Tag Archive | "Chile"

Chile: Students March Against Education Reform


Student protests began in 2011 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Student protests began in 2011 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Chilean students and teachers protested in Santiago yesterday against the government’s proposed education reform, which they believe will not result in the free, quality education they demand. They also urged the government to include them in the reform process.

“The government has taken our slogans, but it has not taken the content of those slogans. It’s proposing to keep the capital system within a market-based education,” said Luis Yañez, president of teachers’ union SUTE.

Ricardo Paredes, spokesman for the Secondary Students’ National Coordination (CONES), called for the executive to define the reform more clearly. “We’ll have to push the government and make them decide whether they really want an education reform that integrates all social actors, and that above all sets clear goals in terms of eliminating private, subsidised education and really strengthening public education, or whether it wants to remain chained to the neoliberal system.”

Organisers estimated that around 80,000 people participated in the protest, which ended with some incidents as students clashed with the police.

 

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Chile: Six Condemned for Kidnapping Uruguayans After 1973 Coup


Enrique Pagardoy Saquieres, one of the disappeared Uruguayans

Enrique Pagardoy Saquieres, one of the disappeared Uruguayans

An appeals court in Santiago, Chile has condemned six retired military officers to six years in jail for their role in the disappearance of three Uruguayan citizens shortly after the 1973 coup.

Yesterday’s unanimous decision changed the first ruling from September 2012, which only sentenced one of the accused, Colonel Mateo Durruty. The other former military personnel now condemned are General Francisco Martínez, Brigadier Ander Uriarte, and subofficers Gabriel Montero, Moisés Retamal y Guillermo Vargas.

They will now be able to appeal this second ruling in front of the Supreme Court.

The three victims – Ariel Arcos Latorre (23), Juan Povaschuk Galeazzo (24), and Enrique Pagardoy Saquieres (21) – were detained on 29th September 1973, just two weeks after President Salvador Allende was ousted in a coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. They had come to Chile to escape the dictatorship in Uruguay, which was persecuting suspected members of the leftist guerrilla movement Tupumaros.

After the Pinochet coup, the three were captured, along with four other Uruguayan citizens, as they attempted to escape across the Andes to Argentina. According to the court, they were all taken to a military base in Puente Alto, where they were interrogated and tortured.

Later, all seven were being transferred to the National Stadium in Santiago, which was used by Pinochet as a prison, when a military officer ordered the three victims off the bus. Their whereabouts remain unknown today.

The verdict provides more evidence of the so-called Operation Condor, when military regimes in 1970s Latin America, backed by the US, shared intelligence and coordinated the assassinations of political opponents in the region.

According to Uruguayan newspaper La Diaria, in September 1973, the Uruguayan consulate in Chile gave local authorities a list of over 400 wanted people – including one of the three victims in this case, Galeazzo. Meanwhile, the official Uruguayan state investigation into the disappeared has a record of nine disappeared citizens in Chile.

 

 

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Chile: President Sends First Laws of Education Reform to Congress


President Michelle Bachelet (Photo: AFP/Martín Bernetti/Télam/cf)

President Michelle Bachelet (Photo: AFP/Martín Bernetti/Télam/cf)

President Michelle Bachelet today signed the first new law proposals as part of the government’s promised education reform. The bills will be sent for debate in Congress.

The initial proposals include ending profit-seeking for schools that receive state funds and eliminating the “discriminating” selection process for entry into public schools. In addition, the system of shared funding, whereby parents contribute part of the funds required to educate their children, will be phased out over three years after the new law is sanctioned.

“Today we are taking the first step for the most significant education reform that Chile has had in the last 50 years,” said Bachelet. “We are following through with our commitments to begin a process to ensure the quality of and access to free education.”

Bachelet added that other measures, including the creation of an undersecretary for nursery education and new universities, would soon follow.

Education reform is one of the major promise of Bachelet’s second term in government, with the issue at the heart of long-running protests by student movements.

“Thanks to social movements, the end of profit-seeking, selection processes, an shared funding is part of new law proposals,” wrote Camila Vallejo, former leader of the student protests now elected national deputy, on Twitter. “In Congress we will push for a broader, deeper, and more participatory debate about education laws.”

However, the Chilean Students’ Confederation (Confech) criticised the new law proposals, and called for a protest march on 21st May in Valparaíso. “Today we have a reform made behind the backs of the majority of Chileans, a process that is not at all linked to social organisations, and so the only response we can have is to mobilise like we did on 8th May,” said Confech president Melissa Sepúlveda, referring to the march held in Santiago by tens of thousands of students.

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Chile: Lower House Approves Tax Reform


President Michelle Bachelet declared the area that Tuesday's earthquake hit to be a 'catastrophe zone' (Photo: EFE/Ariel Marinkpvic/Télam/lz)

President Michelle Bachelet introduced the tax reform bill upon taking office (Photo: EFE/Ariel Marinkpvic/Télam/lz)

With 72 votes for and 48 votes against, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies passed a tax reform bill. The governing Nueva Mayoría alliance supported the reform, whilst the right-wing Alianza opposed it.

The bill was introduced by president Michelle Bachelet, as part of a series of 50 measures she had promised to carry out within the first 100 days of her term. If turned into law, it will increase taxes for big businesses, lower the tax rates for individuals, and remove exemptions. With the new tax system, the government expects to collect an extra US$8.2bn in taxes, which will be used to fund health and education services.

After the debate, which lasted over 12 hours, Economy Minister Alberto Arenas said that “the aim to increase tax collection is not a whim, it is what Chile needs to keep growing and progressing as a society; it is what’s required to reduce inequality with fiscal responsibility.” The opposition justified their negative vote by saying that the tax reform will affect the country’s growth.

With the bill passed in general, each individual article will be debated and voted on by the Chamber of Deputies today. It then needs to be passed by the Senate, where the government has a tighter majority, to become law.

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Mexico: Amnesty Warns of ‘Critical’ Human Rights Situation


Amnesty International Secretary General, Salil Shetty, at launch of Stop Torture Campaign (photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

Amnesty International Secretary General, Salil Shetty, at launch of Stop Torture Campaign (photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

Amnesty International today published a letter sent to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto expressing concern over the ‘critical situation’ for human rights in the country.

“It is vital that measures are taken to tackle current patterns of disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrests, as well as the regular attacks against those supporting human rights, journalists, migrants, and women,” said the letter, which was signed by Amnesty International’s secretary general, Salil Shetty. It also urged an end to impunity by ensuring that any members of the government of armed forces involves in these crime be swiftly handed over to the judiciary.

The organisation said it had also handed the president 170,000 signatures collected over the last year from people demanding concrete action to deal with these problems.

The letter was sent to coincide with Amnesty International’s global report on the use of torture, in which Mexico was one of five countries singled out as where torture is “rife”.

According to the report: “The use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by military and police forces remains widespread throughout Mexico, with impunity rife for the perpetrators.”

According to Amnesty’s global survey, at least 44% of respondents from 21 countries said they feared torture if taken into custody. In Mexico, that rate stood at 64%.

Other Latin American countries included in the survey were Brazil, where 80% of respondents said they would not feel safe from torture if arrested, Peru (54%), Argentina (49%), and Chile which reported the lowest regional figure of 30%.

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President Meets Chilean Counterpart


Chilean president Michelle Bachelet and Argentine president Cristina Fernández (photo: María Candelaria Lagos/Télam/lz)

Chilean president Michelle Bachelet and Argentine president Cristina Fernández (photo: María Candelaria Lagos/Télam/lz)

President Cristina Fernández de Kichner met Chilean president Michellet Bachelet today at the government house, in the latter’s first official overseas trip. After the meeting, the presidents gave a press conference where they referred to the need to strengthen the relationship between the countries, amongst other topics.

President Bachelet highlighted that “it is neither an accident or a coincidence” that she chose Argentina as the first overseas destination of her second term. “It is time to strongly resume the [cooperation] agenda,” she said, while president Fernández pointed out that Bachelet’s predecessor, Sebastián Piñera, “had other urgencies, other initiatives, and he had all the right to do so.” Both mentioned the need to re-launch the Treaty of Maipú, a cooperation treaty which was signed during the presidents’ first terms.

During the meeting, the presidents talked about an initiative to double the number of border crossings between Chile and Argentina, something they said would bring economic benefits to both countries. Referring to drug trafficking, while both heads of state acknowledged the need to include the issue in the bilateral agenda, they also highlighted that it is something that must be tackled at the regional level, with “common protocols” throughout all the Unasur countries.

