Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1192, September 15, 2013
1. Chile: Thousands Mark 40th Anniversary of Rightwing Coup
2. Mexico: Police Break Up Dissident Teachers’ Encampment
3. Mexico: Ex-Braceros Tour US to Demand Their Pensions
4. Haiti: Jobs Still Missing at US-Funded Industrial Park
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti
ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.
*1. Chile: Thousands Mark 40th Anniversary of Rightwing Coup
Tens of thousands of Chileans marched down the Alameda avenue in central Santiago on Sept. 8 in one of a series of events marking the 40th anniversary of the US-backed Sept. 11, 1973 coup that installed the military dictatorship headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet Urgarte (1973-1990). The marchers, some carrying signs reading “40 years since the coup, nothing and no one is forgotten,” demanded justice for the victims. The organizers said 60,000 people participated in the action, which is sponsored each year by the National Assembly for Human Rights, while the police put the number at 30,000. A confrontation broke out at the march’s end between agents of the carabineros militarized police and masked protesters; 31 people were arrested and seven agents were injured, according to the police. (La Jornada (Mexico) 9/9/13 from AP, AFP)
The commemorations continued on the morning of Sept. 10 with an unusual protest called “Wanting Not to See” (“Querer No Ver”): 1,210 people lay down for 11 minutes in a line stretching for blocks on the sidewalk along the Alameda from the Plaza Italia to the La Moneda presidential palace. The action was organized by actress and theater director María José Contreras as a reminder that approximately 1,200 people were disappeared under the dictatorship and are still not accounted for. On the same day former president Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010), the frontrunner in the Nov. 17 presidential election, visited the site of the Villa Grimaldi, a torture center where she was held with her mother, Angela Jeria, in 1974, after the death of her father, Socialist leader Alberto Bachelet. (Santiago Times 9/10/13; LJ 9/11/13 from correspondents and unidentified wire services)
On Sept. 11, the date of the coup, thousands of people attended the traditional ceremony near La Moneda during which floral tributes are placed at the statue of Salvador Allende Gossens, the Socialist president who was overthrown in the coup; Allende committed suicide as the military attacked the palace. Other Chileans marked the anniversary by setting up barricades in various sections of the capital; five vehicles were set on fire during protests in the communes that surround Santiago. The Secondary Students Coordinating Assembly (ACES) announced that students occupied seven high schools in the metropolitan area to honor the memory of students murdered under the dictatorship. The authorities said 13 people were arrested during the day in various incidents in Santiago, less than they had anticipated.
President Sebastián Piñera, the first rightwing politician to occupy La Moneda since the end of the dictatorship, used the anniversary to criticize politicians, judges and media that he said had been “complicit” during the Pinochet years, but he insisted that “the time has come, after 40 years, not to forget but to overcome the traumas of the past.” According to a 2004 report by the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture (known as the “Varech Commission”), at least 30,000 people were victimized under the dictatorship, with more than 28,000 of them subjected to illegal detention, torture, execution or disappearance; the report estimated that about 3,000 people were killed. (TeleSUR 9/11/13; Clarín (Argentina) 9/12/13 from EFE, AFP, DPA)
The Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group, suffered disproportionately from the Pinochet regime. Although the Mapuche say Chile’s left parties didn’t have programs that incorporated the full range of indigenous demands, the Mapuche were inspired by the victory of Allende’s Popular Unity coalition in 1970 and benefited from policies carried out by his government. Under Allende’s agrarian reform program 4,401 estates were expropriated by 1973, and the Mapuche recovered 30,000 hectares of land that they considered their historic territory; the Mapuche recovered another 70,000 hectares through their own direct actions during the period. About 300 Mapuche were killed under the Pinochet regime, and some 50 were disappeared. The military government also passed laws restricting Mapuche rights, including an “antiterrorist law” which still remains partially in effect [see Update #1161]. (Mapu Express 9/11/13)
*2. Mexico: Police Break Up Dissident Teachers’ Encampment
