Tag Archive | "dictatorship"

Argentina News Roundup: 16th April 2014

Minister Axel Kicillof announces inflation for March (photo: Florencia Downes/Telam/dsl)

Minister Axel Kicillof announces inflation for March (photo: Florencia Downes/Telam/dsl)

March Inflation Revealed: Inflation for March, as informed yesterday by Economy Minister Axel Kicillof, was of 2.6%. This number, measured by the new Consumer Price Index (IPC-Nu), brings the total for the year so far to 9.7%. Compared to January’s 3.7% and February’s 3.4%, Kicillof stated that March’s inflation “implies a considerable slowdown” in the inflation rate. The minister explained that “the slowdown can be seen in all items, except in Clothing and Education, where there’s a seasonal variation,” and that the increase in prices is mostly due to this year’s peso devaluation and its impact on the prices of machinery, imported supplies, and fuel and transport. The numbers, published by statistics office Indec, were lower than those estimated by private consulting firms, though the latter also reflected a declining inflation rate. The IPC for March published by the opposition in Congress showed a price increase of 3.3%, whilst others ranged from 3.2 to 3.8%. Kicillof doubted the reliability of these alternative indices, “because we don’t know absolutely anything about the methodology they use.”

New Bill to Regulate Street Protests: Pro-government deputies introduced a bill in Congress today which seeks to regulate street protests and pickets. The 34-article bill states that protests must be notified 48 hours in advance, and can only be cleared out after civilian mediation. However, security forces can dissolve demonstrations that are deemed to be “illegitimate”. It also states that police officers in direct contact with protesters cannot carry firearms, and that they must be wearing uniforms and badges at all times. With regards to other kinds of weapons, it says that “weapons that are not firearms can be used for the defence of authorities if they are in imminent danger, but never as a way to dissolve a protest.” The bill comes after president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner mentioned the need to regulate street protests in her State of the Nation address before Congress on 1st March. The authors of the bill said that “Against other solutions that seek to restrict [people's] rights, using the Criminal Code to increase penalties or creating new crimes, we propose to guarantee and to strengthen rights.”

Ex-Policeman Arrested Over Crimes Against Humanity: A former police officer accused of killing 19 people and kidnapping and torturing another 285 during the last military dictatorship was arrested on Monday. The man, Gerardo Jorge Arráez, had been a fugitive from justice for over two years and was using fake identification documents when caught. Witnesses have stated that Arráez, aka Nito, displayed an “excessive fondness” for Catholicism, placing a small chapel with an image of the Virgin within the Olimpo detention centre, and that he used to photograph victims after they were tortured. He is being prosecuted by judge Daniel Rafecas, who is investigating crimes against humanity committed in the ‘Banco’ and ‘Olimpo’ clandestine detention centres.

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Argentina News Roundup: 8th April 2014

Susana Trimarco (Photo: Natasha Ali)

Susana Trimarco (Photo: Natasha Ali)

Long Prison Sentences for Ten Convicted in Marita Verón Case: Judges in Tucumán today handed prison sentences for the ten people convicted of the kidnapping and sexual exploitation of Marita Verón. The harshest sentences of 22 years were given to brothers José and Gonzalo Gómez, considered the leaders of the organisation that captured Verón and forced her into prostitution. Daniela Milhein and Alejandro González, found guilty of holding Verón prisoner in their house, received 18 years each. Carlos Luna, Cynthia Gaitán, Domingo Andrada, María Márquez, Juan Derobertis and Mariana Bustos, all considered “necessary participants” in the crime, received sentences ranging from 10 to 17 years. “I was hoping for more, but we achieved some justice today,” said Susana Trimarco, Verón’s mother, after the verdict. “We are going to keep fighting until the day we know what they did with her.”

The tribunal was ordered with delivering the sentence by the Supreme Court of Tucumán, which in December partially overturned an original ruling to acquit all defendants. Verón disappeared on 3rd April 2002, when she was 23, in the provincial capital San Miguel de Tucumán. Sex workers in prostitution rings have spotted her in several locations in the country, including La Rioja, Tucumán and Córdoba, according to reports.

Proposal to Investigate ‘Economic Collaboration’ During Dictatorship: Legislator Héctor Recalde introduced yesterday an initiative to investigate civilian and business collaboration with the military during 1976-83 dictatorship. The bill, which is supported by the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) and the National Securities Commission, proposes establishing a bicameral commission to identify “those that collaborated with the dictatorship, and from which companies.” It calls for an in-depth report about the consequences of the economic, monetary, industrial and commercial policies of the dictatorship, and those who where complicit in their application. If approved, the report will be presented 180 days after the commission is created, and will pass any suspected illegal activity onto the judiciary to begin proceedings. Julián Domínguez, president of the Chamber of Deputies, said the bill would allow the country to discover “the civil face of the worst dictatorship in our country,” adding that over 600 companies were illegally appropriated by state terrorism during the period.

Heavy Rains Leave Flooding and 3,000 Evacuated Across Argentina: Days of heavy rains have caused flooding and damage across much of Argentina, with around 3,000 people evacuated. Neuquén remains the worst affected province, with up to 1,500 still evacuated as more rain last night added to damage caused over the weekend. The provinces of Río Negro, Entre Ríos, Catamarca, Santiago del Estero, Santa Fe, Chubut and Córdoba were also hit hard by recent storms, resulting in flooding and landslides. In the province of Buenos Aires, 100 people were evacuated after the Luján river burst its banks, while a collapsed road left a 40m crater in Ramos Mejía, west of the capital. In the city of Buenos Aires, which suffered mild flooding overnight, a lightning strike hit an empty LAN plane at the Jorge Newberry airport, injuring one maintenance worker. The bad weather has now moved on for much of the affected areas, though the National Meteorological Service maintains an alert for further rains in Río Negro, and parts of Neuquén and Chubut this afternoon.

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Argentina News Roundup: 17th February 2014

Martín Sabbatella, director of AFSCA, the organisation in charge of implementing the media law. (Photo - Wikimedia Commons)

Martín Sabbatella, director of AFSCA, the organisation in charge of implementing the media law. (Photo – Wikimedia Commons)

AFSCA Approves Clarín Compliance Plan: The Federal Administration of Audiovisual Communication (AFSCA) announced today the approval of the divestment plan presented by Grupo Clarín last November, a requirement to comply with the media law. According to the plan, the company will be divided into six independent business units which will keep the conglomerate’s existing TV, cable TV, and radio licences. The media group will now have 30 days to inform whether it will divide these units amongst its shareholders or sell some of them, and 180 days to fully execute the divestment plan. “We are pleased to have got this result: that all media groups, even the most powerful and dangerous for democracy, have to abide by the law,” said head of AFSCA Martín Sabbatella. Another large media group, Grupo Uno, and other smaller groups also had their proposals approved today and will have to carry them out under similar terms. AFSCA is yet to approve the plans presented by Telefé-Telefónica, Telecentro, and Prisa-Radio Continental.

Argentina to Lodge Final Appeal before US Supreme Court: With private negotiations still underway, the Argentine government will today file an appeal before the US Supreme Court on the case against the so-called ‘vulture funds’. This time, Argentina will be represented by former US Solicitor General Paul Clement, who will join the existing legal team. The country is appealing a sentence that orders the state to pay holdouts US$1.3bn, on the grounds that re-opening the debt swap -as the government has proposed- would satisfy the pari passu clause, according to which all bondholders must be treated equally, as demanded by the previous rulings. Whilst the government has expressed optimism regarding its chances, especially with the incorporation of Clement to the legal team, it continues to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the holdouts. If the Supreme Court decides to review the case, it could take up to a year to reach a final verdict. If it rules against Argentina, the country would enter a ‘technical default’.

Judges to be Tried for Crimes Against Humanity: A landmark human rights trial began today in Mendoza, where four judges are facing charges for their alleged complicity with crimes against humanity committed during the last military dictatorship. A total of 38 people are being prosecuted by the federal court in Mendoza, including judges Luis Miret and Otilio Romano. This ‘mega-trial’ brings together a dozen cases involving 207 victims of human rights abuses and is being conducted via video conference, since many of the accused are in different parts of the country, such as Tucumán, Buenos Aires, and Rosario. The importance of this trial, highlighted prosecutor Dante Vega, lies on the fact that it is starting to try the civilian component of the last dictatorship. “And this is so because it’s impossible to think about state terrorism without [taking into account] the role that the judiciary played. The hypothesis of the prosecution is the complicity of the judicial structure with state terrorism, and we’re going to try and prove this during the trial.” It is expected that 660 witnesses will be called to testify, and that the trial will last at least 18 months.

