Sunday 31 January 2010

Peru: Pucará Trial On, Despite Govt Interference

I noted in June 2009 that a trial had opened concerning the 1989 Pucará massacre. I then lost track of the issue completely, until this article from IPS, which proves that 1) I can't keep up with the progress of all the news stories I mention, 2) the Peruvian justice system is lamentably slow and 3) you can't trust the Garcia regime, which has major human violations on its hands from its first term, not to obstruct the progress of human rights investigations at every turn.

A trial against 41 Peruvian soldiers and officers accused of murdering six men and two women in the highlands village of Pucará in 1989, during the first term of current President Alan García, has reopened.


The trial got underway again after the lawyers representing the victims' families successfully lobbied the court to order the return to Peru of a key defendant, noncommissioned officer Clodomiro Silva.

Silva and the rest of the members of the army accused in the Pucará murders are not allowed to leave the country without permission from the court, and must attend all court sessions when summonsed.

Nevertheless, President García named Silva as an assistant to Peru's military attaché in Washington.

As a result, the trial was held up when Silva did not show at the Dec. 12, 21 and 28 hearings.


Silva's appointment "was a way to put him out of reach of the justice system, and his failure to show up at the hearings hampered the trial," Antonio Salazar, a lawyer with the non-governmental Legal Defence Institute (IDL) who represents the victims' families, told IPS.

Sources at the courthouse where the trial is being held told IPS that the judiciary had notified the army command that Silva's appointment to a diplomatic mission abroad was a violation of due process.

Silva finally returned to Lima on Jan. 10, and reported in to the courts. (emphasis mine)
Generals in the Dock in Human Rights Trial (IPS)

News/Blogging Round-Up

I have missed most memory-related news items over the past week, but here is a small selection:

The Legacy of the Pinochet Dictatorship (Memory, Amnesia and Politics)
Pinochet could have received $292 million dollars in loans from Chilean government, unclear if paid or repaid (Chile From Within)

Who Cares About the Victims of Forced Displacement? (IPS)

El Salvador
Remembering "la Matanza" of 1932 (Tim's El Salvador Blog)

The Attack on the Spanish Embassy (Guatemala Solidarity Network)

Vargas Llosa anuncia que museo se llamara ahora Lugar de la Memoria (APRODEH)

Thursday 21 January 2010

Blogging Break

Hi, dear readers,

Tomorrow I am, I very much hope, escaping the Northern European winter and going on holiday. Blogging will resume in February.

Lillie Langtry

Chile: Museum of Memory

Although it still doesn't contain much detail on the actual exhibits, here's the most in-depth English language article I've yet seen on the new Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile.

Chile's Turning Point (The Nation, via unredacted)

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Argentina: Club Atletico, El Banco, El Olimpo

Blogs here and here (Spanish language) are following the trials of the military perpetrators from the clandestine detention centres Club Atletico, El Banco, and El Olimpo. With acknowledgements to them, here are some of the accused:

Monday 18 January 2010

Argentina: Poch to be extradited

Finally, an on-topic post.

Julio Alberto Poch, detained in Spain last September (not "last month" as the BBC article has it) is to be extradited to Argentina, where he should stand trial for the so-called death flights.

Spain to extradite 'dirty war' pilot to Argentina
El piloto de la muerte volara para ser juzgado (Pagina/12)
España aprobó la extradición de Julio Poch (Critica Digital)

Peru/Haiti: Seeking Answers in a Forgotten Peruvian Quake

The AP, published in the New York Times, looks at contrasting examples of reconstruction after a major natural disaster. Sadly for Peru, Pisco is the 'how not to do it' example.

Today, many of the streets of Pisco are still full of rubble. Thousands of survivors still live in shacks. Thousands more have left. That new hospital? Construction hasn't even begun.

''The state has forgotten us,'' said Medalit Diaz, 33, who lives in a huddle of makeshift huts and tents next to the town's soccer stadium.

The comparative analysis here may be simplistic - I don't know enough about Indonesia to say - but I think everyone agrees that the rebuilding in Peru has been disappointing, at best. It's horrible to think about because again, I've been to Pisco myself and remember it before it was shaken to pieces.

Seeking Answers in a Forgotten Peruvian Quake (New York Times)

Peru: The book pirates of Peru

Slightly off topic, but I loved this Guardian slide show of photographs by novelist Daniel Alarcón (no, I haven't read any of his books, but will keep an eye out now) on the subject of Peruvian book piracy. As he points out, the pirate book industry is 'at least' as big at the legitimate one in Peru. While I was in Peru, I made an effort to buy genuine books and CDs, despite the price - after all, I could afford them, having already managed to travel halfway round the world to be there. DVDs, though, were a different story - I have an interest in Latin American film and was fully prepared to support the industry by buying the real deal, but you just can't find nonpirated DVDs!

Alarcón also notes;
For some 30 years, the National Library of Peru’s budget to acquire new books remained unchanged: zero.
I have to say I made good use of the National Library on Avenida Abancay (there's also a new building in San Borja which I think is open now) and it certainly has books less than 30 years old, although I don't know how these are funded, perhaps partly by donations. Despite some of the drawbacks of the institution (the noise from the street; the laborious bureaucratic process of obtaining photocopies; the poor condition of the newspaper archive, and the mysterious bites I obtained while working there), it's a beautiful building and quite conducive to effective work. And the young man operating the photocopier was also both friendly and professional!

Anyway, the photos are great; click through to see them all.

The book pirates of Peru (Guardian)

Monday 11 January 2010

Chile: Inauguration of Museum of Memory

Today Chile opens its Museo de la Memoria. As The Santiago Times points out, 11 is a highly significant number in Chilean history:
Today, Monday, January 11 2010, President Michelle Bachelet, who leaves office on 11 March, will inaugurate her last large gift to the Chilean people: El Museo de la Memoria, which documents human rights violations during the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet (11 September 1973 – 11 March 1990).
The article also points out that there has been controversy about the focus of the museum (readers of this blog will easily be able to ask - when isn't there?).

The Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (CIDH) approves. And Vargas Llosa is there too, apparently - which makes sense as he's supposed to be installing a similar project in Peru. Plus he's sticking his nose in another country's elections so it's all very convenient.

That aside, I'm looking forward to reviews of the museum.

Opening Chile's Human Rights' 'Memory Museum' A Showdown of the Elevens (Santiago Times)
Chile: inauguran Museo en homenaje a victimas de la dictadura (Univision)

News Round-Up

Brazil's Human Rights Minister threatens to resign over controversial bill (Mercopress)
Brazil truth commission arouses military opposition (BBC)

Salvaging Corpses at a Bend in the River - this is an amazing, if gruesome story (NY Times)

Naming the "Disappeared" (IPS, and see more on the "Mi nombre no es XX" campaign here)

Via Espacio de memoria, the Uruguayan Centro Cultural Museo de la Memoria is holding a competition for exhibits

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Argentina: Opening Military Archives

In decree 4/2010, President Kirchner has ordered the declassification of "all information and documentation connected to the actions of the armed forces" between 1976 and 1983, with the exception of those linked to the Falklands/Malvinas conflict.

According to Kirchner,
"The classified information and/or documentation which was not made public was not designed to protect the legitimate interests of a democratic State, but, on the contrary, served as a means of hiding the illegal actions of a de facto government".
She stated that maintaining the secrecy of such documents was contrary to the state's policy towards memory and human rights which has been in place since 2003. She's not wrong there, and I guess this statement must be regarded as good news; let's see if anything interesting comes of it.

Se abren los archivos de los represores (Pagina/12)
Ordenan abrir los archivos secretos de la dictadura (Critica Digital)

The full decree may be read here (pdf).

Sunday 3 January 2010

Peru: Fujimori's Sentence Upheld

Peru's Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the 25-year prison sentence awarded to former president Alberto Fujimori for his responsibility in the massacres of Barrios Altos and La Cantuta - good news.

Fujimori 25-year sentence upheld by Peru Supreme Court (BBC)
Corte Suprema ratifica historica sentencia de 25 años de prision a Fujimori por crimenes de lesa humanidad (CNDDHH)
Tribunal confirmo la condena por unanimidad (La Republica)

Saturday 2 January 2010

Brazil: Military Opposition to TC Plan

Brazil's possible future truth commission is already drawing opposition from military factions.

According to news reports, the Defense Minister Nelson Jobim and the three heads of the armed forces submitted their resignations in response to the plans, which they believe is "vengeful" since the intention is to investigate crimes by the military and police, and not by armed left-wing groups. This pits Jobim against Human Rights Minister Paulo Vannuchi.

The resignations have not been accepted but Lula apparently will now review the law before sending it to congress in the next few weeks. Of course, significantly changing the proposal in response to these threats would make him look weak.

Brazil's human rights plans angers military leaders (China View)
Brazil's Army, Navy and Air Force Chiefs Threaten to Resign over Truth Commission (Brazzil Mag)
Lula caught in row over military abuses enquiry (UPI)
Comissão da Verdade não é contra as Forças Armadas (Folha Online)
Contra "Comissão da Verdade", comandantes ameaçam sair (Folha Online)

Friday 1 January 2010

Chile: Memory Museum About to Open

Chile's Museum of Memory and Human Rights will open its doors on January 11, although details of the exhibits have not been confirmed. It will be housed in a striking, copper-green building in central Santiago.

In a very good article for the Los Angeles Times, Chris Kraul is right to emphasise that the struggle over which side(s) of events to portray does not end with the opening of a museum. The museum is an important symbol of the state's official version of event and therefore its contents will be scrutinised - it is unlikely to satisfy all groups.
"The museum will cause a lot of conversation because the controversy over the dictatorship is very much alive and the reminders are everywhere," Iglesias said. "Not long ago, I was in an elevator with the wife of one my torturers."

According to museum director Maria Luisa Sepulveda, the facility's purpose is to ensure that democracy and human rights are never hijacked again in Chile. Its construction is part of the process of the nation coming to grips with its past -- a process of truth and justice that "Chilean society is still going through," she said.
"What we are waiting to see is whose version of history will be given," Iglesias said. "The official version of victims as anarchists and terrorists? Or that of the people who were crushed for simply exercising their political rights?

"In Chile," she said, "the battle for history is still being waged."
Chile confronts past with new museum (LA Times)