Monday, February 18, 2013

WNU #1164: Chilean Police Arrest 20 Mapuche Protesters

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1164, February 17, 2013

1. Chile: 20 Arrested at Mapuche Prisoner’s Hearing
2. Honduras: Murdered Lawyer's Brother Killed in Aguán
3. Mexico: Finnish Maquila Signs With Company Union
4. Haiti: Unionist Is Beaten Up at Gildan Supplier
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Andes region, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, 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. Chile: 20 Arrested at Mapuche Prisoner’s Hearing
Chilean authorities suspended a hearing for indigenous Mapuche prisoner Fernando Millacheo Marín on Feb. 12 after some 20 of Millacheo’s supporters, including women and children, were detained outside the courthouse in Collipulli in the southern Araucanía region’s Malleco province. Police agents attacked the crowd of about 50 protesters with a water cannon, according to Mapuche sources, and beat several women and handcuffed an 11-year-old. The detainees were charged with public disorder, and Millacheo’s hearing was postponed to Feb. 15. The authorities said the protesters caused the clash by hurling rocks at police agents, but Mapuche activists countered that the detentions were part of a wave of repression that included the arrest of Jaime Huenchullan, werken (spokesperson) for the Temucuicui autonomous community, along with an unnamed French national, while they were on their way to the hearing.

As of Feb. 16 Millacheo had been on hunger strike for 55 days and reportedly had lost 15 kg (33 lb). He is awaiting trial on charges of robbery, arson and attempted murder in incidents that occurred at the Chiguaigüe estate on June 16, 2012. Millacheo says he is innocent, and Mapuche activists consider him a political prisoner. This is his second hunger strike since his imprisonment: he participated in a hunger strike with four other Mapuche prisoners in the prison in Temuco in October [see Update #1147]. On Feb. 16 Millacheo demanded a new doctor, charging that he had been subjected to “racist treatment” by Roberto Baos Somarriba, a physician at the El Manzano prison in Concepción. (BBC News 2/12/13; Kaos en la Red 2/14/13; Diarioladiscusió (Chile) 2/17/13)

Another Mapuche prisoner, Héctor Llaitul Carillanca, agreed to end a 76-day hunger strike on Jan. 28 after meeting for several hours with representatives of national and international organizations supporting Mapuche rights; the group included Llaitul’s mother, Florinda Carillanca, and his wife, Pamela Pezoa. Llaitul heads the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM), a militant organization pressing for restitution of traditional Mapuche lands. Visitors had said on Jan. 26 that the activist was near death [see Update #1161]. Another CAM hunger striker, Ramón Llanquileo Pilquimán, ended his fast on Jan. 31, also after 76 days. Agreeing to at least one of Llanquileo’s demands, prison authorities restored his access to weekend leaves starting on Feb. 8. (ORBE (Chile) 1/28/13 via Terra (Chile); Radio Universidad de Chile 2/7/13)

*2. Honduras: Murdered Lawyer's Brother Killed in Aguán
Unidentified assailants shot Honduran campesino José Trejo Cabrera on the evening of Feb. 16 as he was riding on his motorbike to his home in the San Isidro section of Tocoa in the northern department of Colón. Trejo was taken to a local hospital, where he died a few minutes later. The victim’s brother, Antonio Trejo Cabrera, an attorney who defended campesino activists and fiercely opposed plans for autonomous “model cities” in Honduras, was gunned down the evening of Sept. 22, 2012, in Tegucigalpa near the Toncontín International Airport [see Update #1145]. Both brothers were members of the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), one of several campesino collectives seeking the return of land in the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras that they say big landowners bought illegally.

The conservative Tegucigalpa daily La Tribuna reported that according to several neighbors the attackers were trying to steal Trejo’s motorbike, but Vitalino Alvarez, a spokesperson for the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), told the French wire service AFP that the killers had been “waiting for” Trejo. Some 85 campesinos have been killed in the Aguán since the land dispute intensified in late 2009; two were murdered just two weeks earlier, on Feb. 2 [see Update #1163]. The government of President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa has militarized Colón department, claiming that this would reduce violence both from the land disputes and from common crime, but many campesinos feel the militarization was actually directed against them. “We don’t understand how we can go on being killed in a department that’s under siege by the army and the police,” Alvarez remarked.

