Tuesday, July 30, 2013

WNU #1186: Protests Mark Pope’s Brazil Visit

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1186, July 28, 2013

1. Brazil: Police Actions Protested During Pope's Visit
2. Chile: Mapuche Step Up Struggles for Land and Water
3. Guatemala: Mining Companies Are Dealt Setbacks in Court
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Andean Region, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/policy, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Brazil: Police Actions Protested During Pope's Visit
Some 1,500 to 2,000 protesters demonstrated against the Rio de Janeiro state government and militarized police the evening of July 22, the first day of Pope Francis’ weeklong visit to Brazil. The protest, reportedly called by the anarchist groups Anonymous Rio and Anonymous Brazil, started as Francis, on his first international trip since he took office in March, was meeting with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Rio state governor Sérgio Cabral in the Guanabara Palace, the state’s main administrative building, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Shortly after the pope left the meeting, someone hurled a molotov bomb at line of police agents, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Two agents were injured by the bomb, and other people were hurt in the melee that followed, including a photographer from the Agence France-Presse wire service.

As in the massive protests that spread over Brazil in June [see Update #1184], the much smaller July 22 demonstration addressed a variety of issues, including government corruption, LGBT rights, abortion rights, the need for better public services, and the spending of public money on stadiums for the World Cup soccer championship in 2014. As in earlier local demonstrations, there were calls for Gov. Cabral to step down. But for many the central issue was the disappearance of construction worker Amarildo de Souza Lima the night of July 14 after the state’s Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) picked him up in an anti-drug operation in Rocinha, the large favela (improvised urban settlement) where he lived in the south of the city. The police said they cleared De Souza and released him, but he hasn’t been seen since. “Where’s Amarildo?” the protesters chanted, and a group of students projected the message on the side of a building.

Protests demanding information on De Souza continued throughout the week, including a demonstration at the city’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue, another protest outside the Guanabara Palace on July 24 and a July 26 demonstration in the Copacabana neighborhood in the midst of pilgrims who had come to see the pope. Gov. Cabral met with Elizabeth Gomes da Silva, De Souza’s wife, along with three other relatives on July 24. Gomes reportedly left the meeting frustrated, although Cabral sent out a Twitter message later promising: “I’m going to mobilize the whole government to find out where Amarildo is and to identify the people responsible for his disappearance.”

A police search on July 26 in Rocinha’s Alto da Dioneia section found no evidence of De Souza’s whereabouts. Four police agents have been reassigned to administrative duties at UPP headquarters while the investigation continues. (Veja (Brazil) 7/22/13, 7/24/13; La Nación (Argentina) 7/23/13; Terra (Brazil) 7/24/13; R7 (Brazil) 7/26/13; Los Angeles Times 7/26/13 from correspondent)

Protesters and the Rio police spent the week engaged in a controversy over who threw the molotov bomb on the night of July 22. Agents arrested Bruno Ferreira Teles, a student who they said had 20 molotov bombs in his possession. Two videos emerged later that seemed to show at least two police agents posing as protesters; some protesters said one of the apparent agents was the man who threw the bomb. On July 25 the police released a video they said showed that the bomb thrower had a tattoo; police spokespeople insisted that none of the police infiltrators had tattoos. Meanwhile, the Brazilian paper Jornal Nacional got hold of a police report saying the student Ferreira had no explosives when he was arrested, contradicting public police statements. (Global Post 7/26/13)

*2. Chile: Mapuche Step Up Struggles for Land and Water
Indigenous communities in Arauco province in Chile’s central Biobío region have announced plans for a march on Aug. 2 to protest a proposal before the National Congress to extend Forestry Decree 701 for another 20 years. Community residents, who belong to the Mapuche group, Chile’s largest ethnicity, say the forestry laws have allowed timber companies to take over traditional Mapuche lands starting in 1974 under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The most important of these companies are Arauco (Celulosa Arauco y Constitución), largely owned by the Angelini family, and Forestal Mininco, controlled by the Matte family. According to Mapuche activists, there is little chance that the forestry proposal will be defeated, since many of the congressional candidates from Mapuche areas in the upcoming Nov. 17 elections are being financed by these two powerful families. (El Cuidadano (Chile) 7/27/13)

Mapuche groups have been using militant protests and land occupations since the 1990s in their push to regain the territories they claim. On July 24 the Mapuche Territorial Alliance’s blog announced a new series of land occupations that the group said the media were ignoring. The blog reported that various communities in Cautín province in the southern region of La Araucanía had taken possession of estates since the weekend of July 19 near Temuco, the regional capital, and in the area of the construction for a new Quepe airport. On July 24 the autonomous community of Temucuicui—which was subject to a violent police raid in July 2012 [see Update #1138]—announced plans to occupy the La Romana and Montenegro estates and several nearby areas under the control of timber companies. (Alianza Territorial Mapuche blog 7/24/13)

Mapuche activists are also targeting salmon farming in Mapuche areas. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suspended the importation of salmon produced in Chile by the Norwegian multinational Marine Harvest; on June 5 the US agency found traces of crystal violet, a fungicide with carcinogenic effects, in a batch of the company’s salmon farmed in Chile. Economy, Development and Tourism Minister Félix de Vicente insisted on July 23 that this was “an isolated unique case.” Marine Harvest facilities “have not used this product for a couple of years, therefore, it should not be a cause for concern,” he said. But Mapuche activists want the government to investigate the extent to which crystal violet and other dangerous chemicals may have been used in the salmon farming operations and whether the chemicals have polluted water Mapuche farmers use for irrigation.

When Marine Harvest first started the farming in Lago Ranco, in Ranco province in Los Ríos region, local Mapuche communities blocked a road and the facility’s entrance in an unsuccessful effort to stop the company. The Mapuche say that Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) required the Chilean government to hold a consultation with them before authorizing the salmon farming. (FIS (Fish Info & Services) 7/23/13; Adital (Brazil) 7/24/13)

*3. Guatemala: Mining Companies Are Dealt Setbacks in Court
A panel of Guatemala’s Civilian and Mercantile Appeals Court issued a restraining order on July 24 that is likely to keep Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources Inc. from opening its El Escobal silver mine in August as scheduled [see Update #1176]. The court backed a complaint filed by Kelvin Jiménez, a member of the indigenous Xinka group, that the Energy and Mining Ministry failed to deal with 250 appeals against the operation when it granted a 25-year license for the mine on Apr. 3. The court’s decision gave the ministry three days to begin proceedings on the appeals. The Legal and Environmental Action Center (CALAS), a Guatemalan organization that assisted Jiménez in the legal action, said the July 24 decision would suspend operations at the mine; a spokesperson for Tahoe downplayed the ruling, saying the company’s Guatemalan subsidiary, Minera San Rafael, would appeal, although the spokesperson admitted that the process might take several weeks.

The El Escobal mine, located in San Rafael las Flores municipality in the southeastern department of Santa Rosa, has been controversial since the first exploration license was granted in 2007; the original license was for Goldcorp Inc., another Vancouver-based multinational, which sold the mine to Tahoe in 2010 while retaining 40% ownership. In September 2012 local residents detained workers bringing materials to the construction site, and unidentified attackers set fire to some facilities and a police vehicle. In November the authorities blocked a meeting of mine opponents; residents reportedly retaliated by setting fire to a hotel and stealing dynamite from the mine. Two security guards and one campesino died in a shootout on Jan. 11 as the protests continued, and in March unidentified armed men kidnapped four members of the Xinka Parliament; three were released, but one, Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, was found dead.

Rightwing president Otto Pérez Molina imposed a 30-day state of siege in the San Rafael las Flores area in May, but opposition in the National Congress forced him to back off. On July 9 Pérez Molina announced on his television program that he would seek congressional approval for a two-year moratorium on new licenses for mining. (El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 7/24/13 from AP; Mining.com 7/24/13)

A July 22 ruling by a Canadian judge, Ontario Superior Court justice Carole Brown, may create additional problems for Canadian mining operations in Latin America. Brown ruled that a lawsuit against HudBay Minerals Inc. by 13 Guatemalans could proceed. The suit, filed in December 2010, charges HudBay with responsibility in abuses, including murder, that the plaintiffs say were committed near the El Estor nickel mine by the company’s Guatemalan subsidiary at the time, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel [see Update #1059]. Lawyers for HudBay--which pulled out of the mining project in August 2011, according to its website—argued that the company couldn’t be sued for actions by a subsidiary. Cory Wanless, a co-counsel with Murray Klippenstein for the plaintiffs, called Justice Brown’s decision “a wake-up call for Canadian mining companies.” “We fully expect that more claims like this one will be brought against Canadian mining companies until these kinds of abuses stop,” Wanless said. (The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 7/23/13)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Andean Region, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US/policy, US/immigration

What the Empire Didn’t Hear: US Spying and Resistance in Latin America

Latin America’s Tragic Engagement with Microcredit

Uruguay’s Struggle for Historical Accountability

Brazil's Poor Pay World Cup Penalty

Brazil: Extractive Capitalism and the Great Leap Backward

Day of mining protests throughout Andean nations

Peru: general strike against labor reform

Peru: Montesinos cleared in bloody 1997 raid

Colombia: strikes halt US coal giant Drummond

Colombia president: peace law constitutional

Colombian ambassador to US resigns over land-theft scandal

Thousands of Protesting Colombian Farmers Request Asylum in Venezuela, Maduro Meets with Santos

Spanish Newspaper ABC Runs a “Completely False” Report on Venezuela, Again

Bowman Expedition 2.0 Targets Indigenous Communities in Central America

US Embassy, DEA Obstructing Investigation Into Drug War Killings in Honduras

Guatemala: La Puya’s Celebration of Life, Peace, and Defense of the Earth

Landmark Ruling Against Canadian Mining Abuses in Guatemala

Militarization of Law Enforcement in Guatemala

Anti-mining protests in Mexico, Canada

Is Chiapas carbon deal cancelled? (Mexico)

San Sebastián Bachajón: Following the Assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán, the Struggle for the Defense of the Land Continues (Mexico)

Mexico: municipal uprising against road project

Michoacán: 'graveyard' of pledge to reduce Mexico narco-violence?

Violence surges in Tamaulipas: State Department (Mexico)

Activists Demand Justice for Victims of Clerical Sex Abuse in Mexico

Higher Border Sales Tax Opposed (Mexico)

Comments Sought on NAFTA and the Environment (Mexico)

The fight against cholera: “In deep shit?” (Haiti)

Haiti Grassroots Watch Spearheads Bradley Manning Solidarity

Made in Haiti, Dumped in Haiti

UN’s Own Independent Experts Now Say MINUSTAH Troops “Most Likely” Caused Cholera Epidemic (Haiti)

Friends for the Week: Members of Congress Critique the OAS (US/policy)

Washing U.S. Hands of the Dirty Wars: News Coverage Erases Washington’s Role in State Terror (US/policy)

“National Security” and Insecurity on the Border (US/immigration)

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Homeland Security’s Humanitarianism (US/immigration)

Immigrants: Much More Than an Abstract Number (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, July 22, 2013

WNU #1185: Panama Frees Ex-CIA Agent Wanted by Italy

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1185, July 21, 2013

1. Panama: Wanted by Italy, Ex-CIA Agent Is Released to US
2. Argentina: Mapuche Occupy Oil Wells to Protest Chevron
3. Chile: Court Upholds Suspension of Pascua Lama Mine
4. Honduras: Army Kills Indigenous Leader at Dam Protest
5. Haiti: Religious Groups Hold Anti-LGBT March
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, US/policy, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Panama: Wanted by Italy, Ex-CIA Agent Is Released to US
After being detained for a day or two by Panamanian authorities on a request from Interpol, retired US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) station chief Robert Seldon Lady was released on July 19 and placed on a plane bound for the US. In 2009 an Italian court sentenced Lady in absentia to nine years in prison for the Feb. 17, 2003 kidnapping of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric and suspected terrorist also known as Abu Omar, on a street in Milan. Although 22 other US citizens were convicted in the kidnapping case, Italy has only been seeking Lady, who headed the CIA’s Milan station; the others received lighter sentences that don’t warrant extradition requests under Italian law.

The government of rightwing Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli gave no explanation for releasing Lady, who was detained either on July 17 or on July 18—officials gave different dates—after attempting to enter Costa Rica, which sent him back to Panama. The US strongly opposed Italy’s decision to try the 23 US citizens. This was the first case ever against the US government’s “extraordinary rendition” program, through which the US turned terrorism suspects over to friendly regimes for interrogation; Nasr was flown to Egypt, where he said he was repeatedly tortured by the government of former president Hosni Mubarak before finally being released without any charges.

“We see a complete double standard here,” Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), told the Associated Press wire service. Gallagher compared Lady’s situation with that of former US intelligence employee Edward Snowden, wanted by the US for leaking classified documents [see Update #1184]. “The US is saying it’s so important for Snowden to face charges in the US, where there is a great deal of debate over whether those charges are legitimate, as opposed to Lady, where there is a conviction for torture, a universally recognized crime.”

Lady, known as “Mister Bob,” was born in Honduras in 1954 to US citizen parents. He apparently had a long career in the CIA. According to articles by Jean-Guy Allard, a reporter for the Cuban Communist Party publication Granma, Lady worked with Cuban-American CIA “assets” Luis Posada Carriles and Félix Rodríguez Mendigutía in El Salvador and Honduras during the 1980s in a supply operation for the US-backed contras, rightwing rebels against Nicaragua’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) government. Allard said Lady worked with Iranian arms dealer Manuchar Ghorbanifar in a CIA operation that raised money for the contras through illegal arms sales to Iran; when exposed, the “Contragate” scandal shook the government of then-president Ronald Reagan (1981-1989).

Allard also linked Lady to alleged arms dealer Gerard Latchinian, whose associate Yehuda Leitner reportedly supplied arms and toxic gas to the regime of de facto Honduran president Roberto Micheletti after the overthrow of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales in a June 2009 military coup. Since fleeing Italy in 2005 Lady has reportedly been living in Honduras, working as a security consultant. Interestingly, the first of Allard’s articles is dated July 17 on the Granma website. This would indicate that the article, which doesn’t mention Lady’s detention, was posted either on the day that Lady was detained or the day before. (Granma 7/17/13; USA Today 7/19/13 from AP; Kaos en la Red 7/19/13; Kansas City Star 7/19/13 from McClatchy)

In contrast to their treatment of former CIA agent Lady, Panamanian authorities continued to hold a North Korean freighter and its crew as of July 20, a week after seizing the ship, the Chong Chon Gang, allegedly for suspicious behavior as it was approaching the Panama Canal on its way to Korea from Cuba. While searching the ship on July 15, Panamanian officials discovered old Soviet weapons hidden in a cargo of Cuban sugar. On July 16 Cuba’s Foreign Ministry announced that in addition to 10,000 tons of sugar, the ship was carrying “240 metric tons of obsolete defensive weapons” sent to North Korea “to be repaired and returned to Cuba.” The ministry said the weapons included two anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG-21 jets and 15 motors for MiG-21s; the equipment was manufactured in the middle of the 20th century.

