Monday 29 June 2009

Argentina: Army Torture Ruling

About 70 Argentine army officers can be charged with torture of their own soldiers during the 1982 Falklands War, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Over 80 cases are under investigation, including allegations of murder and causing death by starvation.

Argentine Army in Torture Ruling (BBC)

Friday 26 June 2009

Argentina: Disappeared Still on Electoral Roll

With two days to go before parliamentary elections in Argentina, two human rights groups have complained that there are still disappeared persons who appear in the electoral roll. As voting is compulsory in Argentina, these people have then officially committed an 'electoral infringement' by not showing up to vote for the state that disappeared them.

This is purely symbolic, as the groups - the Madres de Plaza de Mayo Linea Fundadora and Servicio Paz y Justicia - themselves freely admit. Nevertheless, this is another of those hurtful little anomalies which should be removed, related to the difficulties with legal status in Chile which I wrote about it recently.

The article I was working from suddenly vanished while I was about to link to it (honestly!) so let's go with this link for now:
Organismos de derechos humanos advierten que en los padrones figuran desaparecidos (Analisis digital)

Paraguay: Dictatorship Official Jailed

After his recent return to Paraguay, Sabino Montanaro is now facing charges of torture and other crimes against humanity. This week, the 86-year old was transferred to prison.
Montanaro’s attorneys are challenging the arrest based on the fact that Paraguay allows defendants over 70 years-old to be in home detention during criminal prosecution. Defense counsel also question whether Montanaro can be prosecuted due his frail physical and mental condition.

Montanaro was transferred from the police hospital amid a strong show of security measures in the face of heated demonstrations by the relatives of those who went missing during the dictatorship.

"This is an historic moment. He is the last link in our fight against impunity", said Guillermina Kanonikoff, the widow of Mario Schaerer Prono. Schaerer Prono was a member of a clandestine student organization that opposed Stroessner. He was captured, tortured and killed. Kanonikoff added that the former minister was part of a regime that decided "who lived, who died and who disappeared."

After 12 Years on the Run, Former Minister in Prison for Crimes against Humanity (Impunity Watch)

Thursday 25 June 2009

News (Chile and Peru)


No Obama Apology for CIA in Latin America (AFP) - also blog comment on this here, here, and here


Images of 'Amazon's Tiananmen' (The Independent) - these are much more graphic than most photographs you see in the British press and a predictable debate is going on the comments

Peru: Radio Closure Could Undermine Press Freedom (Human Rights Watch)

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Uruguay: Compensation for Political Prisoners

Uruguay has paid $42 million (973 million pesos) in compensation during the past three years to more than 3,000 former political prisoners and those who fled the country or hid from authorities, the state-run news agency said Monday.
Uruguay Compensates Ex-Political Prisoners (CNN)

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Peru to Create Military Ombudsman

Peru is to create a military ombudsman (defensoria del personal militar) to uphold the rights of members of the armed forces, the Ministry of Defence has announced. The ombudsman's office will be able to provide legal advice, information, supervision of basic services to soldiers, and so on.

I have nothing against this in principle - in fact, quite the contrary. As we saw from the Shining Path ambush a few months back when underage soldiers were killed, there is good reason to be concerned about the rights of soldiers. Although human rights are universal, the armed forces have specific issues which makes them worthy of particular consideration. Giving soldiers the tools to understand their own rights may also help them to uphold the rights of others. Peru is also in good company with nations such as Canada, Ireland, Germany, and the Netherlands also having ombudsmen. I just hope that this is not used as another stick with which to beat the human rights organisations who are sometimes presented, quite erroneously, as 'persecuting' the armed forces. Basically, I'm suspicious of anything Defense Minister Flores-Aráoz does.

Ministerio de Defensa crea la Defensoria del Personal Militar
(El Comercio)

See also:
Por una defensoria del militar YA! (Ideele)

Colombia: Health Effects of War

This fascinating article relates to Colombia, but I don't see why it isn't relevant to many other countries.

Much has been written about the psychological trauma of living through war, being displaced, torture, having a disappeared relative, etc. But how much do we hear about the physical effects?

A study has shown that survivors in Colombia have higher rates of cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, gastritis and ulcers, and headaches, backaches and neckaches. When you think about it, it's hardly unknown or astonishing that prolonged, severe stress has repercussions on the body, but this source of further suffering is rarely given much consideration.

Apparently, 25% of the population shows symptoms of mental disorders such as severe depression and posttraumatic stress, but among displaced people (of whom Colombia has the highest number in the world) this rises to 75%. Moreover, significant incidences of alcoholism, drug abuse and suicides are also noted.

Anecdotally, victims' groups report high rates of cancer among their members.

This kind of research is important because it indicates a further aspect in which victims of conflict may require resources and support.

El conflicto armado aumenta el riesgo de cancer, asma, hipertension y diabetes entre las victimas

Monday 22 June 2009

Guatemala: Image of Victims

The blog PeruFotoLibre draw my attention to the Flacso web project Tramas, dealing with visual culture in Latin America.

I noticed the image selected by Chilean psychologist Elizabeth Lira of victims of the civil war in Guatemala. Lira points out that such images can be found 'from Mexico to the South' and that reflecting on them may be one way of initiating and sustaining a respect for human rights. See a larger version and read more about it here.

Peru: Pucará Trial Begins

28 members of the military, including 4 former generals, are on trial for the massacre at Pucará in 1989. The prosecutor is asking for 20 years in prison for all the accused.

On 4 November 1989, 8 civilians in Pucará, Junin, were shot at close range by a group of around 30 soldier who accused them of belonging to the Shining Path.

Empieza juicio por crimenes de Pucará
(La Republica)


Several of you are now following me on Twitter. I'm sad to say I haven't got to the bottom of Twitter yet, asiding from joining it (I don't even know how you found me), so don't hold your breath waiting for updates. It's on the list of "things I need to learn to understand"....

Technically Challenged

Sunday 21 June 2009

Blogging/News Round-Up

I've been away for the weekend; here's some of the things that have been going on in the past couple of days.

Pardons for Argentine junta unconstitutional (To the Roots)

No Impunity for "Dirty War" Crimes
(Impunity Watch)

Argentine Court Srikes Down Pardons for Junta Leaders
(Latin American Herald Tribune)

Brazil Gives Amnesty for Dictatorship-era Uprising (Reuters)

Hortensia Bussi, Wife of Salvador Allende of Chile, Dies at 94 (New York Times)

Thursday 18 June 2009

Peru/UK: Monterrico Metals Assets Frozen

Remember the torture that took place at Majaz in Peru? And the lamentable failure of the Peruvian justice system to bring those reponsible to book?

The story rumbles on.

On June 2nd, London law firm Leigh Day served an injunction against Monterrico Metals to freeze their assets pending a further hearing on 16 June (Tuesday). Here is the information provided by the lawyers:

1. Proceedings have been commenced in the English High Court by Leigh Day & Co on behalf of 13 Peruvians seeking compensation from British mining company Monterrico Metals PLC ("Monterrico") and its Peruvian subsidiary Rio Blanco Copper SA.

2. The claimants were tortured by the police following their protest at the Rio Blanco Mine in August 2005, situated in a remote area of Northern Peru, close to the border with Equador. All the claimants, including two women, were detained for three days, during which time they were handcuffed, blind-folded and beaten by the police. The detention and torture occurred at the Rio Blanco Mine site and also allegedly involved guards of the mine security company, Forza. As a result, the claimants suffered long term physical and psychological injuries and financial losses.

3. The Claimants allege that the Defendants must have known of the conditions in which they were being detained, but failed to take steps to prevent or end their ordeal. In March this year, Peruvian prosecutors accused the police of torture but cleared the mining company and Forza of wrongdoing. Peruvian human rights groups denounced the findings as incomplete.

4. Monterrico's principal asset is the Rio Blanco Mine and Monterrico had a close involvement in the operations at the Mine. In terms of ownership: Monterrico owns all the shares in Copper Corp Limited (Cayman Islands); Copper Corp Limited owns all the shares in Rio Blanco Copper Limited (Cayman Islands); Rio Blanco Copper Limited owns 99.98% shares in Rio Blanco Copper SA (Peru). Rio Blanco Copper SA owns the Mine.

5. On 3 June 2009, Monterrico de-listed from the AIM UK stock exchange. Because it had also relocated its corporate headquarters to Hong Kong, we were concerned that Monterrico might be planning to dispose of its assets and transfer them to Hong Kong. If that happened, then the claimants might find that their UK legal action was futile. (NB it is not alleged that the purpose of any such intention to dispose of assets was related to these claims).

6. On 2 June 2009, a freezing injunction was granted by Mr Justice Burton of the High Court. This prohibited Monterrico from disposing of assets to an extent that would leave Monterrico with less than �7.2 million.

7. The injunction application was made in the absence of Monterrico. However Monterrico and its directors have been served with the court order. A further hearing has been fixed on 16 June, when Monterrico will have an opportunity to contest the freezing injunction.

Contact: Richard Meeran, Partner, Leigh Day & Co, 020 7650 1365, 0750 7798 358

That decision was upheld during the second hearing, leaving open the possibility that the torture victims, and the family of the man who died, may be able to receive compensation through the British courts.

Juez britanico ordena congelamiento por $12 millones contra Monterrico Metals

British Mining Company Faces Injunction over Torture Allegations in Peru (Reuters AlertNet)

Cortes britanicos ordenan congelamiento de cuenta contra Monterrico Metals (La Republica)

British Court Orders Majaz Mining Company's Assets to Be Frozen for Tortures in Peru (Living in Peru)

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Meeting on Peruvian Violence in London

From a Peru Support Group mail:

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Peru, the Peru Support Group & CAFOD are jointly organising a public meeting on:

‘The Recent Violence in the Peruvian Amazon’

Venue: Committee Room 9, Palace of Westminster

Please allow about 20 minutes to pass through security checks. Members of the public enter via the Visitors’ Entrance, next to St Stephens Entrance, the Palace of Westminster.

Date: Monday 22nd June 2009

Time: 7.30pm

Please e-mail the Peru Support Group to confirm your attendance (

Speakers will include the only international witnesses to the events, together with other participants who will provide a political and legal analysis of the situation.

At the beginning of June, Peru witnessed probably the worse loss of life since the end of the country’s internal armed conflict in 2000, following protests by indigenous groups against a series of legislative decrees, collectively known as the 'Law of the Jungle' (Ley de la Selva). It has been reported that some 50 people (and the estimates continue to rise), both indigenous protestors and members of security forces, have died.

Indigenous groups, principally in the Amazon region of the country, have been protesting since April 9th against a legislative package which was approved last year by President Alan García to make Peruvian law conform to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.

The current reaction of President Alan García’s government reflects its ongoing determination to regenerate the Peruvian economy by promoting private, particularly foreign investment, with an emphasis on extractives industries.

Monday 15 June 2009

Uruguay: Heading for Plebiscite

You might remember that Uruguay has been collecting signatures on a petition regarding its amnesty law (known as the Ley de Caducidad) for some time now. Those who wish to annul the law have now, according to the Electoral Court, officially succeeded in collecting over 250,000 signatures, representing 10% of the electorate. That's the magic number which means that the result will now be put forward to the vote: Uruguayans will be able to decide on the annulment in October. The annulment campaign needs 51% of the votes to win.

Corte Electoral corroboro firmas y habra plebiscito por Ley de Caducidad (El Pais, Uruguay)

Sunday 14 June 2009

Peru News

To follow on from yesterday's post:

La Republica is reporting that the indigenous people killed in Bagua were 'leaders of their communities' - hardly surprising really, as they will have been leading the protests.

Indigenas muertos en Bagua eran lideres de sus comunidades
(La Republica)

The government denies that there is any more news on missing persons in the area and blames 'sensationalist' media for spreading misinformation.

Gobierno indica que no hay informacion sobre mas victimas civiles (La Republica)

Saturday 13 June 2009

'We are fighting for our lives and our dignity'

"For thousands of years, we've run the Amazon forests," said Servando Puerta, one of the protest leaders. "This is genocide. They're killing us for defending our lives, our sovereignty, human dignity."
John Vidal has an article on indigenous struggles in today's Guardian, using the recent violence in Peru as a starting-off point. I wouldn't say this piece is perfect (I'm a bit icky about the 'savage' connotations in the first paragraph for a start, although the point about the imbalance of power is correct), but I'll tell you why I do like it: it's calling attention to the issue in mainstream, English-language press; it draws parallels between conflicts between companies exploiting natural resources and indigenous residents in many different parts of the world; and it cites a variety of those indigenous activists themselves.

