Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Brazil: President's death an accident, says TC

The Brazilian truth commission has concluded that former president Juscelino Kubitschek was not murdered by the military regime, but died in a car accident. Kubitschek, who was an opposition leader at the time, died on 22 August 1976 following a car accident on a motorway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. His driver was also killed.

Just as with other prominent deaths during the dictatorship-era in Latin America (Pablo Neruda, Joao Goulart, Salvador Allende...), there have been persistent rumours that the car crash may not have been all it appeared. In fact, a Sao Paulo truth commission declared that it had evidence that Kubitschek had been murdered. The national commission, however, disagrees. Its coordinator Pedro Dallari said it was "quite sure" it's version of events was accurate and that it had "not been convinced" of the version put forward by the Sao Paulo commission.

Brazil ex-president was 'not killed in political plot' (BBC)
Morte de Juscelino foi causada por acidente, diz Comissão da Verdade (O Globo)

Monday, 21 April 2014

Peru: Anger at slow progress of Accomarca trial

There has been criticism of the slow progress of the trial taking place in Peru over the massacre at Accomarca in 1985. It has been running for nearly four years now and there is still no end in sight. Celestino Baldeón Chuchón, whose mother was killed along with nearly 70 others in the atrocity, calls it "a joke, a lack of respect".

Jorge Abrego, a lawyer from human rights organisation Aprodeh, points out that the lead judge is holding just one hearing a week and some witnesses, particularly those for the accused, do not turn up at the appointed time.

The lawyer of alleged perpetrator Telmo Hurtado (there are nearly 30 accused in total) says that the witness testimony should be concluded in July, followed by the examination of evidence, the defense, and then the sentence "on an unknown date".

Very disappointing. 

Accomarca: luego de casi cuatro años de juicio oral aún no se dicta sentencia (La Republica)

Peru: Links between Movadef and Shining Path

While I was off piling up overtime, there was news in Peru of the connections between the political group Movadef and the remnants of the Shining Path terrorist organisation. Movadef works for the release of the imprisoned senderistas, including the leader Abimael Guzmán.

In mid-April, nearly 30 Movadef members were arrested for alleged ties to the Maoist guerrilla group following a two-year investigation into terrorism-financing activities. Among them was head of the movement and Guzmán's lawyer, Alfredo Crespo, and Walter Humala, a cousin of the Peruvian president Ollanta Humala. They may reportedly face long prison sentences of 30-35 years if the case against them is proven.

Crespo is accused of acting as a go-between for the imprisoned Guzmán and the top Sendero Luminoso leader on the outside, "Artemio", until the latter's capture in early 2012. He is also said to have lobbied for and received money from Artemio for Movadef.

The US has welcomed Peru's move. Movadef, naturally, sees itself as the target of politicial persecution.

Alfredo Crespo, líder de Movadef, y Walter Humala fueron capturados por financiamiento del terrorismo (La Republica)
Peru Police Arrest 24 for Alleged Ties to Terrorist Group (Wall Street Journal)
U.S. Supports Arrest of Movadef Members (Peruvian Times)
Movadef: Hasta 35 años de cárcel podrían recibir dirigentes capturados (peru.com)
Movadef solicitó dinero a ‘Artemio’ para retomar lucha armada (El Comercio)

Update: Insight Crime points out that IDL Reporteros has criticised some of the reporting by El Comercio on the depth of links between Movadef and Shining Path. 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Peru: Cipriani in Ayacucho

It's a while since I wrote about the cardinal and archbishop of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne. Years ago, I noted that he opposed the memory museum, opposed the truth and reconciliation commission, raved against the commissoners, and called for the pardoning of Alberto Fujimori.

However, I've never written much about the fact that before being archbishop of Lima, he spent the 1980s and 1990s in Ayacucho and was appointed archbishop there in 1995. A recent book by Luis Pasara and Carlos M. Indachochea, Cipriani como actor politico, discusses this period. I have not read the book, but Fernando Rospigliosi reviews it for El Comercio today.

The slim volume describes how, once in Ayacucho, Cipriani immediately identified himself with the armed forces, despite the serious human  rights abuses they were accused of, and later became an ardent supporter of Fujimori. Apparently, he actually had a notice posted in the bishopric stating "Human rights complaints are not dealt with here" - and this in the region which saw the most tortures, disappearances and extrajudicial executions in the Peru.

As for the disappeared, if you believe the cardinal, they were killed in shoot-outs with armed forces; the exact official line of the military themselves.

The book goes on to look at the background of Cipriani's membership in Opus Dei and his alliance with the Fujimori regime. Its main thrust - of the archbishop's deep politicial involvement - is both evident and concerning.

On a personal note, I will say that those who know me know that I have little time for religion. That aside, I just find it incomprehensible that a leader of a religion which is purportedly about compassion and forgiveness can hold such views. I just don't get it. It's not that Cipriani is alone in this - across Latin America, the Catholic Church hierarchy was largely allied with military regimes and complicit in their abuses - but he is a particularly odious example.

Happy Easter...

El político Cipriani, por Fernando Rospigliosi (El Comercio)

Argentina: Doctor arrested on allegations of participating in torture

The Argentine human rights organisation APDH has announced that the doctor Omar Caram was arrested on 16 April. He is accused of participating in torture in the province of San Luis during the 1976-83 dictatorship. Former detainees had named him in their testimonies.


Detuvieron a un médico por denuncias de torturas durante la dictadura (Telam)

Friday, 18 April 2014

RIP Gabo

Colombian author Gabriel García Marquez - justifiably regarded as one of the greats of world literature - has died. This is the cover of Argentine paper Clarín the day he won the Nobel prize for literature in 1982.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Brazil: 50th anniversary of coup

Here is a round-up of some of the coverage of the 50th anniversary of the overthrow of Brazilian president Joao Goulart.

The BBC reports how current president Dilma Rousseff stressed the importance of remembering the coup, explaining "We owe this to those who died and disappeared, owe it to those who were tortured and persecuted, owe it to their families. We owe it to all Brazilians." It also provides a video on the "house of death" and how its sole survivor has been helping the truth commission to identify torturers. There are plans to turn the site into a memorial.

In addition, BBC Brasil's Pablo Uchoa recalls the story of his father, who was detained during the dictatorship. Inocencio was long reluctant to discuss his experiences but is now also helping the truth commission.

The day after the coup anniversary, Brazil's defence minister agreed to investigate military facilities where human rights abuses were believed to have been committed during the dictatorship, reports the New York Times.The news was revealed in a statement on the truth commission's website. It is a step forward against impunity, as also discussed by The Pan-American Post.

At the National Security Archive, Peter Kornbluh discusses attempts to achieve the declassification of U.S. documents on the covert operations that contributed to the Brazilian coup and argues that now is the time to use declassified U.S. historical records as a unique diplomatic tool.

Transitional Justice in Brazil provides a far fuller round-up than I have done...