Monday, January 13, 2014

Rios Montt Prosecutors Appeal Post-2011 Annulment to Guatemala's Top Court

The odds that the victims of Guatemala’s conflict will see justice in the case against Efrain Rios Montt anytime soon are looking slim. On Friday, a Guatemalan appeals court backed a lower court ruling which annulled all court proceedings in the case since November 2011, citing alleged procedural irregularities.

Hector Reyes, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case with the Center for Human Rights and Legal Action (CALDH), criticized the decision and told reporters it would be challenged in a higher court. 

Yesterday, elPeriodico reported that representatives of CALDH and the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (ARJ) presented an appeal to the ruling. In remarks to the press, ARJ lawyer Edgar Perez said that the sentence had been issued on September 26, 2013, despite the fact that the prosecution had not been notified of it until last week. The victims’ lawyers have filed their appeal directly to the Constitutional Court, which will have the final say in the matter.

If the ruling is upheld, it could be an irreversible blow to the efforts to successfully prosecute the former dictator on charges of genocide and of crimes against humanity, after the Constitutional Court overturned a guilty verdict in May. Rios Montt is 87 years old, and has a number of health complications. Rewinding the case back by two years would leave a good chance of him passing away before a verdict is reached.

Even if the appeals court’s ruling is struck down, Rios Montt’s day in court would be a long way off. In November judicial officials postponed the reopening of his case from April 2014 to January 5, 2015, citing case overflow.

 News Briefs
  • The private sector lending arm of the World Bank (the International Finance Corporation, or IFC) was criticized on Friday by the bank’s ombudsman over a loan granted to Corporacion Dinant, a palm oil company accused of fueling a bloody land conflict in Honduras’ Bajo Aguan region. As the New York Times reports , the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman of the IFC has released a report finding that the  institution failed to follow its internal procedures when it first approved a loan to Dinant in 2009, and that subsequent supervision of the company was inadequate. IFC representatives have responded by announcing that it is working with the Honduran company on an action plan to address the report, according to the AFP.
  • The Miami Herald has an interview with Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who discussed the anniversary of the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake that rocked his country. 
  • El Tiempo reports that the Colombian government’s decision to revoke the extradition order for the FARC folksinger known as alias “Julian Conrado” last week -- which allowed him to leave Venezuela for Havana to join the rebels’ negotiating team -- was a humanitarian gesture.  According to the head of the government’s negotiating team, Humberto de la Calle, the move came after the government took into account “humanitarian considerations.” De la Calle also assured reporters that the peace talks will be well insulated from the upcoming election process in the country.
  • Last week, São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad announced that the city would be implementing a new policy to address crack cocaine use in the central city slum popularly known as “Cracolândia.” According to the mayor, a shift from strategies of the past would be needed, one that treats the issue of crack use as a public health problem instead of a law enforcement problem.  O Globo reports that Haddad announced that the mayor’s office had devised a new approach with a “very strong appeal in Holland,” involving work opportunities to those living on the streets in the neighborhood. The move comes as public prosecutors have announced an investigation into alleged abuses that have occurred in local, state and federal operations in Cracolândia in recent years.
  • The AP’s Frank Bajak looks at a telling indicator of hard times in Venezuela: the U.S.-based Citizens Energy Corp, which has distributed nearly a half billion dollars' worth of Venezuela-donated heating oil to low-income and elderly households across the U.S. since 2005, has not received this year’s shipment.
  • El Universal reports that on Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro criticized local and international media outlets for their coverage of the high-profile murder of beauty queen Monica Spears, accusing them of exploiting the death for political reasons. Meanwhile, David Smilde and Rebecca Hanson of Venezuela Politics and Human Rights take a look at the political spin that Maduro himself has put on Spears’ death, and the subsequent shakeup in the country’s police command. This included replacing a police reform advocate with a retired general as head of the National Security University, as well as the ouster of the former civilian head of the National Police in favor of another retired army general.
  • The NYT’s Lede Blog has video footage of Fidel Castro’s rare public appearance at a nonprofit art studio in Havana last week, in which the former leader appears animated as he greets the studio’s director.
  • In a contribution to the debate over media concentration in Peru -- which was fueled earlier this month by President Ollanta Humala’s remarks alleging a dangerous media monopoly in the country -- IDL Reporteros has an exclusive interview with Mario Vargas Llosa. The writer has been one of the staunchest critics of Peru’s largest media conglomerate, Grupo El Comercio, which owns some 70 percent of the country’s print media market.
  • Clashes between vigilante groups and alleged cartel gunmen in the Mexican state of Michoacan continued to make headlines over the weekend, after over 100 armed vigilantes stormed the town of Nueva Italia on Sunday. The AP reports that the group claims it is advancing towards Apatzingan, the stronghold of the Knights Templar gang, and El Universal reports that the violence has caused a wave of displacement as local residents flee to the neighboring state of Colima.
  • Ahead of its general election in February, El Salvador held its first-ever presidential debate last night. The event was televised, and brought together the three leading candidates -- Norman Quijano (ARENA), Salvador Sanchez Ceren (FMLN), and Antonio Saca (Unidad) -- and two minor ones -- Oscar Lemus (FPS) and René Rodríguez Hurtado (PSP). La Prensa Grafica reports that citizen insecurity and the economy were the two main subjects of the evening, and highlights the campaign promises of each candidate. El Salvador blogger Tim Muth also has an excellent rundown of the evening, outlining the main candidates’ remarks on crime.