Tuesday, May 20, 2014

WNU #1220: Argentine Protesters Fast for City Services

Issue #1220, May 18, 2014

1. Argentina: “Villa” Residents Fast for City Services
2. Mexico: 6 Arrested in Killing of EZLN Backer
3. Mexico: Migrants March for Safe Passage
4. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, 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. Argentina: “Villa” Residents Fast for City Services
As of May 18 a group of Argentine activists were continuing an encampment they had set up on Apr. 21 at the Obelisk in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de la República to push their demands for improved services in the city’s 17 marginal communities, known in Argentina as “villas.” The action’s sponsor, the leftist Independent Villa Residents’ Current, was calling on the government of rightwing Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri to declare a housing, health and educational emergency in the impoverished communities; to formalize their status as urban areas; to carry out audits of the cooperatives and businesses that work in the neighborhoods; and to regularize rents and housing subsidies. A statement by the group denounced what it called “the model of two cities that Macri proposes, where the rich city excludes the poor one…while officials of the city government don’t hide their intention to fill their pockets.” Leftist groups have confronted the Macri government in the past over plans that they say favor real estate interests over the needs of the majority of city residents [see Update #1174].

The action at the Obelisk began with a hunger strike which was still in effect on May 5. The activists’ outreach efforts have included setting up 100 informational tables at street corners throughout the city, with the support of other leftist groups, in a May 10 day of action to explain the purpose of the encampment; Julián Bokser, one of the organizers, called the response “very positive.” On May 3 and May 17 the group organized hundreds of volunteers to carry out repairs and other maintenance work in various villas, highlighting the city’s government’s failure to provide these services. Adrián Lutvak, the president of a major student organization, the Buenos Aires University Federation (Fuba), visited the encampment on May 14 to express his solidarity; other political and social figures, including human rights activist and 1980 Nobel peace prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, have also visited. The protesters said they have already achieved one of their objectives by drawing the attention of the media and the capital’s population to the crisis in the communities. (Página 12 (Buenos Aires) 4/21/14; Adital (Brazil) 5/5/14; El Comercial (Argentina) 5/10/14 from Télam, 5/17/14 from Télam)

In other news, Pedro Simón, a prosecutor in the northern province of Santiago del Estero, has filed a charge of “inciting to collective violence” against Juan Pablo Suárez, the director of the regional newspaper Ultima Hora. The charge, which could result in 12 years in prison for Suárez, stems from the paper’s coverage of a demonstration last December by rank-and-file police agents in which a protest leader, Nelson Villagrán, was brutalized by police commanders. Suárez was arrested on Dec. 9 and held for 10 days; he was released after international media rights groups protested. But the prosecutor has now upped the charges to include “terrorizing the population” under a change made to the penal code’s Article 3 in 2011. This is the first time a prosecutor has tried to apply the “terrorism” charge to newspaper coverage. (Thomson Reuters Foundation 5/14/14 from Reporters Without Borders; Adital 5/15/14)

*2. Mexico: 6 Arrested in Killing of EZLN Backer
State police arrested six indigenous Mexicans on May 17 in connection with the killing on May 2 of an activist in La Realidad, a village in the official municipality of Las Margaritas in the southeastern state of Chiapas [see Update #1219]. La Realidad is one of a number of indigenous communities that supporters of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) have considered autonomous municipalities since December 1994. The victim, José Luis Solís López (“Galeano”), taught at a “little school” (escuelita) that since last year has provided international activists with an introduction to the Zapatistas’ experiment with autonomous communities. Another 15 EZLN supporters were wounded in the May 2 violence, and a school and a clinic were destroyed.

The EZLN charges that its unarmed supporters were ambushed by members of the “Historic” faction of the Independent Central of Agrarian Workers and Campesinos (CIOAC) and supporters of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the small centrist Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM). The attackers were “paramilitaries directed by Mexico’s institutional and governmental parties,” according to the EZLN. One of the six men arrested on May 17 is Carmelino Rodríguez Jiménez, described in press reports as a CIOAC spokesperson and the La Realidad municipal agent--presumably the agent at La Realidad for the official municipality, Las Margaritas. The Chiapas state government is headed by a member of the PVEM, Gov. Manuel Velasco Coello. The party is widely viewed as a front for the powerful centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and Velasco is the only PVEM member ever elected to govern a Mexican state. At a May 14 press conference, CIOAC general secretary Federico Ovalle Vaquera denied that his group’s members were paramilitaries and called for a thorough investigation of the killing.

The EZLN has mobilized to protest Solís López’s killing, suspending other activities and scheduling a demonstration in the central Chiapas city of San Cristóbal de las Casas for May 18. Unions planned a protest for the same day in Greece, while activists and politicians in Italy, Argentina and Chile issued statements condemning the attack on Zapatista supporters. In the US a large group of intellectuals, artists and organizations--including Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Rebel Diaz, Angela Davis, and many others—issued a statement calling for actions May 18-24 to support the Zapatistas. “Given the experience of the 1997 massacre [of 45 Zapatista supporters] at Acteal, we are concerned about the mounting paramilitary activity against Zapatista bases of support,” they wrote. “It is clear that if we do not take action now, the current situation in Chiapas may also lead to an even more tragic end.” Information on planned events is available at http://www.anattackonusall.org. (Upside Down World 5/14/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/15/14, 5/15/14, 5/17/14, 5/17/14)

*3. Mexico: Migrants March for Safe Passage
A delegation of 15 Hondurans traveled to Mexico City in mid-April to seek a meeting with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and ask for his government to provide Central American migrants with a “humanitarian visa” allowing them to travel safely through Mexico on their way to the US. The delegation represented the 432 members of the Association of Migrants Returning with Disabilities (Amiredis), an organization of Hondurans injured while trying to cross Mexico; the vice president, Norman Saúl Varela, lost a leg while riding north through the southern state of Tabasco on a freight train that migrants call “The Beast” [see Update #1189]. The group failed to get an interview with President Peña Nieto, but they managed to meet with Governance Undersecretary Paloma Guillén on Apr. 11. (El País (Madrid) 4/13/14 from correspondent)

This was just one of several recent efforts by Central American migrants to draw attention to the dangers they face while traveling through Mexico without documents: in addition to the risks of accidents on freight trains, they have routinely been subjected to robbery, kidnapping, rape and murder by criminal gangs, in many cases with the collusion of immigration officials and local police [see Update #1086].

