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:


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