from Weekly News Update on the Americas


On Dec. 30 Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) spokesperson Stephen Norton announced that the US was postponing implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), which was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1. Although “various countries are almost ready for their startup, none have completed their internal procedures,” he said, referring to enabling legislation the participating countries have to pass for DR-CAFTA to go into effect. The trade pact will be implemented progressively, according to Norton, “to the extent that the countries make sufficient progress to comply with the promises set in the accord.” Until then, the countries will continue to benefit from tariff reductions under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA).

DR-CAFTA is intended to bring Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the US together into a trade pact which would largely eliminate tariffs between the countries. Costa Rica’s legislature has yet to approve the pact; the legislatures of all the other participating countries have approved it despite major protests by labor, campesino, environmental and other groups.(El Nuevo Herald, Jan. 30, 31, quotes retranslated from Spanish)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 1


Four Guatemalan campesinos were reportedly wounded when private security guards opened fire on Jan. 20 on protesters attempting to renew their occupation of the Nueva Linda ranch in Champerico municipality, Retalhuleu department. At least two of the campesinos were injured seriously and were taken to a hospital in Retalhuleu. The names of three of the wounded were given: Roberto Gonzalez, Macario Gomez and Bernardo Guillen.

Twelve people, including protesters and police agents, were killed at Nueva Linda on Aug. 31, 2004, when hundreds of police used force to end a year-long occupation by thousands of campesinos protesting the disappearance of ranch administrator and campesino leader Hector Rene Reyes; some of the campesinos renewed their occupation in September 2004 but were removed without major violence two months later. There were conflicting reports about the Jan. 20 incident. The leftist Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) party said the campesinos had wanted to talk to people at the ranch about their demands for justice for Reyes, while the National Indigenous and Campesino Coordinating Committee (CONIC) reported that the campesinos, who have maintained a protest along the highway outside Nueva Linda, were trying to reoccupy the ranch. Other sources said they had succeeded in renewing the occupation.

The Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA (GHRC-USA) is calling for letters to President Oscar Berger Perdomo (fax: +502-2251-2218), Interior Minister Carlos Vielman (fax: +502-2362-0237, e-mail: ministro@mingob.gob.gt) and others to demand a full investigation of the current incident and prosecution of those responsible for Reyes’ disappearance and the deaths in 2004. (GHRC-USA urgent action, Jan. 20)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 22


On Jan. 9 Fredy Peccerelli, the head of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG), received a text message on his mobile phone with a death threat against his brother, Gianni Peccerelli. “Stop the exhumations, sons [of bitches],” the message ended, referring to the FAFG’s work exhuming mass graves of those killed by the Guatemalan military and their civilian adjuncts in the early 1980s.

On Jan. 10 Fredy Peccerelli’s sister, Bianka Peccerelli Monterroso, and her husband, Omar Giron de Leon, who is the laboratory coordinator for the FAFG, received an anonymous letter deposited in their mailbox. “We’re going to kidnap your sister and rape her again and again,” the letter read, “and if you don’t stop, we’ll send her to you piece by piece. Omar will be a widower, but only for a few minutes. Then we’re going to put a bullet in your head. One by one we will kill you. Death to the anthropologists.”

Fredy Peccerelli, his family and other members of the FAFG have received numerous threats over the last several years. After an earlier threat to Bianka Peccerelli and Giron de Leon, the government provided some police protection. But the police agents began skipping shifts in December and stopped guarding the couple completely on Jan. 7. The human rights organization Amnesty International is recommending letters expressing concern to Vice-Minister of the Interior Julio Cesar Godoy Anleu (+502 2361 5914) and Head of Special Prosecutor’s Office on Human Rights Rosa Maria Salazar Marroquin (+502 2230 5296), with copies to Ambassador to the US Jose Guillermo Castillo (fax: 202-745-1908, e-mail: info@guatemala-embassy.org). (AI Urgent Action, Jan. 13)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 15


On Jan. 12, Margarito Vargas Ponce and Marcos Reyes, members of the Honduran indigenous community of Montana Verde, presented themselves in court in the town of Gracias, Lempira department, in an attempt to end their persecution by security forces. The judge acceded to their written request to revoke an arrest order against them. Then, according to the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), another judge at the court, Hermes Omar Moncada, vacated the order in what COPINH called an “abuse of authority.” COPINH noted that Moncada is the same judge who refused to dismiss charges against “Luciano Pineda” (Feliciano Pineda), a member of the Montana Verde community who was jailed last June after being shot and wounded by paramilitaries. (COPINH press release, Jan. 17)

On Jan. 19, Amnesty International began an international campaign to win the release of Feliciano Pineda and two other Montana Verde activists, Marcelino and Leonardo Miranda. All three were charged with the 2001 murder of Juan Reyes Gomez, another community member, in an alleged land dispute. Last December, Pineda was acquitted of homicide charges in the case, but the judge refused to dismiss theft and vandalism charges, even though the statute of limitations on those crimes had run out. The Miranda brothers were arrested on Jan. 8, 2003; they were convicted of murder in December 2003 and are each serving 25-year prison sentences, even though evidence showed that the charges were falsified in retaliation for their efforts to win recognition of their community’s land rights.

AI has adopted Pineda and the Miranda brothers as prisoners of conscience and is demanding their immediate release, as well as a full and thorough investigation into the murder of Juan Reyes Gomez. “The criminal charges against Feliciano Pineda and the Miranda brothers are part of a campaign against indigenous leaders and human rights defenders in Honduras that aims to deter them from their work to secure land titles and to protect the environment,” said AI in a press release. (AI press release, Jan. 20)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 22


On Jan. 4 a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta reversed its own earlier ruling and upheld a jury’s $54.6 million verdict against two retired Salvadoran generals accused of responsibility for torture by soldiers under their command. The same panel had thrown the verdict out on Feb. 28, 2005, saying a 10-year statute of limitations had expired. But the panel reversed its decision after concluding that it had made factual errors on the dates. “I have never, ever heard of such a thing,” the defendants’ attorney, Kurt Klaus, Jr., said on learning that the panel had reversed its own decision.

Three Salvadorans living in the US filed the suit on May 11, 1999 under the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act against former defense ministers Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia, who both left El Salvador in 1989 and now live in Florida. A federal jury found the generals liable for torture in July 2002. Vides Casanova left office as defense minister on May 31, 1989, less than 10 years before the suit was filed. In addition, in its new ruling the panel decided that the statute of limitations did not apply until 1992, when the Salvadoran government signed a peace accord with the rebel Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN), since until then the government “remained intent on maintaining its power at any cost and acted with impunity to do so.” (New York Times, Jan. 8)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 8


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #117


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