On Sept. 30 the National Refugee Commission of Argentina (Conare) granted political asylum to Sergio Galvarino Apablaza Guerra, a former leader of Chile’s rebel Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (FPMR). Chile is seeking Apablaza’s extradition to stand trial for the assassination of Chilean senator Jaime Guzmán, a close ally of dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, in 1991, a year after the end of Chile’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship. Apablaza is also charged with the 1991 kidnapping of Cristián Edwards del Río, the son of one of the owners of the Santiago daily El Mercurio.
Apablaza has lived in Argentina since 1993. Argentine police arrested him in 2004 on the Chilean charges; Apablaza claimed at the time that the FPMR had split and that he did not belong to the faction that carried out the attacks. An Argentine judge released him on bond in 2005, ruling that the Chilean charges were political and that Chile had denied Apablaza due process. Chile appealed to Argentina’s Supreme Court of Justice, which ruled in favor of the extradition request on Sept. 14 of this year.
According to a source in the Argentine government, Conare granted Apablaza asylum because he was “a political activist, a fighter against the dictatorship.” “He isn’t a common citizen,” the source said. The decision is causing tensions between Chile’s government and the center-left government of Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. On Oct. 1 rightwing Chilean president Sebastián Piñera said Conare’s move “means a step backward for the cause of justice and human rights in my country.” (La Nación, Argentina, Oct. 1; EFE, Oct. 3, via ABC, Spain)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 3.