Issue #1221, May 25, 2014
1. Latin America: Protesters Target Monsanto, Chevron
2. Honduras: OAS Agency Orders Protection for Campesinos
3. Mexico: Capital’s Residents Fight Water Project
4. Dominican Republic: Will New Law Settle Citizenship Conflict?
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, 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 email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.
Note: There will be links but no Update on June 1, 2014. Publication will resume the following week.
*1. Latin America: Protesters Target Monsanto, Chevron
Latin American activists joined thousands of environmentalists and farmers around the world in an international protest May 24 against genetically modified (GM) crops and Monsanto, the Missouri-based multinational that dominates the transgenic seed industry. This was the third March Against Monsanto since May 25 last year [see Update #1195], and organizers expected the day of action to include protests in some 351 cities in 52 countries.
In Chile, where a farmer won more than $65,000 in December 2013 by challenging the contracting methods of Monsanto’s local affiliate [see Update #1207], organizations including Chile Without Transgenics and I Don’t Want Transgenics (YNQT) sponsored protests in eight cities.
Mexicans held a total of 13 different protests. In the southeastern state of Chiapas, Without Corn There Is No Country and other groups organized an informational event in front of the cathedral in San Cristóbal de las Casas to raise awareness about the consequences of GM crops, while about 60 protesters marched in Santiago de Querétaro, the capital of the central state of Querétaro. Rubén Albarrán, of the band Café Tacvba, joined the painter and environmentalist Francisco Toledo to protest in the southern state of Oaxaca, and hundreds marched in Mexico City chanting: “We want beans; we want corn; we want Monsanto out of the country!” GM planting is limited in Mexico, but researchers say that even the current level of sowing has contaminated some of the many varieties of native corn; the plant was first cultivated in Mexico.
In Puerto Rico activists marched from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Rivera Park to the Capitol. Monsanto doesn’t sell GM seeds on the island, but along with other multinationals like Pioneer and Syngenta it uses large tracts of farmland for experiments, according to Jesús Vázquez Negrón, the spokesperson for the Nothing Saintly About Monsanto collective. Activists claim Monsanto uses more land than it is entitled to under Puerto Rican law [see Update #1181]. (Aporrea (Venezuela) 5/24/14 from TeleSUR and unidentified wire services; Primera Hora (Puerto Rico) 5/24/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/25/14, 5/25/14)
Three days earlier, on May 21, activists held a similar international action against another multinational, the California-based Chevron Corporation. With protests in 13 countries-- Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Nigeria, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and the US—International #AntiChevron Day targeted the petroleum giant for damage to the environment and to people living near the company’s operations. (Adital (Brazil) 5/20/14; TeleSUR 5/21/14)
Latin American activists focused on Chevron’s refusal to settle a $19 billion judgment (later reduced to $9.5 billion) by a court in Ecuador in favor of indigenous people there whose territory was damaged by oil exploitation that the Texaco Company carried out from the 1960s to the 1990s, before its merger with Chevron in 2001. On Mar. 4 this year a New York court ruled that the plaintiffs and their lawyers obtained the Ecuadorian judgment through fraud and that the company could ignore it [see World War 4 Report 3/22/14]. Chevron insists that Texaco cleaned up the damage in the 1990s and that all existing problems are the fault of Ecuador’s own state-owned oil company, Empresa Estatal Petróleos del Ecuador (EP Petroecuador). Ecuador’s government responded the week of May 19 by releasing the results of 2013 tests by the US-based Louis Berger Group indicating that Chevron is in fact responsible for the ongoing pollution. (Reuters 5/22/14)
While Ecuador’s center-left government supports the demand that Chevron settle the judgment, similar governments in the region continue to do business with the multinational. In April Chevron joined with Argentina’s state-owned oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), to announce plans for an additional $1.6 billion investment for hydrofracking at the Vaca Muerta shale deposit in the southwestern province of Neuquén [see Update #1191]. “The shale play in Argentina is unique because of the rock,” Chevron spokesperson Kent Robertson told the Reuters wire service on May 22. “Argentina has kind of won the geological lottery.” (Reuters 5/22/14)
