Monday, April 29, 2013

WNU #1174: 50 Injured as Argentine Police Attack Hospital

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1174, April 28, 2013

1. Argentina: 50 Injured as Police Attack Hospital
2. Mexico: Party Offices Trashed in Guerrero Teachers’ Protest
3. Mexico: Monsanto Pushes for More GMO Corn
4. Haiti: Quake Survivors Still Being Evicted From Camps
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration, US/policy

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: 50 Injured as Police Attack Hospital
Some 200 to 300 agents of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Police invaded the grounds of the José T. Borda public psychiatric hospital in the Argentine capital during the early morning of Apr. 26 to guard demolition workers as they bulldozed one of the hospital buildings. When hospital workers, patients and community members gathered later to protest the demolition, police agents used nightsticks and rubber bullets against the crowd. Protesters said some 50 people were injured, including at least 10 patients, seven nurses, three media workers and a member of the city legislature, María Rachid. The authorities reported 36 people injured, 17 of them police agents. Eight people were arrested.

Rightwing Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri insisted that the agents, who were equipped with helmets and shields, had to use force to defend themselves from rock-throwing protesters. The protesters cited police attacks that appeared to be unprovoked. Leaders of the State Workers Association (ATE), which represents some of the hospital workers, charged that union delegates were attacked by agents when they tried to mediate the situation. Local legislator Rachid gave a similar account. “I went into the place,” she said, “and when I asked who was in charge of the operation, the police shoved me and beat me.”

The demolished building had housed a rehabilitation and job-training workshop for patients; it was being removed to make way for a new Civic Center, where the city government plans to relocate some of its offices. Opponents of the plan say Mayor Macri, who is linked to construction interests, originally intended to use the space for high-rise buildings; strong opposition forced him to switch to the Civic Center project. The city claims that the building was already empty and that the workshop was being relocated elsewhere. The ATE—an affiliate of the Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA), the more radical of the country’s two largest labor federations—was the only one of the five unions at the hospital to oppose the plan, according to the authorities.

Argentine journalist Stella Calloni writes that human rights groups say the Buenos Aires force includes officers who worked under the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, along with advisers from Israel and the US. The violence at the Borda hospital came a month and a half after Metropolitan Police agents used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to break up a sit-in protesting efforts to privatize part of a public cultural center [see Update #1168]. (Noticias Argentinas 4/26/13 via Terra Argentina; Buenos Aires Herald 4/26/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/27/13 from correspondent; Kaos en la Red 4/27/13)

On Apr. 27 a majority in the Buenos Aires city legislature, including members from rightwing parties, responded to the incident at the hospital by calling for the city’s security minister, Guillermo Montenegro, to resign; only members of Macri’s Republican Proposal (PRO) backed the city government. Center-left Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a longtime opponent of Macri, also condemned the police operation. The ATE will protest the action with a nationwide strike and a rally in Buenos Aires on Apr. 30, according to the union’s general secretary, José Luis Mataza. (LJ 4/28/13 from correspondent; Buenos Aires Herald 4/26/13)

*2. Mexico: Party Offices Trashed in Guerrero Teachers’ Protest
Thousands of teachers marched in Chilpancingo, the capital of the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero, on Apr. 24 to protest the Guerrero legislature’s vote the day before to ratify a national education “reform” plan proposed by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto [see Update #1172]. The march—sponsored by the State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG), an organization of dissident local members of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE)—stopped at the headquarters of various political parties, where masked participants vandalized offices. The main damage was at the office of Peña Nieto’s party, the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI); the attackers, armed with clubs, broke windows, threw furniture, papers and plants into the street, tore up a photograph of the president and started a fire in the office, which firefighters put out. There were also attacks on the offices of the center-right National Action Party (PAN), the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the social democratic Citizens’ Movement (formerly the Convergence for Democracy).

Within hours Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre Rivero announced that the state government would stop all negotiations with the CETEG and that arrest warrants had been issued for two of its leaders, Minervino Morán and Gonzalo Juárez; the governor described them as the force behind the vandalism. Aguirre also claimed that activities were normal at 95% of the state’s schools despite a strike carried out by CETEG supporters since March. Apparently there was confusion in the state government: at almost the same time Governance Secretary Humberto Salgado Gómez blamed the damage on “people infiltrated” into the protest. “What happened here was acts of barbarism,” he said. “It’s not a question of teachers but of people who are alien to the movement.” Later he changed course and said the state was investigating the teachers for the vandalism. (AFP 4/24/13 via Prensa Libre (Guatemala); El Economista (Mexico) 4/24/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/25/13)

Meanwhile, the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the national organization of SNTE dissidents, concluded its Fifth National Education Conference in Mexico City on Apr. 27 with an affirmation of its commitment to opposing the “reform” program; the group called for teachers, parents, students and social organizations to prepare for an open-ended national strike in defense of education. The group’s National Political Directorate agreed to meet on Apr. 30 to plan the strategies they would apply after the traditional May 1 labor marches. (LJ 4/28/13)

*3. Mexico: Monsanto Pushes for More GMO Corn
As of Apr. 26 environmental activists still hadn’t learned the Mexican government’s response to requests that the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company filed on Mar. 26 for permission to expand the sowing of transgenic corn in four northern and western states. Monsanto asked for clearance to sow commercial crops in 28 municipalities in the state of Chihuahua, 11 in Coahuila and nine in Durango. These requests were in an addition to filings it made in January and February to carry out noncommercial pilot projects in the same municipalities and in Comondú in Baja California Sur. Another biotech company, Swiss-based Syngenta AG, filed on Mar. 26 for permission to carry out pilot projects in the state of Sinaloa. People opposing the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) for crops say the total requests would affect 12 million hectares.