Asked about the situation of the Pascua Lama bi-national mining project, currently halted, the presidents preferred not to answer, saying that the issue was in the hands of the judiciary.

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Latin America News Roundup: 8th May 2014


Luis Guillermo Solís (photo via Wikipedia)

Luis Guillermo Solís (photo via Wikipedia)

Costa Rica: Solís Assumes Presidency: Historian and academic Luis Guillermo Solís assumed the presidency of Costa Rica today, beginning a four year term in which he promised to bring change. He said: “There is much work to be done to gain the people’s trust,” adding that he would work “honestly” and “humbly”. Solís, of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), easily won April’s presidential runoff, receiving 77.8% of the vote on a platform of change, calling for a “broad national debate”. Hinting to the way he will govern, he has said that each one of his cabinet members will be required to give an annual report of their work, which will be submitted to an evaluation. In assuming the presidency, Solís also takes on the role of president of CELAC, the regional block of Latin American and Caribbean nations. Prior to his inauguration, Solís appealed for understanding from the country’s teachers, who are currently on strike over a wage dispute.

 

Chile: Students March for Education Reform: Thousands of students took to the streets of Santiago today to demand free, universal, and quality education. It was the first major student march under the administration of newly-appointed Michelle Bachelet. “We don’t need to maintain this model of market education, we need a real reform which covers all aspects of education,” said Melissa Sepúlveda, president of Fech, Chile’s student union, who underlined that whilst the prospects for reform were good, there were still “doubts” and “contradictions” in the government’s proposals. Dozens of former student leaders joined the march, including the newly appointed deputy, Camila Vallejo. The group presented a document to the Ministry of Education, which stated: “The possibility for change is real. But it could still be reversed by the actions of a social and political minority who believe themselves to be above democracy.”

 

Protests in Altamira, Caracas (photo: José Romero/Télam/lz)

Protests erupted in Venezuela in February (photo: José Romero/Télam/lz)

Venezuela: Caracas Opposition Camp Cleared: Government forces cleared three opposition camps from Caracas in the early hours of this morning, leading to the arrests of 243 people. The camps, located in the neighbourhoods of Chacao, Las Mercedes, and Santa Fe, were set up by students and opposition groups as a semi-permanent space to voice their criticism of the government after anti-government protests began in February. Critics have said that in clearing the camps, the government has cracked down on freedom of speech. The government justified the move, saying it was necessary to ensure the free circulation of citizens, with Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres saying that there was evidence that the camps were breeding more violent groups, willing to commit terrorist acts. He added that drugs, weapons, and explosives had been found in the camps. Since the protests began three months ago, 41 people have died and more than 600 have been injured. Some 2,500 people have been detained.

The camp’s clearing came the night before the hearing for opposition leader Leopoldo López, set to take place today, was suspended. “Leopoldo arrived at the courthouse. They have suspended the hearing. They are taking him back to Ramo Verde,” López’s wife wrote on Twitter, referring to the jail he has been held in since been arrested on 18th February, in the middle of uprisings around the country. According to Bernardo Pulido, one of López’s defense team, the hearing was suspended as there was no chamber available. A new date for his hearing has yet to be set.

 

 

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Latin America News Roundup: 16th April 2014


The fire in Valparaíso has killed 12 and destroyed 2,000 homes. (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/lz)

The fire in Valparaíso has killed 12 and destroyed 2,000 homes. (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/lz)

Chile – President Announces Benefits for Fire Victims: President Michelle Bachelet announced that the government is preparing a special one-off payment for victims of the recent Valparaíso fire. “We will announce the amount later, because we’re working on it, but it’s a resource for people to be able to buy the basic, essential things they need,” she said on a radio interview, and she highlighted there are already two payments available to people who lost their possessions to the fire, ranging from US$216 to US$300. Also today, Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo gave the latest figures regarding the fire, which indicate that an estimated 12,500 people have been affected by it, with 2,900 homes “completely destroyed”. Chilean authorities expect to fully control the fire today.

