Tag Archive | "protest"

Latin America News Roundup: 31st March 2014

Bolivian National Assembly (photo: Wikipedia)

Bolivian National Assembly (photo: Wikipedia)

Bolivian Miners Protest New Law: Mining cooperatives have blocked major roads in Bolivia, including accesses to La Paz, in protest again a modification to the Mining Law passed by the Chamber of Deputies. The new law, which must still be voted in the Senate, establishes that only the Bolivian state can sign contracts with private investors to exploit natural resources, effectively banning cooperatives -which have special tax benefits- from doing so. “If mining cooperatives sign contracts with private parties, they will become companies and will lose their ‘cooperative’ category,” said Mining Minister Mario Virreira, who justified the amendment to the law by explaining that “there is the risk that, once again, multinational capitals will enter Bolivia without any state control.” The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives, however, oppose the modification and threatened to paralyse the country “until we achieve our aim, which is to have a mining law consistent with our daily work,” said its president Alejandro Santos. The independent mining sector, made up of approximately 100,000 miners, is a traditional ally of the Bolivian government.

Cuba Approves New Foreign Investment Law: The National Assembly in Cuba approved on Saturday a new foreign investment law to attract international investment and encourage development. The law will come into force in 90 days, and includes cuts and exemptions in taxes on profits, legal guarantees, and speedier processes for new foreign investors. The government said it would initially target investment in industrial infrastructure, agriculture, and energy production, and claimed that the country needs US$2.5bn in foreign investment a year to achieve its growth targets. Presenting the bill at the Assembly, Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca said foreign investment was fundamental to the country’s development, but assured that the new law would not undermine sovereignty over resources. “We will not return to the past or hand over our riches. We will never again sell our country,” he said. The law comes as part of a series of gradual economic reforms introduced by President Raúl Castro, including a plan to end of the dual currency system, announced in October last year.

Chile – President Bachelet Introduces Tax Reform Bill: President Michelle Bachelet today sent a comprehensive tax reform bill to the National Congress, with the hope of boosting tax revenues by 3% of GDP. The four main objectives of the reform are to provide permanent income stream to cover spending requirements, encourage a more equitable distribution of wealth, incentivise savings and investment, and reduce tax evasion. “Today more than ever we need to decisively and responsibly use this powerful instrument of development, on the one hand, and justice on the other,” said Bachelet. The bill includes a proposed increase in corporate taxes and reduction in income taxes for individuals, except for politicians. It also provides specific benefits for small and medium sized enterprises and incentives to encourage the use of clean technology. The tax reform is the first of three major policies promised by Bachelet, the other two being education reform and an updated constitution.

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Argentina News Roundup: 12th March 2014

Teachers demand a $6,400 minimum wage (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam/jcp)

Teachers demand a $6,400 minimum wage (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam/jcp)

Buenos Aires Teachers Continue Strike: Teachers’ unions rejected the provincial government’s offer for a wage increase and will continue with the strike that began on 5th March. After a two-hour meeting at the Labour Ministry, union representatives stated that they “will carry on with the struggle until they give us a reasonable offer.” The government improved their first offer by proposing a 30.9% increase (5.4% more than originally offered) to be paid between March and August, at a cost of $1.2bn. This would bring the salary of a primary school teacher with no previous experience to $4,393 from March and $4,717 from August onwards. Union representative Mirta Petrocini, however, said that “there was no negotiation here. The government came with a closed proposal. We have not been able to intervene in the decision regarding our salary.” Teachers are demanding a 35% increase to be paid in full from March onwards.

Five Injured in Construction Site Collapse: Five people were injured this afternoon when the roof of a building site collapsed in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Parque Patricios. The wounded workers were taken to nearby hospitals Penna and Ramos Mejía, where they were treated for fractures and other injuries. Alberto Crescenti, director of the city’s emergency services, explained that “the roof gave way and the workers fell down two floors” and confirmed that no one was trapped in the rubble. The head of the Government’s Control Agency, Sebastián Ugarti, said that “we carry out proactive inspections of construction sites every two or three months and this site complied with the law. It was within the parameters.” The construction site belongs to private health insurance company OSDE.

Unions and Social Movements Protest Against Inflation: A group of activists from the Argentine Workers’ Union (CTA) and from different social movements are protesting today against “the worsening of the workers’ situation due to the devaluation and inflation.” The CTA faction led by Pablo Micheli, which opposes the national government, marched between 9 de Julio and Avenida de Mayo towards Plaza de Mayo. The protest is complemented by a series of strikes and rallies in different cities around the country, including road blocks.