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Latin America News Roundup: 12th February 2014

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia – Referendum on Bogotá Mayor Postponed: Colombia’s National Civil Registry announced yesterday that the recall referendum on Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro has been postponed due to “lack of resources.” The referendum, which will decide on the mayor’s fate after he was dismissed by Colombia’s Inspector General, was scheduled to take place on 2nd March. However, the Civil Registry informed in a statement posted on their website, that “without the resources it is not possible to move forward in purchasing the necessary goods and services” to carry it out. The Civil Registry has requested COL$38bn (US$17.8m) from the Economy Ministry, and is still awaiting for the funds to be confirmed. There has been no confirmation as to when the referendum will be held.

Regularisation Plan for Undocumented Haitians: The Haitian government has announced it will launch a survey of undocumented Haitian citizens living in other countries, including neighbouring Dominican Republic. Haiti’s National Identification Office (ONI) will deploy a number of mobile units around Dominican Republic in order to identify undocumented citizens living there and help them regularise their situation. The process will be carried out by Haitian civil servants and members of the Haitian diaspora in Dominican Republic, according to ONI’s director Jean Baptiste Saint-Cyr, though he did not specify whether the Dominican government will also be involved. The survey, which will start next month, will also include Suriname and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The announcement is the result of the dialogue established by the Haitian and Dominican governments after the decision by the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal to strip Haitians of the country’s citizenship. A bill by the Committee of Solidarity with Denationalised People, which proposed to grant citizenship to all people of foreign ascent born in Dominican territory between 1929 and 2010, was introduced in the Dominican parliament.

Uruguay – Human Remains Found in Police Station: Human bones thought to belong to two people disappeared during the last military dictatorship (1973-1985) were found yesterday in a police station in Montevideo. The human remains were found by workers doing excavation works in police station number 8 of the Uruguayan capital. Supreme Court spokesman, Raúl Oxandabarat, explained that “the first characteristics of the findings seem to indicate that there is the possibility that it could be a case of burial of people who were detained and disappeared.” The court will be in charge of conducting DNA tests which will be matched against a registry of disappeared prisoners. A report by anthropologist Horacio Solla found that the bones would have been buried around 30 years ago, or more, and would belong to a man and a woman.

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Argentina News Roundup: 6th February 2014

Estela de Carlotto, head of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Photo: Deutsche Welle)

Estela de Carlotto, head of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Photo: Deutsche Welle)

Abuelas Find Grandchild 110: Today the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo announced they had ‘found’ grandchild number 110. Estela de Carlotto, head of the human rights organisation, revealed the woman was the child of Liliana Isabel Acuña and Oscar Rómulo Gutierrez, who were disappeared on 26th August 1976. Acuña was five months pregnant at the time of her kidnapping, and her daughter was born in a clandestine prison and then adopted. The woman’s identity has not been revealed. During the press conference, her uncle, Ricardo Gutiérrez, said: “This was a pregnancy that lasted for years and today she was born”. De Carlotto confirmed that the woman had come to the Abuelas on 31st October last year with doubts about her identity. The organisation then accompanied her to the National Commission for the Right to Identity (Conadi) where she left a blood sample, which was then run through the National Genetic Data Bank, where it was discovered that she was the daughter of the disappeared couple. The Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo are a human rights organisation, who work to find the missing children of couples who were disappeared during the 1976-83 dictatorship. An estimated 500 women were pregnant at the time of their disappearance, and many of their children were born in captivity and then adopted out to new families, after which their biological mothers were killed.

Large Protest in Support of Las Heras Oil Workers: Hundreds marched through the streets of Buenos Aires yesterday in support of three oil workers convicted of the murder of policeman Jorge Sayago. Hugo Gonzáles, Inocencio Cortés, and José Rosales were sentenced to life in prison in December for the death Sayago during a workers’ uprising in February 2006 in the Patagonian town of Las Heras. Six others were also sent to prison for their role in the uprising, in what human rights organisations are calling a miscarriage of justice. The march, which ended in Plaza de Mayo, saw Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, representatives of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Línea Fundadora, and national legislators address the crowd, calling for the men to be pardoned due to “irregularities” in the investigation. Nicolás del Caño, national deputy for the PTS, said: “The trial in which the men were convicted was completely staged with the objective of teaching a lesson to the workers and stopping them from organising and fighting for their rights.” He went on to say the trial was in accordance with the oil corporations and with government complicity. Acts of solidarity were also held in Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, Mexico, and Chile.

Firefighters Laid to Rest; Investigation into Cause of Fire Opened: Buenos Aires residents were given the chance to pay their respects to those who died during yesterday’s fire as a funeral procession drove through the streets of the capital to a memorial service at Chacarita cemetery. Nine firefighters and first responders were killed when a wall collapsed during a fire at an Iron Mountain storage facility in Barracas. The cause of the fire is still unknown. Prosecutor Marcela Sánchez, who is taking charge of the investigation, will take statements from four Iron Mountain employees, including the security employee, who alerted the authorities to the fire, as well as the firefighters who were at the scene, including those who were injured. Sánchez visited the unit in Barracas yesterday.

It is not the first time the corporation’s facilities have set on fire, with fires have taken place on five previous occasions at deposits in North America and Europe, at least two of which are suspected to have been caused by arson. This is, however, the first time that such a fire has ended in tragedy.

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Beyond the Military: Investigating the Civilian Role in the Dictatorship

Last Friday, after 13 months and 400 witness testimonies, the mega-lawsuit in Federal Court of Tucumán found 37 of 41 defendants guilty of crimes against humanity during the 1976-83 dictatorship in Argentina. In the historic trial, known as Jefatura II-Arsenales II, four civilians were among the accused: two were pardoned and two were convicted for their involvement in the dictatorship.

María Elena Guerra, a civilian and ex-police officer, and Guillermo Francisco Lopez Guerrero, a civil intelligence agent, joined a select few civilians who have been found guilty of crimes committed during the brutal seven-year military regime, in which some 30,000 people were kidnapped and killed or ‘disappeared’.

Families of the disappeared await the verdict of the mega-lawsuit in Tucumán (photo: Julio Pantoja/Télam/)

Families of the disappeared await the verdict of the mega-lawsuit in Tucumán (photo: Julio Pantoja/Télam/)

Since the trials were reopened in 2006, hundreds of members of the military have been sentenced to prison for crimes committed during the dictatorship. However, it was only in December last year that James Smart, a former government minister of the Province of Buenos Aires, became the first civilian to be convicted of crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship. He was sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed in six clandestine detention centres.

These landmark rulings demonstrate how, after 30 years of democratic rule, the way Argentines, politicians, and the legal system examine crimes from this period has evolved, with the focus turning more recently to the role of businesses and civilians in the human rights atrocities of that period.

Human rights groups have long used the term ‘civic-military dictatorship’ to acknowledge the complicity and support of some civilian sectors. But the title has become increasingly common in recent years under the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration, opening the door for a number of emblematic trials investigating the role of these civilians, with the aim of bringing the impunity of the powerful to an end.

Causes of the Coup: A New Economic Model

Human rights groups argue that economic motives were behind the 24th March 1976 coup, saying it can no longer be argued that the objective was only to combat “subversion”. They believe so-called “captains of industry” collaborated with military leaders to perpetrate crimes against humanity for economic gain.

Last week, Banco de la Nación Argentina officially recognised Roberto Hugo Barrera as the 31st employee still missing – disappeared – after being kidnapped during the dictatorship. The institution has been an important player in the drive to highlight the economic motives behind the so-called ‘National Reorganisation Process’ implemented by the military junta.

Graciela Navarro, President of the Commission of the Banco de la Nación Personnel for Memory, Truth and Justice told The Argentina Independent that when identifying what occurred in 1976, it is first important to understand that there was no “war”.

