Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Autopsy Report: Allende Committed Suicide

The results of the autopsy that was requested two months ago by President Salvador Allende’s relatives are in.  As it turns out, the forensics team has determined that Allende did indeed kill himself with an assault rifle as Pinochet’s troops stormed the presidential palace in 1973. According to the AP, the investigation found that "Allende died of two shots fired from an assault rifle that was held between his legs and under his chin and was set to fire automatically." The analysis did not find any evidence that others were involved in Mr. Allende’s death, and concluded that the head wounds he sustained were in fact consistent with bullets fired from an automatic AK-47 assault rifle, the New York Times reports. 
As the BBC and EFE note, some in the family find the results reassuring. The president’s daughter, Senator Isabel Allende, said the news had been received well, and had provided a certain amount of closure. "The report’s conclusions are consistent with what we already believed. When faced with extreme circumstances, he made the decision of taking his own life, instead of being humiliated," Ms Allende said.
The forensics team, which was comprised of a mixture of Chilean and international medical professionals, apparently agreed to the conclusion unanimously.  When asked if there were any possibility of error, Spanish expert Francisco Etxeberria said there was “absolutely no doubt" that Allende had committed suicide.
The AP has a particularly colorful account of Allende’s last moments, as witnessed by Dr. Patricio Guijon, a personal doctor of the leader:

“With the palace in flames, Allende told the 30 to 40 people who had stayed with him that they would surrender together, and that he would take up the rear as they filed out.

Instead, the president slipped off alone to the palace's Independence Hall. Guijon, meanwhile, realized he had left his gas mask behind and went to retrieve it. It was then that he saw Allende through an open door, he said, just as the president's body jerked upwards with the force of the blast.”

News Briefs:

·         The Wall Street Journal reports on the dangers that Central American migrants face in passing through Mexico, highlighting the recent kidnapping of several migrants in Veracruz in late June.  Although witnesses say that between 60 and 80 were taken off of a freight train in the incident, authorities can only confirm the disappearance of five victims.  As the article notes, the increased danger in the trek northward may explain the fact that undocumented immigration has declined in recent years, despite claims by The Pew Research Center that the trend has to do with increased economic opportunity in Mexico.

·         The Associated Press reports that the Knights Templar, a splinter group of the Familia Michoacana, is distributing booklets in Michoacan which portray the group as fighting a war against poverty and injustice.  The publication is allegedly fully illustrated, and says the Knights Templar "will begin a challenging ideological battle to defend the values of a society based on ethics."  Excerpts from the booklet, in English, are available here.

·         Venezuela's is now the world’s largest oil-reserves holder, with proven crude-oil reserves which surpassed that of Saudi Arabia in 2010, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in its newly-released annual statistics bulletin.  Venezuela's proven crude reserves reached 296.5 billion barrels in 2010, a whopping 40 percent increase from the previous year and higher than Saudi Arabia's 264.5 billion barrels.  The Wall Street Journal has more on the development, which it says may “empower members of OPEC that favor defending higher prices.

·         A Venezuelan court has dropped the corruption charges against Hugo Chavez’s main opposition, Henrique Capriles, after it determined that the charges had not been filed in the proper manner, according to El Universal.

·         The New York Times takes a look at Venezuela’s long history of standing in lines.  As the article notes, although some have blamed an increase in the length of lines for public goods on Hugo Chavez’s administration, long lines have been a historic trademark in the oil rich country.

·         Americas Quarterly’s Javier El-Hage presents a tidy critique of Honduras’ Truth and Reconciliation Report, which calls for the passage of new constitutional reforms to make it easier to remove a sitting president from power.  However, the constitution already allows for impeachment via a Supreme Court hearing, a fact which was largely ignored in the report’s findings.  Rather than reforming the constitution, El-Hage argues, Honduran politicians simply need to follow its articles instead of violating or changing them every time it does not serve their interests.

·         Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has proposed a referendum to determine whether the United States pay $17 billion in damages for its involvement in the civil war, in compliance with a 1986 ruling by the International Court of Justice, El Nacional reports.

·         InSight Crime profiles Sonsonate, El Salvador’s most violent region, which has the highest murder rates in the country. While the violence is mostly caused by rivalries between local street gangs, the article speculates that Mexican cartels like the Zetas could be spreading their influence in the country.

·         Alcides Oviedo, the leader of a tiny but determined Paraguayan rebel group known as the Army of the Paraguayan People (EPP) has published a political platform for the group from prison, where he is serving 18 years for kidnapping. The document argues that the country’s profound inequality justifies violent revolution, AP and EFE report.

·         Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala met with both Fidel and Raul Castro during his 16-hour long stay in Havana, which came to an end yesterday.  AFP claims that he also spoke by phone with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is seeking cancer treatment on the island.  Among the topics discussed were furthering Cuban-Peruvian relations, with an emphasis on education and development  After returning to Lima yesterday, Humala is expected to announce his cabinet picks today, and to shed further light on his agenda.