[Fwd: Re: News]

Tue, 29 Apr 1997 09:21:27 -0400
christopher chase-dunn (chriscd@jhu.edu)

--Boundary (ID NwxBFZ0QNSUA5reBKt0I7A)


--Boundary (ID NwxBFZ0QNSUA5reBKt0I7A)

Mon, 28 Apr 1997 13:25:57 -0400 (EDT)
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 13:25:26 -0400 (EDT)
28 Apr 1997 12:12:53 -0500 (CDT)
by mcfeeley.cc.utexas.edu (8.8.5/8.8.5/mcfeeley.mc-1.21)
28 Apr 1997 12:11:12 -0500 (CDT)
28 Apr 1997 13:11:09 -0400 (EDT)
28 Apr 1997 13:11:03 -0400 (EDT)
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 1997 13:11:03 -0400
From: jhammond@email.gc.cuny.edu
Subject: Re: News
Sender: owner-lasnet@mcfeeley.cc.utexas.edu
To: "De Weerdt, Joachim" <Joachim.DeWeerdt@econ.kuleuven.ac.be>
Reply-to: jhammond@email.gc.cuny.edu

The following is a copy of the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of New York's
weekly update, which I find an extremely useful source. It brings about
10-12 stories a week, usually straight news although the source has a
political orientation.

It is not distributed free to e-mail subscribers. Those who have access
to newsgroups will find it on misc.activism.progressive; or you can
subscribe by e-mail or snail mail. I believe the price is $25/yr but you
can e-mail them to be sure.

Weekly News Update on the Americas * Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY
339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 * 212-674-9499 fax: 212-674-9139
http://home.earthlink.net/~dbwilson/wnuhome.html * wnu@igc.apc.org

ISSUE #377, APRIL 20, 1997
339 LAFAYETTE ST., NEW YORK, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499

1. Brazilian Landless Reach Capital
2. Nicaraguan Producers Strike, President Backs Off
3. Four Killed in Bolivian Coca Region
4. Police Attack Protesters in Argentina, One Killed
5. Argentina: Solidarity With Neuquen Protesters
6. Peru: Rebel Standoff Continues, Top Officials Resign
7. Peru: Attacks on Press, Agents, Unionists, Campesinos...
8. Free Trade News: "No Sweat" Pact, Runaway Prisons
9. Other News: Mexico, Haiti, Colombia, Honduras, Dominican Rep.

ISSN#: 1084-922X. The Weekly News Update on the Americas is
published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater
New York. A one-year subscription (52 issues) is $25. To
subscribe, send a check or money order for US $25 payable to
Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY
10012. Please specify if you want the electronic or print
version: they are identical in content, but the electronic
version is delivered directly to your email address; the print
version is sent via first class mail. For more information about
electronic subscriptions, contact wnu@igc.apc.org. Back issues
and source materials are available on request.

If you are accessing this Update for free on electronic
newsgroups, we would appreciate any financial support you can
contribute. We are a small, all-volunteer organization funded
solely through subscriptions and contributions. Please also help
spread the word about the Update. If you know someone who might
be interested in subscribing, send their email (or regular mail)
address to <wnu@igc.apc.org> and request a free one-month trial
subscription to the Weekly News Update on the Americas.

Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any
information from them, but please credit us as "Weekly News
Update on the Americas," and include our full contact information
so that people will know how to find us. Send us a copy of any
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In the largest protest yet against the neoliberal policies of
Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, at least 20,000
people demonstrated in Brasilia on Apr. 17 to welcome some 1,500
landless campesinos who had marched 2,000 km for two months from
three different cities [see Updates #369, 374]. Organizers said
100,000 participated in the demonstration, while the Buenos Aires
daily Clarin reported 40,000 to 60,000; other news sources gave
20,000 or more. The marchers were to meet with President Cardoso
on Apr. 18; they plan to camp out in the capital until May 1 to
continue their protest.

The "March for Agrarian Reform, Jobs and Justice" was organized
by the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST); the marchers'
arrival in Brasilia marked the first anniversary of the massacre
of 19 campesinos by militarized police in Eldorado de Carajas
municipality of the northern state of Para on Apr. 17, 1996 [see
Update #325]. No arrests have been made in the killings, which
were videotaped by a television news team. More than 100 people
have been killed in land disputes since Cardoso took office in
1995, promising to give land to 280,000 campesino families during
his four-year term. The MST is demanding land for 4.8 million
peasants, but presidential spokesperson Sergio Amaral says that
Brazilians would have to pay an additional $38 billion in taxes
to finance such a sweeping agrarian reform. About half of
Brazil's arable land is owned by 2% of its population. [Clarin
4/18/97, 4/19/97; Diario Los Andes (Mendoza, Argentina) 4/18/97
from Reuter; El Diario-La Prensa (NY) 4/18/97 from Notimex; New
York Times 4/18/97 from AP; Independent (UK) 4/19/97]

