Friday, 25 November 2011

Argentina reading

The Economist has a good round-up of recent Argentine fiction dealing with the legacy of the dictatorship - thanks to GoodAirs for drawing my attention to it. In addition, the Guardian is visiting Argentina this month as part of its world literature tour feature. Don't miss the comments for lots of reading inspiration - it's not just Borges!

Argentina: Bussi is dead

Former general Antonio Bussi, who was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity during Argentina's military dictatorship, has died. He was 85.

I'm not going to summarise his lifestory, because I already did that here. Suffice it to say that an icon of repression in Argentina has passed away. It's also worth noting that 1) Bussi's involvement in human rights abuses started before the 24 March 1976 coup and 2) he was not just giving the orders - he killed personally as well.

Let's take a little look at the response.

Pagina/12 goes for the headline "Terror in hell", and certainly the image of Bussi, his profile not softened by the oxygen tube in his nose, is well-chosen to illustrate this.

Torturado, represor, asesino, dictador y fusilador (Pagina/12)

Spanish paper ABC comments that the general "had the dubious honour of being the pioneer of the systematic plan of disappearances which characterised the last Argentine dictatorship". It notes that despite his conviction, he "died in bed surrounded by his family" - more than he allowed his victims, eh?

Muere el general Bussi, brazo ejecutor de la represion argentina (

Almost all the Spanish-language media are highlighting Bussi's role as a "symbol", an "icon" or an "archetype" of horror.

Murió Bussi, símbolo de la represión ilegal (La Nacion)
Murió Bussi, símbolo de la tortura y el horror en tiempos de la dictadura (Clarin)

La Nacion further comments on his "iron fist":

Acusado de atrocidades y de un estilo feroz (La Nacion)

President of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Estela Carlotto, laments that Bussi will take his secrets to his grave and comments that his family is very lucky to be able to bury and mourn him openly. Quite. Bussi's son says that the ex-general is now "at peace" and that "in time he will be remembered as one of the great men in this country's history". Seriously?!

Estela de Carlotto lamenta que Bussi se llevara "secretos a la tumba" (EFE)

The only English language report I can find at the time of writing is AFP:

General in Argentina's 'dirty war' dies

Guatemala update

Two of the "disappeared" have been identified in Guatemala. Union leader Amancio Villatoro and student leader Sergio Linares are the first victims that scientists have matched to Guatemala's military journal, known as the "death squad diary", a list of 183 citizens who disappeared at the hands of the army between 1983 and 1985.

Guatemala: War Victims Found (NY Times)
Guatemala identifies victims from death squad ledger (Reuters)

At the same time, a debate has broken out about a proposal to allow the over-80s to serve jail sentences under house arrest, rather than in prison - something which would obviously affect the aging human rights abusers in the country. This has been an issue in Argentina as well, and some of these supposed incidences of "house arrest" were so lax that the retired generals in question barely needed to adjust their social lives despite being convicted of the most serious crimes. I'm always opposed - a standard prison cell for the lot of them, regardless of age, I say. Nevertheless, I agree with Mike from Central American Politics that getting convictions at all must be the priority.

Guatemala proposal for aged inmates draws anger (AP)

Meanwhile, Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz has called for justice for the victims of the war.

"We want it to be clear that you can't use terror as a control mechanism," Paz y Paz said.

She also mentioned the problem of financial resources in battling organised crime.

Top Guatemala prosecutor warns on war crimes cases (Reuters)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

International Day to End Impunity

Today - 23 November - is the International Day to End Impunity, which focuses on crimes against journalists and others "who have been killed for exercising their right to freedom of expression".

The Committee to Protect Journalists' 2011 Impunity Index highlights 13 countries where violence against people working in the press is a particular problem. Three of them are in Latin America - Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. Colombia is described as improving, but with much work still to do, while the situation in Mexico is worsening and in Brazil, the picture is mixed.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Uruguay: Aftermath of amnesty lifting

A post on Uruguay is well overdue as there have been a few linked stories in the news since the lifting of the country's amnesty.

On 1 November, AFP reported that human rights group IELSUR had filed a complaint "against some 100 troops in the name of 90 people detained in a decade-long crackdown against communists launched in 1975". The plaintiffs allege "torture, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment during the entire period of their detention," according to IELSUR lawyer Jorge Pan. 28 women had also filed complaints of sexual abuse during the period.

The following day, German Catholic news agency KNA reported that the 28 women had made their statements on 28 October, followed by another 170 dictatorship victims on 29 October and about 140 on 30 October. It pointed out that female members of the military were implicated in torture for the first time.

Folteropfer der Militärdiktatur erstatten Anzeige

On 10 November, Prensa Latina referred to a report from Uruguayan daily La Republica stating that a dozen military men would appear in court as part of the investigations conducted to clarify a crime committed during the dictatorship. Judge Mariana Mota will interrogate three military men on Monday in the case of Aldo Perrini, who was tortured to death after being arrested by soldiers of the 4th Infantry Battalion of the department of Colonia, the agency wrote.

Uruguay: Soldiers Summoned for Crimes During Dictatorship (Prensa Latina)

Finally, the Journalism in the Americas blog picked up on the case of Rodolfo Porley, who has filed charges for torture he suffered during the 1970s. More detail is provided by El Comercio of Ecuador, which reports Porley's claims that his motivation is the memory of the victims and a desire to prevent similiar incidents happening again.

Journalist in Uruguay sues for torture he suffered under military dictatorship (Journalism in the Americas)
Periodista uruguayo denuncia torturas y crímenes de lesa humanidad (El Comercio, Ecuador)

A map of Latin American dreams

I recently discovered the work of Martín Weber (thanks to Peru Foto). His photographs in "A map of Latin American dreams" are just beautiful, and several of them are relevant to this blog. Here is just one of them:
See more here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

News Round-up

I did not know that UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, was a victim of the Argentine junta:
Argentina's Dirty War lessons for the world (BBC)

Reuters profiles new Guatemalan president Otto Perez and discusses his role in the country's civil war
Special report: Guatemala's new leader faces questions (Reuters)


Colina victims laid to rest
Nineteen Years Later, Death Squad Victims Given Burial in Santa (Peruvian Times)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Peru: Not one, but 15,000 voices

I had an email from the guys at EPAF, the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team, bringing my attention to their campaign "Not one, but 15,000 voices", which focuses on the more than 15,000 Peruvians that were “disappeared” during the period of political violence (1980-2000). It includes a series of videos, of which I've embedded one above, with some relatives telling their experiences in their own words, subtitled in English and with images by photographer Jonathan Moller (whom I've written about before).

The clips are sobering, but it's also important to hear people testifying about their experience. In the English-speaking world, I think we still don't really have an idea of Peru as a country particularly affected by "disappearance" - Argentina, perhaps, yes, but Peru? - and we also don't have much opportunity to hear people speaking directly about what happened, especially Quechua speakers. Check out more of the videos and information at EPAF's English-language page: Not one, but 15,000 voices.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Peru: RIP Carlos Bendezú

In fact, until a few hours ago I didn't know the name Carlos Bendezú, but I was certainly aware of one his photographs, which became one of the icons of the Peruvian conflict. Bendezú took this for magazine Caretas in 1980, when Sendero was still very much an unknown quantity.

Fallece fotógrafo Carlos Bendezú (La Republica)

Peru: Remembering Barrios Altos

Peru's La Republica has a long article on the memory of the Barrios Altos massacre. One of its survivors, Tomás Livias Ortega, is an ice-cream seller and the article contains an image of an interesting initiative to keep the memory of the case alive. Anyone who has been to Peru will be familiar with the ice-cream sellers and their little carts.

El batallón de los heladeros
(La Republica)