Friday, April 6, 2012

Argentina Confronts Legacy of Falklands War

In honoring the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War this week, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has had to strike a difficult balance between praising the veterans of the conflict and condemning atrocities committed by the dictatorship-era military. The Washington Post reports that this has been complicated by revelations that some of the conflict’s most venerated war heroes also took part in grave human rights abuses during Argentina’s “Dirty War.”

Perhaps the most illustrative case is that of Lt. Pedro Giachino, the first Argentine casualty in the Falklands War. Giachino was posthumously promoted to captain, and awarded the country’s highest military honor. He was long viewed as a symbol of patriotism, until in 2011 it was revealed that the officer had served as an interrogator for the military junta, and witnesses claimed he committed torture and murder on several occasions.

The legacy of the war has been muddied further by allegations of human rights abuses within the Argentine armed forces themselves. IPS profiles a case currently being heard by the country’s Supreme Court over allegations that some 120 veterans were subjected to mistreatment ranging from physical to sexual abuse at the hands of their commanding officers during the conflict. While the defendants claim that the case’s statute of limitations has expired, the victims are hopeful that the Court will declare the offenses crimes against humanity, which are not subject to any statute of limitations. 

President Kirchner, for her part, has so far managed to bridge the gap between patriotic remembrance of the fallen and criticism of the regime fairly well. In a commemoration speech on Monday, she emphasized that the war was “not a decision of the people, but by the dictatorship.”

News Briefs
·         Online periodical Otramerica offers a thought-provoking analysis of the state of indigenous activism in Latin America. The author, Bolivian journalist Marielle Cauthin, argues that indigenous social movements throughout the region have been “criminalized” by governments of both the left and right.

·         AFP claims that the health of Josefina Vazquez Mota, the presidential candidate of Mexico’s National Action Party (PAN), has been called into question after she stopped in the middle of a speech on Monday because she claimed to feel lightheaded. Rumors have surfaced that Vazquez may be suffering from anorexia, with some claiming she rarely eats and exercises obsessively.

·         A federal judge in Chicago has ruled that Vicente Zambada, the son of one of the Sinaloa Cartel’s top leaders, had never been offered immunity from federal agents. Zimbada’s case attracted widespread media attention last year when his defense team claimed that DEA agents agreed to allow him traffic drugs across the border with impunity in exchange for information on other criminal organizations. The Chicago Sun-Times notes that federal prosecutors have not denied that they offered an immunity deal with Sinaloa Cartel members, only arguing that Zambada himself was never part of such a deal.

·         One day after returning to Venezuela following his second of five chemotherapy treatments in Cuba, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attended a Catholic mass yesterday with relatives. Chavez apparently became extremely emotional during the service, and offered a tearful prayer. "Give me life even if it's ... painful life. I don't care. Christ, give me your crown. Give it to me, I will bleed. ... Give me life because I still have things to do for these people," he said. "Don't take me yet."

·         The New York Times reports on the construction of a new mausoleum for Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela. The structure is said to be a favored project of President Chavez, but many locals have criticized its peculiar design, noting that it looks more like “the world’s biggest skateboard ramp” than a tribute to Latin America’s most famous liberator.

·         A Spanish travel company now offers specially-tailored trips to Cuba for LGBT activists, reports the AP. The itinerary includes workshops and lectures on the issue, as well as the participation in an anti-homophobia march. The package was reportedly developed with the help of the Cuban Center for Sexual Health, headed by Raul’s daughter and noted LGBT advocate Mariela Castro.

·         Francisco Goldman has written an interesting piece for the New York Times Magazine on the rise of Camila Vallejo, the face of the country’s student movement. Although Goldman makes several tongue-in-cheek allusions to Vallejo’s beauty and refers to her as “the world’s most glamorous revolutionary,” he notes that the student leader has gained real political power in the country.

·         The LA Times’ World Now blog takes a look at the state of Brazil’s industrial sector, with a focus on a major workers’ protest which took place in Sao Paulo this week. The blog reports that cheap Chinese imports, along with the depreciation of the US dollar against the Brazilian real, have contributed to a loss of manufacturing jobs in the country. Although President Dilma Rousseff unveiled a $35 billion stimulus package designed to boost industry this week, experts and workers alike are concerned about the long-term future of the sector.

·         The Bolivian Senate passed a bill last week which mandates that all state officials must speak an indigenous language in addition to Spanish. El Deber reports that President Evo Morales is expected to sign the bill into law soon. However, considering the Bolivian government’s previous estimate that only 37 percent of the population knows an indigenous language, the law will be difficult to enact.

·         This week’s issue of The Economist looks at the soured relationship between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his former boss, ex-President Alvaro Uribe. The magazine notes that the spat reflects not just their different personalities, but their competing visions of the country’s future as well. The issue also highlights a controversial ruling on child prostitution in Brazil and Peru’s efforts to encourage the use of computers in schools.

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