Archives: May 2009
PERU: La Oroya (Doe Run) mine update on World Environment Day June 5
Recent developments: Stalemate between Doe Run Peru and the govt and creditors. DRP won't clean up unless their PAMA is extended. [Speculation is that they are asking for a 5-yr extension.] The govt official responsible for oversight of mining and who was trying to hold DRP accountable, was forced to resign--that has not been publicly announced yet. DRP is now trying to get the workers on their side to appeal to the govt to get the environmental extension.
Peru smelter pollution at crisis point
By Dan Collyns
BBC News, La Oroya, Peru
High in the Peruvian Andes the air is normally fresh and bracing.
But in the town of La Oroya, some 3,700 metres above the sea, a multi-metal smelter spews out thick fumes that irritate the throat and eyes.
Or at least, it used to do so - until a recent decision to shut it down because of lack of raw materials.
Doe Run Peru has run a multi-metal smelter in La Oroya for more than a decade.
It has been named one of the 10 most polluted places on earth by US think-tank, the Blacksmith Institute.
The smelter has long been a focus for dispute between the government, the company, the population and the workers about its social and environmental impact.
Now, the long and drawn-out saga may be reaching a conclusion.
When the global economic crisis hit commodity prices this year, the company fell on hard times. Banks froze its accounts in February.
In April, thanks to government intervention, a group of banks and mining companies conditionally agreed to extend it a $175m credit line.
But the company's rescue package is on the verge of collapse because Doe Run Peru has failed to fulfil the conditions.
One of those conditions is completing an environmental remediation, which the company says will cost a total of $500m, to bring the emissions within international norms by October.
"The process is much more complicated than we had expected," says Jose Mogrovejo, corporate vice president.
"It's difficult right now to say that we can make that date."
Doe Run's parent company, Renco Group, has not covered a $156m shortfall in the firm.
In a statement, Doe Run Peru says it needs more time to settle debts and invest in the town's environmental recovery.
For the residents of the town, it is a story they have heard many times before.
US-owned Doe Run Corporation bought the smelter from the state in 1997 on the condition that it would reduce toxic emissions.
It says it has spent $300m to sort it out, but despite being given several time extensions it has failed to finish the job.
"I've lived here my whole life," says Silvia Inga, one of a group of mothers who live in the old part of town nearest the smelter's chimney.
"The gas you're breathing now, which irritates your throat; we breath it every day. You can hardly breath.
"The company says there are hardly any jobs for the workers, but they still pump out the gas.
"We feel bad. Some days we can't even leave the house because of the gases. My son has a high blood lead reading and it affects his vision. My little daughter just can't put on any weight."
Lead in the blood
In La Oroya, these kind of stories are common.
Mothers compare the blood lead readings of their children as if they were discussing their marks in school.
For another family living close by, the situation is equally depressing.
Antonio Villajuan, a father of seven, cannot get a job at the smelter so he helps his wife as she takes in washing from the neighbours.
"Yesterday we had to shut ourselves in the house because the smog settled so thickly outside," he says.
His wife, Julia, says their children have high blood lead readings.
"We hoped the company might give my husband work to compensate us for the damage to our children's health," she says, pointing to two of their children standing in the doorway.
"This daughter has 58 and the other 60."
Those readings are up to six times the maximum safe limit set by the World Health Organisation of 10 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood.
In 2005, a team of scientists from the St Louis School of Public Health in Missouri found that in La Oroya the majority of children under six years of age had toxic levels in excess of 40 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood.
Many children also had high levels of other toxic heavy metals, such as cadmium, arsenic and mercury.
When a company such as Doe Run Peru has had such a poor record for pollution in a town of 35,000 people, many in Peru have asked why the government felt the need to broker a plan for a $175m bail-out loan.
"What I said at the very beginning was that this was a private problem and it should have a private solution," says Peru's finance minister, Luis Carranza, in Lima.
"We asked for 100% of the shares of the company as a guarantee to be sure that they are going to finish the investment for the environment."
That means that if the clean-up is not completed within a few months, the company could be effectively nationalised, unless another deal is struck with the government.
Time to go
But back in La Oroya, people have already lost patience with Doe Run Peru.
Pedro Cordoba, a mechanic who works at the smelter, is in favour of nationalising the plant.
"There are many people in the region and the country who support this idea," he says.
"It would be one of the solutions and it would get rid of this company."
The company's former union leader, Anibal Cuarhapoma, says for the first time the population and the workers are united in saying if the company cannot fulfill its commitments then "it should go".
"We are not against foreign investment, but we know what Doe Run stands for," he says.
"The workers aren't afraid anymore."
Whilst not all the workers agree with that sentiment, there does seem to be a change of mood in a place that has long been a company town.
Many in La Oroya, including the town's mayor, Cesar Gutierrez, question what has happened to the subsidiary's profit.
"Overnight, the company has apparently gone from big profits from the record commodity prices of the last few years to bankruptcy in a crisis that has just started," he says.
"To say they're in a total crisis beggars belief."
Shutting the smelter for non-compliance would cost thousands of jobs and threaten several mines that rely on it.
That gets to the heart of the issue.
Many people in La Oroya have been forced to put their jobs before the health of their families. Now, those jobs are at risk as well.
"It's an ethical problem because people actually are dying from lead poisoning and it does affect the development of the children," says Father Joseph Deardorff, an American priest based in the town.
"Nobody is willing to take action when there actually are solutions to the problem.
"The government needs to be willing to force certain laws and the company [needs] to spend money to take care of the workers and the people who live here."
The Peruvian government is well aware that if the company fails to meet the conditions of its bail-out there are very few other firms that would be interested in buying such a problematic smelter.
And that would leave the government with a very big mess on its hands.
Father Joseph Deardorff:
The government needs to be willing to force certain laws and the company [needs] to spend money to take care of the workers and the people who live here
The viceminister of Energy and Mines, Filipe Isasi, resigned. The Government and Doe Run are directly responsible for this crisis.
June 4, 2009
The Ministry of Energy and Mines accepted today the resignation of the viceminister of Mines, Felipe Isasi Cayo and appointed in his place, the engineer, Daniel Javier Camac Gutierrez.
This unexpected announcement—made20official in the legal rules of the official newspaper El Peruano—comes in the middle of the refusal of Doe Run Peru (DRP) to capitalize with its shares the sum of $156 million which it owes to its parent and to comply with the implementation of the Environmental Management and Adaptation Program (PAMA) in the established period (October 2009).
As you recall, during the time that the now former-vice minister of mines was in office, he was always steadfast hi the decision that the government would not extend the fulfillment of Doe Run Peru’s PAMA once again.
In this regard, he was ensuring that after the deadline, the Ministry of Energy and Mines would order an audit of the company. If it did not comply with the PAMA, the Supreme Decree 046-2004-EM contemplated an additional period, however, this would not absolve DRP from being punished.
In this regard, the executive secretary of the Muqui Network, Ana Leyva Valera, argued that: There is uncertainty about what might happen in the future with the government with respect to the case of Doe Run Peru.
As you recall, vice minister Isasi pledged that the Doe Run problem would be resolved between private companies and the State would not extend implementation of the PAMA again, which expires in October of this year.
In this sense, the executive secretary of the Muqui Network is expects that the Executive will confirm this, in its duty to enforce the law, and therefore not yield to pressure from Doe Run Peru.
It is necessary that a solution be found that guarantees the continuance of the metallurgical complex of La Oroya’s operations, worker’s rights, and the population’s health rights, the last which has to do with the performance of the PAMA and the adoption of other measures to remedy the existing contamination.
Renunció el viceministro de Energía y Minas, Felipe Isasi. Gobierno y Doe Run
son responsables directos de esta crisis.
El Ministerio de Energía y Minas aceptó hoy la renuncia del viceministro de
Minas, Felipe Isasi Cayo y nombró20en su lugar al ingeniero Daniel
Following link http://www.fntmmsp.org/Noticias/Nacionales/557.html
6/04/09, El Comercio article
Doe Run will not be brought before Indecopi by mining companies.
Workers seek a Government resolution.
The mining companies, to which Doe Run owes approximately $110 million, are not going to apply=2 0for a declaration of insolvency, although this situation is clearly evident at the mining company. According to Ricardo Trovarelli of Cormin, one of the creditors, to do so could mean freezing the collection of the debt.
A declaration of insolvency is given by Indecopi at the request of a creditor or company in trouble. Once this happens, the market regulator convenes a meeting of the creditors which decides the bankruptcy or asset restructuring of the company, and defines a schedule of payments to the creditors. Miguel Morales, legal representative of the Buenaventura Mining Company, said days earlier that his client did not envision this mechanism and rather looks to recover the dept through judicial process against Doe Run.
It should be noted that the conversations between Doe Run and suppliers of concentrates have been at a stalemate after the mining companies required the largest shareholder of Doe Run, Ira Rennert, provide $100 million to ensure funding and implementation of th e Environmental Management and Adaptation Program (PAMA)>
On the other hand, a Doe Run source indicated that it is also holding a restructuring process, incase the mineral providers do not give concentrates because there is an outstanding debt, which was confirmed by Trovarelli.
Another creditor of Doe Run, who preferred to reserve his identity, explained that the alternative of the judiciary is not a good option because the processes are lengthy.
The mining companies of central Peru sold their concentrates to Doe Run, because to export them to Asian smelters would involve bearing the costs of freight and storage. According to them, this would cause a loss in sales of up to 5% (between $40 and $50 per to n). According to experts, these suppliers could lose up to $5 million a month.
Moreover, it was reported that Doe Run would have committed a criminal offense if it sold the mineral concentrates without paying for them. “The commercial contracts say very clearly that the concentrates become the property of Doe Run once the supplier receives the payment,” said the source, who remained anonymous.
Yesterday, in the city of La Oroya, where the smelter and refinery of the mining company is located, the workers protested by blocking the central highway for nearly three hours, in order to pressure the government and mining companies that provide concentrates to reach a solution.
Doe Run completely paralyzed the metallurgical complex of La Oroya on Tuesday because it no longer has concentrates to process. This has made the workers fear for their future employment and for the economy of the city of La Oroya, according to Mauricio Huaman Carrasco, sub-secretary general of the Union of Metallurgical Workers of La Oroya. “If the plant collapses, the population collapses,” he said.
Finally, about 40 people belonging to 10 union organizations of La Oroya, delivered in Lima yesterday, petitions with 22,440 signatures of residents to the president of the Republic, the Congressional Committee on Energy and Mines, and the minister of industry, requesting the extension of the Environmental Management and Adaptation Program (PAMA) of Doe Run.
Doe Run no sería llevada a Indecopi por empresas mineras
Trabajadores buscan solución del Gobierno
Las empresas mineras, a las cuales Doe Run adeuda aproximadamente US$110 millones, no están dispuestas a solicitar su declaratoria de insolvencia pese a que esta situación es a todas luces evidente en la minera. Según explicó Ricardo=2 0Trovarelli, de Cormin, una de las acreedoras, el hacerlo podría significar congelar el cumplimiento de la deuda.
La declaratoria de insolvencia la da el Indecopi a solicitud de una acreedora o de la empresa en problemas. Una vez que esto sucede, el regulador del mercado convoca a una junta de acreedores que decide la quiebra o la reestructuración patrimonial de la empresa, y define un cronograma de pagos para los acreedores.
Miguel Morales, representante legal de Compañía de Minas Buenaventura, indicó en días anteriores que su representada no contemplaba este mecanismo y más bien analiza recuperar la deuda vía un proceso judicial a Doe Run.
Se debe indicar que las conversaciones entre Doe Run y los proveedores de concentrados, han quedado en un punto muerto luego de que las mineras exigieran que el principal accionista de Doe Run, Ira Rennert, disponga de US$100 millones que garantice el financiamiento y cumplimiento del Programa de Adecuación y Manejo Ambiental (PAMA).
De otro lado, una fuente de Doe Run indicó que esta tampoco se acogería a un proceso de reestructuración, pues si lo hiciera los proveedores mineros no le darían concentrados por el hecho de existir una deuda pendiente, aspecto que fue corroborado por Trovarelli.
Otro acreedor de Doe Run, que prefirió mantener su identidad en reserva, explicó que la alternativa del Poder Judicial tampoco es una buena opción debido=2 0a que los procesos son extensos.
Las mineras del centro venden sus concentrados a Doe Run, debido a que exportarlos a fundiciones asiáticas implica asumir gastos de flete y almacenamiento. Según ellas, esto provocaría una pérdida en sus ventas de hasta 5% (entre US$40 y US$50 por tonelada). Para los expertos, estas proveedoras podrían perder hasta US$ 5 millones mensuales.
Por otra par te, se informó que Doe Run habría cometido un delito penal debido a que vendió concentrados de las mineras sin que haya pagado por ellas. “Los contratos comerciales decían muy claro que el concentrado pasaba a ser propiedad de Doe Run una vez que el proveedor recibiera el pago”, indicó la misma fuente que se mantuvo en el anonimato.
Ayer, en la ciudad de La Oroya —donde se encuentra ubicada la fundición y refinería de la minera— los trabajadores salieron a protestar bloqueando por cerca de tres horas la Carretera Central, con el fin de presionar al Gobierno y a las empresas mineras que proveen de concentrados a lograr una solución.
Doe Run paralizó totalmente el complejo metalúrgico de La Oroya el martes debido a que ya no cuenta con concentrados para procesar. Esto ha hecho que los trabajadores teman por su futuro laboral y por la economía de la ciudad de La Oroya, según Mauricio Huamán Carrasco, sub secretario general del Sindicato de Trabajadores Metalúrgicos de La Oroya. “Si colapsa la planta, colapsa la población”, expre só.
Finalmente, unas 40 personas, pertenecientes a diez20organizaciones gremiales de La Oroya, entregaron ayer en Lima planillones con 22.440 firmas de pobladores, al presidente de la República, a la Comisión de Energía y Minas del Congreso y al ministerio del sector, pidiendo la ampliación del Programa de Adecuación y Manejo Ambiental (PAMA) de Doe Run.
Business | 2 June, 2009 [ 12:37 ] Living in Peru.com
Doe Run Peru shut operations
Doe Run Peru has shut all of its smelter operations, unable to reach an agreement with banks and mining suppliers, reported Bloomberg.com.
According to Luis Castillo, from the Mining Federation, Doe Run (a unit of New York Renco Group Inc) can't buy concentrates for its smelter and can’t pay its 3,700 workers either.
“La Oroya smelter is closed,” he said, expressing his concerns for the alleged unwillingness of both government and the company to find a real solution.
“This could cost workers their jobs,” Castillo added.
Doe Run says it needs more time to settle its debts and invest in an environmental cleanup (PAMA) that the company is required to comply.
Reps from the Mesa Tecnica (JH,MOSAO, Cooperaccion, Labor) met with the Vice Minister of Mining this morning. He indicated that there will need to be a complete re-structuring of the administration of the plant... and that Renco Group will not be able to play a role in determining that.
We continue to press the question not only of the right to work for the workers, but the clean-up of the town and the care of its people.... regardless of who runs the plant. To this end, what will be the legal and legislative means necessary to insure La Oroya is tended to... and then on a larger scale throughout the country, so that this scenario never happens anywhere again.
Published: Thursday, May 21, 2009 10:55 (GMT -0400)
By Business News Americas staff reporters
Peru's mines and energy ministry (MEM) said that if Doe Run Perú does not comply with its PAMA environmental obligations at its La Oroya smelter complex it will shut the company down next year or sooner.
Doe Run Perú's deadline for completion of the PAMA environmental remediation activities is October, although the government said it is willing to allow the company a grace period of roughly a couple of months.
But once the ministry declares Doe Run Perú officially noncompliant it will begin an audit of the company as a step toward closing it down.
According to a report by state newswire Andina, the audit would likely take 6-8 months and if there is sufficient reason to close the corporation, it could occur late this year or next.
Doe Run agreed on a series of environmental cleanup efforts for the La Oroya smelter complex when it was privatized into the company's hands in 1997.
Rescue of the finances of Doe Run eclipse the environmental disaster
by Milagros Salazar
LIMA April 7, 2009 (IPS)
The Peruvian government will not save the metal mining company Doe Run from its financial problems. Doe Run, responsible for vast contamination in the Andean city of La Oroya, will seek to extend the timeframe to fulfill its environmental obligations for the second time.
The rescue was assumed by mining companies that are clients of the metallurgical complex of Doe Run Peru. The urgency to protect the health of the settlers of The Funicular that daily breathe the toxic outpourings of the foundry prevailed over economic solution, several sources told IPS.
The protection of the living space of the population constitutes an permanent state obligation that derives from the fundamental right of the people to enjoy an adequate and stable environment for the development of the life," indicated Monday a communiqué of the Defender of the People (ombdudsman) on the case Doe Run.
A letter sent from the Defender of the People, Beatriz Merino, to the President of the Council of Ministers, Yehude Simon, who had access to IPS, urged the government to adopt effective means to guarantee the quality of the environment of La Oroya, situated in the central region of Junin, more than 3,300 meters above sea level and on the eastern ridges of the Andes.
The missive complies with that on April 3 the minister of the Environment, Antonio Brack, confirmed that Doe Run will be given three months more than the time limit to comply with the Program of Adaptation and Environmental Management (PAMA) to which it agreed in 1997, when it obtained the concession of the metallurgical complex of La Oroya.
Some 35,000 inhabitants bear the sulfur dioxide, lead and cadmium emissions, from the chimneys of Doe Run.
In 2006, the NGO Blacksmith, with headquarters in New York, included La Oroya in a list of the 10 most contaminated places of the world.
Brack made the announcement after the government reported that a group of businesses would vouch for lines of credit to finance with 175 million dollars to Doe Run, paralyzed in its activity by economic problems. According to the authorities, a closing of the foundry would carry to the dismissal of 3,500 workers and would have an systemic impact that would affect to the mining businesses of the center of the country.
The company, that has its parent company in the United States, should reach compliance of its environmental commitments by October of this year, but Brack argued that "until all the systems of financing are summarized (in favor of the business) there will be some months where it will not be operating and the PAMA will have to mover over a little."
In the next days, the government will emit a decree on the extension of the time limit for the environmental plan, in spite of the fact that a similar measure that had authorized the first postponement, indicated that any subsequent flexibilty would be inapplicable.
For the specialists, these measures infringe the laws.
"Any decision should make the health of the population a priority. Besides, the norms and the environmental instruments should not resolve the timing problems of a company, but should establish dispositions of general application to resolve the needs of the population", told IPS the enclosed official of Environment of the Defender of the People, Iván Lanegra.
The governmental National Counsel of the Environment determined in 1997 that the foundry was the source of 99.7 percent of the toxic emissions of that zone of the country.
According to the results of the measurements carried out in 2009 in different stations of monitoring, this year again the annual limit of environmental quality, established in the Peruvian legislation, of 0.5 microgramos of leads by cubic meter of air, would not be respected in La Oroya.
Although only in the third week from March the situation of Doe Run appeared in the mass media, the crisis of the company exploded February 24, when the financial companies BNP Paribas, credit Bank of Peru and Standard Bank cut it a revolving credit of 75 million dollars, freezing a great part of their operations.
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Canada-Colombia FTA removed from legislative agenda: Canada steps towards dignity
May 27, 2009
Public pressure has forced a victory in the fight to stop the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA). Sources from Canada’s three opposition parties have confirmed that the ruling Conservative Party has removed Bill C-23 , implementing legislation for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, from the government’s current legislative agenda.
The CCFTA has not been defeated: at this time, it appears to lack the political support needed to be rushed through the Canadian parliament as proponents had intended. With the high level of controversy and public doubt surrounding the motives and consequences of the CCFTA, it may not re-enter parliamentary debate until the Fall of 2009.
What this means is not that the struggle against the CCFTA is over but that Canadians are having their say and getting in the way of Prime Minister Harper’s reckless trade agenda.
As a result of a negative public reaction to the deal, the Liberal Party of Canada, which had made statements in favour of the controversial agreement, has become internally divided on the issue, with many members now insisting on an Independent Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) before Bill C-23 were to be ratified in the Canadian parliament.
Recognizing the Liberals’ reluctance on this issue, the minority Conservative government appears to have gotten ‘cold feet’ in extending their support for a regime that inflicts daily terror  on its own people with impunity  and affirming a deal that would 'make a bad situation worse'  in Colombia.
An immense effort has been building from diverse sectors across North America and Colombia over the past several weeks. With countless letters  and phone calls to Liberal MPs, participation in numerous rallies  across the country, and the signing of petitions  urging a halt to the CCFTA, the Canadian public has found its voice. This has been complemented with a strong and effective lobby effort by labour , human rights  and citizens'  advocacy organizations and numerous opposition parliamentarians who have strongly opposed this bill. It is clear that many Canadians are trying to move towards their country having a more dignified role in the world.
These Canadians are saying they stand up for human rights and oppose the kind of economic model represented by agreements like the CCFTA, which serve to protect the rights of transnational corporations and disregard the rights of communities, workers and average citizens. It is not trade that is opposed, but this particular brand of so-called ‘free trade’ that continues to be negotiated behind closed doors, imposed in the interests of a few and caused the ruin of our communities and economies.
Canadians have stood beside their Colombian counterparts because this so-called ‘free trade’ is damaging to all of us, even if there were no human rights abuses in Colombia.
This is a bad deal for Colombia and for Canada, but it is also an opportunity to stop being taken in the wrong direction  and to make our own decisions based on what is good for us, our communities and our environment, rather than letting those who work for profit and greed continue to decide against us.
The Conservatives pulled this legislation off the table because they value their political survival more than the CCFTA. Many are also watching policy developments in the United States on this and other trade-related issues . Still, the CCFTA remains a danger, and Canadians must continue to be vigilant. No politicians, certainly not the Conservatives or Liberals, will do the right thing without pressure, and the government may yet try to get it passed under the table.
We must not now turn to silence.
On June 8, President Uribe  is coming to Montreal. The Harper Government is more than willing to turn Canadian dignity into shame, and the Liberals have made statements in favour  of the government’s interests. We stand with the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, who have listened to the people. We will continue to say:
NO to Uribe’s presence in Canada!
NO to an FTA with the criminal regime!
YES to building relations of the peoples based on solidarity and dignity!
(numbered references available from firstname.lastname@example.org)
La Chiva: http://www.canadacolombiaproject.blogspot.com
Pueblos en Camino: http://www.en-camino.org
Across the Americas
P.O. Box 268733 <-- new
Chicago, IL 60626-8733
773-938-1036 (phone and fax)
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LEGISLATION: Spending Bill in Conference Committee
Go to Archives on this webpage for background information on this and the IMF Funding also added to the bill.
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COLOMBIA: A new U.S. military facility planned in Palanquero
May 18, 2009, Oakland, CA: The United States is planning to establish a new military facility in Colombia that will give the U.S. increased capacity for military intervention throughout most of Latin America. Given the tense relations of Washington with Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, as well as the Colombian military’s atrocious human rights record, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) believes the plan should be subjected to vigorous debate.
“This base would feed a failed drug policy, support an abusive army, and reinforce a tragic history of U.S. military intervention in the region,” said John Lindsay-Poland, FOR's Latin America program co-director. “It’s wrong and wasteful, and Congress should scrap it.”
The new facility in Palanquero, Colombia would not be limited to counter-narcotics operations, nor even to operations in the Andean region, according to an Airlift Military Command (AMC) planning document (1) The U.S. Southern Command aims to establish a base with “air mobility reach on the South American continent” in addition to a capacity for counter-narcotics operations, through the year 2025.
With help from the Transportation Command and AMC, the Southern Command identified Palanquero, from which “nearly half of the continent can be covered by a C-17 without refueling.” If fuel is available at its destination, “a C-17 could cover the entire continent, with the exception of the Cape Horn region,” the AMC planners wrote.
President Obama’s Pentagon budget (2) submitted May 7, includes $46 million for development of the Palanquero base, and says the Defense Department seeks “an array of access arrangements for contingency operations, logistics, and training in Central/South America.” A U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Bogota told FOR that negotiations were not yet concluded for the base.
The Southern Command is also pursuing access to a site in French Guiana that would permit military aircraft to reach sites in Africa (3) via the Ascension Islands, according to AMC. SouthCom apparently sought use of facilities in Recife, Brazil for the same purpose, but “the political relationship with Brazil is not conducive to the necessary agreements,” AMC wrote.
The lease for the U.S. “Forward Operating Location” in Manta, Ecuador expires in November 2009, and Ecuador notified Washington last year that it would not renew the lease. The facility in Manta was authorized to conduct only counter-drug operations, but drug traffic in the Pacific, where aircraft from Manta patrolled, has increased in recent years, according to military spokesmen. (4)U.S. forces in Manta also carried out operations to arrest undocumented Ecuadorans on boats in Ecuadoran waters. But public documentation of U.S.operations conducted from Manta does not indicate use of C-17 cargo aircraft, so their use in Palanquero apparently would represent an expanded U.S. military capacity in the region.
The “mission creep” in the proposal for continent-wide operations from Colombia is also evident in President Obama’s foreign aid request for Colombia.(5) While the budget request for $508 million tacitly recognizes the failure of Plan Colombia drug policy by cutting funds for fumigation of coca crops, the White House is asking for an increase in counterinsurgency equipment and training to the Colombian Army.
Colombian and U.S. human rights and political leaders have objected to continued funding (6) of the Colombian army, especially after revelations (7) that the army reportedly murdered more than 1,000 civilians and alleged they were guerrillas killed in combat, in order to increase their body count. The Palanquero base itself, which houses a Colombian Air Force unit, was banned from receiving U.S. aid for five years because of its role in a 1998 attack that killed 17 civilians, including six children, from the effects of U.S.-made cluster bombs.(8)The United States resumed aid to the unit last year.
Colombian Defense Ministry sources said (9) that Colombia was attempting to obtain increases in U.S. military aid as part of the base negotiations. Palanquero offers the U.S. military a sophisticated infrastructure – a 10,000-foot runway, hangars that hold more than 100 aircraft, housing for more than 2,000 men, restaurants, casinos, supermarkets, and a radar system installed by the United States itself in the 1990s. (10)
U.S. law caps the number of uniformed U.S. soldiers operating in Colombia at 800, and the number of contractors at 600. Until last year, a significant number of them were intelligence personnel assigned to the effort to rescue three U.S. military contractors kidnapped by the leftist FARC guerrillas. With the rescue last year of the three contractors, many U.S. intelligence staff left Colombia, leaving space for soldiers to run operations in the prospective new U.S. base or bases.
“That the Colombian government asks for a U.S. base now would be a serious error,” says former defense minister and presidential candidate Rafael Pardo (11).
FOR believes replacing one military base that was set up for the failed drug war with another base to intervene in South America and to support the abusive Colombian army would be a serious error for the United States as well.
****This press release can be found on FOR's blog (http://www.forpeace.net/) or directly online at the following URL: http://tinyurl.com/usmilitarybaseincolombia
Ethan Vesely-Flad -- communications co-director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
845.358.4601 ext. 42, email@example.com, http://www.forusa.org/
Since 1915, building a nonviolent world of justice, peace, and freedom.
PS. CSPAN announced today (5-19) that Bill Clinton is being sent to Haiti as a special envoy of the Obama administratiion -- watch for emerging developments
Contact: John Lindsay-Poland, Fellowship of Reconciliation, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-282-8983 (cell)
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IMMIGRATION: AgJobs Action and other Legislation
The bill: http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=cre_leg_back&b_no=5496
Take Action Here: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5681/t/4309/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=733
AgJOBS needs your support: AgJOBS has been re-introduced in this Congress (see story below). The bill, the product of an historic compromise between farm workers and agricultural producers, contains a legalization program for undocumented immigrant farm workers and a reform of the H-2A agricultural guest worker program. It is an excellent model of how labor and business can come together to fix our broken immigration system.
Anti-immigrant organizations are telling their supporters to weigh in against this bill. You can build support for comprehensive immigration reform by contacting your Senators and Representative and asking them to support AgJOBS. Not only will you be encouraging Members of Congress to fix this critical problem with our agricultural workforce, but by raising your voice in defense of immigrants, you will help continue the momentum that has been building for comprehensive immigration reform!
As with AgJOBS and the DREAM Act, the more support we can show for positive immigration reform, the less daunting it will seem to Members of Congress to tackle comprehensive immigration reform.
AgJOBS re-introduced: On May 14th, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) re-introduced the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act (AgJOBS), S. 1038 with 16 co-sponsors. This legislation, a product of compromise between farm workers and growers and introduced in the last several Congresses, contains a path to citizenship for undocumented farm workers who have performed agricultural work and will continue to do so. It also will reform the H-2A seasonal agricultural guest worker program. In the House, this bipartisan bill was introduced as H.R. 2414 by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Adam Putam (R-FL), and 25 other co-sponsors.
Senator Feinstein, in introducing the bill, laid out a persuasive case for saving American farms by fixing the untenable situation that the agricultural workforce is in today. Her Senate floor statement can be found here:
You can find out if your Senators or Representative have signed on to the bill, and obtain other information about AgJOBS, on our AgJOBS legislation page here:
Senate Immigration Subcommittee to hold second hearing on immigration reform: On May 20th, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), will be chairing another hearing in his subcommittee about immigration reform. This one focuses on border control. The hearing, titled "Securing the Borders and America's Points of Entry, What Remains to Be Done," will feature two panels. The first will consist of agency witnesses. The second will include the Mayor of Eagle Pass, Texas; the Sheriff of El Paso County, Texas; and Douglas Massey, a professor at Princeton University who has written critically of U.S. border enforcement policy. The witness list also includes former Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth. Mr. Hayworth is a victim of what we might call attrition-through-espousal-of-enforcement-only, which has led to a reduced population of immigration hard-liners in Congress over the last three election cycles. He is currently a radio talk show host.
You should be able to listen to the hearing, and obtain testimony when it is available, by going to the Web page of the hearing:
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Padre Lorenzo (Larry) Rosebaugh, OMI PRESENTE!
Friend of the Catholic Worker died Monday, May 18 murdered by masked gunmen in northern Guatemala
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Padre Larry Rosebaugh, Presente!
Let's take a moment to pray for the soul of this fine priest who was a friend of the poor and a peacemaker. Fr. Larry was a member of the Milwaukee 14 anti-Vietnam War action and was on staff at the Casa Maria Catholic Worker House in Milwaukee. He worked in Recife with Dom Helder Camara and the poor, and he participated in the movement to close the School of the Americas. He recently published a memoir through EPICA, To Wisdom Through Failure: A Journey of Compassion, Resistance and Hope. Thomas C. Fox has additional information on his NCR Blog.
Priest slain in Guatemala; was member of Milwaukee 14
By Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: May. 19, 2009
It was Sept. 24, 1968, when a young Catholic priest named Larry Rosebaugh participated in an anti-war protest in Milwaukee that transformed his life.
"Most of us had never been involved in anything like this," Rosebaugh wrote later. "We were going to break the law in a manner we hoped would be truly non-violent."
Rosebaugh and other opponents of the Vietnam War made their way into the U.S. Selective Service offices at 135 W. Wells St., seized thousands of draft records and set them ablaze.
The men would come to be known as the Milwaukee 14.
Rosebaugh's life of opposition to war and service to the poor took him on a journey from Wisconsin to Latin America.
It all came to an end Monday when Rosebaugh, 74, was murdered by masked gunmen in northern Guatemala.
At the time of the attack, Rosebaugh, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was in a car with four other missionaries who were headed to a meeting in Playa Grande, Guatemala. A Congolese priest was wounded.
"I describe him as a living saint," said Robert Graf, one of the Milwaukee 14.
"He was a very holy, humble man," Graf said. "He lived the life he believed in."
Michael Cullen, another of the Milwaukee 14, said Rosebaugh was "a beautiful soul."
"He had an extraordinary life and career, and it seems totally crazy that one man shoots him down," Cullen said.
Rosebaugh was born in Appleton, took his first vows as an Oblate in August 1957, and was ordained to the priesthood in March 1963.
After teaching high school in Duluth and Chicago, he came to Milwaukee in 1968 and was a member of the Casa Maria Hospitality House, which gives shelter to homeless families and women.
Rosebaugh arrived in Milwaukee at a tumultuous time in American history, with the nation at war in Vietnam and still grieving the deaths of Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"I chose to act," Rosebaugh wrote in his memoir, "To Wisdom Through Failure." Rosebaugh wrote that he and Brother Basil O'Leary took keys from a cleaning woman, enabling the others to get access to the draft files. Rosebaugh and O'Leary remained in the building as protesters doused the files with homemade napalm. They rejoined the group when they saw the files go up in flames.
A few days later, he was visited in jail by his father, who asked, "Larry, how did you ever get mixed up in this?"
Rosebaugh received a two-year sentence for his role in the incident and served 20 months.
"Prison, I had discovered, tends to leave the spirit and the soul quite drained," he wrote.
In 1977, Rosebaugh and a Mennonite lay worker were serving the poor in Recife in Brazil. The men were detained and arrested by police. They claimed they were beaten and stripped during their detention. Later, U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter, on a goodwill tour of Latin America, met the missionaries.
Rosebaugh served 10 years as a missionary in Guatemala. Graf said Rosebaugh ministered to youth with AIDS, crime victims and the impoverished elderly.
"He was dealing with violence and death all day," Graf said.
Rosebaugh will be buried Wednesday in Guatemala City.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
1968: From the Milwaukee 14 Statement at the time of the action
Fr. Larry Rosebaugh, 33, a member of the religious community of Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is on the staff of Casa Maria House of Hospitality in Milwaukee and has worked as a longshoreman on the Milwaukee docks. After serving a year as a parish priest in St. Paul, he taught religious for three years in Duluth and spent a year in the inner-city of Chicago.
2006: Lorenzo Rosebaugh Autobiography To Wisdom Through Failure
Lorenzo was an Oblate priest serving the poor and marginalized in Guatemala City, Guatemala. His Memoir To Wisdom Through Failure is his journey through life that led him to prison, Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico and to live in Guatemala and be with the poorest of the poor. It is a story of compassion, resistance and hope. Lorenzo truly learned the “language of the poor”.
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TELL THE SENATE: "NO BLANK CHECK FOR THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND!"
May 20, 2009 - The Senate Appropriations Committee agreed on Thursday to attach a request from the Obama Administration for $100 billion for the International Monetary Fund and the authority to sell IMF gold. Jubilee USA and other groups are concerned about the lack of transparency and hearings on this important issue. Now that the Committee has agreed to the IMF funds, action moves to the Senate floor. Today, Senator Sherrod Brown introduced an amendment on the floor that would require the IMF to stop restricting health and education budgets in the world's most impoverished countries. CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY and ask them to support this amendment. Call their offices during the Memorial Day Recess.
If IMF funds are approved; Congress must tell the IMF to stop pushing contractionary policies on poor countries during a recession and to live up to its commitment to stop requiring wage ceilings and budget caps limiting countries' ability to hire and retain vital teachers and doctors.
TELL THE SENATE: "NO BLANK CHECK FOR THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND!"
At the G-20 Summit in London in April, the U.S. committed to provide $100 billion in new resources to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to respond to the global recession. Given the IMF's dubious track record in supporting poor countries to achieve equitable economic growth, Congress should take a careful, deliberate approach to approving this funding. As part of its consideration, Congress should require significant IMF reform and the allocation of a portion of planned IMF gold sales for expanded poor country debt relief.
However, without a single oversight hearing, the IMF funding package may be slipped into an $84 billion emergency spending bill moving through the Senate at the 11th hour this week!
Congress has previously rushed through financial bailouts without adequate safeguards or oversight, and should not repeat the same mistake. With such large sums and broad new authorities proposed, Congress must ensure open and transparent debate on the role and policies of the IMF. Hastily attaching IMF funding to a fast-moving emergency spending bill will not allow for the perspectives of poor countries and civil society advocates to be heard.
Please contact your Senators immediately: the Senate Appropriations Committee will mark-up the wartime supplemental bill on the afternoon of Thursday, May 14. It is at this time that an amendment may be offered to attach $100 billion for the IMF. Call your Senator today via the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and urge him/her to oppose an amendment to attach IMF funding to the wartime supplemental. Instead, Congress should hold hearings on IMF reform, support gold sales for debt relief, and require real IMF reform in exchange for any new funding from the US.
Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator's office.
"My name is ___________ and I'm calling from _______________[city/state]. I am calling to ask Senator ___________ to support an open and transparent review of funding for the International Monetary Fund. This review is included in the Brown Amendment to the bill. I am concerned that the Senate may rush to approve funding for the IMF without the oversight necessary to ensure this funding will be used effectively. IMF policies have undermined poor countries ability to provide health and education to their citizens, and funding should not be approved until these concerns are addressed. I urge Senator ____________ to speak with Senate and Appropriations Committee leadership in support of an open, transparent and deliberate review process before funding is approved. Thank you."
It is especially important to contact Senators who sit on the Appropriations Committee. Even if your Senator is not a member of the committee, your call matters.
**While developing countries clearly need funds to be able to cope with the global crisis, Congress should resist calls to expand the purse of the IMF without requiring measurable, meaningful reform that will eliminate IMF conditions that stifle economic growth and social protection, and set the stage for a new external debt crisis.
**There is no need to rush this funding. In the past, the IMF has exacerbated the effect of economic crises in poor countries, so it's more important for Congress to ensure this is done right rather than done quickly. Moreover, the IMF currently has more than enough resources to meet any urgent needs that would come up while Congress responsibly deliberates new resources.
**Congress should ensure that new IMF loans do not set the stage for the next debt crisis. Of the $1 trillion in support announced by the G-20, 2.5% is devoted for the poorest countries. Additional funds - on more beneficial terms and without harmful conditions - should be made available to the poorest.
**Congress should require the Treasury Secretary to advocate within the IMF to use some of the revenue from its already planned gold sales and/or other related sources of income to provide at least $5 billion in non debt creating assistance to the world's poorest countries - either via debt relief or grants.
**The IMF should stop imposing contractionary policies in a time of recession. The G-20 committed to increase resources for the IMF to provide countries with resources for a global stimulus - yet the IMF continues to impose contractionary monetary and fiscal policies which will exacerbate recessions in recipient countries. The Fund's loans since September 2008 to countries rocked by the financial crisis almost uniformly require budget cuts, wage freezes, and interest rate hikes. Recipient countries' economies vary widely, and a one-size-fits-all IMF policy prescription is inappropriate.
**The IMF must be more accountable by requiring parliamentary approval for its loans. Currently, the IMF negotiates and obtains approval for loans from the executive branch of recipient countries, leaving little room for democratic debates over the content and terms of new loans. A requirement for parliamentary approval of IMF loans would help to ensure greater democratic participation and transparency, as well as a safeguard against corruption.
**The IMF should stop impeding increased health and education spending through policies that limit government spending or wage bill ceilings. The IMF has made promises to eliminate wage bill ceilings as conditions for lending, but it continues to implement these in some cases, and it continues to direct countries to accept policies that limit overall government spending flexibility. Such policies should be eliminated.
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STOP THE PANAMA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT!
From the Alliance for Responsible Trade www.art-us.org
Stop the Panama Free Trade Agreement!
Tell President Obama and the Democratic Congress it is time to Rethink Trade and not move forward on the failed Bush agenda. Email the President and your Member of Congress today and tell them we voted for change—and we expect change.
In spite of campaign promises to engage in a thorough re-thinking of our trade model, word has it that the Obama administration is planning to introduce, maybe as early as this week, the Bush era Panama Free Trade Agreement. There is also talk that the Colombian FTA may soon follow. With many Democratic candidates having been elected promising a re-thinking of the model, it seems difficult to believe the Obama administration would do this.
The current trade model, as embodied in the NAFTA and CAFTA agreements is rife with negative impacts, heavily impacting workers in North as well as South countries. The model needs a thorough reworking.
The Panama FTA would flood Panama with subsidized U.S. grains, as previous FTAs have done in signing countries. This is debilitating in terms of food production. In economic crises such as this one, it is imperative that we act in ways that will increase food security, for ourselves and our neighbors. Destroying the livelihood of farmers here and abroad is never a good idea.
Write Congress and President Obama today. Say YES to Rethinking Trade and say NO to business as usual.
SEE BELOW FOR A SAMPLE LETTER AND A DECLARATION FROM A PANAMANIAN CIVIL SOCIETY GROUP!
In spite of campaign promises to engage in a thorough re-thinking of our trade model, word has it that the Obama administration is planning to introduce, maybe as early as this week, the Bush era Panama Free Trade Agreement. There is also talk that the Colombian FTA may soon follow. With many Democratic candidates having been elected promising a re-thinking of the model, it seems difficult to believe the Obama administration would do this.
The current trade model, as embodied in the NAFTA and CAFTA agreements is rife with negative impacts, heavily impacting workers in North as well as South countries. The model needs a thorough reworking. The Panama FTA would flood Panama with subsidized U.S. grains, as previous FTAs have done in signing countries. This is debilitating in terms of food production. In economic crises such as this one, it is imperative that we act in ways that will increase food security, for ourselves and our neighbors.
Destroying the livelihood of farmers here and abroad is never a good idea.
Write Congressand President Obama today. Say YES to Rethinking Trade and say NO to business as usual.
I am discouraged to hear the U.S. government may move forward on trade agreements left over from the Bush administration such as the Panama and Colombia FTAs.
This past November I voted for change in our trade policies and I expect change. More agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA that put U.S. jobs at risk and destroy the livelihood of farmers around the world by flooding their markets with U.S. subsidized grains are never a good idea.
Please to do not allow the Panama Free Trade Agreement to be introduced in Congress and follow through with the change we expect in U.S. trade policy.
PANAMANIAN CIVIL SOCIETY GROUP PROTESTS FREE TRADE AGREEMENT!
[From a declaration that was released by the Panama Sovereignty Front (FRENTE PANAMA SOBERANO) on January 9, 2007, shortly after the negotiations of the trade agreement had been completed.]
The Panama Sovereignty Front (FPS) notes with alarm and concern the tactics used by our government with relation to the trade agreement with the United States negotiated and signed on December 19, 2006. The so called "Free Trade Agreement" is the product of 10 rounds of negotiations with both countries coming to an agreement that would permit the United States access to the internal market of Panama. In exchange the U.S. does not offer any opening for Panamanian goods or services to gain access to the market of that country in a favorable and expedited manner.
According to the information released by the U.S. government, the agreement would mean that the people would have to assume the burden of higher prices for health care (medicine, doctors' visits), education, social security, transportation and food.
The agreement would also have a direct impact on specific sectors of the population such as farmers, professionals and workers. In the case of Panamanian farmers, they would lose their access to the national market and would have to abandon their land. The Panamanian market would be inundated with U.S. farm products that are in surplus in that country. Our country would be totally abandoning its policy of food security and we would not be consuming our own rice, beef and other products.
In the case of professionals, the pact would allow U.S. specialists to work in Panama as if they were Panamanian citizens. According to U.S. officials, "it will give us access to the professional service area that previously was reserved exclusively to Panamanians."
The labor sector would also be impacted. For 20 years, the policies of labor flexibilization have decreased by 50% Panama's labor force. This agreement with the U.S. would mean an even greater increase in the informal sector which lives below the poverty line and now represents 40% of the economically active population.
To this we must add that Panama would accept that its policies would be inspected and penalized by the United States. Committees of Trade Support would be created, a Council of Environmental Affairs and arbitration mechanisms for investors and the U.S. Customs Department would also participate in monitoring Panama.
Panama would also concede to U.S. companies the right to participate in running the Panama Canal and in the management of the Social Security pension fund as if they were Panamanian nationals.
The Panamanian people will not accept a pact with the United States that damages the interests of our workers and farmers. We will not accept an accord that means going backwards in terms of advances achieved after generations of struggle (social security, the Panama Canal, education among other).
Panama Sovereignty Front
FRENTE PANAMA SOBERANO
Panama, January 9, 2007
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MEXICO: Tell Congress: No More for the Drug War
Fact Sheet: http://witnessforpeace.org/downloads/Mex_Merida%20Initiative%20factsheet%20WFP2.pdf
Last year Mexico was wracked by over 6,000 drug-related executions. No one can deny Mexico’s drug crisis is grave, that the U.S. needs to do something. Rather than addressing the U.S. demand at root, Congress has so far given $700 million through the Merida Initiative in helicopters, surveillance equipment, and other security assistance to prop up the floundering “war on drugs” in Mexico. With no indication that such funds have helped stem the swelling violence in Mexico, and plenty of indication that a similar approach has roundly failed in Colombia, is Congress considering alternative approaches?
No. Just two months after doling out $410 million more of Merida money, Congress is now considering just doing it again. Despite the recession, Congress is contemplating throwing up to $470 million more at Merida as part of a wartime spending bill for Blackhawk Helicopters. Over 70 Mexican civil society organizations recently denounced such military aid as the wrong approach.
The spending bill now goes to a conference committee, whose members will decide what to do with the over $400 million difference in Merida funding between the Senate and House versions--a decision to abandon or perpetuate the failed Merida model.
I am writing you today to ask that you extract Merida Initiative funds from the supplemental appropriations bill soon to be considered in conference committee.
Additional Merida funding would be a heedless waste of my taxpayer dollars. Just two months ago, Congress approved $410 million for Merida, bringing the total of Merida’s approved funds to $875 million. Now, before that installment has even been fully dispersed, the House version of the bill would tack on an additional $470 million—over seven times the amount that President Obama even requested for Merida funds. In the midst of a recession, is it really a prudent usage of limited funds to send additional hundreds of millions to something that has yet to produce any positive results?
Merida Initiative supporters assert that the U.S. security assistance is desperately needed given that drug-related violence in Mexico is skyrocketing. There is no doubt that the crisis is real: execution-style murders in Mexico in 2008 numbered over 6,000. The U.S. certainly needs to do something. But the crisis demands a new approach, not simply dusting off the tired "war on drugs" policies of the past. Merida, as a continuation of these policies, would prove tragically ineffective in diminishing the violence. Over 70 Mexican human rights organizations reached this same conclusion in a May 6 letter to your office in which they clearly denounce such military aid as shortsighted and dangerous. The letter states, "We believe that a change of paradigm is needed in order to combat the factors that cause drug trafficking and violence, instead of only combating their symptoms."
As a remnant of the old paradigm, Merida is destined to fail for these reasons:
Drugs are a demand-driven business. In March Secretary of State Clinton correctly stated, “our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.” After spending 7 years and over $5 billion in striving to curtail Colombia's coca production through Plan Colombia, the U.S. admitted last year that Colombians planted twice as much coca in 2007 as in 2000. This spectacular failure shows that attempts to stamp out drug supply abroad are doomed so long as drug demand remains high at home. The same would prove true for Merida's attempts to stamp out drug flow in Mexico. The RAND Corporation estimates that domestic drug treatment programs are 10 times more cost effective than drug interdiction efforts (i.e. Merida). Rather than wasting $470 million more taxpayer dollars on a solution that won't curb Mexico's drug-related violence, the U.S. should bolster proven drug treatment and rehabilitation efforts at home.
A militarized interdiction approach could even exacerbate the violence. If military or police personnel, aided through the Merida Initiative, are successful in weakening one drug cartel, other cartels will inevitably compete to fill its place so long as U.S. demand keeps the business lucrative. Such competition often means a violent struggle for control in which many innocent civilians are killed in the crossfire.
Merida does little to address another root cause of Mexico's violent drug trade: poverty. Mexico's economy is in shambles. Facing increasingly desperate socioeconomic realities, many of Mexico's unemployed are left with few options, including migration to the U.S. and employment in the illicit drug trade. A significant number inevitably opt for the latter, more profitable choice. The U.S. also needs to recognize how NAFTA has contributed to such crime-feeding poverty by displacing small-scale producers and forcing reliance on fickle export industries. Renegotiation of NAFTA, a campaign promise of President Obama, is long overdue.
Beyond failing to curb Mexico's escalating violence, expanding Merida Initiative funding would constitute a sincere threat to human rights and freedom of expression in Mexico:
Merida would dangerously blur the line between military and police duties. The security assistance package finances increased military involvement in domestic efforts typically handled by police. In so doing, Merida dangerously puts the civilian populace at the discretion of military personnel who have been trained to eliminate foreign threats.
Counter-narcotics operations in Mexico have a documented history of human rights abuses. As one example, in the past year Mexican soldiers in an anti-narcotics operation in the state of Michoacan beat, tortured, and sexually abused villagers who merely shared the same last name as a wanted drug-trafficker.
U.S. training and equipment could be used to repress civil society's freedom of expression. Such repression has occurred as recently as Fall 2006 and Summer 2007, when federal and state security forces utilized arbitrary detention, torture, and the killing of civilians to suppress peaceful demonstrations in the state of Oaxaca.
Please do not cast us further down the dead-end path of Merida. I would appreciate a written response from you that names how you plan to address the Merida funding in the appropriations bill during the upcoming meeting of the conference committee.
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HAITI: FREE POLITICAL PRISONERS! RESTORE DEMOCRACY!
In Haiti today, hundreds of political prisoners are jailed under the most inhumane conditions. Arrested during or after the U.S.-orchestrated 2004 coup d'etat that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, most of these prisoners have never been charged or tried. The United Nations occupying forces, charged with enforcing "law and order," has been a full participant in these illegal detentions, as has the Haitian government of President Rene Preval.
With 9,000 soldiers from 42 countries, led by Brazil, the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) has spent $2 billion fielding armed patrols throughout Haitian poor neighborhoods to repress and intimidate the people, arbitrarily killing civilians, and sometimes sexually assaulting young girls and women. In the meantime, the economic conditions worsen and the basic needs of the population remain unmet.
While MINUSTAH issues glowing reports of progress and political stability, the reality is quite different. Prices of basic commodities have risen, leading to popular uprisings demanding food. Grassroots activists, especially those associated with President Aristide's Lavalas Party, have continued to be arrested and attacked. Human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was disappeared in August of 2007, and neither the United Nations nor the Preval government has launched a serious investigation into his kidnapping. At the same time, conditions inside Haiti's prisons grow more horrific each day.
Haiti's Prisons Are A Nightmare
Prisoners are dying inside the sweltering, overcrowded 2500-person National Penitentiary (NP) built to house 800. They suffer dehydration and disease from filthy water. Beriberi from starvation rations is epidemic. Cell "blocks" built to hold five or six people are packed with up to 26 bodies at a time; prisoners take shifts sleeping and standing.
Violence against prisoners has sometimes escalated to wholesale massacre. On December 1st, 2004, a widely publicized incident occurred at the NP when inmates were shot after they broke out of their cells to protest their conditions and illegal confinement. Eyewitnesses reported the police took up positions on the catwalk and opened heavy fire. The official death toll was 10, but witness statements provided to the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) support a much higher death count.
In May 2006, during inauguration ceremonies for President-elect Préval, MINUSTAH sharpshooters targeted prisoners at the NP, killing an estimated ten men. The prisoners had rallied inside the compound to show solidarity with the incoming president. They condemned the unjust detention of political prisoners, and demanded the return of Aristide. Several thousand supporters left nearby inaugural events and marched to the penitentiary to protest the killings. Survivors held the bodies of dead prisoners over their heads for people to see from the street below.
After Préval took office, grassroots demands and international pressure for the release of well-known political prisoners slowly began to make headway. These campaigns resulted in the release of former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, key Lavalas activists So Ann, Amanus Maette, Paul Raymond, Rene Civil, and former Interior Minister Privert. Yet hundreds of lesser-known activists remain locked up, their petitions for justice ignored or denied.
The Case of Ronald Dauphin
Ronald Dauphin, a grassroots Lavalas activist, was arrested by armed paramilitary troops on March 1, 2004 - the day after US officials forced President Aristide into exile. Mr. Dauphin has spent five years in jail without having been convicted of any crime. For three years his case has been stuck in legal limbo, with no progress or active investigation. Dauphin is the last detainee held for the so-called "La Scierie massacre." No one has ever been convicted in connection with the La Scierie incident; most defendants have had their charges ordered dismissed by courts. Human rights groups and the UN have concluded that the alleged "massacre" never occurred.
In August 2006, Amnesty International joined human rights activists and Haiti's grassroots movement in calling for Haiti's government to promptly bring to trial or release all political prisoners, and condemning the prolonged detention of Aristide supporters as politically motivated. In October 2006, the National Lawyers Guild urged Haiti's government to release the remaining political prisoners, with particular emphasis on the defendants held in the La Scierie case.
In July 2008, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the State of Haiti had violated the human rights of former Prime Minister Neptune, another defendant in the La Scierie case, by holding him without trial for over two years with no proof he committed a crime. Neptune was provisionally released, as was another defendant in the case, Amanus Maette. Yet Ronald Dauphin remains in prison.
Although Dauphin's wife brings him food and medicine when she can, rising costs for food and gasoline make it difficult for her to visit. Without adequate food, clean water, sanitation and medical attention, Dauphin's detention amounts to a death sentence. He is ill from an undiagnosed condition. There is a prison dispensary, but even the prison doctor says the facility is incapable of caring for him. Dauphin's co-defendant, Wantales Lormejuste, died in 2007 from untreated tuberculosis contracted inside prison. Minimally, Dauphin wants to be offered medical release to be treated by specialists.
The case of Ronald Dauphin stands as an example of the ongoing repression faced by the Lavalas movement in Haiti. As the United States and the United Nations continue to claim progress towards democracy in Haiti, it is more important than ever to shine a light on the desperate situation inside Haiti's prisons.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Sign and circulate the on-line petition for Ronald Dauphin's release http://www.petitiononline.com/march04/petition.html
Sign up at email@example.com to receive latest news and action alerts.
Sponsor a house meeting or film showing.
Challenge disinformation! Inform yourself and your friends about Haiti !
FREE HAITI"S POLITICAL PRISONERS
END THE US/UN OCCUPATION
RETURN PRESIDENT ARISTIDE TO HAITI
Haiti Action Committee
PO Box 2218
Berkeley, CA 94702
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EL SALVADOR: CAFTA AND WORKERS RIGHTS
On Sunday, March 15, the people of El Salvador mobilized to defend democracy, resulting in the election of the FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes -- the very first leftist head of state in the county’s history. This historical shift in power is due to the Salvadoran social movement’s resistance to the right wing’s repressive economic and military policies. Labor unions and solidarity organizations’ fight against neoliberal free-trade agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have been a primary manifestation of this resistance. Integral to El Salvador’s resistance movement is a group of workers from the Las Hermosas maquila (or sweatshop) who are currently holding multinational corporations, like Nike, Adidas, and Russell, accountable for the myriad of labor rights violations in El Salvador’s maquila industry.
In May 2005, the Las Hermosas workers began to organize to change unjust working conditions in the factory. However, immediately after the workers began to organize, the factory owner closed the factory, leaving over 64 workers and organizers unemployed, blacklisted from neighboring maquilas, and owed over $825,000 of unpaid wages, social security, and severance pay.
Four years since the closure of the Las Hermosa’s factory, organizers are still without formal jobs or access to basic medical care through the state medical system; moreover, they have only received a very limited contribution towards the $825,000 of outstanding wages, overtime payments, and severance legally owed to the workers.
As a contractor at Las Hermosa’s factory, the Adidas corporation has the responsibility to ensure the workers are compensated or directly compensate them for the money owed and to reinstate blacklisted and fired workers. In fact, at meetings held with President Antonio Saca in December of 2005 and April of 2006, Adidas committed to ensuring that the Las Hermosas’ workers would receive full compensation, but have never followed through with their promise. The Las Hermosa’s case is a clear example of CAFTA’s promotion of labor “flexibility”: corporations profiting from the hiring and firing of cheap labor, while suppressing workers’ right to organize in the maquila industry throughout Central America. The success of the new Funes government in standing up to neo-liberal free trade agreements like CAFTA will be dependent on the mobilization of the social movement to demand change and accountability not only from officials but from the transnational corporate system.
In the wake of this historical moment in El Salvador, join CISPES in standing in solidarity with the Las Hermosas workers by calling Adidas and demanding that they comply with the workers’ demands. Your action is critical in defending workers’ rights to organize, and in supporting the social movement’s continued struggle for change in El Salvador.
1) Fax or email Adidas Corporate Social Responsibility Officer Gregg Nebel at (360) 394-1661 or Gregg.Nebel@adidas-Group.com and demand that he comply with the Las Hermosas Workers’ demands. (The Hermosa workers have called for coordinated actions in the US, El Salvador, and Germany on Thursday, May 7 so please respond today if you can!)
2) Get your organization to sign on to a letter to Adidas. You can download the letter here: www.cispes.org/documents/Organizational_letter_Adidas.doc
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