Carrying plastic shields and armed with nightsticks and tear gas canisters, some 3,600 helmeted Mexican federal police moved in on Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zócalo, at 4 pm on Sept. 13 to clear out an encampment teachers had set up as a base for actions that they had been carrying out since Aug. 21 to protest changes in the educational system [see Update #1191]. The National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the dissident union group leading the protests, had negotiated an agreement with the government to vacate the plaza in time for the Sept. 15-16 ceremonies that traditionally celebrate Mexico’s independence from Spain, but a smaller group of teachers from the militant locals in the southern state of Oaxaca tried briefly to hold out against the police. Confrontations followed for several hours involving police agents, teachers and local anarchists. National Security Commission (CNS) head Manuel Mondragón gave a preliminary count of 29 people arrested. (Los Angeles Times 9/13/13 from correspondent; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/14/13)
The clearing of the Zócalo provoked protests in other cities on the evening of Sept. 13. In Oaxaca City militant teachers and supporters occupied the main plaza while other supporters seized city buses and used them to block off the city’s historic center. Police agents managed to detain one teacher, but the protesters responded by detaining two police commanders; all three were eventually released. Other groups occupied the installations of the Corporación Oaxaqueña de Radio y Televisión, took over Radio Universidad, the station of a local university, and blocked two highways. In the central state of Tlaxcala teachers blocked highways leading to the state capital, while in the eastern state of Veracruz protesters cut off access to the Minatitlán airport and the Orizaba industrial park. (LJ 9/14/13) In Xalapa, a city in central Veracruz, some 100 police agents armed with cattle prods removed about 300 teachers from the main plaza. Police also attacked the media in the Xalapa operation. Freelance journalist Melina Zurita was beaten by police agents, who stole her camera, and agents from an anti-riot unit seized the equipment of Oscar Martínez, a photographer for the Reuters wire service, returning it a half hour later after erasing the images. (Proceso (Mexico) 9/14/13)
CNTE leaders indicated that they planned to reoccupy the Mexico City Zócalo on Sept. 18 and would hold their own Independence Day celebration there. (LJ 9/15/13)
The teachers were protesting an “educational reform” plan that they say will lead to a partial privatization of the system, part of a “reform” package being pushed by President Enrique Peña Nieto that also includes the partial privatization of the energy sector and changes in the labor code and the tax system. Peña Nieto was expected to propose extending the value-added tax (a sales tax known by its initials in Spanish, IVA) to food and medicine, but the program he announced in a speech on Sept. 8 continued the food and medicine exemptions. Instead, the president proposed new taxes on capital gains, carbon emissions and soft drinks; a gradual elimination of a gasoline and diesel subsidy; and increased income taxes on people making more than the equivalent of US$39,000. The president said the increased revenues from the new taxes would go to support a universal pension system, unemployment insurance and the educational system. The center-right National Action Party (PAN), which generally backs Peña Nieto’s reform agenda, had little to say about the tax plan. “The government is 100% in charge of this,” PAN president Gustavo Madero told the New York Times. “Let the government defend it.” (NYT 9/9/13 from correspondent; LJ 9/9/13)
In other news, on Sept. 12 a three-judge panel from the 20th circuit federal court, based in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of the southeastern state of Chiapas, denied an appeal by Alberto Patishtán Gómez, an indigenous schoolteacher who has been serving a 60-year sentence since 2000 for his alleged involvement in the killing of seven police agents in El Bosque municipality in June of that year [see Update #1190]. Patishtán, a supporter of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) who denies any connection with the incident, has no further options for appeals in the Mexican court system, although he can appeal to international bodies or request a pardon from the president. Former center-left presidential candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano condemned the court’s decision, which he called “totally unjust, inappropriate.” Chiapas governor Manuel Velasco Coello also condemned the decision, saying that Patishtán should seek the pardon. Asked on Sept. 13 about the possibility of an appeal to the president, the prisoner himself answered: “I’ve always said I’m not going to resort to the pardon. What will I request a pardon for? On the contrary, they’d have to ask me for a pardon for what they’ve done to me.” (LJ 9/12/13, LJ 9/13/13, LJ 9/14/13)
*3. Mexico: Ex-Braceros Tour US to Demand Their Pensions
Some 50 Mexicans and local supporters protested in front of the Mexican consulate in New York City on Sept. 13 to demand money that they say the Mexican government owes them from a 1942-1964 program that brought Mexicans into the US as farmworkers. The guest workers, known as “braceros” (“laborers” or “farmhands”), had 10% deducted from their wages by the US government; the money was supposed to go to Mexico’s Campesino Savings Fund for their pensions after retirement. The US says it sent the deducted money to the Mexican government, but the braceros and their survivors say the workers never got their pensions.