At the end of 2011 the Mexican government lifted the last barrier to growing GMO corn for consumption, although the sowing is still regulated and is confined to dry northern and western states where GMO proponents claim it is less likely to contaminate native corn [see Update #1118]. Environmentalists say even the limited sowing so far has already affected native crops as far away as the southern state of Oaxaca, where local communities and communities from other states testified this month to a committee of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (TPP), an international group founded in Italy in 1979 to influence world opinion on various issues. The use of transgenic corn causes malformed plants and low productivity and puts small producers out of business, community representatives told the committee in what was called a “pre-hearing” to decide whether to go ahead with the case. The committee’s members are Camila Montecinos from the Chilean office of the Barcelona-based group Grain; Joel Aquino, a Mexican campesino leader; Mexican author Gustavo Esteva, who writes about autonomy and community development; and Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/5/13, 4/27/13)

Monsanto reported a net income of $1.48 billion for its second quarter, which ended on Feb. 13, up significantly from the $1.21 billion it earned in the same quarter last year. The company seems equally successful in influencing US politicians. A “continuing resolution” passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in late March to fund the US government’s budget this fiscal year turned out to contain a section protecting companies from lawsuits over health risks that might be related to genetically modified seeds. GMO opponents called the section the “Monsanto Protection Act.” (Huffington Post 4/3/13, some from AP)

*4. Haiti: Quake Survivors Still Being Evicted From Camps
At least 60,978 of the people left homeless by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit southern Haiti in January 2010 were forcibly evicted from displaced persons camps between July 2010 and the end of 2012, according to a report released by the human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) on Apr. 23. The report, “‘Nowhere to Go’: Forced Evictions in Haiti’s Camps for Displaced People,” says that another 977 families were forcibly evicted during the first three months of 2013 [see Update #1166]. The evictions have been tolerated by Haitian authorities, and in many cases government agencies have actively participated in the operations, Haitian human rights groups charge.

“The government says nothing” about the evictions, AI researcher Chiara Liquiori told an Apr. 23 press conference in Port-au-Prince. AI noted the need for a comprehensive national housing program, especially since Haiti had an estimated deficit of 700,000 houses even before the earthquake, but for the short term the group called for the authorities to declare a moratorium on the evictions. “Forced evictions threaten nearly a quarter of the more than 320,000 people still living in camps more than three years on from the earthquake,” AI special adviser Javier Zúñiga said in a press release issued by the organization on Apr. 23. (AI press release 4/23/13; AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/23/13)

One of the camps under the threat of eviction is the Gaston Magwon camp in Carrefour, a town just west of Port-au-Prince. Some 150 families were violently driven out on Feb. 15 by police agents and men armed with machetes and knives. A baby was reportedly injured when the armed men and police damaged a shelter with the child still inside. Some of these families returned to the camp, which now holds about 650 families; they have been warned that another eviction is eminent. AI issued an urgent action asking for letters to Haitian president Michel Joseph Martelly ( and National Police of Haiti General Director Godson Orélus ( calling for the authorities not to carry out more evictions at Gaston Magwon, to investigate the earlier incidents and “to seek durable solutions to the housing needs” of the earthquake’s victims. (AI urgent action 3/22/13)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration, US/policy

Threat of the Trans-Pacific Agreement (Latin America)

Climate Debt: Who Profits? Who Pays? (Latin America)

Paid to Trash Argentina, Raben Does Just That, Without Disclosing Financial Interests

Chile: A Carnival in Defense of Water Sweeps through the Streets of Santiago

Uruguay: Birth of a Movement Against Mining and Extractivism

Paraguay: House of Cartes

Bolivia: TIPNIS Road On Hold Until Extreme Poverty Eliminated

Three Ecuadorans to appeal libel sentences

Colombia: Campesinos of Asoquimbo Liberate Lands under Control of Emgesa-Endesa-Enel

The Venezuelan Presidential Vote -- What is the Probability That It Could Have Been Stolen?

The New Yorker Should Ignore Jon Lee Anderson and Issue a Correction on Venezuela

Venezuela Faces a Soft War

Salvador legislator implicated in Venezuela destabilization

Honduras: Exhumations in the Aguán in Search of the Truth

Defending Rio Blanco: Three Weeks of the Lenca Community Roadblock in Honduras

If Enough Forces Weigh In, the Trial Can Resume (Guatemala)

New Wave of Attacks against Land Rights Activists in Guatemala

Israel’s Proxy War in Guatemala

Noopemig: The Global Rallying Cry from Capulálpam (Mexico)

“We are All Guerrero”: Mexico’s New Popular Revolt Takes on the State

Mexico: violence escalates in Michoacán

A Hard Day’s Labor for $4.76: the Offshore Assembly Industry in Haiti

Accused of Sexual Abuse, MINUSTAH Officer Flees Haiti

Memoirs of a Guestworker (US/immigration)

Chican@ Studies and the Fight Inside U.S. Schools to Drop the ‘I’ Word (US/immigration)

Federal Judge Orders Release of Names of School of the Americas/ WHINSEC Graduates (US/policy)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WNU #1173: Korean Firm Accused in Attack on Nicaraguan Workers

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1173, April 21, 2013

1. Nicaragua: Korean Firm Accused in Attack on Maquila Workers
2. Guatemala: Victims Challenge Suspension of Ríos Montt Trial
3. Mexico: Thousands March for Release of Chiapas Schoolteacher
4. Latin America: US Court Ruling Threatens Human Rights Suits
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

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. Nicaragua: Korean Firm Accused in Attack on Maquila Workers
According to a report by a US-based labor rights monitoring group, the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), managers employed by the major Korean apparel firm Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd orchestrated an attack on laid-off Nicaraguan unionists and their supporters on Mar. 4 at two of the company’s plants in a “free trade zone” in Tipitapa municipality, Managua department. Sae-A supervisors reportedly promised workers 100 córdobas (about US$4.04), a production bonus and a free lunch if they broke up a rally and leafleting that about 30 workers were holding outside the two factories, EINS and Tecnotex, at the start of the workday. Some 300-350 workers came out of the plants and attacked the protesting unionists with metal pipes, belts and scissors, the WRC says, while police agents and plant security guards on the scene did nothing to stop the violence.

The two Sae-A factories are maquiladoras, assembly plants that benefit from tax and tariff exemptions while producing for North American retailers; the plants’ customers include Gear for Sports, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, Target and Wal-Mart. The rally was sponsored by two newly formed unions, the United Effort Union at EINS and the Carlos Fonseca Amador Union at Tecnotex. The unions say plant management fired 16 of their officials and members between July 2012 and January 2013 in retaliation for union activities. (WRC report 3/8/13; The Nation 4/18/13) (Warehouse Workers United, a project of the US union federation Change to Win, has posted a video of the Mar. 4 incident on YouTube.)

