Argentina: thousands protest disappearance

Tens of thousands of people mobilized throughout Argentina on Sept. 20 to demand that human rights witness Jorge Julio Lopez, who disappeared on Sept. 18, 2006, be returned alive. More than 20,000 people marched in Buenos Aires from the Congress to the Plaza de Mayo; marches also took place in La Plata, Rosario and Cordoba. The Memory, Truth and Justice Encounter, which organized the Buenos Aires event, read a document at the Plaza de Mayo declaring: “With the struggle we have achieved the repeal of the impunity laws and the ongoing trials of more than 300 human rights violators; with the struggle we won the sentencing of Miguel Osvaldo Etchecolatz to a life sentence in a common prison until the end of his days, and that for the first time a court recognizes that there was a genocide in our country. The price the genocidal murderers want to make us pay for these victories is the kidnapping and disappearance of one of the witnesses of that trial, our comrade Jorge Julio Lopez.” (Argentina Indymedia, Sept. 20)

Argentine officer sentenced in US
On Sept. 7, Ernesto Barreiro, a former Argentine military officer and alleged human rights violator who was living in The Plains, Virginia, pleaded guilty to visa fraud; on Sept. 21 he was sentenced to six months in prison. The prison term is to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release, conditioned on his compliance with his removal to Argentina.

According to court documents, in September 2003 Barreiro applied for a non-immigrant visa to the US through the US Department of State in Buenos Aires. On that application, Barreiro claimed he had never been detained for a crime in Argentina, when in fact he was charged and detained in 1984 and 1987 for his alleged involvement in acts of torture, kidnapping, and torture resulting in death while a high-ranking military officer in charge of interrogation at the “La Perla” clandestine detention facility during Argentina’s brutal military regime (1976-1983). Barreiro was granted the visa and used it to come to the US in October 2004; he has remained here since. The government of Argentina issued an international arrest warrant for Barreiro in May 2005. If he returns to Argentina, Barreiro faces prosecution for his crimes. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced his sentencing in a press release; the agency did not explain why Barreiro was granted a US visa to begin with—given the high-profile nature of his crimes—or why once he was discovered in the US he was prosecuted on minor visa fraud charges instead of being returned to Argentina to face trial for his crimes of violence. (ICE news release, Sept. 21)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 30

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