Monday, March 18, 2013

WNU #1168: 40 Arrested in Occupation of Argentine Nuclear Plant

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1168, March 17, 2013

1. Argentina: 40 Arrested in Nuclear Plant Occupation
2. Panama: Ngöbe-Buglé Renew Protests Against Dams
3. Guatemala: Teaching Students March Against Education “Reform”
4. US: “Where Is the Justice?” Sentenced SOA Protester Asks
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Mexico, Cuba, 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. Argentina: 40 Arrested in Nuclear Plant Occupation
A group of 40 Argentine environmentalists invaded the Embalse Nuclear Center in the central province of Córdoba on Mar. 11 to mark the second anniversary of the earthquake that caused meltdowns at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, the second-worst nuclear accident in history. The protesters, members of Greenpeace Argentina, “entered [the complex] peacefully, waving flags and wearing orange overalls,” according to Greenpeace Energy Campaign coordinator Mauro Fernández. They proceeded to climb to the top of the reactor, where they unfurled a giant banner reading: “Enough with nuclear danger!” The activists were then “beaten and arrested,” Greenpeace said, and were taken to the Río Cuarto federal court, which has jurisdiction over the facility.

“This action by Greenpeace demonstrates, two years after the Fukushima catastrophe, that the Embalse Nuclear Center’s security, like that at all nuclear reactors, is vulnerable to any unforeseen contingency,” Fernández said. “It is a matter of urgency to close this plant, which is located over a fault and has passed its useful life, and to begin the abandonment of atomic energy in the country.” Asked how the protesters entered the complex, Fernández answered: “Through the gate, which was open.” The federal government’s 2006 Nuclear Plan includes extending the life of the plant, one of Argentina’s two nuclear facilities, at a projected cost of US$1.366 billion. (La Voz (Córdoba) 3/11/13; Adital (Brazil) 3/11/13; Cadena 3 (Córdoba) 3/12/13)

In other news, the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition the night of Mar. 12-13 to break up an encampment that performers and students had maintained for 70 days at the capital’s Gen. San Martín Cultural Center. Three people were hit in the leg with lead bullets and were treated at local hospitals; four protesters were arrested. The National Alternative Media Network (RNMA) said that two of the people wounded were members of the group—a reporter and a photographer. Police spokespeople said seven agents were injured, apparently by rocks and Molotov cocktails, and claimed that the police hadn’t been armed with lead bullets.

Protesters set up the encampment in response to the closing of the San Martín center on Jan. 2 in what they said was part of an effort by rightwing Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri to privatize the institution, which is maintained by the city government; the center provides space for theaters and workshops and is a meeting place for the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and other groups. One section—the Alberdi Hall, which offers drama programs for children and youths—has been occupied by students and teachers since August 2010 to keep the city from shutting it down. After the police attack of Mar. 12-13, opposition politicians denounced Macri’s repressive policies, while students and artists continued to occupy the Alberdi Hall and called for more demonstrations. Activists held a citywide action on Mar. 15 to protest the police raid; they said people participated at 18 different points in the capital. (Télam (Argentina) 3/13/13; Télam 3/16/13 via El Comercial (Formosa, Argentina); Página 12 (Argentina) 3/16/13)

*2. Panama: Ngöbe-Buglé Renew Protests Against Dams
Some 80 indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé activists blocked access to the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam construction site in Panama’s western province of Chiriquí for about three hours on Mar. 8. Riot police dispersed the protesters with tear gas, and the next day police agents arrested four Ngöbe-Buglé. Ricardo Miranda, a spokesperson for the Apr. 10 Movement, which opposes construction of the dam, told a Mar. 11 press conference that the police threatened the detainees and beat them with nightsticks. Miranda, who offered photographs of injured detainees as evidence of the beatings, also charged that the police violated the autonomy of the Ngöbe-Buglé territory by making the arrests. Chiriquí police commissioner Luis Navarro denied that the detainees were mistreated.