Banco de la nacion (Photo by Helena Andell)

Banco de la Nación (Photo by Helena Andell)

“There were operations of some armed groups, but these were isolated. There was never a war here. It was always state terrorism,” she said, alluding to the still oft-used term ‘Dirty War’ by foreign press.

According to Navarro, certain civilian sectors used the military to implement a neo-liberal economic model. “It was necessary to implement an economic model of exclusion to benefit economic groups that utilised the Armed Forces as a instrument of social discipline – for repression, for fear, to deal with any resistance movement.

“The true causes of the coup were economic, because of this we say civic-military dictatorship,” she added.

Marta Santos, a former Central Bank employee and friend of one of the five known desaparecidos (missing) who worked at the institution, echoes this view.

“This dictatorship, this military force, needed the support of civilians in key parts of the state and in the private economy… In this sense we say that dictatorship was civic-military because it pursued neo-liberal economic interests of private [business] and the state,” says Santos, who today is part of a team working with the Central Bank to investigate if there are more unknown desaparecidos who worked there.

Civilians in Government

Santos says it is important to denounce civilian collusion with the military junta in the defence of democracy, to ensure these institutions can never again prop up a dictatorship. She names José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz as the prime example of civilian involvement.

Former president of the steel company Acindar – which operated one of the country’s first clandestine torture and detention centres on its premises in 1975 – José Martínez de Hoz was economy minister from 1976 to 1981, in charge of ushering in a new economic paradigm based on the principles of free market capitalism. During this period, it was common for businessmen close to the economy minister to assume key government roles, helping to fuse civil society to the military junta. His policies sowed the seeds for financial collapse, providing a brief period of prosperity but leading to a deep recession in 1981 and saddling the nation with a burdensome external debt that would cause problems long after the return to democracy.

Martínez de Hoz was under house arrest when he died in March this year, being investigated for his alleged role in the kidnap of father and son, Federico and Miguel Gutheim. The family owned the cotton export company Sadeco, and were allegedly coerced into making business deals that favoured the dictatorship.

José Martínez de Hoz as economy minister (1976-81)

José Martínez de Hoz as economy minister (1976-81)

He was also linked to the kidnap of René Carlos Alberto Grassi, director de Industrias Siderúrgicas Grassi (a rival company of Acindar) and president of the Bank of Hurlingham, in September 1978. Grassi was held in Campo de Mayo for a year after his abduction, and eventually Industrias Siderúrgicas Grassi was absorbed by Acindar. One month before the abduction, Martínez de Hoz had asked to buy the Bank of Hurlingham and was declined.

From the early days of the dictatorship there was a strong repression of workers, but the kidnap of Grassi was significant; he did not pose a threat as an opposition force to the regime, his value was economic.

Martínez de Hoz was pardoned by Menem in 1990, though this was annulled 16 years later when the Gutheim case was reopened. Up until his death, he denied any involvement in the kidnappings and was a remorseless defender of the dictatorship-era economic policies.

The investigation of Martínez de Hoz is an early example of a civilian investigated for abuses committed during the rein of the military junta. In recent years, many more legal battles concerning civilian’s roles in the dictatorship have come to the surface.

Thirty Years of Reconstruction

Horacio Verbitsky, president of CELS and co-author of the 2013 book ‘Cuentas pendientes: los cómplices económicos de la dictadura’, which examines the links between economic powers and state repression, argues the economic influence of civilians who were complicit in the dictatorship continued throughout the first two decades of democracy. Verbitsky argues that economic powers could have endangered the stability of democracy, which limited the possibility of pursuing justice for their responsibility during the dictatorship.

Argentina’s first president after the return of democracy, Raúl Alfonsín, had the complex task of addressing human rights abuses in the face of a weak economy and massive external debt, which had ballooned from US$7.87bn in 1975 to US$43bn in 1982.

“It is not easy to build democracy in a setting where political culture and civic habits have been degraded by authoritarianism. Nor is it easy to build democracy in the midst of a deep economic crisis exacerbated by the need to repay a huge foreign debt that the old dictatorial regime had contracted and irresponsibly misspent,” Alfonsín said in 1992, after his term had ended prematurely in 1989.

Videla and other military chiefs are found guilty of crimes against humanity in 1985.

Videla and other military chiefs are found guilty of crimes against humanity in 1985.

The neo-liberal economic paradigm that dominated the nineties – a time that corresponded with the amnesty offered to those responsible in the dictatorship – deepened the economic model launched in 1976, taking it to the economic and political crisis of 2001.

Graciela Navarro believes that since Néstor Kirchner took office in 2003 there has been two distinct periods relating to the last civic-military dictatorship, the first being the recovery of the memory of those who had been tortured or disappeared, and the end of impunity for military leaders. “When Cristina was elected,” Navarro believes, “it was possible to begin to examine the true causes of the coup, which were economic, and charge those who are responsible.

“The military has been judged,” adds Navarro, “but many civilians, if not them then their children, are owners of the large economic groups… this is difficult. These are the interests that Cristina is dealing with.”

Pending Cases

After years of impunity, Argentina’s legal system has begun to investigate the role of officials, powerful businessmen, and mulitnationals who may have collaborated with the military in state terrorism. According to the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), as of September 2013 there were a total of 261 civilians accused of involvement in the human rights abuses of the era.

Several high profile and emblematic cases involving civilians, and their business interests, are currently making their way through the legal system.

Papel Prensa: On 2nd November, 1976, three newspapers – Clarín, La Nación, and La Razón – obtained the majority shares in Papel Prensa, the company which produces newsprint for the industry, soon after owner, businessman and banker David Graiver, died in a plane crash in Mexico in August 1976. Graiver’s widow, Lidia Papaleo testified in 2010 that at that time she was stripped of the factory after receiving death threats against her and her young daughter. In March 1977, Papaleo was abducted and tortured until she was released on July 24, 1982.

The case concerning the sale of Papel Prensa was opened in August 2010 after President Fernández presented a report in the Casa Rosada titled “Papel Prensa: The Truth” denouncing the “illegal appropriation” of the business. Most recently, the case has been in the headlines after the discovery of official minutes from the dictatorship that mention Papel Prensa 13 times between September 1976 and November 1977.

According to Defence Minister Agustín Rossi, the minutes make it “clear that for the Junta, Papel Prensa was a part of the same theme as the detention of [ex-owners] the Graiver family… this appears clearly in the minutes.” Copies of the documents are now in the hands of Federal Judge Julián Ercolini, who has jurisdiction over the case.

Ledesma: Also working its way through the legal system is a case involving president of sugar company Ledesma, one of Argentina’s most powerful businesses, for his involvement in kidnappings during the ‘blackout night’, when over 400 people were kidnapped in the province of Jujuy following an electricity outage on 20th July, 1976.

President of Ledesma Carlos Blaquier and former general manager Alberto Lemos are accused of providing the vehicles that were used for transporting the victims. This month, the Federal Court of Salta confirmed that there is sufficient evidence that the company Ledesma collaborated in the kidnapping of their workers to dismantle the labour union. As a result, Blaquier and Lemos will be put on trial, which is set to begin in April 2014. The court upheld that Blaquier will be prosecuted as a “necessary participant” in twenty cases of illegal deprivation of liberty and Lemos is accused of being a “secondary participant” to the kidnappings.

Ford: During the dictatorship, the Ford Falcon became known as a vehicle commonly used by kidnappers. But the company is also accused of more direct involvement in the human rights abuses of the time.

In May, charges were laid against three ex-directors of Ford Motors Argentina for their role in the disappearance of 24 workers from the plant. Former plant manager Pedro Müller, ex-leader of labour relations Guillermo Galarraga, and ex-security chief Héctor Sibilla are accused of having given to military commanders in the area “personal data, photographs, and addresses” of workers at the factory between 24th March and 20th August, 1976.

The three men are also accused of having allowed the military to use the factory as a detention centre where they carried out the interrogation of the workers. According to Judge Alicia Vence, the workers were “tied up with their faces covered and beaten.”

Although 24 workers survived the kidnapping and torture, only 12 are still alive today. The formal legal process began in 2001 but the first reports of the events date back to 1984.