Venezuela – Opposition to Join ‘National Pacification Plan’: As a result of the second round of dialogue between the government and the opposition, the Mesa de Unión Democrática (MUD) alliance agreed to joining the ‘National Pacification Plan’ launched by president Nicolás Maduro. MUD’s Secretary General, Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, stated that the opposition is willing “to participate in the national plans of protection and promotion of safety and peace,” and that they will focus their participation on developing policies to curb insecurity, “so we can enrich that plan.” During the meeting, it was also agreed that the parliamentary opposition will take part in the nomination committees for the electoral and judicial powers, something they had previously refused to do. The government, in turn, agreed to including personalities from outside the legislative power to the Truth Commission that will investigate the violence that left 41 people dead and hundreds wounded over the last two months, as requested by the opposition.

Talking about the process, vice-president Jorge Arreaza said that “the meeting is never without tension, it was carried out in good terms, with tolerance, we listened to each other, respected each other’s rights. We’re moving forward.” He also confirmed that the dialogue will continue next week.

President Evo Morales at The Hague (photo courtesy of Bolivian government)

President Evo Morales at The Hague (photo courtesy of Bolivian government)

Bolivia – President Travels to The Hague over Access to the Sea: President Evo Morales presented documentation supporting his country’s claim against Chile over access to the Pacific Ocean before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The documentation, called ‘Maritime Memory’, was presented yesterday by Morales and Foreign Affairs Minister David Choquehuanca, two days before the deadline set by the ICJ. Now Chile has until 18th February 2015 to respond to the Bolivian presentation. In a press conference from The Hague, president Morales indicated he is “optimistic” about the outcome of the claim. “Bolivia has placed a lot of trust and hope in the ICJ to bring justice to Bolivians,” he said. The Chilean government, through Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz, criticised the presentation, saying it “lacks a legal foundation and it reverts a  debate which was constructive and conducive to generating mutual trust.” The claim was lodged before the ICJ in 2013, and it seeks to force Chile to negotiate a solution to the conflict which dates back to the War of the Pacific in 1897, and which saw Bolivia lose 120,000 km2 of its territory, including access to the sea.

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Latin America News Roundup: 14th April 2014


The five defendants who went on hunger strike (photo courtesy of Qué Pasó en Curuguaty? facebook)

The five defendants who went on hunger strike (photo courtesy of Qué Pasó en Curuguaty? facebook)

Paraguay: Home Arrest Granted for Curuguaty Campesinos: After a 58-day hunger strike, home arrest has been granted for five campesinos, part of a group of 12, arrested for their role in the Curuguaty Massacre. Defense lawyer for the group, Victor Morales, said that upon hearing the decision, the campesinos decided to lift their hunger strike. The group will be transferred to a civilian hospital where their recovery is estimated to take five to eight days, before which they will be allowed to return to their homes, where they will remain under house arrest whilst they await their trial. As the news was made public, supporters gathered outside the Asunción Military Hospital, where the campesinos are being held, to celebrate. It is thought they will be transferred to a civilian hospital in the coming days, as soon as the doctors decide they are strong enough to be transferred. The Curuguaty Massacre took place in 2012 after a police operation to evict 50 campesinos from public land turned violent, ending in the deaths of 11 campesinos and six police officers. Human rights organisations have voiced concerns that only campesinos have been arrested for the deaths, highlighting that three of the 11 campesinos killed had wounds that indicated they had been killed execution-style, after already being wounded. They have also demanded an independent inquiry into the case. The prosecution is basing its case on an investigation that the police force itself carried out into the massacre, after an independent inquiry was shut down by the government.

Kidnapped Venezuelan Journalist Released Unharmed: Nairobi Pinto, chief correspondent at TV news network Globovisión, has been released after being kidnapped on 6th April. She was released on a roadside in Cúa, about 60km south of the capital Caracas, early this morning. Pinto, who appeared to be in good health, gave a press conference with Interior Minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, and said: “They treated me well, they didn’t touch me or treat me badly. I was given three meals a day.” She went on to say that she was unable to give many details about her ordeal, as she had been kept blindfolded and her kidnappers never spoke in front of her. Three armed men attacked as Pinto was bringing shopping in to her building last Sunday, threatening her family at gunpoint and taking her away in a blue van. A strong media campaign surrounded the kidnapping, demanding the Pinto’s release. Kidnappings and crime are a big problem in Venezuela, especially in the major cities. In February, former world boxing champion Antonio Cermeño was kidnapped and murdered in Caracas.

