Chilean authorities suspended a hearing for indigenous Mapuche prisoner Fernando Millacheo Marín on Feb. 12 after some 20 of Millacheo's supporters, including women and children, were detained outside the courthouse in Collipulli in the southern Araucanía region's Malleco province. Police agents attacked the crowd of about 50 protesters with a water cannon, according to Mapuche sources, and beat several women and handcuffed an 11-year-old. The detainees were charged with public disorder, and Millacheo's hearing was postponed to Feb. 15. The authorities said the protesters caused the clash by hurling rocks at police agents, but Mapuche activists countered that the detentions were part of a wave of repression that included the arrest of Jaime Huenchullan, werken (spokesperson) for the Temucuicui autonomous community, along with an unnamed French national, while they were on their way to the hearing.
A court in Argentina's western province of La Rioja found Feb. 13 that the country's Catholic Church was complicit with crimes committed during the dictatorship's "dirty war" on leftist dissidents between 1976 and 1983. The judgement said that the Church hierarchy turned a blind eye to abuses that it clearly knew of, while some members collaborated more actively. It further stated that the hierarchy remains "indifferent" to this past today. The judgement came in a case concerning the slaying of Carlos de Dios Murias and Gabriel Longueville, two members of the Movement of Third World Priests (MSTM), a grouping of left-wing Catholic clergy, who disappeared in 1976, their mutiliated bodies dumped near train tracks. Three retired military officers were given life terms in the case. (BBC Mundo, Feb. 14; InfoNews, Argentina, El Mundo, Spain, Feb. 13)
The government of the western Argentine province of San Juan released a report the week of Jan. 28 finding that two controversial mines owned by the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation have no "potential or actual environmental impact on glaciers or peri-glaciers in the areas" surrounding them. The Argentine branch of the environmental group Greenpeace had charged in July 2011 that Barrick's Pascua Lama and Veladero mines were damaging three small glaciers, in violation of a 2010 federal law meant to protect Andean glaciers. Barrick challenged the law, but the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice made a July 2012 ruling that left the law in effect for the time being.
On Jan. 27 a group of academics, musicians and human rights activists said they were planning an emergency visit the next day to two indigenous Chilean prisoners to try to find a political solution that could end a hunger strike the prisoners started on Nov. 14. The prisoners--Héctor Llaitul Carillanca, the leader of the militant Mapuche organization Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM), and CAM activist Ramón Llanquileo Pilquimán--were convicted in 2011 of arson and of attacking a prosecutor; this is their third hunger strike to demand a reduction of their sentences. They are now being held in a prison in Concepción, in the central Biobío region.
Argentina signed an agreement with Iran on Jan. 27 to create an independent Commission of Truth to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center. Argentinian courts have accused Iran of sponsoring the attack, which killed 85 people, and in 2007 Argentine authorities secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians, including current Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. Despite strong objections by Israel, the US and the Argentine Jewish community, Argentina's Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi have been involved in a series of bilateral talks that began with their first meeting at the UN headquarters in New York in September.
Sugar-cane cutter Cícero Guedes dos Santos, a leader of Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Campos dos Goytacazes, Rio de Janeiro state, was shot dead by unknown gunmen Jan. 26 as he was riding his bicycle home from work. The attack came near an abandoned sugar plant which MST members have occupied amid a legal battle between the landless and the heirs of its deceased owner. A judge ruled last year that the plant and its lands of some 3,500 hectares were "unproductive" and should be expropriated. The heirs are appealing the decision. The MST, who had occupied the land for six years before being evicted by police in 2006, launched a second occupation in November.
Chilean landowner Werner Luchsinger and his wife, Vivianne McKay, died in a fire set by some 20 masked attackers on Jan. 4 at their Lumahue estate in Vilcún, in the southern region of Araucanía. Luchsinger, who was 75 years old, reportedly fought back against the intruders with a firearm, wounding at least one. The couple, who owned some 1,000 hectares of farmland in the region, had resisted demands for land from the indigenous Mapuche community. Pamphlets were found at the site commemorating the fifth anniversary of the death of Mapuche student Matías Catrileo Quezada, who was shot in the back by a police agent on Jan. 3, 2008 during an occupation of an estate owned by Werner Luchsinger's cousin, Jorge Luchsinger.
Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Jan. 3 issued an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, published as a paid advertisement in British dailies, urging the UK, a "colonial power," to abide by a UN resolution to "end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations" and return the Malvinas/Falkland Islands to Argentina. In The Telegraph, Nile Gardiner, a former aide to Margaret Thatcher, responded by charging the letter is "stuffed full of falsehoods and has no regard for reality." Gardiner asserts: "The Falklands are not a colony, but a self-governing British Overseas Territory." (The Guardian, Jan. 3)