'We are fighting for our lives and our dignity'

Peru News

Here's a round-up of the Spanish-language news from Peru.

Human rights organisation APRODEH is claiming that there is at least 61 disappearances arising from the events of the past week at Bagua. According to lawyer Juan José Quispe, these people are not included in the official list of the dead or wounded. I'm sure publicising this is going to make APRODEH even more popular with the authorities - let's hope all their paperwork is in order.

Al menos 61 personas estan desaparecidos, informa APRODEH
(La Republica)

The government has closed down a radio station, La Voz de la Selva, which was reporting on events at Bagua in a manner critical of the state. Both its director and Peru's journalists' association, have condemned the action as politically-motivated - which let's face it, it blatantly is, no matter what the official excuse is.

Gobierno cancela licencia a Radio La Voz de Bagua (La Republica)

Indigenous members of parliament have been suspended for protesting recent events in the Congress building.

Parliamentarios nacionalistas sancionados no ofreceran disculpas (La Republica)

Alan Garcia has claimed that the police officers involved in the violence in Bagua were victims of "genocide" (a genocide of the police - what on earth does that even mean?!) committed by those who want to hand over Peru to foreign governments. These are the words of a politician who sees a crisis as a good opportunity to seize more power.

Alan Garcia afirma que existio un "genocidio de policias" en Bagua (El Comercio)

*Update* - Also, I'd like to draw attention to this slide show from Caretas showing images of the dead police offers (warning: very strong content, particularly for those of us not used to media showing close-up images of dead bodies - despite the strange use of black boxes to censor some areas which have appearently been deemed unsuitable).

Finally, and on a slightly different topic, 8 Shining Path camps have apparently been destroyed by the armed forces.

Ocho campamentos de Sendero Luminoso fueron destruidos por fuerzas combinadas en el VRAE (El Comercio)

Friday 12 June 2009

Argentina News Round-Up

The testimony presented to the federal judge included accounts of a soldier who was shot to death by a corporal, four soldiers who starved to death, and fifteen alleged cases of torture in which conscripts were staked to the ground as punishment, according to Argentinean media reports.

Officers To Be Tried For Crimes Against Humanity During Falklands War (Impunity Watch)

Editor's Story of the Argentine Dirty War (The Latin Americanist)

Huellas policiales del terrorismo de estado

Thursday 11 June 2009

Chile: No New Legal Status for Disappeared

The Chilean Senate has not approved a report by the Mixed Commission for Human Rights which would have created a new legal definition of 'absence by forced disappearance'. Although a majority voted for the proposal, the 21 votes was one short of the number required. As usual, the right voted against and thus the initiative failed.

I'm not an expert on Chilean politics, but I can comment a little generally on these issues. Disappearance is a murky legal area: what happens when your relative - very possibly the head of your household - is no longer there but you are not in possession of a death certificate or a body or indeed, any other kind of proof of death? What happens to their estate? What happens to your legal position? Can you receive their pension? Sell your house? Remarry?

After enough time has passed so that many people might consider all hope to have been lost, one option is obviously to have your relative declared dead. Aside from the difficulty of this procedure (I repeat, you've got no body and no other paperwork at all), would you want to do this? What does it mean to say, "Yes, he (or she) is dead"? It's not a simple question. Argentine mental health director Dr Vicente Angel Galli is quoted in Arditti's Searching for Life:
To presume the death of people you have not seen dead, without knowing the condition of their death, implies that one has to kill them oneself. I believe that this is one of the more subtle and complex mechanisms of torture for the relatives and for all the members of the community... To accept their deaths we have to kill them ourselves. [p.15]

