Issue #1232, September 7, 2014
1. Guatemala: Activists Defeat “Monsanto Law”
2. Honduras: Longtime Campesina Leader Murdered
3. Mexico: Torture Increased 600% in 10 Years
4. Haiti: Martelly Opponents Charged With Murder
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.
*1. Guatemala: Activists Defeat “Monsanto Law”
Guatemala’s unicameral Congress voted 117-111 on Sept. 4 to repeal Decree 19-2014, the Law for Protection of Procurement of Plants, in response to a lawsuit and mass protests by campesinos and environmentalists. The law, which was to take full effect on Sept. 26, provided for granting patents of 25 years for new plants, including hybrid and genetically modified (GM) varieties; unauthorized use of the plants or seeds could result in one to four years in prison and a fine of $130 to $1,300. The law had already been weakened by the Court of Constitutionality; acting on an Aug. 25 legal challenge from the Guatemalan Union, Indigenous and Campesino Movement (MSICG), the court suspended the law’s Articles 46 and 55. The law was originally passed to comply with an intellectual property requirement in the 2004 Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), and it was unclear whether Guatemala might now be excluded from the US-promoted trade bloc.
Opponents labeled the legislation the “Monsanto Law,” after the Missouri-based multinational Monsanto Company, the world’s leading producer of GM seeds. Activists charged that the law opened the way to the introduction of GM plants, which might contaminate local crop varieties and disrupt traditional indigenous farming. Campesinos also felt they could lose their livelihoods due to competition from large-scale farmers who can afford higher-yielding seeds from multinationals.
Opposition to the law appeared to be broad. On Sept. 2 thousands of indigenous campesinos blocked the Inter-American highway at three points in the southwestern department of Sololá until 6 pm to demand the law’s revocation. The protests were led by mayors of the department’s 82 indigenous communities, and some communities closed schools so that students could join in. Organizers estimated total participation at 120,000. Opposition to GM plants and to the dominance of multinationals like Monsanto has been growing in Latin America; indigenous communities in southeastern Mexico have won three court actions blocking GM soy so far this year [see Update #1229]. (Adital (Brazil) 9/2/14; Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 9/2/14; TeleSUR English 9/5/14)
*2. Honduras: Longtime Campesina Leader Murdered
Masked men shot and killed Honduran campesino movement leader Margarita Murillo the night of Aug. 26 on land she farmed in the community of El Planón, Villanueva municipality, in the northern department of Cortés. Murillo reportedly began working for campesino rights at the age of 12. During the 1980s she was a founder of the Campesino National Unity Front (FENACAMH) and the General Confederation of Rural Workers (CNTC). After the military removed then-president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) from office in June 2009, she was both a local and a national leader in the broad coalition resisting the coup, the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), and then in the center-left party that grew out of it, the Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE). The National Congress observed a moment of silence after reports of Murillo’s death were confirmed.
As of Aug. 28 the police said they had no indication of the murder’s authors. Murillo was leading a small cooperative, The Windows Campesino Associative Production Enterprise, that was engaged in a land dispute in the area where she was working at the time of her death. Soldiers had carried off her grown son Samuel from the house where the family lives in Marañón community, south of San Pedro Sula, on July 26; he was reportedly still missing as of Aug. 30. According to Rafael Alegría, a legislative deputy and campesino leader, some 200 campesinos have been murdered and about 700 campesinas face legal charges in cases involving land disputes. (La Prensa (San Pedro Sula) 8/28/14; El Ciudadano (Chile) 8/29/14 from TeleSUR; Vía Campesina 8/30/14)
*3. Mexico: Torture Increased 600% in 10 Years
Torture by police and soldiers continues to be a major problem for the Mexican government, according to “Out of Control: Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Mexico,” a 74-page report released by the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) on Sept. 4. Electric shocks, near-asphyxiation, mock executions, death threats against prisoners and their families, injection of carbonated drinks or chili pepper in prisoners’ noses, and rape and other forms of sexual violence remain common practices, according to the report, which cites both official statistics and interviews with victims. The result is often forced confessions, wrongful convictions and a failure to arrest the actual perpetrators. Although the government officially condemns torture, it rarely prosecutes police agents or soldiers for the practice and almost never convicts them. January 2014 data from the government’s Federal Judiciary Council (CJF) show that federal courts only took 123 torture cases to trial from 2005 to 2013; seven resulted in convictions. The federal government’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) received 7,164 torture complaints from 2010 to 2013; not one of them led to a conviction.
