Archive for October, 2011

Local elections in Colombia, in the shadow of ‘parapoliltics’

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

At least 41 candidates have been assassinated by guerrillas or by paramilitaries during the campaign

[Translation of an article from Nueva Tribuna of Madrid, Spain, for October 28, 2011. See original here.]

By Javier M. González

This Sunday, October 30, Colombians will choose local and regional officials in the first elections under the presidency of Juan Manuel Santos. Between February 2 and October 20, 41 candidates were assassinated by diverse violent groups, according to a study by the independent NGO Misión de Observación Electoral (MOE – Electoral Observation Mission). This figure is practically double the number of deaths recorded in the last regional elections, in 2007.

The guerrillas, especially the FARC, rightist paramilitary groups, drug traffickers and other criminal groups are also competing in these elections, through the buying of candidates or the assassination of possible adversaries. For the different violent organizations, of the right or the left, tied or not to drug trafficking or other illegal activities, the control of mayors, city councilors and even governors is an objective that assures them impunity for their activities. And, in many cases, access to security information vital to their survival. (more…)

Uruguay: House of Representatives passes bill to eliminate immunity for crimes of the dictatorship

Thursday, October 27th, 2011


((El País photo))

[Translation of an article from El País of Montevideo for October 27. See original here and related articles here, here and here. The bill in question, which in effect overrides the controversial Ley de Caducidad by categorizing crimes committed by the dictatorship as crimes against humanity and not common crimes, had been approved in the Senate two days earlier. In March, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the Ley de Caducidad and more recently a group of university students occupied a campus building to demand passage of the bill overriding it.]

By a vote of 50 of the 91 members present, all the votes in favor being cast by members of the Frente Amplio, the House of Representatives at 2:14am on Thursday approved a bill that declares that crimes committed during the dictatorship are crimes against humanity, thus eliminating immunity for the commission of them. (more…)

Haiti: Can the nation be reconciled in the reign of impunity?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

((Michel Martelly, Jean Bertrand Aristide – Haiti-Liberté photo))

[Translation of an article from Haïti-Liberté for October 20, 2011. See original here.]

By Thomas Péralte

With a view toward the reconciliation of all the sons of the nation of Haiti, President Michel Martelly has arranged meetings with the former heads of states, de facto and de jure, during a week called the “Week of National Reconciliation” or “Week of National Understanding.” During that week President Martelly met with five former presidents: Prosper Avril, Jean Bertrand Aristide, Jean Claude Duvalier, Boniface Alexandre and Henry Namphy, in their respective homes in the vicinity of the capital and in the Dominican Republic.

According to the presidential communications office, led by journalist Joseph Lucien Jura, the president’s move is aimed at encouraging dialogue and unity among all the actors and former leaders of the country. This week of reconciliation also has as an aim a national understanding, a space for discussing some major matters of state, among them: education, the army, MINUSTAH (Mission des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en Haïti – United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti), the CIRH (Commission Intérimaire pour la Reconstruction d’Haïti – Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti). (more…)

Chile: Camila Vallejo interviewed

Friday, October 21st, 2011

[Translation of an interview by BBC World with Camila Vallejo, a leader of the Chilean student movement, as published in El Mostrador of Santiago on October 18, 2011. See original here and related articles here.]

After close to six months of protests, the student movement, which is demanding free public education, continues shaping the country’s political agenda. A new 48-hour strike begins this Tuesday.

Students, professors, environmentalists and the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, one of Chile’s principal unions, support the protest, which will include as its central event a demonstration scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

On the day before these mobilizations, BBC World spoke in Paris with Camila Vallejo, president of the Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile and one of the most visible faces of the movement.

Vallejo, a 22-year-old student of geography, has been in Europe since Friday along with three other Chilean student representatives to present their demands and to attempt to internationalize the movement.

You traveled to Europe to meet with international organizations and with intellectuals. Of the advise the intellectuals have given you, which do you like the best?

The philosopher Edgard Morin gave us confidence. He told us that higher education cannot be tied to the market, but that public education has to be guaranteed because countries need it in order to develop. (more…)

Colombia: University students to continue strike

Thursday, October 20th, 2011


((“National March in Defense of Education as a Right” — Vanguardia Liberal photo))

[Translation of an article from Vanguardia Liberal of Bucaramanga, Colombia, for October 17, 2011. See original article here and related article here.]

The Mesa Amplia Nacional Estudiantil (MANE – National Broad Student Council) has announced that the student strike will continue until the national government withdraws from Congress its bill to reform Law 30. They have called another march for October 26.

“MANE has ratified the university strike, which already includes 32 public universities, and we also have an agenda for mobilizations by which there will be a national mobilization every week, whether a march or another kind of mobilization. The largest planned so far is on October 26 in every city of the country; that morning there will be a welcome for public and private universities,” declared Sergio Fernández, spokesman of the Organización Colombiana de Estudiantes (OCE). (more…)

Safe-conduct document for Central Americans proposed

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

[Translation of an article from Diario Tiempo of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, for October 17, 2011, from an Agence France Presse dispatch. See original article here and related articles here, here and here.]

Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico – A proposal to create a document granting safe-conduct to Central Americans who enter Mexico on their way to the United States was offered by the governor of the Mexican state of Chiapas during a ministerial meeting of the Grupo de Tuxtla, made up of representatives of ten countries.

“We respectfully offer a proposal to create biometric identification, passports, official identification cards or some kind of document for entering our country and thus to combat the most despicable of businesses, which is the trafficking and dealing in persons,” said Juan Sabines, governor of the state of Chiapas, the capital of which is the site of the meeting, being held in preparation for a presidential summit planned for November. (more…)

Uruguay: Haitian youth has not appeared and investigation is pending

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

[Translation of an article from El Observador of Montevideo for October 17. See original here and related articles here.]

The Criminal Justice Department has taken new testimony in the case of alleged abuse by Uruguayan military personnel, members of the United Nations blue helmets, against a minor in Haiti. On Monday, new questioning was carried out of associates of the five military personnel being investigated.

Prosecutor Eduardo Fernández Dovat told El Observador that he and Judge Alejandro Guido took a statement via Skype from a marine in Haiti who is close to the military men under investigation. Three other associates on leave in Uruguay were also questioned.

The content of their statements cannot be divulged because it is part of the reserva presumario, stated the prosecutor, who indicated that the questioning of the four marines on Monday has ended.

The lawyer for the five marines, Gustavo Bordes, told Últimas Noticias that what is being sought with these statements is to show that after what occurred the Haitian youth maintained friendly relations with the uniformed personnel and that he would go to the compound gate for conversations. The lawyer holds that sufficient evidence thus exists to show that it was a matter of a prank.

Fernández Dovat stressed that “there have been no new developments concerning the location of the Haitian youth, whose statement is necessary in order to continue moving forward. We cannot move forward without locating him and this remains pending until the day he appears.”

The youth has not filed any charge in Uruguay, Fernández Dovat stated. “There is no indication in this country of the youth’s desire to move forward. We are waiting for his appearance, if he does appear,” he added.

If the youth does not appear, the case could be archived. “In order to indict in the crime of rape, it is six months from the time of the act; if during that time there is no indictment it would be archived,” the prosecutor explained.

Colombia: On strike against poor education

Friday, October 14th, 2011


((“Education is not for sale” — El Colombiano photo))

[Translation of an article from Página/12 of Buenos Aires for October 12, 2011. See original here.]

University leaders, inspired by the Chilean protests, warn that the educational reform reveals the privatizing spirit of the government of Juan Manuel Santos. The president claims the law is intended to improve the system.

By Katalina Vásquez Guzmán

Wearing leather shoes, because it’s a long walk, Kevin gets ready to march against the education reform that the Juan Manuel Santos administration is steering through Congress. Today workers and teachers will join students in the national strike to pressure the executive to give up the bill and to draw up a new proposal in conjunction with student groups and university leaders. The student federations that called on the more than 500,000 students in Colombian public universities to strike regard Santos’ reform as a threat, without consent. This would be one of the most important national protests since Álvaro Uribe’s successor assumed the presidency. (more…)

Chile: Government charges students with extremism after dialogue breaks down

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Priest calls for state of siege

[Translations of two articles from El Mostrador of Santiago for October 9 and 7, 2011. See original articles here and here and related articles here.]

Government claims student movement has been taken over by extremists

Press Secretary Andrés Chadwick charged on Sunday that the breakdown of talks is due to the Confederación de Estudiantes de Chile (Confech – Confederation of Students of Chile) being taken over by the most “extremist, intransigent and ideological” sectors of the student movement.

This was the executive branch response to the students’ decision to end talks with authorities on resolving the conflict, which has gone on for five months.

“It has become clear from statements made yesterday that Confech has been taken over and led by the most extreme, intransigent sectors, which will result in a student movement that is not concerned fundamentally with the question of education but with agitation,” the spokesman declared. (more…)

International Criminal Court investigates coup in Honduras

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Those responsible for coup against Zelaya could be indicted in Rome for crimes against humanity

[Translation of an article from ContraPunto of San Salvador for October 7. See original here.]

Tegucigalpa – The International Criminal Court (ICC) is investigating those who led the coup d’état in Honduras on June 28, 2009, which overthrew the constitutional president, Manuel Zelaya.

This according to former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who heads a delegation of jurists visiting Honduras.

Among those who could be judged internationally are de facto President Roberto Micheletti and General Romeo Vásquez.

Both could be charged with more than 200 human rights violations, including assassinations, torture, forced disappearances and arbitrary arrests, as well as repression of defenseless civilians.

Garzón is also participating in a workshop called “Impunity, freedom of expression and justice” being held in Tegucigalpa.

In the framework of this international event, Garzón declared that several political and military figures could be indicted by the international organization, an unprecedented event in Latin America.

The announcement was made during the closing ceremony of the workshop, in which close to 100 representatives of human rights organizations in Honduras, as well as other Central American countries, took part.

The Spanish jurist pointed out that “once we have the evidence in hand, we can give a response on whether there is in effect responsibility” in the deaths of eight people during the political crisis, documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which released its report in July.

The famous lawyer stated that preparations for the cases is very important, since if “there is the appearance of crimes against humanity” during and after the overthrow of Zelaya, “the preparation of the cases is fundamental” so that they will have “greater possibility of being successful.”

The event was also attended by Eugenia Valenzuela, a member of the delegation who represents prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo of the ICC.

During the opening of the meeting, the United Nations rapporteur for the Freedom of Expression, Frank de la Rue, announced that he will submit a request to the government of Honduras to conduct an official visit to investigate the deaths of 16 journalists between 2010 and the present.

Bolivia: A government caught between indigenous rejection and support

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011


((La Razón photo))

[Translation of an article from La Razón of La Paz, Bolivia, for October 2, 2011.  See original here.]

By Jorge Quispe

“Why the worry? We are going to continue working for this process and we will see who is with us.”  This was the emphatic and certain response of Julia Ramos, executive of the Confederación de Mujeres Campesinas Bartolina Sisa [Bartolina Sisa Confederation of Campesina Women] when she was asked if there is a rift between the government and the indigenous peoples.

Has the indigenous idyll with President Evo Morales broken down?  Five years after taking office in 2006, the head of the Plurinational State is faced with a crisis in his relations with this sector, particularly with those of the Tierras Bajas [the lowlands of eastern Bolivia]. (more…)

Haiti: An occupied country

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

A speech by Eduardo Galeano

[Translation of a speech by Uruguayan historian and writer Eduardo Galeano during a forum held on September 28, 2011,  at the National Library in Montevideo entitled “Haiti and the Latin American response.” See original here and related articles here. Galeano’s remarks were dedicated to Guillermo Chifflet, who resigned from the Chamber of Deputies in 2005 to protest the Uruguayan military’s participation in MINUSTAH, the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti.]

Look it up in any encyclopedia. Ask which was the first free county in America. You will always get the same answer: the United States. But the United States declared its independence while it was a nation with 650,000 slaves, who continued being slaves for a century, and in its first constitution established that a black was the equivalent of three fifths of a person.

And if you ask any encyclopedia what was the first country to abolish slavery you will always get the same answer: England. But the first country to abolish slavery was not England but Haiti, which is still atoning for the sin of its dignity. (more…)