Moreover, some Argentine activists regard the acceptance of death as a defeat in their struggle for justice. You won't hear them referring to the disappeared as dead, even though they're not stupid and are not expecting their loved ones to walk in the door after thirty years. Hebe de Bonafini, leader of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, said,
We're going to continue in the same way because we still haven't got justice. They've tried to convert us into the mothers of dead children and put an end to the problem of the desaparecidos. We will never accept that they are dead until those reponsible are punished. If we accepted that, we would be accepting that murderers and torturers can live freely in Argentina. They can't negotiate with the blood of our children.
(cited in Jo Fisher, Mothers of the Disappeared, p.158)

Now, not all relatives are as strident in their demands as Bonafini, as is well known. But I think it's clear that forced disappearance is a legal minefield which leaves much space for flexibility on the part of the state, which, after all, caused the disappearances in the first place, and now, in a cruel twist, presents bureaucratic obstacles to resolving the legal situation of the victims. Refusing to take account of the special cases of desaparecidos' relatives can only continue the legacy of impunity and injustice - what a shame that Chile was not able to show some resolve on this.

El Senado, de espalda a los familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos
(El Blog de la Republica)

Sin solucion patrimonial quedaron los familiares de detenidos desaparecidos (Republica de Chile, Senado)

Colombia News Round-Up

First off, I've updated the post below to include an English transcript of the disgustingly racist and dishonest propaganda put out by the Peruvian government.

Then, it's off to Colombia for a lovely juxtaposition of articles:

Colombia's False Positives

Colombia Anti-Labor Violence Up Says ITUC
(The Latin Americanist)

Colombia 'Working Everyday to Overcome Impunity': Uribe
(Colombia Reports)

See also the official Colombian government news portal for the original of this story - sorry, but I just find the writing style of the Colombian journalists hilarious, in particular referring to Uribe as "the Leader". Marvel at his explication [sic] of how nice the Colombian government is to workers.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Peru: Indigenous Are 'Holding Back' Peru

*Updated to include English transcript of the government-sponsored campaign*

If this isn't the most disgusting thing you've seen all day, you're having a worse day than I am. Listen to the Peruvian government declare that 'natives' are savagely murdering police officers in a selfish attempt to prevent 'Peruvians' (exactly what nationality are the indigenous supposed to be??) from progressing as a nation. This is a precise example of what I was on about yesterday, only I didn't expect to hear it in quite such strong terms from the state. Now I know better.

(h/t IKN)

[Opening screen text]: "And this is how the government makes peace with indigenous people?"
[Opening text of spot itself]: This is how extremism against Peru works.
[Clip of Alberto Pizango]: " declare our peoples in a state of insurgency - of insurgency-"
[Voiceover]: 22 humble police officers, murdered ferociously and savagely. This wasn't in battle. It was assassination. They had their throats cut in a cowardly fashion as they found themselves unarmed and defenseless. This is what they call "dialogue with extremists". The law guarantees the ownership of 12 million hectares for 400,000 natives and, moreover, it guarantees 15 million hectares as nature reserves. But the extremists, on international orders, want to hold Peru back. They want to stop Peruvians benefiting from the gas and oil underneath their ground. Let's unite against this crime. So that the fatherland doesn't lose what is has gained!
[Screen shows logo of the Ministry of the Interior]

News Round-Up

There's a lot to take note of today, some of it ' memory' related, and some of it absolutely up to date but sharing issues from the past.

Represores sin honores (Pagina/12)

UN to focus on impunity of extrajudicial executions (Colombia Reports)

Government Appointed Dirty Colonel to Clean Up Military Court:Petro
(Colombia Reports)

Almost 27,000 Violent Deaths in Colombia in 2008 (Colombia Reports)

A Candle in the Darkness of Impunity (IPS)

Today in the Americas, Guatemala's Security State (To the Roots)

Massacre in Peru: Photo Essay and Dispatch on the Bloody Conflict (Upside Down World)

Peru Government Minister Resigns in Protest (IKN)

Eyewitness Reports Accuse Peruvian Police of Disposing the Bodies of Dead Indigenous Protesters

Monday 8 June 2009

A Note on the Current Violence in Peru

I'm deliberately not commenting because I don't feel like I am well-informed enough to have anything to add. Like everyone else, I'm following Inca Kola News on this one.

Just a few points to pull out now:

Fernando Rospigliosi:
The carnage of the last few days has no comparison and will, without doubt, mark the second government of Alan García the way that the prison massacres were a reference point of his first government (...).
Yes, yes, yes.
(from Huanca York Times via IKN)

The tactics being used right now are similar to classic police-state governments: disinform, misinform, deflect, blame a bugbear or two and then rouse the rabble with fiery, polemic rhetoric. García's speech yesterday will be defined as "defiant" by supporters, but it was laden with things such as "600,000 natives have to answer to 28 million Peruvians". In García's world, natives aren't Peruvians.

This has been an issue in Peru for many years, particularly embodied in Mario Vargas Llosa's use of the term 'Peru profundo' ('deep Peru'). The phrase originates from Peruvian historian Jorge Basadre - but his distinction was between the legal state and the state as composed of its people. But for Vargas Llosa, the division is between 'modern' Peru and 'archaic', backward Peru - the indigenous.* Logically from this position, the part of the nation that has been 'left behind' needs to be persuaded, educated, or forced to join the rest. Such a view can only lead to continued racism and contributed to the horrendous price paid by the indigenous population during the 1980s and 1990s. Apparently it's not a view that Garcia has left behind.

* See for example Making Indigenous Citizens or Rereading Cultural Anthropology.

Argentina/U.S: Eric Massa

US congressman Eric Massa is leading an effort to introduce legislation that will punish "wealthy and middle-income nations", in this case Argentina, who "refuse to honour obligations to U.S. creditors".

That wouldn't have drawn my attention in particular, except for a long article in today's Pagina/12 which picks apart Massa's relationship to Argentina, where his father was a naval attaché. As part of his own naval career, Massa junior was also posted to Argentina in 1981 where he undertook an instruction voyage in the Libertad.

At this time, of course, Argentina was being ruled by a military junta. Captain of the Libertad was Carlos Vahiginger [sp?], an associate of head of the Navy, Emilio Massera. Second in Command was Oscar Calandra who later, under Alfonsín's government, called for a military amnesty. In 2005, he wrote that there was "an insidious campaign to discredit the Armed Forces headed by ideological sectors left over from the former terrorist organisations". Military chaplain Luis Manceñido was also aboard the Libertad; according to later witness accounts, he comforted torturers at the ESMA with parables about separating the wheat from the chaff.

Interesting contacts, huh? No, I'm not suggesting that there is a secret conspiracy of old Argentine military perpetrators in the U.S. Massa was a very young sailor at the time. I do think that it's interesting to note the networks reaching from the time of the dictatorship, when most of Argentina's foreign debt was created, to today. And I'm quite certain that despite Massa presenting himself as a "friend of Argentina", Argentina's ambassador to the United States has different ideas of friendship.

¡Qué Massita!

Sunday 7 June 2009

Colombia: Contravia

Website Columbia* Journalism Review has a piece on Colombian* television programe Contravia, in which brothers Hollman and Juan Pablo Morris report on human rights issues in Colombia.

This video above, from the article, touches on issues of exhumations, parapolitics, dangers to journalists exposing dealing with paramilitary issues, the importance of memory and more. It's in English and Spanish with English subtitle. See also Contravia's Spanish language website.

*Yep, both of these are spelled correctly.

Friday 5 June 2009

Chile: Jara Exhumed

A judge ordered the exhumation of iconic Chilean singer Victor Jara as part of investigations into his murder, for which a soldier was charged last week.

Chilean Singer Jara Is Exhumed (BBC)

Chile Exhumes Singer Victor Jara, Slain Under Pinochet (Latin American Herald Tribune)

Thursday 4 June 2009

Argentina: 22 Years of Pagina/12

Pagina/12 has produced a commemorative supplement for its 22nd anniversary. It's called '22 years opposed to impunity" (Spanish, pdf) which speaks to the importance of human rights and democratisation in the newspaper's standpoint, and it focuses on the tortuous story of justice - or lack thereof - since the end of the dictatorship. It's basically a compilation of previous key pieces by authors including Horacio Verbitsky, the late great Mario Benedetti, Eduardo Galeano and Ariel Dorfman. If you have some reading time, check it out.

Argentina & Guatemala: Identifying the Dead

Two complementing pieces on identifying victims decades after their disappearance.

(Thanks to The Latin Americanist for drawing my attention to this video.)

Argentine Team Identifies 42 Bodies of People that Disappeared During the Military Junta (Americas Quarterly)

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Argentina: Icon of Repression

Thanks are due to the Collective Memory Project for sparking my thoughts on the Ford Falcon, primarily green, and its role in repression in Argentina. Check out Lucas' post for testimony regarding this particular car, so beloved of the state-sponsored death squads.
“Whenever a Falcon drove by or slowed down, we all knew that there would be kidnappings, disappearances, torture or murder,” reflects renowned Argentine psychologist and playwright Eduardo “Tato” Pavlovsky in a recent article. “It was the symbolic expression of terror. A death-mobile.”
[Robert, p. 12]

See for example,
Argentina: Coming to Terms with the Past (BBC)

Argentine death squad cars try for new image (Reuters)

The memory of the Falcon is a cultural icon in Argentina - see this work by sculpture Daniel Acosta;

But this goes further than the Falcon. Ford's involvement with the military regime ran deeper than just selling them cars.
[Former Ford employees] say local managers conspired with the security forces to have union members taken to a detention centre on the premises, where they were tortured.
Ford has in the past denied torture took place on its property.
Ford Sued over Argentine Abuses (BBC)

Pedro Troiani says his supervisor had advance notice of his abduction on April 13, 1976. Far from warning him when he arrived at work that morning, the supervisor ordered Troiani not to move from his place on the line: “You can’t move because they’re watching you.” When a truckload of soldiers descended on the plant, the factory foreman, Miguel Migliacchio, identified Troiani to them. The plant manager came out of his office to watch as they pulled Troiani off the line and paraded him around the factory, hands behind his head.
Troiani, Carlos Alberto Propato and five others rounded up that day were taken to the same makeshift detention center within the plant’s athletic facilities, where they were kept for seven hours.
[Robert, p. 15]
Karen Robert (2005) The Falcon Remembered, NACLA, pp. 12-15

Monday 1 June 2009

Colombia: Photos of Victims' Belongings

This is a humble pair of socks. It belongs to a victim of Colombia's civil war.

Colombia's prosecutor is publishing photographs of clothes and belongings dug up during exhumations in an effort to identfy victims. The resulting images can be viewed on this site.* As the website itself warns, some of the images may be distressing. They are the remnants of people's lives snatched away from them.

This use of clothing is not unprecedented; the authorities in Peru held an exhibition of the belongings they found during the exhumations at Putis to try to name the bodies found. But I hadn't heard of this combination of the resources of photography and the internet before. It's a very interesting public documentation of the evidence and certainly a good way of standardising the process. Of course, many of the victims' families will not have easy internet access so a website can hardly be relied on to get full coverage, but this is a useful resource.

Sistema de Identificacion (Unidad Nacional de Fiscalias para la Justicia y la Paz)

*which, at least on my computer, does not work properly using Mozilla - try Internet Explorer instead

Thanks to Colombia Reports for drawing my attention to the site

Peru: 'José' Admits Ambush

'Camarada José', the current leader of the Shining Path remnants - or at least one of them - has related in a television interview how he directed attacks against soldiers in the VRAE. In addition, he admitted that he charges drug traffickers a "war tax" and claimed that he has around 300 combat-ready guerrillas at his disposal (naturally, this figure may be exaggerated).

Cabecilla de Sendero Luminoso admite que cobra cupos a narcos
(La Republica; this story is illustrated by a very old stock photo, don't take it as representative of anything that may or may not be happening in the VRAE right now)

Camarada ‘José’ admitió atentados en el VRAE
(El Comercio)

News Round-Up

I was rather unexpectedly out of internet range for the last few days, so here is a round-up of some of the things that landed in my reader during that time: as usual, nothing cheerful from Colombia, I'm afraid.

Victims of Terrorism Speak Out
(Colombia Reports)

5,849 People Reported Missing in Bogota (Colombia Reports)

Prosecutor General's Office Exhumes More Than 2,000 Bodies (Colombia Reports)

Yungay 1970-2009: Remembering the Tragedy of The Earthquake (Peruvian Times)

Mexico: Indigenous Rape Victims Fight Military Impunity

Interview: Fujimori's Government and Venezuela's Support (Fujimori on Trial)