Southern Cone

Chile: two found guilty in Horman murder case

Retired Chilean army colonel Pedro Espinoza and former Chilean air force intelligence agent Rafael González Berdugo have been convicted in the murder of US journalist Charles Horman and US graduate student Frank Teruggi during the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup that overthrew leftist president Salvador Allende Gossens. Judge Jorge Zepeda sentenced Espinoza—formerly an officer in the now-defunct National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) who has been described as the right-hand man of DINA head Manuel Contreras—to seven years in prison for the two murders. González Berdugo was sentenced to two years of police surveillance as an accomplice in Harmon's murder. Judge Zepeda ruled in the case on Jan. 9 but the decision wasn't announced until Jan. 28. Last summer the judge officially ruled that "US military intelligence services played a fundamental role in the murders" by supplying information to the Chilean military. (El Ciudadano, Chile, Jan. 31)

Argentina: Fernández flips on prosecutor's 'suicide'

Argentine federal prosecutor Natalio Alberto Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment late on Jan. 18 with a gunshot wound to his head. Nisman had filed a 289-page criminal complaint on Jan. 14 charging that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and eight others, including two Iranians, had acted to cover up the alleged role of the Iranian government in the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires. The bombing, which left 85 dead and some 300 injured, is considered the deadliest anti-Semitic attack carried out anywhere since World War II. Nisman's death came the day before he was to testify to the National Congress about the charges.

Argentina: many are suspected in AMIA cover-up

While the US media focused on the late Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman's Jan. 14 charges against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, many people have been accused over the years of blocking the investigation into the deadly 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building. The people suspected include a former president, a judge, an intelligence chief, and officials of two foreign governments. After an inquiry that has gone on for 21 years under several different governments, Argentine prosecutors have still not won a single conviction in the case.

Argentina: president charged in terror cover-up

An Argentine federal prosecutor on Jan. 14 accused the country's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, of complicity in covering up Iran's involvement in a 1994 terrorist attack. The bombing of the Argentinine Jewish Mutual Association is said to have been one of the country's worst attacks, resulting in 85 deaths. The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, requested that Judge Ariel Lijo interrogate the president and the foreign minister for "being authors and accomplices of an aggravated cover-up and obstruction of justice regarding the Iranians accused of the Amia terrorist attack," and seizing 200 million pesos worth of assets. The prosecutor cited phone tap recordings that show how the current administration negotiated with the Iranian government to cover up Iranian officials involvement in return for the establishment of a trade of grain for oil that would ameliorate Argentina's energy deficit.

Latin America: why did Monsanto profits dip?

The Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company announced on Jan. 7 that its revenues for September through November 2014, the first quarter of the company's current fiscal year, fell to $2.87 billion from $3.14 billion for the same period the year before. The decline was less than analysts had expected. According to Bloomberg News, this was because the losses, including a 12% drop in corn seed sales, were partly offset by sales of Monsanto's new Intacta soybeans, which the company says are genetically modified to withstand pests in South America. But the losses themselves were "in part, due to the reduction in sowing areas in South America," the Spanish agricultural news site agroinformació reported. Agroinformació also cited resistance to the construction of a seed processing plant in Malvinas Argentinas in Argentina's central Córdoba province. (Bloomberg, Jan. 7; agroinformació, Jan. 8)

Chile: court rejects new Pascua Lama appeal

The Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation, the world's largest gold producer, faced another setback to its mammoth Pascua Lama gold and silver mine in late December when Chile's Supreme Court rejected its appeal of a lower court's decision on environmental fines. Barrick's Chilean subsidiary, Compañía Minera Nevada SPA, was disputing an environmental court's March 2013 ruling that a fine the government's Environmental Bureau had imposed on Barrick was inadequate. In a decision announced on Dec. 30, a Supreme Court panel rejected the appeal on a technicality: the justices held that Minera Nevada wasn't a party to the original case and therefore couldn't appeal the environmental court's ruling.

Brazil: truth commission report on military rule

Brazil's National Truth Commission released a report on Dec. 10 declaring that state agents engaged in human rights violations between 1964 and 1985 when the country was under military rule. The human rights violations include enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, executions and hiding bodies. At least 434 people are believed to have died or disappeared at the hands of the military during this period, and 210 bodies have never been found. The report urges the prosecution of those who were involved in the violations. The commission began investigating the abuses in May 2012, gathering thousands of testimonies and holding public hearings throughout 20 Brazilian states. Brazil's current president, Dilma Rousseff, was one of the victims tortured and imprisoned during the 1970s.

Chile: four women file sexual torture complaint

On Dec. 1 Nieves Ayress Moreno, a Chilean-born naturalized US citizen, formally joined a criminal complaint filed earlier by three other Chilean women over sexual political violence that they say they suffered under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Chilean law doesn't treat sexual violence as a separate complaint; instead, the crimes are considered "illegitimate pressure," allowing some of the perpetrators to escape justice. The complaint seeks to have the crimes "incorporated into the penal code and those responsible for them to be able to be punished," according to another of the plaintiffs, Alejandra Holzapfel. Ayress Moreno, who lives in New York, delayed joining Holzapfel and the remaining two plaintiffs, Soledad Castillo and Nora Brito, in the complaint until she could travel to Chile.

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