Mining and hydroelectric projects have been a source of tension between the Ngöbe-Buglé and the government of rightwing president Ricardo Martinelli for several years. Indigenous communities blocked off highways in the western part of the country in January and February 2012, causing shortages in Panama's cities, to press demands for restrictions on the projects. At least two protesters were killed, Jerónimo Rodríguez Tugrí and Mauricio Méndez [see Update #1117]; Intercontinental Cry, a publication covering indigenous news, names a third protester, Franklin Javilla, killed during the 2012 protests. On Mar. 11 an unidentified 75-year-old man from the Soloy community died as a result of complications from injuries he sustained from rubber bullets or birdshot during a 2011 protest, according to Omaira Silvera of the Coordinating Committee for the Defense of the Natural Resources and Rights of the Ngöbe-Buglé People. Silvera said the man had lost an eye and never received adequate medical treatment from the government.

The government and Ngöbe-Buglé leaders reached an agreement on Mar. 15, 2012 ending mining in the indigenous territory and requiring referendums among area residents on any future hydroelectric projects [see Update #1122]. But local Ngöbe-Buglé continued to oppose the Barro Blanco dam, an existing project being built by the Honduran-owned company Generadora del Istmo, S.A. (GENISA) on the Tabasará River in Chiriquí province. Residents say the dam threatens to flood three villages, to destroy fishing and other food sources for the communities, and to submerge several archeologically significant petroglyphs that also have cultural and religious importance for the Ngöbe-Buglé.

In September the United Nations (UN) sponsored an environmental impact survey for the dam, as required in the Mar. 15 agreement. The UN’s report, published on Dec. 19, found that many of the residents’ fears were credible and mandated an independent study by experts to determine the risks of flooding and other damage to the local villages. But the local communities began protesting again in January when they saw no sign of the independent study. Meanwhile, construction continued on the dam, which is already 50% complete.

In late February residents of the village of Viguí began a vigil closing off a road. After the arrests on Mar. 9 Ngöbe-Buglé leaders threatened to block the Pan American highway, which passes through Ngöbe-Buglé territories both in the western provinces of Chiriquí and Veraguas and in the central province of Panamá at the Pacora river. International supporters of the Ngöbe-Buglé started an online petition on Mar. 10 calling for a halt to the construction of the Barro Blanco dam; the petition is at (Adital (Brazil) 3/11/13; La Estrella (Panama) 3/12/13, 3/13/13; Intercontinental Cry 1/9/13, 3/10/13)

On Mar. 15 Ngöbe Buglé Coordinating Committee president Rogelio Montezuma confirmed that a meeting in Panama City the day before had arrived at a “road map” on how and when the independent study would be carried out. The meeting included UN representatives, traditional Ngöbe-Buglé leader (cacica) Silvia Carrera, Coordinating Committee members, Apr. 10 Movement members, Catholic Church representatives and Government Minister Jorge Ricardo Fábrega. Montezuma said the next meeting is set for Mar. 20. (Prensa Latina 3/15/13)

*3. Guatemala: Teaching Students March Against Education “Reform”
Joined by activists from other social movements, hundreds of students from Guatemalan teachers’ colleges marched nearly 50 km to Guatemala City from El Tejar in the central department of Chimaltenango starting on Mar. 10 to protest what they called the “arbitrary and anti-democratic form” of an educational “reform” passed last year. Students from local private schools began joining the marchers as they arrived in the capital around 6 am on Mar. 12. The protesters headed to the National Congress and surrounded it, demanding a dialogue with Education Minister Cynthia del Aguila. The minister initially refused to meet with the students, but at the end of the day Del Aguila held a press conference with Dialogue Commissioner Miguel Barcárcel and student representatives to announce plans for a discussion—although Del Aguila said this didn’t necessarily mean the government was backing down from the reform.

The 2012 Strategy for Quality Education eliminates the old teaching certificate and requires teachers to have a diploma with “orientation in education” and to complete a three-year técnico universitario program (similar to an associate degree in the US). Teachers’ college students objected that they don’t have the resources to pay for the additional schooling. Protesters held a sit-in in front of the Education Ministry for three weeks in February and brought a legal action before the Supreme Court. “We’re not opposed to educational reform,” one of the student leaders, Walter Salazar, said on Mar. 10 at the beginning of the march, “as long as it’s agreed to by all the sectors of society [and] it isn’t prejudicial to the students and is really going to be effective.” (EFE 3/10/13 via La Nación (Chile); Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 3/12/13)

