12 from correspondent)

*3. Colombia: Petroleum Workers Leader Murdered
Two unidentified men on a motorcycle gunned down Colombian labor leader Milton Enrique Rivas Parra on Dec. 11 in Puerto Gaitán, a city in the central department of Meta. He was hit by 17 bullets, according to his family. Rivas was a leader in the Meta section of the Workers’ Labor Union of the Petroleum Industry (USO) and in a local grassroots organization, the Villa Ortiz Community Action Council. He had been receiving death threats, which he first reported to Colombian prosecutors on Aug. 25.

The USO has been carrying out an organizing drive over the last year at several companies, including the Canadian-Colombian multinational Pacific Rubiales. Vivas was involved in organizing at Termotecnica Coindustrial S A, a subcontractor for Cepcolsa, the Colombian subsidiary of the Spanish company CEPSA. Negotiations between the company and the union were held in November; the newly formed European industrial union federation IndustriALL joined with the USO negotiating committee as a demonstration of international support. But the talks broke off on Nov. 24 without an agreement.

Citing unidentified sources, the Meta police claimed that Vivas may have quit the union a month before his death and may have been involved in an argument with another unionist on Dec. 10. Labor leaders dismissed the implication that Vivas’ murder resulted from disputes within the union, noting that 2,500 labor leaders and activists have been killed in Colombia in less than 20 years, largely by rightwing forces. On Dec. 14 the USO wrote that its members would continue a strike against Termotecnica despite the “tense situation” in Puerto Gaitán after Vivas’ death. “The workers and leaders of the USO unanimously reject the accusations by the police,” the union said, “and warn that they will file complaints with the relevant national and international organizations, where they will present recordings in which members of the ESMAD [the police force’s Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD)] announce that they will murder the participants in the protest against Termotecnica.” (IndustriALL website 11/30/12; El Tiempo (Bogotá) 12/12/12; USO website 12/14/12; Rebelión (Spain) 12/16/12)

*4. Haiti: "Earthquake Relief" Helps Build New Luxury Hotel
The Clinton Bush Fund, which former presidents Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and George W. Bush (2001-2009) established shortly after Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, is closing down on Dec. 31, the group’s vice president for marketing and communications said on Dec. 7. The fund will have disbursed all of the $54.4 million it raised, she indicated. The organization says on its website that its goal was “to assist the Haitian people in building their own country back better.” The group says it has “[d]irectly created or sustained 7,350 jobs and counting” and “[d]irectly trained 20,050 people and counting.” (New York Times 12/7/12 from AP)

One of the fund’s projects—the Oasis Hotel in Pétionville, a suburb southeast of Port-au-Prince—opened on Dec. 12 with a soiree and 800 invitation-only guests. Munching hors-d’oeuvres and sipping “free-flowing wine,” the Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles wrote, the participants observed “the bamboo, locally grown orchids and sexy white furniture that lined the expansive courtyard.” The 128-room hotel cost $35 million to build; $2 million was provided by the Clinton Bush Fund [see Update #1080]. President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) called the hotel “a symbol of the new Haiti.”

According to Tourism Minister Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin, Martelly’s government has approved a $161 million hotel project that will bring a total of 1,200 new hotel rooms to the country next year. A 106-room Best Western and an El Rancho with 72 rooms and 13 apartments are set to open in the coming months; Comfort Suites and Marriott are also planning hotels in Port-au-Prince. (Miami Herald 12/13/12)

On Dec. 10, two days before the Oasis opening, the Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA), a grassroots housing coalition, issued a press release charging that Port-au-Prince area mayors, police agents, justices of the peace and property owners—some with questionable land titles—were continuing forcible evictions of people left homeless by the 2010 earthquake. Some 150 families were threatened, according to the group, which said the displaced persons camps at risk were Vilambeta at Caradeux in the northeastern suburb of Tabarre; Camp Gaston Margron, in the Mariani Zone of Carrefour, southwest of the capital; Fortuna Guery in Port-au-Prince; and Camp Cr3, at Delmas 60, a neighborhood in the Delmas commune east of downtown Port-au-Prince. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/10/12)

