Sunday 30 May 2010

Peru: Lori Berenson

A selection of coverage of Lori Berenson's release:

Lori Berenson in Peru: A Story of Lobbying (Living in Peru)

Lori Berenson to be released on parole after 15 years (IPS)

American Lori Berenson freed from Peruvian prison after 15 years (LA Times blog; this article calls Berenson an activist and places the word terrorist in quotes, as if it is an unfounded accusation. I find it very interesting to consider this in context of the disgust shown in the American media when, for example, convicted Hamas members are released to scenes of celebration. Yet Berenson was convicted in a democracy - in her retrial - and has not distanced herself from the activities of the MRTA)

US terror convicts freed in Peru after 15 years (AFP)

U.S. citizen Berenson freed from prison in Peru (Reuters)

NY woman who aided Peru rebels free after 15 years (AP)

Peru's executive to look at proposals to expel US citizen Berenson (Peruvian Times)

Colombia: Tanja Nijmeijer

“How will it be when we take power?” Ms. Nijmeijer asked in one entry. “The wives of the commanders in Ferrari Testa Rossas with breast implants eating caviar?”
I had never heard of Tanja Nijmeijer previously, but the New York Times has an interesting article on the Dutch-born FARC guerrilla - also interesting to compare with the coverage of Lori Berenson.

Dutch Guerrilla in Colombia Leaves Puzzling Trail (NY Times)

Saturday 29 May 2010

Tracing the Shadows of Operation Condor

Please check out this stunning photo slideshow by João de Carvalho Pina of clandestine detention centres, victims and perpetrators of the abuses of Operation Condor.

Tracing the Shadows of Operation Condor (NY Times)

(thanks to Prison Photography for drawing my attention to this)

Friday 21 May 2010

Argentina: Laura Alcoba's The Rabbit House

Back in September 2008, I reviewed Laura Alcoba's The Rabbit House, and that has remained one of my more popular posts in searches. I've now seen that this was the book of the week on BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour last week. You can listen to the five 15-minute readings on BBC iPlayer - but only for the next few days! Programmes are available for a week after broadcast, so last Monday's episode is available til Monday, Tuesday's episode til Tuesday, and so on. I haven't listened to them all yet, but I will try to get to it over the weekend. Highly recommended.

Peru: 30 Years On

AFP has published an article to mark thirty years since the Shining Path's start of 'armed struggle'. I'm not convinced I agree with the description of them "sweeping" into Chuschi to burn the ballot boxes in 1980, as everything I've ever read suggests that that incident was not a spectacular one but really only gains significance with hindsight. Nevertheless, this quote is succinct and to the point:

The war left 100,000 orphans, displaced 600,000 people, and resulted in material losses of some 20 billion dollars, the Truth Commission said.

"That cost, heavier than all of Peru's wars combined, is Shining Path's most lasting legacy," said Peruvian analyst Ruben Vargas. [emphasis mine]

30 years on, Peru's Shining Path remnants live on (AFP)

Peru: Special Treatment for Fujimori?

Not for the first time, there are suggestions that former President Fujimori is receiving preferential treatment in jail. Caretas has published a video apparently showing the disgraced politician outside his cell, supervising repair works. I must say the distance and film quality make him difficult to identify in the clip, but from the last few seconds it does seem to be him, and the still photographs look unequivocal. The article also claims that he is allowed to receive large numbers of visitors.

Sunday 9 May 2010

Guatemala/US: Hope for Dos Erres Deportations

Cristales, one of only two known survivors of the massacre, saw his entire family murdered. He said he was frustrated it has taken so long for the men to be brought to justice. But he said he hoped U.S. and Guatemalan officials might work together to make that happen.

“They have to do something... The only thing I ask is justice,” said Cristales, who is now hiding in an undisclosed location.

The Global Post has produced a detailed report on investigation into Guatemalan perpetrators of human rights abuses who are now living in the US. There is now some hope that four men may be convicted of immigration offences and eventually deported to Guatemala where they could face further charges relating to the notorious massacre at Los Dos Erres in 1982.... yes, I know. That's not exactly a foregone conclusion. But honestly, ladies and gentlemen, click through and look at the photos with this article of the mass graves and the waiting relatives. They say more about the necessity of thorough investigations than words ever could.

Although, on the subject on words, it is worth remembering former President Reagan's assessment of Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt as
“a man of great personal integrity…[who] wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.”
Right. In a further piece of astute social commentary,
Reagan said that Rios Montt had received a “bum rap” from human rights groups.
Poor guy.

US rounds up Guatemalans accused of war crimes (Global Post)

Sunday 2 May 2010

- The courts said that Martinez de Hoz isn't allowed to leave the country.
- I don't know if that's tougher for Martinez de Hoz or for the country.

Guatemala: "La Isla"

This looks like a very interesting film, focusing on the archives of terror in Guatemala (h/t Guatemala Solidarity Network). I was particularly struck by the physical work of uncovering the archives, left to rot in the dust. I've seen similar pictures from Argentina.

On a related note,
Guatemala's government handed over a military document on Thursday containing evidence soldiers massacred villagers during the country's civil war which could help prosecute top officials for genocide.

Guatemala Hands Over Key File Army Genocide Case (NY Times)

Chile: Paul Schaefer's Death

Nazi Germany, Pinochet's Chile, torture, enslavement, child abuse, a religious cult - if this was a film, you'd call it sensationalist. But it was real. Here's a round-up of the some of the response to the death of Paul Schaefer, founder of the notorious Colonia Dignidad.

For the background: The Torture Colony (Bruce Falconer, 2008, The American Scholar)

Jailed Chilean Cult Leader Schaefer Dies at 89 (NY Times)
Ex-Nazi Paul Schaefer dead in Chile age 88: prison (AFP) [his age seems disputed...]
Chile cult leader Schaefer dies in Chile prison (BBC)
Leader of notorious German colony dead in Chile (AP)
Grim Chapter of Chilean History Closes with Death of Former Nazi and Cult leader (Mercopress)
Paul Schaefer - Nazi, pedophile, murderer - was buried today (Structurally Maladjusted)

Saturday 1 May 2010

This Week in Argentina

Hello again guys. It's been good to remove the pressure to post regularly, but I can't quite leave the blog behind ;-) Now it's the weekend, and here's an update of the memory news out of Argentina this week.

It's the usual good news/bad news combo from the human rights trials. Following the triumph of Bignone's conviction, there was further cause for optimism when the Supreme Court overturned the pardon of dictatorship-era economy minister José Martínez de Hoz. Once known as the "wizard of Hoz" for the magic he practised on the Argentine economy (for a brief period), Martínez de Hoz was one of the most powerful civilians in the military regime. Pagina/12 ran with the headline "Up to his ears in it" - can you guess why?

At the same time, however, IPS is repeating complaints that the justice process is plagued by delays and setbacks.
"The judicial branch is mainly responsible for the delays. There are cases of complicity with the dictatorship, because certain sectors entrenched in federal power want to guarantee impunity," lawyer Andrea Pochak, deputy director of the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), told IPS. [...]
"Nowadays, Mendoza is our main concern. Because of complicity, some judges delay the prosecutions and leave the trials in limbo, waiting for the accused to die (of old age) before justice can be done," she complained.
The Madres de Plaza de Mayo have been as busy as ever, commemorating their 33rd anniversary. President Kirchner was the main speaker at the event at the cultural centre in the former ESMA site. They also staged a symbolic 'people's trial' on Thursday against journalists whom they claim were complicit with the military regime. According to the leader of the Madres, Hebe de Bonafini, who was acting as 'judge',
"This trial has to do with denouncing the sellouts, the accomplices, those who never said anything when we were imprisoned," she told crowd of several hundred people. "What we don't want is for the same journalists who lied then to keep doing it now."
The event had an extra political charge because of the government's ongoing conflict with the media group Clarin. This Reuters article makes the case that the issue surrounding the biological parentage of Felipe and Marcela Noble Herrera is politically motivated. I'm quite sure that the Kirchner adminstration will be celebrating if Ernestina Herrera de Noble is officially outed as an accomplice of the dictatorship, but such a charge also strikes me as deeply unfair to the main group behind the struggle, the Abuelas de Plazas de Mayo. No, the grandmothers aren't saints, and they have their political opinions, but they been fighting to discover the disappeared children for over thirty years now. They simply won't back down because this family is rich, powerful, and prepared to fight them through the courts.
"For the Grandmothers this is not a fight between the government and a media group... It's not about politics. It's about human rights," Estela de Carlotto, head of the Grandmothers, told state-owned Channel 7 television last week.
Finally, there's an article from the National Security Archive on how the Madres provide inspiration for relatives of the disappeared all over the continent - in this case, Mexico.