Wednesday 30 September 2009

Peru: 6 Years for Fujimori


Fujimori has received a further 6 year jail term in his latest sentence, following his guilty plea.

Argentina/Italy: Massera Trial Begins

In Italy, the trial of former Argentine junta leader Emilio Massera has begun in his absence. He is accused of responsibility for the deaths, in 1976 and 1977, of Italian nationals Angela Aietta Gullo, Giovanni Pegorato and his daughter Susana, and the appropriation of the latter's baby, who was born in captivity.

Given that Massera is involved in the ESMA 'megatrial' in Argentina, it is 'practically impossible' to extradite him, according to the victims' lawyer. Nevertheless, the trial is symbolically important, particularly as it was halted in 2005 when the retired admiral was found to be suffering from dementia. A subsequent medical report, however, deemed that he was in control of his faculties and had been faking and exaggerating his neurological symptoms. There have been varying results from several different tests; Massera is obviously very elderly and, on balance, I would be moderately surprised if he survives and is sufficiently healthy to see a conviction at the end of the ESMA trial. Several decades' worth of chances to put him in the dock have slipped by. Yet this is precisely why I think every opportunity to see justice in action needs to be grasped.

President of the Grandmothers' association, Estela Carlotto, has expressed her approval of the proceedings.

Se inicia el juicio a Massera por la muerte de tres italianos durante la dictadura militar (Pagina/12)
Comenzó en Italia el juicio contra Massera (Critica Digital)

News Round-up 30/09/09


Chilean judge questions son of dictator Pinochet (AP)

Chile again fails to ratify the Interamerican Convention on the forced disappearance of persons due to a failure to achieve quorum in parliament (via El blog de la Republica)
La Camara sin diputados suficientes para legislar sobre desaparicion forzada de personas (El mostrador)


No one responsible for 185 murders committed by paramilitaries (Colombia Reports)


The sordid history of Lewis Amselem, Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS (Machetera)


Obituary of Guillermo Endara, successor to Noriega (New York Times)


Interior Minister called it "unfortunate" that convicts were able to collect pay for so long: yeah, that's one word for it.
Convicted Paraguay torturers kept earning salaries (AP)


Did Fujimori plead guilty to avoid a trial which would have focused attention on uncomfortable truths involving his presidential candidate daughter?
Todo por Keiko (Colectivo por la memoria)

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Peru: Fujimori Pleads Guilty

Fujimori has issued a guilty plea in his fourth trial, this one relating to corruption charges. With the words "Estoy conforme", the former Peruvian president indicated his agreement with the accusations of bribery and illegal phone-tapping levelled against him.

He will now be sentenced (again) tomorrow. As a septaguenarian already sentenced to 25 years, he is likely to die in jail, although he is appealing the sentence and his daughter, congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, has said she will run for presidency and, if elected, would pardon her father. Hopefully her chances of doing so will be damaged by revelations that her education was paid for by state funds.

Former Peruvian president pleads guilty to corruption charges (Guardian)
Fujimori pleads guilty to bribery (BBC)
Fujimori accepts charges for illegal wiretapping, bribing congressmen and 'buying' local media (Fujimori on Trial)
Culpable por 'chuponeos', transfuguismo y compra de un canal de cable (El Comercio)
Su sentencia se dictara este miercoles tras acogerse a conclusion anticipada (La Republica)
Peru: Fujimori admits wiretapping, bribery (IPS)

Friday 25 September 2009

Peru: Salomon Lerner Receives Death Threats

Shocking and disappointing news from Peru is that the former head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) and currently vice-president of the Museum of Memory commission, Salomon Lerner Febres, has received telephone death threats at both his work and home addresses. Disgustingly, the cowards have also poisoned his two dogs, who both died.

This is another reminder of the challenges that human rights defenders face in many Latin American nations, not helped by governments in Peru and Colombia which tend to criticise HR organisations and apparently regard them as a threat.

The National Human Rights Coordinator (CNDDHH) has strongly condemned the intimidation. Let us hope that the government does the same in the strongest possible terms and provides suitable protection for Dr Lerner.

Ex presidente de la CVR Salomon Lerner denuncia amenaza de muerte (La Republica)

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Argentina: This is how a death flight worked

As I have mentioned previously, anyone who wants to find out the full details of the Argentine death flights needs to read Horacio Verbitsky's account of his interviews with Adolfo Scilingo (The Flight/El vuelo).

Here are some very brief quotes from that volume where Scilingo describes the actual flight process:

They [the prisoners] were informed that they were going to be transferred to the south and would be given a vaccination for that reason. They were given a vaccination - I mean a dose of something to knock them out, a sedative. It made them drowsy.[...] Then they were put on a truck, a green truck with a canopy. We went to the military airport [...] Then the subversives were carried out like zombies and loaded onto the airplane. (21-22)

In their unconscious state, the prisoners were stripped, and when the commander of the airplane gave the order, which happened according to where the plane was, the hatch was opened and they were thrown out, naked, one by one. That's the story. A gruesome story, but true, and no one can deny it. (49)
[Page references from the 1996 New Press edition]

This is what recently arrested pilot Julio Poch is being accused of being a part of.

Argentina/Spain: Pilot Arrested

Update: for more background on the flights, see here and here.

A commercial airline pilot with dual Dutch and Argentine nationality was arrested yesterday in Spain in connection with the 'flights of death' during the so-called dirty war.

Julio Alberto Poch was detained during what was supposed to be a brief stopover in Valencia on the way to Amsterdam. Argentina had issued an international arrest warrant, but Poch's Dutch citizenship had meant he was not extradited from that country.

"He [Poch] was a regular pilot on the flights from Schipol airport [in Amsterdam] to Valencia," Spanish police said. "The officers who arrested him at Valencia's Manises airport made sure there were minimal problems for the passengers, with another pilot already arranged in advance." (Guardian)

Poch served in the Argentine Navy during the dictatorship and worked at the ESMA, the largest clandestine detention centre. He is wanted in four open cases for his alleged involvement in the flights in which prisoners were drugged, bound, and then pushed out of aeroplanes into the sea. He will now be remanded in custody while his extradition is processed.

'Dirty war pilot' held in Spain
Pilot arrested over Argentina 'death flights' (Guardian)
Detuvieron en Espana a un militar implicado en los "vuelos de la muerte" (Clarin)
Detuvieron un piloto acusado de participar en los vuelos de la muerte (Pagina/12)
Un represor con perfil en Facebook (Critica) [for a rather different perspective]
Prision para un piloto por los 'vuelos de la muerte' argentinos (El Pais) [for more details on the Spanish legal situation]

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Peru: Santo Tomas de Pata

Espacio de memoria drew my attention to the exhumations in Santo Tomas de Pata in Huancavelica, Peru. A total of 105 bodies have been recovered. Family members of the victims pointed out that, for many, the death certificates the victims will eventually receive will be the first, and only, official identity document they have ever had.

These people come from desparately poor communities and have no financial resources for legal counsel, psychological assistance or burial costs. For this reason, several sites are appealing for donations to cover the cost of coffins and provide bank details for Peru-based people to make payments. Obviously, I can't vouch for the authenticity of such appeals and giving would be entirely the responsibility of the donor, but it looks official and there are contact details available if anyone wants to make checks.

Peru: Film 'Tarata'

A new film based around the Tarata bombing in Miraflores opened in Peru last week.

It's fiction, but you can see the influence of the iconic photographs of this event even in the short trailer above, most particularly this image, which is burned into the brains of most people who know about the event:
In this clip, director Fabrizio Aguilar and the actors recall their memories of the actual bomb:

Monday 21 September 2009

Venezuela: 'Caracazo' Victims Exhumed

Authorities began opening tombs of victims of 1989 riots in Venezuela today. The so-called Caracazo has an official death toll of 300, but the true figure is believed to be far higher. Symbolically, it is a significant memory event for Chavez's Bolivarian republic.

Relatives of the disappeared generally welcome the investigation but are understandably concerned that the remains will be under the care of the armed forces - the institution which killed the victims in the first place.

Tombs opened in Venezuela to identify riot victims (AP)
La fiscalia de Venezuela busca los restos de las victimas del 'Caracazo' (AFP)

Photography and Memory (5): TAFOS

This is the fifth in a series of posts on photographers whose work is concerned with issues of memory in Latin America. One could argue all photography is 'about' remembering, in that photographs show us images from the past and are so often used as part of memory work. I'm interested principally in photographic images that are more explicitly concerned with political violence in twentieth-century Latin American and its aftermath. Some of the photographers featured will lean more to the 'arty' side, others to the field of 'photojournalism'. Post one is here, post two here, post three here, post four here.

