Monday, April 28, 2014

Fujimori to Challenge His Sentence, Again

Despite the government denying him a pardon on health grounds last year, and a court subsequently rejecting his request to serve time under house arrest, imprisoned former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori is not giving up.

Last week, Fujimori defense lawyer William Paco Castillo announced that he would be submitting an appeal to the Supreme Court to review his client’s 25-year sentence for ordering the Grupo Colina death squad to carry out killings and kidnappings. Although the court upheld the sentence in 2010, Castillo told journalists that it goes against a May 2013 decision. In the latter, judges found former presidential advisor Vladimiro Montesinos guilty of overseeing two massacres (La Cantuta in 1992 and Barrios Altos in 1991) also blamed on Fujimori.  According to El Comercio, Castillo said the two sentences are “totally contradictory.”

While the challenge raised eyebrows among Peru’s human rights community, most were more alarmed by the fact that the case was selected to go before the Supreme Court’s Permanent Penal Chamber (“Sala Penal Permanente”). The judge who presides over this court, Javier Villa Stein, issued a controversial decision in favor of Grupo Colina members in  2012 in which he reduced their sentences. The decision was later reversed by a higher court.

When the selection of Villa Stein was announced on Saturday, Peruvian civil society organizations immediately began to call for his removal from the case. Rocio Silva, who heads an umbrella group of some 80 NGOs working on human rights issues in the country known as the National Coordinator of Human Rights (CNDDHH), Castillo’s arguments are inadmissible. Silva accuses Fujimori’s defense team of orchestrating a media circus to build pressure for his release.

It would not be the first time. Last year the ex-president released photos dramatizing his health situation to generate sympathy for a presidential pardon, and his use of Facebook and other social media outlets through third parties remains a thorn in the side of prison officials.

Villa Stein has ignored calls to recuse himself, and insisted he will hear the case. But as La Republica reports, he will not go unchallenged. Both the Legal Defense Institute (IDL) and Association for Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH) have vowed to appeal his selection on the grounds that he lacks impartiality.

News Briefs
  • Despite reports that the government of Uruguay would publish the regulatory specifics of its historic marijuana law on Friday, the release has been delayed and will likely take place today. The AP notes that the publication, which was initially slated for April 9, has been postponed as officials were still hammering out the details of how the drug would be traced and taxed. Still, an anonymous official in Uruguay’s national drug office provided specifics of the regulatory mechanisms to local television outlet Subrayado.  According to the official, newly-announced details include the fact that individuals with currently-existing marijuana plants will be allowed to register them during the next six months (provided the number does not exceed the designated quotas), and that a registry will be compiled of all the individuals licensed to grow for commercial sale.  El Observador  also reportedly obtained details of the regulations from an unnamed official, and claims that users will be capped at buying 10 grams of cannabis per week. The paper also claims that only six entities will obtain contracts to produce marijuana, a process that will be overseen by the Ministry of Defense.
  • In other Peruvian news, the government of President Ollanta Humala announced on Friday that it was considering following in Bolivia’s footsteps and authorizing the military to shoot down aircraft suspected of carrying illicit drug cargo. The Wall Street Journal reports on the revelation, with input from analysts on the varying successes of shoot-down policies throughout the region.
  • Police in Brazil are investigating the mysterious murder of a retired army colonel who recently provided the National Truth Commission with an account of his participation in the torture and killing of political prisoners under the country’s military regime. Col. Paulo Malhaes, who was the first officer to acknowledge his participation in torture and disappearances, was killed by unknown assailants who broke into his home on Thursday. O Globo has a list of Malhaes’ various confessions, and reports that police say they believe robbery was the primary motive even as some suspect revenge.
  • The L.A. Times reports on police efforts to crack down on sex tourism in Brazil ahead of the World Cup, and on the deeper issue of fighting sexualized stereotypes of Brazilian women abroad. In a related recent column for the New York Times, Sao Paulo-based journalist Vanessa Barbara argues that the sensitivity to these depictions clashes with the tourism industry’s reliance on them to sell a “hyper-sexualized Carnival” to tourists.
  • The Economist has a good overview of the recently-held NETmundial conference in São Paulo, which notes a certain overlap between the U.S. and Brazilian positions on the future of internet governance, one which is increasingly open to reducing the involvement of nation states.
  • Today’s New York Times looks at allegations that Venezuelan police committed torture and abuse against protestors amid the recent wave of demonstrations. The report asserts that while the Maduro government insists that violence has been committed by “a very small number” of security forces who are being investigated, the numerous reports of beatings and point-blank shootings of demonstrators suggests a pattern of violence. According to the NYT, over two dozen people interviewed said they were mistreated by police and the National Guard.
  • Saturday saw renewed protests in Caracas, with locals taking part in a demonstration (BBC Mundo claims “thousands” participated, while the AP says “scores”) against a Thursday Supreme Court ruling which gives police the right to disperse unpermitted protests.  As El Universal notes, the decision has been criticized by human rights group Provea, which calls it a direct violation of constitutional guarantees of free speech “without prior permission.”
  • The New Yorker’s Patrick Radden Keefe has an in-depth look at the extensive manhunt for Sinaloa Cartel leader “El Chapo” Guzman. Especially interesting is his insight into the frequently tense and mutually distrusting relationship between Mexican and U.S. authorities. According to the author, the decision to leak Guzman’s capture to the Associated Press so soon after the arrest was rumored to be an attempt by the U.S. to prevent his immediate release. Also alarming is the allegation by a former DEA official that the use of torture by Mexican marines helped contribute to the arrest.
  • After months of escalating violence, El Salvador’s shaky gang truce has finally collapsed. At least according to outgoing Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, who announced in his radio show over the weekend that it had been broken by members of the Barrio 18 street gang. And while the president said the truce was in a certain “fragile” state that may be re-launched, he said he would announce a “contingency plan” to coordinate security with President-elect Salvador Sanchez Ceren. 

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