The death of former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) on May 17 brings to seven the number of Latin American and Caribbean de facto heads of state who are now in prison or facing criminal charges for their acts while in power. All but one were charged in the last decade.
Former Bolivian dictator Luis García Meza (1980-81), known as the "narco-dictator," has been serving a 30-year sentence since 1995; charges against him included sedition, genocide and the theft of the diaries of Argentine-born guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara. He seized power in a coup in 1980 but was forced to resign in 1981. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 19, from AFP)
Former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) was sentenced to 25 years in prison in April 2009 for crimes that included the deaths of 25 people, two kidnappings, corruption and illicit enrichment. Although he was elected democratically in 1990, Fujimori seized dictatorial powers with a "self-coup" in 1992. He was hospitalized on May 17 of this year with gastroduodenitis, according to his daughter, right-wing politician Keiko Fujimori. She blamed his condition on depression. The former president has been seeking a pardon on grounds of ill health. (La Nación, Argentina, May 18, from DPA, AFP)
Former Uruguayan de facto president Gregorio Alvarez (1981-1985) was sentenced to 25 years in prison in October 2009 for 37 aggravated homicides committed from 1977 to 1978 as part of Operation Condor, a program coordinating repression in several South American nations. Alvarez's presidency came during Uruguay's 1973-1985 period of military rule.
Gen. Reynaldo Bignone (1982-1983), the last president in Argentina's 1976-1983 military regime, was sentenced to 25 years of prison in 2010 for crimes committed in the Campo de Mayo, a military camp that included four torture centers during the dictatorship. In April 2011 he received an additional sentence, this one for life in prison, for crimes against humanity.
Former Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983) was sentenced to 80 years in prison on May 10 of this year for genocide and crimes against humanity during the bloodiest period of the country's 1960-1996 civil war.
Francisco Morales Bermúdez, who headed Peru's military dictatorship from 1975 to 1980, has never been convicted, but in 2007 the Italian justice system requested his detention and extradition for the disappearance of 25 Italians in South America in connection with Operation Condor. In February 2012 an Argentine judge also charged him with participation in Condor. He doesn't face any charges in Peru. (LJ, May 19, from AFP)
Like Morales Bermúdez, former Haitian "president for life" (1971-1986) Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") Duvalier has never been convicted. In January 2012 investigative judge Carvès Jean ruled that Duvalier should stand trial for corruption under his regime, but the judge said the statute of limitations had run out for human rights violations. A Port-au-Prince appeals court panel has been considering challenges from people who say they were victims and are demanding that the former dictator be tried for human rights abuses as well as corruption; Duvalier was forced to appear in court for one session on Feb. 28. On May 16 the judges heard summations from the different parties; a ruling is expected soon.
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 19.