Meanwhile, as of May 24 Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramírez had signed an agreement with Ali Moshiri, Chevron’s head of Latin America and Africa operations, for the multinational to provide a $2 billion low-interest loan to the state-owned oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) to help increase oil output at the two companies’ Petroboscan oil joint venture. “We will continue to collaborate and cooperate with PDVSA because we believe the resources that are here in Venezuela are significant enough that we will be able to increase production not just in our current project but also in future projects,” Moshiri said, according to the Wall Street Journal. (Latin Post (New York) 5/24/14)
*2. Honduras: OAS Agency Orders Protection for Campesinos
On May 8 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), the human rights agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), ordered a series of protective measures for 123 leaders of campesino movements struggling for land in the Lower Aguán River Valley in northern Honduras. The campesino organizations filed a request for the protection orders last October with the assistance of the North American nonprofit Rights Action, which reported that as of July 2013 a total of 104 campesinos had been killed since 2009 in ongoing disputes with large landowners in the region [see Update #1204]. In March of this year the CIDH asked the Honduran government for information on what steps it was taking to end the bloodshed; the government reportedly failed to respond. (Adital (Brazil) 5/23/14)
The Honduran government came in for further criticism in the CIDH’s annual country report, released in April. Despite some improvements in legislation, the CIDH found that as of the end of 2013 “a legislative framework persists which in practice creates situations of human rights violations, particularly for transsexual persons.” Transsexuals, especially women, are at risk of abuse and arbitrary arrests by the police, regardless of whether they are engaged in sex work, according to the CIDH. The report also cited evidence from Honduran organizations of 112 violent deaths in the LGBT community from June 2008 to July 2013. (Proceso Digital (Honduras) 5/17/14)
The CIDH has referred another issue to a related OAS agency, the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CorteIDH). This is a legal case concerning the village of Triunfo de la Cruz near Tela in the northern department of Atlántida. The inhabitants are members of the Garífuna ethnicity, a group descended from Africans and from Arawak and Carib indigenous peoples. They say the government has refused to grant them land titles even though the village is on their ancestral land. The court heard testimony on May 20 from the government, the CIDH and Garífuna representatives, including village resident Angel Castro, who charged that a large part of his land had been sold off illegally. The parties to the dispute have one month to present written summations. (La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 5/20/14 from EFE)
*3. Mexico: Capital’s Residents Fight Water Project
Dozens of Mexican civilians and police were injured on May 21 in a violent confrontation over water resources in the centuries-old village of San Bartolo Ameyalco, now part of Alvaro Obregón delegación (borough) in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City). Over the past year a group of village residents has fought against a plan that the Alvaro Obregón government announced in April 2013 to run pipes off the natural spring now supplying water to San Bartolo Ameyalco. When workers arrived, with a police escort, in the morning of May 21 to lay down pipes for the project, residents armed with clubs, rocks and Molotov bombs attempted to block the construction. The protesters set up flaming barricades and detained at least two police agents, while the police arrested nine protesters, according to villagers. By the end of the day the village was without electricity and was surrounded by some 2,000 DF police agents, who ensured that the construction could proceed. About 50 police agents and 50 to 70 residents were reportedly injured.
According to delegación head Leonel Luna, the project’s goal is to use the spring to supply potable water to 20,000 area residents--without affecting access to water by the San Bartolo Ameyalco community. DF head of government Miguel Angel Mancera Espinosa, of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (DF), claimed on May 22 that he’d received reports blaming the protests on water vendors concerned that the increased supply of water would cut into their sales. DF security secretary Jesús Rodríguez Almeida charged that the attacks on police agents constituted what he called “citizen brutality.”
Residents insisted that Leonel Luna’s plan is not to supply water to nearby neighborhoods but to divert the water to the Centro Santa Fe, a huge shopping mall about five miles away. Hundreds of villagers gathered in an assembly in San Bartolo Ameyalco’s main plaza on May 22 and announced that they would prevent the new pipe system from going into operation. They said they no longer recognized Luna as their representative; their only authority from now on would be the village assembly, they decided, and political parties would not be allowed to intervene. (Revolution News 5/21/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 5/22/14, 5/22/14, 5/23/14)
In other news, the body of Ramón Corrales Vega, a former official of a local ejido (communal farm) was found in Choix municipality in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, the night of May 22-23; he was apparently shot by men armed with AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles. Corrales Vega was a leader in protests against iron mining by Paradox Global Resources S.A. de C.V., the Mexican subsidiary of the Chinese Rizhao Xingye Import and Export Co industrial conglomerate. Some 50 protesters kept workers and equipment from entering the Paradox mine for 15 days in August and September 2013 to press a demand that the company pay $5 million that the activists said it had promised the ejido. State police arrested 30 of the protesters, and 17 are still in custody. Corrales Vega had apparently been in hiding to avoid arrest for his role in the protest. (LJ 5/25/14)
*4. Dominican Republic: Will New Law Settle Citizenship Conflict?
A new naturalization law went into effect in the Dominican Republic on May 23 when it was officially promulgated by President Danilo Medina. The law seeks to regularize the status of thousands of Dominicans, mostly Haitian descendants, affected by Decision 168-13, a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal (TC) last September declaring that no one born to undocumented immigrant parents since 1929 was a citizen. The new law--which President Medina had promised to introduce to Congress on Feb. 27 [see Update #1213]—was approved quickly once he finally presented it in May. The Chamber of Deputies passed the bill on May 16, and the Senate voted 26-0 on May 21 to approve it.
Under the new law, people born in the Dominican Republic to foreign parents between 1929 and 2007 will become citizens if they are listed on the electoral board’s civil registry and can present certain documents. People who cannot present the documents will have 90 days to register for regular immigration status if they can produce proof that they were born in the Dominican Republic; after two years as resident immigrants, they will be able to apply for citizenship. The government says only about 24,000 people were affected by Decision 168-13, including 13,000 Haitian descendants; human rights groups put the number affected at 200,000 and say almost all are Haitian descendants. (Associated Press 5/21/14 via New York Times; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 5/23/14 from EFE)
Haitian immigrant rights activists were critical of the measure. “The law gives you something,” Jean Baptiste Azolin, the coordinator of the Support Group for the Repatriated and Refugees (GARR), said on May 20, while the bill was still awaiting approval, but the measure “complicates the situation” for the Dominicans who aren’t in the civil registry and lack the required documents. The 90-day limit is too narrow to produce documents, according to Azolin. “Does the Dominican government have the capacity for receiving all these people in that period of time?” he asked. “Can the Haitian government produce papers by the deadlines?” Jean Robert Argand, the director of another Haitian rights group, the Dec. 4 Collective, said the measure “only mitigates certain effects. The problem can come up again at any moment.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 5/20/14)
*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Caribbean, US/policy
Canadian Mining in Latin America Doing Serious Environmental Harm (Latin America)
South America: How ‘Anti-Extractivism’ Misses the Forest for the Trees
Bolivia’s Mother Earth Law Hard to Implement
Bolivia’s Conamaq Indigenous Movement: “We will not sell ourselves to any government or political party”
Phosphates Mining Rocks the Boats in Northern Peru
Chevron in Ecuador Representative of Multinationals' Continuing Abuse of Indigenous Peoples
Terrorism in Venezuela and Its Accomplices
"Here the People Govern": Autonomy and Resistance in San Francisco Opalaca, Honduras
Guatemala: Violent Eviction of the La Puya Peaceful Mining Resistance
Social Conflicts Escalate around Hydroelectric Projects in Guatemala
Guatemala's New 'Right-wing' Attorney General Raises Questions and Fears
After an assassination, the world stands in solidarity with the Zapatistas (Mexico)
Mexico: more narco-mineral exports seized
Mexico and Monsanto: Taking Precaution in the Face of Genetic Contamination
Pay Rumble at Border Big Rig Plant (Mexico)
The Creeping Decriminalization of Marijuana in the Caribbean
Remember When Venezuela and Bolivia Kicked the U.S. DEA Out of Their Countries, Accusing It of Espionage? Looks Like They Were Right... (US/policy)
Nobel Peace Laureates to Human Rights Watch: Close Your Revolving Door to U.S. Government (US/policy)
For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:
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Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:
Monday, May 26, 2014
WNU #1221: Latin American Protesters Target Monsanto, Chevron
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