Monday, May 27, 2013

WNU #1178: Latin America Marches Against Monsanto

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1178, May 26, 2013

1. Latin America: Marchers Reject Monsanto, Back Food Sovereignty
2. Guatemala: Thousands Protest Reversal of Dictator's Conviction
3. Honduras: Indigenous Leaders Arrested After Dam Demonstration
4. Mexico: Immigration Activists Take Their Case to the US
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, 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. Latin America: Marchers Reject Monsanto, Back Food Sovereignty
According to organizers, hundreds of thousands of environmentalists and other activists participated in marches in 436 cities and 52 countries on May 25 to protest the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company, whose products include genetically modified (GM) seeds and the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. The global March Against Monsanto generated events in countries including Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the US. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/26/13, some from AFP, Prensa Latina)

A few dozen Argentines reportedly protested in front of Monsanto’s Buenos Aires offices on May 25, and protests were planned for Tucumán, Mendoza, Rosario, Misiones and Calafate. One of Argentina’s largest protests took place two days earlier, on May 23, when hundreds of residents marched in Córdoba City, the capital of the central province of Córdoba. Malvinas Argentinas, a working-class suburb located 14 km from the provincial capital, is the site Monsanto has picked for its largest facility in Latin America [see Update #1166], and the company is also building an experimental station in Río Cuarto in the same province. “Monsanto out of Malvinas Argentinas, Córdoba and Latin America” is a popular slogan in the Córdoba metropolitan area, where residents blame fumigation with agricultural chemicals for cancer, respiratory diseases and deformed fetuses. At the May 23 march the Malvinas Struggles Assembly called for a popular consultation on the construction of the plant. According to a recent poll by researchers from local universities, nine out of 10 Malvinas Argentinas residents want a vote and 58% of them oppose the construction.

Most of Argentina’s soy is transgenic, and soy is now Argentina’s biggest crop, taking up nearly 20 million hectares, 59% of the country’s farmland. The center-left government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is pushing to expand soy production, while Congress is working on a new Seed Law, one so favorable to the GM industry that critics are calling it the Monsanto Law. (El Mundo (Spain) 5/25/13)

Activists also held protests against Monsanto in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Santiago and other cities in Chile. (LJ 5/26/13, some from AFP and PL; Diario de Mendoza (Argentina) 5/26/13 from Russia Today (RT))

In Mexico activists marked May 25 with protests in 20 of the country’s 32 states. The focus was on recent requests from Monsanto and other biotech firms for permission to expand the commercial planting of GM corn [see Update #1177]; environmentalists and campesinos fear that the massive sowing will contaminate the 59 native corn strains, threatening both biodiversity and Mexico’s ability to produce its own food. In the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), organizations like Vía Orgánica (“Organic Way”) and the Without Corn There Is No Country campaign sponsored a march from the Bellas Artes Palace to the Monument to the Revolution; they also organized a “Carnival of Corn,” with pictures, music and theatrical performances that attracted hundreds of visitors. (LJ 5/26/13)

Activists in the southeastern state of Chiapas held a similar festival in the plaza in front of the cathedral in San Cristóbal de las Casas. The organizers called for Chiapas municipalities to be declared GM-free zones; they also expressed their concerns about Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto’s “National Crusade Against Hunger,” which they said was oriented toward the distribution of food from industrialized farming rather than from campesino production.

In the western state of Nayarit campesinos from Santiago Ixcuintla, Sauta, Villa Hidalgo and La Presa demanded the removal of Monsanto, which they said had taken over some 1,800 hectares of their lands since 2010 and was irrigating the crops with water from the Santiago River. In Jalisco some eight groups, including the Honda de México Workers Union, demonstrated in a plaza in the state capital, Guadalajara. GM corn is a death sentence which would leave Mexican producers at the mercy of giant multinationals, said Jesús Quiroz Pérez, a campesino from the community of Ixcatán in Zapopan municipality. In Morelia, the capital of the southwestern state of Michoacán, the protest was led by some 500 members and supporters of the #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”) student movement [see Update #1130]. (LJ 5/26/13)

Hundreds of Puerto Ricans marched in San Juan’s Santurce neighborhood on May 25 with the slogan “Nothing is holy [santo] about Monsanto.” Protesters noted that Monsanto and Dow Chemical were the main producers of the defoliant Agent Orange, which was tested in Puerto Rico during the 1960s before being used by the US military in Vietnam. The protest’s main speaker, attorney Salvador Tió, called for support for a law proposed by pro-independence senator María de Lourdes Santiago to require labels identifying GM products. Tió also demanded that Monsanto be required to comply with a law limiting individual farms to 500 acres. According to the Investigative Journalism Center (CPI), the Puerto Rican government’s Land Authority is negotiating with Monsanto to renew contracts for land in the Juana Díaz plains totaling 768 acres, in violation of the law. Guillermo Somoza Colombani, justice secretary in the 2009-2013 administration of former governor Luis Fortuño, supported Monsanto’s claim that the law didn’t apply because the firm is registered as a biotech company, not an agricultural company. Current agriculture secretary Myrna Comas has said that the administration of Gov. Alejandro García Padilla will review all the contracts signed by previous governments. (Prensa Latina 5/25/13)

*2. Guatemala: Thousands Protest Reversal of Dictator's Conviction
Thousands of Guatemalans marched in Guatemala City on May 24 to protest a decision four days earlier by the Constitutional Court (CC) overturning the historic May 10 conviction of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) for genocide against the Ixil Mayans in El Quiché department [see Update #1176]. Organizers said 6,000 people participated in the march, which passed by the offices of the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF)--whose leaders had called for the reversal of the ex-dictator’s conviction—and ended with a sit-in outside the Constitutional Court. Protesters denounced the judges as “promoters of impunity.”

