Monday 31 August 2009

Peru: Two Soldiers Injured by Sendero

Two members of the military have been shot in an altercation with Shining Path in the VRAE, Junin province. The men have been named as Rusbel Andrade Mozombite and Juan Daniel Tapullima Salas.

Dos militares heridos en presunto ataque de Sendero Luminoso (La Republica)
Dos soldados heridos deja ataque narcoterrorista en el VRAE (El Comercio)

Argentina: Major Trials Open in Santa Fe & Rosario

Three major cases of crimes against humanity are starting trial in Argentina this week.

In Rosario, the cases refer to the detention centres "Quinta de Funes" and "Fábrica de armas"*. For the purposes of the trial, 22 victims are identified from the former and seven from the latter. Proceedings started today. Three army officials and two civil intelligence officers are in the dock, among them retired colonel Pascual Guerriri - already serving a stretch of house imprisonment for other crimes - and Eduardo Constanzo, who in recent years has given information about dictatorship-era activities.

Tomorrow, the trial opens in Santa Fe in the "Brusa" case - so called because of the involvement of former Santa Fe governor Victor Brusa.

Sentences are due by the end of the year.

Llego la luz a la noche mas oscura (Critica Digital)
Comenzo el primer juicio a represores en Rosario (Pagina/12)
Proceso a la patota de Galtieri (Pagina/12)

*Also known as "Fábrica militar de armas" and "Fábrica militar de armas portátiles Domingo Matheu".

Sunday 30 August 2009

International Day of the Disappeared

Casting our net a little wider than Latin America today on the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared:

Speak up for the 'disappeared' (Guardian)

Vanished by the state (Amnesty UK, Protect the Human blog)

Disappeared journalists: Mexico and Sri Lanka: the countries worst-hit by disappearances since 2000 (RSF)

Somalia: Miana's story: freed after 11 years captivity (Red Cross blog)


Colombia: Families of 'False Positives' Remember

Colombian magazine Semana has a striking photo gallery of demonstrations by the families of 'false positive' victims - innocent civilians killed by the military and dressed up to look like guerrillas. Some of the aspects of this commemorative act are very familiar to those who follow news of the disppeared, such as the placards with images of the victims, while others are rather more unusual.

Memoria de la ausencia (Semana)

Quick Link: Daniel Hernández-Salazar

An excellent post from (Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography on the work of Daniel Hernández-Salazar and the use of his image Para que Todos lo sepan.

The Uses of Photography - Daniel Hernández-Salazar

News Round-Up 30/08/2009

The Unfinished Story of the "Disappeared" (IPS)

Justice for Indigenous Leader's Murder - 21 Years On (IPS)

Guatemala/Spain/Latin America
Spain Steps Down: Universal Jurisdiction and the Guatemalan Genocide Cases (Dirty Wars and Democracy)

Peru: Burial in Putis

The funerals in Putis have reached international attention.

No member of the Peruvian military has been prosecuted for the massacre.

Peru's Defence Minister, Rafael Rey, has said there's no way of getting the records.

But Peru's human rights ombudswoman, Beatriz Merino, has called this unacceptable and says the state has an obligation to see justice is done.

Peruvians bury mass grave victims (BBC)

"I lost nearly 15 relatives in the massacre," Putis Mayor Gerardo Fernandez told The Associated Press during an interview Thursday. "We have two feelings. On the one hand, we are in pain for the dead. But on the other, we're happy that we can finally bury them."

Families bury dead from military massacre in Peru (AP)

Saturday 29 August 2009

Peru News

Commemoration of 6 Years since the CVR Final Report

CVR en Ayacucho (PeruFotoLibre)

I don't know why I give him the attention, but Defense Minister Flores-Araoz is at it again, using the opportunity to lament the lack of progress made towards the CVR recommendations. And can you get what he claims is the cause of the problem? Yes, it's people being unfair to the poor armed forces again. If they would only recognise that these Peruvian heroes were saving the country from terrorism and deserve public adulation, reconciliation would follow immediately. Hm.
Flores-Araoz senala que informe de la CVR no la logrado la reconciliacion (El Comercio)


Huanta recibe 92 feretros de la matanza de Putis (El Comercio)

Commemorating the Disappeared

Recalaman restos de mas de 15 mil desaparecidos (La Republica)

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Argentina: Palacios Withdraws

I wrote last month of the controversy surrounding Jorge “Fino” Palacios taking up the role of chief of the Buenos Aires police. He is suspected of involvement in the AMIA case. Amid a constant stream of critical news reports and pressure from human rights groups, he has finally given in and stepped aside.

Well, as Argentina is kicking up a fuss about Iran's potential new defence minister, it's only fair that they don't appoint terror suspects to their own posts!

Triumphal offering from leftie paper Pagina/12: Ahora va a estar bueno Buenos Aires (Pagina/12)

Monday 24 August 2009

Argentina: Estela Carlotto on DNA testing

Estela Carlotto, President of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, has an opinion piece in today's Pagina/12 which I translate here, with apologies for any stylistic infelicities - I'm very tired:

In a recent case, the Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación) confirmed the validity of a raid made on the dwelling of a person presumed to be the child of disappeared people with the aim of recovering some personal objects and from them obtaining DNA to analyse in the National Genetic Database (Banco Nacional de Datos Genéticos) where samples of genetic material are stored from the family members of the disappeared who are searching for children born in captivity or abducted with their parents and never returned to their families.

In this form, the highest court in the land recognised the right of the Grandmothers to know where their children are and that, once found, justice is done for these abhorrent crimes, even against the will of those who were appropriated. And this is where the decision of the judges is particularly wise.

It is the State, in the form of the judiciary, which must assume responsibility for resolving the serious conflicts which arise as the consequence of the aberrant criminal plan of the dictatorship. To transfer this decision to the victims, far from avoiding their "revictimisation", actually provokes it, because if there is one argument which the young people who refuse a DNA test mention again and again, it is the fact that they do not want to be "guilty" of sending the people who raised them to jail. In the same way, giving them a sort of power of veto over the use of the DNA analysis as incriminatory evidence against their appropriators, as the judges Zaffaroni and Lorenzetti suggested in their opposing vote, would make them [the victims] "guilty" of the impunity [of the appropriators].

It is worth emphasising that until now, nine young people have recovered their identity by the method whose validity has been recognised by the Supreme Court. While these have by no means been processes without difficulties and contradictions, none of the young people has challenged the results once they were known. That is to say, they completely changed their position once they knew the truth. And it is a fact, as the judges of the Court must know and as the Grandmothers have learnt in more than three decades of indefatigable searching, that the truth will set you free.

La fuerza de la verdad (Pagina/12)

Peru: 6 Years of CVR

Events will be taking place this week to mark the sixth anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Comission Final Report and to point out that much remains to be done to implement its recommendations.

Chile/UK: Pinochet's Lost Millions

A good, if not particularly surprising, article in the Independent today about the UK connection to Pinochet's finances.

Two-and-a-half years after the death of General Augusto Pinochet, a report by the Chilean police task force charged with investigating money-laundering has claimed that British authorities and the financial sector were complicit in hiding his massive ill-gotten fortune.
Professor David Sugarman, the director of the Centre for Law and Society at Lancaster University and author of a forthcoming book on Pinochet's arrest and imprisonment, said yesterday: "It looks like some of the banks holding Pinochet's funds did not comply with the letter and spirit of their duties of disclosure, due diligence and the legal requirement to report suspicious circumstances."
Simple ruses were used to hide the fact that the banks were dealing with the Pinochet family fortune. Accounts were opened which were designated by any combination of his Christian names or initials – Augusto Jose Ramon – and the surnames of his father, Pinochet, or his mother, Ugarte, and those of his wife, Lucia Hiriart Rodriguez. Some bankers preferred to call him Joe (from Jose), or APU (Augusto Pinochet Ugarte). The practice made the tracing of information about him as difficult as, say, looking for Griff Rhys Jones under "Jones" or Iain Duncan Smith under "Smith". Various accounts were labelled merely "L Hiriart and/or AP Ugarte".

Pinochet's lost millions: the UK connection (The Independent)

Sunday 23 August 2009

Argentina News

1) Pagina/12 publishes a list of those wanted in connection with dictatorship-related crimes; 39 in total. Here it is in full:

Capital Federal (14)

Causas ESMA-Walsh: Díaz Smith, Jorge Manuel (Prefectura), Di Paola, Francisco Armando (Armada) González, Roberto Oscar (Policía Federal), Linares, Juan Carlos (PF), Salvia, Pedro (PF), Sánchez, Gonzalo (Prefectura), Vildoza, Jorge Raúl (Armada).
Causa Primer Cuerpo: Baraldini, Luis Enrique (Ejército),Cendón, Néstor Roberto (SPF), Cruz, Eduardo Angel (PF). Causa sustracción de menores: Grimaldos de Vildoza, Ana María (civil), Vázquez Sarmiento, Juan Carlos (Fuerza Aérea). Causa Batallón de Inteligencia 601: Somoza, Carlos Eduardo (PCI). Causa Masacre de Fátima: Martínez, Luis Alberto (PF).

