Tuesday, September 30, 2014

WNU #1235: Mexican Police Kill Guerrero Students, Again

Issue #1235, September 28, 2014

1. Mexico: Police Kill Guerrero Students, Again
2. Guatemala: Police Occupy Town After Violence
3. Haiti: Women Protest 1835 Abortion Law
4. Nicaragua: Contra-Drug Series Was CIA “Nightmare”
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador, 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: Police Kill Guerrero Students, Again
The Attorney General’s Office of the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero announced on Sept. 28 that 22 agents from the Iguala de la Independencia municipal preventive police had been detained and removed to Acapulco in connection with a violent outbreak the night of Sept. 26-27 that left six dead and 17 injured. At least two of those killed were students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College, located in the town of Ayotzinapa, and as of Sept. 27 some 25 of the students were still missing. Two students from the same school were killed in an assault by state and federal police during a protest on Dec. 12, 2011; Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre Rivero eventually had to apologize publicly for the killings after the federal government’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued a recommendation for an apology and for compensation to the victims’ families [see Update #1153].

According to the authorities, the violence in Iguala began late on Sept. 26 when a group of students from the teachers’ college commandeered three buses to take them back to Ayotzinapa, about 125 kilometers away, after a visit to the city. Police agents responded by shooting at the buses, killing two students. Later that night, unidentified gunmen attacked a bus on the federal Iguala-Chilpancingo highway as it was taking a Chilpancingo soccer team, the Avispones (“Hornets”), home after a match with an Iguala team. A teenage player, David Josué García Evangelista, was killed, along with a passenger, Blanca Montiel Sánchez; the bus driver was wounded and died afterwards from his injuries. The military also found a man’s body at another location on the same highway; the victim still hadn’t been identified as of Sept. 28. It wasn’t clear whether he was a student, but the daily La Jornada suggested that the night’s attacks were “against anyone who looked like a student.”

As the violence was beginning on Sept. 27, Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez told a reporter that “apparently someone hired [the Ayotzinapa students] to come and make trouble.” The mayor’s wife, Municipal Family Development System president María de los Angeles Pineda Villa, was scheduled to deliver a report in a public plaza that night, although there was also a dance with a tropical music group, Luz Roja de San Marcos, at the plaza. Mayor Abarca Velázquez, a business owner and a member of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), is reportedly planning to have his wife replace him in city hall if he wins a seat in the federal Chamber of Deputies next year. The students said they simply came to Iguala to do fundraising in the streets, and they denied that they seized the buses by force. “There was some discussion with the bus drivers; they agreed to do us a favor,” Pedro David García López, a representative of the Ayotzinapa Student Executive Committee, told reporters on Sept. 27. “There wasn’t a kidnapping or a threat against a driver…. The buses had already let out their passengers.”

On Sept. 27 the State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG), an organization of dissident local members of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), condemned the police attack and announced that the group’s campaign against the federal government’s “education reform” program [see Update #1174] would now include a demand for punishment of the people responsible for the Iguala killings. (CNN México 9/27/14, some from Notimex; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/28/14, 9/28/14; Informador (Mexico) 9/28/14)

*2. Guatemala: Police Occupy Town After Violence
On Sept. 22 Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina declared a 30-day state of emergency in San Juan Sacatepéquez municipality in response to the deaths of at least eight indigenous Kaqchikel in a confrontation the night of Sept. 19-20 in the municipality’s Pajoques community [see Update #1234]. Some 600 police agents were sent to the municipality; according to one report they were backed up by 1,000 soldiers. Under the state of emergency the police are free to break up any demonstration or public meeting held without government authorization. On Sept. 23 the police arrested five community members, charging them with murder, attempted murder, arson and illegal meetings and protests; there are warrants for several dozen other community members.

There is little agreement on what happened the night of Sept. 19-20, even on the number of deaths: press reports range from eight to 11. The confrontation was between supporters and opponents of two construction projects, a huge cement factory in the municipality and a section of a beltway around Guatemala City, and the two sides gave radically different accounts. Construction supporters—generally residents who have been hired by the cement factory’s owners or have sold land for one or both of the construction projects—claim that the resistance activists are thieves and rapists who regularly harass and rob other community members.

Opponents of the construction charge that the incident started when 10 armed men from the factory entered Pajoques and fired on opponents, killing one and wounding two others. Community members say they called the national police soon after the shooting began but the police never arrived. All five of those arrested on Sept. 23 appear to belong to the resistance. Two claimed they had solid alibis. Celestino Turuy Pajoj, the director of a local school, said he was at a private university taking a law course, while José Dolores Pajoj Pirir said he was at a hospital with one of his sons at the time of the killings he is charged with. Two of his sons were shot at the beginning of the confrontation; one died and the other was hospitalized with injuries.

The Guatemalan firm Productos Mineros Limited, a subsidiary of Cementos Progreso, is the principal owner of the cement factory, holding 80% of the shares; the remaining 20% are held by the Swiss multinational cement company Holcim Ltd. Cementos Progreso is controlled by Guatemala’s rightwing Novella family, which has contracts for millions of dollars worth of development projects arranged by President Pérez Molina and his Patriot Party (PP), according to a Sept. 22 report by the Guatemalan Independent Media Center. Cementos Progreso made large contributions to Pérez Molina’s campaign in the 2011 presidential election. (Latin American Herald Tribune 9/23/14 from EFE; Prensa Libre (Guatemala) 9/24/14, 9/27/14 from EFE; TeleSUR 9/25/14; NACLA 9/26/14)

*3. Haiti: Women Protest 1835 Abortion Law
Some 30 Haitian women held a protest in front of the Ministry for the Feminine Condition and Women’s Rights (MCFDF) in Port-au-Prince on Sept. 26 to demand the decriminalization of abortion. Under Article 262 of Haiti’s Criminal Code, in effect since 1835, the sentence for a woman having an abortion and for anyone who helps her is life in prison. The law is apparently never enforced, but because of it all abortions in Haiti are clandestine and unregulated. The country has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the Americas, with 530 deaths for each 100,000 births; 100 of these deaths follow abortions. In a 2012 survey of 352 women who had abortions since 2007, 40% reported having complications. “Criminalization isn’t a solution,” the protesters, mostly young women, chanted. “We want to be educated sexually to be able to decide.” The demonstration was sponsored by a number of women’s rights organizations, including the Initiative for an Equitable Development in Haiti (Ideh), Kay Fanm (“Women’s House”) and Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA).

The Sept. 26 protest was in observance of the annual Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, which is officially observed two days later on Sept. 28, but the issue had gained additional attention in Haiti because of a Sept. 20 article in the French newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur. According to the article, in May 2013 a group of doctors, feminists and religious leaders adopted a resolution for decriminalization after a colloquium on abortion organized by Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP). “Haiti must remove the vagueness existing currently in its legislation on abortion by adopting a law that abrogates Article 262 of the Criminal Code of1835,” the resolution read. However, it has been kept secret and hasn’t been presented to the Parliament for legislative action. (Le Nouvel Observateur 9/20/14; AlterPresse (Haiti) 9/25/14, 9/27/14)

*4. Nicaragua: Contra-Drug Series Was CIA “Nightmare”
On Sept. 18 the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released a number of classified articles from its in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, including an article about “Dark Alliance,” a 1996 series in the San Jose Mercury News that linked the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contra rebels to the sale of crack in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s. Other US media, notably the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, harshly criticized the series’ author, investigative reporter Gary Webb, noting, and often exaggerating, flaws in his reporting. Webb lost his job at the Mercury News and was never employed by a major newspaper again; he was found dead on Dec. 10, 2004 in an apparent suicide [see Update #777].

The CIA journal article, by a Directorate of Intelligence staffer named Nicholas Dujmovic, described the initial public reaction to the series as a “nightmare” and “a genuine public relations crisis.” Although the contras’ links to cocaine trafficking had been reported previously, Webb’s series had more effect, in part because it connected the contras to the explosion of crack use in African-American communities. It was also one of the first major stories to gain traction through circulation over the internet. Dujmovic attributed the popularity of “Dark Alliance” to “societal shortcomings.” “We live in somewhat coarse and emotional times-–when large numbers of Americans do not adhere to the same standards of logic, evidence, or even civil discourse as those practiced by members of the CIA community,” he complained.

The CIA’s response largely relied on “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists,” Dujmovic wrote. The agency managed to discourage “one major news affiliate” from covering the story, and in another case it helped out a reporter by making “a rare exception to the general policy that CIA does not comment on any individual’s alleged CIA ties.” But to a large extent the mainstream media did the job on Webb without prompting from the CIA. The Los Angeles Times, for example, assembled a group of 17 reporters in what one member called the “get Gary Webb team.” The group “put [Webb’s series] under a microscope,” another of the reporters, Jesse Katz, said in a 2013 radio interview. “And we did it in a way that most of us who were involved in it, I think, would look back on that and say it was overkill. We had this huge team of people at the L.A. Times and kind of piled on to one lone muckraker up in Northern California.” The result of the media attack was a “success,” according to Dujmovic, although only “in relative terms.” (The Intercept 9/25/14)

The story has never completely disappeared from public consciousness, however. A 1997 report by the CIA’s then-inspector general, Frederick Hitz, confirmed the contras’ link to drug trafficking, and a new story about contra drug dealing appeared in October 2013 in both the rightwing US-based Fox television network and the left-leaning Mexican weekly Proceso [see Update #1198]. A feature film about Gary Webb, “Kill the Messenger,” is scheduled for release on Oct. 10.

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

Global Drug Report: Don't Just Decriminalize, Demilitarize (Latin America)

REDD: A controversial mechanism (Latin America)

Biodiversity Offsetting Advances in Latin America Amid Controversy

Until the Rulers Obey: Learning from Latin America’s Social Movements

How one Latin American peace group has persevered over 40 years

Trucks Set on Fire in Mapuche Conflict Zone, Chile

What is at stake in Brazil

An indigenous nation in the industrialized heart of South America (Brazil)

Police Violence and Forced Evictions in São Paulo: An Interview with Benedito “Dito” Barbosa (Brazil)

Washington Snubs Bolivia on Drug Policy Reform, Again

Peru: rural mayor killed in jungle unrest

Peru: Newmont behind water authority shake-up?

Peru: massacre victims exhumed in Ayacucho

Peru: record coke bust points to Mexican cartels

Colombia's indigenous communities at risk: report

Colombia's Ecopetrol to process fracking licenses

Venezuela’s Maduro Responds to Scathing US Editorials and Blames Capitalism for ‘Environment Collapse’

When A Cement Factory’s Progress Drive Turns Deadly (Guatemala)

El Salvador: Total Ban on Abortion is Killing Women and Girls and Condemning Others to Decades Behind Bars

Mexico Police Kill 2 Students During Protest, 25 Missing

Sonora Spill adds to the Social and Environmental Consequences of Free-Market Mining in Mexico

Memorial Planned for Famed Border Writer (Mexico)

Climate Ironies Expose the Vulnerable Borderlands (Mexico)

Bring on the Casinos-Tax Free! (Mexico)

ISIS to attack US through Mexico —not!

Mexico: protests for imprisoned vigilante leader

The Growing Divide Between Democrats and Latino Voters (US/immigration)

Expanding Insecurity (US/immigration)

DHS Argues It Has Evidence That Locking Up Immigrant Families Deters Migration. One Problem: It’s So Wrong. (US/immigration)

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