Monday 30 December 2013

El Salvador family reunited

Here's a good news story to end the year on.

Salvadoran Josefina Flores Osorio has been reunited with the daughter, Xiomara, she had not seen since 1984. The reunion marked the 389th case of a "disappeared" child to be successfully resolved by the tiny charity Pro Búsqueda Association for Missing Children since the conflict ended 21 years ago. 
Margarita Zamora, a Pro Búsqueda investigator, said many investigations were still hampered by the military. "The army holds important details – dates, names and places – which would help us solve many more cases as families are often too traumatised to remember. We have been asking them for years to release their files, they always say yes, but these are just words."
 It's a fascinating story and, of course, a hugely significant event for the family involved.

El Salvador mother and daughter meet 29 years after civil war abduction (Guardian)

Saturday 21 December 2013

Peru: Consultation process for memory museum

Peru's memory-museum-in-progress, the Lugar de la memoria, la tolerancia and la inclusion social, is conducting a consultation process with various groups about the contents of the exhibitions to be contained within the building. The construction itself is apparently nearly finished and at least part of the site could open in the second quarter of 2014.

Groups being consulted include human rights organisations, victims' families, the police and armed forces, journalists, artists, and the Ashaninka community.

The current plan is for the site to include a space where people will be able to visit and reflect without entering the museum proper. The ground floor of the museum is to be the permanent exhibition and the upper story will be used for temporary exhibitions. A special section will be devoted to the truth and reconciliation commission (CVR).

The consultation process is scheduled to go on until February.

Lugar de la Memoria recoge opiniones de la sociedad civil (La Republica)
Un museo vivo que contará las diversas historias de la violencia (La Republica)

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Peru: Yuyanapaq exhibition to stay open until 2026

The Yuyanapaq photo exhibition will remain part of the permanent exhibition of the Museo de la Nación in Lima until 2026, according to the terms of the renovation agreement signed by the Peruvian govenment ombudsman and the culture ministry. The exhibition has already been seen by over 240,000 people in the last seven years and is part of the legacy of Peru's truth commission. It contains more than 200 photographs from various sources depicting the armed conflict of 1980-2000. It can be viewed for free on the sixth floor of the museum, every day of the week except Monday.

Very pleased to read that the immediate future of Yuyanapaq is secure: it's such an important exhibition for the country.

Exposición fotográfica “Yuyanapaq: para recordar” se quedará en Museo de la Nación hasta 2026 (Idehpucp)

Sunday 15 December 2013

Places of memory in Chile: Casa de los derechos humanos, Punta Arenas

This is the Casa de los derechos humanos, situated on Avenida Colón 636, Punta Arenas. The plaque next to the door states that it was a detention and torture centre during the dictatorship.

As far as the history of the site is concerned, informs us that the building was the principal site of interrogation and torture in the province of Magallanes and that "hundreds" of prisoners passed through there. It was known as "Palacio de las Sonrisas" (Palace of Smiles) and had previously functioned as a naval hospital. The building is three storeys high and, according to, contained both offices and rooms used for torture, including electric shocks.

It's worth noting that this building in right in the centre of Punta Arenas, just off the main shopping street. It's not hidden or in an isolated position at all.

This place was closed up when I went past, but it is apparently used for human rights-related activities such as this one and these. I did a little research and it seems that last year there was talk of the Chilean ministry of national assets taking back the building and changing its use. This was met with protests and as far as I can tell, it was resolved that the building would continue to be used for community activites and even become the site of a memory museum. At the end of 2012, Patagonian paper El Pinguino described the building's future as "uncertain", but this June it reported in brief on the approval of a museum project. Good news, if accurate.

Antiguo Hospital Naval, Punta Arenas (

Friday 13 December 2013

Places of memory in Chile: Parque Cultural de Valparaiso

Valparaiso has an unusual cultural park situated in a former prison, which operated from 1906 to 1999.

The site is still very obviously an ex-jail. At one point, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was controversially commissioned to change it into a fully-fledged cultural centre, but the plan was eventually dropped. Instead, the park was designed by Jonathan Holmes, Martin Labbé, Carolina Portugueis and Osvaldo Spichiger - the Architectural Review has a lot more detail on this.

This message, drawing to the jail as a detention and torture centre during the dictatorship, was sprayed onto the pavement outside the site.

La Tercera has an article about a photographic exhibition which took place in the park this year, which unfortunately I didn't get the chance to see, but it featured works by Nelson Muñoz Mera taken just after the prison stopped working. Very interesting images, check them out

Someone in Valparaiso remarked to me that it was a bit odd to go to a concert in a former prison, but as regular readers of this blog know, I am a fan of using sites of memory and not locking them away or preserving them in aspic, so I don't really have a problem with it. Whether former prisoners would want to go back and see it now is of course another matter, but the city is not sweeping its past under the carpet here, it's making use of it, and I like that.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Places of memory in Chile: Memorial in Valparaíso

This is the monument for the detained-disappeared and persons executed for political reasons of the region of Valparaíso (Monumento a los Detenidos Desaparecidos y Ejecutados políticos de la Dictadura Militar de la Región de Valparaíso), Chile's second city and major port. And, as you can see here, it also acts as a convenient seat for students of the nearby university.

The memorial was designed by a team formed of sculptor Eliana Herrera, architect Hernán Bustamante and anthropologist Javiera Bustamante, who won a public competition. 

The stone base of the memorial contains the names of 177 victims of the dictatorship between 11 September 1973 and 10 March 1990.

The top part of the memoria resembles a wave and is formed of 86 iron sheets of varying heights. The designers said that it represented the sea as a source of life and symbolised a fragment of the history of Chile. The names of the men and women were "engraved there forever to defeat forgetting". 

Memorial por desaparecidos y ejecutados (El Mercurio de Valparaíso)

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Peru: La Hoyada declared protected zone

The region of La Hoyada, Ayacucho, has been declared a protected zone and is expected to be declared a "memory sanctuary" in the near future. This ensures that the area is protected and it is to be set aside to commemorate the victims of Peru's conflict who were killed there.

Over 100 bodies have been exhumed in La Hoyada.
In 2008, after three years of forensic work, the head of the Legal Medicine Institute, Luis Bromley, said “More than 1000 people came through the barracks as arrested persons and never left.”   He added that “it’s chilling what we have been discovering in each grave — men, women and children murdered. A child and an unborn child are not terrorists, there is no justification for these deaths.”
Ayacucho Seeks to Preserve Site of Atrocities Committed During Conflict (Peruvian Times)
Declaró La hoyada como zona de protección (

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Places of memory in Santiago: Monument to the disappeared

Municipal workers in Chile were striking during my visit and there was a notice on the entrance to the main cemetery in Santiago saying that it was only open for funeral services, but the guards weren't stopping people going in, so I managed a quick visit to the monument to disappeared people and executed political prisoners.

Its full name is the Memorial del Detenido Desaparecido y del Ejecutado Político (memorial for detained-disappeared people and those executed for political reasons).

At the side of the monument itself are niches, some of them empty and some with victims' names and flowers.

The main monument itself is a large, stone wall with a list of victims carved into it. As with other such walls, the effect is largely due to the sheer number of names. In the very centre is president Salvador Allende.

The memorial is topped with a quotation from Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, who you can hear reading here.

I always really like seeing a memorial used, actually part of the fabric of life. In this case, at the bottom of the memorial are many notes, photos, little plaques, flowers, and so on. It's a sombre site but then, it is in a graveyard. The important thing is these victims did not previously have anywhere where their families could go to mourn them and to mark their lives, and now they do, and they are acknowledged in the chief cemetery of the capital city as being part of the country's history.

Friday 29 November 2013

Places of memory in Santiago: La Moneda

Chile's presidential palace, November 2013 (image mine):

Chile's presidential palace, September 1973 (image from here):

Places of memory in Santiago: Londres 38


In a pleasant, tree-lined street in the barrio París-Londres is Londres 38, a former detention and torture centre. It was approproated by the military regime following the coup, having previously belonged to the socialist party. It was used by the DINA (secret police) as a torture and holding centre for regime opponents, at least 98 of whom died there or afterwards. In front of the building, victims' named are embedded among the cobble stones (similar to the Stolpersteine in Germany).

 Visitors are free to walk around and take photographs; they receive a plan of the building with some information or can take a guided tour.

I was initially a little surprised at the condition of the walls, but of course it makes far more sense to see it like this than artificially spruced up. You certainly get more of a sense for the suffering that took place there; although it's also really amazing to think how central the location is. writes that the building was known for the loud classical music coming from it - pretty chilling when you realise what that music was covering up.

 Upstairs during my visit there was a small exhibition of photographs.

The building is not huge and although very interesting, it doesn't provide a great deal of background. If you're unsure of the history, think about joining a tour or read up beforehand. The site is free to enter but please consider making a donation if you visit.

Londres 38 ( - info from the Rettig report, in English)
Londres 38 (

Monday 25 November 2013

Places of memory in Santiago: Memory museum

Where better to start a tour of memory places in Chile than at the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos? It's a large and striking site:

Alright, so in one sense it's a green, glass box but I don't mean that as a criticism at all. You walk down towards the entrance and it's impressive.

 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights features on an external wall:

The museum declares that it is "a school" and one positive thing I noticed while I was there was the many school groups. The first one I saw, the kids were quite young (pre-teens) and the teacher made them all sit on the floor and dictated a long lecture to them, telling them off when they asked her to repeat difficult words. They were perhaps too young, at least for that kind of visit. But there were groups of older teenagers who seemed very engaged.

There was also an external exhibition comparing the situation in many different countries:

Sadly you're not allowed to take photographs inside, which is a real shame, because the most striking feature for me is the huge wall of photographs of the disappeared reaching up across the entire space. There is also a point where you can stand and look out at it and locate individual names and faces.

On the ground floor various terminals show footage of the 1973 coup and its aftermath. As you move upstairs, different areas cover aspects like exiles and international solidarity, media coverage, and torture - including, chillingly, an electric shock device (made by General Electric - not suggesting they intended it to be used for that purpose!). There are also items made by prisoners and photographs of memorial sites throughout Chile.

The museum was quite busy when I was there on a Friday morning, which is really not always the case in Latin American museums. It was fascinating to see people engaging with the material. One guy was so absorbed in the video of the return to democracy and the "No" campaign (roughly the period covered in the recent film "No" starring Gael García Bernal), he was watching it when I started looking round the floor and still there when I had finished.

