Thursday 19 June 2014

Argentina: RIP Clyde Snow

Forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow died just over a month ago aged 86. Sometimes known as the "Sherlock Holmes of bones", he played a key role in training Argentine forensic anthropologists to identify victims of the country's dictatorship. He also worked with remains in El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil and other countries outside Latin America. One of his major achievements was helping to identify fugitive Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele.
“Witnesses may forget throughout the years, but the dead, those skeletons, they don’t forget,” he told The Times in 2002. “Their testimony is silent, but it is also very eloquent.”
 Argentine human rights defenders expressed their gratitude to Snow.
Chicha Mariani, founder of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, told the Herald last week how grateful she was to him for his work: “He was such a good man, he dedicated so much of his time to us.”
The Argentine forensic team went on to advise others, including those from Peru, so Snow's pioneering work continues to contribute to clearing up atrocities all around the world.

Clyde Snow, Sleuth Who Read Bones From King Tut’s to Kennedy’s, Dies at 86 (NY Times)
Clyde Snow - obituary (Telegraph)
Stories in bones (The Economist)
Farewell to the Sherlock Holmes of bones (The Buenos Aires Herald)
Un hombre que hizo justicia con la ciencia (Pagina/12)

Chile: The Year I was Born

A couple of years ago, I wrote briefly about Lola Arias' play My Life After (Mi vida despues) in which the Argentine characters discuss their parents and their involvement in the dictatorship. Now, Arias has turned to Chile with a piece called The Year I was Born (El Año en que nací), which also uses material like photos, letters and old clothing in the performance.

As the name suggests, the cast were all born during the Pinochet dictatorship.
"To be part of this show was a big decision for all of those involved and not always an easy one," explains Arias. "Those whose family history includes relatives who were killed or suffered badly under Pinochet stand side by side on stage with those whose family members worked for the regime. Some come from families who chose to stay and resist, and others from those who went into exile."
While Viviana Hernandez was researching her history for the show, she discovered that the father she had been told was dead is serving a prison sentence for his part in the murder of two opponents of the Pinochet regime.

Pinochet generation draw on real-life tensions to play out Chile's dark days (Guardian)

For more on Hernandez' amazing story, see: The Father I Never Knew

Brazil: Dilma on amnesty law

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff recently discussed issues including the amnesty law which protects dictatorship-era human rights abusers in an interview with "The New York Times".
Rousseff said that as president, she respected the law, despite her personal views. “I don’t believe in vindictiveness, but I also don’t believe in forgiving,” she said.
“It’s a question of the truth,” she added. “It’s extremely important for Brazil to know what happened, because that will mean it won’t happen again.”
Brazilian President Rejects Criticism Over World Cup (NY Times)

Peru: Lugar de la Memoria, Tolerancia e Inclusión Social

This clip from La Mula shows the architects of Peru's "Lugar de la Memoria" discussing its design and showing us round the (as yet empty) interior - Spanish only.

"Este espacio nos lleva hacia la luz, para mirar al futuro" (La Mula)

See also: Perú ajusta cuentas con su pasado con el Lugar de la Memoria (El País)

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Argentine footballers' visit to Abuelas

Here's the video of the visit of Argentine national football players, including Lionel Messi, to the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. They encourage those with doubts about their identities to approach the Grandmothers as "we've been looking for you for ten World Cups".

Sunday 8 June 2014

Colombian victims to participate in peace talks

The Colombian government and the FARC have come to an agreement for victims of the country's violent conflict to contribute to peace talks, which are being held in Cuba. Guidelines were set for the next round of talks focusing on victims.

A delegation of victims is now set to travel to Cuba in the near future, although an exact date has not been set.

In addition, four victims' forums will be held in Colombia - three regional ones in Villavicencio, Barrancabermeja and Barranquilla and a natonal one based in Cali.

The BBC and some other English-language media are referring to this as "setting up a truth commission", but it must be noted that this is not the term used and the agreement is not supposed to replace a truth commission with a wider mandate which may be created at a later date.

In any case, hearing the voices of the victims is to be welcomed. Unfortunately, with elections looming next week, the progress of the peace talks is uncertain.

Colombia government and Farc rebels to set up truth commission (BBC)
Colombian peace talks turn toward victims (Reuters)
Víctimas del conflicto colombiano participarán en diálogos de paz en Cuba (Ultimas Noticias)
A vote for peace (The Economist)
Breaking News from Havana: Joint Declaration of Principles on Victims (Colombia Calls)

Saturday 7 June 2014

Argentina: Elisabeth Kaesemann (2)

See also my first post on this issue here.

I've just watched the documentary on German broadcaster Das Erste "Was geschah mit Elisabeth K?" (dir: Eric Friedler) and I must say, it was excellent. German-speakers can watch it here and I really recommend it.

Elisabeth Käsemann was a German citizen who was disappeared, tortured and murdered by the military regime in 1977.

The story presented in the documentary is of diplomats and sports officials who, firstly, had little or no interest in intervening in the disappearance of a young woman who was perceived as possibly having extremist views or of being "mixed up in something", and secondly, who conspired to cover up her eventual death until after a friendly match between Germany and Argentina so that there was no chance of it overshadowing the game.

In contrast to the British and French governments, Germany was noticeably relucant to protest at the mistreatment of one of its citizens. Not so incidentally, Germany was also the major supplier of armaments to the Argentine state.

The documentary interviews several former German national footballers about their visit to the country in 1977, a year before the start of the World Cup hosted by Argentina. Listening to them was very interesting; while it is disappointing they were not more outspoken at the time, their comments now were considered and self-critical, especially those of Paul Breitner.

Truly jawdropping, and not in a good way, were the views of Jörg Kastl, who was German ambassador to Argentina during the early part of the dictatorship and who died after filming was completed earlier this year. He openly explains directly to the camera how it was Elisabeth's own fault she was murdered. "She would have been prepared to throw bombs," he said. An odd tense, forced upon him by the inconvenient fact that she never threw any bombs, but paid with her life anyway. And most brazenly, "She was shot and buried, and not entirely without reason, because, as I said, she came to Argentina with really explosive thoughts". Yes, thoughts.

All in all, a disturbing look at how human rights and respect for life are subordinated to business and sport in the context of international diplomacy.

ARD-Doku über Argentiniens Junta: Fußball und Verbrechen (Spiegel Online)
Wie das Auswärtige Amt und der DFB in Argentinien versagten (Der Tagesspiegel)

Argentine national football team support Grandmothers

In the run-up to the World Cup in Brazil, the Argentine national players Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Ezequiel Lavezzi have taken the time to visit the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and express their support for the search for the missing grandchildren. They recorded an advert for the grandmothers, which doesn't seem to be available yet, but I'll keep an eye out for it.

Messi se suma a la búsqueda de nietos desaparecidos (, Uruguay)