Buenos Aires (10)

Mar del Plata. Causa Base Naval: Delgado, Fernando Federico (PCI), Ullúa, Eduardo Salvador (PCI).
Bahía Blanca. Causa Cuerpo V: Alvarez, Aldo Mario (Ejército), Madueño, Guillermo Federico (civil). Bahía Blanca. Causa Puerto Belgrano: Molina, Ricardo Joaquín (Armada). La Plata. Causa Unidad 9: García, Jorge Luis (SPB). La Plata. Causa Raffo: Vidal, Jorge Héctor (policía bonaerense). San Martín. Causa Campo de Mayo: Cardarelli, Nedo Otto (Ejército).
San Martín. Sustracción de menores: Duarte, Roberto Cándido (civil). San Nicolás. Causa Lanzillotto: Escande Lobos, Faustino Sergio (SPB).

Santa Fe (5)

Rosario. Causa Feced: Peralta, César Luis (PCI)–Rebechi, Eduardo (PCI). Rosario. Causa Quinta de Funes: Gertrudis, Héctor (Gendarmería), Isach, Carlos (Policía de Santa Fe). Rosario. Causa Galdame: Tuttolomondo, Antonio (Policía de Santa Fe).
Neuquén. Causa Escuelita (2): Di Pasquale, Jorge Héctor (Ejército), Mendoza, Héctor (policía de Neuquén).
San Juan. Causa Erize: Coronel, Juan Carlos (policía de San Juan). Nieto, Horacio Julio (PSJ).

Tucumán (2)

Causa Vargas Aignasse: Villegas, Norberto Ricardo (Ejército). Causa Carlos Rocha: Schwab, Héctor Mario (Ejército).
Chubut. Causa Masacre de Trelew: Bravo, Roberto Guillermo (Armada)
Formosa. Causa Carrillo: Domato, Horacio Rafael (Gendarmería)
La Rioja. Causa Andrés Angel: Britos, Eduardo Abelardo (Gendarmería)
Salta. Causa Masacre de Palomitas: Arrechea Andrade, Antonio (Ejército).

La lista de los que son buscados (Pagina/12)

2) The newspaper also reveals that Alberto Angel Zanchetto, one of the chaplains who served at the ESMA, providing spiritual succour to torturers and murderers, has been acting as a "spiritual advisor" to the young in San Telmo. How charming.

De la EMSA a la parroquia de San Telmo (Pagina/12)

Peru: 15 Years with Sendero

La Republica's cover story today is the testimony of "Pedrito", who has spent almost his entire life as a slave of the Shining Path.

Pedrito was part of what was known as "la masa", the mass, charged with carrying equipment and provisions from main bases to temporary encampments and with the transportation of drugs.

According to the report, he was just 8 months old when he was abducted with his family by senderista forces in Huancavelica in 1991. Pedrito, his parents and brother were then forced to work for the guerrillas. His mother and brother died, the whereabouts of his father are unknown.

Pedro relates that his 'service' initially consisted of carrying firewood and water, then when he was 10 years old they taught him to fire a weapon, but this was only for training since he never participated in a terrorist attack. When he was 13 years old he learnt to read and write.

And Maoist doctrine? Pedro says that the 15 children, later adolescents, who were brought up with him in the 'support base', received two hours of doctrine by a teacher, but he didn't let them read a book. [...]

"You saw injustice in the food, our lunch was almost always a soup with maize or yuca, despite the fact that we knew there was a lot of money because the drug traffickers paid very well for the transport of drugs", he said. [trans mine]

Eventually, despite knowing virtually no other way of life, the teenage Pedro seized his chance and escaped. He remarks that he has no official documents, which will prove an obstacle to him in any attempt to found a 'normal' life.

"Todo mi vida vivi como un cautivo de Sendero Luminoso" (La Republica)

Chile News

Two new dictatorship-related books: "The Pinochet File" and "Londres 38, London 2000".

