Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WNU #1227: US Deports Hondurans as Violence Continues

Issue #1227, July 20, 2014

1. Honduras: US Deports Migrants as Violence Continues
2. El Salvador: Workers Win $1.5 Million in Maquila Closing
3. Brazil: BRICS Nations Plan New Development Bank
4. Haiti: UN Head Makes "Pilgrimage" for Cholera Victims
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico

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: US Deports Migrants as Violence Continues
A plane chartered by the US government carried 38 Honduran deportees from an immigration detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, to the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on July 14. This was the first US deportation flight entirely dedicated to mothers and children: eight mothers, 13 girls and nine boys were scheduled for the trip, although two couldn’t travel because of illness. Reporters, Honduran officials and Ana García de Hernández, the wife of President Juan Orlando Hernández, were on hand for the flight’s arrival. President Hernández's government promised the deportees job leads, a $500 stipend, psychological counseling and schooling, but a returning mother, Angélica Gálvez, told the Los Angeles Times that in the end she and her six-year-old daughter Abigail didn’t get enough money to pay for the three-hour trip to their home in La Ceiba. “They havent helped me before,” she said. “Why should I believe them now?”

The publicity around the flight was apparently part of a US effort to reduce a recent increase in unauthorized immigration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, mostly by unaccompanied minors and women with their children; some 57,000 unaccompanied child migrants have been detained at the Mexico-US border since October, 35,000 of them Central Americans [see Update #1225]. An unnamed official from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) described the deportation flight as “just the initial wave.” “Our border is not open to illegal migration, and we will send recent illegal migrants back,” the official said. (LAT 7/14/14)

Other US government efforts to discourage immigration include commissioning songs that stress the dangers of attempts to enter the US without authorization. This started in 2004 when the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a DHS agency, sent a five-song CD to radio stations throughout Mexico. Currently 21 Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran radio stations are playing a CBP-commissioned cumbia song, “La Bestia,” named for the notoriously dangerous train Central American migrants often ride to get through southern Mexico; migrants call it “The Beast” [see Update #1220]. The song, which the radio stations play without any reference to its US origin, is reportedly very popular. (The Daily Beast 7/12/14)

Honduran critics of US policies charge that these efforts don’t address the causes underlying the wave of departures from the country. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate; with a population of about 438,00, San Pedro Sula, the home of many of the people heading north, had 778 homicides in 2013 and 594 so far this year, the municipal morgue reports. According to Hugo Ramón Maldonado, vice president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (Codeh), some 80% of the people emigrating from Honduras are fleeing criminality or violence. He blamed the government’s failure to pursue criminals and dismissed the government reception of the deportees on July 14 as “a political show with our returned migrants.” “What is happening in this country is a great tragedy,” he added. (LAT 7/14/14)

In an interview published July 14 by the Mexican daily Excélsior, rightwing president Hernández blamed the violence on US drug policy. “The root cause is that the US and Colombia carried out big operations in the fight against drugs,” he said. “Then Mexico did it.” This “drug war” policy pushed drug traffickers into the northern Central American countries, El Salvador,Guatemala and Honduras, he indicated, “creating a serious problem for us that sparked this migration.” However, Hernández is apparently seeking US funding so that he can start similar operations in his own country. (Reuters 7/14/14 via Huffington Post)

In fact, drug traffickers appear to operate quite openly in parts of Honduras. On July 17 a group of heavily armed men seized some 20 members of the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), a leading organization of the Garífuna ethnic group, in Vallecito in the northern department of Colón. Some OFRANEH members managed to escape and mobilize supporters, with the result that the gang eventually released the captives, who included OFRANEH coordinator Miriam Miranda. The Garífuna’s right to the Vallecito territory was recognized by the government’s National Agrarian Institute (INA) in 1997, and the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the group’s claim against cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum’s attempt to seize part of the land the next year. More recently, drug traffickers invaded Vallecito and built a landing strip there. The Garífuna regained control in 2013, but the gang appeared to be trying to restore the landing strip this July. The OFRANEH members were investigating when they were seized. They noted that their kidnappers didn’t bother to hide their faces; as of July 18 there had been no arrests. (Adital (Brazil) 7/18/14; Rebelión 7/19/14 from Lista Informativa Nicaragua y Más (LINyM))

Meanwhile, Honduran police agents continue to be accused of major crimes [see Update #1203]. On July 14 three agents of the National Directorate of Special Investigation Services (DNSEI) were indicted in connection with the murder of two women, Yury Fabiola Hernández and Gessy Marleny García, at a restaurant in a Tegucigalpa suburb on July 9; they were also accused of wounding a third women, who is now a protected witness. Agent Marvin Joel Gallegos Suárez was charged with the murders, while agents Fredy Gerardo Mendoza Arriaza and Gregorio Alexander Anariba Meraz were charged with complicity in the murders and with violation of their duties. (Latin American Herald Tribune 7/13/14 from EFE; El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 7/15/14)

*2. El Salvador: Workers Win $1.5 Million in Maquila Closing
On July 12 the 1,066 laid-off employees of El Salvador’s Manufacturas del Río (MDR) apparel factory began receiving benefits, back wages and severance pay that they were owed after the plant closed suddenly on Jan. 7. MDR--a joint venture of the Mexican company Kaltex and the Miami-based Argus Group which stitched garments for such major brands as Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Lacoste, Levi Strauss and Adidas—shut down without notice after the Textile Industry Workers Union (STIT), an affiliate of the Salvadoran Union Front (FSS), spent two months attempting to negotiate a contract. No apparel plant in El Salvador has a labor contract.

