Southern Cone

Argentina: protests over 'disappeared' activist

Tens of thousands of Argentines held protests across the country Sept. 1, demanding answers one month after the disappearance of an indigenous rights activist. Demonstrators held photos of Santiago Maldonado, who was last seen when border police evicted a group of indigenous Mapuche from lands in the southern Patagonia region owned by Italian clothing company Benetton. In Buenos Aires, protesters converged on the Plaza de Mayo, iconic for its role in the struggle to demand justice for the "disappeared" under the military dictatorship. The Buenos Aires march ended in running street battles with the riot police.

Argentina: ex-judges get life for crimes against humanity

A court in the Argentine province of Mendoza on July 26 sentenced four former federal judges to life in prison for crimes against humanity carried out during the country's 1976-1983 dictatorship. The judges were originally tried as accomplices for failure to investigate the abduction, torture and murder of dissenters. The prosecutors eventually charged the judges as principals, arguing that their "inaction on the petitions preceded the disappearance of more than 20 dissidents." The sentence has been applauded by several human rights groups, including the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which has advocated for civilian perpetrators being brought to justice for their role during the dictatorship.

US guns to Brazilian narco-gangs

Amid fast-escalating nightmarish narco-violence in Brazil comes disconcerting word that police in Rio de Janeiro seized 60 assault rifles hidden in a shipment of swimming-pool heating equipment that had just arrived on a flight from Miami. Pulse News Agencyreported June 2 that the AK-47s and AR-10s were discovered in the cargo terminal of Rio's international airport. Photos of the haul showed weapons in the foam packaging they were flown in.

Paraguay: term limits lifted amid deadly protests

Paraguay's Senate on March 31 approved a constitutional amendment lifting the one-term rule for presidents. Put in place by Paraguay's 1992 Constitution following long years of dictatorship, the current rules limit the president to one five-year term. President Horacio Cartes is seeking to lift the one-term limit, a measure supported in the Senate by 25 of 45 legislators. The vote will now go to the Chamber of Deputies, where 44 of the 80 members belong to the president's Colorado Party. If approved there, the vote will go to a national referendum. In the interim, protests have erupted outside Congress, with at least one protestor reported killed and the Congressional building burned.

Bolivia protests Argentina's immigration decree

Argentina's new restrictive immigration policy is drawing protests from neighboring Bolivia—and accusations that President Mauricio Macri is emulating Donald Trump. Macri's Decree 70/2017, issued late last month, modifies Argentina's Immigration Law, barring entry to those who fail to report criminal records to immigration authorities where offenses concerning drugs, arms trafficking or terrorism are involved. In issuing the decree, Macri claimed that a third of inmates in Agrnetina's federal prison system are foreginers, and said the country faces "a critical situation that warrants urgent measures." Bolivia's President Evo Morales noted that Macri's decree immediately followed Trump's executive order barring entry to the US for nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. Morales sent a delegation to Argentina led by José Alberto Gonzáles, president of the Bolivian Senate, to meet with Argentine officials on the question.

Argentina: Mapuche land struggle terrorist-baited

Authorities in Argentina's Chubut province accused Mapuche indigenous activists of being "terrorists" after a clash with police at a protest encampment on usurped lands. Two Mapuche activists were wounded—one by a bullet—when provincial police and the Gendarmería were sent in to clear the camp, which had been dubbed "Pu Lof en Resistencia," on traditional Mapuche lands now held by the Italian company Benetton in Cushamen municipality. In the aftermath, Chubut Gov. Mario Das Neves called the organizers "a group of violent ones who do not respect the law, nor the Fatherland, nor the flag, and constantly attack anyone." His government minister, Pablo Durán, accused the organizers, known as Mapuche Ancestral Resistance (RAM), of being "terrorists," saying that the situation "has surpassed the limits of what we can tolerate." Local press ran speculation of RAM links to Colombia's FARC guerillas. (Perfil, Pagina12, Cronica, Jan. 12; Perfil, Jan. 8)

Argentine judge demands Iraq arrest Iran diplomat

Argentine federal judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral on Oct. 20 called upon authorities in Iraq to arrest Iranian diplomat Ali Akbar Velayati, accused of being an intellectual author of the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center. Velayati was Iran's foregn minister at the time of the attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA). The bombing, which left 85 dead and some 300 injured, is considered the deadliest anti-Semitic attack carried out anywhere since World War II. The team of special prosecutors on the AMIA case formally petitioned Canicoba Corral to seek the arrest warrant when it became aware of Velayati's arrival in Baghdad. Because Velayati is not currently the subject of an Interpol "red notice," any arrest and extradition process will need to be processed through bilateral agreements between Argentina and Iraq. The prosecutors maintain that Velayati oversaw an August 1993 meeting of Iran's Supreme National Security Council where the decision to undertake the bombing was arrived at. (Buenos Aires Herald, Oct. 21; InfoBae, Oct. 20)

Deadly underside of Rio de Janeiro Olympics

With the Rio de Janeiro Olympics over, the world media are moving on—but the city's poor favela dwellers are left to contend with a wave of murderous police terror. This was launched a year ago as part of an effort to pacify and sanitize the sprawling megalopolis for the Games. Amnesty International reports that over 100 people have been killed by police in Rio de Janeiro state so far this year—the big majority young Black men. A total of 307 were killed by police in the state in 2015. At least eight people in Rio were actually killed by police during the Games—to little media coverage. The clean-up operation was, of course, disguised as a crackdown on drugs and crime. The inevitable rationale was provided by the narco economy in the favelas—informal urban settlements virtually abandoned by the government for anything other than militarized law enforcement.

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