by Weekly News Update on the Americas
EL SALVADOR: MORE ANTI-CAFTA PROTESTS
On Dec. 22, thousands of Salvadorans blocked main highways in 10 of the country’s 14 departments to protest the Legislative Assembly’s Dec. 17 vote which ratified the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The protests were called by the Grassroots Social Bloc (BPS) of El Salvador, a coalition of campesino, union, community, environmental, youth, religious, teachers’ and veterans’ groups. A day earlier, Dec. 21, parallel actions protesting the CAFTA ratification were held at Salvadoran consulates and embassies around the world. (Servicio Informativo Ecumenico y Popular [SIEP], Dec. 21, 22)
The Dec. 22 blockades in El Salvador began simultaneously at 9 AM and ended around midday. Police said demonstrators blocked traffic at nine sites around the country, and that there were no confrontations or arrests. Protesters say the legislature’s passage of CAFTA was unconstitutional, since treaties cannot be approved by a simple majority. (La Prensa Grafica, San Salvador, Dec. 23)
BPS campesino leader Guadalupe Erazo blasted governance minister Rene Figueroa and Enrique Viera Altamirano, director of the Diario de Hoy newspaper; he said they believe that "by waging a publicity campaign against our popular organizations they’re going to demobilize us, but they’re wrong, we’re here in the streets because there is hunger, there is repression, and this generates resistance."
In a televised interview on Dec. 21, Viera accused the Lutheran Church and other grassroots sectors supporting the anti-CAFTA protests of being instruments of the leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN). Lutheran pastor Rev. Roberto Pineda responded that "in the past such accusations have served as an excuse for death squad actions; in the past repressive military officers faced trial, but people like Viera Altamirano were never tried, [though] from his pages he sentenced to death thousands of Salvadorans, including Msgr. [Oscar] Romero [archbishop of San Salvador, murdered by death squads on March 24, 1980]."
BPS community leader Gloria Rivas condemned "the military deployment carried out by the PNC [National Civilian Police] around the Hotel Presidente, which is a display of unnecessary and repressive force, and [President Antonio] Saca’s statements that he’s going to use force against us–let him do it and let him face the consequences of unleashing a new civil war in our country." (SIEP, Dec. 21, 22)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 26
HONDURAS: PROTESTS DELAY TRADE PACT?
Hundreds of members of the Coordinating Committee of Popular Resistance demonstrated in Tegucigalpa on Dec. 27, 28 and 29 to demand that the Honduran legislature not ratify the CAFTA, which is referred to in Central America as the Free Trade Treaty (TLC). The legislature was discussing budget issues and did not end up debating the TLC. "At least we have won a delay in the approval of the TLC, but the struggle continues; we are in permanent struggle and we aren’t going to give in as long as the treaty is still on the [agenda] of the legislative power," said Doris Gutierrez, a deputy for the Democratic Unification party, which participated in the protests. Legislative sources say the TLC will be debated in February 2005. (Tiempo, Honduras, Dec. 30)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 2
HONDURAS: 28 KILLED IN BUS ATTACK
On the evening of Dec. 23, in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, several heavily armed individuals opened fire at a public bus, then boarded the bus and shot the passengers at close range. At least 16 people died at the scene, and by Dec. 26, the death toll had reached 28–including seven children–with another 17 people wounded. Nearly all the dead were hit by between three and five bullets each, in the head, face and upper body. The assailants used AK-47 and M-16 semi-automatic rifles, and apparently a handgun.
Police arrested a suspect, an alleged member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, armed with a pistol and traveling nearby in a vehicle where police found AK-47 and M-16 ammunition. As of Dec. 26, a total of three suspects had been arrested. Authorities suggest the attack was carried out by the Mara Salvatrucha gang, motivated by anger at the government’s anti-gang measures and by competition with another major gang, "La 18." (Tiempo, Dec. 24; Diario Hoy, La Plata, Argentina, Dec. 26; La Republica, Lima, Dec, 26)
Before fleeing the scene of the attack, the assailants left a message, written on pieces of red poster-board, resting on the hood of the bus, held in place by two rocks. The lengthy, slang-filled message railed against Congress president Porfirio Lobo Sosa, referred to as a "mafioso drug trafficker"; Security Minister Oscar Alvarez, a "homosexual"; and President Ricardo Maduro, who "steps in shit." The message threatened to kill anyone who supports Lobo, and to shoot at any vehicle which bears Lobo’s campaign posters or insignias, "as with this bus." Lobo is seeking the candidacy of the ruling National Party for the November 2005 presidential elections. The message also criticized Alvarez’s failed security measures, asking him: "Where are the chepos [police agents] you promised the people [you would put] on every bus?"
The message warned that "for those who don’t believe in us there are going to be more deaths before the end of the year, let’s see if Pepe [Lobo] or Oscar Alvarez can prevent all these massacres that are coming; now Pepe Lobo is going to come out again asking for the death penalty but who is going to be sentenced if he’s the guilty one. Honduran people that’s all for now, and eat tamales because you could be the next victims." The sign’s message, with spelling errors and lacking in punctuation, was reproduced–apparently verbatim –in the daily Tiempo newspaper, though no news outlet seemed to carry photographs of it.
The message was signed by the "Movimiento Popular de Liberacion Sinchonero," a misspelling of the Cinchonero Popular Liberation Movement, a leftist rebel group which has long been inactive. (Tiempo, Dec. 24) [The Cinchoneros’ last known armed action was a bomb attack on Apr. 18, 1991, against the headquarters of the National Party in San Pedro Sula, which caused damages but no injuries. The Cinchoneros were also blamed for the kidnapping in April 1994 of Jose Adolfo Alvarado Lara, a National Party deputy from Copan, who was freed unharmed (or rescued) within two days. Alvarado remains a deputy in Copan and is running for reelection in 2005.–WNU]
On Dec. 24, President Maduro said he did not believe the Cinchoneros were responsible for the bus attack. Alvarez also dismissed as "unlikely" that the Cinchoneros were to blame, since "those things remained in the past." (EFE, Dec. 12)
Late on Dec. 22 in San Pedro Sula, three men wearing police uniforms shot to death former National Party deputy Ricardo Antonio Pena in his home. Pena was a deputy for Ocotepeque department from 1998 to 2002; he was arrested in Panama in 2003 on heroin trafficking charges but escaped from prison and was sought by Interpol. (La Prensa, Panama, Dec. 24; EFE, Dec. 23)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 26
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution