Tag Archive | "protests"

Marches, Roadblocks Cause Transport Chaos Ahead of General Strike


Coastguard officers look on as the opposition CTA union stages a roadblock on Puente Pueyrredón (Photo: Paula Riba/Télam/ddc)

Coastguard officers look on as the opposition CTA union stages a roadblock on Puente Pueyrredón (Photo: Paula Ribas/Télam/ddc)

A series of roadblocks and marches have caused transport chaos today in parts of Buenos Aires and its surrounding areas. The disruption comes a day before several major unions hold a 24-hour general strike, which is set to cause further headaches for commuters on Thursday.

The opposition faction of Central for Argentina Workers (CTA) umbrella union, which began an extended 36-hour strike at midday today, organised roadblocks on major highways and key access points to the capital this morning.

Some of these since been lifted, though pickets remain on Av General Paz, and the Ricchieri highway, causing delays in travel to Ezeiza airport.

The opposition CTA leadership, headed by Pablo Micheli will lead a demonstration in front of the National Congress this afternoon. The demands of the union include scrapping income taxes on salaries, an end to the dismissal of workers at industrial factories, and the suspension of external debt payments pending an audit to determine the its legitimacy.

Meanwhile, two separate protests aimed at the Buenos Aires government today have added to the transport disruption in the centre of the city. The Federation of Cartoneros and Recyclers marched to the City Ministry for Environment and Public Spaces to protest against proposed changes to rubbish collection.

At the same time, social organisations and residents of Villa Lugano have gathered on Av 9 de Julio near the Obelisco in protest at the razing of the Barrio Papa Francisco slum on the weekend.

General Strike

Wednesday’s chaos comes just hours before the start of a 24 hour general strike held by opposition factions of the General Workers Confederation (CGT) led by Hugo Moyano and Luis Barrionuevo.

The strike will heavily affect transport, with all services on overground trains, the subte B line, and domestic flights suspended. Buses will be running a partial service: the Road Transport Union (UTA) – which governs the majority of urban and intercity bus lines – has decided not the join the strike, but the rival Bus Drivers Union (UCRA) has said it will, and could disrupt other services. Taxi drivers will be working.

Other services to be suspended include non-emergency treatment at hospitals, rubbish collection (this evening), banks, petrol stations, postal services, and affiliated bars and restaurants. Many schools in the city and province of Buenos Aires will also be closed as several teachers’ unions join the strike action.

For more information and updates of the strike and how it will affect you tomorrow, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Brazil: More Violent Protests Rock World Cup Host Cities


Protesters in Sao Paulo yesterday (photo: EFE/Sebastiao Moreira/Télam)

Protesters in Sao Paulo yesterday (photo: EFE/Sebastiao Moreira/Télam)

Protests and strikes in at least a dozen cities across Brazil yesterday caused more disruption and violence less than a month before the World Cup begins. The diverse protests were broadly against the tournament, including the excessive costs of preparations and the deaths of several construction workers at the stadium sites.

The biggest marches were in Sao Paulo, where the Movement of Homeless Workers (MTST) gathered an estimated 5,000 people in five different points of the city, including near the city’s Itaquerao stadium, which will host the opening match of the tournament. Up to 8,000 municipal teachers also staged a demonstration during the day to criticise a lack of investment in education. Other protests directly against the government’s management of World Cup preparations were held in the early evening, and ended in violent clashes with police and damage to several buildings.

In Rio de Janeiro, teachers and bus drivers staging a strike joined other social groups protesting on the streets, causing further traffic chaos in the city.

Smaller protests were held in other host cities for the tournament, including Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, and Brasilia, where several hundred people carried the names of nine workers killed so in the construction of the new stadiums. Meanwhile, in the country’s northern city of Recife, looting broke out as police continued a strike that began earlier in the week.

The protests come just days after an audit of spending on the World Cup showed surging costs, including the stadium in the capital Brasilia, which has tripled original estimated to reach US$900m. Data also showed that up to a third of this cost may be attributable to price-gouging, a term used for the overpricing goods and services, adding to public concern over corruption. Amid growing social unrest, figures released today by the central bank showed that economic growth slowed to an estimated 0.3% in the first quarter of 2014.

Protest groups warned that further demonstrations will be held before and during the World Cup. However, officials say the turnout for the “protest of all protests”, as the groups organising yesterday’s action called it, was not as high as expected, and far lower than the major protests staged in June 2013.