The government initially tried to isolate support for the
marchers and especially the MST, a leftist grassroots movement
which has dramatized its demands by organizing massive
occupations of large estates. But as public support grew in the
last few weeks of the march, Cardoso began calling the action
"positive because it reflects a democratic spirit." [News from
Brazil by Servico Brasileiro de Justica e Paz (SEJUP) #269,
4/16/97] Polls now show 85% of the population supporting the MST.
[Diario Los Andes 4/18/97 from Reuter] "There will be more and
more occupations," MST leader Joao Pedro Stedile said at the Apr.
17 demonstration. "We don't expect the government to carry out
[a] proper land reform program as an act of generosity."
[Independent 4/19/97] The MST example seems to be spreading.
Housing groups are reportedly planning a protest for June 3
involving the occupation of several public areas in many states.
"Our objectives are similar [to those of the MST]. The only
difference is that they want land to use to plant crops and we
[want] land for houses," said Raimundo Bonfim, one of the
campaign's coordinators. [SEJUP #268, 4/3/97]

In other news, port workers in Santos, Sao Paulo state, went on
strike Apr. 15 to protest the seizure by federal police of two
ships and the arrest of 25 workers early that morning. Unionists
had been occupying the ships since Apr. 2 while contract
negotiations were under way. The strike closed down the Santos
port, the largest in Latin America, and set off sympathy strikes
in ports throughout Brazil. The strikers returned to work on Apr.
18 after a tentative settlement had been reached. [Bulletins
4/17/97, 4/18/97 from http://www.portodesantos.com/sindicatos/]


Rightwing Nicaraguan president Arnoldo Aleman Lacayo, who took
office on Jan. 10, faced his first major challenge from left and
grassroots organizations when agricultural producers began
blocking highways on Apr. 14. The National Farmers and Ranchers
Union (UNAG) and other producers' groups had called the action
the week before to demand an agreement with the government to let
them negotiate their debts with the national banking system. The
call was quickly endorsed by a number of groups opposing Aleman's
neoliberal economic policies, including planned layoffs of 12,000
state workers and a "review" of some 14,000 land titles given out
in the agrarian reforms of the two previous administrations. The
main opposition party, the leftist Sandinista National Liberation
Front (FSLN), which held power from 1979 to 1990, organized
support for the action. The FSLN's talks with the new government
on economic issues had been stalled since Mar. 17 [see Updates
#373, 376]. [Report by Toby Mailman (Managua) 4/14/97; Reuter
4/15/97] The Nicaraguan Farmworkers Association (ATC) also asked
for support from abroad; solidarity statements can be faxed to
505-02-278-0616 or emailed to atcnic@nicarao.apc.org.ni. [ATC
Communique 4/13/97]

The producers' action started early on Apr. 14 when groups of as
many as 300 protesters used paving stones, tree trunks, old buses
and burning tires to build barricades at 38 points around the
country. Although demonstrators set up barricades in the capital,
the main thrust was blocking highways leading into Managua and
other cities, principally in the departments of Leon, Matagalpa,
Boaco, Esteli, Jinotega and Masaya. The Pan-American Highway was
shut off at Sebaco, in Matagalpa department. Thousands of
farmworkers, producers, cooperative members, transport workers,
small property owners and unemployed workers marched in the
cities of Matagalpa and Esteli to support the blockades, which
the police said were carried out by less than 5,000 protesters.
FSLN general secretary and former Nicaraguan president Daniel
Ortega Saavedra told reporters the next day that this was the
first time in Nicaraguan history that protests in the departments
were larger than the ones in the capital. [La Prensa (Honduras)
4/16/97 from ACAN-EFE, 4/17/97 from AFP; Mailman 4/15/97]

The magazine Revista Confidencial and other rightwing media
warned that the FSLN was planning massive looting and even the
overthrow of the government. But both the protesters and the
7,000 police agents deployed to control them generally avoided
violence as the police dismantled barricades and the protesters
rebuilt them. [Notifax (Managua) 4/14/97; Mailman 4/15/97] A
total of 17 injuries had been reported for the entire week as of
Apr. 18. [La Jornada (Mexico) 4/19/97 from AFP, EFE, DPA, AP, PL,
ANSA] The protests were notably non-partisan. Demonstrators
carried Nicaraguan flags rather than the FSLN banner; protesters
told observers that they came from a variety of political groups.
[Mailman 4/15/97]