There were demonstrations the same day in Argentina, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru to protest the court’s ruling. In Tegucigalpa, dozens of Honduran women protested outside the Guatemalan embassy chanting: “Ríos Montt, fascist, you’re the terrorist” and “No forgetting, no pardon, Ríos Montt to the prison.” (Siglo 21 (Guatemala City) 5/24/13 from EFE; Prensa Libre (Guatemala City) 5/24/13)

The Constitutional Court ruled in a 3-2 decision the night of May 20 that there were judicial aberrations in Ríos Montt’s trial and that it needed to be retried from where it was on Apr. 19, one month after it began. The ruling in effect threw out Ríos Montt’s conviction and an 80-year prison sentence the trial court had imposed; the decision also nullified the acquittal of a codefendant, former intelligence chief José Rodríguez. It was unclear from the ruling whether the trial would now restart with the original three trial judges, or what would happen to appeals Ríos Montt’s attorneys had filed.

Critics noted that the Constitutional Court focused on the trial judges’ exclusion of Ríos Montt’s attorney for a few hours on the first day of the trial [see Update #1169]; an appeals court had ruled that the trial judges later rectified that error. One of the two dissenting judges on the Constitutional Court, Mauricio Chacón, wrote that the trial judges’ actions “did not invoke anything that suggested a lack of impartiality.” The other dissenting judge, Gloria Patricia Porras, criticized the majority decision for “leaving the victims’ constitutional right of access to justice unprotected.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/21/13 from DPA, AFP, Prensa Latina, Notimex; Open Society Justice Initiative Ríos Montt trial blog 5/21/13)

On May 24 former president Alfonso Portillo (2000-2004) was suddenly extradited to New York, where he faces federal charges of conspiring to launder $70 million of Guatemalan funds through US banks. Elected president as a candidate of Ríos Montt’s Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), Portillo was charged with embezzlement in 2004 and fled to Mexico. He was extradited back to Guatemala in 2008 but was acquitted by a Guatemala court in 2011. However, the US Justice Department filed its own charges against him in 2010.

The Constitutional Court approved Portillo’s extradition to the US in 2011 but no action was taken until now, leading people to question the timing of his removal to New York. “The decision to extradite Portillo, though welcome, has to be seen as an attempt to divert international attention away from the Constitutional Court’s overturning of the Ríos Montt verdict,” Haverford College Guatemala expert Anita Isaacs told the New York Times. She said that unlike the ex-dictator, Portillo had few friends among the ruling elite. Sending him to the US “is a very small price to pay” for the country’s rulers, Isaacs said. (Prensa Libre 5/24/13; NYT 5/25/13)

*3. Honduras: Indigenous Leaders Arrested After Dam Demonstration
According to protesters, about 100 regular police and riot squad agents used tear gas and live ammunition on May 23 to break up a demonstration by members of the indigenous Lenca community of San Antonio Chuchuitepeque in the northwestern Honduran department of Santa Bárbara. A number of protesters were injured and five were arrested, according to Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, the coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), who was present at the demonstration.

For some 50 days Lenca communities in the area have been protesting the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, which is being built by the Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA) with the help of $24.4 million from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE). The dam will run with water from the Ulúa River, a tributary of the Gualcarque River. The indigenous communities are protesting the use of their territories and the exploitation of natural resources without prior consultation with the local population. They accuse the mayor of San Francisco de Ojuera municipality of complicity with the companies and of invading their lands. Cáceres warned of the possibility of further violence against the indigenous groups. (Adital (Brazil) 5/24/13 from Lista Informativa Nicaragua y Más (LINyM))

On May 24, one day after the attack on the protest, a group of about 20 soldiers stopped a COPINH vehicle in which Cáceres was riding with another member of the organization, radio communicator Tómas Gómez Membreño. After an exhaustive search of the car, the soldiers claimed to have found an illegal firearm and arrested the two activists. Cáceres and Gómez were released the next day, but Cáceres has a trial date set for June 13; she is not allowed to leave the country and is required to register with the court once a week. Defense attorney Marcelino Martínez said the weapon was planted to inculpate the COPINH leader. (COPINH press release 5/26/13 via Kaos en la Red)

Correction: The article originally gave May 25 as the date of Cáceres and Gómez Membreño's arrest.

*4. Mexico: Immigration Activists Take Their Case to the US
A series of events in the New York area from May 22 to 26 concluded a month-long tour of the US by a group of Mexican and Central American immigration activists seeking to broaden discussion of reforms the US Congress is considering for the country’s immigration policy. The Opening Doors to Hope Caravan was led by Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, coordinator of the Brother and Sister Migrants on the Road shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca; he has received death threats for his efforts to protect Central American immigrants from criminal gangs and corrupt officials during their transit through Mexico. The caravan was reminiscent of a Caravan for Peace led by Mexican poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia in the summer of 2012 but on a smaller scale [see Update #1143].

“We’re here to raise the voices of those who die in the deserts” while attempting to cross the border into the US, caravan member Estela Jiménez explained. “Let’s raise our voices for the thousands of children who have been left without their parents because of the deportations [ordered by US president Barack] Obama…. We aren’t criminals; we’re international workers, and the struggle is global.” Some of the participants were themselves evidence of the human cost of current immigration policies in the US and Mexico. Pedro Aguilar said he fled his native Honduras to escape criminal violence there that led to the death of two brothers. He lost half of his left leg in Mexico while trying to climb on to the “The Beast,” the notoriously dangerous freight train that runs between Tabasco and Tlaxcala, in an effort to escape the Mexican criminals who prey on Central American immigrants.

The caravan made stops in a number of cities, including Phoenix, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Chicago. In Washington, DC, caravan participants visited about 20 congressional offices, meeting with Congress members or their staffers, but much of the focus was on establishing ties with grassroots activists in the US. After a small press conference outside the federal building in New York on May 23, Solalinde met with members of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the nearby Zuccotti Park. That evening Marco Castillo, a caravan organizer and a member of Mexico’s Popular Assembly of Migrant Families (APOFAM), facilitated a meeting between caravan members and about 30 New York-based immigrant rights activists to discuss strengthening ties and developing joint strategies. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/25/13 from correspondent; report from Update editor)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, US/immigration

Latin America’s Radical Left in Power: Complexities and Challenges in the Twenty-First Century

Argentina: Videla Dies in Prison – a Victory Against Impunity

Argentina war crimes suspect arrested in Uruguay

Paraguay: Installation of Rio Tinto Alcan Company Causes Intense Debate

Brazil: Porto Alegre is Palestine’s Friend, So Why Has It Embraced Israel’s War Industry?

Industrializing Bolivia’s Gas in Bolivia, Not Brazil

In Bolivia, Morales Faces a Challenge from Below

Colombian Peace Talks Revisit Land Reform

Bogotá, FARC reach deal on land reform (Colombia)

Inside La Piedrita: Venezuela’s Popular Militias and the Revolution

Poor Utilization of the Land Behind Food Shortages in Venezuela

Workers in Venezuela’s Nationalised Hotels Demand Respect for Labour Rights

The Central American Integration Meeting that Never Happened

Grassroots Organizations Call For New Security Model, Human Rights (Central America)

Indigenous Nicaraguans Fight to the Death for Their Last Forest

Despite Annulment, Genocide Trial a Breakthrough for Justice and Truth (Guatemala)

The Struggle Continues for Justice for Genocide in Guatemala

Not Writing History (Guatemala)

Guatemala: Slaughter Was Part of Reagan’s Hard Line

Michoacan’s Crisis Crosses Borders (Mexico)

Casinos Too Bad to Close (Mexico)

Mexico: Live to Work for $1.19 an Hour

Central American Migrants Face Perils on Journey North (Mexico)

Obama Shifting Rhetoric, Policy on Cuba, Drug War

IMF Approves Jamaica Loan – Pain, No Gain

Obama Visit Sparks Binational Protests of Migrants (US/immigration)

Organizing on both sides of the border

Shooting in the Dark: Why the Senate’s “Border Security Triggers” May Leave Millions in Limbo (US/immigration)

Judge: Sheriff Arpaio engaged in racial profiling (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:

Monday, May 20, 2013

WNU #1177: Argentine Dictator Dies in Prison

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1177, May 19, 2013

1. Argentina: Ex-Dictator Videla Dies in Prison
2. Latin America: 7 Ex-Rulers Remain Jailed or on Trial
3. Brazil: 30,000 People Displaced for Sports Events
4. Mexico: Activists Protest GMO Corn With Giant Banner
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, 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: Ex-Dictator Videla Dies in Prison
Former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) died the morning of May 17 in the Marcos Paz prison in Buenos Aires province, where he was serving a 50-year sentence for crimes against humanity. He was 87. Videla led the coup that removed then-president Isabel Perón from office on Mar. 24, 1976 and started a period of military rule that lasted until 1983. Videla himself was made de facto president on Mar. 29, 1976 and held the office until March 1981, when he was replaced by Gen. Roberto Viola.

Human rights groups estimate that 30,000 people were disappeared during the “dirty war” against suspected leftists that the military junta carried out. Some 5,000 people are known to have died, and about 500 children were given up for adoption under false names after their parents were killed; so far 108 of the children have learned their real identities. The military leaders were sentenced to life in prison during the presidency of Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989), but two laws passed in 1986 and 1987 gave them immunity from any further trials, and President Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) granted pardons in 1989 and 1990. The Supreme Court overturned the immunity laws in 2005, and in December 2010 a court convicted Videla of crimes against humanity. At the time of his death the former dictator was on trial for his role in Operation Condor, in which South American military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s aided each other in repressing opponents; his last court appearance was on May 14.

Videla never apologized for the violence of the military regime. “Our objective was to discipline an anarchized society,” he said in an interview published in 2012 [see Update #1125]. The generals wanted “to get away from a populist, demagogic vision; in relation to the economy, to go to a liberal market economy. We wanted to discipline unionism and crony capitalism.” On the military practice of keeping pregnant captives alive until they’d given birth and then executing them, Videla said in court that the women, “whom I respect as mothers, were active militants in the machinery of terror. And many of them used their embryonic children as human shields at the time that they were operating as combatants.” (Adital (Brazil) 5/17/13 from TeleSUR; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/18/13 from correspondent)

The US government was aware of the military junta’s crimes. “We want a stable situation,” then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger told Argentine foreign minister, Adm. Cesar Augusto Guzzetti in 1976, according to declassified US documents. “We won't cause you unnecessary difficulties. If you can finish before [the US] Congress gets back, the better” [see Update #723]. In December 1982 then-assistant secretary of state for human rights Elliott Abrams described a discussion he had with Argentine ambassador Lucio Alberto García del Solar about the “[c]hildren born to prisoners or children taken from their families during the dirty war.” Abrams wrote that he told the ambassador that “[w]hile the disappeared were dead, these children were alive and this was in a sense the gravest humanitarian problem.” Despite the “humanitarian problem,” Abrams had the US government certify that the dictatorship was making progress on human rights [see Update #1110].

*2. Latin America: 7 Ex-Rulers Remain Jailed or on Trial
The death of former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) on May 17 brings to seven the number of Latin American and Caribbean de facto heads of state who are now in prison or facing criminal charges for their acts while in power. All but one were charged in the last decade.

Former Bolivian dictator Luis García Meza (1980-81), known as the “narco-dictator,” has been serving a 30-year sentence since 1995; charges against him included sedition, genocide and the theft of the diaries of Argentine-born guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara [see Update #926]. He seized power in a coup in 1980 but was forced to resign in 1981. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/19/13 from AFP)

Former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) was sentenced to 25 years in prison in April 2009 for crimes that included the deaths of 25 people, two kidnappings, corruption and illicit enrichment [see Updates #1019, 1109]. Although he was elected democratically in 1990, Fujimori seized dictatorial powers with a “self-coup” in 1992. He was hospitalized on May 17 of this year with gastroduodenitis, according to his daughter, rightwing politician Keiko Fujimori. She blamed his condition on depression. The former president has been seeking a pardon on grounds of ill health. (La Nación (Argentina) 5/18/13 from DPA, AFP)

Former Uruguayan de facto president Gregorio Alvarez (1981-1985) was sentenced to 25 years in prison in October 2009 for 37 aggravated homicides committed from 1977 to 1978 as part of Operation Condor, a program coordinating repression in several South American nations [see Update #1030]. Alvarez’s presidency came during Uruguay’s 1973-1985 period of military rule.

