Thursday, February 14, 2013

Argentine Court: Church Complicit in 'Dirty War' Crimes

In a historic ruling, an Argentine court has found that the country’s Catholic Church was complicit in the human rights abuses committed by the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

As Argentina's InfoNews reports, the ruling was issued by a four-judge tribunal in the western province of La Rioja, which was presiding over the murder trials of Carlos de Dios Murias and Gabriel Longueville, two priests who had been killed in 1976. Both were active members of the Movement of Priests for the Third World, an association of progressive clergymen. After being detained by officials, their mutilated bodies were found dumped near train tracks in La Rioja.

In addition to sentencing three military officials to life imprisonment for the crime, the tribunal found that the Catholic Church shared responsibility for the murders. The judges ruled that Church hierarchy in the country not only turned a blind eye to the torture, disappearances and extrajudicial killings committed by the military regime, but had in many cases colluded with authorities in order to target progressive priests. According to the tribunal’s decision (available here):

"This was not about isolated events taken out of context, committed by particular individuals. On the contrary, clearly, the murder of Murias and Longueville can be interpreted and understood precisely in the context of a systematic plan for the elimination of political opponents (...) Murias and Longueville were part of a church faction considered to be 'enemies' and 'targets.’”

The judges also criticized the present-day Church for being unwilling to investigate crimes committed by its members under the military regime.

News Briefs
  • The Colombian army clashed with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas in the southern province of Caqueta yesterday after the rebels attempted to take control of the town of Milan. According to Caracol Radio, six soldiers died in the attack and five others were wounded, making it the army’s deadliest confrontation with guerrillas so far this year. Meanwhile, El Tiempo reports that the government has temporarily halted all military operations along the border between the southwestern Cauca and Valle del Cauca provinces ahead of the first phase of the FARC’s planned release of three captured members of the security forces. The first handover is slated for an unspecified time today, and will be facilitated by former Senator Piedad Cordoba and the Red Cross. RCN reports that another release operation is planned for Saturday.
  • While Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) claimed to have released six civilian hostages held captive since January 18, officials denied having any indication of their whereabouts, and yesterday Defense Minister Juan Carlos called on the ELN to “stop releasing communiques and free all their hostages.” El Colombiano reports this morning that the army has acknowledged that the ELN will release the hostages to the Red Cross on Friday. The rebels have said they will continue to hold on to two German citizens until they are given proof that they are not spies.
  • La Silla Vacia examines the legislative challenges to Colombia’s peace process. While the government has set a November deadline for the talks to result in a final accord, it is unlikely that the Colombian Congress would be able ratify it early next year because lawmakers will be busy campaigning for March 2014 elections, and may be unwilling to risk political capital on the issue.
  • The government of Uruguay has released more details on its proposal to legalize marijuana sales in the country via distribution centers to licensed individuals, which lawmakers will debate next month. The head of the country’s National Drug Council, Julio Calzada, said that if the initiative passes it would be paired with a public health campaign similar to those associated with alcohol and cigarettes, which would warn about the risks of marijuana consumption. El Pais also reports that Calzada said the government is considering a measure which would provide marijuana free of charge to people who have registered as addicts in order to cut down on thefts motivated by a desire to purchase the drug.
  • After weeks of releasing optimistic updates on Hugo Chavez’s health, the Venezuelan government switched gears yesterday, with Vice President Nicolas Maduro announcing that Chavez is undergoing "complex and difficult” alternative treatments in Cuba.
  • Clarin reports that the Argentine Congress is moving closer to authorizing the creation of a commission to work with Iran in order to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, despite concern over the move among the opposition and Jewish community. This concern was fueled yesterday after Iran appeared to step back from its promise to allow Argentine investigators to question its Defense Minister about the bombing.
  • Officials in Mexico’s Guerrero state are walking back their previous announcement that “several” people had been detained in connection with the assault and rape of six Spanish tourists in Acapulco. Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre Rivero admitted to the press yesterday that no suspects in that case had actually been arrested, Animal Politico reports.
  • InSight Crime has released a special report on Ciudad Juarez (.pdf here), looking at the causes behind the notable drop in violence that the border city has seen in the past two years. The report focuses on the main criminal actors in the city (the Sinaloa cartel, Juarez cartel and street gangs) as well as the role of law enforcement and local government institutions in order to assess the sustainability of the current calm.
  • The Bolivian government has announced that it will present a new bill to Congress this week intended to crack down on domestic abuse and femicide. La Razon reports that Vice President Alvaro Garcia said the bill would impose stricter penalties for domestic and sexual abuse, and would be presented to both legislative houses next week. The announcement came one day after the high-profile murder of journalist Hanali Huaycho, apparently at the hands of an ex-boyfriend.
  • Bloomberg has a report on water conflicts in Latin America, which are growing increasingly common as governments in the region find themselves forced to choose between short-term economic growth and long-term access to potable water.
  • The movement to recall Lima Mayor Susan Villaran, which will be decided via a referendum on March 17, is heating up. Peru’s El Comercio reports that the anti-Villaran camp has filed an official complaint with the prosecutor’s office against the mayor, accusing her of abusing her authority by ordering street cleaners to tear down posters calling for her removal and leave up those which support her. 
  • The Economist’s Intelligence Unit looks over the potential for fraud in Sunday’s presidential elections in Ecuador, concluding that while the potential exists, it is not likely to affect the outcome considering President Rafael Correa’s massive lead in opinion polls.

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