Panama refuses to release the ship on the grounds that the weapons might violate a United Nations embargo against arms shipments to North Korea and because the ship was apparently intending to use the canal without declaring the weapons, as required by Panamanian law. (CNN 7/16/13; Reuters 7/20/13)

*2. Argentina: Mapuche Occupy Oil Wells to Protest Chevron
Indigenous Mapuche occupied four oil wells in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern Argentine province of Neuquén on July 16 to protest a $1 billion agreement between the state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company and the California-based Chevron Corporation to drill for oil in the area’s shale deposits [see Update #1184, where we wrote erroneously that the drilling was for natural gas]. The Mapuche say that the drilling, which uses the controversial method known as hydrofracking, will damage the local environment, and that the agreement was made without the required prior consultation with the indigenous communities. The protesters were also expressing solidarity with indigenous Ecuadorians who won a $19 billion judgment in 2011 against Chevron for environmental damage [see World War 4 Report 1/4/12]. The company refuses to pay.

The occupations, timed to coincide with the July 16 signing of an additional agreement between YPF and Chevron, drew support from environmentalists and rights activists throughout Argentina. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the winner of the 1980 Nobel peace prize and a founder of the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ), noted that he had supported the government’s re-nationalization of YPF in the spring of 2012 [see Update #1126] “to recover our energy sovereignty…. But through this accord with Chevron, we Argentines are handing our resources over to the US and converting YPF into a highly polluting company.” Mapuche spokespeople said the occupations were peaceful, and a video by Radio Puelmapu showing the occupation of one well appeared to confirm this. According to Lefxaru Nawel, a member of the Neuquén Mapuche Confederation, the workers at the site understood the situation and left without creating any problems.

The protesters lifted the occupations on July 17 after YPF directors agreed to meet with them the next day to analyze complaints about environmental damage. A Mapuche spokesperson, Gabriel Cherqui, told Radio Continental that the protesters made their decision “because there was a change of position” by management: “At first they said we didn’t exist, that we were a lie, that we were committing a crime.” YPF has claimed that the wells aren’t on Mapuche territory. (Mapu Express 7/16/13, 7/18/13; Adital (Brazil) 7/17/13; AP 7/17/13 via New Zealand Herald; INFOnews (Buenos Aires) 7/17/13)

In related news, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in New York on June 25 that Chevron could proceed with subpoenas for email account information from Microsoft Corp. on some 30 people or organizations in some way involved in the Ecuadorian indigenous people’s case against Chevron. The oil company has filed a racketeering suit against US attorney Steven Donziger, who represents a group of Ecuadorian plaintiffs in the case. Judge Kaplan ruled that the parties challenging the subpoena hadn’t demonstrated that they were citizens entitled to First Amendment rights that could protect them from the subpoena; the US Supreme Court ruled in 1904 that the First Amendment doesn’t shield “excludable aliens.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a San Francisco-based nonprofit, charges that the decision upholding the subpoenas gives Chevron access to “more than 100 email accounts, including environmental activists, journalists, and attorneys” and will have a “chilling effect” on people opposing the company’s activities. The suit against Donziger follows from a corporate defense strategy proposed in 2008 by crisis communications consultant Sam Singer, who said Chevron should go on the offensive, attacking Donziger, denouncing the Ecuadorian courts as corrupt and pointing out leftist positions taken by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa. (Law 360 6/25/13; The Guardian (UK) 7/15/13)

*3. Chile: Court Upholds Suspension of Pascua Lama Mine
On July 14 the three-member Appeals Court of Copiapó province in Chile’s northern Atacama region unanimously upheld its Apr. 10 order suspending work at Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation’s Pascua Lama mine until the company has adopted measures to repair current damage to the environment and to prevent further damage in the future [see Update #1172]. The court found that in its responses to the previous order the company “repeatedly” displayed “an obstinate attitude” and that it “doesn’t provide information on time and in proper form.” Pascua Lama is an open-pit gold, silver and copper mine under construction in the Andes on both sides of the border between Argentina and Chile. Five indigenous Diaguita communities had filed a complaint against the mine, charging that the construction had damaged glaciers near the site that provide water for area residents. The mine is also subject to a May 24 suspension ordered by Chile’s environmental regulator, Juan Carlos Monckeberg [see Update #1179]. (Associated Press 7/15/13 via Terra (Peru))

Despite the court victory, the Diaguita feel the decision doesn’t go far enough. They will probably appeal to the Supreme Court, one of their lawyers, Lorenzo Soto, told the Reuters wire service on July 18, to require Barrick to provide a new environmental impact statement. (Reuters 7/18/13)

*4. Honduras: Army Kills Indigenous Leader at Dam Protest
Tomás García Domínguez, an indigenous leader, was shot dead on July 15 in Intibucá department in western Honduras during a demonstration at the headquarters for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project. Four other protesters were wounded, including García’s son, 17-year-old Allan García Domínguez, who was hospitalized in serious condition with a bullet in his lung. According to Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) leader Berta Cáceres, the demonstration was peaceful, but “without saying one word the army opened fire against our companions, sending bullets into the bodies of Tomás García and his son, in the presence of police that remained paralyzed and did nothing to prevent it.” A press release from the two companies constructing the dam—the Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA) and the Chinese state enterprise SINOHYDRO—blamed the protesters and claimed the demonstration “included the destruction of installations, vehicles and personal property and direct aggression against the physical integrity of personnel.”

The protesters were from the Lenca group, the country’s largest indigenous ethnicity; Tomás García was a member of the Indigenous Lenca Council and of the COPINH. The Lenca communities near the Agua Zarca dam had been protesting the project for 106 days as of July 15 and had been subjected to harassment on previous occasions. Soldiers from the First Battalion of Engineers, the same unit that allegedly killed García, arrested Berta Cáceres and another COPINH member on May 24 after the two activists had visited Lenca communities resisting the dam [see Update #1181]. According to the COPINH, cars belonging to DESA were seen on July 12 going to the community of Unión, where there were reportedly meetings with murderers well known in the area, possibly with the intention of pressuring and intimidating dam opponents. (Adital (Brazil) 7/16/13; Indian Country Today 7/20/13)

*5. Haiti: Religious Groups Hold Anti-LGBT March
More than 1,000 Haitian religious people, ranging from Protestants to Muslims, marched in Port-au-Prince on July 19 to oppose homosexuality and any law that might be proposed in Parliament to allow same-sex marriage. The marchers chanted slogans calling for the “survival” of the traditional family; one slogan threatened that “Parliament will burn if this bill is passed.” At the site of the National Palace they paused to warn President Michel Martelly not to support homosexuality; when he was the popular singer “Sweet Micky,” the president sometimes cross-dressed to play a female character he called “Ti Simone.” The protesters also harassed Amélie Baron, the correspondent for the French network Radio France Internationale (RFI), apparently because France recently passed a law allowing same-sex marriage. Baron said she received an “anthology of insults”: “You’re sick, an abomination, the devil come here to corrupt Haiti.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 7/19/13, 7/19/13; Miami Herald 7/19/13 from AP)

On July 17 the LGBT rights group Courage and the Bureau of International Laywers (BAI) held a press conference warning that the July 19 march could be the beginning of a campaign of persecution of homosexuals. “Society needs to take all the steps to fight against stigmatization, to promote the equality of the sexes,” Courage’s Charlot Jeudy said. BAI president Mario Joseph [see Update #1148], a prominent human rights lawyer, discussed a number of homophobic attacks, notably in the Jacmel area in Southeast department and Saint-Marc in Artibonite department, in which LGBT people have been stoned, beaten and injured. The LGBT rights movement is still small in Haiti; Courage says it has 178 members, 60 of them women. (AlterPresse 7/18/13)

In other news, a group of construction workers at the Caracol Industrial Park (PIC) in Northeast department [see Update #1173] held a one-day strike on July 16 to protest treatment by their employer, the Dominican company Estrella. They said they were paid from 400 gourdes (about US$9.23) to 900 gourdes (about US$20.67) a day, at least twice as much as the apparel workers in the park. But the construction workers, who don’t have a union, complained that they didn’t receive their full wages and that they weren’t paid on time. The Dominican employees were treated and paid better, according to the Haitians. The strikers returned to work the next day, after management promised improvements. (AlterPresse 7/18/13) [Estrella reportedly is taking over the stalled repair of the 69-km highway from Jérémie in Grand'Anse department to Les Cayes in South department; see Update #1161.]