Another campesino, Santos Jacobo Cartagena, was gunned down a few hours before Trejo on the afternoon of Feb. 16. Unidentified men riding in a car shot Cartagena, a MUCA member, as he was waiting for a bus at the La Confianza community. “More murders can be expected after the persecution and threats against the campesinos who struggle for land,” the Permanent Human Rights Monitoring Center for the Aguán, a Honduran human rights group, wrote on Feb. 16. (Vos el Soberano 2/16/13; La Tribuna 2/17/13; AFP 2/17/13 via; (Honduras) 2/17/13)

*3. Mexico: Finnish Maquila Signs With Company Union
IndustriALL Global Union, a European industrial union federation founded in Copenhagen on June 19, 2012, is calling for “mobilizations, awareness-raising activities, and letter writing” Feb. 18-24 to protest labor violations in Mexico, with a special focus on the Finnish-based auto parts multinational PKC Group. In December the company’s Mexican subsidiary, Arneses y Accesorios de México, SA de CV, laid off 122 workers from its three plants in Ciudad Acuña, in Coahuila state near the border with Texas; all the members of a militant union’s local executive committee were among those dismissed, and the rest were thought to be supporters of the local. PKC has since signed a contract with what the laid-off workers describe as a company union.

With more than 5,000 employees, the three PKC plants are among the Acuña area’s most important maquiladoras (tax-exempt assembly plants producing for export). The majority of the workers are women, many of them single mothers; according to the Mexican daily La Jornada, most make 105 pesos (US$8.28) for an eight-hour day (European sources give a higher wage of $55 a week). As in the rest of the maquiladora zone along the US border, plants in the Acuña area are generally non-union; only three of 60 were unionized as of 2012, and those had signed up with affiliates of the conservative Mexican Workers Confederation (CTM).

The National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM, often referred to as “Los Mineros”) has been organizing in this sector for several years. Although like the CTM unions the SNTMMSRM has historically been linked to the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), it is traditionally more militant, and it has fought back with some success against anti-union maneuvers by the center-right governments of former presidents Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006) and Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) [see Update #1128]. The maquiladora owners and the local media reacted to the union’s organizing by claiming that if Los Mineros gained a foothold in the zone, the plants would shut down and the workers would be left unemployed.

Despite the campaign against it, the SNTMMSRM managed to form a local, Section 307, and to force a union election last Oct. 18. A CTM affiliate, the National Mining Metalworking Union (SNMM), won with 2,509 votes against 2,311 for Section 307. The SNTMMSRM appealed the results, charging that there were irregularities such as voting by non-employees, but the company proceeded to sign a contract with the CTM affiliate. After the signing, Harri Suutari, the president of the PKC division that handles the Mexican plants, sent a letter in English to the workers. He wrote that they wouldn’t have to pay union dues, according to an article by the Geneva-based International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF). PKC would pay the dues, Suutari reportedly said, “so that the CTM does not enter the plants and has nothing to do with you. Things will continue as usual; for example, the company will continue to recruit new staff. What will the benefits be? Labor peace and a secure job for many years.”

The outcome of this struggle could affect much more than one maquiladora, according to Julia Quiñonez, coordinator of the Coahuila-based Border Committee of Workers (CFO). “The fact of the miners’ union possibly winning a collective contract for 5,000 workers means opening the door so that many other workers could follow this path,” she told La Jornada last September. IndustriALL has produced a video on the issues (, and the labor news service LabourStart has set up a sample letter that activists can email to PKC management at (LJ 9/24/12; IndustriALL 10/25/12, 1/10/13; IMF 2/2/13)

