(AA) America Update #325 -extracts (2)

esperanto (lingvoj@lds.co.uk)
Fri, 26 Apr 1996 19:01:44 +0200

ISSUE #325, APRIL 21, 1996
339 LAFAYETTE ST., NEW YORK, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499


On Apr. 17, some 150 anti-riot agents from the Immediate Reaction
Forces (FRI) of Guatemala's National Police arrived at the El
Tablero plantation in San Pedro Sacatepequez, San Marcos
province, to carry out an eviction of campesinos who had been
living there. Without warning, the police opened fire on and
threw canisters of tear gas at the El Tablero residents, who
defended themselves with stones and machetes.

Four campesinos--Roberto Velasquez, Arturo Gonzales, Ezequiel
Orozco, and Maynor Aguilar--were wounded in the attack, one of
them seriously. A police agent was also reportedly wounded.
According to witnesses, neither the United Nations Observer
Mission for Guatemala (MINUGUA) nor the Office of the Human
Rights Prosecutor were present during the attack, although they
arrived later.

The Guatemalan government claimed at a press conference that the
police arrived at the plantation unarmed and were ambushed by the
peasants. [Network in Solidarity with the Guatemalan People
(NISGUA) Rapid Response Alert 4/19/96; Diario Las Americas
4/19/96] According to "official sources" cited in an Agence
France Presse story, FRI chief Alberto Soto Hernandez died in the
ambush and three other police agents were injured. Soto Hernandez
reportedly died in the Guatemalan Social Security Institute
(IGSS) hospital, in the city of San Marcos, from five head wounds
caused by sharp objects. The other three agents were treated at
the same hospital: Gerardo Alvarado for a bullet wound in the
arm; and Manuel Marroquin and Rolando Merida for wounds made by
blunt objects. [Diario Las Americas 4/19/96 from AFP]

On Feb. 5, FRI agents had attempted to evict El Tablero and
another plantation, burning the campesinos' homes and stealing or
killing their farm animals [see Update #316]. The El Tablero
residents have documents which they say prove the disputed land
was stolen from them. Messages protesting the police attack can
be faxed to President Alvaro Arzu (011-502-2-29968) and Human
Rights Prosecutor Jorge Mario Garcia Laguardia (011-502-2-81734).
[NISGUA Rapid Response Alert 4/19/96]


Labor protests resurged in Bolivia during the week of Apr. 8
after the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) rejected an agreement
reached between oil workers and the government, and refused to
accept a salary offer of 9-13% presented by the administration of
President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. In response, the government
ended its talks with the union, and reaffirmed its intentions to
"capitalize" (privatize) the state-owned oil and gas company YPFB
(Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos). The COB said it
was unfamiliar with the draft agreement that its affiliate union,
the Oil Workers Federation, signed with the government on Apr. 6,
in which it was agreed that the government would continue forward
with the "capitalization" of most YPFB functions, while
maintaining the oil refineries as state-owned. The COB insists
that this arrangement would be "like being the owner of the cow
but not of the milk." To the government's argument of how YPFB
can get the capital it needs, the COB answers that it can be
capitalized with its own profits and from the sale of those state
entities already privatized: telecommunications, train service,
electricity, and the state airline, Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (LAB).

The COB has been leading ongoing popular protests against the
government's "capitalization" plan and in favor of an increase in
wages. With the government negotiations cut short, the COB
decided to radicalize its protests by continuing a general strike
that had begun on Mar. 18; expanding a wave of hunger strikes
that started Mar. 11; and carrying out new mobilizations in the
cities. According to the COB, as of Apr. 9 more than 1,000
workers were on hunger strike throughout the country. The
Bolivian Campesino Confederation announced that as of Apr. 10 it
would begin to block roads and highways in support of the
movement. [Inter Press Service 4/10/96]

At least 19 trade unionists and other activists were arrested on
Apr. 14 and 15 in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, as labor and
grassroots groups prepared demonstrations to coincide with a Apr.
15-16 meeting there between ministers of the European Union and
of Latin American countries belonging to the Rio Group. Those
arrested include Alejo Veliz, secretary general of the Campesino
Workers Union Federation of Cochabamba (FSUTCC); FSUTCC press
officer Luis Garcia; and Andres Chavez and Nelson Rodriguez, both
leaders of the Chillimarca trade union in Cochabamba.

Veliz was arrested on Apr. 14 by agents wearing civilian clothes,
believed to be members of the intelligence services. Garcia,
Chavez and Rodriguez were arrested on the morning of Apr. 15. The
arrests were carried out without warrants. Relatives, lawyers and
human rights groups have been unable to find out where or on what
charges the men are being held. Veliz was previously arrested on
Feb. 2, transferred to La Paz, and only released after the
government reached an agreement with the trade union.

The other 15 people were arrested without warrants during a small
demonstration in Cochabamba on Apr. 15, part of the COB's
mobilization for better wages and against privatization. The
detainees are being held by the Judicial Technical Police in
Cochabamba and have not been charged. [Amnesty International
Urgent Action Bulletin 4/16/96] A number of demonstrators were
arrested and four police agents reportedly injured in more
protests in Cochabamba the next day. Teachers planned to stage a
hunger strike on Apr. 17 in the center of La Paz to support the
COB demands. [DLA 4/18/96 from AFP]

The Bolivian press has reported that 72 of 78 men detained
following demonstrations in La Paz on Apr. 12 have been released.
As of Apr. 16, six men were still being held by the Judicial
Technical Police in La Paz; Amnesty International said it has
received no information regarding their names or the conditions
in which they are being held. [AI Urgent Action Bulletin 4/16/96]

Analysts consider that only concern over its image as host of the
Rio Group meeting has prevented the Bolivian government from
declaring a state of siege to crack down on labor protests, as it
did last year. [IPS 4/10/96] Numerous trade unionists have been
arrested over the past year; some were only briefly detained,
others were charged with sedition, and sometimes the charges were
dropped after a short time. [AI Urgent Action Bulletin 4/16/96]