Monday, June 26, 2006

Petro Revolucion - Active Productions

NZ film makers to capture history in Venezuela

A NZ group called Active Productions will be filming in Caracas from November to December, and have secured interviews with leading academics such as Noam Chomsky, Paul Buchanan and Eva Golinger.

Active Productions is making a documentary on internal and external factors influencing the political culture of the Bolivarian Revolution, the use of oil in Venezuela, and the character of the upcoming December presidential elections. Venezuelans are about to decide which path they
will take in the December 2006 elections. Because of how important these elections are, and the deep opposing divisions that exist in the region, they are likely to be turbulent. And they need to be documented and we are going to do this.

Latin America is currently undergoing a transformation of human social life - political, economic, and even psychological. Venezuela, under the Bolivarian Revolution, is the catalyst of this regional movement, which brings into action principles of social justice, human rights, and equality in a region with a large historical debt in these regards. The consequence of a powerful movement in this direction is that local and international (notably, the US) traditionally power groups find themselves displaced by the emerging new form of power distribution. The 2002 coup and oil strike was an example of how some groups can impede and interfere with the revolution.

Active Productions welcomes your contribution in financing this project.

For more information, please contact Ricardo Restrepo at or visit the website at

Self Determination in Action

In association with WEA, LASC presents:


Eye-witness accounts from

Sat 8 July, 9am – 5pm
Wellington Central Library
Victoria Street

New Zealanders, Mike Treen, Mark Muller and Jared Phillips have recently returned from Venezuela, Philippines and Nepal respectively. They were guests of three of the world’s most inspiring movements for national and regional self-determination. They will lead discussion on
the nature of liberation and revolution from three viewpoints: from inside the Bolivarian movement led by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, to the legal and underground expressions of people power in the Philippines, and to the expanding liberated zones of Nepal.

Specific details of the programme will be available in the coming week.

Organised by:
Wellington Worker’s Educational Association (WEA), Latin America Committee, Victoria University Student’s Association, Wellington Branch National Distribution Union, Worker’s Party of NZ, Philippine Solidarity Network.

Contact: Rod Prosser 04 4725259

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Spanish Films at the NZ Film Festival

Spanish Films at the NZ Film Festival

Telecom 2006 New Zealand International Film Festivals
Auckland July 13 - 30
Wellington July 21 - August 6
Dunedin July 28 - August 13
Christchurch August 3 - 20

Venue details, dates and sessions are still to be confirmed but will be available in the festival brochure and online at from the end of June.

The Line-up:

The Aura
Argentina/Spain/France 2005, 134 Minutes
Director: Fabián Bielinsky
With: Ricardo Darín, Dolores Fonzi, Alejandro Awada, Pablo Cedrón,
Jorge D’Elia, Manuel Rodal, Rafael Castejón, Walter Reyno, Nahuel Pérez
In Spanish with English subtitles
Festivals: San Sebastian 2005, Sundance 2006

As a follow up to his internationally fêted début Nine Queens,
Argentine writer/director Fabián Bielinsky delivers this spellbinding, noirish heist film set in the magnificent mountain wilderness of Patagonia. But to place The Aura within the heist genre fails to hint at the rich psychological tapestry and sense of existential tension that builds around the central character, a shy, epileptic taxidermist from Buenos Aires. Played with subtle, mesmerising complexity by Ricardo Darín, he speaks only when absolutely necessary, but we are soon aware of his elaborate fantasy life (aided by his near-photographic memory) in which he operates as a criminal mastermind. All this scheming takes place in his imagination… that is, until he is dragged on an ill-fated hunting trip by a pushy colleague
and finds himself drawn into an elaborate criminal scheme. Has a lifetime of fantasising a career in crime prepared him for a real casino hit or double-crossing partners who fire genuine bullets?

“An original, atmospheric exercise in existential film noir, sealed by a mesmerising performance.” — Lee Marshall, Screendaily

“The Aura sports a shrewd, serpentine plot, and Bielinsky allows us
the fun of trying to arrange puzzle pieces on our own. But he also never lets go of his preoccupation with character and crafts a style that’s airy and contemplative; The Aura’s gorgeous, deliberate visuals are almost hypnotic. Espinoza [the taxidermist] is a fascinating protagonist, a quiet, opaque man who suffers from epilepsy. The ‘aura’ refers to the eerie, frozen moment before a seizure when Espinoza knows it’s coming but can do nothing about it. It’s one of a handful of intertwining metaphors and themes that give The Aura a satisfying sense of wholeness.” — John Nein, Sundance Film Festival