*4. Haiti: Unionist Is Beaten Up at Gildan Supplier
The Haitian labor organizing group Batay Ouvriye reports that in early February Leo Vedél, a worker at the Premium Apparel assembly plant in Port-au-Prince, was assaulted and then fired when he demanded that he be paid the legal minimum wage for piece work in the assembly sector, 300 gourdes (about US$7.12) for an eight-hour day [see Update #1145]. When management rejected the demand, the majority of the plant’s workers organized a protest. A manager named Gédéon beat Vedél, who had to be treated in a hospital. Premium, owned by Clifford Apaid of the wealthy Apaid family, produces T-shirts for the Montreal-based Gildan Activewear Inc. The Rapid Response Network, established by the Florida-based group One Struggle, is asking for calls to Jason M. Greene, Gildan’s director of supply chain in South Carolina, at 843-606-3750, to demand Vedél’s reinstatement with compensation for lost time and injuries, the firing of Gédéon, and respect for workers’ rights. (Rapid Response Network, accessed 2/17/13)

The incident occurred as a delegation of unionists from Haiti and Honduras was speaking to university and church groups in New York State on conditions in assembly plants producing for Gildan, which supplies the blank T-shirts that companies like Adidas use for sportswear with university logos. Sponsored by the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and other pro-labor groups, the delegation sought to motivate students to act in solidarity with assembly plant workers.

“We, as workers, are looking to you, as students, to pressure the brand,” Raquel Navarro, who heads the union at Gildan’s STAR assembly plant in El Progreso, Honduras, told New York University students on Feb. 4. The STAR union is affiliated with the Unitary Federation of Honduran Workers (FUTH), which played an important role in building the resistance to the 2009 military coup that overthrew former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009).

At a Feb. 6 forum at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Télémarque Pierre, a coordinator of the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA) in Port-au-Prince [see Update #1128], described the difficulties of unionizing in Haiti’s assembly sector. “Management uses a lot of threats to intimidate workers and keep them from organizing,” he said. Yannick Etienne from Batay Ouvriye stressed the importance of building unions in the plants. “[I]f the workers are not organized, the students can’t do anything,” she noted. “This is a very important component in the equation. The students have to organize not only as consumers, but as citizens of the world. Together, with the students and the workers, we can change an exploitative system.” (Report from Update editor; Labor Notes 2/7/13; The Cornell Daily Sun 2/7/13)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Andes region, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/policy, US/immigration

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Forty Years Later, Justice for Víctor Jara: School of the Americas Grads Indicted in Murder of the Popular Allende-Era Singer/Activist

Struggle for Land and Water in the Andes

Economic Growth with More Equality: Learning From Bolivia

CEPR Paper on Ecuador’s Financial Reforms Helps Explain Why Voters Likely to Re-Elect Correa (Ecuador)

Correa and Ecuador’s Left: An Interview with Marc Becker

Ecuador: 160 Intellectuals Support Alberto Acosta’s Candidacy

Ecuador's Rafael Correa Re-elected by a Wide Margin

Colombia: guerillas free captives

Striking Coal Miners in Colombia and the Vulnerabilities of a Rentier Based Economy

The Revolution Devalued? What the Venezuelan Currency Change Signifies

Venezuela Announces Measures to Soften Impact of Devaluation

Administration Rejects Congressional Request for Investigation of Ahuas Killings Despite Evidence of DEA Role (Honduras)

Honduras: War on the Peasants

Modeling Capitalist Dystopia: Honduras OKs Plan for Private Cities

Ríos Montt and the Need for International Accountability for War Crimes in Guatemala

Efforts to Provide HIV-AIDS and Other Health Services to Migrants Face Major Obstacles (Mexico)

The Community Police of Guerrero, Confronting the Greatest Threat in its Existence (Mexico)

Monsanto Conquest Meets Aztec Resistance (Mexico)

Solidarity Brings Freedom and Justice for Zapatista Francisco Sántiz López

A Crisis in Border Farming (Mexico)

EZLN Introduces New Subcomandante

The government “free school” program – A victory? (Haiti)

How Many Beltway Contractors Does it Take to do a Feasibility Study? (Haiti)

A Small Step Toward Ending Duvalier’s Impunity in Haiti

With Immigration Reform Looming, Private Prisons Lobby to Keep Migrants Behind Bars (US/immigration)

Living in a Constitution-Free Zone (US/immigration)

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