As tens of thousands of activists from around the world converge on Tunisia for the World Social Forum, the annual anti-globalization confab, the country is facing a pending peckage of austerity measures as the condition of a $1.78 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund—two years after economic misery sparked an uprising in the country that unleashed the Arab Revolutions. "We need to have economic reforms that work for the people, not for the global economy," Mabrouka Mbarek, a member of Tunisia's constituent assembly, told Al Jazeera. "It seems they have forgotten our history." (Al Jazeera, March 26)
Officially, US State Department aid to the Honduran National Police must bypass units under the direct supervision of the force's overall commander, Director General Juan Carlos Bonilla AKA "El Tigre"—who in 2002 was accused of three extrajudicial killings and links to 11 more deaths and disappearances in so-called "social cleansing" operations. He was tried on one killing and acquitted; the other cases were never fully investigated. But an investigation by the Associated Press, based on interviews with unnamed Honduran officials, finds that all police units are actually under Bonilla's direction. Speaking on record was Celso Alvarado, a criminal law professor and consultant to the Honduran Commission for Security and Justice Sector Reform, who said the same. "Every police officer in Honduras, regardless of their specific functions, is under the hierarchy and obedience of the director general," he said.
Radio Espinar, the local transmitter in Espinar province of Peru's Cuzco region, issued a public protest charging that it was arbitrarily ordered closed by the Transport and Communications Ministry (MTC) March 18, charaterizing the move as "repression." The MTC said the decision not to renew the license was taken because the station had failed to pay an application fee and its equipment was found inadequate. But Matilde Taco Llave, daughter and legal representative of station owner Marcelino Taco Quispe, called the closure a disproportionate move, and said it was really motivated by the station's aggressive coverage of last year's local protests against the mineral operations of multinational Xstrata. "This is a consequence of having given information about what happened in the social conflict," she said. "We are sure that this is the cause."
Peru's Amazonian indigenous alliance AIDESEP released a statement March 20 protesting what they charged are irregularities in the criminal case over the June 2009 violence at Bagua. Days earlier, the local court that had been hearing the case, the Transitory Liquidative Penal Chamber of Bagua, adbicated its authority in the case against several indigenous leaders and turned it over to the National Penal Chamber, based in Lima. The National Penal Chamber officially only hears cases involving terrorism or arms and drug trafficking. AIDESEP said the transfer of the case is intended to imply that "the just struggles of indigenous peoples for the survival of their communities and humanity, as ocurred in the indigenous mobilization of 2008-2009, are acts of terrorism, and this we will not allow." (AIDESEP, March 20)
Three campesino leaders from Tarqui village in Ecuador's southern highland province of Azuay began an eight-day jail term in the provincial capital Cuenca on March 21, convicted of having disrupted the local water supply during a May 2010 protest against the Quimsacocha mining project, run by Canadian multinational Iamgold. Residents say the Quimsacocha project (also rendered Kimsacocha) will degrade and deplete local water sources. Ironically, the jail term for the three leaders—Carlos Pérez Guartambel, Efraín Arpi and Federico Guzmán—began on the eve of World Water Day, March 22, when a march on Cuenca had already been planned to demand local water rights and oppose large-scale mining projects. The march, which brought out several hundred, began with a ceremony in support of the jailed leaders at Cuenca's judicial building. "This is called the criminalization of struggle," said Delfín Tenesaca, president of the highland indigenous alliance ECUARUNARI. (El Tiempo, Cuenca, Kaos en La Red, March 22; La Tarde, Cuenca, Ecuavisa, March 21)
Reprisals are feared in a sensitive part of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest following an attack by "uncontacted" tribesmen in which two members of the Waorani indigenous people were killed March 5. According to a preliminary investigation by the Orellana province public prosecutor's office, the victims were speared to death while walking near their village of Yarentaro, located along the Maxus Oil Road—within both Yasuní National Park, and the Bloc 16 oil exploration division, being developed by Repsol. The victims were identified as a Waorani elder and his wife. A statement by the Organization of the Waorani Nationality of Orellana (ONWO) said the attackers were from an isolated band of the Tageiri-Taromenane, which has long had territorial disputes with the closely related Waorani. The Taromenane are said to be a branch of the Waorani who spurned contact with evangelical missionaries in the 1950s by retreating deeper into the forest, and now roam the interior Yasuní as nomads.
Workers started a 72-hour strike at the Somina uranium mine in northern Niger March 20, demanding better wages and the release of unpaid bonuses. A spokesman for the Syntramines union told Reuters 680 workers have downed tools for the strike, which could be extended to an open-ended stoppage if demands were not met. Somina is run by the uranium unit of the China National Nuclear Corporation, Sino-U, in a partnership with Niger's government. The mine, in the remote Agadez region, was established in 2007, producing 700 tons annually. Niger is also top uranium supplier to France, which is expanding operations. Areva’s Imouraren mine is expected to more than double the French company's current production in Niger when it comes online in 2014, with expected output of 5,000 tons per year. (Reuters, March 21; Asia Daily Wire, Press TV, March 20)