Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Chile: Church Amnesty Call Rejected

As a follow-up to my last post, Piñera has rejected calls for an amnesty for human rights criminals. This is good news, and shouldn't really be too surprising - I agree with Greg that there wasn't much to gain politically from a pardon - but with the influence of the military in the Southern Cone, you can't always be sure.

Chile denies pardon for dictatorship-era crimes (Reuters)
Chile rejects pardons proposed by Catholic Church (AP)
Piñera rejects Bishops plea to pardon military involved in human rights abuses (Mercopress)

Chile: no amnesty for you (Two Weeks Notice)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Chile: Church Calls for Amnesty

Chile's bishops' conference is calling for an amnesty which could affect some members of the military imprisoned for Pinochet-era crimes. They describe this as a "humanitarian act which will contribute to reconciliation".

According to the BBC, the Catholic Church in Chile is suggesting that "any members of the country's military who show repentance for the crimes they committed under military rule" should be pardoned, but AP specifies that "the church's proposed amnesty would apply to prisoners who are sick or older than 70 or those who have served half their sentence". The prospective amnesty is in fact not exclusively for or limited to military criminals, but includes them, and this is the group which will receive attention from the media and rights groups.

The president of the bishops' conference, Alejandro Goic, has defended the appeal in the face of outrage from relatives and human rights group, demanding, "Do they want us to call for hate?" (La Tercera).

Sigh... I don't know. I accept that my position on organised religion in general and the Roman Catholic leadership in particular is not unbiased, to put it mildly, but it still gets to me: how do they manage to be on the wrong side every single time?! Where are they with their demands for justice for the victims? Why do they insist on confusing justice with "hate" or revenge? It just seems like a wilful attempt to misrepresent the struggle of the victims' families, to be honest. Please, go ahead and forgive the torturers, if you want - give them all the Christian love you like. I just don't see why you have to fight for their freedom when there are innocent people out there waiting for a fair deal from the Chilean judicial system. But honestly - if anyone wants to explain to me how this will assist reconciliation, fire away.

Chilean Church seeks clemency for aging prisoners (AP)
Church call for pardon angers Chile rights groups (Reuters)
Chile bishops seek pardons for military-rule crimes (BBC)
Indulto: Iglesia pide que se estudie caso a caso situacion de condenados por delitos de Derechos Humanos (La Tercera)
Obispo Goic defiende propuesta de indulto: 'Querian que llamaramos al odio?' (La Tercera)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Peru Round-up

U.S. State Department offers reward for Shining Path leaders (Peruvian Times)
US offers up to $5 million for Peru's "Artemio" and "Jose" (Living in Peru)
Here are the official wanted pages for Artemio (real name Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala) and Jose (real name Victor Quispe Palomino).

Guilt, repentance and innocence: Lori Berenson and her baby might be goin
g back to prison (Peruvian Times)
The English-language media has largely moved on, but legal wranglings over Berenson's future continue.

Tejen Chalina de la Solidaridad por las Victimas de la Violencia (CNDDHH)
"Ellas tejen para no olvidar a sus seres queridos" (La Republica, via APRODEH)

A group of indigenous women has been knitting a giant scarf as a visual symbol of their struggle for justice and memory of their relatives, who were lost in the political violence. I find the combination of the homely act of knitting with human rights activism quite striking, and somewhat analogous to the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, who have also spoken of their leaving the private space of the home to struggle in public.

Finally, from Jo-Marie Burt,
Reflexiones, a 18 años de La Cantuta (Noticias Ser)

Friday, 16 July 2010

Peru: Consequences for Children of Imprisoned Mothers

The recent Peruvian film La teta asustada focused on how violence inflicted on a Peruvian woman continued to have repercussions in the next generation, on her daughter. In the real world, Peru's Centro de Atencion Psicosocial has carried out a study on the children of women imprisoned during the civil conflict, concluding that these children have suffered a negative psychological impact.

The mothers reported that their offspring had displayed various negative effects in including emotional changes (sadness, crying and depression 44%), problems at school (34%), consumption of drugs and alcohol (10%) and suicide attempts (8%).

This was a relatively small study and I don't know enough of the details to know whether these issues are more severe than those suffered by the children of women incarcerated at other periods or for other reasons. Nevertheless, it's a further reminder of the continuing legacy of a violent era in a society. Especially under Fujimori, many thousands of Peruvians were imprisoned, often with very little evidence against them and without having undergone a fair trial, so although the study cohort was fairly small, there must be a lot more people out there whose family life was disrupted in this way.

Hijos e hijas de madres detenidas durante etapa de violencia politica presentan consecuencias negativas en su salad mental

Argentina: Gay Marriage

- The Chilean Church wants an amnesty for the [military] human rights abusers.
- What odd people... you kill a load of people, they want to give you an amnesty... You marry someone of the same sex and they send you to hell.

(from today's Pagina/12)

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Spain: Against Impunity

Here's a video from Spain with famous figures including Pedro Almodóvar and Javier Bardem drawing attention to the disappeared from the Franco era (Spanish only). Very moving.

Thanks to decolonizing solidarity for drawing my attention to this one.

Peru: Lugar de la Memoria

Here's an interview with Fernando Carvallo, who is involved with the development of the Lugar de la Memoria in Peru. He discusses the point of the project and its link with the photographic exhibition Yuyanapaq (Spanish only).

Monday, 5 July 2010

Argentina: From the Archive

The Guardian's From the Archive series turns to Argentina today, and it's a fascinating piece originally published on 3 July 1974:

Peron is dead. Long live Peron. This is the slogan with which the right wing of the Peronist movement which holds power in Argentina will attempt to bamboozle the public into believing that with the death of the old general, nothing has changed. The real name of Mrs Peron is Maria Estela Martinez de Peron, and technically she should be known as President Martinez, but whatever her name she will be projected as the rightful heir to the mantle of the old caudillo. Those who have been running the country in the name of Peron for the past year will thus be able to carry on their game without changing the name of the business.

When great men die, there is an interregnum. It takes time before social forces, crushed by the weight of a single individual's personality, reassert themselves. However much advance planning may have been made among the various groups jockeying for power in Argentina, to take account of an event that everyone knew was inevitable, the actual physical removal of Juan Peron will leave Argentina stunned, and the first inclination will be to close ranks behind the new president, however inadequate her qualifications.

While civil war still seems a somewhat remote prospect, there is no doubting the explosive nature of Argentine society. For 20 years an articulate and organised working class has been deprived of any power within the community and has seen its standard of living drop. For nearly 10 years a left wing guerrilla movement has been growing in strength. It has established strong links with the working class, skilfully exploiting their legitimate grievances. This is no mere bunch of idealistic students, but a powerful military movement. It could only be crushed by repression on a scale unknown even in Chile or in Uruguay, or by seeking some kind of political accommodation.

This is no simple battle between Left and Right. Every group and every institution in Argentine society is deeply divided, but not along lines that can easily be categorised. And it is this lack of a clear distinction that makes a civil war seem improbable.

A further enigma is the army. It too is not a monolithic force. It contains Peronists and non-Peronists, reactionaries who support Brazil and progressives who support Peru. No one tendency can be seen to prevail. As long as the political struggle within the Peronist movement continues as a fight between individuals, violent and bloody though this will be. the army is unlikely to intervene. But once the struggle extends to the streets, martial music will soon be heard as the armed forces declare that it is their "historic destiny" to reassert control over the affairs of the nation.

Richard Gott

This really gives you an insight into what was already visible nearly two years before the military coup happened. Gott predicted the coup d'etat, and he predicted "repression on a scale unknown even in Chile or in Uruguay", and he was right, and at the time he was also right to point out the leftist violence as well, although nowadays you probably wouldn't see that suggestion that the Left 'got what they asked for'. Plus in actual fact, the guerrilla movement was crushed without significant difficulty - largely in 1975, before the coup even happened - and the violence still continued. Interesting stuff though.

Juan Peron's Delicate Heiress

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Peru/Chile: Disgusting Ad from LAN

I couldn't believe my eyes when I clicked on a tweet from the EPAF (Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team) and it took me to this ad from airline LAN:

"MISSING: Last seen looking at an irrestible offer from LAN. Disappear from Lima with this promotion..."

Where do you even start? Peru still has thousands of people unaccounted for following its conflict. Organisations like EPAF are still painstakingly recovering their remains some two decades later. Chile, where the LAN concern hails from, also suffered numerous incidences of forced disapperance during the Pinochet regime - incidentally, the new Chilean president previously owned a majority stake in the airline. And elsewhere in the continent, those disappeared people were disposed of by throwing them out of aeroplanes.

But it's still acceptable to use the idea of the disappeared for an ad for cheap plane tickets? Accompanied by a photo of smiling young people just like those who were never seen again?

In case any English speakers are thinking "Well, but it's just a word, surely it could be a coincidence?", let me just say: no. The verb desaparecer and the related desaparecido have a very particular resonance in Latin America. If you say "S/he was disappeared", everyone knows instantly what you mean and there is an immediate connection with the actions of authoritarian regimes. The struggle for the disappeared has been absolutely central to human rights in numerous countries in the region for nigh on thirty years. So this is kind of like using an image of two burning towers to sell something in the US and then arguing that it doesn't necessarily have to be connected to 9/11. We're talking about icons here; people know what they're looking at.

This is pretty disgusting. I hope that there is enough of an outcry that LAN decides to remove the ads.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Film Trailer: Mi vida con Carlos

My Life With Carlos TRAILER from German Berger on Vimeo.

A Chilean documentary (h/t Memory, Amnesia and Politics)

This Week in Argentina

The good news:
Videla is standing trial... again. The 84-year old former dictator, along with previous head of the Army Luciano Benjamín Menéndez and 29 others, is accused of crimes against humanity. He's already serving life in jail, so in that sense the trial is purely symbolic - but it's an important symbolism.

El día en que el dictador estaba ansioso por hablar (Pagina/12)
Videla trial opens in Argentina (BBC)
Former Argentine dictator to go on trial in rights abuse case (CNN)
Argentine ex-dictator faces human rights charges (AP)
Secret list shows fate of Argentine disappeared (AP)

The not so good:
The DNA tests on Felipe and Marcela Noble Herrera's belongings didn't work, because the samples were contaminated, i.e there was genetic material from other people on the clothes and brushes. Both the government and the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo are suggesting that the pair arranged this deliberately to thwart proceedings.

El Gobierno argentino acusa a la familia Noble de "obstrucción a la justicia" (Europa Press)
La polémica por la contaminación (Pagina/12)