Weekly News Update on the Americas

Mexico: unionists protest Cananea toxic spill

At least 800 members of Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM, "Los Mineros") began blocking the three main entrances to the giant Buenavista del Cobre copper mine in Cananea, near the US border in the northwestern state of Sonora, on Aug. 20 to protest environmental damage caused two weeks earlier when about 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution spilled from the mine into the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers. Most of the unionists lost their jobs four years ago when the mine's owner, Grupo México S.A.B. de C.V., broke a 2007-2010 strike over health and safety issues. "During the strike we made several complaints about the improper and inadequate measures Grupo México implemented for preventing overflows from the dams" for chemicals and heavy metals, Section 65 director Sergio Tolano Lizárraga told the national daily La Jornada. He said the blockade would continue until the company recognized the workers' old contract. (LJ, Aug. 22)

Honduras: child, journalist murders continue

At least five Honduran minors recently deported from the US were among the 42 children murdered in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, Cortés department, since February, according to Hector Hernández, who heads the city's morgue. The number could be as high as 10, he told Los Angeles Times reporter Cindy Carcamo. In June and July the administration of US president Barack Obama responded to a dramatic increase of tens of thousands of Central American minors seeking refuge in the US by emphasizing that most will be repatriated; the administration even arranged and publicized a special deportation flight of mothers with young children to San Pedro Sula on July 14 . But Carcamo's reporting suggests that publicity won't be enough to stop youths from trying to flee gang violence in Honduras. "There are many youngsters who only three days after they've been deported are killed, shot by a firearm," Hernández said. "They return just to die."

Haiti: Aristide's lawyers question inquiry

Former Haitian prime minister Yvon Neptune (2002-2004) appeared before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire at the judge's Port-au-Prince office on Aug. 22 to answer questions in an inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Bélizaire has notified the authorities that 33 people, most of them connected with Aristide's Lavalas Family (FL) party, are not permitted to leave the country because of their connection with the investigation. After the Aug. 22 session, Neptune, who has broken with Aristide, told reporters that he had no problem answering Bélizaire's summons. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Aug. 23)

Brazil: Haiti mission shaped Rio police unit

Two Brazilian experts in police work have confirmed longstanding claims that the Brazilian military and police used their leading role in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) as a way to train their forces for operations in Brazil's own cities. According to Lt. Col. Carlos Cavalcanti, of the Brazilian Peace Operations Joint Training Center (CCOPAB), the Brazilians were especially interested in the concept of permanent "strong points" in urban areas, which MINUSTAH forces used to "pacify" Port-au-Prince's huge Cité Soleil section in 2005 and the Cité Militaire neighborhood in 2007. "Rio de Janeiro's Militarized Police even sent a group to Haiti while these operations were still being carried out, with the object of taking in the Brazilian army's experiences," Cavalcanti said.

Haiti: opposition grows to mega-mining

At a July 25 meeting in Port-au-Prince, some 28 Haitian organizations expressed their interest in joining a movement to oppose plans under way for open-pit mining in the north of the country, with a focus on gold mining operations by the Vancouver-based Eurasian Minerals company. The meeting was organized by the Collective Against Mining, which was formed a year ago by Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen ("Small Haitian Peasants Unity"), the Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA) and Batay Ouvriye ("Workers' Struggle").

Argentina: US sued at Hague over default

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague said on Aug. 7 that Argentina had asked it to take action against the US for what the South American country called "violations of Argentine sovereignty and immunities and other related violations as a result of judicial decisions adopted by US tribunals" that interfered with the payment of its debts. Financial services agencies declared Argentina in default on July 30 when it failed to arrive at a settlement with a small group of investors led by US hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius Capital Management. A federal judge in New York, Thomas Griesa, had ruled that unless it had an arrangement with the hedge funds, Argentina couldn't make payments to the majority of its creditors, who had agreed to accept discounted exchange bonds.

Cuba: another USAID program exposed

From October 2009 to some time in 2011 the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored a program that paid almost a dozen youths from Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela to travel to Cuba in order to obtain intelligence information and identify potential government opponents among students and other youths, according to an investigation that the Associated Press (AP) wire service published on Aug. 4. The revelation comes four months after AP reported on the agency's ZunZuneo "Cuban Twitter" program. Like ZunZuneo, the program employed the Washington, DC-based private contractor Creative Associates International for operations. Analysts said these revelations indicate that the US is losing interest in the older generation of Cuban dissidents and is trying to develop opposition among younger Cubans.

Latin America: more nations recall Israel envoys

A total of five Latin American governments had recalled their ambassadors to Israel as of July 29 in an escalation of diplomatic protests against an operation the Israeli military had been carrying out in the Palestinian territory of Gaza since July 8. With the Palestinian death toll passing 1,500—including more than 300 children—centrist and even rightwing Latin American governments started joining left and center-left government in distancing themselves from the main US ally in the Middle East.

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