Monday, November 24, 2014

WNU #1243: Honduran Campesino Leader Murdered

Issue #1243, November 23, 2014

1. Honduras: Campesino Leader Murdered in Aguán
2. Mexico: Protests Growing in “Failed State”
3. Haiti: Marchers Shot at Battle Commemoration
4. US: SOA Activists March on Detention Center
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, 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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Honduras: Campesino Leader Murdered in Aguán
Juan Angel López Miranda, a campesino leader in the Lower Aguán River Valley in the northern Honduran department of Colón, was murdered on Nov. 11 in the Ilanga Viejo neighborhood of Trujillo municipality, according to a communiqué from the Agrarian Platform, an alliance of campesino groups and nongovernmental organizations. Also known as “Juan Galindo,” López Miranda was a leader in the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and headed the largest campesino settlement in the valley, with 1,500 campesino residents. López Miranda was attacked by two armed men on a motorcycle, the communiqué said, and was hit by eight bullets.

The Aguán Valley is the center of a longstanding conflict between campesinos and large landowners who the campesinos say acquired their land in contravention of Honduras’s agrarian reform program. At least 147 people have been killed, most of them campesinos, since late 2009, when MUCA and other campesino organizations began a series of land occupations to push their claims [see Update #1226]. López Miranda was detained by the military briefly in April 2012 [see Update #1125], and he escaped without injuries from a violent attack in April 2013. The Agrarian Platform demanded that the Honduran government investigate both the people who carried out the campesino leader’s “vile murder” and those who ordered it. (La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa) 11/13/14 from ACAN-EFE; Adital (Brazil) 11/17/14)

In other news, on Nov. 5 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), the human rights agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a precautionary measure requiring the Honduran Government to suspend a 16-month work ban imposed on journalist Julio Ernesto Alvarado, the director and anchor for a Globo TV news program and a founding member of the Honduran chapter of the British-based human rights organization PEN International. Honduran courts imposed the ban last December in response to Alvarado’s 2006 coverage of alleged corruption by a university dean, Belinda Flores. This is the first time that the IACHR has ordered the revocation of a ban on practicing journalism. Carles Torner, PEN International’s executive director, called the IACHR ruling “a landmark decision for the protection of the freedom of expression of journalists in the region.” (PEN International 11/12/14; Adital (Brazil) 11/19/14)

*2. Mexico: Protests Growing in “Failed State”
On Nov. 20 tens of thousands of protesters marched through downtown Mexico City in the fourth National and Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa, demanding the return of 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College, located in Ayotzinapa in the southwestern state of Guerrero. The students were abducted the night of Sept. 26-27 in the Guerrero city of Iguala de la Independencia, apparently in a joint action by municipal police and local drug gangs; three other students were killed in the incident, along with three bystanders [see Update #1242]. The Nov. 20 demonstration, which also marked the official anniversary of the start of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, coincided with the arrival in the capital of three caravans led by parents of the missing students; the parents had spent a week traveling through different parts of Mexico to increase public awareness about the disappearances.

The Mexico City march appeared to be the largest action yet for the 43 students. The marchers headed to the central Zócalo plaza in three contingents: from the Angel of Independence, which commemorates the 1810 War of Independence; from the Monument to the Revolution, which commemorates the 1910 Revolution; and from the Tlatelolco housing project, the site of an October 1968 massacre of striking students and their supporters. The left-leaning daily La Jornada put participation at “hundreds of thousands” and reported that marchers were still entering the Zócalo when the main rally ended. (LJ 11/21/14, 11/21/14)

After the rally groups of youths, some masked, tried to seize the metal barricades protecting public buildings. Police agents responded by using pepper spray and water cannons to clear the plaza. The authorities said there were 26 arrests, with 11 of those arrested facing federal charges of criminal association, rioting and attempted homicide. The 11 were quickly transferred to federal prisons hundreds of kilometers from Mexico City—the eight men in the group to Perote, Veracruz, and the three women to Tepic, Nayarit. Relatives of the 11 detainees held a press conference outside federal prosecutors’ offices on Nov. 22. They charged that the arrests were arbitrary, that the detainees were not involved in the confrontation with police and that they were mistreated while in custody and were denied their right to counsel; one of the men charged, Chilean citizen Laurence Maxwell, was simply riding a bicycle in the area when he was arrested, his supporters said. (LJ 11/21/14, 11/23/14)

Mexicans living abroad organized their own Nov. 20 protests in a number of cities, including Paris, Moscow, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. As many as 300 protesters, mostly Mexicans, rallied in the late afternoon outside the Mexican consulate in New York’s midtown section, with chants demanding justice and calling Mexico’s three main political parties “murderer parties.” After a moment of silence and a reading of the names of the 43 missing students, the protesters marched to the Grand Central train station, where they briefly blocked the main entrance; a few protesters held a die-in inside. The march proceeded to a second rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations complex. Along the route marchers distributed fliers to the rush-hour crowds; most passersby seemed unaware of the crisis in Mexico, which has gotten little coverage in the US media. (Latin Post 11/21/14; report from Update editor)

Even though US coverage of the Mexican turmoil has been sparse, investors in the US and other countries are now showing signs of worry.  Mexico’s social problems, along with a disappointing growth rate for the third quarter, have led to “questioning with respect to the promising perspectives which were generated with the start of the new administration” of President Enrique Peña Nieto in December 2012, Alfredo Coutiño, the director of  Moody’s Analytics’ Latin American branch, said on Nov. 20; Moody’s Analytics is a subsidiary of the Moody’s Corporation rating service. “The issue for the economy isn’t that the political and social problems have just now appeared on the horizon, but rather the slow response and the low level of effectiveness of the actions to resolve them.” (LJ 11/21/14)

Politicians in other Latin American countries are also concerned. In an interview with the Latin American edition of Foreign Affairs posted on Nov. 23, Uruguay’s center-left president, José Mujica, questioned Mexico’s ability to handle the crisis. “It gives one a sensation, seen from the distance, that we’re dealing with a sort of failed state,” said Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter whose term ends on Mar. 1, 2015, “that the public authorities have totally lost control, that they’ve rotted away.” (LJ 11/23/14 from AFP)

