Tag Archive | "protests"

Ecuador: Protests against Tax Bills Continue


President Rafael Correa says that the proposed changes will only affect a small percentage of Ecuadorians (photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

President Rafael Correa says that the proposed changes will only affect a small percentage of Ecuadorians (photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

Two bills proposing changes to inheritance and income taxes have sparked massive protests across Ecuador in the last three weeks, with the biggest marches taking place in the capital Quito and the cities of Guayaquil and Cuenca.

The protests against President Rafael Correa and the ruling Alianza País (AP) party have, in many cases, been organised by various opposition parties and politicians, most notably the mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot. “This is no longer the country of Correa, it is returning to be a country of all of us, free, united, and progressive,” Nebot declared.

In response, President Correa has accused the opposition of attempts to destabilise the country. He argued that the aim of the legal reforms is to achieve the well-being and social justice for the majority of the population through the redistribution of wealth. The ruling party has also organised counter protests, and the president has called for a national dialogue with the opposition. In the meantime, the president has “temporarily” withdrawn the legal reform.

The government’s call for a dialogue has not been met with enthusiasm from the opposition who argue that the government is not truly willing to negotiate. Instead, the opposition, headed by Nebot, has called for the permanent suspension of the proposed changes to inheritance and extraordinary gains taxes.

The proposed inheritance law would imply a tax of up to 47.5% over inherited property in the case of children. However, the government has assured that most Ecuadorians would be unaffected by the law. As President Correa tweeted: “Ninety-eight percent of Ecuadorians will never pay a cent of tax.” In a campaign dubbed NoDejarseEngañar (don’t let yourself be fooled) the government has invited the citizens to find out for themselves by using a generator that allows citizens to see their prospective tax rate.

The law of extraordinary gains, conversely, contemplated the payment of income tax for appreciation of value linked to speculation or public investment projects. The government argues that the current legal framework allows for the real estate industry to generate undue gains due to speculation. Again, the government assures that the proposed legal changes will not affect ordinary citizens.

“It affects yes, strongly, that 0.1% where you find the bankers who earn US$15 million per year,” Correa stated.

Despite Correa’s statement today that the worst of the protests has passed, the country is increasingly polarised. Protests are thus likely to continue in the run-up to elections in 2017.

 

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Mexico: Election Victory for Ruling Party Amid Violence & Protests


Exit polls suggest that ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and its allies have held on to a majority in yesterday’s elections in Mexico.

(Photo from President Enrique Peña Nieto's Facebook 2015)

Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto (Photo from President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Facebook)

Despite the fall in approval ratings due to corruption scandals, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s party is poised to gain 196 to 203 of the 500 seats in the lower chamber of Congress. Their allies, the Partido Verde, are predicted to win 41 to 48. The main opposition party, the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN) is predicted to win between 105 and 116 seats. Smaller parties also made gains, making the political landscape increasingly multipolar. Final results will be announced on Wednesday.

On top of the 500 federal legislators, the country also chose nine state governors, around 900 mayors, and local legislators in 17 of the country’s 32 states.

However, the elections were marked with an increasing challenge to traditional parties. With the turnout estimated at around 48%, and null votes at around 5%, those supporting no party form the largest group in the country.

Tensions

There were calls for boycotts, most notably in Guerrero where the parents and friends of the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa normal school continue their demands for the students to be found alive, and have called for Mexicans to not to vote until the case has been resolved.

In many places activists attempted to stop the elections from taking place. According to Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the installation or working of 603 voting stations was prevented, with the majority of the incidents registered in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, known for their revolutionary history. The newspaper also reported 145 cases of violence and 254 cases of destruction of theft of election materials.

One of the hotspots of protest against the elections was the town of Tixtla in Guerrero where 20% of the voting booths were burned by the protestors and consequently the election for municipal president was annulled.

Protests for 43 missing students in Mexico (Photo by Iván [protoplasmakid], creative commons)

Protests for 43 missing students in Mexico (Photo by Iván protoplasmakid)

In a separate incident, ten teachers from CETEG teachers union were detained by federal police for attempting to impede the electoral process in Tlapa de Comonfort. In response, CETEG proceeded to withhold federal police officers demanding the release of their colleagues. The operation by the federal police to rescue their members resulted in various injuries and the death of one of the teachers. The teachers are striking for more pay and to prevent Peña Nieto’s education reform. Like the relatives and friends of the disappeared students, they had called for a boycott.

Despite the clashes, president Peña Nieto assured in a message on national TV that the majority of Mexicans had shown their faith in the political system: “With the simple but important act of going to the box and depositing our vote in the ballot box, we reaffirm our desire to live in a country of rights and freedoms, democracy and pluralism.”

He went on to condemn the protests: “There were those who tried to affect these elections. In the previous days they even performed violent acts, seeking to discourage the population.”

Arguably the most talked about event of the day, however, was the first-ever victory for an independent candidate in a governor race. Jaime Rodriguez Calderón, 57, known by his nickname ‘El Bronco’, is estimated to have gained 45% of the vote in the wealthy northern state of Nuevo León, bordering Texas. Having become a symbol of the backlash against the main parties, the future governor stated that “Nuevo León will be the beginning of a second Mexican revolution”, while his nickname became the third most used hashtag in the country yesterday.

Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, Mexican elections (Photo by Estefania Acevedo, creative commons photo)

Jaime Rodriguez Calderón (Photo by Estefania Acevedo, creative commons)

Rodriguez Calderón became famous for confronting the Zetas drug cartel when mayor of Garcia, Nuevo León. With fewer resources than the established parties, his campaign was increasingly waged over social media.

“It is the awakening of Mexico. Nuevo León is the example of citizens asleep, let’s go a for a citizens’ government,” he tweeted last night. “If we all intend to do things well we can achieve it. Thanks to everyone who trusted and supported me,” he celebrated at the end of the election day.

Some people are sceptical as to Rodriguez Calderón’s capacity to bring about desired changes. They point out that he was part of the ruling PRI for 30 years and that his campaign has focused mainly on criticising the ruling elite while concrete policy proposals have been absent.

The challenges for those seeking to transform Mexico are significant. The case of the disappeared students has brought to light the widespread links between the political elite, police and the drug cartels and the corruption therein. Widespread violence is made worse by almost absolute impunity: of crimes committed in 2013, 93.8% remain unresolved, according to the government’s own statistics.

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9th June General Strike – Services That Will Be Affected


Strike InfographA general strike will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 9th June. Several services will not operate due to the strike, which will begin at midnight tonight and will be supported by the opposition factions of the two umbrella unions, CGT and CTA.

The following sectors will be affected by the strike (check back later or tomorrow morning for updated information):

  • Public Transport: City buses, long-distance buses, and trains will not be running from midnight. The Buenos Aires subte will be severely affected, though some lines may be operating a reduced service. [Update: all subte lines are closed]
  • Ports: Commercial ports will be closed, but Buquebus and Colonia Express have confirmed they will be running a normal ferry service to Uruguay (passengers are advised to arrive early).
  • Flights: [Update 11.30am: Air traffic controllers at Ezeiza airport joined the strike at around 10.30am – currently no flights in or out. All flights from Aeroparque have been cancelled.] Some international flights will depart, but delays are likely. Check with your airline or at http://www.aa2000.com.ar/. Manuel Tienda León confirmed to The Indy that there will be no regular bus service to the airports tomorrow, only private taxis that are subject to availability (call tomorrow).
  • Taxis: Taxis will circulate but there will likely be a reduced service due to some drivers joining the strike, limited fuel supplies, and road blocks.
  • Bars and restaurants: Many will be closed.
  • Freight: Supply to supermarkets, ATMs, and petrol stations will be disrupted.
  • Rubbish collection: There will be no service on Monday night, but there will be one on Tuesday night.
  • Public hospitals: The Argentine doctors’ union Amra is joining the strike, so routine services and treatments may be disrupted, but accident and emergency units will remain open.
  • Others: Petrol stations employees and postal workers will also strike, some government offices will be closed, attention at the courts will be disrupted, newspaper stands will be closed. Other services that are not directly related to the strike may be affected due to a lack of transport options.

Left-wing parties have announced they will block roads and set up pickets in several cities across the country. In Buenos Aires, Puente Pueyrredón, Puente La Noria, the on-ramp to the Buenos Aires-La Plata highway (in La Plata), and the corner of Corrientes and Callao will be blocked from 6am, and the Acceso Oeste highway from 7am. [Update, 9.30am: some of these roadblocks have now been lifted, with groups set to converge on the Obelisco to begin a protest march to the Ministry of Labour on Av. Leandro Alem.]

Workers from different factories which are currently undergoing conflicts with their employers —such as Kraft, Donnelley, PepsiCo, Lear, Cadbury, and others— will block the Panamericana highway, though the time is yet to be announced.

Protesters are demanding wage increases, changes to the income tax, an emergency increase in pensions, and measures against inflation and insecurity.

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Brazil: Nationwide Protests Call for Rousseff Ouster


Protesters gather in the capital Brasilia calling to oust President Dilma Rousseff (Photo: Agencia Brasil)

Protesters gather in the capital Brasilia calling to oust President Dilma Rousseff (Photo: Agencia Brasil)

On Sunday hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Brazilian cities — São Paulo, Rio de Janiero, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, among others — to protest against President Dilma Rousseff.

Estimates of the number of protesters vary wildly, with polling agency Datafolha saying 210,000 people gathered in Sao Paulo while the Military Police counted up to one million. The masses expressed their dissatisfaction with the government, corruption, and the deteriorating economic situation.

Many anti-government protesters carried signs with phrases along the lines of “PT out!”, which stands for Brazil’s ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores, and “Dilma out!”. Some even urged a “military intervention” to bring an premature end to Rousseff’s mandate.

O Globo noted that many protesters collectively sang the national anthem as they paraded the streets holding banners and Brazilian flags. Despite the crowd’s discontent, the protest was peaceful, without major incidents.

Brazil has experienced several waves of unrest in recent years, including an anti-government uprising sparked by a hike in public transport fares in 2013. The run up to the 2014 World Cup was also marked by several violent protests.

This time, a corruption scandal at Petrobras has stirred up fresh controversy. Brazil’s state-owned oil firm is suspected of channelling illicit funds to political parties, with dozens of high-level politicians being investigated for kickbacks.

In response to the protests, Brazil’s Minister of Justice, José Eduardo Cardozo, held a press conference on national TV where he informed viewers that the administration would announce “a set of measures to combat corruption and impunity” in the days to come. They will then be sent to Congress for approval.

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Peru: One Dead in Pluspetrol Protests


Pichina is locaed in Peru's Junín department (map: Wikipedia)

Pichanqui is located in Peru’s Junín department (map: Wikipedia)

One person has died after violent clashes between the police and protestors opposed to natural gas exploration by Argentina’s Pluspetrol in Pichanaqui, Junín, 270km east of Lima in the Peruvian rainforest. At least eight others were reported injured in the confrontation.

Interior Minister Daniel Urresti said that police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protestors on Tuesday, but according to Peru’s ombudsman, 25-year-old Ever Pérez Huamán died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Urresti said that the incident began when protesters blocked a stretch of highway and tried to gain entry into a site where Pluspetrol stores explosives and machinery.

Reinforcements are being sent for the 1,700 police officers in the area and ministers are traveling from Lima to start talks with the local population.

Pluspetrol, the country’s biggest oil and gas producer, received permits to begin exploration of the Camisea fields in Junín last year.

Earlier today, Peru’s mines and energy minister, Eleodoro Mayorga, said that he would request Pluspetrol withdraw from the project in Pichanqui.

Mayorga said: “I know you’re calling for Pluspetrol to leave. I’ll ask it to do so within three days.” He later confirmed in an interview with state television station TVPeru that the Argentine company will withdraw its equipment from the area.

Pluspetrol, for its part, expressed surprise at the protests and said it has merely been conducting exploration work and caused no damage to the environment or the provinces of Oxapampa, Satipo or Chanchamayo, where Pichanqui is located. The company began operating in the area in March 2014 and has already completed 90% of its planned exploration, which was to be concluded within a month.

 

 

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US Sanctions Against Venezuela Signed by Obama


Opposition protests ended in violence in Venezuela (photo: AVN/Télam/ddc)

The sanctions are linked to violent protests which took place earlier this year in Venezuela (photo: AVN/Télam/ddc)

US president Barack Obama yesterday signed sanctions against 53 Venezuelan officials considered to be responsible for human rights violations linked to the anti-government protests that took place earlier this year.

Thirty-nine people – including protestors, government supporters, and police – were killed during weeks of unrest.

The sanctions, which freeze assets and limit travel to the US, were approved by the US Congress last week. It is the first time the United States has imposed sanctions against Venezuela.

Introducing the bill, Senator Robert Menendez said: “We in the United States have an obligation to shine a bright spotlight on Venezuela’s abuses and must object to the severe human rights violations committed by the Maduro government and his paramilitary thugs.”

Responding to the news, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro noted that the move came one day after the US initiated a period of detente with Cuba, saying on twitter: “The United States recognises the failure in its policies of aggression and blockades which our sister Cuba resisted and overcame” … and at the same time “it initiates a new stage of escalated aggression against the Bolivarian homeland which is totally rejected by our people.”

He went on to call the sanctions a “false move”, and noted that thousands of Venezuelans had demonstrated in Caracas on Monday in support of their government and against the US policy.

Maduro was in Argentina for a meeting of the regional Mercosur bloc, which issued a statement rejecting the sanctions against one of its members. The summit ended yesterday, with special declarations by the region’s heads of states in support of Venezuela and also backing Argentina’s judicial battles against holdout creditors.

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Haiti: Prime Minister Resigns as Anti-Government Protests Intensify


Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti's prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti’s prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Haiti’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, resigned on the weekend amid an escalation of anti-government protests in the country.

Lamothe announced his resignation in the early hours of Sunday morning, saying he was leaving the post with a sense of “accomplishment”.

On Friday, a special commission had recommended that Lamothe step down as one of a series of steps to address the country’s political crisis. “If it will permit a resolution to the crisis, I present my resignation and that of my government,” said Lamothe in a televised address.

Long-running protests have intensified recently over a political deadlock that has delayed legislative and municipal elections for several years, as well as allegations of corruption. On Friday, an anti-government protest in the capital Port-au-Prince ended in violent clashes with police, leaving one person dead.

President Michel Martelly created the special advisory commission last month in an attempt to set out a road map to resolve the crisis. Aside from the departure of Lamothe, the commissions other recommendations included disbanding the electoral council, freeing “political prisoners”, and the resignation of the Supreme Court president.

Martelly is due to meet with party leaders today, and should nominate a new prime minister by Wednesday, according to the commission report.

The current legislative mandate expires on 12th January, and if elections have not been called by then, President Martelly could rule by decree, raising concerns among many of a return to autocratic rule. Protesters have been calling for both Lamothe and Martelly to resign.

Martelly, meanwhile, has blamed opposition parties for blocking proposed reforms to the electoral law that he says would pave the way for a vote.

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Mapuche Community Given ‘Benetton Land’ Titles


'The invisible colours of Benetton' (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

‘The invisible colours of Benetton’ (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

The National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INAI) has formally recognised the Santa Rosa Leleque Mapuche community’s ownership of 535 hectares in Chubut, Patagonia.

The terrain is part of 900,000 hectares that were sold to the Benetton corporation in 1991, in a deal that the Mapuche have always called illegal. The community was evicted from the land in 2002, but returned to occupy it in 2007.

The decision to hand the titles back to the community brings to a close one of Argentina’s most infamous territorial disputes of recent times. It is also a watershed for the rights of indigenous communities, setting a precedent that activists hope will be followed in similar disputes around the country.

Veronica Huilipan of the Indigenous People’s Human Rights Watchdog (ODHPI) said: “After a long struggle, led by the community and involving different tactics to highlight the case, such as a trip to Italy and the involvement of Argentina’s Nobel Peace laureate, we have finally seen this decision in favour of the community.”

The decision is the latest a in series of rulings in favour of indigenous communities in Patagonia. At the end of October, the Campo Maripe Mapuche community, which resides in an area of Neuquén known as Vaca Muerta, was also given official legal status. Vaca Muerta is home to one of Argentina’s biggest shale oil and gas reserves, which are accessed through the controversial technique of fracking.

It is hoped that the community’s new status will give them more power to demand their constitutional rights of consultation over the use of natural resources that exist in their terrain be recognised. This right is particularly important in light of Argentina’s new Hydrocarbons Law, which is designed to attract more private investment into the country’s growing energy sector. The law was passed by the Senate on 30th October.

Huilipan said that the Campo Maripe community are going to challenge the law, as if it passes it will have done so without the communities being given their constitutional right to consultation.

She is hopeful that they can succeed: “The Mapuche communities have shown us that when they take a political stance, they are highly skilled at organising and mobilising, and have made huge gains and won important struggles in the past … So when the Mapuche confederation organises in such a way, we have high expectations, yes. The community is extremely open to entering into dialogue when they feel they have not been consulted on issues that affect them directly.”

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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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