Some 360,000 people are still living in the camps or other temporary shelters almost three years after the earthquake—4% of Haiti’s population, according to Johan Peleman, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Haiti. “There’s still not enough construction of new housing going on,” Peleman told the Reuters wire service’s AlertNet, which notes that “just over half the $6.04 billion in aid to Haiti pledged by donors from 2010 to 2012 has been disbursed.” (AlertNet 12/13/12)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, US/immigration

Americas: Human Rights Defenders Increasingly Targeted and Attacked

Interview: Noam Chomsky on Latin America

Look from Above or Look from Below: An Interview with Raúl Zibechi (Latin America)

What really happened in Curuguaty? (Paraguay)

Bolivia: End of the Road for TIPNIS Consulta

Environmental Dissonance: Global Warming and Bolivia’s Kallawaya Healers

Native Communities in Peru Take Charge of Environmental Monitoring

Peru: Multinationals Undermining Justice

Colombia puts security forces under martial jurisdiction

Armed Peace does not Equate with Civil Peace (Colombia)

Colombia: Dismantling a Half-Century of Conflict

The End of the Chávez Era? (Venezuela)

Venezuelan President Chavez’s “Complex” Recovery Creates Uncertainty

Unions March in Venezuela over Labor Rights

Universal Health Care in El Salvador – A Personal Reflection

Congress vs. the Supreme Court: The Power Grab (Honduras)

Ismael and Manuelita Died in Defense of Three Basic Rights (Mexico)

Mexico bans Maya ceremony at ancestral temples

Lead Poisoning Underscores Mexico’s Need to Hasten Toxic Waste Inventory

Killing Spree on the Border (Mexico/US)

Why Build a Border Wall? (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:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WNU #1155: Colombia GM Workers Resume Hunger Strike

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1155, December 9, 2012

1. Colombia: Injured GM Workers Resume Hunger Strike
2. Mexico: Evidence Mounts of Police Repression on Dec. 1
3. Mexico: Will Court Ruling Legalize Same-Sex Marriage?
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago

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. Colombia: Injured GM Workers Resume Hunger Strike
On Nov. 20 Jorge Parra, a former employee of GM Colmotores, the Colombian subsidiary of the Detroit-based General Motors Company (GM), resumed a liquids-only hunger strike that he and 11 other former employees started last summer to pressure the company to reinstate them and compensate them for work-related injuries [see Update #1142]. They had suspended the fast on Aug. 24 after General Motors agreed to enter mediation, but they decided to go back on strike when management appeared unwilling to meet their demands. The former workers say Colmotores fired them because they developed disabilities due to injuries on the job, repetitive stress injuries or other work-related illnesses.

Parra, the president of the Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of Colmotores (Asotrecol), was in the US to attend the annual protest at Fort Benning, Georgia against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), Nov. 16-18 [see Update #1153]. United Auto Workers (UAW) president Bob King, who was also at the protest, told Parra that the mediation was going nowhere, leading to the decision to resume the strike. Melvin Thompson, a Detroit autoworker and former president of UAW Local 140, went on a water-only hunger strike as a statement of solidarity with the Colmotores workers, and eight Colombian workers joined the hunger strike at the encampment they’ve maintained in front of the US embassy in Bogotá since Aug. 1, 2011. Parra remained in the US, demanding a meeting with top GM executives.

About 50 UAW members and other supporters protested at GM headquarters in Detroit on Nov. 29, chanting “down with exploitation, up with mediation!” A small group also demonstrated outside the US State Department in Washington, DC, where Hillary Clinton was presenting the department’s annual Award for Corporate Excellence. Although GM didn’t win, it was selected to be one of the 11 finalists. [As a result of a 2009 bailout, the US government is GM’s largest shareholder; see Update #1141.] On Dec. 7 more than a dozen protesters held a candlelight vigil outside the Rochester, Michigan home of GM vice president Cathy Clegg, the company official in charge of labor relations.