Some Mexican observers seem to have a similar view. On Nov. 22 Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, a three-time presidential candidate for various center-left coalitions, called for a constituent assembly to formulate a new constitution. The goal would not be “to get rid of the institutions, but for them to be useful, reliable leaders, and committed to the causes of the country and the people.” Cárdenas had warned a week earlier, on Nov. 16, that Mexico’s largest center-left party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), was on the brink of dissolution. Cárdenas was one of the main founders of the party in 1989, following his defeat in the controversial 1988 presidential election. José Luis Abarca Velázquez, the Iguala mayor who allegedly ordered the attack on the Ayotzinapa students, is a PRD politician, a fact that has alienated much of the party’s base. According to a Nov. 3-4 poll ordered by the party leadership, 46% of Mexican citizens have a bad opinion of the PRD and only 11% of them would back it in the 2015 legislative elections—down from 18% at this point in the 2012 race. (TeleSUR English 11/17/14; LJ 11/23/14, 11/23/14)

*3. Haiti: Marchers Shot at Battle Commemoration
At least four demonstrators were wounded in the northern Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas on Nov. 18 when counter-demonstrators opened fire on an opposition march commemorating the anniversary of the 1803 Battle of Vertières, which marked the final defeat of French forces trying to regain control of Haiti. The several hundred marchers had reached the neighborhood of Delmas 32 and were about to turn back toward downtown Port-au-Prince when they were met with a hail of rocks. The marchers responded with more rocks, and the police used tear gas against the attackers. The gunfire started a little later. Two people were hit in the neck, one in the knee and one in the side; all four were taken away for medical care. The police said they recovered more than a half-dozen 9 mm caliber cartridges from the site. The marchers dispersed after the attack.

Some protesters reported seeing a lifeless body lying near a motorbike, and protest organizers held a press conference on Nov. 21 to charge that three people had been shot dead and that police agents had taken their bodies away. The authorities denied the charge, and reporters noted that the press conference didn’t include relatives of the three people said to be missing.

The Nov. 20 march was largely sponsored by opponents of President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) and included groups associated with the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Populist senators John Joel Joseph and Moïse Jean-Charles and legislative deputy Arnel Bélizaire were among the politicians present [see Update #1204]. According to the online news service AlterPresse, the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA), which is associated with the leftist labor organization Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), also participated, but the union’s “demands against the presence of United Nations forces in the country [and] for a decent minimum wage…were drowned out by the anti-Martelly slogans.” The Martelly opponents were especially incensed because of an opinion piece by Communication Minister Rudy Hériveaux posted on Martelly’s blog on Nov. 17. Entitled “The Cockroach Syndrome,” the article described anti-government protesters as “roaches” who “trot around in a disgusting folklore in the streets to try to assault the government.” Hériveaux is a former FL senator and until a few years ago led a faction of the party [see Update #1083]. (AlterPresse 11/19/14, 11/21/14)

In related news, two opposition leaders arrested after an Oct. 26 protest, Rony Timothée and Byron Odigé [see Update #1240], have been placed in isolation in the National Penitentiary, according to the daily Le Nouvelliste. Meanwhile, attorney André Michel, who frequently represents opposition figures [see Update #1232], was ordered to appear on Nov. 17 before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire, who is charging him with property destruction in connection with an Oct. 17 demonstration. Michel refused to attend, saying Judge Bélizaire had no authority to order his appearance. (AlterPresse 11/17/14, 11/21/14)

*4. US: SOA Activists March on Detention Center
Seven activists were arrested from Nov. 22 to Nov. 23 for nonviolent acts of civil disobedience during the 25th annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. The protest’s sponsor, SOA Watch, opposes the US Army’s training of Latin American soldiers, charging that SOA graduates have been among the region’s most notorious human rights violators [see Update #1228]. A special focus on the US government’s treatment of immigrants marked this year’s activities, which followed US president Barack Obama’s Nov. 20 announcement that his government would grant a temporary deferral from deportation for several million undocumented immigrants.

Five of the arrests took place on Nov. 22 at the Stewart Detention Center for immigrants in Lumpkin, Georgia, 30 miles from Columbus. Hundreds of activists demanded the closing of the center, which is owned and operated by the private Corrections Corporation of America (CCA); release of the 1,800 immigrants held there; and an immediate end to mass deportations. Although SOA Watch has held small protests at the Stewart facility in the past [see Update #1106], this year’s was significantly larger, according to Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones, who estimated participation at more than 1,000. Two more arrests took place at the gates of Fort Benning on Nov. 23, when some 2,500 protesters held a funeral march and vigil focused on WHINSEC itself. (Columbus Ledger Enquirer 11/20/14; SOA Watch 11/22/14, 11/24/14)

Anti-militarization activists were also planning to hold protests against WHINSEC in El Salvador, Chile and Colombia. The Latin American countries that still send soldiers to the US training program include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. (Adital (Brazil) 11/20/14 from Rebelión)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, US/immigration

Book Review: Social Movements and Leftist Governments in Latin America: Confrontation or Co-option?

Queridos Blanquitos: The Hidden Racism of Nuestra América (Latin America)

Chile: colonels imprisoned for torturing Bachelet's father

What Argentina’s Sovereign Debt Dispute Means for Global Finance

Cultivating Climate Justice: Brazilian Workers Leading the Charge Toward Zero Waste

President Morales Promises to Meet Worker Demands (Bolivia)

Peru Exploiting Own Failures to Demarcate Indigenous Territory

What Happened To Progressive Politics In Lima? (Peru)

The Wall Street Journal’s Problematic Reporting on Protests in Ecuador

Colombia: Talks With the Other Guerillas?

Action Demanded Over 178 Peasant Killings in Venezuela’s Land Struggle

Drilling the Caribbean: Indigenous Communities Speak Out Against Oil and Gas Exploration in Honduras

Mexico reels, and the U.S. looks away

Mexico's Undead Rise Up

Mexico’s Youth Under Siege

43 Faces that Move the World (Mexico)

This Mass Grave Isn’t the Mass Grave You Have Been Looking For (Mexico)

The Mexican Crisis

A Silence That Speaks: Ayotzinapa and the Politics of Listening (Mexico)

Tamaulipas: 'citizen journalist' assassinated (Mexico)

USAID Houses Found to be of Poor Quality, Will Cost Millions to Repair (Haiti)

Advocates Blast New Family Detention Plans (US/immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

WNU #1242: Brazilian Police Unit Suspected in Massacre

Issue #1242, November 16, 2014

1. Brazil: Police Unit Suspected in Belém Massacre
2. Mexico: Students Wounded as Protests Continue
3. Mexico: US Elite Starts to Doubt “Mexican Moment”
4. Latin America: GAO Reports on FTA Labor Violations
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba

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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Brazil: Police Unit Suspected in Belém Massacre
At least 10 people were shot dead by a group of masked men on motorbikes accompanied by two cars the early morning of Nov. 5 in several impoverished suburbs of Belém, the capital of the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Residents reported on the massacre by social media while it was in progress, warning people to stay indoors. Some of the killings may have been targeted, but in other cases the attackers apparently shot randomly at people on the streets. The incident came just hours after the Nov. 4 shooting death of Antônio Marco da Silva Figueiredo, a corporal in an elite military police unit, the Metropolitan Tactical Patrol (ROTAM). “There is a big probability that if there was not active police involvement” in the subsequent massacre, “then there were people who already passed through the police,” Anna Lins, a lawyer from Pará Society for the Defense of Human Rights (SDDH), told a reporter. “It was summary execution.”

Da Silva Figueiredo, the ROTAM agent whose murder seemed to provoke the massacre, reportedly headed a “militia”—a paramilitary group of former and off-duty police agents—in the suburb of Guamá. He and his gang were suspected of carrying out executions of local youths, and some sources indicated that the group was trying to take over the drug trade in the suburbs. Area residents celebrated as news spread of Da Silva Figueiredo’s death the evening of Nov. 4, but members of his police unit reacted by posting internet messages such as: “The chase has started” and “ROTAM has blood in its eyes.” Sgt. Rossicley Silva used his Twitter account to call for “the maximum number of friends to give a response.” Several federal agencies joined state authorities on Nov. 6 in an investigation into the killings. (Wall Street Journal 11/6/14 from correspondent; Adital (Brazil) 11/7/14; Portal Brasil 11/7/14; Time 11/10/14 from correspondent)

On Nov. 11, one week after the Belém massacre, the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety (FBSP), a São Paulo-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), released its annual report on violence in Brazil. The researchers found that in the five years from 2009 to 2013 Brazilian police agents killed 11,197 people. It took police in the US 30 years, from 1983-2012, to kill a similar number, 11,090; the US population is half again as large as Brazil’s. Brazilian police agents are also killed; according to the report, 1,770 died violently in the five-year period, but 75.3% of them were killed while off duty, while 81.8% of the killings of civilians were by agents on duty.

There was also a clear racial disparity in the killings by police. A report released in April by the São Carlos Federal University (UFSCar) found that based on their share in the population, African-descended people were killed by police in São Paulo state at three times the rate that whites were killed; 79% of the police involved were white. Of the 944 state police agents investigated in São Paulo from 2009 to 2011, 94% were let off without charges. (Washington Post 11/11/14 from AP; BBC Mundo 11/12/14 from correspondent)

*2. Mexico: Students Wounded as Protests Continue
Two students were wounded on Nov. 15 at the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), in the Coyoacán section of the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), when a police agent fired his pistol at a group of youths. Witnesses said the incident started when two men from the DF judicial police and two women from the DF prosecutor’s office arrived in a car and began photographing students near the Che Guevara Auditorium; student activists have been meeting in the auditorium to plan actions protesting the killing of six people and the abduction of 43 teachers’ college students in Iguala de la Independencia in the southwestern state of Guerrero the night of Sept. 26-27 [see Update #1241]. When a group of students challenged the four officials, one of the two agents responded by assaulting a student and then firing his pistol at the ground. The same agent fired again, several times, as all four officials fled the campus on foot, pursued by a group of students. The shots wounded one student in the foot and grazed another student’s knee; a dog was also injured.

Students searched the officials’ car, finding an ID for Rodolfo Lizárraga Rivera, the agent they said fired at them. They then smashed the car and set it on fire. In the evening some 300 DF riot police agents entered the campus and blocked off access while crane operators removed the burned vehicle. The DF has been governed since 1997 by the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which was already in trouble with its left-leaning base: José Luis Abarca Velázquez, the former Iguala mayor who allegedly ordered the September massacre and abduction, was a PRD politician. (La Jornada (Mexico) 11/16/14)

The UNAM attack came the same day as a suggestion by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto that his government may be planning to use more force in dealing with the protests that have followed the Iguala killings. Returning on Nov. 15 from a week attending summits in China and Australia, Peña Nieto warned that the government has the ability to use police action “when other mechanisms to reestablish order have been exhausted.” He added that he hoped “that we don’t arrive at this extreme of having to use law enforcement.” (LJ 11/16/14)

Demonstrations focused on the massacre have in fact been constant since late September. Marches occurred almost every day in the DF during the week of Peña Nieto’s trip abroad, tying up traffic but generally remaining peaceful. Demonstrations in Guerrero, often led by teachers and teachers’ college students, were much more militant. On Nov. 1o hundreds of protesters blocked access to Juan N. Alvarez International Airport at the resort city of Acapulco for four hours. “Understand our rage, tourist ladies and gentlemen,” the activists chanted; 11 state police agents were injured when they tried to keep the demonstrators from reaching the airport. On Nov. 11 protesters set fire to the state headquarters of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Peña Nieto’s party, in Chilpancingo, Guerrero’s capital. The next day protesters set fire to the offices of the state legislature and the education secretariat, also in Chilpancingo. (LJ 11/11/13; 11/12/14, 11/13/14; New Yorker 11/12/14)

