Tuesday, October 21, 2014

WNU #1238: UN Troops to Stay in Haiti

Issue #1238, October 19, 2014

1. Haiti: UN Troop Mandate Renewed for One Year
2. Mexico: Guerrero Protesters Seize City Halls
3. El Salvador: 1980s Army Hit List Unearthed
4. Central America: US Returns Migrants to Danger
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America/US, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, 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. Haiti: UN Troop Mandate Renewed for One Year
The United Nations (UN) Security Council voted unanimously on Oct. 14 to extend for another year the mandate for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the international military and police force stationed in Haiti since June 2004. For now the operation will continue to consist of 5,021 soldiers and 2,601 police agents. The Council accepted UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s recommendation to cut the number of soldiers to 2,370 [see Update #1233], but it decided to maintain the current troop strength until after March 2015, when Ban is to deliver a report on developments, including elections for local, municipal and some parliamentary posts. According to the government of President Michel Martelly, the elections, originally scheduled for 2011, will be held in the first three months of 2015; under the 1987 Constitution a presidential election should take place later in the year.

Latin American countries provide the bulk of the soldiers, and a number of Latin American groups and political figures--including Argentine human rights activist and 1980 Nobel peace prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel—joined Haitian groups in pressing for an end to MINUSTAH, which is blamed for repressive acts, for the sexual abuse of minors and others, and for introducing cholera into the country in October 2010. MINUSTAH opponents sent the Security Council an open letter dated Oct. 12 calling for “the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops occupying this Caribbean country.” (Adital (Brazil) 10/10/14; AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/15/14)

The Security Council vote came as the UN was about to face a court challenge to its claim of legal immunity for deaths and other damage from the cholera epidemic. A federal district judge in New York, J. Paul Oetken, has agreed to hear oral arguments from the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and other groups representing thousands of Haitian cholera victims in a lawsuit filed last year [see Update #1195]. Even a former lawyer for the UN, Columbia law professor Bruce Rashkow, questioned the international body’s immunity claim, although he expressed doubts that the victims would win in court. The UN “is obligated to establish some modality for plaintiffs, for people injured, to seek redress,” he told France 24 radio. “You have to step up to the plate and deal with your responsibility.” The hearing before Judge Oetken is scheduled for 10 am on Oct. 23 in Lower Manhattan’s Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse, room 706; it is open to the public. (New York Times 10/8/14; France 24 (English) 10/10/14; undated announcement forwarded from IJDH)

Meanwhile, Secretary General Moon is scrambling to fulfill his December 2012 pledge of $2.2 billion to fight the epidemic in Haiti. The UN still hasn’t met its initial goal of raising $400 million by the end of this year, although World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim announced in early October that the international bank would put up $50 million. Experts are worried that attention will be taken away from Haiti’s cholera epidemic by the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, where some 4,500 patients have died. The toll from cholera in Haiti is now over 8,300 deaths, and more than 700,000 people have been sickened. (Miami Herald 10/9/14; France 24 10/10/14)

*2. Mexico: Guerrero Protesters Seize City Halls
Students, teachers and parents attacked government office buildings in Chilpancingo, the capital of the southwestern state of Guerrero, on Oct. 13 in ongoing protests over the killing of six people, including three students, and the disappearance of 43 other students in Iguala de la Independencia the night of Sept. 26-27 [see Update #1237]. The demonstrators blocked the entrances to the main state office building from around 11 am, keeping some 1,500 employees trapped for more than five hours. In the evening, after some skirmishes with riot police, the protesters broke into one of the buildings and set it on fire. There were also attacks on various vehicles and on Chilpancingo’s city hall. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/14/14)

Protests continued throughout the week. In addition to occupying tollbooths on the Mexico City-Acapulco highway, teachers in a militant teachers’ labor group, the State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG), began a campaign to occupy the city halls of all the state’s 81 municipalities. As of Oct. 16 the teachers, backed by campesino groups, claimed to have taken over the local government buildings in Chilpancingo, Huamuxtitlán, Mártir de Cuilapan and San Luis Acatlán; state government sources said the mayors of 12 other municipalities had told their employees leave their offices in anticipation of further building occupations. On Oct. 17 thousands of protesters marched along the Miguel Alemán Coastal Highway in the resort city of Acapulco in a demonstration called by the CETEG and 43 other organizations. Another march was held in Iguala itself, headed by a statewide organization of community police groups, the Union of Peoples and Organizations of Guerrero State (UPOEG). Claiming concerns about an approaching tropical storm, the state government closed schools for the day. There were also demonstrations on Oct. 17 in six other states, including Chiapas, Chihuahua and Zacatecas. (LJ 10/17/14, 10/18/14, 10/18/14)

At a meeting held on Oct. 18 in the Che Guevara auditorium at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, representatives from various universities called for a two-day national student strike on Oct. 22-23, to include informational actions, the blocking of streets, a large march in Mexico City and various local actions to be determined by different schools. There was also discussion of occupying radio and television stations. (LJ 10/19/14)

The investigation into the events of Sept. 26-27—in which police and alleged criminal organizations targeted students from the activist Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the town of Ayotzinapa—has had mixed results. It seems likely that the 43 Ayotzinapa students who are still unaccounted for were murdered and buried in mass graves somewhere in the area around Iguala. On Oct. 14 federal attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam announced that the 28 charred bodies found 10 days earlier in the hills outside the city of Iguala were not those of the students. But a total of at least 14 mass graves have been found in the area so far, some by community police affiliated with the UPOEG. Technicians are trying to identify bodies by DNA, and speculation grows about how many unidentified bodies are buried in Guerrero’s hills. (LJ 10/15/14, 10/19/14)

As of Oct. 14, state and federal authorities had arrested a total of 46 people in connection with the attacks on the students: 22 municipal police from Iguala, 14 municipal police from the nearby town of Cocula and 10 civilians, including members of a local criminal gang, Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”). The authorities were preparing--but had not yet issued, contrary to earlier reports--arrest warrants for Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca, and his police chief, Felipe Flores Velázquez; both were in hiding. The authorities were also investigating María de los Angeles Pineda Villa, Abarca’s wife and the sister of at least two Guerreros Unidos leaders; she too was in hiding. (LJ 10/15/14)

The investigation is complicated by maneuvering among Mexico’s three major parties. Protesters are regularly calling for the resignation of Gov. Angel Aguirre Rivero, who, like Mayor Abarca, is a member of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and its dominant New Left (“Los Cuchos”) faction. Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto is a member of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and there are reports that his government is protecting Gov. Aguirre in exchange for the New Left’s agreement not to call for the resignation of México state’s PRI governor, Eruviel Avila Villegas, whose government apparently covered up the military’s responsibility for a June massacre in Tlatlaya municipality [see Update #1234]. The center-right National Action Party (PAN) is demanding Aguirre’s removal, but it has its own problems in Guerrero. The state party’s general secretary, Braulio Zaragoza Maganda, was murdered in Acapulco on Sept. 28. On Oct. 18 Guerrero state attorney general Iñaky Blanco Cabrera announced that five of Zaragoza’s fellow PAN members were being charged in the killing, which was termed political. Two of those charged in this case were accused in an earlier murder of a PAN politician, the Jan. 4, 2007 killing of state legislator José Jorge Bajos Valverde. (LJ 10/17/14, 10/19/14)

A new center-left party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) of former PRD leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is also tainted. Until Oct. 16 Guerrero's health secretary was Lázaro Mazón Alonso, a MORENA member and a longtime associate of Mayor Abarca. That day Gov. Aguirre announced that he had asked for Mazón’s resignation so that Mazón could answer investigators’ questions about his relations with the fugitive mayor. Ironically, on Oct. 17 the state legislature confirmed that Luis Mazón, Lázaro Mazón’s brother, will be the replacement mayor of Iguala. Luis Mazón was Abarca’s deputy; his appointment as mayor is to be ratified on Oct. 21. (LJ 10/17/14, 10/18/14)

