UK-based NGO Global Witness reports that at least 185 environmental activists were murdered last year around the globe, and two-thirds of those were in Latin America. According to the report: Read the rest
"Spain, whose judges have aggressively pursued human rights abuse cases far beyond its borders, finds itself on the receiving end of such an inquest." A judge in Argentina is trying to extradite and bring to justice Spanish police officials accused of torturing opponents of the regime under Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator who died in 1975. Victims of those abuses "filed a lawsuit in Buenos Aires in 2010, after getting nowhere in Spain because of a 1977 amnesty law meant to smooth Spain’s return to democracy." Raphael Minder has more in the NYT. Read the rest
Huge human rights news from Latin America today: the Center for Justice & Accountability and the family of Victor Jara are suing the man indicted by Chilean prosecutors for torturing and killing Jara in 1973. Pedro Barrientos is accused of firing the shot that killed the Chilean folk singer and activist, but Barrientos currently resides in Florida.
Through the lawsuit, Jara's family hope to prove his culpability in a federal courtroom in Jacksonville, Florida, with rarely-used US laws addressing human rights violations committed outside of the country. Read the rest
Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay will withdraw their ambassadors from European countries involved in last week's grounding of the Bolivian president’s plane. The incident was sparked by false rumors that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board.
We've taken a number of actions in order to compel public explanations and apologies from the European nations that assaulted our brother Evo Morales," explained Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, who revealed some of the agenda debated during the 45th summit of Mercosur countries in Uruguay's capital, Montevideo.
Some of the same Latin American nations whose presidents are shocked and outraged over newly-revealed details of America's electronic surveillance programs are conducting versions of the same within their own borders. And in some cases, the US helped them create their domestic spying infrastructure. Tim Johnson at McClatchy reports:
At least four Latin countries have requested, and received, U.S. help in setting up eavesdropping programs of their own, ostensibly designed to fight organized crime. But the programs are easily diverted to political ends, and with weak rule of law in parts of the region, wiretapping scandals erupt every few months.
I am blogging from inside the Supreme Court in Guatemala City, where the trial of former Guatemalan Army General and US-backed dictator Guatemalan José Efrain Rios Montt and his then chief of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez has reconvened for the 18th day. Here's a good recap of Monday's proceedings, and here's another.
For the past two weeks, I have been here in Guatemala with Miles O'Brien, observing the trial in court and interviewing people involved in the story for a forthcoming report on PBS NewsHour. We have interviewed Rios Montt's daughter, Zury Rios, who is her father's most diligent defender. We have interviewed scientists whose work is entered as evidence in the trial. We traveled to the Ixil area where the conflict at the center of this trial took place, and we interviewed Ixil Maya survivors about their experiences in the US-backed counterinsurgency attacks. We interviewed government officials who worked closely with Ríos Montt, who believe that what happened was not genocide, but the unfortunate collateral damage of a just war against "International Communism."
As covered in previous Boing Boing posts, the past few weeks of the trial have included personal testimonies from dozens of Ixil Maya survivors of mass killings, rapes, torture, forced adoption, and displacement. More than two dozen forensic anthropologists from the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) have testified about human remains exhumed and analyzed from mass graves. Many other expert witnesses, or "peritos," have testified: among them, Patrick Ball of hrdag.org, who analyzed data of deaths during the armed conflict, to help judges make their decision about whether the mass killings constituted a focused attack by the Guatemalan Army, led by Ríos Montt, against the Ixil Maya ethnic group. Read the rest
Anita Isaacs, in a NYT op-ed: "I have spent the past 15 years researching and writing about postwar justice in Guatemala. I am encouraged that, a decade and a half after peace accords ended 36 years of civil war, Guatemala is being given a chance to show the world how much progress it has made in building democracy. The trial gives the Guatemalan state a chance to prove that it can uphold the rule of law and grant its indigenous Mayan people, who suffered greatly under Mr. Ríos Montt, the same respectful treatment, freedoms and rights the rest of its citizens enjoy." [NYTimes.com] Read the rest
As Emi McLean writes on the Open Society Justice Initiative's blog about the genocide trial in Guatemala, "Semana Santa (or Holy Week) seemed to slow down Guatemala City everywhere but in Judge Jazmin Barrios’s courtroom on Monday."
And the trial continues at breakneck speed. The prosecution of Jose Efraín Rios Montt, the Army general who ruled Guatemala from 1982-1983, and his then-chief of military intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, re-opens for the 6th day today in Guatemala City. The charges of genocide and crimes against humanity they face are based on evidence of systematic massacres of Mayan citizens by Guatemalan troops and paramilitary forces during a most bloody phase of the country's 36-year civil war. The US government provided assistance to Ríos Montt and other Guatemalan military dictators that followed in that era, in the form of funding, training, military and CIA personnel, and weapons that were used against the indigenous population.
On Monday, March 25, the court heard 13 witnesses for the prosecution recount horrifying accounts of atrocities they witnessed and survived, committed by soldiers under Ríos Montt's command. Read the rest
As noted in previous Boing Boing posts, former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Rios Montt is on trial in Guatemala City this week, three decades after the army he presided over massacred Ixil Maya villages in the Central American country's highlands. Former G2 commander Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez is his co-defendant.
Ríos Montt, 86, was trained at the notorious US Army School of the Americas and was celebrated and supported by the Reagan administration as a law-and-order tough guy who promised to bring an end to "indiscriminate violence."
Under his regime, the country entered a new phase of bloodbath; the scope of which Guatemala had never before known. And at last, with this tribunal, a legacy of impunity and silence is challenged. Whether the outcome amounts to justice will be a matter of debate for generations to come. But one of the most notorious mass murderers in Guatemalan history is finally on trial. Read the rest
A worthy and overlooked story in the NYT by Elizabeth Rosenthal about a new economic riptide hitting Central America, a result of America's changing corn policy. The US is now using 40% of our own corn crop to produce biofuel, and tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which now imports about half of its corn.
"Recent laws in the United States and Europe that mandate the increasing use of biofuel in cars have had far-flung ripple effects, economists say, as land once devoted to growing food for humans is now sometimes more profitably used for churning out vehicle fuel."
James Rodriguez, a brave and talented photojournalist in Guatemala, has a striking photo-essay up on his blog.
Read the rest
On this occasion I share a photo essay documenting events in the Guatemalan northern city of Huehuetenango during the much-awaited end of the Mayan Oxlajuj Baktun. These provide a clear reflection of the divisions and challenges faced by Mayan communities today. The media exploited erroneous apocalyptic rumors, the government and business sectors viewed it as an opportunity to gain economically through tourism, and progressive groups seized the opportunity “to strengthen ancestral wisdom and never-ending search for balance” while vindicating what seem never-ending struggles for justice, inclusion, and self-determination.