Meanwhile, parents of the missing 43 students, who all attended the traditionally radical Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa, set out with in two caravans on Nov. 13 to bring their message to other parts of Mexico. One caravan, composed of three buses and one minibus, headed north toward Chihuahua state, with stops planned along the way in the states of Zacatecas, Jalisco and Michoacán. The second caravan left later in the day for the southeastern state of Chiapas, with the intention of going from there to the states of Oaxaca, Morelos and Tlaxcala. In Chiapas the parents met with leaders of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the autonomous community of Oventic on Nov. 15. “We had a pleasant reception,” a participant told reporters. The EZLN commanders “listened to us the whole time, and they said that as always they have to consult with their bases of support on the form in which they can support us going forward.” A third caravan was to leave on Nov. 15 or 16 to visit communities in Guerrero. The three caravans plan to converge in Mexico City for a large protest action set for Nov. 20, the holiday commemorating the start of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. (LJ 11/14/1411/15/14)

Although federal authorities say they are certain the 43 missing students were all executed by gang members associated with Iguala’s mayor, investigators have yet to identify the remains of any of the students in the various mass graves they have found in different parts of Guerrero. One victim who has been identified, however, was a Catholic priest from Uganda, Father John Ssenyondo, who had been living in Mexico for five years. The authorities used dental records for the identification. Unknown gunmen had blocked a road and forced Ssenyondo into their car on Apr. 30; the reason for the abduction is unknown. His remains were found in a village called Ocotitlán; it is apparently in Zitlala municipality, more than 150 kilometers from Iguala. (BBC News 11/14/14)

*3. Mexico: US Elite Starts to Doubt “Mexican Moment”
Although some US investors still seem confident about their economic opportunities in what they have called the “Mexican Moment” [see Update #1241], concern is growing in US ruling circles as militant protests continue in Mexico in response to a Sept. 26-27 massacre and mass abduction in the southwestern state of Guerrero. “Violence, impunity and corruption are once again dominating the news about Mexico in the US, tarnishing, if not cancelling, the image so successfully cultivated by the government of [President] Enrique Peña Nieto over the past two years,” David Brooks, the US correspondent for the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada, wrote on Nov. 16.

Brooks noted that the US State Department felt compelled to comment on the Mexican crisis two days in a row, with spokesperson Jen Psaki calling on Nov. 12 for a transparent investigation into the “heinous and barbaric crime” in Guerrero. “We certainly urge all parties to remain calm through the process,” she added. Sources close to the US Congress told the newspaper that some Congress members were monitoring the situation and were expected to make their concerns public soon.

Some US media seem to share these concerns. After repeatedly promoting Peña Nieto’s neoliberal reform agenda, the New York Times admitted in an editorial published on Nov. 12 that Mexico had reached “a tense point.” “Two years ago, when he took office…Peña Nieto pledged to revise the penal code, give more attention to crime victims and focus on Mexico's economic growth as a means of reducing drug-related violence. What limited progress has been made still has not repaired a criminal justice system unable to properly investigate crimes, end the corruption or stop the killings.”

The newsweekly Time showed how sharply the media have shifted. Last February the magazine had a picture of Peña Nieto on its cover with the caption: “Saving Mexico: How Enrique Peña Nieto’s sweeping reforms have changed the narrative in his narco-stained nation.” On Nov. 6 Time ran an article headlined: “Mexico’s Nightmare: How the disappearance of 43 students in September has forced the country to once again confront the scourge of drug violence.” (LJ 11/16/14; Time 11/6/14; NYT 11/12/14; AFP 11/13/14)

Further tarnishing Mexico’s image—and Peña Nieto’s—was the revelation on Nov. 9 by a team of reporters led by Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui that when not staying at the official presidential residence, Los Pinos, Peña Nieto and his wife, telenovela star Angélica Rivera Hurtado, have been living in a $7 million mansion belonging to a major government contractor. Rivera told the celebrity magazine ¡Hola! that she and her husband owned the mansion, located in the exclusive Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood in western Mexico City. But Peña Nieto never included it in the statement of assets he’s required to supply each year; in fact, the house technically belongs to an engineering company that is part of Grupo Higa, which according to Aristegui’s report is owned by Mexican entrepreneur Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú.

Companies in Grupo Higa won building contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in México state during Peña Nieto’s 2005-2011 term as governor there. On Nov. 3 of this year, a Chinese-led consortium won an uncontested bid for a $4 billion federal project for a bullet train; a Grupo Higa division was part of the consortium. The government suddenly cancelled the contract on Nov. 7, shortly before Aristegui’s story was to be published. (Los Angeles Times 11/9/14 from correspondent)

*4. Latin America: GAO Reports on FTA Labor Violations
On Nov. 13 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), an agency that investigates federal spending for Congress, released a report on the US government’s handling of labor violations in countries with which it has “free trade” agreements (FTAs). Recent FTAs, such as the 2004 Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), have requirements for participating countries to meet certain standards in labor practices. The GAO claimed to find progress in this area in the partner countries--but also “persistent challenges to labor rights, such as limited enforcement capacity, the use of subcontracting to avoid direct employment, and, in Colombia and Guatemala, violence against union leaders.”

“US and foreign officials said that El Salvador and Guatemala—both partners to CAFTA-DR—as well as Colombia, Oman, and Peru have acted to change labor laws,” according to the report. There was also progress in fighting anti-union violence in Colombia. Data from the nonprofit National Union School (ENS) indicated that murders of union members and labor activists fell from 102 killings in 2003 to 35 in 2013. However, the violence continues, and the report notes that according to observers “although murders of unionists are a serious concern, threats of violence against union members also create a significant deterrent to workers organizing.” The report gave no evidence for improvements in Guatemala. “[T]he extent of the problem is unclear because disaggregated statistics on violence against unionists are not collected,” the GAO wrote. One union cited 63 cases of union leaders or members being killed from 2007 through 2013 because of their union activities; labor activists said the Guatemalan government hasn’t acted adequately on these cases.

The FTA labor clauses require the US to have a mechanism for filing complaints about alleged labor violations by member countries. The GAO found that “[s]ince 2008, the Department of Labor (DOL) has accepted five formal complaints…and has resolved one, regarding Peru.” The unresolved complaints are from Guatemala (2008), Bahrain (2011), Honduras (2012) and the Dominican Republic (2012). One likely reason there are so few complaints is that “union representatives and other stakeholders GAO interviewed in partner countries often did not understand the submission process, possibly limiting the number of submissions filed.” The failure to resolve the complaints quickly, according to people interviewed, “may have contributed to the persistence of conditions that affect workers and are allegedly inconsistent with the FTAs.”

US agencies have provided $275 million in labor-related technical assistance and capacity-building activities for FTA participants since 2001. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) responded to the report with a Nov. 13 statement charging that “[w]hile the words and promises may be put on paper, this report demonstrates that we are unable to hold countries responsible when they break those standards.” She cited the poor results as a reason not to pursue the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive FTA that would include Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and the US, along with Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam. (GAO announcement 11/13/14; Politico 11/14/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba

New Priorities for South American Integration

State violence and human rights (Latin America)

Latin America: The irregular path of progressive governments

The failures of Latin America's left

Military Personnel Trained by the CIA Used Napalm Against Indigenous People in Brazil

Brazilian Truth Commission: 400 People Killed Under Dictatorship

On Bolivia’s new child labour law

Colombia: crime lord falls, para links revealed

Colombia: peace talks off as FARC capture general

Venezuela Receives Over 100 Palestinian Medical Students in Scholarship Program

Nicaragua: opposition mounts to canal scheme

El Salvador Commemorates Jesuit Priests

Legal Vacuum Fuels Conflicts Over Water in El Salvador

Conceiving While Poor, Imprisoned for Murder (El Salvador)

Blood for Gold: The Human Cost of Canada’s ‘Free Trade’ With Honduras

Mexico in Crisis: U.S. Drug War Funding, Ayotzinapa and Human Rights Violations

Excerpts from Congressional Briefing on the Impact of U.S. Security Assistance on Human Rights in Mexico, Central America and Colombia

Mexico: Ayotzinapa’s Uncomfortable Dead

Ayotzinapa and the New Civic Insurgency (Mexico)

Ayotzinapa Resistance: "This is just getting started" (Mexico)

Mexican Gang Suspected of Killing 43 Students Admits to Mass Murder

Ciudad Juarez and Ayotzinapa (Mexico)

The Yaqui Water War (Mexico)

Sonora and Arizona’s Uncertain Water Futures (Mexico)

Cuba’s Retired Population Struggles With Economic Reforms

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

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WNU #1241: Missing Mexican Students Reported Dead

Issue #1241, November 9, 2014

1. Mexico: Missing Students Reported Dead
2. Costa Rica: Port Strike Ends, Issues Remain
3. Dominican Republic: Government Quits OAS Rights Court
4. Cuba: Will US Swap Jailed Agents for Gross?
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, 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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Mexico: Missing Students Reported Dead
A group of 43 Mexican teachers’ college students missing since the night of Sept. 26-27 [see Update #1239] were killed by gang members and their bodies were burned and disposed of in Cocula municipality in the southwestern state of Guerrero, federal attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam announced at a Nov. 7 press conference in Mexico City. Three members of the Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) criminal organization confessed to having participated in the execution of the students and the incineration of their bodies, according to Murillo Karam, who said the remains were so thoroughly burned that it might be difficult to extract DNA for identification. The Mexican government is planning to send the remains to technicians in Austria. The attorney general said he understood the skepticism of the students’ parents about his office’s findings, more than a month after the events: “It’s natural…and it doesn’t surprise me.”

As of Nov. 7 Mexican authorities said 74 people had been arrested in connection with the massacre of the students, who attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa; they were attacked by municipal police and gang members in Iguala de la Independencia the evening of Sept. 26 as they were raising money to attend an Oct. 2 demonstration in Mexico City. Three students and three bystanders were killed in the initial attack, and the municipal police detained another 43 students, apparently turning them over to Guerreros Unidos members to be executed. Former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife, María de los Angeles Pineda, reportedly ordered the attack; they were arrested in Mexico City on Nov. 4 and face charges of participation in organized crime, offenses against health, and illegal privation of liberty. Abarca made no declaration when he was brought before judges on Nov. 6. (La Jornada (Mexico) 11/7/14, 11/8/14)

On Nov. 7 a federal court issued a formal order for the imprisonment of seven soldiers charged in another notorious massacre, the execution of suspected gang members on June 30 in Tlatlaya municipality, México state. The government is charging the soldiers with killing eight suspects who had surrendered after a shootout with the soldiers. The government’s semi-autonomous National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) concluded on Oct. 21 that the number executed was 15; a total of 22 suspects died in the incident, including people killed in the shootout. (LJ 11/8/14)

The arrests and criminal charges in the two massacres seem unlikely to stop the wave of protests that started after the Sept. 26 attacks. Thousands of people marched from Los Pinos, the presidential residence, to the Zócalo plaza in Mexico City on Nov. 5 as part of the third National and Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa; many carried signs blaming Mexico’s three main political parties and charging that the Iguala massacre was the work of “the narco-state.” Students in more than 80 schools and universities carried out strikes that day or planned to carry out strikes later; there were also calls for a nationwide general strike on Nov. 20, the holiday marking the start of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. (LJ 11/6/14, 11/6/14)

Students and others demonstrated again in Mexico City the evening of Nov. 8, the day after Attorney General Murillo announced that the missing Ayotzinapa students had been killed. The march route was from the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to the Zócalo; when the protest reached the giant plaza, many marchers seized metal police barricades and employed them to batter the doors of the National Palace, a 16th-century building largely used for ceremonies and for housing a group of murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Frustrated protesters set fire to the doors; at least two people were injured and a number were arrested. There were also protests that day in Baja California, Chiapas, Jalisco, México state, Oaxaca, Querétaro and Veracruz. (LJ 11/9/14, 11/9/14)

In the midst of this crisis, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto was scheduled to leave for a Nov. 9-15 trip to China and Australia to attend two international conferences, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Beijing and the Group of 20 (G20) Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane. (Univision 11/9/14, some from unidentified wire services)

The problems in Mexico seemed not to concern some important international investors seeking to take advantage of Peña Nieto’s success in opening up the energy and telecommunication sectors to private capital [see Update #1240]. “We’re very excited with what’s happening in Mexico and with its reform agenda,” Gary Cohn, president of the New York-based multinational Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., investment bank, said during a visit to Mexico in early November. “Our clients are excited about the opportunities opening up in the Mexican economy, whether in the gas and petroleum field or, on the other hand, in telecommunications.” He insisted that what US financial advisers are calling “the Mexican Moment” will go on for some time. Asked about the Ayotzinapa massacre, Cohn replied: “No one is pleased to see these events, no one is happy to see them, but I believe that the Mexicans themselves seem to be the ones who are more focused [on these events] than the rest of the world. I don’t mean to minimize them, but it happens in other parts of the world.” (Terra Mexico 11/5/14 from Reforma, quotations retranslated from Spanish)

*2. Costa Rica: Port Strike Ends, Issues Remain
The Costa Rican government and unionized dockworkers at the city of Limón on the Caribbean coast reached an accord the night of Nov. 5 ending a strike that started on Oct. 22. The strikers agreed to return to work on Nov. 6 in exchange for the government’s promise that the port’s management, the Board of Port Administration and Economic Development of the Atlantic Shelf (JAPDEVA), wouldn’t penalize them for striking; people arrested for damaging containers on Oct. 24 will still be subject to prosecution. The accord did not address the strike’s issue—a 33-year concession for the port granted to the Dutch company APM Terminals, a subsidiary of the giant Danish shipping multinational A.P. Moller-Maersk Group [see Update #1239, which incorrectly gave the time period for the concession as 30 years]. The parties agreed to continue negotiations on this issue, although the government insisted that clause 9.1 of the concession contract, which concerns APM Terminal’s monopoly on handling containers, was not negotiable.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the parties reached the agreement ending the strike. Ronaldo Blear, the secretary general of the JAPDEVA Workers Union (SINTRAJAP), pointed to the role played in the talks by Montserrat Solano, the government’s defender of the habitants (a position equivalent to the ombudsperson in other countries). The leftist Frente Amplio (“Broad Front”) political party reportedly pressured SINTRAJAP to settle; the party is close to the union. The government too was under pressure. Although it managed to keep Limón’s two terminals open with foreign contract labor, shipping companies had been complaining about delays. According to the government the port was operating at 60% capacity, but the union put the number at 40%. There had also been a threat of broader strike support. Union spokesperson José Luis Castillo told a local radio program in early November that SINTRAJAP was negotiating with similar Latin American organizations to keep other ports in the region from receiving ships that had sailed from Limón. (El País (Costa Rica) 11/5/14, some from DPA; La Nación 11/6/14; Tico Times (Costa Rica) 11/6/14)

In related news, relatives of the late US unionist Gilberto Soto issued an open letter on Nov. 5, calling on the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Office (FGR) to reopen its investigation into Soto’s murder, which took place exactly 10 years earlier in Usulután, El Salvador. A Salvadoran-born naturalized US citizen and an organizer for the US-based International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), Soto was murdered after he had arrived in the country to meet with port workers from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, and with Central American drivers who hauled shipping containers; this was in connection with a proposed joint project to document systematic violations of workers’ rights by Maersk [see Update #772]. Citing a publication by the Office of the Prosecutor for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), the open letter charged that there were irregularities in the initial investigation. IBT president James Hoffa and Richard Trumka, the president of the largest US labor federation, the AFL-CIO, signed on to the letter, along with a number of labor and human rights organizations. (La Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador) 11/6/14)

*3. Dominican Republic: Government Quits OAS Rights Court
The Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Tribunal (TC) ruled on Nov. 4 that the country must withdraw from the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CorteIDH), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS). The TC’s ruling, Decision 256-14, was based on a technicality involving a 1999 agreement with the OAS court, but observers assumed that the TC was actually reacting to an Oct. 22 announcement that the human rights court had condemned the Dominican Republic’s treatment of immigrants and their descendants, notably the TC’s controversial Decision 168-13 of September 2013, which declared that no one born to undocumented immigrant parents since 1929 was a citizen [see Update #1221]. The 2013 decision excludes thousands of Haitian-descended Dominicans from citizenship; it has been met with protests from international human rights groups, the Haitian government and many Dominicans, including members of the country’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) [see Update #1213].

The OAS court’s 173-page decision, dated Aug. 28, concerns the treatment of a number of Haitian immigrants some 15 years ago. However, the OAS judges' ruling included a condemnation of Decision 168-13, which they said violated the human rights of the Dominican-born people it deprived of citizenship; the human rights court also ruled that a law the Dominican Congress passed in May to resolve the problem was inadequate. The court expressed “deep concern” after the Dominican Republic announced its decision to withdraw from the court’s jurisdiction.

Dominican legal experts say it is unclear whether the Dominican Republic can withdraw from the OAS court without also withdrawing from the OAS. Constitutional law professor Nassef Perdomo cited the 1998 case of a naturalized Peruvian citizen, Baruch Ivcher Bronstein, who was stripped of his citizenship by the government of President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) [see Update #452]. “The OAS isn’t going to recognize [the decision to withdraw from the court],” Perdomo said, “as it didn’t recognize it with Peru when Alberto Fujimori’s government tried to leave the court, which was recorded in the documentation for the Ivcher Bronstein case.” However, two countries appear to have withdrawn successfully in the past: Trinidad and Tobago in 1999 and Venezuela in 2013. (Hoy (Santo Domingo) 10/22/14; TeleSUR 10/22/14; Washington Post 11/4/14 from AP; 7 Días (Santo Domingo) 11/5/14; Radio Métropole (Haiti) 11/7/14)

*4. Cuba: Will US Swap Jailed Agents for Gross?
In a Nov. 2 editorial, the New York Times, possibly the most politically influential US newspaper, called for the US government to free three imprisoned Cuban agents in exchange for the release of US citizen Alan Gross, who has been serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba since 2011 for his work there as a contractor for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) [see Update #1216]. The Cubans are three of the “Cuban Five,” a group of agents convicted in 2001 of espionage against the US; they insisted they were spying on Cuban-American terrorists based in southern Florida, not on the US. Two have already been released on probation after serving time, and two more are scheduled for release within the next 10 years, but the group’s leader, Gerardo Hernández, was sentenced to two life terms. In 2012 Cuba indicated that it was open to exchanging Gross for the Cuban agents [see Update #1175].