On Oct. 17 the daily Reforma published a poll it had taken of 500 adult Guerrero residents on Oct. 16 and 17. Asked if Gov. Aguirre should stay in office, 43% of the respondents wanted him to stay, while 42% favored his resignation. Some 65% felt the state government had handled the Ayotzinapa case badly, but they were split on the federal government’s handling of the case, with 43% saying it had done well and 42% saying it had done badly. 49% expected the guilty parties to escape justice, while 37% thought they would be punished. A full 63% said they supported the protests; 75% opposed actions like the burning of government offices on Oct. 13, but 21% felt they were justified. Reforma said the poll’s margin of error was +/-4.4% . (Reforma 10/17/14)

In the midst of the current crisis, on Oct. 15 the Guerrero Truth Commission (Comverdad) was scheduled to release its report on the “dirty war” the military carried out in the state during the late 1960s and the 1970s against rebel groups like the Party of the Poor (PdlP) of Lucio Cabañas Barrientos [see Update #1087]. The commission, whose two-year term expired with the release of the report, documented 463 cases of severe human rights violations, including 24 summary executions and 230 forced disappearances. Comverdad also found the remains of two rebels and new evidence on “death flights,” in which the military dropped its victims’ bodies from planes into the Pacific. The commission discovered that the dirty war wasn’t just history. Even though Comverdad was formally established by the state legislature in 2012, its office was vandalized, its funding was cut and its members were harassed and received death threats. Armed men attacked commission members Pilar Noriega García and Nicomedes Fuentes last January.

The state’s new crisis “is the product of impunity from that era,” Noriega told New Mexico State University’s Frontera NorteSur, referring to the time of the dirty war. “It is the product of not having clarity about that epoch.” Asked about the US government’s role in the counterinsurgency, Noriega told Frontera NorteSur that while Comverdad found no evidence of direct US involvement, records showed that Washington was closely “following the matter.” Kate Doyle, the director of the Mexico Project of the DC-based National Security Archive research group, said US agencies gathered intelligence and sometimes provided it; the US supported “implicitly and explicitly anything Mexico did to maintain stability,” according to Doyle. (LJ 10/14/14; Frontera NorteSur 10/15/14)

*3. El Salvador: 1980s Army Hit List Unearthed
A secret July 1987 Salvadoran military document revealing the methods the army used during El Salvador’s 1979-1992 civil war was made public for the first time on Sept. 28, International Right to Know Day. Entitled the “Yellow Book” (“Libro Amarillo”), the 270-page document is a compilation the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces’ Intelligence Department (C-II) made of 1,915 entries about people the military considered “criminal terrorists.” Of these, 1,857 individuals were identified by name, along with nicknames and photographs. The people named were members of unions, political parties, and groups of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), including current Salvadoran president Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

According to an analysis by the DC-based National Security Archive, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights and the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), 273 of the names (15%,) matched people reportedly killed in El Salvador during the 1980-1992 period; 233 (13%) matched reported victims of forced disappearances; 274 (15%) matched reported torture victims; and 538 (29%) matched people who were detained or arrested. A total of at least 43% of the people listed in the Yellow Book were victims of human rights violations.

The Yellow Book was discovered by a person who remains unidentified. Its existence was revealed last year by Al Jazeera and the Mexican daily La Jornada, but the document itself was unavailable until now. It is the first secret military document made public from the time of the civil war; the Salvadoran military, which was then strongly backed by the US, has refused to release any documents. Miguel Montenegro, the director of the El Salvador Human Rights Commission (CDHES), expects the publication to have a great impact in El Salvador at a time when activists are pushing for the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) to declare unconstitutional a 1993 law providing amnesty for the military’s crimes during the period.

The National Security Archive notes that the Yellow Book seems to incorporate advice from the US government. In 1981 US brigadier general Fred Woerner carried out an assessment of the Salvadoran military’s strategy for the new administration of US president Ronald Reagan (1981-1989). One of Gen. Woerner’s recommendations was that the Salvadorans should “[p]ublish and maintain blacklists with photos of all known insurgents and their aliases at ports of entry/exit, border crossing points, and internal checkpoints.” (National Security Archive 9/28/14; Adital (Brazil) 10/13/14)

*4. Central America: US Returns Migrants to Danger
US government policies for dealing with unauthorized migrants at the Mexico-US border are endangering Hondurans and other Central Americans by sending them back to their home countries without adequate consideration of their asylum claims, according to a 44-page report that the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization released on Oct. 16. “In its frenzy to stem the tide of migrants from Central America, the US is sending asylum seekers back to the threat of murder, rape and other violence,” said Clara Long, the HRW researcher who wrote the report, “‘You Don’t Have Rights Here’: US Border Screening and Returns of Central Americans to Risk of Serious Harm.”