Reports of torture jumped dramatically after December 2006, when then-president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) began militarizing the fight against drug trafficking [see Update #1199]; complaints to the CNDH rose by 600% from 2003 to 2013. Current president Enrique Peña Nieto has deemphasized the “drug war,” but the number of torture complaints has only fallen slightly. (Al Jazeera America 9/4/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/5/14; Jurist 9/5/14)
In other news, a poll released by the Consulta Mitofsky firm in early September showed President Peña Nieto’s approval rating falling to 47%, its lowest level since he took office in December 2012 with a 54% approval rate. The week before, the Pew Research Center reported that the president’s negative ratings rose by nine points in the past year. Peña has been remarkably successful in pushing his programs through Congress, notably an “energy reform” that increases the participation of private and foreign companies in oil production [see Update #1214]. His administration has managed to engineer 85 changes to the Constitution. But the “reforms” have failed to produce the economic upturn Peña promised; the government’s current growth prediction for this year is just 2.7%. The president is “much more popular outside than in Mexico because we don't trust him,” Guadalupe Loaeza, a columnist for the daily Reforma, told the Washington Post. “We don't believe him.” (WP 9/3/14 from correspondents)
*4. Haiti: Martelly Opponents Charged With Murder
On Aug. 27 Haitian investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire ordered the arrests of four people--two brothers, a well-known lawyer and a police agent--for the Oct. 18, 2010 murder of the student Frantzy Duverseau at his Port-au-Prince home [see Update #1188]. The judge’s action immediately sparked accusations of political interference by the government of Haitian president Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”). The two brothers charged in the killing, Enold and Josué Florestal, are plaintiffs in a suit accusing Martelly’s wife, Sophia Martelly, and his son, Olivier Martelly, of corruption; the Florestal brothers have already been in prison for about a year. Their attorney, André Michel, is also charged in the murder case. Judge Bélizaire—whose other cases include the inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004) [see Update #1231]--is said to be close to Martelly’s government.
According to Frantzy Duverseau’s family, the October 2010 incident began with a domestic violence case. Enold Florestal reportedly assaulted Fabienne Duverseau, his wife; her brother Frantzy intervened, and Florestal was injured. Florestal then brought the police to the family home, along with his brother Josué and their attorney, André Michel. One of the police agents shot Frantzy Duverseau dead when he resisted arrest; Judge Bélizaire’s warrant names the agent as Jeanco Honorat. In a Sept. 2 report, Haiti’s independent National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) detailed problems with Bélizaire’s investigation, including the failure to search the scene, to conduct a ballistics analysis and to establish which of the accused were charged as material authors and which as accomplices. The report concluded that Bélizaire’s arrest warrant “constitutes a vast joke.” (Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN) 8/28/14; AlterPresse 9/5/14)
In other news, French groups in solidarity with Haiti and Latin America held a meeting with Haiti’s designated ambassador to France, Vanessa Matignon, on Aug. 28, to discuss the case of Haitian police agent Jean Matulnès Lamy, who has been held in the National Penitentiary without charges since February [see Update #1211]. Lamy is a resident of Ile-à-Vache, a small island southeast of Les Cayes in South department. Supporters say he was arrested because of his role as a leader in the resistance to the government’s plans for tourism development on the island. (AlterPresse 9/4/14)
*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US/immigration
Argentina, In the Shadow of the Vultures
Inter-American Court of Human Rights Orders Chile to Annul Sentences Under Anti-Terrorist Law
Affirmative Action in Uruguay Tests Government Commitment to Race
Brazil: Napalm in the Ribeira Valley
Brazil cracks down on Amazon 'land traffickers
Elections Revive Bolivia’s Controversial TIPNIS Highway Plan
Bolivia: dirty electoral season gets dirtier
Indigenous Anarchist Critique of Bolivia's 'Indigenous State': Interview with Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui
Peru: deadly repression of pipeline protests
President Correa: 'Biggest Mistake in Recent Years Was Letting Alberto Acosta Be President of the Constituent Assembly' (Ecuador)
Sixth teacher assassinated this year in Colombia
Colombia: FARC meet army brass, coke flows on
Venezuelan Government, Sidor Workers Sign New Collective Contract
Marta Harnecker: New paths require a new culture on the left (Venezuela)
Garifuna Denounce Honduran Government at the Inter-American Court
Escaping the New Honduras
Bonilla’s New Role Raises Questions for U.S.-Funded Police Trainings in Honduras
Chixoy Dam: No Reparations, No Justice, No Peace (Guatemala)
The World Bank And Inter-American Development Bank's Chixoy Dam Project: Still Killing Mayan Guatemalans 32 Years Later
Ecocides Ravage Mexican Waters
Filmmakers Sign Historic Agreement With Tribal Authorities in Mexico City
How US Intelligence Distorted Its Own Data on Child Migration (US/immigration)
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:
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
WNU #1232: Guatemalan Activists Defeat “Monsanto Law”
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