Saturday, 31 May 2008

Images of the Exhumations at Putis

*Warning: Some graphic images follow*

The discovery and excavation of the mass grave at Putis, Ayacucho have been widely covered internationally as well as in the Peruvian press. Along with these articles have been a variety of images, some of them showing human remains in close detail, and others focusing on the emotions of the watching relatives.

Here is an example of the latter category:

(Image: Reuters/Pilar Olivares, 'Years after slaughter, Peru opens giant burial pit')

A woman cries, her face strained with emotion, as she watches the forensics team investigate the grave site where, presumably, the bones of one or more of her relatives may be found. This images covers several recurring themes, I think. On the one hand it shows the apparently universal reach of human feeling; love, grief, loss, anguish. On the other hand, it contains many of the 'exotic' features that often come to the fore in the representation of highland Peru: women in indigenous dress (the man and boy visible are not wearing traditional clothes), somewhat inscrutable expressions, glimpses of stunning landscape in the background. The people are displayed as rather passive figures, looking on as others labour at the burial site. This is, in fact, the reverse of what happened during the original massacre, when the local villagers were forced to dig their own grave before being killed.

In harsh contrast to the photographs of the living are those that focus on the dead:

(Image: Copyright IPS, courtesy of Asociacion Paz y Esperanza, RIGHTS-PERU: Unburying the Evidence of Biggest 'Dirty War' Massacre)

I was startled by the explicit nature of these images at first. Although we seem to find the display of bones less distasteful than that of recently dead bodies - I'm not certain why - these are still images of actual human beings. They are not laid out on a slab in a mortuary either; they are jumbled, thrown, in a muddy pit. Pieces of clothing are still intact and form the only splashes of colour on the image. The chaos, the lack of respect for the dead, the pitiful end that came to men, women and children in Putis in 1984 are all here in this image. But still, the close-up on the human remains is discomfiting.

Finally, the same article also uses this image:

(Image credits as above)

Both elements - the observing relatives and the bones - are combined in this image, which to me is the most aesthetically satisfying. The indigenous villagers are not passively sitting by, but actively witnessing the exhumations process. Several of them are pointing into the burial ground, perhaps having recognised an item or clothing or equipment that has survived the 24 years underground. Painful though the experience must be, they may finally gain some answers as to the fate of their loved ones. The camera does not seek out the skeletons alone, but reveals the investigations taking place.

The IPS article quotes the head of the Asociacion Paz y Esperanza as saying:
The excavation is a very special case, because of the humanitarian aspect: no one listened to the locals, who are mainly (indigenous) Quechua speakers.
May these wrongs somehow, belatedly, start to be righted.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Video: Exhumations in Peru

Here's a clip by the human rights organisation Paz y Esperanza of the exhumations in Putis:

Argentina: Another Grandchild Found

Another disappeared grandchild has been identified in Argentina, the 90th so far. This situation echoes in some ways that of the previous disappeared child (which I posted about here): like Evelyn Vaquez, Laura Ruiz Dameri, now 27, had refused to cooperate with the investigation, but a federal judge ordered inspectors to gather DNA samples from her belongings.

There is a difference though, in the experiences of Laura as compared to that of her older siblings. While she was born in captivity, her brother and sister were abandoned at different hospitals with signs around their necks stating their names. They were later adopted legally by local families, while Laura was adopted illegally by a naval officer. The older brother and sister have been aware of their origins for some years and are in touch with both their adopted and biological families. Laura's tragedy seems to run even deeper.

Tests identify Argentine kipnap victim (Yahoo)

News Headlines

Blogger Mexicoreporter comments on the disparity between Latin American countries international promotion of human rights and their actual behaviour at home:

Latin America promotes but doesn't respect human rights

Kate Doyle reports on the trial of senior officials on charges of human rights abuses in Guatemala:

Guatemala's Genocide: Survivors Speak Out (NACLA)

Also in Guatemala, five former paramilitaries have been sentenced to 780 years in prison for the murder of 26 Mayan villagers in 1982:

Guatemala jails 5 for massacre (BBC)

And Fred Rosen considers the reporting of NACLA on impunity in Mexico since 1968:

The Resilience of Impunity: NACLA and Mexico, 1968-2008 (NACLA)

Peru: More Bodies Found

Exhumations continue at the mass grave on the military base at Putis, Huanta, as reported by newspaper La Republica. Here is a partial translation of their recent article:

60 Bodies of Men, Women, and Children Disinterred in Mass Grave in Putis

The skeletal remains of some 60 people, among them women, men, boys and girls of different ages have now been exhumed from the largest common grave existing of victims of the dirty war against terrorism in Ayacucho.

The grave is located in the Andean community of Putis, at 3500m above sea level in the district of Santillana, Huanta, in Ayacucho.

123 inhabitants of Cayramayo, Vizcatampata, Orccohuasi and Putis were executed by the Army in December 1984 under suspicion of collaborating with Shining Path.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the villagers were caught between a rock and a hard place; Shining Path on one side and the Army on the other.

The villagers had asked those stationed at the Putis military base to protect them from the action of Shining Path, but the military turned their suspicion on them and murdered them, the TRC concluded.

Moreover, according to various witnesses, the soldiers benefited economically from their crimes, since after murdering the peasants they took their livestock and sold them.

[...] According to testimonies received by the TRC, the military forces [...] assured [the villagers] that they would protect them and work with them to improve the quality of life of the population. They then used this pretext to order the men to dig a large hole. They told some of them it was to build a fish farm to breed trout, while others were told they were going to build houses.

However, when the supposed pool was finished, the military forces gathered the villagers, who numbered around a hundred, including men, women, and children, around the grave and without more explanation, shot them. Exhumations will continue for the next week with the aim of discovering all the remains.
Full article: Desentierran sesenta cuerpos de hombres, mujeres y ninos en fosa comun de Putis (La Republica)

La Republica's report also includes a number of photographs of skeletal remains with some scraps and pieces of clothing, rope, etc. also visible. I was reminded that this newspaper often includes graphic, sometimes horrific, images, so this is not out of line with their usual practice, but it still strikes me. I am turning something over in my mind about the display of photographs of bodies in this way, but it looks like it will have to wait for another post.

Edited to add: The Peruvian Times takes an indepth look at this story:

Peruvian forensic team exhumes bodies from a mass grave victims were forced to dig themselves

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Chile: State of Impunity

A interesting consideration of the Chile's progress (and lack therefore) in investigating past human rights abuses, and in the current state of its security forces. As with many of these stories, it could be summarised as "two steps forward, one step back"... progress is made, but it's limited and far too slow, allowing many perpetrators to die safely of old age in their beds before they are brought before the courts.

Chile: Amnesty Report Highlights Impunity (IPS)

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

News Headlines

A Chilean judge has ordered the arrest of 98 former members of the security forces in connection with human rights abuses committed during the Pinochet dictatorship.

Chile: Historic Mass Arrest of Soldiers (IPS)

In Argentine, another suspected perpetrator has gone on trial:

Argentine Dirty War suspect goes on trial (Yahoo)

Comenzo el juicio al represor Menendez (Clarin)

Comienza el juicio oral al represor Menendez (Pagina/12)

A retired Peruvian general has admitted he has no proof that Fujimori controlled the Colina Group, although he is 'sure' this was the case:

Gen. admits no proof Fujimori was behind massacres (msn)

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Peru: Mass Grave Excavated

More evidence of human rights abuses is uncovered in Ayacucho, the province worst affected by Peru's civil conflict, as investigators have started searching a mass grave thought to contain the remains of more than 100 people.
Investigators in the highland village of Putis, in the southern province of Ayacucho, have exhumed 25 skeletons piled on top of each other among bullets and clothing fragments, said German Vargas, head of a group representing victims' families.

