from Weekly News Update on the Americas


As they did last year, many Central American workers marked May 1 with demonstrations protesting the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a US-sponsored trade bloc composed of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the US. Many marchers also expressed solidarity with hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers demonstrating the same day in the US.

More than 20,000 workers, indigenous people, unionists, women and older people marched in Guatemala City, burning US flags and effigies of US president George W. Bush and Guatemalan president Oscar Berger. “The DR-CAFTA is a plague that will kill the people who live in extreme poverty,” campesino leader Daniel Pascual told the ACAN-EFE wire service. “Today is a day of Latin America inside the US,” said Jose Pinzon, a leader of the General Workers Central of Guatemala (CGTG), one of the country’s largest labor federations. The more than 1.2 million Guatemalans living in the US sent $3 billion back to Guatemala in 2005; some 60% of them are reportedly undocumented. US restaurant chains in Guatemala City’s historic center seemed empty as workers honored a boycott of US products in support of immigrants’ demands. (La Nacion, Costa Rica, May 1)

Thousands of Honduran workers, students, campesinos, indigenous peoples and others marked May 1 in 10 different cities to oppose DR-CAFTA, to show support for immigrants in the US and to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of a strike against the US-based Chiquita Brands and Standard Fruit companies which revitalized the Honduran labor movement at the time. “No unionist consumed any product from US companies today. This way we showed the empire, the US, how important we Latinos are to the US economy,” said Carlos H. Reyes, leader of the Popular Bloc, which is made up of more than 40 different grassroots and leftist organizations. According to official statistics, nearly a million Honduran live the US and one half are undocumented. Popular Bloc supporters blocked avenues and roads in a number of the cities where they marched. (La Prensa, Tegucigalpa, May 1)

Hundreds of Salvadoran workers marched in San Salvador in a demonstration sponsored by labor unions, grassroots organizations and the leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN). Workers in El Salvador are “trampled on every day,” Nidia Diaz, an FMLN deputy to the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), told Radio Maya Vision. This and the lack of job opportunities is what provokes the migration of Salvadoran workers to the US, she said. (La Nacion, May 1)

In Nicaragua, unions and organizations affiliated with the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) led a march to the Colonia Primero de Mayo in eastern Managua to protest the 16 years of neoliberal economic policies promoted by right-wing governments that followed the FSLN’s electoral defeat in 1990. The FSLN is gearing up for Nov. 5 presidential and legislative elections. Organizers estimated that more than 3,000 people participated in the march. (La Prensa, Managua, May 2; El Nuevo Diario, Managua, May 1)

According to organizers, more than 5,000 Costa Ricans from 300 organizations marched in San Jose in a protest against DR-CAFTA. Costa Rica signed on to DR-CAFTA in 2004 but its legislature has not yet ratified the treaty; the legislatures of all the other signatories have completed the ratification process. “[T]he central goal of the protest is to show our opposition to the free trade agreement in order to defeat it,” Jesus Vazquez, president of the Association of Secondary School Teachers (APSE), told the ACAN-EFE wire service. “No to TLC” and “TLC=Poverty” were typical signs, using the Spanish initials for “free trade agreement.”

The march included an organized presence from the lesbian-gay rights movement, following the decision of the First Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Conference, held in Heredia province near San Jose on April 28-30, to issue a declaration against DR-CAFTA. At the march Abelardo Araya, president of the Diversity Movement, cited DR-CAFTA’s “negative effects,” especially on access to medicines. The movement was also calling for an end to labor discrimination. “[O]n many occasions homosexuals experience firings, persecution [and] harassment and even have problems advancing professionally,” he said. (La Nacion, May 1)

Hundreds of workers marched in Panama City in two separate marches by the Confederation of Workers of the Republic and the Public Servants Federation. In contrast to other Central American protests, support for immigrants in the US was not a theme in Panama; and Panama is not a signatory to DR-CAFTA. Instead, marchers demanded a referendum on the $5 billion plan for expansion of the Panama Canal and improved workplace safety. The day before, a Costa Rican immigrant construction worker identified as Luis Araya had fallen to his death from the 23rd floor of a building under construction. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, May 1; El Siglo, Panama, May 1)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 14


On April 20, Guatemalan Mayan indigenous campesino and grassroots organizations grouped in the National Indigenous and Campesino Coordinating Committee (CONIC) began a national uprising to press a series of popular demands, including land rights and an end to discrimination and social injustice. In Escuintla, more than 100 people blocked the road leading to Puerto Quetzal; in Coatepeque, 100 more gathered; in the community of El Zarco, in Retalhuleu, more than 400 people blocked the road; in Mazatenango more than 500 people marched. Teachers protested in Chiquimula and Salcaja, Quetzaltenango, while campesinos protested in San Julian Tactic, Rio Polochi, Santa Catarina and Charca. In western Guatemala, protesters walked to the capital from San Lucas Sacatepequez. In Guatemala City, teachers gathered in Zone 9 and thousands of campesinos marched to Congress. Market vendors also marched.

The government responded to the mobilization with repression in all locations. Police fired tear gas grenades and guns at the demonstrators; one death was reported, several people were wounded and more than 27 people were arrested. (CONIC Statement, April 20 via Adital)

Later on April 20, after seven hours of negotiations, Vice President Eduardo Stein reached an agreement with CONIC to open a dialogue with labor, campesino and grassroots organizations on the movement’s demands. In exchange, CONIC agreed to suspend the protests. The agreement was reached with the mediation of human rights ombudsperson Sergio Morales. (Prensa Libre, Guatemala, April 21; Guatemala Hoy, April 25)

Meanwhile, Carlos Arriaga of the National Coordinating Committee of Campesino Organizations reported that on April 24, campesinos were violently evicted from the La Verde farm in San Andres Villa Seca, Retalhuleu. (GH, April 24)


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #121


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution