Tuesday, November 26, 2013

WNU #1200: Opposition Charges Fraud in Honduran Election

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1200, November 24, 2013

1. Honduras: Opposition Charges Fraud in Election
2. Argentina: Residents Block Monsanto Plant
3. Haiti: Support Grows for Minimum Wage Increase
4. US: Annual SOA Protest Smaller But “Energizing”
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, US/policy

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. Honduras: Opposition Charges Fraud in Election
With about 43% of the ballots counted in Honduras’ Nov. 24 presidential election, Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, the candidate of the rightwing governing National Party (PN), was ahead with about 34% of the votes, according to electoral officials on Nov. 25. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, running for the newly formed center-left Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), was second with 28.4%, followed by Mauricio Villeda of the center-right Liberal Party (PL) with about 21%. Both Castro and Hernández, previously the National Congress president, claimed victory. Castro’s husband, former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009), told reporters that there were “serious inconsistencies” in as many as 400,000 ballots. He said LIBRE supporters “are going to defend our triumph at the ballot box and if necessary will take to the streets.” There is no runoff in the Honduran presidential election; the candidate with a plurality wins.

While the results remain in dispute, the election clearly marked a shift in Honduran politics, which the PL and the PN dominated for most of the last century. LIBRE, which grew out of a broad movement resisting the military coup that overthrew Zelaya in June 2009, has now at the very least established itself as the main opposition party, following a pattern seen in many Latin American countries over the past 20 years. (BBC News 11/26/13 from correspondent; New York Times 11/26/13 from correspondents)

In addition to voting for the president, Hondurans were choosing the 128 deputies for the unicameral National Congress, 20 deputies for the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) and the governments of the 298 municipalities. Some 5.4 million Hondurans were eligible to vote. Hundreds of international observers arrived in the country to monitor the country, some from governmental organizations like the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU), and others from social organizations, including the international campesino movement Vía Campesina and Jubilee South/Americas, a Latin American network focusing on international debt.

In October LIBRE supporters reported a wave of pre-electoral violence against party activists and people active in other social movements [see Update #1199]. Violence, intimidation and irregularities continued up to election day. Two LIBRE members, María Amparo Pineda Duarte and Julio Ramón Maradiaga, were shot dead the evening of Nov. 23 in Cantarranas, in the south-central department of Francisco Morazán, as they were returning from an election training session. On the morning of Nov. 24 Radio Globo, an independent station, reported that the military had surrounded its transmitter. “We have not requested this presence,” an announcer said on the air. “They want to use this to pressure us and shut us up, but Radio Globo will be on the air, whatever it takes.”

Widespread blackouts were reported in Tegucigalpa in the week before the elections, threatening possible disruptions in the voting; the neighborhoods affected, including La Mercedes, Kennedy, San Francisco, Hato de Medio, Dilbio Paraleso, Nueva Capital Del Pantanal, Quesada and other marginalized areas, are LIBRE strongholds. International observers reported incidents of harassment by immigration officials and the military on Nov. 22 and Nov. 23. (Adital (Brazil) 11/22/13; Honduras Solidarity Network 11/23/13, 11/23/13; Honduras Culture and Politics 11/24/13)

*2. Argentina: Residents Block Monsanto Plant
As of Nov. 23 residents of Malvinas Argentinas in the central Argentine province of Córdoba had succeeded for more than two months in their effort to stop the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company from building a corn seed-drying plant in their town. After more than a year of protests against plans for the $300 million, 27-hectare plant--projected to be the company’s largest facility in Latin America [see Updates #1166, 1178]--the Malvinas Struggles for Life Neighbors’ Assembly announced a “Spring Without Monsanto” festival to be held outside the construction site on Sept. 19, three days before the start of spring in the Southern Hemisphere. The festival launched an open-ended blockade of the plant. With access cut off, the construction contractors removed their heavy equipment and the workers didn’t come to the site. Monsanto acknowledged that the project was suffering a setback.

After announcing plans for the facility in June 2012, Monsanto failed to answer when residents of Malvinas Argentinas, a working-class suburb of the city of Córdoba, asked for explanations. The company also didn’t provide an environmental impact study required by the General Law of the Environment. In November 2012 the Neighbors’ Assembly demanded that residents be allowed to vote on the plan. Mayor Daniel Arzani, from the Radical Civic Union (UCR), and provincial governor José Manuel de la Sota, from the Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist), refused to authorize the vote. According to opinion polls carried out in April this year by the National University of Córdoba (UNC), the Catholic University and the government’s National Council of Scientific and Technical Investigation (Conicet), nine out of 10 Malvinas Argentinas residents favored the call for a vote and 58% said they would vote against the construction.

On Oct. 31 Monsanto sent letters by registered mail to Sofía Gatica, a member of the Buenos Aires province-based Mothers of Ituzaingó environmental group, and to Eduardo Quispe, a member of the Malvinas Argentinas assembly. The company accused the activists of “harming public security” by their role in the blockade and claimed that “acts of violence against personnel” had taken place. (Página 12 (Buenos Aires) 11/23/13)

Adding to Monsanto’s public relations problems, on Oct. 20 the Associated Press wire service published an article detailing concerns that “uncontrolled pesticide applications could be the cause of growing health problems among the 12 million people who live in the South American nation’s vast farm belt.” Researchers have found a pattern of illness in provinces with large-scale farming, AP reported: “In Santa Fe, cancer rates are two times to four times higher than the national average. In Chaco, birth defects quadrupled in the decade after biotechnology dramatically expanded farming in Argentina.” Genetically modified (GM) plants now account for nearly all of the country’s soy production and most of its corn and cotton. Monsanto is the dominant force in the GM market, selling both the glyphosate-based Roundup pesticide and GM seeds for plants that are resistant to it.

The company insists that glyphosate is safe if applied in the recommended quantities and with the recommended precautions. But critics say that as weeds and insects develop resistance to pesticides, farmers have responded by increasing the amount they apply far beyond the recommended quantities. Use of agrochemicals in the country has jumped from 9 million gallons (34 million liters) in 1990 to more than 84 million gallons (317 million liters) now. AP calculated that “Argentine farmers apply an estimated 4.3 pounds of agrochemical concentrate per acre, more than twice what US farmers use.” (AP 10/20/13)

*3. Haiti: Support Grows for Minimum Wage Increase
Two major North American garment companies, Montreal-based Gildan Activewear Inc. and Fruit of the Loom, which is headquartered in Bowling Green, Kentucky, have announced that they will now require their Haitian suppliers to pay piece-rate workers at least the 300 gourde daily minimum wage (about US$7.22 at the time of the announcement) that went into effect by law in October 2012 [see Update #1197]. The increase will cover 90% of the workers; the rest are trainees who are paid at a lower rate. Scott Nova, a spokesperson for the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) labor monitoring group, told the Toronto Star that the companies will also be meeting with unions to discuss back pay. According to Nova, another major apparel company, North Carolina-based Hanesbrands Inc., has refused to make a commitment to honor the minimum wage.

The move by Gildan and Fruit of the Loom follows the release of a WRC report on Oct. 16 confirming earlier reports that none of the Haitian assembly plants were honoring the 300 gourde minimum wage; instead they were paying based on the old 200 gourde minimum. Adding to the pressure, on Nov. 14 the Washington, DC-based African-American foreign policy group TransAfrica released an open letter calling on North American manufacturers and retailers to remedy “systematic wage theft” by requiring their suppliers to pay at least the current minimum wage. More than 70 civil, human and worker rights organizations from Canada, France, Haiti and the US signed on to the letter.

At the legal minimum, Haitian apparel workers would be making $0.87 an hour; only Bangladesh and Cambodia pay apparel workers less. (TransAfrica letter 11/14/13; Toronto Star 11/18/13)

Meanwhile, in Haiti labor advocates have been organizing around plans for a new minimum wage. After many delays, on Aug. 29 President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) named the nine members of the country’s tripartite Higher Council on Wages (CSS), which is composed of government, management and labor representatives. The CSS is expected to recommend a new minimum wage on Nov. 29.

Some 250 workers attended a Nov. 17 forum on the issue at the Le Plaza hotel, facing Port-au-Prince’s central park, the Champ de Mars. Fignolé St. Cyr, one of the three labor representatives on the CSS and a spokesperson for the Autonomous Confederation of Haitian Workers (CATH), described the difficulties the labor members face on the council, with government and management largely opposing any wage increase. Haitian economist Camille Chalmers of the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), said the minimum wage should be set at 70 gourdes an hour (US$1.69), or 560 gourdes for an eight-hour day (US$13.49), based on the cost of living. Chalmers called for an hourly wage to replace the daily wage, to prevent management from abusing overtime; he also advocated cafeterias at the plants, with the meals coming from local producers as a way of supporting Haiti’s agricultural sector. (Haïti Libre (Haiti) 8/30/13Batay Ouvriye report 11/17/13). More than 90 artists and writers, including four Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonists, have signed on to an open letter supporting workers’ demands for a living wage of at least 500 gourdes a day. (Open letter 11/18/13)

In other news, protests continued against President Martelly’s government. Thousands joined an opposition march in Port-au-Prince on Nov. 18, the anniversary of the 1803 Battle of Vertières, in which Haitian fighters decisively defeated an invasion mounted by French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The march followed much the same route as a Nov. 7 protest [see Update #1199)--from Bel Air in Port-au-Prince to Pétionville, a generally well-to-do suburb, and then back to the Champ de Mars. As on Nov. 7, Martelly supporters attacked the protesters with rocks and some gunfire, while police dispersed the demonstration with tear gas. As many as three people were reportedly hit by bullets and taken to the capital’s main hospital. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 11/18/13, 11/18/13; USA Today 11/18/13 from AP)

