Newscast for Friday, April 19, 2013

  • In Boston, bombing suspects identified as investigation continues
  • Guatemalan genocide trial halted as survivors vow to continue push for justice
  • Gulf coast residents call for accountability, restoration on three-year-anniversary of BP oil disaster
  • Senators hold first hearing on comprehensive immigration reform bill
  • Federal appeals court in California hears arguments in “gay therapy” case

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Investigators and emergency officials continue work at Texas plant explosion site

Emergency officials in Texas say 12 bodies have been recovered, following Wednesday night’s explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco. Sergeant Jason Reyes spoke to reporters this morning.

“To date, there have been 200 reported injuries, 150 buildings have been cleared, 50 homes have been destroyed, and 25 homes still yet to be cleared.”

Reyes says the police are treating the area as a crime scene, and a thorough investigation is happening. More than 1000 residents attended an interfaith church service in the town of West last night. Bloomberg reports the plant had not been inspected by OSHA since 1985. The company has been fined at least twice for violating environmental regulations.

Activists await verdict in killing of Argentine student leader

Today, activists are awaiting verdicts for seventeen men accused in the 2010 murder of student activist Mariano Ferreyra. He was allegedly killed by members of the powerful Railway Union during a demonstration. The former union head is accused of masterminding the plan to shoot protesters. From Buenos Aires, Eilís O’Neill reports for FSRN.

“Mariano Ferreyra, hasta la victoria siempre.”

About 1000 people gathered outside the federal court building in Buenos Aires today, singing “Mariano Ferreyra, onward toward victory always.” Ferreyra was a student activist who joined in solidarity with a group of temporary railway workers demanding job stability and benefits. Members of the Railway Union and a football hooligan gang shot at the protestors during a protest action, killing Ferreyra and wounding several others. Igal Kejsefman, the current president of the University of Buenos Aires’ Student Federation, attended the reading of the verdict.

“¿Por qué es que un grupo sindical organiza una patota que mata a un compañero trabajador? Tiene que ver con que estaban defendiendo una serie de negocios que justamente ellos mismos eran los que eran los dueños de esos negocios.”

“Why is it that a workers’ union organized a mob that killed a fellow worker? It has to do with the fact that they were defending business dealings; they were the owners of those businesses.”

Activists have demanded life in prison for all responsible in the murder. They believe harsh sentences will convince union bosses they can no longer operate without fear of punishment. Eilís O’Neill, FSRN, Buenos Aires.

Amid controversy, Venezuela swears in new president

Now to Venezuela, where Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as the country’s next president, amid signs of easing of the tensions over Sunday’s vote. On Thursday, the National Electoral Council commenced a final audit of the results, and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said he would accept the findings when they’re released next month. Representatives from the National Lawyers Guild monitored the elections and said they were fair, transparent, participatory, and well-organized. FSRN’s Irene Caselli reports from Caracas.

Thousands of people wearing red waved flags outside the National Assembly to support their new president, while opponents banged pots and pans and played salsa music in their homes as a sign of protest. Several foreign dignitaries were on the guest list for the ceremony, including Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Members of the opposition refused to attend the ceremony after National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello said he would not recognize members of the opposition until they recognized the president. Maduro, a former bus driver and foreign minister under Hugo Chavez, won Sunday’s election by a narrow majority. He is due to govern until 2019, but faces many immediate challenges, including the allegations of election irregularities. Maduro will likely have to spend much of his first months reassuring the international community of his legitimacy and trying to unite a country divided by the election. Irene Caselli, FSRN, Caracas.

Canadian families challenge police impunity at Supreme Court

The families of two men with mental disabilities fatally shot by Ontario police are in the Supreme Court of Canada today. They’re looking to change bureaucratic practices they say lead to police impunity. FSRN’s Lillian Boctor has more from Montreal.

After Levi Schaeffer was killed by police in a remote area in Northern Ontario, the province’s civilian law enforcement agency discovered that officers had been instructed to delay writing their notes or making statements until consulting police lawyers. Note vetting is a widespread practice in Canada. Ontario’s highest court ruled in 2011 that officers have a constitutional right to representation, but they could not hold off on writing their notes. Police interests then appealed, taking the Schaeffer and another family to the Supreme Court to defend this and other legal maneuvering civilian investigators say lead to impunity.

Rachelle Sauvé, a member of the support group Justice for Levi Coalition, was in court today.