The memory museum is free to enter and it is a large, slick site which must have been extremely expensive to build. While this is laudable, when I discussed the museum with Steven in Santiago, he expressed the opinion that it could be a bit more forthright in asking for donations and I completely agree. Many visitors could afford to give something and it is not mentioned or even really obvious how to do this (there's a slot in the front desk, or you can buy a catalogue for CLP 10,000 and this includes a donation; there should be catalogues in the shop but I had to ask for one to be brought up for me). It's one thing making your museum accessible and it's another not even gently directing people to the opportunity to support it.

Anyway, I think Chile really sets a standard here to which it will be interesting to compare, for example, the Lugar de la Memoria in Peru. One thing to note is that this is explicitly not a space where you will get some sort of pseudo-neutrality or weighing up of the pro- and anti-Pinochet factions as equal. As it states in the catalogue,
the task of building a memory must be guided by a moral compass; we must build a reading of the collective trauma that goes above and beyond what is evident, a history of victims and criminals, guilty and innocent. The goal in the museum's construction of memory is to become a space that assists the culture of human rights and democratic values in becoming the share ethical basis of our present and future coexistence. Only in this way can we empower our claim of NEVER AGAIN.

Tuesday 5 November 2013


There will be little to no posting during November. But I will hopefully be gathering plenty of material for future posts!

Friday 1 November 2013

Argentina celebrates 30 years of democracy

On 30 October, 1983, elections were held in Argentina which heralded the return to democracy under president Raúl Alfonsín. When you consider that there were six coups d'etat between 1930 and 1976, 30 years of democracy is a real achievement. As an opinion piece in the Buenos Aires Herald comments, back then, thinking that democracy was here to stay would have seemed "rash", at least. Yet the disappeared are always a part of the commemorations as well.

Acts and rallies mark 30 years of democracy (Buenos Aires Herald)
Argentina celebrates 30 years of democracy and free elections in 1983, 16 months after defeat in Malvinas (Mercopress)

Artist Marta Minujin recently constructed a huge work called "Agora de la paz"of 25,000 books, which were given away at the end of the installation.

Art icon Minujin commemorates 30 years of democracy in Argentina (

There is an exhibition in Buenos Aires of the art of León Ferrari, who died this year, and who tackled complicity with the dictatorship in series like "Nosotros no sabíamos" (We didn't know), which used newspaper clippings to give the lie to people's denials. A further exhibition of his work is also taking place in Rosario.

‘We knew nothing’ was no excuse (Buenos Aires Herald)
“Nosotros no sabíamos”, de León Ferrari (Clarín)
Art Icon Minujin Commemorates 30 Years of Democracy in Argentina - See more at:
Art Icon Minujin Commemorates 30 Years of Democracy in Argentina - See more at:

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Memoria Chilena (5)

Exiled Chileans, 1973.

Image credit: Exiliados chilenos . Disponible en Memoria Chilena, Biblioteca Nacional de Chile .


Tuesday 29 October 2013

Memoria Chilena (4)

This is the cover of APSI after the victory of the "no" campaign in the 1988 referendum. 

Image credit: APSI: n° 272, octubre de 1988 . Disponible en Memoria Chilena, Biblioteca Nacional de Chile .


Monday 28 October 2013

Memoria Chilena (3)

Poet Pablo Neruda at a Communist Party event, around 1970. 

Image credit: Neruda en un acto del Partido Comunista, hacia 1970 . Disponible en Memoria Chilena, Biblioteca Nacional de Chile .


Sunday 27 October 2013

Memoria Chilena (2)

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Memoria Chilena project, I'm going to show a few of their images over the next few days. This man needs no introduction, but this kind of unposed, partial shot of him is not that common.

Image credit: Augusto Pinochet. Disponible en Memoria Chilena, Biblioteca Nacional de Chile .

Argentina: Right to identity for kids

This little video from Pakapaka, the children's channel of the Argentina education ministry, explains the history of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and the right to identity, with Estela Carlotto voicing herself. 

Saturday 26 October 2013

Memoria Chilena

The national library of Chile's fantastic open-source project Memoria Chilena is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The site is well worth checking out.

Image credit: Ehrmann, Hans. Víctor Jara, ca. 1970 . Disponible en Memoria Chilena, Biblioteca Nacional de Chile .

Friday 25 October 2013

Chile's anniversary in photos

Just a quick link to two great blog posts by Emily Achtenberg on the NACLA site about Chile's 40-year anniversary. Lots of interesting photos, of which I'll add just one here to tempt you to go and check out the rest.

Chile’s 40 Year Anniversary in Photos: Part 1, Recovering Memories (Rebel Currents)
Chile’s 40 Year Anniversary in Photos: Part 2 – Resistance, Past and Present (Rebel Currents)

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Colombia: Bogotá's memory museum

Despite the fact that in Colombia, perhaps even more than other countries in the Americas, its period of violence is by no means "over", memory efforts occur alongside current events. One commemorative space is the Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación in Bogotá.

It's a striking building. As "" describes, its "four walls encourage peace, promote a culture of democracy and demonstrate the importance of human rights in a society skewed by violence. There are sunlit corridors and glass enclosed conference rooms for art exhibitions and as a public space, the centre looks to promote a collective dialogue around the causes and consequences of political violence."

The 'Memory' museum (The city paper)
The official website of the site is down, but they are quite active on Twitter

Thank to Mike for drawing my attention to this. Image credit: Pedro Felipe at Wikicommons.
Its four walls encourage peace, promote a culture of democracy and demonstrate the importance of human rights in a society skewed by violence. There are sunlit corridors and glass enclosed conference rooms for art exhibitions and as a public space, the centre looks to promote a collective dialogue around the causes and consequences of political violence. - See more at:
Its four walls encourage peace, promote a culture of democracy and demonstrate the importance of human rights in a society skewed by violence. There are sunlit corridors and glass enclosed conference rooms for art exhibitions and as a public space, the centre looks to promote a collective dialogue around the causes and consequences of political violence. - See more at:
Its four walls encourage peace, promote a culture of democracy and demonstrate the importance of human rights in a society skewed by violence. There are sunlit corridors and glass enclosed conference rooms for art exhibitions and as a public space, the centre looks to promote a collective dialogue around the causes and consequences of political violence. - See more at:
Its four walls encourage peace, promote a culture of democracy and demonstrate the importance of human rights in a society skewed by violence. There are sunlit corridors and glass enclosed conference rooms for art exhibitions and as a public space, the centre looks to promote a collective dialogue around the causes and consequences of political violence. - See more at:
Its four walls encourage peace, promote a culture of democracy and demonstrate the importance of human rights in a society skewed by violence. There are sunlit corridors and glass enclosed conference rooms for art exhibitions and as a public space, the centre looks to promote a collective dialogue around the causes and consequences of political violence. - See more at:
Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación
Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación
Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación
Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación
Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación
Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación
Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación
Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación

Less democracy makes for an easier World Cup

This story is not new; the article is from April but I was just sent it by Erik Jennische and I couldn't let it pass. I don't recall it being picked up on too much at the time, but apologies if it was.

Too much democracy can be a hindrance when organizing a World Cup, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said on Wednesday. ...
"When you have a very strong head of state who can decide, as maybe Putin can do in 2018...that is easier for us organizers than a country such as Germany....where you have to negotiate at different levels."
FIFA president Sepp Blatter then told the audience that he was relieved that hosts Argentina won the 1978 World Cup, which was held under an oppressive military government.
"I remember my first World Cup where I was directly involved was the one in Argentina and I would say I was happy Argentina won," he said.
"This was a kind of reconciliation of the public, of the people of Argentina, with the system, the political system, the military system at the time."

Well, I'm so happy for FIFA that they were able to organise the Argentina World Cup without the hassle of having to deal with all those people. How nice that a brutal authoritarian government smoothed the way for an international sporting event which took place while detainees were being held incognito and tortured just down the road.

By the way, see these two great posts from the Unredacted blog of the National Security Archive on Argentina '78. The first of them notes that human rights abuses did ease off during the time that the eyes of the world were on the country (which is not the same as saying that holding the tournament there was a good idea). The second details then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger predicting that Argentina will win the World Cup and giving his support to the military junta:
We have followed events in Argentina closely. We wish the new government well. We wish it will succeed. We will do what we can to help it succeed.
We are aware that you are in a difficult period. It is a curious time, when political, criminal and terrorist activities tend to merge without any clear separation. We understand you must establish authority. 

Soccer: Less democracy makes for an easier World Cup - Valcke (Reuters)

Also. What Otto said

Monday 14 October 2013

Peru: Construction of Lugar de la Memoria

Here's a short clip of the construction of the Lugar de la Memoria in Peru.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Nicaragua: Proposal to turn Chipote prison into museum

Nicaragua's opposition BDN party wants the notorious Chipote prison, where inmates were tortured during the Somoza dictatorship and Sandinista government, to be converted into a museum. 

The Nicaragua Dispatch notes that there have been previous unsuccessful attempts to do this and that there is no guarantee that the ruling Sandinista Front will accept the bill. But you never know. I find it interesting that the prison is still a working one so it would first need to be closed before it could be renovated and its use changed. In examples like that of Argentina's ESMA, there was a significant gap between the use of the site as a clandestine detention centre and its re-opening as a cultural site. 

Human rights organisations want the prison closed in any case because of its extremely poor conditions.

Thanks to Mike at Central American Politics for drawing my attention to this story.

Prisons to peace centers following civil wars (Central American Politics)
Nicaragua's opposition wants to turn jail into torture museum (Nicaragua Dispatch)
Oposición pide declarar museo a un centro de tortura de la dictadura Somoza (
Exigen a la Asamblea Nacional cerrar "El Chipote"
Exigen a la Asamblea Nacional cerrar "El Chipote"
Exigen a la Asamblea Nacional cerrar "El Chipote" (
ONG respalda el cierre de un centro de tortura de la dictadura de los Somoza (
El Chipote, una historia macabra ( - this is an older article providing background info)
Exigen a la Asamblea Nacional cerrar "El Chipote"
Exigen a la Asamblea Nacional cerrar "El Chipote"
Exigen a la Asamblea Nacional cerrar "El Chipote"

Saturday 12 October 2013

Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke is dead

Erich Priebke, a captain in the Waffen SS convicted of participating in the Andeatine caves massacre in Italy, has died under house arrest in Rome. He was 100.

After helping to co-ordinate the execution of 335 Italians on the outskirts of the Italian capital in 1944, Priebke fled to Argentina at the end of the war and lived for decades in Bariloche. He was "found" there in the '90s by a US film crew.* I say "found" because it doesn't seem to have been that hard. According to the Telegraph, he was listed in the phone book!

Watch this clip (above), it's truly extraordinary. Priebke (speaking quite good English; it was his language skills which got him sent to Italy in the first place) shows little surprise and openly admits his involvement in the killing of civilians. However, he claims to have been just following orders and denies anti-Semitism. He concludes by accusing the journalist, Sam Donaldson, of not being a gentleman.

Argentine journalist Uki Goñi documented the case of Priebke in his book, The Real Odessa. He tweeted yesterday that Priebke attempted unsuccessfully to sue him twice over the material. He describes the case in more detail here. Priebke was also the subject of a documentary, Pacto de silencio, which you can see here.

Foreign minister Hector Timerman apparently says that Priebke's body will not be welcome back in Argentina, to be buried next to his late wife.

For judgement on Priebke, a clear and dignified statement - cited in the Guardian - from
Riccardo Pacifici, president of Rome's Jewish community:
"Over Priebke's death there will be no tears and there will be no laughter because neither of these will bring the victims back to life.... There remains bitterness towards a person who never repented for what he did and who dirtied his hands with blood like all the Nazi troops. Now his victims are waiting for him up there in the hope that there will be divine justice."

Erich Priebke (The Telegraph)
Nazi SS captain Erich Priebke dies at 100 in Rome (The Guardian)
Argentina refuses body of Nazi war criminal Priebke (BBC)
El criminal nazi Erich Priebke murió a los 100 años (Telam)
Murió Erich Priebke, ex oficial nazi que se ocultó en Bariloche (La Nacion)
Desde Bariloche a Roma y de ahí al infierno (Pagina/12)

*Apparently an Argentine writer found him there before the US interview.

Friday 11 October 2013

Brazil: Truth commission uncovers traces of dictatorship archive

Folha reports that documents uncovered by the Brazilian truth commission reveal the existence of a previously unknown archive of the armed forces about the dictatorship period. An operation known as "Netuno" (Neptune) was dedicted to preserving documents on microfilm between 1972 and 1974. The archive, whose whereabouts are still unknown, is thought to run to at least 1.2 million pages. The military denies all knowledge of it.

Sorry, just reporting in Portuguese or German:
Marinha fez cópias de arquivos da ditadura (Folha de Sao Paulo)
Wahrheitskommission findet Spur zu Geheimarchiv (Blickpunkt Lateinamerika)

Chile/US: El Mercurio owner admits meeting with CIA

Agustín Eastman Edwards, owner of Chilean paper El Mercurio, has testified in court that he did meet with former CIA director Richard Helms and former U.S. National Security advisor Henry Kissinger shortly after the election of Salvador Allende. He is currently accused of complicity in the dictatorship. However, he denies receiving funding from the US intelligence agency to destabilise the Allende regime.

I actually wrote about this meeting back in 2008.

Owner of Chile’s El Mercurio admits pre-coup contact with CIA, denies cooperation (Journalism in the Americas)
Chilean media tycoon admits meeting with CIA ahead of coup (Santiago Times)
Agustín Edwards reconoce vínculos con la CIA en Estados Unidos pero niega haber recibido dineros de la agencia norteamericana (El Mostrador)

Peru: Fujimori online update

As I wrote recently, former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori is using social media from jail, at least via proxies. Naturally this has become a controversial issue in Peru, and some are keen to ban him from the media. However, it's hard to see how this is possible since he is not tweeting or facebooking personally but passing on messages to his supporters.

The Associated Press has reported on this issue in detail, noting
Peru's prisons chief, Jose Perez, said there's nothing he can do about Fujimori's social media use. "The first problem is that Fujimori doesn't directly manage his Facebook and Twitter accounts. So how can one restrict something he doesn't manage?" 
 Well, quite. Surely the only way to really restrict his passing on content would be to ban all visitors and phone calls. Even if the government somehow managed to close down his Facebook and Twitter accounts, I don't see how they could stop other accounts popping up in the name of his supporters and reporting what he says in private conversations. 

Fujimori Gets Out of Jail via Twitter, YouTube (AP, on NYT)
Alberto Fujimori en Twitter y Facebook: ¿puede tener cuentas? ¿quiénes las manejan? (El Comercio)

Yes, I am following him. There's no point in just having people you agree with on your feed. At the time of writing, Fujimori has 10,518 followers and follows just 13 accounts, including those of two of his children, Kenji and Keiko (both also politicians); other accounts connected to the party Fuerza Popular, led by Keiko; and one about the operation Chavín de Huántar which declares its resistance to the "Communist" [sic] IACHR. He has tweeted 40 times.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Chile: Elections

This week's edition of "Time" has a piece on the Chilean presidential elections called "Chile's Haunted Vote". It's only available online to subscribers, but here are a couple of quotes from the candidates, Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei.

Bachelet: I have been evolving too. I mean, there was a time in my life when I had so much pain, so much rage. But that pain transformed into a constructive force, to say, O.K., the pain is because I lost not only my father, but my country's democracy. [The challenge is] to enable a democratic way of doing things so that nobody has to go through this again... so that we can be political adversaries, but never again enemies.

Matthei: Of course very bad things happened to my country, both before the coup, after the coup, during the coup. People died. People suffered. On the other hand, you cannot judge what happened in Chile if you do not judge what happened all over the world. It was a horrid time for humanity.... I have never, ever said that I was not aware, and when I had the opportunity to talk about it, I did openly.

Sunday 29 September 2013

Chile: Jailed general commits suicide

Well. Chile now only has nine prisoners to transfer from Cordillera jail to Punta Pueco. Former head of the national intelligence center (CNI), Odlanier Mena, killed himself while on weekend leave. He had been serving a six-year term in connection with the "Caravan of Death".