*4. US: Annual SOA Protest Smaller But “Energizing”
Some 2,000 activists traveled to Columbus, Georgia, for the 24th annual vigil outside Fort Benning to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). The activities, held this year from Nov. 22 to 24, were sponsored by SOA Watch, which opposes the US Army’s training of Latin American soldiers, charging that SOA graduates have been among the region’s most notorious human rights violators. Previous years were marked by trespass arrests as protesters tried to enter Fort Benning; nearly 300 activists have served prison sentences of up to two years for acts of civil disobedience since the vigils began [see Update #1013]. This year no protesters entered the base. One activist chained himself to the base’s fence on Nov. 23 but eventually unlocked himself after local police agents refused to arrest him.

The police estimated the number of protesters at 1,700, far less than the 22,000 reported in 2006; Father Roy Bourgeois, who started the protests in 1990, put this year’s attendance at about 2,000. But Bourgeois noted that the participants were younger this year, with over half seeming to be high-school and college students; SOA Watch said the vigil had “energized the movement.” “I think that as teenagers and as young adults who are going to be a part of the culture when we grow up, we should be educated on what our government is doing, who our government’s involved with, and I think that it’s such a good cause to be down here,” Audrey Lodes, who rode to Columbus on a bus from Nerinx Hall High School, a Roman Catholic girls school in Webster Groves, Missouri, told a reporter. “And I think it’s such a different perspective on our government than we ever see in the newspapers or in the media,” she added. (WTVM (Columbus, Georgia) 11/23/13;
Columbus Enquirer-Ledger 11/24/13)

Correction: This item originally described the Nov. 24 action as the 23rd annual vigil. It was the 24th.

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, US/policy

Fuel Politics in Latin America: Where to Begin?

Bachelet triumphs in Chile election but faces runoff

Chilean student leader Camila Vallejo elected to Congress

The June Uprisings in Brazil: Below and Behind the Huge Mobilizations (Part 1)

The June Uprisings in Brazil: Below and Behind the Huge Mobilizations (Part 2)

Bolivia: Two Years After Chaparina, Still No Answers

Sendero Luminoso in Bolivia?

Bolivia: repression against dictatorship survivors

Peru: 'narco-terrorist' busted; narco-politician exposed

Colombia: Looting Under Legal Camouflage

Empires of Gold and Colombian Extractivism Today

Colombia: Cauca campesino leader assassinated

Colombian high court upholds 'Framework for Peace' law

Venezuela's Legislature Gives Maduro Decree Powers to Fight Corruption and “Economic War”

Honduran Elections: Live Blog

Honduras: Indigenous Movement Defends Land and Rights as Election Looms

Making Sure Votes Count in Honduras?

ALERT: Please Support Labourstart Campaign (Mexico)

Teachers Situation Complicated: Negotiations, Protests (Mexico)

AMLO Threatens to Shut Down Senate over Energy Reform (Mexico)

The DVD Shootings (Mexico)

The Disappeared and Mexico's New Dirty War

Narco-terrorism in Michoacán (Mexico)

Michoacán mayor murdered by Knights Templar? (Mexico)

NSA Staffed U.S.-Only Intelligence “Fusion Center” in Mexico City

Gildan, Fruit of the Loom Commit to Ensuring that Haitian Workers Receive Minimum Wage

Border Patrol International: “The American Homeland Is the Planet” (Haiti/Dominican Republic)

John Kerry’s Rhetoric Does Not Match Reality (US/policy)

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, November 18, 2013

Links but No Update for November 17, 2013

[There is no Update this week; we'll be back next week. Below are links to stories from other sources.]

Newly Discovered Military Archives May Throw Light on Past Abuses in Argentina

Visibility from High-Profile Human Rights Inquiries Trickles Down in Chile

NACLA-CLACS Conversation with Carlos Pérez Guartambel: Indigenous Resistance in the Andes (Ecuador)

Ecuador high court halves judgment against Chevron

Water Festival of El Carmen de Viboral: Communities Resist Water Privatization and Multinational Mining in Colombia

Leader Opposed to Colombian Mining Project Murdered

Aerial Fumigations and its Discontents (Colombia)

Putting Profits over People: Extractivism and Human Rights in Colombia

Partial Accord: FARC’s Christmas Gift to Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia)

Mass Mobilization against Healthcare Reform Storms Through Colombia

Venezuelan Meat Packing Workers Protest Abuses Following Alleged Repression

Report: Hydroelectric Dam would Wipe Out Indigenous Tribes in Guyana

US Congress Continues to Slam Political Repression Ahead of Honduran Elections

Canada Signs Free Trade Deal with Honduras amid Pre-electoral Repression

Honduras: A Partial Victory for the Campaign to Free “Chavelo” Morales

Mexico Forced Displacement on OAS Agenda

The High Cost of Candy: Death Toll Climbs in Factory Disaster (Mexico)

Mexico's Blood Banks

Mexico narco networks inside and outside prisons

Stand With Haitian Workers for a Living Wage!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

WNU #1199: US Documents Blast Mexico’s “Drug War”

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1199, November 10, 2013

1. Mexico: US Documents Blast Calderón’s “Drug War”
2. Honduras: Pre-Election Repression Continues
3. Chile: Four Are Sentenced for Gay Youth's Death
4. Haiti: Anti-Martelly March Is Attacked
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, 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. Mexico: US Documents Blast Calderón’s “Drug War”
US officials were secretly critical of the militarized anti-narcotic policies of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) at the same time that the US government was funding and publicly backing them, according to declassified documents that the Washington, DC-based research group National Security Archive posted on its website on Nov. 6. The documents are among 30 official reports and diplomatic cables, with dates from Aug. 25, 2007 to May 22, 2012, that the US government released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the National Security Archive and other organizations in Mexico and the US.

Drug trafficking groups “have operated fairly openly and with freedom of movement and operations” in northeastern Mexico, the US embassy’s Narcotics Affairs Section reported in a “sensitive” but unclassified Apr. 16, 2010 cable. “In many cases they operated with near total impunity in the face of compromised local security forces.” For example, Mexican authorities arrested 16 members of the police force in Matamoros, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, in connection with the notorious August 2010 massacre of 72 Central and South American migrants by the Los Zetas gang in San Fernando municipality [see Update #1180]. According to an Apr. 15, 2011 unclassified cable from the US consulate in Matamoros, the police agents were accused of “protecting the Los Zetas TCO [transnational criminal organization] members responsible for the kidnapping and murder of bus passengers in the San Fernando area.” The Mexican authorities responded to the massive violence against migrants by trying to downplay it. The same cable reported that after an April 2011 military operation uncovered 36 mass graves with a total of 145 bodies around San Fernando, Mexican officials told consular staff off the record that “the bodies are being split up to make the total number less obvious and thus less alarming.”

President Calderón’s use of the military in the fight against trafficking was supposed to compensate for the local authorities’ failure to fight the cartels. But US officials concluded—as did many Mexicans--that the policy had backfired. Calderón's “crackdown…resulted in some unintended consequences,” the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research wrote in a secret Aug. 3, 2010 memo. “For example, the removal of DTO [drug trafficking organization] leadership has allowed less experienced and undisciplined personnel to fill the leadership vacuum, contributing to the spike of drug-related murders.” Some 50,000 to 60,000 Mexicans died in drug-related violence under the Calderón administration [see Update #1169].

The documents also discuss the relationship between Los Zetas and the Kaibiles, a Guatemalan special operations force accused of committing massacres during the country’s US-backed 1960-1996 counterinsurgency against leftist rebels [see World War 4 Report 10/23/13]. A heavily redacted “sensitive” US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cable from July 2009 noted that in 2005 an arrested Zeta member said his organization had recruited “former Guatemalan Kaibiles to work with the Zetas, and that the Kaibiles were procuring firearms and grenades from Guatemala on behalf of the Gulf Cartel.” The connection with the Kaibiles seems to have continued. Another heavily redacted DEA cable, from May 28, 2010, reports on a shootout between security forces and Los Zetas members on May 19. Several people were arrested. “[I]t was determined that some of them were members of the Zetas and the subjects from Guatemala were members of the Fuerzas Especiales de Guatemala (Kaibiles),” the report says. The next two sentences are redacted. (National Security Archive 11/6/13; Proceso (Mexico) 11/6/13; La Jornada (Mexico) 11/8/13)

In related news, on Nov. 5 the US State Department offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Rafael Caro Quintero, one of the founders of the Guadalajara drug cartel. A Mexican court convicted Caro Quintero in the 1985 torture murder of US DEA agent Enrique (“Kiki”) Camarena and sentenced him to 40 years in prison [see Update #1198, where we incorrectly gave the sentence as 60 years]. He was released on a technicality in August of this year, after serving 28 years of the sentence, and quickly disappeared. The US federal government has charged Caro Quintero separately with a number of felonies and considers him a fugitive from justice. On Nov. 6, the day after the US announced the reward, a panel of Mexico’s Supreme Court voted 4-1 to overturn the decision releasing Caro Quintero and to return the case to an appeals court. (NBC News 11/6/13, some from AP; Fox News Latino 11/6/13)

*2. Honduras: Pre-Election Repression Continues
Unknown assailants shot Honduras video journalist Manuel Murillo Varela dead on Oct. 23; his body was found the next day in Tegucigalpa’s Colonia Independencia. Murillo Varela had worked as a camera operator for Honduras’ Globo TV and for the state television, Canal 8, and was also the official camera operator for former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009), who was overthrown in a June 2009 military coup. Murillo Varela had been a victim of violence in the past: he and a colleague were abducted on Feb. 2, 2010, reportedly by police agents, and were tortured for over 24 hours. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), responded to the incident by issuing a protection order for Murillo Varela. Both the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Inter American Press Association (SIP) condemned the Oct. 23 murder. More than 30 journalists have been killed in Honduras since 2010.