Peru excavates mass grave of villagers (Yahoo)

Exhuman fosa con restos de mas de 100 personas asesinados en Ayacucho (El Comercio)

Friday, 23 May 2008

Peru: Sosa Saavedra Confesses

I was going to add this to the news headlines post, but on reflection I thought it was worthy of a translation.

Sosa Saavedra Confesses to Another Murder by the Colina Group

He says he was just following orders.

Jesus Sosa Saavedra, known as 'Kerosene' among the army's intelligence agents for his habit of using the fuel to make his victims disappear, revealed another murder committed by the Colina Group yesterday.

"Nobody remembers now, but in Huaca, in El Santa, we killed another person, a terrorist criminal, who nobody has ever come forward to claim", confessed Sosa to the judges of the Special Anticorruption Court.

He added that he did not remember the identity of the victim. "He was armed, and in the struggle to capture him, he died and we left him there", he stated.

Sosa also acknowledged his participation in the murders at Barrios Altos, of the journalist Pedro Yauri, and of 11 peasants in El Santa. He had already admitted his part in the Cantuta massacre.

The ex-intelligence agent said that he could help authorities to find the bodies of Pedro Yauri and the El Santa victims, but he did not remember exactly where they were buried.

He stated that the El Santa operation was planned after a meeting with Martin Rivas at Army Headquarters and a meeting with a businessman in Miraflores, Lima.

At another time, Sosa Saavedra affirmed that the Colina Group was an organised Army detachment and not a band of murderers. "We weren't together because we wanted to be, we were acting as soldiers of the Army under superior orders, where the commanding officer decided who needed to be eliminated", confirmed 'Kerosene'.

Sosa made these declarations in the course of the trial of the Colina Group for the murders of Barrios Altos, El Santa, and of Pedro Yauri. Although he says he is telling the truth, his testimony differs in some details from that of other Colina agents.

Original article: Sosa Saavedra confiesa otro asesinato del destacemento Colina (La Republica)

Peru: Headlines

Fujimori has been complaining of ill-health during his trial recently, and is now claiming to have a pre-cancerous lesion in his mouth. Some are suspecting that this constitutes delaying tactics on the part of the defendant and his lawyers.

Fujimori's Health Causes Controversy on How Trial Will Proceed (Fujimori on Trial)

El voceado cancer de Fujimori seria un engano
(La Republica)

The MRTA is still active, claims an ex-head of Dircote, Peru's anti-terrorism directorate:

'El MRTA todavia esta en vigencia', dice ex jefe de la Dircote
(El Comercio)

Argentina: Menem's Involvement in AMIA Bombing

A federal prosecutor has called for the arrest of former Argentine president Carlos Menem for allegedly covering up the events surrounding the bombing of the Jewish Cultural Association (AMIA) in 1994. Alberto Kanoore Edul, one of the suspects in the case, is supposedly a family friend of the Menems.

Cuando la omision es la verdadera accion

AMIA: un fiscal pidio la detencion de Menem por "encubrimiento"

Argentine prosecutor seeks Menem arrest (Yahoo)

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Panama/US: Noriega Fights Extradition

Former Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, continues to fight his extradition from the U.S. to France on charges of money-laundering. He is currently in jail in the States, convicted of drug racketeering, and his lawyers are arguing that he is a prisoner of war and should be repatriated to Panama.

Noriega makes extradition fight (MSN)

Mexico: Disappeared Oil Workers

Forced disappearance is an issue that never really goes away. The massive number of disappearances in the Southern Cone in the late 1970s, which are the most publicised instances of Latin American repression and abduction by state agents, continue to be an open wound in society since the cases have never been solved. In most cases, the bodies of victims have not been discovered or identified, and perpetrators have not been punished. The relatives of the disappeared have not been given justice.

