Friday, November 9, 2012

Anti-government Protests Bring Buenos Aires to a Standstill

The anti-government movement in Argentina continues to build momentum after tens of thousands turned out for protests against crime, inflation, corruption, currency controls and the government’s media crackdown.

Estimates on the turnout in Buenos Aires ranged from 30,000 (the police) to “probably a million” (Merco Press). Smaller protests were held across the country and as far away as Sydney, San Francisco and Rome. The protests passed peacefully and there were no reports of any arrests.

According to Pagina 12, the protesters were predominantly “from the middle class and above,” with one columnist concluding “at first glance, they have expanded their numbers but have not broadened their social spectrum”

In a speech on Thursday, President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner launched a passionate defense of her record, although she did not mention the protest directly.

What the protests mean for the government remains unclear. A rather breathless Merco Press called the protest a “knock out” for the president, who “nevertheless said ‘I will never give up.’”

The government, on the other hand has dismissed the protesters as being opposition stooges or members of a wealthy elite keen to cling on to privilege.

In a more measured tone, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs analysed the polarized rhetoric of attitudes towards the movement before the protest, dismissing both claims the government has been chronically weakened by the protests and that the movement is no more than a small “faction of ultra-right” The report draws the less dramatic conclusion that while the movement is far from a killer blow to the government it could be “the opposition’s first significant step toward finding a stable platform and common ground from which to challenge the Kirchneristas’ hold on the presidency.”

Clarin features a gallery of photos of the protest.

News Briefs

  • James Bosworth describes his day accompanying election observers for last Sunday’s local elections in Nicaragua on Bloggingsbyboz. Among other irregularities, he claims he witnessed “systemic electoral fraud” from multiple voting by Sandinista supporters in one voting center and large numbers of voters being turned away in others, concluding “When you combine multiple votes by Sandinista activists with the opposition voters removed from the voter lists, it points to elections that were stolen.”
  • Ten people were killed at a farm in Santa Rosa de Osos, in Colombia’s worst massacre in over three years, the AP reports. According to the authorities, three gunmen from the Rastrojos - a criminal army born from the Norte del Valle drug cartel - murdered the rural workers after not receiving extortion payments demanded from the farm’s owner.  
  • The death toll in the Guatemalan earthquake has risen to at least 52, reports the Guardian. According to President Otto Pérez Molina, 700 people remain in shelters without water, electricity or communications and are at risk of aftershocks.
  • Upside Down World reports on the World Bank’s financing of Honduran African palm companies the Dinant Corporation and subsidiaries of the Jaremar Corporation, which have been implicated in the murder of land rights activists. Local social movements blame the companies for the murder of approximately 80 campaigners involved in a struggle against the companies since the 2009 coup. 
  • The Colombian Land Rights Monitor blog features a post and video detailing the story of Argemiro Hernandez, who has been displaced three times in 15 years. Hernandez, like many others, has so far been frustrated by Colombia’s much Vaunted Victims and Land Restitution Law. He is currently in a makeshift camp on his own land, living with constant threats and attacks from mobs sent by a cattle rancher now laying claim to the territory.
  • The Miami Herald reports on a new crackdown on dissidents in Cuba, citing a report by the Cuban rights commission that says authorities arrested 520 people for political reasons in October.
  • Venezuela Analysis reports on the struggle of the Yukpa indigenous people of Venezuela, a group of which have arrived in Caracas to petition the government over their land rights battle. The Yukpa were granted titles to land last year but local cattle ranchers, backed by hired gunmen and the military have refused to cede the territory. According to the article up to seven members of the Yukpa community have been murdered in connection with the case so far this year. 
  • A medical student was shot and killed at student protests against a new tax law and plans to privatize the student’s school, the New York Times reports. According to witnesses, William Florian Ramírez, 21, was a bystander not participating in the protests, which had seen clashes between the police and rock hurling youths.
  • The Inter-Press Service reports on the contradictions behind the Guatemalan government’s “lavish plans” for celebrations to mark the end of the Mayan “grand cycle” on December 21 while the descents of the Mayans live “steeped in poverty.”
  • The L.A. Times reports on the latest leader of the Zetas drug cartel to be arrested in Mexico. Said Omar Juarez allegedly headed the Zetas operations in the troubled border state of Coahuila and “presumably” has ties to Miguel Angel Treviño, the Zetas' top leader. 
  • With the U.S. elections over, the Just the Facts blog and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs both carry analysis of what Obama’s victory means for Latin America. JtF reviews reactions from Latin American leaders, concluding “There was a general consensus that Obama was the preferred victor of the two candidates, but that the region expected more attention and cooperation from his administration in the next four years,” while COHA also calls for Obama to focus more on the region, especially on the Cuba issue.
  • The Council on Hemispheric Affairs also features a report on the Latin American arms trade, concluding “The region’s current decline in arms transfers should be looked upon as a positive trend, but it needs to be consolidated by opening the arms trade up to as much transparency as possible.”