From WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE ON THE AMERICAS, ISSUE #854, JUNE 11, 2006

1. Peru: Campesinos Protest Free Trade

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]

2. Costa Rica: Thousands March Against CAFTA

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]

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

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
6/5/06]

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
 presidente@scspr.gob.gt, fax +502 2251 2218) and Attorney General
Juan Luis Florido (fax +502 251 2218), with copies to GHRC-USA
(email  ghrc-usa@ghrc-usa.org), 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]

Also in Update #854:

--Bolivia: Land Reform Decreed
--Bolivia: Landowner Instigates Clash
--Bolivia: One Dead in Urban Eviction
--Brazil: Landless Invade Congress
--Chile: Students End Strike
--Mexico: Teachers Threaten Boycott
--Mexico: Mysterious Campaign Shooting

ISSN#: 1084-922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news
from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a
progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the
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