Puerto Rico

Leaks show massive US spying throughout Americas

US intelligence agencies have carried out spying operations on telecommunications in at least 14 Latin American countries, according to a series of articles the Brazilian national daily O Globo began publishing on July 7. Based on classified documents leaked by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden, the articles reported that the main targets were Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. The US also spied "constantly, but with less intensity," on Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela, the newspaper said. Brazil and Colombia, a major US ally, have both officially demanded explanations from the US.

Puerto Rico: Monsanto blows off legislative hearing

The Monsanto Company, the Missouri-based biotech giant, has been refusing to cooperate with efforts by Puerto Rico's legislature to regulate the development and sale of seeds on the island. The company chose not to testify at a hearing of Puerto Rico's Senate Agriculture Committee held on June 17 for a bill, PS624, that would create a seed board and a certification and licensing system to regulate seed development and sale. Monsanto representative Eric Torres-Collazo wrote to the committee that the company's activities are not subject to regulation by Puerto Rico's legislature. "Monsanto does not produce, sell [or] offer...basic or certified seed with the purpose of planting in Puerto Rico," Torres-Collazo explained. The company has used the same reasoning to claim that it is exempt from a constitutional ban on individual farms larger than 500 acres.

Latin America: marchers reject Monsanto, back food sovereignty

According to organizers, hundreds of thousands of environmentalists and other activists participated in marches in 436 cities and 52 countries on May 25 to protest the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company, whose products include genetically modified (GM) seeds and the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. The global March Against Monsanto generated events in countries including Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the US. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 26, some from AFP, Prensa Latina)

Puerto Rico: thousands protest airport privatization

Some 2,500 Puerto Ricans marched on San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport on Feb. 24 to protest plans to privatize the facility. "Our airport isn't for sale and isn't for rent" and "Alejandro [García Padilla, the governor], your mom's ashamed of you" were among the marchers' signs. Agents of the US Homeland Security Department arrested one protester, Víctor Domínguez, a member of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico (PNPR), when he attempted to go past barricades that police agents had set up 50 meters from the airport entrance. Protest organizers blamed the police for the confrontation during an otherwise peaceful event, saying the agents violated an agreement to let the marchers go all the way to the entrance. Protest sponsors included the Union of Workers of the Electrical Industry and Circulation (UTIER) Solidarity Program (Prosol), the Brotherhood of Office Employees (HEO) and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). (Metro, Guaynabo, Feb. 24)

Puerto Rico: government, US agree on police reform

The government of Puerto Rico and the US Justice Department signed a 106-page agreement on Dec. 21 for reforming the island's 17,000-member police department. The reforms are intended to address numerous police abuses detailed in a September 2011 Justice Department report; the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued its own report on abuses in June 2012. The Justice Department also filed a lawsuit requiring the Puerto Rican government and police department to comply with the Justice Department's earlier directives, but this was considered a legal formality, since the agreement apparently represents the compliance the US was seeking.

Puerto Rico: Fortuño loses —but did statehood win?

On Nov. 7 Puerto Rican governor Luis G. Fortuño conceded defeat in his bid for a second four-year term in an election the day before that also included voting for the legislature and the municipal governments, and a non-binding referendum on the island's status. With 96.35% of the ballots counted, Fortuño, the candidate of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), had received 47.04% of the votes; Senator Alejandro García Padilla, running for the centrist Popular Democratic Party (PPD), won narrowly with 47.85%. Juan Dalmau Ramírez of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) came in third with 2.53%, less than the 3% required to maintain the party's ballot status. Three smaller parties split the remaining votes. (Prensa Latina, Nov. 7; Claridad, Puerto Rico, Nov. 8)

Puerto Rico: new law to 'intimidate' unions and students

On July 30 Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuño signed into law a new Penal Code that he and legislators said would counter a recent rise in crime by imposing much stiffer prison sentences for a wide range of crimes. The new law, which replaces the Penal Code of 2004, also defines the seduction of minors through the internet as a criminal offense and gives the government the power to fire any public employee who commits a crime while carrying out a public function. "We're not going to let the criminals take over Puerto Rico," Fortuño said at the signing ceremony.

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