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Latin America News Roundup: 10th January 2014

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro announced yesterday that his entire cabinet handed in their resignation in order to allow for a reshuffle. Seven changes have already been confirmed in the ministries of University Education, Industry, Education, Youth, Sports, Presidency, and Labour. Many of the new ministers simply switched positions, thus providing an element of continuity in the cabinet despite the changes. Maduro said that “within the next few days” he will announce more changes “[to fight] the economic battle.” The cabinet reshuffle comes two days after the murder of a former Miss Venezuela and her husband, which highlighted the serious public safety problems facing the country.

Colombia: Thousands of people are expected to gather today in the capital of Bogotá in support of deposed mayor Gustavo Petro. The demonstration, called for 4.30pm (local time), has been organised via social networking sites and is expected to attract as many as 140,000 people. Protesters will meet at Plaza Nacional and march towards Plaza Bolívar. As the protest was being organised, it became known that Gerson Martínez, a 29-year old human rights activist who campaigned against the removal of Petro and for today’s protest, was murdered on Monday. Whilst his family denounced irregularities in the investigation, Petro went as far as to say that Martinez’s death was “a political murder.” Petro was removed and banned from running for office for 15 years by Colombia’s Inspector General on 9th December.

Brazil: The protest organised by favela residents facing eviction in Rio de Janeiro was ended last night after the military police intervened in order to avoid the protesters blocking a major road and a metro line. The police informed that no arrests were made and that the situation is “under control.” The protest came amid fears by the Brazilian government about possible demonstrations during this year’s football World Cup. In that regard, President Dilma Rousseff told some of her ministers that she is willing to call in the army if the police is unable to guarantee public safety during the sporting event. The government is also in talks with different social organisations which are planning to hold protests on 25th January under the banner “There will be no World Cup” in at least 35 Brazilian cities.

Cuba: Fidel Castro made his first public appearance in nine months on Wednesday night. The former president attended the opening of an art studio in Havana, as reported by the Cuban press yesterday. His appearance coincided with the 55th anniversary of the day in which he led the Rebel Army into Havana during the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Castro, 87, retired from the presidency in 2006 due to ill health, at which time his brother Raúl Castro took over. Some pictures showing him next to Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet were published last month, however he had not been seen in public since April. The frequency of his regular columns on Granma newspaper, ‘Fidel’s Reflections’, decreased in the last couple of years. The latest one, which paid homage to the late South African president Nelson Mandela, was published on 19th December 2013.

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Police Protest: Residents Denounce Police Strikes and Looting

Counter-protest by residents, union members, and workers (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ddc)

Counter-protest by residents, union members, and workers in Neuquén (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ddc)

The unrest generated by widespread police protests across the country continues despite numerous forces reaching agreements with provincial governments. Last night, the first looting case in the city of Buenos Aires was reported, when 50 to 60 individuals, some armed, forcibly entered a merchandise transport company in the area of Parque Patricios in the capital. According to the general manager, the looters took merchandise that was ready to be transported via truck.

Meanwhile, residents of Salta, Chaco, and Tucumán are still on high alert after looting caused significant damage to shops and provoked an outbreak of violence, including several deaths. Citizens of Tucumán yesterday decided to stage a counter-protest, despite the city still being on high alert for further violence, to express their anger at the police forces over their inability and unwillingness to protect citizens.

On Wednesday, judiciary bodies of Tucumán announced a change in the leadership of the provincial police force, after which thousands of residents gathered in Plaza Independencia demanding the resignation of governor José Alperovich, further changes to police personnel, and the guarantee of security.

Many residents, including union members and community organisations, displayed their anger at what they deem was a “police extortion” in their demand for a higher salary which caused the unrest and violence. According to a report by newspaper La Gaceta, a neighbour was heard arguing with a police officer, who was on the phone: “Are they paying you for this? So you can buy cell phones and just keep speaking on the phone? Your $8,500 [monthly salary negotiated and agreed on between police and government] are tainted with the blood of Tucumán workers!”

Neighbours have had to unite in groups to defend themselves from looters. For the most part, schools remained shut, stores closed, and many buses ran irregular routes in the worst hit towns in Tucumán and Chaco. Since the beginning of the protests, as many as 12 individuals have died due to the violence. As of yesterday, 15 out of the 20 provincial forces in protest have reached agreements on new salaries.

While some agreements with police forces are still ongoing, the cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich has said that the looting and protests require a “profound debate” on the need to reform the forces, stating that “we cannot be at the expense of people that take other peoples things or that extort as a form of salary vindication”.

Meanwhile, the head of the truckers union, Pablo Moyano, has allegedly threatened a truckers strike in the entire country to demand an end of year bonus of $4,500. He has stated that if they do not receive the bonus, the members of his union will go on strike on Monday. He also told reporters, in relation to the police strikes, that while he is for the unionisation of the police forces, the looting “does not contribute to the social peace that we need.”