In other news, six hooded men shot indigenous campesino Gerónimo Sol Ajcot dead on Mar. 11 outside his home in Santiago Atitlán municipality in the western department of Sololá. Ajcot was a member of the National Indigenous and Campesino Coordinating Committee (CONIC) and part of the managing council of a local indigenous farmers’ association. The murder came just three days after the shooting death of Carlos Hernández, a leader in the National Union of Health Workers of Guatemala (SNTSG), on Mar. 8 in Camotán municipality, Chiquimula department, near the border with Honduras. Guatemalan unionists are demanding a thorough investigation of the murder; they say Hernández may have made enemies of some multinationals because of his struggles against mining projects. (AFP 3/12/13 via El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa); Prensa Libre 3/14/13)

*4. US: “Where Is the Justice?” Sentenced SOA Protester Asks
On Mar. 13 a federal magistrate judge in Columbus, Georgia, sentenced Robert Norman “Nashua” Chantal to a six-month prison term for trespassing on the US Army’s Fort Benning base during a protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), on Nov. 18 [see Update #1153]. SOA Watch, an organization that has sponsored protests at the base each November since 1990, opposes the US Army’s training of Latin American soldiers, charging that SOA graduates have been among the region’s most notorious human rights violators.

The sentence that Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles imposed on Chantal, a 60-year-old carpenter from Americus, Georgia, was the maximum allowed for the trespassing offense. Chantal’s attorney, Loyola University law professor Bill Quigley, asked the judge to consider his client’s nonviolent history. In his own statement, Chantal cited the 1973 murder of musician Víctor Jara by SOA graduates in Chile and atrocities committed by Guatemalan soldiers during the 1982-83 dictatorship of SOA graduate Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, who is scheduled to go on trial in Guatemala on Mar. 19 for genocide and other crimes. “There are hundreds of accounts of human rights violations performed by Latin American soldiers trained by the US military,” Chantal said. “Where is the justice?”

Information on sending letters of support to Chantal in prison is available at (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 3/13/13; SOA Watch press release 3/13/13 via email)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration

Liberation Theology, the CIA, and the Vatican: A New Direction for Latin America?

Argentina: ex-dictator gets life in Operation Condor

Cardinal Bergoglio and Argentina's Dirty War

British Analysts Side with Argentina on Falklands/Malvinas dispute

Chile’s “NO” Campaign: What the Movie Doesn't Tell Us

Brazil Chooses a Racist Homophobe to Head its Human Rights Commission

Peru: two dead in miners' protest

Amazon natives challenge Ecuador officials at big oil confab

The "Dutch Disease" and Violence in Colombia

Victims Want Voice and Vote in Colombia’s Peace Talks

Colombia: indigenous peoples face "extinction"

Chavez: Washington Nemesis, Latin American Hero (Venezuela)

What Chávez Left Behind: The Streets of a Continent and a Bolivarian Revolution of Everyday Life

On Venezuela, The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic

Chronicle of a Death Foretold: The Post-Chávez Venezuelan Conjuncture

Chavez’s Family and Venezuelan Government Respond to Claims His Death was “Planned”

Assassination of Venezuelan Yupka Chief Sabino Romero Leads to Criticisms

Nicaragua: A Dangerous Place for Women

From El Salvador to Iraq: Washington's man behind brutal police squads

Honduras’ Walk for Dignity

Step by Step: Honduras Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty

Belize indigenous leaders accuse Capital Energy

20 Years of Femicide in Mexico, Call for Justice Grows Louder

International Women’s Day in Mexico: Time for Mourning not Celebration

Insight Crime and the Mexicanization of Cartel War Discourse

Narco-coal: Zetas diversify portfolio (Mexico)

Mexican media mum on murderous mayhem

Community Organization Against Wind Farms in Oaxaca (Mexico)

San Marcos Avilés: Forced Displacement and the Hope of Solidarity (Mexico)

Rarámuri Delegation from Mexico arrives in Washington

Corn on the Border: NAFTA and Food in Mexico

NAFTA at 20: The New Spin (Mexico)

US-Style School Reform Goes South (Mexico)

Yoani Sánchez speaks in New York City (Cuba)

U.N. Agency Cites “Grave Concern” Following Recent Arsons and Forced Evictions at IDP Camps (Haiti)

A Tale of Two NGOs: In Haiti, Disaster Aid or Aid Disaster?

Big Bend Border: Unpoliced and Unequal (US/immigration)

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