Mena's lawyer, Jorge Balmaceda, specifically attributed the suicide to the recent decision to close Cordillera and move its ten inmates to another military facility. He said that Mena had been in a delicate state of health with need of oxygen, and apparently believed he would not receive the necessary medical treatment there.

Presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet is reported as responding that the suicide was a "very tragic decision". That's very diplomatic of her. Whether Mena intended it or not, it will be seized on by supporters of the military perpetrators and they will attempt to use emotional blackmail to keep the prisoners' privileges.

Chile 'Caravan of Death' general commits suicide (BBC)
Pinochet-Era Intelligence Director Commits Suicide in Chile (LAHT)
Se suicida Odlanier Mena, ex director de la CNI y uno de los internos del Penal Cordillera (La Tercera)
Michelle Bachelet y suicidio de Odlanier Mena: "Me parece que es una decisión muy trágica" (La Tercera)
Abogado de Odlanier Mena: "Se suicidó por el traslado" (24 Horas)

Friday 27 September 2013

Chile decides to close "luxury" jail

Chilean president Sebastian Piñera has announced that the country's Cordillera prison, which holds just ten inmates convicted of human rights abuses, will be closed and the prisoners transferred to Punta Pueco jail. 

The decision, as The Pan-American Post points out, appears to have been provoked by an interview former DINA head Manuel Contreras gave to CNN Chile in which - besides coming across as an arrogant and completely unrepentant old man - he apparently mocks the conditions in which he is held. The prisoners reportedly enjoy special privileges (including use of a tennis court?!) and have over 30 guards for the ten detainees: hardly standard Latin American incarceration. 

Punta Pueco is also a jail specifically for holding human rights abusers, but is supposedly somewhat less luxurious than Cordillera. 

Most of the South American countries seem to have this issue to some extent - in Argentina, older prisoners supposedly under "house arrest" appeared able to come and go in the neighbourhood; in Peru, former president Fujimori has basically an entire appartment to himself and receives visitors whenever he wants. It seems to be a standard move of the military/former leaders: if history turns against you and insists on condeming you for your crimes, well, at least try and make the conditions as cushy as possible and live out your old age in peace. 

This two-tier system is completely unnecessary and allows the perpetrators to continue mocking justice. Many (all?!) South American jails need to have their conditions improved for all prisoners and all prisoners should receive necessary medical care, and apart from that there should be no special treatment. We're not there yet, but closing down a ridiculously lax prison for a tiny number of high-profile prisoners is at least a start. I wonder if Contreras regrets giving that interview now?

Piñera cierra el Penal Cordillera y pone broche de oro a su agenda personal por los 40 años del golpe (El Mostrador)
Piñera anuncia cierre definitivo del penal Cordillera y traslado de los condenados a Punta Peuco (La Tercera)
Chile to Move Ex-Pinochet Agents to No-Frills Jail (NY Times)

Chile: CNN interviews Manuel Contreras

To coincide with the 40th anniversary of the coup, CNN Chile interviewed the former head of the Chilean secret police (DINA), Manuel Contreras. In the interview, Contreras denies that there were human rights abuses in Villa Grimaldi; accuses former president Michelle Bachelet of lying about her own torture experiences; and says all the "disappeared" were killed in armed actions and are buried in the main cemetery (cemeterio general).

Manuel Contreras: "Los detenidos desaparecidos están en el Cementerio General" (CNN Chile)

Brazil/US: Archive partnership

Brown University, the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the National Archive of Brazil, and the State University of Maringá (UEM) have entered into a colloboration to digitise and make accessible declassified documents pertaining to U.S.-Brazilian relations from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The documents will eventually be accessible via the internet to scholars around the world. The project is called "Opening the Archives" and involves students from the two universities.

Brown University, National Archives and Records Administration, and National Archive of Brazil Forge Partnership (Brown University Library News)
U. to help digitize diplomatic records (Brown Daily Herald)

Thursday 26 September 2013

Peru: Detonante: El arte peruano después de la CVR

I am almost too late with this, so if you are in Lima, hurry along this weekend - the exhibition "Detonante: El arte peruano después de la CVR" is on at the Museo Metropolitano until Sunday, and it looks really good. 

The exhibition focuses on Peruvian art responding to the country's truth commission, and is curated by Victor Vich, who has done some very interesting memory work, and Karen Bernedo, whose work I personally wasn't familiar with, but I'll be rectifying that. 

Featured artists include Rudolph Castro, Claudia Coca, Mauricio Delgado, Victor Delfín, Edilberto Jiménez, Alfredo Márquez, Jorge Miyagui, Nelly Plaza, Santiago Quintanilla, Lici Ramírez, Teodoro Ramírez, Miguel Rubio, Josefa Talovara. 

From the images on Facebook, I can see what I take to be some of Jiménez's retablos, and some of the images from Delgado's project Un dia en la memoria.
See also - El arte peruano después de la CVR (La mula, image credit)

p.s. Entry is free!

Thursday 19 September 2013

Peru: Fujimori on Facebook and Twitter

Peruvian social media is today noting with amusement the announcement of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori that he will be participating on Facebook and Twitter. Well, you know, not actually him, because he's in prison, but his official accounts will be managed by "young associates". He says he wants to share his "thoughts and memories".

It's hard to take this seriously really; it smacks of someone who just can't accept being out of the limelight. It remains to be seen, however, how far he tries to use these channels to achieve what appears to be his primary aim at the moment - a pardon.

Alberto Fujimori anuncia que usará redes sociales desde prisión (La Republica)

Argentina: 30th anniversary of El Siluetazo

Nothing to make you feel old in blogging terms like doing a "30th anniversary" post and realising you did a 25th anniversary one as well...

Anyway, 21 September is the 30th anniversary of the public art event known as the Siluetazo ("big silhouette"). This was part of the Marcha de la resistencia of 1983, a huge demonstration in support of human rights and democracy which took place under the military regime. By 1983, the junta was weakening and protest was easier than it had previously been, but still, it was not a risk-free undertaking. Activists cut out life-size silhouettes to draw attention to the issue of disappeared people. The idea was simple but highly effective. The symbol has become one of the lasting icons of the dictatorship and has been referred to and re-used in various contexts (see, for example, here).

It is remembered largely through the work of photographer Eduardo Gil, and an exhibition of his work opens tomorrow at the Centro provincial de la memoria in La Plata.

The image for this post was sourced from this excellent article, published earlier this year, on the origin and impact of the Siluetazo. There are more, larger images there.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Argentina: Abuelas documentary

Women Make Movies contacted me to promote a documentary by Noemi Weis, Abuelas: Grandmothers on a Mission. Here's the trailer:

Saturday 14 September 2013

Chile: 40 years on (3)

There are declassified documents on the US and Chile from the National Security Archive.

Chilean journalism research center CIPER criticizes the role of paper El Mercurio in supporting the Pinochet regime and failing to account for its actions afterwards. 

Steve Anderson provides a personal piece for the Santiago Times on how September 11, 1973, changed his life.  

The BBC has a slideshow of the commemorations and reports on the clashes between protesters and police. 

The lingering effect of Pinochet's policies and resulting inequality is discussed by IPS.

In an editorial for La Tercera, Robert Funk asks what happens after the commemorations are over. He argues that the 11th is for remembering, and the 12th is for opening your eyes and coming to terms with the past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung). It's a very good piece.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Don McCullin on the "shame of memory"

The "Lens" blog in the New York Times picks up on comments by renowned photojournalist Don McCullin recently.
“Photography was a beautiful thing to me... But once I started putting my hands in the blood and suffering of war I became really disillusioned. I would stand in front of men who were going to be executed in front of me, crying, looking at me and hoping I could stop their murder. There were dying children in Africa who were starving, and I would come to a feeding center. They would think here was a white man, he is going to bring some food aid. All I had was a Nikon camera around my neck... At the end of the day, after years and years of assuming you can steal the pain of people in your pictures and the suffering of soldiers, civilians and starving children and dying children that drop dead in front of you, you have to suffer the shame of memory and then you have to somehow live with it, sleep with it, understand it without trying to become insane... Nobody said that you have to get on this airplane and go to these wars and make these terrible images. I did it. I have to accept the responsibility.”
Strong words which raise pertinent questions about the point of photojournalism and the uses of photography. 

I think McCullin is right that claims about the power of photography (and indeed, memory) are often overblown. Recordar para no repetir, we hear. Nunca más. Never again. But atrocities do happen again. The Holocaust was unique, but it didn't prevent Rwanda, Guatemala, Cambodia, Argentina, Peru, and the rest. He is quite right that there is no sign of an end to war and bloodshed.

So why bother? Firstly, I think, there is a value in learning about and remembering historic events whether or not this can affect the future. It seems like a question of respect towards the victims as much as anything. Photography plays a role in illustrating this and giving it a "human face".

Secondly, let's not only see the negative. While countries continue to suffer trauma, there has been progress too. Argentina - a country which experienced six coups in the twentieth century - is about to mark 30 years of democracy. Brazil is examining its past in a truth commission. Peru has imprisoned both its main guerrilla leader and the president who combated terrorism with disregard for human rights.

The issue of shame is an interesting one. Yes, being a photographer is a job and they earn money from it - I have no idea how much, but I have a suspicion it's not that much when you consider the risks they run (which they choose to run). So are they merely exploiting their subjects? It's an issue with many sides, clearly, but my instinct is that we need to see, however imperfectly, what is happening in other parts of the world. Photographs can't work miracles, but they do form an important part of memory work, and memory might not prevent future disasters, but it is still important in its own right.

The “Shame of Memory” Haunts a War Photographer (NYT)

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Chile: 40 years on (2)

This anniversary is a big one for Chile.

Sergio Carrasco of the Associated Press recalls covering the coup.
Most communications were cut off by then, but AP photographer Santiago Llanquin persuaded a telephone operator to open a line. We reached a hotel in Mendoza, Argentina, and somehow kept that line open for days. AP photographer Eduardo DiBaia rushed from Buenos Aires to set up a makeshift bureau in the hotel, defying censors and transmitting news and photos of the attacks to the outside world. 
Much has been made of US support for the coup (and rightly so), but you don't hear much about British Foreign Office backing for it. Grace Livingstone at the Guardian online sheds some light; pretty shocking to read about criticism of "black propaganda against the Chilean armed services"! Joyce Horman also writes about the murder of her husband for the website. There is also a slide show of images from "Chile from within", a photobook by Susan Meiselas which is being reissued in electronic format. A further guest piece is from human rights judge Baltasar Garzón.

"Time" interviews president Sebastian Piñera on the occasion of the 40th anniversary.
This was a very dark part of our history. We should not forget it. But when we remember it, the question is what is the goal? To reproduce the same anger? Everybody has some lessons to learn. The only thing that [the left] would say is that nothing that happened before September 11, 1973 justifies what happened in terms of human rights abuses afterwards, and I fully agree with them.
In comments to media, Piñera also criticised the complicity of the media, provoking a reaction from journalists

Presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet has been very involved in the commemorations - understandable, since she was a victim of torture herself and her father was killed. She visited the Villa Grimaldi detention centre in Santiago and called for a full investigation into human rights abuses. 

A lot of people have been tweeting the BBC story about Carmen Quintana, who was set on fire by soldiers and lived to tell the tale. 
"I feel that I am the voice of so many other Chileans who died," she says. 
  Of the Spanish-language media, there is too much to mention, but just to highlight Robert Funk's column for La Tercera on the lasting divisions within Chile.

Photo of the day: Chile

Only one choice really.


Sunday 8 September 2013

Chile extradites Argentine judge

Former Argentine judge Otilio Romano has been extradited from Chile to face charges of human rights abuses during the 1976-1983 military rule. He had fled there two years ago. He is accused of complicity in forced disappearances, torture and illegal raids.

It occurs to me that this is the other side of the coin from the cooperation between Latin American countries under Operation Condor, where people fleeing persecution from one country would find themselves under attack in another. Now alleged human rights abusers do not find that crossing the border gives them a place to hide. And a good thing too!

'Dirty War' judge Romano extradited to Argentina (BBC)
Extraditaron desde Chile a un ex juez federal acusado por delitos de lesa humanidad (Clarin)
Former Judge Otilio Romano arrived in Mendoza, extradited from Chile (Telam)
Ex juez Otilio Romano llega a Argentina tras cumplirse proceso de extradición desde Chile (La Tercera)

Brazil: O Globo apologises for coup support

Brazilian paper O Globo last week issued an unexpected apology for its support for the military dictatorship in the country; however, it also implicated a number of other media outlets in the complicity.

It described its support for the regime as "a mistake".

As often in such situations, few were satisfied by the statement. Current-day coup supporters saw the editorial as an attempt to rewrite history. According to weekly magazine Carta Capital, the right-wing group Clube Militar - which still holds annual celebrations of the coup - said they were nonplussed with what they saw as a two-faced retraction. On the other hand, for opponents the apology did not go far enough and was condemned as a marketing strategy. 

Leading Brazilian newspaper O Globo calls support for 1964 military coup "a mistake" (Journalism in the Americas)
Globo media organisation apologises for supporting Brazil’s dictatorship (The Independent)
Brazil's Globo group apologizes for backing military government (LA Times)

Chile: 40 years on

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the September 11 coup in Chile and there has been a predictable flurry of memory-related stories.

Amnesty International UK is hosting an updated version of photojournalist Julio Etchart's 1988 exhibition Chile's 9/11 at the Human Rights Action Centre in Shoreditch, London, on weekdays from 9-20 September (you can see some of the images here).

Hugh O'Shaughnessy recalls witnessing the coup as a journalist in Santiago.

Joyce Horman, whose husband was killed by the military regime and became the subject of the well-known film Missing, continues to fight for justice for the disappeared. An event celebrating the judges, lawyers and human rights activists who led efforts to illuminate this dark period of history will be held at the Charles Horman Truth Foundation in New York on Monday.

Meanwhile, the family of Victor Jara has filed suit in Florida under federal laws allowing legal action against human rights violators living in the United States. The former officer accused of his murder, Pedro Pablo Barrientos, moved to the United States in 1989 and became an American citizen.

Chilean judges have made an unprecedented apology for their profession's involvement in the regime. Chilean courts rejected about 5,000 cases seeking help on locating missing loved ones abducted or killed by the authorities.

Chilean president Sebastian Pinera called for those with information about the disappeared to come forward.

Reuters and AFP also consider the legacy of the dictatorship as the anniversary approaches.  The BBC features the work of muralists who defied the regime.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Argentina: Disappeared of African descent

The Buenos Aires Herald drew my attention to research being undertaken by anthropologist Pablo Cirio of the university of La Plata on the Afro-Argentine disappeared. Little attention has so far been given to this small group - certainly I've never seen anything on desaparecidos of African descent in Argentina - but Cirio has apparently already uncovered ten cases. Cirio argues that the disappearances should be seen in the context of the "historic disappearance" of the community, first from Africa and then from the official history of Argentina. He points to, for example, remarks by dictatorship-era interior minister Albano Harguindeguy about Argentina being "one of the three whitest countries in the world". The research is at an early stage, but sounds promising.

The forgotten Afro-Argentine disappeared (Buenos Aires Herald)
Estudian casos de afroargentinos víctimas de la última dictadura como parte de su "desaparición histórica" (Telam)

Saturday 31 August 2013

Peru: El ojo que llora

Image source

I was looking at the pictures of the Lima memorial El ojo que llora (the eye that cries)  and its role in the recent marking of the decade since the truth commission report in Peru. I'm really pleased to see this memorial space actually being used and acting as a focal point for commemorations.

I saw the memorial being constructed and I don't seem to have shared many of those images, so I thought I'd put that straight. These were taken at the end of 2005.