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Trinityz1   Friday, 07/29/11 11:06:07 AM
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Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1089, July 24, 2011

1. Argentina: Is Barrick Gold Shrinking Chilean Glaciers?
2. Puerto Rico: Opposition Mounts to Gas Pipeline
3. Costa Rica: Medical Workers Gain Little in Strike
4. Colombia: Teachers Flee Paramilitary Threat
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela,
El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US

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. For a subscription,
write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com . It is archived at

*1. Argentina: Is Barrick Gold Shrinking Chilean Glaciers?
In a report published on July 19, the Argentine branch of the
environmental group Greenpeace charged that operations by the
Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation in the Andes at the border with
Chile had already significantly damaged three small glaciers. Citing a
2005 technical study, Greenpeace said the surface of the Toro 1, Toro
2 and Esperanza glaciers “diminished by between about 56% and 70%
because of the activities carried out by Barrick” even before mining
operations had begun. The regions on either side of the border are
arid, and farmers in the valleys largely depend on Andean glaciers as
a source of water.

Barrick, the world’s largest gold mining company, has two open-pit
gold and silver mines near the glaciers. Veladero, in Argentina’s
northwestern San Juan province, has been in production since 2005,
with a projected life of 14 years; Pascua Lama, partly in San Juan
province and partly in Chile’s Huasco province, is scheduled to open
in 2013, with a projected life of 21 years.

Greenpeace attributes the shrinkage of the three small glaciers to
exploratory and other preliminary work on the mines, such as road
construction, drilling and the use of explosives, which could cover
the glaciers’ surfaces with dust and discarded material. Although most
glaciers are being affected by global warming, Greenpeace says other
glaciers in the area didn’t experience the same shrinkage as the three
closest to the mine. Environmentalists expect that the other glaciers
will suffer similar damage as mining operations expand.

The Veladero and Pascua Lama mines have been targets of protests for
years [see World War 4 Report 5/17/08]. Barrrick originally intended
to move the three glaciers as part of the operation, but this plan was
shelved after strong protests by Chilean environmentalists. Argentina
has passed a law for the protection of Andean glaciers which could
limit damage from the mines. However, Barrick has filed for injunctive
relief from the measure, and in November 2010 an Argentine judge
suspended the law in San Juan province, ruling that it would cause
economic damage. (Adital (Brazil) 7/20/11)

*2. Puerto Rico: Opposition Mounts to Gas Pipeline
Two US Congress members, Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AR) and Luis
Gutiérrez (D-IL), are seeking signatures from their colleagues on a
letter to US president Barack Obama about a proposed natural gas
pipeline in Puerto Rico. “At a time when we should be promoting
renewable, clean energy throughout the country, a 92-mile
pipeline--nearly as long as the entire island--is a step in the wrong
direction,” the representatives wrote in the letter, which has been
endorsed by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). The project (“Gasoducto” in
Spanish) shouldn’t proceed without an environmental impact statement
conducted by the US Corps of Engineers, according to Grijalva and
Gutiérrez. (El Nuevo Día (Guaynabo) 7/12/11)

The activity in Congress reflects growing opposition to the $450
million project, which would carry imported natural gas from the
Peñuelas-Guayanilla area on the southwest coast to a place near San
Juan on the north coast.

Rightwing governor Luis Fortuño of the New Progressive Party (PNP) Is
promoting the Gasoducto as a way to transition from oil to natural
gas; pipeline advocates say this will save $60-$100 million a year,
about one-third of the cost of generating Puerto Rico’s electricity.
But on July 13 the People’s House (“Casa Pueblo”), a respected
environmental organization based in the town of Adjuntas, released a
study suggesting that any savings would be offset by environmental
damage and risks to the 200,000 people who live near the area the
pipeline will pass through. Critics also note that the biggest
contractor for the project, Pedro Ray Chacón, has no experience with
this type of operation; he is said to be personally close to Gov.
Fortuño. (People’s World 7/21/11)

On July 22 the New York daily El Diario-La Prensa ran an editorial
opposing the pipeline and calling on “Puerto Ricans outside the
island…to express their concerns.” (ED-LP 7/22/11) The paper is the
main Spanish-language periodical in New York City, which has a large
population of Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent,
including two members of Congress.

Adding to the Gasoducto’s problems, in a letter dated July 12 the US
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) refused to let the
EcoEléctrica company proceed with planned modifications to its
terminal in southern Puerto Rico until the company complies fully with
FERC regulations. The modifications are necessary if the terminal is
to handle the liquefied gas when it arrives in Puerto, so this delay
will in turn delay use of natural gas in electricity generation at
least until 2012. (Claridad (Puerto Rico) 7/19/11)

An opinion poll published by the daily El Nuevo Día in March indicated
that 56% of the population wasn’t convinced that the Gasoducto would
lower the costs of electricity, with only 27% thinking that it would;
17% were undecided. An overwhelming 61% of the people polled said they
were concerned about the safety of pipeline, while just 19% expressed
confidence. The poll was carried out by The Research Office, Inc., a
company based in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, from Mar. 7 to Mar. 14. El
Nuevo Día noted that that this period included the Mar. 11 earthquake
and tsunami that devastated a nuclear power plant in Japan—at a time
when Puerto Ricans were still concerned about a January 2010
earthquake that hit southern Haiti, some 400 miles to the west. (END
3/27/11, 4/1/11))

*3. Costa Rica: Medical Workers Gain Little in Strike
After 24 hours of negotiations, the Costa Rican government and all the
unions representing medical workers for the Costa Rican Social
Security Fund (CCSS) signed an agreement on July 23 ending a strike
that the unions had started four days earlier over economic issues.
This was the first major strike to confront President Laura Chinchilla
since she took office in May 2010. As in a number of Latin American
countries, social security includes medical care in Costa Rica, and
the CCSS employs some 48,000 medical workers at 29 hospitals.

The unions’ main demand was for the government to pay off its debt to
the CCSS, which the unions say has reached $1.446 billion. The
government holds that the number is much lower. In the settlement the
government agreed to pay 85 billion colones (about $169 million) for
now; the two sides also agreed to set up a joint commission to study
the fund’s financial problems. The unions’ other major demand was for
CCSS workers to continue getting full credit for sick days in the
calculations for their pensions and yearly bonuses. The government
wouldn’t back down from its decision to start giving partial credit to
CCSS workers, as it does with other workers. The government also held
firm on its decision to dock strikers for the four days they were out,
although there are to be no other reprisals.

During the strike the government and the unions gave dramatically
different accounts of how effective the action was. The CCSS said 5%
to 10% of the workers observed the strike call; the unions claimed
that while many doctors continued to work, 75% to 80% of the other
medical employees had participated in the walkout. (Adital (Brazil)
7/20/11; Prensa Latina 7/20/11; AFP 7/23/11 via El Universal
(Caracas); La Nación (San José) 7/24/11)

*4. Colombia: Teachers Flee Paramilitary Threat
All 44 teachers at the public high school in Las Delicias, a village
in Tierralta municipality in the northern Colombian department of
Córdoba, sought refuge in Montería, the department’s capital, on July
22 after being threatened by a paramilitary group. According to
Domingo Ayala Espitia, president of the Córdoba Teachers Association
(Ademacor), the paramilitaries sent the teachers text messages
demanding 15 million pesos (about $8,535). More than 1,100 students
attended the abandoned school.

The threats reportedly came from members of the Gaitanist Self-Defense
Forces of Colombia, said to be a group of drug traffickers. Various
armed groups--which the government and the media now call “bacrim,”
short for “bandas criminales” (criminal gangs) [see Update #1086]--are
described as successors to the far-right United Self-Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary group whose members were demobilized
from 2003 to 2006, during the administration of former president
Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010).

The Las Delicias displacement is the second such incident in the
department; last year 12 teachers fled a rural high school in
Montelíbano municipality. Four teachers have been killed in Córdoba so
far this year, and at least 197, including the Las Delicias teachers,
have received threats. (EFE 7/23/11 via Univision; InfoBAE (Argentina)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela,
El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, US

Chile’s Sebastián Piñera Shuffles Cabinet As Popularity Drops

Peru: populist prez-elect appeases plutocrats with primary appointments

Peru: outgoing García government in final effort to disband
"uncontacted" indigenous reserves

Colombia: labor strife rocks oil port

Venezuelan Funds Dry Up For Hugo Chávez Supporters In New York

El Salvador: Social Programs Bolster Support for Funes Government

Guatemala: Resisting the New Colonialism

Mexico AG purges office, charges 111 officials with corruption

Mexico: relatives of disappeared stage hunger strike

Is the Mexican Economy Booming?

Aid Caravan to Cuba Crosses U.S.-Mexican Border

Haiti: Cash for Work – At What Cost

House Committee Votes To Stop Funding OAS (US)

House Homeland Security hearing on Hezbollah's hyperbolized
hemispheric shenanigans (Latin America)

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

For immigration updates and events:

This Update is archived at:

"With experience, no explanation is necessary,
without experience, no explanation is possible."


My opinion is just that, my opinion.
So make no investment decisions based on my opinion.
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