The Times editorial called an exchange the “only…plausible way to remove Mr. Gross from an already complicated equation.” The paper suggested that US president Barack Obama could arrange the exchange by commuting the remaining three prisoners’ sentences, which “would be justified considering the lengthy time they have served, the troubling questions about the fairness of their trial, and the potential diplomatic payoff in clearing the way toward a new bilateral relationship.” (NYT 11/2/14)

There is no clear evidence that the Obama administration is considering an exchange. However, in a discussion with reporters at the Reuters wire service’s New York office on Oct. 31, an important figure in the US government, UN ambassador Samantha Power, gave an unusual commendation to Cuba. Speaking about her visit to Liberia to observe emergency medical work to contain an Ebola outbreak, she said: “Although I did not encounter them personally, I have to commend Cuba for sending 265 medical professionals early,” she said. “I think they announced that going on almost two months ago, and they are sending another 200 on top of that 265. That is a big gap and a big need.” When the Daily Beast asked whether she was signaling a diplomatic thaw with Cuba, Powers simply answered: “We're working on Ebola side by side.” (Daily Beast 11/1/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico

Latin America: Gendering Peasant Movements, Gendering Food Sovereignty

Canada Accused of Failing to Prevent Mining Abuses in Latin America

The arrest of Cristian Labbé breathes new life into Chile's human rights struggle

Sao Paulo Suffering from Historic Water Crisis (Brazil)

Peru: unrest mounts in Cajamarca

FARC fighters face indigenous justice (Colombia)

Venezuela: For the Barrios, the Difference Between Repression and Revolution Depends on National Security

Venezuela: Invisible No More

Honduran Army Has Greater Amount of Legal Powers, Report Says

Honduras claims blow against Sinaloa Cartel

Indigenous Women in Guatemala Demand End to State of Prevention

In Guatemala, indigenous communities prevail against Monsanto

Guatemala: reparations in abuses linked to hydro

The Blazing Ashes of Ayotzinapa (Mexico)

Ayotzinapa Demands Justice One Month After the Disappearances (Mexico)

Why the Normalistas Are Still Smiling (Mexico)

Mexican Gang Suspected of Killing 43 Students Admits to Mass Murder

Statement by the Mesoamerican Working Group on the Impact of U.S. Security Assistance on Human Rights in Mexico, Central America, and Colombia (US/policy)

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

For immigration updates and events:


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Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

Monday, November 3, 2014

WNU #1240: Local Mapuche Leader Murdered in Chile

Issue #1240, November 2, 2014

1. Chile: Local Mapuche Leader Murdered
2. Argentina: New Energy Law Seeks Foreign Capital
3. Mexico: Supreme Court Rejects Energy Referendum
4. Haiti: Protest Leaders Arrested After Marches
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, 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 For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Chile: Local Mapuche Leader Murdered
Victor Manuel Mendoza Collío, the werken (spokesperson) for an indigenous Mapuche community in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía, was shot dead the night of Oct. 29 by two unidentified men. A friend of the family said the assailants came to Mendoza Collío’s home in the Requem Pillán community in Ercilla commune, Malleco province, and “killed him at the doorway of his house and in front of his six-year-old little girl, with a shotgun.” According to preliminary information the authorities gave to the media, the killing was the result of a dispute within the Mapuche community; community members themselves strongly denied the authorities’ version.

The Requem Pillán community reportedly had problems with a nearby non-indigenous landowner, and a few days before the murder, community members had apparently occupied lands claimed by a forestry company in the Lolenco sector. Since the 1990s Mapuche activists have frequently used land occupations in a campaign to regain land they consider ancestral territory [see Update #1186]. Jaime Mendoza Collío, another local leader who some sources say is Victor Manuel Mendoza Collío’s cousin, died five years earlier when Patricio Jara, an agent in the carabineros militarized police, shot him in the back during a land occupation that the Requem Pillán community was carrying out at the San Sebastián estate.

Some media suggest that the Oct. 29 murder could be linked to a rightwing paramilitary group. Leaflets calling for reprisals against “the terrorist Mapuche” appeared several weeks earlier in Cañete, in the region just north of Araucanía; the leaflets carried a symbol used by the fascist group Patria y Libertad (“Homeland and Liberty”). (Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 10/29/14; El Ciudadano (Chile) 10/30/14; Radio Universidad de Chile 10/30/14)

*2. Argentina: New Energy Law Seeks Foreign Capital
Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies voted 130-116, with one abstention, on Oct. 30 to pass a new version of a 1967 federal law governing the exploitation of oil and gas resources. The controversial new version had already been approved by the Senate; it will become law once it is signed and published in the Official Gazette by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Under the revised law--which was pushed through the National Congress by the Front for Victory (FPV), President Fernández’s center-left faction of the Peronist Justicialist Party (PJ)—concessions will be granted to private companies for 25 years for conventional oil drilling, for 30 years for offshore drilling and for 35 years for unconventional techniques like hydrofracking. The royalties the companies pay on oil and gas sales will be limited to 12% for the federal government and to just 3% for the oil-producing provinces, which technically control the resources. Private companies can also benefit from a provision letting them sell 20% of their production in international markets without paying export taxes if they invest $250 million over a three-year period.