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, US/policy, US/immigration

Scholars Write on the Supposed "Irony" of Snowden's Asylum Requests in Latin America

Environmental Sustainability: Alternative Approaches in Latin America (AUDIO)

General Strike in Brazil Responds to Wave of Street Protests

Brazil sends tanks to protect threatened tribe

Peru: deadline for payment on expropriated lands

Peasants and Miners Strikes Expand from Catatumbo to other Regions (Colombia)

Colombia: FARC claim taking US soldier prisoner

Fight the Power: Venezuela's Maduro Responds to Obama's Nominee for UN Envoy (Venezuela)

Chiapas cancels carbon deal with California (Mexico)

Mexico: Zetas boss busted; kid brother ascends?

Looking to the Sky to Solve the Caribbean’s Energy Woes

One Thousand Days of Cholera : Almost 8,200 Killed and Still No UN Apology

Outrage Follows Migrant Deaths in Arizona (US/immigration)

Creating a Military-Industrial-Immigration 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:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

WNU #1184: Massive US Spying Throughout Region

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1184, July 14, 2013

1. Latin America: Leaks Show Massive US Spying Throughout Region
2. Brazil: Unions Respond to Protests With General Strike
3. Argentina: Mapuche Plan to Block Chevron From Territory
4. Honduras: Kidnapped Journalist Found Murdered
5. Dominican Republic: “Haitians” Continue to Demand Papers
6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, US/policy, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Latin America: Leaks Show Massive US Spying Throughout Region
US intelligence agencies have carried out spying operations on telecommunications in at least 14 Latin American countries, according to a series of articles the Brazilian national daily O Globo began publishing on July 7. Based on classified documents leaked by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden, the articles reported that the main targets were Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. The US also spied “constantly, but with less intensity,” on Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela, the newspaper said. Brazil and Colombia, a major US ally, have both officially demanded explanations from the US.

The documents show that at least until 2002 the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) maintained data collection stations in Brasilia, Bogotá, Caracas, Panama City and Mexico City; the outpost in Brasilia was part of the “Primary Fornsat Collection Operations,” in which the US intercepted data from foreign satellites. The two agencies used a US Navy base in the Sabana Seca neighborhood of the northern Puerto Rican municipality of Toa Baja to coordinate these operations. (The base was closed in 2003, but the Navy still owns the site and keeps it enclosed with a fence.) Other documents showed more recent spying operations through the internet, with the cooperation of giant US corporations such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and YouTube; these were ongoing as of March of this year.

Although the US government has defended its surveillance programs as an effort to protect US citizens from terrorist attacks, the documents indicated a strong focus on commercial issues-- “petroleum” in Venezuela and “energy” in Mexico, according to a listing produced by the NSA in the first three months of this year. The spying programs collected data on businesses as well as millions of private citizens, residents and travelers in the targeted countries. (The Guardian (UK) 7/6/13; O Globo 7/7/13, 7/9/13, 7/9/13; El País (Madrid) 7/9/13; Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (Puerto Rico) 7/11/13)

The revelations of spying undoubtedly added to anger in the region over charges from Bolivia that France, Italy, Portugal and Spain denied the use of their airspace to a plane carrying Bolivian president Evo Morales on July 2, apparently because of the US government’s belief that Edward Snowden might be on the plane [see Update #1183]. On July 9 the Organization of American States (OAS) passed a strongly worded resolution calling on the four European countries “to provide the necessary explanations of the events that took place…as well as apologies as appropriate.” The European countries claim they didn’t deny the use of their airspace, although France has offered a partial apology. European representatives attending the OAS meeting as observers objected to the resolution’s language; the Italian representative demanded an apology from Bolivia.

The resolution was passed by consensus. Supporters included center-right governments and strong allies of the US, which until recently dominated OAS proceedings; only Canada and the US dissented. In a footnote, the US ambassador to the OAS, Carmen Lomellin, wrote that the US considered the resolution “inappropriate…at this time” because “[t]he relevant facts regarding the incident at issue are unclear and subject to conflicting reports.” So far the US has declined to explain its own role in the incident. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/10/13 from AFP, DPA, Prensa Latina; Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Americas Blog 7/10/13)

*2. Brazil: Unions Respond to Protests With General Strike
Tens of thousands of Brazilian workers participated in a one-day general strike in 20 or more cities on July 11, with strikers holding generally peaceful rallies and marches that blocked highways and bridges at dozens of points throughout the country. The strikers’ demands included the reduction of the work week from 44 to 40 hours; a speeding up of the agrarian reform program; greater public funding for health and education; control of inflation; and changes in economic policy. The action, the National Day of Struggles, was called by the six main labor confederations, including the Unified Workers Central (CUT), which is affiliated with the center-left Workers Party (PT) of President Dilma Rousseff. The Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and the National Students Union (UNE) backed the strike.

The action was an effort by the union movement to bring labor demands to the spontaneous, largely middle-class protest movement that swept Brazil in June [see Update #1182]. “We were in the streets 30 years ago,” CUT president Vagner Freitas said, referring to demonstrations in the 1980s against the 1964-1985 military dictatorship. “Brazil only changes when the working class takes to the streets. That’s how we have won our rights, and how we’ll go on winning them.” In addition to the joint demands of the six confederations, the CUT called for support for a political reform proposal that President Rousseff sent the National Congress in response to the June protests. While significant, the turnout for the July 11 general strike fell far short of the participation by a million or more in the largest of the June protests. Union supporters considered that the day represented an advance for the labor movement, since it was the first national action called by all six confederations. They noted that general strikes are unusual in Brazil: the last large general strikes were the actions against the dictatorship. [A June 1996 general strike called by the CUT and two other federations to protest economic policies was described as a disappointment; see Update #334.]

The Coordination of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) marked the National Day of Struggles by sending Rousseff an open letter in the name of 305 Brazilian indigenous groups representing a population of some 900,000 people. The letter expressed the groups’ rejection of any measure by the legislative or executive branches that would set back their movement for rights; they specifically opposed a proposed constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to demarcate indigenous territory, a function now carried out by the executive. (Reuters 7/11/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 7/12/13 from AFP, Xinhua, Reuters, DPA)

*3. Argentina: Mapuche Plan to Block Chevron From Territory
In a press conference on July 11 representatives of Argentina’s indigenous Mapuche and of indigenous communities in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén announced plans to block the California-based Chevron Corporation from drilling for shale oil in their territories. In December 2012 Argentina’s state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company signed an agreement for a $1 billion hydrofracking pilot project in the Vaca Muerta area, despite a November decision by an Argentine judge to embargo Chevron’s assets in Argentina because of a $19 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador for environmental damage and injuries to the health of indigenous residents in the Amazon rainforest [see Update #1158]. YPF and Chevron are scheduled to sign an additional accord on July 15; the oil companies deny that the drilling will be on Mapuche lands.

The Argentine indigenous groups “agreed with the peoples harmed by Chevron in Ecuador--the Cofán, Siona, Sarayaku—that we can’t allow Chevron to enter Mapuche territory,” Mapuche Confederation member Jorge Nahuel said at the press conference. The indigenous groups will challenge the agreement on the grounds that they should have been consulted previously under Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO). “The state is obligated to consult us; if it doesn’t, it’s violating the law,” Nahuel said. The lonko (local leader) Albino Campos, who lives in Campo Maripe in the center of Vaca Muerta, told the press conference that some 600 wells are already in operation and that most are between two and 10 kilometers from the residents’ homes. “These places are also fields for grazing,” he said. “It’s surprising that the nation and the province should open the doors to a company that is known on a global level for contamination and extortion.” (Rio Negro (Argentina) 7/11/13)

Correction: This item originally said Chevron and YPF would be drilling for natural gas; they are drilling for oil in shale deposits.

*4. Honduras: Kidnapped Journalist Found Murdered
A charred and dismembered body thought to be that of Honduran journalist Aníbal Barrow was found on July 9 in and around a lake in Villanueva, near San Pedro Sula in the northern department of Cortés. Barrow, the host of a popular morning talk show on the Globo TV channel and also a math professor at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, was kidnapped by armed men on June 24. Police said they had captured four men involved in the crime and were seeking six more; according to police, a “protected witness” led them to the body. National Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares told reporters that no motive had been established for the killing. Barrow’s death would bring the number of Honduran journalistskilled since 2010 to 28, according to human rights groups. (Reuters 7/9/13 via Huffington Post; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 7/10/13; Upside Down World 7/14/13 from IPS)

Honduran journalists are frequently subjected to death threats. According to the Federation of Agro-Industry Workers Unions (FESTAGRO), which includes unions of banana and other agricultural workers, the group’s director of communications, José María Martínez, has been repeatedly threatened through anonymous phone calls. Martínez hosts a radio program, “The Unionist on the Air,” on Radio Progreso each Friday evening. He has reported on labor abuses and human rights violations at various farms, including the Tres Hermanas estates, which supply bananas to Chiquita Brands International Inc, a multinational based in Charlotte, North Carolina; Tres Hermanas products are certified by the New York-based environmentalist nonprofit Rainforest Alliance. The death threats specifically mention Martínez’s talks on the radio. An anonymous message to his wife warned: “Tell your husband if he doesn’t shut his mouth on the radio we’re going to kill him.” A car without license plates was seen circling Radio Progreso just as Martínez’s program ended on July 5.

FESTAGRO suspects that the threats may be coming from Tres Hermanas. A note on the Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) Facebook page suggests that messages expressing concern and demanding protection for Martínez and investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators should be sent to Tres Hermanas owner José Lorenzo Obregón (jolobregon@gmail.com); Chiquita Vice President for Labor Relations Manuel Rodríguez (mrodriguez@Chiquita.com); the Rainforest Alliance (info@ra.org); and Ben Gedan at the US State Department Honduras Desk (gedanbn@state.gov). (FESTAGRO communiqué 7/9/13; HSN 7/9/13)

*5. Dominican Republic: “Haitians” Continue to Demand Papers
As many as 200 Dominicans of Haitian descent demonstrated in front of the National Palace in Santo Domingo on July 12 to demand that President Danilo Medina take a position on the refusal of the Central Electoral Council (JCE) to provide them with their birth certificates and other legal documents. According to the Reconoci.do youth movement, some 22,000 citizens of Haitian descent are unable to enter universities or even to get married because for the last seven years the Civil Registry, which is controlled by the JCE, has been denying them their legal documents--part of a series of anti-immigrant acts that included amending the Constitution in 2010 to limit citizenship to people with Dominican parents. Protesters denounced the denial of their papers as “a discriminatory policy directed against thousands of people from one group, the Dominican children of Haitians, and not the descendants…of Spanish, French, Italian or Chinese people.”

Some protesters had tape over their mouths to dramatize the government’s refusal to recognize their human rights; some couples were dressed for the weddings they are not being allowed to have. Reconoci.do has been organizing these protests at least since last August [see Update #1141], and it has held five so far this year, always on the 12th of the month. (7dias.com.do (Santo Domingo) 7/12/13: El Diario-La Prensa (New York) 7/13/13 from correspondent)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, US/policy, US/immigration

OAS Resolution Expressing Solidarity with Bolivia Supported by Latin American and Caribbean, Rejected by the U.S. and Canada

South American Leaders Demand Apologies from Europe

The Detention of Evo Morales: A Defining Moment For Latin America?

Scahill’s ‘Dirty Wars’ Offers Lessons for Latin America

Death by 'Security': Israel's Services in Latin America

From 20 cents to everything else — the struggle for the narrative in Brazil

Brazil's Major Unions Join Movement for First Time, Strike in 150 Cities

Brazil’s Left Is Eager to Lead the “Swarm”

Brazil wants answers on US surveillance

Colombia opens talks with cocalero protesters

Cargill Flouts Law to Secretly Build Land Bank in Colombia

The Communal State: Communal Councils, Communes, and Workplace Democracy (Venezuela)

Venezuelan Workplace Inspectors Protest their Working Conditions

Chinese state firm gets Nicaragua canal contract

Honduras Shaken by High-Profile Murders

The Coconut Massacre (Mexico)

Teachers Continue Struggle Against Educational Reform Law (Mexico)

Electrical Workers Reach Agreement with Gov't on Retirees (Mexico)

Mass Food Poisoning at Border Factories

Mexico Becomes Destination for Migrants

20 Years of Border Femicide (Mexico)

“Operation Lionfish” Highlights the Caribbean’s Comparative Advantage

New Cooperatives Form Part of Cuba’s Reforms

Groups Call UN Secretary General’s Response to Cholera Victims and Congress an “Outrage” (Haiti)

Monsanto Faces Opposition in Puerto Rico

US’ Double Standard on Extraditions Contributes to its Increasing Isolation (US/policy)

Thumbing its Nose at International Law, US Pressures Latin America to Reject Snowden’s “Serious Asylum Claim” (US/policy)

Senate Immigration Bill and the Border Surge (AUDIO) (US/immigration)

Decisive Moment for the Pro-Immigration Movement in the United States

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.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

WNU #1183: Leaders React to Bolivian Plane Incident

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1183, July 7, 2013

1. Latin America: Leaders React to Blocking of Bolivian Flight
2. Guatemala: Residents Protest Cement Factory Opening
3. Mexico: Nine Indigenous Prisoners Released in Chiapas
4. Argentina: Israel Secretly Bought Uranium in 1960s
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Latin America: Leaders React to Blocking of Bolivian Flight
In a bizarre and largely unexplained incident, on July 2 several Western European countries denied the use of their airspace to a Bolivian plane carrying the country’s president, Evo Morales, home from a gas exporting countries forum in Moscow. The Bolivians made an unscheduled landing in Vienna, where Austrian authorities reportedly inspected the plane with President Morales’ permission. After a 13-hour stopover in Vienna, the flight was cleared with the Western European countries and proceeded to La Paz, where it landed late on July 3.

The decision to block the plane from leaving Europe was apparently based on a rumor that former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee Edward Snowden was on board. Snowden, who is wanted by the US for stealing and publishing classified documents, is reportedly in a Moscow airport applying for asylum from a number of countries. According to Bolivian authorities, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy all denied Morales’ plane the use of their airspace, presumably at the request of the US. (Le Monde (Paris) 7/3/13, some from AFP, Reuters; El País (Madrid) 7/5/13)

The incident came less than two days after a June 30 report in the British daily The Guardian that documents obtained by Snowden showed the US had been spying on diplomatic representatives of 38 countries, including France, Italy, Greece and Mexico, one of the closest US allies in Latin America. The article didn’t indicate which Mexican mission was subject to US espionage. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/1/13 from AFP, Reuters, The Independent (UK))

On the evening of July 3 the French government partially apologized to Bolivia. “The foreign affairs minister [Laurent Fabius] has telephoned his Bolivian counterpart to inform him of France’s regrets following the mishap [contretemps] caused to President Morales by the delays in the confirmation of authorization for the overflight of the [national] territory by the president’s plane,” a Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson said. (Le Monde 7/3/13, some from AFP, Reuters) Spanish foreign affairs minister José Manuel García-Margallo refused to make a similar gesture. “Spain doesn’t need to apologize,” he said on Spanish television, “because the airspace was never closed and the original stopover [for refueling] was never cancelled.” García-Margallo claimed that Spain had instead offered to mediate with the other countries. Bolivian authorities continued to blame Spain.

While US government has remained silent on the issue, it issued extradition requests to Bolivia and Venezuela for Snowden at about the same time as the incident. (El País 7/5/13) President Morales and Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro both rejected the request. Maduro announced the rejection on July 4 and released the text of the request Venezuela had received. Dated July 3, the request called for “Snowden’s provisional arrest should Snowden seek to travel to or transit through Venezuela. Snowden is a flight risk because of the substantial charges he is facing and his current and active attempts to remain a fugitive.” Maduro also reaffirmed Venezuela’s 2005 extradition request for former CIA “asset” Luis Posada Carriles, a Miami resident who is wanted for allegedly masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian flight out of Caracas in which 73 people died. The US has ignored the request [see Update #1075]. (TeleSUR 7/4/13; The Guardian (UK) 7/6/13 from correspondent and unidentified wire services)

The blocking of Morales’ plane quickly brought condemnation from most Latin American countries, including some US allies. Even before Morales had landed in La Paz on July 3, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela had all rejected the European countries’ actions. Mexico’s government issued a statement regretting the incident and calling for respect for diplomatic norms, such as the immunity traditionally enjoyed by heads of state. An editorial in the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada noted the irony that “the Latin American countries rise in defense of international law, while the authorities of European countries, which pride themselves on defending freedoms and the rule of law, show signs of an attitude of backwardness, submissiveness and political dependency in relation to the superpower.” (LJ 7/4/13)

The incident also seemed to encourage some Latin American governments to more open defiance of the US. On July 5 Nicaragua and Venezuela offered Snowden asylum; Bolivia made a similar offer shortly afterwards. (The Guardian 7/6/13)

*2. Guatemala: Residents Protest Cement Factory Opening
Some 1,000 or more indigenous and campesino Guatemalans demonstrated on July 5 in San Juan Sacatepéquez municipality, about 30 km northwest of Guatemala City in Guatemala department, to protest the inauguration of a cement processing plant. According to José Tucuy, a member of the leadership group for 12 local communities, the plant will affect 64,000 residents, who are mostly members of the Kaqchikel Mayan group. Protesters said the plant will contaminate the environment and use up scarce water resources. The plant is part of a “mega-project…a highway of several kilometers that will pass through our community, destroying our woods and forcing people to migrate to other places,” another resident, Ramona García, told reporters. “My family doesn’t eat grey cement, my family eats corn,” the protesters chanted.

Cementos Progreso, the Guatemalan company that owns the plant, said the facility wasn’t open yet. The company was simply holding a Mayan ceremony on July 5 to ask “Mother Earth for permission…to transform primary material and give it other uses,” according to a Cementos Progreso presss release. Tomás Calvo, an indigenous spiritual leader, was to lead the ceremony, with local supporters of the project expected to attend. The company says the plant will employ 2,000 residents.

Local people have been organizing against the plant at least since December 2007, when 12 police agents were injured and 17 campesinos were arrested. One campesino was killed during a protest on June 23, 2008, and 43 were arrested [see Update #999]. The 12 communities had held a consultation on the project on May 13, 2007, in which 8,940 people participated; 8,936 voted against the plant. Cementos Progreso is the main company in Grupo Novella, owned by the rightwing Novella family, which is a major donor to the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei. They are closely connected to the Widmann family, the owners of the agribusiness Ingenio Chabil Utzaj S.A., which in 2011 displaced indigenous people in the Polochic Valley in the northeastern department of Alta Verapaz [see Updates #1093, 1162]. (Siglo 21 (Guatemala) 7/5/13 from EFE; Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 7/5/13; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 7/5/13 from AP; Desinformémonos (Mexico) 7/1/13)

*3. Mexico: Nine Indigenous Prisoners Released in Chiapas
The southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas released nine indigenous prisoners from its Los Llanos prison near San Cristóbal de las Casas in the state’s highland region on July 4. State governor Manuel Velasco Coello arrived at the prison from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital, to deliver the release papers in person. The nine prisoners, described as adherents of the 2006 Other Campaign of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), had participated in hunger strikes and other actions over several years to win their freedom. Rosa López Díaz, the only woman in the group, was pregnant when she was arrested in 2007; she lost her child, reportedly as a result of torture.

Under pressure from Mexican and international groups, the state appears to have started releasing EZLN allies imprisoned on questionable charges. Francisco Sántiz López was freed on Jan. 25 [see Update #1161]. But the best known of the prisoners, the schoolteacher Alberto Patishtán Gómez [see Update #1173], remains at Los Llanos, along with a prisoner named Alejandro Díaz Sántiz. Patishtán was allowed to take part in the release of the nine prisoners on July 4. He walked a few meters out of the prison and told the relatives, with a smile: “I’m turning the compañeros over to you here; I’m still staying here, but one shouldn’t lose hope.” He then walked back into the prison with Gov. Velasco Coello and various officials. “We’ll go on struggling until we achieve the release of compañero Alberto and all the compañeros who are still prisoners,” former prisoner Rosario Díaz Méndez promised after his release. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/5/13)

*4. Argentina: Israel Secretly Bought Uranium in 1960s
According to declassified British and US documents that the Washington, DC-based research group National Security Archive (NSA) made public on June 25, Israel secretly bought 80-100 tons of Argentine uranium oxide (“yellowcake”) in the 1963-1964 period. The uranium ore was purchased to be used as fuel at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev desert and ultimately for producing plutonium for the country’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. France had cut off Israel’s supply of French uranium, and the Israeli government was looking for new sources, including South Africa and Argentina. The Argentine president at the time was Arturo Umberto Illia (1963-66) of the centrist Radical Civic Union (UCR).

British and US intelligence learned of the purchases from Canadian intelligence in March 1964 and received confirmation from the US embassy in Buenos Aires that September. The UK and the US were concerned that an Israeli nuclear weapons program would have a destabilizing effect on the Middle East. They tried to get information from Israel and to persuade Argentina to apply stronger safeguards to uranium sales, with little success in either effort.

