Category Archives: Latin America

Monsanto presses Argentina for GMO royalties


Monsanto, the most ruthless troglodyte with the biggest club in the Big Agra tribe, is waging a legal war on Argentine farmers they claim are using the company’s patented GMO soybeans without paying the piper.

Their targets are farmers they charge have held onto seeds from previous harvests, as well as those farmers whose own crops have been contaminated by pollen from nearby fields planted with Monsanto crops.

Until the determination of just which crops contained Monsanto DNA was determined by Monsanto’s own labs, though the Argentine government has passed legislation requiring determinations to be made by stare-run labs.

From MercoPress:

Monsanto has rejected a request by Argentina for more time to collect monies owed by small farmers for royalties on genetically modified soybean seeds. Argentine agricultural minister Ricardo Buryaile and members of his staff have met with Monsanto representatives, including chief operating officer Brett Begemann to request a waiver on the monies owed.

The seed company rejected that request, two unnamed Monsanto staff told press agency Bloomberg. The firm also rejected a request for more time to collect the royalties from small farmers.

Monsanto is set to challenge Argentina’s attempts to retain control over lab analysis to verify the origin of its grain exports.

On April 15, the Argentine government of President Mauricio Macri passed a resolution that gives the Agriculture Ministry control of the analysis of seeds in the country, a move that would render obsolete a Monsanto-funded network of labs set up to detect its seeds at Argentine ports and help enforce payment.

Mexico blocks work of Aytozinapa scientific panel


The team of international scientists seeking the truth about the 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College who vanished on the night of 26 September 2014 [previously] is leaving the country.

The reason? Mexican officials have ceased cooperating with the panel, which has reported that no evidence backs the official government version of the disappearances.

The story from teleSUR:

The independent experts that have been investigating the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students since 2014 will end their work in Mexico on April 30.

Families of the 43 forcibly disappeared Ayotzinapa students continued their 43-hour sit-in on Saturday demanding that Mexican authorities fulfill their promises, while the international human rights body coordinating independent experts announced that conditions in Mexico aren’t appropriate for foreign investigators to continue their work on the case, Mexico’s La Jornada reported.

The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, which set up the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, known as GIEI, to participate in the Ayotzinapa probe in 2014, announced on Friday that the foreign investigators will withdraw from working on the case at the end of the month.

“Given the nature of the agreement for technical assistance, in which the consent of the state is indispensable, IACHR considers that the conditions are not right to continue the mandate of the group,” said IACHR President James Cavallaro, adding that the body “deeply regrets” Mexico’s refusal to agree to extend the GIEI’s mandate as the case remains unsolved.

Torturing video leads to Mexican army mea culpa


Once again, a viral video forces a rare admission from a corrupt law enforcement agency, only this time it’s an army.

From Agence France-Presse:

The Mexican army made a rare public apology on Saturday over a scandal in which two soldiers and a policewoman tortured a terrified woman in a video that went viral.

It is just the latest allegation of abuse committed by security forces in Mexico, who are often accused of violent acts against civilians, including murder.

General Salvador Cienfuegos, the defense minister, read out the apology before 26,000 soldiers assembled at a military base in Mexico City.

“In the name of all of us who make up this great national institution, I offer my heartfelt apology to all in society wronged by this impermissible event,” Cienfuegos said.

More from the Associated Press:

But the video of a young woman having a rifle muzzle pressed to her head by a female military police officer and having a plastic bag placed over her head by a female federal police officer has stirred outrage. The incident occurred Feb. 5, 2015, in Ajuchitlan del Progreso in the southern state of Guerrero. The state has seen a massive deployment of soldiers and federal police to battle the drug cartels.

>snip<In the past, the military has assumed a much more defensive position when confronting allegations of abuse. The widely circulated video made that impossible.

“Unfortunately they only give these apologies when they have no choice, when there is no alternative because the images are irrefutably captured in a video,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. The usual reaction is to deny and even cover up incidents, he said. “The lesson that these soldiers and officers take away is not to take photographs much less leave evidence like a video.”

And still more from El Daily Post:

The female soldier asks her repeatedly during and after the torture, “Are you going to talk? Yes or no? Now do you remember?”

“Do you want more? Who is this damn María?”

As the suspect lies inert on the ground, the female soldier asks her “Do you remember now? Or do you want the bag again? Or water? Or (electric) shocks? Tell me what you want.”

The soldier, who also holds a rifle to the woman’s head after cocking it in her ear, has been arrested, along with an army captain, reports the EFE press agency.

Ajuchitlán is less than 11o miles from another city in Guerrero much in the news of late: Iguala, where 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in rural Ayotzinapa remain missing after their 26 September 2014 abduction [previously] by drug cartel members, backed by local and state police and possibly the army.

And here’s the video, via New ViralTime:

We have to wonder what happened to the soldier or cop who recorded the video, and that of the leaker. too.

And we suspect the ultimate change effected by the video’s release will be a new vigilance against the display of cell phones and cameras during future torture sessions.

Federales linked to missing Ayotzinapa students


The latest twist in the case [previously] of those missing 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in rural Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero, Mexico who vanished on the night of 26 September 2014 after an ambush by drug gang members of state and local police.

The students were taken on the night of 26 September 2014, after the wife of the mayor of Iguala was angered that they had commandeered community buses on the night of an important political gathering, with local police doing some of the shooting.

The report from France 24:

Two Mexican federal police officers possibly participated in the disappearance of 43 students, the National Human Rights Commission said Thursday, implicating national agents in the 2014 case for the first time.

The announcement adds a new twist to a probe that has come under fire from international human rights groups and independent investigators.

Jose Larrieta Carrasco, a commission official investigating the case, said the authorities should now look into a “new route in the disappearance” of the students.

The attorney general’s office said it would “deepen” this “line of investigation” following the commission’s announcement.

A federal police statement said the allegations were not new and that all officers present in the region that night gave statements, but that “for the moment” no wrongdoing was found against any agents.

Prosecutors have already charged municipal police officers in connection with the mass abduction in the southern city of Iguala on September 26-27, 2014.

But the governmental rights commission said it found an eyewitness who saw two federal agents near Iguala’s courthouse, where municipal officers had stopped a bus with 15 to 20 students on board.

Maps of the day: Tracking Zika virus’s spread


From the World Health Organization:

BLOG Zika 1

1947: Scientists conducting routine surveillance for yellow fever in the Zika forest of Uganda isolate the Zika virus in samples taken from a captive, sentinel rhesus monkey.

1948: The virus is recovered from the mosquito Aedes africanus, caught on a tree platform in the Zika forest.

1952: The first human cases are detected in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania in a study demonstrating the presence of neutralizing antibodies to Zika virus in sera.

BLOG Zika 2

1969–1983: The known geographical distribution of Zika expands to equatorial Asia, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan, where the virus is detected in mosquitos. As in Africa, sporadic human cases occur but no outbreaks are detected and the disease in humans continues to be regarded as rare, with mild symptoms. Seroprevalence studies in Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan indicate widespread population exposure.16–19 Researchers later suggest that the clinical similarity of Zika infection with dengue and chikungunya may be one reason why the disease was so rarely reported in Asia.

2007: Zika spreads from Africa and Asia to cause the first large outbreak in humans on the Pacific island of Yap, in the Federated States of Micronesia. Prior to this event, no outbreaks and only 14 cases of human Zika virus disease had been documented worldwide.20 House-to-house surveys among the island’s small population of 11 250 people identify 185 cases of suspected Zika virus disease.

BLOG Zika 3

2013–2014: The virus causes outbreaks in four other groups of Pacific islands: French Polynesia, Easter Island, the Cook Islands, and New Caledonia.26,27 The outbreak in French Polynesia, generating thousands of suspected infections, is intensively investigated. The results of retrospective investigations are reported to WHO on 24 November 2015 and 27 January 2016.

2 March 2015: Brazil notifies WHO of reports of an illness characterized by skin rash in northeastern states. From February 2015 to 29 April 2015, nearly 7000 cases of illness with skin rash are reported in these states. All cases are mild, with no reported deaths. Of 425 blood samples taken for differential diagnosis, 13% are positive for dengue. Tests for chikungunya, measles, rubella, parvovirus B19, and enterovirus are negative. Zika was not suspected at this stage, and no tests for Zika were carried out.

1 February 2016: WHO declares that the recent association of Zika infection with clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

No Ayotzinapa DNA matches in burned remains


Borderland Beat brings an update on DNA testing of remains from the sites where the Mexican officials say the bodies 43 missing students [previously] from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in rural Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, were burned after their murder by drug gangs

The students were taken on the night of 26 September 2014, after the wife of the mayor of Iguala was angered that they had commandeered community buses on the night of an important political gathering, with local police doing some of the shooting:

So far, the Institute of Legal Medicine at the University of Innsbruck (IMG) has not identified genetic profiles in the samples of the skeletal remains extracted in the dump of Cocula, ground zero in the official government story of where 43 missing normalistas were taken and incinerated.

In a report, the Innsbruck institute indicated that a samples of human hair collected in the dump, was applied to mitochondrial DNA matching, but  does not correspond to any of the families of the missing students.

The content of the document which released through a newsletter the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), also refers to the results of 53 samples of clothes and hair that were found on buses occupied by the students when they were attacked in Iguala.

PGR says nine bone and hair samples from the dump of Cocula and two bone samples from the San Juan River, was sent for analysis in December. Of  these the laboratory determined that some were of human origin and others of animal origin, the human samples were not a match to the families.

Quote of the day: The TPP, worst-ever trade deal


Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz slams the Trans-Pacific Partnership as the worst trade deal ever in an interview with Canada’s CBC News:

I think the worst part is the investors agreement, which allows investors to sue the Canadian government. It’s similar to the provision in NAFTA that resulted in a number of suits against Canada lost, unfortunately. But the TPP is in most respects worse — opens the door, changes the basic legal framework. For instance, it used to be that, and it’s the basic principle in most countries, that the polluter pays. If you damage the environment you have to pay. Now, if you draft a regulation that restricts the ability to pollute, that does something about climate change, you could be sued and pay billions of dollars.

For instance, a Canadian company is suing the United States now under NAFTA for the decision by Obama not to allow the Keystone project to go forward. Canada’s been sued for environmental impact statements. There have been suits around the world for minimum wages.

There are worries that the expanse of TPP to certain financial regulations means that if you try to restrict usury or predatory lending, the abusive practices of banks that keep coming to light you can be sued.

>snip<

[In the area of trade benefits] there are indications that benefits for the Canadian economy are relatively small. For the United States, the largest economy, it’s effects on U.S. growth is somewhere between 0.0 percent from one of the government to a study by Tufts University showing that it would actually be negative for the United States.

Clearly the Trans-Pacific Partnership so enthusiastically endorsed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is not in the interests of American voters, the environment, and the organized labor movement that has been the backbone of the Democratic Party.

Who, then, benefits? Well, how about multinational corporations and bankers, for openers. The very same people who are pouring on the cash that will make this year’s presidential race the first billion-dollar contest, not to mention the cash spent to control Congress, governorships, and state legislatures, control exercised by blowing dog whistles of racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance.