Weekly News Update on the Americas
At least two Haitian protesters were wounded by gunfire and another apparently shot dead in two days of opposition demonstrations in Port-au-Prince Dec. 12 and 13; there were also protests in the northern cities of Cap-Haïtien and Gonaïves. The demonstrations, which drew thousands, came as the government of President Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky") was taking steps aimed at defusing a political crisis that has been building for several months.
On Dec. 13 the left-leaning Mexican news magazine Proceso published an investigative report challenging the government's account of the abduction of 43 students and the killing of three students and three bystanders the night of Sept. 26-27 in Iguala de la Independencia in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Based on cell phone videos, interviews, testimony by witnesses and leaked official documents, the report's authors, Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, claim that agents of the Federal Police (PF) were involved in the attack on the students, that the Mexican army was at least complicit, and that the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto has been covering up the role of federal forces.
The human rights agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) has joined other international rights groups in calling for the US government to act on a report that the US Senate Intelligence Committee released on Dec. 9 about the use of torture by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). According to its Dec. 12 press release, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) called for the US "carry out a full investigation in order to clarify the facts, and prosecute and punish all persons within its jurisdiction responsible for acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and to provide integral reparations to the victims, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and measures of non-repetition, pursuant to international standards." The commission added that "the lack of punishment encourages practices that erode respect for integrity and human dignity."
The remains of one of 43 students abducted the night of Sept. 26-27 in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero have been identified by DNA tests, parents of the missing students said on Dec. 6. Technicians in Innsbruck, Austria, established that one of 14 bone fragments sent them by the Mexican government came from the body of Alexander Mora Venancio, a 19-year-old student at the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa; gang members and municipal police had detained him along with 42 other Ayotzinapa students in Iguala de la Independencia during attacks which also left three students and three bystanders dead. The bone fragments were found in a dump near Iguala in Cocula municipality after three members of the Guerrero Unidos ("United Warriors") gang told federal authorities they had helped burn and dispose of the bodies there.
Hundreds of Mexican immigrants and other activists held actions in at least 47 US towns and cities on Dec. 3 to protest the abduction of 43 teachers' college students by police and gang members in Mexico's Guerrero state in September; each of the 43 students had one of the actions dedicated to him. The protests were organized by UStired2, a group taking its name from #YaMeCansé ("I'm tired now," or "I've had it"), a Mexican hashtag used in response to the violence against the students, who attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. The protesters focused on US government financing for the Mexican government—especially funding for the "war on drugs" through the 2008 Mérida Initiative—but they also expressed outrage over the US court system's failure to indict US police agents in two recent police killings of unarmed African Americans.
A decree by Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís authorizing payments to former banana workers sickened by the pesticide Nemagon became official on Dec. 1 with the measure's publication in the government's gazette. Under the decree the government's National Insurance Institute (INS) will pay out from 25% to 100% of the medical bills for workers who suffered physical or psychological damage from Nemagon, with the percentage based on their years of exposure to the pesticide. The decree currently covers 13,925 former banana workers; cases are pending for 9,233 of the workers' children and 1,742 of the workers' spouses. More than 11,000 other applications were dismissed.
On Dec. 1 Nieves Ayress Moreno, a Chilean-born naturalized US citizen, formally joined a criminal complaint filed earlier by three other Chilean women over sexual political violence that they say they suffered under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Chilean law doesn't treat sexual violence as a separate complaint; instead, the crimes are considered "illegitimate pressure," allowing some of the perpetrators to escape justice. The complaint seeks to have the crimes "incorporated into the penal code and those responsible for them to be able to be punished," according to another of the plaintiffs, Alejandra Holzapfel. Ayress Moreno, who lives in New York, delayed joining Holzapfel and the remaining two plaintiffs, Soledad Castillo and Nora Brito, in the complaint until she could travel to Chile.
Colombian national police and several employees of the US embassy in Bogotá kicked and beat injured former employees of GM Colmotores, Colombian subsidiary of the Detroit-based General Motors Company (GM), during a protest in front of the embassy Nov. 18, according to the workers and a report by local TV station Canal Capital. Members of the Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of Colmotores (Asotrecol) have been encamped outside the embassy since August 2011 as part of a campaign to get GM to reinstate them and compensate them for the injuries they received while working at the plant. The attack came on a day when the workers' supporters in the US filed a complaint with the US Justice Department and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charging GM with bribing Colombian officials in violation of a US law, the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).