Central America Theater

Central America: women protest abortion bans

On May 28, some 200 Nicaraguan women marked International Day of Action for Women's Health with a protest in Managua to demand the decriminalization of therapeutic abortion. Dozens of vehicles formed a caravan that drove past the Supreme Court, the National Assembly, the offices of the main Nicaraguan media and the headquarters of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the party of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega Saavedra. The lead vehicle carried a poster of a pregnant woman being crucified, referring to the increase in the number of women dying during pregnancy or childbirth so far in 2007. The protest was organized by the Feminist Movement, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) and the Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, among others.

Daniel Ortega schmoozes ayatollahs

From Reuters, June 10:

TEHRAN - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who wants more aid from the United States, called on Sunday for a new world order to replace "capitalism and imperialism", at the start of a trip to arch U.S. foe Iran.

Guatemala: court accepts, activists reject ex-dictator’s candidacy

The Guatemalan Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by activists to block the candidacy of former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt in congressional elections this Sept. 9. However, Supreme Court Spokesman Guillermo Melgar said that that the ruling can be appealed for reconsideration. The legal status of "candidate," according to Guatemalan legislation, grants judicial immunity to Ríos Montt, which would make ineffective the charges initiated against him in Spain in 1999 for crimes of genocide, torture and state terrorism. During his rule, tens of thousands mostly indigenous Guatemalans were killed by government military actions.

Deja vu in Nicaragua: our readers write

Since his election as Nicaragua's president last November, Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) has pledged to end his country's participation in the IMF, weighed in for Iran's right to nuclear power, and announced new drives for rural literacy and development. Our May issue featured the story "The Return of Plan Puebla-Panama: the New Struggle for the Isthmus" by WW4 REPORT editor Bill Weinberg, noting how Nicaragua has become pivotal in a race between two regional development plans for Central America: the US-backed PPP, which aims at building the infrastructure to facilitate CAFTA; and the populist Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), pushed by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. Tensions are rapidly escalating between Nicaragua and the US allies in the region—Honduras, Costa Rica and, most significantly, Colombia. We also featured the retrospective "Sandinista Redux: Nicaragua Sticks It to Tio Sam —Again!" by Michael I. Niman of Art Voice weekly in Buffalo, NY, which looked back at the US destabilization campaign against Nicaragua the last time Ortega was in power in the 1980s. Our May Exit Poll was: "Were you obsessed with Nicaragua in the '80s? Are you feeling nostalgic since Daniel Ortega's resumption of power? C'mon, tell the truth." We received the following responses:

Central Americans protest Canadian mining cartel

Busloads of people surrounded the Salvador del Mundo monument in front of the Canadian Embassy in San Salvador today to protest the Canadian Government’s role Central American mining, and specifically in the 29 mining projects currently active in El Salvador. The event was the culmination of the Central American Alliance against Metallic Mining conference held last weekend in Cabañas, El Salvador, where the Canadian "Pacific Rim" company is currently operating.

Costa Rica drops out of SOA

On May 16, during a visit to Washington, DC, Costa Rican president Oscar Arias announced that Costa Rica will stop sending police agents to be trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), a US military training institution formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA). Critics of the school, located at Fort Benning, Georgia, charge that it has trained many of the hemisphere's worst human right abusers.

Protests in El Salvador: "acts of terrorism"?

Downtown San Salvador was rocked by clashes between police and protesters May 12 after authorities tried to clear the stalls of street merchants who were peddling pirate CDs and other contraband. The elite riot squad, the Unit for the Maintenance of Order (UMO), was called to the scene as street merchants burned tires and hurled stones at police, in what President Elías Antonio Saca called "acts of terrorism." Seventeen people were arrested and a general evacuation of the downtown area was ordered. (Diario CoLatino, May 14)

Nicaragua: mystery illness strikes sugar mill workers

According to government figures, nearly 2,000 current and former employees of two sugar mills in the Chichigalpa region of northwestern Nicaragua suffer from chronic renal insufficiency (CRI), a fatal kidney disease. While the cause remains a mystery, a workers group puts the death toll at more than 560 employees of one of the mills alone over the past 30 years. Residents point to the chemicals used in sugar-cane fields at the San Antonio and Monte Rosa mills, which produce most of Nicaragua's sugar exported to the US. The mills deny responsibity, and say workers who sued the companies presented no scientific evidence.

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