On his death bed in a Santiago prison hospital, the 88-year-old German child molester, weapons trafficker, torturer and sect leader Paul Schafer still refuses to say what happened to the only U.S. citizen who disappeared during Chile’s military dictatorship.
A disappeared American (Dirty Wars and Democracy)
The possibility that human rights violators may be included in a general pardon next year is revealing how far Chile is from healing the wounds of its past of torture, executions and disappearances.
A question of justice (Dirty Wars and Democracy)

Death on Film

A new film out in Argentina, Imagen Final, deals with the onscreen death of cameraman Leonardo Henrichsen in Chile in 1973.
Henrichsen died on Jun. 29, 1973, covering the tanquetazo, an uprising by a group of officers of the Second Armoured Tank Regiment in Chile, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Roberto Souper. They rose up against a series of arrests ordered by the military brass following an earlier failed conspiracy against Allende.

The revolt, which turned out to be a rehearsal for the coup led in September 1973 by Pinochet, was put down the same day by armed forces loyal to Allende, commanded by general Carlos Prats. [...]
Despite lasting only a few hours, the tanquetazo not only left a toll of 22 civilians dead but also some 500 bullet holes in the facades of the La Moneda palace and the Defence Ministry building.

But unquestionably the most hard-hitting image associated with the attempted coup was Henrichsen's footage of the corporal who aimed and shot at him in the street a few metres away from La Moneda palace, and immediately afterward of the soldier who fired on him from a truck on the corporal's orders.
The Journalist Who Caught His Own Killer - On Film (IPS)

Unusual though this situation was, Henrichsen is not the only one to have recorded his own death in this way. Willy Retto captured his last moments, if not the actual instance of his death, with a stills camera in Uchuraccay, Peru. More recently, Brad Will filmed his own killing in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Peru: How Guzmán Got Away

Silvio Rendon at Gran Combo Club has a very interesting post on Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán and how he evaded justice through the years. The information in it was largely already familiar to me, but this is a very good, thought-provoking summary. Spanish speakers can follow the link below to read the whole thing.

Basically, Guzmán was briefly arrested in the late 1970s when Shining Path was still in the very early stages of germination (before the burning of the ballot boxes at Chuschi which marked the start of armed struggle). On this occasion there wasn't much on him and he was released; the photographs taken during his detention were for a long time some of the only definitive images of him.

Then in 1982, President Fernando Belaúnde knew that Guzmán had been sighted in the capital city and was, according to sources, in poor health. But, apparently out of a desire to avoid turning the guerrilla leader into a martyr, Belaúnde avoided arresting him and instead tried to reach a deal. He offered Guzmán safe passage out of the country; not surprisingly for those who know anything about senderista ideology, Guzmán declined and stepped out his campaign of violence.

In 1990, too, Fujimori had Guzmán within his grasp, and again, he failed to seize the opportunity. This time his motivation was his own political success: his successful attempt to grab power in 1992 was based on the fact that Peru was under threat by an internal enemy. Destroying the enemy too early would necessarily remove the justification for the far-reaching presidential control.

When the top senderista was finally detained in 1992, it was by a special police squad working outside the official intelligence service run by Vladimiro Montesinos, and acting without informing the president in advance.

Belaúnde's actions can partially be excused by the fact that he could not know how the situation in Peru would develop in the subsequent decade. Fujimori's cannot; tens of thousands were already dead by 1990. It's both sobering and interesting to see how political considerations allowed Guzmán to keep his freedom for ten full years after his first discovery in Lima - and that, for most of that time, it was assumed that he was holed up somewhere in the remote mountains, when a careful consideration of past experience would have suggested otherwise. Guzmán's whereabouts are now certain (San Lorenzo Island naval base prison, near Callao), but combating Shining Path remnants remains a concern for Peru.

Much of the information in this post comes from Peruvian journalist Gustavo Gorriti: his seminal work on SP is available in Spanish and in translation.

Belaunde deja escapar a Guzman

Peru: Putis Witness Testimony

Spanish-language media and blogs have been turning their attention to Putis again in the past week as the devastated community prepares to bury its dead, finally. Now, English speaking readers have access to a heartbreakingly moving account of the horror of the massacre and its aftermath.

Aside from Bertha Fernandez's story, I was also struck by her mention of being reunited with her cousin through the National Victims' Registry - a perfect example of why this is an important service which deserves consistent, adequate funding.
It was 25 years ago but we can never forget what happened there. Sometimes I try to forget it but I can’t. I relive it in my dreams. We can never really live a normal life because the memory is always with us.