The protesters included 17 Mexicans—ex-braceros, activists and relatives of deceased braceros—who came to the US in late August to publicize the case. After visiting Los Angeles and Kansas City, the tour, organized by the Ex-Bracero Binational Coordinating Committee, arrived in New York on Sept. 10 to ask the United Nations to support their claims. They were to leave on Sept. 15 for Washington, DC, where they would ask the US government to provide copies of the paperwork showing their money was sent on to Mexico.
Surviving braceros described the conditions under which they worked while the US and the humiliations they received. “They would take us, naked, to a room where they checked whether we had diseases and then to another hall where they fumigated us,” said Luis Cabral, who worked in asparagus fields in California for three months in 1958. “They poured a lot of white powder on us, in case we had lice.” Many of the protesters at the consulate were activists from New York-based immigrant rights groups that oppose plans in an “immigration reform” measure now before the US Congress that would drastically increase guest worker programs. “We’re here showing solidarity,” said Donald Anthonyson, an Antiguan-born organizer with the group Families for Freedom (FFF), “and to highlight the results of the first guest worker program. If this is what they did back then, what will happen now?” (Associated Press 9/8/13 via BND.com; EFE 9/14/13 via Informador (Mexico); report from Update editor)
*4. Haiti: Jobs Still Missing at US-Funded Industrial Park
Eleven months after it was officially opened, the Caracol Industrial Park (PIC) in Haiti’s Northeast department has failed to live up to the promises made by its promoters, according to an article by Jonathan Katz, a former Associated Press correspondent in Haiti [see Update # 1185]. The project, for which the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB, or BID in Spanish) have set aside $270 million, has only generated 1,500 jobs to date, far short of the 65,000 jobs the US State Department claims will eventually appear in Caracol. Wages for piece-rate workers at the industrial park are based on a minimum wage of $4.56 a day, even though under a Haitian law that took effect last October their minimum wage should be about $6.85 a day [see Update #1179].
The Haitian government took 600 hectares of land from 366 farmers for the park, with payments averaging about $3,200 for each farmer, but nearly 95% of the land is still unused. The Korean apparel firm Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd remains the only major tenant at Caracol; there is one other tenant, a Haitian franchisee of Sherwin-Williams Paints that employs a few dozen workers. Other companies seem reluctant to invest, despite inducements like a 15-year tax holiday. A port that USAID is in charge of constructing to serve the facility “is barely in the planning stage,” Katz writes.
US officials said that building Caracol would help Haiti recover from the earthquake that devastated much of the southern part of the country in January 2010—even though the park is about 100 miles from the area hit by the quake. In fact, construction at the industrial park seems to be taking away funding from post-earthquake reconstruction: aid for rebuilding homes in the earthquake zone has been cut, while about two-thirds of the houses the US plans to build in Haiti will be near Caracol. While millions of dollars have gone into building the park, according to Katz “less than a third of the $651 million USAID said it would spend in Haiti [for earthquake aid] has been disbursed.” Katz notes that “the US is generally eager to finance” projects for “setting up a low-paying textile sector to cheaply stock US stores and closets,” in contrast to its approach to “other forms of development aid.” (Aljazeera America 9/10/13)
*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti
CELAC issues statement on Syria (Latin America)
Latin America rejects US aggression against Syria
Pinochet’s Policies Still Rankle in Chile
Chile's September 11: Forty Years Later
Colombia pays Ecuador for fumigation damages
Colombia: ASOQUIMBO Continues Land Liberations and Resistance to the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project
OAS Human Rights Bodies “Protectors of the Powerful” says Venezuela as It Officially Withdraws from IACHR
In Honduras, military takes over with US blessing
Blaming the Victims: U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Doubles Down Regarding Ahuas Shootings
Honduras grants title to Miskito territory
Urgent Communiqué on the Massacre in Nacahuil, Guatemala
Guatemala: mineral interests behind massacre?
Protesting Mexican Teachers’ Vow “This Will Not End Here”
Women in the Teachers’ Movement: A Lesson in Resistance (Mexico)
Mexico’s Teacher Uprising
The Corporatization of Street Dealing (Mexico)
Photo Essay: Indigenous in Mexico Reweaving Struggles
Mexico judiciary stops all mining operations in the sacred territory of Wirikuta
Mexico: The Yaqui Tribe Defend their Right to Water
Haiti PM: UN Has “Moral Responsibility” to Address Cholera Epidemic
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Monday, September 16, 2013
WNU #1192: Chileans Mark Anniversary of 1973 Coup
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