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Government Announces Cabinet Shuffle

Aníbal Fernández will return to the executive as secretary-general for the presidency. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Aníbal Fernández will return to the executive as secretary-general for the presidency. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Public Communications Secretary Alfredo Scoccimarro, has announced changes in the cabinet following the resignation of Intelligence Chief Héctor Icazuriaga earlier today.

Scoccimarro said that position as head of the intelligence office will be taken up by Oscar Parrilli, while Senator Aníbal Fernández will occupy Parrilli’s current role as secretary general for the presidency.

Before becoming a senator in 2011, Fernández served as justice minister and cabinet chief during President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s first term. He was also interior minister in the Néstor Kirchner administration.

Opposition parties called the changes a “desperate” response to legal complications affecting high-ranking members of the government, including Vice President Amado Boudou.

Parilli is due to be sworn in by the president this evening, with Fernández to follow on Thursday.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Paraguay: Woman Joins ‘Crucifixion’ Protest in Asunción

The crucifixion protest outside the Brazilian embassy in Asunción (Photo courtesy of El Nuevo Herald)

The crucifixion protest outside the Brazilian embassy in Asunción (Photo courtesy of El Nuevo Herald)

A 52-year-old woman has been voluntarily ‘crucified’ outside the Brazilian embassy in Asunción as part of a protest over years of unpaid benefits to ex-workers at the bi-national Itaipú dam.

Rosa Cáceres joined three men who have been nailed to wooden beams and on a hunger strike for eight days.

Roberto González (61), Roque Samudio (58), and Gerardo Orué (49) are part of a group of around 9,000 ex-workers claiming they are owed 25 years worth of unpaid benefits from the Itaipú entity that built and operates the hydro-electric dam. They say the benefits, which run to an estimated US$40,000 per worker, were awarded to Brazilian staff at the entity.

“Cáceres is 52 and the wife of an ex-worker at Itaipú. With great courage she has crucified herself in solidarity with our cause,” Carlos González, the leader of the group, told AP.

He explained that the protest was highly symbolic for the Christian community, but was also an alternative to marches and potential clashes with police for the elderly ex-workers.

González added that the group planned further crucifixions next week if they did not receive an answer from the authorities.

The Itaipú dam, built on the Paraná River on the border between Paraguay and Brazil, is the world’s largest hydro-electric dam in terms of annual energy generation.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

Haiti: Prime Minister Resigns as Anti-Government Protests Intensify

Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti's prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti’s prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Haiti’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, resigned on the weekend amid an escalation of anti-government protests in the country.

Lamothe announced his resignation in the early hours of Sunday morning, saying he was leaving the post with a sense of “accomplishment”.

On Friday, a special commission had recommended that Lamothe step down as one of a series of steps to address the country’s political crisis. “If it will permit a resolution to the crisis, I present my resignation and that of my government,” said Lamothe in a televised address.

Long-running protests have intensified recently over a political deadlock that has delayed legislative and municipal elections for several years, as well as allegations of corruption. On Friday, an anti-government protest in the capital Port-au-Prince ended in violent clashes with police, leaving one person dead.

President Michel Martelly created the special advisory commission last month in an attempt to set out a road map to resolve the crisis. Aside from the departure of Lamothe, the commissions other recommendations included disbanding the electoral council, freeing “political prisoners”, and the resignation of the Supreme Court president.

Martelly is due to meet with party leaders today, and should nominate a new prime minister by Wednesday, according to the commission report.

The current legislative mandate expires on 12th January, and if elections have not been called by then, President Martelly could rule by decree, raising concerns among many of a return to autocratic rule. Protesters have been calling for both Lamothe and Martelly to resign.

Martelly, meanwhile, has blamed opposition parties for blocking proposed reforms to the electoral law that he says would pave the way for a vote.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

Ecuador: Investigation Begins into Murder of Indigenous Activist

José Isidro Tendetza was killed days before talking at the UN Climate Conference in Lima

José Isidro Tendetza was killed days before talking at the UN Climate Conference in Lima

Prosecutors have begun an investigation into the supposed murder of indigenous activist José Tendetza, whose body was discovered in suspicious circumstances last week.

Tendetza was an outspoken environmental activist leading the opposition to the Mirador open-pit mining project on land belonging to the Shuar people in the province of Zamora Chinchipe.

He was due to speak this week at the UN Climate Change Summit, COP20, in Lima, but went missing on 28th November as he travelled to a meeting with fellow protesters.

His body was found days later on the banks of a river and buried in an unmarked grave after an initial autopsy did not determine the cause of death. However, his body was unearthed again after his son, Jorge, identified him in photographs taken at the morgue, which relatives say also showed that his arms and legs had been bound.