Photography and memory (5) focuses not on one photographer, but on a collective. TAFOS - Talleres de Fotografía Social/Social Photography Workshops - was founded in 1986 in Peru by German photographers Thomas and Helga Mueller. Their idea was quite simple in theory: to give people the chance to document their lives photographically themselves, rather than relying on professional photographers from 'outside'. Their understanding of social photography was:
Por un lado, las imágenes que, superando su origen muchas veces comercial, llegaron a ser armas en la lucha contra la violencia e injusticia y generaron denuncias y reivindicaciones. Por otro lado, un grupo de fotógrafos que no son ajenos a lo fotografiado, sino partícipes directos del entorno. (TAFOS n.d., emphasis added)

On the one hand, those images which, superseding their origin, which was often commercial, became weapons in the struggle against violence and injustice and encouraged reports [of abuses] and claims. On the other hand, a group of photographers who are not distanced from what they are photographing, but direct participants in their environment [trans mine]
They set up workshops with basic training, cameras, and development opportunities. The first workshops were in El Augustino, Lima, and Ocongate, Cusco; by the time the project came to an end in 1998 there was a total of 28 in different regions. The TAFOS archive is now housed in the PUCP (Catholic University in Lima), which also has a good, bilingual website with background and low-resolution images*.

TAFOS has the advantage of being an unusually wide-ranging project with thousands of images from hundreds of different practitioners, which provide insight into a whole range of different aspects of life. It did not focus solely or specifically on Peru's internal conflict, but this does come out in several of the workshops; for example, the pro-Sendero grafitti covering the public Universidad de San Marcos, or the murder of a village mayor, or, as seen here, the aftermath of a Sendero attack on a farming cooperative:

I chose this image because it seems to highlight a moment of industry in the midst of horror, rather than the crises often focussed on by professional photojournalists. The scene is one of cooperation, groups of people intent of their work among the ruins. TAFOS is particularly valuable in the memory of how political violence fitted into - and, of course, destroyed - people's everyday lives, as well as commemorating their collaborative efforts.

Other resources:

El taller piloto de fotografía social de El Agustino (1986 – 1988): un caso de sistematización
A thesis by PUCP student Angel Enrique Colunge Rosales is available in full on the web (follow link from blog to PDFs).

La memoria de la ciudad en TAFOS: antropología visual cuando el otro tiene la cámara (portafolio fotográfico con breve prólogo) - Daniel Ramírez Corzo N. (PDF)

TAFOS images from the CVR image bank

*which apparently only open properly from the Spanish language site, try switching language if the English version is causing problems.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Film: Our Disappeared

Ever googled your old schoolfriends or your first love? Come on, admit it, you have. Perhaps their names were too common to get useful results, or perhaps they haven't made any mark on the World Wide Web, but more likely, if you're at all skilled at Internet searching, you can find something. A work email address, a Facebook account, even a blog. Sometimes, however, the news isn't good.

Film director Juan Mandelbaum googled his Argentine ex and found that she had joined the list of those disappeared during the 1976-83 dictatorship. This became the trigger for his film 'Our Disappeared', which US readers may be interested to know is airing tomorrow, 21 September, on PBS.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Blogging Note

Blogging has been neglected this week while I translated a ridiculous number of words for the folks who pay me. Now I'm off for a long weekend. Proper posting will resume on Tuesday.

Friday 18 September 2009

Argentina: Where is Julio Lopez?

It is now THREE YEARS since the disappearance of witness Julio Lopez in Argentina (cf my post from this day last year). Marches will be taking place in Buenos Aires today to mark the occasion. There is more to say, but I can't do that now, so I will try to update the media coverage afterwards and merely add: Aparicion con vida ya!

Sunday 13 September 2009

Peru: Past in the Present

*Warning: this post contains images of dead bodies. I've tried to alter my feed settings so that the whole post doesn't pop up in your Google reader and so on, and I hope this has worked, but please be aware if you don't wish to see these at this time*

Sometimes there is a news story which brings home how pervasive the past is in the present so strongly that it almost evokes a feeling of 'deja-vu'. One such story is that of a 19 year old youth found murdered today in Peru with a placard proclaiming "long live the armed struggle and long live the revolution". The news sources I have seen do not publish images of the victim, but two of them, from La Republica and CPN radio, instead use details from this classic image by Alejandro Balaguer:

So the media source themselves take an iconic image from the conflict, made in 1991, to illustrate this story.
Then compare these two images of Sendero victims the early 1980s:

People killed with 'warnings' for the population attached to them must bring up decades of traumatic memory in Peru.

