Guanajuato: campesino protesters occupy city

Some 2,000 campesinos blocked streets in the city of Celaya, in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, demanding that state and federal authorities take measures in response to the plunging price of maiz and sorghum. The protesters used scores of tractors and other farm equipment to shut down the area around the offices of the Agricultural Development Secretariat (SAGARPA). Francisco Escobar Osornio, director of the Democratic Campesino Union (UCD) said the state government had created a 120 million-peso fund to support prices, but a pledged matching fund from the federal government has not been forthcoming. "For this reason, it has been agreed to realize mobilizations to see that this problem is addressed," he said. The protesters have threatened to block federal highways across the state if their demands are not met. (Reforma, La Prensa, Sept. 29)

China bars online images as Hong Kong explodes

Instagram has been blocked in mainland China since Sept. 28, in an evident attempt to stop images of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as street clashes entered their third day. Following repression of the massive Occupy Central demonstration, thousands of people have remained on the streets of Hong Kong, defying tear gas and ignoring orders to disperse. Overnight, riot police advanced on crowds who ignored official warnings that the demonstrations were illegal. In what can be read as a veiled threat, Hong Kong's chief executive CY Leung reassured the public that rumors the Chinese army might intervene are untrue. (Shanghaiist, Sept. 29; BBC News, Sept. 28)

Brazil: campesino protesters occupy banks

Some 3,000 campesinos, including children and seniors, some with musical instruments, staged sit-ins on June 26 in the states of Goiás, Bahía and Piauí at 18 branches of Brazil's two largest state-owned banks, the Banco do Brasil and the Caixa Económica Federal. The day-long protest, organized by the Popular Campesino Movement (MCP), targeted budget cuts in the government's popular low-income housing program, My House My Life; MCP leaders said 950 campesino families had been dropped from My House My Life's National Rural Habitation Program (PNHR). The group demanded an increase in housing construction for the rest of this year, payment for projects already in progress, and improvements in the PNHR for next year. "The campesino families are struggling for a dignified life and don't accept having to wait more time for reform, enlargement [of the program] and construction of housing," the MCP said in a statement. "Waiting longer means increasing the exodus from the countryside and increasing the problems of rural life."

Tiananmen Square: futility of revisionism

Chinese authorities carried out aggressive detentions ahead of the 25th anniversary  of the Tiananmen Sqauare massacre, with New Tang Dynasty news agency reporting 70 journalists, dissidents and rights defenders arrested over the past month. Blogger and journalist Gao Yu went missing at the end of April, and Beijing activist Hu Jia has been under house arrest for more than three months, after announcing his intention to hold a vigil in the square on the June 4 anniversary, in defiance of authorities. The Wall Street Journal's China Real Time blog notes that tens of thousands attended a vigil in Hong Kong, but the New York Times' Sinosphere blog reports that Tiananmen Square itself was so thick with security patrols and checkpoints that even the usual throng of tourists was down to a mere trickle. A tantalyzing report in the Globe & Mail says that a small group of black-clad citizens did manage to walk through the square in a silent, symbolic protest.

Taiwan gets a Maidan movement?

Hundreds of students remain barricaded in Taiwan's Legislature in protest of the ruling party's push for a Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement with the People's Republic of China. Protesters, most of them college students, stormed into the assembly hall of the Legislative Yuan, breaking the glass doors and blocking the entrances by piling up lawmakers' chairs to prevent police from entering. The protesters also took over the podium and rostrum in the chamber. The action was prompted March 18 when the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) cut short review of the trade agreement and sent the pact directly to the plenary session for its second reading. In response, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) boycotted the plenary session. Student leader Fei-fan Lin, speaking at a press conference, said: "We want the agreement to be recinded—not just back to the committee, but we want it thrown out, and tell China we are not signing this." (China Post, March 20; Taipei Times, CNN, VOA, March 19; Ketagalan Media, March 18)

'Fascism' and the Ukraine protests

At least 25 are reported dead and more than 240 injured in clashes that erupted when Ukrainian protesters mounted a march on parliament Feb. 18, apparently ending a "truce" that had been worked out to allow negotiations. The march took place before a scheduled debate on reinstatement of Ukraine's 2004 constitution, which would rein in President Viktor Yanukovich's powers. The situation on the streets escalated as the bill was blocked by parliamentary staff who refused to register it on procedural grounds. The 2004 constitution was repealed in 2010, shortly after Yanukovich came to power, replaced by a new one granting him sweeping powers, including to appoint regional governors—a critical issue in Ukraine, with its divide between the more Russian-identified east and more European-identified west. (Jurist, WP, UN News Centre, Feb. 19; BBC News, EuroNews, Feb. 18)

Turkey: street clashes over cyber freedom

Riot police in Istanbul used water cannons against demonstrators Feb. 9 in the latest protest against a bill that would increase government control over the Internet. Last month, demonstrators attempted to occupy Istanbul's main Taksim Square in protest of the law, before being evicted by riot police with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets. The bill, granting Turkey's telecommunications authority the ability to block websites or remove content without a court order, has been approved by parliament and awaits the signature of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey made almost 1,700 requests for Google to remove material from the web in the first six months of 2013—more than three times any other country, and a rise of nearly 1,000% in one year. Google says most of the requests were turned down. (AFP, Feb. 9; Jurist, Feb. 7; Euronews, Jan. 18)

Bogotá stand-off amid renewed repression

Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, ordered to step down last month by Colombia's Prosecutor General Alejandro Ordóñez, won a reprieve Jan. 14, when Magistrate José Armenta of the Supreme Tribunal of Cundinamarca department ruled that the order should not be carried out until it has been established that it complied with the law. Petro, who is allowed to remain in office while the case is on appeal, responded to the ruling by saying "justice had won." But Ordóñez did not say that he would honor the court's ruling, and Petro told supporters in the Plaza de Bolívar just one week later that he believed he will be ordered to step down by the end of January. He suggested he would acquiesce, saying: "This is the final week; this story is over." (Caracol Radio, Jan. 23; BBC News, Jan. 15; El Tiempo, Jan. 14)

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