The producers tightened their blockades on Apr. 15 and 16. Both
the FSLN and President Aleman insisted that the only solution was
a resumption of talks on the broader issues. But Ortega demanded
that international observers join the negotiations, while Aleman
set the lifting of the strike as a precondition. [Mailman
4/16/97; Agence France Presse 4/16/97] On Apr. 16 the other
Central American presidents, meeting in a "mini-summit" in
Guatemala, voiced their support for Aleman, who was unable to
attend due to the crisis at home. US ambassador Lino Gutierrez
warned that the protests would drive away foreign investment and
cause "instability in the whole region." [Notifax 4/17/97]

Meanwhile, shortages of food and gasoline began to affect Managua
and other cities. On the evening of Apr. 16 Governance Minister
Jose Antonio Alvarado announced that the police would intervene
to put an end to the unrest. But UNAG threatened another
escalation of the strike, which independent economist Juan Jose
Medina estimated was already costing the country $1.5 million a
day. On Apr. 17 the plan for police action was countermanded and
Aleman held a three-hour meeting with Ortega at the president's
private home outside Managua. Afterwards Ortega said that Aleman
had agreed to send the National Assembly a bill--proposed by the
FSLN earlier in the year [see Update #371]--to suspend the
evictions of campesinos from disputed property for three months.
Ortega said the president had also agreed to honor existing land
titles and to limit the layoffs of government employees to 3,000.
[Mailman 4/17/97; Reuter 4/17/97; La Prensa (Honduras) 4/18/97
from AFP]

Aleman and Ortega met again on Apr. 18, along with government
ministers and leaders of the strike. After five hours of talks,
the president read a seven-point communique confirming the
agreements from the day before and establishing a bilateral group
to negotiate the producers' bank debts and five working
commissions to discuss other disputed issues. The government also
retreated from earlier plans to limit the activities of non-
governmental organizations (NGOs). Ortega in turn called on the
strikers to end their protest. Asked by the press if he had given
in, Aleman said that "for the peace of Nicaragua, I give in with
pleasure and satisfaction," but insisted that he had not agreed
to a co-government with the FSLN. [LJ 4/19/97 from AFP, EFE, DPA,


Four people were killed, 24 wounded by bullets and more than 100
arrested on Apr. 17 as campesinos tried to protect their coca
crops from eradication by agents of Bolivia's elite anti-drug
Mobile Rural Patrol Unit (UMOPAR), the Ecological Police and the
government's Coca Reconversion Department (DIRECO) in the area of
Eterazama, in the Chapare region. Rural worker Albertina Orellana
de Garcia was killed by a bullet fired by an UMOPAR agent, as
were two other campesinos. Police agent Jose Laura Nacho was also
killed. The campesinos retaliated against the police attacks by
burning the local DIRECO offices in Eterazama. The government is
blaming "organized drug traffickers" for the violence, and has
placed the region under heavy military and police control. Local
area residents told the press that during the confrontations,
bullets and tear gas were fired on the cocaleros from
helicopters. Defense Minister Alfonso Kreidler and cocalero
leader Evo Morales met on Apr. 18 in Eterazama to seek a
resolution to the crisis in the Chapare, as more than 2,000
campesinos gathered in the surrounding area in a state of alert
and vigilance. [Bolivian Ministry of Social Communication (MCS)
summaries of morning & evening media 4/18/97; Los Tiempos
(Cochabamba) 4/19/97; El Diario (La Paz) 4/19/97] Miguel Lora,
leader of the Federation of Urban Education Workers, said the
massacre at Eterazama was carried out by combined forces of
UMOPAR and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). [Los
Tiempos 4/19/97]

An autopsy performed on the bodies of the three campesinos at the
Viedma hospital in Cochabamba showed that all three were shot in
the back with bullets from M-19 rifles, fired by anti-drug forces
shooting from the air. The two unidentified campesinos are
thought to be Marcos Herbas y Helio Escobar, both reported as
disappeared. [El Diario 4/19/97]