The officials results of a second autopsy have not yet been released, but Interior Minister José Serrano said yesterday that preliminary estimates suggest Tendetza had been strangled. Serrano said he had ordered a full investigation and was offering a reward of US$100,000 to anyone who could provide vital information about the murder.

However, indigenous groups have called for an international commission to investigate the death, saying they doubted the independence of the Ecuadorian prosecutors and police. “His body was beaten, his bones broken,” said Shuar leader Domingo Ankuash. “He had been tortured and thrown in the river. The very fact that they buried him before telling us or his family is suspicious.”

Shuar community leaders say Tendetza was killed as a result of his resistance to large-scale mining in the area, noting that he had previously faced harrassment, including having his crops burned. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities in Ecuador (Conaie) noted that Tendetza was the third Shuar activist to be killed in recent years, following the shooting of Bosco Wisum by police in 2009 and the killing of Fredy Taish by the military in 2013.

The Shuar community and environmental groups say that open-pit mining will destroy up to 450,000 acres of forest in Ecuador’s southern Amazon, an area of great biodiversity and home to indigenous communities. Its leaders criticise the government for protecting business interests of the rights of its citizens.

“Without consulting anybody the government gave our land to Ecuacorriente [the Chinese-owned firm leading the Mirador mining project],” Ankuash told AP. “They put up fences and destroyed everything that was inside them: houses and crops… this is what our dead partner was demanding, because he could not access lands that were his all of his life and that of his grandparents.”

The Ecuadorian government has also faced sharp criticism from environmental groups for allowing oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park. Last week, a group of 17 activists heading to the Lima Conference had their bus confiscated by police before they could cross the border into Peru.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

Brazil: Truth Commission Presents Final Report on Dictatorship

An emotional Dilma Rousseff receives the CNV report on the Brazilian dictatorship (Photo: Lucio Bernardo Jr/Fotospúblicas.com)

An emotional Dilma Rousseff receives the CNV report on the Brazilian dictatorship (Photo: Lucio Bernardo Jr/Fotospúblicas.com)

Brazil’s National Truth Commission (CNV) has presented its final report on human rights abuses committed during the country’s 20th century military dictatorships.

In the first official investigation into the period 1946-1988 (with a special focus on the 1964-1985 military dictatorship), the CNV’s report runs more than 4,000 pages and is split into three volumes that detail the “systematic” human rights violations of the Brazilian state.

The report concludes that: “Under the military dictatorship, repression and the elimination of political opposition became the policy of the state, conceived and implemented based on decisions by the president of the republic and military ministers.”

As a result, the CNV “therefore totally rejects the explanation offered up until today that the serious violations of human rights constituted a few isolated acts or excesses resulting from the zeal of a few soldiers.”

The third volume of the report is the most extensive, and deals with the victims of the period. It lists 434 people who were killed or disappeared – 210 of whom have never been found – by the state for political reasons. The CNV called this a “human tragedy that cannot be justified by any means.”

The report notes that the list is not exhaustive, as it only includes those cases that could be corroborated, a difficult task after the military said that many documents relating to the era had been destroyed.

Speaking to La Nación before the report was released, CNV coordinator Pedro Dallari acknowledged that there could have been as many as 8,350 indigenous victims, but that there was not sufficient information to verify identities or determine if they were killed in the context of political repression. Other persecuted groups not included entirely in the list of victims were union workers, homosexuals, academics, rural workers, and military personnel who advocated a return to democracy.

Impunity

The report also identified 377 people considered directly responsible for the human rights violations of the period, including the five military generals that ruled as de facto leaders between 1964 and 1985. The list also includes over 100 civilians – mainly police officers – while the report further notes the complicit role of other actors in society, especially prominent business owners.

Due to the country’s 1979 Amnesty Law, no member of the armed forces has been charged with crimes committed during the dictatorship. In its list of recommendations, the CNV called for the judiciary to determine the legal responsibility of those involved in committing human rights violations that should not be covered by the amnesty.

It pointed to a 2010 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which stated that crimes against humanity were exempt from the 1979 law.

Director for Human Rights Watch Brazil, Maria Laura Canineu, said that “The commission has made a major contribution by providing an authoritative and long-overdue account of the horrible crimes that took place during the dictatorship. Just as important, it has pointed the way to the next crucial step that Brazil needs to take: making sure that those who committed atrocities are finally brought to justice.”

President Dilma Rousseff, who was herself kidnapped and tortured during the dictatorship, broke into tears as she spoke after receiving the report. She said it would encourage the country to find a “national reconciliation” with its past, but she did not mention any judicial action resulting from the investigation.