“As much as it is difficult for when somebody you love is killed by police, this case has become something much bigger than any of us who grieve a loved one ever thought it would be because it just happened to be the right case study to bring to light a very long standing tension between the civilian oversight body, the police themselves and accountability for the public.”

Lillian Boctor, FSRN, Montreal

Hear the full interview with Rachelle Sauvé:…


In Boston, bombing suspects identified as investigation continues

The streets of the greater Boston-area were empty today, with schools and businesses closed while a massive search continued for a 19-year-old suspect of the marathon bombings, Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick warned residents to stay inside with their doors locked.

“This is a serious situation. We’re taking it seriously. We’re asking the public to take it seriously, as well, and to assist law enforcement by following those simple instructions.”

The identity of the brothers was revealed after the release of photographic evidence by the FBI on Thursday. Following the killing of a 26-year-old MIT police officer in Cambridge last night, law enforcement chased Tsarnaev and his brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev to neighboring Watertown. There, a shootout ensued. The eyewitness who recorded this video said she also heard explosions. The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed while Dzhokar escaped.The Wall Street Journal says the brothers’ family came to Cambridge about a decade ago after fleeing the war in Chechnya. The Journal reports their father was a car mechanic who left the US last year to seek treatment for brain cancer. The brothers’ uncle Ruslan Tsarni was tracked down by a swarm of reporters at his home in Maryland.

“First the only purpose here is just to deliver our condolences and to share grief with the real victims here, those who’ve been murdered, those who’ve been injured. This boy, this Chinese girl, this young 29-years-old girl […] I’ve just been following this, I’ve been following it from day one, but never every imagined that somehow the children of my brother would be associated with that. So it is an atrocity […] we’re shocked.”

Tsarni said he hasn’t seen his nephews since 2005, but doesn’t think they were motivated ideologically. He asked that the media respect his family’s privacy. The situation in Boston is continually developing. FSRN will continue to monitor the story and bring you updates next week.

Guatemalan genocide trial halted as survivors vow to continue push for justice

The historic genocide trial in Guatemala took a major turn of events in the past 48 hours. On Wednesday, as attorneys from both sides were receiving orders to prepare final arguments, an order came from the country’s Constitutional Court to halt proceedings in order to rule on a due process motion. A judge from that same court ruled Thursday to turn back the clock on the case to its pre-evidentiary stage, thereby annulling all hearings and testimonies that had occurred since the trial opened March 19th. Today the lead judge on the genocide case suspended the trial while declaring the annulment ruling invalid. Survivors of the violence who waited 30 years to bring their experiences to the public are also refusing to accept the ruling to invalidate their testimonies. In the more than four weeks of proceedings, the Association for Justice and Reconciliation in Guatemala, a victims group party to the trial – broadcast audio of the trial via the internet. Shannon Young, FSRN’s reporter in Oaxaca, Mexico, has been monitoring the trial and brings us this report.

Gulf coast residents call for accountability, restoration on three-year-anniversary of BP oil disaster

Saturday marks the three-year anniversary of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, when an explosion at a deep offshore rig killed 11 workers and unleashed an estimated 4 million barrels of oil into Gulf waters. In New Orleans, residents, environmentalists and local officials are scheduled to gather at the Washington Artillery Park in the French Quarter for a memorial of the event. The effect of the disaster on Gulf Coast residents and the environment is ongoing. Last year, Some six million pounds of BP oil was collected from Louisiana’s shorelines and 200 miles of coast still remain oiled, according to the Mississippi River Delta Restoration group.For an update, we’re joined by Aaron Viles, deputy director at the Gulf Restoration Network.

Senators hold first hearing on comprehensive immigration reform bill

Senators in Washington held their first hearing today on the comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced earlier this week. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was not able to testify as planned on the bill’s massive spending on extensive border enforcement, because she was monitoring the ongoing search in Boston. Instead, lawmakers and expert witnesses argued whether the bill helps or hurts the economy and binational families. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Federal appeals court in California hears arguments in “gay therapy” case

In California this week, a federal appeals court heard arguments in a case that focuses on a controversial practice: using counseling in an attempt to make gay people straight. Opponents say it’s psychologically damaging to young people. That’s what led California lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 1172, which made the state the first to ban medical practices intended to change the sexual orientation of minors. But the bill is being challenged by advocates of these practices who say the law encroaches on First Amendment rights. For FSRN, Alex Kekauoha reports from San Francisco.

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