The Union Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers (CSUTCB)
declared Apr. 18 a day of national mourning and announced that
the federation's executive committee will take part in a national
"selective" hunger strike beginning on Apr. 21 to protest the
police repression in the Chapare. CSUTCB also called for
occupations of government offices. The populist Homeland
Conscience party has asked Congress to compel Governance Minister
Victor Hugo Canelas to testify on the Eterazama violence. [Los
Tiempos 4/19/97] [Victor Hugo Canelas took over as governance
minister after Carlos Sanchez Berzain resigned on Apr. 1 to run
for a parliamentary seat in the June 1 general elections. Sanchez
Berzain had quit in November in order to be eligible for the
presidential candidacy for his party, the Nationalist
Revolutionary Movement (MNR), but resumed his post after he lost
the nomination to ex-Justice Minister Rene Blattman. When
Blattman withdrew from the presidential race a few weeks later
and resumed his job as justice minister, it was too late for
Sanchez Berzain to be eligible for the presidential candidacy
under Bolivia's electoral laws [see Updates #360, 364, 368]. [MCS
evening media summary 3/31/97, morning media summary 4/1/97]]

The Bolivian Workers Central (COB) union federation has sent
letters to the International Labor Organization (ILO), Amnesty
International, the Andean Commission of Jurists and the Inter-
American Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American
States (OAS) condemning the police attacks in Eterazama and
noting that the government hides itself behind the shield of the
war against drug trafficking in order to repress coca growers in
the Chapare. [Los Tiempos 4/19/97] Before the massacre took
place, Justice Minister Rene Blattman had decided to establish
four new human rights offices in Chapare because of the number of
complaints received from cocaleros about abuses by UMOPAR troops.
[MCS morning summary 4/14/97]

Meanwhile, the union federations representing Bolivia's urban and
rural teachers announced on Apr. 18 that they will begin an open-
ended general strike on May 12 and will renew their street
protests to reject the government's salary offer. [El Diario-La
Prensa 4/19/97 from Notimex] Health workers began a national
general strike on Apr. 1 and stepped up actions to include a
hunger strike on Apr. 14. [MCS morning media summary 4/14/97] As
of Apr. 17, the health workers strike continued without solution.
[MCS morning summary 4/18/97] On Apr. 17, the 45th anniversary of
the COB's founding, COB general secretary Edgar Ramirez accused
the government and private enterprise of spreading unfounded
rumors about a serious internal crisis in the union federation.
[MCS evening summary 4/17/97] The COB has called on supporters to
boycott the June 1 general elections. [Los Tiempos 4/19/97]


A young woman was killed, several people were injured and over
100 demonstrators were arrested on Apr. 12 when agents of the
police and the National Gendarmeria cracked down on
demonstrations in the adjoining cities of Cutral-Co and Plaza
Huincul in the western Argentine province of Neuquen, where a
strike started by teachers on Mar. 10 has sparked a broad
provincial protest movement with national support [see Update
#375]. Television footage of the Apr. 12 incidents showed police
handcuffing children and violently shoving them into police
trucks. Some of those arrested were between 10 and 14 years old.
Police also threw tear gas canisters into homes, and entered
homes and arrested and beat local residents.

Barricades set up by protesters on national Route 22 have cut off
access since Apr. 9 to Cutral-Co and Plaza Huincul, and to the
petrochemical plants of the Argentine oil company YPF. The area
was once considered a model of petrochemical development but is
now suffering the worst unemployment in its history since YPF was
privatized and 4,000 of its workers laid off. Neuquen governor
Felipe Sapag blames the federal government economic policies for
his province's unemployment crisis. [La Jornada 4/13/97; Diario
Los Andes 4/15/97 from DYN; Clarin 4/19/97] The protesters have a
list of more than 30 demands, including tax exemptions to allow
the relocation of industry in the area, and the creation of a
historic reparations fund for Cutral-Co and Plaza Huincul.
[Diario Los Andes 4/17/97 from DYN]

Thousands attended the funeral on Apr. 14 for Teresa Rodriguez,
the young woman killed by a police bullet on Apr. 12 in Cutral-
Co. On the same day residents of the provincial capital Neuquen,
led by bishop Agustin Radrizzani, staged a massive march in
repudiation of the police violence. Police spokespeople in
Cutral-Co and Plaza Huincul said on Apr. 15 that they had been
ordered to leave the protesters alone. [Diario Los Andes 4/15/97
from DYN] On Apr. 16, more than 500 people gathered around an
assembly set up on a truck bed in front of a YPF distillery
tower, at which members of the neighborhood committees--along
with the mayors of Cutral-Co and Plaza Huincul, both of them from
Sapag's Popular Neuquino Movement, and 11 provincial deputies--
tried to work out a solution to the standoff. Participants in the
assembly resolved to continue blocking Route 22. Some
participants burned their party membership cards from the Popular
Neuquino Movement. [Clarin 4/17/97, 4/18/97]

Leading the latest protests and highway blockades, along with the
"piqueteros" (picketers) who also led protests in the province
last June, are ski-masked youths who call themselves "fogoneros"
(stokers or firemen) and are referred to locally as "los
muchachos" (the boys). The fogoneros are in control of the
barricades and remain camped out in tents and tending bonfires.
[La Jornada (Mexico) 4/13/97; Clarin 4/17/97] Mostly working-
class youth under 20 years old, and mostly male, the fogoneros
have no faith in politicians and have resisted taking part in
negotiations between the piqueteros and the government. [Clarin
4/16/97, 4/18/97] At the Apr. 16 assembly, the fogoneros stayed
in the background, making fun of the local mayors and ignoring
calls from assembly participants, who invited them to get up onto
the truck bed and make their statements from there. [Clarin

One masked fogonero in Cutral-Co told a correspondent from the
Buenos Aires daily Clarin: "Last week I turned 19. I was born in
Cutral-Co and I am the son of oil workers. I have three younger
siblings, who are also in this here with me. There's not much I
can tell you about my life. I'm just one more unemployed person."
The youth, who identified himself only as "Negro," said his
father died a year ago, "bitter and without a dime. When I was
young, I wanted to work at the YPF refinery or driving some big
truck. But I ended up sweeping the sidewalks until they fired
me." The youths decided to call themselves fogoneros to
differentiate themselves from the more middle-class and older
piqueteros. "The piqueteros were bought out by Sapag," explained
Negro. "First they were great rebels, and later they ended up
selling themselves out. We're never going to sell out," he
promised. "I don't believe in politicians or in unionists; they
all sold us out," Negro added. "I went out into the streets
because I'm tired of getting screwed over and I'm going to stay
here until the gendarmes return." [Clarin 4/16/97]

A second assembly of Cutral-Co and Plaza Huincul residents
decided on Apr. 18 to accept an agreement reached between the
provincial and national governments and to lift the blockades
from Route 22. However, there was a tense standoff between the
assembly participants and the fogoneros, and it seemed likely
the fogoneros would refuse to lift the barricades, even though
many of them reportedly acknowledge that their opposition to
negotiations is "suicidal." [Clarin 4/19/97]

The Neuquen teachers, meanwhile, returned to work on Apr. 16
after accepting a provincial government offer to annul all
resolutions that implied layoffs and to pay 50% of the wages from
the 37 days they spent on strike. The teachers' other demand, the
revocation of a 20% salary cut applied by decree to all state
workers in January 1997, will be resolved by the legislature. A
mixed commission will be formed to evaluate in 30 days the
rulings of the Provincial Education Council in effect since Jan.
2. According to the teachers, these measures were preparations
for the application of the Federal Education Law, which they
reject because "it will diminish the level of education and
affect sources of jobs." [Clarin 4/17/97]


Teachers at all levels of the Argentine education system held a
national strike on Apr. 14 to protest the police violence in
Neuquen. Marta Maffei, secretary general of the Confederation of
Education Workers of the Republic of Argentina (CTERA), said the
strike was observed by 95% of teachers throughout the country. In
a speech to strikers at the demonstration in Buenos Aires, Maffei
demanded the resignations of Interior Minister Carlos Corach and
Neuquen governor Felipe Sapag. Maffei was applauded and cheered
by the crowd when she said Corach was the "principal responsible
party" for the death of Teresa Rodriguez, and called Sapag an
"old fogey, governor of the dictatorship, who now sits down and
works out the problems when there is a corpse on the table."
Police arrested 41 young protesters, including 16 alleged members
of the ultra-left group Quebracho and of the Liberation Party,
during the teachers' march in the capital. All 41 detainees were
released on Apr. 15, after being photographed to determine which
of them took part in damaging the Casa de Neuquen, a YPF building
and a bank branch. [Diario Los Andes 4/15/97 & 4/16/97 from DYN]
President Carlos Saul Menem blamed the violence in Neuquen and
Buenos Aires on "groups that have acted in other times and which
are now rearming themselves in the environment of subversion."
[Diario Los Andes 4/16/97 from DYN]

The General Workers Confederation (CGT) was harshly criticized by
the CTERA and by the country's more radical union leaders for
calling only for three one-hour strikes, one per eight-hour
shift, for Apr. 17 to protest the Neuquen repression. Truck
drivers union leader Hugo Moyano of the Argentine Workers
Movement (MTA) called the CGT's behavior "imbecile" and said CGT
leader Rodolfo Daer "has been incapable of drawing support around
a dead worker." [Diario Los Andes 4/15/97 from DYN] The MTA has
called for a national general strike to support the Neuquen
protesters. [La Jornada 4/13/97] Much to the surprise of the MTA
unions, the Argentine Workers Central (CTA), of which the CTERA
is part, finally backed the CGT's call for the one-hour strikes.
[Clarin 4/18/97] The strikes were largely unobserved, with a few
exceptions--notably in the province of Cordoba, where some 2,500
people marched in the provincial capital in a demonstration
against the provincial structural adjustment plan, the national
economic model and the repression in Neuquen. The march was
organized by the Light and Force union, which is protesting the
privatization of the provincial energy authority. [Diario Los
Andes 4/18/97 from DYN; Clarin 4/18/97]

The CGT has called for a national 24-hour strike sometime in May
to reject the government's neoliberal economic polices and the
police repression in Neuquen. The strike is being backed by the
MTA and the CTA. The strike date will be announced on May 1.
[Diario Los Andes 4/18/97 from DYN]

The Argentine Commission of Solidarity with the Zapatista
Rebellion [in Chiapas, Mexico] (COSOREZA) has issued a call for
solidarity with the Neuquen protesters. Messages protesting the
police violence in Neuquen and supporting the protesters' demands
can be sent to Interior Minister Carlos Corach at fax #541-311-
1156 or 541-312-9328 or email <postmaster@minte.gob.ar>; to
President Carlos Saul Menem at fax #541-331-1849 or 541-331-0474
or email <postmaster@presidencia.gob.ar> or
<webmaster@presidencia.ar>; and to Neuquen governor Felipe Sapag
at fax #549-948-9448. [COSOREZA message posted 4/13/97 by


The Lima daily La Republica reported on Apr. 19 that the commando
of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) holding 72
hostages in the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima may have
taken a step toward easing its demand for more than 400 MRTA
members to be released from Peruvian prisons. The commando's
leader, Nestor Cerpa Cartolini, has reportedly given mediators a
list of 30 MRTA prisoners whose release is a priority due to
serious health problems. The list includes MRTA founder Victor
Polay Campos, former MRTA "Special Forces" chief Peter Cardenas
Schulte, MRTA commander Maria Lucero Cumpa Miranda, the Chileans
Maria Pincheira Saez and Alejandro Astorga Valdez, and US citizen
Lori Berenson. La Republica notes that "it will be very difficult
for the government to accept the release of [MRTA] heads like
Victor Polay..." [LR 4/19/97]

Some 100 relatives of the wealthy and prominent hostages being
held by the MRTA released balloons and doves into the air during
a silent march on Apr. 17 to mark the fourth month since the
commando's surprise bloodless attack during a party at the
residence on Dec. 17, and to demand a peaceful solution to the
crisis. [Diario Las Americas 4/19/97 from AFP]

Interior Minister Juan Briones Davila and national police chief
Lt. Gen. Ketin Vidal Herrera resigned on Apr. 19 under mounting
criticism for the security lapses that led to the MRTA assault on
the residence. Vidal, who led the 1992 capture of Peruvian
Communist Party (PCP, also known as Sendero Luminoso or Shining
Path) leader Abimael Guzman, has been replaced by Gen. Fernando
Dianderas Suotone. In announcing his resignation and Vidal's
replacement, Briones admitted that the MRTA's assault on the
diplomatic compound was a result of "deficiencies in security..."
A successor for Briones has not yet been named. [Washington Post
4/20/97 from uncited news services; El Universal (Caracas,
Venezuela) 4/20/97]


Radio news reporter Gines Barrios showed up on the outskirts of
the central Peruvian city of Huancayo with signs of torture on
Apr. 13, four days after being abducted by assailants wearing ski
masks. Barrios directs a political news program for Doble B radio
station in Huancayo and has often criticized state officials and
exposed military abuses against civilians on his show. Barrios
said the kidnappers were interested in his reasons for
criticizing local authorities, especially sub-prefect Zenaida
Calzada Arias. The kidnappers also wanted to know of his ties to
opposition politicians, he said. [Agence France-Presse 4/12/97
via Arm the Spirit MRTA solidarity web site]

The Barrios affair is the latest in a string of incidents
involving journalists critical of the military and President
Alberto Fujimori. In a similar incident, La Republica general
editor Blanca Rosales Valencia and the paper's political chief,
Juan de la Puente, were attacked by unknown assailants on Apr. 1;
de la Puente escaped, and Rosales was abducted for 45 minutes
before being released. Neither was injured, and their vehicle
reappeared later undamaged. The newspaper believes the incident
was politically motivated. [LR 4/3/97] On Apr. 13, officials from
Frecuencia Latina television network condemned harassment against
the network by government intelligence and tax officials,
presumably as retaliation for interviewing former army
intelligence agent Leonor La Rosa Bustamante, who says she was
tortured in the basement of the Ministry of Defense, and for
airing a report about agent Mariella Barreto Riofano, allegedly
decapitated by army intelligence officials [see Update #376].
[AFP 4/12/97] Peru's Congress voted 56 to 11 on Apr. 11 to oppose
the creation of a special commission to investigate the two
cases. [El Diario-La Prensa 4/13/97 from AP]

Retired Maj. Santiago Martin Rivas, former leader of the
paramilitary Colina group, spoke on television on the night of
Apr. 13 to deny that he was involved in the murder and
decapitation of Barreto, his former lover, with whom he has a
four-year old child. "I am not a murderous beast, I am a
professional who has studied abroad and no one can prove that I
killed anyone," said Rivas. [Diario Las Americas 4/15/97 from
AFP] Rivas graduated from the Cadet Orientation Course at the US
Army School of the Americas (SOA) in 1977. [Info SOA list of
graduates, July 1995]

Former Army Intelligence Department (DINTE) agent Mesmer Carles
Talledo sent two letters in 1994 and 1995 to retired Gen. Rodolfo
Robles Espinoza--recently persecuted by the army and now
considered a defender of human rights--revealing that union
leader Pedro Huillca Tecse was murdered in 1993 by members of the
Colina group, headed by Rivas. Carles is serving a life sentence
in Yanamayo prison. The Federation of Civil Construction Workers
of Peru announced on Apr. 16 the start of an international
campaign to clarify the circumstances of Huillca's murder, which
at the time was attributed to the PCP. [La Republica 4/17/97,

In other news, Peruvian campesino coca growers in the Alto
Huallaga region are demanding that the government put an end to
aerial fumigations in the area because the chemicals used to kill
the coca plants are also destroying legal crops--including the
alternative experimental crops intended to substitute for drug
cultivations--as well as ruining the soil and causing strange
diseases among local residents. Leaders of the Cocaleros Defense
Front of Alto Huallaga charge that the aerial fumigations are
leaving some 50,000 campesinos without a way to survive. Front
coordinator Juan Raymundo Navarro says that the fumigations are
carried out by planes of the US Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA) coming from the Santa Lucia anti-drug base. [La Republica


On Apr. 14 US president Bill Clinton announced that nine US
apparel firms were signing an agreement to "end deplorable and
unacceptable" working conditions in shops they use, "mostly
overseas but, unbelievably, sometimes here at home as well." Liz
Claiborne, L L Bean, Nike, Karen King, Nicole Miller, Patagonia,
Phillips-Van Heusen, Tweeds and Reebok agreed not to contract
with domestic or foreign manufacturers that employ children under
14, deny "freedom of association and collective bargaining,"
require staff to work more than 60-hour weeks ("except in
extraordinary business circumstances") and pay less than the
local minimum or prevailing wages. Compliance is to be checked by
vaguely defined "independent monitors." Charles Kernaghan of the
National Labor Committee (NLC), which has brought public
attention to sweatshop conditions in Haiti, El Salvador and
Honduras, called the pact a "real step forward" but said it will
require pressure from the public to work. [Washington Post

The agreement was praised in editorials by the Washington Post
and the New York Times. The Times said that the agreement
"correctly rejected the idea of imposing a 'living' wage" rather
than the local minimum wage, which is below subsistence level in
some countries. "An externally determined wage would almost
surely victimize the world's worst-paid workers" by making them
less competitive, according to the editorial. [WP 4/16/97; NYT
4/16/97] But Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, a San Francisco-
based solidarity group, called the agreement "business as usual"
and said: "It's not good enough to be the best plantation owner
on the block." [WP 4/15/97] A statement by Benjamin and other
human rights activists details four "horrors" of the agreement.
["Apparel Task Force Fiasco: What the Agreement Really Means,"
4/12/97, Campaign for Labor Rights at clr@igc.apc.org or 541-
344-5410] Earlier in the month Batay Ouvriye (Workers' Struggle),
a Haitian group organizing maquiladora workers, warned that
independent monitors, even human rights groups, would themselves
need to be monitored by the workers. The problem, the group says,
is "a huge void: there is no international workers' organization
able to coordinate and unify workers' struggles throughout the
world." [Batay Ouvriye Statement, April 1997, translated by
Disney/Haiti Justice Campaign, 212-592-3612]

Meanwhile, in a bizarre twist of neoliberal policies, Arizona
correctional authorities are exploring the possibility of
building a private 1,800-inmate prison in the neighboring Mexican
state of Sonora. The inmates would be Mexican immigrants who have
been convicted in Arizona. The goal is in part to take advantage
of lower wage costs in Mexico. Arizona state corrections director
Terry Stewart says: "It's so simple and common-sensical that I
don't know why anyone hasn't thought of this before." [NYT


On Apr. 17 Mexican immigration authorities told Vilma Nunez de
Escorcia, director of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center
(CENIDH), that her visa was not correct and that she must leave
Mexico within 72 hours. Nunez is a former president of the
Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA) and is
prominent in Nicaragua's Sandinista National Liberation Front
(FSLN). Also deported were Frank LaRue of Guatemala's Center for
Human Rights Legal Action, Benjamin Cuellar of the Central
American University (UCA) in El Salvador and French citizen
Gilbert Deboisvieux. The human rights activists were visiting the
states of Guerrero, Chiapas and Oaxaca, and had issued a number
of statements about human rights violations there. [Toby Mailman
(Managua) 4/18/97]... On Apr. 16 Honduran Supreme Court judge
Marco Tulio Alvarado Crespo denied a US request for the
extradition of former Haitian police chief Col. Joseph Michel
Francois. The US had had Francois arrested on Mar. 6 in Honduras
on charges of conspiring to ship 33 tons of Colombian cocaine
into the US during the late 1980s and early 1990s [see Update
#371]. The judge rejected the request on the grounds that there
was insufficient evidence and that the crime was not committed
within the US. US State Department spokesperson Nicholas Burns
said his government was "very disappointed" and would appeal the
decision. Francois told reporters he was so "moved" by the
judge's decision that he had almost cried in court. [La Prensa
(Honduras) 4/17/97, 4/18/97 from AFP]... Prisoners at the
Valledupar prison in northern Colombia released all 11 of their
hostages on Apr. 13 after reaching an agreement with government
representatives. The 10 points of the accord include commitments
on due process and guarantees for the leaders of the rebellion,
as well as health services and legal and social assistance for
inmates. The rebellion began on Apr. 3 [see Update #376]. [El
Diario-La Prensa 4/14/97 from EFE]... Candido Amador Recinos, a
leader of the Chorti indigenous nation in Honduras, was murdered
on Apr. 12 just outside Copan Ruinas by unidentified assailants.
Amador was secretary general of the Honduran Advisory Council for
the Development of Indigenous Ethnic Groups (CAHDEA). The killers
stole a backpack containing important documents about the Chorti
land struggles. Indigenous leaders have threatened to call
massive protests if the murder is not solved within a reasonable
time. The Copan Association of Ranchers and Farmers has issued a
communique denying any involvement in the murder. [La Prensa
(Honduras) 4/15/97, 4/16/97]... Protests in the Yamasa and
Pantojas neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic's capital city
left 34 people injured in clashes with police on Apr. 15. Police
arrested 20 youths in Yamasa as the community completed the
second day of a civic strike demanding public works. Most of the
26 people injured in Yamasa were hit by bullets; four police were
slightly hurt by a homemade bomb. The protests in Pantojas
occurred when police evicted dozens of families occupying private
lands in northwestern Santo Domingo. Some 2,840 doctors who work
for the Dominican Social Security Institute meanwhile began a
partial strike to demand a 50% salary raise. The doctors' current
minimum monthly salary is equivalent to $357. [ED-LP 4/16/97 from


For New York area events, check out the CREED NYC calendar at
http://home.earthlink.net/~dbwilson/creed.html (if you don't have
web access, write <nicadlw@earthlink.net> for info).

1996 INDEX OUT NOW!!! ANNUAL UPDATE INDEX available for each year
from 1991 through 1996. Ascii text versions free to subscribers
via electronic mail. Send your request to <nicajg@panix.com>
(specify which year or years you want--each is over 100kb). Each
index will be sent as a separate text message (not an attached
file) unless you request otherwise.

STILL AVAILABLE: "Immigration in the USA One Year After
Proposition 187," a Weekly News Update on the Americas special
report, accompanied by a resource list and organizing leaflet.
Ascii text version free to subscribers via email. Send your
request to <nicajg@panix.com>

1996 SOURCE LIST STILL AVAILABLE: A list of sources commonly-used
in the Weekly News Update on the Americas, along with
abbreviations and contact information. Free to subscribers. Send
your request to <nicajg@panix.com>
Weekly News Update on the Americas * Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY
339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 * 212-674-9499 fax: 212-674-9139
http://home.earthlink.net/~dbwilson/wnuhome.html * wnu@igc.apc.org

** End of text from cdp:reg.nicaragua **

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