Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Presidential Pardon for Humala's Imprisoned Brother?


Something of a political firestorm is brewing in Peru, after several high-ranking members of President Ollanta Humala’s cabinet made comments which seemingly endorsed an early release for Humala’s brother, Maj. Antauro Humala. Antauro led a failed coup against then-president Alejandro Toledo in Januray of 2005 that killed four policemen, and is now serving a 25-year prison term. 
On Monday, Defense Minister Daniel Mora made headlines in the country when he attempted to downplay the role that the president’s brother had in leading the coup.  In an interview with El Comercio, Mora said that Antauro was "not involved directly, [as] he didn’t grab a gun, he sparked the movement."  On Tuesday, Vice President Omar Chehade supported these claims.  "What the defense minister said is true. From what I've been able to tell, Antauro Humala was not a person who shot and used a weapon, nor did he issue an order to shoot any police," he said.  Yesterday the imprisoned former army major himself told local press that his brother would be a “harlequin” if he did not free him, saying such a move would embody the 1979 constitution that Humala swore on during his inauguration ceremony.
Peruvian human rights groups have expressed concern over these statements, noting that Antauro’s release would set a precedent which could potentially lead to the release of disgraced ex-president Alberto Fujimori.  So far, however, there has been no signal from President Humala that grant a pardon. As BBC notes, after his other brother created a scandal by meeting with high-level officials in Russia last month, Humala has promised not to involve his relatives in his administration, and asked them not to interfere with his term.

News Briefs
·         Americas Quarterly has released its Summer 2010 issue, titled “Sports: Business, Integration and Social Change,” which highlights the role of sports in furthering politics and business in the region.  Be sure to check out former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela’s article on how U.S.-Latin American relations have changed over time.  Also of interest is Anthony DePalma’s analysis of the challenges facing the Organization of American States.

·         Following Venezuelan Prison Minister Iris Varela’s announcement that new admissions into prison would be put on hold temporarily in order to combat overcrowding, AP reports that holding cells in police stations are filling up at an alarming rate.

·         According to El Tiempo. a Colombian court has sentenced FARC leader Alfonso Cano in absentia to 40 years in prison for a 1998 attack on the municipality of Mitu, which killed 43 people.

·         Former Colombian presidential candidate Antanas Mockus has officially joined the Bogota mayoral race, running as a member of the Social Independent Alliance (Alianza Social Independiente, formerly the Alianza Social Indígena).  El Tiempo takes a look at what effect he may have on the elections, noting that a conflict with his former Green Party contemporary Enrique Penalosa may do them both more harm than good.   

·         Proceso reports that Javier Sicilia and other leaders of Mexico’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity held a press conference yesterday in which they called for a demonstration against the proposed Security Law, which Mexican lawmakers are on the verge of passing. When asked about his decision to cut of dialogue with the government last week in response to the law’s support in Congress, Sicilia expressed hope that it would be restored and said the movement would contact lawmakers in the coming days with a list of demands.

·         El Diario de Juarez reports that José Refugio Ruvalcaba Plascencia, a former Juarez police chief, was gunned down inside an Applebee's in Chihuahua yesterday.

·         At Foreign Policy, Jose Cardenas argues that the State Department is not taking a Congressional request to look into Argentina’s ties with Iran seriously enough. Cardenas claims that there is good reason to suspect that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is “playing the middleman to real or considered nuclear exchanges between Argentina and Iran.”

·         Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa delivered his annual address to Congress yesterday.  AFP reports that he devoted much of it to criticizing the press in the country.  As WOLA’s Adam Isaacson notes, the country’s major newspapers all published the same front page yesterday, criticizing Correa’s recent 80 million dollar defamation lawsuit against another publication.

·         Pagina 12 reports that the head of Brazil’s armed forces is under investigation for falsifying contracts and engaging in other corrupt acts.

·         Chilean President Sebastian Piñera introduced legislation allowing civil unions for same-sex couples on Tuesday.  According to El Mercurio, several members of Piñera’s party did not attend a ceremony commemorating the bill, underscoring its unfortunately controversial nature.