Battle in Heaven
Batalla en el cielo
Mexico/France/Belgium/Germany 2005, 98 Minutes
Director: Carlos Reygadas
With: Marcos Hernández, Berta Ruiz
In Spanish with English subtitles
Festivals: Cannes (In Competition), Toronto 2005; Sundance 2006

Carlos Reygadas’ follow-up to the startling Japón ambitiously turns the struggle for the soul of its protagonist into an epic critique on the role of religion in Mexican life in oppressing the lower class. Many masterpieces have been booed at Cannes. Reygadas’ film, about a general’s driver and his wife who bungle a kidnap, isn’t one of them. But it is a provocative mix of hardcore religion and art-porn which, judging by the amount of attention it is receiving long after its stormy première, is still something of a cause célèbre. It’s easy to see why the film is so thoroughly disliked. It is sledgehammer
filmmaking that shouts it greatness at you, but thankfully there is much to enjoy in the masterful, beautifully shot, almost documentary-like sequences focused around not just religion but such pillars of Mexican society as the military and football. It may be a
deeply muddled and pretentious film, but it’s very much a big screen experience and we know that there are plenty of Japón fans out there who will want to witness its spectacular grandiosity for themselves.

The Method
El Método, aka The Grönholm Method
Spain/Argentina/Italy 2005, 115 Minutes
Director: Marcelo Piñeyro
With: Eduardo Noriega, Najwa Nimri, Eduard Fernández, Pablo Echarri,
Ernesto Alterio, Carmelo Gómez, Adriana Ozores, Natalia Verbeke
In Spanish and English, with English subtitles
Festivals: Toronto, Vancouver 2005; San Francisco 2006

The Method outfoxes TV survivor shows by staging a desperate dog-eat-dog scenario in the “human” resources department of a multinational corporation. Suavely savage, cinematic and pulsing with self-assurance, The Method takes the simplest of scenarios – seven
executives, with markedly different styles, compete for the same top job – and turns it into a gripping corporate thriller that makes Neil La Bute seem overly sentimental. The title, The Method, refers to the Grönholm Method, a fictitious selection process supposedly imported from the United States that positions the contenders in direct
competition with one another until the last suit standing gets the job. To make matters even more challenging, there doesn’t seem to be anyone directing the proceedings, apart from a bank of computer screens and a smiling but slippery receptionist. As the candidates are put through their paces, including a hypothetical situation in which they must
choose who among them would be the least useful in a post-apocalyptic bunker, the psychological and even sexual power-play increases to the point of warfare. Meanwhile, outside the boardroom, anti-globalisation protestors gather on the streets of Madrid for a day of riots against the IMF. We never see the protesters, nor do their chants penetrate the thick glass walls of the boardroom, but their presence provides a constant backdrop of disquiet to underscore the filmmakers’ agenda. From the director of Kamchatka.

“Piñeyro’s film is a trenchant, disturbing take on the culture of
power, greed and self-interest that is the modus operandi for today’s global politics and economics. It is also an immensely suspenseful, high-stakes drama of what human beings are willing to do for money and prestige, as well as the Janus-faced personas that they must create in order to compete.” — Jonathan Davies, The Festival Daily (Toronto)

Los Olvidados
Mexico 1950, 85 Minutes
Director: Luis Buñuel
With: Alfonso Mejía, Estela Inda, Miguel Inclán, Roberto Cobo
In Spanish with English subtitles
Festivals: London 2005

Luis Buñuel’s violent drama of life without love in the slums of Mexico City has lost none of its shocking power. Fifty-six years after outraged Mexicans called for the director’s blood, this beautiful new print comes to us from Mexico’s UNAM film archive.

“A great, great
movie... This low-budget account of Mexico City street kids, inspired by actual cases as well as [the Spanish] Buñuel’s impressions of his new country, is a masterpiece of social surrealism and the founding work of third-world barrio horror [think City of God]. Los Olvidados (The Forgotten Ones) is strong enough to make a hardened Communist cry or drive a (true) Christian to despair. The title is in part ironic: once seen, this movie can never be forgotten. In no way ‘ennobled’ by their struggle to survive, Buñuel’s children are predators who band together to rob the crippled and the blind. Los Olvidados is set in a world where one child is abandoned by his father and another has to steal food from his mother. The weak prey on the weaker, dogs dress as people, and people die like dogs.” — J. Hoberman, Village Voice

