On April 8 Haitian business owner Bernard Schettini was installed as the director general of the National Industrial Parks Company (Sonapi), the semi-private agency in charge of the industrial parks that house many of the country's 23 apparel assembly plants. These factories, known as maquiladoras in Spanish-speaking countries, benefit from tax and tariff exemptions to produce goods for export to the North American market. Schettini replaced Georges Barreau Sassine, a former head of Haiti's industrial business association (ADIH) who assumed the Sonapi post in August 2012. Trained as an architect, Schettini was previously an executive at Texaco Haïti Inc., an oil supply company; it is unclear how much experience he has in the apparel industry, which in Haiti mostly produces T-shirts.
OK, so twin bombs go off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three—including an 8-year-old child—and injuring over 100. And the Internet conspiranoia crowd, led by the indefatigable Alex Jones, jump on the attack in record time, even faster than they did with the Newtown massacre. Salon notes that on his radio show, Jones speculated the Boston blasts are linked to the price of gold: "With gold plunging, what could this signify?" He also noted that one of the 9-11 planes took off from Boston, and claimed to have predicted the attack: "I said on air that they're getting ready to blow something up. To fire a shot heard round the world like at Lexington and Concord, and then they do it at this same place on the same day!" Well, if you always predict attacks, sooner or later you're going to be right...
Military guards at Guantanámo Bay fired four "non-lethal" rounds at hunger-striking detainees the morning of April 13, as the facility commander forced them from a communal area into single cells. Some of the detainees used "improvised weapons" to resist being moved, according to a Department of Defense news release. No guards or detainees were reported to be seriously injured. Currently, 43 detainees are on hunger strike; 13 of those are being force-fed. Yet the military denies that it is attempting to break the strike. "Detainees may continue to hunger strike," but medical staff will now be able to monitor their condition, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand of Joint Task Force Guantanamo. He said the move to single cells was taken "to ensure that detainees are not being coerced by other detainees to participate in the hunger strike." (NYT, Huffington Post, WP, April 13)
Al-Shabaab radicals launched an assault on April 14 against Somalia's Supreme Court. The attack, resulting in at least 35 deaths, was one of the worst attacks in years for the country's capital of Mogadishu. According to the Somali government, nine men were involved in the attack against the court, six of whom detonated explosive vests. Al-Shabab retained control over most of Somalia's capital before Somali forces and the African Union forced the militants out of Mogadishu in 2011. Since being forced out of the capital, al-Shabaab has carried out a series of bomb attack in the city, with the new coordinated attack amounting to the largest one since 2011. The Somali government reported that all of the attackers died, with some killed by security forces.
Japanese appeals court is expected to rule soon in a suit filed on behalf of 14 children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists in June 2011 in a district court in Fukushima arguing that the nearby town of Koriyama should evacuate its children to an area where radiation levels are no higher than natural background levels in the rest of Japan, or about 1 millisievert annual exposure. After the Fukushima accident, Japan set an annual exposure limit of 20 millisieverts for determining whether people can live in an area. The average radiation for Koriyama is below this level, but some "hot spots" around the city are above the cutoff. The district court rejected the suit in a December 2011 decision. An appeal is now before the Sendai High Court in nearby Miyagi prefecture.
Some 400 campesino protesters at the site of the Conga mining project in Peru's Cajamarca region on April 11 stormed the 200-strong lines of the National Police Special Forces Division (DINOES), to occupy the area around El Perol lake, where they vandalized property, putting pipes and other equipment to the torch. The Yanacocha mining company evacuated its personnel and removed its machinery from the site. About 150 protesters continued to occupy the property, although Yanacocha said the next day that they had all been evicted. Comuneros from the provinces of Celendín and Bambamarca led the action, pressing demands that Yanacocha halt all operations at the site.
Ecuador's second-largest oil pipeline burst on April 8, but exports will not be affected, the Energy Ministry emphasized. The 475-kilometer Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline has a capacity of up to 450,000 barrels per day, linking oil fields in the eastern Sucumbios province to the Pacific coast. The Energy Ministry said that around 5,500 barrels of crude were spilled when the OCP broke, and that the pipeline suspended operations following the incident. The rupture occurred in Esmeraldas province, near where the pipeline meets the Pacific. Several local campesino plots were fouled. The OCP is controlled by a consortium including Spain's Repsol-YPF, the French Perenco and Brazil's Petrobras. The country's largest pipeline, the SOTE, transports crude for paratstatal Petroamazonas, which aims to produce an average 325,000 bpd this year. (Reuters, El Comercio, Quito, April 8) Ecuador has just announced plans for a major new thrust of oil development in the Amazon, with Chinese companies in the lead.
The Brazilian state of Acre declared a state of "social emergency" April 10 in response to a surge of undocumented migrants from neighboring Bolivia and Peru—originating in countries from Haiti and the Dominican Republic to Bangladesh to Senegal and Nigeria. Officials said some 1,700 migrants had arrived during the past two weeks. The state "has been turned into an international travel route controlled by coyotes," said Nilson Moura, Acre's secretary for Justice and Human Rights., referring to the smugglers who guide the migrants into Brazil, often in exchange for exorbitant fees. The jungle town of Brasileia has become a key transport point for migrants bound for Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian police last year raided a number of sweatshops in Sao Paulo and the capital, Brasilia, where undocumented immigrants from Bolivia and Pakistan were found working in unsafe conditions for very little or no pay. (BBC, April 11; AFP, April 10)