Protesters invade Brazil farm, set fire to the crops
Brazilian Indians reoccupied a disputed rural property and set fire to fields on Friday, a day after they were violently evicted in a growing conflict over land ownership in southern Brazil’s farm belt. The land dispute turned bloody on Thursday when a Terena Indian was shot dead during the eviction by riot police, who used tear gas to dislodge some 200 natives from the cattle ranch owned by a former congressman, Ricardo Bacha.
“The Indians are on the war path,” Bacha said in a phone interview from his townhouse in Campo Grande, 70km from the farm in Mato Grosso do Sul state, a big producer of soy and corn for export. “They are wild about the death and occupied the farm again because the police left and I could not go back. They burnt down my house yesterday and my life would be in danger there.”
Kyrgyzstan protesters lift blockade on Canadian gold mine, but unrest continues
BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN—Protesters have lifted their blockade of a Canadian gold mine in eastern Kyrgyzstan, but their supporters in the south are continuing their siege of a local governor’s headquarters, officials said Saturday. Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters besieged the Kumtor gold mine, operated by Toronto-based Centerra Gold, for several days, demanding its nationalization and more social benefits.
They blocked a road leading to the mine and cut power supplies, prompting the Kyrgyz president to introduce a state of emergency in the former Soviet Central Asian nation. The violence threatened further turmoil in the country of five million, which hosts a U.S. base that supports military operations in nearby Afghanistan. On Friday, more than 50 people were wounded and 80 detained in violent clashes between stone-throwing protesters trying to storm the Kumtor mine’s office and riot police, who fought back with rubber bullets and stun grenades. The provincial administrator, Bakyt Dzhusubaliyev, said Saturday that protesters have unblocked the road and power to the mine was restored.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev visited the area Saturday to assess the situation and meet with local residents. He said that protest caused $4 million in damage to the mine. Kumtor is the largest foreign-owned gold mine anywhere in the former Soviet Union. It accounts for about 12 per cent of the Kyrgyzstan’s economy and has been at the centre of heated debate between those who favour nationalization and politicians who believe nationalization would scare off much-needed foreign investment. Satybaldiyev told local residents that the government will make sure that the country gets more revenues from the mine through taxes.
His deputy met with Centerra executives, urging them to restore normal operation as early as Monday. While the situation in the area around the mine appeared to calm down, tensions remained high in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, where protesters stormed the governor’s office Friday demanding the nationalization of the mine and the release of several opposition lawmakers jailed over their role in previous unrest. The protesters retained control of the building on Saturday, and about 300 people were gathering outside. One of their leaders, Chyngiz Abdumomunov, said they wouldn’t leave until the government fulfills their demands.
Mwiri closed following violent students’ strike
Jinja District authorities have indefinitely closed Busoga College Mwiri after three days of unrest at the school. The strike, that began with a peaceful march to Jinja Town, turned violent on Friday night. Jinja Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Richard Gulume said an emergency meeting held at the school yesterday morning resolved to send all students home, pending investigations into the strike. The meeting, which comprised of members of the school founding body, Busoga Diocese, members of the Parents and Teachers’ Association, the school administration and members of the district security committee, resolved that keeping students at the school would be risky.
Students sneaked out of the school compound on Friday morning and beat police deployment around major access routes to the town to reach the Busoga Square to meet district leaders. During the meeting held at the Jinja Town Hall and attended by among others, LC5 chairman Fred Gume, the RDC and district education officer Abraham Were, the students accused the head teacher, Mr Wamala Lule, of absenteeism and nepotism.
They also alleged that despite an increment of school fees from Shs500,000 to Shs758,000, feeding has not improved and the school’s debt has accumulated to Shs1.2 billion, up from Shs350 million. They demanded the transfer of both Mr Lule and his first deputy Henry Mwondha, who they accuse of arrogance. The district leaders later took the students back to the school with a promise that they would investigate the two teachers. However, the situation at the school changed on Friday night as the students turned rowdy, breaking school furniture and attacking teachers’ houses. Trouble is said to have started during supper when the students broke plates in the dining hall and started demanding the departure of the Mr Lule and Mr Mwondha.
The students later disconnected power lines to most of the classroom blocks and attacked Mr Mwondha’s house, smashing all the window panes. They also destroyed all the windows to the staffroom and classrooms. It was only after running battles with the riot police that they were forced back into their dormitories, paving way for the meeting that resulted into the closure of the school.