On Mar. 13, leaders of three major Nicaraguan union confederations charged that the Solidarity Center--which is operated by the main US labor confederation, the AFL-CIO, and receives funding from the US government--was forming new unions that were being used to create instability in the maquiladoras. The general secretaries of the Sandinista Workers’ Central (CST), the United Confederation of Workers (CUT) and the Confederation of Union Unity (CUS) blamed Solidarity Center activities for the violence outside the EINS and Tecnotex plants on Mar. 4. The US unionists were “trying to get brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Levi’s to stop contracting work to Nicaraguan factories and return the jobs to the US,” CST general secretary Roberto González said. The leaders of the three confederations said they were prepared to do what was necessary to preserve the 105,000 jobs in Nicaragua’s FTZ factories. (Nicaragua News Bulletin 3/19/13)

Sae-A is also active in Guatemala and Haiti. It’s the lead tenant in the Caracol Industrial Park, a 617-acre complex in northeastern Haiti which opened for business last Oct. 22; promoters said it will bring as many as 65,000 jobs to the country. The US government, which gives special trade preferences to apparel assembled in Haiti, contributed $124 million to the Caracol project. (World War 4 Report 11/7/12) According to an article in the New York Times last July, Sae-A began moving its operations to Nicaragua after being pressured in 2010 to let workers form a union at its Guatemalan maquiladoras. A Sae-A adviser told the Times that the company was making plans to move that production on to Haiti once US trade preferences for Nicaragua expire in 2014 [see Update #1138].

*2. Guatemala: Victims Challenge Suspension of Ríos Montt Trial
Both supporters and opponents of former Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) took to the streets of Guatemala City on Apr. 20 in response to the abrupt decision two days earlier to suspend his trial for genocide allegedly committed against indigenous people during the country's 36-year civil war. Human rights activists marched to the Constitutionality Court (CC), where the Center for Legal Action in Human Rights (CALDH) had filed a complaint on Apr. 19 against the suspension. “We’re asking for a court free of pressures, one which can say whether or not there was genocide and crimes against humanity,” CALDH director Juan Fernando Soto explained. Meanwhile, friends and relatives of soldiers marched in the Lourdes neighborhood in Zona 16, putting decals on cars reading: “I love the Army of Guatemala” and “We Guatemalans don’t commit genocide.” (Prensa Libre (Guatemala City) 4/21/13)

The historic trial, which also targeted Ríos Montt’s former intelligence chief, Gen. José Rodríguez, was halted on Apr. 18 shortly before the judges were to begin deliberations on a verdict. High Risk Cases Court judge Carol Patricia Flores Polanco, who was recused from the case in November 2011, entered the courtroom and announced that the Third Criminal Appeals Court had reinstated her as judge in the case, replacing current judge Yasmín Barrios. Judge Flores said the case would have to start over again and all the proceedings in the 17 months since she was recused would be annulled, including the testimony of dozens of members of the Mayan Ixil group who were victims or witnesses of military atrocities. Prosecutors, victims and human rights defenders immediately announced that they would appeal, and Judge Barrios insisted that the trial would continue. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/19/13 from correspondent; PL 4/20/13)

Many observers were skeptical about the legal rationale for the suspension. On Apr. 16, two days before the decision, a public declaration appeared warning of the “imminent danger that political violence might reappear” because of the polarization allegedly caused by the case; it was signed by two former vice presidents, two negotiators of the 1996 peace accords that ended the civil war, a former rebel leader and various former cabinet ministers. On Apr. 18 the United Nations-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) issued a press release calling the declaration “an unjustifiable threat against the court”; 1992 Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum called on the government to provide security for the witnesses, prosecutors and judges. (Siglo 21 (Guatemala City) 4/19/13 from EFE)

“[B]ehind the decision stands secret intervention by Guatemala’s current president and death threats delivered to judges and prosecutors by associates of Guatemala’s army,” US investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported on Apr. 18, shortly after the suspension was announced. Nairn had been tentatively scheduled to appear as an expert witness on Apr. 15; he covered the counterinsurgency in the early 1980s and interviewed current president Otto Pérez Molina, then an army major known as “Tito Arias” commanding troops in the Ixil region, at the time [see Update #1171].

Guatemala’s rulers had agreed to allow the trial to take place “because political forces were such that they had to,” Nairn wrote, “and because they thought that they could get away with sacrificing Ríos Montt to save their own skins.” But their thinking changed when former military engineer Hugo Ramiro Leonardo Reyes gave testimony implicating Pérez Molina in the atrocities that occurred under the Ríos Montt dictatorship. Nairn’s planned testimony was cancelled, since he too could implicate the president, he said. Then “Guatemala's army and oligarchy rallied…. They started to feel that they had no political need to sacrifice Ríos Montt… On Apr. 16 Pérez Molina said publicly that the case was a threat to peace. On Apr. 18, today, the Ríos Montt genocide case was suspended.” (News and Comment 4/18/13; Democracy Now! 4/19/13)

The Ixil witnesses and survivors weren’t about to give up in the face of the suspension, according to Claudia Samayoa, coordinator of the Unit for Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA). When the decision was announced on Apr. 18, she told the Mexican daily La Jornada, “the indigenous people in the courtroom didn’t cry. We cried; the indigenous people didn’t. Later they explained to us that for them this cancellation, although illegal, is hardly even a setback. They told us: ‘We’ve survived worse. We’ve finally been able to speak out, and we’ll be able to overcome this setback.’” (LJ 4/19/13)

*3. Mexico: Thousands March for Release of Chiapas Schoolteacher
Some 15,000 protesters marched in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, capital of the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, on Apr. 19 to demand the release of Alberto Patishtán Gómez, an indigenous schoolteacher who has been serving a 60-year sentence since 2000 for his alleged involvement in the killing of seven police agents in El Bosque municipality in June of that year. Patishtán is a supporter of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). Actions demanding his release have taken place in at least 11 countries over the past year [see Update #1129].

About 7,000 of the marchers were indigenous Mayans; most of these belonged, like Patishtán himself, to the Tzotzil group. Another 8,000 were teachers from Section 7 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE); they were also protesting changes in the educational system being carried out by the administration of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto [see Update #1172]. The protesters, accompanied by flutes, guitars and drums, tied up the center of Tuxtla for three hours.

