Monday, March 11, 2013

WNU #1167: Hondurans March to Protest New Laws

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1167, March 10, 2013

1. Honduras: 200-Km March Protests “Model Cities,” Mining Law
2. Chile: Hydroelectric Projects Threaten Sacred Mapuche Sites
3. Mexico: Dissident Teachers March Against Education “Reform”
4. Argentina: Court Overturns Menem’s Arms Smuggling Acquittal
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Honduras: 200-Km March Protests “Model Cities,” Mining Law
Hundreds of campesino, indigenous and African-descended Hondurans demonstrated in Tegucigalpa on Mar. 6 after marching 200 km from the northern town of La Barca to protest new laws on mining and the Special Development Regimes (RED), better known as “model cities” [see Update #1160]. Entitled “For Dignity and Sovereignty, Step by Step,” and sponsored by 47 organizations—including the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), a group that fights against corruption and for the defense of natural resources—the march started on Feb. 25, with more people joining as it passed through their communities. Protesters said they would remain in the capital in front of the National Congress until Mar. 8.

“The sectors represented here are defending their territories, the natural wealth of their communities, and public properties,” MADJ member Hermes Reyes told ACAN-EFE, the Central American branch of the Spanish wire service EFE. Protesters said the RED law will create autonomous cities--like Hong Kong when it was under British rule--that would be controlled by foreign private capital. The Minerals and Mines law will expand mining in Honduras, endangering the environment, according to the marchers. Reyes said the government has already granted 90 mining concessions in the Caribbean coast department of Atlántida, in the western departments of Santa Bárbara, Lempira and Ocotepeque, and in the eastern department of Olancho. The protesters were also opposing an Agricultural Modernization law and changes to the Constitution, and were demanding the immediate release of Aguán Valley campesino José Isabel (“Chavelo”) Morales, who they said has been in prison for four years “for a homicide he didn’t commit,” the killing of an employee of Aguán landowner and business magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum.

Some protesters carried Venezuelan flags to honor Venezuelan president Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, who had died the day before from the effects of cancer. (EFE-ACAN 3/6/13 via La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa); Prensa Latina 3/6/13; Adital (Brazil) 3/1/13)

The new laws were hurriedly passed by the National Congress after its new session opened on Jan. 25. The final version of the model cities law, Decree 236-2012, includes special tourist zones, which analysts said could open the way for foreign investors to take over the famous Copán archeological site. The Minerals and Mines law allows for concessions to be given to foreign governments as well as to private companies. The new constitutional amendments will restrict the powers of the Supreme Court and make it impossible for citizens to appeal the constitutionality of a law; instead they can only appeal the rules enforcing a law. Challenges to the constitutionality of the original model cities law led to a Supreme Court decision vacating it and forced Congress to pass a revised law. The new amendment removes the danger that that will happen again. (Honduras Culture and Politics 2/4/13)

*2. Chile: Hydroelectric Projects Threaten Sacred Mapuche Sites
As of Mar. 2 the Spanish-Italian electric energy consortium Endesa-Enel was calling for dialogue with indigenous Mapuche communities in Valdivia province in Chile’s southern Los Ríos region in an effort to get clearance for the consortium’s stalled $781 million hydroelectric project at Lake Neltume. The dialogue offer came in response to reservations that Los Ríos public service agencies expressed about the power company’s latest proposal for the plant. Jorge Weke (also spelled “Hueque”)--the werkén (spokesperson) for the Koz Koz Parliament in Panguipulli, a municipality that would be affected by the dam—rejected the dialogue offer, saying the company didn’t understand the project’s significance for the Mapuche.

The power plant would make use of the waters of the Fuy River and empty them into Lake Neltume, raising the lake’s level and also the temperature of the water. The site is sacred for the local Mapuche communities, which have been performing a sacrifice of bulls at a certain point on the shore for at least 700 years, according to Juan Carlos Skewes, director of the Anthropology Department at Alberto Hurtado University. The place where the rite is carried out would be submerged, while the underwater repository of the bulls’ bones would be moved. Weke, who has traveled to Italy to meet with Enel’s board of directors, says the power plant would “desecrate this complex, which would be a sacrilege.” The increase in temperature would also affect the region’s biodiversity. Five Mapuche communities are opposed to the plant’s construction, although a group in the community of Juan Quintumán supports it; Endesa-Enel has reportedly given them money, construction materials for housing repairs, and livestock and feed.

The consortium tried unsuccessfully to get approval for the project in February 2010 and again in December 2010, but there has still been no official decision on the plant. (Tierramérica-IPS 2/11/13 via Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO); Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 3/2/13)

Sacred sites are also threatened by several hydroelectric projects in the towns of Melipeuco and Curarrehue near the Andes in Cautín province in the southern region of Araucanía, according to Mapuche residents, who are concerned about maintaining the balance of ngen, spiritual forces which they say protect rivers and waterfalls. In Melipeuco, the Ingeniería y Construcción Madrid Limitada company wants to build a $24 million plant on the Truful-Truful river, while Andes Power SpA is seeking to build a $19 million facility on the Carén river. In Curarrehue, GTD Negocios S.A. plans a $22 million plant on the Añihuerraqui river, and RP El Torrente Eléctrica S.A, a subsidiary of the Austrian-Chilean company RP Global Chile S.A., wants to build a $21 million facility at Pangui. (El Clarín de Chile 2/28/13)

In related news, Rodrigo Montoya Melinao, a Mapuche activist held in the Angol prison in Malleco province in Araucanía, started a liquids-only hunger strike on Feb. 28. Montoya, who comes from the Wente Winkul Mapu community, was arrested along with his brother Erick on a homicide charge; they were two of the four Mapuche prisoners who carried out a hunger strike from Aug. 27 to Oct. 25 last year [see Update #1149]. In his current fast Rodrigo Montoya is demanding cancellation of the judgment against him; an end to the use of anonymous witnesses in trials against Mapuche activists; and freedom for all Mapuche political prisoners. (Maricheweu International 3/5/13)

*3. Mexico: Dissident Teachers March Against Education “Reform”
Thousands of teachers from the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the largest dissident group in Mexico’s 1.5 million-member National Education Workers Union (SNTE), marched in Mexico City on Mar. 5 to protest a series of “educational reforms” that President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law on Feb. 25. The teachers were also demanding the resignation of the new SNTE president, Juan Diaz de la Torre, who they say was appointed in a backroom deal after the Feb. 26 arrest of former president Elba Esther Gordillo Morales on charges of embezzling $157 million from union funds [see Update #1166]. According to the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police, some 7,000 protesters joined the march from the central Zócalo plaza to the Los Pinos presidential palace, where a 10-member delegation presented officials with a petition.

Thousands of CNTE members outside Mexico City also protested, with demonstrations and a two-day national strike. Some 73,000 teachers demonstrated in the southern state of Oaxaca, with teachers blocking government buildings and commercial centers in the state capital, also named Oaxaca. They were supported by students from the Oaxaca Teachers College Students Coordinating Committee (Ceneo), who occupied tollbooths on the Oaxaca-Cuacnopalan highway for 10 hours, allowing motorists to pass for free. Thousands of teachers from SNTE Section 7 in the southeastern state of Chiapas protested at the entrances to two commercial centers in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and held a sit-in in the central park. Some 800,000 students missed classes because of the strike in the western state of Michoacán.

The CNTE, which was founded in 1979 and is based in the DF and the southern states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacán, was also considering plans to file its own complaint against Gordillo for “decades of union bossism in which practically nothing from the dues reached the workers at the base.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/6/13; EFE 3/6/13 via Latin American Herald Tribune)

*4. Argentina: Court Overturns Menem’s Arms Smuggling Acquittal
Reversing a September 2011 decision by a lower court [see Update #1097], on Mar. 8 Argentina’s federal Criminal Appeals Court found former Argentine president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) guilty of “aggravated smuggling” in the government's clandestine sales of 6,500 tons of arms to Ecuador and Croatia from 1991 to 1995. The court also convicted former defense minister Oscar Camilión, former colonel Diego Palleros and nine others in the scheme to smuggle arms to the two countries during a time when international agreements banned the sales. Menem claims he didn’t know the ultimate destination of the arms when he signed the three secret decrees authorizing the shipments.

The crime carries a sentence of four to 12 years, but Menem currently enjoys immunity as a senator for La Rioja province. The former president, a close ally of the US during his time in office, is also facing a possible trial on charges of impeding the initial investigation into a July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires; at least 85 people died in the terrorist attack [see Update #1124]. (AFP 3/8/13 via

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

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Bolivia: hunger strike against "Evo Morales" airport

Peru: Newmont denies plans to quit Cajamarca

Peru: Amazon natives broach separatism

Colombia: ex-lawmaker guilty in Segovia massacre

The "Dutch Disease" Hits Juan Valdez in Colombia: Coffee Growers on Strike

Chávez and the Dream for a Better World (Venezuela)

Remembering Hugo Chavez: An Eternal Friend of the Caribbean (Venezuela)

Chávez's Legacy for Venezuelan Youth

Venezuela With and Beyond Chavez

Venezuela: Adiós Presidente

Contradictory legacy of Hugo Chávez (Venezuela)

New Venezuelan Presidential Elections Set for 14 April

Venezuelan Indigenous Yukpa Leader Sabino Romero Assassinated

Will the World Bank Stop Investing in Campesino Assassinations? (Honduras)

Profiting From Genocide: The World Bank's Bloody History in Guatemala

Mexico: Guerrero’s Indigenous Community Police and Self-defense Groups

The Magic Tree of Acapulco (Mexico)

Former Haitian Dictator Denies Abuses at Historic Hearing

Beaten Haitian Worker Continues Fight for $7-Per-Day Wage

Caracol Industrial Park: Worth the Risk? (Haiti)

“Beyond Walls and Cages”: Liberating the Immigration Debate (US/immigration)

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