The fire in Valparaíso has killed 12 and destroyed 2,000 homes. (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/lz)

The fire in Valparaíso has killed 12 and destroyed 2,000 homes. (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/lz)

Chile: Twelve Dead in Valparaíso Fire: At least 12 people have died and 10,000 have been evacuated after a fire ripped through the coastal city of Valparaíso on the weekend. The fire, described by President Michelle Bachelet as the “worst fire” in the city’s history, began on Saturday afternoon, and burned for hours, destroying 2,000 houses and 850 hectares. Years of drought, unusually strong winds and high temperatures, as well as a lack of firewalls combined to make it the “perfect fire”, according to Valparaíso mayor, Ricardo Bravo. A total of 1,200 firefighters were called in, with teams travelling from the capital Santiago to help the local forces fight the blaze, which were still burning into Sunday afternoon in some places. They were joined by some 4,000 troops who were sent to help fight the fire and also help prevent looting of abandoned homes and businesses. Bachelet, who has suspended a trip to Argentina and Uruguay to oversee the emergency, travelled to the city yesterday, declaring a state of emergency and catastrophe zone in the city.

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Latin America News Roundup: 7th April 2014


Luis Guillermo Solís (photo via Wikipedia)

Luis Guillermo Solís (photo via Wikipedia)

Costa Rica – Luis Guillermo Solís Wins Landslide Presidential Runoff: Historian and academic Luis Guillermo Solís, of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), easily won yesterday’s presidential runoff in Costa Rica. Solís received 77.8% of the vote, against 22.2% for his rival, Johnny Araya of the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), who had stopped campaigning in March due to opinion polls and a lack of funding. Absenteeism was at a 60-year high of 43.2%. The result puts an end to the recent dominance of the country’s two main political parties the PLN and the Partido de Unidad Socialcristiana (PUSC). Solís called for a “broad national debate” to transform the country. “I aim to, with God’s blessing and the support of everyone, make good the change that the people of Costa Rica demand.” Solís said he will name his cabinet next Monday, 14th April. Despite his strong mandate as president, Solís’ PAC party only holds 13 out 57 seats in the legislative assembly, while the PLN has 18.

Chile – Protests After ‘Hate Crime’ Victim Dies: Protests have erupted in Chile after Wladimir Sepúlveda died yesterday morning in a hospital in Rancagua, 90km south of the capital Santiago. The 21-year-old homosexual was brutally beaten and left in a vegetative state in October in what appears to be a hate crime. According to witnesses, Sepúlveda was walking home when he asked for a light off a group of six people, who started to call him names and then beat him. Chile’s Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh), who shared the news of his death via twitter, has called for the new Antidiscrimination Law, known as Ley Zamudio, to be used in the case. The law was passed after the murder of Daniel Zamudio, a 24-year-old who was attacked in March 2012 by four men in a park in Santiago, and violently beaten, tortured, and mutilated. However, so far prosecutors have refused to use the law in the case against Cristopher Morales Flores, the only person charged for the attack on Sepúlveda, who says he acted alone. In defending his decision not to enact the law in this case, Judge Pablo Aceituno called it “logical” that during a fight someone’s sexual orientation would be a cause for insults, and that this is not discrimination. Movilh has responded by calling for the Antidiscrimination Law to be reformed, and have the burden of proof be inverted, so that when minority groups were victims of such attacks, the defence must prove the crime was not a hate crime. Government spokesperson, Alvaro Elizalde, called news of Sepúlveda’s death “sad and painful”, and said: “We hope justice will do its job, clarifying the facts and applying the necessary sanctions.”

Prominent Venezuelan Journalist Kidnapped in Caracas: Nairobi Pinto, chief correspondent at TV news network Globovisión, was kidnapped yesterday at the entrance to her Caracas. Her father Luis Pinto confirmed today that three armed men attacked as Nairobi was bringing in shopping to the building. They threatened the family at gunpoint and then took Nairobi away in a blue van. “We have to put ourselves in the hands of the authorities, who have resolved these situations on many occasions,” said Luis. “We hope to have the same luck… I only ask the Almighty God to intervene and return my daughter to me safe and sound.” Kidnappings and crime are a big problem in Venezuela, especially in the major cities. In February, former world boxing champion Antonio Cermeño was kidnapped and murdered in Caracas.

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22nd August marks the anniversary of the 1972 Trelew Massacre. We revisit a 2007 piece which followed Kristie Robinson as she accompanied a group of former political prisoners to Patagonia to commemorate the incident.

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