Salvadoran unionists said that although they took the necessary steps with the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Office and the courts to win compensation, international solidarity was crucial to the victory. The STIT filed complaints with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) in the US and put pressure on the Argus Group with support from two US-based groups, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ. In Mexico student activists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), and the Center for Labor Research & Consulting (CILAS) aided a campaign to pressure Kaltex. The German-based Christian Initiative Romero (CIR) backed the Salvadoran union’s efforts in Germany to inform Adidas shareholders about the MDR closing; Adidas had sourced garments from the plant for 10 years. (International Union League for Brand Responsibility 7/15/14)

*3. Brazil: BRICS Nations Plan New Development Bank
The BRICS group of five nations--Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa--held its sixth annual summit this year from July 14 to July 16 in Fortaleza in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará and in Brasilia, the Brazilian capital. The main business for the five nations’ leaders was formalizing their agreement on a plan to create a development bank to serve as an alternative to lending institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are largely dominated by the US and its allies. Although the project will need approval from the countries’ legislatures, the BRICS leaders indicated that the group’s lending institution would be called the New Development Bank, would be based in Shanghai and would be headed for the first five years by a representative of India. The bank is to start off in 2016 with $50 billion in capital, $10 billion from each BRICS member. The BRICS nations will maintain control of the bank, but membership will be open to other countries; in contrast to the IMF and the World Bank, the New Development Bank will not impose budgetary conditions on loan recipients.

The BRICS nations--which together now account for about 20% of the world’s total gross domestic products, according to Russian president Vladimir Putin—all have major economies but lack the economic power of the traditional advanced industrial sector based in Europe, Japan and North America. However, there are important differences in their economies, their political systems and their objectives; the New Development Bank plan was held up for years as China, by far the largest of the five economies, sought to dominate the bank. (The Guardian (UK) 7/15/14 from Reuters; Wall Street Journal 7/16/14)

Grassroots organizations charge that the BRICS governments frequently don’t represent the needs and wishes of their populations. The Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples (Rebrip) joined with a number of other groups to hold a sort of counter-summit in Fortaleza on July 15. “[S]trong social inequalities and development models based on the super-exploitation of natural resources motivate social organizations and movements in the bloc’s countries to set up joint actions that aim to guarantee rights, equality, and social and environmental justice,” the event’s announcement said. “We believe that the BRICS’ impacts—positive or negative—in the international system and in our societies depend on the ability of the peoples to mobilize themselves, to debate and to dispute the directions taken by their countries and the international coalitions that they are part of.” (Adital (Brazil) 7/16/14)

On the way to the summit, Russian president Putin visited Cuba and then Argentina, where he and Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed several accords on July 12, including one on nuclear power. A Russian delegation was planning to visit the Vaca Muerta region’s shale deposits, which Argentina is planning to exploit through hydrofracking in a joint venture with the US-based Chevron Corporation [see Update #1221]. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/13/14 from correspondent)

*4. Haiti: UN Head Makes "Pilgrimage" for Cholera Victims
United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon made a two-day visit to Haiti on July 14 and July 15 to promote a $2.2 billion program that he launched in December 2012 to eliminate cholera from the country over the next 10 years. He traveled with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to the village of Las Palmas, near Hinche in the Central Plateau, to announce a “Total Sanitation Campaign,” the second phase of the cholera elimination program, which remains underfunded. Ban called the visit a “necessary pilgrimage”; at a church service in Las Palmas he acknowledged “that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear” and that it “continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.”

Many Haitians remained critical of Ban, who has refused to accept UN responsibility for the cholera outbreak, despite overwhelming evidence that it was caused by poor sanitation in October 2010 at a base used by troops from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) [see Update #1195]. Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph said it was “an insult to all Haitians for the secretary general to come to Haiti for a photo opportunity when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic.” The Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP) said the visit would be a good occasion for Ban to say “when MINUSTAH will leave the country,” to “recognize officially the UN’s responsibility in the introduction of cholera in Haiti” and “to define a compensation plan for the victims.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 7/14/14; The Guardian (UK) 7/16/14, some from unidentified wire services)

Ban’s visit came a month after a June 13 incident in New York in which a professional process server attempted to hand the secretary general a formal complaint in connection with a lawsuit filed in March at a Brooklyn federal court. Stan Alpert, one of the attorneys for the 1,500 plaintiffs in the suit, which seeks to make the UN accept responsibility for the epidemic, said Ban was given the complaint; the UN denies that he received it. (Miami Herald 6/17/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico

Argentina: Mapuche Community Takes Direct Action Against Oil and Gas Exploitation on Its Territory

Why did Uruguay Request its Own Integration into the Trade in Services Agreement?

The Promises and Limitations of Revolutionary Change in Bolivia: A Book Review of Evo’s Bolivia

Bolivia: 'dirty war' fears as Evo seeks third term

Ethnic cleansing on Peru's jungle border

A Massacre of Convenience: Democracy, Progress, and the Disappearance of a People In the Ecuadorian Amazon

The Problem with the Venezuela Sanctions Debate

Maduro Extends Planned “Shakeup” of Venezuelan State and Economy

Nicaragua Vive! 35 Years Since the Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution

Nicaragua: inter-oceanic canal route approved

Salvadoran Feminists Push Debate on El Salvador’s Stringent Abortion Ban

The Depths of Hell in Honduras: Honduran Collapse, Mining and Organized Crime

The Drones of Mexico

How the Mexican Drug Trade Thrives on Free Trade

Mexico’s Health Care Professionals Rise Up

NAFTA Advocates Continue to Make Misleading Claims (Mexico)

How the Mexican Drug Trade Thrives on Free Trade

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