Almost all my family were killed. Only we three sisters survived – my younger siblings together with my parents all died. My uncles and aunts and their families were all killed, all of our family. Only we survived and here we still are, just three....
'Almost all my family were killed' (Guardian Weekly)

Friday 21 August 2009

News Round-Up 21/08/2009

Argentina will be perturbed by Iranian President Ahmadinejad's proposal of Ahmad Vahidi as his new Minister of Defense; there is a warrant out from Interpol for his arrest. He's wanted for involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing.
Uno de los acusados por el atentado a la AMIA podria ser ministro de Defensa en Iran (Pagina/12)

Meanwhile, some Argentines are irritated by their own President. Christina Kirchner was triumphant about a deal resolving a funding crisis that had delayed the start of the football season - a calamity in the football-mad nation. Unfortunately, she chose to draw parallels between the missing goals and the disappeared from the last dictatorship. Human rights leaders are dismayed, with Adriana Calvo, president of the Association of the Ex-Detained Disappeared, recalling that the World Cup took place in Argentina in 1978, at the height of the violence.
Todos contra CFK por comparar el secuestro de goles con desaparecidos (Critica Digital)

A new film deals with a priest's struggle for justice in a war-torn area of Colombia (warning: article contains spoilers)
A Priest's Passion for Justice (IPS)

86.3% of residents of Lima believe that Shining Path poses "a threat" to the country, with almost half of those questioned believing that the armed group is still "very dangerous", and another third "dangerous".
Para el 86.3% de limeños, Sendero Luminoso en una amenaza para el pais (Peru21)

Peru: Open Up Your Umbrella!

I've been asked to publicise a flash mob event taking place in Lima next week to raise awareness of the issue of the disappeared in Peru. When we say 'disappeared', we tend to think of Argentina and the rest of the Southern Cone, and of Central America, particularly Guatemala. But Peru also suffered huge numbers of forced disappearances during its period of violence. This event is also of this interest to this blog as a very contemporary form of public commemoration. Even if you're not in Peru, you can participate virtually by sending a photo to a Flickr group.

Click on the images above for more information.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Argentina: Justice Delays

Another disappointing look at progress prosecuting the Argentine perpetrators of human rights abusers.

Trials for human rights crimes committed by the 1976-1983 dictatorship in Argentina, reopened four years ago after amnesty laws were struck down, are moving at such a slow pace that so far only 50 people have been convicted. At this rate it is estimated proceedings will continue for another 15 years.

"The problem is that the sheer scale of what happened is diluted that way," prosecutor Eduardo Auat, head of the unit for coordination and monitoring of cases of human rights violations under state terrorism, which is in charge of facilitating and expediting the trials being held all over the country, told IPS.

Auat advocates the grouping of cases by clandestine detention centre, or by some other criterion, to avoid each suspect being tried one case at a time, creating an endless parade of defendants and witnesses in a piecemeal trickle of trials that "conspires against a view of the big picture," he said.

"We have asked the judges to combine connected cases, which is a useful instrument permitted in the Criminal Code, but not all of them have agreed," he said.

Delayed Justice for Dictatorship Crimes (IPS)

Peru News

On 29 August, 92 bodies of those who died at Putis will be buried. Only 28 of them have been definitively identified. This is an important symbolic step, but there is a long way to go in achieving reparations for the families of Putis and elsewhere.
An excellent post on the subject, in Spanish, here and further articles here.

Meanwhile, there is an exhibition from Arte por la Memoria in Ayacucho. Information and lots of photos here.

Monday 17 August 2009

News Round-Up 17/08/2009

Phew, I'm back online.

While I was suffering from Internet withdrawal symptoms, others were keeping up with the story of Brazil's involvement in the US attempt to destabilise the Allende regime in Chile in the 1970s.

Besides that:

Ten years after the murder of Jaime Garzon, IAPA asks Colombian authorities for justice (Journalism in the Americas)

Spying on Human Rights Defenders

El Salvador
Civic Organizations in El Salvador Demand Closure to Oscar Romero's Death (Americas Quarterly)

Uruguay Senate OKs Millions for Dirty War Victims (AP)

Thursday 13 August 2009

Tech Issues

Hallo all,

I am having Internet connection problems. There will probably be no further posting until after the weekend. Plus, I have enabled comment moderation due to recent spam. Please be patient if your comment takes a while to appear.

Argentina: Life for Santiago Omar Riveros

An Argentine torturer and former head of the Campo de Mayo clandestine detention centre, Santiago Omar Riveros, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the death of Floreal Avellaneda in 1976.

Avellaneda was just 14 when he and his mother were abducted by an army taskforce which was actually looking for his father, a trade union activist. Both mother and son were tortured; his body washed up on the Uruguayan coast a month later (by which time, he would have been 15), while she was eventually released.

