from Weekly News Update on the Americas

Shortly before flying to his Texas ranch for a month-long vacation, on Aug. 2 US President George W. Bush signed the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) into law, following a 19-month effort to get the controversial measure approved by Congress. So far, the legislatures of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the US have approved it; Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua have not yet ratified. “CAFTA is more than a trade bill,” Bush said at the White House signing ceremony. “It is a commitment among freedom-loving nations to advance peace and prosperity throughout the region.” (Bloomberg News, Washington Times, Aug. 2)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 7


On Aug. 26 the Dominican Senate voted 27-2 to ratify DR-CAFTA. The approval process requires the Senate to vote a second time and the Chamber of Deputies to also ratify the pact; the vote in the lower house is expected soon. The trade accord has yet to come up for a vote in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Aug. 27; Miami Herald, Aug. 28)

At a press conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Aug. 23, leftist unionists from the region announced plans for the Central America and Caribbean Union Coordinating Committee, an organization to coordinate regional strategies against the impacts of DR-CAFTA, which is expected to go into effect on Jan. 1. “[I]t is essential that we workers be united to block the negativity of this trade accord,” Israel Salinas, general secretary of the Unified Federation of Workers of Honduras (CUTH), told a press conference. The organization expects to have branches in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Aug. 23 from AP)


Three members of Panama’s National Maritime Service died on Aug. 14 while participating in “Operation Panamax 2005,” a US-led international naval exercise in which some 3,500 sailors from nine countries practiced repelling a hypothetical terrorist attack on the Panama Canal. The maneuvers took place from Aug. 9 to 16 with the participation of the Panamanian maritime police agency and the navies of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru and the US. Six other countries–Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Mexico and Uruguay–acted as observers. After Sgt. Luis Perez and marines Omar Durango and Jackson Angulo drowned in an attempted amphibious landing on Guacha Island in Lake Gatun, Panama suspended its forces’ direct participation in the exercises and began an investigation. (Adital, Aug. 16; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Aug. 15)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 28


On Aug. 15, a string of gang riots at six Guatemalan prisons left at least 33 alleged gang members dead and at least 80 others wounded. The attacks–five of which were nearly simultaneous–are believed to have been planned by the Mara Salvatrucha gang; nearly all the victims were apparently members of the rival Mara 18 gang. Weapons used in the attacks included fragmentation grenades, 9mm and 45mm pistols and at least one “mini-Uzi” assault rifle. The riots took place in the departments of Guatemala, Suchitepequez and Escuintla. Police reportedly headed off similar riots at prisons in Chimaltenango (Chimaltenango department) and Coban (Alta Verapaz). (Centro de Estudios de Guatemala–CEG, “La Semana en Guatemala,” Aug. 8-15; Guatemala Hoy, CEG, Aug. 16)

Penitentiary System director Francisco de la Pena said prison guards were responsible for inflicting most of the deaths, in their efforts to restore order. One of the wounded prisoners said Salvatrucha members at the “El Hoyon” prison in Escuintla–where 18 prisoners died–planned the attacks and coordinated them via telephone. A representative of the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s office in Escuintla, Osmin Revolorio, said survivors told him a prison guard had entered one of the jails with a suitcase full of weapons which were later used in the attacks. (GH, Aug. 16)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 21

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #112


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Sept. 1, 2005

Reprinting permissible with attribution