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

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