According to the Fernández government, the law’s goal is to encourage foreign investment and develop Argentina’s petroleum industry rapidly so that the country can achieve “energy sovereignty” instead of using its hard currency to buy imported oil. The general policy isn’t new: the state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), signed a $1 billion agreement with the California-based Chevron Corporation in July 2013 for exploitation of the vast shale deposits in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén. Local Mapuche communities, backed by environmentalist groups, occupied wells to protest the agreement [see Update #1191]. Dow Chemical Co., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Madalena Energy Inc. are some of the other foreign companies now involved in the Vaca Muerta drilling. Their involvement is likely to expand under the new law.

Critics say the rush to bring in foreign-owned multinationals--just two years after the Fernández government in effect re-nationalized YPF by taking control of 51% of the company’s shares [see Update #1126]—is actually an effort to prop up the economy by bringing in hard currency. Mario Negri, a deputy from the centrist Radical Civic Union (UCR), said he feared the new law “could turn Vaca Muerta into a junk business to rescue the [US] dollars that they didn’t know how to administer and which Argentina has lost in the last few years.” (Bloomberg News 10/30/14; La Nación (Paraguay) 10/30/14 from AFP; Jurist 10/31/14)

*3. Mexico: Supreme Court Rejects Energy Referendum
In a 9-1 decision on Oct. 30, Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) rejected two proposals to put President Enrique Peña Nieto’s “energy reform”--a program for a partial privatization of the country’s energy industry--to a vote in an official referendum. The court agreed on Oct. 17 to consider a referendum proposal from the center-left National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), which had presented a petition with two million signatures [see Update #1239]; a larger center-left party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), made a similar proposal. The justices ruled that voting on Peña Nieto’s energy program would violate a constitutional prohibition against referenda on federal revenue policies. The two parties had argued that the vote concerned the use of national resources, not revenue. (New York Times 10/30/14 from AP; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/31/14)

In other news, according to a report released on Oct. 30 by Michael Horowitz, the inspector general for the US Department of Justice, US agents and prosecutors allowed grenade components to be smuggled across the border to Mexican drug cartels sometime between 2008 and 2011 in a way reminiscent of the bungled Operation Fast and Furious, which let about 2,000 firearms pass into Mexico during 2009 and 2010 [see Update #1145]. On two occasions agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) sought to arrest Jean Baptiste Kingery, a suspected weapons smuggler, but were turned down by the US attorney’s office in Arizona on grounds of insufficient evidence. Unable to arrest Kingery, the agents tried to set up a sting operation by marking grenade components that the suspect was planning to buy. In June 2010 Border Patrol agents stopped Kingery and found 114 grenade hulls, 114 grenade fuses and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition. ATF and Border Patrol agents then argued over how to handle the case; one witness said they sounded “like two gangs.” Finally the ATF and federal prosecutors in Arizona decided to turn Kingery into a witness and informant; they released him, and he fled to Mexico. The Mexican authorities finally arrested him in August 2011, supposedly with US aid.

US agents lost track of the grenade components, but after a shootout with cartel members in March 2011, Mexican soldiers found grenade fragments with markings similar to those used by the ATF, according to Horowitz’s report. (LJ 10/31/14 from Notimex; Los Angeles Times 10/31/14)

*4. Haiti: Protest Leaders Arrested After Marches
Two Haitian human rights groups, the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) and the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), issued a joint statement on Oct. 27 demanding “the release of the political prisoners and the demonstrators arrested illegally” by the government of President Michel Martelly in recent weeks. Police agents arrested 18 demonstrators in Port-au-Prince on Oct. 17 during a march protesting government policies and marking the 208th anniversary of revolutionary hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ assassination; the police dispersed the demonstration with tear gas and gunshots. After an Oct. 26 march protesting the government’s failure to hold partial legislative elections on that date, the authorities arrested Rony Timothée and Byron Odigé, two leaders in the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (FOPARC), which backs the Family Lavalas (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). In addition to the 20 arrests in Port-au-Prince, police detained three demonstrators in the city of Les Cayes, South department, on Oct. 12 during a protest demanding electricity.

The two human rights groups indicated that the detainees were arrested for their political positions. The government failed to meet the requirement to question the detainees within 24 hours, the groups said, and they expressed astonishment that “accusations of incitation to violence and destruction could be made against demonstrators and opposition activists when no flagrant crime had taken place.” Timothée and Odigé were also arrested in May, on similar charges, but a judge ordered their release a few weeks later [see Update #1224]. On Oct. 30 demonstrators protested the arrests with a march to the prison in Carrefour, on Port-au-Prince’s southwest outskirts, where Timothée and Odigé were thought to be held. A large police group was on hand, backed up by a truck equipped with a water cannon; stores quickly closed, and mothers reportedly snatched children from schools so that they wouldn’t be exposed to tear gas, but the protest ended without any major confrontations. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 10/29/14, 10/31/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, US/immigration

Why the Left Continues to Win in Latin America

National Women's Meeting in Argentina: Thousands Marching for Their Rights

Lula’s Brazil will carry on

Brazil’s indigenous population can use their land, but are not its owners

Election Day in the Bolivian Highlands: Local Democracy, Amidst the Contradictions

Hezbollah operative busted in Peru: police

Ecuador court approves vote on term limits

FARC accepts responsibility for civilian deaths (Colombia)

Abrupt Replacement of Minister Rodriguez Torres Raises Questions in Venezuela

Will the EU and IDB Fund Human Rights-Free Zones in Honduras?

Chaos: catharsis of the system in Mexico

Mexico’s Days of Love and Rage

Shock, Horror, Anger at Killing of 5, Disappearance of 43 Students; Marches, Protests, Strikes, Gov’t, Party Buildings Burned

Joint Declaration from National Indigenous Congress and EZLN on Ayotzinapa and for Liberation of Yaqui leaders (Mexico)

Tijuana Border Dump Generates More Controversy (Mexico)

Juarez Violence Spikes (Mexico)

Mexico claims another blow against cartels

Mexico Police Questioned in Murder of 3 US Citizens

WHO Lauds Cuba's Role in Ebola Fight

Border Crisis: Obama Administration Complicates Refugee Status for Central Americans (US/immigration)

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

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson: