Archives: February 2010
FARMWORKERS: Urge EPA to protect farm worker kids
Children in farming communities are on the front lines every day because they live, play and learn near agricultural fields.
Pesticides applied to fields don't stay put-- they drift, vaporize, land in homes and on schoolyards. Current regulations don't account for reality. Rural and farm worker kids face this reality everyday; they also live with more poverty and less healthcare than most of the rest of the nation.
Thanks in part to advocacy efforts with our partners, the US EPA is currently considering three related actions that would go a long way towards addressing the realities of pesticide drift exposure in farming communities: stronger buffer zones, better drift labeling, and updated risk assessments.
Please help and be part of the solution. Sign our petition urging the EPA to protect farm worker children. And tell your friends to do so too. Join the UFW & our partners in this historic push for change.
If we do this now, an entire generation will grow up with less childhood cancer, fewer developmental disabilities and a better chance at life.
Please join us.
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NICARAGUA: Indigenous Communities
Despite, or perhaps because of, the Nicaraguan government's progress in titling and demarcating indigenous land, tensions have risen between settler and indigenous communities, reaching the point of violence.
In the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) of the country, indigenous communities have found themselves in continuous direct competition for their land with Spanish-speaking Nicaraguan settlers, or colonists. They have also found themselves subject to escalating attacks and death threats from the settlers.
Since the election three years ago of President Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista government has moved to address indigenous land issues by implementing the promises made to the indigenous and Creole people of the Atlantic Coast Autonomous Regions. The rights of the Miskitu, Rama, and Mayagna-speaking peoples and the English-speaking Creole people of the Atlantic Coast were enshrined in the Autonomy Law passed by the first Sandinista government in the 1980s. During the 17 years of right-wing governments, this promise was not completed, as Spanish-speaking ranchers and colonists from the Pacific side of the country were encouraged by those governments (particularly that of President Arnoldo Aleman) to settle in the sparsely inhabited indigenous land in the Eastern half of the country. Since 2007, however, the Ortega administration has been working to survey and title indigenous lands. Spanish-speaking colonists angry with the process are increasingly resorting to violence in order to disrupt the demarcation and titling process. This is an attempt to prevent the indigenous land where they've settled from being returned to indigenous control.
The Rama and Creole territorial government in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) has denounced death threats and attacks by the colonists within indigenous territory and demanded action from the national and regional governments.
Please support them by asking the Nicaraguan national and regional governments to act before there is a tragic loss of life.
While the government has made substantial strides in indigenous land titling for the Rama and Creole people within the municipalities of El Rama, Bluefields and Rio San Juan, the conflict between the mestizo settlers and the indigenous population continues to escalate. The technical teams surveying the boundaries of indigenous land titles have fled the region in fear for their lives due to settler death threats and destruction of their equipment.
The Rama and Creole territorial government denounced the death threats and vandalism that have taken place recently. They noted that the government team sent to demarcate indigenous land had been violently impeded from finishing its work. Armed colonist groups have destroyed demarcation equipment and even threatened those who allowed the technical teams to come close to their homes.
One night, 12 hooded and armed men dismembered a pig with the demarcation material and left a note calling the technical workers names and threatening their lives. This caused the workers to leave before finishing the job. Armed bands of colonists have burned and damaged indigenous homes and community buildings and threatened further violence.
Most recently, Pedro Gonzales, head of an armed settler group in the region of El Coco II, was quoted as stating, "We are going to terminate the Ramas." and "I am going to hunt the Ramas like deer when they are not expecting it." The Rama and Creole accuse Gonzalez and others of offering a bounty for Rama killings.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1) Please contact Nicaraguan Attorney General Hernan Estrada to urge the Nicaraguan government to arrest and prosecute any individuals threatening or committing violence against indigenous communities or individuals, provide security for indigenous communities, and to complete the demarcation and communal titling of indigenous lands. You can cut and paste the sample letter below.
2) Please also contact the RAAS Regional Council to ask that they secure the safety and physical integrity of the threatened indigenous communities. You may use the sample letter below.
1) Dr. Hernan Estrada
Procurador General de la República
Dear Attorney General Estrada,
I have been very encouraged by the work that your government has done to insure that indigenous lands are properly demarcated and titled. It is truly encouraging to see a nation that cares deeply for its Native populations.
Unfortunately, I was informed that recently your efforts to title indigenous land have been impeded by settlers in the region.
On Feb.9, I read in Radio La Primerisima that the Rama and Creole territorial government in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) publicly denounced the threats and violent acts that have been committed against their communities. These groups have been threatened with being "hunted like deer" and have even seen some of their community buildings vandalized. Moreover, the threats and acts of vandalism perpetrated by the settlers have caused government technical groups' work to cease their vital task of demarcating indigenous lands.
I urge the Nicaraguan government to take all legal measures to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of violence and death threats, to insure the security and physical integrity of indigenous communities and their residents, and to rapidly complete the demarcation and titling process.
City, State, Country
OR send him the same message in Spanish:
Dr. Hernan Estrada
Procurador General de la República
Estimado Dr. Estrada,
Me ha alentado el trabajo que su gobierno ha hecho para asegurar que las tierras indígenas sean demarcadas y tituladas. Me alegra saber de un país que le importe tanto su población indígena.
Desafortunadamente, me he informó que recientemente su esfuerzo de titular y demarcar los territorios indigenas ha sido impedido por los colonistas de la región.
El 9 de febrero, a través de Radio La Primerisima leí que el gobierno territorial Rama y Kriol denunció las amenazas de muerte y daños a la propiedad que ha sufrido desde hace casi un año. Han recibido amenazas, diciendoles que van a ser "cazados como venado cuando ellos menos lo esperan." También sus posesiónes han sido destrozadas. Además, la destrucción y violencia perpetrada por los colonistas resultaron en una situación en que los técnicos han dejado de cumplir su tarea vital de demarcar los territorios indígenas.
Insto al gobierno de Nicaragua usar todos los medios disponibles y legales para investigar y procesar a los que perpetren violencia y lanzan amenazas de muerte para así asegurar la seguridad y integridad física de las comunidades indigenas y sus residentes, y también para poder cumplir rápidamente el proceso de demarcar y titular los territorios.
City, State, Country
2)South Atlantic Autonomous Regional Council
Esteemed Council Members,
I was informed that recently settler violence on indigenous land has disrupted demarcation efforts and endangered the lives and property of indigenous communities in the region.
On Feb. 9 the Rama and Kriol territorial government in the RAAS publicly denounced the threats and violent acts that have been committed against their communities. They have been threatened with being "hunted like deer" and have even seen some of their community buildings burned or vandalized. Moreover, the threats and acts of vandalism perpetrated by the settlers have caused government technical groups' to cease their vital task of demarcating indigenous lands.
I urge the Regional Council to take all legal measures to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of violence and death threats, to insure the security and physical integrity of indigenous communities and their residents, and to rapidly complete the demarcation and communal titling process.
City, State, Country
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COUNTRY UPDATES: Guatemala, Peru/CAFTA 5 yrs. later//Region
GUATEMALA: GOLDCORP MINING PROFITS & HARMS GO UP & UP
February 16, 2010
As Goldcorp plans to hold its annual Shareholders meeting in Toronto, May 19, 2010, it continues to make record profits for its directors, shareholders and investors across North America.
Health and environmental harms and rights violations continue with no end in sight.
With no legal oversight or sanction for harms and violations, neither in Guatemala, nor in Honduras or Canada, Goldcorp continues to operate with impunity. There is no political pressure for accountability from the governments of Canada, Honduras and Guatemala, nor from shareholders and investors across North America.
EDUCATIONAL-ACTIVIST DELEGATION, APRIL 17-25, to visit mine affected communities in Guatemala. Information: email@example.com, 860-352-2448
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BELOW: Recent articles and reports addressing a range of harms and violations caused by Goldcorp’s mines in Honduras and Guatemala
Please redistribute and publish this information
What to do: see below
For more information: Grahame Russell (860-352-2448, firstname.lastname@example.org) & Annie Bird (202-680-3002, email@example.com)
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GUATEMALAN COMMUNITY LEADERS ASK CANADIAN GOVERNMENT TO INVESTIGATE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS COMMITTED BY GOLDCORP
December 9, 2009
Ottawa - A coalition of community groups from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala filed an OECD complaint with the Canadian government, requesting an investigation into human rights violations committed by Goldcorp Inc. at the company's Marlin gold mine. "The Marlin mine has divided our town, harassed protesters, and /made us afraid/ for the health of our families," said Sister Maudilia López Cardona with the San Miguel Ixtahuacán Catholic parish and the FREDEMI coalition coordinator (the Front in Defence of San Miguel Ixtahuacán). "Is this economic development? Could Goldcorp do this in Canada?"
The complaint was filed under the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The National Contact Point (NCP), an interdepartmental committee chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, accepts complaints from communities harmed by Canadian industries operating abroad. The NCP's limited mandate permits it to issue non-binding recommendations to the company on implementation of the Guidelines and/or offer to facilitate an agreement between the parties.
In its thirteen-page complaint, the coalition details concerns over: toxic contamination; depletion of fresh drinking water; health impacts on local citizens which include skin rashes and ailments similar to those found at Goldcorp's San Martin mine in Honduras; structural damage to houses near the mine from blasting and the use of heavy transport trucks.
A recent investigation conducted by mining specialists and geologists found that shock waves are the most likely cause of the structural damage to many houses in San Miguel Ixtahuacán.
"Sadly, this is not a unique story. Communities from Guatemala to Papua New Guinea are having their rights violated by Canadian mining companies," said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada. "These communities desperately need Parliament to act to ensure that our companies respect their human rights."
A broad-based movement of human rights organizations in Canada has been advocating for the passage of Bill C-300 as a long-overdue step towards corporate accountability for Canadian companies operating abroad, especially in the extractive industries. Canadian law currently has no binding mechanism under which to bring such complaints. Parliament is expected to vote on Bill C-300 in February 2010.
The FREDEMI coalition includes the Catholic parish, community-based development organizations, and a teachers' association. The coalition decries the company's failure to ensure that the community had given its free, prior, and informed consent to the mine, a right protected under national and international law.
Vancouver-based Goldcorp has operated the controversial Marlin gold mine in Guatemala since 2006, when it acquired Glamis Gold. Glamis received a loan from the World Bank (International Finance Corporation) to develop the mine.
For a copy of the complaint, visit www.ciel.org Jamie Kneen, MiningWatch Canada, 613-761-2273. Kris Genovese, CIEL, 917-687-3422.
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CAFOD & DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE CANADA DISCOVER EVIDENCE OF SEVERE WATER CONTAMINATION AT GOLDCORP MINE IN HONDURAS
An investigation by aid agency CAFOD and Canada’s Development and Peace has uncovered documents showing water contamination at a Honduras mine owned by multi-million dollar mining company Goldcorp.
The tests carried out by the Honduran authorities on water in the mine site which flows out into a local stream should have been acted on by the government and the company but instead the evidence of high acidity and metal concentrations were left undisclosed.
CAFOD and Development and Peace have handed the evidence of pollution by Goldcorp over to the Environmental Prosecutor in Honduras.
CAFOD’s Extractives Policy Analyst Sonya Maldar said: “Despite Goldcorp’s continual denial, this new information provides irrefutable evidence that the San Martin mine has caused pollution in Honduras. This is the latest in a long list of problems at the mine. Goldcorp must clean up its act so that the people of Siria Valley are not left with a toxic legacy when the company leaves Honduras at the end of the year.”
Mining specialists from Newcastle University carried out an investigation into the design and implementation of Goldcorp’s mine closure plan. The report produced by the Newcastle University team includes data – previously undisclosed by the Honduran regulatory authorities - showing a severe incident of pollution in September 2008.
The report released today reveals acidity of the water at two sites reached levels of a pH between 2.5 and 3, which is typically very damaging to stream biology. (Distilled water has a pH of 7, vinegar 3 and lemon juice 2). As well as high levels of cadmium, copper and iron.
This is consistent with a complaint presented by a local community group, the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, to Honduras’ Environmental Prosecutor about discolouration of the water flowing from streams originating from within the mine’s perimeter on 24 September 2008. Community members reported that the water that was a “reddish colour (…) and emanated a strong smell of sulphur.” This indicates that contaminated water from the mine’s perimeter had entered streams used by people in the Siria Valley for domestic and agricultural purposes.
The high levels of iron in the tested water sites as well as the low pH are symptoms of Acidic Mine Drainage (AMD), which is caused by the weathering of pyrite (a mineral composed of iron and sulphur). Deposits of pyrite are usually present as sulphide deposits in layers of rock beneath the earth’s surface. When areas are mined these deposits are exposed to the air and they break down, releasing acidity into natural waters. Toxic metals associated with other minerals, such as copper and cadmium, dissolve readily in acidic waters, and if the resultant solution is released into waterways the effects on communities and wildlife can be devastating.
However, AMD is managed effectively on many mine sites worldwide, including others operate by Goldcorp in other countries. There is no reason their Honduran operation should be managed to a lesser standard.
The Newcastle University report highlights that Goldcorp’s mine closure plan lacks sufficient detail to allow an independent evaluation on the basis of the report alone. Some of the things Goldcorp have done on the site are actually better than their report would suggest, but other things are worse.
For instance, the report did not properly take into consideration the high intensity of many rainstorms in Honduras, which can lead to flood and erosional risk on mine waste heaps and in ponds in which contaminated water is held. This means there can be a risk of contaminated water flowing into rivers and streams around the mine site, some of which feed drinking water sources for local communities. Although the company are now addressing earlier erosional problems, in the long term only sustained monitoring and maintenance can prevent such problems developing long after mine closure.
According to the communities living near the mine, these measures continue to be insufficient. Drainage channels constructed by Goldcorp to collect water from the mine’s heap leach pads have overflowed on two occasions since their construction in May 2009, discharging water out towards the community road.
On inspection of the Siria Valley mine site in June this year, Dr Adam Jarvis and Dr Jaime Amezaga of Newcastle University saw unequivocal evidence that elevated concentrations of iron had flowed down the ravine from the Tajo Palo Alto open pit in the past. They saw that temporary measures were being taken by the mine staff to try to prevent future occurrences and that further measures were being proposed; despite this, Goldcorp’s management still refused to admit that the site had ever caused water contamination. Without open disclosure of how serious the water contamination was, it is difficult for independent specialists to be sure that the remedial measures now proposed by the mine will be sufficient to protect the communities from long term environmental hazards.
International expert of mine water management, Professor Paul Younger, who carried out an initial review of Goldcorp’s Mine Closure Plan and documented evidence of Acidic Mine Drainage during an earlier visit to the Siria Valley for CAFOD, said: “In spite of all the evidence of acidic mine drainage coming from the mine, the company denied live on national TV that they have caused pollution. This is not only exasperating; it does the company itself no favours. If Goldcorp were to be up-front about the problems they’ve encountered at the San Martin mine, it would be possible for independent observers to gain confidence that the steps they are taking to address them will really work. When all’s said and done, there is no such thing as a 'walk away' solution for mine sites, so the company must commit to long term monitoring of the site in order to prevent a reoccurrence of acidic mine drainage and erosion problems in the future.”
CAFOD, Development and Peace, Professor Paul Younger, Pedro Landa of Caritas Tegucigalpa and a member of the Siria Valley community will meet with Goldcorp at their offices in Toronto on 10 December 2009. We hope that during this meeting the company will address our concerns about its operations in the Siria Valley.
Media: For interviews with Professor Paul Younger and Sonya Maldar, and further information contact Pascale Palmer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 07785 950 585
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SALVADORAN CATHOLIC CHURCH CALLS FOR CLOSURE OF A GOLDCORP Inc. MINE IN GUATEMALA, AFP, 31/01/2010
San Salvador — Today, the Catholic Church of El Salvador asked President Mauricio Funes to “intercede” with the Government of Guatemala, to request that they close down operations at a gold mine in Guatemala that is threatening to contaminate a Salvadorian lake and two Salvadorian rivers.
“We are extremely concerned about the exploitation of the Cerro Blanco gold and silver mine (a new mine site operated by Goldcorp Inc.). This mine has now been granted an exploitation license by the government of Guatemala and has entered the first phase of the exploitation process. The Cerro Blanco mining operation poses a real threat of contamination to Lake Güija (in El Salvador)”, said the Archbishop of San Salvador, José Escobar, at a press conference.
Escobar explained that the Cerro Blanco mine is located in Guatemala, in an area very close to the border with El Salvador, hence the danger that Lake Güija (located some 110 kilometres west of San Salvador) will be contaminated by residual waters “laden with chemicals” from the mining process, and that these waters will, in turn, contaminate two rivers, one of which is the Lempa, the largest river in El Salvador.
The Lempa River winds its way through parts of the eastern, northern and western areas of El Salvador. Some of the water from this river is treated by the national water utility and then distributed as drinking water throughout the country. “Contamination of Lake Güija and of the Guajoyo and Lempa rivers is inevitable. This is why we are asking our government exercise its full authority to intercede with the our sister republic of Guatemala to insure that they stop the exploitation process at the Cerro Blanco mine”, said Escobar.
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GUATEMALAN COMMUNITY MEMBERS DECLARE THEIR VILLAGES MINING FREE
Diario de Centro América, January 29, 2010. by Maby López
Campesinos from a number of villages located in the north of Huehuetenango and members of the Asamblea Departamental por la Defensa de los Recursos Naturales (Natural Resources Defense Council) have carried out a community consultation on the mining operations in their communities. Community members rejected unanimously the presence of the mines.
Ramiro López, representative of the community mayors, stated that the referendum drew votes from 23,000 residents from the communities of San Juan Ixcoy, San Pedro Soloma, Santa Eulalia, San Mateo Ixtatán, Santa Elena Barillas, San Sebastián Coatán, San Rafael La Independencia and San Miguel Acatán.
According to community leader Francisco Rocael, to date, there have been 28 consultations on mining and mega-projects in Huehuetenango, in which 500,000 community members have expressed their rejection of the mines. As well, a number of communities have declared themselves to be mining free.
According to Rocael, the mining operations are seen as a new form of colonization, in that they have taken land way from the indigenous people in the area. As well, contamination caused by the mine has harmful effects on the health and life of the communities. In the long run, the presence of the mine could lead to the disappearance of the indigenous people. “We are not opposed to development, but it should be for the people, not for the corporations”, he said.
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PRESSURE AGAINT ADILIA ALICIA MACARIO MEJIA, LOCAL MAYAN MAM TEACHER, VILLAGER
URGENT ACTION – From San Miguel Ixtahuacan
San Miguel Ixtahuacan, Jan 10th, 2010
The Communities In Resistance/ ADISMI Association, the parish of San Miguel, FEBIMI and ADIM, all united in FREDEMI (front for the defense of the San Miguel People), send this URGENT ACTION:
Montana Exploradora of Guatemala, wholly owned by the Canadian transnational Goldcorp Inc, has committed numerous violations of fundamental human rights through their “Marlin Mine” project. This includes violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.
