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Trinityz1   Tuesday, 08/30/11 08:14:34 AM
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Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1094, August 28, 2011

1. Honduras: Killings Continue as Aguán Becomes “New Colombia”
2. Chile: General Strike Adds to Pressure on the Government
3. Nicaragua: Dole Settles Pesticide Case With 4,000 Ex-Employees
4. Haiti: Genome Study Confirms UN Troops Brought Cholera
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Bolivia,
Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, 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. For a subscription,
write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at

*1. Honduras: Killings Continue as Aguán Becomes “New Colombia”
Honduran campesino leader Pedro Salgado and his wife, Reina Mejía,
were murdered on the evening of Aug. 21 at their home in the La
Concepción cooperative, in Tocoa municipality in the northern
department of Colón. Salgado was the president of the cooperative and
a vice president of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán
(MUCA), a leading organization in a decade-old struggle for land in
Honduras’ Lower Aguán Valley.

The murders came just one day after the shooting death of Secundino
Ruiz, who is president of the nearby San Isidro cooperative and of
another campesino organization, the Authentic Claimant Movement of
Aguán Campesinos (MARCA) [see Update #1093]. Both MUCA and MARCA won
land for their members under an agreement they signed with Honduran
president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa in April 2010 [see Update
#1029]. The killing of Salgado and Mejía brought the number of people
killed in the Lower Aguán in two weeks to 14 or more, including Ruiz,
six private guards (previously reported as five), four people working
for a Pepsi distributor and a food vendor riding with them. (Comité de
Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras 8/21/11 via Vos el Soberano
(Honduras); FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) 8/22/11
via Adital (Brazil))

Campesino groups trace the Aguán struggle back to the 1992
Agricultural Modernization Law, which changed restrictions on the size
of land holdings to allow businesses to own more than 300 hectares.
Campesinos feel that land which should have been theirs through
agrarian reform has gone to big businesses like Grupo Dinant, a food
product and cooking oil company founded by Miguel Facussé Barjum.
There are 40,000 campesinos living “in extreme poverty” in the valley
“who need a piece of land to farm,” MUCA general secretary Johnny
Rivas told the Spanish wire service EFE. Groups like MUCA started
forming about 11 years ago and have relied on a strategy of peaceful
occupations of large estates—although Rivas didn’t discount the
possibility that some sectors of the campesino movement might have

African oil palms have replaced bananas as the main commercial crop in
the valley, and tensions increased as landowners like Facussé saw the
potential for the palms in the biofuel business, which could attract
carbon credits and international financing [see Update #1077]. To
maintain their estates, the landowners have hired private guards and
supplied them with arms. Campesino groups consider the guards
paramilitaries and blame them for most of the 51 killings of
campesinos that they say have taken place in the past two years.
Meanwhile, narco traffickers and other criminals have reportedly moved
into the area.

President Lobo’s government has negotiated some land transfers under
the agrarian reform policy, but the government’s main response to the
violence in the Aguán has been to send in soldiers and police agents.
There are now about 1,000 police and military personnel stationed in
the valley in an operation codenamed Xatruch II, but the violence
continues. Juan Almendárez, a former rector of the National Autonomous
University of Honduras who has mediated in talks between campesino
groups and the government, told EFE that the military and police
presence isn’t meant to maintain order but “to weaken the campesino
leadership.” He adds that the authorities can’t control the narco
traffickers “because of inability” and because the security forces
themselves are corrupt. The only way to resolve the valley’s problems
is “by giving land to the campesinos, along with credits and technical
assistance so that they can cultivate the land.”

With soldiers, paramilitaries and drug traffickers now operating in
the valley, Honduran activists fear the Aguán is becoming a “new
Colombia.” The right wing charges that there are also guerrilla
groups, allegedly trained by Nicaraguans and Venezuelans; an Aug. 25
article in La Prensa, the Honduran daily with the largest circulation,
claimed a man known as “The Commander” was leading a band of at least
300 rebels. Campesino and activist groups, which deny the stories
about guerrillas, charge that some of the private guards have been
trained by the US and that the landowners have been recruiting
paramilitaries from Colombia.

“We’re experiencing an extremely difficult situation in the region,”
Wilfredo Paz Zúniga, the local coordinator of the National Popular
Resistance Front (FNRP), told Argentine journalist Claudia Korol. He
asked her to tell “international human rights organizations [and]
friendly international journalists” that “we urgently need the
presence of an international commission, even if just for weeks or
days… Maybe this way the terrible murders of campesino leaders in the
region could be stopped.” (EFE 8/23/11 via Que.es (Spain); La Prensa
(Honduras) 8/25/11; Vos el Soberano 8/27/11)

The Boston-based organization Grassroots International has set up a
web page at http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5123/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=7981
with a letter on the situation that activists can send to Honduran
and US officials.

Secondary students continue to occupy schools around the country to
protest what they say is an effort to privatize the public education
system. Nahúm Alexander Guerra, a student at the Pompilio Ortega
Agricultural School in Macuelizo in the northwestern department of
Santa Bárbara, was killed the night of Aug. 22 as he stood by the door
of the school, which the students had occupied. An unidentified man
yelled “strikers,” and shot the teenager in the chest and in the arm.
(El Tiempo (San Pedro Sula) 8/23/11)

*2. Chile: General Strike Adds to Pressure on the Government
Tens of thousands of Chilean workers, students and teachers
participated in a 48-hour strike on Aug. 24 and 25 initiated by the
Unified Workers Confederation (CUT), the country’s main labor
federation, to call “for a different Chile.” The demands included
changes to the Labor Code, a reduction in taxes on fuel, and reform of
the Constitution, created in 1980 during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of
Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The strike also backed the student protest
movement that has paralyzed schools for three months to push for a
reversal of the Pinochet-era privatization of education [see Update

Aug. 24, the first day of the strike, was marked by confrontations
between the carabinero militarized police and strike supporters,
including students attempting to block roads in Santiago and other
cities. Police and protesters also clashed in the poorer neighborhoods
on the outskirts of the capital. The government of rightwing president
Sebastián Piñera reported that at least 348 people were arrested
during the day and 36 were injured, including 19 police agents.
According to the government, the strike call was only respected by 14%
of employees in the public sector, where the unions are strongest,
while union sources put the number at 80%. In the evening thousands of
people took to the streets to bang on pots and pans in a cacerolazo
protest to support the strike.

The second day, Aug. 25, brought massive marches throughout the
country. Organizers estimated that 250,000 to 300,000 people marched
in Santiago, and an equal number took part in the mobilizations in the
rest of the country. Jaime Gajardo, president of the Teachers
Association of Chile, called the Santiago march “the largest of this
year’s mobilizations”—which are generally considered the largest since
the restoration of democracy in 1990. But according to Deputy Interior
Minister Rodrigo Urbilla, only 50,000 people participated in the
Santiago march and a total of 175,000 protested nationwide; the Labor
Ministry reported that most public employees were at work, with just
9.1% observing the strike. Despite the disturbances by masked youths
that have routinely accompanied recent demonstrations, President
Piñera’s spokesperson, Andrés Chadwick, conceded that in general “the
[Santiago] march was peaceful and orderly” and “there were no major
problems.” The government reported that 153 police agents and 53
civilians were injured nationally and almost 1,400 people were

There was one fatality: 16-year-old Manuel Gutiérrez Reinoso, who was
shot in the Villa Jaime Eyzaguirre neighborhood in Macul, a commune in
Greater Santiago. He was walking with his brother and a friend to
observe what was happening, according to his brother, when carabineros
passed by in a truck and three shots were heard. Other witnesses
confirmed this. Manuel Gutiérrez died in a hospital in the early
morning of Aug. 26. (La Jornada (Mexico) 8/25/11, 8/26/11, 8/27/11
from correspondent and unidentified wire services; La Tercera
(Santiago) 8/27/11)

Students and their supporters were engaged in a number of protests in
addition to the general strike. On Aug. 23, the day before the labor
action, a group of artists and performers sat in at the Santiago
office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) in support of some 35 students who were on
hunger strike to push their demands for education reform. Three of
them—students at High School A-131 in the city of Buin, in Maipo
province, part of Greater Santiago-- had been fasting for 36 days.
These three students ended their strike on Aug. 24, along with three
others from the same school. “We’re suspending our strike but not our
struggle,” one of the strikers, 19-year-old Gloria Negrete, said at a
press conference. She was hospitalized after losing some 26 pounds and
contracting a respiratory infection. (LJ 8/24/11, 8/25/11)

The president of Brazil’s National Student Union (UNE), Daniel
Iliescu, visited Chile to participate in the general strike and also
to announce a Continental Day of Struggle by Latin American Youth, a
day of protests to be held in March 2012 around public education
issues. Camila Vallejo, president of the Federation of University of
Chile Students (FECH), was planning to reciprocate by visiting Brazil
on Aug. 31 to join a student march in Brasilia (DF) calling for the
government there to allocate 10% of the country’s gross domestic
product (GDP) to education, along with 50% of the Pre-Salt Social
Fund, a special government fund financed by profits from Brazil’s
sub-salt oilfields. (Adital (Brazil) 8/25/11)

*3. Nicaragua: Dole Settles Pesticide Case With 4,000 Ex-Employees
Dole Food Company, a California-based agricultural multinational,
announced in Managua on Aug. 11 that it had arrived at a settlement
with some 5,000 former banana workers who said their health had been
damaged by prolonged and unprotected exposure to the pesticides
Nemagon and Fumazone, brand names for dibromochloropropane (DBCP). The
settlement, arranged with Dole by the Texas-based law firm Provost
Umphrey, covers 3,153 Nicaraguans, 780 Costa Ricans and 1,000
Hondurans; the former employees or their survivors—about 300 of the
workers have died--should start receiving payment in two or three
months. The amount wasn’t disclosed.

The pesticides, now banned, have been linked to cancer, sterility and
birth defects. Dole used them on its Central American banana
plantations from 1973 to 1980. About 17,000 former banana workers
brought suits in Nicaragua against Dole and the pesticides’
manufacturers about 10 years ago. A Nicaraguan court awarded the
workers $489.4 million in compensation in 2002, and the workers staged
a series of protests to get the Nicaraguan government to enforce the
court’s decision. US courts eventually ruled against them [see Updates
#672, 732, 734, 826]. The issue was the subject of a 2009 documentary
film, “Bananas!”

The Aug. 11 settlement doesn’t cover the 13,874 Nicaraguan workers who
are represented by other law firms, and the suits against the
manufacturers--Dow Chemical Company, Shell Oil Company, Shell Chemical
Company, Shell Chemical Company LLP and Occidental Chemical
Corporation—remain open. In making the settlement, Dole admitted no
wrongdoing, according to Dole spokesperson Humberto Hurtado. “This is
the style of the transnationals, with a dual intention: not to appear
as murderers to the public and to protect themselves from future
suits,” a representative of the workers, Jacinto Obregón, explained.
“But the memo the manufacturer, Dow Chemical Company, put out is
clear. They recognized that although the product was toxic, it could
be sold in Latin America as long as the profits were greater than the
losses from lawsuits.” (El Nuevo Diario (Managua) 8/12/11; AFP 8/12/11
via La Tribuna (Tegucigalpa); La Nación (San José, Costa Rica)
8/12/11, some from AFP)

*4. Haiti: Genome Study Confirms UN Troops Brought Cholera
A comparison that Danish and US researchers have made of the whole
genomes of cholera bacteria found in patients in Haiti and in Nepal
provides nearly conclusive evidence that Nepalese soldiers in the
United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were the
inadvertent cause of a cholera outbreak that has killed more than
6,000 Haitians. The genomes are “practically identical,” Harvard
University microbiologist John Mekalanos told the magazine Science.
“This is as close as you can come to molecular proof.”

The first cases of cholera were reported in October 2010 around the
city of Mirebalais in Haiti’s Central Plateau. Local people blamed
MINUSTAH troops at a base where they said had fecal matter had leaked
into a nearby river. The soldiers at the base had recently arrived
from Nepal, right after an outbreak of cholera there. On-the-ground
research by a French epidemiologist, Dr. Renaud Piarroux, supported
the Haitians’ suspicions, as have subsequent studies, but MINUSTAH
spokespeople have repeatedly denied that there’s proof of the claim
[see Update #1086]. With the new study, which was published on Aug.
23, the United Nations should take full responsibility by paying
compensation or by backing a massive effort to stop the epidemic,
Piarroux told Science. “More than 6,000 people are dead,” he said.
“It's our fault, as the people of the world.” (Science 8/23/11)

The genome report appeared as MINUSTAH troops were being blamed for
further unsanitary practices in the Central Plateau. There were
reports that human wastes were dumped in the Guayamouc River near
Hinche, capital of Center department, on Aug. 6 and in the Ahibon
River, near Fort Marmont, 15 km from Hinche, on Aug. 21. MINUSTAH has
denied the charges. Dozens of people protested on Aug. 21, shooting
guns, throwing stones and blocking National Route 3, which passes
through Hinche, for more than an hour. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 8/23/11)

On Aug. 11 an organization in the southern coastal town of Port-Salut,
the Research Committee for the Development and Organization of
Port-Salut (CREDOP), charged that MINUSTAH troops from Uruguayan were
prostituting impoverished underage Haitians at their base. The
Uruguayan navy denied the accusations on Aug. 16, saying it had
conducted an interrogation of all 108 troops on the base. The
Uruguayan contingent is studying the possibility of suing CREDOP for
unfounded allegations. (Haiti Press Network 8/11/11; TeleSUR 8/17/11)
[MINUSTAH troops from Sri Lanka were repatriated in 2007 because of
similar charges; see Update #923.]

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Bolivia,
Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico,

UNASUR: South American Alliance Confronts Economic Crisis

Beyond the Drug War: The Pentagon’s Other Operations in Latin America

WikiLeaks Cables of Interest on Latin America, Released July 24 - August 21 2011

Demanding Economic and Educational Reform in Chile

Seeking Social Justice Through Education in Chile

Bolivia: Morales Accuses U.S. Of Inciting Indigenous Protests

Bolivia: TIPNIS Marchers Face Accusations and Negotiations

Bolivia: Morales Clashes with Native Protesters over Road through Tropical Park

Peru passes "historic" indigenous rights law

Native Peruvians More Marginalized Despite Growth

Ecuador: New Oil Policy Threatens Amazonian Peoples

Unions Call for House Committee Investigation of Possible Misuse of
U.S. Aid in Colombia

Colombia: Interview with Eberto Diaz Montes, President of FENSUAGRO
(United National Federation of Peasant Farmers and Farm Workers)

Colombia beefs up security in Amazon oil zone following FARC attacks

Chávez Says Venezuela Only Recognizes Gaddafi Gov In Libya

The Islamo-Bolivarian Threat (Venezuela)

El Salvador: high court refuses to extradite officers accused in Jesuit Massacre

The Honduran Resistance at the Crossroads: An Interview With Carlos Amaya

Human Rights Caravan Protests Migrant Kidnappings

Sandak Workers Defend Their Jobs, Win the Protection of a Legal Strike

Maquiladora Factories in Mexico Manufacture Toxic Pollutants

Mexico: "terrorists" massacre 50 in blaze at Monterrey's Casino Royale

Nowhere to Turn: Sex Trafficking in Nuevo León, Mexico

Mexico’s Drug War Refugees Rarely Secure Asylum In United States

Abandoned like a stray dog (Haiti)

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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