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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.
*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 https://www.change.org/petitions/gm-resolve-situation-of-workers-dismissed-for-occupational-injuries?utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition
*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 http://www.change.org/petitions/harvard-university-president-faust-deny-outgoing-mexican-president-felipe-calderon-employment-at-harvard
*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
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012
WNU #1155: Colombia GM Workers Resume Hunger Strike
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