In the face of these acts, the organizations and communities in resistance and the defense of the property of the Miguelense people denounce the following:
First: The teacher Adilia Alicia Macario Mejia, owner of a plot of land 800 meters square, has had her property expropriated by the company Montana. By enclosing all her land and extracting precious minerals without her consent they have not permitted her access to her land.
Second: After taking her case to the government, Adilia was removed from the Primary education school where she worked. The reason given was her public statements around the truth of what is occurring around the mining site. For example, from the 24th to the 29th of December she stated that water contaminated with cyanide has leaked large amounts of drainage into the River Cuilco and has never been publicized in the press or on television, nor by the Miguelense Community. Community leaders who speak out regarding the truth about mine have been asked to leave.
Third: We also denounce the threatening presence of and humiliation by the leaders and workers of Montana who live in communities close to the Marlin mine. We mention here only some of these violations, such as direct insults and termination of employment.
The husband of Adilia Alicia Macario Mejia was obligated by the leaders of the community of San Jose Ixcanichel, who work in the mine, to draft a community statement against his own wife - on a day he was not working and without her presence. This was done because she denounced the acts committed by the company Montana. These acts of violation are numerous and are as follows: Damage to health, damage to property, the destruction of houses, water contamination, and fundamentally, social disintegration. Most markedly: the social breakdown of family cohesion, the creation of feuds and death threats.
All of these acts have been presented before the National Commission on Transparency in the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala and in other instances the government of Guatemala that knows about the Marlin case in San Miguel Ixtahuacan.
Protection of the physical integrity of the teacher Adilia Alicia Macario Mejia and her family.
To the public minister, that he urgently address the complaint lodged in the month of October.
That human rights be observed and that laws be fully complied with regarding human rights of the community and the Mam people of San Miguel Ixtahuacan.
To the international community, that their attention but also their solidarity with the dignity of our legitimate struggles in the defense of our rights so that this will not go unpunished.
To the United Nations, their observations and intervention taking into account that there are existing policies that relate to indigenous peoples and other issues.
To the investors, to take seriously the damages that have been caused by your investments that continue to generate violation of human rights of the Mam communities in San Miguel Ixtahuacan.
To civil society and indigenous peoples of the world, we invite your timely observation and solidarity with the men and women threatened by the company Montana/Goldcorp.
To Goldcorp, to stop its operations which have in this community only created violations to the right to life and peace and has destroyed community cohesion.
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COMPLAINT REGARDING INDUSTRIAL WASTE SPILL AT GOLDCORP’s “MARLIN MINE” IN GUATEMALA
Prensa Libre, January 22, 2010
The Ministry of the Environment has made public a complaint against Montana Exploradora, S.A. with regard to the fact that on December 24, a pipe burst at the mine, causing a discharge of 3 cubic metres of industrial waste that could contaminate local water sources.
Luis Ferraté, the Minister of Environment, announced yesterday that the broken pipe is the pipe that carries waste material to the tailings pond at the Marlin Mine in San Marcos.
Despite the fact that workers at the mine brought the situation rapidly under control, 83 cubic metres of mud was spilled, some of which got into the Quivichil River. This waste material contains heavy metals resulting from the cyanide process. Environmentalists state that these metals are toxic.
“Montana took a sample, and their report concluded that the spill has had no environmental impact. But we do not accept these results and we have presented a complaint to the Public Ministry. A full investigation must be carried out,” said Ferraté. He added that they have also asked the Ministry to have an independent company carry out an investigation to ascertain if there was indeed any contamination as a result of this spill. “We also want to find out if the toxic waste affected the flora and fauna in the area.” said Ferraté. He said a specialist should be hired to carry out this investigation.
Jorge Mario Sandoval, legal advisor to Montana, stated that there had been no spillage and that the tailings pond is not full. He underlined that there was no environmental impact. He also confirmed that the accident happened because of work that is being carried out in the mine’s industrial water treatment plant and that that mud is treated to remove residual cyanide. Sandoval stated that a temporary pipe allowed 83 metres of waste to escape - the waste was contained in a sedimentation tank that had been constructed earlier. He stated that they had recuperated all the fluid after five days of clean-up work and that they were convinced that there had been no contamination. He added that a sample had been taken to ascertain if there had been any impact on the bodies of water in the area and that there would be no more accidents at the mine.
The portal site for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Government of the United States states that the problem is not the use of cyanide but the fact that the mining process leaches not only particles of gold and silver but heavy metals as well, and that these metals are harmful.
Magalí Rey Rosa, Director of the Escuela Ecologista Savia, said that neither Montana nor the authorities have provided information regarding which metals are found in the rocks in the mine. “Therefore, the mud that the mine discharges is a toxic soup”, said the ecologist. Rey Rosa pointed out that this spill demonstrates that accidents are the norm in mining and that they will happen again.
Yuri Melini, Director of the Centro de Acción Legal Ambiental (Centre for Environmental Legal Action) considers that this spill demonstrates that the industrial security of the mine is not effective and that more government intervention is required. He added that the problem with the legislation is that it requires the State to demonstrate that Marlin caused contamination but it does not require the company to demonstrate that it did not cause any contamination.
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REQUESTS FOR INVESTIGATION OF DAMAGE TO HOUSES NEAR THE MARLN MINE, Prensalibre.com, 08/02/2010
The Ministries of Communication, the Environment and Energy and Mines will have to determine the causes for damage to some 120 houses in the area around the Marlin mine, which extracts gold and silver from the Santa María Ixtahuacán mountains in San Marcos. The request was presented by the deputy opposition leader, Rosa María de Frade, President of the Transparency Commission, to officials from the three ministries, during a hearing. According to De Frade, community members have lodged complaints that 120 houses have been damaged. Inspectors have confirmed damage to two houses, where they found cracks. She added that the results of the investigation will help ascertain if the damage was caused by the controlled explosions at the mine, in which case, the houses will be immediately repaired. If the explosions are not the cause, the ministry of Communication will investigate further.
from NISGUA (Guatemala Network)
1. TRADE & GLOBALIZATION
Northern Region of Huehuetenango Declared “Mining-Free Zone”
Guatemalans and Salvadorians on Alert for Goldcorp’s New Mine
2. JUSTICE & ACCOUNTABILITY
Human Rights Workers Receive over 300 Attacks in 2009
Organizations Call for the Arrest of 17 Accused in Dos Erres Case
3. NEWS FROM THE GRASSROOTS
NISGUA Opens 2010 Tour on Mining and Indigenous Rights
Next Accompanier Training Set for June 2010
1. TRADE & GLOBALIZATION
Northern Region of Huehuetenango Declared “Mining-Free Zone”
On January 28th 2010, mayors and community leaders of 8 municipalities of the Northern Region of Huehuetenango officially submitted to the Guatemalan Congress their Declaration of “Mining-Free Zone”. To date, 28 of the 32 municipalities of Huehuetenango have organized Community Referendums in which the local indigenous people have voted “no” to metal mining projects. Of the 28 Community Referendums, 13 municipalities have declared their territories “Mining-Free Zones”. Read the Inforpress article (in spanish) “Zona norte será declarada libre de minería”.
Guatemalans and Salvadorians on Alert for Goldcorp’s New Mine
The presence of a new gold mine in Asunción Mita, Jutiapa, has already generated concern among the local residents of Guatemala and El Salvador. They demand an end to the “Cerro Blanco” project concerned the mine will contaminate the Güija Lake located in El Salvador. The company assures they are complying with strict guidelines. The Cerro Blanco project is situated 4 kilometers from Asunción Mita and is owned by Entre Mares, S.A., subsidiary of the Canadian Goldcorp and twin of Montana Exploradora S.A. Read the full article (in Spanish):
2. JUSTICE & ACCOUNTABILITY
Human Rights Workers Receive over 300 Attacks in 2009
The human rights monitoring organization UDEFEGUA registered 353 cases of attacks on human rights workers in Guatemala during 2009, the most violent year of the decade. Sectors working under increasing threat include journalists, trade unionists, survivors seeking justice for crimes of the past, and those defending natural resources. Visit UDEFEGUA's website for more information and special reports.
Organizations Call for the Arrest of 17 Accused in Dos Erres Case
A recent decision by Guatemala's Supreme Court of Justice has allowed advances in the case of the 1982 massacre in Dos Erres, Petén, during which 252 people died. Organizations have called on the judicial authorities to push the case forward and arrest 17 of the accused , for whom warrants were originally issued 10 years ago. At least one suspect has already been arrested and brought before the judge.
3. NEWS FROM THE GRASSROOTS
NISGUA Opens 2010 Tour on Mining and Indigenous Rights
NISGUA's 2010 tour Mining and Indigenous Rights: The Struggle for Self-Determination in Guatemala is underway! Pascual Bernabe Velasquez, a member of the Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango, will be traveling throughout the Southwest/West Coast regions of the U.S. for the next four weeks to talk about community organizing in the face of mining. Please visit our website for more information and the full schedule of events.
Next Accompanier Training Set for Summer 2010
We are currently recruiting accompaniers to join NISGUA's Guatemala Accompaniment Project (GAP). The application deadline is April 2 and the next training is planned for early June. Visit our website to download a recruitment flyer, read more or start the application. Please contact us at gap[at]nisgua.org with questions.
ICEM - Peruvian Miners Give Doe Run Management until 29 April to Reopen
Doe Run is owned by privately-held Renco Group, a New York-based holding company controlled by industrialist Ira Rennart. ... In Peru in 2008, Doe Run's La Oroya smelter produced 114259 tonnes of lead, 53831 tonnes of cooper, ...
Sign up for a Facebook Group for La Oroya
La Oroya Que Soñamos | Facebook
La Oroya Que Soñamos ("The Oroya That We Dreamed") is a group where anyone can share their thoughts and feelings about the situation in La Oroya, Peru. ...
Five Years Later, CAFTA Influence on Pro Services Outsourcing is Hotly Debated
February 16th, 2010
By Tarun George
The Dominican Republic-Central American Free trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) remains a controversial treaty five years after its contentious passage, yet many experts believe that the agreement is only just beginning to show its real impact.
CAFTA-DR forms one of the largest free trade blocs in the Americas, joining together Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Bilateral trade between the US and the CAFTA countries is valued at over $45 billion annually. But nearly five years on from when it was first implemented in the US, what effect has it had on the trade in services? NearshoreAmericas is taking a look at whether CAFTA has in fact enabled a more productive relationship between US customers and the professional services outsourcing industry in Central America.
To read more, click here: http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/five-years-later-what-has-cafta-dr-really-done-for-professional-services-outsourcing/2640/
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HONDURAS: The Resistance Marches again-- Call in your support!
On February 25, Thursday the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) in Honduras will be in the street demanding justice, they have asked for our solidarity. Groups across the US are planning acts of solidarity in support of this day of action even a small act will be appreciated.
Please contact the following members of Congress, the State Department, the Honduran Consulate in San Francisco or the Embassy in Washington DC.
State Department: 202-647-4000 or 9572 ask for Honduras desk
Honduran Embassy in DC: Ambassador Roberto Flores 202-966- 7702 or 2604
Since the illegitimate election of November 29, 2009 and the January 27 inauguration of Porfilio Lobo as president of Honduras the human rights violations that occurred under the coup regime continue today. These violations involve the military, national police and paramilitary death squads. Members of trade unions, journalists, indigenous, Garifuna and campsesino communities have been the target of repression and even death. In the first two weeks of February alone there have been at least six documented murders, kidnappings or other acts of extrajudicial repression against members of the popular resistance.
On Feb. 15: trade union leader Julio Funez Benitez was shot and killed
On Feb. 12: Hermes Reyes of MADJ (Movement for Dignity and Justice) a member
group of the FNRP in Siguatepeque was tortured and beaten
Feb. 12-14: campesinos of the Aguan Valley-MUCA were attacked by army and police during a land occupation
Feb. 12: the home of union leader and Frente activist Porfirio Ponce was raided and computer confiscated
Feb. 9: Edgar Martinez, Carol Rivera, Melissa Rivera and Johan Martinez were kidnapped and beaten, Melissa was raped. They were told it was a gesture from Pepe
Feb. 3: 27 year old union leader, mother and nurse Venessa Zepeda was assassinated.
We demand/urge that these crimes be investigated and the perpetrators be brought to justice.
We call on US government officials to publically denounce the continued assassinations, torture and repression of the Honduras people by the government of Pepe Lobo.
We place all responsibility for these crimes upon the Honduran regime headed by Pepe Lobo, Oscar Alvarez, Security Minister, heads of the armed forces and the US government which continues to support the illegitimate government.
Interview: Tortured, Exiled Honduran Journalist Recalls His Experiences
Written by Tamar Sharabi
Sunday, 14 February 2010 13:04
Upside Down World: Before the Honduras Coup Detat of June 28th 2009, tell me a little about your life.
Cesar Silva: I have always been involved in popular struggles. During university I was elected Secretary of the University Reform Front (FRU) from where we constantly held a line of complaints denouncing corruption and participating in different actions to benefit students. I was also elected president of Journalism Students for two consecutive terms from 1998 to 2002, during which we founded the "Vanguard University Journal" and "Magazine Alert" that circulated once a month across the country's universities.
Upon graduating from the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), I worked for six years as a reporter for Channel 9 TV (Vica TV), the last two years of which I was a news director for that company in Tegucigalpa. I also worked for Channel 63 for two years, along with Renato Alvarez who is now director of the news of Televicentro. (Read, ‘Coup Mouthpiece’) I also worked four years at Channel 54, which produced a program called "The protagonists of the News.”
In 2006 Jorge Arturo Reina Idiáquez (Ambassador of Honduras to the UN) offered me a position with the Ministry of Interior and Justice in the Zelaya Government. My position was Director of Communications where I worked directly with the newspaper and Channel 8, called ‘Citizen Power Information Network’ founded under Zelaya’s government.
In May 2009 I was called to work with the Presidential Palace to coordinate work for production and coverage of the popular consultation process (‘cuarta urna’) for public Channel 8. I was assigned a mobile unit to report from the northern municipalities of Olancho and Francisco Morazán beside the first lady, Xiomara Castro. That's how I became involved directly in the events during the coup.
UDW: What happened to you on June 28th?
CS: Preparations were intense in the days before the coup and increased when the Armed Forces refused to distribute electoral materials. The ballot boxes were held at the air base Hernan Acosta. President Zelaya along with supporters came to rescue the ballots to distribute them into state cars. From there it was a race of information.
The night of June 27, I was at the Presidential Palace until midnight and in the early morning I left towards Olancho. When I passed the town of Guaimaca (a town 90 km from Tegucigalpa) the President was being captured. There, police and the army captured me as well. My cameraman, driver, and assistants managed to escape to warn people what had happened.
People gathered in Guaimaca at the town's central park and demanded that the police release me. I was finally released by noontime because of the people’s pressure. Still, the police called for reinforcements from another municipality and within a half hour an army truck arrived and began to repress people in the park and the police forces chased me down.
People took me from house to house, jumping lots and properties until I was in a safe place outside the town. I stayed there until nighttime when presidential house vehicles (that were still under the legitimate government) came to pick me up. We had to travel on back roads to evade the army and police posts to arrive in Tegucigalpa at two in the morning. Since their was a curfew we had no choice but to reach the presidential palace where people remained gathered in protest.
They seized the entire equipment of the team; cameras and microphones. In Olancho they stole our truck the mobile unit that accompanied the first lady, Xiomara Castro. On the 29th more chaos came and repression continued.
UDW: The 5th of July you helped carry the dead body of Isis Obed. How did it feel to pause from your reporters role to help Isis receive medical attention?
CS: It is impossible to separate being a journalist and being a human being. As a reporter I was interested in taking pictures, and I took the first ones because I thought that Isis Murillo Obed was dead. Then I approached him and saw that he was breathing and moving in the density of all the tear gas. People were shouting that he was dead, but when I took him in my arms he opened his eyes and tried to say something that molded into a moan of pain.
There was still army gunfire hitting a small wall near where Isis Obed fell. We could hear the bullets striking the wall, and at that very moment there was an explosion and everyone hit the ground. It turned out to be a motorcycle that had exploded. Consequently, I gave the camera to a friend and shouted that we needed to move Isis. With the help of some other guys we carried him about 300 meters to a car that we found.
I felt anger, pain and helplessness. I did not know the child's age, and perhaps had never seen him in my life. I thought he was 10 or 12 years old. He had no weapons, he just looked helpless. It looked so unfair that I just felt like yelling "Gorillas assassinate children."
I forgot that I was a reporter and I just thought of the life of that child. I asked for his family but nobody knew anything. I hoped he would be saved in the hospital, but taking the pictures, it seemed impossible for him to live. The shot impacted his skull. On my chest there were remains of his brain and his blood.
UDW: After this day, did anything change about the way you reported on the situation in the country?
CS: I will never forget that moment. That event drives me to continue so that Isis’s life and others will not go unpunished. The murderers must pay their crime. Witnessing so many beatings, so much unjustified repression, it was clear that the intentions of the coup were to establish a dictatorship. I decided to continue looking for ways to disseminate what was happening. I started working for the internet blog and the National Resistance Front Against the Coup, and freelanced with Radio Globo, Telesur and the History Channel.
I changed; I am more insistent, I'm more critical. During the Michelletti regime I collaborated in every way possible to denounce the coup. We went from neighborhood to neighborhood, people to people. I grew more into a neighborhood journalist, I just had to be more creative because they stole or destroyed the equipment we had at every opportunity.
UDW: As a national reporter, how did you feel about the international media reporting on Honduras?
CS: As always there are many interests. At first it seemed somewhat balanced, but within a few days it was clear who uninformed and those who told the truth. The big chains such as CNN, Univision, Telemundo and others within a few days took off their mask and began calling Michelletti president and considered it a constitutional succession. Other European countries were more objective.
The independent press were the ones who maintained the reality. They called it like it was. Telesur was objective about the crackdowns and repression, but in fact they were favorable towards Zelaya.
UDW: Talk about the elections that took place under the coup regime.
CS: I classify the elections on November 29th in two scenarios:
1 . The Resistance and the conscious people knew that the elections were only to change the face of the coup, but that the situation would stay the same.
2. The Nationalists interested in winning the elections wanted to secure work with the new government.
There was a low turnout. Supporters of the National party took advantage of the situation because the Liberal party was split and had called on supporters to boycott the elections. The images speak for themselves. The streets were full of policemen and soldiers, the military in the polling areas, and a permanent anxiety in the population; panic, fear, terror and empty booths.
UDW: When did you begin to be threatened personally?
CS: The threats started after July 5 when the police and army did not view me as a journalist anymore. This increased when I traveled to Nicaragua to do reports on Zelaya and after the demonstration on August 12 at the National Congress when Deputy Ramon Velasquez Nassar was kicked. There was brutal repression that day and I was physically assaulted. The military forces took pictures and video of me.
In every march afterwards the police would see me. Also in the eviction of the peasants from the National Agrarian Institute (INA), the police assaulted me and took pictures. Later, I would constantly receive anonymous threatening phone calls. I changed my number, but I was still being watched and persecuted. I ignored these threats and didn’t take them seriously because everyday nothing would happen.
Then I received a call from the Intelligence of the Armed Forces who warned me to stop doing my work. I denounced this to Cofadeh and CODEH, two human rights organizations.
UDW: Explain the events on that day you were kidnapped.
CS: I was kidnapped on Monday December 29th when I was on my way from the south where I went to distribute a documentary about the resistance and met with related colleagues. Arriving in Tegucigalpa, I took a taxi from ‘Loarque’ on the beltway around the city to my house. Having traveled less than one kilometer, a vehicle approached us, a beige van, and individuals drew their weapons from the window ordering the taxi to pull over. We initially tried to run, but another vehicle crossed us on the highway and we could not advance.
They approached the taxi and held the driver at gunpoint, telling him to stay quiet otherwise they would kill him. They pulled me out of the taxi beating me up and took me into their car to a remote place in the mountains. We traveled about an hour while I was beaten inside the car. First they made me sit with my head between my legs, then they put a hood on me.
The kidnappers did not cover their faces nor were they wearing military clothes but by their vocabulary and communication by telephone with the ‘Jackal,’ it was clear they were getting orders. We reached an area away from the city where they put me in a dark room.
I was held from December 29 at 9:00am until the December 30th at noon. During these 27 hours I was interrogated every 45 minutes and punched in areas that leave no trace; my feet soles, testicles, stomach, and back, using their fists. I was naked and they kept wetting my body. In a moment of increased tension they tried to suffocate me with water. They threw water on my face until I was no longer able to breathe. I swallowed as much water as possible, but as I felt like I was drowning, another officer yelled that they would kill me another faster way.
The interrogations were about weapons; where they were, who were my contacts and how many leaders existed. They also asked where all my photos and videos were stored and what type of profile information we had of military leaders. They continued to threaten that I would not leave there alive and that I'd better trust in God. They offered me drugs to take to ease the pain of dying which I refused to accept.
On the morning of December 30, one of the officers told me that my life might be saved but that he wasn’t sure. Then I heard the torturers begin to plan my death. One of them suggested a shot in the head but then decided I would not suffer enough that way. Another one said they would let me hang myself from a tree or that they drag me attached to the car along the street. Then one of them said they could open my stomach and slowly pull out my intestines so I could talk as I died.
Hours later they took me out of there blindfolded with a hood and took me to “throw me out”. They dumped me in Tegucigalpa between the neighborhood ‘Cerro Grande’ and ‘El Chile,’ in a sector that is mountainous and very isolated.
UDW: You are currently living in exile. How much time do you imagine you will need to live outside your country in order to protect yourself?
CS: Yes I am in exile now. Human rights organizations supported me to leave Honduras and my few remaining friends recommended me to do the same in order to save my life since Renan Fajardo who edited my documentary was murdered in his apartment and Walter Trochez who helped distributed the material was also killed. Without a doubt the next one was me.
I do not know how long I'll be out of the country. I am anxious to return to be with my family and to continue to produce reports of the experiences of people in the street, but it is difficult at this point.
UDW: In what way do you continue working from exile?
CS: I have been fortunate to find many people who have been supportive and have invited me to do lectures in universities and in grassroots organizations. I've given four lectures with audiovisual students about media coverage in risky situations.
I also do some radio and television to discuss my experiences and do political analysis on the situation in Honduras. I continue to write the chronicles of the coup repression and am working on a book which I think will be called "Repressed Honduras," which tells the whole story that people really lived.
UDW: What is the hardest part of being in exile?
CS: Maybe it's the hurry of leaving everything abandoned; your home, your family, the stuff you had a hard time sacrificing and working for. In my case, I left my loved ones in tears; my mother, my son.
The difficulty in arriving in the new place is getting rid of the hatred and to stop thinking of what you left behind. You have to live here as a ‘nobody’ so that know one can find you and you can avoid the risks. The dreams abandon you, the uncertainty eats you.
UDW: As you analyze the difficulties of the 'free press' in Honduras with the new "unity government" of Pepe Lobo?
CS: Free Press?! That will be difficult. This government is only the continuation of the coup d'etat. They are not interested in telling the truth to the the population. Porfirio Lobo and his people are interested in being well and having their companies and their businesses do well.
The independent press will remain at war, but the economically suffocating private enterprise will remove them within a short time. Watch Channel 36 and you will realize that the editorial policy has changed. Although it continues to support the resistance, its profile is different; it is more ‘pepista’.
The program ‘Habla como Habla’ of Channel 66 has also changed, it is not with the resistance anymore, but with the new government. Only Radio Globo stands firm. Independent journalists and foreigners using their own websites are those that will continue telling the truth.
Tamar Sharabi is an environmental engineer and freelance journalist living in Central America. She is working on media empowerment with human rights organizations and on a documentary about the Honduran coup detat. To support her work visit: www.giveforward.com/tamardocuments
Covering the aftermath of the Nov 29th Honduran elections and Porfirio Lobo's controversial inauguration as President against a background of violent repression, you can read the comic online here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-archer/graphic-history-of-the-ho_b_453463.html
Graphic History of the Honduran Coup
stop the repression in Honduras: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/727/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2273
The importance and quantity of COFADEH’s work increased dramatically
after the military coup d'état removed Honduras' democratically elected
president Manuel Zelaya on June 2, 2009. During the following seven
months of de facto governance by Roberto Micheletti, COFADEH’s offices
served as a central headquarters for documentation and analysis of the
human rights situation. Human rights violations carried out by the
illegal regime continue to be compiled and recorded here on a daily
basis, and numerous foreign delegations and alternative media head here
first for last-minute information. Just between June 28 and October 10,
2009, COFADEH documented 4234 human rights violations.
Photos and story at http://links.org.au/node/1514
Honduras: The making of a death squad “democracy”
World Socialist Web Site Bill Van Auken12 February 2010
With the restoration of diplomatic relations and the resumption of aid and credits from the world’s major governments and financial institutions, Honduras is being welcomed back into the fold of “democratic” nations, even as the organizers of last year’s coup remain at their posts and death squad murders continue.
The Obama administration is leading the way in affirming that an election held last November under state-of-siege rule and the inauguration of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo as president late last month have washed away all the sins of the past. For Washington, the June 28 military overthrow of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, along with the brutal repression that followed, is a dead letter.
Earlier this month, Honduran Minister of Security Oscar Álvarez met with US Ambassador Hugo Llorens to sign a bilateral agreement that will resume the direct flow of US military aid to the armed forces and police of the Central American country. In July 2009, the Obama administration withheld $16.5 million in military aid to the coup regime headed by Roberto Micheletti as one of the few and inconsequential sanctions imposed in response to Zelaya’s overthrow.
This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Lobo to announce that civilian aid programs would also resume shortly and to praise him for working to strengthen the “unity of Honduran society.”
High-level Spanish delegations have also flown to Tegucigalpa, and French officials have indicated that relations with Paris will soon be resumed. The Organization of American States is preparing to consider readmitting Honduras, which was expelled from the OAS following the coup.
Finally, the World Bank announced on Wednesday that it is restoring loans that had been frozen in the aftermath of the coup, increasing the amount on offer from $270 million to $390 million, assuring the further indebtedness of the impoverished country and a new round of austerity measures and attacks on the already miserable living standards of Honduran workers.
The supposedly democratic transformation that has made all of this possible took place on January 27, with the inauguration of right-wing National Party candidate Lobo, a product, like Zelaya, of the land-owning oligarchy. In an earlier stage of his career, Lobo was a supporter of Stalinism, active in the Honduran Communist Party and educated at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow.
In his more recent political incarnation he is an advocate of the death penalty and economic development based on free trade and maquildaorasweatshops. He is also a loyal ally of Washington.
The assumption of power by Lobo in what amounts to the legitimization of the June 28 coup was prepared through protracted political maneuvers and negotiations involving the Obama administration, Zelaya, the coup regime, and sections of the Latin American bourgeoisie.
From the outset of this process, Zelaya counted on Barack Obama to restore him to the presidential palace. He, like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, accepted Obama’s talk about a new era of “mutual respect” between the US and Latin America as good coin. In reality, this rhetoric was merely window dressing for a more aggressive policy of US imperialism in the region, which included the covert backing of the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies for the Honduran coup.
US aims were indicated recently in the testimony of Obama’s national intelligence director, Dennis Blair, before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Blair accused Venezuela’s Chavez of forging an “anti-US alliance” in Latin America and seeking to “undermine moderate, pro-US governments.” He noted with satisfaction, however, that Chavez’s influence “may have peaked,” pointing out that “recently” Honduras had removed from that alliance.
Zelaya agreed to the parameters laid down by Washington in negotiations orchestrated by its principal agent in Central America, Costa Rican President Óscar Arias. These included his returning to office as a figurehead president in a government of “national reconciliation” dominated by the right-wing politicians and military officers who overthrew him.
In the end, the coup’s organizers were not interested in such a resolution. With the support of US officials, they devised another “compromise” that conditioned Zelaya’s reinstatement on a vote of the congress and the recommendation of the high court, both of which had backed the coup. Predictably, both institutions rubberstamped the decision of the Honduran oligarchy not to allow Zelaya back in office, even for a day.
A day before the inauguration, all accounts were settled, with the supreme court ruling that the military commanders who carried out the coup merely acted to preserve the peace and with Zelaya leaving the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, where he had been holed up for more than four months, for a second exile, this time in the Dominican Republic.
Just as Zelaya subordinated his attempt to return to office to decisions made in Washington, so the leaders of the mass movement that emerged to challenge the coup subordinated the struggle undertaken by Honduran workers, peasants and youth to Zelaya and the futile quest for “dialogue” with the leaders of the coup regime.
Despite the heroism of Honduran working people in the face of vicious repression, the bankrupt perspective of the leaders of the National Front of Resistance led this powerful movement into a political blind alley, leaving the masses unprepared to confront Zelaya’s capitulation and the “democratic” charade through which the coup regime has consolidated its power under Lobo.
Now, César Ham, the leader of the “left” Democratic Unification Party, which was counted as Zelaya’s closest political supporter, has agreed to join the Lobo government, allowing it to posture as a regime of “national unity and reconciliation.”
While Washington and other governments are praising Lobo’s democratic credentials, the repression continues unabated, with workers, journalists and others who resisted the coup facing kidnappings, torture and assassinations.
In one recent case, Vanesa Yaneth Zepeda, a 29-year-old nurse and mother of three who was active in the anti-coup demonstrations, disappeared on February 2. Her lifeless body was thrown out of a car in Tegucigalpa two days later.
The “democratic” consolidation of the coup in Honduras represents a stark warning to working people across Latin America and internationally. Under conditions of the deepening global economic crisis, the ruling elites throughout the capitalist world are prepared to dispense with all democratic forms of rule in order to carry out lethal violence against any challenge to their interests.
The Honduran events have also once again demonstrated that workers in Latin America cannot advance their struggle by means of political subordination to supposedly “left” and nationalist representatives of the bourgeoisie, such as Zelaya and Chavez. Those calling themselves “socialists” who promote illusions in these figures are disarming the working class and preparing even greater defeats. The only way forward for Latin American workers is to forge their political independence from all sections of the ruling elites and unite in a common struggle for workers’ governments and the socialist transformation of the entire hemisphere.
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COLOMBIA: Martha Giraldo receives death threat -- ACTION ALERT
Martha Giraldo, a Colombian human rights activist and a featured speaker at the 2009 November vigil to close the SOA (video: http://www.soaw.org/presente/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=257&Itemid=81), was subjected to a chilling death threat earlier this week in Cali, Colombia. Two SUVs with tinted windows -- the vehicle of choice of Colombian assassins -- tried to run her car off of the road. As they pulled up beside her, they pulled out guns and pointed them at her. They never fired a shot, but the message was clear: we can kill you, and if you don't keep quiet, we will.
Martha Giraldo and her family continue to tell the truth about how the Colombian army killed her father, a campesino, and dressed him up in guerrilla clothing to make the murder look like a "combat kill." Colombian human rights organizations report (Ejeciones realidad inocultable en ingles(1).pdf) that extrajudicial executions of civilians by the Colombian Armed Forces is on the rise. Please take two minutes out of your day today to call one of the Colombia specialists at the State Department, Terry Steers-Gonzalez (202-647-4173) or Susan Sanford (202-647-3142).
Click here for the message Martha would like you to communicate. http://www.soaw.org/presente/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=257&Itemid=81#deathtreat
Video: U.S. Military in Colombia
In the fall 2009, U.S. and Colombian officials signed an agreement granting the U.S. military access to seven Colombian bases for ten years. (Watch the 21min. video about the agreement)
SOA Watch is extremely concerned about the drastic increase of U.S. militarization in Latin America. The bases agreement operates from the same failed military mindset that has given rise to the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC). The purpose of the bases and the purpose of the SOA/ WHINSEC are the same: to ensure U.S. control over the region through military means.
Already, the SOA/ WHINSEC is deploying "Mobile Training Teams" to Colombia and other Latin American countries, that train hundreds of soldiers annually. Over 10,000 soldiers of the Colombian military (the military with the worst human rights record in the Americas) have received SOA/ WHINSEC training and used the lessons learned in their brutal war that has left thousands dead and millions displaced.
Click here http://www.soaw.org/presente/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=270&Itemid=74 to read the article Seven Bases by Diane Lefer and Hector Aristizábal, in which they take a look at the history of each of these bases as well as conditions in the surrounding communities and Colombia as a whole.
Send a message to President Barack Obama.
(add your own words to give impact to the mesage)
Demand a change in U.S. foreign policy, away from militarization and towards a culture of justice and peace. Demand an end to U.S. military bases in Latin America, a stop to all U.S. military aid to Colombia and an executive order to shut down the School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/ WHINSEC).
Stop Paramilitary Death Threats to Colombian Women's Rights Leaders
On January 27, 2010, a leading Colombian women's rights group received startling death threats from a right-wing paramilitary death squad. Sisma Mujer works particularly to defend the rights of those who have been forcefully displaced from their homes.
In the email, the paramilitary group, known as the Black Eagles, threatens to kill dozens of female activists who work on behalf of communities that have been forcibly displaced as a result of Colombia's armed conflict. Most worryingly, the death threats borrowed rhetoric from Colombia's government falsely accusing human rights activists of being terrorists.
These death threats are unfortunately only the latest form of intimidation stretching back many years. They also demonstrate that contrary to the Colombian government's assertions, paramilitary groups continue to operate in the country.
TAKE ACTION NOW to urge the Colombian authorities to investigate these recent threats and to prosecute those responsible while providing adequate protection for the members of Sisma Mujer.
Alert Date: February 12, 2010
Two Miners of FEDEAGROMISBOL Assassinated
On February 10, Paramilitaries assassinated two miners from FEDEAGROMISBOL. The Southern Bolivar Agricultural – Mining Federation is a coalition of peasant farming and mining communities in Southern Bolivar province. CPT Colombia has accompanied FEDEAGROMISBOL since the assassination of Alejandro Uribe Chacón in 2006. These communities continue in their nonviolent struggle for the right to their land and dignity. The information below is the public denouncement of the assassination of their two members.
Public Announcement to National and International Communities
Continued extermination against FEDEAGROMISBOL
Two miners of FEDEAGROMISBOL assassinated in Southern Bolivar Province
The organizations, signed below, publicly denounce the following event:
1. On February 10, 2010 around 7 am, OMAR ALONSO OSPINA RESTREPO and JOSE DE JESUS RESTREPO left the Municipality of Montecristo for Caucasia, Antioquia in order to buy some parts for their car. The brothers, Omar Alonso and Jose de Jesus, ages 26 and 40 respectively, were artisan miners and members of FEDEAGROMISBOL. OMAR ALONSO was the President of El Dorado’s Community action board and the fiscal watchdog for El Dorado’s agricultural-mining association. They arrived in Nechi at about 10 am on the same day and continued their trip to Caucasia.
2. According to reports from the local population, the brothers were approached by an armed group about 20 minutes from the township of Nechi and taken to an unknown destination. Some versions identified members of paramilitary forces that are operating in the region as responsible.
3. Dorado’s residents went to the town of Nechi in order to investigate the whereabouts and fate of the Restrepo brothers. The police informed the residents that they knew of the presence of two bodies at a place called Parcela de Londres, but that the area was too extensive to locate them.
4. Yesterday night, Feb. 12, the dead body of Omar Alonsa Restrepo Ospina was found in the Cauca River close to the town of Achi and today in the morning, the dead body of JOSE DE JESUS RESTREPO RESTREPO in the Cauca River by the municipality of Guaranda. Both bodies were found with visible signs of torture.
5. These killings are part of a long chain of aggression against the people of southern Bolivar, much like the murder of Alejandro Uribe Chacón on 19 September 2006 and many others. In the present context, these acts present what we consider a comprehensive strategy to plunder the territory by a macabre alliance between the national government and multinationals, such as gold company Anglo Gold Ashanti and oil palm company Daabon whom are attempting to seize the natural resources in Southern Bolivar province.
6. We hold the Colombian State responsible for these events in that they have refused to continue dialogue with communities in the south of Bolivar in the La Mesa de Interlocucion and/or Southern Bolivar Roundtable for Dialogue and to the contrary they have continued militarizing the region and openly allowing paramilitary groups to function.
We firmly reject these murders and all actions aimed at depriving the people of Southern Bolivar of its territory.
We call on our sister organizations to speak out to the authorities and demand strong action to investigate the murders and the immediate end of attacks against the population of the region.
We call on The State agencies to exercise the necessary mechanisms for these crimes to be investigated and those responsible punished.
FEDERACION AGROMINERA DEL SUR DE BOLIVAR/CORPORACION SEMBRAR/REDHER – COLOMBIA/
COORDINADOR NACIONAL AGRARIO-CNA/ORGANIZACIÓN INDIGENA DE COLOMBIA - ONIC/
CORPORACION AURY SARA MARRUGO/INSTITUTO NACIONAL SINDICAL – INS/NOMADESC/
CAMPAÑA PROHIBIDO OLVIDAR/RECALCA/COMISION INTERCLESIAL DE JUSTICIA Y PAZ/AIDA/
RED ANTORCHA/CENSAT- AGUA VIVA/ASOCIACION MINGA/CORPORACION COLECTIVO DE ABOGADOS LUIS CARLOS PEREZ/OBSERVATORIO DE TRANSNACIONALES/ECOTIERRA/CONCIENCIA CAMPESINA/OBSERVATORIO SOCIAL Y AMBIENTAL
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Call on Tuesday to share your opinion about this legislation:
Access to Higher Education for Immigrant Students in Missouri
ï¿½ Encouraging educational attainment for all Missouri children is good education and economic policy. More students enrolling in our colleges and universities mean more tuition payments, more diverse educational experiences on campus, and a climate of pursuit of higher education in our K-12 schools. Missouri will need a highly-educated and diverse future workforce to compete in the 21st Century economy, and encouraging Missouri students to continue their educations is an effective and efficient way to accomplish this goal. Meanwhile, Congress is likely to consider the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act during this session. The DREAM Act would allow undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and attended high school in the U.S. to adjust their immigration status through attending and completing college or joining the military as long as they demonstrate good moral character and other requirements necessary for citizenship.
ï¿½ Helping immigrant students attend colleges and universities through offering in-state tuition creates a positive educational climate for all Missouri students. We cannot afford to have parts of our student bodies around the state who know that higher education is not an option for them because the cost is too high, and, therefore, give up on K-12 academic excellence. In addition, cash-strapped universities should not have to spend precious resources to invest in personnel and technology necessary to verify individuals' immigration statuses. That money is much better spent on education.
ï¿½ Helping immigrant students attend colleges and universities shows Missouri's commitment to fixing our nation's broken immigration system. Obviously, we need comprehensive immigration reform to address the brokenness of our immigration laws. By helping hard-working, bright students to attain higher education, Missouri affirms its commitment to educational excellence and immigration reform. In-state tuition can help defray the cost for students to attend as well as ensure that hard-working undocumented students can pursue their education as Congress considers the DREAM Act and Immigration Reform.
ï¿½ Several states extend in-state tuition and federal law does NOT prohibit postsecondary educational institutions from admitting or offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students. States around the country recognize this, and nine have passed legislation specifically extending in-state tuition benefits regardless of citizenship status. While states are not required to accept undocumented students for postsecondary education as they are for K-12, they are certainly not prohibited from doing so. Federal law only addresses postsecondary educational benefits, a term that has been conclusively interpreted in federal courts to mean payments or transfers (such as financial aid and loans) to households or individuals.
ï¿½ Immigrant students deserve a chance to pursue their educational dreams on their way to U.S. citizenship. The students that would benefit from this bill have already overcome significant obstacles to pursue higher education, including mastering English, excelling academically, and coming up with the money to pay the significant tuition costs without any financial aid. We benefit as a state from their dedication to preparing themselves to be productive members of our society. We must remember that the vast majority of these students will become U.S. citizens when they can finish weaving their way through the maze of immigration laws. It is in our best interest to encourage them to pursue an education on their way.
Dear Missouri Refugee & Immigrant Advocate
We need your help today. The International Trade & Immigration Committee will be hearing House Bill 1231 which will dictate that Missouri driver's license examinations be administered in English only.
We need you to take an action
1. call the Chair or members of this Committee stating your opposition
2. email the Chair and/or the committee members stating your opposition
3. write a letter and fax it to the Chair and/or the committee members stating your opposition
Please read the testimony submitted by Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (attached) Feel free to quote.
International Trade & Immigration Committee Members - (You can find committee members, assigned bills, and hearing schedule here:
Rep. Jerry Nolte, Chair
Mark A. Parkinson, Vice Chair
Michael George Corcoran
Edgar "Ed" Emery
Brien Nieves - Co-Sponsor of HB1231
Testimony on HB 1231 - Driver's License Examinations
Submitted by Jennifer Rafanan, Executive Director, MIRA to the Senate Education Committee
February 10, 2010
Missouri Immigrant & Refugee Advocates strongly OPPOSES HB 1231, which would allow driver's license examinations to be given in English only without the aid of an interpreter. Missouri's current law prohibits undocumented immigrants from obtaining a driver's license. Thus, HB1231 would only impact immigrants who are legally present in the United States including, but not limited to, refugees, students, and legal permanent residents (green card holders).
HB 1231 purports to impose an English only requirement for licensing of ordinary motor vehicle operator licenses because it assumes a causal link between functional literacy in the English language and the ability to "understand highway traffic signs and safety warnings". It further assumes that a person who cannot read and/or write in the English language sufficiently to take a written exam in the English language cannot understand or follow normal highway traffic signs and safety warnings. Quite to the contrary, in fact, common experience demonstrates that one can understand traffic signs and safety warnings, even small phrases in English without being able to read and/or write English sufficiently to take a written exam in English. Conversely, for example, a native Missouri driver traveling abroad may drive safely in a foreign country whose primary language is not English because traffic signs and safety warnings are simple to understand even in other languages.
Furthermore, many other states with much more ethnically diverse populations than the State of Missouri and higher proportions of lawfully present, newly arrived immigrants have considered the question of English only driver's license tests and have rejected the concept. As the State of Missouri does currently, these states have generally implemented testing procedures that allow the applicant to take a written test in their native language or in English with the help of a translator. In order to assure that these applicants are able to "understand highway traffic signs and safety warnings" they implement a part of the test where the applicant views a sign, warning or short traffic related phrase and then must explain its meaning in their native language with the use of a translator. These states have concluded that "fluency in the English language sufficient to take and pass a written exam in English is not indicative of the applicant's ability to drive safely on the public roadways". There really does not exist any good research or data suggesting otherwise. (Robert Hagge, Research Analysis, California Department of Motor Vehicles, Research and Development Branch).
With opportunities to obtain an operator's license restricted from individuals insufficiently fluent in the English language to take and pass an English language written test, such individuals will be left with public transportation to get to and from schools, employment, shopping and to carry out every other basic activity of living. However, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation, transportation in "small urban areas struggle to maintain service levels and do not provide service to their entire urban areas. Weekend and evening service is limited. Missouri's small urban areas are Springfield, St. Joseph, Columbia, Jefferson City and Joplin." Worse yet, "Access to public transportation is limited in rural areas. Because there are fewer mobility options for residents without access to automobiles, rural public transportation needs are growing. Few rural systems offer service to employment, schools, volunteer activities or community events." (MODOT, http://www.modot.mo.gov/plansandprojects/long-range_plan/transit.htm)
Therefore, it is clear that the result of HB 1231 will be that many lawful rural Missouri residents will be cut out of basic participation in economic and social life of the communities where they live. Missouri cannot afford to have a growing segment of its rural population restricted from participation in the labor force and economic activity of our state.
MIRA opposes HB1231 and urges this committee to vote against this proposed legislation.
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VENEZUELA: Report to U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence
The report is available at:
The Venezuelan Ambassador responded. See http://embavenez-us.org/news.php?nid=5265
Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, issued a report on Annual Threat Assessment for the Senate Committee on Intelligence (led by Senator Feinstein), which perpetuates several falsehoods about Venezuela.
The timing is unfortunate as Venezuela and the US have started to cooperate in combating illegal drug trade and recently we deported individuals wanted by the DEA. See
On Venezuela, the report basically says:
In other countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, elected populist leaders are moving toward a more authoritarian and statist political and economic model, and they have banded together to oppose US influence and policies in the region. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has established himself as one of the US’s foremost international detractors, denouncing liberal democracy and market capitalism and opposing US policies and interests in the region....
Venezuela: Leading Anti-US Regional Force
President Chavez continues to impose an authoritarian populist political model in Venezuela that undermines democratic institutions. Since winning a constitutional referendum in early 2009 that removed term limits and will permit his reelection, Chavez has taken further steps to consolidate his political power and weaken the opposition in the run up to the 2010 legislative elections. The National Assembly passed a law that shifted control of state infrastructure, goods, and services to Caracas in order to deprive opposition states and municipalities of funds. Chavez has curtailed free expression and opposition activities by shutting down independent news outlets, harassing and detaining protestors, and threatening opposition leaders with criminal charges for corruption. Chavez’s popularity has dropped significantly in recent polls as a result of his repressive measures, continued high crime, rising inflation, water and power shortages, and a major currency devaluation, raising questions about his longer term political future.
On foreign policy, Chavez’s regional influence may have peaked, but he is likely to continue to support likeminded political allies and movements in neighboring countries and seek to undermine moderate, pro-US governments. He has formed an alliance of radical leaders in Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and until recently, Honduras. He and his allies are likely to oppose nearly every US policy initiative in the region, including the expansion of free trade, counter drug and counterterrorism cooperation, military training, and security initiatives, and even US assistance programs.
Venezuelan Ambassador Responds to Intelligence Report
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United States
February 4, 2010
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair
Select Committee on Intelligence
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Feinstein,
I was disappointed to read the testimony of Mr. Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. As in years past, the report is full of politically motivated and cynical accusations against my country.
Let me start by stating that Venezuela is a sovereign country that demands respect for its right to chart its own destiny. Unsubstantiated reports like the one presented by Mr. Blair to the committee you chair were used by the Bush administration to set the stage in the public opinion for the 2002 overthrow of President Hugo Chavez’s democratically elected government and to impose politically motivated sanctions against my country that are still in place. That same coup led Congress to investigate the role that U.S. agencies may have played in President Chavez’s overthrow.
I would like to use this opportunity to warn you and members of the committee that we are once again seeing attempts to criminalize our government and encourage sectors of the Venezuelan opposition that are looking for undemocratic ways to reach power.
The report states that “President Chavez continues to impose an authoritarian populist political model in Venezuela that undermines democratic institutions.”
On the contrary, Venezuela is in the process of extending democracy to all of its people. This includes finding a balance between the state and the market that allows us to guarantee the welfare of our people and overcome the historical wrongs of poverty and inequality.
Over the last decade, Venezuela’s ranking on the UN’s Human Development Index has risen by 10 spots, as levels of poverty have dropped and access to social services increased. In fact, political participation and consciousness in Venezuela have expanded dramatically over the last decade. These advances have occurred within what we call “Socialism of the 21st Century”, a democratic political process centered around fostering the well-being of our people as an alternative to the capitalist model currently in crisis.
The report also states that Venezuela has “curtailed free expression and opposition activities by shutting down independent news outlets, harassing and detaining protestors, and threatening opposition leaders with criminal charges for corruption.” Venezuela has not shut down any independent media outlets, but rather has applied relevant laws and regulations to outlets operating in the country, just like any other democracy. In Venezuela, more than 76 percent of the media on public airwaves is privately owned and operated, and most is controlled by the government’s political opposition. Additionally, more than 184 channels broadcast freely through cable networks.
Anti-government protestors continue enjoying their constitutional rights to peaceful assembly. Moreover, many members of the Venezuelan opposition travel freely around the world promoting their political agenda, including to the U.S., and return to Venezuela to exercise the political rights that the 1999 Constitution grants them.
Contrary to the assessments of the report, criminal charges have been filed against a variety of individuals for charges of corruption, regardless of their political affiliations. Venezuela only recently averted a financial crisis when it took steps to stop a number of banks from threatening the integrity of the country’s financial system. Two people charged in this case were very close to government officials. Both were detained and will stand trial for their crimes.
We cannot and will not allow corrupt criminals to hide behind the notion of “political persecution” to avoid facing justice in Venezuela. In that regard, we have recently solicited the cooperation of U.S. authorities to extradite one banker whom has fled Venezuela’s justice system and is currently living in the U.S. with money he stole from Venezuelan taxpayers. By granting some of these fugitives safe haven, the U.S. has politicized the sacred concept of political asylum. It is worth highlighting that over the past few years Venezuela has deported several criminals that were wanted by the U.S.
The report also claims that President Hugo Chavez, along with his counterparts in sister nations in the region, “are likely to oppose nearly every US policy initiative in the region, including the expansion of free trade, counter drug and counterterrorism cooperation, military training, and security initiatives, and even US assistance programs.”
Venezuela engages openly with its regional neighbors through a number of mechanisms, including the Bolivarian Alliance of the People of Our Americas (ALBA), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR) and a variety of energy initiatives such as PetroCaribe. These mechanisms allow the countries of the region to better cooperate on issues of mutual concern, particularly in developing strategies to overcome poverty. These alliances do not threaten the U.S. – in fact, a hemisphere more aggressively working together to fight social exclusion is more likely to be stable in the long-run.
On counter-terrorism, Venezuela seeks especially to attack the conditions that allow terrorism to grow, while on counter-drug operations Venezuela believes strongly in shared responsibility approaches that escape the failed military and supply-side based models. It bears mentioning that drug seizures in Venezuela increased by 38 percent after 2005, the year that we ended our cooperation with the DEA.
The U.S. will benefit if it develops a multilateral approach to these important issues and collaborates openly and equally with countries in the region. Of course, these cooperation must flow both ways – since 2005, Venezuela has been waiting for Luis Posada Carriles, a known terrorist living freely in South Florida, to be extradited to Venezuela for his role in the 1976 bombing of a civilian airliner. In the U.S., he has only been accused of lying to immigration officials. This is a travesty of justice.
After reading Mr. Blair’s report, one cannot help but wonder what a country like Venezuela has done to the U.S. to justify the cynicism and unsubstantiated accusations its government so irresponsibly lobs at us. The only answer seems to be that we have refused to “obey” hegemonic prescriptions and have decided to chart our own path towards full democracy and equitable development. We are only a “threat” to those that still see Latin America as part of the U.S.’s “backyard” instead of co-equal regional neighbors. Unfortunately, this report is just a carbon-copy of the Cold War mentality that for too long reigned over U.S. relations with the region, favoring dictatorships and allowing gross human right violations in the name of U.S. interests.
Let me reassure you that, contrary to Mr. Blair’s report, there is no “anti-Americanism” in the Government of Venezuela. However, we do reject imperial policies that dictate the kind of development and democracy we should seek. This is why we demand respect for and will defend our sovereignty at any cost.
The report issued by Mr. Blair reproduces the politicized and ideological intelligence script that has accompanied U.S. intervention in the affairs of sovereign nations in this hemisphere for decades. Such reports can be interpreted by some groups in the region as an invitation to explore anti-democratic means to achieve political ends. As Venezuela’s ambassador to the U.S., it is my responsibility to alert you and your colleagues in the Senate about our concerns with the intentions of such intelligence reports, which are full of half-truths and false accusations that hamper efforts for understanding among our two countries.
Bernardo Alvarez Herrera
Cc: Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Senator John Kerry, Chair, Foreign Relations Committee, US Senate
Congressman Eliot Engel, Chair, Subcommittee for the Western Hemisphere,
US House of Representatives
Mr. Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence
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HAITI: Thoughts on the Relief Efforts from various sources
Haiti Needs Sunlight and Accountability on Relief and Reconstruction Effort
By Mark Weisbrot
This article was published by The Guardian Unlimited on February 8, 2010. her is a link to the original:
US must be Haiti's watchdog
Ahead of the rainy season there are huge concerns over shelter, sanitation and human rights. The US has a responsibility to help
Last week actors and human rights advocates Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, along with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, sent a letter to Congress and the Obama Administration calling attention to "serious mistakes that have unnecessarily delayed the delivery of medical supplies, water and other life-saving materials" to Haiti. The letter was also signed by some 90 scholars and Haiti advocates. (Disclosure: I was also a signer).
The letter asked for, among other things, "A public announcement as to what measures our government will take going forward to make sure that the mistakes of the first two weeks are not repeated."
Although the aid delivery situation has since improved, there are still major deficiencies and it is not clear what our government's plan is to prepare for the rainy season, which can begin as early as the end of February, and the hurricane season, which begins in June.
The Washington Post reported on Feb. 2 that there are "hundreds of thousands of desperate people who apparently have not received food and shelter." The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders reports "increased cases of diarrhea and skin rashes from the poor sanitary conditions of living outside" and warns that "rains could bring more serious diseases like typhoid, measles or dengue."
"Measles is the leading killer of children," says UNICEF spokesman Kent Page. "In the conditions of these makeshift camps, if there was to be a measles outbreak it would spread like wildfire."
The United Nations is calling for donations to a $700 million agricultural investment fund, since the March planting season is approaching and farmers will need tools, seed, fertilizers and other inputs. Irrigation and riverbanks have also been damaged. The majority of Haiti's population still lives in the countryside, and many grow food for subsistence and local markets. An estimated 482,000 people have migrated from Port-au-Prince to rural areas since the earthquake, which will put further strain on the countryside.
On the positive side, the Haitian government, in collaboration with the UN, has begun a program of immunization "including rubella and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccines for children under seven and diphtheria and tetanus for older children and adults;" although press reports indicate that these fall far short of needs and will have to be expanded quickly. USAID reports about 70,000 households have received tents or other shelter material, out of about 260,000 needed.
Shelter for the hundreds of thousands of homeless is a most urgent need as the rainy season approaches, and sanitation is also important to avoid the spread of water-borne diseases. USAID is arguing that we should "think outside the tent" and begin to build more permanent structures, but the Haitian government says they need tents first. Since there are recurring aftershocks that could persist for months, anything but earthquake-resistant structures would appear dangerous, especially to shell-shocked survivors of a devastating earthquake. On the other hand, tents will be problematic for the rainy and especially hurricane season, depending on the level of flooding.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that 33 cents of each U.S. government dollar to Haiti goes to the military. There are already 6,000 US troops in Haiti, in addition to the 12,500 UN troops, and Washington has talked about deploying 20,000. This is clearly overkill. The AP reports just one cent of each U.S. dollar is going to the Haitian government. This is also a serious problem. Haiti needs a government, and years of U.S. and private efforts have destroyed most of it. Haitian government revenues, not including grants, are just 10 percent of GDP, more than 50 percent lower than most poorer countries in Africa, such as Rwanda, Mozambique, Niger and Burundi.
USAID is currently funneling millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars into questionable organizations such as Chemonics, Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), and its own Office of Transition Initiatives, which has been involved in shady political activities in various countries where the United States was opposing democratically elected governments.
It must be recalled that Washington, in collaboration with Canada and France, destroyed the Haitian government and wrecked the economy by cutting off international aid from 2000-2004, in order to overthrow the elected government. Thousands of supporters of that government were killed after the 2004 coup, and many imprisoned, including officials of the elected government. All this happened while UN forces were occupying the country. There was little outcry from Washington-based human rights organizations.
So human rights will also be an issue in the months and years ahead, as Haitians organize to have a voice in the reconstruction efforts and the future of their own country. This is especially true given that the country's largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the last national elections in April - leading to an 89 percent boycott according to the official count - and from the (now rescheduled) elections that were planned for this month.
For all of these reasons, the U.S. Congress and civil society will have to play a watchdog role. However, it will be difficult to get people to disturb the public relations efforts of the Obama Administration with regard to Haiti. The Washington Post reports today that the administration's Haiti operation "could advance U.S. diplomacy in a region long suspicious of U.S. intentions."
"I think that the United States will look very magnanimous," says Cresencio Arcos, a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras and now a senior adviser at the National Defense University's Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington.
"Haiti is good for the United States, to show its humanitarian side," he said. "It's perfect for this administration, which is Democratic and liberal."
Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts Are Still Falling Short
Peter Slevin, Washington Post, Tuesday, February 9, 2010; A08 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/08/AR2010020803429.html
Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Nearly one month after a powerful earthquake brought this country to a halt, Haiti is tumbling headlong through a crisis that has not begun to abate, with evidence everywhere that current relief efforts are falling short.
Pressure will grow on a fledgling food distribution network backed by U.S. soldiers that so far has largely managed to deliver only rice. From surgery to shelter to sanitation to schooling, the needs are vast and the international commitment unproven.
"The need is so overwhelming. You can't have an initial push, and then it stops. That just won't be enough," Lane Hartill, an Africa-based Catholic Relief Services staff member, said as he walked toward a sweltering encampment of 30,000 people who have spent every hour outdoors since the Jan. 12 earthquake. In the distance, the dun-colored shapes of the makeshift shelters might have been an impressionist painter's rendering of despair.
Every day, tens of thousands of Haitians face a grueling quest to find food, any food. A nutritious diet is out of the question.
Shelter is a slender part of the equation because, for those who lost their homes, there is so little shelter to seek. Hundreds of people join lines before the early dawn in hopes of scoring a sack of white rice, but there is nowhere to line up for a tent, a shelter kit or a home any sturdier than a blanket hanging from a clothesline.
Hardly anyone is being paid. For the vast majority, a daily job is out of the question. Every school in the capital is closed, an estimated 75 percent of them destroyed. Many businesses and government offices simply no longer exist. There is no postal service - and if there were, much of the Port-au-Prince population would not be found at home.
The medical calamity has moved beyond the horrific early days of assembly line amputations. Overwhelmed doctors and nurses are now facing converging streams of need, from untended wounds and the illnesses born of poor sanitation to the ailments of a population that had inferior health care long before Jan. 12.
There are not enough crutches for amputees or people to teach them how to adjust to the physics of their new bodily dimensions. The demands for treatment of all kinds, including postoperative care and rehabilitation, are "massive," said Thomas Kirsch, a Johns Hopkins University physician and disaster expert working here with the International Medical Corps. "We're seeing as many as 500 people a day in our dinky little health-care center," Kirsch said, after spending a 10-hour shift doing triage in the courtyard of the state university hospital. "We send paralyzed patients out with their families and say, 'Good luck.' "
At times, U.S. officials have offered sunnier assessments considerably at odds with reality. A State Department spokesman, Gordon Duguid, said in Port-au-Prince on Day 14, "It's a week now that there's no problem for bread." The top USAID official in Haiti told reporters on Day 19 that "the Haitians are leading the process in all the areas that are necessary."
Lorraine Mangones has a less charitable view from her vantage point as executive director of FOKAL, a cultural foundation sponsored by the Open Society Institute. The business community was "already on its knees" before the earthquake, she said, while the state was "already weak and kept getting weaker and weaker." The future, she said, will be "hell."
"It's not making big decisions," Mangones said of the government run by President Renï¿½ Prï¿½val and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. "It's not making small decisions. It's making occasional surreal decisions, like, 'Let's open the schools in Port-au-Prince right away.' "She added, "Nobody's listening, of course."
U.S. Army Col. Rick Kaiser, who oversees the military's infrastructure strategy, said the earthquake created enough rubble to fill New Orleans's Superdome five times. It will be years before the rubble is gone and sufficient housing is built. In the meantime, beyond food, temporary shelter is looming as the next large-scale relief issue. "That is the issue we are focusing on right now and will need to focus on for the next three to five months," said Tim Callaghan, leader of the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team. "This is critical, and we're working as hard as we can on it."
Over at the university hospital, where foreign doctors are living their own daily MASH experience, emergency room physician Gene Gincherman from Potomac has been coping with what he describes as "Civil War-era diagnostics." The electrical generator is not strong enough to power the X-ray machine consistently. There are not enough blood-pressure sleeves. There is no oxygen and often not enough medicine. Gincherman fears that Haiti's national emergency could get worse as the crisis endures and the world's attention span ebbs. He said, "We're so afraid that once it gets unsexy, it will be forgotten."
costs of rebuilding:
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VISIT LATIN AMERICA
New Delegations Provide Opportunities to Visit Latin America!
Group Trip to Nicaragua
Participants are welcome to join a group trip to Nicaragua March 14-21, 2010. Purpose of the trip is to learn about the current situation in Nicaragua and the factors that continue to impoverish the nation.The group will explore various aspects of the Nicaraguan reality--political, economic, historical, geographical, cultural, and religious--through meeting and dialoguing with people in several sectors of society. They will visit a Christian Base Community, a barrio school, youth and women's groups, a trade union, a hospital, a farm community, and projects contributing to the liberation and development of the poor. This is not a work team, but a people-to-people venture in building understanding and relationships. Group leader is Dr. Doug Wingeier, emeritus professor of practical theology, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. On-site arrangements, orientation, and translation will be provided by Nan McCurdy and Miguel Mairena, long-time NGO workers in Nicaragua. Cost is $800, all inclusive, plus airfare.
For itinerary and other details contact Doug Wingeier at
email@example.com or 828-246-4885.
Travel to the "Land of Martyrs" (El Salvador)
Travel to El Salvador with Father Roy Bourgeois on an Oscar Romero Legacy Delegation, from March 19-26, 2010. Join Fr. Roy in events commemorating the 30th anniversary of Monseñor Romero´s assassination at the hands of SOA graduates. Walk in the footsteps of martyrs Ita Ford, Maura Clark, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, Celia Ramos and others. Accompany SOA Watch's Partnership America Latina (PAL) Coordinator Lisa Sullivan in visiting high level Salvadoran government officials in asking that El Salvador send no more soldiers to this school of assassins. For more information and to apply, write Lisa Sullivan at LSullivan@soaw.org
With SHARE Foundation
Archbishop Oscar Romero
Delegation Dates: March 19-26, 2010 Cost: $950 plus airfare
We expect thousands of pilgrims to travel to El Salvador to mark this sacred anniversary with our Salvadoran sisters and brothers. We hope that you will consider joining us as we walk in the footsteps of the martyrs and accompany those that still struggle for peace with justice in El Salvador.
• Participation in 30th anniversary vigil and mass
• Visit to rural communities and cooperatives
• Speakers about current day social justice issues
• A pilgrimage to the communities affected by the
violence in Cabañas directed towards the
To join us or for more information contact
Laura firstname.lastname@example.org or
SHARE in Washington DC at 415 319 5540
Human Rights Trips to Honduras
Respond to the request of human rights leaders in Honduras to come to their country to help prevent further atrocities from taking place. World attention towards Honduras has iminished after US-approved November elections legitimized the June coup, while assassinations of resistance members has increased. Leaders of the human rights community have requested a constant presence of international visitors to ring attention to this situation and help protect the lives of Hondurans. Join the Task Force on the Americas delegation to Honduras from March 13-20, 2010. For more information write Dale Sorensen, email@example.com For information on a Quixote Center delegation to be held January 24-31, 2010 contact Jenny Atlee, firstname.lastname@example.org
With over 10,000 troops trained at the school, Colombia is the SOA's largest customer and has the worst human rights record in Latin America. The 8th Day Center for Justice and Witness for Peace are organizing a delegation to Magdelena, Colombia from August 7-17, 2010. The delegation will focus on human rights, corporate abuse, military repression and internal displacement. Delegation participants will meet with community leaders, displaced persons, and human rights defenders. For more information contact Erin Cox, Erin@8thdaycenter.org, 312 641 5151 or Ashley Valchek, Ashley@8thdaycenter.org or email email@example.com
Human Rights Delegation to Chiapas
The Chiapas Support Committee of Oakland, California announces a Human Rights Delegation to Chiapas Mexico. This will be an in-depth exploration of how corporate globalization is affecting indigenous communities constructing autonomy (self-governance). Delegates will receive briefings from Mexican non-profits working in indigenous communities. This delegation provides an opportunity to visit and interact with civilian Zapatista communities constructing autonomy and resisting corporate exploitation. The cost of the delegation is US $500.00. This does NOT include airfare or bus transportation to and from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. It DOES include most food, lodging and ground transportation to the communities. It ALSO includes a donation for each community we visit, an honorarium for each NGO briefing we receive, delegation expenses and educational materials. We provide each delegation with an experienced group leader and translator. Delegation dates are March 21-28, 2010. To apply please email firstname.lastname@example.org, requesting an application or call (510) 654-9587.
Spring Delegation to Bolivia
Be part of history! Celebrate Earth Day and attend the Peoples’ World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights in Cochabamba, Bolivia . World scientists, academics, lawyers, and representatives of governments that want to work with their citizens to save our planet will be in attendance. (Conference is scheduled for April 20-22, 2010).
Before and after the conference, celebrate indigenous resistance and explore food sovereignty issues in Bolivia , the first country in the hemisphere to be governed by an indigenous president. Learn about indigenous struggles for sovereignty over food, land, and water. Meet with farmers, community leaders, government leaders, union leaders and others. Experience the rich culture of the Andes and soak in the sights, sounds, people, and politics in this historic moment in Bolivia
When: April 18-28, 2010 Where: Start Cochabamba and end in La Paz; visits to El Chapare, Coroico (Yungas de La Paz), Oruro and Cost for Activities: $850. This will cover all lodging, all ground transportation, at least 2 meals per day, and translation. Additional expenses during the trip will be minimal.**Airfare not included. Possible group rate available for those traveling from NYC.
**Anyone interested should email email@example.com as soon as possible, as space for this trip is very limited. Please allow a day or two for responses. Sponsored by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY.
Grupo Fenix Solar Culture Course in Nicaragua July 10-18, 2010 Come to Nicaragua and engage your head, heart, and hands in the real work of developing countries. These hands-on courses allow you to be immersed in the daily life of rural Nicaraguans by living with host families and working alongside local community members to create their vision of a model community through renewable energy and sustainable practices. Discuss the theory behind solar energy and the challenges of development with your instructors and other course participants. Explore a beautiful country and its culture while learning about renewable energy and sustainable development in the field. Click here for more information.
Honduras Solidarity Delegation March 13-20, 2010 On November 29, elections were carried out amidst de facto military rule in Honduras. For months the country has suffered media censorship, widespread human rights violations including, and brutal repression. International presence will be of utmost importance in the coming months. Meeting in Tegucigalpa or San Petro Sula, the group will hear from the popular resistance movement and human rights groups, visit political prisoners and threatened communities and document human rights abuses. This delegation is being organized by the Task Force on the Americas and led by Andres Conteris, who recently left the Brazilian Embassy in Honduras after accompanying President Zelaya for 5 months. Click here for more information.
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Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Day Feb. 23, 2010
Join Missouri Immigrant & Refugee Advocates for
Advocacy Day in Jefferson City!
Learn about immigration-related legislation in MO
Advocate for immigrant and refugee rights
Meet legislators and other advocates
Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010 10:30am-3pm in Jefferson City
Meet at 7am for breakfast, training, and transportation departing from Kansas City and St. Louis*
Limited spaces for transportation – sign up today! Call to get meeting location information!
*Transportation will leave KC and St. Louis promptly at 7:30am
For more information and to RSVP:
St. Louis (and other areas)
314-644-0466 x15 firstname.lastname@example.org
Kansas City 816-842-1298 email@example.com
RSVP by February 19, 2010
THESE ARE THE BILLS WE ARE WATCHING:
MIRA Bill Tracking 2010
January 27, 2010
HB 1383 - ILLEGAL ALIENS ON OFFENDER REGISTRY - Nolte, Jerry
House Home Page. House Bill List. HB 1383. Adds citizenship information to the sexual offender registration form and requires the State Highway Patrol to report to the federal government any non-U.S. citizen on the sexual offender registrySponsor:. Nolte, Jerry (33). Proposed Effective Date:. 08/28/2010. CoSponsor:. Burlison, Eric (136). etal.. LR Number:. 3833L.01I. Last Action:. 01/07/2010 - Read Second Time (H). HB1383. Next Hearing:. Hearing not scheduled. Bill currently not on a calendar.
http://house.mo.gov/content.aspx?info=/bills101/bills/hb1383.htm - Last Modified: 1/8/2010 9:11:29 PM
Last Action: 01/07/2010 - Read Second Time (H)
MIRA position: None
HB 1231 - DRIVER'S LICENSE EXAMINATIONS - Davis, Cynthia L.
House Home Page. House Bill List. HB 1231. Requires Missouri driver's examinations to be administered in English. Sponsor:. Davis, Cynthia L. (19). Proposed Effective Date:. 08/28/2010. CoSponsor:. Nieves, Brian D. (98). etal.. LR Number:. 3478L.01I. Last Action:. 01/07/2010 - Read Second Time (H). HB1231. Next Hearing:. Hearing not scheduled. Calendar:. Bill currently not on a calendar. ACTIONS. HEARINGS. CALENDAR. FISCAL NOTES. Bill Summaries for HB1231. Introduced. Bill Text for HB1231.
http://house.mo.gov/content.aspx?info=/bills101/bills/hb1231.htm - Last Modified: 1/8/2010 9:11:19 PM
Last Action: 01/07/2010 - Read Second Time (H)
MIRA position: Oppose
HJR 64 VOTER IDENTIFICATION Cox,Stanley Proposes a constitutional amendment changing the laws regarding voter identification.
Sponsors: Stanley Cox (116) Last Action/Date: Committee 1/7/10 – Read Second Time (H) MIRA position: Oppose
SB 783. Provides that certain aliens will receive in-state tuition at college and universities that meet certain requirementsSponsor:. Justus. LR Number:. 3086S.01I. Fiscal Note:. Committee:Education.
Last Action:. 1/19/2010 - Second Read and Referred S Education Committee. Journal Page:. Title:. Calendar Position:. Effective Date:. July 1 2010. Full Bill Text. All Actions. Available Summaries. Senate Home Page. List of 2010 Senate Bills. Current Bill Summary.
http://www.house.mo.gov/content.aspx?info=/bills101/sbills/sb783.htm - Last Modified: 1/20/2010 4:00:26 PM Last Action: 1/19/2010 - Second Read and Referred S Education Committee MIRA position: Support
ON THE NATIONAL SCENE: MEANWHILE: Border security remains a focus of the US administration. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (2-4-10) that the Boeing fence (a $6.7 billion government project) has run into glitches and delays, yet the project gets more funding....(?)
Immigration Reform is NEEDED but not more enforcement...
FLOC Files a Federal Lawsuit
Against the US Border Patrol and Local Police
In northern Ohio, racial profiling by the Border Patrol
and local police has resulted in a class action lawsuit by FLOC and other partners.
The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and its members have joined Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc (ABLE), the law firm of Murray and Murray, Co. L.P.A., and the Immigrant Worker Project (IWP) in filing a class action complaint against the US Border Patrol and several local law enforcement agencies in Northwest Ohio. The suit challenges the Border Patrol and local agencies' practice of restraining and interrogating Latinos about their immigration status based solely on their Hispanic appearance. The suit argues that this violates the 4th Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures and the 5th Amendment's guarantee of due process and equal protection of the law. Ten out of the twelve plaintiffs are FLOC members.
"I think it is imperative that we not only address this issue, but tell them to quit it," says Baldemar Velasquez, FLOC founder and President. "Stop spreading fear in the Latino community and start doing the serious police work."
Racial profiling in NW Ohio and SE Michigan worsened after the Bush administration significantly increased the Border Patrol's budget. New offices opened along the border with Canada, affecting Michigan and Ohio residents. FLOC argues that the Border Patrol may have had difficulty justifying the increased budget and has subsequently tried to create numbers by going after farmworkers and other Latinos in the area. One case presented in the complaint refers to a person who was pulled over because the light over his license plate was dim. When he presented his valid Ohio Driver's License, the officer demanded proof of immigration status from him and his five passengers. All of them turned out to be lawful permanent residents, but their brown skin seemed to be cause enough for the local enforcement agent to intrude upon their civil liberties.
"In some cases", says ABLE attorney Mark Heller, "the U.S. Border Patrol has offered to come and restrain and interrogate persons that the local law enforcement agencies have already seized, violating the 14th Amendment's guarantee for due process and equal protection of the law. There really is no legitimate defense to what they are doing".
FLOC's position on Immigrant Rights. http://www.floc.com/ImmigrantRights.htm
FLOC asks our supporters to join the effort to stop racial profiling by the Border Patrol and local police:
Please help us locate people in the community who may have suffered this type of discriminatory practice. The lawsuit currently has 12 plaintiffs, but we are certain that there are hundreds more who have suffered this discriminatory practice. Contact Beatriz Maya at FLOC firstname.lastname@example.org or call 419-243-3456 ext 3.
Write or call the US Border Patrol and demand an end to all racial profiling:
Acting Chief Michael J. Fisher, Office of the Border Patrol
1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20229
Contact your US Senators and Representative: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/
(1) Go to Contacting the Congress (English and espanol)
(2) Ask them to cut back the bloated funding for the US Border Patrol.
Join this campaign! If you or your organization want to be involved in this campaign, please contact Beatriz Maya at email@example.com or call 419-243-3456 ext 3.
Thank you for your support in the struggle for justice!
Obama beefs up border security in 2011 budget
By Meredith Simons
Politics Blog. San Francisco Chronicle
February 1, 2010
The Department of Homeland Security unveiled a $56.3 billion budget Monday that includes funding for the virtual border fence, E-Verify, and an increase in the number of border patrol officers and intelligence analysts along the southern border.
In a year in which President Obama has spoken about the need to "save what we can" to combat record deficits, some federal agencies are seeing programs trimmed or eliminated entirely, but DHS escaped the budgeting process unscathed. Obama's budget, which must be approved by Congress before it takes effect, asks for $6 billion more for DHS than the department received in FY 2010.
"Our proposed budget is designed to ensure we have the resources we need to secure America," said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. "We are committed to strong fiscal discipline, eliminating redundancy and investing our resources in what works while enhancing security across the board."
Obama's budget allots more money to DHS than it received last year, including billions that will be spent along the southwest border.
DHS officials say they are committed to fighting drug trafficking and cartel violence along the border. To that end, they've allotted $4.6 billion to funding 20,000 Border Patrol agents and completing the first section of a virtual border fence, which is being erected in Arizona. The increased personnel funding will allow the department to hire more officers and increase the salaries of those already on staff. It will also boost the number of border intelligence analysts and Border Enforcement Security Task Forces, which combine personnel from several federal law enforcement agencies to combat organized crime along the border.
On the immigration front, DHS has signaled a desire to "strengthen enforcement activities," particularly targeting "criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety." The department has made it a goal to increase the number of criminal aliens expelled from the country by four percent over the next year and dedicated $1.6 billion to that effort. Some of that money will be directed toward the implementation of the Secure Communities initiative, which uses biometric data and a nationwide database to identify illegal aliens as soon as they enter the criminal justice system.
The budget also includes $110 million for the expansion of the E-Verify program, which allows employers to confirm their employees' eligibility for work in the U.S. online.
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EL SALVADOR: Super Bowl: No Matter Who Won, Salvadoran Workers Lose
NFL and Reebok Fumble
Women Paid 10 Cents to Sew $80 NFL Peyton Manning Jerseys
February 4, 2010
Forced overtime, cheated of wages, constant harassment, trapped in abject poverty in a Salvadoran sweatshop.
In fact, the workers did not have much time to think about the players whose jerseys they were sewing. An assembly line of 28 workers had a mandatory production goal of completing 2,300 NFL jerseys in the regular nine-hour shift—from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with an hour off (a 20-minute morning break and 40 minutes for lunch). The production goal was 255 jerseys per hour, which meant that each of the 28 workers, in effect, had to sew nine jerseys per hour, or one jersey every 6.6 minutes. The workers were paid just 10 cents for each $80 Peyton Manning NFL jersey they sewed. This means that their wages amounted to just a little more than one-tenth of one percent of the jerseys’ retail price!
Price of a Peyton Manning Jersey $80.00
[At the d***’s Sporting Goods store in Carmel, Indiana—about 30 minutes north of downtown Indianapolis—there were at least 230 screen printed Colts jerseys, about a quarter of which were sewn in El Salvador. The labels and style number (7009A 07) of the NFL jerseys exactly matched labels smuggled out of the Chi Fung factory. The remainder of the NFL jerseys were made in Guatemala and Honduras.]
The regular work week in El Salvador is 44 hours, with 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. shifts Monday through Thursday and a 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. shift on Friday. This puts the workers at the factory 49 hours a week, while toiling 44 hours after taking into account the one hour a day of breaktime.
However, for the NFL workers at Chi Fung, the mandatory workweek is actually 61 to 65 hours. Not only is all overtime obligatory, it is unpaid!
NFL/Chi Fung Actual Workweek
Monday – Thursday 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Friday 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon or 4:00 p.m
The workers are at the factory 61 to 65 hours a week, while actually working 56 to 59 hours, including 12 to 15 hours of obligatory overtime, which is unpaid. Management tells the workers that they will receive a $3.00 daily incentive bonus if they reach their assigned production target, but even working from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. the workers can only reach the goal about half the time.
Under this scheme, the workers are routinely cheated of $10.44 each week, or 18 percent of the wages legally due them. While $10.44 might not seem like too big a deal, for the workers, this is the equivalent of being cheated of 14 ½ hours’ wages each week!
Supervisors try to make it seem that working unpaid overtime is actually to the workers’ advantage. “Working on Saturday [without pay] benefits you,” supervisors explain, “because you can advance your work for the next week and therefore earn more money.”
The base wage in El Salvador’s garment factories is 72 cents an hour and overtime is supposed to be paid as double time, or $1.44. In El Salvador, as in much of Latin America, workers can receive a “7th Day” attendance bonus. If they do not miss a day and are not late, the workers will be paid the minimum wage for eight hours a day, seven days a week.
Garment Workers’ Wages in El Salvador
(Including 7th Day Attendance Bonus)
72 cents an hour (base wage) / 92 cents an hour with Attendance Bonus
$5.76 a day (8 hours)
$40.48 a week (44 hours)
$173.70 a month
$2,084.40 a year
With the attendance bonus, workers can earn 92 cents an hour. The workers also receive annual vacation pay of $26.05 and (for workers with one to three years employment) a Christmas bonus of $57.76.
For the average 57 ½ hour workweek, including 13 ½ hours of mandatory overtime, the NFL workers should have been paid $59.76, not the $49.32 they received. They are being shortchanged of 18 percent of the wages legally due them.
“We always knew they were cheating us,” one woman said, “We knew they weren’t paying overtime. But we don’t have any other choice. At least we are sure of earning the minimum wage, while we were hearing that a lot of maquila factories were closing. So where could we go? Many got desperate and quit—that’s true—but many of us were trapped without any alternatives.”
Sometimes supervisors told the workers that they could not pay overtime because the factory did not have enough work orders and were short on money.
For four years, from 2006 until September, 2009, in broad daylight, the Chi Fung factory cheated the NFL workers of their legal overtime wages.
It is even worse than it seems. The legal minimum wage in El Salvador’s garment factories does not even come close to meeting basic subsistence-level needs. The highly respected independent Salvadoran non-governmental organization, Center for Consumers Defense (CDC), has found that garment workers wages meet just 23 percent of the basic subsistence needs for food, housing, health care and clothing for an average sized family (3.94 people).
International Labor Organization (ILO) data also show that real wages in the export garment sector in El Salvador have actually fallen by eight percent since 2000. The workers are actually going backward.
Chi Fung worker’s home is makeshift and poor.
The major quarter-billion dollar NFL/Reebok deal has done nothing to help its workers around the developing world to climb out of poverty.
Surely the NFL and Reebok could do better than paying the workers in El Salvador just 10 cents for each $80 jersey they sew. Even if they doubled the wages, the direct labor cost to sew the NFL jerseys would still be just 20 1/2 cents, or less than 3/10ths of one percent of the jersey’s $80 retail price.
Supervisors constantly shout at the workers: “You’re falling behind your target. Do you want me to call the boss?” …”You’re not here to warm your seat.” “You had better stay home if you don’t like the work here –the gates are always open to you if you don’t like it here.” It is not uncommon for women workers in the production lines to cry because of the constant pressure and abuse.
Cameras are used to Spy on the Workers
Cameras have been placed throughout the production area and at the entrance to the bathrooms. Management uses the cameras to intimidate the workers and to spy on them so they feel under constant pressure. The owner, Mr. Wen Ling Tsao—who is called “Don Antonio,” uses a loud speaker so that everyone can hear him chastising a worker. Watching the camera screen, if he sees a worker is taking too long to use the bathroom, he’ll shout: “Hurry up! Sit down fast. Don’t take so much time. You’re hurting production!” For the workers, it is humiliating to be embarrassed and harassed in front of the other workers.
Dirty Bathrooms and Water
The bathrooms only receive a good cleaning and some maintenance repair before the corporate auditors schedule their visit to inspect the factory. Otherwise, the bathrooms smell bad. Some toilets are out of order and many of the stall doors are broken. With several toilets out of order, there are longer delays for the workers, who are then yelled at for taking too much time. There is no soap or towels in the bathrooms, but at the beginning of the week each worker is provided with a small roll of toilet paper, which must last the full six days.
Codes of Conduct and Corporate Audits continue to Fail
Codes of conduct—for Reebok, Adidas and Soffee—adorn the factory walls, but they are meaningless. Management has never discussed the Codes with the workers and at any rate, they have never been implemented or enforced.
Auditors from Reebok, Adidas and Soffee regularly visit the factory. According to the workers, audits take place every six months or so. The auditors spend more time and attention on the quality of the garments than on factory conditions. During the audits, production goals are drastically cut back, the pace of production slows down and there is no forced overtime. But the short reprieve is a mixed blessing since when the auditors depart, the supervisors start yelling and urge the workers to “work faster..to replace the time lost because of the auditors visit.”
Before the auditors arrive, the workers are routinely threatened by managers and supervisors: “Look. If you speak badly about Chi Fung, the labels will pull their work and the factory will close. Don’t forget. Chi Fung is the one who feeds you!” Some of the threats are more direct: “You should think hard about what you are going to tell the auditors. If you speak against the factory, you are going to be fired. You will never work with us again.”
Needless to say, given their experience, the workers put no faith or reliance in the corporate codes of conduct. They are alone.
Nor do unions exist in El Salvador’s garment factories. Organizing is not allowed. There is not a single garment factory in El Salvador where the workers have a union with a collective contract. Yet, despite the routine gross violation of Salvadoran labor law and the core International Labor Organization’s worker rights standards, the NFL and other garments continue to enter the U.S. duty-free under the U.S.-Cafta Free Trade Agreement. The worker rights provisions in CAFTA are not being respected.
Current Chi Fung Production
The NFL/Reebok jerseys were sewn for at least four years—from 2006 to 2009. It was only in September of 2009 that the NFL production stopped.
* Reebok: Reebok garments are still being sewn at Chi Fung, only they are not NFL. Reebok is currently producing cotton sweatpants and sweatshirts in grey, blue and green. The sweatshirts have pockets and a zipper. (Two production lines.)
* Adidas: Adidas is producing athletic shorts in blue, black, green and white. (Production on three lines.)
* Soffee: Soffee is producing waterproof men’s shorts with pockets in blue and white. Soffee is also producing lingerie for women. (Soffee production on four lines.)
* Fruit of the Loom: Fruit of the Loom is producing children’s t-shirts. (Production on one line).
* Elderwear: Elderwear began production at Chi Fung in November 2009 and 100 new workers were hired to sew their garments.
A Strange Thing Happened
When the NFL/Reebok production stopped (after four years) at the Chi Fung factory, in September 2009, Chi Fung began paying its workers the correct overtime premium. All overtime is still forced, but the workers are now being paid double time ($1.44) for each hour of overtime they work. Again, supervisors explain to the workers that “overtime is required because you have needs and I know the money is not enough for you.”
The workers were not able to explain exactly why all of a sudden the factory had started paying overtime correctly. Perhaps one of the companies finally put pressure on Chi Fung management. Or it could be that so many of the best and fastest workers were quitting Chi Fung because they were being cheated on their overtime pay that the turnover, with new workers continually coming in, was hurting the production and the quality of Chi Fung’s work. New workers have to be trained and it takes time to bring them up to speed.
At the same time that Chi Fung finally started paying the correct overtime premium, they increased factory production goals, forcing the workers to produce more in less time.
What Must Be Done
An Appeal to the NFL and Reebok
The National Labor Committee is anxious to work together with Reebok and the National Football League to improve conditions at the Chi Fung factory in El Salvador. With such well known and powerful labels sewn at Chi Fung –NFL/Reebok, Adidas, Soffee, Elderwear, Fruit of the Loom—it should be possible to combine our efforts to bring their contractor, Chi Fung, into complete compliance with El Salvador’s laws and commitments under the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement. With the right intentions and efforts, Chi Fung could be transformed from a sweatshop into a much better than average or even model plant.
The worst thing Reebok, the NFL and the other labels could do would be to pull their work from the Chi Fung factory.
NFL/Reebok production has been at the Chi Fung factory for years. Cutting and running would only further punish the workers, who have already suffered enough. Reebok, the NFL, Adidas and the others should keep their production in Chi Fung and use their considerable power and influence to improve factory conditions. There is not a consumer in the United States who does not believe that if the NFL and Reebok really wanted to clean up the factory, it would be done quickly and correctly.
(photos not availabale] Reebok NFL Jerseys purchased in Massachusetts for $80 each. Labels match those on Reebok NFL jerseys made in the Chi Fung factory in El Salvador.
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HAITI: "Today, we are voicing our support for what Haiti needs and deserves - comprehensive multilateral debt relief," said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
The US government listened to your call for justice for Haiti and took action. Congratulations on all your hard work.
This morning, the US Treasury announced its support for Haiti's debt cancellation and grants, not loans. "Today, we are voicing our support for what Haiti needs and deserves - comprehensive multilateral debt relief," said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
We couldn't agree more.
In the days following the devastating earthquake on January 12th, Jubilee USA Network helped lead efforts by US civil society to achieve debt cancellation of the $709 million Haiti owes to the international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank. Your calls to the White House, letters to the editor, and now thousands of petitions have shown our leaders that Haiti's debt cancellation is critical.
Last week, over 80 US faith, labor, and human rights organizations sent a letter urging Secretary Geithner to negotiate Haiti's debt cancellation. This message was echoed in another letter sent yesterday by 94 Members of the House of Representatives - Members you called and emailed. Legislative momentum also continues to build in both bodies of Congress.
[Rep. Wm Lacy Clay signed the letter]
This weekend we are sending your petitions to the Artic Circle in Canada, where the G7 finance ministers are meeting to discuss Haiti relief, among other things. The Treasury committed to using its leadership here to make sure that the ministers support debt cancellation for Haiti.
As the country begins to rebuild, debt cancellation without harmful conditions and an assurance that Haiti won't get back into debt are critical and important steps in the right direction.
In the coming days, we'll be watching closely to see how the Treasury and the G7 will fulfill this commitment.
To stay updated, make sure you check out www.jubileeusa.org/haiti and follow our blog "Blog the Debt" at jubileeusa.typepad.org.
67 Nations fund debt relief:
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HONDURAS: Take Action against Impunity!
NEWS: Today, February 4, at 3:00 pm, Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda, a labor union leader with SITRAIHSS, the Workers Union for the Honduran Social Security Institute, was abducted when exiting a workers union meeting at the Stybis building on the Fuerzas Armadas Boulevard in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Her body was found, or rather, dropped off at 4:30 pm in the Loarque neighborhood, well known for the resistance movement against the coup. She had died from a gunshot wound. It is thought that this was done as a clear warning to the resistance.
On January 27, 2010 a new president assumed office in Honduras in what the resistance movement considers an institutionalization of the June 2009, military coup d'état. The Generals directly involved in the coup were granted immunity, reinforcing the culture of impunity that humans rights defenders have worked so hard to dismantle in Honduras.
Today, we are writing to ask you to take action related to the case of Father James "Guadalupe" Carney, a U.S. priest who disappeared in Honduras in 1983 when a small revolutionary group for whom he served as chaplain was attacked and captured by Honduran military forces in a counterinsurgency operation. Although the Honduran military officially denied any involvement or knowledge of the priest's disappearance, a former Honduran army officer later testified that Carney, a longtime defender of human rights for Honduran peasants, had been tortured and executed. The CIA has stated that it cannot rule out the possibility that Carney was captured and killed by the Honduran military.
Our long time friend, Father Joe Mulligan, submitted a FOIA request in 2001 that was never decided. In July 2009, he renewed the request. Support for this request is urgent at this time because 25 years have passed and declassification is more likely.
You can help by sending a letter to President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative, asking them to contact CIA Director Leon Panetta to express their support for a Freedom of Information Act request that Father Joseph Mulligan has sent to the CIA. If you have the time, old-fashioned snail mail letters will be most effective.
This sample letter provides the basic information. You may wish to follow up with phone calls about a week after sending your letter (White House: 202-456-1111; State Department: 202-647-4000; U.S. Capitol: 202-224-3121).
The disappearance of Fr. Carney is significant because he was a U.S. citizen and because of credible allegations that U.S. military and intelligence personnel were directly involved.
Thanks very much for helping to stop impunity in Honduras. Please visit our website for updates and information. www.quixote.org
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COLOMBIA: Struggle for housing Barrancabermeja
Where to go?
By Gladys Gomez Niño
Translated by Phillip Hart
Over the last four months 196 families occupied an area of land on the outskirts of Barrancabermeja in the search for better alternatives and living conditions. These families were all without employment and had no means of paying rent. In December 2009 police evicted them, but they returned within a few days.
Following a stand-off with police on January 15th, representatives from the community, social organizations and the municipal government, met and agreed that to postpone the eviction process till the 19th – 22nd of that month. This was to give time to look for solutions that would permit a voluntary exit and provide security for the community. An agreement was signed on the 21st of January between families and representatives of the city stating that families would leave voluntarily, and the municipality would provide new land where they would be relocated.
On the following day three members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) witnessed most of the community dismantling their homes and preparing to leave their familiar surroundings. There was, however, anxiety among the displaced families who had no local friends or extended families to take them in. Tearful men and women asked CPTers, “Tell us where we are supposed to go. We have children, and we don’t know anyone here in Barranca. Where are we supposed to take these few things we own?”
The riot police surrounding the occupied area constituted an oppressive presence to those families who were following through on their agreement with the city to leave voluntarily. Late in the morning with the temperature rising, it was not clear where families were to go. Members of human rights organizations met with a representative from the city but failed to come to an accord. The displaced families asked for more time, but were turned down. Their hopes crumbled as police reinforcements were called in.
The police insisted that everyone leave, and the families continued the painful process of dismantling their small houses. The city did provide trucks to “help” the people collect their belongings. At 5:00 PM at least 30 families had yet to leave. Police had entered the community earlier in the afternoon and a backhoe stationed at the entrance raised fears of immediate destruction of the barrio.
The morning of the 23rd CPTers returned to verify the relocation process and met with various families who had stayed in Villa Dignidad overnight guarding their belongings. The army and police were present all night as well. A hard rain had fallen during the night, and families who no longer had roofs were soaked. Others went to a promised shelter and were turned away. By the evening of the 23rd the neediest families were relocated to a shelter or given enough money to find temporary housing. The rest were expected to find lodging with extended family or friends while the waited for the city to follow through on their promise of land for relocation.
CPT, as part of the Human Rights Workers Forum (ESPACIO), had visited the community and was present at negotiations. CPT is worried about the status of this group of families courageously looking for a life with dignity that includes not only a dwelling, but employment, education, healthcare, and public services. CPT asks for thoughts and prayers on behalf of the people of Villa Dignidad. They have a right to basic human rights, and the government of Colombia has the obligation to respect those rights and meet the basic needs of living space, protection against violence, and security against continued displacement and violent conflict.
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ANALYSIS: THE US GAME IN LATIN AMERICA
From the Guardian:
The US Game in Latin America
US interference in the politics of Haiti and Honduras is only the latest example of its long-term manipulations in Latin America
By Mark Weisbrot
February 01, 2010 "The Guardian" Jan. 29, 2010 -- When I write about US foreign policy in places such as Haiti or Honduras, I often get responses from people who find it difficult to believe that the US government would care enough about these countries to try and control or topple their governments. These are small, poor countries with little in the way of resources or markets. Why should Washington policymakers care who runs them?
Unfortunately they do care. A lot. They care enough about Haiti to have overthrown the elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide not once, but twice. The first time, in 1991, it was done covertly. We only found out after the fact that the people who led the coup were paid by the US Central Intelligence Agency. And then Emmanuel Constant, the leader of the most notorious death squad there – which killed thousands of Aristide's supporters after the coup – told CBS News that he, too, was funded by the CIA.
In 2004, the US involvement in the coup was much more open. Washington led a cut-off of almost all international aid for four years, making the government's collapse inevitable. As the New York Times reported, while the US state department was telling Aristide that he had to reach an agreement with the political opposition (funded with millions of US taxpayers' dollars), the International Republican Institute was telling the opposition not to settle.
In Honduras last summer and autumn, the US government did everything it could to prevent the rest of the hemisphere from mounting an effective political opposition to the coup government in Honduras. For example, they blocked the Organisation of American States from taking the position that it would not recognise elections that took place under the dictatorship. At the same time, the Obama administration publicly pretended that it was against the coup.
This was only partly successful, from a public relations point of view. Most of the US public thinks that the Obama administration was against the Honduran coup, although by November of last year there were numerous press reports and even editorial criticisms that Obama had caved to Republican pressure and not done enough. But this was a misreading of what actually happened: the Republican pressure in support of the Honduran coup changed the administration's public relations strategy, but not its political strategy. Those who followed events closely from the beginning could see that the political strategy was to blunt and delay any efforts to restore the elected president, while pretending that a return to democracy was actually the goal.
Among those who understood this were the governments of Latin America, including such heavyweights as Brazil. This is important because it shows that the State Department was willing to pay a significant political cost in order to help the right in Honduras. It convinced the vast majority of Latin American governments that it was no different from the Bush administration in its goals for the hemisphere, which is not a pleasant outcome from a diplomatic point of view.
Why do they care so much about who runs these poor countries? As any good chess player knows, pawns matter. The loss of a couple of pawns at the beginning of the game can often make a difference between a win or a loss. They are looking at these countries mostly in straight power terms. Governments that are in agreement with maximising US power in the world, they like. Those who have other goals – not necessarily antagonistic to the United States – they don't like.
Not surprisingly, the Obama administration's closest allies in the hemisphere are rightwing governments such as those of Colombia or Panama, even though Obama himself is not a rightwing politician. This highlights the continuity of the politics of control. The victory of the right in Chile, the first time that it has won an election in half a century, was a significant victory for the US government. If Lula de Silva's Workers' party were to lose the presidential election in Brazil this autumn, that would be another win for the state department. While US officials under both Bush and Obama have maintained a friendly posture toward Brazil, it is obvious that they deeply resent the changes in Brazilian foreign policy that have allied it with other social democratic governments in the hemisphere, and its independent foreign policy stances with regard to the Middle East, Iran, and elsewhere.
The US actually intervened in Brazilian politics as recently as 2005, organising a conference to promote a legal change that would make it more difficult for legislators to switch parties. This would have strengthened the opposition to Lula's Workers' party (PT) government, since the PT has party discipline but many opposition politicians do not. This intervention by the US government was only discovered last year through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in Washington. There are many other interventions taking place throughout the hemisphere that we do not know about. The United States has been heavily involved in Chilean politics since the 1960s, long before they organised the overthrow of Chilean democracy in 1973.
In October 1970, President Richard Nixon was cursing in the Oval Office about the Social Democratic president of Chile, Salvador Allende. "That son of a b****!" said Richard Nixon on 15 October. "That son of a b**** Allende – we're going to smash him." A few weeks later he explained why:
The main concern in Chile is that [Allende] can consolidate himself, and the picture projected to the world will be his success ... If we let the potential leaders in South America think they can move like Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble.
That is another reason that pawns matter, and Nixon's nightmare did in fact come true a quarter-century later, as one country after another elected independent left governments that Washington did not want. The United States ended up "losing" most of the region. But they are trying to get it back, one country at a time. The smaller, poorer countries that are closer to the United States are the most at risk. Honduras and Haiti will have democratic elections some day, but only when Washington's influence over their politics is further reduced.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010 More...
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GUATEMALA: Urgent Action: leader Evelinda Ramírez Reyes killed
from NISGUA: Network in Solidarity with the Guatemalan People:
On January 13, at approximately 8:30pm, Evelinda Ramírez Reyes, community leader and member of organizations FRENA and CUC, was attacked and killed while on he rway home from the Guatemalan capital. Evelinda had just attended a series of meetings on electricity with government officials in the capital. More specifically, Evelinda and other FRENA members filed complaints about the excessive rates charged by service provider DEOCSA-Unión Fenosa and also advocated for the public management of electrical energy distribution.
The Spanish-owned transnational company Union Fenosa has worked in Guatemala since 1998, the year in which Álvaro Arzú's government privatized the distribution of electrical energy. Thousands of users have since filed complaints about the poor quality ofelectrical service and high electricity bills. According to the records of the National Electrical Energy Commission (CNEE for its Spanish acronym), more than90 thousand complaints were filed between the months of January and May 2009 against the two subsidiaries of Union Fenosa in Guatemala: the Distribuidora de Electricidad de Occidente (Western Electricity Distributor - DEOCSA) and the Distribuidora de Electricidad de Oriente (Eastern Electricity Distributor - DEORSA).In the same period the Human Rights Ombudsman's office (PDH) also received 37complaints against DEORSA and 41 against DEOCSA. 
Faced with high electricity bills and few concrete results regarding complaints, community members throughout San Marcos startedto organize within the Frente de Resistencia en Defensa de los Recursos Naturales y Derechos de los Pueblos (Resistance Front in Defense of Natural Resources and the Rights of People and Communities - FRENA). The movement has denounced the high electricity bills and has campaigned for the establishment of a municipal institution that would make electricity a public service accessible to all.
Prior to the recent murders, FRENA leaders had received threats related to their work. The case of Victor Gálvez, a FRENA leader in Malacatán, is emblematic.He was physically assaulted for the first time in July 2009 and was shot to death in broad daylight in the center of Malacatán on October 23, 2009. His death awakened resentment and social unrest, as demonstrated by the roadblocks organized in December of 2009.
In response to the high levels of social unrest in the department, on December 22, 2009, the current administration declared martial law in San Marcos. Declaring martial law severely restricts civil liberties, such as the right to freedom of expression, to freedom of association and to demonstrate. 
On January 11, a delegation of FRENA members arrived in Guatemala City to hold meetings with various civil society organizations, as well as government authorities, such as the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior and the Secretary General of the Presidency. The meetings were organized to present extensive documentation of complaints against DEOCSA.
Shortly after the meetings, the delegation returned to San Marcos. Evelinda Ramírez Reyes and three other male FRENA members noticed that their car was followed by a four-door, white car with two passengers, both men of about 22-24 years of age.
At 8:30 pm, near Km.208, one passenger saw the same car overtake them and block the road. The FRENA members' car was shot at, possibly from another direction, and both Evelinda Ramirez and the driver were hit. The driver and two other passengers were able to escape from the car and hide from their attackers. Once the assailants left the scene, the driver and the two other passengers returned to the car, where Evelinda had died from her wounds. Nothing was stolen during the attack.
Evelinda Ramírez Reyes, 26 years old and a single mother with a five-year-old son, was a member of FRENA and president of the board of the community of Chiquirines, Ocós in San Marcos. She was also a member of the Comité deUnidad Campesina (Peasant Unity Committee -CUC).
RECOMMENDED ACTIONS: Send appeals in Spanish or in your own language to the Guatemalan authorities, with copies to the respective diplomatic headquarters (proposals below):
*Demanding an immediate and exhaustive investigation into the armed attack against the members of FRENA that resulted in the death of Evelinda Ramírez Reyes and the injury of two others.
Urging the authorities to investigate and arrest those responsible for the attack.
*Urging the authorities to transfer the case of Evelinda Ramírez Reyes' murder to the Human Rights Prosecutor working within the office of the Public Prosecutor (Ministerio Publico).
*Asking that immediate measures be taken to guarantee the safety of all FRENA members.
*Urging the government to consider the complaints against Union Fenosa and their subsidiaries DEOCSA and DEORSA, as well as find ways to peacefully resolve the long-term conflict.
SEND APPEALS TO:
Presidentede la República
CasaPresidencial, 6ª Avenida 4-18, Zona 1
Ciudadde Guatemala, Guatemala
Telefax:(00502) 2221 4423 / (00502) 2238 3579
Sr.Raúl Antonio Velásquez Ramos
6ªAvenida 13-71, Zona 1
Ciudadde Guatemala, Guatemala
Telefax:(00502) 2413 8658
Lic.José Amílcar Velásquez Zárate
FiscalGeneral de la República y Jefe del Ministerio Público
8ªAvenida 10-67, Antiguo Edificio del Banco de los Trabajadores, Zona 1
Ciudadde Guatemala, Guatemala
Telefax: (00502) 2411 9124 / (00502) 24119326
Ing. Luis Velásquez Quiroa
Secretario de Coordinación Ejecutiva de laPresidencia
5ª avenida 6-06 zona 1, Edificio IPM nivel 4.
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Ing. Carlos Ivan Meany Valerio
Ministrode Energía y Minas
24calle 21-12, zona 12
Ciudadde Guatemala, Guatemala
General de División Abraham Valenzuela González
Ministro de la DefensaNacional
Avenida "La Reforma" 1-45, zona 10 (antiguaEscuela Politécnica).
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
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PERU: Update on La Oroya and Doe Run Peru
Doe Run Peru, workers in dispute on delayed restart, salaries
By: Francisca Pouiller
30th January 2010
BUENOS AIRES (miningweekly.com) – Doe Run Peru and employees at its shuttered La Oroya smelter have yet to reach an agreement on salary payments after a deadline for reopening the smelter passed this week.
After two meetings held on Thursday between workers and company officials, and another emergency meeting among the staff, the workers agreed to grant six more weeks, as an extension until the smelter opens again, to the company and claimed for Doe Run Peru to pay them 100% of their salaries to cover the period that production was halted.
The lead and zinc smelter was halted on June 1 last year, after banks froze lending to the company, which meant it was unable to pay suppliers, which in turn stopped making concentrate deliveries.
According to local media, representatives of DRP offered to pay 67% of the whole salary to the workers during a period of 90 days.
The company is reportedly close to signing a deal with two major international companies, which would allow operations to resume.
However, it says it needs more time for the negotiations and has requested an extension until April 27.
Peruvian newspaper El Correo reported that, although the parties continue to hold talks, the workers have decided to file an amparo action to protect their jobs.
The amparo remedy or action is a legal instrument used to uphold the constitutional rights of individuals.
Employees also arrived for work on Friday morning and 50 police officers were sent to the smelter, to prevent any violent confrontation.
No incidents were reported.
In response to a request from the workers, seven inspectors arrived to assess the premises, and announced that the material on site would be sufficient to restart the operations.
Edited by: Liezel Hill
Mining Weekly | Base Metals - http://www.miningweekly.com/page/base-metals
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HAITI: Fault Lines in Earthquake "Relief"
No to Militarization, Shock Doctrine Applied; Detention;
Lt. General P.K. Keen, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, reports that there is less violence in Haiti now than there was before the earthquake hit, and Doctor Evan Lyon of Partners in Health stated, "there's also no violence. There is no insecurity," and that the security concerns are being overstated due to "misinformation and rumors… and racism."
"In the day following the quake, there was no widespread violence. Guns, knives and theft weren't seen on the streets, lined only with family after family carrying their belongings. They voiced their anger and frustration with sad songs that echoed throughout the night, not their fists." http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1827/1/
It looks more like the Green Zone in Baghdad than a center for aid distribution. Heavily armed US forces patrol the entrances…several thousand soldiers are on the ground already, and that number is expected to grow. America now decides who lands in Haiti… http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/19/us_accused_of_militarizing_relief_effort
SHOCK DOCTRINE APPLIED
Benjamin Dangl: US corporations, private mercenaries, Washington and the International Monetary Fund are using the crisis in Haiti to make a profit, promote unpopular neoliberal policies, and extend military and economic control over the Haitian people. http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1827/1/
As Noami Klein thoroughly proved in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, throughout history, "while people were reeling from natural disasters, wars and economic upheavals, savvy politicians and industry leaders nefariously implemented policies that would never have passed during less muddled times." This push to apply unpopular neoliberal policies began almost immediately after the earthquake in Haiti… “we have to be absolutely clear that this tragedy, which is part natural, part unnatural, must, under no circumstances, be used to, one, further indebt Haiti, and, two, to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the interests of our corporations." http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/14/naomi_klein_issues_haiti_disaster_capitalism
The Heritage Foundation, "one of the leading advocates of exploiting disasters to push through their unpopular pro-corporate policies," issued a statement on its website stating: "In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region."
IMF chief calls for 'Marshall Plan' for devastated Haiti: $100 million in loans with Structural Adjustment requirements. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j8Kz6gP4s7D7PGEMi5HVD10x6aGA
In June 2009, $1.2 billion of bilateral & multi-lateral debt was cancelled under the HPIC program, but Haiti still owes $890 million to the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, and a handful of others. As Haiti begins to rebuild we can help by lifting this debt.
“Listen, don’t rush on boats to leave the country,” Mr. Joseph (Haiti’s ambassador) says in Creole, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon. “If you do that, we’ll all have even worse problems. Because, I’ll be honest with you: If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”
United States officials say they are laying plans to scoop up any boats carrying illegal immigrants and send them to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Department of Homeland Security officials have also transferred 200 illegal immigrants from the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami — a federal jail for people awaiting deportation — to make room for a possible influx of Haitian migrants. (New York Times, January 19, 2010)
Ten Things the US Can and Should Do for Haiti
By Bill Quigley - January 14th, 2010
Center for Constitutional Rights
One. Allow all Haitians in the US to work. The number one source of money for poor people in Haiti is the money sent from family and workers in the US back home. Haitians will continue to help themselves if given a chance. Haitians in the US will continue to help when the world community moves on to other problems.
Two. Do not allow US military in Haiti to point their guns at Haitians. Hungry Haitians are not the enemy. Decisions have already been made which will militarize the humanitarian relief - but do not allow the victims to be cast as criminals. Do not demonize the people.
Three. Give Haiti grants as help, not loans. Haiti does not need any more debt. Make sure that the relief given helps Haiti rebuild its public sector so the country can provide its own citizens with basic public services.
Four. Prioritize humanitarian aid to help women, children and the elderly. They are always moved to the back of the line. If they are moved to the back of the line, start at the back.
Five. President Obama can enact Temporary Protected Status for Haitians with the stroke of a pen. Do it. The US has already done it for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Sudan and Somalia. President Obama should do it on Martin Luther King Day.
Six. Respect Human Rights from Day One. The UN has enacted Guiding Principles for Internally Displaced People. Make them required reading for every official and non-governmental person and organization. Non governmental organizations like charities and international aid groups are extremely powerful in Haiti - they too must respect the human dignity and human rights of all people.
Seven. Apologize to the Haitian people everywhere for Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh
Eight. Release all Haitians in US jails who are not accused of any crimes. Thirty thousand people are facing deportations. No one will be deported to Haiti for years to come. Release them on Martin Luther King day.
Nine. Require that all the non-governmental organizations which raise money in the US be transparent about what they raise, where the money goes, and insist that they be legally accountable to the people of Haiti.
Ten. Treat all Haitians as we ourselves would want to be treated.
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HONDURAS: Pepe Lobo inaugurated ... Resistance continues
Honduras Lobo moving “in the right direction”, but no US aid restoration yet
Newly-inaugurated Honduran President Porfirio Lobo is taking his country “in the right direction,“ but the United States has not decided whether to restore aid to Honduras, said Arturo Valenzuela, US assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs.
"We haven't made any determinations yet; the US will evaluate the situation before restoring assistance" said Valenzuela, in Honduras for President Lobo's inauguration Wednesday, which ended months of political crisis triggered by the
June 28 overthrow of former president Manuel Zelaya.
Zelaya's ouster sparked international condemnation and prompted several countries, including the United States, to suspend assistance to the country. But as the country's interim de facto leadership moved forward with elections that saw Lobo declared Honduras' next president, several governments have softened their stances.
"The new president of Honduras has taken the country in the right direction," Valenzuela said. He added there was "a lot of enthusiasm" in Tegucigalpa as Lobo was inaugurated, and pledged that the United States would be "evaluating" the situation.
"Things are moving pretty much in the right direction" said Valenzuela pointing out that he held "a very cordial meeting" on Tuesday with Zelaya.
The ousted leader left Honduras on Wednesday for the Dominican Republic after spending months in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa in a failed bid to seek reinstatement.
Conservative “Pepe” Lobo, 62, began his four year mandate at a ceremony with the presence of many local officials but very few foreign leaders (less than twenty five foreign delegations were present). The day before the newly elected Congress voted an amnesty for all those involved in the June 28th coup.
In a similar ruling the Honduran Supreme Court president Jorge Rivera, acting as “special magistrate” absolved the Honduran military commanders involved in the coup, of all criminal responsibilities.
++++++++++++++++++++++++from Rights Action.org:
THE TWO HONDURAS
(by Karen Spring, January 27, 2010)
On January 27, 2010, some 300,000 Hondurans marched in the streets of Tegucigalpa, NOT for the incoming President Pepe Lobo, winner of the illegal presidential “elections” of November 28, 2009, but rather FOR President Mel Zelaya, illegally ousted in the June 28, 2009 military coup.
The pro-democracy, anti-military coup march went from the Pedagogical University in Tegucigalpa to the airport (roughly 12-16 kilometers) on January 27th to bid farewell to President Zelaya, who was escorted from the Brazilian embassy with the President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez.
As the so-called “inauguration ceremony” of incoming president Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo (who, along with his National Party, had openly endorsed and ‘legitimized’ the June 28 military coup) was taking place in a stadium, the Honduran people marched to the airport to see off President Zelaya who was flying to the Dominican Republic.
The simultaneously scheduled events (the formalistic “swearing in” and the huge people’s march) demonstrate the two Honduras (in Felix Molina's words), the two different visions of Honduras: a different vision of what Honduras was like before the coup; a different vision of the 6 month people’s struggle against the oligarchic coup regime, and most certainly a different vision of the future of Honduras.
The Honduran people will not forget nor pardon the repression, murders, torture and deaths that occurred - and continue to occur - as a result of the militarization of the country since June 28th. President Lobo, who is fighting for some sort of recognition of his government by the “international community”, was 'elected' after a military coup and during a time when a campaign of terror and repression was being carried out by the coup regime of Roberto Micheletti and General Romeo Vasquez Valesquez.
The Honduran people do not see the “inauguration” of Pepe Lobo as a defeat of their struggle. Their struggle for the “re-founding” (refundacion) of the Honduran state and society is stronger than ever before and simply enters a new stage.
In no way is this struggle easy and they will need much support over the next years from across the Americas.
HONDURAS: AN ENORMOUS SEND OFF FOR COMPAÑERO MANUEL ZELAYA
Translated by Felipe Stuart, firstname.lastname@example.org
Felipe writes: Habla Honduras published this report of the massive rally of the Honduran national resistance movement against the military coup regime for deposed President Manuel (Mel) Zelaya at the Toncontín International Airport on January 27.
Zelaya flew directly to Santo Domingo where the República Dominicana President Antonio Guzmán Fernández welcomed him with full military honors. Guzmán Fernández declared his country’s ongoing rejection of the Honduran coup regime, and its solidarity with the forces struggling for democracy in Honduras.
The farewell march and demonstration in Tegucigalpa, and the welcoming ceremony in Santo Domingo were televised live on TeleSur and carried by many stations throughout Latin America. However, you hardly become aware of these events if you depended on the Honduran print press and the pro-coup TV and radio media. People in Honduras and who watched Telesur and other truthful news coverage could see the very important encounters: (1) Zelaya with his people from the grassroots resistance and then (2) with a key Latin American government that used his arrival into exile in the Caribbean country to re-affirm Latin American opposition to military coups and to the re-militarization of politics in the Americas.
* * *
HONDURAS: HUGE SEND OFF FOR COMPAÑERO MANUEL ZELAYA
January 29, 2010
More than 350,000 members of the Resistance (national movement against the military coup and de facto regime in Honduras) marched yesterday in Tegucigalpa to the far end of the Aeropuerto Toncontín air strip on the same spot where our first martyr, Obed Murillo, died on that fatal day of July 5, 2009.
Prior to the departure of our compañero Manuel Zelaya, the cultural show put on by Artists in Resistance gave a demonstration of how vital our struggle has become.
The moment of the takeoff of President Mel Zelaya’s plane was very, very moving, an unforgettable historic thread for the hundreds of reactions that provoked chants, tears, assurances of victory and of the founding of a new country in the midst of the send off of the first deposed president of the XXI century in Latin America. [Rights Action note: President Aristide of Haiti was ousted in a military coup in 2004]
Mayra Mejía, former Minister of Labor (in the Zelaya government) presided over a symbolic hand over of the presidential sash to three members of the Resistance – David Montecinos, a child Dionisia; the “Grandmother of the Resistance”; and Juan Barahona, a leader of the FNRP (Frente Nacional de Resistencia-National Liberation Front).
Meanwhile, the National Stadium [where the official “swearing in” ceremony took place] was filled to the brink with soldiers, but the streets of Tegucigalpa again felt the weight of the Honduran Resistance stronger and more determined than ever.
Our path towards the National Constituent Assembly takes on ever greater force!
* * *
Since the June 28th military coup, Rights Action has channeled over $75,000 of your donations and grants to Honduran civil society organizations doing pro-democracy, pro-rule of law, and human rights defense work. Make check payable to "Rights Action" and mail to:
UNITED STATES: Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
CANADA: 552 - 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8
CREDIT-CARD DONATIONS: http://rightsaction.org/contributions.htm
Complete proposal-report available on request.
WHAT TO DO
North Americans must continue to send critical information to our politicians and governments – the governments of Canada and the USA were the most supportive of the military coup, were the first to “recognize” the illegal elections of November 29, 2009, and the first to “recognize” the new government of Pepe Lobo. We must hold our governments partially and significantly accountable for Honduras' State repression.
JOIN AN EDUCATIONAL DELEGATION TO GUATEMALA OR HONDURAS: email@example.com
RECEIVE Rights Action's quarterly newsletter mail list. Send name and address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
CREATE YOUR OWN email and mail lists and re-distribute our information
RECOMMENDED DAILY NEWS: www.democracynow.org / www.upsidedownworld.org / www.dominionpaper.ca
RECOMMENDED BOOKS: Eduardo Galeano's "Open Veins of Latin America"; Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"; Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine"; Paolo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed"; Dr. Seuss's "Horton Hears a Who
++++++++++++++++++++from Quixote Center
Sofia Jarrin has added subtitles to a powerful video documenting repression in Honduras produced by Cesar Silva. The video is available at: http://quixote.org/repression-honduras
Honduran Coup d’état, a ‘win’ for the U.S.?
January 27, 2010
Today, Pepe Lobo will be inaugurated as the new President of Honduras in what many consider to be an institutionalization of the coup d’état which took place seven months ago. Lobo comes to the Presidency as a result of a highly disputed election process carried out by the coup regime. The elections, which have been widely condemned as illegitimate were boycotted by a large percentage of the Honduran population.
U.S. Undersecretary Thomas Shannon, in a maneuver that totally subverted an extended negotiation process, announced that the U.S. would recognize the election, even if there was not a prior return to constitutional order. The U.S. celebrates today’s inauguration as the ‘way forward’ for Honduras and has aggressively pressured other Latin American countries to recognize Lobo’s government.
While the United States is eager normalize the situation and to get on with business as usual, the June 28th coup d’état has yielded unexpected consequences for Washington, both inside and outside of Honduras. Unforeseen by the coup plotters and the United States, the military takeover of Honduras unleashed a broad based, sustained resistance movement inside the country. A spirit long dormant in Honduras was awakened, transforming the country into a hub of political activity previously unimaginable.
The resistance movement has brought together people from many sectors of Honduran society, including large numbers of disaffected Liberal Party members. The unifying theme is that they no longer accept the status quo for their country. Events of the last seven months have accelerated and deepened a process demanding deep structural change. Organizations such as “Los Necios”, a small, left wing organization of students and young people struggled to maintain a membership of around 100. In these few months, their membership has swelled to over 1000.
Currently 57 local expressions of the national resistance organization operate in cities and towns around Honduras. Confounding the coup leader’s strategy, the movement is gaining strength despite brutal repression, state terror and the attempt to institutionalize the coup via elections. The resistance movement is holding large protest marches today and is working to implement a four-year plan for movement building in preparation for the next national elections.
In Latin America, the coup in Honduras is widely understood to be a test case for U.S. policy towards Latin America. By attacking the weakest and most vulnerable of the ALBA countries, the U.S. hoped to strike a blow to this alternative economic block which the U.S. counts as enemy. However, in the wake of the coup, the U.S. found itself in a historically unprecedented position at the OAS. Viewed by Latin American governments from both the right and the left as a potential direct threat to each of them, the OAS took a unanimous position denouncing the coup and ejecting Honduras from the OAS. The U.S. was forced to accept this decision. Most countries in Latin America continue to refuse to recognize the results of the coup regime sponsored “elections” on November 29th despite heavy pressure and arm twisting on the part of the Unites States to do so.
Disappointment stemming from the contradiction between statements of a recently inaugurated President Obama to Latin American heads of state at the Summit of the Americas in April of 2009, and a virtually unchanged U.S. policy has been articulated by leaders throughout Latin America. Three recent ‘moments’ have contributed to a rapid readjustment of expectations. First was the coup in Honduras and refusal of the U.S. to take proactive policy measures against it. Second was the announcement of seven new U.S. military bases in Colombia. And the third was Secretary of State Clinton’s declaration that Latin America countries should “think twice about flirting with Iran.”
The willingness of Latin American countries to challenge U.S. positions indicates a slowly changing balance of power in the Hemisphere. Soon after Arturo Valenzuela was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere he paid a visit to the Mercosur Countries. Far from the diplomatic protocol to which the U.S. is accustomed, in Brazil and Argentina, the first two countries which he visited, Mr. Valenzuela was not received by the President or the Foreign Minister in either country. In a press statement near the time of Valenzuela’s visit, Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim criticized the US for being “extremely tolerant” of the coup and the de facto regime.
What seems most clear is that the U.S. State Department remains mired in an outdated cold war mentality, failing to recognize and adapt to the profound and complex changes that have occurred in Latin America during the last decade. Unfortunately, there seem to be few signs that this will change anytime soon.
Today’s inauguration in Honduras is happening in a context in which the old ghosts from the worst decades of U.S. policy toward Latin America have been conjured in an attempt to silence opposition. The sharp escalation of human rights violations and use of state terror in an attempt to destroy the resistance movement has now entered a phase which human rights defenders describe as “silent, selective and systematic.” Death squads and paramilitaries relentlessly pursue those resisting the coup. Many have been executed, and others have fled in order to save their lives.
The repression continues in the context of a people who are empowered, determined and who are not afraid. The resistance movement has declared that it will not recognize Porfirio Lobo as President, but rather consider him to be the continuation of the dictatorship imposed though the June 28th military coup. Their non-violent struggle for deep structural change via a constituent assembly will continue. What has happened in Honduras serves as a marker for change in Latin America. It signals that attempts by the United States to rule the hemisphere through coercion and force will be met with new and unexpected challenges and forms of resistance.
Honduras’ Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo: Another Disaster for Central American Democracy Waiting in the Wing
by COHA Senior Research Fellow Adrienne Pine
Tomorrow, January 27th, as the world’s eyes continue to be riveted on the unfolding disaster in Haiti, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo will be installed as Honduras’ president, succeeding de facto president Roberto Micheletti. Lobo, a supporter of the June 28th military coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, was chosen in a November election held under conditions of qualified state terror. As the majority of Hondurans boycotted the elections, and dozens of candidates for lower offices withdrew, the vast majority of countries around the world classified the ballot as illegitimate.
In the hours and days following the election, the illegally-appointed Supreme Electoral Tribunal committed fraud by announcing a voter turnout that was indisputably more than 12 percentage points higher than its own officially-published numbers. The doctored higher figure was cited repeatedly by Lobo, Secretary of State Clinton, and other friendly faces to legitimize the disputed ballot. Many Honduran and foreign observers argue that later international support for the Lobo Administration will eventually ensure the invalidation of Zelaya’s most important reforms. This support will guarantee long-term repression and a growing degree of tight-fisted control in the country, as well as endangering democratic institutions and social justice reforms throughout the hemisphere as the result of an echo effect.
Though State Department officials insist that the Honduras election process was transparent, in fact, no international observers were present to confirm the tally because—as announced by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on September 23rd—the conditions for a free and fair election were not present. A scathing 147-page report released Wednesday, January 20th, by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission corroborates this, citing a litany of well-documented human rights abuses, including numerous political assassinations committed prior to, and following the election. The report describes a militarized environment in which dissonant or critical opinions have been officially prohibited in “an egregious, arbitrary, unnecessary and disproportionate restriction, in violation of international law, of the right of every Honduran to express himself or herself freely, and to receive information from a plurality and diversity of sources.”
While no official international observers were on the ground election day, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) sent “monitors” to oversee the Honduran election that the OAS and Carter Center had refused to legitimize with their presence. Both the NDI and IRI are funded by the U.S. Congress through a highly conservative Reagan-era umbrella organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The archly conservative IRI has supported efforts implicated in the ousting of democratically-elected presidents in Haiti and Venezuela in recent years. The day of the election, the NDI had its monitors caught on tape refusing to discuss police violence, which they had witnessed outside the polls in Honduras’ industrial city of San Pedro Sula.
The parallels between Honduras and Haiti are striking; each country has been saddled by a history of undeserved debt—an enduring legacy of colonialism—and in each country’s case (after over a century of often U.S.-installed dictatorships) an elected president who was responsibly engaged with bringing social justice to its citizens, was evicted from office. The vehicle for this was a military coup at least tacitly backed by Washington. By aiding the foes of Manual Zelaya in Honduras and Haiti’s Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Washington indirectly or directly ousted from power those who had been prepared to protect public resources from the pressing demands of the IMF for privatization, and shrink the public sector infrastructure of both countries. The skewed development of these countries, as well as guidance from private entities and the U.S. government, subjected the national interests of Haiti and Honduras to be hostage to the view of these outsiders. This is a situation that could turn the smallest windstorm into a hurricane, when it comes to a natural disaster’s impacts on the average resident and outside political manipulations.
Although President Obama initially joined the international community in condemning the Honduran coup and calling for the restoration of democratic order as a precondition for recognition of elections in that country, Washington in fact has been aggressively lobbying other Latin American presidents to recognize the incoming Lobo government. Despite the de facto government’s refusal to reinstate Zelaya or follow the time line and process laid out by the Guaymuras Accords, the Obama Administration has signaled its intention to recognize a “unity” government representing only the coup leaders, and to support the Honduran Congress’ decision to give amnesty to those responsible for the military coup and the thousands of human rights abuses that followed. In a recent interview with COHA, independent Honduran journalist and filmmaker Oscar Estrada expressed some of the opposition’s apprehensions about Lobo:
“With the entrance on the scene of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, there begins a new phase in the project of domination begun by the June 28th coup d’état. [Lobo’s] recent reconciliation agreement is nothing more than an attempt to whitewash the coup and demobilize the popular resistance.”
Lobo, the man who speaks today of dialogue and peace, has offered safe conduct for Mel Zelaya to leave the country. But, just days ago, he proposed a neoliberal “national plan” for the next 28 years. By means of his own legislative bloc, he seeks to approve an amnesty that principally favors the country’s violators of human rights, and plans to govern with the backing and protection of the paramilitary structures that have terrorized the people during the past six months.
Honduran opponents of the coup, who since June 28th have organized almost daily protest actions, including numerous marches numbering in the hundreds of thousands, similarly plan to protest Lobo’s inauguration.
The Obama Administration has so profoundly bungled the situation in Honduras that it has destroyed hope among many of its citizens as well as Latin Americans that a ‘new era’ of relations with the United States is in the making. Add to that the multiplication of U.S. military bases in Colombia, the mistakes being made in response to the tragedy in Haiti, and the missed opportunities in Cuba, and one cannot claim with any degree of optimism that Obama is off to a robust start to implement an energized and enlightened new Latin American policy.
COHA Senior Research Fellow Adrienne Pine, Ph.D, also serves an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University. Dr. Pine recently authored the book Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras (University of California Press).
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President Funes asks for Forgiveness
On Saturday, January 16th, El Salvador celebrated the 18th anniversary of the signing of the peace accords that ended the Civil War. The Peace Accords were signed in 1992 in Mexico City and were negotiated between the ruling administration, the guerilla forces under the name of the FMLN, and members of other Salvadoran political parties. Over 75,000 people were killed or disappeared during the twelve-year civil war, and, according to the United Nations Truth Commission, 85% of human rights abuses were carried out by the Salvadoran armed forces and paramilitary groups. Soon after the peace accords were signed, a General Amnesty law was put into effect that prevented human rights abusers from being brought to trial, and thus, human rights war crimes remained unpunished, in impunity. After twenty years of an ARENA government, little has been done to move towards a reconciliation process that would allow for healing after the war.
However, the past year has seen the beginnings of change. In November, the Jesuit martyrs were awarded the highest honor that can be given by the Salvadoran government. On January 16, President Funes honored the signing of the peace accords by asking forgiveness for the government's role in the atrocities committed during the civil war. This is the first time that any Salvadoran President has done so. At the end of the ceremony, the President also signed an act that created a commission to find the missing children from the war. The ceremony was followed by a free public event at the National Fairgrounds that included music, dance and cultural acts.
This symbolic act gives great hope that Funes will issue another apology in March for the assassination of Monseñor Romero. While this action is seen a big step towards to the reconciliation and healing process in El Salvador, Salvadorans hope that more concrete steps follow-namely the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed during the war, and ultimitely an overturning of the Amnesty Law.
The FMLN also held a public event commemorating the Peace Accords, led by Vice President Salvador Sanchez Cerén. The Vice President apologized on behalf of the FMLN to the victims of the armed conflict, as the party has done since 1992. In his speech, Sanchez Cerén recognized the important democratic advances that El Salvador has made since 1992, but acknowledged that there is still important work to be done and reiterating the party’s commitment to creating a truly participatory democracy.
An Update on the Situation in Cabañas
Last week, the organizations and communities in El Salvador working against the violence in Cabañas held a press conference and issued a public statement that voiced their concerns and suggestions at what should be done. They made the following points in their statement:
1) The grave situation of mining conflict and impunity in Cabañas is not only a problem for those environmentalists who oppose Pacific Rim, but rather all the popular organizations that work to defend a dignified life, the environment, human rights and democracy. The crimes against these companions are crimes against all Salvadorans who work for peace. For that reason, the whole country should work to mobilize against Pacifice Rim and other transnational companies whose presence is causing conflict in El Salvador.
2) The President of the Republic should take a concrete stance on the prohibition of exploring and exploiting metal mines, thorough support for a new Anti-Mining Law in the National Assembly. A simple public statement that he will not allow mining projects is not enough; it has no legal effect and does not define policy.
A Mining Law, such as the one proposed in October of 2007 by the National Working Group on Metallic Mining, would provoke the exit of mining companies from El Salvador-and in doing so, attack the root of the conflict in Cabañas. At the same time, it would save the country from the great environmental, economic, social and institutional damage that metallic mining causes. Until the law is approved, the President should cancel all existing licenses for metallic exploration.
3) It is urgent that we end the impunity that exists in Cabañas by investigating and punishing the material and intellectual authors in the assassinations of Gustavo Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera Gomez, Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos and her unborn child, and Felicita Henriquez, as well as the threats and murder attempts against environmentalists, staff of Radio Victoria and clergy in Cabañas. All of these cases should be subject to the same investigation.
It is also urgent to implement efficient security measures in the zone to avoid further assassinations.
To do so, it is necesary that the maximum authorities on security-the Attorney General, the Director of the Police, the Minister of Justice and Security, and the President of the Republic-act quickly, as requested by the Human Rights Omsbudsman, Óscar Luna. Luna didn't hesitate in accusing the Attorney General and the Police of negligence in the investigation of the crimes and protection of the victims.
4) The President should also take a firm stance against the lawsuits filed by Pacific Rim and Commerce Group in the CIADI, based on the principle of national sovereignty. To do this, the government, civil society and international solidarity should build a common front that would include a counter-suit against the mining companies for the damage they have caused in the country.
The arbitration of the mining companies also suggests the need to reverse the DR-CAFTA, and avoid signing new trade agreements that would put that State at a disadvantage against the transnational companies. It is also urgent to revise the Investment Law and the bilateral agreements of investment that have been written up to this point.
President Funes Declares: No mining in El Salvador!
On Monday, January 11 in Sensuntepeque, Cabañas, President Mauricio Funes responded directly to a letter presented to him by the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador (the Mesa). He declared, “Here there is no room for confusion, my government will not authorize any mining exploitation project…nor will we permit the existence of systematic disappearances and threats against members of the environmentalist movement.” The President vehemently restated his commitment to keep mining out of El Salvador throughout his comments, insisting that, “No one has convinced us that there exist forms of mineral extraction, especially metals, that do not contaminate the environment and affect public health.” Read more of Funes’ statement.
The letter presented by the Mesa was signed by over 500 individuals and organizations, all present at the January 8th vigil for the four murdered anti-mining activists of Cabañas (see following article). Within the letter, signatories demanded a thorough investigation into the intellectual authors of the assassinations, guaranteed protection for community activists that continue to receive death threats, and a commitment from the government to prohibit metallic mining in El Salvador. These strong statements by the President are considered the successful result of a series of pressure tactics organized by the Mesa to garner the Administration’s support for the anti-mining struggle.
The President, who had taken a position against mining during the campaign but had not recently addressed the topic, went on to say that he had ordered the Ministry of Justice and Security as well as the National Civilian Police (PNC) to investigate the murders. The Mesa expressed satisfaction at Funes’ declarations and urged him to go even further by actively promoting legislation to ban metallic mining in the Legislative Assembly and to firmly confront Pacific Rim and Commerce Group’s lawsuits against the Salvadoran government for alleged violations of the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
Vigil Honors “Anti-mining Martyrs”
On Friday, January 8, the community of Trinidad in the department of Cabañas held a vigil to honor the lives of the four anti-mining activists assassinated in 2009. An estimated 600 people, including community members, supporters from across the country, and international delegations, came to publicly denounce the murders, demand justice for the victims and their families, and bring support, morale, and security to the mourning community of Trinidad. The vigil—which lasted until the early hours of Saturday, January 9—included an ecumenical service, music, and declarations of solidarity from national and international organizations. The crowd periodically erupted in chants of, “What does Cabañas want? Justice!” and “Pacific Rim out of Cabañas!”
To date the Attorney General, a member of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, has maintained that the four murders were a result of common crime, refusing to investigate political motives and intellectual authors of the assassinations. Members of the local anti-mining movement, who have organized against Pacific Rim’s mining projects since 2005, have consistently pointed to the gold mining company as a critical, but deliberately overlooked, aspect of these investigations. However, other high-level government officials, including Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna, have called for a thorough investigation into the political nature of these apparently systematic murders of known anti-mining movement leaders.
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