Monday, 23 August 2010

Argentina: Disappeared Child Testifies

The first dirty-war kidnap victim to be identified by DNA tests returned from Spain to testify that a former government intelligence agent not only stole her from her parents, but sexually abused her as well.
Carla Rutila's parents died in Automotores Orletti. She was found by the Grandmothers in 1985, when she was ten.
"I didn't stop looking at him," Rutila told a news conference at the Grandmothers headquarters Thursday, nearly a week after her testimony last Friday. "That was my goal: to be able to look him in the face and know that he wouldn't be able to look back. For me it was a powerful sort of recovery. ... It's as if a weight has been lifted from me."
Guerrillas' child testifies against kidnapper (AP)

Peru: Berenson/Guzman

Well, it's been a week of mixed fortunes for two of Peru's most notorious prisoners. Lori Berenson is back behind bars after having her parole revoked; while Abimael Guzman has finally succeeded in marrying his second-in-command Elena Iparraguirre. They may get conjugal visits. It's all very romantic.

Peru: Guzman - Iparraguirre, former Shining Path leaders, got married (Living in Peru)
Shining Path founders marry in prison (LA Times)
Shining Path newlyweds may quality for conjugal visits (Peruvian Times)
Shining Path founder Guzman married in Peru prison (AP)

Lori Berenson ordered to return to prison
(NY Times)
Lori Berenson interview with Peruvian Times (Peruvian Times)
American activist Lori Berenson ordered back to Peruvian prison (Peruvian Times)
American back in prison with toddler son (AP)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Peru: Lori Berenson Apologises

Lori Berenson, threatened with a return to jail, has apologised publicly for her involvement with the MRTA.
Si mi participación... contribuyó a la violencia en la sociedad lo lamento profundamente y me arrepiento de ello... Si hay personas que se sienten afectadas por mis palabras y mis actos, pido perdón”
If my participation... contributed to the violence in society I am very sorry and regret that... If there are people who feel affected by my words and my actions, I ask their forgiveness. (my trans, you will probably see slightly different versions in various news articles)
I can only agree with Silvio Rendon on this one (if you read Spanish, go check out his whole post here). It's not a good apology. "If I have done harm... If there are people who feel affected...". Apologising for having offended someone is not the same as regretting the action itself, and this 'sorry' takes little responsibility.

Las disculpas de Berenson (Gran Combo Club)
American woman apologizes for collaborating with Peruvian Marxist rebel group (Peruvian
US militant apologizes for collaborating with terrorism in Peru (Mercopress)
US citizen Berenson says sorry for Peru terrorism (Reuters)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Peru: Chungui

I've written about Edilberto Jimenez before, so I wasn't going to devote an entire post to him again, but perhaps just a tweet. But seriously, people, you need to watch this video (which I found via Memoriando). It's in Spanish - and Quechua with Spanish subtitles - but even if you don't speak Spanish, please watch it, you will see enough.

[Edited to add: I don't know how Youtube chooses a particular still for the video, this one seems rather unfortunate but I don't know if there is any way to change it. Still, at least it warns of strong content pretty much in itself]

Peru: Christmas Massacre

I mentioned the exhumations at Putka last week; now, IPS has more. Relatives of those killed on Christmas Day, 1984, are camping out next to the dig to keep watch over the process.
"The families of the Putka victims won't leave the spot where the graves are located until the last body has been removed," said Chávez [of charity Paz y Esperanza], because "they have waited 25 years for the remains to be exhumed and for those responsible for the killings to be punished."
The family members are keen for justice but still fear possible reprisals. They believe that the perpetrators of the massacre belonged to a local ronda campesina, a civilian defence group. Some of the rondas did sterling work defending local people against Shining Path, but others became part of the problem, armed by the military and contributing to the already extreme level of violence in highland Peru. So now those bereaved families are watching while the experts sift through the dirt to expose items of clothing and remains, which will later be sent for DNA testing.

Unearthing Victims of the Christmass Massacre (IPS)

Uruguay: New Info in Mitrione Case

Bloomberg reports that newly declassified documents show the Nixon administration urging Uruguay to consider all options, including "use of threat to kill" key leftist prisoners in an attempt to prevent the murder of Daniel Mitrione.

Mitrione was kidnapped on 31 July, 1970, by Tupamaros guerrillas and found dead on 9 August. He was a director for the US Agency for International Development in Uruguay and a former policeman and FBI agent. A. J. Langguth claimed in this book Hidden Terrors that Mitrione taught torture to the Uruguayan security forces. I say this not to justify his killing, but to point out once again the role of the US in the military dictatorships of Latin America. His story inspired the 1973 film State of Siege, directed by Costa Gavros.

Carlos Osorio, director of the National Security Archives, has called for full declassification in both the US and Uruguay to shed further light on the case.

Nixon Official Asked Uruguay to Threaten Rebels, Cable Says
To Save Dan Mitrione, Nixon Administration Urged Death Threats for Uruguayan Prisoners (NSA; where you can also download PDFs of the declassified documents)

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Argentina: Street Name Changes for Bs. As.

A judge has ordered the city of Buenos Aires to change the names of the streets and public places named after dictatorship officials. Judge Elena Liberatori noted that the autonomous city's laws already stated that:
"en ningún caso deberán designarse calles o lugares públicos con nombres de autoridades nacionales, provinciales o municipales que hayan ejercido su función por actos de fuerza contra el orden constitucional y el sistema democrático”
[under no circumstances may a street or public place be designated with the names of national, provincial or municipal officials who carried out their role because of an act of force against constitutional order and the democratic system]
She commented,
"There is no doubt that the continuing existence of names in the city which allude to former officials of de facto government is in clear contradiction of the law, and therefore the orders which gave rise to these names of public spaces are unconstitutional." [cited in Observatorio de derechos humanos]
So the city of Buenos Aires must act to ensure that in the future, there are no streets, squares, or avenues named after de facto officials. The lawyer, Hansel Stegemann, who brought the case told Pagina/12 that there were around 10 such streets, plus two schools and a few squares. They include the streets Intendente Guerrico, Capitán Claudio H. Rosales, Mecánico Militar Leopoldo Atenzo, Cadete Carlos Larguia and Soldado Miguel Santi. It's not as simple as finding a 'Videla Street' somewhere - something as blatant as that would have caused an outcry years ago. In many cases, the 1976-1983 military regime chose street names which honoured previous dictatorships, in particular the one which took over in 1930.

This issue may seem rather trivial, but I think it's an interesting example of purging the remains of military rule from the public face of the urban landscape. And, as Stegemann comments,
"It's ridiculous that while we are judging the members of the de facto governments for their human rights we carry on complying with the rules which they created".

The city could still appeal against the decision, although I really wonder why it would bother. So maybe Argentina's capital will be seeing some shiny new name plaques on its streets soon.

La Justicia ordenó sacar de las calles, plazas y escuelas, los nombres de los funcionarios de facto (Observatorio de derechos humanos)
Ordena jueza argentina rebautizar calles que remiten a la dictadura (Provincia)
"Son cerca de diez calles" (Pagina/12)

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Uruguay: Las manos en la tierra

Thanks to Memory, Amnesia and Politics for drawing my attention to this Uruguayan documentary. It's interesting how the anthropologist refers self-deprecatingly to herself as a 'vulture'.

Peru: Massacre Victims Exhumed

20 bodies have been exhumed in Putka, Ayacucho, and work continues to recover further victims, assumed to be from a massacre which took place on Christmas Day 1984. Among the dead is a girl aged around eight.

Forensics unearth Putka massacre victims from mass grave (Living in Peru)

Argentina: Acosta's Secret Archives?

Witness Ricardo Héctor Coquet has testified in court that records were kept of the around 4,700 prisoners who passed through the ESMA.

He stated that three microfilm copies of the archives were made before the originals were destroyed: one for the now late Rubén Chamorro, head of the ESMA, one for dictator Emilio Eduardo Massera, and the third for Jorge "el Tigre" Acosta, who is currently standing trial.

Coquet further described his tasks of falsifying documents for the task forces who carried out the abductions.

This testimony certainly seems to fit with that of Victor Basterra who photographed in the ESMA. I wonder if any of those microfilms have survived. While I don't think we are really lacking in evidence to convict the perpetrators, the contents might clarify what happened to some of the disappeared.

Los archivos del Tigre Acosta (Projecto Desaparecidos)
Entrevista a Ricardo Hector Coquet, sobreviviente de la ESMA (radio nacional - audio interview, Spanish)
"Hay microfilms de 4700 secuestrados" (Pagina/12)

Colombia: Uribe's Legacy

As Uribe's presidential term draws to a close this weekend, the media is starting to assess his legacy. The general conclusion seems to be "he got the country under control, but those human rights abuses weren't very nice". IPS claims,
his fiercest critics console themselves by drawing a parallel with former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), who ended up in prison on corruption and human rights charges.
But the Fujimori criticism seems to me more than fair, given 1) the long-running question of a possible third term, 2) the witch hunt against human rights activists and indeed, anyone who raised their voice against the administration and 3) the connections between the official state and paramilitaries.

At least it is practically impossible to sum up the Uribe regime without mentioning the 'false positive' scandal, and both of the articles considered here do so in some detail. However, both place more emphasis on the outgoing president's strong popularity ratings and purported success in improving the security situation.

Dismal Human Rights Record Has Not Dented Uribe's Popularity (IPS)
Uribe's Colombia: The dark side of a country transformed (Guardian)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Event in Ayacucho, Peru

The EPAF is holding a campaign in Putis, a name which long-term readers of the blog will remember (and others can click on the key word below to see related posts).

Opening for the development process in Putis

Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team- EPAF and non profit organization, Vecinos Peru, invite you to participate in our campaign “Paradero Esperanza” or (Stop of Hope). This campaign will begin on Sunday, August 8th in the Centro Poblado of Putis, Ayacucho. The mission of this campaign is to promote human development in the communities most affected by Peru’s internal conflict. It is intended to help break and overcome the victimization and stigmitization that has impacted those most affected. EPAF is aware of the potential that Putis has for growth and wants to strengthen this potential through sustainable development projects.

The first “Stop of Hope” will be in Putis. However, we aim to promote development projects in other communities also affected by the violence, and by doing so, will create a “route of hope” both containing visible and symbolic stops in each community where EPAF has done forensic work.

The “Stop for Hope” in Putis will open its doors on August 8th, with a symbolic ceremony that will begin with “El Pago a la Tierra” (or “Payment to the Earth”). This ceremony will pay homage to the earth in thanks for the discovery of the disappeared family members of Putis in 2008 and for the beginning of this new development stage. Later, the project will be ratified by the presence of local authorities, and finally the implementation of the first phase of the project through the establishment of a native potato seed bank. Native potatoes are highly desirable within both the national and international markets. The implementation of the native potato seed bank is extremely important in that it will improve the quality of the potatoes grown there which will increase their market value.

We hope that with your presence on Sunday, you may help us promote the circulation of this event and by doing so, also contribute to the recitizenship of the victims of Putis.

Jesús Peña Romero
Proyectos Epaf

Monday, 2 August 2010

Argentina: Honour for Journalist Robert Cox

British journalist Robert Cox, who worked for the Buenos Aires Herald, has - somewhat belatedly - received honorary citizenship of the Argentine capital in recognition of his brave work during the dictatorship.

Under military rule, the Buenos Aires Herald was one of the very few examples of independent journalism which reported the truth about the abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial executions which became features of everyday life. Media boss Jorge Fontevecchia, for one, credits Cox's reporting with saving his life after he was abducted and taken to El Olimpo. The writers of the English-language daily faced threats and Cox, fearing for the safety of his children, was eventually driven into exile.

Modestly, he claims that he was "just doing his job", but publishing lists of the dead in the early months of the dictatorship really was a bit more than that and he deserves this public acknowledgement.

Heroic British journalist Robert Cox honoured in Argentina (Guardian)

(For more, see this book by Robert Cox's son David, and this one by fellow Buenos Aires Herald journalist, Andrew Graham-Yooll)

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Peru: News Round-Up

Peru Wages 'Slanderous Campaign' Against Inter-American Court (IPS)

Peru Purchases 8 Helicopters from Russia for Use in the VRAE (Peruvian Times)

No Reparations Yet for Families of Civil War Victims (IPS)

President Admits Corruption Has Tarnished Government

Families of Victims of Biggest Shining Path Massacre Seek Justice (IPS)

Colombia: US Funding, Increased Civilian Murders

Several media sources have picked up on a study by the Fellowship on Reconciliation and the U.S. Office on Colombia which has found that Colombian army units which receive U.S. military funding have committed more extrajudicial executions of civilians.
The extrajudicial executions reviewed by the FOR/USOC report are mostly cases in which military units have killed civilians in order to inflate the body count of guerrillas they have supposedly killed in action. “The majority of cases we are analyzing are not misidentifications,” said John Lindsay-Poland of the FOR, but rather the deliberate targeting of civilians. “Success” in the anti-guerrilla fight is measured by kills, says Lindsay-Poland. “It is not about whether there is greater security for civilians or whether there is justice in the country.” [NACLA]
In other words, these are the so-called "false positive" cases.

This is a deeply concerning report which also raises questions about the legality of U.S. financial support in Colombia.

The report [...] studies the application in Colombia of the so-called Leahy Law, passed in 1996, which bans military assistance to a foreign security force unit if the U.S. State Department has credible evidence that the unit has committed gross human rights violations.

The Leahy Law is one of the main U.S. laws designed to protect against the use of U.S. foreign aid to commit human rights abuses.

"If the Leahy Law was fully implemented, assistance would have to be suspended to nearly all fixed army brigades and many mobile brigades in Colombia," Lindsay-Poland said.
Report Suggests "Correlation" between U.S. Aid and Army Killings (IPS)
Plan Colombia Linked to Increased Military Abuses (NACLA)
Colombia: US Military Aid May Have Sparked Civilian Killings (truthout)

You can also read the full report here.