In addition, disappearances continue, albeit in far smaller numbers. Argentina has seen several instances of crucial witnesses in human rights trials disappearing in recent years (and, in the case of Puthod, reappearing). And now this article draws attention to the disappearance of oil workers in Mexico.

The more you consider the legacy of authoritarian rule in Latin America, the more you realise that you cannot ignore the continued abuses which take place in the present.

Mexico: Disappeared Oil Workers: Out of Sight, Out of Mind (IPS)

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Legacy of Dictatorships

Although I've flagged up several of these recent articles separately, it's useful to have them gathered in one place:

IPS's focus on Latin America: Dictatorships Meet Justice, Decades On

News Headlines

Peru: Anti-terrorism prosecutor Julio Galindo is demanding that the leaders of the MRTA pay 100 million soles in reparations to the Peruvian state. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will accept his plea:

Procuraduria pide que MRTA pague 100 millones de soles de reparacion civil
(La Republica)

George Ciccariello-Maher comments on Venezuela's murderous "model democracy":

The Yumare Massacre, 22 Years on (Counterpunch)

Claudio Fuentes, director of FLACSO in Chile, is interviewed on the country's human rights situation and the perception of the armed forces:

Q&A: The Public Image of Chile's Post-Pinochet Military

And, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled that Argentina must bring its libel laws into line with international human rights legislation. The case was brought by CELS (Centre for Legal and Social Studies) on behalf of Eduardo Kimel, a journalist who was convicted of libel after criticising the actions of a judge presiding over a case concerning 'dirty war' perpetrators and the killing of Roman Catholic priests during the dictatorship.

Pagina/12 has a number of stories on the issue:

Para que la ley no se usa como mordaza (Pagina/12)

Una obligacion (comment by Horacio Verbitsky, journalist and President of CELS, writing in Pagina/12)

Seis meses para cambiar (interview with Andrea Pochak, assistant director of CELS)

Requisitos y antecedentes
(interview with media lawyer Damian Loreti)

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Chile News

Two stories from Chile: more on the case of retired colonel Mario Manriquez. A judge has declared him 'responsible' for the death of folk singer Victor Jara as he was the commanding officer at the time, but Manriquez did not personally pull the trigger. Human rights groups are protesting at the closure of the case.
At the present time, "the judicial system is very productive, although the results of that activity are not always what we would hope for," Mireya Garcia, head of the Association of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (AFDD), told IPS.
Chile: Courts Active in Human Rights Cases, but Results Mixed (IPS)

Also, the most wanted Nazi war criminal thought to be still alive, Dr Aribert Heim, may be in Chile, reports Reuters. This has been suspected for some time, partly since his daughter lives there. If he is still alive - which his family denies - he is 93.
Heim, nicknamed "Dr Death" for killing hundreds of inmates at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria with injections of gasoline or poison direct to the heart, has been on the run for 46 years since evading German police in 1962 prior to a planned prosecution.
Nazi "Dr Death" Heim may be in Chile's Patagonia (Reuters)

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Memories of 1968 in Latin America

We are hearing a lot in Europe about '68, on the fortieth anniversary of the student movements. Argentina's Clarin newspaper has drawn attention to the events of this year in its magazine supplement.

First, it turns its attention on Mexico:
The memory of '68 in Mexico is overshadowed by the legacy of the Tlateloclo massacre, in which large numbers of students were killed by security forces. The exact number of victims is unknown, but estimated to be several hundred.

"A 40 años de la masacre, no tenemos un cuadro completo y fiel de lo que en verdad ocurrió", escribe el historiador Enrique Krauze sobre los incidentes de Tlatelolco.

Mexico, el legado incierto del 68 (Ñ)

Then, there is a comparison between the events of '68, originating in France, and the protests which erupted in the Argentine city of Cordoba in the following year, and became known as the Cordobazo. The repression which occurred here was a hint of the violence which would occur later, during the 1970s.