Canada, the UK and the US “routinely acted with the utmost discretion when sharing intelligence information about the Israeli nuclear program,” the NSA noted, and “they kept the entire yellowcake sale secret. On this matter there were no leaks; the issue never reached the US media then or later.” The US documents on the sales were declassified in the middle 1990s, according to the NSA, but “they lingered in a relatively obscure folder in the State Department’s central foreign policy files at the US National Archives. They may never have been displayed in public before, as the file appeared to be previously untouched.” (NSA 6/25/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 7/2/13 from correspondent)

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

The Challenges of the Pacific Alliance: Regional Sovereignty in Latin America or a Pampered Periphery (Latin America)

On Edward Snowden, UNASUR and Double Standards (Latin America)

Social Unrest and Political Reform in Brazil

Brazil: Private Transit, Public Protests

The Meaning of and Perspectives for the Street Demonstrations in Brazil

Peru: police fire on Cajamarca protesters —again

Peru: developers raze ancient pyramid

Bill Weinberg speaks on land and freedom in Peru

In Snowden's Bid for Asylum, Ecuador Prioritizes Sovereignty

Blasts shut Colombia's second largest oil pipeline

Colombia: top neo-para commander escapes

NATO Sets its Sights on Colombia

Introduction: Chavismo After Chávez (Venezuela)

Maduro: Venezuela Will Offer Snowden Political Asylum

Revisiting the Cincinnati Enquirer vs. Chiquita (Central America)

A Road Trip to Save El Salvador’s Water

Vocabulary Lessons (Honduras)

Mexico: Indigenous Oaxacan Political Prisoners Caught in the Drug War Prison Boom

Torture in Mexico: "I Still Think it was a Nightmare"

Mexico’s Rich Flourish

USAID’s Lack of Expertise, Reliance on Contractors Puts Sustainability of Caracol in Doubt (Haiti)

Immigration Reform: The View From Below (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, July 1, 2013

WNU #1182: Chilean Students March as Elections Near

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1182, June 30, 2013

1. Chile: Students March as Election Season Starts
2. Brazil: Rousseff Offers Protesters a Plebiscite
3. Honduras: Anti-Mining Activists Report Death Threats
4. Haiti: Public University Students Protest Tuition Hike
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, El Salvador, Honduras, 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 http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Chile: Students March as Election Season Starts

More than 100,000 Chileans marched in Santiago on June 26 in the latest massive demonstration for a system of free secondary and higher education to replace the heavily privatized system created under the 1973-1990 military dictatorship [see Update #1172]. There were similar protests in cities throughout the country, along with walkouts by port workers in support of the students’ demands. In addition to high school and university students, the march drew port workers, teachers, copper miners and municipal health workers.

Leaders of the different sectors spoke at a closing rally after three feeder marches converged on the central Alameda (Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins Avenue). “Today the focus is not [just] on Santiago or education,” Federation of Catholic University Students (FEUC) president Diego Vela told the crowd. “It’s on the precarious situations that continue to occur in all regions.” The fact that “port workers are on strike and copper workers have disrupted productivity” is “a reminder that we’re not alone.” Andrés Fielbaum, the president of the Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH) and a spokesperson for the Chilean Student Confederation (CONFECH), called for nationalizing the copper industry to pay for improved education. “Recovering our natural resources is the way in which we will fund our basic human rights,” he said.

Groups of hooded youths confronted the carabineros militarized police before the march in Santiago and at its conclusion. The carabineros reported 98 arrests and said four agents were injured. Media reports focused on the violence rather than on the participation by unionists in the demonstrations, as did the government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera. Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick linked the masked youths to the piquetero (“picketer”) movement in Argentina, best known for militant demonstrations by the unemployed. “This coordination still exists,” he said. “There’s contact with the Argentines who operate by surprising [the public] with interruptions in transit and by trying to achieve the greatest disruption.” FECH president Fielbaum told the Associated Press wires service that Chadwick’s remarks “are in line with the logic that we’ve seen in recent weeks: since the government doesn’t know what to do with education, it tries to evade the subject.” (Santiago Times 6/26/13; Global Post 6/27/13; AP 6/29/13 via Terra (Chile))

The demonstrations came just four days before June 30 primaries intended to select candidates for this year’s presidential election, to be held on Nov. 17. Fielbaum had stressed back in April that students could take advantage of the electoral process to press their demands. As it happened, some 70 of the schools that students had occupied to push their demands were among the ones to be used for polling. The government insisted that the schools had to be freed by June 27 so that polling places could be set up. At 3 am on June 27 carabineros burst into 21 schools in Santiago and seven in other parts of the country, dispersing the students and arresting about 150. Protesters said the removals were violent in some cases and several students were seriously injured. Santiago Rebolledo, a former mayor of a Santiago-area commune and the president of the Chilean Association of Municipalities, denounced the government’s move, saying that talks between the association and the students had been progressing. “[W]hat happened this morning, in truth, reminds us of the worst moments of the dictatorship,” Rebolledo said after the police operation. (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/28/13 from correspondent)

The June 30 primaries were Chile’s first ever. Former president Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010), a Socialist seeking a second term, won the nomination of the center-left New Majority coalition with 73.07% of the votes; she was backed by her own party, the For Democracy Party (PPD) and the Communist Party of Chile (PCC). According to opinion polls, Michelet is also expected to win the presidency in November. The other candidates for the New Majority nomination were Andrés Velasco, Michelet’s former finance minister; Claudio Orrego, from the Christian Democratic Party (PDC); and Radical Party senator José Antonio Gómez. Former economy minister Pablo Longueira won the primary for President Piñera’s center-right Alliance for Chile coalition with 51.35% of the vote to 48.64% for former defense minister Andrés Allamand. Nearly 3 million people turned out for the primaries, about twice as many as were expected. (El Universal (Caracas) 6/30/13; Télam 7/1/13)

*2. Brazil: Rousseff Offers Protesters a Plebiscite
On June 24 Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff began a week of meetings with various groups—youths, unionists, campesinos, political party leaders, state governors, congressional leaders and Supreme Court members—in response to the massive protests that broke out in the middle of the month [see Update #1181]. Rousseff initially proposed a plebiscite on holding a constituent assembly to reform the Constitution, but she quickly dropped the idea. Instead, she proposed a plebiscite that would allow voters to choose from various options in three areas: public financing of political campaigns, methods of electing legislators and voting by party list. The vote would be held by October.

In a note published on June 28, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) supported Rousseff’s proposal, which he said “has the merit of breaking the impasse on this decisive question, which for decades has entered and left the national agenda without accomplishing significant changes.” Rousseff and Lula are both members of the center-left Workers Party (PT). The opposition parties oppose the plan, which some analysts think could open the way to the sort of political transformation that center-left presidents have carried out in other Latin American countries. In the opposition’s counter-proposal, the National Congress would develop a reform plan and the government would then hold a referendum allowing voters to accept or reject the entire project. (El País (Madrid) 6/28/13 from correspondent; La Jornada (Mexico) 6/29/13 from AFP, DPA, Notimex)

For its own part, the National Congress responded to the protests with legislation, much of which had been stalled for months. On June 26 the legislators voted down a constitutional amendment that would have limited federal prosecutors’ authority to investigate crimes; many protesters considered the amendment an effort by politicians to stymie corruption investigations. In addition, the Senate passed a bill making corruption a crime as serious as murder or rape; the Chamber of Deputies is expected to pass it later. The Chamber passed a bill allocating 75% of royalties from oil production to education programs and the remaining 25% to healthcare.