Riveros must spend his sentence in a common jail, his application to serve it under house arrest having been refused. The court decided that the simple fact that he was over 70 did not automatically entitle him to house arrest. Five of his former subordinates also received jail sentences of between eight and twenty-five years.

As is customary on such occasions, Riveros maintained a defiant attitude - former military torturers seem to share a strength of conviction which persists through the decades. "I am a democrat. We are not Nazis, we are not dictators, we are builders of democracy", he declared. He added that the armed forces had been waging war against Communism and that he had just been following orders. He also rejected the authority of the court and said that his "natural judges" were his family and the Supreme Court of the Armed Forces. Avellaneda's father, by contrast, reiterated the systematic nature of the abuses committed by the military.

Riveros is also awaiting a further trial in the autumn.

Life imprisonment to repressor Omar Riveros for crimes against humanity
Perpetua para el represor Riveros por el crimen de un chico en Campo de Mayo (Clarin)
"Fueron crimenes sistematicos y a gran escala" (Pagina/12)
Represor Riveros: perpetua y carcel comun por el crimen de un joven (Critica Digital)
'Dirty war' general found guilty (BBC)
La Republica's cartoonist Carlin on the new Shining Path narcoterroristas.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Book Review: Viva South America!

Oliver Balch, Viva South America!

Full disclosure: this book was a gift (thanks mum!), and it wouldn't have occurred to me to buy it myself. From the cover, it looks like a standard travelogue and while I have enjoyed several of those in the past, after a while they tend to get samey and the amount of reading and travelling I've done on South America means that I just pick on the generalisations/ inaccuracies and get annoyed (anyone else feel this way?).

Anyway, clearly once I had Oliver Balch's book I was going to give it a try. The premise is that the author sets out in the footsteps of Simón Bolívar to find out about his legacy in the region today. He visits nine different countries and tackles a different theme in each one, for example violence in Colombia, human rights in Paraguay, and women in Chile. That is a pretty big task considering you could easily write a book on each of the issues covered, and detail is correspondingly sparse.

In general my expectations were exceeded. Balch is a good writer who really keeps the prose flowing, and there were only a few minor annoyances for me (chief among them being the dodgy use of accents in Spanish words, and perhaps the author was not directly responsible for this...). Perhaps surprisingly, I was not so keen on the chapter on Argentina, where Balch is actually based, but preferred his treatment of the Andean nations of Peru and Ecuador. The Bolivarian frame... well, I'm not convinced. The political analysis is very thin on the ground, and there's not so much as a suggestion for further reading at the back. It's actually not that kind of book, even if the preface leads you to believe that might be the case. But it is a competent dash through South America packed with numerous interviews and insights.

Argentina: Ernestina Herrera de Noble

**UPDATE** This is a developing story. Please go to the front page of the blog and/or use the search function to find more recent posts on this subject.

Ernestina Herrera de Noble is the owner of Clarin, Argentina's largest newspaper. She is of interest to this blog, however, because of a long-standing legal case based on doubts as to the parentage of her two adopted children.

According to Noble, in May 1976 (i.e. at the height of political violence in Argentina) she found a baby girl in a cardboard box on her doorstep. The foundling was to become her adopted daughter Marcela. There were no witnesses to Noble's discovery of the youngster. A few months later, she adopted another child, Felipe. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo also claim that there are irregularities in the second adoption process, including the fact that the woman claiming to be Felipe's mother was using a false identity.

The Grandmothers, therefore, suspected that the two children are the offspring of forcibly disappeared persons and started legal proceedings in an attempt to establish the truth. In 2002, Noble was briefly arrested in connection with the case. She eventually won a case in which the Grandmothers had attempted to force the children to submit to DNA testing, but legal wrangling continued. Eventually there was a ruling that each of the children's blood should be compared with one potential birth family.

Now, however, a judge has ruled in the Grandmothers' favour, ordering that Marcela and Felipe's DNA should be compared to that of 22 families to whom they may be related. Surprisingly enough, you probably won't read much about the case in Clarin.

Apropriaciones: reves para Ernestina (Critica Digital)

More background from the Abuelas (PDF)

Thursday 6 August 2009

Quick Links

State Dept Alters Stance on Uruguay History (Secrecy News)

IACHR Demands Colombian Explanation for 1997 Massacre
(Colombia Reports)

Argentina: How Many Disappeared?

“The figure of 30,000 is neither arbitrary nor capricious, although it is regrettable to reduce the dimensions of the Argentina tragedy to an accounting problem,”
[Human Rights Secretary Eduardo Luis Duhalde]
Former Argentine official Graciela Fernandez Meijide, who not-so-coincidently has a new book out, has attempted the rekindle the debate on how many Argentines were disappeared during the last militar dictatorship. She criticised the Kirchner administration for sticking to the '30,000' figure which tends to be propagated by human rights organsations, asking why it is used when CONADEP documented only 9,000 cases.

I'm pretty sure that Fernandez Meijide knows exactly what the reasoning behind the 30,000 is, but not everyone else does. Let's take the words of the TRC itself:
The Commission on Disappeared People has compiled two lists of victims of the repression. The first of these is of those persons who disappeared; the second, of those who although they are still missing, have been seen in secret detention centres.
In the first category there are 8,960 people, but clearly the list is not exhaustive. It was compiled on the basis of depositions received by this Commission (the number for each respective file is also given alongside the name) and compared with other lists drawn up by other national and international organizations.

Up until the last minute the list was being cross-referenced by computer. However, there may still be mistakes, for instance, in an individual case - though not in a series of cases - as someone may have failed to inform the relevant organizations that they are no longer missing.

We also know that in many cases depositions were not filed at all, either because the victims had no relatives or because the relatives were frightened or lived a long distance from the centre of town. This was confirmed by the Commission when we went to the interior of the country. Relatives of people who had disappeared said that in the past few years they had not known where to go for help.

The list of people seen in secret detention centres is also a partial one: we could find the complete names and surnames of only 1,300 people.

However, we know that thousands of people passed through these camps, who were only known by their nicknames to prisoners who were freed; or by a superficial physical description; or by their province of origin; profession, political affiliation or some other isolated characteristic. There are 800 cases of this type. Nonetheless, by continuing to work patiently - and with adequate technical support - It will be Possible to increase this provisional list.

Finally, it has to be said that a complete list of people who disappeared and an account of what happened to them may only be provided by those who were responsible for causing the disappearances, so long as a record of their deeds was kept intact, and not tampered with or destroyed, which constitutes a crime under the Penal Code and which has been formally denounced when necessary by the Commission. [emphasis mine, source here]

So, to take the 9,000 figure as final is clearly wrong. 30,000 comes from cross-referencing testimonies and stats from different organisations - it may be somewhat high, but I would guess not by a great margin. And, as many people have pointed out, there is more to remembering crimes against humanity than a numbers game. Activists and politicians are now lining up to criticise Fernandez Meijide.

Argentines Argue Over How Many Were Killed By Junta (LAHT)
Deberian bajar condenas a represores por informacion (Clarin)
Desaparecidos: el Gobierno salio a cruzar a Meijide (Clarin)

Argentina: Banned Songs List Declassified

Argentina's Federal Broadcasting Committee (COMFER) has declassified a list of 223 songs and artists which were banned for public dissemination between 1969 and 1982. Among the Argentine names that one might expect - such as Charly Garcia - Queen and John Lennon also make the blacklist.

COMFER issues songs list censured[sic] by the last dictatorship (Telam)

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Argentina/Paraguay: Military Dr to be Extradited

Former captain Norberto Atilio Bianco is to be extradited from Paraguay, where he fled last year, back to Argentina to face charges of crimes against humanity during the dictatorship. He has already been convicted of appropriating two children, who were registered as his own while in fact they were the offspring of disappeared persons. He is also accused of running a clandestine maternity ward in the military hospital of the Campo de Mayo in the late 1970s, where more than 35 women may have given birth before having their babies stolen.

Bianco, who is currently under house arrest, won't be sent back to Argentina immediately as he is likely to appeal the extradition order.

Extraditaran desde Paraguay a un medico represor (Critica Digital)

Tuesday 4 August 2009

News Round-Up 4/08/2009

Paying homage to the founder of the Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos (APDH; Permanent Assembly for Human Rights), Pablo Pimentel, on the 25th anniversary of his death.
La memoria de un luchador (Pagina/12)

Mengele's Undisclosed Location (The Atlantic)

Fujimori on Trial reports on the continuing, and unacceptable, delays to reparations:
Council asks for victims' reparations to be a priority (Fujimori on Trial)

Monday 3 August 2009

Peru: Museum of Memory 'Must Emphasise Work of Armed Forces'

This article had me seeing red today:

"The Work of the Armed Forces Must be Emphasised in the Museum of Memory"

Chief of the Armed Forces, Francisco Contreras, has insisted that the sacrifice of the military must be given a 'dominant' role in the future Museum of Memory in Peru.
"We want reconciliation to be fair and to emphasise the work of the Armed Forces and to give the ones who defend the Nation a dominant place in this museum (...) We hope and request that the Museum of Memory gives us the place we deserve".
Contreras further said that the process of selecting photographs to present to the museum was continuing. This is a reference to the armed forces' belief that the Yuyanapaq exhibition is 'biased'. In fact, it shows all aspects of political violence, including members of the military murdered by Shining Path, and their relatives.

State agencies were responsible for around 45% of deaths in the civil conflict - that's over 30,000 people (total number of deaths estimated by CVR at 69,280) [stats here, p. 4-6]. The great majority of these were Quechua-speaking, indigenous citizens from Ayacucho and other rural regions. National institutions have a responsibility to protect civilians; instead they slaughtered them with impunity.

But now it's all unfair and they are not going to come off well in the museum so they go whining to the media that people need to be grateful? I find this incredibly infuriating, and the persecution complex ("oh, the human rights organisations are out to get me!") is just sickening. Please, let's take them at their word and cover the work of the armed forces during the 1980s and 1990s - the extrajudicial executions, the torture, the unfounded arrests, the disappearances, the total disregard for democracy and decency.

And, in case anyone misunderstand, let me spell this out (again): I am no fan of Sendero. I fully accept and agree that individual members of the armed forces, who were real people with families, were murdered by the two guerrilla groups, Shining Path and the MRTA. I fully condemn these crimes. And who cares what I think? The CVR condemned and condemns them too [here, note 53]. This should have its place in the museum. If only we could leave it at that. Sadly, these personal tragedies are overshadowed by the institutional failings which led to mass crimes against humanity committed by the military - and that, we must not forget.

"Se debe resaltar la labor de las Fuerzas Armadas en el Museo de la Memoria" (El Comercio)

Peru: Terrorist Attack on Base

Three policemen and two civilians are dead after an attack in the VRAE, presumably by Shining Path remnants. According to witnesses, around 60 terrorists attacked the police base.

The victims have been named as Carloto Soto Giuseppi, Javier Fernández Guevara, Prudencio Laurico Mamani, Meylin Tineo Acero and Milagros Acero. The two women who died were apparently relatives of Soto Giuseppi who happened to be in the station at the time. Minister Octavio Salazar has called on Peruvians to "close ranks" against terrorism.

Narco-terrorist group attacks police base in Peru causing 5 deaths (Living in Peru)
Peruvian rebels suspected in attach that kills 5
Octavio Salazar pidio a todos los peruanos a "cerrar filas" contra el narcoterrorismo (La Republica)
"Si no los haciamos retroceder, moriamos (La Republica)
El enfrentamiento entre terroristas y policias habria durado una hora (El Comercio)
Atentado narcoterrorista deja cinco muertes en Ayacucho (La Republica)
Por lo menos 50 terroristas atacaron sede policial del poblado de San Jose de Secce (El Comercio)

Sunday 2 August 2009

Colombia: 'False Positives' Convictions

A Colombian judge has sentenced 15 soldiers to up to 30 years in prison for killing civilians and presenting them as rebels.
Among those sentenced on Saturday were an officer, three subordinates and six ordinary soldiers who were found to have taken part in the killing of the two restaurant workers and were sentenced to 30 years. Five others were sentenced to four years in jail for covering up details about the case.

Judge Jails 15 Colombian Soldiers (BBC)

Saturday 1 August 2009

News Round-Up 1/08/2009

Impunity is the key theme of today's news round-up.


Laura Taffetani, the lawyer for the Movimiento de los Chicos del Pueblo network, told IPS that "the prosecution service knows the group (of aggressors) come from a state security or paramilitary force because of the vehicles, weapons and technology they use."

She also complained that "the state should act, but isn't doing anything."
Kidnappings, Threats Target Child Rights Campaign (IPS)

2) This is a really interesting post by Lucas at Collective Memory Project on the memory of terrorist attacks carried out by the extreme left in Argentina. Such attacks did indeed take place, principally just before the military regime took over. Armed groups such as the Montoneros were quickly wiped out by the junta, which then went on to murder thousands more innocent civilians in the name of 'counterinsurgency'. Those who attempt to present this as a 'war' with two equally matched sides are quite frankly lying. Nevertheless, yes, there were victims of leftist political violence in the 1970s, and they are often forgotten.

Memory, truth and justice? (Collective Memory Project)

IAPA denounces "scandalous impunity" in the killings of 16 Colombian journalists (Journalism in the Americas)

A great post sketching the legal position of disappearance as an ongoing crime:
Great news in a case of forced disappearance (Guatemala Solidarity Network)