Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Chile: Lifting the Sentence of Secrecy

I've been doing a little writing elsewhere and have a piece up at Nacla on Chile's secret archives and recent moves to open them up. Read the full thing here.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Argentina: Appeals for those with doubts about their identities to come forward

Infojus Noticias has done a nice piece featuring several of the TV ads the Abuelas have used over the years to encourage people who think they might be children of the disappeared to come forward. This is my favourite:

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Peru: Tempestad en los Andes

A documentary was presented at the Lima film festival this week called Tempestad en los Andes, directed by Mikael Winström. It focuses on Josefin Ekermann, the niece of the first wife of Abimael Guzmán, Augusta La Torre, as she travels to Peru from Sweden to find out "the truth" about her family's links to Sendero Luminoso (see trailer below, in Spanish - although the film is apparently in Quechua and English with Spanish subtitles). It also tells the story of Flor Gonzales, whose brother died in the prison of El Frontón.

I knew that Guzmán was married before Elena Iparraguirre but I knew almost nothing about his first wife and her role in the foundation of Shining Path, so this sounds really interesting.

La sobrina política de Abimael Guzmán es la estrella de este documental sueco sobre Sendero Luminoso (utero.pe)
Los estigmas de la guerra unen y separan a estas mujeres (La Republica)
TEMPESTAD EN LOS ANDES (festivaldelima.com)

Chile: Priest involved in irregular adoptions

While Argentina is well known for the stolen babies during its dictatorship, there have been allegations of irregular adoptions in other countries, such as Spain and now Chile.

The Catholic Church in Chile has confirmed that priest Gerardo Joannon was involved in the adoption of two babies without the knowledge of their mothers in the 1970s or 1980s, and also that he had an "inappropriate relationship" with one of the women. He apparently even conducted masses for "dead" babies whom he in fact knew to be alive.

The pattern seems to be that single pregnant women were pressured to give up their children for adoption, and if they refused, they were told that they had died during childbirth and the children were given up anyway.

The Church wanted Joannon to go to Spain on retreat but Chile has now said he cannot leave the country while police investigations are ongoing (good!).

The situation in Argentina was even more brutal and also less ambiguously linked to the military junta. There, "subversive" prisoners who were found to be pregnant were deliberately kept alive in detention centres until they gave birth and then murdered, while their babies were sold or given away, usually to families regarded as "good" or with military connections.

In Chile, it remains to be seen whether the practice of taking babies from women deemed "inappropriate" mothers was widespread; I think this certainly can't be ruled out. I'm sure it would be more convenient for the Church and the State if Joannon turned out to have been acting more or less alone, but this may not be the full story. Even without an organised "baby-stealing" plan, it is also possible that the atmosphere in Chile at the time - conservative, authoritarian - made it extremely difficult for vulnerable people to question or stand up to representatives of the Church, who judged that they had the intervene in the children's future.

Investigación por adopciones irregulares confirma participación de Gerardo Joannon en dos casos (La Tercera)
Chile's Catholic Church Says Priest Stole Babies for Adoption (Newsweek)
Chilean priest probed after 'stolen babies' scandal (BBC)

Argentina: 20 years since the AMIA attack

I missed the actual anniversary, which was 20 July, but just wanted to share this Youtube video from Memoria Activa on 20 years of impunity for the terrorist attack on the AMIA in Buenos Aires (Spanish only).

Monday, 11 August 2014

Argentina round-up

Here's a bit of a round-up from Argentina over the past few days.

See here for the text of the press conference at the Abuelas offices.

IPS examines the response to the discovery of Guido Montoya Carlotto (Ignacio Hurban). Interesting stuff as always, although I have to say "speechless" doesn't seem that appropriate given the rate my Twitter feed has been moving the past week ;-)

The BBC looks at the "Guido effect", with a jump in calls to the Grandmothers - in Spanish or English

English-speakers can read about the press conference with Guido and Estela here, and check out the piece by Uki Goñi in Time; I like his description of Argentina as "exploding with joy".

...And wait, there's a non-Guido story! Bolivia has extradited an Argentine ex-officer, Jorge Horacio Paez Senestrari, accused of crimes against humanity.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Update: Carlotto family meet found grandson

The story of the discovery of Estela Carlotto's grandson has been moving fast, and yesterday the family got to meet their missing member in person. This will have come at the instigation of the man himself, as the Grandmothers said yesterday that he would choose when the time was right. The private meeting took place in La Plata.

Estela and her children Claudia, Remo and Kibo are reported to have spoken with Guido for more than six hours. Claudia told Pagina/12 that when they were saying goodbye, Guido said "Chau, Abu" ("Bye, grandma") "and my mother nearly fainted". She also said he looks like this father and is a very warm yet determined person.

All three of Estela's surviving children work in the human rights field, incidentally: Claudia heads the commission for the right to identity (Conadi), Remo is president of the human rights commission in the Argentine chamber of deputies, and Kibo is the human rights secretary of the province of Buenos Aires.

The Grandmothers have also called for Guido and his family to be given privacy to get to know each other, and criticized some of the reporting on the story, including the publication of the name by which he is known. It was noticeable yesterday that they had not given the name but it was quickly picked up on by the media. Apparently some details were revealed by the court involved in the case. Now, no matter how fascinating the story, it is time to give those involved some space.

“Estamos felices, hablamos de todo y nos superentendimos” (Pagina/12)
Argentina Plaza de Mayo activist meets 'stolen grandson' (BBC)
Guido Montoya Carlotto ya conoció a su verdadera familia (official statement from the Abuelas)