The march coincided with a visit to the nearby town of Navenchauc by President Peña Nieto, who was promoting his “National Crusade Against Hunger” [see Update #1165]; the guest of honor for the event was former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011). “We believe and we’re convinced by the facts that this is a crusade against the hungry,” speakers at the march charged. “We, the indigenous peoples and campesinos, are indeed hungry, but hungry for truth and justice in the case of the Acteal [where 45 indigenous people were massacred in December 1997, see Update #1117], hungry for the immediate and unconditional release of our brother Alberto.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/20/13)

*4. Latin America: US Court Ruling Threatens Human Rights Suits
In a unanimous decision issued on Apr. 17, the US Supreme Court sharply restricted the use of the 1789 Alien Tort Statute for foreign nationals to sue for human rights violations that took place outside the US. The case at issue, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, was brought by 12 Nigerians now living in the US; they charged that Royal Dutch Petroleum (better known as Royal Dutch Shell) and other oil companies with a presence in the US conspired with the Nigerian government to commit human rights violations against Nigerians protesting environmental damage by the companies. Five of the justices rejected the suit on the grounds that it violated the “presumption of extraterritoriality”—that is, the principle that the US will generally not meddle in the legal affairs of other countries—and that a minor presence of a foreign corporation in the US was not enough to entitle a foreigner to sue that company in the US.

The four more liberal justices agreed to reject the case, but held that suits could be brought under the Alien Tort Statute when the alleged violations took place in the US, the defendant was a US national, or the violation “substantially and adversely” affected a US interest.

Although the decision concerned violations that occurred in Africa, the use of the 1789 statute in human rights cases has been closely associated with Latin America. The first human rights suit brought under the statute, Filártiga v. Peña–Irala (1980), involved the torture and murder of a youth in Paraguay by the Asunción police inspector general. The first Supreme Court ruling on the Alien Tort Statute, Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain (2004), dealt with the case of a Mexican doctor who was abducted to the US by a Mexican employed by the US government; the court ruled against the plaintiff, Humberto Alvarez Machain, but agreed that he had the right to bring the suit under the Alien Tort law. Other suits filed under the law include Xuncax v. Gramajo and Ortiz v. Gramajo (both in 1991), which charged former Guatemalan defense minister Gen. Héctor Alejandro Gramajo Morales with atrocities in the 1980s; Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Company (2001), which accused Coca-Cola of collaborating with death squads to kill, threaten and intimidate workers at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia starting in the 1990s; and Estate of Rodríguez v. Drummond Co (2002), which charged that the Alabama-based Drummond Co. Inc. coal company was responsible for the murders of three unionists in Colombia in 2001 [see Updates #753, 737, 599, 1163].

Chiquita Brands International Inc is currently facing an Alien Tort Statute suit, In Re: Chiquita Brands International (2007), charging that the company colluded with Colombian paramilitaries in the killing of banana workers and political organizers. After the Kiobel decision was announced, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Terry Collingsworth, told a reporter that he expects the Chiquita case to go forward despite the Supreme Court ruling. “The court has added an element to bringing these cases that requires that you demonstrate a US connection,” he said. “I expect it added a step that we will be able to satisfy.” But the Apr. 17 ruling clearly is a big setback for human rights advocates. “Kiobel appears to be part of an ongoing campaign to roll the clock back to the 1950s or even earlier,” Creighton Law School professor Patrick Borchers wrote on Apr. 19. “Unless Congress steps in to fix the problem, the [Alien Tort Statute] is now close to a dead letter.” (The Jurist 4/17/13, 4/19/13; Thomson Reuters News & Insight 4/18/13)

5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Tremendous Pharmaceutical Profits or Totally Protected Plunder? (Latin America)

Argentina: No to Mining

Brazil: Carandiru Massacre Trial Must End Long Legacy of Impunity

700 Indigenous People Occupy Brazilian House of Representatives

Brazil: indigenous people occupy Congress

Sinaloa Cartel kingpin nabbed in Colombia

Colombia: narco-terrorist card in political play

Colombia dropped from human rights 'blacklist'

Maduro’s Venezuela Remains an Inconvenient Example of Democracy

Venezuelan Oppostion Turns to Violence in the Face of Election Defeat

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro Sworn in, Promises "a Revolution of the Revolution"

Venezuela’s Electoral Council Approves Audit of 100 Percent of Votes

“The Capacity not to Stop Dreaming”: An Interview with María Suárez Toro (Central America)

Honduras: top prosecutor suspended amid violence

BREAKING NEWS: The Genocide Trial of General Efrain Rios Montt Has Just Been Suspended: A firsthand behind-the-scenes account of how Guatemala's current President and threats of violence killed the case

Genocide Trial of Former Dictator Ríos Montt Suspended After Intervention by Guatemalan President

Community Leader Daniel Pedro Mateo Kidnapped and Murdered in Guatemala

Mexico: Airport Threatens Farmworkers Again in Atenco

Mexico: narco-violence from Yucatan to Rio Grande

Is the IOM Underestimating the Impact of Forced Evictions? (Haiti)

Photo Essay: Profit and Violence in the Name of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (US/immigration)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

WNU #1172: Is Latin America’s Gold Rush Ending?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1172, April 14, 2013

1. Latin America: Court Suspends Pascua Lama--Is the Gold Rush Over?
2. Chile: Student Movement Regains Momentum
3. Mexico: Guerrero Teachers Form Alliances
4. Haiti: Maquila Sector Tries to Improve Its Image
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

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. Latin America: Court Suspends Pascua Lama--Is the Gold Rush Over?
The Appeals Court of Copiapó province in Chile’s northern Atacama region issued an order on Apr. 10 completely suspending work at the massive Pascua Lama facility, an open-pit gold, silver and copper mine under construction in the Andes on both sides of the border between Argentina and Chile. The order was in response to a complaint filed by five communities of indigenous Diaguitas in the Huasco Valley; the residents charged that the work was damaging the Toro 1, Toro 2 and Esperanza glaciers and contaminating water resources in the area, according to Lorenzo Soto, the communities’ lawyer. The Chilean government’s National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) and the Environmental Evaluation Service have also found environmental damage from the project. Construction is about 40% complete at the mine site, which is under the control of the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation.