Based on interviews with 25 recent deportees in Honduras and 10 Central Americans in detention centers in Artesia, New Mexico, and Karnes, Texas, the report describes cursory screening by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents who regularly ignore migrants’ credible claims of danger from criminal gangs in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Data that HRW obtained from the CBP for 2011 and 2012 tells the same story. At least 80% of the Hondurans apprehended at the border were placed in summary removal proceedings, according to the CBP, and only 1.9% were flagged as possible asylum seekers, despite the fact that Honduras currently has the world’s highest murder rate. By comparison, CBP agents flagged 21% of migrants from other countries for secondary, in-depth screening. (HRW 10/16/14)

Central American migrants face even worse obstacles during their journey north through Mexico [see Update #1220]. In early October the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (TPP), an international group founded in Italy in 1979 to influence world opinion on various issues, heard testimony in Mexico City on the migrants’ treatment. Father Pedro Pantoja, who organized a migrants’ shelter in Saltillo in the northeastern state of Coahuila, described Mexico as “a hell for migrants,” who are threatened by criminal gangs and corrupt officials and are subjected to increasingly strict enforcement measures from the Mexican government. While the TPP was meeting, interior secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong announced that the government would now require freight trains to double their speed as a way of deterring Central Americans from riding on them. Migrants testified at the TPP hearings that Osorio Chong’s new speeds would cause more deaths and injuries but wouldn’t stop the migration. (The Progressive 10/8/14)

Mexican advocates trying to help the migrants are also subject to harsh treatment. The Brother and Sister Migrants on the Road shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec, Oaxaca, directed by Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, has reported on an attack by agents from the federal government’s National Migration Institute (INM) in Chibela, Oaxaca on Sept. 18. Volunteers, including the photojournalist Irineo Mujica Arzate and Marlene López, an academic researcher, were accompanying a group of migrants when they were stopped by INM agents backed up by soldiers. The agents physically and verbally attacked the volunteers and seized their cameras as they tried to record the incident. The shelter reported that at least 57 people, including migrants and volunteers, had been attacked in the area since August. (Adital (Brazil) 10/8/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America/US, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, US/immigration

Let’s Talk About Race (in Latin@ Communities)(Latin America/US)

La Garganta Poderosa: Voice and dignity from below (Argentina)

Paraguayan Journalist Murdered

Why Dilma Should Look Back to Her Bases in Brazil's Runoff Election

Bolivia: Evo wins —amid indigenous protests

Evo Morales and the winning epoch in Bolivia

Beyond Evo Morales’ Electoral Victory: A View from La Paz, Bolivia

Bolivia: Has Evo Morales proven his critics wrong?

Photo Essay: Thousands March in El Alto, Bolivia Demanding Justice for 2003 Gas War Massacre

Colombia: Santos under fire over peace process

Colombians sue BP over environmental damage

Venezuela accuses Colombian paras in death of pol

Venezuela Gains UN Security Council Seat

Civil Society, Judges Team Up Against Judicial Corruption in Guatemala

43 Missing Students, State Crimes & Resistance in Mexico

Cops and Paramilitaries Tortured, Burned, Massacred Mexico Students

New Report Exposes Mexican Dirty War

Chaos: catharsis of the system in Mexico

A Hero of Tlatelolco (Mexico)

Film Chronicles the Movement to Save a Sacred Land and a Visionary Culture

Mexico: dam opponent slain during radio broadcast

Mexican cartel wars winding down?

How Far the Cult of the Individual? (Mexico)

Cuba and U.S. Join Forces Against Ebola in West Africa

Lila Downs on Borders and La Bestia (US/immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:


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