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Sex Workers Demand Law to Protect Their Rights

Ammar members protesting yesterday (Photo: Raúl Ferrari/Télam/aa)

Ammar members protesting yesterday (Photo: Raúl Ferrari/Télam/aa)

A day after the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which took place on Monday 25th November, the sex worker collective Ammar (Association of Women Prostitutes of Argentina) organised a manifestation in front of the Congress building in Buenos Aires to support the “self-determination of sex workers.” Holding up a poster demanding for a law on autonomous sex work, the demonstrators called for the government to recognise the violence sex workers suffer as a result of a non-existent legal structure for sex work.

Georgina Orellano, the National Coordinator of Ammar, stated: “In the last few years we have been suffering constant persecution, discrimination, abuse, loss of jobs, and police bribery.”

Ammar’s aim through the demonstration was to shed light on the problems sex workers face on a daily basis, including violence and abuse. According to Ammar, a recent crackdown on brothels and the law to criminalise clients are forms of violence towards the sex workers as it denies their self-determination. In Ammar’s online statement, they write: “Banning our right to exercise our work is violence. The impossibility of being able to decide on issues regarding our body is violence…. the constant confusion between trafficking and sex work is violence.”

Orellano stated that the collective does not believe the state helps sex workers as sexual work in Argentina has no legal foundation. She stated that the work “is not prohibited but it’s not permitted” and emphasised that due to this lack of legality there is a void in which sex worker’s rights are denied and their situation is often confused with that of human trafficking victims. Orellano declared that there are many sex workers that become so voluntarily, and are thus in need of protection from criminalisation, discrimination, violence, and abuse.

“Our sector has always been criminalised and stigmatised, there is a lot of prejudice around our work and we wish for society to see us not as victims but as a subjects of rights,” Orellano stated.

Ammar’s protest in the context of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women comes on the same day NGO Casa del Encuentro presented findings on violence against women. According to their findings, a woman is killed every 35 hours in Argentina. 

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Honduras: Police Violently Clash With Students Demanding Recount

National party leader and president-elect of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Partido Nacional leader and president-elect of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

University students in Honduras violently clashed with police on Tuesday while protesting the victory of presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernández on Sunday’s election, which was declared “irreversible” by the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Hernandez was declared the winner with 34.08% of the vote, ahead of his main rival Xiomara Castro (28.92%) when a third of the votes were still yet to be counted.

“How can it be possible that the candidate liked the least by the majority of Hondurans, who polls showed to be in fourth place, now is supposedly tapped to become the country’s next president?” questioned student Cesárea Padilla. Students like Padilla have demanded that the votes be recounted and others have accused Hernández of paying off the Tribunal.

The stand-off, which lasted for four hours in front of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, resulted in various injuries to students and police.

Led by a group calling themselves the “black shirts”, around 500 students began their protest around noon by occupying an important Tegucigalpa boulevard and proceeding to create street barricades and shouting slogans such as “no to fraud.”

Eventually, around 50 soldiers and riot police arrived and were given the order to clear the students, which they proceeded to do by firing tear gas and spraying water at the them. Students responded by throwing rocks at officers, some of who had to break ranks because the tear gas was so strong.

It was reported that one student and several police officers were taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries. Classes were cancelled Wednesday and Thursday to prevent further demonstrations.

Outgoing president Porfirio Lobo visited Hernández on Tuesday to congratulate him and offer support for his transition to the presidency. Hernández also named his transition team on Tuesday.

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Haiti: Further Anti-Government Protests in Capital

President of Haiti Michael Martelly (photo: PD-USGov-DOS, US Department of State)

President of Haiti Michael Martelly (photo: PD-USGov-DOS, US Department of State)

Some 10,000 Haitians took to the streets of capital city Port-au-Prince once again today in protest. The demonstrators marched against the UN for their supposed involvement in bringing cholera to the nation as well as for better living conditions and to call for the resignation of President Michel Martelly.

Some protestors carried Haitian flags, others carried plates and cutlery representing the basic foodstuffs required from authorities.

The protestors in the capital city marched towards the wealthy are of Petion Ville, whilst a group in Haiti’s second city, Cap-Haitien, was dispersed with the use of tear gas earlier this morning.

These demonstrations follow violent protests on 7th November, which saw police and demonstrators clash and tear gas used to disperse the crowds as they tried to reach the presidential palace.

The Association of Victims of Cholera has sought to sue the UN after Nepalese peacekeepers were accused of having brought the disease into their country with them. Since the cholera outbreak three years ago, over 8,000 deaths have been recorded. 

Police and various members of MINUSTAH (the UN’s stabilisation mission in the country) were deployed to control the demonstrations.

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Haiti: Protest Against President Turns Violent

President of Haiti Michael Martelly (photo: PD-USGov-DOS, US Department of State)

President of Haiti Michael Martelly (photo: PD-USGov-DOS, US Department of State)

Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters calling for the resignation of Haitian President Michel Martelly in Port-au-Prince yesterday after they clashed with supporters of the president.

The march began peacefully on Thursday morning as the crowd of about 3,000 passed through some of the city’s poorer neighbourhoods. Later, protesters were attacked by stones thrown from rooftops as they moved to the district of Petionville, with skirmishes continuing between the two sides for hours, according to local media reports.

The demonstrators were eventually dispersed by police using tear gas after they attempted to reach the Presidential Palace.

Recently, anti-government prostests have occured sporadically in Port-au-Prince, with protesters accusing Martelly of failing to reduce poverty and unemployment, and running the country to benefit his friends and family.

The UN Security Council recently extended its Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, which has been in operation since 2004, until October 2014. The Security Council urged the government to “hold long-overdue free, fair and transparent elections” in a recent statement.

In 2012 a series of protests were held criticising Martelly’s promises to re-build the nation and improve the living standard of the country’s poorest after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Martelly, a former businessman and pop music star, assumed office in 2011.

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Mexico: Violent Clashes Mark Anniversary of Tlatelolco Massacre

Plaza de Las Tres Culturas where the march began (Photo: Wikicommons)

Plaza de Las Tres Culturas where the march began (Photo: Wikicommons)

Yesterday, Mexico City saw the commemoration march of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre marked by violent clashes and riots.

What started as a peaceful protest on the 45th anniversary of the massacre ended with several clashes between protestors and factions of the Public Security Secretariat.

The government reported a final count of 102 detained. According to the Twitter of Mexico City’s Government Secretary, Héctor Serrano, 32 policemen were injured.

2nd October 1968 saw a peaceful sit-in at Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco neighbourhood by students and civilians end in a massace by government backed Mexican forces, ten days before the Olympic Games took place in the city. Although the actual death toll remains unknown, the attack saw between 30 and 300 killed and many more injured in shootings.

No one has yet been prosecuted for the crimes perpetrated in Tlatelolco. Former president Luis Echeverria was placed under house arrest in 2006 facing charges of genocide, but a month later the case was dismissed. In December 2008, the Mexican senate named 2nd October a National Day of Mourning. Each year student and civilian protesters march to commemorate the massacre and remember those who died.

One hour in to a peaceful protest yesterday, leading from the plaza to Tacuba Street and the commemorative plaque, violent clashes broke out. It was at this point over 200 members of anarchist groups disrupted the march.

Members of the anarchist groups threw rocks, bottles, sticks, metal fencing, and Molotov cocktails at the police who responded with tear gas and backup from mounted police.

It was also revealed that on Monday anarchist groups published a manual online “which explained [to those who wanted to participate in the march] that they had to act aggressively towards Secretary of Public Security officials”. The manual also highlighted how to cause the greatest damage and how to attack buildings.

Of the 102 detained, 27 remain in custody and 75 have been charged. Serrano reported that the 32 injured policemen various injuries including fractures and second degree burns. Seventeen were taken to hospital with the rest receiving treatment from paramedics on the scene.

The demonstration eventually reached the Angel de la Independencia where it officially culminated. After this families and friends of those in custody demonstrated outside Agencia 50, where police officials based themselves.

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Nicaragua: Reforms on Violence Against Women Law Spark Protests

Violence against Women Law Reforms Spark Protest

Violence against Women Law Reforms Spark Protest

Yesterday, a march was held in Managua, Nicaragua in protest against changes recently made to the Violence Against Women Law and amendments to the Criminal Code. The march took place in front of the National Assembly.

The Violence Against Women Law, approved in 2012, was considered a victory for the pursuit of women’s rights, which the protestors argue is being threatened.

The reforms include the introduction of legal mediation in cases of violence against women, which protestors claim inhibits the law and represents the possibility of impunity for lawbreakers.

The march is led by the feminist María Elena Cuadra movement and also included representatives of other women’s groups. The marchers carried banners and placards which rejected the reforms, displaying messages such as “Stop violence against women.”

The leader of the María Elena Cuadra movement, Sandra Ramos, said: “It’s clear that the (unconstitutional) president of this country is the one that is giving the order for our laws to be mediated.”  She added that “Over 30% of the women who have died were in mediation.”

Ana Quirós of the Autonomous Women’s Movement, one of the groups demonstrating, discussed the law reforms.

She said: “Any death of a woman abused or deprived of her rights is going to accuse the members of parliament of endorsing femicide, of being necessary accomplices in violence against women”.

According to the Network of Women Against Violence, there have been 64 femicides recorded in Nicaragua as at September this year, 20 more than in the same period last year.

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Five years on from the death of ex president Raúl Alfonsín, we look back at those emotional days in 2009 and reflect on the legacy left by 'the father of democracy'

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