Former UAW local 909 president Frank Hammer noted in an interview with The Real News Network that the strong solidarity by US autoworkers was partly a result of the pressure unionists in Michigan are under as rightwing forces push for the state legislature to pass an anti-labor “right-to-work” law. “I think that here in Michigan, our union rights are on the chopping block,” Hammer said. “[I]f General Motors had its way, we would look a lot more like Colombia.”

Brazilian unionists have also expressed solidarity. “We know that not only in Brazil are we being attacked by GM’s plans,” Herbert Claros da Silva, vice president of the metalworkers union in San José dos Campos in Brazil, wrote in a letter to US activists. “We also know that in Colombia, Mexico, France and Germany, [GM wants] to end the jobs and workers’ rights.” (Workday Minnesota 12/3/12 from Labor Notes; The Oakland Press (Pontiac, Michigan) 12/7/12; TRNN 12/9/12)

Supporters of the Colmotores workers have started an online petition calling on GM chair and GEO Dan Akerson, GM South America president Jaime Ardila, US ambassador to Colombia Peter McKinley, Colombia labor minister Rafael Pardo Rueda, and US labor secretary Hilda Solis to reach an agreement that will end the strike. The petition is at

*2. Mexico: Evidence Mounts of Police Repression on Dec. 1
On Dec. 9 Mexican authorities released 56 of the 69 people who had been in detention for more than a week on suspicion of “attacking public peace” during protests in Mexico City against the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. A total of 106 people were reportedly arrested on a day which included violent confrontations between police and protesters and widespread destruction of property [see Update #1154], but 28 were quickly released. Judge María del Carmen Mora Brito of the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) court system ordered the Dec. 9 releases after “analyzing videos, testimonies and expert witnesses’ reports,” the DF Superior Court of Justice (TSJDF) announced in a communiqué. (Europa Press 12/10/12)

The judge's action followed a week of demonstrations against police repression and charges that agents had repeatedly attacked, beaten and arrested peaceful protesters and bystanders while failing to arrest the people who had been engaged in vandalism. There were also accusations that agents provocateurs had infiltrated the protests. Complaints about the police seemed to be supported by videos that circulated widely on the internet. One, a compilation by the student video collective Imágenes En Rebeldía, appears to show unprovoked police attacks, arrests of nonviolent protesters, and men dressed in civilian clothes and armed with crowbars and chains standing and walking among uniformed federal police agents behind metal barriers around the Chamber of Deputies building.

On Dec. 6 the DF Human Rights Commission (CDHDF) reported that the DF police had arrested at least 22 people arbitrarily and that four people showed signs of having been tortured. A total of 88 people claimed to have been arrested without justification, the governmental commission said; 15 youths were charged with taking part in vandalism on Juárez Avenue even though the vandalism occurred after the time of their arrests. Among the people arrested on Dec. 1 was Mircea Topolenau, a Romanian photographer covering the events for a magazine. CDHDF president Luis González Placencia noted that his organization was only reporting actions by the DF police and that it was up to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to investigate alleged abuses by the federal police. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/7/12)

On Dec. 7 the Mexican branch of the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) presented President Peña Nieto and Miguel Angel Mancera, the head of the DF government, with 20,000 signatures from Mexican citizens demanding an investigation of police abuses. “Every innocent person arrested, accused of a crime he or she didn’t commit, not only represents a tragedy in itself and a clear violation of human rights, but is also a reflection of a system of justice that has failed to try the guilty party and is maintaining impunity,” AI Mexico impact and mobilization coordinator Daniel Zapico said. (LJ 12/8/12) Mancera took office on Dec. 5, succeeding Marcelo Ebrard; both men are members of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which has governed the DF since 1997.