Gen. Reynaldo Bignone (1982-1983), the last president in Argentina’s 1976-1983 military regime, was sentenced to 25 years of prison in 2010 for crimes committed in the Campo de Mayo, a military camp that included four torture centers during the dictatorship. In April 2011 he received an additional sentence, this one for life in prison, for crimes against humanity [see Update #1076].

Former Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983) was sentenced to 80 years in prison on May 10 of this year for genocide and crimes against humanity during the bloodiest period of the country’s 1960-1996 civil war [see Update #1176].

Francisco Morales Bermúdez, who headed Peru’s military dictatorship from 1975 to 1980, has never been convicted, but in 2007 the Italian justice system requested his detention and extradition for the disappearance of 25 Italians in South America in connection with Operation Condor. In February 2012 an Argentine judge also charged him with participation in Condor. He doesn’t face any charges in Peru. (LJ 5/19/13 from AFP)

Like Morales Bermúdez, former Haitian “president for life" (1971-1986) Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier has never been convicted. In January 2012 investigative judge Carvès Jean ruled that Duvalier should stand trial for corruption under his regime, but the judge said the statute of limitations had run out for human rights violations. A Port-au-Prince appeals court panel has been considering challenges from people who say they were victims and are demanding that the former dictator be tried for human rights abuses as well as corruption; Duvalier was forced to appear in court for one session on Feb. 28 [see Update #1166]. On May 16 the judges heard summations from the different parties; a ruling is expected soon.

Carvès Jean, the judge who exempted Duvalier from the human rights charges, was promoted to the Port-au-Prince appeals court on May 9. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/17/13; LJ 5/19/13 from AFP)

*3. Brazil: 30,000 People Displaced for Sports Events
A total of 3,099 families have been removed from their homes in Rio de Janeiro and another 7,843 have been threatened with removal as part of Brazil’s preparations for hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, according to a study released on May 15 by the Popular Committee of the World Cup and the Olympics. The group estimates that 30,000 people have been affected, based on the average number of people in the households. The study, “Mega-Events and Human Rights Violations in Rio de Janeiro,” was produced with the collaboration of the impacted communities, the Institute for Urban and Regional Research and Planning (Ippur) and other groups, including the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Global Justice.

The city government initially offered 18,000 reais (about US$8,872) for each home. Residents said this wasn’t enough even to buy the land for a new house. The city finally agreed to pay 40,000 reais (US$19,735), which residents said would pay for a two-bedroom house in the hills. “What we’re seeing is an urban restructuring project without any participation of society,” said Orlando Alves dos Santos Junior, an urban planning professor and one of the coordinators of the May 15 study. “In fact, what’s going on under this pretext [of preparation for the sports events] is a serious urban intervention, on the basis of the real estate industry. The presence of inhabitants from the poorest classes has become an obstacle to be removed from the path.” (Adital (Brazil) 5/17/13 from Canal Ibase (Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses))

*4. Mexico: Activists Protest GMO Corn With Giant Banner
Four activists from the Mexican branch of the international environmental organization Greenpeace climbed the Estela de Luz monument in downtown Mexico City on May 16 to protest efforts by multinational companies to increase the commercial use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country’s corn crops. The protesters unfurled a 70-meter banner reading “No GMO” and showing an ear of corn with a time bomb. Near the monument Greenpeace spokesperson Aleira Lara told reporters that transgenic corn is a time bomb for the Mexican countryside, since it endangers the 59 native strains of corn. The activists continued the protest for four hours and then left in a van; the Mexico City police made no effort to arrest them.

Now a favorite site for protests, the 104-meter Estela de Luz was built by the center-right administration of former president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) for the 2010 commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of Independence and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. It cost more than 1 billion pesos (US$78 million), five times the initial estimate. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/17/13; Hispanically Speaking News 5/17/13)

The Mexican government still regulates the planting of transgenic corn, but it has begun allowing its use in crops for consumption. The Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company and other multinationals now have outstanding requests for permission to expand the sowing of transgenic corn in northern and western states; activists say this will cover millions of hectares and the seeds will contaminate native corn [see Update #1174]. According to Camila Montecinos from the Chilean office of the Barcelona-based group Grain, the contamination is in fact intentional, “a carefully and perversely planned strategy” for marketing patented GMO seeds. The multinationals “chose maize, soy and canola because of their enormous potential for contamination,” Montecinos says, since the pollen is carried by the wind. “When contamination spreads, the companies claim that the presence of transgenic crops must be recognized and legalized.” (Truth-Out 5/10/13)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration

A Healthy Life: Weighing Hydroelectricity’s Costs as the Climate Changes Around Us (Chile)

Uruguay: Birth of a Movement Against Mining and Extractivism

What Changes Lay Ahead for Paraguay?

After a Two-decade Occupation, Brazil's Landless Workers Movement Wins Land Rights

Brazil: The Biggest Extractivist in South America

Displaced by Gold Mining in Colombia

Potato Farmers in Colombia Rebel Against Trade Laws, Rising Production Costs

Venezuelan Peasants Relaunch the “War on Latifundio” in Lara State

Inside La Piedrita: Venezuela’s Popular Militias and the Revolution

Indigenous Nicaraguans Fight to the Death for Their Last Forest

Noam Chomsky, Scholars Ask NY Times Public Editor to Investigate Bias on Honduras and Venezuela

U.S. Still Supports Honduran Death Squads

U.S. Supported Former Ally Ríos Montt While Aware of Atrocities Committed by the Dictatorship (Guatemala)

Additional Evidence on Perez Molina (Guatemala)

Follow Guatemala's Lead: Convene a Genocide Case Grand Jury

Guatemala: So they weren’t “Zetas” after all

Despite Historic Conviction, Genocide Continues in Guatemala

Belize: Mayan pyramid bulldozed by road construction firm

Mother’s Day in Mexico: A Day of Grief and Indignation

Juarez Mothers Renew International Campaign (Mexico)

Border Poppies (Mexico)

Internet Trends in Mexico

Assata Shakur and Cuba – U.S. Relations

Mrs. Clinton Can Have Her Factories: a Haitian Sweatshop Worker Speaks

An Interview with an Organizer for Batay Ouvriye (Haiti)

Haiti's Former President Préval Has Credible Charges that UN Tried to Remove Him

Immigrant Workers Are Organizing in New York -- With or Without Immigration Reform (US/immigration)

Death and the Immigration Control Complex (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:

Monday, May 13, 2013

WNU #1176: Guatemalan Dictator Convicted—Who’s Next?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1176, May 12, 2013

1. Guatemala: Ríos Montt Is Convicted--Who's Next?
2. Guatemala: State of Siege Against Mine Protesters Is Lifted
3. Brazil: Protesters Suspend Belo Monte Occupation
4. Haiti: Aristide to Reenter Politics as a “Coach”
5. Mexico: Malcolm X Grandson Murdered in DF Bar
6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, 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. Guatemala: Ríos Montt Is Convicted--Who's Next?
On May 10 a three-judge panel of the High Risk Cases Court in Guatemala City convicted former dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983) of ordering, supervising and permitting the killing of 1,771 people from the Ixil Mayan group—about 5.5% of the total Ixil population—in El Quiché department during his 17 months of de facto rule. The killings occurred during the most violent phase of a 36-year civil war in which some 200,000 people died, mostly civilians killed by the military, with covert assistance from the US. Ríos Montt was given a prison sentence of 80 years and was escorted from the court directly to the Matamoros prison. He said would appeal and called the proceedings an international farce. The court acquitted co-defendant José Rodríguez, Ríos Montt’s former intelligence chief.

The judges ruled that Ríos Montt’s crimes constituted genocide; he is the first former head of state to be convicted of genocide in Latin America, and possibly in the world. The trial—the result of years of effort by survivors and human rights advocates—began on Mar. 19 but was under constant threat from powerful rightwing forces and was suspended briefly in April [see Updates #1173, 1175]. Pandemonium broke out in the packed courtroom when the verdict was finally read. Weeping survivors and human rights advocates hugged each other while presiding judge Yasmín Barrios called for order, apparently concerned that Rios Montt might escape in the chaos. Before leaving, the indigenous witnesses and spectators turned to Judge Barrios and quietly said: “Tantixh,” “thank you” in Ixil.

In addition to convicting Ríos Montt, the court ordered the Public Ministry to continue investigating other people who might have participated in the crimes with which the former dictator was charged. “This important and unexpected aspect of the verdict,” wrote US investigative report Allan Nairn, who was present in Guatemala City as a potential witness, “means that there now exists a formal legal mandate for a criminal investigation of the [current] president of Guatemala, Gen. Otto Pérez Molina.” Although he has immunity while his term lasts, Pérez Molina was implicated by one witness during the trial.

“We might be in agreement or in disagreement,” Pérez Molina said in a May 10 interview after the verdict was handed down, “but the important thing is that we should respect the judicial authorities.” However, the sentence has created “delicate situation,” Pérez Molina added. “As we’re calling for them to come invest in Guatemala, regrettably this isn’t good news internationally.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/11/13 from correspondent; News and Comment blog 5/11/13; Prensa Libre (Guatemala City) 5/12/13)

*2. Guatemala: State of Siege Against Mine Protesters Is Lifted
Just one week after imposing a 30-day state of siege on four municipalities in southeastern Guatemala that have been the site of violent confrontations over a Canadian-owned silver mine, President Otto Pérez Molina announced on May 9 that his government was lifting the measure and instead declaring a state of prevention in the area. Under the less severe state of prevention, “some rights remain limited,” the president said, “such as the right to strike, and demonstrations when it’s going to interfere with public services, [along with] the carrying of arms.” Apparently, Pérez Molina had to back off from the May 2 state of siege because the National Congress had failed to approve it within three days, as required by law. (AFP 5/9/13 via Hoy (Dominican Republic); El Mercurio (Spain) 5/11/13)

The state of siege had restricted individual constitutional rights and put the military in control of Jalapa and Mataquescuintal municipalities, Jalapa department, and Casillas and San Rafael Las Flores municipalities, Santa Rosa department. Indigenous Xinka communities in the area have been protesting for about a year against the El Escobal mine, which is located in San Rafael Las Flores. The principal owner is San Rafael, S.A., the Guatemalan subsidiary of Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources Inc., but Goldcorp Inc., also based in Vancouver, retained 40% ownership after selling El Escobal to Tahoe in 2010. One of the leaders of the protest movement, Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, the secretary of the Xinka Parliament, was murdered on Mar. 17 [see Update #1171]; the case remains unsolved.

Protests intensified after the government granted an exploitation license to the mining companies on Apr. 3. Indigenous activists set up an encampment in San Rafael Las Flores near the mine five days later. On Apr. 27 mine security guards fired on a group of the protesters, injuring 10, two of them seriously. Responding to the shooting, protesters in Jalapa captured and disarmed 23 police agents on Apr. 29; a campesino was killed the next day when police tried to rescue the captured agent. Also on Apr. 30, a police agent was killed when police stormed the camp in San Rafael Las Flores.

