Friday, October 11, 2013

Fujimori on Facebook

The Associated Press has the story today on imprisoned former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s use of social media sites Facebook and Twitter, and the headache this is causing the government.

The problem is that Fujimori is not directly controlling either his Facebook or Twitter accounts himself. He has no access to the internet in his facility. Instead, he relies on third parties to post for him, and transmits messages to them via telephone. These facilitators have also recorded his voice, and posted short audio clips of his statements to YouTube.

Last month, Justice Minister Daniel Figallo has called on penal authorities to “regulate” Fujimori’s use of social media, implying that the former president was receiving special privileges not usually granted to most inmates.

But the head of the National Penal Institute (INPE), Jose Luis Perez Guadalupe, told Peru21 that Fujimori’s access to the telephone was in keeping with his rights as a prisoner, and current INPE regulations. As such, Perez Guadalupe recommended that the communication rights given to inmates in Peru be reassessed.

The AP reports that government lawyers are “hustling to come up with legislation that adapts, for the self-broadcasting Internet age, laws that let prison authorities restrict inmates’ speech.” This opens up the potential for serious infringement on individual rights of persons deprived of liberty, however.  In “Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas,” the OAS Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty recommends guaranteeing inmates the right to free expression, with minimal constraints that are “strictly necessary”  to guarantee security, the rights of others and public order. It’s difficult to see how restricting the former president’s telephone access fits falls under this, while it may be politically expedient at the moment.

In the meantime, the former president continues to use his online presence to blast the administration Ollanta Humala in a way that, as UNC Professor Greg Weeks points out, bears a similarity to Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe.


News Briefs
  • A proposal to modify Ecuador’s criminal statute to decriminalize abortion has caused a stir in the country, with a vocal bloc of lawmakers in the ruling Alianza Pais party supporting the measure, El Comercio reports. However, President Rafael Ecuador has come out strongly against abortion decriminalization, accusing these legislators of engaging in “betrayals and disloyalties.” As AFP reports, Correa announced yesterday that if his party supported the measure and it were to pass in Congress, he would step down as president.
  • The Panamanian government has cast doubt on the Cuban government’s claims that the arms shipment it sent to North Korea earlier this year included obsolete weaponry. While much of the equipment was outdated, McClatchy reports that Panamanian officials say two Cuban MiG-21 jet fighters were found on board in good condition, with “brand new” jet engines.
  • IPS looks at the root causes of hunger in Haiti, where 1.5 million face “severe” or “acute food insecurity,” twice as many as last year. Among the main factors identified by the news service are an influx of cheap agricultural goods from foreign countries, as well as declining investment in the country’s agricultural sector.
  • In Colombia, the government’s Special Administrative Unit for Victims Assistance has announced that some 12,000 union members have either been killed or faced death threats in the country’s armed conflict since 1986. According to official figures, the worst years for union murders in this period were 1992, 1998 and 2004.
  • At Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, David Smilde and Rebecca Hanson look at the political fallout from the country’s high crime rate. Surprisingly, despite the opposition’s consistent attempts to blame citizen insecurity on the ruling PSUV and President Nicolas Maduro, most Venezuelans see it on social and cultural factors rather than political ones. And while polling data shows public perception of insecurity has risen under Maduro, 56 percent of the public believes crime would be the same under a different president.  
  • President Maduro is still pressuring Congress to pass a law giving him decree powers, which needs to gain the support of one opposition lawmaker in order to be approved. El Nacional reports that National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello has told the press that he expects it to be passed in two or three weeks, indicating that the government still does not have the votes it needs. Meanwhile, civil society organizations have expressed alarm at the law. The director of human rights group Provea, Marino Alvarado, told Spanish news agency EFE that the law could “further restrict” fundamental human rights in the country.
  • In yet another illustration of deeply-entrenched corruption in Honduras’ police force, a Honduran police official has told the press that a high-profile drug trafficking ring was tipped off about a recent operation meant to dismantle its finances. According to Seized Property Administration Office director Humberto Palacios, the Cachiros drug trafficking gang had received advance warning of the operation, and cleared out all of the effected properties and bank accounts ahead of time.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales has unveiled plans to build a new presidential residency and office space to replace the current Bolivian Presidential Palace. La Razon reports that Morales said the move was necessary because the current presidential office was too small, and he also criticized it as a legacy of the country’s colonial past.