All photographs from the CVR image bank [1], [2], [3].

Hayan muerte a joven con cartel que decia "viva la lucha armada" (La Republica)
Nueva victima de Sendero Luminoso (CPN)

Argentina: 1979 CIDH Visit

It's now thirty years since the Inter-American Comission on Human Rights (IACHR/CIDH) visited Argentina and published a damning report on the state of the country. From our perspective, it's interesting to note how much was already known about what was happening, even under dictatorship.

The chapter of the report dealing with the disappeared opens as follows:
During the last three years, the IACHR has received a large number of claims affecting a considerable number of persons in Argentina. These claims allege that said persons have been apprehended either in their homes, their jobs, or on the public thoroughfares, by armed men, who are occasionally in uniform, in operations and under conditions that indicate, due to the characteristics in which they are carried out, that they are conducted by agents of the State. After these actions have occurred, the persons apprehended disappear, and nothing is ever known of their whereabouts.

It also deals with specific cases, for example:

The IACHR has received the following claim:

Silvia Angélica, of Argentina nationality, 27 years of age, married. At the time of kidnapping on May 19, 1977, she was two months pregnant; seven months later the grandmother received the baby girl born in detention; Mrs. Corazza de Sánchez also has another little girl, four years old. Her identification card is number 6.071.079. She is a housewife and her address is: Bartolomé Mitre 2637, 2n Floor, 42, Federal Capital. Date of kidnapping: 5.19.77. On the date, time and the place mentioned, the victim was arrested by armed persons in civilian dress. After seven months, she was taken to the home of her mother, accompanied by three persons, who, although dressed as civilians, belonged to police or security forces; they had a short meeting during which Mrs. Silvia Angélica handed her mother a new-born baby girl (five days old) stating that she had the baby while in detention and that she had been well treated during delivery. Once the baby was handed over, they left for an unknown destination. Since then nothing further has been heard of the whereabouts of the aforementioned person.

In addition, it specifically mentions two key cases which have received, and continue to receive, a lot of attention: that of Clara Anahi Mariani and of Dagmar Hagelin. The former is the granddaughter of one of the original grandmothers and the daughter of the pregnant woman mentioned in Laura Alcoba's The Rabbit House.

Saturday 12 September 2009

News Round-Up 12/09/2009

U.S. Certifies Human Rights Gains in Colombia, Releasing Aid (NY Times)

The US is to reward Colombia for its supposed strides in human rights. Which is nice, because at the same time, 178 NGOs from 23 countries are launching a Campaign for the Right to Defend Human Rights in Colombia. That's right; being an HR activist is such a dangerous role in this nation that people have to actually assert their right to say that the state shouldn't murder people without being threatened, intimidated, persecuted, and worse. More info here.

In the US, there are calls to make international adoption from Guatemala easier. This is just one reason why I'm immediately sceptical whether this is a good idea:
Guatemalan soldiers sold children in war (Reuters)

Families of soldiers killed by Sendero Luminoso in recent skirmishes will receive a one-off compensation payment from the government, according to Peruvian media:
Peru to pay S/55,000 soles to Families of Deceased Soldiers (Living in Peru)

12 September (II)

On this day 17 years ago Abimael Guzmán was arrested in Lima, precipitating the collapse of the Shining Path (which is currently undergoing some form of revival). Today, the former guerrilla leader is publishing his memoirs, which were apparently written between 2005 and 2007. According to the Associated Press, "the book also reveals aspects of his childhood like his love for soccer and desire to join the military". El Comercio quotes Guzmán's lawyer as saying that the book contains "self-criticism" but not "repentance".

From what I've heard of Guzmán's previous writing and propensity for long-winded speeches, I have little hope that this will be a literary masterpiece, but naturally it is academically interesting. I have no idea if any Peru-based readers will feel compelled to purchase a copy - perhaps they would object to indirectly funding Guzmán in this way? - but if so, please let me know what it's like.

Peru's Shining Path founder to publish book (AP)
Guzman publica memorias en aniversario de su captura (El Comercio)

12 September

In an act of memory blogging sacrilege, I didn't post yesterday, the day when the English-speaking world, at the very least, comes to a standstill to acknowledge the power of memory, while the Spanish-speaking world is involved with commemorations of its own. As is traditional, Latin Americanists take the opportunity to remind us that 9/11 was a significant date before 2001. Sadly, protests in Chile yesterday turned violent and one person died.

The Guardian has today published a piece from its archive from 12 September 1973, which, in contrast to my usual practice, I'm going to reproduce here in full:
Chile is today in the grip of a military regime, with every indication early this morning that President Salvador Allende had committed suicide after the presidential palace had been subjected to air and ground attacks. Early yesterday morning a military junta of senior officers demanded Allende's resignation, and when he refused the palace was attacked.

The military said they had acted "to liberate the country from Marxism." In a final broadcast, Allende called on the workers to occupy the factories and to arm themselves, but apart from sporadic sniping in the centre of Santiago, there appears to have been little organised resistance to the coup. Unconfirmed reports said that thousands of workers were marching on the city centre.

In New York, copper futures traded on the commodity exchange rose as the market reacted favourably to the news of Allende's downfall. In Paris, left-wing parties called for a protest march to the Chilean Embassy. Similar demonstrations are expected in London today. A Chilean reporter speaking by telephone to an Argentine radio station, said the President's death had been confirmed by a military spokesman. He was believed to have shot himself in the head when the military tried to arrest him.

If Allende has indeed committed suicide, it will be designed to warn the country of what happened in 1891 when President Balmaceda was forced to do the same thing after a disastrous conflict between President and Congress, which led to a civil war. It is this same conflict which has brought about the present situation.

Allende himself constantly warned that the country's political strife was leading in the same direction. He claimed that he would never be "another Balmaceda," but he also said that he would never be taken from office alive.

The new military regime, whose most prominent figure would appear to be Admiral Jorge Toribio Merino – who has proclaimed himself Commander in Chief of the Chilean Navy – has a markedly conservative tone.

All radio stations supporting the Allende Government have been taken over, the headquarters of the Communist Party have been raided, and the detention of 40 prominent figures in the Popular Unity Coalition, which supported Allende, has been ordered.

The ground attack on the presidential palace was confined to light and heavy machine gun fire, but bombs dropped from the air set fire to part of the building.

Fire brigades were told to await orders from the military before leaving to put out the fire. The air attack came after Allende's presidential guard and his civilian aides had surrendered to an ultimatum which Allende himself defied.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Argentina: Ex-San Juan Police Chief Arrested

From Critica Digital, translation mine:
The former chief of the Federal Police in San Juan during the last dicatorship, Horacio Julio Nieto, was arrested for his alleged participation in the abduction and disappearance of María Ana Erize, militant in the Peronist Youth (JP) and professional model. Although the arrest occurred at the beginning of September, news of it only came out on Thursday.

Nieto, 74, has been wanted for arrest for eight months now and was detained in Marcos Paz, in Greater Buenos Aires, in early September; then he was transferred to San Juan, where he served as chief of police in 1976.

Of all the cases of human rights violations in which he is implicated, he is charged with organising the abduction, disappearance and death of Erize. He is also accused of committing crimes of illegal deprivation of liberty, aggravated torture and aggravated homicide.

Former Army major and lawyer Jorge Olivera is already on remand for the abduction and disappearance of the young woman, who in those days used to appear on the cover of weekly magazines.

According to some witness in the suit, Olivera participated in the abduction of the woman and supposedly subjected her to sexual assaults.

Detuvierion al ex jefe de la Policia sanjuanina (Critica Digital)

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Latin America: Identifying the Disappeared

The focus of this post is the Latin American Initiative for the Identification of the Disappeared (Iniciativa Latinoamericana para la Identificación de Desaparecidos, website in Spanish only).

What is the initiative?
It's an attempt to increase the numbers of those forcibly disappeared in Latin America to be identified and is a joint project of the forensic medicine teams from Peru, Guatemala and Argentina.

In Argentina, the focus is on those disappeared between 1974 and 1983 - this is acknowledging the fact that while the coup occurred in 1976, political disappearances began before this. The Initiative has been collecting and analysing blood samples of Argentine relatives - taken not just at home in Argentina but as far away as Sweden and Spain. This is similar to, but not the same as, the blood bank founded by the Grandmothers to identify the appropriated children. The result is the first 42 sets of remains definitively identified and returned to their families for burial.

The majority of Google results for the LIID still come from Argentina, as this seems to be where the first results have come from, but perhaps this will change in future. Pan-Latin American initiatives make perfect sense for a multitude of reasons; it's an opportunity to share good practice from countries like Argentina, which has been working on forensic issues for thirty years, to nations such as Peru which are just setting out to identify their disappeared; people move and are exiled and hence restricting activities to one country risks excluding them; and last but not least, the repression itself was Pan-LatAm (Operation Condor), so it requires a concerted response.

I don't think the importance of identifying the disappeared can really be underestimated for the families. Pagina/12 today quotes Ana Feldman, the sister of a newly identified disappeared person,
For Ana, as hard as it sounds, identifying Laura was "the most marvellous thing" to happen in her life. "The most important thing for a human being is to know," she explained. "For thirty years I've been talking in the present tense, saying 'my sister is disappeared'. Now I say 'they shot my sister: they abducted her, disappeared her and shot her'. I know what happened. I don't like it, but I have the final word. I have her remains and I can prove that there was no trial, they killed her and I know how they killed her."
Primeros resultatos de campaña latinoamericana para identificar desaparecidos en dictadura argentina (EFE)
Argentine Team Identifies 42 Bodies of People that Disappeared during the Military Junta (Americas Quarterly)
El pasado en tiempo presente (Pagina/12)

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Peru Event

Argentina: Upcoming Court Cases

The Grandmothers (Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo) have published the following summary of upcoming human rights cases in which they are involved. There is a lot going on in Argentina in the next few months.

1. ESMA:
Court: Tribunal Oral Federal N° 5.
Start date: 6 October.
Accused: 18.
Grandmothers' case: Patricia Flynn de Galli.

2. ABO (Atlético, Banco, Olimpo):
Court: Tribunal Oral Federal N° 2
Start date: 15 October.
Accused: 15 (Raúl Guglielminetti, Enrique José Del Pino, Samuel Miara, Oscar Augusto Rolón, Raúl González, Eufemio Jorge Uballes, Eduardo Emilio Kalinec, Roberto Antonio Rosa, Juan Carlos Falcón, Luis Juan Donocik, Ricardo Taddei y Julio Simón (“El Turco Julián”), Guillermo Víctor Cardozo, Eugenio Pereyra Apestegui, y Juan Carlos Avena).

3. Campo de Mayo:
Court: Tribunal Oral Federal N° 1.
Start date: 27 October.
Grandmothers' cases: Valeria Beláustegui Herrera and Ricardo Waisberg; José Alberto Schaccheri and Stella Maris Dorado; Carlos Maria Roggerone and Mónica Susana Masri de Roggerone; Norma Rodríguez; Silvia Mónica Quintela Dallasta; Jorge Carlos Casariego and Norma Tato.

4. Vesubio:
Court: Tribunal Oral Federal N° 4.
Accused: 8.
Start date: 15 December.

Waiting for start date for the trials for the appropriation of:
Juan Cabandié.
Victoria Donda.
Carla Ruiz Dameri.

Argentina News Round-Up

Some updates from recent posts:

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have expressed their disapproval at the actions of judge Eduardo Vocos Conesa, who publicly praised recently deceased coup-leader Mohamed Ali Seineldin. It is certainly is a concern when a member of the justice system sees fit to thank someone who tried to overthrow a democratic government for their services to the country.

The Ministry of Defense has ordered into an investigation into the fact that an aeroplane used in the death flights is on display in an air force museum.

A call for Jorge "El Tigre" Acosta to be released from jail has been rejected. Acosta is awaiting trial for his involvement in the ESMA, the case is due to open next month.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Peru: Edilberto Jiménez

I tend to write about photographers in preference to other types of artists. It's what I know. But I'm going to make an exception for Edilberto Jiménez, known principally as a retablista*, whose drawings of Ayacucho are some of the most moving I have ever seen [full disclaimer: I have met Jiménez, but only briefly].

His book Chungui: Violencia y trazos de memoria, which I have in the first edition, has now been reissued in a corrected and extended version. It's a combination of reproductions of his drawings and testimonies of local people from Chungui about their experiences at the hands of both Shining Path and the armed forces. Warning: it's strong stuff. In the region of Chungui, an estimated 1,300 people died in 1983-84 alone. Top academic on Sendero, Carlos Ivan Degregori, notes that if this proportion of the population was transferred to Lima, it would be the equivalent of wiping out the entire districts of La Molina, Miraflores, San Isidro, Surco, Surquillo, Villa María del Triunfo and Villa El Salvador (source of states and image above, this article).

Correspondingly, the book contains details of truly nightmarish proportions. The images shown here are by no means the most explicit. The simplicity of the black and white drawings only serves to highlight the horrors they depict, just as the direct, understated nature of the testimonies accentuates their contents. Photographs are fascinating documents, but for obvious reasons, there are no photographs of Sendero massacres actually taking place; this artwork is a different way of expressing memory, but one which can have a truly important connection to emotion.

More information on the book and images here.

* A retablo is a box with modelled figures inside, often of religious or everyday scenes. In recent years some examples have included scenes of the violence of past decades.

Argentina: Death Flight Planes on Display

Adolfo Scilingo's confessions, published in the book El vuelo/The Flight, really burned into public memory the fact that in Argentina, disappeared people were drugged, bundled into planes, and pushed out into the ocean to drown.

Yet I, and doubtless many others, had never really given a thought to the planes themselves. Now I learn from Pagina/12 that one of them (a Lockheed L-188 AF Electra for those of you for whom that means something) is on display in an airforce museum on the base Comandante Espora. As you might expect, I have nothing against preserving the plane as a teaching aid to show people what happened during the dictatorship... but I'm thinking that a museum run by the armed forces is probably not the ideal place for it.

Aviones de la muerte (Pagina/12)
I change my desktop background frequently to reflect my current reading, images I've come across, and so on. This is the image up at the moment. Source

Peru Resources

Muchas gracias to Amazilia @ Peru Apartheid for drawing my attention to the Biblioteca Virtual del Genocidio en Ayacucho (Virtual Library of the Genocide in Ayacucho), a work in progress which already contains over 250 photographs and a catalogue of works related to political violence in the region.

Other memory-related sites coming out of Peru include Para que no se repita - Spanish-speaking researchers, check out their 'Libros' page, where you can download entire books on violence and memory completely gratis.

Finally, I want to flag up the Spanish-language blog Espacio de memoria (memory space) and note how exciting I find it that there are people out there using the Internet to construct commemorative spaces and fight for justice. Browsing the sites linked above has given me ideas for at least two forthcoming posts - watch this space.

Peru Event

Guatemala Update

Further to my post on the sentencing of Felipe Cusanero for forced disappearance in Guatemala, I've come across an excellent post by an observer at the trial, read it here. (via the Guatemala Solidarity Network)

Friday 4 September 2009

Argentina: Memorias en la ciudad

The fantastic Argentine organisation Memoria Abierta, which I visited in 2004, has produced a book called Memorias en la ciudad: Señales del terrorismo de Estado en Buenos Aires. It contains photographs and information about 38 illegal detention centres and 202 memorial sites in the Argentine capital.
The topography of cities is made up by layer upon layer of memories of the past. Although not always apparent in the hustle and bustle of city life, buildings, street corners, sidewalk tiles, and the nameplates of city squares and streets carry out their normal function while also revealing absences and sending messages from the past.

It's published by Eudeba and looks fascinating, doesn't look like it will be easy to source outside Argentina however.

Thursday 3 September 2009

News Round-Up 03/09/2009


The Iranian parliament has confirmed the appointment of Ahmad Vahidi, wanted in conjunction with the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, to the post of Defence Minister. As is often the case, the international disapproval seems to have strengthened Iran's resolve and the authorities are now presenting this as defiance in the face of a US/Zionist plot.
Iran appoints bombing suspect as defence minister (Guardian)


The newspaper O Globo published information from a dossier that had been sealed for four decades in which the Brazilian army takes responsibility for the death of the guerrilla Virgílio Gomes da Silva (known as Jonas), considered the first “disappeared” political prisoner of the military dictatorship.
Brazilian newspaper details killing of guerrilla leader by military regime (Journalism in the Americas)


Pinochet's foreign fortune has been calculated - and the magic number is apparently $25,978,602.79, of which over $20 million have "no justifiable origin".
Chilean judge calculates Pinochet's secret fortune (AP)


Imprisoned Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman is appealing to the Peruvian jail authorities to allow conjugal visits with his partner Elena Iparraguirre, who is in a different prison. The two have not seen each other since 2006. I was under the impression that they had married, but while a search reveals plenty of references which assume the same, I can't locate a definitive document stating this, just that he proposed marriage in 2007.

Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman seeks "family visit" with lover Elena Iparraguirre (Peruvian Times)

Argentina: Mohamed Alí Seineldín is Dead

Argentine colonel Mohamed Alí Seineldín, known for his role in the carapintada uprisings, has died aged 75.

The carapintadas - painted faces - were a faction within the armed forces who threatened coups at several points during the 1980s in response to the prosecutions of military officers for human rights abuses during the dictatorship. Military unrest played a major role in the capitulation of the democratic government which passed the 'full stop' and 'due obedience' laws and granted amnesties to convicted military perpetrators.
'Next week is going to be a game of nerves,'' the future official said. ''It's a mystery now who controls the army -the generals or Mohammed Ali Seineldin and his people.''
Read the original report from the New York Times on the June, 1989 uprising.

Seineldin was a man from Entre Rios, one of the old Nationalist strongholds... Despite his Muslim origins, Seineldin was known as "a sworn foe of the United States and a fanatical Catholic who would like to see the cross replace the sun in the centre of Argentina's flag"... In early December 1990, the carapintadas rebelled for a fourth time in three years. In a written statement, which ended with the words "Dios, Patria o Muerte" Seineldin acknowledged his "total reponsibility" for this action in which around a score of persons died.
[David Rock, Authoritarian Argentina, p. 236]
According to Deborah Norden, Seineldin saw himself as a saviour of Argentina, comparable to Jesus [Military Rebellion in Argentina, p. 148]. Eventually sentenced to life imprisonment, he was later freed by President Eduardo Duhalde.

Defense Minister Nilda Garre has said that there will not be military honours at his funeral.

Retired military Mohamed Alí Seineldín died (Telam)
Con la cruz a la espada (Pagina/12)
Murio Seineldin, el jefe del ultimo alzamiento carapintada, en 1990 (Clarin)

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Chile: Perpetrator News

"We have to think, we say these things happened a long time ago, but for the relatives, these things are still happening now. You know, Viviana Diaz, the daughter of Victor Diaz, who was kidnapped in the Calle Conferencia all those years ago - she still hasn't got her father, she still doesn't know what happened to her father, she's still unable to bury her father. So, in some sense, we have to understand that human rights violations don't happen once, they keep on happening over and over again."
Ariel Dorfman (speaking to BBC World Service, transcript mine, slightly tidied up)

Chilean judge Victor Montiglio has issued arrest warrants for over 120 former intelligence officers connected with human rights violations in the Pinochet era.

The BBC piece below links to a radio interview with playwright Ariel Dorfman who eloquently defends the move against those who would call for 'moving on' and 'forgiveness'.

Massive indictments for human rights crimes (Dirty Wars and Democracy)
Chile seeks 'Dirty War' arrests (BBC)

At the same time, The Santiago Times reports that the Chilean military is still paying human rights abusers, years after being ordered to stop doing so. Is there a better way to make the point that, far from being a pointless witch hunt, continuing to pursue military perpetrators is essential to strengthen democracy?
In 2002 President Michelle Bachelet ordered the military to dismiss anyone linked to human rights abuses during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. A report published Sunday by the daily La Nacion revealed that despite this law, the military continued to employ or rehire some of those awaiting trial either directly or through private subcontracts.

The list includes the names of former secret police, a doctor who tortured prisoners, and a prosecutor who falsified documents to cover up the murder of Spanish diplomat Carmelo Soria, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1976.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Round-Up 1/09/2009


Iran MPs back 1994 bomb suspect (BBC)

Remembering Tragedies: Cromagnon (Collective Memory Project)


Chilean soldiers, police sought over Pinochet-era abuses

Procesan a 120 ex miembros de la Dina por casos de violacion a los DD.HH (La Tercera)

El Salvador

No visible progress towards canonization of Oscar Romero (Tim's El Salvador Blog)

Guatemala: First Disappearance Conviction

Former military commissionner Felipe Cusanero has become the first person to be convicted of forced disappearances in Guatemala's civil war and has been sentenced to 150 years in jail - 25 years for each one of six violent deaths.

This is, of course, a "better late than never" situation; it's disappointing that no one has made it through the Guatemalan justice system before, but at least it has happened now.

Guatemala sees landmark sentence (BBC)
Guatemala makes landmark civil war conviction (Reuters)

Argentina: Malvinas Monument to be Inaugurated

Two groups of family members will travel to the Falklands/Malvinas Islands next month to inaugurate a memorial in the Darwin cemetery. The Argentine cenotaph has been ready since April 2004 but has not been officially inaugurated. The Argentines originally wanted to travel in one group, but this proved logistically difficult so now the ceremonies will take place on two consecutive Saturdays.

Malvinas Families will inaugurate Argentine Memorial next October (Mercopress)

This is a story which is genuinely relevant to this blog, but childishly, my favourite thing about it is the name of the Argentine official responsible for the organisation: Gabriel Fucks. Really.