Mercedes Benz: The families of 17 workers from the Mercedes Benz plant who were kidnapped and tortured have bought a civil case against the parent company of the carmaker, Daimler Chrysler, in the US. Mercedes-Benz Argentina is alleged to have identified workers who were kidnapped and sent to the clandestine torture centre, Campo de Mayo, during the dictatorship.

The investigation began in 2004 and has been rejected by US courts on previous occasions, with the US Supreme Court currently determining if the case falls under its jurisdiction. A decision is expected in the coming months on whether multinational corporations can be sued in US courts for alleged human rights abuses abroad.

In Argentina, the lawsuit for kidnapping and torture of the 17 workers, 14 of whom are still missing, was initiated by journalist Gabriela Weber in 2002 and in 2006 was transferred to Federal Court in San Martín under the charge of Judge Alicia Vence. So far noone has been formally charged or arrested.

The carmaker is also accused of the appropriation of three children, and the adoption and substitution of identity of Paula Logares, the first grandchildren reclaimed by the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo in 1987.

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Former Army Officer Escapes Custody on way to Tribunales

Wanted poster for Lawless circulated before his capture (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Justice)

Wanted poster for Lawless circulated before his capture (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Justice)

Alejandro Lawless, a former army officer accused of committing crimes against humanity during the 1976-83 dictatorship, has escaped whilst being transferred to a court in Buenos Aires. The 66-year-old was arrested for being involved in the kidnapping, torturing, and killing of political opponents during the military rule.

Yesterday he fled from a police van parked on Lavalle and Talcahuano, outside the court building in central Buenos Aires, in which he had been taken to from jail along with other prisoners.

Security forces said they were momentarily distracted by escorting other prisoners to the court, which allowed Lawless, who was not wearing handcuffs, to escape. The security forces escorting him were the Airport Security Police.

Lawless was an engineer who had served as a lieutenant-colonel in the army. He was first accused of crimes against humanity in 2009, but went on the run, before making a surprise appearance a year later to hear his charges. The charges he faces entail his time working in the Navy and the Command Corps V of the Army in the city of Bahia Blanca, where he continued to reside.

Despite having previously fled, after hearing his charges, Lawless was granted bail, and was free until recently, before being taking into custody and transferred to Buenos Aires where he is due to stand trial.

In response to his flight, head of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo human rights organisation, Estela de Carlotto, expressed dismay at his escape, and said that it was likely that he received help to get away.

Lawless is the third military officer convict to escape from custody this year. The others were Jorge Olivera and Gustavo De Marchi who broke out of a military hospital in July and remain fugitives. Seven staff members were dismissed in response to their escape.

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Chile: Military Widows Sue Communist Leader

Guillermo Teillier (Photo: courtesy of Wikipedia)

Guillermo Teillier (Photo: courtesy of Wikipedia)

Three widows of Chilean military personnel killed in 1986 are suing Communist Party leader, Guillermo Teillier, for his part in their deaths.

Speaking to La Tercera, a Cuban newspaper, in April, Teillier confessed that he had approved the 1986 attack on then-dictator General Pinochet. Teillier also confessed to other attempts made on Pinochet’s life throughout the 1980s, all carried out by the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (MRPF).

Lawyer Raúl Meza, who will represent the widows in the case, said: “As complainants, we want this extra-judicial confession to be ratified before a court.”

Speaking to Chilean radio station Bio Bio, the widow of Pablo Silva Pizarro said: “We want justice and equality before the law, that’s all we want.”

While Lidia Valenzuela, the widow of Cardenio Hernández, said she was seeking justice for her three daughters.

The 7th September 1986 attack failed to kill Pinochet, but killed five people, including Miguel Guerrero Guzmán, Gerardo Rebolledo Cisternas and Roberto Rosales Martínez. It injured a further 11. Those killed were escorting Pinochet.

Meza clarified that Teillier is being sued for “authorised terrorist homicide” and described the attack as “treacherous, premeditated and planned for a long time by the terrorist organization MRPF”.

Responding to the accusation, Teillier said the attack was “nothing more than a reaction” against atrocities committed by Pinochet. During Pinochet’s 17-year reign, an estimated 3000 people were killed or disappeared, with a further 30,000 tortured.

The case comes just under a month before national elections, adding to political tensions building in the country.

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Chile: Ex-Army Chief Accused of Kidnapping Minors in Dictatorship

Juan Emilio Cheyre (photo wikipedia)

Juan Emilio Cheyre (photo wikipedia)

The Appeals Court in La Serena will start an investigation against the ex commander in chief of the Chilean Army, Juan Emilio Cheyre, who is accused of the kidnap and torture of minors during the dictatorship of Agusto Pinochet.

The case against him was brought to the court by three sisters – Natacha, Yelena and Marianela Monroy Rodríguez – on 10th September 2013. They accuse Cheyre and two other army members of raiding their house in October 1973, arresting their mother Elena Rodríguez, a political activist, and taking her to the women’s prison in La Serena. They claim that in December 1973 the men returned and kidnapped the three sisters who were aged one, three, and 12 at the time and took them to the same prison where they were detained until 1975.

Elena Rodríguez said of the event: “[Cheyre] kicked down the door and destroyed everything, everything we had worked hard for.”

Cheyre, who was a lieutenant at the time of the 1973 coup, was commander in chief of the Chilean Army from 2002-2006, during the government of Ricardo Lagos. While in this role he apologised to the Chilean population on behalf of the army for the human rights violations committed during the dictatorship.

Later, in January 2012 he became the president of the electoral service (SERVEL) a post he resigned from in August 2013 when he admitted that, during the dictatorship, he gave a two-year-old child, Ernesto Lejderman, up for adoption after his parents were murdered by Chilean soldiers.

Supreme Court judge, Jaime Franco, accepted the case against Cheyre yesterday and is said to have asked for statements from the sisters, for psycological examinations to be carried out by experts and for the Human Rights Department of the Chilean Investigation Police to investigate Cheyre’s involvement in the crimes for which he is accused.

Hernán Fernandez, who is representing the Monroy Rodríguez sisters in court, said of Cheyre’s involvement in the event: “The victims had no trouble identifying him and, after 40 years, they now have hopes of justice in Chile.”

Posted in Current Affairs, News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Chile: Amnesty International Demands Justice on Coup’s 40th Anniversary

Augusto Pinochet and his wife Lucía Hiriart (photo: Chilean Congress Library)

Augusto Pinochet and his wife Lucía Hiriart (photo: Chilean Congress Library)

Yesterday, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the military coup in Chile, Amnesty International handed over a petition to the government asking for the Amnesty Law, which gives immunity to members of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, to be abolished.

Today marks the anniversary of the coup that took place on 11th September 1973 in Chile, ending the constitutional government of Salvador Allende and bringing about a 17-year dictatorship.

Amnesty informed that at least 262 people have been sentenced for crimes committed during this period but 100 judicial proceedings are still open.

The petition signed by 25,000 people was given to the Palacio de la Moneda, the government house, asking for the Chilean authorities to eliminate the obstacles when it comes to judging those responsible for human rights violations during the dictatorship.

The Self-Amnesty Law was passed in 1978. It excludes from penal responsibility those who committed human rights crimes between 11th September 1973 and 10th March 1978.

On Sunday, police arrested dozens of people protesting in the capital, Santiago, and have deployed 8,000 officers to prevent further violence. Protesters had erected barricades, threw stones and petrol bombs, and a bus was set also alight.

On Monday, President Sebastian Piñera commemorated the day, leading a ceremony outside La Moneda. The bell was rung 40 times making reference to the 40 convening years since General Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état which put an end to Allende’s socialist government.

Piñera stated, “We can’t raise the dead or recover the missing but we can and we must do everything in our power to alleviate that pain and the suffering with justice, reparation and reconciliation.”

Pinochet ruled with a military junta for 17 years before transferring power to a democratically elected government in the 1988 plebiscite. However, he continued to stay on as Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army until 10th March 1998 when he retired, and became a lifetime senator until his death in 2006.

According to official figures, over 3000 people disappeared or were assassinated between 1973 and 1990 and approximately 40,000 survived torture and detentions for ideological reasons.

Posted in Current Affairs, News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

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