Sunday, 24 June 2012

Photo of the Day: Esculacho in Brazil

Esculacho (escrache, public protest against perpetrator of human rights abuses) in Brazil.

ONG faz protesto contra suposto torturador na zona sul do Rio (Folha)

Thanks to Transitional Justice in Brazil for pointing me to this article.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Chile: Pinochet documentary round-up

This has been widely reported, but for the sake of completeness on the blog I'm going to add some links to the aftermath of my previous post on the screening of "Pinochet".

Chilean police clash with anti-Pinochet demonstrators (BBC)

Hundreds Protest Screening of Pro-Pinochet Film in Chile (NY Times)

The past haunts Chile: film praising Pinochet triggers violent clashes in Santiago (Mercopress)

Pro-Pinochet celebration leads to street protests in Santiago (Guardian)

Book Review: The Latin American Photobook

The Latin American Photobook, Horacio Fernández (Aperture, 2011)

There is no history of Latin American photography that gives due attention to its books. 

This is the status quo that Horacio Fernández, together with an advisory committee composed of Marcelo Brodsky, Iatã Cannabrava, Lesley A. Martin, Martin Parr and Ramón Reverté, sets out to change and the result is this book. It's not just an academic tome - it's big, heavy, hard cover, well-laid out, and stuffed with colour photos. But it's not just a coffee table book either - each book featured is carefully described and the beginning of each section pulls the different books featured in it together.

All the photographers are Latin American by birth or choice, rather than travel photographers or visitors. There were some old friends for me among the books here, such as Carlos Domínguez's Los peruanos, and some others that I was surprised not to have heard of, such as Guillermo Thorndike's Uchuraccay: Testimonio de una masacre.

Both of the above publications are highly relevant to the subjects of this blog, as are others like Richard Cross' Nicaragua: La guerra de liberacion. Cross, a photojournalist, was killed shortly after its publication. "Photographers have to take the initiative to try to have more control over the use of their photographs and they have to get more interested in the potential for combining images to make stories and to combine images with text," he said. 

Other fascinating finds for me were Chile ayer hoy, produced by the official publishing wing of the Chilean government in 1975, and Mirko Lauer's Ciudad de Lima with photos by Jesús Ruiz Durand, because I had come across some of the latter's work on iconic photographs before.

It's very interesting to see the various photobooks juxtaposed alongside each other and given a new lease of life, as it were, in this book - although of course, there remains a certain sense of frustration that the original publications themselves are, in many cases, difficult or impossible to get hold of. Fernández et al have certainly made a great contribution to the photobook genre themselves with this one, which, I would think, Latin American photography enthusiasts will want to have laid out on a table somewhere - it looks too good to consign to a shelf.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Argentina: Photo of the Day

Ezequiel Rochistein Tauro, found grandchild no. 102, displaying his new ID card with the last names of his biological parents. He explains the long road he has travelled to get to this point in an interview with Telam here.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Brazil: Archives of armed forces to be opened for truth commission, defence minister says

The online edition of "O Estado de S. Paulo" has published an article stating that the Brazilian truth commission will have access to military archives for its work. Here's a translation:

The defence minister, Celso Amorim, signaled on Monday, May 4 that he will act to open the information centres of the armed forces for the national truth commission, which is to investigate crimes committed by state agents from 1946 to 1988. "The law says we all have a duty to cooperate," he said. "Overall, everything is open."
He was speaking at a news conference after meeting with members of the TC. The information centres of the air force (CISA), army (CIEX) and navy (Cenimar) keep the memories of political repression, especially the period of military rule (1964-1985) - popularly called "secret files of the dictatorship." These were the centres in which in 1993, three lists were found with some information about
PCdoB guerrillas in Araguaia who died in the early 1970s.
Since 1985, the beginning of the civil government of José Sarney, the military has maintained the line that there are no official records. The military, however, never allowed the entry of representatives of civilian areas of government or the justiciary into the information centres. The CIEX, formerly CIE, in particular, organized
the policy of extermination of opponents of the dictatorship during the governments of Medici (1969-1974) and Geisel (1974-1979). Human rights groups hope the opening of the centres will clarify how political activists were killed.
At first, Celso Amorim dodged when asked about the opening of the information centres. Asked about the possibility of opening the centres, he even said that there was no talk "about it," at the committee meeting. Then he admitted that "everything had been discussed", without specifying the question of the centres. Eventually, however, the minister indicated that the "heart" of the official memory of repression could be opened. He, however, did not say when this might occur and under what conditions.
In the interview, Amorim said the TC is the "last chapter in the history of the democratic opening in Brazil." "We will provide all the information
requested that might help the commission," he said. "We reiterate the willingness of the Ministry of Defence to cooperate and collaborate with members of the committee."

 This sounds good, but as the article notes, there's still no commitment to a timeframe or exact conditions. 

Thanks to Transitional Justice in Brazil for pointing me to the article.

Chile: Controversy over Pinochet documentary screening

Relatives of the disappeared in Chile have been calling for the public screening of a documentary about Augusto Pinochet to be banned. A number of groups signed a letter to president Sebastián Piñera and there has been criticism from quarters in parliament as well. The event, scheduled for Sunday, is planned by a group called Movimiento 11 de Septiembre and is being presented as a homage to the former dictatorship.

The families do not have the universal support of the human rights sector, however. For example, José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Human Rights Watch Americas, opposes a ban in the interests of free speech. This is also the official stance of the Chilean government, which points to freedom of expression as the reason why it does not have the power to stop the event.

This is a difficult issue. It's certainly in pretty poor taste when supporters of Pinochet and similar regimes can continue to gloat about their heroes in front of the victims and their relatives - but I guess that is the point of free speech, you can't just give it to the nice guys. I live in a country - Germany - where for obvious historical reasons it has been decided not to allow free speech in all circumstances concerning recent history. It is illegal here to deny the Holocaust or to display a swastika or make a Nazi salute (there are exceptions to the prohibition on the displaying of Nazi memorabilia for educational purposes - museums aren't breaking the law!). I understand why they've done it, but it's still pretty strange when you think about it, as repressing opposing viewpoints was such a central part of Nazi ideology as well. I'm not sure it's really the answer to memory debates. It would definitely encourage the "victim"/"wronged hero" stance which many of the right-wing supporters of previous miliary regimes seem to hold.

Most of the news reports explain very litte about the film itself. I found this via "":

From this, it certainly looks like the documentary is going to present Pinochet as saviour of a country in chaos, but I would caution that this is just a short clip.

Families of Chile's disappeared condemn homage to Pinochet (Santiago Times)
Chilean government will not stop screening of Pinochet documentary (Santiago Times)
Familiares de DD.DD piden al gobierno que intervenga para evitar homenaje a Augusto Pinochet (La Tercera)