Meanwhile, the protests continued, although on a smaller scale than the week before. On June 26 some 50,000 people demonstrated in Brazil’s third largest city, Belo Horizonte in the eastern state of Minas Gerais, while Brazil’s soccer team was playing the Uruguayan team; the allocation of funds to international sports competitions rather than education and health has been a major grievance in the demonstrations. Hooded youths threw rocks at the police, who used tear gas to keep the protesters 3 km away from the city’s Mineirão stadium. According to the authorities a young man was seriously injured and at least 24 people were arrested; looting was reported, along with two fires and damage to dozens of stores. In Brasilia, protesters kicked soccer balls towards the police line at the Congress building. (LJ 6/27/13 from Reuters, AFP, DPA, Xinhua)

One of the main triggers of the mass protests was a series of small demonstrations early in June by the Free Pass Movement (MPL), a São Paulo-based organization fighting an increase in transit fares. MPL was the first group scheduled to meet with Rousseff on June 24. Before the meeting, they issued an open letter to the president saying they were surprised by the invitation since “social movements in Brazil always suffered repression and criminalization…. We hope that this meeting will mark a change of position by the federal government that will extend to other social struggles: to the indigenous peoples, who, like the Kaiowá-Guaraní and the Munduruku, have suffered various attacks from large landowners and the public power; to the communities affected by evictions; to the homeless; to the landless; and to the mothers whose children were murdered by the police in the peripheral neighborhoods.” (Adital (Brazil) 6/24/13)

Correction: In the third paragraph we originally wrote that  the Chamber of Deputies’ bill concerned oil revenues; the bill concerns the royalties from oil production.

*3. Honduras: Anti-Mining Activists Report Death Threats
Members of communities opposing open-pit mining in the northern Honduran department of Atlántida have received death threats because of their activitism, according to a June 7 communiqué issued by the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) and the Atlántida Environmentalist Movement (MAA). The groups said police agents in the service of Lenir Pérez, owner of the Alutech metal company, assaulted members of the Nueva Esperanza community on June 3, intimidating them and making death threats. On June 6 the residents received additional death threats from a group of “heavily armed men” operating in the area with the support of the national police, the communiqué charged. The groups blamed Tela municipality mayor David Zaccaro, who “instead of supporting the communities has made common cause with the mine owners, especially Lenir Pérez…who is carrying out violence and provoking the communities.”

In a separate statement, a Catholic group, the Caretian Missionaries, charged on June 10 that “alleged mineworkers” had made threats by text message on Jan. 28 to Father César Espinoza, a priest who opposes the mining, and to nuns in the group. The MADJ and the MAA asked for national and international organizations to write to Human Rights Minister Ana Pineda (apineda@sjdh.gob.hn), Director of Protection for Human Rights Defenders Rodil Vazquez (rvasquez@sjdh.gob.hn), Mayor Zaccaro (alcaldiadetela@yahoo.com) and other officials to ask the government to end the repression and the threats. (Religión Digital (Madrid) 6/15/13; Adital (Brazil) 6/25/13)

Meanwhile, violence continues against campesinos demanding land in northern Honduras’ Lower Aguán Valley. On the morning of May 30 gunmen on a motorcycle shot campesino leader Marvin Arturo Trochez Zúñiga and his son Darwin Alexander Trochez dead while they were drinking coffee in their residence in La Ceiba, Atlántida’s departmental capital. Marvin Trochez’s wife was seriously injured. The double murder brings the number of campesinos killed in the dispute since January 2010 to 104, according to the North American group Rights Action.

Marvin Trochez was active in the Campesino Movement of National Reclamation (MCRN). He was a leading figure in the June 2011 occupation of the Paso Aguán estate, which is managed by cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum’s Grupo Dinant company; at least five people, including four security guards, were killed in a violent confrontation there on Aug. 14, 2011 [see Update #1093]. A year later, on Aug. 9, 2012, Marvin Trochez’s oldest son, also named Marvin, was killed on the estate along with another campesino identified only as “Carlos.” Three more MCRN members, Orlando Campos, Reynaldo Rivera Paz and José Omar Rivera Paz, were shot dead on Nov. 3 [see Update #1151]. Fearing for his own life, Marvin Trochez began carrying a handgun, but this led to his arrest for illegal weapons possession. He eventually went into hiding with his family in La Ceiba, where he had relatives. (La Haine (Spain) 6/5/13 from Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán (MUCA); Rights Action press release 6/6/13 via Scoop (New Zealand))

Correction: this item originally referred to Rights Action as "Rights Watch."

*4. Haiti: Public University Students Protest Tuition Hike
Students from the State University of Haiti (UEH) took to the streets of Port-au-Prince on June 27 to protest an increase in their registration fees from 500 gourdes (about $11.53) to 1,000 gourdes. The administration also added a 500 gourde surcharge and changed the cut-off date for registration. The protesters reportedly threw rocks and bottles, set up barricades of burning tires and smashed the windshields of a dozen vehicles parked at the administrative building. Six students were arrested; they were released later in the day. UEH rector Jean-Vernet Henry quickly announced that the increase had been made without his knowledge; the old fees would be restored, university officials said, along with the old registration date.

As the national public university, UEH attracts students who can’t afford to pay for private education. “[T]he great majority of the youths can’t even pay the required 500 gourdes,” ethnology student Amos Toussaint said. “[A] decision like this is aimed at excluding those who don’t have the means to pay the admission costs.”(Haïti Libre (Haiti) 6/28/13; AlterPresse (Haiti) 6/28/13) UEH students tied up parts of downtown Port-au-Prince for several days last October protesting the killing of a student by an agent of the Haitian National Police (PNH) [see Update #1152].

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

An Interview with Raúl Zibechi: “The Limits of Consumerism are also Internal”

Americas: The Edward Snowden Case Monitor

Autonomy in Buenos Aires’ Villa 31 (Argentina)

The Twenty-Cent Revolt (Brazil)

Protesters’ Demands Expand From Free Fare to Fair Society (Brazil)

Protests in Brazil Reflect Ongoing Disparities

Uprising in Brazil: An Extraordinary Moment for Change

Brazil: 10 dead as police raid favela

Peru: peasant leader killed in Cajamarca

Archaeologists race tomb-raiders in Peru

Hollywood Celebrities, Prominent Whistleblowers, Latin America Experts and Others Urge Correa to Grant Snowden Asylum (Ecuador)

Ecuador offers U.S. rights aid, waives trade benefits

Edward Snowden and Ecuador press freedom

Ecuador - CONAIE Leader: "We will not defend wealthy media interests"

Colombia : Catatumbo Peasants Protest, Confront Violent State Repression

Colombia's Peasant Rebellion in Catatumbo Illustrates Economic Shortcomings

Leaked Recording Leads to Allegations of Plot to Provoke a Crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela Reaffirms Commitment to Haiti’s Reconstruction

Guyana: Colonialism With Chinese Characteristics?

Salvadoran Military List of Victims a Smoking Gun

Cyanide Dreams: Ecotourism and Mega-Mining Don’t Mix in Honduras

“Yes, there was genocide!”: Guatemala´s Ixil Vow to Keep Fighting for Justice

Mexico: Activists Demand Liberation of Indigenous Political Prisoner, Alberto Patishtán

Clowns, Cats and Corpses: Mexican Elections 2013

Canada Sends Soldiers to Haiti – Politics not “Peacekeeping”

GAO Report Critical of USAID in Haiti, Bolsters Calls for Increased Oversight

Obama’s Berlin Speech Applies to the Border: Tear Down The Wall! (US/immigration)

The Impossible, Costly Dream: Border Security (US/immigration)

Border Leaders Slam Militarization (US/immigration)

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