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
USA/France 2005, 121 Minutes
Director: Tommy Lee Jones
With: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio César Cedillo, Dwight
Yoakam, January Jones, Melissa Leo, Levon Helm, Mel Rodriguez, Cecilia
Suárez, Inacio Guadalupe, Vanessa Bauche
In English and Spanish, with English subtitles
Festival: Cannes (In Competition), Toronto 2005, Rotterdam 2006

Tommy Lee Jones’ remarkable directorial début (in which he also stars) possesses the epic spaces, the muscular narrative and the male camaraderie of the great westerns, but its sensibility is decidedly modern and fresh. If Brokeback Mountain was the revisionist western to address homophobia, Burials, written by Mexican Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), dismantles the racism endemic in the genre. It also suggests that the most ornery of individualists can be capable of tenderness and grace. As Cannes juror Salma Hayek remarked, the film is ‘set in a macho world where they don’t act according to macho
stereotypes – where men deal with men in a real way’. Jones plays the individualist in question, a ranch hand living near the Mexican border. When his best friend, illegal immigrant Melquiades Estrada, is murdered in the wilderness, he focuses his fury on the local Border Patrol authorities, who are unwilling to investigate the death of ‘just
another’ Mexican illegal. Arriaga won an award at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival for his vividly detailed screenplay, while Jones took the best actor prize.

“A big-hearted, grand and noble study of broken men and
broken dreams, Three Burials is cruel and comic, exquisitely photographed by Chris Menges and pleasingly old-fashioned in its commitment to elemental, vital storytelling. Tommy Lee Jones has delivered a great American tale.” — Dave Calhoun, Time Out

“Incisive yet supple, wrenching yet deeply pleasurable, The Three
Burials of Melquiades Estrada easily ranks among the year’s best pictures.” — Kevin Thomas, LA Times

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

News June 14

News Update - June 14

Produced by:
(212) 674-9499 <>

1. Peru: Campesinos Protest Free Trade
2. Costa Rica: Thousands March Against CAFTA

3. Guatemala: Break-in at Women's Group

4. Bolivia: Land Reform Decreed

5. Bolivia: Landowner Instigates Clash

6. Bolivia: One Dead in Urban Eviction

7. Brazil: Landless Invade Congress

8. Chile: Students End Strike

9. Mexico: Teachers Threaten Boycott

10. Mexico: Mysterious Campaign Shooting

On June 8, Peruvian campesinos held a day of protest against the
Andean Free Trade Agreement (known in the region as the Free
Trade Treaty, or TLC) which Peru's government signed with the US
last December. (The regional pact includes Colombia and Ecuador,
but the US has carried out negotiations with each country
separately, and the talks with Ecuador have been suspended since
March.) Hundreds of campesinos marched on the Panamerican South
highway in Chincha, Ica region, blocking traffic for hours. The
campesinos are demanding that Peru's Congress make changes to the
pact so it won't hurt small-scale farmers, especially those
producing cotton and corn. More than 3,000 campesinos marched to
the central plaza of Tarapoto, in San Martin region, from areas
including Altomayo and Huallaga Central. They threw rice during
the protest to draw attention to the negative impact the TLC will
have on Peruvian rice producers. [Cadena Peruana de Noticias
6/8/06] On June 7 or 8, before the protests began, the
Constitution Commission of Peru's Congress ruled out holding a
referendum on the TLC. [Adital 6/8/06]

Campesino leader Jose Villanueva told the Cadena Peruana de
Noticias radio network: "[President-elect] Alan Garcia in his
initial speech said the signing of that treaty was irresponsible,
yet now that he won the elections he is in favor and it seems he
won't say anything in the face of its ratification." [Cadena
Peruana de Noticias 6/8/06]

According to official results reported on June 10, with 99.77% of
the ballots counted, Garcia of the Peruvian Aprista Party won the
June 4 presidential runoff election with 52.6% of the vote,
compared to 47.4% for nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala, who
has come out more strongly against the TLC. Earlier reports
showed Garcia with a lead of more than 10 percentage points over
Humala [see Update #853]. [La Jornada (Mexico) 6/6/06 from AFP,
DPA, Reuters; El Nuevo Herald 6/10/06 from AP] Based on the
results from the Apr. 9 general elections, Humala's Union for
Peru party will have the largest bloc in Congress, with 45 of the
120 seats, compared to 36 for Garcia's Aprista party. [ENH 6/8/06
from AP]

Thousands of workers from Costa Rica's Social Security Institute,
Electricity Institute, National Insurance Institute and other
companies marched in San Jose on June 7 to oppose the US-
sponsored Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement
(DR-CAFTA) and to protest a recent Constitutional Court decision
annulling a series of benefits public workers had won through
collective bargaining. According to the march organizers, 15,000
people participated.

The unionists said the court decision was intended to "smooth the
way for CAFTA." "The first victims of this CAFTA are the labor
rights we've won," National Association of Public and Private
Employees (ANEP) general secretary Albino Vargas told the ACAN-
EFE wire service. "With CAFTA, Costa Rica will have to agree to
downgrade its labor legislation with the rest of the Central
American countries, which means taking away rights from those who
won them through struggle." Costa Rica signed on to DR-CAFTA, but
it is the only signatory nation whose legislature hasn't ratified
the agreement. President Oscar Arias, who was inaugurated on May
8, is a strong supporter of the accord. Arias was on a visit to
Europe on June 7, and Vargas charged that the new president would
be holding a "chat" with the International Labor Organization
(ILO) in Europe while his country is "violating labor rights."
[La Nacion (Costa Rica) 6/7/06 from Acan-EFE]

The march came two weeks after a May 24 armed robbery at the
office of the country's largest labor organization, the Rerum
Novarum Workers Confederation (CTRN). [Rerum Novarum is an 1891
papal encyclical on worker's rights.] Unidentified assailants
burst into the office in the morning and held pistols to the
heads of two union staffers. The intruders robbed all the
staffers present of their personal possessions, and then searched
the office, taking a computer which had the text of a complaint
the union was filing with the ILO. The International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) wrote to Arias
demanding an "exhaustive" investigation of the incident to find
the authors of these "intimidating and threatening" acts. [Yahoo
de Argentina 6/5/06 from Europa Press; Upside Down World 6/7/06]

On May 28 or 29 robbers broke into the central office of the
Women's Sector (Sector de Mujeres) organization in Guatemala
City, stealing cell phones and the fax machine, rifling through
files, and leaving traces of blood close to the windows and on
the floor. In its 12 years of operation, Women's Sector has
organized and spoken out against violations of women's rights and
reported on the government's failure to implement parts of the
1996 peace accords. It is one of the organizations sponsoring a
legal action challenging the constitutionality of Guatemala's
participation in the Dominican Republic-Central America Free
Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). [La Semana en Guatemala 5/29/06-
6/4/06; Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA urgent action

The Women's Sector office was robbed again two weeks later,
apparently on June 6. This time the intruders destroyed furniture
and left a piece of glass covered with blood, apparently to
intimidate the staffers. Sandra Moran, a member of the group,
said the new break-in might be connected to a comparison Women's
Sector made between the current wave of murders of women in
Guatemala and the methods used by paramilitaries during the
country's 36-year civil war. Another organization, the National
Union of Guatemalan Women (UNAMG), reported that its office in
Chimaltenango was also robbed in the early morning of June 6. The
intruders stole computer equipment with important information and
searched through desks. [Guatemala Hoy 6/7/06; La Jornada
(Mexico) 6/8/06 from AFP]

On June 5--before the second break-in at the Women's Sector--the
Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC)/USA asked for letters to
Guatemalan president Oscar Berger Perdomo (email, fax +502 2251 2218) and Attorney General
Juan Luis Florido (fax +502 251 2218), with copies to GHRC-USA
(email, urging a thorough investigation
and noting that the government is required under the peace
accords to "take special measures to protect those persons or
entities working in the field of human rights." [GHRC-USA urgent
action 6/5/06]

On June 3, Bolivian president Evo Morales Ayma signed decrees
instituting a large-scale national agrarian reform program. In a
ceremony in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, Morales
handed out the first titles under the new program, distributing
30,000 square kilometers of state-owned land to indigenous
campesino communities in what he called the start of a "true
agrarian revolution." Thousands of representatives of indigenous,
campesino and social organizations attended the ceremony in the
city's Chiriguano Plaza.

Morales called Bolivia's 1953 agrarian reform "insufficient" and
said his new program is broader and deeper. On June 6, Alfredo
Rada, deputy minister of coordination with the country's social
movements, announced that the program would redistribute 2.2
million hectares of land over the next four months. About 20
million hectares--a fifth of Bolivia's total land area--is
expected to be redistributed over the next five years.

In addition to handing out land parcels, the government will
provide subsidies, credits and equipment to small-scale
agricultural producers under the reform plan. In his June 3
speech, Morales also pledged his government's support for
"ecological products" and called for turning Bolivia into an
"organic country" which produces crops without chemical
fertilizers or pesticides.