The government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera backed the suspension, although officials clearly expected the mine to be completed eventually. “It doesn’t surprise us at all,” Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick told reporters, “and it seems good to us that the work could be suspended, by a judicial organ, while Pascua Lama [works to] comply with all the requirements that the Environmental Bureau has made.”

The Apr. 10 decision was the latest major problem for Pascua Lama, a $8 billion project that was expected to be the third largest mine in the world and the first binational mining enterprise but is now billions over budget and months behind schedule. Barrick Gold’s Chilean subsidiary, Compañía Minera Nevada SPA, has had to suspend part of the work since late October because of health issues for the workers; regional authorities have hit the company with more than $340,000 in fines over the past two months; and the national mines commissioner has upheld claims by a Chilean miner and another Canadian company that they own the Chilean side of the site [see Update #1171]. Barrick’s stock fell 6% to a new four-year low on Apr. 10 after the Chilean court’s decision was announced; shares regained 1.1% the next day.

“Construction activities in Argentina aren’t affected by this measure,” Barrick vice president for corporate affairs Rodrigo Jiménez Castellanos announced after the decision. Analysts said more than 70% of the mine’s reserves are in Chilean territory, but Argentine mining minister Jorge Mayoral insisted that if “at least 30% of the reserves are on the Argentine side, then we're talking about a very important quantity of reserves that would guarantee the value of any work unit in the immediate future.”

But as in Chile, the mine faces strong opposition in Argentina from environmentalists and people who live near the mine. The Argentine movement has an important supporter in the well-known filmmaker Fernando “Pino” Solanas, whose 2009 documentary “Tierra Sublevada: Oro Impuro” (“Rebellious Earth: Impure Gold”) treats the dangers of open-pit mining. Barrick also has legal problems to deal with in Argentina. It has tried to block a law protecting glaciers, but Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled against the company last July, leaving open the possibility that construction work could be suspended in Argentina as well [see Updates #1137, 1138]. (La Tercera (Chile) 4/10/13, some from wire services; InfoBAE (Argentina) 4/10/13; Associated Press 4/12/13)

Barrick continues to have trouble with its $4 billion Puerto Viejo project, an old gold mine in Cotuí in the central Dominican province of Sánchez Ramírez. Barrick reopened the mine in August 2012 in a joint venture with the Vancouver-based multinational Goldcorp Inc.; Barrick owns 60% of the project and Goldcorp owns the other 40%. Under pressure from demonstrators and opposition politicians, Dominican president Danilo Medina is trying to renegotiate a 25-year contract that the government signed giving very favorable terms to the two companies [see Update #1165]. In March Dominican customs authorities briefly held up a shipment of gold from the mine valued at $11.6 million; they said the shipment was irregular, and critics suggested that Barrick was trying to smuggle gold out of the country before new contract terms could be negotiated.

Dozens of activists and Cotuí residents protested at the headquarters of the Barrick’s subsidiary, Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation (PVDC), on Apr. 13, demanding modifications of the contract and charging that operations at the mine had hurt farming in the region. Activists are planning a “people’s tribunal” to judge Barrick and its local collaborators on Apr. 21 in Santo Domingo’s Independence Park. (El Nuevo Día (Santo Domingo) 4/11/13; AP 4/12/13; Xinhua 4/13/13)

Barrick isn’t the only gold mining company in trouble. Multinationals rushed into new gold mining operations in Latin America over the past decade as the price of gold rose dramatically, but the soaring prices may have been a temporary phenomenon: investors turned to the supposed safety of gold during the 2001 recession, and investment in the metal intensified with the 2008 global economic crisis. Now the gold rush seems to be coming to an end. Prices have fallen 17% since their high at the end of 2011, and stocks in gold mining companies have been plunging, leaving investors with losses as high as 42%. (New York Times 4/11/13)

*2. Chile: Student Movement Regains Momentum
Chilean students held marches in Santiago and about a dozen other cities on Apr. 11 to step up their two-year campaign for free, high-quality education to replace the heavily privatized system that started during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. While the first march of the new school year, on Mar. 28, drew about 20,000 people [see Update #1170], some 150,000 participated in Santiago alone on Apr. 11, according to organizers; the authorities put the number at 80,000. Local media said this was one of the largest marches in the capital in two decades. As usual, small groups confronted the police--109 arrests were reported—but in general the march was described as peaceful and even festive.

“This symbolizes that the student and social movement didn’t go home, and that that the movement is here to stay,” Camila Vallejo, one of the leaders of the protests since 2011, told ADN radio. After evaluating the demonstration in a meeting in the southern Araucanía region the weekend of Apr. 13, student leaders announced plans for another national march on May 8, and for student participation in a National March for Water on Apr. 22 and in the traditional workers’ demonstrations on May 1.

The revival of the student movement comes as the country prepares for a presidential election scheduled for Nov. 17 and as the Senate focuses attention on educational issues by considering a vote on the possible suspension of Education Minister Harald Beyer. “Understanding that it’s an electoral year, the student movement needs to remain tremendously active,” Andrés Fielbaum, the president of the Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH) and a spokesperson for the Chilean Student Confederation (CONFECH), told Radio Cooperativa. Former president Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010), a Socialist who is planning to run in the election, has promised to try to end the privatization of the education system, although she failed to make significant changes during her previous time in office; Chilean households currently pay more than 75% of the costs for higher education, compared to more than 40% paid by US households and less than 5% paid by Scandinavian households. Student leaders have asked the candidates not to “appropriate” their proposals. (Aljazeera 4/12/13 from AP; EFE 4/14/13 via Terra Chile)

*3. Mexico: Guerrero Teachers Form Alliances
Dissident teachers in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero continued their protests against planned changes in the educational system on Apr. 10 with a march in Chilpancingo, the state capital, that brought together a broad range of grassroots and labor groups. According to the State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG), the protest’s sponsor, 100,000 people participated, making the march the largest in the state since 1984; Guerrero’s Governance Secretariat estimated the crowd at 40,000. At a concluding rally in the city’s Zócalo, the main plaza, the organizers announced the formation of a new coalition, the Guerrero Popular Movement (MPG). Commentators noted that a popular uprising that paralyzed the neighboring state of Oaxaca in the summer and fall of 2006 featured a similar coalition, the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) [see Update #1054]; the national daily El Economista wrote that the groups forming the coalition in Guerrero were even more radical than the ones that made up the Oaxaca organization.

Groups participating in the march included: the Regional Coordinating Committee of Community Authorities-Community Police (CRAC-PC), an autonomous community police force founded in 1995 in the state’s Costa Chica and La Montaña regions; the Mexico City-based Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) [see Update #1162]; the Autonomous Only State Front of Union Representatives, composed of some 12 unions; and the Council of Ejidos [cooperative farms] and Communities Opposed to the La Parota Dam. Some chants were very militant; “Teacher Cabañas, the people miss you!” referred to schoolteacher and rebel leader Lucio Cabañas Barrientos, who was killed by the military in 1974 [see Update #1087]. Others were more educational: “They’re hiding the truth, that’s why you obey. Turn off the TV and read a book, that way they’ll tremble and disappear.” There was some vandalism along the march route, and one protester attacked the state office building with an axe.

Dissident teachers also protested in other states on Apr. 10. Members of the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE) marched from the Monument of the Revolution in Mexico City to the Palace of Justice, where they filed for injunctions against the government’s educational “reforms.” In Morelia CNTE leaders said the group’s local assemblies would be discussing the possibility of a national strike; the Guerrero teachers have been out since Mar. 25, although the job action partly coincided with Easter vacation. In Morelia, capital of the central state of Michoacán, at least four organizations of students, teachers and campesinos demonstrated in solidarity with the teachers in Guerrero. (El Economista 4/10/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/11/13)

*4. Haiti: Maquila Sector Tries to Improve Its Image
On Apr. 8 Haitian business owner Bernard Schettini was installed as the director general of the National Industrial Parks Company (Sonapi), the semi-private agency in charge of the industrial parks that house many of the country’s 23 apparel assembly plants. These factories, known as maquiladoras in Spanish-speaking countries, benefit from tax and tariff exemptions to produce goods for export to the North American market. Schettini replaced Georges Barreau Sassine, a former head of Haiti’s industrial business association (Association Des Industries d’Haïti, ADIH) who assumed the Sonapi post in August 2012. Trained as an architect, Schettini was previously an executive at Texaco Haïti Inc., an oil supply company; it is unclear how much experience he has in the apparel industry, which in Haiti mostly produces T-shirts.

Although there seemed to be no official explanation for the change at Sonapi, Commerce and Industry Minister Wilson Laleau indicated on Apr. 8 that the industrial parks agency needed to be more proactive in expanding job opportunities. The Sonapi shakeup came less than two months after the agency contracted with the Washington, DC lobbying firm Sorini, Samet & Associates at a rate of $5,000 a month to help lobby the US Congress, presumably for continued trade preferences. The DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which revealed the existence of the lobbying contract, noted that “increased scrutiny” of the assembly plants “could be why Sorini, Samet & Associates was hired.”

Low wages and labor abuses in the assembly sector were the subject of a New York state tour by a Haitian factory worker in February [see Update #1164] and of a widely circulated March report by the Haitian investigative collective Ayiti Kale Je/Haiti Grassroots Watch. Meanwhile, the new industrial park which opened in Caracol in northern Haiti last October has reportedly produced just 1,400 jobs so far, rather than the tens of thousands promised. CEPR notes that past work by Sorini, Samet & Associates principal Andrew Samet—who was deputy undersecretary of labor in the administration of former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001)--included helping “the government of Colombia in presenting information on labor issues with relevant US stakeholders,” as stated in a contract between Samet and Colombia. This was at a time when concern over the murders of Colombian unionists was holding up passage of a “free trade” agreement with the US. Sorini, Samet & Associates has also worked for the government of Bahrain after what Justin Elliot of Salon called the government’s “firing of hundreds of workers and union leaders for participating in strikes and other pro-democracy actions.” (CEPR, Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch, 3/27/13; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 4/10/13; AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/11/13)

The changes at Sonapi coincided with adjustments the government of Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) made to its economic and communications teams. On Apr. 10 Economy and Finance Minister Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie resigned, complaining of a lack of “solidarity” with her colleagues in the cabinet. She was replaced by Wilson Laleau, who will also continue for the time being as commerce and industry minister; Laleau himself has become a target of criticism because of the government’s widely doubted claim that it has created 400,000 jobs. Communications Minister Régine Godefroy resigned soon after Jean-Marie; she wrote a letter describing her “self-sacrifice” and the “relentless fight” she’d had to carry out at the job. (AlterPresse 4/12/13; Miami Herald 4/12/13 from correspondent)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Seven Reasons to Fight the TPP (Latin America)

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Free Trade vs. Democracy (Latin America)

The Vatican, Pinochet, and the ‘Mopping Up’ of ‘Natural Bloodshed’ Following Chile’s Coup

Uruguay: Second Country in Latin America to Adopt Gay Marriage

Brazil: Incomplete Justice for Murders of Amazon Activists

Brazil: human trafficking crackdown in Amazon

The Enduring Legacy of Bolivia’s Forgotten National Revolution

Peru: Reopening the Wounds of Bagua

Peru: clash at Conga mine site

Ecuador, Peru: oil spills foul Pacific coast, Amazon

Curvarado Humanitarian Zone (Colombia)

The “War of the Emeralds”: The Story of a Foretold "Green War" (Colombia)

What Will Venezuelans Be Thinking At the Ballot on April 14th?

