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WNU #928: Mexican Groups Plan NAFTA Protests for Jan. 1
by Weekly News Update (weeklynewupdate [at] gmail.com)
Monday Dec 31st, 2007 3:42 PM
Mexican campesino organizations plan protests starting on Jan. 1, when tariffs will be eliminated on the importation of corn, beans, sugar and powdered milk from Canada and the US under NAFTA. A report by a working group in the Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress projects that immigration to the US will increase by 10% as a result--from about 550,000 in 2007 to more than 600,000 in 2008.
1. Mexico: NAFTA Protests for Jan. 1
2. Mexico: Rights Office Raided
3. El Salvador: Troops to Stay in Iraq
4. Haiti: New MINUSTAH Probe
5. Puerto Rico: US Probes Nationalists

*1. MEXICO: NAFTA PROTESTS FOR JAN. 1

On Dec. 28 a number of Mexican campesino organizations announced
plans for protests starting on Jan. 1, when tariffs will be
eliminated on the importation of corn, beans, sugar and powdered
milk from Canada and the US under the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA). Labor and human rights organizations in both
Mexico and the US plan to support the demonstrations, saying the
free flow of government-subsidized US agricultural products will
continue the deterioration of Mexican rural production.

The Democratic Campesino Front (FDC), a coalition of some 300
agrarian organizations, plans to begin a blockade of the Cordoba-
Las Americas international bridge on the US border at Ciudad
Juarez, Chihuahua, at 11:59 pm on Dec. 31; FDC spokespeople says
the protest will continue until Jan. 2. The Border Agricultural
Workers Union, based in El Paso, Texas, is joining the action, as
are local Mexican organizations, including the Independent
Popular Organization, the Loma de Poleo community group, the
Human Rights Center of the North and the El Barzon de Chihuahua
farmers' organization. "[I]f there are metal walls for our
compatriots," the FDC and El Barzon announced, referring to
border fences the US government is erecting to bar Mexican
immigrants, "we're forming a wall of people for their products."

Miguel Colunga, of the Chihuahua FDC, said there would be similar
actions "in the whole country, mainly on the border with the US,
but also in the main ports where agricultural products arrive, in
plazas and in highways." The National Council of Flower Growers
threatened to blockade all access to Mexico City, saying that
40,000 jobs were lost in the industry in 2007 because of lack of
government support and competition from Canada and the US. The
National Union of Agricultural Workers said it would blockade
offices of the Agriculture and Finance Ministries, while other
groups are planning a series of caravans to converge on the
capital on Jan. 10. "[I]t's very clear that with NAFTA there are
winners and losers," the FDC's Colunga said, "but the ones who
benefit are the big agribusiness companies like [the US-based]
Cargill and [the Mexican-based] Maseca, while the losers are us,
the 2.5 million campesinos who grow corn." [La Jornada (Mexico)
12/29/07, 12/20/07; Prensa Latina 12/29/07]

NAFTA went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994, but tariffs on basic
agricultural products were to be reduced gradually rather than
eliminated immediately. According to Chihuahua FDC founder Victor
Quintana, corn farmers have lost almost 51% of their purchasing
power since 1994, while farmers who raise beans have lost 45%.
[LJ 12/30/07] Their situation is expected to be worse after Jan.
1. A report by a working group in the Chamber of Deputies of the
Mexican Congress projects that immigration to the US will
increase by 10% as a result--from about 550,000 in 2007 to more
than 600,000 in 2008. [LJ 12/27/07] A study by deputies from the
formerly ruling centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)
put the number of Mexican immigrants to the US at 560,000 for
2007, and reported that 562 Mexicans had died while trying to
cross the border. [LJ 12/24/07]

*2. MEXICO: RIGHTS OFFICE RAIDED

Two masked men forced their way into the Catholic diocese's Human
Rights Center in Saltillo, in the northern Mexican state of
Coahuila, on the evening of Dec. 20. The men struck Mariana
Villarreal, who works in the center's legal and educational
programs, and kept her locked in a bathroom while they rummaged
through the center's files, according to Bishop Raul Vera, who
was in the southeastern state of Chiapas at the time, attending
commemorations of the 10th anniversary of the massacre of 45
campesinos in the community of Acteal by rightwing
paramilitaries. Two weeks earlier Villarreal received an
anonymous phone call saying her sister, who heads the center's
legal department, had been killed in an accident. The sister
hadn't been harmed; Vera called the message "psychological
warfare."

The center has assisted in a case where soldiers and officers are
accused of raping 13 or 14 women in dance halls in Castanos,
Coahuila on July 11, 2006 [see Updates #916 and 927], and in a
lawsuit against Grupo Minera Mexico on behalf of the families of
65 miners who died in a methane explosion in the Pasta de Conchos
coal mine on Feb. 19, 2006 [see Updates #839, 842]. [La Jornada
12/22/07, 12/23/07] [Bishop Vera was adjunct bishop to liberation
theology supporter Samuel Ruiz Garcia in San Cristobal de las
Casas, Chiapas, before being transferred to Saltillo in 2000--see
Update #518.]

*3. EL SALVADOR: TROOPS TO STAY IN IRAQ

On Dec. 20 El Salvador's Legislative Assembly approved a request
by President Antonio Saca to extend the presence of Salvadoran
troops in Iraq until Dec. 31, 2008. This will give Saca the
authority to send two more six-month rotations; Salvadoran
soldiers have been part of the US-led occupation force in Iraq
since August 2003. El Salvador, which has lost five soldiers, is
the only Latin American country with troops in Iraq [see Update
#860]. The leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation
(FMLN) opposed the extension, which was supported by Saca's
Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA); 46 of the Assembly's 84
deputies voted for keeping troops in Iraq. [El Diario-La Prensa
(NY) 12/22/07 from AP]

*4. HAITI: NEW MINUSTAH PROBE

United Nations (UN) spokesperson Michele Montas confirmed on Dec.
18 that the organization was investigating allegations of fraud
and mismanagement totaling more than $610 million in procurement
for peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) and Haiti. The cases are "under consideration in the
internal justice system in accordance with established
procedures," according to Montas, and "are being accorded the
highest priority." [AFP 12/18/07] [Montas is a Haitian journalist
and the widow of murdered Radio Haiti Inter director Jean
Dominique. The 9,200-member United Nations Stabilization Mission
in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is already under investigation because of
allegations of sexual abuse of women and minors by its soldiers
and officers--see Update #926.]

*5. PUERTO RICO: US PROBES NATIONALISTS

The US has issued subpoenas to three Puerto Rican activists to
appear before a federal grand jury in New York on Jan. 11. The
activists have been identified as graphic designer Tania
Frontera, social worker Christopher Torres and filmmaker Julio
Antonio Pabon. There are indications that the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) is also trying to locate Hector Rivera, one
of the founders of the Welfare Poets, a New York-based collective
of activists and poets, in order to serve him with a subpoena.

The subpoenas are thought to be part of a probe into the Popular
Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros, a rebel pro-independence group
whose leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, was killed by FBI agents in
Puerto Rico on Sept. 23, 2005. FBI agent Luis Fraticelli has
indicated that the agency is trying to find "Commander
Guasabara," who succeeded Ojeda Rios. Various pro-independence
groups met in San Juan on Dec. 27 to discuss their response to
the investigation. Independence activists have frequently refused
to appear before grand juries or to answer questions, and have
been jailed as a result. [El Diario-La Prensa 12/28/07 from
correspondent]

More breaking stories from alternative sources:

Mexico: Transgenic Maize Knocking at the Door
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1061/68/

Cuba: Elizabeth and Monica's Wedding
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1062/68/

Walking from Bogota to Caracas for Peace
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1064/68/

Bolivia: Guarayo Indians Struggle to Hold Onto Their Land
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1060/1/

Zapatista Code Red!
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1060/1/

Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Nicaragua to scout "Dry Canal"
project?
http://ww4report.com/node/4874

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and
alternative sources:
http://nacla.newsvine.com/

For immigration updates and events:
http://thepoliticsofimmigration.blogspot.com

END

ISSN#: 1084-922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news
from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a
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