Under the state of siege, more than 2,000 soldiers and police agents were deployed to the four municipalities in small tanks and in attack vehicles, detaining 16 community leaders. In a May 7 communiqué the Indigenous, Campesino and Popular March, which includes various indigenous organizations, described the state of siege as an act of “criminalization of protest” and charged that the government was carrying out “a brutal and systematic repression” against peaceful demonstrations. (Upside Down World 5/2/13; Servindi 5/7/13)

*3. Brazil: Protesters Suspend Belo Monte Occupation
On the night of May 9 some 150 mostly indigenous protesters left the construction site which they had occupied for a week at the Belo Monte dam, in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará [see Update #1175, where we reported 200 occupiers, following our sources]. The decision to end the protest came after Judge Sérgio Wolney Guedes of the Region 1 Federal Regional Court responded to a request from Norte Energia S.A., the consortium in charge of the dam, by ordering the activists to leave and authorizing the use of force by the police. “We went out the same way we entered, peacefully, without causing damage to public property or any type of aggression,” Valdenir Munduruku, a spokesperson for the protesters, told Agência Brasil, the government news agency, by phone. But he said the activists were unhappy with the court’s decision, “because we think that our rights are being violated.”

The occupiers, who included members of the Munduruku, Juruna, Kayapó, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakanã and Arara indigenous groups, were demanding respect for indigenous communities’ right to prior consultation on the project; they were also protesting the heavy presence of soldiers and military vehicles in the region. When completed, the dam, the world’s third largest, is expected to flood some 516 square kilometers and displace as many as 50,000 people.

The federal government, dominated by the center-left Workers’ Party (PT), says it’s open to dialogue with the protesters. But officials from the General Secretariat of the Presidency have been trying to shift blame to the protesters for the failure to reach an agreement. The officials complained that at two previous meetings indigenous representatives presented contradictory proposals. An unidentified source in the government told the Cuban wire service Prensa Latina that the indigenous representatives didn’t want economic development in the region because they were involved in illegal gold mining. “[O]ne of the main spokespeople for the occupiers in Belo Monte is the owner of six boats that transport illegal raw material,” the source said. (Prensa Latina 5/7/13; Veja (Brazil) 5/10/13; AFP 5/10/13 via La Prensa (Nicaragua))

The government also seems determined to keep the protests from getting media attention. As reported last week, two journalists were removed from the site on May 3 and one was fined as they were trying to cover the occupation. The Journalism in the Americas blog notes that one of the three journalists, Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI) reporter Ruy Sposati, was harassed in December 2011 while reporting on layoffs at one of the dam’s construction sites. He said that two men in a truck owned by the Military Police called him a “troublemaker,” and that one threatened his life. Police agents located nearby reportedly didn’t intervene when the men tried to take Sposati’s camera equipment. (Journalism in the Americas 12/15/11, 5/6/13)

*4. Haiti: Aristide to Reenter Politics as a “Coach”
Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004) made a tentative reentry into politics with a press conference held on May 9 at his home in Tabarre, a well-to-do suburb northeast of Port-au-Prince. Aristide said his political party, the Lavalas Family (FL), “is evolving, is becoming stronger and more powerful,” and he appeared confident that it would be able to field candidates in parliamentary and local elections to be held before the end of the year; electoral authorities kept FL off the ballot in 2009 partial senatorial elections and in the 2010-2011 presidential and legislative elections [see Update #1052] He predicted that the party would win seats, but not that it would dominate as it did during his 2001-2004 presidential term. “One person alone,” “one political party alone” or “one group in society” can’t solve the problem of hunger, Aristide said. “We have an indispensable coming together to do in order for us to diminish hunger in our country.”

Aristide spent seven years in de facto exile in South Africa after being driven from office in 2004. He suddenly returned on Mar. 18, 2011 but made very few public appearances until May 8 this year, the day before his press conference, when he went to a downtown courtroom to testify to an investigative judge about the April 2000 murder of journalist Jean Léopold Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint, the guard at Dominique’s Haïti Inter radio station [see Update #1166]. The police banned demonstrations but took no action when thousands of Aristide’s supporters turned out to see the former president. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/8/13, 5/9/13; Miami Herald 5/9/13 from correspondent)

Apparently Aristide has been holding meetings in an effort to revive FL, which has been weakened by factional rivalries along with the denial of ballot status. On May 4 Haitian-American musician Richard Morse told the Associated Press wire service that he and his wife, the popular singer Lunise Exume Morse, had been meeting with Aristide to discuss the possibility of running Lunise Morse on the FL line for senator for West department, which includes Port-au-Prince. “He’s back, and he's trying to get good people on his team,” Richard Morse said of Aristide, who is barred by the 1987 Constitution from seeking a third term. “He's not a candidate,” Morse explained. “He’s a coach. He’s an adviser.”

Morse, who founded the mizik rasin band RAM and manages the well-known Hotel Oloffson in downtown Port-au-Prince, supported Aristide in the early 1990s but broke with him later. More recently Morse was an adviser to rightwing president Michel Martelly, his cousin, but he quit in January, charging that there was “outright corruption” in the Martelly administration. (AP 5/5/13 via Huffington Post)

*5. Mexico: Malcolm X Grandson Murdered in DF Bar
According to Mexican authorities, Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of assassinated US rights activist Malcolm X and educator Betty Shabazz, was found badly beaten on a sidewalk in Mexico City the night of May 8. Federal District (DF, Mexico City) emergency services took him to a hospital, where he died early in the morning of May 9. A Mexican friend, Miguel Suárez, said he and Shabazz had been invited into The Palace, a bar in the Plaza Garibaldi neighborhood. Later they were presented with a $1,200 bill for music, alcohol and the company of the women they had been drinking with. When they refused to pay, Suárez was separated from Shabazz and eventually escaped; apparently Shabazz was beaten to death.

In 1997, at the age of 12 Shabazz set a fire in which Betty Shabazz died. He was placed in juvenile detention, and had brushes with the law after his release, but more recently he had been studying and was active as a speaker and a blogger. He was visiting Mexico to help Suárez, a California activist who was deported to Mexico in April.