Murillo Varela was active in the center-left Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), which grew out of resistance to the 2009 coup and which is now a leading force in the Nov. 24 presidential, legislative and municipal elections [see Update #1194]. Other party activists have faced threats and harassment as the voting approaches. On Oct. 23, masked police agents ransacked the residence of a local LIBRE leader, Edwin Robelo Espinal, in the capital’s Flor del Campo neighborhood, breaking down a total of 15 doors in the house, ostensibly to look for “weapons and a rocket-propelled launcher.” The raid on Espinal’s residence was carried out by members of a 5,000-member military police unit announced in August [see Update #1189] and put in operation in October. Like Murillo Varela, Espinal had an IACHR protection order; his partner, Wendy Avila, was killed in September 2009 during a protest demanding President Zelaya’s return, and Espinal himself was tortured by police agents in June 2010.

On Oct. 30, a week after the attack on Espinal’s home, Beatriz Valle, a LIBRE congressional candidate in the central department of Francisco Morazán and a deputy foreign minister during Zelaya’s administration, announced that she had received death threats. She decided to leave the country.

An Oct. 21 report by the Canadian-based organization Rights Action found that LIBRE political candidates, their families and campaign leaders have suffered more attacks and killings since May 2012 than all other political parties combined.

The harassment hasn’t been confined to LIBRE activists. On Oct. 10 military police raided the home of Marco Antonio Rodriguez, the vice president of the National Child Welfare Worker’s Trade Union (SITRAPANI), and in mid-October the police raided the home of Dassaev Aguilar, a former correspondent for the leftist Venezuelan-based TeleSUR television network. Meanwhile, government prosecutors continue to press their case against Berta Cáceres, general coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and two other of the organization’s leaders for their support of resistance to the Agua Zarca dam being constructed in territory claimed by the indigenous Lempa [see Update #1194]. (Europa Press 10/30/13; Rights Action 11/4/13; Minga Informativa ALAI 11/7/13)

*3. Chile: Four Are Sentenced for Gay Youth's Death
On Oct. 28 the Fourth Oral Criminal Court in Santiago, Chile, sentenced Patricio Ahumada Garay to life in prison for a brutal assault on Daniel Zamudio, a gay young man, on Mar. 3, 2012; Zamudio died of his injuries three weeks later [see Update #1123]. The court sentenced three other men to prison for participating in the assault: Alejandro Angulo and Raúl López were each given 15 years in prison, and Fabián Mora Mora seven years. The sentences were the same as those requested by the prosecutor, Ernesto Vásquez, and by Jaime Silva, the attorney for the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh), except in the case of Fabián Mora; the lawyers had asked for an eight-year sentence.

Zamudio’s death brought public attention to violence against LGBT people in Chile and resulted in the passage of the Zamudio Law, an anti-discrimination law that had languished in Congress for seven years [see Update #1124]. But hate crimes appear to be continuing. Wladimir Sepúlveda, a 21-year-old youth, was severely beaten on Oct. 20 on the Avenida Independencia in San Francisco de Mostazal, a city in the central O’Higgins region. He was hospitalized with cranial injuries, and as of Oct. 29 his life was thought to be at risk. LGBT rights activists suspect that the beating was a homophobic assault. (Adital (Brazil) 10/29/13)

*4. Haiti: Anti-Martelly March Is Attacked
Several thousand Haitians marched for four hours through much of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area on Nov. 7 to protest the government of President Joseph Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) and Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe. The march, which riot police dispersed on two occasions with tear gas, was sponsored by several groups, including the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (Fopak), a base organization close to the populist Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004).

The march began in northeastern Port-au-Prince in the impoverished neighborhood of Bel-Air, a stronghold of opposition to Martelly. The demonstrators proceeded east through the commune of Delmas and then southeast into Pétionville, a suburb in the hills where many of the elite live, including President Martelly, although several impoverished neighborhoods--such as Jalousie, where residents live precariously on a hillside--are also in the Pétionville commune. Some people presumed to be Martelly supporters fired into the air when the march entered Pétionville, and other counter-demonstrators threw stones at the marchers from rooftops, scattering street vendors and passersby along with the protesters. The Corps for Intervention and the Maintenance of Order (CIMO) of the Haitian National Police (PNH) then used tear gas to disperse the march.