Cheering inmates riot at prison
Five hurt, including three prison officers, as inmates trash prison during nine-hour siege at Spring Hill. About 100 inmates have been relocated to other prisons around the country as abandoned cell blocks of the Spring Hill jail where rioters caused chaos yesterday are investigated. The rioting inmates smiled and waved at cameras as they caused what is suspected to be millions of dollars worth of damage to one of the country’s biggest prisons.
Twenty-seven Spring Hill maximum security prisoners rampaged for nearly nine hours, setting fire to two cell blocks and smashing cells with makeshift weapons. Three Corrections officers and two prisoners were injured. It’s understood that those prisoners involved in the riot have been moved to a more secure location at another prison. The other inmates in the cell blocks where the riots happened have also been moved to other prisons as police, fire and Corrections investigators examine the scene.
Guatemalan mine dispute militarizes region
The neighbors of the San Rafael silver mine no longer come out of their homes for fear of the machine-gun toting troops and police who man checkpoints in these green, wooded mountains. The plaza in the town of San Rafael Las Flores, where the community used to mingle, is now deserted. The fear that rules this terrain, where residents are mostly Xinca Indians, recalls the bad old days of the country’s three-decade-long civil war, which killed as many as 200,000 people. But what’s brought in the troops this time are protests over plans by Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources Inc. to tap what the company says is one of the five largest silver deposits in the world.
Protesters say the project, called El Escobal, will drain or pollute the local water supply, and hundreds of people have blocked roads and burned buildings to stop it from going forward. That’s tested President Otto Perez Molina, who sent in hundreds of troops and suspended the right to hold public gatherings in four townships near the mine in early May. It was the second time during his 16 months in office that he has declared a state of siege in response to protests against a foreign-run mining project. With violence rising, the mine protests have now emerged not only as a threat to Perez Molina’s young administration but also a warning to other foreign companies seeking to invest in the region.
The residents of San Rafael, however, say they’re been left with no choice but to fight. They also accuse the government of favoring foreign investors over communities. “This is affecting us, we feel intimidated,” said 18-year-old Miriam Munoz, whose nervous parents didn’t want her to go to school because of all the soldiers and police outside. “The situation isn’t going to change until the president comes to deal with it.” The company and its supporters deny the town’s accusations, saying the mine will instead bring jobs and tens of millions of dollars to local governments and communities.
Andres Davila, the mine’s coordinator of corporate communications, said the metal will be extracted through a flotation process in which the ore is passed through water. The process involves the chemical reagent zinc cyanide, which Davila said “is not discharged into rivers because it is reused at the same site.” “Half of the (mine’s) employees are from San Rafael and 95 percent are Guatemalans,” Davila said. “For every dollar, 35 cents will stay in Guatemala for taxes, royalties and voluntary contributions.” Claudia Samayoa, director of Guatemala’s Human Rights Defense Unit, said the political damage has already been done. “One interesting thing we have been finding in San Rafael Las Flores and the communities affected by the state of siege is that people who supported the president are telling us they no longer back him,” Samayoa said.
A new poll by CID Gallup shows approval of Perez Molina’s presidency nationwide falling 20 percentage points over the past year, from 68 percent in May 2012 to 48 percent this May. The poll, which was conducted between May 2-9 and had a margin for error of 3 percentage points, cites street violence and a lack of jobs for the fall. Such conflicts are breaking out all over Latin America, where local resistance to foreign-driven mining projects have paralyzed whole regions and claimed dozens of casualties. At the same time, such projects have become ever more popular as world prices for copper, iron ore and other metals have boomed, driven in large part by growing demand from China.
In Peru, such protests have presented a major challenge to President Ollanta Humala, while similar outrage over foreign exploitation of local resources helped defeat presidents in Bolivia. Activists say problems at the Guatemala mine began in 2007, when the owner at the time, Canada’s Goldcorp Inc., came to San Rafael with an exploration license. In 2010, the mine was sold to Tahoe Resources. “Since then the problems have aggravated,” said Oscar Morales, president of the Community Development Council, which serves as a link between locals and political authorities. He spoke with the AP from a secret location where he has been in hiding since authorities raided his and family members’ homes searching for arms. He said nothing turned up in the searches. Morales said eight community consultations of 4,222 adults found that nearly all of them opposed the mine.
He said he wants to hold another legally binding community consultation about the mine, but municipal governments have refused. Yet the violence only grows more destructive the longer the dispute remains unresolved. On Sept. 17, 2012, mine workers transporting tubes for electrical cables on the main highway in the region were stopped and held by townspeople opposed to the mine. The following day, unknown attackers set fire to mine warehouses and a patrol car. About two months later, enraged townspeople burned a hotel and stole dynamite belonging to the mine when authorities blocked a community meeting about the project in the nearby town of Mataquescuintla.
The deadliest clash occurred on Jan. 11, when a shootout between protesters and mine security guards left one farmer and two guards dead. Then, on March 17, unidentified gunmen abducted four members of the Xinca parliament in confusing circumstances. One ended up dead. Faced with the growing violence, the national government announced the creation of a mediation commission, and on April 3, the government granted a 25-year exploitation license to the San Rafael mine “after it fulfilled all the requisites set by law,” according to Davila. The mine has the necessary permits but is not yet operating.
After another protest left a policeman dead and six locals wounded, Perez Molina declared a 30-day state of siege that banned public gatherings and other civil liberties in four townships around the mine in Jalapa and Santa Rosa states. Some 500 police officers and 2,000 soldiers were sent to the area. The president later lowered the alert to a state of prevention, saying troops could no longer detain or arrest people without justification. “It is not only because of problems at the mine, but also because of organized crime” that the emergency was decreed, said Perez Molina, but human rights organizations called the move a “criminalization of the legitimate demands of the population opposed to the mine.”
Tahoe Resources vigorously defends the San Rafael project, which it expects to start operating before the end of the year. It says it has reached out to 2,000 locals to explain the benefits the mine brings. Some people in the region laud the jobs it offers. “My father and my brother work in the mine. I have received a scholarship from the mine. I think it is bringing development to San Rafael,” said 17-year-old student Paola. Many, however, are skeptical. They say the mine has already transformed the region, if only with all the troops and checkpoints that remain. “What matters least is the money,” said Vicente Morales, who lives 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) from the mine. “What we don’t want is that in a few years our lands no longer produce, that the environment is damaged, that the river is polluted.”
Jordanian prisoners in Israel send urgent plea for support
GAZA, June 2 (KUNA) — Jordanian prisoners in Israeli jails, on hunger strike for more than a month now, called on the Jordanian people to act immediately to support them. Letters were smuggled from Al-Ramla Prison in Israel all the way to Jordan, and later read out and broadcast by local radios on Sunday. The prisoners said, “the hunger strike entered its second month,” and no show of support is to be seen for their battle.
They described their letters as “the last living will of martyrs of dignity”, and accused Israel of working to isolate and punish them and force them to give up their latest show of resistance.” The hunger strike of Jordanian prisoners was meant to demand an immediate release from Israeli jails, and a transfer of said captives to jails in their home country according to the Wadi Araba Treaty signed by Israel and Jordan.
Paraguayan leaders vow to crack down on guerrillas following murder of rancher
ASUNCION, Paraguay – The killing of a rancher allegedly ambushed by guerrillas has spurred both Paraguay’s outgoing president and president-elect to vow to punish the group. President Federico Franco, who will leave office in August 2013, said he will combat the group known as the Army of the Paraguayan People “by air, water and land”. He spoke to the press Saturday on a ranch located 360 kilometres (224 miles) north of the capital Asuncion, where the funeral of the 63-year old Luis Lindstrom was held.
The rancher was killed on Friday. The president said Lindstrom was probably attacked in retaliation for the arrest of one of the group’s members who was caught by police in possession of guns and subversive pamphlets only hours before the attack. President-elect Horacio Cartes, a millionaire businessman, also condemned the crime and warned the criminals via his Twitter account: “To the criminals I say, the public forces will fulfil their duties!”
The Interior Ministry repeated its offer of $1 million in rewards for information leading to the capture of guerrilla leaders, and announced the deployment of military forces to co-operate with police operations. Lindstrom, who had already been kidnapped and released by the same band after paying ransom in 2008, was struck by 15 military-style bullets, officials said. According to the victim’s brother, after his kidnapping, Lindstrom received constant requests for more money as part of a “revolutionary fee” demanded by the band.