Archive for March, 2013

International delegation coming to Brazil to denounce violence in the fields

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

The visit is in response to an increase in intimidation and violence against activists

[Translation of an article from Brasil de Fato for March 28, 2013. See original here.]

An international delegation from the “Alternative Nobel Prize” (Right Livelihood Award) will visit Brazil between April 1 and 4 to seek justice and clarification of crimes committed against members of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra (MST – Landless Workers’ Movement) and the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT – Pastoral Land Commission).

The visit is in response to the increase in cases of intimidation and violence against social activists in Brazil. In a single year the number of activists in the country receiving threats increased by 117.6 percent. The delegation will visit the city of Marabá, in Pará, in the northern region of the country.

Among the members of the international group are two recipients of the Alternative Nobel Prize, Angie Zelter, a representative of the British organization Trident Ploughshares (awarded in 2001) and the Argentine biologist Raúl Montenegro (in 2004). Also participating will be Marianne Andersson, a member of the Directing Board of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation and former member of the Swedish parliament. She says, “The delegation will come to express solidarity with Brazilian activists, to denounce the crimes and attacks that social activist in this country are being subjected to and to demand the immediate implementation of agrarian reform.”

Violence in the fields

The choice of Pará to receive the delegation’s visit is due to the fact that the state has the highest rate of what is called slave labor and of threats against defenders of human rights, according to the report of a 2005 investigation by the International Federation for Human Rights. The CPT reports that of 29 assassinations of Brazilian rural activists in 2011, twelve were in Pará. Furthermore, according the the MST, there is a strong climate of impunity in the region.

The CPT confirms that the number of activists in the country being threatened increased from 125 to 347 between 2010 and 2011, according to the report “Conflictos no Campo: Brasil.” The most recent case of an attack against a Brazilian activist involved in the struggle for agrarian reform was the assassination of Cicero Guedes, an MST leader, shot to death in Rio de Janeiro by gunmen who are as yet unidentified.


The delegation will take part in a public debate on the impunity that human rights violators enjoy. The event will be held in the Universidade do Estado do Pará in Marabá on April 2…

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El Salvador: Roberto Cañas optimistic about ending impunity

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

canas[Translation of an article from ContraPunto of San Salvador for March 25, 2013. See original here. Long-time activist Roberto Cañas was a signatory to the peace accords of 1992 that marked the end of the 12-year civil war in El Salvador.]

By David Ernesto Pérez

San Salvador – Once the civil war was over, the Truth Commission was installed in El Salvador for the purpose of investigating hundreds of massacres, summary executions and disappearances. On March 15, 1993, the group submitted to the United Nations a report concluding that 85 percent of the crimes committed in the conflict were the responsibility of the armed forces.

On the same day that the members of the Truth Commission – Belisario Betancur, Thomas Buergenthal and Reinaldo Figueredo Planchart – submitted the results of their investigation, which had taken more than six months, then President Alfredo Cristiani Burkard of the ARENA party [Alianza Republicana Nacionalista] was promoting the implementation of an “immediate amnesty.” (more…)

Dominican Republic: Public hearings threatened in Barrick Gold case

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Chamber of Deputies president says Treasury Committee will seek advise from Ecuador

[Translation of an article from Listín Diario of Santo Domingo for March 25, 2013.  See original here and related article here.]

By Ramón Pérez Reyes

Chamber of Deputies President Abel Martínez has announced that once Holy Week is over, if there have been no significant advances in the negotiations between President Danilo Medina and executives of the Barrick Gold mining company, the lower chamber will hold public hearings in the National Assembly hall.

He said the object is to hear all sectors of the nation who have concerns, suggestions and opinions about the contract covering exploitation of the mine in Pueblo Viejo, Cotuí

Meanwhile, Senator Félix Nova said senators are awaiting only the president’s decision before taking action against the mining company. (more…)

Brazil: McDonald’s fined over labor violations

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Fast food chain signs agreement with Ministry of Labor to regularize work hours

[Translation of an article from Brasil de Fato for March 22, 2013. See original here and related article here.]

By Michelle Amaral

Arcos Dourados, the largest McDonald’s franchise in Brazil, and the Ministério Público do Trabalho (MPT — Public Ministry of Labor) of Pernambuco [a state in northeastern Brazil] signed an agreement on Thursday, March 21, that puts an end to variable and changeable work days, as practiced throughout the country by the fast-food chain. In addition, the company will have to regularize a number of other labor questions in its 640 locations.

The agreement also requires the payment of 7.5 million reais [about US$3.75 million] in collective personal injury. Of this amount, 1.5 million reais will be divided into three parts, to be distributed to worker assistance programs in the states of Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and Paraná. The choice of the states results from judicial actions involving the fast food chain. The remaining six million reais will be used for a national “Respect for Workers’ Rights” project. Initially, the MPT had sought compensation of 50 million reais. (more…)

Venezuela: Nicolás Maduro, the driving force

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

[Translation of an article from La Jornada of Mexico City for March 19, 2013. See original here and related article here.]

By Luis Hernández Navarro

Nicolás Maduro is a large, robust man, 1.90 meters tall, with a thick black mustache, who drove a city bus in Caracas for more than seven years, was foreign minister another six and is now acting president of Venezuela and a candidate for that office. He is part of the new generation of Latin American presidents who, like the metal worker Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva or the coca union activist Evo Morales, came into politics from the trenches of opposition social struggles.

Maduro is a revolutionary socialist who altered his original orthodox development to join the heterodox hurricane of the Bolivarian revolution. He is a man of the Left who came to power without giving up his principles. A faithful collaborator with Hugo Chávez who has made himself and is now at the helm of one of the most profound transformational processes in Latin America. (more…)

Dominican Republic: Criminalization of abortion is shameful for the country

Thursday, March 21st, 2013


((Sergia Galván))

[Translation of an article from the website of Santo Domingo for March 17, 2013. See original here and related articles here and here. The Dominican legislature in September, 2009, approved a measure introduced by then President Leonel Fernández to amend the constitution to declare  the right to life inviolable beginning at conception.]

Santo Domingo, March 17 – After labeling the criminalization of abortion one of the most shameful provisions of the Dominican legal system, the Colectiva Mujer y Salud [Women and Health Collective] today called on congress to approve a revision of the penal code in order to free women and girls from forced motherhood who have been raped or whose health is in danger as a result of pregnancy.

The organization, led by Sergia Galván, holds that in this matter the Dominican Republic is decades behind the rest of the world, “being one of only six counties that still impose an absolute prohibition.” (more…)

Argentina: A change of skin

Monday, March 18th, 2013

[Translation of an article from Página/12 of Buenos Aires for March 17, 2013.  See original here.]

The first press conference Pope Francis’ spokesman gave was for the purpose of detaching him from Jorge Mario Bergoglio, accused of turning two priests over to the ESMA [Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada]. Since the statements and the documents are incontestable, the method chosen was to discredit those who circulated them, characterizing this newspaper as leftist. The traditions were followed: it is the same thing that Bergoglio said about Jalics and Yorio to those who kidnapped them.

By Horacio Verbitsky

In his first meeting with the press after the election of the Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, his spokesman, Federico Lombardi, also a Jesuit, dismissed as old calumnies of the anti-clerical Left, spread by a newspaper characterized by defamatory campaigns, the allegations on the performance of the former provincial of the Company of Jesus during the Argentine dictatorship and, especially, the role he played in the disappearance of two priests under him, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics. Argentine opposition media and politicians at the same time included the article “Un Ersatz,” published in this paper the day after the papal election, among Kirchnerista reactions to Bergoglio’s enthronement.  In addition, a sector of the governing party chose to acclaim him as “Argentine and Peronista,” the same slogan with which José Rucci is remembered every September, and to deny the incontestable facts. (more…)

Maduro, the bus driver who is steering Venezuela now

Friday, March 15th, 2013

[Translation of an article by the Spanish news agency EFE as published in Semana of Bogotá, Colombia, on March 11, 2013. See original here and related article here.]

Who is the man who began at the steering wheel of a bus and went on to the presidency of a country?

“Nicolás, Nicolás. You are the best proof of the achievements of our revolution. A few years ago you were driving a bus and now you are foreign minister.” The words are those of Hugo Chávez and although he broke out in laughter after he said them the feeling remained that the then president of Venezuela was speaking very seriously and that Maduro’s change of jobs was a demonstration that there had been a historical social turnabout in the country.

And something else remained clear in this account and that is the mutual loyalty. The designated president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, anointed by Chávez as his heir and since last Monday the candidate of the ruling party for the April 14 elections, is a staunch Chavista who swears loyalty even beyond the death of his mentor. (more…)

Dominicans rebel against Barrick gold

Monday, March 11th, 2013

[Translations of four articles from the Dominican Republic on challenges to the terms of a contract between the Canadian mining company Barrick Gold and the Dominican government covering operation of the Barrick mine at Pueblo Viejo.  See related articles here, here and here.  The mine, one of the oldest gold mines in the Americas, is in the Cibao region of the country, on a belt of mineral-rich and fertile land stretching from northwestern Haiti, site of another recent conflict over gold and copper mining operations.  For more on the Haitian conflict, go here.]

President Danilo Medina calls Barrick Gold contract “simply unacceptable”

[From Despertar Dominicano of Santo Domingo for February 27, 2013. See original here.]

Santo Domingo – President Danilo Medina has described as “unacceptable” the portions of benefits divided between the Barrick Gold mining company and the Dominican state.

At the same time, the president announced that his administration will direct efforts toward a renegotiation of the contract.

He warned that if the fiscal terms of the contract are not modified by mutual agreement in the next few years, Barrick will keep practically everything and the people will be left with nothing.

“Dominican men and women, I, Danilo Medina, assure you that that will not happen,” he declared.


Argentine justice system puts Videla and Bignone on the dock

Saturday, March 9th, 2013


((Jorge Videla, left, and Reynaldo Bignone))

Both ex-dictators and more than 20 other defendants will be tried for their part in the persecution and detention of opponents under Plan Cóndor

[Translation of an article from El Observador of Montevideo, Uruguay, for March 4, 2013. See original here.]

The Argentine justice system on Tuesday will bring to trial ex-dictators Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone for their alleged responsibility for the persecution and detention of opponents under “Plan Cóndor,” which involved the cooperation of Southern Cone dictatorships in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Among the 25 defendants in the evidentiary hearing for crimes against humanity are also the former minister of the interior of the Argentine dictatorship of 1976 to 1983, Albano Harguindeguy, and ex-Generals Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, Antonio Bussi, Santiago Riveros and Ramón Díaz Bessone. (more…)

“Little Haiti”: Chilean city attracts recent wave of Haitian immigration

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Stories of trafficking of immigrants are common in Quilicura, home of the largest Haitian community in the country

[Translation of an article from Opera Mundi of São Paulo, Brazil, for March 2, 2013. See original here.]

By Víctor Farinelli

Fewer than 20 ten years ago, Haitians now number almost 4,000 in Chile as a whole. The majority come through the Dominican Republic, drawn by promises of jobs and prosperity, but are then abandoned to their own fate in a country with a cold climate and a scant welcome for new inhabitants.

Between 2009 and 2011, 2,600 new Haitians came into the South American country, compared with the little more than 700 who left. In 2011 alone, of the 1,369 who arrived, 1,056 managed to stay in Andean lands.

There are many reasons for the phenomenon, but one of the main ones is the work of immigrant trafficking gangs. Although many Haitians who live in South America have passed through countries like Peru, Argentina and Brazil, the bulk of the flow into Chile comes directly through the Dominican Republic. There are at least two gangs operating there who take them directly to Santiago. (more…)

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico: What Calderón isn’t teaching at Harvard

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

[Translation of an op-ed from La Jornada of Mexico City for March 1, 2013. See original here and the article by Felipe Calderón here.]

By Víctor M. Quintana S.

He will probably think that after reading his article published in Latin American Policy Journal they, like his entourage in Mexico, will say “Very well, Mr. President.” But what is certain is that only the indulgent professors, poorly informed concerning our beloved border, will swallow what Calderón claims about the success of his strategy against violence in Juárez.

In his article, “Todos Somos Juárez:  An Innovative Strategy to Tackle Violence and Crime,” Calderón relates that the strategy he put in place had three main components: sending in the army and the federal police; supporting local and state authorities in enforcing the law; and operating the Todos Somos Juárez program in order to reconstruct the battered social structure of the border. (more…)