Acknowledging that it was released on the International Day of Human Rights, Rousseff added that the report was “a tribute to all the men and women of the world who have fought for democracy and helped make humanity better.”

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

NGOs Demand Improved Access to Non-Punishable Abortion

'Legal abortion now!' is scrawled in front of the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires (photo: Thiago Skárnio, via flickr)

‘Legal abortion now!’ is scrawled in front of the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires (photo: Thiago Skárnio, via flickr)

NGOs and human rights groups have filed a legal suit against the state to demand that all public hospitals put up signs that clearly explain the conditions in which women can seek a non-punishable abortion.

Abortion is illegal in Argentina, but in March 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that it should not be punishable in cases of rape or when the mother’s live is in danger.

The NGOs, led by Amnesty International Argentina and The Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), say authorities in many provinces have so far not implemented the Supreme Court’s ruling or responded to its call to implement protocols in hospitals and health centres to remove obstacles for women seeking an abortion under these circumstances.

“Today we still see many cases and reports of women who are not able to obtain a legal abortion,” said Amnesty Argentina director Mariela Belski in a press conference yesterday. “The main aim of the demand at a national level is for the provision of legal abortions in cases permitted by the 2012 ruling to be incorporated as a basic health service in hospitals.”

Marta Alanis, of the group Catholics for the Right to Choose, added that “Hospitals deal with non-punishable abortions according to the criteria of the director or doctors, but there is no guide or legitimacy… non-punishable abortions, which are permitted by law, are still treated as something clandestine, something that is not talked about.”

The NGOs also announced a series of other legal demands issued in several provinces around the country: Salta, Tucumán, Córdoba, Santiago del Estero, and the city and province of Buenos Aires.

“There are eight provinces that do not have protocols that regulate access to abortion, and other that have protocols that include obstacles that run contrary to the Supreme Court ruling,” said Natalia Gherardi, of the Latin American team for Gender and Justice. “There is an unacceptable disparity between different provinces – women’s rights must be guarantees across the entire country.”

According to the groups, only eight provinces have established proper guidelines for accessing non-punishable abortion: Chaco, Chubut, Jujuy, La Rioja, Misiones, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and Tierra del Fuego. In accordance with these guidelines, a judge in Chubut was fined $1,500 for attempting to prevent a 12-year-old rape victim from seeking an abortion.

The city and province of Buenos Aires, meanwhile, are among the eight provinces that have developed protocols that include certain requirements that do not comply with the 2012 ruling. In 2012, Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri vetoed a city law to regulate access to non-punishable abortion in the capital. A judge deemed this veto to be unconstitutional in July 2013, but a final resolution from the appeals court is still pending.

A debate on the legalisation of abortion took place in the Criminal Legislation Committee of the National Congress in November, but there was no quorum to reach a vote.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Congress Approves New Criminal Procedure Code

Legislators approve a new Criminal Procedure Code (Photo: Fernando Sturla/Télam)

Legislators approve a new Criminal Procedure Code (Photo: Fernando Sturla/Télam)

Legislators in the lower house of Congress approved changes to the Criminal Procedure Code after a lengthy debate last night.

The Chamber of Deputies sanctioned the reforms with 130 votes in favour, compared to 99 votes against and two abstentions. It had already been approved by the Senate.

The new code establishes an accusatory system, where prosecutors lead criminal investigations and judges rule on them, to replace the existing inquisitorial system, where judges do both. Other reforms include the introduction of time limits on the completion of criminal investigations and trials, and sanctions for prosecutors and judges who fail to meet the new deadlines. The new code also expands the conditions whereby suspects may be held in custody while awaiting trial.

The law approved last night included more than 40 modifications of the original bill presented by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on 21st October, including a controversial proposal to permit the deportation of foreigners caught committing a crime.

Whilst the original bill sent by the Executive proposed the possibility to deport foreigners who are caught committing a crime and do not have the proper migratory documents for up to 15 years, the version approved into law does not take into account the migratory situation of the accused. However, those who are in Argentina legally can request to serve their sentence in the country. This clause applies to crimes which carry a penalty of over three years in prison, and as long as the right to family reunification is not affected.

Despite these changes and a broad consensus over the need to update the Criminal Procedure Code, opposition parties voted against the government-backed bill, arguing that it could give the executive branch increased power over the judiciary.

During the long debate, members of the ruling Frente Para la Victoria (FpV) party praised the reforms as a means of creating a more transparent, efficient, and democratic judicial process. Opposition legislators, however, expressed concerns over extended powers given the the federal public prosecutor, Alejandra Gils Carbó, and the planned expansion of personnel at the Public Ministry.

“We agree that an accusatory system is more effective, but the only thing that will be implemented with this new code is an increase of more than 1,700 positions in the Public Ministry,” said Manuel Garrido, of the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR). “We are handing important powers to a ministry that has no public oversight, because a bicameral commission to perform that function was never incorporated.”

Pablo Tonelli, of the opposition PRO party, added that: “we need complementary measures for this code to come into effect successfully: a law of implementation, a new criminal code, a law for the Public Ministry, the juvenile criminal regime, and another for the execution of sentences.”

The law will now need to be signed by President Fernández, though it is not yet known when it will come into force.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

The Indy’s Weekly Review – 5th December 2014

The Indy’s Weekly Review – 5th December 2014

On this week’s podcast we analyse the challenges facing Tabaré Vázquez after he was elected president of Uruguay, we speak to environmental journalist and expert Sergio Federovisky about Argentina’s commitment – or lack of – to tackling climate change, and we look at why December seems to be such a volatile month in Argentina.

All that, plus a roundup of the week’s headlines from Argentina and Latin America, and music from our featured artist Morbo y Mambo.

Presenters: Kristie Robinson & Marc Rogers
Production: Celina Andreassi
Editing: Gustavo Hoffman

We will be looking to continually improve and add to this podcast, and we’d love to hear your feedback on it, as well as suggestions for any additional stories or content you’d like us to cover in it in the future. Send us an email at info@argentinaindependent.com, or comment on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Lead images courtesy of Télam, Enasur, and Patricio Murphy.

Posted in Analysis, Podcast, TOP STORY0 Comments

Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo Announce Recovery of 116th Grandchild

Estela de Carlotto (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Estela de Carlotto (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The head of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, Estela de Carlotto, announced yesterday the recovery of the 116th grandchild abducted during Argentina’s last military dictatorship.

The son of Hugo Castro and Ana Rubel, two teachers and activists who were kidnapped and disappeared in January 1977, was born in ESMA, the largest clandestine detention centre.

Though the true identity of the recovered grandchild has not yet been made public, the Abuelas stated that the discovery was made after he voluntarily requested a DNA test two months ago. The genetic results confirmed with 99.9% certainty that he was the biological child of the disappeared couple.

“He was excited and very pleased,” Human Rights Secretary Martín Fresneda told Télam. “He told us that when he did the DNA analysis he was sure it was come back positive and he expressed his desire to meet his family.”

Fresnada added that the youngster’s biological grandparent were all now deceased, but that his aunts and uncles had been informed. His uncle Rubén Darío Castro, brother of the disappeared Hugo, had previously testified in the trial for crimes committed at ESMA.

Estela de Carlotto made the announcement yesterday in Mexico, where she is attending the Guadalajara Book Fair and supporting the families of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Judges Give Long Prison Sentences in Villa Moreno Massacre Trial

The four men found guilty in the Villa Moreno Massacre Trial (Photo: José Granata/Télam)

The four men found guilty in the Villa Moreno Massacre Trial (Photo: José Granata/Télam)

Four men were found guilty of perpetrating the so-called Villa Moreno Massacre and sentenced to long prison terms by a court in Rosario today.

Jeremías ‘Jere’ Trasante (17), Claudio ‘Mono’ Suárez (19), and Adrián ‘Patom’ Rodríguez (21) were shot dead in the early hours of 1st January 2012 as they were waiting for a friend in a football pitch.

Judges today handed sentences to Brian ‘Pescadito’ Sprio (33 years in prison), Sergio ‘Quemado’ Rodríguez (32 years), and Daniel ‘Teletubi’ Delgado (30 years), for the murder of the three young political activists. The fourth accused, Mauricio Palavecaino, was sentenced to prison for 24 years for his role as a “necessary accomplice” in the crime.

A fifth person involved in the murder, Brian Romero, had previously agreed to an abbreviated trial and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

“These sentences should make it clear that a murder, in whatever circumstances, is terrible and irreparable, and has a high cost,” said prosecutor Nora Marull, who had called for ‘exemplary sentences’ during the trial.

The verdict was celebrated by relatives of the victims and groups who had camped outside the courthouse for the duration of the trial.

“We are satisfied,” said Eduardo Trasante, father of Jeremías, one of the victims. “These people are highly connected to drug trafficking, and the death of our children had to do with a fight over territory. After this verdict there will be many other trials against Rodríguez and his gang.”

The group Movimiento 26 de Junio, which created a website dedicated to the trial, wrote today on the site’s Facebook page: “After nearly three years of struggle, one month of a trial and camp, the relatives, friends, and colleagues of Jere, Mono, and Patom achieved a historic sentence against their killers.”

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

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