News - May 29
BRAZIL: CIVIL WAR IN SAO PAOLO
Behind the criminal insurgency in Brazil's largest city is a national crisis of legitimate authority
COLOMBIA'S PEACE AND JUSTICE LAW
Last July, Colombia passed a measure called the Justice and Peace Law. It was supposed to offer paramilitary fighters incentives to put down their guns, but would instead have let them continue their criminal activities undisturbed. Now Colombia's Constitutional Court has restored justice and peace to the law.
The State Department considers the Colombian paramilitaries to be terrorists. They are responsible for massacring thousands of civilians, and they finance their activities through extortion and by providing 40 percent of Colombia's cocaine exports.
The Constitutional Court has greatly strengthened the demobilization law. The court left in a substantial reduction in sentences to induce paramilitaries to stop fighting, but requires them to confess in full to their crimes and provide the authorities with the information necessary to dismantle these criminal gangs. The court also struck down a provision that would have given prosecutors a cripplingly short time to prepare cases.
President Álvaro Uribe's administration has twice written bills that restrict the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court, which is the most important remaining check on the president's power. Mr. Uribe may try again if he is elected to a second term on Sunday. He enjoys the strong backing of Washington, which considers him a counterweight to Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The American ambassador, William Wood, has enthusiastically supported Mr. Uribe's sweetheart deal for the paramilitaries.
While the Bush administration acknowledges in general that Constitutional Court decisions should be respected, it needs to make a strong statement of support for that court's independence, and for paramilitary demobilization under the court's terms. Mr. Uribe should,
too, and should abandon his efforts to meddle with the Constitutional Court.
CHILE: POLICE ATTACK STUDENT MARCHES
After protesting for several weeks with no answer to their demands, on May 18 more than 1,000 Chilean high school students demonstrated in Santiago to press for free public transportation, free university entrance exams and improvements in the quality of public education. Agents of the militarized Carabineros police arrested at least 560 students and used tear gas and water cannons to evict a group of students who had taken refuge in theUniversity of Chile law school. Another 244 students were arrested in similar protests in other cities, including Arica and Calama in the north, Valparaiso and Concepcion in the central region, and Temuco and Puerto Montt in the south.
[Clarin (Argentina) website 5/18/06; Cadena 3 (Argentina) 5/19/06]
More than 50 students were arrested in a previous protest in Santiago on May 12, and a young Argentine citizen was expelled by the Chilean government.
[Weekly News Update]
COLOMBIA: GRASSROOTS SUMMIT ATTACKED
Starting on May 14, nearly 15,000 indigenous, campesino and African-descended people from the north of Cauca department in southwestern Colombia gathered in the Guambiano indigenous territory of La Maria Piendamo for a summit of organized grassroots sectors building strategies of resistance against constant human rights violations, the signing of the Andean Free Trade Treaty with the US and the repressive "democratic security" policy of President Alvaro Uribe Velez. More than 50,000 people gathered at other sites in southwestern Colombia on May 15 to participate. More than 2,000 Nasa, Guambiano and Embera indigenous people and Afro-Colombians held an eight-kilometer march to the main government buildings in Cali. [Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales 5/15/06 from http://nasaacin.net/; Comunicaciones ONIC Boletin 054 5/15/06]
On May 15, agents from the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) of the National Police used tear gas and rubber bullets against summit participants who were carrying out a protest blockade of the Panamerican highway near Mondomo municipality in Cauca. At least five people were wounded and 10 people were arrested, including two members of the Interchurch Commission of Justice and Peace. A newborn baby was affected by the tear gas. The ESMAD agents were joined by agents of the Highway Police and troops from the National Army's Jose Hilario Lopez Battalion and the 19th Brigade's Meteodoro Battalion. After the initial attack, the protesters withdrew and regrouped 500 meters down the road, where ESMAD agents resumed the attack with tear gas, sparking three fires in the area. The agents also destroyed a house where summit participants were storing their belongings.
[Prensa Libre (alternative communiation project of the grassroots movement of southwestern Colombia) 5/15/06 via Servicio Prensa Rural; Report from Organizaciones Sociales 5/15/06 via Servicio Prensa Rural]
At the same time, police used tear gas and truncheon blows to disperse more than 3,500 campesinos who were demonstrating in front of the National Training Service (SENA) building in Popayan, capital of Cauca department. According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), two people were wounded by bullets, including Emer Achicue, of Tambo municipality in Cauca.
According to the Only National Agricultural Union Federation (Fensuagro), security forces arrested campesinos in San Juan de Arama as they marched on May 15 through the Lower Ariari region of Meta department, from Puerto Toledo to Villavicencio. Security forces also blocked a mobilization of indigenous people and campesinos heading from different areas of Putumayo department toward the municipality of Pinunas Negras. [Report from Organizaciones Sociales 5/15/06 via Servicio Prensa Rural] In Narino department, Esmad agents and army troops have tried to block Awa indigenous people from mobilizing in two locations.
[Comunicaciones ONIC Boletin 054 5/15/06]
On May 16, army troops, police and Esmad riot agents backed by four helicopters attacked the summit in La Maria Piendamo, bombarding participants with tear gas and weapons fire. Security forces apparently fired directly at members of the Cauca indigenous guard--an organized community defense force armed only with traditional staffs--and also targeted infrastructure sites such as community kitchens, food storage warehouses and lodging areas. Pedro Coscue, an indigenous guard member from the Corinto indigenous reserve, was shot to death, and 78 people were wounded--32 of them seriously--while another 36 people were arrested and more than 10 were disappeared.
[Note: Pedro Coscue's last name was given in different sources as Poscue, Pascue or Soscue.]
[Comunicaciones ONIC Boletin 060 5/16/06; Radio Nizkor 5/17/06]
Over all, in Cauca, Narino, Valle and Meta departments, government repression against summit participants left more than 100 people wounded, and more than 30 people detained and disappeared. [Asociacion Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos Unidad y Reconstruccion (ANUCUR) 5/17/06 via Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales] The indigenous organizers responded to the violence by extending the summit indefinitely, and calling for national and international solidarity.
[Radio Nizkor 5/17/06]
The social movements are asking that messages be sent to Colombian officials demanding guarantees for the lives and physical and psychological safety of the participants in the Summit of Social Organizations; guarantees for the rights to free movement and protest; and dismantling of the ESMAD.
Send messages to President Uribe at fax +571-566-2071 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President Francisco Santos at email@example.com;
Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe at fax +571-222-1874 or firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, see the websites of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) http://nasaacin.net/ and ONIC http://onic.org.co/.
BRAZIL - NUCLEAR PATH?
Brazil follows Iran's nuclear path, but without the fuss Resende, Brazil (AP) - As Iran faces international pressure over developing the raw material for nuclear weapons, Brazil is quietly preparing to open its own uranium-enrichment center, capable of producing exactly the same fuel. Brazil - like Iran - has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and Brazil's constitution bans the military use of nuclear energy. Also like Iran, Brazil has cloaked key aspects of its nuclear technology in secrecy while insisting the program is for peaceful purposes, claims nuclear weapons experts have debunked.
While Brazil is more cooperative than Iran on international inspections, some worry its new enrichment capability - which eventually will create more fuel than is needed for its two nuclear plants - suggests that South America's biggest nation may be rethinking its commitment to non-proliferation. "Brazil is following a path very similar to Iran, but Iran is getting all the attention," said Marshall Eakin, a Brazil expert at Vanderbilt University. "In effect, Brazil is benefiting from Iran's problems."