Maduro Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election

Official Honduran Report on May 11 Shooting Incident is a New Injustice to Victims

Honduras: Terror in the Aguán

“Sons and Daughters of the Earth”: Indigenous Communities and Land Grabs in Guatemala

Gold Fever to Premiere at Yale, Guatemala City

Guatemala: Mining License Approved in Wake of Violence, Investigation into Murder Pending

The Case of Alberto Patishtán Gómez and the Culpability of the Mexican State: “We are Governed by Injustice”

Mexico: Michoacán tipping into war

Looking for Gandhis in Mexico

A Border Turned Upside Down (Mexico)

Taking a Stand on the Rio Grande (Mexico)

Despite Track Record, U.S. Hires Contractor to Provide Troops to U.N. Haiti Mission

Time for Caribbean Leadership to Speak Up on Haiti

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

WNU #1171: Mexican Teachers Block Highway to Protest “Reforms”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1171, April 7, 2013

1. Mexico: Teachers Block Acapulco Highway to Protest “Reforms”
2. Chile: New Problems Threaten Pascua Lama Mine
3. Guatemala: Ríos Montt Trial Implicates Current President
4. Dominican Republic: Laid-Off Haitian Workers Win Severance Pay
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, 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. Mexico: Teachers Block Acapulco Highway to Protest “Reforms”
Five people were arrested and five injured on Apr. 5 when some 2,000 agents of Mexico’s Federal Police (PF) removed more than 3,000 dissident teachers who were blocking a highway in the southwestern state of Guerrero to protest planned changes in the educational system. The demonstration, organized by the State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG), tied up traffic along the highway from Mexico City to the resort city of Acapulco from about 1 pm until the police action at about 6:30 pm; the road is heavily traveled during the spring vacation period around Easter. The protest took place at the spot near the state capital, Chilpancingo, where two students and a gas station worker were killed on Dec. 12, 2011 in a confrontation between police and students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College, located in the Guerrero village of Ayotzinapa [see Update #1153]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/6/13)

Later on the evening of Apr. 5 about 100 teachers occupied a toll both at Huitzo on the Oaxaca-Cuacnopalan highway in the southern state of Oaxaca to express solidarity with the Guerrero teachers. Chanting “Guerrero, brother, Oaxaca supports you,” the protesters, members of Section 22 of Mexico’s 1.5 million-member National Education Workers Union (SNTE), let motorists pass without paying; the drivers responded by honking and blinking their lights. (LJ 4/6/13)

The Apr. 5 road blockade in Guerrero was part of a series of protests planned for the week after Easter by the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the largest dissident group in the SNTE. The union itself has kept a low profile since the Feb. 26 arrest of its former president, Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, on corruption charges [see Update #1167]. The dissident group holds that “educational reforms” signed into law by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto on Feb. 25 are a step towards privatization of the public school system; the measures are similar to educational changes taking place in the US, with an emphasis on standardized tests and teacher evaluations.

Two of the CNTE’s main bases of support are Oaxaca’s Section 22 and the CETEG in Guerrero, and the most militant demonstrations were in those two states. Oaxaca teachers blocked access to Coppel and Sears stores, McDonalds restaurants, and other national and multinational outlets from 9 am to 4 pm on Apr. 3 in the Valle, Oaxaca and Bella shopping malls in Oaxaca city, although they spared some locally owned businesses like cafeterias and ice cream parlors. About 1,500 Guerrero teachers intermittently blocked the Mexico City-Acapulco highway on Apr. 4, the day before the police operation. Also on Apr. 4 about 10,000 teachers from various states marched in Mexico City, some chanting: “If we have to evaluate, we have to start with [President] Peña.” CNTE national leaders said they would decide the next week on further actions; they didn’t exclude the possibility of an open-ended national strike.

Mexican officials usually insist that they need to negotiate with the SNTE, not the union dissidents, but they have responded to the current protests by talking with CNTE representatives, who have presented their own proposals for educational reform. Oaxaca governor Gabino Cué Monteagudo and Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre Rivero held talks with the state CNTE affiliates; both governors were elected by coalitions including leftist parties. On Apr. 4 two officials from Peña’s centrist administration--Governance Undersecretary Luis Enrique Miranda Nava and Public Education Undersecretary Rodolfo Tuirán Gutiérrez—met for three hours with CNTE representatives and agreed to meet again on Apr. 9. But as of Apr. 7 none of these talks had produced an agreement. (LJ 4/4/13, 4/5/13, 4/5/13)

An Apr. 7 editorial in the left-leaning daily La Jornada cited a 2007 report by the federal Public Education Secretariat (SEP) showing that a quarter of Mexican schools didn’t have electricity and a quarter lacked bathrooms, while in 44% of primary schools teachers had to teach more than one grade level in the same classroom. “In such circumstances,” the editorial continued, “the aspiration to evaluate all the teachers by identical standards, without its mattering whether their schools lack water, electricity and installations that are minimally decent for carrying out their work, constitutes an unjust and inappropriate measure which will be unlikely to help improve the quality of education.” (LJ 4/7/13)

*2. Chile: New Problems Threaten Pascua Lama Mine
As of Apr. 1 the Environmental Evaluation Service of Atacama, a region in northern Chile, had imposed a new fine on the Chilean subsidiary of the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation for violations at its Pascua Lama facility, a giant open-pit gold, silver and copper mine being built in the Andes at the border between Argentina and Chile. The fine on the subsidiary, the Compañía Minera Nevada SPA, came to about US$85,509 (expressed as 1,000 Monthly Tax Units, UTM, a special unit Chile uses for mining taxes and fines; it is set this month at 40,125 pesos). This was in addition to a US$256,518 (3,000 UTM) fine the service imposed a month earlier. According to Pedro Lagos, Atacama’s regional minister for the environment, the fines are for the company’s failure to meet requirements for monitoring damage the mine’s construction could cause to nearby glaciers.

Problems continue to accumulate for the mine, which is projected to cost Barrick $8 billion to build. A newly established “environmental court” in the Antofagasta region adjacent to Atacama recently brought charges against the Barrick subsidiary for damage it caused to mountain pastures and to the El Estrecho river because of poor construction at the mine. Another threat comes from a January decision by national mines commissioner Paulo Cortes Olguín, who upheld claims by Chilean mine owner Jorge Lopehandía and the Vancouver-based Mountainstar Gold Inc. to the Chilean section of the Pascua Lama site. Meanwhile, some of the construction work remains suspended because of an Oct. 31 order by the National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin), which found unsafe levels of pollution at the site that could affect the construction workers' health [see Update #1152].

The ongoing problems demonstrate that the Pascua Lama facility, slated to be one of the world’s largest gold mines, simply shouldn’t be built, according to Lucio Cuenca, director of the Latin American Monitoring Center for Environmental Conflicts (OLCA). (Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 4/1/13; Upside Down World 4/3/13; Radio Universidad de Chile 4/6/13)

*3. Guatemala: Ríos Montt Trial Implicates Current President
Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina was involved in some of the crimes against humanity for which former dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) and his former intelligence chief, Gen. José Rodríguez, are now on trial in Guatemala City, according to testimony by a prosecution witness at the trial on Apr. 4. The witness, Hugo Reyes, was an army engineer stationed near Nebaj, El Quiché department, in the Ixil Mayan region, during the early 1980s, at a time when the current president was an army major commanding troops in the area. Reyes said Pérez Molina, then known as “Commander Tito” and “Major Tito Arias,” was among the officers in charge of soldiers who “coordinated the burning [of homes] and pulling people out so they could execute them.”

Speaking by video conferencing from an undisclosed location, Reyes testified that soldiers kidnapped civilians and took them to a military base for torture and execution. “Some had their tongues cut out and their fingernails removed and other injuries,” he said. “The army officers said to them: ‘Sons of bitches, talk or we'll cut out your tongues.’” “Indian seen, Indian dead--that was the motto they had,” Reyes said; most of the victims were indigenous. “It’s a lie,” Pérez Molina told reporters on Apr. 5. He dismissed the events at the trial the day before as a “circus,” adding: “Bringing in false witnesses takes away all seriousness from the justice system.” (Reuters 4/5/13; Europa Press (Madrid) 4/6/13)

Pérez Molina has frequently been accused of participating in the Ríos Montt government’s “scorched earth” policies, which led to thousands of civilian deaths. A 1983 documentary shows Pérez Molina being interviewed by US investigative reporter Allan Nairn while standing near several battered corpses in Nebaj; one of the soldiers told Nairn that these were captives Pérez Molina had “interrogated” [see Update #1114].

While attention is focused on the Ríos Montt trial, the harassment and murder of activists continues, with at least five murdered in a single month. Tomás Quej, an indigenous leader who had just won a legal struggle for land for his community in the central department of Baja Verapaz, was found dead on Feb. 26 with a gunshot wound to his heart. Carlos Hernández Mendoza, an anti-mining activist and a leader in the National Union of Health Workers of Guatemala (SNTSG), was shot dead on Mar. 8; indigenous campesino leader Gerónimo Sol Ajcot was shot dead three days later, on Mar. 11 [see Update #1168]. As reported by Amnesty International (AI), on Mar. 17 Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, a leader in the Xinca indigenous group, was murdered and three other activists were kidnapped, beaten and then released; the group was demonstrating against mining operations by the Canadian company Tahoe Resources. Ucelo was also involved in land disputes. On Mar. 21 Santa Alvarado, like Hernández a member of the SNTSG, was kidnapped and strangled. (Global Voices (Amsterdam) 3/25/13)

*4. Dominican Republic: Laid-Off Haitian Workers Win Severance Pay
After months of struggle, 112 Haitian workers laid off last year by a coconut processing plant in the southern Dominican province of San Cristóbal learned on Apr. 1 that they had won their suit for severance pay and back wages. In a Mar. 18 decision that wasn’t made public for two weeks, San Cristóbal Civil Appeals Court president Juan Procopio Pérez ordered the company, Coquera Real, and its owner, Rafael Emilio Alonso Luna (“Billo”), to pay 10 million pesos (US$243,015) in back wages and 30 million pesos (US$729,042) in penalties for “non-payment of benefits over a period of 10 years.” The court also ordered the immediate seizure of Coquera Real’s property to guarantee payment, since the company has declared bankruptcy.

Although the workers were reportedly undocumented immigrants, they insisted on their labor rights when the company closed down last year. In addition to filing the lawsuit, the workers and their families held a sit-in in front of the Labor Ministry in Santo Domingo from Dec. 14 to Jan. 19. Although they finally agreed to leave the Labor Ministry, the Haitians remained in the Dominican Republic, camping out in a San Cristóbal parking lot owned by a relative of one of their lawyers [see Update #1161]. After the court decision was announced, Francisco (or Elmo) Ojilus, the workers’ spokesperson, said they would remain in the Dominican Republic to wait for their payment before returning to Haiti. ( (Dominican Republic) 4/2/13; (Dominican Republic) 4/4/13; Haiti Press Network (Haiti) 4/4/13; Dominican Today (Dominican Republic) 4/2/13)

Correction: Following our sources, in previous Updates we referred to two companies, Coquera Real and Coquera Kilómetro 5. More recent sources refer to one company, Coquera Real, located at kilometer 5 on the Sánchez highway.

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

Argentina vs. the Vultures: What You Need to Know

Barrick Gold Could Lose the Pascua Lama Project (Chile)

The Imposition of Brazilian Agribusiness and the Suppression of Family Farming, With Government Support

The Real Lula Speaks Out (Brazil/Venezuela)

Bolivia: The Unfinished Business of Land Reform

Peru: disappearing glacier sounds climate alarm

Peru: pressure on for Fujimori pardon

Peru: Lucanamarca massacre remembered

Ecuador: protests mount over mining, oil

SOUTHCOM General John Kelly and the War in Colombia

Teaching Peace: The University of Resistance in Colombia’s San Jose de Apartado Community

Colombia: peace talks advance amid violence

The Murder of Demetrio López: Chronicle of Another Death Foretold in Colombia

Election Campaigning Officially Begins in Venezuela, Micro-Missions Announced

What Next, Venezuela? A Roundtable Discussion

Campaign for Presidency Kicks-off in Venezuela: An Interview with Carmen Hidalgo

Venezuela: Maduro calls down 'curse' on opponents

Honduras is Open for Business and Repression

Will Obama’s Legacy Be a Death Squad Government in Honduras?

Campesino Communities in Honduras being Devastated, One Family at a Time

In Guatemala, state violence is on trial but repression continues

Bullets Fired Toward Protestors on the Anniversary of Slain Activist (Mexico)

Tourism in Chiapas: A Conversation with Hermann Bellinghausen (Mexico)

Climate Change Wallops Mexico

Can Worker-Owners Run a Big Factory?
How Mexican Tire Workers Won Ownership of Their Plant With a Three-Year Strike and Are Now Running It Themselves

Haitian peasants prioritize for the next five years

Reflections on the Reconstruction (Haiti)

U.S. Food Aid Reform Opposed by Aid’s Intended Recipients: U.S. Special Interests (Haiti)

Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti

Confronting the Amnesty Scare (US/immigration)

Families or workers? Criminals or migrants? (US/immigration)

Migration and Small Business Investment Across the U.S.-Mexico Border (US/immigration)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson: