The Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation, the world's largest gold producer, announced on Oct. 31 that it was temporarily halting work on its unfinished Pascua Lama gold and silver mine high in the Andes on the Chilean-Argentine border. The only operations at the mine will be those required for compliance with environmental protection laws, according to the company, which said resumption of work would depend on costs and the outlook for gold prices. The projected cost of the massive mine, which was originally set to open in the second half of 2014, has risen from $3 billion in 2009 to $8.5 billion now. Barrick is short of cash after a dramatic drop in international gold prices in the spring; gold is currently selling for 20% less than it was a year ago. Barrick is cutting 1,850 jobs and is said to be considering the possibility of selling an interest in Pascua Lama, on which it has spent $5.4 billion to date.
Some 300 police agents carried out a raid the morning of Oct. 9 at an estate occupied by members of the indigenous Mapuche community of Temucuicui in Chile's southern region of Araucanía. According to community members, agents from the carabineros militarized police destroyed houses and crops, beat residents and ran over sheep with their vehicles, killing 15 animals and injuring many others. At least four people were arrested, including werken (spokesperson) Mijael Carbone Queipul; his wife, Susana Venegas Curinao; werken Jorge Huenchullán; and his brother, who was reportedly wounded by a bullet.
Mexican federal judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo has issued an injunction ordering the Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa) and the Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) not to grant further licenses for the sowing of genetically modified (GM) corn, a group of environmental organizations announced on Oct. 10. Mexican law restricts the use of transgenic corn, but recently the government has greatly expanded the area where GM seeds can be sown in pilot projects by companies like the Monsanto Company, Pioneer, Syngenta AG and Dow AgroSciences. Environmentalists want to ban all transgenic corn, which they say threatens both Mexico's biodiversity and the ability of independent farmers to grow organic crops.
A judge in Quito on Oct. 1 ordered the house arrest of three army and police officers in Ecuador's first trial involving alleged crimes against humanity. They are part of a group of 10 former senior officers accused of abducting and torturing three members of an illegal opposition group, the Eloy Alfaro Popular Armed Forces, in 1985. Activists converged on the capital for the opening day of the landmark trial. The events took place under the conservative government of late Leon Febres Cordero, who was elected to a four-year term in 1984. Judge Lucy Blacio turned down prosecutors' request to have one elderly army general detained, on the ground that he is seriously ill; however, he is barred from leaving the country. The three victims—Susana Cajas, Javier Jarrin and Luis Vaca—are to testify in the case next week. The charges were brought by a special Truth Commission created to address rights abuses. (Jurist, Oct. 2; BBC News, AFP via Milenio, Oct. 1)
Tens of thousands of Chileans marched down the Alameda avenue in central Santiago on Sept. 8 in one of a series of events marking the 40th anniversary of the US-backed Sept. 11, 1973 coup that installed the military dictatorship headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet Urgarte (1973-1990). The marchers, some carrying signs reading "40 years since the coup, nothing and no one is forgotten," demanded justice for the victims. The organizers said 60,000 people participated in the action, which is sponsored each year by the National Assembly for Human Rights, while the police put the number at 30,000. A confrontation broke out at the march’s end between agents of the carabineros militarized police and masked protesters; 31 people were arrested and seven agents were injured, according to the police. (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 9, from AP, AFP)
By now we've all seen the ugly meme, at least if you've got a Facebook account. A uniformed serviceman holds a hand-written sign over his face reading "I didn't join the army to fight for al-Qaeda in Syria." (In case you've missed it, it is of course flaunted by the right-wing xenophobes at InfoWars.) Hopefully, we don't have to explain how this is a shameful betrayal of the secular civil resistance in Syria—it simply denies their existence, painting the entire opposition as al-Qaeda. And you certainly don't have to be pro-intervention to recognize this. A related ugly meme shows a face-palming Obama with the caption: "That awkward moment when you realize the only allies the US can muster for a Syria attack... are the terrorists who flew planes into your buildings twelve years ago."
The unfinished Pascua Lama gold and silver mine high in the Andes on the Chilean-Argentine border continues to bring problems for Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. The multinational has announced a loss of $8.56 billion for the second quarter of this year, largely because of a $5.1 billion write-down of the mine's value. The $8.5 billion project is stalled because of environmental concerns and legal actions in Chile. Suspension of construction at the mine coincided with a record 23% drop in international gold prices from April through June.
Chilean judge Mario Carroza on Aug. 5 rejected a request by human rights lawyer Eduardo Contreras to prosecute former general Fernando Matthei for murder. Matthei oversaw the military facility where Gen. Alberto Bachelet was tortured to death in 1973 after Bachelet refused to support the military coup lead by Augusto Pinochet. Contreras has attempted to bring charges against Matthei before and argued that new evidence has come to light which shows that Matthei was aware of Banchelet's death. However, Carroza ruled that there were insufficient grounds to prosecute. Contreras frequently represents families who were victimized during Pinochet's regime and has stated his intention to appeal the decision. Both of the generals' daughters, Evelyn Matthei and Michelle Bachelet, are opponents in the upcoming Chilean presidential election.