Weekly News Update on the Americas
Students, teachers and parents attacked government office buildings in Chilpancingo, the capital of the southwestern state of Guerrero, on Oct. 13 in ongoing protests over the killing of six people, including three students, and the disappearance of 43 other students in Iguala de la Independencia the night of Sept. 26-27. The demonstrators blocked the entrances to the main state office building from around 11 am, keeping some 1,500 employees trapped for more than five hours. In the evening, after some skirmishes with riot police, the protesters broke into one of the buildings and set it on fire. There were also attacks on various vehicles and on Chilpancingo's city hall. (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 14)
A secret July 1987 Salvadoran military document revealing the methods the army used during El Salvador's 1979-1992 civil war was made public for the first time on Sept. 28, International Right to Know Day. Entitled the "Yellow Book" ("Libro Amarillo"), the 270-page document is a compilation the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces' Intelligence Department (C-II) made of 1,915 entries about people the military considered "criminal terrorists." Of these, 1,857 individuals were identified by name, along with nicknames and photographs. The people named were members of unions, political parties, and groups of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), including current Salvadoran president Salvador Sánchez Cerén.
US government policies for dealing with unauthorized migrants at the Mexico-US border are endangering Hondurans and other Central Americans by sending them back to their home countries without adequate consideration of their asylum claims, according to a 44-page report that the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization released on Oct. 16. "In its frenzy to stem the tide of migrants from Central America, the US is sending asylum seekers back to the threat of murder, rape and other violence," said Clara Long, the HRW researcher who wrote the report, "'You Don't Have Rights Here': US Border Screening and Returns of Central Americans to Risk of Serious Harm."
The administration of US president Barack Obama announced on Sept. 30 that it planned to set up processing centers in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras so that children from these countries could apply for US refugee status without actually entering the US. Officials said the new policy came in response to the spike over the last year in illegal crossing into the US by unaccompanied minors and by women with small children. The number of Central American children admitted through the program would be small, however, according to an administration memorandum which provides for a total of 70,000 refugees to be admitted in fiscal 2015, the period from October this year through September 2015. This only includes 4,000 refugees from all of Latin American and the Caribbean, although some Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans could be admitted through another 2,000 slots not specified for particular regions. (CNN México, Oct. 1; New York Times, Oct. 1)
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Mexico and internationally on Oct. 8 to protest the killing of six people and the wounding of at least 20 more the night of Sept. 26-27 by municipal police and people in civilian dress in the city of Iguala in the southwestern state of Guerrero. The demonstrators demanded the return of 43 students who have been missing since that night; all are from the militant Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the town of Ayotzinapa. "They were taken alive, we want them back alive" and "We are all Ayotzinapa" were among the slogans protesters chanted in at least 25 Mexican states and 60 cities, including many in other countries, along with calls for the Guerrero state government and Mexico’s federal government to "go away.”
On Oct. 1 a Guatemalan court began hearing the case of Pedro García Arredondo, a former chief of the National Police who is charged with causing the deaths of 37 people in a fire at the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City on Jan. 31, 1980. "We finally want to close a cycle of our sorrow, of our suffering," indigenous activist and 1992 Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum told reporters the day before the trial was to start. "It's painful to carry this," said Menchú, whose father, campesino activist Vicente Menchú, died in the fire.
Hundreds of Haitians attended a private funeral mass on Oct. 11 in Port-au-Prince for "president for life" Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc”) Duvalier (1971-1986), who had died suddenly of a heart attack while eating breakfast with a friend the morning of Oct. 4 (not the night of Oct. 3 as reported previously). The government of President Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky”) apparently decided not to hold a state funeral for the late dictator, and Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe stayed away from the mass, as did the diplomatic corps. Former president Gen. Prosper Avril (1988-1990) and former acting president Boniface Alexandre (2004-2006) attended. Duvalier’s coffin was covered with a Haitian flag—but the current red and blue flag, not the red and black flag used by the 1957-1986 Duvalier family dictatorship. (Miami Herald, Oct. 11, from correspondent)
On Oct. 4 authorities in the southwestern state of Guerrero announced that they had found charred human remains in a group of mass graves in Iguala de La Independencia municipality, at Pueblo Viejo community in the countryside northwest of the city. Guerrero chief prosecutor Iñaky Blanco Cabrera would only say that there were human bones and that specialists would need to use DNA tests to identify the victims. State police agents at the site on Oct. 4 told reporters off the record that there could be anywhere from four to 19 bodies, but on Oct. 5 Blanco Cabrera said the total number was 28. It seemed likely that the remains were of teachers' college students missing since the night of Sept. 26-27, when Iguala police opened fire on three buses carrying students from the militant Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College, located in the town of Ayotzinapa. Originally 25 students were reported missing after the incident, but parents and student leaders later raised the number to 43.