 

 

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Latin America News Roundup: 29th April 2014


Cuba and the EU Begin Negotiations: Representatives from the Cuban government and the European Union will begin today the first of a round of negotiations in order to normalise relations between the island and the European bloc. The first meeting, which will extend until tomorrow, will seek to “establish a method and a roadmap for the negotiations.” The following meetings will be held alternatively in the Belgian capital of Brussels and the Cuban capital of Havana, according to European sources. Cuba is one of the few American countries that does not have a cooperation and political agreement with the EU, due to a ‘Common Position’ policy implemented by the bloc against it in 1996. In 2008, both parties made the decision to reactivate negotiations, and experts from both sides have already met to exchange information on economic and trade issues, ahead of today’s meeting. Miguel Ángel Martínez, vice-president of the European Parliament, has stated that European governments are now better predisposed to normalising relations with the island, something that, he said, will benefit both Europe and Cuba. The EU ambassador in Havana, Herman Portocarrero, said that these talks will help “update the Cuban socio-economic model.”

Alemão Complex in Rio de Janeiro (photo: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil)

Alemão Complex in Rio de Janeiro (photo: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil)

Brazil – New Protests in Rio de Janeiro: Roads were blocked and a Pacifying Police (UPP) station was attacked as residents of a favela protested the death of woman yesterday. The 71-year old woman was killed at the Alemão favela on Sunday as she was walking home with her ten-year old grandson, after getting caught in a shootout between police and drug traffickers, according to the Rio Military Police. Residents of the favela reacted by blocking off roads and setting objects on fire, whilst two young men were arrested for attempting to set a bus alight.

Also in Rio de Janeiro, residents of the Morro de Chapadao protested the death of a 17-year old boy by setting five buses on fire, after making the passengers descend. The boy was also killed in a shootout between police and drug killers, though in this case the police have informed that the victim allegedly had links with drug dealing gangs. These are the latest in a series of protests sparked by incidents with the police, just weeks before the beginning of the football World Cup.

 

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Latin America News Roundup: 11th March 2014


Allende greets Bachelet as ex-president Sebastián Piñera looks on (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/ef)

Allende greets Bachelet as outgoing president Sebastián Piñera looks on (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/ef)

Chile – Michelle Bachelet Takes Office: Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first female president (2006-2010) was sworn in today for her second term. The ceremony took place in the Senate building in the city of Valparaiso, and was presided over by fellow Socialist Isabel Allende, daughter of ex-president Salvador Allende and the first woman to hold the presidency of the Chilean Senate. “The historic image of two women simultaneously holding the country’s two highest positions will be seen around the world,” said Allende. Several presidents and representatives from foreign countries attended the event, including Argentine president Cristina Fernández, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and Peru’s Ollanta Humala, amongst others. Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro was scheduled to travel to Chile but had to cancel the trip at the last minute and was replaced by his Foreign Affairs Minister Elías Jaua, who said that the government was facing “a violent coup attempt” which had already been neutralised. Bachelet was elected president for the second time on 15th December for the 2014-2018 term. She has promised to undertake major reforms to the education system and the Pinochet-era constitution during her second presidency. The new president is expected to give her first official speech later this afternoon.

Venezuela – Two Dead in Protests: Two university students were shot dead in Venezuela last night. One of them was killed during a shootout in the city of San Cristóbal, in the west of the country, which has seen a large number of anti-government demonstrations. The other student died in Ciudad Guayana, in the country’s east. Whilst the government blamed opposition groups for the deaths, saying that they “want dead people so they can force an intervention in Venezuela,” the opposition called for a national protest tomorrow in Caracas. Speaking about the situation in the Caribbean country, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff announced that the Unasur foreign affairs ministers will hold a meeting tomorrow in order to create a committee to deal with the Venezuelan crisis. The committee “will act as an interlocutor to build a climate of consensus, agreement, and stability in Venezuela,” said Rousseff from Santiago de Chile, where she is attending Michelle Bachelet’s inauguration. Protests in Venezuela are thought to have left around 22 people dead in the last month.

Uruguay Lowers Public Rates to Combat Inflation: Economy Minister Mario Bergara announced the government will lower the rates of public services in order to combat inflation, which reached 9.82% in the last year. The announcement came after a meeting between the minister and union representatives. Bergara also mentioned the possibility of decreasing VAT rates in fruit and vegetables’ imports and exports. These measures are expected to cost the Uruguayan state some $US100m and aim to reduce inflation to 7%, the level agreed with the country’s Central Bank. Last year’s inflation is the highest since 2004.

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Latin America News Roundup: 26th February 2014


President Rafael Correa talks to the press (photo: Government of Ecuador)

President Rafael Correa talks to the press (photo: Government of Ecuador)

Ecuador – President Announces Cabinet Reshuffle: After Sunday’s electoral defeat in key districts, president Rafael Correa announced upcoming changes to his cabinet and his party, Alianza País (AP). “I will ask all cabinet ministers to hand in their resignation [today],” said Correa in a press conference yesterday, as he stated that his cabinet needs “some oxygen.” The changes, he said, had been decided previous to the election. The president said that it “hurt” to have lost in important districts such as the capital Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, but added that “the shake-up was welcome, because I think we were stagnating -not the government, but the political organisation at the local level.” Changes in local leadership positions within AP are expected to follow.

Guatemala – Minister Warns About Climate Change Effects: Agriculture Minister Elmer López warned that over a million Guatemalans could suffer from the effects of climate change on crops in the second half of the year. Talking to local newspaper La Hora, López said: “Right now we have a million people living in the Dry Corridor, who may reach a crisis point if the situation turns extreme due to climate change. This means we could have over three weeks without rain in the hottest period of summer. And if this period extends to more than three weeks, the crops could die.” The minister also informed that the country will soon start receiving grains from the World Food Programme to face the impending shortage, and that the government has earmarked Q62m (US$8m) from its budget to purchase food from the current harvest and for projects aimed at assisting small producers. According to official estimates, 933,000 families were affected by seasonal food shortages last year. Malnutrition is a perennial problem in Guatemala.

Venezuela – Opposition Rejects Calls for Dialogue: The Venezuelan opposition rejected president Nicolás Maduro’s call for a “national dialogue” today. Maduro made the call on Monday, and so far the Catholic Church and business representatives have agreed to participating. In a letter sent to vice-president Jorge Arreaza, however, the opposition coalition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) said they would not attend what they consider “a simulation” and “mocking our fellow countrymen.” They also blamed the government for the situation the country is in, after two weeks of protests which have left 14 people dead.

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Latin America News Roundup: 7th February 2014


FARC guerrillas during the Caguan peace talks

FARC guerrillas during the Caguan peace talks

Study Reveals Toll of Colombian Armed Conflict: Colombia’s armed conflict has left a toll of over six million victims, according to a report released yesterday. The Victim’s Attention and Reparations Unit noted 6,073,453 Colombians have suffered from displacement, terrorist acts, threats, sexual violence, forced disappearance, murder, antipersonnel mines, loss of material goods, kidnapping, torture, or children and adolescents forced to join armed groups. The results were based on two years of research, gathered according to the 2011 Law of Victims and Land Restitution, which aimed to collate the numbers of internally displaced peoples and also increased the spectrum of crimes to be taken into account. The aim of the study is also to support compensation of the victims, for which Col $54.9bn (US$27m) has been set aside by the government. So far, over 350,000 people have received compensation, making Colombia the first country in the world to compensate victims of an armed conflict that has not yet ended. The country has been suffering from an internal conflict since 1964 when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) took up arms to demand land reforms against the governing elite.

Brazilian Protests over Public Transport Fare Hikes: Over 2,000 people took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro yesterday in protest of the latest increase in public transport fares, which bring the price to R$3 from R$2.75. The manifestation, which started peacefully, turned violent after the crowd entered the city’s central station and police fired tear gas to disperse protesters. Dozens were arrested and several wounded, including Santiago Andrade, a television cameraman who was filming the events. Santiago remains in a critical condition in hospital after being struck in the head by an unknown object. Yesterday’s was the latest in a series of recent protests against hikes in the costs of public services, such as transportation, which many are tying to escalating costs of Brazil hosting the World Cup.

Mexico: Further Violence in Michoacán: The decapitated heads of four indigenous Purépecha men have been found in the troubled south-western state of Michoacán. The victims have been identified as Bulmaro Herrera Rincón, who was 55, brothers Alejandro and Noé Álvarez González, aged 22 and 24 respectively, and another man only identified as ‘Juan’. All four went missing in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and were last seen driving together in a truck from the town of La Palma to the Cocucho indigenous community. The discovery comes on the same day authorities found a further 25 bodies in two common graves, all said to be victims of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartel. Authorities are said to have been given a tip off from a cartel insider, which led them to excavate the sites.

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Latin America News Roundup: 24th January 2014


Former mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia: The Cundimarca Administrative Tribunal temporarily suspended yesterday the dismissal of Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro. In two separate rulings, the court upheld demands by ordinary citizens who contended that the dismissal affects their right to exercise political control and to elect and be elected. Both rulings seek to delay the mayor’s suspension so that a referendum can be held to decide his fate. One of the rulings states that “if the legal effects of the administrative disciplinary action against the Mayor of Bogotá are not temporarily suspended, there will be no opportunity to hold the recall referendum scheduled to take place on 2nd March 2014, which would flagrantly limit the exercise of the fundamental right to political control by electors.” Petro had said on a recent protest that he expected to be formally removed from office by 30th January. The Inspector General’s office, which ordered Petro’s dismissal, will appeal the rulings. However, it is expected that the delays in the appeal process will extend long enough for the referendum to be held.

Brazil: Thousands of people are expected to demonstrate against the World Cup in several cities across the country tomorrow. The rallies have been organised by various anti-World Cup organisations and promoted through social networking sites by Anonymous. Over 40,000 people have confirmed, via social networks, their attendance to the events in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, whilst around 10,000 would join in smaller cities like Belo Horizonte and Brasilia. The protests will focus on the massive increase of the budget for the World Cup preparations, which is 285% larger than originally announced, on the corruption that has allegedly plagued the process, and on the need for a national budget restructuring that prioritises health and education.

Colombia: The FARC admitted their involvement in a bomb explosion which left one person dead and over 25 injured almost ten days ago. The bomb went off in the western town of La Pradera on 16th January, and at the time the guerrilla group condemned the attack. Today, however, they released a statement in which they indicated: “We’ve been looking into who was responsible for this event for a few days (…) and reached the conclusion that indeed it was ordered by the leadership of one of the units that make up the Mobile Block Arturo Ruiz of the FARC-EP, a situation that deserves our open reproach and the application of the appropriate disciplinary correctives.” They also stated that it was never their intention to target or hurt civilians. President Juan Manuel Santos, who is currently attending the Economic World Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said: “We condemn terrorist attacks, of course. It is not within the rules, but at least I value that [the FARC] have recognised it was them who carried out the attack.”

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Police Protests Spread to Various Provinces Amid Further Looting


Police protests today in Santa Fe (photo: Luis Cetraro/Télam/ef)

Police protests today in Santa Fe (photo: Luis Cetraro/Télam/ef)

Protests initiated last week by provincial police officers over their wages eased in several provinces throughout the weekend but problems of unrest remain unresolved in some districts such as Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, Santa Fe, Chaco, Tucumán, La Pampa, and Chubut. Latest reports also mention disturbances in the northern provinces of Misiones and Jujuy.

Protests erupted in Córdoba on Tuesday and spread to various other cities in the country. Police officers went on strike to demand higher wages and on Wednesday officers and the provincial government reached a preliminary agreement.

While tensions have eased in Córdoba, on Sunday Buenos Aires police officers from La Plata and Mar del Plata organised a protest with their relatives to also demand wage increases. In Santa Fe, police officers were also joined by their family members today in protest in front of the provincial government building. Protests were also held in the southern provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro, although a preliminary deal on new salary arrangements have apparently been reached.

Security Minister María Cecilia Rodríguez, who was sworn in last week, talked to newspaper Página 12 about the ongoing protests and stated: “This is clearly a wage problem triggered by a negotiation in Córdoba that repeated itself in other provinces.”

In Rosario, province of Santa Fe, retired policemen continued to protest throughout the weekend in front of the police regional headquarters. They form part of the group Apropol Organisation and publicly oppose the policies of governor Antonio Bonfatti. On Saturday, five motorcycles were stolen after a shopping centre was looted and robbed. According to La Nación, on the same evening, armed men and women attacked a clothing store and cleaned it out.

Bonfatti made a request to the national government to deploy federal security forces to control the situation. The government therefore sent border guards and coast guards as a preventative measure to the spreading violence. Ttoday, security secretary Sergio Berni, in an interview with news agency Télam, stated: “The situation [looting and violence] seems under control… we are waiting for the police to resume their work.”

In the town of Concordia, Entre Ríos, shops were attacked throughout Sunday night and terrified residents remained indoors to avoid the violence, with one person comparing the unrest to “scenes of war.” One person who was believed to be taking part in the looting was electrocuted and died. The national government also sent reinforces to the province, after a request from governor Sergio Urribarri.

Meanwhile, Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich addressed the role the government has been playing to stabilise the situation, saying they are “monitoring the situation in each Argentine province, with each provincial government and with each one in charge to generate mechanisms of social and civic protection,” referring to the intervention of the gendarmerie, prefecture, and federal police forces in certain areas of the country.

He also called for peace and calm in the affected areas asking for the return of “social peace, harmony, and cohabitation.” According to the chief of cabinet, there is a wage negotiation agenda for 2014 in the pipeline and he has also asked for the judiciary bodies to address the acts of vandalism and violent disturbances.

At a press conference this morning in the Casa Rosada, Capitanich stated that he has spoken to various governors across the country where problems erupted and they all “agreed the police protests had a similar modus operandi.”

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Ecuador: Government Dissolves NGO after Protest Turns Violent


Fundacion Pachamama's altered logo today to represent closure (photo courtesy of Fundacion Pachamama's Facebook page)

Fundación Pachamama’s altered logo today to represent closure

The Ecuadorian government has dissolved an environmental non-governmental organisation after members allegedly committed acts of vandalism and aggression. The government also accused the NGO, called Fundación Pachamama, of political interference and “affecting public peace”.

The incident refers to an alleged attack against Juan Pablo Lira, the Chilean ambassador in Ecuador, and a Belorussian businessman on 27th November during a protest against a tendering opening for oil properties.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the NGO’s protest turned violent when the Chilean ambassador, along with the businessman and other diplomatic officers, exited the building in front of which the protesters gathered, who began disturbing the men. According to government officials, the ambassador was hit on the head and the Belorussian was chased for a few blocks until he sought refuge in a shop. Police are investigating the security cameras in the surrounding areas.

Pachamama activists had been demonstrating with another group, Yasunidos, and both are accused of instigating the attacks. Yasunidos are an environmental group working to halt the development of an oil block in the Yasuni National Park.

A spokesperson for the organisation denied the aggression ever took place and stated: “We are peaceful. We defend human rights, and we have never promoted or supported violence. The government should carry out a deep investigation.” Lawyers for the NGO are apparently discussing a response to the government’s decision, which was announced today.

According to the Pachamama director, Belen Paez, only eight individuals work in the NGO and only two photographers had been sent on the protest alongside other activists. They say that it is unjust and illegal to close down the organisation.

Fundación Pachamama was created in 1997 by ministerial agreement and has been working in the Ecuadorian amazon with seven indigenous communities to defend their human rights. They receive funding from the United States and Holland.

According to the ministry of environment, the dissolution of the NGO is justified by article 26 in the regulation of their ministerial agreement, which states that if the organisation deviates from the aims and objectives for which they had been established, they may be shut down.

Sine June, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, issued a decree defining new procedures for NGOs to obtain legal status. The decree grants the government the power to oversee and dissolve NGOs.

On Pachamama’s Facebook page they announced that police officials had entered their office premises in Quito and began seizing their computers and office equipment.

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Paraguay: Anti-Corruption Protests Intensify in Asunción


Paraguay's president Horacio Cartes speaking on Tuesday about Victor Bogado (photo courtesy of La Presidencia de la Republica del Paraguay website)

Paraguay’s president, Horacio Cartes, speaking on Tuesday about Victor Bogado (photo courtesy of Paraguayan government)

Yesterday, thousands of people took part in various protests across the Paraguayan city of Asunción in rejection of police abuse, corruption, and nepotism entrenched in the political classes.

The demonstrations were organised through social media and began during the day with a road protest along the Costanera, a road running along the river in Asunción spanning four kilometres, where protesters honked their horns demanding an end to impunity. Demonstrators also requested the resignation of senator Victor Bogado, accused of defrauding the state and illegal collection of fees.

The National Federation of Farmers stood in front of the National Police headquarters in rejection of the “criminal attitude” of state and public officials in the evening, with another group marching towards parliament.

The public outcry stems from last Friday’s congressional decision, voted for by 23 senators, to not oust Bogado from parliament despite having been under investigation on corruption charges. Citizens started taking to the street on the same day to reject Congress’ decision and yesterday the manifestations demanded changes in the political sphere of the country.

A 21 year old student at the evening protest stated: “We are tired of this corruption. People are tired of this type of politics. The idea is to continue with the manifestation until there is a real democratic change.”

Meanwhile, the decision to allow Bogado to remain in parliament means the investigation against him will cease. Judge Julián López stated: “We must suspend the investigations completely because right now there is a legal obstacle we must overcome in order to continue with the trial.” López was forced to suspend proceedings after receiving an official letter from Congress stating the senator would keep his seat.

The citizen’s movement has received support from numerous shops, bars, cinemas, restaurants, and petrol stations which have pledged to not allow the 23 senators that voted in favour of Bogado into their establishments.

The public outrage is mainly aimed at Parliament, an overpopulated institution where family members and friends of parliamentarians receive salaries for unclear reasons. The case against Bogado includes providing a salary equivalent to US$1,360 to US$1,800 a month for an unknown function to a former Miss Paraguay contender.

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