Tuesday, June 4, 2013

WNU #1179: Indigenous Brazilian Killed in Land Dispute

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1179, June 2, 2013

1. Brazil: Indigenous Protester Killed in Land Dispute
2. Chile: Barrick Gold Mine May Be Delayed for Years
3. Haiti: Activists Protest UN Troops, Demand “Decent Wage”
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico

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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Brazil: Indigenous Protester Killed in Land Dispute
Osiel Gabriel, an indigenous Terena, was killed on May 30 when Brazilian federal police violently removed a group of Terena protesters who had been occupying the Buriti estate in Sidrolandia, in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, since May 15. At least three indigenous people and one police agent were treated at a local hospital with light injuries; eight protesters were arrested. The occupiers reportedly fought back with wooden clubs and bows and arrows and set some of the estate’s buildings on fire. The authorities claimed police agents only used rubber bullet and tear gas; according to state police superintendent Edgar Paulo Marcon, the protesters fired on the agents.

Hundreds of Terena have occupying four estates in what they say is their territory. The Buriti estate, the first to be taken over, is claimed by Ricardo Bacha, a former legislative deputy for the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) who says the property has been in his family since 1927. According to the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI), the estate is on land that the Justice Ministry designated as traditional indigenous territory in 2010; of the 17,000 hectares recognized as indigenous in the area, indigenous people currently occupy just 3,000 hectares. “We aren’t dogs, we aren’t savage animals,” Argeu Reginaldo, an indigenous leader injured in the confrontation, told reporters. “We have dignity…. We’re people, we’re a nation.”

The Terena protesters reoccupied the Buriti estate on May 31. As of June 1 negotiations between the Terena, landowners and the National Justice Council were under way but hadn’t resulted in an agreement. The government started an investigation into possible police abuse in the May 30 confrontation, and Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo said it would be pursued rigorously. (Servindi 5/31/13; Agência Brasil 6/1/13)

Meanwhile, on May 28 some 200 protesters from the Mundurukú, Xipaya, Kayapó, Arara and Tupinambá indigenous groups resumed their occupation of a construction site for the massive Belo Monte dam, which is being built in the northern Brazilian state of Pará [see Update #1176]. In an open letter they condemned the presence of the federal government’s National Public Security Force in their territory and repeated their demand for an independent environmental study on the dam’s impact. Indigenous groups have occupied the dam several times over the past year, most recently from May 2 to May 9. According to the letter, the protesters ended the previous protest because “[t]he government said that if we left the construction areas, we would be listened to. We left quietly, but they didn’t fulfill their promise; the government didn’t receive us; and we called [Presidency Minister] Gilberto Carvalho, and he didn’t come.” The protesters are now demanding direct talks with President Dilma Rousseff. (Prensa Latina 5/28/13)

“History is repeating itself,” Stephen Corry, the director of the British-based nonprofit Survival International, said on May 31, charging that the “attacks on the Indians are unleashed” at the same time that a report “chronicling the genocidal atrocities of a past generation has been unearthed.” He was referring to a 7,000-page report that public prosecutor Jader de Figueiredo Correia submitted in 1967 detailing abuses by the federal government’s Indian Protection Service (SPI). The report was supposedly destroyed in a fire at the Agricultural Ministry, but most of the document was rediscovered recently and is now being used by a National Truth Commission investigating human rights violations between 1947 and 1988.

Figueiredo wrote in the report that the SPI “degenerated to the point of chasing Indians to extinction,” with officials stealing indigenous land, property and funds and sometimes resorting to torture or even mass murder to achieve their ends. Among the atrocities are an attack on a community of 30 indigenous Cinta Larga in Mato Grosso with dynamite dropped from airplanes and incidents in which officials and landowners infected isolated villages with smallpox and donated sugar mixed with strychnine. None of the 134 people charged because of the Figueiredo report were ever imprisoned. (The Guardian (UK) 5/29/13; Survival International 5/31/13)

*2. Chile: Barrick Gold Mine May Be Delayed for Years
On May 24 Chile’s environmental regulator, Juan Carlos Monckeberg, ordered a suspension of construction at the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation’s giant Pascua Lama mine because of violations of environmental laws. He also fined the company $16 million, the largest penalty Chile has ever imposed for an environmental violation. Monckeberg told the Reuters wire service on May 30 that the company would probably require one to two years to make the repairs that would allow it to resume construction.