While the reform program's initial distributions involve state-
owned land, Morales said his government will also confiscate
private lands that are deemed non-productive. He denied
accusations by large-scale landowners that their lands are being
stolen. In talks with those business sectors, Morales said, he
asked them to prove such claims and they declined. "They, their
grandparents, have stolen our land for 500 years," said Morales.
"They have to give the lands back to their original owners." [BBC
News 6/4/06; Resumen Latinoamericano 6/7/06; La Jornada (Mexico)
6/7/06 from correspondent & wire services; El Nuevo Herald
(Miami) 6/10/06 from AP]

The federation representing large-scale landowners in the eastern
Bolivian departments of Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando violently
opposes the land reform. When its leaders walked out of talks
with the government during the week of May 29, they warned that
their members would form paramilitary "self-defense" groups to
protect their estates from confiscation. [BBC News 6/4/06; LJ
6/7/06 from correspondent & wire services]

Santa Cruz governor Ruben Costas also tried to fight the agrarian
reform by announcing his own reform plan on May 23, allegedly
with the goal of distributing land to campesinos and indigenous
people in Santa Cruz, the country's largest and most economically
powerful department. The national government called Costas' plan
illegal and unconstitutional. [LJ 6/7/06 from correspondent &
wire services] On June 9, the Santa Cruz business sectors named
Costas as their representative for possible land reform talks
with the Morales government. [LJ 6/10/06 from correspondent]

According to a public statement from the Confederation of
Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB), the Morales government's
new land reform decrees were developed in consensus among
Bolivia's indigenous and campesino organizations and were
approved in the National Agrarian Commission. Federations
representing large-scale farmers and ranchers were invited to
participate in the Commission but declined, said CIDOB.

The Commission was established under Law 1715, the National
Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) Law, pushed through in October
1996 by the government of then-president Gonzalo Sanchez de
Lozada despite fierce protests by campesino and indigenous
sectors [see Updates #344, 345, 347-351]. The latest decrees,
which must still be approved by Congress, modify Law 1715 and,
according to CIDOB, seek to correct "injustices and illegalities"
in decrees promulgated in May 2005. One of these, Decree 28140,
created a new form of property--"forest property"--favoring
powerful economic sectors in eastern Bolivia. [CIDOB Statement
6/9/06] Decree 28140 was one of 46 decrees issued by President
Carlos Mesa Gisbert on May 17, 2005, a day after mass protests
began against his administration. He was forced from office three
weeks later, on June 6. [National Department of Social

Over the weekend of June 3, Bolivian businessperson Luis del Rio
hired a group of Ayoreo indigenous people, armed with bows,
arrows and sticks, to attack other indigenous people allegedly
squatting on property he claims to own in Ascencion de Guarayos,
in the eastern department of Santa Cruz. The Ayoreo--who were
apparently drunk during the attack--burned the squatters'
makeshift homes, the alternative news agency Bolpress reported.
Two indigenous people were wounded. [La Jornada 6/7/06 from
correspondent & wire services; El Nuevo Herald 6/10/06 from AP;
Confederacion de Pueblos Indigenas de Bolivia (CIDOB) Statement

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said on June 9 that neither
Del Rio nor the squatters have any property titles for the land
in Guayaros, and that both groups will be evicted. Speaking in
Santa Cruz, Rural Development Minister Hugo Salvatierra accused
the Guarayos deputy mayor and the mayor of El Puente of "inciting
violence among indigenous people." Salvatierra said the two
municipal officials also sought to kidnap a national government
commission investigating land invasions in the area, in order to
"aggravate the problem." [LJ 6/10/06 from correspondent]

The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB)
accused large landholders of creating a "false conflict" in
Guarayos, "making it seem as if the Ayoreo people are in
confrontation with the campesinos, which is not true." According
to CIDOB, "Once the Ayoreo brothers have been tricked by land
speculators taking advantage of their economic need, they are
hired and paid to defend the lands of those who claim to be the
owners--without proving it--of land occupied by Ayoreos and
campesinos." [CIDOB Statement 6/9/06] [A similar land conflict
involving Ayoreo indigenous people who were hired as thugs took
place May 8-12, 2005, on the Los Yuquises estate in Santiesteban
province, in Santa Cruz--see Update #798.]

On June 9, a land conflict erupted in Oruro department in
southwestern Bolivia when police agents and soldiers moved to
evict hundreds of members of the Homeless Movement (MST) from
urban properties on the outskirts of the city of Oruro, the
departmental capital. The MST had been occupying the properties,
which belonged to private owners and the departmental government,
for a month and a half. Police agents and soldiers used tear gas
and rubber bullets to dislodge the squatters, who responded with
rocks, sticks and dynamite, according to a report from the Erbol
radio network. At least 10 squatters were treated in a local
hospital for injuries; one police agent was killed by a bullet.
More than 30 people were arrested by the Technical Judicial
Police (PTJ). [La Jornada (Mexico) 6/10/06 from correspondent; El
Nuevo Herald (Miami) 6/10/06 from AP]

Oruro governor Alfredo Aguilar said he ordered the eviction based
on a court order. Alfredo Rada, deputy minister of coordination
with social movements, expressed the national government's
support for the action taken by Oruro authorities. [ENH 6/10/06
from AP] Rada said the government talked with the MST to try to
find a solution, "but we found an intransigence among the
representatives and we decided on the eviction. We knew the
risks, but we had no alternative but to restore legality." [LJ
6/10/06 from correspondent]

Presidency Minister Juan Ramon Quintana said the police agent who
died was a "member of the Battalion of Private Physical
Security." Rada said the agent was dressed in civilian clothing
during the operation. "The circumstances of the death are under
investigation," said Rada. [ENH 6/10/06 from AP]

Quintana denied that the police had used firearms, "not even
rubber bullets." The use of lethal weapons "does not fit within
the logic or the policy of our government; the maximum use of
chemical agents was ordered for this task," said Quintana.

The MST responded to the eviction with a protest march on the
evening of June 8, and 70 of its members began a hunger strike at
the offices of the Departmental Workers' Federation (COD). [LJ
6/10/06 from correspondent]

Quintana blamed the Oruro violence on the rightwing Democratic
and Social Power (Podemos) party led by ex-president Jorge
Quiroga, which he accused of working with elements of the
"radical left" in an effort to erode support for the ruling
Movement to Socialism (MAS) as the July 2 elections for a
Constituent Assembly draw near. [AP 6/11/06]

The Constituent Assembly, which will have the task of rewriting
Bolivia's Constitution, is scheduled to begin sessions on Aug. 6.
[Resumen Latinoamericano 6/7/06] Congress approved the law
convening the Constituent Assembly on Mar. 4, Morales promulgated
it on Mar. 6 and candidates for the Assembly's 255 seats had to
be registered by Apr. 3. The MAS is set to benefit from the short
timeline, since only political parties, duly recognized citizen
groups or undefined "indigenous peoples" can offer candidates.
Any social organization lacking such status would have had to
obtain--in less than a month--signatures representing 2% of
registered voters on a departmental or national level. ["Bolivia:
Proceso Abierto," article by Raquel Gutierrez & Luis A. Gomez
4/30/06 via Resumen Latinoamericano 6/9/06; AP 6/11/06]

On June 6, hundreds of Brazilian landless workers from the
Landless Liberation Movement (MLST), armed with sticks and farm
implements, forced their way into an annex of the Chamber of
Deputies building in Brasilia. The protesters reached a room next
to one of the two main debating chambers where a legislative
session was taking place. They smashed windows, tables and doors,
and overturned and destroyed a car which was on display as the
prize of a sweepstakes for congressional staff. Officials said
about 500 people were arrested and more than 25 were hurt, one
seriously, as police and security guards tried to regain control.
The protesters said they were demanding legislative changes to
speed up land reform and end slave labor. They said they had
planned a peaceful protest but police attacked them. In a
statement, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva condemned the
unrest as an act of vandalism against democracy. Lula is seeking
reelection in October. [BBC News 6/7/06]

The Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), Brazil's largest
and best-known landless organization, issued a press release on
June 7 clarifying that it "did not take part in any of the
protests conducted by the MLST at the Chamber of Deputies, in
Brasilia." The MST clarified that "the MLST is not a dissident
group of the MST," and the two groups are "in no way related."
[MST Press Release 6/7/06]

The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) described the June 6 events as
"painful," noting that some of the MLST members carried out
"physical aggression against public servants." The CPT said it
was "not in agreement" with all the protest methods, but
understands the "just" indignation that agricultural workers and
other Brazilians feel "with so many scandals emerging every day
involving legislators in corruption cases and the embezzlement of
public resources." The CPT noted that Congress recently rejected
an official report on land conflicts, substituting it with a
statement declaring land occupations to be a terrorist act.

The CPT said it hopes the May 6 incident will lead the government
to seek efficient and rapid solutions to the people's legitimate
demands. The CPT also expressed its desire that the MLST members
arrested during the protest get their cases dealt with quickly
and with all the benefits allowed under the law. The CPT
explained to the Brazilian alternative news service Adital that
the MLST was formed spontaneously in Pernambuco in 1997 by a
group of landless workers led by Bruno Maranhao, a leader of the
"Socialist Brazil" current of Lula's leftist Workers Party (PT).
[Adital 6/9/06]

On June 5 some 600,000 Chilean high school students began the
first day of an open-ended strike. They were joined in the action
by 300,000 university students and many professors. The first day
of the strike was supposedly scheduled as a "day of reflexion,"
without marches or demonstrations. [Adital 6/6/06] But in the
center of Santiago, some 500 students--mostly from universities--
ended up clashing with police, who sprayed them with water
cannons and tear gas. At least 40 people were arrested. In the
city of Valparaiso, some 12,000 high school students and union
members marched peacefully after reaching an agreement with the
militarized Carabineros police. In the northern city of La
Serena, some looting and attacks on stores were reported, and 12
people were arrested. In Concepcion, 23-year old Silvia Lobos was
injured and nine people were arrested in a clash with Carabineros
agents. [La Jornada (Mexico) 6/6/06 from correspondent] Deputy
Interior Minister Felipe Harboe said a total of 439 people were
arrested and 35 injured nationwide over the course of the day on
June 5. [LJ 6/7/06 from correspondent]

The students had been protesting for weeks, demanding significant
representation on a commission charged with promoting changes to
the Constitutional Organic Law on Education (LOCE). The LOCE was
promulgated by dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte on Mar. 10, 1990-
-a day before Pinochet handed the government over to his elected
predecessor, Patricio Aylwin. Among other things, the law
provided state subsidies for private schools and handed public
schools over to municipal control under a "decentralization"
plan. The students were also calling for free university entrance
exams and public transport subsidies for the poorest students;
these demands were partially granted by the government of
President Michelle Bachelet on June 1 [see Updates #851, 853].
The protest movement, dubbed the "Penguin Revolution" because of
the uniforms the students wear, began on Apr. 26 when 1,000
students protested a delay in bus pass subsidies. [Adital 6/6/06;
Inter Press Service 6/9/06; LJ 6/6/06 & 6/7/06, both from
correspondent; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 6/8/06 from AFP]

On June 7, just before leaving on a trip to the US and the
Caribbean, Bachelet created a Presidential Advisory Council to
propose measures to improve the education system. At the same
time, Bachelet named representatives of academic, professional
and social organizations to fill most of the Council's 73 seats,
leaving open six slots for high school students and six for
university students.

The strike began losing steam following Bachelet's June 7 move,
and on June 9, the National Coordinating Assembly of High School
Students (ACES) announced an end to the strike and to the
occupations of school buildings. ACES spokesperson Maria Jesus
Sanhueza said the 700,000 striking high school students would
return to classes on June 13, the first day of school after a
long holiday weekend, but that they will stay on alert to make
sure the accord is fulfilled.

ACES spokesperson Juan Carlos Herrera admitted that the students
ended the protests because they were worn down, but said "we feel
victorious, we feel we have won." He said that although the
Presidential Advisory Council is not "truly representative," ACES
will send representatives to the Council's first meeting on June
13 and will try to form a bloc with representatives of social
organizations. [IPS 6/9/06; LJ 6/10/06 from correspondent; ENH
6/10/06 from AP]

The 70,000 members of Section 22 of Mexico's huge National
Education Workers Union (SNTE) continued their militant
mobilizations in the southern state of Oaxaca the week of June 5.
The Oaxaca teachers went on strike on May 22 to demand a cost of
living adjustment and an increased education budget; since then
they have maintained a sit-in blocking 56 streets in the city of
Oaxaca's Historic Center [see Update #853].

On June 5 teachers blocked off access to the state legislature. A
legislative official, Marcelo Diaz de Leon Murieras, charged that
the teachers broke into the building and looted and destroyed
property worth a total of 230,000 pesos ($20,220). According to
Section 22 secretary Enrique Rueda Pacheco, the teachers "just
went in [to the cafeteria] to get some soft drinks because they
were thirsty and some chairs to rest on." The next day, June 6,
thousands of teachers blocked the roads into the government-owned
Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) facility in Tlacolula municipality,
north of the city of Oaxaca, from 8am to 4pm, while other
teachers occupied the tollbooths for the Mexico-Oaxaca highway in
Huitzo municipality. Some 150 students seized the rector's office
at the Benito Juarez Oaxaca Autonomous University (UABJO) in
support of the striking teachers. [La Jornada (Mexico) 6/7/06]

On June 7 the teachers held their second "megamarch" in less than
a week, with an estimated 120,000 teachers and supporters walking
12km to the Plaza de la Danza, where unionists and social
activists held a "people's impeachment" for Gov. Ulises Ruiz
Ortiz. The jury's decision will be presented to the legislature
as a formal petition for impeachment. Reporters said the
demonstration was the largest in the state's history. [LJ 6/8/06]
On June 10 the strikers blocked shopping centers, banks, market
places and bus terminals, and announced plans to boycott the July
2 national presidential and legislative elections. Section 22
secretary Rueda Pacheco said the teachers would blockade the
local office of the Federal Election Institute (IFE) on June 11
as "the beginning" of the boycott. [LJ 6/11/06]

Support for the Oaxaca teachers was the focus of one of three
demonstrations held in Mexico City on June 10. In the morning
some 4,000 teachers from the states of Michoacan, Oaxaca,
Tlaxcala and Guerrero marched from the Angel of Independence in a
demonstration called by the National Workers Coordinating
Committee (CNTE), a dissident rank-and-file caucus in the SNTE,
to demand an end to violence against women, campesinos,
unionists, students and teachers. The marchers said they would
not allow "Oaxaca to become Atenco," a reference to bloody police
attacks on campesino activists and their supporters in Texcoco
and San Salvador Atenco, two municipalities northeast of Mexico
City in Mexico state, on May 3 and May 4 [see Updates #849, 853].

Thousands of unionists and veterans of the 1968 student movement
marched in a separate demonstration in Mexico City's San Tomas
area to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the June 10, 1971,
massacre of at least 23 student demonstrators by government thugs
known as "The Falcons."

In the afternoon, The Other Campaign, a leftist movement promoted
by the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), held a
third march, also in the San Tomas area, headed by the 1968
student movement veterans and Atenco's militant Front of the
Peoples United in Defense of the Land (FDPT). The marchers
mourned 20-year-old Alexis Benhumea Hernandez, who died June 7 of
injuries he received on May 4 when he went to Atenco with his
father and brother to support the campesino activists. His skull
was fractured by a police tear-gas projectile fired at close
range, and he lay in a coma for 34 days before dying. Benhumea
was an economics student at the National Autonomous University of
Mexico (UNAM); he also studied mathematics, Russian and classical
ballet. [LJ 6/11/06, 6/8/06; El Universal (Mexico) website
6/7/06; Comite Cerezo 6/8/06]

[This was the second death from the Atenco incidents of May 3-4;
Francisco Javier Cortes Santiago, a 14-year-old Atenco resident,
was killed on May 3 by bullet of the type used by Mexico state
police--see Update #849].

At about 6:30am on June 6, unknown persons in a Chevrolet fired
on an armored van carrying Cecilia Gurza, the wife of imprisoned
Mexican business magnate Carlos Ahumada Kurtz, near the couple's
Mexico City home; their three children and the family's driver
were also in the vehicle. There were no injuries, but the van was
hit by 10 bullets. Gurza said she was taking the children to
school, and later in the day she was planning to make public five
videos allegedly showing corruption by officials of the center-
left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

Gurza said she had been receiving telephoned death threats since
June 3, and that the videos would hurt former Mexico City mayor
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the PRD's candidate in the July 2
presidential elections. The Argentine-born Ahumada made similar
videos public in 2004 before his own arrest on corruption charges
[see Update #745]. Long the front runner, Lopez Obrador is now
tied with Felipe Calderon of the center-right National Action
Party (PAN); recent polls show both with about 35% of voter
preferences. [El Diario-La Prensa (NY) 6/7/06 from La Opinion,

The shooting is being investigated by the PRD-controlled Mexico
City government. As of June 10, Gurza had denied requests from
the city's attorney general, Bernardo Batiz, for the five videos.
So far the only person detained in the incident is Miguel Angel
Cruz Vazquez, who was working illegally as a bodyguard for the
Ahumada family at the same time that he was employed as a guard
at Mexico City's Reclusorio Norte prison, where he was guarding
Ahumada himself. [LJ 6/11/06; El Universal 6/9/06]

Thursday, June 01, 2006

News - May 29

News - June


Behind the criminal insurgency in Brazil's largest city is a national crisis of legitimate authority


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.


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]


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; 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
Vice President Francisco Santos at;
Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe at fax +571-222-1874 or, or
For more information, see the websites of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) and ONIC


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."