Monday 28 July 2008

No Justice for Putis?

A moving piece by Beatrice Merino, Peru's Ombudswoman (Defensora del Pueblo)...
Imagine that one day you answer the military’s offer for protection from terrorist attacks. Imagine that because you were convinced that you were protected beside the military base, you headed back to your town to bring other campesinos, including your wife and children, along with you.

Imagine that after a few days tragedy strikes, that the military from whom you expected protection turned into criminals. The women are raped before being killed, the men are deceived into digging their own graves and 19 children under the age of seven are killed to make sure there will be no trace in the future. Can you imagine something like this? Well, this is how it happened...
Full translation in the Peruvian Times

And the original, No hay justicia para Putis? (La Republica)

Saturday 26 July 2008

Peru: Putis

Just a brief note that La Republica has assembled its articles on the exhumations at Putis into a special section.

Putis, 24 años despues.

Argentina: Menendez Gets Life

General Luciano Benjamin Menendez, who had ultimate responsibility over detention centres including La Perla, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the killing of 4 'dissidents' in 1977. And, what is more, he will actually spend the rest of his life in jail: not under house arrest, not in a military institution, but in an actual jail.

Anyone who feels a mite sorry for the octogenarian prisoner might consider his own closing statement to the court:
Menéndez justified the repression of "Marxist subversion," describing it as "defensive efforts" in response to guerrilla attacks. He said Argentina "is the first country to bring victorious soldiers to trial."

Completely unrepentant, the former general said "the terrorists who were illegal before are now legal" and "the guerrillas of the 1970s are now in power."

But "I am confident that they will not be able to carry out their aim of imposing their authoritarian regime on us," he added, to the indignation of the families of the dictatorship’s victims.
Would he have shown any mercy to an infirm 'subversive'? I don't think so.

No House Arrest for Elderly Former General (IPS)

Sunday 20 July 2008

Peru: Quick Link Time

I came across this blog by Ash Kosiewicz who has been working with the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team on exhumations in Putis; although this has been widely covered by the international media, it's interesting to read the perspective of someone involved in the work.

Saturday 19 July 2008

El Salvador: Holocaust Hero Remembered

Thanks to Tim's El Salvador Blog for drawing my attention to the story of Jose Arturo Castellanos, a Salvadoran diplomat who issued fake Salvadoran papers to Hungarian Jews, saving from the gas chambers:

Unsung Saviour (Washington Post)

Argentina: Biblioteca Nacional

It veers a little from the usual subject of this blog, but not too much: Clarin has a photo slideshow of the wonderful Argentine national library today, where I was lucky enough to spend a little time researching the 1976-1983 dictatorship, and which definitely holds memories for me. The library is a huge concrete pile, certainly not pretty, and staffed with the standard officiously bureaucratic types you often find in Latin American institutions, but it does have wonderful views from the inside.

Silencio, biblioteca

News Headlines

Argentina: on the hunt for Aribert Heim, Nazi-hunter says he's closing in on 'Dr Death' (Yahoo)

Argentina: the 14th anniversary of the attacks on the AMIA, Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died.
En un nuevo aniversario del atentado a la AMIA, volvieron los reclamos al Gobierno y la Justicia (Clarin)

Peru: this can't be good for Peruvian President Alan Garcia. IPS is reporting that members of the shadowy paramilitary group Rodrigo Franco Commandos (CRF) are to be prosecuted for crimes committed during Garcia's first administration (1985-90). There are also alleged links between the CRF and the Colina Group.
Aprista Party Members Under Investigation for '80s Crimes (IPS)

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Mexico: Search for Disappeared

The BBC has a short video about efforts to find the bodies of Mexico's 'dirty war' victims:

Mexicans dig for 'disappeared' (BBC)

Monday 14 July 2008

Argentina: Convictions for Masacre de Fatima

Two Argentine former police officers have received life sentences for their part in the so-called Masacre de Fatima in 1976, in which 30 people were murdered.

News reports are contradictory here: Reuters states that of the three defendants, Carlos Gallone and Juan Carlos Lapuyole were convicted, and Pagina/12 concurs, noting that the third, Miguel Trimarchi, was acquitted. However The Buenos Aires Herald has this the other way around; Lapuyole was freed and Trimarchi found guilty.

It is clear that Gallone was convicted, and I've had an interest in him since I first saw this image several years ago:In this image Gallone is embracing a member of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo during a protest in 1982. It's a very strange, arresting image; you just don't see members of the security forces embracing human rights activists, and in the early 1980s, before the end of the dictatorship, you definitely didn't. Also, look at the horrified faces of the two women in the background.

It's not clear exactly what led to this emotional encounter; the Madres themselves reported that the women was not hugging Gallone, but attempting to beat his chest with frustation and despair. Much to the anger of the Madres, however, Gallone later tried to claim that this photograph proved his 'good relationship' with the human rights movement - hence, he must be a nice guy, hence, he couldn't be a murderer.

Fortunately, this isn't much hard evidence for a court, and it seems that Gallone's past has finally come back to him.

On the conviction:
Argentine police get life term in 'dirty war' case (Reuters)

Life Sentence for Fatima Massacre (Buenos Aires Herald)

Dos ex policias condenados a prision perpetua (Pagina/12)

Ex-Argentine cops convicted for "Dirty War" massacre
(The Latin Americanist)

On the background of the image:
Fotos con historia (Memoria Abierta)

Trucho como un abrazo de represor
('Yo tengo buena relacion con los organismos de derechos humanos. Soy el que aparece en la foto con una madre de Plaza de Mayo', Pagina/12)

Sunday 13 July 2008

Peru: La Cantuta

16 years after the massacre of La Cantuta, the remains of the victims are to be returned to their families.

In 1992, 9 students and a professor of the university of Enrique Guzman y Valle, better known as Cantuta, were disappeared by members of the Colina Group who suspected them of involvement in 'subversive' activity. Their bodies were discovered the following year, after an investigation by the magazine Si, in Cieneguilla, an area just outside Lima which is popular with picknickers at weekends.

The Cantuta case is one of the ones for which Fujimori is currently standing trial (see background here).

La Republica is reporting today that it was only possible to identify definitively 5 of the victims. In fact, the bodies have been returned to the families before, in 1994, at which time, according to the relatives, they were handed cardboard boxes by the police which contained rubbish from the shallow grave mixed with the bones of their loved ones. The remains were then exhumed once 2002 for further investigations. Let's hope that this time, they really can rest in peace.

Solo se pudo identificar por descarte cientifico a cinco victimas de La Cantuta (La Republica)

Tras 16 años devolveran cuerpos de victimas de masacre en La Cantuta (El Comercio)

Thursday 10 July 2008

Chile: The Hunt for Heim

Efraim Zuroff, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Israel, has arrived in Chile on his continued search for Aribert Heim, the most-wanted Nazi thought to be still at large. The Israelis believe Heim, now 94, is still alive, likely to be living near his daughter in Chile, and they want to make one last attempt to bring him to justice before it's too late.

Most-wanted Nazi sought in Chile (BBC)

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Peru: Fujimori Trial

In his much-anticipated testimony, Vladimiro Montesinos stated that crimes - such as illegal phone-tapping - can be committed for matters of state.

Vladimiro Montesinos says crimes can be committed for matters of state (Fujimori on Trial)

Nevertheless, his testimony has now been declared invalid by the court, after he first agreed to testify and then later abruptly invoked his right to silence.
it's true that there were disappearances but there were also a lot of heroes in our army...
Meanwhile, former Army Commander General, Pedro Villanueva Valdivia, has admitted that forced disappearances did take place during the conflict with Sendero Luminoso.

Former Army Commander General admits there were disappearances
(Fujimori on Trial)

Wednesday 2 July 2008

News Headlines

The Argentine Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by Germany to extradite former junta leaders Videla and Massera in connection with the death of a German citizen, Elizabeth Kaesemann, during the dictatorship.
La Corte rechazo un pedido de Alemania para extraditar a Videla y Massera

IPS reflects on Montesino's testimonies:
Montesinos Defends Fujimori, Then Clams Up

Finally, NACLA has an article on Obama and his attitude to the School of the Americas.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Peru: Montesinos Testifies

After a few weeks of part-time hearings while Fujimori convalesced from an operation on his tongue, the trial has picked up again with eagerly-anticipated testimony from the ex-'spy chief' Vladimiro Montesinos.

The Peruvian press is united in focusing on the story and on Montesino's defence of his former boss. La Republica, with its typical large image on the front page, goes for side-by-side portraits of the two and the headline "They're still accomplices".

El Comercio also keeps its customary style of numerous stories on the front page but its images, while small, are similar to that of La Republica:
Peru 21 has been playing around a little and gone for an even more obvious representation of the pair's close relationship:

The headline here is a saying which could be translated in a variety of ways - 'like two peas in a pod', or 'hand in glove' perhaps... but maybe 'thick as thieves' is the most appropriate rendering.

In the English language press, you can read the BBC's report on the proceedings:

Spy chief defends Peru's Fujimori (BBC)

The Peruvian Times notes that:
Fujimori, 69, could hardly contain a grin as his former spy chief described him as a "courageous" hero who defeated a bloody leftist insurgency and lifted Peru from its knees.
He then argued with the prosecutor and refused to answer questions.

Fujimori's former spy chief testifies he is innocent of sanctioning death squad (Peruvian Times)

Finally, don't forget the excellent bilingual blog, Fujimori on Trial.