This is another of a series of setbacks for the $8 billion project, an open-pit gold, silver and copper mine high in the Andes on both sides of the border between Argentina and Chile; if completed, it is expected to be the third largest mine in the world. A Chilean appeals court had already ordered a temporary suspension on Apr. 10 [see Update #1172]. Indigenous people and other local residents in both Argentina and Chile have repeatedly protested the project, which is now about 40% complete. One concern has been the mine’s potential effect on glaciers, a major source of water in the region. Climate change has already shrunk Andean glaciers by 30-50% since the 1970s, according to a study published in January in the journal The Cryosphere. Indigenous Diaguita who live in the foothills near the mine blame cancerous growths and stomach problems they are experiencing on minerals such as arsenic, aluminum and sulfates used in the construction

Barrick officials deny that they might cancel the project. They expect to resume work on the Chilean side eventually, they say, and work on the Argentine side is not affected so far. The international environmental organization Greenpeace called the $16 million fine “laughable” given the seriousness of the violations. The group noted that Barrick posted a $847 million net profit in the first quarter of 2013. (Miami Herald 5/24/13 from AP; Reuters 5/31/13)

*3. Haiti: Activists Protest UN Troops, Demand “Decent Wage”
The Collective for the Compensation of Cholera Victims (Comodevic) and Moun Viktim Kolera (“People Who Are Cholera Victims,” Movik) sponsored a march in Port-au-Prince on May 31 to mark nine years since the arrival of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Marching from the Fort National neighborhood to the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), the protesters demanded that the international military and police force leave Haiti and called on the government to join legal actions seeking compensation from the United Nations (UN) for people affected by cholera. At least 8,096 people have died in a cholera epidemic that was set off in October 2010 by poor sanitation at a MINUSTAH base in the Central Plateau where Nepalese soldiers carrying the disease were stationed [see Update #1165].

“MINUSTAH should compensate me,” said a man from Carrefour, a town southwest of Port-au-Prince. “The government should join with me to get justice for my 17-year-old son killed last year by MINUSTAH’s cholera.” UN officials have refused to accept responsibility for the disease, and Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) has denied knowing about legal actions that have been started against the UN. The marchers were also protesting the sexual abuses and the killing of civilians attributed to the UN troops over the past nine years. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/31/13)

On June 1, the actual anniversary of the UN troops’ arrival, Haitian activists continued the protest by holding an outdoor exhibit in Port-au-Prince with photos showing crimes allegedly committed by MINUSTAH troops. There were also June 1 protests in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Most of MINUSTAH’s soldiers and police agents have been sent by Latin American countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay—many of them countries with left or center-left governments. “Haiti must cease to be the laboratory for neoliberal economic and ‘security’ policies,” a number of Latin American and Haiti organizations wrote in a statement calling for the demonstrations. “Haiti does not need military troops, or MINUSTAH, or any other country. Haiti needs recognition and its dignity, its potential and its right to self-determination.” (HispanTV 6/1/13; El Ciudadano (Chile) 6/2/13)

In other news, on May 27 spokespeople for four unions held a press conference in Port-au-Prince to protest a recent government statement on the minimum wage for assembly plant workers. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST) put out a press release on May 6 setting the minimum wage at 200 gourdes (about $4.80) a day for the sector. In their own press release, the unions quoted a 2009 law establishing that as of Oct. 1, 2012, “the price per unit of production (notably the piece, the dozen, the gross, the meter) should be set in such a way as to allow the worker to receive at least three hundred (300) gourdes [about $7.08] for his or her day’s work of (8) eight hours” [see Update #1145]. “Work yes, slavery no!” the union press release concluded. “We want a decent wage so that all workers can live like people.”

Former MAST head Josefa Gauthier had confirmed the 300 gourde figure in official statements on Aug. 28 and Sept. 13 in 2012, the unionists said. A report released this April by Better Work Haiti, a partnership of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), confirmed that the minimum for piece-rate workers was 300 gourdes; the group found that none of the 23 assembly plants surveyed were in compliance with the legal minimum wage. The press conference was sponsored by the Collective of Textile Union Organizations (KOSIT), which is made up of the National Confederation of Haitian Workers (CNOHA), the Confederation of Haitian Workers’ Forces (CFOH), the Autonomous Confederation of Haitian Workers (CATH) and the May 1 Union Group-Batay Ouvriye (ESPM-BO, “Workers’ Struggle”). (Haiti Press Network 5/27/13; KOSIT press release 5/27/13)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico

Social Movements Map Solidarity with ALBA Alliance

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

Chasing Islamic 'terrorists' in Paraguay

Amid Gas, Where Is the Revolution? (Bolivia)

Peru: protests over militarization of coca zone

'Narco-pardons' scandal shakes Peru elite

Peru: 'opium mafia' revealed in national police

Venezuelan Election Audit Nears its Finish with 99.98% Clean Results So Far

Opposition Governor Capriles Meets with Colombia’s Santos, Venezuelan Government Concerned

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

Obama Downplays Drug War, Recasts Mexico, Central America as Economic Allies (Central America, Mexico)

More Presidential Polling: Bad News for Main Parties (Honduras)

Honduran Gangs Claim Truce, but Police and Military Still Deadly

Mexico: Risking Everything to Migrate North

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

Mexico’s Desaparecidos: Unspoken, Unseen, Unknown

Mexico protests Monsanto with a Carnival of Corn

Border Environmental Controversies Considered (Mexico)

Deportations and Economic Crisis (Mexico)

A Grandmother Stronger Than the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

Burning Questions: The Life and Work of Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949–2012 (Haiti)

Book Review: Puerto Rican Independentista Oscar López Rivera’s 32 Years of Resistance to Torture

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