DF police and homicide detectives conducted a search in The Palace, which area shopkeepers say is known for its abuses of tourists who patronize it. Cases like the killing of Shabazz are the result of the authorities’ failure to enforce the law at such establishments, according to Gabriela Salido Magos, a member of the DF Legislative Assembly for the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and part of the Assembly’s tourism committee. She cited the reported rape of a young woman in the Cadillac High Class strip club in February and the robbery the month before of customers at the SO.DO.ME Bathhouse, a gay sauna. These abuses aren’t exceptional, Salido Magos said, but they are viewed differently when the victim is the grandson of an historic US activist. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/11/13, 5/12/13)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Michelle Bachelet: Inequality in Chile

Using the Cold War: The Truman Administration’s Response to the Bolivian National Revolution

Peru Backslides on Indigenous Rights

Private Bank Profits Don’t Represent the Health of the Economy (Ecuador)

Ecuador’s Indigenous People Still Waiting to Be Consulted

Agricultural Workers Strike in Colombia as Peace Talks Continue

Venezuelan Elections 2013: Fingerprints All Over the Map

"Part of the Transition to Socialism": Venezuela's Labour Law Comes into Effect

The New York Times on Venezuela and Honduras: A Case of Journalistic Misconduct

Central Americans Skeptical of Obama’s Promises for Greater Benefits from Integration

A Formal Legal Mandate for a Criminal Investigation of Guatemala's Current President, Perez Molina

The Guatemala Genocide Case: Testimony Notes Regarding Rios Montt

Obama and the Militarization of the “Drug War” in Mexico and Central America

Obama in Mexico Amidst Demands for Migrant Rights

Labor Reforms No Cause for Celebration in Mexico’s May Day Rallies

Blood Along the Border: Environmental Activism and Violence in Juarez, Mexico

Water Fights Flare (Mexico)

Report Reveals How Canadian Diplomacy Supported Deadly Blackfire Mining Project in Mexico

Mexico’s Aging Laguna Verde Nuclear Plant a Fiasco

New Report Gives UN Failing Grade on Cholera (Haiti)

Cholera Victims’ Lawyers to Seek Billions in Damages if UN Continues to Deny Responsibility (Haiti)

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

For immigration updates and events:


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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

WNU #1175: Protesters Reoccupy Brazilian Dam

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1175, May 5, 2013

1. Brazil: Protesters Again Block Construction at Belo Monte
2. Guatemala: Will the Ríos Montt Trial Continue?
3. Haiti: Labor Groups Unite for May 1 March
4. Cuba: US Lets “Spy” Serve Probation in Cuba
5. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador,  Honduras, Guatemala, 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. Brazil: Protesters Again Block Construction at Belo Monte
About 200 protesters occupied the main construction site for the giant Belo Monte dam, in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará, on May 2 to demand the immediate suspension of work on the project until the government has respected the indigenous communities’ right to prior consultation on the project. The occupiers—who included members of the Munduruku, Juruna, Kayapó, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakanã and Arara indigenous groups as well as fishing people and other residents in the area that will be affected by the dam—were also protesting the presence of soldiers and military vehicles in the region. They said they would maintain the occupation and block construction “until the federal government responds to the demands we’ve presented.”

The $13 billion dam, expected to be the world’s third largest, will flood 516 square kilometers, according to opponents, and it has been the target of repeated protests since construction began in March 2012. The most recent was an occupation of another of the four construction sites by 100 or more indigenous people and other residents on Mar. 21 of this year [see Update #1169].

According to news reports, a number of the 6,000 construction workers at the main site were supporting the protesters on May 3. Workers on the Belo Monte dam have held several work actions of their own, including an Apr. 5 strike that some 5,000 employees held at the project’s Pimental construction site over working conditions and dismissals. (Conselho Indigenista Missionário (CIMI) 5/2/13; Adital (Brazil) 5/2/13; Prensa Latina 5/3/13; Reuters 5/4/13)

On May 3 police agents removed two journalists who were covering the occupation; the police threatened to arrest the journalists if they returned, A third journalist was fined for his involvement. The three journalists were Reuters photographer Lunaé Parracho, Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI) reporter Ruy Sposati and Radio France Internationale (RFI) correspondent François Cardona. “Why don’t they want journalists here?” protester Valdenir Munduruku asked after the removal, which took place on the United Nations’ World Press Freedom Day. “If anything happens, the responsibility is the government’s,” he added. “From now on, the [indigenous people] are alone, facing the soldiers,” RFI Cardona correspondent wrote after his removal, “[w]ithout anyone to be a witness if the situation degenerates.” Police also kept federal legislative deputy Padre Ton, a Workers’ Party (PT) representative for Rondônia state, from entering the site. (RFI 5/4/13; Movimiento Xingú Vivo para Siempre website 5/5/13, 5/5/13)

*2. Guatemala: Will the Ríos Montt Trial Continue?
The status of the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) remained uncertain as of May 3, with observers disagreeing on the impact of four rulings by the Constitutional Court (CC) that day. The trial--in which Ríos Montt and former intelligence chief Gen. José Rodríguez face charges of causing the deaths of 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayan civilians in the central department of Quiché during Ríos Montt’s dictatorship—started on Mar. 19 but was suddenly suspended on Apr. 18 after an appeals court appeared to reinstate the presiding judge from an earlier phase of the case [see Updates #1169, 1173]. The trial resumed on Apr. 30, but on May 2 the three trial judges decided to recess until May 7 to allow the defense to prepare.

The Constitutional Court’s May 3 rulings mostly concerned complaints filed by Ríos Montt’s attorney, Francisco García Gudiel. The current presiding judge--whose name is Yasmín Barrios or Yassmín Barrios, according to different media reports—removed García Gudiel on Mar. 19, the first day of the trial, leaving Ríos Montt without a defense team. The lawyer, who has since been reinstated, claims that the trial needs to start over again from the first day. The Constitutional Court postponed a decision on this claim, which according to the Guatemala City daily Prensa Libre means the trial is suspended until the issue is decided. But attorneys for the Ixil victims and other supporters of the prosecution insisted that the trial would resume as scheduled on May 7.

Many observers think political motives are behind the confusing legal maneuvers. Influential rightwing forces in the country, including current president Otto Pérez Molina, have made it clear that they don’t want the genocide trial to reach a verdict. The Apr. 18 suspension came when the three trial judges were close to starting deliberations. They had held 19 sessions and had heard from some 150 witnesses; only six more were scheduled to testify. (Prensa Libre 5/4/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/5/13 from AFP, DPA; Open Society Justice Initiative Ríos Montt trial blog 5/5/13)

*3. Haiti: Labor Groups Unite for May 1 March
Several hundred Haitian unionists and activists marched in Port-au-Prince on May 1 to celebrate International Workers Day and to demand reform of the country’s labor code, respect for labor standards and application of a legally mandated 300 gourde (about US$7.12) daily minimum wage for piece workers in the assembly sector [see Update #1164]. The march began at the large industrial park run by the semi-public National Industrial Parks Company (Sonapi) in the north of the capital; the assembly plants there mainly produce apparel for sale in North America and are a focus of complaints over failure to pay the minimum wage. The unionists then moved on to the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development Ministry (Marndr) to highlight the situation of agricultural workers. Police agents blocked the march for 20 minutes because Haitian president Michel Martelly and other officials were attending an event at the ministry.

The May 1 protest in Port-au-Prince was larger and broader-based than a similar march last year, which was sponsored principally by the leftist workers’ organization Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”) and the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA) [see Update #1138]. This year Batay Ouvriye and SOTA were joined by nearly a dozen other organizations, including the Confederation of Haitian Workers’ Forces (CFOH) and the Autonomous Confederation of Haitian Workers (CATH); the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (CSA-TUCA) were also represented at the protest. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/1/13) Batay Ouvriye reported that other May 1 demonstrations were held in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second-largest city, in the north; in Ouanaminthe in the northeast at the Dominican border, where workers at the Compagnie de Développement Industriel S.A. (Codevi) “free trade zone” have won the only union contract in the country’s assembly plants; and in Anse-à-Veau, in the southeastern department of Nippes, where agricultural workers demanded back pay they said was owed them. (Email from Batay Ouvriye 5/3/13)

*4. Cuba: US Lets “Spy” Serve Probation in Cuba
In a sharp reversal of its previous policy, the US government has decided to let René González, one of five Cuban men convicted of espionage in 2001 [see Update #993], serve out the remainder of his probation in Cuba. González, a US citizen of Cuban origin, was released in October 2011 after spending 13 years in prison, but US officials initially turned down his request to serve his remaining three years’ probation in Cuba. In 2012 the US let him visit the island for two weeks to see his brother, who was ill, and in April this year he was allowed another visit to attend the funeral of his father, who died on Apr. 1. On May 3 US district judge in Miami Joan Lenard granted González’s request to stay in Cuba; she said the US Justice Department now had no objection to the arrangement. Apparently the only condition was that he would need to renounce his US citizenship.

Widely known as the “Cuban Five,” the men admitted they were Cuban agents but insisted that they were monitoring terrorist activities by rightwing Cubans based in Florida, not spying on the US. The Cuban government says the five men are heroes, and many US progressives have worked over the years for their release. The other four agents received longer prison sentences than González and remain in US prisons. Last year the Cuban government offered to negotiate the possible release of US citizen Alan Gross, who is now serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for his work there with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) [see Update #1160], in connection with the release of the Cuban Five. At the time the US rejected the idea of linking the two cases. (New York Times 5/3/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/4/13 from DPA, AFP)

The decision on René González was one of three seemingly contradictory signals from the US government over a two-day period. On May 2 the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) exploited the US designation of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” during a press conference announcing that Cuban resident Assata Shakur was now the first woman on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list. Former Black Panther Party member Shakur, then known as Joanne Chesimard, was convicted in New Jersey in 1977 for the 1973 killing of a state trooper. Shakur, who insists she was wrongfully convicted, escaped prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba since 1984. (World War 4 Report 5/3/13)

One day later, on May 3, the US government outraged rightwing Cuban Americans by allowing Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raúl Castro, to visit the Liberty Bell, a US national symbol, in Philadelphia. Castro, the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), was in Philadelphia to receive an award from the Equality Forum at the LGBT rights organization’s annual conference, held from May 2 to May 5. The US State Department had delayed granting Castro a visa to attend the conference until Apr. 29. (The Lede, NYT blog, 5/3/13; LJ 5/4/13 from DPA)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration

Cartes’ Election: What it means and the challenges ahead (Paraguay)

SOA Watch Issues Report on Paraguay's Election and Human Rights Violations in the Curuguaty Massacre

Bolivia Expels USAID: Not Why, but Why Not Sooner

Ecuador: Green-Washing Run Amok in the Andes

Colombia to Resume Peace Talks with the FARC Amidst U.S. and Colombian Military "Saber-Rattling"

Organizations Like Bamboo: Wellness and Resilience in Colombian Human Rights Defense

Colombia: Marcha Patriótica Gains Momentum in the Struggle for Peace with Social Justice

Violence Erupts in Venezuela’s National Assembly

Capriles Formally Contests Elections Before Venezuela’s Supreme Court

Salvador May Day march rejects privatization push

The Criminalization of Campesino Resistance in Honduras: Chavelo’s Story

Washington Insider Eduardo Stein Tries to Protect Ríos Montt from the Genocide Trial in Guatemala

State of Siege: Mining Conflict Escalates in Guatemala

Rios Montt Trial to Resume Amid Expectations and Uncertainties (Guatemala)

A Rough Guide to Obama’s Mexico Visit

Changing Perspectives on U.S.-Mexico Relations

Mexican Teachers' Rebellion Against Gov't Education Reform

Five Students Seize UNAM Tower; Peaceful Solution Sought (Mexico)

One Year after the Murder of Journalist Regina Martínez: Violence and Impunity Reign (Mexico)

The Looming Canada-CARICOM Free Trade Agreement (Caribbean)

A Cuban Spring?

A Tale of Two Trials: Duvalier vs. Ríos Montt (Haiti)

From the I-Word to the I-Deed (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: