Wednesday 31 October 2012

Argentina: Mi Vida Despues

I was just writing about Proyecto 1980/2000 and I read that one of its inspirations was the work of Argentine playwright Lolas Arias. I'd never heard of her - no doubt a gross oversight on my part - but here is a clip of Mi Vida Despues in which the young characters discuss their parents and their involvement in the dictatorship (with English subtitles).

Peru: Proyecto 1980/2000

Proyecto 1980/2000 is a theatre project dealing with the period of Peru's internal conflict. Directed by Sebastián Rubio and Claudia Tangoa, the piece uses various media including photos, video and music to discuss the era.

It tells the stories of five people growing up during this time: Sebastián Kouri, the son of Alberto Kouri (a former congressman implicated in the "Vladivideos" scandal); Manolo Jaime, the son of Matilde Pinchi (also connected to Vladimiro Montesinos); Carolina Huamán Oyague, the cousin of a victim of the massacre of La Cantuta; Amanda Hume, the daughter of the journalist Gilberto Hume and Lettor Acosta, the son of a military man who participated in the "dirty war" which took place in the interior of the country.

According to Rubio, "Proyecto 1980/2000 tries to form a bridge between the spectator and a history in which the country is fragmented, polarized by the (internal) conflict and corruption".

La Republica writes that the piece brings together different points of view on the internal conflict and the Fujimori era, making it an exercise of memory for people who are too young to actually, personally, remember some of it. It sounds fascinating and it's certainly unusual to unite the divergent viewpoints in this way.

De 1980 al 2000: un catártico paseo por la historia del Perú (La Republica)
Voces de la memoria: Proyecto 1980/2000. El tiempo que heredé (El teatro sabe, La mula)

See also the Facebook page and this Youtube video for more:

Thanks to José Ragas for drawing my attention to this.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Chile: Municipal elections

Chile held municipal elections on Sunday, notable for the fact that this was the first poll since compulsory voting was scrapped. Previously, registering on the electoral role was optional but once registered, you had to vote. Turnout this time was low, at around 40%. This is not a great result but after all, local elections in Europe often get very low interest as well. Still, it's something Chile will want to work on changing.

President Sebastian Pinera said,
"Many Chileans decided not to exercise their right nor their duty to participate in these elections. That is a warning sign that will not and should not go unnoticed." 
 I've mentioned before the issue of disappeared people appearing on the electoral role. In addition, Salvador Allende's granddaughter Maya Fernández Allende defeated the incumbent mayor, Pedro Sabat of the centre-right National Renovation party, in the Santiago district of Nuñoa

Chile local polls see low turnout with voting voluntary (BBC)
The Day After (Robert L. Funk)
Salvador Allende's granddaughter in Chile election win (Guardian)

Saturday 27 October 2012


Brazilian Military Official To be Tried for Abuses Despite Amnesty Law (The Pan-American Post)
Indigenen-Genozid während der Diktatur (Blickpunkt Lateinamerika)
Brazil comes to terms with its slave trading past (Guardian)

"The Chilean state is saying that my father can go and vote," said Lorena Pizarro, Waldo's daughter.
"And I'm asking in reply, 'Where is my father?'"
Chile's not the only country with this issue.
Chile's military rule 'disappeared' on electoral roll (BBC)

"He lives in relative comfort in a suite of rooms at a police special forces base on Lima's eastern edge where guests come and go at his pleasure."
Photos boost Fujimori pardon campaign (AP)
Pasado que no pasa: Memoria Asháninka / Imágenes y Testimonios (Peru foto)
Fujimori Painting Raises Eyebrows, Irks Critics (Peruvian Times)

Saturday 20 October 2012

Argentina: Clarin heirs test negative

It's been a while, but time was I covered the Herrera Noble case rather extensively.

If this doesn't ring any immediate bells, very briefly: Ernestina Herrera de Noble is the director of Clarin, Argentina's largest-circulation newspaper. She has two adopted children, who are now in their '30s. The circumstances of their adoption were irregular and this led to suspicion that they might be children of the disappeared. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have for many years now been using legal means to attempt to prove this; and the Noble children have been resisting with every means at their disposal.

Now, results are finally out: Marcela and Felipe have tested negative against all samples in the genetic database.

As the Grandmothers point out, their samples will now stay there and can be tested against families who may or may not come forward in the future. The Grandmothers say their quest for answers goes on. But for all practical purposes, it seems like we've come to the end of the road. If the two are children of the disappeared, the truth will probably never be known.

In light of this, further unsurprising things: Clarin reported that Felipe and Marcela were "not children of the disappeared", without qualifications, and Ernestina Herrera de Noble wants the charges against her, of kidnapping, to be dropped.

Argentina media magnate wants child kidnap case dropped (Perth Now)
Noble Herrera: confirman que no son hijos de desaparecidos (Clarin)
Herrera de Noble pide ser sobreseída (La Nacion)

Peru: Social media and imagery in Fujimori pardon debate

The current discussion surrounding the possible pardon for Alberto Fujimori in Peru is an interesting illustration of the role of social media in memory debates. Just a few years ago, we wouldn't have known what a "hashtag" had to do with the former president of Peru, but a couple of weeks ago, Peruvians responded to the news with #noalindulto and #indultoesinsulto.

From Fujimori's side, a photo was released showing the prisoner in bed. This was intended to bolster the argument that he should be released on compassionate grounds as he is suffering from terminal cancer:

The Peruvian web exploded in derision, with a whole series of spoofs and responses to the image. Here are just a couple:

 But the story takes another turn when another image was released; this time apparently a self-portrait by the man himself. El Comercio is now reporting that fujimorista politician and doctor Alejandro Aguinaga has confirmed that it is genuine:

The writing reads "Forgive me for what I did not manage to do and what I couldn't help". Unsurprisingly by now, many similar images have popped up, united on Twitter by the hashtag #fujisorry

Plus, here's Carlin's take from La Republica:

My take: I don't see that the photo proves anything one way or another. It is just another indication of the way in which photography is used as "evidence" and to uphold sometimes contradictory points of view. He doesn't look extremely ill to me, but that's not to say he isn't and, for what it's worth, not everyone with cancer has chemotherapy. To be honest, I don't much care - my opinion is that he should stay in jail in either case. The painting is just bizarre and I have no idea what it is supposed to achieve, but I think it's fair to say it won't help his case much. 

Sunday 14 October 2012

Argentina: Beloved Elderly Women No More

The ins and outs of the Argentine human rights scene are not much discussed in English, where if the Madres (and Abuelas, Hij@s, and so on) are seen uncritically as heroes, if they are known at all. In Argentina, they can divide opinion. In this blog, I have expressed a great deal of respect for their work, and I make absolutely no apology for doing so. But humans being humans, it's all a bit more complicated than that, as I discussed some time ago and as explained in a recent article from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
For decades, the Argentine human rights group, Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), has been respected for its work bearing witness to the thousands of disappearances during the Dirty War (1976-1983). In recent years the Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a faction of the original group led by Hebe de Bonafini, has sparked significant controversy because of her divisive comments on topics ranging from September 11 to anti-Semitism. Most significantly, the recent embezzlement scandal involving the organization’s housing program as well as Bonafini’s possible involvement in illegal activities threatens to destroy the reputation of the group and harm its political allies.
Read the whole thing here:
Beloved Elderly Women No More (COHA)

Book review: The Islands by Carlos Gamerro

The Islands, Carlos Gamerro, trans by Ian Barnett in collaboration with the author (2012, And Other Stories, the original, Las islas, published 1998)

This week I read the most extraordinary novel I've come across this year: Carlos Gamerro's The Islands. It's not new, but it is new in English translation, for which it was specially revised. And a tip of the hat to the translator, Ian Barnett, right from the start: the language is amazing, versatile, springy. I haven't read the original so I can't directly compare the two, but to judge from the wordplay that made it into the English version, it must have been a fantastic challenge.

The Islands of the title are the Falklands/Malvinas, and straightaway we see where this book fits into this blog. The protagonist, Felipe Felix, is a veteran haunted by his memories of the conflict. A computer whizz, he is contracted by a megalomaniac businessman to track down the witnesses to a crime, and so starts a delirious romp through Buenos Aires of 1992, with frequent diversions into 1982.

A word of warning: this novel is not for the faint-hearted. It's not realist. It's not tasteful. You name it - sex, drugs, violence, incest, anti-Semitism, torture - it's in here. It was an unusual read for me, and to be honest after I'd read the first chapter I wasn't sure I wanted to go on. But the book drew me in, weaving the story of the legacy of the hopeless war the generals cooked up to bolster their flagging regime.
The farce was over. At that moment a giant hand descended from the sky and lifting up one corner, like someone getting ready to pull off a plaster, it tore off the skin of the city to reveal the desolate heath beneath, the windswept pastures, the streams of stone, the rocks and mud and bogs of the Islands.

Gamerro strips the surface from Buenos Aires and every character in the novel, to reveal their connection to Argentina's traumatic past. Inevitably, this includes a victim of torture (and, if you think the part about her being forced to marry her torturer is just one of the author's flights of fancy, there is at least one documented case of this actually happening*).

If anyone else has read or reads this, I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on it. I suspect this isn't the kind of book to attract mild reactions. For me, I finished it two days ago and it hasn't let me go yet.

*See Marguerite Feitlowitz, A Lexicon of Terror, p. 78.


Other stuff I've been reading since I got back from my trip:

Robert Funk on funas and the paradox of tolerance, here and here.

Colombia militia boss 'Martin Llanos' confesses murders (BBC)
Q&A: Colombia peace talks (BBC)
Colombia apology for devastation in Amazon rubber boom (BBC)

Haiti/Dominican Republic
The massacre that marked Haiti-Dominican Republic ties (BBC)

Two Peru policemen killed in rebel ambush (BBC)
Business Leaders Urge Peru to Boost Security After Shining Path Attack (Peruvian Times)
Journalist working for human rights commission in Peru is threatened and extorted (Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas)
Rural Women in Peru Cope “Where Life Is Very Sad” (IPS)

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Image of the day: No to pardon of Fujimori

Opponents to a pardon for Alberto Fujimori will gather on Friday.

Argentina and Iran talk about AMIA

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez announced at the UN plans to open bilateral talks with Iran over the terrorist attacks that took place in Buenos Aires (on the Israeli embassy in 1992 and on the AMIA Jewish community centre in 1994).

Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akhar Salehi met in New York and there are plans for continued meeting in Geneva over the next month. Fernandez said she "expects results", although it is not completely clear what these might be. The stated aim, according to the two countries, is "to explore a legal mechanism that does not go against the systems of either Argentina or Iran."

Israel and the US have both expressed disapproval of the talks.  This is not surprising since the US wants to isolate Iran. However, no matter how repellent the Ahmadinejad regime may be, I don't see how any progress can ever be made without engaging in dialogue with Iran.

Argentina and Iran to discuss bombings in Buenos Aires in the nineties (Mercopress)
Argentina and Iran begin talks on the bombings of 1992, 1994; next round Geneva (Mercopress)
Argentina, Iran say to talk until 1990s bombings resolved (Reuters)
Con un “mecanismo legal” como objetivo (Pagina/12)
Meeting of Argentina and Iran ministers rankles Israel, U.S. (JTA)

Peru: Other news

The big news in Peru is the possible pardon for Fujimori, but there's been related news stories as well:

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has criticised the ruling by Javiar Villa Stein, in July, reducing the sentences of the Colina group and possibly paving the way for Fujimori's early release (kind of academic if he's going to be let out anyway, but still, he's not the only human rights abuser in jail).
Americas court tells Peru to scrap rule that could help Fujimori (Reuters)
Inter-American Court Calls on Peru To Annul Grupo Colina Ruling (Peruvian Times)

Also, Fujimori could have his paintings sold off to pay reparations he owes to the Peruvian State:
Alberto Fujimori Paintings To Be Confiscated To Pay Debt To Peru (Latin American News Dispatch)

Finally, tributes have been paid to Spanish-born human rights activist Pilar Coll, who died a few weeks ago aged 83. I'm ashamed to say I had not heard of her before her passing, and there's not too much about her in English, but she seems to have been an absolutely sincere and dedicated person.
Falleció Pilar Coll a los 83 años (La Republica)
Remembering Pilar Coll (WOLA)

Peru: Pardon for Fujimori?

The issue of a possible pardon for Alberto Fujimori on humanitarian grounds has been swirling around for ages but really seems to have come to a head in the past week. Otto stuck his neck out last Friday and predicted that it would happen, and unfortunately there's not much reason to disbelieve him so far.

Fujimori apparently has cancerous lesions on his tongue - he's had them for years and been operated on several times, they don't seem to be able to completely get rid of them. Now, while this does not sound pleasant, it hardly puts him at death's door either. Apparently he does not need radiotherapy or chemotherapy. So, given the severity of his crimes and the short prison term he has served so far, do I think he should be allowed out now? Er, hell no. "Indulto es insulto" - A pardon is an insult [to the victims] has been a trending topic on Twitter lately, and it's very true.

Fujimori’s Family To File a Request for Presidential Pardon (Peruvian Times)
Fujimori’s Pardon Request to be Filed After Summit (Peruvian Times)
Alberto Fujimori pedirá indulto por razones humanitarias (Correo)
Peru: Politicians react to possible Fujimori pardon (Peru this Week)
Fujimori's Family to Seek Pardon (Wall Street Journal)