The demonstration regrouped and headed back into Port-au-Prince, attempting to gather in the city center at the Champ de Mars park and the ruins of the National Palace, which was destroyed in a January 2010 earthquake. CIMO agents again used tear gas to break up the demonstration. (New York Times 11/7/13 from AP; AlterPresse (Haiti) 11/8/13)

Earlier in the week, about 100 protesters, mostly university students, burned tires and hurled stones at police outside the presidential offices on Nov. 4 as US education secretary Arne Duncan met with President Martelly. The students were protesting classroom conditions. One told the Associated Press wire service that his school had no library, classrooms had no lights and teachers rarely arrived at their classes. (NYT 11/4/13 from AP) Also on Nov. 4, professors ended a strike at the State University of Haiti (UEH), whose various schools are scattered around downtown Port-au-Prince. The professors began their job action on Oct. 15 to demand a salary increase; they are also seeking a more modern structure for the UEH’s administration. “The professors have other forms of struggle, even if the strike has ended,” Professor Luné Roc Pierre Louis told reporters. (AlterPresse 11/5/13)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US/immigration

South of the Border, Mining Is King (Latin America)

Chile torture survivor in landmark legal victory

Paraguay pressed on indigenous land restitution

Brazil judge suspends construction on Amazon dam

Brazil-Venezuela: Yanomami Denounce Illegal Miners and Lack of Health Care

Bolivia ready for nuclear power: Evo Morales

Peru: government ultimatum to illegal miners

Cajamarca: Conga occupation not moved (Peru)

Cuzco: unrest over water mega-diversion (Peru)

Ecuador mineral zone militarized

Bogotá and FARC sign deal on political guarantees (Colombia)

Colombia court strikes down military justice law

Colombia: mine opponents assassinated

Colombia: Black Communities in Cauca Peacefully Occupy Government Offices

New Documents Show Venezuela Has Been Key US Spying Target

Panama ups ante in Nicaragua canal race

US Lawmakers Lobby for Right-wing and US Intervention in Honduran, Salvadoran Elections

Honduras Votes

New Report Highlights Rising Poverty and Inequality in Honduras

Where Will the Children Play? Neoliberal Militarization in Pre-Election Honduras

Nueva Esperanza, Honduras: Against the Same Old Neoliberal Agenda

Study Finds Link Between Land Grabs and Sexual Violence Against Q´eqchís Women (Guatemala)

“There is No Amnesty for These Crimes”: Guatemalan Massacre Survivor Anselmo Roldán Kicks Off U.S. Speaking Tour

Guatemala: Ríos Montt Trial Delay is a Letdown to Genocide Victims

Mexico Forced Displacement on OAS Agenda (Mexico)

Mexico judge suspends Wirikuta mineral leases

New GMO Crops Temporarily Blocked in Mexico

Who Killed the Capo? (Mexico)

Remembering Brad Will in Mexico

In Bed with the Bully—Consensual U.S. Surveillance in Mexico

The Border Patrol’s Out-of-Control Growth (US/immigration)

Book Review: History's Sinkhole (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, November 4, 2013

WNU #1198: Indigenous Mexican Schoolteacher Released

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1198, November 3, 2013

1. Mexico: Imprisoned Chiapas Schoolteacher Released
2. Chile: Barrick Suspends Pascua Lama Construction
3. Cuba: UN Issues 22nd Condemnation of US Embargo
4. Nicaragua: CIA-Contra Drug Charges Resurface
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, US/immigration

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Mexico: Imprisoned Chiapas Schoolteacher Released
Alberto Patishtán Gómez, a schoolteacher from the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, was freed from imprisonment on Oct. 31 after receiving a pardon that day from President Enrique Peña Nieto. Patishtán had been serving a 60-year sentence since 2000 for his alleged involvement in the killing of seven police agents in Chiapas’ El Bosque municipality in June of that year [see Update #1192]. He has consistently maintained his innocence. Human rights activists in Mexico and around the world demonstrated and petitioned for his release, charging that the teacher was being persecuted as an indigenous Tzotzil activist and a supporter of the leftist Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN).

Patishtán’s pardon was the first granted under a change to the penal code allowing presidential pardons “when there are consistent indications of grave human rights violations.” President Peña Nieto, from the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), announced his plan for the pardon on Oct. 29, one day before the new regulations were to take effect. A presidential pardon was the only option for freeing Patishtán after a federal court in Chiapas turned down his appeal on Sept. 12. Although he accepted the pardon, Patishtán had refused to ask for it, saying the government should ask him to be forgiven for its treatment of him.

Patishtán received the pardon while in the National Institute of Neurology in Mexico City; he had been transferred there from prison to undergo radiation treatment for a brain tumor discovered last year. After his release, two of his children and one grandchild accompanied Patishtán to a press conference at the offices of the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Services and Consultancy for Peace (SERAPAZ). “From the first day I arrived at the prison, I felt free,” he told supporters and journalists. “Some people ask me: what sustains you so that you never stop laughing, and I tell them: it’s because I have a clear conscience.” (Washington Post 10/31/13 from AP; La Jornada (Mexico) 11/1/13)

*2. Chile: Barrick Suspends Pascua Lama Construction
The Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation, the world’s largest gold producer, announced on Oct. 31 that it was temporarily halting work on its unfinished Pascua Lama gold and silver mine high in the Andes on the Chilean-Argentine border. The only operations at the mine will be those required for compliance with environmental protection laws, according to the company, which said resumption of work would depend on costs and the outlook for gold prices. The projected cost of the massive mine, which was originally set to open in the second half of 2014, has risen from $3 billion in 2009 to $8.5 billion now. Barrick is short of cash after a dramatic drop in international gold prices in the spring; gold is currently selling for 20% less than it was a year ago. Barrick is cutting 1,850 jobs and is said to be considering the possibility of selling an interest in Pascua Lama, on which it has spent $5.4 billion to date.

The Pascua Lama project was already stalled because of environmental lawsuits in Chile, where the courts suspended construction in April because of problems the work had caused to water supplies in the area of the mine [see Update #1188]. On Oct. 11 the company faced a new setback when the appeals court in Chile’s northern Antofagasta region agreed to examine another legal action charging that the mine is causing environmental damage and compromising the quality of life for local residents. (Reuters 10/11/13; Bloomberg 10/31/13)

Mining companies, which are major consumers of energy, are also facing problems with environmental challenges to hydroelectric projects in Chile. As of late October the appeals court in Coyhaique province, in the southern region of Aysén, had issued a temporary order blocking work at a $733 million hydroelectric dam on the Cuervo river. The government granted an environmental permit for the project in September, but the government’s own environmental prosecutor appealed, saying the permit wasn’t legal. Opponents charge that the dam will harm the environment and will pose a risk because of its location on a fault line. The Supreme Court had temporarily halted work on the dam in May 2012 on the grounds that the owners, Australian-based Origin Energy and the Anglo-Swiss Glencore Xstrata PLC, failed to file a required soil study with the National Geology and Mining Service [see World War 4 Report 5/14/12]. (Reuters 10/25/13)

*3. Cuba: UN Issues 22nd Condemnation of US Embargo
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly voted 188-2 on Oct. 29 to condemn the 53-year-old US economic embargo of Cuba. This was the 22nd year in a row that the General Assembly has passed a resolution rejecting the US policy. Israel and the US were the only countries to oppose the resolution, which was presented by Cuba; last year Palau backed the US, but this year it abstained, along with Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki defended the US position, saying: "We don't feel that this annual debate in the United Nations does anything to add to or advance a constructive discussion about these issues.” Unlike Security Council resolutions, those passed by the General Assembly have no binding force.

Speaking at the General Assembly, Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez asked what had happened to the “change” that US president Barack Obama had promised during his 2008 electoral campaign. According to the Cuban government, the Obama administration has tightened some sanctions, especially the ones relating to banking, although it has relaxed limitations on travel to the island; more than 350,000 Cuban Americans and 98,000 other US citizens visited last year. The two governments are continuing direct negotiations on immigration, postal service and strategies for responding to natural disasters, but the US government seems uninterested in other measures to normalize relations. (CBS News 10/29/13; Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 10/29/13 from AP; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/30/13 from correspondent)

On Nov. 1 Mexican finance secretary Luis Videgaray announced that Cuba and Mexico had reached an agreement on a $487 million debt the Cuban government contracted more than 15 years ago. Mexico will forgive 70% of the debt and Cuba will commit to repay the rest over the next 10 years to settle the issue, which has caused some friction between the governments. Videgaray said the two countries would sign a formal agreement during Cuban foreign minister’s Rodríguez’s current visit to Mexico. (LJ 11/2/13)

*4. Nicaragua: CIA-Contra Drug Charges Resurface
The torture death of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique (“Kiki”) Camarena near Guadalajara in the western Mexican state of Jalisco in February 1985 was linked to drug running by the US-backed “contra” rebels seeking to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua, according to two former DEA agents and a former pilot for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Camarena was kidnapped by criminals working for Rafael Caro Quintero, a founder of the so-called Guadalajara Cartel, and was executed at one of Caro Quintero’s ranches. According to the US, the cartel targeted Camarena because he had uncovered Caro Quintero’s marijuana growing and processing operation. Under pressure from the US, the Mexican government eventually captured Caro Quintero and sentenced him to 40 years in prison for Camarena’s murder.

The new allegations appeared on an Oct. 10 broadcast by the rightwing US-based Fox television network and in an Oct. 12 article published by the left-leaning Mexican weekly Proceso. Both reports were based on interviews with Phil Jordan, an ex-director of the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC); former DEA agent Héctor Berrellez, who said he directed the investigation of Camarena’s death; and Tosh Plumlee, who worked as a pilot for SETCO, a CIA-linked airline that flew military supplies to the contras. It isn’t clear why Fox chose to air the allegations now, but attention on the Camarena murder increased after a Mexican judge released Caro Quintero from prison on a technicality on Aug. 9 of this year.

According to the Fox and Proceso reports, CIA operatives had infiltrated Mexico’s now-defunct Federal Security Directorate (DFS), many of whose agents provided protection for Caro Quintero’s criminal activities in the 1980s, including the Camarena kidnapping and murder. CIA infiltrators were present when the DEA agent was killed, the reports allege. “I was told by Mexican authorities…that CIA operatives were in there,” Jordan said to Fox News. “Actually conducting the interrogation. Actually taping Kiki.” Ex-DEA agent Berrellez gave Proceso the name of at least one CIA operative he claimed was involved. “Two witnesses identified Félix Ismael Rodríguez,” he said.

The Cuban-born Rodríguez was a long-time US agent who was active in the Bay of Pigs invasion, in the Vietnam war and in the October 1967 execution of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto (“Che”) Guevara in Bolivia. In the middle 1980s Rodríguez was in El Salvador working with another Cuban-born agent, Luis Posada Carriles, supplying contra operations [see Update #1185]. According to the Proceso report, Rodríguez introduced the Honduran drug trafficker Juan Matta Ballesteros to the Guadalajara cartel. Matta allegedly used his Colombian connections to supply cocaine to the cartel, with the complicity of the CIA, which received part of the money and used it to supply arms and other military equipment to the contras. The reason for Camarena’s murder, according to Proceso, was that Camarena had “discovered that his own government was collaborating with Mexican narco trafficking in its illicit business.”

The CIA denies the accusations. “[I]t’s ridiculous to suggest that the CIA had anything to do with the murder of a US federal agent or the escape of his killer,” a CIA spokesperson told Fox News on Oct. 10.

A number of sources reported in the 1980s and early 1990s that the contras were funded in part through drug sales with the help or complicity of the CIA. In 1998 CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz told Congress that the CIA “worked with a variety of ...assets [and] pilots who ferried supplies to the contras, who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity.” The “CIA had an operational interest” in the contras and “did nothing to stop” the drug trafficking, Hitz said. Mainstream US media generally avoided the subject. In 1996 the Mercury News of San Jose, California, ran a series linking the contras to the sale of crack in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s, but the paper later repudiated the articles. The reporter, Gary Webb, lost his job at the Mercury News and was never employed by a major newspaper again. He died in December 2004, an apparent suicide [see Update #777]. (Fox News 10/10/13; Proceso 10/12/13; El País (Madrid) 10/15/13)

Correction: This item originally read that Caro Quintero had been sentenced to 60 years in prison; the correct number is 40.

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

Latin America Rejects the Extractive Model in the Streets

Latin America: Report from the II Continental Summit on Indigenous Communication

Brazilian Judge Halts Belo Monte Dam Construction, Temporarily

Bolivia: The Politics of Extractivism (Bolivia)

The Road to Everywhere: The Geopolitics of the TIPNIS Conflict (Bolivia)

Bolivia: indigenous power at issue in hunger strike

The Costs of the War System and the Economic Predicament of Colombia

Venezuela’s Maduro Denounces Twitter Attack as Thousands of Pro-Government Accounts Suspended

Giving our movements new life — the case of El Salvador

Honduras: Military Police as a Major Electoral Issue

History on Hold for Victims of Guatemalan Genocide

“There is No Amnesty for These Crimes”: Guatemalan Massacre Survivor Anselmo Roldán Kicks Off U.S. Speaking Tour

New convictions in Guatemala disappearance

Repressive Memories: Terror, Insurgency, and the Drug War in Mexico

Taking the Measure of Mexican President Peña Nieto

Gov’t and Electrical Workers Reach Agreement on Pensions for 1,400 Workers (Mexico)

Indigenous Migrants Organize (Mexico)

Tijuana 'super-tunnel' discovered (Mexico)

Mexico: narcos abduct migrants —again

Cuba’s Reforms Favor Foreign Investment, Create Low-Wage Sponge

In Haiti, Cholera Claims New Victims Daily

Land, Migrants and Poets: The Day of the Dead 2013 (US/immigration)

Calls For Immigration Reform Ramp Up, But What Fuels Migration to U.S.?

U.S. Snooping Makes It a Neighbourhood Pariah (US/policy)

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