Two protesters were seriously injured during the Dec. 1 protests. Drama teacher Francisco Kuykendall Leal was hit by a tear gas canister and was hospitalized with cranial injuries. He is an active supporter of The Other Campaign, a political movement inspired by the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) [see Update #832]. Uriel Sandoval Díaz, a student majoring in environmental and climate change studies at the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM), lost an eye and suffered fractures when he was hit by a rubber bullet. “This struggle won’t end until poverty ends,” Uriel said from a wheelchair as he was being released from the General Hospital on Dec. 6. “An eye is nothing [when] every day thousands of human beings have nothing to eat.” (Kaos en la Red 12/4/12 from Desinformémonos; Milenio (Mexico) 12/7/12)

In related news, an online petition has been started calling on Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust to withdraw the offer of a fellowship at the university’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to outgoing president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012). Tens of thousands of Mexicans have died in the militarized “war on drugs” Calderón initiated soon after he took office in December 2006. The petition is at

*3. Mexico: Will Court Ruling Legalize Same-Sex Marriage?
A four-justice panel of Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) decided unanimously on Dec. 5 to uphold a challenge that three same-sex couples brought against the marriage law in the southern state of Oaxaca. State authorities had refused to marry the couples last year under Oaxaca Civil Code Article 143, which defines marriage as “a civil contract carried out between one man and one woman, who join together to perpetuate the species and to provide mutual aid.” The justices ruled that the requirement “to procreate to perpetuate the species violates the constitutional principle of self-determination of persons and the right of each individual to the free development of personality.” The SCJN ordered the Oaxaca Civil Registry to act on the applications the three couples made for marriage authorization and not to discriminate against them.

The decision doesn’t completely invalidate Article 143, but it opens the way for same-sex couples denied the right to wed in any of the country’s 31 states to appeal to the Supreme Court. One of the justices, José Ramón Cossío, told the Mexican daily La Jornada that the SCJN didn’t strike the law down because if it had, “in a practical sense we would have left the Oaxaca Civil Code without an article [on marriage], and it would have affected people of the same sex as much as heterosexuals.” But in the future the justices might make a general declaration of unconstitutionality, Cossío said, and “afterwards it is foreseeable that the effect might be broader”—that is, the court could rule to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/5/12)

The Federal District (DF, Mexico City) already permits same-sex marriage. The SCJN ruled in August 2010 that same-sex marriages performed in the DF are valid in all the country’s states; it also upheld the DF’s legalization of adoption by same-sex couples [see Update #1044].

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago

Argentina’s Biggest Human Rights Trial Begins

ICJ opens hearings in Chile-Peru maritime dispute

Paraguayan Government Deploys Joint Military-Police Force to Monitor Upcoming Human Rights March for "Violent Infiltrators"

Peru's cabinet in bid to save Conga project

Ecuador's Correa Seeks South American Allies in Conflict with Anti-Mining Social Movements

A Dream Come True for the Mining Industry: A Response to Correa's Proposal to "Deal With Radicals"

Ecuador: indigenous protests as oil blocs sold

International Court Investigates Colombia for “False Positive” Killings

Colombian Military and a Local Businessman Agree to Build a Base on Stolen Land

Venezuela’s Chavez’s Cancer Returns, Leaves Vice-President in Charge

Latin leaders legitimize legalization (Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica)

Canal intrigues behind Nicaragua border disputes

Honduras: Drug War as Counterinsurgency?

'Outing' Honduras: A Human Rights Catastrophe in the Making

Honduran President Calls Supreme Court an Enemy of the State

Deaf Ear Turned to Local Opposition to Mines in Guatemala

Peña’s Promises (Mexico)

Mexico’s presidential inauguration marked by vows and violence

A New Era for Mexico, Juarez?

Convicts, Collateral Damage, and the “War on Drugs” in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

New Report Finds Economic Insecurity Increasingly Puts Haitian Girls at Risk of Violence

Hunger Strike against Trinidad Highway Continues

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: