Central America Theater

CAFTA winning in Costa Rica?

After a divisive and well-financed campaign, Costa Rican supporters of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA)—which reduces trade barriers between Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the US—appeared to have won a narrow victory in an Oct. 7 referendum on the accord. With 73% of the polling places counted at about 11:30 PM, the "yes" option had 51.6% of the votes against 48.4% for the "no" option, according to the official preliminary tallies. The Supreme Elections Council (TSE) reported a 59.84% turnout for the voting, far above the 40% required to make the results binding. This was the first referendum in Costa Rica's history. (EFE, Sept. 7)

Guatemala: another union leader assassinated

Masked assailants gunned down Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela, a leader of the Izabal Banana Workers Union (SITRABI), on Sept. 23 as he leaving his home for work on a banana plantation in the northeastern Guatemalan department of Izabal. Human rights organizations are calling on the Guatemalan government to investigate the murder, bring those responsible to justice and work to prevent future attacks against union leaders; people can support this call through a website link. [Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA]

Nicaraguans march against abortion law

Hundreds of Nicaraguan women marched in Managua on Sept. 28 to demand that the government of President Daniel Ortega Saavedra veto a new law establishing a prison sentence of one to three years for anyone who performs any type of abortion, and one to two years for any woman who consents to the procedure. Calling for civil disobedience and chanting "They didn't respect our lives, we won't respect their laws," the protesters marched to the headquarters of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which Ortega leads. The marchers, who carried coffins and images of crucified women, also protested in front of the Supreme Court of Justice and the National Assembly. The march was organized by the Autonomous Women's Movement as part of the Day of the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Costa Ricans march against CAFTA

More than 100,000 Costa Ricans marched against the pending Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in the capital, San José, Sept. 30, chanting "Costa Rica is not for sale!" Some were dressed as skeletons, or wore masks of President Bush and handed out fake dollar bills, lampooning US trade policies. It was the largest protest in the recent history of Costa Rica, a country of 4 million.

Honduras: Canadian mining company threatens campesino lands

From Rights Action via Upside Down World, Sept. 20:

Communities affected by Canadian-US transnational mining corporation Goldcorp’s (formerly Glamis Gold) San Martin open pit gold mine in the Siria Valley [of Honduras] are denouncing the company’s plans to release water used in the mining process into the local ecosystem.

Honduras: teacher killed in protest

A striking schoolteacher named Wilfredo Lara was killed Aug. 27 while participating in a road blockade at Macuelizo, in Santa Bárbara department of western Honduras. An angered motorist, who apparently opened fire on the blockade with a handgun and hit Lara in the throat, was arrested in the slaying. The blockade was one of ten held throughout the country by the National Coordinator of Popular Resistance (CNRP), made up of more than 30 unions, student groups, indigenous and campesino organizations, and community assemblies. They are demanding land redistribution, the repeal of neoliberal laws on forestry, mining and water, the suspension of planned hydro-electric dams, the punishment of corrupt officials, and controls on the prices of basic goods. (EFE, Aug. 27)

Guatemalan elections: back to the future?

The Sept. 9 election to replace Guatemalan President Oscar Berger featured more body bags than tangible ideas to improve the country. Now facing a Nov. 4 runoff election, voters are left with the tired choice between a military strongman and an oligarch.

Guatemala: son of human rights defender murdered

From the Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA (GHRC-USA), Sept. 11:

José Emanuel "Pepe" Méndez Dardón, son of longtime human rights defender Amílcar Méndez, was shot to death in Guatemala City on the afternoon of August 17 by assailants with high caliber weapons. Pepe Méndez leaves behind a wife and seven year-old twins.

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