En busca del Mayo argentino (

Friday, 16 May 2008

Central America News

Two news stories which illustrate the persistence of the past in present-day Central America:

In Guatemala, a generalized state of fear remains despite democratization, with a sky-high murder rate and widespread belief in the involvement of state agencies.
“It is more or less the same.” She matter-of-factly added, “Nothing has changed. They wanted to exterminate us then; they want to exterminate us now.”


“These aren’t just gangs,” he whispered to me in the lobby of the stuffy, crowded government building. “This is strategic. This is social cleansing. It is the authorities.”
The Silent Violence of Peace in Guatemala (NACLA)

In El Salvador, exhumations continue to reveal mass graves of desaparecidos, victims of the country's civil war.
"They captured them and tortured them. They chopped them into pieces with an axe. A soldier told me that, and asked me not to say anything. That’s how I heard it happened," 70-year-old María Emma del Carmen Salmerón tells IPS.

For 27 years she has waited for the moment when she could recover the remains of her son José Noé. "I’m tired of waiting," she says.


Elí Hernández, an activist with the Madeleine Lagadec Human Rights Centre, says he has taken part in four exhumations so far this year, in different parts of the country.

Discovering the truth about what happened and the whereabouts of the remains of the desaparecidos is not an easy task because judicial authorities continue to look askance at the efforts made by the victims’ families to find out the fate of their loved ones, he says. [...] Clarifying past human rights abuses is difficult "because these things still touch, in one way or another, a power that is still latent," Hernández comments to IPS.
El Salvador: Exhuming Memory (IPS)

Chile: Former Colonel Charged with Jara Murder

Retired army colonel Mario Manriquez has been charged with the killing of renowned Chilean folk singer Victor Jara, 'an international symbol of resistance to the Pinochet government'. Jara was tortured and killed after the military coup in 1973. No one else was charged with involvement in the crime after Judge Juan Fuentes concluded that Manriquez was 'responsible'.

Retired Chilean officer charged in singer's death (Yahoo)

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Blog for Human Rights

Bloggers Unite is urging people to blog on human rights issues today, Thursday May 15th.

Bloggers Unite

This is nothing new for me as I tend to blog on this subject anyway, but Bloggers Unite wants to highlight some specific, current human rights abuses which should concern us all:

Human Rights in China

Illegal Detentions at Guantanamo Bay

Crisis in Darfur

The use of torture in the so-called 'War on Terror' is particularly horrifying from the standpoint of my specific interests, because it just shows how far we haven't come since the military regimes of 1970s Latin America. 'Waterboarding' isn't torture? Funny, because call it 'submarino' administered by a member of the Argentine security forces and it seems to leave little room for doubt. Yet, those same South American regimes were trained in the School of the Americas and supported by the US in Operation Condor, so perhaps this should hardly surprise us.

Depressing though this state of affairs is, brave and dedicated groups continue to fight for justice, and it is largely due to their efforts that the news reports I draw attention to in this blog, about court cases and commemorative acts, continue to occur and to be noticed. Thanks to them all.

Argentina: 25 Years Since Murder in Rosario

Human rights activists yesterday commemorated the murder of Osvaldo Agustin Cambiaso and Eduardo Pereira Rossi twenty five years ago. Those present included Juan Puthod, who was recently released after being abducted and assaulted apparently by agents connected to Luis Patti, the former senior police officer who is now in custody, accused of human rights abuses during the dictatorship. It was Patti's taskforce which was responsible for the killing of Cambiaso and Rossi.

El reclamo de castigo perdura (Rosario/12)

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Peru: Dossier Fujimori

La Republica has published a special dossier on the Fujimori regime, to coincide with his trial for human rights abuses. It's downloadable as PDF documents here.

Mexico: Mothers Demand Justice

Juarez Mothers Demand Justice for their Murdered Daughters (IRC Americas Program)

The murder of women in Ciudad Juarez is different to the state-orchestrated human rights abuses of the 1970s in Latin America, but it is commemorated in rather similar ways: by groups of women, mothers, demanding justice and using photographs of their children. While it doesn't appear that the State commits the crimes in Mexico, its response has been inadequate - the IRC sums up these deficiencies as caused by 'denial, delay, delusion, dollars, and diversion'. Inspired by the Madres in Argentina, the mothers of Ciudad Juarez still wait for answers.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Argentina Headlines

The Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo) are to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize:

Presentaran la candidatura Abuela de Plaza de Mayo (Pagina/12)

Meanwhile, the office of the Madres of the Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) has suffered a break-in, which is interpreted as an attack on their work:

"La evidencia de que estan activos"

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Venezuela: Postales de Leningrado

Thanks to The Latin Americanist for drawing my attention to this 2007 Venezuelan film, directed by Mariana Rondon, which deals with the Venezuelan revolutionaries of the 1960s as seen through the eyes of a child.

Postales de Leningrado

Peru: Colina Acted Under Fujimori's Orders, Says Robles

Ex-general Rodolfo Robles has testified in Fujimori's trial that the Grupo Colina, the paramilitary group which carried out the 1992 Cantuta massacre, acted directly on the orders of Alberto Fujimori, the then-President, and the state intelligence service (SIN), which were "two sides of the same coin". It's clear that the SIN was strictly controlled by Fujimori and Montesinos and stretches belief that they could have been unaware of its activities; of course, it remains to be seen how strong the evidence is.

Robles also confirms that the phrase "eliminar el enemigo" (eliminate the enemy), which appears in military manuals from the time of the conflict against Shining Path, does mean, as you might expect, "kill them", and not anything more ambiguous.

On a lighter note, La Republica reports that Fujimori apparently fell asleep during the hearing and had to be woken before the cross-examination could continue.

El grupo Colina acto bajo el mando de Fujimori, segun ex general (La Republica)

Paraguay: Torture Persists

Although this blog is primarily about the legacy of human rights issues in South America's past dictatorships, one of the ways in which the violent past intrudes on the present is in the persistence of authoritarian state institutions which may continue to employ intimidation and violence. We have seen in recent days that in Argentina, abductions and threats are still part of the political landscape, albeit not on the same scale as during the late 1970s.

In Paraguay, a 35 year dictatorship is obviously going to have far-reaching consequences. Anuncio Marti, a Paraguayan citizen in exile in Brazil, has testified that he was tortured for a period of two weeks by a variety of agents connected to the state in 2002. "After the military dictatorship, we didn’t think that the torture centres would continue to exist. We learned the hard way, by experience, and we were lucky to survive, when so many lost their lives," he said. Marti is unconvinced that the change of regime in Paraguay last month will succeed in sweeping away paramilitary and parapolice groups.

Torture Victim Still Fears Colorado Party 'Mafia' (IPS)

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Argentina: More Threats

Juan Puthod has accepted the offer of protective custody after further threats against him and his family in the days since he was released.

Puthod sufrio otra intimidacion (Pagina/12)

Argentina: Saint-Jean Jailed

Ex-governor of Buenos Aires, Iberico Saint-Jean, was imprisoned today, along with former minister Jaime Lamond Smart, in connection with the disappearance of Jacobo Timerman. The very first book I ever read about the disappeared in Argentina, Rita Arditti's Searching for Life (highly recommended, by the way) quotes General Saint-Jean on its first page as saying:

'First we will kill all the subversives; then we will kill their collaborators; then... their sympathizers, then... those who remain indifferent; and finally we will kill the timid.' (1977)

The words speak for themselves.

Full story here:
Prision para los jefes de Camps (Pagina/12)

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Argentina: Moore Accused of Abduction

Carlos "Dippy" Moore, a police officer during the Argentine dictatorship, is accused of the kidnap of Maria Ines Luchetti de Benanin in 1977. Apparently he was suspected of other crimes, but witnesses were confused about the real name of the person they were identifying, so this is the only case in which his involvement is clear enough to move ahead with the trial.

El represor Moore quedo procesado por un delito (Rosario/12)

Argentina: Puthod Speaks Out

Argentina Dirty War atrocities witness says captors beat, threatened him (Los Angeles Times)

A human rights activist whose disappearance prompted an intense manhunt said Thursday that captors beat him and warned him against publicizing killings by a past dictatorship, telling him, "Your life is in our hands."

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Excellent Response to WSJ

Peru as the next domino in Chavez's oily socialist plot: How the Wall Street Journal blew the story
(Peruvian Times)

'The decision last week by the European Parliament to reject inclusion of Peru’s Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement on its list of known terrorist groups has reverberated through Peru with hardly any notice taken by English language news media — with one very notable exception: The Wall Street Journal. And boy, did they botch it.

The column titled “Friends of Terror” by WSJ America’s columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady was at best misinformed, if for nothing else, because the very first sentence in her lead was erroneous. The European Parliament did not remove the MRTA from its terrorist list. The MRTA wasn’t on the list.'

Excellent, detailed response to O'Grady's article (see previous post); I only wish I had had time to discuss it in such depth myself. The full article is well worth a read.

Peru: Backlash against APRODEH continues

APRODEH is facing heavy pressure following its letter to the European Parliament pointing out that the MRTA's inactivity disqualifies it from inclusion in a list of current terrorist organisations.

There are suggestions that this is part of a broader campaign by the Peruvian government to stifle dissent and human rights actisism:

Peru: Government Lashes Out at Human Rights Groups

However, an extraordinary and, in my opinion, sinister opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal suggests that 'NGOs [such as APRODEH] that share the ideology of the far left toil away daily in Peru, trying to legitimize their buddies who, behind the scenes, continue their "armed struggle"'.

Friends of Terror in Peru
(Wall Street Journal)

I'm deeply suspicious of that old right-wing government line: 'those pesky human rights people are just terrorists in disguise'. I've spent time at APRODEH and I'm convinced that their workers put in time and effort for the good of Peru and do not support violence in any form. The author of this article seems to have swallowed hook, line and sinker the vengeful Peruvian government's claim that APRODEH 'intervened on behalf of terrorists'.

I suspect that it may just be too useful for the Peruvian state to discredit APRODEH. Let's not forget that the Peruvian President is Alan Garcia - a man whose first term in office did not exactly leave him unblemished by accusations of human rights violations. I sincerely hope that the work of APRODEH is not thwarted, and that its representatives are not in personal danger, after this controversy.

Argentina: Activists Face Threats and Violence

A former desaparecido who was an important witness in human rights cases has been freed after being held for over 24 hours and physically assaulted.

Human Rights Activist Is Released by Captors in Argentina (Yahoo)

Juan Evaristo Puthod is not the first witness to face intimidation and even forced disappearance: Jorge Julio Lopez, an important witness in the trial of Miguel Etchecolatz, was abducted in September 2006 and has not been seen since. Although the perpetrators of such crimes remain unidentified, the evidence clearly points to those involved with or supporters of the past military dictatorship. Such despicable tactics aim to shortcircuit the judicial process using the same threats and dissemination of fear that was employed by the junta and its agents.

On a related note, the daughter of Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Asociacion Madres de Plaza de Mayo, has received threats in her house in La Plata. It is not the first time that Bonafini or members of her family experience intimidation or physical violence in an effort to silence her vocal criticism of the past regime and its agents. Again, the tactics used here - targeting Bonafini's child - are an exact echo of the events of the dictatorship during which her two sons were disappeared.

"Vamos a matar a tu mama" (Pagina/12)

It's clear that despite Argentina's democratic progress, there are still elements within its society that will use any means, including violence, to prevent an engagement with human rights.