Friday, November 1, 2013

Fujimori Denied House Arrest

A Peruvian court has denied imprisoned former President Alberto Fujmori’s petition to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest, ruling that the request was out of proportion to the seriousness of his crimes.

La Republica reports that on Tuesday, Judge Segundo Morales Parraguez rejected the request on the grounds that it was inapplicable in cases of crimes against humanity. While Morales did not question the veracity of Fujimori’s claims to be in poor health (his family and supporters maintain he suffers from everything from tongue cancer to depression and low blood pressure, though medical experts say he has no terminal illness), the judge said such requests for leniency could only be granted in cases involving “crimes of less seriousness or social harm.”

The decision was applauded by human rights advocates in the country, though some criticized the court for accepting the case in the first place. Gloria Cano of the Association for Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH), for instance, told reporters the request should have been thrown out. “This petition should have been declared inadmissible, because there is no legal basis for the request. Our legal code clearly states that the prison sentence must be carried out in a public jail,” Cano said.

William Castillo, the ex-president’s attorney, said he would challenge the law in Peru’s Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Fujimori is facing a new trial for paying off editors of tabloid newspapers -- the so-called “chica press” -- with state funds in order to publish defamatory claims about his political opponents.  The hearing has been postponed twice because of Fujimori’s health claims, and is set for November 7, RPP reports.

News Briefs
  • In other Peru human rights news, civil society groups in the country have expressed outrage over Congress’ decision to appoint Congresswoman Martha Chavez as head of a legislative working group on human rights policy. The body is charged with monitoring Peru’s response to petitions brought against the state in international organizations, as well as following and evaluating the implementation of the recommendations of Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR). Peruvian news site La Mula reports that this is particularly controversial given Chavez’s repeated denials of state crimes in the country’s armed conflict. The news site points out that she is known for having said that the CVR’s final report “should be thrown in the trash,” after calling it a “a simplistic effort, riddled with errors.”
  • Brazilian Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo met yesterday with top security officials from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo states to address improving the state’s response to anti-government protests. O Globo reports that Cardozo announced the creation of a new federal police intelligence group which will target violent protests in both states, which have been hotbeds of mass demonstrations in recent months.
  • El Espectador reports that the negotiating teams of the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released a joint statement yesterday announcing that they would extend the latest round of talks in Havana by two days, until Monday. The communiqué said the time would be used to “advance in the discussion and construction of agreements” on the second item of the agenda, political participation.
  • In a Reuters interview published yesterday, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said that it would be a “big mistake” for Colombia to cut its military budget or reduce the number of troops in the country. “It would be a big mistake, because even if the terrorist organization disappears, it doesn't mean many of its crimes disappear,” Pinzon told the news agency, adding “I personally think Colombia has a security budget that's very limited.”
  • It appears that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’s approval rating is making a slight rebound after reaching a record low in the wake of mass rural protests in August. According to a newly-released survey by Gallup, approval for Santos has risen to 29 percent, up from 21 percent in September.
  • The Nicaraguan government is deploying hundreds of workers to spread insecticide in homes in the capital city of Managua, as well as health professionals tasked with identifying and isolating people with the disease. The AP reports that this is a record year for dengue in Central America, and the Pan-American Health Organization has warned of a new strain of the disease in the region.
  • Yesterday, Mexico’s Congress approved a series of new sales taxes on sugary drinks and junk food, including a tax of one peso per liter of soda and an 8 percent sales tax on high-calorie foods like potato chips, sweets and cereal. According to the NYT, President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to sign the bill into law in January. In remarks to the press yesterday, El Universal reports that the president stressed that the initiative was aimed at lowering childhood obesity, not at any particular company or industry. Bloomberg notes that Mexico has the highest adult obesity rate of any major country after Egypt, and that diabetes took the lives of almost three times the number of homicide victims there in 2011.
  • The Guardian and New York Times report on the closure of a high-tech drug-smuggling tunnel leading under the U.S.-Mexico border and into a San Diego warehouse. Officials say the tunnel, which was allegedly operated by the Sinaloa Cartel, is the eighth discovered in the area since 2006.
  • The AP has an overview of the case of Alberto Patishtan Gomez, the Mexican indigenous schoolteacher from Chiapas who received a presidential pardon this week after serving 13 years in prison in association with the murder of seven police officers. Human rights groups have long called for his release, citing irregularities in his trial. Animal Politico reports on a press conference he held following his release, in which he thanked his supporters. “They wanted to end my struggle and do away with it, but what they did was multiply it,” he told reporters.
  • Over at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, Timothy Gil details the work of a special legislative commission created by the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) to investigate organizations which receive funding from international foundations, as well as the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)  and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). One of the primary targets of this investigation has been Súmate, a political rights group with links to the opposition. Officials have threatened to prosecute the group under a 2010 law banning organizations and individuals who advocate political participation from receiving foreign funding. Members of the commission have also warned that the government may decide to expel USAID, as Bolivia did earlier this year.
  • The L.A. Times profiles opposition in the Caribbean to the Dominican Republic’s recent court decision which denies citizenship to thousands of individuals of Haitian descent in the country, claiming that the D.R.’s representative to the Caribbean Community bloc tried to cancel a meeting in which the 15-member bloc condemned the ruling.