Tuesday, 3 February 2009

News Round-Up

The Public Prosecutor’s Office finished presenting final arguments for [the Fujimori] trial, reiterating its request for 30 years of prison and a reparation of 100,600,000 Peruvian soles (just over US$32 million) to victims — 100 million soles ($32 million) for the victims of Barrios Altos and La Cantuta, and 300,000 soles (nearly $96,000) each for kidnap victims Gustavo Gorriti and Samuel Dyer.

Public Prosecutor Reiterates Request for 30-year Prison Sentence (Fujimori on Trial)

Peru's Attorney General narrowly escaped a murder attempt last weekend.
Police initially believed the attack was a carjacking gone wrong. The events of the attack, however suggest that the attack was an assassination attempt. An inquiry has begun into the shooting.

Peruvian Attorney General Survives Assassination Attempt (Impunity Watch)

Paraguayan society is marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of former dictator Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989) amid uncertainty surrounding the loss of power of the Colorado Party, which ruled the country for 61 years.[...]
The Truth and Justice Commission, created by law in 2003, recorded 128,076 direct and indirect victims of the dictatorship, of whom 19,682 were arbitrarily detained, 18,722 were subjected to different forms of torture, 59 were executed and 337 disappeared.

Twenty Years of Transition (IPS)


Any evenhanded comparison of the Colombian and Venezuelan governments’ human rights records would have to note that, though Venezuela’s record is far from perfect, that country is by every measure a safer place than Colombia to live, vote, organize unions and political groups, speak out against the government or practice journalism.

But a new survey by FAIR shows that, over the past 10 years, editors at four leading U.S. newspapers have focused more on purported human rights abuses in Venezuela than in Colombia, and their commentary would suggest that Venezuela’s government has a worse human rights record than Colombia’s. These papers, FAIR found, seem more interested in reinforcing official U.S. policy toward the region than in genuinely supporting the rights of Colombians and Venezuelans.

Human Rights Coverage Serving Washington's Needs (NACLA)


Jake said...

Lillie, great site.

I have to admit to not being blown away by the FAIR analysis. Colombia obviously has the hemisphere's worst human rights problem; this has been the case for years. However, trajectory matters. Even people justifiably opposed to Uribe don't usually argue that Colombia is worse now than it was when Uribe entered office, because of the singular importance of the security issue. Rather, their understandable beef is that things a) aren't better enough and b) justice and truth are being sacrificed at the altar of Uribe's nebulous democratic security concept. For some - mainly rural - Colombians, things have not improved, but for most, the last ten years have witnessed security progress.

On the other hand, reasonable people can and do disagree about Chavez, but many are sincere in their belief that political rights and institutions have declined over the last decade in Venezuela. One can argue about this, but it doesn't make you some sort of imperialist tool to think that Chavez is taking the country in the wrong direction - lots of human rights advocates all over the hemisphere feel the same.

Given that Colombia is seen by many as improving, and Venezuela as deteriorating, it seems a lot less surprising that one would receive more negative attention than the other. Moreover, some outlets (WaPo, MH) are just simply more conservative than others (NYT). Why does this automatically mean they "serve Washington's interests?" I don't even disagree in the case of the WaPo, but its very reductionist. I mean, the holocaust-denying bishop who just got re-communicated by the Pope probably would be more approving of Colombia than Venezuela, but that would be because of his insanely conservative views, rather than because he toes the Washington line.

Would better coverage (specifically, more emphasis on Colombia's continued problems) be preferable? Definitely. Is US foreign policy a notable part of the picture? Yes. But the trajectories matter, and simple ideology - regardless of what Washington says - matters too. The FAIR analysis (or at least NACLA's treatment of it) seems lamely blunt.

Lillie Langtry said...

Thanks for the detailed comment Jake.

First of all, I admit that Colombia and, in particular, Venezuela are not truly my specialism. "Latin America" is the title of the blog but I know most about Argentina, Peru and to a lesser extent Ecuador and Chile. I am, in contrast to most Latin American commentators, relatively neutral on Chavez. And I'm not from the US and have only been regularly reading a range of its media for the past year or so, so I don't have an automatic feel for the political thrust of a particular newspaper (I mean, obviously I can read...)

All that is not to serve as an excuse but merely to state why that story warranted a small section in a general news post for me, and not a post on its own. It's also a reason why reasoned comments on the areas I am less experienced in are so valuable. I think you made some good points.

My concern about Colombia is the stories which I hear about again and again regarding human rights abuses, including murder, by paramilitaries. I mean, people argue that Fujimori defeated the Shining Path in Peru (it's much more complex than that) so a few deaths from his armed forces were a small price to pay (it wasn't a few, and the price was high). It seems to me that Uribe is going down the same path, although I have also reported on a few positive stories about holding the armed forces to account recently.