In early April a group of migrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua set out from El Naranjo, Guatemala, in what they called the “Viacrucis Migrante” (“Migrant Way of the Cross,” a reference to a traditional Catholic representation of Jesus carrying a cross to his crucifixion). A number of immigrant rights activists went with the group in an effort to provide protection; among them were Rubén Figueroa from the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement; Fray Tomás González, director of La 72: Refuge-Home for Migrant Persons in Tenosique, Tabasco; and Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, director of the Brother and Sister Migrants on the Road shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec, Oaxaca. The group swelled to as many as 800 or 1,000 by the time it reached Mexico City, where the migrants tried unsuccessfully to meet with President Peña on Apr. 23; they did arrange a meeting with Mexico City head of government Miguel Angel Mancera. In early May some 400 of the migrants reached the US border near Reynosa, Tamaulipas, and 61 of them crossed openly into Texas to seek asylum from US authorities; the asylum seekers were mostly mothers with children, unaccompanied minors, seniors and members of the LGBT community.

At least two other large groups of migrants have also tried to cross Mexico recently. In late April about 300 Central Americans set off on foot from the La 72 shelter in Tenosique. Another 300 Central Americans were to start a “Caravan of Migrants for Free Transit” on May 9 from the Brother and Sister Migrants on the Road shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec. Organizers said these open caravans and marches represent a shift from the migrants’ usual practice of trying to pass through Mexico secretly. The new tactic was inspired by actions of the Dreamers in the US—undocumented youths who have publicly announced their immigration status at protests, and also at a border crossing in March—according to Father Solalinde.

The Mexican authorities have been inconsistent in their reaction. The federal government gave the Viacrucis Migrante group some 800 transit visas good for 30 days, but in Tabasco on Apr. 30 agents of the National Migration Institute (INM) and the Federal Police (PF) detained 291 of the migrants marching from Tenosique; marchers were beaten, including Fray Tomás González and Rubén Figueroa, and children were reportedly left stranded when their accompanying adults were arrested. As of May 9 the group planning to leave from Ciudad Ixtepec had suspended its march because of a heavy presence of INM and PF agents along the route; organizers said the caravan might resume on May 19. Adding to the difficulties for the migrants, the Ferrosur and Kansas City Southern de Mexico railroad company has started enforcing a ban against use of the “The Beast” by migrants. (El País 4/24/14 from correspondent; La Opinión (Los Angeles) 4/29/14 from correspondent, 5/8/14 from correspondent; Adital (Brazil) 5/6/14, 5/14/14; El Universal (Mexico) 5/10/14; New York Times 5/11/14 from correspondent)

The US government is now retaliating against Mexican authorities for the transit visas they gave Central American migrants in April, according to unidentified Mexican officials, who say 730 of the visas were used by migrants planning to enter the US without authorization. Currently the US is deporting Mexican immigrants to nine repatriation points along the border in which the Mexican government and private groups supply assistance to the deported Mexicans. Reportedly the US now plans to go back to using all 27 repatriation points, including many without services and in dangerous areas with a strong presence of criminal gangs. (La Jornada (Mexico) 5/18/14)

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

In the face of this obscure obsession for gold, a moratorium on mining is needed (Latin America)

Latin America’s LGBTI Movement Celebrates Triumphs, Sets New Goals

Andrés Carrasco, Argentine Scientist and Activist: A Thank You

Argentina: deal to probe AMIA blast struck down

Argentina: Journalism and Propaganda

Rio: favela violence spills into Copacabana (Brazil)

Mass Trial of Indigenous Leaders Set to Begin This Week in Peru

Bagua Massacre – A Test for Justice in Peru
Peru: Indigenous Organizations to Present Joint Climate Change Agenda

Chevron's Ecuador Plan B

Colombian Army Escalates Attack on Communities near Tolemaida Military Base

Colombian Poor Occupy Lands Slated for Military Base

ARENA Strategist Takes Fall in Colombian Drug Scandal

Venezuelan Leftists Meet to Discuss Future Directions in Political Ideology and Eco-Socialism

El Salvador: Blood and Roses on Mother’s Day

Hank Johnson on the Two-Year Anniversary of the Ahuas Killings and the Launching of a Joint Inspector General Review of the Incident (Honduras)

Congress in Guatemala Officially Denies Genocide

Perpetuating Impunity: Guatemala's Congress Votes to Deny Genocide

Guatemala passes genocide denial resolution

A Call to Action: Stop the War against the Zapatista Communities

Biío Hioxo Wind Energy Project Hurting Indigenous Peoples and their Territories (Mexico)

Sex Workers in Mexico: Defense of their Corners with Dignity

A Mother’s International Quest for Justice (Mexico)

May Day Marchers Reject Peña Nieto's Reforms (Mexico)

The war that most interests Peña Nieto (Mexico)

Border Farmers’ Market a Year-Round Hit (Mexico)

Songs on the Borderlands: An Interview with Robert Neustadt (US/immigration)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

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