Weekly News Update on the Americas

Haiti: Martelly pledges to resolve electoral crisis

Haitian president Michel Martelly announced on Nov. 28 that he was setting up an 11-member commission to make recommendations within eight days on how to break a deadlock holding up long-overdue partial legislative elections. Haiti hasn't had any elections since March 2011 runoffs from the 2010 elections. Elections were scheduled in 2012 for 10 of the country's 30 senators but have been postponed for two years because Martelly's government wants changes to Haiti's electoral laws and six opposition parties refuse to accept the amendments. The terms for the 10 senators expire on Jan. 12; in the absence of elections, President Martelly could say the Senate lacked a quorum and could try to rule by decree. This in turn would set off a constitutional crisis, since the current 10 senators announced Nov. 17 that they would refuse to step down in January if no elections were held.

Mexico: Peña pledges to resolve Ayotzinapa crisis

In a Nov. 27 address Mexican president Peña Nieto announced that he was sending the Congress a series of proposed constitutional amendments he said were intended to resolve a crisis brought on by the killing of six people and the abduction of 43 students the night of Sept. 26-27 in the southwestern state of Guerrero. According to federal prosecutors, corruption in the municipal government and police in the city of Iguala de la Independencia were behind the violence; the police and the mayor, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, were reportedly linked to the local drug gang Guerreros Unidos ("United Warriors"). Peña Nieto's amendments would end the independence of the police in Mexican municipalities and bring them under the control of state police departments. The president also proposed strengthening laws for the protection of victims. In his presentation Peña Nieto tried to associate himself with popular demands for the return of the 43 missing students by using a slogan repeated throughout the many national and international protests since the attacks: "We are all Ayotzinapa." The missing students and three of the six people known dead attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. (La Jornada, Nov. 28, Nov. 28)

Mexico: two defenders of migrants are murdered

Two volunteers who helped feed Central American migrants passing through Mexico were shot dead on Nov. 23 while talking in their car near the house where they lived in Huehuetoca, México state, according to human rights defenders speaking at a Nov. 26 press conference. The victims were identified as Adrián, a local resident who described himself as a transvestite, and Wilson, a Honduran migrant who was granted a humanitarian visa by the government in November after testifying to the Assistant Attorney General's Office for Special Investigations on Organized Crime (SEIDO). Human rights defenders asked the media not to use the volunteers' last names in order to protect their families.

Central America: refugee 'crisis' plan gets a debut

The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) hosted a special event on Nov. 14 in Washington, DC to present a plan that El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras—Central America's "Northern Triangle"—are proposing as a response to the spike earlier this year in immigration to the US by minors from their countries. The "Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle: A Road Map" was originally released in September and is similar to programs announced at a July summit in Washington. However, the IADB event, with US vice president Joseph Biden and the three Central American presidents in attendance, "was the real 'coming out' party for the proposals," the DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) wrote in its "Americas Blog."

Honduras: campesino leader murdered in Aguán

Juan Angel López Miranda, a campesino leader in the Lower Aguán River Valley in the northern Honduran department of Colón, was murdered on Nov. 11 in the Ilanga Viejo neighborhood of Trujillo municipality, according to a communiqué from the Agrarian Platform, an alliance of campesino groups and nongovernmental organizations. Also known as "Juan Galindo," López Miranda was a leader in the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and headed the largest campesino settlement in the valley, with 1,500 campesino residents. López Miranda was attacked by two armed men on a motorcycle, the communiqué said, and was hit by eight bullets.

Mexico: protests growing in 'failed state'

On Nov. 20 tens of thousands of protesters marched through downtown Mexico City in the fourth National and Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa, demanding the return of 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College, located in Ayotzinapa in the southwestern state of Guerrero. The students were abducted the night of Sept. 26-27 in the Guerrero city of Iguala de la Independencia, apparently in a joint action by municipal police and local drug gangs; three other students were killed in the incident, along with three bystanders. The Nov. 20 demonstration, which also marked the official anniversary of the start of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, coincided with the arrival in the capital of three caravans led by parents of the missing students; the parents had spent a week traveling through different parts of Mexico to increase public awareness about the disappearances.

Haiti: marchers shot at battle commemoration

At least four demonstrators were wounded in the northern Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas on Nov. 18 when counter-demonstrators opened fire on an opposition march commemorating the anniversary of the 1803 Battle of Vertières, which marked the final defeat of French forces trying to regain control of Haiti. The several hundred marchers had reached the neighborhood of Delmas 32 and were about to turn back toward downtown Port-au-Prince when they were met with a hail of rocks. The marchers responded with more rocks, and the police used tear gas against the attackers. The gunfire started a little later. Two people were hit in the neck, one in the knee and one in the side; all four were taken away for medical care. The police said they recovered more than a half-dozen 9 mm caliber cartridges from the site. The marchers dispersed after the attack.

SOA activists march on detention center

Seven activists were arrested from Nov. 22 to Nov. 23 for nonviolent acts of civil disobedience during the 25th annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. The protest's sponsor, SOA Watch, opposes the US Army's training of Latin American soldiers, charging that SOA graduates have been among the region's most notorious human rights violators. A special focus on the US government's treatment of immigrants marked this year's activities, which followed US president Barack Obama's Nov. 20 announcement that his government would grant a temporary deferral from deportation for several million undocumented immigrants.

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